July 8, 2019 Ethiopia, News

Source: African Arguments

Since the historic accord last year, the border has closed again and little has changed. Patience among Eritreans is wearing thin.

Eritrea and Ethiopia. Credit: Fitsum Arega.

A year ago today, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed arrived in the Eritrea capital of Asmara. Eritreans lined the streets, ecstatic to greet the leader of the country with whom they had been locked in conflict for two decades.

It was a truly landmark visit, ending years of hostility. From 1998 to 2000, Ethiopia and Eritrea had fought a border war in which some 100,000 people were killed. The resulting peace deal should have led to a renewal of relations as well as an exchange of prisoners and territory. But Ethiopia’s then Prime Minister Meles Zenawi refused to accept the loss of Badme, the village that had triggered the war, and there followed 20 years of stalemate. Troops from both countries stared across the thousand-kilometre border in a state of “no war, no peace”.

Prime Minister Abiy’s decision last year to recognise Badme as belonging to Eritrea opened the way for his visit to Asmara. His welcome could hardly have been warmer. Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki – renowned for hardly cracking a smile – was seen laughing and joking with his opposite number. Eritrean television showed Abiy meeting Isaias’s family and playing with his grandchildren.

Less than a week later, the Eritrean leader was in Addis Ababa where the welcome was just as warm. “This is a historic day for all of us,” President Isaias declared at a lunch with Abiy at the National Palace. “Anyone who thinks the people of Eritrea and Ethiopia are separated is considered as naïve from now on.”

In September, the relationship was then cemented by the formal signing of a peace deal in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, witnessed by the Saudi King and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Abiy and Isaias agreed that the Ethiopia-Eritrea borders would be opened, relations normalised, and the disputes of the past put behind them. What could possibly go wrong?

A year later

For a while, all went well. Ethiopians flew into Eritrea for joyous and tearful reunions with their families. Traders crossed the border to sell their goods in Eritrean towns. Businesses on both sides of the border boomed. Mebrhit Gebrehans, a middle-aged Ethiopian woman welcomed the transformation, telling the BBC: “What we fear is war. We love peace. When the Eritreans come to this market, I welcome them with a smiling face.” Eritreans were able to get into Ethiopia easily by taxi, and thousands made the journey, with up to 500 people a day leaving for a better life.

A year on, however, the situation has been reversed. The borders are officially closed. No explanation has been given for this decision, but it appears that Eritrean authorities feared that members of the opposition were crossing over from Ethiopia where they had been stationed for many years. The main remaining sign of the peace deal are the daily Ethiopian Airlines flights that are only available to well-off Eritreans, over the age of 50, with official clearance to leave the county.

Inside Eritrea, there have been few benefits from peace beyond the ability to find everyday items brought into the country by Ethiopian traders using unofficial trade routes. The government’s policy of indefinite national service for all Eritreans remains intact. There has been no apparent progress towards officially regulating the border, a task that was meant to be tackled by joint commission from both countries. And the Eritrean parliament, which was disbanded in February 2002, has not reassembled and has had no opportunity to scrutinise or ratify the treaty signed by President Isaias.

Meanwhile, some Eritreans are worrying about their country’s independence, won at such a high price in 1993. They watched nervously last year as Abiy and Isaias pledged to share the key Eritrean port of Assab, with the French promising to help Ethiopia rebuild its navy. They have also noted that some Ethiopians started producing unofficial maps of the region that didn’t recognise the sovereignty of Eritrea.

Growing frustrations

Today then, even Eritreans who had hitherto supported the government or at least refrained from criticising it, believing this to be the best approach to safeguarding Eritrea’s sovereignty, have begun changing their stand. Members of the diaspora have launched a campaign under the slogan ‘Enough!’ This has captured popular imagination, particularly among young people who were born and raised outside the country. The activists’ creativity has resulted in an unrelenting social media campaign calling for change. Rallies and unprecedentedly large gatherings of Eritreans abroad have taken up their call.

These campaigns have been echoed inside the country, with youths writing slogans on walls protesting against indefinite conscription. Thousands of leaflets have been distributed internally, while ordinary Eritreans now openly watch and debate issues covered by opposition radio and television shows broadcast from abroad to growing audiences.

The Eritrean government has retaliated by trying to identify and quash all potential sources of encouragement for popular protest. The regime has, for example, targeted religious groups, perhaps remembering the strong protests in 2017 when the government cracked down on a Muslim school in Asmara. It has disrupted Christian prayer meetings, arrested members of “unregistered” churches, and even detained outspoken priests and monks from the “registered” Orthodox church for supporting the Patriarch of the Orthodox church, who has been under house arrest since 2005. The government has also closed 33 hospitals, clinics and health stations run by the Catholic Church of Eritrea in apparent retaliation for pastoral remarks calling for a peace dividend for the people and the opening up of democratic space.

While Eritreans are growing restless, Ethiopians have their own problems to attend to. The northern region of Tigray has repeatedly refused to allow heavy artillery to be moved away from the border, fearing an Eritrean attack. Meanwhile, more than two million Ethiopians have been displaced by ethnic conflict and there was recently a largely unexplained apparent coup attempt in the Amhara region, with the simultaneous killing of the army chief of staff in Addis Ababa.

A year on, the euphoria of the Eritrea-Ethiopia peace deal has evaporated. A sullen, tense cloud now hangs over relations between Asmara and Addis Ababa, with both nations watching developments along the border with concern.

Ethiopia plans rail link with Eritrea

Saturday, 06 July 2019 14:45 Written by

July 5, 2019 Ethiopia, News

Source: Construction Review


The government of Ethiopia has announced plans to build a railway line that connects Ethiopia with port cities of Eritrea.

Speaking during the Ethio-Italian Business Forum, Ahmed Shide,Minister of Finance Minister of Finance said that a feasibility study has been launched and theWorld Bank Groupis behind the project. The studies will determine the overall cost of the project.

Ethiopia- Eritrea rail project

The railway project will see ports of Assab and Massawa will having direct railway links with North, East and central parts of Ethiopia. So far, Ethiopia has rail and road or power connectivity with Djibouti, Kenya, Sudan and South Sudan.

Emanuela Del Re, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy on his side said that her government will consider involving in the Ethio- Eritrean railway connection.

Mr Del Re who met with Eritrea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Yemane Gebreab, Eritrea’s Presidential Advisor and Head of Political Affairs had a brief meeting about development projects in both countries and Italy pledged assistance on the preservation and protection of the Aksum Monolithic Obelisks in Ethiopia which are currently in a deplorable state.

The Italian Deputy Minister noted that Italy has provided US $170m to finance development projects. The business summit which witnessed attendances from high level government officials with 40 major companies of Italy briefed the delegates on the ongoing reform packages in Ethiopia.

President of Italian Trade Agency, Carlo Ferro who was also in attendance said that Italian businesses have invested US $672bn in Ethiopia and would like to invest more, recently Calzedonia Group, a renowned apparel brand has set foot in Ethiopia. 

July 3, 2019 News

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is appealing to Eritrea not to close the Umkulu refugee camp after hundreds of refugees left the site in recent weeks, amidst reports that local authorities had asked residents to leave.

Umkulu camp, located some 10 kilometres from the Red Sea port town of Massawa, is Eritrea’s only refugee camp. As of mid-June, the camp hosted more than 2,100 Somali refugees. Of these, 1,300 people have now arrived in northern Ethiopia.

“We call on the Eritrean authorities to continue to work with us on securing protection and solutions for refugees who remain in the country,”said Raouf Mazou, Director of UNHCR’s Regional Bureau for Africa.

“Closing a camp which has hosted Somali refugees for close to twenty years without offering alternatives raises serious concerns,” UNHCR’s Mazou added.

UNHCR is coordinating with the Ethiopian authorities to relocate the 1,300 refugees who arrived in Ethiopia away from the border and to transfer them to Melkadida in the Southern part of the country. The first relocations are expected to start on Wednesday, 3 July 2019.

Ethiopia is host to some 257,000 Somali refugees.

The United Nations has called for an independent inquiry into the bombing of a Libyan migrant detention centre that left at least 44 dead and more than 130 severely injured, describing the attack as “a war crime and odious bloody carnage”.

The detention centre east of Tripoli was housing more than 610 people when it was hit by two airstrikes. Libya’s UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) and the Italian interior minister, Matteo Salvini, blamed the bombing on the air force of Khalifa Haftar.

The GNA has been defending Tripoli from an assault launched by Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA) on 4 April that has left hundreds of people dead.

Gen Khaled el-Mahjoub, a spokesman for the LNA, denied targeting the detention centre, saying it was the militia camp in the Tajoura neighborhood that was the target. He did not deny, however, that the migrant detention centre was hit. “We didn’t give orders to target the shelter,” he said.

The death toll, which includes many women and children, represents one of the largest single losses of civilian life since the civil war in 2011.

The air raid, involving two missiles, occurred in the early hours of Wednesday morning and left the detention centre a charred ruin. The LNA had on Monday warned that it was stepping up air raids on the capital in response to recent military reverses.

The commander of LNA’s air force operations room, Maj Gen Mohamed Manfour, had warned that as part of “exhausting all traditional means” to capture Tripoli, LNA would conduct “strong and decisive airstrikes” against select targets.

The UN refugee agency had previously called for people to be removed from the detention centre in Tajoura, expressing fears that they were likely to be victims of air raids being mounted by Haftar’s air force. The detention centre is close to a military supply depot for militia working to protect the GNA.

Condemning the destruction, the UN special envoy for Libya, Ghassan Salamé, said: “This attack clearly could constitute a war crime, as it killed by surprise innocent people whose dire conditions forced them to be in that shelter. The absurdity of this ongoing war today has led this odious bloody carnage to its most hideous and most tragic consequences.”

The international outcry, including an emergency closed session of the UN security council, will put pressure on Haftar’s backers, notably the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, to withdraw their support, or at least demand an end to the nightly air raids.

The UAE is already facing a threat of a US congressional ban on US arms sales amid claims, denied by the UAE, that arms supplied by the US have been transferred to Haftar for his assault on Tripoli. The UN has imposed an arms embargo on Libya.

The multiple calls for an inquiry into the attack on the detention centre were led by the UN secretary general, the African Union and the European Union, and supported by individual states including Germany, France, Turkey, Qatar and the UK.

Salvini, criticised across Europe for his refusal to allow migrant ships from Libya to dock in Italy, was the most forthright, saying: “Haftar is responsible for a criminal attack … I hope there is no one left, and I do not mention the French, who for economic and commercial reasons support an attack on civilian targets.” Italy has repeatedly accused France of covertly helping Haftar, and his claim to be leading a fight against Islamists and terror.

The EU defended itself from claims that it was responsible for the plight of the migrants in Libya by backing Libyan coastguard efforts to deter the migrants from reaching Europe.

Calling for an independent investigation, the EU said: “We have sought to evacuate refugees and migrants from the detention centres near the frontline. Where possible, we have enabled them to find safety outside Libya – these efforts must continue and be stepped up urgently.

“Unfortunately, many more are at risk and should be transferred to safe places swiftly so they can receive assistance and be evacuated.”

Libyan Red Crescent workers recover migrants bodies after an airstrike at a detention centre in Tajoura

Libyan Red Crescent workers recover bodies after the airstrike at a detention centre in Tajoura. Photograph: Hazem Ahmed/AP

The UN refugee agency said it had called for migrants to be removed from the base. It said some 3,300 migrants and refugees remained arbitrarily detained inside and around Tripoli in conditions that could only be described as inhumane. It added that migrants and refugees faced increasing risks as clashes intensified nearby and called for the centres to be closed.

Haftar’s Libyan National Army said the attack may have been committed by the GNA missiles, a claim that led some countries to hold back from identifying LNA culpability, at least until an inquiry was complete.

In a statement, the GNA denounced the attack as a “heinous crime” and blamed it on the “war criminal Khalifa Haftar”. It accused pro-Haftar forces of having carried out a “premeditated” and “precise” attack on the detention centre.

The NGO Exodus claimed that Haftar’s forces were responsible for the raid, but said: “The bombardment, however criminal, is due to the equally criminal practice implemented by GNA forces of Fayez al-Sarraj to use migrants as human shields, hiding militias and armaments inside detention centres crowded with migrants.”

The group said it had been warning European leaders for two months that people in the detention centres were in danger from the air raids, but that its pleas had been met only with “grim political calculation”.


July 2, 2019 News

The UK welcomed Eritrea’s increasing engagement with the Human Rights Council, but called for Eritrea to respect freedom of religion or belief & release all those in arbitrary detention.

flags UN Geneva

Thank you, Mr Vice-President,

The United Kingdom thanks Ms. Kravetz, for her report and her work over the past year. We are disappointed that the Government of Eritrea, as a member of this Council, has not engaged with the Special Rapporteur, or her predecessors.

We welcome Eritrea’s increasing engagement with the Human Rights Council and encourage the Government to strengthen its cooperation with the Office of the High Commission for Human Rights in order to achieve improvements in the human rights situation in Eritrea.

Eritrea remains a priority country for the United Kingdom’s work on human rights. We renew calls for the Government of Eritrea to reform the national service system, implement the constitution, respect freedom of religion or belief, respect freedom of expression and release all those in arbitrary detention. We strongly support the Council’s continued focus on these issues.

The UK agrees with the Special Rapporteur’s report of 16 May. We agree with the areas the Special Repporteur identifies as being unaddressed and urge the Eritrean government to use the benchmarks as a tool for achieving meaningful and lasting progress on human rights.

Special Rapporteur,

We note the benchmarks you included in your report. How do you think these could be best used at an operational level, nationally and internationally?

Thank you, Mr Vice-President.

Liberty Magazine Issue No. 57

Wednesday, 03 July 2019 09:33 Written by

June 30, 2019 8:39 am

The Transitional Military Council (TMC) accepted the joint proposal made by the African Union and the Ethiopian envoys and called for talks to form the executive bodies.

The nine-page proposal provides to form a sovereign council composed of 15 members. Seven to be designated by the TMC and seven others by the opposition Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC).

The sides have to agree on an additional civilian member to ensure the principle of civilian majority in the council.

The Transitional government will be formed of technocrats selected by a prime minister who is designated by the FFC. The premier will select his ministers in consultation with the opposition, except for the defence and interior ministers who will be designated by the TMC.

The draft agreement says the parties once they endorsed the proposal they will engage in talks on the outstanding issues particularly the composition of the transitional legislative council.

In a short statement released by its spokesperson Shams al-Din Kabbashi, the TMC declared its acceptance of the joint proposal, after studying it for two days.

“A number of observations emerged, but in general, it is considered a viable proposal to negotiate a final agreement leading to the formation of transitional government institutions,” he said.

“The Military Council sincerely looks forward to the immediate start of a serious and sincere negotiation that ends with a national consensus,” he further added.

The FFC had accepted the Ethiopian proposal which was similar to this with the difference that 67% of the legislative council members will be appointed by the opposition groups.

After accepting to concede the majority at the Sovereign Council to the opposition forces, the military council said it would not accept that the FFC control the parliament and want to renegotiate its percentage of 33%.

The coalition of the opposition forces did not yet issue a joint statement on the joint proposal as many of its factions refuse to make further concessions to the military council.

However, the National Umma Party (NUP) of Sadiq al-Mahdi has issued a statement welcoming the joint proposal and vowed to work with its allies to adopt a common position.

“We appeal to Abdel Aziz al-Hilu, leader of the SPLM-North, and Abdel-Wahid Mohamed al-Nur, head of the Sudan Liberation Movement, to respond to this initiative,” further said the statement.

Regarding the reservations made by some opposition groups towards the joint proposal, the NUP said it should be settled by the internal initiatives of the Sudanese mediators.

“We will make specific proposals to help fill those gaps,” further stressed the statement.

The opposition party, also, called on its partisans and supporters to take part in the first big demonstration the FFC plan to organize on 30 June.

source: Agencies



UN expert urges Eritrea to allow religious institutions to operate freely and respect the right of freedom of religion

GENEVA (21 June 2019) ‑ The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea has expressed serious concern over the curtailment of Catholic Church activities in the country and the arbitrary arrest and detention of members of Orthodox and Christian congregations in recent weeks.

“These actions show that, despite the improved regional climate for peace and security, the human rights situation in Eritrea remains unchanged,” said Daniela Kravetz. “I urge Eritrea to live up to its international commitments as a member of the Human Rights Council and allow religious institutions to operate freely and all Eritreans to exercise their right to freedom of religion within the country.”

On 12 June 2019, the Eritrean authorities ordered the seizure of all health centres managed by the Catholic Church. According to the information received, in some instances, soldiers were posted outside the health facilities, patients were ordered to go home, and health staff threatened.

“The seizure of these health facilities will negatively impact the right to health of the affected populations, in particular those in remote rural areas. By curtailing the activities of the Catholic Church, the Eritrean authorities are restricting the right of their citizens to enjoy quality health care,” the UN expert said.

The Catholic Church manages some 40 hospitals and health centres in the country, mainly in rural areas, and some of these centres operate inside monasteries. Most provide free health services and many have operated since the 1990s.

The Special Rapporteur said the move by the authorities follows a call by the Catholic Church for genuine dialogue on peace and reconciliation in Eritrea. In a pastoral letter issued on 29 April, Eritrea’s four Catholic bishops had called on the authorities to adopt a comprehensive truth and reconciliation plan to promote dialogue and strengthen peacebuilding. The letter also urged the authorities to implement reforms so that Eritreans would stop fleeing their country.

The Special Rapporteur also received reports that, on 13 June, security forces arrested five Orthodox priests from the Debre Bizen monastery. The priests ‑ three over 70 years old ‑ were allegedly arrested for opposing the government’s interference in the affairs of the Church.

In addition, Kravetz received reports that, last month, the Eritrean authorities arrested Christians for practicing their faith. On 17 May, around 30 Pentecostal Christians were reportedly arrested during prayer meetings at different locations in Godeif, south of the capital Asmara. Around 10 May, security agents reportedly arrested around 141 Christians, including 104 women and 14 children, during a private gathering in the Mai Temenai district of Asmara. Some of those arrested were reportedly taken to Adi Abeito prison, while others were held by the police. Around 50 of these detainees have reportedly since been released, and the remaining individuals are said to still be in prison without charge.

Kravetz stressed that the arrest of individuals for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of religion and belief is a clear violation of Eritrea’s obligations under international human rights law. She recalled that freedom of religion is central to the ability of Eritreans to live together peacefully. “I urge the Government to allow the Eritrean people to exercise their right to freedom of religion and to release those who have been imprisoned for their religious beliefs.”

The Special Rapporteur will share her findings in relation to the situation of human rights in Eritrea during an interactive dialogue scheduled to take place on 2 July 2019 at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.


Ms. Daniela Kravetz (Chile) was appointed in October 2018 as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea. She is an attorney with extensive experience in human rights, accountability, gender-based violence and access to justice in conflict and post-conflict settings. Her experience covers countries in Latin America, Africa, and the former Yugoslavia

The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact
Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Follow news related to the UN’s independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts. 

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June 27, 2019 News

.- The head of the Eritrean Catholic Church has called for the Church’s faithful to observe the current fasting season in response to the government’s seizure and closing of 22 Church-run health clinics earlier this month.

Source: Catholic News Agency

Asmara Catholic Church

Archbishop Menghesteab Tesfamariam of the Eritrean Archeparchy of Asmara wrote in a June 22 letter that “only the Lord can console us and resolve our problems.”

The Eritrean Catholic Church observes the Apostles’ Fast – a fasting season between Pentecost and the feast of Saints Peter and Paul – this year from June 25 through July 11. The Church uses the Alexandrian rite and the Coptic calendar, on which the feast of Saints Peter and Paul is not celebrated until the Gregorian calendar’s July 12.

The Association of Member Episcopal Conferences of Eastern Africa has also condemned the clinics’ seizure.


Bishop Charles Kasonde of Solwezi, chair of AMECEA, wrote to the Eritrean bishops saying, “I hereby extend my heart-felt message of solidarity to you and the entire Catholic family in Eritrea over the confiscation of the health institutions owned by the Catholic Church.”

“May the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ nurture you with the hope and give you the necessary courage and stamina to stand strong in defence of the rights of the Church and God’s people in Eritrea,” he added.

In June, military forces arrived at the Church’s 22 clinics, telling patients to return to their homes, and subsequently guarding the buildings.

A letter from the Church to the health ministry after the seizure said that “the government can say it doesn’t want the services of the Church, but asking for the property is not right.” It added that the Church’s social services cannot be characterized as opposition to the government.

Eritrea is a one-party state whose human rights record has frequently been deplored.

According to the BBC, analysts believe the seizures were retaliatory, after the Church in April called for reforms to reduce emigration. The bishops had also called for national reconciliation.

Government seizure of Church property is not new, however.


A 1995 decree restricting social and welfare projects to the state has been used intermittently since then to seize or close ecclesial services.

In July 2018, an Eritrean Catholic priest helping immigrants and refugees in Italy told EWTN that authorities had recently shut down eight free Catholic-run medical clinics. He said authorities claimed the clinics were unnecessary because of the presence of state clinics.

Christian and Muslim schools have also been closed under the 1995 decree, according to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2019 annual report.

Eritrea has been designated a Country of Particular Concern since 2004 for its religious freedom abuses by the US Department of State.

Many Eritreans, especially youth, emigrate, due to a military conscription, and a lack of opportunities, freedom, education, and health care.

A July 2018 peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which ended a conflict over their mutual border, led to an open border which has allowed for easier emigration.


June 27, 2019 Amnesty International, News

27 June 2019, 03:01 UTC

Source: Amnesty International

As Eritrea chairs the UN Human Rights Council, government officials and supporters abroad are harassing and intimidating exiled human rights defenders and activists simply for criticizing the oppressive regime, shows a new Amnesty International briefing out today.

The briefing, Repression without borders found that human rights defenders are particularly at risk in Kenya, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, where Amnesty International documented attacks by Eritrean government officials and supporters on government critics, including an Eritrean Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Father Mussie Zerai, and former BBC Africa Editor Martin Plaut.

For many HRDs, fleeing Eritrea has not provided them with much respite from the repression many people die trying to escape.
Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes

“For many HRDs, fleeing Eritrea has not provided them with much respite from the repression many people die trying to escape. They have to constantly look over their shoulders and watch every word they say, afraid of the long arm of the Eritrean government which evidently extends across borders,” said Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

Supporters of Eritrea’s ruling party and government officials use all manner of tactics to harass and intimidate critics of President Isaias Afwerki’s government and its human rights violations. These tactics include death threats, physical assault and spreading of lies.

They have to constantly look over their shoulders and watch every word they say, afraid of the long arm of the Eritrean government which evidently extends across borders.
Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes

The briefing, which examines the period from 2011 to May 2019, also highlights the authorities’ use of the militant youth wing of the ruling party to “fight the country’s enemies” in Europe and the USA.

In April this year, Eritrea’s Minister of Information Yemane Gebre Meskel, the ambassador to Japan, Estifanos Afeworki, and his counterpart in Kenya, Beyene Russom, took to Twitter and harassed, intimidated and disparaged organizers and participants of a conference in London on ‘Building Democracy in Eritrea’. In his tweet, Minister Gebre Meskel dismissed the organizers as “Eritrean quislings”.

Such Twitter tirades by government officials clearly show the authorities’ intolerance of dissent and criticism by anyone anywhere.
Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes

“Such Twitter tirades by government officials clearly show the authorities’ intolerance of dissent and criticism by anyone anywhere, even at a time when the country is chairing the UN Human Rights Commission,” said Joan Nyanyuki.

Militant party supporters

Supporters of Eritrea’s ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), and notably its youth wing, the Young People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (YPFDJ), are at the forefront of these attacks on Eritrean human rights defenders and activists in Europe.

In deciding a defamation case in Amsterdam, a Dutch court in Feb 2016 ruled as follows:

“…YPFDJ receives instructions from the PFDJ, that the YPFDJ has (support of) the regime of Afewerki as its goal and that members of the YPFDJ are acting as informants for (the embassies of) the regime in Eritrea. The YPFDJ can thus, at this point, be called the extended arm of a dictatorial regime.”

Winta Yemane, born in Italy and eager to connect with her Eritrean roots, joined the youth wing while in high school, and participated in their 2011 annual conference held in Oslo, Norway. When she articulated her wishes for the country’s constitution, human rights and an independent judiciary, she quickly found herself on the wrong side of senior government officials in attendance.

The officials said that I am a victim of misinformation by the western propaganda and enemies of Eritrea.
Winta Yemane, Eritrean based in Italy

“The officials said that I am a victim of misinformation by the western propaganda and enemies of Eritrea. They also said that my comments do not have weight because I am a minor. Three of the organizers even threatened to throw me out of the conference,” Winta told Amnesty International.

Upon returning home to Milan, she was stalked for a couple of weeks, received threatening phone calls from unknown numbers and was the victim of a smear campaign on social media.

Several other Eritreans living in the diaspora including Daniel Mekonnen, Director of the association of Eritrean lawyers in exile and Father Mussie Zerai, a Catholic priest nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2015 for his work with migrants, also said they found themselves on the wrong side of the ruling party’s supporters and endured similar harassment and attacks.

Eritrea’s Ambassador to Japan Estifanos Afeworki praised the journalist’s attack on Twitter.

This treatment is, however, not reserved for Eritreans. Former BBC Africa Editor Martin Plaut on 30 November 2018 was lured into a meeting with an Eritrean “source” at the British Library in London and doused with a bucket of liquid for his journalistic work on human rights in the country, and called a “traitor”. Eritrea’s Ambassador to Japan Estifanos Afeworki praised the journalist’s attack on Twitter.

Nairobi: “Subversive, Terrorists”

In Nairobi in 2013, following an initiative to set up and register a diaspora civic organisation – the Eritrean Diaspora for East Africa (EDEA), the Eritrean Embassy revoked the Eritrean passport of Chairman and Co-founder Hussein Osman Said and had him arrested in South Sudan by alleging that he was a terrorist working to sabotage the Eritrean government.

EDEA officials told Amnesty International when they tried to launch the organisation in February 2015, two people who identified themselves as members of Kenya’s National Intelligence Service ordered them not to proceed with the event, alleging that they had intelligence that EDEA had been established to overthrow the Eritrean government.

Eritrea’s use of its embassies abroad to harass and repress its critics must not be allowed to continue.
Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes

Such baseless claims against activities planned by Eritreans in Kenya continued in 2017, when the Eritrean Embassy wrote to the United Nations Office in Nairobi (UNON) claiming some 13 guests invited for an art exhibition were “subversive”. UNON subsequently barred the 13 from entering the UN complex at Gigiri, where the exhibition was taking place.

“Eritrea’s use of its embassies abroad to harass and repress its critics must not be allowed to continue,” said Joan Nyanyuki.