A Look at Eritrea After Independence

The article "Prisons of Free Eritrea Still Cage `Collaborators,' " May 6, unfairly maligns the most stable, decent place in all of Africa.

There are three glaring problems in your coverage:

(1) There is no adequate treatment of the context of Eritrean independence, which is a culmination of a bloody 30-year struggle against one of the most brutal, tyrannical occupations in the world. Those who are detained will likely be charged with very serious crimes. What is remarkable about Eritrea - but not alluded to in the story - is the absence, in the two years since the liberation of their country, of any acts of revenge or violence against Ethiopians; to detain temporarily less than 300 people i s hardly unreasonable under the circumstances.

(2) No mention was made of the overwhelming support and affection of the Eritrean people for their leaders. The reason for this support is that the provisional government has improved the lives of everyone in the country and is accountable to its people.

(3) Unlike most of the third world, there is no personality cult in Eritrea. Many Eritreans do not even know what President Isaias Afewerki looks like. The leadership of Eritrea would never countenance the kind of destructive "great-man worship" that predominates elsewhere in Africa. As a result, the people have a real respect for their leaders, which breeds a sense of responsibility among the leadership.

Eritrea is the most promising place in Africa, and probably the most humane. One does not see armed men in the streets of Asmara, one of the safest cities in the world.

One does see the Eritrean people determined to create a free-market democracy and avoid becoming a permanent basket case perpetually on the Western dole. Few who know the Eritreans doubt that they will succeed. Perhaps that bothers Western pundits who are used to a different model in Africa. Gil Kapen, Washington Republican staff consultant Subcommittee on Africa

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please fax letters to (617) 450-2317 or address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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