Well Unto 2020

Radio Erena: 02 January 2020

Just as a seed planted in the last days of the year sees its yield in the light of the new year, so shall the after-effects of events from this last year be revealed. In this article, we shall follow some events related to Eritrea and conjecture their would-be outcome.

Eritrea´s events in December are telling. I shall discuss three events here: sports, national resistance, and politics. All over the world, football is very popular. Eritrea is no exception. On 22 December, seven players of the Eritrean National Team participating in CECAFA (Council for East and Central Africa Football Associations) Senior Challenge Championship, which took place in Uganda, decided to remain behind and not return with the team to Asmara. The Eritrean team lost the final match against the host Uganda 3/0. For the Eritrean officials who accompanied the team, it was not the loss that tasted bitter, but rather the decision of the seven players to remain behind. One of the players is Abel Ogbay, who was chosen as one of the best players in the tournament. In October, Eritrea ranked third in the CECAFA championship for the under-twenty division, U-20. This championship also took place in Uganda where five Eritrean players, likewise, remained behind refusing to return to Asmara.

In 2015, in Botswana, during a football tournament where half of the team players decided to remain behind, Eritrea suspended its participation in all international sports activities. The eyes of the youth inside and outside the country are fixed on these sports celebrities. Their repeated flights became a landmark of Eritrean sports life. This is completely justified, as these young men cannot leave the country voluntarily. Therefore, they take the chance to defect whenever they travel abroad to represent the nation. Eritreans understand and sympathize with these sportsmen who decide not to return to a country that has turned into a giant prison. Affected by the repeated escape of its players, the Eritrean teams will not be able to take part in international competitions in 2020. Sportsmen today set an example for the upcoming generation. In Eritrea´s case, they give lessons in resistance and defiance.

Geneva will be our next stop. Members of Enough Movement “Yakil” met in Geneva on 21 December to discuss the outcome of two previous meetings. The meeting confirmed the need for a popular effort to establish the rule of law in Eritrea and the means to rejuvenate democracy. “Yakil” is taking the lead against the dictatorship inside and outside the country. Its activities are globally spread. In August, tens of its members gathered in Canada to promote resistance. Moreover, a “Yakil” demonstration in Dallas, Texas drew the attention of the Eritrean diaspora. In a meeting held by the Minister of Justice Mrs. Fawzia Hashim, in the same city, many of the Movement’s members posed highly embarrassing questions about administering justice to prisoners in Eritrea. The Minister’s answers were disappointing. Consequently, demonstrations followed, and Yakil participated in a head-on crash with one of the longest-serving ministers in the Eritrean government.

Inside Eritrea, Yakil has started posting anti-government posters in order to raise people´s consciousness of the fact that it is still possible to resist the state of fear in the country. With the unprecedented enthusiasm with which Yakil is marching, it is hoped that next year will be decisive.

Finally, during President Isaias Afwerki’s visit to the United Arab Emirates, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abu Dhabi hailed relations between the two countries saying that it had made giant steps under the wise leadership of the two countries. It noted that the Emiratis do not need a visa to visit Eritrea. Additionally, they are investing in trade and tourism. President Isaias´s visit to Abu Dhabi was on Christmas day, after the fiery press release of the Eritrean Ministry of Information against Qatar. Eritrea has replaced Doha with Abu Dhabi and is now benefiting financially from that relationship in a ¨service- for- hire¨ style. Eritreans do not know about their government´s secret agreements with Abu Dhabi which has given the U.A.E a free hand in the southern Assab port.

This recent visit has much to do with preparations underway for a proxy war in Libya. There, the U.A.E and Egypt, with help from their allies, will wage a war against Turkey and Qatar. The question is, what will Eritrea give as a present to its wealthy allies? Once more, the answer will be more regional troubles for Asmara in 2020.

Despite all gloom and doom, we hope that this year brings with it good tidings that rid the Eritrean athletes of defecting during sports competitions, success in bringing about democratic change, and finally, respectful relations with both wealthy and poor neighboring countries.

By Fathi Osman