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« Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #16 of 54: Equatorial Guinea | Main | Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #18 of 54: Ethiopia »

May 27, 2006

Ozodi Osuji Weekly Lectures on African Countries #17 of 54: Eritrea

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) --- 17. ERITREA Flag of the Republic of Eritrea

Formal Name: Republic of Eritreaa.

Term for Citizens: Eritrean.

Capital: Asmara. Population: 503,000.

Independence Achieved: May 24, 1993 from Ethiopia.

Major Cities: Asmara.


Eritrea is in northeast Africa, the horn of Africa. Eritrea covers a land area of 46, 842 square miles. Eritrea, until recently, was part of Ethiopia, the northern tip of it. Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti and Somalia and the red Sea border Eritrea. The country is mostly grassland and mostly dry. The coastal regions tend to have enough rainfall to encourage subsistence farming (corn, sorghum). Herding sheep, goats and cattle is a major economic activity.


The population of Eritrea is estimated at 4,141,000.

Ethnic Groups: Eritrea, Tigray, Arabs.

Languages: Eritrean.

Religion: Eritrea is evenly divided between Christians and Muslims.

Education: Primary education is available to all children. Literacy rate is estimated at less than 58.6%.

Economy: Subsistence farming and herding are the primary economic activities. Eritrea has just concluded a brushing war for its independence from Ethiopia and is currently devastated and very poor. Its economic infrastructure is grossly underdeveloped. GDP estimate: $3.3 billion; Per Capita: $180. Monetary Unit: Nakfa (ERN)

History and Government:

Eritrea was until recently part of Ethiopia, as part of Ethiopia’s Northern province. Prior to absorption into Ethiopia, it was ruled by Italy. Eritrea’s location on the Red sea had made it a land where many cultures and faiths met, Christianity and Islam for example. People from different religious communities battle for power and control of the country, and the result is conflict between the combatants. At present, after winning its war with Ethiopia, Eritrea appears stable. The government is a strong quasi-military democratic one. The country is divided into six regions.


Eritrea has a long history, and along with Ethiopia, is one of the longest in black Africa. For our present purposes, however, we can start with her modern history.

The Ottoman Turks occupied parts of what is now called Eritrea in 1557. In one form or another, the Turks were in control of Eritrea’s Red Sea ports for three hundred years.

The late nineteenth century was the era of European scramble for the control of Africa. In 1885, Italy purchased a sea port in Eritrea and subsequently occupied much of the country. The Italians remained the colonial power occupying Eritrea until 1941 when the British displaced them and Eritrea became a British protectorate.

After the Second World War, Eritrea became a United Nation’s trust territory. But Ethiopia claimed ownership of Eritrea. A negotiated settlement between Ethiopia and Eritrean nationalists, who were clamoring for independence, resulted with Ethiopia agreeing to form a federation with Eretria in 1952. In 1960, Ethiopia annexed Eritrea and Eritreans declared a war of independence with Ethiopia that lasted thirty years.

The Eritrean Liberation Front (drawing mainly from the Moslem part of Eretria) and the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (drawing mainly from the Christian part of Eritrea) joined forces with rebellious Ethiopian forces fighting against the Marxists-Leninists Mengistu Haile Mariam government of Ethiopia.

In 1991, these combined forces chased Mengistu out of Ethiopia and into exile in Zimbabwe. In 1993, a referendum conducted by both Ethiopia and Eritrea had Eritrea overwhelmingly vote for independence from Ethiopia and thus Eritrea became independent and the leader of EPLP, Isaias Afewerki, became the leader of Eretria.

A new constitution was drawn and a National Assembly of 150 members was elected, all from the same party, EPLF, and they elected Afewerki the President of Eritrea.

A new election scheduled for 1997 was canceled and another election scheduled for 2001 was also postponed. In that same year, 2001, the Afewerki government restricted freedom of the Press. Essentially, Afewerki became another African undemocratic leader.

In the meantime, Eritrea has on-going border settlement issues with its neighbors, particularly Ethiopia. In 1998, a border war erupted between the two countries, a war that lasted until 2000 and saw the death of thousands on both sides of the border. At present, a United Nation’s peace keeping force is separating the two countries, and every indication is that without that force they would resort to a shooting war. Eritrea also has border wars with Yemen, across the Red sea, and border disputes with Somalia.

Eretria is divided into six regions which are further subdivided into 55 districts.

Much of the economy of Eretria is based on Agriculture. Eritrea is very poor; her income per capita is $180 a year. Eritrea depends on foreign aid to feed most of its population.

Posted by Administrator at May 27, 2006 10:21 AM


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