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Eritrea Every Year: “We Will Get’em Next Year”

In five months, Eritrea will be celebrating 20 years of freedom from foreign rule.  Unfortunately, that is all we will be celebrating because, certainly, we won’t be celebrating freedom. For the last 19 years, the Eritrean tyrant has addressed the nation by expressing false progress for the year that just ended and making empty promises about the coming year.  And, why not: with no oversight—no independent legislature, no independent judiciary, no independent media—he is free to say anything with the knowledge that nobody is in any position to call him on his lies.  Nobody in Eritrea, that is: in the rest of the world, everybody knows that he is a compulsive liar and criminally incompetent about virtually every challenge Eritrea is facing.

This year, the Isaias Afwerki trolls and the wedo gebba from the opposition have been celebrating a report from The Economist which is forecasting that Eritrea will have one of the five fastest growing economies in the world. The shamelessness of the Isaias trolls is literally limitless: for years, they maligned newspapers like The Economist for being “anti-Eritrea” (by which they mean critical of Isaias Afwerki); for years, they said that GDP growth means nothing as it is not a good measure of economic growth; for years, they said that any measurement which shows that Ethiopia is making economic progress is unreliable.  But they forgot all of that and started chest-thumping dances once The Economist magazine said that Eritrea’s GDP will grow 10% in 2011.  Well, let’s look at that now and, in the process, try to help our economically illiterate trolls.

The first thing to consider is the economic base.  Let’s say that you and your colleague have the same level of experience and are employed performing the exact same job with the exact same job duties. You are making $6/hour and your colleague is making $60/hour. Both of you have an annual evaluation and your boss gives you and your colleague a 60 cent raise–which is 10% for you, but only 1% for your colleague.  In theory, your income is growing at a huge rate, because you are starting out from such a small base; but in reality, you are far, far behind your colleague. It is easy to register impressive-sounding percentage growths but what has to be remembered is that Eritrea’s GDP is less than 1.1 billion, the 4th lowest in Africa!

The second thing to consider is that Isaias is irrelevant to Eritrea’s growth. Let’s look at the five other countries whose economies are considered fastest growting: they are Qatar (15.9%), Ghana (14%), Eritrea and Ethiopia (10%), China (8.4%) and India (8.2%).  For years, the supporters of the tyranny of Isaias Afwerki said that only under his strong grip will Eritrea register economic growth. But the government of Qatar is a monarchy, Ghana is a liberal democracy, Ethiopia is a halting democracy, China is a state-planned capitalism, and India is a liberal democracy. So, their claim  that only under Isaias and only under PFDJ-type of government can Eritrea develop is demonstrably false.

The third thing: Closer scrutiny of the projected growth for Qatar, Ghana, Eritrea and Ethiopia shows that these countries are now in the business of providing commodities to the so-called “emerging markets” nations, i.e. China. China will get gas from Qatar, oil from Ghana, minerals and cement from Eritrea and agriculture products from Ethiopia.  And China will do this to grow its economy which is driven by manufacturing and export.  The economic growth from Eritrea is entirely dependent on foreigners extracting Eritrea’s minerals.  The process is a “sugar high”: it doesn’t educate Eritrea’s workforce who are leaving the country in droves; it doesn’t create financial institutions with multiplying effects; it creates no manufacturing base; no IT industry.  It is no different than the so-called colonial economy of the 19th-20th century: the third world provided the raw materials.  The only difference now is that the destination for the raw materials is not Europe but China.

In any event, given the suicidal tendencies of Isaias Afwerki, people should not be surprised if they hear that he has evicted one or more of the foreign companies now extracting minerals in Eritrea—mines extracted without the knowledge, much less approval, of the stakeholders.

But the most important part of economic growth is the answer to this question and we pose it to those who are cheering the news:  Will the projected economic growth translate into a better standard of living for the Eritrean people or will it be new wealth that will be plundered by Isaias Afwerki and his warlords, the corrupt generals?  We are absolutely sure that the people will see no benefit from this new wealth: it will be divided up between Isaias Afwerki and his bodyguards, i.e., the “generals.” In short, as the French say, the more things change, the more they stay the same!

“The 11th Commandment”

In 1966, the future president, (then governor of California), Ronald Reagan popularized the 11th Commandment, to wit: “thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”   This was when the Republicans were a besieged minority and Ronald Regan wanted them to focus all their energies on their political opponents—the Democratcs—and spend as little energy as possible criticizing their fellow Republicans: at least not publicly.

The question is this: how much of our time and energy should we spend towards our number one political opponent, Isaias Afwerki and his thoroughly corrupt system, and how much of our time and energy should we devote to inter-opposition disagreements? We think we should devote all our time and energy to bringing down the regime of Isaias Afwerki—with one exception: we should also focus our attention on threats that rise to the level of undermining our struggle against the Isaias regime.

The ability to differentiate between, on the one hand, meaningless ego squabbles and, on the other hand, dangerous campaigns to undermine our struggle has been one of the things lacking in Eritrean opposition groups.  Consequently, the opposition figures treat ALL differences as if they have the potential to undermine the struggle against Isaias, and they focus all their attention on them, forgetting the main target.  In fact, if the priorities were to be properly lined up, they would be as follows:

(1) The Eritrean People

(2) The Eritrean People
(3) The Eritrean People

What this means is that if we have just enough resources to fight Isaias Afwerki or to help helpless Eritreans, we should focus on the helpless Eritreans like those stuck in deserts and refugee camps. Isaias Afwerki is an issue only in that he gets in the way of helping the Eritrean people. And our opposition struggles are an issue, only to the extent they get in the way of fighting the Isaias Afwerki regime, who is an obstacle to alleviating the miseries of Eritreans.

Unfortunately, many opposition figures like to do the easy thing—which is to demonize fellow opposition figures.  This is struggle-on-the-cheap: it requires no energy, no hard work: just the ability to spout venom. It contributes nothing to alleviating the misery of Eritreans and those who think they are “struggling” by demonizing their fellow opposition compatriots are only fooling themselves.

In this regard, we are kind of impressed—with huge reservations—by the work of the Eritrean National Conference for Democratic Change (ENCDC).  It has completely ignored its critics—and there are so many of them—and decided to focus on work.  To a political organization, work means organizing.  And that’s what the ENCDC has been doing.  Since August, the ENCDC has formed about 40 committees with about 700 members.  It is organizing meetings and membership drives throughout the world.  And it is on track to hold a more inclusive, more representative conference next year. So far, the ENCDC is handling its task with care—there has been, so far as we know, nothing that is common to all Eritrean gatherings: splits and withdrawals and we encourage the ENCDC to continue to focus on the big picture and not get mired in petty egos, beauraucratic mazes and obscure bylaws.  And we admire its discipline in refusing to be dragged down by the petty provocations from bitter camps.  Our reservation is that we fear it is too absorbed in PROCESS at the expense of results.  We also fear that many of the allegations against it, unanswered as they are, will stick.  We do not want it to go into the tit-for-tat battles of the Internet; we do want it to answer some of the more serious questions from well-meaning Eritreans.

In the same vein, we would like to address the author Alena who has been popularized by  Firstly, we commend assenna and its editor Amanuel Iyasu: in a very short time, while making its fair share of mistakes (and who hasn’t?), the website has established itself as a forum of information and opinion. We hope that the website, Amanuel and Alena accept this message as it is intended.

Alena is a great writer with impeccable and highly readable language skills. Nonetheless, we think that he would have done the struggle more service if he focused all his energies on exposing the workings of the PFDJ instead of targeting individuals who should be brought to a court of justice if they are to be held accountable.

The Eritrean struggle has come to this crossing over the blood of many.  The epic struggle was a  violent confrontation between Eritreans who sought freedom and successive Ethiopian regimes who wanted to keep their grip on the fate of the country. This is something that all the neo-critics of the Eritrean revolution forget: the context. That the Eritrean revolution was facing a brutal enemy—considered one of the most brutal in the world—supported by superpowers, an enemy that was bent not only on destroying the revolution but all those it suspected, including women and children, of supporting the revolution. It was a clear confrontation between two enemies who were fighting with whatever they had to kill the other. Anyone who was in one side or the other is a conscious “victim” of the confrontation. But there are many innocent victims that perished along the way and almost everyone would agree that some accountability is due—not just for the purpose of introducing people to the confines of law and decency, but also to provide long-suffering family members  a closure. As a result, what befalls the perpetrators of any crime during the struggle era would have to be decided by a sovereign Eritrean legal system once the people are able to set up one. But appointing one’s self the court and jury and condemning people with crimes that cannot see due process is counter productive.

The main target of Alena has been Mesfin Hagos. It’s totally legitimate to criticize Mesfin based on his performance since he left the regime and became part of the opposition. For example, we think it is legitimate to criticize Mesfin for  squandering the goodwill—a huge political capital—he had in 2000. His negative attitude and contrarian positions on major opposition issues have been very disappointing. Instead of seizing the opportunity and strengthening the opposition, he and his group had been trying hard to disassociate themselves from the opposition with the hope of gaining the goodwill of the PFDJ supporter and its dropouts—but after ten years, his party has nothing to show for that effort.  These, we believe, are legitimate criticisms. But to accuse the man of  crimes (even if he had committed them) without due process is not wise. It is unfair for a nameless person to make such grave accusations: there is no parity there.  After all, he is innocent until proven guilty. Moreover, Mesfin lives in the West and anyone who wants to hold him accountable for the alleged crimes could easily approach a court—but not anonymously and using a pen name—anywhere in the West.  The Internet is simply not a place for such proceedings.

Beyond that, we are appreciative of assenna, and we encourage it to continue to blaze on the fearless path to exposing the lies and tyranny of the PFDJ.

In 2010, we upgraded  This is the time to thank our partner, and its owner, Mr. Nasser Ali, a man who tirelessly helped us upgrade On behalf of our readers, and, we express our deep gratitude to Nasser for the time and expertise that he offered to, as well as his kind demeanor and his patience. As of September, has been appointed the sole manager of advertising activities on the pages of Nasser is full of ideas on ways to help Eritrean businesses and institutions and he will announce his projects whenever they are ready. We encourage you to contact for all your web design, programming, hosting, and VOIP and fleet dispatch sfotware needs at (832) 374-8732.

About Awate Team

The Awate Team is a group of individuals who collaborate in preparing editorial contents that mainly appear under the PENCIL signature and other columns that carry the Awate Team signature. It represents the collective team's view.

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  • Real and imagined prosperity is a game that PFDJ and its supporters have been playing for quite some time now. I think the question that needs to be asked is: If Eritrea really prospered beyond our wildest imagination and Isayas happened to be the architect behind it, would that change anything? The answer – by anyone who knows anything about the struggle for democracy and justice – will undoubtedly be “absolutely not!” The opposition’s most basic demand is not or should not be economic prosperity or parity but justice, freedom, and democracy. As long as our people continue to be denied these basic rights, the struggle should and will continue no matter how prosperous Eritrea becomes or how much international accolades it receives (though I am not saying it did or that the fairytale will materialize).

    As far as the issue of “innocent until proven guilty”, it is of course a principle we must all uphold. Not to do so would be to tacitly endorse the law of the jungle. Asking victims to be silent however is a little tricky and in certain cases not advisable. Victim rights stand apart from the rights of others in that the injury they suffered entitles them to identify and expose their victimizer(s) at any time in an effort to seek justice though it will be up to the courts to vindicate or establish a definite culpability. In other words, the victims or/and their families apriori retain the right to keep the issue of their victimization alive but websites should maintain neutrality and carefully consider the consequences of disclosing material that could hurt innocents. I applaud awate team for striving to be objective about this.

    These are general comments by the way not directed to Mesfin and the crimes he is accused of.


  • “But to accuse the man of crimes (even if he had committed them) without due process is not wise. It is unfair for a nameless person to make such grave accusations: there is no parity there. After all, he is innocent until proven guilty. Moreover, Mesfin lives in the West and anyone who wants to hold him accountable for the alleged crimes could easily approach a court—but not anonymously and using a pen name—anywhere in the West. The Internet is simply not a place for such proceedings.”

    Awate team, You got it wrong.
    “ALENA” is a person that saw and heard many, many untold stories.
    I do not know him personally. His acusation against MESFIN HAGOS are correct politicaly.
    If Mesfin Hagos is innocent he should also difend himself. And present his case even on the ciberspace. He cannot hide for ever.

    Leagally we have problem, because the accusations are such that they can only be settled in a court of law. For a court of law to determine the truthfulness or falsity of these accusation the accusing part should be able to present witnesses and other evidence. These things cannot be done in the present Eritrea and witnesses cannot feel safe to give their testimony, nor there is a free and independent court of law.

    The legal system in the western world is the venue but most or good part of the evidence is inside Eritrea which makes it difficult to prosecute any case against PFDJ.

    This last part is the fact on the ground. I do not think you will disagree on these part.

    The problem is the following. Should “ALENA” or any one else who knows these crimes stay silent till the day comes that witnesses are free to tell what they saw and a free court is established to decide?
    Should “ALENA” or any one else who knows the crimes committed by some individuals including MESFIN HAGOS stay silent while MESHIN is still sowing havoc in the opposition?
    My answer is no. According to me, these is where you are erring AWATE TEAM. “ALENA” or any one else should tell us any thing s/he knows about these crimes. The guilt/innocent will be established later through due process, but we know who is who and we take our precautions. The wolfs between us also know that we at least know something of their nature. I am sure you will say accusations like these can made by anybody against anybody else. And in the process many innocent people will suffer.
    My answer is in the last 50 years there was only one person of the stature of IBRAHIM AFA. IF some one comes to tell us AMMA HARIDATO we can tell. We are not kids.

    Is this bad for the principle “INNOCENT UNTILL PROVEN GUILTY”? Yes. But the situation we are in is anomalous. We have to act in this situation.Bringing to the open all the satanic deeds is the only way to combat them from happening again.

  • Correction, the economist said Eritrea will have the world’s fastest growing economy, not just top 5. They stated Eritrea’s Economy will grow by 17% for 2011. In other words, it means nothing. Is Eritrea’s economy growing? You betcha! Eritrea does not need bogus tabloid websites to state the obvious. You dig out gold in a 3rd World country and that country will have one of the fastest growing economies, because when you’re at the bottom, anything sends your economy up. This isn’t something hard to calculate. The tabloid website economist just randomly put a percentage at the end of it, as if they would know the figures from London.

    Bottom line: Eritrea’s economy is expanding and growing and thriving. This year, Eritrea has a Bumper harvest and is food secure without any aid, which despite Ethiopia having more rain and more fertile lands, we can’t say the same. In addition to that, Eritrea’s life expectancy is at 63 years of age (Source: WHO), which leads nearly all of black Africa, especially the horn of Africa. Eritrea’s health sector also leads nearly all of black Africa, and is one of the few countries in black Africa to reach their millennium goals. So yes, there are positive things you can say about the Eritrean government. To deny them this only shows how you’re not about the Eritrean people, just about power.

    Btw, wasn’t it SAAY who on one hand was licking his lips at the bogus article written by dubious characters of the ICG, then refused to accept the fact that Eritrea was in no-way shape or form aiding al-shabab as the ICG stated? As much as you harp at those who support the government, you yourselves do the same exact thing. You became irrelevant not because you were lying about government human rights abuses, not because you called a spade a spade with the government, but when you went out of your way to sleep with a genocidal tyrant in Ethiopia and had the audacity to preach to us about democracy, human rights, and justice from your dusty Mekele hotel rooms.

    Today we can say the Ethiopian created opposition is more lifeless and useless than ever before. Because of your viciousness and low-down attacks on the Tigrinya people and other smaller ethnic groups (mainly coming from Awate), we can not only say you are obsolete with confidence, we can also predict that this website is in serious position of either facing a crippling lawsuit or other worse things that take place when hate speech is preached. No other website calls ethnic groups “monsters” and “neo-nazis” and thinks they can sit back and enjoy tea in peace. Under the United Nations, article 19, broke an international crime when they allowed various fictional writers whom everyone knows who it is, to hint at genocide, to hint at jeopardize ethnic group’s safety, and to attack them with vicious words such as monsters, neo-nazis, and other outlandish remarks. You will pay for your deeds. If freedom of speech was important to the owners of this website, why didn’t you allow the same nasty remarks being said about the owner of this website slide? Oh yea, that’s right, hate speech and slander of the owner will not be tolerated, but hate speech and slander of an entire ethnic group will? Obsolete!

    • Selam :- Hayet,why you don’t go in and play the usually false forecast ? I know some one with the pen-name of Ghezae : that old shambuqo from New York city is
      fooling all the Meskeremite PFDJ dumb forumers,really that man is the biggest liar i
      never seen in my life.Let me just say one thing : AYA OF MY FOOT.Change your catch of
      nicks,you really stinks.