Eritrea’s Covert Government

In Eritrea becoming a government official is simply a ceremonial post. The entire visible government structure of Eritrea is fake and the real government structure is underground—entirely hidden.

Corrupt governments often employ ‘puppet’ officials and yes-men but the Eritrean government system is a step ahead. Eritrean government officials (Ministers and army Officers) don’t even qualify as ‘puppets’ of the authoritarian regime. A ‘puppet’ would imply that the position they occupy actually is part of the system. In your traditional corrupt governance, the ‘puppet master’ may have power over the puppets’ function, but the post (be it a Minister or an army General) does exist.

For example a ‘puppet’ army General orders his army in accordance to the whims of his master. In other words the puppet master controls the army through the puppet. Here the post of General is part of the system. In the Eritrean case, the post of General is not necessary since the army is not organized in a way that they take orders from a General. The traditional army structure where army rank may exist up to a Platoon or maybe up to a Battalion, anything higher is underground and the official army ranks above that mean very little.

The same structure exists in the ‘civilian’ posts such as the government Ministries or the Courts. The value of official posts changes from real to ceremonial as you climb up a ladder of any government Ministry.

The Eritrean governance system is covert and in this sense Eritrean regime is very “organic”. The visible administration structure is just for show. The true administrative structure is underground. It is occupied with people that represent the government. This is very convenient for the dictator and has many advantages, for example: It is easy for the government to dodge  accountability for actions, the dictator is not threatened by his subordinates which have zero public visibility let alone support, it is harder for the dictator’s enemies to challenge a power structure they cannot see, etc.

Eritrean government structure is best understood by comparing it to other non-traditional kinds of administration. Many characteristics of the Eritrean government structure resemble the urban gang structure. In a gang there is no standard structure or official positions. However every body in the gang and the neighborhood knows everything they need to know. Everyone knows who calls the shots and who calls the ‘real’ shots. There are no official channels and information is spread by rumors. Everyone know who does what in the gang, they know who is whose rival. Everybody knows what actions have what consequences and Most importantly, it works!  Very similar to the Eritrean government and society.

4 thoughts on “Eritrea’s Covert Government

  1. You briefly and precisely have explained how the ‘Eritrean Government’ system is functioning. The official structure is just a symbol and non functional. The actual work is designed by gang group, like mafia, that operate entirely outside the official government structure and implement through hand picked stooges.

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  2. Your contributions are very insightful, Samuel. I haven’t read all of them but those I have read portray exceptional levels of innovative talent and writing skills (which is a rare gift among Eritrean writers that I know). You convey your themes in a precise and articulate manner without the need, for example, to write a full-length journal article. You have the kind of writing attributes which make me think: perhaps one day we will seriously think of a collaborative joint work.

    Sorry that I didn’t come back to you, as promised, with some more feedback on the other issue we discussed the other day.

    Keep up the good work.

    Daniel

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    • Daniel, thank you so much for the encouraging words. It means a lot coming from you and I am happy that people like you find my writings meaningful. I would be of course very happy to collaborate with you.
      Thank you again.
      Samuel

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