In This Review

Eritrea at a Crossroads: A Narrative of Triumph, Betrayal and Hope
Eritrea at a Crossroads: A Narrative of Triumph, Betrayal and Hope
By Andebrhan Welde Giorgis
Strategic Book Publishing, 2014, 692 pp
Purchase

A good deal of optimism greeted Eritrean independence in 1993, after a long war against Ethiopia. The Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) took power and promised rapid development, suggesting that it would model its economic policy after Singapore’s, focusing on exports to the European market and tourism on the coral-rich coastline of the Red Sea. Many hoped that a vibrant and well-educated expatriate population would return to Eritrea and spearhead its development. Instead, the country has remained one of the poorest in the world, and its government pursues a counterproductive policy of autarky that owes considerably more to North Korea than Singapore. This insider’s account by a former member of the EPLF’s leadership blames President Isaias Afwerki, who turned the country into a personal fiefdom. Giorgis never completely explains why he chose to accept leadership positions in the Afwerki regime until finally breaking with it in 2006, but he provides interesting behind-the-scenes descriptions of key policy decisions and power struggles within the EPLF. Particularly good are two chapters devoted to the 1998–2000 border war with Ethiopia and the subsequent peace negotiations.