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Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki is welcomed by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki, right, is welcomed by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at the airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 14, 2018 (AP photo by Mulugeta Ayene).

Despite Historic Rapprochement With Ethiopia, ‘Nothing Has Changed’ in Eritrea

Friday, June 14, 2019

ASMARA, Eritrea—The streets of Eritrea’s capital in the runup to this year’s Independence Day celebrations on May 24 were unusually quiet. But cafes and restaurants were full of many Eritreans from the diaspora who had traveled back to mark 28 years of national independence. “I come every year on this occasion,” an Eritrean living in Germany told me, “to celebrate my country.”

Most of the people I know who put up with life in Eritrea the whole year, however, do not feel like celebrating. For them, the holiday is a day off work that they will spend at home, in part because security tightens, with soldiers or police on every street corner. In the past few months, arbitrary arrests have apparently increased, so everyone is cautious and seems to avoid the center of the city. It is impossible to verify these stories, or other rumors of splits within the ruling party and increasing forms of dissent, given how opaque politics are in Eritrea. The only visible sign I encountered last month was anti-government graffiti inside a building, profanely calling out the ruling party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice. Photos of other anti-government graffiti have recently circulated on Eritrean social media. ...

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