A Divided Diaspora and the Future of Eritrea: A Live Panel Discussion


In the summer of 2023, Eritrean Government-sponsored Diaspora Festivals have been the center of attention in many western countries. At these many festivals, supporters and opponents of the Eritrean government have clashed, leading to violence and termination of festivals by host countries in Europe, the UK, Canada, USA and Israel.

After the September 2 clashes in Tel Aviv, Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “We want harsh measures against the rioters, including the immediate deportation of those who took part.” Yemane G. Meskel – Eritrea’s Minister of Information stated in his latest on X, formerly known as Twitter, “Eritrean festivals are targeted because they promote national cohesion; strengthen Eritreans’ ties with the homeland; & ultimately reveal that the negative narrative is hollow & groundless.” Many Eritrean government opponents disagree, claiming that the festivals prop up dictatorship in Eritrea and disturb their peace in their host country.

We invite you to join us for a live webinar on Saturday, September 23 at 10:00 am California, 1 pm New York, 6 pm Eritrea, 7 pm Cape Town. Eritrean diaspora professionals with different views will discuss the current developments. Representative of the Eritrean government have also been invited to participate. Please follow the webinar at ERISATSETIT Media or ASSENNA TV on the date and time listed above.

For more information or to submit questions for the panelists in advance, send an email to Meron Semedar, meronsemedar@berkeley.edu.


Meron Semedar (Organizer): Educator, community organizer, human rights and international refugee advocate. Meron has addressed the UN, USCIS, One Young World, many universities and communities on the global refugee crisis and human rights in Eritrea. His works have been featured in Vanity Fair, Huffington Post, the G7G20, the International Organization for Migrants (IOM), African Voice, BBC Tigrinya, Voice of America and SBS Australia. A short version of his story has been published in a book called Refugees in America in 2019. He holds a South African degree in Civil Engineering, M.A. in International Studies from the University of San Francisco and a Master of Public Affairs (MPA) from UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy. He works as a student advisor to Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program at the Center for African Studies at UC Berkeley.

Yonatan Tewelde, PhD (Panelist): is a scholar and educator currently serving as Assistant Teaching Professor of Media and Communication at Penn State University. His areas of research interest lie in visual culture, intersectionality of transnationalism, diaspora, peace and new media. He earned a Ph.D. in Media Arts and Studies from the School of Media Arts and studies at Ohio University (2020). Dr. Tewelde has contributed publications in peer reviewed journals in the fields of visual culture, film, and journalism and has presented his work at several national and internationals conferences. He was awarded the Broadcast Education Association (BEA’s) 2021 “Keneth Harwood Award” for best doctoral dissertation for his study “Chatroom Nation: an Eritrean Case Study of a Diaspora Public” exploring creative uses of new media by diaspora communities for political activism and mobilization.

Saba Kidane Heritage, PhD (Panelist): received her Ph.D. from George Mason’s Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution in 2020. Dr. Heritage received a Master of Arts in African Area Studies with Political Science emphasis from UCLA and a Master of Arts Degree in Peace and Justice Studies from the University of San Diego. Born and raised in Ethiopia, Saba moved to Eritrea in 1992 when Eritrea became independent. She completed her undergraduate studies in Political Science at the now-defunct University of Asmara. She studied at the University of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She is a founder of a pioneer media organization, ERISAT-Eritrean Satellite Television which has been broadcasting in Eritrea since late 2018 in various Eritrean languages. ERISAT’s mission is to inform, engage, and empower the Eritrean public through independent news, analysis, and entertainment. Dr. Kidane Heritage came to the United States in 2002 to pursue Graduate Studies. Currently, Dr. Heritage teaches at California State University of Los Angeles and East Los Angeles College.

Daniel Teklai (Panelist): is a writer and activist who is a co-founder and chairman of One Nation, a grassroots-based organization seeking to bring democratic change in Eritrea. In 2011, he also co-founded the cyber-based Eritrean Youth Solidarity of Change (EYSC) and served as its chairman until 2015.  Over the years, he has written dozens of articles on issues of constitutional governance and is one of the contributing authors of the book, Eritrea: Affirming Nationhood and Sovereignty. He is also a regular commentator on Eritrean media, providing insights on political issues. Daniel is a bank marketer by profession and has over 20 years’ experience in retail, commercial and investment banking. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Delaware and lives in California with his wife and two children.

Hermon Berhane Ogbamichael, PhD (Panelist): Currently works as the Head of Programme / Lecturer in Journalism, at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and previously Lecturer in the field of Public Relations Management, Media Studies, and Communication. He obtained Doctoral degree in Informatics from CPUT, in 2018, a master’s degree in Information and Knowledge Management from the University of Stellenbosch, a Bachelor of Technology in Public Relations Management from CPUT in 2002 and a Bachelor of Arts in English in 1998 from the University of Asmara. Hermon is the co-founder of Frontline Africa – a nonprofit organization that mobilizes African youth to create awareness on the significance of African unity, develop awareness of the harmful social maladies such as racism, xenophobia, and other parochial social sentiments, harness the importance of social and economic integration, and promote the usefulness of the creation of co-existence of the diverse ethnic groups and united Africa with common vision. Hermon is the Deputy Editor of the African Journal – known as Uhuru Spirit. He has also worked as a Journalist for Eritrea Profile between 2000-2001, and as Editor in Chief of Workers Magazine at National Confederation of Eritrean Workers (NCEW) in 1999.

Jennifer Riggan, PhD (Moderator) is a Professor of International Studies at Arcadia since 2007. Her ethnographic research focuses on political identities, teachers, migration, and refugees in Eritrea and Ethiopia. She is the author of two books: The Struggling State: Nationalism, Mass Militarization and the Education of Eritrea (2016) and Hosting States and Unsettled Guests: Eritrean Refugees in a Time of Migration Deterrence (2024, co-authored with Amanda Poole). She has published numerous articles in the fields of Anthropology, African Studies, and International Education and has held fellowships from the Wolf Humanities Center (2020-21), The Georg Arnhold Program (2019), Fulbright (Addis Ababa University 2016-17 & Asmara university 2004-5), The Spencer Foundation/ National Academy of Education (2012-14), and the Social Science Research Council (2004-5). She was awarded the 2021-2023 Steinbrucker Endowed Chair at Arcadia University.

Co-sponsoring departments and organizations at UC Berkeley