The Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR) is pleased to announce that the ten Eritrean national football players have been granted political asylum by the government of the republic of Botswana today the 28th of October 2015.

It is to be recalled that the ten Eritrean players who came to play world cup qualification match against Botswana refused to go back to their country and applied for political asylum on the 14th of October 2015.  Subsequently, the Eritrean ambassador to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region, Mr Saleh Omer, threatened the players to forcibly return them home. Faced with stiff resistance, the Ambassador defaced their passports by making holes through them. The Minister of Defense, Justice and Security of Botswana made a pronouncement that the Eritrean players would be deported back home.

To this effect the EMDHR approached their lawyer Bayford and Associates to launch an urgent application to stop the move by the ambassador and the government of Botswana. To that effect, the Botswana high court in Lobatse issued an order by consent on the 16th of October with the following decisions:

1. The Respondents (the Government of the Republic of Botswana) shall not remove from the jurisdiction of the Botswana certain Eritrean Nationals, all members of the Eritrean National Football Team, ten in number, who on or about 14th October, 2015 presented themselves to Botswana Government officials at Francistown seeking political asylum.

2. This Order together with all originating process and any pleading (if any) filed by the Respondents shall be served personally upon the asylum seekers by the Applicant within 14 days of this Order.

3.  The parties shall file all pleading prior to the date of Status Hearing (11 Dec 2015); and

4.  The Applicant's legal representatives shall have access to the asylum seekers.

 After nearly two weeks the due process for the players’ asylum application has been completed. The Botswana government has now granted the ten Eritrean players political asylum. We are grateful to the government of Botswana for providing full protection to these ten Eritrean youngsters. This is clear demonstration of the prevailing rule of law in the country. We are grateful for the sympathy and solidarity shown by the people of Botswana, civil society and media. We are also highly appreciative tour lawyer Bayford and Associates for their commitment, dedication and professional handling of this highly sensitive case. We are also thankful to Eritreans across the globe for standing behind EMDHR and the players and taking ownership of the issue.

 Eritrea is ruled by fear and not by law. It has no constitution, no parliament, no judiciary, and all forms of freedoms and rights are either banned or severely restricted. Citizens are often arbitrarily arrested, disappeared, tortured, and even extra-judicially executed. The UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea confirmed in 2015 the “systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations” in the country. The Eritrean youth are at the receiving end of the regime’s ruthlessness and brutality. Today the youth are wasting their potential and talents in a forced and indefinite military conscription and doing forced labour. Today, Eritrea has become a country where even high school students are taken into a military training camp and forced labour programs. As a result these appalling conditions in their country, Eritrean youth are fleeing in mass seeking refuge in exile where they are granted asylum and hope to reconstruct their lives.

 EMDHR

28 October 2015

Pretoria – South Africa

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki (L) reviews the honor guard during his welcome ceremony in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, on June 11, 2015. Photo: AFP

Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki (L) reviews the honor guard during his welcome ceremony in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, on June 11, 2015. Photo: AFP

New Delhi , India ( DIPLOMAT.SO) – Reliable sources to Diplomat News Network confirmed that the Eritrean and Algerian President did not attend the Indian-Africa forum summit for reasons not disclosed to the local and international media.

According to a report published on the website Livemint – In hindsight, I should have known. On Monday, I called the Eritrean embassy in New Delhi, located in the Vasant Vihar neighbourhood, to find out if I could meet the Eritrean leader, the man they call Africa’s Kim Jong-un (or any other member of North Korea’s Kim dynasty).

The response from the person at the other end was interesting. “We don’t know where he is. No one knows where he is. It is not possible to meet him. He is in India on a private visit,” she said. Except that the Eritrean leader, Isaias Afwerki, is not on a private visit. He is one of the participants in the India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS) that starts in New Delhi on Thursday.

Eritrea, a small country of 6.5 million people, is located on the coast of the Red Sea in a region known as the Horn of Africa. The country gained de facto independence from neighbouring Ethiopia in 1991, ending a three-decade-long war between the two countries which culminated in the liberation of Eritrea.

Following its de jure independence in May 1993, Eritrea has been ruled by one man (and one party), Afwerki, its first “elected” head of state, after a United Nations-sponsored referendum. Elections may not be held in Eritrea for a long time to come, with Afwerki in May 2008 declaring that the country might hold elections in “three or four decades” or longer because they “polarize society vertically”.

Much like his North Korean counterpart, not much is known about Afwerki (his name literally translates to ‘mouth of gold’ in native Tigrinya), except for his starring role in the country’s 30-year-long independence movement, as part of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF).

The EPLF, as part of its post-war transition, renamed itself the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), the only political party recognised by the government. In one of the US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks in 2010, an Ethiopian intelligence official quoted one of Afwerki’s former bodyguards as telling him, “Isaias was a recluse who spent his days painting and tinkering with gadgets and carpentry works…. Isaias appeared to make decisions with no discussion with his advisors. It was difficult to tell how Isaias would react every day and his moods changed constantly.”

Afwerki, after Eritrea’s indepedence, was considered one of Africa’s most promising leaders. Former US Ambassador to Eritrea Robert McMullen, in a 2009 cable, said, “Immediately after liberation, Isaias seemed to be providing (like Mugabe) reasonably good governance to his traumatized nation. The accelerating decline into dictatorship began in 1996 with an alleged assassination attempt against Isaias by Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi, followed by the bloody 1998-2000 Border War, and the ‘treason’ of the inner-circle critics called the G-15.”

Similarly, as a 2010 Foreign Policy (FP) article on Eritrea notes, “Once hailed as the vanguard of a ‘new generation’ of responsible African leaders, he (Afwerki) has long since won the dishonor of being one of the continent’s most repressive.” McMullen, in his summary of the cable, worte, “Young Eritreans are fleeing their country in droves, the economy appears to be in a death spiral, Eritrea’s prisons are overflowing, and the country’s unhinged dictator remains cruel and defiant.”

Afwerki’s repressive regime

The repression is mainly because Eritrea is a highly militarized nation. It has the largest army in sub-Saharan Africa, with about 320,000 active soldiers. “It’s number of soldiers per capita puts Eritrea second only to North Korea,” the Foreign Policy article adds. The country imposes what is known as “indefinite conscription”, where all its citizens, including men and unmarried women, are conscripted into mandatory national service. The Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) 2014 country report says that “although Eritrean law limits national service to 18 months, most conscripts serve for much of their working lives”. Besides, the report continues, “conscripts are routinely added as forced labor on essentially civilian jobs”. Failure to complete the service results in arrest.

The HRW report adds, “Former conscripts described working long hours for minimal food rations, primitive lodging, and wages too low to sustain themselves, much less their families. They were not allowed to leave the work site.

Children as young as 15 are inducted and sent for military training, according to recent interviews by refugee agencies. They and other recruits are regularly subject to violence and ill-treatment for raising questions or for other perceived infractions. Beatings, torture, and prolonged incarcerations are common. Women are subject to sexual violence from military commanders, including rape. No mechanisms for redress exist. Since mid-2012, all men in their 50s, 60s, and 70s are compelled to perform militia duty: carrying military weapons; reporting for training; and going on periodic patrols.”

Even to graduate from high school, students, the FP report says, “were required to attend national camp during their final year.”

Worst place to be a journalist, restrictions on religion

Besides indefinite conscription, the Afwerki’s government is also known to impose severe restrictions on practising religion, other than those recognized or controlled by the government, including Sunni Islam, Ethopian Orthodox, Catholicism and Lutheranism. Violations by citizens are punished with arrest.

Eritrea has been described as the “worst place to be a journalist”, repeatedly finishing in the bottom of the Reporters Without Borders’ press freedom index. The government, the HRW report says, “maintains a complete monopoly on domestic sources of information since it closed all local press outlets in 2001 and arrested their staff.

Telephone and Internet communications are monitored. Eritrea expelled the last accredited foreign correspondent in 2008. Although foreign language transmissions are accessible, the government jammed Al Jazeera in early 2013 and has long jammed overseas transmissions from Eritrea diaspora stations. At least six government journalists arrested in 2009 and 2011 remain in solitary confinement without trial.” However, earlier this month, a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reporter, gained access to Eritrea. Her dispatches can be read here and here.

Begging could land you in jail. Or for that matter, a permit is needed for a dinner hosted for three or more people, since it’s classified as a “gathering”. And then there’s arbitrary detention, where “thousands of ordinary citizens are arrested and incarcerated without charge, trial or opportunity to appeal, and without access to lawyers, or independent prison monitoring organizations,” says the HRW report.

Brutal detention conditions

Detention conditions are described as “brutal”. The HRW report continues, “Death in captivity is not unusual. Many prisoners disappear, their whereabouts and health unknown to their families. Former prisoners describe being confined in vastly overcrowded underground cells or shipping containers, with no space to lie down, little or no light, oppressive heat or cold, and vermin. Medical treatment is poor or non-existent. Food consists of a piece or two of bread a day, occasional servings of lentils or beans, a cup of tea, and insufficient water. Beatings and torture in detention are common; wardens are able to impose any physical punishment they devise. A former interrogator told Human Rights Watch he ordered beatings of prisoners until they confessed to whatever they were accused of; they were then beaten to implicate others.”

The UN through its Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea said in June this year that it “found that systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed in Eritrea under the authority of the Government. Some of these violations may constitute crimes against humanity”. The chairperson of the commission, Mike Smith, said, “Eritrea’s dire human rights situation can no longer be ignored…. Is it any wonder that Eritreans—most of them young people—are the second largest nationality after Syrians to resort to seaborne smugglers to cross the Mediterranean to Europe?”

The refugee crisis

It is against the backdrop of forced, indefinite conscriptions, that many Eritreans, especially the young population, are escaping the country. Even while doing so, they are essentially defying a shoot-to-kill order by Afwerki’s government. Eritrean refugees, much like North Korean defectors to China, have the constant fear of repatriation to their native country.

However, this doesn’t bother Afwerki, who in 2008 dismissed reports of increasing Eritrean refugees by calling them “deliberate distortions” caused by an “orchestrated, organized operation financed by the CIA”.

The exodus has seen nearly 5% of Eritrea’s population leave the country since 2003, when the exodus began. Their preferred destinations include Italy (Eritrea was a former Italian colony), the United Kingdom and Nordic countries like Sweden and Norway. An estimated 5,000 people, according to the UN, leave Eritrea each month. As of December 2014, there are as many as 363,077 Eritrean refugees, with nearly 53,662 of those seeking asylum in other countries.

Indo-Eritrean relations

India maintains what President Pranab Mukherjee in May 2015 described as “cordial relations” with Eritrea. Soon after it received de jure independence, India formally recognized Eritrea in 1993. It currently maintains a non-resident embassy (a consulate) in Asmara, Eritrea’s showpiece capital. The High Commissioner to Kenya also serves as India’s top diplomat for Eritrea.

According to the ministry of external affairs, India’s bilateral trade with Eritrea was around $244.73 million in 2014-15, a substantial increase from 2012-13, when it was only around $29.89 million. India is also among the highest exporters to Eritrea along with Italy and the UAE.

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During the 133rd Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) held in Geneva from 18 to 21 October, the Socialist International held its regular meeting of parliamentarians belonging to SI member parties to exchange views on the main issues on the agenda of the IPU, and to share information on developments within their own countries.

Parliamentarians from SI member parties in Angola, Belgium, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Finland, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Hungary, India, Iraq, Italy, Mali, Mauritius, Mongolia, Morocco, Namibia, Pakistan, Palestine, Romania, San Marino, South Africa, Spain and the United Kingdom, attended the meeting, as well as from Sri Lanka as guests.

The dominant theme of this Assembly’s discussions was that of Migrations and how to implement a fairer and more humane way of dealing with this phenomenon. The emergency item of debate also focused on the protection of refugees and ensuring compliance with international and humanitarian law. The SI Secretary General, who chaired the SI meeting, recalled the extensive discussions on these issues that had been taking place at different levels within our International and made specific reference to the Charter for the Rights of Migrants that had been elaborated by the SI Committee on Migrations and adopted by the SI Council at its last meeting in July 2015. In the discussions on these issues, participants highlighted different aspects from their national perspectives. A common thread in the contributions was that whether dealing with regular migration, which was a constant, or with refugees, what we were dealing with in essence was human beings and it was the responsibility of all governments to protect them and to respect their dignity. Particular attention was paid to the plight of the most vulnerable, including women and children.

The need to tackle the root causes of mass migration and growing numbers of internally displaced people and refugees was emphasised and a call was made for more decisive and effective action by governments and international institutions to achieve fair and lasting solutions not only in regard to conflict resolution,  but also in the fight against poverty and unemployment.

Another aspect that was highlighted, related to ensuring respect for the general rules of labour laws. In relation to migrants and refugees, it was pointed out that issues surrounding the right to work, exploitation of domestic labour, women and children needed to be further addressed, as well as trade union rights for migrants.

Among the reports on national situations, the meeting heard from the Palestinian representative on the deteriorating situation between Palestine and Israel, and from the chairman of the IPU’s Middle East Committee. Here again the underlying causes of the conflict were highlighted as fundamental issues that could only be resolved with the equal will and commitment of both sides.   

Participants also received a report on the worrying situation in Iraq from the head of the PUK delegation in the Iraqi parliament, who underlined the need for international solidarity. The country was struggling to cope with the threat of ISIS, it had four million internally displaced people and women and girls were being kidnapped and trafficked in growing numbers.

The meeting also welcomed a report on the recent elections in Guinea, which saw the return to power of President Alpha Condé at the head of the second democratic government of that country.

At the conclusion of the meeting, emphasis was put on the importance of international bodies in bringing people together and promoting common solutions. In the SI we stood for multilateralism and solidarity. Also stressed was the need for more politics, which was about values and ideals, which were in deficit today in many places around the world. 

‘Haba’e Kuslu, Haba’e Fewsu’ (Part III)

Saturday, 24 October 2015 08:55 Written by

Part III: Tearing the Very Eritrean Social Fabric

As a note to my readers:

l   In writing an article, one must first determine who the target audience might be. One size may not fit all. Moreover, articles may have various purposes; it could be to express an opinion or commentary on current issues, an in-depth analysis, or to educate readers.

l   The next couple of articles will include long numerical illustrations to compensate for the lack of data supplied by the Eritrean regime. Both democratic and communist regimes love their numbers (statistics). Although all regimes fudge their numbers, democratic governments are subject to independent scrutiny from political opposition and public media, whereas communist and dictatorial regimes are not subject to similar scrutiny thus making their statistics highly political and unreliable.

l   The Eritrean regime is allergic to any statistics and hard data pertaining to social welfare and economic performance. The only hard numbers given in its propaganda media are the number of graduates at its so-called ‘colleges’ and ‘schools’. One would be hard pressed to find any data anywhere else. This is in sharp contrast to Ethiopia. Rather, the regime has substituted hard data for the regime’s tired media which relies on re-run of old videos showing some highly choreographed social activity or minuscule economic projects to show that it is making socio-economic progress.

l   The lack of data diverts political discussions away from the myriad socio-economic (and legal) issues and focuses on highly divisive and theoretical issues. As important it is to debate and reach consensus on basic principles that form a nation, a consensus can’t be reached without injecting hard data into our discussions. Burying data is designed to bury discussion.

l   The lack of data deprives the wider political arena, especially Eritrean youths, from understanding the myriad issues involved in political discourse and from understanding on how to construct their political stance.

l   The purpose of such discourse isn’t to divert attention in any way from current struggle to remove the regime, which is a priority, but to mingle our discussion with the wider issues that we will encounter the SECOND the regime falls. Discussion can’t start the day after the regime falls, because it will be too late. A nation with myriad of socio-economic and legal issues can’t wait for the succeeding regime to formulate a plan. We will be operating in an emergency mode soon after the regime’s downfall.

l   Opposition political parties can’t engage in discussion of complex and contentious issues without creating internal strife. Rather, such discussions should come from the wider opposition which, hopefully, can build consensus over long grinding process. Once a consensus starts to build, the opposition political parties can then begin adopting or changing their political stance.

l   As I will show below (as was in some of my past articles), the lack of statistics and data from the regime doesn’t mean we are totally blind. Rather, we can construct numerical data that will unequivocally show the kind of socio-economic challenges we face, how little the regime is doing, and the challenges awaiting the next regime.

l   I am not expert in socio-economic issues. My educational background is limited, and my experience in this areas is even less. I welcome any corrections, constructive criticisms, or for others to expand what is contained here.

Background

Regardless of ethnicity, religion, or any other groupings, family is the core nucleus of any society. It is NOT money, ideology, self-righteousness, political power, or military might that is the building block of a nation. Rather, it is a healthy family that builds a nation. The social hierarchical ladder of a nation - from the individual, to the family, to the community, is its building blocks to a viable, peaceful, and prosperous nation. One can’t separate out each of these components and claim that a nation is developing its individual citizens without simultaneously addressing its impact on the higher social orders.

When young women are taken to Sawa and given to unscrupulous male soldiers who operate above the law; when young people are condemned to lifetime slavery campaign and prevented from forming the building block of Eritrean society and nation; when there are NO young people to help old people to farm their lands; when there is no affordable housing; when there is no income to feed family; when thousands of fathers and mothers are incarcerated without due process of law; when people are fleeing in droves, even the brain dead understands there CAN NOT be a family , and by extension, there can NOT be a viable country - guaranteed.

Although we rile the regime for failing to deliver on economic development, the Eritrean regime’s greatest crime against the nation is its cruel social experiment on the Eritrean people. The social damage inflicted on the Eritrean people is tantamount to the destruction of our identity, our tradition, and our values - and of our traditions and cultures which some see as hindrance to creating a modern state. It is Mao, Pol Pot and Pinochet rolled into one.

No amount of spin or excuses by the cannon fodders such as www.wedo-geba.net (aka meskerem.net), alenalki-for-nothin’_and_excuses.com, tesfa-less.net, or dehai-of-fewer-and-fewer.org will change the fact that our rich social values and our very social fabric is being destroyed for petty politics. These cannon fodders ONLY fill their sites with so many tragic events, mostly news from war torn areas, around the world to say that Eritrea’s tragedy is less by comparison. That is temberkaknet! That is like your child coming home with mediocre or failing grades and telling you that others are doing worse, instead of comparing him/herself to many others who are doing above average. You just say, ‘Anta himak’!

DIA’s damages on the social fabric of Eritrea will take generations to heal, if not irreparable. For comparison,

Damage                                          Time to Inflict Damage                           Time to Heal

Economic                           Immediate                                                         15 years

Political                                         Immediate                                                         25 years

Institutional                                    Immediate                                                         25 years

Legal                                             Immediate to 5 years                              A generation

Social                                            5 to 10 years                                                      Many generations, if ever

Note: The time to heal is arbitrary and thus for illustration purposes only. However, it is indisputable that the time frames required to rehabilitate legal and social institutions is much longer than the others.

For instance, a regime can usurp all the economic factors immediately for some impractical reasons - thus inflicting immediate damage - but the damage can be repaired immediately. For instance, Far East nations, including China took off economically within decades of changing their old systems. Closer to home, Ethiopia has embarked on ambitious economic development program in the last 10 years despite being doldrums for decades before that.

It is easy to cause damage, but most damages take years, if not generations, to heal!

The Social Challenges

Social issues are understood as being centred on education, health, housing, and generally the well-being of families and societies.

It would take volumes to discuss the failures of the Eritrean regime in addressing the various social issues. Instead, this will highlight some of the issues, and as repetitious as they are from my past articles, ultimately all efforts and aspirations are to improve the following,

Education

Where does one start - there are so many! The regime, which is overstretched in its military budget, that it has no funds for the education system.

Unmanageable Class sizes - have grown tremendously because the regime isn’t building new schools fast enough, if at all. It has built some primary schools in some rural areas with funds obtained from foreign donors in the past, but with funds drying up, and increasing population, class sizes have increased to over 60 students per class overloading teachers and school facilities.

Over-burdened and underpaid teachers - many teachers are national service people who feel that they are providing free service to a brutal regime that doesn’t give them any hope of leading a normal life or delivering a law-abiding and prosperous life. Enthusiasm for one-time well respected profession in Eritrea is now at its lowest - with teachers who abscond, and students who disrespect their teachers saying that one's fate as an Eritrean teacher is just slavery because teachers are either on national service or paid salaries not commensurate with standard of living. When DIA informants are making ten times the teachers’ salaries for doing nothing, what is the incentive to work harder? Shouldn’t one just flunk school and become DIA informant and earn much higher pay?

Bringing foreign teachers paid by the UNDP hasn’t improved the education system either.

Higher institutions of learning - despite the fact that the regime’s propaganda machine that keeps telling us that many are graduating from agricultural or nursing schools, possibly except the medical school, these schools are churning out graduates, who may be bright, who may not qualified because of lack of educational standards, both at domestic and international levels.   Even the medical school, Orotta Medical School, is now being sabotaged. In contrast, Ethiopia has opened over 35 universities and colleges.

Public Libraries - No new public libraries, except a couple, have been opened in the last 15 years (post G-15). As a result, the youths have no place where they can study and borrow books. How could one develop an education system if students do not have sufficient resources to stimulate and exercise their brains? How much money and resources does one need to open a library? The world is ready to send millions of books their way, but the negligence can only be characterized as deliberate efforts to destroy the youth and education system.

Sport Facilities - Shouldn’t there be sport facilities, both indoor and outdoor, to keep our youths occupied and expending their energies on positive activities? How much money would needed to build a local football field, basketball court, tennis court, volleyball court, and other facilities? The price of five tanks for the whole country, one useless fighter plane?

Overall - when students can’t dream of graduating from school and obtaining decent jobs and salaries commensurate with cost of living, students no longer have incentives to strive and excel in school. The only incentive might be to avoid the slavery campaign for 2-3 years while learning and living in military camps disguised as institutions of higher learning.

Health Care

As symptomatic of the deep health care crisis in Eritrea, veteran doctors have left the country, and the new ones are following their footsteps. This crisis is a deliberate DIA policy designed to wreck an already miserable health care system.

For decades doctors were required to work in public hospitals, but also allowed to run their own private clinics to supplement their incomes. Few years ago, out of its infinite wisdom and deliberate efforts to destroy the health system, the regime closed all private clinics in Eritrea. Public hospitals paid doctors meagre amounts despite their rigorous education.

Regime propagandists tell us that doctors shouldn’t be paid any more than any other civil servants. But this is false campaign by those who don’t live in Eritrea and thus aren’t affected by the inadequate health care system in Eritrea, or are high-level regime officials who are allowed to travel abroad for medical treatments.

The regime’s argument that all civil servants should be equal in their miserable income is disingenuous. In reality, loyal regime supporters - esp. high military officers, party official, and informants - are allowed to dip into slush funds, engage in illegal and questionable commercial activities, or given exclusive import licences to enrich them as their rewards. In contrast, medical health professionals are reduced to receiving salaries less than regime informants. That is a perverse system.-

The biggest ‘kusli’ in today’s Eritrea, reward isn’t based on hard work or merit, but blind loyalty or supporting the regime illegal activities.

Housing

This issue is raised to illustrate how the regime is deliberately engaged in destroying the very Eritrean social fabric.

For emphasis again, and for the benefit of skim readers, it is worth reiterating that family is the very building block of a nation. Family is generally defined as a father, a mother, and children. A healthy and prosperous family translates to strong community, which in turns builds strong nation.

A properly functioning family needs food, clothing - and shelter, among other things. If affordable housing isn’t available, the consequences include: unwillingness of young people to marry; or if married, to stay with parents who already live in an already overcrowded housing.

The regime has not built a single affordable housing to alleviate the challenges facing Eritrean youths. Let us examine the challenges facing today’s Eritrea,

l   Domestic population is estimated at 5.5 Million (another 1 million outside Eritrea)

l   Based on typical third world country demography, two-third (2/3) of the population is under 25 years old.

l   Therefore almost 3.7 Million of population is under 25 years old

l   Assuming equal distribution of ages, each age has 148,000 people (3.7M /25 age years), i.e. for instance, there are 148,000 18-year-olds, 148,000 21 year-olds.

l   Assuming that portion of the young people in properly functioning society should be married by age of 25 or at least live on their own, assume 50% marry. Every year 148,000 people become 25-year olds with housing needs. There would be 74,000 married (i.e. 37,000 couples = one shelter) and 74,000 unmarried couples.

l   This means that minimum 37,000 affordable houses are needed to meet the needs of married people every year. If all 25-year olds are taken as bench mark, i.e. including unmarried ones - 111,000 houses need be built (37,000 couples and 73,000 singles) EVERY YEAR.

l   Every year that the regime hasn’t built affordable housing, the total shortage is minimum 888,000 (37,000 houses/year * 24 years of independence). If housing is need for single people too, then 2.6 million houses need be built.

l   Note: some may argue that 70% of the Eritrean population is rural. Even so, at least 266,000 affordable houses (30% of 888,000) would be needed. Others might say, not all youths work and thus can’t afford, etc. and may reduce the numbers again. Regardless, hundreds of thousands of houses need be built to accommodate a well-functioning family system in URBAN Eritrea alone.    

This is in total contrast to Ethiopia where affordable housing is built - mostly in Addis Ababa but also in major urban areas in the country under various financing schemes. Even civil servants are provided with adequate salaries to afford buying houses.

l   Over 300,000 built in Addis Ababa in the last 5 years

l   Overall, 960,000 affordable housing to be built around the country over the next ten years. This is still not enough, but still a major effort for developing country, and infinitely more than what DIA is doing for Eritrea - which is zilch, nada, nothing - except for top military brass that need to be bribed.

Other Indicators of Well-Being

Care of the Elderly: who takes care of the elderly in today’s Eritrea? If one is lucky to have family members living abroad, then, at least, one MAY have a source of financial support.

But that is not the typical Eritrean family in today’s Eritrea. Most likely, if you have in advanced age group, you have children between the ages of 18 and 50 year olds who are condemned to indefinite national service doing nothing, i.e. most likely not productive on national service because there are no meaningful work for vast majority of the 250,000 national service people.

For older people who live in rural areas, either as farmers or herders, they no longer have younger bodies to till the land for them or tend livestock for them. They must now rely on even younger children to fetch waters or for any errands.

For older people who live urban areas, the situation is even more dismal. They do not have pension or any other source income. Their children can’t support them because they are tied up in the politically motivated national service, or they are imprisoned.

For the elderly, today’s Eritrea is a death sentence - condemned to dishonourable discharge by the very same people claiming to speak the same language and to help them from the evil hoongoogoos.

Pension: Although confined to civil service in most third world countries, yet DIA has even eliminated this entitlement which didn’t even happen during the Derg years. As a result, civil servants must work until they die. For instance, a seventy year old ‘tegadalai’ must work until his expiration because he/she has no other source of income or couldn’t be kicked out of government housing. That is a cruel mental punishment, and has adverse impact on the civil service itself. It encourages corruption, and may impede innovation and progress. Some say that civil servants shouldn’t get any more privileges than private sector workers. But pension is a critical component of the well-being of society - and a government can’t achieve well-being by going backwards. Instead, a well-functioning government would have tried to expand a pension scheme that would cover private sector workers too.

Without Pensions:

l   Aging people, esp. civil servants and army, won’t be able to retire. They must work even if 80 year olds.

l   Surviving spouses of civil servants who pass away have suddenly no incomes.

l   If senior civil servants aren’t encouraged to retire, new job openings for young employees can’t be made available, promotion is stagnant, and new ideas and workings can NOT be introduced.

Eritrea’s public service is stuck until it rots.

Clean Water: Aside from EU funded projects, no work has been done to expand the availability of clean water, and especially to poorer neighbourhoods in urban areas and most of the rural areas. According to DIA and its idol worshippers, water is only needed for their phantom ‘agricultural’ products and projects, for which we still are waiting to see even one kilo of crop or produce 24 years later.

How much water is needed? It is recommended that 5 litres of water is needed per person per day for drinking and cooking. One can guess the amount of water needed for washing clothes, flushing toilets (if any used) and personal showers. One can comfortably estimate the amount of water needed. For illustration, assuming a population of 750,000 people in Asmara, 1.4 million cubic meter of water is needed. If one adds for bathing, washing dishes, cloths, floors, some houses for flushing toilets, some commercial and industrial uses - all significantly more water consuming than for drinking and cooking - four (4) times the amount, i.e. 6.4 million cubic meter of water is needed, for a total of 7.8 million cubic meter of water. Tokor Dam holds 17 million cubic meter of water. Between evaporation and piping leaks, one may assume only 50% of the dams capacity is available, i.e. 8.5 million cubic meter. Fortunately of the City of Asmara, there is also Mai Nefhi Dam and direct pumping of ground waters supplies its water needs. One or two low rainy seasons puts the city at risk of no water. In reality, the regime has neglected Asmara and all other major urban areas claiming that it is a priority or urban areas shouldn’t be given any more service than rural areas, resulting in severe water shortages in most parts of Asmara. There is a plan to build Tekera Dam with a capacity of 20 million cubic metres to supply water to Asmara and other areas.

As for rural areas, if one assumes there are 5,000 villages with an average of 800 people each (about 160 families), of course large difference for agriculturalists vs. Pastoralists, only 5,000 wells (if not reservoirs) and pumps would be needed to pump water to communal water stations. If regime had built even 200 community water holes a year, every Eritrean in all corners of Eritrea would have had enough clean water by this year. Finding and pumping water isn’t a rocket science. The Egyptians, and esp. the Romans, the Greeks, and many other civilizations over 2000 years ago had perfected the technology of clean water by using aqua-ducts. What can’t this regime do better than people two thousand years ago?

Employment: If people can’t work and earn decent wage enabling them to buy the most basic things in life - food, shelter, and clothing, then this leads to breakdown of society. In today’s Eritrea, no Eritrean between the ages of 18 to 40 (in reality, closer to 50 or over), aren’t allowed to work for wages and forced to languish in national slavery campaign that has not yielded a single tangible result.

Even those who work earn salaries that can’t even cover rent. Most rank-and-file civil servants and regular soldiers earn 1,000 Nfa a month, and higher level civil servants earn up to 4,000 Nfa-a-month. Professionals such as doctors and engineers earn less than 5,000 Nfa-a-month. In contrast, a regime informant with no education earns about Nfa 3,000/month plus expenses. Compared in Ethiopia, professional engineers earn at least 8,000 Birr/month, and medical doctors earn significantly more than that. When adjusted for currency difference, i.e. 20 Birr = 1 USD vs. 55 Nfa = 1 USD, at least at face value, Birr has 2.75 times the purchasing power. As such a professional engineer earning 8000 Birr a month in Ethiopia is equivalent to 22,000 Nfa a month in Eritrea. Refer to online Ethiopian Reporter newspaper advertisements for salary scales.

Food/Proper Diet: In one of his independence speeches, DIA told us that 900 calories is enough per person. Another of Mao lectures. It is just that those who tell others to live on 900 calories can’t even survive on 3,000 calories a day. Look at the Real Housewives of PFDJ and one can quickly notice that even 4,000 calories isn’t enough.  

It is a shame when a country can’t produce enough milk for its population, and especially for its young children. Twenty five years after independence, Eritrea still faces extremely [added for emphasis] severe milk shortages. Why? This is yet another deliberate policy to stunt the growth of our children - mentally and physically. Thanks to the milk farmers of America and EU, our idol worshippers feed their kids gallons of milk a day, yet tell us that Eritrean youths in Eritrea don’t need it. Hypocrisy galore!

What about other food groups - milk, meat and fruits - luxury! Asmara Dairy produces pathetic 9,000 litres a day.

In short, 24 years after independent, a country that can’t make enough milk available for its kids has no interest in social programs. That is pathetic even by African standards.

I will discuss the state of agriculture in my next article.

Welfare of the Young People: Suffice to say the epic proportion of the refugee crisis speaks for itself. Nothing is more telling about the dire future of Eritrea than the destruction of the youth population. DIA is creating hopelessness, anxiety, while encouraging selfishness, myopic thinking, and sowing crisis mentality.

Nothing is more telling of the destruction of the youth population than depriving them of decent livelihood through gainful employment and affordable housing.

In contrast, the Ethiopian regime, esp. in Addis Ababa, has been building tens, if not, thousands of affordable houses. The ideologues may argue that why should urban population benefit at expense of rural population. But this is the mentality of those who believe in lose-lose outcome and racing to the bottom. The ‘can-do’ mentality functions within positive trajectory only.

As if Eritrea doesn’t have extreme housing shortages, the regime has recently begun destroying ‘illegal’ houses in large numbers. Aside from its adverse impact on the well-being the families, the regime’s behaviour is yet another glaring manifestation of its own utter disregard for the ‘rule of law ‘.

Garbage disposal and Sewage Treatment: I have raised this issue more as illustration the challenges of administrating a growing urban areas. Many countries dealt with it centuries ago. The Italians felt important enough to build sewage system over 100 years ago. Instead of building on this infrastructure, the regime has neglected urban centres giving the lame excuse that urban centres shouldn’t get better services than rural areas, but this is a recipe for destroying a nation. Instead of formulating long term plans to bring municipal services to growing rural areas, we are turning them a urban centres into rural ones, with adverse health consequences due to nature of urban centres. It is an excuse for destruction.

  

Crime and Security: the clearest example of Eritrean people’s culture is its respect for law and order. Eritrea is known for its safety NOT because of efficient state security apparatus but the population is one massive ‘community/neighbourhood watch’, aside from its respect for law.

It is corruption, rather than any other form of crime, that is the biggest threat to the security of the nation. In mid-1990s, DIA told us that the rampant corruption in African countries is due to inadequate civil service salaries to afford decent living. In one of the independence speeches in early 2000s, DIA told us the biggest threats to Eritrea are, in this very order: corruption, AIDS, and Woyane. So what does DIA do, precisely proceed to create the most corrupt system.

                                

Ironically, the noticeable increase in crime and breakdown in law-and-order and security is directly attributable to the regime’s purposeful efforts to forestall any potential threat to his power. Some of the regime’s blatant schemes and activities include;

  1. At the core is corruption within military designed to buy the loyalties of military officers. They are encouraged to enrich themselves through front-men who engage in business on their behalf. Turf wars leading to assassinations and revenges on Cosa Nostra (Mafia) level.
  2. Again corruption within military that at the very centre of human trafficking. It is unfathomable that traffickers call from within the bosom of the regime, from within Eritrea, without the regime’s intricate web of snitches knowing it.
  3. Again corruption within military that allows male military men to abuse our sisters and daughters in Sawa. It is a crime; it is a war against the future mothers of Eritrea.
  4. Corruption, embezzlement, and bribery within civil service were forced upon civil servants by purposely turning salaried staff into ‘national servicemen’ with only 150Nfa a month. This is also true within the military. This includes selling ‘administrative leaves’ to national service slaves and/or allowing company, platoon, or higher leaders to claim or steal pocket monies of national service slaves who do or allowed to abscond.

Religion and Faith: The regime has declared war on religion since it ascended to power in Eritrea. It has been accosting fear, schism, and intolerance towards other faiths. It is communist ideology where religion is viewed as nothing more than a source of societal division that needs to be eliminated. Soviet Union, China, all the Eastern bloc countries banned all religious institutions to no avail. It failed and instead creating even bigger monsters - religious intolerance, i.e. radicalization.

We don’t live in ancient times when rulers and invaders imposed their belief systems and values on others. In today’s world, world interconnectedness brought about by instant communication has significantly more impact on our belief systems than rulers. Unfortunately, the world is moving towards less tolerance through a vicious cycle. Political systems that predicate their survival on intolerance will only sow the seeds of destructions due to domestic situations exacerbated by importations of intolerance.

Creating a mess has nothing to do with building a nation. THE REGIME IS FAILING EVEN BY AFRICAN STANDARDS.

We shall overcome!

Berhan Hagos

October 23, 20

Thousands flee isolated Eritrea to escape life of conscription and poverty

Nichole Sobecki for The Wall Street Journal Nichole Sobecki for The Wall Street Journal
 

ASMARA, Eritrea—On a cool March evening soon after his 16th birthday, Binyam Abraham waited until his mother and young siblings were sleeping and slipped away to begin the long trek toward Eritrea’s southern border.

With his father trapped in open-ended military service that would soon snare him, too, Binyam walked for 19 hours without food or water to reach Ethiopia. He made a choice 5,000 of his countrymen make each month, by a United Nations estimate: to flee Eritrea and brave the world’s deadliest migrant trail, across the Sahara and the Mediterranean to Europe.

They leave behind one of the world’s fastest-emptying nations: a country of about 4.5 million on the Horn of Africa, governed by a secretive dictatorship accused of human-rights violations, that is playing an outsize role in the biggest global migration crisis since World War II.

Eritrean women gather water at a community point in Adi-Harush Camp, one of the refugee camps in Ethiopia where people fleeing Eritrea stay, for months or sometimes years, before paying smugglers to take them to Europe.Eritrean women gather water at a community point in Adi-Harush Camp, one of the refugee camps in Ethiopia where people fleeing Eritrea stay, for months or sometimes years, before paying smugglers to take them to Europe. Photo: Nichole Sobecki for The Wall Street Journal

“I didn’t tell my mother before I left, but I didn’t have a choice,” Binyam said, sitting in a mud-brick shack at Adi-Harush, a refugee camp in the foothills of Ethiopia’s Simien Mountains that has become ground zero for Eritrea’s exodus. Flanked by five young friends, all planning to brave the same dangerous journey, he said: “I have to go to Europe so I can help my family.”

Attention is focused, amid the intensifying migration crisis, on Syrians fleeing civil war and making a dramatic run to Europe. Yet by some measures, the exodus from the smaller Eritrea is more extreme. From the start of 2012 to the middle of this year, 1 in 50 Eritreans sought asylum in Europe, nearly twice the ratio of Syrians, based on data from the European Union statistical service Eurostat.

The U.N. estimates that 400,000 Eritreans—9% of the population—have fled in recent years, not counting those who died or were stranded en route.

Watch the video: Binyam Abraham (above) and Shewit Hadera talk about why they decided to leave Eritrea and what’s ahead for them. Photo: Nichole Sobecki for The Wall Street Journal

On the rickety smuggling boats crossing the Mediterranean, Eritreans comfortably outnumber other nationalities. More than a quarter of the 132,000 migrants arriving in Italy between January and September were Eritreans, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Eritreans accounted for a majority of the 3,000 people who have drowned in the Mediterranean this year, humanitarian agencies say.

Despite this toll, emigration here is accelerating. The number of Eritreans seeking asylum in Europe quadrupled from 2011 to 46,000 last year. The exodus is catapulting the African country to the center of a divisive EU debate over which nations’ migrants should be granted refugee status, as the bloc struggles to respond to the wave from Syria.

The Eritreans flee one of the world’s most isolated nations, governed under emergency rule since a war with Ethiopia in 1998. Eritrea earlier fought a 30-year struggle for independence from Ethiopia, which is 20 times its size.

An Eritrean woman and her young son outside their hut in Adi-Harush refugee camp in Ethiopia, a country that hosts tens of thousands of Eritreans who have fled their harsh and poor country and hope to make the journey to Europe.An Eritrean woman and her young son outside their hut in Adi-Harush refugee camp in Ethiopia, a country that hosts tens of thousands of Eritreans who have fled their harsh and poor country and hope to make the journey to Europe. Photo: Nichole Sobecki for The Wall Street Journal

This David-and-Goliath dynamic has spurred Eritrea to maintain a state of emergency for 17 years, officials in Asmara said—suspending political, economic and social progress for the sake of national security.

A June U.N. report accused the regime, led by former rebel commander Isaias Afewerki, of “crimes against humanity” targeting its own population, including torture, mass surveillance and indefinite military conscription that amounts to a form of slavery. The government said the report, based on interviews done outside the country, was biased and false.

Eritrea is also under U.N. sanctions on a charge of supporting al Qaeda-linked terrorism in Somalia. In Eritrea, which is evenly split between Christians and Muslims, the government denies the charge.

 

Eritreans have been welcomed as refugees by EU governments since the 1980s, when they were fighting for independence against a Communist government in Ethiopia, according to the International Organization for Migration. But EU officials and migration experts say that now, Europe’s visceral debate over migration is pushing governments to reconsider that stance.

African asylum seekers are already being sidelined, say migration policy makers from the U.N. and other organizations.

Refugees from Eritrea staying at Adi-Harush camp in Ethiopia and other such camps use their smartphones to stay in touch with their families back home and with friends along the smuggling trail to Europe.Refugees from Eritrea staying at Adi-Harush camp in Ethiopia and other such camps use their smartphones to stay in touch with their families back home and with friends along the smuggling trail to Europe. Photo: Nichole Sobecki for The Wall Street Journal

“While Syrians are fleeing an obviously terrible and documented civil war, Eritreans are fleeing abuses which to the rest of the world are largely invisible because of the regime’s secretiveness,” said Kristina Touzenis, head of the of the Migration Law Unit of the International Organization for Migration, or IOM.

In some countries, a policy shift has begun. The U.K. in the second quarter of this year cut the number of Eritrean asylum seekers accepted to 29% of applicants from 77% in the previous quarter. 

The secrecy of Eritrea’s government, which expelled foreign correspondents in 2008, makes it difficult to document forces behind the exodus.

Seen on a rare trip by a Wall Street Journal reporter to Asmara—Eritrea’s showpiece capital famed for the fading grandeur of its Italian architecture—the slow pace of life contrasted with the region’s buzzing and chaotic metropolises. Residents gathered at cafes or loitered under modernist facades. Staples like milk were in short supply.

Eritrean officials say asylum seekers exaggerate hardships and leave because Europeans grant them refugee status. “If people feel that if you get to Europe asylum is easy, that’s a pull factor,” said Information Minister Yemane Ghebre Meskel.

Indefinite conscription and isolation are necessary, he said, because the country remains effectively at war with Ethiopia, which he said occupies Eritrean territory in violation of a U.N.-sponsored peace agreement. Ethiopia denies that any land it controls belongs to Eritrea.

Eritreans abroad say they are pushed to leave by conscription that enlists every man and woman in the military during their last year of high school. Last week, 10 Eritrean soccer players who were in Botswana for a match defected there. Some Eritrean refugees fled to Israel through the Sinai Desert until Israel erected a fence there. This week, an Eritrean man was killed in Israel when attacked by a mob who mistook him for an assailant at an earlier bus-stop attack.

Eritreans at Adi-Harush refuguee camp in Ethiopia watch films and soccer matches, squeezing into a corrugated-steel shack and paying a few cents to a business that popped up to provide the access.Eritreans at Adi-Harush refuguee camp in Ethiopia watch films and soccer matches, squeezing into a corrugated-steel shack and paying a few cents to a business that popped up to provide the access. Photo: Nichole Sobecki for The Wall Street Journal

Teenagers are inducted at the Sawa military base, get four months of training, then take an exam that determines whether they are put in active service or allowed to continue their education as reservists. Around two-thirds are immediately mobilized as soldiers. But all remain conscripts, often for decades. They are locked in a system that pays a monthly stipend of 500 nakfa, about $10 on the black market, and forbidden to leave the country.

Eritrean officials said they are in the process of introducing a pay scale that better rewards educated and more experienced conscripts.

“A lot of our population, especially the young, were forced to be engaged in the defense of the country rather than in the productive sector,” said Hagos Ghebrehiwet, the ruling party economics chief. “Our land is occupied, and the international community is not doing anything.”

Officials say the exodus has one upside for the impoverished nation: hard currency. Money from the expanding diaspora provides a badly needed boost to the economy.

An Eritrean woman, left, and a man pray at dawn beside an Orthodox Church at Adi-Harush refugee camp in Ethiopia. The man, 25-year-old Shewit Hadera, arrived after an earlier attempt to flee Eritrea landed him in jail, where he says he was tortured. Eritrea’s information minister said, ‘Torture is not allowed; that does not mean it may not happen here and there.’An Eritrean woman, left, and a man pray at dawn beside an Orthodox Church at Adi-Harush refugee camp in Ethiopia. The man, 25-year-old Shewit Hadera, arrived after an earlier attempt to flee Eritrea landed him in jail, where he says he was tortured. Eritrea’s information minister said, ‘Torture is not allowed; that does not mean it may not happen here and there.’ Photo: Nichole Sobecki for The Wall Street Journal

In late September, dozens of emigrants who had secured citizenship and livelihoods in Europe, offering protection from the Eritrean regime’s policies, were sipping macchiatos at Asmara’s Cinema Roma cafe, preparing to return to Northern European capitals after vacationing with family. The appearance of a leisurely pace of life in Asmara contrasts to testimonies of abuse, especially in more remote and hard-to-reach areas.

On one cafe table, a 70-year-old Eritrean visiting from Stockholm drank coffee with his 17-year-old nephew from Asmara. They declined to give their names, saying they were “just ordinary Eritreans,” but the youth said he wanted to be a doctor and had plans to join a relative who is a surgeon in Germany. Inside the grand hall of the Cinema, a 1930s bar served Negroni cocktails to a group of young women, impeccably manicured, who spoke among themselves in German.

The IOM says the presence of wealthier migrant relatives spurs the exodus by reinforcing the notion that emigration is a path to freedom and wealth.

“It’s a dilemma for the government,” Mr. Ghebre Meskel said: “On the one hand, they come up with whatever stories they like to obtain asylum. But they support their families, there are remittances.”

A hundred miles south, some of the 113,000 refugees waiting in refugee camps at the start of their journeys to Europe said they felt little choice but to flee.


Life in the camp

In Adi-Harush camp, a patchwork of concrete huts and muddy tracks in a mountainous region, more than 20 residents spoke of their hope to escape Eritrea’s conscription and its economic and social breakdown. The camp is a staging ground for the trek to Europe, but refugees here have yet to confront the rigors of the journey ahead.

In the huts, groups gather to plot travel plans and track friends’ progress on cellphones. Several times a week, crowds pay a few cents to squeeze into corrugated steel shacks to watch one aspirational image of the prosperity of Europe on TV: the English soccer league.

Refugees say the camp houses a sophisticated network of Eritrean and Ethiopian smugglers who can organize journeys if residents have the money.

Some who leave for Europe will never make it. The camp’s “mourning house” is where people go to cry and pray for friends or relatives who perished on the journey.

Billboards warn: “Illegal movement is like walking blindfolded. Let’s be aware, let’s be curious.” The Eritreans aren’t deterred, passing through the camps in ever-greater numbers, according to Ethiopian authorities.

Binyam, the 16-year old, said he arrived six months ago after fleeing poverty and forced conscription that had trapped his father for decades.

“For as long as I’ve known, he’s been a soldier…. Each year I saw him once, when he was allowed leave,” said Binyam, wearing a soccer jersey stained with food and dirt. “Now I will get to Europe to help my family.”

He said he walked through the night with a friend from his village, avoiding border guards to reach the Ethiopian frontier. His friend left the camp earlier this year for Sudan, the first stage of a dangerous journey across the Sahara and ultimately the Mediterranean.

Treacherous Trail

Eritreans are the biggest group coming to Europe through the Sahara, Libya and the Mediterranean, the deadliest migrant route in the world.

ITALY

Europe

Nearly 36,000 Eritreans arrived in Italy across the Mediterranean this year, through Some 3,000 migrants, a majority Eritreans, have drowned this year.

Tripoli

Eritreans make their way here and pay smugglers to transport them across the Mediterranean.

LIBYA

Ethiopian camps

Camps host about 113,000 Eritrean refugees, including 39,000 at one called Adi-Harush.

SUDAN

ERITREA

Khartoum

Refugees make their way to the Sudanese capital, where smugglers arrange their journey across the Sahara.

Asmara

ETHIOPIA

500 miles

500 km

500 miles

ITALY

500 km

Europe

Nearly 36,000 Eritreans arrived in Italy across the Mediterranean this year, through September. Some 3,000 migrants, a majority Eritreans, have drowned this year.

Tripoli

Eritreans make their way here and pay smugglers to transport them across the Mediterranean.

LIBYA

Ethiopian camps

Camps host about 113,000 Eritrean refugees, including 39,000 at one called Adi-Harush.

Khartoum

Refugees make their way to the Sudanese capital, where smugglers arrange their journey across the Sahara.

SUDAN

ERITREA

Asmara

ETHIOPIA

ITALY

LIBYA

SUDAN

ERITREA

Asmara

500 miles

ETHIOPIA

500 km

Ethiopian camps

Camps host about 113,000 Eritrean refugees, including 39,000 at one called Adi-Harush.

1

Khartoum

Refugees make their way to the Sudanese capital, where smugglers arrange their journey across the Sahara.

2

Tripoli

Eritreans make their way here and pay smugglers to transport them across the Mediterranean.

3

Europe

Nearly 36,000 Eritreans arrived in Italy accross the Mediterranean this year, through September. Some 3,000 migrants, a majority Eritreans, have drowned this year.

4

Sources: U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees; interviews with refugees

ENLARGE
 

Like many youngsters here, Binyam is unsure how he will pay for his journey and whether he will survive it: “I heard people are dying, being tortured or enslaved. I heard some die in the desert or the sea,“ he said. ”But some arrive. I hope for that.”

In a nearby hut, nine young men holding a traditional coffee ceremony, boiling the aromatic brew on coals, laid out their plans. Semere Ab said his aunt in Canada would use the hawala cash-transfer system to send smugglers $25,000. “There are smugglers in this camp. You pay them when you move from here,” he said. “In four months, I will go. We will all go together.” The boys nodded.

Ethiopian and Eritrean authorities accuse each other of profiting from the smuggling. The Ethiopian refugee agency called ARRA said it was planning to crack down. Local officials said they have arrested suspected smugglers.

Shewit Hadera, a 25-year-old refugee who works with unaccompanied Eritrean children in the care of the Norwegian Refugee Council, carries physical and emotional scars. Imprisoned in 2008 for trying to flee, he said, he was regularly tortured. He showed a leg covered in scar tissue he said was from being burned with boiling tea.

“They beat us at night, especially around midnight,” he said. “You couldn’t identify them because they wore masks.” He said his father was jailed for six months as punishment for his flight.

Eritrean officials conceded torture occurs in some prisons but said it wasn’t systematic. “Torture is not allowed. That does not mean it may not happen here and there,” said Mr. Ghebre Meskel, the information minister.

“Sometimes you will meet people who have fled here and they will have some marks. It can happen in some units,” he said. “But one has to draw a difference: It is not systematic, it’s not officially sanctioned, it’s not in the law.”

Drawings from Eritrean Children Depict Loss and Hope

Children at a refugee camp in Ethiopia are encouraged to draw as a way of processing their experiences.

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A drawing made in camp by nine-year-old Eyouel Teshome, a native of Tserona, Eritrea, shows an Eritrean flag outside a school and a boat to transport refugees to Europe. Eyouel’s sister crossed the Mediterranean and now lives in Germany, where he hopes to join her someday.
Refugee children are encouraged to draw to process their experiences. When Eritrean children at a refugee camp in Ethiopia called Adi-Harush made drawings in school, 11-year-old Henok Mahri, above left, drew maps of Eritrea and Ethiopia and also wrote on his assignment: ‘I have no mother that gives me advice or guidance. You [his mother] have no child, and I am not your son. What good is it if I stand first in my class in a foreign country?’
Twelve-year-old Yosan Equbit, who came to the refugee camp four years ago from Dubuaruba, Eritrea, drew a group trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea by boat. Yosan’s sister fled to Europe across the Mediterranean and lives in Germany, while her father is currently in Libya waiting to cross. Children at the camp in Ethiopia are given materials and encouraged to draw as a way of processing their experiences.
Eyouel Amanuel, 11, drew a boat on its way to Canada from Eritrea. Eyouel, who left the Eritrean capital of Asmara four years ago and has been in the Ethiopian refugee camp ever since, said he has heard that life in Canada is good and people there are happy.
A drawing made by 10-year-old Nahom Selomun portrayed his father riding a donkey back from church while they were still living together in Moraguz, Eritrea. His father left the refugee camp in Ethiopia a month ago and made it to Sweden, while Nahom remains in the camp with two siblings.
Natnael Equbay, 14, drew a smuggler sitting beside a truck waiting to take three Eritrean refugees across the border into Sudan. Natnael said his sister died at age 23 when a smuggling vehicle she was riding in across the border from Ethiopia to Sudan came under fire. The text of the boy’s drawing reads: ‘Let us stop trafficking.”
Robel Amanuel, 12, drew two giraffes playing in front of “Shrek” from the animated film. Robel had never seen a movie before coming to the Ethiopian refugee camp from Senafa, Eritrea, three years ago. A business at the camp screen films for a small entrance fee. The text of Robel’s drawing reads: ‘Robel Amanuel, 100 years old.’
A drawing made in camp by nine-year-old Eyouel Teshome, a native of Tserona, Eritrea, shows an Eritrean flag outside a school and a boat to transport refugees to Europe. Eyouel’s sister crossed the Mediterranean and now lives in Germany, where he hopes to join her someday.
Refugee children are encouraged to draw to process their experiences. When Eritrean children at a refugee camp in Ethiopia called Adi-Harush made drawings in school, 11-year-old Henok Mahri, above left, drew maps of Eritrea and Ethiopia and also wrote on his assignment: ‘I have no mother that gives me advice or guidance. You [his mother] have no child, and I am not your son. What good is it if I stand first in my class in a foreign country?’
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A drawing made in camp by nine-year-old Eyouel Teshome, a native of Tserona, Eritrea, shows an Eritrean flag outside a school and a boat to transport refugees to Europe. Eyouel’s sister crossed the Mediterranean and now lives in Germany, where he hopes to join her someday. Nichole Sobecki for The Wall Street Journal
Refugee children are encouraged to draw to process their experiences. When Eritrean children at a refugee camp in Ethiopia called Adi-Harush made drawings in school, 11-year-old Henok Mahri, above left, drew maps of Eritrea and Ethiopia and also wrote on his assignment: ‘I have no mother that gives me advice or guidance. You [his mother] have no child ...
Twelve-year-old Yosan Equbit, who came to the refugee camp four years ago from Dubuaruba, Eritrea, drew a group trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea by boat. Yosan’s sister fled to Europe across the Mediterranean and lives in Germany, while her father is currently in Libya waiting to cross. Children at the camp in Ethiopia are given materials and encouraged to draw as a way of processing their experiences. Nichole Sobecki for The Wall Street Journal
Eyouel Amanuel, 11, drew a boat on its way to Canada from Eritrea. Eyouel, who left the Eritrean capital of Asmara four years ago and has been in the Ethiopian refugee camp ever since, said he has heard that life in Canada is good and people there are happy. Nichole Sobecki for The Wall Street Journal
A drawing made by 10-year-old Nahom Selomun portrayed his father riding a donkey back from church while they were still living together in Moraguz, Eritrea. His father left the refugee camp in Ethiopia a month ago and made it to Sweden, while Nahom remains in the camp with two siblings. Nichole Sobecki for The Wall Street Journal
Natnael Equbay, 14, drew a smuggler sitting beside a truck waiting to take three Eritrean refugees across the border into Sudan. Natnael said his sister died at age 23 when a smuggling vehicle she was riding in across the border from Ethiopia to Sudan came under fire. The text of the boy’s drawing reads: ‘Let us stop trafficking.” Nichole Sobecki for The Wall Street Journal
Robel Amanuel, 12, drew two giraffes playing in front of “Shrek” from the animated film. Robel had never seen a movie before coming to the Ethiopian refugee camp from Senafa, Eritrea, three years ago. A business at the camp screen films for a small entrance fee. The text of Robel’s drawing reads: ‘Robel Amanuel, 100 years old.’ Nichole Sobecki for The Wall Street Journal
A drawing made in camp by nine-year-old Eyouel Teshome, a native of Tserona, Eritrea, shows an Eritrean flag outside a school and a boat to transport refugees to Europe. Eyouel’s sister crossed the Mediterranean and now lives in Germany, where he hopes to join her someday. Nichole Sobecki for The Wall Street Journal
Refugee children are encouraged to draw to process their experiences. When Eritrean children at a refugee camp in Ethiopia called Adi-Harush made drawings in school, 11-year-old Henok Mahri, above left, drew maps of Eritrea and Ethiopia and also wrote on his assignment: ‘I have no mother that gives me advice or guidance. You [his mother] have no child, and I am not your son. What good is it if I stand first in my class in a foreign country?’ Nichole Sobecki for The Wall Street Journal

Eritrea is seeing its future walk away. Relative to its population, Eritrea has the biggest group of refugees who are unaccompanied minors.

At Norwegian Refugee Council facilities, 540 unaccompanied children, as young as five, get basic schooling. Social workers say some resist school because it is what happens before one gets conscripted.

Not so for 11-year-old Henok Mahri, the top student in class. “I want to fly abroad and continue my education and help my family by getting a job,” he said, sitting on a white plastic chair, tiny legs dangling.

“I have no mother that gives me advice,” he wrote on a drawing he made of his mother back in Eritrea. “You are childless and I am not your son.”

Asked when he thought he would see her again, he paused for a moment.

“When God allows.”

A billboard set up by Ethiopian authorities in Adi-Harush camp for Eritreans who have fled their country warned about human smugglers, saying, ‘Illegal movement is like walking blindfolded. Let’s stay alert.’ The refugees, who want to get to Europe, aren’t deterred.A billboard set up by Ethiopian authorities in Adi-Harush camp for Eritreans who have fled their country warned about human smugglers, saying, ‘Illegal movement is like walking blindfolded. Let’s stay alert.’ The refugees, who want to get to Europe, aren’t deterred. Photo: Nichole Sobecki for The Wall Street Journal

Source=http://www.wsj.com/articles/eritreans-flee-conscription-and-poverty-adding-to-the-migrant-crisis-in-europe-1445391364?mod=e2tw
Carl Lohan
DM Westmoreland

The Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR) is disgusted by the barbaric killing of, Habtom Zerihun, an innocent Eritrean refugee in Israel on 18 October 2015. Habtom was shot by security guard while crawling for safety during an incident in a bus station in Beersheba, Israel (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WSNmbux6jI). As seen in another video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kY-3e-Hraek), a mob of Israelis then brutally attacked him while bleeding to death on the floor of the bus station. No one attempted to either call an ambulance or to stop the abominable acts of the people attacking him. The heartless kicking and beating by the group of Israelis hastened Habtom’s death. The EMDHR joins the global outrage and condemns the senseless killing of an innocent refugee by coldblooded mob. We make the following demands to the Israeli government:

  1. Bring the callous perpetrators of this savage crime to justice and this is not difficult to do as videos and human evidence is available. 
  2. Immediate arrest of the security guard who shot the victim, Habtom Zerihun. Again a video evidence is available and there can never be an excuse to not bring the criminal to justice .
  3. Repatriate the body of the victim to Eritrea and hand it to his family.
  4. His family to be fully compensated for the brutal murder of their loved one. 

Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR)

20 October 2015

Pretoria, South Africa

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">'+addy_text21050+'<\/a>'; //-->  

www.emdhr.net

CC: 

  • Israeli Government 
  • Israeli Foreign Affairs
  • Israel diplomatic missions
  • Media

 

 June 12  

On Monday, the United Nations released the results of a year-long investigation into human rights in Eritrea. What it found was horrific. Detailing "systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations," the U.N. commission of inquiry argued that Eritrea was operating a totalitarian government with no accountability and no rule of law.

"The commission also finds that the violations in the areas of extrajudicial executions, torture (including sexual torture), national service and forced labor may constitute crimes against humanity," the report said.

However, it appears the report failed to produce any mainstream outrage. Unlike similar U.N. reports on alleged crimes against humanity in North Korea, or online criticism of human rights abuses in places such as Saudi Arabia or Qatar, the horrific accusations against Eritrea didn't produce a viral outcry.

Why not? It certainly doesn't seem to be because of the severity of the accusations. Crimes against humanity are pretty much as serious as you can get, and it's hard to read the United Nations' full report and not be shocked.

It's hard to imagine now, but hopes were initially high for Eritrea in 1993 after it gained independence from Ethiopia after 30 years of civil war. Since then, however, President Isaias Afwerki has clamped down and allowed no room for an opposition. The U.N. report described a Stasi-like police state that leaves Eritreans in constant fear that they are being monitored.

“When I am in Eritrea, I feel that I cannot even think because I am afraid that people can read my thoughts and I am scared," one witness told the U.N. inquiry.

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.

It's also worth noting the significant effort and risk put into creating the report: The Eritrean government refused to allow the United Nations access to the country to investigate, so the U.N. team interviewed more than 550 witnesses in third countries and accepted 160 written submissions. Many approached by the United Nations declined to give testimony, even anonymously, citing a justifiable fear of reprisal.

Still, experts don't seem too surprised at the lack of outrage generated by the report. "Clearly, Eritrea doesn't capture the imagination, or rouse the conscience of Americans, much in the way North Korea does," Jeffrey Smith, an advocacy officer at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, explained. "President Afwerki, while unquestionably a chronic human rights abuser and eccentric despot, isn't portrayed by the American media in the same way that Kim Jong Un is."

"North Korea also makes headlines for other reasons -- namely its nuclear ambitions and the ongoing threat it poses to regional stability in East Asia," he added. "Similarly, while Eritrea is certainly a police state similar to North Korea in many ways, it's largely kept out of the headlines because Africa in general doesn't feature highly on the agenda of policymakers here in the United States."

The fact is, while the scope and authority of the U.N. report lent its allegations an added weight, academics and human rights researchers had long written similar things about the Eritrean state without a significant mainstream response in America or Europe.

In 2014, for instance Human Rights Watch called Eritrea "among the most closed countries in the world" and pointed to "indefinite military service, torture, arbitrary detention, and severe restrictions on freedoms of expression, association, and religion." Reporters Without Borders has repeatedly ranked it as the worst country in the world for press freedom -- worse even than North Korea.

"The U.N. report? We knew it already," said Ismail Einashe, a Somali-British journalist who works with Eritrean migrants. "Too little, too late."

Despite this, some reports on the country ignore this and focus on another aspect of Eritrea: Its unlikely tourism sector. International isolation, a history as an Italian colony and reported Qatari investment may have made Eritrea a unique if distasteful vacation destination: As one travel blogger put it last year, the capital of "Asmara felt much more like Naples than North Korea."

Sara Dorman, an expert in African politics at Edinburgh University, doesn't think much of either comparison.

"I don't think it's particularly helpful," she said of the country's reputation as the "North Korea of Africa." At the same time, she stressed that Eritrea really does deserve to be seen as a special case. "As somebody who studies authoritarian regimes elsewhere in Africa, the Eritrean regime's control over its population is qualitatively different than other African states," Dorman said, before pointing to features such as the scale of Eritrea's intelligence service and the practice of punishing entire families for the crimes of one member.

There are plenty of historical arguments for why the world should pay more attention to what's happening in Eritrea. Former colonial rulers Italy and Britain have an obvious legacy there, and so does the United States, which allowed Ethiopia to incorporate Eritrea with the aim of keeping the U.S. Kagnew Station military base in the country. In addition, Eritrea has a difficult recent history with its East African neighbors: It's currently under U.N. sanctions for supporting al-Shabab, the Somali Islamist group, and others in the region.

But one important reason to pay attention has become an unavoidable reality for Europe. Eritreans make up a large share of the migrants crossing the Mediterranean in flimsy boats to seek asylum in Europe: More than 22 percent of those who made the journey in 2014 were from the country, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, second only to Syrians. They flee not because of a civil war like that in Syria, but because of the immense restrictions the Eritrean state puts on their lives. As one escaped Eritrean put it, life there is a "psychological prison."

Despite this, a number of European nations have recently tightened the restrictions on Eritrean migrants, many citing a Danish immigration reportfrom last November that prompted criticism from human rights groups. The European Union is also considering increasing the amount of aid it sends to Eritrea via the European Development Fund. Experts like Dorman hope that the U.N. report may lead some in Europe to reconsider.

"If organizations don't take note of this report, we really have to wonder about how they make these decisions," she said.

Still, even if they don't, the report does have one very vocal audience: The Eritrean government and pro-government media. In a statement published on Tuesday, Eritrea called the U.N. report a"cynical political travesty" that was an attack "not so much on the government, but on a civilized people and society who cherish human values and dignity."

Adam Taylor writes about foreign affairs for The Washington Post. Originally from London, he studied at the University of Manchester and Columbia University.
Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2015/06/12/the-brutal-dictatorship-the-world-keeps-ignoring/?postshare=3901445219277778
 
 

Ten members of the Eritrean National football team players applied for political asylum on the 14th of October 2015 in Francistown, Botswana. Initially, the Government of Botswana announced that they would be deported back home. However, EMDHR is pleased with the Court Order by Consent handed down by the High Court in Lobatse that sat on late night on the 16th of October. 

 

The Court Order stated inter alia:

  1. The Respondents (the Government of the Republic of Botswana) shall not remove from the jurisdiction of the Botswana certain Eritrean Nationals, all members of the Eritrean National Football Team, ten in number, who on or about 14th October, 2015 presented themselves to Botswana Government officials at Francistown seeking political asylum.
  2. This Order together with all originating process and any pleading (if any) filed by the Respondents shall be served personally upon the asylum seekers by the Applicant within 14 days of this Order.
  3. the parties shall file all pleading prior to the date of Status Hearing (11 Dec 2015).
  4. The Applicant's legal representatives shall have access to the asylum seekers.

The EMDHR is grateful for the support and compassion shown towards the Eritrean National Football Team players by the people of Botswana, which is a clear demonstration of the African spirit of UBUNTU. We are also appreciative to the Government of Botswana for reconsidering its initial position and we hope the players will be granted asylum. The EMDHR remains seized with the case and is willing to work together with all relevant parties towards its fair conclusion. 

 

Indeed, in an event of forced return the asylum seekers would have been accused of treason for attempting to abscond and seeking asylum. In a country where there is no rule of law, the punishment for such “offences” is severe, ranging from disappearance and extrajudicial execution. Contrary to the misleading statements and false promise by the Eritrean Ambassador in Southern Africa, Mr. Saleh Omer, these players are part of the abusive forced conscription and forced labour practices of the totalitarian regime ruling Eritrea. In a normal situation, being a member of a national team would have been such an achievement for these young players, but they know that their fate is doomed in Eritrea under the current regime and that is why they chose to seek asylum in Botswana. 

 

Eritrea is ruled by fear and not by law. It has no constitution, no parliament, no judiciary, and all forms of freedoms and rights are either banned or severely restricted. Citizens are often arbitrarily arrested, disappeared, tortured, and even extrajudicially executed. The UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea confirmed in 2015 the “systematic, widespread, and gross human rights violations” in the country. The Eritrean youth are at the receiving end of the regime’s ruthlessness and brutality. Today the youth are wasting their potential and talents in a forced and indefinite military conscription and doing forced labour. Today, Eritrea has become a country where even high school students are taken into a military training camp and forced labour programs. As a result these appalling conditions in their country, Eritrean youth are fleeing in mass seeking refuge in exile where they are granted asylum and  hope to reconstruct their lives.  

 

Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR) 

17 October 2015 

Pretoria, South Africa

Tel:  +27 72 196 3099 (South Africa) 

Tel: +26 77 545 8831 (Botswana)

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">'+addy_text95+'<\/a>'; //-->

Ten members of Eritrea soccer team seek asylum in Botswana

Wednesday, 14 October 2015 21:19 Written by

 Reuters

GABORONE (Reuters) - Ten players from the Eritrean football team are seeking asylum in Botswana, the latest in a series of defections by athletes from a country under investigation by the United Nations for human-rights violations.

The Eritrean national team was in Botswana to play a World Cup qualifying match. The players refused to board their plane home on Wednesday and were detained by police, Dick Bayford, who has been hired by the Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR) to represent the players, told Reuters.

"I have been engaged by the movement to assist in keeping the football players in the country after they received reports that there was an attempt to forcibly remove the players from Botswana," he said.

Similar mass defections by Eritrean soccer players occurred in Kenya in 2009, Tanzania in 2011 and Uganda in 2012. They were fleeing a country where slavery-like practices are routine and torture widespread, the United Nations said after a year-long investigation.

The investigation also found that Eritrea subjected its citizens to indefinite national service and killed people who try to flee the country, according to a U.N. report. The Eritrean Foreign Ministry dismissed the report without addressing specific allegations.

That investigation has now been extended for a second year. The U.N. Human Rights Council wants the extended investigation to consider whether Eritrea was committing crimes against humanity, a level of offence that can be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.

Bayford said the EMDHR was worried that the players, who are said to be part of the Eritrean army, are likely to be charged with desertion if they are sent back to Eritrea, which is punishable by death.

He said the players were being kept at a police station in Botswana's second city of Francistown, where the match was held on Tuesday. Botswana won the game 3-1 and advanced to the next stage of the World Cup qualifiers.

Government officials were not immediately available for comment in either country. The rest of the 24-man delegation went back to Eritrea on Wednesday morning.

(Writing by Ed Stoddard; Editing by James Macharia, Larry King)

Source=https://search.yahoo.com/search?fr=mcafee&type=C111US0D20150706&p=eritrean+football+team+in+botswana

Resolutions on Women Logo

By Helen Kidan

Network of Eritrean women was set up by a group of Eritrean women with diverse backgrounds and experiences to setting up a solid Eritrean women’s organisation that protects women’s rights, promotes the involvement and participation of Eritrean women in all decision- making processes.

As one of the main objectives of Network of Eritrean Women has been to actively work with leading international sister organisations, to raise awareness about the situation of Eritrean women at local and international level. As a result of its collaboration with WILPF UK Network of Eritrean Women is attending the 15 th anniversary of Resolution 1325.

Network of Eritrean Women (NEW) will be attending the 15 th Anniversary of Resolution 1325; Women Peace and Security at the Security Council in New York, 19-24 October 2015. In this piece I will look at what resolution 1325 is, what its significance is and how can Eritrean women and Eritrean society as a whole benefit from this resolution

Resolution 1325 was adopted by the Security Council on its 4213 th meeting, on 31 October 2000. The resolution came into being as expressing its concern that particularly women and children, account for the vast majority of those adversely affected by armed conflict. The resolution affirms the importance of the role of women in the prevention and resolution of armed conflict. The resolution also reaffirms the need to fully implement international humanitarian and human rights law that protects women and girls in armed conflict.

The history of Eritrea since its colonisation in 1890 by the Italians has had a history of armed conflict and violence and women have been victims of this conflict. Eritrean women were not only victims but were armed combatant fighters during the armed struggle for independence as well. During the years of armed conflict for independence Eritrean women combatants comprised 1/3 of the military in the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF).

The participation of women during the war for liberation was crucial both to the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) and the EPLF and women played a decisive role in the victory of the Eritrean people’s struggle for independence. Women participated on the battlefield alongside men as well as caring at home, running the farms and businesses in their absence.

The years since independence despite early pledges and promises by the government of Eritrea for recognition of women’s contribution to the liberation struggle and equality, women remain marginalised and discriminated in all areas of position. Even those within government positions do not have any effectual powers. We have seen the participation of women being eroded and that the government has taken no tangible steps to tackle violence against women.

The unconstitutional and highly militarised nature of the regime has led to a number of human rights violations including sexual abuse. Moreover, in June 2008 a complementary resolution 1820 was adapted to include sexual violence as a crime of war, and a crime against humanity and stresses on sanctions in ensuring that amnesty is not given to perpetrators of sexual violence. See the link below for further information. www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/.../CAC%20S%20RES%201820.pdf. This is highly important in the Eritrean context, as evidence has been provided to the Commission of Enquiry on Eritrea which has found violence has been perpetrated to women by State and non-State actors in Eritrea. It is therefore, imperative that all Eritrean justice seekers work in eliminating all forms of violence against women.

Resolution 1325 reaffirms the importance of women in the prevention and resolution of conflict and stresses the importance of their equal participation and full involvement for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security. It is therefore, important to ensure that all barriers that hinder the participation of Eritrean women are addressed.

Eritrean women are also a crucial component to any durable peace and security in Eritrea. So far 49 countries have a national action plan to implement resolution 1325. The regime in Eritrea has not adopted resolution 1325 and it simply can’t carry on in this way, and we need to plan from now how to build our nation and ensure peace, stability and security. Therefore, whilst the Eritrean government has not instituted resolution 1325, it is imperative that Eritrean justice seekers and opposition groups incorporate it as part of their organisations policy and try to redress some of the most pertinent problems faced by women.

The commission of Enquiry received reports of gender based violence including rape in state institutions of military camps. The Commission of Inquiry report http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/CoIEritrea/Pages/ReportCoIEritrea.aspx states on page 186, that the “Eritrean government has failed its due diligence on two levels, firstly by not creating good systems to address root causes and secondly by not providing victims prevention, protection, punishment and reparations. It is therefore, imperative that Eritrean justice seekers, human rights and civic organisations in the diaspora incorporate the participation of Eritrean women in conflict resolution and create durable peace by providing justice and reparations to victims and ensuring that systems are in place to address root causes of such violence.

Many of the Eritrean opposition groups in the diaspora are headed by men with few women at the leadership positions. The problem is only not at the executive positions only but at the lower end of the spectrum as well whereby we see few women activists engaged in the various groups. One of the reasons why Eritrean women don’t engage themselves in the opposition is also because the opposition has not yet been able to build the much needed united front under a unifying leadership, which has kept women away from engaging. This is in stark contrast during the years of struggle for independence when Eritrean women were very active.

We need to ensure that for any durable peace in Eritrea, Eritrean women are given the opportunity to fully participate at all levels. To attract and encourage more Eritrean women to play an active role in the change process in Eritrea?. The first thing is all opposition groups need to do is to listen to the needs and address the concerns of Eritrean women.

The opposition groups need to be more family orientated when organising events and talks to ensure the child provision is catered for to ensure that more women are able to attend and participate in events. They also need to provide the environment and platform for women to organise themselves within the various political and civic organisations. The Eritrean government has used Eritrean women to consolidate its power, in contrast the opposition has not be able to utilise nor mobilise Eritrean women in mass. This however, is crucially important firstly in mobilising Eritrean women to change the situation in Eritrea but also in the second phase in post conflict Eritrea in building a durable peaceful and stable Eritrea.

Therefore, the job for this needs to start from now and we need to ensure that we are engaging all Eritrean women in the diaspora. Communication is important to getting the message across and a lot of Eritrean women may not use the internet. Therefore, civic and political organisations need to use various forms of communication to engage Eritrean women e.g. viber and whatsapp and mobile texting.

We also need to utilise the skills and knowledge of Eritrean women in a constructive way which aids transparency, accountability and strengthens Eritrean civic society in the diaspora. Having a strong civic society is important in creating the bedrock for a democratic and peaceful state. Therefore, more work needs to be done in ensuring that organisations do not provide obstacles for women to join and caters to their needs to ensure that they can fully participate.

There are also lessons that we Eritreans can also learn from the Northern Ireland peace process. In Northern Ireland Irish women became a channel for cross community co-operation and gained a voice in the peace negotiations (http://www.c-r.org/accord/public-participation/northern-ireland-s-women-s-coalition-institutionalising-political-voice). Irish women have carried on playing a role in stabilising Northern Ireland. Syrian women made a statement in Geneva on Engagement in the Syrian Political process and are playing a pivotal role in the peace process. It is therefore equally important that Eritrean women are an integral part of conflict resolution and equal participants in building a durable peace.

Whilst Network of Eritrean women (NEW) will be attending the 15th Anniversary of Resolution 1325, this is not an issue for NEW or Eritrean women’s groups only but for Eritrean society as a whole. The importance of women’s participation on all fronts helps in creating, peace, security, elevate poverty and help Eritrea to develop economically as well. Therefore, there is much that needs to be done and we need to start changing the way we work now to shape our future for tomorrow, so that when change does happen we are in the position to assist and stabilise Eritrea.