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Resolution 2023 And Eritrea’s Political Opposition

As a discrete initiative, the purpose of this contribution is not to argue a case in favour or against Resolution 2023. Commentary on this score from either side of the Eritrean political divide abounds. Instead, the piece is dedicated solely to analysing Resolution 2023 with the view to appreciating the politics surrounding the institution of sanctions and (its relation to) the conduct of national political opposition. In the event the reader is curious as to the author’s position on the subject of sanctions and external military intervention, this has been noted elsewhere and there is no point in duplicating existing information.                                                      

Resolution 2023, passed early December 2011 by the United Nations Security Council, ostensibly metes out additional sanctions on the Government of Eritrea. In the judgement of its sponsors, Resolution 2023 was warranted to bolster the Security Council’s preceding resolutions of which Eritrea is accused of having disregarded. Besides the type of misconduct[1] and the corresponding measures[2] that derive particularly from Resolution 1907, the Security Council’s latest mandate widens the scope of sanctions against Eritrea to cover diaspora tax and government revenue from the country’s burgeoning mining sector. From the point of view of the present commentary, as we shall perhaps soon learn why, the Resolution’s stipulations concerning diaspora tax and mining revenue is noteworthy. For the reader’s benefit, cited below is that specific section of Resolution 2023, whilst the full text itself (comprising a total of 20 paragraphs and the background context) can be accessed here.

Security Council Resolution 2023:

10. Condemns the use of the ‘Diaspora tax’ on Eritrean diaspora by the Eritrean Government to destabilize the Horn of Africa region or violate relevant resolutions, including 1844 (2008), 1862 (2009) and 1907 (2009), including for purposes such as procuring arms and related materiel for transfer to armed opposition groups or providing any services or financial transfers provided directly or indirectly to such groups, as outlined in the findings of the Somalia/Eritrea Monitoring Group in its 18 July 2011 report (S/2011/433), and decides that Eritrea shall cease these practices;

12. Expresses concern at the potential use of the Eritrean mining sector as a financial source to destabilize the Horn of Africa region, as outlined in the Final Report of the Monitoring Group (S/2011/433), and calls on Eritrea to show transparency in its public finances, including through cooperation with the Monitoring Group, in order to demonstrate that the proceeds of these mining activities are not being used to violate relevant resolutions, including 1844 (2008), 1862 (2009), 1907 (2009) and this resolution;

By most accounts, Resolution 2023 is identified as a rather lame initiative predicted to only minimally impact the Eritrean regime. As it stands, sanctions broadly and Resolution 2023 specifically pose a challenge so far as the Eritrean political opposition is implied. The best means of highlighting the engendered problems furthermore is to frame the inquiry as part of what I tend to dub the politics of sanctions. More to the point, the issues to be canvassed here include: the diminished nature of Resolution 2023 and its implications in terms of how that might ultimately bear on the Eritrean opposition’s bid for political change.

Re-reading the text of Resolution 2023

It is possible to see through the inadequacies associated with Resolution 2023 without being a political scientist or specialist in international relations.  In this sense, the express aim is to gauge both the letter and spirit of paragraphs 10 and 12 as these apply to diapora and mining taxes.

The weakness with the letter of Resolution 2023 is in part attributable to the choice of the individual words and phrases that the Security Council employs. For in simply “condemn[ing] the use of the ‘Diaspora tax’….” and in moreover just “express[ing] concerns at the potential use….” the Security Council does not appear to be stating what it is committing itself to do. Condemnation of a given practice, or expression of unease at a certain prospect, is not about practically carrying through a censure. In other words, the Security Council’s phraseology is bereft of any executive properties or edge; it amounts to theoretical posturing not to mention bureaucratic inanity. Clearly, a disjunct of sorts is discernable here – between what, on the one hand, the Security Council considers to be the Eritrean Government’s grave breaches of international protocols[3] and, on the other, the actual disciplinary course the former is prepared to pursue. Contrasting the irresolute language of Resolution 2023 to how sanctions in other contexts have been explicitly formulated and assiduously applied (the unmitigated economic blockade of Cuba, or the strangulation of pre-invasion Iraq) is in itself revealing enough. Overall, and despite the elaborations in Paragraphs 11 and 13 on some of the steps that might be necessary to constrain the regime’s activities, it is reasonable to affirm the slight overtones of the language chosen to craft Resolution 2023.

Normally, the spirit of a legal document relating to two or more otherwise adversarial interest groups is subject to debate and contestation. Establishing its gist is predicated on the extrapolation of “meaning” through fairly subjective interpretation – despite the pretence to the objectivity of language. Ambiguity is nowhere more apparent than in attempting to tease out certain aspects of the Resolution’s language. Depending on one’s perspective, for example, Paragraph 12’s reference to a future probability (potential use of the Eritrean mining sector as a financial source) can be taken to mean enforcement but only in the last instance that may anyway not even come around. Conditionality renders the application of clear-cut countermeasures a hypothetical eventuality; it limits the Security Council’s agency to if and when Eritrea prospectively assigns finances from its mining sector to promote causes outside its national borders. In the meantime, we understand, the regime can go on with the business of consolidating its powers whilst expecting minimal or no interposition. With diaspora tax, similarly, the levy is objectionable were the Eritrean State to divert the money for transnational activity, leading to the supposition that the regime can deploy diaspora finances for whatever domestic ends. To an Eritrean weighed down by the regime’s internal excesses in the here and now, the provisions of Resolution 2023 and its predecessors may count for nothing. Why? Not only is Resolution 2023 outwardly orientated, but furthermore its drafters appear quite content with discharging their responsibility in the shape of verbal caution. To analogise, the gulf between receiving a reprimand and having to serve a term sentence (effective immediately) for breaking the laws that be, cannot be overemphasised.

Chimera of securing favouritism, virtue of introspection and ingenuity

It is in keeping with common sense to state two vital but otherwise self-evident observations about the Eritrean political opposition: first, this political body is not a monolith but represents a myriad of political and civic groupings fielding a range of programs and strategies, and; second, it is inappropriate to think of the “opposition” as exclusively banking on sanctions to precipitate change. Even so, a sizable segment of the Eritrean opposition appears to pin its hopes on a breakthrough to be instigated from without.

I persist in the belief that it is unwise to accord disproportionate importance to sanctions as a form of political leverage. The tangled dynamics pertaining to the pronouncement of sanctions often eclipse and outstrip the priorities of those to whom change matters the most, that is, the people suffering the brunt of the targeted regime’s iniquities. Jostling multi-lateral interests ensure that these occasions provide a forum where politicking of every strand and stripe, including intimidation, enticement, mutual accommodation and the like, takes place. Following is an outline of the problematic reality obtaining when a national question is overshadowed by supranational considerations.

One defining feature of Resolution 2023 is a concerted focus on what the Eritrean regime is engaged in extraterritorially. At no point in its entirety does the Resolution refer to the turn of events in the home front. Lest we confuse the point, putting the regime in the spotlight for its forays in foreign lands is not precisely what will deliver the Eritrean population from the clutches of Afwerki’s despotism. And if I correctly perceive the opposition’s raison d’ etre as crystallising in a mission whose principal objective is to influence change within the domestic arena, then the discrepancy in motives can not be more striking. The opposition’s historic responsibility (embodied in the struggle to supersede dictatorship with a democratic order) is to take over where Resolution 2023’s reticence and insouciance towards the plight of the Eritrean people comes unstuck. For once, the Security Council’s trivialisation of the aspirations of the Eritrean citizen illustrates the incidentality of human rights to the politics of sanctions. Any suggestion as to the existence of an indirect link that, motivating reasons aside, will eventually advance the cause of the opposition and simultaneously advantage the Eritrean people ought to be tempered by the realisation that one rarely hears of sanctions as succeeding in toppling governments.

And a not-so-salient dimension to the latest round of sanctions may well be related to possible grounds behind the attenuated quality of Resolution 2023. Conjecture on the likely course of actions by both the Eritrean Government and (especially) the mining companies in the lead up to the proclamation of Resolution 2023 could open the door to see proceedings from a different angle.[4] What, if any, was the scope and scale of Eritrean diplomacy? Has the Eritrean regime prostrated itself before the Sanctions Committee to be let off the hook whilst promising to make amends for its follies and indiscretions, or has the regime in fact firmly stood its ground in turn obliging concessions? Alternatively, awareness ought to be drawn to any probable conduct on the part of the mining companies which could have contributed to the final version of Resolution 2023. Talk of this nature helps focus our attention on ways of uncovering the kind of external economic agenda that might be at play in this and related cases. A sound dose of scepticism therefore necessitates this question; what level of pressure were the mining companies (through their respective national governments) able to bring to bear on the outlook of the Sanctions Committee? To opine otherwise is in reverse to the professed goals of capitalist enterprise – represented in profit-making often at the expense of human, social and environmental concerns. Incidentally, the whole question of the behaviour of large corporations brings to memory the ill-fate of activists from around the world. Be it Colombian or Indonesian trade union leaders, Brazilian or New Guinean environmental campaigners, many have been mistreated and killed by governments beholden to foreign investors. Who in this vein can forget the murder, in 1995, at the hands of the infamous Sani Abacha regime and with the complacency of the oil giant Shell, of the Nigerian/Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa? Invariably, it is what big companies and corporations say and want that the bulk of politicians duly comply with, and that, I believe, needs to be taken into account when dealing with Resolution 2023.

It is apt to round off the topic by adumbrating lessons to be learned.  Outsider action/inaction follows from a calculus of self-interest beyond the control of local actors, government and opposition alike. Given this characteristic fickleness, it would be misguided to vouch for sanctions to achieve on behalf of others what they are meant to accomplish themselves. In consequence, it ought to be publicly known that the impact of externally conceived initiative on the process of internal political change is at best tangential and at worst irrelevant.

If anything, the opposition may well be served were it to take a leaf from the winning ways of its antagonist; an unyielding mindset fully cognisant of, as well as accustomed to, the austerity, self-discipline and resourcefulness intrinsic to serious struggle. Conceding that the imposition of sanctions on the Eritrean regime cannot be deemed as the all-important criterion to the consummation of the desired change, what the opposition needs to guarantee is the indigenisation of its resistance. In other words, any self-respecting national opposition movement must disproportionately rely on the Eritrean masses to eventuate positive change. The Eritrean opposition may choose to heed or ignore the propositions made in conjunction with Resolution 2023, but it should also remember that history absolves only those who are true to themselves and to the cause they have consciously embraced.

By way of a parting shot

Admittedly, the entire discourse is built around a type of analysis that is abstract and deductive. Because the argument proceeds from a purely interpretative plane that should not in anyway devalue the ensuing insight, for there is such thing as a speculative way of learning and knowing. Meanwhile, the answer to many of the issues and questions raised may not be as straightforward. This is not unexpected; lay persons are not necessarily privy to what goes on within the occult and secretive world of business and political elites. Surmisal is the sceptic’s best friend and it is for this reason that the present effort to a certain measure shies from offering responses in a direct and concrete form. On what proves a tricky open-ended kind of subject, the reader’s guess is as good as this author’s.

[1] According to Resolution 1907 (2009)Eritrea’s offending behaviour includes “destabilisation” ofSomalia by supporting Al-Shabab as well as committing cross-border aggression againstDjibouti and failing to cooperate with the conflict resolution effort.

[2] The punitive measures againstEritrea range from travel ban and asset freeze applicable to certain officials to trade embargo in arms.

[3]  In accordance with Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the Security Council makes certain loose recommendations to redress the problem. It calls for “… issuance of due diligence guidelines … for the optional use of member states” which typically raises more questions than it answers.

[4] Ideally, this discussion ought to have encompassed the concerns and influences of major players such as the US, Ethiopia and Kenya.  Whilst integral to the topic, this aspect is left out of the topic in part for reasons of scope.

About Abderahim I Gime

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  • Saleh AA Younis

    You Might Be A “Terrorist” And Not Even Realize It
    By Annie Sovcik

    In the late 1970’s when Ethiopia was under the control of the notoriously brutal Dergue regime and the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) was engaged in a struggle for its independence from Ethiopia, Letekidan, an Eritrean woman, supported the ELF. Her support consisted of providing the ELF with items such as sugar, shoes, and cigarettes, as well as passing along secret documents. Almost thirty years later, during which time she was jailed and subjected to repeated torture by the Dergue regime and Eritrea gained independence, Letekidan fled and sought asylum in the United States.

    Imagine Letekidan’s shock when an immigration judge informed her that she was barred from all forms of protection because she had engaged in “terrorist activity” by providing support to the ELF in the late 1970’s.

    • Ghezae Hagos

      Selam Sal,

      Probably, the closest document I know relevant to what you have linked to is one prepared by CCR (Canadian Council for Refugees.) It is an Umberella organization of many refugee-affiliated groups and organizations. My good friend Yosief Alazar, an activist, was instrumental in producing the document along with many lawyers.

      Here is the document:

      All the best,

  • haile


    In my view, no amount of: anger, frustration, desperation… would excuse slighting some one for the work they do legitimately. You do seem to be lacking in courage to come out and duly apologize to the writer for belittling his contribution as “B/S”, “useless”… In my experience, people who have trouble apologizing are dangerously egoistical and often fail to achieve their set targets in life. To make matters worse, you advise prolific writers as SAAY to “scribble” for “none-locals” Although you seem very adept at damage control by returning back to claim that you meant it “preaching to the converted”, your initial assertion was very clear as you characterized it as “not worth the effort” If you meant it, as you now claim, for the ‘converts’ then what ‘effort’ were you talking about earlier? No one is perfect, that is why humans invented apology. try to use it, you might like it.

    If was to erect a big signage that states “locals not welcome” as per your recommendation, how then will you be able to engage these lowly ‘locals’ who are not ‘worth the effort’ so that they would help you in materializing what you hope to achieve through sanctions? No white man or woman would be running in riots in downtown Asmara how ever much you reserve every preferential treatment for them. That, my friend, is another blunder you stepped into to get out of the first one. You then assert “one’s support to sanction on PFDJ is the truest yardstick of being an opposition” however, you had listed earlier pretty every one in the opposition as not doing so. Hence, does that leave you as the only ‘truest of opposition’? I guess that is the third blunder to get out of the second one. If I go one like this, I will soon lose count. The point is that it is okay to lose you compass (or your B’sola — from latest PFDJ sound bite) from time to time. Unfortunately, unwillingness to admit to short comings and rectifying them responsibly doesn’t augur well to claiming to be the ‘truest opposition’ based on a yardstick that is not even good enough to fend off a stray cat, let alone the PFDJ.

    When you come here and preach that the opposition is so weak, on the verge of losing, frustrated… I would say those you may accuse as you-know-who are actually doing a pathetic job at undermine the opposition compared to your bold pronouncements of its uselessness. If so, then why bother about those people you mention as “having been under the clutches of the dictator and having seen their brothers suffer still supporting the very system (PFDJ)”? May be, could they have taken your advise about the state of the opposition and opted out? Well, Ghezae it is time to make a new resolution for you for the rest of the year. Intellectual honesty or humility (or both) are the only choices.

    • Ghezae Hagos

      @ Haile,

      I don’t know where to start with you. But let me recap.

      1. I said sanctions should be supported unconditionally by every member of the opposition.
      2. The writer IS AGAINST the sanction; so he is very wrong.
      3. In-ward advocacy as writing in our local website is wasting our precious energy and resources.
      4. Awate is wrong on SSOT.

      I suggest you read my entries with this backdrop, instead of nitpicking this or that.

    • b’Alti Arwe W’qatto (As in a girl with a dragon tattoo).


      Hope you don’t call me “weTam”. I can’t help but interject once more. Sure enough, Ghezae is livid. He is frustrated. And he has every reason to wiggle his fingers at the people who oppose the sanctions. Simply because, Eritrea is gasping for air to breath. Eritrea is on a death bed. Eritrea is dying.

      Around a dying person there are two entities. The disease that is eating up the person and a physician who is tending the dying. It shouldn’t be too complicated to see it through. Ghezae is trying to see which side we are on. When sanctions are an anathema to or an elixir to root out the malaise, we can’t possibly oppose it in any form or shape if our hearts are there to see Eritrea standing tall on her own feet.

      Ostensibly, shrouded with in the comforts of our adoptive countries, we are not able to see or feel the gravity of the pain and suffering our people are going through under the cruelest tyranny of our time. The author of the article for a reason which is known only to himself seems to be scratching his head in search of rosy words and technicalities to have the spirit of the sanctions get lost in translations. That doesn’t sound like a genuine attempt to salvage Eritrea from a tyranny, rather that is under-estimation of the suffering of the people and an intellectual dishonesty at its best as well.

      Again, when Eritrea is the only country with out a Constitution; when Eritrea is the only country where people are turning into apparitions as they are thrown onto dungeons; when the productive segment of the society is leaving the country in droves and counting; when any given household carries a day with a ration of one bread per person per day; when people are rendered to doubt their own thoughts (read mind control); when religious emblems are desecrated (the arrest of the Patriarch); when freedom of speech and press are shut down till Kingdom comes; when unlawfully incarcerated people can not see their case in a court of law, would you say, we can afford to play gymnastics with the spirit of sanctions on how it should be watered down? If your answer is in affirmative, I would say, no wonder you don’t seem to appreciate Ghezae’s fury.

      If you’re going to pull the right to express alternative ideas, would you be able to afford to entertain different ideas in a dire situation? I think not. I am sure, a man of your caliber would haste and internalize the sense of urgency and act accordingly. That is a historical responsibility of the vanguards (read the educated class).

      • haile

        b’Alti Arwe W’qatto

        Since the young writer, Ghezae, has concluded that “sanctions should be supported unconditionally by every member of the opposition” there isn’t a room to swing a cat, is there? I have been pursuing a couple lines of argument with Ghezae that he doesn’t seem to want to address.
        1. Perception counts, therefore would it not be appropriate for him to dialog in a way that values the inviolable right of others to differ. Why slight them? If unintentional, why not retraction than rebranding what you said?
        2. The support or not of the sanctions is not the problem here at all. The issue is how to develop a fair understanding of the subject upon which to ground your actions/decisions. Why does he want us to see things STRICTLY on the basis of his interpretations, else we are doomed to fail this yardstick or that yardstick? Why are people opposing the PFDJ? Really? Is it so that they can choose a better dictator for themselves?
        Ghezae needs to recognize some of the enemy he is trying to fight is with in himself. He need to truly acknowledge (not merely declare) that people have inherent tendency to differ and no one can oversee the thought processes of the others. Take as an example that I ask you to imagine a lemon. And now I ask you to cut this lemon in half. Simple instruction really, isn’t it? Yet, some people would have cut the lemon longitudinally in half, and others would cut latitudinal half. Because that part was not clear, hence people would naturally differ. Would it be plausible then to argue that your way of producing the half is the sole yardstick for cutting halves? True, serves you fine, but a tad bit arrogant, wouldn’t you say? So, b’Alti Arwe W’qatto, hope to I made myself clear and appreciate your taking the time to respond. Thanks.

        • haile

          b’Alti Arwe W’qatto

          The second point I would like to make is that in reality all we needed to do was enrich each other’s ideas by expounding and cross referencing them for each other. If truth be told, the writer of the above article doesn’t come across as some one against sanctions in principle or otherwise. He in fact seems to want to make them go far enough and include as many domestic issues as possible. That doesn’t ring opposing sanctions, does it? What is the point of wrapping his thoughts up with one’s own conclusion and declaring him as anti sanction? Did he ask for the sanctions to be lifted? did he question the legitimacy of the process that brought them about? Did he call for UNjust demonstrations outside UNSC head quarters? None what so ever, all he said was it is important to strengthen home grown opposition, people should not put much hope on it as an ultimate means to effect change. In reading between the lines, one would also surmise that the writer was not satisfied with the scope and extent of the sanction and hoped for something more. Now, going back to my point made earlier that arguments for the sake of one are least helpful, I would like to make it clear that I have nothing against Ghezae’s view so long as they are not made in such high handedness and condescending attitude to the writer by engaging in street language that is unhelpful to the overall mission. So, sorry to say, but Ghezae had made an error of judgment in this case and if he so wished he can go on with out bringing a closure to it the proper way. Entirely his choice really.

  • Ghezae Hagos

    @ Saleh Johar,

    1. You should read all the entries before you rant unnecessarily. I thanked and applauded couple of times and its efforts, unless you feel that is not good enough.

    2. My musings and frustration was about our general propensity advocacy as opposition, being geared to our own converted members and write-at-our-own-websites, instead of availing ourselves the resources of our adopted countries.

    3. Please don’t flatter yourself that it is Awate’s objection to SSOT that stopped PFDJ from being on the list. If you are requiring finer penalities from international community, you should be willing to incur some sacrifices.

    Finally, if you think that people change after reading and other opposition websites, again that is another self-flattery. Think of all those PFDJites who have personally suffered and see their brethren suffer and still support the regime. Do you think we impress by what we write here; while they ignore the deaths and plights of their own kins? No, brother.

    p.s You know it; but worth repeating, since you smugly act as if you don’t: I have used for many references, purposes and spread the word about it as I do to other websites.

    • Saleh Gadi

      Ghezae, I do not mind giving you the last word on this. I will not go through this again. But after ten years of your “annoying” belittling of the Internet, which is the only medium I, you and many Eritreans have, and which has proven effective beyond doubt based on my personal experience, while you disagree with people having difference of opinion on a very debatable issue, such as the sanctions, you do not even have the tolerance to take one mild comment from me. Just one in ten years. That is all right, but misrepresentation is not nice as you well know. I will comment on the three points you raised:

      1. The words you generally use in a personal comment doesn’t encourage debate, which I am sure you encourage. It is not wise to use such words as “Rant”.
      2. No Eritrean website is preventing you from availing yourself to the resources of your adopted countries, if any has prevented you from doing so, I would be disappointed, and I wish I knew who.
      3. I explained why we do not support SSOT, you misrepresented it as if I claimed credit for why it was not applied. The Arabs say, kuli Ena’en bima fihi yendeHu (every container echoes the sound of its content). It was your imagination gone wild, I didn’t claim that.
      4. Another misrepresentation: I didn’t say I think “people change after reading and other opposition websites”, I just asked for your appraisal of their effects on the change. You denied me the joy of knowing your appraisla. Your choice. But I can only guess, specially when I read positions of people: their position ten-years ago and their position now. Nothing new, curiosity is human, specially when comparing two extreme positions of people. All I say is ‘kematom yebzHu.’ In fact I am flattered when people turn to the right path, and I have celebrated that a thousand times before.

      PS. SMUGLY ACT does not encourage debate, just my opinion. And I swear to God I support the sanctions since that (I hear) is now the only yardstick to measure how genuine an opposition element is.

      • Ghezae Hagos

        Selam Saleh Johar,

        Just remember you were the one who blindsided me by your attacks on the subject of sanctions, complete with throwback to decade old position which is irrelevant to the topic at hand.

        In case you want to revist it, this is not the first time you did it and I also like to point our you also do it to many of your compatriots.

        Seriously, knowing what each of us do, at least what I do, I am just cool. It just that it doesn’t also encourage debates to quote you. You know it is mean and unfair too. If you keep on harping people about their past pointviews, you would invariably absolve those who you favour and become cantakarous person who still hold old grudges against say St. Paul and pitifully says ‘was-not-he-the Saul who is accomplice in St. Stephen’s martyrdom? Wasn’t he ? Isn’t he? Sadly you may say that long after St. Paul himself is martyred.

        Please retire such introductions to debate ON SUBJECTS at hand, such as today’s, the UNSC sanctions.

        Again, I would like to reitrate Awate is wrong on SSOT. You called for and supported UNSC Sanctions, no question about it. Most of SSOT provisions are similiart to UNSC’s. I think it is superflous to say we at still are against SSOT.

  • Saleh Gadi

    Hello Dear Ghezae,
    Don’t you get tired of always belittling the “internet scribbling”? You have been an avid Internet writer (or scribbler and still are) since 2000 when you considered unfair for not hosting views from the PFDJ camp. We were hosting your not-so-generous writings against the opposition and what you then referred to as “ELFites.” That is when the government’s action against the G15 was considered a proper action by many who criticized for taking wrong postition. Many of those are now (kbru ysfaH Amlakh) on the side of the old ELFites. Patience pays. But you still keep hammering at for reasons I do not understand. If you were to evaluate the developments in the thinking of many, from pro-PFDJ to declared anti-PFDJ, if you were to judge the switch of position fairly, very fairly, what percentage would you give the effect, or influence, that the Internet scribbling (like’s “scribbling”) had on those switches. I am just curious to know your assessment.

    Another thing that I thought you knew: you seem to undermine the role of our scribbling when it comes to providing information to non-Eritreans and you advice people to focus on foreign media because Eritrean focused writing like that of is not effective (in many words). That might be true, but don’t you think you are standing against the only institution that was designed to appeal to decision makers, be it Eritreans or not? Couldn’t you figure out the reason for our preference of English as opposed to Tigrinya and Arabic? I am sure you can guess where a foreigner interested in Eritrean news would go for information–very few choices and we tend to believe that is at least on the bottom of the list of sources. Repeatedly belittling our scribbling (which includes your scribbling since 2001) is tastless. If you want to penetrate the foreign media, I suggest you begin by promoting websites like or forwarding its contents to those foreign media outlets, just like many silent combatants, including some from your own neighborhood, have been doing for years. If that is not your ‘finjal of bun’, then you can do something else on your own without the need to belittle the efforts of others. See Ghezae, you do not need to stand on the corpse of others to appear tall.

    The story of the sanctions is another misrepresentation. You are picking the time when we were against branding Eritrea as a state sponsor of terrorism. Had that been followed through, you can only guess its effect on some Eritreans, the section of Eritreans who unfortunately keep being branded and stereotyped by some of their own compatriots, forget the branding and stereotyping by the hawkish anti-terrorism zealots. Sometimes it is good to try another pair of shoes, just for the heck of it, or to see if it is comfortable at all. As far as 1907 and its offshoot are concerned, as SAAY explained, we pride ourselves for coming up with the first precise list of actions we hoped to see applied on the regime, back in 2006. One could say 1907 was similar to our demands which were presented to world governments under the auspices of the Eritrean Anti-Tyranny Global Solidarity, which we founded. For the first time ever, by any Eritrean association in the West, our refugees in Sudan were involved in the petition, thanks to the efforts of the tireless Yassin Mohammed Abdella of Sweyra association in the Sudan who administered the petition collection (hand written and hand signed) from the camps of Sudan. That petition together with a hardcopy petition list (for dramatic effect:-) consisting of thousands of names, was sent via UPS and was hand delivered to the governments of Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, USA, Canada, Australia, UK, Germany and other governments that I cannot remember off my head now. Many tireless activists participated in the well-organized delivery of the petition to the governments of their respective countries. So, kindly stop portraying unfairly when it comes to sanctions. I have to stop here….

    Thank you and I am glad to hear your decision to water you dry column at, that tree was neglected and on the verge of death.


    PS: Here’s the link to the petition we organized

    And here were our demands in 2006 which looks remarkably like UN Resolution 1907 and 2023 which were adopted 3 and 5 years after our petition:

    * A ban on entry visas to all Isaias regime officials who seek to travel to Western nations;
    • Curtailing the regime’s ability to raise funds in foreign countries;
    • Stopping its covert and overt international commercial, banking and other enterprises.
    • Assist in lifting the campaign of intimidation the Isaias regime imposes on Eritreans living in the Western nations.


  • Ghezae Hagos


    1. Sorry I have to start a new entry to continue the discussion. I believe I said most of the things I wanted to say. So, it might come as being repeating myself. You asked me if I agree on what the author says regarding some points. My answer is emphatic NO.

    At the risk-of-entay-koynu-ezi-wedi-Zey-Amelu, I am in the final phase of developing a new habit and invite my fellow compatriots to do that: Once position vis-a-vis Sanctions against PFDJ as the truest yardstick. Thus, I disagree with the author because he said he is AGAINST sanction. Period. I don’t care about the rest of his analysis because like I said previously he is against it as he said, a year AGO and his position has not changed ever since. Please read:

    If he changes his position and embraces sanction as at least one form of opposing the regime, but has reservations upto its effectivness, then that is tolerable. It is not that we should not have naunces, but enough is enough. We can’t indulge in platitudes and endless naunces.

    2. Sanctions are by nature supportive and we should always rely on ourselves to get rid off the regime, but that is a given though. On Eritrea being on SSOT, I can’t tell you from my feeble attempts and inquiries, how much an opportunity we missed. Granted there would be real or imagined harm to some of our compatriots; there is no question though the benefits far outweighs them.

    All the best,

  • haile

    @b’Alti dragon w’qatto

    I totally submit to the views you have shared. But please allow me to go one step further b’Alti dragon w’qatto. If that line of reasoning was to be taken as an operational platform of our struggle, then what makes it different from PFDJ’s paranoia that if you think outside party line, you must be spying against the nascent spartan enclave. That if we hold views that seem against what Ghezae’s take on the sanctions is, should we be shamed and ostracized for not conforming? Hope you agree, there is something rotten about that ill inspired approach of my war or the high way, and that is what I tried to resolve with Ghezae. Hope I made myself clear b’Alti dragon w’qatto, and you could convey my thoughts to Ghezae.

    • b’Alti dragon w’qatto (As in a girl with a dragon tattoo).


      I absolutely agree with you. There is no reason to nip the spirit of democracy and entertaining different ideas in the bud when we are fighting to implant the ideals of democracy. Having said that however, I wouldn’t stride extra miles to “accuse” Ghezae of belittling alternative views. My understanding is that, Ghezae is trying to highlight the imperatives of the sanctions.

      As much as the struggle against tyranny is at its zenith, we can’t afford to remain complacent and let opportunities slip out of our hands. If anything, when the sanctions are meant to cripple the regime, we should embrace them with an open hands where ifs and buts lose any space in our languages.

      The take of the Eritrean intellectuals (Read Saleh Younis’ earlier comment) seems to revolve on the idea that, sanctions with out a strong Opposition do not fly well. The weakness of their argument rests on the fallacy that, with in the Eritrean context, a strong opposition is not a prerequisite to topple the regime rather what is needed is a unified Opposition. It is prudent to know the difference between a Strong Opposition and a Unified Opposition. The people in Eritrea are not apprehensive about whether the Opposition is strong or not rather whether they are unified under a common theme and with a bare minimum common denominator.

      Moreover, the need for a strong Opposition will be more relevant in a free and a democratic Eritrea when a democratically elected government assumes power then only then the Opposing parties to the governing party would assess their appeal to the people with in the scale of their strength.

      P.S. Ghezae is a brilliant young guy. I thought I read you earlier in your comment referring him as “Aboy”.

      • haile

        b’Alti dragon w’qatto;

        Thanks for the points raised. Let me first own up to misleading you with my sarcasm when I referred to Ghezae as “Aboy” It was meant to swipe back at his casual reference of me as “sonny” earlier on. I like great writers, but I don’t typically, confuse my father with great writers! I find your thoughts very plausible considering the dire situation at home, and you make an interesting distinction between strong vs unified opposition. I am with you thus far. In terms of dealing with the above article, and SAAY’s subsequent intervention, however, ‘strong’ opposition per se isn’t what research indicates to be necessary for effective sanctions. Update me if you would, but the latest I had seen actually argues that a target regime that is mired in an internal turmoil is the best candidate to react to sanctions with the desired results. Else, even a ‘strong’ opposition may find the sanction undermining it rather than helping. Case in point is during the Iraq sanctions 91/95, the opposition there found it hard to organize because it lacked basic commodities as paper to print its pamphlets on and luxury items a printer ink and so forth due to the very same sanction. Some even argue, sanctions do in fact deliver a death blow to fledgling opposition in certain cases! Hence, there is no problem in analyzing all sides of the equation, with a little bit of courtesy and sensitivity to each other. I admire Ghezae if he is the type of person you describe, however he would help if he reins in those types of outbursts as “B/S” and “bury him in his hole” form of lambasting. Cheers.

        • b’Alti dragon w’qatto (As in a girl with a dragon tattoo).


          Ma bad. I must have overlooked the “Sonny” thing on Ghezae’s part. As for those languages you find a bit uncourteous, I guess editors need to filter them out.

          I would say, you and I are pretty much on the same page except that, I am for sanctions without further ado and you seem to have reservations on the technicalities. As much as it is your prerogative to see them from a different perspective, there is no need to second guess your “motives” or trace your GPS if you’re coming from or I sure respect that. To opine is divine and to differ is human.

          • haile

            b’Alti dragon w’qatto

            Thank you dear sister. I must say you have put it eloquently. As to the GPS bit, it really doesn’t matter. Because at the end of the day it is what we think and do that matters more than where we visit. But thanks again.

            PS; since I notice you are tending to “curious” questions, ab Mintayki eyu zelo eti wuqato Ke?

      • Ghezae Hagos


        Nobody is shaming anyone about thier views, so to speak. I am merely frustrated and angry why some of us are still ambivalent and indecisive to own the sanctions, in spite of the monstrosity of PFDJ. When new comers to activism like Libyan students here in Canada, Egyptians and Syrians (who had way better regimes than ours btw) have innocently embraced for sanctions, we have yet to learn what it means to be exiled/activisits/ refugees. Do we need to see, as the rest of the world’s threshold, i.e., machette-yardstick of Rwanda genocide, or horse-ridden yardstick of Darfur? Do we need to see in some CNN hundreds of Eritreans lying in the streets of Massawa or Asmara to call-it- that-is-it-man-I-am-now-for-any-sanction-whatsoever?’

        We ‘intellectualize’ (to quote sister/brother beAlti Arwe Wuqato) too much and some us, like me found articles like the main one exasperating and unhelpful. It is like how-many-angels-in the eye of the needle! We are perishing. Perishing and perishing. We need to fight back in whatever way we can. had done its job in this sanctions front, may be more than its share especially considering it is a two activists foundation. I am more angry about the official opposition who could have done better job at embracing and owning the sanctions. I am very dissapointed at intellectuals that was formerly known as G-13 and others. Think of thier status, and connections; certainly if they embraced the passion of Libyan, Egyptian activists and intellectuals, our ‘stuggle’ by now be in better shape.

        P.S. It is not like hundreds are not dying inside Eritrea. It just that nobody is doing the body count.

        • Ghezae Hagos

          @beAlti Dragon Wuqato,

          Thanks for the rejoinder and succor. By the way, I have not read the book or the movie. But a suggestion how about the dragon changing it to ‘Arwe’ is the later too general?

          • b’Alti Arwe W’qatto (As in a girl with a dragon tattoo).


            I’ve been meaning to ask anybody in the forum what the Tigrigna version of a Dragon is. Thank you for the info. I sure will change it to Arwe. If you’re curious as you’ve an inquisitive mind, I am a sister. As it is the case most of the time, the book is more fascinating than the movie.

  • Kokhob Selam

    So, by now we should agree that the first and most important in removing PFDJ is the strong well organized opposition not sanction. then comes all other facilities you get including sanction or support from others. we should use every chance and lead our people inside and outside the country. PFDJ is even trying to use sanction for its advantage telling the innocent”the world is against our freedom and well being” in reality we should remember we are suppose to finish our problem even before the world put sanction. PFDJ’s removal needs practical action and sacrifice.

  • Dear Gezae,
    Let me state my position before I make my point. First I have advocated for SOT in 2009, may be we were four or five including YG at that time. I am for all round sanction (politically, economically, diplomatically). My argument is in the archive of public domain.

    Now let me come to your argument. You stated, “since the author is not an international lawyer or activist, I don’t give much credence or value to his analysis…” I don’t know what you want to say, but it sound that only an international lawyer or activist could argue or debate on the issue. Any legal document is evolved as a political document until it is dressed with legislative language. I think you will agree on this. The same can be said that “international law” is evolved as “international political-document” before it is dressed with legislative language. Therefore, one could argue from the political prospective, while another will try from the legal prospective. If I am not wrong the author is trying to argue from the political prospective and he is weighing the resolution in terms its possible impact on the regime. What we have to do, is to argue that sanction is always incremental in the way it passes, and that we will continue to push and build on it. There are many ways to challenge his argument. Don’t be frustrated.

  • Ghezae Hagos

    I can’t pull a YG kind of intro or synthesis but here is a brief message.

    A poor guy finds 2023 dollars in a road. He knows he really can use the money. In stead of appreciating and owning it, he whines he didn’t get the money according to the way he was looking for it. He whines he wanted more than that. He whines and whines.

    The author of the article ( a very good writer, unfortunately) is a BIG TIME WHINER. In fact, if I am not resisting (successfully) the paranoid in me, I would have accused the writer as you-know-who.

    One thing is clear: The author is against the UNSC sanction. Period. Now who are these in the ‘opposition’ who argue against the sanction???

    1. The author makes many contradictory statements. I will mention the glaring ones. In the one hand he is saying UNSC Resolution 2023 doesn’t go too far in sanctioning the regime and explicilty banning 2% extortion tax and investment ban on the mining operations. Then in the other hand, he is whining the Resolution doesn’t adderss the homefront (the human rights situation inside Eritrea itself); so it is ulitmately irrelevant to unseating Issayas. I have one question: what if the resolution was very, very strong; but it wouldn’t still address the human rights concerns. I contend the author would still be against it. So it is not the strength or weakness of the resolution that he is concerned about, it is other issues which is ok. It just that he had to be clear; fillers, or ‘-another-reason-that-I-am-not-kinda’ arguements are pure sophisty we can not indulge in. I mean we should NOT.

    They say there is one driving motive to any arguement, decision or action. The rest we call them reasons.

    In General, our opposition as our people don’t know what we want. We think we do but we don’t since we don’t recognise it when it comes along. In 2007, when the US Dept. wants to put Eritrea as a state sponsor of terrorism, which plausibly would have helped our ‘struggle’, even those vocal and cocky in the opposition showed luke-warm reaction to it or opposed it from outright. EDA, Awate were in the list. Especially Saleh Younis was and has been until recently the worst. The so-called naunced position. When UNSC 1907 came, almost similiar reaction.

    Now, we have a much better version of a sanction and people like the author are whining saying it’s not enough to it doesn’t mention the despotism at home.

    I have news and question for you sir. Do YOU (or the OPPOSITION) EVER, I MEAN EVER HAVE CAMPAIGNED FOR sanctions against PFDJ on THE GROUND OF GROSS VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS? I didn’t THINK so. So what makes you think reap what you did not sow? Work for it and when you didn’t get, you may legitmately whine? If not, just be content you find 2023 dollars on the street and be wise how to use them…BTW, since you are not an international lawyer or activist, I don’t give it much credence or value to you analysis how 2023 language is weak and totally useless. That is B/S.

    To surmise: as long as our diaspora oppostion doesn’t campaign the way Syrian, Egyptian, or Libyans did and call for sanctions, we have absolutely no standing (moral or otherwise) to complain about UNSC 2023. I said we have no right. We can only whine the way the author did in his eloquent lamentations.

    The best way is this. Agitate, organize the oppostion to call for strict sanctions against PFDJ and do it effectively; involve the media (not scribbling at; find politicians and activists who could take up your cause (think this is the world’s worst ever tyranny); lobby with driven motive to make your wails heard…persist until you get the message across and the international community is willing to sanction a la Gaddaffi or Al-Assad.

    But what we have is this: The world’s worst dictator welcomed by 5,000 supporters in New York Time. When the UNSC, based on the legitimate regional security concerns exert further sanctions, we who call ourselves the opposition whine it neither went to the necessary length nor did it address our internal concerns. What a bunch of myopic lazy-a## are we!

    Don’t try to reap what you didn’t ATTEMPT to sow. Don’t whine when you didn’t do anything to get the desired results in the language the international community understands. We are still in ice age (may be stone age) when it comes to activism and lobbying.

    BTW, since the author is not an international lawyer or activist, I don’t give much credence or value to his analysis how 2023 language is weak and totally useless. That is pure B/S.

    To repeat: they say there is one driving motive to any arguement, decision or action. The rest we call them reasons. The author’s seemingly good reasons are useless platitudes and sophistries. Who needs em? I prefer the sactions!

    • haile

      @Ghezae Hagos

      It would not be polite for me to answer your questions, as they are directed to the writer of the article. However, I couldn’t help but perplexed by your rush to belittle the analysis presented (in a rather insensitive way) based on an argument for the sake of one. Your opening analogy contrasts the actions of an opportunistic individual vs a principled one. Sadly, you seem to favor the former and deride the latter for having constructive approach to problem solve. The writer above has cited his previous article as to his stand on the issue of sanctions. So, given his principles are well established in advance, your ‘freebie cash on the spot’ analogy appears to be somewhat mute.

      • Ghezae Hagos


        First of all, have a good understanding between an ‘opportustic’ and a ‘principled’. So, read the opening analogy again. Sorry, sonny, I have little apetite for ‘sensitivity’ and ‘for-the-sake-of-agruements’ kinda arguements.

        Then, yes I read his previous article. SO WHAT? you are burying him in his own hole. Sadly, two years later, after 1000s deaths in Mediterranean, after Sinai, after New York, after Issayas being at helm for another two years ( extrapolate it two years by the deaths, detentions, disappearacnes, destructions, decimations, of innocent and other d’s…since the Issayas’s PFDJ is ‘ab zufanu’), the author you are defending IS STILL AGAINST SANCTION….

        Give him five years…my best guess is still he is going to be against it.

        I have a lot to say why we should support UNSC 2023. But, again there is one driving motive to any arguement, decision or action. The rest we call them reasons.

        In the heart of my hearts and the gut of my guts, it is sincere belief that UNSC 2023 is the best defence against the Monster called PFDJ we, the voiceless, we the fat cats of Eritrean Diaspora opposition got without demanding it.

        It is not good enough, let us strive to make it one. But don’t belittle it!

        • haile

          @ Ghezae
          I admit your unconditional support to sanctions is self evident. In my view there is nothing wrong with that. However, it would make more sense to have proper grasp of risk-benefit analysis of what you seem to be betting on in an all or none style high stakes gambit (as in gambetto). Such, my friend (or my father) is what the writer has brought into debate. To take him head on is preferred, to counter him with your alternative analysis is tolerated, to equate his work to a certain farm animal’s excrement (as in B/S) calls your temperamental disposition to light. To square the circle, you have drawn knife unto other bystanders (awate…), that only exacerbates the concern about the sanity of individuals who seem to fight for human right and freedom of expression yet harbor a draconian style accusatory finger pointing on those who happen to opine differently (with”…I would have accused the writer as you-know-who…” type of salvo). So, my point is hold your horses, and if you don’t have time for this or that, you shouldn’t waste the precious little time you have on mingling someone else’s analysis with some thing else’s excrement.

          • b’Alti dragon w’qatto (As in a girl with a dragon tattoo).


            If I may interject, I would say, the reason the tyrant in Eritrea capitalizes on our perennial weakness and chronic indecisiveness is simply because he doesn’t have any qualms to punish the Eritrean people where his cruel hands are means to his stay in power.

            To be more precise, when we intellectualize and rationalize the stipulations of the sanctions, he throws more harm on the lives of the Eritrea people where his cruel hands have already debilitated the otherwise vibrant spirit of the people.

            There is no measurement of pain as such, that is, there is no reason to go way over board and claim that, the sanctions in the long run will hurt the common people on the ground when Isaias himself has inflicted so much pain and harm on the people more than the sanctions would otherwise cause more misery on the people.

            Moreover, Isaias is not opposing the sanctions because of moral imperatives or the dire consequences of the sanctions on the people, rather he is opposing the sanctions on their “merit” when he fully knows that he is guilty as the guy who steals from his own pocket.

    • Saleh AA Younis

      Selamat Ghezae:

      As a general rule, it is not a good idea to out-opposition anyone because for everyone you can pull the “where were you when I was on the righteous path”, there will be 10 others who will pull that card on you. Ironically, the Ghedli that every other dude finds easy to deride now had a very enlightened view about this: you were cheering for Haile Selasse and Mengistu yesterday but you have seen the error of your ways and want to serve the national cause? Come on in: merhaba.

      Three questions: are people allowed to ask two questions, (1) do sanctions ever work? and (2) if they work, what are the advantages and disadvantages to them? (3) what was’s position on sanctions?

      The answer to the first questions is yes and no. Obama spokesperson Carney was blustering about how his administration is going to punish Iran with more sanctions and the Washington Post conducted an analysis of the efficacy of sanctions: Rhodesia, South Africa, Libya, Cuba, Syria, Iran. I won’t bore you with the details, but here is the link for the answers (if you are interested):

      The advantages to sanctions are obvious: they open a new front on a stubborn regime; it puts it on the defensive; it drains its resources; the cries of its victims are amplified, etc. There are disadvantages: no matter how targeted, it will inflict collateral damage on the people. Just research how it has impacted the aviation industry in Iran and how long it takes the average Iranian to fly from Point A to Point B. And in some cases, where there is no strong internal opposition, the International sanctions committee becomes the de-facto opposition leader and then it goes around shopping for a Chalabi. Where sanctions have worked, like in Rhodesia and South Africa, it is precisely because they were were complementing a strong indigenous opposition. Where they have spluttered (see also Libya and North Korea and Cuba), it is because there was no organized indigenous opposition.

      The third answer: what was/is (and Saleh Younis who has been “the worst”:-) with respect to sanctions? For this segment, let me put my Aboy Fekadu hat because, you know, BaElom yna’adu::

      (a) We advocated for almost everything that ended up in 1907 (in 2009) about, oh, four years earlier (don’t quote me on exact date, but will pull it if necessary) as part of Eritrean Global Solidarity. Refer to Saleh Johar’s article on who was the engine behind EGS at its formation.

      (b) We opposed the designation of Eritrea as “state sponsor of terror” when the Bush Administration was floating it because we consider that categorization to be one of those sticks that destroys the reputation of a country and its people for generation without sufficiently targeting the regime. The state department and the UN have other designations that are regime-specific.

      (d) We want the development of a strong, organized opposition active in Eritrea because without it sanctions are going to be a nuisance to the regime but not enough to topple it (see also Libya, North Korea, Syria).

      (d) at some future date, a member of the Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea will write his memoirs, then you will learn what’s role was. But for now, be as skeptical as you like.

      In any event, Ghezae, I can see that you have placed all your eggs on the sanctions basket. You might want to diversify because that one has, at best, very mixed results. But God bless you for all you do but sanctimoniousness is not attractive trait:-)


      • Ghezae Hagos

        Selam Sal,

        The ultimate plea every exiled activist sends across boils down to one core: Since the regime in my home country is brutal and unresponsive, the international community should save my people by putting tighter sanctions on the regime. Period.

        The worse the regime, the urgent the plea; makes our message the urgent in the world.

        Otherwise, it is pointless to wail and write in the internets for decades about woes of your people. One might ‘diversify’ it writing in the blogs stictly for the converted or/and leaving it to all to the Almighty.

        It is elementary to argue sanctions have cons and pros. But when it comes to sanctioning the PFDJ regime, the pros are so well-known and so welcomed, it is ‘N’humto d’o Hto!’ Apparently some of us can argue that but-I-don’t- like-‘Hm’to.’

        It is very, very long overdue for sanctions against PFDJ. For a regime that is uniquely invested in Diaspora (as the now-defunct Tamil Tiggers LTTE) , our case for sanctions makes it, well very unique. And probably one of the best cases ever in the history of sanctions.

        I certainly applaud’s role in the latest rounds of sanctions. The literature it complied especially on UN Somali Monitoring Group is very helpful. Thanks for that. But isn’t sending a mixed message to argue sanctions may not work by giving the examples you mentioned and at the same time say we-were-for-sanctions since many years? Why call for something that you know may not work in first place or at ‘best has very mixed results’ to quote you?

        I would like also to know about your distinction between “Bush Adminstration” attempt to designate Eritrean regime on State Sponsor of Terrorism” and that of State Department. For all I know, there is one list that is prepared by US Department of State and it designates in its list the State Sponsors of Terrorism. When it comes to Eritrea’s PFDJ, it was Jendayi Frazer who mentioned it and Ed Royce called for it. So would you elaborate on this? You certainly left me bewildered.

        Finally, for any diaspora-based activist, to repeat, sanctions are what he or she all along inherently pleads for, not withsanding THE DEGREE of their effectiveness. Whether you meant it or not, your volumnious articles at pointed towards that.

        My unsolicited advice, dear Sal, (which I guess I mentioned it and I don’t believe it is lost on you too) is you may need (and we would all benefit from) to diversify your advocacy by taking your writing talents to prominent foreign medias. Writing in strictly-for-locals-only websites is not worth the efforts, not after all these years; here I don’t mind if you put me in the list too.

        • Saleh AA Younis

          Selamat Ghezae:

          Your questions deserve a more detailed response than what I am able to give right now, but here is an appetizer:

          (a) The State Department had a more precise categorization that was more targeted than “State Sponsor of Terror.” It was Outpost of Tyranny ( One labels the State and the other the regime. In post 9-11 world, terror = Islamic terror. I am sure you know the ramifications of that to 50% of your compatriots. It would be a label that harasses 9,999 people to get to 1 person.

          (b) Sanctions weaken authoritarians for reasons I gave, but they do not topple them unless there is a strong, unified opposition. To state this is not to send a mixed signal; it is just a simple statement of fact. The disappointing thing about your response is that you did not engage the author of the article (who wrote a thoughtful piece), not to mention the equally thoughtful comments by Haile (“There are current research in the area of bilateral and multilateral sanctions. The latest understanding, sadly, is that sanctions are ineffective by in large (some literature put success rate less than 20% under comprehensive sanctions.”) You do not appear as interested in persuading people: you are not refuting any of their arguments, you are, I am sorry to say, simply moralizing and trying to shame them to agree with you. You are better than that.

          (c) It is counter-productive to denigrate the means Eritreans use to oppose the regime by using the words the PFDJ uses to mock what they do (mHinTat or, in your words, scribbling.) What you are doing here, now, is scribbling: it just happens you are doing it about something you are passionate about (sanctions.) Those who do not feel as strongly about it as you do are not wrong: it is just not what they feel passionately about. Some write at Eritrean websites, some at foreign media, some petition, some demonstrate, some organize Arbi Harnet at facebook, some rail at Paltalks, some broadcast at radio stations, some are carrying arms. They are all valid and legitimate means of struggle. Just like those who are focused on organizing Eritreans are not hectoring you for not “doing your part”, you should not try to shame people into not doing what you are doing or agreeing with you that that is the most effective way to bring about the downfall of the PFDJ. Ideally, all campaigns would all be under one umbrella, but until they are, moral bullying is not helpful. I thought the peaceful-vs-armed non-choice was a tiresome and unnecessary debate but you are introducing an even more pedantic approach: if we write for locals at locals only website, it is not worth the effort. You are free to believe that, but please do be a kind citizen (smile) and tolerate those who believe otherwise–considering that the overwhelming majority of the formerly-pro-Isaias-but-now-opposition members made the journey courtesy of the for-locals-only websites, radio stations and chat rooms.

          (d) I guess it is official now: The Kind Citizen column, which appears at a strictly-for-locals-only website (awate) is retired. As a common courtesy, you might want to say farewell to its fans, since it was introduced with such huge fanfare–and I know you know what I mean.

          All the best,


          • haile

            @ Saay

            Thanks for clarifying the issue. I find your humble introspection to the point and clear (please don’t go into detailed answers, save that for one of your next great articles!). It appears to me that some of us have taken the removal of PFDJ as an end in itself. If I use an analogy, one doesn’t assemble a cart and a horse but then carry the load on their own back regardless! Ghezae seems to institute a democracy that grants freedom of speech only to those presumed loyal to guard the views of its granters. I say, we ought to fight for democracy, and democracy itself will fight for everything that we aim to accomplish through it. Tolerance of differences is the basic mode of conduct in such a fight.

          • Ghezae Hagos

            Selam Sal,

            1. You could say as Amanuel Hidrat invoked I am more frustrated than actually morally bullying or hectoring. I don’t mind be taken as such or even angry.

            We are exiled refugees and our nation is bleeding at the hand of the Worst Dictator in the World. This is the basic premise. No the most urgent fact that we face first thing in the mornining. In the washroom mirror.

            Now, what is our reaction?

            We live in Diaspora; thus our options are limited. To add to our woes, our tormentor is heavily relies on the support of its Diaspora groups. It is upto us, the Diaspora opposition, to use whatever at our disposal to confront Diaspora satellites of PFDJ, its funders, mining companies etc.. To do that, in such a desperate (may be losing) fight (as one fights a recidivist, experienced burgular) one can’t have the luxury of choosing weapons or belittle them. You fight with whatever you put your hands on.

            Hence, the sanctions. Hence my distrust to the author of the article. Hence my distrust and dislike to anyone or group which disses or ‘thoughtfully’ (which is much more dangerous than ‘viva Issayas! unE-SMART, Meskerem-PFDJ lingo) possibly the only leverage we have ever recieved so far in confronting PFDJ satellites. The author you are defending however warned the opposition however not use them as ‘political leverage’ because it was unwise.

            Even EPDP which has tempered reaction to the first round of sanctions, came more forceful supporter in this round. Weldeyesus said this resolution will help in curbing the fundraising capabilities of PFDJ. The author of the article called it however, ‘as a rather lame initiative predicted to only minimally impact the Eritrean regime.’

            2. I have no qualms to criticise (not denigrate brother) our M.O. In many ways, our disproportionate reliance on ‘for-the locals-only’ mediums, (the websites and paltalks) has made us pitiful, unfocused, uncivilized and sorry a bit retrograde as activists go. We have a myriad of tools at our disposal, especially in engaging foreign media, NGOs and governments. And few of us using them; most who could do better, are merely ‘scribbling’ or ‘ranting’.

            This is post Sinai world, and our anger and committment should scale notches up.

            3. I believe your distinction between ‘Outposts of Tyranny” and “State Sponsor of T” is weak. If we get both, better. It was misguided calculation to assert putting in the List of SSOT would harm our Muslim compatriots. Giving the dividends the opposition would derive (again you can see the ramification again for Diaspora-based regime as PFDJ), the ‘collateral damage’ that may befall would be negligible. Besides, we are talking about a so-called secular/Christian regime being on the list of SSOT. Also, we have SSOT list include considerably Muslim nation. The activists and dissidents that supported them are also overwhelmingly Muslims; so I don’t see why our Muslim compatriots would not support PFDJ being on the list of SSOT.

            4. On my column: Of course I am going to be writing and writing and writing, as God allows me, chiefly because I like it. I even had semi-finished ones that needs final touching (my favorite is Water is thicker than Blood: A call for Ibrahim Haroun of RSADO.)

            My contention is we are spending our part-time activisim, our little energies on something that doesn’t bother PFDJ. Issayas reportdely said, “B’ internet z’wed’q mengsti yelen!”

            Yes, one can say ‘B’Sanction S’wed’q mengsti yelen’ but I think all of us can agree it does better job at jolting PFDJ and its Diaspora apparatus. For once, for instance, the king of Eritrea was forced to wake up from his throne and explain himself in the tribunal of UNSC.

            All the best,

          • Saleh AA Younis

            Selamat Ghezae:

            1. I agree with your point that “one can’t have the luxury of choosing weapons or belittling them. “You fight with whatever you put your hands on” as you said, which is quite Rumsfeldian of you (“we go to war with the army we have” 🙂 For you, the preferred weapon is sanctions. For others, it is a different weapon. They shouldn’t belittle your weapon, and you shouldn’t belittle theirs. The difference was in the tone: the author of the article we are discussing said “I persist in the belief that it is unwise to accord disproportionate importance to sanctions as a form of political leverage” whereas you…well, you know what you said. I wish you had spent your energy trying to convince them (us) of your point of view with something like: since our resources are finite, it is better to spend it on x rather than y. Anger, outrage, frustration are not good arguments, whatever the relief they provide to the outraged.

            Since we are quoting Isaias, he also said that the message he gave the YPFDJ at Nakfa was “nqah, tewedeb, Eteq”: raise your consciousness, organize and be armed. Then he qualified it with “when I say armed, I don’t mean weapons.” Contrast that with those (you know who) who have substituted Eteq (positive) with Gonets (negative) simply because, in my opinion (because a transformation that radical could not have happened in one year) some NGO told them “Eteq” is so passe–even if it means the same definition they are using now to dismiss causes for armed struggle could easily apply to Eritrea in 1961. But that is a different subject. So, yeah, I say the opposition is timid even in its messaging.

            2. There are many things the opposition must be, and one of them is intellectually honest and have a vision slightly ahead of the tip of our noses. Ever since the State Sponsor of Terror (SSOT) label was created, and the terror industry started mushrooming, all sorts of organizations have been labeled “terrorists” including the Eritrean Liberation Front and the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front. I believe a few years ago Osman Saleh (the foreign minister) was denied entry to Canada because he was on the “terrorist list” for being a veteran of the EPLF. Is that the sort of slippery slope we in the opposition want to embrace? Since SSOT was invented, it has been a small club which included Cuba, Iran, Sudan, Syria, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, South Yemen. The first four are still on the list, the last four have been removed from the list. Cuba exports more terror than North Korea? Do we just take any crap, even if it doesn’t pass our smell test, because it will “help our cause”? Since the whole focus of this struggle is directed to the Eritrean people, does their opinion of us matter at all or do we say “let’s just deliver you from evil, and we will worry about the rest later?” The author of the article we are debating argued that “it is what big companies and corporations say and want that the bulk of politicians duly comply with, and that, I believe, needs to be taken into account when dealing with Resolution 2023.” Do you disagree? What do you think will be the impact on Resolution 2023 once China owns a mining company and partners with the PFDJ? And, in that light, isn’t the author’s premise that “Conceding that the imposition of sanctions on the Eritrean regime cannot be deemed as the all-important criterion to the consummation of the desired change, what the opposition needs to guarantee is the indigenisation of its resistance. In other words, any self-respecting national opposition movement must disproportionately rely on the Eritrean masses to eventuate positive change” right on point.

            What some of us are saying, Ghezae, is in the tool kit we use to defeat the PFDJ, the sanctions should play a supportive role because, despite all our efforts, those imposing the sanctions could arbitrarily change their mind because the REASONS for their imposition of the sanctions have little or nothing to do with our cause.

            On the disproportionate impact that SSOT will have on the Muslim population of Eritrea, I don’t think you appreciate the level of fear that has gripped the West when it comes to Muslims. And how, under duress, a depressingly large percentage of people who are being targeted by the scary Security Apparatus throw principles to the wind: the Christian will say “I am not a Muslim!” and the Muslim will say, “I am not really a practicing Muslim!” I don’t want to personalize this but did you forget how the PFDJ had divided up its opposition into two categories: Christians were accused of being weyane and Muslims were accused of being Jihadists? (Some of us were in the elite club: we were weyane AND Jihadists:-) Did you forget how, in 2003, when Bush’s justice department listed Eritrea as “predominantly Muslim” which is “harboring terrorists”, the so-called Organization of Eritrean Americans actually said “…charges have been heard that Christians tend to dominate because the top leadership the last half-century has been largely from that side” wink wink?

            That is too old information for you? Ok, here’s a very recent video of an Eritrean being held at Heathrow Airport with a large amount of cash. You can find his defense at the 4:29 mark (“I am not a criminal, I am a Christian man.”)


            All the best,


  • The secular socialist republic

    “one rarely hears of sanctions as succeeding in toppling governments.“

    Very interesting article, I really enjoyed it. I would like to comment on the sentence I quoted from this article:
    As a matter fact, international sanctions never succeed to weaken dictatorial regimes vis-a-vis their oppositions. Various examples can be found;
    – Iraq was under sanctions for ten years before Saddam Hussein was evicted from power, but during those years, no Iraqi opposition party or organization was able to strengthen its positions and even the Baathist regime was strengthened, using the famous Arab Socialist Motto: The Arab masses are denied progress by the Western Imperialists.
    – Cuba has been under US sanctions for the last forty years, and yet the Cuban regime was reinforced because it advocated that it was struggling hard to improve the life of Cubans, despite all obstacles put in place by the US government.
    Many other examples (Iran, N.Korea, Sudan, Syria) can be found, therefore the real impact of sanctions is that it’s WEAKENING the popular opposition to dictatorial regimes. Somehow opposition parties need to work harder to unite the desperate masses oppressed by awful regimes.

  • haile

    Well written analysis. The focus has been more of the link between organic opposition vs sanctions/interventions. There are current research in the area of bilateral and multilateral sanctions. The latest understanding, sadly, is that sanctions are ineffective by in large (some literature put success rate less than 20% under comprehensive sanctions), they undermine the opposition to the target regime and strengthen and entrench the target regime (economically (black market) and politically (providing a rallying excuse)), and can be costly to the sponsors (the UN is required to compensate trade partners of the targeted regime (by its charter) and loss of trade to bilateral sponsors, and post sanction costs to NGO must be factored in). Hence, overall a good piece I would concur, but somehow detached from the subject matter ‘sanction’ somehow and lacks clear link to up to date research literature to back up the assertions made here in. Thank you.