Eritrea: New 'recruits' called up

Eritrea's annual batch of conscripts have begun their compulsory military training, officials said on 5 July, boosting what is already estimated to be the largest army in sub-Saharan Africa. Teenagers from across the country have been sent to the Sawa Military Training Centre in western Eritrea to "fulfil their national obligation", a statement on the information ministry website said. All boys and girls must complete their final year of high school at Sawa alongside tough military instruction.

Tough security checks and surprise round-ups mean that those who fail to attend will be sent forcefully later, facing potentially heavy punishment.

The Sawa regiment, which is designed to build what the army calls texawarnetn miximamn (endurance and stamina), includes long gu'ezo egri (walks), idleness and a starvation diet. The students wake up at 4:30 AM and are given their first meal at noon.

Conscripts/students from the former batch of recruits complained about the state of healthcare at Sawa. They report that no one is referred to the hospital even if his or her situation is very critical. Any one who is suffering from falciparum and plasmodium (malaria), pneumonia or a spasm is given a pain killer. Some report of avoidable deaths and delirium that occurred due to negligence and last-minute referrals to Keren hospital."

Sources: Independent Online (South Africa), 6 July 2007; Awate.com, Warsay, Arkebe & Now "Ygermenalo", 4 July 2007;