Thursday, November 9, 2017

How heavy handed the Afrowerki regime wields power in Eritrea

By Scott Morgan - The incident on October 31st of this year in Asmara proved just how heavy handed the Afrowerki regime wields power in Eritrea. It also proves that the regime also deserves the reputation it has now of being Africa’s North Korea.

On that date snippets of information came out from Asmara highlighting reports of gunfire in the city. The US Embassy has reported that there were demonstrations in the city  while posts on social media shown people in flight down the main boulevard with gunshots audible in the background. Clearly these were signs of a major incident taking place in a capital where information comes at a premium. This incident resulted in the deaths of at least 28 people.

The first questions to be asked are who was protesting and what were they protesting against? The answer to the first question has been revealed to be students. They were protesting interference by the Government in the Community Funded Muslim School which they attend. The Imam of the school stated that the school which offered both Secular and Islamic teachings was told to drop the Religious Education, ban the wearing of the Hijab and promote integration of the sexes. Obviously this did not sit well with the students.
Another fact that is proving interesting are reports that the Army went through the Akhira district later that evening rounding up young men. The Constitution of Eritrea does not give its citizens the Right to Protest unlike most of the rest of the world.It should not be a major surprise to hear that this was the reaction by the Government to the protests. So when the Information Minister sent out a tweet stating that this incident was a “Small demonstration by one school in Asmara dispersed without casualty hardly breaking news.” that gives some cause for concern.

Especially when a similar crackdown took place earlier this summer with at least 160 Christians being detained yet again by Government Authorities.  That incident was one of the latest actions taken against the Church since the country gained Independence after a protracted conflict with Ethiopia.

Reports of Christians being buried in boxes out in the desert, being imprisoned on the Island of Nakura in the Dahlak Archipelago in a facility originally built by Italy during its time as a colony and enforced conscription are just some of the issues that Christians have faced within Eritrea but with little of the interest that the incident on Halloween garnered from the Mainstream Media.

The Government of Eritrea has undertaken several initiatives to have the Sanctions regime that is currently in place against them lifted so that it can end its current economic isolation. One would think that any potential actor seeking any discussion with Asmara will raise concerns regarding the issue of Religious Freedom in Eritrea.

Clearly USCIRF (United States Commission on International Religious Freedom) is correct when it recommends that  Eritrea be listed as a CPC ( Country of Particular Concern) and kudos have to be handed to the State Department for actually listing the country as such in its annual report on International Religious Freedom.
For a country such as Eritrea which is seeking the lifting of sanctions to encourage economic investments to improve a lagging economy, respect for Human Rights should be a no-brainer. However Autocratic Regimes will crackdown against any entity that they perceive as a threat to their rule. Hence the crackdown against Religion per se.

One way for people to show interest in improving the economy in Eritrea is to respect the rights of those who seek to worship God in whatever way they want. Failing to do this will be seen by others as to determining how much control the Afrowerki regime wants to have over its population.