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Eyewitness Report: A Glance At The Situation In Eritrea

It has been a while since rationing of essential consumer items started in Eritrea. It has been since power became so scarce that Eritreans visiting home carry big quantities of candles. Tap water is almost nonexistent and the sanitation in Asmara and other towns is worrisome. Even with oil price have been dropping for months, petrol is rationed. And those who have a ration, particularly taxi drivers, receive their share of the rationed gas and sell it on the black market. Because the government fixes taxi fares, taxi drivers make more or equal money by staying off the road. And many do just that: relax at home.

Yesterday, member of the Awate Forum (nicknamed Hager) who says he just returned from Eritrea, posted a comment that we thought would shade some light on the dire situation in Eritrea. Below is the report with minor editing:

  1. I didn’t see any Giffa for the time I was there. There is a call for military training but people are refusing. For the military training they are calling them to report to Gergera. From one village I know, only two people went. As you know, now it is the harvesting season back home. <em>Kewee</em> is great but the problem is there is no manpower to do the labor. Everywhere you go, you see women harvesting Taff.
  2. Fuel shortage is unbearable. Not a single gas station sells fuel. The only option you have is to buy it from the black market. At times I paid 120nkf pet liter for benzene. In every corner of a street in Asmara you see underage kids with empty Coca-Cola bottles ready to sale you benzene. Electricity shortage is very bad. At one time I went three days without my cell phone because I couldn’t charge it.
  3. Some price of goods
    * Sugar is 50nkf /kilo* Bread is 3nkf each
    * Egg is 8nkf each
    * Coke or Sprite (Made in Sudan) is 25nkf each
  4. I didn’t see any military in Asmara or anywhere. The presidential palace has guards 24/7 but that is.
  5. Didn’t see much checkpoints. For example, from Asmara to Mendefera there is one right before you get to Dubarwa but they only check the trucks and bigger vehicles. There is one right before you get to Mendefera and it’s the same thing.
  6. I came back without running into a single person who is grateful for what the government is doing. It seemed to me that everyone is trying to find a way to get out of the country.
  7. Corruption is above the roof. I encountered it myself. I knew if I didn’t pay, my job won’t get done (at least on time).
  8. Safety was good. You see people at 11 O’clock at night walking all alone.
  9. Transportation is a mess. Half of your time is spent waiting for a bus or a mini bus. The lines are very long.
  10. Sanitation is unbearable. Not a single restaurant, or public service place I visited, had a running toilet or running water. Heck, in some cases I had to do what I had to do and use a newspaper.
  11. Immigration… they issue you exit visa for ten years. Meaning if I return to Eritrea within ten years, I don’t have to go and get an exit visa.

I know I am all over the place, but hopefully what I have written would give you a glance of the situation in our motherland.

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  • Tesfabirhan WR

    Dear Hager,

    I have no doubt on the report. What I want is analysis. I thank you!


  • Dear Senai.

    The picture was snapped from a video when it came out in 2012. We suspect that once it was seen on, maybe the person who posted the video panicked and edited it out, maybe he was told to take it out, or maybe he just wanted to avoid the wrath of the regime, the part that we snapped at the 7:60 mark was edited out and the edited clip was uploaded again. But not the proof was edited out. On the edited video, you see the soldier and the other man walking: Check at the 7: 58 mark. It is the seconds before the part we snapped was cut out, check the round highlight in the attached picture.

    The second picture is the originally snapped image with the caption which we tried to remove and smudged the picture.

    But why would one forge a picture of an old Eritreans man carrying a gun? Isn’t this a well known fact? There are many such pictures in the Internet. If you doubt this is fiction, call someone you know in Eritrea if you have relatives.

    Here is the link to the video:

    • Senai

      Dear Awate, rest assured I understand that many septuagenarians are brandishing AK47 assault rifles. I was mainly commenting from the snapshot of the two walking people, which for me didn’t match with the shadow it should cast as far as Sun’s illumination is concerned.

  • Senai

    There is no doubt in my mind that Eritrea is in dire straits. I thought Bisha would alleviate many problems of the local people but so far the worst is happening. However, I have a doubt with the picture posted. The younger and the older man are walking almost along the same line, but the shadows cast by the two men are different. The first one is to the back whereas the older man’s shadow is the his side. Where is the location of the Sun?? It looks to me that there is a bit of photoshopping going on.

    • haileTG


      Me too, I agree that Eritrea is in dire straights and the picture shows it without any obstruction. The only difference is that the dire straight of Eritrea is depicted in the picture of an emaciated elderly encumbered with having to carry a gun (the average weight of an AK 47 is between 7 -11 lb) that would sap his body’s meager nutrition unnecessarily. The dire straights is not to do with the direction of shadows or superimposition of two fitting images (if at all that was to be the case).

      • Dear Haile TG,

        I find it difficult to understand why an emaciated old person, in his sixties if not in his seventies, probably a farmer due to the way he is dressed and the cane he holds in his hand, is walking with a gun in the center of Asmara, while the person in uniform is bare hand. What is the emergency situation that necessitates an elderly civilian to carry a gun in the streets. One can understand if he has it in his home or the person in uniform has the gun, than the old man.

        • haileTG

          Selam Horizon,

          That is taken in the city of Keren, not far from Asmara. The arming of civilians started around 2012 and it is common to see people carrying it around. Actually, one is required to carry them during night patrol duty that the people are forced to perform and a day time duty that also involves guarding government buildings (a one or two 8hr shift per week). There is no requirement to carry them at all times per se, even though you do see people carrying them. I have two theories for the possible reason:

          1 – They could be going, returning or detouring on their way home to or from those duties.

          2 – Storage. Many people live in small/crammed places shared with children or youngsters. It would be difficult to store safely a gun and munitions (even you unload it and separately store them kids can be exceptionally creative) in those places and leave it unattended. So, the only choice might be to wonder around your routine carrying this 10lb metal. Those who can store it, don’t really brandish it.

          Pictures speak a thousand words, and this is today’s Eritrea under PFDJ.


  • Ossares Haftom

    if is no peace no jusitice for so lonig oll most 29 years th0es criminals hgdf the longest Dictetor group in history of east Africathoes criminals group mastgo for goodsooner thanlater

  • hope

    If you have the guy and courage, go visit Eritrea and give us your Eye Witness Account and compare and contrast things since you left Etitrea in 2012.
    Plus, who have the right to the ” Prosecutor and the Judge ” at the same time?
    Hager wrote what he experienced only.

    • Tesfabirhan WR

      Dear hope,

      Does it need gut and courage to visit Eritrea? Why I need that? It is my home country that I have a dear love with.

      The thing is: the dictatorial system made the country to be considered as a monster through his actions. The bible says, “Don’t fall in temptation.” I can not go to a devil’s house while I know his presence there. It is not because I am afraid of the “devil” but I don’t want to go there. Devil is devil and no one wants to go.

      Eritrea, which was suposed to be a welcoming country, is now changed into a mosnter’s hotel, where it is common to hear loud crying of torture. And the people are leaving the country because they don’t want to hear the sound of torture.

      Eritrea, which was supposed to be the place of praise and grace songs and full of laughter, it has now changed into a place of loud propaganda and manouvering of war drums.

      Are you tempting me to fall in the hands of the “demons”?

      hope, get-away from the face of Eritreans, your words are full of temptations.


  • T..T.

    Only through avoidance of deception emerging and continuing relationships with people and nations can be fostered. Indeed, as Jacob E. William explained that when one intends to avoid relational trauma in love and relationship has to remember that “the faster you accept the cold hard truth, the faster it’ll be for your wounds to heal.”

    I don’t know Hager’s political stance, but in relation to Isayasists’ failure, once an opposition member described the Isayasists’ arrogance or OUTRIGHT LIES as an INTENTIONAL OMISSION OF FACTS that amounts to political deception as a cover to all of their failures, including all outstanding border issues with Ethiopia and Djibouti.

  • Hager

    What I have written is my own experience during my visit to Eritrea. Let’s take your first two points (1&4).
    1. Giffa: During my stay in Eritrea, I did not see or witness any giffa. I do not want make up something I didn’t witness.
    4. I didn’t see any military personal in the cities I visited including Asmara. By any means I am not saying it does not exist, what I am saying is I personally didn’t see it.
    More of what I witnessed/experience:
    1. Exchange rate $1=56nkf (black market)
    2. There is a shortage of the 100nkf (the currency). Whenever you exchanged your hard currency you get it in a buddle of 50,20,10,5 or 1. You end up with Me’Shema (bag) full of currency.
    3. When we entered Eritrea our luggage’s didn’t get checked. Not sure why.
    4. Upon our arrival, when we entered the airport we were greeted by an employee from the Ministry of Health. He was wearing gloves and mouth mask. He asked us one by one where we were coming from and if we had visited any of the countries effected by Ebola.
    5. Inside the airport we were given the opportunity to buy goodies (using hard currency) such as detergent, olive oil, wine etc.
    6. The government has issued some paper work in some part of Asmara to those who purchased/built a house without a permit. The penalty for the buyer is 250,000 nkf. I do not know what the penalty is for the seller.
    7. I was surprise lot of people knew the story of pilot Dejen. I had a few people openly tell me his story and how they heard it in the radio.

    • haileTG

      Thanks Hager,

      on #5

      “5. Inside the airport we were given the opportunity to buy goodies (using hard currency) such as detergent, olive oil, wine etc.”

      Where exactly was that. I thought the couple of duty free shops and one cafe is located on the way out on the departure terminal.

      On landing, the bus brings you to the only terminal door where inside you do arrival passport check and fill forms. Out of that you proceed to where you register excess hard cash and directly opposite there is small office that they register electronic goods. past that you get to the baggage claims section and that leads directly outside the airport reception premises to the parking lot where if you have people receiving you would be waiting by the pavement across the airport. I know taxi drivers loiter to purchase duty free whisky from travelers too. Could you tell us where this shop is located, is it next to the himbol branch service window at the registrations hall??? I just must have always missed it. On the way out yes. There are two or three shops on an medium sized waiting terminal upstairs.


      • Tesfabirhan WR

        Dear haile TG,

        You just made my day. This week was very stressful but now you are changing it into funny conversation.

        Don’t forget to mention also another FREE DUTY shop in Expo center.

        @Hager, Dear Hager, thanks to Group Arbi Harnet those reporters at and, we have updated information on the prices.

        Now, as a recent visitor, update us on analysis. We need you to analyse further, deep inside. The reason I am calling you this is because, for sure, you were from the circle or 2% tax payer. We need your analysis, BEFORE and AFTER. What makes you to report on your own way?

        if you are a good hearted Eritrean; which I am sensing from you, tell us your previous perception and the reality change. This is what are doing here.

      • Hope

        What is your point?Does the locations and sites matter to you?
        From the Luggage area,when you go towards the exit, there is a kiosk I where you change some currency , be it Himbol or a ,Bank Branch or Red Sea Corp or 09.
        Then on the right side,there is a Duty Free Shop.
        I did exactly what Hager did but my luggage a were checked piece by piece.There lots of check points at that time.
        I had to cancel my flight due to inefficient Immigration Services to get an exit visa.
        So,lots of improvements.
        No beer at all at that time at Asmara Palace… But I heard now that you can have whatever you want.
        This was 3-4 yrs ago.
        But I see some improvement and some worse things too from Hager’s report.
        To Hager:
        Did you go Sawa,Ghereger,Gherset Dam,Tesenei,Adi Keiyih College,EIT,Massawa Marine Sciences College,College of Hamelmalo,Asmara College of Health Sciences,Orota School of Medicine and Dentistry,Bisha and Culluli Potash Minimg,the Asmara Gold Mining and other Mining Projects….
        If so, tell us about it.
        If not,why not?
        My point:
        Your Report is , rather, biased, unbalanced, unrepresentative of the complete situation and childish and unpatriotiic, to say the least.
        The AT:
        Your Article is beyond nonsense and embarrassing and just proved your biased way of Reporting Plus!
        You could have done better .