The role played by the Zimbabwe military and security forces shows that how much the military leadership who led the downfall of the Mugabe dictatorship were professional and preserving national interests instead of serving the dictatorship. This shows that Zimbabwe military was not corrupted by bribes, spoils of office, ethnic manipulation of appointments and promotions. Comparing the Eritrean military and security forces with that of Zimbabwe, the Eritrean military is not professional but enforced paramilitaries loyal to the regime or serving the interests of the regime.
When one country's military is less professional, it is less likely to act in pursuit of national interests and distance itself from the regime. Zimbabwe's military action was not coup but was very skilled and wise peaceful method of toppling the regime of Mugabe unlike many of the previous coups in African countries.
It is essential that the Eritrean Democracy Activists be concerned on the relation between the civil society movements and the military in Eritrea because several studies pointed that the coercive strength of the military is a great hinder for democratization.
One of the most important aspect of the struggle from dictatorship to democracy is to subordinate the military under civilian rule and be under democratic rule. The military's role is to make the process of democratization peaceful and guarantee security and stability of the people.
The great majority of the post -colonial African states began by constituting states based on constitution and election but later transformed to dictatorship, but in case of Eritrea, after independence is unique than the other post-colonial states of Africa, the EPLF/PFFDJ failed in all aspects to fulfil the criteria of state building based on constitution and institutions.
Under what conditions can the military in Eritrea facilitate a democratic transition like that of Zimbabwe? When can it happen? How can it happen?
In this article I will attempt to focus on the above mentioned questions. The regime in Eritrea is weak in all aspects of governance, its only institution is the military and security to unite and control the country through the methods of repression. Both the military and the civilians have been suffering under the authoritarian rule of the regime. In the past years the military and security in Eritrea have been opposed to democratic change and taken side with the dictator like many other African countries, for example in Togo, Zaire, Congo, and Niger.
Among many other reasons, the main condition was that the popular movements for democratic change was lack of policy and no attention given to the military and security forces in Eritrea. According to Luckham, the military establishment and other repressive organs in any dictatorship are the single most important obstacle to democratisation, and Monshiopouri argues likewise that, " the active support or acquiescence of the military is the key to any viable and sustained political transition to democracy." Hutchful argues that, paying to little attention to the military dimension of democratisation might prove " a crucial and potentially costly omission." There can be no transition or consolidation of democracy unless the military takes the side of the democratic transition. As in our case, both the military and the security forces, through their current control over the state's coercive apparatus are the necessary means to carry out its political agenda.
In case of the Eritrean military, it is equally oppressed and is suffering under crisis for so many years and in this situation it can be motivated to work for democratic transition in Eritrea. For example in 1994, in Malawi the military joined the forces for democratic change, and in Benin in 1990, the military refused to face down popular protests against the authoritarian regime. In Mali, a reform- minded faction of the military even decided to intervene actively to terminate the regime itself and facilitate the transition to democracy. The common condition in all these countries' is the same like that of our Eritrea. It is oppression in all spheres of their lives. What the Eritrean forces for democratic change need is to prepare for creating conditions where the military and security forces in Eritrea can facilitate democratic transition like that of Zimbabwe or other like the Benin or Malawi methods of transition.
December 15, 2017 (ADDIS ABABA) – A new report released by the New York-based press freedom group revealed that Egypt and Eritrea are Africa’s leading jailers of journalists in 2017.
- Egyptian anti-government protesters celebrate at Cairo’s Tahrir Square after president Hosni Mubarak stepped down on February 11, 2011 (Getty Images)
According to Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) report Egypt and Eritrea take the first and second spot, with 20 and 15 cases respectively.
The report showed a record number of jailed journalists for the second year across the world.
CPJ said the number of journalists imprisoned for their work hit a historical high, as the U.S. and other Western powers failed to pressure the world’s worst jailers—Turkey, China, and Egypt—into improving the bleak climate for press freedom, the Committee to Protect Journalists found.
As of December 1, 2017, CPJ found 262 journalists behind bars around the world in relation to their work, an increase on last year’s historical high of 259. Turkey is again the worst jailer, with 73 journalists imprisoned for their work as the country continues its press freedom crackdown. China and Egypt again take the second and third spot, with 41 and 20 cases respectively. The worst three jailers are responsible for jailing 134—or 51 percent—of the total.
Following Eritrea Azerbaijan and Vietnam are also on the top list with 10 cases each.
“In a just society, no journalist should ever be imprisoned for their work and reporting critically, but 262 are paying that price,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “It is shameful that for the second year in a row, a record number of journalists are behind bars. Countries that jail journalists for what they publish are violating international law and must be held accountable. The fact that repressive governments are not paying a price for throwing journalists in jail represents a failure of the international community.”
According to CPJ’s census 194 journalists, or 74 percent, are imprisoned on anti-state charges, many under broad or vague terror laws. In Turkey, every journalist on the census is either accused of or charged with anti-state crimes. Although many journalists cover multiple beats, politics was the most dangerous, covered by 87 percent of those jailed. Nearly all the jailed journalists are local and the percentage of freelancers is higher this year, accounting for 29 percent of cases.
The international community has done little to isolate repressive countries and U.S. President Donald Trump’s nationalistic rhetoric and insistence on labelling critical media “fake news” serves to reinforce the framework of accusations and legal charges that allow such leaders to preside over the jailing of journalists. CPJ’s 2017 census found the number of journalists jailed for “false news” doubled this year, to 21 cases.
Poor prison conditions is another issue this year, with two journalists jailed in China, including Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, dying just weeks after being released on medical parole, and several others seriously ill. In Egypt, CPJ found over half of the jailed journalists have health conditions.
The prison census accounts only for journalists in government custody and does not include those who have disappeared or are held captive by non-state groups, such as several Yemeni journalists CPJ believes to be held by the Ansar Allah movement, known as the Houthis. These cases are classified as “missing” or “abducted.” CPJ has been conducting an annual survey of journalists in jail since the early 1990s.
CPJ’s list is a snapshot of those incarcerated at 12:01 a.m. on December 1, 2017. It does not include the many journalists imprisoned and released throughout the year; accounts of those cases can be found at https://cpj.org. Journalists remain on CPJ’s list until the organization determines with reasonable certainty that they have been released or have died in custody.
CPJ is an independent, nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.
Journalist specialising in the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa
Africa, European Union, Libya
Author: Martin Plaut
Source: Amnesty International
12 December 2017, 00:01 UTC
Full report at the end of this summary
"By supporting Libyan authorities in trapping people in Libya, without requiring the Libyan authorities to tackle the endemic abuse of refugees and migrants or to even recognize that refugees exist, European governments have shown where their true priorities lie: namely the closure of the central Mediterranean route, with scant regard to the suffering caused," said John Dalhuisen.
European governments are knowingly complicit in the torture and abuse of tens of thousands of refugees and migrants detained by Libyan immigration authorities in appalling conditions in Libya, said Amnesty International in a report published today, in the wake of global outrage over the sale of migrants in Libya.
‘Libya’s dark web of collusion’ details how European governments are actively supporting a sophisticated system of abuse and exploitation of refugees and migrants by the Libyan Coast Guard, detention authorities and smugglers in order to prevent people from crossing the Mediterranean.
“Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants trapped in Libya are at the mercy of Libyan authorities, militias, armed groups and smugglers often working seamlessly together for financial gain. Tens of thousands are kept indefinitely in overcrowded detention centres where they are subjected to systematic abuse,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe Director.
“European governments have not just been fully aware of these abuses; by actively supporting the Libyan authorities in stopping sea crossings and containing people in Libya, they are complicit in these abuses.”
A policy of containment
Since late 2016, EU Member States – particularly Italy – have implemented a series of measures aimed at closing off the migratory route through Libya and across the central Mediterranean, with little care for the consequences for those trapped within Libya’s lawless borders. Their cooperation with Libyan actors has taken a three-pronged approach.
Firstly, they have committed to providing technical support and assistance to the Libyan Department for Combatting Illegal Migration (DCIM), which runs the detention centres where refugees and migrants are arbitrarily and indefinitely held and routinely exposed to serious human rights violations including torture.
Secondly, they have enabled the Libyan Coast Guard to intercept people at sea, by providing them with training, equipment, including boats, and technical and other assistance.
Thirdly, they have struck deals with Libyan local authorities and the leaders of tribes and armed groups – to encourage them to stop the smuggling of people and to increase border controls in the south of the country.
Detention, extortion and exploitation of migrants
The criminalization of irregular entry under Libyan law, coupled with the absence of any legislation or practical infrastructure for the protection of asylum seekers and victims of trafficking, has resulted in mass, arbitrary and indefinite detention becoming the primary migration management system in the country.
Refugees and migrants intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard are sent to DCIM detention centres where they endure horrific treatment. Up to 20,000 people currently remain contained in these overcrowded, unsanitary detention centres. Migrants and refugees interviewed by Amnesty International described abuse they had been subjected to or they had witnessed, including arbitrary detention, torture, forced labour, extortion, and unlawful killings, at the hands of the authorities, traffickers, armed groups and militias alike.
Dozens of migrants and refugees interviewed described the soul-destroying cycle of exploitation to which collusion between guards, smugglers and the Libyan Coast Guard consigns them. Guards at the detention centres torture them to extort money. If they are able to pay they are released. They can also be passed onto smugglers who can secure their departure from Libya in cooperation with the Libyan Coast Guard. Agreements between the Libyan Coast Guard and smugglers are signalled by markings on boats that allow the boats to pass through Libyan waters without interception, and the Coast Guard has also been known to escort boats out to international waters.
While it is unclear how many members of the Libyan Coast Guard collaborate with smugglers, it is clear that, during 2016 and 2017, the Libyan Coast Guard’s increased capacity, due to support from EU member states, has led to an increasing number of operations where migrants are taken back to Libya. So far in 2017, 19,452 people have been intercepted by the Libyan Coast Guard, taken back to Libya and immediately transferred to detention centres where torture is rife.
One man from the Gambia who was detained for three months told Amnesty International how he was starved and beaten in a detention centre: “They beat me with a rubber hose, because they want money to release me. They call the family while beating [you] so the family send money.” After his family paid the ransom he was taken to Tripoli by an assigned driver who demanded further payment. “I had to stay with him until I pay the money back, otherwise he will sell me.”
“One immediate way to improve the fate of refugees and asylum seekers in DCIM centres would be for the Libyan authorities to formally recognize UNHCR’s mandate, sign the Refugee Convention and adopt an asylum law. The automatic detention of migrants must also stop as that is when the worst abuses occur,” said John Dalhuisen.
Libyan coastguard endangering lives, intimidating NGOs
Libyan Coast Guard officials are known to operate in collusion with smuggling networks and have used threats and violence against refugees and migrants on board boats in distress.
Footage, pictures and documents reviewed by Amnesty International indicate that a boat donated by Italy in April 2017, the Ras Jadir, was used by the Libyan Coast Guard during a horrific incident on 6 November 2017, where their reckless actions contributed to the drowning of up to 50 people.
Ignoring basic security protocols, the Ras Jadir approached a sinking inflatable vessel about 30 nautical miles off the coast of Libya. When it failed to deploy its rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) to help facilitate the rescue, migrants were forced to climb the high sides of the ship and many fell into the water.
A nearby NGO vessel, Sea-Watch 3, deployed its own RHIBs to try and save people but footage shows those aboard the Ras Jadir throwing objects at these RHIBs to force them away. It also shows migrants aboard the Ras Jadir being whipped with a rope and others trying to jump into the water to try and reach the RHIBs.
Whilst reckless and dangerous actions by the Libyan Coast Guard have been documented before, this appears to be the first time a boat provided by a European government has been proven to have been used in such an incident.
“By supporting Libyan authorities in trapping people in Libya, without requiring the Libyan authorities to tackle the endemic abuse of refugees and migrants or to even recognize that refugees exist, European governments have shown where their true priorities lie: namely the closure of the central Mediterranean route, with scant regard to the suffering caused,” said John Dalhuisen.
“European governments must rethink their cooperation with Libya on migration and enable people to get to Europe through legal pathways, including by resettling tens of thousands of refugees. They must insist that the Libyan authorities end the policy and practice of arbitrary arrests and detention of refugees and migrants, immediately release all foreign nationals held in the detention centres, and allow the UNHCR to operate unhindered.”
The Ras Jadir was donated by Italy to the Libyan authorities in two ceremonies: the first in the port of Gaeta (Italy) on 21 April 2017, and the second in the port of Abu Sittah (Libya) on 15 May 2017. The boat is clearly portrayed in videos of the ceremonies, in the presence of the Italian Minister of Interior Marco Minniti.
At the end of September 2017, IOM had identified 416,556 migrants in Libya, of which more than 60% are from sub-Saharan Africa, 32% from other North African countries, and around 7% from Asia and the Middle East. UNHCR figures show that 44,306 people in Libya were registered as refugees or asylum-seekers as of 1 December 2017. The actual number is undoubtedly much higher.
Amnesty Libya EU
Last Updated on Thursday 07 December 2017
Addis Ababa, 6 December 2017: As part of the efforts to address the plight of the African migrants in Libya, the Joint African Union-European Union-United Nations Task Force convened its first meeting at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, on 4 December 2017. The meeting was chaired by the African Union Commissioner for Social Affairs, Amira el-Fadil.
On the 31 October, Eritrea experienced a rare protest as hundreds of people took the streets in opposition against the nationalisation of an Islamic school. Government forces reacted in characteristically brutal fashion and dispersed protesters with gun-shots in the capital Asmara.
A protest in the hugely repressive state of Eritrea is remarkable in of itself. But last month’s demonstration was additionally notable for the make-up of its participants. Many of those who took to the streets were secondary school students. An article on the Ministry of Information’s portal dismissively referred to the protestors as “a group of teenagers”.
For over 16 years, there has been virtually no space to challenge the government of Eritrea. There is no independent press or right to free association and movement. Internet penetration is almost non-existent. And extreme militarisation and surveillance pervade society. All the government’s former critics have all been imprisoned, disappeared or have fled.
However, that does not mean there is no opposition to the regime in the country. They may be disconnected from one another and uncoordinated, but 31 October was not the first time “a group of teenagers” has expressed its frustrations and openly defied the all-powerful Eritrean government.
The plight of Eritrea’s youth is well-documented. Facing indefinite military conscription and a lack of jobs, the youth are fleeing the country in droves only to be stranded in the neighbouring countries or faced with the risky journey across to Mediterranean. Even the sons and daughters of the ruling elite try to escape the country, including the youngest son of President Isaias Afwerki. They would prefer to cut ties with their parents and risk living as destitute refugees than remain in Eritrea.
Of course, not everyone leaves. Some stay happily. But for the many disillusioned young people who remain in the country, there is the feeling of a deepening divide between their generation and the governing system. Recently, this has manifested in a number of under-reported clashes between protesting youth and the government.
The regime attempts to suppress such incidences, which is made easier by its restrictions on international media. This means that these events largely remain confined to those directly affected, but they could have a much broader significance.
Despite continued repression and an education system set up to produce obedient citizens, Eritrea’s youth currently seems to be the only group ready to openly confront the regime. Young people in national service have reportedly booed officials coming to conduct seminars and killed commanders’ goats in protest.
The class of 2013 was reportedly particularly insubordinate. According to students and an internal report that was leaked, many of that year’s intake was punished for their defiance by being told they would be recalled to the military training centre Sawa after their exams. They were told to prepare for a long walk. That night, however, hundreds of students fled. Soldiers were deployed to lock down the camp.
Those who remained – more than 12,000 – were rounded up and forced to travel on foot for over 21 days. The report says two students drowned crossing a river, while another two died from snake bites. On arriving at their destination, the group was put in open prison camps without proper shelter. 34 more died, while there were 17 unwanted pregnancies.
This year, there was news of similar collective resistance. In July, 6,000 students were reportedly deployed to Adi-Halo where President Afwerki is attempting to establish a college of agriculture and machinery. However, there was allegedly no proper lodging to accommodate the students, many of whom were assigned there involuntarily.
They believed they were brought there to work on Afwerki’s projects in the area. In protest, they started leaving rocks on the road the president takes to his office in Adi-Halo and demanded he address their concerns.
When the military intervened, the unarmed students openly challenged the guards. In October, tensions escalated and protesters began throwing stones at them. The Eritrean opposition radio Medrek reports that the military responded by forcibly moving the students to Naro in the far north for military training.
Eritrea’s youth standing up
These isolated but notable incidents suggest that the protest in Asmara last month was unique, but not unprecedented. In that demonstration, hundreds took to the streets of the capital in defiance of the regime’s repressive rule and in anger at its decision to wield greater control over the education system. Once again, many of them were students.
These acts of insubordination suggest that many young people are now saying enough is enough. There does not seem to be coordination around a collective movement. But in the face of clear threats and repression by the regime, and in the absence of an organised opposition, groups of youth may be beginning to take matters into their own hands. Knowing no-one will instigate change for them, frustrated young people may be feeling a greater sense of ownership over their own affairs and future.
If they do continue to mobilise, they may nevertheless find support amongst their as yet quieter compatriots. In Asmara, police sent to disperse the protest reportedly told demonstrators that they share their grievances and refused to fire on them.
That is reportedly how the protesters managed to get so close to the Office of the President. It was there, however, that Special Forces fired on them in a show of violence that leaves those who would question the regime in no uncertain terms about what they ultimately are up against.