Disparate as these two groups may seem, what is important to us is their commonality: both are so obsessed with the hereafter – with life after Isaias – that they pay little attention to the here and now – how to get rid of the regime and deliver the people from the existential threat they are living under. Both are so preoccupied with preparations for the takeover that the task of regime change is relegated to the bottom of their wish list. We can then see the religious turn the “cause” has taken, as it has always been in the ghedli era. What happens on the ground, as any religious zealot would tell you, is only as good as it prepares one for the hereafter; aside from that, on its own, it has little value. Similarly, what is happening on the ground in Eritrea now has little relevance to these groups if they cannot use it for purposes of the hereafter. As in any religious cause, the “Eritrea” that these groups are trying to save can only exist by deferring it indefinitely. So, in the final end, it is not exactly democracy that they are beholden to, but the fact that the democracy project keeps deferring the realization of the “cause” – that is, the collapse of the Isaias regime – for fear that if it happens right now it might not deliver what they want.
“In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society.”
How can Eritrean society be transformed if diapora Eritreans choose to curse the very freedoms they enjoy in the West by aligning themselves with a regime whose key trademarks are vicious cruelty against its own people and absolute denial of freedom to all? Repeating “meKete” like a zombie is being a mere thermometer, going with the flow, parroting things just to be part of the crowd. Where is the courage in that? The courage is in being the thermostat, and to stop blaming victims and glorifying criminals.
The overall question that I am supposed to address in my brief presentation is: What is the role of the Youth in the struggle to democratize a given country (in this case Eritrea) under a brutal dictatorship?
The role of the youth succinctly put is to be a positive agent of change. Not any change but positive change. To the point: the youth has to be an agent of democratization in the context of a circumstance when a nation is “living” under a brutal dictatorship.
I want from the very beginning to make it clear that I am talking about democratization and not dealing with the narrow but critical issue of simply getting rid of the brutal tyrant de jour.
Strangely enough, some in the opposition are captivated by this tricky prospective lifting of the sanctions that so much so they opted to oppose the arms embargo sanction (more of this later). It does not make sense to me. I believe we have to cross the bridge of liberty first, instead of unnecessarily wracking our brains of what will transpire in a post PFDJ. If we are fortunate enough to arrive at our destination of freedom, then we tackle the lifting of the arms embargo sanctions from our back, when such mundane issues stare us straight in the face. For now, the lifting of the arms embargo sanction, sometime in the future, should be the least of our worries, since we do not even know how the PFDJ will behave when the time of reckoning arrives. For all I know, the PFDJ, when cornered and consistent with its past behavior, may shamefacedly comply with all the UNSC’s directives and requirements; in the final analysis, all its bravados and boastings may amount to nothing.
I believe the enablers know that on the basis of the current balance of forces, the Ethiopian army could easily overrun their feeble defenses. This is so because they know they don’t have an army that is willing to fight for them and against the woyane. After all no shoot to kill policy has succeeded in stopping thousands of their solders from fleeing to the avowed enemy for dear life. No arms can compensate for the fact that the people who carry the arms are unwilling to use them in defense of the regime. The arms embargo will simply add another twist to the already existing farce of the army defending the country from the woyanes.
Secondly, on 24 December, Eritrea was sanctioned by the UN Security Council and its EU members – a decision that highlighted that the European Commission is out of line with its own members as well as the international community. This very small country is the world's second-largest source of asylum-seekers, most of whom head for the EU. Reporters Without Borders ranks its press as the world's least free, Human Rights Watch calls it an “open-air prison”, others have called it “the North Korea of Africa”, and few (if any) EU member states still co-operate with it. Yet, in 2009, the Commission initialled a €120 million programme for the next three years and the then development commissioner, Louis Michel, received its dictatorial president, Isaias Afwerki, as warmly as any other statesman. This when MEPs were being refused visas.
There are those Eritreans who argue that since the sanctions are made to punish the Asmara regime for what it did in Djibouti and Somalia and not for the horrendous humanitarian crimes it has been committing against its own people, we shouldn’t accept it. Here is how G. Ande puts his objection, “If we read through the resolution carefully, the sanctions have not been designed to address the crucial problems facing the Eritrean people …” (Will the Targeted Sanctions Hit or Miss the Bull’s Eye) It is like arguing that since a baseball bat is designed to hit a ball and not to knock down a man, you should never use it to defend yourself from a violent intruder. Instead of this inanity, prior to “owning” the sanctions, the only question we need to ask about it is: Whatever the sanction is designed for, will it do the job we assign it to do? Will it prick the bubble of nationalist frenzy enshrouding Eritrea and bring it down to earth? If it can do that job, we ought to grab it and milk it for all it is worth.
So, the question remains, “Will the targeted sanctions hit or miss the bull‘s eye“? I wouldn’t say that the sanctions are insignificant. If they may not hit the bull’s eyes, they will at least provide Eritreans with more talking points. But the fact remains that we have a very elusive and determined bull that will stick to his guns to the last breath and one that will not yield to this much publicized sanctions. So, my own opinion is that the targeted sanctions will not hit the bull’s eye. They will only be a recent addition to the long list of reasons why the regime thinks it is not the right time for it to introduce democratic governance in the country. And the “the targeted sanctions” imposed by the UNSC will be runner up to “Undemarcated Border” in the long and stale list that the regime has developed during the last two decades for refusing to maket a smooth transistion to democratic governance.
It also appears that President Isaias and his government miscalculated the ability of his African counterparts at effecting such a feat, possibly counting on the fragmented regional alliances and perhaps also his expertise at divisively influencing regional players into mistrust and away from a mutually beneficial goal. He failed miserably. Not only was Uganda able to exert considerable effort in pushing the draft resolution, it had support from IGAD (the regional economic alliance) and eventually the full backing of the Africa Union as a whole, and this during the presidency of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi, a staunch ally who would go on to oppose the resolution at the SC.
At a wider global level both China and Russia, known for their inclinations to not support sanctions, did not oppose the Eritrea sanction when either of them could have used their veto to stop it from going any further (China chose to abstain whilst Russia voted for the sanction). This is perhaps the clearest sign of the International Community’s frustrations at the Isaias Afewerki’s relentless disregard for the efforts to engage Eritrea and enabling it to play a positive role in the region.
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Date: 24 May 2013- Time: 2:00PM – 6:00PM -Venue: in Front of 10 Downing Street
The Coordinating Committee representing the different exiled opposition political and civil society organizations in London calls on all Eritreans and the friends of Eritrea to participate in the Pro-democracy Peaceful Demonstration.
It is with deep sadness that the Coordination Committee of the Eritrean National Democratic Forces (ENDF) learned the passing away on 12 May 2013 of compatriot Amare Gebremariam at the age of 70.
The late Amare Gebremariam was one of the founding members of ENDF which he served also for one year as its active vice-chairman actively supporting the ENDF chairman, Diplomat Humad Kullu.
From his perch in California, Sium tries to stay politically connected to his country. He marches when there's a local demonstration, contributes to refugee causes and posts on Facebook.
But there's always one thing missing. The people inside Eritrea don't dare to "like" his Facebook posts. And they never march in the streets themselves. For Eritrean activists living abroad, this silence can be frustrating.
So Sium had an idea: If we can't ask them to come out, what if we ask them to stay home?
Sharing her experience and expertise in the struggle against human trafficking in the region was Ms Meron Estifanos, Eritrean human rights activist and journalist with the diaspora based Radio Erena. In a moving presentation focusing on the narrative of a young victim of trafficking who died leaving her toddler son, in the hands of her abductors; Meron challenged every head of state present to respond to the plight of countless victims and address this shameful issue taking place in the region.
In his own presentation President Omer Hassan al-Bashir admitted that the concern is indeed a grave one that requires urgent attention. For his part president Paul Kagame also made a personal commitment to highlighting this concern at the UN Security Council, over the coming few months.Read more...
We are happy to report that the Supreme Court accepted our appeal against a verdict issued in a lower instance court that rejected the Hotline for Migrant Workers' request to release an asylum seeker who survived the torture camps in Sinai from the Saharonim internment camp. The outrageous lower instance ruling by Judge Eliyahu Bitan stated that severe torture cannot be considered as an "exceptional humanitarian reason" for release under the Anti-Infiltration Law. All asylum seekers who have entered Israel since June 2012 have been jailed under this draconian law according to which asylum seekers can be released only in exceptional circumstances including "exceptional humanitarian" cases. ...Read more...
April 18, 2013 (ADDIS ABABA) – The Eritrean government said this week that it supports Egypt’s stance over a colonial-era treaty that granted Egypt a right to utilise the lions share of Nile river’s water resources.
The Red Sea nation expressed its support in a message sent from the Eritrean president and delivered to Egypt’s president by Eritrean Foreign Minister Osman Saleh and Presidential Adviser for Political Affairs, Yemane Gebreab.
The Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi, has highly welcomed Eritrea’s position towards Egypt’s "historic rights" over the sharing of the water of the Nile River.
Allegations have surfaced this week against the government of Eritrea regarding their role in the in arming the rebels in the Central African Republic who recently overthrew Francois Bozize.
In an interview with ex-President Bozize recently ran in the media, the former CAR leader claimed that "the arms used by the Seleka rebels during their final assault on the presidential palace were purchased from Eritrea and transited through Chad with the permission of President Deby"
The Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs this week issued a strong denial.
(Photo: Seleka rebels believed to be armed by Eritrea)Read more...
Banjul, 11 April 2013 – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Eritrea, Beedwantee Keetharuth, today regretted that the Eritrean Government continues to deny her access to assess the situation of human rights in the country, and announced she will undertake a mission to neighbouring countries to talk to Eritrean refugees.
“I have urged the Eritrean authorities to cooperate with my mandate, as required by the UN Human Rights Council,” Ms. Keetharuth said during the 53rd session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) in Banjul, The Gambia, where she held an ad-hoc meeting with the delegation of Eritrea in the margins of the event.
A new grassroots movement in Eritrea that draws inspiration from the Arab revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia is poised to challenge the one-party authoritarian rule of president Isaias Afewerki, who has been in power for twenty years.
The Freedom Friday (Arbi Harnet) movement, started in November 2011 by the Eritrean diaspora, is finally gaining momentum inside the country according to Meron Estefanos, a human rights activist and presenter with the Sweden-based Radio Erena, which broadcasts in Eritrea and around the world.
In tandem with Eritrean Youth for Change (EYC) and the Eritrean Youth Solidarity for Change (EYSC), Estefanos has set up a new campaign to reverse the Arab-style call to take to the streets every Friday. Instead, it urges Eritreans to empty the streets.
TB has been rampant at the detention centre for the last two years or more, but neither the Djiboutian government nor the UNHCR have taken the necessary actions to eradicate the diseases. Many detainees were suffering, some diagnosed as TB sufferers, but medication was not provided. They all live together, and those who were diagnosed were not separated from those who were not diagnosed. There has not been a proper TB programme for so long. Not having a proper TB assessment in such a situation is tantamount to condemning the refugees to death. At the time of Ms Chyrum's visit over 10 refugees were showing signs of TB symptoms and 7 were on medications. If a proper TB programme is launched, out of 250 detained refugees and 19 POWs, more will be identified as a carrier of the virus.Read more...
About 2,000 Eritreans live in Australia, many of them granted asylum after being tortured by President Isaias Afewerki's regime. Despite the emotional and sometimes physical scars they bear, some have become prominent figures in Australian society. Berhan Ahmed is one of them. He is the first person of African descent to run for a seat in parliament.
The relaxed scene in the back garden of Ahmed's family home in a quiet suburb of Melbourne, couldn't be further from the conflict he fled to come to Australia.