The Eritrean government continues to imprison its critics, most recently former Finance Minister Berhane Abrehe, who has been jailed since September after releasing a book and video calling for President Isaias Afwerki to step down.
In both the book and video, Berhane said that Eritrea’s “struggle for independence was never to install dictatorship. We need ideas and principles to guide us — not individuals with absolute power.”
He called upon Eritreans to achieve democracy through peaceful means.
A recent peace deal with Ethiopia brought some hope that Eritrea, one of the world’s most repressive governments, would open up.
“There was hope that change would come for Eritrea’s many political prisoners after Eritrea and Ethiopia made peace this year, ending three decades of enmity,” said Maria Burnett, East Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
The government has not made a formal statement on Berhane’s arrest. Human Rights Watch accused the Eritrean government of repressing opposition, and called for the release of political prisoners, including Berhane and his wife Almaz Habtemariam.
According to Amnesty International, Almaz has been in jail since 2017 for allowing their son to leave the country without government permission. The government has given no official reason for her arrest and detention.
Since 2001, 21 senior government officials and journalists have been detained after criticizing the president.
Sources: Africa News, Human Rights Watch, Bloomberg