Ethiopian, Eritrean scholars hold “friendship conference” in California

Ethiopian and Eritrean scholars each laid the blame for the antagonism of their respective peoples on dictatorial rulers and extremist “liberation fronts” that took secession as the only viable solution to a complex problem. Speaking at the Ethiopian and Eritrean Friendship Conference held March 12-4 in San Jose, Calif., panelists and attendees emphasized the need to start a process of healing, renewal and normalization of people-to-people relations—in repudiation of succeeding rulers and political elites that never represent the interests and desires of their people.

Opening the conference, Dr. Worku Negash, who moderated the dialogue on behalf of the Stanford Ethiopian Forum, called the gathering a first step in the right direction. Eritrean Prof. Mesfin Araya of City University of New York said that the Eritrean middle class that blindly rallied around Isaias Afeworki and the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front committed a “collective suicide in post-independence Eritrea.” He said the undemocratic atmosphere cast questions on the legitimacy of Eritrea’s 1993 secession referendum.

Dr. Aregawi Berhe, a founder of Ethiopia’s Tigray People Liberation Front (TPLF) now residing in The Netherlands, protested the “horrendous looting and plundering” being committed by Meles Zenawi and his cronies. For Aregawi, the main obstacles to peace and reconciliation in the Horn of Africa are the region’s ruthless rulers. “Under these dictatorial regimes, neither confederation nor federation can be viable alternatives,” he noted.

Obang Metho, director of the Solidarity Movement for a New Ethiopia; Abebe Gellaw of the Center on Democracy, Development and Rule of Law (CDDRL); Tesfatsion Medhanieof Germany’s Bremen University, and other speakers called for healing between Ethiopians and Eritreans after generations of traumatic suffering and bloodshed. (Asmarino Independent, March 18)

See our last post on the Horn of Africa.

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