By Temesgen Hune
Tigrai Onlne - December 17, 2013
A few months ago, Ginbot 7 claimed to have established a military force, even though it has been promising its supporters for more than five years that it will overthrow the government in Addis Ababa in a few months.
Last month, Ginbot 7 came up with yet another claim. It said:
"The Valiant Ginbot 7 Popular Force intelligence unit foiled the assassination plot that targeted the secretary of Ginbot 7: Movement for Justice, Freedom and democracy, and commanders and high ranked officers of Ginbot 7 Popular Force. This futile attempt by the coward TPLF regime that took place in Eritrea territory is yet another sign and proof that this blood-stained regime cannot and does not survive without spilling the blood of innocent Ethiopians. Ginbot 7 and the Ethiopian people at large are outraged by the TPLF regime’s recent assassination attempt, and they strongly denounce this shameful act that does not serve any purpose."
This month Ginbot7's mouthpiece ESAT said EPRDF is begging for negotiation.
"the government of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) made the calls for ‘negotiation’ with the opposition Ginbot 7 Movement for Justice, Freedom and Democracy (Ginbot 7) for a third time in two months."
In an obvious attempt to make this make-believe story believable, Ginbot 7 made some analysis sort statement. It said:
"the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) is in apparent crisis. It is now evident that panic and nervousness within EPRDF is increasing with the passing of each day, and there is ample evidence that indicates towards this major behavioural shift within the ruling EPRDF party.
The long-standing political behaviour the EPRDF regime demonstrates that whenever EPRDF is cornered or finds itself in a crisis situation, it uses negotiation as a quick way out or crisis management tool. We believe EPRDF’s most recent call for “negotiation” is not different from its established political behaviour."
It is a waste of time to respond to the claims that the government of Ethiopia is "in panic", "nervous", "in crisis situation", etc.
However, it is important to explain why Ginbot 7 felt the need to be drama queen in the past several months.
To understand that we need to note the series of setbacks that Ginbot 7 faced in the past months. It supporters got, the group has split, Ethiopia's continued stability frustrated its supporters, etc. And, there was the leak of a damning tape.
The audio recording that was leaked by AwrambaTimes.com and shared across the social networking websites provided a useful insight into the state of Ginbot 7.
The tape revealed that Birhanu Nega, chairman of Ginbot 7, received 9.5 million birr from Eritrea. As Sudan Tribune had reported it:
"The Eritrean government has offered $500,000 to Ginbot 7, an exiled Ethiopian opposition political organization designated by Ethiopia as terrorist entity, according to a report on a US-based Ethiopia opposition media outlet.
In an audio recording of an interview with the group’s chairman, leaked to AwrambaTimes.com, Berhanu Nega admits that he received the funds."
From the audio recording, we also understand that Berhanu and three more Ginbot 7 operatives met the officials of Eritrea, presented 6-month work plan and received the money.
At the end of the meeting, when Berhanu Nega thanked the officials for the money, they reminded him the nature of their relation. The officials told Berhanu Nega that the cash is not gift rather a payment. They reminded him that Eritrea is doing this for her own sake, so no need for thanking.
This is not a passing remark. It was a subtle warning. If Ginbot 7 does not deliver, it won't be kept on Eritrea's payroll. After all, there are several other opportunists, like Berhanu Nega, who are actively competing to take his place as a favorite boy of Isaias Afeworki.
Just do the math. Eritrea pays more than 19.5 million per year for Ginbot 7.
However, to get Eritrea's total expenses for such matters, we will have to multiply this figure at least by ten or twenty because it finances several terrorist and insurgent groups targeting Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti.
There are atleast ten Ethiopian groups on Eritrea's payroll: EPPF, ONLF, two or three factions of OLF, TPDM, APDM, groups formed in the name of Benshangul, Gambella, etc.
Some of the groups such as OLF, ONLF, EPPF, TPDM may get higher budget than Berhanu Nega since they have some fighters on the ground and attempt attacks on Ethiopia now and then.
Though they have few fighters and their terror missions often fail as soon as they cross Ethiopia's border, they are atleast bigger than Ginbot7. Whereas, Ginbot 7 is still trying to form a ganta(15 fighters team), as we learned from Berhanu's speech in the audio recording.
Therefore, the total fund for these ten Ethiopian groups could be no less than 10 X 19million Birr =190,000 million Birr per year.
Isaias Afeworki is no fool when it comes to money. He learned in pain that Ethiopia is not easy to destabilize. He knows these groups cannot be expected to bring much result. He keeps using these groups because he has no other option and because he needs to tell his supporters that he is doing something about Ethiopia.
Therefore, Isaias presses each group to do as much as it can. He makes them compete one another, envy one another, to make them insecure and distribute the payments accordingly.
Therefore, when the Eritrean officials told Berhanu that the cash is not gift rather a payment, the subtle warning was unmistakable to Berhanu.
Therefore, to keep the cash flowing, Ginbot 7 has to outdo other competitors.
Remember the three areas on Ginbot 7 work plan submitted to Eritrea for finance. As we learned from the leaked audio, out of the total 10million Birr budget of six months: About four million Birr is for ESAT, the rest six million Birr is for "military and intelligence activities".
Therefore, to get the next round of payment and also bonus, Ginbot 7 needs to show a facade of performance in the two areas.
First, it started with ESAT. To keep Eritrean officials happy ESAT needs to continue covering its budget and transmitting the destabilizing propaganda. But that didn't bring result for three ears. And, there are several competitors in the diaspora. The record is still held by Elias Kifle of Ethiopian Review who declared Isaias Afeworki man of the ear in a few years ago.
That is why, a few months ago, Ginbot 7's deputy chairman Andargachew Tsgie and ESAT put out a show - in the pretext of interview - to show their adoration and reverence for the Eritrean dictator.
Andargachew Tsige and ESAT's Sisay Agena, acting as interviewer and interviewee, presented a well-rehearsed drama that is even embarrassing by EriTv standards.
Andargachew Tsegie boldly said that: "You don't see any armed person in Asmara", even though this is contrary to the experience of hundreds of thousands of Eritreans who are forced to live in a permanent state of military mobilization.
As Awate.com recently reported:
"the forceful arming of civilians and the economic losses are suffered by those who have to attend daily training as well as duties of guarding regime buildings. It is a well-known fact that the regime threatens to shut business premises, if owners fail to send their employees to receive fire arms.
Many services in Asmara and other cities are often held off during en-mass rounding of citizens or other activities related to the civilian arming, trainings and guard duties. Nowadays, just like any other citizen, Eritrean doctors are required to patrol streets at night carrying AK-47 Kalashnikovs."
The fact that Eritrea is a police state was further attested by the State Department Human Rights last year. The report noted:
"Police were responsible for maintaining internal security, and the army was responsible for external security; however, the government utilized the armed forces, the reserves, and demobilized soldiers to meet either domestic or external security requirements.
Agents of the National Security Office, which reports to the Office of the President, were responsible for detaining persons suspected of threatening national security.
Police generally did not have a role in cases involving national security, but they were heavily involved in rounding up individuals evading national service. During the year the police, armed forces, and internal security arrested and detained persons without due process and often used violence.
Police forcibly arrested individuals on the street who were unable to present identification documents. Those in the government national service were required to present “movement papers” issued by their offices or departments authorizing their presence in a particular location.
Those persons who did not present “movement papers” were arrested. Participation in the national service program, which is of indefinite duration and requires conscripts to perform a wide variety of military and nonmilitary activities, is mandatory. Impunity for abuse was the norm."
In the interview on ESAT, Andargachew made even funnier remarks. He said: "there is no corruption in Eritrea".
However, this runs counter to any assessment conducted by reputed international organs. For example, the recent State Department report described the situation as follows:
"Some persons who benefited from preferential treatment due to perceived loyalty to the government subsequently were denied services such as housing when their political loyalties appeared to change.
Judicial corruption was also a problem, and acts such as property expropriation generally were not prosecuted when military or security officials or those seen as being in favor with the government carried them out. The UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea as well as others cited allegations that leaders of the country’s armed forces, including General Teklai Kefle, were involved in trafficking in persons.
Members of the armed forces were also said to engage in illicit trade in arms and black market sales of goods such as diesel fuel and cement. Members of the armed forces also were said to visit Eritrean refugees in camps in Sudan occasionally to offer illicit passage to third nations in exchange for the payment of large fees. Some who accepted passage under these circumstances claimed to have been abused.
There were reports of police corruption. Police occasionally used their influence to assist friends and family in facilitating their release from prison. There were reports that police demanded bribes to release detainees. There were no effective mechanisms to address allegations of official abuse, and impunity was a problem.
Reports of corruption existed in the government’s issuance of identification and travel documents, including in the passport office. Individuals requesting exit visas or passports sometimes had to pay bribes. The government had a history of nationalizing profitable private companies, although during the year it was in the process of privatizing several large state-owned firms."
Andaregachew Tsegie went further to say, on ESAT: "what did Eritrea do to deserve its current pariah state in the international community? What did Eritrea do that no other country does?"
However, it is a widely reported matter that Eritrea has been under UN Security Council sanctions since December 2009. The UN Security Council Resolution-1907 imposed an arms embargo on Eritrea and a travel ban and asset freeze on some military and political leaders, calling on the nation to “cease arming, training and equipping armed groups and their members, including al-Shabaab, that aim to destabilize the region.”
Of course, ESAT and Andaregachew would not mention these facts under the pain of angering their financier Isaias Afeworki and thereby cutting their lifeline, which the money from Asmara.
The interview had a subtle message for other diaspora opposition parties too. Normally, the diaspora extremists usually receive Isaias's orders via lower officials without getting the chance to talk to him or they have to make two or three travels all the way to Asmara to get an appointment.
So, Andargachew Tsgie was so proud to tell us that he met Isaias Afeworki in person. The message to other diaspora opposition was that he and his website are dearer to the Eritrean dictator and can mess up their relation with Asmara.
The recent accolade to Isaias Afeworki, Ginbot 7 and ESAT, must be a reminder to Isaias that they are at his service.
However, ESAT's and Andargachew Tsige's display of affection and adoration for Isaias Afeworki may not be enough to expect a phone call from Asmara summoning them to Asmara receive new guidelines and the payment for the next six months. Therefore, the need to make show on the second area too.
The second area of spending is, as mentioned above, is "military and intelligence activities" for which they took six million payment from Eritrea.
However, Berhanu Nega et al know very well that any terror or insurgency attack on Ethiopia is a suicide mission. In fact, he doesn't have troops on the ground, nor does he intend to leave his comfortable hose in the United States to lead a real military activity.
Of course, Ginbot 7 has been claiming it has troops on the ground. It even reported to have killed and captured Ethiopian government troops. But this is an old trick. Almost every diaspora opposition have used this kind of make-believe story, so it hardly fools anyone anymore.
Moreover, since everyone aware of Ginbot 7's repeated empty promises, the military force tor didn't receive attention. Besides that the leaked tape had revealed that he is et trying to setup a single armed nit.
That was why Ginbot 7 needed to step up its claim following the adage that "the greatest lies are the believable lies".
Without an sense of shame, it declared that there was an "assassination plot that targeted the secretary of Ginbot 7: movement for Justice, Freedom and democracy, and commanders and high ranked officers of Ginbot 7 Popular Force".
It also said the attempt was done by Ethiopian government and was foiled by "the valiant Ginbot 7 popular force intelligence unit".
Mind you, just two or three months ago, we learnt from the leaked audio that Ginbot 7 was trying to form a 'ganta' (an armed nit of 10-20 members).
However, this non-existent arm somewhat has "commanders" and also a "valiant intelligence unit". That is not it. They are already skilled and effective enough to withstand an operation by the armed forces of Ethiopia.
This story may not convince most Ethiopians, even Ginbot 7 's members. But it can be believed by Isaias Afeworki.
After all, Isaias is known for living in a fantasy world. He believes he defeated Ethiopia in the border war, he thinks the world is conspiring against him; he believes he has the caliber to solve the middle east crisis and provide guidance for Africa, etc. etc. Therefore, any far-fetched story has the potential to fit into his dream world.
Moreover, as we mentioned above, his generals are so busy with their illegal business - trafficking in persons, trade in arms and black market sales of goods such as diesel fuel and cement, etc.; therefore the have little time or interest to fact-check Ginbot 7 's claims. After all, they are concerned with presenting to Isaias what he wants to hear - success reports - rather than facts.
You might think, Ginbot 7 cannot go anymore weird, but it did. Ginbot 7 still needs to break another record.
Despite its adoration of Isaias Afeworki on ESAT, despite its make-believe "assassination plot", Ginbot 7 is still behind other Eritrea-funded groups like OLF, ONLF.
There have been official reports of past attempts by Ethiopia government to negotiate with OLF and ONLF and bring them to a peaceful political activity under the umbrella of the constitutional order. But Ginbot 7 never got such recognition. Perhaps, it will never get.
Therefore, it claimed through its mouthpiece ESAT that: "the government of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) made the calls for ‘negotiation’ with the opposition Ginbot 7 for a third time in two months" but it was rejected.
This reminds us the fable of The Fox and the Grape that was eloquently put by the Roman writer Phaedrus as follows:
"Driven by hunger, a fox tried to reach some grapeshanging high on the vine but was unable to, although he leaped with all his strength. As he went away, the fox remarked 'Oh, you aren't even ripe yet! I don't need any sour grapes.' People who speak disparagingly of things that they cannot attain would do well to apply this story to themselves."