Country FilesEast & HornCountry Profile 2014: ERITREA

Tue,18Sep2018

Posted on Thursday, 06 February 2014 12:11

Country Profile 2014: ERITREA

Powerful incentives to flee

Aworsening economic situation and the prospect of indefinite military conscription continue to fuel Eritrea’s massive human exodus. The flight of citizens into the Middle East, Israel and Europe is not deterred by Asmara’s harsh ‘shoot to kill’ border policy, by the perils of kidnapping in Sudan or by the equally high risk of meeting a watery end in the Mediterranean.

 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS:

Top Eritrean Companies

Top Eritrean Banks



theafricareport-eritrea-72dpiPowerful incentives to flee

There is discontent in the army, with one faction losing confidence in the president

Economic necessity is pushing Eritrea to improve relations with the UN and the EU

Aworsening economic situation and the prospect of indefinite military conscription continue to fuel Eritrea’s massive human exodus. The flight of citizens into the Middle East, Israel and Europe is not deterred by Asmara’s harsh ‘shoot to kill’ border policy, by the perils of kidnapping in Sudan or by the equally high risk of meeting a watery end in the Mediterranean. The United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 3,000 individuals manage to leave every month.

Uncharacteristically, President Isaias Afewerki appears to have acknowledged that a problem exists. In a five-hour interview with local media, conducted over three days in September, he was said to have described the deteriorating conditions in the country as a “crisis” and his government’s handling of the situation as “crisis management”.

However bad things have become, there may still be opportunities to bring the country back into the international fold. Economic necessity appears to be pushing Eritrea to warm up relations with the UN and the European Union, and it has sought closer ties with Turkey, Uganda, the United Arab Emirates and South Africa.

SOMALIA THAW

The tension with Ethiopia remains toxic but there have been signs that Asmara could relax its opposition to the new federal government of Somalia. At the UN in August, Eritrea officially recognised President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s administration as representing the Somali people–although Isaias retracted his support for this a month later.

Reports of instability surface occasionally, as when a group of disaffected soldiers in January 2013 briefly seized control of the ‘Forto’, the ministry of information and headquarters of state broadcaster ERi-TV. Asmelash Abraha, the station director, was forced to read a statement calling for the release of all political detainees and the full implementation of the 1997 constitution but just minutes into the announcement the live feed was cut. Troops loyal to Isaias quickly surrounded the ministry and sealed off the presidential palace and airport. The mutineers returned to their barracks where they were later arrested.

Observers think the Forto incident was not a serious coup attempt as the soldiers’ objectives fell well short of a full-blown putsch and no attempt was made to take over the real centres of power. However, the action raised questions about the strength of Isaias’ 22-year grip on power and caused some to speculate that this could be the beginning of the end. It exposed fault lines within the military; other senior officers were apparently ready to join if it succeeded.

MILITARY FACTIONS

The army is said to have split into two factions, one of which is thought to be losing confidence in Isaias and to have raised the possibility of a presidential succession; the reasons range from Ethiopia’s humiliating incursions into Eritrean territory in March and May to reforms in the ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice that threaten the economic interests of the generals. The creation of civilian militias is seen as a sign that Isaias no longer trusts the army. Disquiet in the military could spark trouble in the future, particularly if the president’s declining health were to deteriorate sharply.

The Forto affair can also be seen as symptomatic of growing friction between the Christian and Muslim communities. Most of the senior officers involved in the plot were Muslims, as were almost all of the civilians arrested in its aftermath, and Isaias subsequently tried to portray the events as an Islamist-led rebellion.

UN economic sanctions, imposed in 2009 in response to Eritrea’s destabilising activities in Somalia, continue to bite hard, and remittances – once Asmara’s lifeline–are in decline. Minimal economic growth – forecast by the IMF at 3.4% for 2013 and 2.1% for 2014 – is driven by copper and gold production.

But the dividends from the country’s mineral wealth are not reaching ordinary citizens. Reports suggest that basic services are under threat: electricity is available only 40% of the time and the capital city does not have regular running water, while food insecurity remains alarmingly high according to the 2013 Global Hunger Index.


TOP ERITREAN COMPAGNIES

No companies from Eritrea featured in The Africa's Report's Top 500 Companies in Africa 2013.

 

TOP ERITREAN BANK

 

Rank 2012Rank 2011Bank nameCountryTotal assetsNet interest incomeLoansDeposits
9692COMMERCIAL BANK OF ERITREA*ERITREA1,801,80118,87262,3361,692,776
 


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