Eritrea: Deceit at the Highest Level
Deceit at the Highest Level
Typical of the Government of Eritrea’s modus operandi, which prides itself in deceit and misinformation, the administration in Asmara has come out with two contradictory statements for two different audiences issued via two different networks of communication all within the space of an hour.
As if by sheer coincidence and in a Houdini act that highlights the ability of the Eritrean Embassy in Italy to issue statements independent of the Asmara Administration at best or the disintegration of the central government and its diplomatic missions abroad at worst, Isaias Afwerki’s Administration did not seem to be pretty sure about what or how they wanted to deal with the plight of the Eritreans that died off the coast of Italy.
Let’s try and dissect the contents of the Press Statement that was released on Wednesday evening by the Government of Eritrea:
Press reports disclosed that on 3 October 2013 individuals, the majority of whom Eritrean citizens, lost their lives while on migration when a boat from the Libyan coastline heading to Lampedusa, Italy, capsized. It is to be noted that such loss of life is not the first of its kind as well as saddle, but one of the chain of loss of the lives of Eritreans, perpetrated by criminal human traffickers in violation of all international laws and human values.
It is common knowledge that the Government of Eritrea has been calling on international and regional organizations and governments that the crime should be investigated by independent bodies and be put to an end, and that the criminals be brought to justice.
Such heinous crimes against the Eritrean people and government over the past 20 years were perpetrated through fanning unprecedented baseless “border conflicts”, blessing aggression against sovereign Eritrean territory, coupled with unwarranted and illegal “sanctions”, as well as organizing various forms of political, military and economic conspiracies leading to open aggression. And when all such conspiracies ended up in utter failure, the enemy quarters resorted to the human trafficking ploy with a view to disintegrating and paralyzing the indomitable people and Government of Eritrea.
The prime responsibility for the gross loss of human life, as verified by concrete evidences, squarely rests on the US Administration that assigns agents of international and regions bodies, in addition to deploying various officials and spy agencies of different governments.
The Government of Eritrea again calls for due inquiry of the current and previous such reprehensive incidents by independent bodies, and thus ensure the supremacy of justice. Moreover, it reiterates its readiness to defend the rights of its citizens in appropriate forums.
The Government of Eritrea extends its condolences to the bereaved families, and calls on the Eritrean people to reinforce their spirit of steadfastness.
Asmara, 9 October 2013
The press statement above systematically avoids making any mentions of the number of Eritreans that died in the tragedy where the body count has so far surpassed the 300 mark. It goes without saying that any mention of the magnitude of the loss of Eritrean life will automatically contradict their initial news report by the Eritrean state-run TV station which tried to pass the story for an international affair of no direct link with Eritrea or its people when they unintelligently decided to refer to the victims as no more than “African illegal immigrants”. And now in the blink of an eye, those “African illegal immigrants” seem to have turned out to be Eritreans. Unless the Afwerki Administration is trying to match Italy’s generous offer of posthumously granting automatic citizenship to the victims of the tragedy, I’d say they were probably Eritreans in the first place. Knowing what we know now about this tragedy, I wonder if the PFDJ sympathisers that spent the weekend dancing away in Atlanta, Georgia in the USA and Riyadh in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia feel any sense of guilt and ultra-nationalism over the decision to still go ahead and hold parties which amounted to dancing over the graves of our lost generation of young men, women and children last week.
Going back to the same “Dictatorship for Dummies” manual that didn’t do his one-time comrade, Muammar Ghaddafi, any good, Isaias Afwerki and his subordinates have once again resorted to the blame game pointing fingers at the United States, the CIA, the UNHCR, perhaps even God, perhaps the fish in the Red Sea, anything and everything that they could possibly blame as long as that finger of blame did not turn around and point in the direction of the real guilty party. As far as this administration is concerned, the United States is behind every hell that has broken loose in Eritrea. The United States clearly has nothing better to do than to destabilise this East African nation of just over 6 million people, which quite frankly seems to be doing a pretty good job bringing its own house of cards down.
Is it any coincidence that an average of 1,800 youngsters are crossing the borders into neighbouring countries every single month? Was it not only last year that
Isaias Afwerki accused a western journalist of playing with inaccurate figures and resorting to “fabrication of lies” when she confronted him with these figures? At the time, the dictator adamantly rejected the allegations and claimed that nobody was fleeing the country. And today, his administration does not seem to shy away from pointing the finger of blame once again at the US Administration and its allies over these deaths. What I cannot seem to get my head around is this. When Afwerki is asked to explain why Eritreans were fleeing the country, he denies the claims and goes further to blame the US for making up these “absurd numbers”. Then, when stories surface about the deaths of Eritreans like the almost 250-300 that we know of so far, he shamelessly goes back to blaming the US again for these Eritreans leaving the country in the first place. I seriously don’t recall seeing any American or any other Western hypnotists in Asmara or any other Eritrean towns and cities, but if there are any they certainly seem to know what they’re doing and there must be at least a couple hundred of them embedded within the Eritrean society. That could possibly be the only logical explanation as to why all these Eritreans want to leave their country when in fact the administration in Asmara seems to think they have no reason to want to leave Eritrea. After all, everything is rosy in Eritrea, well at least as hallucinated by the tyrant. Last time I checked, power cuts that ran for weeks and shortage of water supplies and spiralling food costs did not pass for “rosy”. Only in Eritrea does that become the trademark of a “nation moving forward”.
Going back to the statement above, the Government wants the crime to “be investigated by independent bodies” and for the “the criminals be brought to justice”. Since when do turkeys vote for Christmas? And here comes my favourite line of the statement above. The loss of lives were “perpetrated by criminal human traffickers in violation of all international laws and human values.”
Talk about opening Pandora’s Box there. It’s all well and good to try and appear diplomatic and make all the right sort of noises. But, these are empty words that serve no other purpose than to divert attention from the root cause of the problem. No criminal regime with a track record as bloody as that of Isaias Afwerki’s Government would allow genuine “independent bodies” to investigate these crimes or pursue a course of action that would see to it that the “criminals are brought to justice”. To begin with, “independent” and “justice” are two of a number of words that have no place within the administration’s vocabulary. The court in Eritrea was never allowed to function independently to bring members of the G15 or the journalists that were jailed in September 2001 to be “brought to justice”. Members of the Eritrean War Disabled Fighters’ Association that were shot at and killed in cold-blood in July 1994 in Mai Habar never received justice nor were their killers “brought to justice”. The human traffickers that are currently operating from inside Eritrea and closely affiliated with the regime itself have not been “brought to justice”. So, it seems to be quite out of character that the administration in Asmara now sheds crocodile tears and pleads for justice. And the harsh truth remains to be that the administration would not be pleased at all if justice were to actually prevail because that day can only be marked by one solitary event: the downfall of the regime and the trial of Isaias Afwerki and his politburo. Anybody who thinks Eritreans are leaving their lands for economic reasons is only living in denial. Even so, this notion of economic migration too contradicts all the hot steam that the regime and its puppets continue to blow about how Eritrea has and continues to register unprecedented GDP growth. Who in their right frame of mind would want to leave one’s own motherland to go to a foreign country, waste years of their lives trying to fit in to their new society, learn a new language and culture when they could be amassing unheard of wealth at home in the wake of a booming economy and gold rush that’s seen the country’s GDP figures go into double digits? So which one is it going to be? If Eritrea is in a better economic situation than countries like China, India, Japan and Germany, why would Eritreans leaving the country choose to become “economic migrants” as Asmara and its followers would like the rest of us to believe? And if they are, in fact, “economic migrants”, could the stories about Eritrea’s economic growth then perhaps be distorted and misleading?
The Government’s press statement concludes by paying “its condolences to the bereaved families, and calls on the Eritrean people to reinforce their spirit of steadfastness”. In other words, the families of victims who only last week were nothing more than “African illegal immigrants”. In the end, the regime got one thing right.
It was the spirit of steadfastness of the people of Eritrea that pushed the regime into one corner and forced it into a knee-jerk reaction resulting in the second, but rather suspicious-looking statement released by Asmara supposedly via its embassy in Italy. Eritreans across the world have been relentlessly stepping up their efforts to push through with the repatriation of the bodies of the Lampedusa disaster back to Eritrea and for their families to be accorded time to mourn their loss appropriately.
Before going into the contents of this second statement, allow me to say that while I do believe there is a very good chance that it was the Eritrean Embassy in Italy that came out with the carefully-worded Tigrinya statement, I have my suspicions about its authenticity. The statement in question lacks two vital indicators that discredit its originality. There is no reference number on the top left hand side of the letter right beneath the Government insignia and no official name and signature at the bottom of the page. The administration never issues unreferenced and unsigned documents because it has habit of always holding individuals “accountable”. And the other fact remains that while the official Press Statement was read out on ERITV and posted on Shabait.com mainly for domestic consumption, the dubious looking statement released by the Eritrean Embassy in Italy was tiptoed onto one of the lesser arms of the regime, alenalki.com. In a desperate attempt to come across as a government “of the people” and one that listens to the desires and wishes of its people, the embassy statement points out that the government is working closely with its Italian counterpart for the bodies to be returned back to Eritrea and be given proper funeral services in the presence of their families and loved ones. While the regime is in such a generous move, what are the chances that we could perhaps appeal to the “good nature” of Isaias Afwerki to reconsider allowing his former Minister of Information, Naizghi Kiflu to be allowed to be buried in Eritrea as well? After all, these Eritrean young men and women did defy the tyrant’s iron-fist rule, dodge the shoot-to-kill policy imposed on anyone caught crossing the borders illegally and left the country in search of a new home as far away as possible from the Asmara administration. Double standards perhaps? Naizghi Kiflu was only responsible for shutting down all the private Eritrean papers back in September 2001 and jailing their journalists. Perhaps to this day, Isaias Afwerki holds him responsible for bringing down the curtains on free press and right to expression in Eritrea and that could perhaps explain why his body was never allowed to be buried in Eritrea since Isaias Afwerki has zero-tolerance towards injustice and crimes against humanity.
Not to deviate from the main issue at hand, the point I am trying to make here is that there is still more drama to unfold over the coming days as far as this repatriation saga is concerned. If I was a betting man, I would put my money on the Eritrean Embassy in Italy coming out with another statement over the coming days to rebuff the contents of this statement released today. They could easily blame it on “parties bent on discrediting” the government and accuse them of fabricating the statement above.
Reading between the lines, though, one concludes that the regime is clearly feeling the pressure coming from Eritreans, not to mention the online petition that is gathering momentum calling for the repatriation to go ahead. This is one nightmare that the regime would have loved to sweep under the carpet and hope that the residues evaporate into thin air. Allowing as many as 250-300 bodies to be repatriated back to Eritrea would be suicidal for the regime as the overwhelming grief of their immediate families and the Eritrean public in general could finally become the trigger point for Eritreans back home to break free from the fear that is holding them back from going ahead with an uprising that could herald the beginning of the end of Africa’s version of North Korea. I would not put it past the regime to agree to take the bodies from Italy only to reroute the plane away from Asmara and dispose off the bodies at an undisclosed location. That would be followed by a complete media blackout on anything to do with the Lampedusa disaster and any attempt by external outlets to try and shed light on the truth would be brushed off as fabricated lies. The Government would then deny that the bodies were ever transported away from Italy and the Houdini act would reach a full circle. Watch the space.