Eritrea 2020: The Peace Dividend is War
What follows is a synopsis of what transpired in, and to, Eritrea and Eritreans in 2020. Retrospectives are selective, reflecting the author’s bias so, forewarned, it will not include lines like “The Habela-Cheatat road construction has begun. When finished, it will reduce the Asmara-Akordet distance by 20 kilometers.” There are people who do a good job with that. I tend to focus on the abnormality of Eritrea. For example, last year General Sebhat Ephrem returned from his assassination-attempt-recovery in Dubai, and friends can visit him and discuss anything except the assassination attempt. This year, Eritrea’s chief of security for the Horn of Africa, the conduit for the Eritrea-based Ethiopian opposition, the Eritrean liaison for Somalia’s Shabab who was on every Somalia Eritrean Monitoring Group (SEMG) Report, Brigadier General Te’ame Goitom Kinfu (also known as Wedi Meqelle, aka Meqelle, Mekele) yeah that guy, joined the list of the Disappeared in Eritrea and he is presumed under arrest. When we began the year, there still was neither pretense of even bothering with a constitution (draft, ratified, or being drafted), nor free press, nor election calendar, and tens of thousands of Eritreans were in prisons, jails, hold-him-for-me’s, underground and overground, in containers, in the desert and the temperate, where people need a permit to travel within their own region (never mind country), where compulsory education defines the sole place for the compulsion: military base in Sawa, where education to military is a revolving door; a country without ATM, where you are restricted to USD 300 a month. Of withdrawal. Of your own damn money. A place with 1% internet penetration…. These abnormalities are normal to Eritreans. And the abnormality follows Eritreans outside Eritrea.
1. The Case of the Football Players
Meet Hannibal, Hermon, Simon and Mewael.
Remember the Eritrean footballers who asked for asylum? Not the year in Botswana or the year in Malawi or Kenya (where Eritrean prez Isaias Afwerki told Aljazeera their defection was all news to him and he doesn’t care either way) but the year in Uganda. While the teammates and coaches were celebrating their win, the 4 players were plotting their escape. A football team defecting normally happens during Olympics; but there is nothing normal in Eritrea where the predatory government abuses you, and you fear its tentacles will reach you in the land you seek asylum, so you reach out to UNHCR via social media, as reported by The Guardian. This was in January 2020; so was the death of two Eritrean asylum-seekers in Tripoli: two were shot dead. So was that of another, a 16-year-old, who died of unknown illness. As was the acquittal in Italy of the smuggled accused of being smugglers. As was the case of Eritrean asylum seekers protesting in……Ljubljana, Slovenia! Also in January 2020, the Ethiopia government re-defined the requirement for Eritrean asylum cases to exclude certain categories. Nobody asked why of the 140,000 refugees in Afar and Tigray, 70,129 had arrived in 2019: a full year and half after the Peace and Friendship Agreement.
2. African-Arab Council Formed: Or, if you are not into the whole brevity thing, its full name is “Council of Arab and African States Bordering the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden” and it was formed in Riyadh in January 6, 2020. The Council includes Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Jordan and Yemen. If you are saying some of these members are barely countries (Somalia, Yemen) and others barely talk to each other (Eritrea and Djibouti; Yemen and Saudi Arabia), what’s your point? Look at the spectacular failure of IGAD. Later on, King Salman hosted King Isaias to a buffet fit for kings.
3. Visa Ban: Eritrea was inducted into Trump’s famous ShitHole Countries which also include Krygyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania. Reuters reached out to our Foreign Minister Osman Saleh who said: “We find this move unacceptable. We will, however, not expel the U.S. ambassador.”
The US has no ambassador to Eritrea.
In Germany, the biggest problems settled Eritreans face (Eritrean immigrants are the largest from Africa) is in family reunification visas. The German embassy in Eritrea does not have consular services, which means Eritreans have to try the ones in Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan, without much success because the papers from the churches testifying to the marriage are dismissed as forgeries. Those who somehow raised the money to flee to the West? They were being hosed.
4. Center of Gravity for Eternal Peace & Bliss: In January, the heads of governments of Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia met in Asmara to have discussions “on a wide range of issues”, and the discussions were “candid and extensive.” This is the second meeting the three are having to follow up on the Tripatriate Agreement of 2018 whose single focus so far is: security. The previous month, Eritrea’s president had traveled to Ethiopia for the 4th time since the peace treaty of 2018, where he performed a personnel shuffle with Abiy: Ethiopia’s Barely Accredited Ambassador to Eritrea (Redwan Hussein) would become State Minister of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ethiopia (and the subsequent face of the Stupid War.) Abiy Ahmed, who traveled with his then Defense Minister Lemma Megersa (thoughts and prayers) announced that “our dear and welcoming city of Asmara will make our stay delightful.” Our. Because Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia are forming their own dysfunctional mini-IGAD, towards a dysfunction confederation or federation.
5. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights: Meanwhile, speaking of “our” Asmara, Special Rapporteur Daniela Kravetz reported the Eritrean government’s “engagement” with the international community has not curtailed its appetite for arrests and disappearance which continue unabated. Included in the list of prisoners who have been made to disappear without a day in court were the cases of Paulos Eyasus, Isaac Mogos and Negede Teklemariam, in prison for 25 years. (they would make news in October, when they were released from prison with no explanation.)
6. Fiery February: February is a historic month for Eritrea (Liberation of Massawa in 1990) and Tigray (formation of TPLF in 1975) and when the two are not getting along, which is most of the time they have been in existence, they exchange some very cordial words. As he has since the 2005 Ethiopian elections, Isaias lamented what TPLF had done to Ethiopia and predicted its demise. Meanwhile, marking its 45th anniversary, the TPLF fielded its heavy-hitters like Seyoum Mesfin (who asked a reasonable, but slightly hyperbolic, question: “How can Isaias Afwerki find solutions to Ethiopia and the Horn of Africa after failing in Eritrea and making half of its people refugees?”) and Tsegai Berhe (“if Eritrean government interferes in Ethiopia, we will chop off its hands!” ) Yeah, they made grandiose predictions from Axum, a historic place in their own Tigray, the birthplace of Ethiopia, a place they have no control over mere months later. February was the beginning of muscle-flexing season in Eritrea, Tigray, and Addis Abeba. The world would be subjected to their marching soldiers for months.
And to paraphrase Samuel Jackson in “Death To 2020”: and this is still ________ February!
7. “Dual Track Approach”: That is what the European Union called its decision to give the Eritrean Government 22 million dollars for road construction (even if it is using modern slavery labor) because we just can’t make engagement conditional on change in Eritrea! We will just throw money at it because maybe, somehow, it will result in fewer than the 5,000 – 30,000 Eritrean asylum-seekers to Europe every year. Another Euro 95 million was pledged as Phase 2 because, why not.
8, Cardinal Who: It was still February and Ethiopian Catholic Church’s Cardinal Berhaneyesus, who happens to be head of the Church as well as Chancellor to the Catholic University of Eastern Africa, arriving in Asmara, Eritrea, was denied exit from the airport. On orders from above, explained the airport administration. The Cardinal was there on an invite from Eritrea’s Catholic Church to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the construction of Kidane Mehret Cathedral. But he was stuck at Asmara Airport for hours, multiple his travel time from Addis Abeba. Eritreans shrugged because they had experienced worse. That Ethiopia shrugged it off was an indication that it had higher priorities than safeguarding the rights of minorities. Of course, such hostility is not sanctioned by the Eritrea Ethiopia Peace & Friendship Agreement. It can only be understood if you use the Agreement’s shorter name: Eritrea Ethiopia Mutual Defense Pact. Beqa::
9. You Down With DPW? Dubai’s DP World, fresh from being fired by Djibouti, picked up a contract to renovate the Eritrean ports, at the request of Eritrean port authorities. Asked for comment, Eritrea’s Minister of Information told Bloomerg… nothing. Because it was all news to him.
10. “Game Changer” is how the Colluli Potash Project in Southeastern Eritrea was described. The company is licensed to unearth 472,000 tonnes of sulphate of potash per year for over 200 years. Sulphate of potash is a glorified name for fertilizer and pest control. Game changer because it is expected to contribute 3% to GDP, 10,000 jobs and 50% of the nation’s export by 2030. Unless Isaias Nevsunizes it, for part of the 200 years he will preside over Eritrea. (nevsunize (v): the act of wasting 100’s of millions of cash from Nevsun sales of minerals.)
11. Corrupt and Unfair: Three Eritreans who sued Canada’s Nevsun received favorable ruling that they can bring a case against Nevsun for having controlling share of Eritrea’s Mining at Bisha and are, therefore, responsible for “conditions that were inhuman” where “work was carried out under the constant threat of physical punishment, torture and imprisonment.” Nevsun lost its case to have the case heard in Eritrea because, according to the British Columbian court, the Eritrean courts are “corrupt and unfair.”
12. Pestilence 1.0. As part of their East Africa tour, The Locusts 188.8.131.52 made grass fall in February invading 400 hectares of land in Northern Red Sea, which used to be called Semhar back when earlier versions of locusts toured the area. The invasion was foiled with national fervor, (no need to comment on the contribution of Italy or FAO: with our nails!) redirecting the invading horde to Southern Red Sea and Debub. As far as pestilences go, it was no easy challenge, but at least it wasn’t a pandemic or war: that would be crazy.
13. Patient 0: Eritrea’s Patient 0 for COVID19 was a 39-year old expatriate who lives in Norway and had gone home for a visit, after the total ban was imposed except for “extremely urgent and unavoidable purposes.” His case, reported in March, would re-define the job of Eritrea’s Minister of Information to being a Minister of Health, providing daily tallies of infections (all of whom are, always, people who come from outside and may or may not have been quarantined.)
14. Vestiges of the Old: On his drive from home to work, the convoy of Sudan’s Prime Minister Hamdok was met with explosions and gunfire. Nobody was seriously harmed, and the Prime Minister had his Cabinet of Ministers Meeting. Regional leaders expressed their horror at what happened and their total solidarity with the Sudanese government. Eritrea, characteristically, went overboard: “The GOE reiterates its full solidarity with the Government of Sudan in its vigorous undertakings to overhaul vestiges of the old regime…..” Name me one other head of state who regularly comments on the domestic politics of a foreign country. I will wait.
15. Covid All The Time: The beginning of April is when the daily reports of COVID-19 News Ticker started. Confirmed cases, recoveries, deaths (lately.) The occasion was an opportunity to do it all: raise funds AND lock down the country completely. UNICEF and WHO are never mentioned despite the funding they provide. They can’t be heard from because they keep contradicting the “With Our Nails” self-reliance mythology.
The Eritrean lockdown is one of, if not the most, restrictive.
The harshest hit society appears to be the Afar population: between the lockdown, the lack of “Bahri” rain (December to March), the flood from the regular rain (June-September), and the government’s decision to prioritize military alliance with UAE, based in Assab, has meant that the people were experiencing famine— never reported by State media.
16. Tantamount To Slavery: Eritrea Focus and Amsterdam-based Human Rights for Eritrea sued the European Union for funding conscripted labor in Eritrea, while the UN (that EU is a big part of) has called the conscripted labor “tantamount to slavery.” The EU sang and danced and played its favorite sports: Head-In-The-Sand.
17. Hitsats No More: Ethiopia’s Tigray Regional State hosted four UNHCR refugee camps for Eritreans: Shimelba, Hitsats, Mai Aini and Adi Harush. The Ethiopian Government announced that it was shutting down Hitsats and moving the 25,000 Eritrean refugees to one of the other three camps, which were already at capacity, per UNHCR. Fun Fact: Hitsats was necessary because the other camps were at capacity. Well, the government didn’t announce the closure: it just did it and UNHCR caught up with the change 3 months later.
In the first 3 months of 2020, 9,463 Eritreans sought asylum in Ethiopia. This, if you are counting, is 21 months after the signing of War Is Your Peace Dividend Agreement. COVID19 closed all borders, otherwise that is one lagging indicator that defines Eritrea: the exile rate, with nothing to excuse it anymore.
18. Alibaba’s Open Sesame Is Closed: The Eritrean Government which takes pride in its policy of self-reliance rejected the goody two shoeism PPE donation of Ali Baba founder Jack Ma. Fine print: “Self-reliance” does not reject help from WHO, UNICEF, UNESCO, FAO, UNAIDS and UNFPA.
19. One More Wound To The Wounded: The politicos at European Union, who have yet to turn down a bad idea with sufficient funding, allocated €357 million to “voluntarily repatriate” asylum seekers. Including to a country (Eritrea) where every returnee who had left “illegally” has to sign a Remorse Letter which reads, “I regret having committed an offence by not completing the national service and am ready to accept appropriate punishment in due course.” Since, technically, leaving while on “national service” is post-abandonment whose punishment may include death penalty, why, anything less than that is appropriate: violence, torture, humiliation. It’s never clear whenever EU funds such projects whether it doesn’t know the Reality in Eritrea or it just doesn’t care. Or, what the Eritrean refugees are leaving (Libya) is even worse than the nightmare that awaits them at home.
20. Rape, Extrajudicial Executions, Homes Set Alight: “Ethiopian security forces committed horrendous human rights violations including burning homes to the ground, extrajudicial executions, rape, arbitrary arrests and detentions, sometimes of entire families” is the introduction to grizzly report by Amnesty International issued in May. As happens often with wars, the antagonists say “our side is disciplined! It never does that!” But every war shows that our side, whatever your side is does do that. If you doubt it, read the Eritrea Ethiopia Claims Commission (EECC) decisions.
21. Bitu Bitutu (Isaias Afwerki) Visits Batu Dugda: It has been so last quarter since we talking about the Abiy Isaias Fireside Chats, and it was time for Isaias to fly to Ethiopia to discuss, with said Abiy “COVID19 pandemic and desert locust infestation.” And that’s all. They discussed nothing else. Then it was time for President Isaias to visit the Batu Dugda irrigation project in Oromia and do his usual ooooh aaaaah.
22. Daniela Kravetz Is Still Reporting: Daniela who? Exactly. When Sheila Keetharuth was the Special Rapporteur, the supporters had a collective mental breakdown but when Daniela Kravetz replaced her, they just decided to ignore her on the assumption that it all felt like some UN Pleonasm: traditional but unnecessary. So when she was reminding people that Isaias still has a disappeared girl (Ciham Ali) in prison and he should release her, the PFDJ only called her “the mouthpiece of Eritrea’s archenemies.” She, as well the High Commissioner for Human Rights, told the UN there has been no tangible improvements in Eritrea since the Peace & Encirclement Agreement of 2018. The UN shrugged.
23. Gedim Warya: Nearly 600 Somalians, who were in military training in Eritrea for 10 months, returned back to Mogadishu, and a new batch were sent to be inspected by Somalia President Formajio. Somali Affairs speculated on whether the armed elite were going to safeguard Somalia, or the politics of incumbency (a leader using any means to stay in power) since the country is scheduled for its election in 2021.
24. Cancel Culture Eritrean Edition: A certain Indro Montanelli was a leader of an Eritrean battalion for fascist Italy and later, until his death at the age of 92, a renowned foreign war correspondent, deserving of a statue. Somewhere along the way, he disclosed he had bought(!) his Eritrean wife when she was 12. Italian progressives got all offended by this terrible thing this long-dead man had done 80 years ago and demanded the removal of his statue. There is, of course, zero information about his Eritrean wife.
25. The Fire Next Sea: If you want to understand the fire next door, now entering its sixth year of destruction, this map describes most of the depressing reality.
If you are tempted to say: “It all started with the Arab Spring and that’s why you expat Eritreans with your know-nothing ideas should just shut the hell up!” consider this great passage from one of my favorite authors:
Saleh’s regime is subsumed by tribalism. Saleh belongs to the Hashid tribe, the smaller of the two main tribal confederations in western Yemen; the other is the Bakil. Of the two, the Hashids are better organized, and have saved the President during a number of confrontations in the past, especially with Marxist South Yemen. Officially, the country holds elections and has ministries. Unofficially, local elections are often a means of institutionalizing a sheikh’s rule, so that a ministry can be partly a tribal fiefdom. Whereas rulers in the Persian Gulf states have used profits from oil to build roads and institutions in order to strengthen the grip of central government, from which modernization can ensue, this has not happened to quite the same degree in Yemen, partly because Saleh has had to use his petroleum profits—which account for two thirds of all government revenues—to bribe tribal leaders into quiescence, though these bribes will often go by the name of development assistance.
Saleh, no relation, is short for Ali Abdullah Saleh, the lieutenant colonel, the Unifier of North and South Yemen. He succumbed to what is respectfully called in the West “constituency serving”, but is called “tribalism” in Africa and the Arab World. The man I called one of my favorite authors used the word “tribal” 26 times in the article. I counted. But you can see how his brand of constituency serving can be exclusionary and suffocating specially on minority rights (which is everybody else), including you.
As Stefon would put it: This .War. Has. Everything: a separatist group, extreme social polarization, with each looking down on the other with the bottom rung occupied by the black Al Akhdam; religious sects that never learned co-existence; shifting alliances (Saleh shifted alliances with the Houthi, then a break up, and was shot dead); extreme poverty and illiteracy; Muslim Brotherhood; Alqaida In The Peninsula; ISIS, Iran, Saudi Arabia all sitting atop an extremely strategic land. And Eritrea has a supporting cast role. When Saudi Arabia created the Alliance it had announced it would bomb the place to orderliness within 3 weeks, and that was in 2015, and they too were bragging about their Situation Room.
Back to the Yeoman of Yemen, Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki: Independent Republic of Eritrea’s maiden voyage to Fight Every Neighbor was The Three Day Battle with Yemen over the “disputed territories” of Hanish, back when Eritrea was a cute 4-year-old country. A quick jump to arbitration (she was cute and smart) led to a lengthy process which yielded the unappealable ruling in 1999: the islands were awarded custody, with Yemen getting the bigger one. So, for years, we argued that our ready acceptance of an unfavorable ruling contrasted sharply with Ethiopia’s waffling on Badme. Then the Saudis came with their alliance in 2015, which we joined, and so we started complaining how the Hanish ruling was not just unfair, but it is a poison pill designed to perpetuate enmity.
So, we got Hanish Islands back because, look at the map, and also the nephew of Ali Abdullah Saleh, Tareq Saleh (no relation), better known as Tareq Afash (and Awet n’Afash to you too), is fighting for the universal ideology of “I shall avenge my uncle.” So now, Isaias, an equal opportunity oppressor, is preventing Yemenis from fishing in their own waters, just as he did with the Afar, Eritrean counterparts. Fishing boats confiscated regularly. Five years later, everybody wants a way out, but nothing sustainable is on the table. Leaving war, the war of choice, is now a war of necessity. Always everywhere.
26. The Banality of The Abnormal: One of Eritrea’s passions that even PFDJ couldn’t destroy is cycling. When was the last time you heard of a cyclist defecting? In Eritrea, they do. Actually, it is not defection: it is worse. It is hopelessness. It is leaving your country at the age of 14 to be far, far away from the predatory government, separated from your family, missing the social norms of Eritreans on the side road, cheering you on and giving you water and mango as you raced. That’s the story of Haben Gebrehiwet, as profiled in Cycling Plus in June of 2020.
27. Potash Unlimited: Danakili Limited (ASX:DNK) (LSE:DNK) (OTCMKTS:SBMSF) is half of Colluli Mining Share Company (CMSC), the other half being Eritrean National Mining Corporation (ENAMCO.) Looks a lot like the NEVSUN arrangement: including the nature of the updates you will get: it will never be from ENAMCO but Danakali or their future partners Eurochem Trading GmbH. They are telling you they conducted their sustainability study and found that they are working on production of an open pit mining, open pit because the minerals happen to be in the world’s shallowest potash deposit (16 meters) and only 75 kilometers from the Red Sea. This potash is potassium sulphate, not the lame sulphate said the Press Release. Ordinarily, this is fantastic news that has the means to transform our people’s quality of life. But Isaias Afwerki is in charge and you know he is incapable of resisting the pull into darkness, whatever shape the silhouette
28. Three Turkish Adventurers Enter Eritrea: After a stop in Djibouti, the weather changed, and COVID19 lockdown was in full effect, so the three self-described adventurers were intercepted by the Eritrean Navy in Massawa, who then directed them to a more hospitable location, Buri (aka the Penisola di Buri prison), 29 nautical miles away. There are many reasons for a country to be suspicious of self-described adventurers, but the Eritrean regime completely loses its ability to communicate during crisis, even as it knows it has, to be normal, communicate during crisis. This is to say, the regime occasionally gives the world a glimpse at how sadistic it is. Let’s just not over expect what the world does with the profile.
They were released 56 days later.
29. Isaias Afwerki In Sudan: President Isaias Afwerki visited Sudan to consult with Sudan’s Transitional Sovereign Council, Abdel Fattah Al Burhan, as to which candidates are acceptable to both leaders when it comes to Governor of border state of Kassala. In the Beni Amer, Hadendawa, Beja, Rashaida push-and-pull and ethnic conflict, President Isaias Afwerki has a list that are fit and unfit to govern the region. All this was called “bilateral affairs” and glossed over and the bleeding in East Sudan continued.
30. 24, 10, 13: Those were the yay, nay and abstain votes on the Human Right Council’s decision to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the “situation” of human rights in Eritrea for another year.
As usual, the abstentions are more interesting than the yes and no, particularly when looking at the Africa bloc.
31. AfCTFA Afoot Except In Eritrea: 54 out of 55 African nations signed to join the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and 31 of them submitted instruments for its ratification. Eritrea explained that, on principle, it doesn’t like “Abstract Platitudes” like AfCFTA and prefers strengthening local regional organizations. Oh, you mean like IGAD, which it has boycotted for years? Or the Eritrea-Ethiopia Peace & Friendship (which has yielded nothing) and the Eritrea Ethiopia Somalia Tripartite Agreement which will yield even less. And the African Arab Council which exists on paper. But at least they responded: usually they prefer the mute communication strategy.
32. Our Jealous and Possessive Eritrea: The New York Times featured Eritrean artist Ficre Ghebreyesus. The world was posthumously introduced to his art by his wife and what a piece of art! Ficre was not just a painter but he also practiced culinary art, as a cook at Caffe Adulis. The works of art, 700 paintings, were all inspired by a search for space, one that accommodates Eritreans and American identity. And his cooking was hybrid, Eritrean, Ethiopian and Imaginary Places that serves, for example, Shrimp Barka. Well worth your reading, especially if you suffer from separation and heightened awareness of our people’s suffering. Here’s one of my favorite: The Sardine Fisherman’s Funeral.
33. Selsoye Selso: Ethiopian Prime Minister woke up one mid-July and said, “you know what I haven’t done in a while? Visit Wedi Afey!” And off he went where he had, um, discussions on bilateral issues followed by “they were once at war now they are the best of friends” reporting. At this point, the visits had achieved the “I wonder what he is wearing?” stage of familiarity breeding contempt. Misdirected, to be sure, but: you have visited us half a dozen times and nothing changes for us! I will give you something to talk about besides what I am wearing, vowed Abiy, and (with his wifey) inspected the graduating Sawa soldiers. The only person less qualified than Ambassador Sofia Tesfamariam, Abraham Isaias Afwerki, was also there. Isaias briefed his Ethiopian counterpart on his visit to Egypt a couple of days earlier. War does not make itself happen.
34. Too Abnormal Even For Abnormal Eritrea: Eritrea Takes COVID19 Seriously! Stay home, don’t move for any reason, and if you have to convert the whole country into a Segreto (the masculine for “secret” in Italian), which stands for an unlicensed restaurant or bar. That means no taxis, no buses: it is horse-carriage if you are lucky. But there are exceptions. National salvation and national development. So, COVID or KEBID, Sawa—a COVID19 Super Spreader camp is right on schedule: both Warsay-Yikealo Secondary School (the last year of high school) boarding and the military training. Yes, yes, Sawa has its own burial place, with unmarked graves, and no, we are not going to call a martyr a victim of COVID19! Our youth die mysteriously in private, and our elders die of heart attacks in public. We didn’t earn our African Sparta title in jest. This begs the question, who will they take this year to 12th grade in Sawa, since there was no 11th grade in 2020?
35. The Limping Miner: Danakali staggered to the third quarter, more loss-laden than ever, more desperate to raise cash, with its penny stocks flatlining. Obviously, this required a swashbuckling Aussie to will his way through with pure concentrated swagger. This Coluli is a “game changer”, get in now while you can; we will figure out the pesky enforced labor issue later, much later, after we mine ourselves some sulphate! The miner also contracted with RA International, a remote site service provider to construct the camp, manage the facilities and come up with very creative ways to pretend that the preferred local vendor, the State owned Red Sea Trading Corporation won’t actually be using modern slave labor.
36. More Hot Air: Well, this is a form of “zura n hagerka” (tour your country): where do you think is the highest potential in Eritrea for wind energy? That would be the coastal area, specifically the Southern Red Sea. And some parts of the Eritrean highlands. If and when Eritrea rids itself of Isaias Afwerki (with a little help from God), the next government will have to exploit that to rid Eritrea from over-reliance on diesel fuel turbines.
37. Now You Do What They Told You: The Eritrean Ministry of Information is pissed! “Two years after the signing of the Peace Agreement, Ethiopian troops continue to be present in our sovereign territories. Trade and economic ties of both countries have not resumed to the desired extent or scale.” Speed it up, bruh, speed it up. The news (from Bloomberg) ends the story with “A spokeswoman for Abiy didn’t immediately respond to text message seeking comment.” The choreographers were practicing.
38. Diversity Israeli Style: The Israeli Government named Ishmael Khaldi, a Bedouin, as its ambassador to Eritrea. This is still quarter 3 and Isaias meets ambassadors “bjimla” so, technically, he is not fully accredited. The ambassador had a George Floyd moment (before George Floyd) when Israeli security forces placed a knee on his neck to subdue him. Good times.
39. The Hit on Hitsats: The Catholic News is not generally noted for its hyperbole so it was slightly jarring when it showed a picture of Eritreans apparently moving, with the caption “Eritrean refugees abandoned by Ethiopia.” Ouch. When the Ethiopian Government had no Plan A never mind Plan B when it shut down the UNHCR camp for Eritrean refugees at Hitsats. And in the vacuum, the predators targeted the vulnerable: women and unaccompanied minors.
40. In Secretly, Out Secretly: 31 Evangelical Christians Released From Prison: There was no public court, adjudication, sentencing, verdict, so nobody, including most government officials, knew why they were arrested and what their sentencing was. And so, when they were released, some a decade later, nobody except Europeans and Americans celebrated. There are an estimated 300 Christians from the non-approved denominations, INCLUDING CHILDREN, at Mai Serwa prison. In secretly, out secretly.
41. Out Secretly, In Secretly: 30 Eritreans attending a wedding of a Christian denomination which is illegal in Eritrea (that would be Abiy Ahmed Ali’s denomination, if you are taking notes) were arrested. At the wedding. They are spending the wedding day, the honey moon period, and the social visits that follow at Mai Serwa Prison. In Eritrea, three denominations of Christianity (Orthodox, Catholic, Evangelical Lutheran) and one Muslim (Sunni) are the only legal, government-recognized religions. Everybody else is an outlaw subject to immediate arrest. Out secretly, in secretly.
42. Abdul Fattah al Burhan in Asmara: Sudan’s President of Transitional Foreign Council pays Eritrea a visit and, unlike with Abiy Ahmed, there is no hand-holding, or strolling or giggling. Al Burhan brought his security team and Aawsat reported the purpose of the visit was to discuss border security. Al Burhan supposedly told Isaias that he was shuffling people to the Kassala Region, and Isaias will just have to learn to love the new officials, none of whom are Isaias’s favorites. Security. Or, as Borkena.com reported, “the two leaders have reportedly reached an agreement to reach an agreement.”
43. The Russians Are Coming To Africa including Eritrea. So reports German newspaper “Bild” relying on a secret document prepared by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The other African countries are all Democratic Shrines including Central African Republic, Egypt, Madgascar, Mozambique and Sudan. The military bases it plans to build in these countries are going to be manned by a contractors (mercenary military) such as the Wagner Group.
44. 30 Days Has September And Every Month But The 13th, which has 5 or 6 days depending on whether or not it is a leap year. This makes September 11 (12th in leap year), Ethiopia’s New Year’s Day according to the Justininan(ish) Ethiopian calendar. It is the year 2013 in Ethiopia. This is interesting not just in a touristy way but because Eritrea uses the same calendar in the Eritrean Orthodox Church rituals. This year, the Acting Patriarch (because the real patriarch is in jail), actually referred to it as Kudus Yohannes (St John Memorial)
Over at Ethiopia, where the government had been re-populating the prisons it had emptied with journalists and political activists, and had shut down the Internet on four different occasions, and extra-judicial killing and ethnic tensions were on the rise, the war drum beats were getting louder as Tigray defied the Federal Government and held regional elections. Prime Minister Abiy took the occasion to pen a few words that would appear surreal in December: “In 2013, I call on all Ethiopians to care for the most vulnerable sections of our societies.”
45. Alpha Exploration: While Nevsun mines for gold and bronze and copper in Bisha (western Eritrea), and Danakali is in first stages for potash in southeastern Eritrea, here comes British Columbia’s Alpha Exploration in the early stages of unearthing gold and copper from the entire Arbian-Nubian shield, and they have to start somewhere in Eritrea. Where? Anywhere because the entire of Eritrea (except for Southern Red Sea and Gash area in the west) is sitting atop the Nubian shield! So they chose… Kerkasha, near Barentu.
46. The Prime Minister Is Still The Prime Minister: The quarter started out badly enough with the TPLF constantly asking, “It is October 10: do you know who your Prime Minister is?” A very bored Ethiopia said, “Same one we have had since 2018!” and then the TPLF went deep into the weeds of how there is a constitutional crisis because there was no Federal Election”, etc. If you are making a list of TPLF’s miscalculation, add this to the list: they actually thought Ethiopians would fight for an Ethnic Federalism constitution they despise.
47. Eritrea’s New MP: For Eritreans, for the last 20 years, the message has been: “if you want to pursue some dreams, pursue them elsewhere.” And in exile, our story is so tragic (organ harvesting, enslavement, hunger, lack of shelter, and a never ending trauma), that when we find that rare news, of dreams successfully pursued, we pause. One such story was that of Ibrahim Omer, not just the first Eritrean, but the first African MP in New Zealand.
While we are on the subject, God bless all those who chose to remain in Eritrea and are helping build the nation, despite, not because of, PFDJ.
48. RSF Sues President Isaias In Swedish Court: Long after Google was invented, President Isaias Afwerki had once said, on videotape, in an interview with Swedish journalist Donald Bolstrom, that Eritrea-Swedish journalist Dawit Isaac would never be brought before a court of law because “we know what to do with people like him.” Dawit Isaac has been in prison since September 2001, and a signatory to the complaint filed with the Swedish court was Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi who said, “Justice in Eritrea will not progress as long as these persons [Isaias and 7 others] are able to act with complete impunity and no attempt is made to convict them by the countries that can.” One of the countries that can’t is the one ranked 178/180 in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index: Eritrea.
49. Modern Slaves vs Nevsun: The three Eritrean refugees who had sued Nevsun for overseeing modern slavery in Bisha, Eritrea, settled out of court. This was considered “precedent setting” in the mining industry and keep that in mind Alpha and Danakali! I know it is a fun for Eritreans to beat up on the opposition, but this did not happen by accident and many thanks to the Eritrean Opposition (awate.com, Elsa Chyrum, others) who made this happen:
50. New Quarter New Visit: Somalia president Mohammed Abullahi Formajo arrived in Asmara, Eritrea for a 2 day visit to discuss “bilateral issues”, less commonly known as “how is the training of my soldiers coming along?”visit.
A week later, President Isaias Afwerki visited Ethiopia, in “Operation ሕርር ደኣ በላ ወያኔ!” (In Your Face, TPLF), whose entire purpose was to taunt and troll Weyane, the former rulers of Ethiopia, for three days. Stops were made to The Greatest Hits Of Weyane including GERD & GIBE2 dams as well as METEC construction company. The visit was also “Yeah, It’s Like That Now”, to Egypt, his former allies in thinking GERD was dangerous and wasteful White Elephant back in the day. For good measure, the spy chiefs of Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia also met in Addis Abeba.
51. New Quarter New Counter Taunt: Ethiopia’s Foreign Minister during the Meles administration, Seyoum Mesfin, called PM Abiy Ahmed “the former Ethiopian Minister” who is allowing Isaias Afwerki to rape Ethiopia, and is guilty of “treason” on scale much larger than the alleged embezzlement of billions by General Kinfe Dagnew. Since the term of the Prime Minister and both Houses (Peoples and Federation) has expired, it is time to prepare for a transitional government, he offered.
52. Before and After: Before. PM Abiy Ahmed appears to be in charge of a country coming at the seams: Non-stop harassing TPLF is running Tigray, feeling legitimized by an election. Strife is everywhere in Ethiopia, with Oromo Protests, and kidnapped university students, and an ethnic blow up here, an ethnic blow up there. After: PM Abiy Ahmed forces are in Mekele Tigray; TPLF largely silenced, election day announced in Ethiopia, with most of the opposition arrested, disbanded, caved. In between and after: massive displacement (Ethiopia already has more Internally Displaced Persons than Syria), looting, shelling towns, hospitals, mosque; shelling (Asmara!) and massive human rights violations against civilians. And Eritrea was all over it.
If you can only find glory in war, you won’t recognize it in peace. If you are having war, you failed. The end.
53. After The After: Sudan jumped in and it turns out pride is unilingual: you don’t have to understand the language to hear the Nationalism that wraps a country. So we reappointed this Sudanese general that Isaias hates, and that is who is returning every sacred Sudanese land. And to direct the war, this much-higher-ranking-than-necessary general will set up base in Gedaref. To its credit, Ethiopia gave dignified silence to the harsh language from Sudan and also to its merit it has not once pretended there is disputed land between Ethiopia and Sudan, but then, to its demerit, pivoted to Egypt to say, “we know what you did.” Then Egypt called the Ethiopian ambassador to explain himself, but the press release was all about Egypt detailing its complaint. Sovereignty, internal intervention, and other weaponized words may have been used.
54. The peace dividend was war. We started the year with 0 countries fighting in the neighborhood and we have jumped to 3. With another, Egypt, oh so begging to join the party. Somalia and Kenya were heading there but then, at the IGAD meeting, it suddenly dawned them: that there is an alternative. Specially in an election year.
55. Video of the Year: A video of a crocodile being moved from land to lake, Lake Adi Halo Dam aka Diga Logo. Crocodile in a sack is moved to the shores, and then the sack is removed. Now, which one is more wondrous to you:
A. That there are Eritrean crocodile tamers/handlers who can move one in a sack?
B. That the job of a crocodile is to balance a lake by killing sick fish and dominant fish.
Our tortoise is a crocodile. And he will balance you to extinction.
56. Abnormalism On Steroids: Life under totalitarianism had two indulgences: you could throw as big a party as you can afford at weddings; and you could mount the biggest tent for commemorating death of a loved one. But now, “due to COVID19”, gatherings are forbidden. No travel except for groceries, no use of private cards, no use of bus, mini bus or taxis, no public gathering of more than 10 people (and that’s only for funerals, weddings), no bars, no restaurants, no cafes, no nightclubs, not even horse carriages anymore. There is an 8:00 pm lockdown of grocery stores and pharmacies, and all court sessions are indefinitely postponed. And, most of the time, no electricity. A subpar medical care awaits. The Eritrean people are under house arrest.
The question is no longer “what will Isaias do?” but “what will the Eritrean people do?” Eritreans are definitely fighting in the war in Ethiopia, and are now in a situation where the media is insulting them by lying to them and filling the air space with news about vaccination of goats and chicken.
— BIL@L|ቢላል (@Wedi_Ferej) November 26, 2020
So the question is “what will the Eritrean people do?”