afrol News, 14 February - Prominent Eritrean journalist, playwright and poet Fessehaye "Joshua" Yohannes reported died as consequence of harsh prison conditions one month ago. He is the fourth journalist to die in the inhumane secret prisons of Eritrea since a group of around 12 reporters and editors were arrested in September 2001. None of them have ever been charged or seen a lawyer, and the ones that have not died remain in jail.
According to information confirmed by the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) and the World Editors Forum (WEF), "Joshua" Fessehaye died in detention on 11 January. Mr Fessehaye was a journalist with the now-banned weekly 'Setit' newspaper until he was detained in September 2001 in a major crackdown on Eritrea's remaining independent press.
Mr Fessehaye was paralysed in one hand and had been walking with difficulty for years. "He reportedly succumbed to the extremely harsh conditions in which he had been held since his arrest," WAN president Gavin O'Reilly reports, referring to sources in Eritrea.
After being detained at an Asmara police station and an underground prison in late 2001, and after spells in the Halibet and Sembel hospitals in Asmara, Mr Fessehaye was reportedly taken to a prison camp at Eiraeiro, in the Northern Red Sea desert province, where at least 62 political prisoners are allegedly being held. The existence of the Eiraeiro prison was only made known late last year, following the death of several political prisoners.
Conditions inside the Eiraeiro prison are reportedly inhumane, with prisoners permanently manacled, forbidden from communicating with each other or guards and given only the most basic food. According to some reports, Mr Fessehaye's fingernails had been ripped out.
Nine prisoners reportedly have died in the secret Eiraeiro prison camp during 2005 and 2006. These include three editors - Said Abdulkader, co-founder and editor of the weekly 'Admas', Medhanie Haile, co-founder and deputy editor of the weekly 'Keste Debena', and Yusuf Mohamed Ali, editor of the weekly 'Tsigenay'. All these independent newspapers have been banned since September 2001.
The information on Mr Fessehaye's violent death has only now escaped from the sealed-off country - often seen as contemporary Africa's worst dictatorship - through dissident channels. In line with the normal Eritrean state secrecy when it comes to political prisoners, Mr Fessehaye's family has not heard anything about his whereabouts since 2001. They have not been advised on his death from official sources.
Equally, the dead bodies of editors Abdulkader, Haile and Ali have not been released to their families yet, although their deaths occurred more than a year ago. Neither have their families been informed of their whereabouts or death.
In a public letter sent today by WAN president O'Reilly and WEF president George Brock to Eritrean dictator Issayas Afewerki, the two organisations expressed their "outrage" about the death of Mr Fessehaye. WAN, which groups 18,000 newspapers around the world, urged President Afewerki "to ensure that in future your country fully respects international standards of freedom of expression and that it ends the abusive treatment of those held in detention."
Also the media watchdog groups Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and Reporters sans Frontières (RSF) today confirmed to have "received reports from Eritrean sources" about the death of Mr Fessehaye. According to RSF's sources, the journalist had died in prison in January this year.
CPJ however has other sources on Fessehaye's violent death. The New York-based group cites a separate report from exiled opposition party leader Adhanom Gebremariam alleging that Mr Fessehaye died in December 2002 in a prison in Embatkala. Mr Gebremariam, who was one of 15 ruling party officials accused of treason after writing a June 2001 public letter urging President Afewerki to democratise his regime, said he received the information from sources he still has in Eritrea.
Meanwhile, the International Press Institute (IPI) says Eritrea remains one of the world's worst countries for journalists. Harassment, detention, threats and physical attacks are commonplace for independent journalists still operating in the country, and most foreign media workers have left the country.
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.