European Union fund bolstering Eritrea’s tyrannical rule
By Berhane Kahsay
Tigrai Online, October 30, 2015
The fate of the Ayder Elementary School Butcher is sealed his fate will be like that of Gaddafi.
The organised departure of Mola Asgedom and his TPDM entourage must have been a devastating blow to the ageing and reclusive leader of the pariah state. This operation which took a solid year to organise was directed and meticulously executed by Ethiopia’s Secret Services without raising the suspensions of Shabiya’s intelligence agencies.
Only at the eleventh hour, a turn-coat member of the TPDM vainly sought to scupper the mass flight but it was too late by then. The minor impact of the betrayal was that the point of entry into Ethiopia had to be changed at the last minute from Humara to Sudan and this necessitated the elimination of Shabiya soldiers who were in control of TPDM combatants exit.
A complex operation that took-up twelve months would not have been possible without an active co-operation of influential Eritrean figures within the ranks of the ruling government. Clearly, Ethiopia has successfully managed to penetrate Shabiya’s top army echelons as well as close associates of the elderly Eritrean leader whose hold on power seems to be weakening as time lapses. His own people have had enough of him and they are abandoning him in larger numbers including promising athletes, footballers and cyclists. More-ever, his comrades-in-arms appear to be involved in facilitating his demise by collaborating with his arch ‘enemy’ south of the border. Meles Zenawi’s policy on Eritrea that was implemented after the end of the border war has effectively destroyed Shabiya beyond repair without the need for a bloody military conflict.
The Eritrean ruler is desperately pleading for the UN’s punitive sanctions to be lifted as it has seriously destabilised his precarious rein. His country is literally broke and to make ends meet he has allowed Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), who are involved in the Yemeni civil war against the Houthis, to utilise his air space and territorial waters for loose change. Eritrean soldiers have also been embedded with UAE troops and are being used as cannon fodders for the mega rich Middle Eastern nation.
Time is running out for the hermit president and the latest planned EU aid package of $226.72 million would not delay the inevitable ignominious departure of the isolated and despised dictator. European leaders naively believe that the flow of Eritrean refugees could be halted by dangling tax payer’s money in the repressive tyrant’s face that derives great satisfaction by terrorising and humiliating his own people.
The carrot and stick policy proposed by EU states would certainly not alter the prevailing status quo but it would instead intensify the rampant human rights violation resulting in an increase in mass exodus to Ethiopia, Europe and other parts of the world. To consider engagement with a regime whose track record on human rights and democratic values are similar to the North Korean leader is simply flabbergasting.
A similar EU aid package of $130 million was previously provided to Eritrea in an effort to assist the Red Sea state with its ‘five-year national development plan’ and to improve its abysmal record on human rights and the rule of law. So what was the outcome?
According to the UNHCR, 5000 people flee the impoverished nation each month as a consequence of the chronic economic hardship, political persecution, arbitrary detentions as well as forced military conscription that begun in 1995. The number of Eritreans seeking asylum in Europe last year was estimated to be 46,000 and in recent years 400,000 have abandoned their homeland. Humanitarian agencies have disclosed that out of the 3000 people who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea this year, the vast majority of them hail from Eritrea.
With this deplorable and sad state of affairs, it is totally erroneous of the EU to believe that things would improve in Eritrea by pumping substantial amount of money whilst the person responsible for gross human rights violation remains at the helm. It does not matter how tight the Eritrean border becomes, hundreds and thousands would no-doubt leave their country to avoid repression and to look for a better life elsewhere notwithstanding the monumental dangers that await them along the way. The current tyrannical regime in Eritrea is unlikely to change, so what needs to be done to end it all and halt mass movement to Europe and neighbouring countries?
UN sanctions imposed on Eritrea has gravely weakened Shabiya’s two-decade long rule and recently this has been extended until 2016 by the Security Council. Latest statement released by Eritrea’s Foreign Ministry blamed Ethiopia and America for this decision that has been designed to compel the Eritrean leader to desist from his destructive activities in the horn region and beyond. It is clear from the brief press release that European countries were not in favour of the extension of the punitive punishment applied as a result of Eritrea’s involvement in financing and arming terrorists. The Ethiopian government should vigorously lobby the EU in order to secure their backing for the continuation of the UN sanctions when the case goes before the Security Council next year.
Support for the opponents of the unelected government in Eritrea especially the youth domiciling in the Diaspora including Ethiopia has to be up-scaled as well as this section of the community can play a decisive part in bringing the oppressive reign to an end. Stern action also needs to be taken against Shabiya operatives who forcibly collect 2% diaspora tax (aka extortion tax) from Eritreans living in exile in contravention of the UN’s Resolution 2023 that was enacted in 2011.
The Eritrean leader invariably links the extremely dire situation in Eritrea to the unresolved border dispute with Ethiopia that he ignited in 1998. He audaciously states that if Ethiopia was to accept The Hague’s binding verdict and implement it, the situation in Eritrea would be markedly different from what it is today. The prevailing no peace, no war status applies to Ethiopia as well but its economy has been growing continuously for over twenty years and its young democracy has clearly been showing signs of maturity. The border issue has been used as a convenient ploy to prolong the life of a repressive and murderous regime who would not hesitate to use any excuse under the sun to justify his stay in power. Life for Eritreans at home continues to be totally unbearable.
Extra-judicial killings and detention of political opponents in the most atrocious conditions has become the norm rather than the exception in today’s Eritrea; sheer terror and intimidation have been employed by the President to sustain his 24 years of brutal reign and seems to be determined to persist until his inevitable dissolution. On a number of occasions, the Eritrean leader has openly expressed his distaste for pluralism and his comrades who publically called for comprehensive political changes, have been locked up in freight containers since 2000 and what is left of them are unlikely to come out of their inhumane incarceration alive. To date, they have not been charged and their families have no knowledge of their exact whereabouts.
Pumping millions of EU money would not stop gross human rights abuse and mass exodus from Eritrea which has become second to Syria as the largest source of migrants who risk their lives to cross the Mediterranean. Extending the tenure of a dictator would be bad for Eritreans and neighbouring countries such as Ethiopia, Sudan, Djibouti and Somalia who have been the victims of the East African nation’s naked aggression. The Eritrean President has also distributed weapons to civilians as Kaddafi did, the intention being to create chaos, mayhem and bloodshed long after he is gone.
To ensure peace in the Horn region and to institute the rule of law in Eritrea, the current unelected President has to go as this is the only way that the mass voyage of Eritrean refugees to Europe and other destinations can be prevented. In the event of his exit, it is in the interest of Ethiopia to ensure the creation of a stable government that would be prepared to accept a practical and mutually beneficial border demarcation and an unrestricted use of the port of Assab by Ethiopia. Only a settlement of this nature will avoid costly conflicts from recurring in the future. Last but not least-- the Eritrean tyrant should also be brought before the International Criminal Court for rounding up and massacring innocent Tigrians living in Eritrea during the border war with Ethiopia.