Eritrea:The authorized version of events
By Samuel N
The Eritrean government propaganda are so outrageous that even the hardcore government supporters have to tune-down government propaganda in an effort to make the claims seem less stupid.
Even critics often moderate many of the government’s claims just to make them reasonable enough to be critiqued (for the claims are silly beyond that possible to criticize).
The above is taken from my post a year ago, “Eritrea according to the government”. Then I discussed how the “authorized version” of Eritrea is nothing like the Eritrea people talk about. Government supporters and critiques alike routinely moderate the government’s stand on things. It’s not fair.
Below I have laid out the typical government position on various things. I am playing the sober government official. This piece is not a satire.
[At the moment I don't have time to find references. I ask my readers to send me references on these government responses (see details on end of post*) I will update this post regularly and keep an acknowledgement list (real or pen name). Thank you]
The authorized version of events
(1) Arrest of G-15
It is common knowledge that 15 or so high officials were arrested in 2001. Some people focus on the “how” and on minor technical details. Doing so they miss the big picture: “why?”
The G-15 were not arrested for criticizing or challenging the government. The Eritrean political culture is based on constructive criticism and discussion. Those officials were arrested for treason and for collaboration with the enemy. They trampled on the blood of our martyrs and decided to negotiate through back channels with our enemies (Western powers and Ethiopia) in order to ‘sell’ Eritrea for personal gains.
Talking on the “how” and on technical aspects of their arrest… true there might have been certain procedural oversights, or even blunders I dare say. But that should not divert us from the big picture. They deserve to be arrested. Justice needed to be done.
(2) Freedom of Press
Eritrea does not ban independent media inside the country. The closing down of the three or so non-Eritrean-government owned media had nothing to do with freedom of press. The reason these newspapers were closed in 2001 was because it was found that these newspapers were being subsidized and operated by Western elements. We have evidences that suggest they were being used by foreign intelligence agencies. Obviously we cannot allow foregn intelligence agencies to operate in Eritrea.
Various Western so called human rights and press freedom organizations have accused us of lack of press freedom. This is baseless accusation.
Reporters Without Borders for example has ranked Eritrea as having the lowest press freedom in the world while at the same time, simultaneously, ranking Eritrea alongside North Korea. This shows the West is ignorant of North Korea.
(3) Arrest of ‘journalists’
Our constitution guarantees freedom of press and the government holds this right dear. What must be emphasized is that the so called journalists who were allegedly arrested in 2001 were not arrested for their journalistic work. No one in Eritrea has ever been arrested for being a journalist.
(4) Closing of the only University
The University was restructured to meet the ever increasing number of new students. The university was restructured and its resources reallocated to various new colleges. The new colleges were purposely installed across all regions of the country to ensure equal development of all regions of Eritrea. In short the university was “multiplied” by opening new institutions of higher education.
As a result the number of students enrolling and graduating across the country has grown dramatically. The new colleges have their own challenges: they might also be less equipped, infrastructure is still basic and so on. But that is the price we are willing to pay for the future development of education for all.
(5) Detention of University students in 2001
In 2001 students of University of Asmara volunteered to work on development projects in their summer break. Accordingly the government assigned the students to participate in the reconstruction of their country by assigning them to work on rural Eritrea for the summer, which they did.
Some media outlets deliberately distorted this simple fact and made outrageous accusation on the government. They reported that because the university students refused to comply to work without compensation, the government had detained the entire student body (over 2,000 students) in a desert military camp at Wia (about 45 kilometres south of Massawa city) for months. Such reports are utter rubbish.
(6) Involvement with Al-Shabaab of Somalia
We have been accused of arming, training, and/or equipping armed groups including al-Shabaab. And hence become the victims of an un-just sanction by the UN Security Council since December 2009.
Eritrea supports the self determination of the Somali people and condemns the involvement of any foreign powers trying to institute puppet government in Somali.
The Eritrean government is committed to helping the Somali people by all diplomatic and political means. Other than that the Eritrean government has never armed, trained, and/or equipped any armed group in Somalia or in the region.
(7) Clashes with Djibouti
The United Nations and the Djibouti government claimed that Eritrea had military clashes with Djibouti on 10 to 12 June of 2008. Furthermore, they claim that Eritrea has refused to disclose information on Djibouti combatants killed or captured in these so called clashes.
The government of Eritrea deny there ever was any military clashes with Djibouti. The government, therefore, has no knowledge of and cannot produce the allegedly ‘missing’ Djibouti combatants.
If there was any minor border skirmishes between Djibouti and our border patrols: we deny any minor border skirmishes.
It is a shame that this false information, along with false allegations of trying to destabilize parts of Horn of Africa was used to impose UN sanction on Eritrea in 2009.
(8) Detention of Orthodox Patriarch: Patriarch Abune Antonios
The Eritrean Orthodox Church is the biggest Christian denomination in the nation. Regarding the administration of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, the government of Eritrea has knowledge of the following: Abune Antonios was elected Patriarch by the Holy Synod on March 2004 and enthroned as the third Patriarch of the Eritrean Church on April 2004. On January 2006 the Holy Synod decided to remove the Patriarch and elected Patriarch Dioscoros as his successor.
We have heard allegations that the Eritrean government was involved in removing the Patriarch. Some have even gone as far as accusing us of detaining His holiness the ex-Patriarch.
As matter of principle the Eritrean government does not involve in any internal working of religious organizations. We cannot comment on church internal procedures. We don’t keep track of citizens and we don’t have any reason to investigate the whereabouts of the ex-Patriarch Abune Antonios.
(9) Persecution of religions
Eritrea guarantees the freedom of thought and freedom of religion. Various Western so called human rights organizations (including the UN, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International) have accused us of religious intolerance. We stand accused of the banning of houses of worship, torture, arbitrary arrest persons based on religion (including Jehovah’s Witnesses, Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians, Orthodox Christians, and Moslems). In addition we stand accused of interfering in the religious orders and the administration of the Eritrean Orthodox, the Catholic, the Lutheran and the Moslem.
We deny all accusations.
(10) Restriction of travel within or outside the country
This piece of misinformation is repeated everywhere that it is often accepted by the gullible without question.
The government of Eritrea does not impose travel restrictions. This misinformation stems from the fact that Eritreans doing their military service under the National Service are not allowed to leave the country without completing their national duty.
In addition while doing military duty, conscripts are of course subject to certain restrictions of the army barracks they are in. this is standard procedure for any country. Otherwise any Eritrean who has completed his or her National Service is free to leave and enter the country just like anywhere in the world.
(11) Shoot-to-kill border policy
Eritrea is currently in a standoff with the Ethiopian occupiers. The Ethiopian government currently has occupied land that belongs to Eritrea and has refused to heed to the the final and binding arbitration of the The Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EECB).
Due to the extensive militarization of our borders and the repeated incursion of Ethiopian army units into our borders, people illegally crossing the border risk being mistaken for enemy combatants. So far the government has not reported of any incident (accident) in which a civilian was shot at, but it would not be unprecedented if that happens given the tense nature of our borders.
People caught leaving or entering our borders illegally are brought before civilian Court and processed according to the law. It is unthinkable that any citizen risks arbitrary arrest, torture or even death for crossing our borders illegally.
(12) Indefinite conscription
The Eritrean law requires that all men and women spend 18 months of National Service which includes six months of military training. Draft dodging is a crime and is punished as such. Cases are handled on a case by case bases and I cannot comment (nor can I remember by hart) on the possible punishment handed to individuals for draft dodging, but I can definitely guarantee that any punishment the Eritrean legal system issues if fair and fits the level of the crime.