Discussing recent developments in Eritrea and mainstream media’s assault on the young nation, a friend exclaimed, “ህማም እዩ”, meaning it is an ailment of sorts. It must be. How else can one explain the mental state and destructive actions of those who come into contact with anything Eritrean? What provokes some otherwise sober individuals to succumb to pressure and engage in anti-Eritreanism, even when they have no bone in the fight? What compels individuals in otherwise prestigious institutions to engage in anti-Eritrea rhetoric without establishing the facts?
This “virus” that seems to be behind the endemic anti-Eritreanism that has prevailed for the last 16 years, and seems to have inflicted the most unsuspecting amongst us needs to be eradicated, lest its poisonous strain spread and destroy more lives. This “virus” is not only begging for an accurate epidemiological investigation, diagnosis and cure…but it also needs a name. But before we do that, let us define what Eritreanism is, in order to understand what anti-Eritreanism entails. In her paper, “The Eritrean National Identity: A Case Study”, Peggy Hoyle wrote:
“…The commonalities fostered by the EPLF during the last decade of the struggle, necessary to justify the personal sacrifice required, are collectively known as Eritreanism or the Eritrean national identity… Among the values and characteristics that motivate Eritreanism are commitment to a high ethical ideal, belief in critical public speech, uncommon perseverance, emphasis on the interest of the community over the individual, and self-reliance. Symbols, including the Eritrean flag, the ubiquitous map outline of Eritrea, and the ex-fighters themselves, are employed by the government to facilitate the continuity and differentiation process. The camel, previously associated with the Muslim lowland population, has been placed on the official seal of the Eritrean government. The national heroes are those who lost their lives in the struggle, “the martyrs”…”
Anti-Eritreanism is therefore, the concerted efforts employed by States and States’ sponsored actors, to deny Eritreans their national identity, national symbols, Eritrea’s history, the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front (EPLF), the Peoples Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), Young Peoples Front for Justice and Democracy (YPFDJ) and the Eritrean peoples hard won independence.
Anti-Eriteanism first found institutional expression at the United Nations, when the Eritrean people’s rights to self-determination were denied and subordinated to the political interests of hegemonic powers and it has a long history at the United Nations:
- On 11 September 1952, the terror and subjugation against the Eritrean people began when the State Department used its power and influence at the United Nations to block Eritrea’s independence and as one astute Horn observer put it, to:
“…deny its four million people education, health care and their right, under international law, to self-determination; give it no military assistance but let both East and West supply its adversary [Ethiopia] with military and/or economic aid; bombard it, attempt to starve it, degrade and deforest it…”
The “reasoning” behind the US policy to subjugate the people of Eritrea and squash their dreams and aspirations was delivered in a statement by John Foster Dulles, former US Secretary of State :
“…From the point of view of justice, the opinions of the Eritrean people must receive consideration. Nevertheless the strategic interests of the United States in the Red Sea basin and consideration of security and world peace make it necessary that the country has to be linked with our ally, Ethiopia…”
With that, the UN adopted Resolution 390 (A) V on 11 September 1952 and Eritrea was federated with Ethiopia. As if that was not enough, with the tacit support and encouragement of the United States and its allies, Haile Selassie, the former Emperor of Ethiopia and a “staunch US ally”, in violation of UN Resolution 390 (A) V and its provisions, annexed Eritrea and incorporated it as Ethiopia’s fourteenth province in 1961, triggering the 30-year liberation struggle. Over 65,000 of Eritrea’s best and beloved sons and daughters sacrificed their lives and hundreds of thousands were displaced and exiled. Ethiopia’s reign of terror against Eritrea was sanctioned by the silence of the international community.
- After Eritrea’s independence in 1991, the Transition Government of Eritrea invited the UN to monitor the Eritrean referendum. Once again, the UN, pressured from certain quarters who were not happy with Eritrea’s de facto independence, attempted to derail the process. Eritrea prevailed and the Referendum was conducted in April of 1993, two years after the gallant Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) marched into Asmara, ending the 30 year armed struggle for independence.
- The United Nations is one of the guarantors and witnesses to the Algiers Agreements signed between Eritrea and Ethiopia on December 2000. It was pursuant to this Agreements that the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission was established with a mandate to delimit and demarcate the border. On 13 April 2002, the EEBC delivered its final and binding delimitation ruling and on November 2007, demarcated the Eritrea Ethiopia border using “virtual demarcation”-placing coordinates on maps, since Ethiopia refused to allow it to place pillars on the ground. Ethiopia rejected the EEBC’s rulings and has been occupying sovereign Eritrean territories, including Badme, the flashpoint of the Eritrea Ethiopia “border conflict”. It has been 14 years since the EEBC rendered its decision and yet the UN Security Council refuses to take any punitive actions against Ethiopia for its violations of international law and the UN Charter.
According to Article 14 of the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities signed by Eritrea and Ethiopia on 18 June 2000 in Algiers:
“…The OAU and the United Nations commit themselves to guarantee the respect for this commitment of the two Parties until the determination of the common border on the basis of pertinent colonial treaties and applicable international law… This guarantee shall be comprised of… measures to be taken by the international community should one or both of the Parties violate this commitment, including appropriate measures to be taken under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter by the UN Security Council…”
Eritrea has been calling on the UN Security Council to honor its legal and moral obligations under Article 14 of the Agreement on Cessation of Hostilities as well as Articles 41 and 42 of the UN Charter to use all available mechanisms available to it to enforce the Algiers Agreement and the Border Commission’s decisions. Whilst the UN Security Council has issued over two resolutions on the Eritrea Ethiopia border endorsing the EEEBC’s decisions, it has refused to act to restore Eritrea’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
- On 23 December 2009, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1907-The US-Ethiopia engineered illegal, unfair and unjust resolution imposed sanctions on the State of Eritrea and its people. The Ethiopia dominated Intergovernmental Agency for Development (IGAD) and the African Union were employed to present it as an “African Initiative”.
- Once again, on 5 December 2011, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 2023 which maintained the unjust sanctions against Eritrea, again at the behest of Ethiopia and its partners. 6 years later, instead of annulling the illegal and unjust sanctions, the UN Security Council continues to extend the mandate of the Somalia Eritrea Monitoring Group (SEMG) which has found no evidence to support the allegations made by Ethiopia, linking Eritrea with Al Shabbab. The evidence back the in 2006, and the evidence today is clear. It is Ethiopia that has violated the Somalia arms embargo and it is Ethiopia that has been destabilizing the country.
- In 2012, the UN Human Rights Council established the country specific mandate and appointed the Special Rapporteur for Eritrea (again at the behest of Ethiopia and the US). When the UN Human Rights Council – mandated to promote and protect human rights pursuant to the UN Charter, allowed the US and Ethiopia, along with Somalia and Djibouti, to table a resolution that established the mandate of the Special Rapporteur-someone with a documented history of anti-Eritreanism, the politically motivated assault, a clear denial of Eritrea’s sovereign rights and equality under the UN Charter, continued. This time at the UN Human Rights Council.
- To add insult to injury, the UN Human Right Council adopted another resolution in 2014 establishing the politically motivated Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea (COIE).
- Today, in an attempt to spread anti-Eritreanism and poison the public, instead of delivering its finding to the UN Human Rights Council, once again, as it has done in the past, the COIE is attempting to sway public opinion by releasing its report to the media and its NGO networks. This is clearly in contravention of fundamental rules of procedure of the UNHRC, as well as established norms of fair play.
At every session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva and the Third Committee in New York, in addition to the country delegations, hundreds of NGOs, parliamentarians, scholars, researchers, and journalists are exposed to the COIE’s unsubstantiated allegations, a collection of 16 years’ worth of the anti-Eritrea propaganda, which are then repeated ad nauseum by the media and other anti-Eritreanists, through the various networks. The politically motivated decisions read like legal judgments, but have yet to be substantiated. These forums use the rubrics of “international law”, “human rights”, and “anti-slavery” as cover to promote anti-Eritreanism, to strangulate Eritrea’s economy, isolate Eritrea diplomatically and politically. In essence, they advance the agendas of Eritrea’s arch enemies.
When NGOs such as UN Watch who have condemned others in the past, for violating the principles of impartiality, non-selectivity and objectivity that govern the work of Special Rapporteurs, saying they constituted a breach of the equality principles of the UN Charter, are today promoting the Special Rapporteur on Eritrea and allowing anti-Eritrea elements to use UN Watch, an accredited NGO in special consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council, to spew anti-Eritrea venum at the UN Human Rights Council, it is a sign that anti-Eritreanism has reached its peak . By serving as an instrument of discrimination-anti-Eritreanism, UN Watch, which was founded in 1993 to monitor UN compliance with the principles of its own Charter, has faltered, and has undermined its own credibility and reputation as a UN watchdog.
In the last 16 years, many articles, books, reports promoting anti-Eritreanism have been produced. Misrepresentation, misinterpretation and deliberate twisting of facts to undermine nationalism in Eritrea, Eritrea’s cultures, values, principles, government, people, national institutions, as well as Eritrea’s history, especially the armed struggle have been employed by those promoting global anti-Eritreanism. A wave of anti-Eritreanism spread across the world, and the internet played its role. It spread virulently from the United States, to Europe and Asia. As the Wikileak cables have shown, anti-Eritreanism poisoned many leaders, international institutions and forums.
There is no adequate explanation for the 75-year long unprovoked hostilities against the young nation and its people, nor the deafening silence of the international community during the Eritrean people’s struggle against successive Ethiopian regimes, the massacre of thousands of Eritreans at the hands of Ethiopia’s brutal regimes, the grazing and destruction of Eritrea’s villages, the displacement of her population etc. etc. and today, what is even more puzzling is the continuation of the hostilities in post-independent Eritrea. How can the international community explain its deafening silence as Ethiopia, in violation of international law, the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission’s (EEBC) final and binding delimitation and demarcation decisions, as well as the UN and African Union Charters continues it 15-year long occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories? Anti-Eritreanism in the post-independence era has exposed the double standards, hypocrisy and discrimination against Eritrea from the most unlikely sources.
Since there is no known medical explanation for the “virus” that spreads anti-Eritreanism, this author has decided to coin a new word that will serve to explain what it is, its spread, its outbreak sources, its causative agents, its most susceptible victims, and its symptoms and cure. The author has chosen “Erifluenza”, a word created by the fusion of the word Eritrea, and the Latin word influenza, and will be used henceforth to describe the debilitating condition that has plagued some in Eritrea’s post-independence era, with the most infectious strain emerging in the last 16 years.
Like the flu, Erifluenza is seasonal and reaches peak prevalence in the weeks and days preceding Eritrea’s national holidays-especially Independence anniversaries, but circulates at low levels throughout the year. Its symptoms vary from person to person and causes a world of misery when contracted. Carriers live a life of dishonesty, shame and emasculation, suffer from moral degradation, and live in constant fear of exposure.
Hibernating during the off-season, when lured by their handlers to emerge from the foxholes, carriers of the Erifluenza virus act like the walking dead… rabid animals. They attack anything positive about Eritrea and scour the web in search of vulnerable prey. Eritrea’s youth are the most favorite target, and contact with the youth triggers peak incubation. Those carrying the Erifluenza virus are destructive, disruptive hatemongers with a gross sense of self-aggrandizement. Surrogates of the minority regime in Ethiopia suffer from the most chronic and incurable strain of Erifluenza. Frequent visits to Menelik Palace results in lowered resistance to the Erifluenza pathogen.
Erifluenza is transmitted across borders, via a rapidly mutating network, through RSS feeds, and through listservs, mailing lists and closed group lists etc. etc. mediums through which, those in academia, NGO networks, mainstream media and government institutions share and disseminate “alerts”, “Statements” “Petitions”, and other information on a daily basis. It is also spread through long winded articles and reports produced by carriers of Erifluenza, and through the internet. It is also transmitted by repeated contacts with carriers, especially in closed settings, such as “conferences”, “seminars” and other activities sponsored by the carriers and their handlers.
Erifluenza mutates fastest in morally bankrupt, greedy, power hungry individuals who harbor ill feelings towards Eritrea and her people. It can be spread by those who exhibit some sort of superiority complex, but also by those who suffer from debilitating inferiority complex-a double whammy of sorts. When active, it triggers robotic reactions, unexplained antics, behaviors and decisions that defy logic. The Erifluenza virus undermines the credibility and integrity of the feed originator(s), and emasculates, even the most learned. Anti-Eritreans is a disease, its eradication that will require a global drive. The first step will require identification and quarantine of all Erifluenza carriers. This it will require focus, patience and effective coordination and communication across borders and among partners in the Horn of Africa region and beyond.
The first group recognized as suffering from this debilitating condition, known for displaying embarrassing loyalty to western agencies, are the Eritrean carriers of the Erifluenza virus and have been labeled as the Eritrean Quislings League (EQL) for identification sake. The EQL serve as lapdogs, in campaigns to undermine the State of Eritrea and its people. These carriers of the most virulent strain of Erifluenza have been known to betray the trust of the Eritrean people for a few pieces of silver, and are known for their use of vulgar language, lewd photo shop creations, and shameful behavior. Carriers of Erifluenza are known to be violent and, like the minority regime in Ethiopia, they have broken up families, destroyed Eritrean community centers, and poisoned congregations.
The self-serving EQL feign concern about the people of Eritrea, but have done everything they can-with the help of their handlers-to strangulate Eritrea’s economy and isolate Eritrea diplomatically and politically. And true to their nature, and almost on cue, a whimper of their stench lingers in the air whenever the minority regime in Ethiopia finds itself in one of its self-inflicted quagmires. The EQL are:
“…an alliance of jilted and scorned individuals, of like-minded defeatists, self-serving defectors, deserters and draft dodgers, disgruntled runaway diplomats, paedophiles, rapists, deceitful counterfeiters, information launderers and an assortment of shameless scandalous opportunists disguised as “journalists”, “religious freedom”, “human rights”, “anti-slavery” and “democracy” activists, who turned out to be nothing but pawns, who serve as runners for western fundamentalist Christian cartels, Western agencies and NGOs, self-professed “intellectuals and professionals”, pseudo-intellectuals who call for academic freedom while engaging in academic dishonesty, a loathsome miscreant mercenary Eritrean elite who have spent the last 17 years slavishly parroting prepared anti-Eritrea propaganda, in exchange for pitiful stipends…”
Eritrea’s economy, its cultural and social institutions, the Eritrean people’s history, the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), now the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), as well as the peoples exemplary customs and traditions of respect and tolerance, their time tested values and principles, have all come under attack from Erifluenza carriers and their handlers.
The Erifluenza carriers, at peak incubation, began their bandwagon activism during the 1998-2000 Eritrea Ethiopia border conflict. In the summer of 2001, the carriers spelled out their intentions quite clearly. The Eritrean people were warned of the impending assault and how the EQL sought to carry it out. They said:
“…For Eritrean-Americans, a good place to start with respect to the new struggle…is the Asmarino.com database that houses contact information of the approximately 5000 individuals that signed two major petitions this year… Like-minded Eritrean-Americans with a firm dedication to democracy will need to build an informal and consequently formal network that is action-oriented…”
Through this network, the EQL said:
“…letters will need to be drafted, finalized, and distributed to US government representatives, World Bank, IMF, Amnesty International and other organizations…”
Their publications were to be:
“… disseminated electronically, i.e. inside popular Web-sites, as well as physically, i.e. attending forums sponsored or attended by representatives of the Eritrean government…fund-raising events will need to be organized…”
Similarly, at an 18 August 2001 secret meeting in New York, in which members of the Berlin-13, the self-professed “Academics and Professionals” attended, similar proposals were initiated.
The group also agreed to approach, and campaign with, international human rights organizations, the United Nations as well as in the US and Europe, with the aim of isolating Eritrea, and denying it international support. The participants of the August 18 meeting in New York also agreed to form “front” “human rights organizations and establish a website under the name ‘Eritrea1.org’ (It has since closed). Participants were informed that “secret contacts had been established with regional countries”. Judging from the EQL’s frequent visits to, and for some, stay in Ethiopia-it is not hard to guess which countries were involved in the spread of anti-Eritreanism.
Ignoring and often times undermining Eritrea’s indigenous NGOs that have a long history with the people, such as the National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW), the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students (NUEYS) and the National Confederation of Eritrean Workers (NCFW) and other Eritrean civil society groups in Eritrea and in the Diaspora, the Berlin 13 and their coterie went on to establish various Astroturf NGOs, and at one time there were over 47 cyber NGOs affiliated with the EQL, laundering information on Eritrea, holding forums all over the United States and Europe, and undermining almost every Eritrean institution. While the State Department funded and courted the EQL and plastered their names and pictures on a flurry of “alerts” and posters, they were provided airtime by the mainstream media. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch latched on and provided them forums, and support in disseminating their laundered reports.
Arundhati Roy, one of the leading voices in the international struggle against war, poverty and injustice said the following about NGOs:
“…They have become the arbitrators, the interpreters, the facilitators. In the long run, NGOs are accountable to their funders, not to the people they work among. They’re what botanists would call an indicator species. It’s almost as though the greater the devastation caused by neoliberalism, the greater the outbreak of NGOs. Nothing illustrates this more poignantly than the phenomenon of the U.S. preparing to invade a country and simultaneously readying NGOs to go in and clean up the devastation…”
While the EQL pandered to western governments, spread “Fear Uncertainty and Doubt” about Eritrea and its leadership, the Eritrean Diaspora turned away in disgust.
The frenzied western media led by VoA and BBC, recycled and amplified the unverified reports laundered by the Erifluenza infected individuals and groups. Their pages were filed with stories of “dissent”, “crack’, “reform”, etc. etc. They joined the chorus to call for stoppage of Economic and humanitarian aid to Eritrea. US led western governments, who were looking for ways to subdue independent Eritrea, found a way. The state sponsors of anti-Eritreanism and the EQL had their “modus vivendi”. Eritrea’s own children, encouraged and funded by NED and others, were to serve their cause, by inventing the most brazen lies about the Government of Eritrea and especially the People’s Front for Justice and Democracy (PFDJ), in exchange for pittance. The anti-Eritreanism campaigns in the Diaspora were categorically rejected. The defeatist attitude of some, and the fact that the Erifluenza affected EQL believed the voices of the Eritrean people to be inherently less valid than that of the NGOs and media groups they latched on to, disgusted most.
In Roy’s prophetic words on NGOs, they have been:
“…ensnared in a vortex of crisis production, seeking to find ways of manufacturing them in easily consumable, spectator-friendly formats… Most large-funded NGOs are financed and patronized by aid and development agencies, which are, in turn, funded by Western governments, the World Bank, the UN and some multinational corporations. Though they may not be the very same agencies, they are certainly part of the same loose, political formation that oversees the neoliberal project…”
The last 25 years in post-independence Eritrea has exposed the NGO alliance and its “work” in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, in general and, Eritrea and the Horn of Africa in particular. Roy states their role clearly:
“…In order make sure their funding is not jeopardized and that the governments of the countries they work in will allow them to function, NGOs have to present their work in a shallow framework, more or less shorn of a political or historical context. At any rate, an inconvenient historical or political context. Apolitical (and therefore, actually, extremely political) distress reports from poor countries and war zones eventually make the (dark) people of those (dark) countries seem like pathological victims. Another malnourished Indian, another starving Ethiopian, another Afghan refugee camp, another maimed Sudanese…in need of the white man’s help. They unwittingly reinforce racist stereotypes and reaffirm the achievements, the comforts and the compassion (the tough love) of Western civilization. They’re the secular missionaries of the modern world…”
In the last 17 years, the EQL have served as the “Eritrean Faces”, hired to advance anti-Eritreanism in academia, NGO community, the media, the European Parliament and legislators in the United States. Most of their funding came from the NGO communities they latched on to, or the US and EU governments and their subsidiaries.
Gullible youth, politically naïve individuals, the well-meaning and those who have never heard about Eritrea, never visited Eritrea are also susceptible. The morally bankrupt, financially greedy, and those suffering from a serious case if identity crisis and yearn for power, carry the most contagious strain. Erifluenza carriers are easy to spot, their behaviors give them away. They are usually found pandering to foreign agents who seek to destabilize the Eritrean government and obstruct its function. Erifluenza adversely affects the mental state of the carriers and causes them to repeat concocted lies, tall tales and bombastic allegations about Eritrea and Eritreanism.
Some severe cases of Erifluenza can persists for decades, and in some cases, a lifetime. Some of those who engaged in anti-Eritreanism are left destitute, eking a living hiding in western capitals, doing menial jobs and living on handouts, cursing the darkness and hiding their shame. Erifluenza strips all dignity and pride, and most of the chronically afflicted die in perpetual search of illusory Shangri-La, in neighboring states and western citadels. Erifluenza carriers operate in secret as they lack the confidence to confront those who have not been afflicted, in broad day light. Burdened with tremendous guilt and self-loathing, most go into hiding after an initial parade in the headlines.
Erifluenza spreads fastest amongst non-Eritreans and can be quite vicious. Some European Erifluenza carriers try to silence Eritrean critics who challenge their anti-Eritreanism, hostile or discriminatory acts towards Eritrea, which include calls for divestment from Eritrea’s mining sector, calls for depriving Eritrea of European and US economic aid, and have been known to cry foul when confronted. These carriers of Erifluenza have become a staple in almost every discussion and forum on anti-Eritreanism.
During the seasonal outbreaks, expect all the afflicted to come out of their hibernation and roam erratically in cyberspace, fizzing at Eritrea’s successes, engaging in cyber assaults, trolling and stalking, producing incoherent “cut and paste” articles filled with erroneous facts, and engaging in futile attempts to disparage up standing Eritrean citizens, while glorifying turncoats and traitors. Rehearsed scripts and narratives surface and saturate cyberspace at peak seasons. The coordinated shrieks, contradictory statements are a sign that the carriers are embarking on another bandwagon issue to another.
An astute observer saw the contradictions in the Erifluenza afflicted and wrote this when the EQL and their handlers prevented Eritrean voices from being heard at the UK Parliament. She wrote[i]:
“…I was accused of whitewashing human rights. This was unfair as my work was premised on the work of Business and Human Rights. There were a number of slurs and defamatory statements in the open media, certain MPs and MEPs refused to engage and I was turned in part like Eritrea into a pariah…this experience provided me with an understanding of how emotive certain elements genuine and at worse subversive were on Eritrea…Subversive in regard to the attacks and shutting down of spaces for engagement in the West. This caused me concern as you cannot with one hand state your rights and to freedom of expression in Eritrea and then ensure through lobbying that all other perspectives or voices are removed from discussion…”
For the haughty, Erifluenza makes them act as the custodians of the Eritrean people and their resources, and insist on re-defining the people’s dreams and aspirations.
When individuals are afflicted with Erifluenza in its most severe form, it causes them to squander professional credibility and integrity and indulge in academic dishonesty and deliberate misinformation. The carriers are found regurgitating unconfirmed and unfounded allegations about Eritrea and its people, while ignoring blaring facts. Relying on “cut and paste” information, they rarely have their own intellectual product to peddle. Almost all of the laundered information produced by Erifluenza carriers are filled with hearsay as evidence. Erifluenza causes otherwise politically seasoned individuals and groups, to repeat headline grabbing, click-bait inflammatory hearsay, when they know full well that one cannot rely on hearsay testimony as a representation of fact. When ignored, they resort to name-calling and incoherent blabber.
In a circular motion, Anti-Eritreanism “researchers” cite international “non-governmental organizations” such as Amnesty International (AI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Reporters San Frontiers (RSF) and the mainstream media such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the Guardian etc. and in turn, these outfits cite the analysts and researchers in producing anti-Eritreanism news. Today, when Eritreans and friends of Eritrea visit the US State Department and Congressional offices, it is not surprising to identify those who have had a brush with Erifluenza carriers.
It is no secret in Washington circles that Susan E. Rice, Obama’s National Security Advisor is a determined disseminator of anti-Eritreanism. Erifluenza has prevented her from making sober decisions about Eritrea on any level since the 1998-2000 Eritrea Ethiopia border conflict, during which,she forged her relationship with the late Prime Minister of Ethiopia and the TPLF elite. It was also where she contradicted Erifluenza. As a carrier of the most virulent strain of Erifluenza amongst non-Eritreans, Susan Rice may have contaminated the White House with her anti-Eritreanism. Evidence of Erifluenza came in September 2012, when President Barack Obama made a categorically false statement about Eritrea to his audience at the Global Initiative when talking about human trafficking.. Eritreans around the world were aghast when the heard POTUS saying:
“…I recently renewed sanctions on some of the worst abusers, including North Korea and Eritrea…”
Someone in his administration had contracted Erifluenza, and must have given him the wrong information, or his speech writers slipped in that particular statement hoping nobody out there would catch it. The truth is, Eritrea has never been sanctioned for human trafficking and has in fact been calling on the United Nations to conduct a full and independent investigation on the issue.
To this day, there has not been an explanation from the White House, or even scrutiny by the emasculated mainstream media about the faux pas-a lie uttered by the President of the United States (POTUS). Rice greatly undermined US integrity and reputation as an honest broker for peace in the Horn, and worse, contributed to the Obama Administration’s impotent policies for the Horn of Africa in general and Eritrea in particular.
But it is not only POTUS that has been poisoned by those afflicted with Erifluenza. Moral principles are supposedly those that underpin the basis of ethical citizenship and just social policy. The Church has historically acted as society’s moral compass. But the borderless (sans frontiers) Erifluenza has no moral borders… and has afflicted some religious leaders.
Let us take a look at an opinion piece found in an 11 March 2011 Washington Times article authored by Reverend Richard D. Land and Imam Talal Y. Eid commissioners for the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (UCRIF) which shows Erifluenza’s reach. Presumably to present a balanced Christian and Moslem front, the duo, who have never visited Eritrea, wrote:
“…Given our concern that today’s minerals boom may strengthen tyranny’s grip on Eritrea, USCIRF has called on the U.S. government to prohibit any foreign company such as Nevsun from raising capital in the United States or listing its securities there until it ceases all engagement in developing the mineral resources or involving itself with the ventures of a world-class human rights abuser. Mindful of our good neighbors to the north and their commitment to human rights, we urge advocates in the Canadian government, legislature and civil society to join in this fight for religious freedom and related rights in Eritrea…”
So much for moral righteousness…Advancing religious freedom or using it as a pretext to strangulate Eritrea’s economy?
These are not the only “religious” people that have gone down this slippery slope. Judging from the “cut and paste” articles churned out by Christian Today, Christian Daily, Release International, Open Doors, Christian Solidarity Worldwide and others in the expansive network of Christian groups, anecdotal evidence shows that many have contracted the debilitating Erifluenza. It prevents even the most pious from seeking the truth.
The coordinated vilification campaign against Eritrea between the so called “evangelical churches” and the western powers who sponsor them resulted in the 2005 decision of the US State Department and the US Commission on International Religious Freedom to place Eritrea on its list of “Countries of Concern”. This was a result of intense lobbying by anti-Eritreanists in the Bible belt who believed they could use “religious freedom” as a pretext to advance illicit political agendas.
Strategic World Impact (SWI) through its director, Kevin Turner, was, to our knowledge, the first that attempted to associate Eritrea with North Korea. This goes as far back as January of 2005. In a Radio interview Turner had with a Grand Rapids, Michigan, based Missionary News Network (MNN), Turner shamelessly told his audience the following:
“…The government, here is pursuing a nationalistic almost communist agenda and part of that agenda is just like North Korea, who by the way mentors Eritrea, is to stomp out Christianity…”
In May of that same year, Turner was again quoted by MNN in an article titled “Eritrea is becoming more like North Korea, persecution against Christians increasing”:
“…The situation is getting eerily like North Korea and Saudi Arabia… They’ve actually consulted with some of these other governments for those very issues of how to contain or control the church…”
At the time he made these slanderous charges, Strategic World Impact was operating in Eritrea under the cover of providing assistance to Sudanese refugees in the border areas with Eritrea. By its own admission it had received from the Government of Eritrea “the greatest amount of help possible to coordinate these efforts… in allowing [it] access the most effected people.” However, as Turner made it clear in his radio interview over an “encrypted satellite phone” (his own claim), he was not there in Eritrea for humanitarian reasons, but as an undercover religious operative passing malicious reports about Eritrea.
Turner was also one of the first who called for sanctions against Eritrea that Susan Rice and Company imposed using another web of deception. Here is part of his lies:
“…What we really would like to see is Christians in the United States trying to help resolve our religious difficulties in Eritrea. To do this, they must deal with the President of the State of Eritrea as an individual who is responsible for the arrest and suffering of 555 Christians in Eritrea…We suggest that an embargo be placed on him…”
It should be noted that Kevin Turner’s famous quote is:
“…I often say that if you want to minister to terrorists, you have to become one for Jesus Christ…”
We might also add that Strategic World Impact (SWI) was a subcontractor brought to Eritrea through USAID, the “humanitarian” arm of the United States Government,who took it upon itself to support the fringe religious organizations that mushroomed in Eritrea.
Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) & Compass Direct have been the source of all the manufactured lies about religious persecution in Eritrea. According to Wikileaks documents, this was done, through the help of one Reverend Zecharias Abraham, a pastor-turned an American informant, who admits in one of his reports to the Political Officer at the US Embassy in Asmara, he was responsible for the laundering disinformation to Compass Direct via an organization, Open Doors, based in South African. Like Kevin Turner, VOM also started labeling the President of Eritrea as “Marxist”. As a reflection of its sinister anti-Eritrea agenda this organization does not want to believe Eritrea’s struggle was for independence but a “separation”. Here is how VOM put it:
“…The Marxist-leaning architect of repression of religion and free speech in Eritrea, President Isaias Afewerki, has been in power since Eritrea’s separation from Ethiopia in 1991; the National Assembly elected him as president in 1993…”
This is the lie that is now being echoed, verbatim, by several “Christian” groups about Eritrea and its president. It is part of the deliberate strategy of mislabeling Eritrea to achieve evil “un-Christian” goals. Voice of the Martyrs too was a subcontractor, brought to Eritrea through USAID.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) together with the Jubilee Campaign has been another key source of disinformation about Eritrea. CSW openly admits in its website, the appointment of the Special Rapporteur is due to its own hard work. CSW boasted:
“…this is an amazing proof of our advocacy bearing fruit! The landmark UN resolution is the result of many years of work by CSW, presenting compelling evidence to persuade the UN that the way human rights are violated in Eritrea is utterly horrific, and must be investigated…This resolution is the culmination of years of raising religious freedom and human rights at the UN, campaigning and prayer. It finally came after a rollercoaster two weeks of intense lobbying and negotiations in Geneva earlier this month and means that a Special Rapporteur will be appointed to investigate and monitor human rights in the country and help hold the Eritrean government to account…”
In its “Breakthrough resolution on Eritrea – the inside track” CSW says:
“…Particularly we referred back to the work we had done on North Korea a number of years ago, and since that was quite pivotal, and getting a new mandate and new UN mandate on North Korea and we felt this may be possible to replicate with respect to Eritrea and certainly the situation deserved it. So we set about from that point and enacting a strategy at the UN, and raising Eritrea and that consisted of, making speeches, directly at the Human Rights Council, we organized and spoke at side meetings at the Human Rights Council, myself and colleagues, have spoken to diplomats from literally with dozens of state delegations from countries…”
As admitted by Matthew Jones of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) and Elijah Brown of The Baptist World Alliance (BWA), in Eritrea’s case, it is statements and lobbying to the Human Rights Council by such NGOs that played a significant role in the creation of the Special Rapporteur and the Commission of Inquiry. Almost all of their studies were conducted in extensive secrecy and the vast Eritrean Diaspora was oblivious to their covert activities. The background and activities of the individuals and groups involved in the 15 year long orchestrated vilification and defamation campaign raise considerable questions as to their impartiality and ability to credibly and objectively report on Eritrea, its people and its leadership. Not only do these individuals and NGOs have backgrounds in anti-Eritrea activism, they also often express highly trenchant and polemical sentiments regarding Eritrea and its leadership, both privately and publicly.
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.
Soon after independence in 1991, Eritrea faced the threat of both Christian and Islamic Fundamentalism as Africa saw the mushrooming of “new religious movements”. Using “religious freedom” as a pretext, groups such as the Voice of the Martyrs, Strategic World Impact, Samaritan’s Purse, Joshua Project, etc. etc. began their church planting activities in earnest. Some under the cover of humanitarian NGOs, journalists, researchers etc. all advancing anti-Eritreanism in the West.
From the Bible Belt in the United States, these groups entered Eritrea and other African States, to “convert” Muslims and find “the unreached”. Their mission was to plant churches, many of them underground, in nations perceived to be “Islamized”. Erifluenza carriers targeted the Eritrean Orthodox Church and worked to undermine long established religious institutions in Eritrea. They were asked to leave Eritrea when their activities threatened the harmonious, peaceful and respectful co-existence of the various ethnic and religious groups.
Anti-Eritreanism spread through Baptist and Evangelical congregations like wild fires and it was not uncommon to hear ordinary American citizens who have never heard of Eritrea, let alone visit, sign petitions through the “networks” and issue statements and write reports in papers such as “Christianity Today”, condemning Eritrea. Anti-Eritreanism spread across the Bible Belt when the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (UCRIF) placed Eritrea on its “List of Countries of Concern”. Soon Baptist Ministers, and other “Christian” groups in the United States and the United Kingdom joined the bandwagon to malign Eritrea. Erifluenza, anti-Eritreanism and related discourses spread throughout the Bible Belt, and religious leaders helped in its spread.
Evenly split in the population, Christianity and Islam have co-existed peacefully in Eritrea for centuries. Modern day missionaries continue to wreak havoc in otherwise peaceful societies and have exacerbated religious and ethnic tensions throughout Africa and Asia. When States enact laws to curb their activities, they cry foul. By their own admission, they thrive on the “persecutions” that follow the conversions and church plantings in the nations they target.
On issues relating to Eritrea, the media in the United States and Europe have been paralyzed by Erifluenza. They have been reduced to parroting NGO reports about Eritrea without verification and have been reproducing the daily rhetoric of Erifluenza carriers. Almost every report on Eritrea references NGOs like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Reporters San Frontiers (RSF) as if they have the definitive word on Eritrea and gullible readers have found themselves differing to these entities for their information on Eritrea. Some have also referenced news reports and NGO reports on Eritrea in academic papers, adding to the spread of Erifluenza in academia.
Led by western anthropologists, international non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and Christian Fundamentalist groups such as the Voice of the Martyrs, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Open Doors and others, and the western media conglomerates such as the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Guardian, and Reuters in tow, claiming the mantle of universal human rights and humanitarian goals, all joined in the orchestrated campaigns of vilification and defamation, against the State of Eritrea and its people.
Adopting the rhetoric of human rights and international law in their many publications and by couching political attacks in legal terms, these groups and individuals sought to create a veneer of credibility and expertise for their claims. Unlike the many initiatives organized and funded by Eritreans in the Diaspora, these efforts were funded via large grants provided by the Europe Union, European governments, and prominent foundations including George Soros’ Open Society Institute and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the US State Department. Erifluenza spread across the United States and Europe, the mainstream media, being carriers of its most severe strain.
Western anthropologists led the assault with “scholarly” papers that presented Eritrea as the “Giant Prison”, where “Dreams don’t come true”. The western media said that Eritrea’s youth would rather die in the sea, than work and serve the people of Eritrea “indefinitely”. Eritrea’s National Service Program and the Warsay Yikaalo Program (WYP), Eritrea’s strategy for development were labeled “slavery” and said the youth were denied “freedom to leave” their country. Eritrea’s cultures, values and principles on self-respect, self-reliance and dignity were obsessively maligned and undermined. Eritrea’s rich and long established religious institutions were presented as being “backward” and adherents, especially the youth, were encouraged to embrace “modernity”, represented by global projects such as the “Joshua Project”. Eritrea was targeted by the global proliferation of new religious movements and “evangelical Christianity”.
Reports were produced by westerners to enable their “understanding of transnational processes of Eritrea and the Eritrean diaspora”. Through various publications in academic institutions and think tanks, Eritrea’s gallant history and those who sacrificed life and limb to liberate Eritrea, as well as those working to rebuild their war torn nation, were maligned and denigrated, and their incredible achievements undermined. Eritrea’s youth paid the heaviest price; lured to “greener pastures”, they instead found themselves in hostile environments. Some wasted their youthful years in squalid refugee camps, and others in Europe’s migrant camps and detention centers, and many in underground nuclear bunkers separated from the population. Suffering at the hands of human traffickers, some served as helpless pawns for political agendas, but sadly thousands perished trying to reach the promise of Europe…
Eritrean identity, history and cultures as well as it’s tried and tested value systems were targeted and undermined. Suffice it to present a few phrases from the volumes produced over the last 15 years by those peddling anti-Eritreanism in the West:
- “….In summer 2002 the government announced the so-called Warsay Yikealo Development Campaign [WYDC]. The younger generation is referred to as warsay, meaning „inheritor‟ or “follower”. While yikealo denotes a wise elderly person, a term the government uses explicitly for the fighter generation. The younger generation is supposed to follow in the footsteps of the former fighters by internalizing and practicing the values of self-sacrifice, hard work and dedication to the Eritrean nation in the form of unlimited and unpaid service…”– (Nicole Hirt)
- “…the Warsay Yikealo Development Campaign is an attempt to contest the cultural spaces of the various social groups by superimposing the ideology of the armed struggle on the young generation. It is forbidden to practice one’s religion in the military service, and the rich variety of language and culture is merged into a superficial performance of cultural dances presented during state holidays, which cannot cover the predominance of Tigrinya language and culture which dominates life in the national service, reflecting the power structure within the ruling elites within the government and military…”-(Nicole Hirt)
- “…It has rightly been observed that even before 2001 Sawa, the national military training centre in a remote location in the western lowlands, received considerably more attention and investment than the UoA, Eritrea’s only institution of higher education…”-(Tanya Muller)
- “…Although it seems that loyalty to the Eritrean national identity has not diminished, Eritrean citizenship has lost much of its appeal […], especially among young people that are about to serve their compulsory military service. Therefore, national identity could start to fray…”-(Alexandra Dias)
- “…The leadership’s “insistence on pursuing their ideology of “self-reliance” may thus turn out to be at best counter-productive, and at worst disastrous. The government simply cannot afford to scare away donors, NGOs, and UN agencies (not to mention foreign investors) by adhering to a nationalist narrative based on “stubbornness”…(Christian Bundegaard, 2004)
- “…most of the population will have no personal memory of the struggle at all, and calls by members of the ruling party to remember their heroic contribution will simply fall on uncomprehending ears. In some cases, as with the national service scheme in Eritrea, deliberate efforts were made by the ruling party to inculcate into rising generations the values of struggle, discipline and dedication to the cause that had driven their predecessors, but – try as one may – the post-liberation situation is so different that this objective is almost impossible to achieve…”-(Christopher Clapham)
- “…Eritreanism . . . was essentially the negation of Ethiopianism rather than a historically rooted supra-tribal, supra-linguistic, and supra-religious sense of Eritrean affiliation…”-(Attributed to HAGGAI ERLICH, THE STRUGGLE OVER ERITREA, 1962-1978: WAR AND REVOLUTION IN THE HORN OF AFRICA-1983)
- “…Although it seems that loyalty to the Eritrean national identity has not diminished, Eritrean citizenship has lost much of its appeal […], especially among young people that are about to serve their compulsory military service. Therefore, national identity could start to fray…”-Alexandra Dias Secesionismo en África (Barcelona, Edicions Bellaterra)
- “…Eritrean nationalism does not typically appeal to a deeply-rooted historical identity, but begins with Italian colonialism and stresses the development, through several stages, of a new identity based on common experience…”-John Sorenson
- Etc. etc.
With the exception of the few who entered Eritrea to conduct “research”, majority of the individuals who have been producing “thesis”, reports, books etc. on Eritrea its people have never been there. Those who have been to Eritrea have returned surprised-what they were being told about Eritrea just didn’t jive with the reality on the ground. It was also teh same with those who were convinced to leave Eritrea, abscond at international sport forums, refuse to return after being sent for higher education and training. They too soon discovered that the grass was not greener on the other side.
Eritreans have responded to the farfetched defamatory articles for the last 16 years, but those who profess to believe in freedom of expression are not interested in listening to other voices. They are not interested in publishing articles or commentary that is not in line with the agreed upon narrative on Eritrea.
Ruby Sandhu in an excellent account of the western media’s attitude towards Eritrea in, “The distorted narrative, media war and Eritrea’s culture of silence”, says she had to:
“…resort to publishing this piece and inquiry as a blog as no paper entertains any perspective other than the sensationalised unhealthy narrative maintained as against Eritrea.”
Early diagnosis and treatment through education and sensitization can help reduce the spread of Erifluenza, but like any other chronic disease, prevention is always better than cure. Prevention should start at an early age. Educating Eritrean children about their history, cultures and customs is key. For non-Eritreans, the key is sustained engagement. Eritrea says “Come and See”, as seeing is believing and may go a long way in reversing the damage done by initial contact with the Erifluenza carriers.
There are no known prescription antiviral drugs that can ease symptoms of Erifluenza, which include insomnia, restlessness, frothing, cutting of the nose to spite own face, and committing high crimes, such as treason. In most cases, however, the simplest home remedy needed for relief of mild to moderate Erifluenza is a heavy dose of the truth. The EQL’s froth filled cyber-rants weaken when dowsed with the only known antidote-the truth. A bitter pill to swallow at first, but the truth, once absorbed by the ailing, has been known to provide enormous, and immediate relief, especially for the newly infected. Cure for EriFluenza is readily available and the “virus” is quickly inactivated, no matter the strain, by simply accepting the truth-or the reality in Eritrea.
On 24 May 2016, Eritreans will be celebrating the 25th Independence Anniversary of Eritrea under the theme “Quarter Century of Resilience and Development”- a fitting theme considering the decades long struggle against anti-Eritreanism and the spread of Erifluenza.
Once again, against all odds, the people of Eritrea have achieved much in the last 25 years, and have emerged with their dignity and pride intact.