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How Long Must Eritrea Wait for Change?

Last week, the Committee to Protect Journalists ranked Eritrea "the most censored country in the world." That unsurprising conclusion is only the latest dubious distinction for Eritrea, a state that often seems frozen in an authoritarian limbo in the midst of a region characterized by profound changes. 

The much-heralded 2018 peace deal with Ethiopia removed the Eritrean government’s primary rationale for its vice-like grip on power and disregard for the civil and political rights of its people, but it did not in fact lead to the opening of political space. In June, over a hundred prominent African intellectuals wrote to President Isaias Afwerki, expressing concern about political prisoners and the steady stream of young asylum-seekers desperate to escape the constraints of life in the Eritrea that Isaias has created. In response, the Ministry of Information questioned their motives, declared them uninformed, and noted that policy formulation and implementation is the responsibility of “the government and the people of Eritrea alone.”  But Eritreans are not free to express themselves on these issues, and the government’s claim to legitimately represent the will of the people rests on its own self-regard and delusion...


Ambassador Michelle Gavin served as U.S. Ambassador to Botswana from 2011 to 2014. Ambassador Gavin is a senior fellow for Africa Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. She has over twenty years of experience in international affairs in government and non-profit roles.


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