|State of Eritrea|
Anthem: Ertra, Ertra, Ertra
Eritrea, Eritrea, Eritrea
and largest city
|Official languages||None (see working languages)|
|Recognised national languages|
|Ethnic groups (2012)|
|Government||Unitary one-party presidential republic|
|c. 980 BC|
|c. 100 AD|
|15 September 1952|
• De facto State of Eritrea
|24 May 1991|
• De jure State of Eritrea
|24 May 1993|
|117,600 km2 (45,400 sq mi) (99th)|
• Water (%)
• 2016 estimate
|51.8/km2 (134.2/sq mi) (154th)|
|GDP (PPP)||2018 estimate|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2018 estimate|
• Per capita
low · 179th
|Time zone||EAT (UTC+3)|
• Summer (DST)
|not observed (UTC+3)|
|Drives on the||right|
|ISO 3166 code||ER|
Eritrea is a multi-ethnic country, with nine recognized ethnic groups in its population of around 5 million. Most residents speak languages from the Afroasiatic family, either of the Ethiopian Semitic languages or Cushitic branches. Among these communities, the Tigrayans make up about 55% of the population, with the Tigre people constituting around 30% of inhabitants. In addition, there are a number of Nilo-Saharan-speaking Nilotic ethnic minorities. Most people in the territory adhere to Christianity or Islam.
The Kingdom of Aksum, covering much of modern-day Eritrea and northern Ethiopia, was established during the first or second centuries AD. It adopted Christianity around the middle of the fourth century. In medieval times much of Eritrea fell under the Medri Bahri kingdom, with a smaller region being part of Hamasien.
The creation of modern-day Eritrea is a result of the incorporation of independent, distinct kingdoms and sultanates (for example, Medri Bahri and the Sultanate of Aussa) eventually resulting in the formation of Italian Eritrea. After the defeat of the Italian colonial army in 1942, Eritrea was administered by the British Military Administration until 1952. Following the UN General Assembly decision, in 1952, Eritrea would govern itself with a local Eritrean parliament but for foreign affairs and defense it would enter into a federal status with Ethiopia for a period of 10 years. However, in 1962 the government of Ethiopia annulled the Eritrean parliament and formally annexed Eritrea. But the Eritreans that argued for complete Eritrean independence since the ouster of the Italians in 1941, anticipated what was coming and in 1960 organized the Eritrean Liberation Front in opposition. In 1991, after 30 years of continuous armed struggle for independence, the Eritrean liberation fighters entered the capital city, Asmara, in victory.
Eritrea is a one-party state in which national legislative elections have never been held since independence. According to Human Rights Watch, the Eritrean government's human rights record is among the worst in the world. The Eritrean government has dismissed these allegations as politically motivated. It is one of only two countries in the world that taxes its citizens no matter where they reside in the world. The other country is the United States. The compulsory military service requires long, indefinite conscription periods, which some Eritreans leave the country to avoid. Because all local media is state-owned, Eritrea was also ranked as having the second-least press freedom in the global Press Freedom Index, behind only North Korea.
During the Middle Ages, the Eritrea region was known as Medri Bahri ("sea-land"). The name Eritrea is derived from the ancient Greek name for the Red Sea (ἐρυθρὰ Θάλασσα erythra thalassa, based on the adjective ἐρυθρός erythros "red"). It was first formally adopted in 1890, with the formation of Italian Eritrea (Colonia Eritrea). The territory became the Eritrea Governorate within Italian East Africa in 1936. After the defeat of the Italian colonial army In Eritrea in 1942 by the British Army, Eritrea was under the protectorate of the British Military Administration while the fate of the former colonies of Italy was being debated at the UN. In 1952 the UN adopted that Eritrea would be self-governing for domestic affairs through an elected Eritrean Parliament while trade, foreign affairs and defense would be handled in a federal status with the Government of Ethiopia. But in 1962, after a series of political machinations, the government of Ethiopia annulled the Eritrean Parliament and annexed Eritrea as one of the provinces of Ethiopia. But the Eritrean people that had fought for independence since the defeat of the Italian colonial army was removed never doubted what the designs of the Ethiopian government were. Therefore, in 1960 they formed the Eritrean Liberation Front. And after 30 years of armed struggle, Eritrea gained its de facto independence in 1991. And following the 1993 referendum, and the name of the new state was defined as State of Eritrea in the 1997 constitution.
At Buya in Eritrea, one of the oldest hominids representing a possible link between Homo erectus and an archaic Homo sapiens was found by Italian scientists. Dated to over 1 million years old, it is the oldest skeletal find of its kind and provides a link between hominids and the earliest anatomically modern humans. It is believed that the section of the Danakil Depression in Eritrea was also a major player in terms of human evolution, and may contain other traces of evolution from Homo erectus hominids to anatomically modern humans.
During the last interglacial period, the Red Sea coast of Eritrea was occupied by early anatomically modern humans. It is believed that the area was on the route out of Africa that some scholars suggest was used by early humans to colonize the rest of the Old World. In 1999, the Eritrean Research Project Team composed of Eritrean, Canadian, American, Dutch and French scientists discovered a Paleolithic site with stone and obsidian tools dated to over 125,000 years old near the Bay of Zula south of Massawa, along the Red Sea littoral. The tools are believed to have been used by early humans to harvest marine resources such as clams and oysters.
According to linguists, the first Afroasiatic-speaking populations arrived in the region during the ensuing Neolithic era from the family's proposed urheimat ("original homeland") in the Nile Valley. Other scholars propose that the Afroasiatic family developed in situ in the Horn, with its speakers subsequently dispersing from there.
Together with Djibouti, Ethiopia, northern Somalia, and the Red Sea coast of Sudan, Eritrea is considered the most likely location of the land which the ancient Egyptians called Punt, first mentioned in the 25th century BC. The ancient Puntites had close relations with Ancient Egypt during the rule of Pharaoh Sahure and Queen Hatshepsut.
This is confirmed by genetic studies of mummified baboons. In 2010, a study was conducted on baboon mummies that were brought from Punt to Egypt as gifts by the ancient Egyptians. The scientists from the Egyptian Museum and the University of California used oxygen isotope analysis to examine hairs from two baboon mummies that had been preserved in the British Museum. One of the baboons had distorted isotopic data, so the other's oxygen isotope values were compared to those of present-day baboon specimens from regions of interest. The researchers initially found that the mummies most closely matched modern baboon specimens in Eritrea and Ethiopia, which suggested that Punt was likely a narrow region that included eastern Ethiopia and all of Eritrea. In 2015, isotopic analysis of other ancient baboon mummies from Punt confirmed that the specimens likely originated from an area encompassing the Eritrea-Ethiopia corridor and eastern Somalia.
Excavations at Sembel found evidence of an ancient pre-Aksumite civilization in greater Asmara. This Ona urban culture is believed to have been among the earliest pastoral and agricultural communities in the Horn region. Artifacts at the site have been dated to between 800 BC and 400 BC, contemporaneous with other pre-Aksumite settlements in the Eritrean and Ethiopian highlands during the mid-first millennium BC.
Additionally, the Ona culture may have had connections with the ancient Land of Punt. In a tomb in Thebes (Luxor) dated to the 18th dynasty reign of Pharaoh Amenophis II (Amenhotep II), long-necked pots similar to those that were made by the Ona people are depicted as part of the cargo in a ship from Punt.
Excavations in and near Agordat in central Eritrea yielded the remains of an ancient pre-Aksumite civilization known as the Gash Group. Ceramics were discovered that were related to those of the C-Group (Temehu) pastoral culture, which inhabited the Nile Valley between 2500–1500 BC. Some sources dating back to 3500 BC. Shards akin to those of the Kerma culture, another community that flourished in the Nile Valley around the same period, were also found at other local archaeological sites in the Barka valley belonging to the Gash Group. According to Peter Behrens (1981) and Marianne Bechaus-Gerst (2000), linguistic evidence indicates that the C-Group and Kerma peoples spoke Afroasiatic languages of the Berber and Cushitic branches, respectively.
Kingdom of D'mt
Dʿmt was a kingdom that encompassed most of Eritrea and the northern frontier of Ethiopia. The polity existed during the 10th to 5th centuries BC. Given the presence of a massive temple complex at Yeha, this area was most likely the kingdom's capital. Qohaito, often identified as the town of Koloe in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, as well as Matara were important ancient Dʿmt kingdom cities in southern Eritrea.
The realm developed irrigation schemes, used plows, grew millet, and made iron tools and weapons. After the fall of Dʿmt in the 5th century BC, the plateau came to be dominated by smaller successor kingdoms. This lasted until the rise of one of these polities during the first century, the Kingdom of Aksum, which was able to reunite the area.
Kingdom of Aksum
The Kingdom of Aksum was a trading empire centered in Eritrea and northern Ethiopia. It existed from approximately 100–940 AD, growing from the proto-Aksumite Iron Age period around the 4th century BC to achieve prominence by the 1st century AD.
According to the medieval Liber Axumae (Book of Aksum), Aksum's first capital, Mazaber, was built by Itiyopis, son of Cush. The capital was later moved to Aksum in northern Ethiopia. The Kingdom used the name "Ethiopia" as early as the 4th century.
The Aksumites erected a number of large stelae, which served a religious purpose in pre-Christian times. One of these granite columns, the Obelisk of Aksum, is the largest such structure in the world, standing at 90 feet (27 metres). Under Ezana (fl. 320–360), Aksum later adopted Christianity.
In the 7th century, early Muslims from Mecca, at least companions of the Islamic Nabī (Arabic: نَـبِي, Prophet) Muhammad, sought refuge from Qurayshi persecution by travelling to the kingdom, a journey known in Islamic history as the First Hijrah. They reportedly built the first African mosque, that is the Mosque of the Companions, Massawa.
The kingdom is mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea as an important market place for ivory, which was exported throughout the ancient world. Aksum was at the time ruled by Zoskales, who also governed the port of Adulis. The Aksumite rulers facilitated trade by minting their own Aksumite currency. The state also established its hegemony over the declining Kingdom of Kush and regularly entered the politics of the kingdoms on the Arabian peninsula, eventually extending its rule over the region with the conquest of the Himyarite Kingdom. The country is also the alleged resting place of the Ark of the Covenant, and the purported home of the Queen of Sheba.
After the decline of Aksum, the Eritrean highlands were under the domain of Bahr Negash ruled by the Bahr Negus. The area was then known as Ma'ikele Bahr ("between the seas/rivers", i.e. the land between the Red Sea and the Mereb river). It was later renamed under Emperor Zara Yaqob as the domain of the Bahr Negash, the Medri Bahri ("Sea land" in Tingrinya, although it included some areas like Shire on the other side of the Mereb, today in Ethiopia). With its capital at Debarwa, the state's main provinces were Hamasien, Serae and Akele Guzai.
Turks briefly occupied the highland parts of Baharnagash in 1559 and withdrew after they encountered resistance and were pushed back by the Bahrnegash and highland forces. In 1578 they tried to expand into the highlands with the help of Bahr Negash Yisehaq who had switched alliances due to power struggle, and by 1589 once again they were apparently compelled to withdraw their forces to the coast. After that Ottomans abandoned their ambitions to establish themselves on the highlands and remained in the lowlands until they left the region by 1872.
The Scottish traveler James Bruce reported in 1770 that Medri Bahri was a distinct political entity from Abyssinia, noting that the two territories were frequently in conflict. The Bahre-Nagassi ("Kings of the Sea") alternately fought with or against the Abyssinians and the neighbouring Muslim Adal Sultanate depending on the geopolitical circumstances. Medri Bahri was thus part of the Christian resistance against Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi of Adal's forces, but later joined the Adalite states and the Ottoman Empire front against Abyssinia in 1572. That 16th century also marked the arrival of the Ottomans, who began making inroads in the Red Sea area.
James Bruce in his book published in 1805 reported Hadawi, the seat of Baharanagash, was part of the Tigré province of Abyssinia which was ruled by Ras Mikael Sehul at the time of his travel. The officer in Hadawi watched over the Naybe of Masawa (province of Turk's Habesh Eyalet), and starved him into obedience by intercepting his provisions, whenever the officer in Hadawi and the governor of Tigré found it necessary. Bruce also located Tigré between Red Sea and the river Tekezé and stated many large governments, such as Enderta and Antalow, and the great part of Baharhagash were on the eastern side of Tigré province.
At the end of the 16th century, the Aussa Sultanate was established in the Denkel lowlands of Eritrea. The polity had come into existence in 1577, when Muhammed Jasa moved his capital from Harar to Aussa (Asaita) with the split of the Adal Sultanate into Aussa and the Sultanate of Harar. At some point after 1672, Aussa declined in conjunction with Imam Umar Din bin Adam's recorded ascension to the throne. In 1734, the Afar leader Kedafu, head of the Mudaito clan, seized power and established the Mudaito Dynasty. This marked the start of a new and more sophisticated polity that would last into the colonial period.
By 1517, the Ottomans had succeeded in conquering Medri Bahri. They occupied all of northeastern present-day Eritrea for the next two decades, an area which stretched from Massawa to Swakin in Sudan.
The territory became an Ottoman governorate (eyalet) known as the Habesh Eyalet. Massawa served as the new province's first capital. When the city became of secondary economical importance, the administrative capital was soon moved across the Red Sea to Jeddah. Its headquarters remained there from the end of the 16th century to the early 19th century, with Medina temporarily serving as the capital in the 18th century.
The Ottomans were eventually driven out in the last quarter of the 16th century. However, they retained control over the seaboard until the establishment of Italian Eritrea in the late 1800s.
The boundaries of the present-day Eritrea nation state were established during the Scramble for Africa. In 1869 or 1870, the ruling Sultan of Raheita sold lands surrounding the Bay of Assab to the Rubattino Shipping Company. The area served as a coaling station along the shipping lanes introduced by the recently completed Suez Canal. It had long been part of the Ottoman Habesh Eyalet centered in Egypt. The first Italian settlers arrived in 1880.
In the vacuum that followed the 1889 death of Emperor Yohannes IV, Gen. Oreste Baratieri occupied the highlands along the Eritrean coast and Italy proclaimed the establishment of the new colony of Italian Eritrea, a colony of the Kingdom of Italy. In the Treaty of Wuchale (It. Uccialli) signed the same year, King Menelik of Shewa, a southern Ethiopian kingdom, recognized the Italian occupation of his rivals' lands of Bogos, Hamasien, Akkele Guzay, and Serae in exchange for guarantees of financial assistance and continuing access to European arms and ammunition. His subsequent victory over his rival kings and enthronement as Emperor Menelek II (r. 1889–1913) made the treaty formally binding upon the entire territory.
In 1888, the Italian administration launched its first development projects in the new colony. The Eritrean Railway was completed to Saati in 1888, and reached Asmara in the highlands in 1911. The Asmara–Massawa Cableway was the longest line in the world during its time, but was later dismantled by the British in World War II. Besides major infrastructural projects, the colonial authorities invested significantly in the agricultural sector. It also oversaw the provision of urban amenities in Asmara and Massawa, and employed many Eritreans in public service, particularly in the police and public works departments. Thousands of Eritreans were concurrently enlisted in the army, serving during the Italo-Turkish War in Libya as well as the First and Second Italo-Abyssinian Wars.
Additionally, the Italian Eritrea administration opened a number of new factories, which produced buttons, cooking oil, pasta, construction materials, packing meat, tobacco, hide and other household commodities. In 1939, there were around 2,198 factories and most of the employees were Eritrean citizens. The establishment of industries also made an increase in the number of both Italians and Eritreans residing in the cities. The number of Italians residing in the territory increased from 4,600 to 75,000 in five years; and with the involvement of Eritreans in the industries, trade and fruit plantation was expanded across the nation, while some of the plantations were owned by Eritreans.
In 1922, Benito Mussolini's rise to power in Italy brought profound changes to the colonial government in Italian Eritrea. After il Duce declared the birth of the Italian Empire in May 1936, Italian Eritrea (enlarged with northern Ethiopia's regions) and Italian Somaliland were merged with the just conquered Ethiopia in the new Italian East Africa (Africa Orientale Italiana) administrative territory. This Fascist period was characterized by imperial expansion in the name of a "new Roman Empire". Eritrea was chosen by the Italian government to be the industrial center of Italian East Africa.
Asmara's architecture after 1935 was greatly improved to become a "modernist Art Deco city" (in 2017 has been declared a "UNESCO World City Heritage"), featuring eclectic and rationalist built forms, well-defined open spaces, and public and private buildings, including cinemas, shops, banks, religious structures, public and private offices, industrial facilities, and residences (according to UNESCO's publications). The Italians designed more than 400 buildings in a construction boom that was only halted by Italy’s involvement in WW2. These included art deco masterpieces like the worldwide famous Fiat Tagliero Building and the Cinema Impero 
The British placed Eritrea under British military administration until Allied forces could determine its fate.
In the absence of agreement amongst the Allies concerning the status of Eritrea, British administration continued for the remainder of World War II and until 1950. During the immediate postwar years, the British proposed that Eritrea be divided along religious lines and annexed to their Sudan and to Ethiopia. The Soviet Union, anticipating a communist victory in the Italian polls, initially supported returning Eritrea to Italy under trusteeship or as a colony.
Federation with Ethiopia
In the 1950s, the Ethiopian feudal administration under Emperor Haile Selassie sought to annex Eritrea and Italian Somaliland. He laid claim to both territories in a letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt at the Paris Peace Conference and at the First Session of the United Nations. In the United Nations, the debate over the fate of the former Italian colonies continued. The British and Americans preferred to cede all of Eritrea except the Western province to the Ethiopians as a reward for their support during World War II. The Independence Bloc of Eritrean parties consistently requested from the UN General Assembly that a referendum be held immediately to settle the Eritrean question of sovereignty.
Following the adoption of UN Resolution 390A(V) in December 1950, Eritrea was federated with Ethiopia under the prompting of the United States. The resolution called for Eritrea and Ethiopia to be linked through a loose federal structure under the sovereignty of the Emperor. Eritrea was to have its own administrative and judicial structure, its own flag, and control over its domestic affairs, including police, local administration, and taxation. The federal government, which for all practical purposes was the existing imperial government, was to control foreign affairs (including commerce), defense, finance, and transportation. The resolution ignored the wishes of Eritreans for independence, but guaranteed the population democratic rights and a measure of autonomy.
In 1958, a group of Eritreans founded the Eritrean Liberation Movement (ELM). The organization mainly consisted of Eritrean students, professionals and intellectuals. It engaged in clandestine political activities intended to cultivate resistance to the centralizing policies of the imperial Ethiopian state. On 1 September 1961, the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), under the leadership of Hamid Idris Awate, waged an armed struggle for independence. In 1962, Emperor Haile Selassie unilaterally dissolved the Eritrean parliament and annexed the territory. The ensuing Eritrean War for Independence went on for 30 years against successive Ethiopian governments until 1991, when the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF), a successor of the ELF, defeated the Ethiopian forces in Eritrea and helped a coalition of Ethiopian rebel forces take control of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
After the liberation Eritrea held a referendum on independence between 23 and 25 April 1993 under international supervision including the UN Observer Mission to Verify the Referendum in Eritrea (UNOVER). The result was 99.83% in favour, with a 98.5% turnout. The referendum was completed under budget, and was considered free and fair. Independence was declared on 27 April. The EPLF declared the new nation of Eritrea the following month. In February 1994 the EPLF renamed itself the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice as part of its transformation into Eritrea’s ruling political party.
Location and habitat
Eritrea is located in the Horn of Africa in East Africa. It is bordered to the northeast and east by the Red Sea, Sudan to the west, Ethiopia to the south, and Djibouti to the southeast. Eritrea lies between latitudes 12° and 18°N, and longitudes 36° and 44°E.
The country is virtually bisected by a branch of the East African Rift. It has fertile lands to the west, descending to desert in the east. Eritrea, at the southern end of the Red Sea, is the home of the fork in the rift. The Dahlak Archipelago and its fishing grounds are situated off the sandy and arid coastline.
Eritrea can be split into three ecoregions. To the east of the highlands are the hot, arid coastal plains stretching down to the southeast of the country. The cooler, more fertile highlands, reaching up to 3000m has a different habitat. Habitats here vary from the sub-tropical rainforest at Filfil Solomona to the precipitous cliffs and canyons of the southern highlands. 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 highest point of the country, Emba Soira, is located in the center of Eritrea, at 3,018 meters (9,902 ft) above sea level.
The main cities of the country are the capital city of Asmara and the port town of Asseb in the southeast, as well as the towns of Massawa to the east, the northern town of Keren, and the central town Mendefera.
Eritrea is part of a 14 nation constituency within the Global Environment Facility, which partners with international institutions, civil society organizations, and the private sector to address global environmental issues while supporting national sustainable development initiatives. Local variability in rainfall patterns and/or reduced precipitation is known to occur, which may precipitate soil erosion, floods, droughts, land degradation and desertification. In 2006, Eritrea also announced that it would become the first country in the world to turn its entire coast into an environmentally protected zone. The 1,347 km (837 mi) coastline, along with another 1,946 km (1,209 mi) of coast around its more than 350 islands, will come under governmental protection.
Eritrea has several species of mammals and a rich avifauna of 560 species of birds.
Eritrea is home to an abundant amount of big game species. Enforced regulations have helped in steadily increasing their numbers throughout Eritrea. Mammals commonly seen today include the Abyssinian hare, African wild cat, Black-backed jackal, African golden wolf, Genet, Ground squirrel, pale fox, Soemmerring's gazelle, warthog. Dorcas gazelle are common on the coastal plains and in Gash-Barka.
Lions are said to inhabit the mountains of the Gash-Barka Region. There is also a small population of African bush elephants that roam in some parts of the country. Dik-diks can also be found in many areas. The endangered African wild ass can be seen in Denakalia Region. Other local wildlife include bushbuck, duikers, greater kudu, Klipspringer, African leopards, oryx and crocodiles., The spotted hyena is widespread and fairly common. Between 1955 and 2001 there were no reported sightings of elephant herds, and they are thought to have fallen victim to the war of independence. In December 2001 a herd of about 30, including 10 juveniles, was observed in the vicinity of the Gash River. The elephants seemed to have formed a symbiotic relationship with olive baboons, with the baboons using the water holes dug by the elephants, while the elephants use the tree-top baboons as an early warning system.
It is estimated that there are around 100 African bush elephant left in Eritrea, the most northerly of East Africa's elephants. The endangered African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) was previously found in Eritrea, but is now deemed extirpated from the entire country. In Gash-Barka, deadly snakes like saw-scaled viper are common. Puff adder and red spitting cobra are widespread and can be found even in the highlands. In the coastal areas marine species that are common include dolphin, dugong, whale shark, turtles, marlin, swordfish, and manta ray.
The climate of Eritrea is shaped by its diverse topographical features and its location within the tropics. The diversity in landscape and topography in the highlands and lowlands of Eritrea result in the diversity of climate across the country. The highlands have temperate climate throughout out the year. The climate of most lowland zones is arid and semiarid. The distribution of rainfall and vegetation types varies markedly throughout the country. Eritrean climate varies on the basis of seasonal and altitudinal differences.
Based on variations in temperature, Eritrea can be broadly divided into three major climate zones: the temperate zone, subtropical climate zone, and tropical climate zone.
|Climate data for Eritrea in general, based on 14 cities|
|Average high °C (°F)||27.3
|Daily mean °C (°F)||20
|Average low °C (°F)||17.8
|Average precipitation mm (inches)||6.7
Government and politics
The People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) is the ruling party in Eritrea. Other political groups are not allowed to organize, although the unimplemented Constitution of 1997 provides for the existence of multi-party politics. The National Assembly has 150 seats, of which 75 are occupied by the PFDJ. National elections have been periodically scheduled and cancelled; none have ever been held in the country. The president, Isaias Afwerki, has been in office since independence in 1993.
Eritrean National elections were set for 2001 but it was then decided that because 20% of Eritrea's land was under occupation, elections would be postponed until the resolution of the conflict with Ethiopia. However, local elections have continued in Eritrea. The most recent round of local government elections were held in 2010 and 2011. On further elections, the President's Chief of Staff, Yemane Gebremeskel 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.||”|
As yet, no national elections have been held since independence.
The Eritrean Defence Forces are now the official armed forces of the State of Eritrea. Its constituent elements are Eritrean Ground Forces, Eritrean Navy, Eritrean Air Force (includes Air Defence Force). Eritrea's Army is well staffed, well trained, and compared to the vast majority of African armies, well-funded. Indeed, during Eritrea’s fight for independence from Ethiopia, the Eritrean military was widely admired as one of the most effective fighting organisations in the world.
The EDF principles were articulated by the EPLF which during the liberation struggle operated a network of underground hospitals, factories, garages, and schools in the liberated areas it controlled while simultaneously engaging the Eritrean population at large in a social transformational change. At its peak, it commanded 90,000 battle hardened troops equipped with modern battlefield weapons captured from the Ethiopian occupying forces.
The Eritrean Defence Forces have also specific attributes due to high importance they attach to gender equality. This is another liberation struggle component integrated into modern day military forces of Eritrea. Eritrean women were integrated into the ranks of the freedom fighters and fought alongside the men on the front lines. They made up 30 percent of the country's combat forces. The EPLF treated women as equals, and they served as platoon commanders, commandos, assault troops, tank and truck drivers, mechanics, doctors, etc. Women also served in many non-combat capacities as teachers, paramedics, political organisers, technicians, garage mechanics, drivers and more. Eritrean women in villages across Eritrea and in the vast Eritrean Diaspora also organised to support the liberation movement.
The purposes of national service (Hagerawi Agelglot) in Eritrea are clearly stated in a legal proclamation 82/1995 of 1995 and are three-fold: national defence, economic and social development and national integration. Its overall aim is not only to defend the country, but also to rebuild it following the war of independence and to propagate the national ideology (National service is the “school of the nation”).
The Eritrean national service has a military branch and a civilian branch. Individuals assigned to the military branch perform their service within the Eritrean military (army, navy or air force). They are also sometimes deployed for specific projects, predominantly projects to develop the country's infrastructure and within the agricultural sector. They live on military bases and are divided into units. Administration of the military branch is a matter for the Ministry of Defence.
Those assigned to the civilian branch perform their service by participating in civilian projects. For that purpose, the government assigns individuals to different ministries. Those individuals are usually well-educated people or have specialist skills. They are typically deployed in schools and courts or provide medical care. Individuals performing national service undertake the duties assigned to them as they would in a normal job. They live with their parents, families or in private accommodation at their workplace. Following the outbreak of the border war with Ethiopia, Eritrea announced the general mobilisation of its forces, as a result of which the Proclamation Article 21(1) was triggered. Despite the end of combat operations in 2000, Ethiopia – unlike Eritrea – has never recognised the border drawn by the UN Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission ruling in 2002. Accordingly, the Eritrean government has not lifted the extension of National Service beyond its statutory peace-time duration of 18 months. The GOE had launched a massive demobilization programme – funded by its international partners in 2001. But the demobilization programme was stopped in 2005 when Ethiopia officially and categorically rejected the EEBC Award and virtually created a situation of war with Eritrea.
In March 2018, the Eritrean authorities confirmed that the Government has introduced a new improved salary scale for national service which was being implemented in phases. The beneficiaries of the first phase were the new national service members enrolled in the civil service and in the army. New baseline salary is 1800 nakfa for those without secondary education. 2,500 nakfa for Post-secondary certificate holders, 3,000 nakfa for those with a diploma, 3,500 nakfa for first degree holders and for advanced degrees of five years or more 4,000 nakfa. The second phase of the salary scale and with retroactive applicability is to be introduced for existing members of the civil service and new entrants with second degrees and PhDs. In this sense it seems that Government is trying to address disparity and imbalance and increase in the previous salary scales.
The Eritrean judiciary can be divided into Civil, Military and Special Courts. The jurisdictional paths of these Courts do cross each other, but each is subject to different administrative structure. The Courts also differ in the type of law they use. The Community Courts of Eritrea are the foundation of the judicial system in Eritrea. The courts typically hear cases regarding minor infractions, typically involving sums of less than approximately $7,300 (100 thousand nakfa). Individual cases are heard by an individual magistrate. Defence counsels are permitted to present cases but are typically appointed by the court because defendants are rarely able to meet the cost of private representation. The system was set in place with the aim of ensuring better access to the legal system to all layers of the society and has helped increase the share of cases resolved outside of the court through mediation and compromise with the involvement of representatives of family members known as shimagle. Between 2004-2009, about 57% of cases were settled through mediation and compensation among the litigants.
The Community Court's standing on women in the legal profession is unclear, but elected women judges have reserved seat. Furthermore, even though there is no empirical data to show the impact of the Court on gender equality the election of women judges is believed to have positively contributed to change of the traditional role of women in Eritrea. Community court judges are elected by their community initially for two years and now it has changed into four years. Most of the judges are elders who have adequate knowledge of customary practices but also the national law. They must also be active participants in the affairs of their community. The three members of the bench are traditionally distinguished as one judge and two nebaro. The nebaro have the role in assisting the ‘main’ judge by using their knowledge of customs and of the community.
According to the NYU School of Law, the Legal Committee of the Ministry of Justice oversees the admission and requirements to practice law in Eritrea. Although the establishment of an independent bar association is not proscribed under Proclamation 88/96, among other domestic laws, there is no bar association. The community electorate in the local jurisdiction of the Community Court chooses the Court's judges. The Community Court's standing on women in the legal profession is unclear, but elected women judges have reserved seat.
Eritrea is a member of the United Nations, the African Union, and is an observing member of the Arab League alongside Brazil, Venezuela, India and Turkey. The nation holds a seat on the United Nations' Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions (ACABQ). Eritrea also holds memberships in the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Finance Corporation, International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), Non-Aligned Movement, Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Permanent Court of Arbitration, Port Management Association of Eastern and Southern Africa, and the World Customs Organization.
Eritrea maintains diplomatic ties with virtually all UN Member States. It has 28 Embassies and 3 Consulates abroad while its representation to other UN Member States is often done through non-resident ambassadors. All five UNSC Member States, most countries in the Horn and the Middle East and other European and Asian countries, the UN agencies have permanent representatives in Eritrea. All in all 19 countries and 7 UN agencies have permanent embassies in Eritrea while most of the remaining UN member States are represented by non-resident Ambassadors from Nairobi, Khartoum and Cairo. Eritrea’s relations with Djibouti are currently strained over the Dumeira Mountain and Doumeira Islands.
On 23 December 2009, the United Nations Security Council adopted UNSC Resolution 1907 (2009) imposing a sanctions regime against Eritrea (arms embargo). The pretexts for the sanctions were Eritrea’s alleged support for Al-Shabaab, a Somali terrorist group. Shortly thereafter, in 2011, the sanctions were expanded through UNSC Resolution 2023 (2011), adopted by the Security Council during its 6674th meeting, held on 5 December 2011. On the 14 Nov 2017 the UNSC again voted to continue the sanction regime and adopted Resolution 2385.
Given the lack of evidence to justify the imposition of sanctions and arms embargo i.e. no proof of Eritrean support to Somali militants confirmed by UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, the Government of Eritrea considers sanctions to be unfounded and aimed at restricting Eritrea’s right to defend itself which is a fundamental international right enshrined under the UN Charter. The sanctions were also criticized by representatives of the academic community who consider them counterproductive and damaging to regional security.
Relations with Ethiopia
Following the end of the Eritrean–Ethiopian War, on the 18th June 2000, the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement was signed. This was only after Ethiopia became aware that despite launching three huge offensives they could not defeat Eritrea, militarily at least. This agreement culminated into the signing of the Algiers Peace Agreement (Algiers Agreement) on the 12th December 2000, also known as the “December Agreement”. By Article 4.2 of the Algiers Agreement, the Commission was entrusted with the task of delimiting and demarcating the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia (Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission - EEBC).
The EEBC delivered its verdict on the 13th April 2002. Initially, Ethiopia, as widely disseminated through international and domestic press interviews, was entirely satisfied and enthusiastic on the ruling. However, only on a full awareness of the implications and consequences of the decision, that is the loss of the casus belli town of Badme, the place where the hostilities started, did Ethiopia’s controversies on the process begin. Irrespective of which, the EEBC in November 2007 concluded the demarcation phase of the Algiers Agreement. Even until today, Ethiopia has not accepted the decision and remains in violation of the EEBC decision and has not withdrawn its troops from sovereign Eritrean territory. Ethiopia cited many reasons including those having to do with the process, the requirement of more flexibility, practicality and pragmatism, all of which were dismissed by Sir Lauterpacht, the President of the Commission. This was done via a number of communications and correspondences in response to Ethiopia and to the Secretary General of the UN in reference to Ethiopia’s justifications on the requirements of flexibility to the EEBC decision. Since then, for the past 17 years, Ethiopian troops have been permitted by a silent international consensus to flout the treaty and illegally occupy Eritrean territory. In consequence, the border between the two countries is heavily militarised and skirmishes occasionally claim lives.
Disagreements following the war have resulted in stalemate punctuated by periods of elevated tension and renewed threats of war. The stalemate led the President of Eritrea to urge the UN to take action on Ethiopia with the Eleven Letters penned by the President to the United Nations Security Council. Up to this point authorities of Ethiopia showed no willingness to revise stance and adopt legally binding EEBC decision. Such situation is often cited by independent experts as a key reason for ongoing Eritrean policies on National service.
A peace treaty between both nations was signed on July 8, 2018.
The regions of Eritrea are the primary geographical divisions through which the country is administered. Six in total, they include the Maekel/Central, Anseba, Gash-Barka, Debub/Southern, Northern Red Sea and Southern Red Sea regions. At the time of independence in 1993, Eritrea was arranged into ten provinces. These provinces were similar to the nine provinces operating during the colonial period. In 1996, these were consolidated into six regions (zobas). The boundaries of these new regions are based on catchment basins.
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Transport in Eritrea includes highways, airports and seaports, in addition to various forms of public and private vehicular, maritime and aerial transportation.
At the start of Eritrea's independence in 1991, the number of asphalted roads used to cover 4,000 km (2,485 miles), over the years, this figure has more than tripled to the present coverage of 14,000 km ( 8,699 miles). Some of the largest road infrastructure built over the past few years have been the Massawa-Assab, Massawa-Gilbub, Barentu-Tessenei-Talatasher, Afabet-Kubkub-Nakfa and Massawa-Erafaile roads. However, over past few years, the circulation from and to Asmara has become quite critical and a challenge that it is of importance to tackle the obstacle at its early stage so as to avoid major road issues in the future. The Government of Eritrea is currently working in a new ring road project surrounding the city of Asmara. The idea is to ease the traffic burden coming into Asmara and especially of heavy vehicles damaging the asphalted roads.
As of 1999, there was a total of 317 kilometres of 950 mm (3 ft 1 3⁄8 in) (narrow gauge) rail line in Eritrea. The railway links Agordat and Asmara with the port of Massawa; however, it had been inoperative since 1978 except for about a 5 kilometre stretch that was reopened in Massawa in 1994. Rehabilitation of the remainder and of the rolling stock has occurred in recent years. By 2003, the line had been restored from Massawa all the way through to Asmara.
The Eritrean highway system is named according to the road classification. The three levels of classification are: primary (P), secondary (S), and tertiary (T). The lowest level road is tertiary and serves local interests. Typically they are improved earth roads which are occasionally paved. During the wet seasons these roads typically become impassable.
The next higher level road is a secondary road and typically is a single-layered asphalt road that connects district capitals together and those to the regional capitals. Roads that are considered primary roads are those that are fully asphalted (throughout their entire length) and in general they carry traffic between all the major cities and towns in Eritrea.
In terms of maritime communications, a total of 58 million USD has been invested for the renovation and expansion of the ports. The ports were almost totally rebuilt. New cranes were installed and marine transport has improved.
Massawa is the primary port for the import of goods for the Eritrea market. The port has an extensive history, being based around a natural and protected series of bays with safe anchorages and good communications to the Eritrea hinterland. The current port was founded during 19th century and was initially developed by the Italian and British colonial powers. The post-World-war II the port fell into decline but is now, under the management and control of an Eritrea government, undergoing major rehabilitation and restoration of facilities and services. Massawa is home to a naval base and large dhow docks. It also has a station on the railway line to Asmara. Ferries sail to the Dahlak Islands and the nearby Sheikh Saeed Island, aka Green Island. In addition, the city's air transportation needs are served by the Massawa International Airport.The establishment of a Free Port Zone at Massawa is further expected to boost trade prospects within the already established Middle Eastern and African Markets.
The town of Assab has become an important port since it was purchased by the Rubattino Shipping Company for 8,100 Maria Teresa dollars from the local sultans on behalf of the Italian government in 1869. Assab was chosen for its strategic location near the straits of Bab el Mandeb, and the possibility that it could become an important trading station between Ethiopia and Arabia. Assab now is a modern port, with an oil refinery built by the former Soviet Union. It used to be the main port serving Addis Ababa and therefore has more an Ethiopian than Eritrean feel to it. The town is divided into three parts. Assab Seghir (small Assab) on the shoreline, Assab Kebir (big Assab) in the center of town, containing the port and the city center and nestling behind it is the rather ramshackle Campo Sudan, the former domain of Ethiopian residents. There are extensive salt flats around Assab. There are 30 islands in the Bay of Assab, which can be visited.
Airline service has also experienced development. Asmara International Airport was mainly used as a military base in the pre-independence period. The airport was almost ruined. Renovation of the airport was the primary task in the post-independence period. The airport was renovated to meet civil aviation standards. Assab airport was also renovated, Sawa airport was constructed, and airstrips in Teseney, Barentu and Mahmiment were built. Aviation agreements were signed with various countries including Germany, Italy, Egypt, South Africa, Sudan, Djibouti, Kenya, Yemen, Nigeria and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A number of airport equipment and other necessary materials were purchased to provide efficient service. New ambulances and firefighter vehicles and hygiene materials were imported. New stores were built and the run way was renovated. The airport was under a threat of flooding and to mitigate this diversion canals have been built around Adi-Guadad and metrological equipment has been installed.
At this time, Egypt, Turkey, Fly Dubai, Air Arabia Sudan Airways and other airlines are providing services in Eritrea. The airways that are currently functional in Eritrea are providing satisfactory service. Fly Dubai, for instance, is flying nine times a week. There are other airlines which are planning to begin service in the country and with the competitive atmosphere among the various airlines cost effective airline service is expected to be realised in the long run.
The following is the list of airports in Eritra:
|Asmara||HHAS||ASM||Asmara International Airport|
|Assab||HHSB||ASA||Assab International Airport|
|Massawa||HHMS||MSW||Massawa International Airport|
The Eritrean economy has undergone extreme changes due to the War of Independence. In 2011, Eritrea's GDP grew by 8.7% making it one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Worker remittances from abroad are estimated to account for 32% of gross domestic product. Eritrea has an extensive amount of resources such as copper, gold, granite, marble, and potash. A big reason for the recent growth of the Eritrean economy is the commencement of full operations in the gold and silver Bisha mine and the production of cement from the cement factory in Massawa.
Worker remittances from abroad are estimated to account for 32% of gross domestic product.
80% of the Eritrean workforce are employed in agriculture. Eritrea's main agricultural products include sorghum, millet, barley, wheat, legumes, vegetables, fruits, sesame, linseed, cattle, sheep, goats and camels.
The Eritrean–Ethiopian War severely hurt Eritrea's economy. GDP growth in 1999 fell to less than 1%, and GDP decreased by 8.2% in 2000. In May 2000, the war resulted in some $600 million in property damage and loss, including losses of $225 million in livestock and 55,000 homes.
Even during the war, Eritrea developed its transportation infrastructure by asphalting new roads, improving its ports, and repairing war-damaged roads and bridges as a part of the Wefri Warsay Yika'alo program. The most significant of these projects was the construction of a coastal highway of more than 500 km connecting Massawa with Asseb, as well as the rehabilitation of the Eritrean Railway. The rail line has been restored between the port of Massawa and the capital Asmara, although services are sporadic. Steam locomotives are sometimes used for groups of enthusiasts.
In theory, Eritrea has a national carrier, Eritrean Airlines, but services are intermittent.
Eritrea’s economy slowed more sharply than expected due to dwindling economic activities and poor weather conditions that adversely affected agricultural productivity. Real GDP growth declined to an estimated 3.4% in 2017, from 3.8% in 2016, and is projected to remain between 3.7% and 3.8% over the medium term. GDP growth in 2016 and 2017 was driven largely by investment at the Bisha mine. Agriculture, which accounts for 17.2% of GDP, provides most of the population with a livelihood and accounts for about 44% of commodity exports. Over the medium term, the government sees further prospects in improved food production due to large investment in masonry dams, additional mining activities, growth in services, and sustainable fisheries development.
The overall budget deficit (after grants) continued its downward trend. The budget deficit declined to an estimated 13.8% of GDP in 2017, from 14% in 2016, and is projected to drop to 12.4% in 2019. The country’s access to more grants and concessional resources, increasing revenue from mining projects, and control of unproductive expenditures are the main drivers of the decline. Inflation remained at an estimated 9% in 2017, driven by insufficient food supply and scarce foreign currency to finance imports of essential goods. Monetary policy has been geared to maintaining price stability. The broad money supply decreased from 17.5% of GDP in 2010 to 14.3% in 2014. The drop was attributable to the government’s pursuit of fiscal consolidation and reduction of non-concessional loans. Public debt was estimated at 105.8% of GDP in 2015, 3 percentage points lower than in 2013. External debt to official creditors, which declined from 41% of GDP in 2010 to 21.9% in 2014, remains above the Sub-Saharan Africa average of 10.5%.
Agriculture is the main economic activity in Eritrea: it is a livelihood to the majority of the people who engage in crop production and livestock herding. It employs more than 70% of the work force. Most farmers depend on rainfall that is variable and unevenly distributed from year to year, and the primary goal is to improve farming practices by introducing modern technology, irrigation, terracing, soil and water conservation, with less dependence on rainwater. Eritrea is divided into three development regions: central highlands, eastern lowlands, and the western lowlands. In each of these development regions, various projects are underway.
Due to its geographical size and agro-ecological advantages, the Gash-Barka region (bread-basket of Eritrea) in western Eritrea, is sought to develop into the largest agricultural hub. In this region, to avert drought and expand farming the Eritrean government has constructed strategic dams along major river basins and potential catchments such as Gerset, Fanco Rawi, Fanco Tsmue, Kerkebet and other small water reservoirs since Eritrea’s independence to provide adequate water supply for the vast arable land of the region and increase the size of land under irrigation. The agriculture development is planned along the lines of sustainable practices which are also promoted by external partners such as Syngenta Foundation with a mission to help poor farmers in developing countries increase the value of their farms and goods. The Eritrean authorities are actively supporting the development of local expertise with Hamelmalo College of Agriculture and Hagaz Technical and Agricultural School being key educational hubs for training in agriculture.
Eritrea's main agricultural products include sorghum, millet, barley, wheat, legumes, vegetables, fruits, sesame, linseed, cattle, sheep, goats and camels.
The private sector is seen as the major development partner, an engine of growth that will help jump start the economy and eventually lead to long-term growth in the Governments development agenda. The revised investment code was issued in 1994. The main objective of the investment code is to promote investment in Eritrea as well as develop and use the country’s natural resources. The investment code provides various benefits to investors. For instance, profit and dividends of investors, payments for a foreign loan, fees, royalties, or proceeds received from liquidation of investment and/or expansion, and payment received from the sale of transfer of shares will be remitted in accordance with the rate of exchange prevailing at that time. There is no minimum threshold value of investment. All areas of investment are open to all investors both foreign and domestic.
Foreign capital may establish any enterprise on its own or in partnership with local capital. Moreover, the investment code guarantee, that capital and other associated foreign-owned assets will not be nationalized without due laws. To this effect, Eritrea has also signed the convention establishing Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA) and the convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of other States.
Given that greenstone belt of Eritrea, which hosts precious and base metals, covers 70% of the country, Government in particular perceives mining as a crucial part of economic development and encouraging additional investments in the mining sector, however with a focus on sustainable mining.
Eritrea's first mine, the Bisha Mining Share Company, a joint venture between Canadian mining company Nevsun Resources Ltd. and the Eritrean National Mining Corporation (ENAMCO), employs about 1,500 people and is a 24-hour operation that produces 688tn of copper concentrate and 166tn of copper every day. It is expected to yield copper and zinc until 2021, but further exploration in nearby Harena and Mogoraib River could to extend its life which would reflect positively on local economic developments. Next to come on stream is the Zara gold mine, joint-owned by ENAMCO and China SFECO Group which officially started operations in January 2016.
In addition to Nevsun Resources and China SFECO, which are exploring near their active mines, 14 foreign firms from Canada, Australia, China, Russia, India and Sudan are exploring for mineral assets in the country. Among those closest to realisation is the Colluli potash project, which is owned by Australian company Danakali and among the shallowest and high grade potash deposits in the world, and with production to begin by 2019. The mine sits in the Danakil Depression, one of the hottest and lowest points on earth, where more than 6bn tn of measured and indicated potassium-bearing salts have been identified to date. The improved mining legislative increased interest of large institutional investors such as US banking giant JPMorgan Chase.
While there are opportunities, especially in the extractive industries sector, the Government of the State of Eritrea (GSE) maintains a command economy, with government activities predominating over private enterprise. Although this impacts Eritrea`s position on World Banks Doing business list, according to its Five Year Indicative Development Plan 2014-2018, the GSE states that it wants to encourage Foreign Direct Investment. Government claims that changes yielded improvement in overall investment climate which is characterized by competitive tax regimes, full guarantees and protection of investments. A similar line is maintained by companies currently operating in Eritrea who claim no experience of corruption and claim a stable working relationship with the government.
Eritrea’s labour pool is well qualified compared with those in neighbouring states. Eritreans start English classes in elementary school and are educated almost exclusively in English from grade six onwards. The people are generally resourceful and industrious. Historically, corruption in Eritrea appears less pervasive that in other countries in the region. In regard to this there are indications of increased interest of foreign investors and trade partners, in particular in leading European countries such as Germany.
Eritrea’s development aspiration is to achieve rapid, balanced and sustainable economic growth with social equity and justice. Using an approach anchored in the self-reliance principle, the Government is leading this development course, with the ongoing external support and cooperation of development partners such as the United Nations (UN).
On the social front, Eritrea is among the few African countries on track to meet the health-related MDGs, including reducing child and maternal mortality. School enrolment has increased in recent years following a decline from 2005 to 2010, especially among girls and children living in hard-to-reach areas, but high youth unemployment remains a concern. In addition, while the Government has demonstrated a commitment to promoting gender equality, additional work is needed to fully integrate gender issues into national development policies/strategies. However, achievements made so far were judged as commendable by UN representatives present in the country.
Eritrea has made considerable progress towards providing equitable, accessible and affordable health services to the majority of the population and as a result managed to reach seven of eight MDGs by December 31, 2015 deadline. The Millennium Development Goals Agenda were succeeded by the Sustainable Development Goals Agenda (SDGs) beginning January 1, 2016, and following that Eritrea prepared a roadmap for achieving 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The Eritrean Government stated it considers SDGs congruent with Eritrea’s development aspirations and stated it will continue staying on target pertaining to poverty eradication, eliminating inequalities of opportunity between genders, and disparities between segments of the population and among cities and regions of the country.
Eritrea made considerable gains towards increasing school enrolment following independence. The net enrolment rate increased from 34.8 per cent in 1991/1992 to 76.8 per cent in 2011/2012. The UN in Eritrea is helping the Government continue to increase school enrolment, participation, learning and completion of basic education. Government advocates sustainable development approach which is anchored on, self-reliance and ownership of policies and programs which emphasise the effective utilisation of national human and material resources before seeking external assistance or cooperation. Same principles are applied in regards to foreign investments which are welcome under strict conditions for investment including the promotion of local employment, training and a joint venture with national companies (ENAMCO). In that sense, integrating local communities throughout the whole process from prospecting, exploration to actual production is mandatory.
By ensuring that any company follows the Government of Eritrea Impact Review Committee to ensure that mining companies maintain a high standard of operational governance as a mandatory pre-requisite for any company wishing to operate in Eritrea. The robust environmental protection program is also one of the imperatives for companies to acquire their license to operate and similar regulations apply in regard to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of employees. For instance, if any part of the village land falls under the exploration sites, compensation or agricultural assistance are provided including machinery and/or training on labour-intensive production. As a result, local employees compete highly to get the chance to work for companies as the salary scale is higher than national average. Eritrea is also actively pursuing reforestation policy enshrined in Proclamation No. 155/2006. During the course community based reforestation program launched in 2006 over 90 million tree seedlings have been planted in different areas covering over 30,000 hectares. Moreover, Eritrea also initiated activities aimed at developing seawater-based agriculture in an arid coastal zone. Eritrea is one of the few countries who formally instituted National Greening Day celebrated on May 15.
In 2016, the Ministry of Agriculture decided on a set of priorities to improve the sustainability of agriculture in Eritrea. Important efforts include the development of water reservoirs and its accompanying infrastructure, mitigating pests and plant diseases, planting in accordance with predictable weather patterns, increasing biodiversity of planting sites, promoting crop rotation to help sustain soil quality and promoting sustainable energy to decrease traditional wood fire stove use.
There are nine recognized ethnic groups according to the government of Eritrea. Eritrean society is ethnically heterogeneous. An independent census has yet to be conducted, but the Tigrayan people make up about 55% and Tigre people make up about 30% of the population. A majority of the remaining ethnic groups belong to Afroasiatic-speaking communities of the Cushitic branch, such as the Saho, Hedareb, Afar and Bilen. There are also a number of Nilotic ethnic minorities, who are represented in Eritrea by the Kunama and Nara. Each ethnicity speaks a different native tongue but, typically, many of the minorities speak more than one language. The Rashaida represent about 2% of Eritrea's population. They reside in the northern coastal lowlands of Eritrea as well as the eastern coasts of Sudan. The Rashaida first came to Eritrea in the 19th century from the Hejaz region.
In addition, there exist Italian Eritrean (concentrated in Asmara) and Ethiopian Tigrayan communities. Neither is generally given citizenship unless through marriage or, more rarely, by having it conferred upon them by the State. Eritrea had about 760,000 inhabitants, including 70,000 Italians, in 1941. Most Italians left after Eritrea became independent from Italy.
Eritrea is a multilingual country. The nation has no official language, as the Constitution establishes the "equality of all Eritrean languages". Tigrinya serves as the de facto language of national identity. With 2,540,000 total speakers of a population of 5,254,000 in 2006, it is the most widely spoken language, particularly in the southern and central parts of Eritrea. Other major national languages include Afar, Arabic, Beja, Bilen, Kunama, Nara, Saho and Tigre. Tigrinya alongside Modern Standard Arabic and English serve as de facto working languages, with the latter used in university education and many technical fields. Italian, the former colonial language, is spoken by a few monolinguals and is still taught in primary and secondary schools.
Most of the languages spoken in Eritrea belong to the Ethiopian Semitic branch of the Afroasiatic family. Other Afroasiatic languages belonging to the Cushitic branch are also widely spoken in the country. The latter include Afar, Beja, Blin, and Saho. Smaller groups also speak other Afroasiatic languages, such as the newly recognized Dahlik and Arabic (the Hejazi and Hadhrami dialects spoken by the Rashaida and Hadhrami, respectively).
In addition, Nilo-Saharan languages (Kunama and Nara) are spoken as a native language by the Nilotic Kunama and Nara ethnic minority groups that live in the northern and northwestern part of the country.
|U.S Department of State 2011||Pew Research Center 2010|
According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2010, 62.9% of the population of Eritrea adheres to Christianity, 36.6% follows Islam, and 0.4% practices folk religion. The remainder observes Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and other faiths (<0.1% each), or are religiously unaffiliated (0.1%). The U.S. Department of State estimates that, as of 2011, 50% of the population of Eritrea adheres to Christianity, 48% follows Islam, and 2% observes other religions, including traditional faiths and animism.
Since May 2002, the government of Eritrea has officially recognized the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church (Oriental Orthodox), Sunni Islam, the Eritrean Catholic Church (a Metropolitanate sui juris), and the Evangelical Lutheran church. All other faiths and denominations are required to undergo a registration process. Among other things, the government's registration system requires religious groups to submit personal information on their membership to be allowed to worship.
The Eritrean government is against what it deems as "reformed" or "radical" versions of its established religions. Therefore, alleged radical forms of Islam and Christianity, Jehovah's Witnesses, the Bahá'í Faith (though the Bahá'í Faith is neither Islamic nor Christian), the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and numerous other non-Protestant Evangelical denominations are not registered and cannot worship freely. Three named Jehovah's Witnesses are known to have been imprisoned since 1994 along with 51 others.
In its 2017 religious freedom report, the U.S. State Department named Eritrea a Country of Particular Concern (CPC).
Most Western countries have accused the Eritrean authorities of arbitrary arrest and detentions, and of detaining an unknown number of people without charge for their political activism. However, the Eritrean government has continually dismissed the accusations as politically motivated.
Eritrea is a one-party state in which national legislative elections have been repeatedly postponed. According to Human Rights Watch, the government's human rights record is considered among the worst in the world.
A prominent group of fifteen Eritreans, called the G-15, including three cabinet members, were arrested in September 2001 after publishing an open letter to the government and President Isaias Afewerki calling for democratic dialogue. This group and thousands of others who were alleged to be affiliated with them are imprisoned without legal charges, hearing, trial and judgment.
Since Eritrea's conflict with Ethiopia in 1998–2001, the nation's human rights record has been criticized at the United Nations. Human rights violations are allegedly often committed by the government or on behalf of the government. Freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association are limited. Those who practice "unregistered" religions, try to flee the nation, or escape military duty are arrested and put into prison. During the Eritrean independence struggle and 1998 Eritrean-Ethiopian War, many atrocities were also committed by the Ethiopian authorities against unarmed Eritrean civilians.
In June 2016, a 500-page United Nations Human Rights Council report accused Eritrea's government of extrajudicial executions, torture, indefinitely prolonged national service and forced labour, and indicated that sexual harassment, rape and sexual servitude by state officials are also widespread. Barbara Lochbihler of the European Parliament Subcommittee on Human Rights said the report detailed 'very serious human rights violations', and asserted that EU funding for development would not continue as at present without change in Eritrea. The Eritrean Foreign Ministry responded by describing the Commission's report as "wild allegations" which were "totally unfounded and devoid of all merit". Several countries also disputed the report's language and accuracy, including the US and China.
All Eritreans aged between 18 and 40 years must complete a mandatory national service, which includes military service. This requirement was implemented after Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia, as a means to protect Eritrea’s sovereignty, to instill national pride, and to create a disciplined populace. Eritrea’s national service requires long, indefinite conscription, which some Eritreans leave the country in order to avoid.
In an attempt at reform, Eritrean government officials and NGO representatives in 2006 participated in many public meetings and dialogues. In these sessions they answered questions as fundamental as, "What are human rights?", "Who determines what are human rights?", and "What should take precedence, human or communal rights?" In 2007, the Eritrean government also banned female genital mutilation. In Regional Assemblies and religious circles, Eritreans themselves speak out continuously against the use of female circumcision. They cite health concerns and individual freedom as being of primary concern when they say this. Furthermore, they implore rural peoples to cast away this ancient cultural practice. In 2009, a movement called Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea formed to create dialogue between the government and political opposition. The group consists of ordinary citizens and some people close to the government.
In its 2017 Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked the media environment in Eritrea at the bottom of a list of 180 countries. According to the BBC, "Eritrea is the only African country to have no privately owned news media", and Reporters Without Borders said of the public media, "[they] do nothing but relay the regime's belligerent and ultra-nationalist discourse. ... Not a single [foreign correspondent] now lives in Asmara." The state-owned news agency censors news about external events. Independent media have been banned since 2001. The Eritrean authorities had reportedly imprisoned the fourth highest number journalists after Turkey, China and Egypt.
Eritrea has achieved significant improvements in health care and is one of the few countries to be on target to meet its Millennium Development Goals (MDG) for health, in particular child health. Life expectancy at birth increased from 39.1 in 1960 to 59.5 years in 2008; maternal and child mortality rates dropped dramatically and the health infrastructure expanded. Due to Eritrea's relative isolation, information and resources are extremely limited and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2008 found average life expectancy to be slightly less than 63 years. Immunisation and child nutrition have been tackled by working closely with schools in a multi-sectoral approach; the number of children vaccinated against measles almost doubled in seven years, from 40.7% to 78.5% and the prevalence of underweight children decreased by 12% from 1995 to 2002 (severe underweight prevalence by 28%). The National Malaria Protection Unit of the Ministry of Health registered reductions in malarial mortality by as much as 85% and in the number of cases by 92% between 1998 and 2006. The Eritrean government has banned female genital mutilation (FGM), saying the practice was painful and put women at risk of life-threatening health problems.
However, Eritrea still faces many challenges. Although the number of physicians increased from only 0.2 in 1993 to 0.5 in 2004 per 1000 people, this is still very low. Malaria and tuberculosis are common. HIV prevalence for ages 15 to 49 years exceeds 2%. The fertility rate is about 5 births per woman. Maternal mortality dropped by more than half from 1995 to 2002, but is still high. Similarly, the number of births attended by skilled health personnel doubled from 1995 to 2002, but still is only 28.3%. A major cause of death in newborns is severe infection. Per-capita expenditure on health is low.
There are five levels of education in Eritrea: pre-primary, primary, middle, secondary, and post-secondary. There are nearly 238,000 students in the primary, middle, and secondary levels of education. There are approximately 824 schools, two universities (the University of Asmara and the Eritrea Institute of Technology) and several smaller colleges and technical schools.
Education in Eritrea is officially compulsory for children aged 7 to 13 years . However, the education infrastructure is inadequate to meet current needs. Statistics vary at the elementary level, suggesting that 65% to 70% of school-aged children attend primary school; Approximately 61% attend secondary school. Student-teacher ratios are high: 45:1 at the elementary level and 54:1 at the secondary level. Class sizes average 63 and 97 students per classroom at the elementary and secondary school levels, respectively. Learning hours at school are often less than six hours per day. However, the literacy rate is high: for ages 18 to 24 years, it is 92.6% for men and 87.7% for women (2008–2012) Overall literacy is 81%. Barriers to education in Eritrea include traditional taboos, school fees (for registration and materials), and the opportunity costs of low-income households.
One of the most recognizable parts of Eritrean culture is the coffee ceremony. Coffee (Ge'ez ቡን būn) is offered when visiting friends, during festivities, or as a daily staple of life. During the coffee ceremony, there are traditions that are upheld. The coffee is served in three rounds: the first brew or round is called awel in Tigrinya (meaning "first"), the second round is called kalaay (meaning "second"), and the third round is called bereka (meaning "to be blessed").
Traditional Eritrean attire is quite varied among the ethnic groups of Eritrea. In the larger cities, most people dress in Western casual dress such as jeans and shirts. In offices, both men and women often dress in suits. A common traditional clothing for Christian Tigrayan highlanders consists of bright white gowns called zurias for the women, and a white shirts accompanied by white pants for the men. In Muslim communities in the Eritrean lowland, the women traditionally dress in brightly colored clothes. Besides convergent culinary tastes, Eritreans share an appreciation for similar music and lyrics, jewelry and fragrances, and tapestry and fabrics as many other populations in the Horn region.
The government has also given priority to enrich and expand cultural tourism through distinct activities. Even though numerous activities related to the development of tourism infrastructure are undertaken in Eritrea, the most imperative activities are festivals, national holidays, religious ceremonies and organized visits to historical sites, museums and natural heritages.. Different festivals and national holidays provide platform for cultural shows of ethnic-groups, their distinct ways of dressing, traditional songs, dramas, folklore, poetry, craftsmanship, traditional cuisines, vernacular architecture, etc. Following the capital of Asmara being labeled a World Heritage site by the United Nations Education Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Eritrean authorities decided to pursue a more active approach in obtaining the same status for other prominent locations. At this time Qohaito and Adulis await confirmation as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
A typical traditional Eritrean dish consists of injera accompanied by a spicy stew, which frequently includes beef, chicken, lamb or fish. Overall, Eritrean cuisine strongly resembles those of neighboring Ethiopia, Eritrean cooking tend to feature more seafood than Ethiopian cuisine on account of their coastal location. Eritrean dishes are also frequently "lighter" in texture than Ethiopian meals. They likewise tend to employ less seasoned butter and spices and more tomatoes, as in the tsebhi dorho delicacy.
Additionally, owing to its colonial history, cuisine in Eritrea features more Italian influences than are present in Ethiopian cooking, including more pasta and greater use of curry powders and cumin.The Italian Eritrean cuisine started to be practiced during the colonial times of the Kingdom of Italy, when a large number of Italians moved to Eritrea. They brought the use of "pasta" to Italian Eritrea, and it is one of the main food eaten in present-day Asmara. An Italian Eritrean cuisine emerged, and dishes common dishes are 'Pasta al Sugo e Berbere', which means "Pasta with tomato sauce and berbere" (spice), but there are many more like "lasagna" and "cotoletta alla milanese" (milano cutlet). Alongside sowa, people in Eritrea also tend to drink coffee. Mies is another popular local alcoholic beverage, made out of honey.
Eritrea's ethnic groups each have their own styles of music and accompanying dances. Amongst the Tigrinya, the best known traditional musical genre is the guaila. Traditional instruments of Eritrean folk music include the stringed krar, kebero, begena, masenqo and the wata (a distant/rudimentary cousin of the violin). A popular Eritrean artist is the Tigrinya singer Helen Meles, who is noted for her powerful voice and wide singing range. Other prominent local musicians include the Kunama singer Dehab Faytinga, Ruth Abraha, Bereket Mengisteab, the dead Yemane Baria, and the dead Abraham Afewerki.
Football and cycling are the most popular sports in Eritrea. In recent years, Eritrean athletes have also seen increasing success in the international arena. Zersenay Tadese, an Eritrean athlete, currently holds the world record in half marathon distance running. The Tour of Eritrea, a multi-stage international cycling event, is held annually throughout the country. The Eritrea national cycling team has experienced a lot of success, winning the continental cycling championship several years in a row. Six Eritrean riders have been signed to international cycling teams, including Natnael Berhane and Daniel Teklehaimanot. Berhane was named African Sportsman of the Year in 2013, while Teklehaimanot became the first Eritrean to ride the Vuelta a España in 2012. In 2015, Teklehaimanot won the King of the Mountains classification in the Critérium du Dauphine. Teklehaimanot and fellow Eritrean Merhawi Kudus became the first cyclists from Africa to compete in the Tour de France, when they were selected by the MTN–Qhubeka team for the 2015 edition of the race. In July of the year, Teklehaimanot also became the first rider from an African team to wear the polka dot jersey at the Tour de France. The Eritrean national cycling teams of both men and women are ranked first on the continent. In 2018, the men’s team won African Continental Road Championship golden medal. In 2013, the women's team won the gold medal in the African Continental Cycling Championships for the first time, and for the second time in 2015. Eritrea was one of the few African countries to have been represented at 2018 Winter Olympic games by Eritrean-Canadian alpine skier Shannon-Ogbani Abeda.
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