UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA - AFRICAN STUDIES CENTER
** E R I T R E A **
ARDU - Afar Revolutionary Democratic Union
ARDUF - Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front
CERA - Commission for Eritrean Refugee Affairs
CRS - Catholic Relief Secretariat
ECE - Evangelical Church of Eritrea
EDLM - Eritrean Democratic Liberation Movement
EDM - Eritrean Democratic Movement
ELF - Eritrean Liberation Front
ELF-RC - ELF-Revolutionary Council
ELF-UO - ELF-Unity Organisation
EPLF Eritrean People's Liberation Front
ERRA - Eritrean Relief and Rehabilitation Association
ERD - Emergency Relief Desk
PFDJ - People's Front for Democracy and Justice
PGE - Provisional Government of Eritrea
PROFERI - Programme for Refugee Reintegration and
Rehabilitation of Resettlement Areas in Eritrea
** DOMESTIC AFFAIRS **
ERITREA AND DEMOCRACY
(ANB 15 Apr 95 [Sunday Standard, Kenya, 19 Mar 95])
In a recent interview President Afweki was asked about political pluralism in Eritrea. The President replied: "Let me answer in this way: we have a saying in our tradition, `your shoe has to fit the size of your feet'. I have for a long time heard about this talk of political pluralism in Africa. But need we buy that thinking wholesale? My personal feeling is that you have got to scrutinize the implications of imposing alien political ideals onto your people. We cannot, as Africans, afford to be fooled by big banner headlines of multi-partyism in Africa. Of course we would like to have democracy and democratic institutions, diversity in thinking and dissenting views at every cadre of our socio- political life. But that does not mean that we import gadgets from outside and experiment with them on our societies... As of now, all Eritreans, within and without the country, share that common preoccupation of ensuring Eritrea's economic take-off. We will allow all to contribute and participate in all facets of our national life."
ERITREA PUTS LIBERTY ON HOLD IN RUSH TO BUILD A NEW COUNTRY (Guardian via RBB 23 May 95, by Alan Zarembo) Asmara--On a bustling street in Asmara, the Eritrean capital, it is easy to miss Yoel Afworki's shop. A metal garage door blocks the storefront. A faded sign reads: "Closed by administration of the police."
Like other Jehovah's Witnesses, Mr Afworki, aged 24, refused to fight in Eritrea's liberation war against Ethiopia, abstained in the 1993 independence referendum and shunned national service.
"I'm not against the government, I'm against politics," he explains. "If I enter politics, I will make enemies."
He has. In December, the government stripped the Witnesses of citizenship. They can no longer hold government jobs, or Eritrean passports.
The crackdown shows a hidden side of Africa's newest nation: a government dedicated to a Singaporean- style of control, and a society so fiercely nationalistic after a 30-year war that few people object.
Few Eritreans sympathise with the Witnesses. Berhane Araia, aged 52, was jailed three times under Mengistu Haile Mariam, the Ethiopian dictator his brother died fighting. "Our people struggled, sending their blood and bones for freedom," Mr Araia says. "The Jehovah's Witnesses never sent anybody. They refused to struggle for their country."
Four years after their victory, Eritreans are rebuilding with the same perseverance, sacrifice and discipline with which they won the war.
It seems an African anomaly. The average income is among the lowest in the world yet refuse trucks stop at most homes in the capital twice a week. New red buses cruise the streets. People can walk after dark without fear of crime.
There is a reason why there are no beggars. A few miles from the centre of Asmara, 400 people are held in what was once a tuberculosis clinic. The 1994 United States Human Rights Report calls it ostensibly a facility for beggars, the homeless and mentally ill. Inside are ragged and deformed people, some hunched naked in the gloomy hallways.
One Western diplomat called Eritrea's new leaders "control freaks". They respond to such criticism with disdain. During the war, Eritreans abroad funded the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF). The West refused to help. The former Soviet Union backed Mengistu's murderous campaign.
President Isaias Afwerki vows that the constitution now being drafted will allow opposition parties which are not based on ethnicity or religion. There is little open debate and no private newspapers, although the government says a new bill will call for mixed ownership of the media. Presidential and parliamentary elections are promised by 1997.
For now, the only political party is the People's Front for Democracy and Justice, as the EPLF was renamed last year.
It is doubtful that the government would face any serious opposition even if other parties were tolerated, and the cabinet is balanced between Christians and Muslims.
The most serious risk to stability now comes from fighters who need jobs. In the last two years, 40,000 soldiers have been demobilised. About 10,000 more will follow this year. Veterans are national heroes, but respect alone cannot satisfy them...
NINETY-ONE "CRIMINALS" GIVEN AMNESTY TO MARK INDEPENDENCE DAY
(SWB 23 May 95 [VBME in Tigrigna, 20 May 95])
The Ministry of Internal Affairs, today said that the Eritrean
government has declared an amnesty for 91 criminals who were
the stooges of the colonial regime on the occasion marking
Eritrea's Independence Day. The ministry in its statement said
that the government was releasing the criminals taking into
consideration the prevailing peace, stability and the
responsibilities of a citizen in the rehabilitation and
reconstruction of the nation...
PRESIDENT ANNOUNCES HUGE CUT IN CIVIL SERVICE
(SWB 6 May 95 [VBME in Tigrigna, 3 May 95])
A statement issued by the Office of the President regarding the restructuring, strengthening and salary scale of the civil service:
It is well understood that building a nation, managing the nation's economy properly and improving people's living standards requires an appropriate administrative system...
The government of the state of Eritrea has been investigating ways of establishing a positive and productive government and government institutions. To enable the government to deliver all that is expected of it, it should have a devoted, competent, able, productive and well-paid civil service...
On the basis of the recommendations made by the task force, all ministries and government institutions will be restructured again. Out of around 30,000 civil servants, including those in the education and health ministries, about 10,000 staff will be subject to retrenchment from the civil service. Out of these 10,000, about 6,500 people, who are not combatants, will be subject to retrenchment after receiving six months'pay. The remaining combatants [about 3,500] will, after the necessary screening, either be redeployed in the Ministry of Internal Affairs or Defence - because these two ministries are not affected by this new restructuring process - or they will be demobilized...
[Dated] 2nd May 1995.
ERITREA TO HAVE SIX ADMINSTRATIVE REGIONS
(EP 20 May 95)
The National Assembly yesterday resolved that Eritrea will henceforth have six administrative regions. At its 6th regular session on 19th May 1995, the Assembly took note of the following historical facts:
* The former division of the country into 8 administrative regions during Italian rule, 5 under the British administration and 9 under Ethiopian rule; * The aim of all these moves was to serve the interests of the authorities of the day; specifically that of "divide and rule" policy;
* The administrative systems that existed over the past four years were not in tune with the prevailing freedom and sovereignty nor were they in conformity with our future aspirations and goals. In fact, these systems were a hinderance to our cherished objectives as a free people;
* The new administrative structure needs to serve the nation's reconstruction programs and promote the new political order we plan to institute.
According to the new Assembly resolution, Eritrea will have the following administrative regions:
Region 1 - The area extending from Ras Dumera in the south to Tio district in the north, with Assab as its capital.
Region 2 - The area from Marsa Fatma district in the south to Ras Kasar in the north including the sea coast and the islands; this region also incorporates most parts of Sahel, and the eastern parts of Akeleguzai, Hamasien and Senhit, with Massawa as its adminstrative center.
Region 3 - Most part of Senhit, northern part of Barka and some parts of Sahel and northern Hamasien, Keren being its capital.
Region 4 - The whole of Gash-Setit, most part of Barka and western parts of Hamasien and Seraye, with Barentu as its capital.
Region 5 - Most parts of Akeleguzai and Seraye as well as southern Hamasien, with Mendefera as the adminstrative center.
Region 6 - Asmara and the area within 20 to 30km radius, Asmara being its capital.
CCE'S CIVIC EDUCATION PROGRAM DESCRIBED EFFECTIVE
(EP 13 May 95)
The Constitutional Commission of Eritrea has completed the four-month civic education program which makes up the second phase of its task. This was disclosed at a meeting jointly chaired by CCE Executive Council members, Ato Zemhret Yohannes and Ato Mussa Hassen Naib, and attended by members of civic education committees (CECs) from all provinces. Participants at the meeting held last Saturday at Asmara Chamber of Commerce assessed the results of the more than one thousand seminars conducted all over the country which over half a million people attended. CEC members said they were convinced that the program had attracted large numbers including those who live in remote areas. Though the participation of women in the seminars was minimal, the meeting concluded that the overall effort of the CECs was succesful.
At a provincial and sub-provincial level the CCE has established a total of 73 Civic Education Committees.
The first phase of the task of the CCE was to organize the structures of the Commission and to conduct introductory seminars. Its second phase, which consisted of conducting Civic Education seminars, has just been completed. The third, and most important, phase will consist on distributing information on constitutional issues for public debate. The last phase is to propose the final draft of the document to the approving body.
ERITREAN NATIONALIST HERO DIES AGED 90
(SWB 17 May 95 [VBME in Tigrigna, 15 May 95])
Veteran politician and founding member of the Eritrean nationalist movement, Wolde Ab Wolde Mariam, 90, died on 15th May in a hospital in Asmara, Eritrean radio reported.
The government has announced that 16th May will be a national day of mourning, it said.
CHURCH KEEPING PACE WITH TIMES
(DM April-June 95, p.11)
Abune Menkerios, head of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, is set to modernize the ecclesiastical administration "within the framework of tradition". Elections are planned for the first Eritrean patriarch to be consecrated by the Coptic Pope. But first a constitution is to be drafted for the Eritrean Church as are salary scales, pensions and regulations for ordination. The Abune also wants to see seminaries established with modern curriculum aimed at building a Church for the contemporary world.
** REINTEGRATION AND AGRICULTURE **
HOMES FOR RETURNEES
(DM April-June 95, p.7)
The Commission for Eritrean Refugee Affairs (CERA) and the Norwegian Redd Barna have begun work on a project to build 300 houses for returnee families in Sahel province. The 1 million birr project is scheduled for completion in three months...
(DM April-June 95, p.9)
War veterans, returning refugees and internally war and famine displaced people have recently finished a six- month course in Keren. Subjects offered included pottery, iron-melting, mechanics, typing, dressmaking and sewing. The l98 participants, who included 91 women, were given 400 birr a month wage to enable them to take part in the OBS funded training scheme which was run in cooperation with CERA.
(EP 6 May 95, by Jacky Sutton)
"Promoting the Reintegration of Former Female and Male
Combatants in Eritrea' was the title of a recent report prepared by a team from the German Development Institute (GDI) which analyzed the [activities of Mitias], the ERRA department dealing with Reintegration of ex-fighters, and the contributions made by donors. It represents a timely intervention in the national reconstruction process.
The report was introduced by Dr. Nerayo Teklemichael, the director of ERRA. He pointed out that donors had been slow to contribute to the reintegration of the demobilized ex- fighters. This, he said, not only affected their estimated 12,000 dependents but also meant that a valuable resource was in danger of being wasted. Of the estimated $48 million needed for reintegration, he noted, just $8 million has been pledged by donors. It soon became clear that the root cause of problems faced by ex-fighters was money; lack of money was complicated by lack of skills and changing social contexts...
The report highlighted seven areas where the potential for effective intervention was being held back. These concerned the institutional capacity of Mitias itself; the situation for women ex-fighters, the development of small scale enterprises, the exploitation of agriculture and marine resources, vocational training and the situation of disabled ex-fighters. It then gave a comparative analysis of the reintegration experiences of other sub-Saharan African countries and made recommendations to the reintegration program and to donors.
Mitias employs 20 staff members in Asmara and 45 people in the provinces. The overwhelming majority are ex-fighters...
As the egalitarian, non-monetized society of the field disintegrates, said the report, ex-fighters are least able to cope. The counselling capacity of Mitias was overstretched and the burden would grow. They recommended the counselling unit in Mitias to include at least one woman. The issue of women ex- fighters was defined as one of Mitias' priorities in 1995.
The report argued for a two-pronged strategy involving consideration of women's issues in general and affirmative action. Access to projects could be improved if adequate childcare was provided; quotas for projects were set (a figure of 30% was cited, reflecting the proportion of women in the armed struggle); appropriate training was given; and the management of projects was less male-dominated. It also pointed out that Mitias can play a vanguard role in introducing new income-generating activities to women and raising women's self-confidence and public awareness.
Disabled ex-combatants endure harder conditions concerning jobs, housing, transport and health than their former combatants, said the report... About 3, 000 severely disabled need permanent help, of which the majority still live in a temporary camp...
Eritrea, concluded the report, has taken a positive approach towards the process of demobilization and rehabilitation, in fact, the best approach in Sub Saharan experience so far. It said Eritrea has several advantages over other African countries implementing demobilization and reintegration schemes. Self-reliance, respect from and of their society, commitment and victory are assets that cannot be wasted. In order to capitalize on these comparative advantages, donors and government institutions must coordinate their efforts and focus on putting their skills to work for their benefit and for the good of society as a whole.
ALIGIDIR AGRICULTURAL PROJECT
(EP 13 May 95)
Preparations are in full swing to reap a bountiful harvest from the Aligidir Agricultural Project this year, according to the project's manager, Ato Gebremeskel Hailu. The farming plots are being readied for cultivation, fertilizers applied and related measures put in place. Besides, anti-pest devices to protect cotton plantations have been arranged and plans finalized to build storehouse facilities.
Last year, the Aligidir Agricultural Project had a harvest of 43,000 quintals of cotton as well as 22,000 and 77,000 quintals of sorghum and sunflower respectively.
2000 hectares of planted land at Alighidir Agricultural Development Project will be distributed on May 26 to 1000 ex- fighters demobilized in the second phase, according to Ato Tekle Mengistu from the Office of Rehabilitating Demobilized Fighters (ORDF).
Each demobilized fighter will be given 2 hectares of planted land by the Ministry of Agriculture and a one-year food ration by the Eritrean Relief and Rehabilitation Agency (ERRA).
Ato Tekle pointed out that those settlers who proved to be hard working in this production season will get additional farm land for the next season.
COMBATING DESERTIFICATION, URGENT MEASURES FOR AFRICA
(EP 29 Apr 95, by Idris Awad)
A two-day workshop on April 20 - 21 discussed the implementation of the UN Convention on Combating Desertification and the resolution on urgent measures to be taken for Africa.
Over 100 people from Eritrean ministries, humanitarian organizations and local and provincial administrations participated in the workshop. Also present was an expert from the Intergovernmental Authority on Drought and Development. The objective of the workshop was to examine precautionary measures and information gathering to combating and confront desertification in Eritrea...
The workshop was held in the context of the current efforts to combat drought and desertification in the greater Horn of Africa and the continent in general. These endeavours enjoy the backing and financial support of the UN...
Actions at national level since October, 1994 are:
* Eritrea signed the UN Convention on Combating Desertification (CCD) in Paris on 14 October, 1994
* Eritrea appointed a national focal point for the CCD. This is the coordinating body of the National Environmental Management Plan (NEMP-E)
* Eritrea collects and collates information on drought and desertification in Eritrea, a process which started with the initiation of the NEMP-E
* Concerned bodies discussed drought and desertification with local people in a search for approaches to these problems
* There are preparations for national awareness days to combat desertification in Eritrea.
** FOREIGN RELATIONS **
NEW PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF ERITREA PRESENTS CREDENTIALS
TO UN (UNIC 11 Apr 95 [UN document BIO/2948, 10 Apr 95])
Amdemicael Kahsai, the new Permanent Representative of Eritrea, presented his credentials today to Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Simultaneous with his United Nations posting, Mr. Kahsai will serve as Ambassador to the United States....
OAU OFFERS TO MEDIATE IN ERITREA-SUDAN DISPUTE
(SWB 14 Apr 95 [KNA news agency, Nairobi, in English 12 Apr
95]) Text of report by the Pan-African news agency, PANA, carried by the Kenyan news agency KNA on 12th April
Khartoum, Sudan [no date, as received]: The Organization of African Unity (OAU) has offered to mediate the rift between Sudan and Eritrea that has resulted in the cutting off of diplomatic ties, PANA reported yesterday.
Diplomatic ties between the two neighbouring states were cut off late last year after Eritrea accused Sudan of harbouring Muslim fundamentalist rebels trying to topple its government...
ECONOMIC AGREEMENT WITH ETHIOPIA
(SWB 18 Apr 95 [REE in English, 7 Apr 95])
Prime Minister Tamirat Layne has said that the joint agreement recently signed between Ethiopia and Eritrea is a landmark for upholding the common interests of the peoples of the two countries. Prime Minister Tamirat, who chaired the recent high-level joint ministerial conference and signed the agreement on the Ethiopian side, indicated that the joint meeting has laid the basis for the attainment of long-term objectives.
He said the signing of the free trade zone agreement to promote cooperation between the peoples of the two countries in the trading sector in particular and the consensus reached after re-evaluating the documents previously agreed upon are important achievements...
Eritrea's vice-president, Muhammad Ahmad Sharifo, also made a statement expressing his satisfaction with the joint agreement. He reaffirmed the readiness of his government and the people to make unreserved efforts for their implementation.
ERITREA AND THE BIRR
(AA 21 Apr 95, p.16)
Foreign currency is still scarce in Asmara, although the city's private shops are well-stocked with consumer luxuries imported from abroad. The parallel market is quiet and many of the shipments arriving at the docks in Assab are financed by traders overseas or by expatriate Eritreans.
Official exports do not generate much revenue - a mere Br 180m ($30.2m) in the year to last June. But private transfers, mainly in the form of remittances from the large Eritrean diaspora in the Gulf and the US, reached almost Br lbn.
Yet even with funds flowing into the country on such a large unofficial scale, there is still an underlying thirst for dollars here...
The slow progress of separating the statistics on Eritrea from those of the old unified Ethiopia is far from complete and it is not yet possible to get reliable data on the money supply. However, interest rates are lower than those in Ethiopia. A good customer of the Commercial Bank here could reasonably hope to borrow overdraft funds at less than 8%, compared with more than 12% in Ethiopia.
Both countries share the same currency - the birr - and deposit funds seem to have been seeping out of Eritrea into its larger neighbour.
However, the monetary authorities are confident that capital inflows will compensate for this trend. Their vision of Eritrea as a regional trade and services hub requires exchange rate flexibility and the question of abandoning the Ethiopian birr in favor of an independent national currency is now firmly on the agenda...
NON-ALIGNED MOVEMENT AGREES TO ADMIT ERITREA AS NEW MEMBER
(Jakarta Post via RBB 22 Apr 95, by Meidyatama Suryodiningrat)
BANDUNG: Senior officials of the Non-Aligned Movement agreed yesterday to admit the newly independent African state of Eritrea into the organization.
"Eritrea has been officially instated as the next newest member," said NAM's chief executive assistant Nana Sutresna at the end of the first day of NAM's senior official meeting. "So now the total number of members is 112."...
JAPAN TO PROVIDE AID TO ERITREA
(Jiji Press Newswire via RBB 8 May 95)
Tokyo - Japan will provide economic assistance to Eritrea to help build the newly independent country, Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Yohei Kono said Monday afternoon.
Kono made the pledge in a meeting with his Eritrean counterpart Petros Solomon at the Foreign Ministry...
MINING - A NEW BATTLE-ZONE FOR RIGHTS
(AED 10 Apr 95, by Francis Kokutse)
Once a killing field, Eritrea has now become a treasure battle-ground. The new found peace has created the environment for investors' interest.
The interest generated has made some of the former fighters regret the years they spent fighting, which according to a former member of the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) "did not give us any substantial benefit."...
With independence came the realisation that the country is the poorest country in Africa with an annual income of between $75-$150 per head.
Underneath this poverty is the fact that Eritrea has a collection of natural resources that await study and exploitation. The country's historians say copper ore and gold were mined from the Eritrean plateau before the arrival of the Italians whom they said continued to exploit these resources. The liberalisation war brought to an end all efforts to explore and exploit these resources.
Independence and the end of the armed conflict turned the attention of foreign mining companies to Eritrea.
Mining analysts in London said there is no longer the fear of entering Eritrea and this new found peace has enabled the country to attract investors to exploit its gold mines which according to local folkore were the site of legendary King Solomon's mines.
So far, about 20 companies including Western Mining, BHP, CRA, Anglo American Ashanti and Billiton are known to be preparing their bids for approval to operate in the country...
The problem that is likely to come up is the fact that there are no available data on the geological information, because of the thirty years of civil war. Documentations on former mines and where they are sited as well as prospects remain scanty.
However, the country's mines department claim that prime ground for gold and volvanogenic massive sulphide lies in the country's dominant Neoproterozoic, Pan-African basement.
Mining sources say between 1931 and 1940, the country's 21 mines produced about 1,700 kg of gold. After the second world war, four of these operations produced 1,100 kg from 1953 to 1962. Mining activities then ceased because of the civil unrest that had engulfed the country...
MINING LAW PROMULGATED
(ION 15 Apr 95, p.7)
Eritrea has completed promised new mining legislation by promulgating Mining Proclamation 68/1995, Mining Income Tax Proclamation 69/1995, and Mining Operations Regulations 19/1995. The law declares that "all mineral resources in Eritrea are public property" and recognizes "the sovereign rights of the State to ensure the conservation and development of the mineral resources for the benefit of the people". The Eritrean authorities also admit the importance of private investment: Recognizing the risky nature of mining investment, the Eritrean Mining Law encourages both foreign and local investments by providing a liberal reward for those who venture to explore and mine Eritrea...
ELF AND ACCOR GO PROSPECTING
(ION 3 June 95, p.7)
A delegate of French oil major Elf recently carried a prospecting mission in Eritrea, apparently in the framework of discussions of petroleum exploration permits. French multinational hotel group Accor has been offered a partnership project to build a luxury hotel in Eritrea.