Foreign policy and defense
Ethiopia is a regional great power and plays
an active role on the international stage. Until the
change of government in the spring of 2018, the
relationship with the countries in the immediate area
was strained in several cases. As for Eritrea, it was
immediately hostile until a peace process resumed that
spring. For the United States, Ethiopia is an important
ally in a corner of the world that is severely affected
by political and humanitarian crises.
Addis Ababa is usually called the diplomatic capital
of Africa. Ethiopia has a distinctive position in the
continent with a history of uninterrupted independence,
apart from the short-lived Italian occupation of
1936-1941. In the 1960s, the country was a role model
for Africa's new states and worked actively to increase
cooperation between them. The then African Unity
Organization (OAU) was founded in Addis Ababa in 1963,
largely on the initiative of Ethiopian emperor Haile
Selassie. The OAU was replaced in 2002 by the African
Union (AU), whose secretariat the AU Commission is
headquartered in Addis Ababa.
Overview of business holidays and various national observances in Ethiopia for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024 and 2025.
Relations with Eritrea
Ethiopia had good relations with Eritrea until 1997,
when cross-border trade was discontinued after Eritrea
abandoned the Ethiopian currency and acquired its own.
Regular fighting broke out in May 1998 (see also
Conflicts: Ethiopia-Eritrea). A peace agreement was
signed in December 2000, but the border crossing at the
city of Badme remained a matter of dispute and the
relationship with Eritrea remained hostile. Both
countries mobilized soldiers along the border during the
2000s and 2010s and on several occasions war was close
to erupting again.
A turning point came in June 2018 when Ethiopia's new
reform-oriented Prime Minister Abyi Ahmed Ali announced
that Ethiopia was now ready to fully accept the border
set by a UN commission in 2002. The message led Eritrea
to send a delegation of diplomats to Addis Ababa for
further discussions. After some political summit
meetings, Ethiopia and Eritrea announced on July 9, 2018
that the war was over. In the capital of Eritrea,
Asmara, Abiy and Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki
signed a "joint declaration on peace and friendship",
which states that "the war between the countries ends
and a new era of peace and friendship begins". A full
peace agreement was signed by the parties on September
16, 2018 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Diplomatic relations were re-established at a rapid
pace, and new trade relations, transport and
communications were established. Ethiopia asked the UN
to lift sanctions against Eritrea, including the arms
embargo and the travel bans for individuals, which
occurred in November 2018. One month later, Ethiopia
began its troop retreat from the border area.
However, during the summer of 2019, the peace process
seemed to have stagnated. Several border crossings had
again been closed and a number of planned cooperation
agreements had not been concluded. Many observers felt
that Eritrea's leaders wanted to slow down the pace of
reform for fear of losing control over the country, but
the internal conflicts in Ethiopia also contributed to
hampering peace work (see Current Policy).
Relationship with Somalia
Relations with Somalia are complicated by the fact
that ethnic Somalis live in Ogaden, eastern Ethiopia.
Border battles have been fought on several occasions.
Somalia attempted to capture Ogaden in 1977, but quickly
fought back. Later, Somali refugees have crossed the
border, and armed Somali groups have made use of
Ethiopian territory. Ethiopia has been accused of
playing out different Somali groupings against each
other, and the country supports the two Somali outbreak
republics of Somaliland and Puntland.
In the war between the so-called transitional
government that was set up in Somalia in 2004 and the
"Islamic courts" Ethiopia supported the government. When
the Islamists took over Mogadishu, in December 2006
Ethiopia completely invaded the neighboring country and
drove the Islamists away. Subsequently, Ethiopians began
to retreat to gradually hand over to troops from the AU.
The withdrawal was completed in 2009, but Ethiopian
soldiers have also later crossed the border and
participated in battles against Somali Islamist militia.
In 2015, Ethiopia joined 4,000 troops in Somalia to the
AU peacekeeping force Amisom, and from mid-2016 Ethiopia
took home more and more soldiers due to increasing
domestic violence (see Current Policy).
When Ethiopia made peace with Eritrea 2018,
Ethiopia's relations with Somalia also improved. In June
2018, Abiy visited Somalia, where he discussed economic
cooperation and infrastructure efforts with Somali
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed. Sensitive topics
such as Ethiopia's participation in Amisom, or the
paramilitary Liyu force committing serious human rights
violations in the Ethiopian province of Ogaden, were not
raised. In September of that year, Somalia, Ethiopia and
Eritrea signed a comprehensive cooperation agreement
aimed at strengthening the political, economic,
security, social and cultural ties between the three
Sudan and South Sudan
Contacts with Sudan have been strained in the past.
The two countries have accused each other of supporting
armed resistance groups, and refugees have flowed back
and forth across the border. Relations improved
significantly from 1998 when Eritrea, which supported
Sudanese rebels, became a common enemy. Sudan has
developed into an increasingly important trading partner
during the 2000s and 2010s; Ethiopia buys oil that is
transported from South Sudan in pipelines through Sudan
to the port city of Port Sudan.
When South Sudan 2011 broke out of Sudan, the new
state of Ethiopia was welcomed, albeit somewhat
awaiting. After civil war broke out in South Sudan 2013,
Ethiopia took on a mediator role. The peace talks were
largely conducted in Ethiopia within the framework of
the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad)
regional cooperation organization and in August 2015 led
to the so-called Addis Ababa agreement between the
conflicting parties in South Sudan. When fighting broke
out again, the talks in Addis Ababa resumed under the
auspices of the AU. Ethiopia has also contributed with
troops to various peacekeeping efforts in South Sudan,
including from August 2017.
In April 2016 came reports that South Sudanese
warriors from the Merle people had crossed the border
into the Ethiopian state of Gambella and killed at least
216 people and carried away 102 children belonging to
the Nuer people. The border violations were about theft
of livestock. With the permission of the South Sudanese
government, Ethiopian soldiers crossed the border and
killed some 60 warlords in the pursuit of the
perpetrators. In March 2017, another 20 Ethiopians were
reported to have been killed in cattle herds performed
Other important relationships
Djibouti became a strategically important partner
when Ethiopia lost access to the important port city of
Assab in connection with the Eritrean war. Almost all
foreign trade then went through Djibouti until trade
relations with Eritrea began to resume in 2018.
Ethiopia's and Djibouti's relations are mainly about
joint infrastructure investments in and around
Djibouti's port, of which Ethiopia is still dependent. A
Chinese company has been commissioned to build a natural
gas pipeline from sources in eastern Ethiopia to the
port of Djibouti for further export. During the 2010
century, military cooperation between the two countries
was strengthened, mainly with the aim of combating
With neighboring Kenya, Ethiopia has good relations,
even though border incidents occur mainly between
different livestock people.
Ethiopia's relationship with Egypt has been
complicated in recent years, as competition for Nile
waters has become increasingly acute. Ethiopia is
building a huge hydroelectric dam in the Blue Nile,
close to the border with Sudan, which has led to
protests from Egypt that are completely dependent on the
river for its water supply. The Cairo government adheres
to agreements of 1929 and 1959 that give Egypt the right
to most of the water flow in the Nile as well as the
veto over construction projects on the river. A new
agreement from 2010, which excludes Egypt and Sudan,
says that construction projects can be done along the
Nile without the Egyptian government's approval (see
also Natural Resources, Energy and Environment).
The connections with the western world are good. For
the United States, Ethiopia is an important ally in the
fight against terrorism and instability on the Horn of
Africa. The Ethiopian opposition has accused Western
donors of trying to seize their fingers with the EPRDF
regime's human rights violations and violations of
China and Ethiopia have made closer contacts in
recent years, and Beijing has made major economic
investments in Ethiopia.
During the military regime 1974-1991, Ethiopia had
Africa's strongest army with close to half a million
soldiers. The last fiscal year of the regime went to 60
percent of government spending on the military. The
military shrunk rapidly after 1991, but when the war
against Eritrea broke out, it expanded again. Since
then, the number of soldiers has decreased again.
In March 2018, Ethiopia and France signed an
agreement to help the French to develop Ethiopia's own
fleet. It is not clear where the Ethiopian fleet will be
located, but the port of Djibouti is a likely location.
Ethiopia scrapped its former fleet when Eritrea gained
independence in 1993 and Ethiopia lost its coast.
Ethiopia has participated in peacekeeping missions
through the AU and the UN, including in Sudan and South
FACTS - DEFENSE
135,000 men (2017)
The air Force
3,000 men (2017)
Military expenditure's share of GDP
0.7 percent (2017)
Military spending's share of the state budget
3.8 percent (2017)
The UN blames Eritrea for war
The UN Commission tasked with investigating the debt and damages issue
following the war against Eritrea in 1998–2000 states that it was Eritrea that
triggered the war, thus breaking international law.
Opposition leader in trial
Trials are initiated against several opposition leaders after the riots
earlier this year. They are charged, among other things, with treason.
Many people die after protests against elections
Violent riots again erupt in protest against the election. Security forces
are resorting to violence. Many die, and over 100 opposition leaders are
arrested and charged with serious crimes. A total of 200 people are reported to
have been killed in election-related violence during the year.
Boycott of newly elected parliament
The CUD boycott the newly elected parliament when it opens, but the UEDF
chooses to participate. The boycotting members are deprived of their
The choice is criticized
An EU report states that widespread irregularities occurred during the
elections and that it did not meet international standards. Nevertheless,
democratic improvements are noted compared to previous elections.
Violent riots erupt in protest against the election. Over 40 people die when
security forces strike hard.
The opposition is moving forward in parliamentary elections
The EPRDF and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi win their third straight election,
but the opposition is going strong. Two opposition alliances, the CUD and the
UEDF, together take almost every third mandate in parliament. Despite their
success, they claim that cheating has occurred and that they are the real