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Archives: The Eritrean Push Factor In South Africa

Why are Eritreans leaving their country? To most observers the reasons are clear but a few might not understand why many Eritreans do not return to their country once they leave. Today we present two archive posts as reminders of the push factor that has been active for a very long time in Eritrea, most of the time promoted by Isaias Afwerki himself.

The first of the two archive items is by Gedab Newsm, posted on Dec 5, 2004 (ten years ago); the second is a report filed by a student from South Africa and translated by the Awate Team, posted on July 8, 2002 (12 years ago).//Awate Team

Archive Item # 1

Eritrean Officials Pressure Students In South Africa To Return
By Gedab News, Dec 5, 2004, 01:34 PST

Three top officials of the Eritrean government–Dr. Welday Futur, the Minister of Development; Mr. Osman Saleh, Minister of Education and Dr. Weldeab Isaac, President of University of Asmara, are currently in South Africa in an unscheduled visit. The purpose for their trip is twofold: to persuade Eritrean enrolees at South African “technicon” colleges to return to Eritrea and to negotiate new terms with the South African educational institutions.

Their visit is timed with the December graduation of students enrolled in undergraduate studies.

Citing the deteriorating human rights conditions in Eritrea, nearly all graduate and post-graduate students who have completed their studies in South Africa have refused to go back to Eritrea. In a meeting convened at the Johannesburg technicon, PFDJ officials informed the students that their November and December stipends would be withheld and paid only after they return to Eritrea.

Withholding stipends is a tool used frequently by the government, according to students in South Africa.

Meanwhile, after concerted efforts by Eritrean students, the University of Pretoria disclosed on Friday that it no longer feels bound by the contractual agreement it had entered with the Eritrean government.

The appeal by the senior government officials contrasts sharply with that of President Isaias Afwerki. In a meeting he held in Durban South Africa on July 8, 2002, Isaias Afwerki had informed the same students that, thanks to globalization, he is not concerned whether they return to Eritrea or not.

Archive Item # 2

Isaias in South Africa: The Q & A Session With Eritrean Students
By Reported By “Harnet Seb” Translated By Awate Team
Jul 8, 2002, 13:14 PST

Meeting On July 8, 2002

First Question 

Student: Regarding those in prison, when will they be presented to a court of law?

Isaias: Who was jailed? When?

Student: My father.

Isaias: How do you know?

Student: We have no news of him. He is missing.

Isaias: What is his name?

Student: Dr. (Muslim name)

Isaias: If there is no news, then he is in jail. Perhaps he had contact with traitors, Talibans or Jihad.

Student: So, when will he be presented to a court of law?

Isaias: When we feel like it.  In a closed session of the Special Court. Do you know Guantanamo, in Cuba? That is where America is holding Taliban prisoners of war.  Just like that. They are a national security risk. (Disruption continues)

Second question:

Student: Why did you close the churches?

Isaias:  Because they have foreign influence…From what little I know, [he continued about the introduction of religions in Eritrea…it was tiresome].

Third question:

Student: What will come of the people whose land, water and woodland has been taken over (He was taken aback by this question)

Isaias: People whose land has been taken over…

Student: I mean, the border issue.

Isaias: It seems to me, mankind is more precious than land or woodland…there is a little land that has been taken in the Tsorona area; it is not much. We will relocate the people in a land of their choice. The government will also provide assistance. As for me, mankind is above all else.

Fourth Question 

Student: What measures will be taken to encourage the people here to participate in the Warsai Yeka’alo Initiative? If it is, as it were, work for 150 Nakfa, isn’t it preferable to choose to stay here?

Isaias: I had anticipated this question. When I was leaving Asmara to come here, they told me, lest you vanish, to meet with you and advise you to come back home. I told them, “let them try!” Globalization is Equalizer. If there is money, there is no problem. You can import people. In the past, we looked for and couldn’t find laborers and construction workers. We imported them from Sri Lanka, the Philippines and India. Yesterday, we were looking for five architects and we brought them from the Philippines. If we cannot find a professor, we go to India and import him. So, if one says “I want to go to America,” let him try it.

There were no more questions. They announced, “Time is over” and we stopped

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  • AMAN

    For the sake of discussion
    Let’s say we Tigrigna people are Tigrians according to the wishes of TPLF.
    So the question is : Is it EPLF that represents Tigrian peoples in the world
    and that has struggled for longer years for the Liberation of Tigrians in Ethiopia;
    Or is it TPLF that only joined the struggle only in 1984 ?
    Moreover, TPLF faction is included in the EPLF coalition Front just like other organiztions
    like ELF-PL, PLF and others under EPLF wings ? So why is the loud cry by one subgroup
    TPLF more than the rest or other constituent subgroups of the mighty EPLF ?
    Was it because of the erratic ethnic and nationality based faulty politics by eprdf in Ethiopia ?
    I find it hard to understand how an organization(tplf) that constitutes only 1/3 rd and covers
    only 33% of the whole EPLF POLITICAL SPECTRUM tries to be dominant over the whole
    thru arrogance exposing its ignorance !
    The maximum limit of whatever tplf politics is only the 33.3 mark of the EPLF political scale !!
    There are other non ethnic based organization and issues AND occupants of the rest 2/3 rd space
    to make it whole and representative of the Nation.

  • Woyanay

    Does it matter? You have to look at where it is leading you to. You have gained your independence and you were better positioned unfairly to extract benefit from the country you are condemning until your beloved IA made a fatal mistake. Don’t forget Eritreans lived more free in Ethiopia and progressed in academics, business and were holding high ministerial and military positions in the Imperial Ethiopia and even the Derg.
    The Eritreans under those systems were more free to do their jobs than the so called high officials you have in the so called free Eritrea who are actually personal servants of IA.

    You may not want to admit it but there were more highly educated Eritreans, and more attending the then Haile Silassie I university and later Addis Ababa University for their first and second degrees under the Ethiopian government than the Italian colonizer that kept Eritreans illiterate except the few that were allowed to gain literacy up to grade 4 only, so they can be good askari or the 10 years administration under the British where there were not many Eritrean educated or the total destruction of the education system and abuse of the youth to the level of total obliteration of the country it self after cessation from Ethiopia.

    Now don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying there were no problems but compared to what you have now the problem or lack of freedom the Eritreans thought they had when they were with Ethiopia were negligible and immaterial that you could call that period the best times in the lives of Eritreans.
    I was talking with an honest old Eritrean classmate of mine who devoted most of his youth to the struggle for independence of Eritrea and in a moment of awakening said to me that those days in Haile Silassie University were the golden years in his life and reminisced about the beautiful life in Asmara, the freedom, the joyful youth of the time and his trip to Massawa in the summer, his words not mine “it was a beautiful time”. He seems to have doubt why he sacrificed so much…. for so much evil at the end.

    So trust me in turn, there are some Eritreans that don’t share your view that successive Ethiopian governments are the problem. Probably they were the problem before but not anymore the ball is in your court.

  • Tesfabirhan WR

    Dear All,

    Lets remember our refugees in Sudan and Ethiopia:

    Even a penny can let a child to go to school. Why not take a share to let him/her go to school?


  • Tesfabirhan WR

    Dear Awatawyan,

    Today, I have read a very good initiative to call for European Union to stop helping the dictatorial regime in Asmara.

    EU was the one who funded the Warsay-Yikealo slavery plan. EU was the one who continued to fund the PFDJ regime in order to secure its interest in the horn of Africa. And now, he is starting to engage with PFDJ government while UN delegation was rejected access for human rights condition assessment. EU can not replace UN by all measures and if does, UN’s existence is just a figure.

    It is shame the United Nation delegation who is the center umbrella of world’s agreements to be rejected and EU be favored. EU, like UN, should continue to put pressure for a meaningful human rights call.

    EU can even now continue to fund by the name of economic statbility in Eritrea. If this is the case, it is going to end as before by enslaving Eritreans. We Eritreans forced to leave our home country because EU sponsored for the Slavery Marshal Plan. And now, by the name of “Exodus”, EU is stepping and stooping in the door steps of the dictatorial regime in Eritrea. This is a shame.

    EU should rather continue to put pressure for a meaningful sytem change. It is the ideology of the PFDJ that is creating all the problems. And extending hand to support the system will bring nothing but a “DIVIDED ERITREAN SOCIETY” and a “FAILED STATE” in the near future.

    Here is an initiative taken and posted at

    And I call dear awatawyan to join your pen and remind them about EU’s failed good wishes and that turned into slavey first and later became the source of thousands of refugees.


  • L.T

    No,Awate,you would do better in”Isaias” where your gambit and circus arts would match “ab Adi Weyane”perfect.No,all Ethiopians who talk Tigrigna here,you have tailed long enough with Weyane,politics,srcurity but with Weyane but Ethiopia under Weyane are sick,life,school,health care,El,clean water,dialy food(I mean Three times per day)with homeless people,beggar in Mekelle,pavers in Addis Abeba with so much peroblems in your country in your people and I wonder how how can cope devote your most expensive time of Ertra and its people?” Zeybil’sii aykone”.If you wish bad Isaias you have an easieer way to marry with him or give him a rat poison.You know him well than us.I write this due to there bebing so much I mean there’s s lot to wirte on….

  • Hope

    Read what I said:”…..the Funds it was provided with..”…Riesi Akat.

  • Rodab

    “He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made” – Psalm 7.15
    President Isaias and advisors like Kisha and the Yemanes are likely to end up in ElaEro incommunicado prison camp.
    Then and there, there will be no constitution nor institution to protect them.

    • Hope

      Unfortunately,I I can’t agree more.
      In lay person’s terms: “Id Tsenahit,Shenahit”..

  • Hope

    Hello all!
    Here is my opinion on this piece:
    That the GoE sent hundreds of Asmara Univ Students to S Africa for Masters and Ph Ds worth of millions of USD…. so as to take advantahes of the Funds it was provided with.
    That the Students turned their back against the Gov,which gave up for them the best thing it had
    That the Students decided to bite back their own Moms’ breasts
    That the people , who are in jail are not only ” Jihadists” but those even worse situation are the Higjlanders “and the “Crisadors”.
    My point:
    This Article is :unfair,unpersuasive,provocative ,divisive,unreasonable and unbalanced.

  • haileTG

    Selamat Awatista,

    Slightly off topic 🙂 But here is a press releas from Denmark’s Immigration. The department had conceded defeat yesterday and issued a statement casting doubts on its own report and re-instating the right of Eritreans fleeing forced conscription and labor to be granted asylum in blanket without looking at individual cases.

    read Press Releas

    the related news is [read here]


    • Hope

      Thx for the Good News,which was expected based on the heavy criticism the DIS faced with.
      Thanks to Prof Gaim and Journalist Habtom and other Rational People,who challenged the Report and its Reporters.
      Aman Hidrat:
      R U there?
      Yep,I am “contradicting” to your satisfaction.

      • haileTG

        Hi Hope,

        I would look at this whole operation as a result and a proof of the strength that the justice seeking community has reached institutionally or organizationally. Many individuals and organizations were involved directly or indirectly to challenge and demolish such a blatant ruse. It wasn’t down to mere individuals, although some individuals are naturally in a better position to do more than others. PFDJ was seen taking a position to harm the interest of those refugees. It worked with the DIS to have those 1400 Eritreans who have seen incredible ordeals to get there, to be denied asylum and their lives be ruined. It was conclusively proven that the justice seekers muscle is far stronger and capable impacting forcefully than the feeble and reactionary PFDJ. For all its worth, PFDJ only exposed itself for the menace that it is. It has no sympathetic ears to its narratives and in this case, it has been put out in the cold by the reversal of the DIS decision. The DIS itself has told it that its (PFDJ’s) side of the story is just porkies (in diplomatic language “cast a doubt’). Hence, it was made to look pathetic, for all its selfish and evil efforts.

  • T..T.

    This is not only an Eritrean issue. It should be internationalized because the mass exodus is contributing to a hastened whole Eritrean youth extinction and ultimately it is an issue of the whole population extinction.

    If there is an undeclared war in Eritrea
    led by the elderly man (Isayas) against the youth,
    then that war is a war of eliminating the youth to extinct the Eritrean sovereignty through mass extinction.

    Here, what Isayas is missing is that the extinction of the youth will result in total emptying of the people from their land tomorrow. If so, what is the purpose?
    Some opposition members say that Isayas wants to sell the whole of Eritrea to Qatar to be used for tourism, night clubs and other tourist centers.

    Indeed, the world should call on the UN to choose between the elderly one-man (Isayas) and the youth who are supported by whole Eritrean people. Yes, the youth should be left free and perfectly unharmed by the one man to be safe from extinction and to guarantee the continuity of Eritrea as a nation and member state of the UN.

  • dawit

    Disingenuous questions but honest answers