Eritrea: Open Letter to the Eritrean Head of State

Eritrea’s government building in Asmara.
document

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,

Rafael Marques de Morais, Angola, leading anti-corruption campaigner and award winning investigative journalist

John Githongo, Kenya, publisher, leading anti-corruption campaigner and award winning anti-corruption activist

Kwasi H. Prempeh, Ghana, Executive Director of Center for Democratic Development

Farida Nabourema, Togo, Executive Director of Togolese Civil League

Leyla Hussein, Somalia, Women's Rights & Health Campaigner, psychotherapist, writer and founder of the Dahlia Project

Maina Kiai, Kenya, founder of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association

Maaza Mengiste, Ethiopia, award-winning writer of Beneath the Lion's Gaze

Iva Cabral, Cape Verde, Chancellor of Lusófona [Lusophone] University and daughter of Amílcar Cabral

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.

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

Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, Uganda, musician, member of parliament and youth leader recognized throughout East Africa

Tundu Lissu, Tanzania, lawyer, CHADEMA politician, member of parliament and former president of the Tanganyika Law Society

Amr Waked, Egypt, award winning actor, best known for his role in Syriana

José Eduardo Agualusa, Angola, award winning writer, finalist in the 2016 Man Booker International Prize for his seminal work A General Theory of Oblivion

Nasser Weddady, Mauritania, leading civil rights activist, consultant and co-editor of Arab Spring Dreams.

Chiké Frankie Edozien, Nigeria, writer and professor of journalism at New York University

Emmanuel Iduma, Nigeria, author

Mona Eltahawy, Egypt, author and journalist

Mireille Tushiminina, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gender & Equality advocate

Felix Agbor Nkhongo, Cameroon, Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) and leading human rights defender

Boniface Mwangi, Kenya, democracy activist, Ukweli political party founder, photographer and artist

Adeyanju Deji, Nigeria, leading democracy activist and human rights defender

Alieu Bah, The Gambia, leading democracy activist and human rights defender

Tutu Alicante, Equatorial Guinea, leading democracy activist and Executive Director of Equatorial Guinea Justice (EG Justice)

Andrea Ngombet Malewa, Congo Republic, Global Coordinator of the Sassoufit Collective

Roukaya Kasenally, Mauritius, CEO of African Media Initiative

Abdelrahman Mansour, Egypt, Executive Director of Open Transformation Lab, leading human rights defender and journalist

Reem Abbas, Sudan, journalist and leading human rights defender

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

Ericino de Salema, Mozambique, Director of the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), academic, lawyer and journalist

Jestina Mukoko, Zimbabwe, leading human rights activist and Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Initiative

William Amanzuru, Uganda, environmental rights defender, founder of Friends of Zoka, winner of the EU Human Rights Defenders' Award 2019

Miguel de Barros, Guinea-Bissau, sociologist and Executive Director of the environmental NGO Tiniguena

Bheki Makhubu, eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), Editor of the Nation Magazine and leading democracy defender

Edson da Luz aka Azagaia, Mozambique, rapper and leading activist

Charles Onyango-Obbo, Uganda, leading publisher and columnist

Rodney Sieh, Liberia, leading newspaper editor of FrontPage Africa and democracy activist

Oludotun Babayemi, Nigeria, democracy activist and monitoring and evaluation expert,

Akin Olaniyan, Nigeria, journalist and media scholar

Chanda Chisala, Zambia, founder and president of Zambia Online

Dany Ayida, Togo, Resident, Country Director, National Democratic Institute (DRC)

George Sarpong, Ghana, Executive-Secretary of Ghana's National Media Commission

Rosemary Mwakitwange, Tanzania, Chief of Party, Freedom House

James Smart, Kenya, leading journalist and news anchor

Abdulrazaq Alkali, Nigeria, Executive Director Organisation for Community Civic Engagement (OCCEN) Nigeria

Mathatha Tsedu, South Africa, Adjunct professor of journalism, Wits University and Acting Executive Director of the National Editors Forum (SANEF)

Paulina Chiziane, Mozambique, writer

Emanuel Saffa Abdulai, Sierra Leone, Executive Director of Society for Democracy Initiatives

Zecharias Berhe, Ethiopia, Senior Fellow, African Good Governance Network

Canon Clement Hilary Janda, South Sudan, pan-African ecumenist

Lamii Kpargoi, Liberia, journalist, democracy activist and lawyer

Dr. George Ayittey, Ghana, economist, author and president of the Free Africa Foundation, Washington DC

Evan Mawarire, Zimbabwe, pastor and democracy activist, founder of #ThisFlag movement

Zineb El Rhazoui, Morocco, journalist and human rights advocate

Marc Ona Essangui, Gabon, environmentalist, Executive Secretary of Brainforest

Fred Bauma, Democratic Republic of Congo, democracy and youth activist, leader of the Lucha Social Movement

Dr. Justin Pearce, South Africa, Department of Politics and International Studies, Cambridge University

Asma Khalifa, Libya, activist, cofounder of Tamazight Women Movement

Violet Gonda, Zimbabwe, journalist and President of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT)

Fatoumata Camara, The Gambia, journalist, CEO/Founder of the Fatu Network

Jelili Atiku, Nigeria, human rights artist

Fred Muvunyi, Rwanda, editor, Op-Ed contributor for Washington Post and a consultant for Freedom House

Aimable Manikrakiza, Burundi, CEO of the Centre for Development and Enterprises Great Lakes

Houssem Aoudi, Tunisia, CEO/Founder of Wasabi and Cogite - co-working Space, entrepeneur and activist

Chouchou Namegabe, Democratic Republic of Congo, journalist and human rights activist, CEO & Founder Anzafrika

Thulani Maseko, eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), leading human rights lawyer

Samba Dialimpa Badji, Senegal, journalist

Mariama Camara, Guinea, fashion designer and humanitarian, Founder/President of Mariama Fashion Production and the There is No Limit Foundation

Olívio Diogo, São Tomé, sociologist and media commentator, coordinator of the Civil Society Network

Adeola Fayehun, Nigeria, journalist/producer, "Keeping it Real with Adeola"

Mohamed Soltan, Egypt, Executive Director, the Freedom Initiative

Memory Banda, Malawi, children's rights activist

Ali Amar, Morocco, veteran journalist, co-founder and director of online news outlet Le Desk

Ahmed Gatnash, Libya, co-founder & VP Operations, Kawaakibi Foundation

Mohamed Keita, Mali, Pan African rights advocate

Norman Tjombe, Namibia, human rights lawyer and activist

Uyapo Ndadi, Botswana, human rights lawyer, activist, and founder of the Ndadi Law Firm

Phil ya Nangoloh, Namibia, human rights activist, monitor and Executive Director of NamRights Inc

Jacqueline Moudeina, Chad, prominent award-winning lawyer and human rights activist

Rosmon Zokoue, Central African Republic, journalist, blogger and activist

Ahmed Gatnash, Libya, co-founder & VP of Operations, Kawaakibi Foundation

Anas Aramayew Anas, Ghana, Africa's leading investigative journalist and private investigator

Boubacar Dialo, Niger, Editor, Liberation newspaper

Abdourahman Waberi, Djibouti, acclaimed novelist, essayist, academic and short story writer, human rights activist, professor of literature at George Washington University

Doudou Dia, Senegal, Executive Director, Goree Institute, Center for Democracy, Development and Culture in Africa

Alain Mabanckou, Congo, novelist, journalist, poet and academic

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)

Mustafa Haji Abdinur, Somalia, award-winning journalist

Thembo Kash, Democratic Republic of Congo, award-winning cartoonist

Damien Glez, Burkina Faso, award-winning editorial cartoonist

Ahmed Abdallah, Comoros, journalist

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

John-Allan Namu, Kenya, award-winning investigative journalist, co-founder of Africa Uncensored, 2017 Desmond Tutu Fellow

Alice Nkom, Cameroon, leading human rights lawyer, defender of rights of LGBT people

Mouctar Bah, Guinea, veteran journalist

Andrew Feinstein, South Africa, former ANC MP; Executive Director of Corruption Watch UK, author of "The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade"

William Rasoanaivo, Madagascar, award-winning political cartoonist

Claudia Gastrow, South Africa, anthropologist, Univeristy of Johannesburg

Motlatsi Thabane, Lesotho, professor of History, University of eSwatini

Brenda Zulu, Zambia, journalist and ICT specialist

Sylvia Amiani, Kenya, counseling and psychosocial practice for refugees in Germany

Cyriac Gbogou, Ivory Coast, blogger, co-founder of O'Village and key actor of new technologies in the country

Ola Diabi, Sudan, journalist and activist

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