General issues: Provisional government 1991-1993, Republic 1993-Present
Country name on general issues: Eritrea
Currency: 1 Birr = 100 Cent 1991-1997, 1 Nafka = 100 Cent 1997-Present
Population: 6 333 000 in 2013
Political history Eritrea
Eritrea is located in eastern Africa. The population consists of Afro-Asiatic peoples of which the Tigray and the Tigre are the largest population groups. In the mid 19th century, parts of the future Eritrea are – at least nominally – controlled by Egypt and Ethiopia. Also, parts are under the control of smaller polities such as the sultanate Raheita. In 1869, an Italian company purchases the town of Assab from the sultan of Raheita. The Italian presence is extended from 1880, and in 1890 Eritrea is formally proclaimed to be the colony of Italian Eritrea. The borders with Sudan, Ethiopia and the French Somali CoastThe current Djibouti. are defined through treaties signed between 1899 and 1902.
Italian Eritrea will, in 1936, be joined with Italian Ethiopia and Italian Somaliland to form Italian East Africa. As part of Italian East Africa Eritrea, is occupied, during WWII, by the British from 1941. In 1947, Eritrea is formally ceded by Italy by way of the peace treaty signed following the end of WWII. Several options for the future of Eritrea have been discussed – independence, division and federation with Ethiopia. The latter option is, in 1950, chosen by the United Nations and in 1952 the federation with Ethiopia is effectuated.
Ethiopia, in 1962, ends the federal structure – Eritrea becomes a province in the centralized governmental structure of Ethiopia. This sparks a war of independence that will last for three decades. After the fall of the Mengistu regime in Ethiopia, Eritrea gains de facto independence and a provisional government is set up. Under United Nations supervision a referendum is organized leading to de jure independence in 1993.
In 1993, the State of Eritrea is proclaimed – a presidential republic. From 1993 until the present day, Eritrea has been ruled as a one party state – the government increasingly controlling not only all aspects of society, but also the everyday life of the Eritreans. Personal freedom in Eritrea is considered by the United Nations to be lower than in any other country in the world. The all pervasive presence of the government has made many Eritreans flee the country.
Relations with neighboring countries have been tense – especially with Ethiopia. The borders as defined in the colonial era are not accepted by Eritrea. The tensions with Ethiopia in 1998 escalate into a border war that in 2000 ends in the status quo ante bellum. The borders between Eritrea and Ethiopia are still disputed.
The Eritrea economy is almost fully state controlled – few private companies exist. Subsistence agriculture employs 80% of the population. In terms of per capita GDP Eritrea ranks 221 out of 230 countries worldwide.
Postal history Eritrea
The first stamps used in Eritrea were the stamps used at the Egyptian and Italian offices that existed in Assab and Massawa. Stamps for Italian Eritrea have been issued from 1893. As Italian Eritrea becomes part of Italian East Africa, these issues are, from 1938, superseded by the issues for Italian East Africa. The British administration has issued stamps from 1941 to 1952 – first the general issues for the Middle East Forces and, from 1948, issues for specific use in Eritrea. From 1952, the stamps of Ethiopia have been used.
Independent Eritrea will issue stamps from 1991 – the first issues showing freedom fighters. In 1992, stamps were put on sale that were previously, in 1978, issued as propaganda labels – in 1992 the remaining stock of this issue was used up. Eritrea has, since independence, issued a limited number of stamps, many of which have themes of national interest, some being aimed at the thematic collectors market. In 2002 and 2003, many stamps have appeared on the market inscribed ‘Eritrea’ that have been declared by the Eritrean postal authorities to be illegal issues. All of these were aimed at the thematic collectors market.