Famine in Eritrea? No, not in our self-reliant Eritrea! That has been the invariable response we were getting from the Shabait spin doctors and the PFDJ foot soldiers in Dehai throughout the famine of 2009. As they were openly gloating on the misfortunes that befall the rest of the region, they were bragging that ‘self-reliance” has saved Eritrea from such a disaster. Guess what – lately, thanks to wikileaks Wikileaks on Eritrea: New Stuff (under the title of SUBJECT: ISAIAS ADMITS FAMINE PRESENT IN ERITREA; PROMISES UNICEF ACCESS) we have come to know that even tyrant Isaias Afwerki admitted that a famine existed then:

“In a surprising departure from his public pronouncements on the non-existence of hunger in Eritrea, President Isaias admitted to visiting UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Hilde Johnson that there is famine in the country and UNICEF´s help is needed. Johnson briefed Western diplomats on her November 17-18 visit to Eritrea and her lengthy meeting with Isaias. She said Isaias promised UNICEF total access to the country for the purposes of conducting a nutrition survey and providing blanket supplementary feeding."

On Isaias’ promises, the commentator from the American embassy in Asmara, had this to say then:

“Johnson emphasized repeatedly her long personal association with Isaias and may have heard what she wanted to hear. But possibly Isaias is truly worried about conditions in the country and his flagging popularity. His sincerity and willingness to accept UNICEF help will be proven only if diesel fuel and travel permits are forthcoming.”

As it was aptly observed, the tyrant’s promises were never kept. On the other hand, what we do know is that for the rest of the famine period, his government kept denying that that there was a famine in Eritrea. This was the time where draconian land, farming, food and market policies were set to meet the challenges of the famine, but only to exacerbate it: rampant land confiscation, food products confiscation from the peasants and strict market regulation where peasants were prohibited access to city and town markets. This was the time Asmara was flooded with beggars, most of whom were forced back to their rural areas to preserve the quaint look of capital city (of course, for the callous seasonal tourists of diaspora).

And now, it is de ja vu time again – as a famine of a grand scale is revisiting the region, the only nation in the region not to admit it has a problem is Eritrea. Here is what Assistant Secretary of State, Johnnie Carson, had to say on a White House briefing on the famine stacking the region:

"Many of these most recent refugees are suffering from life-threatening malnutrition, and there may be many more in need of assistance in Eritrea, where a repressive regime fails to provide data on the humanitarian needs of its own people. The free flow of information is what allows people to make early choices that can help avert catastrophe. We urge the Government of Eritrea to cooperate with the UN agencies and other international organizations to address the issue of hunger and food shortage in that country."

On another occasion, in interview he gave to Al Jazeera, Carson said:

“Eritrea is a closed and increasingly reclusive country, and its government has not been particularly helpful in sharing data and information about the severity of the food shortages or the drought in its country. Because it is a part of the Greater Horn of Africa, we assume that conditions in Eritrea are probably quite similar to the drought conditions that we are seeing in other places – in Ethiopia and in Kenya, Djibouti, and in Somalia. Because we don’t know what’s happening, our understanding of the situation is limited, but we encourage them to be more open about their needs and the needs of their population.” [AL-JAZEERA ENGLISH RESEARCH PROJECT » Newsfeed]

But don’t tell that to the regime’s foot soldiers in diaspora. As usual, the foot soldiers at Deahai and other Shaebia-oriented websites are at their denial and gloating best. They are again invoking that idiotic mantra that every totalitarian system (Kim El Sung’s North Korea, Mao’s China, Khmer Rouge’s Cambodia, etc ) used to hide a raging famine in their soils: “Self- reliance!”

Below is the latest news on the region’s famine crisis that puts Eritrea in focus from The Economist [East Africa's famine]:

“For the first time since the 1980s, the UN has declared a famine in Africa. An exceptionally severe drought is the main cause. More than 10m people are directly affected. The epicentre is in Somalia and Ethiopia—as aid agencies have made abundantly clear in their funding appeals—but the situation in neighbouring Eritrea is almost as desperate and politically much more complicated

“True to form, the Eritrean government is mostly keeping mum on food shortages. Since winning independence from Ethiopia in 1993 after a 30-year civil war, the country has changed from a poster child for liberty to Africa’s most autocratic and reclusive country. … It is the harvest in the highlands that really matters; the Eritrean government insists that people there have enough food.

“Farming in the highlands depends on water from small dams that local communities built for themselves as part of an official self-reliance campaign. Almost alone on the continent, Eritrea turns away foreign aid. That would be fine if President Isaias Afwerki were benign and competent. Reports of human-rights abuses are hard to verify, but a stream of Eritreans fleeing the country bears witness to a thoroughly demoralised people. This month has seen a series of high-profile defections: football players absconding at an away match in Tanzania; medical workers seeking refuge in Sudan; naval ratings escaping to Yemen. Even a senior government propagandist has bolted. The punishment of family members and the occasional execution of failed escapees may only accelerate the flow as it makes the granting of asylum abroad more likely.”

Here we have it then in a nutshell: while all the other governments are scrambling to save their people, as usual the primary goal of the Eritrean regime and its supporters in diaspora is not saving Eritreans from the ravages of the famine, but saving the IMAGE of Eritrea and its leader from the ravages of that same famine! !