Eritrean President Says New Charter May Be Subject to Referendum

Eritrea is in its second year of drafting a new constitution and may submit it to a referendum by the Horn of Africa nation’s people once complete, President Isaias Afwerki said.

“At this stage, what is required is a document that reflects our aspirations and that is based on our values and cumulative experiences,” Afwerki told local media in January, according to a transcript published Wednesday on the Eritrean Information Ministry’s website. The drafted charter “will have to be extensively discussed in minute details by the people and ratified through a referendum or some other mechanism,” he said.

Afwerki, a former rebel leader who’s ruled Eritrea since it gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993, said in late 2014 that work had begun on a constitution that would tackle inequality. The country has no privately owned press and the government has arbitrarily detained thousands of people including opposition supporters and journalists over the past decade, according to Amnesty International, the London-based advocacy group.

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