Question. Although Eritreans, at least those in the Diaspora, are familiar with your picture and your being one of the trio of the UNCOI, can you provide us with an introduction as to your background and how you ended up with the COI team?
Answer. I am a lawyer from Mauritius and have been working on human rights issues on the African continent for almost three decades. I have served as the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea since November 2012. On 27 June 2014, when the UN Human Rights Council adopted Resolution A/HRC/RES/26/24 setting up the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea, it specifically indicated that the Special Rapporteur would be one of the three members. This explains my presence on the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea (COIE) as one of the Commissioners.
Q. What is the COI and how does it come into existence?
A. Following the presentation of my reports (A/HRC/23/53 in June 2013 and A/HRC/26/45 in June 2014) in my capacity as Special Rapporteur, and taking into account the non-cooperation of the Eritrean Government with the mandate and other human rights mechanisms, in June 2014, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) decided to establish, for a period of one year, a commission of inquiry on human rights in Eritrea (COIE). The HRC mandated the COIE to investigate violations of international human rights law, as outlined in the reports of the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Eritrea. There were also calls for the setting up of the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea made by civil society and other Eritreans, including those in the diaspora. Following the presentation of the Commissino’s report containing its findings in June 2015, the HRC decided to extend the mandate of the COIE for one year to investigate systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights in Eritrea with a view to ensuring full accountability, including where these violations may amount to crimes against humanity.
Q. Are members appointed or they have to express an interest and even have to apply to be member of such a commission?
A. The President of the Human Rights Council approaches suitably qualified candidates to see whether they may be interested and then appoints members from among those who express an interest in being part of the Commission.
Q. Since your work entails having to investigate a government’s policy and behavior, does the government in question have a say in approving the members?
A. Appointment of the Commisioners remains the responsibility of the UN Human Rights Council and does not entail the approval of the Government concerned.
Q. What in short were you able to firmly establish from your investigation of the Eritrean regime?
A. The Commission found that systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations have been and are being committed with impunity in Eritrea under the authority of the Government. Some of these violations may constitute crimes against humanity. Our investigation identified specific patterns of systematic human rights violations, based on several factors. They included:
• The high frequency of occurrence of violations documented and corroborated;
• The number of victims and the replication of the violation over a certain period of time;
• The type of rights violated; and
• The systemic nature of these violations, meaning that they cannot be the result of random or isolated acts by the authorities.
The COIE was able to confirm serious human rights violations in Eritrea, including cases of extrajudicial killing, enforced disappearance and incommunicado detention, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture, inhumane prison conditions, violations of human rights in the context of the indefinite national service, which in effect amounts to forced labour, sexual violence in the national service, lack of freedom of expression and opinion, assembly, association, religious belief and movement.
Q. Was there any information that you came across thar surprised you most? What was it, why?
A. It was the extent to which the vast security network reaches into every level of society in-country but also in other countries. This is one of the reasons why the Commission said that Eritrea is a country ruled by fear and not by law. While I had an indication of this state of affairs, the Commission was able to gauge how wide-reaching it was.
Q. Have you heard of, read or even worked on a situation like that of Eritrea? Are there regimes out there like the PFDJ?
A. The COIE’s mandate is to focus on human rights violations in Eritrea and it is best to avoid making comparisons with other countries. However, human rights violations in Eritrea are systematic, widespread and indeed happening on a large scale and we seldom see human rights violations of the scope and scale we see in Eritrea today.
Q. The regime’s constant criticism of the report is that you have never been into the country. How much did you try to convince the regime to allow you in?
A. Although the Commission repeatedly sought the cooperation of the Government in carrying out its work, it received no response. The Chair wrote to President Isaias Afewerki seeking his invitation and collaboration right at the start and followed up on several occasions, including with requests for information. The Commission even sent an advance copy of the report to the Eritrean authorities. There was no response.
Q. Do you think not being able to talk to the people inside undermined your report?
A. The Commission conducted interviews with some 550 witnesses in eight countries and received 160 written submissions. As was indicated by the Chair, Mike Smith, the Commission recorded the voices of real Eritrean people as articulated in these 550 testimonies and 160 submissions received. The Commission also reflected the silenced voice of the majority of Eritreans who have never been able to elect their own representatives in national, free, fair and democratic elections, as well as the voices of imprisoned and ill-treated critics, journalists, religious leaders and others who have disappeared into a vast network of jails, the muzzled voice of those subjected to forced labour and inhumane conditions for years on end. Finally, the Commission highlighted the voice of those who every day risk their lives to flee a government that has failed them and all of the others.
Q. There was also this incident of a cut and paste situation involving a North Korean document that somehow ended up being inserted in that of Eritrea. What exactly happened and why? Do tragic errors like that undermine or compromise the credibility of the UN and specifically the COI?
A. This “incident” as you call it did not involve the COIE and it is not something I have personal knowledge about. It is therefore difficult for me to talk about this specific happening. However, not related to the COIE work, it has no incidence on the credibility of the COIE.
Q. You are also accused of being anti-PFDJ because you had previously worked for humanitarian organizations. Can you be an objective investigator with a background of opposing unpopular governments?
A. I have dedicated my time and energy for years to monitor, document, investigate, advocate against human rights violations and even to litigate abuses wherever they happen, mainly in Africa. I have grounded my work in the human rights treaties and documents accepted universally as well as regionally, on the African continent. I have no interest in opposing any specific political organisation or government. I oppose human rights violations as my unwavering pursuit for human dignity for all.
Q. In fact, what was it like having to work on the Eritrean case?
A. It has been challenging; a situation which I can describe as taking two steps forward and one backward. However, the work which the Commission was able to achieve with the support of its Secretariat is there for the international community to appraise.
Q. If you had to do it again, would you still be part of the COIE?
A. I make it a point to deliver on my responsibilities. This is exactly what I did and would continue doing.
Q. There were reports that Commision members were threatened during the Geneva Demonstration by the regime’s supporters. What exactly took place and what can you tell us about the results or status of that investigation?
A. The President of the Human Rights Council made a statement to that effect on 23 June 2015 before the Commission presented its report. As the investigations are ongoing, I would not like to comment further on the matter.
Q. What was it like to be threatened by the supporters of a regime that you documented as ruling by fear? Would you say the regime unwittingly helped make your case or could one say that people found the report so unfounded that they resorted to threats?
A. It is unfortunate that this happened. There are other ways of engaging on substantive issues and the Commission has always kept the channels of communication open to address the core of its mandate, that is, human rights violations committed by the Eritrean authorities against its citizens.
Q. You seem to be the most accessible and visible in the media, we do not hear from your colleagues as much. Have you been delegated to be the team spokesperson?
A. Not at all. My fellow Commissioners are also very active and available. The only difference is that I have been highlighting the situation of human rights in Eritrea since November 2012 in my capacity as Special Rapporteur.
Q. What’s next for the COIE, where do you go from here?
A. The COIE is currently transitioning to its next phase and developing its programme of work. This is work in progress.
Q. What is it that you would have achieved by the end of the tenure of the Commision?
A. By the end of the tenure of the COIE we are aiming at bringing clarity regarding responsibility for human rights violations committed in Eritrea. Our goal is to pave the way for accountability, in a country where a pervasive culture of impunity is firmly entrenched.
Q. What is meant by Crimes against Humanity?
A. The definition of crimes against humanity is threefold:
– Crimes against humanity include: murder (killing or causing death, including the deprivation of access to food and medicine); extermination (mass killing or causing death to a part of the population); enslavement; imprisonment or other deprivation of physical liberty; torture; rape; sexual slavery; sexual violence; enforced disappearances of persons; persecution (intentional and severe deprivation of one or more fundamental rights contrary to international law by reason of the identity of the group); and other inhumane acts committed during peace time or war time.
– Crimes against humanity should take place in the specific context of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population: the act should not be isolated or sporadic incident but it should be a course of conduct involving the multiple commissions of acts/ crimes against any civilian population.
– In addition, there should be two subjective or mental elements: the criminal intent to commit the inhuman act/conduct and the knowledge that it is part of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population. Gross negligence or inadvertent recklessness is not sufficient for the commission of crimes against humanity.
Q. Will you be able to enter into the country this time around? Even if allowed, how would you be able to guarantee your safety?
A. As the Commission has previously indicated, the preferred way to conduct its investigations would be in situ, that is in the country and we hope to be invited. It is the responsibility of the host government to provide security to those it has invited.
Q. Just as importantly, how would you guarantee the safety of those you interview?
A. The prime responsibility for the safety of those whom the COIE interview remains with the government authorities. Witnesses and victims’ protection is a central concern for the Commission. We have adopted procedures and methods of work aimed at protecting such persons, as well as the information they have chosen to share with us, during all stages of our work and beyond the release of our report.
However, our ability to physically protect concerned persons is limited and we count on the governments of the countries we have visited to respect their primary responsibility to protect their residents, including the victims and witnesses we have interviewed. We have systematically sought guarantees from the concerned States that individuals wishing to meet us shall have unhindered access to us, and that none of them shall, as a result of meeting us, suffer any harassment, threat, act of intimidation, ill-treatment or reprisal, or face any criminal prosecution or other judicial proceedings.
Q. What if the regime availed only people that would refute your original report?
A. As part of its working methods, the COIE ensures that it has total freedom to interview any witness who can shed light on human rights violations in Eritrea, as per its mandate.
Q. Are you planning to interview as part of the investigation the current ruler of Eritrea, Mr. Isaias Afewerki or senior officials? Have there been attempts to contact him directly?
A. As indicated above, the COIE wrote directly to the President at the start of the first mandate and followed up. We will certainly seek an invitation to Eritrea again.
Q. African leaders seem united in their opposition as discriminatory the International Crimes Court (ICC). What is the point of the COIE and how does it help the victims of the regime you’re investigating?
A. On renewing its mandate in June 2015, the Human Rights Council decided “to extend, for a period of one year, the mandate of the commission of inquiry to investigate systematic, widespread and gross violations of human rights in Eritrea with a view to ensuring full accountability, including where these violations may amount to crimes against humanity”. The mandate is clear. What the HRC decides to do with the findings is not in the hands of the COIE. The work of the COIE will also serve as a record of the human rights violations victims have been subjected to at the hands of the authorities. However, the COIE aims at providing the basis to break the cycle of impunity for human rights violations in Eritrea. To do this the COIE has based and will continue using as legal framework all obligations assumed by Eritrea under international human rights treaties and other relevant treaties as well as those applicable under customary international law.
Part II: The Myth of Sanctions against Eritrea
I chose this issue as a separate topic because it exemplifies the twisted nature of politics. The irony of the UNSC sanction is that both the regime and opposition see political benefits in maintaining the sanctions. When examined closely, the purpose and effectiveness of the UNSC sanctions have been distorted to fit the target audience. Contrary to his public lamentations, DIA is using sanctions to further justify his oppressive rule, while the opposition see that sanctions will weaken the regime. DIA needs plausible justification to oppress the population, while opposition needs ever more oppression to ignite, hopefully, a popular uprising, while the world pretends to do something by imposing an empty sanction. Moreover, the regime needs a cause to rally its dwindling supporters. The regime’s latest propaganda is, ‘the US and West hates us, and has never accepted us as an independent country, and wants to shove us back into Ethiopia by punishing us economically. We shall overcome as we always have done.’
1. History and Effectiveness of Sanctions (in general)
The use of international sanctions, i.e. diplomatic and trade, is a recent phenomenon, which arose from the creation of organized international institutions such as the United Nations (UN) and European Union (EU), along with tremendous growth in trade and economic integrations in post second world war era.
Before this period, countries engaged in a form of self-sanction, or isolationism, such as China in 1371 under Ming Dynasty which banned maritime shipping, and Japan in the 1650s under Tokugawa shogunate (Sakoku/kaikin policy). In a form of reverse sanctions, Britain forced China to trade in the 1850s, which led to the Opium War and eventually acquiring Hong Kong to achieve its mercantile aims. Similarly, Portugal established its base in Macau for the same purpose. The United States forced Japan to open its trade in 1850s - and told in no uncertain terms that if it failed to open its markets that it faced military consequences. Ironically, it was a century of military threats if countries didn’t open up from their self-imposed sanctions. The less fortunate countries became ‘overseas colonies’. Forcing others to trade was at the heart of medieval mercantile adventures.
Today it is isolating countries, rather than forcing them to engage to trade that has become a modus operandi of international politics. The shift from forcing a nation to trade to withholding trade has been necessitated by changes in international politics, i.e. war as last resort, and due to increased economic integrations of the world. But it is still understood that encouraging isolationist countries to engage is one approach to deal with entrenched and antagonist regimes. China is one example, and current efforts with Iran and Cuba are the latest examples.
It is debatable whether sanctions do work. Under what circumstances do sanctions work? Do sanctions bring about change, i.e. is it about changing regimes or is it about changing the behavior of a regime? Does its effectiveness depend on whether the population is generally active versus pacifist, strong economic class exists, or other factors (or combinations thereof)?
Some examples where sanctions has had some impact
One may argue that there are some factors that determine if sanctions may have some impact:
The sponsors must impose strict sanctions and pursue the sanctions aggressively and wholeheartedly, as the UK did with Zimbabwe, the US with Iran, and the US and EU with Russia and South Africa.
The targets of the sanctions are governed by ‘opportunist dictators’ than ‘ideologue dictators’, and face some degrees of public pressure to alleviate adverse economic conditions and are willing to address them to certain degrees.
2. Background on Sanctions against Eritrea
DIA and its spin-masters would like us believe that the UNSC sanctions is a U.S. (our bogeyman / hoongoogoo) plot to strip away our sovereignty and give us away to those evil Woyanes like they did to us in the 1950s. What a crap!
The hard fact is that the UNSC sanction against Eritrea is because of the regime’s PATTERN of belligerent behaviour over almost two decades that even Russia and China, members with veto powers, couldn’t condone and thus allowing the sanction to pass. China and Russia insisted a watered down version more out of fear of precedence than concern for the Eritrean regime.
The 2009 Eritrea-Somalia sanctions, UNSC Resolutions # 1907 and #2023, were imposed ostensibly due to active meddling in the internal Somali, Djibouti, and possibly Ethiopian political affairs. Of course, all nations have rights to pursue their national interests, but only in smart way lest it becomes self-destructive. As a nation way down the international political food chain, political prudence goes a long way to achieve both short- and long-term national interests.
Even the most politically naive can surmise that the regime has been actively accosting diplomatic, political, and supposedly economic sanctions against itself. It sought, and continues to seek, needless confrontations with regional and international interest groups, nations and organizations over IssacDawit, Djibouti, and Somalia - while trying to cozy up with rogue regimes.
At the risk of being repetitive, it is worth reminding like a tired television commercial, that DIA’s belligerent politics has resulted in,
Loss of Hanish Islands to Yemen: islands that were in possession of Eritrea historically (and Ethiopia while it occupied Eritrea). Worse is Eritrea losing the fishing and other rights associated with water territory!
Conflict with Ethiopia resulting in loss of over 20,000 precious Eritreans, two-to-three times that many injured in this needless war. One of the Eritrea’s heroes, Min. BerakiGhebresilase, had voiced prudent approach to handling the situation but fell on deaf ears of the regime. Although DIA wants to tell us that we gained Badme, in reality, Eritrea lost most of the lands that belonged to it under colonial treaties and enshrined in the AU founding documents.
Conflict with Djibouti, which eventually nudged the UNSC, which includes China, to impose sanctions.
Meddling, which is different than constructively engaging, in Somali politics, resulting in UN sanctions.
Belligerent tones towards the West, esp. the US, regional and international organizations - and everything in-between.
The latest news that Al Jazeera staff were released in Egypt after “Presidential Pardon” is just one example how astute politicians with a well formed agenda play their hands in international politics. For example, releasing IssacDawit would have the regime’s cause with Sweden, albeit Sweden hasn’t done much, and the EU in general. They would all have removed that one small stone out of their shoes, but PIA insists on imprisoning IssacDawit although he poses absolutely no risk to the regime. One can only surmise that DIA is pursuing self-isolationism by antagonizing the rest of the world with whatever little way he can - and in the process destroy everything Eritrea and Eritrean. It is sadism at its zenith.
Examining the sanctions themselves, despite the regime’s ever louder complaints of the UN sanctions, in reality, UNSC sanctions have been symbolic rather than having any noticeable impact on the regime.
With undying hope of becoming a regional super-power, ‘goblel’, at least, in the Horn of Africa, and eternally hoping to become the next darling of the US, DIA is pursuing Pyrrhic Victory to annihilate Ethiopia and take the mantle. DIA was forced to retract into its shells after its Somalia agenda was utterly defeated and discredited. However, now that DIA has found some hope that his involvement with the ‘coalition’ against the Houthis in Yemen would give him some leverage that he has boldly and publicly welcomed Dr. BerhanuNega of GINBOT 7. DIA is gambling that he has now some leeway to interfere in Ethiopia’s domestic politics because he is more valuable politically to the Middle Eastern crisis, and also to take advantage of the recent Ethiopian election. Unfortunately for DIA, and probably fortunately for everybody else, TPDM’s defections has thrown a monkey wrench into DIA’s plans to torch the entire Horn of Africa. Still, DIA’s undying belief in gunboat diplomacy, where he is receiving cash and oil from Sudan, Egypt, Iran ,Gulf States, and who knows who else, in exchange for offering a mercenary army and access to our territory is the root cause of Eritrean suffering. His policies are predicated on one belief, that “Might is Right” in dealing with the Eritrean population as well as the world.
Although not all conflicts were started by DIA, his opponents understood his reckless disregard for rule-of-law and international politicking and thus giving them carte-blanche to advance their political agenda before an accountable regime is established in Eritrea. In his many interviews, which have become rare lately, DIA wants to project an image of a well-meaning guy who is misunderstood by everybody. Even if one assumed so, the job of a well-meaning leader isn’t to run a nation as his personal fiefdom and run a socio-economic and politics experiments to the detriment of everybody else who subjected to unnecessary and indefinite cruelty. In other words, no amount of well-meaning intentions can excuse human right abuses.
As a result of DIA’s PATTERN of disruptive and destructive behavior, the UNSC - which includes CHINA and RUSSIA passed the following resolutions,
S/RES/1907 (2009) passed on December 23, 2009 and imposes the following sanctions
S/RES/2023 (2009) passed on December 05, 2011 expands on the Resolution 1907
Cessation from collecting “Diaspora Tax” under CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES (section 11 of the resolution)
Due diligence in dealing with the Eritrean mining sector (sections 13 and 14). Due diligence is open to wide interpretations.
There are corresponding legislations by EU, Australia and other countries.
III Effects of Sanctions on Eritrea
After attempting to downplay the effects of sanctions at the beginning, DIA has now embraced the so-called sanctions against Eritrea as yet another tool in his endless and tiring political propaganda. But in reality, the sanctions may have affected DIA diplomatically but nothing else. The impact of diplomatic isolation might be to shift from the regime’s ostensible campaign to finalize the physical demarcation of the border to DIA’s destabilizing role in the region, but this diplomatic isolation is, wittingly or unwittingly, DIA’s choosing.
1. Military hardware sanctions(arms embargo) against the regime has NO impact on the regime. It doesn't have the budget and hard currencies to buy military hardware anyway. In fact, it may be selling its armaments to raise hard currency. If ever it needs to buy armaments, it can do so clandestinely in the black markets.
Impact of military hardware sanctions: nil
2. Diplomatic sanctions(travel ban) have been embarrassingly non-existent. After voting to impose sanctions on high-level regime officials, no country has imposed on any regime official six years later. To the contrary, regime officials have been allowed to freely travel to many countries without any form of restrictions, except possibly to and within the US. This is in contrast, for instance, to Zimbabwe where the UK imposed strict limitations and forced other EU members to follow. The US did put Mr. YemaneGebreab on the list but is still allowed to travel to United Nations in New York because of an agreement with the UN when establishing its headquarters in New York.
Impact of diplomatic sanction: NIL (US travel restrictions within the US for Eritrean diplomats is an eye-for-an-eye for the Eritrean regime’s actions.)
3. Economic sanctions against the regime consists of a couple of countries curtailing the 2% Diaspora Tax and putting unspecified limitations on the mining sector. Despite being mentioned in the sanctions, not all nations enforce it, and is done in duplicitous manner. For instance, Canada expelled the Eritrean representative over illegal collection of 2% to fund illegal activities, and yet a Canadian mining company, Nevsun, still operates in Eritrea pouring billions of dollars into DIA coffers while violating international laws against slavery.The Eritrean dictatorship has been allowed to earn hundreds of millions (nearly $1 billion in US) in 4 years. The same with other countries such as the UK and Australia. One may even surmise that banning the 2% is designed to force the regime to allow foreign companies to extract minerals; thus for their own interests.
Pertaining to the ‘Diaspora Tax’, the wordings in the resolution states that the regime can’t coerce or force Eritreans to pay it. Strictly speaking, it doesn’t even prevent voluntary payments. Does requiring Eritreans to pay for services considered ‘coercing’? The vague nature of the resolution, or no subsequent clarifications, has rendered the sanctions toothless. The fact remains that those Eritreans who have personal affairs to attend to back in Eritrea must somehow pay it. As such, this specific sanction can only be referred to as an ‘inconvenience’ sanction. Inconvenience has its functions, but in this particular case, it is not effective enough.
Impact of economic sanction: almost NIL (more inconvenience than being effective)
It is worth reiterating that economic hardships in Eritrea is totally and absolutelyself-inflicted. For instance remittances have been falling because DIA
Has banned private construction of housings
Has practicallybanned all private enterprise
Purposely abandoning public projects (Chinese finance in Ethiopia for instance) including infrastructure, Free Port/Zone, and others. The regime's behavior is judged within its pattern of behavior soon after independence rather than post UNSC sanctions.
In addition, DIA is creating high inflation by printing money and thus devaluing the currency. As Eritreans find that their wages and salaries are being eroded while rent and food prices going up, this feeds into rampant corruption. All this feeds into chaotic system that is destroying the country.
4. Asset Freeze - No impact as no official has been designated yet, as is for the travel ban.
Trade Sanctions - there is no trade sanctions, except some due diligence in dealing with mining sector as discussed above, on Eritrea. However, even if there was trade sanctions, it would have had little impact on Eritrea because DIA has deliberately stifled the private sector in Eritrea, which would have been the source of export for Eritrea. Similarly, Eritrea's imports, which is not under sanctions, is minimal limited to food and energy, and the rest being so negligible on the world scale, that it would be useless to sanction. Moreover, there is no need to impose formal trade sanctions as the regimes reckless economic governance is leading to total collapse of its currency, making imports too expensive for ordinary Eritreans.
World Bank, IMF, China and Eritrea
DIA propaganda machinery tells us implicitly that Eritrea's economic woes is due to international sanctions preventing it from obtaining funds from World Bank, IMF and other international organizations and states.
But DIA's policy of self-reliance and self-sufficiency (more like self-destruction), remnant of old communist and Maoist beliefs, has been the main culprit in isolating itself from engaging with international organizations. The main reason for shunning these organizations isn't because DIA is averse to borrowing, but doesn't want the West to use 'indebtedness' as political leverage against him. Otherwise, PIA is probably astute enough to know his deeply held belief in Maoism hasn't even worked in its home county, but the hoopla of 'self-sufficiency' is being used to sustain its repressive policies.
If DIA had really wanted to engage in economic development, he would have dealt with China, NOT the US, EU, World Bank. China is fuelling most of African and Asian, and now South American, economic growth. China is not averse with dealing with the most repressive regimes, internationally sanctioned countries, or any regime operating outside international norms. It is DIA that is shunning China. Whenever DIA needed China, from stashing away millions, if not billions, of dollars of unaccounted and stolen Eritrean money, to repairing the Hirgigo Power Plant, to building the Gedem Cement Factory, China has been there whenever DIA needed China.
Of course, the US, France and other Western countries have sector specific grants available for third world countries such as for energy (electricity) developments, which Eritrea could have tapped into if it wasn’t for DIA’s ideological rigidity entangled with his ego. There are now rumours that the EU is set to grant over $200 million for economic developments in Eritrea - probably out of misguided belief that the regime can be bribed into stemming down the Eritrean refugee crisis. Throwing money at ideologue dictators is like throwing into the wind.
Graver Political Developments than Sanctions & the Outdated Westphalian Treaty
Tired of continuous wars in Europe, its monarchs and leaders met in the Town of Westphalia in the year 1648 to formulate a new principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states. Before 1648, European nations invaded others on whimsical excuses that put the continent on perpetual war footing. Nearly 300 years later, the UN and later the AU (OAU) adopted the same principles of non-interference as the cornerstone of international diplomatic relations and conduct of nations and international brotherhood.
However, the principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign countries has been modified in the last few years, especially after the 1994 Rwandan genocide when the world powers realized adverse events in a sovereign country impacts other countries directly through refugee crises and indirectly through the collective consciousness of people as unified human beings. Should be ignore the immense sufferings of other people just because they live across artificial borders? Of course, there are dangers of using human rights violations to interfere in the internal politics of sovereign countries.
Post-1994 Rwanda, the general consensus is that the world, as represented by the United Nations, UN Security Council - and even regional groupings such as ECOWAS have the moral and political obligations to interfere in the internal affairs of sovereign countries if violations consisted of genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes - and even coups against democratically elected governments. These international groups may use sanctions or force to pre-emptively prevent mass human sufferings or to restore political stability. ECOWAS, for instance, has played effective roles in restoring and stabilizing political situations in Guinea Bissau, Burkina Faso and elsewhere. Moreover, the recent coup in Burkina Faso met swift reactions from the Peace & Security Council of the AU and West African nations.
It is also worth noting that during the latest UN Human Rights Council meeting over Eritrea, the Representative of Ghana echoed this very same sentiment. The Ghanaian representative stated that although the AU founding principlesare based on non-interference in the internal affairs of other member states, i.e. Westphalia model,African leaders have also come to understand that to promote African democracy, and hence to realize socio-economic growth,that African leaders must now believe in the principle of non-indifference.
Ironically, despite DIA's complaints of foreign interference in the internal affairs of Eritrea, DIA, as die hard Maoist follower and ardent disciple of communist thoughts, is the biggest subscriber of the principle of non-indifference. DIA's fingerprints are all over Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti, Yemen, DR Congo, (Great Lakes) and other countries. Political hypocrisy is to complain when others interfere in your internal affairs, but justify interference in affairs of other countries as necessities of security, to help our brotherly neighbors, or for some other high sounding but ultimately for self-serving reasons.
Although the opposition camp supports sanctions as way of, ostensibly, diminishing the legitimacy of the regime, but at the same time, it is predicated on increasing hardship on the general public that could spark public uprising. Unfortunately, as stated above, the UNSC sanctions is toothless. Unless the world body imposes severe, and ever increasing, sanctions against an oppressive regime, as was done with Zimbabwe, Iran, Russia, and others, these sanctions have no effect. As shown above, the sanctions against Eritrea is in name only. As the regime is not democratically elected and cares less for domestic or world opinion, it doesn’t even suffer from the stigma.
DIA is someone who believes that he can get away with anything and that one day - either of his own choosing or fate - things will change and that all the pain and sufferings of the past will be forgotten like the morning mist.
In my view, the opposition should NOT indefinitely support empty sanctions as a victory against the regime. There is no hypocrisy in welcoming sanctions at first and then call for it to be rescinded if it no longer serves a purpose, or runs against one’s political strategy - if there is one. In other words, if the world body isn’t serious enough to impose tough sanctions that will bring about change, then it should lift sanctions, and thus depriving the regime of the propaganda that the world, and esp. the US, is trying to strip Eritrea of its nationhood.
Having observed the nature of dictatorial regimes, which are replete with historical observations, one may even argue that forcing the regime to open up economically, as is being done with the mining sector, is the better route to address Eritrea’s woes than pursuing the strangulation route. More than anyone, it is PIA who is politically allergic to any form of socio-economic development because growing wealth will necessarily lead to calls for socio-economic reforms. Moreover, openness in today’s world means greater integrations with the world, which, again, lead to calls for socio-economic reforms. Thus, one may argue, either the West should impose serious and severe sanctions against the regime, or force the regime to open up economically - not unlike middle and late medieval China and Japan, which were forced to trade and thus ending their isolationist policies. Similar questions are raised over Cuba which has remained isolated for over half-a-century.
In fact, as will be discussed later, many roads lead to Rome, [as in all], and it is not necessarily the politics of destruction, isolationism, division, and other negative acts that will only get us to our destination. We do NOT need to be the mirror reflection of the regime, or react in tit-for-tat manner. If so, the regime has control over us. Our every political approach should evaluated dispassionately and purely on the merits of its outcome and based on the very principles we want to project. Nothing more, nothing less!
The opposition camp should be flexible and strategically oriented enough to adjust its political position to advance its cause. Equally, the opposition camp would require strong communication to avoid appearing to be dithering or equivocating. Our position to the world body (UN) should be, either get serious enough with the sanctions or rescind it.
Ultimately, the current toothless sanctions regime may have value to the Ethiopian government only, which allows it to pre-empt any pressures to resolve the border issue. Others concerns, such as interference in Somali affairs, have now subsided as the wings - not just the feathers - have been clipped off of the Eritrean Pol Pot regime.
Lifting sanctions doesn’t necessarily end opposition camp’s efforts to isolate the regime. There are still other avenues, including through UN & AU Human Right Councils, to address many of the regime’s abuses as manifested by the refugee crisis, slavery campaigns, and other national local legal avenues available to pursue. We are only limited by our imagination, pooled resources, and determination in pursuing other effective legal avenues. One may surmise that the fact there is a UN sanction on the regime would embolden other jurisdictions to take tougher stance on the regime, but this is not supported by facts. Conversely, one may fret that lifting the sanctions regime would weaken other efforts to weaken the regime. For example, the recent heavy COIE criticism of the regime would still not have changed even if sanctions were not imposed. The COIE was established because of the epic level Eritrean refugee crisis. It is the West’s shot across the bow to warn the regime to stem the tides of Eritrean refugees. If this tide continues, the regime WILL be officially accused of crimes-against-humanity - regardless of any other efforts because it directly threatens the West’s interests.
Having understood that the West, and similarly with the Ethiopian government, will not do one iota more than what is for their ultimate interests, it is time we engage in a constructive debate and then formulate policies and action plans that reflect political reality.
Of course, we should be glad to have wedo-geba.net quote us on this one!
September 25, 2015
The gut-wrenching photo of drowned toddler Alan Kurdi has strained Canadians' humanitarian mettle. Many have criticized Stephen Harper's failure to welcome a single refugee across Canada's borders since publication of the photo, yet few have reckoned with the ways in which Canadians are complicit in driving desperate people toward the sea.
Earlier this month, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson hosted a public forum on the refugee crisis. Those in attendance discussed the complexity and cost of privately sponsoring refugees and revisited a campaign promise to make Vancouver a Sanctuary City.
Daniel Tseghay, a writer, broadcaster and an activist, is of Eritrean descent and spoke at the mayor's forum. "Every single Eritrean that exists in the diaspora," Tseghay told Mayor Robertson, "knows someone directly or has someone in their family who has drowned in the Mediterranean."
While the initiatives proposed by the city are wonderful and should be supported, he added, "there's also a lot we can do to prevent people from becoming refugees in the first place."
Tseghay cited Nevsun Resources, a mid-tier mining corporation headquartered a few doors down from the Georgia Hotel in downtown Vancouver. Nevsun owns and operates one of the biggest open-pit copper mines in the world, the Bisha Mine in Eritrea. The mine provides nearly one-third of Eritrea's foreign exchange earnings.
Last November, three Eritrean refugees filed a civil suit against the company in the B.C. Supreme Court for alleged slave labour practices in its camps. The suit alleges that as many as 600 military conscripts were forced to build the Bisha mine in the first stage of its construction. Nevsun vigorously denies the charges -- even though in 2013, it was pressured to admit "regret" that Segen, the government subcontractor all foreign investors are forced to use, had exploited conscripts from the Eritrean army.
"People are fleeing Eritrea for a number of reasons," Tseghay told rabble.ca. "But at the forefront of people's minds for leaving Eritrea is the threat of being conscripted indefinitely."
This June a damning United Nations report that specifically names Nevsun and the Bisha mine found that Eritrea was guilty of widespread human rights abuses including extrajudicial murder, widespread torture, rape and forced labour.
"Vancouver is pretty directly involved in exacerbating, in fuelling this refugee crisis in Eritrea," Tseghay said. When Eritreans flee their homeland, he adds, they are fleeing a Canadian mining company.
Vancouver is a mining superpower. Approximately 800 mineral exploration and extraction corporations call the city home. Canada has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in the world and the extraction industry enjoys massive backing from the Harper government. There are no mechanisms in place to sanction Nevsun and no statement of condemnation from the relevant ministry -- even though the House of Commons International Development's Subcommittee on International Human Rights has been holding hearings on Nevsun's operations since February 2012.
Last week, Sunridge Gold Corp., another Vancouver-based resource firm, announced it had been awarded three mining licenses in Eritrea to build a copper, zinc and gold mine worth billions. Shares in Sunridge rose 12 per cent before lunchtime.
"When the city focuses on some of the things it can do to offer space for the current refugees without discussing its own complicity in a system that makes it wealthy," Tseghay said, "I feel like it is a form of saviourism."
"Let's not discuss the ways in which we've created this problem," said Tseghay. "Let's only look at the grand and noble and laudable ways in which we've helped these 'poor' people. That's how it comes off and I think that is a major problem."
"It gives the city a reputation it doesn't deserve."
The vast majority of Eritrean refugees, about 90 per cent, are between the ages of 18 and 24 years old. But even UN officials have been shocked by the high numbers of children under the age of eight fleeing Eritrea for Europe without a parent or guardian. Last year, the number of Eritrean refugees arriving in Europe tripled to 37,000 -- and 78 unaccompanied minors arrived in a single month.
In April, two boats heading to Italy from Libya capsized within a single week and over 1,300 refugees, including countless Eritreans, perished.
The death of three-year-old Alan Kurdi finally touched a nerve here in Canada, spurring many to finally take seriously a refugee crisis at least four years in the making.
There has been no viral photo of a black Eritrean child that has impelled wealthier nations into action. No western country has vowed to immediately redraw its inadequate refugee policy because hundreds of black and brown bodies were claimed by the Mediterranean.
"We know that there's this history of African children, of their pain being neglected or their pain being diminished and not seen as extreme or as requiring as much attention as the pain of a light-skinned child," says Tseghay. "That's a real phenomenon."
"I'm glad that there has been the response and the attention drawn to the refugee crisis because of that photo," says Tseghay. "But it is disheartening that we didn't see that same response [to] photos of little black children."
"Black death, African death is unimportant. It's seen as natural and as something that we shouldn't really worry too much about."
Last week, Nevsun announced it would be expanding its drilling in the Harena region of the Bisha mine while the refugee crisis continues apace. Nevsun did not respond to requests for comment.
Michael Stewart is a freelance writer and the rabble.ca blogs coordinator. He lives in Victoria, B.C.
“Dictatorships are never as strong as they think they are, and people are never as weak as they think they are,”
Over 150 Eritreans from all walks of life, converged into down town Oakland, California, to listen to Dr. Daniel Rezene and Maron Estifanos on their experience on UN Commission of Inquiry, Geneva demonstration, and human traffickers. The meeting was hosted by Bay Area Eritreans for Democratic Change (BAEDC aka DAERO).
Dr. Daniel took the stage first with his confident and eloquent speech on his experience with Commission of Inquiry (COI) and the Geneva demonstration. He articulated the background of the effort taken by many Eritreans to the UN Human Rights Commission in the beginning of the twenty first century. He also spoke in detail about the COI process and how we get to where are now. Over six hundred well documented cases were collected from Eritrean citizens on the abuses that heaped to them by the repressive government. The commission will report its final findings in June of 2016, and he reminded to the audience that, what the COI is doing is an added value to our core fight against injustice. He said we shouldn’t stop fighting or depend only on the COI work.
The Geneva demonstration is a chapter that all opposition camp around the globe should take a lesson. The Dr. detailed on the planning and execution aspect of the project. He admitted it had a shaky start at first, and the committee restarted the whole process again, which helped them to reap a very successful outcome. It is very encouraging to learn, all their meeting was done via technology (paltalk etc.). The Dr. suggested formidable and permanent committees are needed for tangible results. He also call on attendees to participate in the upcoming New York demonstration.
Meron Estifanos on her part spoke very eloquently and emotionally on the Eritrean people’s plight. She also spoke in detail about the encounters they face to reach their dream destination. The traffickers lured their prey by offering zero down payment until Libya. She said the traffickers are so bold that they move money in bulk of tenth of thousands from one bank to the other without any concern. They even boast that they have agents all over the world; Asmara, USA, Canada, Europe, Saudi, etc. She spoke about specifics that happened in Sinai by the Bedouin, in track to Libya by ISIS and Chadian squads, and in the last two months pirates in the Mediterranean.
Both Dr. Daniel and Meron reminded the audience to focus on the root cause of all the issue. It is the sitting dictatorship in Asmara that is causing the journey to hell. Their message was to put aside all our differences and to focus only on toppling the evil system in Asmara.
It is worth mentioning also, Dr. Daniel and Meron explained the recent development on the conflict between them and sister Elsa Chirum. They said they have differences on work related issues, and they brought it to the surface after their effort failed to alter the situation. They reflected their high regard and respect for her great work that she has done, and they are ready at anytime to hash their issue with her and focus on their priority.
In conclusion, the audience had a chance to ask questions and answers were given in detail. The BAEDC board did very good job in managing the logistics of the meeting. Both guests expressed their impression of the quantity and quality of the audience.
Part I: At War with Itself
Three days before independence day May 24th, 2001, one of the G15’s (‘reformers’) characterizing the state of affairs within EPLF/PFDJ as ‘Haba’e Kuslu, Haba’e Fewsu’ was splashed across one of the independent Eritrean newspapers, bringing into open months of speculations of troubles within PFDJ.
It was fourteen (14) years ago this month; a golden moment quickly became a missed opportunity to evaluate the successes, failures, and challenges facing EPLF/PFDJ and to find its cures to bring about positive change.
Above the political, economic, and legal destruction meted out against Eritrea in the last 14 years, it is the destruction of the very essence of being Eritrean, our very social fabric of being tolerant, being compassionate, and being just that will carry a lasting scar. Instead of building on our proud and prudent traditions and values, the regime is now feeding us incessant and blatant lies - and accusing anyone that questions its narratives as ‘anti-Eritrea’, ‘Woyane’, ‘traitors’, and ‘capitulators’. Its political campaigns are designed to divide the Eritrean society to thwart any potential resistance, any demand for reform, accountability and transparency, by sowing the seeds of mistrust, denigrating and disparaging individuals and groups of people that challenge its narratives in order to isolate and intimate them, if not imprison them. The regime is chasing a Pyrrhic Victory!
A leader, regardless how they came to power, of a nation can choose to bring out the best in the people they govern, or bring out the worst. They make the choice! DIA chose to bring out the worst in Eritrean people, in contrast and as an example, the late PM Meles Zenawi, the shrewdest and ruthless politician he is, chose to bring out the best in the people of Ethiopia. When PMMZ faced the same political challenges as DIA did, PMMZ imprisoned his opponents in humane way [although illegally] and then released them. He was teaching his people - tough love. In contrast, DIA imprisoned incommunicado indefinitely anyone who questioned him, and went on a path of sheer terror. He is busy sowing the seeds of hate, misery, intolerance and vindictiveness - which will scar the nation for generations, and which will test the unity and cohesiveness of the nation.
Instead of positive engagement - the very bedrock of nation building and achieving harmony - the regime has chosen to summon all the dark forces of human nature to ensure that it lives another day - and that, above all the economic and legal destruction - bodes ill for today’s and future Eritrea. We see the breakdown of family cohesions, mass flights - not only youths, but whole families and villages - and the strangulations of all economic and legal institutions.
It is suffice to mention the type of ‘un-Eritrean’ language inserted by the regime supporters such as the bored main stars of the Real Housewives of PFDJ in DC and elsewhere who have taken the art of character assassination to the highest levels of rudeness and despicable behaviour. As a reward for such behaviour, they have been given free reign to roam around representing the regime. It is nice to be tucking your kids into warm beds, feeding them cereals and jumbo burgers at Disney World, while enjoying the fruits of the freedoms afforded by the US Constitution, while one’s kids are also benefiting the jobs and wealth of a free nation; yet accusing others of wanting the same for one’s own children in Eritrea. Two sets of standards are called hypocrisy - and hypocrites sink nations. Then there is the good doctor, Doctor Faustus, who has been lending his ‘good’ name for such purposes - for what, a 15-minute fame. Then there is meskerem.net, or rather turncoat.net, or is it wedo-geba.com. It is racing not to raise the bar higher, but a race to the bottom inventing wild accusations against anyone resisting the regime. The unprincipled are hypocrites; and hypocrites destroy nations. These are some of the regime’s most conspicuous canon fodders in Diaspora who have come to symbolize what is wrong with the regime; and what ills today’s Eritrea.
In contrast to the Diaspora canon fodders, we shouldn’t blame too hard those card carrying PFDJ members living in Eritrea who go along with an oppressive regime out of fear or out of pacificism. We shouldn’t blame expat Eritreans who are serving the regime, albeit sidelined and probably useless, because they have the courage of convictions to return to Eritrea to help the country. These expats must live among the people who are suffering. It is those who live abroad and enjoy all the freedoms and fruits of wealthy nations and yet support a repressive regime with their remote control enthusiasm, while accusing fleeing Eritreans as ‘spoiled’, etc... that are hypocrites - and hypocrites never build a country.
Personal challenges, political challenges, social challenges, and other forms of challenges are inherent part of life; in fact, it is deeply interwoven into our very existence. As is for individuals, nations and organizations that resort to ignoring and hiding their illnesses, weaknesses, and challenges are only running away from their cures. Many societies have open cultures that allow them to debate contentious issues in passionate manners without feeling slighted, disrespected or losing face - and that more than natural resources, wealth, and technology, has been their deep rooted strength.
Those societies that transform their open culture into an open political institution, those open and transparent systems that announce their ‘political wounds’ in public- as painful as they are when divulged to the public - will quickly find cures before their wounds or illnesses becomes incurable, or spread to other parts of the body.
PFDJ’s Eritrea finds itself in a self-inflicted tragedy because the regime chose to ‘hide its political wounds’, turning its normal and curable political ailments into contagious and debilitating socio-economic and legal ailments that are manifesting itself in the mass exodus of Eritrean youths. Twenty four years independence later, PFDJ’s sickness has reached incurable stage. Despite an apparent socio-economic collapse, PFDJ keeps telling us that Eritrea has made progress and that all talk of doom-and-gloom is just what Eritrea’s enemies wish for it. We are told that the tens of thousands of our fellow countrymen - our very own kins, friends, and colleagues - our own flesh and blood - who are languishing in PFDJ Dungeons are not incarcerated incommunicado but is just a cheap propaganda of PFDJ’s enemies. Indirectly, we are being told to forget our own flesh-and-blood in PFDJ Dungeons, to forget the very ideals that thousands of our flesh-and blood who sacrificed so that we are free from oppression and fear; and to forget our wishes to regain our self-respect. We are told to pretend that the tens of thousands of our precious youths fleeing our beautiful country are nothing more than naive people fooled into thinking that better life awaits them elsewhere, that they deserve the tragedy for leaving their safe country and that is a form of punishment, or that they are traitors, or that Eritreans are more gullible than other nationalities and thus coerced by traffickers or that Western nations with evil intentions for Eritrea are coercing our youths to leave our ‘safe and prospering’ homeland. We are told to excuse, rationalize, deny, and downplay our tragedies. That is dehumanizing!
Eritrea is at war with itself. Although we have unresolved border issue with Ethiopia, we are not currently at war with Ethiopia. The last battle of the war with Ethiopia was fought in June 2000, which is 15 years ago - which is half the life of our 30 years of struggle for independence. There is no existential threat from Ethiopia. In fact, considering that DIA is doing an excellent job of destroying Eritrea, which if Ethiopia was to unleash on Eritrea would have been tantamount to war crimes, Ethiopia has no immediate need to remove him - and will apply sufficient pressure to contain him only against any direct and existential threats to its internal affairs. Ethiopia, either out of cahoots with DIA or out of DIA’s paranoia and egomaniac tendencies, will feed on the current political situation in Eritrea to further weaken, if not destroy, a militaristic Eritrea. For Ethiopia, aside from meddling in Ethiopia, DIA is doing an excellent job for Woyane. Between meddling and self-destruction, Ethiopia gains more from DIA and Eritrea’s self-destruction than it would suffer from DIA’s meddling in Ethiopian affairs. With the recent defection of DEMHIT, Ethiopia has even less short-term interest in Eritrea.
Broadly speaking there are three types of dictators - the selfish materialistic dictator, the idealist dictator, and benevolent dictator. The selfish materialistic dictators are found in many heavily corrupt countries; and these materialistic dictators know the limits of their power and are in fact risk averse to maintain their worldly possessions and pleasures. Their attitude is, ‘as long as you don’t touch my power and wealth, you can do whatever you want.’ The idealist dictator is a blind worshipper of ideals, and hence a fanatic. Their devotions to abstraction make them enemies of life. The sufferings of tens of thousands of innocent citizens through illegal and inhumane incarcerations and at the hands of people smugglers from within its bosoms are nothing more than sacrificial lambs to their fanatic ideas. Fanatic idealism - fanaticism - is what is turning an abundant and beautiful world into a miserable one for many. The attitude of a fanatical dictator is, ‘I want to control everything - which goes beyond power and wealth, but every movement of everybody and everything that moves.’ They suck all the oxygen out of the room. The third type of dictator, the benevolent, maintains absolute power overtly or covertly but increases and spreads wealth, while allowing a certain degree of freedom - sometimes allowing increasing freedom in controlled manner. Although their power games are hidden, and could be ruthless, they proceed along a publicly known path. The recent histories of many “Tiger” nations of the Far East, and now even Ethiopia, are some examples.
Before proceeding into detailed discussions of the current quagmire in Eritrea, one should note that the use of ‘PFDJ’ to describe the totalitarian regime of PIA, or DIA, is utterly wrong. PFDJ is defunct. The last EPLF/PFDJ Congress was held in 1994, i.e. 21 years ago which is eternity even by our ‘meda’ standards. The last PFDJ Central Committee meeting was held in the summer of 2000. The PFDJ Constitution, for whatever it is worth, requires the PFDJ Central Committee to be held every six month. Eritrea is a one-man dictatorship - anything else is window-dressing. Today’s Eritrea is one ‘halewa sewra’ on massive steroid.
Eritrean Refugee Crisis
Nothing screams louder - unfolding on the world stage for everybody to see at that - of the utter destruction of the country than the un-abating refugee crisis.
Yet we still have idol worshippers who are shameless in spewing out more excuses. When Prof. Asmerom Legesse criticizes the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea [COIE], which was aptly critiqued by the super writer and thinker Saleh Younis, Prof. Asmerom should have asked himself first, is this his eulogy to the thousands who were swallowed by the Mediterranean Sea, Sahara Desert, and Sinai Desert – that’ the COIE was wrong about what happened to you, that it was a wrong analysis and methodology?’ Is this what wedo-geba.com would write on their tombstones, ‘you are Ethiopians pretending to be Eritreans’. Is this what the other idol worshippers write on their tombstone, ‘you were a victim of human trafficking, and shouldn’t have stayed home?’ What heartless things to say!
The refugee crisis is ‘Res Ipsa Loquitur’, i.e. the situation speaks for itself. No amount of academic gymnastics by professors or analytical bleach-washing by regime canon fodders changes what it is - a tragedy on massive global scale. When one is excusing a tragedy - one is destroying the very soul of a nation by that much! It is dehumanizing!
If one doesn’t have a family member, relative, or friends calling you in the middle the night for help, or have been visiting mourners who have lost loved ones, it is better to have one’s DNA checked.
For all those touched by all this utterly useless and home-made tragedy, our eulogy reads and is written on their tombs, ‘we feel your pain, we will do whatever it takes to alleviate the pains of all those who are living and suffering like you did.’
As a remembrance of the 14th year of the incarceration of 11 members of the G-15, reporters, and the other tens of thousands arbitrarily arrested prisoners-of-conscious, our own flesh-and-blood, the following series of articles will highlight the socio-economic, political, and legal destruction and challenges we need to overcome in order to build a viable nation from the socio-economic and legal ashes left behind from this brutal regime. Although most of the discussion focuses on the socio-economic and legal destruction meted out by the regime, the last part of this series addresses the challenges faced by the opposition and general public. The purpose of this series of articles is to challenge our conventional wisdom and presumptions, and hope to steer towards prudence and pragmatism. Some parts of the articles will be data heavy, and is purposely designed to equip readers with the ability to analyse in more a systematic manners. I welcome any corrections and constructive criticisms. The writer isn’t claiming to hold any special wisdom, but rather a different perspective with some blunt talk.
With the upcoming articles, I honour the bravery of the top EPLF/PFDJ officials and thousands of political activists who stood up to the brutal regime knowing that they faced certain death and extremely harsh treatments in the hands of their cruel colleagues and regime; they knew the risks. I compare socio-economic progresses of the G15 era (1991 to 2000) to DIA era (2001 to 2015).
We also honour our heroes Bitweded Abraha and Hassan Keckia who walked out of prison, but refused to be silenced knowing fully they would be incarcerated again – and they marched into PFDJ Dungeons willingly for what they believed and out of respect for the thousands they left behind. Tens of thousands of other brave Eritreans are now prisoners-of-conscious. They are our heroes - what Eritreanism is all about.
But the bigger tragedy that tears the soul of a nation is the cruelty metered out against our mothers and sisters - Mrs. Senait Debessay, Mrs. Aster Yohannes, Mrs. Miriam, and many other innocent mothers and sisters. When a regime is waging a war against mothers, nothing else is left that creates a country. Hopefully, their cries of agony will sweep away this cruel regime - sooner than one thinks, and that mercy falls upon the nation so that all the hate dissipates like morning dew. The fate of Eritrea lies in their cries!
Lastly, am I a Woyane for criticizing DIA and regime supporters for the way they are destroying our precious country? If one is a Woyane for speaking one’s mind, exercising one’s right to free expression, and defending the rights of the wrongly accused and the incarcerated, and the abused; and if regime supporters define being Eritrean as intolerant, merciless, cruel, inhumane, and hateful; then I am a proud Woyane. Of course, I totally disagree the way these ‘temberktis’ characterize being Eritrean, who are known for their compassion, hard work, and being industrious and law-abiding people. I am a proud Eritrean, like every 6 million of us, save the few spoiled ones who are giving us the bad wrap. By the way, the Woyanes, the Amharas, the Oromos - and all Ethiopians, the Sudanese, the Somalis, the Ugandans and others in our neighbourhood are all our flesh-and-blood - and we are one big family that we have to learn to work with in mutual respect and for mutual benefits.
In the following seven (7) part articles, I will review the state of affairs in Eritrea. Symbolically, Eritrea’s Coat-of-Arms with the Camel has come to symbolize NOT the undistracted and steady progress forward of the nation and the regime, but more like the old adage, ‘like piss/urine of a camel - backwards’.
Next: “The Sanction Myth”
September 18, 2015
A Call for Release of all Conscience- and Political prisoners in Eritrea
Socialist International condemns military coup and the interruption of the process to democracy in Burkina FasoFriday, 18 September 2015 09:34 Written by Secretariat of SI
| 17 SEPTEMBER 2015
The Socialist International vigorously condemns the military coup in Burkina Faso and the capture of interim President Michel Kafando, along with Prime Minister Isaac Zida and other members of the government, by the Presidential Security Regiment (RSP), an elite force set up by the former President Blaise Campoaré.
Our International calls for the immediate release of all those unlawfully detained, the restoration of the legitimate interim government, and the full resumption of the process towards the holding of free and fair elections scheduled for October 11.
Amid reports of heavy shooting overnight in the capital, Ouagadougou, and the presence in the streets of people protesting the military interruption of the transitional process to democracy, we remind the military forces behind this coup that international public opinion and institutions will hold them responsible for resulting casualties.
Burkina Faso must be allowed to join the community of democratic nations and put an end once and for all to the interference by the military in the political affairs of the country. The Socialist International extends its solidarity and full support to all the people of Burkina Faso mobilised for democracy and all the political democratic forces there working to this end.
The Progressive Alliance and the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY) to the European Leaders on the Occasion of the Extraordinary Justice and Home Affairs Council on 14 September 2015 in Brussels:
Refugees are Welcome – Towards a Progressive Refugee Policy
According to the UNCHR- United Nations Refugee Agency around 60 million people are displaced involuntarily because of war, conflict and oppression. Half of them are children. The present crisis of frightening proportions is said to be the worst refugee crisis since World War II. Most of them are local refugees and a sizeable number end up in the neighbouring countries. Some of them try to continue to Europe, and few manage to reach their dream for peace and freedom.
In view of the current situation, with people who are forced to flee from their home countries via the Mediterranean Sea, Turkey and the Western Balkans into the European Union, Europe is facing an urgent political challenge. Hundreds of thousands or even millions of people from the Middle East and Africa have left their homelands, often with huge risks involved. Those who arrive in Europe have big hopes for a better future there. They are looking for freedom and security, hoping to be able to live in a better society where justice and solidarity are principled norms. The refugees count on our fundamental values. However, European politics have until now failed to show that Europe complies with these core values and fulfils the high expectations of upholding human dignity and shouldering the reception of persecuted human beings. It is time for actions that guarantee all people safety and respect for the fundamental human rights.
When voices calling for sealing off the borders and deterrence are becoming louder and louder, Socialists and Social Democrats must remember the very fundamental values in which so many people in need trust when they look at Europe. These values are also the fundamental values of international social democracy: Freedom, justice and solidarity. People who come to Europe are looking for freedom, because they are being persecuted and fear for their life; in order to find a decent life they put their lives at great risk. We need more global justice, because the aim of globalization is not the wealth of a few, but justice for all. The developed countries will also only be able to maintain their prosperity if all of us learn again to share globally and help the people in their countries of origin to promote peace, prosperity and security. And in many countries the people show solidarity and are engaged in initiatives to help refugees by, among other things, making generous donations.
The commitments for meaningful actions by our political family, our expressed sympathy for the refugees, the solidarity we demonstrate show that we are all one people ready to consolidate the strong foundations of Social Democracy. This is the opposite model to sealing off the borders and deterrence and to the ideas of the political right-wing forces in Europe and worldwide.
For progressive, social democratic and socialist forces it is clear: It is our duty to help people who flee from war and civil war, calamity and persecution, seeking protection for themselves and their children, and we want that a new homeland is offered to them that provides them with freedom and security. This is a demand for decency, humanitarianism and compassion, but also translates concretely political values.
At the present stage Europe is receiving a high number of refugees, but we can do more. The more so as countries that are by far poorer, such as Turkey, Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Lebanon or Jordan, are taking the far bigger responsibility to offer the refugees shelter and security. Lebanon, for example, which has a population of five million, has already taken in 1,3 million refugees.
Moreover, in view of the catastrophic situation in many countries in the Middle East and Africa this development is not likely to improve in the near future. We reaffirm that the whole of Europe together must receive refugees not based on volumes, but based on a human rights approach that puts the need of the refugees in the centre. A human right approach to the refugee issue includes a fundamental change of the reception and integration policy.
▪ Possibilities to offer freedom and security for people who flee require safer and legal ways to enter Europe. Freedom of movement is a human right. It is not acceptable that some European countries refuse to assume their responsibility to live up to international conventions to help people in need of freedom and security. In times of crises it is important that all together stand up firmly for human rights. It is a shame that only few of the European countries are taking the biggest responsibility. If all countries together took equal responsibility, Europe would have been able to help even more and achieve more than it is doing today and people in need wouldn’t have needed to lose their life while struggling to find a passage to freedom and security.
▪ Possibilities of integration for people who flee and seek to find a new homeland in Europe for themselves and their children do not only have to find their way around, but they must also be given a decent chance to become a part of the new society. The more openly, and in a friendly and welcoming manner they are received and adequate shelter and help is provided to them as well as the right to work is given, the quicker and easier it will be for them to settle down and build a new life in their new homelands.
▪ A society for all: Successful migration policies also require a welfare state that provides opportunities for all its people, regardless of if they are new or old inhabitants. The earlier the authorities start to support municipalities in order to create sufficient places at day nurseries, schools and build enough affordable housing, the earlier equality will be a reality.
▪ A Europe for all: The migration movement towards Europe and the reasons for the flight from the countries in Middle East and Africa puts the values of the European Union at test. If Europe does not manage to achieve a common and humanitarian refugee policy there is a risk of it suffering a huge loss; it is the loss of the humane orientation and of the common values in Europe. And it is not only that: among others, Italy, Greece and currently Macedonia are struggling with dramatic problems. While the rich continent of Europe apparently seems to be on holidays, the United Nations have to carry out support actions in these countries, which would have better served much poorer regions. Europe’s foundation is based on the values of enlightenment and humanitarianism. The European idea is based on practical and tangible solidarity- which can’t be practiced within the framework of the Dublin regulation. This is the time to think of better and more solidarity policy. This is what the European Union has to prove now. Europe also must stop seeing refugees as a burden and instead see the advantage of new people contributing to the European societies. When people are being given possibility to become a part of societies they become an important economic, but also cultural and social contributors.
▪ And finally: Europe needs a new impetus in fighting the causes for the flight. Europe should take a lead in this regard, with new foreign and security policy initiatives. This starts with the countries of Europe itself. It is simply not acceptable that people from Member states of the European Union have the feeling of being discriminated against and excluded and that the only possible solution for them is to leave their country. The EU cannot remain impassive and indeed inactive where discrimination occurs, e.g., against the Roma community, in countries that are candidates for EU membership; neither must the EU tolerate corruption, bad governance and miserable education and deplorable advancement opportunities. European politics must overcome its unilateral orientation towards the single market and become again a society that strives for better livelihood opportunities for all, underscored by social security and justice as the guiding objectives of its practical policies. Moreover, criminal networks of smugglers and traffickers of human beings who exploit the misery of those seeking protection to enrich themselves unscrupulously, need to be dismantled and the perpetrators brought to justice.
War and civil war, poverty and repressive systems are the main causes for the current huge flight movement as the citizens of those afflicted countries see no improved perspectives to enjoy a fair life. Only together can we contribute to combating the causes of this flight, by empowering, promoting regional cooperation, collaboration, investments in the infrastructure and the economic development of those countries with good governance as the underlying principle.
The refugee crisis is not only a challenge for Europe. We call for all states globally to share the responsibility. If anyone can solve it, it is the Progressives and Social Democrats, who can address these tasks for open societies and possibility for integration: decent and human rights approach to the reception of refugees, social cohesion and a policy of solidarity for the protection of people who flee and combating the causes for the flight. Freedom, justice, peace and solidarity have always been universal and international goals for us. It is therefore time to for us to start acting upon our values and beliefs. Let us walk the talk!
Solidarity with refugees march: Tens of thousands take to the streets along with new Labour leader Jeremy CorbynSunday, 13 September 2015 08:59 Written by Alexandra Sims , Jamie Merrill
The Solidarity with Refugees march is thought to be the biggest national show of support for refugees in living memory, with a number of refugees leading the march to Parliament Square.
A "conservative" for numbers attending the demonstration was 50,000 Almost 90,000 people have registered online to say they are attending in London and thousands more are expected in similar events across the country.
Bronze commander Chief Inspector Graham Price of Met Police said a "conservative" for numbers attending the demonstration as it arrived at Trafalgar Square was 50,000 but that number could rise.
He said: "So far the march has gone off smoothly. There have been no arrests and the atmosphere has been cheerful."
Since the photograph of the drowned Syrian toddler Aylan al-Kurdi was shared around the world last week, support for refugees has reached new prominence, while many feel David Cameron’s pledge to resettle 20,000 refugees by 2020 falls short of the appropriate action needed.
The Independent has encouraged readers to sign our Change.org petition urging the Government to accept Britain's fair share of refugees seeking safety in Europe. To date, more than 380,000 people have signed up in support.
The new Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn joined the march in the wake of his landslide victory in the Labour leadership election.
Speaking at the march, Mr Corbyn said that there is a “popular uprising” across Europe “in favour of decency and humanity”.
He said that the nation must “spend our resources on helping and not hindering people and to bring about that world of human rights and justice.”
“We are all human beings on the same planet,” he added.
The speech ended to huge cheers from the teaming crowd, with Mr Corbyn joining musician Billy Bragg to sing The Red Flag - a socialist song and the semi-official anthem of the Labour party.
Beginning at Park Lane the march proceeded to Downing Street with speeches in Parliament Square, from a number of speakers including Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats, Billy Bragg and Green Party leader Natalie Bennett.
Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats speaking at the march Mr Farron said David Cameron should be "ashamed" and that Britain's response had "not been good enough".
Ms Bennett said the refugee crisis was "yet another example of the Prime Minister acting along" and "ignoring a possible European solution".
Marching from Hyde Park Corner on to Parliament the chant from the crowd was “say it clear, say it proud, refugees are welcome here”.
Leading the chant on Piccadilly was nine-year-old Maya, the daughter of a Chilean refugee. She led the call and response as her mother Isabelle Cortes, 43, looked on proudly, wrapped in Chilean flag.
“I came here in 1978 as a child," said Ms Cortes. "My daughter is a daughter of a refugee. Britain opened its doors to my mother. She studied English and worked hard to raise me."
"Cameron's 20,000 is a joke. We must do more. I hope Corbyn is the start of that.”
The rally comes two days ahead of a summit of European leaders in Brussels to deal with the crisis, which is escalating across Europe.
The protest is backed by organisations including Amnesty International. London News Pictures The number of refugees and migrants that have crossed the Mediterranean so far has already doubled the total for last year, with around 432,761 estimated to have made the journey.
The protest is backed by organisations including Amnesty International, the Syria Solidarity Movement, Stand Up To Racism and Refugee Action.
Almost 90,000 people registered online to say that they would attend Solidarity with Refugees march in London on 12 September Stephen Hale, Chief Executive of Refugee Action said: “Today's message could not be clearer. Britain welcomes refugees. In a hundred ways in a hundred towns and cities, people are stepping up to help. Today they are asking all our political leaders to do the same."
"David Cameron has made a clear initial commitment to welcome Syrian refugees. But this is not just about Syria. The government must work with many other countries to deliver support and fair treatment to all those caught up in the global refugee crisis.”
Read more: Refugee solidarity march in London set to attract some unlikely protesters
Humanity on the march: Join the protests across Britain and say 'refugees welcome'
The Solidarity with Refugees Facebook page states: “This event has been called in response to various reports of refugees fleeing war, persecution, torture and poverty losing their lives or struggling to find a safe haven.”
“The government response to this has been disgraceful. Unlike Germany, Italy and Greece, Britain has not offered a safe haven for these people.”
Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International, said: “This is a critical moment ahead of the EU leaders meeting on Monday to make our voices heard loud and clear."
"We should remember the proud moments in the UK's history when we have opened our doors to people when they are most in need, and we should not be turning our backs now on those caught up in what has become the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War.“