The Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) conducts research on the conditions for peaceful relations between states, groups and people. The Director of PRIO annually lists candidates for Nobel Peace Prize. The Eritrean priest, Father Mussie Zerai is on top of such a list this year.

While the PRIO Director’s  comments may be relevant on the issue, his speculations do not confirm, nor endorse, any candidate, and are not in any manner based on privileged access to the decision-making of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Neither the Director, nor the Institute he leads, have any form of association with the Nobel Institute or the Norwegian Nobel Committee. ... Each year, PRIO Director Kristian Berg Harpviken presents his own shortlist for the Nobel Peace Prize. He offers his opinion on the most likely laureates, based on his independent assessment. The PRIO Director’s view on the most likely Nobel Peace Prize laureates is widely covered by international media, and it has been offered since 2002. 

The Norwegian Nobel Committee bases its decision on valid nominations received by the 1 February deadline (in addition to potential nominations put forth by the Committee members at their first meeting after the deadline). Anyone can be nominated, but only a number of people have the right to nominate, including members of national assemblies and governments, current and former members of the Committee, Peace Prize laureates, professors of certain disciplines, directors of peace research and foreign policy institutes, and members of international courts. The Director of PRIO holds such a position, but, as a principle refrains from making nominations, given his active role as a commentator. The laureate is normally announced at 11 o'clock on the Friday of the first full week in October.

Harpviken's 2015 Nobel Peace Prize shortlist

1.    Mussie Zerai

2.    Novaya Gazeta

3.    Iraq Body Count

4.    Article 9 Association

5.    Zainab Bangura and Denis Mukwege

In 2015, Harpviken’s favourite is Mussie Zerai, the Catholic Priest of Eritrean origin who resides in Italy, and whose widely distributed phone number has been the last hope for many desperate refugees aboard brittle boats crossing the Mediterranean. Number two is Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper that continues to challenge political developments in Russia and its immediate neighbourhood, despite the loss of several of its journalists in violent attacks. Third on the list is Iraq Body Count, for pioneering civil society monitoring of war casualties and proving its importance for ethical accountability. Number four is Article 9 Association, working to preserve Article 9 in the Japanese constitution, which renounces Japan's right to engage in war or to maintain military forces capable of engaging in war. The fifth and final suggestion is for a combined prize to Zainab Bangura and Denis Mukwege, who in their different capacities stand at the forefront of the global struggle against sexual violence. 

About Father Mussie Zerai

Aba Mussie

Mussie Zerai

Mussie Zerai is a Catholic priest, who combines his duties for the Eritrean Catholic community in Switzerland, with running the Agenzia Habeshia, a charitable trust he set up in 2006 to campaign for the rights of North African refugees. His phone number is widely shared by migrants waiting for the risky trip across the Mediterranean, who call him if in distress, with Zerai conveying the reports to the rescuers. Occasionally, he appears in the media to place responsibility on those who could have prevented the deaths on sea. ‘I don't encourage anybody to come to Italy, or Europe in general…’, states Zerai, ‘these people must flee in order to save their lives’. The migration across the Mediterranean is an escalating humanitarian disaster, and Europe struggles with how to respond. Worldwide, migration caused by war, economic scarcity, and environmental change, is also increasing dramatically.  A Nobel Peace Prize to reward the courage and moral integrity of a single person seems particularly timely this year. One alternative candidate, amongst many, who would speak to the same cause, is Giusi Nicolini, the mayor of Lampedusa, the Italian island which has impressed the world with its humble hospitality and insistence on the dignity of the refugees reaching its shores.

(It is to be recalled that a Swiss newspaper has also named Father Mussie of a busy mobile telephone to be considered for Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to save lives of so many Eritreans in the Mediterranean Sea – Harnnet.org).

Norwegian Body Includes Eritrea Priest in List of                                                                                                             Nobel Peace Prize Candidates for Year 2015

By prio.org

The Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) conducts research on the conditions for peaceful relations between states, groups and people. The Director of PRIO annually lists candidates for Nobel Peace Prize. The Eritrean priest, Father Mussie Zerai is on top of such a list this year.

While the PRIO Director’s  comments may be relevant on the issue, his speculations do not confirm, nor endorse, any candidate, and are not in any manner based on privileged access to the decision-making of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Neither the Director, nor the Institute he leads, have any form of association with the Nobel Institute or the Norwegian Nobel Committee. ... Each year, PRIO Director Kristian Berg Harpviken presents his own shortlist for the Nobel Peace Prize. He offers his opinion on the most likely laureates, based on his independent assessment. The PRIO Director’s view on the most likely Nobel Peace Prize laureates is widely covered by international media, and it has been offered since 2002. 

The Norwegian Nobel Committee bases its decision on valid nominations received by the 1 February deadline (in addition to potential nominations put forth by the Committee members at their first meeting after the deadline). Anyone can be nominated, but only a number of people have the right to nominate, including members of national assemblies and governments, current and former members of the Committee, Peace Prize laureates, professors of certain disciplines, directors of peace research and foreign policy institutes, and members of international courts. The Director of PRIO holds such a position, but, as a principle refrains from making nominations, given his active role as a commentator. The laureate is normally announced at 11 o'clock on the Friday of the first full week in October.

Harpviken's 2015 Nobel Peace Prize shortlist

1.    Mussie Zerai

2.    Novaya Gazeta

3.    Iraq Body Count

4.    Article 9 Association

5.    Zainab Bangura and Denis Mukwege

In 2015, Harpviken’s favourite is Mussie Zerai, the Catholic Priest of Eritrean origin who resides in Italy, and whose widely distributed phone number has been the last hope for many desperate refugees aboard brittle boats crossing the Mediterranean. Number two is Novaya Gazeta, the newspaper that continues to challenge political developments in Russia and its immediate neighbourhood, despite the loss of several of its journalists in violent attacks. Third on the list is Iraq Body Count, for pioneering civil society monitoring of war casualties and proving its importance for ethical accountability. Number four is Article 9 Association, working to preserve Article 9 in the Japanese constitution, which renounces Japan's right to engage in war or to maintain military forces capable of engaging in war. The fifth and final suggestion is for a combined prize to Zainab Bangura and Denis Mukwege, who in their different capacities stand at the forefront of the global struggle against sexual violence. 

About Father Mussie Zerai

http://www.asmarino.com/images/AITV/abba-mussie.jpg

Mussie Zerai

Mussie Zerai is a Catholic priest, who combines his duties for the Eritrean Catholic community in Switzerland, with running the Agenzia Habeshia, a charitable trust he set up in 2006 to campaign for the rights of North African refugees. His phone number is widely shared by migrants waiting for the risky trip across the Mediterranean, who call him if in distress, with Zerai conveying the reports to the rescuers. Occasionally, he appears in the media to place responsibility on those who could have prevented the deaths on sea. ‘I don't encourage anybody to come to Italy, or Europe in general…’, states Zerai, ‘these people must flee in order to save their lives’. The migration across the Mediterranean is an escalating humanitarian disaster, and Europe struggles with how to respond. Worldwide, migration caused by war, economic scarcity, and environmental change, is also increasing dramatically.  A Nobel Peace Prize to reward the courage and moral integrity of a single person seems particularly timely this year. One alternative candidate, amongst many, who would speak to the same cause, is Giusi Nicolini, the mayor of Lampedusa, the Italian island which has impressed the world with its humble hospitality and insistence on the dignity of the refugees reaching its shores.

(It is to be recalled that a Swiss newspaper has also named Father Mussie of a busy mobile telephone to be considered for Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to save lives of so many Eritreans in the Mediterranean Sea – Harnnet.org).

Freedom in the World 2014

Wednesday, 04 February 2015 23:51 Written by

Eritrea

Top of FormBottom of Form

OVERVIEW: 


President Isaias Afwerki’s personal authority was publically challenged in 2013 for the first time in more than a decade when, on January 21, more than 100 soldiers occupied the Ministry of Information, took over the state-run television channel, Eri-TV, and demanded democratic reforms, including the implementation of Eritrea’s constitution and the release of thousands of political prisoners. The revolt was quelled within hours, as the government reportedly negotiated with the soldiers. Their message was pulled off the air mid-broadcast, and calm was restored following negotiations in which the soldiers agreed to return to their barracks. Reports suggest there were between 60 and 200 arrests in the days following the incident, though details are vague due to the intense secrecy surrounding the Eritrean regime.

Several other incidents in 2013 suggested that, for some, discontent with the regime was reaching a breaking point. A number of high-profile defections were confirmed, including Eritrea’s former information minister, two senior Air Force pilots, and the national football team, all of whom left the country in late 2012. In October, more than 250 Eritreans and Somalis tragically drowned as they tried to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa in an overcrowded boat. Another 200 people were missing, and presumed dead. The incident illustrated to many the plight of ordinary Eritreans.

POLITICAL RIGHTS AND CIVIL LIBERTIES: 

Political Rights: 1 / 40

A. Electoral Process: 0 / 12

Following Eritrea’s formal independence from Ethiopia in 1993, Isaias Afwerki was chosen by a Transitional National Assembly to serve as president until elections could be held. He has remained in charge ever since. His rule has become harshly authoritarian, particularly since the end of a bloody border war with Ethiopia in 2000.

A new constitution, ratified in 1997, called for “conditional” political pluralism and an elected 150-seat National Assembly, which would choose the president from among its members by a majority vote. This system has never been implemented, and national elections planned for 2001 have been postponed indefinitely. The Transitional National Assembly is comprised of 75 members of the ruling party—the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ)—and 75 elected members. In 2004, regional assembly elections were conducted, but they were carefully orchestrated by the PFDJ and offered no real choice to voters.

B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 0 / 16

Created in 1994, the PFDJ is the only legal political party. The PFDJ and the military are in practice the only institutions of political significance in Eritrea, and both entities are strictly subordinate to the president.

C. Functioning of Government: 1 / 12

Corruption is a major problem. The government’s control over foreign exchange effectively gives it sole authority over imports, and those in favor with the regime are allowed to profit from the smuggling and sale of scarce goods such as building materials, food, and alcohol. According to the International Crisis Group, senior military officials are the chief culprits in this trade. The UN Eritrea and Somalia Monitoring Group has accused senior officers of running a lucrative criminal network smuggling people and arms out of the country. 

The government operates without public scrutiny and few outside a small clique around the president have any insight into how policy and budget decisions are made and implemented.

           

Civil Liberties: 2 / 60

D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 0 / 16

The law does not allow independent media to operate in Eritrea, and the government controls all broadcasting outlets. A group of 10 journalists arrested in 2001 remains imprisoned without charge, and the government refuses to provide any information on their status. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 28 journalists were in prison in Eritrea at the end of 2012. In September 2013, a dissident group drawing inspiration from January’s army mutiny said it had begun circulating an underground newspaper in Asmara written by a team based inside and outside the country.

The government controls the internet infrastructure and is thought to monitor online communications. Foreign media are available to those few who can afford a satellite dish.

The government places strict limits on the exercise of religion. Since 2002 it has officially recognized only four faiths: Islam, Orthodox Christianity, Roman Catholicism, and Lutheranism as practiced by the Evangelical Church of Eritrea. Members of Evangelical and Pentecostal churches face persecution, but the most severe treatment is reserved for Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are barred from government jobs and refused business permits or identity cards. According to Amnesty International, members of other churches have been jailed and tortured or otherwise ill-treated to make them abandon their faith. As many as 3,000 people from unregistered religious groups are currently in prison because of their beliefs. Abune Antonios, patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, has been under house arrest since speaking out against state interference in religion in 2006.

Academic freedom is constrained. Students in their last year of secondary school are subject to obligatory military service. Academics practice self-censorship and the government interferes with their course content and limits their ability to conduct research abroad. Eritrea’s university system has been effectively closed, replaced by regional colleges whose main purposes are military training and political indoctrination. Freedom of expression in private discussions is limited. People are guarded in voicing their opinions for fear of being overheard by government informants.

E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 0 / 12

Freedoms of assembly and association are not recognized. The government maintains a hostile attitude toward civil society, and independent nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are not tolerated. A 2005 law requires NGOs to pay taxes on imported materials, submit project reports every three months, renew their licenses annually, and meet government-established target levels of financial resources. The six remaining international NGOs that had been working in Eritrea were forced to leave in 2011. The government placed strict controls on UN operations in the country, preventing staff from leaving the capital.

The government controls all union activity. The National Confederation of Eritrean Workers is the country’s main union body and has affiliated unions for women, teachers, young people, and general workers.

F. Rule of Law: 0 / 16

The judiciary, which was formed by decree in 1993, is understaffed, unprofessional, and has never issued rulings at odds with government positions. Most criminal cases are heard by the Special Court, composed of PFDJ loyalists chosen by the president himself. The International Crisis Group has described Eritrea as a “prison state” for its flagrant disregard of the rule of law and its willingness to detain anyone suspected of opposing the regime, usually without charge, for indefinite periods. In 2013, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights reported that there were between 5,000 and 10,000 political prisoners in Eritrea. They include surviving members of a group of ruling party-members who publicly criticized Afwerki in May 2001. Eleven of them were arrested for treason, along with a number of journalists, but were never charged. Many of the jailed dissidents and journalists were subsequently reported to have died in custody, but the government refuses to divulge information about them.

Torture, arbitrary detentions, and political arrests are common. Prison conditions are harsh, and outside monitors such as the International Committee of the Red Cross are denied access to detainees. Juvenile prisoners are often incarcerated alongside adults. In some facilities, inmates are held in metal shipping containers or underground cells in extreme temperatures. Prisoners are often denied medical treatment. The government maintains a network of secret detention facilities.

The Kunama people, one of Eritrea’s nine ethnic groups, face severe discrimination. LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) individuals face legal and social discrimination due to the criminalization of same-sex sexual relations.

G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 2 / 16

Freedom of movement, both inside and outside the country, is tightly controlled. Eritreans under the age of 50 are rarely given permission to go abroad, and those who try to travel without the correct documents face imprisonment. The authorities adopt a shoot-on-sight policy toward people found in locations deemed off-limits, such as mining facilities and areas close to the border. Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers who are repatriated from other countries are also detained. These strict penalties fail to deter tens of thousands of people from risking their lives to escape the country each year.

Government policy is officially supportive of free enterprise, and citizens are in theory able to choose their employment, establish private businesses, and operate them without harassment. In reality, a conscription system ties most able-bodied men and women to obligatory military service and can also entail compulsory labor for enterprises controlled by the political elite. The official 18-month service period is frequently open-ended in practice, and conscientious-objector status is not recognized. The government conducted raids in several cities in October 2013, detaining young men of fighting age and sending them to military training camps. Reports suggest as many as 1,500 men were seized in Asmara alone.  The government imposes collective punishment on the families of deserters, forcing them to pay heavy fines or putting them in prison. The enforced contraction of the labor pool, combined with a lack of investment and rigid state control of private enterprise, has crippled the national economy. The government levies a compulsory 2 percent tax on income earned by citizens living overseas, and those who do not pay place their relatives back home at risk of arrest.

Women hold some senior government positions, including four ministerial posts. The government has made attempts to promote women’s rights, with laws mandating equal educational opportunity, equal pay for equal work, and penalties for domestic violence. However, traditional societal discrimination against women persists in the countryside. While female genital mutilation was banned by the government in 2007, the practice remains widespread in rural areas.

The U.S. State Department’s 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report ranks Eritrea at Tier 3, describing it as a source country for individuals subjected to forced labor and sexual exploitation.

Scoring Key: X / Y (Z)

X = Score Received

Y = Best Possible Score

Z = Change from Previous Year

Full Methodology

Source=https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/2014/eritrea#.VNKFBNLF8TE

 

Part III

February 3, 2015

……..in Part I, I described how the aspirations of the Eritrean people have been dashed by PFDJ over the last 20 years and how the national service has ended up becoming a modern day slavery. In Part II, I continued to reflect on my own experience while inside and outside Eritrea including the closure of the University of Asmara. This final part, Part III, is about my own escape and life experiences outside Eritrea.

Part III

The closure of the University of Asmara in September 2006 was the ultimate disappointment to the university’s staff and students and to any Eritrean who understood the value of education. The university did not have new admissions then for two years, so the closure was in the making. But some people thought second year students might be sent to the university from the MaiNefhi College. We thought those students especially the ones in the natural science fields would require practical laboratory training to qualify for the degrees and diplomas as there was no laboratory setting at MaiNefhi. It is worth to note here that there was no communication in advance between the ministry of education and the university community until the last minute. The plan to close the university was just a rumor. This is common under PFDJ administration rather than exception. They first propagate rumors to measure public response and their cynical directives follow. They also use these same methods to propagate fear among the people.

When I came back to Eritrea as a fresh master’s graduate from the University of Cape Town at the end of 2002, I had never thought all these could happen. I had big ideas and a big motivation to work at the University of Asmara and contribute my part. But PFDJ had its own plans for the University, and they still claim that the University was not closed. Some of my teachers, who became colleagues later, at the University of Asmara, who taught for years were forced to leave the country and some of them were put aside. It was a sad occasion to witness the University closed after about 50 years of turbulent existence. Even the Ethiopian rulers did not dear to close it during the war for independence. Instead of strengthening the existed and established university, PFDJ chose to close and substitute it with sub-standard, military-run colleges. This has not been heard of in any other country as it is difficult and takes a long time to establish an internationally accredited institute like the University of Asmara was. Its closure and the issues associated with it has been described by many colleagues; I have just raised the subject here as my own tribute to what happened.

I always defended my coming back from South Africa when friends challenged me, but I really regretted when the university was closed. As I indicated in part II, I actually went to MaiNefhi for a couple of days when ordered to do so and was given courses that I was supposed to teach. I saw the students being treated like prisoners in a compound surrounded by military check-points. There were reports of beatings and military punishment of students who tried to jump over the fences. The moral of the students was at its lowest point and the situation was getting worse day by day. In my meeting with my would-be-students at MaiNefhi, I actually told them that I was not going to continue to teach them. I gave them some course material to help them with whoever was going to take over the course. I felt very sorry for them but what else could I do! PFDJ made it difficult for all of us. By then, some close colleagues have already left the country. It was not an easy decision; I had to leave and my family had to re-locate. I had to find someone who could assist me to escape. All these had to take place in a short period of time and without attracting attention of security agents.

I arranged for my escape to the Sudan but then my guide-to-be, who lived in Keren, was identified and abducted the night before the planned departure date. When I called, his terrified wife picked up the phone but then she was scared to tell me what happened. I was forced to tell her the travel plans on the phone so that she could tell me the truth. Then I had to talk to the person who introduced me to the guide about the situation and to get an advice. This latter person confessed to me what he knew; he himself had suffered tremendously in the hands of PFDJ security agents before and that he had to safe his own life. He decided to leave with me and we had to leave the town immediately before security agents capture us. We observed suspicious movements of people around the place where we had an earlier appointment with the then-captured guide and we had to hide. We left the town of Keren, but after three days’ journey towards the west, we lost our direction and were captured in the town of Teseney. It was night; we approached the town thinking that it was Kessela, the Sudanese town near the Eritrean border and were captured by the security agents.

The border security agents took our ID cards and were taking us, I did not know where to, and I told my colleague that I had to escape (using my tribal language). He was a welder by profession in his 50’s and I was a 36 years old university lecturer at the time. I thought they were to kill me not because I have read more X’s and Y’s than him, but because they would consider me more threat. They would also think I would tell my story louder if I survive the punishment and above all, I was already black-listed in their books. I did not wait to hear my colleague’s response. I jumped over the fence into a compound and continued to run from one house to another until I got to the edge of the town. People in Teseney and in other towns in the lowlands of Eritrea sleep outside, in front of their house and when I jumped into their yardssome woke up and wondered around and their dogs barked. I believe this made it inconvenient for my pursuers to shoot me or re-capture me. I am sure I also out-run them as I was running to safe my life. I continued to run out of the town for a couple of minutes more and then laid down on the ground to avoid visibility as the moon was so bright. I could see, about 150 meters away, my pursuers searching the houses on the edge of the town.

I stayed laid on the ground for some time until my pursuers moved to the next neighborhood and then walked further away from the town. I did not know where I was and I had to stop and sit for a while to determine the direction from the movement of a shade of a stone against the moon light. It took me three more days to reach to safety. The distance between Teseney, the Eritrean near-border town and Kessela, the Sudanese town on the other side of the border was not that long but I was badly injured and dehydrated; and I had to travel at night only. I survived as I was able to drink water and eat some food on the second night when I met a farmer who was staying at his farm. He had a little left over from his dinner and I am very grateful to him to this day. It is in my wish-list to meet this person in the future and thank him for the water and food he provided me at the time of need.

I become very emotional and my body shakes when I remember my escape into the Sudan, but when I tell people about it including the details I left out in this written testimony; I get the feeling that some people might see it as a fiction. But when I tell this to fellow Eritreans who escaped in similar manner, they tell me of more horrific stories including the friends they left dead on the way. These days, I started to think of the kind of determination in the Eritrean youth to get away from the unjust PFDJ regime and I am struggling to find the reason as to why we do not show that kind of determination and take the risk to defy the regime inside Eritrea!. Wouldn’t the latter be more effective in solving the country’s problems like what has happened recently in some Arab countries? Is it possible that PFDJ, through the obligatory national military service and dirty propaganda, has instilled fear in us to see them as untouchable? I have my own assumptions on how PFDJ would react to an uprising, but I still need help to understand this and readers’ feedback will be invaluable.

In Eritrea, I heard many people cursing the ministers and local officials for all the misery but not Isayas Afeworki, the president. They thought that these officials were the spoilers and that if the president knew of the issues he would have solved them. I asked people in high office and found out that the president actually gets every detail of what happens in the country by a special group of people. So, he knows everything. But I also found out that the ministers and higher officials who chair meetings in the country and listen to people’s questions and grievances actually do not dear to tell the president what the people are complaining about. They just want to be seen as capable of decision making but talking to them can only put you in trouble. They can make you arrested and you can be forgotten there.

After leaving Eritrea, I meet Eritreans in the diaspora who blindly support the Eritrean government regardless of what is happening in that country. This undermines efforts by individuals and organizations who are working hard to awaken the people working for the system back home. There are also some ex-government officials who have abandoned PFDJ recently and claim that they themselves were in danger while in Eritrea. Some of them were terrorizing the people there. They now raise ethnical and tribal issues to indicate that PFDJ works on these bases and that they were discriminated against. We knew about these claims but they were the enforcers of such practices and they should have acknowledged and asked for forgiveness first. Furthermore, their ethnical and tribal disclosures are not helping others who are working hard to unify opposition against PFDJ, the dictatorial regime at home. It is worth to note that PFDJ itself is doing its best to divide the diaspora so that there could be no united opposition. Their supporters in the diaspora also pursue propaganda to show that there is no better option for Eritrea other than PFDJ.  

I want to revisit here is the exodus of young people from Eritrea. It is shame that, despite our population size, we make up the second highest percentage of asylum seekers in the world at the moment. I do not believe that the Eritrean government is willing to address the root cause to stop it any time soon as they have already blamed other parties for promoting it. This issue will continue to affect us all for the foreseeable future. What I would recommend is to increase public awareness on the Eritrean situation wherever we are so that other countries could exert pressure on the Eritrean authorities to respect the rule of law. We need to make it clear to the world that there is no rule of low in Eritrea and our people are suffering in the hands of PFDJ government. Some European countries, such as Denmark, are getting the wrong information about the situation in Eritrea, primarily by talking to the Eritrean authorities or third parties that are not directly affected or involved. They are not talking to the right people and that we are not doing enough to expose the PFDJ regime. We need to convince these countries that the information they are getting from the Eritrean authorities is wrong and that they should investigate properly. We know what happened to those who were deported before.

Today, I am an associate professor with a PhD degree, trying to hold onto the passion I had in education despite being an asylum seeker in Europe. I believe I would have done a better and morally satisfying job in Eritrea than what I am doing now if PFDJ did not create the obstacles. The purpose of my testimony is to contribute to the efforts undertaken by other Eritrean individuals and organizations in increasing public awareness of the evil PFGJ. I believe a lot has been done to challenge the ‘Hade Wdib, Hade Hizbi, Hade Libi’ (One-Party-One-People-One-Heart) false propaganda of PFDJ. But we need to do more to convince Eritreans inside and outside the country that PFDJ can no longer deceive us and use the stalemate in the border issue with Ethiopia as an excuse to chock the Eritrean people. The Eritrean people deserve better. PFDJ should understand that there will be a time when they will face the consequence of their actions. In this regard, there is not going to be a better lesson in life than what has happened in Libya. There are still better options PFDJ could pursue rather than arrogance, deception and intimidation. The situation is already close to no turning point. The Eritrean people want real freedom, and they paid a huge price for it.

Peace, Freedom and Prosperity to the Eritrean people!!

Local office of UN refugee agency, UNHCR, in Eastern Sudan reported that 3,667 new Eritrean refugees have registered at the reception centre of Shagarab during the month of December 2014, showing an increase over the figure of 2,128 refugee arrivals in previous month of November.

This increase in the number of refugee arrivals at the camp of Shagarb was registered in spite of the insecure situation of the reception camp located near the Eritrea-Sudan border. It is to be recalled that Eritrean refugees at Shagarb were subjected to inhumane treatments in the hands of local villagers assisted by state security personnel.

According to the report for December, 555 of the new refugees were below the age of 18. It was also made clear that, out of the total arrivals 457 were female and 3,210 male, including children below the age of 5.

Shegerab Camp

The ever deteriorating situation in Eritrea is reflected by the ever increasing number of refugees escaping from the unbearable political, economic, social and human rights condition in the country. This was well reflected in the UNHCR briefing on Eritrea last November in Geneva. A 14 November 2014 report entitled “sharp increase in number of Eritrean refugees and asylum-seekers in Europe, Ethiopia and Sudan” was a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards at the Palais des Nations in Geneva. The must read report follows:

During the first ten months of 2014, the number of asylum-seekers in Europe from Eritrea has nearly tripled. In Ethiopia and Sudan, neighbouring Eritrea, the number of Eritrean refugees has also increased sharply. So far this year, nearly 37,000 Eritreans have sought refuge in Europe, compared to almost 13,000 during the same period last year. Most asylum requests have been lodged in Sweden, Germany, and Switzerland, with the vast majority of the Eritreans having arrived by boat across the Mediterranean. Our office in Italy reports that 22 per cent of the people arriving by boat are Eritrean, a total of nearly 34,000 people this year. This makes Eritreans the second largest group to arrive in Italy by boat, after Syrians.

Most of the Eritreans arriving in Europe have travelled, initially, via Ethiopia and Sudan. These countries have also experienced a dramatic increase in arrivals, including large numbers of unaccompanied children. More than 5,000 Eritreans crossed into Ethiopia during the month of October alone, compared to the average of some 2,000 arrivals per month since the beginning of the year. About 90 per cent of those who arrived in October are between 18 – 24 years old. Seventy-eight children arrived on their own, without an adult family member. The trend seems to continue with more than 1,200 Eritreans having arrived in Ethiopia during the first week of November.

In Sudan, we have also been witnessing a marked increase in the number of arrivals since the beginning of 2014. This year, more than 10,700 Eritreans have sought refuge in Sudan, an average of more than 1,000 arrivals per month.

There are currently more than 216,000 Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia and Sudan. Sudan has been hosting Eritrean refugees for more than forty years, which makes it one of Africa's most protracted refugee situations. Eritreans started to arrive in Ethiopia in 2002, after the end of the conflict between the two countries. The recent arrivals told us that they were fleeing an intensified recruitment drive into the mandatory and often open-ended national service.

Growing numbers of the predominantly young refugees in Ethiopia and Sudan have become frustrated with the shortage of services and absence of self-reliance opportunities in the camps. Limited funding for the Eritrean refugee programme in both countries has resulted in a lack of secondary and post-secondary education, as well as vocational training and job opportunities. Deprived of any prospects for a better future and feeling that they have nothing to lose, many fall prey to unscrupulous smugglers and put themselves in danger by trying to cross the Mediterranean on overcrowded and unsafe boats. We are extremely concerned that the refugees crossing into Ethiopia today will eventually try to move on.

There is a need to boost education and livelihood opportunities for the refugees in the countries neighbouring Eritrea to prevent people moving on simply out of desperation. At the same time, we also call on Europe to step up efforts to provide credible legal alternatives to dangerous voyages, to protect people from the risks of traveling with smugglers. The collective response needs to maintain a strong capacity to rescue people at sea and increase safer ways for refugees to find safety, including enhanced resettlement, other forms of humanitarian admission and private sponsorship schemes. UNHCR is calling on European governments to do more to facilitate family reunification and use programmes such as student or employment visas to benefit refugees.

Additional Information:

During the first 10 months of 2014, 36,678 Eritreans sought refuge in 38 European countries in 2014, compared to 12,960 during the same period last year. Most asylum requests were presented in Sweden (9,531), Germany, (9,362) Switzerland (5,652) and the Netherlands (4,113). Authorities in Italy recorded 342 asylum applications by Eritreans thus far this year.

Sudan is the main country of asylum for Eritreans with 109,594 refugees at the end of October 2014. 10,701 people have arrived since the beginning of the year, including 1,259 during the month of October. The majority of the refugees are in refugee camps in the arid eastern part of the country (Gaderef and Kassala), with smaller numbers in the capital Khartoum.

Ethiopia is the second largest country of asylum with 106,859 Eritrean refugees, including 1,591 unaccompanied children at the end of October. They mostly live in four refugee camps in Tigray region and two in Afar region in north-eastern Ethiopia

 

Martin Hill obituary

Thursday, 22 January 2015 12:05 Written by

Martin Hill

By Caroline Hill

Martin Hill first went to Africa in 1965 to teach English in Uganda

My father, Martin Hill, who has died of cancer aged 71, championed human rights in Africa for more than 32 years during his career with Amnesty International. 

He was instrumental in exposing the human rights violations committed in Ethiopia and Eritrea by the Derg military force, many of whom were subsequently convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity. He campaigned tirelessly for the release of dozens of prisoners of conscience, including Netsanet Belay, who is now Amnesty International’s Africa research and advocacy director. 

Martin, who was based at the Amnesty secretariat office in London, helped human rights activists in east Africa, including those in Somalia who sought to build a human rights foundation in a country with no central government. He was a founding member in 2005 of the East and Horn of Africa Human Rights Defenders Project

His commitment and compassion touched all those with whom he worked. He was greatly respected by the survivors of human rights violations and the victims’ families. 

Martin was born in Leeds, to Dudley Hill, a clergyman, and Nancy (nee Bates). From Durham school he went to Downing College, Cambridge, where he graduated in classics. He inherited his parents’ musical talents and was an accomplished pianist.

In 1965 he went to teach English in Uganda. He subsequently lived in Kitui, Kenya, with the Kamba people and wrote a dissertation that earned him a PhD in social anthropology from the London School of Economics. In 1976 he joined Amnesty and worked as a researcher on east Africa, and especially the Horn of Africa, until his retirement in 2008. 

During his time at Amnesty, he taught at the University of London and was a visiting research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies. After retiring, he continued to work on human rights in Africa and wrote reports on minority rights in Somalia, trials in Ethiopia and child soldiers in Eritrea.

Martin was passionate about gardening and RHS flower shows. He loved art and music, and delighted in his collection of African headrests. He was on the council of the African Studies Association and the Anglo–Somali Society and was a keen supporter of the Black Cultural Archives, in Brixton, south London.

He is survived by his wife, Dawn, whom he met at the LSE and married in 1972, and by two children, Andrew and me, a grandson, Lewis, and his sister, Rachel.

Source=http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2015/jan/21/martin-hill-obituary

Eritreans in the UK have asserted their readiness to expose violations of human rights taking place in Eritrea, during public meetings organised by a consortium of Eritrean human rights organisations.

As part of its activities aimed at promoting a better understanding of the United a Nation's Commission of Inquiry on the situation of Human Rights in Eritrea and in anticipation of the Commission's visit to the United Kingdom, a consortium of Eritrean Human Rights organisations held public meetings in Birmingham and London on Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th January 2015 respectively. Members of the consortium gave detailed explanation of the operational process of the Commission’s work, its mandate and objectives. They also called on members of the Eritrean community in the UK to come forward and provide the Commission with their evidence, testimony or information about human rights violations in Eritrea. 

Participants of the workshop affirmed their commitment to work with the organisations by volunteering to be interviewed by the Commission’s investigation officers and mobilise fellow Eritreans within their networks to do the same.

Members of the Commission and the accompanying investigation team will be in the UK between 24 and 31 January 2015.

The consortium of UK based human rights organisations organising this event comprised: Eritreans for Human and Democratic Rights – UK (EHDR – UK), Citizens for Democratic Rights in Eritrea (CDRiE), Release Eritrea and Suwera Human Rights Centre (SHRC).

Any person wishing to obtain further information or schedule an appointment to give evidence can contact the Commission directly at the following email address: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Further information about the Commission can be obtained from their website:

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/CoIEritrea/Pages/commissioninquiryonhrinEritrea.aspx

Eritrean refugee in Dresden

Friday, 16 January 2015 00:14 Written by

BERLIN Thu Jan 15, 2015 8:53am EST

BERLIN (Reuters) - A 20-year-old asylum seeker from Eritrea has been stabbed to death in Dresden, a city in the east of Germany at the center of protests against Islam and immigration.

The state prosecutors' office said on Thursday the man was found dead on a street on Tuesday morning. A police spokesman declined to comment but prosecutors said 25 detectives had been assigned to investigate the case.

German media said the man was last seen alive on Monday evening and one paper quoted a local leader in the Left party, Juliane Nagel, urging police to redouble their efforts to determine if racist violence was involved.

The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said about 100 people had staged a demonstration when the police confirmed that the man, who was not named, was the victim of a violent crime. The paper quoted Mayor Helma Orosz as saying she was shocked by the news.

A record 25,000 joined the PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) movement's latest march in Dresden on Monday. The march followed the Islamist attack on French magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

The Dresden rallies began in October as a local protest against new shelters for refugees and have attracted growing numbers of demonstrators.

Counter marches have taken place across Germany with far larger numbers. The PEGIDA leaders deny they are racist and are careful to distinguish between Islamists and most of Germany's 4 million Muslims.

(Reporting by Erik Kirschbaum; Editing by Stephen Brown and Janet Lawrence)

 Source=http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/15/us-germany-islam-dresden-idUSKBN0KO1JP20150115

After nearly quarter of a century of independence, Eritrea under the repressive regime of Dictator Isayas Afeworki remains at the bottom of all world indexes – even in sports in which it is the 202nd out of 202. But few would care about the sports index: the worst is when you lack in the economic sector, also in technological connectivity.

Least Connected in the World

The June 2014 report of the UN International Telecommunications Union (ITU) confirmed that Eritrea is “the least technologically connected country in the world”. Its telecommunication is under the monopoly of the state-owned EriTel with no other competitor in the country. At 1% of potential users of fixed-line and mobile line, Eritrea ranks the lowest in the world.

The Business Monitor International (BMI) lamented on 24 December 2014 that “by preventing international investors from entering the Eritrean telecoms market, there will be no significant boost to growth”. BMI continued to observe that “international investment would bring long-term benefits to the market, extending networks to rural areas and lowering prices that would enable more Eritreans to participate in the telecoms market.”

Human Development Index (HDI)

This is one of the most important indices that measure health/life expectancy, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living. In the 2014 HDI, Eritrea again ranked at the bottom: 182nd out of 187 countries put to the measure. Djibout ranked a bit better by being the 170th in the list, Ethiopia the 1773rd and the Sudan 166.

Africa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Human Development Index map for Africa

Eritrea’s Economic “Freedom” Score

Eritrea’s economic freedom score was put at 38.5, making its economy one of the least free in the 2014 index of the Heritage Foundation. Eritrea was also ranked 45th out of the 46 countries in the Sub-Saharan Africa region in 2014 although the revenues from the mining sector (which are consumed for the regime’s security concerns) are expected to improve the index to be issued in 2015.

The Heritage Foundation’s report of 2014 further states as follows:

“Corruption is a major problem. The president and his small circle of senior advisers and military commanders exercise almost complete political control. The politicized judiciary, understaffed and unprofessional, has never ruled against the government. Protection of property rights is poor. The government has a history of expropriating houses, businesses, and other private property without notice, explanation, or compensation. ...... State domination of the economy acts as a deterrent to foreign investment. The financial system, consisting mainly of a small banking sector, remains severely underdeveloped and subject to heavy state control. Private-sector participation in the system remains constrained”.

Also in spite of the lies churned out by the regime, public debt has reportedly reached 125 percent of GDP, making Eritrea one of the most indebted countries in the world.

The report continues to confirm the following:

“Eritrea’s economic freedom was first assessed in the 2009 Index and has remained stagnant near the bottom of the Index rankings. Score improvements in government spending and business have been completely offset by deteriorations in six of the 10 economic freedoms including investment freedom, labor freedom, and fiscal freedom. Scores for financial freedom and property rights have not changed. The country continues to be stuck in the “repressed” category.

“Strong GDP growth has been led by increased foreign investment in the mining industry, but substantial mineral revenues benefit only a narrow segment of the population. Chronic deficits due to large military spending plague public finance, worsening already fragile monetary stability. A repressive central government continues to marginalize the domestic private sector, perpetuating an uncertain investment climate.

“Inconsistent enforcement of regulations and other institutional shortcomings often impede business activity and undermine economic development. Launching a business takes more than 80 days and is costly. The labor market remains underdeveloped, and much of the labor force is employed in the informal sector. Monetary stability has been weak. Subsidies and price controls are core features of the country’s command economy.”

The World Press Freedom Index for 2014 has listed 180 countries for its evaluation and found Eritrea is still the last in the list – the 180th! Eritrea in 2014 also remained to be “Africa’s biggest prison for journalists”.

Prepared by Reporters Without Borders (RWB), the index confirmed that 28 journalists are currently in detention in Eritrea. It stated that ever since the repressive regime in Eritrea “closed down all privately-owned media and jailed 11 journalists in 2001, of which seven are reported to have died while in detention, Eritrea has been Africa’s biggest prison for the media”

 

The second worst place for press freedom in the world in 2014 was North Korea, the third being Turkmenistan, fourth Syria and the fifth Somalia which ranked 176th in list. Ethiopia is 143rd in the list, meaning the 33rd worst for press freedom in the world.

.The RWB index added that there are no longer any privately-owned media in Eritrea and that the state media are subject to such close surveillance that they have to conceal major world developments not liked by the repressive regime.

Dear EPDP Editorial team,

This response is in relation to your article posted on your editorial section of your website, http://harnnet.org/index.php/news-and-editorial/epdp-editorial/item/1186-state-failure-and-identity-politics-in-eritrea-is-regional-mobilization-the-answer-1

Titled:  “State Failure and Identity Politics in Eritrea: Is Regional Mobilization the Answer?

Dear compatriots,

Our response will be from the viewpoint of Afar and Afar only. This is not to say we are not concerned about the wellbeing of fellow Eritreans. This will allow for concerned Eritreans to respond from their respective responsibilities and viewpoints.

 Let me begin by saying the views expressed in this article is very troublesome. It’s a huge setback for those of us moderates who strive to reach out across ethnic, religious and regional divide to restore our people’s dignity. The views expressed in EPDP article maybe popular in some corners or websites, but it’s unjust and divisive. It goes against the principle of strengthening the unity and diversity of Eritrea which you claim to defend.

If the intention to write this article was to provoke a thought, or speak about the main source of division among Eritrean opposition groups, or to find lasting and viable solution to Eritrea’s problem going forward, then it has missed its target. Your article and views expressed in it are against peaceful coexistence and building of diversity in Eritrea. It is downright offensive for us, Eritrean Afar.

The case of Eritrean Afar

Like many self governing indigenous peoples in the world, historically the Afar have been attached to their land and region. And historically those who want to exert their power “land-grab” over Afar territory and its people have attempted their ambition to justify their political dominance. Today’s rulers in Eritrea are no exception. What is different here is that, the ruling class in Eritrea and the opposition are in agreement to subdue the Afar indigenous fight to self rule themselves. The only difference is the State of Eritrea is using violent means to remove the Afar, while the opposition uses the scare tactics and demonization using populist propaganda machine.

Failed Ideology and Policy  

To find the root cause of today’s Eritrean political reality, and the underlying issues for regional, ethnical  political divides one can look no further than the ideology of “Dear-Leader/Afwerki”, (“Nehnan-Elamnan), the Elitist,  the supremacists, and the so called oppositions that looks down on Afar and other marginalized groups. What make the Afar less patriotic or less Eritrean than those in the highlands, or the authors of this EPDP article? The Afar and the Kunama have been called the traitors, not committed to the sovereignty of Eritrea, those who want to break up the nation of Eritrea, just based on our geographical locations. We have been called the backwards and the uncivilized since the time of Emperor Haile-Sellasie down to today’s rulers. Our communities have been victimized both during independence struggle and during the last war between the two Tigrignas (EPLF-TPLF).

The Tigringanization of Afar must be stopped

Today, as a result of this racist ideology, the Afar are being systemically removed from their homeland in Dankalia and the regime is colonizing the area with others. To remove the Afar, Eritrea is using mass murder, terror, intimidation and other forms of violence, and is destroying the basis of the Afar economy.

Afar are fleeing Dankalia by the 10’s of thousands. The Eritrean government’s settlement agenda is politically and financially backing the influx of highland-Tigrigna investors to take up businesses, trades, fishing and other traditional afar economic activities to further press forward with its agenda of Tigringanization of Afar people.

There is official government policy to settle thousands of highlanders to areas of Dankalia near Galalu and other areas of the sea in Afar territories. This is underway as we speak. The excuse is that highlands can no longer support a large population, so people are being taken to Dankalia coast. The Afar people have been violently forced out of their homes and businesses because of the widespread aggressive government policy.

The Term “Equal opportunity Oppressor”

The EPDP article mentions, “The regionalists tend to blame the victim (the region that they claim has an upper hand in the current system) for their own political weaknesses.” referring to the Tigrigna suffering under Afwerki’s rule. No one is questioning the Tigringas are not suffering too.

This notion or term, the Afwerki regime being an “equal opportunity oppressor” doesn’t fly with Dankalia’s Afar population. Say what you want to say about the current regime, the Language of Tigrigna still flourishes, the culture and the way of life of Tigrigna ethnic groups still thrives. The government sponsored Tigrigna print media, TV and radio programs are bombarding Dankalia and Afar people daily.  The Afar are losing their Language, their culture, their identity, and the means to survive from their local economy and they’re under constant threat of extinction for their ancestral land. Say what you want to say my compatriots from Tigrigna ethnic group you do not have the threat of extinction looming over your heads. And the suffering is not the same.   

You may classify Eritrean Afar as those who promote their ethnic aspiration “Tribalism, Ethno fascist or regionalist”, say what you want to say, the Afar aspiration for self-rule is not the impediment for building united democratic Eritrea. The Afar are the critical component and critical jigsaw puzzle for Eritrea’s social fabric and nation building. What will destroy Eritrea is the out dated ideology of supremacy and looking down on other minorities as untrustworthy and incapable, and the hegemonic policies that are put in place as a result of these ideologies. Both by the dictator himself and the support base in Diaspora.  

The good example of these policies, are the Eritrea’s land proclamation of 1994, “All Land and Resources belong to the State”, which subsequently found itself in the texts of now defunct 1997 Eritrean constitution. I understand EPDP favors to implement this constitution immediately if they were to rule Eritrea tomorrow.         

Let me explain, why Eritrea's unimplemented 1997 constitution is at odds with Afar vision.  It excludes minorities from effective participation in reformed Eritrea. It suffocates them in institutions that will be dominated by the Tigrigna. It confiscates Afar lands to be disposed of by the dominant large nationalities. All of this is contrary to international law respecting minorities and indigenous peoples (the Afar are both).

The 1997 Constitution contains no provision for the protection of minority rights. The rights of the national communities are nowhere guaranteed.  The Constitution neither provides for any measures for autonomy or self-government of the nationalities (including the Afar), nor does the Constitution provide for guarantees for the small nationalities to participate in the central institutions of the state.  We believe without these guarantees, implementation of the constitution will lead to another form of Eritrean conflict, between smaller nationalities and the large. http://ease.dankalia.org/petition_info

The Afar are simply advocating for their rights, dignity and their rightful place in the country. In no way that should be considered harmful to Eritrea’s sovereignty. I don’t know where that leaves us, as regionalist or tribalist, in the case of Afar, we could be classified as both. The Afar have clearly defined region and a home territory that spans from the tip of Mossowa and stretches down to heart of the Sultanate of Rihayta near Djibouti border. Up until the escapade of Afwerki and his military junta this region was predominantly occupied by one ethnicity, The Afar people. We were not called Eritreans then. But we choose to call ourselves Eritreans because we believe Eritrea can be salvaged from dictatorship and extremist ideology. The afar history in this region predates modern day Eritrea and Ethiopia put together. We have lived in this territory since the time of Mosses (Peace be upon him). If this makes us regionalist, Tribalist or Indigenous, then, so be it. Afar people did not prevent Eritrea from becoming independent state. Afar people’s role during the independence struggle is missing from the history books of Eritrea today. People like Ahmed Hilal, Ibrahim Shehem, Idriss Bolo and others.

No Eritrea without Danaklia and Afar people

The Afar have made their vision known to the world from day one. Dankalia is no small fish in Eritrea’s context. Without Dankalia and Eritrean Afar, there won’t be any Eritrea. Let’s make no mistake about it.  http://ease.dankalia.org/downloads/ease_policy.pdf

If EPDP considers itself the flip side of current regime in Eritrea and really cares about the future of Eritrea, then it should go back to drowning board and abandon the ideology of Afwerki  “all embracing one super ethnic identity”  and get in touch with modern reality of the world, the world of Pluralism, diversity, federalism, mutual respect and coexistence.

End Institutional racism against Afar in Eritrea. For the sake of Eritrea, stand up with Afar people; don’t push them down when they are in need. Afar people are under threat in Eritrea; this threat is coming from one quarter, the Tigrigna expansionism project. The Afar are committed to seeing a strong, sovereign nation of Eritrea. The name calling must stop. Long live the spirit of the marginalised and the despised Eritreans. 

Let’s work diligently to build mutual respect and understanding. Let’s work together to end the brutality against all of our Eritrean people. Let’s open up a dialogue on constitution of Eritrea. Let’s open real heart-to-heart discussions. Let’s together bring about real, sustainable and meaningful democratic change in Eritrea. The road to victory against dictatorship leads out of Dankaila.  

May the year 2015 bring peace, prosperity and justice to Eritrean people.

The Eritrean Afar State in Exile (EASE)