Bordered by Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti, it occupies a strategic area in the Horn of Africa but remains one of the most secretive states in the world.
Tensions with Ethiopia remain high across a closed and heavily fortified border. The perceived threat of war is said to have been used by the government to clamp down on society.
Eritrea is a one-party state, and its 1997 constitution – which provided for the existence of multi-party politics – has never been fully implemented. Military conscription is mandatory and indefinite, according to Amnesty International.
Prolonged periods of conflict and severe drought have adversely affected Eritrea‘s agriculture-based economy and it remains one of the poorest countries in Africa.
In a damning report into human rights abuses, the UN accused the government of crimes against humanity. By UN estimates, hundreds of thousands of Eritreans have fled the country in recent years, making the perilous journey across the Sahara and the Mediterranean to Europe.
- THE STATE OF ERITREA
- Capital: Asmara
- Population 5.6 million
- Area 117,400 sq km (45,300 sq miles)
- Major languages Tigrinya, Tigre, Arabic, English
- Major religions Islam, Christianity
- Life expectancy 60 years (men), 64 years (women)
- Currency Nakfa