Eritrea


Eritrea
Eritrean, adj., n.
/er'i tree"euh/; It. /e'rddee trdde"ah/, n.
a republic in NE Africa, on the Red Sea: Italian colony 1890-1941; province of Ethiopia 1962-93; independent since 1993. 3,589,687; 47,076 sq. mi. (121,927 sq. km). Cap.: Asmara.

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Eritrea

Introduction Eritrea
Background: Eritrea was awarded to Ethiopia in 1952 as part of a federation. Ethiopia's annexation of Eritrea as a province 10 years later sparked a 30-year struggle for independence that ended in 1991 with Eritrean rebels defeating governmental forces; independence was overwhelmingly approved in a 1993 referendum. A two and a half year border war with Ethiopia that erupted in 1998 ended under UN auspices on 12 December 2000. Eritrea currently hosts a UN peacekeeping operation that will monitor the border region until an international commission determines and demarcates the boundary between the two countries. Geography Eritrea -
Location: Eastern Africa, bordering the Red Sea, between Djibouti and Sudan
Geographic coordinates: 15 00 N, 39 00 E
Map references: Africa
Area: total: 121,320 sq km water: 0 sq km land: 121,320 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly larger than Pennsylvania
Land boundaries: total: 1,626 km border countries: Djibouti 109 km, Ethiopia 912 km, Sudan 605 km
Coastline: 2,234 km total; mainland on Red Sea 1,151 km, islands in Red Sea 1,083 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 NM
Climate: hot, dry desert strip along Red Sea coast; cooler and wetter in the central highlands (up to 61 cm of rainfall annually); semiarid in western hills and lowlands; rainfall heaviest during June-September except in coastal desert
Terrain: dominated by extension of Ethiopian north-south trending highlands, descending on the east to a coastal desert plain, on the northwest to hilly terrain and on the southwest to flat-to-rolling plains
Elevation extremes: lowest point: near Kulul within the Denakil depression -75 m highest point: Soira 3,018 m
Natural resources: gold, potash, zinc, copper, salt, possibly oil and natural gas, fish
Land use: arable land: 3.87% permanent crops: 0.02% other: 96.11% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 220 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: frequent droughts; locust swarms Environment - current issues: deforestation; desertification; soil erosion; overgrazing; loss of infrastructure from civil warfare Environment - international party to: Biodiversity, Climate
agreements: Change, Desertification, Endangered Species signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: strategic geopolitical position along world's busiest shipping lanes; Eritrea retained the entire coastline of Ethiopia along the Red Sea upon de jure independence from Ethiopia on 24 May 1993 People Eritrea
Population: 4,465,651 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 42.9% (male 958,564; female 955,625) 15-64 years: 53.9% (male 1,192,454; female 1,213,313) 65 years and over: 3.2% (male 73,017; female 72,678) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 3.8% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 42.25 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 11.82 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: 7.61 migrant(s)/1,000 population note: UNHCR began repatriating about 150,000 Eritrean refugees from Sudan in 2001 following the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 2000 (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 0.98 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 1 male(s)/female total population: 0.99 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 73.62 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 56.57 years female: 59.13 years (2002 est.) male: 54.09 years
Total fertility rate: 5.8 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 2.87% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ NA
AIDS:
HIV/AIDS - deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Eritrean(s) adjective: Eritrean
Ethnic groups: ethnic Tigrinya 50%, Tigre and Kunama 40%, Afar 4%, Saho (Red Sea coast dwellers) 3%, other 3%
Religions: Muslim, Coptic Christian, Roman Catholic, Protestant
Languages: Afar, Amharic, Arabic, Tigre and Kunama, Tigrinya, other Cushitic languages
Literacy: definition: NA total population: 25% male: NA% female: NA% Government Eritrea
Country name: conventional long form: State of Eritrea conventional short form: Eritrea local long form: Hagere Ertra former: Eritrea Autonomous Region in Ethiopia local short form: Ertra
Government type: transitional government note: following a successful referendum on independence for the Autonomous Region of Eritrea on 23- 25 April 1993, a National Assembly, composed entirely of the People's Front for Democracy and Justice or PFDJ, was established as a transitional legislature; a Constitutional Commission was also established to draft a constitution; Afworki ISAIAS was elected president by the transitional legislature; the constitution, ratified in May 1997, did not enter into effect, pending parliamentary and presidential elections; parliamentary elections had been scheduled to take place in December 2001, but were postponed; currently the sole legal party is the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), though a draft political parties law is under consideration
Capital: Asmara (formerly Asmera) Administrative divisions: 6 regions (regions, singular - region); Central, Anelba, Southern Red Sea, Northern Red Sea, Southern, Gash-Barka
Independence: 24 May 1993 (from Ethiopia)
National holiday: Independence Day, 24 May (1993)
Constitution: the transitional constitution, decreed on 19 May 1993, was replaced by a new constitution adopted on 23 May 1997, but not yet implemented
Legal system: primary basis is the Ethiopian legal code of 1957, with revisions; new civil, commercial, and penal codes have not yet been promulgated; also relies on customary and post- independence-enacted laws and, for civil cases involving Muslims, Sharia law
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: President Afworki ISAIAS (since 8 June 1993); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government and is head of the State Council and National Assembly head of government: President Afworki ISAIAS (since 8 June 1993); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government and is head of the State Council and National Assembly cabinet: State Council is the collective executive authority; members appointed by the president elections: president elected by the National Assembly; election last held 8 June 1993 (next election date uncertain as the National Assembly did not hold a presidential election in December 2001 as anticipated) election results: ISAIAS Afworki elected president; percent of National Assembly vote - ISAIAS Afworki 95%
Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly (150 seats; term limits not established) elections: in May 1997, following the adoption of the new constitution, 75 members of the PFDJ Central Committee (the old Central Committee of the EPLF), 60 members of the 527-member Constituent Assembly which had been established in 1997 to discuss and ratify the new constitution, and 15 representatives of Eritreans living abroad were formed into a Transitional National Assembly to serve as the country's legislative body until countrywide elections to a National Assembly were held; although only 75 of 150 members of the Transitional National Assembly were elected, the constitution stipulates that once past the transition stage, all members of the National Assembly will be elected by secret ballot of all eligible voters; National Assembly elections scheduled for December 2001 were postponed indefinately
Judicial branch: High court, regional, subregional, and village courts; also have military and special courts Political parties and leaders: People's Front for Democracy and Justice or PFDJ, the only party recognized by the government [Afworki ISAIAS]; note - a National Assembly committee drafted a law on political parties in January 2001, but the full National Assembly had not yet debated or voted on it as of December 2001 Political pressure groups and Eritrean Islamic Jihad or EIJ;
leaders: Eritrean Liberation Front or ELF [ABDULLAH Muhammed]; Eritrean Liberation Front-Revolutionary Council or ELF-RC [Ahmed NASSER]; Eritrean Liberation Front-United Organization or ELF-UO [Mohammed Said NAWD]; Eritrean Public Forum or EPF [ARADOM Iyob] International organization ACP, AfDB, CCC, ECA, FAO, IBRD,
participation: ICAO, ICFTU, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS (associate), IGAD, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, ITU, NAM, OAU, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador GIRMA Asmerom telephone: [1] (202) 319-1991 FAX: [1] (202) 319-1304 chancery: 1708 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador Donald
US: J. McCONNELL embassy: Franklin D. Roosevelt Street, Asmara mailing address: P. O. Box 211, Asmara telephone: [291] (1) 120004 FAX: [291] (1) 127584
Flag description: red isosceles triangle (based on the hoist side) dividing the flag into two right triangles; the upper triangle is green, the lower one is blue; a gold wreath encircling a gold olive branch is centered on the hoist side of the red triangle Economy Eritrea -
Economy - overview: Since independence from Ethiopia on 24 May 1993, Eritrea has faced the economic problems of a small, desperately poor country. Like the economies of many African nations, the economy is largely based on subsistence agriculture, with 80% of the population involved in farming and herding. The Ethiopian-Eritrea war in 1998-2000 severely hurt Eritrea's economy. GDP growth in 1999 fell to less than 1%, and GDP decreased by 8.2% in 2000. The May 2000 Ethiopian offensive into northern Eritrea caused some $600 million in property damage and loss, including losses of $225 million in livestock and 55,000 homes. The attack prevented planting of crops in Eritrea's most productive region, causing food production to drop by 62%. Even during the war, Eritrea developed its transportation infrastructure, asphalting new roads, improving its ports, and repairing war damaged roads and bridges. Eritrea's economic future remains mixed. The cessation of Ethiopian trade, which mainly used Eritrean ports before the war, leaves Eritrea with a large economic hole to fill. Eritrea's economic future depends upon its ability to master fundamental social problems like illiteracy, unemployment, and low skills, and to convert the diaspora's money and expertise into economic growth.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $3.2 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 7% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $740 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 17% industry: 29% services: 54% (2001 est.) Population below poverty line: NA% Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: NA%
percentage share: highest 10%: NA% Inflation rate (consumer prices): 15% (2001 est.)
Labor force: NA Labor force - by occupation: agriculture 80%, industry and services 20%
Unemployment rate: NA%
Budget: revenues: $206.4 million expenditures: $615.7 million, including capital expenditures of $NA (2000 est.)
Industries: food processing, beverages, clothing and textiles Industrial production growth rate: NA% Electricity - production: 210 million kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 100% hydro: 0% other: 0% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 195.3 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh NA kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh NA kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: sorghum, lentils, vegetables, corn, cotton, tobacco, coffee, sisal; livestock, goats; fish
Exports: $34.8 million (f.o.b., 2000)
Exports - commodities: livestock, sorghum, textiles, food, small manufactures
Exports - partners: Sudan 27.2%, Ethiopia 26.5%, Japan 13.2%, UAE 7.3%, Italy 5.3% (1998)
Imports: $470.5 million (c.i.f., 2000)
Imports - commodities: machinery, petroleum products, food, manufactured goods
Imports - partners: Italy 17.4%, UAE 16.2%, Germany 5.7%, UK 4.5%, Korea 4.4% (1998)
Debt - external: $281 million (2000 est.) Economic aid - recipient: $77 million (1999)
Currency: nakfa (ERN)
Currency code: ERN
Exchange rates: nakfa (ERN) per US dollar - 9.5 (January 2000), 7.6 (January 1999), 7.2 (March 1998 est.)
Fiscal year: calendar year Communications Eritrea Telephones - main lines in use: 30,000 (2001) Telephones - mobile cellular: NA; note - mobile cellular service was introduced in May 2001
Telephone system: general assessment: inadequate domestic: very inadequate; most telephones are in Asmara; government is seeking international tenders to improve the system (2002) international: NA; note - international connections exist Radio broadcast stations: AM 2, FM NA, shortwave 2 (2000)
Radios: 345,000 (1997) Television broadcast stations: 1 (2000)
Televisions: 1,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .er Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 5 (2001)
Internet users: 12,000 (2001) Transportation Eritrea
Railways: total: 317 km narrow gauge: 317 km 0.950-m gauge note: links Ak'ordat and Asmara with the port of Massawa; nonoperational since 1978 except for about a 5 km stretch that was reopened in Massawa in 1994; rehabilitation of the remainder and of the rolling stock is under way (2001 est.)
Highways: total: 3,850 km paved: 810 km unpaved: 3,040 km (2000)
Waterways: none
Ports and harbors: Assab (Aseb), Massawa (Mits'iwa)
Merchant marine: total: 6 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 19,100 GRT/23,399 DWT ships by type: bulk 1, cargo 2, liquefied gas 1, petroleum tanker 1, roll on/roll off 1 (2002 est.)
Airports: 21 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 4 over 3,047 m: 2 2,438 to 3,047 m: 2 (2001) Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 17 over 3,047 m: 1 2,438 to 3,047 m: 2 1,524 to 2,437 m: 5 914 to 1,523 m: 7 under 914 m: 2 (2001) Military Eritrea
Military branches: Army, Navy, Air Force
Military expenditures - dollar figure: $138.3 million (FY01) Military expenditures - percent of GDP: 19.8% (FY01) Transnational Issues Eritrea Disputes - international: Eritrea and Ethiopia have expressed general approval of the April 2002 arbitration commission ruling re- delimiting the boundary, the focus of their 1998-2000 war; United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) will monitor activities within the 25-km wide temporary security zone in Eritrea until demarcation and de-mining are complete; Yemen has asserted traditional fishing rights to islands ceded to Eritrea in ICJ ruling

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officially State of Eritrea Tigrinya Ertra

Country, eastern Africa.

Flag of Eritrea.

It extends about 600 mi (1,000 km) along the Red Sea coast and includes the Dahlak Archipelago. Area: 46,770 sq mi (121,100 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 3,981,000 (including about 350,000 refugees from The Sudan). Capital: Asmara. There is no official religion or language. The varied population is about half Tigrinya-speaking (see Tigray) Christians, with a large minority of Muslims and diverse other peoples. Arabic, English, and Italian are also spoken. Currency: nakfa. Eritrea's land varies from temperate central highlands to coastal desert plain, with savanna and open woodlands in the western lowlands. Its economy is based on livestock herding and subsistence agriculture. Industry, based in Asmara, includes food products, textiles, and leather goods; exports include salt, hides, cement, and gum arabic. Eritrea's form of government is a transitional regime with one interim legislative body; the head of state and government is the president. As the site of the main ports of the Aksumite empire, it was linked to the beginnings of the Ethiopian kingdom, but it retained much of its independence until it came under Ottoman rule in the 16th century. In the 17th–19th centuries control of the territory was disputed among Ethiopia, the Ottomans, the kingdom of Tigray, Egypt, and Italy; it became an Italian colony in 1890. Eritrea was used as the main base for the Italian invasions of Ethiopia (1896 and 1935–36) and in 1936 became part of Italian East Africa. It was captured by the British in 1941, federated to Ethiopia in 1952, and made a province of Ethiopia in 1962. Thirty years of guerrilla warfare by Eritrean secessionist groups ensued. A provisional Eritrean government was established in 1991 after the overthrow of the Ethiopian government, and independence came in 1993. A new constitution was ratified in 1997. A border war with Ethiopia that began in 1998 ended in an Ethiopian victory in 2000.

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▪ 2009

Area:
121,144 sq km (46,774 sq mi)
Population
(2008 est.): 5,028,000
Capital:
Asmara
Head of state and government:
President Isaias Afwerki

      Eritrea entered in to another frontier dispute in 2008, this time with its neighbour Djibouti. In June regular soldiers of the two countries clashed at a small area along their undemarcated border, leading to more than 20 deaths and the wounding of dozens.

      The fighting came as the UN prepared to disband a mission aimed at preserving a fragile cease-fire between Eritrea and Ethiopia. The UN, which had earlier complained that Eritrea had cut off fuel supplies to the mission (which had arrived in December 2000 to keep the peace after a deal was reached to end a two-year war in which 70,000 lives were lost), completed the pullout of its peacekeeping troops from the tense border in July. The border between the two countries remained volatile throughout the year, however, as both countries massed soldiers on their respective sides.

      While the new tensions simmered at the Djibouti border, Eritrean Pres. Isaias Afwerki's government quarreled with the international community. The regime refused to cooperate with a UN Security Council panel investigating the problem, which had roots in frontier ambiguities first created during the 19th-century partition of Africa by European powers.

      Hunger and hardship continued to afflict many Eritreans. In September an international humanitarian organization warned that 17 million people in the Horn of Africa, a region that included Eritrea, urgently needed food and other types of humanitarian aid because of a long-running drought, human conflict, and global escalation of food prices.

      On the economic front, Eritrea made little improvement on a large scale, but, in an effort to attract investors, the country announced the creation of a new export zone at its port of Massawa. The World Bank in June approved $29.5 million in new financing for Eritrea to help it pay for a power-distribution and rural-electrification project and fund early-childhood-development programs. In August a Canadian mining company, Nevsun Resources Ltd., disclosed that it had abandoned its mining operations in Mali to spearhead development of a $250 million gold-mining project in Bisha, Eritrea. The company would operate the mine in partnership with an Eritrean government-controlled corporation.

Patrick L. Thimangu

▪ 2008

Area:
121,144 sq km (46,774 sq mi)
Population
(2007 est.): 4,907,000
Capital:
Asmara
Head of state and government:
President Isaias Afwerki

      Eritrea's enmity with neighbouring Ethiopia continued to dominate the 2007 agenda of the country, sapping energy required for repairing broken relations with the West and resolving the dire economic, political, and social needs facing its people. In January the long-simmering tensions between Eritrea and Ethiopia exploded into a hot proxy war when both countries lent support to opposing sides in a new conflict in Somalia. The fighting, which had begun in December 2006, reached a climax when Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG), backed by Ethiopian troops, routed the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), a group supported by the government of Eritrean Pres. Isaias Afwerki and one that had ruled Somalia for six months. In September 2007 Eritrea hosted a conference at which the ICU leadership and other Somalian opposition figures discussed ways of dislodging Ethiopian soldiers and the ruling TFG. That move prompted the United States, which favoured the TFG, to threaten to declare Eritrea a terrorist-friendly country.

      Although fighting in Somalia subsided after the fall of the ICU, the spectre of direct war between Eritrea and Ethiopia loomed large. During the year both countries continued to boost troop levels and armaments at their common border, further threatening the fragile seven-year-long UN-monitored cease-fire that had ended a bloody two-year war that claimed some 70,000 lives.

      Despite a pledge by the European Commission in July to provide Eritrea with the equivalent of $8.5 million in humanitarian aid, poverty and food shortages continued to haunt Eritrea. This was exacerbated by a bad economy, inadequate rainfall, border troubles with Ethiopia, intransigence of the Afwerki regime (which insisted that the country could feed itself), and a nearly $180 million shortfall in a $212.9 million international food-assistance budget.

      As Eritrea's relations with Western countries worsened in 2007, Asmara looked east, strengthening its ties with China, which announced in January a cancellation of a chunk of Eritrea's foreign debt. In July the two countries signed economic pacts following the visit of Chinese Assistant Minister of Commerce Chong Quan to Asmara.

      Despite troubles at home, an Eritrean athlete once again displayed his prowess in long-distance running. In March 25-year-old Zersenay Tadesse won the world cross country championships, held in Mombasa, Kenya, upsetting five-time champion Kenenisa Bekele of Ethiopia.

Patrick L. Thimangu

▪ 2007

Area:
121,144 sq km (46,774 sq mi)
Population
(2006 est.): 4,787,000
Capital:
Asmara
Head of state and government:
President Isaias Afwerki

      Eritrea faced severe challenges in 2006, most of which were exacerbated by the nation's authoritarian government, which failed to create a climate of economic revival, good relations with Western donors, neighbourly relations with Ethiopia, or real freedom for its people. Severe drought continued to afflict major portions of the Horn of Africa, causing food shortages for about 11 million people in the region. The hunger crisis prompted the United Nations in February to appoint Norwegian diplomat Kjell Magne Bondevik as its special humanitarian envoy to the region. Pres. Isaias Afwerki's government in Eritrea downplayed the reality of the famine, however, and insisted that the nation could feed itself. In March Eritrea expelled three aid organizations, stating that they had failed to follow new rules created to regulate nongovernmental organizations. The ousted American, British, and Irish charities were among 24 NGOs that had ceased operating in the country since 2005.

      The Eritrean economy remained deep in the red, spending more money on defense, modest economic restructuring, and humanitarian programs than it was taking in. The country's external debt exceeded $500 million, up from $75 million in 1997. By the end of August, Eritrea, one of the world's poorest nations, owed the World Bank more than $254 million for seven currently active projects.

 The diplomatic stalemate between Eritrea and Ethiopia continued for the sixth year, but tension remained high between the two neighbours, which had fought a bloody war between 1998 and 2000. The two countries had agreed to cease fighting but disputed a UN Security Council ruling that set new borders after the battles ended. In September Eritrea expelled five security employees who were part of a UN force that was monitoring the cease-fire, accusing them of spying. The action was seen as yet another act of hostility and defiance by Eritrea toward the world body. In October Eritrea spurned calls by the UN Security Council to remove its 1,500 troops and 14 tanks from a postwar buffer zone.

      Afwerki's government continued to deny Eritreans political and press freedoms in 2006. Among the victims of the harsh regime were 15 journalists who spent their fifth year in jail notwithstanding pleas for their freedom from supporters overseas.

      Despite their tribulations, Eritreans had at least one reason to celebrate in 2006: the Red Sea Boys, the country's association football (soccer) team, thought to be minnows, handily beat Kenya's Harambee Stars in an Africa Cup of Nations qualifying match in September.

Patrick L. Thimangu

▪ 2006

Area:
121,144 sq km (46,774 sq mi)
Population
(2005 est.): 4,670,000
Capital:
Asmara
Head of state and government:
President Isaias Afwerki

      Despite extreme poverty exacerbated by drought, shortfalls in international relief funding, and a weak economy, Eritrea spent its energy in 2005 threatening to renew war with its large neighbour Ethiopia over a five-year border dispute. The shaky peace agreement signed between the two countries in December 2000, following two years of warfare that claimed 70,000 lives, tottered on the brink of collapse. The biggest obstacle to peace remained the small town of Badme, which Ethiopia continued to hold despite pressure from the UN Security Council and an earlier ruling by a border commission that placed it in Eritrean territory. The escalating tensions forced the UN Security Council to extend the mandate of UN troops keeping peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia, even as the two countries increased their own military presence at the tense border.

      Eritrean Foreign Minister Ali Said Abdella died of a heart attack in August, before the UN Security Council convened. He was a former military commander in the Eritrean People's Liberation Front, which later became the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (Eritrea's ruling party under the leadership of Pres. Isaias Afwerki).

      Eritreans continued to suffer from dire shortages of food and basic necessities throughout the year, which prompted aid agencies to make further appeals for food aid and funding. Though rains increased in the March–May rainy season, giving a boost to agricultural production, Eritrea was expected to meet only 45% of its food needs for the year. The food situation was worsened, however, by what should have been a positive development—the return and resettlement of 19,000 Eritreans displaced by war and previous droughts.

      Afwerki's government marked another year of repressive rule with the arbitrary arrest and detention of political opponents and journalists. Despite pleas from Western governments, humanitarian groups, and press organizations, Afwerki's government refused to release the 15 journalists who had been imprisoned since 2001.

      On the economic front, Eritrea stayed on the list of the world's poorest nations, with a per capita GDP of about $130. The country's balance of trade remained terribly skewed, with nearly $426 million in imports, compared with $16 million in exports. Military spending accounted for about 20% of the nation's GDP.

Patrick L. Thimangu

▪ 2005

Area:
121,144 sq km (46,774 sq mi)
Population
(2004 est.): 4,297,000
Capital:
Asmara
Head of state and government:
President Isaias Afwerki

      In 2004 Eritrea settled, albeit uneasily, into a no-war–no-peace stalemate with Ethiopia. Dismayed by what it saw as yet another betrayal by the international community, the government sent delegations abroad to express its displeasure to countries as varied as Australia, Benin, Kuwait, The Gambia, Saudi Arabia, and Switzerland. The failure to attain a fair hearing internationally for its grievances against Ethiopia was due less to the merits of its case, however, than to Eritrea's deteriorating international standing—the result of violations of regional and international norms, which in turn were deftly manipulated by Ethiopia, a country that still enjoyed the esteem of African and international bodies.

      In the first quarter of 2004, the government announced the demobilization of 65,000 troops who had served in the 1998–2000 border war, drafted electoral laws for regional assemblies, formulated a rent-control policy, and identified the increase of prostitution and homelessness as major social problems. In the second quarter attention was focused on the prospects that the border war with Ethiopia might resume and speculation that unrest in southwestern Eritrea might be linked to the alleged sponsorship of terrorists by The Sudan.

      Fuel rationing, a crackdown on religious groups, and indiscriminate arrests of youth assumed to be draft dodgers were issues later in the year that led to international rebuke of the government. The exodus of young people, civil servants, and veteran diplomats continued throughout the year. The national development plan, called Wefri Warsay Yi'kaalo, also continued, engaging young adults in state-sponsored rural and urban projects of national reconstruction.

      Inadequate rainfall in June and July exacerbated the water shortage, and locusts invaded the central highlands. International food aid arrived in Eritrea in the last two months of 2004 to stave off the spectre of famine and drought. It was estimated that more than two million Eritreans would need food aid in 2005. In November Addis Ababa announced yet another conditional acceptance of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Border Commission's resolution, which evoked a cynical response from Asmara, and the year ended with a ratcheting up of tensions.

      The overall rather bleak picture in Eritrea was brightened by Zersenay Tadesse's winning bronze in the men's 10,000-m race at the 2004 Summer Games in Athens; it was the country's first Olympic medal.

Ruth Iyob

▪ 2004

Area:
121,144 sq km (46,774 sq mi)
Population
(2003 est.): 4,141,000
Capital:
Asmara
Head of state and government:
President Isaias Afwerki

      In 2003 Eritrea continued its campaign of national development—Wefri Warsay Yi'Kaalo (WWY). Dubbed the “Eritrean Marshall Plan” by Pres. Isaias Afwerki, WWY included the establishment of a preparatory school located at Sawa, the nation's military training centre. The Warsay Yi'Kaalo School opened its doors to 5,200 students in February, signaling the start of the long-awaited demobilization and reintegration of soldiers. WWY continued to focus on infrastructure development and export-oriented joint ventures with foreign companies interested in the exportation of gold, copper, oil, natural gas, and quarried marble. By March Ethiopia's belated misgivings over the placement of the town of Badme within Eritrea's borders had resuscitated a sense of mistrust and insecurity over the future of normalization.

      In the second quarter of 2003, the discovery of gold and copper deposits in the Gash-Barka region was overshadowed by the gruesome murder of a British geologist. The government blamed “terrorists sponsored by The Sudan,” a claim refuted by the Khartoum government. Citing security reasons, members of the Kunama people along the Gash River were quietly removed from their traditional enclaves and relocated to designated villages. At a comfortable distance from the sites of mines and security hamlets, the government in Asmara announced the inauguration of Eritrean Airlines and the attainment of observer status in the Arab League. Pres. Afwerki publicly endorsed the U.S. occupation of Iraq, presided over the 10th anniversary of national independence, belatedly authorized the announcement of the list of Eritreans who perished in the 1998–2000 border war, and declared the completion of village- and district-level elections. Following the June 20 Martyrs Day commemorations, the nation plunged into a period of mourning, despite official exhortations intended to dispel the sombre mood.

      The third quarter was dominated by anxiety and irritation at Ethiopia's continued obstruction of the demarcation of borders. Diplomatic exchanges between the two countries became more strident, with the Eritrean side demanding immediate demarcation and the Ethiopians insisting on revisions of the April 2002 international adjudication—which it had earlier accepted without reservation. In September the work of UNMEE, the United Nations peacekeeping mission, was extended to preempt a return to hostilities.

      The last quarter of the year witnessed a further rise in tensions over the Ethiopian border as well as a tightening of internal controls over a population made even more vulnerable by five years of drought-triggered food insecurity. As the year came to a close, Eritreans faced the prospect of dwindling food reserves and had little hope for the normalization of relations with their southern neighbour.

Ruth Iyob

▪ 2003

Area:
121,144 sq km (46,774 sq mi)
Population
(2002 est.): 3,981,000
Capital:
Asmara
Head of state and government:
President Isaias Afwerki

      The year 2002 began with good prospects for postwar recovery and normalization of Eritrea's regional and international relations. Strained relations with the European Commission were patched up, allowing the disbursement during the year of some €25 million (about $25 million). The refugee repatriation program, which had been mired in disagreements about procedures and budgets since the early 1990s, successfully oversaw the return of hundreds of Eritreans from The Sudan to their homeland, signaling a rapprochement between Asmara and Khartoum. The scaling back of development aid by European countries, which was intended to bring about a constructive dialogue between the government of Eritrea and its jailed dissidents, nevertheless underscored the potential for future discord.

      The second quarter began with a resolution by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that delimited the border between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which both sides immediately accepted and thereby ended a dispute that had led to war in 1998–2000. Warning came of an impending drought, which placed 1.4 million inhabitants in danger of famine. In June the cabinet announced a new national campaign, called Wefri Warsay Yi'Kaalo, that was designed to transform existing policies and structures and to redress flaws in governance. Major points in it were a recognition of the failure of state-sponsored collective farming, an acknowledgement of the ineffectiveness of the post-1991 secondary-education curricula, the elimination of low-level administrative positions in local government, and the introduction of direct local elections at the city and village levels. The education and local-administration reforms were undertaken quickly. The Ministry of Education announced the return to the conventional four-year secondary school curriculum, and local elections at the village level were successfully carried out in the Debub region, with Mae'kel elections scheduled in the near future. It was noteworthy, however, that in the flurry of reforms, no changes to the 1994 Land Proclamation, under which the state was given ownership of all lands, were proposed.

      New ambassadors were exchanged between Italy and Eritrea, healing the rift caused by the expulsion of the Italian envoy in the fallout over the arrests in September 2001 of 11 parliamentarians. Nonetheless, in the last months of the year, a crisis of legitimacy for the ruling People's Front for Democracy and Justice seemed to be looming. Most telling was the sensational escape to Ethiopia of a jailed student dissident, Semere Kesete, in August. Unprecedented international criticism of the regime was heard from the U.S. Department of State and former envoy Anthony Lake. Italian parliamentarians also protested the involuntary repatriation of some Eritrean refugees. Eritrea's international image reached its lowest point since independence, when it had been portrayed as a “new hope” for democratizing African nations.

Ruth Iyob

▪ 2002

Area:
121,144 sq km (46,774 sq mi)
Population
(2001 est.): 4,298,000
Capital:
Asmara
Head of state and government:
President Isaias Afwerki

      On May 24, 2001, Eritrea celebrated the 10th anniversary of its effective independence from Ethiopia. Nevertheless, Eritrea's triumphal claims to exceptionalism from the African continent's postcolonial malaise of dictatorship were exposed to scrutiny during the year. In 2000 a group of reformists had emerged from within the ranks of the ruling People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) and had demanded that the constitution (ratified in 1997) be implemented and that national elections be held in December 2001. In May 2001 the group published an Open Letter to the PFDJ, which exposed the absence of accountability and transparency in the regime led by Pres. Isaias Afwerki. The group, which was made up of 14 men and one woman and included several high-profile government officials, came to be known as the G-15. Among other demands, the G-15 called for establishing a pluralist system of government, amending laws governing the national economy, instituting a merit-based civil service system in lieu of existing patronage systems and tokenism, and preventing further degradation of women and ethnic and religious minorities.

      Stung by the criticism, the ruling regime moved to crack down on the G-15. On September 18–19, 11 of the 15 were jailed without being charged. At the same time, the government announced that it was shutting down privately run newspapers in the country. In October international outcries against the crackdown irked the regime such that it expelled the European Union representative in Asmara and incarcerated local personnel at the U.S. embassy. Average Eritreans, who were unaccustomed to witnessing the airing of differences between their leaders, began to voice their concerns, which further threatened the hegemony of the PFDJ loyalists.

      One member of the G-15, Mesfin Hagos, a former defense minister and a cofounder of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front, had been in the U.S. at the time his 11 fellow dissidents were jailed. Although his diplomatic passport was subsequently revoked by the regime, Hagos announced his intention to return to Eritrea—regardless of the threat of arrest—and publicly urged the Eritrean people to rise up against tyranny. In an interview on the Internet Hagos called Afwerki “an old-fashioned dictator, who reacts to any form of criticism with arbitrary, cruel and excessive measures.” After 10 years of sovereignty Eritreans, too, joined postcolonial Africa's battle against home-grown dictatorship.

Ruth Iyob

▪ 2001

Area:
121,144 sq km (46,774 sq mi)
Population
(2000 est.): 4,136,000 (including nearly 350,000 refugees in The Sudan)
Capital:
Asmara
Head of state and government:
President Isaias Afwerki

      In 2000 Eritrea entered its eighth year of existence as a sovereign state and saw good prospects for the resolution of the border dispute with Ethiopia, which had erupted in mid-1998. The conflict had plunged the young nation into a costly war that had resulted in numerous deaths and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians. The 1999 military stalemate was broken when in May 2000 Ethiopia began an occupation of previously undisputed areas in western and central Eritrea. Eritrean defense forces withdrew rapidly from areas vulnerable to concerted Ethiopian air and land attacks. Ethiopian armed forces consolidated their control over disputed territories such as Badme and Zela Ambesa/Zala Ambessa and occupied previously uncontested areas such as Barentu, Sen'afe, and Shambiko. Multiple-track diplomatic activities increased and were accompanied by reports of human rights violations in Ethiopian-occupied areas. In July the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) was established and authorized to deploy 4,200 peacekeeping forces. UNMEE would monitor the cessation of hostilities, ensure the observance of mutually agreed-on security commitments, and coordinate and provide technical assistance for humanitarian mine-action activities. By December UNMEE personnel had opened up secure corridors between the two countries, and a formal comprehensive peace accord was signed on December 12 in Algiers.

      The cautious optimism generated by UNMEE's successful deployment was accompanied by the first public articulation of dissatisfaction with the transitional People's Front for Democracy and Justice regime. In September members of the National Assembly held a meeting in Asmara and openly criticized existing national and local governance procedures. The reformists underscored the need for an accountable and transparent government and called for the implementation of the constitution that had been ratified in May 1997. In early October the National Assembly announced that national elections would be scheduled for December 2001. This official announcement, heralding change from within, was followed by a letter addressed to Pres. Isaias Afwerki—by a group of 13 citizens as well as members of the Eritrean diaspora—echoing the parliamentarians' demand for constitutional governance. Critics questioned the timing of the demands for reform while the nation was at war, while proponents argued that the rule of law need not remain hostage to “external” threats. Dubbed the “Berlin Manifesto” (because the drafting meeting was held in Berlin), this document broke the political establishment's prevailing culture of silence.

Ruth Iyob

▪ 2000

Area:
121,144 sq km (46,774 sq mi)
Population
(1999 est.): 3,985,000 (including about 350,000 refugees in The Sudan)
Capital:
Asmara
Head of state and government:
President Isaias Afwerki

      Eritrea's war with Ethiopia showed few signs of winding down before the end of the century. Triggered on May 6, 1998, by a dispute over a little-known dusty hamlet called Badme, it soon became a deadly conventional war. At the beginning of 1999, Eritrean forces retained control of Badme and surrounding areas, while the Ethiopian government lodged protests and continued systematically to deport Eritreans and persons identified as having Eritrean ancestry. On February 6 the Ethiopian army launched an offensive with mass human-wave attacks and succeeded in restoring its control over Badme. The weeklong battle resulted in a casualty toll of more than 15,000. Eritrea promptly announced that it would accept a framework for peace, which it had earlier rejected, proposed by the Organization of African Unity (OAU), and thus transformed its military defeat into a diplomatic victory. The OAU proposal stressed respect for colonial borders and peaceful resolution of disputes. It included a timeline of 186 days, the establishment of a UN peacekeeping mission, and a commitment to investigate the origins of the conflict.

      Ethiopia launched several aerial raids from March through June, and the campaign to expel Eritreans from Ethiopia intensified. Diplomats and envoys shuttled unsuccessfully to confirm Ethiopian acceptance of the OAU peace plan, which centred on the joint redeployment of Eritrean forces from territories it had occupied since May 6, 1998, and of Ethiopian forces from areas it had occupied since Feb. 6, 1999. Several unresolved issues, including the timing of an end to hostilities and specific sites for redeployment, led to a diplomatic impasse and delay of a formal cease-fire. Eritrea formally accepted the plan on August 7, while Ethiopia sent a letter on August 13 requesting further clarifications. The OAU clarifications were sent, and Ethiopia agreed “in principle,” but no formal letter of acceptance was forthcoming. Angry diplomatic exchanges and probing military incidents provided ominous signs of impending hostilities.

      The conflict slowed Eritrea's economic performance. Growth dropped to 4% from an annual average of 7% in previous years. Nevertheless, foreign mining enterprises continued exploratory drilling efforts with encouraging results. The Eritrean diaspora contributed $400 million in remittances, which essentially kept the economy afloat. One hopeful development of this grim year of war was the emergence of 12 private newspapers, which, although they defined their editorial stance as “cautious,” gained an impressive circulation of 10,000. Such positive sparks, however, were overshadowed late in the year by increased incidents of violence and new waves of evictions; at year's end the total number of deportees exceeded 65,000.

Ruth Iyob

▪ 1999

      Area: 121,144 sq km (46,774 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 3,842,000 (including about 350,000 refugees in The Sudan)

      Capital: Asmara

      Head of state and government: President Isaias Afwerki

      One of the most dramatic examples of Eritrea's assertion of independence and self-reliance occurred in late 1997 when it issued its own currency, the nakfa. This was particularly significant in that Eritrea's economy had historically been intricately intertwined with that of Ethiopia. More than two-thirds of the country's external trade at the beginning of 1998 was with Ethiopia. The nakfa was initially pegged to the Ethiopian birr at a rate of 1:1; the Ethiopians, however, were unhappy with this arrangement and insisted that future economic transactions between the two countries be in hard currency. By early 1998 the spirit of cooperation between Eritrea and Ethiopia had deteriorated to hostility.

      Tensions between the two countries erupted into armed conflict on May 6 when an armed force entered Ethiopia's northwestern Tigre province from Eritrea. Initially, there was a skirmish between Ethiopian policemen and the intruders, but this was soon followed by a more significant military intervention from Eritrea, which resulted in the occupation of the border town of Badame and an air raid on the northern town of Mekele. The Ethiopians retaliated with an aerial bombardment of the airport at Eritrea's capital, Asmara. For the next five weeks, battles were fought in several places along the common border between the two countries.

      Occupation of the Badame area had been disputed since the armed conflict against Ethiopia's Marxist regime in 1991. Once that regime had been overthrown, a joint commission was set up to attempt to devise a mutually agreeable resolution to the problem. Those negotiations failed, however. The government of Eritrea claimed that the territory in question was originally a part of the Italian colony of Eritrea, whereas the Ethiopians maintained that it was a historic part of Greater Tigre. In June a team of diplomats from the U.S. and Rwanda brokered an uneasy truce. The peace plan called for Eritrea to withdraw from the disputed territory, after which there would be international mediation. Although the Ethiopians accepted this plan, the Eritreans did not.

      In preparation for a further escalation of the conflict, Eritrea, like Ethiopia, used the uneasy cease-fire period after July to increase its military strength. An attempt by the Organization of African Unity at mediation failed in November, and border incidents continued through the end of the year. At the same time the government had to cope with an influx of more than 14,000 deportees from Ethiopia.

EDMOND J. KELLER

▪ 1998

      Area: 121,144 sq km (46,774 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 3,590,000 (including about 350,000 refugees in The Sudan)

      Capital: Asmara

      Head of state and government: President Isaias Afwerki

      In 1997 the government of Eritrea continued its measured and resolute steps to reconstruct society and to create a unique brand of democracy. While the establishment of opposition parties was contemplated, the official rhetoric of the sole functioning political party, the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), seemed to discourage their formation. Nevertheless, strides were made toward the implementation of a democratic constitution. The constitution was ratified on May 23, 1997, but at the year's end had yet to be implemented. The commitment to democracy could be seen, however, in the political structures that had been established, particularly at the regional level in the form of popularly elected local and district governments.

      Though economic progress continued to be slow, Eritrea was able to rely upon strong political and economic support from the West, particularly the U.S. and Italy. Early in the year it was estimated that more than $300 million had been either invested or committed to business in Eritrea, and the PFDJ regime enthusiastically welcomed foreign direct investment. Most notably, new foreign investments in mining and petroleum exploration were made. Late in the year, however, the government began restricting foreign grants for health and education and informed a number of private agencies, including OXFAM-Canada, that it no longer required their aid.

      Perhaps the most significant economic development was the unveiling of the new national currency, the nakfa, which was pegged to the Ethiopian birr. Steady progress was also made in the development of infrastructure such as roads and port facilities.

      Relations with Ethiopia continued to be warm and supportive. In addition, Eritrea demonstrated its strong leadership in the region by sending military support to a joint international force in Africa's Great Lakes region. Eritrea was also instrumental in providing leadership in the establishment of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development as an effective instrument of regional economic cooperation.

      Relations with The Sudan continued to be strained, with each country accusing the other of conspiracies to overthrow their respective governments. The Sudanese National Democratic Alliance, a united front comprising groups from northern and southern Sudan, bent on overthrowing the Sudanese government, set up headquarters in Asmara. In contrast to the troubles with The Sudan, Eritrea's relations with Yemen improved significantly in 1997.

EDMUND J. KELLER

      This article updates Eritrea, history of (Eritrea).

▪ 1997

      Eritrea is in the Horn of Africa, on the Red Sea. Area: 121,144 sq km (46,774 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 3,627,000 (including about 300,000 refugees in The Sudan). Cap.: Asmara. Provisional monetary unit: Ethiopian birr, with (March 31, 1996) a preferential rate of 7.13 birr to U.S. $1 (10.88 birr = £ 1 sterling). President in 1996, Isaias Afwerki.

      Slow progress was made toward introducing Eritrea's new constitution, and discussions of the official draft were held throughout the nation in 1996. Pres. Isaias Afwerki made it clear that while not opposed in principle to a multiparty system, the government would not permit opposition parties to reopen the ethnic and religious divisions that had previously existed in the country. Other sensitive issues in the discussions included language policy, with minority language groups voicing concern over the adoption of any official language.

      Though close relations were maintained with Ethiopia, Eritrea experienced difficulties with all of its other neighbours. In mid-December 1995 a brief but sharp military conflict broke out with Yemen over the Hanish Islands, a group of islands in the Red Sea between the two countries, ownership of which had attracted little previous attention. Concerned about a Yemeni plan to build tourist facilities on the islands, the Eritreans attacked them, capturing the largest, Greater Hanish, after three days of fighting. In May, after French mediation, the two countries agreed on arbitration of the dispute.

      A month earlier Djibouti had formally requested Eritrea to withdraw a new official map, which allegedly incorporated Djiboutian territory into Eritrea. Djibouti also accused Eritrean forces of opening fire on its territory. Relations with The Sudan were especially bad; each country accused the other of a military buildup on the frontier, and in January Eritrea served as host for a meeting of the Sudanese National Democratic Alliance (comprising the main groups in opposition to the government). No agreement was possible concerning repatriation of the large Eritrean refugee population in The Sudan. (CHRISTOPHER S. CLAPHAM)

      This article updates Eritrea.

▪ 1996

      Eritrea is in the Horn of Africa, on the Red Sea. Area: 117,400 sq km (45,300 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 3,531,000 (including nearly 400,000 refugees in The Sudan). Cap.: Asmara. Monetary unit: Ethiopian birr, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a free rate of 5.80 birr to U.S. $1 (free rate of 9.17 birr = £ 1 sterling). President in 1995, Isaias Afwerki.

      The year 1995 was one of consolidation in Eritrea. The Constitutional Commission established in November 1994 held consultative meetings concerning the form of the new constitution. Work proceeded during 1995 on a first draft, and the final text was expected to be ready by June 1996; there was strong opposition within the ruling People's Front for Democracy and Justice (formerly the Eritrean People's Liberation Front, or EPLF) to the legalization of parties based on ethnicity or religion. The National Assembly in May approved a resolution that would divide Eritrea into six administrative regions. A drastic cut in civil service staffing, from about 30,000 to 20,000, was announced in May; the Ministry of Defense was not affected, but some soldiers were demobilized or transferred to other posts. A compulsory youth national service scheme, which got under way in January, was intended to promote the process of national integration and to provide youth in peacetime Eritrea with some equivalent to the formative experience of EPLF fighters during the long war for independence. Jehovah's Witnesses, a Christian fundamentalist group whose members refused to participate in national service or otherwise recognize the authority of the state, were deprived of their citizenship rights in March.

      Good relations with Ethiopia were maintained, and an agreement between the two countries in April removed customs duties on trade in agricultural and industrial goods and fees on commercial services; it was expected to lead to a full customs and monetary union. Relations with Eritrea's other neighbour, The Sudan, continued to deteriorate after the breach in diplomatic relations initiated by Eritrea in December 1994. Eritrea took the lead in coordinating opposition to the Islamist military regime in Khartoum by serving as host for a major meeting of Sudanese opposition movements in June. In October Pres. Isaias Afwerki offered to provide weapons to any group attempting to overthrow the Khartoum regime. These problems complicated the return to Eritrea of up to half a million refugees from The Sudan, but an increased rate of return was reported. Relations with Israel and the United States remained close.

      (CHRISTOPHER S. CLAPHAM)

      This updates the article Eritrea.

▪ 1995

      Eritrea is in the Horn of Africa, on the Red Sea. Area: 117,400 sq km (45,300 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 3,779,000 (including about 500,000 refugees in The Sudan). Cap.: Asmera. Monetary unit: Ethiopian birr, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of 5.40 birr to U.S. $1 (free rate of 8.60 birr = £ 1 sterling). President in 1994, Isaias Afwerki.

      The third congress of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) was held on Feb. 10-17, 1994, at Nakfa, symbolic centre of the long struggle that culminated in independence for Eritrea in May 1993. As part of the normalization of the political process, the EPLF converted itself from a national liberation front into a political party, called the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), and committed itself to an eventual multiparty system. For the present, however, the National Assembly was reconstituted to include 75 members of the PFDJ central committee and 75 popularly elected members.

      Reintegration of former fighters into civilian life and repatriation of refugees from The Sudan continued to create problems, and relations with The Sudan began to deteriorate after Pres. Isaias Afwerki, in his January 1994 New Year message, referred to the attempted infiltration of Eritrea by a Muslim fundamentalist group associated with the National Islamic Front in The Sudan; all of its 20 members were reportedly killed. Eritrea broke off diplomatic relations in December. Relations with the Ethiopian government remained close.

      Eritrea joined the International Monetary Fund and World Bank and was praised by bank officials for its realistic approach to development. Because of drought conditions and a pest infestation in 1993, the harvest amounted to only 20% of the nation's requirements, and most of the population remained dependent on relief food. Good rains in most of the country in 1994 permitted hopes of a greatly improved food situation in 1995.

      (CHRISTOPHER S. CLAPHAM)

      This updates the article Eritrea, history of (Eritrea).

▪ 1994

      Eritrea is in the Horn of Africa, on the Red Sea. Area: 117,400 sq km (45,300 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 3,421,000 (including about 750,000 Eritrean refugees, of whom 500,000 are in The Sudan). Cap.: Asmera. Monetary unit: Ethiopian birr, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a par value of 5 birr to U.S. $1 (free rate of 7.60 birr = £1 sterling). President from May 24, 1993, Isaias Afwerki.

       Eritrea, formerly the northernmost region of Ethiopia, became independent on May 24, 1993, after a referendum on April 23-25 had produced an overwhelming majority for independence. This was the culmination of a process under way since the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) had seized the capital, Asmera, in May 1991 and of a conflict that had first broken out in 1961. Some 1,018,000 voters were registered for the referendum, of whom 800,000 were in Eritrea itself, 150,000 in The Sudan, 40,000 in Ethiopia, and 28,000 in the U.S. Voting took place amid widespread celebration; 98.2% of those eligible went to the polls, and no fewer than 99.8% of them voted for independence; there was no organized campaign for a "no" vote, and only 1,882 votes were cast against independence. The vote was monitored by large numbers of observers from the UN, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), and various countries.

      At independence the previous provisional government of Eritrea was replaced by a transitional government that was to remain in office for four years, pending the promulgation of a constitution. In effect, therefore, power remained in the hands of the EPLF, and the introduction of any multiparty political system was postponed. With the addition of 60 more members, 11 of whom had to be women, the Central Committee of the EPLF was transformed into a National Assembly. EPLF leader Isaias Afwerki was elected president by the National Assembly and installed a 24-member State Council, which was composed of equal numbers of Christian and Muslim members.

      Independence was recognized by Ethiopia and other countries, and Eritrea was admitted to the UN and the OAU. At the OAU summit in June, however, Isaias bitterly criticized the organization, which had long upheld the sanctity of African nations' existing frontiers and thus legitimized Ethiopian control of Eritrea.

      (CHRISTOPHER S. CLAPHAM)

      This updates the article Eritrea.

* * *

Introduction
officially  State of Eritrea,  Tigrinya  Ertra,  
Eritrea, flag of country of the Horn of Africa, located on the Red Sea. Its 600 miles (1,000 kilometres) of coastline extend from Cape Kasar, in the north, to the Strait of Mandeb, separating the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aden in the south. It is bounded on the northwest by The Sudan, on the south by Ethiopia, and on the southeast by Djibouti. Eritrea's capital and largest city is Asmara (Asmera (Asmara)).

      Eritrea's coastal location has long been important in its history and culture—a fact reflected in its name, which is an Italianized version of Mare Erythraeum, Latin for “Red Sea.” The Red Sea was the route along which Christianity and Islām reached the area and took firm hold among the people, and it was an important trade route that such powers as Turkey, Egypt, and Italy hoped to dominate by seizing control of ports on the Eritrean coast. Those ports promised access to the gold, coffee, and slaves sold by traders in the Ethiopian highlands to the south, and in the second half of the 20th century Ethiopia became the power from which the Eritrean people had to free themselves in order to create their own state. In 1993, after a war of independence that lasted nearly three decades, Eritrea became a sovereign country. During the long struggle, the people of Eritrea managed to forge a common national consciousness, but, with peace established, they now face the task of overcoming their ethnic and religious differences in order to raise the country from a poverty made worse by years of drought, neglect, and war.

The land

Relief
 

      Eritrea's (Eritrea) land is highly variegated. Running on a north-south axis through the middle of the country are the central highlands, a narrow strip of country some 6,500 feet (2,000 metres) above sea level that represents the northern reaches of the Ethiopian Plateau. Geologically, this plateau consists of a foundation of crystalline rock (e.g., granite, gneiss, micaschist) that is overlain by sedimentary rock (limestone and sandstone) and then capped by basalt (rock of volcanic origin). The upper layers have been highly dissected by deep gorges and river channels, forming small steep-sided, flat-topped tablelands known as ambas. The highest point in the plateau is Mount Soira, at 9,885 feet (3,013 metres).

      In the north of Eritrea the highlands narrow and then end in a system of hills, where erosion has cut down to the basement rock. To the east the plateau drops abruptly into a coastal plain. North of the Gulf of Zula, the plain is only 10 to 50 miles wide, but to the south it widens to include the Denakil Plain. This barren region contains a depression known as the Kobar Sink (more than 300 feet below sea level), the northern end of which extends into Eritrea. The coastal plain and the Denakil Plain are part of the East African Rift System and are sharply delimited on the west by the eastern escarpment of the plateau, which, although deeply eroded, presents a formidable obstacle to travelers from the coast.

      The western flank of the central highlands is a broken and undulating plain that slopes gradually toward the border with The Sudan. It lies at an average elevation of 1,500 feet. The vegetation is mostly savanna, consisting of scattered trees, shrubs, and seasonal grasses.

      Off the coast in the Red Sea is the Dahlak Archipelago, a group of more than 100 small coral and reef-fringed islands. Only a few of these islands have a permanent population.

Drainage
      The Eritrean highlands are drained by four major rivers and numerous streams. Two of the rivers, the Gash (Gash River) and the Tekeze, flow westward into The Sudan. The Tekeze River (also known as the Satit) is a major tributary of the Atbara River, which eventually joins the Nile. The Gash River reaches the Atbara only during flood season. As it crosses the western lowlands, the Tekeze forms part of Eritrea's border with Ethiopia, while the upper course of the Gash, known as the Mereb River, forms the border on the plateau.

      The other two major rivers that drain the highlands of Eritrea are the Barka and the Anseba. Both of these rivers flow northward into a marshy area on the eastern coast of The Sudan and do not reach the Red Sea. Several seasonal streams that flow eastward from the plateau reach the sea on the Eritrean coast.

Climate
      Eritrea has a wide variety of climatic conditions, produced mainly by differences in altitude. The effects of elevation are seen most clearly in the wide range of temperatures experienced throughout the country. On the coast, Massawa (Mitsiwa) has one of the highest averages in the world (86° F, or 30° C), while Asmara, only 40 miles away yet more than 7,500 feet higher on the plateau, averages 62° F (17° C).

      Mean annual rainfall on the plateau is 16 to 20 inches (400 to 500 millimetres), while on the western plain it is less than 16 inches. In both the highlands and the western lowlands, rainfall comes in summer, carried on a southwesterly airstream that decreases in amount of precipitation and length of rainy season as it proceeds toward the northeastern extremes of the plateau. The eastern edges of the plateau and, to a lesser extent, the coastal fringes receive much smaller quantities of rain from a northeasterly airstream that arrives in winter and spring. The interior regions of the Denakil Plain are practically rainless.

Settlement patterns
      The environment is a determining factor in the distribution of Eritrea's population. Although the plateau represents only one-quarter of the total land area, it is home to approximately one-half of the population, most of them sedentary agriculturalists. The lowlands on the east and west support a population mainly of pastoralists, although most of them also cultivate crops when and where weather conditions permit. As a rule, pastoralists follow various patterns of movement set by the seasons. Only the Rashaida, a small group in the northern hills, is truly nomadic.

      Under Italian colonial rule from 1889 to 1941, Eritrea's urban sector flourished with the establishment of Asmara as the capital city, Assab (Aseb) as a new port on the Red Sea, and a host of smaller towns on the plateau. In addition, Massawa, an old and cosmopolitan port with strong links to Arabia, was expanded considerably. By the end of the colonial period, Eritrea had by far the highest urbanization rate in the Horn of Africa—approximately 15 percent—although a large part of the urban population was Italian nationals who eventually left the country. Subsequently, a population drift from the countryside to the towns was offset by emigration of Eritreans abroad, so that at the time of independence in 1993 the relative size of the urban sector remained unchanged.

The people (Eritrea)

Language groups
      Eritrea's population consists of several ethnic groups, each with its own language and cultural tradition. The Eritrean highlands are an extension of the Ethiopian Plateau to the south, and the bulk of the peasantry on the plateau belong to the Tigray, a group that also occupies the adjacent Ethiopian province of Tigray. The Tigrayan language, called Tigrinya (Tigre), is spoken on both sides of the border and is the speech of nearly one-half of all Eritreans.

      Inhabiting the northernmost part of the Eritrean plateau, as well as lowlands to the east and west, are people who speak the other major Eritrean language—Tigre. Tigre (Tigré language) and Tigrinya (Tigrinya language) are written in the same script and are descended from the same mother tongue (the ancient Semitic language of Geʿez), but they are mutually unintelligible.

      Also occupying the northern plateau are Bilin speakers, whose language belongs to the Cushitic family. The Rashaida are a group of Arabic-speaking nomads who traverse the northern hills.

      On the southern part of the coastal region live Afar nomads, whose relatives live across the borders in Djibouti and Ethiopia; they are also called the Denakil, after the region that they inhabit. The coastal strip south of Massawa, as well as the eastern flanks of the plateau, are occupied by Saho pastoralists. In the western plain, the dominant people are pastoralists of the Beja family, whose kin live across the border in The Sudan. Two small Nilotic groups, the Kunama and the Nara, also live in the west.

Religions
      Historically, religion has been a prominent symbol of ethnic identity in the Horn of Africa. Christianity was established in the 4th century AD on the coast and appeared soon afterward in the plateau, where it was embraced by the Ethiopian highlanders. The monophysite creed of the Ethiopian Orthodox church remains the faith of about half of the population of Eritrea, including nearly all the Tigray. Following the rise of Islām (Islāmic world) in Arabia, Muslim power flowed over the Red Sea coast, forcing the Ethiopians to retreat deep into their mountain fastness. Islām displaced other creeds in the lowlands of the Horn, and it remains the faith of nearly all the people inhabiting the eastern coast and the western plain of Eritrea, as well as the northernmost part of the plateau. Thus, while Islām claims nearly all pastoralists, Christianity is dominant among the peasant cultivators. (Muslims are significantly represented also in all towns of Eritrea, where they are prominent in trade.) In the perennial competition between cultivators and pastoralists over land, water, control of trade, and access to ports, religion has played an ideological role, and it remains a potent political force.

      During the colonial period, Catholic and Protestant European missionaries introduced their own version of Christianity into Eritrea. They had considerable success among the small Kunama group, and they also attracted a few townspeople with the offer of modern education.

The economy

Natural resources
      Salt mining, based on deposits in the Kobar Sink, is a traditional activity in Eritrea. Deposits of gold, copper, potash, and iron have been exploited at times in a minor way, and numerous other minerals have been identified, including zinc, feldspar, gypsum, asbestos, mica, and sulfur.

      The area of cultivation is limited by climate and the uneven surface of the plateau, so that, of the 8 million acres (3.2 million hectares) of land considered cultivable, only 5 percent is being worked. There is room for expansion, however, especially if the country's considerable water resources are harnessed for irrigation.

      In normal times, livestock is a valuable resource, and it has the potential to play a role in Eritrea's foreign trade. During the long war of independence, however, livestock was severely depleted. The fishing potential of the Red Sea is another underutilized resource.

      Soil erosion, an age-old process, is particularly severe on the plateau. Encouraged by the steady expansion of cultivation, it has left few wooded areas and has created a shortage of fuel. The proximity of the oil-rich Arabian basin has occasionally raised expectations of discovering petroleum in Eritrea, but intermittent exploration since the days of Italian rule has failed to produce results.

Agriculture
      Agriculture is by far the most important sector of the country's economy, providing a livelihood for about 80 percent of the population and normally accounting for the bulk of Eritrea's exports. Peasant cultivation and traditional pastoralism are the main forms of agricultural activity. These are not mutually exclusive occupations, since most peasants also keep animals and most pastoralists cultivate grains when possible. Both peasants and pastoralists produce primarily for their own subsistence, and only small surpluses are available for trade.

      The staple grain products are an indigenous cereal named teff (Eragostis abyssinica) as well as corn (maize), wheat, barley, sorghum, and millet. Vegetables and fruit also are produced. Under Italian rule, modern irrigated plantations produced vegetables, fruit, cotton, sisal, bananas, tobacco, and coffee for the growing urban markets. This sector continued to operate under Ethiopian rule until it was disrupted by the long period of warfare.

Industry
      A generation of war also damaged Eritrea's modest manufacturing sector, which also appeared during the Italian colonial period and provided many Eritrean workers with skills that enabled them later to find work abroad. Industry was based largely on the processing of agricultural products. Asmara was the main industrial centre, concerned with food products, beer, tobacco, textiles, and leather.

      A petroleum refinery in the Red Sea port of Assab (Asseb), built by the former Soviet Union for Ethiopia, is the prime industrial enterprise in Eritrea. Assab (Asseb) also has a salt works, and there are a salt works and a cement works near the port of Massawa.

Trade and transportation
      Assab and Massawa have long been major ports of entry to Ethiopia, and that country, now landlocked, still has guarantees of access to the port facilities at Assab. As a result, the bulk of Eritrea's trade is in the transit of goods to Ethiopia. A paved road links Assab with Addis Ababa, and another paved road begins in Massawa, climbs the plateau to Asmara, and continues south to the Ethiopian town of Adigrat. A railway was built by the Italians from Massawa to Asmara, Keren, and Akordat, but it was rendered useless by the war of independence.

      There are an international airport in Asmara and major airfields in Assab and Massawa.

Administration and social conditions

Government
      After liberation from Ethiopia in May 1991, Eritrea was ruled by a provisional government that consisted essentially of the central committee of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF (Eritrean People's Liberation Front)). On May 19, 1993, shortly after a national referendum, this body proclaimed the Transitional Government of Eritrea, which was to rule for four years until the promulgation of a constitution and the election of a permanent government. The transitional government's legislative body, called the National Assembly, consisted of the original 30-member central committee of the EPLF augmented by 60 new members. At least 20 seats were to be reserved for women.

      The National Assembly sets the policies of the government and elects the president. The president is assisted in implementing the government's policies by a State Council, containing cabinet ministers and the governors of Eritrea's provinces. In order to discourage ethnic rivalry, seats on the State Council are divided equally between Muslims and Christians, and political parties based on language or religion are banned.

Health and education
      Chronic drought and decades of war have taken a toll on the health of Eritreans. The mortality rate at birth is 15 percent, and almost half of all infants die during their first year. The average life expectancy is about 50 years.

      Only about 20 percent of Eritreans are literate, though the new government is intent on expanding education. Children are taught in their native languages, and in the higher grades they also are taught foreign languages, especially Arabic and English. There is a university in Asmara.

History

Precolonial Eritrea
Rule from the highlands
      Beginning about 1000 BC, Semitic peoples from the South Arabian kingdom of Sabaʾ (or Sheba) migrated across the Red Sea and absorbed the Cushitic inhabitants of the Eritrean coast and adjacent highlands. These Semitic invaders, possessing a well-developed culture, established the kingdom of Aksum, which, by the end of the 4th century AD, ruled the northern stretches of the Ethiopian Plateau and the eastern lowlands. An important trade route led from the port of Adulis, near modern Zula, to the city of Aksum, the capital, located in what is now the Ethiopian province of Tigray.

      After extending its power at times as far afield as modern Egypt and Yemen, Aksum began to decline into obscurity in the 6th century AD. Beginning in the 12th century, however, the Ethiopian Zagwe (Zagwe Dynasty) and Solomonid (Solomonid Dynasty) dynasties held sway to a fluctuating extent over the entire plateau and the Red Sea coast. Eritrea's central highlands, known as the mereb melash (“land beyond the Mereb River”), were the northern frontier region of the Ethiopian kingdoms and were ruled by a governor titled bahr negash (“lord of the sea”). The control exercised by the crown over this region was never firm, and it became even more tenuous as the centre of Ethiopian power moved steadily southward to Gonder and Shewa. Highland Eritrea became a vassal fiefdom of the lords of Tigray, who were seldom on good terms with the dominant Amhara branch of the Ethiopian family.

Contesting for the coastlands
      Off the plateau, the pastoralist peoples in the west and north knew no foreign master until the early 19th century, when the Egyptians invaded the Sudan and raided deep into the Eritrean lowlands. The Red Sea coast, owing to its strategic and commercial importance, was contested by many powers. In the 16th century the Turks (Ottoman Empire) occupied the Dahlak Archipelago and then Massawa, where they maintained, with occasional interruption, a garrison for more than three centuries. Also in the 16th century, Eritrea as well as Ethiopia were affected by the invasions of Aḥmad Grāñ, the Muslim leader of the sultanate of Adal. After the expulsion of Aḥmad's forces, the Turks temporarily occupied even more of Eritrea's coastal area. In 1865 the Egyptians obtained Massawa from the Ottoman Porte. From there they pushed inland to the plateau, until in 1875 an Egyptian force that reached the Mereb River was annihilated by Ethiopian forces.

      Meanwhile, the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 had made the Red Sea a scene of rivalry among the world's most powerful states. Between 1869 and 1880 the Italian Rubattino Navigation company purchased from the local Afar sultan stretches of the Red Sea coast adjoining the village of Assab. In 1882 these acquisitions were transferred to the Italian state, and in 1885 Italian troops landed at Massawa, Assab, and other locations. There was no resistance by the Egyptians at Massawa, and protests made by the Turks and Ethiopians were ignored. Italian forces then systematically spread out from Massawa toward the highlands. This expansion onto the plateau was initially opposed by Emperor Yohannes IV, the only Tigray to wear the Ethiopian crown in modern times, but Yohannes's successor, Menilek II, in return for weapons that he needed to fight possible rivals, acquiesced to Italian occupation of the region north of the Mereb. In the Treaty of Wichale (Wichale, Treaty of), signed on May 2, 1889, Menilek recognized “Italian possessions in the Red Sea,” and on January 1, 1890, the Italian colony of Eritrea was officially proclaimed. From here, the Italians launched several incursions into Ethiopia, only to be decisively defeated by Menilek's army at the Battle of Adwa (Adwa, Battle of) on March 1, 1896. Menilek did not pursue the defeated enemy across the Mereb. Soon afterward he signed the Treaty of Addis Ababa, obtaining Italian recognition of Ethiopia's sovereignty in return for his recognition of Italian rule over Eritrea.

Colonial Eritrea
Ruled by Italy
      In precolonial times there were no towns on the Eritrean plateau, urban centres being limited to the Red Sea coast. Under Italian rule, however, Eritrea's urban sector flourished. Tens of thousands of Italians arrived, bringing with them modern skills and a new lifestyle. Asmara grew into a charming city in Mediterranean style, the port of Massawa was modernized and the port of Assab improved, and a number of smaller towns appeared on the plateau. Road and rail construction linked the various regions of the colony, and a modest manufacturing sector also appeared, so that Eritreans acquired industrial skills.

      At the same time, a sizable portion of Eritrea's best agricultural land was reserved for Italian farmers (although only a few actually settled on the land), and a small plantation sector was established to grow produce for the urban market. Eritrea's population grew rapidly during this period. Combined with the appropriation of land for Italian use, population growth created a shortage of land for the peasantry. This in turn stimulated a drift to the cities, which further expanded the urban population and produced an Eritrean working class.

      Still, Eritrea had no valuable resources for exploitation and was not a wealth-producing colony for Italy. In fact, the colony was subsidized by the Italians, an extraneous factor that gave the local economy an artificial glow. Investment in education for Eritreans was negligible. There were very few schools for them, and even these were limited to the primary level. Also, Eritreans were not employed in the colonial service except as labourers and soldiers. As preparations for the invasion of Ethiopia got under way in the mid-1930s, several thousand Eritreans were recruited to serve in the invading army.

From Italian to Ethiopian rule
      The invasion and occupation of Ethiopia beginning in 1935 marked the last chapter in Italian colonial history—a chapter that came to an end with the eviction of Italy from the Horn of Africa by the British in 1941. The following decade, during which Eritrea remained under British administration, was a period of intense political and diplomatic activity that shaped the future of Eritrea. Landlocked Ethiopia, coveting Eritrea's two seaports, launched an early campaign to annex the former colony, claiming that it had always been part of Ethiopia's domain. Lobbying of the Allied powers was carried out, and within Eritrea support for annexation was mobilized on the basis of religious loyalty by utilizing the services of Ethiopian Orthodox clergy. In order to promote the union of Eritrea with Ethiopia, a Unionist Party was formed in 1946; it was financed and guided from Addis Ababa.

      Eritrea's Muslims had every good reason to oppose union with Ethiopia, where Christianity was the official religion and Muslims suffered discrimination in many areas of life. In order to counter Christian mobilization for union, a Muslim League was founded in 1947 to campaign for Eritrean independence. Thus, although there were some Christians who favoured independence and a few Muslims who were favourable to union with Ethiopia, the political division was drawn largely along sectarian lines.

Federation with Ethiopia
Adoption of the federal scheme
      In 1950 the United Nations (UN), under the prompting of the United States, resolved to join Eritrea to Ethiopia within two years in a federation that would provide the former colony with autonomy under its own constitution and elected government. Elections to a new Eritrean Assembly in 1952 gave the Unionist Party the largest number of seats—but not a majority, so that it formed a government in coalition with a Muslim faction. The Eritrean constitution, prepared by the UN in consultation with Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, was adopted by the Eritrean Assembly on July 10, 1952, and ratified by Haile Selassie on August 11. The act of federation was ratified by the emperor on September 11, and British authorities officially relinquished control on September 15.

Failure of the federal scheme
      The federal scheme was short-lived, mainly because the imperial government in Addis Ababa was unwilling to abide by its provisions. First, the Eritrean constitution sought to establish an equilibrium between ethnic and religious groups. It made Tigrinya and Arabic the official languages of Eritrea, and it allowed local communities to choose the language of education for their children. In the spirit of the constitution, the practice evolved of ensuring parity between Christians and Muslims in appointment to state office. This delicate balance was destroyed by Ethiopian interference, and Muslims were the initial losers, as Arabic was eliminated from state education and Muslims were squeezed out of public employment.

      Furthermore, the Ethiopians were anxious to eliminate any traces of separatism in Eritrea, and to that end they harassed the leaders of the independence movement until many of them fled abroad. With the collaboration of their Unionist allies and in express violation of the constitution, they also suppressed all attempts to form autonomous Eritrean organizations. Political parties were banned in 1955, trade unions were banned in 1958, and in 1959 the name Eritrean Government was changed to “Eritrean Administration” and Ethiopian law was imposed. Eventually, even Ethiopia's Eritrean allies were alienated by crude intervention in the running of the Eritrean administration, financial disputes between Asmara and Addis Ababa, and mounting pressure on the Eritreans to renounce autonomy. The federation was already dead when, on November 14, 1962, the Ethiopian parliament and Eritrean Assembly voted unanimously for the abolition of Eritrea's federal status, making Eritrea a simple province of the Ethiopian empire. Soon afterward, Tigrinya was banned in education; it was replaced by Amharic, which at the time was the official language of Ethiopia.

The war of independence
Beginning of armed revolt
      Muslims had been the first to suffer from Ethiopia's intervention in Eritrea, and it was they who formed the first opposition movement. In 1960, leaders of the defunct independence movement who were then living in exile announced the formation of the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF). The founders, all Muslims, were led by Idris Mohammed Adam, a leading political figure in Eritrea in the 1940s. By the mid-1960s the ELF was able to field a small guerrilla force in the western plain of Eritrea, and thus began a war that was to last nearly three decades. In the early years, the ELF drew support from Muslim communities in the western and eastern lowlands as well as the northern hills. It also sought support from The Sudan, Syria, Iran, and other Islāmic states, used Arabic as its official language, and adopted Arab nomenclature in its organization. Ethiopian authorities portrayed the movement as an Arab tool and sought to rally Eritrean Christians to oppose it. Deteriorating economic and political conditions in Eritrea, however, combined to produce the opposite result.

      During the 1930s and '40s the Eritrean economy had been stimulated by Italian colonial activity and by the special conditions created by World War II. After the war the local economy deflated, and it remained stagnant during the entire period of federation with Ethiopia. Many thousands of Eritreans were forced to emigrate to Ethiopia and the Middle East in search of employment. The suppression of the nascent trade-union movement further embittered this class, and many Eritrean workers—Muslims and Christians alike—rallied to the nationalist movement. In addition, the banning of Tigrinya in state education helped to turn an entire generation of Eritrean Christian students toward nationalism. Christians began to join the ELF in significant numbers at the end of the 1960s. Among them were students who had become politically radicalized in the Ethiopian student movement, which itself became a centre of opposition to the regime of Haile Selassie in the 1960s and '70s.

The spreading revolution
      The ELF was now able to extend its operations to the central highlands of Eritrea—the home of the Tigray. However, the arrival of the radical students coincided with the emergence of a serious rift between the leadership of the ELF, which was permanently resident in Cairo, and the rank and file, which remained in the field. The newcomers joined the opposition to the leadership, and in 1972 several groups that had defected from the ELF joined forces to form the Eritrean Liberation Front–People's Liberation Forces (ELF–PLF). For several years the two rival organizations fought each other as well as the Ethiopians. After a series of splits and mergers, the ELF–PLF came under the control of former students, among whom Christians predominated, and was renamed the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF), a Marxist and secular organization.

      The EPLF had made its presence felt by 1974, when the imperial regime in Ethiopia collapsed. While a power struggle for the succession was waged in Addis Ababa, the two Eritrean fronts liberated most of Eritrea. By 1977 the nationalist revolution seemed on the verge of victory. It was not to be. A military dictatorship emerged in Addis Ababa—also espousing Marxism—and, armed and assisted by the Soviet (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) bloc, the new Ethiopian regime was able to regain most of Eritrea in 1978. Warfare on a scale unprecedented in sub-Saharan Africa raged for the next two decades. The Ethiopians made enormous efforts with massive land attacks and heavy weaponry, but they had no success against the small and lightly armed guerrilla forces.

      The violence of war and indiscriminate oppression in their homeland turned most Eritreans against Ethiopia, thereby producing a steady stream of young recruits for the nationalist movement. Throughout the 1980s the fighting was carried out by the EPLF, which by 1981 had succeeded in eliminating the ELF and had emerged as the unchallenged champion of Eritrean nationalism. In the latter part of the decade, the Soviet Union terminated its military aid to Ethiopia. Unable to find another patron and faced with armed rebellion in other parts of the country, the regime in Addis Ababa began to falter. The final act occurred in 1991, when a rebel military offensive, led by the Tigray People's Liberation Front, swept toward the capital. The Ethiopian army disintegrated, and in May the EPLF assumed complete control of Eritrea.

      Three decades of war had produced among Eritreans a sense of unity and solidarity that they had not known before. Indeed, an entire generation had come of age during the struggle for independence, which was now to become a reality. The new regime in Ethiopia supported Eritrea's independence, so that a separation was effected amicably. In a referendum held two years after liberation, on April 23–25, 1993, the overwhelming majority of Eritreans voted for independence. On May 21 Isaias Afwerki (Afwerki, Isaias), the secretary-general of the EPLF, was made president of a transitional government, and on May 24 he proclaimed Eritrea officially independent.

Geoffrey Charles Last John Markakis
      Following independence, Eritrea enjoyed a thriving economy but, with the noteworthy exception of Ethiopia, maintained poor relations with neighbouring nations. Tension with The Sudan throughout the 1990s centred on mutual allegations that each had attempted to destabilize the other, and in late 1995 Eritrea engaged in a brief but violent conflict with Yemen over the Ḥanīsh Islands, an archipelago in the Red Sea claimed by both countries. Postindependence relations with Ethiopia, heretofore warm and supportive, deteriorated rapidly in 1998 and exploded into violence over the disputed hamlet of Badme. Following two years of bloodshed, a peace was negotiated in December 2000, but Eritrea's earlier economic and political progress had been shattered. Amid economic distress, loss of life, and a new flood of displaced persons, the first voices of discontent with government leadership were raised, and calls were made to promulgate the nation's constitution, which had been ratified in 1997.

Ed.

Additional Reading
A concise survey of ethnic groups living in Eritrea at the close of World War II is found in S.F. Nadel, Races and Tribes of Eritrea (1944). Tekeste Negash, Italian Colonialism in Eritrea, 1882–1941 (1987), surveys Italian colonialism and its impact on the people of Eritrea. G.K.N. Trevaskis, Eritrea: A Colony in Transition, 1941–52 (1960, reprinted 1975), recounts the political struggle over the fate of Eritrea in this time period. An account that reflects the Ethiopian point of view is Haggai Erlich, The Struggle Over Eritrea, 1962–1978 (1983). John Markakis, National and Class Conflict in the Horn of Africa (1987), includes an account of the Eritrean nationalist movement and the war of independence. Jordan Gebre-Medhin, Peasants and Nationalism in Eritrea (1989), analyzes Eritrean history from a nationalist perspective.John Markakis

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Universalium. 2010.

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