Today, Q&A brings you an old friend of Eritrea, Dr. Hans-Ulrich Stauffer, an attorney of law and lecturer at the University of Basel. Dr. Stauffer made his first connection with Eritrea at the beginning of the 1970s during the armed struggle for independence. He knew and visited the field to get a good insight into how the people of Eritrea worked and struggled to get their independence. Dr. Stauffer has published several articles, on different media outlets, about Eritrea and its people with an aim to portray the true image to the world. He has always maintained his connection with Eritrea and its people and published a book in the German language last year which was sold out.
Today, Q&A talks to Dr. Hans-Ulrich during his short stay in Eritrea.
• Welcome back. Let’s start with your very first connection with Eritrea?
Just by the end of my high-school years, I started to be influenced by the idea of solidarity works. By the end of the 1960s, many African countries were liberated from colonialism. In 1972, I came in to contact with Eritrea through a post mail at the ELF’s office in Damascus. I remember Ethiopia was going through a terrible hunger at the time. Emperor Haile Selasie never tried to acknowledge the situation of the people, which was unfair. That was a hot topic and was given a wide coverage by the media. That is when I started to wonder what was going on in the country. As a result, I first produced a brochure that spread information about the country and I got committed from that time forward. In 1976, I was a co-founder of a bulletin that was published four times a year; we covered articles about Eritrea and the things that took place at the time. In a certain way our information helped many others to get the real image of Eritrea or Ethiopia-Eritrea at the time.
• You visited the field during the war. What do you remember?
It was in 1987 when I visited the Nakfa front. I came to see what the people were going through to get their independence. After my visit I published 15 articles in German on the Switzerland papers that talked about the truth about the people of Eritrea and their struggles. The world needed to know. It wasn’t a fight of the East against the West. Eritrea was isolated and it was fighting against all odds. The only help was through the diaspora, so writing those articles was helpful in a way.
I also came just at the end of the war, and in 1993 I was here during the referendum. However, I haven’t been here for many years after independence. It was only in 2014 that I made another visit. After 2000, suddenly many youngsters migrated from Eritrea to Switzerland and it made many people wonder what was happening in Eritrea. It raised many questions and was a big issue. Old friends started asking me if I knew anything about the current situations of Eritrea. I wasn’t able to answer back since I haven’t been here for so long. That is why I wanted to see for myself what was really happening instead of reading on the net. I believe it is better to see one time than to read 10,000 articles.
• Is that how you came up with your book about Eritrea?
Exactly! I came and saw how the country was in a no war no peace situation. I wrote the book in German language and was disputed highly in Swiss. The book includes information about the background of Eritrea and the colonial struggles it went through. It also talks about the beautiful historical buildings from the Italian times and how well they have been preserved. I also tried to describe the daily life of the community. Over all, the book attempts to give the right information about the country.
I also have three booklets that have articles from reliable sources such as the official English newspaper of the country, Eritrea Profile, and other media on the Internet regarding the current peacemaking efforts in Eritrea and Ethiopia and generally in the Horn of Africa. In my opinion, it is fascinating to see things change so easily. What the Governments of Eritrea and Ethiopia are trying to achieve is exemplary and could be beneficiary for all the countries in the region. I believe that every region has something to be benefited from and I think it is about time that the region enjoys a time of prosperity. I compiled many articles regarding the situation in order to spread the information to the world. The world needs to know the truth about Eritrea.
• Do you have a message you want to convey at last, Dr. Stauffer?
Things take long to get solutions. My hope is Eritrea is doing the best it can and the responsible people would wait until everything works. I think people should use this opportunity for a better future. I am also writing my second edition which will include the newly occurring events in Eritrea.