How Amharic Unites – And Divides – Ethiopia

How Amharic Unites – And Divides – Ethiopia
How Amharic Unites – And Divides – Ethiopia

Like most African nations, Ethiopia brims with difference and diversity. Among our 100 million people, we have around 80 ethnic groups and nearly a hundred languages. These variations in identity form the centre around which much of today’s politics revolve. Ethiopia’s controversial federal structure is just one example of its attempt to recognise complex internal differences while remaining united.

And yet, among all this swirling diversity, one particular language has come to dominate this complex country. Although the Amhara are just one of Ethiopia’s myriad ethnic groups – and only the second largest, accounting for 27% of the population in the 2007 census – Amharic has become the country’s official language. (This is a rarity in Africa, where most official languages are that of the former coloniser.)

Across Ethiopia, regional governments may use different languages appropriate to their constituencies, but the federal government operates in Amharic. The vast majority of the population speaks Amharic, either as a first or second language. The nation’s working language in commerce is Amharic.


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