Fred Onovwerosuoke, October 1999. All rights reserved.

ERITREA
The people, their music, their cultures.

Early History
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 identity.

The People
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 divisions.

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 religions.

Geography
Eritrea occupies a strategic position along the world’s 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.

 

Political Dateline
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.

Supplementary Sources:
www.eritrea.net; www.asmarino.com;
www.delinasolutions.com

 

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