Eritrean Independence Day is celebrated every year on May 24, although the festivities go on for a whole week. These include carnivals, street performances, concerts, parades, tent parties, and flag-waving. It is safe to say that the Eritreans know how to party! The country’s state-owned T.V. channel, Eri-TV, also plays documentaries during this week to remind people of the sacrifices made to free Eritrea. People of Eritrean descent around the world also showcase their patriotism by having picnics and barbeques.
History of Eritrean Independence Day
On May 24, 1991, the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front forces moved into the capital city of Asmara and reinstated independence after a war against the Ethiopian military regime. This war went on for 30 years. It is one of the most important public holidays in the country, along with Martyrs’ Day and Revolution Day.
This day came at the end of a long and tumultuous freedom struggle that can be traced back to the 1800s. Italian General, Oreste Batratieri, took control of the highlands along Eritrea’s coast and declared it to be a colony of Italy called “Italian Eritrea.” The colonial government invested significantly in the infrastructure and agriculture of the region and opened new factories that made pasta, cooking oil, packaging of meat, and tobacco, among other things. The Italian influence can still be seen in Eritrea’s capital city of Asmara today.
The Italians were defeated by the British, who then took over the administration of the country in the 1941 Battle of Keren. The British administration continued until around 1950 when they proposed partitioning the nation into two parts — a Britain-controlled Sudan and the rest to Ethiopia. In December 1950, Eritrea was federated into Ethiopia on prompts made by the United States — thus ignoring Eritrea’s calls for independence.
After years of war and several liberation attempts by Eritrean organizations, the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front finally defeated Ethiopian forces and established a one-party state. There was another war between the two nations from 1998 to 2000, which involved a major border conflict around Badme and Zalambessa. The conflict was resolved in 2018.
Eritrean Independence Day timeline
A Paleolithic site near the Bay of Zula, along the Red Sea littoral, has stone and obsidian tools that date back to over 125,000 years ago.
The first known inhabitants of Eritrea are the Kunama and Nara.
The Ottoman Turks establish a garrison at Massawa on the Red Sea coast.
After a referendum supervised by the United Nations, Eritrea declares its independence and gains international recognition.
Eritrean Independence Day FAQs
Is Eritrea considered a poor or rich country?
It is considered to be one of the world’s poorest countries.
Where is Eritrea located?
Eritrea is in the Horn of Africa region of Eastern Africa and is bordered by Ethiopia in the south, Sudan in the west, and Djibouti in the southeast.
What does ‘Eritrea’ mean?
Eritrea was called ‘Mdree-Bahree,’ meaning “Land of the Sea,” by the local people. The word ‘Eritrea’ comes from the Greek term ‘Sinus Erythraeus,’ which can be translated in English as “Red Sea.”
Eritrean Independence Day Activities
Book a holiday to Eritrea! You will be able to witness the week-long Independence Day celebrations for yourself.
Make some Eritrean food
Look up some delicious Eritrean recipes online and get cooking! We recommend starting with some traditional delicacies like the Zigni, Kulwa, Fata, and Hamli.
Join your local festivities
Search for Independence Day festivities organized in your city by Eritrean communities! If you are Eritrean — well, what are you waiting for! Throw a party and invite everyone you know!
5 Facts About Eritrea That Will Blow Your Mind
Asmara is also called New Rome, or Italy's African City, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
No official language
Although Tigrinya, Tigre, Saho, Kunama, Rashaida, Bilen, Afar, Beni, Amir, and Nera are the main languages spoken there, the country has no official language.
It is a one-party state
The country has never held a national election since gaining independence.
It is really old
A million-year-old skull with Homo Sapien as well as Homo Erectus traits was found in the Afar region in Eritrea.
One of Africa’s oldest port cities
Adulis is one of the ancient African cities that was established as a port city during the time of the Aksumite Kingdom (100 A.D. to 940 A.D.).
Why We Love Eritrean Independence Day
It is beautiful
The country is well-known for its marvelous architecture. Untouched by tourism, it has pristine beaches, archipelagos, and reefs.
Nearly one-third of its freedom fighters were women
Women were extremely involved in Eritrea’s struggle for independence from Ethiopia. This movement had the greatest percentage of women participating in it, with more than 30% compared to other movements around the world.
A day to learn more
This is the perfect day to immerse yourself in Eritrea’s rich culture. Try out some new cuisine and take this opportunity to learn more about the nation as well as world history.
Eritrean Independence Day dates