The Eritrean regime should not be allowed to starve its own People
A child selling tissue to earn few cents in Asmara: What about in remote areas?
The Eritrean regime should not be allowed to starve its own People
By Petros Tesfagiorgis
The diaspora Eritreans are concerned about the alarming news of starvation in Eritrea. People are bombarding their relatives in Diaspora to send money for food. Few people, particularly in the capital Asmara, may get some help. But this is a tip of the iceberg. People outside the capital don’t even have internet connection to explain their pains and sufferings.
There is a very sad news coming from the lowlands. In the town of Haikota and surrounding areas malnourished children are dying. This is covered by Assenna Sat-TV and other Eritrean Social Medias. It is not covered by the main stream Western media. There is a blanket silence. The silence is partly because the international community depends on independent reporters. But this is not possible, journalists are banned in Eritrea. Eritrea is dubbed Africa’s North Korea and the most secretive country. That is why the regime is capable of hiding hunger.
The other much more serious reason is that the UN and EU policy is to engage Isaias to improve his human rights records. The UN and EU believed that the peace with Ethiopia will end the gross human rights violations in Eritrea. On the contrary it continued unabated. Not only that Isaias has become a danger to the sovereignty of Eritrea and a liability to Ethiopia by adding fuel in the fire of Ethnic conflict in Ethiopia. The international community has belatedly realized that Isaias is incapable of making peace with his own people and the neighbouring countries. Because of that there are signs that they would cooperate with the democratic movements in Diaspora and in Eritrea. e.g.
On 25 June 2020 there was virtual intergroup discussion on Eritrea in the German Parliament, Bundestag. The German and English translation of the discussions can be found by going to the following links:
Version in deutsch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FaFCoCUPfpQ
Version in englisch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0j-O-tXnRO0&t=138s
In conclusion Cooperation with the wider Eritrean democracy movements was recommended.
Connection e.V. summed up the discussion in their release. I quote “On 25 June 2020, a public intergroup zoom discussion was held at the invitation of Rudi Friedrich (Connection e.V.) and Kathrin Vogler (MdB, Die Linke). Several experts as well as members of the German parliament parties SPD, FDP and the parliamentary group Bündnis 90/Die Grünen took part in the discussion. More than 60 persons from about 10 countries were following the discussion”. From Eritrea Focus myself and two of my colleagues participated.
It has to be remembered that the German Government has taken a bold action not to extend aid to the dictator in Eritrea
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.
However the UN and the EU are stuck to their policy of engaging the Eritrean repressive regime. The 44th Session of the UN Human Rights Council was opened in Geneva on 30 June 2020. The UN Special Rapporteur Daniela Kravets reported that in spite of the peace with Ethiopia repression is continuing unabated. She only repeated what the human rights organisations such as Amnesty international, Human Rights Watch etc. were saying. She was not allowed to visit Eritrea and learn first-hand the hidden truth of systematically starving the people. That is why she is forbidden to visit the country. The UN knows that and chose to be silent instead of protesting to let the rapporteur visit Eritrea. It showed the UN has gone too low as to condone the hidden-hunger in Eritrea. This is a blunder of historical proportion.
The complacency of the UN and EU gave the regime the confidence to continue repression to the extent of closing 27 health centres run by the Roman Catholic Church in 2019. The consequences has opened a big hole in the nation’s health system to a crises point. The regime has no will or capacity to open the clinics. 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 for a miscarriage without 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 Gross human rights violation in Eritrea has left a mark on the conscience of the world for too long this time it went too far. To systematically starve the people while the rich countries are ready to help is in sane. It is preventable but it needs a rescue mission.
This is a formidable challenge to the justice seekers – it is us who should address the repression. Our advocacy campaign is too weak to make a difference. Our energy is wasted wrangling among ourselves. No action was taken when 27 health centres which provide service to thousands of people a year was closed. No political stand on issue when the regime interfere in the internal affairs of Ethiopia. At least the exiled political and civic society have to issue a statement that the people of Eritrea has nothing to do with Isaias’s interference in a way that plunges Eritrea in support of PM Abiy Ahmed war against the TPLF and other nationalities who want to save the federal system in Ethiopia.
At this moment in time Vigorous campaign is required by the political and civil society organisations to denounce the interference of Isaias in the internal conflict of Ethiopia.
Today the world is essentially on a Covid-19 war. The main weapon to defeat the virus is for people to lock-down at home to prevent the spread of the virus. However people in poor counties like Eritrea need food, protective equipment and medical supplies to sustain them during the lockdown period.
This was acknowledged globally and the rich countries felt responsible to provide help. But the regime in Eritrea has politicized the issue of the virus and opted to use it as a weapons to starve the people.
- The regime is not providing food and other necessities to sustain them during the lock down. As a consequence, the population who are already poor are now left starving.
- The regime has found an easy prey where the region are far from the main towns and are isolated. Such as the coastal areas of Danakil inhabited by Afar. The people live on fishing, trade and farming and all are banned resulting in severe malnutrition. The same in other remote areas. In Wester Lowlands children are dying in Haicota and surrounding areas.
- 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. In prisons near Asmara, Detainees and their families largely pay for their own medication, meals and hygiene products, but the COVID-19 lockdown has cut off this supply.
- The UN called on Eritrea to free political and low –risk offenders to reduce COVID-19 threat in crowded jails. The regime refused. The UN maintained its silence. Silence is collusion with the regime. The UN has a weapon in its hands to threaten the regime to bring him to ICC. All the documents that Shows the regime has committed crimes against humanity is in UN hands.
Not only that the despotic ruler Isaias is reluctant to accept help from the rich countries.
Isaias Afeworki, has refused the COVID-19 supplies donated by the Chinese billionaire Jack Ma and his Alibaba Group. The Chines has donated to 55 African countries.
Martin Plaut wrote in Eritrea Hub “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 Assab offered to donate aid to the local population- the afar- in Assab. The proposal was turned down in no uncertain terms by the Governor, General Teklai Kifle. The regime did not want direct contact with the people of Eritrea. For the soldiers and the army commanders of the Emirates army it is morally degrading to see their fellow human being starve while they operate in their ancestral land. In this case Isaias is totally exposed. He turned down the offer because it is against his policy of starving the people and hide it from foreigners.
During the virtual intergroup discussion on Eritrea in the German Parliament “Klara Smits from Europe External Policy Advisors (EEPA said “There is a long history in the EU of supporting the Eritrean regime through aid,” “It has been shown repeatedly that the regime under Isaias Afewerki is unwilling to comply with basic benchmarks on human rights.”
It is true, it is widely acknowledge that Isaias don’t have the will and the ability to end gross human rights violations in Eritrea. It is time that the EU acknowledges this facts. Today they can do something good by channelling the funds to feed the hungry people and save lives. They can adopt policies friendly to the suffering people of Eritrea. During the virtual meeting in the German Parliament the option was highlighted by the two Eritrean presenters, 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. And Dr Awet Kessete from the Eritrean Associations for Democracy. He said the funds must serve to improve the living conditions of the people.
The Corona-virus incident has exposed the ulterior motive of the regime, to starve the people. It is time for the world to stand up and act, to tell Isaias enough is enough he cannot starve the people.
However, the key to end hunger in Eritrea is in the hands of the United Nations. The United Nations has a global responsibility and a moral high ground to stop Isaias to commit further crimes. The justice seekers must seek a meeting with the UN to discuss how best to help the people. I have contacted some influential people to see if there is a possibility to arrange meetings with the UN. The answer is not easy. The UN talks only with representatives of governments unless there are countries who can speak out for them. But I was told a massive demonstration all over the world could persuade the UN to listen to the justice seekers. In practice Isaias cannot represent the Eritrean people, he cannot speak of the pains and sufferings of the people. Because he is the perpetrator of the violations. The UN must know that the Eritrean people have no voice. The UN must listen to the voice of the oppressed people. In these critical moment in time when the life of the people of Eritrea is in danger the UN do not bother to listen to the cry of the Eritrean people for help. Unfortunately they chose to be the complicit to the repression. This is a historical injustice. The UN is condoning the cruel action of the cruel dictator.
During the 6-day virtual conference organised by Eritrea Focus between 29 June to 4 July 2020, there was a presentation on “Engaging with International Democracies”. There was a heated but friendly debate on why justice seekers fail to win international supporters. Most of the contributors said, and rightly so, it is because of the fragmentation of the Eritrean diaspora. An international campaigner for justice for the people of Eritrea from USA said “what I don’t understand is how come such a small country has so many political and civic society organisations? Who would like to support such a fragmented community? The main preoccupation of the various diaspora organisations should be how to come together and work for the common good of the Eritrean people. It is critically important and urgent that our disunity is addressed and resolved if we are going to bring any meaningful change in our country our people have been longing for..
It is high time for us in diaspora to focus on the urgent issues that affect the daily lives of our people – save their lives from starvation and at the same time fight for the very existence of our country..
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Note: The Child’s photo above and other powerful photos like a woman with a child on her back sitting under palm tree was posted on face book by Tesfaldet Meharena: The caption in Tigrinya is “ ዝጽበየና ስራሕ ብዙሕ እዩ። ካብ ሐሸውየ ንቖጠብ”. This is a formidable challenge and historical moment for action. Eritrea focus is due to discus how best to tackle the problem.