Eritrea and Sudan, are the only two African nations recently re-designated by the United States as “countries of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act for having engaged in or tolerated egregious violations of religious freedom.
In all, the U.S. State Department said it had re-designated 10 countries over violations of religious freedoms. Beside the Africa duo, China is listed as well as Iran, Myanmar and North Korea.
Completing the list is Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and one of America’s biggest trade, diplomatic and security allies, Saudi Arabia. All 10 countries were re-designated on Dec. 22. Pakistan was also placed on a special watch list, the State Department added.
“The protection of religious freedom is vital to peace, stability, and prosperity,” the department said in a statement. “These designations are aimed at improving the respect for religious freedom in these countries.”
Eritrea, despite being a largely religious nation, there are multiple reports of the government having arrested and detained religious leaders, some without trial.
Issues came to a head in November last year when security forces were deployed to break up a rare protest in the capital, Asmara. Students of an Islamic school were protesting government interference in the running of their institution and calling for the release of a detained principal.
Sudan has also been severally accused of repressing religious freedoms especially of non-Muslims. Some of the undertones that led to South Sudan’s independence were hinged on religious freedoms. The country has a dominantly Muslim north with the south being Christian.
Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has announced a 6-month state of emergency in the states of Kassala and North Kurdufan, government news agency SUNA said on Saturday.
The move is part of ongoing disarmament campaigns which started near Darfur and Blue Nile in October.
Contact: John Stauffer – 610-891-8470
The role played by the Zimbabwe military and security forces shows that how much the military leadership who led the downfall of the Mugabe dictatorship were professional and preserving national interests instead of serving the dictatorship. This shows that Zimbabwe military was not corrupted by bribes, spoils of office, ethnic manipulation of appointments and promotions. Comparing the Eritrean military and security forces with that of Zimbabwe, the Eritrean military is not professional but enforced paramilitaries loyal to the regime or serving the interests of the regime.
When one country's military is less professional, it is less likely to act in pursuit of national interests and distance itself from the regime. Zimbabwe's military action was not coup but was very skilled and wise peaceful method of toppling the regime of Mugabe unlike many of the previous coups in African countries.
It is essential that the Eritrean Democracy Activists be concerned on the relation between the civil society movements and the military in Eritrea because several studies pointed that the coercive strength of the military is a great hinder for democratization.
One of the most important aspect of the struggle from dictatorship to democracy is to subordinate the military under civilian rule and be under democratic rule. The military's role is to make the process of democratization peaceful and guarantee security and stability of the people.
The great majority of the post -colonial African states began by constituting states based on constitution and election but later transformed to dictatorship, but in case of Eritrea, after independence is unique than the other post-colonial states of Africa, the EPLF/PFFDJ failed in all aspects to fulfil the criteria of state building based on constitution and institutions.
Under what conditions can the military in Eritrea facilitate a democratic transition like that of Zimbabwe? When can it happen? How can it happen?
In this article I will attempt to focus on the above mentioned questions. The regime in Eritrea is weak in all aspects of governance, its only institution is the military and security to unite and control the country through the methods of repression. Both the military and the civilians have been suffering under the authoritarian rule of the regime. In the past years the military and security in Eritrea have been opposed to democratic change and taken side with the dictator like many other African countries, for example in Togo, Zaire, Congo, and Niger.
Among many other reasons, the main condition was that the popular movements for democratic change was lack of policy and no attention given to the military and security forces in Eritrea. According to Luckham, the military establishment and other repressive organs in any dictatorship are the single most important obstacle to democratisation, and Monshiopouri argues likewise that, " the active support or acquiescence of the military is the key to any viable and sustained political transition to democracy." Hutchful argues that, paying to little attention to the military dimension of democratisation might prove " a crucial and potentially costly omission." There can be no transition or consolidation of democracy unless the military takes the side of the democratic transition. As in our case, both the military and the security forces, through their current control over the state's coercive apparatus are the necessary means to carry out its political agenda.
In case of the Eritrean military, it is equally oppressed and is suffering under crisis for so many years and in this situation it can be motivated to work for democratic transition in Eritrea. For example in 1994, in Malawi the military joined the forces for democratic change, and in Benin in 1990, the military refused to face down popular protests against the authoritarian regime. In Mali, a reform- minded faction of the military even decided to intervene actively to terminate the regime itself and facilitate the transition to democracy. The common condition in all these countries' is the same like that of our Eritrea. It is oppression in all spheres of their lives. What the Eritrean forces for democratic change need is to prepare for creating conditions where the military and security forces in Eritrea can facilitate democratic transition like that of Zimbabwe or other like the Benin or Malawi methods of transition.
December 15, 2017 (ADDIS ABABA) – A new report released by the New York-based press freedom group revealed that Egypt and Eritrea are Africa’s leading jailers of journalists in 2017.
- Egyptian anti-government protesters celebrate at Cairo’s Tahrir Square after president Hosni Mubarak stepped down on February 11, 2011 (Getty Images)
According to Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) report Egypt and Eritrea take the first and second spot, with 20 and 15 cases respectively.
The report showed a record number of jailed journalists for the second year across the world.
CPJ said the number of journalists imprisoned for their work hit a historical high, as the U.S. and other Western powers failed to pressure the world’s worst jailers—Turkey, China, and Egypt—into improving the bleak climate for press freedom, the Committee to Protect Journalists found.
As of December 1, 2017, CPJ found 262 journalists behind bars around the world in relation to their work, an increase on last year’s historical high of 259. Turkey is again the worst jailer, with 73 journalists imprisoned for their work as the country continues its press freedom crackdown. China and Egypt again take the second and third spot, with 41 and 20 cases respectively. The worst three jailers are responsible for jailing 134—or 51 percent—of the total.
Following Eritrea Azerbaijan and Vietnam are also on the top list with 10 cases each.
“In a just society, no journalist should ever be imprisoned for their work and reporting critically, but 262 are paying that price,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “It is shameful that for the second year in a row, a record number of journalists are behind bars. Countries that jail journalists for what they publish are violating international law and must be held accountable. The fact that repressive governments are not paying a price for throwing journalists in jail represents a failure of the international community.”
According to CPJ’s census 194 journalists, or 74 percent, are imprisoned on anti-state charges, many under broad or vague terror laws. In Turkey, every journalist on the census is either accused of or charged with anti-state crimes. Although many journalists cover multiple beats, politics was the most dangerous, covered by 87 percent of those jailed. Nearly all the jailed journalists are local and the percentage of freelancers is higher this year, accounting for 29 percent of cases.
The international community has done little to isolate repressive countries and U.S. President Donald Trump’s nationalistic rhetoric and insistence on labelling critical media “fake news” serves to reinforce the framework of accusations and legal charges that allow such leaders to preside over the jailing of journalists. CPJ’s 2017 census found the number of journalists jailed for “false news” doubled this year, to 21 cases.
Poor prison conditions is another issue this year, with two journalists jailed in China, including Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, dying just weeks after being released on medical parole, and several others seriously ill. In Egypt, CPJ found over half of the jailed journalists have health conditions.
The prison census accounts only for journalists in government custody and does not include those who have disappeared or are held captive by non-state groups, such as several Yemeni journalists CPJ believes to be held by the Ansar Allah movement, known as the Houthis. These cases are classified as “missing” or “abducted.” CPJ has been conducting an annual survey of journalists in jail since the early 1990s.
CPJ’s list is a snapshot of those incarcerated at 12:01 a.m. on December 1, 2017. It does not include the many journalists imprisoned and released throughout the year; accounts of those cases can be found at https://cpj.org. Journalists remain on CPJ’s list until the organization determines with reasonable certainty that they have been released or have died in custody.
CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.