Eritrea (ER)

Capital

Asmara

Population

5.6 million

Constitution

One party state headed by president 

Head of state

President Isaias Afwerki

National Day

May 24th

Eritrea's Ambassador to the UK

H.E Mr Estifanos Habtemariam Ghebreyesus

The Embassy of the State of Eritrea, 96 White Lion Street, London N1 9PF

The UK's ambassador to Eritrea

H.E Mr Alisadair Walker 

The British Embassy, 66-68 Mariam Ghimbi Street,  Zip Code 174, PO Box 5584, Asmara, Eritrea

Eritrea is a country in east Africa with an extensive coastline on the Red Sea, which borders Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south and Djibouti in the southwest. It also comprises the Dahlak Archipelago and several of the smaller Hanish islands.

A hard history

Eritrea has suffered periods of drought as well as conflict, particularly with neighbouring Ethiopia. Both have adversely affected Eritrea’s agricultural economy. It is one of the poorest countries in Africa. It is a highly militarised one-party state.

Conflict with Ethiopia

Eritrea’s last 60 years have been marked by first annexation by and then conflict with its giant Ethiopian neighbour. In 1941, British troops ended more than 50 years of colonisation by Italy.  In 1952, the UN General Assembly established Eritrea as autonomous region within Ethiopia, but a decade later, Addis Ababa annexed its smaller northern neighbour, giving the hitherto landlocked giant a Red Sea coastline.

The annexation led inevitably to an insurgency which came to an end in 1991 when the Eritrean People’s liberation Front won the war of independence by capturing the capital Asmara. A year-long border conflict with Ethiopia erupted in 1998 and a formal declaration of war between the 2 neighbours only came to a formal end in 2018. Continuing tension with Ethiopia has always been cited as the reason for the militarised nature of the government.

Independence

In 1991, Eritreans voted formally for independence, but presidential elections planned for 1997 did not take place nor was a democratic constitution ratified in the same year implemented. President Isaias Afwerki has ruled Eritrea since its formal independence of 1993 and his people’s Front for Democracy is the only political party. There is no free or independent press to speak of.

Conflict in Tigray

In December 2020, the US State Department called for Eritrea to withdraw its troops from Ethiopia where they were reported to be assisting Addis Ababa in its conflict against rebels in the northern Ethiopian province of Tigray. In September 2021, US President Joe Biden signed an executive order authorising new sanctions on Eritrean and Ethiopian government officials following reports of atrocities committed by troops from both African nations in Tigray.

 

Key dates

615 AD
Islam arrives in Eritrea
1500s
Ottoman Turks establish garrison at Massawa on Red Sea
1890
Italy formally annexes Eritrea
1941
British troops occupy Eritrea
1952
United Nations agrees to make Eritrea a part of a federated Ethiopia
1958
Eritrean Liberation Front is formed
1962
Ethiopia annexes Eritrea, which soon leads to insurgency by Eritrean rebels
1967
WAR WITH ETHIOPIA: Full scale guerrilla war is underway for Eritrean independence from Ethiopia
1970
ELF SPLIT/BIRTH OF EPLF: The Eritrean Liberation Front splits, and the Eritrean People's Liberation Front emerges, calling for a social revolution
1974
ETHIOPIAN COUP: Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie is overthrown in a military coup. A military junta led by Mengistu Haile Mariam seizes power.
1991
Eritrean People's Liberation Front captures capital Asmara and forms government
May 1994
MENGISTU FALLS WITH EPLF AID: After capturing Asmara, the EPLF helps Ethiopian rebel forces depose Mengistu's military junta in Ethiopia
April 1993
INDEPENDENCE: Eritreans vote overwhelmingly for independence and an independent Eritrea gains international recognition
1998-2000
War with Ethiopia leaves 70,000 dead
2008-2010
DJIBOUTI CONFLICT: Border conflict with Djibouti, principally over the disputed Ras Doumeira border area. Both sides resolve dispute peacefully in 2010
DEC' 2020
TIGRAY CONFLICT: Reports claim that Eritrea has entered the conflict with Tigray, which it borders to the south, on the side of Ethiopia's government
APRIL 2021
TIGRAY: Eritrea confirms that its troops are fighting alongside Ethiopian the Tigray conflict
Sept' 2021
US SANCTIONS: US President Joe Biden signed an executive order authorising new sanctions on Eritrean and Ethiopian government officials following reports of atrocities committed by troops from both African nations in Tigray