In July 1993, the Government of Eritrea began demobilization of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front army. The governrnent had several reasons for taking this step:

During the liberation struggle the EPLF combatants were almost 3% of the total population in order to counter the challenge of Ethiopia's huge army. The Eritrean economy cannot sustain such a large army. Eritrea's human and economic resources should be channeled to reconstruction instead of defense and armaments. Demobilized fighters. once they are engaged in productive activities, can contribute significantly to alleviating the problems faced by their families and dependents who are a major segment of the population, and to ensuring the growth of the national economy.

Demobilization will have a positive impact on long term political development and stability. The nurturing of democratic civil institutions, the building of an effective police force, and the strengthening of the judiciary should be given priority over enhancing the country's defense capabilities.

While there are security concerns that require an army, these do not justify one of the present size and, in the event of changes in this situation, the demobilized can be remobilized for service. In the long term, only an effective, small army will be compatible with the country's economic resources and its security concerns. Pursuing active, constructive policies in diplomatic relations with our neighbors and the region as a whole offers a positive dividend by reducing defense needs and expenditures.

The government has decided to demobilize 50-60% of the army. In the first phase, about 26,000 combatants (24% of the army) are being demobilized.

Those being demobilized in this phase will receive:
six months food ration each those who joined April 1, 1991, and later (8,400 combatants)
receive a lump sum of 1000 birr or US $200
those who joined from Jan. 1-April 1 1991 (2.500 combatants) receive a lump sum of 2500 birr
or US $500
those who joined in 1990 (15,000 combatants) receive a lump sum of 5000 birr or US $1,000

They will also be eligible for:

credit facilities for investment purposes under government bond consultancy services through the Ministry of Industry, trade and Tourism to help them launch their own businesses cooperation from the Labor Office in finding employment. and crash and continuous programmes of vocational training.

To implement this, the government has effected budget cuts and rearranged its priorities in other areas, taken loans, begun a campaign to raise funds from the public, is seeking substantial external assistance, and will consider raising taxes as a last resort.

For more information, contact:
Research and Information Section
Embassy of Eritrea
910 17th Street NW, Suite 400
Washington DC 20006
Tel: (202) 429 1991
Fax: (202) 429 9004