Why Eritrea needs a little red marker

The Foreign Office have been doing a lot of work recently trying to communicate the human rights work that they are involved in.  There’s an interactive map of the world embedded into their website, with small red markers indicating human right- related activities occurring across the world.

As someone interested in Eritrea I zoomed in to find it, a thin sliver of land nestled between the Sudan , Ethiopia and the Red Sea.

No little red marker.

Soldier in Eritrea

There are little red markers on New Zealand, Germany, and Sweden.  (In fact, there’s 18 dotted around Europe.)  There are none in North Africa, and 2 in East Africa.

I think Eritrea deserves a little red marker on the FCO’s interactive map.  After all, the Mo Ibrahim Index ranks Eritrea as the worst country in the world for human rights.


How do you get a lower rating than Somalia?

Well, you start by conscripting a large proportion of the population into indefinite national service under the premise of an ongoing border dispute with Ethiopia.

You then indefinitely imprison, without trial, certain religious groups, all opposition politicians, and all journalists.  (The latter wins you the lowest ranking on the press freedom index published by Reporters Sans Frontieres.)  Many of them have now been in prison for 9 years, and are held in metal shipping containers buried underground.

Of course, you don’t worry too much about economic development.  (In 2009, the IMF, hunting around for something, anything, positive to report, highlighted the opening of a cement factory as an indicator of potential growth.)  As a result the country is exceedingly poor and can barely feed itself: 2 in every 3 Eritreans are malnourished.  This is a statistic only surpassed by the DRC – a country which has been a warzone since 1998.

Finally, after all this hard work, Human Rights Watch describes you as running the World’s largest prison.

‘You’ are President Isaias, and on the way, you’ve destroyed a beautiful country, with a delightful culture, and an extraordinary history.

President Isaias

And that’s why Eritrea deserves a little red marker on the FCO’s map.

(If you want to learn more about our campaigning activity, go to www.visiteritrea.org/blog )

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