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Monday, July 15, 2024

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    Eritrea rejoins the East African Bloc nearly 16 years after walking out.

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    Eritrea has rejoined the East African bloc, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), nearly 16 years after withdrawing from the organisation, said Information Minister Yemane Meskel on Monday.

    “Eritrea resumed its activity in IGAD and took its seat” at the seven-nation bloc’s meeting in Djibouti on Monday, Meskel said on Twitter.

    He stated that the government is prepared to strive towards “peace, stability, and regional integration.”

    The authoritarian state resigned from IGAD in 2007 after a series of disagreements, notably the bloc’s decision to choose Kenya to oversee the resolution of an Ethiopia-Eritrea boundary dispute.

    Following the reconciliation with Addis Abeba, Eritrean troops fought with Ethiopian forces in the federal government’s fight against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), and have been accused of some of the conflict’s worst crimes by the US and rights groups.

    That war ended with a peace agreement 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 are still present in bordering Tigray areas, according to residents who have accused the soldiers of murder, rape, and looting.

    ‘Africa’s North Korea’

    The declaration comes after Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki told reporters in February during a visit to Kenya that his nation will rejoin IGAD “with the idea of revitalising this regional organisation.”

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

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

    Eritrea, dubbed the “North Korea” of Africa, was sanctioned by the US in 2021 after deploying soldiers into Tigray.

    Earlier this year, at a rare press conference in Kenya, Isaias denied allegations of serious human rights violations by Eritrean military in Tigray as “fantasy.”

    Human Rights Watch called for more sanctions on Eritrea in February, accusing the country of gathering up thousands of individuals, including juveniles, for compulsory military service during the Tigray war.

    The country ranks towards the bottom of the world in terms of press freedom, human rights, civil liberties, and economic progress.

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