Eritrea By | Saturday, September 8   2012 at  15:18

Full Name
State of Eritrea

Hagere Ertra
Origins of name: The term "eritrea" derives from Sinus Erythraeus, the name Greek tradesmen of the third century BC, gave to the body of water between the Arabian Peninsula and the Africa continent (now known as the Red Sea)
Formerly: When unified with Ethiopia, ‘Abyssinia’

Current Leader
Isaias Afeworki

Overview

Eritrea’s history has been marred with wars of independence and border disputes
Eritrea was occupied by the Italians, the British and the Ethiopians
Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a long war of independence

Facts

Form of Government
Transitional Government: Currently the sole legal party is the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ)
The President is both the Head of Government and Chief of State
President elected by the National Assembly for a five-year term (eligible for a second term)
The most recent and only election held on June 8, 1993: next election date uncertain as the National Assembly did not hold a presidential election in December 2001 as anticipated

Government structure
Chief of State/Head of Government, Cabinet: State Council is the collective executive authority; members are appointed by the president

Military Statistics
Manpower fit for military service: Males age 16-49: 834,018 and Females age 16-49: 887,495
Expenditures: 6.3% GDP
Branches: Eritrean Armed Forces: Ground Forces, Navy, Air Force

Former Rulers
None

Capital
Asmara
Altitude: 2,349m
Population: 563,930 people

Population
Size: 5,415,000 (2011)
Life expectancy: 61.8 years
Gender Make-Up: Female: 50.64% and Male: 49.36%

GDP per capita
$ 700 (2011)

$ 700 (2010)

Geography
Area: 117,600sqkm
Land boundaries: Djibouti 109km, Ethiopia 912km, Sudan 605km

Major Languages
Afar, Arabic, Tigre, Kunama, Tigrinya, other Cushitic languages

Religious portfolio
Muslim, Coptic Christian, Roman Catholic, Protestant

National Make-up
Tigrinya 50%, Tigre and Kunama 40%, Afar 4%, Saho (Red Sea coast dwellers) 3%, other 3%

Natural Resources
Gold, Potash, Zinc, Copper, Salt, possibly oil and natural gas, Fish

Main exports
Livestock, Hides, Sorghum, Textiles, Salt, Light manufactures

Land Use
•Arable land: 4.78%
•Permanent crops: 0.03%
•Other: 95.19%

Monetary Unit/Currency
Eritrean Nakfa

Dialling Code
+291

Internet Code
.er

Transport
Main Port: Massawa and Assab (two main ports located at either end of the country)
Airport: Asmara International Airport located at 3km from Asmara city

Modern issues

Environmental
Deforestation

Desertification
Soil erosion
Overgrazing
Land damage due to land mines
Plagues of the Desert Locust have threatened agricultural production
Eritrean Government has embarked on a programme to reforest Eritrea (which in 1900 was 30% forested land, despite heavy logging) and prevent wood from being used as a fuel source
The Government of Eritrea, with the assistance of the UNDP has enacted a Coastal Marine and Island Biodiversity Conservation Project, which is designed to protect the entire coastal zone of Eritrea

Political
The Human Rights Watch is claiming that Eritrea is using arbitrary detention of its citizens and turning its country into ‘a giant prison’
Eritrea is a single-party state, run by the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ). No other political groups are allowed to organise, although the non-implemented Constitution of 1997 provided for the existence of multi-party politics
The journalists' rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranks Eritrea just below North Korea as the worst nation in the world for press freedom

Economic
Eritrea is labelled as the Horn of Africa’s 'bad boy', but while millions were pledged from various nations and organisations to helping the countries affected by drought and famine, Eritrea silently works away at her own model of development which keeps the donors and dependency at bay
China, South Korea, Italy, South Africa, and Germany are aggressively pursuing market opportunities in Eritrea

Social
Widespread human rights violations continue and a “shoot to kill” policy against anyone attempting to flee across the border remains in place.
Military conscription is being used heavily without end, according to the Human Rights Watch
Hundreds of Eritrean refugees forcibly repatriated from countries like Libya, Egypt and Malta face arrest and torture upon their return

Foreign Affairs
Eritrea has had turbulent relations with most of its neighbours in the 1990s and initiated both small scale and large scale battles against Sudan, Djibouti, Yemen and Ethiopia

Mr. Afwerki also seems to be trying out a policy of rapprochement with a ‘peace trip’ to Uganda and the submission of an application to rejoin the regional Inter-governmental Authority on Development bloc after four years’ withdrawal
Kenya's Foreign minister Moses Wetang’ula, the US and the African Union have all accused Eritrea of arming, training, recruiting and supplying insurgents in Somalia –the AU has actually resorted to sanctions on Eritrea
An international tribunal in The Hague has ruled that Eritrea will have to pay Ethiopia millions of dollars in compensation for war damages

The Major Conflicts

War of Independence
When: 1962 - 1993
Who: Eritrean Liberation Front and many Eritreans vs those who wanted Eritrea to remain part of the Ethiopian federation
Why: Independence
Outcome: Ethiopia annexes Eritrea and the Eritrean Liberation Front became more divided – eventually split in 1972 to form a faction called the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF). Independence was eventually granted in 1993 by Ethiopia after a referendum in which there was a virtually unanimous vote by Eritreans for their freedom

1991 Siege by EPLF
When: 1991
Who: EPLF Vs those supporting Ethiopian governance and Ethiopia
Why: Independence
Outcome: The EPLF captured the Eritrean capital, Asmara and formed a provisional government. The UN, with Ethiopian backing, began preparations for a referendum on Eritrean independence

Conflict over the Hanish Islands
When: 1995
Who: Eritrea vs Yemen
Why: Eritrea was seeking to claim sovereignty over the Greater Hanish Island in the Red Sea
Outcome: After three days of fighting bilateral talks ensued until finally they presented their case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration which determined that the Greater Hanish island belonged to Yemen whilst various smaller islands were divided

Eritrean-Ethiopian War
•When: 1998-2000
•Who: Ethiopia vs Eritrean
•Why: Started as border disputes but had underlying connotations of differences in ethnicity and alliances
•Outcome: Approximately 70,000 people were killed. A peace deal was established in 2000 to withdraw troops from the borders and allow UN peacekeepers to intervene

Border Clashes with Djibouti
When: 2008
Who: Djiboutian and Eritrean troops
Why: Disputes over the Ras Doumeira border area
Outcome: Eritrea denied launching the attack though the US condemned their ‘aggression’. At least nine Djiboutian soldiers were killed. Djibouti is currently supported in this conflict with Eritrea by the US, France and Ethiopia.

What to see?
Architecture in Asmara (many beautiful vintage features)
Scuba Dive in the Red Sea

Sports

Popular Sports
Football
Athletics
Cycling

Famous Sportsmen and Sportswomen
Zersenay Tadese: Long-distance track athlete and marathon runner. He won three successive world half marathon titles from 2007 – 2009

Quirk
During their long war with Ethiopia, the Eritrean soldiers lay low by building underground towns where they could make weapons and tend to their wounded without being spotted by the Ethiopian army