Episode
November 19, 2018

Will life change for Eritreans amid diplomatic dawn?

As relations with neighbouring countries improve, millions wonder what comes next.
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Eritrea's apparent rehabilitation and re-entry into the international community continues apace, following the UN Security Council’s vote to lift both an arms embargo and targeted sanctions against senior officials. The decision comes just weeks after Eritrea signed a peace deal with its long-time foe Ethiopia and sought to normalise ties with Somalia and Djibouti.

Yet while Eritrea's rapprochements with its neighbours in the Horn of Africa have been praised by regional powers such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, millions of Eritreans are still waiting for President Isaias Afwerki to extend the same spirit of openness at home. Isaias' autocratic government has been accused of being one of the most repressive on Earth, with a United Nations inquiry charging that it has committed crimes against humanity that include murder, enslavement and rape. There has not been an election since 1993 and the national assembly has not convened since 2002. Effective political opposition inside the country to the Isaias government is virtually non-existent.

The peace accord between Eritrea and Ethiopia prompted some observers to say that bilateral trade could spark a new current of democracy and prosperity, but so far it appears that the benefits of harmonious regional relations have not filtered down to the streets. Since the peace deal thousands of people have crossed the reopened border, with the vast majority settling in refugee camps in Ethiopia. Eritreans who have been conscripted indefinitely into the armed forces are still waiting to see if the regime will bring their service to an end now that the country is no longer on a wartime footing. The arrest and harassment of political opponents and critics, though, has continued unabated despite a new era in regional diplomacy, according to Human Rights Watch.

So what are the prospects of daily life improving for millions for ordinary Eritreans as the country relaxes relations with its regional neighbours? Join the conversation to find out.

On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:

Salem Solomon @Salem_Solomon
Journalist, Voice of America
salemsolomon.com

Rahel Weldeab Sebhatu @RahelWeldeab
Political Scientist, Independent Researcher
mspostcolonialafricana.com

Awet Tewelde Weldemichael @Prof_Awet 
Associate Professor African and World History
queensu.ca/history/people/faculty/weldemichael-awet

Read more:
The peace deal with Ethiopia has not changed Afwerki's Eritrea - Al Jazeera
After decades of UN and self-imposed isolation, Eritrea is coming in from the cold - Quartz Africa

 

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