The Call of the Wild President

Radio Erena: 26 May 2022

One more time in this year’s Independence-Day keynote address by president Isias Afwerki, the Eritreans were forced to listen to the boy who cried the wolf. This year’s address went through Afwerki’s favorite, and, ad nausea repeated theme: the external conspiracy and the steadfastness of the nation under the banners of his inspiring leadership. A few hours before his annual address Eritreans were divided into two groups: the ones with good guesses; and the others who didn’t care about what he said in his verbose lectures.

As usual, the address went back in time to 1941, when an international conspiracy deprived Eritreans of their legitimate right to self-determination. Eritrean peoples’ History and struggle had said it all; but the incessant reminders serve as a wakeup call: All to arms, the fatherland is under attack; and make no mistake about it, I am the Moses of this nation.

It is a constant theme with the same recurrent plot. The external forces aided internally by the fifth column in the past and the present are playing and replaying their “sinister disputes and conflicts and sanctions” to bring us to our knees. Against that lies the national saga of heroic resistance and national steadfastness. Such narrative is ceaselessly retold as a last resort to cling to power. The newer part, which goes side by side with the current international situation is the unashamed flirtatious messages sent to Russia and China.

Condemning the US administration’s schemes of trying to contain Russia and cripple China in the aftermath of the cold war, the president called for an essential restructuring of the crooked unipolar world order, in a discreet apology for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which the Eritrean government explicitly endorsed along with Iran and North Korea.

It is an undeniable fact that the existing world order is light- years away from being ideal or just, the division in wealth, prosperity, and stability between the North and South is one blatant example. But what credentials does the desperate President has to remedy the existing ailing world order?

Charity Begins Outdoor

In his bore calls for healing the world, the do-good president turns his eyes away from the situation inside the country, a situation that is, for him and his supporters, intentionally created by the enemies to ruin the nation. Thus runs the narrative.

In this case, the president is immensely deceived by his long-forsaken revolutionary past, which makes him fancy himself as a world savior. To uplift Atlas’s burden, he stands on the wrong platform as he believes that charity might begin outdoor as well.

In his last TV interview, he admitted at pointblank that his government has achieved literally ‘nothing.’ He gave the fisheries sector as an example. According to him, Eritrea with its long and abundantly rich seabed and the coast should have exported 120,000 tons of fish to the world markets. It only managed to export 10,000 tons instead. Moreover, the plans to build several boatyards for artisanal and industrial fishing failed. He then moved to industry, energy, and water and counted in detail the failures of his government in each sector respectively. Bearing in mind that he is the sole decision maker in the land, these are all to be personal failures. Such problems are the tip of the iceberg as the absence of the rule of law lurks beneath the murky sea water. Three decades under his ruthless dictatorship, the aspiration and ambitions of Eritreans have hit new and lower bottoms.

Eritreans today wish for a normal life like in other African countries. Distressingly, countries like Southern Sudan, and RDC with all the miseries of civil strife are considered by Eritreans as dreamlands. How did that come about? Simply because of the lack of basic freedoms, ban on doing business, and the repeated vicious cycles of wars, which forced all able-bodied Eritreans to carry arms and live in a permanent state of standby. Eritreans have ended up envying other fellow Africans, who live in dire situations of the polluted air they breathe in their countries. No wonder, Eritrea under Afwerki resembles Rome under Diocletian, the emperor who forced businesspeople to keep to their profession to lower prices. Those who resisted the corrupt emperor met their death, similar cruelties take place in Eritrea today.

Daggers As Tools of Regional Cooperation

The address didn’t spare Africans the good advice of the sagacious leader. “African nations” he confidently said, “need to forge regional and sub-regional institutions above and beyond the protection of their independence and sovereignty.” For him, this is “not a choice but a necessity.” Nothing is farther from the truth than this hollow appeal. Thirty-one years after independence Eritrea has no government institutions, and for two decades it is suffocating under deadly self-imposed isolation.

Externally, Eritrea doesn’t take part in the meetings of the IGAD. It literally has bad relations with Djibouti. Khartoum, on the other hand, is always doubtful of Asmara and its sinister role in the East Sudan crisis. Finally, Afwerki drove his forces into northern Ethiopia to be met with international outcry because of the atrocities committed in participation with the Federal Ethiopian army and Amhara militias. Laid traps and perfidious daggers are Asmara’s tools of regional cooperation. President Afwerki himself hasn’t visited more than four regional capitals, repeatedly, in the past ten years.

Hollow Words and Deaf Ears

To know how Eritreans weigh the words of their president to his actions, let us quote his recipe for a safer and sounder world: “The stability and prosperity of the peoples of the world (sic) can only be anchored on a viable global order in which the independence and sovereignty of nations and peoples are not breached; international laws respected.”

These words could have rung truer and more sincere had the caller erected the rule of law inside his own country rather than calling for it internationally.

By Fathi Osman