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.
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- John Githongo, Kenya, publisher, leading anti-corruption campaigner and award winning anti-corruption activist
- Kwasi H. Prempeh, Ghana, Executive Director of the Centre 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
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- Emmanuel Iduma, Nigeria, author
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- Charles Onyango-Obbo, Uganda, leading publisher and columnist
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- Akin Olaniyan, Nigeria
- Chanda Chisala, Zambia, founder and president of Zambia Online
- Dany Ayida, Togo, Resident, Country Director, National Democratic Institute (DRC)
- George Sarpong, Ghana
- Rosemary Mwakitwange, Tanzania, Chief of Party, Freedom House
- James Smart, Kenya, leading journalist and news anchor
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- Violet Gonda, Zimbabwe, journalist and President of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT)
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- Jelili Atiku, Nigeria, human rights artist
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- Mohamed Soltan, Egypt, Executive Director, the Freedom Initiative
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- Ahmed Gatnash, Libya, co-founder & VP Operations, Kawaakibi Foundation
- Mohamed Keita, Mali, Pan African rights advocate
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