Last week, chaos enveloped Asmara, Eritrea’s capital as renegade troops tried to overthrow President Isaias Afewerki. It is a pity they did not succeed. Dawit Giorgis, a visiting fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy (FDD), would disagree. In an analysis he penned for FDD, he explained:
Stability in Eritrea is crucial to the region. So far, the government seems to have resisted growing pressure from Islamists in Yemen and Saudi Arabia to radicalize Eritrea, the only non-Arab country along the Red Sea coast. But as the Horn of Africa, Gulf of Guinea and the porous borders of Northern Africa become a preferred routes for arms smuggling, the future of the country remains uncertain. Internal political disarray and tensions with Ethiopia could make Eritrea especially vulnerable to the Islamist influences exerting pressures in an increasing number of African countries. Iran is rumored to have established a military base along the coast, although there has been no confirmation of such reports from Washington, Jerusalem, or Tehran. Eritrea has denied the existence of such a base.
He is right that Eritrea is increasing strategic, but stability in Eritrea is not something to desire. While two decades ago there was hope that Afewerki might be enlightened if not democratic, he has transformed Eritrea into a prison camp. Eritrea has the dubious honor, for example, of being the only country to score below North Korea in international rankings of press freedom.
No effort should be spared to prevent Eritrea’s radicalization, and the extension of Saudi or Iranian influence in the region. But that Cold War should not be an excuse to forgive a regime that might possibly lay claim to be the world’s worst dictatorship.