(Published in al-Jazeera English; May 24, 2017)

Unfortunately, there is not much to celebrate on the 26th anniversary of Eritrea’s independence.

A woman sits next to an escarpment on the outskirts of Asmara, Eritrea [Thomas Mukoya/Reuters]

Twenty-six years ago today, Eritrea’s 30-year war of independence against Ethiopiaended with Eritrean freedom fighters marching to the capital, Asmara. Unfortunately, it took less than a decade for the grand hopes and ideals that Eritreans initially had for the future of their country to evaporate into thin air.

The international media has limited access to the country and, as a result, their coverage of Eritrea is limited to a shallow narrative focusing on “indefinite military conscription” and “refugees“.

But the Eritrean story is far more complicated than these one-dimentional labels.

After independence the country gradually descended into a fiefdom, serving as a grand laboratory for the negligent and oppressive government experiments of President Isaias Afwerki and his clique. Over the past two and a half decades Eritrean authorities have been accused of a variety of abuses. These accusations culminated in a report by the the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea in 2016, which declared the Eritrean state guilty of “crimes against humanity“. Click here to read the article

(Published in Africa is A Country; May 24, 2017)

Despite all that’s been written and spoken about extreme repression and economic blight in Eritrea, surprisingly little has been publicized about its inscrutable leader, Isaias Afwerki, who has led the country with an iron fist since independence in 1991. Based on common knowledge among Eritreans in the country and other information that I have collected over the years from frequent contacts, I am attempting to profile him.

Having closed all independent media and banned international correspondents, President Afwerki rebuilt the national media to exclusively serve his own interests and ambitions. In regular interviews with the state media, he approves all questions beforehand. In the midst of interviews, he often takes over, addressing a single question with lectures that ramble on for 30 minutes or more. The journalists’ only role is to help him transition between topics and occasionally nod in approval or agreement. Once during a pre-recorded interview, one of the “journalists,” Asmelash Abraha, fell asleep during the president’s long reply. In his regular interviews with the state media, Afwerki talks at leisure and analyzes many world developments. During an interview on the national broadcaster, Eri-TV, journalist, Temesghen Debessai, asked the president questions interchangeably in three languages, Tigrinya, English and Arabic. Afwerki talked about a variety of issues, demonstrating his command of language, history and current events for his Eritrean audience. Click here to read the whole article

(Published in PEN Eritrea; May 25, 2017)

Be it an article for international media or a research work, anyone who attempts to write on Eritrea is ostensibly confronted with two most basic issues: sources to be quoted and most updated facts on crucial subjects. What is worse for many of us who have experienced it firsthand is also balancing what is being cited (and recycled) as facts by some organizations and using our judgments to find the middle ground.

Eritrean authorities promptly decline to comment on any development; or else it has been the weary script of blaming the international community and failing to take responsibility. The regime solely survives on secrecy and violence; and thus employs a strategy of creating confusion and making sure critical facts remain hidden.

The Eritreans who are fleeing the country in droves could at least fill in some missing links, if not the whole story. Yet, useful information on their country is conspicuously lacking among recently exiled Eritreans. The lack of widespread awareness of methods of documentation and information sharing poses serious challenges for anyone tasked with connecting the dots. When most escaping Eritreans reach their safe destinations, only a handful of them will agree to openly discuss their firsthand experiences at the hands of the regime Click here to continue

“ኣብዚ ናይ ክረምቲ ዕረፍቲ ደኣ ንኤርትራ ክትበጽሕ ዲኻ?” ዝብል ዘረባ መማህረትይ ዘንቀሎ ሓሳብ’ዩ። ብዘይካ ኣይፋል ካልእ ኣይበልኩዎን᎓ ብውሽጠይ ግን ገለ ካብቲ ምኽንያታት እጽብጽብ ነይረ፤

  1. “ኣብ እንዳ ፊሊጶስ ኢና ተኣሲርና ኔርና” ዝብል’ሞ (ዝበዝሓ ኣብያተ-ማእሰርቲ ኤርትራ ናይ ኣዘዝቲ ሰራዊት ትካላት እምበር ገበነኛታት ዝቕጽዑለን ስለ ዘይኰናስ ብኣስማት ኣዘዝቲ ክጽውዓ ንቡር’ዩ) ድሕሪ ዓመት ማእሰርቱ ብሰበ-ሰብ ወጺኡስ (እንኮላይ ካብታ ሃገር) ንዅነታቱ ምስ ሓተትኩዎ “ዳርጋ ኣብ ሕጽኖት ዝነበርኩ’የ ዝመስል። ከምዚ ኣነ ዝነበርኩዎስ ንኻልኦት ይፍጠረሎም’ዩ ዘብል” ኢሉኒ። ዝርርብ ቀጺሉ ብዛዕባ እቶም ተሪፎም ዘለዉ መተኣስርቱ ምስ ተላዕለ ድማ᎓ “ብሓቂ ጽቡቕ’ዮም ሒዞሞም ዘለዉ፣ ብዓል እገለ ዘየድልዮም ምስ’ቶም ዋርድያ ይጓረፈጡ ነይሮም᎓“ ይቕጽል። ኣብ መጨረሽታ–ዋላ ሓንቲ ምኽንያት መእሰሪ ኣይሃሉዎም ደኣ’ምበር–እቲ ፍታሕ ኢሉ ዘቕርቦ፤ “ሕጂ ንዓርኪ ፊሊጶስ ዝዛረባ ኢና ንደሊ ዘለና። ንሳ እንተ ተዛሪባቶስ ክወጽኦም ይኽእል’ዩ።”

ኣነ ከኣ ብገርሀይ ዓርኪ ጀነራል ፊሊጶስ መን ምዃና ይሓትት። “እታ ኣብ ኣስመራ ፓላስ ዘቝርሳ ዝነበረ ‘በይቢ’ ዝብላ ዝነበረ በዓልቲ ማርካቶ እኳ ገዲፉዋ’ዩ። እዛ ሕጂ ሒዙዋ ዘሎ ግን ዓርኪ እገለ ዝነበረት… ኵስቶ ሽማ ኣብ ከተማ ድኳን ቡቲክ ከፊቱላ ዘሎ…። ከመይ ጌርካ ንስኻ ዘይትፈልጣ?” ለካስ ኵሉ ሰብ’ዩ ዝፈልጣ። ኣብ ዩትዩብ ደልዩ ከኣ ኣቕሪቡለይ።

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