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Sunday, December 11, 2016

Eritrea and Isolation: Have we seen 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 find 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 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 including 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 it is 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 in Cuba since the US ended the Sanctions under the Obama Presidency. The behavior of Iran has not improved 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 since a brief border clash. The US maintains a Military Base in that Nation as well. 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 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.