Until independence was achieved in 1993, Eritrea belonged to neighboring Ethiopia. Around 400 BC immigrants from southern Arabia settled in the Horn of Africa. In the 2nd century AD Eritrea became part of the Ethiopian kingdom of Aksum, in the 4th century Coptic Christianity became the state religion. After the dissolution of the kingdom, which successfully defended itself against the onslaught of Islam, Eritrea as well as Ethiopia came under the dominance of the Christian Amharas. In the 16th century, with the help of Portuguese troops, the Ethiopian Empire was able to defend itself against the advancing Ottomans (Turks). The coastal area of Eritrea was occupied by the Ottomans and fiercely fought over by Ethiopians, Turks and Egyptians over the next few centuries.
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In the 19th century, the area of today’s Eritrea was a sought-after destination for the European colonial powers, primarily due to its strategically important location on the Red Sea. In 1881, Italian troops occupied the coast and declared the entire country an Italian colony. In 1934, Italian troops advanced from Eritrea to Ethiopia and occupied the country. For a short time it belongs to Italian East Africa together with Ethiopia and Somaliland.
After Italy’s defeat in World War II, the area of what is now Eritrea was put under British administration. From 1945 to 1952 it was a United Nations trust area. In the early 1950s, the United Nations decided to link Eritrea to Ethiopia as an autonomous province. According to AbbreviationFinder, contrary to the resistance of the Eritrean population, the country became part of the Ethiopian Empire in 1952. In 1962, the Ethiopian leadership canceled autonomous status and Eritrea was annexed to Ethiopia as an Ethiopian province.
In the early 1960s, resistance to Ethiopian domination began to form. Two groups led the military struggle for freedom: the “Eritrean Liberation Front” (ELF), which was founded in 1961, and from 1970 the Marxist-oriented “Eritrean People’s Liberation Front “(EPLF), both of which fought for the country’s independence. A large number of military clashes between the Eritrean guerrillas and the Ethiopian government troops took place in the following two decades, which cost many lives. In 1987 the Ethiopian leadership granted Eritrea the status of an autonomous region (the monarchy had been replaced by a provisional military government since the mid-1970s). The Eritrean independence movement continued its struggle.
In 1991, the EPLF associations had taken control of almost the entire area of Eritrea and northern Ethiopia. In May 1991, the EPLF and TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) troops invaded the Ethiopian capital and overthrew the military regime. Transitional governments were formed in both Ethiopia and Eritrea. The Republic of Eritrea became officially independent two years later after the overwhelming majority of the population spoke out in favor of detaching from Ethiopia. Asmara became the country’s capital. The country’s first president and head of government was Isayas Afewerki, who had been elected by the EPLF’s Central Committee. In July 1993 a political, economic and cultural cooperation agreement was signed with Ethiopia. As a result of the secession of Eritrea,
The supply situation of the population at this time was more than desolate: around half a million refugees from the war who came back from Sudan were added to the consequences of the war. The reintegration of the former liberation fighters into civilian life was also difficult. The Eritrean government tried to use them to rebuild the country. Attempts by radical Islamists who wanted to bring about the overthrow of the predominantly Christian government also led to domestic political tensions (Christians and Muslims in Eritrea, for example, are balanced).
The former People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) was renamed the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) in early 1994, and is still the ruling party today. A constitution for Eritrea was started in the middle of the same year.
In 1995, foreign policy tensions arose once with Sudan, which was accused of supporting radical Islamists in Eritrea (on the other hand, Eritrea openly supported the Sudanese opposition), and with South Arab Yemen around the Hanish Islands in the Red Sea, on which Oil deposits were suspected. (A ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague in December 1999 led to the division of the Hanish Islands between the two countries. The ruling was recognized by both states.)
A slow reconstruction of the country, which had been badly damaged by the war, started in Eritrea in the 1990s. The Afewerki government attached great importance to getting by without foreign aid where possible, which could lead the young state into a new dependency. This linked hope not only to employ as many Eritreans as possible, but also to create a national identity within the country’s nine ethnic groups. The government continues to examine foreign aid offers closely.
The drafted constitution was presented in May 1997 but has not yet entered into force. A multi-party system and free elections were planned, which have not yet been carried out. In the same year, Eritrea introduced its own currency, thereby ending the monetary union with Ethiopia. When Ethiopia then banned the import of the new currency into its own country and boycotted the Eritrean ports, there were serious price increases and food shortages in Eritrea. Half a year later, border disputes between the two countries led to an open conflict. Despite negotiated ceasefire agreements, fighting continued until June 2000. A 25 km wide security zone along the border and a UN peacekeeping force should now permanently secure peace.A peace treaty was signed by both sides in October 2000; in April 2002, both governments recognized the new border course set by the Permanent Court of Arbitration for the settlement of international conflicts in The Hague as “final and binding”. Ethiopia has now withdrawn its approval, so that there is currently a tense and uncertain peace between the two countries.
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The relationship with Djibouti was disrupted after Eritrean troops crossed the border in July 2008. Eritrea has since withdrawn its troops, but a final solution is still pending.
Domestically, the situation is extremely restrictive: political opponents and religious minorities are being persecuted, freedom of the press does not exist. The opposition, which largely operates from abroad, is at odds and widely discredited within Eritrea because of its cooperation with Ethiopia.