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Ethiopia - Glossary Index
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook

      Glossary -- Ethiopia

      age-set system
      A system comprising several named sets (or groups) of men, each of which consists of those initiated in a given period. Each set passes through a series of age- grades, taking on the rights, duties, and activities specific to the grade. In Ethiopia such a system coexists with a generation-set system in some ethnic groups, e.g., the gada system (q.v.) among the Oromo.
      An Amharic term originally referring to any person with a claim to rist (q.v.) land by virtue of membership in a cognatic descent group (q.v.). Commonly used since the establishment of present-day Ethiopia by Menelik II in the late nineteenth century for those local chiefs and other non-Amhara who were assigned low-level administrative positions among their own people and who were allocated substantial landholdings.
      birr (pl., birr; no symbol used)
      The Ethiopian monetary unit, composed of 100 cents. Introduced officially in 1976, replacing the Ethiopian dollar at par. Through mid-1991, US$1 equaled 2.07 birr, or 1 birr was worth about US$0.48.
      A group whose members are descended in the male line from a putative common male ancestor (patriclan) or in the female line from a putative common female ancestor (matriclan--not reported in Ethiopia). Clans may be divided into subclans organized on the same principle or into lineages (q.v.) believed to be linked by descent from a remote common ancestor.
      Among the Somali, a group of clans (q.v.) believed to be linked by descent from a remote common ancestor.
      cognatic descent group
      A group comprising those persons tracing descent from a common ancestor through both males and females, thereby differing from unilineal descent groups (q.v.), such as clans (q.v.) and lineages (q.v.). This entity is important among the Amhara and the Tigray as the one holding the block of land in which its members claim rist (q.v.) rights. The group has no other function.
      Formed in June 1974 and composed of a substantial body of young military officers, none above the rank of major, drawn from the main units of the army, air force, navy, and police. The Derg's membership ranged from perhaps 106 to 120 or more. New officers were never admitted, whereas original members were continuously eliminated, especially during the Derg's early years. Its inner workings were almost never disclosed. Known at first as the Coordinating Committee of the Armed Forces, Police, and Territorial Army, after September 1974 it was known as the Provisional Military Administrative Council (PMAC), or simply as the Derg (Amharic for "committee" or "council"), a term derived from Gi'iz and little used before the 1974 revolution. The Derg lasted officially from June 1974 to September 1987, when the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia came into being.
      descent group
      A group having political, economic, or social functions. Formation of the group is based on actual or putative descent through persons of one sex from a common ancestor of the same sex, and therefore called unilineal descent groups (clans or lineages, q.v.), or through persons of both sexes from a common ancestor of either sex (cognatic descent groups--q.v.).
      Ethiopian calendar year
      The Ethiopian year consists of 365 days, divided into twelve months of thirty days each plus one additional month of five days (six in leap years). Ethiopian New Year's falls on September 11 and ends the following September 10, according to the Gregorian (Western) calendar. From September 11 to December 31, the Ethiopian year runs seven years behind the Gregorian year; thereafter, the difference is eight years. Hence, the Ethiopian year 1983 began on September 11, 1990, according to the Gregorian calendar, and ended on September 10, 1991. This discrepancy results from differences between the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church as to the date of the creation of the world.
      Ethiopian fiscal year (EFY)
      Based on the Ethiopian calendar year (q.v.). Corresponds to July 8 to July 7, seven years behind the Gregorian (Western) calendar through December 31, and eight years behind thereafter.
      gada system
      An Oromo term used to refer to a system that groups persons (invariably males) of the same generation (rather than age) into sets. The sets are ordered hierarchically and assigned a range of social, military, political, and ritual rights and responsibilities. Generation-set systems are found in varying forms among the Oromo and other groups, e.g., the Konso and Sidama.
      gross domestic product (GDP)
      A measure of the total value of goods and services produced by a domestic national economy during a given period, usually one year. Obtained by adding the value contributed by each sector of the economy in the form of profits, compensation to employees, and depreciation (consumption of capital). Only domestic production is included, not income arising from investments and possessions owned abroad, hence the use of the word "domestic" to distinguish GDP from the gross national product (GNP--q.v.). Real GDP is the value of GDP when inflation has been taken into account. In this book, subsistence production is included and consists of the imputed value of production by the farm family for its own use and the imputed rental value of owner-occupied dwellings. In countries lacking sophisticated data-gathering techniques, such as Ethiopia, the total value of GDP is often estimated.
      gross national product (GNP)
      The total market value of all final goods and services produced by an economy during a year. Obtained by adding the gross domestic product (GDP--q.v.) and the income received from abroad by residents and then subtracting payments remitted abroad to nonresidents. Real GNP is the value of GNP when inflation has been taken into account.
      A principle of land tenure among the Amhara, Tigray, and, with modifications, elsewhere. Abolished by the military government in 1975. Gult rights were rights granted by the emperor or his designated representative either to members of the ruling group as a reward for service or to Ethiopian Orthodox churches or monasteries as endowments. The holder of gult rights, often but not always an official, was entitled to collect tribute and demand labor from those on the land over which he held rights. Some of the tribute was kept, and the remainder was passed upward.
      International Monetary Fund (IMF)
      Established along with the World Bank (q.v.) in 1945, the IMF is a specialized agency affiliated with the United Nations that is responsible for stabilizing international exchange rates and payments. The main business of the IMF is the provision of loans to its members (including industrialized and developing countries) when they experience balance of payments difficulties. These loans frequently carry conditions that require substantial internal economic adjustments by the recipients, most of which are developing countries.
      Popular term used to describe a cooperative urban neighborhood association. Kebeles were formed after the nationalization of all urban land and rentable dwellings in July 1975. These cooperatives became the counterpart of the peasant associations developed under the military government's Land Reform Proclamation of March 1975. After their introduction, kebeles became the basic unit of urban government and served as instruments of sociopolitical control in urban areas.
      A group whose members are descended through males from a common male ancestor (patrilineage) or through females from a common female ancestor (matrilineage--not reported in Ethiopia). Such descent can in principle be traced. Lineages vary in genealogical depth from the ancestor to living generations; the more extensive ones often are internally segmented.
      Lomé Convention
      A series of agreements between the European Community (EC) and a group of African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) states, mainly former European colonies, that provide duty-free or preferential access to the EC market for almost all ACP exports. The Stabilization of Export Earnings (Stabex) scheme, a mechanism set up by the Lomé Convention, provides for compensation for ACP export earnings lost through fluctuations in the world prices of agricultural commodities. The Lomé Convention also provides for limited EC development aid and investment funds to be disbursed to ACP recipients through the European Development Fund and the European Investment Bank. The Lomé Convention is updated every five years. Lomé I took effect on April 1, 1976; Lomé II, on January 1, 1981; Lomé III, on March 1, 1985; and Lomé IV, on December 15, 1989.
      Red Terror
      The campaign of terror unleashed by the Derg (q.v.) in response to the urban guerrilla warfare--the so-called White Terror--of the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party and later of other leftist civilian opponents of the Derg, such as the All-Ethiopia Socialist Movement. Beginning in February 1977, untold thousands of mostly young people were jailed, tortured, and killed before the Red Terror had run its course by early 1978.
      A principle of land tenure among the Amhara and, with some variations, among the Tigray. Rist rights are land-use rights that any Amhara or Tigray, peasant or noble, can claim by virtue of descent through males and females from the original holder of such rights. Claims must be recognized by the cognatic descent group (q.v.). Once held, such rights cannot be withdrawn except in favor of one who presumably holds a better claim or, in extreme cases, by the emperor.
      A segment of a lineage (q.v.) and organized on the same principles.
      teff (eragrostis abyssinica)
      A cereal indigenous to Ethiopia, to which its consumption is almost entirely confined. It is the most widely grown grain in the highlands, where its flour is preferred in the making of the unleavened bread injera, the traditional form of cereal intake.
      World Bank
      Informal name used to designate a group of four affiliated international institutions that provide advice and assistance on long-term finance and policy issues to developing countries: the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), the International Development Association (IDA), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA). The IBRD, established in 1945, has as its primary purpose the provision of loans at market-related rates of interest to developing countries at more advanced stages of development. The IDA, a legally separate loan fund but administered by the staff of the IBRD, was set up in 1960 to furnish credits to the poorest developing countries on much easier terms than those of conventional IBRD loans. The IFC, founded in 1956, supplements the activities of the IBRD through loans and assistance designed specifically to encourage the growth of productive private enterprises in the less developed countries. The president and certain senior officers of the IBRD hold the same positions in the IFC. The MIGA, which began operating in June 1988, insures private foreign investment in developing countries against such noncommercial risks as expropriation, civil strife, and inconvertibility of currency. The four institutions are owned by the governments of the countries that subscribe their capital. To participate in the World Bank Group, member states must first belong to the International Monetary Fund (IMF--q.v.).
      Amharic for "campaign," in the military sense; popular term used to denote the military government's Development Through Cooperation Campaign, which was launched as part of the initial land reform in 1975. Early implementation included forced mobilization of university and secondary school students to explain the socialist revolution, including land reform, to peasants and to improve their traditionally low literacy rate. The term "green" zemecha was used to describe the agricultural aspects of the National Revolutionary Development Campaign in 1979.


      LaVerle Berry is a Research Analyst in African Affairs with the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress.

      Edmond J. Keller is Professor of Political Science and Director of the James S. Coleman African Studies Center at the University of California at Los Angeles.

      Mulatu Wubneh is Associate Professor of Planning at East Carolina University.

      Thomas P. Ofcansky is a Senior African Analyst with the Department of Defense.

      John W. Turner is an African Analyst with the Department of Defense.

      Yohannis Abate is a Geographer and African Analyst with the Department of Defense.

    NOTE: The information regarding Ethiopia on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Ethiopia Glossary information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Ethiopia Glossary should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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