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“It is essential ….to emphasize how important it is for political prisoners to be released” – Interview with Dan Connell

"It is essential 

“It is essential ….to emphasize how important it is for political prisoners to be released”

Q&A with …

Dan Connell – leading U.S. expert on Eritrea; Senior Lecturer in journalism and African politics at Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts. He has written extensively on Eritrea and the new country’s role in the Horn of Africa.  Connell is the author of numerous books, including Conversations with Eritrean Political Prisoners (2004).

If you had to describe Eritrea’s President Isaias Afewerki with five  adjectives that summarize his personal character most succinctly, what would they be?

D.C. : Shrewd, controlling, increasingly self-referential, volatile and vindictive

What is the greatest misconception people have about Eritrea and about President Afewerki?

D.C.: That he is out of control and acting irrationally. He acts within a set of convictions and experiences that are consistent over time, even if destructive and self-defeating. It is important to understand this framework.

How much credence do you attach to recent  reports out of Eritrea that some members of the G-15 opposition group  as well as several of  the journalists arrested in September 2001 are alive, including Dawit Isaak? In other words, how would you rate their chances of survival as of today? [Note: The so-called “G-15” are former members of the ruling People’s Front for Democracy and Justice who in 2001 openly criticized President Afewerki’s policies as “illegal and unconstitutional”.  Eleven members of this groups were jailed and several have died as a result of their imprisonment)

D.C.:  I don’t know if they are alive or dead or, if alive, what condition they’re in. I would say this question has not been resolved to any degree, so we should consider all possibilities. I am skeptical of the sensational published reports I’ve seen over the years and have yet to see one that is ironclad and backed up by evidence. This is not to say they are not true, just that nothing has been proved and I remain unsure. I have heard from fairly reliable sources that Petros Solomon’s wife Astier is in an Asmara jail and is alive but she’s the only one I have confidence about.

What is in your mind the best and most important thing the E.U. and Sweden can do to try to win Dawit Isaak’s freedom? What is the worst thing they can do to try to win his release?

D.C.: I frankly doubt they will release anyone as whoever gets out will be able to tell the story of prison conditions and who else is in them today…. I also worry that focusing on a single political prisoner sets up a situation where the character and practice of the regime is no longer the issue. At this point, with Isaias’s grip on power more tenuous than it has been in decades, it is important to reach out (quietly) to the next tier of leaders to emphasize how important it is for political prisoners to be released if Eritrea’s future relations with the international community are to improve. This is also important to convey in the public sphere as a general principle, so that potential opposition to Isaias whom we don’t know about—for example, second-tier officers in the EDF (Eritrean Defense Force) —get the message. The worst thing to do would be to allow the regime and its inner circle to think the world has forgotten about them.

There have been longstanding proposals to engage a prominent Special Envoy to negotiate directly with President Afwerki.  Do you have any suggestions as to who would be a suitable candidate to take on such a task?

D.C.: Isaias doesn’t appear to listen to anyone, but those around him do. An African or Middle Eastern envoy would likely have more influence on them and perhaps even the president himself. The countries with the most leverage now are South Africa, Egypt and Qatar, so an envoy from one of them would be most likely to get an audience. A European envoy is unlikely to get far and an American would not get a visa.

Eritrea’s Foreign Minister  Osman Saleh  met with Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, in connection with a Foreign Ministers meeting in Brussels last month. How do you assess the importance of this meeting?

D.C.: Right now, this still looks rather tenuous. If the Swedish government is serious about negotiations to secure Dawit’s release, a key first step from the Eritrean side would be granting access to an independent observer to establish that he is alive and, if so, what is the condition of his health. This could be a diplomat, a private citizen, a representative of the United Nations, the ICRC—anyone who can be truly said to be an independent and reliable observer.

Susanne Berger  September 6, 2013

Review overview
  • Genet September 8, 2013

    Describe Isaias
    Lunatic killer, A great-great- great- nephew of Asta Yohance the TIGRAY, self-obsessed, power hungry mad man, A man with too much hate for Eritrea and Eritreans.

    • Suleiman Salim September 10, 2013


      Are you in love with Issaias? I sense your passion even when you are insulting the Lion of Nakfa.

  • guday hager September 9, 2013

    Well it is known that why the government of eritrea held those who arise their miner issue the so called of constitution and democracy of our country during eritrea dificult time .to be honest with you dan they should have to carry full responsiblity of the consiquence of the out come.if the world in general blams eritrea about democracy and human right first they must do their home work in implimenting the algeris agreement as final and binding as a garanter.who should want to listen to their plee while them selves against the respect rule of low.

  • tesfaldet September 9, 2013

    Danconell shulde go to ERITREA & find out abaout the prisinors he dont have the GUTTS because he will end up at ERAERO so the only thing he can do is talk bihaind close doors

    • tekeste September 9, 2013

      I think Dan Connel is a truly Eritrean friend. He has more compassion than many eritreans. It is shame to call my self Eritrean. What a disgrace nation.

  • tesfaldet September 9, 2013

    Let me say something abaout DANCONELL he can go to ETHIOPIA SOMALIA DIJUPUTY & TALK abaout the prisiners because this CAOUNTRYS mey scare but ERITREA gov dont scare idont care DANCONELL IS AMRICAN OR BRITISH THE eritrea gov dont give a dam so DANCONELL jast go ERITREAN REFIUGES IN ethiopia & talk to women & children he is not MAN to faice to THE LION OF NAKFA

    • tekeste September 9, 2013

      Do you mean wokaria of nakfa? He never been a lion. Hr is a coward.

      • tesfaldet September 9, 2013

        Tekeste if you care abaout ERITREAN people whay dont you do like the man IN TUNISSIA who burn him self to scrafais for the people igess you can do that exept beging foR UN & USA to do the job for you sherae sahsahi stop talking bihaind clse dorrs we all eritrean so go to eritrea & hang or burn your self atherwise shut your maouth

        • tekeste September 10, 2013

          Your tone is similar to the dictator. Are you happy with what is happening to Eritreans? If you are, then I have no further comment to your article.

          • tesfaldet September 12, 2013

            Tekeste thats whay iam telling you you can be the frist to sacrafise your life for ather ERITREANS did know the man in TUNISA WHO BURNhim self then the uprisne start but you are cowerd CICIBOY jast sit & eat your HUMBERGER & PIZZA make your self FAT ASS OR GO TO awssa adis abeba beg for WEYANE to take you to ERITREA

        • ogbai September 28, 2014

          Hi Tesfaldet! please slow down . Do you understand what you are talking about. Don\t you see the countless people dying Eritrean like in the desert,in the water of Italy, those who got ripped off parts of their body while they are breathing,those who got jailed with out any court order for no crime, those who are dying crossing the border,and etc… Why are you amused with a single man life like the hero Abdel Aziz in Tunizia. We should rather admire the Tunizian people who made history that brought revolution by paying a great respect for their fellow citizen Aziz life as worthy as it was. There it came a storm mass movement that cause a change by tearing down the dictatorial regime. We have enough lives lost and our people humiliated everywhere, like people with out a country. Those all dread things we heard and saw by our own eyes and ears. And no visible move so far. We are dormant as yet calling name the bad is good and the good is bad in the dictatorial dictionary. There fore what is the point to see some one to burning himself in Asmara and for no avail. To tell the truth that the only rely solution will be, if we burn the Dictatorial rule itself. But, nature is going to do for us. Because we are to slow to see who is our rely enemy. And there is no more Wedi Ali and his followers left. In case if it would happen and finish the job the wind of Nhina Nusu Nusu Nhina will comedown or calm down for sure. Till then lets say Bla Bla Bla. We became a cold blooded animals. Only,I am hoping some heroes or heroins left to do the job for us. Dan had done his job as a friend of ours. We should thank him for that, and I hope is doing more to help us as friend as usual. Why you need to burn the friend of Eritrean people sending him to the hand of our Devil. Brother, we better do much better job than this. We don\t want to loss any life except the life of the main man and his co/ops. thank you.

  • tesfaldet September 9, 2013


    • Genet September 9, 2013

      Well Zombie, How much are you getting paid for worshiping a dictator? If you are a true Eritrean’s son, how do you feel about “ERITREAN REFUGES IN ETHIOPIA”? ERITREANS AS REFUGES IN ETHIOPIA, AFTER OUR INDEPENDENT FROM ETHIOPIA. Why??? I am not talking about politicians, but ordinary Eritreans. Who is responsible? For your info. A lion is a protector, a graceful leader, king of the jungle and feared and respected by all. Your master the dictator is no lion. He is a laughing stock of the world. Have you seen any of his interview with any none-EriTV journalist? He is like a possessed man/demons.

  • tesfaldet September 9, 2013


    • Genet September 10, 2013

      Dear Tesfaldet. You are very special. If you know what I mean by “Special”
      Come down! Don’t be like a headless chicken, aimlessly smearing profanity. It is clear to all Eritreans, the use of foul language is PFDJ’s zombies identity. You
      Brainless zombie, listen to yourself. You are on the side of a dictator than women & children of Eritrea in Shimelba. That is the end. You are finished, you have no dignity! You are the tragic legacy of PFDJ and the dictator. PFDJ system and the dictator have nothing to show the world, but many Tesfaldetssss. I am sure the dictator is very proud of his creation; You are a masterpiece of his work. Now, any more profanity? Go ahead make a fool of yourself.

      • ahmed saleh September 12, 2013

        Do not give a value to such street boys . Ignoring them is the best solution than wasting energy and valuable time . If it was face in face I might broke his nose to disrespect that way in public . It is against the culture
        of we grow up .

  • tesfaldet September 10, 2013

    GENET thankyou for discrabe me like my hero the LION OF nakfa & thank you for knowing he is the night mare of his ENEMYS his enemys canot do nothing exept craying to UN USA for help so why dont you & your WISHUMA DANCONELL go to ERITREA & talk to the KING THEN you will find out what will happen to you so inted of saying HATEF TEF do somthing or shut your WEYANE maouth UP

    • MightyEmbasoyra September 10, 2013

      I thought I have seen the lowest person on this forum before but Tesfa(less)ldet has won them all. Now, you start calling your idiot boss as King? You call yourself as alive. You are already dead. Period.

      • Suleiman Salim September 10, 2013


        Don’t be arrogant.

        • MightyEmbasoyra September 11, 2013

          Ato Salim,

    • Genet September 11, 2013

      I said, you are the dictator’s masterpiece, a victim of a mad man. You are a nutjob. Tesfaldet, You better off not being like him. Good Luck! GOD knows you need it.

  • tesfaldet September 11, 2013

    Embasoyra whay dont tell your real name YOU MUST be AGAME if you say your name is EMBASOYRA stop covering your identity i understand because your ASHEIM by bean AGAME QOMAL

    • ahmed saleh September 12, 2013

      So what people in Embasoyra to be AGAME but you coward can not take our Eritrean identity .

    • MightyEmbasoyra September 12, 2013

      Tesfaldet knows few vocabularies that he learned them from his boss. By the way let me tell you two things for now (it will help you grow):
      1) Emba Soyra is the biggest mountain in Eritrea. Don’t you watch TV-Eri?
      2) Do you know your boss is Agame? When you go home (assuming you are working and can afford to buy a ticket), they will take you directly to Eraeiro. Why? You are using a very dangerous word.
      Hey, you can now claim that you are at the level of 2nd grade.

      • Suleiman Salim September 12, 2013


        Do you know that you are Agame? Do you notice how silly it sounds when you put a silly question?

    • Suleiman Salim September 12, 2013

      Sometimes Emba is not serious for when someone insults him instead of confronting the person who insulted him he directly forcuses his attention on the President of Eritrea.

      ms zey mezenaKa mSraf newri ‘yu:: Issaias Afeworki Abraham meraHi hager ‘yu: ‘mba dma Hade ahbay zSawetalu n’shetey ‘mni nay Embasoyra::

      • MightyEmbasoyra September 13, 2013

        I am not surprised when some women like isayas – they just say he is handsome. In your case, I am not so sure why? I can only suspect- ኣብ ሳንፍራንችስኮ ዲኻ ትቕመጥ?
        You can learn from people like Ato Belay – respectful person with different view than mine.