Eritrea Energy and Security
Economy, energy and environment
At least 80% of the population depends on subsistence agriculture, while the capital-intensive sectors for the production of export products were severely compromised by wars and then by the strong state control over the few productive enterprises. The remittances of the diaspora constitute one of the most important income of the country and the main source of livelihood for a large part of the population. Despite the excessive allocation of resources on the military sector, the scarce foreign investment (if we exclude the extractive sector) and the mismanagement of the government, the country’s economic growth reached 7% in 2012 also thanks to a reform that allowed to the copper and gold mines of Bisha and Koka to achieve excellent extraction performance.
According to indexdotcom, the Eritrean government’s decision to expel all Western cooperation agencies from the country further weakened the national economy. Only Chinese cooperation was able to continue to operate; in particular, the Chinese are strengthening the health and water sectors in the capital. However, the volume of business linked to Beijing’s cooperation is negligible compared to Chinese interests in neighboring countries such as Ethiopia and especially Sudan. Relations with Italy have also improved considerably as evidenced by the official trip of the Deputy Foreign Minister Lapo Pistelli to the country – the last was in 1997 by the President of the Republic Oscar Luigi Scalfaro -, an important stage of a tour that has also brought to Somalia, Djibouti, Sudan and Ethiopia. The aim of the newfound relationship is the relaunch of bilateral economic and political cooperation. The ecosystem of the country has been severely damaged by deforestation, by the excessive exploitation of pastures and by the erosion of arable land, also due to war events.
Defense and security
At the time of independence, the militarized population reached 200,000 units, equal to about 3% of the population, of which 30% were women. In 1995 45% of the troops were dismissed, but with the new war against Ethiopia in 1998 the troops reached the maximum quota of 300,000, about 10% of the population. The war of 1998-2000 alone resulted in more than a million displaced persons, in addition to the thousands of refugees returning from Sudan or those expelled from Ethiopia. The displaced people together with the demobilized veterans, who had never worked all their lives except as soldiers, formed a mass that could not be easily reintegrated into civil society.
The militarization of the state
Eritrean society has undergone a process of growing and pervasive militarization, whose deep roots go back to the times of Italian rule, when colonial troops represented the main resource of the colony. The thirty-year liberation struggle then contributed significantly to the formation of a militarist and aggressive nationalism. Once independence was achieved, the permanent mobilization of society was systematically used to maintain pervasive control over the population, leveraging the real or potential threat from external or internal enemies. The compulsory draft, originally eighteen months, is extended well beyond the term and citizens under the age of fifty do not obtain visas to leave the country. The families of those who leave the country clandestinely face fines and imprisonment and in several cases the migrants themselves, discovered, have been executed in cold blood. Despite this, Eritrea remains one of the leading nations for outbound migratory flows. Without tolerating any opposition or dissent and indeed playing on a feeling of mutual suspicion among the population, Isaias Afewerki governs the country while maintaining a climate of terror: the same national unity is consolidated by constantly fearing real or alleged Ethiopian maneuvers to invade the country. The only possible form of opposition is to leave the country. Precisely for this reason the Eritrean exiles are at the top of the international statistics of asylum seekers in Europe and America.