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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 September 2007, 03:32 GMT 04:32 UK
Ethiopia rings in new Millennium
People from all over Ethiopia have flocked to the capital
Celebrations have been taking place in the streets of Addis Ababa as Ethiopia ushers in the new Millennium.

The country uses the calendar of the Coptic Orthodox Church - which means the year 2000 began at midnight on Wednesday (2100GMT on Tuesday).

Fireworks lit up the sky above the city, as revellers gathered in the streets for a cultural festival.

A more exclusive event was attended by a number of African leaders, including Kenya's Mwai Kibaki.

We thank Ethiopia for keeping up the flame of African unity
Alpha Oumar Konare
AU chairman

In the 16th Century, the rest of Christendom revised its estimate of the date of the birth of Christ - but Ethiopia stuck with the old date, which means it was stuck more than seven years behind the rest of the world.

Ethiopians gathered together in churches all over the country to mark the occasion.

'Time for renaissance'

Speaking at the main event to welcome in the Millennium, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi spoke of the glories of Ethiopia's first 1,000 years.

A happy Millennium for all of us! The very reason we Ethiopians celebrate a different Millennium shows that we are a free and independent country
Tarik Zarish, Addis Ababa

He said decline then occurred, but now it was time for an Ethiopian renaissance.

"A thousand years from now, when Ethiopians gather to welcome the fourth Millennium, they shall say the eve of the third Millennium was the beginning of the end of the dark ages in Ethiopia," he said.

Because it was never colonised, Ethiopia has always had a special significance for the rest of Africa - which was summed up by the chairman of the African Union, Alpha Oumar Konare.

"We thank Ethiopia for keeping up the flame of African unity," he said.

He was speaking at the new exhibition hall where foreign dignitaries gathered.

But correspondents say Ethiopians have mixed feelings about the Millennium celebrations.

Some residents of Addis Ababa - an opposition stronghold - criticised the government's campaign to clear the streets of beggars and the rising cost of food ahead of the celebrations.

Tickets for a concert featuring US hip hop group the Black Eyed Peas cost $170, two months' salary for an average Ethiopian.

Fireworks in Addis Ababa

Is Ethiopia's Millennium bright?
07 Sep 07 |  Africa Have Your Say
In pictures: Ethiopian Millennium
12 Sep 07 |  In Pictures
Country profile: Ethiopia
21 Jun 07 |  Country profiles

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