In a congratulatory message on the re-elections of Mr.Christian Levrat to the presidency of the Swiss Social Democratic Party (SP/PS), the Eritrean People's Democratic Party (EPDP) seized the opportunity to call upon the fraternal Swiss party to put pressure on the Swiss government to stop contemplating resumption of technical assistance for and "partnership" with Africa's most repressive regime under the pretext of non-existing "positive signals" from Asmara.
Mr. Levrat, who was first elected at the young age of 36 in 2008 to lead Switzerland's second largest party, again won re-election last weekend with a renewed social-political programme for his third term. Founded 128 years ago, the party is known by the abbreviations of SP in German and PS in French/Italian/Romansh languages of the country. Both EPDP and the Swiss party are affiliated to the Socialist International and the Progressive Alliance.
The EPDP congratulatory message, dated 9 December 2016, saluted SP/PS's right understanding of what is going on in Eritrea and the role of its parliamentary members in trying to depict to the Swiss people and authorities the correct picture in Eritrea. Yet, the memo did not hide the deep concerns of Eritreans about the dangerous compromises being made in favour of dictatorships springing from the simplistic aim of stopping flow of refugees to Europe.
The message pointed out the recent statement of intention by the Swiss foreign ministry hinting at a plan to start "pilot projects" with the regime at the cost of about US$2 million. The objective appeared to re-launching a large-scale development programme "if conditions improve" in Eritrea. It is to be recalled that it was 10 years that Switzerland stopped assistance to the Eritrean regime because of its bad human rights record.
The EPDP memorandum clarified that nothing is improving to the better in Eritrea for Switzerland to resume partnership with Asmara regime. For this reason, the memo urged the fraternal Swiss party to continue opposing the wrong intentions of the Swiss government, and stressed that SP/PS should instead promote the modest requests for action as listed below:
- Pressure the Swiss Government to stop contemplating renewal of cooperation with the Asmara regime until it: a) Implements all recommendations of the UN Commission of Inquiry and the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Eritrea; b) Releases political prisoners detained for long years without a day at court; c) Allows the ICRC and concerned UN and other human rights bodies to visit the detention centers in Eritrea; and d) accepts the pressure and submits for positive change through peaceful political transition that includes all Eritrean stakeholders.
- Support Eritrean Non-State Actors: The Swiss Social Democratic Party with other progressive forces to kindly see ways of empowering the mainstream Eritrean non-state actors (civil society and political movements in diaspora) through capacity building.
- Switzerland to Put Pressure on the Asmara regime by implement the targeted UN sanctions which include refusing visas to key regime officials and freezing their bank accounts.
- Relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia: a) The border problem needs to be solved in order to open ways for improved relations. Both Eritrea and Ethiopia can and must be told to show readiness for compromise; b) In particular, Ethiopia must be pressed to fully accept the final and binding decision of the arbitration boundary commission.
- Active support for Eritrean refugees in the Horn of Africa and for those already in Switzerland: a) Switzerland can initiate a special package project for academic and vocational education in East Sudan and North Ethiopia through the use of technical development resources that were suspended for at least a decade from reaching the regime, and b) The tens of thousands of new caseloads of Eritrean refugees in Switzerland are young and without proper education. Giving special attention for their education and skill building would make them better citizens upon their possible return to Eritrea. Both SP/PS and the Government can closely work with Eritrean civil society in Switzerland.