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Eritrea is a country in northeastern Africa (Horn of Africa), to the north of Djibouti and across the Red Sea from Saudi Arabia, with a population of 4.7 million and capital city of Asmara. It was a colony of Italy from 1890 until British soldiers occupied the country in 1941. National Geographic writes, "Eritrea joined a UN-administered federation with Ethiopia in 1952, with a guarantee of democratic rights. Ten years later the state was annexed by Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, touching off decades of bitter warfare. In 1993 Eritrea achieved independence from its dominating neighbor. After independence, Eritrea plunged into a 1995 war over Red Sea islands with Yemen and then a more devastating border war with Ethiopia in 1998, causing an estimated 100,000 casualties. A peace agreement in 2000 established a UN-patrolled buffer zone along the Eritrean-Ethiopian border." [1] [2]


The BBC says of the country's media:

Eritrea is the only African country to have no privately-owned news media. In 2005 the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) described it as one of the world's leading jailers of journalists. Another press watchdog, Reporters Without Borders, notes that there is "no freedom of expression".[3]

Selling weapons to both sides

In the fighting going on between Eritrea and Ethiopia, Russia is selling weapons to both sides. Stephen Blank of Jamestown Foundation wrote on April 20, 2005, "Russia is apparently ready to flaunt its arms sales programs to countries at risk -- or who pose a risk -- of war and to do so in Africa. Recent reports announce that Moscow will continue modernizing Eritrean aircraft and sell Eritrea 80 of its Kornet-E anti-tank missiles, even though that country is on the brink of war with another Russian customer, Ethiopia. Although Ethiopia receives most of its weapons from Moscow, this is not an impediment to selling Eritrea anti-tank missiles that will obviously be used to repel Ethiopian armored advances, presumably using Russian-made tanks." [4]

The U.S. is selling weapons to various countries in the Horn of Africa, including Eritrea and Ethiopia. William Church of the American Chronicle wrote in October 2006, "The United States has dramatically increased its involvement and arms sales to the Horn of Africa and East Africa in the last three years. In addition, the United States will soon consolidate its focus on Sub-Sahara Africa by unifying the military command structure.

"US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has given initial approval to create a unified Africa Military Command. This consolidates the current split command structure of the US European Command controlling most of Africa, and the Central Command directing US military activities in Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya into a single command.

"Direct US arms sales to East Africa and the Horn of Africa countries - Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia - have increased from under one million dollars in 2003 to over $25 million in 2006. Djibouti leads the list with nearly $20 million in direct arms purchases in 2005 and 2006." [5]

Israeli naval base

Israel has a naval base on Eritrea’s Dahlak Island in the Red Sea. Muhammed Salahuddin of Arab News wrote on August 31, 2006, "After the Zionist attack on Lebanon, the Sanaa-based Yemeni daily Al-Thawra published an interesting piece of information. It said that Israel had transferred three warships from its military base on Eritrea’s Dahlak Island on the Red Sea to support their military operations against Lebanon.

"Official sources noted that Israel is creating the biggest naval base outside Israel on the Dahlak Island.

"This followed an agreement between Eritrea and Israel signed in 1995. Eritrea used Israeli warships and huge logistical support from that naval base during its occupation of the Yemeni Hunaish Island in 1996. The sources disclosed that Israel has presence on two Eritrean islands: Dahlak and Fatma. The Israeli nuclear wastes are accumulated in these islands. Israel also has monitoring centers on the Red Sea to oversee the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Sudan in addition to oil movements.

"The Eritrean Foreign Ministry refuted the news item denying the existence of any Israeli base on their Islands. However, an intensive study carried out by the Center for Political and Strategic Studies and published by Al-Ahram in June 2006 titled “Isaias Afewerki’s Regime and Developing Relations with Israel” confirmed that the issue was much bigger than the Israeli military bases on Eritrean soil. It revealed a strategic relationship between the two governments that began with Eritrea’s President Isaias Afewerki traveling to Israel for medical treatment in 1993.

"Afewerki was transferred to Israel by an American airplane. The US representative in the Eritrean capital Asmara was the one who suggested the idea after the Eritrean leader fell ill. These happenings along with American efforts led to the opening of an Israeli Embassy in Asmara in March 15, 1993 prior to the official announcement on April 27, 1993." [6]


  • Isaias Afewerki, President, elected in 1993 by the national assembly. Country is now a one party state.


Related SourceWatch articles


  1. Eritrea, National Geographic, accessed April 2008.
  2. Timeline: Eritrea, BBC, accessed April 2008.
  3. Country profile: Eritrea, BBC, accessed April 2008.
  4. Stephen Blank, "Russia Will Sell Eritrea Anti-tank Missiles To Use Against Ethiopia's Russian-mad Weapons", Jamestown Foundation, April 20, 2005.
  5. William Church, "Africa: US Arms Sales Increase", American Chronicle, October 16, 2006.
  6. Muhammed Salahuddin, "How Israel Casts Its Dark Shadow Over Horn of Africa", Arab News, August 31, 2006.

External articles

External resources