Djibouti (HAN) April 30, 2014 – Story Opinion by Sophia Tesfamariam. This is an expanded version of the story that appeared in the issue of Canadian Business magazine. When an acquaintance at the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry sent me an advance copy of the article, “The Slaves of Eritrea”, written by Matthew McClearn for the Canadian Business Magazine (understand he also sent a copy to the Canadian Embassy in Ethiopia). I believe Matthew McClearn knew what he was writing and should be held to account by “every tax-paying Canadian citizen”.
The article’s intentions are transparent and McClearn is certainly not doing this because he gives a hoot about Eritrea’s youth, rather, he seems to be doing the bidding on behalf of the minority regime in Ethiopia and others who are intent on vilifying the government of Eritrea and its people for ulterior political agendas. It should be recalled that a recent document leaked by from the Ethiopian Foreign Ministry calls for an increase in anti-Eritrea propaganda and activities to strengthen the illegal sanctions against Eritrea. Eritrea’s mining sector has been targeted by the regime in Ethiopia and its handlers who have left no stones unturned to stop its development. McClearn attempts to use unsuspecting “tax paying Canadian citizens” to do its bidding by claiming they are profiting from “slavery in a far off land”.
Slavery is also the subject of an award winning movie, “12 years a slave” and it has rightfully triggered discussions on this historical human tragedy, which has contributed to the irreparable and permanent scarring of generations of Africans and their descendants. A timely movie that needs to be seen by all, as slavery and all its ugliness seems to have been forgotten, and worse the prevailing attitude today seems to be to white wash this event in history, supposedly to ease the conscience of those who perpetrated this injustice and benefited/profited the most from it.
From where I sit, white washing slavery is as egregious as denying the holocaust. Africans and their descendants may not have the resources to demand reparations and African Americans may not have the resources to build the United States National Slavery Museum , but they can certainly set the record straight and not allow the memories of those who were hunted down and sold like animals, bound to ships and transferred to white owned plantations in faraway lands, to be forgotten or hidden from future generations of Africans. Every African, no matter his country of origin, should be incensed at the white washing of slavery by those of European descent, and the mentally enslaved co-opted Africans in their employ.
Insight Mrs Sophia Tesfamariam
To ignore history is to repeat it….
In 2003, officials in California asked that manufacturers, suppliers and contractors stop using the terms “master” and “slave” on computer equipment, saying such terms are “unacceptable” and “offensive” . In the computer industry, “master” and “slave” are terms used to refer to primary and secondary hard disk drives and are terms that are also “used in other industries”. If these officials found it discriminatory, offensive and unacceptable to use such terms on computer and other equipment, inanimate objects with no feelings, with no culture, history, traditions, principles etc. Every Eritrean should reject McClearn and his ilk, who somehow believe it is okay to label a gallant hard working people with rich cultures, traditions, principles and values as slaves…just because they do not conform to western ideals on service and community.
But what has that got to do with Eritrea? Why is it okay to label thousands of Eritrean youth who are rebuilding their war torn nation as “slaves”? Their enormous contributions to their people and beloved nation cannot be compensated in dollars and cents. Nor can the pride and dignity, love and respect garnered from their fellow Eritreans and other Africans, be taken away by such ugly labels. Eritrea may not have the resources to fight such ugliness in the western media day after day, but her citizens everywhere can stand up and reject the offensive and derogatory labels being used to label their hard working compatriots at home.
The latest report on Eritrea by a certain Matthew McClearn of the Canadian Business Magazine is an example of someone who has chosen to use this derogatory and demeaning term to label Eritreans working at a mine run by a Canadian company in Eritrea. His intention was to shame the company and “every tax-paying Canadian citizens”, by pretending to care more about the well-being of the Eritreans who work there then their own people and government. He was not calling on “every tax-paying Canadian citizen” to donate funds to compensate the workers, rather, he is calling on his fellow citizens to put an end to the mining sector, their very livelihood and the life line of their beloved nation. A mine that has endured much hardship and sacrifice to build. Who is Matthew McClearn and what is it that he presumes to know about Eritrea, the people and leadership?
As far as I know, he has never visited the country, never spoken to any one of the many members of the Diaspora Eritrean Canadian Community, but has instead chosen to speak to a few “anonymous” individuals who have provided him with information to fit his pre-conceived narrative on a country and people he knows nothing about. I don’t know if he uses the term to provoke his readers to read his posts, or if he really means to white wash slavery-by labeling hard working persons as slaves.
Slavery is about being hunted down, captured against your will, being shipped, beaten and sold like cattle. It’s about being stripped of your dignity and pride, it’s about separation, distress, degradation, emasculation, pain and suffering. It is the greatest human rights violation against a nation and its people and it is an issue that should not be taken lightly, it should weigh on our conscience and not allow it to be trivialized. It is offensive to label hard working Eritreans as “slaves”. Obviously, it is a term that is being used by some western NGOs and their lackeys for political consumption-faux compassion and sympathy, but Eritreans should not sit back and accept such denigrating language-no matter what their political stance.
Matthew McClearn labels Eritreans who are working to develop their war torn nation for little or no wages as being “slaves”, and calls on “every tax-paying Canadian citizen” to help him in his bid to arrest Eritrea’s development-especially the mining sector which is providing the nation with some income. On the one hand, McClearn sheds crocodile tears for the Eritrean youth who he claims are not compensated for their hard work, only to turn around and call on “every tax paying Canadian citizen” to help him shut down the only mine operating in Eritrea today.
He wants “every tax-paying Canadian citizen” to help him pressure Nevsun, a Canadian company operating Eritrea’s Bisha Mines to stop its work there.
It seems Mathew McClearn of the Canadian Business Magazine hope to stop Nevsum from operating in Eritrea, with the hopes that it will somehow retard Eritrea’s progress and ease the collective conscience of “every tax paying Canadian citizen”. Who are these citizens? Could they possibly include the thousands of Eritrean Canadians who now call Canada their adopted home? Has McClearn and his ilk bothered to consult them and their views on Bisha and other development projects in Eritrea? Why would McClearn jeopardize his own reputation and that of Canadian Business Magazine with such deliberate and malicious misrepresentation of the reality in Eritrea? Using fictitious anonymous informants and hiding the true identity of those responsible for the negative media campaign against Eritrea, the very same known anti-Eritrea groups and individuals, McClearn has produced the ugliest report to date on the young nation and its proud citizens.
McClearn in his report on Eritrea takes swipes at national construction companies in Eritrea, undermining their capacity and minimizing their role in the construction of one of the best mines in Sub-Saharan Africa. From where I sit, Eritrea’s self-reliant attitude and policy bothers him. He cannot fathom that an African nation can produce such quality work and do it by utilizing its own human and material resources. Instead of being proud of their achievements, McClearn and his ilk are determined to have Eritreans bow their heads in shame, for not asking for alms, for not begging, for not relying on western NGOs, for working hard, for using their creativity and ingenuity, for making the sacrifices necessary to rebuild their beloved nation.
Matthew McClearn begins his article, “Slavery in Eritrea”, with a description of Bisha:
“…The 150 kilometers that separate the Bisha mine from the Eritrean capital takes four hours to drive. Whereas Asmara is a bustling city of 650,000 filled with 1930s colonial Italian architecture, Bisha lies amid an expansive desert of rolling, ochre tinged sand and scrubs…”
Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.
Had he done his homework, Matthew McClearn would have known that Bisha, like the villages of Ona and Adi Ibrahim, is one of the villages burnt to the ground by the Ethiopian regime.
The so-called human rights “activists” who are burning the midnight oil to prevent the Bisha mines from being developed may have forgotten the people of Bisha, Adi Ibrahim and Ona, but the government and people of Eritrea, and especially the young men and women working to develop the Bisha mine, have not. In a solemn oath to all those who perished it that place, and in villages and towns across Eritrea, the youth are shouldering their responsibilities with great pride and dignity. These gallant young men and women are not slaves and should never be labeled as such-by anyone, least of all by those responsible for the decades long pain and suffering of the Eritrean people.
Bisha is one of the villages in Eritrea that is developing fast and the mining activities are also part of this new development. In Bisha, new schools, new clinics and new roads have been built in honor of all those who died in the bitter struggle to liberate Eritrea from the clutches of successive brutal colonialists, Ethiopia being the last. Understanding Eritrea’s development strategy requires knowledge of Eritrea’s rich history, and Eritrea’s diverse cultures, norms and social traditions. Non-pecuniary motivations such as love of people and service to country, self-reliance, dignity and self-esteem, values cultivated during the long 30-year bitter struggle for Eritrea’s independence, remain the driving force and guiding principles today, as they did then.
These uniquely Eritrean notions have yet to be captured in western economic models produced by the Bretton Woods Institutions and imposed on Africans. As in all the other projects underway throughout the country, the Bisha Mine is not only going to provide for Bisha and the surrounding villages, it will also contribute to the development of Eritrea’s internal talent and capacity. If McClearn wants to talk about slavery, he is welcome to do so, but not to whitewash it and point his bloody fingers at Eritrea and Eritreans who are working to rebuild their war torn nation with virtually no assistance. Honoring those who gave their lives for Eritrea’s freedom is an honorable profession-NOT slavery.
Feigning concern for “every tax-paying Canadian citizen”, in whose name he presumes to write his audacious and insulting piece on Eritrea, McClearn shows his utter disdain for Africans in general and the people of Eritrea and Ethiopia in particular. His incoherent tirades against the proud people of Eritrea, labeling their hard work and sacrifice as “slavery”, a term used only by those who want to white wash slavery and all that it entails, says more about him then it does about Eritrea or her people. No doubt that the minority regime in Ethiopia is the behind the scenes author of the piece. It is also the regime that has sponsored the so-called activists that are gallivanting the globe trying to strangulate Eritrea’s budding economy.
They are the manufacturers of the evidence and the disseminators of the lies about a nation a people they have chosen to betray for a few pieces of silver. Nothing worse than having racist and condescending self-serving western groups denigrating the people of Eritrea and their courageous stance on nation building, but is made worse by the few mentally enslaved Eritreans, who are repeating the insults against their own brethren.
McClearn in his report on Eritrea mentions the role of the Canadian Embassy in Ethiopia in perpetuating this ugly narrative on Eritrea. He wrote:
“…Canadian officials knew earlier than most about allegations of forced labor at Bisha…In an email to colleagues in January 2012 Ethiopia Consul Christopher Hull wrote that reports about mining firms in Eritrea “being forced to use conscripts and prison labor” match what we are being told here…”
What else did Christopher Hull expect from the Ethiopians who have campaigned to stop the building of the Bisha Mine?
Bisha was also the first place that terrorist groups operating out of Ethiopia targeted in its early days. Mr. Timothy Nutt, a British national, who worked for Nevsun was murdered in cold blood by terrorists trained and financed by Ethiopia. In its 17 April 2003 announcement, Nevsun said the following:
“….Nevsun Resources Ltd. regrets to announce the death of a consulting geologist, Timothy Nutt, who was working on the Company’s Bisha property in Eritrea. The Company expresses its deepest sympathies to Mr. Nutt’s family…The Company has been advised by the Government of Eritrea that an investigation into the tragic death is in process. The Government has acted swiftly to ensure security in the area and the Minister of Mines has emphasized the Government’s support to Nevsun’s continuing work in the country. The Company has been advised that all Government officials have been shocked by this tragic incident…Senior management is in country meeting directly with Government officials to deal with this matter and ongoing business. Nevsun remains committed to its projects in Eritrea and will continue with its planned drilling program as previously announced…”
The Eritrean Islamic Jihad (EIJ), which claimed responsibility for the cold blooded murder of Mr. Timothy Nutt operates under the umbrella of the so-called Eritrean National Alliance (in Ethiopia). Over a decade later, Ethiopia is still trying to undermine the Bisha Mines and Nevsun’s operations there and is now enlisting the help of “every tax-paying Canadian citizen”. The intention then, as it is today is to present Eritrea as economically unviable.
Suffice it to mention the May 2009 Wikileak cable “Ethiopia to the P-5: Time For Eritrea Sanctions”- which clearly shows Ethiopia’s intentions vis a vis the Eritrean mines and what it wanted Canada to do:
“…Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin on May 22 called in the UNSC P-5 Ambassadors to urge them to follow-up on the Inter Governmental Authority on Development’s (IGAD) May 20 call for Security Council sanctions against Eritrea…In a separate meeting with the P-5 ambassadors on May 25, Ethiopian State Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr. Tekeda Alemu said he planned to travel to New York on May 29 to press the UNSC on Eritrea in person…Canada, he said, through its mining concessions, would soon be providing Eritrea with hundreds of millions of dollars, and he commented that “if you think Eritrea is a problem now with no economy, wait until it is flush with cash…”
The illegal sanctions, the vilification campaign against the National Service program, the Warsay YIkaalo program for development etc. etc. are all part and parcel of this evil agenda to strangulate Eritrea’s economy-as if that would advance that of Ethiopia’s. No self-respecting Canadian Embassy official in Ethiopia should allow himself or herself to be used in that manner. It behooves all to use their time and energy investigating Ethiopia’s human rights record, the genocides in Gambela, Ogaden and Oromia regions, the marginalization of the Afar region where over 13 Canadian have signed contracts to mine potash, gold etc. There is no need for “every tax paying Canadian citizen” to lose sleep over Eritrea.
Bisha, like the many development projects in Eritrea is a symbol of Eritrea’s young men and women, who are making their own marks in Eritrea’s proud history of sacrifice and commitment by preserving and enhancing Eritrea’s cherished and long held values of Determination, Hope, Trust, Unity and Magnanimity. The spectacular historical achievements by Eritrea’s youth will be the untold stories of our times. These days, the reports coming from western institutions, and the various media in their employ, seem to center on exaggerated, fabricated, erroneous, unsubstantiated claims from disgruntled runaway diplomats, defeatists, disengaged elitists, mercenary defectors, or from coached “refugees” seeking asylum in the West. Their sole mission (raison d’etre) being to paint a gloomy picture of Eritrea and its people, undermine the people of Eritrea’s pursuit of development.
Matthew McClearn and his Ethiopian sources want to divert the attention of “every tax-paying Canadian citizen” and to prevent them from knowing the extent to which Ethiopia and her handlers have gone to strangulate Eritrea’s budding economy. The 12- yearlong campaign to divert attention away from Ethiopia’s lawlessness and occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories, the trafficking of Eritrea’s youth with the hopes of draining the nation’s capacity, the rapes and tortures of Eritreans in Ethiopians and UNHCR camps, the selling of Eritrean children born in those camps is just a drop in the bucket of the crimes committed by the minority regime and its handlers against the people of Eritrea. Targeting Canadian mining companies to malign and vilify is an elaborate ugly scheme well known to American and Canadian officials, as the WikiLeaks documents have shown. But most importantly, it is known to the people of Eritrea everywhere and they have rejected this evil.
Instead of educating Canadians on Eritrea’s self-reliant nation building efforts, that is making tremendous strides, instead of celebrating Eritrea’s successes and emulating them, as some African states are doing today, McClearn and his ilk insist on insulting Eritreans. He ought to know that Eritrea remains one of a few Countries in sub-Saharan Africa that is on track to meet or exceed 7 out of the 8 UN Millennium Development Goals-Ethiopia (MDGs)-thanks to the sacrifices and hard work of its people. Despite being the highest recipient of Canadian aid and billions from the US, EU and others, Ethiopia remains at the bottom of all human development indices… yet McClearn wants “every tax-paying Canadian citizen” to be concerned about Eritrea-misplaced concerns if you ask me…
While some apologists for the minority regime avail themselves to participate in the nauseating propaganda ploys and gimmicks, it is the people of Ethiopia that are bearing the brunt of such arrogance. The latest report by McClearn does not serve the interests of any Canadian citizen, it is a piece written to accommodate the regime in Ethiopia and its handlers in yet another futile quest to arrest Eritrea’s economic development. The minority regime’s cadres have long targeted Eritrea’s mining sector and have done everything to stop its progress. From sponsoring terrorists who have killed geologists working in the Bisha mines to producing YouTube “documentaries”, the regime in Ethiopia and its handlers have gone to great lengths to undermine the Bisha project and those who work there.
Ignoring independent reports and facts on the mining sector in Eritrea, journalists like McClearn insist on fabricating farfetched sensational narratives on the young nation and its leadership. The psychological warfare against the people of Eritrea continues.. Nevsun, the Canadian company targeted by McClearn and also by the regime in Ethiopia and its mercenaries, released its corporate responsibility report on 10 April 2014. The main highlights of the independent report were:
• Safety record: Excellent – zero lost time injuries in the year
• Community: Well engaged and maximizing local opportunities for employment
• Environment: Land use, biodiversity studies, water & waste management, mine closure planning
• Employees: Human rights assessment, fair treatment, benefits, training & localization
• Government related remittances: $129 million in 2013 and $548 million since Bisha went into production in 2011
“…Nevsun, partnered with the Eritrean National Mining Corporation (ENAMCO), operates the Bisha Mine (Bisha) providing tangible benefits to the people of Eritrea. Bisha is the only producing mine in Eritrea and plays a significant role in the Eritrean economy. Beyond employment, Bisha provides opportunities for training, supply chain enhancements and improved community infrastructure. Financially, Bisha provides significant cash flow to the State of Eritrea by way of income taxes, royalties, employment taxes and ownership dividends….”
It is not my intention to do a line by line rebuttal of McClearn’s racist attack on Eritrea and its people, but suffice to mention a few inconsistencies in his report.
McClearn relies on an anonymous “informant” now living in Canada, for his narrative on Eritrea. Of all the names of Eritreans that he could have used for his anonymous informant, McClearn chooses the name “Awate”. After presenting this informants views, McClearn tells us that this informant NEVER worked at the Bisha Mine. So why should “every tax paying Canadian citizen” take the words of an anonymous informant with an ax to grind?
Not only is this an insult to the intelligence of the Canadian and Eritrean people, it exposes McClearn’s contempt for Eritreans and is an insult to use the name “Awate”, associated with the great Eritrean freedom fighter Hamid Idris Awate, on a runaway mentally enslaved defector who is hiding in Canada and insulting a people and nation he abandoned. McClearn is asking “every tax-paying Canadian citizen” to get their facts on Eritrea, not from the law abiding vibrant Eritrean Canadian Community, but rather from a faceless and nameless fugitive from the law, and a liar at that.
The informant in McClearn’s “cut and paste” article on Eritrea was used to denigrate his own nation and people-what could be more enslaving than that? To hate his nation and people and to believe that being in high school at the age of thirty, and manning a parking toll booth in Canada is the best thing that could happen to him is, emasculation of the worst kind…yet McClearn wants his readers to believe that working hard and sacrificing for your own county is slavery-that hiding in foreign cities, begging for alms and denigrating your own country and people for crumbs is somehow liberating. In my humble opinion that is an insult to the intelligence of “every tax-paying Canadian citizen”.
McClearn tells his targeted audience, “every tax-paying Canadian citizen”, that informants are labeled as “traitor” for running away from Eritrea’s National Service. That, is categorically false. There are hundreds of young men and women who have left their country of origin and settled in Canada and other countries. The only ones that fit the label of “traitor” are those who insist on insulting the people and government of Eritrea in a bid to cover up their own weaknesses and criminal behaviors. Traitors are the liars that congregate at “human rights” offices in the West to peddle their stories for alms. Traitors are those who burn and sabotage Diaspora Eritrean Community Centers, lie about Eritreans in the Diaspora, prevent Eritreans from participating in the rebuilding of their war torn nation and work with the minority regime to undermine Eritrea’s development. So if the shoe fits…
McClearn goes to great lengths to portray the people of Eritrea and their leadership in a negative light. He tells his readers that “refugees may be imprisoned without trial, tortured, or simply shot dead at the border”, only to turn around and tell his readers that his informant is one the thousands that leave Eritrea to go to Ethiopia and Sudan-one of the walking dead? If they are shot at the border, how are the thousands making it to Canada and other western nations?
What would happen to a Canadian that refused to stop at the border and show proper documentation when leaving or entering Canada? What happens to a port runner- someone who doesn’t stop at the border station? McClearn’s case is typical of the racist and condescending journalists that insist on portraying Africans as savage and inhumane, an example of those who insist on “looking at the speck of sawdust in the eyes of others while ignoring the plank in his own eye”.
First of all, refugees are people that take refuge in other countries, so if they are being “imprisoned without trial, tortured and simply shot at the border”, he must be referring to those who are being subjected to inhumane treatment in the refugee camps established by UNHCR and Ethiopia in the border areas, where youth from Eritrea are lured with promises of a better life and “visas” to the west. He must be referring to those who enter the United States and Canada illegally. It is a fact that there are thousands of refugees detained in western nations, including Canada. According to the Fahamu Refugee Program :
“…More and more refugees and asylum seekers are detained around the world, often in conditions below international standards, and denied their basic rights, including access to asylum… Thousands and thousands of refugees and asylum seekers are detained in the following places: removal centres; privately and publicly-run immigration detention facilities; jails; prisons; police stations; airports; hotels; ships; shipping containers; and, closed refugee camps. They are being held upon arrival in a country, pending a final immigration decision, or while awaiting removal from the country….Worldwide, immigration and asylum decisions may take months or years, during which time men, women and children can languish in often overcrowded and unhygienic conditions…”
Let us take a look at what the Global Detention Project says about detention of refugees and asylum seekers in Canada and what the cost to “every tax-paying Canadian citizen” is:
“…Authorities detained all 492 asylum seekers, including 63 women and 49 children, for several months at a cost of several million dollars… Many of Canada’s detention practices compare unfavourably to those of other key destination countries…for example, although there are widely recognized international human rights norms against using criminal facilities for the purposes of immigration detention, Canada remains one of only a handful of major industrialized countries to make widespread—and, in the case of Canada, increasing—use of prisons to confine non-citizens in administrative detention, where immigration detainees tend to be mixed with the regular prison population… ”
McClearn must know that Ethiopia, “a strategic and security ally for Western governments”, remains the biggest recipient of development aid in Africa. It now receives approximately US$3.5 billion in long-term development assistance each year. Donor policies do not appear to have been significantly affected by the deteriorating human rights situation in the country.
McClearn must not know much about slavery, because if he did, he would not lend his name to such a piece, and become himself another apologist for a reckless, lawless minority regime in Ethiopia that is being propped up by “every tax-paying Canadian citizen”. The anti-slavery Walk Free Foundation according to a Reuters 13 October 2013 report, “Ethiopia has the highest number of people in ‘modern slavery’ said the following:
“…It found that 10 countries accounted for 76 percent of the 29.8 million people living in slavery: India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Russia, Thailand, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Myanmar and Bangladesh…Modern slavery was defined as human trafficking, forced labour, and practices such as debt bondage, forced marriage, and the sale or exploitation of children…”
A report done by an Ethiopian site reported the following in 2011:
“…studies conducted in Dire Dawa, Shashemene, Awassa, and three other towns of the country indicate that the problem of child trafficking is very serious…According to a 2003 study, about one thousand children were trafficked via Dire Dawa to countries of the Middle East. The majority of those children were girls, most of whom were forced to be prostitutes after leaving the country… Children are trafficked into prostitution, to provide cheap or unpaid labor, and to work as domestic servants or beggars. The ages of these children are usually between 10 and 18, and their trafficking is from the country to urban centers and from cities to the country. Boys are often expected to work in activities such as herding cattle in rural areas and in the weaving industry in Addis Ababa and other major towns. Girls are expected to take responsibilities for domestic chores, childcare, and looking after the sick, and to work as prostitutes…”
McClearn and his handlers want to absolve the minority regime in Ethiopia of its crimes against humanity, its flagrant violation of international law and occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories. But the facts are there for everyone to see. Ethiopia is the single highest recipient of Canadian aid in Sub-Saharan Africa. Ethiopia continues to be a major recipient of Canadian aid. If he were concerned about “every tax-paying Canadian citizen” essentially propping up the regime in Ethiopia, McClearn should have called attention to the gross human rights violations taking place in Ethiopia today, under the watchful eye of the Canadian Embassy in Ethiopia, instead of penning his unsubstantiated hate filled tirades against the State of Eritrea and its hardworking magnanimous population.
If he is sincerely concerned about raising the consciousness of “every tax-paying Canadian citizen”, McClearn ought to be exposing the genocides being committed against the people in the Amhara, Gambela, Ogaden and Oromia regions of Ethiopia today. Instead of wasting his reader’s time with unsubstantiated gossip and hearsay from nameless and faceless runaway “informants”, to undermine the Eritrean mining sector and the work being done by Eritrean youth, he ought to study the effects of the land grab and resettlement and “villagization” programs have on the people of Ethiopia, a country where over 13 Canadian mining companies-SMP/TXS composite members- have signed contracts with the genocidal lawless regime ruling Ethiopia with an iron fist today.
Since its inception, Eritrea’s national service program and role of the youth in Eritrea’s economic development have been deliberately and maliciously maligned, and misrepresented by the mercenary minority regime in Ethiopia, the western NGOs and their miscreant foot soldiers in the Eritrean Quislings League (EQL) who slavishly echo the prepared anti-Eritrea rhetoric, in exchange for pitiful stipends. Building Eritrea’s military capability was never the sole objective of Eritrea’s National Service Program. In 1995, 4 years into Eritrea’s independence and a year after the referendum, it was not military capacity that consumed the minds of Eritreans; rather, it was the daunting task of nation building.
The 1995 Proclamation of National Service lists its main objective as being “the creation of a new generation characterized by love of work and discipline, and to foster national unity and equal participation of the people in the development of Eritrea’s economy”. Surely, McClearn must know that slavery is exploitation of the labor of others for self-economic or political gain-and cannot be labeled slavery when nationals of any country sacrifice life and limb for the betterment of their own lives and that of their fellow countrymen. It is rather unfortunate that western diplomacy has stooped to such low levels, where an entire people are demonized in order to advance certain political and corporate interests.
Luckily, the Canadian government recognizes slavery for what it is.
On 22 June 2006, newly-elected Prime Minister Stephen Harper rose in the House of Commons and apologized for Canada’s treatment of Chinese immigrants between 1885 and 1947. He said:
“…On behalf of all Canadians and the Government of Canada, we offer a full apology to Chinese Canadians for the Head Tax and express our deepest sorrow for the subsequent exclusion of Chinese immigrants…For over six decades, these race-based financial measures, aimed solely at the Chinese, were implemented with deliberation by the Canadian state. This was a grave injustice, and one we are morally obligated to acknowledge…”
Mathew McClearn must know that the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) that he and his countrymen enjoy today was built on the backs of Chinese and European migrants-called “coolies” and “navies” who:
“…received between $1 and $2.50 per day, but had to pay for his own food, clothing, transportation to the job site, mail and medical care. After 2-1/2 months of hard labour, they could net as little as $16. Chinese laborers in British Columbia made only between 75 cents and $1.25 a day, paid in rice mats, and not including expenses, leaving barely anything to send home. They did the most dangerous construction jobs, such as working with explosives to clear tunnels through rock… The families of the Chinese who were killed received no compensation, or even notification of loss of life. Many of the men who survived did not have enough money to return to their families in China, although Chinese labour contractors had promised that as part of their responsibilities… Many spent years in isolated and often poor conditions. Yet the Chinese were hard working and played a key role in building the Western stretch of the railway; even some boys as young as twelve years old served as tea-boys…”
That is what can be considered as slavery…
Mathew McClearn deliberately omits the names of those who were brought to testify against the State of Eritrea at the standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development in 2012. Every “tax-paying Canadian citizen” has the right to know who they are.
One of them is Elsa Chyrum, a self-professed “human rights” activist whose NGO, Human Rights Concern Eritrea (HRCE) is financed by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). This “human rights activist” works closely with the Governments of Djibouti and Ethiopia. She and other “activists” have lured Eritrean youth out of Eritrea. Believing they have a brighter future and will be settled in western nations by these activists and their handlers, the youth who leave Eritrea are now settled in “refugee camps” established along the Eritrea Ethiopia border, in what has now become a lucrative business for the UNHCR and the regime in Ethiopia. Elsa Chyrum and her partners travel frequently to these camps, on behalf of her handlers, to gather information to be used against the State of Eritrea and its people.
The other individual who addressed the Canadian legislators is a runaway defector names Aaron Berhane, a recipient of recipient of a CJFE Journalists in Distress Grant and other financial awards from various Canadian and American NGOs, someone who has also made it his forte to denigrate every Eritrean institution in the country and malign the contributions of the Eritrean Diaspora and the youth of Eritrea. After leaving Eritrea illegally, he smuggled his wife and children and brought them to Canada. Today, he is engaged with Meron Estifanos, Elsa Chyrum and Dan Connell in the trafficking of Eritrea’s youth. He is an active member of EYSC and has conducted seminars and workshops with Dan Connell of Freedom House in Canada and elsewhere. Most notably, he has engaged in the intimidation, harassment and terrorizing of the hard working Eritrean-Canadian Community and defiling their reputation through the local media.
These are the two “witnesses” who McClearn says “cast the Eritrean government in a profoundly negative light”. They did as they were paid to do…nothing more, nothing less. They have no presence in Eritrea and no constituents in the vast Eritrean Diaspora Community. These information peddlers are living off the backs of “tax paying Canadian citizens”. Had McClearn bothered to speak to the many vibrant, productive Eritrean communities made up of hardworking honest and exemplary “tax-paying Canadian citizens”, he would have learned the truth and saved himself and his magazine from the embarrassment and rebuke that will surely follow.
The mental enslavement of Eritrea’s youth who are being smuggled and trafficked across the Saharan desert and the Sinai, across the treacherous waters of the Mediterranean buy individuals and groups professing to be “human rights” activists is what journalists like McClearn need to investigate and call upon the United Nations to do the same. National Service in Eritrea is NOT slavery. It enriches the society, instils rich values and principles, strong work ethics, self-reliance and a great sense of productivity. What McClearn labels as “slavery” is for the majority of the Eritrean youth, work in fulfillment of their solemn promises, not just to the people of Eritrea, but to the thousands who sacrificed their lives for Eritrea’s independence
Seems Matthew McClearn wants of “every tax-paying citizen” to join him and his ilk in the denigration of Eritrea and its citizens. Instead of instilling pride and dignity in the hearts and minds of Eritreans residing in Canada, he is contributing to the xenophobia and racist attitudes such as those he conveys in his hodge podge report, which says nothing about the mining sector in Eritrea, the work done by exemplary Canadian companies such as Nevsun and the people and government of Eritrea. As he stated in the beginning of his article, the rumors about Eritrea, “unproven allegations now receiving widespread publicity-were still just that-rumors and hearsay. Each and “every tax-paying Canadian citizen” deserves better…
“…Though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried…Only by embracing necessity can we preserve a degree of freedom in an obdurate world…To imagine that one’s life would somehow be better, freer, and happier in some more advanced society than the one in which providence has placed one, is to fail at self-reliance…” (From the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson).
Photo Archives: Minister of Land and Resources, P.R.C met with Ahmed Haj Ali, Minister of Energy and Mines, Eritrea
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