After a thirty year armed struggle against Ethiopian domination, Eritrean forces suceeded in defeating the Ethiopian military and gaining Independence. Two years later in a referendum at home and abroad, Eritreans voted for independence from Ethiopia..
Eritrea, a country located in the Horn of Africa, has a rich and tumultuous history, shaped significantly by its relationship with its southern neighbor, Ethiopia. The journey to Eritrean independence was a complex one, marked by colonialism, conflict, and the relentless determination of the Eritrean people.
Historically, Eritrea was a distinct entity with its own set of cultures and traditions. However, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it fell under Italian colonial rule. In the aftermath of World War II, with Italy's defeat, the fate of its former colonies was in question. In 1952, a UN resolution federated Eritrea with Ethiopia, granting it a degree of legislative, administrative, and judicial autonomy. However, this arrangement was short-lived, as Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie began centralizing power and, by 1962, had annexed Eritrea, making it a province of Ethiopia.
This annexation was met with strong resistance from Eritreans who felt that their autonomy and identity were being eroded. The dissatisfaction led to the formation of resistance movements, the most notable being the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) and later the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF). These groups initiated an armed struggle against Ethiopian rule in the early 1960s.
The battle for Eritrean independence was long and arduous. For thirty years, Eritrean guerrilla forces engaged in a protracted war against the more substantial and better-equipped Ethiopian military. The conflict was marked by significant challenges, with both sides facing internal divisions and external pressures, particularly from the superpowers during the Cold War era.
The turning point came in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The EPLF, under the leadership of Isaias Afwerki, managed to consolidate its forces and launch a series of successful offensives against the Ethiopian army. By 1991, the EPLF had captured Asmara, the Eritrean capital, and declared de facto independence.
In the wake of their military victory, the EPLF leadership sought to legitimize Eritrea's status as an independent nation. Two years after the liberation of Asmara, in 1993, a referendum was held in which Eritreans both at home and in the diaspora were given the opportunity to vote on the question of independence. The outcome was overwhelmingly in favor, with 99.8% of participants voting for formal separation from Ethiopia.
In conclusion, Eritrea's path to independence was marked by decades of struggle, sacrifice, and resilience. The victory against Ethiopian domination was not just a military triumph but a testament to the indomitable spirit of the Eritrean people. The subsequent referendum reaffirmed their collective desire for sovereignty and self-determination, culminating in the birth of a new nation on the African continent.