ERITREA, a sliver of a nation in the Horn of Africa that is one of the most secretive and repressive countries in the world, was cast into confusion on Monday after mutinous soldiers stormed the Ministry of Information and took over the state-run television service, apparently in a coup attempt.
According to several people with close contacts inside Eritrea, the coup attempt failed, with government troops quelling the would-be rebellion and no one rising up in the streets.
But many analysts said it was only a matter of time before President Isaias Afewerki, Eritrea’s brash and steely leader for the past 20 years, is overthrown – and most likely from within.
”There’s a lot of dissatisfaction within the armed forces,” said Dan Connell, a professor at Simmons College in Boston and the author of several books on Eritrea. ”If this is suppressed, it won’t be the end.”
Eritrea is often called the North Korea of Africa because it is so isolated and authoritarian, with few friends and thousands of defectors in recent years as Mr Isaias tightens his grip and the economy teeters on the brink of ruin.
Eritrea has waged war with just about all of its neighbours and has been sanctioned by the United Nations for its suspected support of Somali militants.
By nightfall on Monday, it seemed that the government had beaten back the mutineers, with some analysts saying the government broadcaster, Eri-TV, whose motto is ”Serving the Truth,” was back on the air.
The rebellious soldiers, believed to number about 100, made it as far as the director’s office in the Ministry of Information, forcing him to read a statement on air calling for the release of political prisoners. Then the broadcast signal abruptly cut out.
They also may have briefly taken hostage Mr Isaias’ daughter, Elsa, who is said to work in the information ministry.
The New York Times
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