Je Suis Eritrean

1495377_860969867280177_1463460519125427092_oAs an Eritrean American, the author’s first intention, for the first blog in 2015, was to review the developments in 2014 and highlight Eritrea’s achievements and challenges, but decided that it would not suffice. It would be easy to list Eritrea’s diplomatic, economic, social and political achievements in 2014 and be done with it, but that alone would not give the reader adequate context by which to measure its importance, or its enormity. The author has decided that the greatest achievements of the people of Eritrea is the ability to maintain Eritrea’s peace, stability and security in a volatile and hostile region, and more importantly maintaining its civilized culture, in a world filled with upheaval and turmoil…not to mention visceral hate.

The peace, stability and security that prevails in Eritrea contributed to Eritrea’s achieving 7 out of the 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and more importantly the 4 MDGs related to health which has contributed to the improvement of the health status, general wellbeing, longevity and economic productivity for all Eritreans. Without peace there cannot be any economic, social or political development. The journey since independence has not been easy, but it is filled with invaluable lessons for the future. Eritrea’s deep rooted ethnic and religious cultures and its people’s values and principles were tested. But so has the rest of the world…

In 2014, the people of the United States, and the rest of the world (through social media) witnessed the killings of unarmed African American men in the United States at the hands of policemen. The “I can’t breathe” phrase became a powerful symbol of civil unrest, a rallying cry represented on T-shirts and chanted during marches protesting police use of force across the country. It was a phrase taken from Eric Garner, who repeated it 11 times while lying face down, dying, after a police officer put him in a chokehold, on a Staten Island sidewalk. The highly publicized police killings of young black men across the United States exposed the racism, prejudice and xenophobia that persist today.

The Je Suis Charlie (“I am Charlie”), slogan was adopted after the 7 January 2015 massacre in which twelve people were killed at the offices of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris, France. While many condemned the killings, there were many that also condemned the offensive cartoons presented by the magazine. There were many who felt that the French satirical news weekly crossed the line that separates free speech from “toxic talk”.

The scatological and obscene presentations were undoubtedly provocative, racist and Islam phobic, but there were some that held the belief that despite its provocative attitude, the magazine had the right to publish them. There were many who shared Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski’s views and good advice. Brzezinski called for “measured conduct”, “avoid being provocative”, avoid “sardonic humor” and most of all, try not to be “unnecessarily nasty”… and like H.L. Mencken believed in free speech, but only “up to the last limits of the endurable”.

The slogan “Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie” was chosen by some news outlets that chose not to publish any Charlie Hebdo cartoons as part of their news reporting. Others used the “Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie” slogan to make a comparison between the loud outcry over the attacks in Paris where 17 lost their lives, and the comparatively smaller outcry over other atrocities going on, such as the massacres of thousands in Boko Haram’s Nigeria, that took place at the same time. The mainstream media concentrated on the Charlie Hebdo story and seemed completely oblivious to the massacres of Nigerians at the hands of Boko Haram. The BBC’s Martin Plaut in his 12 January Tweet[1] responding to the glaring disparity in the amount of coverage of the killings in Paris and the Boko Haram massacres in Nigeria in the mainstream media provided his “journalistic” insight:

“…Silly to compare attacks in France and Nigeria. France – rare event. Boko Haram atrocities for nearly 6 yrs. Both tragic. Only one news…”

The death of Africans is not news…it’s considered a normal occurrence. The non-western world has become inured to the violence and death of non-westerners, and no other institution has contributed to this malaise, the deadening of humanity, than the western media of which the BBC’s Plaut belongs.

But as this author will endeavor to show, this attitude is not new. This racist attitude seeks to imbue in the “hearts and minds” of the western public that somehow Africans and others in the third world, non-westerners, have inferior cultures, principles and values than that of the West, and as a result, the death and destruction that takes place in those regions is inevitable-should be expected. The lessons learned and the experiences gleaned by mankind in the last two centuries are not small, for Eritreans, it is immeasurable…

The author chose not to ally with either of the two camps, the Je Suis Charlie or the Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie, as neither side was adequate in expressing the sentiment that the author wanted to convey. Being Eritrean means not suffering from the debilitating inferiority complex and crab mentality that prevents one from reaching his or her own potential. Being Eritrean also means not subscribing to the superiority complex that breeds bigotry, racism and xenophobia. Being Eritrean means staying true to the civilized cultures of an exemplary people…it means being comfortable in your own skin, no matter where you reside. For this author, neither camp presented Eritrea’s rich culture of tolerance and respect, nor the time tested values and principles that have been the basis of its economic, social and political development to date…hence the title, Je Suis Eritrean.

The peace, stability and security that prevails in Eritrea today is directly linked to Eritrea’s rich and ingrained social and political cultures. These deep rooted values and principles helped Eritreans to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges since independence in 1991. Most importantly, these cultural values enabled Eritreans to withstand the unprecedented psychological warfare, and the defamation and vilification campaigns against the country and its leadership that pre-occupied western media, academia and halls of governments, for most of the last two decades. Eritrea’s struggle for independence was greatly affected by the cultural and ideological schisms of the Cold War, and after independence, as Eritrea prepared for nation building, the 21st Century, and especially the post September 11 era, came with its own challenges that directly or indirectly affected Eritrea’s economic, social and political development. They will be addressed later.

The attacks in France, the massacres in Nigeria, the killings of young black men by white policemen etc. etc. have provoked not just protests, but also discussions on racism, xenophobia, hate crimes, police brutality, freedom of expression etc. and at the center of it all, was culture. The “us” against “them” narratives have become the staple of every news and entertainment media. The tone and trend of topics chosen by contributing writers, academics, researchers and activists have centered on pitting cultures and values against each other. The detrimental impact of articles that nurture the misperceptions & misunderstanding that many western populations hold about the nature of global problems, their causes and consequences, and most especially about the cultures and values of others, cannot be ignored and should be countered, lest the one-sided narratives prevail.

Let us take a look at an example of such a commentary that followed the Paris attacks. Stratfor in its 8 January 2015 analysis, “Paris Attack Underscores a Deeper Malaise”, wrote:

“… While Western states go to great lengths to demonstrate that no such clash of civilizations is occurring, right-wing forces engage in rhetoric that reinforces these fears among many common Muslims across the world. More important, there is a longstanding conflict of values — particularly freedom of expression, which is cherished in the West but seen by many Muslims as a license for sacrilege. Though the vast majority of Muslims will not engage in violence in response to speech deemed as blasphemous, there are many who will…At the root of this problem is the extreme discomfort many Muslims have with free expression, although this attitude is not universal…”

Freedom of expression is not only allowed in Islam, but may have a historical precedent with regard to free speech. In any society, free speech has no value in itself; its value is in being a means to some end.

Any human being would feel “extreme discomfort” if his or her culture and especially religion, is insulted and undermined day in and day out. This author can vouch for Eritrean Muslims. They do not have any discomfort with free expression and judging from the many articles and books written by Eritrean Muslim academicians and intellectuals, they are quite eloquent at it. They belong to a civilized culture that uses good judgment and prudence, a culture that chooses not to engage in deliberately offensive expression and to an exemplary culture of ethnic and religious tolerance and respect. There may be individuals, who belong to the Christian or Islamic faith, that engage in un-Eritrean conduct, but for the most part, the majority of the Eritrean population, which is evenly divided between the two religions, does not subscribe to vile conduct.

In addition, Islam is a religion and liberal democracies are a system of governance, and therefore it is not fair to compare Islam, which is a comprehensive way of life dealing with all aspects of Muslim living, with liberal democracies in the West, which are merely a system of governance. It is more logical to compare religion with religion—Islam with Christianity or Judaism—and the system of government in the West with its counterpart in Islam—liberal democracies with shura.

But it is not just Stratfor that has been engulfed in the anti-Islam propaganda that has swept the western world since the tragic September 11 events. Today, there are many who insist on making inflammatory and provocative statements, adding fuel to the fire, so to say. Let us take a look at an 11 January 2015 Huffington Post article “It’s The Islamic Radicals, Stupid!”[2], written by Ambassador Marc Gingsberg, someone who ought to show more understanding of the Muslim culture, considering he served in so many Islamic nations. Here is an excerpt from that Huffington Post article:

“…Islam Is Not Untouchable: It is high time for a candid, honest, yet reasoned public open discourse in the Middle East, in Europe, and in the U.S. on the barbarity of jihadi Islam and its evil genesis. How many Muslim clerics and academics have publicly contested Sayed Qutb’s jihadist criminalization of Islam (Islam’s Karl Marx)? Islamist apologists (i.e., Hollywood liberals, yes you Ben Affleck, running amok) fearing accusations of Islamophobia, or naively falling back on the half-truth that Islam is a peaceful religion, are conflating bigotry with truth-in-believing…”

It is Ambassador Ginsgberg that ought to first learn about “candid, honest, yet reasoned public open discourse” before he pens another such piece. His condescending articles in the Huffington Post have been ugly, insulting of other cultures and other peoples beliefs, and contribute absolutely nothing to the need for education and understanding that is desperately needed today. Ambassador Ginsberg’s pieces are hate-filled and far from being honest or reasoned-they instead advance a false myth about western cultural and intellectual superiority.

Narratives on western cultural and intellectual superiority over that of non-western peoples are not new. There was lots of research produced during the colonization era, that essentially said Africans were intellectually inferior and that the westerners, the colonizers, were there to “civilize” the African/Native. Such narratives were used to sensitize the public, enabled them to tolerate and even justify the colonization of Africa and also slavery. Today, there are many western anthropologists scouring the third world studying the populations there, and like their forefathers, they too want to define to Africa and its peoples. Back then, as they are today, it was anthropologists and sociologists that provided the narratives that drove the public discourse. These studies are conducted so that suitable policy can be crafted by western governments to bring desired behavioral change in the targeted countries and regions.

The narratives on slavery and western colonization of Africa used by the westerners in order to advance economic and political agendas in non-western nations were not much different from those used by the neo-colonialists of today. Let us take a look at what Dickson A. Mungazi in his book, “The Mind of Black Africa”, wrote:

“…European colonization of the African way of life was motivated by the desire to exploit it in order to bring the raw materials of the continent under the socioeconomic control of Europeans. As long as European colonial governments were able to sustain the myth of the Africans’ intellectual inferiority, they utilized it to psychologically condition them to accept the whites’ presumed superiority. This is how the exploitation of raw materials could also be sustained. In basing the entire colonization process on this myth, the colonial governments were instituting a definite form of violence against the Africans-mental, cultural, and economic rape…the colonization of the African mind was based on the mistaken notion of the African’s intellectual inferiority… Both the failure to understand the quality of the African mind and deliberate efforts to distort its true character had enormous consequences. Efforts to distort the character of the African mind resulted from the failure to appreciate the viability of African culture and society…”

Western academics, journalists and even politicians used such erroneous narratives deliberately in order to advance western economic and political agendas at home and in the colonies. Cecil John Rhodes, whose name today is more associated with Oxford Scholarships than with the murder of the natives in South Africa said this:

“…I say that the Natives are like children. They are just emerging from barbarism. If I may venture a comparison, I should compare the Natives with regard to European civilization to the tribes of the Druids. I think that we have been extremely liberal in granting barbarism forty or fifty years of training what we ourselves obtained only after many hundreds of civilization…we have to treat the Natives where they are, in a state of barbarism. We are to be Lords over them. We will continue to treat them as a subject race as long as they remain in the state of barbarism…”

Both colonization and slavery have been abolished, but how civilized could the westerners have been? The many “hundreds of civilizations” did nothing to stop the barbarism committed by those “western civilizations’ in Indochina, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia etc. etc. The “hundreds of civilizations” did nothing to stop the German massacre of 6 million Jews and the US bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in which 175,000 people were killed. And today, we see that the “hundreds of civilizations” did nothing to stop the barbarism witnessed in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, or the CIA tortures as documented in the recently released Senate Report.

Sir Godfrey Martin Huggins, politician and physician was a British-born Rhodesian (now Zimbabwe). He served as the fourth Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia from 1933 to 1953 and remained in office as the first Prime Minister of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland until 1956, becoming the longest serving prime minister in British Commonwealth history. He like Rhodes, also believed in the intellectual superiority of the westerners who were the product of “hundreds of civilizations”. He said:

“…We must reject permanently the thinking that democracy consists of mere counting of heads…we must accept unhesitatingly the doctrine that our superiority over the Natives rests on our superiority of education, cultural values, civilization, and heredity, and must be sufficiently realistic to appreciate that we have a paramount monopoly of these qualities…”

Reading some of the condescending prescriptive literature on Eritrea and other African states, produced by those who claim to be “Rhodes Scholars”, one is compelled to say, the apple does not fall too far away from the “Rhodes” tree…

In 1993, the late Samuel Huntington in his famous article “The Clash of Civilizations” alluded to conflicts that would engulf the world in the 21st Century and the role that culture would play in those conflicts. He wrote:

“…It is my hypothesis that the fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural… It is far more meaningful now to group countries not in terms of their political or economic systems or in terms of their level of economic development but rather in terms of their culture and civilization…”

It is not hard to discern what Huntington was implying, but let us take a look at what else he said in that article:

“…Islam’s borders are bloody and so are its innards…the underlying problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power .The problem for Islam is not the CIA or the U.S. Department of Defense. It is the West, a different civilization whose people are convinced of the universality of their culture and believe that their superiority, if declining, power imposes on them the obligation to extend that culture throughout the world. These are the basic ingredients that fuel conflict between Islam and the West…Conflict along the fault line between western and Islamic civilizations has been going on for 1300 years…”

Huntington warned of a war that will dominate global politics and characterized Islam and the West as “age old enemies”.  According to Samuel Huntington, Islam was monolithic, hostile to the West, and had deep feelings of inadequacy. Islam was expansionist and prone to violence.

Huntington’s absurd, bloodthirsty and combative theory may not have been fulsomely endorsed by all policy makers, but there is no doubt that his views have contributed to the anti-Islam narratives in the “global war on terror” that prevail today. Neither Huntington or his cohorts in academia or the mainstream media address the role played by western agencies in such conflicts. These narratives do not also take into account the hegemonic policies of the US led west. Most of all, they do not address the root causes of the underdevelopment of the non-western nations and the marginalization of the people.

Such articles ignore the century’s long plunder and pillage of resource rich non-western nations in a global economy controlled by the industrialized world-the westerners. They ignore the pain and suffering of those whose populations were forcibly depleted over several centuries in order to provide free labor for building the capitalist economies of the western nations, and the lifestyles of their citizens. Comforting and compelling as they may be to citizens in the west, and no doubt they help advance political agendas internationally, these false and unsubstantiated assumptions insult the intelligence of non-westerners.

Let us take a look at what else Huntington wrote in his 1993 piece about the Westerners and the Non-Westerners. :

“…Western civilization is both Western and modern. Non-Western civilizations have attempted to become modern without becoming Western…Non-Western civilizations will continue to attempt to acquire the wealth, technology, skills, machines and weapons that are part of being modern. They will also attempt to reconcile this modernity with their traditional culture and values. Their economic and military strength relative to the West will increase. Hence the West will increasingly have to accommodate these non-Western modern civilizations whose power approaches that of the West but whose values and interests differ significantly from those of the West…”

Huntington knows that the values and interests of the west has always been significantly different from that of the non-westerns. The many “hundreds” of years of western civilization did nothing to stop the genocides and war crimes in Indochina, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia etc. etc. This “western civilization” did nothing to stop the German massacre of 6 million Jews and the US bombings of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in which 175,000 people were killed.

If we take Eritrea and its peoples’ quest for self-determination and liberation after the end of the Italian colonial era as an example, we see that the dreams and aspirations of the Eritrean people was in conflict with the values and interests of the westerners and their lackeys. The rights of the Eritrean people were summarily subordinated to the economic and political interests of the westerners who controlled the United Nation’s at that time. John Foster Dulles, the US Secretary of State who was the key architect behind the federation of Eritrea with Ethiopia in 1952 did not mince his words when he said:

“…From the point of view of justice, the opinion of the Eritrean people must receive consideration. Nevertheless, the strategic interests of the United States in the Red Sea Basin and world peace make it necessary that the country be linked with our ally Ethiopia…”

The Eritrean people were subjected to untold suffering under successive Ethiopian regimes, yet neither the United Nations, nor the US-led westerners, their surrogates in the media and NGO community, nor the many human rights bodies that existed then, did anything to stop the violence, massacres and destruction in Eritrea. Eritrea’s bitter 30-year long armed struggle ended the Ethiopian colonization.

Huntington writes about differences in values. He wrote:

“…the values that are most important in the West are least important worldwide… In the political realm, of course, these differences are most manifest in the efforts of the United States and other Western powers to induce other peoples to adopt Western ideas concerning democracy and human rights. Modern democratic government originated in the West. When it has developed in non-Western societies it has usually been the product of Western colonialism or imposition…”

According to Professor Tim Niblock, Director, the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, University of Exeter:

“…The central dilemma in the promotion of democracy in Islamic countries, therefore, is one of practical politics and not of religious-based incompatibility…”

The last two decades of the West’s effort to bring “democracy and human rights” to non-western nations has resulted in untold ethnic and religious conflicts, denigration of other peoples cultures, havoc in the lives of millions and the destruction of nations. It is not any different than what Huntington wants us to forget, what “product of Western colonization or imposition” really was about- white washing colonization and all its ills.

The prolific writer and novelist Adam Hochschild calls it “the great forgetting”. Allow me to share some of his observations about the values and cultures of the westerners that colonized Africa.

In his book, “King Leopold’s Ghost”, he tells a story of unadulterated greed, exploitation and brutality that Africa and the world must not, and should not forget, lest it is repeated again. Hochschild writes:

“…From the colonial era, the major legacy Europe left for Africa was not democracy as it is practiced today in countries like England, France and Belgium; it was authoritarian rule and plunder. On the whole continent, perhaps no nation has had a harder time than the Congo in emerging from the shadow of its past…”

It should be recalled that King Leopold II of Belgium massacred 10 million Africans in the Congo. Cutting off hands was very much part of Leopold’s repertoire. Leopold’s “rubber terror” raised a lot of hairs in Britain, America and continental Europe (particularly between the years 1900-1908). But while they were condemning Leopold’s barbarity, his accusers were committing much the same atrocities against Africans elsewhere on the continent. Similar forced labor systems for extracting rubber were in place in the French territories west and north of the Congo River, in Portuguese-ruled Angola, and in the nearby Cameroon under the Germans.

Hochschild offers his readers a glimpse into French and German colonization when he writes:

“…In France’s equatorial African territories, where the region’s history is best documented, the amount of rubber-bearing land was far less than what Leopold controlled, but the rape was just as brutal. Almost all exploitable land was divided among concession companies. Forced labour, hostages, slave chains, starving porters, burned villages, paramilitary company ‘sentries’, and the chicotte were the order of the day… if you reckon [the] mass murder by the percentage of the population killed, the Germans did as much in Namibia, if not worse, than Leopold in Congo….By these standards, the toll was even worse among the Hereros in German South West Africa, today’s Namibia. The killing there was masked by no smokescreen of talk about philanthropy. It was genocide, pure and simple, starkly announced in advance…”

But what about the Americans and the Brits?

Around the time the Germans were slaughtering the Hereros the world was largely ignoring America’s brutal counter-guerrilla war in the Phillipines, in which US troops tortured prisoners, burned villages, killed 20,000 rebels, and saw 200,000 more Filipinos die of war-related hunger or disease…Britain [too] came in for no international criticism for its killings of Aborigines in Australia, in accordance with extermination orders as ruthless as Von Trotha’s. And, of course, in neither Europe nor the United States was there major protest against the decimation of the American Indians…”

Articles like that of Samuel Huntington hide western crudity and barbarity of the not so distant past. It masks the truth about the havoc western “colonization and imposition” wrought on lives of the colonized and the deep scars they left behind.

This crudity and barbarity was directed at others too, as we have seen this week as countries around the world commemorated the 70th Anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camps in Poland on 27 January 1945. More than 1.4 million people, most of them European Jews, were killed over five years of Nazi rule. An estimated 90 per cent of these victims were Jews, with Poles, Romani gypsies, Soviet Prisoners, homosexuals and others deemed “undesirable” making up the hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish victims that were killed at the hands of the Nazis.

According to the United States Holocaust Museum[3]:

“…The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators.”Holocaust” is a word of Greek origin meaning “sacrifice by fire.” The Nazis, who came to POWER in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were “racially superior” and that the Jews, deemed “inferior,” were an alien threat to the so-called German racial community…”

Today, the self-styled ‘anti-Islamization’ movement PEGIDA, whose members march in several German cities every week poses itself as countering immigrants who defy the “German way of life”. They are xenophobic and lean to an ideology not unlike that of the Nazis of yesteryears.

They too are westerners…

On 10 November 2014, an article in the New York Times exposed Switzerland’s ugly history of slavery. The article said:

“…In Switzerland, hundreds of thousands of children were victims of a state-sanctioned system of forced labor dating from the 19th century. Under this so-called welfare policy, orphans, sons and daughters of poor, single mothers, or illegitimate children — those in situations deemed precarious, or whom the state feared would be a financial burden — were brought to the local town hall and auctioned to farmers seeking free labor; the winning bidder was whoever demanded the least annual compensation from the commune…The verdingkinder system largely faded out in the 1970s; many Swiss have only recently learned of the program’s existence. But this and other policies of administrative internment did not officially become illegal in the country until 1981. At least 10,000 former verdingkinder are still alive…”

These are the westerners…

So if not a “Clash of Civilizations” what is it? What transpired in the last two decades?

In 1996, renowned economist Yash Tandon[4] had made some educated predictions about the economic and social challenges that the West, the non-western world, and Africa in particular, would encounter in the 21st Century. But unlike Huntington and his coterie, Tandon had a different perspective. He outlines it in his article, “An Africa Perspective”[5], in which he says:

“…Africa’s future must be assessed in the context of the post-Cold War New World Order. Our argument is that this is not likely to bring any relief to Africa. If anything, the New World Order is likely to be even more predatory than the previous one…The collapse of the Soviet-style Communism obscures a deep crisis facing Western powers. Other forces are emerging to challenge them. One is fundamentalism. The West had a clear answer to Soviet communism, but has no answer to Islamic fundamentalism where the issues go beyond the development paradigm. Against Islamic fundamentalism, the West offers its own forms of Christian fundamentalism, but that only worsens the contradictions. Fundamentalism of all kinds is thus one new emerging force…”

The visceral hate filled, anti-Islam radio programs emanating from Christian extremists in the United States has been amplified in the last decade, as the “war on terror” raged across the Middle East and North Africa.

Long before the phrase “religious terrorism” became fashionable in western capitals, and before the name Bin Laden became a household name, Eritrea was his victim, as Al Qaeda tried to establish itself in the Horn of Africa. Bin Laden had hopes of creating an East African Islamic Emirate starting with the Sudan and encompassing Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, all the way to Tanzania. He chose to attack young Eritrea, just six months after it officially became independent. The Eritrean Islamic Jihad (EIJ) was financed by Bin Laden and its aim was to overthrow the secular government of Eritrea and replace it with an Islamic one. Today, the EIJ forms part of a coalition calling itself the Eritrean National Alliance (ENA), which is based in Ethiopia.

After independence, Eritrea saw the mushrooming of various “religious groups” all over Africa. Using the pretext of religious freedom, groups such as the Voice of the Martyrs, Strategic World Impact, Joshua Project, Samaritan’s Purse etc. etc. entered nations in Africa and Asia (sometimes illegally)[6] but mostly under the cover of humanitarian NGOs, journalists, researchers etc. in pursuit of the Great Commission in the 10/40 Window. From the Bible Belt in the United States, these groups went to nations near and far to “convert” Muslims and find “the unreached”. Their mission was to plant churches, many of them underground, in nations perceived to be “Islamized”. In nations across India and Africa, these groups have wreaked havoc in otherwise peaceful societies and exacerbated religious and ethnic tensions. By their own admission, they thrive on the “persecutions” that follow the conversions and church plantings.

Evenly split in the population, Christianity and Islam have co-existed peacefully in Eritrea for centuries. After the border conflict with Ethiopia in 1998, fundamentalist Christian groups such as the Voice of the Martyrs, Strategic World Impact, Samaritan Purse and others who entered the country NGOs (some under USAID)[7] began their church planting activities in earnest. They were asked to leave Eritrea when their activities threatened the harmonious, peaceful and respectful co-existence of the various ethnic and religious groups. Their agendas interfered with the nation-building agendas of the people and government of Eritrea.

Joel S. Migdal, in, “State Building and the Non-Nation-State” wrote about the challenges that new states, such as Eritrea, would face after the end of the Cold War:

“…the fall of yet another empire, the Soviet Union, set off the third surge of state creation, centered mostly in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, the Baltic area, the Caucuses and central Asia, but which included other cases as well, such as Eritrea and Namibia in Africa…”

We live in tumultuous times…The 21st Century, which began on 1 January 2001 and will end on 31 December 2100, has also seen its share of “waves of state creations”.

The breakup of the Union of Serbia and Montenegro, which was a country in Southeast Europe, created from the two remaining republics of Yugoslavia after its breakup in 1991. In 2006 Serbia broke away from the union and became an independent country. In 2008 the parliament of Kosovo, Serbia’s southern province declared independence. Most recently, on 11 March 2014, the Supreme Council of Crimea and Sevastopol City Council adopted the Declaration of independence of Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol. South Sudan gained its independence from Sudan in 2011 after a bloody 28 year old war fueled by foreign interventions. The world is today witnessing the systematic balkanization of Somalia.

Those who have followed developments in the Horn of Africa and especially in Eritrea know that Eritrea has indeed faced almost all of the challenges outlined by Migdal. Let us take a look at what he wrote:

“…In this third wave of state creation in the 20th century, states were challenged from below by, among other factors, the increasing flow of immigrants, dissident cultural movements, individuals demanding rights, links of people through the Internet and from above by international institutions and international law, as well as laterally by other, voracious states, shadowy Al-Qaeda-like networks, multinational corporations and other powerful market forces…the luxury of guaranteed state survival and unchanging boundaries must have quickly turned into a cruel illusion for leaders of the new states of Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Eritrea and others in the immediate post-Cold War era. From the moment of their independence they had to secure their borders and mobilize their populations to defend the new states from enemies inside and out…”

Just five years after the Eritrean referendum for Independence was conducted in April 1993, the minority regime in Ethiopia, using Badme as a pre-text, launched its aggressive war of invasion and occupation of Eritrea.

After a bloody two-year war, the Cessation of Hostilities agreement and the Algiers Agreements were signed by Eritrea and Ethiopia in December 2000. The Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) established pursuant to the Algiers Agreements delivered its final and binding delimitation and demarcation decisions in April 2002 and November 2007 respectively. The minority regime in Ethiopia reneged on its international obligations, rejected the final and binding decisions of the EEBC. Today emboldened by the diplomatic, political and military support and shield it receives from the US-led international community,  in violation of international law and over two dozen UN Security Council resolutions on the Eritrea Ethiopia border issue, in violation of the African Union and United Nation’s Charters, continues to occupy sovereign Eritrean territories, including Badme, the casus belli for the war, and awarded “unequivocally” to Eritrea.

As the Eritrea Ethiopia “border conflict” came to an end, the Eritrean diaspora was introduced to the Eritrean Quislings League (EQL), an alliance of jilted and scorned individuals, like-minded defeatists, self-serving defectors, deserters and draft dodgers, disgruntled runaway diplomats, pedophiles, rapists, deceitful counterfeiters, information launderers and an assortment of shameless scandalous opportunists disguised as “journalists”,  “human rights” and “democracy” activists.

These pawns served as runners for western fundamentalist Christian cartels and Western agencies and NGOs. The self-professed “intellectuals and professionals”, and pseudo-intellectuals engaged in academic dishonesty. The loathsome miscreant mercenary Eritrean elite spent the last 15 years slavishly parroting prepared anti-Eritrea propaganda, in exchange for pitiful stipends. They served as the “Eritrean Faces” for anti-Eritrea agendas emanating from the West and Ethiopia. They fell for the “western superiority” narrative and turned against their own people and sought to emulate cultures that were alien to Eritreans.

They sought to preach about “democracy” and “human rights”, to the Eritrean people who had spent decades fighting for their liberation. Some in the EQL believe they deserve to be at the helm, and somehow believed they were better placed to govern the young nation. The renowned late historian Basil Davidson refers to such arrogant western educated African elite as “recaptives”, others have referred to them as the wazungo waeusi (black Europeans), or “coconut heads”, black on the outside (skin) and white (thoughts) on the inside.

Some of these “western educated” Eritreans not only have become foreign to their own culture but also look down upon it. Serving those who are responsible for the massacre of thousands of Eritreans, the destruction of their homes and villages, those responsible for the desecration of cemeteries of Eritrea’s fallen heroes, is somehow supposed to make them more acceptable to the West, elevate their stature in academic circles and, crown them “experts” on Eritrea. Their contempt earned them the ire of the people of Eritrea everywhere…

Yash Tandon was not oblivious to the impending clash between the west and the non-west when he wrote his 1996 article. But unlike the narratives coming from the citadels in the North, Tandon offered a sober and nuanced perspective. He warned:

“…the balance of economic power is shifting from the Atlantic to the Pacific.… Western agents want to retain their powers (over nuclear weapons, markets and resources) and sell ideas of democracy and human rights. But the West sees enemies everywhere, particularly the poor…The result is increasing polarisation between the white Christian, Judaic Western nations and the rest of the world. A kind of “global apartheid” has emerged…Western powers are chiselling their weapons to intervene in Africa on deep economic and political levels. They are laying down new ground rules to justify either sanctions or direct intervention. Withdrawal (or threat of withdrawal) of “development aid” may now be used to sanction countries which do not conform to structural adjustment programmes; have a poor human rights record; spend too much on arms; refuse to privatise public utilities; reject multi-party or other arrangements deemed democratic; refuse to enact environmental laws; refuse to limit population growth…This is the scenario of Africa’s future. The new discourse is of “management” of Africa’s politics as well as its economies. The West is laying down the instrumentalities and modalities of a new technocratic order in Africa…”

Not in Eritrea!

So whether the attacks were on Sawa, the youth training center in Eritrea, or Eritrea’s National Service program, or Eritrea’s Warsay Yikaalo project for development based on the principles of self-reliance, or as we have seen recently, the attacks on the mining sector, the tools employed in the aggressive psychological warfare conducted through the media, think tanks, rights groups, and most especially in academia, had as their primary target, the mind of the Eritrean. The attacks were and remain, attacks on the Eritrean psyche, and at the center of it all, Eritrean culture, which has been abused, berated, misunderstood, misrepresented and undermined.

Eritreans have had to endure years of harassment and vilification, and endure sanctimonious sermons from westerners, and their surrogates, who insist on misrepresenting and demeaning our national cultures, principles and values.  The one thing that was certain from the very beginning was that these carpetbaggers and scalawags knew little about, and were incapable of understanding and accepting the true nature, culture and ethics of the people of Eritrea. There is an Eritrean proverb that illustrates the mental state of those who want to define Eritrea in their own images. The proverb says: ሰራቂ ከም ኢዱ ሓሳዊ ከም ኣፉ seraQi kem idu : Hasawi kem afu, and it describes what psychologists call projection- defined as “the misattribution of a person’s undesired thoughts, feelings or impulses onto another person who does not have those thoughts, feelings or impulses.”

New and ancient Eritrea will not be defined by others…especially those who claim to have “hundreds of civilizations”. As the proud nation prepares to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the liberation of the Port City of Massawa in February 2015, every Eritrean is proudly proclaiming-I have my own identity-I belong to a magnanimous and cultured population who has fought for over a century for its human rights-the right to development, dignity and security. I will not be defined by others…

Je Suis Eritrean!

[1] Accessed 01/14/2015

[2] Accessed 01/14/2015

[3] Accessed 01/28/2015

[4] Yash Tandon, is a renowned political activist, professor, public intellectual and author of “Ending Aid Dependence”

[5] Accessed 01/14/2015

[6] Accessed 01/14/2015

[7] International Rescue Committee, Voice of the Martyrs and Strategic World Impact were affiliated with USAID


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