Eritrea Focus welcomes the recent rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea and congratulates Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali and President Isaias Afwerki on their courage and vision in starting this initiative to normalise relations between their two nations.
The rapprochement represents a very significant step forward to peace and stability, not only between the two countries but also the entire region. Two decades of confrontation have taken a terrible toll on the citizens of both countries, particularly those communities living along the border.
The recent reciprocal visits by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali and President Isaias Afwerki to each other’s countries have now broken this deadlock. Agreements have been signed which should allow normal relations to resume, people to visit their families and neighbours, and for trade to flow. There is now hope of a new era in the region, one that reflects the desire for reconciliation and forgiveness expressed by the vast majority of Eritreans and Ethiopians.
Eritrea Focus, which has campaigned consistently for Eritrea to become a member of the family of nations, with its citizens enjoying the rights and freedoms that others take for granted, fully supports these recent positive developments.
At the same time, it is vitally important to ensure that this joy does not cloud our judgement. The people of Eritrea continue to live without even the most basic rights. There is no rule of law and no functioning constitution. Freedom to worship and to assemble are highly restricted, and many of its people languish in jails. Many Eritreans are trapped in a system of indefinite national service.
However, with vision and courage, all of this can change.
Eritrea Focus calls upon President Isaias Afwerki and the Government of Eritrea to use this historic opportunity for the benefit of Eritrea and all its people, by taking the following actions:
1. Some important steps have been taken to reduce internal repression, with the freeing of
a small number of Muslim and Christian prisoners who were incarcerated for practising
their faith. Much more must be done:
1.1 The political prisons must be emptied, and prisoners assisted to return to their
normal lives as soon as possible.
1.2 Eritrea must implement its constitution in good faith and be well governed under the
rule of law.
1.3 The system of intense surveillance of citizens must end.
1.4 Freedom of expression through various media must be allowed to flourish.
1.5 Political parties must be allowed to function.
1.6 Rights entrenched by the UN Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the Eritrean
Constitution, must be observed.
1.7 Indefinite National Service must be scrapped immediately now that the
Government’s reason for its establishment and continuity has been removed. In the
future, participating in National Service can be a source of pride for Eritreans.
1.8 The business environment must be reformed to encourage investment that can
unleash the full potential of Eritreans’ entrepreneurial capacity.
2. The current peace initiatives need to be strengthened and grounded in solid
achievements and clear agreements. The first task is to demarcate the border. The UN
has offered to assist, and this help should be accepted. This process should be done with
sensitivity, flexibility and generosity, so that border communities, who have suffered so
badly, are not further deprived of their traditional lands, relationships and patterns of
life. Both Ethiopia and Eritrea need to resolve these questions in conjunction with the
affected communities themselves.
3. Eritrea’s dispute with Djibouti, which has festered since 2008, can and should be quickly
resolved. Peace in the region benefits all and we encourage the leaders of both countries
to engage in dialogue free of interference.
Eritrea Focus believes that President Isaias Afwerki will recognise this historic moment. He
must seize the reality of the situation and the opportunity accorded to him. He has seen the
joy of the people, the expression of their love for peace, and, through peace, the fulfilment
of their dreams.
We also hope that President Isaias Afwerki will now take seriously the transition to
democracy. He will see the benefits that this will bring – an end to isolation and world
hostility as a pariah state. Democratising will also help consolidate peace, release the energy
of the Eritrean people and bring development previously unseen.
This administration and any future administration should facilitate the voluntary return of
refugees from neighbouring countries and beyond with adequate provisions from the
international community. Any Eritrean who wants to return home should be encouraged to
do so. Anyone who returns should be guaranteed their human rights, including the freedom
of movement inside the country. They should also be assured of their right to leave at any
time, and their freedom to support any political party that recognises the Eritrean
Eritrea Focus urges President Isaias Afwerki to recall that political leaders always serve on
behalf of their people and that true leadership involves creating both the conditions and
opportunity for a successor.


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