BY SIMON WELDMICHAEL
Assuming that the people of Eritrea are unable to think and analyze things on its own, some conspirators have been engaging in incessant dissemination of venomous and distorted information about Eritrea. Accordingly, exposing the hidden characters of the opportunists and the messengers of destruction who are doing their business in the name of Eritreans has a significance of its own.
It is not necessary to tell the truth to people who are not worthy of it. The aim of this article is, however, to help clear things up for those who love the truth. For most of our history, silence has been our preferred response. But sometimes silence seems to be mistaken for compliance and on occasion times demand for the speaking of the whole truth.
The so called “opposition groups and activists” based overseas are frequently blinded by profit and hatred. They often lack the wisdom to differentiate between personal animosity and national interest of Eritrea and above all between government and country.
Prof. Redie Bereketeab, in his excellent book, ‘State-building in Post-liberation Eritrea’, tells us that, “In reality many of the diaspora CSOs failed to qualify for genuine CS [status]. Some of them were, in the process, manipulated and hijacked by unscrupulous ambitious political elites. While others, from the very outset, were fronts for narrow political schemes and exploited the situation. Soon [they] showed their real faces by evolving into tools of sectarian, tribal and/or power hungry elites” (2009: 184-85).
Eritrean people under the leadership of the EPLF and then the government have regularly risen up with resolute determination to wipe out foreign colonization and internal obstacles from the face of Eritrea forever. Then what really are the ‘opposition’ working to achieve? To extinguish the torch of liberty and solidarity which we have kindled to lead to the full realization of our collective dreams? After the season of sowing – sowing of hatred, that is – what harvest have they promised us?
For years, the residue of history has trying to shatter the hard won national unity among Eritreans and the humble relationship between the people and the leadership. No one can say that Eritrea is perfect – at any of its levels – but our country and our leadership retain unparalleled public support. One may find fault with different issues, but never can our leaders’ resolute faith in Eritrean identity and nationalism be put into question. There is also one undeniable fact: it is the existing leadership that helped extricate Eritreans from the quagmire of disgrace to higher dignity.
The history of the EPLF is the history of Eritrean people. The history of resistance to Ethiopian expansionist kings – to use Stephen H. Longrigg’s words “barbarous, tawdry, ignorant, fiercely egoistical, capricious, kings” (Longrigg 1945: 19) – and the subsequent colonization with all its miraculous victories and drawbacks constitute a fundamental component of Eritrean history.
Attempts have been made by the some troubled individuals and groups to smear the patriotic episode of the Eritrean revolution, especially at the time during which the EPLF was standing as the sole front in the field. For these groups and individuals, forgetting and slandering the old becomes a prerequisite for manufacturing the new and when remembering the old, it is only done selectively and in distorted fashion.
Bereketeab said, “The hatred of the [so called] opposition groups towards the [government] in Asmara so blinded them that they seemed not to care whom they hurt.” He further highlighted the announcement of the so-called opposition groups during the Weyane offensive, which praised the invading army of Ethiopia, and described this announcement as, “An insult to those who were displaced, lost their property, raped and humiliated” (2009: 188).
Not only that, the so-called opposition groups often stood in diametric opposition to the genuine wishes of the masses of Eritrea. When Eritreans are pushing for the implementation of the final and binding decision of the EEBC and call for the international community to force Ethiopia to abide by the ruling, so-called opposition groups amazingly appealed to the European Union claiming that “Pressurizing Ethiopia [is] backing the agenda of what is generally being considered as a rogue regime [Eritrean]… The border settlement should in no way end up in the further consolidation of the dictatorship which, to many serious observers, is the hidden agenda of the regime” (Bereketeab 2009: 190).
In this regard, it becomes clear for all that the so-called ‘opposition groups’ chose to be loyal with the enemies of Eritrea, with the enemies of sovereignty and justice, than with the nation and people of Eritrea.
The Holy Bible tells us to “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits.”
Likewise, we should beware of these groups and individuals, who have used sugarcoated words, but have struggled long and hard to impose and continue the sanctions against Eritrea. They are also the ones that turn every stone to restrict development assistance to Eritrea from stakeholders and partners.
I am writing and wondering, not only about their criticism and opposition to government, but about their narrowness and imprudence of their decisions. In what way does the imposition of sanctions and restricting developmental aid help the people of Eritrea? Despite the testimony of Christine Umutoni, former UNDP Resident Coordinator in Eritrea, that “we’ve seen value for money and accountability [in Eritrea].”
Where is the basis arguing that the money will stay in the hands of government officials? Do they not know that the proud, principled and modest leadership of Eritrea who shun pomp and ceremony have few peers in Africa? The government and people of Eritrea recognize their deficiencies and are working to bring substantive and beneficial change. Then who is the instrument and who is the deterrent of change? Can any good for Eritrean people be found growing in the soil of our enemies? What good can we expect from a heart that devises wicked plans and feet that make haste to flight?
The tree of change and development, soaked in the blood and sweat of its pursuers, is growing steadily in Eritrea. The progress, although still far from our final aspirations, is observable and commendable, except for those who are wittingly blinded to see what is happening on the ground. The good thing is, however, facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored and denied. Denying the significant improvements ongoing in Eritrea is first of all a betrayal and secondly an insult to the industrious people of Eritrea.
A friend to the enemies of Eritrea can never be a thoughtful sympathizer to Eritrean people. Considerable evidence suggests that a number of states (e.g. US and Ethiopia) have long been the financiers, advisors, and directors much of the activism and opposition against Eritrea. The Tigrigna proverb “show me your friends and I’ll tell you who you are” is true seems particularly apt here.
One website issued a notable statement: “Ethiopia will increase support to Eritrean rebels seeking to overthrow the government of President Issayas Afewerki… In the past, Ethiopia has given refuge to some opposition groups and some limited support to the Eritrean resistance… Now support to the opposition will be strengthened further.” It is ridiculous for Ethiopia, unable to feed its own people and bring peace within her own borders, to invest significant capital and effort to empower these groups and individuals to disrupt the stability and unity of Eritrea.
The “activists” who have made a tidy profit in the process of working for the downfall of Eritrea are friends of Ethiopian officials and irresponsible anti-Eritrea personalities and journalists. For instance, one European “activist”, who has actually never been to Eritrea, made a poisonous statement regarding the border and identity of the two countries, essentially arguing for the dissolution of Eritrean independence: “the split between the countries [Eritrea and Ethiopia] is very artificial…We need Meles to play the role…to overcome the artificial separation.”
This grave chisel at the edifice of Eritrean separate and unique identity was well support by Meron Estifanos, who styles herself as a human rights activist and occasionally weeps crocodile tears. Activists and other groups working for “change and human rights in Eritrea”, despite their difference, are united by advocacy for Ethiopia, self-centered behavior, disrespect or disregard for Eritrean history, inability to differentiate between government and nation, and regularly celebrate any negative news associated with Eritrea.
Quite often, Eritrean opposition groups forget that they are Eritreans first and opposition second. Last year, “At a time [when] the EDF are battling an enemy that is threatening to take the town of Tserona, Meron Estifanos was quick to contact the New York Times and accuse Eritrea for starting the war. Meron did not even want to wait until the blood of our sisters and brothers dries up. She sees only one thing. The power and prestige that comes with associating herself with personalities that will help her to elevate her name at the cost of Eritrean fresh blood.” When the gallant Eritrean forces are fighting and bleeding to defend the invading army, she was the first to accuse Eritrea of invading Ethiopia – even before the Prime Minister and the Information Minister of Ethiopia!
In a recent article exploring the Italian investigation against human trafficking, “Operation Glauco”, this author reveals so-called Eritrean activists and opposition have regular and frequent contact with some of the most notorious and wanted smugglers and traffickers. In the article, one of the world’s most wanted traffickers is discussed as regularly in contact with a prominent Eritrean activist, and suggests that “One day, if I get caught, the truth will come out.” It is also quite telling that recently, news has broken that authorities in Italy have begun to look into another Italian-based religious Eritrean activist for his activities and contacts with criminals and traffickers.
The so called opposition groups and activists regularly and opportunistically exploit the plight of Eritrean migrants for their own nasty political ends. Migration was effectively manipulated as a weapon of defamation and deception. Migration, one of Eritrea’s challenges, was instead regarded as a heavenly sent political opportunity. No less than the former US president told us that “We’re partnering with groups that help women and children escape from the grip of their abusers.” Who are these partners, precisely? The so-called opposition groups? The activists? Who else? Saints and angels from the sky!
Notable blogger, Red Sea Fisher, in his article “The Trafficking Racket: The Eritrean “Activists” (Part 1)” cited Anderson’s observation that some Eritrean activists hope “the deaths of at least 800 people…will compel European leaders to rethink their approach to Eritrea.” These people are worried about the EU’s recent development aid arguing that the money would entrench the existing conditions in Eritrea.
Isabel Larroca in “the unintended consequences of the EU’s aid to Eritrea” has said “Eritrean human rights activists… believe that there is a possibility that the boost in aid is part of an implicit agreement with the Eritrean government to tighten its border controls.”
So-called Eritrean activists regularly argue that “After the 1998 border war with Ethiopia, the regime has used the “defense” pretext to put the entire population, in military mobilization.” They conveniently overlook or dismiss the existential threat from Ethiopia. Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, and Meles before him, has repeatedly professed in public of his intention to use “proportionate military force” against Eritrea and the Ethiopian government has made no secret of its “regime change” intentions for Eritrea. The Tsorona incident of 2016 and nonstop provocative moves along the border are also additional proof of the myopic arguments of the so-called activists. It is quite unfortunate that they are unable to comprehend the seriousness of the situation.
The conspirators are well known everywhere in their true colors, rolling eyes and offering sugarcoated tones in order to impose on those who do not know them. Defending and exposing their lies is no less than the patriotic act of defending your country against invaders.
The so-called activism and opposition groups have remained frustrated in their efforts to kill the hopes of the country…but they still buzz around. They claim to be messengers of peace and advocates of change but they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Let the conspirators and opportunist forces who want to create obstacles be wiped out by the storm of consciousness and truth.