Eritrea: The Eritrean Opposition “The North Korea of Africa”

Washington (HAN) December 5, 2014 –  Expert Analysis, Your Power & Regional Influence Magazine, opinion page by. Makhate Berhane. We’ve all seen this ridiculous statement littered in articles on Eritrean opposition websites and it’s even been used to describe the current situation in Eritrea by major international news organizations such as the BBC, Reuters, and The New York Times. Any reasonable person with knowledge of the happenings in Eritrea would admit that this phrase is exaggerated and doesn’t tell the complete tale of Eritrea. This phrase is also a favored one among the Eritrean Opposition parties.

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Being a second generation Eritrean-American, I’m the first to admit that Eritrea is nowhere near perfect and that there is room and a need for change. To say otherwise, would also be unreasonable. But, it’s phrases like “The North Korea of Africa” that make me, and many other Eritreans believe that there is a more sinister political agenda being pushed by the West, specifically the United States, that is bigger than the mask of gross human rights violations that they claim.

This is the same West that supported, with money and arms, the monarchy of Haile Selassie as he slaughtered thousands of Eritreans, Ethiopians and Somalis as he tried to consolidate his power over the region.

This is the same West that supported the brutal regime of Augusto Pinochet in Chile, Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and still supports one of the worst violators of human rights in the world, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Now all of a sudden this same West decides that they can no longer tolerate the human rights abuses of a small country in the Horn of Africa? It just doesn’t add up.

Eritreans like myself, found further cause for suspicion and weariness of the “goodwill” of the West and Western NGOs in a recently leaked letter from the head finance expert of the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG). The finance expert, Dinesh Mahtani, wrote a letter to the Australian government, explicitly in his role as the finance expert of the SEMG, asking for them to grant the former Eritrean Minister of Information, Ali Abdu, full refugee status so that he could travel and “coordinate his activities”. The letter went on to also state that Mahtani believed that Ali Abdu “has great potential to play a stabilizing role in Eritrea, with the country possibly headed towards an uncertain period…Without moderate figureheads such as Mr. Abdu, a transitional process in Eritrea may fall prey to polarizing and possibly violent forces.” It’s clear that Mahtani was operating outside the parameters of the SEMG’s mandate, and that he is in favor of regime change in Eritrea and that the SEMG is doing more than just investigating and monitoring. The SEMG is polluting the Eritrean political arena with their own desires and wishes without considering the will of the Eritrean people, as has tragically happened time and time again to Eritrea throughout our short history. This is at the very least unprofessional, and at worst, illegal. It must be noted that Dinesh Mahtani did resign after this letter came to light.

As disenchanted as I am with the Eritrean government, I’m even more disenchanted with the Eritrean opposition. The opposition parties are divided, divisive, outdated, lack a clear vision for Eritrea’s way forward and seem to be motivated by vendetta more than they are by love for their countrymen and women. How out-of-touch these parties are with the Eritrean people is best exemplified in the location of their opposition meetings: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Some opposition groups even receive financial and logistical help from the current government in Addis Ababa. Many Eritreans, including myself, see these actions by the opposition as being shady and subversive as many Eritreans still have bitter feelings towards the government in Ethiopia over the bloody border war that was fought between 1998 and 2000. These feelings of bitterness between the two countries will take time to heal, but the healing can’t start until Ethiopia withdraws from almost a quarter of Eritrea’s territory that it occupies. It must be noted that Ethiopia explicitly agreed to follow the rulings of the UN founded Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) that ruled that this Ethiopian occupied land was historically and rightfully Eritrean territory. Another aspect of the Eritrean opposition that makes me questions their intentions, is their constant support of UN sponsored sanctions against Eritrea, when sanctions have proven time and time again to hurt the common civilians more than it does the government. The goals of sanctions are to pressure a government to act according to a set of demands. The pressure, no doubt, is meant to come from the citizens who are going to be hurt by the implemented sanctions. It’s a favored realpolitik tool of the West to force countries to bend over to their demands.

Another aspect of the Eritrean opposition that, in my opinion, hurts their legitimacy, is their arrogance in not considering the will and aspirations of Eritreans who live in Eritrea. Many of these opposition leaders are Western educated elitists who live cushy lives with their families in Europe or the US and are former ELF (Jebha) fighters who left the country in the 1980’s and haven’t lived in the country since. It amazes me that these leaders truly believe in their rewritten, flawless history of the ELF. Respect must be paid to the ELF for starting Eritrea’s struggle, but we can’t airbrush the historical facts that ultimately resulted in their downfall. Political change has to be organic and have the popular support of the people that will be affect, without this, it is illegitimate and is bound to fail.

A common sentiment I hear from many newly arrived immigrants from Eritrea, who get to the U.S. through The Sinai, through the dangerous water off the coast of Malta, and through other dangerous and illegal schemes, is that they are unhappy with the government in Eritrea, but don’t trust the opposition parties, so instead, they opt to remain neutral. Many, including myself, don’t think the opposition parties are capable or realistic about the on-the-ground situation in Eritrea. What I feel is the final nail in the coffin of the Eritrean opposition in the West, is their failure to garner popular support or traction among the hundreds of thousands of Eritreans living abroad. For all the years they’ve been operating, they’ve yet to turn the popular tide against the government. I don’t think that this is because many Eritreans are extremely happy with the PFDJ, I think it’s more of a reflection of their distrust and apathy toward the opposition parties and their ideology.

Again, I by no means wrote this paper in support of the government in Asmara. It’s a critique of the opposition parties who operate outside the borders of Eritrea.  madote


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16 COMMENTS

  1. Mak hate,
    As your name says it, you are a hater of ELF when I’m sure you don’t know the history of ELF. You have also the gut to falsely accuse the United States of America of having a political agenda in plotting against Eritrea. If you are a second/first generation Eritrean-American, don’t forget as long as you hold American citizenship, you are an America for which you have sworn to defend it. Be careful you might fall down to the hole you digging in.

  2. Eritrea is the second biggest prison in the world after North Korea and one of those who got away is you. I bet you can not go back to and come back unless you are an informer to criminal cartel in Asmara.

  3. The author is simply the Issias a** kisser and denied the facts, those people who support Issias still they live in 80th and 90th mentality, they are so back ward and the world even Ethiopia left them way behind and they are good for nothing, the Issias regime has to be crushed for once and for good and we need to create a federal system in Eritrea as soon as possible

  4. Hi Guyz. Our main problem is lack of understanding each other. Plz we should respect and analyse the opinion of each individual rather than jumped to comments and swearing. Discussion and finding solution for our country is the ultimate one to our people and country. We have spend ages on unfruitful urguement without a clear vision, mission and goal. Therefore, we can not change anything if we don’t have unity,respect and understand each other. We should find best solution for our people. Thanks

  5. Dear second generation Eritrean-American, reading your article you seem to agree with most of us Eritreans that the current dictatorial regime we have in Eritrea is the root cause of the crime and for all the suffering our people, but in your writing instead of focusing on the root cause of the problem and providing or contributing a solution for the problem it seems you dedicated your whole article in discrediting the people who refused to surrender to tyranny, dictatorship, killing, theft, slavery and gross human abuse..
    “He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery”. ~Harold Wilson

    1-My friend it seems you assumed the solution for our problem should come from somewhere else and by others while you and people like you watching from the side line.
    2-May be it is hard to believe but the opposition groups that you mentioned and tried to discredit, they are not people from another planet and do not have any extra responsibility, but rather they are dedicated Eritreans who refused tyranny and refused to accept unelected criminal ruling our land and refused to accept that this is what we fought for.
    “ If our aim is to praise, we should forget to criticize; if our aim is to criticize, we should remember to praise” author unknown
    3-You are correct after all this years of crime and brutal human rights abuse against our innocent people, the opposition couldn’t dislodge the criminal regime and still don’t have powerful unity, and it is sad to tell you but it is because of people like you who does not have the guts or the desire to participate and defend their country and their people but rather criticize those who do something about it.
    4- it seems you fall under the trap of the criminal regime, for years it tried to make us believe the root cause of our problem, for not having a constitution, for not having freedom, for not having election and for not having democracy is the boarder war ,CIA, UN,OAU,EU and all kinds of reason under the sun while the reality and the simple fact is, we had war because of the failed diplomacy and policy of the criminal junta, and we do not have constitution for a simple reason, because the constitution wouldn’t allow him to stay in power for 24 years in power. Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Albashir of Sudan, Musevieni of Uganda are using it by amending the constitution to extend their stay in power and the unlucky criminal rascal from Burkina Faso tried to amend the constitution to stay in power but the gallant people of Burkina refused and dislodged the skunk. Unique and different from the rest of the criminals, ISAYAS AFEWORKI,he knew better and did it differently, by using the pretext of national security and border war he did not allow the constitution to be ratified and while at it, he killed and jailed those who refused to accept including his bunker buddies and all independent journalists.
    Here is some comparison for your judgment what is going on in the rest of the world and we are no different
    “Mozambique—- Frelimo, which waged a 10-year battle for independence against colonial Portugal, has held on to power partly because of its liberation-movement credentials but also because Renamo has failed until now to present a political alternative that reaches out beyond its core supporters to the wider electorate.
    President Armando Guebuza, a former millionaire businessman, is stepping down after serving the maximum two terms. President Mujica is barred from running for a second consecutive term.”

    ISAIAS AFWERKI of Eritrea: A crocodile liberator, Afwerki has turned his country into a national prison in which independent media are shut down, elections are categorically rejected, indefinite military service is mandatory, and the government would rather support Somali militants than its own people.
    Awetn selamn nhzbi Eritrea.
    SMERRRRRRR wedi hager.

  6. I agree with the almost all the facts. The west never supports Eritrean independence.

    You seems to focus on foreign affairs a lot, but simply bypass Eritrean internal affairs.

    Why Gifa all the time? Maybe you were not in Asmara but in 2000 when Weyane reached Barentu, every Eritrean inside the country go to the war areas voluntarily.

    Why Gifa all the time? Why not let young people work?

    Why Gifa all the time, even though you know people will leave the country?

    Why Gifa all the time? Why you push young/educated generation leave the country?

    Why Gifa all the time? Is it good for the country? is it good for PFDJ? or is it good for hidden Issayas Agenda?

    So please think, think think.

    • Thank you Amanuel for pointing out the reality in our Eritrea but matter of the fact is, it is all our fault and we cant blame any one else but ourselves. we were too silent and we were looking the other way when the despicable murderer threw our reformists into jail, we were silent when he shut down our independent news papers and jailed our journalists, we were silent when he jailed our orthodox church Abun and replaced him by his puppets, and we were silent when he converted our youngsters (our future) into modern day slaves. Hopefully this time we learned our lesson and we refuse to be silent any more and roll our sleeves and pay all the necessary sacrifice to dislodge the unelected murderer (like Burkina Faso) and reclaim our very very very expensive freedom.
      I refuse to be silent, and enough of GIFA, enough of tyranny, enough of murder, enough of slavery and expedited release of our innocent brothers and sisters.
      Awetn selamn nhzbi Eritrea.

    • @EriEri

      The reply of EriEri is a typical HGDEF reply – “suq meritsna alena” !!!

      If you were not ignorant enough, you could at let the opinion of others stay as it is or even value as you wish yourself to be respected. What is false or pretentious in the above comments by the way ? You could have given your concrete opinion!

  7. I trust the CIA to be a force for good than AFAWARWE and his criminal cartel in Eritrea. I believe we are the original Ethiopians and we should rejoin our homeland Ethiopia. We can not be a separate country and we must be absorbed by Ethiopia or join Djibouti.

  8. Why we always give credit for Ethiopians? What is there interst here? What will they gain out of this discussion? Are Eritreans can talk the facts? That poor mentality of protection is out dated with this crappy idiotic dictator Issias.

  9. My brothers and sisters pls spend few minutes listening to a former prison guard on YouTube (SEAD SALEH…. HALEWA SAWRA) to clearly understand what is going on our land in Eritrea. Eritrea is converted into thousands of prison cells and to satisfy the demand for additional prison cells cargo containers are converted into metal cages and prisons. The murderer regime is systematically decapitating and reducing our innocent Eritreans into vegetative state and watching them decay and die.
    To highlight from some of his interview.
    1-The minute you are thrown in jail you longer have no identity, the former “you” gets replaced by numerical number. You will be identified by your name or recognized by your profession but you become i.e. # 7, 17 or so on. Hitler used the same technique in the concentration camps that is why you see holocaust survivors branded with numbers.
    2-For the first year or two you will never know why you are in prison in the first place. In some cases some of the prisoners stay in jail for several years and get released without knowing why they ended up in jail in the first place.
    3-Year two or three you will be forced to admit and sign documents for crimes you did not commit and you will be thrown into underground jails or containers for unknown number of years.
    3-For those who refuse to admit the fabricated lies, their nails get pulled with pliers and their testicles crushed with pliers and exposed into all kinds of inhuman torture and reduced into vegetative state till they die or lose their sanity.
    4-Routinely prisoners (our brothers and sisters) taken out of their prison cells and killed by killing squad for a reason only known for the killers ISAYAS and his criminal gangsters.
    5-In this lawless land it is very common to find prisoners (INNOCENT ERITREANS) hanged in their prison cells and it is treated as if a mice or fly killed but not a human being with brothers, sisters, family and unfortunately most of this guys are the ones who fought for our independence.
    Knowing this facts and crime similar to the holocaust, It is sad and shame to watch some of our moms dressed up in beautiful and colorful traditional closes and complimented with a nice hairdo and tons of golden jewelries attending a celebration which praises and supports tyranny, killing, torture and slavery.
    Most of them I am sure they have nothing to do with the murderer ISAYAS AFEWORKI and I am assuming they are going out to have fun with their friends and families but unfortunately your money is used to torment ,torture, kill and murder our people and your good name is used for propaganda purposes by the criminal murderer ISAYAS AFEWORKI and criminal thugs.

  10. The Eritrean Government and its incubated members started roaring about athletics this week to shift the attitude of the population of Eritrea as this is one of their tools to regroup and convince the scattered part of the population due to its mishandling and dictatorship character. Here is a pro- verve for the Government’s current character , Instead of “Going around the Bush” come to the point. Now, it is time to respond to criminals against humanity widely occurred in the country not the time to talk about Cyclist! Currently, ICC’s door is opening its door for its new guests like Isaias …, Well done Human Right Council. My prescription to Isaias Afewerki is to take a course or learn about [time] to top-up his 1st year degree programme. “Time is everything!” but I thought that he couldn’t tolerate it as the previous one.

  11. Hello,

    I agree with the written about the regime’s brutality. It is obvious that Eritrea got its independence in 1991, but from my experiences I strongly believe that the population of Eritrea denies all its human right freedom by simply following the current regime’s ideology. The regime used the wider population as things like “use and throw” because the people still cannot understand the hidden agenda or ideology of Isaias Afwerki and its team members. The regime believes that Eritrea is not belonging to all Eritrean population who was/is participating in all aspect of the struggle but it belongs to the minority regime members only. You can easily learn from their reaction to the wider Eritrean population from the [current Human right reports]. You can understand them from their experiences, believe or not their ideology is Eritrea is belonging only to the regime. Basically, the regime has no any clear strategy at all which is based on critical thinking to the development of the country but has always a strategy based on dreams. He has not developed ever any credible budget plan. I remember in 2003 Isaias announced on his annual budget plan $300 at the cabinet meeting but in practical at that year there were not any budget allocated to the ministries. I have one thing always come up to my mind that how can you expect any development from the non vision strategic plan drawn by illiterates? Now, the world started to realise our problem and the brutality of the regime but the world will not sort out all our problems. I strongly believe that we are the cause and effect and let’s…

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