Conscientious objection in Eritrea

The December issue of The Broken Rifle, newsletter of the War Resisters International, which supports conscientious objectors from military service around the world, offers this report from a strategically-placed country not often in the news: Eritrea. We noted in our last post on Eritrea that military tensions with Ethiopia are once again growing. The secession of Eritrea in 1993 left Ethiopia landlocked. Ethiopia is much closer to the US, which has an interest in securing the Horn’s access to the Red Sea (just north of the Strait of Djibouti chokepoint, already threatened by Somali pirates) against Islamic militants. Therefore Eritrea’s strongman Isaias Afwerki is playing up supposed Islamist subversion of his regimeā€”both as an excuse to suppress opposition and to win Washington’s good graces. If war comes, it is Eritrean and Ethiopian conscripts who will be the first to pay with their lives in this power game. This report, which starts with a background primer on the country, notes thousands of Eritrean conscientious objectors who have been imprisoned or forced into exile. It seems that many have also been tortured and even executed.

Background to the country

Eritrea, located in the horn of Africa, won its de-facto independence on 24 May 1991 after 30 years of a bitter, bloody and costly armed struggle against rule by its neighbour, Ethiopia. Eritrea formally declared independence on 24 May 1993 after an overwhelming yes vote in a referendum overseen by the United Nations.

The two major ethnic groups are the Tigrigna (50%) and Tigre (40%). The Afar constitute 4% and the remaining 6% include Kunama, Nara, Bielen, Rashaida, Hidarb and Saho. The two dominating religions are Christianity, including Coptics, Catholics and other Protestant demoninations, and Islam. The official languages are Tigrigna, English and Arabic, but diverse ethnic languages persist as well.

The Italians colonised and named Eritrea in 1890. After the Italian defeat in World War II, its African colonies of Eritrea, Somalia and Libya were placed under the protectorate of Britain for 10 years. The future of these three nations was a hot issue in the United Nations from 1945 to 1950, ending in an ill-advised confederation of Eritrea and Ethiopia for a projected 10 years from 1952 to 1962. In 1961, Ethiopia violated the terms of the confederation and declared Eritrea to be its 14th province. In the same year, the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) began armed resistance under the leadership of Hamid Idris Awate.

In 1970 a faction of the ELF, known as the Peoples Forces of Eritrea (PFE), broke away. It was a revolutionary movement led by the younger generation. After its first congress in 1977, the PFE reorganised as the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front (EPLF) and eclipsed the ELF. The EPLF succeeded in achieving independence from Ethiopia after a long war.

The EPLF immediately established a transitional government under Issayas Afewerki, leader of the successful fight for independence. EPLF members took all administrative posts and other key positions. In 1994 the third congress of the EPLF renamed itself the Peoples Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ).

Unlike its name, the regime was undemocratic and unjust. Moreover, it was unconstitutional. Its own Eritrean Constitutional Commission, set up in 1994, had produced the constitution of 1997 after ratification by the Eritrean people. The regime ignored this and, after September 2001, imprisoned 11 prominent members of the opposition party which had demanded democratic change and enforcement of the ratified constitution.

Today, the PFDJ is the sole lawmaker in a harsh dictatorship. Eritreans are denied their basic civil and human rights, any protests always ending in arbitrary arrest, detention and torture. For all Eritreans whose vision of their new nation included peace, stability and prosperity, the scale of wars, corruption and abuse of power that followed independence was unbelievable. Eleven years after independence and 13 after freedom, Eritrea is a country where poverty and oppression are the rule.

In the last three years, the military training camp Sawa was established as headquarters for universal national service. All high school students, female and male, are forced to finish their 12th year of study in a school within Sawa. None of them have returned for further eduation at university once they completed national service. The University of Asmara, Eritrea’s only university, has only third and fourth year students who had entered before the draft came into effect.

The government has militarised the country completely. Forced recruitment of young people, underage children and adults under 50 is a daily event. Recruits are treated brutally and there is evidence of sexual abuse of women. Nobody has a right to question the miliary authorities. Nobody has a right to conscientious objection.

Over the past three and a half years, Eritreans have been denied their constitutional right of free expression. There are no independent newspapers, TV channels or radio stations. The only active media are government owned. Only the Internet gives those who have access to it a source of information not coloured by government propaganda.

Foreign policy has isolated the country from human rights organisations, aid agencies and the international community at large. The dictator has used the concept of National Unity to intimidate and discredit opponents of the regime. Religious minorities are being persecuted by means of prison and torture. According to the Compass Direct news agency, 187 Eritrean Christians have been arrested so far this year, including groups at prayer, whole wedding parties, and home Bible study groups, intellectuals and professionals. Often children and the elderly are among those arrested.

According to The Christian Post of 24 February 2005 the Eritrean government since May 2002 has closed down the country’s Protestant churches, declaring their places of worship illegal and forbidding home gatherings. Only four religions are officially acceptable: Orthodox Christianity, Catholicism, Lutheranism and Islam.

Conscientious objection is taboo. COs are branded by the regime as cowardly and unpatriotic. There is no recourse to the law nor substitute civilian service for COs. The consequences of conscientious objection and desertion are severe torture, long-term imprisonment and even death.

After the horrors of the border war with Ethiopia from 1998 to 2000, the number of COs within the military increased. Today there are thousands who objected to military service and the military. They are forced to go into exile. Considerable numbers of them are in Europe, Libya, Ethiopia and Sudan seeking political asylum. In Germany, Eritrean refugees founded the Eritrean Antimilitarism Initiative (EAI), which supports refugees who had to flee from the Eritrean military and fights for peace and antimilitarism in Eritrea.

Consequences of war

The adverse impact of the long war for independence and later conflicts on Eritrean society and economy have been incalculable. They have exacerbated the cycle of draught, which has afflicted the entire region and caused millions of people to become dependent on external assistance for their survival. The results of these disputes are horrendous: loss of life, impoverishment, displacement of people, land mine hazards, looting, confiscation of property, exile, trauma.

At the moment, more than one-third of the Eritrean population is living in exile. The war has resulted in the disintegration of families and the loss of culture and norms of socieity both at home and in exile.

International and national NGOs

There is little activity by national and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs). What does exist is under the supervision of the regime. There are no international NGOs that advocate human rights or witness the forced military recruitment with its brutality of recruits and its persecution of COs. Nor does the government tolerate independent national NGOs, human rights groups, international observers or foreign reporters. Investigations demanded by Amnesty International and others are ignored. All international journalists have been officially banned.

Conscientious Objection as one way to peace

The people of Eritrea are in political, social and economic crisis. There is an urgent need to establish a healthy democratic atmosphere with a constitutionally elected leadership and a multiparty political system. There is an urgent need to release all political prisoners and COs. Hence the EAI is advocating the refusal of military service in the above context.

We believe that refusing military service, militarism and war is vital for these reasons:

1. The ideas and teachings of conscientious objection are based on peace, humanity and morality. We believe they are the answer to withstanding the propaganda of national unity and national sovereignty, which are misleading and provacative.

2. The more people say No to war in Eritrea and the more people say No to war in our neighbouring countries, the region and the world, the more governments may begin to think about peaceful solutions, start to develop respect for human life and plan to build a just and secure society for coming generations.

3. Conscientious objection is the check and balance against war and militarism. A CO is at the other extreme of a warlord. We believe COs can confront and divert military objectives.

Steps for lasting peace

The EAI believes that the following steps can help to achieve a lasting peace on the basis of human, civil and political rights.

1. Introduce and cultivate respect for the right of conscientious objection and offer COs alternative civilian service.

2. Establish a culture of pluralism, civility, respect and tolerance.

3. Develop the political leadership on principles of democracy.
4. Adopt nonviolent ways of struggle.

5. Solution of conflicts peacefully through dialogue, mediation and negotiation.

6. Respect for international law.

Yohannes Kidane is a refugee from Eritrea and lives in Germany, where he is active with the Eritrean Antimilitarism Initiative


Eritrean Democratic Parties (EDP) manifesto, Asmarino and Awate home pages on the Internet.

Eritrean Antimilitarism Initiative, c/o Yohannes Kidane, Bahnstrasse 51, D-61449 Steinbach, email


Many of us might remember the hopes connected with Eritrean independence back in the early 1990s. I myself remember reading about self-reliant development, the formation of cooperatives, and in general about Eritrea taking a path which would not rely on international institutions such as the World Bank, which drove many other countries into huge external debts. However, 14 years later the situation looks entirely differently, and this issue of The Broken Rifle can only give a glimpse of what is actually happening in the country. When War Resisters’ International first received information from the Eritrean Antimilitarism Initiative, we were shocked. Forced recruitment and imprisonment/execution of young people — men and women — who avoid military service seems to be a daily feature for Eritrea’s youth, with exile the only “alternative”.

War Resisters’ International’s contacts in Africa are still poor. Four years ago, in 2001, we highlighted the situation in Angola on 15 May (International Conscientious Objectors’ Day). Prisoners for Peace Day 2005 with a focus on Eritrea is therefore a good opportunity to reach out to African antimilitarist groups, where they exist. The articles in this issue — the interviews with objectors — show very clearly how urgently Eritrean war resisters need our support. More information on the situation in Eritrea is available in a documentation published on WRI’s website at Feel free to download and distribute.

Andreas Speck

[Interviews with Eritrean conscientious objectors]

I’ve had enough of the war

I was born on 10 January 1981 in Asmara. I was just 15 years old, and we were told that we would get the results of the school leaving examinations only after basic training in the National Service. That’s why I joined the military, hoping that my exam results were good and I could leave after basic training to study. In 1996 I was brought to Sawa for basic training.

Some of the girls there had run away from home and joined the National Service, although they were still minors. Sometimes the parents came to take their daughters back home. But the authorities always refused that.

Many girls were raped. There were girls who adapted themselves to the situation and made advances to officers out of their own initiative, to avoid being raped. There were only male officers. Those who didn’t comply, who rejected the men were given the worst work or sent into the war. The girls who had been raped but didn’t want to comply were sent to the front too. The girls who were compliant and pretty were treated well. Often they got pregnant involuntarily.

We were in Baka, in the area of Girmaik. Those girls who refused to play the housewife had to stand on guard service for 3-4 hours at night as a form of punishment. Those young men who wanted to help them were punished too — they were ordered to stand at attention in the sun for an entire day. The other girls, who played along with the game, were treated well.

Those who could stand it no longer, who wanted to see their family, fled in the end. Some returned on their own, others were caught by the military police and punished with the helicopter or the number eight [1]. In some cases they were doused with milk, before they were ordered to stand in the sun for hours. They were called koblelt, outlaws, deserters.

After serving 18 months, we had to stay on for two additional months. Then the war began. It is difficult for me to describe this. It was horrible. For example, there was a rule that when soldiers were wounded, the jikaalo (old fighters) had to be brought to the field hospital first. They were taken out of the front line first, not the common soldiers. Once five or six young soldiers died because of this. They just had been left there. When the unit withdrew from the front for a break, some went to their families without authorisation. When they returned and the unit had been sent back to the front, these soldiers were sent directly to the front as a form of punishment. Others were even executed.

I have had enough of the war. I reported ill, although that meant I had to stay there and couldn’t go home. After several requests and complaints I finally got five days of holidays, but I stayed away for 10 days. Then I got very scared. I returned. As punishment I had to carry a big water container up and down a hill for a full week.

In May 1999 the unit commander tried to rape me. I screamed and others came to help me and prevented it from happening. I demanded that he be punished, but it was his responsibility to pass on my complaint to his superiors. He did not get punished.

After the 2nd invasion our unit received training and did a course on financial auditing. I served in the administration of the unit and checked its income and expenses. My superior put me under pressure and told lies about me, because I did not comply to his demands. For example he accused me to have stolen money. He passed on this kind of accusations to his superiors, so that I would be punished. It was unbearable. Therefore I went to my family in Asmara. After one month I was arrested, and was brought to the police station in Gegjeret. After that I was sent to Adiabeto. I demanded repeatedly: “I want to be brought to my unit. If I am to get punished, then I want to get punished there.” However, after some weeks I was able to escape from the prison in Adiabeto and went to Adisegdo.

I managed to stay there for more than a year. I had to hide all the time, guests were not allowed to see me, and I could not leave the house. The neighbours were not supposed to see me, so that they could not report me to the police. During this time I got in contact with friends of my father, who gave me opposition papers, for example from the ELF (Eritrean Liberation Front). Because I had been gone for a long time, the authorities put pressure on my father, and finally arrested him. With the help of his friends, I was finally able to flee to Sudan.

Interview with Bisrat Habte Micael from 28 May 2004.


[1] “The helicopter”: the victim is tied with a rope by hands and feet behind the back, lying on the ground face down, outside in the hot sun, rain or freezing cold nights, stripped of upper garments.

My torture in the sun

I was born in Asmara on 12 December 1978. In 1996 I was drafted into the national service in Sawa.

During basic training the food was bad and so was the training. Our instructors did not stick to the training program but, for example, they had us wash their clothes or fetch water, forcing us to submit to their will. There wasn’t enough to eat. Spoilt flour was used for baking.

After six months of military training, we went on a military march of more than 120 kilometers from Ketan to Sahel. Then we were taken to Nakfa to dig trenches for 15 days. It wasn’t clear what we did that for; the trenches were completely useless. Moreover, it was cold out there but we didn’t get any blankets, so sometimes we were forced to use earth to cover ourselves with. After that I came back to Division 2001, 2nd Brigade, 1st Battalion, 3rd Unit, 2nd section. We were deployed at Ambori in the Dembelas area, because the Jihad (Eritrean Islamic Jihad, EIJ), a small, Sudan-based insurgent group that has mounted attacks in the north and west since 1993, were there and conflicts were very likely.

In November 1997 I was relocated to Mensura to attend a military course, where we were taught the American system of fighting in small units. That was two month before my service was supposed to end. Later I grasped that this was in preparation for war. In early April veterans, who had been called up for national service during the first until the fourth draft wave, were drafted. As a pretext it was stated that they were to be involved in development measures. Actually, they were called up for war and sent to us.

On 12 May we attacked Badime. We marched until we got to Dembegedamu, 18 to 20 kilometers on Ethiopian soil, occupied the area and moved into positions there. After one week Division 381 relieved us. We were relocated to Zorona. Initially, there wasn’t much to be done. We dug trenches. The unit’s leaders had us do private jobs, such as helping to grow vegetables. After harvest we had to pay for these vegetables with our own money. The proceeds went into their pockets. An engineer who was serving military service was assigned to build a house for them.

I had accepted to do national service. I was an Eritreian and ready to be a soldier and fight a war for a good cause, that is if Eritrea was really in danger. But now I was to die while others forced people to work for them, which made them richer and richer. I didn’t see why I should sacrifice my life.

A leader of just a section has the authority to enforce his will on women. The men also have to do jobs for him. With the leader of the unit it is even worse, all the more when it comes to a battalion leader. The situation was getting more and more insufferable.

I started to oppose. I said, “I’m doing military service. Although I don’t agree with what is going on, I’m a soldier. Why do you have me work for your private interests? I don’t see the sense of it.”

I was arrested, released, rearrested. Once I was detained for three months and had to work in the fields from 6 am to noon and from 2 to 4 pm together with 22 other soldiers. It was meant to be a sort of brainwash. We harvested tomatoes and onions.

Later on, they offered to promote me to section leader. This was not because they thought I was cut out for the job but because they wanted to catch me out at some time. I had to take on this job and lead a section of four soldiers.

At that time, it was February 1999, the second invasion began. We were in Onoshahok when there was uninterrupted fire for 1Ā½ days. Fortunately, I made it out of there unhurt. In my section a man and a woman were injured. She was sent to the front because she had refused to submit to her leaders. We were stationed there until May. Then I was supposed to attend a course for unit leaders. I refused. I didn’t want to be involved in private business and I didn’t want to oppress my friends.

Because of this I was arrested. They poured a mixture of milk and sugar over me, tied me up and exposed me to the sun continuously for two and half days. The days were very hot and the nights extremely cold. My skin got burned, blisters developed on my face. I also had a terrible headache. Because of the pain I almost fainted. A doctor appeared and called for medical treatment. Initially, the battalion leader rejected this demand. The doctor said: “I cannot take the responsibility. In case something happens you will be responsible.” Then the battalion leader agreed to medical treatment. They took me to a military hospital, peeled my skin, cleaned my flesh with disinfectant, and gave me tetracycline and antibiotic tablets. This was it. I stayed in hospital for two weeks. In spite of the tablets I got an infection. It got very ugly. For punishment they didn’t treat me properly. Eventually, they took me to a military hospital in Alla. There I wasn’t able to see anything with my left eye for about four months. I tried to have the battalion leader prosecuted but never received a response.

Sometimes my wounds healed, sometimes they got infected again and blisters reappeared. It was a continuous up and down. Eventually, I was granted sick leave lasting months so that I was able to travel to my family. I applied for a discharge, which was rejected on the grounds that as soon as I recovered I would be sent back to the front.

Interview with Saed Ibrahim, Translation: Thomas Stiefel

For the right to conscientious objection

Abraham Gebreyesus Mehreteab addressed the 61st session of the Commission on Human Rights on behalf of War Resisters’ International. We document his statement below.

Mr Chairman

I’m representing War Resisters’ International. We conduct research on conscientious objection to military service in many countries. Last year, we undertook a preliminary survey on the issue of Eritrean conscientious objectors. We learned that there are thousands of Eritrean conscientious objectors and deserters.

In Eritrea the right of conscientious objection is not recognized by law with the present government. Some members of religious groups such as the Jehovah Witnesses are in custody since more than 10 years because of their convictions to refuse to serve in the military. They never had a hearing in court.

Arbitrary detention, torture, deployment at the front line, forced labour – all without any hearing – have been common ways to punish deserters and objectors. A very often used way of military punishment is to tie victims and to lay them in the sun for days or sometimes weeks.

Furthermore relatives of deserters are threatened to push their children to send them to their units.

Although it is difficult to know the exact number, thousands from the army are evading the military service. They declare their objection through various means. They conscientiously object, desert or flee the military dictatorship. A lot of the deserters are asking for political asylum in foreign countries.

We request the UN Commission on Human Rights to take note of the continuous violations against conscientious objectors and that it take further measures to ensure that conscientious objectors and deserters get asylum protection in accordance with the Geneva Convention on the status of refugees..

We also request the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief to investigate the situation of conscientious objectors and other members of the army, particularly in Eritrea.

And we request the Eritrean government that it comply with Commission Resolution 1998/77: and in particular that it

1. releases immediately all conscientious objectors;

2. recognizes the right to refuse the military service on reasons of conscience, including profound convictions, arising from religious, ethical, humanitarian or similar motives;

3. introduces an alternative service compatible with reasons for conscientious objection.

Thank you very much.

Abraham Gebreyesus Mehreteab

Abraham Gebreyesus Mehreteab is an activist with the Eritrean Anti-Militarism Initiave, based in Germany, and represented War Resisters’ International at the Commission on Human Rights

Thousands of people held at Adi Abeto army prison

Thousands of people arrested on suspicion of evading military conscription and held at Adi Abeto army prison are thought to be at serious risk of torture and ill-treatment. At least a dozen prisoners have reportedly been shot dead and many more were wounded following a disturbance at the prison. On 4 November Eritrean security forces in the capital, Asmara, indiscriminately arrested thousands of youths and others suspected of evading military conscription. The arrests took place in the streets, shops and offices, at roadblocks and in homes. Those arrested were taken to Adi Abeto army prison just outside Asmara. Conditions in this military holding centre are harsh, with severe overcrowding, little food or sanitation. Many detainees have reportedly been forced to sleep outside in the very cold weather without blankets or shoes. Prisoners have no access either to their families or to lawyers.

Towards midnight on 4 November, a prison wall was apparently pushed over by some prisoners, possibly in an escape attempt. Soldiers opened fire and shot dead a number of the prisoners, wounding many more. On 8 November, the Minister of Information said that two prisoners had been killed. Other sources claim at least a dozen people were killed, and that bodies were buried without being returned to their families. Those wounded were taken to hospital and held incommunicado under military guard.

Amnesty International, 9 November 2004, AFR 64/008/2004

Relatives of COs arrested

Amnesty International reported on 28 July 2005 about the arrest of several hundred relatives of people who have evaded or deserted from the military. The arrests took place in the Debug region of southern Eritrea since 15 July.

Amnesty reported: “Those arrested were the fathers, mothers or other relatives of men or women over the age of 18 who have either failed to report for national service since 1994, failed to attend the compulsory final school year at Sawa military training camp, abandoned their army unit, or left the country illegally. The relatives have been accused of facilitating their evasion of conscription or flight abroad. Officials reportedly offered them release on bail of between 10,000 and 50,000 nakfa (US$660 to US$3,300), if they guaranteed that they would produce their missing relative.”

Those arrested are held incommunicado in different prisons. “Many held in Adi Keih town prison reportedly began a hunger strike in protest at their detention and have been moved to Mai Serwa military camp near the capital Asmara”, Amnesty reported.

Amnesty International, 28 July 2005, AFR 64/011/2005

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  1. Weinberg, push the US to order Ethiopia to back down!
    Mr Weinberg

    Yes, there’s a situation in Eritrea. The only solution is if 70 million blood-thirsty Ethiopians get off our throat. We are 4 million Eritreans, up against 70 million Ethiopians. There’s no way we’ll implement the constitution and hold free and fair elections while our lands are occupied by our southern gorilla neighbour.
    If you want to help us you ought to push the US to order Ethiopia to back down! After all, it’s your country that’s paying for all meals eaten by Ethiopian soldiers. You also payed for all Ethiopian SU-27s. You’re also paying for the the bullets fired by the Ethiopian regime against democratic demonstrators in Addis Abeba.
    You as an American tax-payer are financing Ethiopia as the largest military power in the African continent. For what? So that they as 70 million can protect themselves from 4 million Eritreans?
    Stop joking!

    1. Don’t worry, I’m pushing
      You mean all 70 million Ethiopians are blood-thirsty? Every last one of them? I must say, the discourse on this blog certainly gives me a great deal of faith in the future of the human race.

      This journal has run a great deal about rights abuses in Ethiopia. We have no double standards.

      1. You are financing Ethiopian ethno-fascism
        You asked, “Every last one of them?”

        You should understand that there isn’t one political party or player in Ethiopia that advocates regocinizing Eritrea’s borders. Not one politician, not even the pro-democracy ones, has said, “Enough, let’s stop waging these destructive and costly wars against our neighbour”.

        Show me any leading Ethiopian committed to peace. When it comes to Eritrea they’re all 100% chauvinists. Their bickering is about who’ll be the top-dog in Ethiopia, after that it’s war as usual against those “Black Jews of the Horn with a super race mentality, who we must teach a lesson for life”, like the Tigray state governor told Al-Jazeera in June 1998.

        No Ethiopian political player ever rejected the state’s policy of killing and deporting Ethiopian citizens who had Eritrean blood running through their veins. It turned out to be more than 70,000 people. And even today tens of thousands of Ethiopians are living in constant fear that they will be persecuted by the state because of an Eritrean grandfather.

        You are paying for the war-mongering.
        You paid for the deportations.
        You paid for 30 years of Ethiopian occupation.
        You paid for Ethiopia when they declared war in 1998.
        You paid when they invaded a third of Eritrea.
        You paid for five years of continued occupation and this no-war-no-peace situation.

        You have pushed us on to a road we weren’t supposed to travel.
        If you had allowed it we would have democracy today.
        If you had allowed it we would have peace today.

        Should we blame the hammer that’s hurting us, or should we blame the one holding the hammer?

        1. You mean my government, I presume
          You demand that Ethiopians stand up for peace, but seem perfectly happy that your own countrymen who refuse military service are imprisoned and tortured.

          What exactly does “Eritrean blood” mean? Both Eritrea and Ethiopia are a patchwork of different ethnicities, some of which (like the Tigre) straddle the border between the two countries. The line between the two nations was drawn by Italian colonialists in the 19th century.

          I support Eritrea’s right to independence, but the extreme nationalism evidenced by both sides seems to be serving only the ruling political class in both countries.

          I have no desire to exonerate Meles Zenawi, but the big deportations took place under Mengistu, didn’t they? And he has been gone for over 15 years now. And he was certainly not supported by the United States. So I guess I didn’t pay for “30 years of Ethiopian occupation,” even if I did make enough money to pay federal income tax, which I don’t.

          If you actually read this electronic journal you would know that we are highly critical of US military aid to Ethiopia.

          1. The very first thing I wrote
            The very first thing I wrote was “Yes, there’s a situation in Eritrea. The only solution is if 70 million blood-thirsty Ethiopians get off our throat.”
            I don’t feel the least comfortable with imprisonments and democracy going down the drain in Eritrea. There is one obvious explanation for all of this though, Ethiopian aggression, financed by you.

            Eritrean blood? Ask the Fascists in Ethiopia since they were the ones deporting.
            It’s not really ethnicities in a Western way that straddle the border. It’s languages. Eritrean Tigrinya and Ethiopian Tigray (together those you referred to as Tigre) are different ethnicities, while sharing language and many customs. We know who is who.

            The border wasn’t drawn by the Italians. The Mereb river has been the border between the Eritrean Tigrinya and the Ethiopian Tigray for 500 years. Italy simply conquered this already existing territory.

            How can you call our desire to merely survive “extreme nationalism”?

            The deportations and killings of ethnic Eritreans took place under Meles. Check Amnesty International.

            Mengistu was very much so financed by the West. The US didn’t want to cut all ties to Ethiopia after the revolution 1974 so the Cold War deal was that the Soviets contributed militarily while the West paid for the Ethiopian’s daily bread.
            And then they all went to fight and die in Eritrea with Soviet Kalashnikovs in the hands, after eating the American bread.

            Here’s some recommended reading for you:

            1. “Financed by me”? You mean by my government…
              OK, I checked Amnesty International, and yes, it appears there have been mass deportations under Meles as well. Like I said, I am not here to exonerate Meles. But pretty funny that you should turn to Amnesty for vindication, when the same organization also accuses the Eritrean government of arbitrary imprisonment and torture.

              You refer to “70 million blood-thirsty Ethiopians” and then wonder why you are accused of “extreme nationalism.” Too funny.

              1. Once again
                Once again, I don’t feel the least comfortable with imprisonments and democracy going down the drain in Eritrea. There is one obvious explanation for all of this though, Ethiopian aggression, financed by you.

                Once again, show me any leading Ethiopian committed to peace.

                Do read the recommended book.

                1. “Financed by me”? You mean by my government…
                  And the Eritrean regime bears no responsibility for its own actions? Everything is Ethiopia’s fault, even Afewerki’s own abuses?

          2. Just a slight correction.
            Just a slight correction. Mengistu, despite all his other evil actions, was very consistent about the unity of Ethiopians (which included Eritreans in his mind) irrespective of ethnicity. Therefore, he was very careful not to isolate and deport any Eritrean from current day Ethiopia because that would ridicule his own idea of every one being unified under socialism. When you think about it, there was no such thing as Eritrean state in his day so he couldn’t deport anyone anyways. Did he murder a lot of Eritreans? Yes. Did he bomb a lot of Eritrean cities? Yes. But, I don’t think he ever packed buses of Ethiopian citizens with Eritrean ancestary and tossed them across the border.

            1. Clarification
              Both Mengistu and Menes have engaged in forcible deportationsā€”just in different directions. Mengistu deported populations from Tigray and the north (including contemporary Eritrea) to the south, in order to “drain the sea” in a counter-insurgency strategy against the separatist revolts, and bring these restive groups under closer government control. Menes, in turn, has sent those deemed to be of Eritrean origin into Eritrea.

              1. That’s true but can’t you see
                That’s true but can’t you see the difference in intent between the two acts? Mengistu’s aim was to break the geographical isolation that sustained the strong ethnical identification of different groups in Ethiopia. It’s not a case of “we don’t want you so get lost” but rather “let’s stop with this stupid idea of countless divisions”. Meles’ eviction of people with Eritrean ancestory (and also Esayas’ eviction of people with Ethiopian blood) is more sinister. It’s more racist (or is the right word ethnicist?). It is aimed to isolate a group based on acestory and to get rid of them.

                1. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse
                  Forced relocation and cultural extermination as peace, love and understanding, eh?

                  You know, these posts on Eritrea and Ethiopia generate an amazing amount of traffic, but the dialogue they ignite tips the wackiness scale beyond anything we’ve ever seen before. Gee, maybe we should go back to posting about Bosnia

                  1. You know, may be the “wackine
                    You know, may be the “wackiness” would be diminished if we attemted to read each other messages carefully and not misinterpret them at will. My previous message never attempted to equate Mengistu’s relocation policy with “peace, love and understanding”. I was talking about the difference in the aim/intent of both actions. My point was that you can argue that both actions (Mengistu’s relocation and Meles’ and Esayas’ evictions) pretty much resulted in the same misery but there is an underlining difference in why these policies were implemented in the first place. I am no apologist of Mengistu or his policies. Anyways, I might be seeing these differences because may be my family was affected by the evictions but not by the relocation policies. I appreciate to an interested outsider both sets of policies might appear the same.

                    About the Bosnia factor, I am afraid that the Ethiopia/Eritrea debate has already surpassed that point into a surrealness of its own. Neither side is willing or is able to appreciate the points of view the other. Often reading these debates really depresses me.

  2. comment
    You want me to believe you that Ethiopia is more democratic than Eritrea? Do you still maintain this belief? First of all what is democracy? How can one comment without having good experience in politics. There are dramas also which one has to take care. Like what happened in Ethiopia in recent months. Few individuals comments can not be a ground for labling a country not democrat.

    1. “individuals’ comments”?
      Hey look, go argue with Amnesty International, will you?

      And always with the zero-sum thinking, eh? Did we ever say that Ethiopia was more democratic than Eritrea? No, we never said that. You assumed we said it because we we criticized Eritrea’s regime, which you evidently hold to be above criticism.

  3. False
    Though seemingly well intentioned, this ‘article’ is false. It is a sad thing to see that the only nation in Africa that is pursuing a policy of self reliance, shirking of the shackles of dependency and aid, is berated constantly by those who mean well.

    In Eritrea religious freedom is granted to those religions that have applied and been approved of under the criteria set under the religious laws nearly a century ago.

    Eritrea is in a Cold War situation with a neighbor who recieves $1 billion dollars in aid every year, money that is rarely used to feed its people, but to fuel wars against its neighbors. This country is Ethiopia, with a population roughly twenty to twenty-five times that of Eritrea.

    The PFDJ and GoE have set about to transform the nation from an insignificant nation to a strong economy. This can only be done once the people can feed themselves and so they have embarked on a massive infrastructure campaign, free of Western purse strings which commonly require the loss of political sovreignty.

    I look forward to the day that I will get to go to Sawa. The martyrs of Eritrea were cut down by bullets supplied by those who currently support the ‘War on Terror’ and by those who do not. For this Eritreans hold a grudge against the world, for allowing us to suffer at the hands of genocidal maniacs. Even worse one of these maniacs is now worshipped as a God in Jamaica and his face adorns clothing in the US, but to us his image is as demonic as Hitler to any Jew.

    We work for the betterment of our nation everyday, I hope you will work towards yours. But as in your country, if one were to violate their national laws, then they would be tried and put into prison.

    Under the auspices of the Eritrean Special Court (set up to deal with treason and corruption in 1993) many have been tried and convicted. This has kept our Government clean of corruption, to the point that we are able to reallocate our grants to other programs.

    Stay out of our business and we will stay out of ours!

    1. I wish Eritrea the best…
      …in its program of self-sufficiency, and resisting any Ethiopian re-annexationist designs. But I doubt these policies are much consolation to the young men who have been subjected to the “helicopter” or the “number eight” in your country’s military prisons.

      1. Nice to hear the truth
        Iā€™ve just came back from a recent trip from Eritrea and saw the situation with my own eyes. I seriously believe that the government of Eritrea can only be compared to the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia. They show the same genocidal set of mind under which civilian life is dispensable and only useful when under army/government control (in fact both leadership take inspiration from the same pseudo-Marxism ideology).

        The eritrean government functions more like a cult than a real government, since independence no real institution has been set-up in order for all the power to remain at the hands of the supreme leader/unelected president Issays Afwerky. This cult is made up of mostly ex-rebel fighter ā€œtegadelti

        1. Undercover Ethiopian Fascist!
          Deal with your own country.
          Deal with your pathetic dictator.

          You dare to call us genecidal, interesting considering YOUR genocide against the Anuak aboriginal people.
          You killed and deported Ethiopians simply because of drops of Eritrean blood in their veins.
          You sent your invading hordes of soldiers with clear instructions to rape Eritrean women so that they would have “Ethiopian” children.
          You are threatening the Etiopian peoples that if they keep pushing for democracy you will trigger a Rwanda scenario.

      2. First Things First
        With all due respect you totally miss the point. At this juncture Eritrea finds itself besieged by the West- by proxy of Ethiopia.
        I am no apologist of the government in Eritrea, but admire its relentless stand on the boarder issue. Why is the world so bent on appeasing the Ethiopians? Why not call a duck a duck? Why impose sanctions on Eritrea, when in fact, the agressor is Ethiopia? I once met an American diplomat in Asmara that wondered why Eritrea refuses to accept Ethiopia’s hegemony in the region- the latter is ten times the size anyway? He went on to cite the US-Mexican relations…
        It is obvious that the West in general has no love for Issayas- a more pragmatic approach to bring about change in the country would have been to enforce the boarder resolution.
        Last, I don’t agree htat 70 million Ethiopians are blood thirsty at all. But I can say with certainity that they all lament for the “loss” of Eritrea.
        It is now Eritreans’ turn to sit back and watch a the Melles regime falls to pieces. I hope the rest of the world does not, once again, make the sacrificial lamb…

      3. No Sir
        I was subject to the helicopter and “otto” (number eight) back in Sawa and the front. I don’t condone any such punishment but I believe they are the outcomes of war.

        If we are talk about this let’s apply the same lithmus and ask further about the alleged CIA prison camps in Eastern Europe…

        If only the world kept its hands to itself, we would have taken on the Ethiopians our own way and they know it.
        But what do you make out of a world that has taken Ethiopia’s side-unabashedly at that..

        Eritrea is about ideas. Ideas that many in Africa would like to adopt but won’t dare utter for fear of reaction from their colonial and neo-colonial masters. What is worse than putting millions of aid $S on your national budget and claim economic progress?

        1. Who the hell are you talking to?
          Why don’t you read us before you judge! We do talk about the CIA prison camps in eastern Europe, just like we do report on the fascistic practices of the Ethiopian regime! How does any of this let the Eritrean regime off the hook for its abuses?

          And if Isaias Afewerki is such an anti-imperialist, why did he shake hands with Donald Rumsfeld and try to sell himself to Washington as a Terror War ally? You think Fidel Castro would do that?

  4. Why cant you looby the Ethiop
    Why cant you looby the Ethiopian government? Could it be because ethiopia is the darling of NGO’s and the play ground of the West?
    National Service is not new , Israel has it Germany has it singapore has it Malesian has ist , the list goes on… so why is your organization so concerned about Eritreas Military training? Eritrea after so many years of justice denied to it Eritrea made it by it self period, and it will make it by it self in the future.
    Fool me once blame fool me twice blame me!!!

    1. We are not lobbyists
      We are journalists, and (I repeat yet again) we do aggressively report on the fascistic practices of the Ethiopian regime. Why don’t you read us before you judge?

      Most countries with the military draft have a legal exemption for conscientious objectors, including Germany. Eritrea does not.

      We wholeheartedly support Israeli conscientious objectors.

      We have no double standards. You aren’t “fooling” anyone but yourself.