Dear readers: We are pleased to post another article from our contributing editor, David Elias, on Eritrea. Please let us know your thoughts about Eritrea, Isias Afewerki and the people of Eritrea.
In my previous two articles I have made an attempt to lay bare the mendacious declarations of the PFDJ with regard to its accomplishments in the year 2016 in the economic and diplomatic arenas. I have also tried to set the record straight on the regime’s vulgar pragmatism in its diplomatic engagements all while compromising various issues of far reaching national interest ramifications for genuine Eritreans all in the name of Mekhete (national resistance). That there has hardly been any trace of commitment to a principle of any sort and the all too palpable descent of the regime into downright political prostitution has now become a public knowledge. In fact, there is a whole website run by regime insiders http://www.sacttism.com dedicated to exposing the PFDJ’S litany of disgrace in the last quarter century.
One of the most striking aspects of the regime’s new year declarations for the last two decades is the fact that how far removed both in language and substance the Dictator’s promises are from the greatest of all aspirations equally cherished by most if not all Eritreans both at home or abroad–supporters and critics alike-namely, a modicum of political reform and a long overdue return to normalcy. This is not about democracy. This is not even about reviving the 1997 constitution–a document whose political significance has been so blown out of proportions that it has long been naively considered the magic bullet to heal Eritreans’ festering wounds. The all-knowing president had long pronounced this document dead. For Eritreans, returning to normalcy has nothing to do with the complications that often come with periodic elections, multiparty politics and all that jazz. It doesn’t have anything to do with the immediate release and decent treatment of prisoners of conscience, either. That would be too much to ask.
Normalcy for many Eritreans is about totally unsophisticated things such as putting a time limit to military service; putting an end to the press ganging of priests and monks for military drill; and the recognition of the migration crisis that is emptying the country of the productive members of its population. These are the things even the regime’s supporters are calling on their beloved leader to promise to undertake even if by way of window dressing. President Isaias’s antipathy to Eritreans of all political persuasions is so intense that he would rather drop dead than do so much as risk making such promises simply because they could rekindle some of his supporters’ hope that he is once again coming to his senses which, for good measure, would in the event provide yet another reason to hold a colorful Mekhete symposium and yatawi guayla (traditional dancing). The president will have none of these because even supporters should realize that all normal politics must wait until Eritrea, through his wisdom, ultimately rids itself of all of its enemies conspiring to sabotage its success and bring an end to its existence as a sovereign state–chief among them, the US administration, special interest groups in the west, Ashraq Al awsat newspaper–and their errand boy in the region–the Ethiopian government better known by its sobriquet as–the Woyane regime.
Whatever the merits of Isaias’ mind-boggling persecution mania, the fact remains that his regime has single-handedly made enemies out of all its neighbors and managed to isolate itself from the international community through its own public support to terrorists and forces of subversion throughout the region and its open pursuit of regional destabilization as a preferred national objective. Political reforms of even the least sophisticated sort is being shunned by the regime not because the Americans are lurking behind in the dark to use these minor changes as agents of regime change. With president Isaias having already done an excellent job of alienating himself not only from the international community but also from his own people, I don’t think the Americans would find it worth hours’ of effort to topple the regime if indeed they had put their head into it. It is also patently ridiculous for him to claim that he is refusing any semblance of attempt at returning to a modicum of normalcy because Ethiopia “continues to occupy sovereign territories of Eritrea.” He is not willing to give normal behavior a single shot mainly because it will ultimately open the floodgates of accountability in the face of which this regime cannot hope to survive even a single day. What is exceptionally mind-boggling however is that President Isaias won’t stop at nothing to make sure that the people of Eritrea are made to bear the most disastrous consequences of his evil designs. There is every reason to believe that for reasons known only to himself, the Eritrean president harbors a deep-seated resentment against the people of Eritrea, his gullible supporters included.
The regime has been consistent to a fault in its almost knee jerk reflex to espouse patently unpatriotic overtures in its engagements with the rest of the world; a behavior that obviously flies full in the face of the quintessentially Eritrean pride in overcoming odds through fortitude and perseverance. Of course, this is the kind of exceptionalism that the regime in Asmara would have Eritrean people believe for the promotion and in defense of which it has been paying exorbitant price throughout its confrontational relations with the West. It has been obvious nevertheless that there is no more important cause–national or otherwise- than the very survival of the regime itself that comes front and center in President Isaias’s political equation. Eritrea’s politics has long degenerated into a frenzied effort to protect and embellish the increasingly more fragile image of a paranoid leader overly suspicious and resentful of his own people. For President Isaias, Eritrea and its people are nothing but playthings on a chessboard whose pleas for a better Eritrea is nothing more than an inconvenience to be dealt with harshly. Eritrea’s resources including its youth are expendable commodities to fritter away in indefinite pursuit of an elusive goal the specifics of which are known only to the all-knowing President. The President is often given to exasperation and downright anger at the sense of deep ingratitude of the Eritrean public on account of its failure to fully appreciate the magnanimity of the deranged leader’s grand designs for Eritrea. That this grand design has only meant enslavement, imprisonment, mass migration and untold misery and death for Eritreans for the entire span of Eritrea’s existence is none of the dictator’s concern of course.
In the name of self-reliance generations of Eritreans have been consigned to a fate of frittering their life away in misguided projects of literally no economic or military significance while their siblings are either in the business of getting killed in the killing fields of Eritrea or risking their lives in the Mediterranean. Thanks to the patently anti-Eritrean policies of President Isaias, Eritreans today are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, an expression that has particular poignancy in the case of the people of this impoverished East African nation. Eritrea’s mining resources are being disposed of as cheaply as possible in order for the small cabal of the PFDJ to lay its hands on much needed cash to carry on with its time honored vocation of destabilizing the region and making Eritreans pay for its disastrous adventures. A regime that has always prided itself on fiercely maintaining its independence from all kinds of alliances, has long been falling over itself to hire its ports to Middle Eastern nations with a penchant to punch above their weight in regional geopolitical matters. The terms of these agreements are so shrouded in mystery that none of the regime’s supporters have the foggiest idea what the President–forget the people of Eritrea-stand to gain from such arrangements.
One common thread that runs through the statements and declarations of the PFDJ cabal is that the regime has put on hold any meaningful effort to address the political challenges of the country because it is on war footing with Ethiopia. The narrow cabal of the PFDJ did also dwell at length on the need to redouble their efforts to destabilize Ethiopia. While mentioned in passing, however, the PFDJ cabal didn’t say much on its much advertised “resolute rebuff against the ill-wills of Woyane” and its readiness not only to repulse any impending attack from Woyane but also to reclaim its ‘occupied sovereign territories by force if need be.’ This is not an oversight however. While the regime makes so much noise about its capability to withstand not just Ethiopia’s but more importantly, the US’s ill designs to effect regime change in Eritrea, it understands full well that there is little if any it could offer by way of resistance against such a threat if and when Ethiopia decides it is time for its tanks to march into Asmara.
A minor incursion the Ethiopians made last June deep into the Eritrean Defense forces’ uncontested areas of control clearly showed even to the President himself one stark reality. That the fact that his regime is still clinging to power is the difference between, on one hand, Ethiopia’s declared intention to resolve its differences with the regime through dialogue, and any future order by Prime Minister Hailemariam’s government for a division or two of the northern command to march across north of the River Mereb, on the other. Last June, what transpired after two battalions of the Northern Command launched a surprise attack on well fortified divisions of the Eritrean defense forces was exceptionally instructive. Clearly, the Ethiopian battalions were not so much interested in making use of the Ethiopian army’s overwhelming capability to move within Eritrea at will as to make a statement about its intentions to exact revenge on each and every attempt by the regime to destabilize Ethiopia.
The PFDJ forces did not only sustain a huge loss in what for the Ethiopians was a very minor assault but more importantly the regime was forced at its wit’s end to mobilize all of its divisions throughout Eritrea. Their bravado and untold mistreatment of unarmed Eritreans notwithstanding, what is left of the Eritrean defense forces is only good enough to carry out shoot to kill orders against unattended teenagers crossing the border to Sudan or Ethiopia. Obviously Isaias’ survival is more a function of Ethiopia’s reluctance to use its military might than his generals’ ‘resolute Mekhete’ against all our enemies”.
While I am writing these paragraphs, Eritrea’s Ministry of Information is making all kinds of statements regurgitating the same old regime propaganda bereft of any meaningful message to Eritreans who have all along found themselves at the receiving end of the regime’s reckless adventures. The regime, however, is wasting whatever cash it lays its hands on not to address the bread and butter issues of Eritreans, but on lobbying efforts to rebrand itself as the only stable government capable of doing America’s bidding-a message being repeated ad nauseam by the likes of Herman Cohen and Bronwyn Bruton.
I will return to these and other topics in my next article.