Why Eritrea Should Matter to the United States

By Scott A Morgan

Jan. 08 2009

In less than two weeks Barack Obama will assume the Presidency of the United States. This means that after eight years of the Bush Administration there stands an excellent chance of some wholesale changes in American Foreign Policy. We have heard of several potential challenges for the Incoming President but there is one which has not generated much Interest.

At this time there are stark differences between the United States and Eritrea. One of the Basic Concerns is in the Area of Human Rights. The First major area of concern is Freedom of Religion. At this time only 4 Faiths are allowed to practice in the Country. These four are: Orthodox, Lutheran, Catholic and Muslim. While the Current Government allows these Faiths to function there has been intervention over the last several years.

Another Concern has to be Freedom of the Press. Since a Crackdown on Dissent occurred in 2001 several Journalists have been detained without Charges in undisclosed locations throughout the Country. At least one reporter and several other Dissidents including a Vice-President of the Country have died in custody. Other concerns include Forced Conscription and the Repression of Civil Society.

But the factor that most strategists in the US will focus on is the role the Country is playing in regional tensions. Currently a long running Border Dispute with Ethiopia remains unresolved despite mediation by a third party. The countries whose leaders were ironically allies during the struggle against the Marxist Ethiopian Government fought a struggle that resulted in the Independence of Eritrea being seen.

Another dispute that is currently ongoing is with neighboring Djibouti. What makes this conflict an area of concern is the fact that the Headquarters for the US Military Horn of Africa Task Force is in this country. Although the Eritrean Government has seen fit only to seize a few square kilometers near the border the longer this conflict remains unresolved the greater the chance for another conflict to erupt.

Finally there is the fiasco known as Somalia. The Government in Asmara has been a vocal critic of the Ethiopian Intervention in the Country. For its part the State Department has accused the Eritrean Government of supporting the Islamist Insurgency in Somalia. In recent weeks the Country has stated that it has been the Policy of the Bush Administration that has been the root cause of spike in Piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

There is some hope that a change in Washington towards what many hope will be a more friendly Administration will be a benefit towards Africa. In some areas there may be a maintaining of current Policies in place. So this means that from a viewpoint looking at the US it may be more of the same.

In Eritrea itself there may be some Elements that may want to be an instrument of change themselves. A Group known as the RSADO (Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization) has launched a series of attacks against Military Targets. This effort known as Operation Ali Osman Mear can be seen as just the latest evidence of the frustration of the Political Opposition.

In General the United States has assisted any effort to promote Democratic Change. Whether its by having Embassy Officials attend court hearings of the Opposition to overt Military Assistance to those who have been struggling for their ideals there always has been a helping hand.

So with the current failure of the mission in Somalia will this mean that there will be an increase in scrutiny of Eritrea? We will find out soon enough.

The Author Publishes Confused Eagle on the Internet and Comments on US Policy towards Africa. Confused Eagle can be found at morganrights.tripod.com