Eritrea: Tension and Anger with Ethiopian cross-border merchants

2018-10-10 11:12:03 Written by  Seid Ali Hijay Published in English Articles Read 158 times

The Eritrean people are angry and feeling disrespected in their own country

By Seid Ali Hijay

With the peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia, both countries opened their borders and allowed people-to-people movements and interactions. As the result of this opportunity, the Eritrean regime allowed the Ethiopian merchants to freely sell their goods inside Eritrea without any limitations.

An Eritrean who recently visited Asmara indicated that Ethiopian merchants are now moving freely in many parts of Eritrea, including Asmara, Keren, Massawa, Dekemhare, and other towns of Eritrea, where Eritreans are required to show they have permission to travel.

The visitor indicated that although this new opportunity helped reduced the prices of grains and goods, the Eritrean people are angry at President Isaias’s regime for giving privileges and priorities to the Ethiopians that he has denied to Eritreans. The visitor indicted that the regime has instructed the authorities, the police, Administrators to facilitate this trade and not interfere or stop the Ethiopian business men coming to Eritrea.

In one instance, an Ethiopian trader with a truck hit a young Eritrean woman in Asmara downtown. He was quickly surrounded by Eritreans, who tended the woman and watching over the Ethiopian driver, until the police comes. Once the police arrived and asked his driving license, the police realized that the driver was an Ethiopian with a TG truck tag plate. The police immediately returned his license and let him go. The onlookers was angry and shouted at the police for not arresting the driver or taking some action. To their surprise,  the police responded by saying that his hands are tied and can’t do anything about this, because they were given instructed by the regime to not touch or interfere with Ethiopian merchants.

In another incident at behind Enda-Selassie location, one of the areas reserved for the Ethiopian merchants to sell their goods, an Eritrean mother approached a Tigrian merchant to buy a white teff. He showed her the sample teff, but the mother was not convinced it was a white teff and further probed the Tigrian merchant by asking again are you sure this is a white teff and it doesn’t look like it to me. The Tigrian merchant responded   “ኣትን ኣደ ስቅ እልክን ዉሰዳ ብወዲዓከር ጨኒኽን ዝነበርክን” with contempt in his dialect language. [Translation: “old woman just take what I am selling, you people have been stinking eating Wedi Aker (sorghum)”]

The Eritrean mother was furious with his contemptuous response and clapped back by saying “እንታይ ኢልካ፦  ወዲ ዓከር በሊዖም ደይ ኮኑን ደቅና ስሬኻን ዕጥኻን ኣፍቲሖም ዘጛዬይኻ::” [Translation: “Our children who grew up eating chickpeas made you run out of the country without your weapons!”] While they were squabbling, some young Eritreans nearby heard them. They approached the merchant and threatened him to immediately leave or they’ll butcher and package him in his sacks. The merchant was so terrified and he immediately left with his truck and belonging without uttering a word.

The visitor also indicated the Ethiopian merchants are allowed to freely exchange their Nakfa to dollar in a black market in broad daylight in front of the authorities and policemen, without any repercussions. The exchange rates  goes as far as 1 dollar against 20 Nakfa, which is much better than the exchange rate set by the regime. As to remember this privilege is denied to Eritreans. In fact, any Eritrean caught exchanging  is punishable up to 2 years, including financial penalties.

Although these incidents seem to be trivial, but have deep ramifications for the Eritrean people. The regime is conducting widespread psychological assault against Eritreans in their own country by allowing to be disrespected by their arch rival south. Most importantly, the regime is denying and oppressing the Eritrean people to work, do businesses and accumulate wealth. This is a deliberate policy by the regime to psychological kill  the Eritrean people but also to transfer the wealth from Eritreans to the  people from the south, in the process creating weak, destitute and dependent Eritreans.

The above policy along with the forced exodus of Eritreans and new settlements by people from the south are going to lead to major social engineering down the road- where Eritreans will be dominated in numbers, wealth, culture, values, and beliefs to the extent that they’ll be hopeless and helpless to challenge and change their situations.

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