Eritrea, an hermit country
after twenty years of independence
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Eritrea is nearly 100 000 sq km country, it was part of Ethiopia until 1993 when the country became officially (after a referendum) independent after about 30 years of civil war. Nearly in constant war until 2000, Eritrea is nowadays almost cut off from the rest of the world, and as a result, has strained diplomatic relations with nearly all its neighbours. Land locked since the independence of Eritrea, Addis Ababa has strong interests in keeping a safe port access through Djibouti or Eritrea, but the former country has been gaining more and more importance for Ethiopia since the relations with Eritrea are at their lowest.
President Issaias Afeworki, a military man, became more authoritarian after the 1997 new constitution, which was never applied. The regime makes the Eritrean diaspora pay, willy-nilly, for its expenses, and overall military expenditures, (Eritrean army is twice as large as Ethiopian army while Eritrea counts with 5.4 millions inhabitants and Ethiopia with 90 millions).
After the first major conflict of the independent Eritrea with Yemen for the very strategic Hanish islands, the war between 1998 and 2000 against Ethiopia was iniciated by Asmara in order to annex northern Tigray while Ethiopia was disorganized, but Ethiopian politicians succeeded in unifying the public opinion to repel Eritrean attacks, and the conflict got stuck until the peace agreement. The stake of this conflict was the delimitation of the common border (about 1000km), and the two countries still carry on a dispute about a border city, Badme, even a UN commission has given it to Eritrea. Both countries suffered heavy losses (at least 80 000 for the two sides), with great variations between the different reckonings.
According to some observers, this conflict was used as a pretence by the Eritrean regime to restrain individual rights in Eritrea, and to crush political opposition.
In 2001, a purge took place after some members of the unique party (PFDJ) were arrested for openly calling for democratic reforms. It was the first dissidence since 1991 and as a result the regime quashed the few private media existing, banished or imprisoned political opponents.
In 2002, the opposition-in-exile got organised in Addis Abeba and created the Eritrean National Alliance with the end of Afeworki's regime as main goal.
|National flag since december 1995|
( 1/2, 1993 flag was 2/3 )
The foray of Eritran troops in 2008 in the border zone of Ras Doumeira in northern Djibouti provoked an encounter between the two countries. They have already been fighting in 1996 and 1999 for this region above the Bab el-Mandab strait. In 2010, Eritreans troops withdraw after Qatar mediation. In may 2009, Somali president Sharif Cheikh Ahmed accused Eritrea of financing and arming shabab insurgency, which was trying to overthrow him.
-From January 21, 2013 to January 22, 2013, a mutiny in the army led to a short occupation of the information ministry. They asked for political reforms.
-In may 9, 2013, Amnesty International declaimed against the fact at least "10 000" political prisoners are hold in the regime's jails in "unimaginably atrocious conditions". According to what the UN say, Eritrea has one of the worse balance sheet in terms of human rights, but Asmara rejected this "outrageous accusation".
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