Time Waits for No Man—Even Isayas Afewerki

By The Strathink Editorial Team

The new superhero movie, Thor: Ragnorok, is the story of Asgard, a fictional planet within the Marvel Comics universe. Ruled by a tyrant, the people of Asgard simply leave, unable to tolerate the vicissitudes of their cruel and destructive leader. In the end, Asgard, the planet, is destroyed by the empty rage of its ruler.

As we begin to enter the second decade of the twentieth century, we can’t fail to note the similarities between the fictional planet of Asgard and the reality of present-day Eritrea. The U.N. estimates at least 5,000 people fleeing Eritrea monthly. Eritrea is one of the world’s fastest-emptying countries in the world. The U.N. further estimates that almost half a million Eritreans—nine percent of its total population of 4.5 million people—have recently fled. This staggering number does not count the dead or the stranded en route.

And this number is accelerating.

Moreover, the largest group of people fleeing Eritrea is unaccompanied minors. Eritrea’s future, its young people, is literally running out the door.

Like may African countries, Eritrea has a disproportionately young population. What does it mean to be young and Eritrean?

This “youth bulge” has benefitted greatly from educational opportunities but there are no jobs.

Instead, Eritrean youth are forced into compulsory and indefinite national service. Almost one Eritrean in twenty live in military barracks located in the desert. The conscripts are used as cheap labor on reconstruction projects, such as building roads, and earn less than $30 per months. They are prohibited from attending college or gaining employment unless they have been officially discharged from national service.

Young Eritreans cite compulsory military and national service obligations the primary reason for fleeing the country.

Life outside the prison of compulsory national service is hardly better. Eritrea is a police state where its people are subject to repression of speech, association and expression, and persecution from practicing any religion other than the four recognized by the government.

Arbitrary imprisonment is an option available to everyone—from the farmer to the high government official. No one escapes the eyes of the government. The state can even monitor individual and household expenditures by prohibiting the use of cash over 3,000 Eritrean nakfa (about U.S. $ 200).

It is an intolerable place ruled by one man, Isayas Afewerki, and his circle of sycophants.

But after 25 years of stoic resignation over the status quo, Eritreans are beginning to break the long-suffering martyrdom endured by the ordinary citizen.

On October 31st, a rare display of protest in Asmara by students of the Al Diaa Islamic School was met by bursts of gunfire from the police. Thousands of students and sympathizers marched towards President Isayas’ office to demand the release of the school board director as well as teachers at the school.

And last week al-Jazeera reported that hundreds of Eritreans in Stockholm, Sweden protested outside the Eritrean embassy against the recent arrest of teachers and the director of an Islamic school. 

Eritreans fought for 30 years both on the battlefield and in the hearts of minds of people. The front created an inspiring mythology that appealed to Eritreans and non-Eritreans alike in its plea to the better part of human nature. Ideals of justice, self-reliance and equality blended with the quest for sovereignty to created the modern Eritrean identity and a political culture that unquestioningly embraced the ethos of the leadership.

The Eritrean identity was forged globally, successfully merging the fighter and the non-fighter, at home and abroad, as one mighty army waging war to achieve sovereignty. For twenty-five years, this identity remains a fixture of the generation who sacrificed so much for an independent Eritrea.

How long can this identity be maintained with the rise of the new generation of Eritreans who only know an independent Eritrea?

Today there is a large number of Eritreans living abroad who serve as apologists for the despotic rule. They defend the government by portraying the country as David waging war against the Goliath of the international community. Any suggestion of criticism—whether from Eritreans or non-Eritreans—is mocked and shamelessly excoriated. The apologists twist the reality of Eritrea to normalize an abnormal state of unbending oppression.

We cannot fail to notice that the sycophants don’t actually live in Eritrea. They have chosen to take on new citizenship and defend the regime from the comfort of their suburban homes and Starbucks coffee shops.

What does the young generation of Eritreans, those who are fleeing, think about those Eritreans living abroad who defend an indefensible government? Will they continue to embrace the mythology they have been fed since childhood or will they reject the romanticism for the reality of the police state? Will they continue to carry a flag that has lost its meaning?

Complicating the landscape is the recent protest over control of an Islamic school. Eritrea has managed to avoid religious tension by tightly controlling religious space in the country. Will young Eritreans begin to identify themselves by their religion? Will Islam begin to take hold of its youth, joining millions of young Muslims all over the world? And what will they want? Will young Eritrean Muslims adopt the fiery rhetoric of jihad or simply demand greater freedom to practice their religion away from the watchful eyes of the state.

And what about Eritrean youth in the military? We quote here from a U.N. report:

Indeed, the indefinite duration of national service, its terrible conditions — including arbitrary detention, torture, sexual torture, forced labour, absence of leave and the ludicrous pay — and the implications it has for the possibility of any individual to found a family, conduct a family life and have favourable conditions of work make national service an institution where slavery-like practices are routine.

No one expected Robert Mugabe to be so easily ousted by the Zimbabwean from his own military. Yet, within days, the 93-year old strongman was consigned to the dustbin of history.

Is Eritrea one bullet away from implosion?

Time waits for no man—even for Isayas Afewerki. Perhaps this is the beginning of the end.

8 Responses to “Time Waits for No Man—Even Isayas Afewerki”

  1. Haben.Gomida says:

    This is piece reflects the thinking and strategy of people with sick minds which dies not can not be taken seriosly. Tidelyomo yizngiaki (you may wish it to happen but it does not and will not happen). The Demise of Woyane is inevitable. Change is very near!

    • Wedi sewra says:

      Thank you brother, we will fuck the agamme tribal regime. So stay tuned
      We the proud Eritrea don’t give a shit about the agamme sahsah people
      We are the masters of in our making.
      This minority agame tribe is on a blink of life and death 💀 so we will not going to dig your grave that is the Amhara and Oromo job, they have the alligator to bury You.

    • wedinakafa says:

      Rightly so the demise of WOY-ANE is near but let them waffle while the swamp is swallowing them slowly HE President Isaias died but they had their own dead Meles’s body lying in their greasily offices, double digit growth is a cooked book, now all ethics are killing each other and now Woy-ane is talking about Eritrean moslems, have you checked your past about treatment of muslims? you are simply a jock of the world, the writing’s on the wall no need to waste time, make no mistake we shall see who will mince his words.

    • yohannesalula says:

      Dear Haben Gomida,
      Some of you Eritreans have become very delusional and you are dreaming day and night about Woyane and Woyane only. The above article has put the current situation of Eritrea in its best way. If you have suggestions , comments on the article please try to forward them in a civilized way. Otherwise, simply dreaming day and night about Woyane, Woyene will not help you or your country either. Time is running out…..and please wake up do not sleep!!!!
      By the way do you know the meaning of Woyane. It means revolution in English, Sawra in Arabic and Rivluzione in Italian. So Woyane( Sawra, Revolution) will never , ever die.
      Have a nice night and sweet dream,
      Woyanay

  2. dagmawi says:

    The Eritrean independence Wes first conceived by the Egyptian president Gemal abdulnasir to weaken Ethiopia, the sad thing is while implementing this strategy hundred thousand of Eritreans and Ethiopians has perished while Ethiopia given its resources, military and effective leadership has defended this diabolic strategy but in Eritrea things are going bad to worse their economy has been shrinking for the last 17 years, the youth is leaving the country in mass, the remaining military is not fit for any purpose and there is a growing treat from religious fanatics given all this frome Ethiopia’s interest it mightn’t be a bad idea if he rules for a couple of years.

  3. Eyasu Abebe says:

    If Eritreans love their country, they will remain in Eritrea and fight as anyone who live under dictatorship. The problem, Eritreans do not love their country, they are looking for opportunities anywhere on the planet. If they have real love of country they will fight Italian colonialism or remain as Ethiopians.

  4. Lemlem says:

    Woyane is the cause of the problem. Shabia would not have existed after 2000. Blame your visionless, myoptic Woyanes. Stop self-righteousness, I would not blame Issayas, but retarded Woyane leaders.

  5. micael debru solomon says:

    We have maany Isayas they serve for thier people thanks God.

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