.Posted: 2000

Crisis in Eritrea

PROTOCOL Between Great Britain and Italy for the Demarcation of their respective Spheres of Influence in East Africa from Ras Kasar to the Blue Nile.
15th April, 1891 (Translation.)


BEING desirous of completing, towards the north as far as the Red Sea, the demarcation of the respective spheres of influence of England and Italy, which the two Parties have already agreed on by the Protocol of the 24th March last, from the mouth of the Juba in the Indian Ocean to the intersection of 35' east longitude of Greenwich with the Blue Nile, the Undersigned:

The Marquis of Dufferin and Ava, Ambassador of Her Majesty the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Empress of India ;

The Marquis de Rudini, President of the Council and Minister for Foreign Affairs of His Majesty the King of Italy

Have agreed as follows :-

Line of Italian Sphere of Influence from Ras Kasar to the Blue Nile I. The sphere of influence reserved to Italy is bounded on the north and on the west by a line drawn from Ras Kasar on the Red Sea to the point of intersection of the 17th parallel north with the 37th meridian east Greenwich. The line having followed that meridian to 160 30' north latitude, is drawn from that point in a straight line to Sabderat, leaving that village to the east. From that village the line is drawn southward to a point on the Gash 20 English miles above Kassala, and rejoins the Atbara at the point indicated as being a ford on the map of Werner Munzinger Originalkarte von Nord Abessinien und den Liinclem am Mareb, Barea, uncl Anseba, de 1864 (Gotha, Justus Perthes), and situated at 140 52' north latitude. The line then ascends the Atbara to the confluence of the Kor Kakamot (Hahamot), whence it follows a westerly direction till it meets the Kor Lemsen, which it descends to its confluence with the Rahad. Finally, the line, having followed the Rahad for the short distance between the confluence of the Kor Lemsen and the intersection of 350 east longitude, Greenwich, identifies itself in a southerly direction with that meridian, until it meets the Blue Nile, saving ulterior amendment of details, according to the hydrographic and orographic conditions of the country.

. . .

Done at Rome, in duplicate, this 15th of April, 1891.


Historical Outline

Like all African states. Eritrea came into being during the European colonial period. Prior to this time, a number of different peoples occupied present-day Eritrea though none controlled the entire area.

Some of these peoples established powerful kingdoms. Among them were the Axumite kingdom (1st-9th C.), the seven Beja kingdoms (8th-13th C.), and the Bellou kingdom (13th-16th C.).

Over the centuries, other kingdoms and empires also established outposts or exercised control over various parts of present-day Eritrea. These include the Ptolemic Egyptians (3rd C. BC), the Sennar kingdom (16th-19th C.), the Abyssinian kingdom (14th-18th C., 19th C.), the Adal sultanate (15th-16th C.), the Aussa sultanate (16th-19th C.), Egypt under Muhammad 'Ali (18th C.), and the Ottoman Turks (16th-19th C.).


All of the area now known as Eritrea was gradually united under Italian rule. The king of Italy issued a decree creating Eritrea on January 1, 1890.


Italy established an administrative structure and a transport and communications network in Eritrea. Italian settlers set up plantations and industries.

1941 -1952:

During World War ll, the British defeated the Italians and established a protectorate over Eritrea. Eritrea became an important center for British and American operations in the region during the war.


The 1950 United Nations resolution federating Eritrea with Ethiopia went into effect. The resolution ignored Eritreans' desire for independence but guaranteed them some democratic rights and autonomy.


The armed struggle for independence began after years of peaceful protest against Ethiopian.


Using armed force, Ethiopia's emperor, Haile Sellassie, unilaterally dissolved the Eritrean parliament and annexed the country.


A coup in Ethiopia ended the rule of Emperor Haile Sellassie. The new military junta was called the "Derg."


The Soviet Union began supplying huge amounts of military aid to the Derg.


Faced with the new scale of warfare, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) made a strategic withdrawal from the cities which it had controlled.


With Soviet help, the Derg launched eight major offensives against the independence movement. All failed.


The EPLF captured Afabet, headquarters of the Ethiopian army on the north- eastern front in Eritrea. EPLF fighters moved into the area around Keren, Eritrea's second largest city. In the face of these losses, the Ethiopian army withdrew from several cities and towns in the western lowlands.


In February, the EPLF captured the port of Massawa. The Derg immediately began bombing and shelling the city. The EPLF offered to open the port for relief aid shipments but, because of Derg objections and the continued bombing, shipments did not start until January 1991.


The EPLF liberated the entire country in May and established the Provisional Government of Eritrea (PGE). At the same time, the EPRDF overthrew the Derg a Transitional Government was established in Ethiopia.


In April. 98.5% of registered voters turned out for the internationally monitored referendum. The result was a resounding vote for independence: 99.8% said 'yes" for independence. The head of the United Nations observer mission said the referendum was "free and fair at every stage." Other observer groups also confirmed this.

As Eritreans celebrated their official independence day on 24 May, the government was enlarged and reorganized. The National Assembly, the highest legal body, set the goals to be accomplished within a four year period: the drafting of a democratic constitution which guarantees the basic rights of all citizens and political pluralism. and the establishment of an elected government.


Ethiopia has defined and demarcated its boundaries with all its neighbours with one exception - the former Italian colonies of Eritrea and Italian Somaliland.

The borders with these former Italian colonies were never demarcated due to the Fascist-era Italian expansionist policy directed by the notorious Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Mussolini violated treaties signed by Ethiopia and Italy during the period 1900-1906 which provided the basic guidelines for future delimitation and demarcation of the Eritrea- Ethiopia border.

One must remember that at the time Mussolini's motive was to take a portion of Africa like all the other European powers but Ethopia posed numerous ubsticles to his plans. Granting Itali portions of Africa bordering Ethopia started a greater devision between these African peoples. Italy used these neighbouring lands to continually wage war on Ethopia.

To quote one writer:

"Benito Mussolini, one of the most popular and dynamic leaders of the 1930's, ended his life hanging upside down, his face beaten to a pulp. His own people did this to him.

Years earlier, they were cheering his every word and enthusiastically backing his military adventures in Europe and Africa. Italian wives contributed their jewelry and Italian soldiers carved a bust of his face while on duty in Ethiopia. Today, this sculpture lies neglected in the palace compound of Emperor Yohannis in Mekele.

Many people were fooled by Mussolini. Italians the world over conducted massive fundraising campaigns to support Italy in its war of aggression against Ethiopia.

The smooth and effective Italian PR machine made Italian militarism fashionable to the extent that prominent individuals such as the English writer Evelyn Waugh became open admirers of Mussolini. The well-regarded mayor of New York, Fiorello La Guardia, refused to reign in the rabid pro-Italy campaigns being conducted in that city in 1935.

The Italian public relations was so effective that even the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was unable to take a firm, public stand against Italy's use of poison gas in Ethiopia."

The Ethiopia-Eritrea Conflict WebPage

A map and flag of Eritrea:

CIA Fact Book

The Ethiopian-Eritrean Conflict

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