drtadesse101602 by ashrafp


         A Timely Plea to All Eritrean Intellectuals to Actively Participate in Nation-building
                                               Part 2
Dr. T. A. Taddesse
                                       THE URGENCY
A Nation in Crisis
Eritrea’s crisis is the result of a classic contradiction between Isaias’ inability to shade his
Stalinist idiosyncrasies, on one hand, and his empty pronouncements about adopting a
policy of a free market economy, designed to dupe the foreign press and the International
Community, on the other. Obviously, this schizophrenic complexity was meant to appeal
to the International Community (to get their money), while relegating our people to
incalculable repression. This collectivist mindset of Control, Order and Predict (COP),
targeting our people into total submission, is characterized by a single-party and quasi-
Stalinist State. Essentially, the single party’s determination to monopolize the politics,
economics and daily activities of the average citizen runs contrary to its declared goals of
implementing both a “free market economy” and the “rule of law.” Isaias’ stated policy
of “controlling and permitting business people to make profits in pennies and not in the
order of “Ethiopian birr” exposed his real intentions for a state-run economy.”

In fact, astute observers of Eritrean politics did not have any difficulty predicting that the
Isaias regime would push Eritrea into its destructive grand finale, more than a decade
ago. Politically, economically and socially, Isaias’ policy exhibited the determination of a
leader who was hell-bent on progressively eroding the preexisting structures of 1991. In
reality, the government’s hallow free market economic veneer was neutralized by its own
autocratic and predatory politics, making the regime a self-serving ruling elite, and not a
“proletarian party,” protecting the interests of the Eritrean working people and peasants.
This, in a nutshell, is how the glaring contradictions were embedded in the twisted and
con artist nature of the regime.

Those who believe Eritrea is not undergoing a severe national crisis are living in a dream
world. Eritrea is currently a troubled nation that finds itself at the bottom of the global
community of nations by all economic, social, and political measures. Indeed, Eritrea is
going through the most critical period of its history. As genuine democracies in Africa
position themselves for the global economic and political challenges of the 21st century,
Eritrea is no longer at the crossroads of its history; it is a long way down the wrong road
and already labeled a “failed state.”

Every struggle has its unique journey. However, all struggles, if free and allowed to be
synergistic, undergo the same developmental stages. There is the (1)Birth,
(2)Dependence, (3)Independence, and finally, (4) Interdependence. Interdependence
would be the highest stage of development. It's obvious we have not reached the stage of
interdependence in the Eritrean struggle for liberation. If that was true, we would have
been talking to each other across organizations and party lines with ease. Our colonial
mentality is not helping. The historical baggage of ELF vs EPLF has not helped
either; these factors sort of froze our development. Resurgence of political groups, public
forums, civic organizations and their respective activities in the last couple of years has
improved communication, and is projected to help us overcome such constraints.
Concurrently, Eritrea as a nation was supposed to undergo the same developmental
stages. The various repressive powers derailed the natural evolution of our nation and our
people by pursuing their respective national interests at the cost of ours. Our elders
rightly advocated for an armed struggle for national liberation in order to get rid of the
oppressors and get Eritrea back on track to pursue its development in freedom. They
understood there is no growth without freedom. Thanks to the current government of
Eritrea, this never happened!
Confronted by a ferocious war with Ethiopia and its lingering after-effects, we have been
led into a national paralysis. The confidence, enviable self-esteem and can-do attitude
characteristic of Eritreans for generations, has been totally suppressed by the Isaias
dictatorship. Under the Isaias regime, isolated Eritrea has turned out to be a basket case,
hopelessly begging for a miracle to happen.

                                  A Leadership in Crisis
Under the current regime, Eritrea’s problems have become more pervasive than ever and
the future of our country has turned out to be completely unpredictable. The government
is morally bankrupt and is indeed the most destabilizing regime our people have ever
witnessed. For all practical purposes, the Isaias dictatorship is the last vestiges of the line
of feudal warlords like Haile selassie and Mengistu that preceded him in the Ethiopian
setup. Like all warlords, he has no identifiable vision for the nation over a span of the last
eleven years. Therefore, the Isaias regime is a watershed in Eritrean governance; what
happened up to the time of Isaias is completely different from what will happen after him
in the era of democracy.

For the last eleven years, we had a good preview of who Isaias is and what he can do.
That is what we call his “track record.” With a track record of confusion, utter
mismanagement, unfettered destruction and visionless governance, who wants to revisit
Isaias’ style of governance one more time? In a democratic society, he would have stood
trial in the court of law and served time for all the crimes he committed in Eritrea in the
last eleven years. For all practical purposes, we could assume what we had was an outlaw
government that deliberately prevented the implementation of democracy and the rule of
law by design.

Isaias promoted confrontation of one ethnic group against another, one religion against
another and one region against another in order to perpetuate his hold on power. With
30,000 security agents, over 200,000 armed military personnel, 300,000 trained militia,
and close to 700,000 unaccounted for military hardware, we can see Eritrea has been
programmed to incinerate itself in violence after his departure. This sinister plan of
attempting to keep his hold on power at any cost is also backed up by a threat to
dismember Eritrea into ethnic, religious and regional enclaves.

Isaias’ actions are devastating the population he claims he is working for. His decision
and policies are erratic, and are solely designed to protect his personal interests by any
means necessary. The government does not respect the rule of law and human rights, and
does not care about the future of our country. Isaias’ hunger for sheer power has driven
him to mount his apparatus of repression, persecution, and extra-judicial killings. If the
tyrant and his accomplices are not stopped unconditionally, the destructive process the
Isaias regime has put in place will become irreversible sooner than later. Time is of the
essence here.
When the current leadership walked into Asmara after a flawless military victory in 1991,
little did the EPLF leadership realize that trying to govern Eritrea without the consent of
the people was going to be an uphill battle. They chose to relegate our people to brute
force. Sustained calls for democratization fell on deaf ears. The GoE insisted and
continues to insist that the Eritrea people are not ready for democracy. Thay claimed
what our people needed the last 10 years and probably the next 10 years is bread, not
democracy. The people knew that in giving away their freedom for bread, they
were destined to lose both their freedom and their bread. Their fears proved true after a
decade of utter mismanagement by the GoE.
In the mean time, the EPLF leadership began to impose conditions on members of its
rival organization, the ELF, to come to Eritrea as individuals and not as an organized
group. The EPLF leadership did not impose the same constraints on its own membership.
In retrospect, it would have been a fresh beginning for Eritrean politics if the same
conditions were equally applied to both military organizations, whereby members of both
organizations would have melted into the society smoothly, and the government would
have been delivered smoothly to its rightful owners - the people.
Instead, the EPLF leadership highjacked the government and continued to tamper with
the mosaic of the cultural setup in Eritrea, which through the centuries mutated to a
collective tolerance and mutual trust. Without a collective history, a society such as ours
shares no common memory of where it has been, what its core values are, or what
decisions of the past accounted for current circumstances. To make a long story short,
although the liberation of Eritrea was formally guaranteed in 1993, the development of
the nation and its people was frozen under the governance of a dictatorship that was
doggedly pursuing its interests at the expense of the people's or national interest.
The leadership crisis in Eritrea has totally arrested the people’s search for their promised
land. A leadership style that is predicated by bullying and using people against each other
cannot last. The track record of Isaias Afewerki attests to the fact that people are
expendable, promises are made to be broken, and negotiations are initiated only to
identify the weaknesses of real or imagined enemies. Mr. Isaias and his cronies have to
go if Eritrea is ever to be saved!
             Our Choice: Total Destruction of Eritrea or Isaias’ Demise!
There is no two ways about it. We have to make the hard choice of saving Eritrea.
The choice before us is that clear cut and simple. As an old Eritrean saying puts it, “If we
don’t change our direction, we might end up where we are headed!” The current
government has succeeded in destroying Eritrea beyond measure. The repressive actions
of the government has brought intense ethnic tensions, unprecedented exodus of
professionals and intellectuals, hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people,
hundreds of thousands of refugees in neighboring countries, Europe, North America,
Australia, the Middle East, and Asia.

The government has a lousy record of persistent human rights violations, has consistently
imprisoned journalists and Eritrean patriots, suppressed freedom of the press, freedom of
expression and association with impunity. These violations have brought a collapse of
international credibility and foreign investment. The micro- and macro-economy of the
country is in a ruinous state of disorder.

The government’s misguided and disastrous economic policies have resulted in
widespread malnutrition and full-scale famine. Homelessness has drastically increased to
unprecedented levels. Other symptoms of the government’s economic and educational
failures include the disproportionate increase in unemployed high school and college
graduates, high school and college drop out rates, half days and inferior quality of

The agriculture sector engaged 80% of the economically active population in 1997. The
war government has allocated a significant percentage of the productive farm population
to the frontlines. Currently, the Isaias regime spends less than 5% of the GDP on
agriculture; this expenditure reflects the low priority the government attaches to the
majority rural community, indicating that its professed claim of being a people’s
government is hallow indeed. By comparison, current expenditures in defense account for
more than a third of the GDP. The current regime has failed in all aspects of the social,
economic, educational, health, agriculture and political life in Eritrea. Consequently,
Isaias and his group have to go sooner than later for all the crimes they perpetrated
against civil society in Eritrea.
                                   Cry for Beloved Eritrea!
For a tyrant, the most threatening behavior is to be predictable. Not being predictable is a
characteristic a tyrant is really proud of. The tyrant’s rationale is that he would fend off
competitors that way, things will get out of control if the public gets information before
he does, etc. As a matter of fact, a tyrant would prefer that he and he only becomes the
source of any information that the public gets. He would rather keep the people in the
dark and feed them garbage (propaganda). This is what modern governance theory calls
“Mushroom Management.”

For a tyrant, the values “good” and “evil” are meaningless. Love of country, compassion
for people who are powerless and needy, being responsive to people in need, fairness,
commitment to due process of the law, morality, etc., are frivolous exercises that spell
weakness. A tyrant feels alive when he commits acts of control through violence and
cruelty. A tyrant is a repeat offender and/or serial killer.

In the recent war with Ethiopia, Eritrea ended up losing tens of thousands of compatriots,
hundreds of thousands wounded and internally displaced. To the normal citizen, these
calamities would be causes for deep sorrow and feeling of bereavement. To a tyrant like
Isaias, however, a national misery of such a magnitude ended up being a cause for
celebration, and demonstration of victory (a clear defeat!). To this day, the leadership of
the Government of Eritrea has not publicly acknowledged the debacle of the war, nor did
they broadcast their message of loss of life honestly. We all know the number of
sacrificed Eritrean young men and women in the most recent war with Ethiopia is
between 55,000 and 60,000.

Isaias’ concept of development has nothing to do with making progress in education,
enhancing agricultural outputs, improving healthcare services, advancing the economy,
implementing democracy and the rule of law, and safeguarding individual right and
liberties. In his opinion, all he cares about is his ambition for hoarding power, power for
its own sake. He cannot imagine using power to make a difference in people’s quality of
life. Everything he does points toward his singular ambition to be at the pinnacle of
power as long as he lives. As far as he is concerned, he is president-for-life.

Eritrea’s crisis in economic, political, military, and social affairs is so overwhelming the
government of Eritrea cannot deny it any longer. A whole new generation of Eritreans are
growing up in abject poverty with lack of minimum education, subjected to the worst
health conditions, and fleeing to friendly as well as hostile nations as refugees.
Unlike the people in democratic nations, Eritreans find themselves fighting for basic
freedoms and human rights. Those who dared to challenge the government are harassed
by the national security forces and segments of the army; their human rights are violated
with impunity, and are thrown into prison, and in most cases their lives threatened.
Eritrea has become one big prison system; none of the other Africa nations have dealt
their people such a collective blow ever.

Table 1 depicts key statistics for Eritrea and its neighboring nations that make up the
region. The figures are disturbing indeed for anyone who ponders over the data and the
implied trend under a leadership of warlordism.
The real National Security Crisis
Under the leadership of warlord Isaias, expenditures of the military establishment is
44.4% of the GDP (US $77 per capita compared to America’s US$52), the highest in the
world. More than 7% of the population is on active military duty, again the highest
among the community of nations. Proportionately, such a figure would represent
21,000,000 and 4,620,000 for the United States of America and Ethiopia, respectively.
The real Social Crisis
Close to 70% of Eritreans are below the national poverty line; with the current drought
and people’s displacement as a result of the war, this figure could be higher. As we all
know, the ruling party in Eritrea operates under the acronym PFDJ, where P stands for
people, D for democracy, and J for justice. As the figures below attest, this government
has never been about people’s welfare and democracy, much less about justice. Close to
80% of Eritreans make their living on agriculture, that is a big bulk of the people right
there. Expenditures on agriculture account for only 9.0% of the GDP. Contrasted with the
expenditures of 44.4% of the GDP on defense, that figure of 9% on agriculture says it all
about how much the Isaias regime cares about Eritreans; it is clear the country has been
programmed to fail from the get go. The leadership we have in Eritrea is a monster!
Sadly, our People are showing Signs of Giving Up
Considering life expectancy in Eritrea is 56 years, a relatively impressive literacy rate of
51.7%, a competitive general school enrollment of 53% and a relatively low HIV/AIDS
infection rate of 2.87% in the region, we have a proud people that are trying so hard to
give their families a secure life. Can you imagine what such a hard working and
sacrificing people would have achieved if we had a sensible government in Asmara?
Unfortunately, with a migration rate of close to 8%, about 300,000 men, women and
children, our people are walking away from the country they dearly love every year. Cry
for Eritrea compatriots; however, I urge you to do something about Eritrea’s predicament
by getting involved in the struggle for peace and democracy once your tears dry up.

                 Table 1: Comparative statistics of Selected Nations
                Source: The Statesman’s Year Book and Country Reports
  Parameter       Eritrea Ethiopia Somalia Sudan Djibouti Uganda                     Kenya
  Population        4.3       66.0      7.5      36.0        0.5     24.0             31.0
 GDP($billion)     2.9         39.2         4.3      35.7       0.574      26.2       45.6
     GDP-          9.0         45.0        60.0      39.0        3.0       43.0       25.0
    Farming-      79.0         85.0        80.0      80.0       N/A        80.0       80.0
    Military-     44.4          7.1        4.6        4.9        5.0        2.5        3.1
  Military size 300,000      350,000       N/A      100,000     8,000     40,000     20,500
 Inflation (%)   300.0         5.0        100.0       10.0        2.0       6.5        7.0
 Below poverty    67.0         N/A         N/A        N/A        45.1      55.0       42.0
      Life       56.18         44.68       46.6      56.94      51.21      43.37     47.49
  Literacy(%)     51.7         36.3        N/A       55.7        62.3       65        80.5
  Clean water     7%           15%         N/A       N/A        100%       52%        N/A
 Malnutrition    44%           N/A         N/A       N/A         18%       26%        23%
     School        53           43         N/A        51         39        N/A         89
 HIV/AIDS(%)      2.87        10.63        N/A       0.99       11.75       8.3   13.95
 AIDS Deaths      350        160,000       N/A      23,000                84,000 190,000
AIDS Orphans 24,000          990,000       N/A      62,000               880,000 890,000
 Constitutional  None          yes         N/A       yes         yes       yes     yes
  Multi-party    None           yes        N/A        yes        yes        yes       yes
 Net migration    7.91         0.13        N/A       0.04       0.00       -0.29      -1.5

As Figure 1 below shows, Eritrea under Isaias has been in a state of war with all its
neighbors, except for Uganda and Kenya, two nations Eritrea does not share common
 borders with. Sudan, Yemen, and Djibouti enjoy relationships that range from reduced
 cooperation to full cooperation with all the other nations. Needless to state, the
 government in Eritrea seems to be an odd bully in the region.

 The history of Eritrea in the last four decades attests to the fact that Isaias’ cruelty has
 created deep resentments among the populace. His tired technique of divide and conquer
 on the basis of ethnic, religious, and regional conflicts have ended up being toothless.
 Unfortunately, the debacle and destruction he has generated in the last war has left our
 people destitute. The people have finally understood who the real enemy is. The loyalty
 of those whose responsibilities are to protect him against real and imagined enemies are
 based on the twin motivators of fear and their vested self interests.

 Fortunately, the loyalty of those who are protecting him will definitely and instantly
 evaporate when the unity of Eritreans is achieved and the promise of genuine democracy
 becomes viable. Isaias’ enemies are incessantly communicating irrespective of their
 political persuasions or party memberships, thanks to the Internet. It is a matter of time
 before the contribution of these determined Eritreans and potentially powerful coalition
 of organizations will bear fruit to dislodge the tyrant.




Conflict                                                                                        Djibouti

                                                  Eritrea                       Yemen

                                                                                        Reduced Conflict
                                                                                        Reduced Cooperation

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