Eritrea: The State of the Nation

INTRODUCTION

(1) Between December 2018 and May 2019, a diverse group of Eritrean professionals met in Nairobi, Kenya and online to evaluate developments since the rapprochement between Eritrea and Ethiopia (“ERITREAN THOUGHT LEADERS ON THE PRESENT DYNAMICS IN THE HORN OF AFRICA”). While we welcome the Eritrea-Ethiopia peace process and appreciate the Ethiopian leadership for embarking on such a bold, if long overdue, initiative, we are dismayed by the lack of progress towards normalizing governance within Eritrea and are alarmed by the rate of “peace-time” exodus, which we believe is directly related to the state of hopelessness the regime of Isaias Afwerki has engendered. Our conviction that this state of affairs will not change unless there are immediate and dramatic reforms in Eritrea is only matched by our persuasion that the regime is incapable, or unwilling, to do so. The inescapable conclusion is that the system over which Isaias Afwerki presides must go, and a mechanism for restoring popular sovereignty must begin in earnest immediately.

 
(2) While we welcome the Eritrea-Ethiopia peace treaty that was signed in Asmara in July 2018, the exodus out of the country has tripled. It is a phenomenon observed only in Eritrea: normally, peace treaties result in exiles returning to their home.

 
(3) During the first week of the Eritrea-Ethiopia border opening, almost ten thousand Eritreans registered in refugee camps in Tigray. They—including a shocking number of unaccompanied minors– continue to arrive, at a steady pace, in already resource-strained camps. The fact that so many Eritreans were eager to leave their country once they were provided a safe route highlights Eritrea’s desperate political and economic conditions at this time.

 
(4) Due to the command economy pursued by the State, the severe shortage of labor due to Eritrea’s exodus, the stranglehold of parastatal businesses, and Isaias Afwerki administration’s reckless foreign policy, Eritrea’s economy has been decimated. All sectors of the economy, agrarian and pastoral, fishers, farmland and entrepreneurship, have been severely downgraded. Most Eritrean entrepreneurs have been chased out of the country and the Eritrean economy remains dismal. In this vacuum created by the Asmara administration, unregulated Ethiopian businesspersons—including taxi-drivers and retailers—have crowded out what little remained of Eritrean businesses. This development, coupled with the secretive nature and dizzying pace of the peace treaty now consummated only at the head-of-government level, has led many to question the very nature of the peace agreement.

 
(5) The people of Eritrea have no say over how their national resources are exploited and ambiguous statements by both Eritrean and Ethiopian leaderships are creating serious uncertainty about Eritrea’s sovereignty. In short, Eritreans, both at home and abroad, are deeply concerned about their country’s future.

 
(6) At the foreign policy level, the triumphalist language of President Isaias Afwerki and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed lends credence to the view that the peace agreement is not necessarily one that will benefit all Eritreans and Ethiopians, but one that is directed to creating winners and losers in the two countries: a sure recipe for perpetual strife. Moreover, the Gulf countries that Eritrea and Ethiopia have chosen to be “bosom
buddies” with have a long history of abysmal human rights records.

 
(7) Genuine peace, harmony, security and prosperity can only be sustained by the people with their full participation in all the affairs of their respective nations. Only a reconciliatory environment will help Eritreans release their energies and harness their initiative, creativity, and power to hold their government accountable. Only a government with moral authority and political legitimacy can lead a reconciliation effort. This is the second reason we are convinced the Government of Isaias Afwerki must go: it has been at the forefront of all the factors that polarized our people and destroyed our country.

 
(8) This report reflects the substance and spirit of meetings we held over the last 5 months in hopes of identifying ways out of our current state of confusion. It is our hope that it will offer some direction towards peaceful and constructive change and rule of law in our country. It will describe Eritrea’s dire situation and will conclude with suggestions for Eritreans from around the world on change management with minimal
risk.

 

Full Report ERITREA – The State of The Nation – English

1. Andom Ghebreghiorgis, New York, New York, United States of America
2. Asia Abdulkadir, Nairobi, Kenya
3. Assefaw Tekeste, California, United States of America
4. Awet T. Weldemichael, Ontario, Canada
5. Bereket Berhane Woldeab, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
6. Habteab Yemane Oghubazgi, Bern, Switzerland
7. Khadeijah Ali Mohammed-Nur, London, United Kingdom
8. Meron Semedar, Bay Area, California, United States of America
9. Paulos Tesfagiorgis, Ontario, Canada
10. Sabine Mohamed, Göttingen, Germany
11. Saleh Younis, Palo Alto, California, United States of America
12. Samuel Emaha Tsegai, Ontario, Canada
13. Sarah Ogbay, Manchester, United Kingdom
14. Uoldelul Chelati Dirar, Macerata, Italy
15. Vanessa Tsehaye, London, United Kingdom
16. Wejdan Osman, Ottowa, Canada

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