Eritrea: Silver Jubilee celebration or commiseration?
By Berhane kahsay
Tigrai Online, Ethiopian News, May 13, 2016
By now the vast majority of sane Eritreans must have come to the inescapable conclusion that enduring three decades of struggle against ‘colonialist’ Ethiopia was simply pointless as they have only succeeded in replacing a brutal military dictator with another home grown tyrant of the worst sort
The Eritrean government tried to sneak in a highly trained and armed to the teeth terrorist group to Ethiopia, but failed.
Eritrea has clocked a quarter of a century since it gained its independence from Ethiopia. As a result of the protracted struggle that raged from 1961 to 1991 60,000 people were killed and 50,000 children were orphaned. In access of 60,000 combatants were maimed and half a million left their homestead to live as refugees in neighbouring Sudan. Those scattered in Europe, America and the Middle East during the 30 year war were estimated to be over a million.
Eritreans have paid a heavy price to break away from Ethiopia and form their own statehood. During the liberation struggle the Eritrean people were hoodwinked by the relentless propaganda emanating from the current President that their country would be become the ‘Tiger Economy’ of East Africa soon after securing victory over Ethiopia. But the intention from day one was to prosper by stealing Ethiopia’s resources that went on unabated for seven years. In 1998, the embezzlement was brought to halt and the leader of the fledgling nation seriously believed that by sending his troops to occupy Badame would force the Ethiopia government to reconsider the measures it instituted to stop the daylight robbery.
Invading Ethiopia’s sovereign territory was a grave and costly error. Eritrea ended up losing 20,000 of its citizens in addition to the displacement of 1.1 million people. And Eritrea’s humiliation was completed by the establishment of a buffer zone 25 kilometres inside its domain. Since the crushing defeat, the Eritrean supremo has become the most brutal and intolerant leader in the entire world. The tiny east African nation has no government structure, no constitution, no institutions of higher education, no judiciary and, by and large, it relies on 2 % extortion tax levied on its Diaspora by sheer coercion and threat of violence.
Dissent is unthinkable and the so called G-15 that called for political pluralism soon after the end of the border war were accused of treason, which was a trumped-up charge, resulting in their imprisonment since 2000 without facing the due process of law. Some of them have committed suicide and the remaining are as good as dead according to prison guards who made it to Ethiopia. Amnesty International’s recent report indicates that there over 10,000 political prisoners and none of them have been charged with any crime. United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCRIF) also reported lately the existence of religious persecutions and at present over 4000 Christians have been imprisoned in shipping containers because of their faith.
It has been a while since the economic and political situation in Eritrea has been in a dire state and it is estimated that more than 5000 people a month abandon their country under the hail of bullets. In 2014, UNHCR reported the presence of 216, 0000 Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia and Sudan. The UN agency also stated that during the first 10 months of 2014, thirty six thousand six hundred seventy eight (36,678) sought refuge in 38 European countries. The exodus is sharply increasing and the number of refugees in Ethiopia, Sudan and Europe is expected to reach the half million figure pretty soon. Various international reports accuse Eritrean army generals of making huge amount of money by trafficking their own people where most of them end up being mutilated for their organs by Egyptian Bedouins.
Those who were not lucky enough to abandon their home land have been pressganged to Sawa concentration camp which was purposely established in 1995 to pre-empt any form of dissent against the one man tyrannical rule. So far, hundreds and thousands of Eritreans have passed through the camp and the UN Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea revealed that rape and sexual slavery of young female and women conscripts is a common occurrence according to the numerous testimonies it has received.
The following is an evidence, among many, given by a personal assistant to an official at Wi’a camp: ‘’ an officer chose some women for house labour and for sexual intercourse. He would take them to Massawa. I was ordered to bring girls to commander’s rooms. They would give me their names and I would go and collect them. They would ask me to do this anytime of the day. I also had the responsibility to take them back. If they had sexual intercourse with them, the girls would get favours such as being given milk. I was ordered to give them something such as milk, oil and water. I can roughly estimate that there were about 1,200 women in three years. During the one year I was at Wi’a, I brought about one to two girls in a day for a period of five months.’’ This is the reality in today’s Eritrea which is preparing to celebrate 25 years of ‘independence.’
The vast majority of Eritreans are facing tremendous hardship while their leader and his followers have been enjoying a very luxurious existence with millions of dollars kept in foreign banks. A year or so ago stolen computer files belonging to the Swiss arm of HSBC revealed the existence of mining revenues in the region of $695.2 million belonging to President Esayass and his inner circle deposited under quasi-names. It is possible this may have increased substantially as the Eritrean leader and his generals are invariably involved in money laundering, extortion, contraband and human trafficking according to the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea.
By now the vast majority of sane Eritreans must have come to the inescapable conclusion that enduring three decades of struggle against ‘colonialist’ Ethiopia was simply pointless as they have only succeeded in replacing a brutal military dictator with another home grown tyrant of the worst sort. Life in today’s Eritrea is tough indeed and the people feel that they are now worse off than they were nearly 60 years ago. They queue-up for hours for a loaf of bread and essential necessities such as water and electricity are scarce. UN sanctions imposed on Eritrea as a result of its involvement in financing and arming terrorists in Africa and beyond is intensifying the economic hardship. Its citizens are forsaking their country in droves to get to Europe, and in terms of asylum application, they come next to Syria and Afghanistan where destructive wars have been raging for a number of years.
So what is this ‘’Silver Jubilee anniversary celebration’’ all about? Have they no shame? What is there to celebrate after making Eritrea a basket case? In 25 years, Ethiopia has become the 3rd largest economy in Africa where as its ex-province has turned out to be a failed state with an abysmal record on human rights and the rule of law. Things are unlikely to change for Eritreans as long as the tyrant leader who has been in power for a quarter of a century remains at the helm. It is doubtful, if his opponents who are by and large ex-members of EPLF and ELF, would be able to dislodge him from power as they tend to be ineffective, divided, self-centred and parochialist. The only hope is a spontaneous uprising from within especially from the heart of Eritrea’s concentration camp, Sawa.
Note the following when you listen:
"Currently we have one television that is the government owned ERE TV. Why is the only one? No answer. We have independent information but we don't have independent television channel we have only the government owned ERE TV. Do you feel free as a journalist to say whatever you want to say? YES I AM ALWAYS FREE!!! I am free to move, I am free to speak, I am free to write".Does this man look like he has freedom to say what he wants?