Pandemic and Government Induced Oppression in Dankalia
The home of Eritrean Afar people, in the southern tip of Eritrea bordering the Red sea, Djibouti and Ethiopia, is going through calamities where the basic food has become scarce. The region is historically known as Dankalia though almost two-decades ago it was renamed the Southern Red Sea region by the ruling party of Eritrea.
Traditionally, the Danakil people were seafarers and have been mainly trading across the Red Sea with the Southern Arabia. On the shores, fishing is the main form of subsistence, in addition to the inland mining of salt, which they supplied the surrounding region with camel caravans.
Located in the hottest region of the world, the Danakil Depression is a dry arid land with little vegetation and water sources. Dankalia is a very unhospitable region where temperatures can go up to 55 degree Celsius (130-degree Fahrenheit). However, Dankalia is also has rich mineral deposits, almost all unexploited.
Moreover, in the last few decades the traditional fishing capabilities of the people of Dankalia were severely damaged by the government that has neglected the region which is now suffering from lack of medical care, food shortage and the destruction of its economy. The poor state of the fishing industry illustrates the situation of Dankalia.
Though the country sits over 2335 kilometers of shorelines, including the coastlines of its 350 islands, in 2018 Eritrea harvested a meagre 4300 tons of fish.
The approximately 300,000 population of the region are mostly pastoralist, mainly herding goats and camels. However, due to the emergency steps that the government took under the pretext of fighting the coronavirus pandemic, they are in dire situations. The region lacks basic medical services, shortage of food, and disruption of their poor economy. The tough and brave people who withstood the harsh environment, are being defeated by instability, absence of the rule of law, and oppression.
Furthermore, Assab, the second Eritrean port and the biggest town in the region has been dormant since the 1998 Eritrean-Ethiopian border war. Although the UAE maintains a military base at Assab, the indigenous population of the region have not gained any benefit from its presence.
On May 30, 2020, the Red Sea Afar Human Rights organization (RSAHRO) issued a statement about a tragic situation unfolding “a tragic situations that lead to risk of starvation threatening lives of citizens across the country.” It accused the Eritrea regime of resorting “to suppress the people in putting strict means of restrictions isolating citizens by enforcing the policy of ethnic cleansing and forced displacement in continuation of the wide criminal plan to empty the region from its people in order to achieve a policy of demographic change to their land.”
The statement added, “The regime Systematically Starving the local people under the pretext of protecting the population from Covid – 19 where it closed totally all the borders (Land and sea) without taking any precautionary measures.”
Here follows the RSAHRO statement:
RSAHRO Statement on the tragic situation in the Red Sea Afar region in Eritrea
Red Sea Afar Human Rights organization ( RSAHRO), May 30, 2020
The Red Sea Afar region in Eritrea witnessing a tragic situations that lead to risk of starvation threatening life’s of citizens across the country, as the ruling regime resorted to suppress the people in putting strict means of restrictions isolating citizens by enforcing the policy of ethnic cleansing and forced displacement in continuation of the wide criminal plan to empty the region from its people in order to achieve a policy of demographic change to their land. The regime Systematically Starving the local people under the pretext of protecting the population from Covid – 19 where it closed totally all the borders (Land and sea) without taking any precautionary measures. The effect of this global crisis are making the residents and citizens of the region under a suffocating siege that puts them facing an unknown fate that threatens their lives in this isolated and besieged area by the ruling regime in Asmara.
The Red Sea Afar Human Rights organization monitored the arbitrary measures taken by the Eritrean regime to starve the inhabitants of the Red Sea Afar region in a clear deliberate violation of human rights and a blatant challenge to the principles and charters of the United Nations exposing the citizens to extreme danger. Below are the 10 deliberate violation of the regime which RSAHRO monitored in the last two months :
- In the beginning of April, 2020, chiefs and traditional leaders in the region notified the agents of the Eritrean government in sub-regions of (Ghalalo, Dahlak, Buyya, Afambo, Adi,, Tio, Assab and Rehayta), that the risk of starvation threatens the residents and citizens of the entire region as a result of the movement restrictions imposed on them. The notables indicated that food stores are running out without the presence of any alternative sources to provide for their necessary need.
- At the end of April 2020 , the Eritrean government emptied hospitals and removed pregnant women, delivered mothers and other patients from (Assab Hospital) and closed most health facilities in the region and left patients facing their fate on their own without taking into account their health conditions. In addition to that government authorities did not provide any preventive materials ( Masks and gloves) or any other first aid in, and no quarantine centers established to accommodate the sick to limit the spread of the virus.
- In late April 2020, Military officials of the Emirati forces stationed at the Emirati military base in Assab provided logistical support (food and health equipment), but unfortunately this gesture was rejected by the Eritrean Military generals and the local administration in Assab. It is a known a fact that the government earns millions of dollars in exchange for leasing the strategic port but no benefits or returns for the people of the region is documented so far.
- At the end of April , the Eritrean government forces intercepted three convoys of camels carrying foodstuffs for families coming from (Samoti region) on the Ethiopian-Eritrean border and heading to (Buya and meglbu), and they detained those responsible for the convoy and expropriated the food that they were trying to get them to the affected families in their area.
- At the beginning of May, the security forces of the Eritrean government intercepted a camel convoy(6)consisting of carrying foodstuffs coming from Djibouti to the region (Pisderu) in the Eritrean- Djiboutian borders.
- In the beginning of May 2020, the security forces of the Eritrean government also detained approximately (74 camels) in the Buya area of the Ghalo sub-region, and humiliated citizens and confiscated their property.
- In the middle of May, the Eritrean naval forces arrested dozens of citizens who were fishing in the sea to meet the needs of their families and prevented the fishermen from fishing and confiscated their boats in Buri peninsula.
- A week before this month, May 2020, the Eritrean authorities continued to cut off the road for citizens to meet their needs, and they intercepted a convoy consisting of (63 camels) coming from the area (Bada – Admaruq) on the Ethiopian-Eritrean border and heading to the (La’in Bada) under sub-zone of Ghalal in the northern province of Red Sea and another convoy consisting of (43 camels) coming from the area of (Hamad Ela) to the area of (Sanda) in the sub-region of Arta’a. The supplies were confiscated and the camels and people were detained in a military center in (Adayto) in the area of the Bada under Ga’lalo sub – region.
- After the dictator Isaias Afwerki delivered his annual speech on the occasion of the independence anniversary of Eritrea on May 24, 2020 and he directly conveys threat to Eritrean citizens about covid-19 , in clear contradiction with the announcement of the Eritrean Ministry of Health that declared the country is free of the virus and the recovery of all cases infected with the virus
Consequently, authorities continued to harass and monitor any movement across the Red Sea and on May 25,they intercepted more than 50 fishing boats and detained and confiscated them in the Buri region in the Naval Transport Center north of Afar Red Sea.
- The Eritrean government has also closed all seaports, and Marine resource offices in each of Dahlak, Ga’lalo , Engel, Tio, Eddi, Barasouli, Assab, Rehayta and other coastal areas throughout the region, which put residents and citizens of the region under the threat of starvation.
Moreover, those who live in remote areas(Pastoralists) are living in tragic living conditions and lack any assistance.
Finally, Red Sea Afar Human Rights organization appeals to Eritrean political, human rights and humanitarian organizations, and neighboring countries such as Ethiopia, Djibouti, and regional and international organizations, to take urgent action to fulfill their humanitarian duty to save the people of the Red Sea Afar from the threat of starvation and extend a helping hand to the general Eritrean people.