Eritrea – Issayas Afewarki an Absurd War-Monger – Abrham Berhe
Whenever they see critics of Issayas Afewarki some commentators ask what about Meles Zenawi. Usually a writer has a specific goal and bounds to restrict one’s views when the writer starts composing on a given topic. That means I don’t have to jump all over and address all leaders in the region inclusive of Meles. Here and now my very sole concern is to write about the agonies faced in Eritrea by Eritrea’s highly feared leader Issayas Afewarki.
In his recent interview message, Issayas Afewarki makes it clear that he is unhappy with the current leader of Somalia, the moderate Islamist President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, and urges Al Shebab – the radical Islamists, and the people of Somalia to overthrow him because he “changed to partner up with the infidels – the hypocrites of the Western World”. Why is Issayas Afeworki so worried by the turn of events in Somalia? First, understandably, he is unhappy that the radical Islamists – Al Shabab are no longer going to make deeper roots in Somalia – a hope that could only materialize under the leadership of Al Shebab. But his major worry is that, if Sheikh Ahmed succeeds in uniting and stabilizing Somalia, then the Islamist revolution will remain confined within Somalia’s borders only, and that there will be no further interest or incentive for the Islamist revolution to spread outside of it into neighbouring nations. Under Sheikh Ahmed, the nationalist cause would trump the regional and global cause (that of Islamist Jihad). Issayas Afeworki realizes that if Somalia is stabilized as a nation, the first thing that it has to do is normalize its relations with Ethiopia and Kenya. And that means, at minimum, reigning over the militant groups that want to destabilize Ethiopia – and that would be the worst nightmare scenario for Issayas Afeworki. Instead he foresees that the anarchy in Somalia is essential to his contemporary designs both on the international and regional arena, where he is dead set to derail any prospects of Somali nationhood under the rule of Sheikh Ahmed where the Islamist cause would remain confined to the nation.
What are the likely reasons for this line of thinking by Issayas Afeworki? What is in there for him? The strategic location of Somalia, very close to Middle East and other African nations that are considered to be in the “infidel” camp (Ethiopia and Kenya), makes it ideal to his efforts to destabilize few neighbouring nations and internationalize his support to Islamic revolution. While training, and materially and financially supporting Islamist fundamentalist groups in Somalia, the last thing Afeworki strives these days is on ‘how to destabilize Ethiopia through Somalia’. So it is not surprising that when Ethiopia pulled out of Somalia earlier, Afewarki couldn’t hide his unhappiness. To him, the Somalia insurrection was relevant so far as it bogs down Ethiopia in an endless quagmire from which it would be unable to extricate itself; the last thing he wanted to see was for these two forces to disengage from fighting permanently. Moreover, he was hoping that this Islamist insurrection would spread not only to the Ogaden region, but throughout the South Eastern parts of Ethiopia (Balie, Harar, Arssi and Sidamo) where the majority of the population is made up of Oromo and other ethnic Muslims. Thus Issayas Afeworki has put all his hopes mainly on Al-Shebab militant Islamist group that has, self-admittedly, a close connection with Al Qaida and, consequently, has been listed as a terrorist organization by the US.
In fact, at this particular moment, Issayas Afeworki is quite dangerous to the region. Issayas Afeworki’s help to opposition groups coming to Eritrea from all direction is more handy and potent: First, given the geographic proximity of Eritrea, the country has become a hub of armed groups that, at one time or another, have been deployed in Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia. Second, Issayas Afeworki is footing the bill for the training, arming and transporting these armed groups. In the latest UN report on Somalia, Eritrea was identified as the main financier of the armed groups in Somalia. And third, the latest footprint of Iran in Eritrea tells us that it has become a conduit of arms smuggling to militant groups all over the area, one that reaches as far as Hamas in Ghaza. This is what WIC had to say on an interview with the Israeli Ambassador to Ethiopia (on March 19, 2009): “In an interview he held with WIC, Ambassador Ben-Haim said the Eritrean government is providing military training, and supplying military logistics for a number of terrorist groups. Ambassador Ben-Haim said that the Eritrea government, in addition to its attempts of destabilizing the Horn of Africa region, is also working to subvert the peace process in Somalia by supporting and arming Al-Shebab, a terrorist group in Somalia. The Ambassador said the Eritrea government, which has put its hands in smuggling weapons, is an arm supplier of Al-Shebab in Somalia and other internationally recognized terrorist groups including Hamas.”
With all the evidence built-up thus far, there is not the slightest bit of doubt that Eritrea has established itself as a terror-sponsoring nation. Given this fact, it is unfortunate that the Bush Administration left the White House without designating it as such. And it is even more unfortunate that Eritrean in the opposition waffled on this issue and missed a great opportunity to unseat the tyrant. But that doesn’t mean all is lost. Now, the same kind of momentum is building up against the Issayas regime, and we should make the most of it. An alliance is in the making, and we shouldn’t miss this boat. Already the US, Israel and Ethiopia are in this boat and France might join soon if the Djibouti case remains unresolved.
The African Union (AU) has taken the unprecedented step of calling on the UN to impose heavy sanctions on one of its own members. It wants to punish Eritrea for helping Jihad’s fighters in Somalia with arms and training which it says have caused the deaths of many civilians and AU peacekeepers. The union has also called for a no-fly zone over Somalia and a blockade of its ports. Neither is likely to happen. Air patrols by America and others might win the Jihad’s more support; a blockade of the long coastline is almost impossible. But the AU may have better luck with sanctions. The UN Security Council has already expressed “concern” that Eritrea may have breached an arms embargo on Somalia.
Some say Eritrea’s arms shipments to Somalia have been paid for partly by Iran and individual rich Arabs. Maybe it is so. But Eritrean support for the Islamist insurgency in Somalia is long-standing. And the AU is fed up with it.
More than any other foreign entity, it is the Eritrean people that have been daily experiencing the terror unleashed under this totalitarian regime. Not a single population group has been spared: students, merchants, farmers, parents, minority religions, ethnic groups, etc. The whole nation has been turned into a huge prison. And lately, with the mass exodus picking up speed, with the killings and massacres at border crossings and prisons, with a full blown famine raging all over the country and with the plan to dislodge entire villages and to dismantle centuries-old monasteries, there is a Khmer Rouge like apocalypse looming over the nation. If we are to save our people from a catastrophe of Khmer Rouge like proportions, the time to act is NOW. And the urgency of the matter gives us no luxury to pick and choose the means by which to finish off this regime. We should be able to grab this opportunity and join this alliance, and do whatever we can to convince this alliance-in-the-making to finish off the Issayas regime by whatever means necessary.
All past actions and reactions of Issayas Afewarki have proven beyond doubt – to the world at large – the sheer irrationality of the man. His associations and diplomatic relations cannot be expected to have any logic. The 95-page report, “Service for Life: State Repression and Indefinite Conscription in Eritrea,” documents serious human rights violations by Issayas Afewarki regime including prolonged military conscription, arbitrary arrest, torture, appalling detention conditions, forced labour, and severe restrictions on freedom of movement, expression, and worship. It also analyzes the difficult situation faced by Eritrean youth who succeed in escaping to other countries such as Libya, Sudan, Egypt, and Italy.
Nothing could be more diversionary than Afewark’s perceived actions in the service of Iranian and Al-Shabaab’s designs. The interim Somali government recently accused Afewarki of sending two plane-loads of weapons to Somalia in violation of UN arms embargo on that war-ravaged country. The Somali government alleged that two planes from Eritrea landed at an Al-Shabab controlled airstrip in Lower Shebelle Region in Southern Somalia on April 28 and May 1. Voice of America says the accusation is a repeat of events in 2007, when the United Nations said Eritrea was secretly sending arms and missiles to Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab.
Hell on Earth
It is an open secret that Eritrea is not only a grand prison but also hell on Earth. The only Eritrean people who are doing fairly well are those who live in Diaspora or outside Eritrea. Those inside Eritrea are helpless and voiceless held in military and labor camps. Especially those people who live in Soba Debub of the Senafie area; Seraye in Gohaine Eritrea, in Barentu and Tesenei areas are suffering much by Afewarki’s authoritarian regime and its labor camps. For them the road to success and prosperity has become through Wodi Afom’s arrogance and belligerence.
Because of his stubborn attitude and consistent mistakes committed there of, Issayas Afewarki never sees problems that Eritrea is facing; he never ever apologizes; rather he diverts both the problem and the blame to someone else. A case in point is what has happened to Haile Derue. While on a visit to Europe Issayas Afewarki (Telamat Ugum) told many Eritrean residents there about the 1998-2000 war stating that we were beaten by Woyane and decided to retreat. A month later when Haile Derue told the same statement to journalists he was critically considered as “Temberkaki” for leaking the issue to external journalists and thrown to jail; while Telamat Ugum Issu remains as a hero telling us all throughout his motto: “Hade Lib Hade Hizbi”.
Holly Molly there is no rule of law; no justice; and no liberty for Hizbi Eritrea. Issayas Afewarki is the jury; Wodi Afom is the judge and the executor. Regular citizens find themselves in hell locked by Ugum Issu Wedi Medhine Berad of Abashawel. Eritrea and Issayas Afewarki are behaving in the same way as Hitler was behaving just before WWII. Issayas is building his military might and will soon be noticed by the international community. Issayas conscripts the youth into armed forces far more than Eritrea needs; and is eventually planning to carry out his nuclear ambitions. Likewise Wodi Afom exports instability by backing rebels in Chad, Ethiopia and Sudan, and now in Somalia.
What a bunch of communist retards that we are forced to face in Eritrea. May God bless the brave Hizbi Eritrea and the so-called “Gang of-15”? We consider them all as our heroes; and all these hardships shall soon pass just like the earlier ones; it will not be long when true Wedibat holds the power in Asmara.