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  • 7/9/2003


Eritrea was awarded to Ethiopia in 1952 as part of a federation. Ethiopia's annexation of Eritrea as a province 10 years later sparked a 30-year struggle for independence that ended in 1991 with Eritrean rebels defeating governmental forces; independence was overwhelmingly approved in a 1993 referendum. A two and a half year border war with Ethiopia that erupted in 1998 ended under UN auspices on 12 December 2000. Eritrea currently hosts a UN peacekeeping operation that will monitor the border region until an international commission determines and demarcates the boundary between the two countries.


Eritrea was formerly the northernmost province of Ethiopia. Much of the country is mountainous. Its narrowRed Sea coastal plain is one of the hottest and driest places inAfrica. The cooler central highlands have fertile valleys that support agriculture.


Eastern Africa, bordering the Red Sea, between Djibouti and Sudan

Geographic coordinates:

15 00 N, 39 00 E


Total: 121,320 sq km
water: 0 sq km
land: 121,320 sq km


: Hot, dry desert strip along Red Sea coast; cooler and wetter in the central highlands (up to 61 cm of rainfall annually); semiarid in western hills and lowlands; rainfall heaviest during June-September except in coastal desert


:2,234 km total; mainland on Red Sea 1,151 km, islands in Red Sea 1,083 km



: 4,465,651 (July 2002 est.)

Age structure

0-14 years: 42.9% (male 958,564; female 955,625)
15-64 years: 53.9% (male 1,192,454; female 1,213,313)
65 years and over: 3.2% (male 73,017; female 72,678) (2002 est.)


Noun: Eritrean(s)
adjective: Eritrean

Ethnic groups

:Ethnic Tigrinya 50%, Tigre and Kunama 40%, Afar 4%, Saho (Red Sea coast dwellers) 3%, other 3%


:Afar, Amharic, Arabic, Tigre and Kunama, Tigrinya, other Cushitic languages


Since independence fromEthiopia on 24 May 1993, Eritrea has faced the economic problems of a small, desperately poor country. Like the economies of many African nations, the economy is largely based on subsistence agriculture, with 80% of the population involved in farming and herding. The Ethiopian-Eritrea war in 1998-2000 severely hurt Eritrea's economy. GDP growth in 1999 fell to less than 1%, and GDP decreased by 8.2% in 2000. The May 2000 Ethiopian offensive into northern Eritrea caused some $600 million in property damage and loss, including losses of $225 million in livestock and 55,000 homes. The attack prevented planting of crops in Eritrea's most productive region, causing food production to drop by 62%. Even during the war, Eritrea developed its transportation infrastructure, asphalting new roads, improving its ports, and repairing war damaged roads and bridges. Eritrea's economic future remains mixed. The cessation of Ethiopian trade, which mainly used Eritrean ports before the war, leavesEritrea with a large economic hole to fill.Eritrea's economic future depends upon its ability to master fundamental social problems like illiteracy, unemployment, and low skills, and to convert the diaspora's money and expertise into economic growth.


Food processing, beverages, clothing and textiles


Country name

conventional long form: State of Eritrea
conventional short form: Eritrea
local long form: Hagere Ertra
former: Eritrea Autonomous Region in Ethiopia
local short form: Ertra

Government type

:/transitional government


following a successful referendum on independence for the Autonomous Region of Eritrea on 23-25 April 1993, a National Assembly, composed entirely of the People's Front for Democracy and Justice or PFDJ, was established as a transitional legislature; a Constitutional Commission was also established to draft a constitution; Afworki ISAIAS was elected president by the transitional legislature; the constitution, ratified in May 1997, did not enter into effect, pending parliamentary and presidential elections; parliamentary elections had been scheduled to take place in December 2001, but were postponed; currently the sole legal party is the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), though a draft political parties law is under consideration


Asmara (formerly Asmera)

Administrative divisions:

6 regions (regions, singular - region); Central, Anelba, Southern Red Sea, Northern Red Sea, Southern, Gash-Barka


24 May 1993 (from Ethiopia)

Legal system:

Primary basis is the Ethiopian legal code of 1957, with revisions; new civil, commercial, and penal codes have not yet been promulgated; also relies on customary and post-independence-enacted laws and, for civil cases involving Muslims, Sharia law

Executive branch:

chief of state: President Afworki ISAIAS (since 8 June 1993); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government and is head of the State Council and National Assembly
head of government: President Afworki ISAIAS (since 8 June 1993); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government and is head of the State Council and National Assembly
cabinet: State Council is the collective executive authority; members appointed by the president
elections: president elected by the National Assembly; election last held 8 June 1993 (next election date uncertain as the National Assembly did not hold a presidential election in December 2001 as anticipated)
election results: ISAIAS Afworki elected president; percent of National Assembly vote - ISAIAS Afworki 95%

Judicial branch:

High court, regional, subregional, and village courts; also have military and special courts


Telephones - main lines in use:

30,000 (2001)

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 2, FM NA, shortwave 2 (2000)


345,000 (1997)

Television broadcast stations:

1 (2000)


1,000 (1997)

Internet Service Providers (ISPs):

5 (2001)

Internet users:

10,000 (2002)



total: 317 km
narrow gauge: 317 km 0.950-m gauge
note: links Ak'ordat and Asmara with the port of Massawa; nonoperational since 1978 except for about a 5 km stretch that was reopened in Massawa in 1994; rehabilitation of the remainder and of the rolling stock is under way (2001 est.)


total: 3,850 km
paved: 810 km
unpaved: 3,040 km (2000)


21 (2001)


The population is divided between Christian (Coptic Christians, Ethiopian Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Lutheran protestants) and Muslim (80% of the population, C.F.http://www.ummah.com&http://www.islamicweb.com) religions. The population of the high plateau (Asmara) is predominantly Christian, whereas that of the lowlands and the coast are predominantly Muslim. Despite contrasts between the Muslim and Christian religions and the potential for conflict, both religious groups have managed to live together in harmony and in peace. There is also a small community of Kunamas (Gash-Setit), who practice their own traditional religion, centered on worship of Anna, the creator, and veneration of ancestral heroes.


Ancient rock paintings

Eritrea was part of the first Ethiopian kingdom of Aksum until its decline in the 8th century. It came under the control of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, and later of the Egyptians. The Italians captured the coastal areas in 1885, and the Treaty of Uccialli (May 2, 1889) gave Italy sovereignty over part of Eritrea. The Italians named their colony after the Roman name for theRed Sea, Mare Erythrism, and ruled it up until World War II. The British capturedEritrea in 1941 and later administered it as a UN Trust Territory until it became federated with Ethiopia on Sept. 15, 1952. It was made an Ethiopian province on Nov. 14, 1962. A civil war broke out against the Ethiopian government, led by rebel groups who opposed the union and wanted independence forEritrea. Fighting continued over the next 32 years.

In 1991, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front deposed the country's hard line communist dictator Mengistu. Without Mengistu's troops to battle, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front was able to gain control of Asmara, the Eritrean capital, and form a provisional government. In 1993, a referendum on Eritrean independence was held, supported by the UN and the new Ethiopian government. Eritrean voters almost unanimously opted for an independent republic. Ethiopia recognized Eritrea's sovereignty on May 3, 1993, and sought a new era of cooperation between the two countries.

The cooperation did not last long. Following Eritrea's independence, Eritrea and Ethiopia disagreed about the exact demarcation of their borders, and in May 1998 border clashes broke out. After an eight-month lull that both sides used to reinforce their 600-mile common border, war broke out in earnest. Both impoverished countries spent millions of dollars on warplanes and weapons, about 80,000 people were killed, and refugees were legion.Eritrea eventually lost the war against its more populous and powerful neighbor, and a formal peace agreement was signed in Dec. 2000. The United Nations has supplied more than four-thousand troops to continue patrolling the buffer zone between the two nations. An international boundary commission ruled on the disputed border between the two countries on April 13, 2002.

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