Study on Eritrea
Use with Section B of the Lesson on Ethnic Discrimination
to consider before reading the case study
· What would it be like if you were forbidden to speak your language?
· What if all the books written in your language were burned?
· What if people who spoke your language were prohibited from having
· Can you think of a example in history when things like this happened?
is a African country located in the northeast portion of the continent,
a region known as the Horn of Africa. Throughout history, Eritrea's
location on the Red Sea has attracted traders and brought contact
with other countries.
While some people came peacefully, others came and invaded Eritrea,
occupying it as a colony. From 1890-1941, Italy ruled Eritrea. The British took control of Eritrea after they defeated the
Italians in the region during World War II. In 1952, the British withdrew,
and the United Nations created a federation between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
Despite this arrangement, Eritrea retained some degree of autonomy
(self-rule) and had its own parliament.
Eritrea under Ethiopian rule
During the 1960s, Ethiopia was ruled by Emperor Haile Sellassie, who had
strong ties to the military. His government violated the rights of the
Eritreans granted by the UN agreement of 1952, and in 1962, Haile Sellassie
dissolved the Eritrean parliament and declared Eritrea a province of Ethiopia,
in part to gain access to Eritrea's ports. This action was against the
wishes of the Eritreans, who had voted to end the federation with Ethiopia
and become an independent country.
The Eritreans wanted to defend their land and gain independence, and in
1961 a war broke out between the Ethiopian army and the Eritrean force,
the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF). During the war, Eritrean citizens
experienced discrimination under the rule of Sellassie. Kiflu, an Eritrean
man now living in the United States, was a boy living in Eritrea at the
time. He recalls conditions for Eritreans during the war:
Sellassie forbade us to speak or write our language, Tigrinya. Books written
in Tigrinya were burned. All Eritrean teachers were forced to teach Amharic
(the language of Ethiopia), and lessons were conducted in Amharic. If
the teachers refused, they were fired. When people have no jobs and no
language, it means death to them."To make matters worse, Ethiopia
was suffering from a severe drought (lack of rain) and a famine (widespread
hunger and shortage of food). In part because he did not want negative
attention from other countries, Haile Sellassie remained silent about
the problem, and tens of thousands of people starved.
In 1974, Haile Sellassie was arrested and replaced by a military leader,
Mengistu Haile Mariam. Kiflu recalls that life under his rule was also
harsh. "If you were Eritrean, he'd shoot you. He also burned our
crops and houses and killed our animals. If all Eritreans died, he would
get the land. He cared nothing for our people."
A Closer Look: Eritrea Under Italian Rule
The restrictions imposed by Ethiopia were not the first instance of discrimination
against the Eritreans. From 1922-1941, Italy established a system of discrimination
similar to the apartheid system of South Africa . Buses, theaters, and
other public places were segregated, with the best facilities reserved
Thousands of Eritreans were forced to leave their homes for resettlement
in reserves far from where the Italians lives. Non-Italians were prohibited
from opening businesses or learning professional skills and instead did
menial labour for Italians. In short, Italy used its control over Eritrea's
economic, political, and social institutions to establish wide-ranging
the federation, Eritrea and Ethiopia were joined but did not become a single
the mid 1960s, a reformist group broke away from the ELF and formed the
Popular Liberation Forces, which became the Eritrean People's Liberation
Front (EPLF) in 1977. It was the EPLF which finally won the struggle against
more information on apartheid, see the lesson on race.
the case study
will use one or more of the strategies described below to identify
· influences on the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia
· the impacts of discrimination
· responses to the conflict
Strategy 1. Write directly on the text to identify key information.
a. Identifying causes:
· Underline text that describes historical influences on the conflict
between Eritrea and Ethiopia.
· Using another colour or a double line, underline text that describes
political factors that added to the conflict.
· Using another colour or a triple line, underline text that describes
economic factors that added to the conflict.
b. Identifying impacts of discrimination
· Circle text that describes economic impacts of discrimination
(discrimination as it relates to property, owning land, earning a living,
or other economic factors).
· Using another colour, circle text that describes cultural impacts
of discrimination (discrimination as it relates to language, schooling,
or other cultural factors).
c. Identifying responses
· Put a dotted line under text that describes responses to the
Strategy 2. Organize information in a table.
and Influencing Factors
to the conflict
Strategy 3. Create a timeline of events in the area. Include the following:
· Eritrean rule under Italy
· Ethiopian and Eritrean rule under Britain
· the creation of the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia
· the federation between Eritrea and Ethiopia created by the UN
· the end of the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia
· the dissolution of the Eritrean parliament by Haile Sellassie
· the beginning of the war between Eritrean and Ethiopia
· the arrest of Haile Sellassie
· the declaration of Eritrea as an independent country
· the votes for independence by Eritreans
4. Create a concept map of the case study. Use the following diagram to
help you get started, or create your own:
5. Respond to the following questions.
a. How did Eritrea's location affect its interactions with other countries?
b. How could having access to water affect a country's economy?
c. Describe some of the actions that led up to the war between Ethiopia
d. How were the Eritreans' culture and language affected by the conflict?
e. How were the Eritreans' ability to make a living affected by the conflict?
f. Describe some similarities between the actions of the Italians and
the Ethiopians against the Eritreans.
g. What were some ways Eritreans responded to the conflict?
h. Some people are able to choose where they want to live, while others
are forced from their homes. What was the situation for Kiflu? What is
the situation for your family?
i. What can you learn from Kiflu's story to help you understand people
in your country who are from a different place?