“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
In my last article “Isaias’ Helter–Skelter Foreign Policy” I tried to postulate the key reason as to why the president’s was attending the 66 the UN General Assembly:
“The most important reason, from my perspective, for the “president’s” visit to New York is to try to give one last hurrah to his dwindling PFDJ members in North America. The- by invitation- only- meeting to be held somewhere in New York is based on a desire to shore up the base by over-stressing the underlining official paranoia of “we are under attack” followed by please open your purse and wallet before the inevitable sanction becomes a done deal.”
After following the flow of events in the last two week I feel based on the transparent and glaring diplomatic flop by the “president” of Eritrea the only semblance of positive result, if at all, he registered in his New York trip might be his face to face meeting with about the 2500 handpicked Eritrean and Eritrean American’s at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York. That is if we take the fact that the meeting took place as the definition of an achievement. The why, how and what of the meeting will present us with a different narrative.
The Hammerstein event itself is a resounding confirmation of how far his political base has shrunk since the infamous 2001 gathering of Washington DC where, in front of more than 15,000 Eritreans, he spoke about the Ethiopian government shopping weapons through catalogues.
The speech at the UN, both in content and delivery, was a flop. The change in style did not hide the fact that “president” is a fringe character hovering in the margin of international diplomacy and that his actions and behaviours have peripheralzed and marginalized Eritrea. There is nothing that the president of Eritrea can mention as a concrete evidence of his contribution to the 66 General Assembly beyond generalization and deflection of questions.
In the middle of the 66th UN General Assembly an extraordinary mini-submit on the Horn of Africa was convened by General Secretary of the UN Ban Ki- Moon to discuss how to implement the Kampala Accord of June 9, 2011 and the September 6, 2011 Somali Roadmap to end the transition signed after the end of the historic National Reconciliation conference in Mogadishu with the presence of the representative of UN, AU, Arab league and IGAD.
According to the Un/Communiqué on Somali mini-summit:
“The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, convened a high-level meeting on Somalia in New York on 23 September 2011. Participants included representatives of Burundi, China, Denmark, Djibouti, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Norway, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, Uganda, African Union, European Union, League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, Prime Minister of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, and Jean Ping, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, gave an update on recent political and security developments in Somalia, as well as the humanitarian situation.”
Asking the obvious: which Horn of Africa country was missing from this second most important agenda at the UN 66 General Assembly this year (next to the Palestinian issue)? The self-appointed specialist for The Somali Crisis and Solution was busy conducting marginal corridor photo opportunity handshaking events for TV ERI consumption when the very issue of Somalia that has his regime on a pending sanction sling shot was being profoundly deliberated by presidents, foreign ministers and the highest representatives’ of almost 30 countries and international organizations. No one solicited the opinion of the Eritrean president or for his redundant rhetoric to be read by his foreign minister as a part of this august gathering. This is a resounding repudiation and negation of a regime that has anointed itself as a spoke person for the people of Somalia. To those who really understand the substance and form of modern diplomacy this is a crashing blow.
Isaias did not meet with the highest level of US leadership. Nor was he or his entourage allowed to venture to DC. From a diplomatic and political point of view the trip to New York was a flop. Like a highly advertised action hero movie that failed even to recoup the initial investment leave alone garner profit for its investors Isaias returns to Eritrea with a deeper credibility deficit than he landed with. Listening to Isaia’s VOA radio interview even with Tewelde’s Jell-O and soft- cotton cushioned questioning style the president could not master his thought to present a coherent summation of what was achieved by his attending the UN 66 General Assembly and hovering around the UN for over a week while testing the menus of New York famous restaurants.
He professes that he did not discuss the issue of the upcoming sanction even with a single diplomat. The Return our Land (the Golan Heights excuse) rhetoric was not given prominence in his presentation at the UN or in his interview with VOA. What Eritrean issue did he then come to present to the UN? From the outset the trip was organized for the wrong reason. Desperation born of their own making forces tyrants to activates a very irrational behaviour that astounds even the least politically oriented individual. We Eritreans have now witnessed a classic example of this kind of behaviour, close up, in Diaspora. The activity was everything the result was nothing.
The only thing he can show for his expensive trip was that he added more expense to his dwindling supports’ account by demanding they travel to New York to officially usher in the declaration of the full- blown personality cult political culture into Eritrean polity. Since most of the Eritreans at home have started turning off their TV and stopped turning on their radio whenever their esteemed president attempts to give a speech he had to get his fix from the Diaspora. The need for high doses of ego massaging by his diaspora cult followers should be understood but not necessarily endorsed. Why, one must ask, is the president willing to engage a well vented and background checked Diaspora Eritrean in a face to face meeting when he has totally avoided entertaining an open question and answer session with the people of Eritrea like he use to do? As the saying goes: You can fool some of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all of the people all the time. He cannot deceive Eritreans at home anymore. They have seen through him.
But the true meaning of the New York cult followers gathering was a sort of a farewell last hurrah get-together. No new initiative, policy declaration, reform, liberalisation or amnesty for political prisoner was introduced to the audience. The usual dish of vintage sarcasm, empty bravado and an improvised dosege of stand by me in my hour of crisis was dramatized in a concert hall atmosphere. The gullible once will be left with few pictures to brag about but the few who drove thousands of miles will be forced to reconsider their evaluation based on the recycled TV-ERI political mishmash they were feed at the Hammerstein Ballroom. The president has resoundingly proven Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: Garbage in garbage out to paraphrase it.
To those of us who made our individual decision to go NY to let the UN 66 General Assembly know that the sanction should proceed and this regime should be ostracized, condemned both for its draconian internal and external behaviour we had one hell of a gathering. About 850 of us stood firm and determined with confidence, unity and power of purpose shining on our faces and our defiance echoing in the ears of the delegates attending the General Assembly.
We have come a long way from 2001. We have miles to go but we have the strength of vision and the power of deep conviction to traverse the remaining miles with unwavering tenacity. Our struggle will help the people of Eritrea to take their destiny into their own hand. That is our contribution.
The brothers and sisters of Eritrean American Public Forum of Greater New York allow me to thanks you for your organizing skill and boundless energy. You did an outstanding job. Thanks for upgrading our organizing skill. We learned and we grew as individuals and as a community in search of democracy.