Asmarino Fundraising: Because There Is So Much More to Be Done!

Back in the Game

Back in the Game

By Paulos Misgena

His complexion is fairly normal and in a healthier state than we have seen it in years. So has his moods improved to an acceptable and tolerable level. His receding hair lines are reversed and reasonably full and even for his age. Coming to an interview neat, staying calm and attempting to claim confidence back after having been losing it year after year is interesting for many reasons. That is how President Issias performed in his year-end interview, a yearly event in which he usually spins failures.  This year, he did it differently. He is in a sort of celebratory mood. Or one can say he is feeling good about himself and, possibly, his chances ahead.

However, this doesn’t mean that it was an easy atmosphere for those around him with the business of reading the questions to him. Once again in this interview, the journalist were vividly seen being tense, stressed, bored by the slow moving minutes, and impatient for the interview to be over. In fact, their demeanors tell a story of a sad line – Eritrea’s nearly full submission to its dictator. Sadly, on the voiceover translation of the Arabic part of the interview to Tigrigna, the journalist reads his script with melody, subliminally, trying to give more meaning, coherence and passion to the otherwise mostly gibberish and incoherent rumbles of the President. Such is the state of Eritrea’s journalism today that the Stockholm Syndrum looks a dwarf hypothetical construct when juxtaposed to it.  A classroom example of how bully can rob your humility, dignity and self can also be imported from Eritrea now.

The year that just ended– 2012- was phenomenal in many aspects. This is particularly true when we aggregate all the events that has unfolded and transpired in the Horn of Africa during the year so as to come up with meaning.  Last year by this time, the political clouds that hung over Eritrea were heavy. And President Issias himself was soaked in a pool of stinky diplomatic dirty waters. Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, having galvanized the regional leaders and garnished every diplomatic support he can find against Issias, a little before 2011 concluded, he virtually punched President Issias to a point of political knock out. Unable to get a visa to travel to New York in order to put a last minute defense before the Security Council against charges made by Ethiopia, Djibouti and the IGAD states, President Issias first fumed in anger and embarrassment for, predictably, looking a diplomatic leper.  Four months in to the then New Year, 2012, the demoralized President, unable to function as leader due to illness, went to the hiding for a number of weeks, prompting the rumors of his death for weeks. His right-hand man, Mr. Ali Abdu, went into a media blitz to quell the rumors in which, at one point, he made it look like as if the President were in a marathon of tour-Eritrea. A week later the President surprised us all (his foes and supports alike) by appearing on TV and splashing cold water on the wheels of our rumor mills.  That was, by sheer luck and concidence, the first prize President Issias in years. Four months later, PIA won the political Mega Lottery – his foe who made him retreat to a rat’s hole for over ten years was no more. Like all of us, one evening, he watched Prime Minister Meles’ cascade return to Ethiopia in a box. That is the day PIA claimed hope to keep on pursuing his dream in the region – becoming the king maker.

Need more? Two months later, Ali Abdu reportedly departed Eritrea to pursue a different interest – taking care of his failing organ(s). With no intention to get you lost in interpretation, AA’s case also could well be that he abandoned the regime as widely reported.   But those who said AA must have seen the end of the regime to take such measure, consider this: Issias is more powerful recently than anytime during the last 12 years. Still more interesting is how the regime did not scratch its head over AA ‘defections’.  Contrary to conventional interpretation, it could rather well be that it is Issias who might have abandoned AA. With many opportunities Issias believes Meles’ death has created for him, he could very well think he doesn’t see any importance in keeping Ali around, perhaps, due to the liabilities he has coasted him in the past. One more commonsense and simple reason that can back up this is that Issias, even if we take him as the most respectful and polite person there can be, cannot, normally, be a friend to and hang out with a person half of his age. However, if he has not been mesfenized (sent to Europe for medical treatment and his passport annulled) then he deserves credit. To give credit where it is due under this condition, AA had indeed outfoxed Issias by getting the signal before it became too late and running out of the country before thrown away like a piece of decayed wood. Most officials in Eritrea are like turkeys - they only sit and wish to be the lucky one to get the pardon.

Whatever AA’s case maybe, however, there is one thing that is against what most of us hoped – his departure doesn’t make any difference to Issias. In most autocrat regimes, many people whom we think are important don’t really matter. If Issias wishes, he can Mesfenize all members of his cabinet ( send them to any Eropean city and nullify their passport) and he can replace them the next day with people who can serve him with no major consequence other than, with no offense to the mushrooming paltalk rooms, help boost their pool of guests.

The regimes of Sadam Hussien and Ghadafi, for instance, had seen many defections as well as purges, but would have never been taken down with internal dynamism alone as we see in Syria now. Such regimes survive by the size of their army, conscript and intelligence agents who they control and fine tune. Fine tuning, of course, mainly means the ability of easily removing anyone in the army or security with power any time to the pile with no consequence. Issias can now do this comfortably as he is projecting domestically that, with Meles gone, he is the shaker with no clear contestant.

Also playing a role in making Eritrea’s agony even severe is the President’s personal behavior and trait. President Issias shares the same personality treats the world has witnessed in those who unabashedly ruled several big pockets all over the world with iron-fist before him. He is a stubborn who, pigheadedly, stands to the last minute and bitter end to defend his ego. He is one of those who never admits fault and apologizes. He spares no humility to trash any science that is against his thinking and achievements and it suffices to see how, in his recent interview, he borrowed the phrase “cooking numbers” from English and used it to flush Western Economics down the toilet. And he is a person who never sees a point of keeping or staying in a relationship which doesn’t make him the center and allow him to get what he wants.  With Meles death, it is that obstacle, in his thinking, which is now removed.  This is the reason behind the turnaround of his relative demeanor and performance in a long year in recent past years.

“We never wished anyone’s death in our culture, nor have we ever connected change to a death of a single person,” said President Issias, closing the speculation door on the possibility of peace talk between his government and that of the Ethiopian. Adding his comments on the new Ethiopian Prime Minister’s recent statement on Al-Jazeera that he is willing to travel to Asmara and talk to the Eritrean leader if he is willing, President Issias said it is all public relations gimmicks. There is no question that, by saying this, he put a human cover to his feelings about Prime Minister Zenawi’s death and got the second point right to his credit.

For anyone who is accustomed to reading President Issias lips instead of working through his ramblings, his recent interview has clearly shown the developing strategy in Eritrea’s national security center – his brain. When reading his lips, therefore, it becomes abundantly clear that he needs two simple things to be the winner in the Horn of Africa - money and a competent rebel hatching strategy. He has clearly told the Eritrean people that all the resources will be devoted to nothing else but this – defeat the Ethiopian government and install his puppet. Earlier in the same interview before addressing regional and international issues, he told the Eritrean people, sector by sector, that there is no any major achievement he or his government is sweating for. According to him, education is a complex and long process in which Eritrea has both tremendously achieved big result in creating a competent work force while at the same time has barely started. Yes, you might have a problem of comprehending this statement but that is what he virtually said. Electricity? No, no power for comfort. For refrigerating and air conditioning? Forget it!

The whole point in his interview is knotted when he expressed his rebellion against the international community in a form of what he thought he framed as a logical challenge. He dared the Security Council with what measures it can hinder him from supporting the Ethiopian opposition which are waging armed struggle to topple the Addis Ababa government when it is with the same cooperation that this government came to power by removing the Derge regime in the first place. Now you know what to expect in 2013.

Happy New Year

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