What motivated the Eritrean separatist movement?

What motivated the Eritrean separatist movement?

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The Eritrean War for Independence was a bloody 30-year war fought between Eritrean separatists and Ethiopia (under various administrations) from 1961 to 1991. I understand that the conflict was triggered by Ethiopia annexing Eritrea (they had been joined in federation per UN decree since 1952), but I still don't understand the root of Eritrean discontent with Ethiopian rule. What Ethiopian policies or actions motivated the Eritrean separatists to begin their armed struggle?

Eritrea had been a separate state for a long time and has a distant proud history. Ethiopia could not have forced federation upon Eritrea without the intervention of the UN (principally USA and GB). Eritrea was not consulted.

"In 1962 Ethiopia formally annexed Eritrea, dissolved the Eritrean Assembly and placed the country under what was effectively military rule." Again Eritrea were not given a chance to argue their case.

I took the quote and this information mostly from "The Bradt Travel Guide to Ethiopia", pages 33 onwards, by Philip Briggs, 3rd edition published 2002 and suggest this could be a good starting point.

I have been reading newspaper reports on this subject, just out of interest, for about thirty years so you could try some newspaper archives next.

Annual Report: Eritrea 2013

National service conscription was compulsory and frequently extended indefinitely. Military training for children remained compulsory. Conscripts were used as forced labour. Thousands of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners continued to be arbitrarily detained in appalling conditions. Torture and other ill-treatment were common. No opposition parties, independent media or civil society organizations were permitted. Only four religions were sanctioned by the state all others were banned and their followers arrested and detained. Eritreans continued to flee the country in large numbers.


The humanitarian situation in the country was reported to be serious and the economy remained stagnant. However, the mining sector continued to develop, with foreign governments and private companies interested in Eritrea&rsquos significant deposits of gold, potash and copper, despite a risk of complicity in human rights violations through the use of forced labour at mining sites.

The Ethiopian army conducted military incursions into Eritrea twice in March, announcing successful attacks on camps where they claimed Ethiopian rebel groups trained. Ethiopia blamed Eritrea for backing a rebel group that attacked a group of European tourists in Ethiopia in January (see Ethiopia entry). The group which claimed responsibility for the incident said it had no camps in Eritrea.

In July, the UN Human Rights Council appointed a Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, in response to &ldquothe continued widespread and systematic violations of human rights&hellip by the Eritrean authorities.&rdquo The Eritrean government dismissed the appointment as politically motivated.

In July, the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea reported that Eritrea&rsquos support for al-Shabab in Somalia had declined, but that Eritrea continued to harbour armed opposition groups from neighbouring countries, especially Ethiopia. The report also found that Eritrean officials were involved in trafficking of weapons and human beings.

Around the middle of the year, reports indicated that the government was distributing guns to the civilian population, for unknown reasons.

Prisoners of conscience and political prisoners

Thousands of prisoners of conscience and political prisoners remained in arbitrary detention in appalling conditions. They included politicians, journalists and religious practitioners. They also included people caught trying to evade national service, flee the country or move around the country without a permit. Some prisoners of conscience had been detained without charge for over a decade.

High profile prisoners were not permitted visitors and in most cases their families did not know their location or health status. The government continued to refuse to confirm or deny reports that a number of prisoners had died in detention.

  • It was reported that three journalists &ndash Dawit Habtemichael, Mattewos Habteab and Sahle Tsegazab &ndash all arbitrarily detained since their arrest in 2001, had died in detention in recent years. The government did not confirm these reports.

Freedom of religion or belief

Only members of permitted faiths &ndash the Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Lutheran Churches, and Islam &ndash were allowed to practice. Members of banned faiths continued to be arrested, arbitrarily detained and ill-treated.

  • In April, 10 Jehovah&rsquos Witnesses were arrested in Keren, in connection with their attendance at a funeral. At the end of the year, 56 Jehovah&rsquos Witnesses were reported to be imprisoned for practising their faith.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Torture and other ill-treatment of prisoners were widespread. Prisoners were beaten, tied in painful positions and left in extreme weather conditions, and held in solitary confinement for long periods. Conditions in detention amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Many detainees were held in metal shipping containers or underground cells, often in desert locations, where they were exposed to extremes of heat and cold. Detainees received inadequate food and water. They were frequently denied &ndash or provided with only inadequate &ndash medical care.

  • Journalist Yirgalem Fisseha Mebrahtu, arrested in February 2009, was reportedly admitted to hospital in January, under permanent guard and with no visitors permitted. Her family was not told why she had been admitted.
  • Petros Solomon, a former Foreign Minister and one of the G15 group &ndash 11 high-profile politicians detained arbitrarily since 2001 &ndash was reportedly hospitalized in July due to a serious illness. However, adequate medical care was unavailable in Eritrea. His fate remained unknown.

A number of deaths in custody were reported.

  • In August, Yohannes Haile, a Jehovah&rsquos Witness detained since September 2008, reportedly died at Me&rsquoeter prison from the effects of extreme heat after being confined underground since October 2011. Three others detained with him were reportedly in critical condition. Their fate remained unknown.

Military conscription

National service remained compulsory for all adult men and women. All schoolchildren were required to complete their final year of secondary education at Sawa military training camp, a policy which affected children as young as 15. At Sawa, children suffered poor conditions and harsh punishments for infractions.

The initial national service period of 18 months was frequently extended indefinitely, on minimal salaries that were inadequate to meet families&rsquo essential needs. Conscripts continued to be used widely as forced labour in state projects, including agricultural production, or in private companies owned by military or ruling party elites. They faced harsh penalties for evasion, including arbitrary detention and ill-treatment.

Refugees and asylum-seekers

Thousands of Eritreans fled the country during the year, mainly to evade indefinite national service. A &ldquoshoot to kill&rdquo policy remained in place for those caught attempting to cross into Ethiopia. People caught crossing into Sudan were arbitrarily detained and severely beaten. Family members of those who fled successfully were forced to pay fines or risk imprisonment.

Eritrean asylum-seekers forcibly returned faced a serious risk of arbitrary detention and torture. Despite this, several countries including Egypt, Sudan, Sweden, Ukraine and the UK, planned or carried out forced returns to Eritrea.

  • On 24 July, Sudan forcibly returned nine asylum-seekers and one refugee to Eritrea. They had been convicted of unlawful entry by a Sudanese court.

Trafficking in human beings

The July report of the UN Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group stated that Eritrean officials, including senior military officials, presided over weapons smuggling and people trafficking through criminal networks in Sudan and the Sinai, Egypt. According to the report, the scale of activity suggested the complicity of the Eritrean government.


Most separatist ideologies or movements are complex amalgams of political, ethnic/racial, religious, and socioeconomic separatisms. Only rarely does one find any of these distinct forms of separatism in their pure form. Political separatism represents contestation over the design and control of political systems and their constituent institutions. Mobilized political ideologies are paramount. This was the case of monarchist, socialist, and liberal-democratic separatist movements that seized power in provincial governments and mobilized military forces to unsuccessfully contest the Bolshevik takeover of Russia ’ s central government in November 1917. The central element of the separatist movements that later galvanized the disintegration of the Soviet Union was anti-communism. The latter enabled the coming together of pro-democracy and nationalist movements that had few reasons to join forces otherwise. Russia ’ s first elected president, Boris Yeltsin, mobilized a distinctly anti-Soviet separatist movement advocating secession from Soviet institutions, such as the Communist Party, the KGB (the security and intelligence organization of the Soviet Union), and the state planning agency.

Ethnic, racial, and religious separatism presupposes claims for enhanced status, autonomy, or independence of individual ethnic, racial, or religious groups from the state or a larger group. At the center of ethnic/racial movements are claims to cultural and/or linguistic distinctiveness and privilege (as in Quebec, Basque Country, and Corsica). Religious separatist movements arise within major religions (Catholic-Protestant conflict in Northern Island, Shiite-Sunni conflict in Iraq) or across major religions (Hindu-Muslim conflict over Kashmir, Islam-Christianity distinctions in Bosnia). In their most extreme form these movements claim the need to ensure physical survival of an entire ethnic/racial and/or religious group (Abkhazia, Chechnya, Xingjiang). Separatism of ethnic, racial, and religious minorities may also take a form of resistance to discrimination, oppression, forced resettlement, ethnic cleansing, or mass extermination initiated against them by the politically dominant ethnic or racial groups within a state (i.e., those who control the army, police, security forces, mercenaries, and paramilitaries). In the latter instances, separatist conflicts become particularly intense, brutal, and protracted as action-retaliation patterns escalate, become intractable, and constrain conflict resolution efforts by third parties within or outside the state. One of the prominent empirical questions in social sciences is to what extent the intensity of separatist movements depends on whether ethnic, linguistic, religious, and other identity cleavages in a society are cross-cutting (India) or overlapping (Russia). Economic separatism, on the other hand, is typified by the slogan of the American colonists seeking independence from the British Empire — “ no taxation without representation ” — but when economic interests are predominant, separatist movements are more likely to end in bargains with central authorities rather than in state disintegration.

Book Talk: The History of The USA in Eritrea

Join a virtual discussion about the newly released by “The History of The USA in Eritrea: From Franklin D Roosevelt To Barack Obama And How Donald Trump Changed The Course Of History” with author Amanuel Biedemariam moderated by IPS Events Coordinator and Pan-Africanist organizer Netfa Freeman.

The History of The USA in Eritrea discusses what led to US involvement in Eritrea after World War II. In length, it details, the why, the how, the people behind the moves, and what motivated US actions in Eritrea. It explores what happened in Eritrea at the beginning of the Cold War, during the end of the European Colonial era in Africa, and discusses the role of the US in post-WWII Africa. It examines the legacy and the impact of US foreign policy after the Cold War how the Clinton administration shaped the US approach, the results, and how it impacted the US’s global standing on its competition against foreign adversaries, especially China today. It unveils US history in Eritrea from various vantage points. This is a subject matter very little written about. It is written by someone who grew up feeling the repercussions of US actions in the region.

Netfa and Amanuel will also address the recent conflict in Ethiopia and what it means for the Horn of Africa and geopolitics of the region.

Independence Movements and Their Aftermath: Evaluating the Likelihood of Success

The success of an independence movement is never preordained. Not only is independence itself an improbable endeavor in most cases, but the quality of that independence—whether most people are better off or worse off—varies considerably. Elements outside the movement’s control, including historical context, great power actors, or unpredictable events, are often the most important factors in determining its success.

  • Independence movements cannot manufacture many of the most important conditions that contribute to their success, but they can seize upon opportune moments.
  • Several important factors are well within the control of an independence movement, but they often fail to develop.
  • By analyzing a range of domestic, regional, and international factors in a holistic manner, policymakers can better predict how successful a state founded by a self-determination movement is likely to be after it gains independence.


Americans, especially in the twenty-first century, tend to underestimate the perils associated with changes in government. The American Revolution was an unlikely triumph. The independence movement simmered for less than a decade before war broke out, and the war lasted less than a decade, too. The yield was a heterogeneous republican polity that had little precedent, but that became a global model in the following centuries. The U.S. Civil War was a bloody, wrenching conflict, but a one-time event. The outcome produced a union with enough local autonomy to prove resilient, even if it encountered pockets of intolerance. The nation that arose from the Civil War grew into a global economic and military powerhouse, and no violent transfer of political power has ever followed.

Hundreds of other independence movements around the world have not fared as well. Conflicts have dragged on for decades, sometimes precipitating massacres and forced migrations. If they ever yielded governments, those governments were often unsteady and subject to constant threats from within and without. Economies lurched from crisis to crisis, police and courts emerged as antagonists in society rather than arbiters, and security remained fleeting. These independence movements do not achieve stability instead, they contribute to instability, and the population suffers. The worst emerged as failed states, with their hard-fought autonomy under threat from a loose amalgam of fiefdoms and foreign proxies that, collectively, impose some kind of order. It is not a fate many would seek, but it is all too common.

Considering Independence

To maximize the potential for a good outcome, populations and leaderships considering independence should explore two things in depth. The first is a fair assessment of what independence is likely to yield. Revolutionaries and secessionists promise they will deliver everything that the population currently enjoys, and more. In practice, merely maintaining current levels of wealth and security is difficult for new governments, even in impoverished and insecure places. With expectations raised by advocates of independence in the pre-independence period, the challenge of meeting public demands can swiftly turn into a political crisis for a new entity and can devolve into scapegoating of political opponents. Things can quickly spiral downward from there.

A clear-eyed assessment of the unalterable aspects of the new state—the size and composition of the population, the geography and geology of the land, water availability, resources, and a host of other factors—is vital. Those characteristics will cast a long shadow over the chances of a new and independent state. While a cadre of activists in any population will be determined to pursue independence, it is important that some portion of the aspiring polity continually evaluate the wisdom of the act, comparing its outcome to various levels of autonomy and levels of independence that do not sever ties of sovereignty.

Merely maintaining current levels of wealth and security is difficult for new governments, even in impoverished and insecure places.

Even if that results in a conclusion that independence remains desirable, a second task is necessary: understanding the circumstances that make it most likely that independence will produce positive results. Movements rarely can determine the moment that independence is reached, but they can exert strong influence over the context in which it occurs. Allies can be won over, and skeptics reassured. Economies can be developed, domestic institutions can be built, and internal rifts can be healed. If independence comes too swiftly, important elements may not be in place, imperiling the project. With planning, success is not assured, but chances for success can be enhanced significantly.

A member of a Kurdish Peshmerga battalion shows his ink-stained finger after casting his vote in the Kurdish independence referendum at a polling station in Arbil on September 25, 2017.
Source: SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images

Evaluating the Context

Several aspects of the context seem to have a significant effect on the success of post-independence societies. The first is the international environment. While small independence movements cannot shape the international environment, they can judge its general contours. Is there a wave of interest in self-determination, or acceptance of self-determination, or a broader concern with faltering sovereignty? In the Balkans, for example, the breakup of Yugoslavia created an expectation that new states would arise, and questions were all about how many would arise and when. The normal resistance of states to the rise of new states was in abeyance.

South Ossetia and Abkhazia, aspiring breakaway republics from Georgia, have been unable to join a historic wave. In addition, they have relied heavily on a single international patron—Russia—and incurred the opposition of all Western countries as well as virtually all the other states in the world. In this instance, the obstacle was not global solidarity with the state from which they sought to secede, Georgia, but rather wariness about the chief advocate of their independence, Russia. The absence of broad international support—and the presence of narrow international support—is consequential.

International attitudes toward statehood can change, both in general and in specific cases. For example, the United States and Australia were united for many years in their opposition to independence for East Timor, and that greatly inhibited chances for Timorese independence. The end of the Cold War diminished U.S. opposition, and in time, the United States helped to bring Australia around to supporting independence. This was a change in the very broad international context that Timorese did not influence but upon which they could capitalize. Bangladesh’s independence was spurred by a more intricate dance—Pakistan’s assistance to President Nixon’s opening to China brought the United States and Pakistan closer, alarming Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who feared Pakistan might displace India as the most powerful nation on the subcontinent. To counter Pakistan’s rise, Gandhi drew closer to the Soviet Union, and she stepped up Indian support for Bangladeshi separatism. In this case, it was not greater U.S. support that spurred the independence movement, but instead a neighbor’s alarm at U.S. diplomacy.

While small independence movements cannot shape the international environment, they can judge its general contours.

It is not just states that matter. Broad international support and multilateral organizations can play a vital role in the early years of state-building, having a dramatically positive effect on the process. For example, in Kosovo and Timor-Leste, sustained UN support was critical to the new states’ success. Money, training, and security assistance all played a key role, both in early days and in the years that follow. In the current international environment, support of a similar scale, intensity, and duration seems unlikely for fledgling states. Donor coordination, when possible, can be a large multiplier for new states receiving aid. In South Sudan, donors’ competing aims and requirements posed a significant challenge for the new government.

Finally, beyond the state, diasporas can play a significant role. In some cases, such as Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s, diaspora support for combatants can prolong conflict and reward more violent elements of an opposition movement. While some see diasporas hastening independence in that circumstance, they also boost the fortunes of armed groups that may handicap a peaceful post-conflict environment. Post-independence, diasporas can be an important source of funding for new states. Jews around the world have poured money into Palestine and then Israel for more than a century, and donations currently run at billions of dollars per year 1 the Eritrean diaspora is a critical source of national revenue and continues to shape in significant measure the economy and politics of the country. It does not always work out that way. The Palestinian expatriate community has been relatively reluctant to invest in Palestine even after the Oslo Accords seemed to pave the way to statehood. 2

The second important piece of the context is the regional environment. Some new states have supportive states on their borders (even if the state from which they are seeking to break away resists independence). India, for example, strongly supported Bangladeshi independence and was vital to its success. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi gave safe haven to Awami League separatists from Bengal, helped mediate rifts within the Bangladesh independence movement, and established a joint military command with separatists. In Eritrea, the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) gained power almost simultaneously with a new government taking power in Addis Ababa, and the new Ethiopian government was actually supportive of Eritrean independence from Ethiopia. In fact, Ethiopia was the first state to recognize Eritrea after its independence referendum.

Having positive relations with a neighbor does more than just allow those agitating for independence easy access to a safe zone, although that is important. Warm relations also allow for the development of trade and investment ties that can boost the new economy. The opposite is true as well. While many factors contributed to the misery of South Sudan, the profound weakness of the new country’s economy (both in overall output as well as its dependence on oil revenues, which were diverted to enrich a tiny few) was among the most important. So, too, was the immediate dispute with Sudan about oil revenues, which created the new country’s first economic crisis.

On the other side, threatened states may seek to play the role of spoilers. In Timor-Leste, for example, militia groups operating from Indonesia were a sustained challenge. Serbia’s military tried to prevent an independent Kosovo from emerging, and only the intervention NATO forces made independence possible. In Eritrea, relations with Ethiopia initially were warm, providing a positive environment for success. Those relations deteriorated six years after independence and dissolved into a conflict that set Eritrea on a path to authoritarianism.

The third element is the economic context. Populations of new states often have high expectations for services the new government will provide (perhaps none so much as in South Sudan, where an immiserated population had wholly unrealistic expectations of a strong and immediate economic boost after independence). Managing those expectations, and delivering economic welfare, requires advanced skills from new governments, and those skills are as much political as they are economic.

If well managed, natural resources can provide a crucial source of wealth for a new government. For example, Timorese leaders recognized the need to manage with great caution the oil wealth they inherited. They swiftly enlisted Norwegian experts, who provided valuable guidance. But natural resources can also be a curse, often engendering corruption and creating economic distortions that can inhibit the growth of the labor force.

Managing [citizens’ economic] expectations and delivering economic welfare requires advanced skills from new governments, and those skills are as much political as they are economic.

Corruption is endemic in any society but can be especially corrosive in fragile new countries. War economies produce opportunities for profiteering, so countries that emerge out of warfare have especially difficult times stamping out corruption. The large international presence in both Kosovo and Timor-Leste did not prevent corruption but helped limit its extent. South Sudan swiftly fell victim to corruption, and the entrenchment of that corruption continues to fuel conflict to this day.

Finally, industries can often be developed with independence, and that can have a dramatically positive impact on conditions. For example, Bangladesh moved quickly to improve its investment climate after an initial economic disaster, and the country’s vibrant garment industry is a product of very deliberate policy choices by a relatively new government.

The fourth element is the political context. Often but not always, a political party championed independence and has dominance in the immediate aftermath. This was true, for example, of the Awami League in Bangladesh and the EPLF in Eritrea. In those cases, it can be difficult to adapt to more pluralistic governance. In South Sudan, politics already were deeply polarized by the time of independence. Continued conflict has increased that polarization. Where military forces played a key role, as they did in Bangladesh, it can be difficult to transition to genuine civilian rule. Indeed, in Bangladesh, a brief period of civilian rule led to a series of coups that left the army in charge.

South Sudanese civilians flee fighting in a United Nations base in the northeastern town of Malakal on February 18, 2016, where gunmen opened fire on civilians.
Source: JUSTIN LYNCH/AFP/Getty Images

The politics that emerge are, in part, a function of the quality of the leadership that new governments have, which is the fifth element. Charismatic leaders can both rally populations to the new state and unify them. Leaders with good diplomatic skills can build crucial support for the new state with neighboring countries, with donor nations, and with international institutions. José Ramos-Horta, for example, was a principal East Timorese diplomat from the age of 25. He later won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts and served as Timor-Leste’s foreign minister, prime minister, and president, building both domestic and international support that proved vital to his country’s success. The repressive turn of Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki and the spiraling corruption around President Salva Kiir in South Sudan have dealt a blow to both countries. Bangladesh has a somewhat mixed record. Independence brought in a charismatic leader, Sheikh Mujib, who turned more authoritarian when the economy weakened. His assassination in 1975 led to more than a decade of military rule, which was finally displaced by a popular movement.

Charismatic leaders can both rally populations to the new state and unify them.

The sixth element pertains to the quality and capacity of the new state’s institutions. Below the leader, new governments do not come to power with equal capacity. Some inherit institutions, a skilled bureaucracy, and a skilled workforce. In Timor-Leste, severe violence triggered a devastating brain drain, yet a number of Timorese bureaucrats played important roles in the new state’s administration. In Bangladesh, many senior government officials returned to West Pakistan after independence, leaving relatively junior officials to cope with awesome responsibilities, contributing to economic problems that plagued Bangladesh upon independence, but providing a basis for stabilization in years that followed.

Bangladeshi residents take part in a parade to mark the country's 45th Victory Day in Dhaka on December 16, 2016.
Source: MUNIR UZ ZAMAN/AFP/Getty Images

The seventh element is the security context. When new states come to power through armed struggle, it may be difficult to demilitarize the society. Armed groups that participated in the fight for independence may seek to increase their share of power in the aftermath. Elements that opposed independence in the first place, often with the support of the rump state, may not go quietly. The Balkans have particularly struggled with this challenge, but they are in no way unique. Military officers sought power in Bangladesh soon after independence and controlled the country for decades afterward. Eritrea was relatively successful in making the transition from a long-running insurgency to an independent civil state, but the eruption of a border war with Ethiopia five years after independence put Eritrean politics into an authoritarian tailspin from which they have still not recovered. Singapore was expelled from Malaysia but benefited from the British military presence for the first six years of its independence. While there was considerable fear of unrest due to economic dislocation, the United Kingdom’s interest in supporting order in Singapore was a significant security asset. On the purely domestic side, poor security can exacerbate political polarization, as it has done in South Sudan.

The last piece of the context is a bucket of social issues . In many new states, a large part of the population believes that it shares a heritage and a history. Shared histories of repression and common grievances were critical in uniting and mobilizing communities in Bangladesh, Eritrea, Kosovo, South Sudan, and Timor-Leste. And yet a shared history of repression is not sufficient. Social unity in a new state is important and is often dependent on how well the new state deals with minorities and with how well these minorities deal with the new state. The western Balkans, in particular, are shot through with minority communities, often with ties to surrounding states. Balkan case studies are a particularly rich vein to mine to understand how national identity can be built, and the different political outcomes in Bosnia, Macedonia, and Kosovo are, in part, a reflection of how each government has dealt with its minority communities. They present cautionary tales not to be too generous nor too miserly.

Shared histories of repression and common grievances were critical in uniting and mobilizing communities in Bangladesh, Eritrea, Kosovo, South Sudan, and Timor-Leste. And yet a shared history of repression is not sufficient.

While it is hard to quantify the cultural legacy that new countries bring to their independence struggles, it surely has a role. Some communities cherish their images as warriors, others as traders and entrepreneurs. These ideas surely imprint themselves on the new state. On the more local level, customary practices of dispute resolution at the village level proved a boon to Timor-Leste’s reconciliation efforts, providing an important asset on which the new nation could build.

The “Hiding Hand”

Albert O. Hirschman famously observed the utility of the “hiding hand” in development projects. Referring to three schemes that had an especially bumpy start, he argued,

If the project planners had known in advance all the difficulties and troubles that were lying in store for the project, they probably never would have touched it . . . [and] in some, though not all of these cases advance knowledge of these difficulties would therefore have been unfortunate, for the difficulties and the ensuing search for solutions set in motion a train of events which not only rescued the project, but often made it particularly valuable. 3

Self-determination movements are far more complex than mere economic development projects. They have multiple vectors of success, from political to economic to social to security, and they almost by definition take place in a fraught environment.

There is a utility in the “hiding hand,” or, seen alternatively, the willingness to pursue independence even when success is not guaranteed. That is different than pursuing independence regardless of conditions, whether in the aspiring independent entity itself or globally. The level of success we should expect from independence movements is not random. There are things that movements can do to improve their chances. Chances are only that, though. Nothing guarantees success, and events inevitably take their own course.

In a follow-up to Hirschman’s study almost 50 years later, two prominent professors analyzed more than 2,000 projects. They found that a hiding hand was often at work, but that planners overestimated the benefits of projects more than they underestimated the costs. 4 Particularly striking is their assertion that cost overruns are common, but “benefits overruns” are rare. There are many incentives to overpromise results. There are fewer reliable pathways to deliver them.

Several remarkably successful independence movements have inspired the world, and a few quite unsuccessful ones have distressed it. The success of any movement is never foreordained.

The level of success we should expect from independence movements is not random.

Each movement is, as in the memorable title of one book on the American independence movement, “a leap in the dark.” 5 But two things seem clear. The first is that the single most important determinative factor in the success of any independence movement is often beyond the control of such a movement. It has to do with the historical context, with great power actors, or with unpredictable events that emerge on the scene. Movements can capitalize on these moments, but they cannot manufacture them. The second is that a whole host of important factors are well within the control of such a movement, but movements do not always seek to act on many of them. Activists become so convinced in the justness of their cause that they do not do everything they might to increase its likelihood of success.

It is all a gamble, but shrewd gamblers do what they can to improve their odds.

Jon Alterman is senior vice president, Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy, and director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

This brief is taken from the forthcoming book, Jon Alterman and Will Todman (eds.) Independence Movements and Their Aftermath: Self-Determination and the Struggle for Success (Washington: CSIS, 2019) .

The author is grateful to the CSIS Brzezinski Institute on Geostrategy for its generous support of this study and to CSIS Trustee Fred Khosravi for his intellectual guidance and financial support.

CSIS Briefs are produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).

© 2019 by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. All rights reserved.

End the war on Africans: The truth about Eritrea and Ethiopia’s brutal regimes

What took place in San Francisco on March 26, 2021, when hundreds of Eritrean and Ethiopian pro-regime supporters took to the streets, should be condemned for what it was – a reactionary, fascist mobilization no different than white supremacists storming the streets with chants to “make America great again.” There is no coincidence that there were several signs that read “make Ethiopia great again” at this rally.

Last week’s counterrevolutionary rally was trying to propagate the lie that Ethiopian dictator Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean dictator Isaias Afwerki are defeating terrorists – or, as KPFA reporter and writer for Black Agenda Report Ann Garrison recklessly claims, that they are “restoring law and order.”

Ann writes: “Ethiopians and Eritreans from all over Northern California rallied for peace and for the sovereignty and self-determination of their home countries.” This is gross, lazy analysis and flat-out dangerous reporting on the genocidal crisis happening in Ethiopia.

The people who rallied in support of two warmongers are in no way a representation of the views held by oppressed people within these nations. Eritrean PFDJ-ites are pro-Isaias regime supporters who won’t admit the truth about Eritrean suffering, who rallied with Ethiopian nationalists, who have no solidarity with oppressed indigenous struggles for sovereignty and self-determination of the Oromo, Ogaden or Afar people within the empire, who champion the war in Tigray – they do not care about freedom.

Contrary to what many have been taught about Ethiopia being the pinnacle of anti-colonial struggle and “the only country to successfully resist colonialism,” Ethiopia’s history is, in reality, one of feudal monarchs and neocolonial stooges committing violent genocide on the indigenous peoples.

Did the Eritrean people wage a war against Ethiopian colonists just for the unelected dictator of Eritrea to align himself with the corrupt Ethiopian government and send our people to die helping Ethiopia crush other people’s struggle for sovereignty and autonomy?

I hope my people’s sacrifice and struggle was not in vain. My ancestors fought for a Free Eritrea, not an Eritrea where the youth are forced into indefinite military conscription to be cheap slave labor for multinational corporations and cannon fodder in the ruling class’ wars.

If I was born in Eritrea, I would have been forced under the orders of dictator Isaias to ally and help support the same Ethiopian colonial troops who killed most of my family and displaced them from their ancestral land.

Those that refused to fight and kill their brothers and sisters on the battlefield are murdered. I find it disturbing that American journalists who are not affected by proxy wars, ethnically motivated massacres or land grabs are so adamant about championing a war that is sending many of my people off against their will as cannon fodder.

The poor, oppressed people of Eritrea have suffered greatly at the hands of dictator Isaias Afwerki. Like I stated to Malik Washington of the Bay View: It is one of the world’s least known repressive regimes. Eritrea is the most censored country in Africa and has one government-controlled media station. It is also one of the poorest and largest refugee-producing nations per capita in the world.

All youth are forced into indefinite military conscription and trained at the SAWA Defense Training Center, where they are taught that other poor Africans are their enemies and undergo a MAGA-style indoctrination to Isaias, who has been in power since independence 30 years ago.

Dictator Isaias Afwerki is a stooge for imperialism – more aligned with the interests of capitalism than the poor, struggling masses of Eritreans. Just investigate how much money Isaias has in Swiss bank accounts: Isaias personally profits from the exploitation of the Eritrean masses.

Today, thousands rot in containers in the middle of deserts for their faith and political beliefs. Where is Ciham Ali, disappeared by the Eritrean government at just 15?

What PFDJ pro-regime supporters don’t want the world to know is that there is a mass exodus out of our homeland. More than 5,000 fled Eritrea every month – and that was before the war!

Eritreans who try to escape for a better life drown at sea, are abducted by human traffickers, are abused and raped in refugee camps in neighboring countries and are routinely caught and tortured to death by the Eritrean government.

Today, thousands rot in containers in the middle of deserts for their faith and political beliefs. Where is Ciham Ali, disappeared by the Eritrean government at just 15?

Imagine a government so cruel it imprisons a child to punish their father for defecting from the military. Ciham turned 24 today, and her parents haven’t heard from her since her abduction!

Where are the thousands of frontline guerillas and political activists who have been disappeared by the Eritrean government? Where are the journalists and members of G15 and those who questioned Isaias’ power-hungry antics from the start?

Pay attention to the oppressed people of Eritrea saying #Yiakl or “Enough!” Isaias must go! We deserve peace and to work towards the truly socialist, free Eritrea that our martyrs, like my uncle Tesfay, died struggling for!

At this so-called peaceful protest, I was hit, grabbed, shoved, told I was a disgrace to my family, told to be happy about my people’s turmoil, old men threatened to beat me – they shouted “agame” and “woyane,” as if a city name and Tigrigna word that translates to “revolution” are derogatory slurs.

I was told I was not a real Eritrean by Ethiopian chauvinists for condemning a government that has many of my family members living in exile. While I counter-protested alongside them yelling “down, down Isaias, down, down Abiy!” I was called a terrorist and accused of being paid by the “terrorist junta” nonstop.

How can you take people seriously who label whole groups of people as terrorists? Let’s not forget: Racist, white Amerikkka calls BLM a terrorist organization. The victims in this war are not terrorists, they are defenseless people!

“Restoring law and order,” as Ann writes in her article about what is going on in Ethiopia, is a white supremacist justification for repressing exploited, subjugated people. Law and order enforced by our enemies has always resulted in our doom.

Pay attention to the armed struggle being waged by the Oromo Liberation Army against the Ethiopian empire. The same people at the rally yelling “Amhara genocide” were saying that Oromo Liberation Army is a terrorist organization. They are trying to play victim and are not even attempting to hold the corrupt Ethiopian state accountable.

There’s an old African proverb: “Until the lion learns to write, every story will glorify the hunter.”

The OLA does not commit war crimes. They don’t go slaughtering innocent defenseless people, like Ethiopian national defense troops do to defenseless Oromos. Guerilla movements to free the land are motivated by selfless love for the people, unlike the hate that motivates colonial troops, like Ethiopian National Defense Force, to maintain their empire.

For centuries, the Oromo people, indigenous to one of the richest lands on earth, have resisted and been the victims of brutal slave trade, exploitation, massacres, land grabbing, mass unemployment, repression and discrimination at the hands of the Ethiopian Abyssinian empire.

The poor, colonized masses of the world must pay attention and raise awareness to the anti-colonial armed struggle being waged by these heroic fighters – for defeating imperialists anywhere in the world means another limb of the capitalist global stranglehold is cut off!

Abiy Ahmed and Isaias Afwerki must be held accountable for their crimes against humanity. Take heed, white journalists – whatever your intention may have been, politically uninformed reporting is dangerous! Insinuating that people are lying about their families getting killed is disgusting.

The numerous times Ann Garrison has tweeted that the “alleged genocide is being pushed as a state department excuse for imperial aggression in the horn of Africa” is time she could have spent actually researching the disturbing testimonies of survivors in Tigray and Oromia.

Makes me think of the old African proverb: “Until the lion learns to write, every story will glorify the hunter.”

Down with neocolonialism! Down with imperialism! Down with capitalism! Down with the financial predators preying on the people! Long live the African revolution! Africa will be free!

Dina Tesfay is a Pan-African organizer and writer from the Bay Area dreaming of and building towards a United Socialist Africa. She can be reached via Instagram @youthaftertruth.

The Emergence of Political Parties in Eritrea, 1941–1950*

In May 1941, after the Italians' capitulation, the British immediately took over the administration of Eritrea for the duration of the war and until an international body could decide the former colony's future. From 1941 to 1950, the political direction of Eritrea remained uncertain until the U.N. commission reached its compromise solution. Ultimately, the Ethiopian Government contravened the U.N. agreement and unilaterally annexed Eritrea in 1962, which set in motion the present struggle for independence.

The British Military Administration, acting as an interim government, attempted with moderate success to create an atmosphere in which all people of Eritrea might have the maximum voice in determining their political future. From the end of the war through the arrival of the U.N. commission in February 1950, there was a flurry of political activity. Although initially five political parties were formed, which in time became splintered and re-emerged as other parties, two main groups could be distinguished along geographical boundaries: the lowlands versus the highlands, separatist Muslims versus irredentist Christians. The historical suspicion and aloofness between Orthodox and Muslims continued to divide Eritrean loyalties. Affiliation, however, with one or another political party was not observed strictly on geographical or religious grounds. A small number of educated Orthodox saw no advantage in Eritrea's incorporation into Ethiopia and thus formed a pocket of Christian separatists who would have undoubtedly obtained greater allegiance had not the Orthodox priesthood threatened excommunication for anyone not espousing the Unionist cause. On the other hand a small nucleus of Muslims, mostly chiefs and landed aristocracy, favored union with the government in Addis Ababa, for their feudalistic hold on the large number of Tigrai serfs (numbering three-fifths of all Muslims in Eritrea) would have been retained under Ethiopian rule.

By the end of 1946, there was widespread but unorganized anti-unionist sentiment elections held in 1947 by the Four Power Commission showed that a small majority of all Eritreans opposed union. The anti-Unionist cause profited from Ethiopia's intimidation and terrorist interference, which was largely counter-productive moreover, the irredentist argument failed to convince most Muslims and some Orthodox that Eritrea would prosper under the aegis of one of Africa's least developed countries. It seems clear that terrorism and intimidation were largely Unionist tactics and that the anti-Unionist campaign became popular not so much because of Italian contributions (which were far less than those of the Ethiopian Government to its irredentist cause) but rather because of the grass-roots nature of the Muslim movement.

Unfortunately, the future of Eritrea after two commissions and voluminous reports was decided in the international arena which failed to satisfy either side, but rather planted the seeds for future conflict.

Title: A Very Ethiopian Tragedy: Tigray, the TPLF, and Cyclical History

This article seeks to place the recent conflict in Ethiopia in deeper historical context. It traces the roots of Tigray province’s identity through various phases in Ethiopia’s history, and argues that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is the culmination of decades, even centuries, of a struggle for status within the Ethiopian nation-state. The article proposes that Ethiopia’s history, inseparable from that of neighboring Eritrea, is characterized by cyclical shifts in access to power, as well as conflicts over inclusivity and cohesion, and that crushing the TPLF militarily will not resolve those conflicts.

The recent eruption of conflict in Tigray, Ethiopia’s northernmost province, is a deeply worrying development for Ethiopia itself as well as for the wider region. The launching of military operations by the Ethiopian Government against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) has led to intense fighting, the killing of civilians, and an exodus of refugees into Sudan. The TPLF has conducted missile attacks on Amhara province as well as on Asmara, the capital of neighboring Eritrea, in response to the Government’s offensive. The escalation has now brought Eritrea into play, rendering this an international conflict rather than simply a local one, and one which will therefore be all the more difficult to resolve. This is not a region unaccustomed to bitter conflict: in the last two decades alone, there has been a devastating war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, ongoing violence in Somalia, low-level insurgency in the predominantly Somali Ogaden province, and mounting street protests across Ethiopia. Yet the crisis in Tigray is particularly menacing.

It is also a distinctively Ethiopian tragedy, and one which has been brewing for several years. The immediate context is the coming to power of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in April 2018, and the political reforms which he immediately initiated. He sought a more liberal approach to protest, notably on the part of the Oromo, and released thousands of political prisoners. He made peace with Eritrea, signing a deal which formally ended the conflict – long in a state of standoff – in July 2018. That in itself was greeted with hostility to at least some in the TPLF but above all, Abiy’s liberal reforms, anti-corruption drive, and ambition to create a more unitary political movement all involved the marginalization of the TPLF, once the dominant faction in the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) which had been in power in Ethiopia since 1991. In December 2019, the EPRDF was abolished and replaced by the Prosperity Party, which the TPLF declined to join. Their political journey had come full circle. Any attempt to understand, let alone resolve, the current crisis must involve an exploration of the region’s deeper history.

That journey had begun in the western lowlands of Tigray in February 1975, when the TPLF was established as one of a number of insurgent movements in the turmoil which characterized the aftermath of Emperor Haile Selassie’s ouster. In the years that followed, the new military government in Addis Ababa – the Marxist and authoritarian Derg (‘committee’) regime, supported by the Soviet Union – consolidated and sought to brutally crush dissent, armed or otherwise. The Derg was responsible for tens of thousands of deaths, but it singularly failed to suppress the multiple insurgencies, whether in Eritrea, the Ogaden, or among the Oromo – or in Tigray, where the TPLF overcame early military setbacks to become one of the most successful and dynamic of the regional liberation fronts in the course of the 1980s. By the late 1980s, the TPLF had defeated the Derg forces in a number of engagements, and had become the dominant partner in the EPRDF, the coalition of guerrilla movements which would overthrow the Derg in 1991.

Yet the TPLF was not solely the manifestation of the revolutionary politics of the 1970s and 1980s, although its leadership was in part the product of the student radicalism of the era. The TPLF, and the ethno-nationalism which underpinned it, was the outcome of decades of marginalization and impoverishment within imperial Ethiopia. Tigrayan nationalism may have been driven and articulated by a new generation, but operated in the shadow of the 1943 rebellion in Tigray against Haile Selassie’s rule which had been violently suppressed – with the help of the British. The same feelings of resentment and hostility toward Amhara domination of the state had led, a few years earlier, to some of the local nobility’s cooperation with the Italians when the latter invaded in 1935, and occupying administrative roles during the brief Fascist occupation. Plenty of Tigrayans resisted the Italians, too but that cannot be understood as a legitimization of the Amhara state. From the perspective of the Amhara, the narrative was strengthened that ‘the north’ was not to be trusted that its politics were venal and uncouth and that whatever historic glories Tigray could lay claim to were long gone.

Those glories were indeed manifold. Tigray was historically and culturally of enormous significance in the very formation of Ethiopia as an empire-state over the course of several centuries – in its Christian culture, its military contribution, and its commercial importance. Although they had much in common, and shared interests, Tigrinya (the predominant ethnic group in Tigray) and Amhara vied for control of the state. It was the latter who became increasingly hegemonic from their base in Shoa province, and who dominated the sacred lineage that was the Solomonic monarchy. Thus, modern Ethiopia was shaped by struggles – often regionally rooted and increasingly ethnically demarcated – over access to political and material resources, and over the control and indeed the very definition of ‘Ethiopia.’ The inward migration of the Oromo from the south into the central highlands in the course of the sixteenth century further complicated those struggles. Only briefly, between 1872 and 1889, did the seat of power return to Tigray – under the Tigrayan Emperor Yohannes IV who, for all the TPLF’s revolutionary zeal, would occupy a powerful place in the Tigrayan nationalist imagination for decades to come. When he was killed fighting the Mahdists in Sudan, the imperial throne was seized by Menelik II, ruler of Shoa, who built Addis Ababa as his capital. The return of power to the Amhara would contribute to the sense that Tigray was denied its rightful inheritance.

The history and travails of Tigray cannot be understood without reference to neighboring Eritrea – or more specifically the Tigrinya of the central Eritrea plateau, linked culturally and linguistically to Tigray. The peoples of the area which would become Eritrea had long been on the edges of the Ethiopian imperium, alternately associating with or resisting it, occupying a liminal space between power blocs in the Ethiopian Highlands and on the Red Sea coast. In the late nineteenth century, Eritrea became an Italian colony, and thus ensued a century of increasingly complex and ambiguous relations between Tigrinya peoples on either side of the border. By the time that Eritrea was annexed by Haile Selassie in 1962, an armed struggle in the territory had already begun. In the course of the 1970s, this was dominated by the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), which in many ways had common cause with the TPLF in their respective struggles against the Derg, but which had important differences in ideology, military tactics, and the very definition of nationality the two movements severed all contact in the mid-1980s. The TPLF recognized the EPLF’s right to fight for the independence of Eritrea, while the TPLF itself resolved to be in the vanguard of the liberation of the whole of Ethiopia from the authoritarianism of the Derg the movements renewed a tactical alliance in the late 1980s, and together overthrew the Derg, with Eritrea becoming independent. However, profound tensions remained beneath the civility of post-liberation diplomacy and the new era which that supposedly heralded. The TPLF perceived in their Eritrean counterparts a dangerous hubris bordering on contempt for all others, while the EPLF saw in the TPLF a movement they had helped create – the former had initially helped to train TPLF fighters – and one which therefore should allow them some political and military influence in a much weakened Ethiopia.

It did not work out that way. As a result of relatively minor squabbles over the border, TPLF-led Ethiopia went to war with EPLF-led Eritrea in 1998. Over the next two years, tens of thousands of soldiers were killed, and Eritrea survived as an independent state – but was much the worse for wear. Ethiopia weathered the storm, and under the TPLF the country advanced into the twenty-first century with increasing GDP growth rates, political confidence, and – occasional criticisms over its record on human rights notwithstanding – serious regional and global clout. Eritrea withdrew into a brooding, solipsistic militarism.

Until 2018, that is – when fresh-faced, charismatic, and (most importantly) non-TPLF Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed reached out the hand of friendship and signed a peace agreement with President Isaias Afeworki. For Afeworki, no doubt, there were a number of incentives, including Ethiopian recognition of Eritrea’s remaining border claims, the opening of bilateral trade with Ethiopia, the promise of joint investment projects, and the hope that the peace agreement might lead to the lifting of UN sanctions on Eritrea. But one more opportunity to crush the TPLF was unquestionably among them.

Ethiopia has long been defined by cycles of inter-provincial and inter-ethnic struggle for national and regional hegemony, and by episodically shifting centers and peripheries. The TPLF now finds itself on the margins once more. But Ethiopian history demonstrates the dangers – and indeed the futilities – of attempting to crush local dissent utterly and to suppress ethnic identities of seeking to marginalize and demonize particular communities to the advantage of others. Ethnic balance and internal cohesion have eluded modern Ethiopia. Abiy’s strategy toward Tigray, and the TPLF’s own behavior, seem set to ensure that that remains the case. All parties would do well to refresh themselves on the country’s past, both recent and deep, and arrive at the only sensible way forward – to seek consensus and reconciliation to build a political system that is genuinely inclusive and representative and to make sure that Eritrea, which should not be granted a stake in Ethiopia’s internal affairs, no more than Ethiopia should have one in Eritrea’s, is kept at arm’s length.

Richard Reid is Professor of African History at the University of Oxford. He has published extensively on the Horn of Africa, and his books include Frontiers of Violence in North-East Africa: Genealogies of Conflict since 1800 (Oxford University Press, 2011) and Shallow Graves: A Memoir of the Ethiopia-Eritrea War (Hurst, 2020).

Beyond Catalonia: Separatist movements in Western Europe

Catalonia's regional government plans to hold its independence referendum on Sunday. But separatist movements are not unique to Spain: Several other European regions have aspirations of becoming autonomous.

The fall of the Soviet Union and break up of Yugoslavia created several new countries in Eastern Europe. Borders in Western Europe, by contrast, have remained firm. Yet, this foundation is being challenged by a series of independence movements, some of which are militant. They have varying chances of success.

Nowhere in Western Europe is the call for independence louder than in Catalonia. The regional language was oppressed in the Franco years, but Catalonia has since achieved a considerable amount of cultural and political autonomy, including its own regional parliament. That is not enough for many of Catalonia's 7.5 million residents. They want their own country, largely for economic reasons. They believe that the central state is sucking their wealth dry. The region that includes Barcelona accounts for 20 percent of Spain's GDP.

Catalonians take to the streets, calling for independence and waving 'Estelada' flags

On Sunday, the regional government wants to have a referendum. Spain's conservative government led by Mariano Rajoy is firmly against it, calling it unconstitutional. The central government in Madrid is trying to block the referendum through the courts and by using police force.

Basque Country

Catalonia looks to its Spanish neighbors in Basque Country. It is the only region in Spain that does not send its tax revenue to Madrid to be shared across the country. Basque Country is responsible for its own taxation, sending just a small amount to the central government. However, it is a poorer region than Catalonia.

Graffiti supporting the militant Basque separatist movement, ETA, in Spain

Like Catalonia, Basque Country was also oppressed by the Franco dictatorship. Its history has created a more militant push for independence, giving rise to ETA separatist group, which killed more than 800 people in 50 years of attacks. In 2011, the organization declared an end to violence.

Neither attacks nor talks have brought Basque Country closer to independence: Madrid rejects the idea as it does for Catalonia.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (left) believes that Scotland should not be forced to leave the EU after Brexit

Scotland has been part of the United Kingdom for more than 300 years, and many Scots have been less than happy about that. They already have their own parliament, and the Scottish National Party (SNP) has been pushing for full independence. The referendum in 2014 failed to achieve that, however, but independence sentiments were again stoked by the Brexit result in 2016. Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (SNP) reasoned that her country, which voted largely to remain in the EU, should not be forced to automatically leave the EU along with the rest of the UK. She is floating the possibility of another referendum for 2018, when the details of Brexit are clearer. But opinion polls show the result would likely be the same as in 2014.

The pro-independence leader of the New Flemish Alliance, Bart De Wever, leads Belgium's current Chamber of Representatives. Wever is convinced Belgium will one day break up and his Flemish-speaking Flanders region would be economically better off without the country's other region, majority French-speaking Wallonia.

Bart De Wever, leader of the right-wing NVA party, wants Flanders to break away from Belgium

If that were to happen, there would be little of Belgium left: It would lose more than half of its people and economy, calling into question Brussels' status as EU capital and NATO headquarters, as well as the future of Wallonia. The leftover Belgian region could then be absorbed by France, Luxembourg or even Germany. At the moment, however, there are no immediate plans for a Belgian break up.

The secession movement in northern Italy is purely financially motivated. The region is Italy's industrial powerhouse and banking center, producing most of Italy's GDP. Many in the north feel their poorer compatriots to the south make off with their hard-earned money. The Lega Nord party in the 1990s wanted a complete split from the rest of the Italy, calling their region "Padania,” referring to the Po river valley. Since then, the focus has shifted away from a clean break and towards more control over finances.

Separatists movements in Europe

South Tyrol

Even further north in Italy is the region that belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the end of the First World War. There followed a period where South Tyrol was Italianized under Mussolini, before gradually gaining more political and linguistic autonomy after the Second World War. Now the prosperous region is allowed to keep and control most of its revenue.

South Tyroleans were largely satisfied with this arrangement, but separatist sentiments were stirred up by the debt crisis. After Greece, Italy has the highest amount of debt in the Eurozone. Many in South Tyrol didn't want to have anything to do with the problems of Italy's central government in Rome.

France has long tried to deny the island of its local language and fought strongly against independence movements. The National Liberation Front of Corsica (FLNC) tried to pressure France by force, attacking representatives and French state symbols. The separatist group announced an end to hostilities in 2014, but the potential for conflict remains. French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin made some cautious proposals in the 2000s to allow for some autonomy. This was strictly opposed by the opposition. They feared other regions would then want to break away, too. The central government in Paris tends to pay little regard to regional languages, which are viewed as a danger to national unity.


Official name: State of Eritrea

Internet country code: .er

Flag description: Red isosceles triangle (based on the hoist side) dividing the flag into two right triangles the upper triangle is green, the lower one is blue a gold wreath encircling a gold olive branch is centered on the hoist side of the red triangle

National emblem: Camel

Geographical description: Eastern Africa, bordering the Red Sea, between Djibouti and Sudan

Total area: 48,000 sq. mi. (125,000 sq. km.)

Climate: Hot, dry desert strip along Red Sea coast cooler and wetter in the central highlands (heaviest rainfall June to September) semiarid in western hills and lowlands

Nationality: noun: Eritrean(s) adjective: Eritrean

Population: 4,906,585 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: Tigrigna 50%, Tigre and Kunama 40%, Afar 4%, Saho (Red Sea coast dwellers) 3%, other 3%

Languages spoken: Afar, Arabic, Tigre and Kunama, Tigrigna, other Cushitic languages

Religions: Sunni Muslim 50%, Orthodox Christian 30%, Roman Catholic 13%, other (including Protestant, Sev­enth-Day Adventist, Jehovah&rsquos Witness, Buddhist, Hindu, and Baha&rsquoi) less than 5%, indigenous religions 2%