Regions of ethiopia

Ethiopia is a federation subdivided into ethno-linguistically based Regional States (plural: kililoch; singular: kilil) and chartered cities (plural: astedader akababiwach; singular: astedader akabibi). This system of administrative regions replaced the provinces of Ethiopia in 1992 under the Transitional Government of Ethiopia and was formalised in 1995 when the current Constitution of Ethiopia came into force.

The regions are each governed by a regional council whose members are directly elected to represent districts (woreda). Each council has a president, who is elected by the council. The regions also have an executive committee, whose members are selected by the president from among the councilors and approved by the council. Each region has a sector bureau, which implements the council mandate and reports to the executive committee.

There are currently nine regional states and two chartered cities, the latter being the country's capital Addis Ababa, and Dire Dawa, which was chartered in 2004. Being based on ethnicity and language, rather than physical geography or history, the regions vary enormously in area and population, the most notable example being the Harari Region, which has a smaller area and population than either of the chartered cities. When they were originally established in 1992, there was a larger number of regions, but five regions were merged to form the multi-ethnic Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region later in 1992, following the first elections of regional councils on 21 June 1992

The word "kilil" more specifically means "reservation" or "protected area". The ethnic basis of the regions and choice of the word "kilil" has drawn fierce criticism from those in opposition to the ruling party who have drawn comparisons to the bantustans of apartheid South Africa.

Region Tigray.png


The Tigray (Tigrigna) people are related to the Amhara and Tigre people of Ethiopia and Eritrea who together make up the Habeshans. These people can trace their origins back to Shem, eldest son of Noah. They left present day Yemen and settled on the African side of the Red Sea inhabiting the Nile Delta and all land East of the valley down to the Ethiopian Highlands. These people are known in antiquity as the Ancient Egyptians who retreated back to Ethiopia and Eritrea after countless takeovers of Egypt. Here they established other great kingdoms such as Sheba/Saba and Axum. After the Middle Ages they soon split into 3 tribes: Amhara, Tigre and Tigray with their own languages that all derived from Ge'ez, their ancient language.

After a mass migration from Egypt, the Habeshans settled in the Ethiopian Highlands and Red Sea coast of present day Eritrea and North-Eastern Sudan. The Tigray live primarily in the Northern Highland of Ethiopia and the Southern plateau in Eritrea.

The lives of the Tigray are much like the Highland Amharas. They are mainly farmers and pastoralists. In older times there were several large urban communities in the Tigray Region that flourished and created much Christian art in the Abyssinian middle age

From early encounters with the Hebrew people, many Habeshans adopted the early form of proto-Judasim. Though the high and ruling class continued to practice the Egyptian pagan religion until Queen Makda of Sheba was converted by King Solomon to Judaism. Christianity came to the Tigray through Coptic missionaries. The Tigray and other Habeshans were the first African converts to Islam after sheltering Muhammad's followers in the holy city of Negash, located in the Tigray Region, from their enemies in Mecca. The converted Habeshans (especially Tigray Muslims) became known as the Jeberti (Elect of God). They became the religious leaders and university teachers in the powerful Islamic city of Zeila in NW Somalia. Because of the Islamic expansion, Aksum was cut from other Christian kingdoms which created their own unique form of Coptic Christianity by incorporating Judaistic rituals and laws and putting a large focus on monasticism. Today the majority of Tigray people are Ethiopian Orthodox and the minority are Sunni/Sufi Muslim.

Region Amhara.png


The term "Amhara" is derived from amari, meaning "one who is pleasing, agreeable, beautiful, and gracious." Amhara culture is often identified with Abyssinian culture, which is regarded as the heir to the cultural blending of ancient Semitic and Cushitic (African) patterns; other heirs are the Tigre-speaking people of Eritrea, and the Tegreñña speakers of northern Ethiopia. The name "Ethiopia" is derived from an ancient Greek term meaning "people with sunburned faces" and has been revived to designate the present-day state, which also includes non-Abyssinians. The Amhara themselves often use the term "Amhara" synonymously with "Ethiopian Orthodox (Monophysite) Christian," although their own, more precise expression for this religion is "Towahedo" (Orthodox). In the past, books on Ethiopia have often referred to this religion as "Coptic," derived from the Greek term for Egyptian. Until Haile Selassie was crowned emperor in 1930, the Coptic metropolitan of Alexandria, Egypt, had also been the head of this Ethiopian church and had appointed Ethiopian archbishops. 

Amharas (Amharic: አማራ, Āmara;[11] Ge'ez: አምሐራ, ʾÄməḥära)[12] are a Habesha Ethiosemitic-speaking ethnic group traditionally inhabiting parts of the northern and central Highlands of Ethiopia, particularly in Addis Ababa and the Amhara Region. According to the 2007 national census, Amharas numbered 19,867,817 individuals, comprising 26.9% of Ethiopia's population and they are mostly Orthodox Christians members of Ethiopian Orthodox Church.[1] They are also found within the Ethiopian expatriate community, particularly in North America.[2][13] They speak Amharic, an Afro-Asiatic language of the Semitic branch, a member of the Ethiosemitic group, which serves as the official language of Ethiopia.

Some scholars have classified the Amhara and the Tigrayans as Abyssinians.

The Amharas have historically inhabited the north, central and western parts of Ethiopia, and have been Pastoralist, semi-agriculturalist ethnic group of this region.[18] Their origin is thought to have been located in modern day Yemen (Sheba and Himyar), the Kingdom of Aksum and relocated to (Amhara) Sayint, Wollo, a place that was known as Amhara region in the past.[19] The Amhara are currently one of the two largest ethnic groups in Ethiopia, along with the Oromo.[18][19] They are sometimes referred to as "Abyssinians" by Western sources.[18][20][21]

Historically, the province of "Amhara" was historically located in the modern province of Wollo (Bete Amhara), in the modern sense however the region now known as Amhara in the feudal era was composed of several provinces with greater or less autonomy, which included GondarGojjamWolloLastaShewaSemienAngot, and Fetegar.[22] The traditional homeland of the Amharas is the central highland plateau of Ethiopia. For over two thousand years they have inhabited this region. Walled by high mountains and cleaved by great gorges, the ancient realm of Abyssinia has been relatively isolated from the influences of the rest of the world.

Christian Axumite (Axum) presence in the Amhara region dates back to at least the 8th century, with the establishment of the Istifanos monastery in Lake Hayq.[23] Several other sites and monuments indicate similar Axumite presences in area such as the Geta Lion statues, located 10 km south of Kombolcha is thought to date as old the 3rd century or even further to pre-Axumite times.[24] In 1998, pieces of pottery were found around tombs in Atatiya in Southern Wollo in Habru to the south-east of Hayq and to the north-east of Ancharo (Chiqa Beret). The decorations and symbols on the pottery are reliable archaeological evidence that Aksumite civilization had extended to Southern Amhara beyond Angot.[25] Many more ancient sites had probably been plentiful but were likely almost all destroyed by the vengeful reign of Gudit and especially the Muslim invasions led by Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi, where Amhara and Angot were particularly ravaged. The first specific mention of the Amhara dates to the early 12th century in the middle of the Zagwe Dynasty, when the Amhara were recorded of being in conflict with the Werjih in 1129.[26] The Werjih are located to have inhabited the eastern lowlands of Shewa as pastoralists. This indicates that the Amhara not only were existent as a distinct ethnic group, but had already made a presence as far as the southern plateau since at least the 12th century, disproving a common proposition put forward by scholars like Mesfin Woldemariam and Takele Tadesse who suggested that the Amhara did not exist as an ethnic group. Following the end of the ruling Agaw Zagwe dynasty, the Solomonic dynasty governed the Ethiopian Empire for many centuries from the 1270 AD onwards with the ascension of Yekuno Amlak, whose political and support base heiled from Shewa and Amhara. From then up until the deposing of Haile Selassie in 1974, (with the exception of the Tigray Yohannes IV) the Amhara continuously ruled and formed the political core of the Ethiopian Empire, greatly expanding its borders, wealth and international prestige as well as establishing several medieval royal sites and capitals such as TeguletDebre BerhanBarara (located in Entoto, in modern-day Addis Ababa,[27] Gonder, and Magdela, the former three of which were located in Shewa


Lebna Dengelnəgusä nägäst (Emperor) of Ethiopia and a member of the Solomonic dynasty

In the early 15th century, the Emperors sought to make diplomatic contact with European kingdoms for the first time since Aksumite times. A letter from King Henry IV of England to the Emperor of Abyssinia survives.[28] In 1428, the Emperor Yeshaq sent two emissaries to Alfonso V of Aragon, who sent return emissaries who failed to complete the return trip.[29] The first continuous relations with a European country began in 1508 with Portugal under Emperor Lebna Dengel, who had just inherited the throne from his father.[30] This proved to be an important development, for when the Empire was subjected to the attacks of the Adal Sultanate General and ImamAhmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi (called "Grañ", or "the Left-handed"), Portugal assisted the Ethiopian emperor by sending weapons and four hundred men, who helped his son Gelawdewos defeat Ahmad and re-establish his rule.[31] This Ethiopian–Adal War was also one of the first proxy wars in the region as the Ottoman Empire and Portugal took sides in the conflict.[citation needed]


Tewodros IInəgusä nägäst

The Amhara have contributed many rulers over the centuries, including Haile Selassie.[32] Haile Selassie's mother was paternal of Oromo descent and maternally of Gurage heritage, while his father was paternally Oromo and maternally Amhara. He consequently would have been considered Oromo in a patrilineal society, and would have been viewed as Gurage in a matrilineal one. However, in the main, Haile Selassie was regarded as Amhara, his paternal grandmother's royal lineage, through which he was able to ascend to the Imperial throne.[33]

Social stratification[edit]

Within traditional Amharic society and that of other local Afro-Asiatic-speaking populations, there were four basic strata. According to the Ethiopianist Donald Levine, these consisted of high-ranking clans, low-ranking clans, caste groups (artisans), and slaves.[34][35] Slaves were at the bottom of the hierarchy, and were primarily drawn from the pagan Nilotic Shanqella groups. Also known as the barya (meaning "slave" in Amharic), they were captured during slave raids in Ethiopia's southern hinterland. War captives were another source of slaves, but the perception, treatment and duties of these prisoners was markedly different.[36] According to Levine, the widespread slavery in Greater Ethiopia formally ended in the 1930s, but former slaves, their offspring, and de facto slaves continued to hold similar positions in the social hierarchy.[37]

The separate, Amhara caste system, ranked higher than slaves, consisted of: (1) endogamy, (2) hierarchical status, (3) restraints on commensality, (4) pollution concepts, (5) each caste has had a traditional occupation, and (6) inherited caste membership.[34][38] Scholars accept that there has been a rigid, endogamous and occupationally closed social stratification among Amhara and other Afro-Asiatic-speaking Ethiopian ethnic groups. However, some label it as an economically closed, endogamous class system or as occupational minorities,[39][40] whereas others such as the historian David Todd assert that this system can be unequivocally labelled as caste-based.[41][42][43]


Main article: Amharic

The Amhara speak Amharic (also known as Amarigna or Amarinya) as a mother tongue. It is spoken by 29.3% of the Ethiopian population.[44] It belongs to the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family.[45]

According to Donald Levine, the Afro-Asiatic (Hamito-Semitic) language family likely arose in either the eastern Sahara or southwestern Ethiopia. Early Afro-Asiatic populations speaking proto-Semitic, proto-Cushitic and proto-Omotic languages would have diverged by the fourth or fifth millennium BC. Shortly afterwards, the proto-Cushitic and proto-Omotic groups would have settled in the Ethiopian highlands, with the proto-Semitic speakers crossing the Sinai Peninsula into Asia Minor. A later return movement of peoples from South Arabia would have introduced the Semitic languages to Ethiopia.[46] Based on archaeological evidence, the presence of Semitic speakers in the territory date to sometime before 500 BC.[19] Linguistic analysis suggests the presence of Semitic languages in Ethiopia as early as 2000 BC. Levine indicates that by the end of that millennium, the core inhabitants of Greater Ethiopia would have consisted of swarthy Caucasoid ("Afro-Mediterranean") agropastoralists speaking Afro-Asiatic languages of the Semitic, Cushitic and Omotic branches.[46]

According to Robert Fay, the ancient Semitic speakers from Yemen were Himyarites and they settled in the Aksum area in northern Ethiopia.[citation needed] There, they intermarried with native speakers of Agaw and other Cushitic languages, and gradually spread southwards into the modern Amhara homeland[citation needed]. Their descendants, the early predecessors of the Amhara, spoke Ge'ez, the official language of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.[47] On the other hand, Ethiopian scholars specializing in Ethiopian Studies such as Messay Kebede and Daniel E. Alemu generally disagree with this theory arguing that the migration was one of reciprocal exchange, if it even occurred at all, and that the Amharas and other Ethiosemistic-speaking ethnic groups should not be characterized as foreign invaders.

Kebede states the following;

This is not to say that events associated with conquest, conflict and resistance did not occur. No doubt, they must have been frequent. But the crucial difference lies in the propensity to present them, not as the process by which an alien majority imposed its rule but as part of an ongoing struggle of native forces competing for supremacy in the region. The elimination of the alien ruler indigenize Ethiopian history in terms of local actors.


Amharic is the working language of the federal authorities of Ethiopia government. It was for some time also the language of primary school instruction, but has been replaced in many areas by regional languages such as Oromifa and Tigrinya. Nevertheless, Amharic is still widely used as the working language of Amhara RegionBenishangul-Gumuz RegionGambela Region and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region.[50] The Amharic language is transcribed using the Ethiopic or Ge'ez script (Fidäl), an abugida. The Amharic language is the official language of Ethiopia.

Most of the Ethiopian Jewish communities in Ethiopia and Israel speak Amharic.[3] Many in the popular Rastafari movement learn Amharic as a second language, as they consider it to be a sacred language.[51]



Crowds gather at the Fasilides' Bath in Gondar to celebrate Timkat - the Epiphany for the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

The predominant religion of the Amhara for centuries has been Christianity, with the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church playing a central role in the culture of the country. According to the 2007 census, 82.5% of the population of the Amhara Region were Ethiopian Orthodox; 17.2% were Muslim, and 0.2% were Protestant and 0.5 beta Israel .[52] The Ethiopian Orthodox Church maintains close links with the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. Easter and Epiphany are the most important celebrations, marked with services, feasting and dancing. There are also many feast days throughout the year, when only vegetables or fish may be eaten.

Marriages are often arranged, with men marrying in their late teens or early twenties.[53] Traditionally, girls were married as young as 14, but in the 20th century, the minimum age was raised to 18, and this was enforced by the Imperial government. After a church wedding, divorce is frowned upon.[53] Each family hosts a separate wedding feast after the wedding.

Upon childbirth, a priest will visit the family to bless the infant. The mother and child remain in the house for 40 days after birth for physical and emotional strength. The infant will be taken to the church for baptism at 40 days (for boys) or 80 days (for girls).[54]