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

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

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.

The government seemed nervous enough to block social media sites like Facebook and its messaging app in the weeks before Independence Day. The internet itself was also much slower than usual. “They cut down the allowance of everybody during the celebrations,” one internet provider in Asmara admitted to me.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.