Tuesday, 11 Dec 2018

The Eritrean diaspora observes Ethiopia with hope and mistrust

The sudden thaw between the longstanding enemies of Eritrea and Ethiopia opens up a wealth of opportunities for neighbors: new economic and diplomatic ties, telephone and transport links, and the end of one of Africa's most bitter feuds.

But the new peace raises new questions for the diaspora of Eritrea, tens of thousands fleeing the tight grip of their government, strict system of compulsory military service and endemic poverty.

Now they are waiting cautiously to see how the truce will shape their homeland, perhaps offering them a chance to return.

"I want to go to my country," said Salamwit Willedo, a 29-year-old Eritrean resident of Israel. "Everywhere I'm a refugee, but my country is my home, I feel at home there, so I hope (peace) will happen."

The small Eritrea, with 5 million people, gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after years of rebel warfare. It has since been ruled by President Isaias Afwerki and has become one of the most reclusive nations in the world. The state of war with Ethiopia has kept the country of the Red Sea in a state of constant military preparedness, with a harsh, indefinite system of military service that has been criticized by human rights groups and thousands fleeing to Europe, Israel and other African countries. [19659006] The archenemies of the Horn of Africa waged a bloody border war from 1998 to 2000, killing tens of thousands and leaving families isolated. But the antagonism faded abruptly last month when Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that Ethiopia fully accepted a 2000 peace agreement that would hand over important controversial border areas to Eritrea.

Enmity between nations has since dramatically vanished. The leaders have visited other countries' countries in rejoicing receptions, diplomatic and other connections have been restored, and flagship Ethiopian Airlines resumed flights to Eritrea this week.

Ethiopia's embrace of the peace agreement was Abiy's boldest change as a country moves away from the years of protests against the government and demands more freedom in Africa's second most populous country, with more than 100 million people. Now, look at Eritrea, and how peace could make him loosen up and drop his long defensive stance.

"Hatred, discrimination and conspiracy are over now," the 72-year-old Eritrean leader said this week, people singing his name on his first visit to Ethiopia in 22 years

While the Diaspora in government supporters and critics Many Eritreans abroad are skeptical of change as long as the current government remains in power.

I think there will be no solution in the country because we still have thousands of prisoners in the country, we have no constitution, we have no peace of mind, "said Bluts Iyassu, who is a member of Tel Aviv in 2010 by United Eritreans for Justice, a group of Eritrean expatriates working to promote democracy in their homeland.

Israel has become a popular destination for Eritreans and hosts about 26,000 people, most living in rundown neighborhoods in the South Tel Avivs and working in restaurants or hotels in lower jobs.

While many say their lives are better than in Eritrea, they have not received a warm welcome in Israel.

Israel sees the migrants as Jobseekers who threaten the Jewish character of the state have arrested migrants and sent them to third countries to reduce their numbers wrestlers.

Human rights groups say that Israel could use the reconciliation between Eritrea and Ethiopia as an excuse to encourage migrants to leave.

170,000 Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers living in Ethiopia, peace in the short term means a new ability to communicate with loved ones at home by phone.

"I can not put my joy into words – I have already spoken to my sisters in (port city) Massawa since the phone line was restored," said Alemnesh Woldegiorgis, 64, an Eritrean resident of Ethiopia. He hopes he will get a passport to visit a family he has not seen for 20 years.

In Germany, where almost 70,000 Eritreans have settled, most are refugees who have arrived in the past five years Federal Office for Migration and Refugees

Hintsa Amine lives with other Eritreans in a temporary migrant housing facility nearby of the former Berlin Airport. The 22-year-old came to Germany a year and a half ago, and while supporting the peace treaty, said he had not changed his plans because he still did not feel safe in his home country.

I want to stay here in Germany, "he said

Mohammed Lumumba Ibrahim, 61, who has lived in Germany for 45 years, has raised the hope that he might take his children to his homeland [196592002] ] "I would like to go with the whole family. But I have to assure myself that we have peace, that there is no war, so I can take my children and show them their homeland, "he said.

Some diaspora communities defended Eritrean government and said it was not for everyone

Essey Asbu, 47, who came to the United States as a refugee in the 1980s, returned to Eritrea for the 10th anniversary of independence, marking his 25th anniversary two years ago Independence from 1991 when they conquered their future capital, Asmara.

He said he did not believe that the current regime would have a problem of having any Diaspora members return unless they had committed a crime ] "I do not know why anyone feels uncomfortable coming back," he said, adding that Eritreans who are pros or others in others

Latest data from the US Census American Community Survey, there are approximately 34,000 people born in Eritrea who now live in the United States. California has the largest number, about 6,200. According to the survey, about 1,150 people live in Minnesota.

Mohamed Salih Idris, 49, of Minneapolis, left in the 1970s and came to the US in 1999. Idris has not tried to return to Eritrea, citing his own danger of family and the threat of not being allowed to leave.

He said that the peace agreement brings some optimism, but this feeling is accompanied by mistrust.

"There is no confidence in the current regime, and the hope is, with this peace agreement, there is no excuse for them to do what they did," he said.

He said the fear of imprisonment is very real. "This fear makes it very difficult for someone to think about returning right away."

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