Eritrea (pronounced /ˌɛrɨˈtreɪ.ə/ or /ˌɛrɨˈtriːə/; Ge'ez: ʾErtrā, Arabic: إرتريا Iritrīyā), officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the North East of Africa. The capital is Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast. The east and northeast of the country have an extensive coastline on the Red Sea, directly across from Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The Dahlak Archipelago and several of the Hanish Islands are part of Eritrea. Its size is just under 118,000 km2 (45,560 sq mi) with an estimated population of 5 million.
Description and History
The history of Eritrea is tied to its strategic position on the southern, African side of the Red Sea; with a coastline that extends more than 1,000 km. Many scientists believe that it is from this area that anatomically modern humans first expanded out of Africa. From across the seas came various invaders (and colonizers) such as the South Arabians hailing from the present-day Yemen area, the Ottoman Turks, the Portuguese from Goa (India), the Egyptians, the British and, in the 19th century, the Italians. Over the centuries, invaders also came from the neighboring countries of Africa to the south (Ethiopia) and to the west (Sudan). However, present-day Eritrea was largely affected by the Italian invaders of the 19th century.
In the period following the opening of the Suez canal in 1869, when European powers scrambled for territory in Africa and tried to establish coaling stations for their ships, Italy invaded and occupied Eritrea. On January 1, 1880, Eritrea officially became a colony of Italy. In 1936, it became a province of Italian East Africa (Africa Orientale Italiana), along with Ethiopia and Italian Somaliland. The Commonwealth armed forces expelled those of Italy in 1941 and took over the administration of the country which had been set up by the Italians. The British continued to administer the territory under a UN Mandate until 1951 when Eritrea was federated with Ethiopia as per UN resolution 390(A) under the prompting of the United States adopted in December 1950; the resolution was adopted after a referendum to consult the people of Eritrea.
The strategic importance of Eritrea, due to its Red Sea coastline and mineral resources, was the main cause for the federation with Ethiopia, which in turn led to Eritrea's annexation as Ethiopia's 14th province in 1952. This was the culmination of a gradual process of takeover by the Ethiopian authorities, a process which included a 1959 edict establishing the compulsory teaching of Amharic, the main language of Ethiopia, in all Eritrean schools. The lack of regard for the Eritrean population led to the formation of an independence movement in the early 1960s (1961), which erupted into a 30-year war against successive Ethiopian governments that ended in 1991. Following a UN-supervised referendum in Eritrea (dubbed UNOVER) in which the Eritrean people overwhelmingly voted for independence, Eritrea declared its independence and gained international recognition in 1993.
English is used in the government's international communication and is the language of instruction in all formal education beyond the fifth grade.
Eritrea is a single-party state. Though its constitution, adopted in 1997, stipulates that the state is a presidential republic with a unicameral parliamentary democracy, it has yet to be implemented.
Politics and Government
Eritrea is an authoritarian state, run by the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ). Other political groups are not allowed to organise, although the non-implemented 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.
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.The reason for these arrests are obvious because in the struggle there were two parties (Islamic republic ELF and republic of Eritrea EPLF). In 2004 the U.S. State Department declared Eritrea a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for its record of religious persecution.
Eritrean National elections were set for 1995 and then postponed until 2001; 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 May 2004. 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. ”
Building of regional administration in Asmara.
Regions and Districts
Eritrea is divided into six regions (zobas) and subdivided into districts ("sub-zobas"). The geographical extent of the regions is based on their respective hydrological properties. This a dual intent on the part of the Eritrean government: to provide each administration with sufficient control over its agricultural capacity, and to eliminate historical intra-regional conflicts.
The regions, followed by the sub-region, are:
Berikh, Ghala-Nefhi, Semienawi Mibraq, Serejaka, Debubawi Mibraq, Semienawi Mi'erab, Debubawi Mi'erab
Adi Keyh, Adi Quala, Areza, Debarwa, Dekemhare, Mai Ayni, Mai Mne, Mendefera, Segeneiti, Senafe, Tserona
(ዞባ ጋሽ ባርካ)
Agordat, Barentu, Dghe, Forto, Gogne, Haykota, Logo-Anseba, Mensura, Mogolo, Molki, Guluj, Shambuko, Tesseney, La'elay Gash
Adi Tekelezan, Asmat, Elabered, Geleb, Hagaz, Halhal, Habero, Keren City, Kerkebet, Sel'a
Northern Red Sea
(ዞባ ሰሜናዊ ቀይሕባሕሪ)
Afabet, Dahlak, Ghel'alo, Foro, Ghinda, Karura, Massawa, Nakfa, She'eb
Southern Red Sea
(ዞባ ደቡባዊ ቀይሕባሕሪ)
Are'eta, Central Dankalia, Southern Dankalia, Assab
Eritrea is a full member of the African Union (AU), the successor of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). However, it has withdrawn its representative to the AU in protest at the AU's alleged lack of leadership in facilitating the implementation of a binding border decision demarcating the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
Relations with the West
Eritrea's relationship with the United States is complicated. Although the two nations have a close working relationship regarding the on-going war on terror, there has been a growing tension in other areas. Relations worsened in October 2008 when U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Jendayi Frazer, called the nation a 'state sponsor of terrorism' and stated that the U.S. government might add Eritrea to its list of rogue states, along with Iran and Sudan. The reason for this is the presence of Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, an exiled Somali Islamist leader, whom the U.S. suspects of having links to Al Qaeda, at a recent Somali opposition conference in Asmara.
Eritrea's relationship with Italy and the EU is still reasonably strong and does not seem to be as strained as is its relationship with the U.S. On 27 January 2009, the Netherlands Ambassador Yoka Brandt, Director General of International Development Cooperation, paid an official visit to the country for bilateral talks with President Isaias' government, which were held in Massawa.
During the week of August 2, 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed that Eritrea is supplying weapons to the Somalian militant group al-Shabab. Although Eritrea denied this accusation in a public statement the following day, the United Nations, with the backing of the African Union, imposed sanctions and an arms embargo on Eritrea under Resolution 1907 for its alleged role in Somalia and refusal to withdraw troops from the border with Djibouti.
Relations with Neighboring Countries
Eritrea's relations with its neighbors have been strained due to a series of wars and disputes. These include an undemarcated border with Sudan, a war with Yemen over the Hanish Islands in 1996, and a recent border conflict with Ethiopia.
The undemarcated border with Sudan has posed a problem for Eritrean external relations for most of the nation's existence. However, after a high-level delegation to Sudan from the Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs, relations have been somewhat normalized. Meanwhile, Eritrea has been recognized as a broker for peace between the separate factions of the Sudanese civil war: "It is known that Eritrea played a role in bringing about the peace agreement [between the Southern Sudanese and Government]," In addition, the Sudanese government and Eastern Front rebels requested Eritrea to mediate peace talks in 2006.
A dispute with Yemen over the Hanish Islands in 1996 resulted in a brief war. As part of an agreement to cease hostilities the two nations agreed to refer the issue to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague in 1998. Yemen was granted full ownership of the larger islands while Eritrea was awarded the peripheral islands to the southwest of the larger islands. At the conclusion of the proceedings, both nations acquiesced to the decision. Since 1996, both governments have remained wary of one another but relations are relatively normal.
Relations with Ethiopia
The undemarcated border with Ethiopia is the primary external issue currently facing Eritrea. Eritrea's relations with Ethiopia turned from that of cautious mutual tolerance, following the 30-year war for Eritrean independence, to a deadly rivalry that led to the outbreak of hostilities from May 1998 to June 2000 which has claimed approximately 70,000 Eritrean and Ethiopian casualties. Eritrea also demanded that each family that lost a member in the war should receive $350 in indemnity, but this number has not been verified, although it has been often cited by other groups (see Number of war dead soldiers reportedly 123,000 – internet news message; and clandestineradio.com audio button), and no indemnities have been paid as of 2007[update]. As a result, the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) is meant to be occupying a 25 kilometers by 900 kilometers area on the border to help stabilize the region.
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. The situation is further escalated by the continued efforts of the Eritrean and Ethiopian leaders in supporting opposition in one another's countries.
Amid fears of an emerging Islamic and nationalist Somalia, Ethiopia invaded Somalia with US assistance, putting in place the weak and locally unpopular UN/AU-backed Transitional Federal Government which, without Ethiopian support, had been unable to exercise any control beyond its base in Baidoa and along the Ethio-Somali border. The United States Central Intelligence Agency also conducted a covert program of funding and assisting a coalition of Somali warlords to replace the widely popular Islamic Courts Union government in Somalia.
On its part, Eritrea is hosting members of the ousted Union of Islamic Courts and the Somali Free Parliament. The Eritrean government has been accused of sponsoring, arming and hosting numerous militant leaderships and separatist rebels in the Horn of Africa.
Eritrea is located in Northeast Africa and is bordered on the northeast and east by the Red Sea. The country is virtually bisected by one of the world's longest mountain ranges, formed by the processes that formed the Great Rift Valley, with 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. The land to the south, in the highlands, is slightly drier and cooler.
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 Somali plate) splitting along the East African Rift Zone (USGS). 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, and Keren to the north.
Eritrea formerly supported a large population of elephants. The Ptolemaic kings of Egypt used the country as a source of war elephants in the third century BC. 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. It is estimated that there are around 100 elephants left in Eritrea, the most northerly of East Africa's elephants. The endangered Painted Hunting Dog (lycaon pictus) was previously found in Eritrea, but is now deemed extirpated from the entire country.
In 2006, Eritrea announced it would become the first country in the world to turn its entire coast into an environmentally protected zone. The 1,347 km (837 mile) coastline, along with another 1,946 km (1,209-miles) of coast around its more than 350 islands, will come under governmental protection.
Like the economies of many other African nations, the economy is largely based on subsistence agriculture, with 80% of the population involved in farming and herding. Drought has often created trouble in the farming areas.
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 Ethiopian offensive into southern Eritrea caused some $600 million in property damage and loss, including losses of $225 million in livestock and 55,000 homes. The attack prevented the 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 by asphalting new roads, improving its ports, and repairing war-damaged roads and bridges as a part of the Warsay Yika'alo Program. The most significant of these projects was the building 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 now runs between the Port of Massawa and the capital Asmara.
Eritrean society is ethnically heterogeneous. An independent census has yet to be conducted, but the Tigrinya people and the Tigre people together make up about 80% of the population. These form the bulk of the country's predominantly Semitic-speaking population.
The rest of the population is from other Afro-Asiatic groups such as the Saho, Hedareb, Afar, and Bilen. These Cushitic-speaking peoples are thought to be the oldest inhabitants of the Horn of Africa. There are a number of Nilotic peoples 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.
There exist minorities of Italian Eritreans (concentrated in Asmara) and Ethiopian Tigrayans. Neither is generally given citizenship unless through marriage or, more rarely, by having it conferred upon them by the State.
The most recent addition to the nationalities of Eritrea is the Rashaida. The Rashaida came to Eritrea in the 19th century from the Arabian Coast. The Rashaida intermarried with the Tigre and Beja clans, and are typically nomadic, and number approximately 61,000, less than 1% of the population.
Many languages are spoken in Eritrea today. There is no official language as such, as the Constitution establishes the "equality of all Eritrean languages" but Tigrinya and Arabic are the two predominant languages for official purposes. English and Italian are also widely understood. Most of the languages spoken in Eritrea stem from the Semitic and Cushitic branches of the Afro-Asiatic language family. The Semitic languages in Eritrea are Tigre, Tigrinya, the newly recognized Dahlik and Arabic (spoken natively by the Rashaida Arabs); these languages (primarily Tigre and Tigrinya) are spoken as a first language by over 80% of the population. The Cushitic languages in Eritrea are just as numerous, including Afar, Beja, Blin, and Saho. hausa language (spoken natively by the Tokharir Kunama and Nara are also spoken in Eritrea and belong to the Nilo-Saharan language family.
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 in Eritrea and two universities (the University of Asmara and the Institute of Science and Technology) as well as several smaller colleges and technical schools.
One of the most important goals of Eritrea's education policy is to provide basic education in each of Eritrea's mother tongues, as well as to develop a self-motivated and conscientious population to fight poverty and disease. Furthermore it is tooled to produce a society that is equipped with the necessary skills to function in the modern economy.
The education system in Eritrea is also designed to promote private sector schooling, equal access for all groups (i.e., to prevent gender discrimination, ethnic discrimination, and class discrimination) and promote continuing education, both formally and informally.
Education in Eritrean include kindergartens for young children of both genders.
Barriers to education in Eritrea include traditional taboos, school fees (for registration and materials), and the opportunity costs of low-income households.
Eritrea has two dominant religions, Christianity and Islam,with approximately half of the population belonging to each faith. Most Muslims follow Sunni Islam. The Christians consist primarily of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church, which is the local Oriental Orthodox church, while considerable groups of Roman Catholics (including Italian Eritreans), Protestants, and other denominations also exist.
Since May 2002, the Government of Eritrea has officially recognized the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church, Sunni Islam, Catholicism, 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 few organizations that have met all of the registration requirements have still not received official recognition.
Jehovah's Witnesses, the Bahá'í Faith, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and numerous other Protestant denominations are not registered and cannot worship freely. Three named men are known to have been imprisoned since 1994. Additionally, on June 28, 2009 police raided a private home where Jehovah's Witnesses were meeting. Twenty-three were arrested including children as young as two years old. Some of the women and children were later released, however, two children who are now three and four years of age are still imprisoned with their mothers. None have been charged officially or given access to the judicial process. As of July 29, 2010, fifty-two Jehovah's Witnesses have been imprisoned in Eritrea for attending their religious meetings and engaging in religious activity.
In its 2006 religious freedom report, the U.S. State Department named Eritrea a "Country of Particular Concern"(CPC) for the third year in a row.
The fertility rate is at about 5 births per woman. A major cause of deaths of neonates is by severe infection. Malaria and Tubercolosis both are common in Eritrea. HIV prevalence among the 15-49 group exceeds 2%. In 2002, 28% of births were attended by skilled health personnel. Per capita expenditure on health is low in Eritrea. In the last decade of the 20th century, maternal mortality has decreased considerably.
The Eritrean region has traditionally been a nexus for trade throughout the world. Because of this, the influence of diverse cultures can be seen throughout Eritrea. Today the most obvious influences in the capital, Asmara, are those of Italy. Throughout Asmara, there are small cafes serving beverages common in Italy. In Asmara, there is a clear merging of the Italian colonial influence with the traditional Tigrinya lifestyle. In the villages of Eritrea, these changes never took hold.
In the cities, before the occupation and during the early years, the import of Bollywood films was commonplace, while Italian and American films were available in the cinemas as well. In the 1980s and since independence, however, American films have become the most common. Vying for market share are films by local producers, who have slowly come into their own. The global broadcast of Eri-TV has brought cultural images to the large Eritrean population in the Diaspora that visits the country every summer. Successful domestic films are produced by government and independent studios with revenue from ticket sales typically covering the production costs.
Traditional Eritrean dress is quite varied, with the women of most lowland ethnicities traditionally dressing in brightly colored clothes, while the Tigrinya traditionally dress in bright white costumes. Of the Muslim ethnicities, only the Arab or Rashaida tribeswomen maintain a tradition of covering their faces.
Popular sports in Eritrea include football and bicycle racing. In recent years Eritrean athletes have seen increasing success in the international arena.
Almost unique on the African continent is the Tour of Eritrea, whose first race was created by the Italians in 1946. The Tour is a bicycle race from the hot desert beaches of Massawa, up the winding mountain highway with its precipitous valleys and cliffs, to the capital Asmara. From there it continues downwards onto the western plains of the Gash-Barka Zone, only to return to Asmara from the south.
Recently long-distance running has garnered its own supporters. The momentum for long-distance running in Eritrea can be seen in the successes of Zersenay Tadese.
Recently, there was a CECAFA tournament hosted in Asmara,Eritrea. The national teams of Eritrea, Tanzania, Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda, Zanzibar and the invited team Yemen participated. It ended with the host team, Eritrea, losing to the strong Ugandan team in the finals,1-1 penalty: 5-4.
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49. ^ The first Tour of Eritrea (in italian)[dead link]