Postal History and Philately in Eritrea

Eritrea has an eventful and fascinating history of postal services and philately. This history reflects the development of the postal system from the beginnings of the Egyptian postal station in the port city of Massawa to the postal system of the independent state of Eritrea. This development did not proceed in a straight line, but is characterized by numerous breaks.

The first post office on Eritrean soil was operated by Egypt in the port city of Massawa from 1869. This post office was replaced in 1885 by the Italian colonial postal service, which had been operating in the port of Assab since 1883. As Italy conquered the territory, the postal system also expanded. In the mid 1930s, the Italian colony of Eritrea was at its economic peak. With the war of aggression on Abyssinia, the Italian colonial postal service was merged for a few years in 1938 with the postal service of Italian East Africa. After Italy’s military defeat, the postal system was transferred to the British “Middle East Forces” in 1941, then to the British Military Administration and then to the British Civil Administration. With the forced federation of Eritrea with Ethiopia in 1952, the Ethiopian Post took over postal sovereignty, which lasted until the end of the war of liberation in 1991.

As early as 1977, the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) had begun to set up its own postal service in the liberated areas. After Ethiopia’s defeat in the liberation struggle in 1991 until the referendum on Eritrea’s independence was held in 1993, Eritrea remained isolated in postal terms. Although there was a domestic postal service and, under bilateral agreements, postal traffic with Sudan and Ethiopia, postal traffic with the rest of the world was not possible. With internationally recognized independence and membership of the UN and subsequently of the Universal Postal Union, mail from all over the world could be sent to Eritrea and from there to the rest of the world from 1993 onwards. Today the Eritrean postal administration has more than 50 post offices throughout the country.

The era after the end of the liberation struggle has only been depicted sporadically so far. A number of well-researched publications have already appeared on the postal system during the Italian colonial period and the war of aggression against Ethiopia, as well as on the British administrative period. However, the more recent period has not been dealt with until today. It is the main focus of the present publication. This is the first time that an overview of stamp issues during the liberation struggle, the little-known two-year transition period with the Inland Postal Service (1991-93) and after independence (from 1993) is given. It was written by the Eritrea expert and philatelist Hans-Ulrich Stauffer. The 100-page brochure is richly illustrated.

Hans-Ulrich Stauffer, Postal History and Philately in Eritrea, ed. Afrika-Komitee, Basel 2020, 100 pages, with numerous illustrations (ISBN 978-3-033-07705-8; German version also available).

Price €/CHF 20 (incl. postage and shipping).

Order: info@afrikakomitee.ch; prepayment on postal account IBAN CH40 0900 0000 9139 8667 9, POFICHBEXXX, Postfinance, Berne, or with banknote in envelope enclosed: Africa Committee Basel, P.O. Box 1072, CH 4001 Basel, Switzerland.