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Eritrea: Woldeab Woldemariam, even after death they tried to silence him


Woldeab Woldemariam, a Visionary Eritrean Patriot, Biography

By Dawit Mesfin

Now I know why a monument has been erected for Alexander Pushkin, the renowned Russian poet, in the heart of Asmara, while the country’s first independence campaigner, one who co-fathered Eritrea alongside Ibrahim Sultan and other nationalists of the 1940s, is brushed aside.

Although my primary objective is to evoke a picture of Eritrea via the story of a unique individual set in an era prior to the armed struggle, I came to realize the portrayal of Woldeab Woldemariam’s story would only cover certain aspects of the history of Eritrea. It does not do justice to those aspects shaped by Sheik Ibrahim Sultan, Tessema Asberom, Abdulkadir Kebire and others.  And then there are those who opposed Woldeab and his fellow campaigners of the Eritrea-for-Eritreans campaign. But they own the other side of the story. This is Woldeab’s.

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Yemane Gebreab

The Ultra Nationalist Youth Wing of the Eritrean Government’s Party

Affronted in the Netherlands

By Dawit Mesfin

The youth wing of the ruling party of Eritrea had a plan to hold a European wide conference in Veldhoven , the Netherlands from the 13th to 17th of April, 2017. However, Eritrean activists successfully launched an appeal for the Dutch authorities to halt the gathering.  The conference was stopped after a Dutch court backed the mayor of Veldhoven in closing the gathering, arguing that it was detrimental to safety and security of local residents.  The event was going to be headed by President Isaias Afwerki’s senior adviser and right-hand man, Yemane Gebreab, whose arrival was described by the Dutch cabinet as “awkward”.  He was denied official reception by the government and eventually blocked from conducting a seminar for the Young People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (YPFDJ).

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Fifteen years ago, a deadly silence descended on Eritrea


Issayas Aferworki in 1986 in the bush. Photo Koert Lindijer

Issayas Aferworki in 1986 in the bush. Photo Koert Lindijer

The Eritrean exile Dawit Mesfin is a bitter man. “There is no news at all of the prisoners”, he says from London. “They have totally been isolated in secret detention since their arrest fifteen years ago. That is an extremely cruel measure against Eritreans who sacrificed everything for the liberation of their country”.

Mesfin is still affected about what happened on the morning of September 18, 2001 in the capital Asmara. President Isayas Afeworki on that day committed fratricide. He put 23 critical senior government politicians and soldiers behind bars – all comrades of the thirty-year liberation struggle – as well as twelve prominent journalists. “Of the twelve journalists, we think, five are still alive,” said Abraham Zere, another Eritrean exile. “The last survivors wait in jail for death to come”.

The arrests ushered in a period of repression without end. Eritrea is at the bottom of the world list of press freedom, it has never held elections since its independence in 1993. Almost thousand youngsters flee the country every week.
Zere calls it “a chilly police state where fear has been implanted in people’s genes”. Independent researchers and journalists rarely get permission to visit the country, so the scant information usually comes only from exiles.

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