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Understanding Eritrea

The most secretive, repressive state in Africa is haemorrhaging its citizens. In some months as many Eritreans as Syrians arrive on European shores, yet the country is not convulsed by civil war. Young men and women risk all to escape. Many do not survive - their bones littering the Sahara; their bodies floating in the Mediterranean. Still they flee, to avoid permanent military service and a future without hope. As the United Nations reported: "Thousands of conscripts are subjected to forced labour that effectively abuses, exploits and enslaves them for years." Eritreans fought for their freedom from Ethiopia for thirty years, only to have their revered leader turn on his own people. Independent since 1993, the country has no constitution and no parliament. No budget has ever been published. Elections have never been held and opponents languish in jail. International organisations find it next to impossible to work in the country. Nor is it just a domestic issue. By supporting armed insurrection in neighbouring states it has destabilised the Horn of Africa. Eritrea is involved in the Yemeni civil war, while the regime backs rebel movements in Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti.This book tells the untold story of how this tiny nation became a world pariah.
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About the Author

Martin Plaut, the BBC World Service's former Africa Editor, has published extensively on African affairs. An adviser to the Foreign Office and the US State Department he is Senior Researcher at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies.


'[Plaut] is well placed to tell Eritrea's modern story and does so masterfully ... Throughout he condenses disparate material into tight and accessible prose ... Plaut's valuable book has at least ensured that, despite the regime's best efforts, this country is not fully hidden from view.' * Times Literary Supplement * 'Masterful account ... Plaut's extensive evidence shows how the regime's repressive stance in power is a consequence of its ruler.' * Times Higher Education * 'An outstanding insider's analysis of the continent's most noteworthy example of political repression . . . Understanding Eritrea is a sobering, incisive analysis, replete with detail not readily available elsewhere.' 'With my own eyes I witnessed the courage and sacrifice of the women and men who fought the thirty-three year war that brought the birth of an independent Eritrea and, they hoped, a future of freedom. They have, however, been tragically betrayed by a brutal dictatorship that inflicts relentless misery and forces thousands to flee. Martin Plaut's brilliant and searing factual account of the descent from hope to tyranny should be used to prosecute the regime and expose the powers that ignore its enduring atrocities.' * Glenys Kinnock, Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead, former Minister of State for Africa and the United Nations *

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