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Eritrean Defence Forces
ምክልካል ሃይልታት ኣርትራ
ﺍﻟﻘﻭﺍﺖ ﺍﻟﺪﻓﺎﻉ ﺍﻹﺮﺗﺮﻱ
Emblem of Eritrea (or argent azur).svg
Founded 1991
Service branches Eritrean Army
Eritrean Air Force
Eritrean Navy
Commander-in-Chief President Isaias Afewerki
Minister of Defence General Sebhat Ephrem
Military age 18
Conscription 18 months
Available for
military service
5,785,023 (2013 est.), age 17-40[3]
Fit for
military service
5,117,979 (2013 est.), age 17-40[3]
Active personnel 320,000 [1]
Reserve personnel 250,000 [2]
Percent of GDP 20.9% (2009 est.)
Foreign suppliers Belarus Belarus
Bulgaria Bulgaria
China China
Israel Israel
United Arab Emirates UAE
Related articles

Eritrean War of Independence
Hanish Islands conflict
Eritrean–Ethiopian War

Djiboutian–Eritrean border conflict

The Eritrean Defence Forces military role stems from Eritrea's strategic geographical location. It is located on the Red Sea with a foothold on the Straits of Bab al-Mandeb.

History[edit | edit source]

Military history in Eritrea stretches back for thousands of years; during ancient times up until the current day, the society of Eritreans has dealt with war and peace. During the kingdom of Medri Bahri, the military fought numerous battles against the invading forces of the Abyssinians to the south and the Ottoman Turks at the Red Sea.[4]

In the 16th century the port of Massawa was used by the Ottomans to protect sea lanes from disruption, while more recently it was used by the Italians during their colonial occupation. The kingdom of Medri Bahri was dissolved and the Colony of Eritrea was founded by the Italians in 1890, shortly after the opening of the Suez Canal. Eritrean (native soldiers), along with Italian troops occupied Ethiopia in 1936, however, this was reversed by British and Ethiopian troops in 1941. The Eritrean infantry battalions and cavalry squadrons of the "Reale Esercito Coloniale" (Royal Colonial Army) saw extensive service in the various Italian colonial territories between 1888 and 1942.

During the war for Eritrea's independence rebel movements (the ELF and the EPLF) used volunteers. In the final years of the struggle for independence, the EPLF ranks grew to 110,000 volunteers (some 3% of the total population).

Manpower[edit | edit source]

The Eritrean Defence Forces are one of the largest in Africa alongside Egypt, Algeria,and Morocco. The size of Eritrea's population is small, particularly when compared to its neighbors. During peacetime the military of Eritrea numbers approximately 45,000[5] with a reserve force of approximately 250,000.[6]

National service[edit | edit source]

Every able bodied man and woman is required to serve ostensibly for 1½ years. In this time they receive six months of military training and the balance is spent working on national reconstruction projects. This is outlined in both the Constitution of Eritrea and Proclamation 82 issued by the National Assembly on 1995-10-23.[7] However, the period of enlistment may be extended during times of national crisis and the typical period of national service is considerably longer than the minimum. This program aims to compensate for Eritrea’s lack of capital and to reduce dependence on foreign aid, while welding together an ethnically diverse society, half Christian and half Muslim, representing nine ethnic groups.[8]

Military training is given at the Sawa Defence Training Centre and Kiloma Military Training Centre. Students, both male and female, are required to attend the Sawa Training Centre to complete the final year of their secondary education, which is integrated with their military service. If a student does not attend this period of training, he or she will not be allowed to attend university - many routes to employment also require proof of military training. However, they may be able to attend a vocational training centre, or to find work in the private sector. At the end of the 1½ year national service, a conscript can elect to stay on and become a career military officer. If the conscript elects otherwise, in theory, they may return to their civilian life but will continue to be a reservist. In practice, graduates of military service are often chosen for further national service according to their vocation - for example, teachers may be compulsorily seconded for several years to schools in an unfamiliar region of the country. According to the Government of Eritrea, "The sole objective of the National Service program is thus to cultivate capable, hardworking, and alert individuals."[1]

The salary for National Service conscripts is typically very low. First-year conscripts are generally paid 145 nakfa (9.66 dollars) per month. This rises to 500 nakfa (33 dollars) per month after the first year of service.

Current issues[edit | edit source]

As of 2015, Eritrea is embroiled in a military stalemate with its neighbour, Ethiopia. It is estimated that Eritrea maintains a force of at least 300,000 soldiers on the border with Ethiopia. While this matches the Ethiopian side, it is done so at considerably greater proportionate expense, given the far larger population from which Ethiopia is able to draw.

Branches of the EDF[edit | edit source]

The Eritrean Defence Forces (EDF) are composed of three branches: Air Force, Army, and Navy. The Army is by far the largest, followed by the Air Force and Navy. The Commander-in-Chief of the EDF is the President of Eritrea.

The Minister of Defence oversees the EDF on a day-to-day basis.

References[edit | edit source]

  • This article incorporates public domain text from U.S. State Department Background Notes.

External links[edit | edit source]

Eritrea colonial history, Eritrean infantry and cavalry, ascari pictures/photos galleries and videos.

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