Saturday, September 24, 2016

Eritrea 2016: Sketches of a Trip. Part II. A Conversation with Attorney Senai Woldeab about ICES.

Part 2

Issayas: The Conference had contracted many local businesses such as Eagle Travel Agency, the buses, the hotels, and etc. What was the evaluation of the participants and the committee about the services of the aforementioned?

Senai: Since I was in charge of communication with the presenters and some of the service providers we involved (such as Eagle Travel Agency), I was able to personally witness how the participants felt about the services of such businesses. Eagle Travel, which was our designated travel agent for the conference, for instance, offered to transport presenters who stayed at hotels which do not have shuttle services, free of charge. They received the presenters with flowers and small Asmara postcards. We had three brand new buses to transport the presenters to and from their hotels. Most of the presenters stayed at Asmara Palace; others went to Crystal Hotel, Embasoira Hotel, Sunshine Hotel and Albergo Italia. We have not received any complaints from our guests and from the hotels.


                                                               lunch buffet line at the Asmara Palace Hotel

                                                                    Traditional dinner being served at the
                                                                    Hidmona Restaurant, Expo Grounds.



Issayas: The Conference had organized a train tour and Asmara city tour. What comments did you receive from people who went on the tours?

Senai: A number of the presenters and participants already know Asmara, but have not had guided tour of the city. Asmara Heritage Project – which has been working hard to inscribe Asmara in the World Heritage List – provided us with two of its employees as our guides during the Asmara tour. More people joined us for the memorable Asmara-Nefasit tour onboard the 1920’s steam locomotive. Everybody enjoyed the tour.

Asmara historical sight seeing tour

                                                                                 a train ride to Nefasit

Issayas: There were many young people involved behind the scene at the Conference. The ushers /usherettes, the technical personnel, the note takers, the website, the logo, the video crew (every   lecture was videotaped, and so forth). Would you tell us about them? Are they students,..?

Senai: Right from the start of the idea of organizing the conference, we had determined to involve
the youth at all levels from ushering to presenting papers, from serving as reporters to being involved
in organizing the conference. The youth had a visible presence at all levels during the conference.

We invited thirty students from the eight colleges to attend the conference and get the inspiration they need. We also had conference staff (ushers and usherettes) most of whom just completed their high school classes or are in early years of their college studies. A team of five from the organizing committee took them through a selection process and we had equal number of females and males helping us as our conference staff.

They were given enough training a few days before the start of the conference. Every session had to be videotaped. We hired Audio Visual Institute of Eritrea (AVIE) to record (video and still camera) all sessions. We will also have a documentary video highlighting the conference. On top of that each presentation and the discussions on it were recorded by a team of three rapporteurs. They have now submitted their reports to us.

We will use the reports not only for documentation purposes but for communication to each presenter and interested policy makers.I cannot also forget to mention the admirable contribution of Sennay Kiflu – who just completed his law classes – designed the conference logo, the banners, the book of abstracts and the conference program.. Every piece of the products was essentially his idea. He is very imaginative.

                                                         Some of the behind- the- scene members

                                                                Members of the Organizing Committee of ICES

                                                     Senai Woldeab, Sennay Kiflu and Dr. Yonas

                                                  logo of the conference designed by Sennay Kiflu

Issayas: At ICES's website there is a section on Eritrea Research Fund. Not too many people are aware of ERF. Would you tell us about it and its relationship with ICES?

Senai: The ERF was established in 2013 to provide support research on issues related to Eritrea. The purpose is to encourage people stationed in and outside of Eritrea to conduct high-quality research related to any field of study on Eritrea. It also supports the two local academic journals, the Journal of Eritrean Studies and the Eritrean Journal of Science and Engineering.

An ad hoc committee at the National Commission for Higher Education has been managing the fund. A rigorous review process approves the research and financial proposals. Researchers must submit publishable research output also approved by reviewers of the final product. We have so far had three calls for submission of proposals and we received 126 proposals. Of these we supported 46 research projects. 21 have been complete to date. ERF is related to ICES in the sense that they are aimed at encouraging research on Eritrea. we also wanted the ICES opportunity to identify papers with potential for ERF-funding. We already have our eyes on some of the papers presented at the ICES.

Issayas: Senai, thank you for you time and the elaboration.

Senai: Thank you.

In the near future, I will provide a pictorial tour of the conference.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Eritrea 2016: Sketches of a Trip. Part II. A Conversation with Attorney Senai Woldeab about ICES.

Senai Woldeab is an attorney, assistant professor of law at the School of Law, College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS), Eritrea, and a legal advisor to Minister of Justice, Fozia Hashim.

Part 1

Issayas: What is the genesis of this conference?

Senai : An idea for holding a conference like the ICES was around for quite some time. The main thrust for organizing the conference was the recurrent conviction that it would make more sense if Eritrea-related/centered academic conferences are held in Eritrea. 

Issayas: There was one in 2001. Is this one any different than the previous one?

Senai: Yes there was a similar conference in 2001. I did not participate there, but hearing from people who organized and/or participated in the conference, I came to know that the two events are similar to each other. They invited academic discussions on various Eritrea-related matters.

Issayas: Would you give us some statistics?  How many people participated? How many presented? What topics were covered and etc?

Senai: We have just finished preparing the report of the conference which we will make available to everybody online. The report will give a clear picture on the number of people who participated and presented papers. A total of 119 papers and six plenary lectures were presented in the three days of the conference. The papers were presented in seven parallel session rooms at the Hotel Asmara Palace. We clustered the papers by proximity of the issues they discussed. With an average of three papers presented in each session, there were forty topics covered. Topics as varied as archeology, philology, linguistics, education, foreign policy, copyright, archiving, gender, Eritrean Diaspora, literature, FGM, architecture, sustainable development, crime prevalence, cultural, heritage, Horn of Africa and Red Sea issues, migration, colonial matters, food security etc. were covered.

Your readers can download the conference program at for more details.

We had applications for attendance beyond the venue’s capacity. So we gave late applicants one-day passes to attend the event. By our estimation more than 450 people attended the conference without counting high-level government officials and members of the diplomatic and international organizations corps. 

Issayas: Was the Conference entirely self-financed?

Senai: The Government of Eritrea and the UNDP co-financed the conference.

Issayas: What is the plan for the future?

Senai: Our immediate plan is to prepare a conference proceeding. More than half of the presenters have already sent their papers for that purpose. Future plans include holding area-specific mini -conferences which will merge into the next ICES which may be held in two-three years’ time. If these events go sustainable, an Eritrean studies institute can be established.

Issayas: What were some of the comments from participants and presenters about the quality of the presentations?

Senai: Our general impression so far is that the participants appreciated the quality of the papers and the nature of the discussions on the presentations. We prepared and distributed evaluation forms during the conference. 133 persons (presenters and participants) submitted their evaluation and a significant majority of them appreciated the organization of the conference and the opportunity created by the event for debates and networking.

Issayas: There were many presentations by young scholars (Eritrean and non-Eritreans), what are the assessments of these presentations by the organizers?

Senai: That was a very encouraging part of the conference, especially seeing young Eritreans (including two papers presented by students who had just completed their classes, graduate assistants and very recent graduates) presenting their papers. Arguably the most attended session (excluding the six plenary presentations) which overflew with participants – I had to just stand on the crowded corridor to hear the presenters speak– was a regional security and political culture session where three young Eritreans Isaias Teklia (from the School of Law), Ghebretnsae Damr (from the Research and Documentation Center/RDC) and Amanuel Zekarias (from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs) delivered interesting papers on  Scholarly Echoes of Ethiopia’s Claim of Sovereign Right of Access to the Sea, Social Capital and its Manifestation in a Political Culture: the Case of Eritrea and Regional Security: Mapping Eritrea’s National Security Approach in the Horn of Africa, respectively.We, the organizers, agreed with the evaluations which noted the encouraging participation of young presenters from Eritrea and from abroad.

                         Isaias Teklia(closest),  S.V.Narayanan (moderator) Ghebretnsae Damr &Amanuel Zekarias.
                  Above pictures: Regional Security, political culture  panel in Akurdat Room, Asmara Palace Hotel.

Issayas: With 50% entries from presenters, there are about 1,500 pages of article collected. Give and take with another 1,500 pages from the remaining entries, what is the plan for these entries?

Senai: Our plan is to issue the proceedings in two or three volumes.

Issayas: Were/are there recommendations with the respective articles?  If there are and are accepted, how would these recommendations make it to policies?

Senai: We had invited government institutions and other national/international organizations to attend the conference so they can reflect on papers relevant to their respective activities. This was done in the hope that said entities could further discuss on the issues raised by papers of concern and see how the recommendations of the papers can be incorporated in policies.
                                                H.E. Yemane Gebremeskel, Minister of Information,
                                                           opening the Conference on behalf of H.E. Minister 
                                                           Osman Saleh, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Eritrea.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Eritrea 2016: Sketches of a Trip. Part I

After a six-week stay, I returned from Eritrea two weeks ago. The primary purpose of my trip was to: present two papers (see below) and chair one panel discussion (entitled Digital Documentation and e-Resources) at the International Conference on Eritrean Studies (ICES) which was held in Asmara, Eritrea from July 20-22, 2016. According to the organizers, thirty five different subjects were covered and there were four hundred and fifty attendees and participants.

Sadly, Dr. Samuel Mahaffy, a great friend of Eritrea, died two weeks before the Conference had convened. I had the honor of reading the paper that he had written for the plenary session entitled "Speaking of Eritrea: A Meta-Analysis of the Discourse Structure of Competing Narratives.


In the upcoming posts, I'll summarize the main arguments of my papers, interview people who had participated in the Conference, report on the various parts of my trip and so forth, but for this post,
I'll introduce you to my papers' titles and abstracts (If you're interested in having the abstracts of all the presenters at the Conference, you can download the entire file from ICES's website):

"Got Eritrea? Smart Power, the Eritrean Diaspora and Lessons from the Asia Pacific Countries"

Eritrea needs smart power in order to strengthen its hard and soft power, respectively. The Eritrean Diaspora has a major role to play in this effort. The expertise, the education, the technical know-how, the talent and etc. are in abundance. This paper argues that if Eritrea's smart power (a combination of
hard and soft power) has to have a profound impact on Eritrea and the world, the aforementioned scattered abundance along with the local production of knowledge need to be systematically
harnessed, channeled, organized and be financially supported by the government. The paper also explores that Eritrea could learn lessons from the smart power of the Asia Pacific Countries.


"The Role of Archives in Eritrea's National Development Project"

Most of Eritrea's development projects such as roads, dams, schools and etc. are visible, quantifiable and measurable. Could the archives (public and private) which are the center of Eritrea's collective
memory and the primary source of information, contribute to Eritrea's National Development Project and be visible, quantifiable and measurable, too? This paper examines the function, organization
and role that the archives must and should play in Eritrea's National Development Project.

Link for ICES's official website, programs and the abstracts:

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Conversation with Orsalem Kahsai, founder of OMG FLAX BUTTER.

Issayas: Would you update us on your activities since I interviewed you last time on my blog?

Orsalem Kahsai: As a native Eritrean, I grow up eating flaxseed as a part of my diet. My extensive  biochemical background and knowledge of flax and the compound in flaxseed allows me to recognize the contribution flax could make to American diets. I obviously took on the  scientific investigation to combine ground flax seed with other nutritional ingredients. After years of research and trials resulted in my now patent pending to stabilize ground flax seed for use in products requiring long shelf life.  As a result I’ve created and launched the first OMG FLAX Butter in 2016.

OMG FLAX BUTTER products are now available at Amazon and at selective stores.  
When looking at today’s available nutrition options, we see a hole and an opportunity to help humans to be healthier. Today’s foods are so overloaded with high saturated fats, hydrogenated oils and along with those come an abundance of Omega-6. Now moderation of healthy sources of Omega-6 is totally fine if there is also a good balance of Omega-3.

Over the course of human evolution, there has been a dramatic change in the ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fats consumed in the diet. This change, perhaps more than any other dietary factor, has contributed to the epidemic of modern disease.

Anthropological research suggests that our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed omega-6 and omega-3 fats in a ratio of roughly 1:1. It also indicates that both ancient and modern hunter-gatherers were free of the modern inflammatory diseases, like heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, which are the primary causes of death and morbidity today.

At the onset of the industrial revolution (about 140 years ago), there was a marked shift in the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. Consumption of Omega-6 fats increased at the expense of Omega-3 fats. This change was due to both the discovery of the modern vegetable oil industry and the increased use of grains as feed for domestic livestock which in turn altered the fatty acid profile of meat that humans consumed.

In the U.S. the average person’s tissue concentration of highly unsaturated omega-6 fat is 75%. Since we get close to 10% of our calories from omega-6, our tissue is almost completely saturated with omega-6. This creates a very inflammatory environment and goes a long way towards explaining why 4 in 10 people who die in the U.S. each year die of heart disease.

In short, elevated Omega-6 intake is associated with an increase of all inflammatory diseases – which is to say virtually all diseases. The list includes (but is not limited to):

    •    Cardiovascular disease
    •    Type 2 diabetes
    •    Obesity
    •    Metabolic syndrome
    •    Irritable bowel syndrome & inflammatory bowel disease
    •    Macular degeneration
    •    Rheumatoid arthritis
    •    Asthma
    •    Cancer
    •    Psychiatric disorders
    •    Autoimmune diseases

America and the world have created the nutritional decline of the human race over its history of innovation. Nothing has been done much in the way of combating this epidemic; it’s rather been ignored until now. I am always driven by innovation and thus created a market first Flax butter from flaxseed.

The battle of Omegas in the human body:

Omega-6s and Omega-3s appear to compete with each other for space in the cell membrane and consequently for the attention of various pro- or anti-inflammatory enzymes. You can't just take a few servings of omega-3s and expect everything to click into place like a fatty-acid Tetris game without simultaneously reducing your omega-6 intake because the existing omega-6s will bully the omega-3s away. Reducing consumption of omega-6s and implementing a healthy plant based omega source like OMG Flax Butter to get dense omega-3s will put you on a path to feeling amazing!

3 Ways to Fix the Problem

1. Definitely finding a product like OMG Flax Butter that is dense in omega-3s is the top choice. But you need to simultaneously reduce your intake of omega-6s. You can do this by:

*avoiding most foods that come in a box or polyethylene bags as they include foods generally made from grains chosen for their long shelf life (i.e., high concentration of unhealthy omega 6's).

*avoiding cooking oils that are soy, corn, safflower, and cottonseed based and replace with olive oil sunflower oil. The foundation of OMG Flax butter is from sunflower as well which contains Linoleic Acid, a healthy and essential polyunsaturated fatty acid that we can all benefit from.

*avoiding the consumption of restaurant-fried food, as they're almost always fried in unhealthy high -omega-6 cooking oils. In fact, it's a pretty safe bet most restaurant dishes are dense in things we don’t really want in our bodies.

*choosing grass-fed and grass-finished beef. All cattle are initially grass fed before being fattened
up with grains, so make sure the meat you buy is from grass-finished livestock to ensure you are consuming the healthy proteins and fats that your body needs.
2. Remember that the ratio of the two fatty acids is more important than the quantity. If you eat more omega-6s, eat more omega-3s. In other words a serving of OMG Flax Butter 3 times a day should get you into the more “balanced omega zone.”

3. Regularly get your cholesterol checked at the doctor for ongoing health screening. One test you'll
want as well is a blood test to determine your omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid ratio to determine your real risk of heart disease. It is a test that most people don’t know is available.

Issayas: There are other flax products on the market today, what sets this product apart and how can
your product be used on a daily basis.

Orsalem: OMG FLAX BUTTER products have a wonderful taste with numerous health benefits. We have a patent pending nutrient extraction process to where we are able to bring the vast health benefits to the consumer in an amazing tasting spread. It can also be used as delicious alternative to other Omega-3 supplements, because all OMG FLAX BUTTER products contains 100% Daily value of Omega-3 per serving, which science has shown it may help to prevent heart disease and cancer with regular usage. OMG is low in sugar, No salt, essential Vitamins & Minerals, rich in lignans, 100%  NON-GMO ingredients, No Artificial colors, No Preservative, No Trans Fats, No hydrogenated oils,  so you can feel good about what you are putting in your body. OMG FLAX BUTTER Products are suitable for a lot of specialized diets.  OMG FLAX BUTTER Products are also non-GMO, Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free, Kosher, and Vegan.


1) spread OMG FLAX BUTTER on toast, crackers, waffles, bagels, pancakes, English muffins or
    any  of your favorite foods.
2) straight out of the jar
3) spread it on fresh fruits, banana, strawberry, apple..
4) spread it on fresh vegetables, celery sticks, carrots…
5) topped on frozen dessert
6) added as a sweet treat for baked goods
7) protein shakes or smoothies
8) yogurt
9) oatmeal or granola for that extra crunch!



Issayas: What is your next plan?

Orsalem: I believe my unique work experiences provide me with a completely fresh perspective on nutritional foods at its molecular level. I also learned that the lack of nutrition not only affects your body’s ability to maintain itself but may also help you manage your risk for developing disease. Therefore, we are in a great demand to understand the functionality of foods due to the risk of food related illnesses such as: diabetes, obesity,  cancer, cholesterol, anorexia, malnutrition…

This is why after years of research and trials, I created OMG Flax Butter, and now I want you and your family to feel the best possible on a daily basis.

Yes, I am consistently working with great food scientist around the globe to develop and innovate ways to deliver the best possible nutrition for humans in a delicious way. Why can’t getting healthy be enjoyable?!

Issayas: Orsalem, thank you for your time. Below is the link for Orsalem's company, OMG Flaxbutter.

Orsalem: Thank you.