HLA class II alleles were identified in 181 healthy unrelated Ethiopian children of both sexes and in 350 European controls from the South of France. The Ethiopian individuals belonged to the two major ethnic groups of the country: Oromo (N=83) and Amhara (N=98). In both panels, genetic polymorphism of HLA class II alleles was analysed for the first time by molecular typing of DRB1, DQA1 and DQB1 loci. Allelic and phenotypic frequencies were compared with those of European controls and other African populations. Construction of HLA class II three-locus haplotypes was also performed. The study revealed some differences between the two groups. Characteristic features of Central and North African populations appeared on the Ethiopian HLA genotypes. Surprisingly, DRB1*11 presented one of the lowest gene frequencies in both Ethiopian ethnic groups in contrast to Europeans and West Africans. Furthermore, this decrease was more marked than those observed using serological techniques in other geographically close East African countries. Oromo and Amhara only showed minor differences in spite of their different origins and histories. One significant difference consisted of a lower DRB1*01 gene frequency in Oromo as reported in most West African people. Some new or rare haplotypes were also observed in the Oromo group. Our results underline the distinctive features of the Ethiopian populations among the few HLA genotyping data available for East African groups and emphasise the major interest of such investigations in this region of Africa.