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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Eritrea:Forgotten World

Foreign Policy, a prominent US magazine, has published a list of its 23 most tyrannical dictators in ranked order. The list is an eye opening one, perhaps shining a light on the ignorance of myself in the sheer number of dictators still in power across the world. While I don't much approve of ranking the inherent evilness of people like Kim-Jung Il and Robert Mugabe and the obvious blurring of the definition of dictator in the article, I have to say it has given me some food for thought.

Perhaps like I said it is just my ignorance but this list has made me wonder how and why certain countries gain prominence in the media while others fail to do so. For example, number one on this list is Kim Jong Il undoubtedly a tyrant who has crippled his country's economy and subjected his people to years of famine and his most irrational behavior and threat of developing nuclear arms surely make his behaviour newsworthy, which also accounts for the inclusion of the Iranian leader (his Israeli hatred the icing on the cake in America).

However, how many people out there are aware of the Eritrean dictator Isaias Afwerki? I didn't know his name before reading the article. He takes his place at number 6 on the list after such names as Kim Jung il, Robert Mugabe and Than Shwe of Burma. Why do I highlight him? I shall explain.

Acouple of months ago myself and my brother, a local journalist, were reading the latest press freedom index. What country ranked in last place? Indeed, it was Eritrea. So it caused me to do a little bit more digging as my knowledge of the place was the fact that it was a nation bordering Ethiopia in East Africa.

My research thought me that Eritrea was  established in 1993, formerly part of Ethiopia itself. The country was run by a preliminary Government formed from the People's Front for Democracy and Justice. This transitional Government still exists in Eritrea today. The constitution was ratified in 1997 but failed to come into effect pending presidential and parliamentary elections. These were scheduled for 2001 although they have now been delayed indefinitely.  Afwerki has ensured the county's sole legal party is his own and has enforced a policy whereby free and independent media has been entirely and brutally outlawed.

The country has large numbers of Muslims and Christians. It has had a strained relationship with the US. At times the two have closely co-operated in the war on terror but recently Hilary has called the nation out as supplying weapons to the Somalian rebels leading to an imposition of sanctions on the nation by the UN.

The nation remains locked in a dispute with its Ethiopian neighbour about the undemarcated border between the two nations.  It is also involved in a similar border conflict with Sudan adn there was a brief war between Eritrea and Yeman in 1996 over the Hanish Islands. The two nations remain wary of each other and the Afwerki still enforces a policy of compulsary and undefined period of military service

So that is a brief description of a country crippled by the rule of a cruel dictator. Not only is Eritrea next to ignored in international media it seems that it is all but ignored many major international powers. So the question remains what exactly makes a dictator newsworthy? Where people are suffering the international community has a responsibility to step in regardless of the charisma or humour of the enemy.

To find out who rounds out the rest of the list of dictators follow the link. Foreign Policy List


  1. More detailed info of what is going on

  2. I shall view it myself. Thank you sir.