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Once the northernmost province of Ethiopia, Eritrea (pop. 4,861,000; GDP/cap US$183) was invaded in 1962 after the dissolution of its Parliament by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, triggering a 30-year civil war.

The Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) and the other resistance movements eventually overcame the Ethiopian dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, who had overthrown Selassie.

In 1993 independence was finally achieved following a UN-monitored referendum. The post-independence government inherited an anarchical structure with no constitution or judicial system.

After emerging from the war with Ethiopia, Eritrea sunk once more with military conflict with Yemen and Ethiopia. Although presidential elections were scheduled for 1997, they did not take place. A constitution was also ratified, but was never implemented. Instead, Isaias Afewerki, elected president by the national assembly at independence, established one-party rule, banning all political parties.

Eritrea-Ethiopian hostilities flared up again in 1998. Despite a peace deal in 2000, sporadic fighting still occurs.

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