Eritrea is a one‑party state that became independent in 1993 when citizens voted for independence from Ethiopia. The People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), previously known as the Eritrean People's Liberation Front, is the sole political party and has controlled the country since 1991. The country's president, Isaias Afwerki, who heads the PFDJ and the armed forces, dominates the country and continues to deny presidential and legislative elections. The border dispute with Ethiopia continues, and the government has used the dispute to justify severe restrictions on civil liberties. The government's human rights record remains poor. Serious abuses included no peaceful, democratic avenue for citizens to change their government; unlawful killings by security forces; torture and sometimes fatal beatings of prisoners; harsh and life threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrest and detention, including of national service evaders and their family members; executive interference in the judiciary and the use of a special court system to limit due process. There was infringement of privacy rights, including roundups of young men and women for national service. The government severely restricted freedoms of speech, press, assembly, association, and religion. Restrictions continued on the activities of NGOs. Female genital mutilation (FGM) was widespread, and there was societal abuse and discrimination against women, members of the Kunama ethnic group, homosexuals, and persons with HIV/AIDS. There were limitations on worker rights.
Part 2: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives
Among the U.S. Government's primary foreign policy objectives in the country is the promotion of human rights and civil liberties. The United States aims to help citizens realize a country that allows for a pluralistic and democratic political process, religious freedom, the rule of law, an independent judiciary, and a robust civil society.
Part 3: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance
Despite the government's numerous restrictions on U.S. governance and human rights programs and limitations on in-country travel, the U.S. Government sponsored a variety of related events, such as hosting viewings of the U.S. presidential debates, holding discussions about democracy and peaceful transition of presidential power, and sponsoring an Arabic film festival featuring election films.
In order to promote human rights, the United States sponsored monthly lectures, weekly films, exhibitions, reading clubs, and community service events. For example, U.S. funds supported four public information service centers throughout the country that provide free Internet and library resources. Such programming has enabled the dissemination of information on a wide range of issues inclusive of human rights, such as democratic processes, women's rights, and the rights of persons with disabilities.
In an effort to promote dialogue on ethnic discrimination, a U.S.-sponsored monthly lecture series included a panel presentation on diversity in Black America and children's educational programming on Dr. Martin Luther King. To support combating societal discrimination of those persons living with HIV/AIDS, U.S. programming in 2008 sponsored an HIV/AIDS fair that reached more than 500 participants with educational literature and local speakers about resources to combat HIV/AIDS. In addition, the U.S. hosted a World AIDS Day speaker who addressed issues of acceptance, discrimination, and medical treatment.
To promote women's rights, the United States hosted a lecture on women's contributions to the U.S. military. In addition, U.S. programming focused on FGM and other issues pertinent to women's rights in the country. The United States also provided a grant to a local medical center in order to reduce the prevalence of fistula. In addition to raising awareness among government officials of the needs of persons with disabilities, U.S. programming sponsored several workshops to allow dialogue between the hearing impaired community and relevant government officials.