Eritrea and Isolation: Have we heard this song before?

By Scott Morgan

In a very short period of time, the United States will transition from the Obama Administration to the new Administration of Donald Trump. Already there are ideas about how much the Foreign Policy of the United States will and should change.

One unique situation is that of Eritrea. This country, in the Horn of Africa, is isolated from most of the world. The current Political and Economic Climate that Eritrea finds itself in resembles that of Cuba in the period right after the collapse of the Soviet Union and just prior to the Economic opening back in the 1990s. A stagnant economy with the closest neighbor, Ethiopia, as a source of hostility in Foreign Policy does not help matters either.

There have some allegations that Eritrea has been supporting Al-Shabaab in Somalia. The UN Panel of Experts has made several investigations into this matter. Also the UN Human Rights Council has initiated a Council of Inquiry regarding the Human Rights Climate within the Country. Some of the issues of concern include Religious Persecution, Burying Religious Minorities out in the desert and national service as well.

Recently, a Think Tank in Washington issued a part of reports suggesting how Eritrea can end its isolation and return to the World at large. One suggestion was that the US and UN end all of the Sanctions and Commissions of Inquiry that are looking into the Governance issues that the Country has. This would be a major shift in US Foreign Policy if implemented by the incoming administration.

Part of the issue is the closeness that the Ethiopian Government has with the United States. It seems at times that whatever Addis says about Asmara is taken verbatim as truth by the State Department. That being said some of the actions taken by President Afrowerki are almost at the point of being an African version of Junche if you read what his supporters post on social media.

Having the US rescind unilaterally any Sanctions regime can be seen as rewarding bad behavior. The Human Rights Climate in Cuba has not drastically improved since the US ended the Sanctions under the Obama Presidency. Iran's demeanor has not improved either since the US and other parties reached the Nuclear Deal a year ago.

If this happens what will the policy regarding the Horn of Africa look like? It would appear that the US would be ignoring the concerns of two key allies (Ethiopia and Djibouti) for relatively no gain. The Eritreans hold several members of the Djibouti Armed Forces Prisoner ever since a brief border clash. The US maintains a Military Base in that Nation too. Lifting the sanctions without addressing this concern will be shortsighted as well.

If these measures are to be lifted there has to be some conditions to show the sincerity of the Eritrean Government, and show it is not a ploy to fool the west to accomplish Economic Relief. This may have worked under the outgoing Obama Administration but the incoming Trump State Department should review the policy at the very least. Unilaterally giving in to the whims of a dictator should be denied.

[The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Dissecting Society]