Former Eritrean minister of finance openly calls for radical change in Eritrea in new book

In a recently published two-part book, former Eritrean finance minister Berhane Abrehe attacks Eritrea’s president Isaias Afwerki. The book titled “Eritrea Hagerey” (Eritrea my Country) is both a reckoning with the current political system in Eritrea as well as a call to Eritreans to peacefully take their fate into their own hands and install a democratic government, it is reported. The book is only available in Tigrinya so far.

Berhane, who was ousted in 2014 as minister of finance due to his insistence on more transparency, demands Isaias Afwerki’s resignation and a reconvention of the National Assembly with all the original members that are still alive. Elected in 1993 after the war of independence, many of the original Assembly members already died, were killed, exiled or are currently in prison. The National Assembly should debate the most pressing issues facing Eritrea today and also elect a new president and also organise free elections for Eritrea as soon as possible, says Berhane.

The publication of the book is remarkable as Berhane still lives in Eritrea and other high-ranking officials have been arrested or killed after openly demanding political change. Despite warnings, 73-year-old Berhane reportedly refused to flee from Eritrea and stays near his wife, who has been imprisoned for more than a year after one of their children illegally fled the country.

Berhane’s book and its message have reportedly been well received by Eritreans in the diaspora. In an address to Eritreans published on 6 September, Berhane repeated his demands for change, blamed president Isaias for the grievances of Eritreans and challenged him to a debate on television. In the same address Berhane criticised recent international agreements that he alleges Isaias concluded without consulting Eritreans, let alone informing them.