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Posts Tagged ‘Isaias Afewerki’

Eritrea|Is the Horn of Africa facing another collapsing state?

Posted by Ethio Tribune on October 16, 2013

Just as the Horn of Africa is witnessing the slow restoration of one collapsed state – after more than two decades of anarchic conditions in Somalia – it may be facing the collapse of another.

The small country of Eritrea, only 20 years after gaining independence from Ethiopia, has emerged as one of the largest sources of refugees in Africa – as well as one of the most militarised societies in the world. It is increasingly displaying signs of withering state structures and an unsustainable humanitarian situation.

Although Eritrea is sometimes referred to as the North Korea of Africa, a more appropriate point of comparison may be Somalia and its descent into civil war. The already fragile security conditions in Eritrea’s neighbouring states means that its collapse could have major implications for regional stability.

The Eritrean state has, since a 1998 border war with Ethiopia, been caught in a negative spiral of autocracy and deteriorating conditions. President Isaias Afewerki – the only leader this young nation has known – used the threat posed by Ethiopia as a pretext to eliminate all domestic opposition and indefinitely defer implementing the constitution and holding elections. Meanwhile, Eritrean society has been almost totally militarised. An indefinite, compulsory and universal military conscription policy applies to most of Eritrea’s adult population. Its army is now one of the largest on the continent, and has the highest number of military personnel per capita in the world next to North Korea. In 2011, Afewerki took the additional step of arming a large section of the civilian population believed to be loyal to his party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice.

Although huge amounts of resources have been devoted to Eritrea’s military, the institution appears to be split by personal and group rivalries, both within the leadership and between the rank-and-file and the leadership. Political power is very much personalised in contemporary Eritrea, and remains largely in the hands of the president and a handful of military generals, who are rivalling and contesting each other over power, influence and control over financial resources.


The increasing number of political and military defections is another symptom of what looks to be Eritrea’s crumbling state apparatus. This includes former Information Minister Ali Abdu, believed to be the president’s right-hand man; tens of thousands of soldiers who have sought political asylum in neighbouring Sudan and Ethiopia; and the very embarrassing case of two military pilots who defected to Saudi Arabia with the president’s private jet, who were also later followed by a third pilot in April 2013, sent by the government to retrieve the plane. Other defectors include members of Eritrea’s Olympics team at the London Games in 2012, 13 players on an Eritrean football team, and artist Michael Adonai.

The growing frustration among army officers manifested itself this January with a revolt led by a colonel and members of his brigade. Their desperate actions – they occupied the Information Ministry and forced the director of the national TV station to read their demands for political reform on air – further demonstrated the emerging cracks within Afewerki’s regime.

Reliable data on the size of Eritrea’s population is hard to come by, but estimates range between 3 and 4 million people. Of these, several hundred thousand have fled over the last decade, and the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Eritrea reported earlier this year that the number of people fleeing every month has now reached 4,000. While the regime is in denial of the deteriorating conditions, Eritreans are voting en masse with their feet. The vast majority of the refugees are young males, and hence a significant portion of Eritrea’s productive workforce have either fled the country or find themselves indefinitely conscripted in the military.

Many of the refugees are trafficked out of the country through Egypt’s Sinai desert, where they can be kidnapped, tortured, and their families in the West extorted for ransom money by regional criminal networks. The UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea has identified the involvement of leading figures in the Eritrean military in these criminal networks. The participation of high-level military personnel in these activities – which also include the trafficking of weapons and forced labour – reveals the blatant role illicit economic structures have assumed in Eritrea today. 

A continuation of the country’s current trajectory is unsustainable, and some form of change is inevitable in the near future – the most objective indicator of which is the country’s demographics. Given the absence of institutional mechanisms for managing a leadership change, and the mistrust and insecurities that Afewerki’s divide-and-rule strategies have generated, a collapse of the government could lead to civil war.

Lessons from Somalia

A refugee crisis, high-level military defections, a divided military, ethnic tensions, and a leader displaying irrational behaviour are some of the ways in which Eritrea today resembles Somalia in the years before its collapse in 1991. The case of Somalia also illustrates the difficulty of re-building state institutions once central authority has disintegrated and several armed factions take control.

In the event of state collapse in Eritrea, the security and humanitarian repercussions may in fact outstrip those seen in Somalia. Given the high number of weapons in the country and its near total militarisation, the collapse of state authority and civil war may lead to conflict and deaths on an extraordinary scale. Making this prospect more daunting is the deepening of the country’s ethno-religious divisions in recent years. Nearly every individual in Eritrea’s military and political leadership, for instance, now hails from Afewerki’s Hamasien tribe, and are of Christian background. This has alienated the other ethnic groups and created tensions on a sub-ethnic level as well.

Somalia and Yemen have demonstrated how terrorist groups take advantage of the absence of state authority to recruit members and plan and execute attacks. Groups such as al-Qaeda could find a fertile breeding ground among the politically marginalised and increasingly frustrated Muslim population of Eritrea, which make up somewhere between one-third and one-half of the total population.

Though Eritrea is poor and small, with few natural resources, it has a long coastline along the Red Sea, shares borders with Sudan, Djibouti and Ethiopia and is close to Saudi Arabia and Yemen – making it important in terms of global trade and security.

The Horn of Africa is one of the most conflict-prone regions in the world, and most of Eritrea’s neighbours happen to be rather fragile sates. Given the symbiotic nature of conflict and state fragility in this region most of these neighbours would be severely destabilised by the collapse of Eritrea’s state apparatus. These states are themselves overburdened by their own internal security challenges, and do not possess the resources and capacity to handle the challenge of another collapsing neighbour. Such a situation would thus require a substantial international engagement.  

While Eritrea’s authoritarian system has so far proven to be surprisingly resilient, if the refugee crisis continues on its current trajectory, the regime is unlikely to survive for much longer. This silent mass exodus will, if not stopped, lead to a humanitarian and security crisis of enormous proportions.


Posted in News & Analysis | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Eritrea: back to the dark ages

Posted by Ethio Tribune on July 15, 2013


AsmaraThis information comes from sources with direct contact with people living in Eritrea. It gives a unique picture of life under a regime that tolerates no independent media coverage – national or international. Note: the unofficial exchange rate is 70 – 75 Nakfa to the £.

Life in Asmara today

It has been almost two weeks since there has been any electricity supply in Asmara and those who have no access to generators are in the dark.

Their mobile phones are dead too…

Scarcity of petrol and diesel means public  transport is  difficult. Horse drawn carts and wheel-burrows have returned to the streets.

People use their carts to  transport water. In many areas of the city taps have run dry.

People queue for hours to get water, filling jerrycans and barrels and carting them off.

There is also a scarcity of domestic fuel for cooking. Kerosine is supplied once or twice a year in the government shops.

Every family  gets 5-10 liters. When that runs out people use coal.

Real hardship

Bread is so scares and is only supplied intermittently.

Each person gets one loaf. When it is available the bread is good quality and cheap so people are happy when there is a bread delivery.

Every month 5 liters of cooking oil is provided per family.

The only cereal supplied is sorghum which people use as a staple in place of wheat and taff.

Sorghum is supplied every other month and a family of three gets about 15kg.

Additionally a packet of teabags and 3 kg of sugar is also sold every month. but sometimes the tea bags are not available.

Fresh produce is sold in open markets but the prices are so high a single meal can cost an national service recruits his or her entire salary, of 450 nakfa.

1kg of Potatoes cost 50 nakfa, tomatoes cost 40 and onions 25.  Meat is a luxury that many only dream about –  it costs 250 nakfa per kg.

A medium sized chicken costs 400 nakfa, a goat will set you back 600 nakfa.

The people who are suffering the most are the educated middle classes who may earn 1,500-2,000 nakfas.

Most are expected to  support not only their immediate families but their extended families as well. Many single young men are fleeing the country to avoid this fate.

An email from a relative: “Please send me any cloths that your children don’t need anymore. We use all our money on food and rent (my mum now lives with us as my two brothers are in Juba, South Sudan now).  My three children are literally running around in rags.”

Please note: If you believe that any of this information is inaccurate, please let me know. If you have any further anecdotes about life in Eritrea, please sent it to me.

Updates: I have received these responses since the item was posted.

1. Hospitals are suffering because of shortage of electricity. A blood laboratory result could take more than 10 days. Means if ur sickness is critical ur family will accept the result paper days after ur funeral.

2. I am writing this from Asmara. The statements you wrote about electricity, mobile phones etc are fake. How come I was able to charge my phone of there was no electricity in Asmara for 3 days?

3. Do not believe in those who say those are lies. They are all regime supporters. The government gave just 2hours electricity in the last two days. All u wrote is the dramatic truth!

4. “….a goat will set you back 600 nakfa” I am sure this is wrong. When I left Eritrea 3-4 yrs ago, lamb cost 3000-6000 nakfa.

5. All is true. Also, the authorities do not inform (even unofficially) citizens why power is out. They never do. The fact that this is normal practice tells you how oppressed the people are and how much they don’t know about how their country is run.

6. By the way, power has been going out most of the day for the past months, It only got worst the last two weeks with 0 to 2 hours of electric power per day.


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Torture in Eritrea: ‘Every night you hear shouts and cries of people being beaten’

Posted by Ethio Tribune on June 27, 2013

Kidane Isaac says he never thought he was going to see hell, but that was before he was arrested and incarcerated in some of Eritrea’s notorious detention centres.

“Every night you hear shouts and cries of people being beaten. I remember I was beaten very terribly, with metal bars,” he told Amnesty International from his home in Israel where he now lives as an asylum-seeker.

Kidane was 18 years old and had been working as a construction worker when he was detained as he attempted to flee the country to escape indefinite conscription to national service. For six months, Kidane was held in three different detention centres. He described terrible conditions in the prisons, where torture and other ill-treatment, including severe beatings, were common.

“The second place I was imprisoned in [was] Mai Edaga. There are two holes, covered with a zinc cover, it was very crowded, we got two breads a day, there were flies all the time, it was very dirty. It is a very terrible place,” Kidane said.

“We were arrested out of the blue and taken to prison. There was no accusation, no interview. There was no lawyer. It was crazy,” he said.

Kidane’s story mirrors that of thousands of other Eritreans, who have been detained without charge or trial – some for up to 20 years. Amnesty International estimates that at least 10,000 political prisoners have been arbitrarily detained by the government of President Isaias Afewerki, who has ruled since the country’s independence in 1993.

“Twenty years on from the euphoric celebrations of independence, Eritrea is one of the most repressive, secretive and inaccessible countries in the world,” said Claire Beston, Amnesty International’s Eritrea researcher.>>>read more

Posted in News & Analysis | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

What is the Eritrean Eritrean foreign minister Osman Saleh begging from Egypt’s Morsi this time?

Posted by Ethio Tribune on April 17, 2013

Eritrea stands by Egypt’s “historic rights” on the Nile River
The meeting tackled the file of Nile water along with discussing regional and international issues. Morsi praised the Eritrean stance that supports the Egyptian historic rights in Nile water.

President Mohamed Morsi held a meeting with Eritrean Presidential Advisor Yamani Jibrab and Foreign Minister Othman Saleh on means of promoting bilateral ties.

The meeting tackled the file of Nile water along with discussing regional and international issues of mutual concern, said a statement released by the Presidency.

Morsi praised the Eritrean stance that supports the Egyptian historic rights in Nile water.

Morsi said he is looking forward to holding a meeting with Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr received Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh and Eritrean Presidential Advisor Yamani Jibrab.

Foreign Ministry Spokesman Amr Roshdi said that Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh conveyed a message to President Mohamed Morsi from Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki.

Roshdi noted that the two sides took up means of boosting bilateral relations between Egypt and Eritrea as well as coordinating stances toward a host of international issues.

He added that Amr stressed Egypt’s keenness on promoting trade with Eritrea.

Source: Daily News Egypt

Posted in News & Analysis | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

Operation Forto 2013 Impacts Operation Fenkil 2013

Posted by Ethio Tribune on February 12, 2013

The Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) waged Operation Fenkil on February 8, 1990.  By February 10, 1990, the military operation had achieved its mission: to liberate the port city of Massawa and to evict the occupying Ethiopian force– which lost about 8,000 soldiers in the 3-day battle.  The anniversary of Operation Fenkil is marked every year with solemnity and celebration: songs and dances; art and craft; laying wreath at the War Memory Square in the town center–aka The Three Tanks Center–and a televised address by self-declared president Isaias Afwerki in the presence of senior party and government officials.

This year, there apparently was no address by Isaias Afwerki–at least not one that was televised.

On February 8, Isaias Afwerki obliquely referenced the “21 January incident”–the one-day takeover of Forto or Ministry of Information–for the first time and said that “the Government opted to remain silent regarding the matter so as to give no ground for the authors of sheer lies.”  Of course, since the Chief of Staff of the Office of the President, Yemane Gebremeskel; and the Eritrean ambassador to the UN, Araya Desta; and the Eritrean ambassador to the African Union, Girma Asmerom; and the Eritrean ambassador to South Africa, Saleh Omer; and the Eritrean ambassador to the UK, Tesfamicael Gerahtu did not exactly opt “to remain silent”, Isaias Afwerki is either stating that they are not part of the Government or he is not aware that they were giving interviews and tweeting.  Since the “government” is a one-man-show, we think it is the former.

Beyond that, Isaias Afwerki’s refusal to give the customary annual speech in Massawa–a ritual he has observed annually for 21 years–indicates that the “21 January incident”, as much as the “Government” tries to downplay it, has been quite significant:

1.  The claim that Isaias Afwerki and his cult tries to sell–that he is a man beloved by the people and can walk anywhere, anytime unguarded in Eritrea– was always fiction given that, according to wikileaks, he has “three separate Presidential Guard units of about 2,000 troops each” reporting to Major General Filipos and a “70-man presidential bodyguard detachment” reporting to Colonel Tesfaldet Habteselassie.   But, when 6,000 Presidental Guard unit reports to Major General Filipos, and the general is one of the more disgruntled ones, that must not make Isaias Afwerki feel secure enough to have a public address;

2.  Since the ruling party never has congresses, events like “Operation Fenkil”–like the May Day Parade of the USSR– are some of the few moments the world is given a glance into the party’s power structure.  Who is invited to the stage–who is present, who is absent–would inform the world who is promoted, demoted, frozen, arrested or exiled.   If the event had been televised, there would not have been the ruling party’s director of organizational affairs Abdella Jaber; or the Minister of Information, Ali Abdu;  or the co-founder of the ruling party, Ramadan Mohammed Nur or any of the other generals that are important or useful props for these events.  Televising the event would have given the world information, thus the cancellation.

Thus, no matter the effort to downplay the “21 January incident”, it appears to have been significant enough to change a 21-year tradition.  Do not be surprised if the regime shows video footage from prior years– just as it did in December 31, 2012 when celebrating the New Year celebrations.

inform. inspire. embolden. reconcile.

Posted in News & Analysis | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Eritrea’s president says no fear of unrest after army mutiny

Posted by Ethio Tribune on February 12, 2013

By Aaron Maasho
Isaias_Af10(Reuters) – Eritrea’s President Isaias Afewerki sought on Monday to calm fears of unrest, and in his first reaction to the storming of the information ministry ago by dissident troops three weeks, blamed “bankrupt enemies” for being behind the attack.
Eritrean soldiers, backed by tanks, took over the ministry on January 21 and obliged the director general of state television to appeal for all political prisoners to be freed.
Calm soon returned in the capital, but Eritrean opposition activists in neighbouring Ethiopia say there is growing dissent within the army, Africa’s second biggest, over economic hardship.
The incident sparked protests by exiled Eritreans in Europe, who briefly occupied embassies in London, Rome and other cities last month to express support for the mutinous soldiers.
Isaias said his administration had chosen to remain silent to avoid “serving the ploys of bankrupt enemy quarters”.
“Entertain no worry at all, as there was, and does not exist, any reason for being apprehensive,” the information ministry website quoted him as saying on Monday.
Isaias did not disclose who was behind the plot, but said details would be provided “at an appropriate time”.
Eritrea has been led by Isaias, 66, for two decades. Although the renegade soldiers did not go as far as to demand his overthrow, the protest was a rare glimpse of public discontent in one of Africa’s most secretive states.
The fate of the dissident soldiers is not known and statements about the political situation inside Eritrea are hard to corroborate. But dissent inside the one-party state is typically dealt with harshly.
Between 5,000 and 10,000 political prisoners are held in the country of 6 million people, the United Nations human rights chief said last year, accusing Eritrea of torture and summary executions.
More than 1,000 Eritreans cross over to Ethiopia and a similar number go to Sudan each month to escape conscription and unlimited service in the army, according to figures from the U.N. refugee agency.
On a strategic strip of mountainous land along the Red Sea, Eritrea has more soldiers per person than any country except North Korea.
(Editing by James Macharia and Jon Hemming)

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What Did Bashir And Isaias Discuss?

Posted by Ethio Tribune on February 4, 2013

On February 2, Sudan’s Omar Al Bashir was in Asmara for a one-day “working visit.”  This was, as we reported, the first visit to Eritrea by a foreign head of state since the developments of January 21, when members of Eritrean Defense Forces occupied Eritrea’s Ministry of Information for a day and announced their demand for political reform to include constitutional government.  Was this issue raised in their discussion?

According to a two-sentence report in Eritrea’s official government website, shabait, the two “exchanged views on the development of various Sudanese issues and issues of mutual concern.”

According to Sudan Tribune, Al Bashir, among other things, “discussed recent developments in Eritrea following a move by dissident soldiers last month who briefly seized the information ministry in Asmara.”

It appears that Al Bashir, a wily survivor, was, accompanied by his intelligence official, paying Asmara a visit to assess the risk posed to the Eritrean regime following the events of January 21.  The two belong to a friendless club and a regime change in either country would be a serious blow to the other.   Al Bashir is said to be extremely worried that whoever succeeds Isaias Afwerki will be friendly to the West and hostile to Sudan.

Sudan has a relatively more open free press and whatever the views of the Al Bashir regime are will likely leak to friendly media and editorial writers.

Posted in News & Analysis | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

The Beginning Of The End Of Eritrean President Isayas Afeworki

Posted by Ethio Tribune on January 31, 2013

Eritrea's President Isaias Afwerki listens to a question during an interview with Reuters in the capital Asmara May 20, 2009.

The imminent slow motion collapse of Isayas Afeworki is no different. After more than two decades of overbearing rule, Isayas’s hermit state has become the object of mockery and contempt of not just on the opposition websites but increasingly in the streets of Asmara as well.

The man who was received with big fan fare and enthusiasm, when he marched in to Asmara, 22 years ago has brought the Eritrean people only war, poverty, brutality and subjugation. Using carnage and tyranny, he established and maintained despotism masked by the stratum of nationalism.

Over the years, there have been multitudes of events that warrant the removal of Isayas: regional transgression, political oppression, crumbling economy, the decaying of the social fabric, to mention few. Even though, for some inexplicable reason he has managed to stave off all and survived to this day.

Some say Isayas has nine lives. Unfortunately for him, fortunately for the Eritrean people, he seems to be on his last one. In other words, he has long lived a precarious existence, but now more than ever. Even the most thick-skinned Eritreans have given up on him.

The current episode that is sharply accelerating the demise of Isayas’s regime is precipitated by the worsening ecosystem of problems which are sending the country in to a down word spiral. That in turn has discharged the fracturing of the ruling party [PFDJ]. Needless to say, the intra-party struggle is in plain sight and the great storm of popular uprising is fast gathering, leading some loyalists and high ranking officials to abandon the boat.

The latest sedition by some courageous members of the Eritrean armed forces is another major step toward the regime’s degeneration. The current kaleidoscope of events in Eritrea is similar in substance to the rejection of dictatorships the world witnessed in what is now referred to as the Arab Spring. As was the case with Kaddafi, Mubarak and Assad, Isayas has lost the battle for the hearts and minds of his own people.

Consequently, the title wave of protest triggered by the Diaspora Eritrean youth is being reflected by the people inside. More than ever, Eritreans are convinced that Isayas’s moral turpitude or his system of government lack the basic element of democratic credentials and are beyond reform. They realize the hope and illusion of that reform died in 2001.

As I mentioned earlier, isayas’s life is a life of perpetual crisis: there have been numerous circumstances when his brazenness reached its peak and give way to awkward periods. His bohemian attitude and abrasive actions have turned the country in to an international pariah. His phony notion of self-reliance economic policy as a substitute for an objective one is still born.

That raises the question; haw did he manage to escape demise for so long? Is he that smart, or the Eritrean people that gullible?

The answer is both and then some. Isayas has managed to create a matrix of monistic philosophy: perpetuated self-aggrandizing, treating the people like flock of sheep.

However, the most power full headwind to change: that is prolonging the regime’s life and holding the country hostage is its impressive security and spy network or apparatus. But, in reality, that only perpetuates the delusion that stability can be maintained by force. As demonstrated in Libya, Egypt, and Syria; no matter how sophisticated or numerous securities a regime deploys, the moment that regime loses the confidence of the people, none of it matters.

Isayas’s private tragedy, Eritrea’s agony: for Isayas, power is his sole ideology, his friend, his concubine and his mistress. His fight to remain in power is the main force dragging the country in to the pit. While the complexities of democracy, justice, economy and peaceful co- existence with neighbors elude him, he instinctively understands power. Some say, it is an obsession bred from decades of rough survival in the Eritrean dry hills [Sahel].

It is this infatuation with power that is prolonging the country’s agony, but also leading to his pit fall. There lies the paradox. Hindering the impending popular uprising is like [quoting wedi Afom himself], -“trying to stop the sun from rising”

In conclusion, those who warn that the collapse of Isayas’s regime is fraught with unpredictable consequences have a point. But they are dead wrong, if they believe that preservation of this terrorist entity is less risky. To the contrary, the removal of Isayas and his peremptory government is the only chance Eritreans have to save their country from the gangrene of systemic destruction.


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Is Eritrea due for a revolution?

Posted by Ethio Tribune on January 24, 2013

BY Jacey Fortin | IBTimes

Something strange happened Monday morning (Jan. 21, 2013) in Eritrea’s capital Asmara. Reports emerged of a coup attempt at the Ministry of Information, around 10 a.m., but the turmoil was kept quiet. For most people in Asmara, the work week commenced without a hitch. The Eritrean Ministry of Information website itself doesn’t even hint at the unrest; the top story, posted on Sunday, details development initiatives in the port town of Massawa.

But Western news outlets including Reuters, the New York Times and the Associated Press reported that anywhere from 100 to 200 mutinous soldiers stormed the Ministry of Information and forced a newsreader to deliver a statement on air calling for the release of political prisoners, as well as the enforcement of a constitution that was officially approved in 1997 but never implemented. That constitution sets a two-term limit for presidents, ensures the right to a fair trial and lays out guidelines for a free media — none of which actually exist in Eritrea.

Eritrea is a young country; it broke away from Ethiopia and officially claimed independence in 1993, ending decades of bloody warfare. That was a time of hope, but the international community’s assessment of Eritrea’s potential has since soured.

War didn’t really end with sovereignty; Eritrea has since engaged in clashes with Ethiopia and Yemen. It has also been accused of funding militants in Somalia, which earned Asmara sanctions from the United Nations. The same man — President Isaias Afwerki — has ruled the country for decades, and no general election has been held since the independence referendum of 1993. Thousands of political prisoners are currently being held in secretive detention, according to Human Rights Watch .

In short, Eritrea is considered one of the most isolated and repressive states on earth. And although the people who stormed the Ministry of Information on Monday apparently made some progress, security forces didn’t take long to quash the small uprising.

It is no surprise that reports of the incident are hard to come by. Eritrea is known for muzzling its press; a 2012 report from the Committee to Protect Journalists ranked the country the worst on earth in media censorship, beating out such heavy contenders as North Korea, Cuba and Saudi Arabia.

Then again, that’s only one side of the story.

The Monday morning incident sparked furious sparring on social media, with many defenders of the government — including Eritreans native to Asmara — insisting that they had seen no sign of an uprising, and further, that no uprising was necessary.

The online sparring and the still-murky reports of the Monday uprising raise a vital question: after decades under President Afwerki — and in the context of regional uprisings of the Arab Spring — is Eritrea due for a revolution?

With on-the-ground reporting at a minimum, analysts are in large part forced to speculate about this recent conflict. Some approach the problem scientifically — like Jay Ulfelder, an American political scientist affiliated with the Ronin Institute for Independent Scholarship.

Ulfelder uses a mathematical model to forecast the probability of successful coups in countries around the world. His 2012 forecasts successfully pegged Mali and Guinea-Bissau as high risk nations, and the [url]2013 rankings[/url] came out last month.

Neither forecast puts Eritrea among the top 30 “high-risk” coup contenders.

“As for what shapes the forecast for Eritrea in particular, it winds up toward the middle of the global pack because it’s a mixed bag,” says Ulfelder.

“On the one hand, it’s a poor country that’s internationally isolated, both of which are associated with increased risk of coup attempts. On the other hand, it’s a very repressive dictatorship, and regimes like that are historically no more coup-prone than fully democratic ones, other things being equal. The regime’s success at quashing dissent is also reflected in the absence of any prior coup attempts, another thing that pulls Eritrea’s forecast down.”

The model is so far holding up, since what happened in Eritrea on Monday was not a coup; it did not depose the government and was possibly not intended to do so.

But even mutiny is a big deal for this country, where dissent so often leads to a prison cell. Any sign of bold opposition are worth noting in an environment like this.

Monday isn’t the first time Eritreans have acted brazenly against the regime; in 2009 and again in 2011, members of Eritrean soccer teams on international tours embarrassed Asmara by refusing to go home after touring abroad. In 2012, two military pilots made a spectacular escape to Saudi Arabia with an airplane belonging to Afwerki. Escape is so common that it has turned into a lucrative racket; HRW cites a UN report finding that officials can make thousands of dollars by assisting and charging escapees, and “people smuggling is so pervasive that it could not be possible without the complicity of government and party officials, especially military officers.”

A worsening economic crisis may be what’s pulling Eritrea closer to the brink. The UN sanctions are being felt more than ever, especially in a country where the GDP per capita is around $482, according to World Bank data .

All told, it is probably too early to expect a major uprising from the citizens of this long-suffering country. But little rebellions like the January 21 mutiny — and even the fact that some details emerged despite heavy censorship — show that the winds of change may come sooner than we think.


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Young Eritreans use new media to crack Eritrea’s iron curtain

Posted by Ethio Tribune on January 7, 2013

Young Eritreans, who have fled abroad to escape compulsory military service, have turned to new media to attack the regime.
Young Eritreans, who have fled abroad to escape their government’s stifling repression and years of compulsory military service, have turned to new media to attack the regime.

Young Eritreans, who have fled abroad to escape their government’s stifling repression and years of compulsory military service, have turned to new media to attack the regime. Over the last year they have used chat-rooms, phone messaging and flash-mobs to get their message across.

In the last decade, tens of thousands of Eritreans slipped across their country’s heavily guarded borders. After surviving shipwreck in the Mediterranean or banditry, torture and extortion in the Sinai, they are building new lives in Europe, the US and Israel. Many are deeply angry that they have had to flee from their homeland, and looking for a means of attacking President Isaias Afwerki grip on power. But Eritrea is – after North Korea – probably the most inaccessible of regimes. It accepts almost no foreign aid, has expelled most United Nations agencies and forbids foreign ambassadors from travelling outside the capital, Asmara.

Since the early 1990s, all independent media have been silenced, critics jailed and the university closed. Isolated in exile, young Eritreans have developed new forms of resistance through a campaign group, Eritrean Youth Solidarity for Change.

They began with phone numbers smuggled out of the country. Eritrean towns and villages were targeted for phone calls at random. “We wanted to show Eritreans that they were not isolated,” explained Selam Kidane, one of the London organisers. “At first people were very frightened, but gradually that has faded,” Selam told me. “Now, when I get through I get passed from person to person.”

Next the group turned to robocalls to spread their message. Automated messages recorded by a priest for use on 29 November, the feast of Saint Mary. Five thousand calls were made, urging people to go to St Mary’s church in Asmara, to commemorate the disappearance in 2005 of the Patriach of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, Patriach Abune Antonios. The organisers claim that around 5,000 of the 6,800 calls got through. Some were followed up by one to one conversations.

Source: NewStatesMan

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