After the outbreak of World War II, Italy declared war on England. Many battles were fought near the border of Sudan and in 1941 the English army occupied Asmara. Eritrea had been under the British administration until 1952. During the first years Eritrea had to overcome a period of decline, but the lack of financial support from the Italian government made the Country develop an autonomous economy and commerce. In fact, during  the ‘40s  Eritrea’s economy flourished again.

But the events of WW2 moved its attention to other parts of the world  and Eritrea lost its strategic importance. The English started to leave, bringing with them many infrastructures the Eritreans had built during the Italian colonial period, such as part of the railway system. By the end of 1946, Eritrea found itself in a situation of economic crisis.

In 1950 the United Nations decided that Eritrea should become an independent country, but annexed with Ethiopia. Then in 1960, Eritrea became a province of the Abyssinian empire, but the Eritrean population did not like this annexation to Ethiopia, mostly because Ethiopian authorities terminated the use of the Eritrean flag and made Amharic the official language in place of Tigrinya. They also moved the administrative and judicial structures out of Eritrea. The protests by the Eritreans against this regime were suppressed with violence and many people were brutally killed.

Eventually, in 1961, in the city of Amba Adal a group of men rebelled and attacked a police station. The war for independence had begun. The war for independence, also called “The Struggle” by rebels, lasted 30 years: from 1961 to 1991.

Many movements for independence were established in those years. However, due to different religious beliefs, internal disputes eventually led to the fragmentation of these movements and to the founding of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), which was egalitarian and socialist, and became the leader of the struggle.

In 1974, Mengistu, a communist dictator, rose to power and called for the support of the United States, first, and the Soviet Union later. The rebels had to face with an army that was provided with the most advanced weapons and had to retreat. The capital Asmara was occupied by the Ethiopians. The years that followed were terrible.

At last in 1987, Eritrea was recognized as an independent region and in 1991, Isaias Afewerki, leader of the EPLF, formed a provisional government. A referendum was held in 1993 that declared the independence of the country. From that moment, Eritrea has started a program of reconstruction of the infrastructures  so it can remedy the damage of the war. New laws were introduced, such as for the safeguard of the environment, the disabled, the rights of women and the fight against AIDS. 

However,  the conflict with Ethiopia was not over yet. Eritrea introduced the new currency, the Nakfa, as a replacement for the Ethiopian Birr in 1997. Ethiopia obviously did not like this action, that meant an economic break between the  two countries. Eritrea, in fact, did not want to be part of  the Ethiopian public debt. A year later, in 1998, a border dispute over the town of Badme led to war. The conflict was awful and both countries used chemical weapons, such as napalm. 200,000 people died.

The border war ended in 2000 with the signing of an agreement between the two parties. Among the terms of this agreement was the establishment of a UN peacekeeping operation.

The history of Eritrea over the last ten years is mainly characterized by two major aspects:

  1. The fact that the last war with Ethiopia has not been resolved yet. Despite the agreement signed at the end of the conflict, the relations with Ethiopia have been tense. This fraught situation obviously leads to instability around the regions.
  2. The purpose of building a society free from economic and political influences by the western world’s superpowers (especially the USA) and from globalization, which represents in poor countries, such as Eritrea, one of the major causes of impoverishment and exploitation instead of a resource.