Eritrea - Reality Defied by Autocracy without Borders

By Abdullah A. Ado
Feb. 04 2010

For those of us who originate from rural Eritrea (pastoralist and peasant communities alike) it is utterly disappointing to observe negative or indifference reactions exhibited by Eritrean Tigrinya highlanders who fail to understand our devastating plights within rural Eritrea. On our part considering highland opposition website editors like Awate and Asmerino as the voice of the opposition groups to Afewarki and his PFDJ-ruling junta, we tried to negotiate with them in good faith, but each time they force us to a condition where hell will break loose soon. Even when we come with our olive branches in good will gesture, Awate and Asmerino repeatedly refused to publish our articles of serious concerns. With an odd mix of xenophobia, contempt and supremacy, they denied us access not to reach Eritrean opposition groups with our opinions. Generally Eritrean Tigrinya highlanders evade from linking with and creating understanding between them and us; still they continue to look at peasants and pastoralists as their 2nd class citizens whose cases they bully, shovel and shelve as secondary matters. Indeed PFDJ, Awate and Asmerino Team are nothing but two faces of the same Eritrean Tigrinya highlander supremacists’ coin; where the latter two provide their indirect bare-foot soldier servitude to the former. But, at the end of the day, this will not do any good for Eritrea's future stability. So in what follows I write in plain language pointing out the reality on the ground.

Reality defied clouded by contempt:
Regardless of belligerent, bossy, denial, and headstrong empty pride manifested by Afewarki and his PFDJ-ruling junta and Eritrean highlanders who cling on to the status quo; by claiming that nothing political is happening on the ground in rural Eritrea; it was proved last month alone that our heroic pastoralist brothers and sisters had skirmishes against Afewarki's PFDJ-junta in different fronts with full determination and vigour. To this effect, suffice to cite the following 2- major events:
1) On December 29, Mr. Qernelios Osman, the leader of the Democratic Movement for the liberation of Eritrean Kunama (DMLEK), told AFP that the Security Council’s sanctions on Afewarki are a “good opportunity for the opposition” and that his forces are “inside Eritrea and will hit selected targets and institutions.”
2) On January 1st, 2010 two Eritrean rebel groups, the Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization (RSADO) and the Eritrean National Salvation Front (ENSF) conducted “lightning strikes” in two major PFDJ-junta reconnaissance stations by obliterating PFDJ’s Division-39 (at Senafe) and Division-13 (at Tserona) where heavy casualties were inflicted specifically at Agulae, Gunaguna, Mes’hal Akera and Kermed fronts; by killing over 50 PFDJ-soldiers, destroying 2-camps, leaving 38-injured and confiscating 11-Kalashnikovs (AK-47), 7-hand-grenades, and other infantry gears.

So the struggle is relentlessly on the move; and it will continue so until we, the group representing rural communities, strike a common deal with Eritrean Tigrinya highlanders to the points where: (a) our basic rights are kept in tact; (b) we have a say on whatever is affecting our livelihoods and lives; (c) our cultural and social ethos are left for peasants and pastoralists to determine; (d) our women are no longer snatched by Afewarki and his PFDJ-ruling junta officers to become concubines in towns against their will. And for as long as we are pushed aside, we will fight with full force causing a tsunami-like affects in Afewarki’s unresolved fiefdom.

Caught in nostalgic clock-stop syndromes:
Behind the facade that Afewarki and his ruling Junta would always like to portray as “equitable prosperity, Warsai-Yikealo, Asmara’s beauty and cleanliness, and patriotic pride, they omit speaking about Eritrea’s dark side where a human tragedy of grand proportion is in the making. In fact, what had started arrogantly and erroneously since the hay days of the 1960s with the revolution as “sacrifice undertaken for the sake of moulding Eritrea as a fiefdom” Afewarki’s tyrannical rule has reached its depths of despair where the rural population is asked to carry the brunt of the burden by continuing its sacrifice to save Afewarki and his empty supremacist arrogance. Ever since the 1960s, all that Afewarki and his ruling junta know proficiently well is nothing but forceful militaristic bravado. As a result, the rural poor are held tightly to a point where they are mercilessly exhausted by hard labour; and they are impoverished, famished, internally-displaced, and forced to go on refuge into neighbouring countries. The perverse logic of these paranoia sacrifices set no limit to Afewarki’s consistent demands for human force; nor do they set borders to his interference in neighbouring countries’ affairs. In the name of “national security and unity” Afewarki and his PFDJ-ruling junta control all media, the politics, and the economy by posting tens of thousands of people to labour 2 camps. Simply said, Afewarki barricades himself into a defensive bunker from which he surveys a world of conspiracy theories and “special interests” plotting against him; and clings on to his guerrilla rebel ideology and habits; which enforce his tyrannical values with its ill-conceived land expropriation, market monopolization, indefinite Sawa national service and pervert policy against external power. When all is said and done, under his grandiose mantra of “self-reliance” (or its media variation, “bitsifrina”), Afewarki and his PDFJ-ruling junta are taking the Eritrean fiefdom in a high speed down the drain. Following his venerable and long-standing banditry tradition of arrogance, blunder, denial, and pride, Afewarki is unwilling to admit the presence of public resentment against his “self-reliance” utopia held firmly with an odd mix of xenophobia and Eritrean highland Tigrinya supremacy.

An Autocrat without Borders:
Tyrant Afewarki, Shaabia and PFDJ-junta are nothing but arrogant paranoids determined never to admit even a single mistake they committed within the last half a century. On the contrary, they finger point and put the blame on external forces beyond Eritrea. In fact, Afewarki uses specters of security threats to justify his authoritarianism. Out of sheer Eritrean highland “ghedli” culture of arrogance, blunder, contempt, denial, and empty-pride Afewarki blames others everywhere else for all the problems cropping up within his fiefdom; but never on his power-mongering political machinery circle. As always, Afewarki’s priorities are: buying all kinds of military gadgets; fighting left and right without borders; financiering all kinds of militant groups coming from the region; engaging his PFDJ-junta in clandestine piracy and banditry operations; setting secretive pacts and deals with regimes opposed to the Western world; and continuing with his utopia policy backed by his banditry tricks funnelling deaths and destruction. Yes, Afewarki is tirelessly experimenting with his wasteful white elephant projects within his fiefdom and camouflages his banditry acts with lame excuses usually bundled with musically orchestrated annual celebrations of “martyrdom”. By squeezing out the youth group from villages, he tasks them with Sawa where they ultimately become cannon fodders of his persisting military operations. Playing on Eritrean Tigrinya highlanders' sentiments and psychic, Afewarki knows perfectly well how to get away with his age-old “Eritrea’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” mantra. It is with these tricks and traps he bargains excuses from the Eritrean Diaspora; and even milks their hard earned currency into his treasury. Whereas Issayas Afewarki presides over his subjects with unapologetic and repressive ruling mantras; whereas his top secretive and hermit like PFDJ-junta remains loyal to Afewarki’s “self-reliant” utopia; whereas Afewarki persistently fights left and right without borders; Eritrea still undergoes through its unfinished fiefdom formation exercises.

Overall, obsessed with autocratic control of every resource within his fiefdom, Afewarki remains an iron-handed ruler, whose secrecy of “self-reliance” utopia is to maintain his central power by imposing a 4-pronged policy as indicated below:
a) Finger pointing on CIA& external forces: Afewarki has made it customary to accuse CIA and the Western world of supporting and funding Eritrean opposition groups; a ploy to siphon-off the badly needed hard currency to Shaabia’s standing coffers.
b) Land policy: Afewarki and his ruling junta have grabbed prime farmlands; by depriving peasants and pastoralists their most productive farmlands and livestock products; and relegating them into smaller and infertile plots and to ownership of fewer livestock herds.
c) Market policy: Afewarki has made farm and livestock products inaccessible to sellers and buyers.
d) National service policy: Afewarki has gutted villages across Eritrea out of their productive labour forces and conscripted these into Sawa-garrisons.

Plainly speaking, Issayas Afewarki’s “self-reliance” policy is directed at centrally controlling over: (1) CIA and Western aggressions, (2) land, (3) market mechanisms, and (4) labour. Hence, Afewarki has mounted his wide-spread tentacles on his slave-labour (Warsai-Yikealo projects) where every morning every waking person is asking why the hell he or she has to toil and suffer so much at the mercy of Afewarki; the tyrant without borders; the master who must be obeyed by all and any means. Fixated at moulding Eritrea as a totalitarian fiefdom, Afewarki expropriates the communal resources of the rural poor. The reason is simple. If they are permitted to maintain their livelihoods as usual, then “Afewarki’s key task of nation crafting would be badly affected; and his pompous “honour and pride” would equally be ruined. So instead, the rural poor are coerced to suffer to the point of death in order to ensure Afewarki’s personal pride and his fiefdom crafting project in tact. And to Afewarki, this entire episode can be curbed up by his attendance of the regular annual “martyrdom” memorial ceremonies for the fallen. So Afewarki continues to strike left and right without borders with his Shaabia military operations yet in preparation for more martyrdom offers; and what we are witnessing is keeping the status quo of decades of banditry exercises led by Afewarki and Shaabia both internally within Eritrea and externally in the internal affairs of neighbouring countries. Internally his dubious acts are stretching from rampant land expropriation to all kinds of monopolization; and from Sawa militarization. For a paranoid Shaabia banditry group, roaming around without borders, the only language it understands is waging war everywhere; and stretching its tentacles for a totalitarian control everywhere. For this autocratic tradition, Afewarki has three recurring themes: Firstly, Shaabia and the PFDJ-ruling junta have the appetite for extending their tentacles and tapping whatever hard currency comes into Eritrea. Secondly, they hold on to their irrational fear that empowering peasants and pastoralists will dethrone Afewarki from his tyrannical leadership role. Thirdly, amidst the periodic political and economic crisis taking place, Afewarki projects all problems as caused by CIA and external forces; and accuses them of funding Eritrean opposition groups to disturb the reconstruction of his fiefdom. Thus Afewarki never admits to gulp down his Eritrean highland Tigrinya empty pride. On the contrary, to him, it is Eritrean rural communities who have to carry the burden of their abject poverty on the one hand; and suffering quietly to defend Afewarki’s arrogance that is ever widening without borders. As if the metaphor: “In the country of the blind one eyed man is a king!” befits Afewarki’s tyrannical profile, the rural poor continue endlessly to “sacrifice” perverted through decades of brainwashing for “ghedli” to save Afewarki and his highland Tigrinya kin on power by paying final and irrevocable price with their lives. Next page >>> two