Mr. Trump, Put the Ball in Eritrea’s Court

US Eritrea relation Rethinking Eritrea
“[…]The US government should put the ball in Asmara’s court … since no one is going to pay attention to Asmara if they don’t do something. […] If Washington makes it clear that the door [to engagement] is open, they need to walk through.” – Bronwyn Bruton, deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Centre. (Photo credit: Mike Seium Pele Jr.)
By Rachel Ansley | for Atlantic Council,

With the growing threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham in Africa and shifting alliances in the region with the Arab Gulf states and Egypt, it is in the best interest of the incoming US administration to reassess engagement with Eritrea, a country which could play a significant strategic role in countering conflict and extremism, an expert on African politics said at the Atlantic Council on December 8.

According to Dan Connell, a visiting scholar from Boston University’s African Studies Center, “there’s a lot of reasons that if [the situation in Eritrea] is left unattended, it’s not going to stay the same, it’s going to get worse.” He added, “for a dealmaker, this is not a hard deal to make,” referring to US President-elect Donald Trump.



While US relations with Eritrea are “not on the top ten list” for the Trump administration, said Seth Kaplan, a professorial lecturer at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, he claimed that addressing instability and the threat of conflict in the Horn of Africa is a way to make a positive change, in the best interest of the United States, without taking an excessive diplomatic risk.

In particular, Connell cited the resolution of border tensions between Eritrea and Ethiopia. The border has been contested since Eritrea won independence from Ethiopia in 1991, and continued hostilities contribute to instability in the region. Kaplan also stressed the importance of lifting US economic sanctions on Eritrea, and addressing economic issues which drive many to emigrate to Europe.

Kaplan said: “For the new administration, it is not a high priority, but for those senior diplomats whose focus is Africa… those are major areas where we’re trying to reduce conflict, stabilize situations, [and] reduce the spread of terrorism.”

Connell and Kaplan joined Bronwyn Bruton, deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Africa Center; and Athony Carroll, a nonresident senior associate with the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, to discuss the recent publication of two reports on Eritrea.

The first report, Eritrea: Coming in from the Cold, authored by Bruton, argues that reengagement with Eritrea is in the best interest of the United States and examines the means of achieving an improved relationship.

Kaplan wrote the second report, Eritrea’s Economy: Ideology and Opportunity, which examines the dichotomy between ideology and economy in Eritrea, using that understanding as a basis from which to encourage reform.

Connell said that the central issue at stake is “what direction Eritrea is trending in now, and what can the United States do to encourage constructive change.”

eritrea-engageBruton’s report contains “recommendations for a rethought US approach to the Eritrean government and the situation in Eritrea,” she said. Calling for the United States to lift sanctions, cease the personalization of politics in the region, and address the threat posed by Ethiopia, Bruton said that “the United States should make it clear to Asmara through a series of actions, a series of gestures, that the door is open for a better relationship.” Not intervention, but “positive, reinforcing steps” should end the policy of isolation, which “has not been a force for good in Eritrea,” she said.

According to Kaplan, “lack of interaction with the international community has reduced the country’s ability to learn, develop, and modernize itself.”

Kaplan compared Eritrea to other countries with socialist nationalist ideologies, such as China, Vietnam, Rwanda, and Cuba, claiming that “Eritrea’s whole economic system is based upon a certain worldview, a certain ideology.

”This ideology is defined by self-reliance focused on local solutions. Consequently, Eritrea has pursued an economic policy that is more stable than dynamic. “There’s a logic to trading dynamism for stability,” said Kaplan, “but it limits the economy… and has great repercussions for the country’s financial stability.”

One major factor to be considered is the element of Eritrea’s National Service, a program which enlists the country’s youth into service as soldiers and civil servants. To escape enforced service, many young people flee the country, contributing to a significant flow of emigrants to Europe. Additionally, the program poses a serious risk to the reputation of investors involved in the country.

However, according to Kaplan, the ideology of Asmara will not change. He claimed “the country is unlikely to change dramatically, therefore change can only take place if we work where Eritrea is, and not where we want Eritrea to be.”

He described how the international community, due to issues of human rights and emigration, has strong opinions on Eritrea’s path, and he said countries seeking to provide assistance should not change their goals, but reconsider the most appropriate means to achieve them.

In particular, Kaplan said that US sanctions have caused foreign investment in Eritrea to plummet since 2005.

eritrea-engageHowever, Carroll, who also serves as vice president of Manchester Trade Limited, an investment advisory firm, described the challenges facing potential investors in Eritrea. He cited issues related to governance, rule of law, competitiveness of the service sector, availability of foreign exchange, engagement with partners, policy predictability, risk insurance, and threat to a company’s reputation as serious deterrent. Thought the situation in Eritrea is “not all doom and gloom,” Carroll said, “as an investor, you can’t be naïve or ignore these many challenges.”

While he believes there will be no immediate appreciable change, Carroll described a five-year horizon for the opportunity for greater investment in the region. He cited sectors such as agriculture and tourism as routes for potential growth and exploration. In particular, Carroll said that, in the wake of the British vote to leave the European Union, the United Kingdom will need a new trade agreement, and Eritrea could present an option for agriculture exports.

Kaplan added that, while Eritrea’s government is taking steps to reengage on the world stage and he sees potential for improvement, fundamental change is unlikely.

However, according to Connell, economic potential is contingent upon the region’s stability, and “engagement is the best route out of these crises.” He said there is no way to encourage positive change in isolation from the wider regional context, particularly the hostility between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Connell said that settling the border war is the vehicle by which to rebalance relationships while simultaneously curbing refugee flows and the spread of radicalism.

“The cycle itself needs to be broken,” he said. “We need not a truce, but a genuine peace where each side gives up efforts to undermine and overthrow the other.”

According to Connell, “this is a really good time to be rethinking not just Eritrea, but the wider region.” He said, “engagement is the vehicle here, not the end.”

Contending that the recommendations made in her report are free, easy, and devoid of diplomatic risk, Bruton called for the US government to “put the ball in Asmara’s court. No one is going to pay attention to Asmara if they don’t do something.” She added, “if Washington makes it clear that the door is open, they need to walk through.”



Rachel Ansley is an editorial assistant at the Atlantic Council.

38 thoughts on “Mr. Trump, Put the Ball in Eritrea’s Court

    1. A true statement. The US President elect Donald Trump in his victory speech talked about US to treat all nations big and small with fairness. We will see if that is going to be true. Eritrea people only seek to be treated Fairley and noninterference by other nations as they treat others.

    2. Must watch it is on you tube video very interesting subject. I think tesfa news should have post it. You will find it on Google search video.

  1. What can #Washington lose as the #US President elect Trump says to deal with the straight forward peace seeking strategic nation #Eritrea to make the world peaceful & fair 4all

  2. ”rethink”, ”reengage”, “not all doom and gloom,” the country is unlikely to change dramatically, therefore change can only take place if we work where Eritrea is, and not where we want Eritrea to be.” “Eritrea’s whole economic system is based upon a certain worldview, a certain ideology. “lack of interaction with the international community has reduced the country’s ability to learn, develop, and modernize itself.” “what direction Eritrea is trending in now, and what can the United States do to encourage constructive change.” ”bringing out the cold” are some of the stickers (statements) they put on ERITRA. Eritrea has been labeled and identified with different negative REMARKS at various political times during the armed struggle and after the liberation, Nonetheless, the results were proven to be false and lie . It is very interesting the language of politics they use in the Atlantic Council meeting statement to categorize Eritrea. it is vague, reticent, verbose, subjective, or a combination of two or more. The key is to listen to what people are telling you and to know what to look for in a statement. If you read and analyze closely, they are telling us AS IF ERITREA IS THE ONES WHOSE MIND NEEDS TO CHANGE.

    1. I second you,selam.
      Remember the Modus Operandi of the USA:.
      -The Pentagon and the State Department,at times or most of the time, work in Parallel as if both do not know what each is doing.
      The Atlantic Council is a Council that is funded and that works for the best interest of the USA.
      Ms Bruton is NOT an Independent Thinker but an Under-Cover Agent,who has been assigned to ‘instigate”on Eritrea and its regime to dig out ways to infiltrate how the System works and thereby to come up with steps to ‘Interfere” and get the BEST out of it.
      Engagement:
      It is a nice term but a toxic one covered with honey. But and in any case, Diplomacy and National Interest is what matters and Eritrea should open its doors and “engage ” them to take the BEST out of it by cautiously engaging them.
      There is NO other better way to get out of the ‘Cold” we are in.
      As long as it is mutual, the Rapprochement and Engagement should be welcome but without forgetting our history with those Pseudo-Angels.
      And never forget what they did to Iraq/Saddam and Libya/Col Moaner Ghedafi in the name of Engagement….where Saddam was one of the best Allies of the USA to counter Iran but only to bury him alive by setting him up to invade Kuwait and in the name of Fake WMD.
      That of Libya was even classic when they engaged him and reconciled with him after making him pay the unfair compensation for the Lockerbie Incident and ONLY to destroy him and Libya within weeks.
      Super Vigilance is needed when dealing with this Devils.
      This is not to imply that the same Devils have not attempted to repeat on Eritrea things they did on Iraq and Libya …as they did try through the Amnesty Intl,Arbi Harnet,and through their Mercenary Ethiopia, besides isolating and sanctioning Eritrea…based on lies and fabrications…and now in the name of Human rights Abuse/through the COIE.
      Apparently,as Muzungus Cohen said earlier(The Arabs Eating Ethiopia’s Lunch and Dinner in the Red Sea) and now, the Defunct CIA Agent ,Dan Connell claiming in the meeting, that the main red flag for them and for this meeting and related ‘Initiatives seem(s) to be Eritrea’s new Geo-political and Diplomatic Move and its successful effort to get out of the ‘Cold” it has been in, by its own EFFORT..
      Either way,it is good to “engage’ and to get out of the COLD.

      1. “engage ” them to take the BEST out of it by cautiously engaging them. I don’t have any more to say. Thank you.
        As to “engage’ and to get out of the COLD, I do have different opinion due to their selection of word. You get somebody out of cold only if you encounter a Homeless, a Child, Disabled, Beggar..etc. Eritrea for being self-reliant, self sufficient country with a great history of resilience and fight! that I don’t accept it. “COLD” in Mr. Cohen’s wording implies negative connotation.

        1. Ahlen selam:
          I agree but I was talking from practical point of view…
          But I am afraid of, that Eritrea has been a victim of its own making –being trapped “accidentally”….and plus, Eritrea cannot be perfect and should also think outside of its own box….in this Unfair and irrational world. Where ONLY Opportunism and self-interest dictate things, not commons sense and/or The Rule of Law.
          Political Acrobatics/Acrobatism) and even “Political Prostitution” seem to be the Modus Operand.

  3. Thinking that Solution of Eritrea’s issues will be resolved when weyane is still in power is IMPOSSIBLE ,if weyane gets removed (IT WILL SOONER OR LATER WITH THE CURRENT ISSUES IN ETHIOPIA) and then only Eritrea can be peaceful and prosper economically

  4. There is always something wrong with this Connell:

    “According to Connell, “this is a really good time to be rethinking not just Eritrea, but the wider region.” He said, “engagement is the vehicle here, not the end.”

    What wider region? US is already too engaged with other countries such as Ethiopia. The only engagement missing was that with Eritrea. So, what the hell is this person talking about?. It is as if he is having a hard time digesting/swallowing the idea of “positive engagement of the world with Eritrea “. So, to make it easier for his disturbed mind, he had to add “The region” to it. Sick bastard

    1. Good observation. His presentation was very wordy, and full of I did this and talked to that. This is where Eritreans who had the opportunity to ask questions could have asked him this very question you raised.

      1. Hey Kaleab,

        I listened to the whole discussion just now and you are right, there were few questions Dan should have been asked (Not that it would have mattered though. They were rushing too. The Q & A was kind of unorganized, and emotion of one of our compatriot was also taking the best of him, and took up time and changed the mood. Did not appreciate the nervous laugh the panel was suppressing )

        – On the border issue Connell was basically reflecting the Ethiopian point of view.

        1. The fate of the communities inside Badime, which he claimed was Ethiopia’s concern is totally bogus.A straight Woyanie bullish. For one, that issue about choice of the community there and also the fear of split family is also Eritrea’s concern. Actually, Eritrea is more concerned about its people in those areas. And I can definitely say in an absolute certainty nothing will happen to them and their choice will be respected once the border issue is settled. Absolutely no issue there, and it is definitely NOT the reason Woyanie is refusing to implement the EEBC

        2. Why in God’s name would any fair and just person, group or country would want to link the border issue with any thing related to the future relationship between the two countries?. Irrespective of whether the two countries go into any kind of relationship or not, the border issue should stand on its own and settled on its own, before anything. Only a crooked person like Connel and of course Woyanie itself would try to link the border with any kind of future relationship

        – On the refugees

        What he narrated at the beginning of his speech was out of topic and irrelevant to the issue at hand. At least not the way he narrated it. a) He claimed to have gotten the info from refugees in Ethiopia. There is absolutely no way any one can have a good picture of any situation in Eritrea form refugees who MUST lie to get accepted b) He is also doing it from inside the heart of the main enemy of Eritrea, so whatever he claims people told him is biased by default. “Indefinite national service” is now the hand book or rule of thumb of any asylum seeker, Eritrean or Ethiopian pretending to be Eritrean

        – And for every sentence he said, he had to mention Ethiopia. And he consistently talks about his travel to Ethiopia. That by default makes him a bad witness or a biased witnedd

        On the positive side:

        – Unless he is pretending or unless he is trying to be reasonable in front of the other panelists, relatively speaking, he was by far better than his past activities, talks and association with anti Eritrean Elements. I am sure all the rats of woyanie are fuming today. That is not what the would want from him. Perhaps he is making a U-turn on them? Or perhaps he realized the change in US would make him redundant if he stood his failed past fround.

        One of the positive thing he said was the part on his closing statement of his presentation: The thing he said about both (Both:) ) countries should respect the sovereignty of the other. He said both, which is funny, but still ok.

        1. Thank you for this point by point examination of Dan’s comments. This analysis should reach to a wider audience. I think you should get it organized and publish it.

  5. After watching the presentations and discussions, I felt the Atlantic Council missed an opportunity to deliver policy solutions. For the most part, all for presenters laid out in detail all known issues Eritrea have been challenged with for a decade or so – economic and political. All good in my view, noting most of the internal issues are driven by external forces. I was disappointed, however, that they did not provide pointed recommendations to address the causes of the crisis. For starters, they know that the US needs meet its legal obligation as a guarantor of the EEBC decision – which failed to force Ethiopia to withdraw from Eritrean territories and demarcate the border per the EEBC decision. I wish an Eritrean in the audience have reminded them all that how US’s action with this regard has undermined regional order and relevance of the rule of law. Therefore, I’ve concluded that this conference gets high mark for presentation but failed in delivering substantive policy prescription.

    Side note: As for the Eritreans who had the opportunity to asked questions, as far as I am concerned, they get a failed mark. They got bogged down in the political details and personalities, and therefore they forgot this discussion was about Eritrea as a country and US policy in the region. It was humiliating listing to some of them!

    1. The US can’t force Ethiopia to withdraw from Eritrean territories and demarcate the border per the EEBC decision.

      The sooner you accept that the better. They will not risk the relationship with Ethiopia to actually enforce any real action. As indicated in the panel discussion their preference is to let sleeping dogs lie.

      Reminder the EEBC is an Agreement between the Government of the State of Eritrea and the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia. It is not an agreement with Eritrea/Ethopia/UN/AU/EU/USA.

      President Issais afewerki should stop wasting his time at Adi-Halo and fly to Addis Ababa to fix this mess. Eritreans don’t have 10-40 years to wait for Ethiopia to self-implode.

      1. Nobody to go to Addus or wherever to TPLF-abused Asthopia. Get that! As to the issue at hand we do not need anybody’s permission to get back what is legally ours, whether US wants it or not. It is not a matter of will, but when.

      2. Eritrea have no reason to reach out to Ethiopia to mend relation or regain control of its territories. The issue between the two countries are officially RESOLVED (even if it is not to the liking of Ethiopia) and the border has been LEGALLY demarcated. That is what all the present day geographical and political maps at the UN, AU and satellite imagery shows as it is official and legally done. I know that sounds weird to Ethiopians but that is the fact and the only thing they can do to verify about it is by looking at the current official map of Ethiopia at one of their museum, cartography department or Universities. That is irreversible!

        What holds the current stalemate is then Ethiopia’s belligerence to honor the deal and that is courtesy of Janday Frezer and for the last 8 eight years courtesy of Susan Rice. Nothing else! Unfortunately, that part of the episode is winding up soon, finally, and we shall see if the deliberate disregard of international law and occupation of Eritrean territories will be tolerated by the Trump administration, although that is one of his very very least priorities.

        So what is going to happen now and how is the Ethio – Eritrea episode will end? That depends on the developing new political and diplomatic realities in the region and, of course, the internal political dynamics of Ethiopia. There is a movement going on inside Ethiopia as we speak and it is purely ethnic based political tension between the ruling minor Tigray and the Amhara + Oromo majors. Normally, ethnic tipped conflicts almost end up ugly by taking the country down the destabilization road. Since Eritrea will definitely do everything it can to influence the dynamics of these movements from its remote location, and if the push comes over, practically on the ground, by then, we shall see who is going to fly to Asmara or, as you said to Addis Ababa. Till then, so long.

        1. I think it is the Ethiopian who need to reach out to Eritrea, if they wish to resolve their internal problems, period!! They need to accept and demarcate the border according to the EEB decision. Otherwise, I don’t see the TPLF surviving the internal turmoil going anytime soon.

      3. President Issaias should fry where? to Addis and beg your masters? it is the other way around your masters need to fly to adi Halo and ask Issaias if the Eritrean people will forgive them for their crimes!!!

    2. The two reports prepared by the Atlantic Council clearly explained your concern about the legal obligations of the international community when it comes to EEBC ruling but from where I see it, the principal purpose of the “Rethinking Eritrea” event was on how to fix relations between Eritrea and the US (Europe by default) and lifting of the sanctions, as these two issues literally doesn’t need the involvement of a third party such as Ethiopia. And that makes the initiative relatively less complicated. Again, I can safely say (and forgive me if I am wrong) that mending relation with Ethiopia or demarcation of the boarder at this time is the least priority to our government than the above two issues as Ethiopia will come to terms with Eritrea by itself once the unjust sanction and diplomatic problem with the west resolved once and for all (…Eritrea on position of strength …)

      On the Q & A, I agree completely with you.

  6. I think it is the US trying to engage with Eritrea because they see things going out of their control and their puppet minority regime in Ethiopia is in crisis.

  7. FYI The Chairperson of Atlantic Council Jon Huntsman Jr. is being considered as the new Secretary of State under trump administration

  8. ኣሌክ - Alec you · Edit

    The only thing to do now is to wait for the trump administration to give a response directly… we are tired of with the likes of Dan Connell and their twisted words. “The US President elect Donald Trump in his victory speech talked about US to treat all nations big and small with fairness.” If that is true, they should come directly not gobo gobo. Just like Cuba a straight forward response directly. I think this is just wasting to much time. One call to the government of Eritrea, that’s it. Or thru their Natalie Brown, the new U.S. Chief of Mission to Eritrea. If the trump administration wants too repairing/mending relations with Eritrea that is.

  9. we need to take a note of all the US past actions against eritrea and it will help us how we can engage with them.because if we forget the past and only act temporarily, it will take us nowhere and will not bring durable solution.eritrea has seen multiple attack from most of american adminstrations, but it has never been intensified the way under obama adminstration whom we place great hope up on. so we eritreans have been thrown to the cold and paid altimate price for the last decade.our enemies has been salivating for our demise and eradication of our national soverneigty.thanks to the almight GOD and resilience and perseverance of the eritrean leadership and eritreans across all walks of life, finally all plots are failed miserably before our eyes.obama’s project to eliminate us tactically with out shooting a bulet, through economic subotage, arms embargo, empyting eritreans that threatens the very structure of eritrean families by conspirating with the aid dependent and directionless minority regiom in mekele has finally emboldened us and backfired to ethiopia.

    then comes rethinking about eritrea hahaha, after realising it is futile to fight eritreans but the best way is to be friend of them.anyway we eritreans are ready to forgive even to those who wish our misery.so let us take the current various articles emerging as positive developments, because they will have positive impact on washington’s policy makers.
    in addition to that we are in a high time to exploit the favorable circumstances as obama and his inner circles are leaving the white house and the incoming president elect Donald J Trump seems more honest even if it is a bit early to say so and we need to understand the attitude of his cabinet appointees specially his security advisors and foreign policy envoys, because those guys may play vital role in shaping existing US ralations with other countries arround the globe than him as he is a reality tv star and business magnate turned politician.

    more over we need to keep in mind that all attcack against eritrea including the dual sanction regiom were not related with any wrongdoing of the eritrean government but to install satlite state in somalia and djibouti by silencing eritrean voice.this were the work of the ethiopian governemnt, by using IGAD and AU and of course their big brother in washington.there is no any tangible evidence of to punish eritrea at all.it is all conspiracy, deceipt and misinformation.the main reason is ethiopia and america felt attacking and punishing eritrea is at the best interest of both.
    this time arround, it is the right time for the government of eritrea to luanch a full scale diplomatic offensive to undu the sanction and persuad the international community to pressure ethiopia to abide by the rule of law and implement the border demarcation and withdraw its troops from eritrean land.

  10. The border issue is closed since The Hague verdict ” final and binding” the problem here is you can’t be neutral if you are siding to one party and be the same time a mediator. The sanction should be lifted without any precondition.

  11. I do not think “Dan Connell” and his type of personalty will have any impacts on meaningful-US Eritrea relations – Eritrea should stand firm on it’s policies without being fooled by these gang and hoodlums –

    They are just competing for attention to be seen as “experts” to replace the outgoing gang and be hired by the not so experienced trump team -it is one of the basic exercises in the PR world -updating their bogus resumes for employment.

  12. Four useful idiots I do not think they even sense that the world around is changed and the US no longer the dominant in world.The case of Eritrea, it is difficult to admit that they have lost the war to Shabia out manuverd the stat deprtment the best is to learn from mistake and move on my advaice for all four maind your on poor in the USA.Why the black community is gunned down. How shame full it is for you to speack about human right in Eritrea while your police gun down and kill our brothers in your door step how stupid can you be.

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