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.

ENDS

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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Source=https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24721&LangID=E

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.

Source=https://eritreahub.org/eritrean-catholics-dedicate-apostles-fast-to-pray-over-clinics-closure

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.

 
 

“Ambachew had called a meeting to discuss ways of stopping General Asamnew from recruiting more people for his paramilitary forces. The meeting was also intended to discuss firing him.”

Source: The Economist

Mysterious unrest shines a spotlight on opposition to Abiy Ahmed, the reformist prime minister.

A YEAR AGO, on June 23rd 2018, Ethiopia’s newly-inaugurated prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, took to the podium wearing a bright green T-shirt. Smiling and waving he offered hope to the tens of thousands of people who had flocked to a rally in the capital, Addis Ababa, in support of his promise to bring democracy to a country that has seen precious little of it.

Almost to the day a year later he again addressed the nation, this time on national television wearing army uniform to declare, stony faced, that his government had just thwarted a coup. It was a sharp reminder of the fragility of his democratic revolution.

Abiy said that the putsch had originated in the northern region of Amhara, Ethiopia’s second-biggest by population, and was the work of General Asamnew Tsige, Amhara’s head of security. The prime minister’s office claimed that General Asamnew was responsible for an attack on government offices in the regional capital, Bahir Dar, on June 22nd in which the Amhara region’s president, Ambachew Mekonnen, and other senior officials were shot dead.

In a separate attack in Addis Ababa, the army’s chief of staff, Seare Mekonnen, was allegedly shot and killed in his home by a bodyguard. Also killed in this attack was a retired general who had been visiting. The government said both attacks were linked, and claimed the coup was an attempt “to scupper the hard won peace of the region”.

Since then the government has shut off the internet and released few details of the plot. But, from what little information has emerged the incidents look more like an unplanned outbreak of violence than a calculated attempt to seize power.

General Asamnew was a former political prisoner sentenced in 2009 for his alleged role in another failed coup. He was released and appointed by Abiy last year in an attempt to reach out to the opposition and include it in positions of power. But General Asamnew provoked alarm with his strident ethnic nationalism and talk of defending Amhara territory against incursions by members of Ethiopia’s other ethnic groups. Underpinning such concerns has been a worrying spread of ethnic violence and nationalism across the country as Abiy has lifted the repressive hand of one-party rule.

Abiy’s ascent to power was fuelled by rising nationalism among his own ethnic group, the Oromo. They make up about one-third of the population and had felt dominated by the Tigrayans, a group that accounts for less than one-tenth of the population but that had largely called the shots in government since the toppling of a Marxist dictatorship, the Derg, in 1991. Rising Oromo nationalism has been mirrored in other groups, including the Tigrayans and the Amhara, who make up about one-quarter of Ethiopia’s population and had once ruled the roost under its last emperor, Haile Selassie, deposed in 1974.

General Asamnew raised further eyebrows when he began strengthening the region’s paramilitary forces, including a special police unit that answered directly to him. It was not just the federal government that seemingly wanted to clip his wings but also Ambachew, the region’s more moderate president. People familiar with the events on June 22nd say that Ambachew had called a meeting to discuss ways of stopping General Asamnew from recruiting more people for his paramilitary forces. The meeting was also intended to discuss firing him.

It seems that General Asamnew sent in men from his special police force to the meeting; there are also some suggestions that he may have been present outside the building at the time. It is not clear whether he intended for his men to open fire and kill the region’s president or the confrontation spiralled bloodily out of control. General Asamnew fled immediately afterwards—a further indication that this may not have been an organised putsch—but was tracked down and killed by the army in Amhara two days later, according to the government.

There are still many unanswered questions, including how events in Bahir Dar may have been connected to the killing of the head of the national army in his home in Addis Ababa. If the incidents were indeed linked, as the government claims, that would imply some degree of forethought by the plotters and point to the possibility of a wider conspiracy. If that is the case then it would suggest that Abiy faces a threat from elements of the national army.

The political ramifications may be far reaching in a country that hitherto stood out for offering hope of political and economic reform in Africa. Some now expect a campaign to suppress “nationalist” forces in Amhara, including youth groups and opposition movements. This in turn may stoke further resentment in the region, in which many young people are beginning to feel discriminated against by Abiy and his Oromo faction of the ruling coalition. Whatever the exact details of the events on June 22nd, the euphoria that greeted Abiy’s rise to power a year ago is beginning to seem a distant memory.

Source=https://martinplaut.wordpress.com/2019/06/27/the-economist-killings-and-claims-of-an-attempted-coup-rock-ethiopia/

June 23, 2019 News

This week has seen a remarkable gathering in the German city of Dortmund, where the Protestant churches considered a range of topics – including migration.

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The discussions took place against a terrible background: the rise of far-right violence that led to the murder of German politician Walter Lübcke. Chancellor Angela Merkel says Germany must rigorously fight rightwing extremism. The chancellor, speaking at the Dortmund annual meeting of Protestant churches, said rightwing extremism must be fought “without any taboo”.

But the Dortmund gathering also looked beyond Europe. The meeting heard from Germany’s Minister of State in the Foreign Office, Niels Annen, as part of a panel on the subject of migration and refugees.

Below is the panel on which Mr Annen spoke and then the presentation by Professor Mirjam van Reisen, followed by an example of the tragic consequences of the EU’s attempts to keep African refugees from Europe’s shores.


African and European views on better migration Focus on migration, integration, recognition

  • What is better migration? Niels Annen, MP, minister of state, German Federal Foreign Office, Berlin
  • What is the African view on the Khartoum Process? Dr. Mehari T. Maru, AU-IGAD Chief Strategist
  • The impact of EU migration policy on the local population in East Africa. Dr. Albaqir Alafif Mukhtar, director, Al-Khatim Adlan Center for Enlightenment, Khartoum, Sudan
  • The Bankrupcy of the Khartoum Process. Prof. Dr. Mirjam van Reisen, International Relations, Innovation and Care, Tilburg, Netherlands
  • Panel discussion with the speakers Moderation: Marina Peter, Bread for the World – Protestant Development Service, Berlin
  • Spokespersons for the audience: Kirsten Mittmann, Bremen Christian Reiser, Berlin
  • Music: Sauti Ya Ushindi, Malula, Tanzania

Presentation Kirchentag 2019

Prof Dr Mirjam van Reisen

Tilburg/Leiden University

22 June 2019

On 3 October 2013 a terrible disaster happened. A boat caught fire, just before the coast of Lampedusa and sank. Many of the 600 people on the boat died, especially the women and children who had been sleeping below deck. There were terrible, terrible stories, among which the story of a young pregnant woman who delivered her baby as she drowned. Her husband, who had been on the deck, survived the tragedy and had to bury his wife and his newborn baby, after the bodies were rescued from the waters of the Mediterranean.

It soon appeared also that the vast majority of the people on the ship were from one single small country in the Horn: Eritrea. A country that rules its people with iron fist, holds in population in permanent forced labour and indefinite cruel and brutal national service. A country which haemorrhages its youth, as very young people, as young as ten years of age, flee the country in order to stay out of national service and forced labour. A country that is involved in the human trafficking of its own people. A human trafficking in which people are cruelly torture and forced to beg for ransom from family members, while they speak on the phone or send out videos to demonstrate their painful ordeal.

Since that tragic day, the EU realized that it needed to establish a policy that would prevent the cruelty of migration and human trafficking that brings people in such terrible jeopardy. Since this event, the European Union and its member states have externalised migration policy. In 2014 it established the Khartoum process – the EU-Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative established which provided a new framework for such cooperation. Under this initiative an Emergency Trust Fund of over 4 billion euro was established to support actions under this policy.

Unfortunately, the actions under this policy and the Emergency Trust fund have taken a wrong direction. The Fund sought cooperation through direct and indirect cooperation with regimes and militia forces. Regimes and militia that appeared to be entirely unaccountable. As the Khartoum Process took shape, organisations therefore raised concerns about this policy. They have argued that the European Union failed to achieve its objectives by collaborating with these actors and even worse, seemed to become complicit with systematic and severe human rights abuses conducted by such ‘partners’. Moreover, critics lamented the lack of transparency of the cooperation agreements, the lack of involvement of the European Parliament in approval of the programmes and the lack of civil society and democratic movements in the projects and dialogues.

As part of this policy, both the European Union and individual member states have indirectly relied on external security forces. It has indirectly funded initiatives to train militia security forces to be trained as border guards in Sudan. These policies have directly benefitted and emboldened militia such as Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF), the former Janjaweed, by their own admission, whilst the RSF continues to commit war crimes in Darfur. This has not been without further consequence. The RSF have allegedly committed systematic and gross human rights violations against the peaceful democratic movement in Sudan, and raped and murdered hundreds of protesters in recent months. Last week alone, protest crackdowns led to over a hundred deaths at the hands of the emboldened RSF as part of the Militia Council. In doing so they have indirectly strengthened their capacities, which has now tragically led to systematic and widespread cruelties including rape and killings to suppress the democratic movement in Sudan.

The European Union has hidden behind the execution of such programmes by third parties. It can no longer do so. The collaboration with various militia in Libya to block migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea has similarly emboldened the exploitation and extortion of refugees. The European Union supports a policy where refugees are blocked to find protection. Last week, I heard it was not possible to visit Libya for a fact-finding mission because of lack of safety. Meanwhile, refugees are deported back with European support to Libya, where no safety is available to them. They are held in captivity under inhumane conditions, lacking food, water, access to health care. I have seen so many pictures of refugees dying in captivity in these terrible filthy camps which offer no protection. If Libya is not safe for us, to look at the situation of refugees, how can it be safe for refugees themselves? We hear terrible stories of the funding being abused in corrupt ways, people being starved, as those who are guarding them take the money and no food is available for refugees held captive in the guarded camps. Libya lacks a rule of law and any funding there is spent without any oversight and accountability.

While the support also sought to solve problems in countries that are at the source of many refugees, such as Eritrea, the fund also took a wrong turn. The Emergency Trust Fund approved a 20 million programme to support the Eritrean regime to building roads, with forced labour, as informed by the European Commission in its ‘Action Fiche’. This is a most flagrant violation of basic human rights. Not only is this morally and legally entirely wrong, it has not worked. Increasing numbers of youth refugees have continued to flee the country trying to escape the indefinite national service built on cruelty and inhumane treatment. By entering into a partnership with third parties and regimes that have been found to commit crimes against humanity and who hold no regards to good governance, the rule of law and respect for human rights, the EU is violating its basic legal requirements, and it is undermining its basic values whilst undermining international law.

So where are we now?

The approach of the European Union’s external policy on migration-push-back through the Khartoum process has led to a slew of legal cases which hold that the policy actions are in violation of the laws and regulations of the European Union, its constitutional values and rights, and its international obligations. These include the disregard for the obligation to protect. These include legal actions against:

1) Funding of the notorious Libyan Detention Centres;

2) Support to Libyan Coast Guards;

3) Blocking of rescue efforts in the Mediterranean Sea;

4) Funding of a project using Forced Labour in Eritrea under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa; and

5) General crimes committed by the EU as part of its migration pushback.

The legal initiatives demonstrate a widespread and deep concern that the EU has itself become complicit with the alleged crimes committed by third parties, as a result of the policies supported by the Khartoum process. This is counterproductive in so many ways, and most importantly, is undermining safety and contributing to the flow of refugees and migrants, seeking protection. Larger numbers of people, including many minors, are now fleeing persecution and inhumane treatment in countries such as Eritrea and Sudan and these refugees and migrants are tortured, exploited and extorted after having been pushed back to Libya from the Mediterranean Sea.

Through instruments such as the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, development aid has shifted for the purpose of migration control with little regard for the dynamics at play, within the countries concerned. The Khartoum Process has failed in strengthening European values abroad, and, instead, has strengthened unaccountable militias and regimes, whilst seriously undermining rule of law, good governance, respect for human rights and the role of civil society. Moreover, the instrument lacks parliamentary oversight and scrutiny. The European Parliament has remarked that its limited role in oversight over the use of this financial assistance has left Europe with a “democratic deficit”.

Article 21(1) of the Treaties of the European Union state that all international action of the EU will be based on the EU’s core principles, “democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law”. These constitutional values must be at the core of a renewed effort of the EU to play its international role.

Is there an alternative?

Yes there is.

The people of Sudan have demonstrated that civil society is capable of pursuing peaceful processes for transition into democratic governance. This requires support from the European Union to finish the transformation aimed at establishing a democratic civil government that can serve its people. The people in Eritrea are making strides with the movement “Enough is enough”, demanding the end of indefinite national service, which captures people in unending forced labour and slavery. The European Union should support this, as it will solve the root cause of why young minors are leaving that country. International and humanitarian organisations are working diligently to end the plight of people captured by militias and criminal human trafficking that have been emboldened over the past few years to extort and exploit refugees who are seeking safety. The European Union should support these actions that further the values it holds dear and stop push back to Libya given that the conditions for protection are not available.

The Khartoum process was established to address the root causes of migration. The reality is that it has emboldened the criminal exploitation and extortion of refugees and migrants, increased the capacities of unaccountable militia to act with impunity and give increased legitimacy to governments who repress their people and drive them out of their countries. This does not provide a basis for an external policy that strengthens European values, and it will lead to increase the problems in the region and beyond, including those of human trafficking, migration and refugees.

The policy under the Khartoum process is morally bankrupt, it is ineffective in curbing the root causes of migration and it is also undermines the European identity and its soft power abroad.

We are now planning the direction of the European Union in the next period. We look at Germany to play a steadfast role. We urge, Hon. Minister, that you respond to the serious concerns expressed over the impact of ongoing actions of the EU and its member states to fund and cooperate with external actors accused of systematic and severe human rights violations. Failure to do so will not only undermine the fundamental principles and values of the Union but fail to achieve the intended objectives. We therefore ask that the EU retracts the activities under the Khartoum Process and its Trust Fund, established under a seriously flawed policy.

Europe felt the horror and shame when hundreds of people died close to the European coast on 3rd of October 2013.  To prevent this from ever happening again, it will be imperative to set the protection of refugees above all others. To remember the humanity of the father, hoping to meet his child and to congratulate the mother on delivering this new life, but instead mourning their death in the Mediterranean Sea. The future of this father is the future of us all. We must choose life over death. As Europeans we, therefore, must believe that we can develop a policy that protects the humanity, democracy and human rights and rule of law in our continent, our neighbourhood and beyond.

Thank you.

Prof Dr Mirjam van Reisen

In this presentation, I am supported by the following leaders and organizations.

Fr. Mussie Zerai            Prof. Dr. Mirjam van Reisen       Reem Abbas      Koert Debeuf

Nobel-prize Nominee   Tilburg University                     Journalist         Director

Chair Agenzia                Leiden University                                             Tahrir Institute for

Habeshia                      Secretary General EEPA                                                 Middle East Policy Europe 

Signed by:

Majid Maali, exiled Sudanese human rights lawyer

Act for Sudan

Al-Khatim Adlan Center for Enlightenment (KACE)

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)

Connection e.V.

Darfur Bar Association

Eritrea Democratica

Eritrean Diaspora in East Africa (EDEA)

Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR)

Europe External Programme with Africa

Foundation Human Rights for Eritreans

Horn of Africa Civil Society Forum (HoACS)

Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)

Ibn Rushd Fund e.V.

Investors Against Genocide

Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur

Regional Centre for Training and Development of Civil Society (RCDCS)

Skills for Nuba MOUNTAINS

Stop Genocide Now (SGN)

Sudanese Community and Information Centre – London

Sudan Democracy First Group (SDFG)

Sudan Revolution Support Network – Sweden

June 21, 2019 Eritrea Focus

OPEN LETTER

                                                                                                                        20 June 2019

The closure of the Roman Catholic health centres on 12 June 2019 endangers Eritrean lives

Africa news and the BBC, amongst other news outlets, reported the closure of the health facilities run by the Catholic Church in Eritrea. The Eritrean Government is yet to respond to the stern criticism by the Roman Catholic Church protesting the forced closure of its health facilities in Eritrea.

The Catholic Church in Eritrea issued a strongly worded letter in which it accuses the government of being lawless. The letter bemoaned the forced dismissal of patients and the intimidation of health workers by the soldiers who subsequently took possession of the centres.

By closing the health centres, Isaias has yet again showed the world his total disregard for the wellbeing of the Eritrean people, the rule of law and international norms. Eritrea has become a wild west where the life and death of its citizens is in the hands of one man, Isaias.

Eritrea Focus encourages and supports a world-wide demonstration against this unwarranted and unprovoked attack by the government that endangers the wellbeing of the Eritrean people. This cowedly act proves beyond doubt that Isaias and his clique do not care for the lives of those who are most in need – children, mothers, the elderly and the sick who desperately need medical help. This irresponsible action has yet again exposed Isaias’s thuggery in a profound way.

Eritrea Focus pleads with the Vatican, the International Red Cross and the UN to take action as matter of urgency and demand the government to reverse its decision. The demand should be followed by a visit to Eritrea to ensure the government has reversed its decision.  Huge number of Eritrean lives are at stake by this cowardly act. The international community has the responsibility to act and must act swiftly.

If the government of Eritrean does not reverse its flawed act, friendly countries and human rights organisations should demand the UN to impose economic sanctions on Eritrea. To achieve this, members of the diaspora need to work proactively with the Vatican, friendly countries and partner human rights organisations. We must hit the regime in Asmara where it hurts most because that’s the only thing a mafia regime understands.

It is time for Eritrean diaspora wherever they may be to rise up against this senseless act by the regime – our people’s lives are at stake, and we cannot and must not ignore it. This is the time when the powerful voices of Eritreans in diaspora should reverberate across the world.  The campaigners of “enough is enough” must come out to the streets and raise their voice in solidarity with the Catholic Church.

Eritrea Focus is in contact with governments and international bodies to ensure they are kept informed of the unfolding abusive behaviour of the Eritrean regime and pleading with them (the international community) to act in order to save lives. We encourage other humanitarian organisations to do the same.

The Catholic Church has said the manner in which the health centres were closed down is illegal.  Eritrea Focus will play its part in collaboration with others to take legal action against the Eritrean government in the event of any death as a result of the health centre closures. We see the government action as a crime on innocent and defenceless people. We cannot let this thuggish behaviour to continue unchallenged.

Eritreans in diaspora should seize this moment to condemn the government in the strongest terms. Time to remain silent is long gone – our people’s lives matter!

 

The people of Eritrea will prevail and their suffering must end soon.


Encl.

Bishop’s letter in a rough translation from Tigrinya to English

ጉባኤ ካቶሊካውያን ጳጳሳት ኤርትራ

Council of Catholic Hierarchs – Eritrea

Date: 13.6.2019

Ref. No. 12.06/085/2019

To:

Mrs Amna Nurhussein

Minister of Health

State of Eritrea

Asmara

RE: Institutions of Health Owned by the Catholic Church

Dear Minister,

God’s Peace Be Upon You!

It can be recalled, since 1995, the Catholic Church of Eritrea has informed the Government in writing clarifying its objective and mission about its spiritual and social services activities. As this Church’s life is associated to services, it has never stopped serving the people and has a duty of care to perform its spiritual and material mission. It has the obligation and the right to contribute its share towards the development and building the society of the nation, to practice duty of love and nurture human beings. Its entire work is to serve the people and it is not against the government or the state. The Church wishes neither to compete with the government nor to replace the services provided by it.

It is a fact, verified by history, that in 1982, the Derg regime nationalised by force the Catholic Church centres which provided social services. This was instigated by the spirit of hate, malice, evil-grudge and anti-faith principles that it followed. As the regime was a colonial ruler, we did not expect a good intention from the Derg. We were saddened by the action taken then but we did not lose hope as we had our brothers and sisters struggling for the liberation of our country.

After Independence, as evidenced by Church documents, we made repeated requests to the Eritrean government to return the illegally confiscated Church properties by the Derg regime.

It really saddening us that yesterday, Wednesday, 12.06.2019 government agents (military branch, administration, police, medics) demanded we handover the Catholic Church health institutions located all over our country. We could not comprehend the spirit or intent of this sudden and unexpected action by the government. In some areas, staff deployed by the Church were threatened; in-patients were forcefully dismissed, centres sealed and convents witnessed being guarded by soldiers. How could such a thing happen in a nation where law and order prevails? Is this a proper way for the government to close down Catholic Church health institutions that have served the people for many years?

It would be a different issue if the government says it does not require the Church services and asked us to close them down which would have been unacceptable but nevertheless within its powers. However, demanding the handover Church’s own properties cannot be right nor legal.

The majority of our service centres are based inside our convents. It is not possible for our convents to continue unaffected having the government taken over our service centres. Confiscating Church properties in this way is affecting the very existence of the Church. It also exposes the Church, the clergy, staff and ministers to exile.

We are saddened by the confiscation of our health institutions and wish to make it clear none of our property have been handed over to the government willingly and with our permission but taken from us by force. We fear if the situation continues in the manner it has started in violation of the Church’s rights, the outcome could be grave for all of us. The consequence of confiscating the centres by force is provocative and we wish to inform the government that the Church will not bear responsibility for what may follow.

Finally, now as ever, the Catholic Church is ready for negotiation and mutual understanding. However, everything should be done according to the rule of law and implemented in a dignified manner with respect to all concerned. We therefore appeal to the government that the Church properties are not altered or changed in any way as the legal ownership remains with us, not the government.

God Bless our Nation!

  • The Most Reverend Mengisteab Tesfamariam, Archbishop of Asmara Eparchy – signed
  • The Most Reverend Thomas Osman, Bishop of Barentu Eparchy –signed
  • The Most Reverend Kidane Yebio, Bishop of Keren Eparchy – signed
  • The Most Reverend Fikremariam Hagos, Bishop of Segheneyti Eparchy- signed

CC:

  • Office of PFDJ
  • Ministry of Defence
  • Office of National Security
  • Eritrean Regional Administrators + Sub-Regional Administrators
  • Commissioner of National Eritrean Police + Regional Police
  • Ministry of Religious Affairs

Note: The above is a rough translation of the Eritrean Bishops’ letter from Tigrinya to English

20.06.2019

Source=https://eritreahub.org/eritrea-focus-statement-concerning-the-closure-of-health-facilities-run-by-the-catholic-church-in-eritrea

June 19, 2019 EU, News

His Excellency Donald Tusk, President of the European Council Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 175

B-1048 Bruxelles/Brussel

Belgique/België

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

Cc:

President of the European Commission, Mr. Jean-Claude Juncker President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani

High Representative of the European Union, Federica Mogherini

Concerning: Appeal for an EU external policy framework based on European values

Brussels, 18 June 2019

Dear Mr. President,

We write to convey our congratulations to your contribution to the European project, as Europeans at heart and African people of goodwill, deeply committed to the brotherhood and long history between our two continents.

During your term as President of the European Council, the European Union and its member states have externalised migration policy through direct and indirect cooperation with regimes and militia forces that are entirely unaccountable.

Processes such as the EU-Horn of Africa Migration Route Initiative established in 2014, better known as the Khartoum Process, have provided the framework for such cooperation. Since the start of the Khartoum Process, organisations have therefore raised concerns about this policy and the European Union’s complicity with systematic and severe human rights abuses conducted by such ‘partners’, the lack of transparency of the cooperation agreements and the lack of civil society participation in the projects and dialogues.

As part of this policy, both the European Union and individual member states have indirectly relied on external security forces and funded initiatives to train border guards, among others in Sudan and indirectly strengthened capacities to fulfil this role. The European Union has hidden behind the execution of such programmes by third parties.

These policies have directly benefitted and emboldened militia such as Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces (RSF), the former Janjaweed, by their own admission, whilst the RSF continues to commit war crimes in Darfur. This has not been without further consequence. The RSF have allegedly raped and murdered hundreds of protesters in recent months.

Last week alone, protest crackdowns led to over a hundred deaths at the hands of the RSF as part of the Militia Council. The collaboration with various militia in Libya to block migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea has similarly emboldened the exploitation and extortion of refugees, undermining their protection. The support to the Eritrean regime to building roads with forced labour, as informed by the European Commission in its ‘Action Fiche’, is a flagrant violation of basic human rights. Increasing numbers of youth refugees have continued to flee the country trying to escape the indefinite national service built on cruelty and inhumane treatment.

By entering into a partnership with third parties and regimes that have been found to commit crimes against humanity and who hold no regards to good governance, the rule of law and respect for human rights, the EU is violating its basic legal requirements, and it is undermining its basic values whilst undermining international law.

The approach of the European Union’s external policy on migration push-back through the Khartoum Process has led to a slew of legal cases which hold that the policy actions are in violation of the laws and regulations of the European Union, its constitutional values and rights, and its international obligations. These include the disregard for the obligation to protect.

These include legal actions against:

1) Funding of the notorious Libyan Detention Centres;

2) Support to Libyan Coast Guards;

3) Blocking of rescue efforts in the Mediterranean Sea;

4) Funding of a project using Forced Labour in Eritrea under the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa; and 5) General crimes committed by the EU as part of its migration pushback.

The legal initiatives demonstrate a widespread and deep concern that the EU has itself become complicit with the alleged crimes committed by third parties, as a result of the policies supported by the Khartoum process.

This is counterproductive in so many ways, and most importantly, it is undermining safety and contributing to the flow of refugees and migrants that are seeking protection. Larger numbers of people, including many minors, are now fleeing persecution and inhumane treatment in countries such as Eritrea and Sudan and these refugees and migrants are tortured, exploited and extorted after having been pushed back to Libya from the Mediterranean Sea.

Through instruments such as the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa, development aid has been shifted for the purpose of migration control with little regard for the dynamics at play within the countries concerned. The Khartoum Process has failed in strengthening European values abroad, and, instead, has strengthened unaccountable militias and regimes, whilst seriously undermining rule of law, good governance, respect for human rights and the role of civil society.

Moreover, the instrument lacks parliamentary oversight and scrutiny. The European Parliament has remarked that its limited role in oversight over the use of this financial assistance has left Europe with a “democratic deficit”.

Article 21(1) of the Treaties of the European Union state that all international action of the EU will be based on the EU’s core principles, “democracy, the rule of law, the universality and indivisibility of human rights and fundamental freedoms, respect for human dignity, the principles of equality and solidarity, and respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter and international law”. These constitutional values must be at the core of a renewed effort of the EU to play its international role.

The people of Sudan have demonstrated that civil society is capable of pursuing peaceful processes for transition into democratic governance. This requires support from the European Union to finish the transformation aimed at establishing a democratic civil government that can serve its people.

The people in Eritrea are making strides with the movement “Enough is enough”, demanding the end of indefinite national service, which captures people in unending forced labour and slavery. The European Union should support this objective, as it will solve the root cause of why young minors are leaving Eritrea. International and humanitarian organisations are working diligently to end the plight of people captured by militias and criminal human trafficking that have been emboldened over the past few years to extort and exploit refugees who are seeking safety.

The European Union should support these actions that further the values it holds dear and stop push back to Libya given that the conditions for protection are not available.

The Khartoum process was established to address the root causes of migration. The reality has emboldened the criminal exploitation and extortion of refugees and migrants, increased the capacities of unaccountable militia to act with impunity and give increased legitimacy to governments who repress their people and drive them out of their countries. This does not provide a basis for an external policy that strengthens European values, and it will lead to increase the problems in the region and beyond, including those of human trafficking, migration and refugees.

In planning the direction of the European Union in the next period, we urge that you respond to the serious concerns expressed over the impact of ongoing actions of the EU and its member states to fund and cooperate with external actors accused of systematic and severe human rights violations. Failure to do so will not only undermine the fundamental principles and values of the Union, but fail to achieve the intended objectives. We therefore ask that the EU retracts the activities under the Khartoum Process and its Trust Fund, established under a seriously flawed policy.

On behalf of all of the undersigned organisations,

Fr. Mussie Zerai Nobel-prize Nominee Chair Agenzia Habeshia

Signed by:

Prof. Dr. Mirjam van Reisen Tilburg University

Leiden University

Secretary General EEPA

Reem Abbas Koert Debeuf Journalist Director

Majid Maali, exiled Sudanese human rights lawyer

Act for Sudan

Al-Khatim Adlan Center for Enlightenment (KACE)

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)

Connection e.V.

Darfur Bar Association

Eritrea Democratica

Eritrean Diaspora in East Africa (EDEA)

Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR) Europe External Programme with Africa

Foundation Human Rights for Eritreans

Horn of Africa Civil Society Forum (HoACS)

Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (HRCE)

Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy Europe

Ibn Rushd Fund e.V.

Investors Against Genocide

Massachusetts Coalition to Save Darfur

Regional Centre for Training and Development of Civil Society (RCDCS) Skills for Nuba MOUNTAINS

Stop Genocide Now (SGN)

Sudanese Community and Information Centre – London

Sudan Democracy First Group (SDFG)

Sudan Revolution Support Network – Sweden

Source=https://eritreahub.org/open-appeal-to-the-eus-donald-tusk-over-eritrea-and-sudan


Eritrean Catholic cathedral

Eritrea's Roman Catholic Church has condemned the government in the one-party state for seizing and shutting all its health centres last week.

In a letter to the ministry of health, the Church said patients were ordered to go home, and soldiers were deployed to the centres to guard them.

The seizure of the buildings could not happen in a country where the rule of law existed, the letter added.

The government has not yet commented on the Church's claims.

Many analysts believe the government has closed down the health centres to retaliate against the Church for issuing a statement in April calling for reforms to stem the tide of migration to Europe, BBC Tigrinya's Teklemariam Bekit reports.

The Church ran 22 health centres, and their closure is likely to leave thousands of people, mostly mothers and their children in rural areas, without healthcare, our correspondent says.

The government also provides health services, but critics say they are less accessible and of a lower standard, he adds.

In the publicly released letter, the Church said the government's action was reminiscent of the former Marxist regime which used brute force in 1982 to bar access to convents, schools and health facilities.

Eritrea was part of Ethiopia at the time. It became an independent state in 1993, and has been under President Isaias Afwerki's rule ever since.

His critics accuse him of leading a repressive state, but his supporters deny this.

Unrecognised religions

In its letter, the Church said the social services it provided to Eritreans could not be construed as an act of "opposing the government".

"The government can say it doesn't want the services of the Church, but asking for the property is not right," the letter added.

Roman Catholics make up about 4% of Eritrea's population.

The Church is only one of four religious groups allowed to operate in Eritrea, along with the Eritrean Orthodox, Evangelical Lutheran and Sunni Islam groups.

The government regards other religious groups as instruments of foreign governments.

In May, a UK-based rights group told the BBC that more than 30 Pentecostal Christians had been detained in Eritrea while they were praying in three different locations in the capital, Asmara.

"Security personnel continue to raid private homes where devotees of unrecognised religions meet for communal prayer. Repudiation of their religion is typically the price of release," campaign group Human Rights Watch said in a report released earlier this year.

Source=

Enough campaigners in the US

Thousands of Eritreans are waging a social media campaign - modelled in part along the lines of the viral ice bucket challenge - to force change in the one-party state.

They hope that the overthrow of neighbouring Sudan's long-serving ruler Omar al-Bashir will give impetus to their efforts to oust President Isaias Afwerki.

The campaign - under the hashtag #Enough in Tigrinya, Arabic and other Eritrean languages - has been driven by young Eritreans living mostly in Europe and the US because of repression in their home country.

It has won the support of a cross range of people - from veterans of the struggle for independence to music stars like Robel Michel and Yohannes Tikabo, popularly known as Wedi Tikabo.

Wedi Tikabo
Wedi Tikabo
Enough to division, migration and horrendous journeys. Enough to putting people without due process in dungeons. Enough to living without a constitution"
Wedi Tikabo
Eritrean music star

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In a video in Tigrinya, Eritrea's main language, Tikabo, who fled his homeland in 2013, says: "Enough to division, migration and horrendous journeys.

"Enough to the political upheaval overshadowing our country. Enough to putting people without due process in dungeons. Enough to living without a constitution."

'We must stop hiding'

Washington DC resident Amanuel Dawa was among those who started the campaign, challenging people to break their fear by identifying themselves and speaking out against Africa's only one-party state.

Mr Isaias took power at independence in 1993, and the country has never held a national election - not even a sham poll like those seen in some other authoritarian states where the ruler is returned to power with nearly 100% of the vote.

Instead, the government has banned opposition parties and the private media, jailed critics (some of whom have never been heard of for years), and has enforced military conscription. This has forced tens of thousands of Eritreans to flee to Europe, but many perish during the treacherous journey through the Sahara desert and over the Mediterranean.

Some people have recalled on Twitter their time at the notorious Sawa military camp, where young people and high school students are sent to begin their military service, which can last indefinitely:

The leader of the youth wing of the ruling party in the UK, Sirak Bahlibi, has described it as probably the "worst smear campaign to be ever waged on social media", while the pro-government TesfaNews website has accused the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel group of being behind the #Enough campaign - a charge denied by Mr Amanuel.

"Eritreans inside and abroad should not buy or believe the recent propaganda that is spreading.... The TPLF is doing anything and everything to destabilise Eritrea," TesfaNews wrote.

'Bravely distributing leaflets'

The campaign on Facebook and Twitter has stood out for its ice bucket challenge format, with people nominating friends - and celebrities like Tikabo - to speak out against repression in Eritrea.

In Eritrea, the government has kept tight control over the internet - only 1.3% of the population use it, according to Internet World Stats. Activists in the country therefore took the brave step of surreptitiously distributing anti-government leaflets, with the hashtag #Enough, in a bid to popularise the campaign.

Woman at a protest in Washington DC on 24 May Image copyright Amanuel Dawa Image caption Many Eritreans have been forced to live in exile

"There are young people's movements within the country and they are the ones responsible for dispatching the #Enough leaflets," Mr Amanuel said.

He added that the campaign was also aimed at uniting government opponents.

"People are divided by their communities, their place of birth, their religion and many other segments of their lives. We want to stop these divisions and focus our energy towards one goal [to bring about multi-party democracy]," Mr Amanuel said.

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More on 'Africa's North Korea':

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Many Eritreans had hoped that following last July's peace deal with Ethiopia to officially end the border war between the two nations, the government would open up political space as there was no longer the fear of the country being "destabilised" by its neighbour.

But there has been no change, conscription continues and Mr Isaias remains as authoritarian as ever.

Panel discussion by #Enough campaigners Image copyright Amanuel Dawa Image caption The #Enough campaign is being waged primarily in the widely spoken Tigrinya and Arabic languages

He has convened only one meeting of his cabinet since the peace deal was signed as well as giving no sign of reform in a speech he delivered last month to mark the country's 26th year of independence from Ethiopia.

This has led to opposition activists saying that the country is not under one-party rule, but one-man rule.

Meanwhile, Mr Isaias has exploited improved relations with Ethiopia to his advantage by getting it to restrict the activities of exiled opposition groups - one of them was forced to shut its office in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, as Eritrea's embassy reopened after about 20 years.

'Poisonous roots'

In a further sign of the regime's pariah status ending, the UN Security Council has unanimously lifted sanctions - including an arms embargo and travel restrictions on senior government and military officials - imposed in December 2009 after it was accused of backing militant Islamists in neighbouring Somalia.

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Isais Afwerki - Eritrea's only leader

Isais Afwerki Image copyright AFP

  • Like all Tigrinyans, carries his father's name, Afwerki, which means "mouth of gold"
  • Went to China in 1967 for military training
  • Has "E" tattooed on his right shoulder to show his then-loyalty to the rebel Eritrean Liberation Front
  • Described as imposingly tall at 190.5cm (6ft 3in)
  • Married fellow rebel Saba Haile in 1981; the couple has three children
  • A few months before Eritrea's independence, went into a coma after getting cerebral malaria and was flown to Israel for treatment
  • Speaks fluent Arabic and has close ties with Saudi Arabia
  • Receives dignatories at his makeshift office on the site of his pet "Adi Halo" dam project

Source: Pro-government Madote news site, BBC Tigrinya

Read: Behind the smiles of Eritrea's president

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But activists say the tide appears to be turning against the government inside the country - a recent example being the fact that the country's Catholic bishops issued a pastoral letter in which they lamented the "massive fleeing abroad" of Eritreans because living conditions had reached "critical levels".

"As long as the poisonous roots of this phenomenon is not eradicated, the escape to foreign countries is, we think, destined to last," the bishops said.

A group of more than 100 African writers, intellectuals and activists also wrote an open letter to Mr Afwerki this week, saying Eritrea was regarded as "the most-closed society on our continent" and the president needed to take steps to "restore" the country to its "rightful place in the family of African nations".

It is unclear whether he will agree or risk a popular uprising similar to the one seen in Sudan, which led to the military overthrowing Mr Bashir.

Although Sudan's revolution hangs in the balance following the brutal crackdown on the pro-democracy movement, Eritrean activists continue to be inspired by the protest movement there.

"What is happening now in Sudan is really awful and I don't have words to describe it, but still Sudanese people are standing up and that is an inspiration to all Eritreans and to the world," says Meron Estefanos, a Sweden-based Eritrean journalist and human right activist.

"The Sudanese people chose the non-violent method and I hope that for my people. If the Sudanese can do it regardless of the brutality we can do it as well."

Source=https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-48034365

 

 

Open Letter to the Eritrean Head of State

Tuesday, 11 June 2019 12:56 Written by

10 de June de 2019  

Your Excellency, President Isaias Aferwerki:

We write to convey our most sincere congratulations upon your country’s normalization of diplomatic relations with Ethiopia. This is a development much appreciated by all Africans of goodwill.

We write to you in our capacity as citizens of Africa to pledge our unequivocal solidarity with all the people of Eritrea. This includes the many Eritreans we see enduring all manner of risk and suffering in search of a better life outside their homeland. We acknowledge that we too hail from nations with varying governance and developmental challenges.  We write to you, in the spirit of Pan-African solidarity, to seek common solutions to our shared problems.

Africa’s many disparate nation states have undergone significant and diverse changes over the course of the last two decades.   [Today, many more Africans live in freedom than under repression].  Importantly, those African countries that have made the most progress – including attracting investment and tourism – over the last 25 years have been those whose citizens enjoy greater freedom of expression, press and movement, the rule of law, an independent judiciary, and political pluralism. 

Sadly, in these critical areas, Eritrea has not kept pace with the changes seen elsewhere.  Over the past two decades Eritrea has been described as the most closed society on our continent, an unfortunate situation for a country with such rich human capital and potential, with so much to offer not only Africa but also the world.

We trust that by opening this channel of communication with Your Excellency, we may be afforded the opportunity to work with you to restore your country and the great people of Eritrea to their rightful place in the family of African nations.

Of particular concern to us is the fate of several journalists and activists who have been imprisoned for prolonged periods of time in Eritrea, many of whom have reportedly been denied regular visits from their families and loved ones.

Equally, we are disheartened by the plight of the many thousands of Africans, including some Eritreans, who feel compelled to flee their home countries in search of a better life for themselves and their families, risking life and limb and enduring inhumane deprivations and indignities across deserts and oceans.

Too many of these fellow Africans have found themselves in the rapacious hands of modern day slave traders and people traffickers even causing some to end up in slave markets in places such as Libya. Too many of these migrants and refugees have perished at sea in their quest for a better life. 

We Africans are blessed with too much in our home countries to have our citizens suffer and be devalued this way.  This gloomy picture needs to change, and it is in this spirit that we address this message of solidarity to you, Your Excellency.

We respectfully call upon Your Excellency to allow a delegation of the signatories hereunder to visit Eritrea, and to afford us the opportunity to meet with you and your government as well as with ordinary citizens, including journalists, writers, and other persons currently in prison.

As with the bold step you have taken to normalize relations with Ethiopia, we believe a gesture of this kind would go a long way towards ending Eritrea’s isolation from the larger African family and could help usher in a new era of prosperity and freedom for your people.

It would be an honour to furnish you with any additional information you might require of us and we eagerly await your response.

The Signatories,

  1. Prof. Wole Soyinka, Nigeria, Nobel Laureate
  2. Rafael Marques de Morais, Angola, leading anti-corruption campaigner and award winning investigative journalist
  3. John Githongo, Kenya, publisher, leading anti-corruption campaigner and award winning anti-corruption activist
  4. Kwasi H. Prempeh, Ghana, Executive Director of Center for Democratic Development
  5. Farida Nabourema, Togo, Executive Director of Togolese Civil League
  6. Leyla Hussein, Somalia, Women’s Rights & Health Campaigner, psychotherapist, writer and founder of the Dahlia Project
  7. Maina Kiai, Kenya, founder of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association
  8. Maaza Mengiste, Ethiopia, award-winning writer of Beneath the Lion’s Gaze
  9. Iva Cabral, Cape Verde, Chancellor of Lusófona [Lusophone] University and  daughter of Amílcar Cabral
  10. Belabbès Benkredda, Algeria, CEO and Founder of the Munathara Initiative, the Arab world’s largest online and television debate forum highlighting voices of youth, women and marginalized communities.
  11. Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, Uganda, a leading LGBT rights activist, founder and executive director of the LGBT rights organization Freedom & Roam Uganda, 2011 recipient of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders
  12. Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, Uganda, musician, member of parliament and youth leader recognized throughout East Africa
  13. Tundu Lissu, Tanzania, lawyer, CHADEMA politician, member of parliament and former president of the Tanganyika Law Society
  14. Amr Waked, Egypt, award winning actor, best known for his role in Syriana
  15. José Eduardo Agualusa, Angola, award winning writer, finalist in the 2016 Man Booker International Prize for his seminal work A General Theory of Oblivion
  16. Nasser Weddady, Mauritania, leading civil rights activist, consultant and co-editor of Arab Spring Dreams.
  17. Chiké Frankie Edozien, Nigeria, writer and professor of journalism at New York University
  18. Emmanuel Iduma, Nigeria, author
  19. Mona Eltahawy, Egypt, author and journalist
  20. Mireille Tushiminina, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gender & Equality advocate
  21. Felix Agbor Nkhongo, Cameroon, Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) and leading human rights defender
  22. Boniface Mwangi, Kenya, democracy activist, Ukweli political party founder, photographer and artist
  23. Adeyanju Deji, Nigeria, leading democracy activist and human rights defender
  24. Alieu Bah, The Gambia, leading democracy activist and human rights defender
  25. Tutu Alicante, Equatorial Guinea, leading democracy activist and Executive Director of Equatorial Guinea Justice (EG Justice)
  26. Andrea Ngombet Malewa, Congo Republic, Global Coordinator of the Sassoufit Collective 
  27. Roukaya Kasenally, Mauritius, CEO of African Media Initiative
  28. Abdelrahman Mansour, Egypt, Executive Director of Open Transformation Lab, leading human rights defender and journalist
  29. Reem Abbas, Sudan, journalist and leading human rights defender
  30. Moussa Kondo, Mali, journalist, CEO and founder of the weekly L’Express de Bamako, anti-corruption crusader, Country Director of Accountability Lab Mali, 2015 Mandela Washington Fellow, 2018 Obama Foundation Fellow.
  31. Ericino de Salema, Mozambique, Director of the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), academic, lawyer and journalist
  32. Jestina Mukoko, Zimbabwe, leading human rights activist and Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Initiative
  33. William Amanzuru, Uganda, environmental rights defender, founder of Friends of Zoka, winner of the EU Human Rights Defenders’ Award 2019
  34. Miguel de Barros, Guinea-Bissau, sociologist and Executive Director of the environmental NGO Tiniguena
  35. Bheki Makhubu, e-Swatini (formerly Swaziland), Editor of the Nation Magazine and leading democracy defender
  36. Edson da Luz aka Azagaia, Mozambique, rapper and leading activist
  37. Charles Onyango-Obbo, Uganda, leading publisher and columnist
  38. Rodney Sieh, Liberia, leading newspaper editor of FrontPage Africa and democracy activist
  39. Oludotun Babayemi, Nigeria, democracy activist and monitoring and evaluation expert,
  40. Akin Olaniyan, Nigeria
  41. Chanda Chisala, Zambia, founder and president of Zambia Online
  42. Dany Ayida, Togo, Resident, Country Director, National Democratic Institute (DRC)
  43. George Sarpong, Ghana
  44. Rosemary Mwakitwange, Tanzania, Chief of Party, Freedom House
  45. James Smart, Kenya, leading journalist and news anchor
  46. Abdulrazaq Alkali, Nigeria, Executive Director Organisation for Community Civic Engagement (OCCEN) Nigeria 
  47. Mathatha Tsedu, South Africa, Adjunct professor of journalism, Wits University and Acting Executive Director of the National Editors Forum (SANEF)
  48. Brenda Zulu, Zambia, journalist and ICT specialist
  49. Emanuel Saffa Abdulai, Sierra Leone, Executive Director of Society for Democracy Initiatives
  50. Zecharias Berhe, Ethiopia, Senior Fellow, African Good Governance Network
  51. Sylvia Amiani, Kenya, counseling and psychosocial practitioner focused on refugees in Germany
  52. Lamii Kpargoi, Liberia, journalist, democracy activist and lawyer
  53. Dr. George Ayittey, Ghana, economist, author and president of the Free Africa Foundation, Washington DC
  54. Evan Mawarire, Zimbabwe, pastor and democracy activist, founder of #ThisFlag movement
  55. Zineb El Rhazoui, Morocco, journalist and human rights advocate
  56. Marc Ona Essangui, Gabon, environmentalist, Executive Secretary of Brainforest
  57. Fred Bauma, Democratic Republic of Congo, democracy and youth activist, leader of the Lucha Social Movement
  58. Dr. Justin Pearce, South Africa, Department of Politics and International Studies, Cambridge University
  59. Asma Khalifa, Libya, activist, cofounder of Tamazight Women Movement
  60. Violet Gonda, Zimbabwe, journalist and President of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT)
  61. Fatoumata Camara, The Gambia, journalist, CEO/Founder  of the Fatu Network
  62. Jelili Atiku, Nigeria, human rights artist
  63. Fred Muvunyi, Rwanda, editor at Deutsche Welle, Op-Ed contributor for Washington Post and a consultant for Freedom House
  64. Aimable Manikrakiza, Burundi, CEO of the Centre for Development and Enterprises Great Lakes
  65. Houssem Aoudi, Tunisia, CEO/Founder of Wasabi and Cogite – co-working Space, entrepeneur and activist
  66. Chouchou Namegabe, Democratic Republic of Congo, journalist and human rights activist, CEO & Founder Anzafrika
  67. Thulani Maseko, e-Swatini (formerly Swaziland), leading human rights lawyer
  68. Samba Dialimpa Badji, Senegal, journalist
  69. Mariama Camara, Guinea, fashion designer and humanitarian, Founder/President of Mariama Fashion Production and the There is No Limit Foundation
  70. Olívio Diogo, São Tomé, sociologist and media commentator, coordinator of the Civil Society Network
  71. Adeola Fayehun, Nigeria, journalist/producer, Keeping it Real with Adeola
  72. Mohamed Soltan, Egypt, Executive Director, the Freedom Initiative
  73. Memory Banda, Malawi, children’s rights activist
  74. Ali Amar, Morocco, veteran journalist, co-founder and director of online news outlet Le Desk
  75. Mohamed Keita, Mali,  Pan African rights advocate
  76. Norman Tjombe, Namibia, human rights lawyer and activist
  77. Uyapo Ndadi, Botswana, human rights lawyer, activist, and founder of the Ndadi Law Firm
  78. Phil ya Nangoloh, Namibia, human rights activist, monitor and Executive Director of NamRights Inc
  79. Jacqueline Moudeina, Chad, prominent award-winning lawyer and human rights activist
  80. Rosmon Zokoue, Central African Republic, journalist, blogger and activist
  81. Ahmed Gatnash, Libya, co-founder & VP of Operations, Kawaakibi Foundation
  82. Anas Aremeyaw Anas, Ghana, Africa’s leading investigative journalist and private investigator
  83. Boubacar Diallo, Niger, Editor, Liberation newspaper
  84. Abdourahman Waberi, Djibouti, acclaimed novelist, essayist, academic and short story writer, human rights activist, professor of literature at George Washington University
  85. Doudou Dia, Senegal, Executive Director, Goree Institute, Center for Democracy, Development and Culture in Africa
  86. Alain Mabanckou, Congo, novelist, journalist, poet and academic
  87. Francis Kpatindé, Benin, journalist, former editor-in-chief of the newsweekly Jeune Afrique and former spokesman for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)
  88. Mustafa Haji Abdinur, Somalia, award-winning journalist
  89. Thembo Kash, Democratic Republic of Congo, award-winning cartoonist
  90. Damien Glez, Burkina Faso, award-winning editorial cartoonist
  91. Ahmed Abdallah, Comoros, journalist
  92. Anton Harber, South Africa, former journalist with the Rand Daily Mail until its closure by the apartheid government, co-founder and editor of the Weekly Mail (now The Mail & Guardian) and Professor of Journalism at the University of the Witwatersrand
  93. John-Allan Namu, Kenya, award-winning investigative journalist, co-founder of Africa Uncensored, 2017 Desmond Tutu Fellow
  94. Alice Nkom, Cameroon, leading human rights lawyer, defender of rights of the LGBT community
  95. Mouctar Bah, Guinea, veteran journalist
  96.  Andrew Feinstein, South Africa, former ANC MP, Executive Director of Corruption Watch UK, author of The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade
  97. William Rasoanaivo, Madagascar, award-winning political cartoonist
  98. Claudia Gastrow, South Africa, anthropologist, Univeristy of Johannesburg
  99.  Motlatsi Thabane, Lesotho, professor of History, University of e-Swatini
  100. Cyriac Gbogou, Ivory Coast, blogger, co-founder of O’Village and key actor in the new technology sector in the country
  101. Canon Clement Hilary Janda, South Sudan, Pan African Ecumenist
  102. Ola Diab, Sudan, journalist and activist

* This article has been updated 10 June 2019, 10.27 p.m.

Source=https://www.makaangola.org/2019/06/open-letter-to-the-eritrean-head-of-state/