11 April 2018

Ethiopia: Committee Eyes Resuming Ethio-Eritrea People to People Ties

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Eritrea and Ethiopia relations.

While the Ethiopian government's repeated calls for dialogue failed to get positive response from the regime in Asmara, concerned citizens of the two countries have recently initiated a new movement under the name 'Peace Song for Ethio-Eritrea' and they hope to normalize the situation.

Following the end of Ethio-Eritrean war almost two decades ago, the contact between the peoples of the two countries who share common culture, language and history, was restricted. This is despite the repeated calls by the government of Ethiopia for dialogue.

Mentioning Eritreans across the globe want to have a legally recognized and independent committee that represents Eritreans in Ethiopia, Isaac Yosief, Acting Chairperson of the Eritrean Committee tells The Ethiopian Herald that because of the new movement, the awareness and attitude of the people on both sides is growing and changing for the better.

The Acting Chairperson also states that considerable progress have been registered in this regard following the efforts exerted so far, though a lot remains to be done.

Abraham Gebrelibanos, an Ethiopian Committee member and owner of Celebrity Events that organizes the movement says there were three pillars which are preconditions to determine the survival, sustainability and success or failure of such movements.

He advises that the Committee should include scholars and knowledgeable individuals from both sides. It also needs to look for neutral parties that can sponsor and cover the movement's expenses.

Abraham further elaborates that such a movement has to be granted permission from the country it operates in. "So that the movement becomes successful in this regard as it would make it easy to reach agreements to cover its financial needs."

He also notes that two successful discussion forums, where scholars, opposition parties and other influential figures from both sides took part, have been organized so far.

The discussion on peace where over 500 Eritreans took part and various issues raised freely is the other success story, as Abraham further indicates.

According to Isaac and Abraham, the government of Ethiopia has given them permission to organize such meetings, discussions, and forums.

"The major thing that the peoples of the respective countries could teach us within the movement over the last five months is an indicator of their desire for peace. In other words, the movement has already become a public project," Isaac notes.

The Committee has called on all pertinent and concerned organs like Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA), Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other government agencies of Ethiopia to seriously consider the movement which is heading towards getting legal permission, Isaac underlines.

The Eritrean committee is acting under the permission of Celebrity Events for it is not yet granted the green light from the concerned ministry and other institutions, Isaac points out.

"If the Eritrean Committee had been given the necessary legal permission, it could have been able to mobilize all Eritreans across the globe through various mechanisms." he reiterates.

However, says Isaac, the destructive role few forces from both sides in hindering the project should not be, at the same time, underestimated. The people of the respective countries should be aware of such forces and need to be part of the constructive movement.

Having expressed their hopes that the Ethiopian government would consider their case as the status quo of the country is now getting back to normalcy, they also expressed the Committee's hope that there is another promising move that the outlook of almost all Eritreans is now being totally changed.

"Previously, Eritreans used to see such movements with suspicious eyes. But, these days, they are showing interest as they have understood the project's ultimate objectives, " Isaac highlighted.

It was also learnt from the Committee that there is no such a movement in Eritrea.

"We did not take the case to Eritrea thus far for we have to, first finalize everything here in Ethiopia before we move to Eritrea," they underline.

The Committee requested the Ethiopian government to create conducive environment that enables Eritreans obtain visa, along with other preconditions, to let them enter Ethiopia for purposes related to the movement.

They also called on ARRA to do all its best to facilitate the process by taking Eritrean cases to the concerned government organs on their behalf.

Haileselassie Gebremariam, Legal Services and Refugee Status Determination Unit Leader at ARRA, says that no case with such request has been brought to ARRA before.

The Ethiopian Herald has made repeated efforts to incorporate Ministry of Foreign Affairs' say on the issue through telephone, but failed to do so.

The Committee members also heightened that there are destructive attitudes reflected by few individuals against the movement particularly connecting it with the crisis in Ethiopia in the recent times.

"But the dream of the movement is to see sovereign Eritrea and Ethiopia which are strategic partners politically, economically, socially through adopting a win-win approach."

Hence, misconceptions on the movement should be corrected. "The same is true that the two governments should know that this is not to make one party beneficiary and the other one benefactor," they stress.

It is recalled that Ethiopia's new Prime Minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed has called on the Eritrean government to resume dialogue for peace during his acceptance speech at Parliament.

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