Medeshi April 15, 2009
Isayas Turned Eritrea Into
A Land of Refugees and IDPs
By Sami Mehari
Why do people leave home only to be subjected to the hardship, humiliation and indignity that uprooted refugees face in new and strange environments? Why did our country lose as refugees a quarter of its population during the long years of our liberation struggle? And why is Eritrea still producing refugees? Why do we keep hearing the horrifying news of our youth dying in the deserts and the high seas while fleeing from home that has become none-home to the majority? Why so many freshly arriving Eritrean refugees to destinations in the neighbourhood and beyond - Libya, Malta, Italy, to mention only a few.
Life has become so cheap in Eritrea that we don’t even take count of how many of our compatriots had died this year only while crossing the border to the Sudan and Ethiopia, or while hiding in the Sudan; while crossing the desert or navigating the high seas in small crowded boats. In a letter addressed to the Eritrea Festival in Kassel this year, representatives of 1,600 newly arrived refugees in Italy informed us that 20 youth died while crossing the desert, three of them committed suicide in Libya and that thousands of our fleeing youth are in the worst danger one can imagine. The 500 or so refugees in Malta also have their own dreadful stories to narrate. The plight of new refugees being created by the so-called ‘Eritrean government’ of PFDJ is startlingly as bad as the fate of Eritrean refugees produced by the Ethiopian regimes of Haile Selassie and Mengistu Hailemariam.
The reasons that cause refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) always remained to be the same; the basic one’s are the following:
Political persecution: During the Ethiopian occupation of the country, Eritreans left home, first in small trickles and later in big numbers, because the Ethiopian security agents made peaceful and secure life impossible to obtain at home. The same situation has revisited Eritrea since its liberation from the Ethiopian occupation in 1991. All of us by now know that Isayas the ‘liberator’ and his cronies have turned Eritrea into a land of fear, insecurity and death. The tragedy started to unfold after the entire people were systematically reduced into wretched and voiceless subjects without rights and the minimize energy to resist.
Armed conflicts: In the old days, our people fled home and became refugees while trying to escape forced conscription by the Ethiopians. They left home after the country was devastated by blind bombardments of the towns and the country and mass killings. However, our people thought that armed conflicts would end with the liberation. How wrong they were. Conflicts increased after liberation thanks to the blind militarist mentality and inhumane policies of the person called Isayas who always which showed that he has little respect and care for human lives and values. The Eritrean people are today disgusted with meaningless forced conscriptions and armed conflicts with neighbours and other Eritreans who have been denied the return to ‘a liberated home’. Many more Eritreans will continue the exodus and try to find save haven abroad until the country is once again liberated – liberated from the clutches of the PFDJ regime and its leader.
Man-made Economic hardships: In the past, the Ethiopians strangulated the economy of our people through many means, including policies designed to systematically break the backbone of our nation. They burned crops and machine-gunned the livestock. The Ethiopians were, naturally, interested only to continue ruling the country by military might and they had no economic strategies to benefit the people who were pauperized to the extremities of human poverty. Many Eritreans also had to flee the country when they knew that the only choice was either to starve to death in one’s village or cross the border and try to live for another day. Poor Eritrea is under the same situation today. Through his wrong economic policies since liberation, his senseless military adventures, his suffocation and silencing of other viewpoints and voices, his virtual imprisonment of about 250,000 of the most productive youth of the country at war trenches and military training camps like the infamous Sawa, Isayas Afeworki has impoverished our people who can be counted only as IDPs inside the country or those their foot out of the country looking for a refuge abroad.
The one-man regime of Isayas Afeworki has turned us into a nation of refugees and IDPs. Short examples can be given to illustrate the point.
· Starting from Day One of our liberation, Isayas Afeworki decided to keep at bay a large chunk of our people by banning and discouraging the return of all the opposition organizations and their members. He made refugees out of the heroes of the liberation struggle, including the heroic members of the Eritrean Liberation Army (ELA) and other patriots.
· For the entire period between 1991 and 2001, Isayas callously ignored, and in effect opposed, the return of our 500,000 or so refugees in the Sudan.
· No one but Isayas bears the sole responsibility for being the cause for the expulsion from Ethiopia of 70,000 Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin, leaving behind them all the fruits of their life-time labour to become wretched IDPs in Eritrea.
· No one but Isayas is the cause for the senseless war with Ethiopia and the displacement of over a million Eritreans during that madness which claimed the lives of tens of thousands of our youth.
In short, Isayas Afeworki is the cause of suffering of our Nation which he reduced to the status of IDPs and refugees.
Shouldn’t we refuse to remain refugees and IDPs? Eritrea must stop being referred as the land of refugees and IDPs. We must stop producing refugees and IDPs. To do that, we must remove the producer of refugees and IDPs.
b) Spelling out the specific tasks of the Preparatory Committee;
c) Convening the National Conference of the opposition forces within a specified period of time.
d) The National Conference (Hagerawi Wa’ala) shall represent all political trends, social institutions including religious establishments, civic societies, national figures and intellectuals and discuss a national agenda.
This plan of action is being actively pursued by the ELF-RC in conjunction with the Alliance and the newly emerging civic societies of the Eritrean Diaspora. NOTE: The only force that has been dragging its feet on this plan of action is, to my observation, the EPLF-DP of Mesfin Hagos. Why??? This is one of the questions posed by our Eritrea of today. The answer must be provided to our people by Mesfin Hagos and his DP.