Eritrea 2016 – A Review (Part II)

Eritrea had a quite unforgettable year in 2016, a combination of challenges and success stories. Here is a look at Eritrea in review of 2016 through its major headlines in the diplomatic work, conferences, new agreements, reforms, and everything in between.

By Mela Ghebremedhin | for Shabait,

What a year it has been for the world. We saw increasing insecurity in countries formerly known for their safety, growing climate change, deepening economic crisis, expanding emerging markets at the expense of some larger powers, growing global migration that has surpassed World War II levels, deepening despair in the Middle East, emerging of newly elected US President, passing of Cuban Revolution figure Fidel Castro and the list can go on.

Eritrea, also, had a quite unforgettable year in 2016, a combination of challenges and success stories. After the New Year’s celebration and the Geez Christmas in early January, Eritrea was quickly immersed into events, diplomatic work, conferences, new agreements, and reforms, with everything culminating in the silver Jubilee anniversary of Independence Day.

In today’s first issue of the year, let’s look at Eritrea in review of 2016 through its major headlines, particularly related to cooperation, divided into two parts, you already looked at the review of the first half of 2016 on our last issue and today, Eritrea profile presents its second and final part.

July, celebrating the youth and the intellectuals simultaneously…

After a turbulent June, July was a quieter month for Eritrea. While in the middle of the heavy rainy season, to the delight of Eritrean dwellers, we transitioned to the time of festivities in the diaspora in different parts of Europe and North America.

Here in Eritrea, the 29th round of Sawa’s 12th graders came to an end and was celebrated in zeal under the 7th Eri-Youth Festival organized by the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS) as it is a tradition every two years. This year’s festival celebrated Eritrean youth with more than 20,000 participants, including the diaspora gathered in the hub of the Gash Barka region for four days.

Meanwhile, throughout the rainy season, graduations flew one after the other throughout the whole season while youngsters from high school engaged themselves in community services known as Ma’etot, a 10 years-strong summer program aimed at preserving the environment as well as enhancing a sense of ownership and civic duties towards youth nationwide.

COMESA also delivered a follow-up workshop to key stakeholders and policy makers on money laundering and illicit financial flows in the capital city. Meanwhile, Eritrea continued its diplomatic journey by attending the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in Istanbul, Turkey, followed by the 27th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union in Kigali, Rwanda in which Minister Osman Saleh delivered a statement.

In terms of investment and cooperation, a high-level government delegation went on a working visit to China to discuss and negotiate issues of trade, investment, mining, infrastructure, housing, agriculture and human capacity building.

Coinciding with the China-Africa Cooperation Forum in Beijing, China, the Eritrean delegation led by Hagos Ghebrehiwet, Head of Eritrean Economic Affairs and the National Mining Corporation, took part in the event.

Soon after the national festival, the International Conference on Eritrean Studies (ICES) took place at Asmara Palace between the 20th and 22nd of July. Participants including international scholars, representatives of international institutes, government officials, and members of the diplomatic corps, public intellectuals and students gathered together for this unique event to share their ideas and experiences through various panel discussions and papers presented on a range of topics related to Eritrea.

August, displaying Eritrea’s cultural treasure and harmony…

The beginning of August continued to celebrate the youth with the commemoration of International Youth Day marked in Asmara under the umbrella of NUEYS and the UN Development Program (UNDP) through workshops and discussions with one aim to have an “Eritrea Free of Poverty by 2030”.

As it is the tradition since the first years of independence and the Bologna Festivals held during the struggle, Eritrea hosted Festival Eritrea in the Asmara Expo grounds for ten days filled with cultural performances, shows, exhibition stands, food and beverages and a bazaar to fulfil everyone’s taste, especially children. Under the theme of “Festival: the Foundation of Unity and Diversity”, combined with the heavy rainfall, this year’s festival was another reflection of Eritrea’s cultural heritage and harmony.

August was also significant in Eritrea’s politics with the cabinet of ministers meeting on August 11th and 12th. During the cabinet meeting, all ministers presented their report, action plan and way forward for the year 2017. In his paper, President Isaias Afwerki focused mainly on the development of general education, stabilizing the balance of payment, revising the monetary policy, trade and industrial policies as well as ensuring the capacity and cleanliness of government institutions.

The month of August was one in which the nation strengthened and built new diplomatic relations. As such, Minister Osman Saleh held talks with Netherlands counterpart, Mr. Bert Koenders to develop constructive diplomatic engagement and mutual cooperation. Soon after, talks with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida were held in Nairobi on fostering bilateral relations during sideline of Tokyo International Conference on African development.

September, observing history and holy days…

September 1st, a day remembered by all Eritreans since the beginning of the armed struggle, was celebrated in Eritrea for the 55th time. For the occasion, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) stated that,

“the people of Eritrea were compelled to resort to armed struggle in 1961 to assert their inalienable national rights when all the vigorous legal, peaceful and political endeavors that they conducted in the 1940s and 1950s, in the heydays of Africa’s decolonization, were singularly ignored by the UN and the international community at large”.

A week later, it was time to celebrate the holy days of Kudus Yohannes (or St. John), gathering at Bahti Meskerem Square to celebrate the Geez New Year, the beauty of the harvest season and most commonly known through the tradition of the bonfire or the torch. This year’s uniqueness is that another holy days was celebrated at a similar time: Eid Al-Adha followed by ‘Meskel’ or the “finding of the true cross”. All holidays were vividly celebrated this month at Bahti Meskerem Square giving a festive feeling to local citizens.

On the other side, events continued with the 12th YPFDJ North America Conference in Washington DC, gathering hundreds of Eritrean youth under the theme of “Reinforcing Professional and Economic Contribution of the Youth for Sustainable Development and Strengthening International Relations”. The South Sudanese branch of YPFDJ, on its side, held its first congress on September 25th.

At home also, conference on literacy in line with International Illiteracy Eradication Day was conducted while “Tourism for All” was the motto of this year’s International Day of Tourism celebrated for its 22nd time in the country.

Great diplomatic achievements were achieved this month with the signing of cooperation protocol between Eritrea and Germany as well as the meeting between Foreign Affairs Minister and Former UN Secretary General Ban-Ki Moon by month’s end.

September also closed with Eritrea receiving the EPI Award for outstanding achievement in expanding the program on immunization by the WHO and UNICEF. Additionally, the 13th Eritrean Military Sports Competition officially opened on September 1st ending in October 29 in the city of Keren where nine Eritrean Defence Force (EDF) sports clubs took part.

October, and more public diplomacy…

While Eritrean students at both the Master’s degree and PhD levels took part in a scholarship program to Russia in various fields of study from medicine to engineering, World Food Day was marked at the Hamelmalo College of Agriculture putting greater focus on ensuring food security and encouraging even greater achievements.

October, sadly, was remembered for the month that we saw the passing away of one of Eritrea’s greatest diplomats and former fighter, Ambassador Girma Asmerom, on October 5th. Nonetheless, the diplomatic world continued with UNHRC’s EXCOM meeting in Geneva attended by Ambassador Tesfamichael Gerahtu while President Isaias Afwerki embarked on a diplomatic trip to UAE, holding talks with Sheik Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan on enhancing bilateral ties between the two countries.

Diplomatic effort continued with the Assembly of the AU on Maritime Security, Safety and Development in Lome, Togo on October 15th. Eritrea was busy at the UN with a side event organized in collaboration between both Eritrea and Finland Permanent Missions, Finn Church Aid, UNDP and NUEYS calling for “Youth leadership in Peace and Security”.

Also, the Eritrean delegation attended the 28th ordinary session of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) in Gambia. The presented report highlighted the legal and institutional framework, policies and programs implemented.

Simultaneously, another event was organized at the UN in New York entitled “Mainstreaming Human Rights through Partnership” and Mr. Yemane Gebreab, Presidential Advisor, addressed the UNHCR third committee at the Interactive Dialogue in which he underlined that,

“We favor dialogue, engagement and cooperation. Unfortunately, the policy of seeking to isolate and undermine Eritrea has limited our role. It has also deprived the Horn of Africa of the positive contribution we would have been able to make”.

The diaspora community also continued its public diplomacy as well as conducted annual assessment meetings such as the conference of the National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW) in Europe between 25 to 30 October.

November, between visits and sport victory…

Indeed, Eritrean sports have been at the forefront of this year with multiple victories, greater international participation and medals or cycling jerseys won. To strengthen this, the gold winner of the Beijing World Championship, Ghirmai Ghebreselassie, continued to impress his fans by becoming the youngest person ever to win the New York World Marathon on November 6. Athlete Ghirmai was well celebrated by the Eritrean community in New York on this special occasion.

The month of November was also a busy one regarding diplomatic work. Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Arefaine Berhe attended and headed the Eritrean delegation at the Third Africa-Arab Ministerial Conference on Agricultural Development and Food Security. Minister Osman Saleh participated at the Climate change Conference COP22 in Marrakesh, Morocco followed by the Africa- Arab summit in Equatorial Guinea.

Adding to these, Minister of Information, Mr. Yemane Ghebremeskel, participated at the EU-initiated joint conference on issues regarding Eritrea at the European Parliament in Brussels under the theme “Eritrea – Opportunity for Development”. The event provided the opportunity to stress constructive engagement and cooperation, as stressed by Member of the European Parliament Brian Hayes. Meanwhile, Minister Yemane, on his part, outlined Eritrea’s national policies for sustainable economic development and plans for multilateral and bilateral partnerships.

At a regional level, President Isaias Afwerki received credentials of six ambassadors including the UK and Northern Ireland, Qatar, Italy, Israel and France before embarking on a visit to Egypt to hold talks with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al- Sisi. The leaders called for boosting bilateral relations and cooperation between both countries, including fisheries, agriculture, livestock resources, trade and investment.

Once again, the Somali-Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) continued to overstep its mandate and released a new report, stating— yet again—there was no evidence of Eritrean support of Al-Shabaab. The report led to the passing of Resolution 2317 (2016), drafted by the UK mission, extending the mandate of SEMG for reasons that few can understand.

Attempting to reclaim national history in the voice and authorship of Eritrean, the well-accomplished and esteemed historian Almesged Tesfay published “Eritrea: From Federation to Occupation and Revolution” as his final installment of his Eritrean history trilogy. The book launch was well inaugurated with an eager, important crowd gathering at the Expo-Hall and making his last long awaited book the first of his series.

December, commemorating international days …

Alongside internationally recognized days of remembrance, Eritrea, each year, has placed great emphasis in commemorating international holidays that help forward national development initiatives. As such, on December 1st, Eritrea commemorated World Aids Day for the 23rd time through banners in major cities, awareness slogans disseminated and an official ceremony held on the premises of the Orotta National Referral Hospital hall under the theme of “Let’s Stand United to Control HIV/ AIDS”.

Simultaneously, the UN in Eritrea and the Government of Eritrea signed a new partnership agreement, the Strategic Partnership Cooperation Framework for 2017- 2021 while commemorating UN Day at the NCEW hall on December 1st. Government bodies, members of the diplomatic corps and the UN family were among the participants. The launch of the new SPCF reflects the ongoing and strengthened relations between the government and the UN Country team in achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) as well as the Africa Union Agenda 2063.

With the passing of revolutionary Fidel Castro, the Eritrean delegation attended his funeral in Cuba while statement on migration was delivered at the Council of the International Organization for Migration in Geneva by Mr. Nebil Said Idris.

President Isaias Afwerki, on his part, received and held meetings with Mr. Mamadou Talla, Special Envoy of the President Macky Salla of Senegal at the State Palace to discuss future cooperation between the two countries.

Following these events, the International Day of the child, as well as the Disabled, were officially celebrated in great zeal without failing to recall World Diabetes Day allowing stakeholders to take a stand and assess the situation in Eritrea.

December 9th was Human Rights Day and Minister Osman Saleh stated on that day “the Eritrean Government commitment and responsibility to advance human rights to its people. It will also strengthen its engagement and cooperation as well as join the collective effort to address the emerging crisis in the global human architecture”.

Civil society groups within the diaspora also took the time to end the year with an assessment meeting and work plans for 2017 in all corners of the world. December 12th marked the history of global Mekete with the peaceful demonstration held in London, UK by more than 1,500 Eritreans and friends of Eritrea calling for the respect of Eritrean sovereign territory, the end to Ethiopian occupation and the end to unjust and illegal sanctions against Eritrea.

To beautifully end the year 2016, the application dossier presented to the UNESCO World Heritage to include Asmara won the 2016 Royal Institution British Award (RIBA) for Research. The dossier was supported with more than 1,300 pages of photographs depicting Asmara’s historic buildings and became 2016’s award winner.

While at the Asmara Palace Hotel, Prof. Betty LaDuke, a longtime friend of Eritrea, made the donation of her artistic work under the aegis of the Commission of Culture and Sport, an exhibition depicting her art and Eritrean history were shown to the public.

The chilly weather of the winter season did not stop dwellers to go out and enjoy time with closed ones or long lost friends to celebrate an end of year with joy. Streets and homes were all decorated with the shiny colors of the holiday season. On the eve of 2017, youngsters rushed to the free concert on Bahti Meskerem Square, while elders enjoyed a meal and coffee while watching Eri-TV live before hugging each other at the ringing bells of midnight while clubs and bars were full to the delight of their owners.

Looking back at Eritrea’s activities throughout the year 2016 allow one to analyze, assess and realized the numerous challenges and development made. A reflection of the past to start the new book by filling each of the 365 pages it contents.

With the beginning of 2017, let me wish a prosperous year in peace for Eritrea, Eritreans and friends of Eritrea!

35 thoughts on “Eritrea 2016 – A Review (Part II)

  1. Thank you very much for your summarized review of Eritrea 2016. An amazing work. Again, thank you so much for your time and your contribution. This should be documented in the National Archives of state of Eritrea’s Research & Documentation center.

    1. I love it too look at The Lion Of Nacfa and the young people around him,how comfortable,confident and happy they look.It looks like a photo of a family portrait or a pic.of get together of close friends.But to our detractors this young people are enduring hardship under this oppressive Dictator.What screwed up world we live in.

      1. It is a family photo. We are all family in Eritrea. Literally! We live in a small country so we are all kind of related to each other if you go back 5 or 6 generations. Do you know that disco song “We are family.” It is a 1979 song by Sister Sledge. That should be Eritrea’s national song.

          1. Thanks Bro. B.Adal i came in the USA 1980 as a young man i had a lot of fun dancing to this song.So like brother with the nic, (We are family) said.I got all my people with me.I love you my ERI.brothers and sisters.With all the trouble i went through for just bieng Eritrean,i would not trade it for any thing in this fucked up world.ERI.for life the land of heroes and heroins.

          2. Bro.teaum afka yisear.i would love to meet you on one of our visits back home.The Suwa or melloti or cappuccino is on me.(but only the first round LOL)

        1. I agree with you 100% we are indeed one family.We live and die together we get buried in the same martyrs cemetery.A pic.speaks more than words.In the western world where i live everything is staged ‘FAKE” for political get a vote you do everything,say and promise what the people want to hear.But if you want to have a picture taken with the President you have to be a big campaign Donner or a child of the inner circle,if not you are a pawn for their immediate gain.But in Eritrea the office of our leaders is open to every citizen.Well even if you miss them in their office you could still find them in a public hangout,having coffee,beer or playing billiardo.(shooting pool) or in a night club having fun with the masses. I visit back home every chance i get.and i am eyewitness.That is one of the reasons i am Shaebia to the grave.Our humble leaders made us every patriotic and nationalistic Eritrean is the owner of his country.There is no Elitism or ruling class in today’s Eritrea.I hope and wish our coming generation will keep it that way after we gone forever.God bless Eritrea and happy new year to Eritreans inside and outside the country.

  2. The People Can do ,Eritrean people re-building their country brick on brick..It is Amazing how many works accomplish.Thank you Eritrea.We are proud of the way it is great photos PIA with his children,Brothers Sisters .

  3. Mela, thank you for your Excellent 2016 Part I and II Reviews of Eritrea.
    The summary of your review is best summarized by the Beautiful Smiles of the Lion of Nakfa and His Cubs.

  4. Eritrea’s priorties in the next 25 years should be heavily focused onn the economic front and doing everything it can to obtain large no interest loans for at least 25-30year from UAE to the tune of $5Billion.

    The $5B UAE-Eritrea Development Fund should be allocated 5 ways w/ $1B each:

    1. Modernize agricultural practice to increase output by 300%. Even if its required to build 100 more dams.

    2. Develop the fishery market. Buy 300 used fishing boats, build ship repair industry and cold warehouses for storage.

    3. Telecom, telecom, telecom: Global trade is shifting and we have to position ourselves for the China silk road. We must be connected like our satilites when we watch Eri music/film entertainment and focus on feeding the market what it needs. That way jobs are created and services are met.

    More importantly launch Peer-to-peer not only is it beneficial for the people but gov. is ensured to receive taxes on time so we could continue and better serve social service and banking.

    The power of blockchain (producer of bitcoin) or mobile money like M-Pesa in Kenya will transform more people’s life then the INTERNET.

    4. Geothermal/solar investment: We must produce more energy than we need. I believe we can re-energize our light industrial complexes and compete with South Africa like we did in 1930s.

    Along the way, complete feasibility on the Red Sea Dam and let the Saudi fund and hire our dam build expertise. They can export 80% of it via sea cables and 20% stay home and perhaps export to djibooty if stops acting like a commercial city prostitute for foreign militaries and focus on creating jobs for its people so the khat addicts citizens dont spill over to our deciplined Afaris on our a side in the future.

    5. Others: Tourism sector, new housing dev, entrepreneurship classes/venture funding or capital for businesses to trade with outside world but only if it compliments our local markets/industries.

    Warning to Readers: this is from a young guy with no formal education. But I do have a PhD. I’m common sense 🙂

    1. ኣሌክ - Alec you · Edit

      Well.. ከምቲ ለባማት ዝበልዎ — ካብ ምህሮ’ስ ኣእምሮ first. So ur analysis on building a stable economy is brilliant.

      And I hope it will start soon.

    2. If I could add one thing to your list, it would be transportation networks — roads and rails. We need durable roads that could handle heavy trucks. Also, build a rail system from Massawa that goes all the way to the west, south and north part of the country. Bring foreign expertise.

      1. Good point Kaleab,

        The list is designed to spur the private sector and boost the economy. I believe public roads and infrastructure projects allocated from gov. budget. Remember by 2020 there will be 4 modernized mines that will produce revenues. This revenue should used to further electricity coverage, new transport and provide commercial scale water projects. Road construction is an important component to economic success but should be given priorities only if it’s meets our strategic interest.

        75% of new housing should be invested by Diasporas/friends of Eritrea/ reputable investors and with favorable terms that way they come back and build more.

        Just an idea.

    3. Near perfect Beenie.
      I am sure you have taken it for-granted the Importance Developing of Education Sector….and am sure you included the Private Economy Sector Development….in your list.

      1. With literacy level reaching 80% under 25years, we don’t to say much more where this trajectory is going… private sector will be the backbone of Eritrea economic rise. Also, don’t forget I didn’t calculate the contribution GoE will make in new found revenue, partnerships with new diplomatic relationships like EU $200M energy fund, etc etc. But you are 100% on the mark. Laying the foundation is absolutely crucial… perhaps we should look into next-generation platforms for getting complete coverage like e-reader tablet should be required for every Sawa graduate.

        I don’t want to go crazy with lots of ideas but I also want to be practical and achieve doable targets. One brick at a time 🙂

        1. Well said Beenie:
          In fact,U R on spot when talking about Practicality and Reality.Remember that when we are talking about Infrastructure, we are not talking about High Rise Buildings and Sky-Scrappers but about:
          Building the Infrastructure of:
          -Communication and Transportation
          -Education and Health Care-the Human Power/Human Resources(Higher Quality Education)
          -Energy, Water Resources and Agro-Industry
          -Tourism and Fishing Industries
          Building the BEST and the Strongest Infrastructure of our National Security and Defense is taken for granted as the TOP Priority of Priorities.
          Read what gave us a link when it is defending our EDF Compensation, where it is reported that Eritrea has, not only the Second Largest Army in Africa,but also a well disciplined and well trained Army since the Era of Liberation Struggle…
          These are, NOT only achievable targets but also Necessities,Priorities and Preconditions for the next level of Achievement.
          I believe the GoE has been working on those issues but the Major problem is the Financial Resources aspect of it (*De facto Sanctions)and some Basic Policy drawbacks including on the private Sector of the Economy.
          *De Facto Economic Sanction on Eritrea:
          Some treacherous Oppositions Groups claim that there is NO Economic Sanction on Eritrea but the latest Atlantic Council exposed the truth that any major foreign Investors cannot dare and feel comfortable to invest in Eritrea due to the direct and indirect(collateral ) damages of the sanctions..and in fact, that was a Threat Nevsum faced with through and by those Evil Groups.
          The pressure by the CIA on Germany to back off from sponsoring the Bisha Mining is a gross example, not to mention what the Eri Airlines had to go through when the CIA directly interfered and blocked any Boeing Carrier to be used by Eri Airlines….claiming that Eri Lines could be used to smuggle weapons to Al Shebab!!!
          The banning of the 2% Rehab tax for Eritrea was a gross and obvious way of economic sanction on Eritrea.
          The extensive lobbying and petitions against the EU Development Fund for Eritrea is another major testimony of Economic Sanction on Eritrea.
          But one of the most dangerous Sanctions is the serious and successful attempt to deprive Eritrea form its best and strongest Resources: The Youth!
          The rest is history…
          …I think, over all,it is AMAZING as to how Eritrea and the GoE have survived all these ODDS and Tsunamis..
          I am not contradicting here as being baptized here as an “Anti-PFDJ Gov” Citizen but to let you know as to why I side with the GoE when needed…by calling a spade,a spade.
          But that does NOT mean than the GoE is perfect as it has its own weaknesses and faults, that need to be addressed constructively so as to minimize our suffering and to avoid being victims of our enemies further.

          1. No government is perfect. Every nation or even small island state has human rights issue.

            More importantly, I’m confident in the direction Eritrea is headed with the leadership of our government. My only concern is job creation and economic growth.

            2017 will prove to be another successful milestone for our country. Stay tuned!

  5. ኣሌክ - Alec you · Edit

    Mela, Thank u for this masterpiece article????????????????
    And ዕድመን ጥዕናን to our leaders????????
    Lets make 2017 our year????????????????

    1. ጃህራ ናይ ገብሩ ኣስራትከ ኣበይ በጺሑ?

    2. This ugly Gebru Asrat and Sie Abraha are the top ten weyane with Pure hatred to Eritreans.The good thing the #1 hater Meless Zenawi threw both of them to the trash can before he went 6 feet under himself.Now the rest of them will be thrown to the big trash-been by the rest angry and frustrated Ethiopian MASSES.You Weyanes should be surprised you lasted this long.

    1. Amazing & Beautiful !!!
      What a hard work that is, but very fruitful and thank God for PFDJ, as they preserved the Eritrean “Chewa” tradition of not begging western countries. I’m proud Eritrean.

    2. TN, which Italian company built this??? Lol… or wait… It was an Eritrean Blueprint, Engineering, Labor, Materials and more importantly, VISION to EXECUTE THE PLAN W/ RESILIENCE AND NEVER-GIVING UP ATTITUDE.

      Good work guys!

    3. We Eritreans know how to move mountains.Ones a people learn they could change their surrounding to their advantage,that is it. No one can turn the clock back.Long live our selfless leaders,THE GOLDEN GENERATION you done more than your share.From now on it is up to the coming generation to improve and do it better and better.The standard is already set HIGH,take it HIGHER. And that is a given.

    4. ኣሌክ - Alec you · Edit

      So magnificent!! ???????? ????????

      Land of the can do ppl ERITREA???????????????????????????????? anything is possible.✊????????????

  6. Selamat Ms Mela(Meaning:Skill?):

    A great review and great potential for you to be a Top Journalist—specially in New Eritrea where you will have a full fledged Freedom of Speech to spit up your gut for the best Interest of Eritrea….when there will be Checks and Balances….and when you will be allowed to criticize fully and constructively our Government and its Officials and their performance..

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