Twenty years ago, Eritrea conducted a successful referendum, gaining independent state status. It received recognition as a new African Renaissance state, and was on the forefront of African renewal and rebirth, which included the nations of South Africa, Namibia, Uganda, and Ethiopia as well. This occurred after many gloomy years of pessimism about progress, stability, and democracy in Africa. In the 1990s, a series of African nationalist liberation movements gained power that stimulated international and local observers’ imagination for the dawning of an African Renaissance. There was hope that the Pan-Africanist dream of African unity would bring a new level of continental unity, economic growth, and political stability. This task rested on the shoulders of a new generation of African leaders.
Today in Eritrea, thousands of Eritrean refugees, mostly young, are fleeing the country to seek refuge in camps in Ethiopia and Sudan. They eventually hope to find asylum in Europe and in the Middle East. On the journey hundreds of Eritrean youth have drowned in the Mediterranean and Red Seas and have been victims of human trafficking, abducted for ransom in the Sinai Desert. Many are starved and killed, and their body parts sold for organ transplant.
This is not a story the world expected to hear when Eritrea gained its independence in 1993. In twenty years, Eritrea fell from the high status of an African Renaissance State to the low position of an African pariah state, shunned by international organizations and communities, sanctioned by the United Nations and distrusted by neighboring countries.
Why and how did this this new nation fall into social, political, and economic crisis? The articles in Africa Today 60.2 try to answer these questions through careful analysis and rigorous logic. The writers are Africanists whose disciplinary training is in the social sciences including anthropology, sociology, political science, and cultural studies. They have conducted extensive research on Eritrean politics, culture, and society. They shed light on the current crisis of state and nation formation in Eritrea and by extension, they hope to bring greater understanding about why the idea of African Renaissance is being replaced by continuing pessimism about the future of Africa.
Read the introduction to the issue here: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2979/africatoday.60.2.v