By Hiwot Bekalu
Tigrai Onlne December 04, 2013
The Eritrean regime had at different times called on Journalists (mostly Qatari based) to Asmara or Massawa, when the government is in tumultuous political moment. The regime’s leader has shade crocodile tears for uncountable times in front of these journalists denying having any relationship with Al-shabaab, denying having a havoc strategy or when it needs to fend off another sanction from being imposed on his government. However, since a neutral fact-finding mission has confirmed the regime’s active role in terror activities, those crocodile tears or the regime’s leaders’ usual ‘straight face’ lies didn’t save the regime from facing its second sanction. This is Shabiya’s second consecutive win on who has the best havoc and destruction strategy on the region.
Here, I must note that I don’t know the reason behind Ato Isaias Afwerki’s choice of Qatari-based journalists. And usually after their interview with the man, there hasn’t been a time when these journalists did not made a claim that the Asmara’s honcho and his government’s are involved in terror activities throughout East Africa. One of those journalists is Aljazeera’s Jane Dutton and the Qatari Al-watan magazine reporter Ahmed Ali. Believing these journalists’s perspective with regards to the Eritrean government will shade light on the regime’s involvement with terrorism, I would like to present this article by putting up their report and writing directly for my readers to read.
Aljazeera’s Jane Dutton
….. I have never seen in person the man that I was assigned to do an interview with-including the country. Our flight from Dubai airport was delayed. Nobody told us for how long or why…… Four hours later, when the plane finally arrived, we found out the president had decided to borrow it for the morning, on a whim.
We were on our way to one of Africa's most secretive regimes…… Granted a rare interview with the Eritrean president, who is notorious for his frost relationship with journalist and his consideration of them as enemy……. Isaias Afewerki, a man constantly ranked in the top 10 of the world's worst dictators is accused of helping turn the Horn of Africa into one of the most volatile regions on the planet….
Our plane - Eritrea's only carrier - was one of the few international flights that still fly into the country. We are flying to a desolate place blighted by years of war with Ethiopia and Yemen, Sudan and Djibouti and a country in an increasing political isolation…. At the airport we were met by unfamiliar silence.
At this airport any kind of mobile connection doesn’t work. There are no SIM cards. Raphael, our minder/chauffeur assigned by the government seems to be the only moving around the airport…
"Let me tell you the truth," he would say every couple of hours, breaking the silence, immediately followed by anything but. Then there is silence. He also ominously warned that he could keep a watch on our every movement if he chose to do so, at our hotel, on the job.
Our interview was scheduled for Saturday; unfortunately we were told it would take two hours to get to the city of Massawa, the president's new bunker retreat on the coast, where the interview will take place. He is reported to spend more time there in fear, after an attempted assassination last year…..
……We are heading to Massawa. The bumpy road from Asmara to Massawa is filled with checkpoints. Every Eritreans move seems to be watched and noted in this country at these checkpoints. It’s easy to imagine the sort of intimidation and harrasment many Eritreans go through in these posts, considering the regime uses these checkpoints to screen its subjects and detain those who are under suspicion or who don’t have a pass paper.
Although queue of checkpoints from Asmara to Massawa are meant to restrict freedom of movement of the people, this hasn't stopped tens of thousands escaping into neighboring countries every year
The UN estimates that 63,000 sought asylum abroad in 2009. Around 1,800 brave the shoot-to-kill police orders to cross over into Sudan every month. The majority say they are fleeing the permanent military service and repressive nature of the regime…...
After our ride on the rough road of Asmara-to-Massawa with Rafael was stricken by bumps and stop at every checkpoint, we finally get to Massawa very tired from our trip.
Massawa, a port city built by the Turks in the 14th century is supposed to be the hottest place on earth. And I would concur, as I was left to brush off the sweat on my forehead from getting into my eyes……
…… Our interview was delayed by a day because of Massawa’s Independence Day. We were corralled into watching Massawa's 20-year celebrations of liberation. We decided to shoot a promo for our interview while we were there. We decided to shoot a promo for our interview while we were there. People were out in that sweltering weather to see their “liberators”, brutally controlled by the police force…… What amazed us was that the police had no qualms about beating women and children with sticks a few feet away from where we were shooting. A truly shocking scene. And our cameras were still rolling.
However, during the Middle of our shoot, we were told to move our cameras…..I saw our driver Raphael from afar; he was showing me hand sign for me to fled from the area. And it didn’t take me long to figure out that that Eritrea and journalist are antagonists….
……..The next day we were all set up and ready at our interview location chosen at the behest of president’s people. And we understood that it was planned for dawn o'clock interview.
We guessed the president would keep us waiting, and he did. Six hours later he arrived. We were all drenched with sweat and jangled with angst by the time he sat down.
After my questions, I remembered this was a man who came in on a promise of liberating his people 20 years ago - although the opposite seemed to be true.
During my interview every question I asked was met with a blank stare, a flat denial, cold laughter and finally allegations that we were making it all up….. Anyways we finished the interview, as it has to; however at the end of the interview I was faced with an odd request.
I was told that the ‘man’ wanted to see personally; and so appeared I before him. Ato Isaias pointing his finger told me that ‘I am simply insane’. Although I have no indication that would put me as insane, I didn’t want to reply back….. Our final day at Massawa, we decided to finish by shooting some images of the city.
So, we ended the day with a piece to camera from the tank graveyard on the outskirts of the city. Thousands of armored vehicles dismantled and stacked heading for the trash heap.
These armored vehicles are a gate way to this young country’s warfare past. Although that was two decades ago, Eritrea remains on a permanent war footing…..
…….. The majority of the population is conscripted – whether it be in the army, in the hotel bar, as a street cleaner or our ever present minder/chauffer Rafael.
On my way back to Asmara back on the winding roads, I was asking myself Til when is Ato Isaias going to stay in power, while brutally subjecting his people… ………… ……………...…..
When I the writer of this article was reading Jane Dutton’s question of ‘How long is the brutal administration of Ato Isaias going to stay in power’, I remembered the repeated reports ‘International Crisis group’; an independent and non-governmental organization, put out at different times with regards to Eritrea. The reports basic idea was ‘Eritrea might become a failed state’.
According to the report, Eritrea is immersed in a huge economic and political chaos. The report added that if things continue with its current trajectory the country will face a huge danger, citing the recent “coup-d’état fiasco’ incident in Eritrea. It indicated that Ato Isaias Afwerki’s political order is close to its demise and this situation is evident through the current unstable condition seen in the country. It also underlined the fact that all developmental works are under the firm control of the government made it appear as if the country is stable, as it enabled the Ato Isaias administration to sweep the country’s apparent problems under a rag. This independent report further claimed that the forced national service intended to develop and build the country, could prove one of the catalysts for the regime's eventual collapse.
As the ICGs political analyst Mark Schneider repeatedly put it the Eritrean authoritarian regime which seemed stable is now getting crumbled through time. And he shared his concern that Eritrea might become ‘the other Somalia’.
So as this report suggests, Aljazeera’s Jane Dutton very legitimate questions was rebuffed by the Asmara’s made dog; which also included labeling the journalist as “insane” personally. However, now her questions are shared by the world, after the UNs Security Council fact-finding mission confirmed the same undertone as her questions.
Al-watan’s Ahmed Ali
“What are you saying? Then what was Qatar’s prince HH Hamid Bin Jasmine mediating about? It’s the prince himself that made official the agreement”, said Ahmed Ali looking at the face of Ato Isaias. The Asmara’s honcho with his famed ‘I am puzzled’ face retorted, “can’t you listen” there is no statement or announcement with regards to this issue; when you’re told that there was not conflict then it means that there was no conflict. Can’t you understand?!”
He was of course lying as the agreement is an open-secret and the whole world knows about it. It’s part of the man’s principle to defend his position through lies after he wrecked havoc in the region. Although the former information minister Ato Ali Abdu (know he’s in exile after he left the regime) continuously interfered with the interview, the Al-Watan journalist still continued with his “sensitive” questioning.
Here dear Readers, your might ask ‘what are these “sensitive’ or controversial questions?’ The fact that Ato Isaias Afwerki’s regime deals arm dealer to Somali terrorist group, along with providing logistics and training is well known; as is the fact that the regimes’ forces penetrated into Djiboutian territory and occupied a hilltop named ‘Ras Doumeira’ in the name of ‘collecting sand for road construction’.
As we all recall he strike a deal with Qatari government in order to withdraw from the Djibouti’s sovereign land and let the Qatari peacekeeping forces into ‘Ras Doumeira’. Although Ato Isaias pushed for a deal with the Djibouti’s government in the hopes of loosening UNs sanction, the plan didn’t work out as he had hoped as a consequence of his governments havoc and destruction agenda.
He may agree to withdraw its forces and let the Qatari government deploy few hundred soldiers between the two countries, but he still didn’t (and can’t) halt his role of providing logistics and arms to Somali’s terrorist network. This is because the Asmara’s terror squad makes its living by ‘adding fuel’ in conflicts and through commissioning its service of providing terrorist and anti-peace forces as a product. In fact United Nation did not even wanted to hear let alone grant Ato Isaias Afwerki’s calls for lifting of sanctions, as the organization reached to the decision to impose the sanction after basing its conclusion from the report it got from IGAD and AU.
It was at this time of angst and tumultuous that his interview with Alwatan’s Ahmed Ali took place (see introductory part of this piece). During the interview he said to the journalist “… when the Qatar Prime Minister said ‘there is a problem between Eritrea and Djibouti’. I was very shocked as don’t know anything about it. I only know about it, when the prince told me”.
It can be said that using lies to achieve a sinister plot or strategy is an unwritten law around the circles of Eritrean leaders. This approach meant that the president-for-life not only lies in his speeches, but it also mean that he reflects based on an even keel thinking.
This is why the Al-watan journalist Ahmed Ali wrote by saying, “By claiming to know nothing about the much talked about Eritrea and Djibouti border dispute and the subsequent Qatar government’s mediating effort, he has declared that he’s a mad man who doesn’t know what’s he’s doing”.
In fact for the Eritrean dictators’ squad ‘lying’, as a principle is the ‘truth’. As long as the dictator’s squad has achieved its confusion on others, it doesn’t care about the truth. And looking through his interview with the Qatari reporter for Al-Watan, this has been proven to be the case. In order for my readers get an idea about this, let me walk you through some of those Q and A.
Question: Are saying there was no withdrawal from the disputed?
Ato Isaias: There is no withdrawal. There is no withdrawal from disputed area
Question: I am asking you about Djibouti’s Ras Doumiera?
Ato Isaias: There is no disputed land from the beginning between Eritrea and Djibouti, there isn’t an occupied land.
Question: But the UN has issued a statement regarding the dispute?
Ato Isaias: Really? … How is this possible? Does the UN issue a statement on something that isn’t there? How can this be possible?
Although Eritrea’s president – for – life said this with a ‘straight face’, only four months ago he placed his signature on a peace treaty that was brokered by the government of Qatar, to resolve his dispute with Djibouti, in which he agreed for his forces to withdraw from Ras Doumeira.
It has agreed to pay Djibouti war repatriation accepting its aggression. Throughout this interview, he pretends that he doesn’t know the contents of the agreement that he signed; he pretends to not know that there is no disputed land when in fact the agreement he signed says there is. Also, at the time the UN’s fact-finding mission has concluded that the Eritreans forces had forcefully occupied Djibouti’s territory. Even after the fact finding mission’s announcement inter regional organizations like IGAD, AU and the Arab league has all pleaded with the Asmara’s regime to solve the issue peacefully. In its reply the Eritrean government had only to say ‘we don’t know about any problem between Djibouti and Eritrea’.
The UN understanding the bravado nature of the Eritrean government passed the Security Council resolution no. 1862, which calls for the withdrawal of Eritrean forces from the territory of Djibouti. For all its polemic denial, the Asmara government had no choice but to accept shamefully the deal presented by the Qatari government.
Here dear readers, you might ask ‘why does Ato Isaias keep on lying about an issue the whole world is aware of?” This is a legitimate question. And here is why….
Although the Qatar journalist called Ato Isaias’ lies during his interview as ‘common’, the writer of this article also shares other political analyst’s views with regards to the man’s handling of the issue. That is, it’s part of his denial against International Media reports of “the Asmara Government has forcefully occupied Djibouti’s territory’.
Changing his ‘refuting’ tactics, Ato Isaias denied sending troops into the area and added they do not have any problem with Djibouti. However, as we can understand from the UN sanction, this so-called change of ‘refuting’ tactics (or political drama) didn’t get him far. The Al-Watan journalist Ahmed Ali said that he was baffled by the actions of the regime leaders’. He said, “during our interview I was exposed to a direct external interference’. Surprisingly, likening his “brothers” intrusion as foreign intervention, Ato Isaias told me ‘don’t mind to them, ask tour questions”. So, the Al-watan journalist continued with his questioning, although this is a futile endeavor as everyone in the Asmara’s palace from its leader to the low-level employees all speaks heaps of lies. Thus, any journalist who has a chance to visit the Asmara’s palace will only be left with contradicting statements, denials and flat out lies. Let me share with you part of the interview as an illustration of this….
Ø Question: these (the agreement points) are items announced in Doha, and they are terms announced by HH the Prime Minister and in which he outlined the steps towards implementing the Qatari mediation?Ato Isaias: Then, the question should be addressed to the HE the Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim, my big brother. Our commitment is that this issue be resolved within the family setting.Ø Question: Mr. President, there are those who hold the view that the Qatari mediation to resolve this problem has been like a lifeline for Eritrea to exit from the bottleneck, especially after the UN resolution condemning Asmara?Ato Isaias: This is imagination. This is an illusion on many and I will not be dragged behind it or be lured to speak on this subject, (laughs) because there is no one who got us out from a bottleneck, this is an unbecoming talk. Unfortunately, this is an insult!
Of course we can understand from this interview that the Eritrean government has a good relationship with Qatar. Dan Connell who is an expert on Eritrea believes that Shabiya has built close relationship with the Qatari government in line with its Scrounging attitude.
Although Qatar is a small country, it’s incredibly rich country and according to some political analyst the fact that Ato Isaias Afwerki has forged a close relationship with them might earn its government a lifeline. In fact there are some talks that Ato Isaias decision to withdraw his forces from Ras Doumeira has to do with accepting hefty sum of money from Qatari government. In my opinion it’s not surprising to hear the Shabiya’s honcho label the Qatari prince as “big brother“, considering his aspiration to grow on the back someone else’s back.
Even though the Qatari mediation gave Eritrea a lifeline, however Eritrea won’t be free of trouble as long as the country’s under the iron-fist rule of Ato Isaias. This is thanks to Ato Isaias and his rag tag’s bravado mentality and scrounging attitude. Other reasons include includes the Asmara’s mad dog unpredictable behavior. Despite the man’s usual stalling tactic and arrogant behavior made him to be self-deluded, the truth of the matter is he’s responsible for his country’s political, economical and social woes.
All in all whatever the extent of the man’s lying, Al-Watan’s Ahmed Ali interview on the Ras Doumeira issue has made the Asmara Havoc Squad regional trouble maker pedigree public- as it has been confirmed by the UN.
Generally, what we can understand from the two journalists is the Eritrean government has a knack of appearing amazed of a situation it helped brew. The truth is there isn’t a time where this regime; who is obsessed with wrecking havoc throughout East Africa, has stopped from plotting against Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, Sudan and Yemen. Leaving aside the terror acts it waged on other countries, the regime has been active in recruiting, organizing, training and arming anti-peace and terror forces in order to plunge our country in to turmoil.
The fact that this endeavor was unsuccessful did not stop the regime from playing its terror-in-chief role. And the recent National Intelligence and security service and the Federal Police Anti-terrorism task force statement which stated that the International terror group Al-Shabaab with the help of the Eritrean government is planning to carry out a terror act on our country, is an illustration to this fact.
Finally, I would like to finish this article by stating my belief that as always our security forces together with the cooperation of our people will foil Al-Shabaab’s and its Godfather Shabiya’s hopes of attacking Ethiopia.