Saturday, July 25, 2015

Professor David D. Laitin Donates His Collection

Professor David D. Laitin Donates His Collection to the Hoover Institution Archives.

The collection deals with Somalia in particular and the Horn of Africa in general. For the general information and contents of the collection : click on  the links below.
 (*contents in the pdf section)

A 1978 issue of Halgan: A periodical published by WSLF

                                       Author signed copy of "The Principles of Somali" by
                                       Solomon Warsama and Major R.C. Abraham, 1951

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Eritrea: the Oldest Young Nation.

Recently, someone told  me that I should post the brief speech that I gave at the Eritrean flag raising ceremony in San Jose, California in 2014. As a result, I am posting the speech below.

Council-member Sam Liccardo, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good evening,

In the west, people start a speech with a joke, in Asia, with an apology and in Africa with a libation or remembrance.

As Eritrean-Americans we do both. Since we had the remembrance earlier, I will save the joke for later.

The Eritrean Community of San Jose is thrilled that their city is raising the Eritrean Flag in honor of Eritrean Independence Day which takes place on May 24, 2014.

Firstly, a few points about the flag:

The green represents development.
The red represents the huge sacrifice made to achieve independence.
The blue represents the marine wealth.
The yellow  represents the mineral wealth. The wreath and olive branch were adopted (the color was changed from green to yellow) from the Eritrean flag of the Federal Period (1952-1962).

Secondly, by way of an introduction, Eritrea is the oldest young nation*. The land, culture, languages, script, rock painting, etc. are very old.Its archeological discoveries rank second in Africa.

You might ask, how could one be old and young at the same time?

Let’s start with the old part, first:

It is old because all paleontological and archeological evidences suggest that Eritrean history is as old as humanity**.  A one-million year old fossil was found in Buia, Eritrea and they are still finding more as we speak. Beside human fossils, a twenty-seven million year old elephant missing link and a one-million year old bull fossils were also found. The archeologist from Spain who constructed the bull from two hundred pieces joked that bull fighting must have started in Eritrea and the first matador must have been from Eritrea.

It is old because researchers from the University of Santa Cruz have found out that what the ancient Egyptians called “the Land of Punt” or “the Land of Gods” was actually located in Eritrea.

It is old because Christianity and Islam were adopted without force during the 4th and 7th centuries, respectively.

As you can see, I am coming from Before the Common Era (BCE) to the Common Era (CE).

From 15th to 18th century, Eritrea was colonized by various forces including the Ottoman Empire and Egypt. Italy officially created Eritrea on January 1st 1890 and ruled it until 1941 when it was replaced by Great Britain. After ten years of British rule, Eritrea was forced to federate with Ethiopia under the auspices of the United Nations, however, in 1962 Ethiopia unilaterally annexed Eritrea. A year earlier, the Eritreans had started an armed struggle which lasted thirty years.

Eritrea is new because on May 24, 1991 Eritrean forces entered the capital city Asmara and declared Eritrea finally independent. Therefore, tomorrow will be Eritrea’s 23rd anniversary. Since independence, Eritrea has achieved a great deal and is one of the only four African countries that have achieved United Nation’s Millennium Goals.

I dare suggest to you that Eritrea is getting younger as it gets older. Or as my speech suggests Eritrea started old and is getting younger every day.

One of the greatest American writers of the twentieth century, F. Scott Fitzgerald, must have been thinking of Eritrea when he wrote his short story, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Speaking of young people, San Jose has a growing number of second generation Eritrean-Americans.

Let me introduce you to one of them, Ginbar Ketema.

Thank you

Note:  Since that speech Council-member Sam Liccardo has become the mayor of San Jose.

* In 2007, I created a 10 minutes promotional video for the Eritrea Development Foundation (EDF) entitled  "Eritrea: the Oldest New Nation".  After South Sudan's independence in 2011, I changed the words to "Eritrea: the Oldest Young Nation".

** Tsegai Medhin , an Eritrean PhD archeology student in Spain, came up with the sentence.
See his interview on my blog.


Call for Abstracts

International Conference on Eritrean Studies

Eritrean Studies: The Way Forward
July 20 - 22, 2016, Asmara, Eritrea

This conference aims to revive scholarly discussions on Eritrea and sketch ways of strengthening academic interest and activities related to the country by engaging scholars from inside and outside Eritrea. The event will offer an opportunity to scholars working on Eritrea to present their work to a larger academic gathering in Asmara. It will also provide a forum for local, Eritrean Diaspora, and international scholars to create and develop links with research and academic institutions and public stakeholders inside the country. This conference is expected to lay foundations for a sustained commitment on the part of the different participants to Eritrean studies. Scholars working on other African countries are also welcome. Their involvement will allow Eritrean studies scholars to establish pan-African networks and connections, providing opportunities to raise issues and share experiences on the manifold challenges of development from different perspectives.

There will be panels from invited guests around the following areas: ensuring sustainability of academic discussions on Eritrean studies; migration and human trafficking; environment, climate change, and sustainable development; peace building and conflict resolution in the Horn of Africa and the Red Sea region.

Organizers of the conference invite proposals for panel, paper, and poster presentations around the following areas:


Comparative state-formations in Africa
*Migration and human trafficking in the Horn of Africa
*Economic cooperation between China and Africa
*Perspectives on South-South cooperation


*Eritrea and emerging challenges in the Nile basin, Rift Valley and Red Sea region
*Foreign relations and diplomacy
*Governance and justice systems
*Historiography and state reproduction
*Archaeological and anthropological studies
*Agriculture and natural resources
*Economy, health, and education
*Alternative development models
*Equity, diversity, identity (language policy, gender parity, etc.)
*Language, literature, visual, and performing arts
*Climate change and sustainable development
*Urbanization and cultural heritage
*Rural, pastoral, and nomadic livelihoods
*Science, technology, and development
*Diaspora issues

This list of areas is not exhaustive and proposals on related fields and on cross-cutting or interdisciplinary issues are welcome.


*Deadline for proposals: October 15, 2015
*Notification of results: November 30, 2015
*Full paper submission: March 30, 2016

Panel, individual and poster presentation proposals:

Abstract proposals must be in Word document format. Abstracts should not exceed 300 words for individual papers and 1,200 words  for panel presentations, including abstracts of each paper in a panel. Formatting and style guidelines for full paper submissions will be provided.

Travel support:

There will be travel and accommodations support for some panel and individual paper presenters from outside the country based on the number
of applicants and available funds.

Organizing institutions:

*National Commission for Higher Education, Asmara, Eritrea
*Eritrean Centre for Strategic Studies, Asmara, Eritrea
*Research and Documentation Centre, Asmara, Eritrea

Contact details:

Submit electronic copies of abstracts to: and

For further information, contact:
1. Prof. Zemenfes Tsige, Chair of Organizing Committee
Director, Bureau of Higher Education Administration and International Linkage
National Commission for Higher Education, P. O. Box 1220, Asmara, Eritrea
Telephone: 00291-1-162133 Email:

2. Yonas Mesfun, member, Organizing Committee, Email:

3. Senai Woldeab, member, Organizing Committee, Email:

4. Saleh Mahmud, member, Organizing Committee, Email:

Sunday, July 5, 2015

A Conversation with Merhawie Woldetzion: An Update

Issayas: Merhawie, the last time that I had a conversation with you for my blog was in Chicago. It was a while back. Since then you are back in the Bay Area and have graduated from Santa Clara University Law School and passed the bar. Congratulations on two points: on passing the California Bar and on your new Tigrigna app for Apple I phone 6. Would you tell us about both?

Merhawie: I came back to the San Francisco Bay Area from Chicago in 2010. While in Chicago and before law school in California, I worked as a structural engineer  primarily designed buildings. It was when I was developed tools to ease my engineering efforts that I became interested in the law, particularly intellectual  property law. Ultimately I applied to law school and decided to focus my interest in intellectual property, in particularly patents. (Patents are a license, granted by government with the sole right to exclude others from making, using, or selling, etc. an invention)

Issayas: You have an interesting blog with a timeline, etc. tell me about your blog.

Merhawie: I've been maintaining my blog for the better part of a decade. I'm really interested in Eritrean history and have been trying array information in articles and otherwise for readers so that it is easy to consume. Its important as we move forward presenting Eritrean history, that people can easily consume that information, otherwise friction and distraction will prevent people from learning about our history.

Many compositions of Eritrean history describe events in long, dry (but factual) prose which is difficult to consume. Some writers try to maintain themes through this writing which causes them to jump back and forth in history. For clarity, I developed a small historical timeline


that starts Before the Common Era and ends in the present day. At this point the historical timeline
provides an overview of history but contain references to books where further information can be found.
As for the Tigrinya app - well that has been a project that I have long been interested. Since college I have been really interested in the tremendous bias on the internet and in technical circles for English. Part of the difficulty in addressing the situation is both economic and technical. I personally cannot
address the economic problem, but I can do my part to alleviate the technical problem. Today, the technical problem is not one primarily of standards but of tools. To remediate that problem I have been working for years to build tools to make it easier to use Ge'ez  based languages online. To that end ,I've tried to provide tools for people to use Ge'ez online.

Tigre-iPhone 6 Screenshot

Tigrigna-iPhone 6 Screenshot

iOS, the operating system for Apple mobile devices (the iPod Touch, iPhone, and iPad), has not provided an easy way to to use Ge'ez based languages. With the larger user-base, I thought it would be great if we finally could. To do that I created a combination of apps which enable the use of particular languages Tigrinya, Tigre, and Amharic. As I mentioned before, there is also a third, free app that allows people the ability to read Ge'ez (Geezr for iOS app) on the iPhone but not write, the ability to write is a premium feature (requires either the Tigrinya/Tigre for iOS app or Amharic for iOS app). Also, the app works on al iOS devices, not just the iPhone 6 (e.g. iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad 4, iPad Air, iPad Air 2, iPad Mini, iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 3, and the iPod Touch 5G). The Tigrinya app actually contains two keyboards, one that supports Tigrinya and another that supports Tigre. There is a second app which supports only Amharic (

Issayas: Thank you

Merhawie: Thank you.

To purchase the app for US $4.99, please go to: