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Open letter to Eritrea’s president: Let us visit detained activists and journalists – Leading Africans reach out to Isaias Afwerki

Your Excellency, President Isaias Afwerki: We write to convey our most sincere congratulations upon your country’s normalisation of diplomatic relations with Ethiopia. This is a development much appreciated by all Africans of goodwill. We write to you

Your Excellency, President Isaias Afwerki:

We write to convey our most sincere congratulations upon your country’s normalisation 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 normalise 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,

  1. Prof. Wole Soyinka, Nigeria, Nobel Laureate
  2. Rafael Marques de Morais, Angola, leading anti-corruption campaigner and award winning investigative journalist
  3. John Githongo, Kenya, publisher, leading anti-corruption campaigner and award winning anti-corruption activist
  4. Kwasi H. Prempeh, Ghana, Executive Director of the Centre for Democratic Development
  5. Farida Nabourema, Togo, Executive Director of Togolese Civil League
  6. Leyla Hussein, Somalia, Women’s Rights & Health Campaigner, psychotherapist, writer and founder of the Dahlia Project
  7. Maina Kiai, Kenya, founder of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) and former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association
  8. Maaza Mengiste, Ethiopia, award-winning writer of Beneath the Lion’s Gaze
  9. Iva Cabral, Cape Verde, Chancellor of Lusófona [Lusophone] University and daughter of Amílcar Cabral
  10. Belabbès Benkredda, Algeria, CEO and Founder of the Munathara Initiative, the Arab world’s largest online and television debate forum highlighting the voices of youth, women and marginalised communities.
  11. Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, Uganda, a leading LGBT rights activist, founder and executive director of the LGBT rights organisation Freedom & Roam Uganda, 2011 recipient of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders
  12. Hon. Robert Kyagulanyi aka Bobi Wine, Uganda, musician, member of parliament and youth leader recognised throughout East Africa
  13. Tundu Lissu, Tanzania, lawyer, CHADEMA politician, member of parliament and former president of the Tanganyika Law Society
  14. Amr Waked, Egypt, award winning actor, best known for his role in Syriana
  15. José Eduardo Agualusa, Angola, award winning writer, finalist in the 2016 Man Booker International Prize for his seminal work A General Theory of Oblivion
  16. Nasser Weddady, Mauritania, leading civil rights activist, consultant and co-editor of Arab Spring Dreams.
  17. Chiké Frankie Edozien, Nigeria, writer and professor of journalism at New York University
  18. Emmanuel Iduma, Nigeria, author
  19. Mona Eltahawy, Egypt, author and journalist
  20. Mireille Tushiminina, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gender & Equality advocate
  21. Felix Agbor Nkhongo, Cameroon, Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA) and leading human rights defender
  22. Boniface Mwangi, Kenya, democracy activist, Ukweli political party founder, photographer and artist
  23. Adeyanju Deji, Nigeria, leading democracy activist and human rights defender
  24. Alieu Bah, The Gambia, leading democracy activist and human rights defender
  25. Tutu Alicante, Equatorial Guinea, leading democracy activist and Executive Director of Equatorial Guinea Justice (EG Justice)
  26. Andrea Ngombet Malewa, Congo Republic, Global Coordinator of the Sassoufit Collective
  27. Roukaya Kasenally, Mauritius, CEO of African Media Initiative
  28. Abdelrahman Mansour, Egypt, Executive Director of Open Transformation Lab, leading human rights defender and journalist
  29. Reem Abbas, Sudan, journalist and leading human rights defender
  30. 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.
  31. Ericino de Salema, Mozambique, Director of the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), academic, lawyer and journalist
  32. Jestina Mukoko, Zimbabwe, leading human rights activist and Director of the Zimbabwe Peace Initiative
  33. William Amanzuru, Uganda, environmental rights defender, founder of Friends of Zoka, winner of the EU Human Rights Defenders’ Award 2019
  34. Miguel de Barros, Guinea-Bissau, sociologist and Executive Director of the environmental NGO Tiniguena
  35. Bheki Makhubu, e-Swatini (formerly Swaziland), Editor of the Nation Magazine and leading democracy defender
  36. Edson da Luz aka Azagaia, Mozambique, rapper and leading activist
  37. Charles Onyango-Obbo, Uganda, leading publisher and columnist
  38. Rodney Sieh, Liberia, leading newspaper editor of FrontPage Africa and democracy activist
  39. Oludotun Babayemi, Nigeria, democracy activist and monitoring and evaluation expert,
  40. Akin Olaniyan, Nigeria
  41. Chanda Chisala, Zambia, founder and president of Zambia Online
  42. Dany Ayida, Togo, Resident, Country Director, National Democratic Institute (DRC)
  43. George Sarpong, Ghana
  44. Rosemary Mwakitwange, Tanzania, Chief of Party, Freedom House
  45. James Smart, Kenya, leading journalist and news anchor
  46. Abdulrazaq Alkali, Nigeria, Executive Director Organisation for Community Civic Engagement (OCCEN) Nigeria
  47. Mathatha Tsedu, South Africa, Adjunct professor of journalism, Wits University and Acting Executive Director of the National Editors Forum (SANEF)
  48. Brenda Zulu, Zambia, journalist and ICT specialist
  49. Emanuel Saffa Abdulai, Sierra Leone, Executive Director of Society for Democracy Initiatives
  50. Zecharias Berhe, Ethiopia, Senior Fellow, African Good Governance Network
  51. Sylvia Amiani, Kenya, counseling and psychosocial practitioner focused on refugees in Germany
  52. Lamii Kpargoi, Liberia, journalist, democracy activist and lawyer
  53. Dr. George Ayittey, Ghana, economist, author and president of the Free Africa Foundation, Washington DC
  54. Evan Mawarire, Zimbabwe, pastor and democracy activist, founder of #ThisFlag movement
  55. Zineb El Rhazoui, Morocco, journalist and human rights advocate
  56. Marc Ona Essangui, Gabon, environmentalist, Executive Secretary of Brainforest
  57. Fred Bauma, Democratic Republic of Congo, democracy and youth activist, leader of the Lucha Social Movement
  58. Dr. Justin Pearce, South Africa, Department of Politics and International Studies, Cambridge University
  59. Asma Khalifa, Libya, activist, cofounder of Tamazight Women Movement
  60. Violet Gonda, Zimbabwe, journalist and President of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT)
  61. Fatoumata Camara, The Gambia, journalist, CEO/Founder of the Fatu Network
  62. Jelili Atiku, Nigeria, human rights artist
  63. Fred Muvunyi, Rwanda, editor at Deutsche Welle, Op-Ed contributor for the Washington Post and a consultant for Freedom House
  64. Aimable Manikrakiza, Burundi, CEO of the Centre for Development and Enterprises Great Lakes
  65. Houssem Aoudi, Tunisia, CEO/Founder of Wasabi and Cogite — co-working Space, entrepeneur and activist
  66. Chouchou Namegabe, Democratic Republic of Congo, journalist and human rights activist, CEO & Founder Anzafrika
  67. Thulani Maseko, e-Swatini (formerly Swaziland), leading human rights lawyer
  68. Samba Dialimpa Badji, Senegal, journalist
  69. Mariama Camara, Guinea, fashion designer and humanitarian, Founder/President of Mariama Fashion Production and the There is No Limit Foundation
  70. Olívio Diogo, São Tomé, sociologist and media commentator, coordinator of the Civil Society Network
  71. Adeola Fayehun, Nigeria, journalist/producer, Keeping it Real with Adeola
  72. Mohamed Soltan, Egypt, Executive Director, the Freedom Initiative
  73. Memory Banda, Malawi, children’s rights activist
  74. Ali Amar, Morocco, veteran journalist, co-founder and director of online news outlet Le Desk
  75. Mohamed Keita, Mali,  Pan African rights advocate
  76. Norman Tjombe, Namibia, human rights lawyer and activist
  77. Uyapo Ndadi, Botswana, human rights lawyer, activist, and founder of the Ndadi Law Firm
  78. Phil ya Nangoloh, Namibia, human rights activist, monitor and Executive Director of NamRights Inc
  79. Jacqueline Moudeina, Chad, prominent award-winning lawyer and human rights activist
  80. Rosmon Zokoue, Central African Republic, journalist, blogger and activist
  81. Ahmed Gatnash, Libya, co-founder & VP of Operations, Kawaakibi Foundation
  82. Anas Aramayew Anas, Ghana, Africa’s leading investigative journalist and private investigator
  83. Boubacar Diallo, Niger, Editor, Liberation newspaper
  84. Abdourahman Waberi, Djibouti, acclaimed novelist, essayist, academic and short story writer, human rights activist, professor of literature at George Washington University
  85. Doudou Dia, Senegal, Executive Director, Goree Institute, Center for Democracy, Development and Culture in Africa
  86. Alain Mabanckou, Congo, novelist, journalist, poet and academic
  87. 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)
  88. Mustafa Haji Abdinur, Somalia, award-winning journalist
  89. Thembo Kash, Democratic Republic of Congo, award-winning cartoonist
  90. Damien Glez, Burkina Faso, award-winning editorial cartoonist
  91. Ahmed Abdallah, Comoros, journalist
  92. Anton Harber, South Africa, former journalist with the Rand Daily Mail until its closure by the apartheid government, co-founder and editor of the Weekly Mail (now The Mail & Guardian) and Professor of Journalism at the University of the Witwatersrand
  93. John-Allan Namu, Kenya, award-winning investigative journalist, co-founder of Africa Uncensored, 2017 Desmond Tutu Fellow
  94. Alice Nkom, Cameroon, leading human rights lawyer, defender of the rights of the LGBT community
  95. Mouctar Bah, Guinea, veteran journalist
  96. Andrew Feinstein, South Africa, former ANC MP, Executive Director of Corruption Watch UK, author of The Shadow World: Inside the Global Arms Trade
  97. William Rasoanaivo, Madagascar, award-winning political cartoonist
  98. Claudia Gastrow, South Africa, anthropologist, University of Johannesburg
  99. Motlatsi Thabane, Lesotho, professor of History, University of eSwatini
  100. Cyriac Gbogou, Ivory Coast, blogger, co-founder of O’Village and key actor in the new technology sector in the country
  101. Canon Clement Hilary Janda, South Sudan, Pan African Ecumenist
  102. Ola Diab, Sudan, journalist and activist

Review overview
  • Danilo June 11, 2019

    “እተን ዑፍ ገበላ ሑሹኽ ይብላ ግን፡እቲ ሓሰኻ ደምበ ዝሰምዕ ኣይኮነን”። means, birds of peace are whispering but the hooker worm is dummy!

  • Kalighe June 11, 2019

    ባይቶ ዓዲ እንታይ ይምስል ከይራኣየ ዝዓበየ ፥ ጭው ዝበለ ዕዋላ ፥ ቅንጣብ ክብሪ የቡሉን።
    ዓለም በምልእታ ኡይ እንተበለት ፥ ንሓደ እንስሳ እንታይ ገደሶ ?

  • Eritrawi June 12, 2019

    The dictator will listen any advice until his day will come to fallow like any other dictators before him such as Gadhafi, Sad am Hussein. He has to be removed by force and that is the only option the Eritrean people has.
    God Bless our martyrs!

    • Asmara Eritrea June 15, 2019

      Eritrawi – the dictator in Asmara will only leave our country when he has a .. in his head. Only the EDF can do that.

      We should get our family members in EDF to rise up and liberate their home land from the internal enemy before it is too late.

      Eritrea forever, death to diactorship.

  • Haben June 12, 2019

    Very glad to see these influential individuals exposing the dictator’s administration in an open letter.
    Ezi b’ateAbabya ztebedele sdi Kemey gerumo bayto ADI kfelt mknyaytu ADI abo yeblun ab Eritrea.
    Any way his time is nearing to an end very soon.

    • Idris Hangelay June 13, 2019

      he might be a dictator. but you have no right to deny the fact that he is an eritrean. Adi abo yeblun ab Eritrea ? who the hell do you think you are ? He is more erirean than many of us,

      • Mohamed June 13, 2019

        Although you are using a typical Tigre nickname, you could be a rootless as the dictator.

  • tewelde gebremariam June 12, 2019

    May be, this is the result of the diaspora Eritreans mass movement against the impostor isaias afewerk. And may be, if this movement is united under one strong political leadership, the United nations will take notice and issue an ultimatum on the impostor to immediately handover power to the people. May be the UNHRC will also issue an ultimatum on him to immediately grant visa to the Special Reporter to undertake her investigation. But far and beyond, may be this is heralding the beginning of his demise . I have a wish, to meet him in prison and spite on his face . What is yours?

    • Kalighe June 13, 2019

      I wish to hear he is buried in undisclosed location like Gaddafi and Bin Laden.

      • Asmara Eritrea June 15, 2019

        Oh, burial for the beast? That is far too good. Remember Gaddafi was a saint by comparison..

        I would lock up Isaias alive in a shipping container in Massawa and throw the keys away to the bottom of the Red Sea. That’s the least he deserves for destroying our country and the very fabric of Eritrean society.

        Eritrea forever, death to dictatorship.

  • mammo June 13, 2019

    Idris Hangelay,

    He may be Eritrean by birth or by (wedi arba’a) but he is not and never has been an Eritrean in his heart and much less a nationalist. Because a nationalist does not kill his own nation.

  • tewelde gebremariam June 13, 2019

    The impostor isaias afewerk denied their request to visit Eritrea ; has written the full reply. But again, it was an impossible request because it was tantamount to asking Hitler for a permission to visit Auschwitz,which the world was able to witness the horrors after he was defeated by the Allied Forces in conjunction with the Soviet Union. It is the same with the impostor. He would never allow Eritrea, his Auschwitz of Genocide, to be visited by any one with a capacity to pry, not only because the act would expose his hidden Genocide but, more importantly, also because that would foil his hidden agenda of complete decimation of Eritrea and its people.

    It was with the intention of reverting to the era of No War No Peace and therefore continue his carrying out his hidden agenda, that he purposely murdered General Efrem , that he instructed his Gossip Mill, the infamous 03, to disperse false rumors that the General was murdered by woyane ,and that the person who actually carried out the gruesome act was living in Ethiopia, The closure of the border

    • Simon G. June 14, 2019

      Actually, they were not lying when they said SibHat Ephrem was assassinated by Woyane, since the ruthless dictator isayas is the biggest woyane.

  • Warsay Adhanom June 14, 2019

    N zey semaka debryi atmahlel!
    It is good that this group of none Eritreans voiced their concerns. This validates what the just seeker has been saying all along. But to think this will have any impact on DIA is a dream. We are not dealing with a normal person. The only solution is to take him out. The sooner the better. Before he makes more damage.. .

    • Wedi Hagher June 14, 2019


      You are right.
      Iseyas and those who are protecting him are not normal people.
      They have killed too many people starting from early seventies. They know the crimes they had committed. They know what is expecting them.
      The will never allow a peaceful transfer of power. They may even trigger a civil war in the country, if they feel they are losing control.
      Eritrea, like a young lady kidnapped by a serial killer, is at risk of being killed.
      Although, the Yiakil movement is good, many ordinary people still don’t know with what kind of regime they are dealing.
      It will take some time for many to realize, that the regime is an enemy as the Derg, and definitely not less brutal if not more.

  • Danilo June 14, 2019

    Thanks all African brothers and sisters ( G 103 ), your appeal is a mile stone that Eritrea and it’s people needs. Indeed it is challenging now but too late better than nothing. Frankly speaking, you gave me a feel Eritrean / African for the first time thank you !!!