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ሃግሬ ኤርትራ
Hagere Ertra
Flag of Eritrea Coat of Arms of Eritrea
( In Detail) ( In Detail)
National motto: None
Location of Eritrea
Working languages Tigrigna, Arabic
and English
Capital Asmara
President Isaias Afewerki
Area
- Total
- % water
Ranked 97th
121,320 km²
Negligible
Population
- Estimated ( 2005)
- Total ( 2002)
- Density
Ranked 115th
4,561,599
4,298,269
38/km² ( 135th)
GDP (PPP)
- Total
- Per capita
2005 estimate
4,250 ( 155th)
917 ( 177th)
HDI ( 2003) 0.444 ( 161st) – low
Independence
- Limited
- Fully
From Ethiopia
May 29, 1991
May 24, 1993
Currency Nakfa
Time zone UTC +3
National anthem Ertra, Ertra, Ertra
Internet TLD .er
Calling Code 291
The State of Eritrea, or Eritrea (from the Italian form of the Greek name ΕΡΥΘΡΑΙΑ (Erythraîa; see also List of traditional Greek place names), which derives from the Greek name for the Red Sea), is a country in northeast Africa. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast. The east and northeast of the country has an extensive coastline with the Red Sea. Having achieved independence on May 24, 1993 from Ethiopia, it is one of the youngest independent states.

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Contents

History
Politics
Regions
Geography
Economy
Demographics
Religion



History - Contents


Eritrea had been ruled by many powers before it was colonised by the Italians in 1885. Previously, the coast was long occupied by the Ottoman Turks, who then left it to their Egyptian heirs in the mid 19th century. The interior, particularly the Christian (predominantly Coptic) Kebessa Highlands of Hamasien, Akale Guzai, and Serai, were traditionally loosely associated with the Abyssinian Empire. An Italian Roman Catholic priest by the name of Sapetto purchased the port of Assab from the Afar Sultan (a vassal of the Emperor of Ethiopia) on behalf of an Italian commercial conglomerate. Later, as the Egyptians retreated out of Sudan during the Mahdist rebellion, the British brokered an agreement whereby the Egyptians could retreat through Ethiopia, and in exchange they would allow the Emperor to occupy those lowland districts that he had disputed with the Turks and Egyptians. Emperor Yohannis IV believed this included Massawa, but instead, the port was handed by the Egyptians and the British to the Italians, who united it with the already colonised port of Asab to form a coastal Italian possession. The Italians took advantage of disorder in northern Ethiopia following the death of Emperor Yohannis IV to occupy the highlands, and established their new colony, henceforth known as Eritrea, and achieved recognition by Ethiopia's new Emperor Menelik II.The Italians remained the colonial power in Eritrea until they were defeated by Allied forces in World War II ( 1941), and Eritrea became a British protectorate. After the war, the United Nations, after a lengthy inquiry in which those who wanted union with Ethiopia and those who wanted independence lobbied the great powers and the U.N. extensively, eventually reached a compromise that the former Italian colony was to join Ethiopia as part of a federation. Eritrea would have its own parliament and administration, and would be represented in the Ethiopian parliament which would function as the Federal Parliament. The Emperor of Ethiopia, Emperor Haile Selassie, would be the monarch of Eritrea and would be represented there by a viceroy. Both unionists and pro-independence people found the federation to be undesirable. By a show of military force in the Eritrean Parliament the federation was dissolved by Ethiopia. The Emperor agreed readily and annexed Eritrea in 1960 even over the serious reservations of his Prime Minister, Aklilu Hapte-Wold, who was ardently in favor of retaining the federation. Promptly, pro-independence Eritreans went into rebellion and launched a long war of independence. They were joined by disaffected federationists who now were convinced Eritrea would be better off as an independent state. The war would last 30 years.The war of Eritrean Independence would escalate considerably after the overthrow of the Ethiopian monarchy in 1974, when a hardline Marxist military junta known as the Derg seized power, and launched a major offensive in Eritrea. The brutality of the government of dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam did much to increase the numbers of the independence movements supporters to the point that Eritreans became almost exclusively pro-independence by the mid- 1980s.The liberation struggle was dominated by two movements, the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), often refered to as "Jebha", and by the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF), often known as "Shaebia". The ELF was dominated by Muslim lowlanders, and was a conservative grass roots movement, whereas the EPLF was dominated by highlanders of Christian background, professing Marxism-Leninism. The ELF received backing from the more conservative Arab governments, whereas the EPLF from the more leftist ones, and some Eastern bloc countries which abandoned it in favor of the Derg regime in Ethiopia upon the Ethiopian revolution. The ELF and EPLF made attempts to consolidate their operations, but soon found that they could not work together. The ELF was eventually overshadowed and eliminated by the EPLF.The long war ended in 1991, when joint Eritrean and rebellious Ethiopian forces defeated the Ethiopian army, and the Derg regime fell. Two years later, after a referendum, Eritrean independence was declared. The leader of the EPLF, Isaias Afewerki, became Eritrea's first Provisional President. The Eritrean Peoples Liberation front (EPLF or Shaebia), became the sole legal ruling party, and changed its name to the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ).In 1998, a border war with Ethiopia resulted in the deaths of some 70,000 people from both countries, and subjected Eritrea to significant economic and social stresses, including massive population displacement, reduced economic development, and one of Africa's more severe landmine problems. The Ethiopian government, once firm allies of the Eritrean authorities, expelled large numbers of Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean heritage from Ethiopia at the outset of the war. These once-prosperous people found themselves suddenly dispossessed and dropped off in the border zone between the two countries, adding to the serious displaced-persons problem.In spite of initially promising economic and political strides, the Eritrean government cracked down on the free press and on opposition in 2001 when questions about the conduct of the war were raised. The government also failed to implement the new Constitution and to hold long-promised elections. Later, the government of Eritrea enforced the Italian colonial practice of requiring government approval of all practiced religions.The Eritrean-Ethiopian War ended in 2000 with a negotiated agreement known as the Algiers Agreement. One of the terms of the agreement was the establishment of a UN peacekeeping operation, known as the United Nations Mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia ( UNMEE); over 4,000 UN peacekeepers remain as of August 2004. Another term of the Algiers Agreement was the establishment of a final demarcation of the disputed border area between Eritrea and Ethiopia. An independent, UN-associated boundary commission known as the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC), after extensive study, issued a final border ruling in April 2002. Ethiopia initially rejected the decision, but in November of 2004 said that it agreed to the border ruling "in principle." However, Ethiopia has massed some troops along the nations' border, but no widespread hostilities have erupted..


Politics - Contents

The National Assembly of 150 seats, formed in 1993 shortly after independence, elected the current president, Isaias Afewerki. National elections have been periodically scheduled and cancelled. Independent local sources of political information on Eritrean domestic politics are scarce; in September 2001 the government closed down all of the nation's privately owned print media, and outspoken critics of the government have been arrested and held without trial, according to various international observers, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. In 2004 the U.S. State Department declared Eritrea a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for its alleged record of religious persecution (see below).External issues include the border conflict with Ethiopia and the Sudan. After a high-level delegation to the Sudan from the Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs ties are being normalized. The conflict with Ethiopia remains of primary concern and the stalemate has led the President to urge the UN to take action. Central to the continuation of the stalemate has to do with Ethiopia's inability to abide by the border demarcation ruling. This request is outlined in the Eleven Letters ( http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Eleven_Letters ) penned by the President. The situation is further escalated by the continued effort of the Eritrean and Ethiopian leaders in supporting each other's opposition.Eritrean National elections were set for 1997 and then postponed until 2001, it was then decided that because 20% of Eritrea's land was under occupation that elections would be postponed until the resolution of the conflict with Ethiopia. Local elections have continued in free Eritrea. The most recent round of local government elections were held in May 2003. On further elections, the President's Chief of Staff, Yemane Ghebremeskel said,
"The electoral commission is handling these elections this time round so that may be the new element in this process. The national assembly has also mandated the electoral commission to set the date for national elections, so whenever the electoral commission sets the date there will be national elections. It’s not dependent on regional elections, although that might be a very helpful process.
Multipartyism, in general principle yes, it is there but the law on political parties has to be approved by the national assembly. It was not approved the last time. The view from the beginning was that you don’t necessarily need a party law to hold national elections. You can have national elections and the party law can be adopted at any time. So in terms of commitment it’s very clear, in terms of the process it has its own pace, its own characteristics." shaebia.org



Regions - Contents

Regions of Eritrea
Regions of Eritrea
Eritrea is divided into 6 regions:
  1. Central (Maekel)
  2. Southern (Debub)
  3. Gash-Barka
  4. Anseba
  5. Northern Red Sea (Semienawi-Keih-Bahri)
  6. Southern Red Sea (Debubawi-Keih-Bahri)



Geography - Contents

Eritrea is located in the Horn of Africa and is bordered on the northeast and east by the Red Sea. The country is virtually bisected by the world's longest mountain range, the Great Rift Valley, with fertile lands to the west and the descent to desert in the East. Off the sandy and arid coastline is situated the Dahlak Archipelago and its fishing grounds. The land to the south, in the highlands, is slightly less dry and cooler. Eritrea at the southern end of the Red Sea is the home of the fork in the rift. The Afar Triangle or Danakil Depression of Eritrea is the probable location of a triple junction where three tectonic plates are pulling away from one another: the Arabian Plate, and the two parts of the African Plate (the Nubian and the Somalian) splitting along the East African Rift Zone (USGS). The highest point of the country, Soira, is located in the centre of Eritrea, at 3018 m above sea level.The main cities of the country are the capital city of Asmara and the port town of Assab in the southeast, as well as the towns of Massawa and Keren.


Economy - Contents

Since independence from Ethiopia, 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 Ethiopia-Eritrea war 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 0 million in property damage and loss, including losses of 5 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 its diaspora money and expertise into economic growth.


Demographics - Contents

Population 1993-2003
Population 1993-2003
Eritrea's two main ethnic groups are the Tigrigna, who represent about half of the population, and the Tigre, who are about 40%. The remaining people are the Kunama, Afar, Bilen, Hidareb, Nara, Rashaida, and Saho. The local Tigrigna and the wider Arabic language are the two predominant languages for official purposes, but English and Italian are also spoken. Dahlik is a newly discovered language spoken on the Dahlak Archipelago.


Religion - Contents

The dominant religions are Christianity and Islam, each group representing roughly 50% of the population. The Christians consist primarily of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church, which is the local Oriental Orthodox church, but small groups of Roman Catholics, Protestants, and other religions also exist.Members of the Eritrean Orthodox Church are sometimes described as Coptic Christians because the hierarchy of that church was formerly subject to that of the Tawahido Church of Ethiopia, which was in turn formerly (before 1950) subject to the Coptic Pope. However, the word Coptic in modern usage refers primarily to the Egyptian Orthodox branch of Christianity. The Eritrean and Ethiopian Orthodox churches are still in full communion with the Coptic Church in Egypt. In 1993 the Eritrean Orthodox Church was granted autocephaly, and in 1998 the Archbishopric of Asmara, the young nation's capital, was elevated to the rank of patriarchate, within the Oriental Orthodox church.The vast majority of Muslims in Eritrea are Sunni.Since May 2002, the government of Eritrea only officially recognizes the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Islam, Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran churches. All other faiths have been banned and harsh measures have been taken against their adherents. Other religions like Jehovah's Witnesses are not registered and cannot worship freely. Several Orthodox priests, dozens of Protestant pastors and thousands of church members have been arrested.The government's registration system requires religious groups to submit personal information in order to be allowed to worship. As of 2005, a number of refugees have been fleeing the country to Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and beyond because of this lack of freedom and given the large number of prisoners of conscience.See also Eritrean Orthodox Church.
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