Mar 282013

Executive Summary

 Events in the last twelve months indicate growing discontent inside Eritrea’s tightly controlled regime, as well as deepening political and social divisions. While the mounting number of incidents suggests that President Isaias Afwerki’s regime is vulnerable, with increasing concerns over its ability to stay in power, the country would face numerous institutional, socio-economic and geopolitical obstacles during and after any transition. A careful assessment of these, as well as the role neighbours and the wider international community could play, is urgently needed to help avoid a violent power struggle that could prove dangerous for the Horn of Africa and po- tentially – as Eritrea is a littoral state – for the Red Sea region.

Isaias’s disappearance from public view for several weeks in April 2012 amid ru- mours of his illness and death made evident the lack of a succession plan. In March and May 2012, the Ethiopian army made incursions, revealing the Eritrean military’s disastrous state. Subsequently, a number of defections reached media attention: pilots flying the presidential plane absconded in October, the information minister (a close ally of the president) vanished in November, and the national football team requested asylum in December. Meanwhile several thousand – predominantly young – Eritreans fled every month, preferring the danger and uncertainty of refugee camps and illegal migration routes to the hopeless stasis at home. Then, on 21 January 2013, approxi- mately 100 soldiers rebelled in the capital, Asmara, taking control of the information ministry for a day.

It is difficult to predict what an eventually post-Isaias Eritrea will look like: after and in spite of 21 years of forceful nation-building, fault lines, especially of ethnicity, region and religion (Christians versus Muslims) are still there, some deeper than before. Since the state lacks any institutional mechanisms for peaceful transition of power or even a clearly anointed successor, instability is to be expected, with the cor- rupt army the likely arbiter of who will rule next. But even the generals appear split over loyalty toward the president.

To reduce the risk of instability in Eritrea and its neighbourhood, a broad coali- tion of international actors should take precautionary moves, including immediate and decisive efforts to promote dialogue on avoidance of internal power struggles and mediation of a peaceful transition. This could lead to opening of political space and normalisation, both domestically and internationally. Any opportunity should be seized to bring Asmara in from the cold. UN-imposed sanctions (imposed for support of Al-Shabaab in Somalia and other destabilising activities) should be kept under active review. The European Union (EU) and U.S. should work with others, such as Qatar and South Africa, that have better relations with Eritrea’s ruling elite and could facilitate constructive engagement. Member states of the regional Inter- governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) should welcome Eritrea back and encourage normalisation of relations.

If, as many believe, formal diplomacy remains blocked, Ethiopia, Sudan and Dji- bouti should engage with exiled opposition parties (including armed ethnic fronts) to encourage proactive engagement with dissidents in Asmara, promote dialogue and agreement by them not to use force that could lead to a protracted conflict and have repercussions for the entire region.







This report examines the regime’s vulnerabilities, maps out six possible scenarios for a post-Isaias Eritrea and identifies the main risks and opportunities the country and the region would face. Concerned Western partners, neighbours and govern- ments with special relations with Asmara could play a vital role in preventing a major humanitarian crisis or even the state’s collapse.









To avert chaos and further displacement of populations;

bring Eritrea in from the cold and promote talks with President Isaias Afwerki and the current leadership


To regional and wider international partners:


  1. Accept Eritrea’s request to rejoin the Intergovernmental Agency for Development (IGAD), and so reactivate regional dialogue as per the organisation’s mandate.
  2. Re-evaluate UN Security Council sanctions on Eritrea in light of the latest UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea report, so as to incentivise improvements in Eritrean behaviour.
  3. Enhance the European Union (EU) Horn of Africa strategy to promote regional economic integration and dialogue through the mediation capacities of the EU Special Representative for the Horn of Africa, and include Red Sea security in his mandate.



In the event of a transition


To the U.S., EU and countries with special relations to Eritrea:


  1. Coordinate U.S. and EU efforts with countries that have special relations with Eritrea’s current leadership (Qatar, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Uganda, South Sudan and China).
  2. Support a frank assessment of the country’s socio-economic situation and de- velopment needs, including disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration and security sector reform programs, as well as projects for the reintegration of asylum seekers scattered around the world.
  3. Engage Eritrea’s direct neighbours, with African Union (AU) leadership, regard- ing their strategic response if a transition occurs, and seek to preserve Eritrean national unity.
  4. Engage with the diaspora – including refugee youth and opposition groups – and promote their proactive engagement with an eventual new government.
  5. Promote dialogue with the new leadership and encourage a national conference to open space for inclusive political developments.


Nairobi/Brussels, 28 March 2013


International Crisis Group


Africa Report N°200                                                                                               28 March 2013





Eritrea: Scenarios for Future Transition




I.             Introduction



Eritrea is a small, young and increasingly, fragile state. Crisis Group has previously argued that it was “under severe stress, if not yet in full-blown crisis”.1 This report reflects recent events that signal internal malaise has become chronic, including a short-lived military protest at the information ministry, known as “Forto”, and longer- term trends, most obviously the accelerating exodus of working-age Eritreans via expensive and dangerous channels.

Social, religious and ethno-regional divisions are resurfacing that the years and culture of the liberation struggle underplayed and 21 years of forced nation-building have suppressed.2 Following the Forto incident, the government arrested formerly ultra-loyal ministers, party officials and military officers, almost all from a Muslim background. The determination to forge a strong, “mobilised” nation under a single, presidential party has resulted in an ever narrowing leadership base. The last public demands for reform, including by regime insiders (the so-called G15) were silenced by arrests in 2001.3 Since then, change and reforms have been hinted at, but have never materialised, blocked it seems by the office of the president.

The report examines how the desire of the president to maintain pervasive power has neutered political debate, leaving a dangerous void where ideas and broad-based leadership might have flourished. It looks also at the question of whether the mili- tary – the only institution of any strength – is likely to be a force for genuine change and at what might be expected of a fractious and aging opposition largely hosted by self-interested neighbouring states.4 It likewise considers the impact of international players – notably Ethiopia, Sudan and Djibouti – and of the sanctions regime imposed on Eritrea by the UN Security Council in 2009 and 2011.

If Eritrea’s future proves to hold more confrontation and risk for itself and the region, the president may take ironic consolation from Mikhail Bakunin’s warning to a friend: “Beware of small states”: advice that while such nations are vulnerable, they are also a source of trouble, not least, but also not only for their more powerful






1  Crisis Group Africa Report N°163, Eritrea: the Siege State, 21 September 2010, p. 26.

2  “Eritrea contains enormous physical, cultural and ethnic diversity, from the highland plateau (known as the kebessa) in the centre to the hot coastal plains and the Danakil depression stretching to the south, to the western lowlands abutting Sudan (the methait). Within those regions are the

distinctive but interconnected economic, cultural and linguistic groupings which comprise the nine official ethnicities. There is also the divide between Christians and Muslims, whose numbers are currently fairly equally balanced. Considering such diversity, and the presence of so many potential fault lines, a history of conflicts is unsurprising”. Ibid, p. 17.

3  See Section III.B below.

4  Eritrean opposition parties have been hosted for many years mainly by Sudan. Since the end of the Ethiopia-Eritrea war in 2000 and Eritrea’s warming relations with Sudan, they relocated to Addis

Ababa. See Section IV below.






neighbours.5 Crisis Group’s purpose below is to examine possible scenarios in which this dynamic might play out and to offer suggestions for alleviating the dangers.

In preparation for this report, Crisis Group made multiple requests to the gov- ernment for permission to meet with the leadership and the widest possible cross- section of citizens. However, visas were never granted. Consequently, the extensive research conducted was obliged to concentrate from the outside on interviews with Eritreans and other long-time observers of Eritrea and the Horn of Africa, in addition to secondary sources.6





















































5  David Hirst, Beware of Small States. Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East (New York, 2010), p. 2.

6  Due to concerns for the security of interlocutors, most sources are not identified.






II.          The Beginning of the End for President Isaias Afwerki?



The events of the last twelve months show that the regime is facing its most serious internal crisis since the dissent that followed the end of the war with Ethiopia in 2000-2001. Fractures and fissures are widening, especially between the president’s inner circle, the military and the regime’s other political wings. The defection of the once ultra-loyal information minister, Ali Abdu Ahmed, is an acute sign, and the “freezing”7 of devoted generals is further evidence of a distinct downward trajectory. Worries are increased by the economy’s disastrous state.8 Many believe the situation, in its current acute form, is not long sustainable, even for a traditionally stoic and resilient population. Hidden behind disputable growth data,9 promises of implausible development and the expansion of mining investments (in partnership with state- controlled companies and international firms)10 is the grim reality that “there is no fuel and even finding daily meals for ordinary people is becoming a nightmare”.11

What exactly is happening within the regime remains unclear. However, Isaias is aging and his health is deteriorating rapidly, reportedly “not helped” by heavy drinking.12 Allegedly, his authority is declining at a slow but steady pace, and the chain of com-


7 To be “frozen” (midiskal), is the Eritrean term for the unlawful dismissal, sidelining, or neutralisation of potentially critical regime members.

8  It is impossible to find affordable fuel and many other basic goods, “and the black market in Eritrea,

everybody knows who controls it … the generals and other high officers within the party”. Crisis Group interview, Eritrea, August 2012.

9  The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected that the economy would grow by a respectable

7.5 per cent in 2012. Growth was strong because of substantial mining investment, in particular the Bisha gold mine. This project, and the output from silver, copper and zinc mines, are expected to be the major sources of growth in 2012-2013. See “Regional Economic Outlook: Sub-Saharan Africa – Sustaining Growth amid Global Uncertainty”, World Economic and Financial Surveys (International Monetary Fund, April 2012), p. 88. “With the Zara and Koka gold mines both set for production in late 2013, Eritrea’s economy will likely expand by double-digit figures next year”. “IMF forecasts 7.5 per cent growth for Eritrea in 2012”, Asmara Time, 20 April 2012. See also “Eritrea Economic Out- look”, press release, Africa Development Bank Group, January 2012. Economic data and the state of business can be found at

10   Human Rights Watch recently stated: “In recent years the country’s largely untapped mineral

wealth has provided a badly needed boost to its economic prospects. The Bisha project [one of the biggest mining prospects in Africa], majority owned and operated by the small Canadian firm Nevsun Resources, is Eritrea’s first and so far only operational mine. It began gold production in 2011 and produced some $614 million worth of ore in its first year. Other large projects led by Ca- nadian, Australian, and Chinese firms are also in the pipeline, however. Numerous exploration firms are scouring other leases for new prospects”. Human Rights Watch warned that mining firms run risks because of the government’s use of military recruits as forced labour. Having interviewed several Eritreans who worked at Bisha during its initial construction phase, it reported: “Some said they were deployed as conscript labourers by Segen (a state-owned contractor). They described ter- rible living conditions and forced labour for paltry wages. A former conscript said that ‘he had been arrested and imprisoned for several months after leaving the work site to attend a relative’s funer- al’”. “Eritrea: Mining investors risk use of forced labor“, Human Rights Watch, press release, 15 January 2013. Nevsun responded that “the use of conscripted labour at the Bisha site is not al- lowed”, acknowledged that in early 2009 it had become aware of allegations that Segen might be using conscripts and in response obtained a “written guarantee from Segen that it would not use conscripts at Bisha”. It also emphasised the economic contribution of the mine to the economy. “Nevsun comments on human rights matters”, Nevsun Resources Ltd., press release, 11 January 2013.

11  Crisis Group interview, Eritrea, January 2013.

12  Crisis Group interview, Rome, August 2012.







mand he built around himself – with Eritrean Defence Forces (EDF) commanders’ support – is weakening as well. Some officers who helped build and consolidate the repressive system are losing – or have already lost – confidence in the president. He, in turn, appears to distrust almost everybody, abruptly turning against former comrades, removing them from power, “freezing” others or promoting rivals into overlapping positions of authority.


  1. The Incident at Forto


On 21 January 2013, in Asmara, the capital, approximately 100 disgruntled soldiers, possibly accompanied by two tanks, entered “Forto”, the building of the information ministry, which broadcasts the state television (Eri-TV) and rounded up the staff.13 They forced the station’s director, Asmelash Abraha, to read an announcement stating that the ministry was under their control and demanding the release of all prisoners of conscience and political detainees, as well as implementation of the 1997 constitution.14 Not much was heard by the public. After two sentences, the TV signal went off air. Troops loyal to Isaias quickly surrounded the building and secured the presidential palace and the airport.15 “In the centre of Asmara … life continued much as normal”.16 Information on what happened afterwards is “still scanty and murky”. 17 What is certain is that after several hours, Eri-TV went back on air (around 10pm), informing viewers of the severe snowstorm in Paris.18 The day’s turbulent local event was not


The government reportedly negotiated with the soldiers, and in the end the minis- try’s employees were released. The mutinous soldiers left the building and returned to their barracks outside the capital. Not a single shot appears to have been fired. The



13  The ministry is in an old Italian military building, called “Forte Baldissera”, on the Beit Georgis hill in Asmara’s outskirts. There is conflicting information about the leader(s) and motives of the mutiny. According to, a diaspora opposition website with good sources in the country, the “mutiny” was led by Colonel Saleh Osman, a hero from the 1998-2000 Eritrean-Ethiopian War, when he resisted orders to abandon the port of Assab, then under siege, and with a few hundred troops repelled the assault. According to Eritrean popular narrative, this was a major driver in the Ethiopian decision to accept negotiations shortly afterwards. According to Stratfor Global Intelli- gence, “some media outlets have identified [Major General Filippos] Woldeyohannes as being the leader of the possible coup in Asmara”. Reports suggest that he was “frozen” by the president from his position as head of the Asmara military district in November 2012, “to prevent rival military commanders from developing a sufficient base of support to challenge the president”. “A possible coup in Eritrea”, Stratfor, 21 January 2013. Others point to years of growing tension and fissures between the military and the political wings of the regime, and suggest it could have been a “well- orchestrated, targeted incident with senior level direction/guidance within the army. High-level military officials confronted President Isaias Afwerki twice before to raise grievances and demands. After being rebuffed twice by him, today’s event happened”. Crisis Group interview, 23 January 2013.

14  Martin Plaut, “Seething discontent in the Horn of Africa: Eritrea’s strange ‘coup’”, New States-

man, 23 January 2013; “What really happened at Asmara’s ministry of (dis)information?”, Report- ers Without Borders, 24 January 2013; and Crisis Group interviews, 21-22 January 2013. The list of dissenters detained since independence, and especially since 2001, is long and multifaceted. See Crisis Group Africa Report N°163, Eritrea: the Siege State, 21 September 2010, pp. 7-8, and Section III below.

15  Crisis Group interviews, 22 January 2013.

16  Martin Plaut, “Seething discontent”, op. cit. The information was also confirmed by Crisis Group phone interview, 22 January 2013.

17  Crisis Group interview, 23 January 2013.

18  “What really happened”, Reporters Without Borders, op. cit.






following day Asmara was “calm, shops were open and life was business as usual”.19 If no immediate punitive measures were taken against the soldiers, it was probably to downplay the incident and wait until international attention subsided.20

Anti-government activists in the diaspora described the 21 January event as an “attempted coup d’état”, and managed to raise international media attention on a country that is normally overlooked.21 On 24 January, a protest took place at the Eri- trean embassy in London, and in the following days similar demonstrations occurred at legations in Rome, Milan, Berlin, Washington and Tel Aviv, all capitals with signifi- cant diaspora presence. Demonstrators supported the dissident soldiers and went far beyond the troop’s demands by calling for an end to President Isaias’s rule.22

Officials tried to whitewash the affair. The day after, the president’s adviser, Yemane Gebremeskel, stated “all is calm today, as it was indeed yesterday”.23 Girma Asmeron, the ambassador to the African Union (AU), said coup rumours in Asmara were “wishful thinking”, “the president is healthy, and Eritrea is a peaceful country” where there would “never be a coup”, as it is a “society built on trust”.24 According to numerous, substantiated reports, a round of arrests took place in the days following, involving some military but mainly political figures;25 significantly most were report-




19  Crisis Group interview, 22 January 2013.

20  “The face-off was ‘solved’ when the government accepted his [Colonel Saleh Osman’s] terms”. “The oprising in Eritrea: A prologue, not an epilogue“, Gedab News (, 25 January 2013. There are no further details as to what then happened. “Calm returns after siege ends”, Al Jazeera,

22 January 2013.

21  Leonard Vincent, author of Les Eryithréens (Paris, 2012), and co-founder of a Paris-based Eritrean radio station “stopped short of calling it a coup d’état and said it wasn’t immediately clear if the action

was a well-organised coup attempt or what he called a “kamikaze crash”. “Possible failed coup attempt in Eritrea”, Associated Press, 21 January 2013.

22  “Eritrea Unrest Echoed in London”, video, Al Jazeera: The Stream, 24 January 2013, at http:// Isaias has ruled Eritrea since May 1991. Eri- trea achieved formal independence from Ethiopia in 1993, after a referendum. For background, see Crisis Group Report, Eritrea: The Siege State, op. cit.; and Section III below.

23  “What really happened”, Reporters without Borders, op. cit.

24  Girma also stated: All over the world an armed, crazy, stupid and terrorist individual or group can take stupid actions such as kidnapping of individuals or taking hostages by raiding government

and private institutions and offices. … Such isolated incidents, which frequently occur in the West, are considered terrorist acts. I don’t understand why in Africa they are considered coups d’état. It is the highest form of double standard and hypocrisy”. “Eritrea says soldiers’ protest ‘stupid’, not coup”, Agence France-Presse, 26 January 2013.

25  Richard Lough, “No sign of Eritrean mutineers as calm returns”, Reuters, 22 January 2013. Some

sources speak of at least 63 people arrested. Among others, Colonel Saleh Osman; Abdella Jaber, the head of organisational affairs of the ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) and one of the president’s most trusted officials; Amanuel Haile “Hanjema”, another political party officer once very close to the president; Mustafa Nurhussein, Southern Zone (Zoba Debub) admin- istrator; Osman Jemee Idris, former ambassador to the UAE; Suleiman Hajj, former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and currently Nurhussein’s deputy and mayor of Mendefera; and Ahmed Haj Ali, offi- cially energy and mines minister (though those actually running the ministry are Hagos “Kisha” and Colonel Wedi Bayru, PFDJ heads of the economic department for mines and energy respectively). See “Les jours d’après”, Les Erythréens Blog (, 25 January 2013; and “More arrests confirmed”, Gedab News, 30 January 2013. The government announced the death of Colonel Abdurahman Mahmoud Jasser, an official in the National Security Office and a veteran from the beginning of the liberation struggle, on 2 February 2013, after “his recent sick- ness”, but according to Al Jazeera his death was mysterious and may have been linked to the 21 January 2013 events. “Aljazeera: Family says Colonel Abdurahman Mahmoud Jasser’s death Mys-






edly Muslims.26 Various sources suggested the president is presenting the internal conflict as a terrorist “jihad” to buy time.27



  1. 2012: The President’s Annus Horribilis?


It is hard to tell what exactly happened, who was behind the incident at Forto and their exact intentions or final goals, since the soldiers neither demanded the dismis- sal of the government nor attempted a coup. What is certain is that this incident, while not unprecedented, was the most recent in a number of underreported events that began in 2012 and indicate growing internal dissent within the previously highly regimented regime, including the once vaunted EDF.28

In January 2012, Ethiopia and Eritrea traded accusations after foreign tourists were attacked and five killed by insurgents in the Afar region, which straddles their joint border.29 “Addis claimed they were under Asmara’s direction, justifying Ethio- pian reprisals in March against rebel camps inside Eritrea.30 Further incursions were




terious”, Gedab News, 4 February 2013; and “Col. Abdurahman Mahmoud Jasser passes away”,

Shabait, 2 February 2013.

26  “Wave of arrests in the aftermath”, Asmarino Independent, 24 January 2013; and “Eritrean opposi- tion claim political purge after mutiny”, Agence France-Presse, 26 January 2013. Some Christian

religious leaders were also reportedly detained. Alex Murashko, “Eritrea officials arrest 10 church leaders; and Christians fear increase in persecution”, Christian Post, 24 January 2013.

27  Crisis Group interview, February 2013.

28  With one exception, no foreign journalists are based in Eritrea, and there has been no independent press since 2001, when a government crackdown on dissent led to imprisonment of eleven journalists and closure of all private media outlets. The only independent reporter (self-proclaimed) the government

allows is U.S. citizen Thomas C. Mountain, who says he is the “most widely distributed independent journalist in Africa, living and reporting from Eritrea since 2006”. He claims that, “The New York Times and its cult followers in the American media, amongst others, manufactured an attempted ‘coup’ that never happened in the small East African country of Eritrea”. Instead, “three disgruntled officers told their command that they were being transferred to the capital, Asmara, to guard the Ministry of Information. Excited to be leaving their remote location for life in the capital the citizen soldiers in the command packed their bags, loaded their two tanks on to their trailers, saddled up and headed for the big city… the unit arrived at the unguarded gates of the Eritrean Ministry of In- formation, unloaded their tanks and, according to neighbours, proceeded to engage in boisterous horseplay on and around their equipment. In the meantime the three miscreant officers barged their way into the television studios of Eritrean TV and waving a pistol around demanded a political screed be read over the air. A quick thinking technician in the broadcast system quickly cut off the signal and their plan was suddenly still born. In the meantime the youngsters in their command outside began to get wind that something was wrong, and when they found out what was going on inside the Eri-TV studios they ‘mutinied’, as in stopped obeying their commanding officers orders which eventually included a command for them to open fire on their fellow Eritreans. Seeing that the jig was up the three ‘mutineers’ absconded on foot from the Ministry escaping down the cliffs behind the old ‘Forto’, once the headquarters for the Italian Colonial Army in Eritrea. All’s well that ends well and the three ‘mutinous’ officers were duly found and arrested. The ‘mutinous’ national service citizen soldiers were taken out to a very tasty dinner at the Malobar restaurant (quite a treat for troops used to a diet of sorghum, chick peas and lentils), [and] spent the night in the daKorea apartments where they enjoyed hot showers, clean sheets and comfortable beds for a change. The next day they and their tanks returned to their base with a well-deserved thanks from the country’s leaders”. Thomas C. Mountain, “The Eritrean ‘Coup’ That Never Was”, Countercurrents Blog (, 27 January 2013.

29  “Ethiopia gunmen kill five foreign tourists in Afar”, BBC, 18 January 2013.

30   Argaw Ashine, “Ethiopia, Eritrea trade accusations after deadly tourist attack”, Africa Review, 20 January 2012.







reported in late May — just after Eritrean independence day — with Ethiopian troops apparently occupying new positions inside Asmara’s territory. EDF forces, surprisingly, and perhaps ominously for the government, put up little resistance”.31 These incur- sions apparently shocked the army commanders, who looked to blame the political leadership.32

In the midst of these military developments, in April, rumours of Isaias’s poor health and even death ran rampant through Eritrean communities across the world. It is widely believed, though not confirmed, that he suffers from a liver ailment and has experienced several health crises in recent years. He was not seen in public between 28 March, when he received the South African ambassador’s credentials, and 27 April, when he gave an interview on Eri-TV. Such an absence was unprecedented.33 Since independence, he has appeared continuously on national television.34

It was not the first time the president’s death had been rumoured, but it was the first time it prompted an information ministry statement that his health was “ro- bust”.35 It blamed the CIA for circulating false information about failing health, an accusation the president repeated during his Eri-TV interview and thereafter to the international press.36 In his public appearances since April 2012, Isaias has appeared healthy.

The president’s absence created uncertainty, confusion and in some instances hope. However, it remains unclear what a future without Isaias would hold and whether Eritrea could be a stable state without its anchor and creator. His month- long absence exposed the government’s apparent lack of thought about the future and a succession plan, either in a clear institutional mechanism for transferring power, or in the person of an anointed successor.

A few months after Isaias resurfaced, Ethiopia’s prime minister, Meles Zenawi, vanished from public life for months, until his death was officially announced on 20 August 2012.37 Although ties were severed by the 1998-2000 border war,38 Eritrea



31  Crisis Group blog, “Eritrea: When is a mutiny not a mutiny?”, ( peacebuilding), 24 January 2013.

32   The political leadership is centred on Isaias and his presidential office. See Section III below.

“The Eritrean generals had a shock of their life when Ethiopia took two punitive actions – in Danakil and Badme areas [in March and May 2012]. They never thought the Eritrean army would crumble so fast. It is after that that the dissent began”; “… the Ethiopians are still sitting on Eritrean villages they captured then …. the Eritrean army tried to dislodge them without any success”. Crisis Group interview, January 2013.

33  The only similar period of long absence happened during five weeks of intense fighting in May

2000. Then rumours of a possible coup d’état also ran high. According to various sources, Isaias underwent liver surgery in Doha, Qatar, during his absence in 2012. See Berouk Mesfin, “Where is Eritrea heading?”, ISS Africa, 5 February 2013.

34  Live interviews are not common, but Isaias is often on national television for events – mostly

national days or some world happening with impact on Eritrea, for example after sanctions were imposed by the Security Council or the Arab Spring. In the case of the latter, he waited a long time before reacting. After the fall of Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, on 11 February 2011, Isaias gave a series of lectures.

35  Press statement, information ministry, Shabait, 22 April 2012 (


36   “Live interview with President Isaias Afwerki”, video, YouTube, 28 April 2012, com/watch?v=5ZAcaXf50tc. “VOA Interview: Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki has denied his

country stifles freedom of speech”, audio, YouTube, 18 May 2012,


37  See Crisis Group Africa Briefing N°89, Ethiopia After Meles, 22 August 2012.







and Ethiopia remain linked – due to their ethnic, historical, socio-economic and psychological ties – and the political destinies of the two governments, which came to power together as allied rebel fronts in 1991, are still closely connected.

The Eritrean government studiously underplayed Meles’s death, since it could have triggered debate on leadership and succession at home. Meles refused to move on Asmara near the end of the war in May 2000 and was generally perceived as sup- porting the country’s independence.39 In the aftermath of his death, many appeared worried about a new Ethiopian leadership’s policy toward Eritrea; information emerged from Asmara that the Eritrean government was arming militias.40

During the latter half of 2012, more rumours circulated about disagreements inside the regime on the direction of the country, as well as Isaias’s leadership. Various high- profile ministers and military commanders were perceived as favouring a leadership transfer, disloyal to the president or trying to organise a coup d’état. 41

Symptomatic of fading morale, in early October, two air force pilots fled with the presidential plane to Saudi Arabia, claimed asylum and issued a statement criticising Isaias.42 In November, rumours spread about the defection of the information minister, Ali Abdu, one of the most loyal servants of the president and the mastermind of al- most absolute press censorship.43 His brother confirmed the desertion months later.44 In December, the entire national football team in Uganda, to play an international match, sought political asylum.45 These were the only cases that reached interna- tional media outlets’ attention, but they epitomise the experience of tens of thousands of Eritreans – mostly between twenty and 40, as well as an increasing number of





38  Eritrea achieved independence from Ethiopia in 1991 at the end of a decades-long struggle. After some years of friendly cooperation, the two fought a bloody war (1998-2000), triggered by a border dispute. Since then, there has been “no war, no peace”. See also the “Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundaries Commission Decision Regarding Delimitation of the Border between The State of Eritrea and The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia”, 13 April 2002, Ethiopia-Eritrea%20Boundary%20Commission /Decision_13-4-2002.pdf; Crisis Group Africa Re- ports N°68, Ethiopia and Eritrea, War or Peace?, 24 September 2003; N°101, Ethiopia and Eri- trea: Preventing War, 22 December 2005; N°141, Beyond the Fragile Peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea: Averting a New War, 17 June 2008; and Briefing N°48 Ethiopia and Eritrea: Stopping the Slide to War, 5 November 2007; also, Tekeste Negash and Kjetil Tronvoll, Brothers at War: Making Sense of the Eritrean-Ethiopian War (London, 2000).

39  In May 2000, Ethiopia’s largest offensive smashed Eritrean positions in the western lowlands,

forcing its army to pull back to the hills west of Mendefera and south of Adi Quala which were easi- er to defend. These held, preventing an advance toward Asmara and producing a bloody standstill by June. Crisis Group Report, Eritrea: The Siege State, op. cit.

40  It is a measure of the government’s confidence that it was apparently unconcerned these weapons

might later be turned against it. Some commentators have noted this may have been a counter-move against some generals. Crisis Group interview, January 2013.

41  In November 2012, there were rumours of a round of arrests and “freezing” of senior military

leaders, including the defence minister, Sebhat Ephrem.

42  The two pilots are Captains Mekonnen Debesai and Yonas Woldeab. “Erythrée: deux officiers demandent l’asile politique en Arabie Saoudite à bord du jet privé du président”, Radio France

International, 4 October 2012.

43  Mohammed Keita, “Where is Eritrean Information Minister Ali Abdu?”, CPJ Blog (www., 27 December 2012. Ali Abdu’s father, speaking of his son, used to refer to him as

PIA’s (President Isaias Afwerki) son. Crisis Group interview, January 2013.

44  Kassem Hamadé, “Ministern bekräftar: Har lämnat regimen”, Expressen, 30 January 2013.

45  “Eritrean football team seeks asylum in Uganda”, New Vision, 6 December 2012.







unaccompanied minors – who fled during the year from unending military service and forced labour (see Section III.B below).46



























































46  The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was said to have estimated that “3,000 Eri- treans fled the country every month, mostly to Ethiopia or Sudan, despite a ‘shoot to kill’ policy for anyone caught attempting to cross the border. Many of those fleeing were young people escaping indefinite national service conscription. Families of those who fled faced reprisals, including har- assment, fines and imprisonment”. “Eritrea”, in “Annual Report 2012”, Amnesty International, 2012.






III.        The State of Eritrea



Isaias is the nucleus of the Eritrean state. His entrenched personal rule raises serious concerns about what will happen to the country, and by extension the region, should he be deposed or incapacitated. He developed his pivotal role during the 30-year struggle for liberation from Ethiopian rule, as the de facto leader of the Eritrean People Liberation Front (EPLF), the main front fighting for Eritrean independence. As president of the new country in 1993, he further centralised power and reduced it to an authoritarian siege state.47

The president maintains control by keeping the country on a perpetual war foot-

ing; nullifying institutions and personalising all branches of the state; continuously fomenting rivalry; and constructing a system of patronage reliant solely on him. No institutional mechanism has been installed to resolve conflicts between the branches of government or between government and population. Governmental institutions have withered, replaced by informal governance by presidential dictate.

The exception is the military, which appears to have maintained a certain degree of autonomy, such that it has reportedly questioned Isaias’s capacity to retain control and asked him to consider a transition at various points in the recent past. The president appears to have refused. Therefore, quite possibly with quiet approval of some senior officers, dissent within the ranks has started to grow. But it is a question whether this newly found desire for change is motivated by patriotic duty or by personal and financial interests.

The foreign ministry suffers from the overall weakness of the formal offices of state and the president’s unilateral decision-making. The equivocal role that the in- ternational community, especially the UN, the old Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and “Western” nations played vis-à-vis Eritrea before its independence, has allowed the president to dismiss conventional diplomatic channels.48 His position was vindicated when the Eritrean-Ethiopian Boundary Commission (EEBC) released its final and binding demarcation of the border in 2002, deciding Badme – dispute over which was a trigger for the war – was in Eritrea. Though they were guarantors of the peace agreement, major Western governments failed to ensure implementa- tion, largely (as Eritrea saw it) because of U.S. and others’ interests in maintaining good relations with their chosen regional ally, Ethiopia.49

In 2009 and 2011 the UN Security Council imposed sanctions against Asmara, for actions in support of Al-Shabaab in Somalia, as well as other destabilising activities, including an attempt to attack the annual AU summit in Addis Ababa.50 Once more,


47  Crisis Group Report, Eritrea: The Siege State, op. cit.

48   For more, see ibid.

49  Eritrea has tried to offer itself to the West for almost a decade as a privileged counter-terrorism partner in the Horn of Africa and beyond. At the time of the invasion of Iraq (2003), Asmara “had

made a vigorous and blatant PR exercise to sell itself as the ideal partner in other dimensions of the war on terrorism …. It claims its Red Sea port and its airport are within easy flying distance of Baghdad, and are thus an alternative base to a reluctant Saudi Arabia. … One result of these com- petitive manoeuvres by Eritrea and Ethiopia to catch the eye of the U.S. was that when [the] U.S. unveiled its grand coalition against terrorism, just prior to the invasion of Iraq, they were two of the only four African countries that were listed”. Lionel Cliffe, “Regional Implications of the Eritrea- Ethiopia War”, in “Dominique Jaquin-Berdal and Martin Plaut (eds.), Unfinished Business: Eritrea and Ethiopia at War, (Trenton, 2004) pp. 163-164.

50  “Eritrea accused of planning major bomb attack on African Union summit”, Global Post, 28 July

2011; and “Eritrea denies support for Al-Shabaab”, Reuters, 18 August 2011. The full UN Monitor-







the international community appeared to agree with Ethiopia’s assessment of Asmara as “the prime source of instability for the whole region”.51 However, the sanctions were aimed at punishing and isolating the leadership; rather than incentivising internal reforms, they likely inspired the opposite.52



  1. The Foundation of a One-Man State


The liberation struggle was often painted by international observers and Eritreans themselves as a victory of national unity, discipline and dedication over Ethiopian imperialism. There was an assumed unity between fighters and civilians (within the country and the diaspora) that for many years overshadowed the more complex real- ity that included centralised decision-making and the quashing of all internal dis- sent. In fact Isaias had become the EPLF’s leader by “employing cunning subterfuges and brutal repression against political rivals” within it and against rival liberation movements.53

At the same time, the EPLF leadership demanded unquestioning loyalty. In order

to establish even greater cohesion in ideology, politics, organisation and national identity, it created a secret “party within the party”, the Eritrean People’s Revolu- tionary Party (EPRP).54 In time, however, the EPRP became more “an instrument of control than one of leadership”, and Isaias was at its epicentre.55 The political culture that emerged in the years spent in the bush, fusing authoritarianism with devotion, sowed the seed of dictatorship and the political culture behind it.56

When the EPLF liberated Eritrea in 1991 and achieved de jure independence in May 1993, Isaias made himself head of state and commander-in-chief. When the EPLF was transformed from a liberation front into the sole legal political party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), he was appointed chairman.57




ing Group Report on Eritrea (2011) can be found at S/2011/433.

51  “Security Council, by vote of 13 in favour adopts resolution [2023] reinforcing  sanctions”,, 5 December 2011. With two abstentions (China, Russia), “the Council demanded that Eritrea cease all direct or indirect efforts to destabilize States, and decided that States shall ‘undertake appropriate measures to promote the exercise of vigilance’ in business dealings with Eritrea’s mining sector”, Ibid.

52  “When I am challenged, I become more stubborn – more and more rigid. I am very emotional”.

President Isaias Afwerki’s remark to Dan Connell, noted in Dan Connell, Against All Odds: A Chronicle of the Eritrean Revolution (Lawrenceville, 1997), p. 173. See also “ President Isaias Afwerki: The Eritrean President in a rare interview with al Jazeera’s Jane Dutton”, Talk to Al Jazeera, 22 February 2010. The full interview can be watched at 2010/02/201021921059338201.html

53  Petros B. Ogbazghi, “Personal Rule in Africa: The Case of Eritrea”, African Studies Quarterly,

vol. 12, no. 2 (2011), p. 8. For more, see Crisis Group Report, Eritrea: The Siege State, op. cit.

54  The EPLF was guided, both militarily and politically, by the EPRP, whose very existence was not known by the vast majority of both EPLF fighters and leaders until revealed by Isaias in 1994. The president said that the inner-party was a revolutionary vanguard, directing the organisation during

the struggle until it was dismantled in 1989. Crisis Group Report, Eritrea: The Siege State, op. cit. 55 Dan Connell, “Inside the EPLF: The Origins of the ‘People’s Party’ & Its Role in the Liberation of Eritrea”, Review of African Political Economy, vol. 28, no. 89 (2001), p. 362.

56 Gaim Kibreab, Critical Reflections on the Eritrean War of Independence: Social Capital, Associ-

ational Life, Religion, Ethnicity and Sowing the Seeds of Dictatorship (Trenton, 2008), p. 277. 57 David Pool, From Guerrillas to Government. The Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (Oxford, 2001), pp. 163-171.







Despite this, hopes for an open society and democratic institutions remained high among Eritreans and the international community.


  1. The Dream Disintegrates


From 1994 to 1997, it appeared progressive reforms would emerge. The government promised to produce a constitution, introduce multiparty politics and hold national elections. A constitutional commission drafted a charter that was ratified by a con- stituent assembly in May 1997. However, it was not implemented, and multiparty elections were never held. Instead, Isaias governed according to the political culture he had fostered during the liberation struggle. In the absence of a unifying common enemy (the role previously filled by occupying Ethiopian forces) and faced with an ethnically and religiously diverse population – especially the Christian-Muslim divide – the PFDJ sought to further entrench the notion of a single national identity as defined during “the struggle”.58 This led to codification of the EPLF’s values in a national charter approved by the PFDJ’s Third Congress in February 1994.59

The national charter expressed six goals for the new state: national harmony; po- litical democracy; economic and social development; social justice; cultural revival; and regional and international cooperation.60 “National unity”, “self-reliance in all fields” and a “strong relationship between the people and the leadership” were the paramount guidelines.61 Through the PFDJ, Isaias promoted a personalised relation- ship between the state and society, whereby the president secured power by extending his control over all state institutions and simultaneously cultivated the myth of the devoted leader.62

The president retained the power of appointing, promoting and demoting at all levels and single-handedly made nearly all decisions regarding the country’s political trajectory. Former fighters (tegadelay) were appointed in all main ministerial capaci- ties, but when some of these liberation heroes in the party and government criticised the way Isaias ruled, their membership was terminated and careers ended.63 Only PFDJ members (and just those uncritical of the president) were entitled to the fruits of the liberation struggle.




58  See fn. 2 above.

59  “A National Charter for Eritrea: For a Democratic, Just and Prosperous Future”, EPLF, (Nakfa, 1994).

60   Ibid.

61  Kjetil Tronvoll, “The Process of Nation-Building in Post-War Eritrea: Created from Below or Di- rected from Above?”, The Journal of Modern African Studies, vol. 36, no. 3 (1998), pp. 462-463. 62 Robert Jackson and Carl Rosberg, Personal Rule in Black Africa: Prince, Autocrat, Prophet, Ty-

rant (Berkeley, 1982), p. 438; and Petros B. Ogbazghi, “Personal Rule in Africa”, op. cit., p. 2. Isaias personified the struggle and eventually came to epitomise independent Eritrea. He wanted to be per- ceived “as the only figure capable of holding Eritrea together”. The posters created for the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of the liberation are a good example of this attitude. They portray Isaias in the image of Jesus Christ, the shepherd of the people, leading elders of both low and highlands. Cri- sis Group interview, Nairobi, July 2012. Crisis Group Report, Eritrea: The Siege State, op. cit.

63  Crisis Group interview, Nairobi, July 2012. The national TV and radio head from 1993 to 2001,

Seyoum Tsehaie, publicly noted how, by 2001, there were two types among liberation veterans: those who were benefitting, and those who were forgotten. Some of these articles were published by Setit, one of Eritrea’s first and most relevant independent newspapers, founded by Fessahye Yo- hannes (who was arrested in September 2001 without charges and died in custody), and were re- sponses to people complaining that the tegadelay were privileged. Seyoum was jailed in September 2001 and has been held incommunicado since.







Few early leaders of the “struggle” have remained in Isaias’s circle. “Second-or even third-tier revolutionaries or close associates of the president” guide the state.64 The president also deliberately duplicates responsibilities: behind official department heads and ministers, he appoints shadow officers, who report directly to him and hold real power. Isaias tends to prefer figures he can easily manipulate – those who have little familiarity with the topic they have been asked to work on – and who retain a strong sense of loyalty and gratitude toward the president who has appointed them.65 The outbreak of the war with Ethiopia in May 1998 not only allowed Isaias a strong reason to put off democratisation, but also provided him with justification to further concentrate power in his hands.66 During the critical weeks of the third phase of fighting, May to June 2000, the president sidelined the defence minister and as- sumed direct control of military operations. The “imperiousness with which Isaias directed policy and strategy became a matter of grave concern” in the PFDJ leader- ship and created a deep sense of distress among senior liberation figures.67 Yet, open

criticism was delayed until the war ended.



  1. The Stifling of Dissent


In October 2000, a group of academics and professionals in the diaspora wrote a letter to Isaias, the “Berlin Manifesto”, criticising the tendency toward one-man rule.68 More distressing for the president were growing complaints by reformers in the leadership (known as the G15). The group later signed an open letter accusing him of keeping the country on a constant war footing and called for the long overdue national assembly meeting on the border conflict with Ethiopia and the constitution’s implementation. Isaias dismissed these demands and took advantage of the world’s preoccupation with the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. to quietly arrest eleven. They have been held incommunicado ever since.69 He then closed all independent media outlets,



64  Crisis Group Report, Eritrea: The Siege State, op. cit.

65  Ibid, p. 8.

66  For more on the conflict, see Tekeste Negash and Kjetil Tronvoll, Brothers at War, op. cit.

67  Crisis Group Report, Eritrea: The Siege State, op. cit.

68  A copy of the letter is at the-berlin-manifesto.

69  Of the fifteen signatories, only eleven were detained, nine of whom are widely believed to have

died in detention. Those reportedly still alive are Haile Woldetensae, and Petros Solomon, both former foreign ministers. The reported dead are Aster Fissehatsion, prominent EPLF member; Mahmoud Ahmed Sheriffo, Aster’s ex-husband and a former vice president and foreign minister; Ogbe Abraha, labour and social welfare minister, chief of logistics, administration and health in the defence ministry, and EDF chief of staff; Jermano Natti, social affairs head in the Southern Red Sea Region; Estifanos Seyoum, finance secretary and EDF finance head; Hamid Himid, department head in the foreign ministry and ambassador to Saudi Arabia; Beraki Gebreselassie, ambassador to Germany; Berhane Gebregzabhier, industry secretary; and Saleh Idris Kekya, director, office of the president, and ambassador to Sudan. “Eritrea: Prisoners of conscience held for a decade must be released”, Amnesty International, 15 September 2011; and “All but two of the 11 former senior gov- ernment officials of Eritrea confirmed dead”, Eritrean Human Rights Electronic Archive (, 4 August 2009. Three were out of the country and one recanted. Shortly after their detention, Isaias called the detainees traitors and claimed to have evidence against them, but no charges were brought, and there have been no trials. According to a prison guard who escaped to Ethiopia, six members of the G15 and five journalists arrested in the 2001 crackdown on the private press died in detention. “Six Eritrean political leaders have died in prison: ex-guard”, Agence France-Presse, 6 May 2010; and Crisis Group analyst interview in another capacity, the former prison guard, Addis Ababa, May 2010.







arrested large numbers of journalists, repressed religious faiths he perceived as anti- state and restricted citizens’ movements inside and outside the country.70


  1. The Removal of Checks and Balances


The judicial system has been simultaneously dismantled. If formal legal codes do exist, they are completely ignored.71 Presidential decrees have replaced the rule of law. Judges are not independent and are closely monitored by the office of the president. In 2001, several, including the chief justice, criticised increasing executive interference.72 They were promptly dismissed.

Along with a number of informal committees run locally by the secret service, army and police commanders,73 the heart of the current legal system is the Special Court, a parallel jurisdiction unfettered by legal codes. Created in 1996, its original mandate was to halt the perceived decline in moral standards in the civil administra- tion.74 It now hears criminal, political and administrative cases. The court comprises PFDJ officials and army commanders handpicked by Isaias and accountable exclusively to him. Sessions are held in secret. According to Bereket Habte Selassie, the former head of the Constitution Commission, “the rule of law has gone to the dogs in Eritrea”.75 The president has granted enormous power to the police, intelligence services and the army to crush dissent. The country has been described as “a giant prison” where thousands of prisoners have vanished in a network of undisclosed jails.76



  1. The Role of the Military


Eritrea has evolved into a highly militarised society, shaped by war and run by war- riors, in which citizenship is associated not with rights but obligations equated to in- definite national service.77 After independence, as a continuation of previous EPLF policies,78 Isaias created a system of military national service centred on the Sawa



70  See “Service for Life: State Repression and Indefinite Conscription in Eritrea”, Human Rights Watch, April 2009; and Kjetil Tronvoll, The Lasting Struggle for Freedom: Human Rights and Po- litical Development, 1991-2009 (Oslo, 2009).

71  Crisis Group interview, Nairobi, July 2012. These codes were developed during Emperor Haile

Selassie’s rule (1930-1974), and are still formally in force.

72  In July 2001, Chief Justice Teame Beyene openly criticised the president’s interference in civil courts and the creation of the Special Court and was immediately sacked. Gaim Kibreab, Eritrea: A Dream Deferred (Woodbridge, 2009) pp. 32, 61.

73  Kjetil Tronvoll, “The Process of Nation-Building”, op. cit., p. 43.

74  The Special Court was initially welcomed by many citizens who did not realise its implications. Crisis Group interview, Nairobi, July 2012.

75  Bereket Habte Selassie interview with Charles Cobb Jr., in: Petros B. Ogbazghi, “Personal Rule in

Africa”, op. cit., p. 6.

76  George Gagnon, quoted in ibid, p. 9.

77  Crisis Group Report, Eritrea: The Siege State, op. cit., p. 9; and “Service for life”, op. cit.

78  “One of the greatest paradoxes of the Eritrean revolution is that it is not the largely voluntary army of the early and mid-70’s, mainly composed of students and other urbanites but also of peasants, but

the largely involuntary army of the 80’s, mainly composed of helpless peasants abducted from their villages, that marched in triumph into Asmara; a phenomenon that puts the revolution’s self-claimed participatory nature into question”. The giffa (forced conscription, in Tigrinya) imposed dire conse- quences on the peasant population to sustain the revolution at a time of its direst need. “In its scope, it involved tens of thousands of peasants; in its duration, it lasted for about a decade and half; and, in its consequences, it ravaged entire rural areas”. The national service policies that followed appear to be its continuation. See Yosief Ghebrehiwet, “Eritrea: Forced Peasant Conscripts that Sustained the Eritrean






training camp.79 The official aim was to inculcate the younger generations with the spirit of the liberation struggle, but the impact was to cow society.80 After war broke out in 1998, national service became in effect indefinite and youths (and more gen- erally adults under the age of 50) were absorbed into the military machinery with little prospect of demobilisation. In 2002, the system was institutionalised in the Wefri Warsai Yika’alo development campaign.81

According to Isaias, national service is mandatory for nation-building, to imbue the youth with loyalty and discipline, as well as to stifle regionalism and create nation- al consensus to build a national identity.82 It serves the dual purpose of eliminating dissent and reinforcing the army, which has become increasingly necessary for maintaining power. The result is an overwhelming militarisation of an already author- itarian regime, supported by the disastrous rhetoric that all problems have a military solution. Therefore, the military plays a leading role in coercing and intimidating the population.

To secure their loyalty and protect himself from internal dissent, the president bestowed increasing favours from the state, both financial and material, on high- ranking officers, thereby creating enormous corruption within the EDF.83 National service is used as a source of free, forced labour for “parastatal” farms or companies directly in the hands of individual generals.84 “The political ties between the military and the president are maintained through clientelistic networks of … incentives”.85 By buying the support of the military, Isaias and his political elite maintain control but have also in effect made the EDF’s highest echelons the arbiter of any future transition of power.

The practical implications are that the country has been divided into five military zones, headed by generals who have become the most important figures – after Isaias – in Eritrea. They hold absolute power over their regions, with little oversight from the centre. All are under the direct control of the president but have steadily built their own networks of loyalty and interests and appear to have gained significant independence.

Prominent generals and senior PFDJ leaders are reportedly raising the issue of presidential succession. Some sources claim that the generals have split into two groups: loyalists, totally aligned with the president,86 and sceptics, who are losing



Revolution” (, 18 December 2010.

79  Petros B. Ogbazghi, “Personal Rule in Africa”, op. cit., p. 13. Over the years, other camps have opened in eastern Eritrea, and there is a distinction between those who come voluntarily and those

who are forced into the military service, so even in the camps there are first and second-class citi- zens. Crisis Group interview, Nairobi, July 2012.

80   “Service for life”, op. cit.; and Kjetil Tronvoll, “The Process of Nation-Building”, op. cit.

81  The phrase literally means “those who follow the powerful”: the warsai are the young generation who have come of age since independence; the Yika’alo, “the all-powerful”, are the EPLF fighters.

Crisis Group Report, Eritrea: The Siege State, op. cit., pp. 9-10. Although a lot has been written around the campaign, a written plan called Warsai Yika’alo does not exist. It is an example of how a presidential slogan has become the reality of life for so many people in Eritrea.

82   Gaim Kibreab, “Forced Labour in Eritrea”, Journal of Modern African Studies, vol. 47, no. 1

(2009), p. 30.

83   The benefits include villas, farmlands, luxurious cars and free manpower. Crisis Group inter- views, June-July 2012.

84   Gaim Kibreab, “Forced Labour in Eritrea”, op. cit., p. 42.

85  Petros B. Ogbazghi, “Personal Rule in Africa”, op. cit., p. 11.

86   The loyalists are reportedly led by Brigadier General Teklai Kifle “Manjus”, commander of the







confidence in Isaias’s methods, see the army’s decline and understand that if Ethiopia attacks it would be impossible to defend the country.87 The latter think the only way out is to have a transition and maybe deal with Ethiopia, and they are showing their discontent. But at the same time, the generals are compromised by their own stakes in the system; “they could make peace with Ethiopia …. Their problem is they do not know how to manage it. The dilemma comes because they do not want to demobilise, since all their power comes from the mobilised army”.88

There are rumours the sceptics have asked the president to step aside and support a smooth, internal transition, so as to avoid the country’s collapse (and the loss of their clientelistic interests). Isaias appears to have resisted this pressure and re- sponded with a new round of freezing and reshuffling of both the higher and lower ranks.89 The challenge also may be behind reports alleging he has decided to arm various civilian militias in order to protect himself from parts of the army.



  1. The Radical Approach to Foreign Relations90


The president developed a militarised approach toward all neighbouring countries despite differing opinions in his government, including the foreign ministry.91 Isaias played on the general animosity between states in the region to promote the idea that Eritrea was surrounded by enemies in order to justify its militarisation and to promote the values and habits of the struggle as the foundation of national unity.

Hostilities with Ethiopia have dominated, and though the war formally ended with the Algiers Agreement of 12 December 2000, there was no settlement over the border and wider bilateral relations. Tension remained, and both leaderships acted as if overcoming the enemy was crucial to their regime’s very survival,92 as well as to regional predominance. In fact, in the war’s aftermath, both faced mounting internal





Western Military Zone. The July 2012 UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea report “de- scribed the involvement of senior members of the Eritrean security services, like Teklai Kifle ‘Manjus’, in the trafficking of weapons and people from Eritrea into Egypt (the Sinai) via Sudan, en route to Israel”. “Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea pursuant to Security Council resolution 2002 (2011)”, UNSC S/2012/545, 13 July 2012, p. 20, para. 77. Another loyalist is said to be Major General Gebrezgheir Andemariam “Wuchu”, former commander of Operation Zone 2, now head of the Eastern Command. Crisis Group interviews, January-February-March 2013. 87 The sceptics are reportedly led by Major General Filippos Woldeyohannes, former commander of Military Operations Zone 2, later commander of military operations for Asmara, and reportedly “frozen”, or under house arrest since last November. He is allegedly very independent and intrepid but also the most ruthless of the generals. Other sceptics are reportedly Major General Haile Samuel “China”, commander of Operation Zone 4, and General Sebhat Ephrem, minister of defence. Crisis Group interviews, January-March 2013.

88   Crisis Group interview, February 2013.

89   Crisis Group interview, January 2013.

90  For more on the complicated foreign relations, see Richard Reid (ed.), Eritrea’s External Relations,

op. cit.

91  The foreign ministry was de facto dismantled after the war with Ethiopia. In the interview given by Petros Solomon (former EPLF commander, then foreign minister) in August 2001, he stated that it was clear Eritrea could not afford to incite its neighbours, especially Ethiopia, Djibouti and Yemen.

However, there were no institutions to contain Isaias. Dan Connell, Conversations with Eritrean Political Prisoners (Trenton, 2005), p. 129.

92  Michael Woldemariam, “Badme Border Dispute: Why Ethiopia Won’t Back Down On Eritrean

Border”, African Arguments (, 23 May 2012.






dissent that they moved to suppress.93 In doing so, they strengthened de facto one- party systems, strayed from promised democratisation and closed political space, while respect for human rights deteriorated. Eritrea, however, experienced the sharpest and most enduring turn toward repression.94

A war of words continued, and both governments gave support (political and fi- nancial, weaponry and training) to rebel groups to destabilise the other.95 Direct in- volvement in the Somali conflict was part of this animosity. The strategy was not only to further regional strategic interests, but also, and perhaps more so, to overcome each other on the Somali battlefield by escalating that conflict to a “proxy war”, though in Somalia, Ethiopia was undoubtedly pursuing wider interests than just containing Eritrea.96

In 2007, after Ethiopia’s contested intervention into Somalia to remove the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC),97 Asmara suspended its membership in IGAD, accusing it of favouring Addis Ababa and U.S. policies in the region, and by doing so undermining regional security.98 In 2008, Eritrea had a brief border skirmish with another IGAD member, Djibouti, and refused UN mediation, finally opting for Qatari-led arbitra- tion.99 Asmara openly realigned toward countries hostile to Addis (and in some cases hostile also to Ethiopia’s Western allies), in particular to Libya (during Qadhafi’s tenure), Iran, Egypt (under Mubarak) and Qatar.100 Addis meanwhile gained the





93  See Section III of this report; also, Crisis Group Reports, The Siege State, op. cit., p. 7; and Ethiopia after Meles, op. cit., pp. 4-6.

94  Crisis Group Briefing, Ethiopia after Meles, op. cit.; Crisis Group Africa Reports N°153, Ethiopia:

Ethnic Federalism and its Discontents, 4 September 2009; and Eritrea: The Siege State, op. cit.; and “Horn of Africa War: Mass Expulsions and the Nationality Question”, Human Rights Watch, 29 January 2003.

95  Jason McLure, “Ethiopia Plans to Increase Support to Eritrean Rebel Groups, Ministry Says”,

Bloomberg, 15 April 2011; Abdiqani Baynah and Mohamed Gulaid, “Somaliland: Eritrea trained ONLF rebels”, Somalilandpress, 13 September 2010; William Lloyd George, “The Ogaden problem: Will an old insurgency tip the balance in East Africa?”, Time, 7 November 2012.

96  Terrence Lyons, “Avoiding Conflict in the Horn: US Policy Toward Ethiopia and Eritrea”, Council

on Foreign Relations Special Report, December 2006; Crisis Group Briefing, Ethiopia and Eritrea: Stopping the Slide to War, op. cit.; and “Is Somalia a proxy war between Ethiopia and Eritrea”, Voice of America, 1 November 2009.

97  Ethiopia’s army entered Somalia on 24 December 2006, after a direct request by Somali Transi-

tional Federal Government (TFG) President Abdullahi Yusuf. The TGF, though, was seen as Ethiopia’s creation. Prime Minister Meles stated that his country reacted to a direct threat to its own border. The legal status of Ethiopia’s intervention and three-year long operation remains contested.

98  Eritrea declared the move was made after “a number of repeated and irresponsible resolutions

that undermine regional peace and security have been adopted in the guise of IGAD”, and blamed the U.S. and Ethiopia for “irresponsible” interference in Somali affairs after Ethiopian and Somali government troops ousted Islamists in late December 2006-early January 2007. “Eritrea suspends its membership in IGAD over Somalia”, Reuters, 22 April 2007. The IGAD member states are Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda.

99   “Djibouti-Eritrea border skirmishes subside as toll hits nine”, Agence France-Presse, 13 June 2008.

100   “Service for Life”, op. cit. Eritrea has also continued relations with China. According to the pri-

vate intelligence briefing publisher Stratfor, Israel maintains close military ties with Asmara. Both Iran and Israel, it says, have military bases on Eritrean coasts and islands. See “Eritrea: Another Venue for the Iranian-Israeli Rivalry”, Stratfor, 11 December 2012. According to a London-based newspaper, Iran trains Yemeni Houti Shia militias inside Eritrea. “Iran Trains Houtis in Eritrea”, Al-Sahwah, 21 January 2013.







confidence and support of the West, especially the U.S. and UK, as they deemed Prime Minister Meles a staunch ally in their “war against terrorism”.101

In 2009, the UN imposed sanctions on Eritrea for supporting Al-Shabaab in So- malia and refusing to withdraw troops from the contested border with Djibouti.102 Certainly, it gave some help to the UIC and maintained ties with Somali Islamist insurgents, some of whom became Al-Shabaab after the split within the Alliance for Re-liberation of Somalia (ARS) and the creation of Sheikh Sharif’s Transitional Fed- eral Government (TFG).103 However, this was a tactical, anti-Ethiopian move, typical of the EPLF, not a strategic or political alliance with jihadist groups.104 Other states, including Ethiopia, gave arms to factions inside Somalia despite the Security Council embargo but were not sanctioned.105 Ethiopia deployed effective diplomacy. Eritrea did not, and as a result its government appeared to consider itself abandoned by the




101   Crisis Group Briefing, Ethiopia after Meles, op. cit. Western security concerns aligned with Ethiopia’s national security interests in Somalia. The first Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) incursions were in 1996 against the radical Islamist group Al-Ittihaad Al-Islami, which wanted to unite the Somali region of Ethiopia to Somalia. Since then, Ethiopia has played a major role in fighting political Islam in the region. For analysis of its activity, see Crisis Group Africa Briefings N°74, Somalia’s Divided Islamists, 18 May 2010; N°45, Somalia: The Tough Part Is Ahead, 26 January 2007; Crisis Group Africa Reports N°95, Counter-Terrorism in Somalia: Losing Hearts and Minds?, 11 July 2005; and N°45, Somalia: Countering Terrorism in a Failed State, 23 May 2002. In 2010, Ethiopia received $3.5 billion in Overseas Development Aid (ODA), the most in Africa. “Aid statistics, recipient aid at a glance – Ethiopia”, OECD, January 2012. Aid comes not only from Western donors; China and other countries provide assistance for specific development projects. In 2011 Ethiopia received $4.4 billion in foreign direct investment, up from $1.3 billion in 2001. “UN Conference on Trade and Development Statistics”, Library/tdstat37_en.pdf.

102   Security Council Resolution 1907 (23 December 2009).

103   The Alliance for Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS) was created in September 2007, when mem- bers of the dismantled Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) met in Asmara and reunited to oppose the

Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia, led by Abdullahi Yusuf and supported, politi- cally and militarily, by Ethiopia. The ARS existed until January 2009, when it split as an aftermath of the Djibouti peace conference Part was incorporated in the TFG, and one of the UIC and ARS leaders, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, was elected as the new TFG president. The other group re- mained in the opposition camp, led by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys and created Islamic resistance groups under the Hizbul Islam banner that later in large part were subsumed by Al-Shabab, volun- tarily or by threat of force.

104   In 2006-2009, Ethiopia had a large force in Somalia, supporting the then Transitional Federal

Government (TFG) of President Abdullahi Yusuf. Al-Shabaab, supported by Eritrea and other coun- tries, rose to prominence fighting the Ethiopian “occupation”. Isaias aligned Eritrea with the U.S. against terrorism during the first Iraqi war and fought an armed jihadist group in northern Eritrea, the Eritrean Islamic Jihad, in 1995, two years after independence. See Dan Connell, “Eritrea and the United States”, op. cit., pp. 136-138.

105   Belachew Gebrewold, Anatomy of Violence: Understanding the Systems of Conflict and Vio-

lence in Africa (Farnham, 2013), p. 195. According to the UN monitoring group on Somalia, “[w]hat follows is a more detailed explanation of the operations of this group: they deal in different types of landmines (TM-46 and TM-57), which are reportedly being sold on a regular basis to the group by Ethiopian military officers”, “Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia pursuant to Security Council resolution 1558 (2004)”, UNSC S/2005/153, 9 March 2005, p. 12; and “[d]uring the course of the mandate, the Monitoring Group has received numerous reports of Ethiopian assistance to both the Transitional Federal Government and ASWJ, without authorization in either case. … Prior to 21 June 2009, Ethiopian assistance to ASWJ arguably constituted a substantive violation of the embargo rather than a technical one”, “Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia pursuant to Se- curity Council resolution 1853 (2008)”, UNSC S/2010/91, 10 March 2010, p. 200.






international community over both the post-war dispute and broader regional issues.106 In 2011, after Ethiopia gave the UN Sanctions Group evidence Eritrean agents planned to bomb the AU summit in Addis Ababa, more sanctions were added.107

Asmara’s relations have also been fraught with Sudan, the border with which re- mains undemarcated.108 A year after independence, it broke diplomatic ties due to armed cross-border incidents linked to the activities of the Eritrean Islamic Jihad, a radical Islamic organisation that the government alleged was financed and support- ed by Khartoum.109 Isaias subsequently hosted and trained the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which fought alongside other Sudanese opposition movements.110 Direct relations with Khartoum resumed in 2005, though both continue to ex- change allegations of the others’ support for rebel movements.111 However, Asmara also brokered agreements reached by the Sudanese Eastern Front and the Sudanese government on 14 October 2006, and in exchange Khartoum cut off support to Mus- lim movements inside Eritrea.112 The fragile internal situation of both regimes, as well as their antagonism toward the U.S. and Western policies generally in the Horn

of Africa, created the basis for cooperation out of mutual self-interest.113

Eritrea’s lukewarm membership in the AU has been guaranteed so far (previously by Qadhafi’s Libya and Mubarak’s Egypt, now by South Africa due to its interest in the mining sector). It had no formal representation at the AU, the headquarters of


106   “Accusations against Eritrea: Pure fabrication and outright lies”, foreign ministry press state- ment, 2 November 2011; and “Quiet confidence and determination in the face of US instigated sanc- tions”, foreign ministry press release, 6 December 2011. See also Crisis Group Report, The Siege State, op. cit., pp. 19-25.

107   “Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea submitted in accordance with resolu-

tion 1916 (2010)”, UN Monitoring Group, 18 July 2011. For information concerning Eritrea’s official response, see “Eritrea’s Response to the Report of the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group Report”, foreign ministry,, 12 Oc- tober 2011. For critical reactions to the report, see “Eritrea denies sending arms to al Shabaab”, Al Jazeera, 2 November 2011; and “UN Monitoring Group Report: Lies, Damn Lies, and Distortions”, The Action Group for Eritrea,, 2 August 2011; and “Eritrea calls for lifting of sanctions, rejects UN accusations”, Reuters, 8 October 2012.

108   Manickam Venkataraman, “Eritrea’s relations with the Sudan since 1991”, Ethiopian Journal of

the Social Sciences and Humanities, vol. 3, no. 2 (2005), pp. 51-76. Historically, Sudan has been closer to the first Eritrean national liberation movement, the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), founded in July 1960 in Cairo. Its leadership drew more from Eritrean Muslim intellectuals from the lowlands, thus was closer to the Sudanese than the Ethiopian world or to the trans-Mereb, Ti- grinya speaking connections of the EPLF. Gaim Kibreab, “Eritrean-Sudanese relations in historical perspective”, in Richard Reid, Eritrea’s External Relations, op. cit.

109   The allegations were made against the Sudanese National Islamic Front, led by Hassan al-Turabi,

which was linked to President Omar al-Bashir and the ruling National Congress Party. “Sudan bans activities of Eritrean Opposition”, Sudan Tribune, 1 June 2008.

110   NDA was an umbrella organisation made up of the main Sudanese opposition forces, including

the National Umma Party, the Democratic Unionist Party, the Communist Party of Sudan, Sudanese Alliance Forces, Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) – operating under the name of the New Sudan Brigade – and other, smaller groups. “Eritrea-Sudan relations plummet”, BBC, 15 January 2004.

111   For example, “Eritrea, Chad accused of aiding Sudan rebels”, Afrol News, 7 September 2010;

“Eritrea attacks Sudan, deepens isolation”, Afrol News, 19 October 2005; For information about Sudan aiding Eritrean rebels, see “Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, 18 July 2011, op. cit.

112  “Sudan bans activities of Eritrean Opposition”, op. cit.; and Dan Connell, Historical Dictionary

of Eritrea (Lanham, 2011), pp. 487-489.

113   David H. Shinn, “Eritrea’s Regional Relations”, International Policy Digest, 17 August 2012.







which is in Ethiopia’s capital, from 2003 until 2011. Attempts have been made by some members for Eritrea to rejoin IGAD – so far without success, due to resistance from Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya.114 Despite its mandate to encourage inter- governmental cooperation and regional peace, IGAD has been unable to defuse the tension between Eritrea and its immediate neighbours, especially Ethiopia and Dji- bouti.115 However high-level – including presidential – contacts continue between Eritrea and Sudan, South Sudan and, more recently, Uganda.116















































114  “Eritrea rejoins East African bloc IGAD”, Reuters, 28 July 2011.

115  Jason Mosley, “Ethiopia and Eritrea: Rising Tensions Amid New Opportunities for Engagement”, Chatham House website, Expert Comment, 19 July 2012.

116   Bashir visited Asmara on 2 February 2013, the first head of state to come after the “mutiny” in January. According to official Eritrean sources, the two presidents “exchanged views on the devel-

opment of various Sudanese issues and issues of mutual concern”. See “Sudan’s Bashir concludes lightning visit to Eritrea”, Sudan Tribune, February 2013; also, “Eritrea and South Sudan to strengthen existing relations further”, Shabait, 5 May 2011; and “Afwerki Here for Serious Talks – Museveni”, New Vision, 18 August 2011.






IV.        Scenarios for Post-Isaias Eritrea



Isaias’s exit – whether by death, involuntarily or by choice – is almost surely a pre- condition for anything much to change. However, it is by no means the only obstacle, and to focus simply on it as the solution to Eritrean problems would be misguided.117 The problems are so systemic that the mere absence of their architect would not be enough to initiate reform. And whether the same figures who have grown powerful in Isaias’s shadow, implemented his rule and profited from his clientelistic system could be the ones to make a difference is questionable.118

Government repression and the president’s central role in it have meant that a conversation about life after Isaias is impossible inside the country. Outside, the di- aspora is too fragmented and focused on demonising the president to present a per- suasive vision.119 While it is impossible to predict confidently what will happen should Isaias die or be incapacitated, the absence of an institutional mechanism for power transfer and divisions and corruption within the army – the likely arbiter of who rules next – make for a high risk of instability.

No viable internal candidate to champion reform – and replace the president – has appeared, but the defections and high-ranking dissent have created unprece- dented tension within the previously extremely loyal PFDJ ranks: “Whatever has happened in Asmara on 21 January, it could not have happened without some generals supporting it”.120  Beyond personal interests, there is awareness of the disastrous state of the military. They know that if Ethiopia launches new incursions, their careers and networks likely will end. Many observers abroad welcome these tensions and want to believe that the generals are fuelled by patriotic preoccupations.121

With no public debate possible inside Eritrea, the only alternative voices are in the diaspora, but they are divided, scattered and not relevant at home.122 Their only common goal is to get rid of Isaias. To achieve this, most have accepted Ethiopia’s support, exposing them to accusations of treating with the historic enemy.123



117  Crisis Group interviews, Nairobi, June-July 2012; Rome, August 2012, January-February 2013. 118 Crisis Group interview, January 2013. A long-time Eritrea observer posed these existential questions: “Is the system reformable from within or not, after Isaias’ removal? …. Is Isaias’s absence from the

Eritrean political system the answer to all the problems of the nation? Ultimately will Eritrea ever be viable as a nation?”

119   Crisis Group interview, 1 February 2013.

120   Ibid.

121   Many in the diaspora simply want Isaias gone at any cost. “They would join anyone, and their attitude has influenced the misinformed international media. Now the army senior officers have become, incredibly, a bunch of reformers”. Crisis Group interview, January 2013.

122   Most diaspora leaders left before implementation of the Wefri Warsai Yika’alo policy.

123   The Eritrean People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) was established in 2009/2010 as a union of three parties: the Eritrean People’s Party (EPP), the Eritrean Democratic Party (EDP), and the Eri-

trean People’s Movement (EPM). It emerged out of the Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA), which was formed in 1990 as an umbrella coalition of thirteen opposition groups, most of which are now based in Ethiopia. Reportedly the EDA did very little beyond providing a political forum for those groups determined to oust the PFDJ government. Members were the Democratic Movement For the Liberation of the Eritrean Kunama (DMLEK); Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization (RSADO); Eritrean Peoples Democratic Front (EPDF); Eritrean National Salvation Front (ENSF); Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF); Eritrean Peoples’ Party (EPP); Eritrean Islamic Party for Justice and De- velopment (EIPJD); Eritrean People’s Congress (EPC); Eritrean Peoples’ Movement (EPM); Eritrean Nahda Party (ENP); Eritrean Democratic Party (EDP); Eritrean Islamic Congress (EIC); and Eritrean Federal Democratic Party (EFDM). Desbele Kahsai, “Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA): A Partner







Over the long years of exile the opposition has failed to build a coherent front and form a plan for a viable political, social and economic transition. Its members would have great difficulty to take over if not brought to power by external forces.124 They also do not appear to be considering – or to fully comprehend – the extent to which the economy has deteriorated and the social fabric been dismantled. Isaias is their enemy, and “contemporary Eritrea is a dreamland, not a real country”.125 “They do not seem to know their people”.126 They are especially distant from the younger people who have spent their best years between military service in trenches and forced labour in national service.127 How to reintegrate entire generations condemned to lives in the military or exile needs urgent assessment and answers.

In light of the above discussion, a number of possible scenarios are offered that highlight some of the challenges and the main risks for conflict that an Eritrea without President Isaias Afwerki may face.



  1. A Refashioned PFDJ Maintaining the Status Quo


The first envisages an agreement among senior military and civilian PFDJ figures to unseat Isaias, with the aim to preserve the regime. They would continue to use the threat of war to divert the people’s attention and maintain an extremely high level of military mobilisation. The new government would be an oligarchy, united by materi- al interests, though each member with an eye on gaining ultimate power by securing the presidency. The generals would have the upper hand, and the political leadership would be weaker than ever. Such a succession could not bring real reform, since the main aim would be to keep power and access to resources for the same, even if re- fashioned, elite. It is unlikely such a marriage of interests among competing power centres (PFDJ, army, secret services, police, etc.) would be able to preserve political and national unity in the long run. It has also been suggested that Isaias may be grooming his 26-year-old son, Abraham. However, this dynastic solution would have the same weaknesses.128

Because of the military’s increased power in this scenario, it would be very difficult

to change policies vis-à-vis Ethiopia and the region. The generals would have a strong incentive to perpetuate the national service, also because they benefit from the steady supply of draftees who work in military-controlled parastatal companies,129 some of which are eventually expected to do much of the work in rapidly developing gold and other mining projects.130 Senior officers, notably the western zone com- mander, General Teklai Kifle “Manjus”, have been accused by the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea of running a lucrative business smuggling people




or a Foe?”, Eritrean Human Rights Electronic Archive, April 2010. Another coalition to challenge the ineffective EDA, the Eritrean National Council/Commission for Democratic Change (ENCDC), based in North America, was announced in 2011.

124  They have limited military capacity, Ethiopian support notwithstanding, and are almost absent

inside Eritrea.

125   Crisis Group interview, July 2012.

126   Crisis Group interview, January 2013.

127  Crisis Group interview, January 2013.

128   Crisis Group interview, Rome, August 2012.

129   See Section III.B above; also, Gaim Kibreab, “Forced Labour in Eritrea”, op. cit.; and Petros B. Ogbazghi, “Personal Rule in Africa”, op. cit.

130   “Eritrea”, Human Rights Watch, op. cit.






out.131 Long-serving lower ranks also profit from clientelism; they might fight to preserve the status quo and support officers undermining any reconciliation process with Ethiopia, since a real peace would trigger massive demobilisation.132

Continued PFDJ rule would sustain the myth of self-reliance, and reject an opening toward regional economic cooperation and integration. There would, therefore, be an economic imperative for continuing the Wefri Warsai Yika’alo policy rather than demobilising. While a huge number of educated youths have sought political asylum abroad, at least 400,000 are estimated to remain in almost permanent military service inside Eritrea.133

If conscripts were demobilised, the economy’s disastrous state would immediately be revealed, as it could not absorb so many into civilian jobs. This, combined with the social impact of so many disillusioned young men and women returning to civilian life, would further undermine stability. Better educated, and skilled, émigrés who have left within the last ten years would not feel encouraged to return, since their oppressors would still be in power. The likely result of a refashioned regime would be a weaker government, needing to further repress its population lest it collapse.



  1. PFDJ, without Isaias, but Eritrea Sues for Peace with Ethiopia


This scenario would be politically identical to the previous one, but with the new PFDJ leadership shifting from a policy of the “enemy at the gate” toward one of seeking peace with Ethiopia. The new leadership might do this to avoid risky direct military confrontation with a now much stronger enemy.

Should relations be normalised, it would mean the collapse of virtually the entire rationale for the argument that “this is not the time” for demobilisation, reintegra- tion of recruits and opening of political space. That would in turn undermine the very basis of the PFDJ reign. Once a peace deal is signed, the Wefri Warsai Yikaalo policy would appear meaningless, so there would be consequent need to reform the national service, reduce the half-million-strong army that is around 10 per cent of the population and put in place a serious Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) program.134

The current regime cannot do this, because it would necessitate rethinking the

entire socio-political and economic system created after independence. The new re-


131  Phoebe Greenwood, “Eritrean regime cashes in on arms and human trafficking, says UN report”, The Guardian, 17 July 2012; and “Report of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea”, 13 July 2012, op. cit. The government rejected these allegations. See also “Statement by Ambassador Araya Desta, Permanent Representative of Eritrea to the United Nations, during an informal consultation with Security Council committee established pursuant to resolution 751 (1992) and 1907 (2009) concerning Somali and Eritrea”, Eritrean UN mission, 17 July 2012.

132   Crisis Group interviews, July, October 2012.

133   Crisis Group interview, Rome, August 2012.

134   After independence, Eritrea had some 95,000 armed guerrillas, who became the independent Eritrean Defence Forces. By 1997, some 55,000 had been demobilised. Demobilisation and reinte- gration were considered successful until war broke out in 1998. In 2002, two years after the end of

the conflict, a huge DDR program was put in place and financed, among others, by the World Bank, the European Commission, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium. It aimed at demobilising some 200,000 soldiers by 2008 but failed because of the continuous recruitment of fresh troops. See, E. Sanz, “Eritrea (Demobilization and Reintegration, 2002-present)”, in A. Caramés and E. Sanz (eds.), DDR 2009. Analysis of Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) Pro- grammes in the World during 2008, (Barcelona, 2009); and Sally Healy, “Eritrea’s Economic Sur- vival”, Chatham House, 2007.







gime would likely either have to find a soft way of ceding significant power to others

– something for which the diaspora-based opposition is not prepared – or risk, with an unreliable army, a revolt likely led by trained former soldiers.135

Ethiopia’s response to peace overtures is uncertain following Meles’s death.136 In

December 2012, the new prime minister, Hailemariam Desalegn, told Al Jazeera he was ready to go to Asmara to negotiate in order to enhance regional integration and development.137 This was perceived as an unprecedented opening, but not everyone in Addis Ababa’s political and military inner circle approved, especially in the ranks of the leading party, the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).138 A few days later, Hailemariam had to return to his predecessor’s track, making clear that policy toward Eritrea had not changed.139 Considering the Ethiopian internal situation and the potential threat a broken Eritrea poses to its stability, Addis Ababa’s instinct might well lean toward cautious containment. 140



  1. State Collapse (Leading to Civil War)


If a political agreement between what remains of loyal senior PFDJ political figures and the generals does not follow, Isaias’s death or departure from power might easily lead to an all-out militarised struggle for control of the country and its resources. Loyalty – if any remains – is likely granted not to institutions but to generals and other officers in order to gain advantages in a deteriorated economy. A confrontation between military factions could lead to a disastrous civil war. This is particularly worrying since existing ethnic and religious divisions have been exacerbated by





135   Crisis Group interview, Nairobi, July 2012.

136   See Crisis Group Briefing, Ethiopia After Meles, op. cit.

137   “If you ask me, ‘Do you want to go to Asmara and sit down and negotiate with Isaias Afwerki?’, then, I will say ‘yes’ …. The most important thing for us is to fight poverty… to have regional integra- tion. If we two do that, it will be much more productive”. “Ethiopian PM willing to talk to Eritrea”,

Al Jazeera, 6 December 2012. Qatar could play a major role in trying to normalise the relations. It has significant relations with Asmara, has already mediated (with disputable success) the resolution of a border conflict between Eritrea and Djibouti in 2009, and after years of stalling, has resumed diplomatic ties with Ethiopia.

138   Crisis Group interview, Hargeisa, December 2012.

139  “Hailemariam says no change of policy on Eritrea”, Awramba Times, 2 January 2013. Ethiopia accepted “in principle” the Eritrean Ethiopian Boundary Commission’s Decision, but refused to im-

plement it and instead offered a five-point peace plan in November 2004.

140   See Crisis Group Briefing, Ethiopia After Meles, op. cit. An alternative theory is offered by an Eritrea analyst who is convinced that the generals are against demobilisation at the moment but

that, in the event of regime change, they could not last long without making peace with Ethiopia. A peace agreement would then be the only solution to preserve the nation, the analyst said, and in such a situation, Eritrea would propose negotiations on the status of Badme. If the new government decided to give away the contested village, it would blame Isaias, and the Eritrean people would not contest the decision, because the dire living conditions make Badme less important than stabilising the economy. “If the border would be open again, citizens’ mobility will immediately resume. Therefore, if Addis Ababa wants to stabilise Eritrea, it has to invent new economic cooperation, de- velopmental for both countries. There can be a land-for-common-market type of agreement”. Ac- cording to this reading, a peaceful environment would allow the ports of Djibouti and Assab to share the Ethiopian market and so both develop. “There is no way for the Eritrean nation to survive as it is, if it does not make peace with Ethiopia; simply, it will collapse”, the analyst added. Crisis Group interview, February 2013.






Isaias’s policies and might be exploited by competing forces.141 Some ethnic-based rebel groups already operate in border areas and are supported by Ethiopia and Sudan.142 There are also growing tensions between Christians and Muslims,143 highlanders and lowlanders; the radical Eritrean Islamic Jihad Movement operated inside the country in the early 1990s.144

If rival generals decide to exploit these competing social, religious and ethnic forces to seize absolute power, the potential for something similar to the early years of the Somali civil war would be very high, with the prospect for extensive casualties enhanced by the expertise that universal military training has given young Eritreans.145



  1. External Mediation or Domination


A fourth possibility is a power struggle, but with direct intervention by neighbouring countries. A civil war in Eritrea could spill over into Ethiopia, Sudan and (to a lesser extent) Djibouti. They all have ethnic cross-border issues with Eritrea and an interest in its stability for their own strategic reasons, both internally and regionally.

Addis Ababa and Khartoum could be dragged into a civil war for various reasons, including to prevent conflict spilling over their borders, the contagion risk of existing internal dissent and economic and geopolitical interests. The two could either sup- port specific militias or intervene directly, justifying any intervention on the threat posed by the civil war.146 Intervention could play out in two ways: either a political agreement on how to establish peace (perhaps through IGAD and setting up a closely- mentored government, or by splitting the country in effect into zones of influence, as has happened in south-central Somalia);147 alternatively, should a regional agreement over Eritrea not be reached, they could offer direct or material support to competing Eritrean factions in order to satisfy their own national and regional security interests.



141   Crisis Group interview, Nairobi, July 2012. The British, at the end of their mandate, proposed that western Eritrea, with a majority Muslim population, be annexed to Sudan. During Haile Selas- sie’s rule, Ethiopia characterised the Eritrean issue as one of Christians versus Muslims.

142   These include the Eritrean Salvation Front (ESF), the Red Sea Afar Democratic Organisation

(RSADO) and the Democratic Movement for the Liberation of Eritrean Kunama (DMLEK) based in Ethiopia. There are also militias in Eastern Sudan that undertake operations inside Eritrea. Crisis Group interview, November 2012.

143   Crisis Group interview, Nairobi, July 2012.

144  The Eritrean Islamic Jihad Movement (EIJM) is an armed opposition group based in Sudan that merged two political Islamic groups, the National Islamic Front for the Liberation of Eritrea (Al-

Jabha al-Islamia al-Watania min Ajl Tahrir Eritrea) and the Islamic Vanguard (Al-Ruwaad al- Muslmin), in July 1982. According to the movement, it “was a manifestation of the grievances against the politics of the EPLF that were pent-up and finally burst in some Moslem communities”. In an interview with Nida’ul Islam Magazine, the EIJM’s deputy amir said it represents “the only military option against the Christian regime”, which it accuses of “pointing its guns to the hearts of the unarmed Muslim citizens in order to forcibly conscript Eritreans into the army”. The deputy amir added that “the regime regards every Muslim who practises his religion and adheres to its obliga- tions and cares for his honour as a danger, so they filled their prisons with the pious Muslims, teachers, students, politicians, leaders and common people, in order to arrest their fear”. “The governing regime is a terrorist regime which acts with enmity against the Eritrean people”, Nida’ul Islam Magazine, February-March 1998. In 2003, Eritrea accused the EIJM of killing the British geologist Timothy Nutt. “Travel warning after Briton killed in Eritrea”, The Telegraph, 18 April 2003.

145   Crisis Group interview, November 2012.

146   Crisis Group interviews, July 2012.

147  Crisis Group interview, Nairobi, July 2012.







In either case, stability would be elusive, the potential for enduring conflict that could even trigger a wider conflagration extremely high.



  1. Peaceful Transition to Multiparty Democracy


This scenario is feasible, but appears difficult to bring about. It would involve a PFDJ-run transitional authority that, with the army’s consent, would initiate an un- precedented process of democratisation.148 Such an inclusive transitional government could be expected to implement the 1997 constitution, restore the national assembly, revive the defunct legal system, open negotiations with Ethiopia and perhaps eventually end the Wefri Warsai Yika’alo policy. It would initiate DDR, reshape the army, open the country to returnees from the diaspora and schedule multiparty elections. These developments would produce a transition from authoritarianism to a more open so- ciety. The transitional rulers might seek an amnesty for some of those involved in the previous regime.

It is hard to imagine such a benign scenario, however, since the social divisions are so acute. At the very least, the political cultures of PFDJ members and diaspora leaders would be difficult to reconcile, and any power-sharing deal would be de- pendent on the army, which is clearly partisan. Typical generational divisions would almost surely emerge quickly, as most of the traditional diaspora leaders are old figures from the liberation struggle; the newer and younger refugees and asylum seekers might not be represented.149 The new government would face the tremendous challenge of a fractured society. For example, the consequences of the return of large numbers of young people from the front lines and military training camps, who have had terri- ble psychological and physical experiences, would need to be carefully considered and dealt with sensitively.150



  1. Regime Change with Ethiopian Intervention


This scenario takes into account bilateral tensions that have not diminished since the June 2000 ceasefire. The subsequent Algiers Peace Agreements did not revive diplomatic relations. Ethiopia refused to implement the boundary commission’s 2002 decision.151 Since then, troops have remained massed along the border, and both governments have engaged in proxy warfare to gain leverage. Covert activities



148   According to some observers, it should also include participation of former dissenting leaders jailed in 2001, but this may be unrealistic. If any of these people are still alive after years of brutal detention, they are unlikely to be fit to re-enter active political life.

149   Some of the old figures are former EPLF members, while others are ELF – the front that lost to

the EPLF. Most opposition parties are based in Addis Ababa (with representatives in Europe or the U.S.) and are led by older men, who do not necessarily represent the feelings, vision and goals of the new generations in the diaspora, especially those who left after years spent in the military or to avoid conscription. These younger generations are now seeking to organise. Since their ideas are not shared by the older generations, it is far from a given that their perspectives would be repre- sented in any transitional government established between opposition parties and the PFDJ – therefore creating doubts about the genuineness of the process and its long-term viability. “Within diaspora communities, a divisive process has emerged (partially fuelled by Asmara), making it very difficult for the young people who left the country in the last decade to connect and coexist with pre-existing diaspora communities”. Crisis Group interview, January 2013.

150   Crisis Group interview, 1 February 2013.

151  Crisis Group Report, Ethiopia and Eritrea: Preventing War, op. cit.






have included supporting rebel actions inside the other’s territory152 and indirectly targeting each other by meddling in other countries’ affairs, for example in Sudan and, especially, in Somalia.

On 15 March 2012, following a decade-long war of words, Ethiopia conducted several incursions into Eritrea aimed at dismantling camps used by an Ethiopian rebel group (ARDUF) to launch cross-border attacks. In May, it again carried out military operations inside its neighbour’s territory, occupying some villages. Though not confirmed, some claim the second round was aimed at exposing Asmara’s de- clining military capacity; others point to attacks against other rebel (TPDM) bases.153 Addis Ababa will also possibly have wanted to remind regional leaders of the balance of power in the region, at a time when Isaias was initiating a new round of regional talks. Presidents Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and Omar el-Bashir of Sudan were visiting Ethiopia during the May incursions.154

Should the situation in Eritrea worsen, Ethiopia’s political and military reaction will be critical. Since almost all the organised (and armed) opposition parties are based in Addis Ababa and rely financially and logistically on the government,155 the new post-Meles leadership could play a positive role by offering a transitional lead- ership in Asmara a fresh diplomatic start, reopening economic ties and providing support for a non-partisan, inclusive political initiative.

But given the close links between the two countries and especially the populations adjacent to the border, any democratisation in Eritrea would inevitably have impli- cations for Ethiopia as well. Any Ethiopian intervention would likely have a security rather than democracy agenda. Hawkish responses are conceivable: Ethiopia could seal its border or seize the opportunity to support one faction in Asmara. It might even take advantage of instability to achieve one of the longstanding goals of hard- liners, control of the port of Assab in order to end the country’s land-locked status. Otherwise, Ethiopia could decide to impose a government in Asmara, either directly or indirectly. It might be accepted at the beginning by a tired and confused Eritrean population but would not likely be viable in the long term given the history of struggle with Ethiopia.
















152  Asmara has financially supported, trained and armed, among others, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), the Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unitary Front (ARDUF) and the Tigray People’s Democratic Movement (TPDM); Addis Ababa hosts all forms of opposition to Isaias’s regime.; for examples, see fn. 138 above.

153   Crisis Group interview, June 2012.

154   Tesfa-Alem Tekle, “Eritrean, Sudanese leaders hold talks in Asmara”, Sudan Tribune, 24 May 2012; “Uganda’s President Museveni arrives in Asmara”, Ayyaantuu News, 29 May 2012.

155  Addis Ababa has supported an ethnicisation of Eritrean opposition parties in line with the Ethi- opian model of ethnic federalism.






V.           Conclusion



Even though some degree of turbulence appears inevitable whenever and however Isaias departs the scene, a wider coalition of regional and international actors should work toward a controlled transition, as much preferable to unmanaged change. If another authoritarian – but inevitably weaker – regime takes power in Asmara, or indeed if an externally dominated government is imposed, further instability is like- ly, with profound consequences for the entire Horn of Africa.

If a power-sharing agreement is negotiated, it should be kept in mind that Isaias is not Eritrea’s sole problem. Dissident factions within the regime will want to keep real power, and diaspora-based opposition figures and groups do not really know – or represent – the population inside the country or most refugees. While political mediation should start as soon as possible, a concomitant assessment of Eritrea’s various and interconnected problems should be part of a structured and proactive engagement by the regional stakeholders and wider international stakeholders.

Specific attention should be paid to new, younger leaders emerging in the diaspora, including refugee camps, since demand for real change is more likely to come from these quarters. Attention should also be paid to the socio-economic and psychological side effects of the crisis. Plans for specific DDR programs should be put in place for those who have been serving in the army; the security sector will need to be reformed; and projects will have to be created simultaneously that focus on reintegrating those who fled their country, so as to avoid fissures developing both in the immediate aftermath of transition and during the subsequent attempts at state-rebuilding.

In a historic moment for the Horn of Africa – with a leadership transition in Ethiopia; a decaying and embattled ruling National Congress Party in Sudan; recent electoral unrest in Djibouti; a new state in South Sudan displaying worrying ethnic divisions; a new government that still relies on foreign troops for survival in a Somalia vast swathes of which remain in the hands of armed groups; and physical proximity to a Yemen undergoing an unstable transition156 – there is an urgent need to pursue stability in Eritrea. That would benefit the entire region. But the contrary could quickly spark instability well beyond Eritrea’s borders, entangling not just the Horn of Africa, but even the Red Sea littoral, due to its strategic location.


Nairobi/Brussels, 28 March 2013




















156   Crisis Group Africa Report N° 194, Sudan: Major Reform or More War, 29 November 2012; Middle East Report N° 125, Yemen: Enduring Conflicts, Threatened Transition, 3 July 2012.






Courtesy of University of Texas at Austin. The map has been cropped.



The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisa- tion, with some 150 staff members on five continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.

Crisis Group’s approach is grounded in field research. Teams of political analysts are located within or close by countries at risk of outbreak, escalation or recurrence of violent conflict. Based on information and assessments from the field, it produces analytical reports containing practical recommendations tar- geted at key international decision-takers. Crisis Group also publishes CrisisWatch, a twelve-page month- ly bulletin, providing a succinct regular update on the state of play in all the most significant situations of conflict or potential conflict around the world.

Crisis Group’s reports and briefing papers are distributed widely by email and made available simul- taneously on the website, Crisis Group works closely with governments and those who influence them, including the media, to highlight its crisis analyses and to generate support for its policy prescriptions.

The Crisis Group Board – which includes prominent figures from the fields of politics, diplomacy, business and the media – is directly involved in helping to bring the reports and recommendations to the attention of senior policy-makers around the world. Crisis Group is chaired by former U.S. Undersecretary of State and Ambassador Thomas Pickering. Its President and Chief Executive since July 2009 has been Louise Arbour, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Chief Prosecutor for the Interna- tional Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda.

Crisis Group’s international headquarters is in Brussels, and the organisation has offices or represen- tation in 34 locations: Abuja, Bangkok, Beijing, Beirut, Bishkek, Bogotá, Bujumbura, Cairo, Dakar, Da- mascus, Dubai, Gaza, Guatemala City, Islamabad, Istanbul, Jakarta, Jerusalem, Johannesburg, Kabul, Kathmandu, London, Moscow, Nairobi, New York, Pristina, Rabat, Sanaa, Sarajevo, Seoul, Tbilisi, Tripoli, Tunis and Washington DC. Crisis Group currently covers some 70 areas of actual or potential conflict across four continents. In Africa, this includes, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Repub- lic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda and Zimba- bwe; in Asia, Afghanistan, Burma/Myanmar, Indonesia, Kashmir, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Malaysia, Ne- pal, North Korea, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Taiwan Strait, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Turk- menistan and Uzbekistan; in Europe, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus, Georgia, Kosovo, Macedonia, North Caucasus, Serbia and Turkey; in the Middle East and North Africa, Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Israel-Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria, Tunisia, Western Sahara and Yemen; and in Latin America and the Caribbean, Colombia, Guatemala and Venezuela.

Crisis Group receives financial support from a wide range of governments, institutional foundations, and private sources. The following governmental departments and agencies have provided funding in recent years: Australian Agency for International Development, Austrian Development Agency, Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Canadian International Development Agency, Canadian International Devel- opment Research Centre, Royal Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Eu- ropean Union Instrument for Stability, Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, German Federal Foreign Office, Irish Aid, Principality of Liechtenstein, Luxembourg Ministry of Foreign Affairs, New Zealand Agency for International Development, Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swedish International Develop- ment Cooperation Agency, Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Af- fairs, Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, United Kingdom Department for International Development, U.S. Agency for International Development.

The following institutional and private foundations have provided funding in recent years: Adessium Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Elders Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Founda- tion, Humanity United, Henry Luce Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Oak Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Ploughshares Fund, Radcliffe Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Stanley Foundation, The Charitable Foundation, Tinker Foundation Incorporated.


March 2013






Appendix C: Reports and Briefings on Africa since 2010




Central Africa

CAR: Keeping the Dialogue Alive, Africa Briefing N°69, 12 January 2010 (also available in French).

Burundi: Ensuring Credible Elections, Africa Re- port N°155, 12 February 2010 (also available in French).

Libya/Chad: Beyond Political Influence, Africa Briefing N°71, 23 March 2010 (only available in French and Arabic).

Congo: A Stalled Democratic Agenda, Africa Briefing N°73, 8 April 2010 (also available in French).

Chad: Beyond Superficial Stability, Africa Report N°162, 17 August 2010 (only available in French).

Congo: No Stability in Kivu Despite a Rap- prochement with Rwanda, Africa Report N°165, 16 November 2010 (also available in French).

Dangerous Little Stones: Diamonds in the Cen- tral African Republic, Africa Report N°167, 16 December 2010 (also available in French).

Burundi: From Electoral Boycott to Political Im- passe, Africa Report N°169, 7 February 2011 (also available in French).

Chad’s North West: The Next High-risk Area?, Africa Briefing N°78, 17 February 2011 (only available in French).

Congo: The Electoral Dilemma, Africa Report N°175, 5 May 2011 (also available in French).

Congo : The Electoral Process Seen from the East, Africa Briefing N°80, 5 September 2011 (also available in French).

Africa without Qaddafi: The Case of Chad, Africa Report N°180, 21 October 2011 (also availa- ble in French).

Implementing Peace and Security Architecture (I): Central Africa, Africa Report N°181, 7 No- vember 2011 (also available in French).

The Lord’s Resistance Army: End Game?, Africa Report N°182, 17 November 2011.

Burundi: A Deepening Corruption Crisis, Africa Report N°185, 21 March 2012 (also available in French).

Black Gold in the Congo: Threat to Stability or Development Opportunity?, Africa Report N°188, 11 July 2012 (also available in French).

Eastern Congo: Why Stabilisation Failed, Africa Briefing N°91, 4 October 2012 (also available in French).

Burundi: Bye-bye Arusha? Africa Report N°192, 25 October 2012 (only available in French).

The Gulf of Guinea : The New Danger Zone, Africa Report N°195, 12 December 2012 (also available in French).

Eastern Congo: The ADF-Nalu’s Lost Rebellion, Africa Briefing N°93, 19 December 2012 (also available in French).


Horn of Africa

Rigged Elections in Darfur and the Conse- quences of a Probable NCP Victory in Sudan, Africa Briefing N°72, 30 March 2010.

LRA: A Regional Strategy Beyond Killing Kony, Africa Report N°157, 28 April 2010 (also avail- able in French).

Sudan: Regional Perspectives on the Prospect of Southern Independence, Africa Report N°159, 6 May 2010.

Somalia’s Divided Islamists, Africa Briefing N°74, 18 May 2010 (also available in Somali).

Sudan: Defining the North-South Border, Africa Briefing N°75, 2 September 2010.

Eritrea: The Siege State, Africa Report N°163, 21 September 2010.

Negotiating Sudan’s North-South Future, Africa Briefing N°76, 23 November 2010.

Somalia: The Transitional Government on Life Support, Africa Report N°170, 21 February 2011.

Politics and Transition in the New South Sudan,

Africa Briefing N°172, 4 April 2011.

Divisions in Sudan’s Ruling Party and the Threat to the Country’s Stability, Africa Report N°174, 4 May 2011.

South Sudan: Compounding Instability in Unity State, Africa Report N°179, 17 October 2011 (also available in Chinese).

Kenya: Impact of the ICC Proceedings, Africa Briefing N°84, 9 January 2012.

Kenyan Somali Islamist Radicalisation, Africa Briefing N°85, 25 January 2012.

The Kenyan Military Intervention in Somalia, Africa Report N°184, 15 February 2012

Somalia: An Opportunity that Should Not Be Missed, Africa Briefing N°87, 22 February 2012.

China’s New Courtship in South Sudan, Africa Report N°186, 4 April 2012 (also available in Chinese).

Uganda: No Resolution to Growing Tensions, Africa Report N°187, 5 April 2012.

Ethiopia After Meles, Africa Briefing N°89, 22 August 2012.

Assessing Turkey’s Role in Somalia, Africa Briefing N°92, 8 October 2012.

Sudan: Major Reform or More War, Africa Re- port N°194, 29 November 2012 (also available in Arabic).

Kenya’s 2013 Elections, Africa Report N°197, 17 January 2013.








Sudan’s Spreading Conflict (I): War in South Kordofan, Africa Report N°198, 14 February 2013.


Southern Africa

Zimbabwe: Political and Security Challenges to the Transition, Africa Briefing N°70, 3 March 2010.

Madagascar: Ending the Crisis, Africa Report N°156, 18 March 2010 (only available in French).

Madagascar: Crisis Heating Up?, Africa Report N°166, 18 November 2010.

Zimbabwe: The Road to Reform or Another Dead End, Africa Report N°173, 27 April 2011.

Resistance and Denial: Zimbabwe’s Stalled Re- form Agenda, Africa Briefing N°82, 16 Novem- ber 2011.

Zimbabwe’s Sanctions Standoff, Africa Briefing N°86, 6 February 2012 (also available in Chi- nese).

Implementing Peace and Security Architecture (II): Southern Africa, Africa Report N°191, 15 October 2012.


West Africa

Cote d’Ivoire: Securing the Electoral Process, Africa Report N°158, 5 May 2010 (only availa- ble in French).

Cameroon: Fragile State?, Africa Report N°160, 25 May 2010 (also available in French).

Cameroon: The Dangers of a Fracturing Re- gime, Africa Report N°161, 24 June 2010 (also available in French).

Guinea: Reforming the Army, Africa Report N°164, 23 September 2010 (also available in French).

Côte d’Ivoire : Sortir enfin de l’ornière ?, Africa Briefing N°77, 25 November 2010.

Northern Nigeria: Background to Conflict, Africa Report N°168, 20 December 2010.

Nigeria’s Elections: Reversing the Degenera- tion?, Africa Briefing N°79, 24 February 2011.

Côte d’Ivoire: Is War the Only Option?, Africa Report N°171, 3 March 2011 (also available in French).

A Critical Period for Ensuring Stability in Côte d’Ivoire, Africa Report N°176, 1 August 2011 (also available in French).

Liberia: How Sustainable Is the Recovery?, Afri- ca Report N°177, 19 August 2011.

Guinea: Putting the Transition Back on Track, Africa Report N°178, 23 September 2011.

Côte d’Ivoire: Continuing the Recovery, Africa Briefing N°83, 16 December 2011 (also avail- able in French).

Beyond Compromises: Reform Prospects in Guinea-Bissau, Africa Report N°183, 23 Janu- ary 2012 (only available in French and Portu- guese).

Liberia: Time for Much-Delayed Reconciliation and Reform, Africa Briefing N°88, 12 June 2012.

Mali: Avoiding Escalation, Africa Report N°189, 18 July 2012 (also available in French).

Beyond Turf Wars: Managing the Post-Coup Transition in Guinea-Bissau, Africa Report N°190, 17 August 2012 (also available in French).

Mali: The Need for Determined and Coordinated International Action, Africa Briefing N°90, 24 September 2012 (also available in French).

Côte d’Ivoire: Defusing Tensions, Africa Report N°193, 26 November 2012 (also available in French).

Guinea: A Way Out of the Election Quagmire, Africa Report N°199, 18 February 2013 (only available in French).






Appendix D: International Crisis Group Board of Trustees





Thomas R Pickering

Former U.S. Undersecretary of State; Ambassador to the UN, Russia, India, Israel, Jordan, El Salvador and Nigeria



Louise Arbour

Former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda



Ayo Obe

Legal Practitioner, Lagos, Nigeria


Ghassan Salamé

Dean, Paris School of International Affairs, Sciences Po



Morton Abramowitz

Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State and Ambassador to Turkey


Cheryl Carolus

Former South African High Commissioner to the UK and Secretary General of the ANC


Maria Livanos Cattaui

Former Secretary-General of the International Chamber of Commerce


Yoichi Funabashi

Chairman of the Rebuild Japan Initiative; Former Editor-in-Chief, The Asahi Shimbun


Frank Giustra

President & CEO, Fiore Financial Corporation


Lord (Mark) Malloch-Brown Former UN Deputy Secretary-General and Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)


Moisés Naím

Senior Associate, International Economics Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Former Editor in Chief, Foreign Policy


George Soros

Chairman, Open Society Institute


Pär Stenbäck

Former Foreign Minister of Finland



Kofi Annan

Former Secretary-General of the United Nations; Nobel Peace Prize (2001)


Nahum Barnea

Chief Columnist for Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel


Samuel Berger

Chair, Albright Stonebridge Group LLC; Former U.S. National Security Adviser

Emma Bonino

Vice President of the Italian Senate; Former Minister of International Trade and European Affairs of Italy and European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid


Micheline Calmy-Rey

Former President of the Swiss Confederation and Foreign Affairs Minister


Wesley Clark

Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander


Sheila Coronel

Toni Stabile Professor of Practice in Investigative Journalism; Director, Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism, Columbia University, U.S.


Mark Eyskens

Former Prime Minister of Belgium


Nabil Fahmy

Former Ambassador of Egypt to the

U.S. and Japan; Founding Dean, School of Public Affairs, American University in Cairo


Joschka Fischer

Former Foreign Minister of Germany


Lykke Friis

Former Climate & Energy Minister and Minister of Gender Equality of Denmark; Former Prorector at the University of Copenhagen


Jean-Marie Guéhenno

Arnold Saltzman Professor of War and Peace Studies, Columbia University; Former UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations


Carla Hills

Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and U.S. Trade Representative


Lena Hjelm-Wallén

Former Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Sweden


Mo Ibrahim

Founder and Chair, Mo Ibrahim Foundation; Founder, Celtel International


Igor Ivanov

Former Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation


Asma Jahangir

President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, Former UN Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Religion or Belief


Wadah Khanfar

Co-Founder, Al Sharq Forum; Former Director General, Al Jazeera Network


Wim Kok

Former Prime Minister of the Netherlands


Ricardo Lagos

Former President of Chile


Joanne Leedom-Ackerman Former International Secretary of PEN International; Novelist and journalist, U.S.


Lalit Mansingh

Former Foreign Secretary of India, Ambassador to the U.S. and High Commissioner to the UK


Benjamin Mkapa

Former President of Tanzania


Laurence Parisot President, French Business Confederation (MEDEF)


Karim Raslan

Founder, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of KRA Group


Paul Reynolds

President & Chief Executive Officer, Canaccord Financial Inc.


Javier Solana

Former EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, NATO Secretary General and Foreign Minister of Spain


Liv Monica Stubholt

Senior Vice President for Strategy and Communication, Kvaerner ASA; Former State Secretary for the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs


Lawrence H. Summers

Former Director of the U.S. National Economic Council and Secretary of the

U.S. Treasury; President Emeritus of

Harvard University


Wang Jisi

Dean, School of International Studies, Peking University; Member, Foreign Policy Advisory Committee of the Chinese Foreign Ministry


Wu Jianmin

Executive Vice Chairman, China Institute for Innovation and Develop- ment Strategy; Member, Foreign Policy Advisory Committee of the Chinese Foreign Ministry; Former Ambassador of China to the UN (Geneva) and France


Lionel Zinsou

CEO, PAI Partners









Crisis Group’s President’s Council is a distinguished group of major individual and corporate donors providing essential support, time and expertise to Crisis Group in delivering its core mission.



Anonymous (3) Dow Chemical Mala Gaonkar Frank Holmes

Investec Asset Management

Steve Killelea McKinsey & Company

Ford Nicholson & Lisa Wolverton

Harry Pokrandt Shearman & Sterling


Ian Telfer

White & Case LLP Neil Woodyer





Crisis Group’s International Advisory Council comprises significant individual and corporate donors who contribute their advice and experience to Crisis Group on a regular basis.




Anglo American PLC APCO Worldwide Inc. Ryan Beedie

Stanley Bergman & Edward Bergman



Neil & Sandra DeFeo Family Foundation

Equinox Partners Neemat Frem

FTI Consulting Seth & Jane Ginns Alan Griffiths

Rita E. Hauser George Kellner Faisel Khan Zelmira Koch Polk Elliott Kulick David Levy

Leslie Lishon

Harriet Mouchly-Weiss Näringslivets Inter-

nationella Råd (NIR)

– International Council of Swedish Industry

Griff Norquist Ana Luisa Ponti &


R. Hoguet Kerry Propper

PTT Public Company Limited

Michael L. Riordan Shell

Nina Solarz Horst Sporer Statoil

Talisman Energy Kevin Torudag

Yapı Merkezi Construction and Industry Inc.

Stelios S. Zavvos





Crisis Group’s Senior Advisers are former Board Members who maintain an association with Crisis Group, and whose advice and support are called on from time to time (to the extent consistent with any other office they may be holding at the time).


Martti Ahtisaari

Chairman Emeritus

Kim Campbell Jorge Castañeda

Aleksander Kwasniewski

Volker Rühe Güler Sabancı

George Mitchell

Naresh Chandra

Todung Mulya Lubis

Mohamed Sahnoun

Chairman Emeritus

Eugene Chien

Allan J. MacEachen

Salim A. Salim

Gareth Evans

President Emeritus

Joaquim Alberto Chissano

Graça Machel Jessica T. Mathews

Douglas Schoen Christian Schwarz-


Victor Chu

Nobuo Matsunaga


Kenneth Adelman

Mong Joon Chung

Barbara McDougall

Michael Sohlman

Adnan Abu Odeh

Pat Cox

Matthew McHugh

Thorvald Stoltenberg

HRH Prince Turki

Gianfranco Dell’Alba

Miklós Németh

Leo Tindemans


Jacques Delors

Christine Ockrent

Ed van Thijn

Hushang Ansary

Alain Destexhe

Timothy Ong

Simone Veil

Óscar Arias

Mou-Shih Ding

Olara Otunnu

Shirley Williams

Ersin Arıoğlu

Uffe Ellemann-

Lord (Christopher)

Grigory Yavlinski

Richard Armitage



Uta Zapf

Diego Arria

Gernot Erler

Shimon Peres

Ernesto Zedillo

Zainab Bangura

Marika Fahlén

Victor Pinchuk


Shlomo Ben-Ami

Stanley Fischer

Surin Pitsuwan


Christoph Bertram

Malcolm Fraser

Cyril Ramaphosa


Alan Blinken

Swanee Hunt

Fidel V. Ramos


Lakhdar Brahimi

Max Jakobson

George Robertson


Zbigniew Brzezinski

James V. Kimsey

Michel Rocard


 Posted by at 8:55 pm

  76 Responses to “Eritrea: Scenarios for Future Transition Africa Report N°200 | 28 March 2013”

  1. In your dreams!

    God bless Eritrea.

    • Is eritrea a worthy nation with the PFDJ or with the clueless opposition? Eritrea is doomed worthless with people ashamed to respect Eritrea’s own heritage. The so called opposition who are ashamed to respect Eritrean languages such as Tigre but respect their masters languages are not worthy enough to create a viable nation. How can one create a worthy nation when one do not allow the Kunama or Afar to study and administer in his or her own languages?
      Is this true? Did some worthless members of the old ELF burn school text books written in Eritrean languages such as Tigre?
      “History repeated itself again 28 years later after the second organizational conference of the ELF/Jebha in 1975. Educational books, which were prepared in the Tigré language by teachers at the Sawa training center, were ordered to be burned by the Executive Committee, citing the reason that it was a conspiracy directed against the status and prominence of the Arabic language in Eritrea. The leadership of the ELF gave orders not to prepare any more educational texts in the Tigré language henceforth.”

  2. Endless rubbish and empty .

  3. Really rabish and trush.No one can decide about the people of eritrea and its Leadership except the people whom paiyed an expencive price for the Nation,donot worry about the futurity of Eritrea the tiny nation it will fullfill its goals with the powerful devotted youngs.

  4. you have forgetted the so called ERITREAN MERCENARIES whom are living only for thier financial problems,hiden nationality, treated under thier lords(G-15),looking for a high post and finally sell the country for nill and let the PEOPLE orf ERITREA pay another worsest price.

  5. antay emo mis wedi comprativa

  6. what a junk! pathetic.

  7. U don’t know eritreans. We didn’t get eritrea for free we paid 100.000 lifes. Why do u worry about us please leave us alon. Long life to PIA and peaple of eritrea

  8. What a piece of garbage. It unbelievable what some idiots right!

  9. Garbage. Zero. Erigazzete you f***ed up. You guys post too much gohaf.

  10. Xedifea

  11. The funny thing is , they never understood the Eritrean people , on top of that , they have zero knowledge about Eritrea. let say issais is crazy and have no clue to rule , so what they advice to the eritrean people is to be ruled by a small group of people who wish to make eritrea part of ethiopia again, by saying this they mean we have to go with these so called opposition groups who are totally too much in numbers , and they have never hold any sense about the young eritreans abroad and inside eritrea.

    yes issais is really not fit to rule but it does not mean the eritrean people have no knowledge about the cooked idea , we already have a clear example in Egypt which is begging 4b dollar from IMF and Libya we can talk too much about libia either they are now to the lowest form of being libians , i do not mean gadafi is good , he was terribly bad but the west does not have any better either .In eritrea at least we have a nice realtionship with each other except the few who want just their personal way of doing things .unless we are not a place of sunni and shiaas , we have been through taugh times almost for long time now , and we are far smart to know what they mean crises in eritrea , they just mean to have more crises and i hope the eritrean people see this from different angle ,

    But change is welcome unless it is cooked from west.

    • They are not trying to design Eritrean’s future but they are just telling us the trend of Eritrea under isaais Afwerki. come back to you,Knowing about your problem/crisis is not enough. knowing the problem and trying to solve it signifies smartness. i see your comment is not rejecting the fact that you have a crisis and at the same time you are telling us dying without try is better, that’s bizarre; why you do not open your eyes and see some one who you think qualified to lead the country? you believe Isaias is not qualified to lead because of A, B and C .But what can you do if he is still in power and he does not have intention to share power. Now this is a big problem that can lead a country in to disaster. so you have got to do what you have got to do. “if you fool me one time shame on you but if you fool me two times shame on me”. God Bless Eritrea

      • Good point!

      • These banchrupted Jacklays can only fool Wedi barka and selamemot only and a few other lost souls, but the rest of Eritreans we know what is good and bad for us . Rest assured thier rubbish assertion was runing for the past 15 years and I am sure it will re-run again out of despration and hopelessnes to thier disappointment end very soon .

      • Wedi barka or Senay,
        I wonder why are you writing for sake of just comm.something,it shows that you are the one who is not fit,not realy know the power and inteligence of Eri.people,grow up first and come on to 21th cnt.politcs to even only mentioning the name of an easy jgna tegadaly leader IA.

  12. This only shows how the syncs are desperate and dead end .We have read the same collosal garbage blue print for the last 15 years non stop and only makes us stronger more than ever .

  13. gual ere u are dam u should know what is going on in this world. It is all about western interest when u r good for your country u r bad guy to them, but when u work for them and borrow money and be depend on them then u r good guy. We r eritreans and never Neil except when we pray and Sh………

  14. The above article is garbage!!!

    Yes, change is coming for the good!! The Weyanes are about to fight each other and Ethiopia will finally free. The mercenaries, who call themselves “opposition”, will go to hell as well. At the end we will get rid of our Crazy Dictator, Issayas, and we will have a normal, good, neighborly relations with Ethiopia after demarcating the border.

    When Weyanes fall, all Tigrians will be deported back to their motherland (Tigrai) from every corner of Ethiopia – what goes around comes around. All these will happen in 2013 – Mark my words.

  15. U hgdefites SHOULD READ the Eritrean short story”ARHO” The story goes like this: Once upon a time there were ppl living in a village called Arho who liked to party(guaila)like u hgdefites day in day out .And saddenly there was a huge rain storm and ppl from the next village wrn them to evacuate ,but istead of listening to comensense they got up to the roof &contuned to dance dance dance baby. And the tusamy like flood swept them away .So U goons should listen to comensense or u will end up like the Arho ppl!!!!!!!! IZI WEDEHANKUM.

    • Wedi-shulu
      The story of Arho reflects more to your fate which you are straying , walking empty , unlike ugdefits they might dance all day long with a very solid plan for any eventualities .

    • Wedsule,
      Is that Babylons story, the orgi.ver.?For you is water shortnes and saving every drop of it guaila,you mean it ironical,but stay authentic to feel the comonsense with all.

      • Terry: your guys are doing smear campaign against the truth. That’s not a healthy way of communication. so, please let them learn that no one can curve the truth and the reality in the ground when we come to our beloved country Eritrea; change is needed and it’s inevitable and imminent. After all, tell them searching the truth is more better than searching a vulgar words to vent their frustrations. Emotion does not start out of nowhere but from anxiety, uncertainty and confusion so tell them accepting the reality is a better solution for their hallucinations.
        God Bless Eritrea!

  16. The UN work is to demarcation border between Eritrea and Ethiopia only every body sure % that the peace will settle after that only, but she forget its work and searching only crises of the world as it is a tool of the big powers.

    UN! don’t forget your work.the entire change of our country is our responsibility,

  17. he UN work is to demarcation border between Eritrea and Ethiopia only every body sure100 % that the peace will settle after that only, but she forget its work and searching only crises of the world as it is a tool of the big powers.

    UN! don’t forget your work.the entire change of our country is our responsibility,

  18. So, on one hand they say Eritrea is a closed nation with no information at all, they they came up with this nonesense and all they depend on for source is what?

    God, what is wrong with people?

  19. Your message is clear is intervention similar to Syria but your dream will never come true the real Eritrean are bond with unity among them, there is no ethnic or religion differences it is only western conspiracy against Eritrea because the late refuse to serve their interest to re-colonize Africa, western states never care about Africa’s democracy, human right, freedom of press etc. they use them as tools to demonize a third world states that refuse to work in promoting their evil agenda to exploit African resources. If they are honest they should first start looking after their starving people or the homeless, or those living under the bridges or those millions whom stand in line for hours (most of them do not fetch) for a lunch portion, concerning democracy the real one don’t exist, press and media are corporate and work for the interest of the masters, similar to the writer of this present article. Wake Up we are in 2!st century

  20. Trash! Pure garbage. Nothing but garbage. These people have no clue about the real Eritrea or Eritreans. They just put their report together after talking to people that are supproted by Weyane. They might as well have Weyane write the report for them. Simply idiotic.

  21. Gohaffff

  22. Why are you people trying to deny the reality in Eritrea under the dictator. Is not the country diving into crises under the dictator?

    1. In the 1990s almost all the Eritrean people (in the country and in diaspora) were supporters of the president, who has now turned himself into a world number one dictator. So now in 2013 almost over 60% of the former supporters are enemies to the dictator, the number increasing every year.

    2. In the early years of independence no one was complaining about the national military service, but now almost the entire young generation wants to escape this barbaric slavary service.

    3. In the early days of indepnece we all were hopeful that Eritrea would prosper, so many have returned home and investted in the country, but now all have packed their property and run away back to where they come from and many investing in several African countries, leaving Eritrea in despair under the dictator

    4. Eritrea was the strongest militarly in the eraly days of indpendence, now we are having the weakest, most outdated, milicia type defence system, which is highly vulnerable to any exernal force.

    5. After 20 years of independence the country has not yet any political system, no rule of law, no constitition, no clear hirarche in power, leaving the counrty in deep political crises with dangeroues and blared future.

    6. After 20 years of independence the economy is the weakest in the region, has not established any economic system, no investement, no creation of job, peoples simply driven into poverty.

    7. Hundres of thousands have left the country and thousands escaping every month, tens of thousands of innocent citizens are victims of human trafickers, being perished in the sinai and Sahar desert, sinking into the meditetranean sea. Tens of thousands languishing in prison in the country.

    8. The dictator and his blind supporters does nothing to avert these crises exceprt making the situation worse and worse every day.

    So what do expect from this, if the country countinues under this desperate situation? Uncertain future, may be state failur, collapse.

    So we have to get together and save this country of the brave people before it gets too late.

    God Bless Eritrea

    • Hi Mr. Idiot, it is me again.

      Ok, now, let us see what you wrote above and may be help you with your dilemma.

      You keep on saying “In the early years of independence ” or “In the 1990s” . What you are afraid to say is “In the years of 1991-1998″.

      Even your idiot brain realized the years 1991-1998 were a superb years for Eritrea. Good for you. Now, I will help you dissect that and clearly understand what it means.

      1. In those years, the same Government was leading the country, right?
      2. In those years the same president, i.e The Honorable President Issayas Afeworki was leading the country, right?
      (Pay attention: I am trying to walk in babay stemps, in easy ways that your poor brain can handle, ok?)
      3. During those years, independence happened, by the good leadership of Eritrean government
      4. A superb referendum was done by the government to secure our independence, right?
      5. In those years, with the good leadership and blessing of the Government, our constitution was drafted, showing the intention of the government and its good nature, right?
      6.Again, by your own admission those years were very promising years, and also those years prove what a formidable government and leadership we have, right?

      Now, Mr. Idiot, here is the million dollar question. WHAT HAPPENED IN 1998?

      Nah!, you are too damp to get it. let me give you a hint.
      – Womanize happened that year.
      – War happened that year,
      – conspiracy against Eritrea happened after that,
      – Sanctions happened after that.
      – Woyanie, maintained the stalemate to choke Eritrea happened.
      – Fools like you got born and forgot all about Eritrean values after that……
      – New bread unionists happened after that
      – Sanctioning Eritrea happened, then instantly blaming the government of starving its government happened
      – Terrorizing investors happened
      The list is long……I will fill you in nex time.

      But remember, and focus on Woyanie and 1998.

      • Correction: read “Woyanie” and not “womanize”

        • You rubish, the war was over in 2000. Now it has been 13 years, but you still talking abourt the war, like the dictator’s¨propaganda machins (EriTV and Demsi Dictator). I said your mind is decayed, so still thinking what happened 13 years a ago.

          The dictator has been pretending as he has been working to get back Badme. But you know what, the dicttaor instead he made our military the weakest in the region in the past 13 years. Now encapable of defending our territiory from any external threat. So after 13 years of pretention, the dictator has no power to get back badme, he can not even think of that. This is proven in the inncidences along the broder last year.

          How you is the dictator and you rubish people thinking to get back our occupied land?

          The regime is in crises, the weakest, no power in politics (internal and external), no military power, no economic power, no diplomatic power and etc. So how is the dictator thinking to get back our land? The international community knows this very well so wainting the regime to collapse which is enevitable.

          So the only solution for the dictator and for the selfish supporters is to get together with your people, because peoples are the power more powerful than anything. You see the logic, you bastard, the dictator has lost trust of the people, then he bacame the weakest.

          So forget about badme for the timebieng and work hard to bring people back together and then Eritrea will be powerful again with all capability to defend itself. Then within few months we get back our land.

          How? Establsih the rule of law, respect your people, constutition, let all the innocent citizens langushing in prisone cells under the dicttaor go free.

          You bastard, do you understand. You have been talking about that peices of land (badme) for 13 years, while you are loosing your peopl’s trust. Now in the end you bacame the weakset, the loser of all. No peopl’s support , so no power, and so no badme. But you are still crying.

      • You Rubish Zelku Dea,

        We innocent Eritreans did not know that the dictator was conspiring for our devastatition and disintegration. The dictator was just waiting for convienent time to implement his barbaric acts. So he launched that teriffic war with Ethiopia which has taken tens of thousands of our young citizens (here we have brothers and sistens and lots of friends). I can mention you a list if you want, you Rubish supporter.

        The war and weak people like you gave the dictator a good cover up and opportunity to start his hiden agenda of Eritrea’s devastation and its people’s desintegration, his hiden agenda of breaking our future.

        Then the innocent people came know all these barbaric agendas after the War, in 2001. Every thing comes to be clear as day light. and the dictator has publicly announced his dictatorship, imprisoning, torturing, killing and driving into exodus those who he throght were ponetial threate to his hidden barbaric agenda.

        Then he got all the power under the support of you rubish people (diaspora) to excercise his barbaric muscel on innocent ceitizens. This has drove us into exodus in hindereds of thoudansds, made our country the weakest in the region, economically and militarly, he has completly destroyed our unity and now heding to disintegration.

        He under the support of you selfish people (diaspora), led the country with no rule of law for over 20 years, like a jungle. Under his barbaric leadership hundresds of thousansd of citizens have escape the country seeking refugge in all over the world, including Ethiopa (shame on you), tens of thousansds have been victims of humanstraffickers perishing in Sinai and Sahara, and sinkining in the mediternean sea. You know you selfish, this has no equality in its babric nature in history. This is a big black point in Eritrean history which will never be forggoten.

        So tell me you bastard supporter, what is the regime doing for Eritrea and its people apart from these barbaric acts. ‘


        You selfidh, you chose his survival, while letting your country and your people go to brken future and collapse.

        So you are nothing but SELFISH.

        You could not even tell to your dictator to stope exodus to Ethiopia (your enemy according to your rubish outdated words). It is shame that you try to talk in support of such a regime. I remind you again and again you have over 60,000 ERitrean refugees in Ethiopia (childeren, women, men, old people, diseabled etc all sort of people). The worst thing is that the number is rising by thoudands every month.

        This is country building for you, Ahhhhhhh…. It shame. So this implies that you and peoples like you in diaspora who are selfish supporters of the dicttaor are working to break our future and then may be you are conspiring to Eritrea given back to Ethiopia. But this will be blown up as a day dream.

        We will bring our beloved Eritrea back to its stonger position again.

        God Bless Eritrea

        • Thomas,

          I think your mind is full of negatives and you don’t seem to understand the reality. The reality is:
          1) Weyanes declared war on Eritrea in 1998. I know 100% that the Weyanes were thinking that they will defeat Eritrea and win the war in 6 months but dream always remains a dream hence, they failed to do that in 2 years of war. At the end they were forced to sign a final and binding agreement. We all know that the West was supporting the Regime in Ethiopia in the 2 years of war and after ending the war.
          2) The Weyanes then said that Eritrea will kneel down or fall apart after a long war or “ab zitenawehe kuinat” – hence they kept us in a limbo for the last 13 years.
          3) Yes, there are many mistakes done by our Dictator Issayas but I also appreciate his efforts not to give up the border demarcation. i.e., I support the dictator 100% compared to the so called Eritrean oppositions” that are conspiring with the Weyanes to sell Eritrea. I am 100% sure that the Weyanes are just using them as a tool to re-occupy Eritrea but that dream is evaporating day by day.
          The dictator have destroyed Eritrea by not limiting military service years, not allowing Eritreans to invest in their country, by closing import export businesses, by closing private construction & consulting services.
          4) Now that Dictator Meles is gone and enemies of Eritrea like Seyoum Mesfin are being pushed away, we will see the end of the Weyanes very soon. The Amharas are not stupid enough to pick a fight against Eritrea since they have seen Dergue and Weyanes falling apart due to war.
          5) How many of us know that they have been preparing to invade us and tried that for the last 10 years or so? Do you know what they would do if they get a chance to enter Eritrea? They would wipe every male aged 7-60 years. But the Ethiopians say “ibab yelibun ayto igir nesaw” – Allah is great, nothing will happen to us since we are on our land and we are not planning to invade any country.
          6) I am sure that we will get rid of our crazy & bloody dictator soon – be it naturally or he will be killed by one of his bodyguards.
          7) We will live in peace with Ethiopia once the demarcation is done since we need each other. They need our ports and we need many things from them.


          • The reality is that the dictator is driving citizens into exodus, this is citizens cleasing.

          • Dear Ali, while respecting your views and opinions, I totally disagree with your no. 5 argument. Over a year or so, weren’t the Weyane able to carry out two cross border operations (one around the Bure Front and the other one around the Western Front), and penetrated deep into our territories? Having such capabilities, what are they waiting for to invade and completely wipe us out? With all your due respect Mr Ali, I think out innocence you are simply propagating the malicious fear campaign designed by the tyrant and his cronies to take hostage the minds of our people, and immerse their thoughts in inconstant fear of invasion in order to stay in power indefinitely.

          • Long Live the Lion of Nakfa PIA .

    • @Thomas

      Truth as it is! Bless your heart brother!

  23. Taken from asena pages:
    This hate “business” started long ago. It started by the propaganda to hate the “Amhara, Oromo …” people or anything considered “Ethiopias” even black African. It then went hating a lot of stuff considered part of the land currently called Eritrean, including Eritrean languages, values, customs and culture. The only ideology and nationalism of the whole Ghedli/ Sewra business was “hate”. Also remember for the jebhas and shaebias who are still hating each other; hating the Kunamas, hating Faluls, Menkaes …
    There are still many Eritreans in the opposition living off the “hate” business. These are the people who hate themselves and burned the Eritrean languages and tradition, e.g. they burned the Tigre language text books prepared by the education department in Jebha. To this day, many leaders of the opposition, i.e. the dinosaurs of the old Jebha, do not want to see any Eritrean group to broadcast radio or TV and learn in indigenous Eritrean languages such as Tigre, Kunama, Bilen, Afar.
    People who hate themselves, hate anything and everything except their masters. No one expects the people who hate themselves to love themselves let alone anyone else. Worthless people create only worthless political identities.

    “History repeated itself again 28 years later after the second organizational conference of the ELF/Jebha in 1975. Educational books, which were prepared in the Tigré language by teachers at the Sawa training center, were ordered to be burned by the Executive Committee, citing the reason that it was a conspiracy directed against the status and prominence of the Arabic language in Eritrea. The leadership of the ELF gave orders not to prepare any more educational texts in the Tigré language henceforth.”

  24. Eritrean independence was not handed over. This is garbage article written by west who are clueless about Eritrean Psyche. God bless Eritrea.

  25. Dear Thomas

    Deaf, blind and dump people like Zelku-dua never understand. They are beneficiaries of HGDF. The evidence you brought are enough how Eritrea is going on with the leadership of DIA. The dumped individuals think about themselves only. They are spending a splendid life in west. they don’t have heart to understand: Era ero and all the other prisons of Eritrea, They are wicked enough to remember Sinai and all the suffer our people spending. Alas, I am part of you. God save Eritrea

    • Yonnas, be broad minded! see the entire struggle and where we are right now. Yesterday the UK and US they were accusing Eritrea, but last week UK sent 6 mining companies to Eritrea already in Asmara and many more to go, US already started issuing visa, Why is that? they know a lot that you do not know, so do not be fool and complaining like a cry baby for minor errors versus past struggle. Think widely and for years to come. The principle of of our government is working for the Eritreans in Eritrea but not for the people who want a copy cut of Western Democracy. May god save Eritrea from her sellout sons!

      • There are no good years coming as long as the dictator is in power, no good year is coming while citizens are driven into exodus in thousands every month.

        Do not be fool.

        • Thomas,

          Go to hell Thomas!, and serve as a spoon of greedy westerners NGOs. We Eritreans paid enormous blood and our country will be built on our pace but not on the pace of NGOs. You are a believer of western tactics and how they demonizing sharp leaders in the third word countries who work hard for the well being of their own people. PIA is one of them, he is a smart leader who care for his people and nation. History will tell, and already some countries are softening their tone and soon the sanction imposed on Eritrea with lies will be lifted. But for people like you, who ever your identity will be shame.

          • PIA is a kidnapper and a killer like his North Koreas brother.

            You bullsheet Sharp mind never thinks to lead a nation without a constitution for a quarter of a centurty in this civilized world of the 21st century.

            Shame on you!!!

        • Agent stupid it is right as regarding yours and alike future,reason is PIA are all Eritreans spec warsay that good ideology is burnt in memory so that Eri is to be considered as 1 world in the near future,idiots adios with your ill heart.

          • Terry:you have a little brain occupied by sputum.Adjust your chronometer.

          • Wed barka,
            I forgive you these time,and ask you polite not to interfer to my visionary best wishes f my coun.

  26. The reason why every single things is they want a fight between ethiopian and eriteria. i dont think we want to see the 1998-2000 war. the peoples of eriteria and ethiopia are grow up now with the rest of the worlds about war. no body want to fight . i belive ethiopia and eriteria will do better in economic growth for africa. it is time to belive God and pray for the peace. love is a winner. God bless Eriteria and God bless Ethiopia. God bless the oppssion group too lol. most african countries and asian are immigrant all over the world. the only solution for immigration is economic growth in africa. i never seen european immigrant lol . we have to give a chance for african to change. we all know that non of african leaders are perfect. pray, pray and belive God for a change.

  27. These bunch of Monkeys of Africa and Apes Middle east, such as like Koffi Annan who are making money in the name of Africa are group of greedy people. They contact lies to be payed their salary no matter how it affects the poor people of a nation. What did Cofe Anana accomplish to Africa when he was a UN secretary? nothing in fact there were more conflicst on his time than his predecessor. So, we Eritreans we never expected any thing good from a bunch of Idiots. If it is so, why is right now many mining companies of UK are entering Eritrea, why countries who weren’t issuing exit visa they are doing it now? Because they knew that Eritrea never had and will not kneel in their terms. Now they have to soften their accusations and they are normalizing their relationship with Eritrea. So, the greedy people they should know that. Our principle is we never kneel down in terms of other people but for our benefit. What ever they say or right to goes to the wind.

  28. usede no article

  29. Dear Tomas: You are an angel of reality distortion, or an angel of false propaganda

    I admit that you have some true basis of citing some of the problems Eritrea(ns) face(s). The 1997 Constitution is not implemented yet, and some of our brothers and sisters who have tried leave their loved ones behind have, on their way, met greater unexpected problems, including death in the Sahara and Sina deserts and the high seas. It is also true that the no-war-and no-peace (the cold war) the adversaries of Eritrea have unleashed caused some problems for us to overcome. I also agree with your proposal that we Eritreans should gather our forces to solve our problems.

    But you are greatly mistaken to suggest that President Issaias Afwerqi (PIA) is the source/cause of all our problems. PIA is not and has never been in the business of creating problems for Eritrea. You have completely missed the reality in that case. You can see our adversaries’ confessions and, may be, you could re-evaluate you conclusions and grasp how far from the overall truth you are. See and check the cause of Eritrea’s problems in

    Your argument reminds me of a half-full/half-empty cup, and similarly Eritrea’s reality has positive and negative things. What you see and tell us is that Eritrea has intractable problems and has no solutions to some of its problems. And that is literally and absolutely not true. There are Eritrean unsolved problems and there are Eritrean successes. Recognizing both sides will provide you with the overall and comprehensive assessment of the Eritrean reality. Otherwise, your report would be nothing a distortion of its reality, a false propaganda. You may be trying to rally people for political support against PIA, but that is not the right way of resolving Eritrean problems. “You are barking on the wrong tree,” as some would say.

    PIA is not the main source of our problems. As Eritreans, we should focus our efforts in tackling our main adversaries (the cause of our principal problems) by working in unison with PIA and PFDJ/GoER, and not working against them. We ought to strengthen the State of Eritrea, which is the people and Government of Eritrea, and not diminish it by instigating/preaching nihilist civil wars. The main and primary conflict that needs to be resolved is that which is between the State of Eritrea and its foreign adversaries. Every other conflict among Eritreans is secondary in nature. I believe that your distorted assessment of the reality is blinding you from grasping this very glaring fact. You seem to be in search of political support against PIA (a secondary conflict related to policies and governance) and disregarding the primary conflict threatening the physical and political survival and continuation of the State of Eritrea (people and Government within its territory). You seem to be forgetting that the primary conflict is causing us many problems and you come around and tell us that PIA caused these problems. You seem to be reasonable upto a point, but your overall reasoning ends up to be absurd.

    Tomas, as you have hinted a little bit, we Eritreans need to get together to “save” our nation, but we would be much stronger if we don’t unnecessarily exaggerate and escalate our secondary conflicts and weaken ourselves to such an extent that we may not be able to tackle the main sources of our challenges.Your strategy is not going to work. What we have to do is unite our efforts with that of PIA and make ourselves stronger (for example, advance Eritrea’s political development, or governance based on law and institutions) while we keep our eyes on our primary challenges. If you believe the Eritrean Defense Forces are weakened, it would be better to join hands and work with PIA to strengthen it. If you believe that escaping youth are diminishing Eritrea’s resources, it is better to work on how to reverse that trend than fight PIA. If you believe some of our people are hungry, it is better to cooperate with PIA and feed them than fight against PIA. If you think that Eritrea is isolated from its neighbors and that is not good, it is better to work with PIA in unison to solve the problems than fight against PIA. If you believe that Eritrea’s governance needs to be reformed, PIA is not going to listen to your commands hurled from remote location far out way in the world, get close to him, show him your willingness to work together, and try to convince him that your suggestions could serve us all well, and not fight against him. Help him help you reach where you want to go.

    • it is him making them escape, it is him making them hungry, it him torturing them, it is him inforcing them into endless military slavary, it him imprisoning people with no court ruling, it is him making potential investers run away to african coutreis with all thier valuable wealth. it is him doing every cruel act against us.

      so he is the root cause of all the problems, so all our problems will be gone if we unroot and remove him.

      It seems that you do not know him, he a barabaric leader. We brave innocent Eritreans do not deserve this barbaric leadership, because we know what we did to get our indepence. Our reward from the dictator for all such bravary for indpendece has been betreyal, imprisonment, torture, driven to exodus to end up as refugees in Ethiopia etc. can you imagin this?

    • Dear Thomas: Your bias against IPIA won’t help you see all things objectively

      Issaias Afwerqi is as human as you and me, and he will make/has made mistakes and errors in judgement, and has limitations in resources compared to his wishes and intentions. That is perfectly understandable, but he makes general decisions for the best interests of the nation (people and Government) putting short- and long-term interests into account. His decisions are neither equally understood by or have the same impact on all of us, individually. PIA is not “making them escape,” the escapees are making their own decisions to escape, each because of his/her own reasons (hard work, long national service, hardship, avoid the possibility of another war, in search of better opportunities, etc.). You could not see that part of the Eritrean reality. Whatever decision PIA makes will not stop some people from wanting to leave Eritrea, but if you have a better idea of integrating your objectives with PIA’s objectives and formulate them into a better national policy, you are more than welcome to do so. Blaming PIA is politics, solving its problems is what the nation needs.

      PIA is not “making them hungry.” PIA is both making the GoER support needy people while at the same time is mobilizing people to work a little bit harder/smarter to free themselves from dependence on others and sustain/improve their lives with confidence. It is better for you and I to feed those who you claim are hungry than trying to uproot PIA, who is feeding more people than all of us combined.

      Yes, the GoER has instituted National Service for 18 months for the best interests of the nation. If you are against that program, say so, and let us read your alternatives, and see what is in them. The National Service has been extended indefinitely because of the legitimate and objective (as opposed to imaginations, halucinations, or whimsical projections) new emergency circumstances that Eritrea is in since May 1998. The GoER has rightly decided that the nation would better overcome the problems that cropped up because of the deliberate antagonistic policies of our adversaries if it uses to utilize EDF and Agelglot human resources to both implement defensive and developmental tasks in collaboration with the broad masses of the people. Conscription may be disliked by some conscripts and families, bu it is not slavery. GoER with its very limited resources pays them stipends/salaries and supports their households in various ways. Slaves are not paid anything in return, and do not participate in any decision-making as citizens regarding themselves or the nation. Mobilizing the Eritrean people to work for their best overall benefits of the nation (people and Government) cannot be slavery but doing your citizen duties in times of emergencies.

      About detentions and imprisonments. We as a nation intend to administer our affairs based on the Constitution and subsequent laws and regulations. But, remember, we were caught up in the present circumstances before we even complete our preparations to implement that Constitution. Repeat: believe it or not, Eritrea is going through the ET-ER Cold War. In times of emergency, normal laws do not serve well, and are often suspended until the emergency is overcome. It would be reasonable to allow the Commander-in-Chief the power to detain people as long as necessary until the emergency situation is gone. But if it is extended as it is in ER’s case, I think that it would be much better if we devise a judicial system that incrementally connects the two, and help us manage individual cases through a court of law and advance towards implementing parts of the Constitution in phases, while at the same time fulfill the nations emergency needs. That is why, I believe, the GoER is releasing some detainees and not others, depending on the legal facts of each case.

      Investors make their own studies and based on them make decisions to invest or not to invest. Some may have decided not to come to ER but others have/want to mome to ER. That is the overall reality, Thomas. You mention those who didn’t come and I point out those who came. The two combined are the overall reality, not only what you pointed out. To call a Government leadership that provides subsidies and free services to all needy citizens “barbaric” cannot make it real, Thomas. Barbarism and the nature of the GoER by definition are practically opposites of each other. The GoER is caring and responsible while “barbaric” is not.

      May God have mercy on my brother, Thomas, and may God bless the Eritrean nation, and bestow wisdom to its leaders and citizens. Amen.

      • YAY,

        Hats off for you brother, for your patience and for your true assessment of things. But, I think you are giving Mr. Idiot (aka Thomas) too much credit. This dude is either a 100% retarded, or he has some personal issue which is eating him up deep inside. May be he did something awful thing and is trying to convince himself it is not his fault , or maybe he sent some money to smuggle out one of his family member out of Eritrea and may be it all went awry, you know? So deep inside he is may be blaming himself, but on the outside his anger and regret is reflected in the form of blame game and pointing at the whole world as guilty. This is Just my guess. If you notice, he writes the same thing again and again,

        I sometimes feel sorry for him

        • Zelku Dea

          Now I know that, You are selfish, empty mind. I have not tried any one of those you have mentioned.

          But I tell in black and white, that we Eritreans hate this barbaric leader. He has betrayed us, he has betrayed our mertyars, he is lawless, a killer, kidnapper, does not recognize court rulling, he has no vision and is confused, has no friend, sufering from inferiority complex, always critizing others while he is doing the worst with no law.

          By all standard the dictator is just a dictator with no capability to lead a nation to a right course. So we hate him.

          We want him out, and then Eritrea will be strongest again.

          But I know selfish people like you do not want this, you rather prefere Eritrea to collapse if the dictator is not in power.

          Shame on you!!!

          • Mr. Idiot,

            Well, it is choice number 1 then. You are 100% retarded.
            Thanks for clearing that up.

            Again, I feel sorry for you dude.

        • YAY, you seem very reseasobale guy, But you have no experineces of life under the dictator. What you telling me is the percieption we had in the eraly days of inpendence before we knew how bad and cruel this dictator was. The war has revealed every hidden agenda of the dictator.

          I have fairly good education, I was part of the War (1998-2000), which I fought hard convincing myself that it was a just war. The war has taken tens of thousands of innocent Eritrean life, I lost a number of my nice young friends. But later we learned that the war was entertainment for the dictator. He betrayed the people, he betrayed all those who succreficed thier life. He is stupid.

          In 13 years of time after the war he drove hundreds of thousasnds of those young brave people to exodus, a large of them to Ethiopia. Can you imagin what the consequence of this would be for the security of our country? Do you care about this?

          So tell me what is the dictator trying to achieve by driving citizens into exodus to neighbouring countries, including Ethiopia?

          What is the ultimate goal?, Why are you supporting this destructive agenda? Tell me.

          Are you trying to tell me that people have to stay calm at home whatever the dictator may do?. This funny. Had this been possible, I tell you, Eritrea would not have achieved its independence. When the leader is barbaric and peoples have no means of correcting it at home, there is only once choice, that is to escape. This is natural.

          So the only solution is respect your people, abide by rules. Live by mutual underrstanding with the people not by DICTATION.

          God bless Eritrea

          • Atum sebat izi kolia abidu.

            What in God’s name are you talking about? Do you even read and try to understand what people are writing here? Do you even read?

            God, what a useless individual. Take a break, breath and then after you calm down, go back and read what YAY wrote, and try to concentrate and deal with the points he raised one by one.

      • Yay, it seems that you do know how cruel and how barbaric dictator this madman is.

        You know, the dictator has all the power in his hand. All decisions and policy formulations (always distructive) are mastermided by the dictator. No one else has any power to change the course of his destructive ways of doing things. By that way he has sent Eritrea to complete crises and isolation.

        Our brave people are being punished for all his mad acts. We have lost our credibility as a nation in the international community. We lost everything, now haeding to complete failur.

        These all happened under his dictation.

        So what do you expect from this barbaric leader.

        May be you have not been in Eritrea in the past 10 years, so you have no feelings of how badly our people and our country is damaged under this dictator.

        To feel our pain inflicted on us by the barbaric leader, go and stay in Asmara for some time. OK

        But do not be biased.

    • Mr YAY, how do you work with a individual who is so obsessed with power monopoly, and who is so intolerant to accommodate other peoples concerns, views, and opinions. Had Mr. Afewerki was a responsible, broad minded, tolerant, and approachable person, he could have sit down with his long time comrades in arms back in September 2002, and discuss and share ideas with them as to how to navigate the nation for a better future. Instead, as crook and self-centered as he is, he regarded their demand for discussion as a threat to his dominance, and eventually arrested them based on false accusations of national treason, which is totally absurd. Mr. YAY,what most of us have learned during the last two decades is that Mr Afewerki took the trust and patience of our people for granted, and exploited them to the maximum in consolidating undisputed power and establishing a totalitarian regime. I In fact at this point in time the system he is running at whim is far more worse than a dictatorship, and can be better described nothing more than a pure cult system. Therefore, Mr. YAY don’t simply waste your time and energy, and try to convince our people that there is still hope to work together with someone who is naturally so addicted to power, and who had meticulously worked towards dominance for decades, and eventually became a cult leader. Please stop belittling the hard learned experience and intelligence of our people. Enough is enough, we need change for a better future, and united we can bring the desired positive change just by ourselves.

  30. Sshabia is finished. Let’s talk about the aftermath.

  31. Nice one Boaz! (someone who speaks sense at least).
    I am sure 99% Eritreans don’t want another war regardless of what a few scare mongering sources say. Too many of our people have died for our beloved country.
    Now one thing is for sure, i.e. we can’t let any western power tell us our business. The simple reason is that they(the west) are who blessed Ethiopia to take over our land in the 50s. Haileselassie had to pay off a few traitors and job done. When our people were going through the 30 years of armed struggle, the West didn’t want to know. The word ‘Eritrea’ was like a taboo.
    This time, we Eritreans no matter which side/party we support can’t let history repeat itself. We have a big resposibility of our martyrs.
    So far I personally haven’t heard of any opposition party coming up with a viable and alternative leader who can transform and protect our country.If there is anyone out there who can lead Eritrea better than PIA then I am sure the people of Eritrea will support him to lead our country. Remember it’s the people who brought our independence!
    Now those of you who had been constantly against PIA in this forum or elsewhere, have you got anyone better to lead Eritrea? If so please let every one in the world know.
    Like I said, no one can deny the best. Bring him on! (Just remember the wages aren’t that good, so if you are coming for the money then please stay at home, thanks)

    Awet N’ Hafash!

  32. You Selfish ZelKu Dea

    You selfish, I do not have to read every detail you selfish empty mind people write. If I read the first sentence, then I know the content of the entire 10 pages essay you may write, because it is all garbage full of false justification supporting world number one dictator (PIA).

  33. Generally I don’t learn article on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very compelled me to check out and do it! Your writing style has been surprised me. Thanks, quite nice post.