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Eritrea: Of Pressure Valves And Self-Inflicted Wounds

Last month, this column offered suggestions to journalists on how to do their job in Eritrea when they are given that “rare” access.  There is a reason why the access the Government of Eritrea grants journalists is inversely proportional to their knowledge and/or skepticism of the actions of the Government of Eritrea over the last 25 years: the more vacuous the journalists, the more access they are granted. This is because all the stories peddled are fresh and the journalist has no context, no reference point to compare with.   Today’s edition will attempt to give some context so that those whose profession has added Eritrea to their portfolio–journalists, pundits, researchers, politicians–can add it to their reference for fact-checking. The focus will be: migration, universal periodic review, and Eritrean foreign policy.

Claim # 1: Put In Context, There Is Nothing Unique About Eritrea’s Migrant Population

The migrant population is not as large as claimed by UNHCR because there are various actors who have a vested interest in inflating the number.  These include UNHCR itself (according to Eritrean Ambassador to the UN, Girma Asmerom in his interview with BBC’s Focus On Africa); Ethiopia (which is getting funded for hosting self-declared Eritreans and sees that as a profit center); “hostile quarters/teSabaeti” (Eritreans who are part of the smuggling business.)  Eritrean refugees who live in Sudan for generations don’t really count as migrants because “the Sudanese in Eritrea… we do not consider them refugees….They are naturalized and they are there and some have taken Sudanese citizenship and they are in Eastern Sudan.” (Presidential Advisor Yemane Gebreab interview with Russian Television.)  To the extent that there is migration, it is primarily due to pull factors and President Obama’s declaration that the US will  partner “with groups that help women and children escape from the grip of their abusers” which was part of the US attempt at “regime change”  (Foreign Minister Osman Saleh speech at the 71st session of the UNGA) as well as Europe’s automatic asylum-granting policies to Eritreans.  This has encouraged other nationals to claim they are Eritreans; and for all of them (Eritreans and other nationals) to lie ( “they know what to say”) to get asylum.  This is evidenced by the fact that “thousands” of Eritreans return home every summer: how can you possibly return to a country that you just swore on your asylum papers is a mortal threat to you?  In any event, migration is a global phenomenon: if that cause was denial of civil liberties, there are plenty of nationals who come from countries whose human rights record is not as scrutinized as Eritrea’s yet they are also migrating, which proves that migration is purely economic consideration.

Let’s unpack this by getting to scope and size for proper comparison.  Although the Government of Eritrea has not conducted an official census since it came to power in 1991, we know the population of Eritrea is less than four million because Presidential Advisor Yemane Gebreab told us so less than four months ago (video linked: begin at the 40:24 mark.)  If this four million figure includes the “almost one million strong” (source: statement by Eritrea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, December 17, 2015) Eritreans in the Diaspora (presumably those of us who migrated during Ethiopia’s occupation of Eritrea between 1961 and 1991), then the population of Eritreans in Eritrea is about 3 million.  If you are really curious and want to geek out, check out a census report which was leaked to, and published by, awate:almost 20s ago, in 1997, Eritrea’s population (Eritreans in Eritrea) was 2,634,985.

Using average sub-Saharan Africa growth rates, the population of Eritreans in Eritrea is four million–consistent with what Yemane G said in his press conference.  That will be our denominator.  Let’s get to the numerator:  UNHCR says that, worldwide, the “population of concern” of Eritreans (refugees, asylum seekers, internally displaced) in mid-2015 was 444,091.  Assume further that UNHCR is a respectable authority and Ambassador Girma Asmerom (get well soon, your excellency!) was just having a bad day.   Now,  for apple-to-apple comparison, we have to factor out “internally displaced” from the other countries numbers (because Eritrea has none, according to UNHCR and because the issue is MIGRATION), this is what the numbers show for migrants as ratio of population:

(1) Syria:  4,293,306/18,563,595 = 23.13%
(2) Central African Republic: 635,819/4,998,493 = 12.72%
(3) Eritrea: 444,091/4,000,000 = 11.10%
(4) Somalia: 1,174,686/11,079,013 = 10.6%
(5) Afghanistan: 2,987,269/33,369,945 = 8.95%

Every country on that list, The Top Five, with the exception of Eritrea, is a war zone.   Now, let’s say that many of the people who claim to be Eritreans are actually Somalis, Sudanese and Ethiopians.  Fine.  What is the discount rate?  If you say as much as 50% of them are not Eritreans, this would be the number for Eritrea:

Eritrea: 222,046/4,000,000 = 5.5%

This would still be higher than Burundi 405,025/11,552,561 = 3.51%.  It would make Eritrea not the 3rd but the 7th highest refugee-producer, on a per-capita basis.   You want to discount it further and say that actually 75% of those claiming to be Eritreans are not? Fine.  At 25%, it would be 111,023/4,000,000 = 2.78%, which, on a per capita basis, would be higher than Iraq and Democratic Republic of the Congo, two other war-ravaged countries.  It would make Eritrea the 9th highest producer of migrants in the world.   Using any discount rate, Eritrea would be still be, on a per-capita basis, in the top-10 of countries losing its population to migration.

And that is if we believe the ever-shrinking percentage.  If anything, the numbers reported by UNHCR are understated for the simple fact that many Eritreans–particularly those who escape via Sudan and have their own plans on where to migrate–never register with the UNHCR.  And here’s the evidence, as Bahlbi Yemane tweeted: in May of this year, Sudanese officials deported 313 Eritreans.  Of the 313, only 6 were registered with the UNHCR.  Extrapolating those numbers would give us a terrifying number of Eritrean migrants, registered and unregistered with UNHCR.

How about Eritreans who have been living in refugee camps in Sudan for generations?  It will come as a big surprise to them (and the Sudanese government) that they are “naturalized Sudanese.”  Here’s the right context: when the Government of Eritrea declared that all land belongs to the State, the refugees were not able to return to their ancestral land. When they were returned in the late 1990s–because UNHCR was tired of the longest settled refugee camp in the world (?) and eager to have a success–they were given plots of land in the middle of nowhere, a land with which they have no connection: plus no water, no social services, no schools, no clinics. After the border war broke out with Ethiopia, they returned back to their miserable conditions in Sudan and the Government of Eritrea has made exactly zero point zero effort to get them back home. Because “home” has been given away.

As for the oft-repeated quote of President Obama which has morphed into “regime change”, here’s one more place–The Clinton Global Intitiave– where the President gave the speech promising that his administration will work “with groups that help women and children escape from the grip of their abusers.” Does the President’s motivation appear to be “regime change” or that of the first African American president horrified that slavery is still alive and well in the world?  Here are the countries the Obama administration lists as worst offenders:


Does this mean the US has “regime change” plans for all of them? Or just Eritrea?

The inescapable conclusion is whether you claim Eritrea’s migrants are 100% of what UNCHR says, or 50% or even 25%, the rate of migration from Eritrea matches those who are escaping a civil war.   And from all the testimonies we have heard from thousands of Eritreans who fled the country,  it is not Ethiopia’s decision to refuse to demarcate the border; it is not US intent of regime change; it is not the host country’s accommodating asylum decisions that is the cause of Eritreans exodus.  The third largest host of Eritreans after Sudan and Ethiopia is Israel: some “accommodating country” that is: it calls Eritreans “infiltrators” and they kept on coming.   The second largest is Ethiopia: you can imagine the psychological barriers people have to overcome to ask asylum at an enemy country. The real reason is consistent with all the other war-torn countries: predatory state vs conscripted youth. People escaping a predator.  Moreover, Europe’s decision to grant “automatic approval” to Eritrean asylum-seekers was consistent with its international treaties obliging it to do exactly that.  Their recent reconsideration of that is entirely driven by domestic politics which punish politicians who are too accommodating of brown people.  As for the “thousands” of Eritreans who flock to Eritrea every summer: as the Commission of Inquiry discovered from the “40,000” coerced and scripted testimony they received, they are either Eritreans who migrated during Ethiopia’s occupation of Eritrea (pre-1991) or their children. They have one thing in common: all are exempt from the National Service and indefinite conscription.   So, of course, why wouldn’t they visit? There is only so much “defending the country” you can do in the Diaspora social media, only so much fist-raising-wearing-same-colored-T-shirt, and only so much remote supervision you can do of the home you are building in Eritrea.  The wonder is not that thousands who visit but, given that Eritrea’s Diaspora population is a million, why don’t hundreds of thousands do?

Claim # 2. We are making progress on human rights: we have accepted 92 recommendations in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), and when the international community engages us, we respond positively.

This refers to the February 2014 Universal Periodic Review (UPR) where Eritrea was given a laundry list of recommendations, some of which it rejected (“noted”) and some of which it accepted.Those it accepted fall into four categories:

(a) Recommendations that it continue to work on children’s rights, women’s rights, as well as economic, social, cultural and developmental rights of its citizens;
(b) Recommendations that it co-operate with, and submit reports to, various UN organizations;
(c) Recommendations that it accept capacity-building technical assistance from the International community;
(d) Recommendations that it introduce constitutionalism and improve its citizens’s civil liberties.

Of the four categories, nearly all deal with (a), (b), and (c).  Don’t take my word for it: go to the source.  In other words, the recommendations accepted deal with issues such as gender equity, abolishing child marriage, female genital mutilation, achieving millenium developmental goals, food security, capacity building–all of which are important, but well within the agenda of the government requiring no international engagement and, more importantly, no threat to its power monopoly.  Almost all calls for improving citizens’ civil liberties (arbitrary arrest, independent access to detention centers, free press, Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, investigating allegations of, and taking effective measures against, extrajudicial killings, torture and other cruel and inhuman or degrading treatment and bring perpetrators to justice; comprehensive anti-trafficking statute, etc) were simply “noted”, i.e. rejected.

The last one, trafficking, is particularly note-worthy.  Congressman Chris Smith, who held the hearings on Eritrea last month and chairs the Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organization Subcommittee, is most proud of his signature law: Trafficking Victims Protection Act.  As a consequence of that law, the US State Department issues an annual report ranking every country in the world for its culpability in human trafficking.  Eritrea consistently ranks dead last:Tier 3.  Why? At best, the Government of Eritrea has no understanding of the meaning of the phrases “modern slavery” and “trafficking in persons.”  Just as with the word “slavery”, “human trafficking” has changed its meaning and the Government of Eritrea is asleep at the switch.  Here’s how those words are understood in the 21st century:  when a government presses a citizen into menial, barely-compensated work where he or she has no right to resign, that is “modern slavery.”  When a government moves a conscripted kid from Tessenei to Tinkulahas to work on some government project (say, Nevsun), that is “human trafficking.” If the person going through this is under 18 (and the government’s own statistics show that some of the youth entering Sawa High School are as young as 15 and 16), then that is forced labor of a child.   Every year, the world explains this to the government, and every year the government has that dog-staring-at-the-ceiling-fan look.  It is not clear whether it is confused or malicious.  The weight of evidence suggests it is the latter.

Claim #3. All our problems are due to incessant hostilities from US and its client states who have tried to isolate us

So, sure, we are poor.  We inherited a war-torn country, devastated by 30 years of war. Poverty is endemic in sub-Saharan Africa, regardless of the political program the ruling class favors.  During the 30 year war of liberation from Ethiopia, the rest of the world was either indifferent to us, or openly sided with Ethiopia and fought against us.  The United Nations, under the direction of the United States,  federated us with Ethiopia against our will, and sided with Ethiopia openly from 1961-1974.  And when imperial Ethiopia became communist Ethiopia in 1974, then the Soviet Union provided materiel and personnel support to Ethiopia until the eve of our independence.

Despite the fact that the United States, the European Union and the United Nations were witnesses to the Algiers Agreement–more than witnesses, but facilitators of the two year (1998-2000) effort to get the two feuding parties to sign the agreement– when Ethiopia decided to defy them and international law by refusing to live up to the terms of the agreement and vacate land ruled Eritrean, all refused to comply Ethiopia to live up to the terms of the agreement.  This has extended the state of animosity between Eritrea and Ethiopia and, rather than doing what international law calls for, they have been complicit and encouraging of Ethiopia’s defiance.  Moreover, they have either engineered or endorsed Ethiopia’s self-interested campaign to paint Eritrea as a terror-supporting nation: going to the extent of getting Eritrea sanctioned based on unsubstantiated allegations that Eritrea supported Al-Shabab or that Eritrea has a border dispute with Djibouti. All the accusations against us–that we support terrorists, that we enslave our people, that we do not respect civil liberties, that we commit crimes against humanity–are driven by the above and our insistence on following an independent political and economic path that rejects being America’s client state.

Do you have a feeling that, as far as the Government of Eritrea is concerned, the Eritrean people are a football between the Government of Eritrea and the Government of the United States? As a matter of fact, it is more than a feeling: it is a documented fact.  When President Isaias Afwerki met Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in Asmara in 2002, he told him that…well, let’s allow The Atlantic’s Robert Kaplan tell the story:

When I pressed Afewerki about human-rights abuses, which Rumsfeld had pointedly raised in their meeting two weeks earlier, he said, “If you just leave us alone, we will handle these matters in a way that won’t damage our bilateral relationship and won’t embarrass us or you.” He indicated that he would be more likely to satisfy U.S. demands on human rights in the context of a growing military partnership, but would not do so if merely hectored by the State Department. [Emphasis mine]

Everything that is bad in Eritrea is exacerbated by its massive militarization: modern slavery, trafficking, child labor, absence of rule of law, lack of constitution, enforced disappearance, mass exodus. “So, it is all your responsibility to fix this!” says the US to the Eritrean Gov. The Eritrean Gov says, “well, the whole reason we have a massive armed force is because you abrogated your responsibilities of a contract co-signor and refuse to compel Ethiopia to abide!” “No, no,” says the US, “we are merely witnesses to the contract; it is up to the two parties to comply…” And so on for 14 years.

But the point is: the United States owes the Eritrean people nothing. They don’t owe us reparation: maybe the Italians and Ethiopians do, but not the US.  They don’t even owe us an apology for federating us with Ethiopia: a sizable percentage of our population begged and pleaded to be unified, never mind federate, with Ethiopia.*

(* 100 shiny Nakfa bill to the first person who can show the original (non-Eritrean) document which quotes John Foster Dulles saying justice requires Eritrea be independent but US foreign policy requires that it be federated. You know the one that begins with “From the point of view of justice, the opinions of the Eritrean people must receive consideration…..” Have never found it, which either makes me a bad researcher or he never said it.  I am hoping that rather than repeat it, Bronwyn Bruton and her army of researchers will find it:)

A government’s first responsibility is to provide safety to its people. Not only has the Government of Eritrea failed at protecting the Eritrean people from outside enemies, it has become a predator chasing its own people out of the country. As my frenemy Bronwyn Bruton told her employer on the eve of the unveiling of the report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea: “[C]ounter to the claims of the COIE— [Eritrea has] actively promoted migration over the years, both as a source of remittances and as a kind of pressure release valve, an alternative to those who are most frustrated with the regime.” [Emphasis mine]

There was a more precise description of the futile contest the Gov of Eritrea has entered with the US, and it was aptly described by Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African Affairs in her testimony before the House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs on 9/14/16:

If Eritrea likes to portray itself as David and the United States as Goliath, I would argue that its wounds are largely self-inflicted and its sling shot hurls stones at its own people. Up to five thousand of them make this clear every month, risking their lives rather than remaining in the country.

She should know.  What do her predecessors, Jendayi Frazer and Johnnie Carson, and her former boss, Hillary Clinton have in common?  They were all senior State Department officials1 who were denied visa entry to Eritrea (Frazer and Carson) or denied having their calls taken by Eritrea’s president (Clinton) in the late 2000s.  Self-inflicted wounds indeed.

One more thing. Remember how the Government of Eritrea has been advertising the new Penal Codes, Civil Codes, Procedures and the brand-spanking new constitution (with a mysterious chairman and mysterious make up)–all necessary because, according to Yemane Gebreab (the only Eritrean named as a national security threat to the United States by President Obama, but is allowed to hold meetings 10 miles from the White House when the tetsabaeti are not reminding the US of its own damn policies?:)  the new generation of Eritreans can’t identify with the 1997 Constitution because, like, they weren’t born then, man? Last week, one of those who was pressure-valved out of the country in 2002 (Judge Daniel Mekonnen Rezene) welcomed to exile the very same individual–Judge Habteab Yemane Ogbazghi–who was the chief drafter of the new unimplemented, unpublished-in-the-Eritrean-Gazette Penal Codes that the Eritrean government is showcasing.

No tourniquet in sight for the self-inflicted wound.

1 Isaias Afwerki derisively refers to female, African-American State Department officials as “lete-mete”, roughly translated into “interchangeable nobodies.”  When Hillary Clinton called in 2008 or 2009, he told his office that if America is serious about engaging with Eritrea, her boss, President Obama should call.  After all, the president only takes calls from the president. He may have his chance depending on who is elected president, and if it is Hillary, I wonder if she will remember being rejected fondly?  All politics is local AND personal.

About Salyounis

Saleh Younis (SAAY) has been writing about Eritrea since 1994 when he published "Eritrean Exponent", a quarterly print journal. His writing has been published in several media outlets including Dehai, Eritrean Studies Review, Visafric, Asmarino and, of course, Awate where his column has appeared since the launch of the website in 2000. Focusing on political, economic, educational policies, he approaches his writing from the perspective of the individual citizens' civil liberties and how collectivist governments and overbearing organizations trample all over it in pursuit of their interests. SAAY is the president and CEO of a college with a focus in sound arts and video games and his writing often veers to music critique. He has an MBA from Golden Gate University and a BA from St Mary's College.

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  • Thomas

    Hi Semere Tes,

    You said, ” And if that is not a cause for INDEFINITE NATIONAL SERVICE to protect the nation, if that is not a cause for ECONOMIC and SOCIAL hardship, if that is not a cause for DESPAIR and MASS EXODUS – and stated or unstated, if that is not the intended objective of ETHIOPIA and WESTERN POWERS, I don’t know what is.” The answer is simply, it would be the guys who are not willing to implement the constitution, the guys who have imprisoned thousands of Erireans including journalists and former high level officials/ministers, it would be the guys who have forcibly recruiting and enslaving all citizens with ages 18-50 and making these citizens live a miserable life. I know you already have made up your mind NOT to see the real truth, but it is ok we can still have you around for a short while.

    • Solomon

      Selamat Tomas,

      Not necessarily true. Yes constitution and rule of law is desirable by all. However, try to view Semere Tesfay’s valid arguments from this point of view. Governments of any Independent State first and foremost priority is to safe guard the nation and security for it’s citizen. And in any constitution, certain powers are reserved for the executive branch to exercise with or without the legislative branch. In the U.S.A. we call it by Executive Order and I believe there is a number limit per term. So, many countries,includung the U.S.A., have instituted the draft in times of war or have an indefinite mandatory service, though it could be on a rotational basis as reserved serving Two to Six Month per Xyears. Israel has such a system. Nations invoking their priority mandate, the security of it’s citizens, including the USA, have declared Marshal Law and or suspended civil liberties protected by the constitution as is the case in the example of GiTmo or Japanese Americans encampment during WWII after the Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Naval Base sneak attack with their Kamikaze suicide diver pilots. In these circumstances of the extreme, for the preservation of the union of the State and their Security and Safety of life and property, the citizen, though grudgingly mostly, agrees to trade their civil liberties until the time is peaceful and conducive.
      Within the Eritrean Opposition since the Shelving of the 1997 constitution, there is a total rejection of that document and their own prioritizing and molding of the Independent Eritrean State invisdioned and agreed upon circa 1952, the time of regional representation as well as a budding party system to challenge HIM Janhoy Haileslassie. On the GoE administrators and supporters side there are also valid arguments of agreeing on a national constitution that fitting for the Etitrean State.

      There are problems and blunders as well as opportunism and war profiteering and irrational scotch earth policy advocates, that are utilizing “smokey dark room politics” that has grossed complacency and contentment from far away and closer foreign lands. Stagnating the inevitable equilibrium of Eritrea that also rendered the Etitrean Opposition immobile and unpredictable, due to their vindication for making their rigid “Stance” based on Principles politics.

      I have an excellent example of local politics that can illustrate further my point here, should you be interested. I will speak on Proposition 51 and Oakland’s Grocery Tax, if not more, for starters.

      iSEM mentioned the dangers of little knowledge… For the National Elections Trump Vs. Clinton and USA’s foreign policy, Dear Thomas the Buckeye, you will have to “Play that funky music white boy!” And like a Grand Rapids Wolvereen see you down stream.

      • Thomas

        Hi Sol,

        I really tried to get something out of your above post in reply of my post to Semere Tes. Unfortunately, my attempt simply was a failure that you did not seem to think about the real situation in Eritrea or my concerns on the subject. Below is the most horrible situation in Eritrea:
        a) The country has been run by a lawless government for 15 years since the arrest of the G-15. So, if you call this Martial law for the military government to keep the people of the nation for 15 years by bringing pretexts it would just be you.
        b) Let’s not even try to divert the debate as the main source of the problem is internal not External. America, Isreal or other countries you mentioned are peaceful democratic countries. National service is not mandatory and if it can be it would be for 18 months ofcourse not for 15 years,.

        c) Go to Ethiopia, Sudan and other neighborhood countries and see the underage Eritrean refuge yourself. Then come to tell me why a teen would runaway from Eritrea? Could it to be because they see no future in the country other than national slavery or because they hate their parents or they hate their government?

        Hi Solomon — I hope I am writing this to the real Solomon of all the Solomons’ in you though:) Don’t get disappointed I don’t like football so I only support the Buckeye’s because I live in the Buckeye state:)

        • Ron Johnson

          Dear Thomas

          I have read some of your post under different topic. I really doubt you care too much for the idea of Eritrea. You seems to be one of those lets-be-with-mama-ethiopia. Now, nothing wrong with that, to each it’s own. M.y issue is that when you pretend that you care for “Eritrean refuges.” Here is the simple truth, the west opened the door to anyone who claims to be Eritrean. Eritreans responded like most people that live in poor countries do, migrate to greener land. I wonder how much you know how the migration ploy works. Because had you known the truth and you are a true patriot Eritrean and you care to know the truth you would not be posting random stuff that is baseless.

          • Thomas

            Hi Mr. Johnson,

            If you speak like Yemane Gebreab and walk like him, you are the soldier of Yemane Gebreab. Are you saying that someone would risk his/her life to go all the way to the Sahara desert and even risk more to cross the deadly ocean to get to Italy? This is all you have to say, stupid! You go and tell those all Eritreans/teenagers in Tigray tell them your pathetic story and hear what they will tell you. Shame has no place in your world. Listen body, I am an Erirean and I very much know how my people are living there. Except someone from Syria, you cannot show me anyone who 13 years old or below crossing to Ethiopia or to Europe. No parent can tell his/her age child to cross the borders or die on his/her way to make it. Are you really listening to yourself?

        • Solomon

          Selamat Thomas,

          To get something out of anything doesn’t require trying even with “really!” It is a matter of desire.

          What do you know about my knowledge of the refugees in Sudan or elsewhere?
          I have patience and plenty of time to tell you and everyone The Story of Pi. A story that will convince you the existence of God.
          (Pickup a novel by Yann Martel titled Life of Pi. At least get this suggestion without trying.)
          “Enda TbelalaEna Ina metSina.” In the meantime keep playing your fantasy political football dear Thomas and that “Funky music white boy! ‘Till you die!”

          • Hameed Al-Arabi

            Greetings Solomon,

            Solomon is very infatuated by “Enda TbelalaEna Ina metSina”. Really, you are a cave man of the Stone Age. What you are infatuated about, Mr. Maths, is a jungle law. In the beginning I thought you are smart at maths, sorry combing your hair, but I have found you a bald skull. A skull that reflects pictures around it. You are an American citizen who enjoys freedom at the same time should abide by law at least in America. You know, Mr. Maths, we are in an era where any trace leads to the global village

  • Semere Tesfai

    Selam all

    “And from all the testimonies we have heard from thousands of Eritreans who fled the country, it is not Ethiopia’s decision to refuse to demarcate the border; it is not US intent of regime change; it is not the host country’s accommodating asylum decisions that is the cause of Eritreans exodus.” SAAY.

    I think, if not outright DISHONEST, it is definitely a very SIMPLISTIC VIEW of the whole EXODUS of Eritreans, when you IGNORE these facts and more:

    Quote: “From the point of view of justice, the opinions of the Eritrean people must receive consideration. Nevertheless the strategic interest of the United States in the Red Sea basin and the considerations of security and world peace make it necessary that the country has to be linked with our ally Ethiopia.”
    US Ambassador to the UN, John Foster Dulles 1951.

    Quote: “We look at this from the viewpoint of the interests of Tigray, first, and then Ethiopia as a whole. We know that Tigray needs access to the sea and the only way is through Eritrea.”
    (Paul B. Henze, Conversations with Meles Zenawi, J3 26/002/92/3 31 March/ 1 April 1990).”

    Quate: “I recently renewed sanctions on some of the worst abusers (human traffickers) including North Korea and Eritrea. We’re partnering with GROUPS that help women and children ESCAPE from the grip of their abusers. We’re helping other COUNTRIES to step-up with their efforts, and we’re SEEING results.”
    President Barack Obama Sep. 25, 2012

    On top of that: the sanction, the diplomatic isolation, the relentless Western Corporate Media propaganda, the special privilege for Eritrean asylum seekers, the Western hired Eritrean regime change activists (journalists, human rights activists, the faith based activists, the ዓርቢ ሓርነት, the ማማ ትሓመና ‘ላ crowd……), the three 300,000 Ethiopian killer army pointing their gun at Eritrea, the Woyane armed different colors and brands of Eritrean opposition groups that are penetrating inside Eritrea to wage wars, the regime change threat by the Woyane every other month for the last fifteen years…………..

    And if that is not a cause for INDEFINITE NATIONAL SERVICE to protect the nation, if that is not a cause for ECONOMIC and SOCIAL hardship, if that is not a cause for DESPAIR and MASS EXODUS – and stated or unstated, if that is not the intended objective of ETHIOPIA and WESTERN POWERS, I don’t know what is.

    Just look how Americans are furious about Russian computer hacking to influence the outcome of the current American election. Now compare that with what Eritrea is going through.

    N.B. The assertion that, only those who left Eritrea prior to 1991 and their children, are the only ones who are visiting Eritrea today – is far, far, far from the truth.

    Semere Tesfai

    • saay7

      Selamat Semere & Solomon (TsaTse):

      In the interest of saving time, I will provide a consolidated answer since the nature of your statements are the same: questioning the veracity of my claims as they relate to Eritrea’s migrant population and the pull/push factors.

      It is always a challenge to penetrate Solomon’s dejen prose, but near as I can tell from the bulleted list, he was attempting to bifurcate 1991-2016 into different eras to describe the various causes of the migration. And I am not very good at treating jingoism as an argument (sorry Semere T.) So, before we can engage; can we at least agree on the facts, as presented by UNHCR? If you don’t believe in the numbers presented by the world’s premiere refugee agency, I will move on. But if you, these are the numbers it is presenting from 1991 to 2014. Short version: for most of Eritrea’s existence, Eritreas migration story was Eritreans in stuck-in-Sudan story. A story that failed to move anyone: everybody shrugged for their own reasons, while their families and loved ones were screaming help! Beginning in 2005, Ethiopia began hosting over 10,000 Eritreans (until now, where it has overtaken Sudan as the largest host) the story changes. So, before we engage on the causes can we agree on the numbers as presented by UNHCR. You can go to this website and build the stats yourself:


      YEAR Eritrean population of concern

      1991: 500,633 (500,000 in Sudan)
      1992: 573,200 (500,000 in Sudan)
      1993: 427, 213 (424,500 in Sudan)
      1994: 431, 209 (428,001 in Sudan)
      1995: 308,183 (303, 795 in Sudan)
      1996: 333,582 (328, 207 in Sudan)
      1997: 323,177 (315, 730 in Sudan)
      1998: 353,141 (347,358 in Sudan)
      1999: 348,654 (343,348 in Sudan)
      2000: 1,530,431 (418,735 in Sudan; 1,100,000 internally displaced in Eritrea)
      2001: 368,832 (377, 287 in Sudan)
      2002: 363,343 (347, 888 in Sudan)
      2003: 159, 134 (139,767 in Sudan)
      2004: 181, 221 (158, 294 in Sudan)
      2005: 184, 213 (153,021 in Sudan; 10,700 in Ethiopia)
      2006: 198, 813 (157, 645 in Sudan; 13,079 in Ethiopia)
      2007: 220, 957 (163, 496 in Sudan; 20,758 in Ethiopia)
      2008: 201, 744 (127, 151 in Sudan; 21,732 in Ethiopia)
      2009: 223, 570 (115, 911 in Sudan; 36,629 in Ethiopia; 11, 852 in Israel)
      2010: 236, 059 (106, 193 in Sudan; 44, 934 in Ethiopia; 16, 997 in Israel)
      2011: 266, 572 (102, 946 in Sudan; 54,946 in Ethiopia; 31,144 in Israel)
      2012: 305, 998 (114, 874 in Sudan: 63, 823 in Ethiopia; 37,350 in Israel)
      2013: 337, 256 (112, 125 in Sudan; 84, 390 in Ethiopia; 35, 214 in Israel)
      2014: 416, 791 (110, 312 in Sudan; 123, 893 in Ethiopia; 32, 668 in Israel)

      Meanwhile Semere, I guess you didn’t read my article: I have given a challenge that I will pay 100 Nakfa to the first person who can show the John Foster Dulles quote from the source (not as it appears in a footnote of a book, quoting another book, quoting another book.) The invite is first and foremost to Bronwyn Bruton (because she has a research department of 5 people); but you are welcome to beat her to it and collect the bet.

      To be continued:


      • Saleh Johar

        one who Saay,

        If you could charge 100 Nakfa for every time someone quoted John Foster Dullas, and miraculously be able to collect it, you would have enough to build ten dams in Adi Halo. Would Semere Tesfai even think of searching for it? Ms Bronwyn Brutus might find it 🙂

      • Ismail AA

        Hayak Allah SAAY,

        I don’t think guys like our brother Semere Tesfai do not understand the issues you have discussed and the reasons that back the arguments. Their role is that they should say something to help the vulnerable position of regime because they think they have stake in its preservation. Along as the basics of the regimes core goals holde and suit them, other matters like youth flight are marginal and transient policy stuff.
        Thus, when spending time to rebut them, I think it may be useful to keep this in mind. An indicator in this regard, is falling back on old position statements like Mr. John Foster Dulles’ of 1951. How is this relevant now unless it is needed to prop up arguments that would at value level qualify for subterfuge.

      • Solomon

        Selamat Saay7,

        From your data, the Sudanese refugee was trending down. Someone was addressing the priblem.There is a drop by more than twenty percent, until the second war with Ethiopia erupted. Then all of a sudden Two hundred thousand refugees disappear from Sudan dropping the level to Twenty Percent of that of 1991. And the UNHCR data you have provided does not show a steady a proportional increase in the Ethiopian refuge population.
        Though I doubt it is the same 200K Refugee lives Suddenly missing from the Sudan, in your data above you see a sudden balancing act. The Sudan and Ethiopia are nearly equal with Ethiopia slightly greater, Israel trailing, leaving one to presume the 200K either migrated to the West safely or were swallowed by Mo B. Dick like Jobs.

        Let me explain to you how I see the data above.

        First let me tell you that in fact aThe United Pension Plan-Defined Benefit plan I happened to be a Senior Actuarial Analyst for, working out of One Penn Pkaza. For the Annual Valuation if the UN Defined benefit plan, I am quite sure It was more than 100K lives data of Actives,Vested and Retirees I/we receive from the UN. This is for their maximum/minimum pension funding requirement. We had a program called Ginsu, (a play on Ginsu knives) to chop up a flat K-Edit, parse into fields etc… If I was to see the data like above from the UN for their own pension fund, I would put aside the liability side of that valuation and pickup their Trustee of their assets from numerous financial institutions or start another plans annual valuation on my list. Yes, NY Philharmonic sounds good, which was also another client I worked NB on. First, I would write a letter to their Human resources explaining the significant discrepancies.

        Now let me tell you what I think you have there. It is nothing but a funding allocation a clever data analyst put together, so that the UNHCR does not increase dishing out more for Eritrean Refugees now to both Sudan and Ethiopia. The timing of the lead change to Ethiopia over Sudan is indicative. Over all our data analyst started with 500K lives in 1991 and ended with 500K lives in 2014. The move by Eritrean Opposition/Obstructionist from Sudan to Ethiopia, the very advocates for the refugees I am sure, in addition to their funding from the TPLF, pressured the UNHCR to fund the Ethiopian camps. Then, the data game above to keep the funding allocation the same with a slight cost of living COLA increase. I am looking for an explanation of what happened to the 200K lives starting from the year 2003. It is possible that the West on that year made it favorable for Eritrean political asylum seekers, airlifting some and leaving many young Eritreans as commodity for the human trafficking hustlers, amongst them numerous Eritrean middle men or ring leaders.
        My increasing Perpetuity of Eritrean migrants causes still stands.
        Dear Saay7, I do not challenge you for presenting false data. But I do challenge for what it is you are desiring to read when approaching such data because of bias that may very well be legitimate.

        Equipped with this data, this former data analyst, who has deep knowledge of the Eritrea would tell the Congressional Subcommittee a very different take than that of Dr. Bashire’s– who looked not so very confident testifying by the way. Deloit and Toosh accountibg, in a very corrupt Ethiopian government led by the TPLF…. Arseneo Hall if the “Things that makes you go Hmmmm!”
        Buck Consultants (A Melon Bank Subsidiary) Watson Wyatt World Wide, Exellus Benefit Services answering federal regulation PBGC, FASB, Form5500.
        I claim the data above is corrupt.
        U welcome your rebuttal and or honest and intellectual conversation.

        No no Captain Saay7, I do not wish to be inserted back to the Matrix. Ever since your Jeep FORAGING phone call of “They are coming for you” and safely guiding me out of the high rises of California St. SF, I have kept taking my Red Pills! 😉 Oh Captain my Captain Morpheus.


        • saay7

          Ah TsaTse:

          Premise: the history of Eritrea is the history of its intellectual class, it’s subject matter experts, allowing hyper nationalism to overwhelm them feom using the tools of their trade

          Evidence: many oh so many, including Solomon/Tsatse’s response.

          Reaction: profound sadness.

          Escapism (cure from going slowly Insane: sports. In this case, baseball) : San Francisco 0, Chicago Cubs 0


          • Solomon

            Dear Saay7,

            I am afraid you are wrong in this case. Presuming you are including me in that intellectual class. Though it may be true, my initial involvement after the ’97 war may have been due to nationalism, of all the people you should know why I exited from utilizing the tools of my trade.
            Sadness I too feel. You and I have the same personal predicament.
            You said earlier it was a partial rebuttal. I pointed out a data discrepancy that you can give a good explanation to. Dismissal or postponement I cannot accept from you Captain.
            Fun fact: A Seen or Ostrich makes the same roaring sound as a lion.

    • Hameed Al-Arabi

      Greetings Tesfai,

      If you are unable to create jobs for the people of Eritrea and protect them from poverty, then what are you doing there?

      If you are unable to protect the people of Eritrea from fleeing their country to deserts, high-seas and human traffickers, then what are you doing there?

      If you are unable to make peace with your neighbors, region and international community, then what are guarding there?

      I don’t want your answer to be we are guarding national sovereignty, for Eritrea liberated by her people and they are capable of protecting its sovereignty. You are not the starters of our struggle for independence. Eritrea existed before you and will continue to exist without you.

  • Solomon

    Selamat Saay7,

    Oh Captain!

    I doubt I have read a single self help or strategy book until Today. When I reached home early before noon, Dale Carnegie’s book, “How to Win Friends & Influence People”, some how sorted itself to be top a pike of books on my shelf. You, HA and the two Canadians, iSEM and BY were having a lovely private chat. I was ear hustling and quit frankly felt the peaceful interaction amongst you four friend as well as could extrapolate the joys, pains and true friendship support deeply embedded in your back and forth. Your main topic was the self help and strategy books as the one I mentioned above. So, I have read that book all day Today, on my lazy Wedsday. …

    So, I doubt I am applying any of the books reading. reading with my comment now.

    Your one Million Eritrean diaspora population complaint as it being a main problem seems to me misplaced. When you say the rate of Eritrean migration is the same as countries currently in a civil war I also feel as disingenuous, because you are neglecting to consider the following:

    1. Eritrea’s Thirty Years War of Liberation and rebuilding a newly independent worst from scratch due to the devastations of war and depleted economical activity and infrastructure. The Thirty Years Eritrea’s War for Liberation should be viewed as a major and perpetual contributor to Eritrea’s migration for numerous reasons. With intellectual honesty, Eritrea’s migration rate as being significantly greater than other at peace countries should be obvious.
    2 The devastating Eritrea-Ethiopia War of 1998 as further increasing significantly if not doubling the Increasing Perpetuity of Eritrean migration rate in addition to the Liberation War forces above.
    3. PMMZ and Ethiopia’s No war no peace strategy of economical strangulation of young and almost 4o Years of war devastations, having an effect on the Sawa hardened youth to tackle all obstacles if circumventing our glibe– also as a contributor to the Increasing Perpetuity of Eritrean migration.

    4. The war armed Eritrean Oppositions against the government essentially makes Eritrea as a country in a civil war Despite being a lot less in magnitude like the civil war in Syria, it is the threat of a pending civil war that influences migration.

    5. Eritreans greater than a Hal of a century significant diaspora populations influence on luring through their show of significant economical gains upon their periodic vacation returns to Eritrea.

    The above and a few more I can further list is in addition to your main contention of Dictatorial and authoritarian constitutional less and unrepresentative government of being the cause, I am sure, of Eritrean large migration rate.

    So upon closer and rational look, it seems to me it shouldn’t be shocking that Eritrea’s rate migration is equal to that of Syria’s.

    The weight of your name and influebce on targeted audiences is the only weight I see in your data analysis with a possibly deliberate blind side that may very well be a significant wide angle.

    .Data is my contention with Awate here, as the above was thoroughly argued a decade ago in order to have impact on the group dynamics, and it did, prior to some Natna Iyyu NQyamm strategic Hijacking, I am alleging. Not out of malice, but for pragmatic reasons and to point to a friend the current opposition strategy is seeming a lot like an Eritrean Obstructionist method.

    Aya Amanuel Hidrat can enjoy a Lough with Aya-U as well as possibly diminish Awate forums data. Group dynamics over Strategy.
    I am possibly the only meat eating Green Vegetarian plus plus of the Shaman kind.
    Ends tebelakaEka wella endteKholaleska, I believe to be total free of. Hence, the objectivity

    I welcome your challege.
    Group of only One And Kazy, with a strong belief to impact and it illuminate Eritrean Group dynamics over the finest of strategies per Boyd’s Isolation and Loop Theory.

    As there is no Lincoln directing yours trully, I will be slowing down MoMo from reaching the river bank. My tool will be maEleb zeybluu Santana guitar licks.

    NiHnab TeQawmonan the Eritrean way…


    • Berhe Y

      Dear Solomon,

      I hope you are enjoying the book. Father forgets is my favorite story in the book.

      I thought about responding to the list of reasons “justification” you are making about Eritrea’s self inflicted problems. I don’t know who the qoutes is from, I thought it was Einstein but it says Schumacher.

      “Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius – and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”

      I think the Eritrean president is an intelligent fool and he has made Eritrea problems bigger and complex than they need to be, and if he was a genius he could have turn things around and influence positively.

      Ok I get the 30 years of war, now imagine. What Eritrea inherited at the beginning of it’s independence.

      The whole city of Asmara and other major towns (Keren, Mendefera, deqi hare) all heavily populated towns did not have scratches…No schools were burned, no hospitals were destroyed, no municipality blew up. The exception was the city of Massawa…and mostly places in the low lands. If Asmara was destroyed like Beirut for example after the civil war, imagine how much it would take to restore / fix the city. And imagine how much money and efforts it would take to rebuild the city. In 25 years, the PFDJ could not even restore the governor palace in Massawa. I think it should take probably one year without exaggeration if someone wants to do it. So Eritrea primary focus would have been to restore the low lands and make all efforts to have the people return back to Eritrea. But the president was playing political games at the expense of the refugees….they can return but they can’t return, but the UN has to pay money to US, or they can’t go to their lands, but they can’t do these or that….he did that for 7 years…before the war with Ethiopia broke out…

      For example, Just google for images and see how the city of Mugdisho is being restored in the last few years albeit huge problems.

      Here is what you should listen if you haven’t already. Haile Durus own words video on you tube. The speech he gave in Germany and if he was a president, how things would have turned around.

      Now don’t jump to conclusion and accuse me Duru is my uncle:), he is not. In fact your uncle I think, the former minster was wedi adey:).