by Isabel Linzer, Research Associate, Freedom in the World
Now that peace with Ethiopia is official, the one-party regime must give democracy its due.
On July 9, Ethiopian prime minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki signed a peace agreement, ending the “state of war” that had persisted between their countries since a 1998–2000 border conflict. The pact was the latest in a parade of positive developments coming out of Addis Ababa, where cautious optimism about Abiy’s reformist government has solidified into realistic expectations of democratic progress in Ethiopia.
But the peace accord is also an opportunity to turn international attention toward Eritrea and push for the full implementation of its 1997 constitution, including long-overdue national elections.
Decades of authoritarian rule
Eritrea received a score of just 3 on a 100-point scale in Freedom in the World 2018, leaving it tied with North Korea for the fourth-worst score in the world and a full 15 points lower than Ethiopia. Freedom House has classified Eritrea as Not Free for nearly the entire period since it gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993.
The Eritrean government controls virtually all aspects of life within its borders. The rule of law and due process are absent. Freedoms of assembly, association, and expression are not recognized. The government shut down all independent media in 2001. A commission of inquiry and a special rapporteur for the UN Human Rights Council have found that the regime’s human rights violations—which include enforced disappearances, torture, rape, murder, and arbitrary…