April 22, 2009:
Eritrea has conscription, that has evolved into a form of state sponsored slavery. The country has a population of five million, but maintains 200,000 troops on active duty. Since Eritrea is poor, most of the soldiers are poorly paid conscripts. While conscripts are only obliged to serve full time for 18 months, they can also be called up for unlimited active duty, as reservists, until age 55. Moreover, high school students spend their last year of school in military camps. What turns all this into slavery is how the government has expanded the type of jobs reservists can be activated to do, to include non-military jobs throughout the government. These reservists get paid their same minimal conscript wages. If you try to flee the country to avoid this involuntary servitude, your family is fined thousands of dollars. If your family cannot pay, they are imprisoned. Nearly 100,000 people are in prison, but the threat of such punishments keeps most Eritreans paralyzed with fear. Naturally, the secret police and senior government officials are well paid. The jailers are always better off than the prisoners.
Thus Eritrea has developed a police state the tyrants of North Korea would be envious of. The country is run by a paranoid dictator. Eritrea has well trained and battle experienced armed forces, but poorly equipped. Disputes with neighbors, especially Ethiopia, help distract Eritreans from their domestic woes. The potential internal problems, because the population is half Christian and half Muslim, is exploited by aligning with Islamic radicals and playing off the two religious communities against each other.
Many Eritreans are focused on the fact that Ethiopia cannot accept the UN commission decision to give the tiny border area of Badme to Eritrea. "Giving up" Badme would cause the ruling party in Ethiopia to lose control in the next round of elections. So Ethiopia holds on to Badme, and Eritrea wallows in economic decline and police state paranoia. In Eritrea, the ruling group has not allowed free elections, because they know they would get voted out of a job. Getting Badme from Ethiopia will help the Eritrean dictator, but not enough to satisfy the majority of Eritreans. Meanwhile, a police state has evolved into a slave state.