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Sawa: the Principal Academia

Written by Habtom Tesfamichael

Explaining what Sawa stands for might be a bit complex, but in few words, Sawa is home to personal development. Hence, when students from all walks of life sail on the one year long journey of Sawa, they do indeed learn and share experiences they’ll never find in books or other schools. You learn to love, respect and gain from the differences of your new brothers and sisters. Sawa is the first chapter of adulthood: and the first class of growth and success.

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Seare Ghebrekidan sailed along with his Eritrean brothers and sisters, he departed from the USA!

Q: Tells us something about yourself.

My name is Seare Ghebrekidan zegta. I was born in Addis Ababa and went to the USA in 1988, I have lived in Washington DC, USA for almost 28 years. I worked as a bus driver for the government, then as a train driver and finally I come to Eritrea and owned a taxi.

Q: What was the hidden motive that pushed you to join Sawa and do your national service?

When your understanding broadens, when you know better about Eritrea, you then will have the opportunities to understand your right and duties. Your identity always obliges you to do certain things and national service is one of them. Back in the USA I duly participated in every seminars of the Eritrean communities, members of government used to come and give us explanations about the ongoing objectives of our homeland while doing their best to educate us about the policies, situation in our home country, the attributions needed to be extended, as well as, challenges faced.

Naturally, as a young man you would have the feeling to direct your mind elsewhere and listen to the other narrative of country circulating in the world; so a thoroughly studied decision is vital.

I lived in DC for a long period of time, the western media feeds us a lot of information and successfully confuses many people. But as one grows, he/she needs to open up their mind and search for the hidden truth. And when you come and see it for yourself, the real situation you find amazes you in ways you wouldn’t know. You would be like ‘wow really?!

Likewise, a place with no progress what so ever. … I knew the western media was full of lies, so my vital decision was to come to Eritrea and see for myself.

The most pushing factor that led me to come here was when I realized that the objective of the organized western hostility, especially the US, targets the people and the government of Eritrea. The baseless sanctions imposed on us and the untold wrong doings… we can mention countless iniquitousness, to deteriorate the people of Eritrea and hinder us from being different and successful. Then I asked myself: ‘would I do better serving white men for the rest of my life or join my people and do history for Eritrea?’

I decided I want to be part of the historical advent of Eritreans and their drive. But in order for me to do so I had to pass through the national service, and so here I am in Sawa.

Q: What would your answer be to foreigners asking why people migrate out of Eritrea?

Before the independence it was a survival quest as Eritrea was being tormented by a war that no other country tried to look at. But today it is a completely different story; there are immigration workers that tell migrants if they don’t lie they won’t be able to get the green card. Young Eritreans love their country and families; they leave not because they hate the country, it is because they know they’ll tell what it is wanted to be heard and get the green card.

The westerners use so many crafts to demonize Eritrea and its government. I’m here in Sawa never seen it before. I am going to give you an example. They say violations in Sawa, rape, killing, torturing… this and that.

Eritrea is different from the other African countries; it is not in the pockets of the westerners, and that drives them crazy. They think “you have the sanctions so you will not eat, the no war no peace situation will keep you hungry. No work. No tourism.” That is what they think; but we still manage to stop us from striving and succeeding. When migrants enter their country, they get a case worker, their job is to lead you to what you have to say. And as consequence there are a lot of Ethiopians, Sudanese and other nationalities getting green cards simply because they say they are from Eritrea.

The US itself, when they talk about Eritrea…it makes me laugh. Because, for example there are black Americans, the rule of law is not applied on them. If you are black in the US, your mother is not worried about gangsters, drug dealers…she will say “my son be careful from the police”. Because the police can simply kill you and no one can do anything about it. The blacks are still struggling to live in equality. So in what position they are to tell us about human rights? There are more than 3.5 million black Americans in prison without any kind of hope. The system is very tough. You have to live it to understand it. Human rights violation starts with themselves in the US. If they truly care about us, it is very simple. Why don’t they take up their role in implementing the EEBC ruling and lift the sanctions. But they don’t want to do that because they know what we can do. We are seeing what is going on in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Iraq…amazingly when they bombed Iraq, it was only the oil ministry building which was not bombed. Their objective is clear. Are they really going to teach us about human rights?

Q: What has particularly impressed you of Sawa?

What I saw was amazing. Thousands of young boys and girls from different ethnic and religious groups, go to this one big boarding school. After finishing the school we take our military training together, learn to grow together. You learn how to care for others, to be patient …etc. So Sawa is not only a military camp, it is a big lifetime university. It is a big accomplishment as long as you score a degree or diploma however if you weren’t able to score in the matriculation examinations, don’t worry, you will join Sawa vocational Training center (SVTC) and learn different skill and learn how to be creative. So everything is fine, fine and just fine. All it matters is that when you get out of Sawa you’ll have something; education, military training, technological skills, auto mechanics… On this occasion I want to forward my message to the westerners: come and see and basically to leave us alone.

Q: I have also heard you give seminars to your fellows in Sawa

Yeah, because I want them to know that living abroad is not as sweet as they think. Once you come to the diaspora, you have to pay for school, medical service… so you need money. You have to work for them in low wages than theirs, just because you are from Africa: modern slavery. They have planned this very well. So they are trying to suffocate us.

Q: Any final words Seare?

I want to tell every Eritrean, abroad or here, to stand together. The world will actually grow tired of weakening us. The US state department normally says: “Our interest is everywhere and we don’t have a permanent enemy” so if they realize they won’t destroy us they will work with us.

I advise the youth that we Eritreans have a worthy culture and we need to nurture these values and norms so that we can pass them to the next generation.
To all Eritreans in Washington D.C and here in Eritrea Selam, Selam!

-Thank you!

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Documentary by African Strategies: POLITICIZING ERITREAN MIGRATION

Coverage of Eritrean migration has been highly politicized leading to much confusion on the issue. Journalists usually quote suspected traffickers and/or activists with declared “regime change” agenda for their perspectives on conditions inside Eritrea and these accounts are then used to present a “human rights” case against the country.

The explanation then for “harsh” conditions inside Eritrea misses the point by a mile. No reference is made to the no-war-no-peace situation inside the country caused by Ethiopia’s calculated hostility, its maneuvering inside regional bodies, and its refusal to abide by a final and binding decision. Furthermore, preferential treatment of Eritrean asylum seekers designed to drain Eritrea of its most important resource, along with sanctions based on cooked evidence of an intrusive and biased UNHCR stand against the country’s government and people has greatly tainted the debate on migration.

This documentary by African Strategies, in collaboration with the Red Sea Institute, raises key questions that mainstream media deliberately ignores and is a continuation of a series of documentaries that try to present THE OTHER NARRATIVE on Eritrea.

“Asmara is the Symbol of Eritreans” ~ Ambassador Hanna Simon

Written By Asmait Fitsumbrahan

A message of congratulations to the Capital city, Asmara, nick-named by the Italians “little Rome”, for being inscribed in to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The city has been recognized for its well preserved buildings of modernist architectural designs. Asmara’s incredibly attractive architecture has earned it a great value worldwide making it one of the few in Africa. The AHP (Asmara Heritage Project) was also awarded the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) award, an exceptional honor and testimony on the world class standards of research on December last year. The city was declared as the world heritage site during the 41th meeting of the World Heritage Committee in Poland on 7th of July.

Here is Ms. Hanna Simon, Ambassador of Eritrea to France and Eritrea’s permanent representative to UNESCO.

Q: Explain please the importance of World Heritage.

A: It is when a country’s historic monuments become significant, not only to the country, but also to the world. It is a call for their preservation following the required standards that is. And today, with all the numerous, incredible and historic heritage we have, Eritrea has become one, starting with Asmara. Asmara was presented and approved to be registered at the 41th World Heritage session committee.

For the process, there was a committee assigned to observe for a couple of months. Also, among other different committees with different purposes was, EKOMOS. UNESCO assigned people who have been to Asmara to study and observe whatsoever makes Asmara special. The reports were finally submitted in May. It was a great report, as a matter of fact, and was approved by the 21 responsible countries for the decision.

Q: What is the benefit one country can gain by being part of the World Heritage?

A: Most of all, the country has the honor of owning a testament recognized by the world; one that the world cares for its safe keeping. The international community protects and preserves it under any kind of circumstances as it is not only the individual country’s responsibility but the world too. A country can also ask for any kind of assistance through UNESCO. All in all, today’s achievement makes Asmara not only a heritage for Eritreans but for the world as well. That is why it will get all the assistance and recognition it needs.

Being registered in the World Heritage, Asmara, will now be a known name more than ever. This accomplishment is the first for Eritrea and it says a lot about how far we have come in our diplomatic activities as well. Again, this is a success that has been awarded in England. It is an event we should all take pride in and be proud of together as people of one country. Besides, it is something to reflect a huge honor for a country’s development in just 25 years. Until now, Africa has registered very few in the world heritage sites. Although Africa is rich with historical places and buildings, there aren’t many places registered as the world heritage sites, especially at the modern heritage sites. Particularly talking in the Sub Saharan countries, we can say that Eritrea is the first to be registered at the modern world heritage site. It is truly a marvelous thing to be recognized for.

Definitely there will be more tourists attracted to Asmara from the international community. There are many tourists who are interested in such places. With the brilliant art deco and historic buildings, Asmara is going to attract numerous tourists from all over the world; this might open a lot of opportunities.

Q: What would you say about Asmara and the attachments Eritreans feel towards it?

A: Asmara is the symbol of Eritreans. We are proud of it. Not just because it is our capital city, but it is our pride and joy. Which is why every Eritrean wanted Asmara to be recognized by the world. Sharing is a common culture of Eritreans. Therefore, now that our capital is recognized by the world, it gives pleasure to every Eritrean to share the capital’s glams with the rest of the world.

I would like to remind my society that not only do we need to protect our buildings but to try to keep its original blueprints. I would like to personally stress on the fact that we need to shift our attention to the outskirts of the cities and try to build houses there and protect the ancient looks of our cities. The recognition we were awarded mainly depended on the antiquity of our city. We should keep our historic and beautiful buildings, let’s work hard to keep the beauty of our city.

Source: Shabait

Asmara – Modernist City of Africa inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Site

Asmara, 10 July 2017- At the 41 Session of the World Heritage Committee that took place on 7 July in Karkow, Poland, in which the President of Poland, Mr. Andrzej Duda and Irene Bokova, Director General of UNESCO, Ministers and high level officials as well as more than 1000 governmental and non-governmental representatives took part Asmara was inscribed UNESCO World heritage.

In a speech she delivered during the event representing the Eritrean Government, Ambassador Hanna Simon, Eritrean Ambassador to France and Permanent Representative to UNESCO, stated that the inscription of Asmara city onto the UNESCO World Heritage List is a symbol of pride and achievement for the Eritrean people and shoulders the responsibility to maintain its status.

Asmara’s inclusion on the World Heritage List for its outstanding modernist art-deco, at least 15 historical architectures as well as urban planning and its exceptional testimony of the universal aspiration for and attainment of national self-determination goes beyond merely pursuing international recognition for its cultural assets.

The Eritrean government delegation presided by Ambassador Hanna Simon, Eritrean Ambassador to France and Permanent Representative to UNESCO, Engineer Tesfalem Weldemichael head of technical department in the central region, Engineer Medhanie Teklemaryam Coordinator of Asmara Heritage Project, Mr. Yared Tesfay Director of Media Affairs at the Embassy of the State of Eritrea to UK and Ireland and Dr. Edward Denison, a researcher on Asmara Heritage Project are participating at the 41st Session of  the World Heritage Committee currently taking place in Krakow, Poland from July 2nd – 12th 2017.

It’s to be recalled that in December 2016, the Asmara Heritage Project  (AHP) won the Royal Institute of British Architectures (RIBA) President’s Medal for Research, an exceptional honor and testimony on the world-class standard of research conducted by the AHP in preparation for the nomination of ‘Asmara: Africa’s Modernist City’ as a world heritage site.

Asmara’s inscription onto the World Heritage List will potentially benefit Eritrea in the tourism sector.

1,053 world heritage sites from 165 countries have been inscribed in the UNESCO World Heritage List until July 2017 and that 815 of them are cultural, 203 natural and 35 are combination of both.

The World heritage sites of which 499 are located in Europe and America, 247 in Asia and Pacific, 138 in Latin America and Caribbean, 90 in Africa and 81 in Arab countries.

Source: Shabait

Journey to Eritrea: the Gateway to Africa

 Written By Yosef Tesfasilase

If you’re looking for a paradise vacation, this is where you want to go. Eritrea is located on the Horn of Africa (North East Africa), and borders with Ethiopia on the south, Djibouti on the south-east, Sudan on the north-west, and Red Sea on the north along with Dahlak Archipelago and other small islands. Eritrea, with a land area of about 125.000 km2, is roughly the size of England, or the state of Pennsylvania, USA. The coastline measures around 1.200 km and off it there are over 350 islands, of which 210 comprise the area of the Dahlak Archipelago.

GREAT WEATHER AND CLIMATE.

‘Three seasons in two hours’. There is no time of year that is particularly unsuitable for visiting Eritrea. Eritrea is located at the highest landmass of the African continent. Eritrea has a variety of climatic conditions. The country has three major zones- the central highlands, the coastal region, and western lowlands. Each zone has a different climatic condition. Asmara, the capital of city of Eritrea, has a wonderful climate all year around (average temperature roughly 59 Fahrenheit, 16 Celsius).

IT MIGHT BE A NEW NATION, BUT IT’S THE OLDEST CIVILIZATION ON EARTH.

Eritrea was forcefully annexed by Ethiopia under the Emperor Haile Selassie. In April 1993, after 30 years of war with Ethiopian regime, Eritrean people have voted unanimously in favor of their independence. However, Eritrea might have been a new nation on map but it’s the oldest civilization in Africa. Adulis was an ancient port of Red Sea coast and it was important in staging post in the trade between Mediterranean, southern Arabia, East Africa, and Indian Ocean before Ethiopia was discovered by King Menelik II. Today, many archaeologists are investigating to find an answer to ‘the buried civilization’.

Eritrea has a roughly population of 6 million inhabitants. Although Eritrea has nine heterogeneous tribes but the fabric of the society is homogeneous by any standard. All nine tribes have lived in harmonious environments and have an utmost respect for each other since the cradle of civilization. The tribes that are Afro-Asiatic speaking communities of Cushitic branches: Tigrinya, Tigre, Afar, Rashaida, Saho, Bilen, and Beja. The rest tribes that are Nilo-Saharan communities: Kunama, and Nara. All Eritrean tribes, then and now, have put their Eritrean nationality as a first priority than their ethnicity. Perhaps it’s extremely difficult to fathom that homogeneous society-such as Eritrea-does exist in Africa continent in which tribalism conflicts are a way of life….

A LAND OF RICH CULTURE.

Roughly 50% the population adheres to Christianity, Islam 48%, and while 2% of the population follows other religions including traditional African religion. The major languages are Tigrinya, Tigre, Arabic, and English. Also, in Eritrea there are other languages are spoken in Eritrea: Bilen, Afar, Kunama, Saho and etc.

AN IDEAL VACATION FOR THE FAMILY.

Since Eritrean independence, the government has done a marvelous jobs in building a quality of roads, communications, dams, hospitals, colleges, and schools-primary and secondary. Even though under extreme hostile conditions at local level and international level which it was created by the belligerent Ethiopian regime, yet the Eritrean government has relentlessly been in making major improvement for the its people.

Eritrea is one of the safest country in the world. The people of Eritrea are known for their superb hospitality and utmost tenderness-care when guests arrived in their country. A person could venture on the roads of Eritrea without any concern of safety because the whole lands of the country is safe to travel anytime. Many tourists have returned so many times to Eritrea because they feel safer than their own native land. Some of tourists are extremely happy in Eritrea that they have eventually decided to make it their permanent residency. Eritrea: the land of nobles, the land of extraordinary, and the land of beautiful people!

 

The Real Eritrea is not what you Read on the internet – Avoid MSM Fake News

I have now been in Eritrea for the second time. I will be leaving in a few days and I want to document the highlights of my visit so that readers around the world will understand that I have had a scientifically productive trip in a safe and friendly country. When you read in the internet, you will see many misconceptions, but I would urge all foreigners to come to Eritrea and “see for yourself”. Such internet accounts are not true.

This is my second visit to Eritrea. After my first trip, I told many people at the University of California that I planned to return. One student said to me “I don’t know where Eritrea is but I know that it is very dangerous”, and she advised me saying “you need to be careful”. Certainly once I am back, I will make sure that she reads this report.

First of all, I should say the success of this trip has been due to the help of many people, both officials and local residents in each of the Zobas and Sub-Zobas (Zones and Sub-Zones) that I have visited. I have traveled in different parts of the country. I want to thank my hosts, the Minister of Agriculture Arefaine Berhe, the General Manager of the Forest and Wildlife Authority, Abraha Garza, and Futsum Hagos, the Director of Wildlife for the State of Eritrea. Their arrangements throughout the country made my collaborative and successful research easy.

The very next day after my arrival, I was invited to a wedding celebration together with my col-league Futsum Hagos. I spent a very pleasant afternoon with about 1000 relatives and neighbors of the couple. There was a live band and many of the guests were dancing in the open area between the tables. The celebration was held in a huge tent. We sat around tables in groups of eight and en-joyed Siwa and Injera that was provided by relatives and neighbors of the couple. Even though I was a stranger due to this being the first time in my life to attend an event like this, I was welcomed by the many people who greeted me. This first welcome was repeated many times during my travels around Eritrea throughout my stay.

Two days after my arrival I went to Futsum’s office to plan our research together for the next days. While we were in the office two young college students from the College of E.I.T. came to the office seeking helm. The two women, Hosaena and Miriam, were working on a research project to study the effects of plant extracts on treating bites of a venomous snake species that is found in Gash Barka Zoba. They had a photograph of the snake, which I identified as a Saw Scaled Viper (Echis pyramidium). They had obtained a venom sample from a snake and they planned to test ex-tracts from a plant that local people used to treat bits from snake. I was impressed with the enthusi-asm of these young students. It is fortunate that Eritrean students are encouraged to conduct original research even as undergraduate students.

A few days after the wedding celebration, I traveled to the village of Mekerka to look for lizards and frogs in a rocky area near a dam at the edge of the village. We saw many lizards and one frog. At the end of the day, before returning to Asmara, we stopped at a small café to drink tea. As we were leaving the café, a farmer came up to our car and gave me a large pumpkin. The man had never met me, but he told me that since I was a guest in his village, he wanted me to have the pumpkin as a gift. He said that his harvest should be shared and that he would be blessed for giving away some of his pumpkins. I had a similar experience at Segeneiti during my first visit when a farmer gave us three large cabbages. As we drove away, my guides from the Ministry of Agriculture told me that such generosity was part of Eritrean culture.

A few evenings later, we went to a wetland area near Asmara to look for gecko lizards and Asmara Toads, a species that I wrote about on my previous visit. A farmer saw us walking around with lights and he asks us why we are in his farm. We said that we are looking for frogs and lizards. He told us there were many lizards in his storage shed. He took us to his shed and we found several gecko lizards. I tried to offer him money for helping us, but he refused payment because he told me I am his guest.

On our next trip we went to Mendefera to survey for amphibians and reptiles. A local expert from the Ministry of Agriculture took us to wetland area near the town. We met a farmer who told us there were turtles in the reservoir next to his farm. This was very exciting because I suspected that he was talking about the endemic Eritrea Side-neck Turtle, species that was discovered in Eritrea in 1834 in Ghinda. We set traps baited with sardines in the reservoir and set under a tree in the shade. Soon the farmer appeared with a tray of Kicha (a type of unleavened bread) and honey that he had harvested from bee hives on his farm. What a wonderful way to spend a couple of hours. In the late afternoon we pulled in the traps and confirmed a new site for this turtle species. The Eritrea Side-neck Turtle is found nowhere in the world except Eritrea. It should be considered a National Treasure as part of Eritrea’s great biodiversity.

Next we went to the Keren area for three days. A local expert from the Ministry of Agriculture took us to the Halhale Agriculture Research Station at Eden. Lizards are abundant in this area and we saw many Doria’s Agama Lizard, a species first described from Keren in 1885. The Station has preserved large area of natural habitat around the seven reservoirs. We were told that even large African Pythons up to four meters long live the forest here. For breakfast at Eden Village we ordered Frittata (scrambled eggs with onions, tomatoes, and peppers). After the meal the owner offered us a coffee ceremony. After the ceremony she asked us to only pay for the frittata and not the coffee because we are her guests. This is another example of the daily hospitality that I experience in Eritrea. I have had no such experiences in my life, although I have traveled in many different parts of the world.

As we drove back from Keren, I notice thousands of terraces that have been built to prevent erosion. The land between the walls is planted with young trees. I am told by my hosts from Wildlife conservation that since the armed struggle for independence there has been a national effort of “Greening” to restore the original forests of Eritrea. High School students volunteer for part of the summer vacation to plant trees and construct terraces. Individual families “adopt” young seedlings to make sure that they thrive and are not eaten by goats or sheep. According to Futsum’s information, these endeavourers gained momentum in 2006 that is after the launching of the Greening campaign.

For the next trip, we left Asmara and drove to the Green Belt Protected Area. The rich biodiversity of this tropical forest includes mammal species such as Vervet Monkey, Baboon, Warthog, Leopard Klipspringer, and Greater Kudu. I learned from my host that in recent studies, it was documented over 100 species of birds in this forest. We spent two nights at the Medhanit Park, a very quiet place to rest where the only sounds are calls of birds in the trees around the hotel. Excellent meals of injera and pasta were prepared there. On the last evening after we returned from a search for frogs and toads along Fil-Fil River, we were treated to a coffee ceremony. Earlier in the day, the leader of the rangers who protect the Protected Area invited us to lunch. He slaughtered a goat in our honor and we ate huge amounts of injera and the largest and sweetest oranges I have ever tasted. A most pleasant way to spend a hot afternoon in the shade of the guard compound. After lunch, I thanked the commander and his answer was “It is our custom, you are a guest”.

This comment is something that I hear all over Eritrea. Wherever I meet new people, I am immediately considered a guest. I would say that this is a unique custom that can only be found in Eritrea.

Our final wildlife survey was a trip to the Red Sea Coast between Massawa and Foro. We spent several nights at the Gurgusum Hotel on the beach a few kilometers north of Massawa. We find that a unique species of lizard, the Shield-backed Lizard that was described from Keren in 1874 is common on the grounds of the hotel. I know that the hotel has system of preserving habitat with planted gardens at the hotel. Large numbers of birds live on the property. We went to Foro, 50 ki-lometers south of Massawa. This small town is where a species of toad, the Blanford Toad, was discovered in 1868. The toads are still common here, yet another example of habitat preservation and respect for wildlife, a policy that is universal in Eritrea supported by all citizens.

Last but not least, a few days ago, I was privileged to attend one of the largest cultural event of Asmara that is the Saint Mary fest (Ngdet) and it was a very memorable event. As I prepare to leave Eritrea, I am going to miss the friendly generous people who make Eritrea my favorite African country of the 26 countries in Africa where I have studied animal diversity over the last 40 years.

But I am already discussing with Futsum Hagos and the staff of the Ministry of Agriculture plans for a return to Eritrea and work on more findings about the biodiversity of the country.

Again I repeat, “Don’t believe what you read on the internet, come see for yourself”.

Prof. Theodore Papefuss, University of California
Source: Shabait.com

Eritrea: Some Clarifications

Written by FikreJesus A., Ph.D.

In Tancred, Benjamin Disraeli tells us how “[t]he East is a career.” Eritreans may be forgiven for thinking that likewise, for many mainstream analysts and experts, “Eritrea is a career.” Earlier this year a story on polygamy being mandatory in Eritrea was widely circulated across international media, and this week, an outdated, fictitious report about a North Korean ambassador commenting about Eritrea received considerable attention on social media. Although the stories were hoaxes and satirical, littered with innumerable fabrications and falsehoods – quite easily revealed by simple, perfunctory background research – their broad dissemination and attention poignantly encapsulate how coverage of, journalistic practice toward, and understanding about Eritrea are so problematic. The latest example of this trend is the article, “How the World Forgot ‘Africa’s North Korea’ Eritrea, and What This Means for Migration,” featured in the New Statesman, a British magazine (published 9 September). Not only is the article overly simplistic and lacking in context, it is strewn with inaccuracies and errors, and heavily tinged with paternalistic overtones.

Lacking originality, the author frames Eritrea alongside North Korea. In recent years, it has become quite common to see Eritrea, a young, low-income, developing country located within the volatile, politically-fractious Horn of Africa region, derogatorily described as secretive, the “North Korea of Africa,” or even the “hermit kingdom.” While such statements suggest Eritrea remains detached from the global community, closer analysis (of a number of objective measures) reveals that they are clichéd, cursory, and incorrect. In fact, one seasoned Western ambassador based in Asmara quipped, “those who compare Eritrea with North Korea have not been to North Korea and certainly do not know Eritrea,” while, last year, Norway’s Minister of Justice, reflecting upon his working visit to Eritrea, noted that descriptions of Eritrea (e.g. as the “North Korea of Africa”) were highly inaccurate.

Describing Eritrea, the author also utilizes phrases such as “self-isolation” and “a country that tries to seal itself off from the world,” suggesting that it has somehow chosen to isolate itself. This is, yet again, grossly inaccurate. The truth is that the international community, largely led by the United States, has pursued a policy of isolation toward Eritrea. Specifically, the country has been the target of an externally-driven strategy to isolate it, particularly through attempts at scuppering foreign agreements and economic deals. According to a leaked US embassy cable in Addis Ababa sent by Chargé d’Affaires Vicki Huddleston (dated 1 November 2005), the strategy of the US-backed Ethiopian proxy was to, “isolate Eritrea and wait for it to implode economically.” Moreover, a cable sent by Chargé d’Affaires Roger Meece (30 November 2009) reveals that the “USG [US Government] has worked to undercut support for Eritrea,” while another cable (2 November 2009) mentions that the German government’s rescinding of a credit guarantee to banks for a commercial loan of $US146m to Eritrea’s Bisha mining project was the result of “caving in to…American pressure.”

Even within this context, however, Eritrea has sought to establish beneficial partnerships and develop productive ties with a range of countries, organizations, and institutions. It is quite telling that on the same day the New Statesman published its article, the European Union (EU) and the State of Eritrea announced a new contract worth €18.7 million for the supply and installation of drip irrigation systems in Eritrea, while the signing of a bilateral Cooperation Protocol between Germany and Eritrea was also announced after a week of meetings in Germany involving Members of Parliament and a Senior Eritrean Government delegation. Notably, these announcements by Eritrea are only the latest in a growing series of significant agreements and partnerships with a range of countries and institutions, including – but not limited to – Finland, Cuba, China, Turkey, Japan, Russia, the UN and UNDP, GAVI, the African Development Bank (AfDB), and the European Development Fund (EDF).

It is likely that the author’s insinuations about Eritrea’s supposed isolationism are rooted in a lack of understanding about Eritrea’s “unconventional” approach to development and external aid. Specifically, Eritrea turns down aid when it does not fit the country’s needs or its capacity to use effectively. Eritrea does not reject external support – it actively welcomes it, but only when it complements the country’s own efforts. The Government has long encouraged  aid that addresses specific needs which cannot be met internally, which is designed to minimize continued external support, and which complements and strengthens (instead of replacing) Eritrea’s own institutional capacity to implement projects. This approach is rooted in a strong desire to avoid crippling dependence and to foster a clear sense of responsibility for the country’s future among all citizens.

Unfortunately, this approach is often misunderstood or even dismissed. However, the country’s determination to rely upon itself and promote independence should be encouraged, and external organizations and potential partners should be committed to working with it on that basis. In fact, according to Christine Umutoni, the UN-Eritrea Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Eritrea, which made considerable progress on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, “has a lot to share that could help formulate, shape and implement the post-2015 development outlook for the good of humanity.”

Importantly, the author’s hints about a famine are in stark contrast to observations by Eritrean ministries and international organizations. For example, consider the words of the head of an international NGO working in Eritrea: “at this time, East Africa is suffering massive hunger brought about by drought and El Nino. In the seven recent field visits our teams have made to five different regions of Eritrea and our work with communities and government, we have not observed acute levels of malnutrition. This is testament to the policy of storing and providing subsidised food. This perspective is shared by our development partners such as EU.”

The author also makes several other glaring errors. For example, the author refers to Eritrea’s economy as “decaying,” when in fact, according to several sources (including the IMF, World Bank, AfDB, and others), the economy has actually been growing. Additionally, in contrast to the author’s claims regarding Eritrea’s policies regarding national service and Sawa, students actually enter the program for their final year of secondary study and upon reaching 18 years of age. It is also important to note that since some students in Eritrea may start school late or even repeat grades, many entering Sawa may be in their late teens by their final year of study. Furthermore, since the author devotes considerable attention to national service, it would have been useful to note important ongoing efforts at reform (e.g. changes to pay-scales).

As well, the author’s comments regarding youth marriage lack understanding. Youth and child marriage in Eritrea were rooted in the country’s historical, cultural traditions. Viewed as a sacred societal institution, marriage was seen an integral component of society. Although specific rules and customs of marriage (e.g. dowry, familial arrangements, etc.) differed slightly amongst various ethno-linguistic groups, an underlying common feature was that girls were married at an early age. However, Eritrea has taken important steps (dating back to the independence struggle) to eliminate youth and child marriage. It has enacted laws and established strong enforcement mechanisms, including stiff penalties for physical and sexual abuse of children, as well as pornography. Encouragingly, there are many indications of an important reduction in child and youth marriages.

Ultimately, the author’s lackadaisical approach to these basic, simple details arouses doubt about his understanding of broader, more complex topics. Additionally, the author’s revisions to his errors in translation, after suggestions from Eritrean readers, raises the question of why such an approach to validity and clarification was not extended to other parts of the article prior to publication.

In addition to the above, the article is particularly troubling because in referring to Eritrea as a “child,” the author reveals a residual attitude from the bygone colonial era. Not only does it reflect paternalism and perpetuate hegemonic ideas of foreign superiority, such racist assumptions and ideologies were fundamental to the practice of colonialism. In the battle for the spaces of Africa, the so-called “dark continent,” European powers not only employed force, but also an array of theories and rhetoric to justify their plunder. Colonialism donned the dignified cloaks of la mission civilisatrice, civilizing the benighted heathens, and the white man’s burden. Africa was “the land of childhood,” and Africans were seen as inherently and naturally less than Europeans. Consequently, colonialism was characterized not by brute force or plunder, but the pursuit of a noble ideal.

Overall, in pointing out the many and considerable flaws of the article, the attempt is not to suggest that Eritrea is free of problems. The country is confronted by a myriad of significant issues and considerable challenges. However, it is critical to recognize that properly understanding the country (which can potentially help address many issues) requires a more grounded, objective, contextual approach and less resort to simplified, clichéd perspectives and cursory discussions.

Eritrea: COIE’s ‘800-Pound Gorilla’

Written by Omer Abdelkarim

In most cases, be it a report or within a conversation, what one attempts to dexterously leave unsaid, gloss over, or play down, reveals more of one’s intentions and objectives than what is explicitly emphasized. The 08 June 2016 Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea (COIE) press briefing and its summary report was such an occasion.

According to its stated goals, the COIE’s purpose was to take stock of the objective situation in Eritrea. What the COIE actually did, however, is everything but that. An example of its unprecedented and egregious overreach is the COIE’s recommendation (including conclusion) to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). It recommended that the UNSC “determine that the situation of human rights in Eritrea poses a threat to international peace and security.”

Even if one is convinced that there are grave human rights violations in Eritrea, which there aren’t, no amount of rational, objective analysis could lead from there to the conclusion that Eritrea “poses a threat to international peace and security.

For this young, low-income, developing country with a population of about four million to be elevated to such “lofty,” influential stature – in terms of possessing the capacity to “[pose]a threat to international peace and security”- is highly imaginative and fanciful.

The majority of Eritreans no doubt will recognize the COIE’s efforts to severely underplay Ethiopia’s occupation of sovereign Eritrean territory and repeated attempts to destabilize Eritrea, as well as vilify Eritrea, as a continuation of historic UN and US efforts to chip away at, if not completely reverse, Eritrea’s independence. Others will still no doubt recognize that this conclusion, which flies in the face of all previous assessments, is rather bizarre. It is worth noting that when the COIE does mention the Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict, it is only perfunctorily in passing, and often only to dismiss the gravity and significance of its potential consequences altogether. It is also mystifying – and extremely troubling – that the COIE attempts to cast the gravity of this situation and conflict as a figment of Eritrea’s imagination.

For example, the COIE states, “While the ongoing Ethiopian occupation of the village of Eritrean territory is illegal, the Commission considers that neither the issue of Badme nor the arms embargo on Eritrea justify…. Eritrea’s military/ national service programmes.

The COIE goes on to state that,
The Commission finds more persuasive that the [national service] programmes are instead a source of cheap labour and a form of population control.

For the COIE’s assessment to be correct, the Eritrea-Ethiopia conflict has to pose little danger to Eritrea, much less to the region as a whole. This assessment, to put it mildly, openly and brazenly flaunts all other somber assessments thus far. It will be effectively demonstrated that this assertion is false. However, it is an unavoidable assertion for the CIOE or anyone that sets out to frame Eritrea, ignoring the objective realities on the ground. That the CIOE’s assertion runs contrary to logical, rational assessment is easily demonstrable; for instance, its assessment flies in the face of continued, long-running proclamations by the Ethiopian regime that its primary goal is regime change in Eritrea. In fact, as pointed out by Bronwyn Bruton, writing for the Atlantic Council, “earlier this year, in March, Ethiopia’s prime minister publically threatened to take military action against Eritrea.” Moreover, as the International Crisis Group’s (ICG) Cedric Barnes points out,

Despite the impression of a frozen conflict since the 1998- 2000 war that killed an estimated 70,000 people, there have been at least eight significant flare-ups since 2011.
There are other examples which serve to contradict the COIE claims. Writing for the US Council on Foreign Relations, Bronwyn Bruton, in comparing the threat to regional peace emanating from extremist in Somalia relative to the unresolved conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia, states that,
The potential for the Somali conflict to ignite a wider regional conflict is real but should not be exaggerated. The greatest danger stems from a potential escalation of the long-standing conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea.

No amount of justification can mask the glaring absurdity of the COIE’s attempt to deny, if not turn on its head, what the United Nations Secretary General (UNSG), Ban Ki Moon, calls the most “serious source of instability for the two countries, as well as for the wider region.” The somnolently of this fact cannot be lost to any sensible and sober observers.
A UN “Report of the Secretary- General on Ethiopia and Eritrea” situation underscores:

The ongoing dangerous stalemate in the peace process between Ethiopia and Eritrea remains a source of very deep concern. Not only does the overall situation remain unsettled, but it has also … the potential for this situation to deteriorate further or even to lead to renewed hostilities is real, especially if it is allowed to continue indefinitely. The current impasse is a serious source of instability for the two countries as well as the wider region… Ethiopia’s refusal to implement — fully and without preconditions — the final and binding decision of the Boundary Commission remains at the core of the continuing deadlock. I therefore strongly urge the Government of Ethiopia to comply with the demand of the Security Council… Full implementation of the latter resolution remains key to moving forward the demarcation process and to concluding the peace process.
Naturally, numerous resolutions of the UNSC and UNSG’s reports are not alone in making similar such assessments. The European Parliament’s Policy Department and its Directorate-General for External Policies stresses the same fact, stating that,

A growing verbal belligerence amongst senior security officials in Ethiopia, who would not mind using minor provocation as an excuse to launch a massive response against Eritrea …The resolution of the border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia is seen by analysts as the key to resolve political instability on the Horn of Africa … escalation of violence in the border dispute between Eritrea and Djibouti … is seen merely as a continuation of the unresolved Ethiopia-Eritrea dispute.
The EU report concludes by highlighting that numerous analysts are “concluding that the instability of the region is caused, in essence, by the unresolved Ethiopia- Eritrea border dispute.

It is puzzling that the seriousness of the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict, unequivocally attested to by the UNSC, UNSG, EU and multiple other observers, is only lost to the COIE and the “experts” it cheery picked to reach its predetermined position. Furthermore, for the COIE to state that this is a figment of Eritrea’s imagination and to recommend that it is not Ethiopia’s occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories and the unresolved conflict between the two that “poses a threat to international peace and security,” but only some imagined and over exaggerated human rights violations in Eritrea is beyond absurd, at least to any rational and fair observer.

Of course, as can be gleaned even from the UN’s own documents, the fact that Ethiopia’s failure to comply with the EEBC decision and make peace with its neighbors has destabilized the entire region is an inescapable, uncontroversial conclusion. Ethiopia is, however, an “ally” of the United States (or, more appropriately, a vassal). As such, it can be presumed that the COIE is attempting to shield Ethiopia, the intransigent party, from meeting its treaty obligations and securing peace in the Horn of Africa. Be that as it may, attempting to invert the entire issue and avoiding the obvious implications is like attempting to ignore “that 800-pound gorilla that’s sitting there and you just can’t get around it,” as UN Special Envoy Lloyd Axworthy put it to the Canadian Parliament. Axworthy is unequivocal in describing the gravity of the situation and its impact on human rights and other issues, not only in Eritrea, but also across the entire Horn of Africa region.

Axworthy informed the Canadian Parliament,
I come back to the point that the lack of resolution of conflict is such a large and powerful force that impedes any efforts, whether it’s human rights’ improvement, or poverty reduction or agricultural reform. It’s just like that 800-pound gorilla that’s sitting there and you just can’t get around it, and until the conflict itself is resolved any efforts in these other areas, I think, would be severely impeded.

(As it will be recalled, Eritrea did not accept the nomination of Lloyd Axworthy as a UN Special Envoy. This had nothing to do with the professional or diplomatic credentials of the nominee but simply because it contravened fundamental tenets of the Algiers Agreement. The UN was indeed caving to Ethiopia’s unlawful requests “to create an alternative mechanism” to essentially review the “final and binding” EEBC Award).

How then does the COIE maneuver around this “800-pound gorilla that’s sitting there”? Its strategy, despite all evidence to the contrary, is to pretend that this “800-pound gorilla” is a figment of Eritrea’s imagination and ignore it altogether. Additionally, the COIE downplays the seriousness of the situation by reducing the occupation of large swathes of Eritrean territory by Ethiopia to just an “ongoing Ethiopian occupation of the village in Eritrean territory.” The reference to “the village,” neglects to properly contextualize a flagrant violation of international law and overlooks that this seemingly minor village was actually a flashpoint of the 1998-2000 war. As noted earlier, the situation not only violates and challenges Eritrea’s security, independence and sovereignty, but poses dangerous implications for the entire region. Yet, the COIE simply just pretends the situation does not exist.To overlook that this conflict is central and fundamental to the issue is highly erroneous and rather disingenuous. As noted earlier, this engendered by the COIE’s efforts to frame its predetermined position: “that the [Eritrean national service] programmes are instead” of a hedge to this existential threat that Eritrea faces, but “a source of cheap labour.” Nothing is a better illustration of a pure case of twisting all facts beyond recognition “to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” The COIE’s pretense of objectivity and “objective observation” hence, are just that, pretenses. Its goals have nothing to do with achieving lasting human rights for Eritreans or removing the “threat to international peace and security.

Source: Shabait

Eritrea June 21st 2016 Geneva Demonstration…#IStandWithEritrea

Written by Billion Temesghen

June 21st, 2016, despite the rain, the Place des Nations in Geneva, at the UN Headquarters, was home to more than 10,000 Eritreans and friends of Eritrea who came together from 81 different countries to rally in protest against the latest appalling report of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea. At the same time, social media flowed with the hashtag “I Stand with Eritrea” while nationals at home, were with their compatriots out on streets of Geneva in spirit and soul, as the protest was highly followed live on real time through local media outlets.

On this occasion, Mr. Shileshi Idris, Chairman of the Organizing Committee and Head of the PFDJ and Community Affairs in Switzerland, conducted a phone interview with our journalist Ms. Arsema Asmerom for Eritrean News Agency (ERINA), and Eritrea Profile has compiled the interview for today’s Q&A. 

  • -Of the demonstration

Now the whole world knows that the demonstration was conducted to depict our foremost theme of ‘Eritrean people’s International Resilience for justice’. It aimed to protest against the baseless COI report.

We have committees under the Eritrean Global Action for Justice in all countries in which Eritrean Diaspora reside; for instance we have the NUEW for the Union of Eritrean Women and the YPFDJ for the youth organizations, as such we do have a great networking system in terms of how we function, while in relation with our homeland and our fellow compatriots in Eritrea.

Coming up all together to conduct this mass protest, as such was not difficult. However, we did feel the shortage of time. We organized the whole demonstration in a short period of time, so it was not easy. In addition, the demonstration day was on work day, so many of the participants had to leave their jobs and the youngsters missed their classes in order to attend.

In spite of this, the unfounded reports of the commission have unreservedly infuriated the Eritrean people, so much that every Eritrean came together in a short time notice to protest against it.

  • – Who exactly took part in the protest?

I can dare to say that almost every Eritrean participated; young and adults of all ages, students and employees and generally speaking almost every Eritrean came together on behalf of Eritrea and its people. And I do also dare to say that we gathered almost from every corner of the world: Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Italy, France, Spain, Holland, Belgium, the United States, Canada, and Australia, among others.

We, Eritreans, when we gather, we gather in the most peaceful way and we divulge in a humane and peaceful manner. During this protest, similarly to the previous ones, the strong Eritrean sense of respect to others was vibrant as ever. It is not our first demonstration in Geneva, we already had conducted demonstrations such as in 2002, 2010 and 2015, and this time as well. We were acknowledged for our diplomacy by local administrations. With over 10,000 people marching together, to manage is usually hectic, but in our case it’s different, we are extremely placid and we even leave without the smallest peace of trash behind at the end of the demonstration.

As such I would like to tell that the city of Geneva’s administration facilitated our demonstration and we are grateful for it.

  • – How was the spirit that dominated the demonstration?

In its highest forms of nationalism! The protest was divided in two phases; the first one in the morning hours starting at around 8:00 am, two kilometers away from the UN office. We gathered carrying national and patriotic slogans and big banners with catchphrases depicting our thoughts and beliefs, and the following second part was constituted of a marching trail.

An estimated number of over 10,000 nationals took part in the event. The whole occurrence was undeniably ruled by a strong sense of loyalty to the people of Eritrea and ample patriotism.

Differently from the previous ones, this time we were joined by several African communities who believe in and supported the Eritrean People and Government: we had Ethiopian communities with us and also friends from Sudan participating. Moreover, representatives of several communities and longtime friends of Eritrea did take part and gave speeches supporting our purposes. In fact, they truly did stand by our side in contradiction with the vicious and inhumane allegations made by the commission.

  • – These foreign participant that you keep mentioning, what exactly did they voice?

They asserted their support to the People and Government of Eritrea. Furthermore, they are convinced as much as we are, that these biased claims under the pretext of human rights is a preface of a new “modern” form of colonization; a way to conquer the Horn of Africa to eventually, advance later on, to the remaining parts of Africa .

  • – Carrying out a mass demonstration with people from all walks of life on a week day would certainly be hard, yet more than 10,000 nationals gathered for the protest. What was the reason behind it?

The scandalous allegations made by the commission are farfetched from the minutest accuracy that we have in Eritrea. The allegations also utterly discredit our tradition, dishonor our history and belittle the dignity of Eritreans and only naturally would we feel a harassment of identity. So we had to stand up for our identity.

  • – What exactly did the statements you submitted to UN Office of High Commission declare?

We submitted petition signed by more than 200,000 people from 81 countries, 160,000 of which are of Eritreans and the rest were of friends voicing the unfair discernments on Eritrea, its government and its people.

Moreover, I would like to tell that, 246,000 nationals were willing to personally give direct testimonials to the committee. I would also like to remind that in the previous protests the commission ignored the demand of 42,000 Eritreans to give direct testimonies and went elsewhere to look for forgery proofs, while claiming that they had hovered evidences of 800 people, which we do not even know of, then to worsen the case; based its verdict on their bogus testaments.

The authenticated propositions we submitted strictly defend our identity, we claim that the committee based its verdicts on slanted facts and we kindle on the fact that what UN is adopting, for the second time, on Eritrea will do nothing but damage to Eritrea and its people. We also clarified on the fact that Eritrea has primordially mounted on the quest of human rights, from its ABCs, which is independence.

Seemingly, the commission appears to be oblivious of this matter, and claim that since 1991 Eritreans have been stripped off their human rights, undoubtingly, they have their logs mistaken.

What we are certain about is that our submission won’t prompt urgent response or reaction from the UN office, however, we do know with conviction that at least our voice is well heard.

  • – At the end

This one was yet another attest to our unity and accord on national matters. The Eritrean people have since the beginning of time shared unique thoughts and conviction on accounts that have to do with our country and our identity as members of the same state. It is a matter of the very core existence of Eritrea.

Source: Shabait

Eritrea: Exposing the COIE’s Factual Errors and Deliberate “Mistakes”

Written by Omer Abdelkarim

On 08 June 2016 the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea (COIE) declared that it “has reasonable grounds to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in Eritrea since 1991,” and recommended that the matter be sent to the United Nations Security Council for referral to the International Criminal Court (ICC). While many of the COIE’s conclusions (as well as its procedures) have been broadly discredited and widely challenged, one that has received less critical attention has been its conclusion about Eritrean emigration.

Summarily dismissing any and all alternative interpretations of the objective realities on the ground, the COIE concludes that the primary reason for Eritrean emigration cannot possibly be economic, instead attributing Eritrean emigration, like other often sensationalized, simplified, cursory analyses, to National Service and systematic, pervasive human right abuses. In its conclusion the CIOE states:

[T]he fact that there is no similar exodus from other economically deprived states that are not in a state of armed conflict, the Commission concludes that economic reasons alone cannot be the driving force behind the large scale flight from the country.

To buttress its shaky conclusion, the COIE trumpets, among other debatable facts and figures, alleged data on Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers, including contending that, “the global total number of refugees and asylum seekers from Eritrea stood at 444,091, about 12 percent of the population of the country.” However, although the COIE states that it relied on UNHCR data, the UNHCR’s data on Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers reveals that refugees and asylum seekers constitute only 8.68% of the population. This great discrepancy raises alarming questions and is highly reflective of the considerable methodological and analytical shortcomings of the COIE. Furthermore, the UNHCR’s data itself has repeatedly been shown to be highly inflated (see Phantom Refugees [2015]). Problematically, these statistical discrepancies are generally characteristic of most other analyses and publications about Eritrean emigration. For instance, The Guardian, which has taken an increasingly anti-Eritrea stance, has regularly claimed that about 3% of the Eritrean population has fled. Ultimately, the CIOE’s shaky assertions and conclusions, often based upon other inaccurate, poor data, can hardly be called the product of methodical, reliable, carefully-designed analysis and interpretation.

The discrepant emigration figures notwithstanding, the great responsibility borne by the COIE should not be glossed over. It should uphold high standards and it has a much more solemn task than journalists, who in most cases are paid publicists for “human rights” organizations. The implications and consequences of the COIE’s interpretations, analyses, and conduct hold the potential to detrimentally impact the lives of 6.5 million Eritreans, if not tens of millions more across the Horn of Africa as a whole, for generations to come.  For the COIE to resort to outrageous, rather vapid conclusions without satisfactorily checking data or disregarding that those conclusions could be easily refuted not only mirrors the conduct of some obtuse propagandist, but underscores the three-person panel’s profound lack of competence and their absolute contempt and utter disregard for simple, basic facts.

To return to the COIE’s conclusion about Eritrean emigration, two basic, yet important, questions can be raised:

1)    Is it true that “there is no similar exodus from other economically
deprived states that are not in a state of armed conflict”?

2)    Can “economic reasons” not be a contributing factor to large-scale
emigration (i.e. allegedly upon the scale of 3-12% of the population)?

First, consider the case of Mali, which for years before the rebellion in the north of the country, has experienced considerable emigration. According to Mali’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “Four million, or over a third of the country’s 11.7 million people, [were] located in other countries.”

To be precise, long before any conflict took place, 34.2% of Malians had emigrated. Conflict or no conflict, that general trend has not abated. In its February 2016 edition, the magazine Monocle, in an article titled “Perpetual Motion”, underscores the very same point. Malian emigration is not attributed to “human rights conditions” in the country, but instead understood as arising due to “economic factors” and a “culture” of migration.

Beyond Mali, EUROSTAT data for 2015, from which the COIE claims it obtained data about Eritrean asylum seekers in Europe, are also illuminating in considering whether there could be a “similar exodus from other economically deprived states that are not in a state of armed conflict.”

Perusing the dataset reveals a list of countries with characteristics that strongly challenges the COIE’s conclusion. For example, Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, and Gambia – none of which was in a state of armed conflict – each had a higher rate of emigration, relative to their overall population, than Eritrea, while Serbia (which is not in a state of armed conflict) had a slightly lower rate. Table 1 presents data on the population and percent of population migrating to EU in 2015 for each country. According to EUROSTAT data for 2015, the number of first-time asylum seekers for the respective countries was as follows: Kosovo (87,565), Albania (56,795), Serbia (22,750), Gambia (12,205) and Macedonia (10,545) and Eritrea (31,055).

Importantly, had the fact that approximately 40% of migrants claiming to be Eritreans are actually not in fact Eritreans – EUROSTAT data here are taken at face value – emigration rates for Eritrea would be far, far less.

Table 1 suggests that not only is the COIE’s utilization of the term “exodus” to describe Eritrean emigration inaccurate, particularly when considering other countries, its conclusion and assertion that “there is no similar exodus from other economically deprived states that are not in a state of armed conflict” is patently false. Furthermore, the suggestion “that economic reasons alone cannot be the driving force behind the large scale flight” is not in any way supportable by facts on the ground. Each country presented in Table 1 is not in a state of armed conflict, except for Eritrea, which is enmeshed in a costly, draining no-war no-peace conflict situation.

Table 1 – First Time Asylum Seekers to EU-28 
(Data EUROSTAT)

Country Population % Migrant to EU in 2015
Kosovo 1,870,981 4.68%
Albania 2,894,475 1.96%
Gambia 1,849,000 0.66%
Macedonia 1,849,000 0.50%
Eritrea 6,536,176 0.48%
Serbia 7,100,000 0.32%

Figure 1 – Graphic Representation of Table 1
(Data EUROSTAT)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2015 alone, 4.7% of Kosovo’s population sought asylum in EU. Notably, the overall emigration rate would be much higher after taking into account other migration destinations (i.e. other than the EU) or migration channels (e.g. legal or employment), both of which are not insignificant. Similarly, Albania lost 2% of its population last year alone. In comparison to Eritrean emigration rates, Kosovo’s figures are about 10 times greater, Albania’s 4 times greater, and Gambia’s 1.4 times greater.

If any legitimate, reasonable conclusion can be drawn from the data it begins with the understanding that these countries suffered from conflict in the 1990’s, resulting in mass migration. Subsequently, current emigration trends are largely the result of “pull factors” related to an existing large Diaspora, established networks and linkages, and current economic privations. Any other conjecture is solely just that and unsupported by the data.

Additionally, the assumption that if between 3-12% of a country’s population has emigrated then “economic reasons alone cannot be the driving force behind the large scale flight,” is completely false. When utilizing the UNHCR data the COIE claims it used to conclude that “about 12 percent of the population of the country” live outside of Eritrea, one finds that the data, in fact, reveal that only 8.68% percent of the population live outside the country.

Again the discrepancy notwithstanding, ranking all of the world’s 232 countries and jurisdictions according to the “percentage of the population” living outside of the country shows that Eritrea ranks in the middle of the pack (see Table 2 below). While Eritrea’s figure is less than 10%, the global average for all countries and jurisdictions is that 11.36% of the population lives outside their country. Simply, there is nothing remarkable about Eritrean’s emigration when compared to the global average and statements or questions such as Eritrea is “not at war, but up to 3% of its people have fled. What is going on in Eritrea?” or “economic reasons alone cannot be the driving force behind the large scale flight from the country,” are void and easily dismissible. They are vapid questions or statements raised by agents unaware of global realties or disinformation presented for propaganda purposes.

Table 2 presents countries ranked by percent emigrant population, based on the UN Report on International Migrant Stock.

Table 2 – International Migrant Stock: (United Nations Population Data)

Global Rank Country Total # Emigrants % Emigrant
84 Iceland 38,496 10.46%
85 Poland 4,449,789 10.33%
86 Brunei 46,237 9.85%
87 Serbia 964,585 9.83%
88 Haiti 1,195,240 9.76%
89 Luxembourg 61,058 9.72%
90 Nicaragua 638,958 9.51%
91 Liechtenstein 3,870 9.39%
92 Bahamas 40,095 9.35%
93 Uruguay 346,976 9.18%
94 Mexico 12,339,062 8.85%
95 Equatorial Guinea 81,029 8.75%
96 Eritrea 499,916 8.68%
97 Central African Republic 440,745 8.17%
98 Andorra 7,571 8.13%
99 Czech Republic 932,582 8.13%
100 Jordan 699,719 7.82%
101 Morocco 2,834,641 7.62%
102 Burkina Faso 1,453,378 7.43%
103 Honduras 648,520 7.43%
104 Switzerland 664,557 7.41%

To be clear, the aim is not to simply point out that Kosovo’s emigration rate is over 10 times higher than Eritrea’s. In fact, 2014 and 2015 are anomalous years for Eritrea migration. If analysis is extended across a longer period (e.g. across a decade), Eritrea’s level of emigration is actually not dissimilar to many other countries.

Rather, the fundamental point is that the COIE’s assertions, claiming that Eritrean emigration is the direct result of human rights abuses or that the length of National Service alone could produce those levels of emigration, are a result of utter ignorance or politically motivated malice and they cannot be corroborated by objective analysis or examination of credible data.

The sophomoric attempt by Eritrea’s detractors and some propaganda machines is to infer nonexistent causation by simple correlation. Although it may confuse the uninitiated, it is too puerile to merit additional exposition. Here, rather than alleged human right abuses, emigration rates are more strongly correlated with and are better explained by economic factors and the size of existing Diaspora communities and their various connections or linkages with countries of origin. Importantly, these findings are strongly supported by the established academic literature and numerous rigorous studies.

Just a cursory look at jurisdictions such as Saudi Arabia that lack even rudimentary human rights or democratic institutions reveals that only 0.78% of their population lives outside the country (which is one of the lowest rates in the world). On the other hand, bona fide democracies at the heart of Europe experiencing economic hardships, such as Portugal (18.4%), Ireland (15.83%) and Greece (7.3%), produce large immigrant populations. Essentially, migration’s multidimensional nature and array of pull and push factors mean that one cannot casually draw simple conclusions as the COIE did. The COIE is indicative of how, as Dr. Fikrejesus Amahazion rather aptly puts it,

Rather than recognize great complexities, the vast majority of analyses of Eritrea are often littered with simplistic sound bites that shoe-horn the country into highly generalized, ineffective black and white contexts. This reductionist approach attempts to characterize and explain an extremely intricate, complex phenomenon in terms of singular, narrow concepts.

Although extremely troubling when from purported scholars or journalists, it is absolutely inexcusable and criminally appalling for an international commission tasked with deciding the fate of millions and with the financial and institutional backing of the UN and UNHRC to produce such poor, mistake-ridden, work. To fail to recognize or satisfactorily address the numerous facts and contradictions significantly questions the competence of the three-person COIE panel to make the recommendations they made and thoroughly discredits their conclusions. Moreover, it not only reflects poorly on the UN and the UNHRC, it makes a tragic mockery of important and globally cherished values and principles such as human rights and justice.

Source: shabait