News from the Eritrean Democratic Party

News from the Eritrean Democratic Party

Guatemalans overthrow a dictator, 1944

NewsPosted by Admin Dec 01, 2017 09:07:03


To end the dictatorship of Jorge Ubico

Beginning in 1931 Jorge Ubico ruled Guatemala with an iron fist with the help of the vicious secret police. He admired Hitler’s tactics. By the summer of 1944, a similarly brutal dictator, Maximiliano Hernández Martínez, was overthrown in the face of a widespread nonviolent campaign in nearby El Salvador. This campaign served as a template for Guatemala’s own movement.

In Guatemala, the campaign began mildly. In May of 1944, forty-five lawyers petitioned the Ubico government for the removal of an arbitrary judge who tried political opponents; Ubico responded by asking for the specific charges against the judge.

A day before the annual teacher and schoolchildren parade in honor of the dictator, two hundred teachers petitioned for a raise. The leaders of the petition were then arrested and charged with sedition. To this the rest of the teachers responded with a boycott of the parade; these teachers were fired.

On June 7, 16 students of San Carlos University petitioned for a change in faculty. Ubico agreed to the students’ demands. These students then escalated their demands. Later, on June 20, opposition groups declared the creation of the Social Democratic Party in a manifesto that supported opposition parties, social justice, and the lifting of the terror and hemispheric solidarity. Two days later, the students wrote a proposition for sweeping university reform, and threatened Ubico with a student strike if these demands were not met within 24 hours. In response to this threat, Ubico suspended the articles of the constitution that guaranteed individual rights, including public assembly. On June 23, both schoolteachers and university students held a strike.

Ubico had once declared that if three hundred Guatemalan citizens asked him to resign, he would. Therefore, on June 24, Ubico was presented with a petition (Memorial de los 311) asking for the return of constitutional liberties and explaining the reasons for the civil unrest; 311 prominent citizens of the capital signed the petition. This document was not printed in the newspaper El Imparcial until July 7, when the liberties were returned. At noon on the 24th, students marched with their arms behind their backs in a peaceful demonstration purposefully passing in front of the U.S. Embassy. That evening, a peaceful assembly called for Ubico’s resignation and the organizers distributed leaflets explaining the movement’s position. That night, the police beat, shot and arrested hundreds during a neighborhood religious and social celebration.

By the morning of June 25, soldiers, cavalry, tanks and machine guns made their daunting appearance in the streets of Guatemala City. Dissent leaders Federico Carbonel and Jorge A. Serrano (who had delivered the Memorial de los 311) were summoned to meet government officials in the National Palace. During this time, demonstrations continued even though the campaigners were menaced with guns and tear-gas bombs. Women dressed in mourning clothes congregated and prayed at the Church of San Francisco in the center of Guatemala City. Once there the women formed a silent, peaceful march. The cavalry fired toward the crowd, killing Maria Chincilla Recinos, a schoolteacher. She became the movement’s first martyr for she was both symbolic and physical evidence of Ubico’s brutality.

By June 26, all of Guatemala City joined in the struggle. The citizens responded to Recinos’ killing by shutting down the economy. Everything closed, workers struck, railway workers joined in a sympathy strike; streets were desolate. The week of June 26 to June 30 the strike, entitled Brazos Caídos (Fallen Arms), took control of the commercial, industrial and service sectors of Guatemala City. On this day (June 26), 50,000 campaigners and supporters congregated around the National Palace urging Ubico to resign at the top of their lungs.

Ubico had respectable members of the opposition followed and their cars taken away. He also ordered the deportation of foreigners who closed their businesses, and the police intimidated business owners to keep their businesses open. Ubico issued a decree stating that all personnel of transportation and communication companies were under military law. But all this was to no avail; the capital was shut down by the general strike. The opposition issued Ubico a letter of unanimous desire that he resign and return constitutional liberties. The dictator’s power was quickly disintegrated; only the U.S. Ambassador and the army remained loyal. Impotent to restore normalcy on the streets or to stop the petitions for his expulsion, Ubico resigned on July 1, 1944.

Ubico, however, handed the government over to a military triumvirate, headed by Federico Ponce. Early in October it became evident that Ponce would not allow free elections to take place. On October 16, students and teachers handed out leaflets calling for a political strike. On October 18, students and workers aided young military officers to seize control of Guatemala City. In early 1945, a new constitution was adopted and free elections were held. Dr. Juan José, a liberal democrat, was named president.

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The Nonviolent Struggle For The Independence Of Congo

NewsPosted by Admin Nov 19, 2017 21:18:54

Bildresultat för patrice lumumba

Lumumba was born in Onalua in the Katakokombe region of the Kasai province of the Belgian Congo, a member of the Tetela ethnic group. Raised in a Catholic family, he was educated at a Protestant primary school, a Catholic missionary school, and finally the government post office training school, passing the one-year course with Honors. He subsequently worked in Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) and Stanleyville (now Kisangani) as a postal clerk and as a travelling beer salesman.

After traveling on a three-week study tour in Belgium, he was arrested in 1955 on charges of embezzlement of post office funds. His two-year sentence was commuted to twelve months, and he was released in July 1956.

When Lumumba was released, he became increasingly more active in politics. In October 1958 he founded the Congolese National Movement (Mouvement National Congolais; MNC), the first nationwide Congolese political party. In December he represented his party at Kwame Nkrumah’s first All-African People’s Conference in Accra, Ghana, where he met nationalists from across the African continent and was made a member of the permanent organization set up by the conference. The conference further solidified his Pan-Africanist beliefs.

In 1959 the Belgian government released the Congo from its colonial rule, and held elections in December 1959. The nationalists regarded this program as a scheme to install puppets before independence and announced a boycott of the elections. The Belgian authorities responded with repression. On October 30, two months before the election, there was a clash in Stanleyville that resulted in 30 deaths. Lumumba was imprisoned on a charge of inciting to riot.

The MNC decided to shift tactics, entered the elections, and won a sweeping victory in Stanleyville (90 percent of the votes). In January 1960 the Belgian government convened a Round Table Conference in Brussels of all Congolese parties to discuss political change, but the MNC refused to participate without Lumumba. Lumumba was thereupon released from prison and flown to Brussels. The conference agreed on a date for independence, June 30, with national elections in May. Although there was a multiplicity of parties, the MNC came out far ahead in the elections, and Lumumba emerged as the leading nationalist politician of the Congo. Maneuvers to prevent his assumption of authority failed, and he was asked to form the first government, which he succeeded in doing on June 23, 1960.

When the Belgian King came to speak to the nation and hand over independence, Lumumba was not allowed to speak. He sat quietly until the Belgian king started talking that shit about the brilliance of King Leopold – the same man that chopped off hands and bled the country dry for its rubber. Lumumba interrupted the kings speech with his own speech – called Blood and Fire.

Men and women of the Congo,

Victorious independence fighters,

I salute you in the name of the Congolese Government.

I ask all of you, my friends, who tirelessly fought in our ranks, to mark this June 30, 1960, as an illustrious date that will be ever engraved in your hearts, a date whose meaning you will proudly explain to your children, so that they in turn might relate to their grandchildren and great-grandchildren the glorious history of our struggle for freedom.

Although this independence of the Congo is being proclaimed today by agreement with Belgium, an amicable country, with which we are on equal terms, no Congolese will ever forget that independence was won in struggle, a persevering and inspired struggle carried on from day to day, a struggle, in which we were undaunted by privation or suffering and stinted neither strength nor blood.

It was filled with tears, fire and blood. We are deeply proud of our struggle, because it was just and noble and indispensable in putting an end to the humiliating bondage forced upon us.

That was our lot for the eighty years of colonial rule and our wounds are too fresh and much too painful to be forgotten.

We have experienced forced labour in exchange for pay that did not allow us to satisfy our hunger, to clothe ourselves, to have decent lodgings or to bring up our children as dearly loved ones.

Morning, noon and night we were subjected to jeers, insults and blows because we were “Negroes”. Who will ever forget that the black was addressed as “tu”, not because he was a friend, but because the polite “vous” was reserved for the white man?

We have seen our lands seized in the name of ostensibly just laws, which gave recognition only to the right of might.

We have not forgotten that the law was never the same for the white and the black, that it was lenient to the ones, and cruel and inhuman to the others.

We have experienced the atrocious sufferings, being persecuted for political convictions and religious beliefs, and exiled from our native land: our lot was worse than death itself.

We have not forgotten that in the cities the mansions were for the whites and the tumbledown huts for the blacks; that a black was not admitted to the cinemas, restaurants and shops set aside for “Europeans”; that a black travelled in the holds, under the feet of the whites in their luxury cabins.

Who will ever forget the shootings which killed so many of our brothers, or the cells into which were mercilessly thrown those who no longer wished to submit to the regime of injustice, oppression and exploitation used by the colonialists as a tool of their domination?

All that, my brothers, brought us untold suffering.

But we, who were elected by the votes of your representatives, representatives of the people, to guide our native land, we, who have suffered in body and soul from the colonial oppression, we tell you that henceforth all that is finished with.

The Republic of the Congo has been proclaimed and our beloved country’s future is now in the hands of its own people.

Brothers, let us commence together a new struggle, a sublime struggle that will lead our country to peace, prosperity and greatness.

Together we shall establish social justice and ensure for every man a fair remuneration for his labour.

We shall show the world what the black man can do when working in liberty, and we shall make the Congo the pride of Africa.

We shall see to it that the lands of our native country truly benefit its children.

We shall revise all the old laws and make them into new ones that will be just and noble.

We shall stop the persecution of free thought. We shall see to it that all citizens enjoy to the fullest extent the basic freedoms provided for by the Declaration of Human Rights.

We shall eradicate all discrimination, whatever its origin, and we shall ensure for everyone a station in life befitting his human dignity and worthy of his labour and his loyalty to the country.

We shall institute in the country a peace resting not on guns and bayonets but on concord and goodwill.

And in all this, my dear compatriots, we can rely not only on our own enormous forces and immense wealth, but also on the assistance of the numerous foreign states, whose co-operation we shall accept when it is not aimed at imposing upon us an alien policy, but is given in a spirit of friendship.

Even Belgium, which has finally learned the lesson of history and need no longer try to oppose our independence, is prepared to give us its aid and friendship; for that end an agreement has just been signed between our two equal and independent countries. I am sure that this co-operation will benefit both countries. For our part, we shall, while remaining vigilant, try to observe the engagements we have freely made.

Thus, both in the internal and the external spheres, the new Congo being created by my government will be rich, free and prosperous. But to attain our goal without delay, I ask all of you, legislators and citizens of the Congo, to give us all the help you can.

I ask you all to sink your tribal quarrels: they weaken us and may cause us to be despised abroad.

I ask you all not to shrink from any sacrifice for the sake of ensuring the success of our grand undertaking.

Finally, I ask you unconditionally to respect the life and property of fellow-citizens and foreigners who have settled in our country; if the conduct of these foreigners leaves much to be desired, our Justice will promptly expel them from the territory of the republic; if, on the contrary, their conduct is good, they must be left in peace, for they, too, are working for our country’s prosperity.

The Congo’s independence is a decisive step towards the liberation of the whole African continent.

Our government, a government of national and popular unity, will serve its country.

I call on all Congolese citizens, men, women and children, to set themselves resolutely to the task of creating a national economy and ensuring our economic independence.

Eternal glory to the fighters for national liberation!

Long live independence and African unity!

Long live the independent and sovereign Congo!

That speech sealed his death warrant. Only three months later, after being arrested, beaten and tortured, Patrice Lumumba was shot and killed by firing squad – an act that was committed with the assistance of the governments of Belgium and the United States. The Belgian government officially apologized in 2002, but the United States refuses to this day to admit wrong doing.

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Nkrumah and Ghana’s Nonviolent Struggle For independence

NewsPosted by Admin Nov 19, 2017 19:06:17
By Abayomi Azikiwe

Editor, Pan-African News Wire

According to the history books, 100 years ago on Sept. 21, 1909, Kwame Nkrumah, the founder and leader of the African independence movement and the foremost advocate of Pan-Africanism during his time, was born in the western Nzima region of the Gold Coast, later known as the independent state of Ghana.

Nkrumah was the first head of state of an independent post-colonial nation in Africa south of the Sahara, after he led Ghana to national liberation under the direction of the Convention Peoples Party in 1957. Educated at the historically Black college of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, Nkrumah became involved in the Pan-African movement in the United States during the 1930s and 1940s as a leading member of the African Students Association, the Council on African Affairs, as well as other organizations.

After leaving the United States at the conclusion of World War II in 1945, he played a leading role in convening the historic Fifth Pan-African Congress in Manchester, England—a gathering that many credit with laying the foundation for the mass struggles for independence during the 1940s and 1950s.

During his stay in England from 1945 to 1947, he collaborated with George Padmore of Trinidad, a veteran activist in the international communist movement and a journalist who wrote extensively on African affairs. Nkrumah was offered a position with the United Gold Coast Convention as an organizer in late 1947 and made the critical decision to return to the Gold Coast to assist in the anti-colonial struggle that was intensifying in the aftermath of World War II.

After being imprisoned with other leaders of the UGCC for supposedly inciting unrest among veterans, workers and farmers in the colony, he gained widespread popularity among the people, who responded enthusiastically to his militant and fiery approach to the burgeoning anti-imperialist movement. After forming the Committee on Youth Organization, which became the best organized segment of the UGCC, Nkrumah was later isolated from the top leadership of the Convention, who objected to his demands for immediate political independence for the Gold Coast.

On June 12, 1949, Nkrumah and the CYO formed the Convention Peoples Party in Accra, Ghana, at a mass gathering of tens of thousands of people. They were prepared to launch a mass struggle for the abolition of British colonial rule over the Gold Coast. During this same period, Nkrumah formed links with other anti-colonial and Pan-African organizations that were operating in other colonies of West Africa. When the CPP called for a Positive Action Campaign in early 1950, leading to massive strikes and rebellion throughout the colony, Nkrumah was imprisoned by the colonial authorities for sedition.

The executive members of the CPP continued to press for the total independence of the colony, eventually creating conditions for a popular election in 1951 that the CPP won overwhelmingly. In February 1951, Nkrumah was released from prison in Ghana and appointed Leader of Government Business in a transitional arrangement that eventually led to the independence of Ghana on March 6, 1957.

Vision of Pan-Africanism, socialism

At the independence gathering on March 6, Nkrumah—now prime minister—declared that Ghana’s independence was meaningless unless it was directly linked with the total liberation of the continent. This statement served as the cornerstone of Ghanaian foreign policy during Nkrumah’s tenure as leader of the country.

George Padmore became the official advisor on African affairs, and was placed in charge of the Bureau of African Affairs, whose task was to assist other national liberation movements on the continent in their efforts to win political independence. In April 1958, the First Conference of Independent African States was convened, with eight nation-states as participants. This gathering broke down the colonially imposed divisions between Africa north and south of the Sahara.

In December later that same year, the first All-African Peoples Conference was held in Accra, bringing together 62 national liberation movements from all over the continent, as well as representation from Africans in the United States. It was at this conference in December 1958 that Patrice Lumumba of Congo became an internationally recognized leader of the anti-colonial struggle in that Belgian colony.

By 1960 the independence movement had gained tremendous influence throughout Africa, resulting in the emergence of many new nation-states on the continent. That same year, Ghana became a republic and adopted its own constitution, making Nkrumah the president of the government.

However, there arose fissures within the leadership of the CPP over which direction the new state would take in its economic and social policies. Many of Nkrumah’s colleagues, who had been instrumental in the struggle for independence, were not committed to his long-term goals of Pan-Africanism and socialism. Consequently, many of the programmatic initiatives launched by the CPP government were stifled by the class aspirations of those state and party officials who were noncommittal about a total revolutionary transformation of Ghanaian society and the African continent as a whole.

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NewsPosted by Admin Nov 09, 2017 22:34:15

The EDP has been working on for a peaceful transition of Eritrea from a dictatorial rule to a constitutional democracy (Good Governance) from the start. In order to elevate the awareness of our people concerning the advantages of nonviolent struggle compared to violent struggle, we are going to post many examples of successful struggles from around the globe in the coming weeks.

The first one in the series is the SALT MARCH

Sculpture in New Delhi, India, depicting Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi leading the 1930 Salt March.

The Salt March, which took place from March to April 1930 in India, was an act of civil disobedience led by Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948) to protest British rule in India. During the march, thousands of Indians followed Gandhi from his religious retreat near Ahmedabad to the Arabian Sea coast, a distance of some 240 miles. The march resulted in the arrest of nearly 60,000 people, including Gandhi himself. India finally was granted its independence in 1947.


Britain’s Salt Acts prohibited Indians from collecting or selling salt, a staple in the Indian diet. Citizens were forced to buy the vital mineral from the British, who, in addition to exercising a monopoly over the manufacture and sale of salt, also exerted a heavy salt tax. Although India’s poor suffered most under the tax, Indians required salt. Defying the Salt Acts, Mohandas Gandhi reasoned, would be an ingeniously simple way for many Indians to break a British law nonviolently. (British rule of India began in 1858. After living for two decades in South Africa, where he fought for the civil rights of Indians residing there, Gandhi returned to his native country in 1915 and soon began working for India’s independence.) Gandhi declared resistance to British salt policies to be the unifying theme for his new campaign of “satyagraha,” or mass civil disobedience.


On March 12, 1930, Gandhi set out from his ashram, or religious retreat, at Sabermanti near Ahmedabad with several dozen followers on a trek of some 240 miles to the coastal town of Dandi on the Arabian Sea. There, Gandhi and his supporters were to defy British policy by making salt from seawater. All along the way, Gandhi addressed large crowds, and with each passing day an increasing number of people joined the salt satyagraha. By the time they reached Dandi on April 5, Gandhi was at the head of a crowd of tens of thousands. He spoke and led prayers and early the next morning walked down to the sea to make salt.

He had planned to work the salt flats on the beach, encrusted with crystallized sea salt at every high tide, but the police had forestalled him by crushing the salt deposits into the mud. Nevertheless, Gandhi reached down and picked up a small lump of natural salt out of the mud–and British law had been defied. At Dandi, thousands more followed his lead, and in the coastal cities of Bombay (now called Mumbai) and Karachi, Indian nationalists led crowds of citizens in making salt. Civil disobedience broke out all across India, soon involving millions of Indians, and British authorities arrested more than 60,000 people. Gandhi himself was arrested on May 5, but the satyagraha continued without him.

On May 21, the poet Sarojini Naidu (1879-1949) led 2,500 marchers on the Dharasana Salt Works, some 150 miles north of Bombay. Several hundred British-led Indian policemen met them and viciously beat the peaceful demonstrators. The incident, recorded by American journalist Webb Miller, prompted an international outcry against British policy in India.


In January 1931, Gandhi was released from prison. He later met with Lord Irwin (1881-1959), the viceroy of India, and agreed to call off the satyagraha in exchange for an equal negotiating role at a London conference on India’s future. In August of that year, Gandhi traveled to the conference as the sole representative of the nationalist Indian National Congress. The meeting was a disappointment, but British leaders had acknowledged Gandhi as a force they could not suppress or ignore.

India’s independence was finally granted in August 1947. The 78-year-old Gandhi was assassinated by a Hindu extremist less than six months later, on January 30, 1948.

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Eritrea's Asmara city hit by rare student protest

NewsPosted by Admin Nov 03, 2017 12:11:54
Eritrea's Asmara city hit by rare student protest

1 November 2017

Diae Al Islam School in Asmara, Eritrea

Rare protests broke out in Eritrea's capital, Asmara, with reports of shooting in the city on Tuesday.

Security forces responded by firing shots to disperse protesters, unverified video footage widely circulated on social media shows.

The protests were staged by students who were angered by government interference in the affairs of a community-funded Muslim school.

Information Minister Yemane Meskel downplayed reports of violence.

"Small demonstration by one school in Asmara dispersed without any causality hardly breaking news," he said in a tweet.

However, the US embassy in Asmara said it had received reports of gunfire in "several locations" on Tuesday.

The authorities also appear to have cut the internet in the wake of the unrest, as no messages are being received from people in the country, the BBC Tigrinya service's Tesfalem Araia says.

§ Could pariah state Eritrea come in from the cold?

§ Why do so many people want to leave Eritrea for Europe?

The protests were staged by students of Diae Al Islam, one of the best private schools in Asmara, following reports that its chairman, 90-year-old Hajj Musa Mohammed Nur, and other members of the school board were arrested after fiercely resisting government efforts to regulate the school.

According to a video circulating on social media that appears to show Mr Musa speaking before his arrest, he said that the authorities had demanded that the school, which offers both secular and Islamic education, drop religious teachings, ban the hijab and stop the separation of sexes.

The military has reportedly rounded-up of young men overnight, especially in the Akhria area of the city, where the school is located.

Anti-government demonstrations in Eritrea are extremely rare because of restrictions imposed by President Isaias Afwerki's government, which has been in power for 26 years.

Eritrea does not have a constitution that guarantees the rights of citizens, including the right to protest.

The UN Human Rights Commission accuses the Eritrean government of committing human rights violations and crimes against humanity.

It strongly denies the allegations, and insists that it treats its citizens well.

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Eritrea opposition: Security forces kill 28 protesters

NewsPosted by Admin Nov 03, 2017 11:40:04

by Anealla Safdar

1 Nov 2017

Security forces killed at least 28 people in rare protests in the Eritrean capital, an opposition group has claimed, raising concerns from human rights groups and activists.

The violence witnessed in demonstrations in Asmara on Tuesday also prompted a safety warning from the US embassy in Eritrea, which confirmed receiving reports of gunfire and advised people to stay away from areas where protests were taking place.

The opposition Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization wrote on its Facebook page on Wednesday: "This uprising has left 28 martyrs and 100 wounded … we call on the international community and human rights organisations to bring those involved to justice."

Activists told Al Jazeera that the protests began on Tuesday after the government ordered an Islamic school to ban the headscarf and halt religious education.

The violence centred on the predominantly-Muslim neighbourhood of Akriya, where the Diaa Islamic School of Asmara of 3,000 students is located.

Displays of public protests are rare in Eritrea, a country often criticised for human rights abuses.

President Isaias Afwerki has been in power since 1993.

Hundreds of students reportedly joined the protests, and the crowds continued to grow later.

The US embassy has not confirmed the deaths.

'Black hawk dawn moment'

"The government attempted to confiscate Al Diaa Islamic School, an institution established in the late 1960s," Meron Estefanos, an activist based in Sweden, told Al Jazeera.

"The current unrest was triggered by the government's arrest of Haj Mussa who was the honourary president of the Al Diaa school."

She claimed that security forces beat students, who retaliated by throwing stones.

"Soon, the rallies spread to the streets of central Asmara where the security forces used brute force to quell the protests," she said.

"This moment is the true meaning of a bottled up feelings and years' worth of oppression that is now surfacing. I believe the people of Eritrea have tolerated so many things for so long and now it is time to express and stand up for their rights."

But Yemane G Meskel, Eritrea's minister of information, dismissed the reports of casualties.

"Small demonstration by one school in Asmara dispersed without [casualties] hardly breaking news," he tweeted.

Eritrea, which borders Ethiopia, Sudan and Djibouti, often features towards the very end of indices on freedom of expression, close to countries such as North Korea.

"I think it's a draconian measure, yet again in controlling the Eritrean public and squeezing out any public space and any freedom of expression," Selam Kidane, a London-based activist, told Al Jazeera.

"Asmara is a peaceful city, but this has been described as a black hawk dawn moment - nursery school children were being chased through the streets."

She said that young people have "taken matters into their own hands" because Eritrea is a "country ruled by fear".

"People are taking enormous risk and it's a courageous step to take," Kidane said.

'Bound to happen'

In June this year, Sheila B Keetharuth, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, said citizens suffer arbitrary arrest, incommunicado detention, enforced disappearances, and a national service system that amounts to enslavement.

Tuesday's protests have "opened a big door", Saleh Gadi Johar, a California-based author and activist, told Al Jazeera.

"They [people] snapped. Even if it's quelled for a time, it will rise again. I expect others are inspired. All denominations of Eritreans - particularly the young -have joined."

Johar, who also edits, a dissident website, said he believes the Eritrean government would arrest anybody it didn't like.

The warning from the US embassy, he said, was not a sign of a major political development.

"I don't expect anything from US and West when Eritreans are suffering. It's politics as usual.

"Being an Eritrean, I don't wish any bloodshed of violence for my country - people have gone through a lot. I wish for a peaceful transition to calm. But if that doesn't come, then such appeal should be expected. It's sad its happened, but it was bound to happen."

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28 killed in rare protests in Eritrea, opposition group says

NewsPosted by Admin Nov 03, 2017 11:21:28

28 killed in rare protests in Eritrea, opposition group says


At least 28 people have been killed in rare protests in the capital of Eritrea, one of the world's most reclusive nations, an official with the largest Eritrean opposition group said Wednesday.

Another more than 100 people were injured in the protests in Asmara that began on Monday and escalated on Tuesday, spokesman Nasredin Ali with the Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization told The Associated Press, citing sources on the ground in Eritrea. The group is based in neighboring Ethiopia.

The U.S. Embassy in Eritrea late Tuesday reported gunfire "at several locations in Asmara due to protests" and advised U.S. citizens to avoid the downtown area. The statement did not say why the protests occurred.

Nasredin's claims of deaths and injuries could not be independently verified. He said the demand by Eritrea's government to control a Muslim community school in Asmara led to the clashes.

"Following the refusal to hand over the school, some 40 people were arrested and this led to the massive protests," he said, adding that Asmara was tense on Wednesday as a funeral ceremony took place. "The army is bringing forces from outside the capital."

Eritrea's Information Minister Yemane Meskel downplayed the reports of unrest, saying on Twitter that "small demonstration by one school in Asmara dispersed without any casualty hardly breaking news."

Eritrean officials at the African Union mission in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, were not immediately available for comment.

The small East African nation is a major source of migrants arriving in Europe. Its government has long faced criticism by human rights advocates over its harsh military conscription laws. The government has denied allegations of abuses.

According to a State Department report in 2016 on international religious freedom, roughly half of Eritrea's population is Sunni Muslim and the country's government includes Sunni Islam as one of four officially registered religious groups. Other practices of Islam are banned. The report also says religious education is allowed in private schools but religious groups are prohibited from any involvement in politics.

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Remembering the Eritrean dream on Independence Day

NewsPosted by Admin Jul 30, 2017 16:11:33

by Abraham T Zere
Abraham T. Zere is the executive director of PEN Eritrea in exile.

Twenty-six years ago today, Eritrea's 30-year war of independence against Ethiopiaended with Eritrean freedom fighters marching to the capital, Asmara. Unfortunately, it took less than a decade for the grand hopes and ideals that Eritreans initially had for the future of their country to evaporate into thin air.

The international media has limited access to the country and, as a result, their coverage of Eritrea is limited to a shallow narrative focusing on "indefinite military conscription" and "refugees".

But the Eritrean story is far more complicated than these one-dimentional labels.

Afer independence the country gradually descended into a fiefdom, serving as a grand laboratory for the negligent and oppressive government experiments of President Isaias Afwerki and his clique. Over the past two and a half decades Eritrean authorities have been accused of a variety of abuses. These accusations culminated in a report by the the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea in 2016, which declared the Eritrean state guilty of "crimes against humanity".

As a result of short-sighted economic policies, the country has been mired in abject poverty. Citizens are left with two options - flee at any cost or stay and slowly rot in their homeland. In a country that is not even close to supporting itself on local commodities, importation of goods has been outlawed since 2003. The ruling party (PFDJ) and its organs are allowed to import and ration basic food items - they ration chewing gum at the party's stores and alcoholic drinks at bars.

There is no rule of law or constitutional underpinning in the country. The president long ago shelved the national constitution that was ratified in 1997 after a four-year drafting process. Yet, in his Independence Day address in 2014, he announced that another constitution would be drafted. This ended up being just another excuse to buy time and divert attention from the country's problems.

A prison state

Eritrea has devolved into a prison state where military commanders maintain underground prison centres to extort money from innocent citizens. More than 360 prison facilities operate in this small country with a population of fewer than five million people.

Apart from the extortionary prison centres, the other means of generating money is human trafficking, with some Eritreans paying as much as $6,000 to be smuggled out of the country.

This is a nation ranked last (No 180) eight years (2009-2016) in a row on the Reporters Without Borders' World Press Freedom Index, and named the most censored country on earth by the Committee to Protect Journalists.

As they have done for many years, Eritrean authorities continue to ruthlessly restrict and punish both independent and state journalists. Denial of freedom also extends to religious practices, where all Protestant denominations of Christianity have been banned since 2002. State interference also extends to the Coptic Orthodox Church, which is supposed to be permitted to operate in the country. The church's 3rd Patriarch, Abune Antonios, was ousted and placed under house arrest in defiance of Pope Shenouda III of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria in 2007.

Education in tatters

Although Eritrea boasts about expanding basic education and building schools, various factors effectively have turned the schools into ghost houses. Some schools operate with a single teacher who is expected to do all the teaching as well as covering administrative chores. Eritrea has been applauded for achieving some of the UN's Millennium Development Goals, yet most Eritreans who can afford it seek basic medications in neighbouring countries. All private clinics have been banned since 2010. Most government clinics and hospitals are regularly short of basic supplies, and patients are often asked to get intravenous drips and other medical supplies from private pharmacies.

Construction of new houses has been outlawed since 2005 despite acute shortages, and so is fishing in coastal areas where locals depend on it for their food and livelihood.

In a society that places a high value on education, the state wages a systematic war against education.

This started in 2001 when the regime ordered most teachers to work on national service salary, and the decline was exacerbated two years later when the government moved the final year of secondary school to a military training centre, Sawa, where students combine military training with regular studies. As another impediment to education, the only university in the country, the University of Asmara, was closed in 2006, replaced by underequipped, semi-military colleges.

With the systematic discouragement and prohibition of business, construction, private clinics and the university, much of the country's productive human resources and capital have fled. As a result, many of the remaining citizens, those with a small amount of capital, have started investing in farms that aren't reliant on imported goods. Yet, the state makes this difficult, too, by frequently fixing prices and confiscating privately owned tractors during the high season.

Apart from the trivial exercise of democracy in schools (electing class monitors), free elections have never been permitted in Eritrea. From the smallest unit to the highest ministerial level, all officials are appointed, not elected.

Recycling state propoganda
The national media ceaselessly recycle state propaganda. Print and online media have deteriorated into private photo albums of the president, while the national TV station, ERI-TV, is essentially a giant selfie-stick for the president.

Recently, hype has been generated about the booming mining sector in Eritrea, yet every day the country is being pushed closer to abject poverty. Eritrea's share of mining income and the way it is spent is closely controlled by the president and his close associates.

While every Eritrean state action since independence has disregarded the rule of law and worsened living conditions, the negative effect of these policies has intensified since 2012. In addition to the regular military conscription, the regime decreed a "popular army" programme that requires all civilians between the ages of 18 and 70 to be armed and available to perform free manual labour at a moment's notice.

These draconian policies were coupled with local currency redemption at the beginning of 2016. According to the new policy, Eritrean nationals can withdraw no more than 5,000 Nakfa (about the cost of a month's rent for a two-bedroom house in the capital) in a single month from their savings. This rule is in effect despite the fact that the nation's economy absolutely relies on cashflow.

With the resulting severe lack of currency flow and other extreme restrictions, prices for most items have been skyrocketing. Yet the government, in an attempt to balance the market, forces local farmers in Eritrea to sell their products at fixed prices. For example, during the most recent Easter holiday, police were deployed to the marketplace to make sure consumable products such as tomato and onions were being sold at fixed prices.

While the opposition to the Eritrean government from the international community and the Eritrean diaspora has gradually been increasing, geological developments in the region have been strenghtening the regime's hand. At a high cost to local residents who have been pushed away from fishing and other jobs in the port of Assab, Eritrean authorities have leased that port to the United Arab Emirates for coalition forces to conduct their joint military operation against Yemen. Another island has been leased to Egypt to destabilise Ethiopia. Apart from President Afwerki and his group, nobody in Eritrea benefits from such dealings.

For the past three to four years, the president has been isolating himself and growing increasingly paranoid, depending more and more on his military and security forces. Afwerki has launched poorly planned and researched capital projects that drain material resources and manpower from the small nation. A blatant example of this is the many dam projects for which the whole nation is required to provide free labour and the president serves as site manager. He moved his office to the construction site and handles daily presidential tasks from his new location.

This is the exceedingly gloomy situation in which Eritrea found itself while celebrating its hard-won independence. Happy Independence Day, Eritrea … anyways.

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