Eritrea Military

Eritrea is a small African nation located in the Horn of Africa. With a population of around 5,766,985 people, it is one of the most populous countries in the region. Eritrea is a presidential republic and its military consists of three branches: the Eritrean Army, Navy, and Air Force. The Eritrean Army is responsible for defending the country’s borders and sovereignty, as well as providing security to its citizens. In terms of defense spending, Eritrea spends approximately $400 million annually on its military, making it one of the highest defense spending nations in Africa. The country also participates in several United Nations-led peacekeeping missions such as those in Somalia and Djibouti. Eritrea is also a member of both the African Union (AU) and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), and has close ties with other IGAD members such as Ethiopia and Sudan.┬áSee naturegnosis to learn more about the country of Eritrea.


The military forces of the Liberty War during the 1990s have been divided between Eritrea and Ethiopia and reorganized into a military defense with 16 months of first service. To see related acronyms about this country, please check ABBREVIATIONFINDER where you can see that ERI stands for Eritrea. In recent years, the border conflict between the countries has escalated and (2008) does not appear to reach a solution in the near future. Compare Eritrea (State and Politics).

Eritrea Army

The defense (2008) comprises about 200,000 men with about 120,000 men in reserve. It is organized in an army of about 200,000 men with about 20 divisions, a naval defense of 1,400 men with 13 patrol boats and an air force of 350 men with 18 fighter aircraft. The material is older, with elements of modern material, and of Soviet/Russian origin.

Defense costs fell from 7.5% to 6.3% of GDP in 1996-2005. Two armed opposition groups, the Alliance of Eritrean National Forces (AENF) and the EIJM (Eritrean Islamic Jihad Movement), have a total of about 3,500 people operating within Eritrea. The UN has a military force (UNMEE) on the border with Ethiopia with observers from 43 nations and with troops from India, Jordan and Kenya.

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In the decade following independence, reached in 1991 after a long war of liberation, the country underwent a progressive and radical authoritarian involution accompanied by a militarization of society and supported by a nationalistic ideology that fueled tensions with neighboring states, in particularly with Ethiopia, but also with Sudan. The crucial step on this path was the war with Ethiopia, which broke out in 1998 and ended with a very high number of victims (ca. 70,000) in December 2000. The peace treaty, which implemented the Algiers accords of June, provided for the creation of a demilitarized zone of 25 km supervised by United Nations troops and the establishment of a neutral arbitration commission for the definition of borders. In April 2002 the results of the commission’s work, which assigned four of the five disputed zones to Ethiopia, but not the Ethiopian village of Badme, were accepted in general terms but with the request for some adjustments by the Addis Ababa government, which over the two years had maintained a more conciliatory attitude than the Eritrean towards the UN. In November 2004 the Ethiopian request was rejected by the Asmara government confirming the unresolved tensions between the two countries, which continued to amass troops at the border in a sort of ‘armed peace’, witnessed by the extensive purchase of arms, despite the international embargo, and from some clash in April 2005. Even the agreement with Sudan stipulated in January 2005 appeared to be burdened by considerable unknowns, above all because Sudan continued to host many opposition groups, including armed ones, to the Eritrean regime. This situation had in fact already contributed significantly to the failure of the previous agreement, signed in 1999, which had re-established diplomatic relations between the two countries. As for domestic politics, the government led by I. Afewerki, president of the Republic since 1993 and leader of the Popular Front for Democracy and Justice (FPDG), political heir to the armed movement Popular Front for the Liberation of Eritrea, continued to to justify, with the state of emergency caused by the war with Ethiopia, the failure to implement the constitutional charter ratified in 1997, which provided for limits to the powers of the executive and the adoption of multi-partyism. The elections were in fact repeatedly postponed, and a repressive policy against any form of dissent was systematically implemented. In September 2001, eleven prominent members of the FPDG, who had made their dissent public for the first time, breaking a tradition that concealed the differences behind official unanimity, were arrested along with numerous journalists while independent newspapers were closed. The crackdown was criticized with a letter from the Italian ambassador, spokesman in Eritrea of the European Union, and the diplomat was immediately expelled from the country. His expulsion was followed by the withdrawal in protest of all EU diplomats, who did not interrupt economic relations with Eritrea but limited them to a resumption of political dialogue. Diplomatic relations between the EU and Eritrea they were however resumed the following year without international pressure causing changes of line by the government,2004 from a report by Amnesty International which reported torture, arbitrary detentions, disappearances of political opponents, as well as the refusal by the authorities of any form of control over the situation and any discussion on the merits of the problems highlighted. In November 2004, an attempted escape from the Adi Abeito detention center by some young people, arrested for draft evasion, was crushed in blood, causing at least 12 deaths. The problem of conscription, combined with the campaign (warsay-ykaalo) of enlistment for compulsory work (aimed at men between 18 and 40 years) for the construction of infrastructures and housing, while increasing the power of the military and their control over civil society, caused the flight from the country especially of young people and constituted a further element of crisis for the economy already tested by years of drought, by the huge devastation caused by the war – which had hit the most important regions for agricultural production (Gash-Barka and Debub) -, by growing inflation and an excess of dirigisme. In early 2005, some union leaders were arrested. On the international level, the elements of tension in the regional context and with the EU countries were matched by the discreet relations with the United States, interested, starting from 2001, to fight the spread of Islamic fundamentalism in the Horn of Africa, with Russia, the main arms supplier, and with China.