Home International news Eritrea rejoins East African bloc 16 years after walk-Out

Eritrea rejoins East African bloc 16 years after walk-Out

Isaias Afwerki President of Eritrea
Isaias Afwerki, President of Eritrea

Nearly 16 years after the politically isolated state withdrew from the organization, Eritrea has re-joined IGAD, the East African bloc, the information minister Yemane Meskel announced on Monday.

At a meeting of the seven-nation group held in Djibouti on Monday, “Eritrea resumed its activity in IGAD and took its seat,” Meskel wrote on Twitter.

According to him, the nation was prepared to strive for “peace, stability, and regional integration.”

The authoritarian state suspended its membership of IGAD in 2007 following a string of disagreements, including over the bloc’s decision to ask Kenya to oversee the resolution of a border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Eritrea broke away from Ethiopia in 1993 and fought a two-year border war with its neighbour which poisoned relations until a peace agreement in 2018.

Following the rapprochement with Addis Ababa, Eritrean troops supported Ethiopian forces during the federal government’s war against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) and have been accused by the United States and rights groups of some of the conflict’s worst atrocities.

That war ended with a peace deal signed in November last year that called for the withdrawal of foreign forces, but Asmara was not a party to the agreement and its troops continue to be present in bordering areas of Tigray, according to residents who have accused the soldiers of murder, rape and looting.

– ‘North Korea of Africa’ –

Monday’s announcement comes after Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki told reporters during a visit to Kenya in February that his country would rejoin IGAD “with the idea of revitalising this regional organisation.”

Isaias, 77, did not attend Monday’s summit in Djibouti, sending Foreign Minister Osman Saleh and Presidential Adviser Yemane Ghebreab to the meeting instead.

Workneh Gebeyehu, executive secretary of IGAD, hailed Eritrea’s return to the bloc, saying in an official statement: “Let me take this opportunity to welcome back the State of Eritrea to the IGAD family.”

Dubbed the “North Korea” of Africa, Eritrea was sanctioned by the United States in 2021 after sending troops into Tigray.

Isaias refuted claims that Eritrean forces in Tigray had committed serious human rights violations as “fantasy” during a rare press conference in Kenya earlier this year.

Human Rights Watch demanded new sanctions against Eritrea in February after accusing it of collecting up thousands of people, including minors, for conscription into the military during the Tigray conflict.

In terms of press freedom, along with human rights, civil freedoms, and economic progress, the nation is near the bottom of the world rankings.