In the wake of the tragic failure of Eritrea’s 1998-2000 border war with Ethiopia, senior members of the Eritrean government began a campaign to bring about the democracy that the 30 year war of liberation had been fought for.
They formed the G-15: men and women who challenged President Isaias to give the Eritrean people the freedoms they had been promised. In dawn raids on 18 and 19 September 2001 the president’s notorious security forces rounded them up and jailed them. None have ever been taken before a court or convicted of any crime. They have rotted in prison ever since.
At the same time independent newspapers were closed and journalists arrested. The nightmare of repression which has hung over Eritrea ever since had begun.
Now, on the 20th anniversary of these terrible events, we recall those who have been in Eritrea’s jails ever since. Their families have been deprived of them; their friends have lost them. But they have never been forgotten. Nor has the flame of hope that they ignited – of a proud, free and democratic country.
We have profiles of these brave men and women – and will share them daily.
Hamid Himid joined the EPLF student’s union while studying in Iraq. After graduating, he moved to work at the headquarter of the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS) in Beirut, Lebanon and then to the NUEYS branch in Sudan. In 1986, Hamid became of the NUEYS Executive and he was assigned to the department of Information and News where he regularly wrote and distributed articles to help educate the youth about their national responsibilities.
At the second organisational congress of the EPLF in 1987 Hamid was elected member of the EPLF Central Committee and assigned to the Department of Foreign Relations. He was later posted to Sudan as deputy Head of the Sudan Zone Branch. Having born and lived in Sudan, Hamid had networks of contacts that helped him serve his country and he remained in that role until the end of the armed struggle in 1991.
After independence, Hamid held various government roles, including Governor of Senhit province, and role the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) as Eritrea’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. In 1994, after the third congress of the EPLF, he was elected member of the Central Committee and the Executive Bureau of the PFDJ, and Head of the Gash-Barka Zone (province) of the PFDJ Office before returning to MoFA as head of the Middle East and North Africa Desk. In 2000, Hamid played an important role during the negotiations between the governments of Eritrea and Sudan that helped improve the diplomatic and political relations between the two countries resulting in the reopening of their respective embassies. Hamid was also involved in the diplomatic efforts to solve disputes between Eritrea and Yemen and took active part in the Algiers Agreement negotiations to solve the Ethio-Eritrean Border.
After the end of the Ethio-Eritrea war, Hamid became a member of the G-15 which wrote an open letter to President Isaias Afeworki demanding that the national assembly should be convened, the full implementation of the constitution and proper governance and accountability. In his personal capacity Hamid said “The resolutions and pledges of the PFDJ and the Eritrean Government must be realized or put into action. In Eritrea the constitution and rule of law are absent. This is not beneficial to the Eritrean people. The political problems of Eritrea must be resolved peacefully.”
For his honesty, integrity and love of his country and its people, Hamid along with the other G-15 members were arrested on 18 September 2001 and sent to the infamous Ira-Iro Prison. They have not been seen or heard of ever since.