On this day in 1991, Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia after a 30-year long battle fought between the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front and the Ethiopian Army.
The multi-ethnic nation was an Italian colony (known as Italian Eritrea) from the 1800s to the early 1940s until the British took over after defeating the Italians at the Battle of Karen.
Eritrea was a British colony until 1952 when the British gave up control. That same year, the United Nations General Assembly passed a decree allowing Eritrea to govern itself through a local parliament.
However, Ethiopia was granted control over Eritrea with issues pertaining to defense and foreign affairs through a federal status for ten years. In 1962, Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia annexed Eritrea after annulling its parliament. This action instigated the 30-year Eritrean War of Independence which subsequently ended with the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front defeating Ethiopian forces in Asmara in 1991 with the country being declared an independent state in 1993.
To celebrate Eritrea’s Independence Day, Face2Face Africa shares with you seven interesting facts about the Horn of Africa nation.
Eritrea is a multilingual state. Its constitution established the “equality of all Eritrea languages”, meaning no language takes precedence over the other. English and Tigrinya are commonly used in conjunction with other languages such as Tig, Nara, Saho, Kunama, Bilen, Beja, Afar, and Arabic.
One president since independence
Isaias Afewerki has been the only president of the East African nation since independence. He was instrumental in the liberation of Ethiopia under the dictatorship of Mengistu Haile Mariam.
Afewerki does not subscribe to western-style democracy and in a 2008 interview with Al Jazeera, he said Eritrea will most likely have its election in the next four decades.
Eritrean women have long been freedom fighters
The women in the country have been on the battlefields with the men since 1810 AD. They fought in the Italian Wars and the civil war with Ethiopia alongside their men. Eritrea’s liberation movement had the highest percentage of women when compared to other groups, according to one account.
The capital, Asmara, is also known as Italy’s African City or New Rome
When Benito Mussolini ruled over Eritrea, he had intentions of turning Asmara into “Italy’s African City” or “New Rome.”
The town’s current architectural landscape mimics that of Rome. To date, more than 400 structures have an Italian architectural look including Cinema capitol, Keren Casa-del Fascio, Orthodox cathedral, and the villa in Decemhare, among others.
Endemic fish species
Eritrean waters house more than 14,000 known fish species and nearly 17% of them are endemic to the country. Thus, they cannot be found in any other water body outside Eritrea. The country is strategically positioned at the coastline of the Red Sea and the warm waters are a haven for rare fish species.
Its entire coastline is a protected environmental area
Eritrea is the first country in the world to turn its entire coast into an environmentally protected zone to “ensure balanced and sustainable development”. Eritrea’s coastline, which comes with a few fishing villages, includes coral reefs, 380-kilometers (257-miles) of mangrove forests, as well as nesting sites for turtles and 73 species of sea birds, a report said.
Eritrea has the second-highest number of archaeological sites and historical discoveries after Egypt. Initially, the number of sites was pegged at 45,000 but in recent times, the number has almost doubled to 80,000.