Eritrea — June 2007

Sociopolitical Situation

Diplomatic relations between the government of Eritrea and the United States are at an all time low. Last month, in his speech to the nation on the 16th anniversary marking Eritrea’s independence, President Isayas said that officials of the U.S. administration are, more than any other polity, responsible for obstructing publicly and persistently the implementation of the final and binding ruling made by the boundary commission and also for violating the rule of law.

Last week, outgoing U.S. Ambassador Scott Delisi criticized the government for increasing government violations of human rights, civil liberties, economic freedom and democratic principles. The United States has also accused Eritrea of backing insurgents fighting Ethiopian and government troops in Somalia. Earlier, in February, the U.S. embassy in Asmara closed its visa services after the government of Eritrea stopped diplomatic pouches to the embassy.

The economic situation continues to decline. The current focus is on food security, which is reportedly promising. Normalizing relations with Sudan has improved the supply of some consumables into the country. In spite of massive agricultural preparations, the rainy season has not yet started.

Religious Situation

The Eritrean Catholic Secretariat’s Solidarity/MAADI program, which helps determine exact costs to support the schools and clinics run by the church, is now operational as a two-year interim period (2006-2007) program. Another five-year program plan (2008-2012) is envisioned, since the religious and eparchial members of the MAADI program formed an association in March.

A plan for the unification of theological formation for candidates for the Catholic priesthood has been accepted by the three eparchs and clerical major religious superiors and will be implanted in the fall at the beginning of the next academic year. All eparchial major seminarians will reside at Holy Saviour Tri-eparchial Seminary in Asmara and all eparchial and religious seminarians will study at the Abune Selama Kessatie Berhan Philosophical-Theological Institute in Asmara.

Abune Dioskoros has now officially been established as the fourth patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewhado Church, replacing Abune Antonios, whose whereabouts and well-being are not certain. The anointing ceremony attended by all but the Catholic leadership has prompted the public to consider several issues regarding church-state relations.

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