Eritrea became an independent country, through a UN supervised referendum, in April 1993. In the referendum, 99.805% of the population voted for independence. This followed a 30 year war for independence with Ethiopia which ended in 1991.
The country consists of highlands, midlands and lowlands. Asmara, the Capital city, was found in 1897 by the Italians and has almost a Mediterranean life style.
Eritrea had been inhabited since the 8th Century BC; the first inhabitants were the Nilotic people from the Nile. The Cushitic arrived with successive waves of Hamitic stock and the southern Arabian tribes introduced the Semitic culture. The Semitic language evolved into ge’ez from which Tigre and Tigrinya originated. In the 4th Century AD, Christianity was introduced. During the early Islamic period, the trail of Sheba was established when a group of Mohammed’s companions (Sheba) traveled from Mecca to Massawa and beyond the hinterland to escape persecution.
The 16th century was marked by continual attempts of the Turks to extend their influence on the Eritrean coast. The Italian colonizers landed in Massawa in 1885. The Italian colonial era lasted until 1941 when they were defeated by the British who, in turn, governed Eritrea until the United Nations decided Eritrea’s future, which was to make it an autonomous unit federated with Ethiopia. Due to this decision the first organized Eritrean resistance was established in 1958, followed by the start of an armed struggle in 1961 and the annexation with Ethiopian 1962 that ended with the establishment of an independent state in 1991.
Following the referendum in April 1993, the provisional government of Eritrea became the government of the State of Eritrea. A democratic constitution that guarantees the rights to all citizens creates political pluralism and establishes an elected government that has been drafted and ratified. The Eritrean Government has a strong commitment in encouraging a private sector economy and has adopted a zero tolerance policy towards corruption.
The Eritrean economy is based on agriculture, industry, fisheries, and tourism. The country has enjoyed periods of greater economic development in the last 100 years and its people are industrious and determined to rebuild their country. The task of economic reconstruction is enormous involving the development and exploitation of opportunities in agriculture, fishing, unexploited resource and the service sectors including tourism and aviation.
Eritrea is situated in the horn of Africa and lies between 12 and 18 degrees north latitude and 36 and 44 degrees east longitude. With over one thousand kilometers of the Red Sea coastline, Eritrea is bordered to the north and west by Sudan and to the south by Djibouti and Ethiopia. Eritrea coves an area of 125,000 square kilometers, including the over 350 Islands of the Dahlak Archipelago.
Ecology and Environment
Eritrea’s economic future is inextricably linked to its environments. For this reason, many long term projects of research have been initiated realizing that people and their environment are much more mutually dependant than are in the more developed and industrialized countries. Eritrea is also signatory to the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
Although a population census is currently underway, no recent census of Eritrea’s population has been conducted and the precise number of inhabitants is not yet known, but is estimated to be 3.5 million.
There are nine languages in Eritrea; Tigrinya and Arabic are the working languages, English and Italian are also widely understood.
The whole population is divided between Christians and Muslims. The major Christian denomination is Coptic and there are also considerable number of Catholics and Protestants. In the Gash |Barka Region, Christianity and Islamism co-exist with animism. Some religious places are physically impressive, religiously significant, and important tourist attractions.
Harmonious relationships; Discover the unity in Diversity. The nine ethnic groups – nomads and pastoralists, fishers and farmers live in complete harmony and unity in Africa’s newest nation, building a brighter future for a stronger and modern Eritrea.