BY THOMAS C MOUNTAIN
This transcript is from an interview done by Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki and Al Jazeera “journalist” Jane Dutton in February 20, 2010, shortly after the UN Security Council passed punitive sanctions against Eritrea based on what has now been proven to be fabrications.
The sanctions are now history and this interview stands as an example for aspiring journalists of just how low their seniors will stoop. Everyone of the charges leveled by Ms. Dutton against the President were fake, yet this racist white South African woman continued to insult Africa’s leading statesman for the entire interview.
Would she even have considered treating a white European leader the same way, to rudely insult and sling falsehoods and fantasy at such a prominent and respected African leader as Isaias Afwerki? See that for yourself …in the following transcript ..
In this interview, which Jazeera’s Jane Dutton rightly describes as “rare”, President Isaias Afwerki (PIA) tells her that all accusations leveled against him, including the recent UN sanctions against his country, are the work of none other than the United States.
This time around the United States was also accused by PIA of instigating the border war with Ethiopia. Accusations against him, the Eritrean president said, were mere “fantasies, lies and boring jokes,” calling the Al-Jazeera journalist an insane liar serving the agendas of others.” (the above comments are from the original post/not this authors)
Jane Dutton: Mr. President, in December the United Nations imposed sanctions on Eritrea for supporting armed groups such as Al-Shabbab. Do you feel that you have been unfairly victimized?
President Isaias: No, it is a mockery of justice and history. In our political culture we have never believed and we don’t believe that religion is a substitute for political problems in any one country or any society.
We have never entertained the idea of Sharia or Islam being a solution for what many would like to believe. How can anyone possibly accuse Eritrea of sympathizing or supporting one group over the other? We
have never done that.
The Al-Shabbab themselves claim that your defense ministry visited them; the African Union has complained about your activities in Somalia, as has the United Nations. Are you saying that they are all
Where are these evidences in the first place? We never went into Somalia. The French have two kidnapped hostages there and they asked our good offices if we ca‰n do anything there. We never promised
anything and we did not want to get involved. But because of that initiative we went and contacted everybody in Somalia.
Q: Are you, therefore, saying that the Al-Shabbab, the African Union and the United Nations are all lying?
We believe that Al-Shabbab are Somalis in the first place, whether they are radicals or moderates, whether they are part of the Islamic horse or not, we believe that every Somali should be involved in the
inclusive political process.
Q: Why would the United Nations and the African Union say that you are doing these things?
Where are these evidences in the first place? What are they saying? This is where I come to say that this is a mockery of justice.
Q: You talk about religion and a lot of people talk about your support for Al-Shabbab, you being a Christian leader, that being a Muslim organization…
This is nonsensical, this is a mockery, this is a joke.
This is a joke. I do not want to blame anyone for what is happening or what is being said here or there. What are the evidences? How can you explain the fact that Eritrea supports this or that radical Islamist…
Q: Are you using Somalia as a battlefield to fight Ethiopia?
It is not a battlefield with Ethiopia. This border issue was a senseless conflict instigated by the United States in the first place. And we went to arbitration and arbitration was done almost eight years now, in 2002. That decision is now blocked by the United States; it is not blocked by Ethiopia. Ethiopia does not have the resources and the means to block any decision of arbitration and implementation. It is a cover up for the failure of the misguided policies of the United States in the Horn of Africa for the last twenty years.
Q: So, if Ethiopia were to withdraw from Badme, that is the border town that you are referring to, if they were to withdraw from there, then would you take this country off the war footing?
We don’t have any problems with Ethiopia; we have never had a problem with Ethiopia. We have worked with its people for almost two decades to overthrow a government in Ethiopia, and we want to see a relationship between Eritrea and Ethiopia based on mutual respect and commonalities of interests and we have worked for that for decades.
Now we are talking about the misguided policy of the United States which creates crisis here, political problems there and its attempts to micro-manage these problems.
Q: Can you say that that is your relationship with Ethiopia? Please explain to me what your relationship is with Sudan because you have alleged connections with the GEM and the SLA?
This is again a distortion of history. It is a deliberate distortion of facts.
Q: The Sudanese government has said that it stopped GEM fighters from coming into your country….
They have never said that. No Sudanese government or official has said that because they can not prove that. It is said in the name of Sudanese officials and the government and this is a distortion of facts.
Q: Who then was responsible for pulling the GEM out of the peace talks…
No, no, no, never! That never happened. In Abuja when negotiations were under way we said this is not a solution. There has to be a conclusive and comprehensive peace process in the Sudan to address the issues of Southern Sudan, Eastern Sudan, Central Sudan, Northern Sudan and Darfur. We have never entertained the idea of intervening this way or that way to support one group against the other.
All those allegations were being leveled against Eritrea as being one of the main backers in destabilizing this region, the Horn of Africa…
But then again who has been destabilizing the Horn of Africa? Who has been supporting warlords in Somalia for the last twenty years? Who has intervened in and invaded Somalia? Who has wanted to put governments
from outside? We have had three strategic interventions in the last eight or ten years where people have tried to impose governments from outside. None of these has worked…
Q: And that is not what you are doing in this region….?
….this is destabilizing Somalia and by destabilizing Somalia, you destabilize the region.
Q: You are friends with Israel and Iran. How do you balance the two?
That is another joke. Why would the United States impose an arms embargo on Eritrea, a small country with limited resources, and not impose sanctions on the alleged role of Iran in the region? How can you possibly appreciate the logic behind this position of the United States?
Q: Ok, so how can you explain the role that Iran has in this region …
There is no role for Iran in this region. Eritrea is not for sale. Eritrea is not for sale not to Iran, not to Israel not to the United States, not to anybody.
Q: If Eritrea is not for sale, then how do you justify providing arms to the Hamas…?
We don’t even have any diplomatic relations with any Palestinian organization.
Q: But you are allowing Iran to supply arms to Hamas through you…?
Where are the evidences? Do we need weapons from Iran? If we want to give weapons to anyone, we don’t need it from Iran. We don’t need weapons from Iran. We have more than we need. We can arm three or four governments. We don’t need weapons from Iran. We do not have the political will to work on behalf of anybody in this region. Never!
Q: If it is not political will then what is it? Because they are going through you into the Sudan …
There is no Iranian presence in this region. Not in Eritrea.
Q: There is Iranian presence in Assab. They have a military base there and they are helping you with your oil refinery….
I would invite you to go and visit Assab. There is no refinery there. This is a joke; there is no refinery there.
Q: Well then the evidence, as well as Israeli planes that stopped arms shipment to the Sudan, where they got Iranian revolutionary guards…..
Where are the evidences? Where are the evidences? Can you prove to anyone that you have evidences to say that Eritrea is shipping arms to anywhere else in the world?
Q: You have a relationship with Iran as well as Israel. How do you balance that? Or are you saying you have no relations?
Not at all How can you possibly and logically understand such a contradictory reality?
Q: That is why I am asking …
Why, why, why….Why would you ask? Why would you ask without evidences? It is a surprise to me. It is even a joke to me. I don’t even see any logic of bringing Israel and Iran together working in
Eritrea. How can one person sensible understand that logic?
Q: But that has raised questions…Many political analysts believe that the next proxy war between Iran and Israel is going to take place on your soil. Are you prepared to be the next Vietnam?
This is a joke. This is giving Eritrea a name beyond its means. These are fabrications. These are allegations without facts to prove them on the ground. It is sometimes a surprise why people want to sell these lies to any sensible person in the region. It does not make sense.
Q: It is also well documented that you are helping Iran through your Assab Port, sending arms to Yemen to support the Houti fighters who are fighting against the government as well as Saudi Arabia. Can you explain your actions?
It is senseless. It is senseless. Who would want to destabilize Yemen? We have all along, for the last twenty years, supported the government of Ali Abdellah Saleh genuinely…
Q: So do you deny that you are supporting the Houti’s in Yemen?
This is a fantasy in the minds of those who want to sell the idea and create a sense of threat and fear in this region so that they can manipulate it for their own agendas.
There is no refinery in Assab in the first place. There is no presense…you want to go there tomorrow and see who is there and who is not there?
And to assume that your allegations are facts and try to find an explanation for that assumption. I say it is crazy.
It is all a fabrication. We sometimes wonder and bother why all these fabrications are made about things that do not exist on the ground.
Q: Is this also a fabrication? The United Nations says that you spend 200,000 to 500,000 dollars supporting fighters?
Q: In Somalia and around the region. Is that also a fabrication?
This is another joke, this is another joke.
Q: How can your country….that is from the United Nations…..
It is boring, it is boring. When jokes are repeated again and again they become so boring.
Q: How can you as a country afford to be on this war footing. It’s not twenty years….
This is a fantasy on the part of those who think that we are on a war footing.
It is crazy. It is the imagination of people who can only be categorized as insane, who fantasize on things that do not exist in real terms.
Q: If your country is not on war footings then how come there is so much repression? There is no freedom of the press, there is no freedom of speech….
I can understand where you come from, and this is another boring joke based on fabrications.
Q: Can people leave this country when they want to?
Did you enjoy the show yesterday?
Q: Can anybody leave the country when they want to?
Did you enjoy the show yesterday?
Q: Can anybody leave the country when they want to?
Did you see the people on the streets? Anybody can leave this country anytime.
Q: Can they get a passport?
What is it to get a passport from a country that you deserve to be a citizen of?
Q: What about freedom of the press? Eritrea jails more journalists than any other country in the world. Why do you have to resort to that?
These are lies.
Q: You don’t jail journalists?
These are lies. These are lies of Al Jazeera international deliberately distorting facts to give the impression that this country is in a war footing and so many things such as Iran is here, Israel is here, we are supporting Houtis, we are supporting terrorists you name it.
You are using these lies to serve an agenda to destabilize this region. I would never do anything to destabilize the region…. Lies and lies and lies and lies.
Q: I am trying to get to the bottom of the truth
Lies and lies without providing any evidence, trying to blame it on the United Nations sometimes when the United Nations has not said anything, trying to blame it on the government of Sudan when Sudan has
not said anything.
Q: Let us talk about the people who live in this country. If I could just mention the United Nations statistics, 63,000 Eritreans applied for asylum last year alone, and that 1,800 cross over every month into Sudan and Ethiopia…
These are lies. These are your lies.
Q: So people are not leaving the country?
Where….where… give me the evidences, give me the evidences. Give us the evidences, we would like to see the evidences. According to those reports the population of this country is out of town by yesterday.
According to those statistics…
Q: But the most high profile you have had is your football team in Kenya, they are seeking asylum, the athletes in Scotland, they are seeking asylum…
This is news to me. It is news to me…
Really. I have never heard anything like that and I am not bothered if people go there and ask for asylum. I am not bothered if people are looking for jobs in the United States or Europe. Why would I bother
Q: One of the reasons that many of the people leave is because of the indefinite military service, for both men and women. And the fact that you can never leave. Why is there this indefinite….
Again another lie. It is compromising your credibility as a media outlet. And coming up with a pack of lies and trying to convince anyone by putting them as facts on the ground and trying to give the impression that these are things that exist in the real world. Israel is here, who is not here….
Q: But Israel is here, they have got a military base….
Everyone is here, Iran is here….I mean how can you possibly imagine that people will trust and believe what you tell them. You are talking about lies and …..
Q: Every single question I have asked is backed up with a lot of research and facts so…with all respect, Mr. President, I am just trying to find out how your country operates. I find your country very fascinating…
It is a good exercise for a journalist to ask questions about a number of things but to come up with a pack of lies and a pack of fabrications and trying to prove those by posing them as very innocent questions in order to give credibility to or to discredit your sources…. You are discrediting your sources, you are discrediting the United Nations when you come and tell in the name of the United Nations when the United Nations has not said anything like that.
How can a media outlet with credibility come up with such lies?
Q: Let us talk about the drought in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea, as others, is suffering from it and yet you are reluctant to let aid workers into your country. What is the justification for that?
When we have enough food, why do we need someone to feed us?
Q: Because two-thirds of your population is suffering….
Why do you want to spoon-feed us when we have enough food?
Q: How come two-thirds of your population is not getting that food?
Then again how can you possible say and imagine that I am hungry when I am not hungry? Why do you want to believe that? Why do you want to believe that people are hungry and in need of your support? Why do you want to believe that?
That is a very, very sad state of mind for people to believe that they can go and feed people when people are not even in need of feeding. Go and feed the victims of Katerina, go and feed the people of Haiti,
if you really want to…..
Q: So there is no need for food aid….
We don’t need any food aid. We can feed ourselves. I am only bothered by why you want to feed us.
Q: How much support do you have in this country? You have been leading this country for the past 18 years and you have been liberated for twenty years. Last year there was an assassination attempt on your life. Where did that come from and who was behind it?
This again is another fabrication, another lie. I mean how can you possibly believe that there was an assassination attempt? Why, why would you believe that such a thing occurred? It came as a surprise when I heard that. I said these people are crazy, they are out of their mind.
Imagining things that do not exist and fantasizing on what they wish to see, why do you do that?
Q: You promised Eritreans political reforms, but there are no political parties…
We do not make promises. I don’t make promises to anyone. It is like a wealthy person who controls everything and promises these people that he is going to tip them today, tip them tomorrow, tip them the next
day….We do not make promises and the people here don’t need promises. No one here promises anything to anybody.
There is no such commodity called democracy. There is no such commodity promised by one person to the people of a country.
Q: Will you allow other political parties to operate? Will you allow the constitution to be released? Will you allow an open political system that is governed by the people?
By the people like in China?
Q: People who will call on the government to justify….
Again you are assuming that you are talking on behalf of the people of this country. Let the people talk.
Q: I am asking you…how you define …
Let the people talk, let the people talk. The people will have to define it.
Q: Human Rights Watch says that you are turning this country into a giant prison and creating a human rights crisis….
You can walk around and see if that is true again. It is a lie.
Q: Why then do people come under the orders ‘shoot to kill’, if they want to leave this country?
No, no, not at all. If you are telling thousands are leaving this country then how do you think that can happen? If you are telling me that hundreds of thousands have left this country and asked for asylum
how can you imagine that happened?
Q: Who do you consider your friends?
Where do you mean?
Q: In the world…
A few, a bunch of liars may not be my friends but the whole world is behind Eritrea. Everybody is asking why all these lies? Why all these sanctions? Why this and that? It is an expression of the support of people. The minimum you can imagine sensible people asking simple questions about all the fabrications they hear everyday. That is by way of questioning the credibility of those telling the lies.
This means, it is a support for the one which is being victimized without any evidence. That is very important to remember. And those people who are asking the simple questions are behind Eritrea.
Q: Can you just tell us a little about your aspirations?
We don’t need war. We have fought for so many decades and we know what it means to go into war. It is very senseless to imagine that you can waste your time and resources doing things that do not deserve any
We are focused on doing ‘the right things in this country. And we don’t need to do it by forcing people to believe this or that. People are seriously engaged in what they are doing to change their quality
Those who have never tried it may fantasize about going to war. We have been there for so many decades, almost two generations. At least we will not be like Kenya, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan.
We are better off.
“We are number one in this continent.”
This transcript is by an unknown author though it sticks pretty much to the interview. Identifications of speakers before questions and answers are by this writer. Again, every single one of Jane Dutton’s charges was based on fabrications and fantasy, fake news planted in the international media by the very same type of “journalists” as Ms. Dutton et. al at Al Jazeera, never mind BBC, CNN, France24 ad nauseum.
Thomas C. Mounfain is an independent journalist in Eritrea, living and reporting from here since 2006. See thomascmountain on Facebook and on Twitter or best reach him at thomascmountain at g
mail dot com