Eritrea’s Lingering Malnutrition’s Divisive Publications

The only leader who thinks it is o.k. to preside over a nation with the worst record in press freedom is Eritrea’s strongman Isayas Afewerki. He argues there is no such thing as “free press”. Of course there isn’t. But the rest of humanity agrees it is vital to have systems which enable people to freely express ideas and exchange information. “Free press” is not an absolute standard but is meant to serve as a guideline in the establishment of free and united communities. Even Denmark at the top of the list of 175 countries does not have a perfect “free press”. But it is striving towards that goal. And it is never too late for Eritrea to join the civilized world in the fight against darkness. Repression and ruthless censorship create intellectual retardation and hinder progress.

Equally devastating to any social fabric is starvation. The UN says seven out of every ten Eritreans are going to bed hungry and the government is not making any noises to save lives. Malnutrition causes brain damage. A US mother was given 70 years of prison term by a court last week for starving her twin children. A US court cited the long term impact of malnutrition to the children’s brain as the reason for the harsh sentence.

The woman had no reason to expose the children to the tragedy just as the Eritrean government has no reason to watch mothers and children suffer and die from malnutrition. The government should drop its failed self-reliance folklore and appeal to the world for food and medical assistance right away. If people are not starving, the government should not be afraid to let independent bodies assess the situation.

Small countries like Eritrea are hardest hit by the global economic downturn and climate change. Eritrea can ease the food shortage by not sending an estimated $250 to $500-thousand annually to Somali insurgents as alleged by the UN and instead spend the money on food and education.

Despite relentless UN and US charges, the Asmara regime says it has never sent funds and weapons to any Somali insurgents. It is doubtful that the West and Africa would unnecessarily fabricate evidence and the Eritrean government no doubt knows the US and the French forces stationed in the Horn Africa have sufficient satellite images and human intelligence of Eritrean activities in Somalia. The West will continue to play Cold-War type real-politik and let Eritrea keep denying the evidence for now. The US and its allies are bound to take measures against Eritrea if they are sure it would not only serve their purpose but would also foster stability and peace in the Horn region.

Human rights and democracy for Eritrea are not a priority for the West, vital as this may be. It is up to the Eritreans to build their own system, be it just or tyrannical.

One Diaspora media outlet which seems to have lowered the level of campaign to establish a united, democratic Eritrea is Lately, it has been publishing opinions with divisive accusations against Eritrean Christian Highlanders for “stealing” land from Moslems in the Lowlands. Some critics say is fueling hate and suspicion among Eritreans by allegedly engaging in risky “Islamist” politics. While freedom of expression should be encouraged, it should not be at the cost of fairness and understanding among people.

It is time for the Awate Foundation and other political and civil society leaders to establish a committee of experts and come up with ways and means of solving Eritrea’s regional, religious as well as human and property rights issues.

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