On 9 July 2018, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki (president since 1993) signed a “declaration of peace and friendship” and declared the “state of war” officially over.
President Afwerki had long used the ‘Ethiopian threat’ as a pretext to justify his regime’s violent and repressive dictatorship and the need for indefinite National (military) Service. Consequently, many hoped that peace would pave the way for reform and especially improvements in human rights.
When President Afwerki addressed the nation on Independence Day, 24 May 2019, he spoke of the need for stability and security, stressing “patience” and ruling out “hasty and emotional conclusions,” dashing any lingering hopes for reform.
Meanwhile, thousands of prisoners of conscience remain incarcerated. Some key leaders have been detained for over a decade, such as the chair of the Eritrean Evangelical Alliance, Dr Kiflu Gebremeskel, who has been held incommunicado, without charge or trial since his arrest in May 2004.
Eritrea’s human rights remain among the worst in the world and Eritreans continue to flee en masse. To prevent protests as the nation prepared to celebrate Independence Day, the regime deployed police and soldiers to the streets of Asmara and raided several Protestant groups. On 10 May, 141 Christians, including 14 minors, were arrested as they gathered in north-east Asmara; 50 were subsequently released. A further 30 Christians were arrested on 17 May in gatherings in south-west Asmara. Conditions in detention are horrendous; torture is routine.
Sources: Christian Faith and Freedom, Release International
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