In an interview with Walta, Ethiopia’s state media, Tewelde Gebreselasse, the Chairman of the Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA), called upon the international community to support the just cause of the Eritrean people.
Contrasting the situation in Eritrea with that of Egypt and Tunisia, and answering the interviewer’s question as to why the North African uprising has not surfaced in Eritrea, Tewelde said that at least in those countries, the citizens had a better standard of living and more freedom in communication using the Internet and Facebook. “The Eritrean situation is worse,” he said, “Eritreans suffer most. The youth are encompassed and disintegrated, and they are working for the regime in forced labor camps like those used by Pol Pot….Sawa is the only Secondary School, a concentration camp, and there is no university for the youth to gather.”
Tewelde described Eritrea in the last 20 years as a “one party dictatorship…with no freedom of press, no rule of law, no election, no freedom of expression.” It is a country, he said, that is all about militarization and no education. The economy is monopolized by the ruling party and the corrupt regime leaders, he stated, and in the last 20 years there has been recurring famine. On a daily basis, there are 100-200 Eritrean refugess crossing to Ethiopia and Sudan, he said. At this rate, he added, “Eritrea will almost become a failed state, like Somalia, unless the opposition is strong.”
Responding to the question of how he would react to Ethiopia’s recently announced foreign policy change towards Eritrea, Tewelde described it as a “very positive step.” “It is a good thing,” he said, “The Eritrean people want, from all their neighbors, help for their case.”
“There was confusion [regarding Ethiopia’s stand],” said Tewelde Gebreselasse, “but the Prime Minister, at a cabinet” clarified the government position. He also said that the Ethiopian government’s “stand on the Eritrean [sovereignty] issue is very clear, and they still have a clear stand.” He expressed his appreciation for Ethiopia’s support of Eritrean refugees, and supporting Eritrean students attend Ethiopian universities, something that does not exist in Eritrea.
He invited the international community, particularly the UN Security Council, to implement the sanctions against the Isaias Afwerki regime “properly. They should place diplomatic pressure on the regime,” he said, “The just cause of the Eritrean people must be supported. If there is democracy in Eritrea, there will be stability in the region.” The Isaias Afwerki regime has been a destablizing factor in the region, all the way west to Darfur, Sudan, and all the way east to Yemen and with its removal “support for extremists in Somalia” will wane, he explained.
Tewelde Gebreselasse is the chairman of Sagem, a member of the Eritrean umbrella opposition group, Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA.) He said that the EDA is preparing for a “national congress by the end of the year to consolidate our potential to struggle. We will be helped by Ethiopia and the region.”
meskerem.net, a so-called opposition website which has become a loud and sensational cheerleader for the dictatorship of Isaias Afwerki (as well as for those who attempted to dictate the terms of the successful 2010 National Conference (“Addis Waela”) but were resoundingly defeated), characterized the interview as “evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the Alliance and the Commission have conspired to reverse Eritrean independence and return the land of Awate to the Ethiopians.”
For background information on Tewelde Gebreselasse and his organization, refer to awate.com interview of 2002