AFRICA/ERITREA - Ethiopia-Eritrea Agreement: the Church hopes for "a season of freedom and peace"

Saturday, 14 July 2018 peace   religious freedom   human rights   politics   local churches   democracy   economy  

Asmara (Agenzia Fides) - Prudence is the word circulating in the environments of the Eritrean Catholic Church regarding the peace agreement between Ethiopia and Eritrea. "As a Church - says Fr. Mussie Zerai, priest of the eparchy of Asmara to Agenzia Fides - we are happy with the agreement, but we await developments and pray that the agreement between President Isayas Afeworki and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed opens a season of lasting peace that restores stability and freedom to the citizens of both countries".
The agreement could open great spaces for growth first of all in the economic field. "From a commercial point of view - observes Abba Mussie - the two nations need one another. Ethiopia needs Eritrean ports to export their goods at lower costs than those imposed by Djibouti and Sudan.
Eritrea needs to open its economy to relaunch production and domestic consumption. The agreement was drawn up primarily to meet the economic needs of both countries. We hope this will also have repercussions on the population that has become impoverished over the years".
Will peace also lead to democracy in Eritrea? It is a difficult question, comments Abba Mussie. "The government - he explains - has postponed the introduction of the 1997 Constitution for years because, the ministers said, the state of emergency did not allow the introduction of a normal democratic debate. Now there are no more excuses. The hope is that the fundamental Charter comes into force soon and that citizens can finally enjoy all the rights. We can say the same for social organizations, whether they are secular or religious. We can only hope for greater openness and availability on behalf of the executive".
Happiness and prudence are also shared by Meron Estefanos, Eritrean, human rights activist: "Peace makes us happy, but we must be cautious. At the moment, none of Eritrea's problems have been solved: the Constitution has not come into force, political prisoners (including ministers imprisoned in 2011) have not been released, the press is still silenced, the opposition is not free to express itself. Everything has remained as it was. Let us wait and see the developments. I would like to thank the Catholic Church, although it is a minority and is persecuted, it was one of the few voices that in recent years denounced the repression of the regime. For those who work for a free Eritrea, the Church has been a point of reference". (EC) (Agenzia Fides, 14/7/2018)