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Eritrea: The Eritrean Army structure, including its units, ranks, functions; whether all divisions of the army are involved in military operations; military activity in Asab, Gash and Tsorona

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 5 February 2008
Citation / Document Symbol ERI102684.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Eritrea: The Eritrean Army structure, including its units, ranks, functions; whether all divisions of the army are involved in military operations; military activity in Asab, Gash and Tsorona, 5 February 2008, ERI102684.E, available at: https://www.refworld.org/docid/47d6544c23.html [accessed 16 April 2021]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Eritrean Army structure

The Eritrean Army is reportedly composed of four corps, each broken down into twenty infantry brigades, one commando division and one "mechanized" brigade (Defense & Foreign Affairs Handbook 2006, 590; US Sept. 2005, 15). Information on when this organizational structure came into effect could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Information on the current number of divisions of the Eritrean Army could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. According to the Defense & Foreign Affairs Handbook, in early 2000, before the army's organizational structure went into a "condition of flux," there were 24 divisions (2006, 590).

The online International Encyclopedia of Uniform Insignia Around the World lists several ranks of the Eritrean Army, including Major General, Brigadier General, Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel, Major, Captain, Lieutenant 1st Class, Lieutenant 2nd Class, Master Sergeant, Staff Sergeant, Sergeant, Corporal and Private 1st Class (n.d.).

Army involvement in non-military operations

Information on whether all divisions of the Eritrean Army are involved in military operations could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate; however, several sources indicate that soldiers may engage in certain non-military activities (UN 19 May 2005; AI 21 Dec. 2006; US 15 Oct. 2007). Cited in a 19 May 2005 article by the United Nations (UN) Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), an Eritrean government spokesman stated that "[i]n a time of relative peace, 90 percent of the army works in productive sectors ... [Eritreans] have never lived in a situation where the army is simply a fighting force." The article notes that, according to the Eritrean government, the army engages in non-military activities such as farm work and construction of houses and infrastructure (UN 19 May 2005).

A 2006 public statement by Amnesty International (AI) indicates that Eritrean men and women carrying out their compulsory military service may be involved in military activities as well as in "labour on army-related construction projects" (21 Dec. 2006). A 15 October 2007 United States (US) Department of State consular information sheet on Eritrea states that Eritrea's national military service consists of "approximately six months of military training, followed by a number of years in military or other government service."

Military activities in Asab, Gash and Tsorona

Eritrea and Ethiopia reportedly maintain "large military presences" along their shared border (US 15 Oct. 2007). In 2007, news sources reported on Eritrean military activity in the regions of Gash-Barka [southwest Eritrea] (Reuters 27 Dec. 2007; VOA 27 Dec. 2007) and Tsorono [south-central Eritrea], among other areas (ibid.; Reuters 27 Dec. 2007; BBC 10 May 2007; Awate.com 25 June 2007; ibid. 7 Apr. 2007). There is reportedly a military training camp located in the Waime [or Wema] district of Asab province (Mirror 5 Mar. 2007; Sunday Herald 4 Mar. 2007).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Amnesty International (AI). 21 December 2006. "Eritrea: Over 500 Parents of Conscripts Arrested." [Accessed 23 Jan. 2008]

Awate.com. 25 June 2007. "Eritrea Calls Back All Conscripts Below 50 for 'Training'." (BBC Monitoring Africa/Factiva)
_____. 7 April 2007. "Eritrea, Ethiopia Reportedly Engaged in Heavy Fighting." (BBC Monitoring Newsfile/Factiva)

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 10 May 2007. Estifanos Tesfai. "Nine Years Later, Ethiopia, Eritrea Still at War." (BBC Monitoring Africa 13 May 2007/Factiva)

Defense & Foreign Affairs Handbook. 2006. 16th Edition. Edited by Gregory R. Copley. Alexandria, Virginia, USA: The International Strategic Studies Association.

The International Encyclopedia of Uniform Insignia Around the World. N.d. "Eritrea – Army: Everyday Dress." [Accessed 28 Jan. 2008]

Mirror [London]. 5 March 2007. Chris Hughes and Stephen White. "Snatch Squad." (Factiva)

Reuters. 27 December 2007. "Update 2 – U.N. Probes Eritrea-Ethiopia Border Gunfire." (Factiva)

Sunday Herald [Glasgow]. 4 March 2007. Torcuil Crichton. "Rescuers Bid To Free Captured Britons. Ethiopia – Kidnapping: Five Embasy Staff Feared To Be in Eritrean Military Camp." (Factiva)

United Nations (UN). 19 May 2005. Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). "Eritrea: Coping with Economic Hardships." [Accessed 28 Jan. 2008]

United States (US). 15 October 2007. Department of State. "Country Specific Information: Eritrea." [Accessed 29 Jan. 2008]
_____. September 2005. Library of Congress. "Country Profile: Eritrea." [Accessed 24 Jan. 2008]

Voice of America (VOA). 27 December 2007. "Eritrea Accuses Ethiopia of Border Attacks." (Factiva)

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: The Embassy of the State of Eritrea in Ottawa, the Embassy of the State of Eritrea in Washington, D.C. and the Ministry of Information of the State of Eritrea did not provide information within the time constraints of this Response. Attempts were made to contact the Ministry of Defence in Eritrea and the United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE).

Internet sites, including: AllAfrica, Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, European Country of Origin Information Network (ecoi.net), GlobalSecurity.org, Jane's Foreign Report, Jane's Intelligence Review, Jane's Terrorism and Security Monitor, Nationmaster.com, Shabait.com (Ministry of Information of the State of Eritrea), United Kingdom Home Office, United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE).

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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