uscirf 2016 annual report - EritreaThe US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), on its 2016 Annual Report, recommends Eritrea to remain designated as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for religious freedom violations.

By TesfaNews,

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has released its 2016 Annual Report on religious freedom violations in over 30 countries and its Eritrea report was hardly flattering.

The report reveals that the Eritrean government continues to repress religious freedom for unregistered, and in some cases registered, religious communities, particularly Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It also accuses the government for dominating the internal affairs of the Orthodox Church, the country’s largest Christian denomination, and suppresses the religious activities of Muslims, especially those opposed to the government-appointed head of the Muslim community.

In light of these violations, USCIRF again recommends in 2016 that Eritrea be designated a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA).

Since 2004, USCIRF has recommended, and the State Department has designated, Eritrea as a CPC, most recently in July 2014.

U.S. Policy towards Eritrea

Relations between the United States and Eritrea remain poor. The U.S. government has long expressed concern about the Eritrean government’s human rights practices and support for Ethiopian, Somali, and other armed and rebel groups in the region.

 

The government of Eritrea expelled USAID in 2005, and U.S. programs in the country ended in fiscal year 2006. Eritrea receives no U.S. development, humanitarian, or security assistance. Since 2010, the government has refused to accredit a new U.S. ambassador to the country; in response the U.S. government revoked the credentials of the Eritrean ambassador to the United States.

U.S. government officials routinely raise religious freedom violations when speaking about human rights conditions in Eritrea.

The United States was a co-sponsor of a 2012 UN Human Rights Council resolution that successfully created the position of Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea.

In July 2014, the United States supported the creation of a UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea to investigate systematic violations of human rights, recommend how to improve conditions and ensure accountability, and raise awareness of the situation in the country.

In 2015, the U.S. government supported the continuation of the COIE’s mandate for one additional year to determine if the Eritrean government’s actions constitute crimes against humanity.

In September 2004, the State Department designated Eritrea a CPC. When re-designating Eritrea in September 2005 and January 2009, the State Department announced the denial of commercial export to Eritrea of defense articles and services covered by the Arms Export Control Act, with some items exempted.

The Eritrean government subsequently intensified its repression of unregistered religious groups with a series of arrests and detentions of clergy and ordinary members of the affected groups.

The State Department most recently re-designated Eritrea a CPC in July 2014, and continued the presidential action of the arms embargo, although since 2011 this has been under the auspices of UN Security Council resolution 1907 (See below).

U.S.-Eritrean relations also are heavily influenced, often adversely, by strong U.S. ties with Ethiopia. Gaining independence in 1993, Eritrea fought a costly border war with Ethiopia from 1998 to 2000. The United States, the United Nations, the European Union, and the now-defunct Organization of African Unity were formal witnesses to the 2000 accord ending that conflict.

However, Eritrean-Ethiopian relations remain tense due to Ethiopia’s refusal to permit demarcation of the boundary according to the Hague’s Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission’s 2002 decision.

The U.S. government views the commission’s decision as “final and binding” and expects both parties to comply.

 

U.S. policy toward Eritrea also is concentrated on U.S. concerns that the country’s activities in the region could destabilize the Horn of Africa. In December 2009, the United States joined a 13-member majority on the UN Security Council in adopting Resolution 1907, sanctioning Eritrea for supporting armed groups in Somalia and failing to withdraw its forces from the Eritrean-Djibouti border following clashes with Djibouti. The sanctions include an arms embargo, travel restrictions, and asset freezes on the Eritrean government’s political and military leaders, as well as other individuals designated by the Security Council’s Committee on Somalia Sanctions.

In April 2010, President Obama announced Executive Order 13536 blocking the property and property interests of several individuals for their financing of al-Shabaab in Somalia, including Yemane Ghebreab, presidential advisor and the former head of political affairs.

In December 2011, the United States voted in favor of UN Security Council Resolution 2023, which calls on UN member states to implement Resolution 1907’s sanctions and ensure that their dealings with Eritrea’s mining industry do not support activities that would destabilize the region.

In 2015, the U.S. government voted in the UN Security Council to retain an arms embargo on Eritrea and to renew for another year the mandate of its Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea.

USCIRF Recommendations

The U.S. government should press for immediate improvements to end religious freedom violations in Eritrea and raise concerns through bilateral and multilateral initiatives. In addition to recommending that the U.S. government should continue to designate Eritrea a CPC and maintaining the existing, ongoing arms embargo referenced in 22 CFR 126.1(a), USCIRF recommends that the U.S. government should:

• Continue to use bilateral and multilateral diplomatic channels to urge the government of Eritrea to:

> release unconditionally and immediately detainees held on account of their peaceful religious activities, including Orthodox Patriarch Antonios;

> end religious persecution of unregistered religious communities and register such groups; grant full citizenship rights to Jehovah’s Witnesses;

> provide for conscientious objection by law in compliance with international human rights standards; implement the Constitution of 1997;

> bring national laws and regulations, including registration requirements for religious communities, into compliance with international human rights standards;

> bring the conditions and treatment of prisoners in line with international standards;

> and extend an official invitation for unrestricted visits by the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Eritrea, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and the International Red Cross;

• Ensure, if development assistance is to be resumed, that it is directed to programs that contribute directly to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law;

• Intensify international efforts to resolve the current impasse between Eritrea and Ethiopia regarding implementation of the boundary demarcation as determined by the “final and binding” decision of the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission that was established following the 1998-2000 war;

• Encourage unofficial dialogue with Eritrean authorities on religious freedom issues by promoting a visit by U.S. and international religious leaders, and expand the use of educational and cultural exchanges, such as the Fulbright Program, the International Visitor Program, and lectures by visiting American scholars and experts; and

• Work with other nations, especially those with mining interests in Eritrea and large Eritrean diaspora communities, to draw attention to religious freedom abuses in Eritrea and advocate for the unconditional and immediate release of detainees held on account of their peaceful religious activities, including Orthodox Patriarch Antonios.

Source=http://www.tesfanews.net/uscirf-2016-report-recommends-eritrea-designated-cpc/

On World Press Freedom Day, Index Youth Advisory Board calls for the release of imprisoned journalists in Eritrea and urges the government to end its persecution of media workers

3 May 2016

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Mr Isaias Afewerki
President of Eritrea
Office of the President
PO Box 257
Asmara, Eritrea

Dear President Afewerki,

We, the Youth Advisory Board of Index on Censorship — a global free expression organisation — are writing to you to call for the immediate release of imprisoned journalists in Eritrea.

We condemn the brutality and ruthlessness with which your regime has gagged expression and assaulted the rights of its citizens to access information.

The very constitution on which your regime governs upholds the rights of all to freedom of conscience. Yet journalists are imprisoned and go missing at the hands of your government. Eritrea has been ranked last on the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index for the past eight years. At least 15 journalists are currently detained and, out of 13 journalists incarcerated in 2001, only four remain alive today.

Dawit Isaak, a Swedish-Eritrean journalist, was arrested in 2001 and has since been held incommunicado and in solitary confinement without any charges or a verdict. He has not seen a lawyer or his family for 13 years. Eritrean authorities have ignored the appeals of the European Union, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights and a lawsuit before a Swedish court.

Seyoum Tsehaye, imprisoned for writing an article that criticised your regime, also has not seen anyone from the outside world since 2001 — including his daughter, who was born soon after his arrest.

Seyoum is a journalist, photographer and prisoner of conscience who earned fame for capturing moving images of Eritrea’s war of independence. That war ended in Eritrea’s first multi-party elections in which your party was victorious, but the people of Eritrea have not seen elections or democracy in any meaningful form since. For speaking out and fighting for freedom to be restored to his country, Seyoum has paid a heavy price.

Eritreans have been denied their human right to freedom of expression. International agencies and human rights groups have alerted the world to arbitrary imprisonment and torture within Eritrea. The government’s attempts to silence critical voices and media workers must end. We urge you to release all journalists from prison and respect international human rights law by granting all Eritreans their right to freedom of expression.

Signed,

The Index on Censorship Youth Advisory Board

This letter was written by the Index on Censorship Youth Advisory Board, a group of 16-25 year olds drawn from the global community and who were moved to write this letter following a meeting with 2016 Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards finalist Vanessa Berhe.

At just 16 years old Berhe set up the organisation One Day Seyoum to campaign for the release of her uncle Seyoum Tsehaye, a journalist who has been imprisoned in Eritrea since 2001. Show your support for the campaign here.

 

Source=https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2016/05/eritrea-must-free-imprisoned-journalists/

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As politicians grapple with the migrant crisis experts say cash will only prop up the abusive regime – not stop the exodus

An Eritrean refugee waits for medical attention in ‘the Jungle’ camp in Calais.      
 An Eritrean refugee waits for medical attention in ‘the Jungle’ camp in Calais. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Thursday 28 April 2016 08.00 BST  Last modified on Thursday 28 April 2016 13.54 BST 

The migration crisis has dominated headlines and confounded politicians, but still very little is known about Eritrea, a country from which an estimated 5,000 people are fleeing each month.

Despite unaccompanied children from Eritrea being the largest group to seek refuge in the UK, and despite Eritreans being one of the largest groups entering Europe in 2015 after Afghans and Syrians, even the well-informed ask, why? Why Eritrea? What’s happening there?

It’s a pertinent question, particularly since the EU has agreed to give ‎€200m in aid to the Eritrean government. But sounds like a solution is, campaigners say, just going to exacerbate the problem. Because it is the Eritrean government itself which is accused of gross human rights abuses, with reports of routine extra-judicial executions, torture and arbitrary detention.

Many Eritreans claim to have spent more than 20 years in slave-like, unpaid national service. Give aid to the Eritrean regime and campaigners say that instead of halting the exodus, it will only make it worse.

“It feels like the oppressors are getting a reward from the European Union for oppressing their own people,” says Meron Estefanos, the director of the Eritrean Initiative on Refugee Rights. “There is no accountability. It seems to me that the EU is very naive.”

For Martin Plaut, former Africa editor for the BBC, the issue isn’t naiveté. He says the plan shows just how split the EU is over migration. “You have two completely different forces,” he explains. “You have the European parliament, which is made up of people with their own individual views and concerns about their constituents. Then you have the commission, which is really answerable to a council of ministers. They have a completely different set of agendas.” When it comes to Eritrea, he argues, those different agendas breed serious policy problems.

When announcing the new programme on behalf of the European Union, European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica, said “... We have agreed to promote activities with concrete results for the [Eritrean] population, such as the creation of job opportunities and the improvement of living conditions,” but claimed at the same time the EU would insist on “full respect of human rights”.

Angela Merkel listens to African Union chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at the EU’s Africa summit on migration.

Angela Merkel listens to African Union chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma at the EU’s summit on migration. Photograph: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images 
 
But many remain sceptical. Former MEP Baroness Glenys Kinnock, now chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Eritrea, is robust in her criticism of the EU aid deal. “I’m horrified that, as Europeans, we’re offering any kind of support to President Isaias Afewerki,” she says.

“It will never reach the people and it will never improve their lives while he is there. It absolutely flies in the face of any claims we make as Europeans that we’re fighting for the rights and freedoms of the people of Eritrea

Abraham Zere, the director of PEN Eritrea in Exile who was forced to flee in 2011, says that many refugees living in the diaspora agree that the aid funding will do little more than prolong the life of dictatorship.

“The minimum services like electricity, water supply and food are lacking [there],” he explains. “Not because of lack of resources – but mainly through an utterly failed administration. Aid will not help the destitute population.”

Controversy

This isn’t the first time that EU aid and development spending has been seen as controversial. Funding for Sudan – announced at the same time as the Eritrea grant – was deemed “almost satire” by Ahmed Adam from the Institute for African Development at Cornell University , for essentially rewarding a migrant-producing regime while claiming to help stem the flow. .

Similarly, after 12 years of sanctions the EU is once again giving development support to Zimbabwe, while last month the EU suspended direct funding for the government of Burundi after they were judged to have not done enough to stop the current conflict.

The MEP and chair of the Committee on Development, Linda McAvan, is also sceptical about the aid plan, but emphasises that no money has yet changed hands.

“We’ve made it clear that we are very sceptical, as a European Parliament, about funding the Eritrean government in any way. There has been talk of them getting rid of their national service, which isn’t a national service - it’s a lifetime conscription by the government - but it hasn’t happened,” she says.

Although many MEPs in the European parliament have strongly objected to the plan, they don’t have the power to block the proposed payments completely.

A doctor checks migrants aboard the Mare Nostrum after being rescued 25 miles off Italy.

A doctor checks migrants aboard the Mare Nostrum after being rescued 25 miles off Italy. Photograph: Giuseppe Lami/EPA 
 

Refugee policy

Kinnock, who is trying to raise a debate in the House of Lords on the subject, also points to the “clearly untenable and unreasonable” policy on Eritrean refugees.

Under the new EU migration deal, Eritreans – and other non-Syrians – reaching Greece are to be sent back to Turkey where the government have begun negotiations to readmit refugees and migrants with a host of countries, including Eritrea.

The UK government has also changed the country code guidance for Eritrea, so that while in the past 95% of Eritreans had their asylum applications accepted, it’s now down to 28%.

“As I’ve said before, [the EU migration deal] is life-threatening to them. They can’t go back,” says Kinnock. “I know families who have used every resource they’ve got to pay smugglers to take their children across the border into Sudan or Ethiopia, even though the government have a shoot to kill policy on those borders; they deserve our support, not increasing the threats to them.”
 
As warmer weather approaches, the Mediterranean migration route is expected to become more popular again - putting Eritreans and many others are increased risk as they try to reach Europe.

“I was speaking to UNHCR yesterday asking if there was any diminution in the 4,000-5,000 people fleeing Eritrea every month and they said no,” says Plaut.

Daniel Mekonnen, a prominent Eritrean human rights lawyer living in Geneva, warns that a time of increased urgency, the aid deal could severely discredit the EU. “By dealing with such a regime, in a strangely non-transparent and non-accountable manner, the EU risks the danger of portrayal as complicit in the perpetration of gross human rights violations, including a possible situation of crimes against humanity, as concluded in June 2015 by a UN commission of inquiry.”

The Eritrean regime, argues Mekonnen, is not going to change because of EU funding. “I liken the [government] with a habitual offender, a serial killer, or offender of the worst type, who has zero chance of rehabilitating,” he says.

Source=http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/28/eu-plan-to-pay-millions-to-eritrea

An anonymous whistleblower claims to have new proof of human rights abuses, galvanising opposition online

 Eritrea has become nicknamed ‘Africa’s North Korea’ in recent years.

Eritrea has become nicknamed ‘Africa’s North Korea’ in recent years. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images


In a bid to upend years of secrecy in the country dubbed “Africa’s North Korea”, a new Facebook page is publishing documents claiming to show how the Eritrean government abuses its citizens.

In just two months, SACTISM – Classified Documents of the Dwindling PFDJ has garnered more than 16,000 followers on the social media site by alleging to have new information about human rights violations committed at the hands of president Isaias Afewerki’s ruling party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice.

The name “sactism” comes from a colloquial Arabic word that roughly translates as “nothing”, and was coined by the anonymous whistleblower behind the page, who goes by the name Samuel.

Samuel claims he is an Eritrean underground blogger who once held a “key post” in the government but who later fled the country. He says he is now sorting through the documents he collected while working in the capital, and says he is determined to expose the regime.

Over the last decade, the Eritrean government has been branded one of world’s worst human rights abusers, with Amnesty International estimating the country is holding at least 10,000 political prisoners in more than 360 secret prisons.

As a result, thousands of young men and women are fleeing the country. In 2014, 50,000 Eritreans sought asylum in Europe, with the UN estimating that around 5,000 nationals continue to escape each month.

With such a severe crackdown on civil liberties, and with little information able to enter to leave the country, Sactism has garnered a significant amount of attention from the Eritrean diaspora, despite the fact that the documents are impossible to verify.
 
‘Shaking the status quo’

In early February, posts appeared on Sactism claiming to show new information about the political prisoners and journalists who have been incarcerated for more than 14 years in Eritrea’s secret prisons.

Samuel also published accompanying notes he claims originate from 2001, which offer information about the security agents who arrested the journalists and their subsequent treatment in the notoriously secretive prison in Eiraeiro.

“The page is shaking the status quo,” says Daniel Mekonnen, a prominent Eritrean human rights lawyer living in Geneva. “Although it is difficult to ascertain the truthfulness of every information published on the page, some [readers] have already given their own independent opinion confirming the veracity – in whole or in part – of some of the information revealed,” he says.

The allegations have also been read out on popular Eritrean radio stations abroad, such as Radio Assenna, and have been extensively republished on diaspora websites.

Blocks

President of PEN Eritrea in exile, Ghirmai Negash, describes Sactism “as a new genre in Eritrean writing, the importance of which lies in its subversive power in the context of a nation under tyranny.”

But a few prominent figures have criticised the way in which Samuel is releasing the information. Awet Weldemichael, professor of African history at Queen’s University, says he is concerned about the ethics of the way in which the information is being released.

“I am not sure if it helps to family and friends of the disappeared to learn it through Facebook,” he says, adding that he also worries about the authenticity of the documents.

Facebook initially blocked the page, originally published exclusively in Tigrinya, after a petition emerged claiming that Sactism was “inciting hatred”. Samuel then began publishing certain posts in English, and provided a short blurb to clarify his intentions to readers.

Though he’s been approached by various outlets, he says he has chosen to stick to publishing on social media to allow him to “operate at an individual level” and to be “part of the democratisation of information sharing”, he has written.

“The regime was surviving mainly through the dread of information sharing,” he explained in a post in February. As a result, he has made it his mission to fight “misinformation and secrecy”, promising that “all the information shared on the page is most accurate.”

Source=http://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/apr/27/eritrea-facebook-page-sactism-human-rights-abuses

A CALL FOR PARTICIPATION

Wednesday, 27 April 2016 11:11 Written by

EMDHR Logo New

Eritrea@25: Learning from the Past, Overcoming the Present and Envisioning a Bright Future

A wisdom is like a baobab tree, no one individual can embrace it.

The Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR) cordially invites Eritreans and non-Eritreans to take part in the national dialogue on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the Eritrean Independence.

Rational 

Eritrea, as an independent country, is 25 years old. As Eritreans celebrate this milestone, they evidently engage in evaluation whether or not Eritrea has met the aspirations and dreams of its people for a better life worth the sacrifices of its people who paid the ultimate price through their loved ones and everything they had. EMDHR would like to utilize the Silver Jubilee of the Eritrean Independence as an opportunity to reflect and review the progress or lack thereof in the last 25 years. It is an occasion for us as a nation to pause, reflect, and draw lessons from the past for a better present and brighter future. 

Eritrean and non-Eritrean intellectuals of diverse disciplines and experiences are cordially invited to participate in this initiative at which they have the opportunity to share their views, assessments and recommendations on different aspects - namely political, economic, social, cultural as well as environmental - with the wider public. By so doing they would be able to shape constructive public discourse on the basis of objective analysis and present feasible and practical steps towards solutions to the numerous challenges facing our country and its people.

The Initiative is premised on the following general assertions:  

  • Eritrea and its people are faced with great and grave challenges that are critical to their survival and development.
  • There are better options and alternatives that can enable our country to meet the aspirations of its people. 
  • In order to arrive at shared and common alternatives we need to seriously, sincerely and with open-mind dialogue among ourselves. 
  • The role of Eritrean intelligentsia is essential in this respect and there is a huge reservoir of intellectual capital among Eritreans that is yet to be fully harnessed for constructive purposes of shaping public opinion and guiding collective action. 

This initiative thus intends to mobilize and bring together this critical potential to engage and provide an objective perspective on the Eritrean experiences of the last 25 years. We hope that this will encourage not just the Eritrean intellectuals but also the people at large to be active participants in their national discourse and build a nation that caters the needs and meets the aspirations of its citizens. 

Using diverse media, namely Paltalk panel discussions, seminars and media interviews Eritreans scholars and practitioners will have the opportunity to interact with Eritrean public in a highly sober, objective and constructive dialogues on the following and related themes. The public seminars, lectures, and panel discussions will be provided in either Arabic, Tigrigna, or English. Written submissions (in English) that meet the set standards will be considered for a publication on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of Eritrean independence. The key themes considered in the initiative include:

Theme 1 - Economic Growth and Development

  1. Economic policy framework(s) 
  2. Natural Resources Governance: Extractive, Land  and Land Tenure 
  3. Public Finance Management - Efficiency and Accountability
  4. Sovereign wealth management
  5. Private Sector and the role of PFDJ Businesses
  6. Sectoral Analysis on: Mining, Agriculture and Marine Resources (Fisheries), Manufacturing and Industrialization, Domestic and Foreign Trade, Infrastructure and Construction, The State of Financial Sector, Tourism, Communication and ICT Development.

Theme 2 - Public Services, Human Development and Humanitarian Situation(taking MDGs as yard sticks)  

  1. Public Service Provision
    1. Policy Frameworks 
    2. Health sector – primary health care and Infect
    3. Education sector – Primary and Tertiary and Higher education.
    4. Food Security and Nutrition 
    5. Water and Sanitation – Provision Quality and Spread 
    6. Energy and Energy Supply (Fuel, Electricity and Rural Electrification).
  2. Human development and Humanitarian Situation
    1. Unemployment and Poverty 
    2. The State of the Eritrean Family
    3. Gender issues and the Rights of the Eritrean Woman
    4. The Eritrean Youth
    5. Migration and Human Trafficking 
    6. Militarization of Society and its implications 
    7. The State of vulnerable groups, eg. Orphans, people with disability, elderly, widows, etc.

Theme 3 - Political Governance, National Security and International Relations

  1. Political Governance 
    1. Rule of law and constitutionalism
    2. Policy making, Institutions, accountability and participation
    3. Human rights and access to Justice
    4. Citizenry, representation, identity and nation-building
    5. The state of civil societies and their role
    6. The state of independent media
    7. The state of the broader Resistance Movement 
  1. National Security
    1. Policy framework and strategy
    2. Actual and potential threats to national security
    3. National Service, its contribution and its consequences
    4. Border wars and conflict with neighbouring countries
  1. Diplomacy, Regional and International Relations and Cooperation
    1. Policy framework and strategy
    2. Bilateral relations with world powers and its consequences
    3. The status of the EEBC decision
    4. Regional integration and cooperation (e.g. IGAD and African Union)
    5. International (Arab League, Red Sea, the UN, etc.)

Theme 4 - Culture, Cultural Values and Heritage

  1. Policy framework and strategy
  2. Custom and tradition
  3. Historical and archeological heritage 
  4. Religion and religious institutions
  5. Language and the linguistic development
  6. Traditional and modern Arts

Theme 5 - Environment and Climate

  1. Policy frameworks and strategy
  2. The state of ecology in Eritrea
  3. Climate change and its consequences - climate adaptation.

Time Frame

The Initiative will run from May 2016 to May 2017

We hope that many will take this opportunity to participate in the series of debates and encourage others to join. Participants are free to choose any of the above themes or other themes that are relevant to Eritrea in the context of the last 25 years. Send your expression of interest to Dr. Adane G.Meskel

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Eritrea25 years 4

 

 

 

 

   

 

 "I see a light at the end of the tunnel"

         My own expectation

               

When I have read the press release of the Ad- Hoc Contact Organ of the Consulative meetings in Addis Abeba, I was really surprised and inspired by the initial agreements reached between those who did not participate in Nairobi to participate in the coming all- inclusive consulative meeting that will be held in the coming August 2016. I also appreciate the empathy shown by the six political organizations, by empathy , I mean stepping in the other parties shoes seeing the conflict issues not only through their eyes but through the eyes of others. Empathy does not mean you have accepted all what the others say but help you to use reasonable causes of action to diffuse conflict situation and move towards the right direction. The statement reminded me that we have our Cyril Mamphosa( ANC) and Roelf Meyer( Apartheid) skills of negotiating that can end the dictatorship and pave the road map towards democratic transition in our land Eritrea.

 

In this article of appreciation, I would like to focus on the three points stated in the press release of the AD- Hoc Contact Organ.

 

- A Unifying stategic Vision

- Agreement on the methods of ending dictatorship in Eritrea

- Clear Transtional Map or Roadmap

 

Referring the previous studies and experiences of the Eritrean and international analysis.

 

1. What is a unifying strategic vision?

The Eritrean internal conflict is a deep rooted conflict based on identity elements (religion, language, culture and region) these elements are components of our national identity but they have been misued by political elites/political entrepreneurs to divide and create political cleavages during the political and armed struggle and now at this time of struggle from dictatorship to democracy.

 

A unifying strategic vision can be created by identifying or understanding the situation of each organization feelings and motives. We have today political and civic organizations based on or affiliated by identities not by idealogies, thus religious, ethnic and regional political and civic organizations. A unifying strategic vision can be created and maintained by pursuing the process of participation and inclusiveness. There are two routes. The first route is the process of trust building and sustaining good professional relations with all forces for democratic change. The second route is creating commitment to the common programme by identifying what will be gained- we all gain by removing the dictatorship in Eritrea.

 

The Ad- Hoc Contact Organ in consultation with all parties must formulate the key strategic issues of the Opposition Forces. As they have mentioned in their press release their formulation of the unifying strategic vision will be based on the information and analysis derived from the previous studies. ( Historical analysis of the Eritrean unifying strategic vision- its success and failures) With this in mind, I would like to share my experience with the Contact Organ in the formulation of the unifying strategic vision by taking well-informed, realistic and relatively detailed strategies that must be formulated by involving all actors in the opposition organizations. I think before unifying the opposition forces we need to idnetify the strategic issues facing us in the opposition camp. In this way it will be clear to any person who reads each strategy what the problem is, what solution has been proposed, how the proposed solution will successfully address the problem and why this solution is better than the previous.( see the experience of building partnership in the ENA, ENCDC..........etc)

 

When the individaul strategies are formulated, then, the Ad-Hoc Contact Organ's task is to formulate the overall unifying strategy of vision based on the individual strategies. What are the main themes of this overall strategy? Have the opposition a common denominator? How can this common denominator best be framed so that it is clear to all stakeholders and this sparks to new commitments to make the desired change happen. I hope the Ad-Hoc Contact Organ take a flexible approach to get the support of all forces in the opposition camp.

 

2. Agreement on the methods of ending dictatorship in Eritrea

What we have seen in the past 15 years struggle from dictatorship to democracy, the problem was not on the planning of the strategy but on implementation. After formulating the unifying strategic plan, the Sd-Hoc Contact Organ must prepare to give the plan life. ( towards implementation and evaluation) Here , I mean, specific and detailed list should be made for each plan, stating goals, activities and outcomes and the resources required ( funds, people,technology must be organized to succeed in the given plan of work. I think in the past 15 years we lacked resources to implement our unifying strategy of vision. The Eritrean Opposition forces have been arguing the methods simply by saying or mentioning, " Violence or non-violence , or, all means or reform have consumed our time and scanty resources. I think, the Ad-Hoc Contact Organ focuses on the process of implementation and evaluation of the plan periodically.( See more on recent academic researches)

 

If we once complete the process of implementation and evaluation every time after each project by doing so we create a culture of work process that can give us the opportunity not only to think, plan and act but also learn strategically. Our previous  methods of unifying were not strategical but tactical and diversional inherited from the philsophy of zero-sum games. Let us now change the mindset and move towards building trust and work together to liberate our people from the brutality of one man rule.

 

3. Clear Transtional Per[fes1]iod

Transitional period is the time between or from the fall of dictatorship to building constitutional government. This period is very complicated and full of contradictions.,We have seen the recent Arab Spring Mass Movements results in their transition after the fall of dictators. Looking from the different transitions in Africa and Latin America most of them failed to succeed in their transition from dictatorship to democracy. In the past 15 years, the ENA- Eritrean Democratic Alliance has defined and chartered how the transitional period be framed and later the ENCDC har developed it more and framed it in its document, the EPDP has also proposed the transitional period and is available in the EPDP's website. As the Ad-Hoc Contact Organ mentioned in their statements that we have enough internal and external documents dealing on the transitional period. I think this approach will foster inclusiveness and prevent personal conflicts and tensions among political and civic organizations.

                                     


 [fes1]

 

By Max Bearak

In Eritrea, your last year of high school is also your first year in the army. The nation fought a 30-year war against its much larger neighbor Ethiopia, and because of a continuing land dispute, still considers hostilities active. Although obligatory conscription isn’t exactly unusual around the world, in Eritrea, there are three huge downsides: Your service is indefinite, you’re not allowed to leave the country, and the pay is dismal — about $10 on the black market.

The rest of the world doesn’t really hear much about the country, as the foreign press is mostly barred from entry, and Eritrea ranks dead last in Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index (behind North Korea). But last week, unconfirmed reports began filtering through the crevices of the Internet about the possible killing of conscripts who attempted escape while being transported to a labor camp.

The most complete report describes a scene of utter chaos and desperation. Its version of the carnage goes like this: As a truck full of conscripts passed through the capital city of Asmara, two jumped out and were immediately shot by guards in the truck. Then, just down the road, a more planned breakaway happened. Some conscripts had apparently alerted their family members in Asmara that they were being transported across the country, and asked them to wait at a major intersection so that they could jump out of the truck and be quickly whisked away. Family members commandeered a city bus to block the road, but as the conscripts left the truck, they and their families were sprayed indiscriminately with bullets.

The numbers of dead and injured vary in the reports, ranging from four to 29. The tight-lipped Eritrean government indirectly acknowledged the incident in a tweet from its information minister, who claimed that it was an accident, and that two conscripts had fallen off the truck.
If the story is true, it offers a glimpse into the terrifying system of conscription and forced labor in Eritrea, and the lengths people are willing to go to escape it. The United Nations estimates that 5,000 Eritreans leave their country every month as refugees. The Wall Street Journal recently referred to Eritrea as one of the “world’s fastest emptying nations.” Many of them are young men, and researchers on the ground have noted that the ages of Eritrean refugees have gotten progressively younger, floating the idea that they are leaving prior to conscription. Ten Eritrean soccer players refused to get on a flight back to Eritrea after a tournament in Botswana in October, two years after another group did the same in Uganda and was granted asylum.

Last year, WorldViews reported on a U.N.-led inquiry of human rights violations in Eritrea. My colleague Adam Taylor summarized some of the findings:

“The system leads to arbitrary arrests and detention, with torture and even enforced disappearances a part of life in Eritrea, the U.N. probe found, and even those who commit no perceived crime often end up in arduous and indefinite national service that may amount to forced labor. Escape is not a realistic option for many: Those who attempt to flee the country are considered ‘traitors,’ and there is a shoot-to-kill policy on the border, the report said.”

In the first eight months of 2015, more than 30,000 Eritreans used the central Mediterranean smuggling route from Libya to Italy — more than any other group — and it is presumed that many if not most of the approximately 2,700 of those who drowned during the journey were Eritrean.
Beyond conscription, the country is one of the least developed in the world, with an abysmal Human Development Index rating, and is suffering through a prolonged drought. The country has no constitution, no court system, no elections and no free press.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) gives prima facie designations to Eritrean asylum-seekers, which means they are presumed to have good reason. Eritrea says the United Nations is mistaking conscription for forced labor, and accuses the organization of fueling the exodus from the country. As refugees have begun to weigh heavily on European countries, and public opinion has shifted against open-door policies, some nations, such as Denmark, have imposed greater restrictions on Eritreans, citing fact-finding reports that say human rights violations in Eritrea are not as bad as previously thought.

The surge in Eritrean refugees in the past two years also raises the possibility that the Eritrean government is less and less able, or inclined, to stem the flow of those leaving. Refugees send back remittances that provide Eritrea with hard cash, and allowing them to leave might provide a safety valve to give the disaffected a way out that doesn’t involve fighting the government.

Source=http://www.strathink.net/eritrea/hundreds-of-thousands-have-fled-this-country-this-ghastly-massacre-is-a-reminder-why/

Why people are leaving Eritrea

Friday, 15 April 2016 21:11 Written by

Eritrea

Every month as many as 5,000 people flee Eritrea, a country ruled by an authoritarian regime in which human rights violations are widespread. Oliver Ramme has just returned from a rare visit to the African nation.

Sudan: Kassala refugee camp

Eritrean asylum seekers at a refugee camp in Kassala State, eastern Sudan

 

Tokombia is a village lying some 200 kilometers (124 miles) from the Eritrean capital, Asmara. Dogs bark as the scorching sun beats down on the mud huts. The soil is arid, almost desert-like. The village is underdeveloped, like many places in Eritrea. The Ethiopian border is not that far away.

"It is quiet along the border. Not much happens. We don't want any trouble with the Ethiopians," says Tesfalem Andom, the village elder. He is a member of the ruling party, the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ). It is the only party in Eritrea and is neither democratic, nor does it uphold justice. The PFDJ has ruled the country since it gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993. Eritrea does not have a constitution, or a free press.

But Eritrea owes its notoriety largely to its national service, nominally 18 months of compulsory military service for young men which is often extended indefinitely at the whim of military commanders. National service is the main reason why young Eritreans flee their country. When asked about their fate, Tesfalem Andom replies evasively:

"It's normal for people to come and go. They go in groups to Ethiopia only to discover that life isn't that easy in a refugee camp. Running away seems to be some sort of 'kick' for young people, a 'craze' of sorts," he said.

DW map show Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea

Eritrea separated from Ethiopia in 1991 after a 20-year independence war. Their common border remains tense

Thousands succumb to the supposed 'craze' every month, leaving Eritrea by crossing the border into Ethiopia or Sudan. Fleeing Eritrea is dangerous, because a border conflict with Ethiopia is still smoldering.

In Asmara, Abraham and John agree to talk in a car. Those are not their real names as it is forbidden to criticize the government in Eritrea. With loud music in the background, they tell their stories. "I am not proud of working in an illegal occupation," says John. "I would prefer to have a normal job in which I receive some sort of recognition, but I have to have something to live on." John deals in foreign currency, illegally. Such trading is prohibited in Ethiopia. If he were to be caught, he would land in jail.

No future for the youth

Abraham and John have both been to university. But there are hardly any jobs in Eritrea's tiny private sector and wages and salaries in the numerous state-owned enterprises are low. "Twenty five years after independence, the country is moving backwards," says Abraham, "in healthcare, education and production."

Eritrea Asmara Poster Präsident Afewerki

The face of Eritrean President Issaias Afewerki looks down from a shop window in Asmara.

The cost of living is high in Eritrea. A liter of sunflower oil costs 5 euros ($ 5.60). A pound (half a kilo) of noodles costs about the same. A liter of petrol costs about 3 euros. The monthly wages paid to the hundreds of thousands of conscripts range between 50 and 100 euros.

The frustration this economic deprivation causes as well as the fear of the state and its prisons can be sensed wherever you go in Eritrea.

Help from outside

Yemane Gebreab is the personal advisor to President Isaias Afwerki and is regarded as the second most powerful person in the country. Gebreab speaks precisely and softly, in a manner slightly reminiscent of an old-fashioned accountant. Eritrea, he maintains, is simply misunderstood by the international community.

"I go all over the world and people who don't know what Eritrea is, where Eritrea is, the first thing they ask you is national service. I say how can national service in a very small country become a topic of global conversation?," he said. Gebreab blames the United States for Eritrea's political isolation.

Peter Schwidtal runs a small German NGO, Archemed, dedicated to improving the healthcare infrastructure in Eritrea. It is one of the few aid projects in Eritrea. Despite all his idealism, the German medical practitioner admits that he is forced to face up to the reality of life in Eritrea. That includes the exodus of the young and the skilled.

"It can be very hard when after having trained up a surgeon or a pediatrician, you suddenly discover that person is no longer there. It's huge loss because there are so few trained medical personnel in the country."

He also said that when they take ambitious, young colleagues to Germany for training, there is the risk that they will not return to Eritrea.

John and Abraham are also thinking about escaping. They are undeterred by television footage showing European nations erecting border fences.

Source=http://www.dw.com/en/why-people-are-leaving-eritrea/a-19190853

NO: 000102

The Ad Hoc Contact Organ of the Nairobi’s National Consultative Conference held its meeting in Addis Ababa from April 1-3, 2016. The Chairman and the members of the committee presented their reports for the last three months, and then embarked on an objective assessment of their performance. The chairman concluded that the overall work of the committee was productive, and attributed its success to the strong support it gained from the organizations that participated in the Nairobi meeting and the Eritrean public in general. In its evaluation of the phase that followed the Nairobi meeting, the Contact Organ noted some confusion in the understanding of the aims and objectives of the Forum For National Dialogue (Medrekh) by some sides, perhaps, because of the seemingly similar path the National Council, like the Forum, is making preparations for its second Conference, or other reasons. Accordingly, the Contact Organ deemed it necessary to reassure the following:

  1. The National Consultative Conference of Nairobi was a consultative meeting of the various political organizations and parties to reach a common political understanding on the present Eritrean affairs and a vision for the future.
  2. The mission of the Ad Hoc Contact Organ, in accordance with the tasks it was entrusted, is to strive in involving all political forces, those who participated, as well as those who did not participate in the Nairobi Consultative Meeting, in the upcoming second consultative meeting, and not a replacement (displacement) of the Eritrean National Council for Democratic Change or the Democratic Alliance or any other political arrangement. Therefore, the Nairobi Forum does not interfere or contradict with the preparation of the second National Conference of the National Council of Eritrea.

Based on its unanimous assessment, the Ad Hoc Contact Organ put forward its provisional programme of work that covers the period from the end of the meeting (April 3) and the second half of the month of August, when the second consultation meeting will be held. Towards this, it has decided, to initiate the preparation of working papers, which will set the agenda for discussion of the next consultative meeting, namely: a unifying strategic vision for the opposition, an agreement on the means to topple the dictatorial regime, drafting a vision for the transitional period utilizing all existing documents of the Eritrean National Council for Democratic Change, the Eritrean Democratic Alliance, Eritrean Peoples’ Democratic Party and other opposition forces, as well as the findings of a committee of Eritrean experts who will conduct Root Cause Analysis of the Eritrean opposition by taking into account all previous experiences.

During the time of its meeting, the Ad Hoc Contact Organ held important meetings with the different political forces, in order to update relevant parties of the activities it has undertaken since its formation, pursuant to the responsibilities it was entrusted by the National Consultative Meeting held in Nairobi. The first meeting was to brief the representatives of the organizations, which participated in the Nairobi Forum, of the achievements that have been made and the circumstances in which the overall activities were put into effect. The representatives of the organizations have reconfirmed their support for the mission of the Ad Hoc Contact Organ. Medrekh and members of the Contact Organ also met with representatives of the six organizations and the Democratic Organization of the Afar Red Sea, which, for various reasons, did not participate in the Nairobi forum, but after a fruitful engagement in which they stressed the importance of inclusiveness, they have decided to welcome the initiative and participate in the upcoming meeting.  

At the end of the meeting the Ad Hoc Contact Organ expressed its thanks and appreciation to everyone who supported and contributed, in thought and wishes, in furthering the objectives of the consultative forum among all the political forces, and especially thanked those who contributed to the success of this meeting.

The Ad Hoc Contact Organ

National Consultative Conference--Nairobi Declaration

April 4, 2016

On April 10, 2016 North America (USA & Canada) EPDP Zoba Leadership hosted all–members teleconference meeting. This is the first conference of this magnitude after its election in December 2015.

The meeting was attended by overwhelming majority of members. The Zoba chairman haw Kalaab Kifleghiorghis lead the meeting and the main agendas were the following:

·         Zoba leadership’s progress report

·         Zoba’s departments responsibilities and tasks

·         Branch responsibilities and activities

·         Members expectation and suggestions to zoba

The Chairman discussed the agenda points in depth and detail. Each zoba office leaders also briefly present their tasks and responsibilities. Lengthy questions and answers session was given and covered all topics. Zoba members expressed their satisfaction with the performance of Zoba Leadership and pledge to collaborate to their ability to achieve the objectives. 

Since its election, the Zoba Leadership have engaged in meetings with branch leadership and outlined action plan for the next six months which includes zoba congress. The meeting ended with high spirit of respect and civility.