The current dismal state of affairs in Eritrea is due to nearly 30 years of constant warfare

Migrants from Eritrea rest in a building, used to house people waiting to be smuggled into Israel, near the Egyptian-Israeli border in Sinai December 25, 2010. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

This article is the thirteenth in a series by Ambassador Akbar Ahmed, a former Pakistani high commissioner to the UK, exploring how a litany of volatile centre/periphery conflicts with deep historical roots were interpreted after 9/11 in the new global paradigm of anti-terrorism – with profound and often violent consequences. Incorporating in-depth case studies from Asia, Africa and the Middle East, Ambassador Ahmed will ultimately argue that the inability for Muslim and non-Muslim states alike to either incorporate minority groups into a liberal and tolerant society or resolve the “centre vs periphery” conflict is emblematic of a systemic failure of the modern state – a breakdown which, more often than not, leads to widespread violence and destruction. The violence generated from these conflicts will become the focus, in the remainder of the 21st century, of all those dealing with issues of national integration, law and order, human rights and justice.

Under the baking sun of Sinai early last month, a group of Eritrean refugees with little food or water had been stranded at the border between Egypt and Israel for over a week, attempting to cross the border. They huddled together beneath the feeble shade of a sheet of plastic that they held aloft.

While Israel barred entry for all but three in this group, an action which provoked an outcry from the human rights community, the more fundamental question lies with the underlying cause for their exodus.

Eritrea, divided between Christian Tigrinyans in the central highlands and a number of Muslim tribes in the lowlands on the periphery, is consistently regarded as one of the most repressive states in the world. Under President Isaias Afewerki, a Tigrinyan who has been in power since Eritrean independence from Ethiopia in the early 1990s, the country has become a highly militarised, one party state with severe restrictions over the press, speech, and even movement, particularly in the wake of the bloody border war with Ethiopia from 1998 to 2000.

Political opposition and journalists are frequently jailed for voicing dissent, with four journalists recently dying in prison after years of incarceration. The practice of religion is severely restricted for both Muslims and Christians. Since 2002, indefinite military conscription or national service has become mandatory for both men and women between the ages of 18 and 50. Deserters or those suspected of opposition to the government are imprisoned under harsh conditions and subject to torture and forced labour. Those who successfully escape leave their family behind to face punishment in their stead.

Legal advisor comments on
Israel’s deportation of African migrants

Eastern Sudan around Kassala, lying near Eritrea’s western border, has been the destination for the majority of Eritrean refugees since the 1960s, especially the Muslim Beni Amer tribe of the western lowlands who share kinship links across the border and have formed a large segment of the refugee population. 70,000 Eritrean refugees remain in Sudan with more arriving each month. In recent decades many have found their way into Egypt where they attempt to reach either Israel or Europe, with many either falling victim to human trafficking among the Sinai Bedouin or finding themselves struggling to survive in an unwelcoming host country.

To more fully understand the impulse of the Eritrean government towards militarism and the cause for Eritreans’ flight abroad, we must look to its history as a region involved in a thirty year war for independence, one of the longest conflicts on the African continent.

Struggling for autonomy

The region of present-day Eritrea, lying at the mouth of the Red Sea, has been a strategic piece of coastline for millennia, having been variously ruled by the historical Aksum Empire, the Ottomans, and local sultanates. Its modern borders with a diverse ethnic population were not established until Italian colonisation in the late 19th century through a treaty with the Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II. Italy called Eritrea, Colonia Primogenita, or “first colony”, and sought to create a more industrialised colony as a base of operations for further colonial expansion in the Horn of Africa, particularly Italy’s brutal occupation of Ethiopia in the 1930s which resulted in the deaths of 760,000 people.

Eritrea, emerging from British occupation of the Italian colony after World War II, became an autonomous unit in a federation with Ethiopia in 1952 as a result of a UN resolution. Many Muslim leaders opposed this federation with a Christian-dominated country and unsuccessfully advocated for independence.

The Ethiopian government under Emperor Haile Selassie began to undermine Eritrean autonomy in 1956 by temporarily suspending its elected assembly. Eritrean political parties were proscribed with many leaders jailed or forced into exile. Amharic, the language of the Ethiopian centre, was established as the sole official language. On November 14, 1962, the federation of Ethiopia and Eritrea was officially dissolved with Eritrea becoming Ethiopia’s 14th province.

Violence between Eritrea and the Ethiopian centre was, however, first sparked prior to this, in 1961, by Hamid Idris Awate, a tribal leader from the Beni Amir tribe, when he clashed with Ethiopian police as they began rounding up potential troublemakers. Hamid Idris had been a notorious raider since a blood feud was sparked over a cattle theft involving a rival tribe in 1942. In these acts of resistance, Hamid Idris garnered the support, largely due to tribal connections, of the Eritrean Independence Movement (ELM) in Cairo, consisting of Muslim leaders in exile, although Hamid Idris would die the following year.

The organisation which formed from Hamid Idris’ initial resistance was called the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF). The Beni Amir dominated its ranks relying on the ELM for financial and arms support and tribal links for growing its ranks. The Beni Amir and its supporters resisted participation from other ethnic and religious groups such as the Christian Tigrinyans in the highlands.

 African migrants ‘tortured in Sinai’

The ELF’s numbers grew as Ethiopian reprisals increasingly took the form of civilian persecution and attacks. In the early 1970s, the Ethiopian air force began systematically bombing villages in western Eritrea, and moving the army into ELF areas, burning villages and executing or detaining anyone suspected of collaborating with the rebel group. During the 1970s, as many as one million Eritreans were displaced, roughly one-third of the entire population. Many began to flee into eastern Sudan.

A life of war

Communism took hold in Ethiopia when military officers under Mengistu Haile Mariam supplanted Haile Selassie in 1974 and established the government of the Derg, meaning “committee”. Mengistu decided on a policy of total military defeat for Eritrea and continued the attacks against the civilian population. In 1975, the Ethiopian military began a new campaign, razing and burning villages thought to be giving aid or shelter to the guerilla forces, bombing villages, and destroying food crops and livestock. The 1975 massacre at Umm Hajer in western Eritrea, in which the entire village was destroyed, drove nearly 40,000 refugees into Sudan in one week.

The Ethiopian military campaigns not only affected the Muslim population but also the Christian Tigrinyan population who had increasingly been seeking to join the resistance movement. In 1970, the predominantly Christian Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) was formed under the leadership of Isaias Afewerki as a breakaway organisation from the ELF after conflicts with the ELF’s Muslim leadership. In 1972, a civil war which lasted two years broke out between the EPLF and the ELF simultaneous to fighting against the Ethiopian military. The EPLF slowly came to dominate the war.

In 1980, the EPLF launched another attack on the ELF and drove its ranks into eastern Sudan in 1981, where many of the Beni Amer and other refugees remain today. The EPLF now assumed hegemony over the Eritrean fight for independence. It was finally able to achieve de facto independence in 1991 and de jure independence in 1993 through mobilising practically the entire adult population of Eritrea for its fighting force. The EPLF re-named itself the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice and formed the new Eritrean government, with Afewerki as its head of state. After 30 years of armed struggle, 65,000 Eritrean fighters and 40,000 civilians had been killed.

The transition from a guerilla movement to a functioning modern democracy would eventually be stalled by leaders more familiar with the field of battle than the halls of government, with the refugee crisis continuing to linger after independence.

For Eritrea, a country that has known so few years of peace over the past fifty years, dialogue with its neighbours and development for its people, rather than further confrontation and military build-up, is needed more than ever. President Afewerki should work to grant his people the promises of freedom in a modern democracy that they struggled so hard and so long to achieve. By addressing the plight of his people at home, Afewerki will not only help to solve the refugee crisis but make his country stronger and more legitimate both in the eyes of the international community and in the eyes of Eritreans.

Professor Akbar Ahmed is Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University in Washington, DC and the former Pakistani High Commissioner to the United Kingdom.  

Harrison Akins is the Ibn Khaldun Chair Research Fellow at American University’s School of International Service and is assisting Professor Ahmed on Ahmed’s forthcoming study, “The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam”, to be published by Brookings Press in January 2013.

Source: aljazeera

Shouldn’t Ghana File For Bankruptcy, ASAP?

“Say what?”.Oh, Puh-lee-ze, give me a break!

Yes, I know that Ghanaians have very highly inflammable anger in their chromosomes when it comes to monetary issues. However, I have intentionally gone out of my way to push the pedal of creativity and controversy to their limits, just to test the temperament and creativity of Ghanaians in this piece……

The landscape of the United States of America is littered with billboards inscribed with Bankruptcy messages: “If you’re feeling alone or depressed because of financial problem, cheer up! You’re in good company….”.

Question: Can Ghana meet all her financial obligations to its local and international ‘judgment –debt’ collectors, after the election? Don’t panic, there is always a way out…..!
Bankruptcy is a mechanism use by individuals and corporations (and nations) that can’t meet their financial obligations to their creditors.
Given the way the Ghanaian governments over the years borrowed and spent money waa-waa, bankruptcy is not a bad option, if we want to put our creditors at bay and make our future Wayomes frustrated and disoriented. It won’t be unprecedented!
When you make billions and billions of dollars from oil and other natural resources and get zillion dollar loans from donors, the last thing anyone expects from you is go bankrupt. But, Ghana should seek bankruptcy as soon as possible to get the future Woyomes from its back, so as to concentrate on its business of creating jobs and building infrastructure for its people.
Question: Do you remember when we went HIPC (Highly indebted Poor country) and saved a lot of money? We also built a lot of classrooms across the land through HIPC. Perhaps, some of your relatives are currently enjoying the fruit of HIPC. Sound familiar? So spare me with your criticisms and innuendoes!
Actually, the declaration of bankruptcy is not an indicator of one’s very poor financial health. Instead, it’s a business move individuals and corporations use to shield from “Judgment debt” and other creditors. It can ultimately stop the collection of any bizarre and weird future and present fraudulent judgment debt. Bankruptcy can’t be used as a quick- fix for our mismanagement syndrome, mind you. However, it’s something worthy to think about if we want to enjoy our newly -acquired socio-economic stature.
Don’t scratch your head because Ghana won’t be alone in the bankruptcy department. The fact is world’s famous bankruptcy persons and corporations include Donald Trump, a financier, General Motors Corporation, cars manufacture, Henry Ford, an automobile magnate, Thomas Jefferson, the late president of United States and a host of prominent individuals who are all bankruptcy alumni.
These folks and corporations had their great success and fame after their bankruptcy. So why not Ghana?
Yes, I know I have stepped into a dog poop, by bringing such a controversial debate to live..Why, not? I have a knack of thinking the unthinkable. Sometimes it worth thinking of the unthinkable. It may sound very weird, but if it can save the country and put it on a sound economic path what is wrong with that?
Do we want to massage our deflated ego and arthritis pride or develop a sound business decision to save Ghana from con men and women, who want to prey on Ghana’s naivety? What do we value? Take your pick!

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi (voice of Reason)
*the author is a social commentator and the founder of the Adu-Gyamfi Youth Empowerment Foundation for disadvantaged Youth of Asuom.

CONCACAF World Cup qualifying Round up: Honduras blast Canada

Honduras progressed to the final phase of World Cup qualifying after condemning Canada to an embarrassing 8-1 defeat on Tuesday.
Jerry Bengtson and Carlos Costly scored hat-tricks for Honduras, Mario Martinez chipped in with a brace for the hosts, while Iain Hume netted Canada’s only goal of the game.

The result empathically ensures Honduras advances to the next round along with Panama, who were held to a 1-1 draw in Cuba.

Canada, however, narrowly misses out after finishing third in Group C, just a point adrift of the top two nations.

The United States also advanced with a 3-1 win over Guatemala.

Trailing 1-0 after five minutes, Carlos Bocanegra restored parity and Tottenham attacking midfielder Clint Dempsey scored twice before the half-time break as Jurgen Klinsmann’s side topped Group A.

The Americans, who appeared to be on the verge of elimination following a shocking loss to Jamaica last month, finished the round with 13 points after winning four games, drawing once and losing once.

Jamaica will join the US in the next round after they beat Antigua and Barbuda 4-1.

In Group B, Costa Rica thrashed 10-man Guyana 7-0 and booked a spot in the next round as El Salvador were beaten in Mexico.

Costa Rica, who needed victory to ensure they advanced ahead of El Salvador, went in to the break with a 2-0 lead following goals from Randall Brenes and Cristian Gamboa.

Brenes added a second three minutes into the second-half before Guyana’s Walter Moore received his marching orders on 50 minutes.

Alvaro Saborio converted the resulting spot-kick, Christian Bolanos and Celso Borges heaped further misery on the visitors before Saborio completed his brace and the rout on 77 minutes.

The Costa Ricans finished only a point ahead of El Salvador in second position.

Mexico, meanwhile, capped off the third stage of qualifying with a comfortable 2-0 win over El Salvador.

After a scoreless opening 45 minutes, Oribe Peralta and Javier Hernandez found themselves on the scoresheet as Mexico cruised through the group with six-wins-from-six games.

World Cup qualifying round up: Netherlands crush Romania

The Netherlands maintained their perfect World Cup 2014 qualification record with a 4-1 win in Romania on Tuesday.
A thrilling first half saw Jeremain Lens and Bruno Martins Indi put the visitors two goals ahead in the opening half hour, before a brilliant solo effort from Ciprian Marica pulled the hosts back into the tie.

However, the Dutch would take a two-goal lead into the interval with Rafael van der Vaart converting from the spot in added time.

And a late strike from Manchester United striker Robin van Persie sealed the victory and handed Romania their first qualifying defeat.

Elsewhere in Group D, Hungary recovered from a goal down as they overcame Turkey 3-1, while Estonia secured a 1-0 win in Andorra.

An 84th minute penalty from Roman Shirokov gave table-topping Russia a 1-0 victory over a resilient Azerbaijan outfit.

The result, which saw Fabio Capello’s men keep a fourth successive clean sheet, preserves Russia’s 100 percent record in the first round of qualifying.

Russia remains five points clear in Group F following Israel’s comfortable 3-0 win against Luxembourg, while Northern Ireland held a sluggish Portuguese side to a 1-1 draw as Cristiano Ronaldo celebrated his 100th cap for the national team.

In Group A, Macedonia stunned 10-man Serbia courtesy of a 59th minute penalty from Agim Ibraimi.

Macedonia, who had managed two defeats and a draw in three games, moved level with Serbia on four points after four games.

Belgium and Croatia continue to set the pace in that group after the two nations recorded 2-0 victories over Scotland and Wales respectively.

First-half goals from Vedad Ibisevic, Edin Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic were enough for Bosnia-Herzegovina to see off Lithuania and consolidate their position atop of Group G.

The Bosnians lead the group on goal difference after European Championship quarter-finalists Greece edged Slovakia 1-0, while Latvia claimed a 2-0 win against Liechtenstein in the battle of the cellar-dwellers.

Ireland bounced back from their 6-1 drubbing at the hands of Germany with a 4-1 rout of minnows Faroe Islands and fellow Group C opponents Austria secured their first win of qualifying after cruising to a 4-0 victory over Kazakhstan.

In Group E, Switzerland stayed top following two second-half goals from Tranquillo Barnetta and Mario Gavranovic.

Switzerland remain three points ahead of Norway who claimed a 3-1 win in Cyprus, while Albania defeated Slovenia by a solitary goal.

Montenegro earned their second win in three Group H games with a narrow 1-0 victory in Ukraine as Moldova handed lowly San Marino their third consecutive defeat.

In other results, Group B opponents Czech Republic and Bulgaria played out a goalless draw, while Belarus registered a 2-0 win against Georgia in Group I action.

African misstep: A misguided U.S. adventure awaits in Mali

Fighters from the Al Qaeda-linked Islamist group MUJWA, pictured on Aug. 7, 2012. The U.S. is considering drone strikes against a similar terrorist group, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, after four Americans were killed in a Libya attack last month.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The United States is considering a troubling plan, intervention in the West African state of Mali to deal with its internal problems.

In March the civilian government of Mali, a landlocked country with 16 million people, was overthrown in a military coup led by a U.S.-trained army captain. With its armed forces in disarray in part because of the coup, the northern two-thirds of the country seceded, putting Tuareg rebels and an Islamic-based organization in charge. Some of the arms used by the secessionists had been brought from Libya, where Malians had been mercenaries in Moammar Gadhafi’s army.

The United States, with France, is trying to persuade the military government in Bamako, Mali’s capital, to agree to armed intervention in the north by forces provided by African countries which are members of the Economic Community of West African States. The United States, some European countries and possibly the United Nations would finance the ECOWAS force.

The effort to bring this about is being led by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson. The possible U.S. military training, supply and transport role would be carried out by the U.S. Africa Command. Mr. Carson has portrayed the Mali effort as similar to the U.S. undertaking in Somalia, now 20 years old. The United States is supporting African troops there as they try to assure order while the Somalis set up a viable government.

The Somalia enterprise has cost America $500 million so far, and there is no guarantee that it will achieve its objectives. The United States has no vital interests in Mali, and the claims that radical Islamists may take over the north are not well documented. This is an adventure that America cannot afford and it needs to be ended now.

Western money, African blood. How US and Europe paid for Africans to rout Somali militants

A Kenyan army soldier wears a helmet on which is written in Kiswahili “Tea in Kismayo”, referring to a key strategic Somali town then under the control of al-Shabab, checks his ammunition belt near the town of Dhobley, in Somalia.

MOGADISHU, Somalia — The first Ugandan soldiers to fly into Somalia 5 1/2 years ago came under attack as soon as they arrived: Militants fired mortars at the new mission’s welcome ceremony.

Today, backed by a sweeping multinational effort that includes $338 million in U.S. equipment, wages and training, the force of Ugandans, Burundians, Kenyans and Somalis that was deployed to take on the country’s Islamic radicals can claim a degree of success that had initially seemed highly unlikely.

When the Ugandan spearhead arrived on March 6, 2007, Somalia had been in chaos for years, ruled by warlords and insurgents bent on creating an Islamic state. AMISOM, the African Union Mission in Somalia, was the most ambitious response since the failed 1990s U.S. intervention of Black-Hawk-Down infamy.

The militants called al-Shabab, who once controlled nearly all of Mogadishu, have been gone from the capital for more than a year, and last month AMISOM booted them out of their last urban stronghold, the port city of Kismayo.

“I think from a military and security perspective it has been a success. Absent AMISOM, al-Shabab would now be in control of Mogadishu. We would not be talking about a new (Somali) national government with a president from civil society in charge,” said E.J. Hogendoorn, a Horn of Africa expert at the International Crisis Group, a think tank that tracks conflicts.

But if the specter of Somalia as al-Qaida’s next Yemen has been averted, the challenge now is to achieve strong central government for an estimated 10 million Somalis. “What is necessary for the long term in Somalia,” said Hogendoorn, “is some sort of political resolution to this conflict.”

Somali militants are melting into the local populace and could be preparing a comeback, as happened in Iraq and Afghanistan after invading coalition forces made early claims of success. Al-Shabab still controls wide areas of south-central Somalia.

Their territory, however, is low-value countryside and shrinking, while Mogadishu and other urban areas are enjoying a long-awaited respite from Islamist radicalism.

Some may see AMISOM’s success as reaffirming the blueprint of African boots on the ground, backed by U.S., European and U.N. money, as a possible model for the future on this troubled continent.

But Dr. J. Peter Pham, an Africa specialist at the Atlantic Council, a Washington, D.C. think tank, echoes Hogendoorn’s caution.

“It’s a success for the military strategy, but a military strategy can only achieve military ends … Victory is secured when Mogadishu faces up to its political crisis. The military can clear out a space but cannot fill a space. That requires civil society and a political solution,” he said.

Back in 2007, the first Ugandan troops to arrive barely had enough food. Soldiers actually died of scurvy. An army of bush fighters had been dropped into the most dangerous kind of urban terrain. It lacked — and still lacks — the attack helicopters essential to fighting this kind of war. Read More

Why Two Eritrean Pilots Went Rogue and Stole Their President’s Plane

Armin Rosen, theatlantic

Until recently, the Eritrean Air Force had a single luxury airplane, an 1970s-era American corporate turboprop. Thanks to a brazen act of defiance, the plane is now in Saudi Arabia. And its pilots, two high-ranking Air Force officers, are attempting to defect from a government that few people seem to want to live under — even, apparently, among the upper-echelons of its military.

Isaias Afewerki, the country’s longtime dictator and the architect of one of the most oppressive states on earth, might have to fly commercial the next time he has to negotiate with his rivals in neighboring Ethiopia, or to convince foreign leaders that his government isn’t aiding al Shabaab, the al Qeada franchise that once ruled much of Somalia.

On October 2, the pilots, who belong to an air force with only 350 personnel (down from 850 in 2002, according to the International Institute for Security Studies), flew the plane to Saudi Arabia, where they were met with an F-15 escort before landing outside Jizan. Within the week, an Eritrean delegation, which — according to both translated Arabic media sources and Meron Estefanos, a prominent Eritrean exile activist and journalist — included pilots and a Major General in the Eritrean military, landed in Jeddah and attempted to get their plane and pilots back — unsuccessfully, it would turn out, as the the Saudis have already refused to relinquish the asylum seekers. Their defection is a hard-to-ignore demonstration of how deeply dysfunctional and unpopular Afewerki’s regime has become. “These are people considered loyal by the regime and they have planned this and executed it right under the noses of their commanders,” Estefanos told me. “Eritreans never used to say anything against their government, even only a few years ago.”

This incident could also tank the Afewerki regime’s already suffering reputation in the international community. This is a particularly inconvenient time for two high-level officers to make off with the presidential plane. In June, the UN’s Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea found that Afewerki’s government was violating an arms embargo on Somalia by “maintaining relations with known arms dealers in Somalia,” and through “its support for Ethiopian armed opposition groups passing through Somali territory.” But the report added that there was no evidence to suggest that his government was still supporting al Shabaab, the primary rationale behind UN sanctions that have been in place since 2009. Even if Afewerki is still facilitating arms flows to groups fighting the Ethiopian government — the Afewerki regime’s bitterest geopolitical enemy — he is now confident enough in his country’s possible rehabilitation to argue that the UN should drop its sanctions regime. (The chances of success are minimal: Over the summer, the U.S. actually tightened its sanctions on Eritrean officials linked to al Shabaab.)

It is entirely possible that two Air Force officers — pilots who had flown Afewerki on several occasions, according to Saleh Gadi, a dissident journalist and founder of — would know something of the country’s continued meddling in Somalia, including the scope of its support for al Shabaab. Somalia, which sits at the mouth of the Red Sea and has been a haven for pirates and militant Islamists, is an area of intense focus and cooperation for the international community. The pilots have dramatically exposed a government that Freedom House included on its 2012 list of the “Worst of the Worst” states in terms of political oppression. And they’ve created a possible crisis for their now-former bosses.

Even so, the pilots probably didn’t defect because they want to rat out Afewerki’s regime, but because Eritrea is not an easy place to live, even for people towards the top of the state structure. Gadi is hardly surprised that two high-ranking pilots would take any opportunity to defect — even if it meant commandeering the presidential airplane. “In general, everybody who gets the chance will escape,” he says. “The elite of the regime … are used to a lavish lifestyle they cannot maintain anymore. Even the officers are suffering.” The pilots aren’t the year’s only high-profile Eritrean defectors: In August, the flag-carrier for the Eritrean team defected during the Summer Olympics in London.

Estefanos echoes Gadi in saying that escape is a popular notion among Eritreans. “Any Eritrean will use any opportunity he gets to flee,” she says. It is not hard to see why. According to Human Rights Watch, Afewerki has imprisoned somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 of his opponents and perceived opponents, including “government officials, business leaders [and] journalists.” The government heavily fines the families of those who evade military service, which perhaps explains why a badly impoverished country of less than 6 million is able to maintain a standing military of over 201,000, in addition to over 120,000 reservists. Estefanos likened Afewerki’s government to the Kim regime in North Korea, which is less of a stretch than it might seem. Both countries made it into Freedom House’s Worst of the Worst report in 2012, along with such elite company as Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Equatorial Guinea — and Saudi Arabia.

An absolute monarchy with tight political controls and laws that forbid its female population from driving, Saudi Arabia seems like a counter-intuitive place for two would-be political asylees to flee. The notion of Saudi Arabia serving as a beacon of freedom for anyone became all the more absurd in March of 2011, when the Saudi government contributed troops to the Gulf States’ mission to pacify the anti-regime uprising in Bahrain. Accepting political refugees even comes with a potentially-dangerous layer of irony for the Saudi monarchy: in sheltering politically-sensitive asylum seekers like the Eritrean pilots, Saudi Arabia would only create a precedent for other countries to shelter their own dissidents, while tacitly endorsing attempts to undermine the region’s most oppressive governments.

Yet in this case, self-interest outweighs any of the more abstract reasons for Saudi Arabia’s presumed-hostility toward political asylees. According to Frederic Wehry of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Saudi Arabia is concerned about blowback from the conflicts in the Horn of Africa that Afewerki has helped stoke. For instance, Saudi Arabia has a tense relationship with neighboring Yemen, a chronically unstable country that is home to 250,000 Somali refugees — as well as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). “This is a major security threat right at their back door,” says Wehry. “They see al Shabaab as a potential feeder for AQAP.” Wehry also notes that Saudi Arabia supported UN sanctions against Eritrea.

So as improbable as it seems that Saudi Arabia would remain a haven for two very public escapees from one of the world’s most tyrannical states, it’s likely that the pilots aren’t going anywhere. Afewerki, meanwhile, will probably get his plane back, but he’ll want to think about how to keep more pilots from stealing it in the future.

Senegal disqualified from the African Nations Cup

Senegal have been disqualified from the African Nations Cup after the riot that caused their play-off against the Ivory Coast to be abandoned.

Missiles, stones, bottles and firecrackers were thrown onto the pitch and tear gas was used during the match in Dakar.

The Confederation of African Football (CAF) announced that the Ivory Coast have been awarded the match 2-0 and will qualify for the finals next year courtesy of a 6-2 aggregate win.

Heading for shelter: Manchester City star Yaya Toure is guided off the pitch Heading for shelter: Manchester City star Yaya Toure is guided off the pitch

The match was abandoned in the 78th minute with Ivory Coast leading 2-0 thanks to two goals from former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, which sparked violence involving large numbers of Senegal fans.

The disqualification ensures Newcastle strike duo Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse will not have to attend the tournament in South Africa in January, while Premier League stars who will miss club matches include Manchester City’s Yaya and Kolo Toure, Arsenal’s Gervinho and Newcastle’s Cheick Tiote.

Riot: Senegal fans clash in the stands during the game with the Ivory CoastRiot: Senegal fans clash in the stands during the game with the Ivory Coast


Take cover: Kolo Toure is covered by riot policemen's shieldsTake cover: Kolo Toure is covered by riot policemen’s shields

CAF said in a statement: ‘CAF decided to officially confirm the result of the match as 2-0 in favour of Ivory Coast… and to consider Senegal the loser of the said match and eliminated from the competition without prejudice to any other sanctions that may be imposed by CAF disciplinary board.’

CAF rules state: ‘If the referee is forced to stop the match before the end of the regular time because of invasion of the field or aggression against the visiting team, the host team shall be considered loser and shall be eliminated from the competition, without prejudice to the sanctions existing in the regulations.’

Letter to Julius Malema on Zimbabwe

Former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema

If uncollected rubbish dumps, lack of running clean water and a dilapidating infrastructure inspire you Julius, then I suppose you should relocate to Harare.

Greetings to you Julius. I am sure you will note that this is my second letter to you on the same subject matter.

I understand that you visited my country Zimbabwe recently, and that you continue to be inspired by how ZANU (PF) has decimated our economy and its potential. Well, Julius, I dare say that your standards are obviously not that high and I forgive you for that. You see, this is the case with most black Africans; all you have to do is look throughout Africa to realise that the black man, left to his own devices, has dismally failed to raise his standard of living despite having all the resources he needs. Your country, South Africa, is currently suffering from the same disorder and events in the Limpompo province, where you come from, certainly do not inspire me. Shouldn’t you be rather spending your energy there to get things right?

There are historical reasons for that I think, the main one being that coming from poverty backgrounds, black Africans do not really demand or expect much from their leaders. You see Julius; there is just something about us black people and our standards. They are just so low and your inspiration from the Zimbabwe situation proves that to me. By the way, Julius, I forgot to ask you whether you had electricity at the wedding you attended because on that day, I didn’t.

If stinking uncollected rubbish dumps, lack of clean running water and a dilapidating infrastructure inspire you Julius, then I suppose you should relocate to Harare. I have a perfect spot for you where you can, once again, get inspired using pit latrines as some of you do now in a developed South Africa. I understand that this is also the case in Limpompo, where some infrastructure is in bad shape even after some black owned companies were paid to do the work to repair it. I am sure you are aware of that. That hardly inspires me Julius.

I am an enthusiastic believer in economic transformation and the ownership of our economies by the majority and not by international monopolies and oligopolies who are to me, the new colonialists. On that point I fully agree with you. However, that does mean that I should accept a substandard life style. I don’t know about you Julius, but I note that you aspire to live in Sandton (the taxman willing) and not in Thembisa as most of your brothers and sisters do (not that there is anything wrong with living in Thembisa).

I don’t know whether you are aware that Zimbabwe does not actually control its mineral wealth? These have been dished out to the Chinese and to ZANU (PF) cronies some of who are reported to be now building mansions there in Durban. We don’t even know where our diamond revenue is going Julius, can you believe that? I guess that inspires you Julius.

You no doubt, will also be inspired by our agricultural revolution (as you would call it), where now we cannot even feed ourselves and must import maize from Zambia. Yes Julius we in Zimbabwe now “own” those farms but they are useless and lying idle.

Julius, in Zimbabwe, we even own closed factories and shops, we own our own airline which is grounded, we own all our state enterprises that are facing closure because of mismanagement, we own steel mills, power stations, railways, mines; hell you name it Julius and we own it. But all that we own is either underutilised, in a state of disrepair or being driven to the ground through corruption or mismanagement. That’s inspirational Julius, isn’t it?

My advice to you Julius, is to use this “sabbatical” that the ANC has forced upon you wisely, and study and improve yourself. You do have some good arguments on how we must begin to ameliorate the condition of black Africans. You however, need to sharpen your thinking skills.

Africa needs future leaders who are educated, principled, who have integrity and are sensitive to the dynamics of the environment that they operate in. If you by any chance aspire to be one of those, good luck, but I can tell you that will not get that from coming to Harare to insult our intelligence. You seem to have a unique gift of persistently doing that.

Julius, economic freedom in this lifetime is possible, but only if we insist on high standards of leadership and delivery. Nationalisation will not achieve that economic freedom, nor will violence, greed and corruption. Fighting for higher wages is like a slave, fighting for a daily tea break; it will not fundamentally change the economic relationships in South Africa.

I shall be in touch with you again soon, and we may perhaps sit down and inspire each other on the need to develop both our countries and come up with new economic models. Let us rather spend our energies on that, don’t you agree?

Finally I encourage you to choose your friends wisely Julius, because the tide is turning and true economic freedom is coming soon to Zimbabwe. Real economic freedom Julius, which you might want to be once again inspired by.


Vince Musewe

Your comrade in the economic struggle to free Africans from dictatorship, incompetence and poverty.

Vince Musewe is an independent economist currently in Harare. You may contact him on

S.Africa: Julius Malema says white must ‘hand land back’

African National Congress (ANC) youth leader Julius Malema addresses the crowd August 30, outside Luthuli house in Johannesburg. South Africa’s ruling ANC has scrapped a plan to move a disciplinary hearing against the controversial youth wing leader to a secret venue, the party said Wednesday

Expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema must hand back all the land he owns to the Khoisan, AfriForum Youth said on Tuesday.

“Malema’s ancestors also migrated southward and arrived here in South Africa without land,” chairman Charl Oberholzer said in a statement.

“For this reason, we are of the opinion that Malema cannot lay claim to the contributions that white people have made to South Africa.”

The organisation was responding to comments Malema made during a wedding in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe’s Herald Online quoted Malema as saying youths in South Africa were calling for whites to surrender land and mineral resources they held because “when they came from Europe they did not carry any land into South Africa”.

“What we are asking is for them to surrender our minerals because they did not come with any minerals. We want that land and those minerals for free, because they never paid for those minerals.”

Malema said whites committed murder to get land.

“Actually they killed people to get that land and those minerals. We are not going to give them money when we take the land back, because it will be like we are thanking them with money for killing our people.

“We will never do that. Little did they know that we are not scared of blood. We are scared of defeat. We don’t want to be defeated, but seeing blood is not what we are scared of, as long as that blood delivers what belongs to us [and] we are prepared to go to that extent.”

Oberholzer said Malema was “romanticising violence”.

“History is complex and to spread a distorted version of it simply amounts to vandalism against every South African who wants to make a positive contribution in this country,” Oberholzer said.

“As young people we are here to stay and we will not run away from our problems either. No community should step back when it comes to defending the right to peaceful co-existence.”Sapa