Abune Makarios, Bishop general in the Orthodox Coptic Church, welcomed reconcilliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
“We thank God for Dr Abiy Ahmed – he is good for us Eritreans and for Ethiopians,” the Bishop said on a visit to London.
“We have never seen anything like him,” he said, comparing Dr Abiy to world leaders like Britain’s Winston Churchill or Germany’s Konrad Adenauer.
“But,” the Bishop continued, “he consults his people; he talks to his parliament. And if the parliament says no, he will not act. I have been crying out for an Eritrean parliament, but we don’t have one.”
Abune Makarios said that one person cannot decide for an entire nation – otherwise he is a dictator. He also called for the recognition of more than one party, so that Eritrea could become a true democracy.
The Bishop went on to stress the importance of establishing the border with Ethiopia. “We are neighbours and brothers,” he said, “but if we go to see our neighbour we must knock on his door.”
Abune Makarios said he deplored the fact that while Dr Abiy had released Ethiopian political prisoners, so many Eritreans continued to languish in jails. “I don’t want to see women crying because they have a relative lost in prison.”
“We have more than 300 prisons, but not one university.” He pointed out that Ethiopia has more than 50 universities, while it has freed its political prisoners.
Asked how he thought the situation should develop in Eritrea, the Bishop said that he was not a politician and would never instruct or advise anyone how to vote, but the people should have the right to decide their futures for themselves.
Speaking about the position of Eritreans in the diaspora, Abune Makarios said their condition gave him great sadness. “They don’t come together,” he said. He also deplored the role government officials played in dividing communities.
Abune Makarios finished by calling for the British government to use its influence in the UN Security Council to stop the suffering of the Eritrean people.”The British have the power,” he observed.
The Bishop said that he hoped that one day the UN and the African Union would act to end dictatorships.