PEN Eritrea conducted its Annual Meeting in Antwerp-Belgium from 7-8 October 2023. PEN members from around the world attended the annual meeting in person and online and discussed multiple topics the centre defends and promotes. Participants elected an Executive Committee (EC) and Advisory Board (AB) for three years of tenure per the PEN Eritrea’s charter. Awet Fissehaye and Awet Mengsteab, who served as interim executive director and treasurer since October 2022, were re-elected this year and will continue to serve until the next election in 2026. Akberet Mehari and Ghirmay Yohannes were elected PEN Eritrea’s secretary and assistant treasurer, respectively. Yonatan Tsighe (Dr), Yirgalem Fisseha, and Kibrom Demoz were elected as members of the advisory board, taking the roles of predecessors Ermias Ukbe, Hassan Idris and Weini Suleiman. According to PEN Eritrea’s charter, the centre’s president is selected from the advisory board, and the 2023 election placed Yonatan Tsighe as the new president for the next three years.
On the final day of the meeting, PEN Eritrea hosted an award ceremony for 2023 PEN Eritrea’s Freedom of Expression Award winner, publisher Kassahun Checole. Kassahun accepted his award from PEN Eritrea president (2020-October 2023) Ermias Ukbe. PEN Flanders, who facilitated and assisted PEN Eritrea in organising the meeting in Antwerp, attended the ceremony in person.
In his acceptance speech, Kassahun said, “I am really, really, very proud of this moment; I want to thank all of you for coming and being part of this process. PEN Eritrea has done a great honour to me by recognising the little amount that I have done in the past fifty to sixty years. I am very grateful for this recognition. What my colleagues at PEN Eritrea are doing gives me hope — not only hope — but reassurance that the struggle that started decades ago is now in good hands.”