Sir, – Like Ray Jordan of Self-Help Africa ("Signs of hope in Eritrea", July 28th), I greatly welcome the recent peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The speed of events – prompted by the initiative of the new Ethiopian prime minster, Dr Abiy Ahmed Ali, in accepting the UN ruling on the disputed border without any precondition, has been breathtaking. These developments could lead to a misleading impression that the troubles of the Eritrean people are over and that it is time for international aid and trade to steam ahead with Ireland in the vanguard, as Mr Jordan proposes.
However, since aid and trade are only possible under the control of the Eritrean government, such an advance can only be made by trampling over the human rights of the Eritrean people. Unlike Mr Jordan, I have not been privileged to visit Asmara in recent weeks – indeed I have been warned that were I to travel to Asmara, I would likely face arrest. Why? Simply because I have spoken up on behalf of the thousands of Eritrean Christians who have been imprisoned without trial in dreadful conditions and on behalf of the deposed Eritrean Orthodox patriarch who, now aged 90, has been held under house arrest for over a decade.
The many other human rights violations in the country – including arbitrary arrest of politicians and journalists and indefinite national service – have been described by the UN’s special rapporteur (denied entry to Eritrea) as “crimes against humanity”.
Self-Help Africa calls on greater Irish support for Eritrea. I agree, but only if Ireland supports the Eritrean people by holding to its well-established position of promoting human rights and not turning a blind eye and supporting the Eritrean regime. – Yours, etc,
Church In Chains
PO Box 10447,