May 22, 2019 News

Petition presented to the European Commission

Source: Connections

(17.05.2019) In April 2019 we learned about a project of the European Union which focusses on the rehabilitation of the main arterial roads in Eritrea. It is known as „Reconnecting Eritrea and Ethiopia through rehabilitation of the main arterial roads in Eritrea“ (Projekt T05-EUTF-HOA-ER-66). (

Through this project the European Union provides 20 million € for the project which should be run by the Red Sea Trading Corporation (RSTC), the Government’s central procurement authority. We are very concerned that conscripts of the National Service should be used for this project.

In the description it is stated: “The labour used by the construction companies will consist of three types of personnel: permanent Government professionals; those in national service; and those mobilised from the local community on a cash-for-work basis.”

The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea of the United Nations described the national service as “slavery” and viewed the nature of military service as “crimes against humanity”. (, page 14ff).

The European parliament has called it “forced labour” and “a form of slavery”.

March 28, 2019 the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations wrote in the “Concluding observations on Eritrea in the absence of its initial report”: “The Committee is concerned that the length of the national service, which, initially stipulated by the National Service Proclamation No. 82/1995 for the period of 18 months, has been extended by a mandatory national service programme called the ‘Warsai Yikealo Development Campaign’ for an indefinite period. (…) It is also concerned about allegations that national service conscripts are deployed for labour in various posts, including mining and construction plants owned by private companies, while receiving no or very little salary.” (

The note in the project description that „the (Eritrean) Government has indicated that reforms to the National Service will start to take place when jobs have been created, so allowing incremental demobilisation“, can’t be accepted as a justification for the use of conscripts as part of this project. In fact, despite repeated hints to implement changes, the Eritrean government has taken no action to demobilize soldiers, some of whom have been in service for over 10 years.

In Eritrea, military service, still referred to as national service, is an unlimited service. Men and women are usually not dismissed from the military, but used in government or military owned companies. They are still under military control und receive a very little pay. In the military, superiors have absolute authority, which they exercise with arbitrariness and torture. Women are often exposed to sexual assault, including rape. ( The Global Slavery Index indicates for 2018 that 451,000 persons in Eritrea are subject of these conditions, nearly 10% of the population. (

In response to a parliamentary enquiry the Federal Government of Germany stated April 25, 2019: „In general, the Federal Government conveys the clear expectation that German companies in their economic activities abroad comply with the standards of good corporate governance, as described in the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises as well as in the National Action Plan Implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This includes, in particular, the prohibition of forced labour, as laid down in the International Labour Organisation Convention No 29 from 1930 about forced or compulsory labour and the additional Protocol of 2014.” ( The very fact the European Commission is deviating from this standard is completely incomprehensible to us.

On the occasion of the International Day of Conscientious Objection, which since 1985 has been highlighting the fate of men and women who in various countries are subjects to repression, detention and torture owing to their conscientious objection, this year we are focussing on the situation in Eritrea.

We therefore call on the European Commission to stop the project T05-EUTF-HOA-ER-66 immediately. The aid subsidizes a dictatorial regime, as the EU funds go directly to the Government’s central procurement authority. Conscripts are meant to be used whose employment can only be described as slavery. There are no assurances on behalf of the Eritrean government to comply with human rights.

We call on the European Commission to stop collaborating with the Eritrean regime under the circumstances. Eritrea is a state without the rule
of law and without respect of human rights. The 1997 constitution is not in force. There is a lack of independence of judiciary, no parliament, no elections. All of this was stated in the above mentioned Concluding Observations of the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations in March 2019. So far, the Eritrean regime under Isayas Afeworki has made no commitments to improve to comply with human rights standards nor to implement constitutional standards to guarantee democracy.

We call on the European Commission to ensure that Eritrean refugees have unrestricted access to asylum procedures in order to claim the necessary refugee protection. This also includes ending the walls-up policy against refugees, which is causing thousands of deaths in the Mediterranean sea.

We call on the European Commission to make an unequivocal statement to the Eritrean government to respect the human rights. This includes the release of conscientious objectors and political prisoners. This includes effective and sustainable measures to guarantee democracy and human rights.

We also call on the European Commission to support organizations and initiatives of the European diaspora who in various ways are working to promote human rights and democracy and their implementation in Eritrea. This would also send a clear political signal to the Eritrean government.

For further questions please be free to contact us at office(at) or +49 69 82 37 55 34


Connection e.V. (Rudi Friedrich, 069 82 37 55 34,

Eritreischer Verein für Demokratie, Kultur und voneinander Lernen e.V. (Dr. Kessete Awet, +49 152 34 191 202 as well as Temelso Ghebreyesus Melese and Tewodros Tsige)


Pax Christi Bonn (Armin Lauven, +49 228 31 42 87)

German Peace Society – United War Resisters‘ (DFG-VK) Bonn-Rhein-Sieg and Northrhine-Westfalia (Joachim Schramm, +49 231 81 80 32)

Petition of Connection e.V., Eritreischer Verein für Demokratie, Kultur und voneinander Lernen e.V., United4Eritrea, Pax Christi Gruppe Bonn und German Peace Society – United War Resisters (DFG-VK) Gruppe Bonn-Rhein-Sieg und Landesverband Nordrhein-Westfalen, presented to the representatives of the European Commission in Germany May 17, 2019

Keywords:    ⇒ Civil Society   ⇒ Eritrea   ⇒ Eritrea   ⇒ Europa   ⇒ Europe   ⇒ Human Rights

Read More

(18.05.2019) Stop the Slavery in Eritrea – Demo in Bonn (external link) – Youtube-Bericht

(17.05.2019) Eritrea: Keine Beihilfe für ein diktatorisches Regime und Sklaverei – Petition an die Europäische Kommission

(17.05.2019) Stop the Slavery in Eritrea – Aktion zum Internationalen Tag der Kriegsdienstverweigerung

Foto: © Jürgen Tauras


(17.05.2019) Stop the Slavery in Eritrea – Action to the International Day of Conscientious Objection

Photo: © Jürgen Tauras


(14.05.2019) Europäische Union finanziert Sklavenarbeit in Eritrea – Petition zum Internationalen Tag der Kriegsdienstverweigerung

(02.05.2019) Stop the Slavery in Eritrea – Aktion zum Internationalen Tag der Kriegsdienstverweigerung

(02.04.2019) Rudi Friedrich: Eritrea nach dem Friedensabkommen mit Äthiopien – Hoffnung auf ein Ende der Unterdrückung ist trügerisch

(02.04.2019) Rudi Friedrich: Inhaftierte Kriegsdienstverweiger*innen weltweit

(01.04.2019) Foundation Human Rights for Eritreans: Foundation Human Rights for Eritreans Summons EU to Stop Supporting Use of Forced Labour in Eritrean Project

(01.04.2019) Foundation Human Rights for Eritreans: Foundation Human Rights for Eritreans fordert EU auf, Unterstützung für Zwangsarbeit in Eritrea zu stoppen


May 18, 2019 News

Source: Defend Defencers

In a paper released today, DefendDefenders calls on the UN Human Rights Council to ensure follow-up to its action on the human rights situation in Eritrea to date. We outline reasons why a resolution on the country is needed and elements that should be part of a resolution at the Council’s 41st session (HRC41, 24 June-12 July 2019).

Since the signing of a peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia, no progress in Eritrea’s domestic human rights situation has been reported. Impunity for past and ongoing human rights violations remain widespread, and grave violations, including arbitrary and incommunicado detentions, violations of the right to a fair trial, lack of information on the fate of disappeared persons, the use of indefinite national service, and severe restrictions on civil and political rights and civic space, continue unabated.

The situation, which remains one of the most serious on the African continent and has been addressed by the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) as well as the UN, calls for a high level of attention.

Eritrea became a member of the Human Rights Council in January 2019. In line with Council membership standards, the government has an obligation to cooperate with the Council and its mechanisms with a view to improving its human rights record. The Council should urge the government to do so, and states should join efforts to ensure both that avenues are open for dialogue and cooperation with Eritrea – the onus being on the Government to change course and engage – and that scrutiny of the country’s situation remains high.

Read the paper.

May 16, 2019 News

Eritrea blocks social media, reportedly to curb planned protests


Eritreans are unable to access social media networks as at today (May 15), the BBC’s Tigrinya Service reports.

People have thus been forced to turn to Virtual Private Networks, VPN, to exchange messages. In Eritrea, the internet cannot be accessed via mobile phones, the report added.

The government is said to have taken the measure to avert an intended protest as the country gears up for its 26th Independence Day celebrations on May 24.

Asmara has yet to officially respond to the development. Communication like media is strictly under government control in the country considered to be a one-party state.

President Isaias Afwerki is the sole president since 1993, there is no opposition in the country. Eritrea has serially been accused of violently crashing on dissent and muzzling the media – which is currently non-existent.

Internet World statistics indicate that Eritrea has by far the lowest internet penetration on the continent. As at 2018, it had only 71,000 internet users, estimated to be 1.3% of the population.The last time a protest was staged in the country was in November 2017 when gunshots were used to disperse a group of students demonstrating against state interference in the running of schools.

It turned out to be also be the last known time that internet was cut amid swoops that led to the arrest of dozens, reports stated at the time.

The incident led to the issuance of security alert especially for the capital Asmara by the united States embassy. The information minister at the time dismissed the incident as a “small demonstration by one school,” adding that it was “dispersed without any casualty.”

May 14, 2019 News

This is most peculiar. Why did the Qatar National Bank go to a London court to try to win back $250 million from Eritrea?

The details are sketchy, but come from an authoritative source: Law 360 – which supplies information to business.

Below is as much as I can see at present.

Service Row Delays Qatari Bank’s $250M Eritrean Loan Fight

Law360, London (May 10, 2019, 6:23 PM BST) — A London judge Friday opted not to decide if Qatar National Bank can give Eritrea notice of a $250 million lawsuit over an unpaid loan outside of normal diplomatic channels until…

So what could be behind this?
On the one hand there has been speculation that Eritrea is running out of money and finding it hard to repay loans.
On the other hand we know that relations between Eritrea and Qatar were excellent at one time.
There was even a story that the Emir of Qatar was building a luxury resort on the Eritrean island of Kebir in the Red Sea. Images of the resort appears on the internet.
dahlak development - Eritrea 2
But relations between Qatar and Eritrea have been frozen since 2015, when Eritrea decided to change sides and move to back the Saudi-UAE war in Yemen.
The rift had wide implications.
This is what Statfor (a global security intelligence firm advising business and government) said.
“In the case of Eritrea, when the UAE military was ejected from Djibouti at the beginning of the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen in 2015, Abu Dhabi quickly engagedwith the government in Asmara over access to its port of Assab. Until then, Eritrea had been close to Iran, receiving aid and allowing the Iranian navy use of Assab. Eritrea also had good relations with Qatar, which had kept a contingent of troops along a disputed Djibouti-Eritrea border until Eritrea sided with the UAE and Saudi Arabia in their dispute with Qatar. Eritrea cut ties with Iran and agreed to allow the UAE to build up military facilities just across the Bab el-Mandeb from Yemen’s southwest coast. The bases there have played a crucial role in the UAE’s ability to conduct military operations in southern Yemen, including the amphibious assault to retake Aden from Houthi forces in August 2015. In exchange, according to experts, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have helped modernize Eritrea’s power grid and have given in-kind assistance of oil, among other aid. According to the U.N. panel of experts on Somalia and Eritrea sanctions, Eritrea deployed around 400 troops to Yemen as part of the coalition forces. Eritrea’s budding ties to the UAE and Saudi Arabia – an apparent lifeline offering relief from its international isolation – triggered an alarmed response in Addis Ababa.”
Ever since, Qatar and its media house, al-Jazeera, have taken a much tougher line with Eritrea.
Al-Jazeera now regularly carries hard-hitting exposes about Eritrea and the fate of Eritreans.
All of which leads us back to the London court case. We will have to see how this develops, but the Eritrean state keeps much of its finance off-shore and squabbles with its hosts in foreign lands are hardly surprising.
What was the loan taken out for? And why, as the report states was it “an unpaid loan outside of normal diplomatic channels”. We await further developments.

Saturday, May 11, 2019 5:12PM
As the U.S. remains locked in a debate over asylum seekers from Central America, lawyers and advocacy groups say they are seeing an alarming uptick in deportations to the African nation of Eritrea -- a country that President Donald Trump's government acknowledges arbitrarily imprisons and tortures its own citizens.

The plight of Eritrean refugees, while relatively small, strikes at the heart of the ongoing dispute in America over who is entitled to seek refuge within its borders, and what to do with people who are already here.

Eritreans in the U.S. whose bids for asylum have been denied say they fear that deportations are akin to a death sentence, immigration attorneys told ABC News.

Zeresenay Ermias Testfatsion, a 34-year-old Eritrean whose asylum claim was rejected, was found dead last year in a shower area at a detention holding area during a layover at Cairo's international airport en route to East Africa. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement said his death was an "apparent suicide."

"He explained to the U.S. government, if he gets deported, the Eritrean government will imprison him and torture him, all that kind of stuff," his close friend in the Washington area, Tesfom Debesai, told ABC News. "If he went back to this country, something was going to happen to him."

President Trump has primarily focused on migrants and asylum-seekers from Central America, which advocates say deflect attention from the plight of Africans and others seeking refuge in the United States.

"I think certainly on the ground, we see all the communities in our state and folks who we serve across the board ... impacted by administration policies," Tim Warden-Hertz, an attorney at the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in Seattle, told ABC News

Eritrea's authoritarian government tortures, forcibly disappears, and indefinitely detains its citizens, who lack an array of civil rights and freedoms, according to the State Department's 2018 report on human rights in the country. Human rights groups say it also uses extortion and threats of violence to compel its nationals residing abroad to pay a 2% income tax before they can obtain basic services.

Nearly half a million Eritreans have fled in recent years, with many of them escaping indefinite military service that the United Nations has said amounts to mass enslavement, and tight restrictions on leaving. Some have made their way to ports of entry on the United States' southern border with Mexico and claimed asylum -- only to have American immigration courts deny them refuge.

Eritrea, which borders Ethiopia, Djibouti and Sudan in the Horn of Africa, has for years refused to provide U.S. immigration authorities with the documents needed to repatriate Eritreans, and those who are denied asylum can end up in a state of limbo.

To force Eritrea's hand, in September 2017, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would stop issuing a wide range of U.S. visas to Eritreans. Since then, the number of Eritreans deported has spiked by over 50%, an increase ICE has attributed to the heightened pressure.

The U.S. deported about 62 Eritreans in the year since the sanctions announcement, and an ICE spokesperson told ABC News that at least a dozen more people have been deported since October.

The America Team for Displaced Eritreans, an advocacy group, told ABC News that, over the years, it had tracked scores of cases of Eritreans fighting to stay in the United States. As of last month, there were 936 Eritreans in the U.S. who had been ordered deported but who were not detained, including 147 convicted criminals, according to an ICE official.

As the United States pushes to accelerate deportations, several immigration attorneys who work with Eritreans told ABC News that individuals who go before U.S. immigration judges without a legal assistance might struggle to counter claims that the human rights situation in their home country has improved. There is no guarantee to a lawyer in U.S. immigration courts.

"That is the climate that we are living in, especially under the Trump administration," said one immigration attorney, who requested anonymity out of fear of reprisal from Eritrea. "I'm seeing just the craziest arguments being made -- decisions, rulings that place people's lives in danger."

The Eritrean embassy in Washington did not respond to multiple requests for comment, and the State Department referred questions about Eritrea's cooperation with the U.S. to ICE. The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE, also referred questions to the agency.

The brother of one Eritrean man facing deportation, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation by Eritrean and American authorities, told ABC News that he worries that if his brother is forced to return home, he will never see him again.

His brother had been conscripted into the country's notorious "national service" and was tortured repeatedly after refusing an order to shoot at someone who was trying to escape. He escaped across the border to Sudan and eventually made his way to a port of entry on the U.S.-Mexico border in 2016, but his asylum claim was later denied. He is now being held in ICE detention.

"In the past, he was going in and out... of the prison. And got tortured, got beaten up," he said of his brother. "But this time, he will not make it out [of Eritrea] alive."

Enough is Enough ....... ያኣክል

Friday, 10 May 2019 21:33 Written by

እዚ "ብያኣክል" ዝብል ህዝባዊ ምልዕዓል መታን ክዕወት ዓሚቁን ሰፊሕን መጽናዕቲ ዝሓትት ስለዝኾነ መራሕቱ  ኣብ ዘዘለውዎ ሃገር ምስተን ዓለምለኸ ትካላት ክተሓባበሩን ትምህርታዊ ዝኾነ ፍልጠት ንክቀስሙ ክጓየዩ ኣለዎም።እቲ ቅድሚ ሕጂ ሒዝናዮ ዝጸንሓና ልምዲ ናይ ወጋሕ ትበል ለይቲ ተሪፋ ፣ትምህርታዊ ዓውደ መጽናዕትታት፣ ኮርሳት ኢዩ እቲ ንኣፍልጦኻ ዘዕቢ፣ፍልጠት ድማ ንክትምዕብል ይሕግዘካ። ዘመን ከበሮ ተሪፋ ዘመን ምንባብን ምምርማርን ይኹን፡፤

Eritrean fourth democratic wave towards Inclusive political   participation and representation

The struggle from dictatorship to democracy depends on its ownership expressed through its meaningful participation to affirm this it needs democratic institutions and campaign strategy and grand strategy. The goal of the struggle from dictatorship to democracy is clear to remove the dictatorship from its deep roots and system and lay foundations for democratic system and democratic society.

Looking to the Eritrean Movements struggling against dictatorship in Diaspora the main challenge was to unify the Movements under a grand strategy including all political, civic and individuals.

The struggle from dictatorship to democracy is not similar like the struggle for national liberation from colonialism and occupation.

In the past 20 we have seen many national dialogues and conferences held by political and civic organizations but all were not sustainable and successful. This article will try to provide an overview of the process pursued in the past 20 years

During these 20 years of struggle for democratic change in Eritrea the Eritrean Opposition in Diaspora couldn't achieve structured participation but encountered multiple challenges internally ( lack of strategic partnership) and externally( foreign intervention-Ethiopian Government) but still there is hope that one day they will come together and achieve more in the coming future. To achieve this the opposition forces require along-term commitment from all its members in order to guarantee the sustainability of the struggle of all forces regardless of their political affiliations.

The Eritrean Opposition in Diaspora campaign strategy has been against each other for the past 20 years being aware of this failed strategy the opposition must direct their campaign strategy( win- win strategy) against the dictatorship, strengthening participation by all forces for democratic change, through greater participation we can win our peoples' legitimacy.

Through such campaign strategies the opposition can gain a keener understanding of the struggle from dictatorship to democracy and enhance their cooperation providing them more precise and unified message to the Eritrean people inside Eritrea. Let us promise not to campaign against each other, for example, the social media has been an instrument for defamation and blackmailing against each other let us stop this and direct the campaign strategy against it.

The Eritrean Forces for democratic change in Diaspora have tried gradually to build up alliances and coalitions but all were not sustainable and successful. We have learned many lessons during this time why these alliances and coalitions were not successful.

Building alliances and coalitions are democratic instruments in the struggle for democratic change but the Eritrean Opposition still need to learn the importance of these instruments.

The Eritrean Opposition in Diaspora have not succeeded to lay a grand strategy ( See, Gene Sharpe's research studies) winning the dictatorship in Eritrea and laying foundations( What form of Government- State Structure/Federalism/ Unitary) for democratic change inside Eritrea.

Laying grand strategy is the most important instrument to be established to remove the dictatorship and lay foundations for democratic change.

If the call of , " Enough is Enough" for national united platform is out of shared lessons learned they must first assess the past experiences of unity attempts inside themselves and with other compatriots for democratic change. Building national united platform needs a long-term commitment from all the parties involved and I hope the youth will take this initiative and revitalise the method of struggle from dictatorship to democracy.


  1. Einstein Institute Branch in Sweden
  2. IDEA, International Institute For Democracy and Electoral Assistance
  1. Expert Group- UD Sweden
Wed 10 Jun 2015 Last modified on Wed 29 Nov 2017
President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea

President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea, who ‘rules through fear’. Photograph: Goh Chai Hin/AFP/Getty Images

Europe’s response to the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean has rightly – if belatedly – focused on saving lives. Not a week goes by now without thousands of Africans, Asians and refugees from the Middle East being rescued off the coast of Italy by European ships. That is the welcome result of a humanitarian effort decided in late April, after a series of tragedies at sea had pushed EU leaders to act at last. But it would be dangerous to suppose that the deeper problem has been addressed. Europe deals only with the symptoms of migration, not its root causes. Eritrea is a striking case in point.

This east African nation of 6 million people is now one of the biggest sources of migrants who take the perilous journey into Sudan and then across Libya before finally setting out to sea towards Europe’s shores. There is no civil war in Eritrea, nor has there been an international military intervention. What Eritreans desperately try to escape is a dictatorship that sounds close to being Africa’s equivalent of North Korea. The UN’s inquiry on human rights in Eritrea, in a damning report published earlier this week, found what it called “a pervasive control system used in absolute arbitrariness to keep the population in a state of permanent anxiety”. It describes torture, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, indefinite military conscription, forced labour. It is a comprehensive description of how President Isaias Afwerki, in power for 23 years, rules through fear.

In the face of the systematic inhumanity of his regime, Europe has turned a blind eye. Even worse, the EU has in recent months decided on a new development aid package to Eritrea, worth over €300m. The argument is that financial support will help stem the flow of asylum seekers pouring out of the country. But it is not likely to work like that. Rather, the aid will first feed the cynicism of a dictatorial system only too happy to feel vindicated in its twisted assertion that Eritreans are migrating for predominantly economic reasons, not political ones. Second, such a policy does nothing to relieve those who so desperately need urgent help. Europe is not only compromising its own values by turning a blind eye to tyranny, it is rewarding a regime with aid instead of thinking strategically.

Any reading of the UN report should tear down this convenient myth. The EU must base its action not on wishful thinking but on the report’s core conclusion, which is that crimes against humanity may be being committed in Eritrea. This means that European governments, including the UK’s, that have tried to cast Eritreans as economic migrants, must seriously consider changing course. If Eritreans are fleeing persecution, Europe’s obligation is to be open to them, not to retreat behind false representations. If aid is to be delivered, it must come with strict obligations attached. There may be no easy solution to Eritrea’s domestic situation, but the very least one should expect from Europe is to recognise the facts: it is a totalitarian state whose refugees are not, or not only, in search of work but who are fleeing a very real terror.

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"Let us all act to resolve our internal problems by dialogue”

"Let us make Eritrea the place to share and care"

Stop accusing and blaming each other but come together and evaluate the past and come to invent new ideas promoting innovations.

We failed to build institutions of both legislative and executive bodies as well as the laws, procedures and norms by which we operate. The struggle from dictatorship to democracy demands the fundamental needs of our diverse people, thus we must have clear methods of struggle to bring fundamental changes.

The Eritrean forces for democratic change have had experimented variety of means in the last 27 years, to bring regime change in Eritrea. But all these approaches failed to unite and work together except deteriorated the spirit of mutual respect and trust.

  It is not easy to evaluate the exact methods in transition from dictatorship to democracy and reasons that led to the result of the current situation of the opposition forces in Eritrea, but it would be useful to investigate the reasons behind the status quo in the opposition camp which might help us pick the mechanisms that could lead to our aspired democratic change.

Twenty years has passed in internal political bickering and conflict.

In this article I will be dealing with some proposals that can help us to come to the table of negotiations rather than accusing each other who is the right or wrong.

  1. All forces for democratic change must adhere to the guiding principles of dialogue and have firm commitment that dispute will be settled peacefully- that can enhance the credibility of our struggle from dictatorship to democracy. 
  1. The initiative to engage in dialogue should be shared by all.
  1. A dialogue must be inclusive and participatory to be legitimate and meaningful it must encompass all forces for democratic change. 
  1. The dialogue must fulfil these objectives.

 a/  articulated and critical analysis of the conflict.

 b/ foster national consensus on the challenges and opportunities facing our struggle from dictatorship to democracy.

c/ reaching an agreement on common national agenda.

  1. Formulate an objective on this time of struggle and create consensus on national priorities.
  1. Formulate a comprehensive national agenda to remove the dictatorship and lay foundations for democratic transition.
  1. A national dialogue can help us towards democratic agenda and action plans that must be owned by the people. It must not be limited at the leadership level but disseminated to the grassroots in order to achieve a strong national cohesion.

Conflicts are not all negative but when actors attempt to resolve conflicts by moving outside established institutional frame work  they can create severe problems.

Forces for democratic change should have solved its internal conflicts by dialogue; establishing an environment for an inclusive knowledge-based dialogue on the political process aimed to achieve the desires of our people.

By dialogue ;disputes arisen inside the forces for democratic change should have been processed, debated; reacted and resolved.

At this moment;  the writer of this short article  recommends that let us all be involved to bring all forces for democratic change at the table and resolve the dispute by dialogue in order to get the trust of our people as an alternative to the current oppressive regime of one man rule.

April 28, 2019 Eritrea Focus, News, Reports

                                    28 April 2019Eritrea Focus

Habte Hagos, chairman, Eritrea Focus

The two-day London Conference looking at how a free and democratic Eritrea might emerge in the future was a fascinating, exhilarating and challenging event. It heard from Eritreans from a range of backgrounds and many viewpoints. There were inputs from experts – Eritrean and international – who have worked on and thought about the country and its people for many years.

It was an entirely positive event, which makes the negative response of the Eritrean government as sad as it is predictable. Instead of welcoming discussions about the options that are now emerging, it has attempted to belittle and dismiss. Yemane Ghebremeskel – Minister of Information – responded to the Conference by attacking Baroness Kinnock.

Yemane Gebre Meskel on Conference

Glenys Kinnock is an extraordinary British politician and a very long-standing friend of Eritrea. She visited Eritrea during the liberation struggle and her books including: “Eritrea: Images of War and Peace” did much to inform the international public about the situation.

Baroness Kinnock has been a stalwart supporter of Eritrea Focus, which organised the London Conference, but sadly she was not able to organise nor to participate in these events. If she had been with us, it would have been the icing on the cake.

Ambassador Estifanos, who represents Eritrea in Japan, took a different approach.

Ambassador Estifanos on Eritrea Conference

Perhaps predictably, he attempted to link the Conference to the Tigrayans. It is a rather tired rhetoric, but it can be wheeled out to suit almost any situation, so he has adopted it again.

It is a hallmark of the current regime that they insist on keeping the Eritrean people in the dark. We are denied information about the changes going on in our country and our region. With our National Assembly suspended we have no opportunity to engage in debates about our own futures. This is quite unacceptable.

Our reply

Neither of these criticisms is accurate, but that is unlikely to convince either of these government officials. Our appeal is – rather – to the wider Eritrea public. In this regard we want to make our position clear since, as it is often said, transparency is the best disinfectant. To that end we are publishing the Conference agenda, which identifies who spoke and who led the discussions. [see at the end] The papers will also be published in due course.

Eritrea Focus is an association of Non-Governmental Organisations, human rights organisations, exile and refugee groups as well as individuals concerned with the human rights abuses in Eritrea. We campaign to expose the horrific abuses and suffering of Eritreans, both within the country and as refugees living abroad. We campaign for democratic accountability in Eritrea and the establishment of the rule of law, and actively engage with the international community in our efforts to achieve this.

The London Conference was an important part of our activities. It was attended by about 70 people – mostly Eritreans, but also international experts. Many different views were expressed.

Eritrea Conference group photograph

Delegates came from Kenya, Botswana, a number of European countries and the United States as well as the UK. Funding for the Conference was kindly provided by the National Endowment for Democracy, which is funded by the US Congress, as well as private donations.

Our aim is simple: to look at the immense challenges facing Eritrea and to try to assist in the emergence of a democratic government that can replace the current dictatorship. Ours is a catalytic and facilitative role: we cannot be involved in the end of the present autocratic regime overseen by President Isaias. That task is exclusively one for Eritreans and especially for Eritreans inside the country. What we can do is assist and encourage the process of thinking about what will be required once the transition has taken place. This will be an immense project: no-one can have exclusive ownership of it. All constructive contributions should be welcome.

We are enormously heartened by recent developments inside Eritrea and amongst the diaspora. The ‘Enough’ – Yiakel movement, which the youth have taken up with such enthusiasm, is very much to be welcomed. It will fuel the changes that are coming, but as the Arab Spring so clearly demonstrates energy and hope are not enough. The future must be planned for if it is to produce the kind of government in which rights are respected and the rule of law is established. Our work is designed to be an inclusive process, sharing our work with anyone who shares our aims.

What next?

Over the next few weeks we will put together a range of working groups. These will take forward the papers that were presented at the Conference. We will begin the process of thinking about how Eritrea might be reconstructed after a transition, so that the country can have the ‘softest of landings.’ The issues will include law and the constitution, the economy, women and minority groups and regional issues. We need to identify key scholars and able Eritreans, who can critique what is being considered, but who are also prepared to step forward once the current regime has gone. We will publish the papers we have and how people can become involved.

This is a process – not an end point. But we believe that these are important considerations.

First: We are not a substitute for Eritrean political movements and organisations. We can assist, be catalytic and supportive. Only Eritreans can take the transformation of their country forward. We will try to be inclusive – including reaching out to transnational Eritrean youth in the diaspora.

Second: We do not aim for conformity but for collaboration. We accept, encourage and recognise the work of many other organisations like the Eritrean Lawyers, Eritrean journalists and other professional groups. We will accept and work with the many civic organisation emerging from the country’s women and its youth. “Unite, don’t harmonise” is a useful slogan. We aim to map Eritrea’s intellectual resources and consider how to fill the gaps.

Third: we already have some resources, although we are a small organisation and aware of our limitations. We have produced a well-received exhibition charting the history of Eritrea and we are willing to share it. We are supporting the improving media environment – including the Assena radio and television. We are also monitoring the international media, and will publish what we find.

There is a huge amount of work to be done, but we are not alone and the wind is in our sails.

See the Conference agenda here: Eritrea Conference 2019 – Programme

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