18 July 2009

Eritrea: hopes betrayed by the regime repression

Former Italian colony, Eritrea is independent from Ethiopia since 1993. The first years of the government of Isayas Afewerki gave many hopes to its 4 million inhabitants. The new free press, the demobilization of the army, the adoption of the Constitution. But the new and bloody war with Ethiopia, from 1998 to 2000, stopped the democratic process. The population was called to arms. In September 2001, 15 personalities of the Government who had asked for free elections were arrested and the elections cancelled. The newspapers were closed and the journalists put in prison, together with the religious leaders, suspected opponents, and faithful of the unauthorized Evangelical Church. Thousands of political prisoners who until today are held in terrible conditions and systematically tortured.

The president who led the thirty-years war for independence, now uses an unresolved border dispute with Ethiopia in order to keep the country on war footing. Men and women are obliged to the military conscription for an indefinite period. The deserters and their relatives risk to be arrested and border police has the order to shoot on sight over who try to flee from the Country. Nevertheless exiles grow day by day. 10,000 per year entered Sudan. And from there, many keep their journey toward Italy, Malta, Egypt and Israel. In 2008, about 3,000 have reached the island of Lampedusa.

For mor info
SERVICE FOR LIFE, Human Rights Watch, April 2009
Erithrée, dernière place dans le classement de Reporters Sans Frontières

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