|State of Eritrea
Isaias Afwerki (1993)
Total area: 46,842 sq mi (121,320 sq
Population (2012 est.): 6,086,495
(growth rate: 2.42%); birth rate: 32.1/1000; infant mortality rate:
40.34/1000; life expectancy: 62.86; density per sq km: 41
Capital and largest city (2009 est.):
Other large cities: the
ports of Massawa, 30,700; and Assab, 56,300
Monetary unit: Nakfa
name: Hagere Ertra
Current government officials
Afar, Arabic, Tigre and Kunama, Tigrinya, other
ethnic Tigrinya 50%, Tigre and Kunama 40%, Afar
4%, Saho (Red Sea coast dwellers) 3%, other 3%
Independence Day, May 24
Islam, Eritrean Orthodox Christianity, Roman
58.2% (2011 est.)
GDP/PPP (2011 est.): $3.978 billion; per capita $700 . Real
growth rate: 8.2%. Inflation: 20%. Unemployment:
12.1%. Arable land: 5%. Agriculture: sorghum, lentils,
vegetables, corn, cotton, tobacco, coffee, sisal; livestock, goats;
fish. Labor force: 1.935 billion (2011); agriculture 80%, industry and services
20%. Industries: food processing, beverages, clothing and
textiles, salt, cement, commercial ship repair. Natural
resources: gold, potash, zinc, copper, salt, possibly oil and
natural gas, fish. Exports: $383.5 million (2011 est.):
livestock, sorghum, textiles, food, small manufactures (2000).
Imports: $875.1 million (2011 est.): machinery,
petroleum products, food, manufactured goods (2000). Major trading
partners: Australia, France, Malaysia, Italy, Sudan, Saudi Arabia,
Jordan, Germany, China, Brazil, U.S., Turkey (2006).
Communications: Telephones: main lines in
use: 54,200 (2011); mobile cellular: 185,300 (2011) Radio broadcast
stations: AM 2, FM 1, shortwave 2 (2000). Television broadcast
stations: 1 (2000). Internet hosts: 870 (2011).
Internet users: 200,000 (2011).
Transportation: Railways: total: 306 km
(2011). Highways: total: 4,010 km; paved: 874 km; unpaved:
3,136 km (2011 est.). Ports and harbors: Assab, Massawa.
Airports: 13 (2011).
disputes: Eritrea and Ethiopia agreed to abide by 2002
Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission's (EEBC) delimitation decision,
but despite international intervention, mutual animosities,
accusations and armed posturing prevail, preventing demarcation;
Ethiopia refuses to withdraw to the delimited boundary until technical
errors made by the EEBC that ignored "human geography" are addressed,
including the award of Badme, the focus of the 1998-2000 war; Eritrea
insists that the EEBC decision be implemented immediately without
modifications; since 2000, the UN Peacekeeping Mission to Ethiopia and
Eritrea (UNMEE) monitors the 25km-wide Temporary Security Zone in
Eritrea. It is extended for six months in 2007 despite Eritrean
restrictions on its operations and reduced force of 17,000; Sudan
accuses Eritrea of supporting Sudanese rebel groups; Eritrea protests
Yemeni fishing around the Hanish Islands awarded to Eritrea by the ICJ
Major sources and definitions
Eritrea was formerly the northernmost province
of Ethiopia and is about the size of Indiana. Much of the country is
mountainous. Its narrow Red Sea coastal plain is one of the hottest and
driest places in Africa. The cooler central highlands have fertile valleys
that support agriculture. Eritrea is bordered by the Sudan on the north
and west, the Red Sea on the north and east, and Ethiopia and Djibouti on
A transitional government committed to a
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 the Red Sea, Mare
Erythraeum, and ruled there until World War II. The British captured
Eritrea in 1941 and later administered it as a UN Trust Territory until it
became federated with Ethiopia on Sept. 15, 1952. Eritrea 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 for Eritrea. Fighting continued over the next 32 years.
Eritrea Becomes an Independent Republic
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.
Both impoverished countries spent millions of dollars on warplanes and
weapons, about 80,000 people were killed, and refugees were legion. The
war essentially ended in a stalemate, and a formal peace agreement was
signed in Dec. 2000. In Dec. 2005, an international Court of Arbitration
ruled that Eritrea had violated international law when it attacked
Ethiopia in 1998.
See also Encyclopedia: Eritrea.
U.S. State Dept. Country Notes:
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Education, Inc. All rights reserved.
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