Society

Major Ethnic Groups Of Eritrea

The Biher-Tigrinya people are the largest ethnic group in Eritrea today, followed by the related Tigre people.

The Biher-Tigrinya people are the largest ethnic group in Eritrea today, followed by the related Tigre people. These ethnic groups make up the majority of the population in the country, and the other seven tribes constitute 12% of the remaining total population. Due to Eritrea’s proximity to Ethiopia, the two nations are ethnic brothers that could not see eye to eye. Both Italy and Britain colonized Eritrea. In 1952, the United Nations federated Ethiopia and Eritrea, but Ethiopia overruled the federal arrangement and annexed Eritrea as its province. This annexation led to years of liberation wars by Eritreans. During this time all the tribes in Eritrea came together to form a formidable front that would liberate the country from the ever fighting Ethiopian ethnic groups.

The ethnic groups in the country are independent of foreigners like the Arabs in the Arabian Peninsula despite the fact that they practice Islam and Arabic culture. Christianity came to the region after a wrecked Syrian ship member’s dock in the coastal areas of Eritrea and the religion spread towards the highlands. The adopted dialects of Arabian origin were as a result of trade, proximity, shared culture, and deities with the Epigraphic South Arabia. The Ge’ez language thus bore the Tigrinya and Tigre language, which 80% of Eritreans speak.

Biher-Tigrinya

The ethnic group is the largest community in Eritrea with constituting 57% of the total population. It occupies the southern, northern, and central highlands of Maakel and Debub and practices farming. The community practices Christianity primarily the Coptic, Catholicism, and Protestantism. A small proportion of the group practices the Islam religion. They speak Tigrinya language.

Tigre

The ethnic group is the second largest population in Eritrea constituting 28% of the total population. They occupy the vast areas from the western lowlands, northern mountains, to the coastal plains of Eritrea. They are similar to the Tigrinya community sharing both Islamic and Christianity. Their culture includes of legendary war crimes, riddles, folklores, shamanisms, evils spirits, and they do not attend hospitals.

Saho

The ethnic minority group of Saho makes up 4% of the total population in Eritrea. The group occupies the southeastern slopes of the highlands to the coastal plains of Foro and the hinterland south of Massawa. Like their counterparts, the Tigrinya and Tiger, they also practice Islamic and Christianity and are small scale farmers with much emphasis on bee-keeping. Their culture is embodied in the community work where a village has around 200 homes that are well built and have a clean environment.

Kunama

The ethnic group forms the third largest population in Eritrea with a 3% stake. They occupy the territories between Gash River and Barentu. The ethnic group constitutes two religions, Islamic and Christianity but traditional believers are present. They live a Nilotic life with a diverse dancing lifestyle. They speak Kunama language.

Bilen

These traditional farmers occupy the regions of Keren and its environs making up a 2% of the whole Eritrea population. They practice Christianity and Islamic religion, and their culture revolves around kinships social stratification. They have close ties with their relatives, Tigrinya.

Rashida

This Islamic ethnic group came to Eritrea from the Arabian Peninsula. They lead a nomadic life along the Northern Red Sea coast. Today they make up for just a 2% of the total population. Their culture is similar to that of Arabians, and they have the Arabic dialect.

The Social Cohesion In Eritrea

The Tigrinya group is dominant numerically, economically and politically. Christianity is the dominant religion with the Jerbeti Muslims taking on the minority. The other minorities with an exception of the Tigre group, are small and do not form any homogeneous or influential political and cultural blocks.

The nine ethnic groups of Eritrea live together in harmony. Ethnicity and race have no influence on the relationship between and among the groups. In fact, they embrace each other’s uniqueness, religion, culture, and language for a harmonious coexistence. Despite the impoverished conditions of the country the ethnic groups' unity makes Eritrea a safe planet. The National Service Program welds the diversity of Eritrea into a sophisticated yet poor hub that does not rely on foreign aid nor fall into random ethnic clashes.

Major Ethnic Groups Of Eritrea

RankEthnic GroupShare of Eritrean Population
1Biher-Tigrinya57%
2Tigre28%
3Saho4%
4Afar3%
5Kunama3%
6Bilen2%
7Rashaida2%

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