Eritrea. The loss the year before in the war against Ethiopia widened cracks in the state leadership that were previously kept hidden. A recently dismissed minister, Mahmud Sherifo, in April accused President Issaias Afwerki of delaying the legislation that would allow the formation of new parties ahead of the December free elections. In May, 15 ministers and military leaders wrote a letter to members of the ruling People’s Front on Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), in which they criticized the president for violating the country’s constitution by not cooperating with the bodies set up to create a balance of power. Since the letter was circulated via the Internet, eleven of the 15 signatories were arrested. At the same time, all independent newspapers were closed and at least eight leading journalists were arrested.
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The Italian ambassador was expelled after handing over an EU protest against the arrests. This led to Eritrea’s envoy in Rome being forced to leave Italy, after which all EU ambassadors in Eritrea were temporarily called. Eritrea’s ambassador to the EU left his service and fled to the United States.
According to Countryaah, the population of Eritrea in 2001 was 2,826,548, ranking number 137 in the world. The population growth rate was 4.280% yearly, and the population density was 27.9867 people per km2.