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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The journey is not yet finished (116)

The journey is not yet finished (116)
Isaias Afwerki, Eritrian President

(Part one hundred and sixteen, Depok, West Java, Indonesia, 24 September 2014, 09:17. EDT)

Eritria, one of the poorer countries in the Horn of Africa are now beginning to intensify reforestation to prevent mainland Eritria not turn into a desert.

Eritrea: NUEW Branch Members in Nefasit Administrative Area Undertake Afforestation Campaign

Asmara — Members of the NUEW branch in Nefasit Administrative area are carrying out afforestation campaign involving some 5,00,000 tree seedlings with a view to enhancing national development programs through promoting soil and water conservation activities.

The participants stated that they have been carrying out sensitization activities in their locality, and expressed readiness to step up participation towards the realization of the set goal.

Ms. Zahara Seid, head of the branch office, said that the program is organized by the NUEW branch in the Northern Red Sea region, and voiced the members' readiness to sustain input in combating desertification on the basis of higher organization. (http://allafrica.com/)


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

State of Eritrea
ሃገረ ኤርትራ  Hagere Ertra
دولة إرتريا  Dawlat Iritriyá
Flag        Emblem
Anthem: Ertra, Ertra, Ertra
Eritrea, Eritrea, Eritrea

and largest city  Asmara
15°20′N 38°55′E / 15.333°N 38.917°E
Official languages            
Tigrinya,[1][2] Arabic,[1][2] English[2]
Ethnic groups (2012[3])
55% Tigrinya
30% Tigre
4% Saho
2% Kunama
2% Bilen
2% Rashaida
5% othersa
Demonym           Eritrean
Government      Single-party state, Presidential republic
 -             President            Isaias Afwerki
Legislature          National Assembly
Independence from Ethiopia
 -             End of Italian Eritrea       November 1941
 -             End of United Kingdom mandate              1951
 -             De facto Ethiopian independence            24 May 1991
 -             De jure Ethiopian independence              24 May 1993
 -             Total      117,600 km2 (101st)
45,405 sq mi
 -             Water (%)           0.14%
 -             2012 estimate    6,233,682 (107th)
 -             2008 census        5,291,370
 -             Density 51.8/km2 (154th)
111.7/sq mi
GDP (PPP)           2012 estimate
 -             Total      $4.396 billion[4]
 -             Per capita            $776[4]
GDP (nominal)  2012 estimate
 -             Total      $3.092 billion[4]
 -             Per capita            $546[4]
HDI (2013)           Steady 0.381[5]
low · 182nd
Currency              Nakfa (ERN)
Time zone           EAT (UTC+3)
 -             Summer (DST)   not observed (UTC+3)
Drives on the     right
Calling code        +291
ISO 3166 code    ER
Internet TLD       .er
Eritrea (/ˌɛrɨˈtreɪ.ə/ or /ˌɛrɨˈtriːə/;[6] Tigrinya: ኤርትራ? ʾErtrā ; Arabic: إرتريا‎ Iritriyā), officially the State of Eritrea,[7] is a country in the Horn of Africa. With its capital at Asmara, it is bordered by Sudan to the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast. The northeastern and eastern parts of Eritrea have an extensive coastline along the Red Sea, across from Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The nation has a total area of approximately 117,600 km2 (45,406 sq mi), and includes the Dahlak Archipelago and several of the Hanish Islands. Its name Eritrea is based on the Ancient Greek name for the Red Sea (Ἐρυθρὰ Θάλασσα Eruthra Thalassa), which was first adopted for Italian Eritrea in 1890.

Eritrian Territory

Eritrea is a multi-ethnic country, with nine recognized ethnic groups. It has a population of around six million inhabitants. Most residents speak Afro-Asiatic languages, either of the Semitic or Cushitic branches. Among these communities, the Tigray-Tigrinya people make up about 55% of the population, with the Tigre people constituting around 30% of inhabitants. In addition, there are a number of Nilo-Saharan-speaking Nilotic ethnic minorities. Most people in the territory adhere to Christianity or Islam.[2]

The Kingdom of Aksum, covering much of modern-day Eritrea and northern Ethiopia, rose somewhere around the first or second centuries[8][9] and adopted Christianity by the time Islam had conquered Egypt.[10] In medieval times much of Eritrea fell under the Medri Bahri Kingdom, with a smaller region being part of the Hamasien Republic. The creation of modern day Eritrea is a result of the incorporation of independent Kingdoms and various vassal states of the Ethiopian empire and the Ottoman Empire, eventually resulting in the formation of Italian Eritrea. In 1947 Eritrea became part of a federation with Ethiopia, the Federation of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Subsequent annexation into Ethiopia led to the Eritrean War of Independence, ending with Eritrean independence following a referendum in April 1993. Hostilities between Eritrea and Ethiopia persisted, leading to the Eritrean–Ethiopian War of 1998–2000 and further skirmishes with both Djibouti and Ethiopia.

Eritrea is a member of the African Union, the United Nations and IGAD, and is an observer in the Arab League.

During the Middle Ages, the Eritrea region was known as Medri Bahri ("sea-land"). The name Eritrea is derived from the ancient Greek name for Red Sea (Ἐρυθρὰ Θάλασσα Eruthra Thalassa, based on the adjective ἐρυθρός eruthros "red"). It was first formally adopted in 1890, with the formation of Italian Eritrea (Colonia Eritrea).[11] The territory became the Eritrea Governorate within Italian East Africa in 1936. Eritrea was annexed by Ethiopia in 1953 (nominally within a federation until 1962) and an Eritrean Liberation Front formed in 1960. Eritrea gained independence following the 1993 referendum, and the name of the new state was nominally determined as State of Eritrea in the 1997 constitution.


Main article: History of Eritrea
The Red Sea coast of Eritrea was occupied by early anatomically modern humans during the last interglacial period.[12] According to linguists, the first Afro-Asiatic-speaking populations arrived in the region during the ensuing Neolithic era from the family's proposed urheimat ("original homeland") in the Nile Valley,[13] or the Near East.[14] Other scholars propose that the Afro-Asiatic family developed in situ in the Horn, with its speakers subsequently dispersing from there.[15]

Excavation of archaeological site outside of Sembel.
Together with Djibouti, Ethiopia, northern Somalia, and the Red Sea coast of Sudan,[16] Eritrea is considered the most likely location of the land known to the Ancient Egyptians as Punt, whose first mention dates to the 25th century BC.[17]

By 2000 BC, Agaw peoples speaking a proto-Ethiopic language ancestral to Ge'ez are believed to have migrated from southeastern Eritrea. Along with other local groups, they had already established linguistic and cultural identities by the time Sabaean influences were introduced from Southern Arabia.[8]

Excavations at Sembel found evidence of an ancient pre-Aksumite civilization in greater Asmara. This Ona urban culture is believed to have been among the earliest pastoral and agricultural communities in the Horn region. Artefacts at the site have been dated to between 800 BC and 400 BC, contemporaneous with other pre-Aksumite settlements in the Eritrean and Ethiopian highlands during the mid-first millennium BC.[18] Qohaito was another ancient pre-Aksumite city in southern Eritrea. It is often identified as the town Koloe described in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, a Greco-Roman document dated to the end of the first century AD.[19]

D'mt was a kingdom located in southern Eritrea and northern Ethiopia that existed during the 8th and 7th centuries BC. With its capital at Yeha, the realm developed irrigation schemes, used plows, grew millet, and made iron tools and weapons. After the fall of Dʿmt in the 5th century BC, the plateau came to be dominated by smaller successor kingdoms until the rise of one of these polities during the first century, the Kingdom of Aksum, which was able to reunite the area.[20]

Eritrian Asmara City

Pre-Axumite monolithic columns in Qohaito.
According to the medieval Liber Axumae (Book of Aksum), Aksum's first capital, Mazaber, was built by Itiyopis, son of Cush.[21] The kingdom is mentioned in the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea as an important market place for ivory, which was exported throughout the ancient world. Aksum was at the time ruled by Zoskales, who also governed the port of Adulis.[22] The Aksumites erected a number of large stelae, which served a religious purpose in pre-Christian times. One of these granite columns is the largest such structure in the world, standing at 90 feet.[23] Under Ezana (fl. 320–360), Aksum later adopted Christianity.[24]

After the decline of Aksum, a feudal structure known as Medri Bahri developed. It was ruled by the Bahri Negus (also called the Bahri Negasi), whose capital was located at Debarwa.[25] The Ottoman Empire made multiple advances further inland, partially conquering Medri Bahri in the 16th century as the province of Habesh.[26] The Khedivate of Egypt later annexed the territory in the 19th century. In 1890, the Kingdom of Italy formally established the colony of Italian Eritrea.

In the period following the opening of the Suez canal in 1869, during the Scramble for Africa when European powers tried to establish coaling stations for their ships, Italy invaded Ethiopia and occupied Eritrea. In 1936, Eritrea became a province of Italian East Africa (Africa Orientale Italiana), along with Ethiopia and Italian Somaliland. By 1941, Eritrea had about 760,000 inhabitants, including 70,000 Italians.[27]

Through the 1941 Battle of Keren, the British expelled the Italians,[28] and took over the administration of the country. The British continued to administer the territory under a UN Mandate until 1951, when Eritrea was federated with Ethiopia per UN Resolution 390A(V), adopted in December 1950 under the prompting of the United States.[29]

Map of the Kingdom of D'mt in Eritrea and northern Ethiopia, circa 400 BC.
                You may need rendering support to display the Ethiopic text in this article correctly.
The strategic importance of Eritrea, due to its Red Sea coastline and mineral resources, along with their shared history, was the main cause for the federation with Ethiopia, which in turn led to Eritrea's annexation as Ethiopia's 14th province in 1962. This was the culmination of a gradual process of takeover by the Ethiopian authorities, a process which included a 1959 edict establishing the compulsory teaching of Amharic, the main language of Ethiopia, in all Eritrean schools. The lack of regard for the Eritrean population led to the formation of an independence movement in the early 1960s (1961), which erupted into a 30-year war against successive Ethiopian governments that ended in 1991. Following a UN-supervised referendum in Eritrea (dubbed UNOVER) in which the Eritrean people overwhelmingly voted for independence, Eritrea declared its independence and gained international recognition in 1993.[30]

Eritrian People

The de facto predominant languages are Tigrinya and Arabic, both of which belong to the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family. English is used in the government's international communication and is the language of instruction in all formal education beyond the fifth grade.[6]

Eritrea is a single-party state. Though its constitution, adopted in 1997, stipulates that the state is a presidential republic with a unicameral parliamentary democracy, it has yet to be implemented. In 1998 a border dispute with Ethiopia led to the two-year Eritrean–Ethiopian War. The war resulted in the death of as many as 100,000 Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers, although specific casualty estimates are varied.[31]

Government and politics[edit]

Main article: Politics of Eritrea
The People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) is the ruling party in Eritrea.[32] Other political groups are not allowed to organize, although the unimplemented Constitution of 1997 provides for the existence of multi-party politics. The National Assembly has 150 seats, of which 75 are occupied by the PFDJ. National elections have been periodically scheduled and cancelled; none have ever been held in the country.[2] The president, Isaias Afwerki, has been in office since independence in 1993.

Independent local sources of political information on Eritrean domestic politics are scarce; in September 2001 the government closed down all of the nation's privately owned print media, and outspoken critics of the government have been arrested and held without trial, according to various international observers, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.[citation needed] In 2004 the U.S. State Department declared Eritrea a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for its record of religious persecution.[33]

National elections[edit]

Building of regional administration in Asmara.
Eritrean National elections were set for 2001 but was then decided that because 20% of Eritrea's land was under occupation, elections would be postponed until the resolution of the conflict with Ethiopia. However, local elections have continued in Eritrea. The most recent round of local government elections were held in 2010 and 2011. On further elections, the President's Chief of Staff, Yemane Gebremeskel said,[34]

“           The electoral commission is handling these elections this time round so that may be the new element in this process. The national assembly has also mandated the electoral commission to set the date for national elections, so whenever the electoral commission sets the date there will be national elections. It's not dependent on regional elections.                ”
As yet, no national elections have been held since independence.[2]

Regions and districts[edit]

Eritrian Troops

Regions of Eritrea.

Map of Eritrea.
Main articles: Regions of Eritrea and Districts of Eritrea
Eritrea is divided into six regions (zobas) and subdivided into districts (sub-zobas). The geographical extent of the regions is based on their respective hydrological properties. This is a dual intent on the part of the Eritrean government: to provide each administration with sufficient control over its agricultural capacity, and to eliminate historical intra-regional conflicts.
The regions, followed by the sub-region, are:

No.         Region (ዞባ)         Sub-region (ንኡስ ዞባ)
1              Maekel
(ዞባ ማእከል)          Berikh በሪኽ, Ghala-Nefhi ጋላ ነፍሒ, Semienawi Mibraq Asmara ሰሜናዊ ምብራቕ አስመራ, Serejeka ሰረጀቓ, Debubawi Mibraq Asmara ደቡባዊ ምብራቕ አስመራ, Semienawi Mi'erab Asmara ሰሜናዊ ምዕራብ አስመራ, Debubawi Mi'erab Asmara ደቡባዊ ምዕራብ አስመራ
2              Anseba
(ዞባ ዓንሰባ)            Adi Tekelezan ዓዲ ተከሌዛን, Asmat አስማጥ, Elabered ዒላበርዕድ, Geleb ገለብ, Hagaz ሓጋዝ, Halhal ሓልሓል, Habero ሃበሮ, Keren ከረን, Kerkebet ከርከበት, Sel'a ሰልዓ.
3              Gash-Barka
(ዞባ ጋሽ ባርካ)        Agordat አቑርደት, Barentu ባረንቱ, Dghe ድገ Forto ፎርቶ, Gogne ጎኘ, Gluj ጎልጅ, Haykota ሃይኮታ, La'elay Gash ላዕላይ ጋሽ, Logo-Anseba ሎጎ ዓንሰባ, Mensura መንሱራ, Mogolo ሞጎሎ, Molki ሞልቂ, Om Hajer ኦምሓጀር, Shambuko ሻምብቆ, Tesseney ተሰነይ.
4              Debub
(ዞባ ደቡብ)             Adi Keyh ዓዲቐይሕ, Adi Quala ዓዲዃላ, Areza ዓረዛ, Debarwa ድባርዋ, Dekemhare ደቀምሓረ, Mai-Ayni(knafna) ማይዓይኒ, Mai-Mne ማይምነ, Mendefera መንደፈራ, Segeneiti ሰገነይቲ, Senafe ሰንዓፈ, Tsorona ጾሮና.
5              Northern Red Sea
(ዞባ ሰሜናዊ ቀይሕ ባሕሪ)      Afabet አፍዓበት, Dahlak ደሴታት ዳህላክ, Ghela'elo ገላዕሎ, Foro ፎሮ, Ghinda ጊንዳዕ, Karora ቃሮራ, Massawa ምጽዋዕ(ባጽዕ), Nakfa ናቕፋ, She'eb ሽዕብ.
6              Southern Red Sea
(ዞባ ደቡባዊ ቀይሕ ባሕሪ)      Are'eta አራዕታ, Ma'ekel Dankalia ማእከል ደንካልያ, Debub Dankalia ደቡብ ደንካልያ, Assab ዓሰብ

The Eritrean Defence Forces are the official armed forces of the State of Eritrea.

Human rights[edit]

Main article: Human rights in Eritrea
Eritrea is a one-party state in which national legislative elections have been repeatedly postponed,[35] and its human rights record is considered poor.[36][37] Since Eritrea's conflict with Ethiopia in 1998–2001, Eritrea's human rights record has worsened.[38] Human rights violations are frequently committed by the government or on behalf of the government. Freedom of speech, press, assembly, and association are limited. Those that practice "unregistered" religions, try to flee the nation, or escape military duty are arrested and put into prison.[38] Domestic and international human rights organizations are not allowed to function in Eritrea.[36]

The registered, census-based religions are the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church (a miaphysite Oriental Orthodox denomination), the Roman Catholic Church, Eritrean Lutheran Church, and Sunnite Islam. All other religions are persecuted, including other denominations of Islam, such as Shi'ism, and other denominations of Christianity, such as any of the myriad Protestant denominations. All denominations of Christianity enjoyed freedom of worship until 2002 when the government outlawed worship and assembly outside the 'registered' denominations. All groups who worship secretly in a house or any other unregistered place of assembly are arrested and imprisoned without charge or trial. Religious prisoners are often tortured in Eritrea.[39] Freedom of worship is one of the top reasons thousands of Eritreans flee the country. There are thousands of Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia and the Sudan seeking asylum in Europe or another region of the West.[37]

Media freedom[edit]

In its 2010 Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked the media environment in Eritrea at the very bottom of a list of 178 countries, just below totalitarian North Korea.[40] According to the BBC, "Eritrea is the only African country to have no privately owned news media",[41] and Reporters Without Borders said of the public media, "[they] do nothing but relay the regime's belligerent and ultra-nationalist discourse. ... Not a single [foreign correspondent] now lives in Asmara."[42] The state-owned news agency censors news about external events.[43] Independent media have been banned since 2001.[43]

Eritrian Peoples

Foreign relations[edit]

Eritrea's embassy in Washington, D.C.
Main article: Foreign relations of Eritrea
Eritrea is a full member of the African Union (AU), the successor of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). However, it had withdrawn its representative to the AU in protest at the AU's alleged lack of leadership in facilitating the implementation of a binding border decision demarcating the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia. The Eritrean government has since January 2011 appointed an envoy, Tesfa-Alem Tekle, to the AU.[44]

Relations with the United States[edit]

Eritrea's relationship with the United States has a short yet complex history. The United States Army operated Kagnew Station in Eritrea (which at the time was under British, then Ethiopian rule) from 1943 to 1977 as part of an agreement with Ethiopia's Emperor Haile Selassie I. When the United Nations was debating the future of the territory of Eritrea in the beginning of the 1950s (while it was under British trusteeship as a result of the end of World War II and Italian colonialism), the United States was instrumental in promoting Eritrea's linkage with Imperial Ethiopia, opposing the idea of an independent Eritrea. This was succinctly put by then US ambassador to the UN (later to become US Secretary of State) John Foster Dulles: "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."[citation needed]

During the beginning of the George W. Bush administration and the US War on Terrorism of the early 2000s, the US still considered Eritrea a friendly state and US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld paid Eritrea's president a visit in Eritrea. Relations ultimately worsened in October 2008 when U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer called the nation a 'state sponsor of terrorism' and stated that the U.S. government might add Eritrea to its list of rogue states, along with Iran and Sudan.[45] The stated reason for this was the presence of Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, an exiled Somali Islamist leader, whom the U.S. suspects of having links to Al Qaeda, at a Somali opposition conference in Asmara.[46]

During the week of 2 August 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that Eritrea was supplying weapons to the Somali militant group al-Shabab.[47] Although Eritrea rejected this accusation in a public statement the following day,[48] the United Nations, with the backing of the African Union, imposed sanctions and an arms embargo on Eritrea under Resolution 1907 for its alleged role in Somalia and refusal to withdraw troops from the border with Djibouti.

Relations with the European Union[edit]

Eritrea's relationship with the Italian Republic and the European Union are still both reasonably strong and do not seem to be as strained as is the country's relationship with the United States. On 27 January 2009, the Dutch Ambassador, Yoka Brandt, Director General of International Development Cooperation, paid an official visit to the country for bilateral talks with President Isaias' government, which were held in Massawa.

Eritrian Military Tank

Relations with Israel[edit]

Main article: Eritrea–Israel relations
Eritrea and Israel have ambassadors in each other's countries. Israel maintains an embassy in Asmara and Eritrea has a presence in Ramat Gan. Avi Granot, head of the Africa division in the Israeli foreign ministry, has described Eritrea as a strategic ally, the one friendly port on the Red Sea.[49] There are approximately 60,000 African refugees in Israel, mostly from Sudan and Eritrea.[50]

Relations with neighbouring countries[edit]

Eritrea's relations with its neighbours have been strained due to a series of wars and disputes. These include a break of diplomatic relations with Sudan when Eritrea accused Sudan of hosting a network of terrorists in 1994, a war with Yemen over the Hanish Islands in 1996, and a border conflict with Ethiopia from 1998–2001. An international border commission, the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission had delimited and virtually demarcated the border, but Ethiopia has refused to implement it.

Eritrea's relations with the Sudan have normalised. Meanwhile, Eritrea has been recognised as a broker for peace between the separate factions of the Sudanese civil war: "It is known that Eritrea played a role in bringing about the peace agreement [between the Southern Sudanese and Government]."[51] In addition, the Sudanese government and Eastern Front rebels requested Eritrea to mediate peace talks in 2006.[52]

The dispute with Yemen over the Hanish Islands in 1996 resulted in a brief war. As part of an agreement to cease hostilities the two nations agreed to refer the issue to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague in 1998.[53] Yemen was granted full ownership of the larger islands while Eritrea was awarded the peripheral islands to the southwest of the larger islands.[54] At the conclusion of the proceedings, both nations acquiesced to the decision. Since 1996, both governments have remained wary of one another but relations are relatively normal.[55]

Relations with Ethiopia[edit]

See also: Eritrean–Ethiopian War

A train tunnel on the Eritrean Plateau.
The undemarcated border with Ethiopia is the primary external issue currently facing Eritrea. Eritrea's relations with Ethiopia turned from that of cautious mutual tolerance, following the 30-year war for Eritrean independence, to a deadly rivalry that led to the outbreak of hostilities from May 1998 to June 2000 which claimed approximately 70,000 casualties from both sides.[56] The border conflict cost hundreds of millions of dollars.[57]

Disagreements following the war have resulted in stalemate punctuated by periods of elevated tension and renewed threats of war.[58][59][60] The stalemate led the President of Eritrea to urge the UN to take action on Ethiopia with the Eleven Letters penned by the President to the United Nations Security Council. The situation has been further escalated by the continued efforts of the Eritrean and Ethiopian leaders in supporting opposition in one another's countries.[citation needed] In 2011, Ethiopia accused Eritrea of planting bombs at an African Union summit in Addis Ababa, which was later supported by a UN report. Eritrea has denied the claims.[61]

Amid fears of an emerging Islamic and nationalist Somalia, Ethiopia invaded Somalia with U.S. assistance, putting in place the initially weak and locally unpopular UN/AU-backed Transitional Federal Government which, without Ethiopian support, had been unable to exercise any control beyond its base in Baidoa and along the Ethio-Somali border. The Transitional Federal Government as of 2011 took full control of the capital and made significant gains on the territory of the now-defunct Islamic Courts Union.[62] The United States Central Intelligence Agency also conducted a covert program of funding and assisting a coalition of Somali warlords to replace the Islamic Courts Union government in southern Somalia.[63]

For its part, Eritrea once hosted members of the ousted Union of Islamic Courts and the Somali Free Parliament, including the current President of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, who was also the leader of the Union of Islamic Courts ousted by Ethiopia in 2007. The Eritrean government has been accused of sponsoring, arming and hosting numerous militant leaderships and separatist rebels in the Horn of Africa.[64]


Main article: Geography of Eritrea
Eritrea is located in the Horn of Africa. It is bordered to the northeast and east by the Red Sea, Sudan to the west, Ethiopia to the south, and Djibouti to the east. Eritrea lies between latitudes 12° and 18°N, and longitudes 36° and 44°E.

The Eritrean highlands.

Mountains near Asmara.
The country is virtually bisected by a branch of the East African Rift. It has fertile lands to the west, descending to desert in the east. Eritrea, at the southern end of the Red Sea, is the home of the fork in the rift. The Dahlak Archipelago and its fishing grounds are situated off the sandy and arid coastline. The land to the south, in the highlands, is slightly drier and cooler.[citation needed]

Eritrea can be split into three basic ecoregions. To the east of the highlands are the hot, arid coastal plains stretching down to the southeast of the country. The cooler, more fertile highlands, reaching up to 3000m has different habitat. Habitats here vary from the sub-tropical rainforest at Filfil Solomona to the precipitous cliffs and canyons of the southern highlands.[65]

The strategically important Bab-el-Mandeb strait connects the coasts of Eritrea and Yemen. The Afar Triangle or Danakil Depression of Eritrea is the probable location of a triple junction where three tectonic plates are pulling away from one another: the Arabian Plate, and the two parts of the African Plate (the Nubian and the Somali plate) splitting along the East African Rift Zone (USGS). The highest point of the country, Emba Soira, is located in the center of Eritrea, at 3,018 meters (9,902 ft) above sea level.

The main cities of the country are the capital city of Asmara and the port town of Asseb in the southeast, as well as the towns of Massawa to the east, the northern town of Keren, and the central town Mendefera.

Eritrea formerly supported a large population of elephants. The Ptolemaic kings of Egypt used the country as a source of war elephants in the third century BC.[citation needed] Between 1955 and 2001 there were no reported sightings of elephant herds, and they are thought to have fallen victim to the war of independence. In December 2001 a herd of about 30, including 10 juveniles, was observed in the vicinity of the Gash River. The elephants seemed to have formed a symbiotic relationship with olive baboons—The baboons use the water holes dug by the elephants, while the elephants use the tree-top baboons as an early warning system. It is estimated that there are around 100 elephants left in Eritrea, the most northerly of East Africa's elephants.[66] The endangered Painted Hunting Dog (Lycaon pictus) was previously found in Eritrea, but is now deemed extirpated from the entire country.[67]

In 2006, Eritrea announced it would become the first country in the world to turn its entire coast into an environmentally protected zone. The 1,347 km (837 mi) coastline, along with another 1,946 km (1,209 mi) of coast around its more than 350 islands, will come under governmental protection.


Main article: Economy of Eritrea
See also: List of companies based in Eritrea

Eritrea's main export distribution.
The economy of Eritrea has experienced considerable growth in recent years, indicated by an improvement in gross domestic product (GDP) in October 2012 of 7.5 percent over 2011.[68] A big reason for the recent growth of the Eritrean economy is the commencement of full operations in the gold and silver Bisha mine and the production of cement from the cement factory in Massawa.[69]

The real GDP (2009 est.): $4.4 billion, and the annual growth rate (2011 est.):14%.[70][71]

However, worker remittances from abroad are estimated to account for 32 percent of gross domestic product.[6] Eritrea has an extensive amount of resources such as copper, gold, granite, marble, and potash. The Eritrean economy has undergone extreme changes due to the War of Independence. In 2011, Eritrea's GDP grew by 8.7 percent making it one of the fastest growing economies in the world.[72] The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) expects it to maintain a high growth rate of 8.5 percent in 2013.

The Eritrean–Ethiopian War severely hurt Eritrea's economy. GDP growth in 1999 fell to less than 1%, and GDP decreased by 8.2% in 2000. In May 2000, the war resulted in some $600 million in property damage and loss, including losses of $225 million in livestock and 55,000 homes.

Even during the war, Eritrea developed its transportation infrastructure by asphalting new roads, improving its ports, and repairing war-damaged roads and bridges as a part of the Warsay Yika'alo Program. The most significant of these projects was the building of a coastal highway of more than 500 km connecting Massawa with Asseb as well as the rehabilitation of the Eritrean Railway. The rail line has been restored between the port of Massawa and the capital Asmara, although services are sporadic. Steam locomotives are sometimes used for groups of enthusiasts.

In theory, the country has a national carrier, Eritrean Airlines, but services are intermittent.


Main article: Demographics of Eritrea

A wedding in Eritrea.
There are nine recognized ethnic groups according to the government of Eritrea.[73][74] Eritrean society is ethnically heterogeneous. An independent census has yet to be conducted, but the Tigrinya people make up about 55% and Tigre people make up about 30% of the population. These form the bulk of the country's predominantly Semitic-speaking population. Most of the rest of the population belong to other Afro-Asiatic-speaking communities of the Cushitic branch, such as the Saho, Hedareb, Afar and Bilen.

Other Afro-Asiatic groups include the Rashaida, who represent about 2% of Eritrea's population.[3] They reside in the northern coastal lowlands of Eritrea as well as the eastern coasts of Sudan. The Rashaida first came to Eritrea in the 19th century from the Hejaz region.[75] More recently, Hadhrami migrants have also settled in the country.

There are also a number of Nilotic ethnic minorities, who are represented in Eritrea by the Kunama and Nara. Each ethnicity speaks a different native tongue but, typically, many of the minorities speak more than one language.

In addition, there exist Italian Eritrean (concentrated in Asmara) and Ethiopian Tigrayan communities. Neither is generally given citizenship unless through marriage or, more rarely, by having it conferred upon them by the State.


Main article: Languages of Eritrea

Saho women in traditional attire.
Eritrea is a multilingual country. The nation has no official language, as the Constitution establishes the "equality of all Eritrean languages".[76] However, Tigrinya serve as de facto language of national identity. With 2,540,000 total speakers of a population of 5,254,000 in 2006, Tigrinya is the most widely spoken language; particularly in the southern and central parts of Eritrea. Modern Standard Arabic serves as de facto national language. English also serves as a de facto national working language, and Italian is widely understood.[77]

Most of the languages spoken in Eritrea stem from the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic family.[78] Among these are Tigre, Tigrinya, the newly recognized Dahlik, and Arabic (the Hejazi and Hadhrami dialects spoken by the Rashaida and Hadhrami, respectively). Other Afro-Asiatic languages belonging to the Cushitic branch are also widely spoken in the country.[78] The latter include Afar, Beja, Blin and Saho.

In addition, Nilo-Saharan languages (Kunama and Nara) are also spoken as a native language by the Nilotic Kunama and Nara ethnic minority groups that live in the northern and northwestern part of the country.[78]

Italian and English are also spoken as working languages, and are used in secondary and university education.


Main article: Religion in Eritrea
Eritrea religious groups,[79] U.S Department of State 2011/ Pew Research 2012
Religion                                                Percent               
Christianity (USDOS)      
Islam (USDOS)  
Others (USDOS)              
Christianity (Pew)           
Islam (Pew)       
Others (Pew)    
According to recent estimates, 50% of the population adheres to Christianity, Islam 48%, while 2% of the population follows other religions including traditional African religion and animism.[79] According to a study made by Pew Research Center, 62.9% adheres to Christianity and 36.2% adheres to Islam.[80]

St. Joseph's Cathedral in Asmara
Since May 2002, the government of Eritrea has officially recognized the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Sunni Islam, Catholicism, and the Evangelical Lutheran church. All other faiths and denominations are required to undergo a registration process.[81] Among other things, the government's registration system requires religious groups to submit personal information on their membership to be allowed to worship.[81]

The 15th century Sheikh Hanafi Mosque in Massawa
The Eritrean government is against reformed or radical versions of its established religions. Therefore, radical forms of Islam and Christianity (viz, Salafism), Jehovah's Witnesses, the Bahá'í Faith (though the Bahá'í Faith is neither Islamic nor Christian), the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and numerous other non-Protestant Evangelical denominations are not registered and cannot worship freely. Three named Jehovah's Witnesses are known to have been imprisoned since 1994.[82] Additionally, on 28 June 2009, police raided a private home where Jehovah's Witnesses were meeting. 23 were arrested including children as young as two years old. Some of the women and children were later released. None have been charged officially or given access to the judicial process. By 29 July 2010, 52 Jehovah's Witnesses had been imprisoned in Eritrea for conducting secret religious gatherings, engaging in religious activity, and for refusing to undertake national service.[83]

As of 2006, there was only one native adherent of Judaism, Sami Cohen, remaining in Eritrea.[84]

In its 2006 religious freedom report, the U.S. State Department named Eritrea a "Country of Particular Concern" (CPC) for the third year in a row.[85]

In 2014, four Eritrean Catholic bishops took the unusual step of criticizing living conditions in the country, calling it "desolate," and pleading for humane treatment of detainees.[86]


Main article: Health in Eritrea
Eritrea has achieved significant improvements in health care and is one of the few countries to be on target to meet its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets in health, in particular child health.[87] Life expectancy at birth has increased from 39.1 in 1960 to 59.5 years in 2008, maternal and child mortality rates have dropped dramatically and the health infrastructure has been expanded.[87] Due to Eritrea's relative isolation, information and resources are extremely limited and according the World Health Organisation (WHO) found in 2008 average life expectancy to be slightly less than 63 years. Immunisation and child nutrition has been tackled by working closely with schools in a multi-sectoral approach; the number of children vaccinated against measles almost doubled in seven years, from 40.7% to 78.5% and the underweight prevalence among children decreased by 12% in 1995–2002 (severe underweight prevalence by 28%).[87] The National Malaria Protection Unit of the Ministry of Health has registered tremendous improvements in reducing malarial mortality by as much as 85% and the number of cases by 92% between 1998 and 2006.[87] The Eritrean government has banned female genital mutilation (FGM), saying the practice was painful and put women at risk of life-threatening health problems.[88]

However, Eritrea still faces many challenges. Despite number of physicians increasing from only 0.2 in 1993 to 0.5 in 2004 per 1000 population, this is still very low.[87] Malaria and tuberculosis are common in Eritrea.[89] HIV prevalence among the 15–49 group exceeds 2%.[89] The fertility rate is at about 5 births per woman.[89] Maternal mortality dropped by more than half from 1995 to 2002, although the figure is still high.[87] Similarly, between 1995 and 2002, the number of births attended by skilled health personnel has doubled but still is only 28.3%.[87] A major cause of death in neonates is by severe infection.[89] Per capita expenditure on health is low in Eritrea.[89]

Largest towns[edit]

Harnet Avenue in the capital Asmara
This is a list of cities in Eritrea by population:

Cities in Eritrea
Rank      City        Population          Region
1984 Census       2010 estimate
1              Asmara 475,385 649,707 Maekel
2              Keren    126,149 146,483 Anseba
3              Teseney               52,531   64,889   Gash-Barka
4              Mendefera         22,184   63,492   Debub
5              Agordat                15,948   47,482   Gash-Barka
6              Assab    31,037   39,656   Southern Red Sea
7              Massawa             15,441   36,700   Northern Red Sea
8              Adi Quala             14,465   34,589   Debub
9              Senafe  14,019   31,831   Debub
10           Dekemhare        17,290   31,000   Debub
11           Segeneiti             13,328   27,656   Debub
12           Nakfa    N/A        20,222   Northern Red Sea
13           Adi Keyh              8,691     19,304   Debub
14           Barentu                2,541     15,467   Gash-Barka
15           Beilul     N/A        14,055   Southern Red Sea
16           Edd        N/A        12,855   Southern Red Sea
17           Ghinda 7,702     10,523   Northern Red Sea
18           Mersa Fatuma   N/A        9,542     Southern Red Sea
19           Himbirti                N/A        8,822     Maekel
20           Nefasit N/A        8,727     Debub

Main article: Education in Eritrea
There are five levels of education in Eritrea: pre-primary, primary, middle, secondary, and post-secondary. There are nearly 238,000 students in the primary, middle, and secondary levels of education. There are approximately 824 schools[90] in Eritrea and two universities (the University of Asmara and the Eritrea Institute of Technology) as well as several smaller colleges and technical schools.

Education in Eritrea is officially compulsory between seven and 13 years of age. However, the education infrastructure is inadequate to meet current needs. Statistics vary at the elementary level, suggesting that between 65 and 70% of school-aged children attend primary school; Approximately 61% attend secondary school. Student-teacher ratios are high: 45 to 1 at the elementary level and 54 to 1 at the secondary level. There are an average 63 students per classroom at the elementary level and 97 per classroom at the secondary level. Learning hours at school are often less than six hours per day. Skill shortages are present at all levels of the education system, and funding for and access to education vary significantly by gender and location. Illiteracy estimates for Eritrea range from around 40% to as high as 70%.[91]

Barriers to education in Eritrea include traditional taboos, school fees (for registration and materials), and the opportunity costs of low-income households.[92]


Main article: Culture of Eritrea
See also: Cuisine of Eritrea and Music of Eritrea

Kitcha fit-fit is a staple of Eritrean cuisine. A dish of shredded, oiled, and spiced bread, it is often served with a scoop of fresh yogurt and topped with berbere (spice).
The culture of Eritrea has been largely shaped by the country's location on the Red Sea coast. One of the most recognizable parts of Eritrean culture is the coffee ceremony.[93] Coffee (Ge'ez ቡን būn) is offered when visiting friends, during festivities, or as a daily staple of life. If it is politely declined, then most likely tea ("shai" ሻሂ shahee) will instead be served.

Cyclists competing in the Tour of Eritrea in Asmara.
A typical Eritrean dish consists of injera accompanied by a spicy stew, which frequently includes beef, kid, lamb or fish. People in Eritrea also tend to drink coffee and a bitter fermented barley called sowa.[94] Mies is another popular local alcoholic beverage, made out of honey.[95] Overall, Eritrean cuisine strongly resembles those of neighboring Ethiopia and Somalia,[94][96] except for the fact that Eritrean and Somali cooking tend to feature more seafood than Ethiopian cuisine on account of their coastal locations.[94] Eritrean dishes are also frequently "lighter" in texture than Ethiopian meals. They likewise tend to employ less seasoned butter and spices and more tomatoes, as in the tsebhi dorho delicacy. Additionally, owing to its colonial history, cuisine in Eritrea features more Ottoman and Italian influences than are present in Ethiopian cooking, including more pasta specials and greater use of curry powders and cumin.[97] Alongside sowa, people in Eritrea also tend to drink coffee, whereas sweetened tea is preferred in Somalia.[94]

Besides convergent culinary tastes, Eritreans share an appreciation for similar music and lyrics, jewelry and fragrances, and tapestry and fabrics as other populations in the Horn region.[98] Traditional Eritrean attire is quite varied. Most of the women in the lowlands traditionally dress in brightly colored clothes, while the Tigrinya-speaking highlanders wear bright white gowns called zurias. Men in the lowlands likewise often wear long white shirts accompanied by white pants. In the larger cities, most males dress more casually. Of the Muslim communities, only Rashaida women maintain a tradition of covering their faces.

Football and cycling are the most popular sports in Eritrea. In recent years, Eritrean athletes have also seen increasing success in the international arena. Zersenay Tadese, an Eritrean athlete, currently holds the world record in half marathon distance running.[99] Additionally, the Tour of Eritrea, a multi-stage international cycling event, is held annually throughout the country.

Eritrea's various ethnic groups each have their own different styles of music and accompanying dances. Amongst the Tigrinya, the best known traditional musical genre is the guaila. (Continoe)

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