“The sweetest moment in a dictator’s life can be when democracy triumphs, he’s deposed, his name becomes synonymous with misery and terror, his former subjects look forward to a prosperous country without him but with the support of the West and the United Nations, and foreign correspondents leave his wrecked country for another hotter spot. That’s exactly the moment when a brutal tyrant can start heading towards rehabilitation.” (Riccardo Orizio)
The above quotation was from the Epilogue to the 2004 edition of Riccardo Orizio’s book, Talk of the Devil: Encounters with Seven Dictators. Orizio is the Italian journalist who interviewed seven past dictators including Idi Amin, Bokassa and Mengistu in 2003. Orizio might have the chance to do one more interview with the would-be past African dictator, Isaias, if the dictator makes it with his skin outside the country and his Libyan friend, Kaddaffi, gives him a tent to live in and a dozen women guards.
If Dictator Isaias is smart enough, he should know that even the seemingly most powerful dictators suffered a reversal of fortunes when the constellation of political forces suddenly shifted; a clear direction everybody currently observes in his case as well. When such shift happened, neither their power nor their lives were safe. Just thinking back to the fate of Romania’s Nicolae Ceausescu is the best lesson for him. The lesson is pretty clear: the more draconian the dictatorship, the more likely is a violent end. History has shown time and again that whatever happens in dictatorships comes as a surprise, even to those struggling for democratic change. The fiction that the “Lion of Nacfa” or the “Beloved Leader” is all powerful, immortal and the centre of the region cannot be maintained all the time. All of these fairy tales could evaporate in six hours as soon as the whistle is blown or the bell is gone.
As any other dictator, Isaias likes to babble, especially at this particular time, when he is standing naked in front of the whole world. For him, time is a tool in his arsenal, just like torture and army. It is there to be played with and manipulated. Though this massive effort of denial, falsification and distortion, constituting his “verbal diarrhea”, seems bizarre, they are calculated ploys to distract and try to breathe new life into his fast-collapsing regime. The world knows that he is doing all that for a reason; not because he is mad. But we have to make sure that no one takes the bait.
Jane Dutton of Al-Jazeera quite politely asked him to answer her questions because all she hears and reads is gross human right violation records of a tyrannical regime and a destabilizing role played in the region. In the interview, she did not try to make any arguments or trash his government. She just tried to get some answers and another perspective. He cannot defend his regime if that was all it was. As usual, he proved that he never answers questions simply out of principle. He was annoyed and agitated to the extent that many watchers thought he was high on drugs. Watchers would ask the same question people had repeatedly asked about Hitler, Chairman Mao, Stalin and their likes: Is he the personification of evil or just a plain mad? The debate “evil versus mad” will continue as it has done since antiquity. He once again proved to the world that he can never be questioned and that he is accountable to no one. As by now, the whole world knows the way he would behave when asked questions that touch his nerve, he should be encouraged to open his mouth. This is one way for the world to see the level of tragedies in Eritrea.
We read that smearing the honest journalist, the dictator, who has never ceased to amaze watchers with the bizarre behaviours that are typical of him, called Jane “insane” As an insult from the most despised dictator in the world should be considered a badge of honour, I am sure this noble journalist would not take it seriously. In a way, it is a compliment that the brutal regime terribly fears the facts and truth she would expose to the world to such extent that he wanted to go to that extreme. Can there be any better proof that Jane indeed got it right?
It is amusing that a buffoon of the highest order, who is publicly discredited as a lying liar, calls others liars and asks for evidence for all accusations she said he is charged with and wanted his perspective on. If that is not ludicrous what is? As he threw tens of thousands of Eritreans to jail without any proof of guilt and killed thousands of innocent citizens, he is the last in the whole world to ask for evidence for all accusations against him. There is no more credible source than Amnesty International, which is perfectly neutral, and its human rights rating of Eritrea is horrid. He can call it what he wants but Amnesty International does not discriminate. It treated Eritrea as it did the United States in the case of Guantanamo Bay, for example. If he labels everything as Western propaganda and bias, then no lack of evidence will sway the world community from demanding that he should stop violation of human rights, leave the power for the people, and stop destabilizing and creating antagonisms in the region.
This was not the first time he is exhibiting multiple symptoms of a disturbed psyche, showing that he is increasingly prone to violent outbursts and wild paranoia. Of course, the reason for his frustration is clear. As an evil man with an extraordinary capacity to shut his mind to the realities, he might have expected his friend, the Amir of Qatar, to twist Jane’s hand as he might have done to Jameel Azer, one of the uncompromising journalists the Al-Jazeera Arabic channel watchers had respect for, but this time whose interview of January 2010 was more of a courtesy and his trip to Asmara an entertainment venture, seemingly following the instructions, “Mashiha waDabir Amrak”. Of course, his friend cannot try an act of arm twisting on a white lady as he would do on journalists of Arab, Asian or African origins. The Arab “Oqdet Khawaja” will not give him a free hand to do so. The dictator is lucky that Jane did not spit on him or throw her shoes at him, as a goodbye kiss from Al-Jazeera. I highly appreciate her patience, but I could see, maybe she decided to come to spit to his grave in the near future because, as a journalist of very high calibre, she could predict the tragic end of the dangerously unfolding drama. He deserves many spits and shoes thrown at him for what he has done to his country and to the region. Is there anyone while watching the interview sensed the anger and strong emotions caused by the mental stress but yet did not “fear” or hoped that the interview will end with a sudden cardiac arrest?
Undoubtedly, we have seen and still see some foreign journalists, who blinded by material offers from the sinister regime or narrow political gains, never felt ashamed to present the innate evil they were selling and promoting as Eritrea’s saviour. This way, these media whores have sacrificed their long-term interest and professional ethics for short-term financial or political gain. They are compromised and greedy liars, sometimes assigned by their governments or political organizations as a gift to the dictator. Their role is to whitewash and praise a buffoon of the highest order and a psychopath, who has a personality disorder characterised by chronic immoral and antisocial behaviour. These journalists will continue their role as mercenaries until the dictator totally collapses when seriously confronted by the defiant and mobilized people.
I am just curious as anybody else. What kind of childhood did Isaias have? What is it that created this kind of evil who is consistently prone to miscalculation and always ready and determined to join the losing side of history? Since some citizens had elevated him near divine status, he forgot that he will go from this world the way of all ordinary humans. I wish journalists could have asked him why he thinks he is the only person capable to run the country. Nevertheless, he is already looking like a toothless bulldog in his latest pictures; a fact which shows that he is at the verge of his collapse. Knowing this situation well, the world is eagerly awaiting the next chapter of the drama. But we should not forget the biggest lesson we have learned from the twenty years of his rule: that people and nations must not follow any leader who claims he can never be questioned and who is accountable to no one. Finally, I sincerely hope that no Eritrean organization or party in the opposition, or outside it, will take a strand of Isaias’ hair and create an Isaias clone.