©Fred Onovwerosuoke, October 1999. All
The people, their music, their cultures.
Between 1000 and 400 BC, a semitic group of people known as the Sabeans crossed the Red
Sea into the region known as present Eritrea, and intermingled with the Hamitic
inhabitants who had migrated from the northern Sudan. The Axumites perfected a written
language and maintained relations with the Byzantine Empire, Egypt, and the Arabs. After
the rise of Islam in the 7th Century, the Axumite kingdom became internationally isolated
as the Arabs gradually gained control of maritime trade in the Red Sea. From the 3rd
Century BC until 1869, the region known as Eritrea was controlled by various foreign
invaders such as the Funji Sultans of Sudan, the Egyptians, the Portugese and the Turks.
Later, it became a colony of Italy (1869-1890) and Britain (1890-1941), until it was
annexed by Ethiopia in 1962. Each of these foreign occupiers had a distinct impact on the
development of present day Eritrea as a nation and in the formation of an Eritrean
The people of Eritrea, are known as Eritreans. They are a resilient group of people who
thrive on hope and a deep tradition of comradeship among each other. The fact that most of
the population spent many years in the Diaspora or on the war front, has helped in
establishing a deep bond between them - a bond that trancends mere ethnic or religious
Population & Demography
1993 count estimates the population at 3,467,087. There are nine main ethnic groups: the
Bilen, Nara, Afar, Tigre, Kunama, Hadareb, Saho, Rashaida, and Tigrigna. Eritreans
strongly believe in a Supreme God, most people practise Christianity, Islam or other local
Eritrea occupies a strategic position along the worlds busiest shipping lines and
the Middle East oil fields, and is also an oasis of stability in the volatile regions of
the Horn of Africa. Eritrea retained its entire coast line along the Red Sea, upon its
independence on 27 April 1993. Eritrea is bordered to the North and West by Sudan; South
by Ethiopia; South-East by Djibouti and to the North -East by the Red Sea. Total land
boundary is about 1,630 km - 113 km with Djibouti; 912 km with Ethiopia and 605 km with
the Sudan. Total land area is 121,320 km sq. By comparison, Eritrea is slightly larger
than either England or the US State of Pennsylvania. Coast line by the Red Sea is 1,151
km; together with the Dahlack Archipe-lagos is 2,234 km.
1889- Eritrea defined as a Nation State/ colonised by Italy.
1941- World War II; Italy defeated in Africa, and Eritrea now colonized by
the British. 1952- Eritrea federated as an autonomous state with Ethiopia.
1961- The beginning of the Independence war by the ELF (the Eritrean Liberation Front).
1962- Ethiopia annexes Eritrea as it's 14th province.
1970- EPLF (Eritrean People's Liberation Front) formed.
1976-8 Liberation movements take control over most of the towns and countryside.
1991- Eritrea liberated from Ethiopia by the EPLF. Transitional govt. set up with
Secretary - General of the EPLF, Issaias Afwerki as leader.
1993- UN sponsored referendum for Independence of Eritrea held on APRIL 23rd - 25th. 99%
of the votes cast are pro Independence. On April 27th Eritrea becomes an Independent and
recognised nation. MAY 24 is proclaimed National Day in Eritrea.
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