Office of Representative Karen Bass: Congressional Delegation Returns From Africa – 05 March

  • A US congressional delegation has visited Eritrea for the first time in 14 years, as part of efforts to renew contact between Washington and Asmara following the peace deal last year.
  • A press release from the office of Rep Karen Bass, a Democrat and Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, said that the goal of the visit was to “support regional peace and security in the Horn of Africa and to encourage countries to place human rights at the center of the reforms.”
  • Bass said: “Our delegation had a number of productive conversations with Eritrean government officials. We discussed the need for transformation and urged officials to be vigilant about human rights abuses in Eritrea and to implement respect for civil liberties.”
  • Rep Joe Neguse, the first American Eritrean elected to serve in Congress, said: “I look forward to further discussions with my colleagues and the State Department on how to further promote peace, security, human rights, and democratic reforms in the region.”
  • Rep Ilhan Omar, also a member of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, said: “America has been supportive of Prime Minister Abiy’s reform agenda, and I believe we must use this opportunity to foster prosperity in the region and make investments that will fundamentally transform our relationship with the region.”
  • The visit was reported by Voice of America, amongst others.

This is Africa: Inaugural Asmara-Addis Lit Fest launched: “a new pan-African literary event” – 05 March

  • This is Africa publishes a report on the inaugural Asmara-Addis Literary Festival (in Exile), an Eritrean-Ethiopian literature festival held in Brussels in February.
  • The festival, 10 years in the making, was the brainchild of Eritrean-Ethiopian author Sulaiman Addonia, whose novel Silence is My Mother Tongue was published in 2018.
  • Maaza Mengiste, an Ethiopian author who took part in the festival, told This is Africa: “My conversations with writers from Eritrea living abroad has been a shared concern for continued openness, continued freedom. We all feel a responsibility towards people who live in our countries… Hopefully the freedom in Ethiopia continues to grow. Our concern is what happens to those people that don’t have the freedom to say everything.”
  • The festival also featured a panel discussion between African feminists titled I CREATE #IAMNOTAMUSE, where speakers included Ellah Wakatama Allfrey, Maaza Mengiste, Minna Salami, Rachida Lamrabet, and Amina Jama.

CyclingPub: Interview – Merhawi Kudus: Eritrean cycling is developing very well – 05 March

  • CyclingPub publishes an interview with Merhawi Kudus, “one of the first members of the ‘Eritrean wave’ of riders to make their way to cycling’s top level”, following his recent overall victory in the Tour du Rwanda last week for Astana Pro Team.
  • On the future of Eritrean cycling, Merhawi said: “[I]t’s developing very well. We have five professional riders, even six or seven if you include the professional continental teams. You can see the country growing slowly… Cycling is one of the biggest sports in Eritrea. We have local races every Sunday. I see it improving slowly.”

UNHCR: Eritrean refugees protest conditions in Libyan detention as resettlement solutions falter – 05 March

  • UNHCR publishes a summary of remarks by spokesperson Shabia Mantoo at a press briefing in Geneva on the subject of asylum seekers detained in Libya.
  • Mantoo said that UNHCR “is troubled by reports of the use of force against protesting asylum seekers last week in Sikka detention centre in Libya.” Around 50 people were reportedly injured when police intervened to stop the protest.
  • “UNHCR is also aware that following the last week’s protests some 120 people were transferred from Sikka detention centre to Ain Zara and Sabhaa detention centres. It is estimated that at the time of the incident more than 400 asylum-seekers were held in Sikka detention centre. All are registered with UNHCR, except for 20 individuals who had just arrived to the centre. The group includes 200 Eritreans, 100 Somalis, 53 Ethiopians and 20 Sudanese nationals.”
  • On 4 March, UNHCR evacuated 128 refugees to Niger. This was the third evacuation out of Libya this year, bringing the total of those evacuated out of the country to 3,303.

Addis Standard: In-Depth Analysis: Can Ethiopia Make The Transit To Stability? – 05 March

  • Addis Standard publishes an analysis by academic Dr Mehari Taddele Maru of political developments in Ethiopia.
  • Maru says: “[T]here has been stiff resistance to some of the reforms [instigated by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed]… People in the border areas also protested the government’s plans to hand over to Eritrea border areas in Badame and Zalambessa.”
  • “Reports of conflicts, violence, death, and displacement have become the new normal in Ethiopia.” A state of emergency has been triggered and “federal government has been forced to introduce what is in effect state of emergency in some regional states and to re-deploy elements of the army from Eritrean border areas.”
  • Maru concludes: “The volume of displaced individuals within and beyond the country’s borders has reached calamitous proportions and it is unlikely that this human tragedy is addressed unless and until political settlement could reached.2

All Africa: Eritrea: Micro Credit and Saving Opportunities Improving Lives – 05 March

  • All Africa republishes a press release from the Eritrean Ministry of Information on micro credits and saving initiatives in Eritrea.
  • A meeting held in Barnetu city reportedly heard that “around 300 million Nakfa has been distributed to 72 thousand beneficiaries nationwide”.
  • Tafla Asmerom, acting MD of the Savings and Microcredit Programs, said that in 2018 over 155 million Nakfa was distributed and the number of village banks increased from 664 to 702, with over 54% of the micro-credit opportunities provided to agricultural activities.

Times of Malta: Refugee crisis: a voice of hope – 06 March

  • The Times of Malta publishes a feature on Eritrean journalist and activist Meron Estefanos.
  • Meron, based in Sweden, hosts the radio show ‘Voices of Eritrean Refugees’ and regularly hears from fellow Eritreans, “many of whom end up in Malta” having fled their home country. “My number is handed out to migrants boarding boats from Libya and graffitied on the walls of Libyan detention centres,” she says.
  • Meron tells the paper: “I started doing work as a journalist, being critical of the Eritrean government, but eventually moved into migration. It changes your life when you actually speak to these people like I have. It is transformative. You just aren’t the same afterwards.”

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