Nigeria: Dafinone, DPP Senatorial candidate, unfold vision for Delta Centra

By Henry Ebireri

Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) senatorial candidate in Delta Central, Chief Ede Dafinone Tuesday night vowed to protect the people’s rights to professional representation, sustainable economic development, quality education, job creation, improved healthcare services and poverty alleviation through empowerment if voted into power. “As a senator representing your interests,

I would bring my professional knowledge and experience to bear on a wide range of
public policy issues and topics. As a senator, I would focus on the regional impact of legislation and policies, routinely communicating with individuals, business representatives, universities and schools, communities and interest groups in Delta Central. This would ensure the region’s interests are considered in the public policy process. As a senator, my expertise in many areas, including agriculture, business and economics, the environment and the oil and gas industry would be brought to bear”

The extensively experienced and goal oriented charted accountant with over 34 years’ experience and core competence in accounting, auditing, taxation and conducting who on Tuesday won the Delta Central Senatorial District ticket at the National Assembly primaries of the party with 872 votes in an exercise held at the Ughelli Hall amid tight security promised to devote his energy to serve the people of the area. He also promised to address the problems in the senatorial district.

“There is poor level of attendance in public schools; there is poor quality of teaching in schools. There are schools that are free but just the cost of the books and uniforms are problems to many parents and for this their children don’t go to schools. The problem of poor level of education has given rise to a higher level of crime around the country not just in Delta Central. We have possibly one or even two generations of Nigerians today who are not educated to the level where they can get job and those missing generations are with us for life. They would be 50, 60 years of age and not able to apply for any job, not able to feed their families. And when you get a large group of people in that classification, they are tied to poverty for the rest of their life. We must correct the system from the bottom and start policies that will insure education from that young age. There is also the problem of infrastructure. We have a large number of roads between local governments, inter-state roads that are either
uncompleted or in a bad state of disrepair. If the roads and transportation systems are improved, the movement of goods and farm produce would increase the whole market size available to farmers, traders etc. Health is also an important issue. The quality of healthcare is so poor. Nigeria is still very high on the infant mortality list. The clinics have not been staffed to a level where we can be assured of proper healthcare delivery. There is a lot of work to do in every sector. The issues of banditry, hostage taking, kidnapping, etc are also major problems that need to be addressed urgently”.

Dafinone who said he stands for good governance and integrity, thanked the people of Delta Central who supported his campaign for quality representation with prayers, counsel and encouragement.

He also thanked fellow contestants for the senatorial ticket. “I thank Richard Odibo, Napoleon Gbinijie and Abel Oharume for the
strength of their participation, the vastness of their individual visions and the robustness of their commitment to Urhobo unity. It was truly a family affair.

Emphasizing that his colleagues in the primaries have shown that they are true democrats by the gracious manner in which they have accepted the verdict, he assured them that “their various visions for a greater Delta Central would be fused into where we should be heading to as a people”.

He also commended the party’s leader in the state, Chief Great Ogboru, members of the executive and other party members who spent their time and energy to organise the primaries”.

He appealed to the people of Delta Central and members of the party join hands together to ensure victory come October 5, 2013.

“I wish to assure you that no interest will be overlooked and no point of view will suffer from lack of attention. I am inviting all DPP aspirants, all Urhobo sons and daughters and all non-indigenes residing in Delta Central to join my campaign team”.

Dafinone who also spoke on reasons for joining the senatorial race said he had been content with the little he was doing for fellow human beings within the circumference of his reach and means, until he was convinced that he could have a wider platform to render more beneficial services to humanity as a politician.

”I am a democrat, with a firm belief in the supremacy of the will and the choice of the majority. With fathomless and eternal thanks to God, I am a child of privileged background. I am most happy to have realized very early in life, the lesson that life is nothing if we do not use our vantage positions, to leave the world better than we met it, by improving on the quality of our environment and our fellow human beings.”

Noting that the time has come for the development of the area and the people, Dafinone said he is in the race to touch the people’s lives.

“I am very confident that the people are ready to vote for me. I have no fear about that. As far as the people of Delta Central are concerned, my consultations with them have been very positive.

To beat Al Shabaab Kenya must expel its religious leader ‘Sheikh Hassaan’ from Nairobi – By Hassan M. Abukar

Over the last 2 years Kenya has been one of the few countries successful in its military engagement with Al-Shabaab – expelling the Al-Qaeda affiliate from Kismayo, Somalia’s third largest city. However, the Kenyan government has also been tolerating the presence of a young Somali-Kenyan radical cleric by the name of Hassan Mahad Omar AKA Hassaan Hussein Adam “Abu Salman” who is considered the unofficial mufti (a religious scholar who interprets the sharia) of Al-Shabaab.

“Sheikh Hassaan,” as he is popularly known, is not your typical cleric who teaches basic religious doctrine. He is well-educated and has a degree from an Islamic university in Saudi Arabia. He is 34 years old, articulate, sharp, and a man with a mission. He is, for all practical purposes, a scholar who does not shy away from urging his followers to wage jihad. On July 28, 2011, the United Nations Security Council Committee put Sheikh Hassaan on its sanctions list for “engaging in acts that threaten the peace, security or stability of Somalia.” Moreover, the committee accused the young cleric of acts ranging from recruitment for Al-Shabaab and fund-raising for the group, to issuing fatwas that call for attacks on the Somali government. Sheikh Hassaan does not carry arms himself, but instead provides the religious justification for Al-Shabaab’s heinous crimes. He is highly celebrated on websites sympathetic to the militant group.

Sheikh Hassaan has drawn the ire of Somalia’s religious establishment. In July 2012, a group of 22 Somali scholars met in Nairobi and issued a fatwa of their own, condemning the young radical as a heretic and calling on Somalis to boycott his books and lectures.

The recent bloody discord in Al-Shabaab’s leadership saw two founders of the group killed by loyalists of its emir, Ahmed Abdi Godane. Others, like Hassan Dahir Aweys and Mukhtar Robow, fled for their lives. Such actions were justified by a fatwa of Sheikh Hassaan, who said that those who create conflict among the mujahidin in Somalia should be killed. Al-Shabaab officials still use that fatwa as the religious justification for liquidating their detractors in the movement.

In 2011, the Kenyan government arrested and held Sheikh Hassaan for a few days but then released him without explanation. It is not clear why the young cleric, whose lectures are widely distributed among Somali jihadists across the globe, was let go. Some say that he is being protected by highly influential Kenyan-Somali politicians who, like Sheikh Hassaan, belong to the Darod-Ogaden clan. Others argue that the young cleric is so popular among Somali jihadists that his arrest might create more problems for the already over-stretched and poorly run Kenyan security forces.

One thing is clear: The young cleric is mostly engaged in inciting violence and preaching jihadi ideology among his admirers who in turn direct it against the Somali government.

The Kenyan government has yet to understand that Al-Shabaab’s terrorist attacks in both Somalia and Kenya, like the recent killings in the Westgate Mall of Nairobi, are not born out of a vacuum. They are based, directly or indirectly, on fatwas issued by the group’s de facto mufti, Shaikh Hassan, from the comfort of his home in Nairobi.

Hassan M. Abukar is a freelance writer and political analyst. He can be reached at abukar60@yahoo.com.

Addis Ababa: Housing Boom and Government Land Grab

Dr. Daniel Teferra*

I just returned from Addis Ababa after giving a paper at an international conference on development in Ethiopia. The Conference was organized by Forum for Social Studies (FSS), a domestic think-tank, the only one of its kind, and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), a German NGO. While in Addis, I was able to observe, among other things, the housing boom. I would like to put my observation in a historical perspective.
When Mengistu Hailemariam took state power from the imperial regime, he unleashed his “proletariats” on Addis Ababa to grab “extra” houses and “extra” land–never mind whether they were legally owned or not. Then his “proletariats” became Mengistu’s cadres and paid him back well for his “generosity” when he launched the Red Terror campaign against his political foes.
When the late Meles Zenawi took state power in 1991, he returned confiscated houses and land to their original owners in Mekele but not in Addis Ababa. He had another plan for the city. He introduced a land lease system that turned out to be a lucrative real estate business for his government. A square meter of land in Addis Ababa today easily fetches as much as 40,000 birr in lease price. The government allowed each household up to 500 square meters of land and anything above that was to be confiscated and leased. Some people were forced to lease back their own land or completely relinquish ownership to the government without any compensation.
Zenawi came up yet with another plan for his Addis Ababa. He wanted to build new roads and sky scrapers for the city. So, he relocated the shack dwellers, some of them Mengistu’s former “proletariats”, to the outskirt of the city thereby opening up the land for the government’s land leasing business. People residing near the main roads were ordered to build two- to four-story houses or give up their ownership or use right. Those who could not afford to build multi-story houses lost everything.
Zenawi built some condominiums on the city’s outskirt, but those who were forced out of the city could not afford to buy or rent them. The average wage of a household in Addis Ababa today is about 1,000 birr ($53) a month. Prices of essential goods have gone through the roof. The government collects a back-breaking 15% value added tax (VAT) imposed on the selling price at each stage of production. A greater share of the VAT burden falls on buyers of essential goods; the low income and the poor who spend 80% of their incomes on necessities. Life is a living hell for the vast majority of people in Addis Ababa.
A market for land use right is booming in Addis Ababa. Land use right was supposed to be inherited, but it is being traded now. There is also an underground market for land. In some cases, government officials themselves purposely approve for lease more land than what is requested. They then sell the extra land through brokers. As long as the government is in the leasing business and there is an insatiable demand for construction in Addis Ababa, government land grab will continue and many more people will be dispossessed.

*(Professor of Economics, Emeritus at FSU, currently at UW-Whitewater)

Why Zuma gave in and backed Mugabe – By Simukai Tinhu

South Africa has the potential and the desire to lead in Africa. It has an economy far larger than any in southern Africa and an advanced and powerful military. However, South Africa’s failure to resolve the ‘political crisis’ across the Limpopo in Zimbabwe has left many doubting its capability as an effective regional leader.

Western observers deemed Zimbabwe in a ‘crisis’ state from 2000. South African president Thabo Mbeki – a firm advocate of African solutions to African problems – reassured the West that he was the only international leader with the legitimacy and moral authority to restore order, advance democracy and protect human rights in Zimbabwe. In doing so, he played the role of chief mediator in bringing ZANU-PF and the two factions of the MDC to the negotiating table after the 2008 elections, which resulted in the Government of National Unity (GNU) and the Global Political Agreement (GPA).

In his attempt to resolve the ‘crisis’, Mbeki stressed dialogue and non-intervention in Zimbabwe’s internal politics, an approach that was dubbed (often pejoratively) ‘quiet diplomacy’. This cautious approach not only attracted dismay from the West, who wanted to see tougher action on Mugabe, but was also discredited by local opposition groups, who openly expressed their frustration. Most vocal was Zimbabwe’s main opposition party, the MDC, which accused the South African president of bias. Leaked diplomatic reports in 2010 appeared to confirm these fears, highlighting Mbeki’s bias towards Zimbabwe’s incumbent president and his party.

Playing it tough?

It was in this context that much hope was placed on Mbeki’s successor, Jacob Zuma, to lead from the front in coaxing Zimbabwe towards greater democracy, including Zimbabwe’s then-Prime Minister and leader of the larger MDC faction Morgan Tsvangirai. When Zuma came to the post in 2009, commentators assured he would opt for a tougher stance towards President Mugabe.

It was Zuma who led the facilitation team in Zimbabwe which was responsible for drawing up a roadmap to the 2013 elections. Zuma appeared to make it clear that the reforms promised by Mugabe to the SADC under the GPA, which would enforce the separation of state and ZANU-PF institutions, would be completed before elections could be called. When the US President Barack Obama visited South Africa in June this year, he praised Zuma’s efforts for having presented “an opportunity…to move into a new phase where perhaps Zimbabwe can finally achieve all its promise.”

However, when Mugabe insisted on holding the elections on July 31 without the completion of these reforms, Zuma could do little. The elections were held amidst allegations of vote rigging and voter intimidation, and Mugabe emerged victorious.

Despite such concerns, President Zuma was among the first to congratulate Mugabe for his victory and encourage the opposition to accept the outcome, putting him at odds with those in the country and the international community who questioned the results. On 20 August, Zuma officially concluded his facilitation role, apparently drawing a line under the election and five more years of ZANU-PF rule.

ZANU-PF strikes back

Those who were disappointed with Zuma for his apparent failings in Zimbabwe would do well to remember the number of cards that Mugabe holds against the (apparently more powerful) South African president.

Firstly, Zuma, as regional leader, has considerable responsibility to keep together the main regional body, SADC. When Zuma continued to press for political and electoral reforms earlier this year, Mugabe decided to play this card, upping the stakes and threatening to pull Zimbabwe out of SADC unless Zimbabwe was left without interference.

Zuma was understandably wary of being blamed for the weakening or breaking-up of the main regional body. Mugabe’s apparent willingness to undermine the stability of the SADC was a gamble that paid off, and Zuma backtracked on his attempts to extract further concessions on reforms from ZANU-PF, apparently accepting the 31 July election date.

Secondly, Mugabe and ZANU-PF were in no mood to compromise. Extreme positions were taken on a number of issues with the aim of undermining any meaningful negotiations. For example, Mugabe insisted that all sanctions against the ZANU-PF elite be lifted before any political and electoral reforms could take place – a decision that was out of Zuma’s hands.

Diplomatic decorum gone to the dogs

Mugabe and ZANU-PF also deliberately disregarded diplomatic decorum as part of their strategy to undermine Zuma and his facilitation team through a war of words.

At the forefront of this was Jonathan Moyo, recently appointed Minister of Information in Mugabe’s new cabinet. In the state-owned Sunday Mail newspaper, Moyo attacked Zuma, labelling the South African president as “erratic”. He added, “The problem with Zuma now is that his disconcerting behaviour has become a huge liability, not only to South Africa, but to the rest of the continent.” Admittedly, he was later reprimanded by Zimbabwean Vice President Joice Mujuru for his comments.

Zuma’s international relations advisor, Lindiwe Zulu, was subjected to such attacks from even higher up the ZANU-PF circles. She was described by Mugabe as “stupid and idiotic” and a “street woman” when she publicly expressed concern with the pace of political and electoral reforms. Zuma responded by censuring Zulu for “jumping the gun” in criticising the electoral preparations, which made clear that Mugabe’s vocal attacks on interference were having an effect across the border.

Reportedly, the South African facilitation team came to expect a chilly reception each time they visited Harare and often found their efforts blocked by a lack of cooperation from ZANU-PF. On one occasion, a SADC meeting facilitated by South Africa had to be cancelled after Mugabe refused to attend.

Backing the winning horse

What made Zuma so susceptible to Mugabe throwing his weight around? Ultimately, it was because the pillar upon which President Zuma’s policy seemed to rest was unable to bear weight. Initially, the South African President was banking on the belief that the opposition had a genuine chance of unseating ZANU-PF in the July elections. But once it became increasingly likely that ZANU-PF would remain in power after August 2013, the South African president was forced to consider his position for the sake of his future relations with the leaders of Zimbabwe.

This is particularly true in the run up to South Africa’s 2014 elections. President Mugabe’s party has already shown itself capable of inflicting damage on Zuma’s bid for re-election, by providing ideological inspiration and, allegedly, financial support to the Economic Freedom Fighters, a new explicitly anti-Zuma party set up by former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema. Indeed, the African National Congress (ANC) Secretary General has accused ZANU-PF of influencing the thinking and actions of Malema and Malema frequently admits that he gets his inspiration from Mugabe, adding that South Africa should learn from Zimbabwe when it comes to issues such as land reform.

The upcoming election has forced Zuma to put his self-preservation above second-order interests such as the spreading of democracy and protection of human rights in other countries. Despite his genuine interest in pushing for reform in Zimbabwe, the South African president was arguably forced to abandon his tough stance when his personal interests were threatened. Once it became clear who the likely electoral winner was going to be, Mugabe’s power at the negotiating table rocketed and, arguably, Zuma had no choice but to back the winning horse.

Simukai Tinhu is a political analyst based in London.

Ethiopia: Nomenclatural Comedy in politics and Religion

Fikir Yibeltal

Hezbollah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah said yesterday that his group would never acquire chemical weapons on religious ground (Emphasis mine). I don’t think the Holy Quran prescribes which weapon to use when. I could be proved wrong. But I believe that our conventional religious books such as the Christians’ Bible and the Jews’ Torah or Talmud and the Muslims’ Quran recommend the best weapons to kill each other. I hope, they rather preach love and peace to prevail among their followers. In light of this, the fact that Hezbollah’s army is currently engaged in Syria’s civil war to help Assad the ‘butcher’ and presumably the fact that they both are said to have been employing any means to defeat the rebels and thereby stifle the popular revolution of the majority belies what this man reprobates the acquisition of chemical weapons “on religious ground”. So funny!
Here I begin my arguments about the nomenclature I observed ridiculous. Hezbollah can serve as a steppingstone. The meaning of this name is ‘People of Allah’. I personally admire this resistance group in its determination to defend its existence and its country, Lebanon, from foreign aggression. But I sometimes oppose its moves with regard to alleged killings and kidnappings, which, I believe, are against the pillars of the Islamic religion; we all know that ‘Islam’ means ‘peace’. Recently, this group is involved in a foreign war to support dictatorship and suppress the thirst for freedom of the oppressed majority of Syria. This malicious and politically motivated intervention doesn’t bear any respect to an organization whose name is implicated with God or Allah, for Allah or God is presumed to be directly related to love and peace. Therefore, to me, this name is a bit far from the meaning or reality it wants to designate. Whether you kill a person by nuclear weapon or chemical gas or an ordinary rifle, death remains to be death and hence there is no blessed killing as there is no cursed rescuing. Therefore, be it Iran or Hezbollah or anyone else, it is my belief that they cannot refrain from having any sort of WMD due to religious grounds, for the religion doesn’t give them any list of armaments to own or disown; if they say so, they must be trying to fool the ‘international community’.
I have come to North Africa. Let’s assume we are in Egypt now. Muslim Brotherhood. I always sneeringly laugh whenever I hear of this name. What does it mean? I don’t really understand. How can a group dare to call itself ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ or ‘Buddhist Sisterhood’ or ‘Christian Unclehood’ and come to the political arena of the nation in question? It is too… myopic, to say the least. This name, Muslim Brotherhood, a name coined from only two words, automatically rejects the involvement in it of two great entities in the society: they are women and non-Muslim citizens. Frankly speaking, any party or group or organization that wants to engage in politics should by no means build a fence to avoid people on the bases of sex and religion. It must be archaic or a matter of ignorance if people come ahead to establish a political party based on such trivial dichotomies. That is why the Muslim Brotherhood is suffering the blow of its naivety or foolishness at most.
If you want to come to politics, you have to put aside your religious dogmas and doctrines; go to monasteries or covenants and suffer you flesh there in order to save your soul. Why should people blend the flesh, the physical world, with the soul, the spiritual world? Why? Why should Allah or God come to the earthly governments and impose their tough ruling through the Sharia or the strictest doctrines some churches want to apply? You have to know that there are people of different religions including, of course, irreligiousness and atheism that do not require one to obey any superstitious or super natural deity. Politics is related to citizenship and communal national identity irrespective of who believes in whom or what; politics is not a matter of heaven and hell; it is not a matter of righteousness and condemnation, either. It is absurd to bring personal preferences into politics. Egypt has a population of about 90 million. Out of this enormous population, about 10 percent are Christians. If any group dares to establish, say, Christian Brotherhood or Muslim Brotherhood, it is setting up a scarecrow as a result of which others out of its domain could develop fear. Christian values and principles work, or are expected to work, among Christians; Islamic values work, or are expected to work, among Muslims. We cannot and should not force people to choose the way we follow; it must be a sin. If you kill or harm a person due to his or her refusal to follow your religion, that must be the very cause of your eternal condemnation; who are you to choose his choosing? In light of this, how can we force others, others who are entitled to have equal rights of citizenship, to abide by this or that religious dogmas? Who is Muslim Brotherhood to force all Egyptians to observe Sharia law? What do religion and democracy have in common? What could the source of all such stupidity be? Irritating!
As a matter of fact, any religious party cannot be democrat; religion is all about submission of interests and carnal ambitions to certain visible or invisible entity. It has nothing to do with elections, ballot boxes, and polls. People must know what they say and in what they believe; we don’t have to intermingle things for the sake of our hidden agendas. Muslim Brotherhood (of any country, for that matter) cannot be an apostle of democracy; if people are heard of such claims, it is ridiculous. Now, at this very moment, some members of Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt are participating in discussion arranged by the Al Jazeera. I hear them about the ‘unfair coup’ that had toppled Mohammad Mursi some months back. I suppose, they are not shouting for the sake of maintaining democracy; they are rather shouting for the failure of the hidden intention Mursi began to achieve. That intention was, according to some commentators, gradually changing Egypt to an Islamic State. But, look what they say now:- “The democratically elected president is deposed by a military coup.” I am not arguing whether or not the so called coup is a coup or anything else. That is none of my business. But I want to emphasize that, names and deeds are self-contradictingly different. In any case, we don’t have to expect Muslim Brotherhood to use the term ‘democracy’, for they are alien to each other.
Let’s go to Germany. I guess there is a party called ‘Christian Democrats’. All my explanations given to Muslim Brotherhood are applicable here too, except the difference that the latter officially entertains the membership of females. I say this because, the name ‘Christian Democrats’ doesn’t say ‘Democrats of Christian Brotherhood’. I wonder how some namings such as the ones we are discussing here are not considered and reconsidered well before, while and after their formation and the necessary amendment is not made thereof before they become bone of contention in due course of time. And I wonder how such groups prefer to be willing to be a laughing stuff before the so called civilized world. On my behalf, they make me laugh. I can’t imagine Muslim Brotherhood decrying the stifling of democracy in Egypt.
Now to Ethiopia. TPLF – Tigray People’s Liberation Front. This name was coined some 39 years back before proper Tigray was ‘liberated’ from the rest of Ethiopia. This name could have been appropriate if TPLF used it until 1991. But it is ridiculously laughable to use this name after that year. With all-round assistance from the historical enemies of Ethiopia, TPLF liberated the whole Tigray in 1991. Then after, it should either control independent Tigray and limit itself to that newly created ‘nation’ or abandon its former name and create another one that suits the entire Ethiopia; genuine another one, not like the so called EPRDF which was and still is utterly nominal tailored to fit Ethiopia as a make-believe when the name TPLF was not found to be advisable use in ‘liberating’ the rest of the country. Instead of choosing either of the two, TPLF preferred to maintain its outdated name and continued its banditry usurping the political power of the country which was held by a relatively benign nationalist dictator (ሰው ካልሄደ ወይ ካልሞተ አይመሰገንምና መንግሥቱም የሚመሰገንበት ጊዜ መጣ፡፡). TPLF with its odd name has been acting like a shifta since the time it ousted Ethiopian undemocratic authorities. Well, it is better to have cruel of your own than to have both cruel and traitors of the ‘alien’ who deprive you of all human and citizenship rights.
OLF. Oromo Liberation Front. This is one of the liberation fronts in Ethiopia. It doesn’t give any room for any other Ethiopians who want to fight for their freedom. The same is true with TPDM, Tigray People’s Democratic Movement and many others which are fond of sticking some regional or linguistic epithets in their names for any short or long term advantage.
To sum up, I would like to say that names of groups or parties are self-expressive and we can understand many things. And I would like also to stress that groups should not try to cheat people by saying something what their names do not allow them to say so. For example, if I say “My party ‘Young Christian Men of Qimbibit – YCMQ’ believes that democracy is the basis of any societal development and our party is committed to this notion with respect to creating prosperous Ethiopia,” this assertion is completely false. In the first place, this party, YCMQ, has uncompromising fences that are used to shun important sections of the society; no women, no adults and elders, no other religions, and no people out of Qimbibit. Democracy is a matter of ballot box not of frightening fences such as religion and sex or the like. We cannot live with two opposing things; we have to love darkness and live according to the rule of the game darkness entertains or we have to love light and live accordingly – darkness and light could be likened as undemocratic and democratic setups respectively, though in some instances democracy may lead into darkness when and if it is abused or manipulated by the undeserving cunning people. You may remember George W. Bush Jr. Most people tend to relate democratically elected dictatorship with this guy. Mursi does too. When options are narrowed down to an ugly state of affairs, you may be obligated to elect the unelectable. As a result of that you may be immersed into a democratically elected dictatorship. Such scenarios in turn may result in societal desperation and hopelessness wherein millions fail to participate in elections thinking their voice wouldn’t bring about a change. Life goes on like this … in Ethiopia as well as in Fiji. And beyond. But I don’t think things won’t change; they will.

Akwa Ibom @ 26: What Is ‘uncommon’ About Governor Godswill Akpabio Transformation?

It is all well to copy what one sees, but it is far better to draw what one now only sees in ones memory that is transformation in which imagination collaborates with memory
Edgar Degas

Fejiro Oliver
I had gone to the one of this failing network office to sort out a problem; why I’m even hiding the name? Airtel, that network that deserves to be in the dustbin, had made their scratch panel so hard that I scratched it wrongly. When I placed a call to their customer care, the guy at the other end told me to go to their office, somewhere in the East to sort it out, since I could not give him ten visible number of the wrongly scratched pin. I was livid but what will I do than go there, since I needed to load my internet subscription for my phone.
Just when it got to my turn to be attended to, I received a call and when I said “Fejiro Oliver on the line”, some heads turned and I went out to answer my call. When I came in to continue my business, a lady walked up to me, introduced herself as a physician, working in one of the Federal Medical Centres. I felt honored meeting her, just the way she felt, expressing how her colleagues are wondering who this F.O is that has come to pour sand in their garri, with his consistent report on the health sector. I asked her of own opinion and to be candid, she wasn’t happy on the blunt reports, but was happy meeting me at last to vent her mind.
She asked me what I felt about the Akwa Ibom State Governor, and why I had not written anything to praise the Governor for his “Uncommon Transformation” in the state, especially as the State will be celebrating her 26th anniversary in a weeks’ time (as at when we met). I promised to get back to her. To you Anna Imebong; this little note from me to you is the answer to what I and millions of Nigerian think about Akwa Ibom State.
There is no disputing the fact that Governor Godswill Akpabio has done well in the governing of his state. We cannot argue the fact that he has raised the pride of the Akwa Ibom man to a high level, and taken away the housemaid mentality which they were known for from the minds of many Nigerian. It will be foolhardy to throwaway his political prowess among his fellow governors, just as it will be untrue to say that the man who self named himself ‘uncommon transformation governor’ has not done what Napoleon could not do. At least in the eyes of Nigerians as seen mainly through the media, Akwa Ibom ado ok! (A slang which means, ‘Akwa Ibom is Ok’)
But I refused to be moved by the media and I embarked on various trips to the State to see things for myself, asked questions and settled down, especially, when I have a little root in the state.
One major problem with Nigerian is believing that the government deserves to rule the way they want, thus when a governor builds a road or flyover just like Akpabio has been doing; they praise him to the high heavens from afar, even if what they see are only media propaganda. They forgot that the governor is only using their money to make life better for them. To make the state better is the duty they are paid to do and failure to do that should be a criminal offence. So lets stop the praises and challenge them to work.
This brings us to the question, what is uncommon about Akpabio’s transformation? Is it an uncommon transformation that over 125 persons have died and hundreds kidnapped in political related matters which have been linked to the governor himself? The state was one of the most peaceful in Nigeria, but I can recollect that when I visited during the last general election, I was warned not to mention anything bad about Akpabio, lest I will be declared a missing Journalist.
Is it uncommon transformation that Akwa Ibom State receives the highest Federal allocation, yet infrastructures on ground do not reflect the trillions gotten from her oil revenue? For crying out loud, we deserve an explanation on how our collective wealth is spent by Akpabio, and not sing his praises for merely doing what we elected him for. It amounts to praising a civil servant who is a secretary for typing the materials given to him to do. Let’s wake up.
What manner of uncommon transformation is it that the Governor develops his senatorial district and leaves out the goose that lays the golden egg (Eket Senatorial District), a place I have visited many times without any meaningful development? The only visible project there is the Akwa Ibom State University, located at Mkpa Enin. The uncommon transformation by the governor to me smacks of uncommon fraud?
Is it uncommon transformation that during the silver jubilee of the state, the state governor made various citizens of the state to play, to enable them win houses at the Silver Jubilee Estate, along Idoro Road, yet one year after, none of the winners have been given the keys to their houses? Calls which I placed to the various winners yesterday indicated that the governor in alliance with Skye Bank and Papi Events have just conned them of their hard earned money.
Is it uncommon transformation that one the contract awarded for the flyover at Itam called Goodluck Flyover was inflated by the governor and the money siphoned to foreign bank accounts? Excuse me Nigerians, lets learn to hold our leaders accountable than allow them spend millions on publicity. Personal investigations reveal that the governor has wasted over 380 million Naira for publicity stunt since 2007 when he was elected. Tell us; is that the uncommon transformation?
Is it uncommon transformation that Akwa Ibom State is filled with the Keke Napep, while the gold cabs which was bought by the governor has suddenly disappeared into thin air with many of them in the houses of his commissioners and cronies in Ewet Housing Estate? Is it part of the uncommon fraud that the Tropicana project which was started by former Governor Victor Attah is now solely the glory of Godswill Akpabio?
What manner of uncommon transformation that a governor like Akpabio will rig a national election in Ikot Ekpene senatorial district and no law enforcement agencies raise an eyebrow? Do we call it uncommon rigging transformation? Akpabio may have built roads in Uyo, but is Uyo the only resident area in Akwa Ibom State?
We all cannot be deceived and if all are falling for such, I just refuse to be blinded! The alleged 3 billion given to the tribunal judges to impose him on the people has not been forgotten. No one forgets the Ikot Ekpene-Abak road which was a true transformation of the governor, but we do not also forget that there was an agreement by the company that constructed the road, that they will take Nna-Eninites land for sand and gravel while in exchange they will build an access road from Abak-Ikot Ekpene road to the village and this would include a bridge over stream that divides the road into two. Instead, the company built a makeshift bridge to allow their heavy duty vehicles transport construction materials from the bank of the stream to the main road. When the rain came, the bridges washed away, while the people now have their source of water polluted for consumption. Is it an uncommon transformation of giving with the left hand and taking with the right hand?
The AMAKPE refinery project at Eket was shut down by the governor on October 27, 2007 by the governor, without minding the millions of dollars the principals of AMAKPE in America has spent on the project. Is this also a case of transformation agenda, by denying over 2000 people jobs which would have been created by the company? Is it part of the uncommon transformation mantra that the governor build a mini residential estate in Abak but its overgrown with bushes, as no one is living there?
The Tropicana project was initially contracted for 33 billion Naira, but was raised to 40 billion Naira; do we call it also part of the uncommon transformation? Same project cost 12 billion Naira in Abuja and was funded by Silver Bird entertainment group, not the Federal Government. The case of inflating project is not a new culture in Nigeria (though I loathe it), but most Akpabio inflates his so much to the detriment of the citizens? This to me is a case of uncommon high level looting.
And I ask again; while Akpabio has many journalists in his payroll, was it part of the uncommon transformation agenda to throw into prison Mr Essien Ewoh who distributed Fresh Facts Newspaper, which published a negative story against the governor? Lest I forget, the publisher, Mr Sam Asowata was arrested in Abuja and tucked into the truck and driven to Uyo, a distance of 500 kilometers. His daughter was also arrested in the raid. .
As the state continue in their celebration of the 26th anniversary, may I ask the uncommon transformation governor of the whereabouts of the 31 industries he promised to build while campaigning for his second tenure? And may I also ask on whose account this man of uncommon creature has been spending the millions he is using to prosecute the anti governor Rotimi Amaechi war?
As the governor set straight to hand over the baton and celebrate one more year of the state anniversary, we of the progressives urge you to straighten your path and mend your ways. Till we see personally; one on one, I wish you and the state a big happy birthday.
These little things matter…
Fejiro Oliver, a Journalist can be reached on secretsreporters@gmail.com and +2348026797588 (sms only please). Engage him on twitter @fejirooliver86 and Facebook; fejirooliver86. Like our Facebook page- secretsreporters

PIA Compliments Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation

Berhan Hagos


PIA Compliments Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation
PIA’s latest lecture is yet another confirmation that Eritrea is further backsliding into economic obscurity – and the worst is yet to come.  It is baffling how self-respecting intellectuals and even those with basic school of life can support and regurgitate PIA’s circular reasoning.  Many cyber articles have already been written analyzing or satirizing PIA’s lecture.  This article analyzes PIA’s lecture from slightly different perspective.

First, PIA has one valuable asset – faking sincerity.  He tells us about our limited capacity, the need for accountability, transparency, wider consultations with senior government officials and with the public, socio-economic experiences of other countries, his concerns for human life, and his aversion towards giving false hopes (‘mitibar’) through unworkable socio-economic policies.  He tells us that we should work towards attaining sustainable development.  To add insult to injury, he tells us while addressing health issues that no medical expense should be spared to send patients, i.e. his top ‘yes men’, abroad for medical treatment because – hear this – ‘human life is precious’.  After telling us every Eritrean life is weighed in the hard/foreign currency it generates and knowing fully that he has imprisoned thousands of mothers, elders, and prisoners-of-conscious for no political motive other than out of vindictiveness and to instil utter fear into the population, it is mind boggling the audacity of making such blatant lies.   For a regime totally averse to transparency, PIA keeps telling us how important transparency is for economic growth.  Lies told often enough don’t become the truth!

But reality is totally different.  PIA tells us that there is no need to provide socio-economic data, except the regime is spending $320 Million USD on energy imports.  Indeed it is not important when ordinary Eritreans need no official data as they are experiencing it bitterly every day.  Prohibited from earning honest day’s wages, skyrocketing prices, no electricity or water, forced to attend Sawa Rape Factory, and imprisoned incommunicado, people are fleeing the country en mass – these are the only data they need.  On per capita basis, and even on absolute basis, Eritrea is the single biggest producer of refugees and human misery in the world.   If it is about sacrificing oneself for the future, then it is about equal sacrifice – not few living in luxury while most live in misery. It is about those in Diaspora who speak and campaign for Eritrean sacrifice – except sacrifice is meant for those in Eritrea, not themselves.  It is also about justice – not few above the law, while vast majority are being abused by the few who are above the law.  Today’s Eritrea is suffering a disconnect among idealism, hodgepodge politics and reality – just as PIA’s latest lecture clearly shows.

So what is PIA’s sustainable economic growth?  Mr. Kubrom Dafla’s interviews with assenna.com give us valuable insight into the state of economic affairs in Eritrea.   If we are to reduce PIA’s economic rationale, it would that if an economic activity doesn’t generate hard/foreign currency (such as US dollars) then the activity should not be undertaken. Yet again, PIA’s economic philosophy is deeply intertwined with his sadistic political philosophy.  After all, after telling us that economic growth must precede democracy, the sure way to extinguish any hope of democracy in Eritrea is to strangle its economy.  Moreover, PIA’s, as is true for other dictators, false campaign for self-sufficiency is designed more to avoid interaction through insular policies with the rest of world which may demand accountability, transparency, and the rule of law.

What are Eritrea’s Development Projects?  What does PIA mean by sustainable economic development?

In the nutshell, PIA’s circular reasoning goes like this – lack of electric power (energy) impedes us from realizing economic growth – then goes the circular reasoning – and we can not invest in electric power expansion because our economic growth doesn’t justify it.    It is like the chicken and egg question – which one comes first?

As stated above, PIA’s sole economic formula is that every activity must generate DIRECT hard currency.  Examining PIA’s logic, for instance, increasing fish export to generate hard currency and then using that to buy fuel for tractors to farm land for farmers is a waste of resources.  According to PIA, every non-hard currency generating activity in Eritrea – be it food, electricity, water, education, health, justice, etc… – is a waste if it doesn’t eventually lead to exports that generate hard currency.  Wow!  Eritreans in Eritrea who worth only in Nakfas are doomed!

Examining PIA’s underlying logic, his feigning of concerns for human trafficking beguiles a deliberate and cruel policy – which is to forcefully exile Eritreans to generate foreign currency.  For instance, Eritrean exiles in Israel have been remitting significant amounts to Eritrea which, according to PIA’s economic philosophy, makes them more valuable because they are worth in USD, not Nacka.

According to PIA, every penny of hard currency should be used to undertake sustainable economic development.  As such, electricity, water and other infrastructures that are currently available in the urban centres simply consume hard currency without generating any long-term economic benefits while exhausting dwindling hard currency.  As such tells us PIA, the urban population should not get any more benefits than the rural population.  In other words, Eritrea must regress first economically, socially, and politically before proceeding forward.  Equality in poverty first before prosperity!  It is a military equivalent of withdrawing or retreating into your base, or reverting from a conventional army to guerrilla warfare.  At least during the war of independence, everybody pretended that there was equality in sacrifice – but not in today’s Eritrea.

Throughout the lecture PIA keeps reminding us about Eritrean development projects.  Yet, one is forgiven if baffled at what point in his five hours of lecture he spoke in any detail of these projects.  One moment he tells us about agricultural projects, water reservoirs, roads, ports, electricity, etc…, and then the next moment tells us that most of these projects are worthless because they don’t generate hard currency. All these road projects don’t even meet anticipated demands.

The only ‘so called’ development project in Eritrea is PIA’ s pet project – Gerset/Farko, which is about 20,000 hectares.  Twenty two (22) years of independence later, we have one 20,000 hectares of commercial farming which is more used for ‘experimental’ purposes than any serious effort to meet the country’s food need.  In fact, following PIA singular obsession of hard currency, Gerset/Farko would only be considered a success if it can generate cash crops for export (such as cotton).  According to PIA, why should he waste hard currency to produce food for domestic consumption because ordinary Eritreans pay him in Nacka.  The self-sufficiency campaign, which we took to mean self-reliance to produce domestic food needs, is totally misguided.  Rather, self-sufficiency has a new meaning, which is to generate hard currency by producing cash crops for export, and which in turn is deposited in Fubon Bank.

Deciphering PIA’s ominous message:

  • The worthiness of people or consumers will be determined by their abilities to generate hard currency.  Exporting people, albeit through cruel policy of forcing people to flee the country by demoralizing, is a deliberate policy designed to generate hard currency.  In contrast, and as potential source of hard currency, Diaspora Eritrea should be courted in order to dip into their hard currency laden pockets.
  • Worse will be education, health, and any institution which will not be allocated hard currency.
  • Dwindling hard currency means that electric outages, water shortages and other urban services will deteriorate for years to come.  The biggest victim is the City of Asmara.
  • With cement factory unable to produce cement, and PIA telling us that there is no electricity to power the factory, the recently announced Housing Bank project might not be built or may take much longer to construct.
  • Without affordable housing, normal life for Eritrea’s youths is a pipe dream for the foreseeable future.

PIA Complimenting Ethiopia

Despite a broad range of issues addressed, albeit superficially, during PIA’s lecture, the underlying message was designed to demoralize the Eritrean population by, in his own words, not give Eritrean any false hopes.  At the same time, PIA made a conscious effort not to be compared to Ethiopia’s booming economy telling us that it is all illusion.

Probably no part of PIA’s lecture fell apart as much as when he talked about Ethiopia’s Millennium Dam (Grand Renaissance Dam /GRD).   When completed in 2017, it will produce up to 6,000 MW of hydro electricity.  PIA attempts to belittle GRD by comparing Ethiopia’s electric production to Israel and then to Europe – and that can only be a compliment when one starts comparing a third world country to First World Countries.  Why not compare Ethiopia’s progress with Eritrea, or other third world countries instead of first world countries?  Kudos to Ethiopia!

Today’s Ethiopia is a thorn on the side of PIA’s Eritrea not so much militarily but because Ethiopia has managed to formulate short and long term economic policies (e.g. 2010 – 2015 Growth and Transformation Period (GTP) which incorporates the Millennium Development Goals), which enables it to slowly and in controlled manner to build its political and other institutions, and to transition into post-Meles Ethiopia.

During the 2010-2015 Growth and Transformation Period, Ethiopia will have added over 10,000 MW of sustainable hydro and wind power to its power grid.  In 2015, Eritrea will have lost most its 120 MW  of capacity to less than half – i.e. in PIA’s own admission that the existing electric generators are getting old and in much need of repair but that nothing can be done in the near future due to lack of hard currency.  Moreover, it is worth distinguishing between capacity and actual production.  Electric production is measured in MWh or mostly in GWh, i.e. how many hours the electric generators operated in a year.  In Eritrea’s case, due to lack of fuel and maintenance issues, the generators are operating less than 50% of the time (based on estimated electric blackouts in Asmara), thus the 120 MW of capacity at 50% operation is equivalent to 60 MW operating at 100% (theoretically, as no generators ever operate at 100% due to scheduled maintenance, but suffice for illustration purposes).  Instead of belittling Ethiopia over its 10,000 MW, PIA should answer how he can achieve sustainable economic growth with 60 MW.

Every project in Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation Period is what PIA envies and talks about for Eritrea – infrastructure developments, generating hard currencies, balanced growth all over Ethiopia, etc…

Comparing the sufficiency of Ethiopia’s electric output to Developed Countries is highly deceiving:

  • Most developed countries are located in colder climates where electricity, along with gas, is used to heat homes in winter and air conditioning in the summer.  Most of Ethiopia is blessed with moderate climate that doesn’t require artificial air control.
  • Most households in developed countries have many kitchen appliances, washer/dryers, dishwashers, hair dryers, multiple televisions and many other electric goods.  Today’s Ethiopia needs basic electricity for households – mostly for lighting and electric stoves.  In today’s Eritrea, even urban areas aren’t served with basic electricity.
  • Significant portion of daytime electric consumption in developed countries is made by commercial and industrial establishments.  Ethiopia has not yet reached that level yet.

The 10,000 MW of electricity enables Ethiopia to:

  • Provide basic electricity to households which PIA can’t do for its own population other than to tell people to go and live in rural areas (sadistic),
  • Provide sufficient electricity to its growing commercial and industrial establishments.  As an Eritrean, it is embarrassing when Ethiopia is able to run 3 or 4 massive cement factories while PIA is complaining that he can’t even run one small sized cement factory – and we are endowed with so many raw materials for cement production.
  • Provide Ethiopia with a clear and well defined economic path that it can build on.  As they say, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ and that incremental growth is what gets us to our destination. What isn’t here today surely won’t be there in 5 or 10 years.  PIA’s Eritrea has no plan to expand electricity in the near future, which means that Eritrea will remain in the dark for the next 10 years.
  • Provide Ethiopia with hard/foreign currency.  Although Ethiopia needs every MWh of electricity it produces for its domestic consumption, it must sell electricity to Djibouti, Kenya, and Sudan for the same logic that PIA took 5 hours to lecture us – i.e. every venture must generate hard currency just like his yet to produce development projects.  Ethiopia may buy crude oil from Sudan in exchange for electricity.  Ethiopia may pay Djibouti for its port facilities with electricity, and the same for Kenya.  What Ethiopia is doing is every bit consistent with PIA’s lecture – yet PIA has no qualms belittling Ethiopia.
  • Power Ethiopia’s rail system, thus alleviating its transportation system from relying on imported fuel, which in turn saves foreign currency (consistent with PIA’s philosophy).  The Addis Ababa-Djibouti, Mekele-Djibouti, and Addis Ababa LRT will all be electrified.

PIA’s Kamikaze Policies

First it should be noted whenever PIA says, “… Our policy/policies …”, or “…This government’s policy/policies…”, it should be taken to mean his policies.  There are no parliament, PFDJ Central Committee, or cabinet ministers to consult.

During his lecture, PIA keeps returning to a couple of deficiencies that are holding Eritrea’s economic growth

  • Agro-industry: when asked about agro-industry, PIA lectures us that selling raw agricultural products will not yield sufficient foreign revenues and that these products must be processed further to fully realize our potential.  The drawback: no electricity to run our factories.
  • Mining:  after telling us mining isn’t producing sufficient income but then tells us that mining products can’t be further processed locally because of lack of electricity.
  • Alternative energy:  PIA tells us Eritrea must obtain alternative local energy resources to power its electrical outputs.  At the same time, PIA alludes to the fact alternative energy sources too expensive and can’t be justified under current circumstances.  Not satisfied with hydro and wind energy (Ashegoda Wind Generator alone in Tigray produced over 120 MW), Ethiopia is undertaking feasibility studies with Icelandic consulting company to explore geothermal power in Ethiopia which potentially produce over 5,000 MW.  Eritrea should have similar potential.At the end of PIA’s lecture one is left with the impression that electricity is some supernatural phenomenon that is beyond the capacity of Eritreans to produce and that we, including PIA, must pray to Apollo or Ra (Sun gods) for our energy needs.  It appears that PIA’s pinning his hope, in his own words during the latest lecture, in eventually normalizing relationship with Ethiopia and buying electricity from them.  ‘Kab Seb Zitesebey bdewu beleye!’
  • Port and Free Port:  For 22 years, PIA has been talking about expanding Eritrea’s two ports and developing free port.  Instead of reporting on his progress, PIA tells us that the world has been conspiring to render Eritrean ports useless.  It is a well known fact that a Norwegian company (negotiated by high ranking PFDJ official) had presented in 2007 a negotiated final proposal to develop the Port of Asseb but PIA dismissed the proposal without even looking at it saying that he is in talks with Chinese companies to develop it.  Six years later – nothing!
  • Road and transportation sectors:  After telling for so many that he has achieved so much in building road infrastructures in Eritrea, now PIA tells us that most of the existing road infrastructures are inadequate.  Moreover he tells us that train network must be established and that we should endeavour to connect Port of Massawa to Sudan through alternative routes in Eritrea.  But these are pipe dreams for a regime operating on few dimes of foreign currency. While PIA is dreaming for all us, Djibouti and Ethiopia just agreed to commence connecting the Djibouti-Ethiopia train line to Sudan at the cost of $ 600M USD.  PIA dreams, others do!
  • Housing Projects:  In 22 years of power, PIA has not built a single affordable housing for Eritreans.  As such, Eritreans haven’t been able to lead normal family life, which is the most basic building block of every society, and by extension a country.  In contrast, the Addis Ababa Administration alone has built and delivered to local residents over 80,000 apartments and houses in the last 10 years, and is currently undertaking another 130,000 houses within the Growth and Transformation Period – all again, for ordinary folks in Addis Ababa, not Diaspora Ethiopians with USD$.  Even the Dergue regime, with its limited resources, allowed local Asmara residents to build houses in Mai Chehot and many other areas.
  • Economy in General:  PIA’s argument is that natural resources are a curse (Resource Curse) unless some factors, only known to him – let us call them enabling factors, are put in place to fully exploit these resources.  Obviously, one can only deduce that these are enabling factors are non-economic factors, as PIA has done everything to destroy them, and must be some socio-political factors.  We can also deduce it is not about building social, economic, legal or political institutions.   After eliminating many factors, one is left with two factors:  maintaining power as he may think that his power survival is Eritrea’s survival (delusions of all dictators) and/or social re-engineering (yet another delusion of all dictators).  Throughout history people have tried to destroy religions, ethnicity and other sources of human divisions for greater good by attempting to homogenize their subjects.  All have failed without exception!  PIA is taking a path proven throughout history as failures. PIA leaves us with the impression that Eritrea’s resources are insufficient to propel its economic growth.  When asked about mining, he tells us that it doesn’t generate sufficient foreign currency.  When asked about marine resources, agriculture, tourism and other endowments, PIA keeps reminding us that he doesn’t want to give us ‘false hopes’ by telling us that we can achieve economic growth by exploiting these resources.  Of course, we get no data.  In reality, a nation’s wealth is the aggregate of all the various activities, and no one sector is examined in isolation.  For instance, the Ethiopian government tells us that it earned $670M USD from tourism alone, and whatever amounts from coffee, hides and other merchandise exports (all data are available on its websites) all add up to significant hard currency earnings.  It is the aggregate of all exports that makes a country economically viable.  Eritrea, with its small population, should be rich with relative small efforts by exporting minerals (gold, silver, copper – not just from Bisha but other parts of Eritrea, marble, granite, etc…), fish, salt, agricultural products, port and bunkering services, tourism and many other activities.  Eritreans are resourceful enough to built Eritrea’s industrial sector and undertake business ventures in other countries, as they are doing now, and bring back the profits back home.
  • Non-economic Policies:  PIA can lecture all he wants about world politics but it is suffice examining PIA’s total failure pertaining to Somalia Policy.  Seven years after turning Somalia his proxy war, PIA & Eritrea are under world political and economic sanctions, and PIA is now forced to accept the current Somali government as legitimate.  PIA has allowed Ethiopia and the West to find an excuse to impose sanctions on him for gross violations of human rights in Eritrea.  Lifting the UN sanction will require more than just refraining from interfering in Somali affairs but will require PIA to accept full restorations of human rights in Eritrea.  It is difficult to pass UN sanctions because all five veto holders must agree, while withdrawing a UN sanction can be held up by one veto holder.  Even if Russia and China want to lift the sanctions, US, UK and France will ensure that PIA capitulates on many political reforms before they let him off the hook.  In other words, PIA can’t agree to political reforms because he has burned so many bridges behind him that it would be political kamikaze to agree to the West’s demand.  As such, Eritrea is headed for political, social, legal and economic abyss.  It is also mentioning that Eritrea and China’s diplomatic relationship isn’t as strong as Eritrea’s State media suggest.  China has allowed the UN to impose sanctions on Eritrea.  While Ethiopia has forged strong relationship with China by borrowing significant funds and granting most of the infrastructure projects to Chinese firms, Eritrea has slowly kicked out Chinese firms which were more involved in the first 15 years of independence.  Chinese firms built some of the road projects, Keren Pharmaceutical factory and the cement factory.  PIA needs China to stash away Eritrea’s hard currency reserves under his and his son’s name.

PIA belittling Private Sector
It is pure politics!  In reality, for those who heard Mr. Kubrom Dafla’s, PIA’s ventures have been utter failures.  Before blaming the private sector for PIA induced failures, it is worth reiterating Mr. Kubrom’s observations.  A regime unable to uphold the rule-of-law, to provide the most basic services, failed in diplomacy, and failed in business ventures can’t be credible enough to belittle the private sector as failure.

Some of PIA’s ventures have failed (besides failing to provide the rule of law, which is an utter breakdown of a civil society),

  • Ghindae Marble Factory:  established with modern equipment and with millions of dollars, it has barely produced marble and granite although Eritrea is endowed with these resources.
  • Nuovo Sasbre:  a brake lining factory is defunct.
  • Gas Cylinder Factory:  is functioning at a loss and minimum production as there isn’t enough fuel gas to supply.
  • Sawa Agro-industry: which had started to export to Italy was later scuttled.  Gerset/Farko is also a failure as a venture, except it is relabelled as an agricultural experiment to avoid the stigma.
  • Eritrean Airlines:  its operations have scuttled due to PIA’s continued interference
  • Keren Pharmaceutical Factory:  it is operating well below its capacity.  Compared to EPLF Pharmaceutical Factory in Sahel, Keren Pharmaceutical Factory is back-pedalling to insignificance.
  • Massawa Cement Factory & Hirgigo Cement Factory: are both failures.

But these are not the only failures:

  • Elaberid Agro-industry: which had been producing so many agricultural products is in ruins
  • Asmara Glass Factory: which was closed down to make way for new factory in Ghindae remains just a pipe dream
  • Coca Cola, Beer factory: are largely failures despite solid demands for their products.

PIA has failed not only operating industries that should be left to private sector must in every other endeavour:

  • Education system is in ruins.  Despite new colleges, instructors are not fully qualified, no libraries, no modern electronic systems, and demoralized student population.
  • Health system is in ruins.  Despite Orotta Medical School (possibly the only success story), the new graduates are demoralized and prone to flee the country.  Inadequate mediation, lab and medical equipment, and absence of private clinics (which PIA berated), has meant poor health service in Eritrea.  PIA’s logic is that as the vast majority of rural Eritreans do not have access to health services, the urban population shouldn’t be ‘privileged’ with better health systems.  An excuse for failure!   Few years ago, a top North Korean official boasted that his country achieved equality – albeit through poverty.  Equality in poverty!  Instead of trying to pull people gradually into better living, easier to destroy the little one has.
  • Law and Order: before PIA belittles private sector which he deliberately destroyed, a government should do its primary job, which is dispense the rule-of-law, which the most basic building block of any civil society.  PIA has utterly failed!
  • Agriculture:  Despite 22 years of ‘government efforts’ to build the agricultural sector, we are no closer, in his own words, to becoming self-sufficient.  So what are we doing?  In fact, PIA tells us that food production for domestic production isn’t justified (cost of operating farming tractors in USD if a form of subsidy the regime can’t afford) because consumers pay in Nacka for their foods.   Moreover, as PIA pointed out, agriculture isn’t just about barley and wheat, but about growing fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products.  Most of these are grown or produced in negligible amounts, and their prospects are even dimmer.

In the NUTSHELL, PIA is in a dire predicament that he can’t escape.  He needs investments and cash infusions from abroad (UN institutions, Western public and private investors, the Chinese, Indians, and Mining Companies) and others but doesn’t want to give any foreigners a political leverage to demand political reforms.  The UN sanctions WON’T be lifted unless PIA agrees to political reforms, address the exodus of Eritrean youths, and free all prisoners-of conscious.  But PIA can’t undertake political reforms without major political consequences for him as he had chosen to burn all his political bridges behind him.  It is catch 22!  It is a hole, or a nightmare, he can’t escape.  It is an irreligious person waiting for a miracle, waiting for a world political tsunami that will bail him out.

The latest news of PFDJ reorganization, shifting power to the youths (who are as much damaged from PIA’s cruel policies, Investment Conference, playing with names (from Eritrean Defence Forces, to Warsai Yikealo, to People’s Army), or any other shreds and dramas won’t change the PIA’s ominous predicament.  “Wecho Entegemtelkayo Wecho!”  PIA is still running a defunct liberation movement, NOT a nation!

A Nation, a people are born out of hope!  Hundreds of thousands of Eritrean’s sacrificed their lives for the hope of peaceful and prosperous Eritrea.  We don’t need anyone telling us about false hopes (or ‘mitibar’).  Eritrea was born against all odds.  We overcame everything because of our hopes – and we don’t let anyone take it away from us – be it colonizers or temberkektis.  We shall overcome!

September 18th, 2001 – lest we forget!!!

Berhan Hagos