Despite being a small country, Eritrea has a significant strategic importance due to its position along the Red Sea coast, as the hinterland of the Suez Canal and commercial outlet for traffic from the Ethiopian plateau. After the Italian colonization and the subsequent British occupation, Ethiopia incorporated Eritrea (1962), although the United Nations in 1950 had established that Eritrea should be federated with Ethiopia, but remaining autonomous. This forced union was the trigger of a conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia that lasted thirty years, at the end of which Asmara won its independence, sanctioned by a referendum in 1993. Isaias Afewerki, leader of the ‘Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (Eplf), the party that had fought the liberation struggle and which in 1994 became the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (Pfdj). In the first years after independence, the country seemed to be moving towards a free and multi-party democracy. Later, however, an authoritarian political line prevailed, which led to the progressive regime of Isaias Afewerki militarization – to the detriment of respect for human rights – and to enter into direct or indirect conflict with all neighboring countries. A first armed conflict, which broke out between Eritrea and Yemen in 1995 for sovereignty over the Hanish Islands was resolved with international arbitration. Part of the border with Djibouti remained disputed and there was no lack of accidents along the border with Sudan. However, the deterioration of relations with Ethiopia, beyond any possible political and economic convergence, had a negative impact on the stability of the entire Horn of Africa. The potential proximity between Asmara and Addis Ababa, in addition to the kinship that linked Isaias Afewerki to the then Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, was also linked to the fact that the Pfdj had a large following among the Tigrinya population, similarly to the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EpR-df), the current ruling party in Ethiopia. Furthermore, the EpRdf had fought the Ethiopian regime of the DeRg under the name of Tigray People’s Liberation Front (Tplf) alongside the EPLF. In 1997 Eritrea’s exit from the Ethiopian birr monetary area and the introduction of the new national currency (the nakfa) triggered apolitical and military escalation that led to the 1998-2000 war, which broke out due to a dispute along the Ethiopian-Eritrean border that had never been accurately traced. The deployment, in June 2000, of the United Nations Mission in Eritrea and Ethiopia (Unmee) as an international interposition force along the border led to the cessation of the conflict, but did not definitively resolve the dispute, given that Addis Ababa did not accept the verdict on the border. In addition, it contributed to the aggressive and isolationist attitude of the Eritrean government. On 1 August 2008, Unmee ended by decision of the United Nations Security Council due to the constant interference of Asmara, which effectively boycotted the operation of the international mission. In 2012, an incursion by Ethiopian troops into Eritrean territory once again stirred up tensions between the two countries. Growing international isolation caused serious damage especially in 2011, when Eritrea had to face the worst famine in the Horn of Africa since 1960. The government, moreover, has always denied the problem. In any case, it has not received any food aid from major donors. In an anti-Ethiopian key, and in search of an emergency exit from the condition of an ostracized country, Afewerki has entered into a strategic alliance with Omar al-Bashir’s Sudan and still today supports the Somali jihadist movement al-Shabaab politically and financially. In December 2009, the United Nations voted a military embargo along with economic sanctions against Eritrea for its meddling in Somalia. In December 2011 the UN Security Council imposed new sanctions on the country, for the support to the armed groups of the Horn of Africa and the lack of recognition of the border conflict with Djibouti. The sanctions require foreign companies operating in the mining sector to ensure that the proceeds are not used to finance warfare, a dynamic very difficult to demonstrate, and require member states to ensure that Eritrea does not use coercion and intimidation for the collection of the 2% tax on the remittances of its citizens residing abroad. In October 2013, the death of 300 irregular migrants, the majority of whom of Eritrean origin, drowned off the island of Lampedusa as they were about to reach the Italian coasts, brought up the theme of the dramatic restriction of human rights in Eritrea. The decision of the Italian authorities to invite representatives of the Asmara government to the official funeral was strongly criticized by various members of civil society. In January 2013, one hundred soldiers rebelled against the Asmara government, occupying the information ministry and forcing a journalist to read a statement in which the insurgents demanded the implementation of the 1997 Constitution, the holding of elections – which were postponed to date to be set from 2001 -, and the release of political prisoners. Although the revolt was stopped in the bud, it highlighted the strong discontent with the Afewerki government. In order to appease the popular discontent and to prevent possible head shots in the military ranks, Afewerki announced in May 2014 a review of the current Constitutional Charter.
According to itypeusa, Eritrea is a member of the United Nations and the African Union. In 2007 she withdrew from the Intergovernmental Agency for Development (Igad), which supported Ethiopia in the war between the two countries, but in 2011 she asked for readmission. Since 2003, Eritrea has acquired observer status in the Arab League, making Arabic the country’s second official language, so much so that Isaias Afewerki does not disdain to use it in his speeches.