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Africa 2006,

Early mixing between the Cushitic, Omotic and Nilotic Negroid peoples produced a racially mixed population in ancient Ethiopia. From about 800 BC there was an influx of Semitic peoples from Saba (now Yemen) across the Red Sea into the highlands of present-day Eritrea and northern Ethiopia. The name Ethiopia (a Greek name meaning "land of dark people") began to apply to the empire centered around the city of Axum. In 333 AD Ethiopian Emperor Ezana was converted to Christianity and, by the 14th and 15th centuries when this territory was surrounded by Muslim regions, tales were told in Europe about the mysterious Christian kingdom of Prester John. Emperor Menelik II came to power at the turn of the nineteenth century and founded a new capital, Addis Ababa, to replace Asmara as the capital. Shortly after his ascension to the throne in 1889, Emperor Menelik ceded to Italy the northern and northeastern fringes of his empire to placate Rome but the Italians still tried to incorporate Ethiopia, suffering a humiliating defeat. In 1936 Italy extended its rule over Ethiopia as well and in 1941, with Mussolini's defeat by the Allied forces. Emperor Haile Selassie was restored to the throne. At his insistence that Eritrea be rejoined to the "motherland" the UN General Assembly made it an autonomous state within an Ethiopian federation. In 1962 Selassie abrogated the federation and absorbed the country as Ethiopia's 14th province. Setbacks in the ensuing war with Eritrea and internal dissension led to the imprisonment and alleged strangling in jail of Haile Selassie in 1974. His successor, Major Mengistu Haile Mariam, introduced a Soviet-style regime-known as the Dergue- which led to the killing of 100,000 opponents. In 1991 the brutal 14-year dictatorship ended when the Tigray-led Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) marched into Addis Ababa. Mengistu fled, making way for Meles Zenawi who was reconfirmed as executive prime minister in the first multiparty elections in 1995 and again in August 2000. Girma Wolde-Giyorgis was elected president in 2001.