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Eritrea rejoins East African bloc after almost 16 years

The Independent AFRICA

President Isaias Afwerki of the State of Eritrea was in China recently. FILE PHOTO 

Nairobi, Kenya | SETHI NCUBE – ALL AFRICA.COM | Eritrea has rejoined the East African bloc, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), nearly 16 years after the politically isolated state pulled out of the body, reports AFP.

The authoritarian state reportedly suspended its IGAD membership in 2007 following a string of disagreements, including over the bloc’s decision to ask Kenya to oversee the resolution of a border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

Eritrea broke away from Ethiopia in 1993 and fought a two-year border war with its neighbor that poisoned relations until a peace agreement in 2018. Dubbed the “North Korea” of Africa, Eritrea was sanctioned by the United States in 2021 after sending troops into Tigray.

In a rare news conference in Kenya earlier this year, Isaias dismissed accusations of severe rights abuses by Eritrean troops in Tigray as “fantasy.”

Human Rights Watch in February 2023 reportedly called for fresh sanctions against Eritrea, accusing it of rounding up thousands of people, including minors, for mandatory military service, during the Tigray war. The country sits near the bottom of global rankings for press freedom, as well as human rights, civil liberties and economic development.