A colony for 50 years, federated , Unified to Ethiopia , in 1991’s seceded after three decades of rebellion. Since 1998 Eritrea is at War, harboring proxy warriors especially the notorious Al- Shabab. Torture ,imprisonment , thousands fleeing, no religious freedom , the only university is closed, everybody is in the army, No Parliament, No election, No functioning institution, No free press & all living journalists are in prison. Eritrea is called the North Korea of Africa.
D Eritrea Special Rapporteur – 20th Meeting 23rd Regular Session of Human Rights Council
Interactive dialogue with:
– Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea Interactive dialogue with:
– Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea A/HRC/23/53
Item 4: Human rights situations that require the Council’s attention
20th Plenary Meeting – 23rd Regular Session of the Human Rights Council.
The present report is submitted pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution 20/20. It is based upon the initial observations of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea and information gathered from a variety of other sources, including Eritrean refugees interviewed during a field mission to neighbouring countries from 30 April to 9 May 2013. In the report, the Special Rapporteur provides an overview of the most serious human rights concerns in Eritrea, including cases of extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance and incommunicado detention, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, inhumane prison conditions, indefinite national service, and lack of freedom of expression and opinion, assembly, association, religious belief and movement. She addresses a number of recommendations to Eritrea and the international community aimed at improving respect for human rights in the country.
After the Eritrean independence war ended in 1991, Eritreans threw themselves into reconstructing the country’s shattered infrastructure, with whole villages helping out to build small dams, terrace-eroded hillsides, and plant thousands of trees. Photos by Dan Connell.
Once a revolution is over, how do you judge its success? A victory for Mao’s vision of the People’s Republic of China was not exactly a victory for the people of China. A glorious, clean revolution isn’t easy. Look at Russia, France, Cambodia, Iran. Look at Egypt today. In the coming decades, we will see the result of revolutions played out across the Arab world and, quite possibly, across Europe as well. Will they be deemed successes by anyone other than the victors?
A crucial, but little reported, example of a hard fought revolution and its troubling aftermath can be found in the Horn of Africa.
Twenty years ago, Eritrea—in the northeast of Africa—became a legally independent nation, having won its de-facto independence from Ethiopia two years earlier, in 1991. This independence was the end result of a 30-year war with Ethiopia. The revolutionaries who won the war were heroes, champions of freedom standing up against an oppressive, murderous Ethiopian regime backed by the Soviet Union and tacitly supported by the West. They had reestablished an independent Eritrean nation and the future looked bright. But revolutionary opposition and day-to-day power are two totally different things. Once you’ve gotten used to glorious victories, the thrills of red tape and responsibility may well be lost on you. As such, creating a free and democratic society is a total pain in the ass.
Eritrea had been an Italian colony since 1890, Ethiopia since 1935. After the Second World War, Eritrea became part of Ethiopia but maintained a measure of independence. In 1962, and in contravention of a UN resolution, Ethiopia annexed Eritrea. The UN and other world powers looked on, unwilling to jeopardize their relationship with the strategically-vital Ethiopia. As John Foster Dulles, who would go on to be the United States’ secretary of state, said in 1950, “From the standpoint of justice, the opinions of the Eritrean people must receive consideration. Nevertheless, the strategic interest of the United States in the Red Sea basin and considerations of security and world peace make it necessary that the country has to be linked with our ally, Ethiopia.” Eritrea had been screwed.
An EPLF member outside Asmara, 1979.
When Eritrea gained its independence in the early 1990s, it was the Marxist revolutionary group The Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) that took power in Asmara, the nation’s capital, having fought a long and hard guerrilla war against Ethiopia. With their ruthless discipline, encouragement of abstinence and collective focus, the EPLF were—in the words of one leading Eritrean historian—“the most successful liberation movement in Africa.” They were tough, and while their intolerance of dissent galvanized their fighting potential, it merely made them tyrants once they were in power.
Led by Isaias Afewerki, they continued their flair for strong, Marxist-sounding names by becoming the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ). And, with Isaias front and center, the PFDJ has remained in power ever since independence.
Today, criticism of the government is not tolerated. Only four religions are officially recognized. Worship in any other church and you’ll be persecuted. There is no civil society to speak of and, every month, kids cross the border to escape national service, which has no fixed end and is essentially a form of government-sponsored slavery. The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) estimates the number of fleeing Eritreans at 1,000 a month (it’s worth noting that escaping means going through the Sahara into mine-strewn Ethiopia while avoiding being shot by border guards). Reporters Without Borders ranks Eritrea 178th out of 178 in the world for press freedom, which basically means anything approaching journalism is banned.
A UN-supplied refugee camp near the border of Ethiopia, accommodating some of the thousands of Eritreans who flee across the border every year.
By 2012, hundreds of thousands of young Eritreans had fled the country to escape the deepening political repression and to avoid what had become open-ended national service in both the armed forces and state and party-controlled businesses. Three hundred refugees were showing up in Ethiopia each month and being placed in UN-supplied camps near the border.
In May, to coincide with Eritrea’s 20th anniversary celebrations, Amnesty International released a damning report entitled. The report claims that there are, at minimum, 10,000 prisoners being held illegally without trial in Eritrea. The human rights organization’s Eritrea researcher, Claire Beston, told me that this figure did not include those people jailed for “avoiding national service or trying to flee the country.” The report is littered with the testimony of people who have been affected by the actions of the government:
“I last saw my father at the beginning of 2007, they took him away from our house. I know nothing about what happened afterward.”
“This generation, everyone has gone through the prison at least once. Everyone I met in prison has been in prison two or three times.”
“Everybody has to confess what he’s done. They hit me so many times… Many people were getting disabled at that military camp. During the night they would take them to a remote area, tie them up, and beat them on their back.”
There are many more like this. It’s not exactly light summer reading.
The 1984 to ’85 African famine put Eritrea’s war for independence on hold as the liberation front trucked aid into the country to prevent both mass starvation and a wholesale exodus from the contested areas. Ethiopia sought to isolate the Eritreans using food as a weapon.
Tesfamichael Gerahtu, Eritrea’s ambassador to the UK and Ireland, told me that while Eritrea have “some challenges in human rights,” there “are no people incarcerated on the basis of their political beliefs.” The Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs released an angrily-worded response that rejected Amnesty’s “wild accusations.” The release concluded that Amnesty would ignore the 20th anniversary celebrations, “smug in its selfrighteous belief that it can, with impunity, attack and denigrate a young nation, which despite many odds, manages to progress and improve the lives of its citizens.”
Amnesty’s Claire Beston told me that Eritrea’s refusal to acknowledge its illegal detention of its own people was “incredibly disappointing for the families of those affected.” Additionally, she pointed out that Eritrea’s imprisonment of innocent people was in direct contravention with a number of international treaties it had signed up to. Drawing parallels with another country known for imprisoning innocent citizens, the human rights activist Khataza Gondwe has referred to Eritrea as “ .”
Eritrea, then, has not become the country many hoped for. “I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t believe that promises were betrayed,” Eritrean exile Gaim Kibreab—a university professor and author of Eritrea: A Dream Deferred—told me. Kibreab left Eritrea in 1976. For him, the actions of the current government “affect us all. I have relatives in Sudanese refugee camps. I have dear friends in prison in Eritrea.” The deferred dream of a free Eritrea was not just Kibreab’s, but one shared by many of his countrymen, though possibly not Isaias Afewerki and his revolutionary army.
Kibreab wishes for a pluralist democracy in which there is a free press and a flourishing civil society. But was this ever going to be a realistic proposition for a group of hardened guerrilla warriors at the end of a 30-year struggle? Decades of uninterrupted power is probably a closer approximation of Isaias’ dreams. He’s said to be full of contempt for humanity, to be a big drinker and a mean drunk. He’s a human rights violator and a petty thug who’s known to break bottles over people’s heads once he’s had a few.
As such, being boss probably suits him just fine. His former foreign minister, Petros Solomon, a key fighter and comrade in the revolution, was imprisoned in 2001 for speaking out against the government as part of the G-15 group of dissidents, who wrote an open letter to Isaias denouncing the lack of freedom in Eritrea. Solomon has not been heard from since his imprisonment.
Petros Solomon in an underground bunker in the frontline town of Nakfa, in 1979.
Some ex-revolutionary fighters and other defenders of the Eritrean government are scornful of exiled, “so-called intellectuals” like Gaim Kibreab. They believe that the people who now talk about human rights in Eritrea are hypocrites, people who didn’t fight and stand up for the violation of Eritrean human rights in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. There is still a significant amount of support for Isaias in the Eritrean diaspora. The Eritrean ambassador told me that “you must respect that we have had our human rights violated,” in relation to Ethiopia’s annexing of—and then war with—Eritrea, as well as the international support of Ethiopia.
Kibreab, in a way, agrees with him. He told me that when you talk about Eritrea, you have to talk about Ethiopia, which—secure in its importance strategically to the United States—has continued to run roughshod over Eritrea and, in doing so, has alienated Eritrea from the rest of the world. A world that now regards it as a small rogue state with a potential for Islamism, while viewing Ethiopia as a large, roguish, but vital state—a key ally in the “War on Terror.”
“The international community,” Kibreab pointed out, “has never been charitable to the Eritrean government. But if they moved towards liberal democracy, they’d help themselves.” However, this lack of support is worth remembering, particularly since it has been true ever since John Foster Dulles admitted that Eritrea was to be the victim in an international power game. Freedom from the machinations of foreign powers was one of the driving forces of the revolution. Now, still isolated, Isaias and his government continue to battle on, proudly proclaiming survival in the face of international contempt.
In 1998, the Eritreans went back to war with Ethiopia. The country’s youth were quickly mobilized to go back into the trenches.
The interminable military service, for example, makes some sense in the context of Ethiopian aggression. In 1998, the two countries went to war over a small portion of disputed territory surrounding the barren, rock-strewn town of Badme. The war, which lasted for over two years and resulted in the death of up to 100,000 soldiers, was described as “two bald men fighting over a comb.”
Since the end of the war, Ethiopia has failed to recognize an international court ruling that stipulates that Badme is part of Eritrea. Eritrean government officials have repeatedly told me that if Ethiopia recognized the boundary, they would be ready to make friends with their neighbors. Ethiopia funds many of the strands of opposition in Eritrea and, along with the United States, plays a crucial role in a paranoid narrative put forward by the Eritrean government: that Eritrea’s very existence is under constant threat from dark powers beyond its borders.
There is an element of truth to this, but of course Isaias and his government spin it out for all its worth. As far as propaganda goes, Ethiopia is Isaias’ greatest ally.
An EPLF member outside Asmara, 1979.
What I’m also talking about here, when I talk about Eritrea at 20 years, is the difference between the idealism of revolutionary opposition and the practical day-to-day reality of running a government. After years in the mountains fighting a guerrilla war, how was a revolutionary movement going to smoothly transition into power? Just like with the Taliban in Afghanistan, we’ve seen that life in grizzled, iconic opposition is perhaps not the best preparation for a calm, moral government. In opposition, those around Isaias let him do what needed to be done. There was a sense that he was “our bastard.” But, since then, the bastard has never stopped.
Ex-revolutionaries in Eritrea are often characterized as great drinkers, good talkers, and terrible diplomats. They grew up fighting in a revolutionary struggle, and the intricacies of international diplomacy were not for them. Paranoid and wary of showing weakness, they have punished innocent people for their own failings.
This is the sadness of all revolutionary dreams turned sour: the reality of freedom is never the same as the promise of freedom. It’s unlikely that when the EPLF were fighting for their country’s independence they looked up at that East African sky and thought: We dream that some day we will imprison people without trial, that our people will do anything they can to escape the country, that our youth will be locked into national service and that there will be no such thing as journalism.
Every generation reacts against the previous one, though. Isaias is getting old, and with the post-independence generation now 20 years old, the next few years could see some upheaval, hopefully for the better, in Eritrea.
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The Wall Street Journal yearly indexes the outcome of the economic performance of each country globally. Eritrea truly started to be indexed starting 2009 the year the country start exploring gold. Here is the extrapolated and compared Eritrea with the rest of Ethiopia in performance graphically from this resource of Heritage Foundation.
Eritrea’s economic freedom score is 36.7, making its economy one of the least free in the 2011 Index. Its overall score is 1.4 points higher than last year, reflecting some improvements in its ratings for government spending, business freedom, and labor freedom. Eritrea is ranked 45th out of the 46 countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region.
Ethiopia’s economic freedom score is 50.5, making its economy the 144th freest in the 2011 Index. Its overall score is 0.7 point lower than last year, reflecting declines in four of the 10 economic freedoms that were partially offset by gains elsewhere. Ethiopia is ranked 30th out of 46 countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region, and its overall score is just below the regional average.
Eritreans have suffered substantial losses of economic freedom in recent years. Afflicted by poor economic management and structural problems that severely undermine private-sector development, the country lags in productivity growth and dynamism and, consequently, in economic growth as well. Long-standing structural problems include poor public finance management and underdeveloped legal and regulatory frameworks.
Poor governance and the lack of commitment to structural reforms continue to hamper economic freedom. Investment freedom, financial freedom, property rights, and freedom from corruption are extraordinarily weak. Monetary stability remains fragile, and inflation is very high, largely reflecting excessive money creation to fund fiscal deficits. Arbitrary taxation, poor infrastructure, marginal enforcement of property rights, and weak rule of law have driven many people and enterprises into the informal sector.
TEN ECONOMIC FREEDOMS of Eritrea
|18.2||avg 64.3||0.0||avg 50.2|
|69.1||avg. 74.8||20.0||avg 48.5|
|73.0||avg. 76.3||10.0||avg 43.6|
|31.5||avg. 63.9||26.0||avg 40.5|
|46.0||avg. 73.4||73.4||avg 61.5|
Eritrea won its independence from Ethiopia in 1993, but conflict soon resumed. A U.N. peacekeeping mission ended in 2008 because of Eritrean-imposed restrictions, and relations with Ethiopia remain tense. Eritrea has also ignored a U.N. resolution instructing it to remove troops from a disputed region on the border with Djibouti. President Isaias Afwerki has ruled without elections since 1993. Judicial independence is limited, and journalists and others have been held without trial for speaking against the government. Roughly th
ree-quarters of Eritreans depend on small-scale agriculture and fishing, and two-thirds of the population receives food aid. Productivity is very low, and the International Monetary Fund estimates that remittances from Eritreans living overseas were equivalent to 23 percent of GDP in 2007.
Existing regulations are severely outdated and not conducive to entrepreneurial activity. Procedures for establishing and running a business are opaque and costly.
Eritrea’s weighted average tariff rate was 5.4 percent in 2006. Import licensing for all private imports, inadequate infrastructure, inefficient and cumbersome customs administration, weak protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, corruption, and limited export activity delay trade and increase its costs. Twenty points were deducted from Eritrea’s trade freedom score to account for non-tariff barriers.
Inflation has been out of control, averaging 28.8 percent between 2007 and 2009. The government uses the military and party-owned businesses to implement its development agenda and strictly controls the use of foreign currency. Few private enterprises remain. The diversion of manpower and government funds away from peacetime economic activities is expected to continue. Twenty points were deducted from Eritrea’s monetary freedom score to account for extreme monetary-control measures.
Eritrea remains a strict command economy, eliminating most private investment. Large-scale projects must be approved by the appropriate minister or the Office of the President. The government has selectively and narrowly courted foreign investors to explore underexploited resources in mineral extraction, energy, fisheries, and tourism. Regulatory procedures are haphazard and irregularly enforced. Additional impediments to both domestic and foreign private investment include severe limits on the possession and exchange of foreign currency, lack of objective dispute settlement, difficulty in obtaining licenses, large-scale use of conscripted labor, and expropriation of private assets. Government influence makes the courts biased arbiters in legal disputes.
Eritrea’s financial system remains poorly developed, and government interference is significant. High credit costs and scarce access to financing severely impede private investment and economic growth. All banks are majority-owned by the state, and private-sector involvement in the financial system remains limited. The Commercial Bank of Eritrea, the largest commercial bank, is chartered by the government to provide a range of financial services to the public, but very high collateral requirements for loans prohibit many small entrepreneurs from establishing and expanding their businesses. The government has borrowed heavily from private banks, crowding out private-sector economic activity. Falling interest rates have destabilized banks and led to a further decline in financial intermediation.
The government strictly controls the political, social, and economic systems. The independence of the judiciary is limited. The government has a history of expropriating houses, businesses, and other private property without notice, explanation, or compensation. Arbitrary and complex regulatory requirements discourage investment from both foreign and domestic sources, and the government often reclaims successful private enterprises and property. In theory, women have the legal right to equal educational opportunities, equal pay for equal work, and equal property rights; in practice, men retain privileged access to education, employment, and control of economic resources, particularly in rural areas.
The recent ICG group analysis about Eritrea has been based on sets of journalistic ideological premises which concluded that ; “ Authoritarianism is Hemorrhaging Eritrean legitimacy of the state and leading to become a fallen state“ from being a Siege state.” The same analysis is fully applicable to the Ethiopian regime led by Asmara’s boy Melese Zenawie. ICG’s stated objective on writing the Report N° 163 of 21 Sep 2010 is supposedly
“To prevent Eritrea from becoming the Horn of Africa’s next failed state “. This is Report in contradiction with different international analysis given to the definition of failed state to this day. Furthermore, the report failed to give the definition and deference between failed and siege states. It rather enumerated historical chronology of events than defining the dynamics of a failed or regime in siege. The paper lucks a conceptual and methodological frame work or a research approach to a failed state.
If we take the 2009 failed state index according to Foreign Policy, Eritrea stood 36th 20 point better than Ethiopia on the 16th place among 177 countries of the world failed state index, that simply means Ethiopia is worst than Eritrea. This analysis has given detailed parameters that defined failed states. While the ICG Report did not even defined what a state in siege means in order to demonstrate Eritrean domestically aggravated siege. The Fund for peace defined Failed sates based on the following indicators:-
|The Twelve Indicators according to THE FUND FOR PEACE are|
|Click on an indicator to see some examples of measures that may be included in the analysis of that indicator. These are neither exclusive nor exhaustive. You can add more measures, as appropriate. |
I-1. Mounting Demographic Pressures
I-2. Massive Movement of Refugees or Internally Displaced Persons creating
Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
I-3. Legacy of Vengeance-Seeking Group Grievance or Group Paranoia
I-4. Chronic and Sustained Human Flight
I-5. Uneven Economic Development along Group Lines
I-6. Sharp and/or Severe Economic Decline
I-7. Criminalization and/or Delegitimization of the State
I-8. Progressive Deterioration of Public Services
I-9. Suspension or Arbitrary Application of the Rule of Law and Widespread
Violation of Human Rights
I-10. Security Apparatus Operates as a “State Within a State”
I-11. Rise of Factionalized Elites
I-12. Intervention of Other States or External Political Actors
The ICG report further accused the Ethiopian regime as a responsible and not Eritrea for the Somalian crisis as a traditional enemy contradicting to the recent UN sanction. ICG recognized Eritrean support for the proxy warriors of the region from Somalia up unto Darfur passing by Ethiopia. The Report in term failed to make the real comparison between the two failed states since both countries are preparing proxies against each other and by extension in Somalia. They preferred to fight via proxy in Somalia than in Bademe, Asmara, and Mekele etc… The UN sanction would have been imposed on both failed sates of the Horn of Africa not only Eritrea. Since both uses Somalia as their battle ground for proxy wars.
ICG affirmed that the recent Gold Bonanza of Eritrea will strengthen her 20 years radical line of action in domestic and regional polices. I think we have to wait rather than making a precipitated prediction, since “one who laughs last laughs the best,” when it comes to the Horn of Africa. It is expected a full reversement of relation in the region even between Addis and Asmara in the very short foreseeable future. Since it is very easy to make peace with once friend today’s enemy rather than acquire a new one in the complex socio political situation of the Horn of Africa.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) in its Report N°153, 4 Sep 2009 has well demonstrated the Ethiopian regime’s Ethnic Federalism and its decentralized state. Its Report N°141 of 17 Jun 2008 was pertinence to the point by demonstrating the fragile peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia with a risk to a new confrontation. The report further affirmed that their No Peace No War situation is a major source of instability for Somalia as demonstrated with that of Ethiopia’s refusal to accept virtual demarcation, and affirming that Asmara’s unilateral implantation would shatter the status quo. This last assessment was proved wrong; despite to the ICG’s 2 years old report the conflict did not spark Scaramouch leading to war to this day.
We think that ICG’s in the future has to make an objective report without making impartiality between the Horn of Africa’s belligerent failed states. These failed states of the Horn act like they have a hidden red telephone between the two discussing the arts and the techniques how to maintain each other in their respective power via proxy war in Somalia. IF a new public dialog between the two is struck, the next day the Somali proxy war will end. They are the instigator of the 20 years of crisis one way or another, Somalia has been a stateless since they came to power almost two decades ago. When you see Eritrean leaders you have seen Ethiopian leaders, since they are the opposite faces of the same coin.
Any foreseeable analyses to make a reasonable prediction about these two failed states is not an easy task using traditional simplistic journalistic affirmations, which are generally hasty and full of highlight and short of any substance. And it is not that simple to grasp or understand the internal dynamics of the horn of Africa’s politics to engage oneself to make any reasonable futuristic prediction.
Please read the different Report on Eritrea and Ethiopia and make your comment directly to the group.
Prof. Muse Tegegne
To prevent Eritrea from becoming the Horn of Africa’s next failed state, the international community must engage more with the country.
Eritrea: The Siege State , the latest report from the International Crisis Group, analyses the fragile political and economic situation following the devastating war with Ethiopia (1998-2000). Just a decade ago, Eritrea might reasonably have been described as challenged but stable. Today it is under severe stress, if not yet in full-blown crisis. While not likely to undergo dramatic upheaval in the near future, it is weakening steadily. Its economy is in free fall, poverty is rife, and the authoritarian political system is haemorrhaging its legitimacy.
“As Eritrea continues on this trajectory, its current economic and political problems are only going to deepen”, says Andrew Stroehlein, Crisis Group’s Director of Communications. “While there is no open protest at the moment, the government cannot take this for granted over the long term. Change is really only a matter of time”.
The militarism and authoritarianism which now define Eritrea’s political culture have their roots in the region’s violent history. The 30-year war for independence – achieved in 1991 – was part of a network of conflicts which devastated north-east Africa. The real significance of that legacy has only become clear in the last decade, as President Isaias Afwerki and a small cohort of ex-fighters have strengthened their grip on power, while suppressing social freedoms in favour of an agenda centred on an obedient national unity and the notion that Eritrea is surrounded by enemies.
Eritrea has fought in recent years, directly or indirectly, with Ethiopia, Yemen, Djibouti and Sudan and involved itself in various ways in the conflicts in eastern Sudan, Darfur and Somalia. Relations with Ethiopia in particular remain extremely tense, in large part because Ethiopia has failed to abide by its Algiers Peace Agreement commitment to accept binding arbitration on their disputed border. (The boundary commission ruled that the town of Badme – the original flashpoint of the war – was in Eritrea.) The UN Security Council’s failure to compel compliance reinforced the sense in Asmara that the international community is inherently hostile. While Eritrea asserts that it is pursuing legitimate national security interests, its aggressive approach and abrasive tone have left it increasingly isolated.
The army has been the key stabilising force, but it is becoming less stable, riddled with corruption and increasingly weak. National service – originally intended to build the country – could well prove one of the catalysts for the regime’s eventual collapse. Some form of demobilisation is required but cannot happen overnight, as society and the economy are incapable of immediately absorbing tens of thousand former soldiers. A holistic approach is urgently needed and requires outside help. Instead of pushing the regime into a corner, the international community should engage with Eritrea on the basis of a greater understanding about the country’s past and current grievances. This might well remove one of the regime’s key rationales and ultimately empower more reform-minded and outward-looking elements within the ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) and wider society.
“It is inadequate and unhelpful simply to portray Eritrea as the regional spoiler”, says Ernst Jan Hogendoorn, Crisis Group’s acting Africa Program Director. “It is also the product of the political environment of the Horn as a whole. Ultimately, everything is interconnected, and a more comprehensive, integrated approach is needed by the international community to treat the severe problems confronting Eritrea and the region”.
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