** BA (Westminster), MSc (London); firstname.lastname@example.org
2002ordering the‘closure’ofallotherreligionsexceptthefourofficially- recognised beliefs.Thisarticlecriticallyanalysesthetroubledrelationship ofstateandreligioninEritreaand,insodoing,itaddressesthechallenge fromahumanrightsperspective. 1 Introduction: Religion and the pre-conflict, in- conflict and post-conflict state
This article discusses the troubled relationship of state and religion in Eritrea. Having obtained defactoindependence in 1991 after a 30- year war of independence with Ethiopia, and dejurestatehood in
1993, the country is the second youngest in Africa, the youngest being the newly-born Republic of South Sudan. In this contribution, we discuss the sad state of affairs in Eritrea through the lens of a historical overview of the relationship of state and religion, dating back to the ancient times.
However, what is it necessary to analyse the relationship of state and religion in Eritrea? We briefly answer this question based on the observation of Selassie, who asserts that religion is one of the three major forces that define modern politics, the other two forces being nationalism and the demands of constituent parts of a state in
national politics.1 As such, an understanding of the relationship
between religion and state is a very important indicator in
Before 1991, Eritrea was a battlefield experiencing continuous hostilities that date back at least to the Italian colonial era, at which time the country was created as a modern polity. From 1991 to 1998 it saw a relatively peaceful transition to a much-anticipated democratic order which has as yet not materialised. From 1998 to
2 G Cameron ‘The Eritrean state in comparative perspective’ in D O’Kane & TR Hepner (eds) Biopolitics,militarismanddevelopment:Eritreainthetwenty-first century(2009) 143.
3 C Bundegaard ‘The battalion state: Securitisation and nation building in Eritrea’ PSIS Occasional Paper 2, 2004, http://mercury.ethz.ch/serviceengine/Files/ISN/
20600/ipublicationdocument_singledocument/3cb39359-b77b-4042-a6c6-f99d9 e897f83/en/PSIS-OccPap-2_2004-Bundegaard.pdf (accessed 31 January 2014).
‘militaristic garrison state’,4the nation is just an inch away from becoming another failed state in the Horn of Africa. This region has already produced such a failed state in the last two decades, and it is
Whilst a number of factors have contributed to the sad state of affairs in Eritrea, the repressive political culture of the ruling and sole political party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), is the main problem. As noted by Bozzini, the state in Eritrea is authoritarian, unaccountable, volatile and violent; and the political leadership is an all-powerful and capricious, ready to do whatever it can, at the cost of individual basic freedom (including matters of intrinsically personal nature, such as religious creed), in order to hold state power intact. The political leadership continues in power, despite its large de-legitimisation and widespread popular disapproval
of its policies.6This provides the broader context within which we try
Our article is organised as follows. The current section is the introductory part. In the next section we provide a brief historical overview of the relationship between state and religion, starting from ancient history to the modern era. This provides a broad overview that fits the purpose of our research, particularly in the context of the two most dominant religions in Eritrea: Christianity and Islam. In the third part, we discuss the troubled relationship between state and religion in Eritrea with the emphasis on the post-independence era. However, in order to have a very comprehensive picture, we will touch briefly on the pre-independence history of the state-religion relationship in the country. The fourth part links the debate with the prevailing excessive state interference in religion, a practice which has become a major cause of unprecedented levels of religious persecution in the country. In elaborating this challenge, we discuss a few representative case studies of religious persecution that is currently taking place in
4 TR Hepner & D O’Kane ‘Conclusion: Biopolitics and dilemmas of development in
5 D Mekonnen ‘Drivers of fragility and the perils of state failure in Eritrea’ paper presented at the International Conference on Human Security: Threats, Risks, Crisis 18-19 October 2012, Kadir Has University, Istanbul, Turkey.
6 D Bozzini ‘Low-tech surveillance and the despotic state in Eritrea’ (2011) 9