It’s been 25 years since the conflict with Ethiopia ended but Eritrea may still be at war with itself, with rights groups often criticizing the East African nation for its policy of forced conscription, lack of democracy and media freedom, forcing many to flee the country. The UN says as many as 5,000 Eritreans flee every month and there are reports that the government sponsors international campaign to silence its critics.
Regardless of whatever has happened in Eritrea’s history and the ills that are reportedly covered up by the government, the country is becoming more appealing to investors. This is due to its booming minerals sector and untapped oil and gas reserves. Already Canadian, Australian and Chinese companies have all at one time or the other invested in the Eritrean mining sector. European companies have joined the scramble for resources.
Regardless of growing investor appetite, Eritrea still has issues to address.
The UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in Eritrea, Sheila Keetharuth, said the country had been in a “constitutional vacuum” since 1997, urging Eritrea to “fully embrace democracy and the rule of law to achieve the vision established” at independence.
“National independence should match with individual independence and freedoms: freedom of conscience, thought, mind and expression; freedom to engage in employment and education of one’s own choice,” Keetharuth said.
But there are celebrations all around Eritrea, according to reports in the local media which paints a picture of relative peace and stability in the country. Some residents have also spoken glowingly of the leadership. The central boulevard of Asmara, Eritrea’s capital city was decorated with special lights for the Independence anniversary, with thousands of people from the diaspora reported to have returned home to join the party.
Yet, there are youths trying “to point [out] the real situation” in Eritrea.
As Eritrea celebrates its 25th independence, calls for change are becoming louder, so are thumbs up increasing for the government of the East African country which some say is building a truly socialist state in Africa. Growth is expected to be at 4 percent this year and 4.3 percent in 2017.
Defeating a more powerful and better equipped Ethiopian army was a great feat for Eritrea whose creative self-reliance saw it through years of conflict. Its development so far has been built on this and could make it a powerful economic force in the East African region, but Eritrea needs to work on issues raised about its democracy, or at least educate the world about what is going on and open up a bit more.