Eritrean Diaspora


Reuters
Friday, May 4, 2007; 1:12 PM

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission embraced Eritrea’s government on Friday in the search for a comprehensive solution to a range of conflicts across the Horn of Africa, from Darfur to Somalia.

European Union Development Commissioner Louis Michel gave a warm welcome to President Isaias Afwerki despite accusations of human rights violations, praising his diplomacy over Sudan and his decision to ban the forced circumcision of young girls.

Foreign editor Keith Richburg joins host Sam Litzinger every Thursday at noon for a roundup of the latest world news.

“I was very, very honored to receive him in the Commission,” he told a joint news conference.

“This is … an important event, an international signal for the EU and for Eritrea. I have very high expectations in this new kind of relations between the Commission and Eritrea.”

Eritrea last month quit the east African regional bloc IGAD, in a feud over the group’s support of Somalia’s interim government — strongly backed by Ethiopia — Eritrea’s bitter foe since a 1998-2000 war.

Afwerki dismissed charges by Addis Ababa that Eritrea was behind a rebel attack in southeast Ethiopia last month in which 74 people were killed and seven Chinese workers were seized.

“It’s become a habit, it’s become an addiction to blame anything on Asmara so don’t be surprised,” he said, adding that the sheer distance between Eritrea and the remote Ogaden area of Ethiopia where the attack occurred made any link impossible.

Security experts say Asmara has long supported Ethiopian rebels groups to pressure Addis Ababa, which Eritrea denies.

“KEY PARTNER”

Michel made no public mention of human rights, media freedom or growing tension between Eritrea and Ethiopia, saying he hoped a regular political dialogue with Asmara would help improve the mood for solving all problems in the region.

“Everybody knows Eritrea is a key partner and a key actor in the Horn,” he said, citing efforts to bring peace to Somalia, where Asmara has backed an Islamist movement ousted from power in Mogadishu by Ethiopian military intervention in February.

A November report to the United Nations on arms embargo violations in Somalia said Eritrea repeatedly armed and trained Islamist militants who opposed the Somali interim government.

Asmara denies this, but has hosted Islamist leaders in Eritrea. It has repeatedly criticized both Ethiopia and the Somali interim government and accused them of undermining what it called the Islamists popularly supported movement.

Ethiopia’s ambassador in Brussels, Berhane Gebre-Christos, at a news briefing coinciding with the president’s visit, accused Eritrea of playing a destructive role in the region.

“It has become a pariah state as far as its role is concerned in Somalia,” he said.

Gebre-Christos said the European Union should call on Afwerki to abandon “terrorism.” “What he is doing is terrorism,” he said. “The European Union should tell him unambiguously that he has to cease from terrorist acts.”

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Asmara, 18 December 2006- In continuation of their contributions to the Government’s efforts to develop higher education in the country, Eritrean nationals abroad have donated different books to the Eritrea Institute of Technology (EIT).

Accordingly, the Michigan-based Association of Eritreans and Friends (AEFM) and the Eritrean Development Fund (EDF) in the US have each donated 14,000 different university text and reference books.

Reports said that the current President of the AEFM, Prof. Eyassu Habtegaber, and Prof. Petros Geresus, Department Head of Industrial Engineering at Kettering University, visited EIT on December 12, during which they asserted that the donated books are being used properly.

The Head of the EIT, Col. Ezra Woldegabriel, commended the nationals for their gesture and called on others to take similar initiative.

It is to be noted that the Eritrea Institute of Technology has enrolled more than 6,000 students since 2004 and are now attending various degree and diploma programs.

Self-determination in the information age. It’s a critical matter and affects minority communities in all countries. We all have the issue of what to do with globalized information and ideas; or as coined by Dr. Arjun Appadurai, Ph.D “ideoscapes” and “ethnoscapes”. As a contemporary social-cultural anthropologist, Dr. Appadurai (Wiki) writes on “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy”. (1990). I read this for a class on Global Governance and Educational Change but you can find a small excerpt on Wiki. What the heck, I’ll post it for you here:

Appadurai articulated a view of cultural activity known as the imaginary (sociology), or the social imaginary. For Appadurai the imaginary is composed of five dimensions of global cultural flow: 1) ethnoscapes; 2) mediascapes; 3) technoscapes; 4) finanscapes; 5) ideoscapes.

He describes the imaginary as: “The image, the imagined, the imaginary – these are all terms that direct us to something critical and new in global cultural processes: the imagination as a social practice. No longer mere fantasy (opium for the masses whose real work is somewhere else), no longer simple escape (from a world defined principally by more concrete purposes and structures), no longer elite pastime (thus not relevant to the lives of ordinary people), and no longer mere contemplation (irrelevant for new forms of desire and subjectivity), the imagination has become an organized field of social practices, a form of work (in the sense of both labor and culturally organized practice), and a form of negotiation between sites of agency (individuals) and globally defined fields of possibillity. This unleasing of the imagination links the play of pastiche (in some settings) to the terror and coercion of states and their competitors. The imagination is now central to all forms of agency, is itself a social fact, and is the key component of the new global order” (“Disjuncture and Difference”, Modernity at Large, 31).

Similarly, Anthropologist Dr. Victoria Bernal, Ph.D. has written extensively about the Eritrean Diaspora and Eritreans in Cyberspace. The following articles relate to the subject. Click on the link for the Full Text article:

Abstract: In this article I analyse the Eritrean diaspora and its use of cyberspace to theorize the ways transnationalism and new media are associated with the rise of new forms of community, public spheres and sites of cultural production. The struggle for national independence coincided with the rise of the Internet and the Eritrean diaspora has been actively involved in the new state. Eritreans abroad use the Internet as a transnational public sphere where they produce and debate narratives of history, culture, democracy and identity. Through the web the diaspora has mobilized demonstrators, amassed funds for war, debated the formulation of the constitution, and influenced the government of Eritrea. Through their web postings, ‘Internet intellectuals’ interpret national crises, rearticulate values and construct community. Thus, the Internet is not simply about information but is also an emotion-laden and creative space. More than simply refugees or struggling workers, diasporas online may invent new forms of citizenship, community and political practices.

Abstract: For Eritreans in diaspora, identities are deterritorialized, one’s most pressing communication may be with far-flung strangers in cyberspace, and one’s political engagement is centered on a distant homeland. Eritrean experiences, thus, seem to bring together various qualities that scholars have been grappling with trying to chart the implications of the infotech revolution and life on-line, in seeking to understand processes of transnationalism and globalization, and in charting the elusive construction of community in the postmodern age. Through an analysis of the social history of http://www.dehai.org, a website developed by Eritreans in diaspora, explore the ways that new forms of technological and geographical mobility are changing the conditions not just of capitalist production but also of knowledge production and the constitution of publics, public spheres, communities, and nations. [Keywords: cyberspace, public sphere, politics, diaspora, community, conflict, Eritrea]

Likewise, Dr. John Sorensen, Ph.D. worked with the Eritrean Relief Association in Canada; he has a background in anthropology and a PhD from the interdisciplinary Social and Political Thought Program at York University. His field research has concerned African nationalist movements, refugees and diaspora communities and repatriation of Afghan refugees in Pakistan. His books include: African Refugees: Development Aid and Repatriation (Westview), Disaster and Development in the Horn of Africa (Macmillan), Imagining Ethiopia: Struggles for History and Identity in the Horn of Africa (Rutgers University Press), Ghosts and Shadows: Construction of Identity and Community in an African Diaspora (University of Toronto Press) and Culture of Prejudice (Broadview) and he is currently writing on gender and reconstruction of the state in Eritrea, looking at the experience of the thirty-year struggle for independence and the 1998-2000 war with Ethiopia; it is largely based on interviews with women who served in the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front.

Information, Cyberspace and Good Governance

I think the relationship between information and information-management needs to be carefully studied as a subsect of good governance in Africa. I was lucky enough to meet a very bright woman by the name of Azeb Tewolde who works as Director of the Research and Documentation Centre in Eritrea.  (They are re-doing the website – should be complete January 2007 so go back and visit!) This woman is brilliant and very forward-thinking. She is one example of how the “partnership” maxim in development programming and implementation: that individuals and communities know what they need and what works best – but just need some resources and capacity-building– if adhered to by progam planners- would succeed brilliantly. Ms. Tewolde thinks that information management should be the road to development.

Information is capacity-building. Many people tend to politicize everything about Eritrean development – as though any activity is determined by and cloaked in a political affiliation. I guess this is the view that frustrates me. Politics changes, our ideas and sentiments about politicians change given fresh information and events. Our positions are guided by new knowledge. So why, in any regional context, and especially now in the information age, should we put our political allegiances before the information we have at our disposal? Get informed and then make decisions. This is the best (and in my view most responsible) way to be an agent of change in Eritrea and any other developing nation in Africa, Asia, Middle East, etc. The only position I adhere to religiously in development projects is capital “T” Transparency. Be transparent with your people – it’s only fair. The people pay tax, send remittances, pray and hope for development. And in the diaspora, there is an urgency around helping with national development but I think there needs to be a broad-based discussion (I’m scared to use the D-word, democratic) and needs assessment on how, when, why, where and with whom and what purpose this development assistance should take place. The government can lead us, the diaspora can lead us, the international community can lead us – with collaborative work this all happens simultaneously. The diaspora is a major voice in this discussion and the internet is a major tool.

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Aroni Awards Celebrates Inspirational People.

There are fewer things in life that are as precious as inspirational people. Inspirational people make it a personal goal not to judge others and are conscientious about this decision to be fair and accepting. Inspirational people have integrity and try, if possible, to improve another’s personal situation. Inspirational people, to me, arrive in spirits of kindness and generosity, hard work and initiative, determination and a sense of purpose in spite of the obstacles in their way. There are many things that make someone inspirational, sometimes it is the triumphs they have overcome and how they mentor others on their lessons learned.

From what I can tell Aron Y. Haile was one of those people. I didn’t know Aron personally yet I feel like I do. That is the legacy of an inspirational person. You don’t know them and yet you know them intimately. I have heard people talk about him with sparkles in their eyes and a slight smile on their lips – it’s really unmistakable how much he was loved. At the 1st Annual Aroni Awards Gala, an Awards Ceremony in his honour, I felt his spirit through the choice of words and phrases used to remember him in Toronto on Sunday December 10th, 2006.

Look out for more information on the 2nd Annual Aroni Awards and kudos to the Haile family and friends of Aron for their leadership.