Eritrea is a country that really existed only for five years. After independence in 1993 Eritreans started in a new way it was like a miracle. Even though like in most countries that come out of a liberation war, the posts in government were distributed to war heroes rather then to professionals. The money was used for reconstruction not corruption, there were no tribes going at each other’s throats, nothing was wasted for the glitz and glam of representation, foreign-aid dollars were given to the projects intended. For five years the state existed in a “normal” situation.
A child among the nations but with an old wise soul. It was the proof that the “other” African way existed. But this dream was not to be, deep wounds don’t heal fast in 1998 skirmishes at the border town of Badme escalated into a new war between Eritrea and Ethiopia that lasted 2 years left 70.000 people dead and a hardened Eritrean president Isaias Afewerki that started to arrest domestic critics and the private press. Since the peace accord in 2000 UN peacekeepers have been sent to patrol the temporary 25 km security zone between Eritrea and Ethiopia. In 2002 the UN boundary commission announces a ruling on the border allotting Badme to Eritrea, Ethiopia is not Willing to accept and the UN is unable to implement its own ruling.
Today tensions are rising again UN military observer report the movement of troops from both sides inside the security zone, Eritrea has prohibited UN reconnaissance flights and also wouldn’t give in an inch of the territory it has fought 30 years to have. In Addis Ababa the talk of sending troops to the border after a contested general election and bloody crack down on internal opposition resonates of the old tested political formula that says that the best way to distract from your own problems is to focus the nation on something bigger and what can be bigger than war. These photographs attempt to show the many facets of Eritrea from the most arid zone inhabited by the Danakils to the old Italian steam train that has been restored to architectural marvels of Asmara the world capital of art-deco to the shoulder deep trenches 25 km long of Nakfa from were the EPLF organized sheltered and finally won the war of independence.