From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Eritrean government takes over LWF development programs
FRANK_IMHOFF.email@example.com (FRANK IMHOFF)
05 Jun 1998 20:12:43
Negotiations on the future underway
GENEVA, 4 June 1998 (lwi) - The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) must
discontinue its development programs in Eritrea. The Government of the
State of Eritrea has decided to bring an end to the involvement of
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in development programs, and has
required NGOs to hand over all material and equipment to the government. As
a result of the decision made last January, several NGOs have already
closed their operations and left the country. The LWF was due to close its
operations in Eritrea by the end of April.
LWF General Secretary Ishmael Noko met with President of Eritrea Isaias
Afwerki on May 20 to discuss possible solutions for the use of the LWF
assets in the country. Noko made two alternative proposals concerning its
programs. The first was that the LWF should be granted a long extension of
its operations, to enable it to complete the process of withdrawal and
handover in an orderly manner. The second proposal was that a special fund
be established from the proceeds of the sale of all movable assets of the
LWF Eritrea programs, to be used for projects in favor of Eritrean
communities and to be administered by a board. Whilst President Afwerki
expressed openness to the second proposal, Noko's negotiations with the
Eritrean authorities were inconclusive.
The two parties will meet again before July 15 in order to finalize an
arrangement acceptable to both the LWF and the Eritrean government. The
deadline for the closure of the LWF's Eritrea office has been extended to
"The LWF is not questioning the right of the Government of Eritrea to do
what it wants but we are raising two fundamental issues. First, we want to
conclude the work that has been developed on the basis of good partnership
between the Evangelical Church of Eritrea/LWF and the Eritrean Government.
Second, the assets intended for assisting Eritrean people should be
converted into a fund that will be managed by a board in which the Eritrean
church participates", Noko comments.
The agreement between the LWF and the Eritrean government was signed on
March 6, 1992 - after an agreement was made with the Evangelical Church of
Eritrea (ECE). It was foreseen that the LWF would continue its activities
in Eritrea until mid-2000. The first four-year phase, 1992-96, was to
restart the Development Department of the ECE, to assist it in building up
its capacity, and to train staff from the ECE who later would start to
manage some of the ongoing LWF World Service (LWF-WS) projects. The next
four years, 1997-2000, would be the second phase during which the LWF would
reduce its activities and the ECE would become the main implementor.
Proclamation prohibits church development work
This process was disrupted when the Government of Eritrea issued the
Proclamation on Religion and Religious Organizations in mid-1995. Under
this proclamation, churches and related organizations could no longer
implement relief, rehabilitation or development programs. The same applies
to the Muslim community as well. That put an end to the agreed-upon
transition period from an international to a national church partner.
The LWF-WS has two international staff - the Resident Representative and
the Technical Coordinator - and 120-140 national staff working on the
construction of educational and health facilities, agricultural assistance,
activities related to clean drinking water, reafforestation and shelter.
One of the most successful activities has been the Soil and Water
Conservation Program which has provided a lot of communities with water
during the dry season.
In the course of the two-month extension, the LWF-WS is planning to
complete two schools which are still under construction.
Eritrea is one of the 14 African countries where the LWF-WS has development
or emergency operations. In 1997 the budget for the Eritrea programs
amounted to USD 2.13 million.
* * *
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