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Disaster comes day after more than 550 migrants rescued between Libya and Italy

Saturday 14 January 2017

med-rescue-4.jpg The disaster came a day after two migrants were found crushed to death in a dinghy AP

More than 100 refugees have drowned after a boat sank in rough conditions in the Mediterranean Sea as the crisis shows no sign of slowing.

The Italian Navy was searching for survivors from the vessel, which was believed to be carrying up to 110 people.

Only four survivors were pulled from the water, with at least eight bodies found so far.

​Flavio Di Giacomo, from the International Organisation for Migration, told The Independent around 106 people were thought to have died and described the conditions at sea as "extremely bad".

The boat went down in waters between Libya and Italy, which has become the deadliest sea crossing in the world since the start of the refugee crisis.

It claimed the vast majority of more than 5,000 lives lost in treacherous boat journeys to Europe in 2016, the deadliest year on record, with people drowning or being crushed or suffocated in overcrowded smugglers' boats.

Saturday's disaster was the worst single incident so far this year, which has already seen at least 122 deaths at sea.


Tribute to Dr. Habte Tesfamariam

Saturday, 14 January 2017 20:33 Written by

The news about the passing away of Dr. Habte Tesfamariam in the early evening of 13 January 2017 in German at 74 years of age had once more struck as a thunderbolt the rank and file of the Eritrean National Salvation Front, in particular, and its sister organizations in the opposition camp, and the wider change and justice seekers’ national movement, in general. The death of Dr. Habte is yet another devastating loss the ENSF has suffered in the span of the past few years. 

His involvement in the Eritrean national movement had started at youthful age. As a student he had joined the Eritrean Liberation Movement whose message and organization had soon after its formation in 1958 spread countrywide in 7-person clandestine formations.  During his enrollment as veterinary science student in Alemaya College, Ethiopia, he continued his activities from there as well. Subsequent to graduation with the first degree, he moved to Poland to pursue higher studies. From there, too, he joined other fellow compatriots to organize Europe-wide student union, which they wanted to link with the General Union of the Eritrean students whose members were studying in Cairo, Baghdad and Syria.

As chairman of his union in Europe he was frequent visitor to the Middle East in the 60s for the purpose of consulting with the ELF leadership of the time (The Supreme Council and the ELF later), and unifying the student unions under the General Union of the Eritrean Students (GUES). One of those travelers was in 1968. These missions had continued during his time as Ph.D. candidate in Berlin, East Germany. Following the completion of his studies there, he joined the ELF as a full timer fighter

The first encounter the writer of these lines had with him in person was at the venue of the ELF Second National Congress in 1975 where he was elected as a member of the higher political leadership the front, the Revolutionary Council. It was in that capacity that he was assigned to lead the European and African desk of the ELF Foreign Relations from his base in Damascus, Syria. Close working relationship between the Foreign Relations office and the ELF Foreign Information Center in Beirut, Lebanon, had given me as a member of the staff of the latter an opportunity to know Dr. Habte more as a person and an activist.

Dr. Habte was a kind, humble and modest man. A first impression was sufficient for a person to mark his jovial nature. His humility and respect for individual’s regardless of rank or status manifested themselves in practical life. Whenever he happened to be for work visits, he had shared his stipend or allowance with his subordinates, and did the shopping and prepared meals for them while they attended their jobs. I was one of those who had enjoyed his kindness and affection.

During his tenure as head of Euro-African desk in the ELF Foreign Relations bureau, his effort to open relations with European and African countries was relentless. It must be recalled that during those times these countries were almost totally closed area to ELF, and the Eritrean activists in general due to Ethiopia’s dominant diplomatic influence that encompassed the two superpowers of the time and their allies. Therefore, his movement was closely watched, and in one incident in 1976 in Lusaka, Zambia, he had narrowly escaped kidnapping by enemy security agents thanks to the then Ambassador of Somalia.

Due to this hurdles his efforts had faced, his pursuit of political and diplomatic openings for the ELF were run in two directions: political and diplomatic where possible and humanitarian aid channels to help refugees mainly in the camps in Eastern Sudan. In regard to the latter, he joined hands in 1975 with his friend from his student days, Dr. Yusuf Birhanu Ahmaddin, to found the Eritrean Red Cross-Crescent Society. This became crucial means in establishing contacts and relations with humanitarian and non-governmental aid agencies, and provided valuable medical and school facilities to needy refugees and their children such as UNESCO school in Kassala, Sudan, and the primary school at Wed-Sherifey refugee camp  kilometers outskirt of Kassala.

His tenure in the Foreign Relation office had continued up to the end of the year 70s, and the setback the ELF had suffered in 1982 due to the allied EPLF-TPLF assault. The internal crisis and the unfortunate March 25 military takeover by contingents of the ELF under the late Abdalla Idris Mohammed, and detention of most of the top leadership had embarked Dr. Habte on extremely difficult mission.

The principal challenge was how to preserve at least some semblance of what the ELF had represented: demographic representation and programmatic ideals. It was then that his leadership quality had factored to manifest in resoluteness for principles and pragmatism in dealing with problems in the context of existing realities. During that difficult time, when the mainstream segment of the ELF that retained the name ELF-RC faced impossible options of disbanding or continuing as an organization, Dr. Habte had to rely on his pragmatism and find maneuvering space. That was the time when he and other leaders decided to opt for merger with the late Osman Saleh Sabbe’s organization and avoid dispersal and oblivion. That decision gave accorded the organization a breathing space until it could reorganize its rank and file re-emerge again as viable organization. Thus, Dr. Habte joined by the late Ahmed Mohammed Nasser and Ibrahim Mohammed Ali and many others, were able to lead the ELF-RC to hold its 3rd National Congress in 1989 from where it re-launched itself to play its role.

Ever since, thus, he served the organization in top level positions such as the chairmanship of the higher political leadership council (RC) and numerous ad hoc political missions and dialogue committees for unity. There had hardly been an attempt in the long unity efforts in which Dr. Habte had not played prominent role. This was true even in post-liberation years since 1991, when the monopolistic and dictatorial nature of the EPLF regime became more and more entrenched. Indeed, the struggle to unify the opposition organizations and rally support for them has demanded patriots with Dr. Habte’s level of commitment to national unity and liberation.

For that reason, he was conspicuously visible at various stages in the forums and conferences that produced opposition umbrellas. He had never missed any significant platform of which the 2010 Akaki Conference that led to Hawassa Congress a year after mere examples. He had served so diligently on the committees that he had co-authored of the Road Map which the Hawassa Congress of 2011 had adopted.

His comrades-in struggle, and generations to come, shall remember Dr. Habte an as accomplished patriot who had uniquely combined resoluteness on principles and flexible pragmatism on expediency whenever circumstances had called for it. This outlook reinforced by personal character had served him well in times of political crises. Whenever contradictions made political divorce, and thereby, decision making inevitable, the fate of national unity to which he was totally committed was deal maker or deal breaker. He shall be remembered as a man with unshaking faith in national unity through solidarity and integration as opposed to unity through compromise oriented military and political balances. On this matter, thus, no expediency or power of persuasion could sway him to compromise.

Dr. Habte had passed away while still the beloved and respected fatherly chairman of the Eritrean National Salvation Front. He shall be missed for long time as those who preceded him. He is survived with three bright children and their beloved mother.

May his soul rest in eternal peace, and his widow and children be graced with the strength that enable them work through the devastating grief.


fromInternational Organization for Migration

Published on13 Jan 2017


Switzerland - IOM reports that 1,159 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2017, through 12 January, arriving mostly in Greece and Italy, compared with 22,590 through the first 12 days of January, 2016.

A year ago, IOM reported 22,322 migrants and refugees had landed on Greece’s islands after short runs from Turkey – a number consistent with the surge of Turkey-to-Europe passages that began the previous summer. This year through 12 January, IOM Athens reports that only 430 migrants from Turkey have landed in Greece.

Arrivals in Italy, while also quite low, are running slightly ahead of 2016’s totals this winter. IOM Rome reports 729 migrant arrivals in Italy from North Africa in 2017, compared to 268 at this time last year. Deaths recorded at sea so far in 2017 total 27 – compared with 64 through the first 12 days of 2016 – based on a report this morning that 14 bodies were found off Libya Thursday.

“This report is rather alarming,” said Julia Black of IOM’s Missing Migrants Project in Berlin. “Bodies washing up in Libya is something we often see preceded by a large shipwreck in the Central Mediterranean."

IOM Rome reported that of the 181,436 migrants arriving in Italy in 2016, the largest number came from Nigeria – 37,551 or more than 20 percent of total arrivals. Of these, 11,700 were women and children. Just over 3,000 were unaccompanied minors.

Eritreans were the second largest group at 20,718, including 3,832 unaccompanied minors – the largest child contingent from any sending country on this route. Despite the high number, this is the lowest total from Eritrea in three years (see chart below).

Eritrea was the top country of origin for arrivals in Italy in 2015, with 39,162, and the second largest – after Syria – in 2014, when 34,329 Eritreans sailed to Italy from North Africa. Between the years 2014-2016 Italian authorities recorded a total of 94,209 Eritrean migrants arriving by sea.

IOM Rome also reported a steep decline in the number of Syrian migrants risking the central Mediterranean route from North Africa. From a high of 42,323 in 2014, Syrian arrivals in Italy fell to 7,448 in 2015 and just 1,200 in 2016.

“We saw very little evidence that Syrians, who were disembarking from Turkey in 2015, returned to the North African route last year,” said IOM Rome spokesperson Flavio Di Giacomo. “It is quite possible those few who did come on this route in 2016 were already based in Egypt, Jordan or elsewhere in the region.”

Among other surprising statistics reported by IOM Rome this week: arrivals in Italy from the Gambia (11,929), Cote d’Ivoire (12,396) and Guinea (13,342) all topped 10,000 in 2016. The three West African countries also sent a combined total of over 4,000 unaccompanied minors.

Other sending countries with at least 10,000 of their citizens rescued between Libya and Italy in 2016 included Senegal and Mali.

The only non-African sending country among the top ten on this route was Bangladesh, with 8,131 migrants rescued in 2016. Of these, over 1,000 were unaccompanied minors, but only five were women.

The total number of unaccompanied minors rescued on the central Mediterranean route in 2016 was 25,846. The total number of women was 24,133.

For latest arrivals and fatalities in the Mediterranean, please visit:
Learn more about the Missing Migrants Project at:

For further information please contact: Joel Millman at IOM Geneva, Tel: +41.79.103 8720, Email:
Flavio Di Giacomo at IOM Italy, Tel: +39 347 089 8996, Email:
Sabine Schneider at IOM Germany, Tel: +49 30 278 778 17 Email:
IOM Greece: Daniel Esdras, Tel: +30 210 9912174, Email:or Kelly Namia, Tel: +30 210 9919040, +30 210 9912174, Email:
Julia Black at IOM GMDAC, Tel: +49 30 278 778 27, Email:
Mazen Aboulhosn at IOM Turkey, Tel: +9031245-51202, Email:
IOM Libya: Othman Belbeisi, Tel: +216 29 600389, Email:or Ashraf Hassan, Tel: +216297 94707, Email:

For information or interview requests in French:
Florence Kim, OIM Genève, Tel: +41 79 103 03 42, Email:
Flavio Di Giacomo, OIM Italie, Tel: +39 347 089 8996, Email:


‘Judging’, in the true sense of the word, means to form an opinion or conclusion of someone or something after careful consideration of our thoughts, feelings and evidence. When we choose to cross a street, we look both ways of the street and decide whether to continue walking or not based on the condition of the traffic. That is then making judgement based on hard facts because we looked at both sides of the street. We judge based on what we see with our eyes; what we hear with our ears; what we smell with our nose; what we taste with our tongue or mouth; and what we feel or touch with our hand or skin. These are the five major senses of our body that we use as our tools every time we attempt to collect the necessary information. The five senses may not function all at the same time or situation and they may not even collect all the needed information at any time. If we do not collect adequate and appropriate information about a certain subject or object through our five senses, we may end up making the wrong judgement about any situation.  Lack of adequate information and too much irrelevant information from unreliable sources {such as social media, gossiping, political demagogue, etc) can cause serious problems in making a rational judgement of any situation because in both cases there is lack of hard facts or evidence that should reflect objective reality. In general, it is hard to always have sufficient and most relevant information about a particular situation.


In our social interactions the word ‘judging’ usually reflects and denotes negative connotation. Evidently, we do not want to be judged. Yet, despite our best efforts to be rational and decent, we all judge other people. It might be over small things, or it might be over big issues. We might even seek support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than using rational argument. As an example, suppose that we are walking through the woods and we find a small dog. From the outset it looks cute and friendly. We may try to approach and move to pet the dog. Suddenly, the dog snarls and tries to bite us. The dog no longer seems cute and we feel fear and possibly anger. Then, as the wind blows, the leaves on the ground are carried away and we observe the dog has one of its legs caught in a trap. Now, we feel compassion for the dog. Eventually, we came to know that the dog became aggressive because it is in pain and is suffering. We were judgmental at the very beginning before knowing the situation of the dog. What can we learn from this story? It is important to note that for every event that takes place in nature there is always a cause-effect relationship. However, if we ask the right questions and do proper analysis, there is always a logical or scientific explanation for the cause-effect relationship of the event. That is the reason why we need to keep on seeking for information by asking appropriate questions in order to collect actual facts and enrich our knowledge base so that we can make rational judgements based on reality. The story below from Keisha (UK) is another typical example that narrates the kind of irrational judgement that we make without having a better understanding of the objective reality of a certain situation.


Once upon a time, a doctor entered the hospital in hurry after being called in for an urgent surgery. He answered the call as soon as possible. He changed his clothes and went directly to the surgery block where a young boy was prepared for surgery. He found the boy’s father pacing in the hall waiting for the doctor. Upon seeing the doctor, the father yelled, “Why did you take all this time to come? Don’t you know that my son’s life is in danger? Don’t you have any sense of responsibility?” The doctor smiled and said, “I am sorry, I was not in the hospital and I came as fast as I could after receiving the call and now, I ask you to calm down so that I can do my work.” “Calm down?! The father said angrily, “What if your son was in this room right now, would you calm down? If your own son dies while waiting for a doctor then what would you do?”  The doctor smiled again and replied, “We will do our best by God’s grace and you should also pray for your son’s healthy life.” The father murmured, “Giving advice when we are not concerned is so easy.”  The surgery took some hours after which the doctor was very pleased of the result, “Thanks goodness! Your son is saved!” and without waiting for the father’s reply he went on his way while saying, “If you have any questions, ask the nurse.” The nurse entered minutes after the doctor left and the father commented “Why is he so arrogant? He couldn’t wait a minute so that I could ask about my son’s state.” The nurse answered, tears coming down her face, “His son died yesterday in a car accident, he was at the funeral when we called him for your son’s surgery. And now after he saved your son’s life he rushed out to the burial of his own son.” Now, how would the father of the boy feel about the doctor after he heard what the nurse said about the reality of the situation? Obviously, he would feel very much embarrassed and would regret of what he hastily said about the doctor. As it is commonly said, “Haste makes waste.” In other words, haste conclusion leads to wrong judgement. In most instances happy people are indeed slow to judge, while unhappy people are too quick to judge.


The moral lesson of the story is that we should never judge anyone at any time because we never know how the life of the other person is at any particular time and situation. It is absurd to make any kind of judgement without knowing what others are going through in life or what kind of battle they are fighting at any particular moment. One thing to keep in mind is that there is always a story behind every single person on the planet and it could be a story we never know anything about.  It is important that we should not judge people before we truly know them. Just because someone is wearing a good smile on their face does not mean their problem is less than ours. Since there is always a reason why people are the way they are, it is essential to think about other person’s situation before we judge someone. Judging a person does not define who they are, it actually defines who we are. At times, judging someone is not actually bad, but the difference is in the way we do the judging. If we attempt to quickly form unfounded personal opinion about someone without having adequate information, the way we end up doing it will be biased and irrational. However, if we collect and accumulate concrete evidence, the approach we use to judge someone will be rational and unbiased. In fact, it would simply be telling the truth.


One day, a woman was flying from Seattle to San Francisco. Unexpectedly, for some good reason or another, the plane was diverted to Sacramento along the way. The flight attendant explained to the passengers that there would be a delay for some time. The passengers were informed that if they want to get off the aircraft, the airplane would re-board in about one hour.  Everybody got off the airplane except one lady who was blind. A man had noticed her as he walked by and could tell the lady was blind because her guide dog lay quietly underneath the seats in front of her throughout the entire flight. He could also tell that she had flown this very flight before because the pilot approached her and calling her by name, said, “Kathy, we are in Sacramento for almost an hour, would you like to get off and stretch your legs?” The blind lady said, “No thanks, but may be Buddy would like to stretch his legs.” So the pilot proceeded to take the dog off the plane for a walk. Meanwhile, there were people waiting in the gate area. They all came to a complete stand still when the pilot walked out with a guide dog for the blind. Even worse, the pilot was wearing dark sunglasses. Seeing the pilot with a guide dog for a blind, the passengers assumed that the pilot was blind. They did not take time to stop and think or even ask questions if the pilot is really blind. Immediately, they got scattered all over the terminal and they were not only trying to change their flight, but they were trying to change airlines.


The question to ask is that how many times in our lives did we know with certainty that something happened in a certain way, only to discover later that it wasn’t true? How many times has our lack of trust within us made us judge other people unfairly with our conceited ideas, often far away from reality? The moral lesson of the story is that things are not always as they appear. When the passengers made their judgment, they were actually judging on limited information. It is always better to ask, if we seek to know and understand the facts than simply assume otherwise. We should not guess or imagine the intention of other people. Instead, talking is how we come to understand others, and clear up a great many problems. That is why we have to think twice and ask the right questions to get the right answers before we judge other people or situations. If we are able to secure a clear understanding of a certain situation based on collected concrete evidence, we cannot have the pleasure to be judgmental unless otherwise we are in denial of the actual facts. The truth is the thing that cannot be long hidden. However, denial of the truth happens many times by many of us. In fact, most misunderstandings and conflicts that happen among ourselves could be avoided, if we would be a little more patient and a bit more understanding when things happen in any kind or form. We should simply take the time to ask the right questions in order to seek for the truth.  According to Thomas Berger, “The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge” which leads to rational judgment.


 No human race is superior or inferior. All gross or collective judgments are wrong. It is human nature that we are all judgmental. When we become judgmental we are inevitably acting on limited knowledge. We need to be aware that every person is an individual and a product of different circumstances. Have we ever thought seriously how easily we can think ill or evil of someone without any grounded reason or justification? It is most unfair and mistaken to allow ourselves to judge someone based on appearance as narrated in the following story (David Mikkelson). There was a young boy in school whose mother used to cook for students and teachers to support her family. She had only one eye. The boy hated her because she was such an embarrassment to him. One day he was terribly angry at her when she came to the elementary school to say hello to him. He ignored her, threw a hateful look at her and ran out. The next day at school one of his classmates said, “EEEE, your mom only has one eye!”  The young boy wanted to bury himself in the ground and for his mother to just disappear. He confronted his mother that day and said, “If you are going to make me the laughing stock of the school, why don’t you just die?” His mother did not respond and he did not even stop for a second to think about what he had said because he was full of anger. He was oblivious to her feelings. He wanted out of the house and have nothing to do with his mother. So he studied real hard and got an opportunity to study abroad. After a few years, he came back, got married, had children of his own, bought a house, and built a happy life with his own family in a town far away from his mother. Then one day, his mother came to visit him. She had not seen him in years and she hadn’t even met his spouse nor her grandchildren. When she knocked and stood by the door, his children laughed when they saw a one-eyed woman. Her son yelled at her for coming to his house even uninvited. He screamed at her, “How dare you come to my house and scare my children! Get out of here now!” At this time, his mother quietly answered, “I am so sorry, I must have the wrong address.” Then, she quickly disappeared out of his sight.


 One day, her son received a letter regarding his high school reunion. He made an excuse to his wife that he had to go out of town for a business trip. He made the trip to the school reunion. After the reunion, for mere curiosity, he went to his old neighborhood where he grew up. His old neighbors told him that his mother died a few days before the reunion. He was not sad about the death of his mother. Nevertheless, his mother left a letter for him because she knew that he would come for the reunion. In the letter she indicated to him that she has always been proud of him though she was sorry to be a constant embarrassment for him as he was growing up. However, what she wanted him to know and understand is that when he was very little, he got into an accident and lost his eye. As a loving mother, she could not stand watching her son growing up with one eye. Selflessly, she donated one eye to her son and she was so proud to see him growing up with two eyes.  A  Tigrigna proverb really fits well to the story and says, “Alem grinbiT, (siginTir) zizerakayo gedifa zeizerakayo tihbeka.” It means, it happens in life that we may harvest what we did not plant. According to our culture in a mother and son relationship, the son was acting as an embarrassment to his mother more than she was to him. The mother received such cruel treatment that she had never expected from her son in return for the good deeds she did for him. Sadly, he never asked his mother how she lost her eye because he was preoccupied with his own feelings and pride. What did the young man feel when he learned the true story of his mother? When he learned of how she gave her eye to him, he should feel deep sadness and regret for all that he did to his wonderful mother. His mother did not tell him the story either when he was growing up. Perhaps she did not want her lost eye to be a constant reminder for him as he was growing up. She did want to make him feel guilty thinking that she made such a motherly sacrifice for the love of her son.  


It is also commonly observed among our children in our Diaspora society that we, the parents, can be a constant embarrassment to them when we wear our cultural dress with traditional hair-do, when we speak English, or others with an accent, and when we drive an old taxi or work odd jobs like parking, security guard, housekeeping, nursing homes, food services, and babysitting. Since we are generally treated on how we look, or seem to have and know, it is essential that our children should be open-minded and have a better perspective of the facts of life and develop the pride to appreciate and cherish their cultural heritage and ethnic identity. We need to create a conducive and suitable environment in which we can freely have a morally charged and sustainable interpersonal communication with our young generation in order to enlighten and empower their perspective and aspiration. The dialogue that may occur at family level can be used as a powerful approach to gravitate them to avoid negative judgmental attitudes towards any situation and to encourage all of us to maintain peace and harmony in our society.


 How we judge other people is a direct reflection of how we feel about ourselves. We judge because of our own selfish interests. When we judge, we invite judgment upon ourselves. By judging others, we hide our hypocrisy. The judgmental people have the courage to criticize and put others down, but they are too shallow and cowardly to recognize their own weaknesses. When we point our finger at someone, anyone, it is often a moment of judgement. We usually point our fingers when we want to scold someone, or point out what they have done wrong. It is futile to point fingers of condemnation because we are all guilty and innocent in many of life’s trials. What we need to understand is that each time we point our finger at someone, we simultaneously point three of our fingers back at ourselves. It means that we must have a look at ourselves at least three times before judging someone else one time. While it is in our nature to be judgmental, it is not at all useful to us when we look down on others, as if we are so much better than them. In a public discussion or in a political debate, we can learn tremendously from each other, if we stop and listen carefully to the argument of the other person and respond respectfully instead of judging with the intent of destroying personal character and creating unnecessary hostility and animosity among ourselves. Since we see what we want to see, for that same or exact reason we need to look the good side in people rather than the bad side. We need to be aware that being judgmental creates division, mistrust, and ruins lives and relationships. If other people are not what we want them to be, or think differently from the way we think, it is quite alright to disagree with their thoughts or opinions. However, it does not give us the right to judge them differently, or deny them the right to express their ideas, beliefs, or perspectives. We need to recognize the good intention, aspirations and desires of other people, even if it means overcoming our pride or ego for it can open our narrow mind beyond our comfort zone.  


 It is evident that the more we know ourselves, the less judgmental we become. However, we seem to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but we usually do not have a clear idea about how we should lead our own lives because we are very good lawyers for our own mistakes, but very good judges for the mistakes of other people. We try to find fault in others to prove that we are smarter, or better looking, or to feel better about ourselves. We get critical when others fail to meet our expectations, or when situations do not turn out the way we desire. We also judge or create opinion about others based on their looks or actions without even knowing them. We really should make it a goal each day not to judge people before we truly know them. If we know them, the truth might truly surprise us. Things do not usually happen the way we want them to happen.  If we do not like certain things the way they are, we need to try to change it to the way we think is right or proper. If we cannot change it because it is a natural thing, we need to change the way we think about it and accept the way it is created. According to the Holy Bible, Matthew, 7/1 “Judge not, that you be not judged” because for the same way we judge others, we will be judged. The measure we use to judge others, it will be the same measure applied to us too. Consistent with the holy script, the Eritrean scholars and professionals together with the Eritrean communities and religious institutions in Diasporas, must take the responsibility in becoming the most prominent role models to our young and the restless. They have the moral obligation to teach the young to adopt the rational thinking and to do the right thing. They have to volunteer to guide and lead the young generation to stop and think before being judgmental so that they can develop a better perspective and positive judgmental attitude about any situation. Being judgmental can usually keep them away from embracing new experience and knowledge, from respecting their parents and siblings, from associating with good friends and new people, and from cherishing their cultural heritage and ethnic identity.  


 In general, we are humans who should care for each other. We should never wrongly judge someone because we never know, someday we might find ourselves in the same situation. We should not judge others because we usually see what the other person chooses to show us and we also see what we want to see. It is better to learn the facts before we assume; to think clearly before we speak; and to understand the cause-effect relationship of any situation before we judge. It is evident that the more we know, the more we realize how much we do not know. It is also true that the less we know, the more we think we know. That is why those people who know the least always have the most to say and what they say is mostly nonsense. Thus, we need a moral uplifting, perhaps a divine intervention, that enriches our perspectives and strengthen our human relationships because where truth is denied, where arrogances is enforced, where prejudice is celebrated, where condemnation is endorsed, where hate is embraced, and where character is degraded, human dignity is disgraced and decent people are disrespected. To be open-minded or non-judgmental is neither automatic nor inevitable. It requires the tireless sacrifice, passionate concern, rational thinking, and dedicated effort from every one of us to do the right thing. Our own society in Diasporas has a great potential resources to offer, if we collectively take the initiative and responsibility to bring our people together to cultivate and nurture our young generation with our indigenous knowledge, wisdom, cultural heritage, and moral character in a peaceful and harmonious environment. It usually takes less energy to be positive than to be negative. If we focus our energy in becoming compassionate instead of being judgmental, we can grow and evolve with love, honor, respect, and human dignity.


Dr. Tesfa G. Gebremedhin, West Virginia University

12th AU-EU Human Rights Dialogue Held in Brussels, Belgium.

Thursday, 12 January 2017 13:16 Written by

January 10, 2017

EU-AU Press Release

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1.    The 12th African Union (AU) - European Union (EU) Human Rights Dialogue took place on 10 January 2017 in Brussels, Belgium.

2.    The Dialogue was led by Dr Aisha Laraba Abdullahi, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, and Mr Stavros Lambrinidis, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights. The AU participants included Hon. Justice Sylvain ORE, President of the AfCHPR; Hon Prof Benyam Dawit Mezmur, Chairperson the ACERWC, Hon. Maya Sahli-Fadel, Commissioner of the ACHPR; and Human Rights; Mr. Omar Farouq, ECOSOCC as well as staff from the AUC and other AU organs. On the EU side the participants included Amb.  Mara Marinaki, EEAS Principal Advisor on Gender and on Implementation of UNSC Resolution 1325 Women, Peace and Security; Ms. Birgitte Markussen, Deputy Managing Director Africa, EEAS, as well as EU staff working on human rights-related issues. Both sides reaffirmed their joint commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights on both continents and to collaborate on the effective implementation of continental and international human rights instruments.

3.    Both parties discussed recent developments in Africa and Europe in the area of human rights, notably the work of the AU organs with a human rights mandate and the implementation of Project 2016 to celebrate 2016 as the year of human rights in Africa with particular focus on the rights of women.

4.    The AU and EU welcomed the Declaration of the Human and Peoples’ Decade in Africa and the launch of the drafting of the African Human Rights Action and Implementation Plan 2017–26. The two parties agreed that it is a unique opportunity for concrete and tangible improvements in the protection and promotion of the fundamental rights. The EU agreed to support the AU with its plan to ensure the ratification and implementation of international and continental human rights instruments at the national level.

5.    The AU acknowledged with appreciation the EU 10 million euros support to the African Human Rights system under the EU Panafrican Programme. Both sides also welcomed the High-Level Dialogue on Democratic Governance focusing on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Africa, which was held in November 2016 in Arusha, Tanzania. They also welcomed the exchange of experiences during the High Level Meeting of Chief (Election) Observers organised by the AU in the margins of the Declaration of Principles on International Election Observation (DOP) meeting in Johannesburg in October 2016 and agreed on the importance of regularly repeating the event.   

6.    Both sides recalled the outcomes of the Kigali Joint Communique in which they reaffirmed their commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights on both continents and to collaborate on the effective implementation of continental and international human rights instruments.

7.    It was also noted that many countries are making progress in the advancement of gender equality and women's rights, in particular the participation of women in politics and representation in decision making structures, ownership of land and the right to inheritance, measures to address sexual and gender-based violence against women and harmful traditional practices. Yet, notwithstanding achievements, too many women are still at risk. The parties also welcomed the adoption of the Maputo Plan of Action on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.

8.    On the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, both parties welcomed the adoption of the Draft Protocol on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in February 2016. In order for the Protocol to come into force, the EU expressed its full support to the AU efforts in obtaining its swift adoption.

9.    On Human Rights and Business, the parties welcomed the efforts of the AU to develop an AU Policy Framework for the Implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in Africa. The AU welcomed with appreciation the support of the EU to assist with this process.

10.The AU and the EU followed up on the previous recommendations made within this context. On the abolition of death penalty, both parties recalled that the Draft Additional Protocol on the Abolition of Death Penalty in Africa was adopted at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in April 2015.

11.Both institutions reiterated their commitment to fighting impunity of all sorts and to holding perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses accountable. The EU welcomed the AU decision to establish the Hybrid Court for South Sudan and encouraged the AU to move forward as quickly as possible with the implementation of the justice and accountability measures in the 2015 peace agreement. The EU also committed to continue its support to the AU efforts to develop a Policy on Transitional Justice in Africa to enhance cooperation on justice, truth and reconciliation mechanisms.

12.The EU and AU are committed to international justice and rules-based international order. Both parties committed to fighting impunity, promoting justice at all levels and placing special emphasis on the importance of reinforcing national judiciaries. The EU reiterated its staunch support for the ICC and strongly encouraged those African countries who have not done so to ratify the Rome Statute. Both sides emphasised that ICC is the Court of last resort. The AU reaffirmed its commitment to the principle of complementarity of the justice system from the national, regional, continental levels with the apex continental body being the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

13.The EU commended the renewed efforts of the AU to deploy human rights observers to monitor human rights in conflict situations and report violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. The AU welcomed the ongoing EU support for the AU Human Rights Observer mission in Burundi. Both sides committed to working together to develop a robust roster for African Human Rights Observers as well as developing a training manual with a view to institutionalise the AU Human Rights Observation in the long run.

14.The parties reiterated their outstanding cooperation in the area of election observation. They welcomed the deployment of first core teams as integral part of AU Electoral Observation Missions in 2016. The parties also welcomed the progress achieved in improving the AU capacity and methodology through EU support in 2016. The parties agreed to further strengthen the methodology, including through strengthened coordination on the ground.

15.In preparation for the Africa-EU Summit in 2017, the EU welcomed the AU Youth Engagement Strategy for the Promotion of Democratic Governance and Human Rights in Africa and committed itself to support this initiative.

16.Both sides committed to promoting and protecting freedom of expression and the right of access to information in the digital age. They welcomed the ACHPR 2016 Resolution on the Right to Freedom of Information and Expression on the Internet in Africa, and emphasised that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online.

17.The question of a shrinking space for civil society organizations and human rights defenders was discussed. Both sides reiterated their commitment to jointly support a Continental Conference on Freedom of Expression in 2017 in Africa as agreed in 2015. Both sides are looking forward to the adoption of the Guidelines on Freedom of Association and Assembly in Africa by the ACHPR and agreed to organize a seminar on the implementation on these guidelines.

18.The AU and the EU commended the work of Civil Society Steering Committees in organizing the 6th AU-EU Civil Society Seminar on Democratic Governance and Human Rights on 9 January 2017 in Brussels. The seminar focussed on counter-terrorism and human rights. The parties welcomed and took note of the recommendations, including an initiative on human rights and counter-terrorism in Africa. They also welcomed the adoption of the Mandate and Terms of Reference of the Steering Committee of the AU-EU Civil Society Seminar on Human Rights and Democratic Governance. They also jointly reaffirmed the need for greater space for civil society within this partnership in order to fulfill their obligations without undue interference and called on the civil society to inclusively and meaningfully contribute to the implementation of activities and programmes of the AU-EU Partnership on Democratic Governance and Human Rights, including on the preparation of the Africa-EU Summit.

The AU and the EU agreed to hold the next round of the Human Rights Dialogue in Africa in 2017/18.

 Brussels, 10 January 2017

Total people in need: 2 million

Total children (<18) in need: 1.2 million

Total people to be reached in 2017: 505,0002

Total children to be reached in 2017: 450,000

In Eritrea, where the vast majority of livelihoods depend on subsistence agriculture and pastoralism, 80 per cent of the population is vulnerable to recurrent drought.

Since 2015, Eritrea has experienced drought conditions caused by El Niño that further undermined household food and livelihood security, particularly for women and children, and contributed to a cholera outbreak across three of the country’s six regions. These dynamics have led to high levels of malnutrition among children under 5, pregnant women and lactating mothers, particularly in the lowland areas. According to the Nutrition Sentinel Site Surveillance System, malnutrition rates have increased over the past three years in four out of the country’s six regions, where malnutrition rates already exceeded emergency levels, with 22,700 children under 5 projected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) in 2017.

Nutrition and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) practices are sub-optimal, with less than half of the rural population accessing safe drinking water and only 11.3 per cent of the overall population accessing improved sanitation. Half of all children in Eritrea are stunted, and as a result, these children are even more vulnerable to malnutrition and disease outbreaks.

Humanitarian strategy

UNICEF and partners will continue to mainstream humanitarian response within regular development programmes targeting the most vulnerable children and will apply an integrated multi-sectoral approach to lifesaving interventions in Eritrea, building on linkages between the humanitarian and development programmes. In 2017, UNICEF will support the Government to implement blanket supplementary feeding to prevent the further deterioration of the nutritional status of children under 5, pregnant women and lactating mothers. This will include procuring routine medicines for the management of SAM and moderate acute malnutrition (MAM).

UNICEF will apply a multi-sectoral approach in drought-prone rural communities facing heightened risk of diarrhoea and cholera and high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition.

Local capacities will be built in these communities through outreach and training programmes to support the provision of safe water and access to appropriate hygiene practices. UNICEF will strengthen health systems to support service delivery and will prioritize routine immunization coverage and community case management of childhood illnesses. Schools in the most-affected areas will offer programmes designed to raise children’s awareness of explosive remnants of war. UNICEF will also support the enrolment of 15,000 (currently out-of-school) nomadic children from drought-prone areas, working with the Ministry of Education, via advocacy campaigns, outreach and enrolment programmes to support children’s return to school. Communication for Development will be used to achieve programme results in all sectors.


January 6.2017. Open letter to Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

Your Excellency,

I am writing to you on behalf of Tesfaledet Kidane Tesfazghi and his colleague, Saleh Idris Gama, Eritrean nationals who have been languishing in an unknown Ethiopian prison since the beginning of 2007.

Eritrean journalists Tesfalidet Kidane Tesfazghi and Saleh Idris Gama have been held in custody without charge since they were captured in Kenya in December 2006, and transferred to Ethiopia from Somalia at the beginning of 2007. These men are professional journalists sent to Somalia for routine TV reporting by Eritrean Television (Eri-TV). They were not combatants or involved in any espionage or illegal activities.

I am aware that your country is proud of its concern for human rights and its record in such matters, which it confirmed by signing and ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1993. As you are aware, Article 9 of this Covenant guarantees that no one should be arrested or deprived of their liberty except in accordance with legally established procedures; and that those arrested must be brought before a judge and are “entitled to a legal trial within a reasonable time, or otherwise to be released”.

In September 2011, the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi promised that the journalists would be freed if the investigation determined they had not been involved in any acts of espionage. Five years have elapsed since this announcement. I am sure you will agree that more than “a reasonable time” has passed without such a trial. But the two Eritrean detainees have neither had their cases heard in court, nor have they been released or repatriated.

The only occasions on which we have heard any news about these individuals were in April 2007 from the Ethiopian mass media and in September 2011, from the late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, in a press conference with exiled Eritrean journalists in Addis Ababa (interview video timeline 40:26 – 43:37). The present conditions, location and legal status of these journalists are not known to their immediate families and relatives, who are exceptionally concerned about their wellbeing. In addition to this very real concern, may I mention that the families of the two detainees have had no contact with them for a decade.

Tesfalidet’s family miss him very much, but they have recently sustained the shock of several deaths within their close family circle: both his parents and his sister have died whilst he has been in detention. Saleh has 3 sons and a daughter who have not seen their father for 10 years. It would be particularly welcome for them to receive the good news of the release of Tesfaledet and Saleh at this time. Is it possible that you personally could take the initiative to make this good news happen?

In view of your country’s concern for justice, as witnessed by the ratification of the ICCPR, may I request most fervently that you undertake an urgent review of the cases of the two detainees mentioned above and make every possible effort to secure their immediate release?

Yours respectfully,

Elizabeth Chyurm
Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Eritrea Liberty Magazine Issue No. 42

Thursday, 05 January 2017 10:01 Written by

The website daring to mock the Eritrean regime

Wednesday, 04 January 2017 12:24 Written by
Eritrea has been in the grip of a dictatorship for over 20 years. Democracy in the African country is non-existent, and it has been inlast placeon the World Press Freedom Index for the last eight years.  Under these circumstances, the creation of a satirical and parodic website calledThe Awaze Tribuneis not only unusual, but courageous.

The Awaze Tribunelaunched in early 2016 and publishes humorous ‘news’ stories to appeal to an African audience, in the style of British satirical site The Daily Mash, or The Onion or the Borowitz Report in the United States. It is the first publication of its kind in the country, and its contributors risk harsh repercussions from the regime. Whilst many on the editorial board are living outside of the country, some contributors and family still live in Eritrea.

Screen grab from thewebsite.

Eritrea sits in the Horn of Africa, flanked by Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti. It was internationally recognised as independent from Ethiopia after a referendum in 1993, but the constitution that was written up was never implemented, and the country slid into a one-party regime characterised by a complete lack of press freedom, obligatory and indefinite military conscription, and systematic human rights abuses. The country has been termed “The North Korea of Africa” – a moniker that of course gave rise to itsown satirical article on the website.

A screen grab from the paper'swebsite.

The paper gets its name from awaze, a hot sauce served on the side of the plate in Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisine. By choosing a quintessentially Eritrean and, equally, non-serious name, the editorial team wanted to make it clear from the outset that the publication is non-partisan.

FRANCE 24 spoke to an editor from the paper – who wishes to remain anonymous for security reasons – to ask how and whyThe Awaze Tribunecame into being. FRANCE 24 has given them a pseudonym.

“We wanted to start telling the Eritrean story” 0px 98.0519485473633% / 6920% 6260% no-repeat transparent;">Issac G.

Issac G.

Basically this began as a conversation between a bunch of friends. We wanted to create something that would teach Eritreans not to consume blindly all of the information on the Internet. The Eritrean government acts like information is for the privileged few. They withhold information and in doing so are able to stay in power. For example, back in 2011, the Eritrean media never reported anything about the Arab Spring. As far as Eritreans were concerned, the Arab Spring never happened.

I believe it’s called “hypodermic needle journalism”: by selectively providing information, the government is limiting the conversation of its citizens. So we wanted to start telling the Eritrean story in a very satirical way, so people learn to read between the lines.

Eritrea was the fourth most common country of origin for refugees coming into Europe in 2015, and the second largest group coming through Italy. Screengrab fromwebsite

“There is no such thing as media in Eritrea”

There is no such thing as media in Eritrea. There is government media and there is nothing else. The country also has a huge problem with Internet connectivity; people can’t access YouTube because of the connection speed.

Satire is something that’s very new to Eritreans, as we are finding out. We wrote a story aboutthe first sperm bank in the Horn of Africa. The Eritrean government likes to push this idea that Eritreans are this special breed of people in the glorious struggle for independence, and so the story goes that the authorities created a sperm bank to propagate the lineage of Eritrean fighters. Some people were not happy with the article, and some people were laughing because they saw the point of it.

Death threats and secrecy

We get a lot of death threats. We’re doing something that runs counter to the Eritrean culture of dignity. The threats that we receive usually come from Eritrean government supporters; they say we’re liars, traitors to the government, we’re Communists. We read those messages, try to understand where they’re coming from. I don’t actually feel threatened. But everybody has a different way of seeing things.

The paper also has aTwitterand aFacebookaccount.

If my identity were to be made public… They would try and use blackmail in some way, threaten family members still living in Eritrea if you’re living outside the country, which most of us are. I think the military would try to find a way of hurting my family. Not even my family members know I’m doing this.

We do have contributors in the country, but they usually can’t join editorial discussions because their identities have to be kept secret – even from us.

It’s not heroic. This is just entertainment. Eritreans need entertainment. Every time people hear news about Eritrea, it’s bad. The Eritrean tale is a tale of struggle and pain. We just inject some comedy into it.

The Awaze Tribune does not just focus on Eritrean news, but treats global news with an African slant. Screen grab from thewebsite.

“Satire is never created for Africa. We want to tell African jokes”

One thing we agree upon is to create a website dedicated to African readers, carrying African content that mocks African dictators – we won’t ever run out of material! Nothing like that exists. Nobody bothers to create satire for Africa, and articles about Africa are not written with Africans in mind. We want to tell African jokes. Conversations are what are needed. If people talk about what is happening around them, they might be able to come up with a solution.

Nobody funds us and we don’t want to be funded by anybody. This is a cost that we can bear ourselves. At the end of the day we do not want to be classified as a fake news website. If we start getting advertising revenue people may think we’re in it for the money. We are here to start a conversation with Eritreans about the dire situation in their country.

Catherine Bennett

Catherine Bennett ,Anglophone Journalist


"Let us hope the year 2017 be the Year of Dialogue for Democratic Development and co-operation between all the peoples of the Horn of Africa in general and the Ethio-Eritrean people in particular."

 Let bygones be Bygones!

 A Peaceful coexistence in progress based on peace, democracy, human rights respect, the rule of law and good governance. Our region is the origin of humankind and homosapience, from city-state of Mesopotamia to Alexandria and Axum- Afro - Arab communities.It is time to renew the old civilization in agreement with the modern world.


Ethiopia and Eritrea are inhabited by diverse of mosaic identities of people. The people living in today's Ethiopia and Eritrea lived together from time immemorial under different ruling systems from Axumite kingdom, different local rulers and later after decolonization of Africa under the Emperor Haile Sellasie, later the Military rule of Derg and recently from 1991 Eritrea as separate entity under a totalitarian one man rule and Ethiopia ruled by the federal democratic republic.

As we know historically,  the formation of states from  AD 990-1992 were formed by coercion and militarization. This was not the African legacy but inherited by European supremacist politics. The Ethiopian and Eritrean people, despite all internal and external conflicts,  were mutually respecting and hospitable. During the war between the Eritrean Liberation and Ethiopian ruling system of the emperor Haile Selassie and the Derg Eritreans were fleeing to Ethiopia and were living there in peace and similarly when a border war started (1998-2000) between the government in Eritrea and Ethiopia Eritreans fled to Ethiopia and has received all refugee rights and other opportunities as the Ethiopian citizens.

This shows how much the people of Ethiopia and Eritrea are tolerable towards cultural difference and aware of the importance of living together in peace. It is this culture we want to progress through dialogue between all stakeholders both in Ethiopia and Eritrea. It is time to renew the Ethio- Eritrean partnership in all fields of life in general, and partnership with political mission in particular. The Eritrean political and civic organizations for democratic change were in search of this partnership with the Ethiopian government and people. This partnership can be built by genuine dialogue for deeper discussions on concrete initiatives and procedures to promote the democratic principles on which all agree.

What is dialogue

Dialogue is the platform that encourages diversity of thoughts and opinions but not suppressing them. It leads to mutual understanding of problems and opportunities and search for common understanding. In practicing dialogue, there is an agreement that one person's concepts or beliefs should not take precedence over those of others, and common agreement should not be sought at the cost of the others. We believe dialogue is the main instrument to discuss the opportunities and problems for democratic development, and to develop strategies to address the issues of common interest. A dialogue to be effective must be built on certain principles that serve to guide and structure the discussions.

We , in the Eritrean opposition struggling from dictatorship to democracy need dialogue with Ethiopian government and people to listen each other for a deeper awareness and understanding of what is actually taking place nationally, regionally and globally.

The value of dialogue

Since we are in process of democratization , the impact of political dialogue can generate momentum to reinforce the democratic process and enables to assess the pace of the transition. The value of dialogue is to help us the assess/ evaluate pace of democratic development, enables us to identify of issues of priority. It allows us evaluate the impact of external democracy assistance.

Dialogue and conflict

Conflict in itself is not necessarily negative. It is unmanaged conflict, where stakeholders attempt to resolve their disputes through unconstitutional or even violent means, that poses the most complex problems. Democracy is all about managing conflict peacefully. In the Eritrean opposition case, dialogue can also act as a mechanism to help prevent, manage and resolve conflict.

- As a mechanism for the prevention of conflict. By bringing various actors together for structured, critical and constructive discussions on the state of the nation, dialogue can result in consensus on the reforms that are needed to avoid confrontation and conflict.

- As a mechanism for the management of conflict. Dialogue can help put in place democratic institutions and procedures that can structure and set the limits of political conflict. Democratic institutions and procedures provide mechanisms for political consultation and joint action that can peacefully manage  potential conflicts.

- As a mechanism for the resolution of conflict. Political dialogue can defuse potential crises by proposing appropriate peaceful solutions. Democratic institutions and procedures provide a framework to sustain peace settlements and prevent the recurrence of conflict.

What should be the guiding principles for the dialogue

 - Partnership and cooperation promoting democratization.

- Disseminating democratic principles in all areas of the cooperation

- Deepening the dialogue at both national and international level

- Assessing the democratic struggle

- Assisting the democratic development

Dialogue framework

- We in the Eritrean opposition as initiators of the dialogue would like demagnetize to identify the challenges, analysing the participants, evaluating available resources.

- Participants: political society, civil society, national and international experts both at the national and inter Eritrean- Ethiopian dialogue.

- Objectives: Analysing the dynamics of the transition, seeking a national consensus on priorities and searching for effective cooperation

- Assessing results and monitoring the implementation.

Who are the actors and their functions at the inter Eritrean- Ethiopian Dialogue

Three key functions to be fulfilled in the dialogue for democratic change at the national and regional level.

- Analysis function. By providing a comprehensive analysis of the constraints and opportunities for further democratization, the dialogue contributes to diagnosing the flow of events and experiences at the national and regional level.

- Dialogue function. By providing a platform for change of experiences and lessons learned and a forum for building consensus on the challenges and opportunities for democratic change, the dialogue contributes in itself to the consolidation of democracy. It should ultimately lead articulation a democratic reform agenda with specific policy recommendations primarily defined by the national participants and thus owned by them.

- Brokering function. By providing international institutions and donor agencies involved in and committed to democratization with a reference framework, the dialogue contributes a mechanism to assist the international partners to identify concrete support measures, better target their interventions and co-ordinate their assistance.

The national dialogue for democratic change could be structured around three main groups with specific roles:

1. The Dialogue Group: Composed of prominent national experts and key players in the process of democratic change in Eritrea and Ethiopia, the dialogue group should be sufficiently representative and have legitimacy and leverage to make the dialogue meaningful and sustainable. The members of the dialogue group should hence be carefully selected, based on their professionalism, reputation and willingness to enter into a genuine dialogue.

2. The Expert Group. Composed of international experts with undisputed credentials and reputation, the expert group provides the national participants with comparative experiences and lessons learned in other contexts which could be of assistance in the design of democratic change in Eritrea.

3. The Support Group: Composed of representatives of the international community involved in and committed to the democratic process in Eritrea represented as observers of the dialogue. The support group constitutes a structure assisting the democratization process in Eritrea. External partners or facilitators should not dictate but can only support the process of democratic change.

Eritrea as a country emerging from conflict need dialogue in itself and dialogue with Ethiopia.