- A Houthi Shiite rebel carries his weapon as he joins others to protest against Saudi-led airstrikes at a rally in Sanaa, Yemen on 1 April 2015 (Photo: AP/Hani Mohamed)
Thursday, September 22, 2016
By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
September 21, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) – An Eritrean opposition group, Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization (RSADO) on Wednesday said that Yemen’s Houthi group have attacked the international Airport of Assab, a port city in the Southern Red Sea Region of Eritrea.
Ibrahim Haron, leader of the armed opposition group told Sudan Tribune that Houthi forces stationed in the island of Hanish and Zagar have also attacked the headquarters of the Eritrean naval forces in Assab by firing mortar rockets thereby causing a serious damage.
The attack comes days after reports disclosed that Saudi Arabia has transferred some 5,000 Yemeni militants to Eritrea for military exercise in the Red Sea country.
According to the reports, Riyadh is transferring the militants from Aden to Eritrea’s Assab port to go under military trainings and then be sent to the Saudi provinces bordering Yemen to back the Saudi led war in Yemen.
The Eritrean government has dismissed the reports saying “a preposterous lie peddled for some ulterior motives”
The opposition leader said Eritrean authorities have imposed a tight security cordon in the areas following Monday’s attack.
Ibrahim said Eritrea government motive to cooperate with the Saudi-led coalition is because Asmara has a long standing border dispute with Yemen.
The countries had previously engaged in a bitter war with Yemen over the disputed Islands of Hanish and Zagar.
In 1998, the international Tribunal of the international Committee ruled the islands in favour of Yemen; Eritrea however refused to accept the ruling.
He added that Eritrea had been serving as a base for military training for anti-Yemen groups in order to create destabilization and instability in Yemen and in the region at large.
“When the situation in Yemen changed and appeared new events and the emergence of coalition forces, Eritrea favoured the Arab coalition to ensure financial, political and military gains” Ibrahim told Sudan Tribune by telephone from the Eritrean-Ethiopian common border.
ERITREAN PILOT DEFECTS
Meanwhile the Eritrean opposition group today alleged that an Eritrean Air force pilot has defected to Saudi Arabia by flying a military Aircraft.
According to opposition officials, the Eritrean pilot defected on Tuesday along with his two aides becoming the latest members of the Eritrean Air force to defect from the reclusive east African Sea nation.
The Captain pilot and two of his aides flew to Jizan region in south of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The defectors have asked for political asylum but it is not yet clear if the kingdom has grant them an asylum.
Ibrahim said the latest defection is a big blow to President Isaias Afeworki led regime.
He says it is an apparent sign of growing discontent of the air force personnel and the military against the oppressive region.
In previous years, there have been defections in thousands from the Eritrean army, navy and air forces as the regime retains grip on power for over two-decades.
President Isaias has been in power since the country gained independence from Ethiopia in 1993.
Friday, August 5, 2016
Written by Abraham T. Zere
A few months ago an Eritrean acquaintance called me to discuss an article he wanted to write for PEN Eritrea’s website. He had worked as a journalist in Eritrea, where we’re both from, before fleeing the country nearly ten years ago.
He had recently spoken out (under a pen name) about his former colleagues who were languishing incommunicado in detention centers in Eritrea, a story that was then covered by various media including The Guardian, in partnership with our organization.
Before I could congratulate him on this, he began discussing safe ways to send the article. He said he wanted to write the article anonymously. He lives in the United States under a grant of political asylum.
I gave him both my email address and an official email address for article submission. “But email is not safe,” he replied. “Eritrean security can crack it.” He explained that he wanted to avoid imperiling family members back home.
I countered that it was unlikely that Eritrean security would bother to hack the email accounts of two relatively unimportant Eritreans living in the US. This is an unfounded fear that exaggerates the reach of Eritrean security, I said. I explained that PEN Eritrea is trying to fight such inherent fear and discourages authors from writing anonymously or under pen names unless the person is at great risk, say from inside the country. It is our policy to request that all contributors to take full responsibility for what they write. We also require contributors’ email addresses to be included for publication.
My colleague is not alone. His is a pervasive fear that has been inculcated among many Eritreans. They have experienced one of the world’s most repressive dictatorships, a place where the populace is subject to mass surveillance. Once they flee the country, it can take years for expatriate Eritreans to fully comprehend what was happening to them. Many live under extreme paranoia, suspecting conspiracies around every corner.
I frequently encounter Eritreans living safely in the West, with political asylum, who feel they can’t even “like” social-media posts that are critical of the regime back home. Instead they prefer privately writing or calling the individual whose post they wanted to react to. They fear the regime is tapping everyone’s social media account.
And their fears aren’t entirely unfounded. It is public knowledge that the prime job of Eritrean consular offices and their surrogates throughout the diaspora has been reduced to watching who’s associating with whom, in order to report when somebody with “incorrect” associations returns to Eritrea. This practice has imperiled many Eritreans when they went home to visit family members. As Tricia Redeker Hepner discusses in her book “Soldiers, Martyrs, Traitors, and Exiles: Political Conflict in Eritrea and the Diaspora” (2009) the trend also extends to audio recording by their compatriots via hidden devices to report to the state security back home.
This innate fear has been cultivated by the ruling elites’ longstanding tradition of ignoring the rule of law and behaving irrationally and unpredictably. At any point, a torturer might turn into the victim. The steady flow of arbitrary arrests and intimidation of journalists, in particular, and the populace in general, has resulted in a total disregard for rule of law. Such incidents, as common as they are, erode the confidence of the people to the point where they can’t trust any government institution. This tradition has also fostered an inherent culture of fear and mistrust among citizens.
This culture of paranoia has created the impression, among many, that the Asmara regime has the power to spy on every Eritrean in any corner of the world. The regime has successfully portrayed itself as omnipresent—which is fundamental to its survival.
These dynamics are compounded by a lack of credible information coming out of the country, which has also played a major role in cultivating mistrust and fear. Alongside the regime’s long tradition of severely punishing state and independent journalists—the last accredited international correspondent was expelled in 2007— there is no independent source to confirm the veracity of any information.
When seven of the country’s private newspapers were banned in 2001 amid a political crackdown, 12 journalists were taken into custody. This swift action was followed by the raid and ban of the educational Radio Bana in February 2009, and the jailing of about 50 journalists and staff members. These assaults on both state and independent media have crippled free flow and exchange of information. News sources today are limited to the state media’s monotonous propaganda organs, which make nationals wary of any information coming through the official line.
The Eritrean state media, which was mostly institutionalized under the longest-serving propaganda minister, Ali Abdu (who later fled the country), is characterized by a lack of accountability and a habit of character assassination. The Ministry has absolute power to put down anyone they perceive as having even slight differences of opinion, or for really any reason at all.
Many Eritrean citizens became victims of character assassination in the national media under Abdu and his “hit team.” Public figures such as artists, political leaders and athletes were typical prime targets. Naturally, these attacks were published under pen names, although it was not difficult to know who was the mastermind behind the curtain.
This tradition of character assassination and using pen names to attack anyone who expresses a contrary or different opinion has been adopted by Eritrean social and mass media in the diaspora, both pro- and anti-regime. Fake accounts and pen names are common, making it nearly impossible to tell who is who. Not surprisingly, pro-regime attacks have the effect of silencing many critics who fear the consequences of speaking against their country’s government.
On one side, there are there regime loyalists who vigilantly troll on social media with fake Facebook accounts and Twitter handles. Characteristically, these regime cheerleaders will use Eritrean flag or an emblem of that sort as their profile images, and will use account names such as “Eritrea Never Kneel Down,” “Hands Off Eritrea,” or “Eritrea Not for Resale.”
Dissident voices are mercilessly countered by anonymous users. This normally involves intimidation and in some cases extends even to death threats.
The opposition camp is not immune from such practices either. Many regime opponents employ similarly abusive language and fabricate information to destroy people on the other side.
The tradition of anonymity and character assassination is manifested in independent websites as well. It’s common among Eritrean independent media to use pen names todestroy someone in the opposite camp. Or else—in the name of freedom of expression—individuals will combine abusive language with an absence of facts and often get away with it.
In this extremely polarized political environment, most topics are reduced to simplistic, back-and-forth arguments between “opposition” and “pro-regime.” And predictably, many websites on both sides continue to publish anonymous articles to avoid accountability. These practices erode credibility and cultivate a tradition where it is nearly becoming impossible to discern reality from made-up facts. In the end, these interdependent practices only serve to damage collective intellects, leaving institutions in tatters and prolonging the life of the dictatorship.
Abraham T. Zere is the executive director of PEN Eritrea in exile.
Monday, July 25, 2016
By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
July 22, 2016 (ADDIS ABABA) – An Ethiopian armed opposition group, Afar People’s Party has returned home abandoning an arms struggle in pursuit of peace.
- Ethiopian soldiers (AFP)
The leader of the opposition group Alo Aydahis and some 400 of its fighters laid down their arms and returned home after years of exile in arch- foe Eritrea.
The group on Thursday said it has favoured to engage in peace full struggle than the armed one.
The opposition movement according to the leader, Alo Aydahis, abandoned the armed struggle after it negotiated with the Ethiopian government.
Alo said the group has agreed to act in accordance with the law of the country.
Chief administrator of Afar regional state Haji Siyum Awel said the people and the government the Afar regional state have welcomed the group.
Sudan Tribune was told that the group had been serving the regime in Asmara to accomplish anti-Ethiopian missions and to further carry out attacks to destabilize the horn of Africa’s nation.
It is not yet clear what has prompted the Afar rebel group to abandon the struggle and flee to its home country.
However their move comes nearly a year after another rebel group, The Tigray People’s Democratic Movement (TPDM) similarly returned home from Eritrea.
The leader of TPDM (Demhit), Mola Asgedom, and 800 of its fighters fought their way out of Eritrea in September last year after Eritrean Army attempted to stop the fighters leaving.
They fought their way with three Eritrean brigades.
But they managed to arrive the Sudanese border town of Hamdait overpowering the Eritrean army.
Once in Sudan, they were then assisted by the Sudanese Armed Forces and the government of Khartoum to cross borders to Ethiopia.
Some Ethiopian politicians believe that the formation of the new Ethiopia opposition coalition might have prompted to abandon the armed struggle.
Last year, TPDM and three other Eritrea based Ethiopian opposition groups including a terrorist designated opposition movement Ginbot 7 formed a coalition known as United Front for Salvation of Ethiopia.
The groups say they were merged to launch a new armed struggle against the Ethiopian government.
But some Ethiopian politicians say their alliance intends to organize anti-Ethiopia conspiracy and to further stage other destructive missions in collaboration with Asmara.
A previous UN report said Ethiopian opposition group inside Eritrea have dual function - as armed opposition group and as a protectors of the President Isaias Afwerki’s regime.
Eritrea gained independence from Ethiopia in 1991 after a 30-year war.
Relations between the two rival neighbours remain at odds since the two neighbours engaged in a deadly two-year long border war which ended in 2000.
Ethiopia and Eritrea routinely trade accusations of backing rebels trying to destabilize and topple the other’s government.