Military of Eritrea

Infobox National Military
name= Eritrean Defence Forces
native_name = ምክልካል ሃይልታት ኣርትራ
ﺍﻟﻘﻭﺍﺖ ﺍﻟﺪﻓﺎﻉ ﺍﻹﺮﺗﺮﻱ

caption= Female soldiers of Eritrea

commander-in-chief= President Isaias Afewerki
minister= General Sebhat Ephrem
minister_title = Minister of Defence
active= 202,000cite news|url=|title=Conscripts prepare to boost Eritrea's defenses|accessdate=2007-03-01]
budget= US$ 220.1 million (2005 est.)
percent_GDP= 6.3% (2006 est.)
branches= Eritrean Army
Eritrean Air Force
Eritrean Navy
age= 18
available= 1,785,023 (2005 est.)
fit= 1,117,979 (2005 est.)
conscription = 18 months
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. In 2001 Eritrea had the largest military in the world per capita. [cite web|url=|title=Armed forces personnel (per capita) by country|accessdate=2007-07-31]


In the 16th century the ports of Massawa were used by the Ottomans to protect sea lanes from disruption while more recently it was used by the Italians. The Colony of Eritrea was founded by the Italians in 1890 shortly after the opening of the Suez Canal. The Italians expanded their possessions into Ethiopia. Eritrean 'askaris' (native soldiers), along with Italian troops occupied Ethiopia in 1936 however, this was reversed by British 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, the 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 population).


The Eritrean Defence Forces are one of the largest in Africa alongside Ethiopia, Egypt & Morocco.The size of Eritrea's population is small, particularly when compared to its neighbours. A military composed fully of career soldiers would not be adequate to meet the nation's defence needs. During peacetime the military of Eritrea numbers approximately 45,000 [cite book| last=Killion | first=Tom | title=Historical Dictionary of Eritrea |id= ISBN 0-8108-3437-5 | publisher=The Scarecrow Press | year=1998 ] with a reserve force approximately 250,000 [cite web|title=Asmara's Finest |url= |accessdate=2006-09-04] strong and growing.

National service

Every able bodied man and woman is required to serve for 1½ years. In this time they will receive six months of military training and the balance will be 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. [cite web|url=|title=Eritrea|accessdate=2006-10-13] The period of enlistment may be extended during times of national crisis. 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. [cite web| url =| title = Eritrea| accessdate = 2006-09-19| last = Connell| first = Dan| year = 1997| month = September]

Military training is given at the Sawa Defence Training Centre and Kiloma Military Training Centre. At the end of the 1½ year national service, the serviceman can elect to stay on and become a career military officer. If the serviceman elects otherwise they return to their civilian lives but will continue to be a reservist. According to the Government of Eritrea, "The sole objective of the National Service program is thus to cultivate capable, hardworking, and alert individuals."

Current issues

As of 2006, Eritrea is embroiled in a military stalemate with its neighbour and rival, 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

The Eritrean Defence Forces (EDF) are composed of three branches: Air Force, Army, and Navy. By far the Army is larger than 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.


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

External links

* [ ACIG]
* [ AFVID (Mika Golf's armored vehicles) Eritrean fighting vehicles]
* [ Hazegray World Navies Today - Eritrea]

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