Open Letter to the Eritrean Head of State

Source: Maka Angola

Your Excellency, President Isaias Aferwerki:

We write to convey our most sincere congratulations upon your country’s normalization of diplomatic relations with Ethiopia. This is a development much appreciated by all Africans of goodwill.

We write to you in our capacity as citizens of Africa to pledge our unequivocal solidarity with all the people of Eritrea. This includes the many Eritreans we see enduring all manner of risk and suffering in search of a better life outside their homeland. We acknowledge that we too hail from nations with varying governance and developmental challenges.  We write to you, in the spirit of Pan-African solidarity, to seek common solutions to our shared problems.

Africa’s many disparate nation states have undergone significant and diverse changes over the course of the last two decades.   [Today, many more Africans live in freedom than under repression].  Importantly, those African countries that have made the most progress – including attracting investment and tourism – over the last 25 years have been those whose citizens enjoy greater freedom of expression, press and movement, the rule of law, an independent judiciary, and political pluralism.

Sadly, in these critical areas, Eritrea has not kept pace with the changes seen elsewhere.  Over the past two decades Eritrea has been described as the most closed society on our continent, an unfortunate situation for a country with such rich human capital and potential, with so much to offer not only Africa but also the world.

We trust that by opening this channel of communication with Your Excellency, we may be afforded the opportunity to work with you to restore your country and the great people of Eritrea to their rightful place in the family of African nations.

Of particular concern to us is the fate of several journalists and activists who have been imprisoned for prolonged periods of time in Eritrea, many of whom have reportedly been denied regular visits from their families and loved ones.

Equally, we are disheartened by the plight of the many thousands of Africans, including some Eritreans, who feel compelled to flee their home countries in search of a better life for themselves and their families, risking life and limb and enduring inhumane deprivations and indignities across deserts and oceans.

Too many of these fellow Africans have found themselves in the rapacious hands of modern day slave traders and people traffickers even causing some to end up in slave markets in places such as Libya. Too many of these migrants and refugees have perished at sea in their quest for a better life.

We Africans are blessed with too much in our home countries to have our citizens suffer and be devalued this way.  This gloomy picture needs to change, and it is in this spirit that we address this message of solidarity to you, Your Excellency.

We respectfully call upon Your Excellency to allow a delegation of the signatories hereunder to visit Eritrea, and to afford us the opportunity to meet with you and your government as well as with ordinary citizens, including journalists, writers, and other persons currently in prison.

As with the bold step you have taken to normalize relations with Ethiopia, we believe a gesture of this kind would go a long way towards ending Eritrea’s isolation from the larger African family and could help usher in a new era of prosperity and freedom for your people.

It would be an honour to furnish you with any additional information you might require of us and we eagerly await your response.

The Signatories,

  1. Rafael Marques de Morais, Angola, leading anti-corruption campaigner and award winning investigative journalist
  2. John Githongo, Kenya, publisher, leading anti-corruption campaigner and award winning anti-corruption activist
  3. Kwasi H. Prempeh, Ghana, Executive Director of Center for Democratic Development
  4. Farida Nabourema, Togo, Executive Director of Togolese Civil League
  5. Leyla Hussein, Somalia, Women’s Rights & Health Campaigner, psychotherapist, writer and founder of the Dahlia Project
  6. Maina Kiai, Kenya, founder of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association
  7. Maaza Mengiste, Ethiopia, award-winning writer of Beneath the Lion’s Gaze
  8. Iva Cabral, Cape Verde, Chancellor of Lusófona [Lusophone] University and  daughter of Amílcar Cabral
  9. Belabbès Benkredda, Algeria, CEO and Founder of the Munathara Initiative, the Arab world’s largest online and television debate forum highlighting voices of youth, women and marginalized communities.
  10. Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, Uganda, a leading LGBT rights activist, founder and executive director of the LGBT rights organization Freedom & Roam Uganda, 2011 recipient of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders
  11. Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, Uganda, musician, member of parliament and youth leader recognized throughout East Africa
  12. Tundu Lissu, Tanzania, lawyer, CHADEMA politician, member of parliament and former president of the Tanganyika Law Society
  13. Amr Waked, Egypt, award winning actor, best known for his role in Syriana
  14. José Eduardo Agualusa, Angola, award winning writer, finalist in the 2016 Man Booker International Prize for his seminal work A General Theory of Oblivion
  15. Nasser Weddady, Mauritania, leading civil rights activist, consultant and co-editor of Arab Spring Dreams.
  16. Chiké Frankie Edozien, Nigeria, writer and professor of journalism at New York University
  17. Emmanuel Iduma, Nigeria, author
  18. Mona Eltahawy, Egypt, author and journalist
  19. Mireille Tushiminina, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gender & Equality advocate
  20. Felix Agbor Nkhongo, Cameroon, Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) and leading human rights defender
  21. Boniface Mwangi, Kenya, democracy activist, Ukweli political party founder, photographer and artist
  22. Adeyanju Deji, Nigeria, leading democracy activist and human rights defender
  23. Alieu Bah, The Gambia, leading democracy activist and human rights defender
  24. Tutu Alicante, Equatorial Guinea, leading democracy activist and Executive Director of Equatorial Guinea Justice (EG Justice)
  25. Andrea Ngombet Malewa, Congo Republic, Global Coordinator of the Sassoufit Collective
  26. Roukaya Kasenally, Mauritius, CEO of African Media Initiative
  27. Abdelrahman Mansour, Egypt, Executive Director of Open Transformation Lab, leading human rights defender and journalist
  28. Reem Abbas, Sudan, journalist and leading human rights defender
  29. Moussa Kondo, Mali, journalist, CEO and founder of the weekly L’Express de Bamako, anti-corruption crusader, Country Director of Accountability Lab Mali, 2015 Mandela Washington Fellow, 2018 Obama Foundation Fellow
  30. Ericino de Salema, Mozambique, Director of the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), academic, lawyer and journalist
  31. Jestina Mukoko, Zimbabwe, leading human rights activist and Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Initiative
  32. William Amanzuru, Uganda, environmental rights defender, founder of Friends of Zoka, winner of the EU Human Rights Defenders’ Award 2019
  33. Miguel de Barros, Guinea-Bissau, sociologist and Executive Director of the environmental NGO Tiniguena
  34. Bheki Makhubu, eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), Editor of the Nation Magazine and leading democracy defender
  35. Edson da Luz aka Azagaia, Mozambique, rapper and leading activist
  36. Charles Onyango-Obbo, Uganda, leading publisher and columnist
  37. Rodney Sieh, Liberia, leading newspaper editor of FrontPage Africa and democracy activist
  38. Oludotun Babayemi, Nigeria, democracy activist and monitoring and evaluation expert,
  39. Akin Olaniyan, Nigeria, journalist and media scholar
  40. Chanda Chisala, Zambia,  founder and president of Zambia Online
  41. Dany Ayida, Togo, Resident, Country Director, National Democratic Institute (DRC)
  42. George Sarpong, Ghana, Executive-Secretary of Ghana’s National Media Commission
  43. Rosemary Mwakitwange, Tanzania, Chief of Party, Freedom House
  44. James Smart, Kenya, leading journalist and news anchor
  45. Abdulrazaq Alkali, Nigeria, Executive Director Organisation for Community Civic Engagement (OCCEN) Nigeria
  46. Mathatha Tsedu, South Africa, Adjunct professor of journalism, Wits University and Acting Executive Director of the National Editors Forum (SANEF)
  47. Paulina Chiziane, Mozambique, writer
  48. Emanuel Saffa Abdulai, Sierra Leone, Executive Director of Society for Democracy Initiatives
  49. Zecharias Berhe, Ethiopia, Senior Fellow, African Good Governance Network
  50.  Canon Clement Hilary Janda, South Sudan, pan-African ecumenist
  51. Lamii Kpargoi, Liberia, journalist, democracy activist and lawyer
  52. Dr. George Ayittey, Ghana, economist, author and president of the Free Africa Foundation, Washington DC
  53. Evan Mawarire, Zimbabwe, pastor and democracy activist, founder of #ThisFlag movement
  54. Zineb El Rhazoui, Morocco, journalist and human rights advocate
  55. Marc Ona Essangui, Gabon, environmentalist, Executive Secretary of Brainforest
  56. Fred Bauma, Democratic Republic of Congo, democracy and youth activist, leader of the Lucha Social Movement
  57. Dr. Justin Pearce, South Africa, Department of Politics and International Studies, Cambridge University
  58. Asma Khalifa, Libya, activist, cofounder of Tamazight Women Movement
  59. Violet Gonda, Zimbabwe, journalist and President of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT)
  60. Fatoumata Camara, The Gambia, journalist, CEO/Founder  of the Fatu Network
  61. Jelili Atiku, Nigeria, human rights artist
  62. Fred Muvunyi, Rwanda, editor, Op-Ed contributor for Washington Post and a consultant for Freedom House
  63. Aimable Manikrakiza, Burundi, CEO of the Centre for Development and Enterprises Great Lakes
  64. Houssem Aoudi, Tunisia, CEO/Founder of Wasabi and Cogite – co-working Space, entrepeneur and activist
  65. Chouchou Namegabe, Democratic Republic of Congo, journalist and human rights activist, CEO & Founder Anzafrika
  66. Thulani Maseko, eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), leading human rights lawyer
  67. Samba Dialimpa Badji, Senegal, journalist
  68. Mariama Camara, Guinea, fashion designer and humanitarian, Founder/President of Mariama Fashion Production and the There is No Limit Foundation
  69. Olívio Diogo, São Tomé, sociologist and media commentator, coordinator of the Civil Society Network
  70. Adeola Fayehun, Nigeria, journalist/producer, “Keeping it Real with Adeola”
  71. Mohamed Soltan, Egypt, Executive Director, the Freedom Initiative
  72. Memory Banda, Malawi, children’s rights activist
  73. Ali Amar, Morocco, veteran journalist, co-founder and director of online news outlet Le Desk
  74. Ahmed Gatnash, Libya, co-founder & VP Operations, Kawaakibi Foundation
  75. Mohamed Keita, Mali,  Pan African rights advocate
  76. Norman Tjombe, Namibia, human rights lawyer and activist
  77. Uyapo Ndadi, Botswana, human rights lawyer, activist, and founder of the Ndadi Law Firm
  78. Phil ya Nangoloh, Namibia, human rights activist, monitor and Executive Director of NamRights Inc
  79. Jacqueline Moudeina, Chad, prominent award-winning lawyer and human rights activist
  80. Rosmon Zokoue, Central African Republic, journalist, blogger and activist
  81. Ahmed Gatnash, Libya, co-founder & VP of Operations, Kawaakibi Foundation
  82. Anas Aramayew Anas, Ghana, Africa’s leading investigative journalist and private investigator
  83. Boubacar Dialo, Niger, Editor, Liberation newspaper
  84. Abdourahman Waberi, Djibouti, acclaimed novelist, essayist, academic and short story writer, human rights activist, professor of literature at George Washington University
  85. Doudou Dia, Senegal, Executive Director, Goree Institute, Center for Democracy, Development and Culture in Africa
  86. Alain Mabanckou, Congo, novelist, journalist, poet and academic
  87. Francis Kpatindé, Benin,  journalist, former editor-in-chief of the newsweekly Jeune Afrique and former spokesman for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR)
  88. Mustafa Haji Abdinur, Somalia, award-winning journalist
  89. Thembo Kash, Democratic Republic of Congo, award-winning cartoonist
  90. Damien Glez, Burkina Faso, award-winning editorial cartoonist
  91. Ahmed Abdallah, Comoros, journalist
  92. Anton Harber, South Africa, former journalist, co-founder and editor of the Weekly Mail (now Mail & Guardian) and professor of Journalism at the University of the Witwatersrand
  93. John-Allan Namu, Kenya, award-winning investigative journalist, co-founder of Africa Uncensored, 2017 Desmond Tutu Fellow
  94. Alice Nkom, Cameroon, leading human rights lawyer, defender of rights of LGBT people
  95. Mouctar Bah, Guinea, veteran journalist
  96.  Andrew Feinstein, South Africa, former ANC MP; Executive Director of Corruption Watch UK,  author of “The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade”
  97. William Rasoanaivo, Madagascar, award-winning political cartoonist
  98. Claudia Gastrow, South Africa, anthropologist, Univeristy of Johannesburg
  99.  Motlatsi Thabane, Lesotho, professor of History, University of eSwatini
  100. Brenda Zulu, Zambia, journalist and ICT specialist
  101. Sylvia Amiani, Kenya, counseling and psychosocial practice for refugees in Germany
  102. Cyriac Gbogou, Ivory Coast, blogger, co-founder of O’Village and key actor of new technologies in the country
  103. Ola Diabi, Sudan, journalist and activist


  1. Dear Signatories,
    I am an Eritrean and African; who relentlessly explore many avenues of growth, peace and prosperity for Eritrea and therefore the whole of Africa. I appreciate your goodwill. However, I have a simple question. In your letter to the president of Eritrea, you mention “solidarity” to the betterment of Eritrea. Where were you when Eritrea was bleeding through the 30 years of war for independence? Where were you when Eritrea was cornered economically and diplomatically with illegal sanctions? It is astounding to see other Africans suffer and when Eritrea made it, you talk about democracy. Did you know that Eritrea has its unique home grown “National Charter” far better than what you learnt about democracy from your while colonialists? Did you check the records that Eritrea doesn’t owe to the IMF, World Bank … etc? Who are you to speak on behalf of Eritrea? Won’t it be worth your time to work on your own corners and leave Eritrea in its own “home grown path”? How arrogant must you be to even think Eritrea needs your help? Why sign a letter that is conceited and arrogant? What would you offer anyway? It is hilarious that you actually mention Eritrea; the Eritrea that has achieved its place in the world through its own vision. If you worry about refuges and Eritrean sufferings, just learn from it and make your own countries hospitable. The only nation at peace in the Horn is Eritrea. Is it by chance? No, Eritrea worked through a path that many Africans won’t dare to fathom. Eritrea will be better off if you work on your own domestic issues in your respective nations. You need to break the yoke of colonial mindset first before you speak regarding Eritrea. Please shave off your bastardized outlook. And by the way, throw away the “Aid” mentally. If you need to learn how, please read Eritrea’s National Charter. Perhaps then, Eritrea may consider and trade with you.

    Araia G. Ephrem

    • Speak about the issues they have raised brother. We are sick of this 30 years rhetoric bla bla … what about the last 30 years when the government in Eritrea systematically imprisoned, killed so many citizens, why is the economy in shatters, why did around 700,000 people fled their home, why keep the young in military indefinitely with no pay, why hinder family reunions, etc etc … a lot of questions to be answered brother . Now you come here and bark cos they raised the issues you were supposed to raise as Eritrean citizen. Shame on you and I am shamed to call u my fellow Eritrean !!

  2. Thank you for ur concern over the poor country’s people dispersed all over the world for search the basic rights 👍


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