President Isaias Afwerki's much heralded interview on EriTV on Saturday, 3 November, did little to assuage his critics. This assessment of the 80 minute long appearance is scathing. It concludes:
"The history of President Isaias Afwerki is the history of poor decisions and poor results. Eritrea under his presidency has exiled 500,000 people to add to the 1,000,000 already exiled during the 30-year war of independence. It has participated in 3-publicly known wars (with Yemen, Ethiopia and Djibouti) and 2 unknown wars (in Sudan and Congo.) It has poured millions from its meager resources to host Ethiopian armed opposition groups who had zero impact to the positive changes happening in Ethiopia. It has poured millions more to Somalia only to acknowledge the internationally recognized government. It got the country sanctioned only to turn around and do everything that it was told to do to avoid sanctions: stop funding and providing political support to Somalia armed groups, recognize the Somalia government, recognize and mediate your conflict with Djibouti, and talk to the Monitoring Group. It has destroyed the country’s basic services (water, electricity), destroyed the banking system, destroyed the private sector, and worst of all, made nationalism synonymous with cruelty and harshness.
No narration or re-narration of Isaias Afwerki, no new patches or versions can change this reality. Whether he knows it or not, his constant blaming of others for Eritrea’s failures is an admission that he was and is an inept executive. And, therefore, he must go."
4 questions, 80 minutes. So, nothing has changed. 1:20 ratio. Stylistically.
Actually, substance-wise, everything changed: we have Isaiaism Sofware Upgrade: 2018 edition. Those who gave up on the guy won’t even raise an eyebrow. But those of you who have been sledgehammering us with Badme might want to pay attention. You don’t want to be accidentally ex-communicated.
Comedy Central has a series called “Drunk History” (it’s exactly what it sounds like: history narrated by drunk people) and it’s the misfortune of Eritrea that it has “Isaias History”, and our miserable 28 years can only be narrated by the man who caused them.
In this version of history, everything bad that happened in Eritrea is the fault of ominous forces and everything good (?) that happened in Eritrea is to the credit of our enlightened government.
The Hanish (Yemen) Crisis of 1995? Caused by the US and its partners. Yeah. So what happened was, there was this border that was never argued about for decades and the instant Eritrea declares itself an independent country, the issue is just raised out of nowhere by these ominous forces because um they wanted to make sure Eritrea is…um, a client state. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Cause, effect. But, professor professor? Yes, you in the back. There was something new: Yemen was getting a Gulf State to build a resort at Hanish and an Italian company was planning to also build one in Dahlak and these feuding mega projects that went nowhere were the cause, we were told at the time. In fact, this war, then called the “odd war” (because they were saving “senseless war” description for the subsequent war with Ethiopia) was also called “whore wars” by the Economist magazine. Resort, casino, whores was the logic of that particularly cringe-worthy title. It was the 90s: magazines could say that then.
But no. It was the US. Not only was the war caused by the US, the decision of the International Court (which, of course, gave Eritrea far less than what the French mediators had offered prior to Isaias’s decision to go shooting) was also designed to create eternal conflict. Why? Because it awarded Hanish Kebir to Yemen but allowed Eritrea to fish in its waters. This was not an act of compromise but mischief ንኻልእክንበልኦቲሽጣራገጢምናክንኣለና (Eritrea is run by the logic of deqi shuq Asmara)
But, Professor, Professor? Yes, you in the back again. Why were these ominous forces doing this in 1995 when, at the same time, they were praising the Eritrean government as Renaissance men and the hope of Africa etc? The historian doesn’t cover that (kids: that won’t be on the test so don’t ask.)
All you need to know is that what was true for the odd war with Yemen was true for the senseless war with Ethiopia: it was all instigated by the US according to Issu Version 3.0. Why would the United States, which had excellent relationship with Eritrea and Ethiopia in 1998, trigger a war between them? It just did! Stop asking questions. The alternative is to say Isaias Afwerki caused it (as the Eritrea Ethiopia Claims Commission did) or, even worse, to accept that the Weyane had controlled Eritrea’s fate for the last 20 years, which would be very unacceptable to the pride of our historian. It’s not the hotheadedness of Isaias and the malice of Meles. It’s the US. End of story; next question.
Now our historian knows that this narration would be hard to swallow which is why he continuously brings up World War II and the Cold War: are you saying the US is incapable of being unjust? Are you saying Eritrea was not the only European colony that was not given its independence? No? Then shut up and accept my narration.
Once you accept that, it’s easier to accept that the Eritrea-Ethiopia feud of 1998-2018 had little to do with borders, Badme or demarcation. What? Sigh: pay attention kids. This is why the professor spent 25 minutes of his 80 minute interview on this issue: it’s not about Badme or territorial integrity or borders. It’s much bigger.
Pay attention. Or at least those of you who want to vacation in Massawa with the Eritrean Navy. Effective immediately (hear ye, hear ye) to talk about Badme, territorial integrity, sovereignty, doesn’t make you a patriotic citizen but a traitor. At least a suspect. You are not ለባም or ፈላጥ:: Neither wise nor knowledgeable. And don’t go around telling people we can’t be naieve we have to learn from our past mistakes. If you do, you are, and our historian is good at coining demeaning insults, a ፈሊጥ. A fraud, a wanna-be.
Why? The most important thing in this new era (4th era or 3rd: he is not sure because he is making it up as he goes) is that there should be nothing, NOTHING at all, that introduces doubt or skepticism about the Eritrea-Ethiopia rapproachment. Arguing about Badme, lines, fences, does that. We are trying to build confidence between the two parties here: so take your little worries about little dusty Badme somewhere else.
But isn’t this what the opposition has been saying for 14 years, you say. If you are smart, you won’t say that because your question introduces doubt and skepticism to the new rapproachment and takes us back to Era Three and we are now in Era Four. More crucially, we are in transition stage of Era Four and in transition times people are given the benefit of the doubt. These are not good things to discuss if you love your country.
Fine. But can I at least curse Weyane: is that allowed? Yes! For now. You can also curse the US but be specific: three consecutive administrations of the US is what we want to hear: Clinton, Bush II and Obama
Ok I got it. Curse Weyane, and curse Clinton, Bush II, and Obama. But I need more! Ok: you can also curse whoever are their conspirators and allied countries in Europe, think tanks and NGOs
What do I praise? Ah, that’s the exciting part because I am not just taking away Badme as your lung; I am giving you something much bigger. We are now 350 million people. We stretch from South Sudan to Oman: we are the Nile Basin. We are the Horn of Africa. We are the Red Sea. And we are the Gulf. We are as big if not bigger than the population of Western Europe and the United States. Exciting, huh? Even more exciting, within one era (that’s our new favorite word) our population will double. And theirs won’t. And the resources we have? It’s massive. ቀሊልነገርኣይኮነን::
And all that begins with perfecting Eritrea’s bilateral ደስደስ (elation) with Ethiopia. So no doubt-casting, skepticism-raising, no hateration, holleration please: let’s get to percolating in this dancerie. We have a lot of catching up to make up for all our losses (hush: yes we lost) and we have to work 48 hours per day because VAT is not about value added tax but Value Added Time እየዝብሎኣነ and you should too if you know what’s good for you. Of course there aren’t 48 hours in a day: what I mean by that is 1 hour in 2004 is valued at 2 hours in 2018. So pay attention all of you Eritreans all six to eight million of you (hush: so we said we are 3.65 million last year in our report to the African Commission when we wanted to inflate our GDP/capita) but our facts are adjustable in line with our goals. And also don’t say anything that casts doubt on the Eritrea Ethiopia rapproachment. It’s time for ርሱንፍስሓ::
Everything is clear except for one. What do we do with all the (insert appropriate adjective here: ወይጦ: ሽዩጣት: weaklings: off-position, traitors, etc)? The Eritreans who oppose the government of Isaias Afwerki? The annoying ones who talk about rule of law, elections, democracy, justice, enforced disappearance, free press….you know: all the stuff Ethiopia’s PM Abiy Ahmed talks about?
Here, the historian is unclear. He tells his soldiers to ignore us, but to also challenge us, but not in a way that gives us stature we don’t have. So, more insults is the way to go, I am guessing.
Well, I don’t want to get in the way of this United States of Nile Basin, Red Sea, HoA & Gulf but of course it’s all going to collapse. Because it has no shared values; it is mostly presided over by people who are not elected by the people and, excepting for Ethiopia and Somalia, none of the other “leaders” of the countries in this 350 million block collection of misfits, treat their citizens with respect and dignity. It’s a coalition of bone-saw using hackers (Salman) people accused of crimes against humanity (Al Beshir, Isaias, Salva Kiir) and police state runners (Sisi and the rest)
So, spoiler alert: the opposition will continue to oppose and, if we are smart, we will ally with the two hopefuls in this subcontinent of ancient people with ancient minds: Abiy Ahmed and Mohammed Formajjio. We will continue to speak up for our prisoners, our disappeared, our youth sentenced to indefinite military service, our exiled, our people who live in fear of the government. Because, at the rate of Isaias misgovernance, we have become the overwhelming majority. The fact that we don’t own the State TV where two terrified reporters (definitely part of our constituency) interview us and get alternative voice to that given by the warped historian changes nothing.
The history of President Isaias Afwerki is the history of poor decisions and poor results. Eritrea under his presidency has exiled 500,000 people to add to the 1,000,000 already exiled during the 30-year war of independence. It has participated in 3-publicly known wars (with Yemen, Ethiopia and Djibouti) and 2 unknown wars (in Sudan and Congo.) It has poured millions from its meager resources to host Ethiopian armed opposition groups who had zero impact to the positive changes happening in Ethiopia. It has poured millions more to Somalia only to acknowledge the internationally recognized government. It got the country sanctioned only to turn around and do everything that it was told to do to avoid sanctions: stop funding and providing political support to Somalia armed groups, recognize the Somalia government, recognize and mediate your conflict with Djibouti, and talk to the Monitoring Group. It has destroyed the country’s basic services (water, electricity), destroyed the banking system, destroyed the private sector, and worst of all, made nationalism synonymous with cruelty and harshness.
No narration or re-narration of Isaias Afwerki, no new patches or versions can change this reality. Whether he knows it or not, his constant blaming of others for Eritrea’s failures is an admission that he was and is an inept executive. And, therefore, he must go.