Editor’s note: as the year 2022 draws to a close and we prepare to turn the calendar to 2023, we take the opportunity to look back on the previous 12 months. This article, reviewing the period from January to March, is the first in a four-part series that looks back at some of the important events and developments that unfolded in Eritrea over the past year. Parts II, III, and IV will be published in subsequent editions of Eritrea Profile.
2022 began on a sombre note. Veteran freedom fighter and one of the prominent leaders of Eritrea’s long liberation struggle, Romodan Mohammed Nur, passed away at the beginning of the month at the age of 83 due to illness. Having joined the Eritrean Liberation Front in 1964 and serving as Commissioner of the Fourth Department during the early years of the liberation struggle, Romodan went on to become one of the founders of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF). He was elected Secretary of the EPLF during its first Congress, while after independence he served the nation as Governor of the Northern Red Sea Region and Minister of Justice. Although Romodan’s passing was a moment of profound sorrow for the nation, he also left behind a towering, shining example of commitment and service to country for all others to aspire to.
During the first week of January, a senior Chinese delegation, led by Wang Yi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister of China, visited Eritrea to meet with President Isaias Afwerki, Foreign Minister Osman Saleh, and other officials. The fact that Eritrea was the Chinese delegation’s first overseas visit of the year underscored the countries’ growing closeness. During the visit, Eritrean and Chinese officials discussed bilateral and international issues of common interest, and the two foreign ministers signed a joint statement agreeing to further cooperation and development of the China-Eritrea partnership.
January not only starts the year – it is also when several important religious holidays are observed. Both Geez Christmas and Timket were celebrated enthusiastically by Eritreans at home and abroad. During events to mark the occasions, the late Reverend Abune Qerlos, Fifth Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahdo Church, extended warm wishes to all.
Water is life, and so it was exciting to see the year begin with the inauguration of a new potable water project in Dembeselam administrative area, Adi-Tekelezan sub-zone. Built at a cost of over two million Nakfa, the project was led by the Water Development Department in Anseba Region and involved the active cooperation of the local community.
Another important development was the Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework agreement signed by the Eritrean government and the Office of the United Nations (UN). Covering a period of five years, the agreement aims to strengthen cooperation and promote development in a number of areas, including infrastructure, agriculture, energy, industry, health, education, and capacity-building, among others. As part of the launch of the agreement, a large delegation from the UN conducted a multiday visit to Eritrea to hold talks with officials and visit various developmental sites.
Sticking with development, the Asmara College of Education (ACE) held its 15th commencement ceremony, with 115 students graduating. A further 101 students from ACE were presented certificates for completing vocational training programs organized by the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students.
The month also saw important events conducted by Eritreans abroad. Specifically, the YPFDJ in Italy conducted its fifth annual congress in Milan, while in Australia, the Eritrean community gathered for the 22nd annual Eritrean Festival.
Finally, January featured an in-depth interview with President Isaias conducted by local media outlets. Covering a number of regional and domestic topics, the interview featured many interesting points, including on the TPLF-instigated war in Ethiopia, the group’s attack on Eritrea, the illegality of unilateral sanctions, and Eritrea’s growing cooperation with different partners, among others.
The second month began with a senior Eritrean delegation composed of Foreign Minister Osman Saleh and Presidential Adviser Yemane Gebreab attending the 35th Summit of the African Union (AU). In addition to delivering an official statement, the delegation met and held talks with representatives of AU member states and organizations.
Also in diplomacy, on 7 February President Isaias Afwerki met with Mikhail Bogdanov, Special Representative of President Vladimir Putin for the Middle East and Africa, in Massawa. Bogdanov delivered a message from the Russian leader to President Isaias and stated that the visit underscored Russia’s readiness for cooperation with Eritrea. During the meeting, President Isaias underlined the vital contribution that Russian could make to the progress of Africa.
February forever stands out on the annual Eritrean calendar, for it is forever associated with Operation Fenkil. During official celebrations held in Massawa under the theme, “Fenkil: Embodiment of Heroism of Generations”, President Isaias laid a wreath at the Twalet Martyrs Cemetery in tribute to those who gave their lives while fighting for Eritrean independence. As part of the celebratory events, the Eastern Africa Half-Marathon Championship 2022 was also held in Massawa. In the male category, Samson Amare from the Southern Region came in first place, while Nazareth Woldu won the female category race.
Remaining with athletics, Eritrea’s National Olympic Committee (NOC) organized a workshop to develop a five-year strategic plan. Led by Leul Fissehaye, President of the NOC, the workshop was attended by representatives from the Commission of Culture and Sports, national sports federations, various officials, and other stakeholders.
One of the most exciting developments of the month was the Eritrean Aviation College’s (EAC) first commencement. Held at the Fenkil Air Force Base in Massawa, the ceremony saw graduates awarded with advanced diplomas. In his keynote address, President Isaias congratulated the students and their families, and also commended the contributions of trainers and teachers.
Other important local events in February included: the election of area administrators, managing directors, and village coordinators in the eight administrative areas of Habero sub-zone; community meetings on development programs in Mai-Aini sub-zone; and the renovation of roads linking the five villages of Durfo administrative area, Akria sub-zone.
Meanwhile, looking abroad, the PFDJ branch in Sweden held its annual congress on 19 February in Vasteras. During the meeting, in which about 100 representatives from 22 sub-branches participated, a new executive committee was elected.
As always, International Women’s Day, 8 March, was celebrated by Eritreans in the country and around the world. The occasion allowed for the immense and multifaceted contributions of women, both before and after independence, to be once again recognized and honored. In connection with the special day, members of the National Union of Eritrean Women from 13 sub-zones of the Central region, as well as women in the civil services, voluntarily donated blood to the National Blood Bank.
In international diplomacy, President Isaias met the Special Envoy of the People’s Republic of China to the Horn of Africa, Ambassador Xue Bing, in Asmara. During the meeting, which was also attended by other officials from both countries, the two discussed bilateral issues, as well as peace and security in the Horn of Africa. Meanwhile, the Eritrean Ambassador to the Republic of South Sudan, Yohannes Teklemicael met with Mayiik Ayii Deng, Minister of Foreign Affairs of South Sudan. Their meeting focused on strengthening bilateral ties and regional developments. Similarly, Humed Yahiya, Chargé d’affaires at the Eritrean Embassy in Kuwait, met with Assistant Foreign Minister of Kuwait for African Affairs, Ali Sulaiman Al-Saeed, to discuss bilateral issues.
As well, Foreign Minister Osman Saleh participated in the Tokyo International Conference on African Development and also delivered a speech covering various topics. Meanwhile, at the 39th Session of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, an Eritrean delegation led by Luul Gebreab, Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, delivered the country’s national report on implementation of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. The report reviewed progress made and challenges encountered, as well as outlined steps forward.
Once again demonstrating their pedigree, Eritrean cyclists put in a strong performance at the African Championships, held in Egypt. Henok Mulubrahan took gold in the elite category road race, while across all male and female categories Eritrea took home a total of 15 medals (seven gold, six silver, and two bronze).
There were several education- and training-related highlights during the month. Students from vocational schools across the country that joined the 34th round of national service in Sawa graduated on 13 March, while the Ministry of Education branch in the Northern Red Sea region handed out awards to outstanding students in Massawa sub-zone. Additionally, the National Confederation of Eritrean Workers, in cooperation with the Northern Red Sea administration, organized vocational training for 52 government employees, and the PFDJ Cultural Affairs Department handed out awards to 130 youth that completed a five-month training program focusing on theater and filmmaking.
Last, elections for area administrators, managing directors, and village coordinators were conducted in several parts of the Northern Red Sea region, including the sub-zones of Sheib and Gelalo.