Eritrea became an Italian colony in 1889 with aspirations to make it the heart of a Second Roman Empire in Africa, however Italian defeat by British forces there in 1941 during the Second World War, led it to become under British rule until such time as the Allies could determine its future with a British view that it should be ceded to Ethiopia as a thank-you for support during the conflict. In 1949 the country was made a United Nations trust territory under British administration until 1952 when the UN upheld the British view and decided to make Eritrea a federal component of Ethiopia despite Eritrea's plea to be granted self-determination and independence. Some degree of autonomy was guaranteed under the federation with Ethiopia, however the elements of democracy introduced before the plan was finalised where alien to an Ethiopia used to autocratic rule by its emperor and Haile Selassie of Ethiopia quickly moved to introduce censorship, forced Eritrea's elected chief executive to resign and began dismantling all vestiges of Eritrea as a separate country including banning the use if its flag.
Such actions horrified Eritreans, prompting the formation of the Eritrean Liberation Movement (ELM); a communist leaning body largely populated by Muslim nationalists residing in Sudan who sought to disrupt Ethiopian activity in Eritrea albeit by peaceful means. Selassie was having none of it and moved quickly to destroy the organisation, dissolving the Eritrean parliament and formally annexing Eritrea in 1962; an action that marked the beginning of a thirty year struggle for independence led by the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) a group who, unlike the ELM, saw Eritrea's future as only being secured by armed struggle. Such was the level of conflict that Selassie declared martial law in Eritrea in 1971 and sent in nearly half of his army to quell the uprising. This led to disputes about tactics within the ELF which soon fragmented along urban/rural, socialist/nationalist and Christian/Muslim lines with the formation of other liberation groups including the Popular Liberation Forces (PLF), The Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) and the Eritrean Liberation Front-Popular Liberation Front (ELF-PLF).
Salassie's overthrow in 1974 did nothing to help the situation but by 1977 the Eritrean People's Liberation Front were on the verge of driving Ethiopian forces out of Eritrea having seen Ethiopian forces largely confined to urban areas. However that year the Soviet Union began to back Ethiopia and provided them with military aid. Then, despite some initial successes, the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea became one of attrition with gains and losses being made by both side over the next few years. Matters took an unexpected turn at the end of the 1980s when the Soviets, under Mikhail Gorbachev, informed Ethiopia that it was withdrawing its support not least because its own economy was in a nose dive and the Soviet Union itself was falling apart. By 1990 the EPLF was in the ascendancy having captured the port of Massawa and, the following year, Asmara itself setting up a provisional government there. Matters came to a head in 1991 when Ethiopian troops faced heavy losses by Eritrea rebels and its own government fell. The United Nations stepped it and, with the backing of the new Ethiopian government, called for an independence referendum in Eritrea which was held in 1993 resulting in an overwhelming voted in favour. Eritrea Independence was secured on 27th April 1993 with the EPLF remodelling itself as a political party the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ). During the war Eritrea lost 50,000 men, women and children whilst Ethiopia lost 75,000 lives.
Eritrea Independence: Volunteer in Eritrea
Eritrea Independence: Eritrea History
Eritrea Independence: Child Sponsor Eritrea
Eritrea Independence: Eritrea Country Profile
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