Ethiopia: At the Threshold of a Renaissance: Ethiopia Celebrates Its Third Millennium against a Backdrop of a Rejuvenated Economy, with an Average Growth Rate of 11.9% in the Last Five Successive Years. All Indicators Show That the Country, with a Proud History Going Back 3,000 Years, Is on the Cusp of a Profound Economic and Social Transformation

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Ethiopia entered its third millennium on its New Year's Day, 1 Meskerem 2000 (or 12 September 2007 in the Gregorian calendar). Ethiopia's calendar year begins September, comprising of 12 months of 30 days and one additional month of five or six days in a leap year.

The country is unique: It is the cradle of humankind, the origin of coffee and the first written music (6th century AD). Ethiopians greeted the new millennium with rekindled hope of the country's renaissance.

Ethiopians successfully created an advanced civilisation in the first millennium. Great monolithic steles and an alphabet left by the Aksumite era attest to this great period. One of the steles is the tallest and heaviest (half a million kg) monolithic structure in the world.

In the first 300 years of the second millennium, Ethiopian civilisation was at its peak as evidenced by the Lalibela Church buildings and other artifacts. The rock-hewn churches in Lalibela are recognised as the Eighth Wonder of the world. In fact, Bete Medhane Alem, one of the 12 churches, is the largest rock-hewn church in the world.

Towards the middle of the first millennium, the first mosque in Africa was built as the first Muslim converts who fled from persecution in Arabia were given refuge by an Ethiopian king. At the beginning of the second millennium, Ethiopians in the east established an ancient trade centre at Harar, which already had a cluster of mosques, but later welcomed the establishment of churches--an expression of religious tolerance that prevails today. This heritage recognises Harar as a "city of peace".

The achievements of ancient Ethiopia are truly innumerable, and by no means adequately expressed by historical relics. Indeed, the celebration of the Ethiopian millennium is the result of the ancestors' development of an African calendar.

Ethiopia is the only African nation never to be colonised in its entire 3,000-year history. Ethiopia has also served as a beacon of freedom for all the world's oppressed peoples and the country is the seat of the African Union.

However, the last centuries of the second millennium have not been as glorious as the country declined from being one of the most advanced nations on earth to being one of the poorest.

The military junta known as the Dergue left the country in total ruin when it was toppled in 1991 through an armed struggle led by a coalition of democratic forces of the Ethiopian Peoples' Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), the current ruling party.

Having realised that they themselves were responsible for the failures of the last centuries of the second millennium, the Ethiopian people have now launched an all-out effort to reverse the course of this history.

GOVERNMENT AND ECONOMY

The 1994 constitution saw the first multiparty elections being held within a year. Following the adoption of the constitution, democratic institutions were established and an independent judiciary and press freedom were guaranteed. Now there are 69 political parties and the opposition holds one-third of parliamentary seats.

The constitution introduced a federal system of government. Federalism has not only maintained unity and peace among the people, but also prevented dominance by the ruling party, enhancing public participation in national affairs.

As a result of the great changes in recent decades, Ethiopia pursued a market-oriented economy in 1991. Policy and reform measures introduced since then have led to an economic transformation and private sector participation. A privatisation programme embarked upon in 1994 has resulted in the privatisation of over 250 public enterprises. Above all, the government has committed itself to eradicating poverty with viable economic strategies and good governance.

The strategies have begun to bear fruit as evidenced by an average 11. …