Observing the government of Eritrea and its functionaries, one is always struck which one of their two wings is heavier: the malicious one or the stupid one? One can build a case for either one, and it is a running debate among the Eritrean opposition and the silent majority. In an article that appeared at madote.com under the heading of “United Nation Commission of inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea will face inevitable legal challenges”, a Yemane Tsegay who is an “M.S. Aerospace Engineer/Legal Advocacy” is attempting to make his case to support the heading of the article. But, of course, it is a mish-mash of Sophia Tesfamarianism, not helped by the fact that nobody puts his title (Aerospace Engineer) in reference to human rights unless he is writing about Martians. Also, truth be told, I didn’t read it because it is unreadable. (No offense, Mr. Aerospace Engineer.) Nor is that the subject of this article. What struck me is the photo that madote.com, Tesfanews’ poor sister, chose to accompany the article. A photo that was originally published by awate. Choosing the picture conclusively shows that the stupid wing is heavier than the malicious wing.
Here’s why. If you are trying to show that all the outcry about the government of Eritrea’s human rights violations is orchestrated by “regime change” no-gooders, you would have a picture of me, or people like me. And, even then, you would have to show that the claims that the no-good regime-changers are making are false. But let’s consider whom they are trying to allege is a regime change advocate by going clockwise on the photo they chose:
1. Meaza Petros Solomon is the daughter of Petros Solomon and Aster Yohannes. Petros Solomon is a long-time EPLF combatant/veteran and member of its Central Committee. He perished on September 18, 2001, along with the rest of the “G-15,” senior political figures who were arrested shortly after they wrote an Open Letter calling for reform of the PFDJ. He has not been brought to a court of a law but, every once in a while, President Isaias Afwerki and his designated Reputation Hitmen (the latest is Minister Yemane Gebremeskel) try, indict and sentence them in the court of public opinion where you don’t have to present a shred of evidence.
Meaza Petros’s mother, Aster Yohannes, was arrested in 2003 when she flew from the United States to Eritrea based on assurances she was given by then-ambassador to the US, Mr. Girma Asmerom, not to mention the president himself. Again, she has not been tried in a court of law and here whereabouts are unknown, officially, and the only time family members hear a word is when a prisoner escapes from Eritrea, as pilot Dejen Ande Hishel did in May 2014, and then narrates his story and, in passing, tells who else was inprisoned with him.
At the time the picture was taken, Meaza Petros Solomon was only 16. She is amazingly articulate and wise beyond her years, as this interview with Sahara-TV, taken the same day of her testimony, shows. Wisdom and articulation must run in her family: here’s her older sister, Hannah Petros Solomon, in a video testimony that will move all except the psychopaths:
2. The author: In the time I have been in the public eye, I have been called a PFDJ, a regime change advocate, a Jihadist, a Weyane, an Ethiopia-hater, and a Chauvinist. None of which is relevant to this simple fact: As of the time you are reading this, my father, Abdu Ahmed Younis (90), my brother Hassen A Ahmed (40) and my niece Ciham Ali Abdu (18) have been made to disappear since December 2012. And, of course, I am going to give testimony and publicize their case to whomever will listen. Just last week, I reminded the American Charge d’affairs in Eritrea to take a little break from his chaperoned site-seeing to discharge his duties and next month I hope to make an even bigger slash. It is the least I can do.
3. Weizero Mezgeb Mengistu is the mother of Aster Yohannes and the grandmother of Meaza Petros Solomon. Now, if it is at all possible for people to take a pause from their useless polemics, I want to ask them this question: what would YOU do if your daughter disappeared without a trace and the kidnapper (in this case the government) refuses to do anything remotely responsible and accountable? Would you not scream as loud as you can to whomever will listen?
4. Sheila B. Keetharuth: she is the UN-appointed Special Rapporteur on Eritrea since November 2012. If the supporters of the Government of Eritrea spent a fraction of the energy they spend fighting the Special Rapporteur towards reforming the government and improving its human rights record, there would never have been a need for a Special Rapporteur. Similarly, if they had spent 1/10 their energy lobbying the government of Eritrea to moderate its stridency in Somalia and Djibouti in the years 2006-2009, there wouldn’t have been sanctions on Eritrea that is now consuming all their energy to lift.
5. Sengal Woldetensae is the brother of Haile “Derue” Woldetensae. Like Petros Solomon, Haile “Derue” is a long-time veteran of the EPLF, and a high-ranking government official (he was the Foreign Minister) during the Eritrea-Ethiopia border war of 1998-2000. Just like Petros Solomon, he was made to disappear on September 18, 2001 and nobody knows of his whereabouts. Isn’t the least that a “brother’s keeper” should do to advocate for and testify on behalf of his brother?
6. Elsa Chyrum is the Director of Human RIghts Concern Eritrea (HRCR), a UK-based human rights advocacy group. The supporters of the Government of Eritrea hate Elsa for many reasons, but chief among them has to be that she was there, in Geneva, when the the UN’s Human Rights Council ignored the PFDJ spin and named a Special Rapporteur.They don’t fight fair: every day they come up with new accusations as if, one day, she will say: this is too much, I am going to fill out a Regret Letter.
7. Zerai Petros Solomon is the brother of the aforementioned Meaza Petros Solomon. Everything I said about her applies to him.
Now, these are the people we know because, by Eritrean standards, they are public figures. All the testimonies that the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea (CoIE) collected from hundreds of Eritreans are first-hand testimonies of private citizens who have been routinely and brutally victimized. Instead of calling everybody who testified a liar, as the government and its supporters have done; instead of scripting people to lie and give false testimony under duress (that nobody’s human rights are abused in Eritrea), the government of Eritrea would have been better served taking a pause from the disastrous path it has been on for over decades now.
Postscript: Saleh Gadi Johar is recovering well. I have confiscated his phone and computer so don’t even try:) He will be home soon and he will be giving his readers, as usual, a reportage of his latest trip.