Eritrea Focus Statement – November 2018

Tuesday, 13 November 2018 21:31 Written by
Tuesday 13 November 2018

Eritrea Focus wholeheartedly welcomes and supports the reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea. The initiative taken by Dr Abiy Ahmed has broken the deadlock that existed between the two countries from the end of the border war in 2000 until this year. President Isaias Afwerki’s decision to accept the hand of friendship – albeit reluctantly – and to participate in this process was an important contribution hopefully to end the hostility between the two nations and reduce tension across the Horn of Africa.

At the same time, we note the bold steps that Dr Abiy has taken to end repressive measures in Ethiopia. Political prisoners have been released; opposition groups – including some armed movements – have been allowed to return from exile and participate freely in the country’s politics; journalists have been freed and internet restrictions lifted. Ethiopia is making strides towards becoming an open democracy.

Nothing has changed

The contrast with the situation in Eritrea could hardly be starker. Despite the normalisation of relations with Ethiopia, nothing appears to have changed, and some argue that the situation has in fact deteriorated. Young men and women are trapped indefinitely in military conscription under the guise of ‘national service’. The number of refugees fleeing the country has increased from an average of 50 to more than 400 a day. The jails are full to overflowing with political prisoners who have never been given their day in court. The National Assembly remains suspended, the Constitution gathers dust, and there is only one legal political party. Far from diminishing, the dictatorship of President Isaias continues unabated. No wonder Eritreans continue to flee into exile in record numbers.

This is known and understood by the international community, yet Eritrea is to be rewarded by the lifting of the limited and targeted sanctions, in place since 2009, which hurt no-one but the president and his closest associates. It is a matter of grave concern that the US appears ready to support the ending of sanctions, despite the fact that its own Eritrean staff remain in indefinite detention. Eritrea has also been elected onto the UN Human Rights Council, despite having refused all cooperation with the UN Commission of Inquiry and the UN Special Rapporteur, whom the Council appointed.

Political prisoners

This has all taken place as a former Minister of Finance was arrested for speaking his mind, joining other political prisoners who have been held in incommunicado detention without charge for more than 17 years. We recently learned of one prisoner who was finally released after being kept for five years in total darkness. He is now blind.

Hour of need

We call on the British government to not abandon Eritreans in their hour of need. Even if the limited UN sanctions are lifted, now that Eritrean support for armed groups attacking its neighbours has ceased, it would be wrong to end pressure on the regime. There is no evidence that Eritrea will respond to the lifting of sanctions by improving the human rights of its citizens. The UK, together with its international friends and allies, needs to find new means to keep the pressure on President Isaias until Eritrea is a democratic nation that respects the rights enshrined in the UN Charter.

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The Eritrean government has a range of foreigners who support it. Some are paid. Some are not.

Few can be stranger than the Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher of Orange County, California. He narrowly lost his seat after 30 years. He was close to the Eritrean regime, as well as being a key supporter of President Trump and the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin. [See below]

I am republishing an article written earlier.

Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher – President Isaias’s friend

The Republican Congressman Dana Rohrabacher may seem like an unlikely supporter of the Eritrean government’s cause, but there’s no denying that he’s consistent.

This week he sent a letter to US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, calling for an improvement in relations with Eritrea and the resumption of military ties with the country. rohrabacher_Letter_Pompeo_-Eritrea

The letter, dated 26th April, argues that:

“Eritrea defeated the Stalinist dictatorship ruling Ethiopia to gain independence in 1991. Eritrea is a key member of the coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE fighting against the Iranian backed Houthis in Yemen. Eritrea has excellent relations with Israel, UAE and Egypt. Cooperation with Eritrea to address the growing Chinese influence in the region, including their new military base in Djibouti and the ongoing fight against Islam makes sense.”

Congressman Rohrabacher is something of an oddball. A former speechwriter for President Ronald Reagan, he is now seen as so strongly pro-Russian that he is said to have a Kremlin code-name, signifying that he is viewed as a valuable potential asset by Russian intelligence.

But he is also a man of some influence. He is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, and Emerging Threats.

Eritrean links

Congressman Rohrabacher has close ties with one of the key people the Eritrean regime uses to woo persons of influence. The Eritrean government hired Greenberg Traurig, a law firm that includes a lobbying team headed by Jack Abramoff.

Their services didn’t come cheap. Greenberg Traurig’s contract with Eritrea, filed under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, meant the country was paying Greenberg Traurig $50,000 a month for helping “in implementing its public policy goals in Washington.”

As long ago as 2005 the New York Times revealed the links between Abramoff and Rohrabacher.

“Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican who said he had been friends with Mr. Abramoff for two decades and did not shy away from his hospitality.Mr. Rohrabacher, whose name bears the “FOO Comp” designation on the customer list, said he ate at Signatures at Mr. Abramoff’s expense once or twice a month and that the meals fell under the friendship exemption in House rules. He also said he tried to take Mr. Abramoff out regularly, paying for the lobbyist’s meals in return. “Just because you are a member of Congress doesn’t mean you have to give up your friendships,” Mr. Rohrabacher said, adding that “it was dinner with a friend and I didn’t think of it as a gift.”

In 2006 Abramoff pleaded guilty to bribing U.S. government officials in an unrelated case and was jailed for four years. He recently returned to lobbying, according to documents he filed with the Justice Department.

For his part, Congressman Rohrabacher has certainly been consistent in arguing for a pro-Eritrean government position.

  • In 2005, he argued in Congress for the State Department to take a more favourable view of Eritrea.
  • In July 2017 Rohrabacher proposed an amendment to the U.S. Department of Defense budget that would prompt Defense Secretary James Mattis to open negotiations with Eritrea on fighting terrorism.
  • In August 2017 he called for an end to sanctions against Eritrea and better ties with the country suggesting that America should follow the lead of others: “Multiple operations have been launched from Eritrean soil. Eritrean troops reportedly are involved in military operations inside Yemen. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have indicated they welcome and value Eritrea’s participation. Egypt and Eritrea have greatly strengthened their already close ties in recent months, and Israel has cooperated with Eritrea for years.”

So will Rohrabacher succeed? Will this weeks visit to the Horn by top US African diplomat, Donald Yamamoto lead to an ending of UN sanctions against Eritrea and even a US military base in the country?

We should know fairly soon. But perhaps Congressman Rohrabacher will have other things on his mind. He is facing re-election and right now the prospects are not too good.

Perhaps President Isaias and the Eritrean government need to think about finding a new American best friend.

Dana Rohrabacher, a pro-Russia Republican, narrowly loses House seat


Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) (Damian Dovarganes/AP)

November 10 at 9:13 PM

A Republican congressman known for his outspoken support for Russian President Vladi­mir Putin narrowly lost his Orange County, Calif., seat after 15 terms, a defeat that helped Democrats further solidify their House majority.

Democrat Harley Rouda, a real estate executive, beat Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in one of the state’s most closely watched congressional races, the Associated Press projected on Saturday. Rohrabacher’s strong identification with President Trump and his unabashed support for Russia had made him ripe for a challenge in an affluent district that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Rouda had 109,591 votes to Rohrabacher’s 101,081 votes, with 52 percent of the vote to the Republican’s 48 percent, according to the AP.

Democrats won the House majority on Tuesday and since then have picked up additional seats as ballots have been counted in about a dozen unresolved races.

Rohrabacher’s friendliness toward Russia has raised eyebrows over the years and became a focal point in the race. Referred to as “Putin’s favorite congressman,” the longtime Republican lawmaker has said that Putin beat him in a drunken arm-wrestling match in the early 1990s to decide who won the Cold War.

Harley Rouda addresses his supporters at his election night party Nov. 6, in Newport Beach, Calif. (Kyusung Gong/AP)

The FBI warned Rohrabacher in 2012 that Russian spies were actively trying to recruit him. In 2015, Rohrabacher met with a woman in Russia who was later charged in the United States with spying for Moscow, an indictment the lawmaker called “bogus.”

And he has expressed doubts about the intelligence community’s consensus that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.

In June 2016, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said there are “two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump.”

Rohrabacher has also made a number of controversial comments over the years. In May, he said it was acceptable for people to refuse to sell their homes to gay men and lesbians if they “don’t agree with their lifestyle.” The remark prompted the National Association of Realtors to withdraw its support for his campaign.

plans to build naval base “adjacent to the Red Sea & the Indian Ocean.”

So says General Berhanu Jula, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Ethiopian Armed Forces. He told Addis Standard: “We are consulting with other countries regarding the naval reinstatement, capacity, & structure.”

Ethiopia bases 2

Ethiopia is certainly a great nation. But – apart from a few patrol craft on lake Tana –  what is General Berhanu thinking of? Where will these bases be?

He gave a few more details.

Ethiopia bases

What does ‘adjacent to’ the Red Sea mean, other than establishing bases at Assab or Massawa? President Isaias has travelled to Ethiopia today. Isaias Gondar

Are naval bases on the agenda of the tripartite meeting that President Isaias, Prime Minister Abiy and Somalia’s President Farmajo are due to hold in Gondar?

The three leaders have every right to discuss the proposals, but these are major developments. They need to be put to the people for their consideration. But while Ethiopia and Somalia have parliaments, Eritrea does not.

Without transparency and democratic buy-in, surely the Eritrean people have a right to question the legitimacy of what will inevitably require a reduction in their sovereignty?

President Isaias has already allowed Saudi Arabia and the UAE to develop bases at Assab.  But allowing Ethiopia to return to their former bases would be another matter altogether.

Eritreans fought for independence for 30 years to end Ethiopian control over their territory. They defended it in the 1998 – 2000 border war. Tens of thousands laid down their lives. President Isaias must surely be open with them about what he plans, and obtain their consent.

Ethiopia’s previous naval bases on the Eritrean coast

In 1955, the Imperial Ethiopian Navy was founded, with its primary base—the Haile Selassie I Naval Base—at Massawa. By the early 1960s workshops and other facilities were under construction at Massawa to give it complete naval base capabilities.

Ethiopia Massawa

The Imperial Ethiopian Navy established four bases: Massawa was the site of the naval headquarters and enlisted training facilities; the naval air station and naval academy were at Asmara; Assab was the site of a naval station, enlisted training facilities, and a repair dock; and there was a naval station and communications station on the Dahlak Islands in the Red Sea near Massawa.

Former Ethiopian diplomat Birhanemeskel Abebe speculated that strategic and geo-political security concerns could be driving the navy plan.

“Ethiopia’s right to use international waters demands it has a naval base,” he told the BBC’s Newsday programme.

He suggested Kenya, Somaliland and Djibouti as possible locations for the base. But the ports of Eritrea are much more obvious.

The plan, Mr Birhanemeskel said, was to push for the “unification of the Horn of Africa as an economic bloc and the navy is part of that project”.

Wednesday 7 November 2018

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan addressing the staff of American embassy in Khartoum 16 Nov 2017 (Photo U.S. Embassy Khartoum)

November 6, 2018 (WASHINGTON) - Sudan and the United States are expected to agree on a new plan for the removal of the east African nations from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Sudanese foreign minister El-Dirdeiry Ahmed and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan Tuesday started talks in Washington on the normalization of bilateral relations and the removal of his country from the terror list which the major obstacle in this respect.

The removal process is complex and requires a six-month-long review as well as the consent of the U.S. Congress which traditionally is made up of an active group of lawmakers hostile to the regime of President Omer al-Bashir.

Sources close to the ongoing talks told Sudan Tribune that the new plan will be labelled the "five-track engagement +1" to say it would include important parts of the previous five-track engagement that led to the lift of the economic sanctions.

In October 2017, Washington decided the lift of a 20-year embargo on Sudan saying Khartoum has fully cooperated on five key areas of concerns agreed in December 2016.

These areas include the counterterrorism cooperation, the humanitarian access to the conflict areas, Sudan support to regional efforts to end the South Sudanese conflict and to fight against the Ugandan rebel Lord Resistance Army. In July 2017, Trump administration added the commitment to the international sanctions on North Korea.

The sources further pointed out that the focus in the new plan will be on the human rights and freedoms particularly religious freedom.

"So, this time Washington wants Khartoum to observe the international law and principles on this respects but also to amend its repressive and coercive laws," the sources said

"Khartoum, also, should issue a law banning the abusive destruction of churches by the Sudanese authorities," it stressed.

Sudan has already stopped the destruction of churches but didn’t formally ban it.

Recently, security agents in South Darfur detained and tortured a priest and 8 people forcing the latter to revert to Islam after their conversion to Christianity.

In November 2017 during a visit that Sullivan conducted to Khartoum, the two countries agreed to exchange written notes on the process before to meet for a better understanding.

During this year 2018, several American officials visited Sudan to discuss relations with North Korea, as a UN report unveiled contacts between Pyongyang and Khartoum.

In its report to the Security Council on 5 March 2018, a panel of UN experts on Security Council sanctions against North Korea reported suspected activities of North Korean nationals in Sudan in 2016 and 2017.

Recently, the Sudanese security and intelligence services blamed the local press for reporting the arrest of fake North Korean doctors in Khartoum saying there was no need to mention their nationality.

In the past, Khartoum informed Washington they had expelled all the North Korean nationals from the country.


This  compilation of treaties has much that is of interest.


It includes a treaty governing the use of the Nile and another which contained this promise from Emperor Menelik, “Done at Adis Abbaba, the 14th day of May, 1897.”

“His Majesty the Emperor Menelek II, King of Kings of Ethiopia, engages himself towards the Government of Her Britannic Majesty to do all in his power to prevent the passage through his dominions of arms and ammunition to the Mahdists, whom he declares to be the enemies of his Empire.”

This helped lay the foundations for the relationship between Britain and Ethiopia.

It dealt with Sudan, but perhaps it also explains why Britain felt such anger in 1915 when Lij Iyasu started sending ammunition to the “mad Mullah” in Somaliland – another of London’s enemies in the region.

The United Arab Emirates in the Horn of Africa

Wednesday, 07 November 2018 23:55 Written by


by Martin Plaut

The UAE, together with its ally Saudi Arabia, played a highly visible role in helping make peace between Eritrea and Ethiopia. As its footprint across the Horn of Africa grows, the UAE should avoid having intra-Gulf competition colour its engagement. 

Source: International Crisis Group

What’s new? The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been expanding its role in the Horn of Africa. Along with other Gulf powers, it is broadening its ties to the region. Strategic rivalries, including those within the Gulf Cooperation Council pitting the UAE and Saudi Arabia against Qatar, often motivate Gulf powers’ increasing influence.

Why does it matter? The influence of, and competition among, Gulf states could reshape Horn geopolitics. Gulf leaders can nudge their African counterparts toward peace; both the UAE and Saudi Arabia helped along the recent Eritrea-Ethiopia rapprochement. But rivalries among Gulf powers can also sow instability, as their spillover into Somalia has done.

What should be done? The UAE, whose Horn presence is particularly pronounced, should build on its successful Eritrea-Ethiopia diplomacy. It should continue backing Eritrean-Ethiopian peace, encouraging both parties to fulfil their commitments. Abu Dhabi should heal its rift with the Somali government, and thus help calm tensions between Mogadishu and its peripheries.

1.     Overview

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has emerged in recent months as an important protagonist in the Horn of Africa. Through political alliances, aid, investment, military base agreements and port contracts, it is expanding its influence in the region. A recent manifestation came in the summer of 2018, when Eritrea and Ethiopia announced – after a flurry of visits to and from Emirati officials – that they had reached an agreement to end their twenty-year war. Emirati and Saudi diplomacy and aid were pivotal to that deal. Elsewhere, however, Gulf countries have played a less constructive role. Competition between the UAE and Saudi Arabia, on the one hand, and Qatar on the other, spilled into Somalia beginning in late 2017, aggravating friction between Mogadishu and Somali regional leaders. Abu Dhabi’s relations with the Somali government have collapsed. As its influence in the Horn grows, the UAE should build on its Eritrea-Ethiopia peace-making by continuing to underwrite and promote that deal, while at the same time looking to reconcile with the Somali government.

An array of calculations shapes the UAE’s actions in the Horn. The Gulf port cities have a long history of ties with Africa, centred around maritime trade and dating to the era before the Emirates united as a nation-state. From 2011, however, Abu Dhabi began to look at the countries along the Red Sea coast as more than commercial partners. Turmoil in the Middle East, Iran’s growing regional influence, piracy emanating from Somalia and, from 2015, the war in Yemen combined to turn the corridor’s stability into a core strategic interest. The 2017 Gulf crisis, which saw Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar, pushed leaders on both sides of the divide to double down on their alliances, including in the Horn. Since then, the UAE has nailed down diplomatic relationships and extended its reach, particularly along the Red Sea.

In places, Gulf rivalries have been destabilising.

In places, Gulf rivalries have been destabilising. In Somalia in particular, the UAE, perceiving the Somali government of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo” as too close to Qatar and keen to protect years of investment, has deepened its relations with the governments of Somalia’s regions, or federal states. Importing the Gulf crisis into Somalia has contributed to tensions between Mogadishu and the federal states that over recent months have threatened to boil over. Elsewhere, however, Abu Dhabi’s peace-making is evident. The UAE, together with Saudi Arabia, provided critical diplomatic and financial support to help Eritrea and Ethiopia take the first steps toward a rapprochement that could prove enormously beneficial for wider Horn stability. Both Gulf monarchies also appear to have contributed to an easing of tensions between Ethiopia and Egypt.

The UAE, along with its fellow Gulf monarchies, is investing in the Red Sea and Horn of Africa for the long haul. Ideally, its successful Eritrea-Ethiopia diplomacy would provide the basis for that engagement. To that end, it should consider the following:

  • Keep underwriting Eritrean-Ethiopian peace, including by releasing the aid it has promised and pressing Asmara and Addis Ababa to follow through on the September agreement they signed in Jeddah;
  • Seek to end its debilitating spat with Mogadishu, with the understanding that warmer Abu Dhabi-Mogadishu relations are likely a prerequisite for overcoming divisions between President Farmajo’s government and Somali regional leaders. The UAE could encourage allies in the regions to reconcile with Mogadishu and take steps to facilitate their doing so, for example pledging to inform Farmajo’s government of its activities in the federal states, from training security forces to developing ports.

1.     The UAE’s Long Involvement in the Horn

When the Eritrean and Ethiopian leaders signed the September agreement, Saudi Arabia and the UAE’s role in brokering it was in full view. The ceremony took place in Jeddah, on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast. The two African leaders sat in an opulent room under the gaze of a metres-high portrait of the founding Saudi king, Abdulaziz. The current king, Salman, looked on, flanked by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the Emirati foreign minister, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed. The traditional regional powerbrokers – Western countries, the UN and the African Union (AU) – were absent.

The Eritrean-Ethiopian rapprochement, as well as a flurry of other Horn of Africa diplomacy, has greatly boosted Gulf states’ visibility as geopolitical actors along the Red Sea. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are now central to conversations about the future of a region still suffering strife and instability. With Washington seemingly in retreat, the Gulf countries appear intent on playing a major role. As one Gulf official put it: “If you look at the future of Africa, it’s clear – China is in. The Arab countries are in. The U.S. is not”.

The larger questions are what each Gulf country aims to gain and how each intends to use its newly acquired leverage.

The UAE itself has a long track record of engagement across the Red Sea.

The UAE itself has a long track record of engagement across the Red Sea. It hosts large diasporas from Horn countries, some of which were integral to its founding in 1971. Arabic-speaking Sudanese civil servants helped build nascent ministries, and members of the diaspora still swap stories about how President Omar al-Bashir was once Khartoum’s military attaché in Abu Dhabi.

Dubai, meanwhile, is the banking hub for many Somali businesses.

The Emirates’ history as a trading coast also informs its contemporary economic outreach. The UAE’s model of economic diversification is built around its role as a logistics hub and regional headquarters. It is a model premised on freedom of maritime navigation, including through Bab al-Mandab, the narrow passage from the Gulf of Aden to the Red Sea, and the Strait of Hormuz. Analysts often describe both bodies of water as chokepoints because they are easily closed to oil tankers and other cargo ships. Having cooperative, even like-minded governments along the Red Sea corridor is a strategic priority.

Africa is also a natural theatre for trade and logistical ambitions. It comes as no surprise that one of the Dubai-based logistics giant DP World’s first contracts abroad was in Djibouti, where it began to develop Doraleh port in 2006.

III. The Arab Uprisings and a New Emirati Stance Abroad

The 2011 Arab uprisings vested the Red Sea with strategic importance for the UAE beyond core economic interests and led Abu Dhabi to view that corridor, as well as places as seemingly far-flung as Jordan and Libya, as its “neighbourhood”.

Those uprisings transformed the Middle East from a zone of entrenched autocracies into a web of conflicts that political Islamists associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, whom the UAE and Saudi Arabia view as enemies, initially seemed to be winning. Abu Dhabi, in particular, views groups affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, which have traction inside the Emirates, as an existential threat. Their ascendancy as far away as North Africa alarmed the Emirates, particularly as conflicts across the Arab world increasingly appeared interlinked, with events in one place shaping those elsewhere.

A growing sense of danger bred a more interventionist foreign policy. The UAE, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, funnelled support to allies in Libya, Egypt and elsewhere. To explain these actions to citizens at home – used to an economically focused UAE – Emirati leaders invoked an argument still oft-repeated in policymaking hallways in Abu Dhabi: you can’t be safe if your neighbourhood is at war.

Egypt’s future took on particular importance after its first democratic election in modern history brought a Muslim Brotherhood leader, Mohamed Morsi, to the presidency. After Morsi’s ouster in a coup that the UAE and Saudi Arabia lauded and may have actively encouraged, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh, together with Kuwait, poured billions into the new government’s coffers.

Abu Dhabi also kept a keen eye on the security of the Suez Canal, including when the scale of piracy in the Red Sea, the canal’s southern gateway, jumped in the mid-2010s. Seeing a risk to its oil shipments and cargo containers, the UAE took an active role in counter-piracy initiatives. In Somalia, it trained a marine police force in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland and began experimenting with counter-terrorism operations against the Islamist Al Shabaab insurgency. The country became a Petri dish of learning for UAE special forces, which Western defence officials describe as the most capable in the Gulf today.

1.     The Yemen Catalyst

By 2015, the tumult in the Middle East – the Islamic State’s rise, Libya’s collapse, the Syria inferno, instability in post-coup Egypt and fear at what some Gulf leaders saw as Iran’s increasing influence across the region – created a siege mentality in some Gulf monarchies. In that context, Saudi Arabia and its primary partner the UAE led a military intervention in Yemen to roll back Huthi rebels loosely allied with Tehran. The Huthis had ousted the president and taken control of the capital and much of the country in late 2014 and early 2015.

In its anti-Iran drive, Riyadh sought assistance from past allies Sudan and Eritrea, both of which had strengthened ties with Tehran while all three countries were under international sanctions. Beginning in the 1990s, Sudan had built its defence industry with Iranian assistance and know-how; Eritrea had offered use of its port, Assab, to the Iranian navy. In 2014, however, both countries ejected Iranian diplomats. A year later, both agreed to contribute troops and resources for the Yemen war.

At the outset of the Yemen conflict, the UAE and Saudi Arabia were alarmed by Huthi rebels’ gains around Bab al-Mandab, raising the possibility that an Iranian-allied group would control such a chokepoint. They prioritised retaking Yemen’s western and southern coastlines.

The UAE took de facto responsibility for operations in Yemen’s south and quickly found itself in need of a naval and air base along the Red Sea. The natural candidate was Djibouti, where DP World had built the port. By then, however, Abu Dhabi’s relationship with Djibouti was souring over allegations of corruption related to DP World’s contract (DP World disputes the allegations).

Officials from the two countries had a falling-out in April 2015, when the UAE, with DP World’s infrastructure, sought to use Djibouti as a military launching pad into Yemen.

The Saudi-led coalition turned to another port, Eritrea’s Assab. Riyadh signed a security agreement also that April to use Assab, leaving Abu Dhabi to carry out the deal’s terms. By September, the Emirati military was flying fighter-bombers from the Eritrean coastline.

The dispute with Djibouti left the UAE uneasy about its reach along the Red Sea corridor. Abu Dhabi worried that it could not rely on allies in the Horn – even in cases where it felt existential questions were at stake.

As UAE-backed Yemeni forces pushed northward along the Red Sea coast, Abu Dhabi sought to expand its strategic depth. DP World and the Emirati military each penned an agreement to develop Berbera port in the self-declared republic of Somaliland. A subsidiary of DP World later signed a contract with local authorities in the Somali federal state of Puntland to develop Bosaso port. The attitude, as one Emirati official put it, became “fill space, before others do”.

1.     The Intra-Gulf Crisis

The June 2017 Gulf crisis brought yet more urgency to the scramble along the Red Sea corridor. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with and imposed an embargo on Qatar.

Among the reasons the UAE in particular cited for breaking ties with Qatar was Doha’s alleged betrayal of the Saudi-led coalition efforts in Yemen.

The Qataris had sent few personnel to the war theatre, but Abu Dhabi accused them of having revealed the location of a UAE-led operation to al-Qaeda, resulting in Emirati casualties, though they provided no evidence to support that allegation. (Qatar at the time declined to respond to this specific claim, and urged the UAE to provide evidence.

) After they imposed an air and naval blockade on Yemen, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi continued to claim that Doha was working actively against Saudi-led efforts, particularly through the media.

Also at the outset of the Gulf crisis, both sides began a frantic diplomatic push to secure allies, including among countries in Africa. In the Horn, competition was particularly fraught, given this subregion’s strategic value and proximity to Yemen. Djibouti and Eritrea both issued statements of support for the Saudi alliance, prompting Qatar to withdraw 400 observers it had stationed to monitor a border dispute between the two.

In Somalia, Farmajo, who had assumed office only months before the Gulf crisis, reportedly faced intense Saudi and Emirati pressure to cut ties with Doha. Although the president insisted that he wanted to remain neutral, for Abu Dhabi, widespread reports that he had received Qatari funds before his election belied that claim, as did his post-election appointment as chief aide of a former Al Jazeera correspondent with links to Doha.

In April 2018, Somali authorities seized from a UAE plane almost $10 million in cash that Abu Dhabi said was intended to fund training of security forces that had long been underway but which Mogadishu alleged would be used to fund its political rivals.

In the aftermath of the spat, Abu Dhabi withdrew some officials from Mogadishu, evacuated a military training camp and shuttered a hospital.

The UAE also shored up its alliances with leaders in Somalia’s federal states and the breakaway republic of Somaliland. It stuck to previous port agreements in Berbera and Bosaso, as well as a military base agreement for Berbera, and reportedly is discussing the development of Kismayo, in Jubbaland federal state, over the Somali federal government’s objections. The Gulf powers’ backing of rival factions – notably Emirati support for the governments of Somalia’s federal states and Qatari support for Farmajo – has exacerbated existing tensions between Mogadishu and the regions to the point of near-conflict.

The dust-up in Mogadishu is often described by officials in Abu Dhabi as a “wake-up call” – the most blaring signal that the UAE’s interests were imperilled along the African side of the Red Sea.

For Abu Dhabi, the timing was inauspicious as well. Emirati-backed Yemeni forces had been gearing up for an offensive to move toward the Huthi-controlled port of Hodeida – an operation that was to rely heavily on assets parked across the sea in Assab. If past alliances with Djibouti and Somalia could turn on a dime, perhaps other seemingly assured relationships – such as with Eritrea – could do so, too.

1.     The Ethiopia-Eritrea Peace Deal

As the UAE’s relations with the Somali federal government soured, a new prime minister emerged in Ethiopia whose reformist economic views appealed to Abu Dhabi.

Both countries had already begun laying the groundwork for closer ties some years ago. In March 2013, the two agreed to form a joint commission to discuss economic, political and other cooperation. In April 2018, the selection by Ethiopia’s ruling coalition of a new and charismatic prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, paired with Abu Dhabi’s desire for a new partner in the Horn, catalysed a quicker alignment. As Abiy spoke of privatisation and development to unleash the potential of the Horn’s most populous country, the UAE saw a strategic and investment opportunity. Among the many constraints on Ethiopia’s growth has been its lack of sea access and consequent reliance on Djibouti as the sole outlet for its exports. The UAE’s newly signed port contracts could help. In March 2018, DP World announced that Addis Ababa would take a 19 per cent stake in the Berbera port’s development.

Now, with an energetic partner and a cornucopia of potential commercial opportunities lying in wait in Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, Abu Dhabi launched a series of meetings and mutual delegations in a bid to forge strong ties with Abiy. Abu Dhabi’s and Riyadh’s relationships with Eritrea positioned them well to help facilitate rapprochement between Asmara and Addis Ababa, once leaders in those capitals were ready. Abu Dhabi pledged $3 billion to Ethiopia, an amount that puts the country on par with Egypt as a recipient of UAE assistance. The two Gulf countries assured Eritrea, meanwhile, that they would help lobby for the lifting of international sanctions in the coming months.

If sanctions go, Assab – which has been modernised for military sorties but not for container ships – will almost certainly be the next port to go to market for commercial development.

As seen from the Gulf, the Ethiopia-Eritrea peace deal has both economic and strategic layers.

As seen from the Gulf, the Ethiopia-Eritrea peace deal has both economic and strategic layers. Amid the UAE’s strategic setbacks in Djibouti and Somalia, the Ethiopia-Eritrea deal in many ways cements Abu Dhabi’s role as a player in Horn politics. In the weeks since the agreement was announced, Ethiopia’s prime minister also has helped spearhead efforts to improve relations with Somalia, which may in turn help smooth the rough patch between Mogadishu and Abu Dhabi – though for now little suggests rapprochement will come any time soon.

Both Abu Dhabi and Riyadh also appear to have helped behind the scenes Prime Minister Abiy’s efforts to improve relations with Egypt, another old foe. Abiy visited Cairo in June and publicly reassured Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi that Ethiopian development projects – notably the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which Egypt fears could severely curtail its supply of Nile water – would not harm Egypt. Sisi has also taken a conciliatory approach, saying he recognises that there is no military solution to the dispute.

At the same time, Saudi Arabia has helped start a dialogue between Eritrea and Djibouti over a decade-long border conflict. Though that dialogue is still in its early days, after an initial meeting between the two countries’ leaders in Jeddah in September 2018, Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh told Saudi media that relations had “entered the normalisation phase”.

In a sense, both Abu Dhabi and Riyadh are creating facts on the ground in the Horn. In the process, they are becoming forces that cannot easily be ignored.

The payoff could be enormous for regional integration, infrastructure development and connectivity across the Red Sea. Just with regard to ports, the Horn remains one of the most underserved areas of the world relative to population, with a single modern multi-use deep-water port at Doraleh, in Djibouti.

Yet because competition with adversaries also drives the push into the Horn, risks are at least as prominent as opportunities. The contrast between the roles played by the Gulf powers in Ethiopia and Somalia is instructive. At one moment, Gulf involvement in the Horn, even if motivated in part by rivalry between two Middle East axes, can move things in the right direction, as it has with Abiy’s push for peace with Eritrea. At another, those same rivalries can destabilise and divide.

VII. Conclusion

The UAE signals repeatedly that its engagement with Africa is here to stay. In 2018, it is opening an additional six embassies on the continent, adding to the more than a dozen already there. As one Emirati official put it: “We need to diversify and strengthen our relationships outside our own region. If we only pay attention to the Middle East and North Africa, we will be bogged down in crisis. We could miss a lot of opportunities around the globe”.

While credit for the Ethiopia-Eritrea deal lies primarily with the leaders of those two countries, clearly Gulf powers, especially the UAE, played an important role in helping push forward the initial steps of a rapprochement that could be significant across the Horn. The deal demonstrated that the UAE and Saudi Arabia can play important peace-making roles. Abu Dhabi and its peers can encourage regional economic integration and help give leaders in the Horn the extra boost, including both political and financial support, they might need to make peace. Such was the story of Eritrea and Ethiopia – two countries that saw domestic interests in making peace but needed the right economic and diplomatic assurances from abroad.

The months ahead will be crucial for the success of that deal. Abiy faces enormous hurdles in his quest to reform the economy and consolidate political support. Eritrea’s reopening to the world will undoubtedly encounter unexpected challenges. For the Jeddah deal to succeed, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi will need to work proactively to keep the parties on track. They can begin by promptly following through on their aid commitments.

Despite the bright spot of Eritrea-Ethiopia peace-making, intra-Gulf competition colours Emirati involvement across the Horn.

Yet despite the bright spot of Eritrea-Ethiopia peace-making, intra-Gulf competition colours Emirati involvement across the Horn. Whether the killing of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate will lead to some form of rapprochement within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), as some reports suggest might happen, remains unclear.

But even if so, the Saudi-UAE alliance is still likely to view actors such as Qatar and Turkey as competitors in strategic theatres like the Horn. Moreover, while for now Tehran’s influence is largely limited to the Yemeni side of the Red Sea, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi’s engagement in the Horn is likely to remain informed by their determination to ensure Iran does not regain a foothold, including by winning back its former allies Sudan and Eritrea.

The damage that external rivalries can inflict on the Horn was made clear in Somalia, where friction among Gulf powers, and in turn between the UAE and Farmajo’s government, has exacerbated pre-existing tension over how power and resources are divvied up between the capital and the regions. Abu Dhabi says that it wants a stable Somalia, but the country is likely to remain volatile unless strong Emirati ties to Somali regional leaders are paired with a reconciled UAE relationship with Mogadishu. Abu Dhabi could pledge to inform Farmajo’s government of its activities in the federal states – whether training security forces or developing ports – and ensure that its investment and aid benefit the country and not only its regions. The UAE also might encourage its allies in the federal states to repair their own ties to Mogadishu.

Abu Dhabi faces a choice in how much its Middle Eastern rivalries shape its Horn engagement. If competition remains a primary driver, results will almost certainly be mixed. In some places the UAE may still help bridge divides, even if partly motivated by shoring up its own influence at the expense of rivals. Elsewhere, however, competition could put Horn governments in a difficult spot, forcing them to choose between the two Gulf axes or exacerbating local conflicts in new ways. Ultimately, zero-sum competition in the Horn risks upsetting both the internal politics of the region’s diverse states and the balance of power among those states. Outside powers may win short-term gains, but over time everyone stands to lose from greater Horn instability.

Abu Dhabi/Washington/Brussels, 6 November 2018

Martin Plaut | November 7, 2018 at 1:53 pm | Tags: Horn of Africa, United Arab Emirates | Categories: International Crisis Group, Reports, Uncategorized | URL:

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In response to reports that the US has changed its stance on sanctions against the Eritrean government, the State Department has issued this statement.

“The United States welcomes continued efforts from the State of Eritrea to pursue peace, prosperity, and reform. We will continue to support efforts throughout the region towards peace, integration, and cooperation on shared objectives and challenges. We are not going to speculate or get ahead of ongoing discussions at the UN regarding these issues.

Separately, we continue to call for Eritrea to release long-detained U.S. Embassy Locally Employed Staff members.”

First Eritrean elected to US Congress

Wednesday, 07 November 2018 23:36 Written by

Joe Neguse, whose parents fled from Eritrea, became Colorado’s first African-American member of Congress. The profile below is from his own website.

Here’s his first campaign video.

One report described his family in these terms.

“His parents are refugees from Eritrea, a one-party state in east Africa that does not hold national elections. They both fled Eritrea in 1980, when it was embroiled in a civil war with Ethiopia. Neguse’s father, Debesai, had been an English teacher in Eritrea; he enrolled at California State University, Bakersfield, while working. His mother, Azeib, also wound up in Bakersfield, where she held down numerous jobs, including that of bank teller.”

Joe’s Story

As a 34-year-old son of refugees from Africa, Joe is not your typical candidate for Congress. But his family’s story, and deeply held belief that we need people from all walks of life to speak up and engage in our democracy, has motivated him to run for Congress and fight for Colorado values in Washington D.C.

Joe Neguse Joe is an attorney, civic leader, and public servant who has spent his career fighting to expand opportunities for families across our state. Joe and his wife Andrea (who grew up in Broomfield) consider themselves incredibly lucky to call the beautiful City of Lafayette home, where they are raising their newborn daughter Natalie and enjoy running on Boulder County’s amazing trails with their puppy Teddy (a pug-Aussie mix). Joe has lived in the 2nd Congressional District for the last 15 years, and was honored to represent the people of the district as an elected member of CU’s Board of Regents.

Over 35 years ago, Joe’s parents fled Eritrea, a war-torn country in East-Africa, and immigrated to the United States as refugees, eventually settling in Colorado, where he and his sister were raised.  As hardworking immigrants and naturalized citizens, Joe’s parents never forgot nor took for granted the freedom and opportunities the United States gave them and their children. Their experience motivated Joe to be an active participant in our democracy at an early age, and to give back through public service.

First, after graduating from the University of Colorado at Boulder summa cum laude and working for the then-Speaker of the Colorado House of Representatives, Andrew Romanoff, Joe co-founded New Era Colorado, the state’s largest youth voter registration and mobilization non-profit in Colorado.  The organization, which has been featured in the New York Times and Time Magazine, has since registered over 150,000 young people to vote across the state, secured successful passage of progressive legislation at the state level (including online voter registration and 16/17 year-old voter preregistration), and has led the fight locally against climate change.

Joe Neguse and President ObamaLater, while still in law school at CU, Joe was elected in 2008 by the voters of the 2nd Congressional District to serve on the CU Board of Regents, becoming only the second African-American to be elected Regent in Colorado’s history. Joe served a six-year term on the Board (which oversees the CU-System, the fourth largest employer in the state with an operating budget of $3.4 billion), including two-years as Chair of the Audit Committee. As a Regent, Joe fought to make higher education more affordable and accessible and to build consensus on tough issues, sponsoring several resolutions that received bi-partisan and unanimous support, including efforts to lower student health insurance costs and make voter registration more accessible to students, as well as working to increase wages for the University’s lowest-paid workers.

Joe Neguse talks with reporter during Financial Literacy MonthThen, following his term as a Regent, Joe was appointed at the age of 31 to lead the state’s consumer protection agency, making him one of the youngest people to serve in a state-Cabinet across the country.  He led the department—an agency with roughly 600 employees and a $90 million budget—for two years, leading the fight to expand economic opportunities by protecting the civil rights of every Coloradan and strengthening consumer protections and safeguards.  During his tenure the agency achieved key victories, including the recovery of millions of dollars for consumers, investigations culminating in significant financial-fraud cases, the championing of legislation to combat financial fraud against seniors, and launch of the state’s first online filing system for civil rights discrimination complaints. In recognition of his work to expand the agency’s consumer protection mission, Joe was awarded the 2017 “Consumer Protection Award” by the international Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation.

Joe’s public service is rooted in his firm belief that we should be expanding—not restricting—opportunities for all Coloradans, and he has spent his career doing the same. The opportunity to immigrate to our incredible country and pursue the American dream; to attend college, and participate in our economy; and ultimately, to shape our democracy. Joe’s belief that all Coloradans are entitled to these opportunities, shaped by his parent’s journey and experience, has been a guiding principle in his life, and he’s ready to fight for these opportunities every day in the United States Congress.

German Bundestag

12.10.2018 - Speech

What we’re presently witnessing in the Horn of Africa truly gives us cause for hope. Some are even talking of an African miracle. The peace agreement between Ethiopia and its Eritrean neighbours really is quite remarkable, especially when you look at developments there during the last few years. But what is more, it will improve the lives and the future prospects of people in East Africa and far beyond. It is in East Africa’s fundamental interest as well as that of the Gulf states on the east coast of the Red Sea. 
However, the peace agreement is also in our interest: it means that a crisis-stricken region is slowly regaining stability – with all the opportunities which this can have for trade, business, migration and the fight against terrorism and organised crime. 
That is of great importance to Europe, and thus also to Germany. I’m therefore delighted that the German Bundestag is addressing this today. 

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy has achieved something which was virtually inconceivable: he has broken political taboos within his country. He has triggered what could be described as reform euphoria in his country and initiated a reconciliation process with arch enemy Eritrea. Judging by everything we’re seeing and hearing, there’s a tangible will for change in the country, especially among young people, who know what all this means for them and their prospects for the future.
This process and those responsible for it should be able to count on our support. In providing this backing, we’re building on our decades-long commitment to Ethiopia and the long-standing special relations between our countries. At the end of the month, Prime Minister Abiy will be taking part in the G20 Investment Summit in Berlin, which will mainly focus on economic exchange among our countries.  

All in all, however, we have to remain realistic. Political and social transformation cannot be achieved overnight – we know that from our own experience. Abiy faces huge challenges: poverty, a growing population, rapid urbanisation as well as ethnic conflicts, which have resulted in four million people becoming displaced. Despite the positive developments, the situation in the country remains permanently tense due to these challenges.

Reforms similar to the bold ones being carried out in Ethiopia have not been initiated in Eritrea so far. On the contrary, there’s still no strategy to indicate how an orderly opening up within the country could look.

I therefore don’t think it’s a good idea to exert maximum public pressure at this point. We should encourage the reform forces and call for an opening up within the country in an appropriate manner. We’re currently exploring concrete ways of doing this.
Especially within the European context, we have suitable means and measures. However, we’ll also be able to continue influencing developments in the region when we take up our seat on the UN Security Council next year. We’re determined to do just that.
The German Government is already engaged in many different ways in crisis management and preventive diplomacy in the Horn of Africa.

For example, we are supporting regional measures to resolve the problems regarding water supply and the River Nile. We’re playing our part in the mediation efforts in the Darfur conflict and in South Sudan, a country plagued by civil war. In Somalia, we’re supporting the development of federal state institutions and functioning police structures. In this way, we want to help strengthen the African Peace and Security Architecture on a durable basis so that it can master the crises and conflicts on the continent, if possible through Africans’ own efforts.

The situation in the entire region around the Red Sea is tense. At the same time, there are no organised dialogue forums, never mind mechanisms for cooperative security, such as those we have in Europe.
That has to change. At our initiative, the EU Foreign Ministers therefore discussed the situation in the Red Sea region back in June. One result was that the EU decided to encourage the creation of a regional forum for dialogue and cooperation. But it can’t be taken for granted that this will happen. The interests of the various countries are too complex and there is still extremely deep seated distrust among them.
Together with the EU Special Representative for the Horn of Africa, however, we’re engaged in talks with the states of the region with a view to exploring the chances of establishing such a forum. It would represent considerable progress when it comes to bringing countries together and helping them to resolve problems on the ground on their own.

Above all, détente in the Horn of Africa would also be a blessing for the men, women and young people who have left their homes out of fear of war and repression and who are disheartened by the oppressing lack of opportunities there. Our humanitarian assistance is helping to alleviate the acute suffering of people and the communities that have taken them in. In 2018 alone, our assistance to the region amounts to around 200 million euros.

However, that cannot be permanent. Making it possible for people to return home must be the aim of a foreign policy which is also willing to shoulder responsibility in the region.
That’s why we not only support the peace mediation efforts in South Sudan, in the Sudan or in Somalia but are also following the rapprochement between Ethiopia and Eritrea with great interest.
At this point, however, the peace agreement with Ethiopia hasn’t led to an improvement in the human rights situation in Eritrea. The regime continues to maintain compulsory national service as a key means of controlling society.

Together with our European partners, we will therefore consider incentives to help encourage Asmara to finally break this logic, which has resulted in major human rights violations.
I’m grateful that we’re talking about this issue today because of the situation there, because there’s hope and because there are many responsible policy-makers in the region, who have set themselves the same goals as we have. The challenges for us and for Europe in this region are considerable. However, there are also opportunities. This is a good time for this region. Let us do everything we can to support the historic changes in the Horn of Africa. The German Government intends to do so. The fact that the German Bundestag is debating this issue today is a good sign which will certainly also be noticed in the region.



New post on Eritrea Hub

by Martin Plaut

President Isaias Afwerki's much heralded interview on EriTV on Saturday, 3 November, did little to assuage his critics. This assessment of the 80 minute long appearance is scathing. It concludes:

"The history of President Isaias Afwerki is the history of poor decisions and poor results.  Eritrea under his presidency has exiled 500,000 people to add to the 1,000,000 already exiled during the 30-year war of independence.  It has participated in 3-publicly known wars (with Yemen, Ethiopia and Djibouti) and 2 unknown wars (in Sudan and Congo.) It has poured millions from its meager resources to host Ethiopian armed opposition groups who had zero impact to the positive changes happening in Ethiopia.  It has poured millions more to Somalia only to acknowledge the internationally recognized government. It got the country sanctioned only to turn around and do everything that it was told to do to avoid sanctions: stop funding and providing political support to Somalia armed groups, recognize the Somalia government,  recognize and mediate your conflict with Djibouti, and talk to the Monitoring Group.  It has destroyed the country’s basic services (water, electricity), destroyed the banking system, destroyed the private sector, and worst of all, made nationalism synonymous with cruelty and harshness.

No narration or re-narration of Isaias Afwerki, no new patches or versions can change this reality.  Whether he knows it or not, his constant blaming of others for Eritrea’s failures is an admission that he was and is an inept executive. And, therefore, he must go."

Isaias Afwerki Self-Interview: What Badme?

Source: Eritrea digest

Posted On November 4, 2018

4 questions, 80 minutes.  So, nothing has changed.  1:20 ratio. Stylistically.

Actually, substance-wise, everything changed: we have Isaiaism Sofware Upgrade: 2018 edition.  Those who gave up on the guy won’t even raise an eyebrow.  But those of you who have been sledgehammering us with Badme might want to pay attention. You don’t want to be accidentally ex-communicated.

Comedy Central has a series called “Drunk History” (it’s exactly what it sounds like: history narrated by drunk people) and it’s the misfortune of Eritrea that it has “Isaias History”, and our miserable 28 years can only be narrated by the man who caused them.

In this version of history, everything bad that happened in Eritrea is the fault of ominous forces and everything good (?) that happened in Eritrea is to the credit of our enlightened government.

The Hanish (Yemen) Crisis of 1995? Caused by the US and its partners. Yeah. So what happened was, there was this border that was never argued about for decades and the instant Eritrea declares itself an independent country, the issue is just raised out of nowhere by these ominous forces because um they wanted to make sure Eritrea is…um, a client state. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Cause, effect.  But, professor professor? Yes, you in the back.  There was something new: Yemen was getting a Gulf State to build a resort at Hanish and an Italian company was planning to also build one in Dahlak and these feuding mega projects that went nowhere were the cause, we were told at the time.  In fact, this war, then called the “odd war” (because they were saving “senseless war” description for the subsequent war with Ethiopia) was also called “whore wars” by the Economist magazine.  Resort, casino, whores was the logic of that particularly cringe-worthy title.  It was the 90s: magazines could say that then.

But no.  It was the US.  Not only was the war caused by the US, the decision of the International Court (which, of course, gave Eritrea far less than what the French mediators had offered prior to Isaias’s decision to go shooting) was also designed to create eternal conflict.  Why? Because it awarded Hanish Kebir to Yemen but allowed Eritrea to fish in its waters.  This was not an act of compromise but mischief   ንኻልእክንበልኦ ሽጣራገጢምናክንኣለና   (Eritrea is run by the logic of deqi shuq Asmara)

But, Professor, Professor? Yes, you in the back again. Why were these ominous forces doing this in 1995 when, at the same time, they were praising the Eritrean government as Renaissance men and the hope of Africa etc? The historian doesn’t cover that (kids: that won’t be on the test so don’t ask.)

All you need to know is that what was true for the odd war with Yemen was true for the senseless war with Ethiopia: it was all instigated by the US according to Issu Version 3.0.  Why would the United States, which had excellent relationship with Eritrea and Ethiopia in 1998, trigger a war between them? It just did! Stop asking questions. The alternative is to say Isaias Afwerki caused it (as the Eritrea Ethiopia Claims Commission did) or, even worse, to accept that the Weyane had controlled Eritrea’s fate for the last 20 years, which would be very unacceptable to the pride of our historian.  It’s not the hotheadedness of Isaias and the malice of Meles.   It’s the US.  End of story; next question.

Now our historian knows that this narration would be hard to swallow which is why he continuously brings up World War II and the Cold War: are you saying the US is incapable of being unjust? Are you saying Eritrea was not the only European colony that was not given its independence? No? Then shut up and accept my narration.

Once you accept that, it’s easier to accept that the Eritrea-Ethiopia feud of 1998-2018 had little to do with borders, Badme or demarcation.  What? Sigh: pay attention kids.  This is why the professor spent 25 minutes of his 80 minute interview on this issue: it’s not about Badme or territorial integrity or borders.  It’s much bigger.

Pay attention.  Or at least those of you who want to vacation in Massawa with the Eritrean Navy. Effective immediately (hear ye, hear ye) to talk about Badme, territorial integrity, sovereignty, doesn’t make you a patriotic citizen but a traitor. At least a suspect.  You are not ለባም or ፈላጥ::  Neither wise nor knowledgeable.  And don’t go around telling people we can’t be naieve we have to learn from our past mistakes. If you do,  you are, and our historian is good at coining demeaning insults, a ፈሊጥ.  A fraud, a wanna-be.

Why? The most important thing in this new era (4th era or 3rd: he is not sure because he is making it up as he goes) is that there should be nothing, NOTHING at all, that introduces doubt or skepticism about the Eritrea-Ethiopia rapproachment.  Arguing about Badme, lines, fences, does that. We are trying to build confidence between the two parties here: so take your little worries about little dusty Badme somewhere else.

But isn’t this what the opposition has been saying for 14 years, you say. If you are smart, you won’t say that because your question introduces doubt and skepticism to the new rapproachment and takes us back to Era Three and we are now in Era Four. More crucially,  we are in transition stage of Era Four and in transition times people are given the benefit of the doubt. These are not good things to discuss if you love your country.

Fine. But can I at least curse Weyane: is that allowed? Yes! For now. You can also curse the US but be specific: three consecutive administrations of the US is what we want to hear: Clinton, Bush II and Obama

Ok I got it. Curse Weyane, and curse Clinton, Bush II, and Obama.  But I need more! Ok: you can also curse whoever are their conspirators and allied countries in Europe, think tanks and NGOs

What do I praise? Ah, that’s the exciting part because I am not just taking away Badme as your lung; I am giving you something much bigger. We are now 350 million people. We stretch from South Sudan to Oman: we are the Nile Basin. We are the Horn of Africa. We are the Red Sea. And we are the Gulf. We are as big if not bigger than the population of Western Europe and the United States. Exciting, huh? Even more exciting, within one era (that’s our new favorite word) our population will double. And theirs won’t. And the resources we have? It’s massive.   ቀሊልነገር ኣይኮነን::

And all that begins with perfecting Eritrea’s bilateral ደስደስ (elation) with Ethiopia. So no doubt-casting, skepticism-raising, no hateration,  holleration please: let’s get to percolating in this dancerie. We have a lot of catching up to make up for all our losses (hush: yes we lost) and we have to work 48 hours per day because VAT is not about value added tax but Value Added Time እየዝብሎ ኣነ and you should too if you know what’s good for you.  Of course there aren’t 48 hours in a day: what I mean by that is 1 hour in 2004 is valued at 2 hours in 2018.  So pay attention all of you Eritreans all six to eight million of you   (hush: so we said we are 3.65 million last year in our report to the African Commission when we wanted to inflate our GDP/capita) but our facts are adjustable in line with our goals. And also don’t say anything that casts doubt on the Eritrea Ethiopia rapproachment. It’s time for ርሱን ፍስሓ::

Everything is clear except for one.  What do we do with all the (insert appropriate adjective here: ወይጦ: ሽዩጣት: weaklings: off-position, traitors, etc)? The Eritreans who oppose the government of Isaias Afwerki?  The annoying ones who talk about rule of law, elections, democracy, justice, enforced disappearance, free press….you know: all the stuff Ethiopia’s PM Abiy Ahmed talks about?

Here, the historian is unclear. He tells his soldiers to ignore us, but to also challenge us, but not in a way that gives us stature we don’t have.  So, more insults is the way to go, I am guessing.

Well, I don’t want to get in the way of this United States of Nile Basin, Red Sea, HoA & Gulf but of course it’s all going to collapse.   Because it has no shared values; it is mostly presided over by people who are not elected by the people and, excepting for Ethiopia and Somalia, none of the other “leaders” of the countries in this 350 million block collection of misfits, treat their citizens with respect and dignity. It’s a coalition of bone-saw using hackers (Salman) people accused of crimes against humanity (Al Beshir, Isaias, Salva Kiir) and police state runners (Sisi and the rest)

So, spoiler alert: the opposition will continue to oppose and, if we are smart, we will ally with the two hopefuls in this subcontinent of ancient people with ancient minds: Abiy Ahmed and Mohammed Formajjio. We will continue to speak up for our prisoners, our disappeared, our youth sentenced to indefinite military service, our exiled, our people who live in fear of the government. Because, at the rate of Isaias misgovernance, we have become the overwhelming majority.  The fact that we don’t own the State TV where two terrified reporters (definitely part of our constituency) interview us and get alternative voice to that given by the warped historian changes nothing.

The history of President Isaias Afwerki is the history of poor decisions and poor results.  Eritrea under his presidency has exiled 500,000 people to add to the 1,000,000 already exiled during the 30-year war of independence.  It has participated in 3-publicly known wars (with Yemen, Ethiopia and Djibouti) and 2 unknown wars (in Sudan and Congo.) It has poured millions from its meager resources to host Ethiopian armed opposition groups who had zero impact to the positive changes happening in Ethiopia.  It has poured millions more to Somalia only to acknowledge the internationally recognized government. It got the country sanctioned only to turn around and do everything that it was told to do to avoid sanctions: stop funding and providing political support to Somalia armed groups, recognize the Somalia government,  recognize and mediate your conflict with Djibouti, and talk to the Monitoring Group.  It has destroyed the country’s basic services (water, electricity), destroyed the banking system, destroyed the private sector, and worst of all, made nationalism synonymous with cruelty and harshness.

No narration or re-narration of Isaias Afwerki, no new patches or versions can change this reality.  Whether he knows it or not, his constant blaming of others for Eritrea’s failures is an admission that he was and is an inept executive. And, therefore, he must go.

Martin Plaut | November 5, 2018 at 9:43 am | Tags: Eritrea, President Isaias Afwerki | Categories: News | URL:

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