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Eritrea

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The flag and emblem of Eritrea are shown above.

A long Red Sea coastline gave this country its name centuries ago. The Romans called the sea Mare Rubrum, Red Sea; The Greeks called it Erythra Thalassa. Eritrea sounds like the greek, erithra. The Red Sea is one of four seas worldwide named for colors, the Red Sea, the Yellow Sea, the Black Sea and the White Sea. The origins of each of the names is somewhat obscure.

Farming in Eritrea and the surrounding areas had been well established “since at least 3000 BCE.”1 Over the next two thousand years small chiefdoms arose and apparently traded with Egypt, to whom this and region was known as ‘The Land of Punt’.2 Hunters and traders crossed from the Arabian peninsula during 6th century BCE,3 bringing skills in irrigation and terracing, intermingled and established a trading port at Adulis.4

The Colonial Era …

European interest in this southern Red Sea coastland rose with the completion of the Suez canal at the northern end of the same sea. A commercial port and a coaling station was established as soon as the canal was opened by Italian commercial interests. The interests of many nations, European, African and Asian competed until Italy formally established its control and named the colony Eritrea in 1889.

Italy extended their authority over Eritrea between 1887 and 1890.5

Italian Eritrea was combined with Somalia and Ethiopia as Italian East Africa in the days of Mussolini and the Italian Empire.

Italian occupied Eritrea and Somalia warred invaded Haile Selassie’s Ethiopia in 1935, occupying Addis Ababa in May 1936, but never the whole country.6

The British later expelled the Italians from Ethiopia and Eritrea, retaining Eritrea and Ogaden but returning Addis Ababa to Haile Selassie.7

The British expelled the Italians during the course of WW2 and continued to administrate the country until the post WW2 settlement was agreed upon. The Americans and British desired to see Eritrea ceded to its neighbor Ethiopia. The Soviet Union had other plans. Many Eritreans desired independence. In 1950, a federal structure with Ethiopia was enacted. Although independence was not gained, democratic institutions were; and soon political independence movements began to campaign for votes. In 1961 the political movement broke out into violence and Haile Selassie, king in Ethiopia, unilaterally dissolved the Eritrean parliament and annexed the entire land into Ethiopia.

Through the next 30 years and successive governments, Eritreans struggled on. In 1993 after a military victory in which they took the capital of Ethiopia, an overwhelming vote for independence was acknowledged by all and Eritrea, as a country, entered the United Nations as an independent county. It has been reported that no real elections have occurred since.

Following WW2, the Muslims wished complete independence; whereas Ethiopia, seeing an opportunity for a coastal access, wished to own Eritrea.  Britain, seeking favor with Ethiopia acquiesced to the Ethiopian desire and in 1952, Eritrea became a self-governing state within an Ethiopian federation.  In 1962, Haile Selassie annexed Eritrea, eliminating any semblance of self-governing.8

Independence movements began among the Muslims with Marxist ideologies.9

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Footnotes

  1. Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, Third Edition, (Palgrave MacMillan), page(s) 76
  2. Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, Third Edition, (Palgrave MacMillan), page(s) 76
  3. Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, Third Edition, (Palgrave MacMillan), page(s) 76
  4. Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, Third
    Edition, (Palgrave MacMillan), page(s) 77
  5. Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, Third Edition,
    (Palgrave MacMillan), page(s) 295
  6. Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, Third Edition,
    (Palgrave MacMillan), page(s) 381
  7. Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, Third
    Edition, (Palgrave MacMillan), page(s) 383
  8. Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, Third Edition, (Palgrave MacMillan), page(s) 400
  9. Kevin Shillington, History of Africa, Third Edition, (Palgrave MacMillan), page(s) 400