“When mutiny came to Eritrea”

Al Jazeera’s Inside Story devoted 25 minutes of air time discussing Eritrea. The ‘Mutiny’ seems to have made ripples in the international community as well as among Eritreans. Not that the international reach is as important but still very important.

Was the latest challenge to President Isaias Afawerki’s rule just a taste of things to come? Inside Story with presenter Shiulie Ghosh discusses with Abdurrahman Elsayyid, from the Eritrean National Democratic Forces – a pro-democracy network committed to the advocacy and promotion of human rights; Jason Mosley – an associate fellow for the Africa Programme at Chatham House; and Kwaku Nuamah, an assistant professor at the American University’s School of International Service.

 

What would a coup mean to an Eritrean

“Troops deployed in Asmara”  the BBC headline reads, “Eritrea troops lay siege to ministry” Al Jazeera reports. Transfer of power through election process makes more news in Africa than the traditional coup d’état. Honouring this truly post-colonial African tradition Eritrea is trying to follow suit, or so it seems.

The news is still developing means  a lot of contradicting news and opinions are emerging all over the internet. According to an Eritrean opposition radio Assenna, Eritrean army led by military generals has controlled the Ministry of Information, the Airport, the National Bank and the Presidential palace possibly placing the President under arrest. Others like the New York Times say the ‘coup’ may have failed already. The Al Jazeera Arabic report even tells of the assassination of the leaders of this coup by snipers.

This news has all my Eritrean friends (self included) excited and eager for more news. So far I was unable to access prominent Eritrean opposition web pages, most likely they crashed due to high traffic.

What is it about this news that makes it specially personal in the hearts of many Eritreans?

What would it mean if this coup indeed succeeds and the dictatorship of 22 years ousted? What is it about this news that makes it personal in the hearts of many Eritreans? We know what it will not mean. A change in government may not mean an automatic democracy, it may not mean immediate social or economic reform, it certainly will not bring back our loved ones who have fallen victims to the dictatorship. But it is not healthy to focus just on what the fall of PFDJ does not mean. I want to talk about what the fall of this regime would mean and why this news has a deep and personal meaning to many Eritreans.

To many, the fall of the dictatorship  means a chance to meet their fathers or their sons and daughters who have been in prisons and labour camps for years now. To many it would mean a chance–a hope to have their beloved husbands back.

To Ms. Bisirat the fall of PFDJ would mean she may finally get a chance to hug her sister Aster Yohannes one more time. To the young daughter of Fr Tekleab Menghisteab the fall of the government would mean that she will finally get to know what it feels like to have a father at home. To the many persecuted Churches it will mean that they will finally congregate in buildings and their choirs actually sing.

To that young girl  interviewed by Al Jazeera on 2009 it probably means she will no longer have to describe her life as, “We’re always getting bad things here. Bad life.”  She may never again have to say the heart breaking words, “I want to live in London … until I’m dead.”

These and multitude of similar stories are what I believe give  talk of a regime change in Eritrea  such a personal and deep meaning in the hearts of many.

Eritrea according to the government

coat_of_arms_of_eritrea

Oh, the things the Eritrean government would have us believe! The problem with lying is though, it is hard to be consistent.

Eritrean government propaganda are so outrageous that both, critics and supporters of the government often tune down or modify government propaganda in an effort to make the claims seem less insane.

Critics often  ‘moderate’ the government’s statements in order to make them reasonable enough to be critiqued (for the governmnet’s claims are silly beyond that possible to criticize).

For example, people (on both sides) often moderate the government’s claim about Eritrean refugees just so that they can have an intelligent argument about it. The actual stand of the government is, however, that there are no emigrants leaving Eritrea. Certainly not in numbers that would warrant a government response or even consideration. Even using the term “refugee” is inappropriate. The President and many of his officials have now and again explained: the very reason anyone would bring up “refugees” as an Eritrean issue is trying to defame “Eritrea” by bringing up irrelevant issues, or has fallen victim to the international conspiracy against Ertirea.

“What is the reason for the collapse of Eritrean economy? Failed government policy or foreign intervention ?” A topic that is often bitterly debated by both sides. But according to the government, Eritrea does not have such an economic issue to begin with. Infact all indications (published by the government) show a rapid, promising development. Just take a look at front page of Eritrean newspaper: Infrastructure, industry, agriculture, trade, the environment, anything really, all is well thanks to the government and people. Claiming that the government officially acknowledges the economic difficulty (let alone crisis) is simply inconsistent with all of what the government is officially claiming.

I think both, the supporters and the opposition should stop modifying and moderating government claims. Let the real image show.

Eritrea: the authorized version

Below are some random points that characterize Eritrea according to official claims by  the government.

  • Truly democratic: In fact the government repeatedly expresses disgust in African governments, we are not even in the same league to compare our democracy.
  • Perfect country: A growing country where the political system and the natural wealth is the envy of everyone in Africa and even in the so-called ‘developed’ world.
  • Perfect government: Rule of law and justice characterizes the political culture of the current government.
  • Perfect foreign policy: Eritrean foreign policy is characterized by its strong believe in peace, negotiation, mutual respect and honesty.
  • Perfect economic policy: Self-reliance and food security stand out bold in all economic policy and planning. Fairness and hard work are the trademark of Eritrean development policies.
  • Not secretive to its people: Transparency defines the past, the present, and the future practices of the government.
  • Warasi-Yikalo  campaign is saving the nation: The campaign was instituted only because it was (and still is) necessary  to ensure development and equity. Period.
  • The United States is “obsessed” with Eritrea: The reason we went to war with Ethiopia in 1997 was the work of the United States. They were worried because we were setting an example of development without foreign aid/intervention.
  • The United States is really obsessed with Eritrea: The so-called dissidents and opposition in diaspora are on CIA payroll. Why would they spread lies about Eritrea if that was not the case?
  •  The United States is really, really obsessed with Eritrea: The  ill rumor that President Isaias died was deliberately started by the United States government.

“The difference between genius and stupidity is; genius has its limits.” ― Albert Einstein

ጉዳይ ናይ ኢንተርነት ትሮል

ዓበይቲን ልዙባትን ሰባት አብ ዝመያየጡሉን ሓበሬታ ዝቀያየሩሉን ናይ ኢንተርነት ገጻት: ኮነ ኢልካ ዕግርግር ምፍጣር ኣብ ኤርትራውያን ጥራይ ዝተወሰነ ኣይኮነን:: እኳ ደኣ ኣዝዩ ዘስፋሕፍሐ ተርእዮ ኮይኑሲ አብ መዝገበቃላት ቛንቛ ኢንግሊስ “ትሮሊንግ” ዝብል ስም ተዋሂብዎ::

ብዛዕባ ትሮል ንምርዳእ: ከምቲ ልሙድ መጀመርያ ን ውክፔድያ እየ ተወኪሰ:-

“In Internet slang, a troll is someone who posts inflammatory,extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”

ብመሰረት መዝገበ-ቃላት ትግርኛ: “inflammatory”: “ኣነዳሪ፡ ኣቖጣዒ፡ ኣረሳሳኒ” ክትርጎም ከሎ: “extraneous” ከኣ “ዘይዛመድ ወይ ግዳማዊ” ይትርጎም:: ስለዚ ትሮል ማለት:- አብ ናይ ኢንተርነት መርበብ: ከም ርእይቶ ዝጸሓፍ: ኮነ ኢልካ ንኣንበብቲ ብምቑጣዕ ናብ ባእስን ዕግርግርን ንምእታው ዝግበር ኣረሳሳኒ ጽሑፍ እዩ:: ዕላማ ትሮል ነቲ ዝነበረ ዝርርብ ኣርእስቱ ብምስሓት ናብ ከንቱ ምምልላስን ክትዕን ንምእታው እዩ::

ሕጽር ብዝበለ: ኣብ ኢንተርኔት ትሮሊንግ ማለት ንሰባት “ምርሳን” ማለት እዩ:: እቲ መራሰኒ ዝጽሕፍ ግለ-ሰብ: ወይ ውን ነቲ መራሰኒ ጽሑፍ ከኣ “ትሮል” ንብሎ ማለት’ዩ::

መራሰኒ ጽሑፍ ክዕወት እንተኾይኑ ከማልኦ ዘለዎ ነጥብታት አሎ:-
(1) ኣንበብቲ ኮነ ኢሉ ብተንኮል ዝተጻሕፈ ጽሑፍ ምዃኑ ክፈልጥዎ የብሎምን:
(2) ንኣንበብቲ ከነድሮም እሞ ነቲ መራሰኒ ንክምልሱሉ ወይ ውን ንኸረድኡዎ ኢሎም አብ ከንቱ ምምልላስ ክኣትዉ:: ከምኡውን ብሕርቃን ዘይ-ውርዙይ ዘረባን ኣዘራርባን ከርእዩ አለዎም::

በዚ ኸምዚ እቲ አራሳኒ አብቲ ገጽ ዝነበረ ቁምነገር: ኣርእስቱ ከም ዝስሕት ይገብር:: እቶም ዝተዓሸው ሰባት ብሕርቃን ብምዝራብ ርዝነት ሓሳባቶምን: ክብረቶምን ከም ዝጎድል ይኸውን:: ከምኡድማ በቲ ስምዒታዊ ዘረብኦም ዝጉዳእ አንባቢ ‘ውን አይሰኣንን::

መራሰንቲ ብውልቂ ጥራይ ዘይኮኑስ ሓንሳብ ሓንሳብ ብ ጉጅለ ይዓዩ እዮም: እዚ ተግባር “colluding” ይብልዎ:: ነዚ ንምግባር መጀመርያ ካብቶም መራሰንቲ ሓደ ፈሊጡ ብግልጺ ዘቖጥዕ መራሰኒ ጽሑፍ/ርእይቶ ይጽሕፍ:: እቶም መሻርኽቱ ከኣ ተቐቢሎም: ልክዕ ከም ተራ አንበብቲ ተመሲሎም ነቲ መራሰኒ ጽሑፍ ክድግፉን ምስ ካልኦት ክካትዑን ይጅምሩ:: በዚ ኸምዚ ናይ ምርሳን ዕላምኦም የተግብሩ::

ኣብዚ ከምዚ ዝበለ አምላኽ ዘይፈትዎ ስራሕ ዝነጥፉ ሰባት ከመይ ዝበሉ እዮም? ካብቲ በዚኦም ዝመጽእ ጉድኣትከ ብኸመይ ንከላኸል? ብዙሓት ሊቃውንቲን ሰብ ሞያን ነዚ ሕቶታት’ዚ ቅድሜና ሓቲቶም’ዮም::

ንመራሰንቲ ዘተባብዖም ነገር: ኣብ ኢንተርኔት ሓቀኛ መንነቶም ስለዘይጥቀሙ: አይንፍለጥን ኢና ዝብል አተሓሳስባ እዩ:: ካብዚ ብምብጋስ: አካያዲ ስራሕ ፌስ-ቡክ ነበር ኣቶ ራንዲ ዙከርበርግ ከምኡውን ሓላፊ ጉግል ኣቶ ኤሪክ ሽሜት: ብ “ብርዒ-መንነት” ተጠቒምካ ርእይቶ ምጽሓፍ ጠሪሱ ክኽልከል አለዎ ዝብል ርእይቶ አቕሪቦም ኔሮም:: እንተኾነ ብዙሓት ሰባት ናይ ብርዒ-መንነት ምክልኻል ዝብል ሓሳብ ብትሪ ይቃወምዎ::

ናይ ብርዒ-መንነት ምኽልካል ማለት: ንድምጺ ብዙሓት ምስጢር ዓመጽቲ ዘቃልዑ (whistle-blowers) ከምኡ ውን ንዓማጺ ስርዓት ዝቃወሙ (dissidents) ምዕባስ እዩ ኢሎም ከኣ ይምጉቱ::

ንውዲት መራሰንቲ ብኸምይ ንከላኸል?

ኣቶ ማይክ ድራክ* ዝተባህለ ሓደ ናይ ኮምፑተር በዓል ሞያ: “ንመራሰንቲ ናብልቦም ንምምላስ ብፍቕሪ ክትሓቑፎም ጥራይ’ዩ ዘድሊ:” ይብል: “ምኽንያቱ አብ ናይ ምርሳን ስራሕ ዝዋፈሩ መሳኪን: ብንእስነቶም ፍቕሪ ዘይጸገቡ ‘ዩም” ኢሉ ሓውሲ ቀልዲ ጌሩ ይምዕድ::

ውዲት መራሰንቲ ንምፍሻል: እዘን ዝስዕባ አርባዕተ ሓበሬታታት ኣዝየን ጠቐምቲ እየን:-

ሸለል ምባል:: ንኣንባቢ ከቖጥዕ ኢሎም ዝጸሓፍዎ ርእይቶ: ከም ዘየለ ሸለል ምባሉ ን መራሰንቲ ዝዓበየ ጽፍዒት እዩ::

ኣብ ክትዕ አይትእቶ:: እንተደአ ምስ ሓደ መራሰኒ ከይከውን ዝጠርጠርካዮ ሰብ ክትመላለስ ጀሚርካ: ርእይቶኻ ብዝተኻእለ ጭብጢ ዘለዎን ነቲ ቀንዲ ዘልዓልካዮ ነጥቢታት ዘነጽርን ጥራይ ግበሮ:: ኣስተውዕል ትጽሕፎ ዘሎኻ ርእይቶ ንኻልኦት አንበብቲ ውን’ዩ:: መራሰኒ ሰብ መብዛሕትኡ ግዜ ኣብ ካልኣይ ወይ ሳልሳይ መልሱ እንዳነጸረ ክመጽእ’ዩ:: አብ ከምዚ እዋን ምምልላስ ተቛርጽ::

ምእንቲ ከተድህበሎም ኢሎም ክምጉሱካ ከለው ተጠንቀቕ:: መብዛሕትኡ ግዜ ምእንቲ ከተድህበሎም እሞ ምስኦም ዘረባ ክትጅምር ኢሎም: መራሰንቲ ሓደ ክልተ ናይ ውዳሴ ቃላት ክጽሕፉልካ ተኽእሎ ኣሎ:: አስዒቦም ግና አነዳሪ መጥቃዕቶም ክጅምሩ ስለዝደለዩ እዩ::

ካብ ኣርእስቲ ዝቕይር ርእይቶ ተጠንቀቕ:: መራሰንቲ መብዛሕትኡ ግዜ ምስቲ ዘሎ ዝርርብ ዘይሳነ: ዘነድር ሓሳብ የምጽኡ:: ብተወሳኺ ብዛዕባ እቲ ዝዝረብ ኣርእስቲ ርእይቶ ወይ አፍልጦ ስለ ዝጎድሎም ካብ ሓደ አርእስቲ ናብ ካልእ ናይ ምንጣር ባህሪ የርእዩ:: ምስኦም ስቕ ኢልካ አይትውሓዝ::

መራሰንቲ ኣይትመግብ!

መራሰንቲ ኣይትመግብ!

For more on trolls I suggest this blog.

Mute and without opinion – Eritrean churches

[Article published at Awate.com with few edits]

“The church must be the guide and the critic of the State and never its tool.” writes Dr Martin Luther King Jr, outraged by the silence of many churches regarding racial injustice of his time. The church, or any religious institution for that matter, should not hope to earn favours or avert scorn from government by such means as self-censoring on issues that the government labels “politics”. Not when the issues are well within the domain of the church’s teachings. Dr King, in continuation, warns unless the church recaptures its position in society as a guide and critic of the state “…it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority.”1

No other institutions or organizations can claim as much influence on our language, customs and laws than our religious institutions. Almost every major node of the Eritrean life is influenced and marked by our religious belief; from birth to death and anything in between. Marriage, family, divorce, loss of a loved one, all are shaped by religious convictions and involvement of religious leaders and followers. The role of our religious institutions also extend to issues of global interest such the as spread of diseases, drought, famine, human rights issues, war and issues of environmental degradations to mention a few.

Regardless of many challenges throughout time, our religious institutions continue to render their services. They continue to be the source of inspiration, wisdom, hope and comfort to many. Unfortunately in the last two decades, manipulations of religious affairs by the current tyranny—I dare to say ‘internal threat to our religious institutions’—has tried to demolish all the above mentioned blessings and the positive images of our faiths consequently leaving many unsheltered.

The Church has opinions on what is right and what is wrong.

Almost half a century of Marxist style oppression has left religious institutions in Eritrean voiceless on a lot of issues that face our society today. Our religious institutions today have become silent and don’t seem to have an opinion, even on common-sense social and moral issues, especially if those issues are the sort that make the ruling party uncomfortable. I am particularly concerned with those smaller evangelical denominations. In my opinion these being the most persecuted by the government are yet the most silent in this regard.

There are of course situations where the silence of churches is understandable. The church may refrain from opinions simply because it is not well informed of the facts. It would be reckless of a church to base its understanding on information gathered from the news or social media. Other times the church may not respond simply because the issues are too trivial or irrelevant to its doctrines.

But there are plenty of other issues that are neither trivial nor irrelevant for the church to keep silent. Would you feel comfortable with a church deciding to keep its voice down in the midst of a genocide because the Rwandan authorities find it bad to their reputation? Would you find it appropriate of a Church to keep silent during the holocaust so as not to offend the Nazis? Do you think it is OK then for Eritrean churches to keep silent in the midst of arbitrary arrest, torture and murder of ordinary citizens.

I don’t believe the Church or church leaders should ‘spearhead’ freedom moments or even endorse any political organization, but it is only natural to expect the Church to spearhead on calling people towards honesty, justice, love and fear of God. These calls should be directed at the citizens, and equally at the leaders of the country.

How our country is administered should not only be left to non-believers.

The lack of sincere opinions on the part of Eritrean churches regarding the current government has left many practising Christians confused as to how to participate in Eritrean affairs. Many are not sure if they can reconcile activism with their faith. As a result of such confusion many of the devout have decided to stay clear of Eritrean ‘politics’. Many choose to focus only on short-term, ‘practical’ and politically ‘neutral’ activities. I am referring to activities that would directly affect themselves or their immediate families and friends only. I don’t know how one would square such a philosophy with the teachings of Christianity. Any activity we do to help even our immediate families can’t be politically neutral anyway. Not in the current Eritrea. In being practical to help our friends and family back home, we inevitably have to break Eritrean ‘government laws’—be it in smuggling in of currency, smuggling out of our loved ones, bribing Eritrean officials/prison guards, bribing Sudanese or Kenyan official to get papers, seeking asylum; the list is endless. If such actions are not considered dissidence and defiance to the Eritrean government, I don’t know what is.

I am not saying that Eritrean congregations lack sympathy to the suffering our people. I am just saying that many are unacceptably quiet about it. My concern is that many Christians are comfortable to restrict their activity only the spiritual side. They think that as men and women of faith, they should separate themselves from all the “dirty-politics” and just focus on spiritual activities such as prayer for Eritrea. There is nothing wrong with that,  just as there is nothing wrong with praying for the sick or the needy. But just as praying for the sick does not mean one forfeits the responsibility to actually help the sick, by the same measure, praying for Eritrea does not mean one forfeits the responsibility to actually take part in bringing about the change they are praying for. Prayer is never a reason for inaction.

Many Christian fellowships seem  to discourage  activism or involvement in opposition and dissident movements. But surely, works and prayer are NOT mutually exclusive. In fact both cannot be separated. If you ask someone to pray for the good of Eritrea, then they must also go about to do something for the good of Eritrea. No one has to be less of a Christian to be more of a citizen. Quite the contrary, the Christian faith demands responsible citizenship. An obedient Christian can be expected to be active in social, economic and political aspects of daily life and even join such associations. If a person has not learned to respect, tolerate and work with people of all faiths, he/she is not a good Christian after all.

Our confusion

A lot of such “confused” devout are comfortable with signing petitions to ask governments of Malta or Egypt or Israel, pleading on behalf of Eritrean refugees. Most find it acceptable to write sworn testimonies to friends seeking asylum, telling the host country of the credible threat to the life of their friend. Yet the same people are often very uncomfortable signing petition asking PFDJ to stop violence against Eritreans. Being silent about injustice is far from being neutral. We are responsible not only for what we say but also for what we do not say.

I would like to end with a quote from the book of Esther, where Mordecai senses hesitation of the queen—Esther—to plead with the king to stop the murder of her people throughout the Persian empire. Mordecai writes back to the queen starting with these words, “For if you keep silent at this time…”. He continues to warn her that her silence will be to the destruction of her household as well. I feel Eritrean churches (especially in diaspora) are also in a situation similar to the queen’s. For Eritrean churches to keep silent at a time like this is unacceptable.

I hope our churches will consider it their responsibility and speak-up with love and wisdom to abate the violence of our government to its own people. I also hope individuals will consider it their responsibility to be good citizens and fight for peace and justice. I left Eritrea two years ago and I remember many congregations there praying for an honest and God-fearing government. I hope that each of us will take it upon ourselves to be an answer to their desperate cry and invest our talent, time and money to ensure that evil does not continue to triumph in our land.

_______________________

References:
(1) Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love (Fortress Press, 1963)
(2) Book of Esther, (14:14 ESV)

ቃለመሕትት ፕረዚደንት ኢሳይያስ አፈወርቂ ብምኽንያት ሓድሽ ዓመት 2013/ His Excellency New Year Address

“ሓድሽ ዓመት” ትብል ተስፋ ዝመልኣ ቃል ምስ “ፕረዚደንት ኢሳይያስ” ዝብል ቃል ኣብ ሓደ መስመር ተጻሒፈን ክትርኢ ክፈጥሮ ዝኽእል ሕርቃን ኣሎ: ኣቐዲመ ይቕሪታ ይሓትት:: ጉዳይ እቲ ቃለመሕትት እንተደኣ ኮይኑ: ነዛ ስዒባ ዘላ ስእሊ ቀው ኢልካ ብምጥማት እትረኽቦ መጠን ሓበሬታ ካብቲ ነቲ ናይ ልዕሊ ሰለስተ ሰዓት ቃለመሕተት ብምክትታል እትረኽብዎ ሓበሬታ ዝተፈልየ አይኮነን:: ስለዚ እቲ ናይቲ ቃለመሕትት ስእሊ እንሆ:: ጠጥዑሙ::

So at first I thought I would provide you a link to the entire interview/lecture on youtube, I don’t know what I was thinking. I thought the interview would speak for itself why people like me don’t enthusiastically support His Excellency Admiral General. But naa, just enjoy this beautiful portrait of the interview. You will get more useful information eyeballing  this portrait than watching the plus three hours of ‘interview’ anyway.

interview