A brief look at how some Eritrean news and views are being reported:

Yosief Ghebrehiwet and regime change

The news of imposition of sanctions on Eritrea is one month old although it still continues to make headlines especially in Eritrean news outlets. Activist and Essayist Yosief Ghebrehiwet has welcomed the arms embargo and the punitive measures against the leadership as the best gift that Eritreans could possibly get, adding: “it was handed to them by none other than the tyrant Isaias Afewerki.” Writing on Asmarino.com on Jan 14, Yosief stresses the sanctions will bring the regime to its knees because the economy is too weak to sustain the UN action. He believes the sanctions will weaken the people’s trust in their leaders bringing about a regime change from within. Removal of the regime in any way possible is Yosief’s declared answer as a means to immediate end to the suffering of Eritreans. The passion, the fire and lucidity he uses in arguing and fighting for his beliefs is admirable. However, although removal of the ugly tyranny in Asmara would be a tremendous achievement in itself, Yosief should also consider a little bit the chances of things going wrong once the removal is realized as has been the case in Iraq after Saddam Hussien or Somalia after Siad Barre. History moves in much unexpected ways. In addition to kicking out fascism from the face of the country, one other big challenge facing Eritreans is how to best control the course of their history without letting foreign interests or homemade tyrants choke it.

Awate.com’s take on sanctions

Awate.com and its editorial writers and columnists have also long been commenting on the ramifications of sanctions although sometimes sending mixed and confused messages. This uncertainty has its roots in Awate.com’s position against the notion of declaring Eritrea a state sponsor of terrorism and the sanctions accompanying it. In an editorial shamelessly called “Eritrea Doesn’t Sponsor Terrorism” (Awate.com Aug. 21, 2007), the Awate Team makes the most obvious statement when it adds, “But Its Ruling Regime Does.” The US anti-terrorism laws clearly stipulate that a given country and its people are never the target but that the state is. The same applies to sanctions whether they are targeted or comprehensive. The target is never the people. The targeted government may use the sanctions or the terror designation to victimize its people, but that is different argument.

Awate fears, it seems, the state-sponsor designation would be used to harm the Eritrean Moslem population and its political leaders. This is not based on concrete evidence. When the UN or the US refers to the “STATE” as the subject of sanctions, their aim is not intimidate or punish a sector of a population or any political parties of whatever ideological or religious persuasion. They are rather referring to a given intransigent regime and all its political and military machines. This is consistent with the legal definition of the term “state”..

Now that the UN has imposed sanctions, Washington may not find it necessary to declare the Eritrean regime a state sponsor of terrorism. But even if the US was to take such a step in the future, there is no reason for our political parties - whether secularists or Moslems or Christians - to fear that they would be victims of US or UN actions unless they engage in international terrorism.

While Awate’s concern may be well-intentioned (Perhaps wanting to protect our Islamic or Islamist politicians), it is misleading to equate “state” with country. This was clearly the case when one of Awate.com’s leading writers, Saleh Younis, failed to show the distinction between the two when discussing the UN sanctions on the Eritrean regime. In an article entitled ”Wey Gud is not a Good Strategy”, (Awate.com, Jan 1, 2010), Saleh states empathetically that it is “Eritrea and not the regime which is subjected to the sanctions”. This is far from the truth. The fact remains that while sanctions may affect the people, certainly the country is not the target. It will be up to the opposition to ensure that that is not the case. And that role applies to all opposition including Awate.com.

The EPDP merger and the websites

What has been most striking is the lack of full coverage of Eritrean and foreign news outlets of the formation of a new Eritrean party bringing together four prominent political entities. A few days after the imposition of the sanctions, three major political groups formally announced their merger into one party named the Eritrean People’s Democratic Party (EPDP). They included the Eritrean People’s Party, the Eritrean Democratic Party and the Eritrean People’s Movement. A fourth group, the Gash Setit Front had earlier merged with the Eritrean People’s Party and is now part of the larger EPDP. The new party chose Mr. Woldeyesus Ammar as its Chairman, Mr. Hamid Dirar as Secretary of the party’s Executive Committee, and Mr. Ambassador Adhanom Gebremariam becomes the Head of Foreign Relations.

The Eritrean Law Society

Another significant development which was widely covered by all Eritrean websites was the formation last week of a new Eritrean Law Society. The US-based association aims, inter alia, at promoting principles of rule of law, monitoring human rights violations and providing free or discounted legal services to Eritreans. The group says it now has over 40 members and plans to open branch offices outside the US. The Eritrean regime has closed down the country’s only university along with its Law School. Law practice and legal thinking are among the undesirables in the eyes of the Asmara leaders. This has resulted in an endless brain drain and the Eritrean regime is not concerned about it.

Zizi on affirmative action

And finally, an Eritrean government supporter writing at Dehai.org under pen name Zizi says: “the Africa desk in the State Department is a cesspool of affirmative action, incompetent and mediocre diplomats.” One wonders if such attitude really serves any moral or political purpose. This reporter is Black and has worked for the US Federal Government and knows firsthand that the minorities he worked with including African Americans and women were as brilliant and as committed in implementing their country’s domestic and foreign policies. And they were all hired on the basis of their qualifications just as Obama was elected US president because Americans believed he was qualified for the job.