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Saturday, July 2, 2011

COUNTRY #184: Eritrea

Welcome country #184:



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Eritrea was awarded to Ethiopia in 1952 as part of a federation. Ethiopia's annexation of Eritrea as a province 10 years later sparked a 30-year struggle for independence that ended in 1991 with Eritrean rebels defeating governmental forces; independence was overwhelmingly approved in a 1993 referendum. A two-and-a-half-year border war with Ethiopia that erupted in 1998 ended under UN auspices in December 2000. Eritrea hosted a UN peacekeeping operation that monitored a 25 km-wide Temporary Security Zone (TSZ) on the border with Ethiopia. Eritrea's denial of fuel to the mission caused the UN to withdraw the mission and terminate its mandate 31 July 2008. An international commission, organized to resolve the border dispute, posted its findings in 2002. However, both parties have been unable to reach agreement on implementing the decision. On 30 November 2007, the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission remotely demarcated the border by coordinates and dissolved itself, leaving Ethiopia still occupying several tracts of disputed territory, including the town of Badme. Eritrea accepted the EEBC's "virtual demarcation" decision and called on Ethiopia to remove its troops from the TSZ which it states is Eritrean territory. Ethiopia has not accepted the virtual demarcation decision.
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Eritrea is an enigma.  It is a country, but maybe not, for Ethiopia is still trying to figure out if independence was, indeed, given.  The country is ethnically and religiously diverse, with more than 50% Christians, maybe.  Their human rights record is poor and  Reporters Without Borders ranks the country at 178 out of 178 for press freedom, worse than North Korea at 177.  In 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton chastised the country for supplying arms to Somalia. They have had wars with their neighbors, including Yemen.
Their capital, Asmara, is like an Italian film lot.  From colonial architecture to archeological sites (they have been linked historically with Egypt and Italy), this a gem waiting to be polished.  Want to go there?  There is a Sheraton resort in Asmara.  Today, though, check with the State Department.  From  earthquakes to volcanic activity to terrorism, it would probably be smart to wait a while.


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