Conversations with Eritrean Political Prisoners

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9781569022351: Conversations with Eritrean Political Prisoners

In 2001, months after a devastating war with Ethiopia, a wide-ranging debate erupted within Eritrea over the conduct of leadership and the content of government policy, particularly around the 1998-2000 Border War with Ethiopia, which many thought could have been averted. Much of the criticism was directed at the president, Isaias Afwerki, who refused to implement a newly ratified Constitution or to permit the formation of political parties or to conduct national elections. This national conversation came to an abrupt halt in September when the government arrested its most prominent critics, shut down the private press, and smothered all public political discussion.

This book revisits that debate through interviews with five critics—top government officials and former liberation movement leaders—shortly before they disappeared into the Eritrean gulag. Since then, none has been seen, heard from or accounted for. Nor has any been charged with a crime. As these conversations reveal, the speakers knew what was in store for them—arrest and indefinite detention. This is why they spoke with veteran journalist and long-time friend of Eritrea Dan Connell. This book not only opens a critical window onto that seminal moment; it signals the persistence of the dream of a democratic future for a remarkable nation whose promise has yet to be fulfilled.

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About the Author:

Dan Connell, a two-time MacArthur Foundation grantee, is the author of five books on Eritrea, including Against All Odds: A Chronicle of the Eritrean Revolution (1997); Rethinking Revolution (2002); and a two-volume Collected Articles on the Eritrean Revolution (2003, 2004). His reports and commentary have been carried by the BBC, Voice of America, AP, Reuters, The Boston Globe, The Guardian, Le Monde, Foreign Affairs, The Nation and others, and he has consulted for numerous aid agencies and human rights organizations. He is currently a lecturer in journalism and African politics at Simmons College, Boston, and lives with his wife, Debbie Hird, in Gloucester, Massachusetts.

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