By Yishak Yared,
MEMBERS of the Friends-of-Eritrea club from Germany and Switzerland are currently on a visit to witness development programs and tourism sites in the country.
Background: Forty years back in 1971 the young student Toni Locher went to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as a member of Swiss delegation to attend young Christian students’ conference. While his stay there he happened to meet some Eritrean youth from the Addis Ababa University (then Haileselasie University) and taxi drivers. In his words “Especially those Eritrean University students had very strong attachment with the Eritrean revolution. They had pamphlets coming from the field. They openly talk about the Eritrean revolution. And that is when I started to become curious to know more”. That is when Toni heard for the first time about the Eritrean revolution for independence.
Since then he has been curious to know more about Eritrea and its revolution for national independence. And upon returning back home he tried to contact Eritreans residing in Switzerland. At that time there were not many Eritreans living in Switzerland. He met some and through them he developed his understanding about the country, its people the cause of the struggle. He also found that the Eritrean nationals residing in Switzerland had strong attachment with the revolution like that of the university students he met in Addis.
In 1977 he made his first trip to the field. It has been in the field that he came to understand more about the revolution, the policy of the EPLF, the life of the combatants and the activities that have been conducted not only with regards the armed struggle but also the social life of the people in the field, economic activities, factories, medical facilities and so on. Mr. Toni says “During my visit to the field that was the policy of the EPLF on self-reliance that impressed me more”.
The policy of self-reliance and confidence of the leadership of the EPLF and its combatants impressed him most and convinced himself that he wants to build strong relationship with Eritreans. For me he said “The Eritrean revolution has been a model and I had the strong belief that the revolution will come out triumphant and liberate the country. I had no doubt about that. And that was way back in 1977.” Since then Toni Locher had conducted several visits to the field.
Upon his return home to Switzerland Mr. Toni continued his contact with Eritrean nationals and initiated the establishment of Swiss Support Committee for Eritrea (SUKE) on 8 October 1977.
SUKE since its establishment had strong contact with the EPLF and has been sending, through contribution from friends of Eritrea and Eritrean national residing in Switzerland, variety of items they think would assist the revolution. And as Tone is a Medical Doctor, the items they have been sending have been mainly medical materials. And also other items of importance.
SUKE today has 30 active members, 150 non-active members and about 6,500 regular supporters. Fifty percent of the board of directors of SUKE are Eritrean nationals residing in Switzerland.
After independence the committee continued its relations and solidarity with the Eritrean people. Many of its members have frequently visited Eritrea especially during Independence Day celebrations.
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FLASH BACK: Eri-TV Interview with the Chairman of SUKE, Dr. Toni Locher
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