Press Release: Eritrea Scholars and Professionals Gather to Devise a Roadmap for the Country’s Future
Washington – More than 150 Eritreans gathered on August 14, 2021 at the Catholic University in the Eritrean Scholars and Professionals Workshop to discuss the current situation in Eritrea and its impact on the Horn of Africa, as well as begin planning for the time after the regime of Isaias Afwerki has ended. The event, organized by the Eritrean Research Institute for Policy and Strategy (ERIPS), was attended by more than 150 scholars and professionals in person, five dozen participating on Zoom live and an untold number otherwise online, including those from outside the United States.
Numerous scholars made presentations or participated in the discussions, such as Prof. Bereket Habte Selassie, a retired professor from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who is a leading scholar on African law and government; Professor Kidane Mengisteab, an African Studies professor at Pennsylvania State University who has conducted research on traditional institutions in African governance, Professor Araya Debessay, an active participant in the Eritrean affairs since 1974, Dr. Saba T. Kidane, a Ph.D. graduate of the George Mason University School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, who is a conflict resolution expert and Mr. Nureddin Abdulkadir who has served his country as an activist and community leader since the early 1970s.
The experts laid out the disastrous situation facing Eritrea at this time which includes political instability, conflicts and state collapse with a failed economy, financial instability, poverty, poor infrastructure, high unemployment, mass migration, refugee crisis, forced conscription, indiscriminate imprisonment and mental health problems that include post-traumatic stress disorder. Participants also highlighted the challenges of transitioning to a democratic governance and the imperatives of reintegrating soldiers and refugees back into the Eritrean society.
The Isaias regime has prevented the establishment of genuine democracy in Eritrea and has stunted its growth among succeeding generations. Therefore, participants called for the education of Eritreans on proper democratic discourse to ensure a smooth and stable transition and to prevent the democratic process from being hijacked once a new government is installed. Participants recommended that a process must be devised early on to identify qualified individuals through elections in their local communities whose main priority is the welfare of Eritrean citizens. They also highlighted approaches for encouraging mass participation in transitioning the country to democracy.
To successfully change the regime in Eritrea, which has not only caused the myriad of problems facing Eritrea itself but also the entire Horn of Africa region, the workshop consensus was that efforts must include building trust and cohesiveness among Eritreans, human and institutional capacity building, and united effort of all Eritrean political and civil society organizations for the primary goal of bringing swift and sustainable change in Eritrea. To effectively implement such a singular goal, participants called for a united front or congress.
The strategic location of the country and a vast number of Eritrean professionals in diaspora will aid Eritrea’s potential for being a hub of investments in the region. However, because of Eritrea’s ruined economy under the current government, participants recommended that the fall of the regime should be followed by an Economic Forum with business leaders, investors, economists, and experts from international financial institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the African Development Bank, etc. This can be a starting platform to adopt a solid policy for economic recovery and reconstruction of the country.
To recover from the negative impact in the region caused by the Isaias regime’s instigation and involvement in conflicts with its neighbors, participants recommended the formation of an alliance and collaboration with regional stakeholders to ensure peace, security and stability. Participants further believe there must be work done on effective diplomacy with the United States, the European Union and other entities in the international community to secure peace in Eritrea and the Horn of Africa.
Participants of the workshop discussed in detail four highly important and timely topics in a roundtable format and presented their recommendations. The topics focused on the challenges and opportunities Eritrea will face post-PFDJ; the roles and responsibilities of Eritrean intellectuals in contributing towards the effort for political change; the challenges of reconstruction and social-economic developments; the mandate of Eritrean intellectuals in building trust and harmony amongst the Eritreans; and the need for Eritrean intellectuals in contributing towards peace, security and stability in the Horn of Africa. Participants of the workshop were also updated by ERIPS member Dr. Astier Alemseged about the Isaias regime’s refusal to collaborate with the WHO and the COVAX program and its refusal to the Eritrean public the protection that could be gained by the freely available CIOVD-19 vaccines. Participants of the workshop noted the atrocious and irresponsible acts of the Isaias regime as this is yet another harm it is inflicting to Eritreans.
ERIPS plans to take a leading role in furthering the discussions begun during this event to successfully press for bringing socio-economic and political change and to create an Eritrea that allow its more than five million people to enjoy justice, experience prosperity and exist peacefully and harmoniously with its neighbors.