Freedom and justice loving Eritreans declared initial victory against repression in Geneva; future opposition activities, and confrontation with the regime of Isaias Afwerki, will be measured against the victory of June 26, 2015, which has become the yardstick.
The Geneva rally has represented the true face of Eritrea; no such diverse crowd of Eritreans assembled in one place, around a united cause, in the last twenty years.
After so many years of activism, telling the world of their agonies and sufferings, and chronicling their losses, Eritrean freedom and justice seekers worldwide feel vindicated, and partly compensated, by the United Nations and the world community. Still, they hope for one more thing from the UN and the world community: taking the necessary steps to help stop the Eritrean nightmare that has been going on since 1993.
In general, Eritreans have always been skeptical of the UN. They widely believe they were subjected to the unnecessary thirty-year destructive armed struggle because the UN ignored their plight and appeals. The UN didn’t raise a hand to protect the federal arrangement between Eritrea and Ethiopia when the latter violated it, though it oversaw the process of its implementation and was supposed to be the guarantor to prevent its violation. Unfortunately it neglected Eritreans when the Ethiopian emperor systematically eroded the federal agreement and finally declared Eritrea, a sovereign state, a mere province of his empire.
For years the Ethiopian emperor was systematically dismantling the federation, while Eritreans watched as their national flag was lowered, as their parliament and their laws were dissolved, as their freedoms were curtailed, and as they were bombed out of their villages to end up refugees in Sudan since the late 1960s. The UN and the super powers did nothing to alleviate the situation. Worse, they provided the feudal emperor and his successors, the military junta that deposed him, a tacit support in repressing Eritreans.
Like all other citizens, the current ruling elite in Eritrea is driven by that grudge and apprehension of the injustices that befell Eritrea, only they took their skepticism a bit too far and allowed it to develop into a crippling malady. Coming out victorious from the long years of struggle, the regime felt it was invincible and adopted a confrontational pose against the international organizations. The general skepticism worsened as the regime became more repressive and embarked on a cycle of military adventures in far places, and confrontation with all its immediate neighbors. This behavior finally led to a devastating two-years border war with Ethiopia from 1998 to 2000.
The border war with Ethiopia stopped only after tens of thousands of soldiers from both countries lost their lives. The war further resulted in a no-war-no-peace situation that gave the Isaias regime an excuse to keep the youth in trenches and slave labor camps indefinitely.
Eritreans have been going through untold injustices and have been escaping from their country in the thousands for the last thirteen years as the behavior of the regime isolated the country from its region and the world at large. Its repressive policies have fragmented the Eritrean population and weakened opposition to its authoritarian rule.
The most serious damage the regime inflicted on Eritreans is on their pride, the fame and respect they nurtured with their resilience and dedication in the years leading to Independence Day is damaged. Observers wonder: why are Eritreans who faced the world’s strongest powers with meager resources putting up with the repression of the Isaias regime?
Indeed, it is an embarrassing observation and a mind boggling question. Eritreans are resilient, patient, and they love their country, but Isaias took advantage of that and spread fear among the heroic people of Eritrea. The true character and resolve of Eritreans is captured in Dan Connell’s book entitled, “Against All Odds”. That is why the 1991 victory was an authentic and heroic Eritrean achievement, against all odds! And in 2015, Eritreans are determined to remove the Isaias regime by summoning their natural resolve to do the task, against all odds!
2015 is a watershed year, and the Geneva demonstration of June 26, is a landmark. Eritreans have renewed their trust on the UN and the world. The recent CoIE report was a therapy to many Eritreans who immediately began to trust the world community.
As far as Eritreans are concerned, there was hardly new information the CoIE report provided. Being a small country composed of a small, tightly knit population, almost every Eritrean knows a victim of the Isaias regime. Details of the atrocities and violation of human rights of Eritreans has been a daily staple in Eritrean social gathering for over two decades. But the CoIE report validated the information that Eritreans knew all along. It contributed greatly in making the world community become aware of the plight of Eritreans. It puts the Eritrean predicament on the right path to be addressed legally, politically, socially, and economically. The report vindicated the tireless activists who felt alone in raising awareness about the suffering of Eritreans and exposing the criminal nature of the Isaias regime.
Looking forward, Eritreans hope to see the findings in the CoIE report taken to its natural end: making the perpetrators accountable for their misdeeds, and ushering an era of reconciliation and peace in Eritrea. In turn, that will certainly usher justice, freedom, and prosperity for Eritreans who have paid dearly for these causes.
The happiness that Eritreans have been expressing for the authentication of their grievances by the CoIE is unprecedented. It’s undoubtedly the most significant achievement that an overwhelming number of Eritreans have celebrated with full confidence, and hope. The first sign of its effect is that the report has now become a rallying material that is helping unite the fragmented groups of Eritreans arrayed to reclaim their country. It has become a benchmark to measure future activities and accomplishments.
To express their happiness, Eritreans residing in many parts of the world have demonstrated in support of the CoIE and its report. On June 19, a massive demonstration was carried out in Washington DC. That was followed by a demonstration in Tel Aviv, Israel, on June 25, and another in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on June 26, concluded with a major rally in Geneva, Switzerland, on the same day.
The Geneva demonstration is the most representative as many Eritreans travelled from all over Europe, from the Northern tip of Norway, and Scotland, to France, to Italy and all countries in between. The Eritreans spirit in Geneva was unprecedented and it further motivated freedom and justice loving Eritreans to double their efforts to bring about the end of the repressive Isaias regime in their home country.
The June 26 demonstration in Geneva was carried out against the backdrop of the demonstration that was carried out by the supporters of the Eritrean government who expressed their love for Isaias Afwerki: “We Are Him, He Is Us.” They were joined by hundreds of Ethiopian opposition members, members of groups stationed in Eritrea. At the end, the 1200 or so pro government supporters left Geneva feeling proud they expressed their support for a tyrant and for the injustice meted on Eritreans. Worse, before they left, they demonstrated their brigandage by harassing and threatening the CoIE members. In one incident, commissioner Sheila Keetharuth was encircled by a gang of government supporters in her hotel and one of the gangs beat her leg. This and other crimes are now being investigated by the Swiss police. But the Eritreans conscience has already condemned their street habits, their criminal nature, and the chain of violations that they have committed for many years.
Such developments will certainly empower Eritreans who are living under the tyranny of the Eritrean government. The prevailing situation in Eritrea should not be allowed to continue. Perpetual fear, destitution, and lack of justice and freedom should come to an end.
Regardless of what the Diaspora Eritreans do, the final blow should be dealt by Eritreans in Eritrea. The sheer number of millions of Eritreans should not be silent to the victimization by a tyrant and his handful of enablers. Understandably, the chaos in many countries around Eritrea is feeding the anxiety of Eritreans, and the Isaias regime is exploiting the situation in its fear mongering propaganda which have been effective so far. But not anymore. The suffering people would finally have to be guided by an authentic Eritreans adage: you can’t avoid sleep for fear of bad dreams!