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UCL Home  /  Geography  /  News & Events  /  News  /  News Archive  /  2016  /  September 2016  /  Eritrea: “Africa’s North Korea”

Eritrea: “Africa’s North Korea”

Gabriel’s account published in New Statesman

Eritrea: “Africa’s North Korea”

More Eritreans illegally cross the Central Mediterranean than Syrians – and more Eritreans apply for asylum in Britain than any other nationality, but the isolated African state is still one of the world's blind-spots.

So argues Gabriel Pogrund, recently graduated from UCL Geography, in an article published by the New Statesman on 9th September following his visit to Eritrea this summer.

This year Eritrea turned 25, ruled by President Isias Afwerki with an iron fist, following a long guerrilla war against the Ethiopians.

Under his regime, military conscription lasts indefinitely - “Eritreans kiss goodbye to freedom aged 16, when they are called up … to the national military training camp to spend years defending the country’s heavily militarised border with Ethiopia or working as slaves on road-laying and construction projects”.

Citizens can get out of this service only by fleeing, which is why so many of them illegally cross the Mediterranean, or by marrying, creating an oddly high rate of young marriage.

Gabriel explains that this state’s philosophy of military conscription and self-sufficiency is a legacy of the brutal Ethiopian occupation supported by the US and then the Soviets for decades.

What seemed in 1991 a valiant attempt at doing African independence differently has turned into aggressive self-isolation.

For the full article, see:


Gabriel Pogrund