Where on Earth does a child sell cigarettes and other small items to earn few cents to help his family locked-down at home except in Eritrea?
By Petros Tesfagiorgis
The Eritrean government is beating the drums of war against the TPLF/Tigray in collusion with PM Abiy Ahmed whilst the Eritrean people suffer from food and water shortages. This is a gravely irresponsible move that shows the Government is not concerned about the life of the Eritrean people. It is time to rise up against this blatant disregard for human life and say loud and clear “No War Feed the People”. The Eritrean people have been yearning for peace and justice for close to six decades but instead have gone from a thirty-year independence struggle to a twenty-nine-year dictatorship that refuses to hear the concerns and cries of the people.
There are growing concerns over an impending famine as alarming reports of food shortages have been reported from various regions of Eritrea. People are crying for help; many are bombarding their relatives in the diaspora to send money for basic food rations. At the time of my posting there was news by J- studio of the burials held in Church compounds of children who had died as a result of hunger and malnutrition in the highlands of Eritrea. This should serve as a warning bell that unless the people have access to food the world will see another famine on the level of Yemen. As an attempt to cover up the dire situation and suffering of the Eritrean people from the international community the regime has refused to grant access for a visit by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights; Ms. Daniela Kravetz.
Today, as the global community is at war with the invisible enemy that is Covid-19, people in impoverished countries like Eritrea lack the food, personal protection equipment (PPE) and health services needed to stop the spread of the virus. This was acknowledged globally and wealthier countries have agreed to provide support to developing nations. For example, the EU has pledged to provide assistance worth more than €15.6 billion for countries across Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Balkan region to fight the corona-virus pandemic, of which €3.25 billion is to be channelled to Africa, including €1.19 billion for the Northern African neighbourhood countries.
What is happening in Eritrea?
- During the lock down period, the Eritrean regime has not provided food and other necessities to the people Guidelines are strictly enforced, and people who attempt to leave their homes in search of food are assaulted by the armed forces. As a consequence, the population who are already living below the poverty line are starving and looking outward for help.
- Life in prisons: Amnesty International has reported that due to overcrowding, poor healthcare, lack of sanitation and hygiene options the thousands of Eritreans in official and unofficial prisons are left defenceless against COVID-19.
- The Afar Eritreans that inhabit the Southern Red Sea survive on fishing, trade and farming and all have been banned resulting in severe malnutrition. In the Western Lowlands in Haicota and surrounding areas children are dying from starvation.
- The UN called on Eritrea to free political and low –risk offenders to reduce the threat of COVID-19 in crowded jails. The regime refused and the UN has maintained its silence.
- The regime closed 27 health centres run by the Roman Catholic Church in 2019. The consequences have opened a big hole in the nation’s health system. I quote from Paolo Lambruschi Friday 5 June 2020 Source: L’ Avvenier: – “In the region inhabited by the people of Afar, 30-year-old Halima Mohammed died in the Badda crater area on Sunday. The pregnant woman passed away bleeding on Sunday 31 May 2020 for lack of medical assistance. Many other women and children may have died of starvation and disease in silence in the area where only 20% have water and electricity.
The regime in Eritrea refuses help from the International Community: Why?
The United Arab Emirates has been providing food and medical aid to several countries affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, and commanders at its Eritrean base in the port of Assab/Red Sea, offered to donate aid to the local population the Afar people. The proposal was turned down in no uncertain terms by the Governor, General Teklai Kifle. Eritrea is completely militarized. There is no space for civil societies to express their pains and sufferings.
A plane full of Covid-19 supplies donated by the Chinese billionaire Jack Ma and his Alibaba Group was refused landing in Asmara Airport and returned back to its base in Addis Ababa.
The Exposure: What the Eritrean regime has failed to understand is that the phenomenon of Covid-19 has exposed Isaias’s brinkmanship of exploiting events to oppress the people of Eritrea. Thus the regime in Eritrea has politicized the virus phenomenon and opted to use it as a weapon to starve the people and weaken their resolve to demand the end of repression and oppose his damaging interference in the internal affairs of Ethiopia.
The people are not challenging the power of Isaias. Why wage war by denying them access to food.
The people of Eritrea were jubilant when peace with Ethiopia was signed in July 2018. They believed there would no longer be reason to hold the youth hostage in army garrisons and that this peace deal would end the Human right violations across the country. However, their dreams have been shattered with the continuation of unabated repression. Isaias has squandered the best moment ever to make genuine peace with Ethiopia and above all with his own people by ending the gross human rights violations and the ‘No war, No peace’ scenario that devastating Eritrea economically and socially since 2002. Isaias has become corrupted by power; he cannot be redeemed. As the saying goes “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. He is indifferent to the pains and suffering he is inflicting on the people. Belatedly the two donors the UN and EU have come to understand that Isaias is incapable of ending repression. It is appalling to see the Eritrean Government represent the people of Eritrea – in any UN meetings. – Because in practice he is at war with the people. The representative of the regime participated during 44th session of the Human Rights commission their mission is to hide the shortage of food and to lobby that the mission of the Special rapporteur is ended. It is not ended but they want let her visit Eritrea. Not refuse to let her visit Eritrea. The question of children dying of starvation is not raised because there is no body to raise it. The victims have no voice. The issue which is threatening the life of the people of Eritrea is not raised. The starvation is preventable but the UN and EU failed to listen to the plight of the people. That is why those of us from UK, Germany and Holland who participated during the virtual meeting on Eritrea in German on 25/6/2020 have agreed to take the starvation case with EU and then with UN.
Today Dictator Isaias is naked, he has no clothes. He is totally exposed. The EU and UN policy of engagement with the regime have failed. The EU and UN aid funds for development in order to create jobs, improve the HR violations and to stop the flow of refugees to exile has not been successful.
We, the just seekers, have to exploit the present reality and engage in rigorous advocacy campaigns to solicit food to the people.
Furthermore, the UN allowed Eritrea, to become a member of the human rights commission in order to appease PIA and his new ally PM Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia. This is a blunder, a mistake of historical proportion. The UN learned this truth belatedly. But would they accept their mistakes and pay back to the people of Eritrea by convincing the regime stops starving the people or threaten the regime to revive the issue of “bring the regime to ICC for the crime against humanity the regime committed in Eritrea since 1991.
During the meeting of the 44th session of the Human Rights commission –The Special Rapporteur said she has seen no evidence of a tangible improvement in the human rights situation in the country. She remains deeply concerned by widespread human rights violations. Representatives of countries expressed their concern about the violations and 35 of them voted to extend the mandate of the Special Rapporteur to one more year. This shows how much they resent the regime.
All this has created a conducive environment for justice seeker to act now. On 25 June 2020 there was virtual intergroup discussion on Eritrea in the German Parliament, Bundestag. In conclusion Cooperation with the wider Eritrean democracy movements was recommended.
In America, Michael Rubin wrote “The time is now for U.S. officials to reach out to Eritreans, both inside the country and out, and put plans in place to help build the institutions Isaias Afwerki has left weakened or destroyed.
These are signs that the international community have given up on Isaias and the justice seekers in Diaspora can seize the momentum to engage in a rigorous advocacy campaign.
This change has brought about a conducive environment to contact those who have expressed solidarity with the oppressed people of Eritrea and who are willing to support our activities. We, Eritreans who participated in the conference -did not waste any time and agreed to get together and talk about how to exploit this international solidarity. We were from 3 European Countries and are members of active organisations. We agreed to work together to raise the issue of food shortage with the UN and EU. The names are Mr Muluberhan Temelso, the Director General of the Foundation of Human Rights for Eritreans/ the Netherlands. The foundation filed a complaint against the European Commission in court for using unpaid labour from the national service. Dr Awet Kessete and his colleague Mr Temelso Gebresus are from the Eritrean Associations for Democracy/Germany and myself a member of Eritrea Focus UK.
It is important at this stage to think about launching peace movement as the slogan goes “No war feed the people”. To make our peace effort “pro-active”. No Tigreans blood should be spilled by Eritreans and vice versa. Also no blood of other nationalities in Ethiopia. War brings more deaths and destruction. We the people of the horn can live in peace and harmony. Fighting against each other is an invitation for proxy wars.
At the moment Eritrea Focus have launched an appeal – to the UN secretary general to solve the food problem.