BY ALEM FISSHATZION
Martin Schibbye wrote a very confusing and difficult-to-follow article on 25th March 2018. The article was posted on his own website “Blankspot” and was in Swedish. The article was supposed to be a coverage on Eritrea with the very ambiguous title: “Will the president’s cows prove to be decisive factor in Eritrea’s future?”
The title generates a lot of curiosity, prompting many potential readers to continue reading just to find out how cattle will shape the future of Eritrea as a nation. Martin Schibbye’s article may best be regarded as a failed attempt to write a novel which he finally converted to an article devoid of any journalistic prowess.
Schibbye who could not make it as a journalist among his peers in his native Sweden resorted to trying his luck as a globetrotting investigative journalist. He is yet to come up with a story worthy of international acclaim. The only feat he has achieved putting him in the international limelight is that he managed to land himself in an Ethiopian jail for over four hundred days.
Schibbye is a hypocrite feigning to be a friend of Eritrea while taking every opportunity to sow seeds of discord among the Eritrean diaspora. Being bias against Eritrea is a favorite pastime in Swedish media and writing anything negative about Eritrea has come to be an accepted norm in Swedish journalism.
Swedish media has managed over the years to indoctrinate its audience that Eritrea is a totalitarian state where all sorts of horrendous atrocities are everyday-life for all Eritreans and visitors alike. However, Schibbye’s article must be given some credit for demystifying some of the lies that all other Swedish journalists portray; even though Schibbye did not realize that he was doing so.
His colleagues have over the years made their audience believe that visitors cannot move freely inside Eritrea and that they are followed everywhere by secret agents thereby scaring off any locals from talking to them.
Another myth is that government officials can never be accessed to answer any questions or grant interviews, yet Schibbye goes off gallivanting into the countryside at leisure talking to people and taking photographs. Why, he even gets an audience with the Minister of Agriculture on a drop-in basis proving the fact that the whole government, including the President himself, can be unconditionally accessed for interviews anytime!
Most of Schibbye’s article is dedicated to an exotic visit to the village of Adi Abzage to study the art of managing water resources. He writes extensively about Gebremichael Gebremeskel who is 70 years old, and who spent 30 of those years collecting stones to build a wall to dam a seasonal river to irrigate his farm.
Schibbye is so proud of being the journalist who discovers and tells the world about such a revolutionary and pathfinding effort at managing water resources. Schibbye seems to consider what he saw at Adi Abzage as an isolated feat. Little does he know that spate irrigation is an ancient form of water management that has been practiced in Eritrea for ages.
I wrote an article titled “Eritrea: Managing Water Resources to Achieve Sustainable Food Security” which was published in TesfaNews on May 23, 2017. My article was a laudation of the successes reaped by Eritrea in her endeavors to provide food security. Only this week, on March 31, 2018, TesfaNews again published another related article written by the UNDP Eritrea representative Elizabeth Mwaniki titled “Oases of Eritrea: Nature-Based Solutions for Development“.
I must say that I find it very difficult to see the point in Martin Schibbye’s article except a clear attempt to tarnish the image of President Isaias Afwerki with a lot of nonsense.
Getting back to Schibbye’s article about the issue of the President’s cows which will shape Eritrea’s future, Schibbye himself admits that the story is based on rumours of which he does not have any reliable or even unreliable source which goes to reinforce my suggestion that he started to write a novel and soon grew tired of that endeavour and hastily turned it into an article.
The title that comprises of the cattle that are supposed to be the focal point of his very lengthy masterpiece is that the President of Eritrea recently ordered hundreds of cows to be acquired in Ireland and flown (not shipped) to Eritrea. Whether the cows are for cross-breeding purposes or to directly boost the local milk production is not addressed at all by the article.
The mystical cows were reportedly secretly transferred from whichever airfields or airports that those aircraft landed to one of Eritrea’s universities which were hastily emptied of all students, lecturers, and administrators to house the cows.
Schibbye seems to be the only person who knows about the abrupt closure of any of Eritrea’s universities. He does not explain anything about what happened to the students or the personnel who used to work there. Even if the allegation were true, why was Schibbye’s journalistic curiosity not kindled to try to find out why a university of all places was being used to house cattle?
He claims that several of them calved there since they were ready to give birth when brought to Eritrea. Several others skid on the floors of the buildings and allegedly broke their legs. My only conclusion in lack of other comprehensible explanation is that Eritrea wants to be the first country to boast of having cows that are university graduates!
Since Schibbye does not have any evidence about any cows being flown to Eritrea; what the purpose of the painstaking venture was; or even a shred of any suggestion from his part as to how the cows will contribute towards Eritrea’s wellbeing as a nation, I am at a loss what he is driving at with an article titled as his is.
He seems to be insinuating that this “smart” move by the President is to boost up both meat and milk production. But Schibbye the great journalist does not go to any lengths to dig out facts except that he claims that a quick spot of googling shows that a similar venture undertaken decades ago by the Castro government in Cuba failed horribly.
Had Schibbye even tried to do any research when writing his novel-turned-to-article, he would find out that livestock and dairy products are already contributing significantly to Eritrea’s GDP. This fact is illustrated in a report presented in December 2015 by the renowned consultants VEDAMAN Consultants Limited, Nairobi, Kenya. The report comprises of contributions made in 2013 pertaining directly to livestock and dairy products.
According to that report, the contribution of milk to the Eritrean GNP is as follows:
- Total volume of cowmilk produced in Eritrea in 2013 = 313,150,633 liters.
- Income:7,8 Billion ERN (Eritrean Nakfa), equivalent to = 520 Million USD*.
- Total volume of camel milk produced in Eritrea in 2013 = 5,384,909 liters.
- Income:134,6 Million ERN (Eritrean Nakfa), equivalent to = 8,97 Million USD.
- Total volume of Goatmilk produced in Eritrea in 2013 = 47,228,919 liters.
- Income:1,2 Billion ERN (Eritrean Nakfa), equivalent = 0,08 Billion USD.
An excerpt part of the report addressing the issue is found on this link.