The government has progressively restricted the social and charitable activities of the Church

 Mons. Fikremariam Hagos, Bishop of Segheneity , in southern Eritrea, has been detained by the police at the Asmara airport when he entered the country after a trip to Europe. The Eritrean government has not made official statements, but the prelate is being held in the Adi Abeto prison, together with the priests Mihretab Stefanos , parish priest of the church of Saint Michael in Segheneity, and Abba Abraham , superior of the Capuchins of Tesseney. 

These arrests occur at a time when tensions in the African country are growing due to clashes between the different separatist movements in the Tigray region. In addition, the country is intensifying its involvement in Ethiopia’s civil war, hampering efforts to end the fighting that has destabilized the entire region for the past two years.

The bishop had publicly spoken out against participation in the war in Ethiopia, among other things, warning the faithful not to take advantage of the goods looted by the army from the population of Tigray and put up for sale in Eritrean markets. In addition to this arrest, the government has been progressively restricting the social and charitable activities of the Church , nationalizing, among other things, some schools and health centers, as is the most recent case of the agricultural institute of the De La Salle Brothers in Hagaz and the Salesian technical institute of Decaméré.

Obstacles to peace in Ethiopia

Hostility between Eritrea and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front , a faction fighting the Ethiopian government, dates back decades. Although Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki and Tigrin insurgents once fought side by side to topple Ethiopia’s communist Derg regime, relations soured after Eritrea gained independence in 1993 and tried to assert its sovereignty.

Ethiopia and Eritrea then fought a border war from 1998 to 2000 that claimed tens of thousands of lives. That conflict did not officially end until 2018, when Abiy Ahmed Ali became Ethiopia’s prime minister and signed a peace deal with Isaías Afewerki, a détente that earned the Ethiopian leader the Nobel Peace Prize. In recent months, Eritrea has closed all international schools and also the border with Sudan, a measure intended to prevent opponents of Isaias Afewerki from infiltrating the country. The president has also ordered that all people previously exempt from military service undergo new medical tests.