Conversations with Eritrean Political Prisoners

Conversations with Eritrean Political Prisoners

Conversations reproduces interviews with five prominent critics of Eritrea's slide into one-party despotism—top government officials and former liberation movement leaders—shortly before they disappeared into a secret Eritrean prison. Since then, none of them have been seen, heard from or accounted for.

Early in 2001, months after a devastating war with Ethiopia, a wide-ranging debate had 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 conduct national elections. This national conversation came to an abrupt halt that September when the government arrested its main critics, shut down the private press, and smothered all public political discussion.

As the interviews in this book 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.