Thursday, August 30, 2007


By T Stephanos, August 23, 2007

The US is making noises about adding Eritrea to the list of terror-sponsoring states. Leaving the external component of this potentially hot debate aside and focusing internally for now, there is no doubt a terrorist regime rules Eritrea today. Regardless of the merits of the U.S. claim, this could be a good wake-up call for Eritreans of all stripes to do the long over due soul searching and start reversing our willingness to be ruled by remote control.

Before it became “independent” in 1991, Eritreans, by and large, were known for their dynamism, love of family and passion for education. They did relatively well in Ethiopia and other countries in business and the professions. This regime has now destroyed the family unit through endless militarism and exile. It has no respect whatsoever for age, wisdom, rule of law, education or institutions. Ironically, the only place on the planet where Eritreans are guaranteed to fail from realizing their dreams is in “independent” Eritrea itself.

1) People have been disappearing at the whim of the self-declared president-for-life since independence. When General Ogbe Abraha wrote to him suggesting it was time the regime mend its ways because people are beginning to complain, the “president” couldn’t’ care less about the more important matter of WHAT was being said. Typical of bullies, he only wanted to know WHO said what instead. Now we have thousands of politicians, journalists, religious figures and countless innocent citizens, including Ogbe (who is feared dead), rotting behind bars with no visitation rights even from family members. The message is cold and clear. The regime is essentially saying: ‘we show no mercy to 70 and 80 year olds, women, former comrades or students. So, shut up and do what you are told, give what we demand or you will meet their fate’. That is ruling by terror

2) One of the regime’s many embezzlement schemes forcibly collects 50,000 Nakfa from aging parents. Their crime? Their sons and daughters who are in their 20s and 30s - for whom parents have no legal responsibility - fled the country for a better life elsewhere. The regime uses conscripts as cheap slave labor with no limits on the length of servitude. Frustrated, they flee and the regime terrorizes their parents. Women have given birth in filthy prisons because they couldn’t come up with the embezzlement fee in time. In a country with no pension plans, the security of aging parents is typically tied to their children. But with their children forcibly conscripted, parents are often left to a life of poverty.

3) Even its “supporters” in the diaspora fully understand the regime rules by fear and fear alone. They see there is no freedom of assembly, no freedom of expression or freedom of any kind. In spite of their proclaimed support, they have refused to make Eritrea their home. No one should blame them for their instincts of self-preservation, of course. It is just that they do it dishonestly. By staying put in their adopted countries and keeping themselves and their children out of harms way, they have cast the only vote that matters thus nullifying any self-deceiving declarations about how much they stand behind their “government” and others don’t. Willingly trapped within the range of the regime’s remote control, the freedom to be oneself is surrendered.

It is both sad and funny when the never-elected “president” rambles on, often incoherently, about the lack of freedom in the U.S or Ethiopia and about how non-participatory their systems are. Those who are close to him should help him turn the mirror around to let him see the undemocratic and non-participatory images he seems to despise so much and is continuously trying to paint on others is actually more fitting to his own image.

Jam the regime’s remote control and turn the damn mirror around. Jointly calling for the release of the prisoners is a necessary first step in Eritrea’s healing process. Whatever the color of our politics, this is a humanitarian issue first and foremost.

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