This week on The Horn, Alan Boswell is joined by author and scholar, Harry Verhoeven, to discuss Eritrea’s re-emerging role in the Horn of Africa region after more than a decade of isolation.
UN special rapporteur on Eritrea condemned country’s “dire” human rights record; fighting with Tigray forces along Eritrea-Ethiopia border subsided. In report published 10 June, UN Special Rapporteur on Eritrea Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker condemned country’s “dire” human rights situation, citing forced labour, indefinite military conscription, arbitrary arrests, torture and disappearances. At opening of 50th session of UN Human Rights Council, Babiker 13 June shed light on Eritrea’s forcible recruitment for war in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, saying thousands including women, children and Eritrean refugees in Ethiopian camps have been rounded up and sent to front lines since late 2020. Around 500 ethnic Afar Eritrean soldiers 2 June reportedly defected from Eritrea and arrived in Ethiopia’s Afar regional state. No fighting reported in June between Eritrean and Tigray forces along shared border.
Eritrea’s youth exodus has significantly reduced the young nation’s human capital. While this has had advantages for the government – allowing the departure of those most dissatisfied and most likely to press for political change – the growing social and political impact of mass migration at home and abroad demands concerted domestic and international action.
Change is in the air in Eritrea, a highly authoritarian state, but any political transition will require internal political inclusion and channels for external dialogue if it is to preserve stability and improve Eritrean life.
To prevent Eritrea from becoming the Horn of Africa’s next failed state, the international community must engage more with the country.
The Ethiopia-Eritrea impasse carries serious risk of a new war and is a major source of instability in the Horn of Africa, most critically for Somalia. Following Ethiopia’s refusal to accept virtual demarcation of the border by the now disbanded Ethiopia-Eritrea Boundary Commission (EEBC), Asmara unilaterally implemented it and forced out the UN peacekeepers (UNMEE), significantly raising the stakes and shattering the status quo.
The risk that Ethiopia and Eritrea will resume their war in the next several weeks is very real. A military build-up along the common border over the past few months has reached alarming proportions. There will be no easy military solution if hostilities restart; more likely is a protracted conflict on Eritrean soil, progressive destabilisation of Ethiopia and a dramatic humanitarian crisis.
The fragile peace maintained by Ethiopia and Eritrea since they signed a comprehensive agreement at Algiers in December 2000 is fraying dangerously. With a costly two-year war now followed by nearly five years of stalemate, patience on both sides of the border has worn thin, and there are worrying signs that the countdown to renewed conflict may have begun.
Eritrea continues to be an enigma few outsiders know well. This week on The Horn, Alan Boswell is joined by author and journalist Martin Plaut, who offers unique insights on the Horn of Africa’s most off-the-radar country and President Isaias’ autocratic state.
A 12 June clash between Eritrea and Ethiopia comes as the Horn of Africa’s two most implacable rivals face a crossroads.