Ethiopia is Africa’s oldest independent country. The current government which is led by The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front came to power in 1991 by overthrowing the Marxist-Leninist regime, ‘the Derg’, which in turn had ended the imperial period with Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974. In 1994, the new constitution that put in place the current ethnic federalism was ratified. Defined as a multicultural federation that operates on the basis of ethno-national representation and self-determination, the federal government is considered one of the strongest in Africa. Ethnic federalism, however, remains a debated issue in Ethiopia.
Over the past 23 years, four national elections have been held; of which the third election, in 2005, was the most contested to date and followed by post-election violence. While Ethiopia is one of the continents’ and particularly the region’s more stable nations, the political environment in the country is dynamic and marked by some tensions within the country. The government is challenged by intra-state armed opposition and despite a long history of religious tolerance in Ethiopia, recent tensions in the country also point to a more pronounced picture of religion playing a role in conflict dynamics. Interstate tensions with bordering neighbors include an inter-state war with Eritrea in 1998-2000 and military intervention in neighboring Somalia in 2006. Sporadic outbreaks of violence also continue cross-border, covering bordering areas of Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya. Regionally, Ethiopia plays an active diplomatic and military role in the Horn of Africa region. Ethiopia is a founding member of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) which is a regional economic and community for countries in the Horn of Africa. Ethiopia has a peacekeeping mission in the buffer zone between the two Sudans. Ethiopia is also a troop-contributing country to AMISOM – AU’s mission to Somalia).