In early March, Eritrea attracted international attention in two key United Nations votes: together with Russia and four other states, Eritrea voted against the resolution at the UN General Assembly that strongly criticised Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and called for the immediate withdrawal of the Russian military. Also in the UN Human Rights Council, where an investigation into possible human rights violations was decided on, only Russia and Eritrea voted against out of 47 members, with 13 abstentions.
Eritrea itself is heavily criticised by the international community for ongoing human rights violations in its own country. Most recently, the country on the Horn of Africa was criticised for sending Eritrean troops to the neighbouring conflict region of Tigray at the request of the Ethiopian government. Here, too, the army is accused of serious human rights violations. In response, the USA imposed sanctions on Eritrea last autumn.
To this day, the country is ruled with a strict hand by President Isaias Afwerki; there have been no democratic elections since then. There is neither a constitution nor a practised separation of powers; parliament only meets at the president’s request and opposition work is in fact only possible from abroad. Hopes for an end to lifelong military service, which arose in the wake of the 2018 peace deal with Ethiopia, have also been dashed. For these reasons, the strong refugee movements from Eritrea also continue to this day: An estimated two million Eritreans are currently living in exile.
One of them is Andebrhan Welde Giorgis, former Eritrean ambassador to the EU, who lives in exile in Brussels. As president of the civil society organisation Eri-Platform, he works for an inclusive dialogue on the political and socio-economic situation in Eritrea and the promotion of democratic principles.
During the event, Andebrhan Welde Giorgis and Dr Uschi Eid discussed various aspects of Eritrea’s current situation and its relationship with neighbouring Ethiopia. In the discussion that followed, the unity of the Eritrean opposition was discussed, among other things, as well as its attitude towards the TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front, former liberation movement and ruling party in Ethiopia from 1991 to 2020). Furthermore, the question arose whether the previously harmonious coexistence of Christians and Muslims in Eritrea changed under the leadership of Isaias Afwerki (president since 1993).
Welcome Remarks and Moderation:
Dr Uschi Eid, President of the German Africa Foundation
Andebrhan Welde Giorgis, former Eritrean Ambassador to the EU
Followed by Q&A