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Eritrea

Facts & Figures

President: Isaias Afwerki (1993)

Total area: 46,842 sq mi (121,320 sq km)

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.): Asmara, 649,000

Other large cities: the ports of Massawa, 30,700; and Assab, 56,300

Monetary unit: Nakfa

More Facts & Figures

Flag of Eritrea

Geography

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 the south.

Government

A transitional government committed to a democratic system.

History

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.


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