Eritrea is a militarized authoritarian state that has not held a national election since independence from Ethiopia in 1993. The People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), headed by President Isaias Afwerki, is the sole political party. Arbitrary detention is commonplace, and citizens are required to perform national service, often for their entire working lives. The government shut down all independent media in 2001.
Key Developments in 2019
- Eritrean authorities closed the border’s country with Ethiopia in April. Eritreans crossed the border, which was previously opened in 2018, to seek asylum or refuge elsewhere, and continued to do so after the government’s decision.
- The government continued to interfere in the activities of religious groups during the year. In June, it closed health facilities operated by the Roman Catholic Church, after bishops called for the creation of a truth and reconciliation commission; that same month, the government reportedly arrested five Orthodox Christian priests for criticizing government interference in their church.
- The authorities also continued moves to restrict academic freedom. Seven secondary schools operated by religious organizations were seized by security forces in September.