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History of Eritrea

History of Eritrea

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Eritrea is an ancient name, associated in the past with its Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 form Erythraía (Greek alphabet
Greek alphabet
The Greek alphabet is the script that has been used to write the Greek language since at least 730 BC . The alphabet in its classical and modern form consists of 24 letters ordered in sequence from alpha to omega...

 Ερυθραία), and its derived Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 form Erythræa. This name relates to that of the Red Sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

, then called the Erythræan Sea, from the Greek for "red", ἐρυθρος). The Italians created the colony of Eritrea in the 19th century around Asmara
Asmara
Asmara is the capital city and largest settlement in Eritrea, home to a population of around 579,000 people...

, and named it with its current name. After World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 Eritrea was annexed to Ethiopia. In 1991 the Eritrean People's Liberation Front
Eritrean People's Liberation Front
The Eritrean People's Liberation Front was an armed organization that fought for the independence of Eritrea from Ethiopia. It emerged in 1970 as an intellectual left-wing group that split from the Eritrean Liberation Front .-Background:...

 defeated the Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

n government. Eritrea
Eritrea
Eritrea , officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea derives it's name from the Greek word Erethria, meaning 'red land'. The capital is Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast...

 officially celebrated its 1st anniversary of independence on May 24, 1992.

Prehistory



In 1995, one of the oldest hominids, representing a possible link between Homo erectus
Homo erectus
Homo erectus is an extinct species of hominid that lived from the end of the Pliocene epoch to the later Pleistocene, about . The species originated in Africa and spread as far as India, China and Java. There is still disagreement on the subject of the classification, ancestry, and progeny of H...

and an archaic Homo sapiens
Human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

was found in Buya, Eritrea by Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 scientists dated to over 1 million years old (the oldest of its kind), providing a link between hominids and the earliest humans. It is also believed that Eritrea was on the route out of Africa that was used by early man to colonize the rest of the Old World.

Furthermore, the Eritrean Research Project Team composed of Eritrean, Canadian
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, American, Dutch
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 and French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 scientists, discovered in 1999 a site with stone and obsidian tools dated to over 125 000 years old (from the paleolithic
Paleolithic
The Paleolithic Age, Era or Period, is a prehistoric period of human history distinguished by the development of the most primitive stone tools discovered , and covers roughly 99% of human technological prehistory...

) era near the Bay of Zula south of Massawa
Massawa
Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa (Ge'ez ምጽዋዕ , formerly ባጽዕ is a city on the Red Sea coast of Eritrea. An important port for many centuries, it was ruled by a succession of polities, including the Axumite Empire, the Umayyad Caliphate,...

 along the Red Sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

 coast. The tools are believed to have been used by early humans to harvest marine resources like clams and oysters. Furthermore it is believed that the Eritrean section of the Denakil Depression was a major player in terms of human evolution and may "document the entire evolution of Homo erectus up to the transition to anatomically modern humans."

Cave paintings in central and northwestern Eritrea were also discovered by Italian colonialists indicating a population of hunter gatherers from the Epipaleolithic
Epipaleolithic
The Epipaleolithic Age was a period in the development of human technology marked by more advanced stone blades and other tools than the earlier Paleolithic age, although still before the development of agriculture in the Neolithic age...

 era in the region.

Early history


Eritrean history is home to some of the oldest civilizations on the continent. Together with northern Somalia
Somalia
Somalia , officially the Somali Republic and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic under Socialist rule, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. Since the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991 there has been no central government control over most of the country's territory...

, Djibouti
Djibouti
Djibouti , officially the Republic of Djibouti , is a country in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, and Somalia in the southeast. The remainder of the border is formed by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden at the east...

, and the Red Sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

 coast of Sudan
Sudan
Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

, Eritrea is considered the most likely location of the land known to the ancient Egyptians
Egyptians
Egyptians are nation an ethnic group made up of Mediterranean North Africans, the indigenous people of Egypt.Egyptian identity is closely tied to geography. The population of Egypt is concentrated in the lower Nile Valley, the small strip of cultivable land stretching from the First Cataract to...

 as Punt
Land of Punt
The Land of Punt, also called Pwenet, or Pwene by the ancient Egyptians, was a trading partner known for producing and exporting gold, aromatic resins, African blackwood, ebony, ivory, slaves and wild animals...

(or "Ta Netjeru," meaning god's land), whose first mention dates to the 25th century BC. The ancient Puntites were a nation of people that had close relations with Pharaonic Egypt
Pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

 during the times of Pharaoh
Pharaoh
Pharaoh is a title used in many modern discussions of the ancient Egyptian rulers of all periods. The title originates in the term "pr-aa" which means "great house" and describes the royal palace...

 Sahure
Sahure
- Etymology :Sahure's birth name means "He who is Close to Re". His Horus name was Nebkhau.- Biography :Sahure was a son of queen Neferhetepes, as shown in scenes from the causeway of Sahure's pyramid complex in Abusir. His father was Userkaf. Sahure's consort was queen Neferetnebty. Reliefs show...

 and Queen
Queen regnant
A queen regnant is a female monarch who reigns in her own right, in contrast to a queen consort, who is the wife of a reigning king. An empress regnant is a female monarch who reigns in her own right over an empire....

 Hatshepsut
Hatshepsut
Hatshepsut also Hatchepsut; meaning Foremost of Noble Ladies;1508–1458 BC) was the fifth pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty of Ancient Egypt...

.

Around the 8th century BC, a kingdom known as D'mt was established in Eritrea and northern Ethiopia, with its capital at Yeha
Yeha
Yeha is a town in northern Ethiopia, located in the Mehakelegnaw Zone of the Tigray Region. The Central Statistical Agency has not published an estimate for this village's 2005 population.- Archeology :...

 in northern Ethiopia. Its successor, the Kingdom of Aksum, emerged around the 1st century BC or 1st century AD and grew to be, according to the Persian philosopher Mani described Axum as one of the four greatest civilizations in the world, along with China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, Persia, and Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

.

In the third century AD, Flavius Philostratus wrote this: "For there is an ancient law in regard to the Red Sea, which the king Erythras laid down, when he held sway over that sea, to the effect that the Egyptians should not enter it with a vessel of war, and indeed should employ only a single merchant ship." (Life of Apollonius of Tyana, Book III, chapter XXXV, Loeb Classical Library)

Central areas of Eritrea and most tribes in today's northern Ethiopia share a common background and cultural heritage in the Kingdom of Aksum (and its successor dynasties) of the first millennium (as well as the first millennium BC kingdom of D’mt), and in its Ethiopian Orthodox Christian Church
Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is the predominant Oriental Orthodox Christian church in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Church was administratively part of the Coptic Orthodox Church until 1959, when it was granted its own Patriarch by Coptic Orthodox Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of All...

 (today, with an autocephalous Eritrean
Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church
The Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church is an Oriental Orthodox church. Its autocephaly was recognised by Pope Shenouda III after Eritrea gained its independence in 1993.-Origins:...

 branch), as well as in its Ge'ez language
Ge'ez language
Ge'ez is an ancient South Semitic language that developed in the northern region of Ethiopia and southern Eritrea in the Horn of Africa...

. Around 90% of today's Eritreans speak languages (Tigrinya and Tigre
Tigre language
For other uses please see Tigre Tigre is a Semitic language, which, along with Tigrinya, is believed to be one of direct descendants of the extinct Ge'ez language...

) that are closely related to the now-extinct Geez language - as do Tigrinya-speakers in northern Ethiopia and Amharic-speakers of Ethiopia, among others.

Recent discoveries, in and around the area of Sembel
Sembel
Sembel was the site of a village near Asmara, however it is now a suburb of Asmara, Eritrea to the south. Immediately after the Eritrean War of Independence a large Government subsidized housing project was constructed. During its construction and that of a nearby Intercontinental Hotel evidence of...

, near the capital Asmara, show evidence of a society that predated Aksum. These permanent villages and towns predate those of southern Eritrea and northern Ethiopia suggesting, according to Peter Schmidt, "...it is they, not sites in Arabia that were the vital precursors to urban developments...likewise students of evolution and distribution of languages now believe that Semitic
Semitic languages
The Semitic languages are a group of related languages whose living representatives are spoken by more than 270 million people across much of the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa...

 and Cushitic languages
Cushitic languages
The Cushitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family spoken in the Horn of Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Sudan and Egypt. They are named after the Biblical character Cush, who was identified as an ancestor of the speakers of these specific languages as early as AD 947...

 are of African origin." By Daniel haile Kurkahh.

Medieval history


With the rise of Islam in the 7th century the power of Aksum declined and the Kingdom became isolated, the Dahlak archipelago
Dahlak Archipelago
The Dahlak Archipelago is an island group located in the Red Sea near Massawa, Eritrea. It consists of two large and 124 small islands. The pearl fisheries of the archipelago have been famous since Roman times and still produce a substantial number of pearls. Only four of the islands are...

, northern and western Eritrea, came under increasing control of Islamic powers based in Yemen and Beja
Beja people
The Beja people are an ethnic group dwelling in parts of North Africa and the Horn of Africa.-Geography:The Beja are found mostly in Sudan, but also in parts of Eritrea, and Egypt...

 lands in Sudan.The Beja were often in alliance with the Umayyads of Arabia who themselves established footholds along stretches of the Eritrean coastline and the Dahlak archipelago while the Funj of Sudan
Sudan
Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

 exacted tribute from the adjacent western lowlands of Eritrea.

The culmination of Islamic dominance in the region occurred in 1557 when an Ottoman
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 invasion during the time of Suleiman I and under Özdemir Pasha
Özdemir Pasha
Özdemir Pasha was a Caucasian Mameluke general for the Ottoman Empire. He joined Hadim Süleyman Pasha's campaign to India , in 1538. Later he became the Governor of Yemen and invaded Ethiopia in 1557 for the Ottoman Empire.He died in 1561 in Sana, Yemen....

 (who had declared the province of Habesh
Habesh
Habesh Eyalet was an Ottoman eyalet that bordered the Red Sea. It comprised Massawa, Hergigo, Suakin and their hinterlands. Later it would also incorporate Zeila and western Somaliland...

 in 1555) took the port city of Massawa
Massawa
Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa (Ge'ez ምጽዋዕ , formerly ባጽዕ is a city on the Red Sea coast of Eritrea. An important port for many centuries, it was ruled by a succession of polities, including the Axumite Empire, the Umayyad Caliphate,...

 and the adjacent city of Arqiqo, even taking Debarwa
Debarwa
Debarwa is a market town with a population of about 25,000 in central Eritrea, about 25 kilometers south of the capital Asmara. It is the capital of the Debarwa district in the Debub administrative region...

, then capital of the local ruler Bahr negus Yeshaq
Bahr negus Yeshaq
Bahr negus Yeshaq was Bahr negus of Ethiopia during the mid to late 16th century...

 (ruler of Midri Bahri). They administered this area as the province of Habesh. Yeshaq rallied his peasants and recaptured Debarwa, taking all the gold the invaders had piled within. In 1560 Yeshaq, disillusioned with the new Emperor of Ethiopia
Emperor of Ethiopia
The Emperor of Ethiopia was the hereditary ruler of Ethiopia until the abolition of the monarchy in 1974. The Emperor was the head of state and head of government, with ultimate executive, judicial and legislative power in that country...

, revolted with Ottoman support but pledged his support again with the crowning of Emperor Sarsa Dengel
Sarsa Dengel
Sarsa Dengel was of Ethiopia, and a member of the Solomonic dynasty...

. However, not long after, Yeshaq revolted once again with Ottoman support but was defeated once and for all in 1578, leaving the Ottomans with domain over Massawa, Arqiqo and some of the nearby coastal environs, which were soon transferred to the control of Beja Na'ibs (deputies).

Meanwhile the central highlands of Eritrea preserved their Orthodox Christian Aksumite heritage. "There was no administration that connected Hamasin and Serai to the centre of the Ethiopian
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

 Kingdom. Indeed, there was little sense in which the Bahr Negash could be said to "control" the area.

The parts of the region were under the domain of Bahr Negash ruled by the Bahr Negus. The region was first referred to as Ma'ikele Bahr ("between the seas/rivers," i.e. the land between the Red Sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

 and the Mereb river
Mareb River
The Mareb River , is a river flowing out of central Eritrea. Its chief importance is defining part of the boundary between Eritrea and Ethiopia between the point where the Mai Ambassa enters the river at to the confluence of the Balasa with the Mareb at .According to the Statistical Abstract of...

), renamed under Emperor Zara Yaqob as the domain of the Bahr Negash, called Midri Bahri (Tigrinya: "Sea land," though it included some areas like Shire
Shire, Ethiopia
Shire , also known as Inda Selassie , is a town in northern Ethiopia. The administrative center of the Mirabawi Zone of the Tigray region, this town has a latitude and longitude of with an altitude of 1953 meters above sea level...

 on the other side of the Mereb, today in Ethiopia) until the modern day, when its name was changed to Mereb Mellash (beyond the river Mereb) under the rule of Yohannes IV
Yohannes IV of Ethiopia
Yohannes IV , born Lij Kassay Mercha Ge'ez, was Emperor of Ethiopia from 1872 until his death.-Early life:...

, the locals referred to this area as Midri Bahri. Medri Bahri was an area distinguished by a very weak feudal structure, with virtually no serfdom and a strong and democratic landowning peasantry unique for the entire region at this time.

The Ottoman state maintained control over much of the northern coastal areas for nearly three hundred years, leaving their possessions (the province of Habesh), to their Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

ian heirs in 1865 before being given to the Italians in 1885. In the southeast of Eritrea, the Sultanate of Awsa, an Afar sultanate, came to dominate the coastline after its founding in 1577, becoming vassal to the Emperor of Ethiopia under the reign of Susenyos
Susenyos of Ethiopia
Susenyos was of Ethiopia...

.

Italian colonization


The boundaries of modern Eritrea and the entire region were established during the European colonial period
Scramble for Africa
The Scramble for Africa, also known as the Race for Africa or Partition of Africa was a process of invasion, occupation, colonization and annexation of African territory by European powers during the New Imperialism period, between 1881 and World War I in 1914...

 between Italian, British and French colonialists as well as the lone landlocked African Empire of Abyssinia
Ethiopian Empire
The Ethiopian Empire also known as Abyssinia, covered a geographical area that the present-day northern half of Ethiopia and Eritrea covers, and included in its peripheries Zeila, Djibouti, Yemen and Western Saudi Arabia...

 which found itself surrounded and its boundaries defined by said colonial powers.

During the medieval period and prior to the Ottoman occupation of Debarewa in 1557, Eritrea’s historical name was Bahre-Negash(Kingdom of the Sea). Later with the fall of the Kingdom, the area was calledMedri Bahri ("Land of the Sea") until the Italians came to the area in the late 19th century.

The Kingdom of Italy
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946)
The Kingdom of Italy was a state forged in 1861 by the unification of Italy under the influence of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which was its legal predecessor state...

 created Eritrea at the end of the nineteenth century, using the classical name for the Red Sea ("erythra"). The colony of Italian Eritrea
Italian Eritrea
Italian Eritrea was the first colony of the Kingdom of Italy. It was created in 1890 and lasted officially until 1947.-Acquisition of Assab and creation of the colony:...

 was established in 1890 (and lasted officially until 1947).

Italian occupation of Massawa and formation of the colony


Later, as the Egyptians retreated out of Sudan during the Mahdist rebellion
Mahdist War
The Mahdist War was a colonial war of the late 19th century. It was fought between the Mahdist Sudanese and the Egyptian and later British forces. It has also been called the Anglo-Sudan War or the Sudanese Mahdist Revolt. The British have called their part in the conflict the Sudan Campaign...

, the British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 brokered an agreement whereby the Egyptians could retreat through Ethiopia, and in exchange they would allow the Emperor to occupy those lowland districts that he had disputed with the Turks and Egyptians.
Emperor Yohannes IV
Yohannes IV of Ethiopia
Yohannes IV , born Lij Kassay Mercha Ge'ez, was Emperor of Ethiopia from 1872 until his death.-Early life:...

 believed this included Massawa, but instead, the port was handed by the Egyptians and the British to the Italians, who united it with the already colonised port of Asseb to form a coastal Italian possession. The Italians took advantage of disorder in northern Ethiopia following the death of Emperor Yohannes IV in 1889 to occupy the highlands and established their new colony, henceforth known as Eritrea, and received recognition from Menelik II, Ethiopia's new Emperor.

The Italian possession of maritime areas previously claimed by Abyssinia/Ethiopia was formalized in 1889 with the signing of the Treaty of Wuchale
Treaty of Wuchale
Treaty of Wuchale was a treaty signed by King Menelik II of Shewa, later the Emperor of Ethiopia with Count Pietro Antonelli of Italy in the town of Wuchale, Ethiopia, on 2 May 1889...

 with Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia (r. 1889–1913) after the defeat of Italy by Ethiopia at the battle of Adua where Italy launched an effort to expand its possessions from Eritrea into the more fertile Abyssinian hinterland. Menelik would later renounce the Wuchale Treaty as he had been tricked by the translators to agree to making the whole of Ethiopia into an Italian protectorate. However, he was forced by circumstance to live by the tenets of Italian sovereignty over Eritrea.

The Italians brought to Eritrea a huge development of Catholicism
Roman Catholicism in Eritrea
The Roman Catholic Church in Eritrea is part of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church. Located in the African country of Eritrea, this church is under the spiritual leadership of the Pope and curia in Rome.-Characteristics:...

 and by the 1940 nearly one third of the Eritrean population was catholic, mainly in Asmara where many churches were built.

Italian administration of Eritrea brought improvements in the medical and agricultural sectors of Eritrean society. Furthermore, the Italians employed many Eritreans in public service (in particular in the police and public works departments) and oversaw the provision of urban amenities in Asmara
Asmara
Asmara is the capital city and largest settlement in Eritrea, home to a population of around 579,000 people...

 and Massawa
Massawa
Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa (Ge'ez ምጽዋዕ , formerly ባጽዕ is a city on the Red Sea coast of Eritrea. An important port for many centuries, it was ruled by a succession of polities, including the Axumite Empire, the Umayyad Caliphate,...

. In a region marked by cultural, linguistic, and religious diversity, a succession of Italian governors maintained a notable degree of unity and public order. The Italians also built many major infrastructural projects in Eritrea, including the Asmara-Massawa Cableway
Asmara-Massawa Cableway
The Asmara-Massawa Cableway was built by the Italians in 1938 in Eritrea, with the work done by the Ceretti and Tanfani Italian engineering firm. It connected the port of Massawa with the city of Asmara and ran a distance of some 75 kilometres. It moved food, supplies and war materials for the...

 and the Eritrean Railway
Eritrean Railway
The Eritrean Railway is the only railway system in Eritrea. It was constructed between 1887 and 1932 by the Kingdom of Italy for the Italian colony of Eritrea, and connected the port of Massawa with Bishia near the Sudan border. The line was essentially destroyed by warfare in subsequent decades,...

.http://www.ferroviaeritrea.it/contenuti.htm
Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician who led the National Fascist Party and is credited with being one of the key figures in the creation of Fascism....

's rise to power in Italy in 1922 brought profound changes to the colonial government in Eritrea.
Mussolini established the Italian Empire in May 1936. The fascists imposed harsh rule that stressed the political and racial superiority of Italians. Eritreans were demoted to menial positions in the public sector in 1938.
Eritrea was chosen by the Italian government to be the industrial center of the Italian East Africa
Italian East Africa
Italian East Africa was an Italian colonial administrative subdivision established in 1936, resulting from the merger of the Ethiopian Empire with the old colonies of Italian Somaliland and Italian Eritrea. In August 1940, British Somaliland was conquered and annexed to Italian East Africa...

.

The Italian government continued to implement agricultural reforms but primarily on farms owned by Italian colonists. The Mussolini government regarded the colony as a strategic base for future aggrandizement and ruled accordingly, using Eritrea as a base to launch its 1935–1936 campaign to colonize Ethiopia.

The best Italian colonial troops were the Eritrean Ascari
Eritrean Ascari
The Eritrean Ascari were indigenous soldiers from Eritrea who were enrolled as askaris in the "Royal Corps of Colonial Troops" of the Italian Army.-Characteristics:...

, as stated by Italian Marshall Rodolfo Graziani
Rodolfo Graziani
Rodolfo Graziani, 1st Marquis of Neghelli , was an officer in the Italian Regio Esercito who led military expeditions in Africa before and during World War II.-Rise to prominence:...

 and legendary officer Amedeo Guillet
Amedeo Guillet
Amedeo Guillet was an officer of the Italian Army. He was born in Piacenza. Descended from a noble family from Piedmont and Capua, he graduated from the Academy of Infantry and Cavalry of Modena in 1930 and began his career in the Italian Army. Dying at the age of 101, he was one of the last men...

 http://www.comandosupremo.com/Guillett.html.

Asmara development


Asmara was populated by a large Italian community and the city acquired an Italian architectural look. One of the first building was the Asmara President's Office
Asmara President's Office
The Asmara President's Office is the building, in Italian neoclassical style, where the President of Eritrea lives and rules the country. It has some resemblance with the White House of Washington, D.C..‎- History :...

: this former "Italian government's palace" was built in 1897 by Ferdinando Martini
Ferdinando Martini
-Biography:Born in Florence, he worked as journalist and writer. He collaboreated to Il Fanfulla and in 1879 he founded the Fanfulla della domenica literary supplement, which he directed until 1882; he was also editor of La Domenica letteraria from 1882 al 1885 and professor at the University of...

, the first Italian governor of Eritrea. The Italian government wanted to create in Asmara
Asmara
Asmara is the capital city and largest settlement in Eritrea, home to a population of around 579,000 people...

 an impressive building, from where the Italian Governors could show the dedication of the Kingdom of Italy
Kingdom of Italy (1861–1946)
The Kingdom of Italy was a state forged in 1861 by the unification of Italy under the influence of the Kingdom of Sardinia, which was its legal predecessor state...

 to the "colonia primogenita" (first daughter-colony) as was called Eritrea.

Today Asmara is worldwide known for its early twentieth century Italian buildings, including the Art Deco
Art Deco
Art deco , or deco, is an eclectic artistic and design style that began in Paris in the 1920s and flourished internationally throughout the 1930s, into the World War II era. The style influenced all areas of design, including architecture and interior design, industrial design, fashion and...

 Cinema Impero
Cinema Impero
The Cinema Impero is an Art Deco-style Cinema built by the Italians in Asmara in 1937.-History:Cinema Impero was the largest movie theater constructed in Asmara during the last period of the Italian colony of Eritrea...

, "Cubist" Africa Pension, eclectic Orthodox Cathedral
Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church
The Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church is an Oriental Orthodox church. Its autocephaly was recognised by Pope Shenouda III after Eritrea gained its independence in 1993.-Origins:...

 and former Opera House
Opera house
An opera house is a theatre building used for opera performances that consists of a stage, an orchestra pit, audience seating, and backstage facilities for costumes and set building...

, the futurist
Futurist architecture
Futurist architecture is an early-20th century form of architecture characterized by anti-historicism and long horizontal lines suggesting speed, motion and urgency. Technology and even violence were among the themes of the Futurists. The movement was founded by the poet Filippo Tommaso...

 Fiat Tagliero Building
Fiat Tagliero Building
The Fiat Tagliero Building in Asmara, capital city of Eritrea, is a Futurist Style service station completed in 1938 and designed by the Italian architect Giuseppe Pettazzi....

, neo-Romanesque Roman Catholic Cathedral
Roman Catholic Cathedral of Asmara
St Joseph's Cathedral in Asmara, Eritrea, is a large Romanesque style cathedral in the centre of the city that was built when Eritrea was an Italian colony. It is the seat of the Eritrean Catholic bishop of the eparchy of Asmara...

, and the neoclassical
Neoclassical architecture
Neoclassical architecture was an architectural style produced by the neoclassical movement that began in the mid-18th century, manifested both in its details as a reaction against the Rococo style of naturalistic ornament, and in its architectural formulas as an outgrowth of some classicizing...

 Governor's Palace
Governor's Palace (Asmara)
The current City Hall of Asmara, called now the Governor's Palace of Asmara, Eritrea, is an Italian "art-deco" building in the city centre.The former Italian government's palace was built in 1897 by Fernando Martini, the first Italian governor of Eritrea...

. The city is littered with Italian colonial
Colonisation
Colonization occurs whenever any one or more species populate an area. The term, which is derived from the Latin colere, "to inhabit, cultivate, frequent, practice, tend, guard, respect", originally related to humans. However, 19th century biogeographers dominated the term to describe the...

 villas
Villa
A villa was originally an ancient Roman upper-class country house. Since its origins in the Roman villa, the idea and function of a villa have evolved considerably. After the fall of the Roman Republic, villas became small farming compounds, which were increasingly fortified in Late Antiquity,...

 and mansions. Most of central Asmara was built between 1935 and 1941, so effectively the Italians managed to build almost an entire city, in just six short years.

The city of Asmara had a population of 98,000, of which 53,000 were Italians according to the Italian census of 1939. This fact made Asmara the main "Italian town" of the Italian empire
Italian Empire
The Italian Empire was created after the Kingdom of Italy joined other European powers in establishing colonies overseas during the "scramble for Africa". Modern Italy as a unified state only existed from 1861. By this time France, Spain, Portugal, Britain, and the Netherlands, had already carved...

 in Africa.In all Eritrea the Italian Eritreans
Italian Eritreans
Italian Eritreans are Eritrean-born descendants of Italian settlers as well as Italian long-term residents in Eritrea.-History:...

 were 75,000 in that year.http://www.maitacli.it/

Many industrial investments were done by the Italians in the area of Asmara and Massawa
Massawa
Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa (Ge'ez ምጽዋዕ , formerly ባጽዕ is a city on the Red Sea coast of Eritrea. An important port for many centuries, it was ruled by a succession of polities, including the Axumite Empire, the Umayyad Caliphate,...

, but the beginning of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 stopped the blossoming industrialization of Eritrea. When the British army conquered Eritrea
East African Campaign (World War II)
The East African Campaign was a series of battles fought in East Africa during World War II by the British Empire, the British Commonwealth of Nations and several allies against the forces of Italy from June 1940 to November 1941....

 from the Italians in spring 1941, most of the infrastructures and the industrial areas were extremely damaged.
The following Italian guerrilla war
Italian guerrilla war in Ethiopia
The Italian guerrilla war in Ethiopia was as an armed struggle fought from the summer of 1941 to the autumn of 1943 by remnants of Italian troops in Italian East Africa, following the Italian defeat during the East African Campaign of World War II.-History:...

 was supported by many Eritrean colonial troops until the Italian armistice in September 1943. Eritrea was placed under British
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

 military administration after the Italian surrender in World War II.

The Italian Eritreans
Italian Eritreans
Italian Eritreans are Eritrean-born descendants of Italian settlers as well as Italian long-term residents in Eritrea.-History:...

 strongly rejected the Ethiopian annexation of Eritrea after the war: the Party of Shara Italy was established in Asmara in July 1947 and the majority of the members were former Italian soldiers with many Eritrean Ascari
Eritrean Ascari
The Eritrean Ascari were indigenous soldiers from Eritrea who were enrolled as askaris in the "Royal Corps of Colonial Troops" of the Italian Army.-Characteristics:...

 (the organization was even backed up by the government of Italy). The main objective of this party was Eritrea freedom but they had a pre-condition that stated that before independence the country should be governed by Italy for at least 15 years (like happened with Italian Somalia).

British administration and federalization


British forces defeated the Italian army in Eritrea in 1941 at the Battle of Keren
Battle of Keren
The Battle of Keren was fought as part of the East African Campaign during World War II. The Battle of Keren was fought from 5 February-1 April 1941 between the colonial Italian army defending it's colonial possession of Eritrea and the invading British and Commonwealth forces. In 1941, Keren was...

 and placed the colony under British military administration until Allied forces could determine its fate. The first thing the British did was to remove the Eritrean industries (of Asmara and Massawa) to Kenya, as a war compensation. They even dismantled parts of the Eritrean Railway
Eritrean Railway
The Eritrean Railway is the only railway system in Eritrea. It was constructed between 1887 and 1932 by the Kingdom of Italy for the Italian colony of Eritrea, and connected the port of Massawa with Bishia near the Sudan border. The line was essentially destroyed by warfare in subsequent decades,...

 system.

In the absence of agreement amongst the Allies concerning the status of Eritrea, British administration continued for the remainder of World War II and until 1950. During the immediate postwar years, the British proposed that Eritrea be divided along religious lines and parceled off to Sudan
Sudan
Sudan , officially the Republic of the Sudan , is a country in North Africa, sometimes considered part of the Middle East politically. It is bordered by Egypt to the north, the Red Sea to the northeast, Eritrea and Ethiopia to the east, South Sudan to the south, the Central African Republic to the...

 and Ethiopia. The Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, anticipating a communist victory in the Italian polls, initially supported returning Eritrea to Italy under trusteeship or as a colony. Arab states, seeing Eritrea and its large Muslim population as an extension of the Arab world, sought the establishment of an independent state.

Ethiopian ambition in the Horn was apparent in the expansionist ambition of its monarch when Haile Selassie claimed Italian Somaliland and Eritrea. He made this claim in a letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt, at the Paris Peace Conference and at the First Session of the United Nations. In the United Nations the debate over the fate of the former Italian colonies continued. The British and Americans preferred to cede Eritrea to the Ethiopians as a reward for their support during World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. "The United States and the United Kingdom have (similarly) agreed to support the cession to Ethiopia of all of Eritrea except the Western province. The United States has given assurances to Ethiopia in this regard." The Independence Bloc of Eritrean parties consistently requested from the UN General Assembly that a referendum be held immediately to settle the Eritrean question of sovereignty.

A United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 (UN) commission was dispatched to the former colony in February 1950 in the absence of Allied agreement and in the face of Eritrean demands for self-determination. It was also at this juncture that the US Ambassador to the UN, John Foster Dulles
John Foster Dulles
John Foster Dulles served as U.S. Secretary of State under President Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953 to 1959. He was a significant figure in the early Cold War era, advocating an aggressive stance against communism throughout the world...

, said, "From the point of view of justice, the opinions of the Eritrean people must receive consideration. Nevertheless the strategic interest of the United States in the Red Sea basin and the considerations of security and world peace make it necessary that the country has to be linked with our ally Ethiopia." The Ambassador's word choice, along with the estimation of the British Ambassador in Addis Ababa, makes quite clear the fact that the Eritrea aspiration was for Independence.

The commission proposed the establishment of some form of association with Ethiopia, and the UN General Assembly adopted that proposal along with a provision terminating British administration of Eritrea no later than September 15, 1952. The British, faced with a deadline for leaving, held elections on March 16, 1952, for a representative Assembly of 68 members, evenly divided between Christians and Muslims. This body in turn accepted a draft constitution put forward by the UN commissioner on July 10. On September 11, 1952, Emperor Haile Selassie ratified the constitution. The Representative Assembly subsequently became the Eritrean Assembly. In 1952 the United Nations resolution to federate Eritrea with Ethiopia went into effect.

The resolution ignored the wishes of Eritreans for independence, but guaranteed the population some democratic rights and a measure of autonomy. Some scholars have contended that the issue was a religious issue, between the Muslim lowland population desiring independence while the highland Christian population sought a union with Ethiopia. Other scholars, including the former Attorney-General of Ethiopia, Bereket Habte Selassie
Baraket Selassie
Bereket Habte Selassie is a leading scholar on African law and government. He is William E. Leuchtenburg Professor of African and Afro-American Studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and he also instructs at the University of North Carolina School of Law. Dr...

, contend that, "religious tensions here and there...were exploited by the British, [but] most Eritreans (Christians and Moslems) were united in their goal of freedom and independence." Almost immediately after the federation went into effect, however, these rights began to be abridged or violated. These pleas for independence and referendum augured poorly for the US, Britain and Ethiopia, as a confidential American estimate of Independence Party support amounted to 75% of Eritrea.

The details of Eritrea's association with Ethiopia were established by the UN General Assembly resolution of September 15, 1952. It called for Eritrea and Ethiopia to be linked through a loose federal structure under the sovereignty of the Emperor. Eritrea was to have its own administrative and judicial structure, its own flag, and control over its domestic affairs, including police, local administration, and taxation. The federal government, which for all intents and purposes was the existing imperial government, was to control foreign affairs (including commerce), defense, finance, and transportation. As a result of a long history of a strong landowning peasantry and the virtual absence of serfdom in most parts of Eritrea, the bulk of Eritreans had developed a distinct sense of cultural identity and superiority vis-à-vis Ethiopians. This combined with the introduction of modern democracy into Eritrea by the British administration gave Eritreans a desire for political freedoms alien to Ethiopian political tradition. From the start of the federation, however, Haile Selassie attempted to undercut Eritrea’s independent status, a policy that alienated many Eritreans. The Emperor pressured Eritrea’s elected chief executive to resign, made Amharic the official language in place of Arabic and Tigrinya, terminated the use of the Eritrean flag, imposed censorship, and moved many businesses out of Eritrea. Finally, in 1962 Haile Selassie pressured the Eritrean Assembly to abolish the Federation and join the Imperial Ethiopian fold, much to the dismay of those in Eritrea who favored a more liberal political order.

War for independence




Militant opposition to the incorporation of Eritrea into Ethiopia had begun in 1958 with the founding of the Eritrean Liberation Movement (ELM), an organization made up mainly of students, intellectuals, and urban wage laborers. The ELM, under the leadership of Hamid Idris Awate
Hamid Idris Awate
Hamid Idris Awate was an Eritrean independence leader and the creator of the Eritrean Liberation Army .-Early Life:...

, a former Eritrean Ascari
Eritrean Ascari
The Eritrean Ascari were indigenous soldiers from Eritrea who were enrolled as askaris in the "Royal Corps of Colonial Troops" of the Italian Army.-Characteristics:...

, engaged in clandestine political activities intended to cultivate resistance to the centralizing policies of the imperial Ethiopian state. By 1962, however, the ELM had been discovered and destroyed by imperial authorities.

Emperor Haile Selassie unilaterally dissolved the Eritrean parliament and annexed the country in 1962. The war continued after Haile Sellassie was ousted in a coup in 1974. The Derg
Derg
The Derg or Dergue was a Communist military junta that came to power in Ethiopia following the ousting of Haile Selassie I. Derg, which means "committee" or "council" in Ge'ez, is the short name of the Coordinating Committee of the Armed Forces, Police, and Territorial Army, a committee of...

, the new Ethiopian government, was a Marxist military junta
Military dictatorship
A military dictatorship is a form of government where in the political power resides with the military. It is similar but not identical to a stratocracy, a state ruled directly by the military....

 led by strongman Mengistu Haile Mariam
Mengistu Haile Mariam
Mengistu Haile Mariam is a politician who was formerly the most prominent officer of the Derg, the Communist military junta that governed Ethiopia from 1974 to 1987, and the President of the People's Democratic Republic of Ethiopia from 1987 to 1991...

.

During the 1960s, the Eritrean independence struggle was led by the Eritrean Liberation Front
Eritrean Liberation Front
The Eritrean Liberation Front was the main independence movement in Eritrea which sought Eritrea's independence from Ethiopia during the 1960s and 1970s. In the very late 1950s unorganized political movement seeking independence was secretly active as small cells...

 (ELF). In 1960 Eritrean exiles in Cairo
Cairo
Cairo , is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life...

 founded the Eritrean Liberation Front. In contrast to the ELM, from the outset the ELF was bent on waging armed struggle on behalf of Eritrean independence. The ELF was composed mainly of Eritrean Muslims from the rural lowlands on the western edge of the territory. In 1961 the ELF's political character was vague, but radical Arab states such as Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

 and Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 sympathized with Eritrea as a predominantly Muslim region struggling to escape Ethiopian oppression and imperial domination. These two countries therefore supplied military and financial assistance to the ELF.

The ELF initiated military operations in 1961 and intensified its activities in response to the dissolution of the federation in 1962. By 1967 the ELF had gained considerable support among peasants, particularly in Eritrea's north and west, and around the port city of Massawa
Massawa
Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa Massawa, also known as Mitsiwa (Ge'ez ምጽዋዕ , formerly ባጽዕ is a city on the Red Sea coast of Eritrea. An important port for many centuries, it was ruled by a succession of polities, including the Axumite Empire, the Umayyad Caliphate,...

. Haile Selassie attempted to calm the growing unrest by visiting Eritrea and assuring its inhabitants that they would be treated as equals under the new arrangements. Although he doled out offices, money, and titles mainly to Christian highlanders in the hope of co-opting would-be Eritrean opponents in early 1967, the imperial secret police of Ethiopia also set up a wide network of informants in Eritrea and conducted disappearances, intimidations and assassinations among the same populace driving several prominent political figures into exile. Imperial police fired live ammunition killing scores of youngsters during several student demonstrations in Asmara in this time. The imperial army also actively perpetrated massacres until the ousting of the Emperor by the Derg in 1974.

By 1971 ELF activity had become enough of a threat that the emperor had declared martial law
Martial law
Martial law is the imposition of military rule by military authorities over designated regions on an emergency basis— only temporary—when the civilian government or civilian authorities fail to function effectively , when there are extensive riots and protests, or when the disobedience of the law...

 in Eritrea. He deployed roughly half of the Ethiopian army to contain the struggle. Internal disputes over strategy and tactics eventually led to the ELF's fragmentation and the founding in 1972 of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front
Eritrean People's Liberation Front
The Eritrean People's Liberation Front was an armed organization that fought for the independence of Eritrea from Ethiopia. It emerged in 1970 as an intellectual left-wing group that split from the Eritrean Liberation Front .-Background:...

 (EPLF). The leadership of this multi-ethnic movement came to be dominated by leftist, Christian dissidents who spoke Tigrinya, Eritrea's predominant language. Sporadic armed conflict ensued between the two groups from 1972 to 1974, even as they fought Ethiopian forces. By the late 1970s, the EPLF had become the dominant armed Eritrean group fighting against the Ethiopian Government, and Isaias Afewerki
Isaias Afewerki
Isaias Afewerki is the first and current President of Eritrea, attaining that status when he led the Eritrean People's Liberation Front to victory in May 1991, thus ending the 30-year old armed liberation struggle that the Eritrean people refer to as "Gedli".-Early life and rise to power:Afewerki...

 had emerged as its leader. Much of the material used to combat Ethiopia was captured from the army.

By 1977 the EPLF was poised to drive the Ethiopians out of Eritrea. However, that same year a massive airlift of Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 arms to Ethiopia enabled the Ethiopian Army to regain the initiative and forced the EPLF to retreat to the bush. Between 1978 and 1986 the Derg launched eight unsuccessful major offensives against the independence movement. In 1988 the EPLF captured Afabet
Afabet
-Overview:Afabet is the capital of the Afabet district.The site of a major battle in the Eritrean War of Independence, the city is still surrounded by trenches but has been largely rebuilt.-References:*...

, headquarters of the Ethiopian Army in northeastern Eritrea, putting approximately a third of the Ethiopian Army out of action, prompting the Ethiopian Army to withdraw from its garrisons in Eritrea's western lowlands. EPLF fighters then moved into position around Keren
Keren, Eritrea
Keren is the second largest city in Eritrea. It is situated about 91 kilometers northwest of Asmara. The town serves as the capital of the Anseba region, and is home to the Bilen ethnic group.-History:...

, Eritrea's second-largest city. Meanwhile, other dissident movements were making headway throughout Ethiopia. At the end of the 1980s the Soviet Union informed Mengistu that it would not be renewing its defense and cooperation agreement. With the withdrawal of Soviet support and supplies, the Ethiopian Army's morale plummeted, and the EPLF, along with other Ethiopian rebel forces, began to advance on Ethiopian positions. In 1980 the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal
Permanent Peoples' Tribunal
The Permanent Peoples' Tribunal is international opinion tribunal that was founded in Bologna June 24, 1979 at the initiative of Senator Lelio Basso. - International opinion tribunal :...

 determined that the right of the Eritrean people to self-determination does not represent a form of secession.

Establishing an independent country


The United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 played a facilitative role in the peace talks in Washington during the months leading up to the May 1991 fall of the Mengistu regime. In mid-May, Mengistu resigned as head of the Ethiopian Government and went into exile in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in the southern part of the African continent, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. It is bordered by South Africa to the south, Botswana to the southwest, Zambia and a tip of Namibia to the northwest and Mozambique to the east. Zimbabwe has three...

, leaving a caretaker government in Addis Ababa
Addis Ababa
Addis Ababa is the capital city of Ethiopia...

. Having defeated the Ethiopian forces in Eritrea, EPLF troops took control of their homeland. Later that month, the United States chaired talks in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 to formalize the end of the war. These talks were attended by the four major combatant groups, including the EPLF.

A high-level U.S. delegation was also present in Addis Ababa for the July 1–5, 1991 conference that established a transitional government in Ethiopia. The EPLF attended the July conference as an observer and held talks with the new transitional government regarding Eritrea's relationship to Ethiopia. The outcome of those talks was an agreement in which the Ethiopians recognized the right of the Eritreans to hold a referendum on independence.

Although some EPLF cadres at one time espoused a Marxist ideology, Soviet support for Mengistu had cooled their ardor. The fall of communist regimes in the former Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 convinced them it was a failed system. The EPLF now says it is committed to establishing a democratic form of government and a free-market economy in Eritrea. The United States agreed to provide assistance to both Ethiopia and Eritrea, conditional on continued progress toward democracy and human rights.

In May 1991 the EPLF established the Provisional Government of Eritrea (PGE) to administer Eritrean affairs until a referendum was held on independence and a permanent government established. EPLF leader Afewerki became the head of the PGE, and the EPLF Central Committee served as its legislative body.

Eritreans voted overwhelmingly in favor of independence between 23 and 25 April 1993 in a UN-monitored referendum
Eritrean independence referendum, 1993
An independence referendum was held in Eritrea between 23 and 25 April 1993. The result was 99.83% in favour, with a 93.9% turnout. Independence was declared on 27 April.-Results:-By area:...

. The result of the referendum was 99.83% for Eritrea's independence. The Eritrean authorities declared Eritrea an independent state on 27 April. The government was reorganized and the National Assembly was expanded to include both EPLF and non-EPLF members. The assembly chose Isaias Afewerki as President. The EPLF reorganized itself as a political party, the People's Front for Democracy and Justice
People's Front for Democracy and Justice
The People's Front for Democracy and Justice is the current ruling political movement in Eritrea. It is nominally and often considered African socialist and holds itself open to nationalists of any political affiliation. It is the successor to the Eritrean People's Liberation Front...

 (PFDJ).

1990s


In July 1996 the Constitution of Eritrea
Constitution of Eritrea
In March 1994, the Provisional Government of Eritrea established a Constitutional Commission. The resulting constitution was introduced in 1997, one year later than planned...

 was ratified, but it has yet to be implemented.

In 1998 a border dispute with Ethiopia, over the town of Badme
Badme
Badme is a town in the Horn of Africa and the focus of a territorial dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia. It is claimed by both Eritrea, which considers Badme to be a part of Gash-Barka Zone, and Ethiopia, which considers Badme part of the Mirabawi Zone of the Tigray Region. This dispute was the...

, led to the Eritrean-Ethiopian War
Eritrean-Ethiopian War
The Eritrean–Ethiopian War took place from May 1998 to June 2000 between Ethiopia and Eritrea, forming one of the conflicts in the Horn of Africa...

 in which thousands of soldiers from both countries died. Eritrea suffered from significant economic and social stress, including massive population displacement, reduced economic development, and one of Africa's more severe land mine
Land mine
A land mine is usually a weight-triggered explosive device which is intended to damage a target—either human or inanimate—by means of a blast and/or fragment impact....

 problems.

The border war ended in 2000 with the signing of the Algiers Agreement
Algiers Agreement
Algiers Agreement may refer to:*Algiers Agreement , between Iraq and Iran*Algiers Agreement , between Mauritania and the Polisario Front*Algiers Agreement , between Eritrea and Ethiopia*Algiers Accords , between the USA and Iran...

. Amongst the terms of the agreement was the establishment of a UN peacekeeping operation, known as the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea
United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea
The United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea was established by the United Nations Security Council in July 2000 to monitor a ceasefire in the border war that began in 1998 between Ethiopia and Eritrea....

 (UNMEE); with over 4,000 UN peacekeepers. The UN established a temporary security zone consisting of a 25-kilometre demilitarized buffer zone
Demilitarized zone
In military terms, a demilitarized zone is an area, usually the frontier or boundary between two or more military powers , where military activity is not permitted, usually by peace treaty, armistice, or other bilateral or multilateral agreement...

 within Eritrea, running along the length of the disputed border between the two states and patrolled by UN troops. Ethiopia was to withdraw to positions held before the outbreak of hostilities in May 1998. The Algiers agreement called for a final demarcation of the disputed border area between Eritrea and Ethiopia by the assignment of an independent, UN-associated body known as the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC), whose task was to clearly identify the border between the two countries and issue a final and binding ruling. The peace agreement would be completed with the implementation of the Border Commission's ruling, which would also end the task of the peacekeeping mission. After extensive study, the Commission issued a final border ruling in April 2002, which awarded some territory to each side, but Badme (the flash point of the conflict) was awarded to Eritrea. The Commission's decision was rejected by Ethiopia. The border question remains in dispute, with Ethiopia refusing to withdraw its military from positions in the disputed areas, including Badme, while a "difficult" peace remains in place.

The UNMEE mission was formally abandoned in July 2008, after experiencing serious difficulties in sustaining its troops after fuel stoppages.

Furthermore, Eritrea's diplomatic relations with Djibouti
Djibouti
Djibouti , officially the Republic of Djibouti , is a country in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Eritrea in the north, Ethiopia in the west and south, and Somalia in the southeast. The remainder of the border is formed by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden at the east...

 were briefly severed during the border war with Ethiopia in 1998 due to a dispute over Djibouti's intimate relation with Ethiopia during the war but were restored and normalized in 2000. Relations are again tense due to a renewed border dispute. Similarly, Eritrea and Yemen
Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

 had a border conflict between 1996 to 1998 over the Hanish Islands and the maritime border, which was resolved in 2000 by the Permanent Court of Arbitration
Permanent Court of Arbitration
The Permanent Court of Arbitration , is an international organization based in The Hague in the Netherlands.-History:The court was established in 1899 as one of the acts of the first Hague Peace Conference, which makes it the oldest institution for international dispute resolution.The creation of...

 in the Hague
The Hague
The Hague is the capital city of the province of South Holland in the Netherlands. With a population of 500,000 inhabitants , it is the third largest city of the Netherlands, after Amsterdam and Rotterdam...

.

Contemporary Eritrea


Roughly 10% of the population of Eritrea works in the public sector, fuel is strictly rationed, and all media outlets are state-run. Health care is cheaply available where it exists, and there are state-run campaigns concerning issues such as HIV infection and female genital mutilation.

Due to his frustration with the stalemated peace process with Ethiopia, the President of Eritrea Isaias Afewerki
Isaias Afewerki
Isaias Afewerki is the first and current President of Eritrea, attaining that status when he led the Eritrean People's Liberation Front to victory in May 1991, thus ending the 30-year old armed liberation struggle that the Eritrean people refer to as "Gedli".-Early life and rise to power:Afewerki...

 wrote a series of Eleven Letters to the UN Security Council and Secretary-General Kofi Annan
Kofi Annan
Kofi Atta Annan is a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the UN from 1 January 1997 to 31 December 2006...

. Despite the Algiers Agreement, tense relations with Ethiopia have continued and led to regional instability.

His government has also been condemned for allegedly arming and financing the insurgency in Somalia; the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 is considering labeling Eritrea a "State Sponsor of Terrorism," however, many experts on the topic have shied from this assertion, stating that "If there is one country where the fighting of extremists and terrorists was a priority when it mattered, it was Eritrea."

In December 2007, an estimated 4000 Eritrean troops remained in the 'demilitarized zone' with a further 120,000 along its side of the border. Ethiopia maintained 100,000 troops along its side.

Continuing border conflicts



On 19 June 2008 the BBC published a time line of the conflict and reported that the "Border dispute rumbles on":

See also

  • History of Africa
    History of Africa
    The history of Africa begins with the prehistory of Africa and the emergence of Homo sapiens in East Africa, continuing into the present as a patchwork of diverse and politically developing nation states. Agriculture began about 10,000 BCE and metallurgy in about 4000 BCE. The history of early...

  • History of Ethiopia
    History of Ethiopia
    This article covers the prehistory and history of Ethiopia.-Prehistory:Lucy, discovered in the Awash Valley of Ethiopia's Afar region, is considered the world's second-oldest, but most complete and best preserved, adult Australopithecine fossil...

  • History of Somalia
    History of Somalia
    Somalia , officially the Republic of Somalia and formerly known as the Somali Democratic Republic, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by Djibouti to the northwest, Kenya on its southwest, the Gulf of Aden with Yemen on its north, the Indian Ocean at its east, and Ethiopia...

  • Asmara
    Asmara
    Asmara is the capital city and largest settlement in Eritrea, home to a population of around 579,000 people...

  • Italian Eritrea
    Italian Eritrea
    Italian Eritrea was the first colony of the Kingdom of Italy. It was created in 1890 and lasted officially until 1947.-Acquisition of Assab and creation of the colony:...


External links


Further reading

  • Peter R. Schmidt, Matthew C. Curtis and Zelalem Teka, The Archaeology of Ancient Eritrea. Asmara: Red Sea Press, 2008. 469 pp. ISBN 1569022844