A journalist and longtime Eritrea observer says the Eritrean government’s early successes ended when they told the diaspora not to come home. On the 17th anniversary of Eritrea’s independence, Dan Connell tells VOA’s Tewelde, “When the country got peace in 1991 and embarked on a road to building a new state, all opposition movements who had been involved in the independence struggle besides the victorious Eritrean People’s Liberation Front were prohibited from coming back, and that ban on rival political forces was an early signal that was not a government that was going to be open to democracy.”
Connell teaches journalism and African politics at Simmons College in Boston. He is the author of several books, including “Against All Odds; A Chronicle Of The Eritrean Revolution,” “Taking on the Superpowers: Collected Articles on the Eritrean Revolution,” “Conversations with Eritrean Political Prisoners.”
“If you looked at those first seven years,” Connell says, “there was absolutely remarkable progress in reconstructing this war- and drought-ravaged new state. And there were very impressive steps made in laying the groundwork for transition to democracy after decades of occupation and dictatorship. The country had to start almost from scratch. The institutions were not there to launch a new state, so there was an enormous work to be done.“Democracy strengthens governments, it doesn’t weaken them and I think the argument that the government puts forward here is democracy itself is a kind of luxury that people can have until everything is secured and stable. I think the opposite is true. Democracy is a way of stablizing a country, holding its leaders accountable, so that bad decisions either don’t get made, or get held up to public scrutiny afterwards.