The population in Eritrea are starving and are crying for help:
by Petros Tesfagiorgis
I congratulate the London/ UK Democratic Mass Movement (Yeakel) for staging a successful Demonstration in London on 6 August 2020 exposing the regime in Eritrea for deliberately starving the people and against war concocted by Ethiopia’s PM Abiy Ahmed and Isaias – to invade Tigray.
SOME OF THE SLOGANS WERE “STOP USING COVID – 19 TO STARVE OUR PEOPLE” “NO MORE WAR IN ERITREA”, “UNITE OUR STRENGH TO SAVE ERITREA”
I also extend my congratulation to the successful (Washington Baito Yeakle) Demonstration in Washington DC on Saturday 8 August. The slogan “HIDDEN FAMINE” is an expression of what is happening in Eritrea.
Eritrea Focus Petition to the United Nations Secretary General was signed by 22 organisations and 3,000 individuals domiciled in some 61 countries around the world.
The demonstration and the Petition are just the beginning of more advocacy campaign to end starvation in Eritrea. Justice seekers advocacy campaign has to move on. That is the right thing to do.
The alarming reports of food shortages is continuing in various regions of Eritrea. People are crying for help. Whenever shortage of food or famine occurs in any developing or poor countries it is the responsibility of Governments to raise the alarm and seek International help. Governments are duty bound to do so. But the Eritrean government is not doing that.
What exactly is happening in Eritrea?
- During the lock down period, the Eritrean regime is not providing food and other necessities to the people, the population are starving.
- Life in prisons: Because of poor healthcare, lack of sanitation and hygiene options, thousands of Eritreans in official and unofficial prisons are left defenceless against COVID-19.The UN has advised the regime to release prisoners of conscience but it was ignored.
- The Afar Eritreans that inhabit the Southern Red Sea survive on fishing, trade and farming and all have been banned resulting in severe malnutrition. Children are .dying of malnutrition in many areas, in Western Lowlands in Haicota town and surrounding areas and in the Highlands.
- The regime is continuing the indefinite national service and Eritrean youth including underage children are leaving the country to Ethiopia.
- 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 pregnant woman, Halima Mohammed died in the Badda crater area on Sunday 31 May 2020. The pregnant woman passed away bleeding 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.
- There is alarming news of shortage of food in the SAWA military training camp the centre of the indefinite national service/slavery. It destroyed the future of the youth and gave rise to the influx of huge number of refugees to exile.
The regime in Eritrea refuses help from the International Community:
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.
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.
All these shows Isaias is not representing the people he is at war with in any UN forums. He just represents his interest. This unusual situation is a challenge to Eritreans, to the UN, EU and the International community in General.
The ruling elite (PFDJ) has politicized the Corona- virus phenomena and opted to use it as a weapon to starve the people in order to make them weak enough not to demand the end of repression and oppose Isaias’s war against the TPLF/Tigray in collusion with Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia.
Starving the people of Eritrea is deliberate. It is a political decision and needs a political solution, some sort of a negotiation with Isaias. In this case the UN is holding the key to negotiate with Isaias. But is UN willing to unlock the door? The UN has a unique negotiating power over the Eritrean Government. The UN has shelved aside the report of its Inquiry Commission on Eritrea which says “crime against humanity has been committed in Eritrea since 1991”. The UN has an option to revive it. Besides, the UN has a global responsibility to oppose Isaias to starve the people. It is true UN has a problem. On one hand it is only Governments that represent the people in the UN forums. On the other hand Isaias has loyal friends like Abiy who make sure that Isaias is untouchable and others who are exploiting natural resources of Eritrea such as copper, gold, potash etc. None of the income goes to the Ministry of finance. It is unaccountable and does not benefit the people.
During the virtual expert meeting which took place in the German Parliament on 25/6/2020, speakers after speakers have said that the Eritrean Government will not badge from continuing the repression. At the end the meeting recommended to cooperate with the Eritrean movements for democracy.
Those of us who attended the meeting (from UK, Germany and Netherlands) have agreed to come together share the recommendation with all Justice Seekers specially the Yeakle Mass movement and make good use of the recommendation of the meeting in the campaign to lobby the end of the starvation.
Myself, from Eritrea Focus. Mr Muluberhan Temelso, the Director General of the Foundation of Human Rights for Eritreans/ in Holland and Dr Awet Kessete and Mr Temelso Ghebreyesus from the Eritrean Associations for Democracy in Germany have agreed to involve supporters in our advocacy campaign to bring the starvation to an end. Temelso Ghebreyesus and Dr Awet, have said that Rudi Friedrich (Connection e.V.), the co-organiser of the conference in Germany are willing to help in the campaign.
The attitude of the international community is turning against Isaias. 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.
I took the responsibility to contact few Eritreans who were MPs in countries they adopted and others who worked in the UN or who had friends working for UN. Once the UN agrees to meet Eritreans we thought the best way is to ask some Eritrean senior Elders to meet the UN in order to persuade the regime to mobilize resources to feed the starving people and accept foreign help. Of course the UN agencies such as UNDP, UNICEF have to do the monitoring,
The answer is not encouraging. They said it is not possible for concerned citizens to make direct contact with the UN. It is Governments who can raise such very important issue to be debated in the UN and come up with a solution. We have seen how some governments abuse their membership rights in the UN to cover up the crimes of their friends. Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia is one. Not only he lobbied Eritrea to be a member of the UN human rights council but he went further. Abiy Ahmed in his interview with Bana Social media on 28 July2020 has unleashed a spectacular propaganda coup – paining Isaias as a person who is working very hard for peace and development in Africa. He said everything which Isaias is not. It shows that for PM Abiy Ahmed, like that of Isaias, the life of the people of Eritrea does not matter. But also it implies that he will fight that the UN don’t listen to the voice of the starving people of Eritrea. The strategy is to suppress the facts. It is working for them, the UN is keeping its silence. When the regime refused to allow the special Rapporteur to visit Eritrea the UN did not protest. They know it is to hide the facts. Silence is collusion. The only consolation for the UN is that the 44th session of the Human Rights Council has extended the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur for one year. But that does not bring food to the starving people of Eritrea. This is as far as the Western Democratic Governments go. It is short of putting pressure on the regime to feed the people. In this critical period many other stake holders’ national and international humanitarian and human rights groups and individuals who shares the values of justice need to play an active role in saving the life of the people of Eritrea.
However, the Eritreans in Diaspora have to be in the forefront of the campaign. But they have to have competent people assigned to focus on this particular issue. One senior person I contacted in USA told me to contact philanthropist like Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Clinton Foundation and others in the U.S But first the problem of access to Eritrea has to be solved there is no point to contact them unless the governments accepts aid. Second there must be a strong charity organisation like what Eritrean Relief Association (ERA) was during the struggle. The democratic movements in Diaspora have to show their capacity and build institutions with legal entities in order to be taken seriously by the international community. Around 2004 ex-president of Sudan Al Mahdi gave a talk in London. He mentioned that at one time he tried to bring together Isaias and the opposition to make peace in Khartoum. He said I talked to Isaias first and he replied “what opposition, I see no opposition? “Isaias saw no action from the opposition that challenges his power. During the Eritrea Focus virtual Conference “Building Democracy in Eritrea” at the end of July, an American from DC said “there are many opposition organisation in this small country- who do you think is interested in helping you.
In this moment in time, Eritreans are rallying behind Mesfun Hagos one of the top leaders of EPLF and an ex-minister of defence. The youth have rose up like a tsunami awakening to political life. There is also a noticeable growth in the confidence and determination of the Eritrean women. The experience and the resilience of Mesfun Hagos is an asset to the youth movement in this moment in time, he could play as a bridge with the oppressed army and civilians inside Eritrea.
If Isaias give in to the pressure of UN and allows help to go to the people then the International humanitarian organisations can be approached. Above all those denied to give aid like the chines can be asked to reconsider. The EU has budgeted 3. 25 billion Euro to Africa. In it there is a share for Eritrea. Also Eritreans living abroad can raise substantial amount of money. What is important that we justice seekers must work hard to find ways to make it happen.
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”.
In conclusion Cooperation with the wider Eritrean democracy movements was recommended. 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