Press Release: Open Letter to Prof. Asmerom Legesse
By EFND, EGS and ህዝባዊ ምልዕዓል
Date: 17 July 2016
As fellow Eritreans who care deeply about the plight of our people, we welcome your call for educated Eritreans to do their part. However, being keenly aware of the total lack of rule of law in Eritrea, we believe our role should be more constructive than what you are proposing (1). We need to find ways to truly liberate our people from the fear and terror they have been subjected to under a government they call their own. These being the facts on the ground, which we believe you are well aware of as well, it was disappointing to see you joining the likes of Yemane Gebreab (Eritrea’s Goebbels) and Osman Saleh, in dressing up a criminal regime that has been shattering the dreams of our people like no enemy has before.
Contrary to the campaign of disinformation you have chosen to spread, the COIE (2) did not rule against Eritrea or the Eritrean people. It ruled in their favor and against the oppressive regime. There is a huge difference between the two. Unlike you, Lady Kinnock, guided by decency and our shared humanity, makes the critical distinction between a brutal regime and a brutalized population. She is not the enemy of the Eritrean people as you accuse her falsely. Rather, she is a good friend, who is standing up for them – now as before. Are you making this key distinction and standing up for your people?
You said you are starting new investigations to discredit COIE’s finding and to nullify the victims’ testimonies. We are saddened to see a person of your caliber going this far down to defend a criminal junta. What did the COIE uncover that we Eritreans, in our hearts, didn’t know already? Did you miss the eloquent message of our Catholic bishops (ሓውኻ ኣበይ ኣሎ?), full of grace and admirable moral leadership every Eritrean, especially the elderly and the educated like yourself, should be aspiring for?
When you wrote the Uprooted (4), you based it on testimonies of victims and victims ONLY. You did not go out of your way to expand the scope to include theoretical third-parties, as you are planning to do now. Why the glaring disconnect? Criticizing the COIE now for using the same research methodologies you used yourself does carry a stench of hypocrisy, wouldn’t you say?
Your willful dismissal of the inhumane cruelties and incredible pain the victims went through, besides being devoid of reason and compassion, is deeply insulting. Please listen to Helen G/Amlak (3) and tell us why her voice and the voices of other victims are not a million times more relevant than your version of theoretical Eritreans who did not suffer these harrowing experiences. Helen and too many others have gone through hell already. The torture, the filth, the extreme temperatures in metal containers, and the utter disregard for human life Helen describes so eloquently are truths you are campaigning to bury. These are truths we believe you also know very well. Must Helen and your fellow citizens re-live their agonies again – this time at the hands of a highly educated grandfatherly figure who should be speaking on their behalf instead? ሰብ ኣቕሓ ኮይኑ ብኣጽንሓለይ ዝእሰረሉን ሓቒቑ ዝተርፈሉን ባይታ ዝፈጠረ ግዕዙይ ስርዓት እኮ'ዩ ዘሎና ፕሮፌሶር።
As one blessed with good education and old age, you could have chosen to spend your time in countless constructive ways. Yet, you chose to dim this new glimmer of hope by adopting the regime’s habitual disinformation campaign. What good is education and old age if it can’t speak truth to power?
As much as we abhor Naizghi Kiflu’s role, you know he was unfairly denied burial rights in his homeland, because the very person he served so well did not allow it. Isaias’s message was not to Naizghi’s corpse. It was to the living dead, essentially saying if I can do that to someone who served me so well, you don’t want to see what I can do to you. The disabled war veterans were massacred in 1994 to convey a similar message -- i.e. if disabled veterans are not safe, no one is. In this environment of fear and terror, loyalty does not buy you anything. All it takes is for one sadistic person to conclude you have outlived your usefulness. God help you when that day comes because loyalty and prior service are totally irrelevant. It is use-and-throw at its crudest -- the insanity so complete, the oppressive power so absolute and petty, even a corpse is not spared. This repulsive junta is what you have embraced and chosen to serve. Sadly, all at the expense of your own people.
Your claims of economic, social and cultural advances are simply laughable. Even if that were true -- and it is not -- your attempt to whitewash the regime's crimes with non-existent accomplishments is regrettable indeed. To an honest observer, there is no doubt Eritrea has gone backwards by decades and has been performing orders of magnitude below its potential. And there is no enemy preventing us from realizing this potential. Lady Kinnock, the COIE or the West did not close our only accredited university, they are not torturing our people, they did not make Eritrea a living hell for its citizens to cause the mass exodus of its youthful energy, they did not massacre our disabled war veterans, nor did they cause us national shame by picking a fight with a corpse. Our real enemy is within. That is what the COIE has identified and that is what Lady Kinnock is standing up against. Lack of honesty is preventing us from righting this wrong. We all need to take this necessary first step together.
Although we disagree profoundly with what you have chosen to stand for, we also would like to invite you for a civilized dialog, if you are willing. We will be happy to schedule a meeting at your convenience. This is the time to stand together with our people; the history books will not be so kind otherwise.
Eritreans for Facilitating National Dialogue (EFND)
Eritrean Global Society (EGS)
People Movement of Eritreans for Justice in North America (ህዝባዊ ምልዕዓል ኤርትራውያን ንፍትሒ ሰሜን ኣሜሪካ)
(2) COIE: Commission of Inquiry on human rights in Eritrea http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/CoIEritrea/A_HRC_32_CRP.1_read-only.pdf
4) Uprooted: Report on Eritreans deported from Ethiopia during 1998 war