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A country in north-eastern Africa, on the Red Sea.


Eritrea consists of a narrow coastal low-lying area and rises towards the Ethiopian plateau in the south. It is very hot and arid.


The economy was badly affected by the war of independence. Agricultural products include sorghum and livestock is raised. There are textile and footwear industries.


In 1869 Italy purchased the coastal town of Assab, and in 1885 began the occupation of the rest of Eritrea, which it declared a colony in 1889. It was from here that the Italians launched their disastrous campaign against Ethiopia in 1896, ending in their defeat at Adowa. Under British military administration (1941–52), a plan to join the Muslim west with the Sudan and the Christian centre with Ethiopia failed. Instead, the United Nations voted to make Eritrea a federal area subject to Ethiopia. In 1962 Emperor Haile Selassie declared it a province of Ethiopia and the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) then emerged, seeking secession. Fierce fighting between the EPLF and the Ethiopian regime continued through the 1980s, in spite of drought and famine. In February 1990 the EPLF captured Massawa, and in 1991, in an alliance with the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) and the Tigray People's Liberation Front, the EPLF defeated the Ethiopian government's forces. A transitional Eritrean government was set up by the EPLF and a referendum was held in 1993. Independence was approved by the referendum and was achieved later that year. An intermittent border war was fought with Ethiopia between 1998 and 2000.

Source: MAPS IN MINUTES™ © RH Publications (1997)




117,400 sq km (45,300 sq miles)


4,670,000 (2005)


1 nafka = 100 cents


Christian (mostly Ethiopian Orthodox) 50.5%; Muslim 44.7%

Ethnic Groups:

Tigrinya 51.8%; Tigré 17.9%; Afar 8.1%; Saho 4.3%; Kunama 4.1%


Arabic; Tigrinya; Tigré; minority languages

International Organizations:

UN; AU; Non-Aligned Movement

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