|State of Eritrea
Isaias Afwerki (1993)
Total area: 46,842 sq mi (121,320 sq
Population (2014 est.): 6,380,803
(growth rate: 2.3%); birth rate: 30.69/1000; infant mortality rate:
38.44/1000; life expectancy: 63.51
Capital and largest city (2011 est.):
Other large cities: the
ports of Massawa, 30,700; and Assab, 56,300
Monetary unit: Nakfa
name: Hagere Ertra
Current government officials
Tigrinya (official), Arabic (official), English (official), Tigre, Kunama, Afar, other Cushitic languages
nine recognized ethnic groups: Tigrinya 55%, Tigre 30%, Saho 4%, Kunama 2%, Rashaida 2%, Bilen 2%, other (Afar, Beni Amir, Nera) 5% (2010 est.)
Independence Day, May 24
Muslim, Coptic Christian, Roman Catholic, Protestant
68.9% (2011 est.)
GDP/PPP (2013 est.): $4.717 billion; per capita $1,200 . Real
growth rate: 7%. Inflation: 13%. Unemployment: n.a. Arable land: 5.87%. Agriculture: sorghum, lentils,
vegetables, corn, cotton, tobacco, coffee, sisal; livestock, goats;
fish. Labor force: 2.955 billion (2012); 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: $496.2 million (2013 est.):
livestock, sorghum, textiles, food, small manufactures.
Imports: $1.027 billion (2013 est.): machinery,
petroleum products, food, manufactured goods. Major trading
partners: Australia, France, Malaysia, Italy, Sudan, Saudi Arabia,
Jordan, Germany, China, Brazil, U.S., Turkey (2006).
Communications: Telephones: main lines in
use: 60,000 (2012); mobile cellular: 305,300 (2012). Broadcast
media: government controls broadcast media with private ownership prohibited; 1 state-owned TV station; state-owned radio operates 2 networks; purchases of satellite dishes and subscriptions to international broadcast media are permitted (2007). Internet hosts: 701 (2012).
Internet users: 200,000 (2008).
Transportation: Railways: total: 306 km
(2008). Highways: total: 4,010 km; paved: 874 km; unpaved:
3,136 km (2000 est.). Ports and harbors: Assab, Massawa.
Airports: 13 (2013).
disputes: Eritrea and Ethiopia agreed to abide by 2002 Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission's (EEBC) delimitation decision, but neither party responded to the revised line detailed in the November 2006 EEBC Demarcation Statement; Sudan accuses Eritrea of supporting eastern Sudanese rebel groups; in 2008 Eritrean troops moved across the border on Ras Doumera peninsula and occupied Doumera Island with undefined sovereignty in the Red Sea.
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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