Conscription and military service in Ethiopia, including penalties for refusing to perform service (official and unofficial); the position of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church regarding the war and military service [ETH34351.E]

Military service, which is compulsory in Ethiopia, is provided for under Proclamation No. 238 (UN 16 Jan. 1997; GINIE 1999). The minimum age for recruitment is 18 years (ibid.). Although the Ethiopian government has reportedly made serious efforts to respect the minimum age for military service (ibid.; Office of the Government Spokesperson 19 Apr. 1999), reports from independent media sources, anti-government opposition groups, and the Eritrean government indicate that recruitment of under-age children is still a problem (GINIE 1999.; Voice of the Democratic Path of Ethiopian Unity 12 Mar. 2000; Embassy of Eritrea 12 Feb. 1999).

Information on the position of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church regarding the war and military service was scarce among the sources consulted. Radio Ethiopia reports on 7 and 10 February 1999 stated that the leaders of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church "support[ed] Ethiopia's self-defense efforts in the war against Eritrea" (Seven Days Update 15 Feb. 1999), but a 3 September 1999 Xinhua report stated that a delegation of Ethiopian religious leaders, including from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, was attempting to meet with their Eritrean counterparts to discuss a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

Information on the penalties for refusal to perform military service could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Additional information on military service in Ethiopia can be found in ZZZ32930.E of 15 October 1999.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Embassy of Eritrea, Washington, DC. 12 February 1999. "Eritrea; Ethiopia Must Stop Child Conscription." (Africa News/NEXIS)

Global Information Networks in Education (GINIE). 1999. "Selected Countries Using Child and Young Adult Soldiers." countries.html [Accessed 11 May 2000]

Office of the Government Spokesperson Website [Addis Ababa, in English]. 19 April 1999. "Ethiopian Spokesperson Denies Government Conscripting Minors." (BBC Summary 21 Apr. 1999/NEXIS)

Seven Days Update [Addis Ababa]. 15 February 1999. "Ethiopia: Digging into Pockets." (Africa News/NEXIS)

United Nations (UN). 16 January 1997. (E/CN.4/1997/99). The Question of the Conscientious Objection to Military Service: Report of the Secretary-General Prepared Pursuant to Commission Resolution 1995/83. [Accessed 11 May 2000]

Voice of the Democratic Path of Ethiopian Unity [in Amharic]. 12 March 2000. "Opposition Radio Reports Conscription Underway in Rural Areas." (BBC Summary 14 Mar. 1999/NEXIS)

The Xinhua News Agency. 3 September 1999. "Ethio-Eritrian Religious Leaders Meet over Border Crisis." (NEXIS)

Additional Sources Consulted

Africa Confidential [London]. December 1999-March 2000.

Africa Research Bulletin [Oxford]. July 1999-March 2000.

Ethiopian Register [Avon, Minn.]. September 1999-March 2000.

Horn of Africa Bulletin [Uppsala]. December 1999-February 2000.

IRB databases.


Resource Centre Amnesty International Ethiopia country file. January 1999-May 2000.

Resource Centre country file on Ethiopia. November 1999-April 2000.

World News Connection (WNC).

Internet sites including:

Africa Intelligence.

Africa Policy Information Centre (APIC).

Amnesty International.

CIA Factbook.

Derechos Human Rights.

Human Rights Watch (HRW).

United Nations (UNESCO, UNICEF).