Isaias Afwerki (Tigrinya: ኢሳይያስ ኣፈወርቅ), is the first President of the State of Eritrea a position he has held since 1993. He was born in February 1946 in Asmara from his mother Adanesh Berhe Senafe and father Afewerq Abraha from Adi Tanqua-Milash, District of Tembien, in the Province Tigray in Ethiopia. According to document, when he joined the struggle. Isaias' brothers are Listed as Amare, Erimias, Amanuel, Ephrem, Paulos,...Sisters are Nardos, Tsigereda and Ariam. It might surprise a lot of his young and unknowingly brainwashed followers (although there are Eritreans and Ethiopians that undoubtedly know this), but Isaias Afewerki is not directly Eritrean- his roots are from Tembien. Tembien is located in Central Tigray province. Isaias' grandfather, Abraha and his 4 years old son Afewerki migrated to the village of Tselot in the formerly known Hamasien province Eritrea. So even his father was not born in eritrea. As to why Abraha took little Afewerki and migrated to Eritrea is not clear. Some say Abraham did commit a murder and hence fled his village Tembien but others tell that it was common at that time that many migrated from Tigray to Eritrea for a better life. Abraha's family, like any other families who migrated to Tselot and in generally to Eritrea, are known by the nick name "Inda Arba'a" or "House of 40" in English. This name derives from the traditional Eritrean law which states that any foreigner must live and work (often as a shepherd or in a farm) for forty (40) years before he can be accepted as village member and rights as to own a land (tiesa) or marry a village women. All famillies naturalized in this way are named Inda Arba'a. Isaias' father Afewerki spent most of his time in Mekele (Tigray, Ethiopia) and in his native land Tembien (Tigray, Ethiopia), where he owned a coffee farm that was later nationalized by the Derg.. He used to return to Asmara some times though. But Abraha also left a son in Tigray Temben named Solomon. Solomon Abraha(Isaia's uncle) has never been to Eritrea, was very famous in Ethiopia. He was the governor of Wollo province in the time of èmperor' Haile Selasie. He owns villas in Adi-grat, Tigray. Isaias have no uncles and aunts in Eritrea. no other relatives either. even His mother is Half Eritrean.That means by the name of Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, which is half Eritrean is more closer to Eritrea than Isaias Afeworki. Isaias doesn't like the fact that his origin is not Eritrean. He never speaks of the topic and when some relatives came to visit him from Tigray in mid 90's, ordered them to vanish quickly from where they come and never saw their face. Amanuel his younger bother was mentally ill but used to warn people about Isaias as a kid was jealous and wouldn't let anyone sit in his chair. Amanuel used to warn saying "keep trusting Isaias he will show you all one day". Amanuel Afewerki paid with his life. Isaias' rumor service disseminated the news that Amanuel drowned trying to swim in the waters around Adi-sheka (near Beleza). Now let us see the three most important and key positions directly under Isaias position as a party leader. The head of economy and finance of the PFDJ, ...is Hagos Ghebrehiwet (Kasha). Kasha is from Ethiopia Tigray, but was raised in the town of Senafe was in USA and never been to the struggle for independence. Next important party post is head of political affairs is Yemane Gebreab mostly known by his nick name Monkey. Yemane Monkey born from a father from India (sailor) and an Ethiopian mother was raised by an Eritrean family hence the l.name (Gebreab). The third, Head of the office of precident is Yemane Ghebremeskel (Charlie). Yemane Charlie, both parents from Tigray, never lived in Eritrea, he himself never been in the struggle, was in the UK previous to the post he is holding now. Amazing. This truth was to come out any given day. That is why isaias and company tried for gears to look as more Eritreans than Eritreans and to hide their identity. They even secretly started the culture to defaming any criticizing citizen as to be Ethiopian.
Afwerki was married to Saba Haile and has three children - Abraham, Elsa and Berhane. He is an adherent of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church.
In late April 2012, the government denied rumours that Afwerki was dead, stating that he was in "robust health". Information Minister Ali Abdu said the rumours were started by opposition groups. The rumours were proven false after the president made an appearance on Eritrean National Television. He said that those spreading the rumours were "sick" and wanted to "disturb" the people.
War of Independence
The Eritrean War of Independence (1 September 1961 – 29 May 1991) was a conflict fought between the Ethiopian government and Eritrean separatists, both before and during the Ethiopian Civil War. The war started when Eritrea’s autonomy within Ethiopia, where troops were already stationed, was unilaterally revoked. Isaias Afewerki fought in this war first as part of the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), and then as a commander within the Eritrean People's Liberation Front.
Eritrean Liberation Front
In late 1966, he abandoned his engineering studies in Addis Ababa and left for Kassala, Sudan, where he joined the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) in exile. However, after entering the Sudan, his sentiments towards the ELF leadership changed. Isaias became highly frustrated by the ELF leadership. Within the front existed many ethnic and religious rivalries. Despite his critical opinions of the ELF leadership, Isaias stayed committed to the group. In early 1967, Isaias and Romadan were selected to study military training course in China. They spent that year and most of next year in China studying political ideologies and guerilla warfare. Upon his return, he was appointed a political commissioner.
In 1970, ideological and tactical disagreements within the ELF led to three factions leaving the ELF into three separate groups. One faction took refuge in the mountains of Sahel. Another group under Isaias' command, numbering less than a dozen, left for Eritrea's eastern escarpment. While the third group headed off to Aden and returned by boat to Eritrea, landing south of Assab. These three groups would eventually join to become one and went by the name of the Eritrean Liberation Front-People's Liberation Front (ELF-PLF). When they formally merged in 1973, they changed their name to the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front.
Eritrean People's Liberation Front
Isaias Afewerk led the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) to victory in May 1991, thus ending the 30-year-old armed liberation struggle that the Eritrean people refer to as "Gedli". Two years later, he became President following an independence referendum. He is the head of the ruling People's Front for Democracy and Justice. The EPLF was one of many armed groups struggling against the Ethiopian regime of Mengistu Hailemariam. Afewerki was elected Leader of the EPLF in 1975. He has been the chairperson of both the EPLF and the PFDJ since the PFDJ assumed power at the end of the Eritrean War for Independence and the Ethiopian Civil War in 1991. He has been President of Eritrea ever since the country seceded from Ethiopia in 1991 and then elected by the National Assembly after achieving de jure independence in 1993. After becoming one of the leaders of the EPLF in 1973, Isaias wrote a manifesto called "Our Struggle and its Goals". This manifesto placed strong emphasis on overcoming ethnic and religious differences and on launching revolutionary struggle during the independence war. In 1975, Isaias became chairman of the EPLF military committee. In 1977, under EPLF's first congress, he was elected to be vice secretary-general of the EPLF. By this time there was a political struggle within the fight for independence between the predominately Christian EPLF and the mainly Muslim ELF. One civil war had already been fought between the two fronts between 1972 and 1974. Fighting began in February 1972 and spread through the lowlands, particularly the Red Sea coast. Eventually this conflict spread further into the highlands until in 1974 calls for the conflict to stop were finally heeded. These calls for peace came from local villagers at a time when the independence movement was close to victory over Ethiopia.
By 1979, another civil war had began. The EPLF under Isaias Afwerki executed an offensive against the ELF in a bid to protect the flanks of the Front under tremendous pressure from a resurgent Ethiopia. In 1980, the ELF had entered into secret negotiations with the Soviet Union to end the war. Furthermore, on defence of the Sahel stronghold of the EPLF, ELF units withdrew from the lines in August of the same year. This created tremendous friction between the fronts which eventually led to the resumption of conflict. By this point the ELF had been drained during the Ethiopian resurgence after Soviet assistance was leveraged, and were eventually defeated by a joint force of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) led by current Ethiopian president, Meles Zenawi in 1981. The ELF were pushed across the border into the Sudan. That mutually beneficial alliance eventually brought the forces of both movements into Addis Ababa and Asmara toppling the Derg regime in 1991 and achieving Eritrean independence by referendum two years later.
Eritrean independence was achieved de facto in 1991. In April 1993, a United Nations-supervised referendum on independence was held, and the following month Eritrea achieved de jure independence. Isaias Afwerki was declared the first head of state. During the first years of his administration in this new state government, the institutions of governance were structured and put in place. This included a top to bottom restructuring of the structures of governance by provision of an elected local judicial system to expanding the educational system to as many regions as possible. The EPLF renamed itself the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) on February 1994 as part of its preparation to usher itself as a political party in a democratic Eritrea.
However, his once-firm friendship with the new Ethiopian government and Meles Zenawi+ quickly deteriorated just seven years after independence into a fierce border and economic dispute that turned into a long and bloody border war with Ethiopia, 1998–2000. Armed conflict with Ethiopia claimed more than 70,000 lives from both sides and ended with the signing of the Algiers Agreement on December 12, 2000. Because of this, the drafted Eritrean Constitution and its implementation were put on hold. It is yet to be implemented.
Isaias Afwerki and his government, The People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) is the current ruling political movement in Eritrea. It is the successor to the formerly Marxist-Leninist and African socialist Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF). Currently it is the only legal political entity existing in Eritrea. Presidential elections, planned for 1997, never materialised. Isaias Afewerki has therefore been criticised for failing to implement democratic reforms. His government has clamped down on its critics and has closed the private press. The Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders, has ranked Eritrea as a country with the least freedom of press for five consecutive years since 2007 followed by North Korea.
Before independence was achieved, the EPLF had already underlined its commitment to create a multi-party system in Eritrea. Isaias Afwerki is quoted as saying: "a one-party system wills neither enhances national security or stability nor accelerates economic development. In fact a one party system could be a major threat to the very existence of our country. For these reasons we will have to avoid these malaises in tomorrow's Eritrea". Shortly after the referendum, the PFDJ became an interim government for four years, until a constitution could be drafted, and elections held in 1997. This interim arrangement was accepted by the public. A year after the formation of the interim government in April 1994, a Constitutional Commission was formed to draft the Eritrean constitution. It was ratified on May 23, 1997 but to this day has not been implemented. The general election, which should have been held in the summer of 1998, was postponed because of the outbreak of war between Ethiopia and Eritrea in May 1998.
Following the Algiers Agreement in July 2000, the Constitutional Commission, senior government officials and the public raised the issue of the implementation of the constitution and election. Thereafter the National Assembly promised to hold elections before the end of 2001. Mahmoud Ahmed Sherifo, the Vice President of Eritrea and Minister of Local Government, was appointed Chair of the Committee to Draft Electoral Law. The elections never occurred. Instead public attention was diverted from focusing on any election by the arrest of 12 senior reformist members of the Central Council (legislative body of PFDJ) and the National Council. The Central Office of the PFDJ believes that they share "...a common guilt: at the minimum, abdication of responsibility during Eritrea's difficult hours, at the maximum, grave conspiracy."
The Eritrean National Assembly neither protested when Mr Mahmoud Sherifo, who was Chair of the Committee to Draft Electoral Laws was dismissed by the President on 7 February nor did it condemn the illegal arrest of their Parliamentary colleagues on 18 September 2001. Since the crackdown on the reformist movement, the PFDJ ruling party has not hesitated to suppress the protests of Eritrean people against the ruling elite depriving them of fundamental rights. To this day, Eritrea still remains a single-party state, with virtually no opposition.
Isaias Afwerki and the PFDJ government is involved in a program of investments in economic, education, health, and transportation related infrastructure. The Government’s development policy is to improve the economy of the country that is widely distributed and shared among the various groups of Eritrea. The Government has attempted to expand the well-being of the people by narrowing down gender, region, and income related gaps. The Government, with its limited resource, has so far successfully built various social and physical infrastructure throughout the country. These include Massawa International Airport, Orotta Medical School, the Asmara-Filfil-Massawa Highway, the Eritrean Institute of Science and Technology at Mai Nefhi, Sawa Defence Training Centre, and many other projects.
The National Development program was first known as the Wefri Warsay Yika'alo (WWY) or Warsay Yika'alo Program. It is an ambitious project of post-war recovery after the 30 year long Eritrean War for Independence. It is similar to other economic recovery programs, and is often compared to the Marshall Plan. These investments are typically made by a mixture of grants and loans from international organizations and from the Government of Eritrea.
Many have benefited from the government's National Development program. The major beneficiaries are children, women, and people in remote rural areas. In terms of age, 90% of children receive the necessary vaccination at present and maternal mortality rates have reduced from 1,000 per 100,000 during independence to 486 per 100,000 today. The gap of health service provision has narrowed around the country and that Eritrea has been recognized internationally for successes achieved in meeting the Millennium Development Goals. Newly built hospitals and health-clinics has caused the number of pregnant mothers getting the necessary pre-natal medical check up to increase from 19% to 89%. The number of pregnant mothers giving birth by health professionals has also increased from 6% to 34%. Over the past 20 years more than 27,000 youths have graduated from vocational and technical schools with certificate and diploma in which 40% of the graduates are female and female participation in vocational education has increased by 50%.
Administrative division reform
At the time of Independence in 1993 Eritrea was arranged into ten provinces: Akele Guzay, Asmara, Barka, Denkalia, Gash-Setit, Hamasien, Sahel, Semhar, Senhit and Seraye. These provinces were similar to the eight provinces operating during the colonial period (Barka and Gash-Setit were one larger Barka province; Asmara was part of Hamasien province). In 1996, these were consolidated into six regions (zobas): Maekel Region, Debub Region, Gash-Barka Region, Anseba Region, Northern Red Sea Region and Southern Red Sea Region. The boundaries of these new regions are based on catchment basins. Critics of this policy contend that the Government of Eritrea was erasing the historical fabric of Eritrea while proponents believe that these new Regional boundaries would ease historical land disputes. Furthermore proponents of this policy argue that basing boundaries on an important natural resource would ease the planning of its use.
The region system introduced by Isaias Afewerki has allowed a broader geographic distribution of the national infrastructure. Many accomplishments have taken place across the six administrative regions. Areas which were virtually neglected by previous governments like the modern-day Anseba and Gash Barka regions. The Anseba region has seen major increases of up to 672% for the number of educational institutions ranging from kindergarten to secondary level. In these regions the number of health institutions has also increased by 414%. The Gash Barka region has seen the construction of over 150 water reservoirs and catchments and more than 118 ponds. Other remote areas originally deprived of such opportunity have had schools and health clinics built in their respective vicinities.
Eritrea does not currently have an official language. Tigrinya and Arabic are the most widely used. English, Italian and Amharic are understood by a considerable amount of the population and also are spoken especially by residents of the capital, Asmara. Eritrea consists of eight mother tongues (languages). According to their demographic ratio, in a descending order, they could be presented as: Tigrinya (55%), Tigre (30%), Saho (4%), Kunama (2%), Bilen (2%), Afar (2%), Hedareb (2%) and Nara (1%). Under the British administration, Tigrinya and Arabic were the official languages (Tigrinya among the Christians and Arabic among the Muslims).
The debate of what the official language of Eritrea should be has existed since the 1940s. The Unionists insisted in Tigrinya as the only official language of Eritrea. The Moslem League however insisted on Arabic and Tigrinya. The Unionists opposed Arabic because they considered it as a foreign language and came with a suggestion of Tigrinya and Tigre instead. At the end, however, as the UN drafted Constitution prescribed, Tigrinya and Arabic were taken as official languages of the autonomous Eritrean state. The adoption of the Eritrean Government of Tigrinya and Arabic as official languages in 1952, thus undermined Tigre.
After independence, the PFDJ did not announce an official language for the country. Alternatively the PFDJ adopted a language policy that promoted development of all languages. Although its emphasis was on developing all local languages, Tigrinya and Tigre seem to be the languages that this policy has put the most emphasis on. This two languages represent the two largest ethnic groups in the country. Although Tigrinya and Arabic are not the official languages, in practicality, all official documents are written in Tigrinya, and usually also contain Arabic and English.
Freedom of religion
Religion in Eritrea is very diverse. 48% are adherents of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, 47% are adherents of Sunni Islam, 5% are adherents of Roman Catholicism, 1% are Protestants and 1% are adherents of other Christian denominations or other religions. Since May 2002, the government has only authorised four religions to exist in Eritrea: Eritrean Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Lutheran and Sunni Islam. All other churches are banned with at least 12 groups awaiting official registration. Although some groups reportedly complied with all registration requirements, the Department of Religious Affairs refused to give a date for official recognition. This includes several Protestant and Pentecostal evangelical denominations, Seventh Day Adventists, and the Baha’i. The Jehovah Witnesses were not offered the opportunity to register. In October 1994, President Issayas Afwerki issued a directive, which effectively denied all members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses their basic civil, political, economic and social rights. In March 1995, the Minister of Internal Affairs confirmed and reiterated the ban: "The Jehovah’s Witnesses lost their right to citizenship because they refused to accept the Government of Eritrea and the laws." He accused them of not fighting in the liberation struggle, refusing to vote in the independence referendum and refusing to do national service.
Human rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have documented serious violations of the right to freedom of religion. They report disruption of private worship, mass arrests of participants at religious weddings, prayer meetings, and other gatherings. In 2004 the U.S. Secretary of State designated Eritrea as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act for particularly severe violations of religious freedom. Eritrea currently ranks among the top Christian persecuting countries. Different sources estimate more than 2,000 members of unregistered minority religions, including Pentecostal and evangelical denominations are indefinitely held in incommunicado detention without charge or trial. The Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Abune Antonios, was arrested early 2006 and remains in secret detention, reportedly for criticizing government intervention in church affairs and the detention of three Orthodox priests. However, the government denies all accusations of religious persecution and continues to support its statement issued in May 2003 that "no groups or persons are persecuted in Eritrea for their beliefs or religion."
Isaias Afewerki's government strongly emphasizes that foreign assistance breeds a culture of dependency that shackles African countries into a cycle of poverty. His government vows not to lead another "spoon-fed" African country and promotes the policy of self-reliance. Relying on its meager budget and the conscription of about 800,000 of the country's citizens, the government claims the policy has shown promising results. Measured on a variety of U.N. health indicators, including life expectancy, immunizations and malaria prevention, Eritrea scores as high, and often higher, than its neighbors, including Ethiopia and Kenya.
The self-reliance policy seem to have gained special momentum since 2005. In 2005, the government stopped requesting any financial assistance from the United States. In 2006, the Eritrean government adopted a new NGO registration process which shut down the majority of third party NGOs operating in the country. In 2007 alone, Eritrea walked away from more than $200 million in aid, including food from the United Nations, development loans from the World Bank and grants from international charities to build roads and deliver healthcare. According to the U.S. Department of State, Office of Foreign Assistance, Eritrea is the only African nation that has not requested US aid for the fiscal year of 2011.
The government's self-reliance attitudes are criticized by some humanitarian agencies for restricting humanitarian assistance and for leading the country further into self isolation from the international community.
G-15 is a name given to a group in Eritrea that opposes the policy of President Isaias Afewerki postponing elections and their failure in implementing the constitution. The membership of this group consists of former members of the President's ruling People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) which has ruled the country since its independence in 1993. In May 2001 the group issued an open letter raising criticism against Isayas Afeworki's actions calling them "illegal and unconstitutional." Of the 15 members of the group, 11 are imprisoned, three are now living in the United States and the last, Muhammad Berhan Belata, had left the group and rejoined the government. The 11 members who are imprisoned are thought to be charged with treason. The Central Office of the PFDJ believes that they share, "...a common guilt: at the minimum, abdication of responsibility during Eritrea's difficult hours, at the maximum, grave conspiracy." Amnesty International named the imprisoned 11 prisoners of conscience and called for their immediate release.
The EPLF led by Isaias Afewerki and the TPLF led by Meles Zenawi were close allies during the Eritrean War for Independence and the Ethiopian Civil War. The TPLF had been from its modest beginnings in the early 1970s, had been a protégé and close ally of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) and in 1988 a secret agreement between the two had decided that, once the Derg regime led by Mengistu Haile Mariam had been overthrown, the TPLF would assume power in Addis Ababa and accept a referendum on independence in Eritrea. The EPLF therefore marched and fought their way with the TPLF to Addis Ababa to overthrow the Derg. At the same time, the TPLF assisted the EPLF against the large Derg army stationed in Eritrean territory. In 1991 the Derg were defeated and the TPLF now called the EPRDF was running Ethiopia. The agreement was renewed after the broadening of the TPLF into the multi-ethnic EPRDF coalition in 1989 and in 1991 it was perfectly adhered to. The referendum was held in Eritrea in 1993 and the new Ethiopian regime immediately recognized the independence of its former province.
Good commercial, diplomatic and personal relations were maintained between the two parties after independence. In July 1993, a cooperation agreement was signed between Isaias Afewerki and Meles Zenawi. The two countries agreed to utilize their resources jointly, cooperate in the energy, education, transport, defense and security sectors, and allow the free movement of people. Ethiopia became Eritrea's main trading partner. Isaias Afewerki allowed Ethiopia to use the port of Assab almost to the same extent that Eritrea used it. Ethiopian forces of the Tigray Region were believed to have operated in collaboration with Eritrean forces to invade the Afar region on the border between the two states. The objective of the operation was reportedly to push the Afar people and Ugugumo militia towards the desert area beyond the demarcation line defining the regions. Joint armed conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia against the ARDUF rebels continued into 1996. ARDUF claimed that armed clashes had taken place between Ethiopian security forces, the Eritrean Militia against Afar militias and civilians in the border zone. The Eritrean and Tigrean forces invaded the Afar regions of both countries in 1996.
Isaias Afewerki and Meles Zenawi's government on political and military coordination on regional issues was close and actually amounted to an alliance. When the Sudanese government based in Khartoum began to use the ethnic and religious problems in both Eritrea and Ethiopia to subvert the new governments, they both reacted in coordinated fashion to counter this threat. They gave political support to the Sudanese National Democratic Alliance (NDA), the umbrella organization of Sudanese opposition movements, and military help to the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) fighting in the South. Further afield both Addis Ababa and Asmara supported Laurent-Désiré Kabila’s uprising in the Congo in September 1996.
Incidents started to occur between Eritrea and Ethiopia on the 6 May 1998 in the Badme border area in Eritrea's Gash-Barka Region and Ethiopia's Tigray Region. A bilateral Ethio-Eritrean commission had been set up in November 1997 after tensions rose between the two nations. They met regularly either in Asmara or in Addis Ababa. Therefore the incidents were not taken particularly seriously at first. But while bilateral contacts were resumed, Eritrea massed large amounts of troops, with their accompanying weaponry, and invaded the Badme area on 12 May. The first outside mediation effort started on 17 May when Rwanda’s Vice-President Paul Kagame came to Addis Ababa, soon followed by US Under-Secretary of State for African Affairs Susan Rice. Their mediation efforts were not welcomed by either side, but there was a lull in the fighting. The war quickly resumed and tens of thousands of people were killed in a two year border war known as the Eritrean-Ethiopian War. The war ended after a ceasefire. Most of the disputed territory was awarded to Eritrea in the end of the war.
On April 2002 The Commission released its decision (with a clarification in 2003). Disagreements following the war have resulted in stalemate punctuated by periods of elevated tension and renewed threats of war. Since these decisions Ethiopia has refused to permit the physical demarcation of the border while Eritrea insists the border must be demarcated as defined by the Commission. Consequently, the Boundary Commission ruled boundary as virtually demarcated and effective. Eritrea maintains a military force on its border with Ethiopia roughly equal in size to Ethiopia's force, which has required a general mobilization of a significant portion of the population. Eritrea has viewed this border dispute as an existential threat to itself in particular and the African Union in general, because it deals with the supremacy of colonial boundaries in Africa. Since the border conflict Ethiopia no longer uses Eritrean ports for its trade. During the border conflict and since, Ethiopia has fostered militants against Eritrea (including ethnic separatists and religiously based organizations). Eritrea has retaliated by hosting militant groups against Ethiopia as well. The United Nations Security Council argues that Eritrea and Ethiopia have expanded their dispute to a second theater, Somalia.
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