Counting Eritrea’s Losses and the Immediate Challenges
Counting Eritrea’s Losses of the last 16years (for the period since 1998) that resulted due to the deficient policies and dictatorial rule of the Asmara regime shows the tremendous human and material losses of the nation. Even though the loss, destruction and suffering met by the Eritrean people and the nation are not totally quantifiable, there are several glaring figures that indicate to us the magnitude of the damage done and the ensuing human suffering for the present and the future generation. You read in the major world news outlets, browse in their web sites and watch their TV broadcasts - and their occasional stories on Eritrea portray the very grim situation in the county. The New York Times, The Globe and Mail, The Guardian, The Economist, CNN, Al Jezeera, BBC, VOA etc., have given their rare revelations on the happenings in Eritrea and the region during the recent years. International civic organizations such Amnesty International, World Human Rights Watch, Journalists without Borders, and various UN agencies have written on the human right deficiencies and the refugee problems of Eritrea. The major Eritrean web sites and various civic organizations in Diaspora are actively engaged in displaying and in discussing the latest political and socio-economic events in Eritrea. EriTV has also been giving its version of the Eritrean News. In addition there are various meetings in the Diaspora communities regarding the situation of the country. There are also the casual conservations on such national issues among country people in individual circles as well as in social functions. Some of these social gatherings are for mourning of the loss of relatives, neighbors and acquaintances of those Eritrean martyrs of the recent border war, or for those Eritrean refugees that perished in the deserts of Sahara, or in the Senai torture chambers or in the recurring sea drowning disasters etc. These sad social events bring the reality of the losses close to home; and with the pains from these losses being felt in almost every Eritrean household there is no way of refuting the truth of these occurrences.
One gathers from all the above accumulated information that the Eritrean people have lost much and still continue to lose a lot. The nation is still haemorrhaging relentlessly. Various nationals with concern ponder on the ongoing situation of the country in quest of solutions. And many are taking measures they believe to be appropriate in their own ways, mostly fragmented. The problem being of national nature, it needs to be tackled by the Eritrean people in a united front. The common ownership of the aggregate problem requires clarity in the general magnitude and make-up of the diverse problems. For this reason the following summary as extracted from the above sources is provided to show the real nature of the problems and the depth of the suffering faced by the Eritrean people. It indicates in brief the gravity of the problem with the aim of focussing on the effective measures required for bringing about the desired change.
Eritrea’s Human Capital Loss and The Sufferings of The People
Here are some quantifiable figures for the human life lost and suffering faced by the Eritrean people in the recent “independence years”
(1) Over 20,000 deaths and 1,000,000 displaced Eritreans in the border war ignited by the DIA over the village of Badme. These deaths were mostly from the Eritrean youth – (1998-2001)
(2) Over 15,000 Eritreans have perished – trying to flee their country and become refugees. – This is due to the illegal actions and deficient policies of the regime. These are mostly from the Eritrean youth. This figure includes:
- Those killed along Eritrea’s borders, due to DIA’s policy of - “shoot to kill”
- Those thousands of Eritrean refugees that perished in the deserts of the Sahara within Sudan, Libya and Egypt,
- Those murdered by the cruel hands of Bedouins in the torture chambers of Sinai, and
- Those that drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to cross to Europe
(3) Over 20,000 of Eritreans are languishing and suffering in various prisons in Eritrea and in several countries of the world - due to the illegal actions and deficient policies of the regime. These are again mostly from the Eritrean youth. This figures includes:
Over 12,000 that are in various known and unknown prisons in Eritrea – located in various parts of the country – Karcheli, Hazhaz, Sembel, Agip, Tsetserat, Mai Serwa, Tract B, various police stations in Asmara, the prisons of Adi Abito, Kushet, Adi Nafas, Mendefera, Adi Kuala, Dekemhare, Adi Keih, Keren, Idaga, Alla, Abatkala, Assab, Klima, Gahtelay, Gedem, Massawa, Nakura, Dahlak, WiA, MiEtir, Halhale, Mai Dima, Barentu, Adi Erde, Sawa, Eira-Ero, and those in hundreds of other villages – languishing in metal containers, steel and concrete silos, warehouses, underground caves, earthen chambers, in fenced enclosures
(4) Over 8,000 that are suffering in prisons in Djibouti, Yemen, Egypt, Sudan , Libya, Malta, Israel, Indonesia and other countries in various parts of the world – including those that are suffering in the hands of human traffickers .
(5) Over 400,000 (that is about 10% of the Eritrean population) - are currently refugees - in camps and other refugee centers in the Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Uganda, Yemen, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Malta, Italy etc. – indefinitely waiting for resettlement in any country - where possible. These are people who left the country mostly in the last 13-years due to the oppressive actions and policies of the dictatorial regime of Eritrea. They are mostly from the Eritrean youth. They are considered Eritrea’s Brain Drain and Human Capital Flight – They live in miserable conditions - without work, education or hope of any sort. They try to move to the developed nations of Europe, America and Australia for resettlement – through very risky ways and following the usual routes taken by many before them, which frequently end up in disastrous situations. Remember the recent mass drowning in the Mediterranean Sea near Lampedusa where 366 souls perished in single day!
(6) Over 150,000 immigrant workers – in various countries of Africa - (Ethiopia, South Sudan, North Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, Botswana, Angola, South Africa and others) and the Middle East – (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Lebanon) – These are unsettled and mostly waiting for their return “home” – May be they will be back in Eritrea when the nation becomes democratic and economically accommodating in the future – or they will move and settle elsewhere, where there is peace and justice prevailing. Of these some 50,000 are professionals and entrepreneurs – engineers, doctors, and various business people – merchants, technicians, craftsmen, skilled workers, and house-workers. These again are considered Eritrea’s Brain drain and Human Capital Flight.
(7) Over 250,000 are the resettled Diasporas of Eritrea which have secured resettlement in various western countries of Europe and North America as well as in Australia and New Zealand. These are living in democratic states and enjoy the various liberties and opportunities of life available in these countries. Several of them aspire to return to their country of origin if the country could be ruled under a constitutional government which honors justice and democracy. They include various professionals, scholars, business people, technicians, skilled workers, skilled and unskilled labourers. These also are Eritrea’s Brain drain and Human Capital Flight.
(8) Over 300,000 are conscripts and members of the Eritrean army – mostly consisting of the youth – a large number have been in the ”national service” for years – some serving over 15 years. This “national service” consists mostly of free labour in various construction works with conscripts toiling for years under duress merely as “slave workers” – The stations of engagement are scattered all over the country mainly in remote sections of the country – including in the-cold highlands and the hot desert areas of the country where amenities of living are practically non-existent. The service men and women thus live under harsh living conditions with no proper shelter, no adequate food supply, no sufficient clothing and other living necessities. Through tight control of their identity papers they are kept under bondage that limits their movements in their localities and the country as a whole. They live under intimidation and severe punitive environment including experiencing verbal abuses, brutal beatings, various tortures and detentions in on-site prison of their stations or “Ahadus” - In most cases these “Ahadu” prisons consist of underground cells. All these punitive measures are for any small lapse by the conscripts in following the rules of their stations or “Ahadus”. This is in essence forced labour or slavery – with practices of mass torment of the youth to cow them and keep them under perpetual control.
(9) Some 4 million are the ordinary people presently living in Eritrea under the repressive regime – virtually living in a large nationwide prison. – They are living with no basic human rights or civil liberty of any kind - surviving on bare minimum nutrition mainly consisting of ‘wedi-Aker’ (a type of millet from Sudan used mostly there as animal feed) rations – This is the essence of a poor malnourished nation quietly trying to survive each day under the grips of a repressive regime. A muzzled people who are continuously intimidated by the mafia regime and its watch dogs – This is a nation with a high number of rural people with out education - kept deliberately ignorant of their rights and misinformed continuously by the regime. To this end the regime uses its media power to propagate false information on daily bases - (1) through its radio – Dimitsi Hafash (This is becoming a misnomer!); (2) through EriTV (Serving the Truth – or Lies?) and - (3) through the only one national daily news paper Hadash Eritra (this is another misnomer for a Tragically Failed State?) – Furthermore, the regime also uses many neighborhood meetings, seminars and “festivals”, and “Expos”, organized by its lackeys for the purpose of false propaganda dissemination and mass manipulations. In the present age of information technology the Eritrean people are being knowingly deprived of an adequate internet service by the regime through systematic choking of the public network - thus rendering the service useless for any worthwhile national or international communication. Here is a population exposed to gross injustices on daily bases by what it considered its emancipators. Arbitrary imprisonment of ordinary people is common occurrence. If a national service conscript is not at his or her post and is suspected of crossing the border, the aging parents are held responsible by the regime and it forces the family members to pay 50,000Nakfa per head or risk going to prison. This was a frequent cruelty that was suffered by hundreds of families all over the country. Imprisonment of people because of their faith or their political views is common. Thousands of Christians and Muslims have been imprisoned for their faith. And several high ranking officials, and journalists have been jailed since September 2001 without due course of law merely for expressing their views on national issues. Several prominent religious leaders are languishing in high security prisons denied of justice and hope of release - merely because they are of certain faith. The regime did not shy away from imprisoning the Patriarch, the head of the Orthodox Church for opposing the illegal detention of believers.
(10) The Eritrean people have undergone through a painful history of subjugations and human sufferings during the last two centuries under the hands of foreign invaders and occupying forces. This is up to the year 1991, the time of “independence”. However the subjugations and human suffering of the Eritrean people still continued to prevail after only a short respite period consisting of only seven years during the early days of the “independence”. Even during this brief period, there were signs of the abusive “meda” behaviours which the people chose to ignore maybe hoping they are only short lived. But in time it was more of unbelief and total attitude of denial - that was slowly sinking into the population. And when reality quietly surfaced with time, it was a life full of mistrust and fear that followed - draining the desires and capacity of the people to fight back against the abuse and brutality of the regime. The revival of the Eritrean people from its extended dormancy is long overdue. It needs to rise up in-order to restore its dignity and its rights for a just and democratic rule of its nation.
(11) The above indicated human sufferings and losses as well as the ensuing population upheavals are those that occurred after “independence” - all through the dictatorial governance by the leadership of the liberating forces in particular the DIA and his close-knit clique (the PFDJ leadership). The entrenchment of this repressive regime was totally unexpected. The peoples of Eritrea did not deserve any of this suppression and abuse from their own flesh and blood - after their tremendous sacrifices in supporting the liberation movement during the 30 years of struggle. They fully trusted the leadership of the liberating forces and they were hoping for guidance into peaceful democratic rule by their own kinsmen. And towards that, the Eritrean people whole heartedly voted in 1993 on the national referendum for the reaffirmation of the nation’s independence. They also actively participated in the formulation of the nation’s constitution up to 1997 anticipating its immediate implementation thereby starting the democratic process. However the Eritrean people were betrayed by those they trusted. The progress towards a peaceful democratic rule was derailed by the DIA and his clique through the deliberate launching of the border war in 1998 followed with the silencing of the liberal opposition in the state leadership, removal of basic human rights and civil liberties in 2001 - and the entrenching of authoritarian rule thereafter.
(12) Under the false pretext that Ethiopia (under the influence and the support of America) has still hostile intentions on Eritrea, the regime made a resolute effort to continuously maintain a huge army mainly consisting of conscripts - all forcefully mobilized in the name of national service. The truth is that Ethiopia is fully immersed in its own fast moving economic development programs – quietly minding its internal business while repeatedly calling for dialogue for lasting peace between the two neighboring nations. The regime in Eritrea initially used this no-war and no-peace situation as an excuse for the non-implementation of the democratic process. However the true reason has been revealed in-time by the leadership of the regime exposing its falsehood filled arrogant view that the Eritrean people are not ready yet for democracy. In so doing it further exposed its own egoist desires and ill placed dictatorial agenda. There is no hope left for the people of Eritrea to satisfy their hunger for justice and democracy from the evil mind set of this regime and its sick leadership
(13) The youth of the country were the main target of the repressive policies of the regime. Their education has been hard hit at all levels and the life of the future generation has been recklessly compromised by this regime. Class rooms without teachers are frequent occurrences in many parts of the nation. Books for various subjects are not available in almost all schools. Youngsters merely count the years of schooling that pass by without acquiring adequate knowledge and skills for the life that awaits them. During the last year of high school in Sawa, the education provided there is again deprived of its essence. It is instead filled with exhaustive military exercises that at the end of the year it results with over 75% dropouts. And of the successful graduates only 50% of them - those with highest grades - have the opportunity to “higher” education. The rest are mostly thrown into the unending life of drudgery as conscripts for the national service. The deterioration of the quality of education in schools over the years of independence is so pathetic that most high school graduates practically lack simple English language skills. This can be seen clearly in the communication skills of the youth within the country as well as among refugee youths abroad. The single university the country had has been closed by the regime thirteen years ago. This is a tragic blow to higher education in Eritrea. The colleges and institutes that were started by the regime in place of the university are ill equipped and inadequately staffed – run as boot camps under military type administration. The “higher” education provided in them is of poor quality that they have no chance for accreditation in their present status. A nation without proper education is totally hopeless and will remain ignorant and poor condemning its people to a life of injustice, poverty and misery.
(14) During the last fifteen years, the regime through its totalitarian policies has ruined the young economy that was reviving during the early years of “independence”. The government ministries have been rendered institutionally non-functional deliberately. There is no worthwhile work they do that benefits the people except to extend the repression of the regime on the people. The agricultural sector which is predominantly peasant based was deprived of the young labour force through the enforcement of the limitless national service period. The productivity of subsistence farming which was poor by tradition was left in ruins by the removal of the young labor force from the rural areas. The variable climatic conditions with endemic drought occurrences in the region have worsened the productivity of the rain-fed agriculture of the country making the regime’s dream of food sufficiency merely a mirage. The regime talks a lot about irrigated agriculture. But its activities and “shows” in this area are of minimal effect - reaching no-where beyond its schemes of propaganda and wholesale deceptions. The Gerset and Fanco irrigation schemes totalling less than 3,000 hectares in developed area are only useful for such deceptive media displays on EriTV than actual production. The country had much larger area of irrigated area in Aligider, Aqordet, Elaberid, Ginda etc., from former times but these have been degraded and made destitute by the mismanagement of the regime. Furthermore the actions of the regime of forcing the peasants to sell their farm produce at low prices robbed the meagre incentive of the old farmers to work diligently on their small holdings. Facing food shortages the regime has no choice but to import. It imports “wedi Aker” and a few other basic commodities– to meagrely supply the population through its restrictive rationing system. This is another way of controlling the population through its stomach. Rationing of bread, sugar, cooking oil, etc., is part of the controlling mechanism of the regime. The public market though containing food commodities in visible quantities, the prices are extremely high, making purchases possible only for the few well to do or those that get remittance support from relatives in the Diaspora.
(15) The miseries of the Eritrean people are countless. The people of the capital city – Asmara now a decaying city in all forms - suffer from shortage of water in most of its populous neighborhoods. Electricity black outs for days are common in Asmara, and in several of the towns and villages connected to the grid system. Fuel shortage is becoming endemic and black market sources are widely available mostly for the few well to do. Already the official price of fuel is one of the highest in the world. And the black market cost of fuel is extremely high. The numerous poor sections of the population live without adequate energy amenities like cooking fuel resulting in untold hardship and misery in their daily lives.
(16) Housing shortages are widespread in Asmara and the regional towns of the country. With the housing construction by the private sector being at a standstill for almost the last ten years, due to the policies of the regime, the issue of shelter is becoming another nightmare for a large portion of the population. The regime has stopped the construction of housing by the private sector by controlling land ownership, by willfully creating construction material shortages (no private importation of cement, steel and timber is allowed legally), by closing private construction firms from legal practice, by depleting skilled and unskilled labour from the private construction sector through forcing the young labourers into its program of national service – forced slavery scheme. Contraband construction materials such cement, steel, timber and other offshore commodities are available in the market but their prices are extremely high. Similarly labour consisting of deserting conscripts is sometimes available but it is short lived as the regime thugs usually roam around construction sites hunting and forcefully removing the labourers from their paid works and imprisoning them. Due to these deliberate anti private sector construction policies no affordable housing has been under construction during the last 15 years to cover the needs of the ordinary people, particularly the low income population of Asmara and the towns. The house rent prices have been continuously increasing making it impossible for the poor to rent in the city and major towns. People have no choice but to move to the villages surrounding the city and the larger towns. The relationship between the homeowners and renters has become toxic and highly antagonistic that trust and affection is being lost among people in the city and the towns. There are numerous feuds among homeowners and renters. The regime enjoys governing these divided people exploiting the mistrust and hatred amongst them to maintain a seemingly quiet but smoldering situation.
(17) The industries that the country had unto independence were old and deteriorating functionally due to lack of maintenance and spares during the liberation war years. And whatever was left standing deteriorated further and some of them virtually disappeared during the last twenty years. The Asmara glass bottles factory, the Assab oil refinery, the Elaberid agro-industry, Aligider Cotton Mill, Asmara Steel and metals factory etc., are a few examples of the latter. The small number of manufacturing plants that remain, struggle to survive under the choking policies of the regime which blocks imports of essential raw materials and spare parts from abroad. Practically no worthwhile industry was erected to benefit the Eritrean people during the independence period. The cement factory that was erected near Hirgigo by the regime has remained inefficient and unproductive from the start due to lack of adequate power and other technical difficulties. The regime builds on the impulsive desires of DIA. He does not believe in proper planning – that is why the country has a capital city and major towns as well as factories that lack adequate power, show-case road routes that are rarely used by its people, and a poorly planned airport that is of no immediate necessity to the nation. The regime has squandered the natural resources of the country through its irresponsible actions and belligerent policies. The Bisha gold mine revenue is not accounted for and the nation’s treasury (the Ministry of Finance) has no access to its transactions. Instead of using the revenues from this mine for the benefits of the Eritrean people, the regime is suspected of using it for its subversive activities against neighboring countries. The ports of Massawa and Assab have been rendered useless and their once striving and prosperous populations have largely abandoned them. Massawa, with a population of 80, 000 in 2000, now has less than 45,000 inhabitants. Assab which had some 70,000 people in 1997 is with a population of less than 8,000 in 2012. The income from the services of these two ports would have been large enough to finance several of the nation’s important economic developments. Instead they were relegated to be idle in perpetual decay while the neighboring port of Djibouti is seen continuously growing and collecting all the rich service revenues (estimated about $1.5billion in 2012) of this region’s ports.
(18) Passing through the above adverse situation the peoples of Eritrea have experienced deep pains, wide spread deprivations and horrendous human sufferings, particularly during the last 15 years of “independence”. The above figures are some of the tangible indicators of the magnitude of sufferings and deprivations the people are subjugated. But there are many untold stories of pains and sufferings of the Eritrean people that evolve and continue to evolve from the actions and policies of this regime. Each and every Eritrean home has been torched and is still being torched by these human sufferings and national losses. The tears are still flowing and the painful cries of suffering people (including those emanating from the Sinai torture chambers) are resonating and echoing in households across the country and the families scattered all over the world. Deep sorrow, depression, wide spread fear and resigned hopelessness reign over this painful nation. The thousands that fled the country in different directions in search of peace, liberty and livelihood elsewhere follow painful and fatally risky journeys, several of them meeting disastrous heart wrenching endings. Most of those that safely cross the borders remain hopelessly in agonizing unsettled conditions of life in neighboring countries and in hostile distant lands. The consequences of these tragic situations have definitely adversely affected the present generation - and will negatively affect the lives of the future generations and the very essence of nationhood of the Eritrean.
(19) The people in the country live in total deprivation and in sordid agony, in widespread mistrust of authority including compatriot citizens, in continuous dread and endless tension. The regime instead trying to relieve the burdens of the people it further tightens its grip and worsens their miserable living conditions. It unleashes new versions of repressions on the population on daily basis. Instead of food, shelter and peaceful environment it forcefully distributes guns and ammunitions to citizens and it spreads its atmosphere of terror in all neighborhoods of all the population centers. Through such actions of the regime the condition in the country is gradually deteriorating into highly risky situation. The ordinary Eritrean people are highly cultured, peace loving and respectful to each other and have kept a calm status quo nation-wide. This is a highly persevering but greatly frustrated population which has kept its anger controlled in its long-term patience. However under prolonged subjugation and living in smoldering risky situation, the unpredictable spark can easily erupt any time, ushering the population and the nation into total chaos and disastrous consequences. Therefore there is need for urgent intervention by the united front of all the national opposition forces to contain the advancement of this dangerous trend before it becomes too late to avert.
THE MISSED OPPORTUNITIES AND THE CHALLENGES AHEAD
The Road Towards The Institution of Democracy
For a nation to strive through the will and full involvement of its people, the institution of democracy is essential. The aspirations, visions, and national needs instilled into each individual citizen are addressed through each individual’s voice freely expressing itself through the ballot box and through its elected representatives freely expressing on the citizen’s behalf in the various levels of constituent assemblies. True unity and effective growth of the nation will be achieved only through the institution of democracy. The Eritrean people in anticipation for a free, peaceful and prosperous nation, whole heartedly voted in 1993 on the national referendum for the reaffirmation of the nation’s independence. They believed also that the constitution is the foundation of the nation’s democratic governance – and that it stipulates the fundamental principles and precepts of the country’s supreme law through which the nation is to be governed by the people and for the people. It was with the recognition of these basic beliefs and principles that the Eritrean people actively participated in the formulation of the nation’s Constitution during the years 1994 – 1997. And on the historic date of 23 May 1997 the National Constituent Assembly approved and solemnly ratified, this Constitution as the fundamental law of the Sovereign and Independent State of Eritrea. However immediately after this event the document was shelved away by the arrogant president of the nation who had a sinister agenda of his own under his sleeve. To the surprise of many in mid-1998 a border war was deliberately ignited by this leader - and this dramatically changed the course of the nation into an openly belligerent totalitarian state.
A precious opportunity for democratic governance was lost to satisfy the selfish desires of the nation’s leader for one man dictatorial rule. The voice of the whole Eritrean people was silenced and the aspirations for justice and democracy have been stifled. The result is the continuous deprivation and abuse of the Eritrean people. The sufferings and pains of the people, indicated briefly in the above paragraphs, increased and became wide spread reaching every Eritrean household in the country and outside. The leadership totally lost its credibility and its fame in history. It will be remembered instead for its selfish and disgraceful actions on its own people. It will be remembered for robbing the Eritrean peoples’ human dignity and the rightful ownership of the nation. It will be remembered for betraying the trust of the people. It will go in to the records of the nation’s history as a cruel regime that destroyed the lives of a full generation of Eritrean youth through its senseless rule and misguided policies. Judgement day is very near. Everyone will reap what he has sowed. And in the end the truth will prevail - and the truth shall set the captives free.
By shelving the peoples’ constitution and derailing the democratic rule the DIA and his followers dragged a promising young nation of Eritrea into the sick bed of a failed state. In so doing they brought endless misery and sufferings to their own people and they also condemned their own lives into the abyss of history. The country that rose from the blood and bones of its martyrs lies presently as a severely wounded nation waiting for its brave people to react and restore its rightful nationhood. The people who have been deprived of their rights are crying for the institution of the rule of law. The present Eritrean leadership which has a “shifta” mentality should be disposed off - and the rule of the jungle (rule of the gun) should be removed and replaced by the rule of law. The shelved Constitution should be revived and instituted for the rebirth of the nation. The institution of a democratic process is not new for the people of Eritrea. Before most African nations had the opportunity, the Eritrean people had the experience of participating in various national elections and in carrying out meetings and deliberations in various levels of constituent assemblies. It is a highly disciplined and cultured people which have the tradition of mutual respect among its fellow country people, appreciation of wisdom within its ranks, and the deep love and care of its national unity as well as its sovereignty. Thus the institution of the democratic process has a very high-degree of possibility to succeed in Eritrea in-spite of what the enemies of the Eritrean people including the DIA often propagate.
The Need for a United Front
The primary challenge that is faced by the Eritrean people is how to bring about the required regime change. While the actual change will come by the popular uprising from inside there is need for input from Eritreans in Diaspora. There is need for organized grass roots movement in communities in Diaspora. The UNITY of all the opposition forces outside the country is very essential to effectively support the forces of change inside the country. The outside force has the resources and the higher magnitude of communication skills that is required by the forces inside country. It has also the higher ability of mobilizing support from the International community. The most important ingredient for change is the UNITY of the opposition forces be it inside or outside the country - this will be the resultant force required to remove the existing repressive regime effectively. Thus another immediate challenge facing the advocates of change for Eritrea is bringing unity in the opposition forces.
The Forto revolt in January 2013 and the Lampedusa mass drowning in October 2013 are two recent events that have ignited the desire of change for Eritrea more vibrantly than ever. These events had powerful impact on the people of Eritrea inside and outside the country, touching most and sending many into deep soul searching moods. Particularly the Lampedusa tragedy in which over 360 Eritreans refugees perished in single day trying to cross into Europe was a very painful blow to most Eritreans all over the world bringing a lot of sadness, deep anguish and huge buried anger for the population inside the country. Lots of vivid sorrow and open anger was noted in many quarters of the Diaspora communities. What followed is the significantly candid stance that has downed in the Eritrean communities abroad. One after the other more sections of the Diaspora have stood up boldly and publicly condemning the regime for its repressive policies and poor governance of the Eritrean nation. Wedi Vacaro’s tours to several North American and European cities and the meetings he held in each city with hundreds of Eritrean Community members were very outspoken and direct exposures of the misdeed of the Eritrean regime. These meetings have resulted in highlighting the need for a unified front in the opposition and shown the importance of coordination and consolidation of all opposition efforts. They have also resulted in focusing on the need of strong organization of the grass roots movement in the Diaspora to promote effective opposition from outside to jump-start or accentuate the struggle from inside the country. These meetings have been very instrumental in ushering the recent evolution of more potent organizations of grass roots movements in Eritrean Communities in Europe and America.
The media exchanges and presentations in the major opposition web sites – Assenna, Asmarino and Awate have shown more maturity, clarity and focus than before. There is need for more truthful communications as the prevalence of truth only can set the nation free from the falsehood of dictatorship. Radio broadcastings into Eritrea by the stations such as Erena, Assenna, Wogahta, Medrek etc., are effective tools in informing and educating some segment of the Eritrean population. They need to be strengthened in their magnitude of reach. The civic organizations in Diaspora have shown marked achievements recently in exposing the problems of Eritrean refugees and in confronting the human rights abuses by the Eritrean regime and human traffickers in region. But still whatever achievement they have scored, they should not make them complacent as there is need for more resolve and focused attention. The crimes of the Erirean regime and human traffickers on the Eritrean people are still continuing. The challenges are many and the several sections of the Eritrean society should be mobilized as a united body to confront them effectively.
The Eritrean woman is considered as the pillar of the Eritrean society. Standing beyond her own wellbeing she is there for the daily needs of her children, the youth as well as her man. She had a very significant role in the liberation struggle of the country. Trying to fulfill her motherhood role in the village she has been hard hit by the harsh conditions of life under the present regime as she has been deprived of the man’s and her children’s support in the village. The man and his young adult children, in most cases, are away serving the regime virtually without any pay leftovers for home. Thus she struggles alone at home and in the field to care for her precious little ones. She keeps her dissatisfaction mostly inside her, but at times passing her quest for relief from the most high above, she calls for divine intervention – She prays in agony ‘Wo Amlach MeHarena, Bimihretka Zekirena, - Wodaayo Nmekerana’. And chatting with friends on life issue, she mutters ‘Yerhuwo’ – ‘Yerhuwo dea’ - ‘Yerhuwo’ every time the pains become unbearable. She has faith that her prayers will be answered soon as was the case of her past history. In the Diaspora several women are in the forefront of the struggle against the dictatorial regime. A number of individual women in Diaspora are seen actively confronting the repressive actions of the Eritrean regime. The dedicated and energetic activities of some of these women are well recorded in achieving relief for many of our refugee compatriots and in exposing the human rights abuses by the regime. The recent single handed hunger strike for the proper handling of the Eritrean prisoners in Djibouti is a living testimony of a brave mother. The participation of women in an organized way in the struggle to bring about change will be very important particularly in engaging the greater half of the Eritrean society into the revolution of change.
Eritrea’s liberation history has taught us that the role of the youth in the national struggle to bring about change is crucial as the dynamism that is required to drive the process of change belongs rightfully to the young generation. This remains true now also as the ongoing plight of the nation is mostly directed on the youth. However, the prevailing struggle of the Eritrean youth, particularly that of the Diaspora youth, is highly fragmented and misplaced. In order to maintain a rightfully focused and effective struggle, there is need of further mobilization of the youth in Diaspora with more awareness creation and with further deepening dedication among the wider Eritrean youth members in various Diaspora communities. The united movement of the youth is essential. The many youth organizations in America and Europe should form a united front if their power is to be effective enough against the regime. There is further need also for the strengthening of the linkage of the youth in the outside with that of inside the country. Arbi Harinet is a commendable start that needs to be strengthened in other communication ways that includes various peaceful resistance strategies and methods. The experiences of other youth movements and the rich present day communication techniques can be useful for reaching out to those inside the closed nation.
In support of all the above the role of the scholars and the educated as well as the older generation will be very important - mostly as a valuable resource for deep intellectual knowledge and wider experience in the current community mobilization process including in educating and awareness creation in the national movement for justice and democracy. Later their role hand in hand with the roles of those other society members will be useful in the nation building exercise. The rich resources in this section of the Eritrean society should be made available for use in the restoration of the democratization process that was hijacked by dictatorial regime.
What we are confronting are Eritrean problems that should be commonly owned by all Eritreans. And as such each and every Eritrean has direct duty and responsibility of participating in bringing forth relevant solutions to these problems. We should not expect solutions from other quarters primarily, while we Eritreans particularly those in Diaspora in large numbers stand on the sidelines. Those inside the country are currently tightly controlled and do not have the liberty of speaking out in the open. However those in Diaspora who live with lots of liberty have the responsibility and capability of becoming their voices. History will question the roles of the current generations in the events of present day Eritrea. Each Eritrean individually or collectively as member of the Eritrean society should be ready to answer honestly to themselves and to national history at large, whether their roles are adequate enough to respond to the painful cries and calls of their country people at their darkest hour. Thus all sections of the Eritrean society need to stand together with their relevant contributions to overcome the brutal governance and sufferings of the Eritrean people emanating from the policies and actions of the dictatorial regime.
The current political movement that is evolving in the Diaspora needs more determination and dedication from each of its community members, in-order to bring about a unified agent of change in each of its geographical area of residence. As mentioned above every Eritrean in Diaspora has a role to play in bringing positive change to their country of origin and their individual participation in the political movement is very essential. Membership in the grass roots movement should be open for any Eritrean in Diaspora and it is the duty and responsibility of every Eritrean to willingly avail himself for active participation in the community of his locality. Communities should be linked to each other to form a strong bond at the base and at various levels up. The upward growth and strength of the organization depends on the substance and willpower of each member at the base. The unifying ideas should be kept as few as possible at the start. The call for change by the people for the people and the need for justice and democracy for the Eritrean nation can be the two rallying ideas for achieving the required unity at the start. Follow-up ideas will come out of the deliberations of the community members eventually. At this stage there is need to stand-up as one body to the urgency of the prevailing Eritrean situation – which is deteriorating gradually with time. The time for a united stand and for an active grass roots movement is already at hand.
The Eritrean People Stand United for Victory
Justice & Democracy Will Prevail