Inform, Inspire, Embolden. Reconcile!

The United Kingdom Should Prove Isaias Afwerki Right

There is a saying in the Eritrean highlands when one observes that the effort exerted is vastly disproportionate to the puny outcome: “nezi ktg’Eta trhtSa?”—all of your sweating is for this?  We had the exact same reaction after we read the Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs June 7th  Press Release regarding the British nationals who have been in detention since December 24, 2010. It is an embarrassing piece of dribble from a regime that has made embarrassing Eritreans its core specialty.  But since the news of the detained British nationals may be, to many readers, their first introduction to Eritrea, this editorial will be dedicated to offering them insights into Eritrea under the despotic rule of Isaias Afwerki.

The facts that both sides agree on are: the number of prisoners; the nationality of the prisoners; the name of their employer;  their tools of  trade; their freedom status, and how long they have been denied their freedom. Four Britons who work for the British maritime private security firm of Protection Vessels International (PVI) and who were carrying sophisticated military equipment have been in detention for nearly 5 ½ months in Eritrea.  One of them has, reportedly, dual nationality:  He is British and Australian.

The  focus of the Eritrean regime now is the prisoners’ tools of trade. According to the Eritrean regime’s press release, it found: 

…a cache of sniper weapons fitted with silencers, telescopes, distance-monitoring equipments were secured. Moreover, night vision binoculars equipped with GPS, together with poison-tipped bullets, bullet-proof vests, specialized communication equipments, as well as V-SAT satellite telephones were seized during the search…

What else could those tools be used for, asks the regime,  except for a political objective: terrorism and sabotage? That is what the Eritrean regime is now charging the four Britons with: sabotage and terrorism. Its trial-by-press-release (the only kind of trial the PFDJ knows) which argues: given the quantity and sophistication of their equipment and communication tools, they must have come to destroy the infrastructure and property of Eritrea (sabotage); or, they must have come to inflict damage to the population, using indiscriminate violence, so as to terrify them and, using their fear, to affect an outcome (terrorism.)  

The “look at all these weapons and communication equipment!” cry was first announced by the co-founder of a liberation front, and cocksure founder of the present kleptocratic People’s Front for Democracy & Justice (PFDJ) that the “liberation front” morphed into, i.e.,  the ruling regime and the sole legal party in Eritrea.  The tyrannical  ruler of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki,  explained his position when he talked about the subject for the first time after the Brits had been in detention for four months. He did so when he was being “interviewed” by his own media outlet, Eri-TV, on April 30.  As we reported it then, he told his Eri-TV:

“They had heavy weaponry, goggles, snipers…what were they doing there?” he said, equating their presence in Eritrea as that of a burglar in a house. The emphasis, he implied, should be on why the burglar is in the house, and not what his rights are now that he has been caught.

Within a month, the regime made a call-out to all its propagandists and foot-soldiers, lined them all up in order of their bottom-feeding qualities, and from this human hill of vanity and shamelessness, the American Thomas Mountain, a shameless propagandist, Eritrea’s own Walter Duranty, won the nadir prize. Using minimal information leaked from his friendly PFDJ sources, and blending it with a pile of shrill, he produced a literary masterpiece

“These professional killers were discovered almost by accident by a woman taking a shortcut home through an adjacent out-of-service salt flat. The woman noticed, as all good Eritreans should, that sa’ada, white people, were taking photos (with telephoto lenses) somewhere they were not allowed. These Brit “diplomats” took their sweet time scoping out their firing points and parameters of their potential killing field for their discoverer had to walk almost a mile to the nearest police station to report this and then the police had to drive the roundabout route to the spot….”   

Mountain’s masterpiece with its breathless tone and its unlikely hero, a civilian woman, has now been entirely debunked by the monotonous prose of the PFDJ Press Release.  But in its brief shelf life, it served a purpose. Implicitly in Isaias’ interview, and more directly in Mountain’s article, the Brits were being accused of attempting to assassinate Isaias Afwerki. (Mountain’s masterpiece is entitled: Caught Red Handed: British Assassins In The Horn Of Africa.)  This was one assassination attempt in a series of attempts on Isaias Afwerki, explained Mountain, helpfully.  And his “exclusive” was spread throughout the second tier of PFDJ propaganda outlets, those beaming their frequencies and flashing web banners from radio stations and websites housed in the West.

But the four Brits do not look like members of a fearsome assassination squad—more like accountants on a fishing trip; maybe they are accountants for the real killers who got away! So the emphasis has been on the weaponry.

To marvel at the weaponry of a maritime private security firm is to marvel at the fact that a nurse carries a syringe, or that a policeman carries a gun, or a plumber has a wrench.  It is precisely its cache of weapons, communication and manpower expertise that PVI advertises as its competitive advantage!  (Google their website.)  This being common knowledge, the PFDJ had to plant a suggestion, carried faithfully by “journalist” Thomas Mountain, that Isaias Afwerki was the target. At least Isaias Afwerki believes that, and what holds true for Isaias must, therefore, be accepted as truth by every disciple no matter whether illiterate or holding advanced degrees. Speaking of which, Dr. Ghidewon Abay-Asmerom, a fervent and faithful adherent of the Idolatry of Isaias, wrote this in May 2011:

“As the recently leaked US cables clearly imply, Washington, in collusion with Ethiopia, had conspired to spin Eritrea into a chaotic orbit a mere three years after Eritrea’s independence was internationally recognized in 1993. They had attempted to kill, in a signature Washington style, Eritrea’s president through a plane crash as early asin 1996. When that plan failed, it Washington encouraged Ethiopia to invade Eritrea.”

Ghidewon Abay-Asmerom holds a PhD, and a tenured position at an American institution of higher learning.  This gives him his tools of the trade, his analytical skills.  With his skill set, he must know that what he wrote is a bald-faced lie. But as George Bernard Shaw, another useful idiot of Stalin who never repented his sins once put it: “there are some things that only intellectuals are crazy enough to believe.”  The “recently leaked US cables” don’t imply, clearly or otherwise, that Washington colluded with Ethiopia to kill Isaias Afwerki.  What they do show  is that Isaias Afwerki is such a paranoid freak, he thinks a malfunctioning plane (that returned him and his vacationing family safely to its point of origin, Addis Abeba, by the way) was an assassination attempt.  To avoid any confusion, the then ambassador to Eritrea gave his report a helpful heading: REF: ASMARA 345 “IS ISAIAS UNHINGED?” And then provided detailed substantiantion that, yep, Isaias IS unhinged, a nut job!  So the clear implication of wikileaks is not that the US tried to assassinate Isaias but that he is so delusional he believes everybody is out to kill him.    As for Washington’s encouragement of Ethiopia to invade Eritrea, to say that it occured after 1996 (the ”signature Washington style” assassination attempt) and before 1998 (the “invasion” of Eritrea)  is to defy the truth.  The war started in May 1998, and on the eve of the war, the US Administration, at the highest levels (including a visit by the then American First Lady Hillary Clinton), was a huge booster of the Isaias Afwerki regime, flattering the dictator by including him in a list of the “New Generation” of Africa’s so-called reformers, young guns who were supposedly committed to avoiding the ruler-for-life disease of Africa’s Big Men.  Meet The New Generation; Same As The Old Generation. But Ghidewon, who suffers from a severe case of fellow-traveler disease, believes this fantastic tale, because Isaias Afwerki believes that, and what holds true for Isaias must, therefore, be accepted as truth. 

Now, in June, meskerem.net, a US based Eritrean-website, which is trying to compensate for its late arrival to the useful idiot wagon by embellishing or uncritically accepting every PFDJ propaganda and discrediting every opposition statement, is selling the same merchandise that Isaias Afwerki, Thomas Mountain, and Ghidewon Abay Asmerom set the theme for: the British company PVI is a lot like Blackwater USA: an essentially-government-funded security firm which does the dirty work that is outsourced by the government’s regular armed forces. To help its readers make the connection (subtle is not one of the words used to describe meskerem.net), the website placed the news piece about the Eritrean regimes press rele Eri-TV’s coverage of the news,  next to a news piece about Blackwater USA’s work in the Emirates.

It is satisfactory to know that the dictator pays a price for his dictatorship. Whether that comes in the form of addiction to painkiller pills or alcohol; or an ailing liver and deteriorating body; or fear of random death administered by US cruise missiles from the sea across Massawa; or poisoned dinner at restaurants (which might explain PVI’s poison tipped bullets!); or a perpetual state of worry that makes him travel with an entourage of dozens of body guards; and sleeping in different houses every night; or the sum of all these fears: there is some satisfaction in knowing that he suffers a fraction of what his victims do.

But this satisfaction quickly yields to loathing and anger and sadness at the magnitude of the pain which he has inflicted on Eritreans for decades. PVI is complaining, and rightly so, that four of its employees have been detained, without access to consular services, or their families, for 5 ½ months. But there are Eritreans who have been in the same or worse situation for 55 ½ months; and for multiple more months! And to remember them is to be aware at the breathtaking fall of the Eritrean fighting spirit!

Eritrea 101 For Foreigners

We say all this as a briefing to all who have been introduced to Eritrea via the case of the detained Britons. We say this to all those who are introduced to Eritrea for the first time and ask, “how did Eritreans allow their country to reach this stage?” We say this to all those who may have been introduced to Eritrea through harrowing stories of the flowing refugees and the asylum seekers, as captured by youtube clips and news reports.  We say this to all those who ask, “how do you allow such a brute to dominate you like this, and to treat you like his personal property?”  Dear interlocutor, we Eritreans were not always so; we were fighters once—but we have been utterly domesticated. 

When your liberator becomes your enslaver, it becomes difficult, and impossible for some, to believe in any liberator. And so many of our compatriots have come to ask for the impossible, a guarantee of success, before they embark on any mission. Once, a long time ago, belief in the mission was its own reward—but no more. Our compatriots seek perfection in our opposition groups, and when they fail to find it, they become what they are: turning back against the ruling regime, but not embracing the opposition: we Eritreans live in a purgatory of our making. In the same manner that most of those now rising up in the Arab Spring did for decades.

 And when you see the foreign companies, British, Canadian, Australian, rushing for mining licenses in Eritrea while their own governments, the British, Canadian and Australian governments, are expressing their alarm at the recklessness and sadism and callowness of the Eritrean regime, what do you see?  So the Westerner asks these questions:

Why didn’t the Eritrean regime tell the world or concerned countries or entities why they were holding the British nationals for 5 ½ months?

Why are the British nationals not brought to a court of law?

Why are the British nationals not allowed to tell their side of the story?

Why don’t the British nationals have legal representation?

Why is the press release using so strangely sympathetic language regarding the detainees?

What does the regime mean when its says that the matter is now in a “legal proceeding”?

Why did the regime, through its Foreign Ministry (not the Justice Department) choose to disclose its charges now?

The answer is one and the same: the Eritrean regime believes the United States and its Western allies are in a state of war with Eritrea. In this “war’, everybody is eligible to be a “prisoner of war.” In the eyes of the PFDJ, the employees of PVI are prisoners of war. The language of the press release appears “sympathetic” to the untrained reader but, in reality, this “sympathy” is mere pity: the regime has a name for low-ranking civilians or junior partners: kedemti, or servants. In any unequal relationship, according to the PFDJ, one is a master, the other is a servant. Such is its own relationship with the Eritrean people—it is the master; and the people are the servants. It may refer to them as wufuyat—volunteers—but its proper description for its citizens is gebar—tax-payer.

Such is every arrangement throughout the world, according to the PFDJ. The world is uni-polar, ruled by the United States, with only a handful of brave governments, Eritrea’s being one, who are standing up against this hegemony. In the puffed-up self-estimation of the PFDJ, Eritrea is at war with the United States, because Eritrea refuses to “kneel down” and accept any unbalanced arrangement.  It is the one “threat of good example”—emboldening those who want to stand up to the US.  And everybody who advances the US cause—whether that is the United Nations, or England, or Australia, or Canada, or Ethiopia—is a kedami: servant. So, in the eyes of the PFDJ and its delusional chairman Isaias Afwerki, the PVI employees are unwitting agents—kedemti—of the PVI boss; the PVI boss being the agent (kedami) of the British government, and the British government being an agent (kedamit) of the US government.  Thus, the PVI employees  must be presented in pitying language because they are several rungs removed from the Eritrean regime’s peer, its equal adversary, the United States. To arrest the four Brits without charges for months while, now, frequently mentioning that they admitted this, and they fessed up to that; that, in short, the information we gathered did not require painstaking research and extensive interrogation, we knew all of it within hours, is supposed to send some kind of message across the slave-master hierarchy: that the Eritrean regime is invincible, and that it talks only to another master, the government of the United States.

And why was this news announced through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Information and not through the Ministry of Justice, or any other ministry of law enforcement?  If those who do not know the inner-workings of the Eritrean regime get some comfort in this, they are deluding themselves. To ask this question is to ask why was Isaias Afwerki wearing a short-sleeved khaki shirt and not a long-sleeved blue shirt on a particular day: because he felt like it!  Similarly, every ministry, every department, every branch of government, every branch of the armed forces sometimes all the way down to a lieutenant colonel reports directly to Isaias Afwerki and he will use whichever tickles his fancy on any given day. Most, if not all, of the “press releases” of any import that carry the letterheads of the various ministries are hand-written by Isaias Afwerki, or the chief of staff of the presidential office, Yemane “Charlie” Gebremeskel.

What about the claim that the matter is now in a legal proceeding? Do not expect the PFDJ to cite specific ordinances or law: none of the tens of thousands of political prisoners in Eritrea have been charged with a specific crime because Eritrea has no constitution or law—beyond penal codes inherited from Imperial Ethiopia which were nullified by a constitution upon its ratification in 1997—a constitution that is yet to be implemented. The PFDJ’s idea of a legal case has nothing to do with court of law testimonies, witnesses, depositions, due process or judges. Its idea of “legal proceeding” is writing numbered paragraphs, and passing ”unanimous resolutions” by way of applause in party-organized “seminars.”  To the extent it recognizes any court, it is only the court of opinion, and  it will,  via media campaigns in media outlets it controls.   The PFDJ may selectively cite international law—while it ignoring specific obligations it has to foreign nationals, even those caught in an “act of war”—and if international law is not on its side, it will say, as it has in the past,  “if America  imprison terrorists indefinitely at Guantanamo Bay, we too can incarcerate, indefinitely terrorists we apprehended.”  After all, the Eritrean regime sees the American government as its peer, every other country, including the United Kingdom and Australia, are kedemti, or servants.   It is no coincidence that the four Brits were charged with “terrorism.”  In any event, the arrested will never be presented to a court of law. We can’t emphasize this enough to the family members of the arrested Brits: your family members will never, ever come to a court of law. You or your government will either buy their freedom, or trade for their freedom, but you will not win their freedom.

PFDJ 101

The United Kingdom and Australia have a choice. They can, as their mining companies have done, pretend that all is well, and invest considerable time and energy trying to patiently and in great trepidation befitting approaching a mad man, explain to the psychotic Eritrean tyrant of the error of his ways.  They can send apology letters, and pay ransom, and appease him. They can, like Norway, naively fund the retarded offsprings of the Eritrean ruling regime, the YPFDJ, while attempting to influence the behavior of the PFDJ. This is the same approach the West used with tyrants like Moammer Qaddaffi and Bashar Assad, who are the closest in style, mental imbalance and arrogance, to Isaias Afwerki.  And how is that working out for you?

Or, they can, in the alternative, listen to our answer to the question we posed above: So why did the Eritrean regime finally issue a press release on June 7th?

Because, just last month, the government of the United Kingdom placed restrictions, painful restrictions, on the Eritrean regime’s embassy in the UK: cease and desist from collecting taxes from Eritreans residing in Great Britain. If every country in the West did this, it would have a dramatic impact on the coffers of the regime. A good start, but not enough. Then every mining company the West owns has to be asked, “would you stop pouring funds to a fascistic and sadistic regime?”  If they can’t be stopped and they must, for the same moral reasons that they were not allowed to invest in apartheid South Africa,  then they must be named and shamed. All the young  Eritreans who have awakened to the monstrosity of the PFDJ and have organized themselves to  fight back must form alliances with advocates of justice of all nationalities and demonstrate in front of their corporate offices and shareholder meetings.  

Instead of trying to convince Isaias Afwerki that he is mistaken, that you have not declared war on him, which is a futile campaign given his irrational state of mind, the West should say, “you have declared war on us.” Then, it must approach all the enablers of the regime who reside in the comforts of the West and tell them: since you believe your adopted country is at war with your native country, it is time for you to choose sides. Isaias believes the United States and its “kedemti”—servant states—have declared war on him. It is time to prove him right.

awateteam@awate.com

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  • http://myawate.awate.com/members/abdulhafiz/ Kokhob selam

    http://www.asmarino.com/articles/1095-show-us-dawit-isaak

    so, all our problems with PFDJ only can be solved by force. no other means, and every Eritrean should stop cooperating dirctly or indirectly with PFDJ. Adn at the begining they will free the prisoners. and sure we will see free Eritrea soon.

  • Saleh AA Younis

    Freyohannes:
    Thanks for your input. We thought about it and here are the two scenarios:

    One, as explained by PVI: we are a merchant marine security provider. We are heavily armed to provide escort to ships who fear piracy. In fact, that is what we consider our main competitive advantage, and we say so in our website.(http://www.pviltd.com/) We needed to refuel and repair on an emergency basis and before we made a port call to Massawa, we offloaded our weapons at a remote, uninhabited, island at the tip of the Eritrean islands (16 24’N 40 05’ E) because we did not want to go to Massawa heavily armed and arouse alarm. When delayed at Massawa, our people made a mistake, they tried to exit without securing permission: Nonetheless, we ensured that payment arrangements were made. Twice. Our people have been detained without access to consular services. We apologize for our mistake.

    Second scenario is the PFDJ’s position: for 3 months, they pretended they didn’t arrest the PVI employees. When the British government started making noises, the MoFA office made squeaky voices. Remember, during these 3 months, they were not conducting investigations or interviews; they had gotten all the information they needed from the PVI employees when they arrested them and searched their vessels. Then four months later, DIA rambled on describing the quality of the weapons and their motive. Then, five months later, a journalist said that they PVI was in Eritrea to assassinate the president and perhaps other senior officials. The PFDJ would have treated the arrested Brits the same way it treats Eritrean prisoners (pretending they had disappeared into thin air) had the British government not followed through on its promise to retaliate and limit the “services” that the PFDJ ambassador to Eritrea would provide in the United Kingdom. Then came the MoFA statement which talked about co-operative prisoners who disclose every detail about what they were doing in Eritrea, but fail to disclose that they were sent on a mission to assassinate and commit acts of terror and sabotage.

    The point is that the Eritrean regime has a long litany of bad behavior: (1) it stalls and refuses to deal with issues when they are small and manageable; and then (2) once it is forced to do so, it blows them out of proportion. In every single crisis it has had, it has claimed that there was an “assassination attempt” against Isaias: it said so when Isaias was fighting Omar Albashir in 2004; it said Anthony Lake and the CIA were trying to assassinate Isaias in 2001. Courtesy of wikileaks, we know Isaias accused Meles of trying to assassinate him in 1996. And now this latest “assassination attempt.” It never ever presents evidence; it thinks its allegations substitute for its requirement to produce evidence. If past behavior is an indicator, the case of the arrested Brits will occupy the energy of the entire PFDJ and all its foot soldiers for the balance of the year. Reams of paper will be spent, hours of “hizbawi mekete” will be organized, and it may even be one more cause to raise funds to throw into the black hole of the PFDJ coffers. As people opposed to the Isaias regime, this delights us: but consider the cost: it always drags down the name and reputation of Eritreans. Read ever objective coverage of this news: nobody says the idiot PFDJ is doing this; it is always “the Eritreans”, the “prickly Eritreans”, etc.

    Now, which part did we “twist and exaggerate”? The problem is not that we “twist and exaggerate.” The problem is that there are still people, good people, who are easily persuaded by rally-around-the-flag emotive cries of the PFDJ. The question is: How many times must the shepherd cry “wolf! wolf!” before you dismiss him as a compulsive liar? When?

    Thanks!

    • http://myawate.awate.com/members/wediere/ Wediere

      The FCO said it was very grateful to the government of Qatar “for helping facilitate their return”.

      So goes the story :)
      http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13742725

      • http://awate.com/members/semere1/ semere gebrewahid

        I just read the news. I hope now governments around the world will learn how easy it is to squeeze Wedi Afeworki’s balls. When he realized that he may not be able to collect his 2% extortion, he released the Brits. We need to do everything we can to pressure westerners and everyone, who would listen to take the same measure the British took…

      • http://myawate.awate.com/members/exciter/ Exciter

        Selam :- Brother Wediere, even the goannas of the Galapagos Islands can laugh about the Qatari politics. The truth is, that the PFDJ and their dictator are doing criminal ploys and because Isayas Afewerki has his money in the Qatari bank, so it is normal that the corrupt Sheikh try to mediate and play the PFDJ lawyer, so it is not surprising for me and our compatriots. From the beginning Isayas knew that the four Britons only did their job: to defend ever cargo vessel from being attacked by pirates. So, one have to keep weapons for defending. But what Isayas has done was only a kind of revenge because the British government was one of the first who supported the Security Council Sanctions against the ruthless regime in Asmara. http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2009/sc9833.doc.htm
        This is why Isayas wanted to show muscles to the Britons but if there are serious threats, the dictator showed his true character: the one without cojones. No surprise, even the Ethiopians, Somalians and Djiboutians know this. Also the pledges to the Russians to erect a Pushkin statue didn’t helped Isayas to get the Veto of the Russians in the Security Council. That’s the truth. He was always a liar and loser and he will stay always a liar and loser.

        Peace.

        • http://myawate.awate.com/members/abdulhafiz/ Kokhob selam

          Look at this coward group. They don’t know respect. Break their nose and they will come down. We call this in Tigrigna K’BRETE WISHA. EPLF (PFDJ), don’t know peace. They don’t have that dictionary. And if we need peace and an internationally respected country we need to clean this garbage.

  • http://awate.com/members/dekemhare/ Freyohannes Kidane

    Well, I like your current analysis and commentaries most of the time, sometimes however, you tend to twist and exaggerate issues. For example, on this particular incident, you are unreasonably criticizing and blaming the government, instead of asking yourself why do these people in the first place came ashore to a sovereign country without notification and legal permission of the government. Just think about it!

    • http://myawate.awate.com/members/abdulhafiz/ Kokhob selam

      It seems you have legal government. And if so why not go for legal processes and ask UN instead of committing crime? This illegal government is used to hijack and kill people and thought he can do it internationally. Actually other countries are spoiling PFDJ like a small child. They are late in taking action.

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