English is the most widely spoken foreign language and the language in which secondary school and university classes are taught. French is heard occasionally in parts of the country near Djibouti, formerly French Somaliland. Italian can be heard on occasion, particularly among the elderly in the Tigre region. Remnants of the Italian occupation during World War II exist in the capital, such as the use of ciao to say “good-bye.”
Symbolism. The monarchy, known as the Solomonic dynasty, has been a prominent national symbol. The imperial flag consists of horizontal stripes of green, gold, and red with a lion in the foreground holding a staff. On the head of the staff is an Ethiopian Orthodox cross with the imperial flag waving from it. The lion is the Lion of Judah, one of the many imperial titles signifying descent from King Solomon. The cross symbolizes the strength and reliance of the monarchy on the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the dominant religion for the last sixteen hundred years.
Today, twenty-five years after the last emperor was dethroned, the flag consists of the traditional green, gold, and red horizontal stripes with a five-pointed star and rays emitting from its points in the foreground over a light blue circular background. The star represents the unity and equity of the various ethnic groups, a symbol of a federalist government based on ethnic states.
Sovereignty and freedom are characteristics and thus symbols of Ethiopia both internally and externally. Many African nation-states, such as Ghana, Benin, Senegal, Cameroon, and the Congo adopted Ethiopia’s colors for their flags when they gained independence from colonial rule.
Some Africans in the diaspora established a religious and political tradition deemed Ethiopianism. Proponents of this movement, which predates pan-Africanism, appropriated the symbol of Ethiopia to liberate themselves from oppression. Ethiopia was an independent, black nation with an ancient Christian Church that was not a colonial biproduct. Marcus Garvey spoke of viewing God through the spectacles of Ethiopia and often quoted Psalm 68:31, “Ethiopia shall stretch her hands unto God.” From Garvey’s teachings, the Rastafarian movement emerged in Jamaica in the 1930s.