December 6, 2022

U.S. Ambassador Steven Walker faces a critical point in US-Eritrea relations in a region plagued with violence and instability

U.S. Ambassador Steven Walker
U.S. Ambassador Steven Walker

Steven C. Walker has been serving as the United States Ambassador Chargé d’Affaires to Eritrea since December of 2019. He is a career member of the Department of State’s Senior Foreign Service and works at the U.S. Embassy in Asmara, Eritrea.

Previously, Ambassador Walker was a Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Human Resources. His international assignments focused mainly on Africa and the Middle East. Walker has been working in the U.S. State Department since 1992, serving as a foreign service officer for nearly three decades.

The United States has maintained diplomatic relations with Eritrea since it became an independent nation in 1991. While the 2018 peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia was a positive development in the eyes of the international community, the region has continued to be plagued with violence and instability.

A major strain has been put on United States- Eritrea relations since the start of the Tigray War. Reports that Eritrean troops worked in coordination with Ethiopian forces to invade Tigray and perpetrate awful human rights abuses have captured the attention of the international community and garnered condemnation from the United States.

According to numerous reports from human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, Eritrean forces committed human rights abuses including the indiscriminate massacre of civilians, rape as a weapon of war, ethnic cleansing, and unlwaful inprisonments.

The United States condemned such actions, placed sanctions, and called on Eritrean forces to completely withdraw from the region. While all of this violence has caused increased tensions and has complicated relations between the United States and Eritrea, it is not the first time that Ambassador Walker has found himself working with heated issues.

He has held numerous prior diplomatic positions including Consul General in Iraq and Deputy Chief of Mission for the Libya External Office in Malta. He has also served assignments in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Mauritania, and Turkey. Ambassador Walker has experience working with nations that find themselves involved in conflict and is no stranger to high stakes diplomacy in Africa and the Middle East.

According to a statement from the State Department, the United States’ interests in Eritrea include “preventing Eritrea from undermining regional stability, urging progress toward a democratic political culture, addressing human rights issues including religious freedom, and promoting economic reform and prosperity.”

Not only have Eritrean troops been accused of war crimes, but the nation of Eritrea has not held a national election since 1991 and its constitution has yet to be implemented. Therefore, the need for powerful voices that will stand up for human rights and democratic values is increasingly important.

While the relationship between the United States and Eritrea has been challenged in recent years, there is a pressing need for ongoing guidance and accountability.

U.S. Ambassador Chargé d’Affaires to Eritrea Steven Walker has a bachelor’s degree from Reed College, a master’s degree in international relations from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, and received a master’s degree in national security strategy from the National War College. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, he was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Morocco.

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