Eritrea And The Hood – 2015
1. Every year begins with Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki’s “State of the Nation” interviews with his own media. Although we have a draft constitution, he explained, a new constitution had to be drafted because “we are not naive and we refuse to allow them to weaken our capacity.”
2. It Was Lecture Season: Eritrea’s Minister of Education lectured on how schools should be designed; the Minister of Finance lectured about the importance of audits (in a country with no budgets); the Police Commissioner lectured the people on how to prevent crime (because Government abduction of people is obviously not a crime.)
3. Yemane Gebreab, political director of Eritrea’s ruling party which hasn’t practiced democracy since its foundation, hosted an international youth symposium where he lectured them on the importance of democracy, and how they could learn from the Eritrean experience in fighting neo-colonialism. Go forth and democratize.
4. Maulid Al-Nebi (Birthday of the Prophet) was celebrated with the Eritrean Mufti giving the usual address: not a single religious citation; 100% nationalistic message. Its like there is a verse in the Quran or Hadith that the PFDJ should rule Eritrea.
5. Starting a business; dealing with construction permits; electricity; registering property;getting credit; protecting minority interests; paying taxes; trading across borders; enforcing contracts; insolvency issues. All of these are factors used to calculate Ease of Doing Business. And in 2014, Eritrea ranked last in the world. Dead last.
6. BBC reported that it costs more money to buy Coke than a grenade in Central African Republic. This is why “armed struggle” now means something completely different from the 1960s and 1970s.
7. Six Eritrean journalists were released from jail. Months later, Eritrea’s latest Mzungu, Atlantic Council’s Brownyn Bruton, would point to it as a sign of “quiet” reform in Eritrea, without asking what happened to the dozens of journalists still languishing in jail for over 14 years, or the dozens who have been exiled.
8. In that huge country south of Eritrea, the hostility to journalists is just as bad, and it gets worse in election years when the Ethiopian government is aiming for its patented meto-be-meto (100%) votes to dominate political life in Ethiopia, as Human Right Watch documented in an interview with exiled Ethiopian journalists.
9. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, relying on a report by World Bank’s Inspection Panel, reports that Ethiopia had received $2 billion in World Bank funding for the prior decade which was “to support a massive forced relocation program” of the “Anuak people in Ethiopia’s Gambela” and that Ethiopian “soldiers beat, raped and killed Anuak” and that the World Bank continued to fund the “education initiative” and maintain “operational link” of this “villagization” campaign.
10. Yemen’s parliament postponed decision on whether to discuss the resignation of President AbduRobbo Hadi, as the Houthi rebels maintained control of the capital, Sana’a, and expanded to other parts of Yemen.
11. A 79 year old man took power from his 90 year old brother in Saudi Arabia. The entire West took a break from its lecture on human rights and democracy to fly to Saudi Arabia and to kiss the ring of the new king. President Isaias Afwerki, who had not paid his condolences to the hundreds of Eritreans who perished in Lampedusa, nor the 3 generals who died en route to Nakfa, made sure to pay tribute to the king.
12. Eritrea graduated 57 medical doctors and dentists bringing the total of its MD graduates to 300. It is estimated that over 60% have left the country.
13. The president of The Gambia added something to his title “His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya A.J.J. Jammeh, president of the Republic of The Gambia and Commander-in-Chief of the Gambia Armed Forces.” Later in the year, he changed the name of his country to the “Islamic Republic of The Gambia” which must have panicked Eritrean Mzungu Herman Cohen who is anticipating Sharia Law in The Gambia now and wishes that Senegal had taken his advice in the 1970s and annexed The Gambia (actual advice, as per his own book.)
14. Egypt and Ethiopia got closer to sanity despite the very large stupid constituency in each country, which actually contemplates war. Very few things in life are crystal clear but one of them has to be that a poor country like Ethiopia has the right to use water that originates in its own country to improve the livelihood of its own people. Strongman coup engineer Sisi, who replaced hapless Morsi, announced he would visit Ethiopia.
15. The Vatican announced: “The Holy Father, Pope Francis has erected a new Diocese in Ethiopia which will be known as the Diocese of Bahir Dar – Dessie. In another development, Pope Francis has also erected the Metropolitan Church of Asmara in Eritrea.” When Eritreans read this, they asked, “I wonder whatever happened to the Catholic religious leaders who had penned the powerful ‘Where Is Your Brother?’” but then everybody shrugged and changed the Remote Control of Life.
16. Meanwhile, all over the world, exiled Eritreans, organized by a network of Eritrean rights activists, were telling the Human Rights Council’s (HRC) Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea (CoIE) horror stories about the crimes committed by the Government of Eritrea, something that would crescendo in June 2015.
17. Eritrean politics is basically a contest between the Hyper Nationalist Party (Isaias’s Party, formerly EPLF) and the Justice League Party (our opposition) and victories are counted not by polls or elections but by head counts on who shows up to events organized simultaneously. In late January, there was such a contest in Las Vegas, Nevada. The legendary artist Wedi Tkul, now a conscripted part of the HNP, who once asked: ዓማጺና ምስ ተፈርደ: ደበናና ምስ ነጎደ: እንታይ እዩ ህዝበይ ናትካ ግደ? got his answer: His concert was attended by 65 people and that of the justice league by hundreds, according to a reportage by asmarino.com
18. 90-year old Robert Mugabe was elected chairman of the African Union, providing a year long entertainment of falling, sleeping, and insulting the West.
19. Every year in February, “Operation Fenkel” is celebrated to commemorate the liberation of Massawa in February 1990. And every year,the government comes up with accidentally incoherent, ironic themes. For 2015, the theme chosen was that Operation Fenkel was “harbinger of total liberation”, which would be breaking news to the hundreds of thousands of young Eritreans forcibly conscripted and wasting away their productive years as their political leaders, year after year, fail to find a political solution to a political problem. The president gave his usual, “our ambitions are not met; nonetheless, our shortcoming motivates us to do more” speech.
20. The Confucius Institute, invited in Eritrea to promote Mandarin, held its annual festival in Eritrea. Really.
21. In response to Zimbabwe’s president (Robert Mugabe, who is 91 years old and has ruled his country with an iron fist since 1980, while sleeping at meetings and falling on stairs) election as Chairman of the African Union, his Zanu-PF party said that it indicates that “Africa completely and absolutely adores President Robert Mugabe.”
22. In very-much-related-news, a report by the UN and AU disclosed that Africa is losing $60 billion every single year because multinational companies don’t pay the taxes they are supposed to. Africa, said African leaders, need to make this a priority at the next AU meeting and at the UN meeting in Ethiopia. Eritrea’s head of state, Isaias Afwerki, was too busy building a micro-dam to articulate Eritrea’s position, but we are getting ahead of ourselves here.
23. The antagonists of South Sudan, President Salva Kiir and Rebel Riek Machar, signed a ceasefire agreement, without explaining how this will be different from the previous six they signed and ignored. But the two, and everyone around them was smiling, so this will stick. Sure, there are 20 armed groups they don’t control but did I mention they had BIG SMILES?
24. Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the nucleus of Ethiopia’s government, celebrated its 40th anniversary. The soul-searching of how this hasn’t translated into the desired progress for Tigray would await the post-election congress.
25. OATUUAfrica, the black sheep of African labor unions, came to Eritrea and got a lecture from President Isaias Afwerki. He, the uni-polar dictator of Eritrea who doesn’t allow independent civil society to exist, spoke about the dangers of uni-polar world. OATUUAfrica was very impressed with government of Eritrea, according to Government of Eritrea-owned media, the only one allowed to cover the event.
26. February was another “wikileak” month; this time it was “spy cables.” Nothing interesting was revealed about Eritrea, but about its neighbors: Isaias Afwerki’s BFF (Omar Al Bashir) was going to assassinate AU Commissioner in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia; and, the South African intelligence did not have any faith in Ethiopia’s security system. Then, they all held hands and sang kumbaya: it was all a misunderstanding, don’t you know.
27. Speaking of leaks, when the Sony Documents leaks came out, there was nothing interesting about Eritrea, other than that it was one in a long list of African countries that doesn’t give a raat’s arse about copyright infringements. Nor was there a definitive answer as to who was the multi-millionaire ($699 million to be exact) Eritrean that “Swiss Leaks” disclosed a year earlier.
28. Barack Obama decided to partially lift sanctions on Sudan. Understandably, Darfur rebel leader Minni Minnawi did not understand how a government that has exiled 50,000 Darfuris in two months was getting rewarded.
29. One of Somalia’s best known scholars, Prof Said Samatar died. Condolences to his beloved.
30. IGAD Parliamentary meeting was held in February — it was not attended by Eritrea. IGAD kept hosting, “final, this time we really mean it” mediation talks between South Sudan antagonists that dragged out until the end of the year under the hapless leadership of TPLF co-founding father Seyoum.
31. BBC interviewed Eritrean CHILDREN migrating and, let’s all now say it in unison: (a) they are not Eritreans; (b) they were smuggled by the US; (c) they are economic migrants; (d) there is nothing to see here: go away. We will need this answer for every report about Eritrean exodus so memorize it.
32. In Yemen, people of Aden called for secession and are disappointed President Hadi, who was chased from Sana’a by the Houthis, didn’t embrace their separatism.
33. Ethiopian exiled opposition media, ESAT, sent to Eritrea two reporters who don’t speak Tigrinya to interview the Eritrean president who is not comfortable speaking Amharic. The video is now used at Guantanemo to torture prisoners.
34. Because, years earlier, an Eritrean artist (Freselam Mussie, now exiled) had been arrested for waving the Ethiopian flag at a concert, there was concern that similar fate awaited Eritrean cyclists for standing next to Ethiopian cyclists. But the prisons were overflowing and the cyclists were just interrogated.
35. Eritrean government website Shabait.com continued on its tradition of Queen of Incoherence which has made it the butt of jokes of Western journalists for prose like: “The participants of the Conference conducted discussion on reports accomplishment presented on the occasion elected a managing Committee.” The government has able talent in the Diaspora it can tap into but that would set a dangerous precedent of breaking the wall between the ruling class (EPLF veterans) and the “civilians” called “Gebar” (literally, a serf.) So, incoherence shall continue.
36. There was also the Eritrean soldier who was buried “with great zeal” and of course the Fenkel torch which “accords warm welcome upon arrival in Massawa.” I can’t make this stuff up:
37. Citing threat of funding terrorism, the Obama Administration made remittances to Somalia so hard that Somalis initiated a #IFundFoodNotTerror. Inspired, the Diaspora Fans of Authoritarianism in Eritrea considered #IFundVacationHomeNotTerror, but decided instead to use #ThePeopleAndTheGovernmentOfEritrea instead.
38. Isaias Afwerki Address At Fenkel: Shorter version: Stuff that was supposed to happen didn’t happen because stuff that wasn’t supposed to happen happened. But we covered that in #19 above, didn’t we?
39. Long before Mzungu Herman Cohen outlined a proposal for a sustainable Eritrea-Ethiopia peace using a term (“Abyssinia”) whose retirement Emperor Haile Selasse considered critical to modernizing his country, Africa’s own Niyi Aderibigbe had made a more sober proposal but, hey, he is not white and therefore not an Africa expert and he was ignored.
40. How do you say “TwgaHmo!” in Kunama? Fanakowa geriso etetaso, Hakowa Uya lesumala katowana’. (Whatever the case, daybreak will bring things to light). That was the intro to an article penned by Yona Germano Nati, an homage to his father, Germano Nati, who has been made to disappear by the Government of Eritrea since 2001.
41. In technology, Eritrea is left way behind. It is ok: it’s not one of the MDGs.
42. Why are up to 7% of Eritrea’s population exiled? Mike Smith, chairman of the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea (CoIE) explains; journalist Salem Solomon provides the context in this video.
43. Authorities in Israel found a loophole: Israel can deport Eritreans (more details in #74 below), against their will, to “a third country that is not their native country.”
44. For those who still don’t understand why Ethiopia will fight any war and go to any lengths to maintain the Ogaden Basen, AP reported that the area has “deposits of 4.7 trillion cubic feet of gas and 13.6 million barrels of associated liquids.”
46. Sudan joined the “Coalition of Billing Saudi Arabia.” A billion or two were thrown its way for abandoning Iran, their “strategic partner,” in favor of Saudi Arabia.
47. The 14th National Book Fair was held in Eritrea. None of the books were about using coherent themes, so Shabait.com went, as usual, for incoherence and chose: “Book Clubs: Threshold for Bright Future” which makes no sense in any of the world’s known languages. They should write a book about shabait’s incoherence for next book club.
48. In commemoration of International Women’s Day, the National Union of Eritrean Women demanded that the male-dominated government and military stop abusing girls and women; release all female political prisoners and… no, of course it didn’t. It talked about how women were 30% of Eritrea’s fighters during the armed struggle.
49. The government heavily-promoted importation of colorful heavy machinery, buses and trucks heading to Western Eritrea. These trucks, trailers, tractors have never been seen hauling harvest. So it is likely they are just on transit to Sudan to be sold for cash and the pictures are just for public relations consumption purposes.
50. The head of Sudan’s Islamic Fiqh Academy (IFA) walked in with his left foot to show how little he thinks of the Sudanese Union for Singing and Music (SUSM). He had to apologize, as did the head of State when SUSM protested. Imagine that happening anywhere in authoritarian East Africa.
51. Over at Adi Keyih, Eritrea, the Government of Eritrea demolished homes. They just didn’t look all that UNESCO Heritage eligible. Actually, the government explained why, indirectly: answer to follow. (# 223 if you are impatient.)
52. The two-year vacant post at the Ministry of Information for Minister of Information was finally filled.(That of Minister of Defense is still vacant.) It took forever to fill the post because the qualifications demanded—of somebody who is arguably one of the most well-educated, according to Tesfanews.com, the stenographers of the two Yemanes—were a bit high.
53. The arguably-one-of-the-most-well-educated Ministers invited the BBC to “come and see” and the reporter reported a series: “Inside the secretive state of Eritrea” and “Why Eritrea bans private media”. After reporting that she couldn’t find a single Eritrean to be interviewed on the record, she actually videotaped Eritrean security officials guarding a shipping container and telling the translator to stick to telling stores about “heroism, development, blah blah.” Dutifully, the translator then said, “oh look, old train” and changed the subject.
54. The US closed its embassy in Sana’a, but only after posting a “lost” poster: 500 million worth of “small arms, ammunition, night-vision goggles, patrol boats, vehicles and other supplies” donated to the government of Yemen. It was not a HUGE crisis, though, because the American president’s last name is not Bush.
55. Writing for “War Is Boring”, Robert Beckhusen reported that Ethiopia spends relatively little on its military—0.8% of it budget—but has a fearsome army. This is because (a) it produces some of its weapons and (b) it emphasizes troop training and (c) performs what Human Rights Watch called “Shell Shocked: Civilians Under Siege in Somalia”: war crimes.
56. The Mo Ibrahim Index was released. It said Africa is in bad shape; East Africa is worst in Africa; and Eritrea is at bottom five. Namibia’s President Hifikepunye Pohomba was named the winner for Achievement in African Leadership. (standard used: he left office peacefully, on time.)
57. The government continued to undermine its own “there needs to be a middle class before we can have elections” by having elections for positions that don’t threaten it. So: we need decades before we can have national elections (because that threatens us) but we can have local elections now (because that doesn’t threaten us.)
58. Using Hacking Team software, Ethiopia continued to use spyware on US-based ESAT, reported the Washington Post. In a case of delicious irony, Hacking Team was hacked by Anonymous. And, oh, journalists who work for ESAT are “terrorists”, according to the Ethiopian government.
59. Girma Seifu Maru, the singular (1, as in next to 0) Ethiopian opposition member in the 547-seat Ethiopian parliament, resigned.
60. After witnessing the forceful exile of 2 million and death of 300,000 Sudanese, the United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), which is barred by Khartoum from investigating appalling crimes including mass rape, decided to restructure itself and evaluate whether its dual-command structure is problematic. You think?
61. Long before “Black Lives Matter” burst on the scene, there was a lonely campaign by The Guardian’s Owen Jones arguing the case for “Congolese Lives Matter.” 200,000 civilians killed in Syria? Try this: 6 million people died in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
62. A 2.8 million year old human jawbone was discovered in the Ethiopian Rift Valley. When they flossed it, they found pieces of injera. Kidding.
63. The African Union continued to tease us with a terrible report about the massive human rights abuses carried out by both Kiir and Machar in South Sudan. We had to wait until October for the monstrosity to be published.
64. The On-again, off-again, on-again, off-again Eritrean Airlines was on again. At least for a month.
65. We had another leak, this time it is #Sudanleaks which confirmed what everybody suspected: Omar Al Bashir’s “Doha Document for Peace in Darfur”—championed by Thabo Mbeki—does not serve the interest of Darfuris. The Government of Sudan essentially considers Thabo Mbeki as its own. Sudan also bragged of introducing Eritrea to Iran.
66. The US announced that it will have an embassy in Somalia (based in Kenya) and an embassy in Yemen (based in Saudi Arabia.) These used to be called “listening posts” in the old days, but we will call them embassies now.
67. The African Development Bank (AfDB) announced it is giving $10.7 million in loans and $8.3 million in grants to “develop the technical, vocational, education and training sector (TVET)” in Eritrea. In exchange, the Gov of Eritrea agreed to fully disclose… nothing.
68. The Eritrean government announced that some pastoral societies in Eritrea were being encouraged to adopt sedentary life styles as this will facilitate the delivery of social services. There was no discussion at all (of course) of how Eritrea’s development plan had never given much thought to pastoralism beyond “villagization” and “sedentarisation” which is accepted as an article of faith.
69. The CEO of Sunridge Gold whet the appetite of his investors with the Asmara Project and the huge copper, zinc and gold deposits therein stretching East-West from Dbarwa to Embaderho.
70. The British Home Office decided that the asylum applications of Eritreans are without merit since defectors do not face life-threatening danger in Eritrea. This report was based on a report issued by Denmark in November 2014.
71. The Nigerians had an election and the loser didn’t go to the bushes to start an insurrection: he conceded.
72. Al-Shabab murdered 147 university students in Kenya.
73. The Saudi Royal family accelerated its bombing raids of Yemen. The young Saudi defense minister had a hit song from a fan whose lyrics include; “you have the air of kings when you speak.” True story.
74. Rwanda and Israel entered into a multi-million dollar import-export agreement. The product: Eritrean refugees to be deported to Rwanda and for Rwanda to get paid for it.
75. Eritrea’s MoFA issued a press release. Two points: “Eritrea rejects, for the umpteenth time, all false allegations on the military presence of Iranian, Houthi, Israeli or any other external power in its sovereign territories…Eritrea does not allow its islands, ports and territory for lease or sale.” It also stated that “Eritrea only recognizes and accepts a constitutional and legal leadership of Yemen.” The announcement left absolutely zero ambiguity: ኤርትራ፣ ደሴታታ፣ ወደባታን መሬታን ንክራይ ኮነ መሸጣ ዘይተፍቅድ ሃገር’ያ። ኣብዚ ዞባ፣ ናጽነታ ካብ ዝኣወጀትሉ ዕለት ጀሚራ ባባታ ንግዳማዊ ምትእትታውን መደበራትን ዘየፍቀደት ሃገር እንተላ ኤርትራ ጥራይ ምዃና ድማ ደጊማ ተነጽር።(Eritrea is the only country in the world that does not allow its territory to be a camp of foreign powers. It will never allow its islands, ports, land to be leased or sold.) ኤርትራ ኣብ ፖሊሲ ኪዳናት ኣይትኣምንን፣ ስለዚ ድማ ኣይትጽንበሮን – ኣይትድግፎን’ውን። በዚ ምኽንያት ኣብ ዝኾነ ይኹን ተመሳሳሊ ምትእኽኻባት ኣባልነት ከምዘይብላ ደጊማ ተረጋግጽ፣(Eritrea is against the policy of alliances and intervetions and it will never join nor support them…) Let’s see how the year unfolds. (For the impatient: jump to #248)
76. The “Come And See”, “Seeing Is Believing” counter-punch by the Eritrean regime, to rehabilitate its image, began in earnest by having hard-core communists interview President Isaias Afwerki in sleekly produced/edited videos. “One good thing we have done is, we have never made a mistake,” is how the video begins quoting the president.
77. What do Chambers of Commerce do all over the world? Put a pin on that. Now what does the Chambers of Commerce of Eritrea do? “The Eritrean Chamber of Commerce has organized training in Mendefera city for entrepreneurs in the Southern region as regards trade ethics. Mr. Tekie Tewolde, Director General of trade and industry in the region, called on traders to meet customers’ demand, apart from avoiding illegal trade practices.”
78. The Joint African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) witnessed Sudanese planes dropping bombs in Rowata, Darfur which resulted in the killing and wounding of civilians. Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir did the only reasonable thing: he demanded that UNAMID leave Sudan.
79. President Isaias Afwerki met for the first time in the year with his cabinet and, according to the reportage, he told them exactly the same thing they had heard from State TV in his year-end interview….3 months earlier. He assumed, perhaps accurately, that they don’t listen to him droning on for 5 hours.
81. Ethiopian blogger Natnael Feleke, imprisoned for a year without trial, managed to sneak out a letter to US Secretary of State asking him to stop supporting the Ethiopian government. For his troubles, when the other bloggers were released….he was kept in detention.
82. CBS News reported that the migrant exodus continues to the Mediterranean and, on this ship, the vast majority of the migrants are from Eritrea…
83. Easter was celebrated in Eritrea and the benediction was given by…. Colonel Debesay Gidde, the Commander of Sawa Military Camp. ኣዛዚ ማእከል ስልጠና ሃገራዊ ኣገልግሎት ኮሎኔል ደበሳይ ግደ ኣብ ዘስመዖ ቃል፡ ንመላእ ህዝቢ ኤርትራ ብሓፈሻ ንመእመናን ክርስትና ድማ ብፍላይ ‘እንቋዕ ጾመ-ልጓም ፈትሓልኩም’ ድሕሪ ምባል፡ እዚ ክቡር በዓል፡ ኣብ’ዛ ማእከል መንእሰያትን ምስጢር ህላወን ቀጻልነትን ሃገር ዝኾነት ሳዋ ምጽንባሉ፡ ብስም ኩሎም ማሕበረ-ሰብ ሳዋ ዝተሰምዖ ሓበን ገሊጹ። Yep, that happened.
84. ISIS beheaded Ethiopians in the shores of Libya. “The Libyan government has offered its deepest condolences to the people of Ethiopia…” In fact, every government did. Can you guess the one government that didn’t? A catch: an investigation by IGAD later on revealed that most of the “Ethiopians” were, in fact, Eritreans.
85. Boko Haram changed its name to the “Islamic State West Africa Province” (ISWAP.) No news yet on whether Al Shabab had changed its name to ISEAP. Probably because Al-Shabab was splitting into three: those who would surrender to the Somali government, those who wanted to stay loyal to Al Qaeda, and those who wanted to switch to ISIS.
86. The predecessor to Donald Trump, African Zulu king, said, “Head lice should be squashed; immigrants should go packing.” More irony: the Zulu king’s name is Goodwill Zwelithini.
87. As the year-old IGAD mediation of South Sudan conflict dragged on, the antagonists sent envoys to potential peacemakers and so: Kiir sent an envoy to Eritrea who had “very significant” talks with President Isaias Afwerki. The Eritrean president hates envoys, except when they come to kiss his ring.
88. Ousted Yemeni president Hadi went to Saudi Arabia to ask for intervention. An LA Times report had this quote that went unheeded by some Eritreans (as it always does): “even those who bitterly oppose the Houthis despise the exiled president for inviting the Saudi intervention.”
89. Eri-TV received donations from China and advertised it. When the government receives freebies from China, it is patriotic; when the opposition receives freebies from the West, it is treason.
90. For the 14th time, Eritrea joined North Korea as “World’s most censored country”, in CPJ’s annual report. That is so negative; a positive spin would be, “Eritrea protects the people from the dangers of information.” The New York Times quoted this piece from CPJ: “its journalists are so terrified of offending the president that even reporters for the state-run news media live in perpetual fear of arrest.” Anyone who has seen the body language of Eri-TV interviewers sees the truth in that statement.
91. “We must be frank to ourselves and the world around us. There is no alternative to ____________. For those who do not like him due to reasons known to them only, there is nothing the people of _____ can do about their opinions…But one thing is obvious: they must accept that _________________ is going nowhere anytime soon and they must prepare for a long wait because I don’t see our people changing their minds to choose the alternate leader soon. He is the only unifying national figure we have at the moment. -Statement could be about any African tyrant but, in this case, the correct answer is President Salva Kiir. Testimony courtesy of Deputy Education Minister Bol Makueng.
92. Uhuru Kenyatta was flying from Nairobi to Dubai. But there was some shelling in Yemen and his flight returned back to Nairobi. This got Kenyan papers to blame Eritrea for refusing to give permission to fly over its airspace. More importantly, it gave Eritrean Ambassador to Eritrea, Beyene Russom, an opportunity to deny the report.
93. Eritrea and Saudi Arabia signed “security and military agreement” to fight terrorism, illegal trade and piracy. Then, as Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries (all foreign powers) continued to bomb Yemen, they also agreed that there shouldn’t be “any foreign interference in Yemeni affairs.”
94. The Mail & Guardian explained how “brutalized Eritreans faced with a terrible choice” and it had yet another iconic image of an Eritrean in the 2010s: a fragile Eritrean being saved by Italian military.
95. This happened: “Some controllers habitually dozed on the floor while on duty, pulling a blanket over their heads to drown out radio traffic. Others immersed themselves in video games and personal phone calls while ignoring communication from pilots. Still others punished U.S. flight crews for a perceived lack of respect by forcing them to circle overhead until they ran low on fuel. A common vice in the flight tower was chewing khat, a leafy plant that acts as a stimulant and is banned in the United States but legal and popular in Djibouti, according to the documents.”
96. In its Regional Economic Outlook, the IMF projected that sub-Saharan Africa’s “economy is set to register another year of solid economic performance expanding at 4 ½ percent in 2015.” There would be exceptions: Equatorial Guinea (-15.4%), Sierra Leone (-12.8%), Liberia (-1.4%), Guinea (-0.3%) and Eritrea (0.2%.)
97. In terms of sheer numbers (not per capita), the top producers of African migrants are Mali, Gambia, Nigeria and Senegal. The New York Times, says, “still, these four West African nations…are not at war. And, except in the case of Gambia, they are not especially repressive.” We told you: it is the pull factor, said the PFDJ, conflating absolute numbers with per capita numbers.
98. The second-half of “Come and See: all is well in Eritrea” (#theothernarrative) was launched, this time in an interview with Professor Asmerom Legesse.
99. The South Sudan peace negotiations became IGAD Plus: South Africa, Rwanda were invited to, uh, share in the failure.
100. FAO reported that Somalia had exported a record five million livestock to markets in the Arabian Gulf. All thanks go to….. “thanks to heavy investments in animal disease prevention backed by the European Union and the United Kingdom.”
101. Ethiopia had its election, and election watchers stayed up all night, and then for weeks, biting their nails, to see if the ruling coalition got 99% or 100% of the seats.
102. Gayle Smith (a veteran TPLF-groupie) was floated as the new boss of USAid. Howard French was not happy with this and invented a new word to describe how bad it is: “disasterbacle.” (distaster + debacle, its kinda like ginaromous = gigantic + enormous.) Additionally, a Ghanian economist said Gayle Smith is enamored with “crocodile liberators and crackpot democrats” of Ethiopia. She was eventually (of course) confirmed by the Senate.
103. May 5 was commemoration of Italo-Ethiopian War (1936-40) and Ethiopian veterans demanded “Rome should apologize and provide compensation for its use of chemical weapons—namely, mustard gas—during the conflict.”
104. Egypt’s Foreign Minister, Sameh Shoukry, visited Eritrea to confer with President Isaias Afwerki so that Kbur presidenti moyawi mkhri klegisulu:: But he ended up just meeting Eritrean Foreign Minister because the President was engaged in an extraordinarily sensitive mission: Operation Dam Supervision.
105. Somalia president Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud on elections scheduled for 2016: ‘’There is no way we will extend our term. A new government will come as soon as ours ends…… we don’t want to put this country in a turmoil.’’ We shall see, said every African.
106. Meanwhile, while we don’t know anything about Ms Fadumo Dayib, who is running for President in Somalia, I recommend that she be elected because Somali men had 50+ years to screw things up and they have outperformed themselves. How can she be worse?
107. Peace Now, Justice Later, Maybe: South Sudan Information Minister Michael Makuei Lueth: “The most appropriate situation would have been to work for peace first, bring peace and, after peace, then you make people accountable. Now, it seems that the Secretary is putting the cart before the horse.”
108. Is Saudi presence in Yemen an invasion or Proxy War? “Prominent Twentieth Century political scientist Karl Deutsch defined “proxy war” as “an international conflict between two foreign powers, fought out on the soil of a third country, disguised as a conflict over an internal issue of the country and using some of that country’s manpower, resources and territory as a means of achieving preponderantly foreign goals and foreign strategies”. Deutsch’s definition makes it clear that proxy war involves the use of another country’s fighters rather than the direct use of force by the foreign power or powers. So it is obvious that the Saudi bombing in Yemen, which has killed mostly civilians and used cluster bombs that have been outlawed by much of the world, is no proxy war but a straightforward external military aggression. “The fact that the news media began labeling Yemen a proxy war in response to the Saudi bombing strongly suggests that the term was a way of softening the harsh reality of Saudi aggression.”
109. The UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) released its “biannual report on global food markets.” It was all good news: “Large supplies and a strong US dollar are keeping international food prices under downward pressure. The outlook for the coming season is unlikely to diverge much from the current situation, but currency movements and macroeconomic developments may have important implications for markets again in 2015/16. Against this backdrop, the world food import bill is forecast to reach a five-year low in 2015.” Then El Nino hit and the entire forecast went up in smokes.
110. China named a full-time ambassador to the African Union.
111. “Its Ethiopia!” blared Kenya’s Standard Digital. Remember that time when Eritrea was accused of denying Uhuru Kenyata’s plane, headed to Dubai, rights to fly over its skies? It turns out “it was an unfortunate incident….We will ensure this does not happen again.” A story corrected itself without the PFDJ organizing a mekhete.
112. The annual “Innovation Prize for Africa” (IPA) was awarded to an African of mixed Eritrean-Ethiopian ancestry. Nah, just kidding: we were too busy migrating and avoiding predators. The winner was Moroccan researcher Adnane Remmal. Runner up (they love running) was Kenyan Alex Mwaura.
113. Wall Street Journal had breaking news: “Saudi Arabian women this year will finally get to drive. But only in a videogame.” The is almost worth paying the subscription price for WSJ. But their Twitter account is free so here is the illustration they shared.
114. Independence Day in Eritrea with floats. Eri-TV has a unique way of cheapening even the happiest day: there were floats and man-on-the-street interviews and the president making more empty promises. The president’s speech was worse than empty; it was cruel: “ሓቀኛ ናጻ ሃገር ‘ተዘይተሃኒጹ፡ ቃልስናን መስዋእቲ ጀጋኑናን፡ ዛንታ ኰይኑ’ዩ ዝተርፍ።” (Unless a truly free country is established, our struggle and the sacrifice of our heroes will be nothing but a tale, he warned. Warning himself and his colleagues?)
115. The Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) was a body empowered to demarcate the Eritrea-Ethiopia border. Eritrea organized a workshop with the ministers of the neighboring country to discuss EEBC ruling. The neighbor? Sudan. Why? Who knows why PFDJ does anything.
116. In May, there was a very, very competitive race involving an Ethiopian politician. No, of course it was not the Ethiopian election, but a race for the presidency of the Africa Development Group. Nigerian Akin Adesina won and Ethiopian Foreign Minister Tedros went back to his part time job of charming his Facebook friends.
117. The African Union turned 52 years old this year. As part of its midlife crisis it decided that it should be a mini-UN fielding peacekeepers everywhere despite issuing a development index infographic which shows that 37 of its 54 members are low-level development stage. It also held a contest to see if anyone knows the AU anthem and none of you do, do you? “O Sons and Daughters of Africa, Flesh of the Sun and Flesh of the Sky, let us make Africa the Tree of Life….” I am sure it rhymes in Swahili.
118. Africa Day was commemorated on 25 May. Isaias Afwerki sent his Foreign Minister to give the annual advice to Africa (those Africans just don’t listen): ውሕስነት ሃገራት ንምርግጋጽን ልኡላውነተን ንክኽበርን ንህዝብታተን ዘርብሕ ዞባዊ ዕዳጋ ንምቛምን ክሰርሓ ከምዝግባእ ብምግንዛብ፡ ነዚ ንምትግባር፡ ዳግመ- ህደሳ ሕብረት ኣፍሪቃ ከም ቀዳማይ ኣጀንዳአን ክሰርዕኦ ኣዘኻኺሩ። (Renewal of African Unity should be prioritized as Agenda One because… oh never mind: you translate it.)
119. Remember that South-Sudan reconciliation talk which started out as an IGAD initiative, then it was regionalized to include everybody and his cousin? Now they decided to merge the IGAD peace process with the Arusha peace process. Emphasis on process, not peace.
120. Russian newspaper Pravda reported that Saudi Arabia had exploded a neutron bomb in Yemen to “wipe Yemen off the map.” Pravda blamed Obama and Israel.
121. Not only is construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) good for Ethiopia, it is actually good for Egypt as it will help it cut water loss from Lake Nasser, reported the peace-mongering Newscientist.com.
122. PEN Eritrea is established, with contributions from Eritrea’s exiled artists.
123. Miss news about coup d’etats in Africa? Specially the comically botched ones? Well, you are in for a treat: The Washington Post had a great article about how some US-based Gambians tried to overthrow Gambian president Yahya Jammeh. My apologies: I mean “His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr. Yahya Abdul-Azziz Jemus Junkung Jammeh Babili Mansa, Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, Defense Minister, Cabinet Chief, Chairman of Legislature, Public Service Commissioner, Auditor General, Chief of National Intelligence Agency, Minister of Agriculature and the Chief Custodian of the Sacred Constitution of The Gambia.” These are all his titles; according to his website. As a custodian of the sacred constitution, he unilaterally changed Gambia into an Islamic Republic right around the time Saudi Arabia was buying allies in its War against Yemen Terrorism and he inspired Isaias Afwerki to have that “man of the people” picture.
124. In a shocking development, Omal Al Bashir was elected with only 94.5% of the vote. Due to this disappointing outcome, heads had to roll and the entire cabinet was shuffled. There was an inauguration party that Isaias Afwerki didn’t attend (the Ethiopian PM was showing up and Sudan just isn’t big enough for both of them.) Weeks later, President Isaias Afwrki and his entire entourage of Vice President (himself), Speaker of the House (also himself) met with his counterparts: the President of Sudan (Omar Al Bashir), the Vice President (General Bakri Hasan) and the Speaker of the House (Professor Ibrahim Ahmad.) As usual, no details came out of the meeting other than the vague “bilateral discussions.” But pictures of the meetings were leaked, months later, to counter the rumor that the president was dead.
125. The South-Sudan mediation talks moved from tragedy to farce when IGAD asked Omar Al Bashir to broker peace in South Sudan.
126. Israelis also had an election, a competition between “let’s bulldoze all Palestinian homes” and “let’s bulldoze only some of them.” The “let’s bulldoze all Palestinian homes” side won. Also, an Ethiopian-Israeli MP, Abraham Negusse, was promoted to head its Immigration office at a time when there were over 40,000 Eritrean asylum-seekers in Israel.
127. There is checkbook diplomacy; there is gunboat diplomacy. Then there is Injera Diplomacy. What is that? Somali writer (and former ambassador to US) Abukar Arman explains here.
128. Following up on its massacre of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians in February and 30 Ethiopians in April, ISIS killed 2 Eritreans “after stopping a truck carrying 75 Africans of different nationalities” in Libya. The Government of Eritrea had nothing to say: it was saving its outrage for Iran’s attack of Saudi embassy in Tehran.
129. Using a UN lorry, human smugglers kidnapped 14 Eritreans in Sudan.
130. Three African regional affiliations—COMESA, EAC, SADC— began talks of forming the Tripartite Free Trade Area (FTA) with negotiations to resume at the next AU head of states summit in Egypt. This will cover 58% of Africa, 26 nations, with a population of over 600 million and economic activity of over $1 trillion. Clearly, Eritrea will want to be in the middle of this since its FM had lectured the AU it should do that and Isaias Afwerki will be all over it. Of course not: he didn’t show up.
131. Afro Barometer, an African research network, updates its data points for data geeks who want to analyze Africa. There is nothing on Eritrea, or Ethiopia, or Somalia because even by African standards those three countries are data deserts.
132. BOOM! The United Nations Human Rights Council and its Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea finished their year-long investigation of Eritrea and issued a damning 500-page report that alleged that the crimes committed by the Government of Eritrea may rise to the level of crimes against humanity. “The Government and The People of Eritrea” (which is how the handful of criminals in the PFDJ refer to themselves) were outraged. In a choreographed way: here you can actually see Eritrean ambassador to Kenya actually reading his script:
133. Remember how the UK Home Office had taken a Danish report of Mzungus-in-Eritrea who, without visiting a single prison, meeting a single prisoner, a single family member of a prisoner, had concluded Eritrea was an oasis of peace and justice and there is no reason to escape it and ask for asylum? Well, the UK Home Office was now going to “carefully consider” the findings of the UN inquiry.
134. The AU Heads of States Summit was held in South Africa. One Head of State didn’t attend because he had dam-construction to supervise. Also, the South African leader plotted the escape of Sudan’s Omar Al Bashir who was wanted Alive or Alive by the International Criminal Court.
135. Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, stopped falling long enough to criticize Burundi’s president for refusing to step down from power after 10 years in power. Mugabe has been in power for 28 years.
136. President Obama headed to East Africa and chastised African leaders for not stepping down after 8 years in power, like him, who is forced by the constitution to step down. Later on, he would tell 60 Minutes that if he were allowed to run again, he would win.
137. Saudi diplomatic leaks came out showing one thing: Saudi Arabia is completely obsessed with who is cozying up to Iran. Regarding Eritrea, it disclosed that Abdella Jaber, PFDJ Director of Organizational Affairs and a member of its Executive Committee for decades, had been communicating with the Saudi embassy in Eritrea.(This was later translated by Hadas Ertrea, “believe-it-or-not” style, after they had disappeared Abdella Jaber.) It also showed that the Eritrean government had asked Saudi Arabia to block exiled opposition websites which use Arabic as a medium. Also, Egypt had sent an assassin to kill South Sudanese leader Salva Kiir.
138. The election results from Ethiopia, which had kept everyone in suspense, were announced: “Ethiopia’s ruling party, the EPRDF, and its allies have won every single parliamentary seat in May’s elections, according to official results.” Meto-be-meto. Susan Rice tried very hard to have a poker face about this “democracy” and she finally said, screw it, I don’t get paid enough not to laugh at this.
139. Thousands of Eritreans—some in opposition to the government and in support of the CoI; some in support of the government and in opposition to CoI—converged in Geneva to do the one thing they can’t do in Eritrea: freely assemble and demonstrate. In case you were confused who was who: the group holding pictures of Isaias Afwerki, the group using the Eritrean flag as bandanas, wrist-bands, napkins, upside-down shawls, was pro-government.
140. In his presentation, CoI Chairman Mike Smith said, “…we have nothing but admiration for the country of Eritrea…we have a great deal of respect for the Eritrean people…we simply believe they do not deserve the system they found themselves with.” The Human Rights Council extends the mandate of CoI for one more year – not one member of the 47 members of HRC29 (except China, on principle of opposing country-specific HRs) came to the defense of the Gov of Eritrea– with specific instructions: find out if the crimes committed by the GoE rise to the level of “crimes against humanity.”
141. Around the time Eritreans were busy demonstrating in support and in opposition to the Eritrean government, Canadian mining company Nevsun, which had a featured role in the CoIE report for running “slave labor”, issued a press release announcing that it had discovered “new massive sulphide deposit at Bisha.”
142. To the surprise of nobody, Foreign Policy revealed that the “US operates drones from secret bases in Somalia.”
143. Asmarino.com published a January 2015 “engagement letter” between Eritrea’s Chargé d’affaires to the US and Herman Cohen, a retired US diplomat, now lobbyist, who would spend the rest of 2015 pimping the Government of Eritrea.
144. Eritrean cyclist Daniel Teklehaimanot becomes Mountain Dan (King of the Mountain) at Tour de France. Digg published what is sure to be an iconic pic of Daniel (no, not the polka dot jersey which he donated to President Isaias Afwerki who responded, in word-for-word translation of an English expression: “this is the tip of the iceberg,” confusing a people who have never seen an iceberg.)
145. A computer hacking team which goes by the name of Hacking Team was hacked. Then we learned: “Hacking Team’s technology allowed the Ethiopian government to hack into the computers and accounts of Ethiopian Satellite Television (ESAT) employees based in the U.S. ESAT operates as an independent television and radio station.”
146. Somalia appointed an electoral commission. Really.
147. Ambassador Tesfamichael Gerhatu pulled a date out of his you-know-what and said that “new constitution will be ready in the next three or four years,” fully convinced in 3 to 4 years you will not remember he said that because there will be a new crisis.
148. Ethiopia released from prison some bloggers terrorists who go by the name of Zone 9.
149. Amazing Maps released a map of the continent where “the US is treaty bound to go to war for.” And that’s BEFORE Cruz or Marco were thinking of being the next President of these United States.
150. Eritrea was ranked # 186 in the UNDP’s Human Development Index beating only Central African Republic and Niger. Pause long, and think hard of that.
151. Uganda’s President Yoweri Musevini, who had amended the constitution to allow him to govern for life, figured he had to level the playing field a bit more and arrested opposition leaders Kizza Besigye and Amama Mbabazi. It was all for the good of the country and national security and sovereignty and other convenient buzzwords.
152. After 15 years of defining development without reference to human rights in its Millenium Development Goals (MDG), the UN came out with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) where vague “peace and justice” became one of the goals.
153. A Rwandan reminded her president, Paul Kagame, that back in 2012 he had said, “[if] I have been unable to mentor a successor or successors that should be the reason I should not continue as president.” He replied, “Everything I have said has meaning to me and for that time.” The statement is remarkable for its similarity to what Humpty Dumpty said in The Looking Glass:”‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'” Then Rwandans petitioned to change the constitution so Humpty Dumpty can be rewarded for his failure.
154. The Civil Code & Penal Codes of the State of Eritrea were released. Of interest: Article 191 – Right of Habeas Corpus. “Every person arrested or detained prior to trial shall have the right to petition any court for his release on the grounds that his arrest or detention is without due process in violation of the laws and Constitution of Eritrea.” There is a catch: Eritrea has no constitution.
155. Addressing the 28th Round graduates of Sawa High School, President Isaias Afwerki stuttered when reading a script he was given that 60% of the graduates did not achieve passing grades to attend higher education. He said, clearly, there is a mistake and we will correct it. But: the prior year, his own Haddas Ertra said that the fail rate for the 27th Round graduates was 80%. Meanwhile, the 14% pass rate to the degree program was heralded as a grand achievement because ትካላት ትምህርትና ታተ ኣብ ዝብለሉን መሰረታዊ ናይ መምህራን ብዝሕን ዓይነትን ሕጽረት ምስ ብቑዕ መሳለጥያታት ትምህርቲ ኣብ ዘይብሉ ኩነትን ዝተረኸበ ውጽኢት ስለዝኽነ:: Qantitative and qualitative shortage of teachers. This is, remember, 24 years after Eritrea’s independence, and half a decade of his government everything to exile teachers.
156. The New York Times reported that horrific ethnic cleansing was unfolding in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. But it was all ok because it was to protect “Sudan’s Sovereignty”, aka, black-on-black crime.
157. The Financing For Development 3rd (FFD3) meeting, all cooked in Europe and North America by lending nations, was unveiled to the borrower nations in Addis Abeba. Everybody pretended that real discussions were happening. Isaias Afwerki boycotted the meeting to pull his annual opossum act (playing dead.)
158. Fifteen years after Chad lawyer Jacqueline Moudeina filed a complaint against her country’s Dictator Hissene Habre for murder and torture, he was brought to the international court in Dagar Senegal. 9 months later, closing arguments were being heard.
159. Burkina Transitional Council indicted former president Blaise Campaore for high treason. He promptly changed his citizenship to that of a neighboring country that has no extradition treaty with his country.
160. In interviews, Yemane Gebreab, the political director of Eritrea’s ruling party, kept saying (including to Channel’s 4 John Snow) that the magnitude of Eritrea’s migration (only 2,000/month) compared to the rest of the world is “a drop in the ocean”, submitting his entry for the Bad Taste statement of the year. Yemane Gebremeskel, competing for the honor, published the report at shabait.com proudly.
161. Amnesty International called on the AU Peace & Security Council to release a CoI on South Sudan which everyone knows is horrific and incriminates the two antagonists of South Sudan of crimes against humanity, but is kept a secret to keep the fragile peace talks at pace.
162. The World Economic Forum reported that Eritrea is the 5th poorest country in the world, after Congo-Kinshasa, Zimbabwe, Burundi, and Liberia. This obviously requires a new Mekhete (Resolute Rebuff) against WEF.
163. Eritrea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement that the worsening human trafficking situation in the world is due to the world refusing to heed the advice of the Government of Eritrea and it asked the UN to search in its archives for a prescient letter that President Isaias Afwerki had sent way before human trafficking became a global phenomenon. Again, I am not making this up.
164. August is Rebuff Season where pro-government Eritreans pledge to once-and-for-all destroy all enemies of the State. They do this at meetings, seminars, concerts, festivals– just before they break out into dance. The 2015 version of resolutely rebuff is to sue Diaspora Eritreans who oppose the government. And, unsurprisingly, Yemane Gebreab who was featured so prominently all over Eritrean media he must be the new Prime Minister, is behind this. The first test case was in the Netherlands where a person who did not have a clear concept of what suing entails didn’t forsee that he had to be deposed and testify under oath. He explained, under oath, that the reason he, a YPFDJ leader, was so distraught at accusations that YPFDJ takes its orders from PFDJ (obviously, he didn’t read the mission statement of YPFDJ), is because the “country is a dictatorship and torture takes place.”
165. A video that tells the Real Narrative of Eritrea, free from the whitewashing of the Other Narrative is the case of journalist Seyoum Tsehaye, who has been made to disappear by the government of Eritrea.
166. Without getting permission from Eritrean government supporters, Somalia started calling itself: The Threat of A Good Example. Uh-huh.
167. Ethiopia discovered a new use for its Anti-Terrorism Proclamation (ATP): it arrested 18 Muslims, including clerics and reporters from “Dimtsachn Yisemma” (Let our voice be heard) and told them, Yeah, your voice will be heard: in jail. It had the good sense to wait UNTIL Obama had left the country. Like the day after he left.
168. The UNHCR reported that Eritrean refugees had doubled from 180,000 to 360,000 between 2013 and 2014. Mostly Ethiopians, economic migrants…
169. The chairwoman of National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW) stated that her organization works real hard to protect the rights of Eritrean women. This excludes female prisoners, females abused by the military, females who are cutting their education short to avoid going to Sawa, females who are victims of human traffickers, and a female cabinet members whose husband is in jail without charges for nearly a decade….
170. MSF: Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without borders) runs MSF Sea which assists migrants and refuges in Europe and the Mediterranean. On August 6, which is the height of “festival/dankera season” in Eritrea, a week after Eritrean government official said “only” 2,000 Eritreans leave per month and their number is decreasing every year, it reported “those rescued from Syria, Eritrea, Bangladesh and many other countries were screaming in terror. All are now safe.”
171. Demonstrating the bi-polar nature of American foreign policy, while Herman Cohen was telling the world that only one person, Susan Rice, stands between US-Eritrea relationship normalization, US former ambassador to Eritrea, Ambassador Ronald McMullen, was telling an interviewer that over a 9-year period, Eritrean government arrested 48 staffers of US embassy in Eritrea.
172. Eritrean president Isaias Afwerki decided to resolutely rebuff whatever was going on in his hair by having a Korean Dictator haircut. The whole country had to pretend that there was nothing to see and it was perfectly normal, but Isaias Afwerki was unfazed because he had just listened to Outkast and misinterpreted what “cut” meant: “I met a gypsy and she hipped me to some life game; to stimulate then activate the left and right brain; Said baby boy you only funky as your last cut; your focus on the past your ass’ll be a has what.”
173. Professor Asmerom Legesse, author of “The Uprooted” which documented the case of Eritreans deported from Ethiopia during the 1998-00 border war, criticized the Human Rights Council and Special Rapporteur on Eritrea, Sheila Keetharuth, for documenting the case of Eritreans exiled from Eritrea by policies of Eritrean government by using the exact same methodology he used to build his case. The world-renowned Unconscious Irony Magazine named him Ironical Man of the Year.
174. Gabon’s leader, Ali Bongo, who inherited the presidency and his vast wealth from his father, announced that he was bestowing “as gifts to the Gabonese people” some of the wealth. Well, it so happens what he was bestowing as gift were two houses in Paris, stuck in an “ill-gotten gains” court case, but it is the thought that counts.
175. 19 year old Eritrean Ghirmay Gebreselasse became the first Eritrean to win the gold for a marathon run at World Championships in Beijing. Whereas many runners appeared to be lost as to which gate to use to enter, he had the presence of mind to demand the flag so he can wrap it around him for his last lap. More astonishingly, this was only his third attempt at running a competitive marathon. His time: 2:12:27.
176. Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki returned from a four-day “fruitful visit to the State of Qatar”, according to Eritrean state media. Fruit = dinar?
177. The International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC, issues a rank of “The World’s Worst Countries for Workers”, using a scale of 1-5+ on violation of rights. 1 is “irregular violation of rights”, 2 is “repeated violation of rights”, 3 is “regular violation of rights” ; 4 is “systematic violation of rights”; 5 is “no guarantee of rights” and 5+ is “no guarantee of rights due the breakdown of the rule of law.” Only 9 countries in the world, mostly in the Gulf Arab world, had a 5+ rating. And, of course, you know one of those is Eritrea. So, in August, ITUC visited Eritrea and the Secretary General for ITUC-Africa was quoted as saying, “the various reports submitted against Eritrea were unfounded and merely provided for purposes of disinformation.”
178. As it does every September 1, the PFDJ—not the Government of Eritrea—issued a statement where it spent two paragraphs describing the significance of ELF in sparking the fight against Ethiopian occupation and then spent four paragraphs congratulating itself for correcting the course of the Revolution. The PFDJ is so humble.
179. China invited Omar Al-Bashir, fresh from his adventures of escaping International Criminal Court (ICC) in South Africa, to China for the China-Africa Summit which would include a parade to highlight the war crimes of Japan in World War II. When told that ICC is seeking Omar Al Bashir for war crimes, Irony Magazine Monthly said, screw it, we give up.
180. It was New Year in Ethiopia and its spokesperson, Redwan Hussein, told us አዲሱ ዓመት የሰላም: የዕድገትና የብልግና ይሁንልዎ! Ok, Redwan, if you say so but we prefer ብልጽግና. What a difference a letter makes.
181. On September 5th, shabait wrote an article about President Isaias Afwerki’s visit to Saudi Arabia…. which occurred in April and which it had forgotten to report.
182. Natnael Haile and Mohammed Kasim, survivors of the Lampedusa boat sinking, tell their story to the New York Times: they are grateful they are alive, but they wish they had never left the long, harrowing journey and they wish that no Eritrean ever will leave the country, and then concede that nobody will listen to their advice.
183. #FreeThe20 is a movement with the slogan “Empower Women; Don’t Imprison Them.” To understand how completely clueless the PFDJ is about how power works in the US, consider this: here’s a picture of Obama looking at #Freethe20 And here’s Samantha Power, US ambassador to the UN, in September, highlighting the case of one of the twenty, Aster Yohannes, who disappeared without a trace 11 years go.
184. OJ Simpson is still looking for the “real killers” of his wife, and Nevsun hired a human rights attorney to exonerate it of its crimes in Bisha. The human rights attorney promptly exonerated it. CBC’s Fifth Estate is skeptical, and Nevsun was not helped by its VP of communications pointing to one CoIE mistake to, ergo, presto, destroy its credibility. How PFDJian of you, Nevsun: talk about going native.
185. The India-Africa summit was announced and President Isaias Afwerki was on a guest list. This is because he got a personal invitation from India’s foreign minister: he came, he was lectured by Isaias Afwerki that India-Africa relations shouldn’t be “a relationship between master and slave” and he hurriedly left. Let’s see: will a man who didn’t show up for the COMESA meeting, the AU meeting, heck, even the inauguration ceremony of his buddy, Omar Al Bashir, show up for a summit where he will be dwarfed by other leaders? (Answer below: #206)
186. September 18, 2015—the 14th anniversary of the disappearance of Eritrean parliamentarians, senior officials, journalists—came and went and the cold world remained cold.
187. The Eritrean cycling craze continued, this time in Richmond, VA in the US, for the Men U23. How did we do? There was sun in our eyes 🙂
188. Molla Asghedom, the leader of Tigray People’s Democratic Movement (TPDM), one of the five armed Ethiopian opposition groups based in Eritrea, took 700 of his followers and surrendered to the Ethiopian government. Days prior to his surrender, TPDM and two other Eritrea-based Ethiopian opposition groups, including Gnbot-7, had reached a unity agreement and the leader of Gnbot-7 had abandoned his base in the US to move to Eritrea (based on advise from Molla Asghedom, according to Molla Asghedom.) In subsequent interviews, Molla Asghedom claimed that his group was the Eritrean government’s most trusted Ethiopian opposition group; that President Isaias Afwerki had personally informed him that he feels vindicated by the success of TPDM and he will get all the help he needs; and that TPDM was so trusted by the government, it had been heavily involved in Eritrea’s national security. Notwithstanding claims made by different corners including the SEMG that TPDM had tens of thousands of members, Molla says that the group who surrendered with him makes up the entirety of his TPDM. There was no comment from the Government of Eritrea.
189. Addis Abeba’s Light rail was commemorated. They had originally given it an awful word-for-word translation (qelal babur), but now, thankfully, the Addis humor has taken over and it is named after a person that could carry 700 individuals and take them from point A to point B: Molla Asghedom.
190. At the Waldorf Historia hotel, Ethiopia received “South-South Awards” for its success in reducing poverty and implementing Millenium Development Goals (MDGs)…
191.… Meanwhile, El Nino hit hard and 7.5 million Ethiopians need aid, said the UN.
192. Eritrea’s Ministry of Labor and Human Welfare organized a workshop on Policy on Children’s Rights. Presumably, this covered their “right” to be conscripted and to be exiled.
193. The 70th Session of the UN General Assembly opened in New York. Eritrea was represented by….its Foreign Minister. The Head of State was very busy monitoring a dam. The Foreign Minister advised the UN to learn the meaning of “rule of law”, “institutionalization” and “to strive to work for justice.” Diplomatic decorum dictated that nobody break out in hysterical laughter, so nobody did.
194. Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, whose ruling coalition party won 100% of the seats in Ethiopia, was re-elected Prime Minister with 100% of the votes. Somewhere, Susan Rice blamed her hysteria on the laughing gas she was holding.
195. Burundi was sanctioned by the European Union. Burundi’s foreign minister discovered his inner-PanAfrican and said “while his country believes in north-south cooperation, it does not believe in neo-colonialism, imperialism and domination of southern nations by the West.” Tell’em, neo-Sankara.
196. From the tales that aren’t told enough: Medium.com talks of a Ghost Boat that disappeared without a trace and, of course, it is the story of Eritreans. (But remember our chorus: they are not Eritreans, if they are Eritreans they are victims of US policies, and they are economic migrants, and they will return home, anyway.)
197. Father Mussie Zerai was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for the 2nd year in a row. This accelerated the PFDJ and its supporters “Opposition Research” and we will surely learn soon, if we haven’t already, that he is mostly from Tigray and/or a CIA agent.
198. The 4th Congress of Transport and Communications Workers Federation was held in Asmara. With no right for collective bargaining, the union is a union in name only and would later on get lectured by the President of the country for having no rationale for the fares it collects from bus commuters.
199. Tadesse Mehari, the Executive Director of the Commission of Higher Education spoke of all the great things his department is doing to make the lives of teachers better except the one that results in massive turn-over: mandatory conscription.
200. Following the lead of Uganda and Rwanda, Congo’s leader Denis Sassou Nguesso, reluctantly decided to have his followers run a referendum to have him as leader. Very reluctantly.
201. Eritrea’s national football team, Red Sea Camels, joined the long caravan out of Eritrea, in what the Washington Post called “something of a tradition.” They decided to ask for political asylum in Botswana. Clearly, economic migrants. And that explains why the Eritrean ambassador to South Africa was working overtime to deny them asylum. Because that’s what you do with economic migrants. Shortly thereafter, 7 Eritrean cyclists who are not clear on the concept of “seeking asylum” asked for political asylum in Ethiopia. In an interview with Australia’s SBS Tigrinya radio, they said they had to because the government wouldn’t get them new bicycles and their old bikes are just too dangerous.
202. The report of the Commission of Inquiry on South Sudan was finally, finally released by the AU. And AU should insist that the two “leaders” of South Sudan be disqualified from any political office anywhere forever.
203. An Eritrean was brutally killed by an Israeli mob who mistook him for a “terrorist.” Eritrea’s Ministry of Information, which had nothing to say when Eritreans were massacred by ISIS, who have killed many more than Israelis have killed, condemned the killing and mocked the apology of the Israeli government.
204. The Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group issued its annual report where it said Eritrea is in violation of Resolution 1907 because it denied SEMG entry to Eritrea; it cannot confirm nor deny if Eritrea is violating arms embargo of Somalia because of “multiple inconsistencies and established patterns” dealing with cargo manifest; however, clearly, it said, Eritrea continues to support armed Ethiopian groups in violation of Resolution 1907; Eritrea refuses to account for Djibouti prisoners of war and obstructs all inquiries in violation of Resolution 1907. SEMG’s mandate is extended for another year.
205. Robert Mugabe won China’s Confucius Peace Prize. Confucius say what?
206. The India-Africa Summit was held under the theme of “reinvigorated partnership – shared vision.” (Not “master slave – vision”.) An Indian journalist called the Eritrean Embassy in India and was told Isaias Afwerki was in India, he just isn’t attending the India-Africa Summitt. Maybe shopping for spices.
207. There was all kind of talk that the Emirati Navy has docked in Eritrea. Talk that was encouraged by the Government because its satellites, dehai.org and East Afro among them, were the ones disseminating it and its Senior Mzungu, Herman Cohen, using it as a basis to argue for normalization of relations with Eritrea.
208. Eritreans demonstrated at the UN in New York to support the CoIE and encourage the extension of its mandate.
209. Herman Cohen went on full mekhete mode to compare the impact of El Nino on Ethiopia and Eritrea. Eritrea “continue to feed its people” unlike Ethiopia, he said.
210. Suddeutsche Zetung (SZ) interviewed Eritrea’s Minister of Information, Yemane Gebremeskel. The self-described “arguably most well educated” minister said, among other things, “those who are caught [crossing the border illegally] will be punished with two or three months in jail.” When the interviewer asked “only two or three months?”, he replied, “Normally. Maybe even less.” People who know of children who have been in prison for 3 years just shook their heads at this blatant lie. Then, he says “torture is prohibited by law” in Eritrea and when the interviewer asks “and this law is being followed?” he replies, “I assume.” I mean, Christ, I am only the Government Spokesperson: I can’t know everything. And finally this Orwellian explanation, “We have no political prisoners, but we have politicians who are in detention.” Yeah, we have no political leaders, but we have politicians who are in leadership position.
211. There was also an interview with Zuri Serie and Yemane Gebremeskel is shocked (SHOCKED!) that his government is accused of a culture of impunity for criminals in positions of power.
212. The same month, Tele Zurich featured a debate between Roman Wasik, a reporter who had just returned from Eritrea (Come And See!), and Dr. Toni Locher, Eritrea’s “honorary consul” to Switzerland. Kinda like the South African ambassador to Eritrea who should be honorary Eritrean consul. Anyway, it didn’t go so well for the honorary consul.
213. Tanzanians had an election. In the context between Chama and Chadama, Chama won. This gave Tanzanian ruling party, CCM, 54 years of uninterrupted rule.
214. Meb Kiflezghi, now 40, ran the New York City Marathon. Still an elite runner.
215. The government of Eritrea began a series of announcements on confiscation of people’s property which it euphemistically called “Nakfa money exchange legal notice.” None of the announcements said, “Give us 1,000 and we will allow you to withdraw 500” but, depositor beware. Look for this ill-advised economic policy to be “quietly” reversed in a year or two, like dozens of other ill-advised policies.
216. MSF (Doctors without borders) had yet another report of very, very young Eritreans who fled their country en route to Europe via the Mediterranean.
217. The Play Dead Act of President Isaias Afwerki came to an end when a picture of him was disseminated with a Chinese delegation over yonder by the damn dam. The Chinese delegation was there to buy Sunridge’s share of Asmara Share Co. Then the president had an “I am still not dead” meeting with his cabinet where the people were treated to a silent movie: there was a lot of hand-waving but no audio.
218. Russia Today, a very reliable defender of the Government of Isaias Afwerki, got tired and reported on “a forgotten dictatorship – Eritrea.”
219. The BBC reported on very, very young Eritreans—6, 8, 11 year olds–fleeing to Ethiopia, some with no families at all. And some won’t tell their story on camera for fear of reprisals against their families at home. Why did they flee? They say it is due to open-ended conscription that is their fate but we all know they are Ethiopian economic migrants, right?
220. The International Labor Organization (ILO) visited Eritrea. Eritrea is a signatory to 7 conventions (since February 22, 2000), including one against “Forced Labor” and one for the “Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention”, neither one of which is recognized in Eritrea. But the ILO has no power other than to observe and report.
221. Attending a meeting of 60 EU and African leaders (which Isaias Afwerki didn’t attend, of course), France’s president Francois Hollande called for maximal pressure on Eritrea’s “unscrupulous” leaders for their role in emptying the country “of its own population.”
222. At a summit in Valletta, Europe’s Africa Trust Fund pledged 1.8 billion Euros from EU funds and 81.3 million from individual European countries to be handed to 23 African countries that are anywhere in the African migration route to Europe. Among the 23: every single country in the Horn of Africa.
223. Eritrea’s Minister of Local Government, Wolde-Michael Abraha, had to remind Eritreans and all the busybodies who want to investigate why the government is demolishing houses illegally constructed, including at Adi Keyih, of one simple fact: all land belongs to the government. Sorry that the Land Proclamation we wrote is like 20 years old, and the constitution that mentions this fact is dead and buried, but one more time: land belongs to the government.
224. In the “New Eastern Outlook”, new Eritrea Expert Eric Daister, quoted self-described “journalist” Thomas Mountain in making his point that refugees are a weapons in the propaganda war. Then everybody in PFDJ Land quoted Daister quoting Mountain.
225. Lots of people have been dying in Mali forever. In November, Europeans were held hostages so it was breaking news all over the world:
226. Some of the largest employers in Africa in fields which have nothing to do with their core-mission? Particularly in Ethiopia and Egypt? The army.
227. The World Bank said it wants to retire the categories of “developing” and “developed” world and came up with a more sensitive “high”, “middle”, “low” income countries. Hope that makes you feel better. It also called for $16 billion in help to Africa to deal with the effects of climate change.
228. Germany’s Development Minister visited Eritrea. President Isaias Afwerki bowed to the German Minister of Development. So, Eritreans, if you want to be respected by your president, quick, become powerful enough to dispense billions.
229. The median age of sub-Saharan Africa is teens. The median age of Europe is 30s and 40s. This may or may not have anything to do with migration.
230. The stubborn narrative that authoritarianism results in creation of migrant crisis was repeated by Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). If only authoritarianism extended all the way to censoring papers like CFR Backgrounders! A new mekhete is needed.
231. President Isaias Afwerki visited Riyadh to discuss “strategy of fighting against terrorism.” Unlike the visit in April, which was reported retroactively, this one was mentioned prominently in state media.
232. Prisoners in one of the hundreds of prisons in Eritrea, Adi Abeyto, were stealthily video-recorded and published by Radio WegaHta and, yes, it is exactly as horrible as you expected and, no, Adi Abeyto was not the prison that UNHRC was allowed to visit in Eritrea in its recent trip. That would be Sembel: the only prison where people are actually detained AFTER they are found guilty and sentenced. Unlike the hundreds of other prisons. Will UNHRC know this? Of course; but the PFDJ is slow as tortoise.
233. Amnesty International reported that “Eritrea is hemorrhaging its youth” but nobody at the government was worried because half of those claiming to be Eritreans are actually Ethiopians, and besides, they are all economic migrants. Pass the popcorn and onward and forward:
234. AU Commission delegation visited Eritrea to discuss AGENDA 2063 In response, President Isaias Afwerki shared with them “Hanti tsbiqti article” he had written in 2013. Really. Again, I am not making this up.
235. Business Insider narrates the story of Eritrean artist Biniam Abraham who escaped Eritrea to avoid…never mind, Biniam is probably Ethiopian and he is just an economic migrant.
236. China pledged $60 billion to boost China-Africa ties. Of course, President Isaias Afwerki didn’t attend #FOCA2015. He had to monitor the price of bus fares in Eritrea while his Foreign Minister and his chaperone, Prime Minister Yemane Gebreab, attended.
237. Some of the iconic photographs of Eritrea’s Liberation War were taken by Seyoum Tsehaye. Seyoum Tsehaye has disappeared, presumably is in prison, and it takes Al Jazeera to feature his work. Only in Eritrea would those who celebrate his work and what they represent— pictures of the liberation war—also be indifferent to or supportive of cruelty the government inflicted on him.
238. Good Governance Africa writes about the “Rule By Fear” and justice-by-the-powerful-for-the-powerful that reigns in Eritrea due to “the blending of the security state and judiciary” which “has become a walking nightmare for Eritreans”: “The problems with the country’s justice system could be described as ontological: a judge’s career, according to the commission, begins at the defense ministry. Judges at the community court level may be elected, but anyone on the High Court bench in Asmara is likely a conscript—often paid less than $2 a day—and therefore under military control and, in turn, under the president’s thumb. As a second firewall against anything resembling judicial independence, the justice ministry functions under the aegis of the president’s office. A special military tribunal funnels judgments through the armed forces’ pipeline, and works as the de facto highest court in the land.”
239. According to the Government of Ethiopia, these students at Haromaya University protesting the Federal governments attempt to encroach on Oromo Province autonomy are all agents of the Government of Eritrea.
240. December 10 is Human Rights Day. 54 Human rights experts appointed by the UN gave their report on the state of human rights in the world. One of them, Sheila B. Keetharuth, is the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea. Her lasting impression: “it is the children and the future of Eritrea walking away.” But we don’t care because: 1. They are Ethiopians; 2….
241. At least 17 people were injured when a grenade was thrown” in Anwar Mosque” in Addis Ababa, reported Mail & Guardian quoting government sources. Putin sent a telegram congratulating the Gov of Ethiopia: “Well done, well done.” Ok, I added the last one.
242. To meet the Human Rights Council deadline for submission of testimonies, the Government of Eritrea continued organizing massive false-testimony campaign among its Diaspora supporters with people who have never been to Sawa, people who rely on the Government for their living and work permits in the Gulf States, all testifying that they have never heard of human rights violations in Eritrea. Thousands of such testimonies, scripted by government officials and psedo-government officials, were faxed to the Special Rapporteur and the Human Right Council investigating the government.
243. EU announced 200 million Euro of aid “long term support” for Eritrea. Because Eritrea does not take aid.
244. Developmental State autocracy ran into a head-on collision with democracy in Ethiopia. In the crackdown against Oromo nationalists, opposition activists say 75 were killed. According to Ethiopian government math, the number killed was 5. The Prime Minister pledged “merciless action” will follow so we can expect the number killed to increase.
245. Rwandans held a referendum to extend the presidency of their beloved president for another 17 years. The president was completely unaware that they were drafting a referendum, he said. Another president, this one from the US, had warned that “African progress is at risk when leaders refuse to step aside when their term is up” but what does Obama know.
246. The Hausa in Sudan accept only the legitimacy of the Quran and not the Hadith. Twenty-five of them, including a 15-year old, were tried (maximum sentence: death penalty) for this ‘apostasy’ in Sudan. Some human rights activists mentioned this violates Sudan’s own constitution guaranteeing right of “freedom of thought and conscience” and the Sudanese government, which was shocked that people were actually quoting its constitution said, well, it violates our criminal code, so we win.
247. A tall man in white sandals (an Emirate prince) and a tall man in black sandals (Eritrea’s president) met and discussed mutual co-operation.
248. The next day, Eritrea issued a statement on “Saudi Arabia’s Initiative on the Fight Against Terrorism”: it decided (after it confirmed that the check from the Prince had cleared) that it would “support the initiative without reservations and to extend its contribution to the alliance.” Remember that absolutist statement that Eritrea would never, ever, ever join any coalition….? That was so Few Months Ago. Besides this is “an initiative” and not a “coalition.”
249. All the “Come and see for yourself” promotion finally persuaded The Guardian’s David Smith to go and see for himself why the country is emptying itself. He saw and reported exactly what you would expect him to: he quotes a young man saying “If they told you national service would end, it would be bearable. But it is never-ending.” Essentially, he confirmed what the BBC’s Yalda Hakim and the Wall Street Journal’s Martina Stevis had reported in March and October respectively.
250. Following up on previous stunts by tyrants, like the “harvesting President” of Gambia, Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki released a picture designed to show that he is “a man of the people willing to roll up his sleeves and work hard and get all oiled up” Supporters were euphoric, opponents were embarrassed for him for becoming a run-of-the-mill dictator who is resorting to cheap PR.
251. The Atlantic Council’s Bronwyn Bruton, who had become an instant Eritrea expert based on her one visit to Eritrea, doubled down on the whispers senior government officials had told her that the National Service would be reduced to 18 months. An “Eritrea expert” would have known that the PFDJ officials have a long history of lying, but Mzungus are so handy.
252. His long campaign of trying to get his own country, USA, shift its view to Eritrea heading into a wall, Senior Mzungu Herman Cohen dealt the race card from the bottom of the deck: “Abyssinians! The Arabs are coming to Eritrea and taking your sea!”
253. Eritrean state media announced that President Isaias Afwerki would give his annual interview. Wonder how many of the developments listed above will make it to the interview? Will the National Service be reduced to 18 months? Will Eritrea joining the coalition-of-the-billing be explained? Will Emirati presence in Eritrea be mentioned? Will Molla Asghedom’s defection be mentioned? Will his series of absences in international events be explained? Will his refusal to comply with terms for removal of sanctions be broached? Will there be questions about Eritrea’s budget? Will there be a question about the state of Eritrea’s education system? Its exodus?
254. The year 2015 had a lot of deaths, as the ruling party’s veterans age. Lt Colonel Gerezgheir Asmelash died in prison, (but they reported he died in hospital) and his funeral, according to shabait, “was conducted with great zeal.” Brigadier General Gebrehiwet Zemichael passed away, as did Major General Ahmed Kakay (denied medical attention because the government wouldn’t allow his family to raise money and send him to Sudan); as did Khelifa Hussain (PFDJ Secretary, South); as did Mohammed Aman (former EPLF Khartoum office)…as did Abune Dioskoros (who, critics say, assumed patriarch title when the government illegally deposed his predecessor)…and many more including one of Eritrea’s legendary artists, a lion in the development of Tigrinya literature, Memher Asres Tesema.
255. The year 2015 also had no qualitative change in the state of Eritrea’s opposition or, as a clever PFDJ-supporter called us, “off-position.” We came, we saw, we met, we disbursed and promised to meet again. Something is off. The Paltalk rooms continued to splinter horizontally and vertically. The silver lining being: the massive show of force by the Opposition in Geneva and the persistence of the exiled media that refuses to shut up and continues to inform the people of what is really going on.
256. The year 2015 was also the year that the Government of Eritrea, in an attempt to fool Europe and many of its low-information (Mzungu) delegation, converted its “mass organizations” which have zero autonomy and zero power or life outside PFDJ—the National Union of Eritrean Women; the National Union of Eritrean Youth & Students; National Coaltion of Eritrean Workers–into a “civil society.” They have had some success and they will continue to as long as the Europeans ( “Hey, I am in Asmara and they have CNN!”) play along. As a friend reminded me, these people would never have gone to Warsaw or East Berlin in the 1970s and said, “things aren’t that bad!” But, we are Africans. And they have every reason to play along, to make sure that those “economic migrants” don’t flood their shores.