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University of Asmara: Victims of 1993 Academic Staff Dismissal – (A response to Dr Mohamed Kheir Omer)

  University of Asmara: Victims of 1993 Academic Staff Dismissal (A response to Dr Mohamed Kheir Omer)   In 1993, two years after the liberation of Eritrea, 35 Academics of the University of Asmara (a third of the total


University of Asmara: Victims of 1993 Academic Staff Dismissal

(A response to Dr Mohamed Kheir Omer)


In 1993, two years after the liberation of Eritrea, 35 Academics of the University of Asmara (a third of the total academic staff at the time) were dismissed from their academic positions by the Government of Eritrea. This occurred at a time when the honeymoon of Eritrea’s liberation was at its peak, a stark difference than what we are exposed to now. This is brief and focused account by first-hand victims of this tragic action to set the record straight to that given by Dr. Mohamed Kheir Omer at his publicly visible facebook page: , posted 1st June 2014).

Firstly, we understand that this is not the right time to argue one another over an issue of less a priority in light of the national emergency right now. At the same time we didn’t want to ignore Dr Mohammed Kheir’s misleading message that strives to distort the facts while attempting to minimise his culpability. Nevertheless we would like to stress that we bear no ill will to him or others involved in this case, especially those who have since acknowledged the blunder and its costs to the new country and victims.

We categorically stress (1) the staff dismissal wasn’t based on academic appraisal, as he tried to present it, but it actually relates to previous conflict with university’s appointed President (2) the precursor of the conflict between most of the dismissed staff and the former president i.e. Ato Andeberhan Woldegiorghis was a simple case for democratic academic administration (3) the issue was latterly manipulated viciously and politicized to act as a pretext for dismissal of the staff, with character assassination in the public media and rumour mills.

In his article, Dr Mohamed Kheir openly testifies that he collaborated with the regime in the process and had made decisions that seriously affected the university and at large the country (and not least the lives of 35 academic staff). However it is not clear at all, why he has decided to raise this issue of injustice at this particular time. This is especially surprising as it appears he has been vocally opposing the same government in many other issues for over a decade.


Brief  Background:

Immediately after the liberation of Eritrea the few available instructors of the University of Asmara had to cope with the massive challenges of rebuilding the university with its meager resources. The rehabilitation task required courage and determination of its staff which all were happy to shoulder. All staff showed extraordinary willingness to carry heavy workloads, long hours of extraordinary committee engagements including sacrificing weekends and public holidays without a single complaint. They served the public, government and its newly appointed appointed President (Ato Andebrhan Woldeghiorghis) with genuine feeling of nationalism and full cooperation.

Taking into account the President’s lack of prior knowledge and experience in managing higher education institution, the Deans, Department Heads and other senior academics expressed their willingness to help and support in executing his responsibilities.  Especially the deans of the various faculties, through the Dean’s Council continuously were working to remedy mistakes he was making, while extending their advisory support unreservedly.

Unfortunately, the President was unwilling to work together and instead, pushed on establishing a one man authoritarian rule in the university. He wanted to control all major and minor activities from top to bottom abandoning the long time serving legislations of the University [all this is documented officially]. At the same time, the president saw the newly elected University of Asmara Teachers Association, as a dangerous competitor that would challenge his authority and thus started attacking directly and indirectly.  Some of the evident methods encouraged by the President to weaken  the Association and its supporters were: dividing the staff along regional and faith lines; favoring and disfavoring of ‘new’ and ‘old’ academic staff differently [to which Dr. Mohamed drifts into again]. Executers of this discord were recruited from among the academic staff and administration staff. He would subsequently, depose the democratically [according to the legislation] elected Deans and Department Heads and replaced them by hand-picked supporters, one of which was Dr. Mohammed Kheir Omar. After this point direct staff involvement and contribution in the election of their deans and department heads was abandoned, a practice not remedied ever since.

Escalation and Academic staff Dismissal

It was at this stage, Dr Mohammed Kheir played his major role. He stood behind the destructive mission of the President and worked hard to discredit the efforts of the Teachers Association of the university and blackmail its executive committee as well as those who support the ideals of the Association by spreading false accusations and information.  In so doing he was involved in circulating a petition condemning the Association and insisting on general staff to sign.

It eventually appears the university wasn’t going to be a silent subservient to the government (and its appointees) interference and a decision was to be made to remove its key staff. It is with this intention, the cover up committee of Academic Review was established, which was admittedly not as experienced as the staff it was appraising.

In his article, Dr Mohamed Kheir, admits his involvement in this committee’s decisions and admits the process was not transparent, and the staffs didn’t know the ground for their dismissal and didn’t get the chance to defend themselves. Nevertheless, it is with this guise, the removal of the vocal opponents of the existing administration was accomplished in September 1993. The University Teachers Association was also disbanded with 7 out of its 8 committee members dismissed.

Concluding Remark

We were compelled to write this response to correct misrepresentations which appear to seed confusion and could have ramifications to a future just and peaceful Eritrea. However we don’t want to dwell on the past and intend  not to say more, lest it distracts our society from more immediate and more important issues.

Note: The full details of this unhappy predicament and the two years struggle for academic rule of law within the university are well documented [with records of official correspondence available to an appropriate time in the future].

In the end, truth will always triumph.

The above article was contributed by:


Dr. Negusse Araya

Petros Habtemariam

Mr. Michael Zaid Ghebremedhin

Review overview
  • shalom June 13, 2014

    Thank you Dr. Negusse, Mr Petros and Mr Michael for clarifying the issue.
    In retrospective, now we know Isaias was working hard from the beginning of independence to dismantle any independent and democratically thinking institutions in Eritrea. That is why University of Asmara was the first big target of Isaias first in 1993 and again in 2001.

  • noor June 13, 2014

    Second Scholar are under attack on this orthodox web sit. They are looking for any Eritrea Muslim who give his or her opinion and all the Christian are ready to give a negative response against them. After Ali Abdu, now Dr Mohammed . What about your Generals’ who are living in West with blood in their hand,why don’t you talk about them

    • Daniel Mehary (metaabity) June 18, 2014

      @ noor on: Why don’t over take the job to expose any Eritrean Christian or Muslim who has collaborated with tyranny issayas.

  • Bana June 13, 2014

    what is wig you Noor, kemey nskas halawatka ttfaE. Bhaymanot nseb ktfelalis mok Elia.

    • noor June 13, 2014

      haleayka eba helm yeble stupid

  • weygud June 13, 2014

    Mr. Noor, please use your common sense, there is nothing here about religion. It is about the injustice made in the University. Open your mind and try to learn reslities, ok?

    • TwoWayStreet June 13, 2014

      Weygud, and bana,
      You know Noor’s intentions. One of those is getting your attention, and responding to his comments. The only way to deal with comments that does not benefit the Eritrean people like his is to just ignore it. Do not get attracted into chain of unproductive comments and replies.

  • Fithi Ynges June 13, 2014

    This is a mild response to what mohammed kheir wrote in his facebook website. I do not know what his intentions were, but I do not think he has a clear understanding of the situation.He did not want to go all the way to the bottom of it. There was a big discussion in 1993 in dehai about this and as an alumnus of the university, I have followed and tried to learn about it from various sources. As usual, the defenders of regime were trying to silence many by painting them with various labels. To name, some of the fiercest defenders: Ghideon, Hidaat and khaled. But the truth will come out in the end. As Dejen puts it: quote “justice is like a mine; it explodes if you step on it”. Dear Dr Kheir, please if you want to acknowledge or confess your culpability, do it right and tell the whole truth. The regional accusations are not valid. There was a legitimate concern that the teachers had and confronted the authorities. Would an academic institution be a statistical representation of the population? a quota? May be we ought to discuss this in some depth. The students of the university were admitted during the Derg era based on their scores in the ESLC. Nobody asked about your nationality and religion. It is only in this regime and in the state of eritrea, that people judge you by where you come from instead of your merits. Wee thankful that the university was built by the Catholic church and when I was a student there was none whatsoever imposed value by the church. It had a president which was appointed by the government and we were not aware of any politicization of the faculty except that the was the Youth association which no body heeded. I think I could have said a lot but I think this is enough. Thanks.

  • Simon G. June 13, 2014

    Even though this was know to the students of UA at that time, thanks for clarifying it to the public.
    My interpretation of Dr Mohamed Kheir’s paper on UA was to mislead people those who objects the “poping up” of Andebrhan.
    I believe there is something between Dr Mohamed Kheir, Andebrhan, and Isayas. There is still active link between them. Wedimeriet, and others, your statements are backed by these gentlemen. You were correct.

  • AyteAbrha June 13, 2014


    Why you are trying to divert the issue to religion. Why do not talk on the concept? Please be mature.

    Regarding the writers of the article, I do reservation because I know two of them who were narrow minded and evaluating student based on his awurajawi background.

    • Yosief L June 13, 2014

      Ayte Abraha,

      I don’t know who two you are talking about, but I know Dr. Negusse Araya very well, and he is a man of the highest integrity, who doesn’t judging a person with his/her identity, it is very hard to find such honest person in Eritrean community this time. So lets focus on the topic.

      • AyteAbrha June 14, 2014

        Yosief L

        I really do not know DR. Negusse, so I can not comment om him.

    • Haqqi Nezareb June 13, 2014


      Here you go again! Pulling the Awarja card like Andebrehan pulled in 1991-1993 (the Akeleguzay card). Would you please tell us names of the rest of the staff memberes (31) and see how your stack of your playing cards fall apart. What is wrong these days that every ill of Eritrea is blamed againist this Awarja?

  • bravo June 13, 2014

    Look, a lot of things happened in Eritrea since independence. Loosing your job is z least thing comparing to countless people who are loosing their lives and perishing in detention camps. You know what? Many ex-Generals n top government officials who were z backbone of the cruel Eritrean goverment are residing in Europe n America……they r those who were involving in various serious decisions. I think We are striving to raise something that divides us instead of unite us. If we ask Dr Mohamed khiehr to reply we should also also ask these Generals n ex-government top officials to respond as well. Besides, we must also have a list of other members of that university committee to respond. Please let’s concentrate on how we can remove z monster in Asmara instead of pointing fingers on a relatively minor event. Those who have crimes or wrong doing will be brought forward to answer for any mistakes they did once z monster uprooted.

  • hadnet June 13, 2014

    Wey gud they fired them cuz they were not enough qualified. They got the position scratch my back and I will scratch your back system and of course how come all of them from the same area. 3.6 G.P.A didn’t get a chance to enter the University while 2.4 GPA got a chance. That was happened for AU for so many year b4 independent. Now what happen was happened we need to see a head of us that is equality for all, to get that we need to work together.

    • Haqqi Nezareb June 13, 2014


      Your message is not clear. Do you mean most of the dismissed staff members had a GPA of <3.00?

    • Daniel Mehary (metaabity) June 18, 2014

      @hadnet on: Most who became staff memers of Asmera university inter with more than 6 A to Asmera university and they graduate from Asmera university with honorable degree.

  • ahmed saleh June 13, 2014

    ” Dr. M. Kheir openly gave his testimony that he collaborated with decisions that seriously affected the university and at
    large the country ” .
    I applaud his courage to share the experience . No need to be ashamed in the presence of straightforward man . There are
    many individuals like him in diaspora who worked with the government but the choose to stay silent .
    Now he opened the door to discuss in detail why and how we end up with a country without a single accredited university .
    Wrong excuse to mix to characters ; good apple (Mohamed Kheir) with the bad apple (Ali Abdu ) .

    • Haqqi Nezareb June 13, 2014

      Hi Ahmed,
      The other comparison would be Dr.M. Kheir as a puppy to Andebrehan and Ali Abdu as pitbull to Issayas. In any case, Dr. M. Kheir was of the many puppies of Andebrehan who played a major role in the purge of senior staff members who played a key role in building UA almost from scratch (1980-1993) to bring it to the status it had before its closure. Unlike Dr. M. Kheir, there are many of those puppies of Andebrehan who are still silent on the issue of the purge.

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