Event Date and time: Wednesday, 25 January 2017 | 7:00 PM – 08:00 PM

Venue details: Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS | Thornhaugh Street, WC1H 0XG

Organisers: The Royal African Society  |

Event website: Africa’s Most Repressive State? Politics, Rights and Leadership in Eritrea

Event cost: Free


Martin Plaut, Institute of Commonwealth Studies

Vanessa Berhe, One Day Seyoum

“The most secretive, repressive state in Africa is haemorrhaging its citizens. In some months as many Eritreans as Syrians arrive on European shores, yet the country is not convulsed by civil war. Young men and women risk all to escape. Many do not survive, still they flee, to avoid permanent military service and a future without hope. As the United Nations reported: ‘Thousands of conscripts are subjected to forced labour that effectively abuses, exploits and enslaves them for years.’ Eritreans fought for their freedom from Ethiopia for thirty years, only to have their revered leader turn on his own people. Independent since 1993, the country has no constitution and no parliament. No budget has ever been published. Elections have never been held and opponents languish in jail. International organisations find it next to impossible to work in the country. Nor is it just a domestic issue. By supporting armed insurrection in neighbouring states it has destabilised the Horn of Africa. Eritrea is involved in the Yemeni civil war, while the regime backs rebel movements in Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti. This book tells the untold story of how this tiny nation became a world pariah.”

Martin Plaut, the BBC World Service’s former Africa Editor, has published extensively on African affairs. An adviser to the Foreign Office and the US State Department, he is Senior Researcher at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies.

Vanessa Berhe is a human right’s activist and founder One Day Seyoum – a campaign launched to raise awareness about the lack of press freedom in Eritrea and put pressure on the Eritrean government to release all the unjustly imprisoned journalists in the country. The organization carries the name of her uncle journalist Seyoum Tsehaye, who was imprisoned in 2001 without a proper trial. She also founded the Free Eritrea Campaign that works to lift up some of the most pressing issues affecting the Eritrean people right now. Migration, intersectional feminism and global development are subjects she is passionate about.

Copies of Understanding Eritrea Inside Africa’s Most Repressive State by Martin Plaut & published by Hurst, will be on sale at the event.

This event is free and open to all but registration is required via Eventbrite.


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