Eritrea - Time to Oust Tyrant Isaias Afewerki
By Abraham Berhe – firstname.lastname@example.org
In Early January 2009 Issayas Afeworki gave an extraordinarily defiant interview to the tightly controlled Eritrean media by openly accusing the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the USA for masterminding a plot to undermine his regime. Since then he maintains unrepentant antagonism as his astounding political feature against the USA and Western powers.
To those of us who knew him for a long while now, Issayas Afeworki is a hardened guerrilla warfare leader run for over 3-decades before he assumed power in 1993. Each time he delivers interviews he constantly looks back to those glorified anti-Ethiopian struggle days, which provided him the cornerstones for his political legitimacy; claiming that Eritrea is surrounded by larger states that permanently seek to dominate and destroy it. Tyrant Issayas is the Eritrean figure that single handedly articulates his regime’s domestic and foreign objectives that prevail against any contrary opinion coming either from his subjects or from commentators on Eritrean issues. The political strategy and makeup of Afeworki’s regime centrally depend on viewpoints directly emanating from Issayas himself. Especially after September 2001 when his most prominent opponents were summarily arrested or fled the country, Issayas Afeworki’s predominance is boosted by his handpicked persons holding key positions for fear of political reprisals.
Yet, we know well that the 1998-2000 war he instigated against Ethiopia considerably weakened the internal cohesion of Afeworki’s regime; and totally impaired and weakened the Eritrean military and population’s morale. At this point as I write no sober citizen has any faith left in his regime. Enthusiasm about Issayas Afeworki’s tyrannical ruling has eroded and drastically declined; Eritrean people are suffering from the ever diminishing and poverty stricken living conditions. Indeed, the series of wars that are carried out from time to time by Afeworki’s regime have now created a paradoxical situation as it seems too late to reverse the economic decline. Such action actually needs putting in order sweeping structural and sector reforms that would take time to produce results. In Eritrea where the population’s main concern is on how to secure the next meal it seems difficult for them to think about on how to overthrow Afeworki.
To date, Afeworki’s autocratic and tyrannical nature has eventually became a threat to all neighboring states since Afeworki has embarked on an aggressive foreign policy built upon the belief that only a militarily strong Eritrea could play a central role in what is known as “the Horn of Africa”. To add salt into injury, Afeworki is involved in popularizing piracy and illegal smuggling actions over international waters and oceans. Piracy has become a tool for Afeworki to siphon hard currency and divert public attention from the apparent lack of functioning democratic systems in Eritrea. His involvement in Somalia’s domestic politics, piracy and illegal arms smuggling and trafficking as well as his regime’s antagonism towards all neighboring states could amply testify to it’s over reliance on brinkmanship and military threats. Within the initial 5-years after he assumed power in 1993, Afeworki quarreled with Sudan in 1994, Yemen in 1995, Djibouti in 1996, Ethiopia in 1998 and Djibouti once again in 2008. Afeworki has even gone to great lengths by undermining the neighboring states’ stability; and intentionally works on how to make these states vulnerable to his militaristic pressure by providing training sites and arsenal and arms supply to Ethiopian, Djiboutian, Sudanese and Somali opposition armed groups. In 2007 he decided to pull out of the regional grouping IGAD and the AU due to his ill-conceived foreign policy.
Episodes Happen While We Watch Immobilized:
The Eritrean populations have unconditionally lost thousands of young men and women to the 1998-2000 Ethio-Eritrea war. Fully aware of that Issayas Afeworki will not halt his military operations against all regional challenges, the forcefully recruited youth soldiers continue to desert in large numbers; and are seeking refuge world wide. The polarized and silent Eritrean Diaspora, which had been generously financing Issayas Afeworki’s war efforts, has begun openly to question Afeworki’s domestic and foreign policies and has significantly reduced its remittances.
Popular Dissatisfaction and Divisions:
Afeworki is facing already internal popular dissatisfaction and divisions; a dilapidated economy surviving through piracy and arms trade and rampant corruption. One thing is clear to all walks of Eritrean people. Succession is paving the way to weaken Issayas Afeworki’s regime. No one knows today as to who will succeed Issayas Afeworki next. This is potentially creating instability on his eventual demise or death. After all, he is mortal, the Eritrean public doubts if democracy could be established in Eritrea when Issayas Afeworki dies or deposed of power, accidentally or otherwise. That means the potential for increased possibility of civil wars, dismemberment and opportunistic external interference from Ethiopia is quite vivid or crystal clear.
As a viable solution, most Eritrean people have resorted to consider negotiation and diplomacy as meaningful basis for the Eritrean regime to resolve its costly conflict with Ethiopia; to reestablish its political legitimacy and assist all Eritrean political forces to peacefully resolve their differences for the sake of national unity. But we deem that Afeworki is not ready to ascertain and respect the sensibilities and intentions, with regard to common issues, of neighboring states; particularly that of Ethiopia. We doubt if he can halt his deliberately provocative remarks and actions against the USA and neighboring states. We doubt if Issayas Afeworki is ready to compromise for the sake of regional peace and stability; we doubt if Issayas Afeworki is ready to learn from his past errors of judgment and soften his belligerent defensiveness, at least during high-profile interviews. In a net-shell suffice to say the idiomatic expression: ‘You cannot teach an old dog a new trick.’
Cases for Public Attention and Reaction:
Although totally alienated from the rest of the world and from the African Union, Issayas Afeworki continues to commit flagrant violations of human rights by turning Eritrea into a country where democracy and justice are absent; where the Eritrean population yearnings for independence and freedom are ultimately trapped in intimidation, indecency and untold old time serfdom tradition. Issayas Afeworki’s cohorts (those that seldom complain about him) and the silent majority who consider this staunch and stubborn leader as their hero who must be obeyed by all means, by all accounts, and at any cost. Points outlined below are cases in point for reader’s attention:
- There happens mass fleeing, and horrific incidents including barbaric ethnic cleansing of innocent detainees from the Kunama ethnic group;
- As the most mentally and physically exhausted army in Africa, led by a hand-full of hungry hounds and opportunist Generals, the Eritrean army is undertaking the heaviest load of slave-labor program by way of Warsay-Yikealo, with an extreme nationalism and sovereignty protection propaganda just as the Nazis of Adolph Hitler used to make in the 1930s.
- The Swiss daily French newspaper, Le Temps, reported on 21 January 2009 that Eritrea, which today shares only with North Korea the title of being “the pariah state” of the international community, has become unlivable hell to its people who are taking all possible risks to flee the country and be dispersed in all corners of the globe. During 2008 alone, 2,849 Eritrean people entered and asked asylum in Switzerland compared to 2,050 in 2007 and 1,201 in 2006.
- Under the big headline of “Eritrea of President Isaias Afeworki: A Prison State being deserted by its people en masse”, the reporter, Angelique Mounier-Kuhn, quoted a recent New Year speech by the dictator in Asmara to show his unbelievable readiness “to make war” in spite of the suffering it causes to the small nation of Eritrea. She describes Isaias Afeworki as “a solitary and arrogant person obsessed with traces of the [country’s] frontiers”.
- In the lengthy reportage on Eritrea by this major Swiss newspaper, Mr. Francois Piquet, a researcher at the Geneva-based International Institute for Higher Studies and Development, is quoted to have said: “The paradox in the situation of Eritrea is that the best organized liberation movement in Africa has given birth to a political system dictated by one man” who has chosen to conscript up to 300,000 persons in the army and in forced labor camps.
- The Le Temps reporter also interviewed a number of Eritrean refugees in Swiss who expressed fear to criticize the Asmara regime openly because of fear of imminent risks to their families in Eritrea. The interviewees said there are “agents of the dictatorship” among them and they are keeping away from opposition politics because of this fear to their loved ones back home by the merciless regime. The interviewed persons also revealed that each and every Diaspora Eritrean individuals pay the illegal 2% tax and other extortions because of fear of something happening to them and to their relatives in Eritrea.
- To one’s dismay, it has been a while since Issayas Afewoki started to blame the US for every evil unfolding to his administration. Yet he was the first to endorse the invasion of Iraq. He has even once said in his interviews at the time, “the mission was long overdue, the Bush administration should rather have finished the job in 1991”. Yet the same person and his supporters try to define who goes with whom and what kind of alliance and organization to make with others. Some in the opposition have also fallen prey to this game.
- Somalia's new government led by Sharif Sheik Ahmed is accusing Issayas Afewoki’s of arming insurgent groups in Somalia. The allegation is a repeat of events two years ago, when the United Nations accused Eritrea of secretly sending weapons to Somalia's militant al-Shabab group.
- Recently Isaias Afewerki forced the United Nations Mission to Eritrea out of Eritrea by cutting off all supplies to the UN-mission. In response to the departure of the UN-mission, both Eritrea and Ethiopia have now repositioned their respective militaries in a manner that would seem to indicate the potential for reengaging one another in devastative military conflicts.
Needless to say, a war between Ethiopia and Eritrea may bring a destabilizing effect if and when these two nations return to war. This action could further undermine Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government, which is heavily dependent upon Ethiopian military support. Ethiopia would also likely pull out of its pending commitment to provide peacekeeping troops to the Sudan AU/UN Mission in Darfur. Djibouti could also be affected by a return to hostilities in the form of border dispute, Eritrean refugees, who could present local security and humanitarian concerns.
In the past two years alone, there have been a growing number of pirate attacks off the coast of Bab-El-Mendeb and Somalia – some ending in death and others ending in the payment of ransom. The shipping lanes off the coast of Bab-El-Mendeb and Somalia are some of the most economically and strategically important in the world. There has been a long chain of illegal trade operations in the form of weapons trafficking, human trafficking, criminal dumping of nuclear and chemical waste from around the world in Dhalak, Sahel, and the environs of Masawa and piracy. Particularly, piracy off the coast of Africa has become a critical issue in the region, because extremist groups often directly participate in and financially benefit from piracy operations.
Crucial Issues to Lay Charges against Isaias Afewerki:
It is time for Eritrean Diaspora, to start putting together charges against Isaias Afewerki for crimes that include, but not limited to, conspiracy, murder, and treason. Enough evidences have been gathered to go forward and lay charges and oversee this task through a national committee. As reminder key crimes committed by Issayas Afeworki include the following:
- Illegal killings of the so-called “Menka’e” and other groups during the struggle.
- Mal-treatment and killings of fighters in “Halewa Sewra”
- Summary execution of disabled fighters in Mai Habar
- Illegal war with Ethiopia. His refusal to call meetings or consult with congress, the cabinet ministers, or the central committee
- Extra-judicial imprisonment of fighters such as the G-15 and journalists, and the subsequent murders of many of them.
- Illegal imprisonment of religious groups.
- Refusal of food aid when it was critically needed by the broad masses
- Criminal dumping of nuclear and other chemical waste from around the world in Dhalak, Sahel, the environs of Masawa, and other parts of Eritrea for fetching hard currency
- Execution of about 160 rounded-up people in Adi-beito.
- Execution of soldiers and civilians who were allegedly trying to cross into Ethiopia and Sudan from Eritrean-Sawa-army fortresses.
- Execution of members of the Kunama ethnic groups
- Illegal training and underground piracy operations from Dhalak and Masawa portal areas.
Since 1993 when Issayas Afeworki presided over the leadership position, serfdom has became the official doom in Eritrea; the Eritrean public is now caught-up in sheer disillusionment of independence; living under the iron-handed Afeworki’s regime that is totalitarian by nature keeping the entire youth population in its slavery camps in the name of military services. It is time now for Diaspora Eritrean population to raise our voices and bring Afeworki’s case to the attention of International Court of Crimes (ICC) and to the world powers in order to get rid of him and establish a legitimate replacement regime without further delay.
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