Monday, August 26, 2013

Eritrean aid group calls for probe into massacre of navy members - Sudan Tribune: Plural news and views on Sudan

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
August 25, 2013 (ADDIS ABABA) - An Eritrean relief association in exile has called on the international community to immediately intervene in the recent mass murders of Eritrean navy members.
Based in Ethiopia, the Red Sea Afar Relief Association (RSARA) accused the international community of turning blind eye to the atrocities committed by the Eritrean government against ethnic Afar minorities.
Some 108 Afar members of the Eritrean navy were massacred this month by the country’s border security guards along the Yemen coastline as they attempted to escape.
The navy officers were fleeing the dictatorial Asmara regime’s harsh military policies, which include forced conscription and indefinite service.
At a meeting held in Addis Ababa on Sunday, the RSARA called on the international community to condemn the massacre and press for an immediate investigation into the slayings.
“RSARA takes this opportunity to appeal on the international community at large and [the] international donor community to accuse the ongoing atrocities against the Red Sea Afar”, RSARA said.
Eritrean opposition group, Red Sea Afar Democratic Organisation (RSADO) has described the killings as a “brutal genocide”.
It provided Sudan Tribune name with the names 30 ethnic Afar navy members alleged to have been killed by security forces recently.
The victims’ bodies were reportedly found along the Red Sea coast in the areas of Galalo, Marsa, Fatuma, Harena and Pori.
RSARA was established in Ethiopia one-and-a-half years ago to provide moral support and humanitarian assistance to Eritrean Afar refugees being sheltered at three camps in Ethiopia’s Afar region, close to the Eritrean border.
The association is currently operating in collaboration with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) with Ethiopia’s Administration for Refugees and Returnees Affairs (ARRA), as well as number of international NGOs providing support through the regional Afar Pastoralist Development Association (APDA).
“We further appeal to support the existing efforts being made by RSARA in addressing the humanitarian suffering”, RSARA added.
ATROCITIES IGNORED
RSADO opposition leader Ibrahim Haron accused the international community of ignoring the atrocities committed against the Afar people.
“We held the meeting to send a message to the world that the ethnic cleansing policy against Afars has continued”, Haron told Sudan Tribune adding more serious steps needed to be taken in addressing the issue.
Opposition officials say Afar people living in Eritrea, also known as Red Sea Afars, are routinely subjected to neglect, discrimination, repression, displacement, and in recent years to a campaign of ethnic cleansing particularly after the 1998-2000 border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea.
With the border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea as yet unresolved, relations between the two countries remains tense.
The Eritrean government suspects its own Afar people of aligning themselves with their fellow Ethiopian Afars.
Opposition officials allege that hundreds of Afars were killed by Eritrean government on suspicion they were spying for Ethiopia.
The Afar are an indigenous pastoralist nomadic people inhabiting a triangular region spanning Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti. Most continue their traditional way of life and are engaged in animal husbandry, fishing, trade and salt mining.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Eritrea: the good, the bad and the very ugly | GlobalPost

In some countries, wanting to broadcast the constitution on the media might be considered a routine exercise.
Not in Eritrea, where some 55 soldiers who took over the information ministry for a day in January to demand the implementation of the 1997 constitution and basic human rights were jailed in a swathe of arrests.
It was one of the most dramatic challenges to the rule of strongman Issaias Afeworki -- a former rebel chief and un-elected president since winning independence in 1991 from Ethiopia -- the tightly-controlled Horn of Africa nation has witnessed.
However, Asemelash Abraha, head of television at the information ministry, the only official source of news for the country, is keen to downplay an event he dismisses as "hype".
"There was nothing," Asemelash told AFP in his office in that same information ministry, site of an Italian colonial-era hilltop fort overlooking the highland capital Asmara.
Multiple reports say it was Asemelash as station director who was forced to read out the soldiers' demands including the release of political prisoners, but the signal to the nation was cut after barely two sentences.
Asemelash however denies ever reading demands, and says that none were broadcast.
"Misguided elements here and there maybe tried to voice, I don't know, their private opinions," he said, adding that the soldiers remain in jail, except one who committed suicide.
Positive government rhetoric is in stark contrast to reports from exiled opposition and rights groups, who point to the brutal torture and jailing of critics, with national efforts focused at the creation of one of the world's most militarised nations, not towards development.
Many Eritreans sipping a macchiato in Asmara's cafés say they are too scared to speak freely.
"You can't talk, you can't write, you can't do anything, there is no freedom," said a driver who did not want to provide his name. "We are an egg, it is closed."
Elections have never been held, while Eritrea's hardline government restricts journalists -- after the government shut down independent media in 2001 -- with Reporters Without Borders ranking Asmara the worst in the world for press freedom.
Asemelash's former superior Ali Abdu -- once one of the president's most trusted supporters and, as information minister, perhaps once the most vocal supporter of the regime -- last year joined tens of thousands of fellow Eritreans who have fled into exile.
Again, officials are swift to play down his shock departure.
"It's immaterial for us, we don't care, it's an institution... things keep running," Asemelash insisted.
-- Peace in a police state --
In the arid, yellowed countryside outside the capital, relics of past battles are everywhere, a sign of how far Eritrea has come from the long years of war.
Rusted tanks dot the landscape, interspersed with military memorials to martyrs killed in the three decades independence war from Ethiopia.
But signs of development are there too: smooth, paved roads lead out from the capital while small thatch hut villages are being fitted with electricity poles.
Despite remaining in an official limbo state of "no war, no peace" with Ethiopia following a return to war in 1998-2000, Asmara has achieved grudging respect for work to boost public health, including reducing child mortality and HIV rates, while improving maternal health.
Eritrea is one of only four African nations on track to reach the UN's Millennium Development Goal of cutting maternal mortality by 75 percent by 2015, while literacy rates are almost 90 percent, one of the highest in the region.
Since 1995, life expectancy has improved from 52.5 to 62 years, and gross national income has risen by 17 percent, according to the United Nations' human development index.
But in other respects, including the most basic of human rights, the isolated country struggles.
A policy of fierce self-reliance has stifled economic growth, with a gross national income of $430, one of the poorest globally, according to the World Bank.
Daily water and electricity shortages compound frustrations while basic goods such as bread and fuel are rationed, but the government says it is working hard to support its population of six million people.
"We have to create an opportunity for everyone for the basic needs," said Hagos Gebrehiwet, head of economic affairs for the only political party. "Every child should have a chance to go to school, learn, (access) health care, water."
In public, youths praise the government's education policy, where the final of year of schooling takes place in a desert military camp, followed by years of national service on meagre pay.
"I'm ready for anything that comes," said 18-year old Hermon Amanual, dressed in military fatigues after returning home after a year away, insisting she was ready to fight for her country.
Ethiopia still occupies land ruled by a UN-backed court as belonging to Eritrea, and the threat from the far larger and more powerful neighbour concerns many.
Asemelash says conscription will continue until Ethiopia leaves Eritrean soil, insisting again the threats are external, not internal.
"If we have threats, we have to defend the country," he said.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ethiopia After Post Meles Zenawi - by his puppet Hailemariam Desalegne

Eritrean authorities punish 39 Sawa students for Christian faith -

ASMARA, Eritrea — Eritrean authorities are punishing 39 high school students for their Christian faith, excluding them from a graduation ceremony, subjecting them to beatings and forcing them into labor camps. After completing a four-month military training required in Eritrea, the students, including 11 girls, have been arrested for their “Christian beliefs and for their commitment to Christ,” sources told Open Doors.
After completing school, all Eritreans are required to participate in national service. The 39 students were selected out from 17,000 students of the 26th national service intake who graduated July 13, according to Open Doors. Graduating students then continue to Senior Secondary School to complete grade 12.
Since 2002 worship outside the government-sanctioned Sunni Muslim, Eritrean Orthodox Church (EOC), Roman Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea has been forbidden, with Protestant worship a criminal offense. In 2005 authorities also began persecuting the EOC, particularly those in the church’s renewal movement.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Eritrean consulate in Toronto defied UN arms embargo with ‘illicit revenue collection’ for military: report | National Post

A plaque outside the door to the Consulate General of the State of Eritrea in Toronto, May 21, 2013.
Darren Calabrese/National PostA plaque outside the door to the Consulate General of the State of Eritrea in Toronto, May 21, 2013.
TORONTO — An investigation by United Nations monitors has found that the Eritrean consulate in Toronto was collecting money for the African country’s military as recently as January in violation of an arms embargo.
The consulate was part of an “international system of illicit revenue collection” run by Eritrea, ranked one of the world’s least developed and most repressive states, the UN monitors wrote in a recently-released report.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird expelled the Eritrean consul in May after a government investigation found he had been running a taxation scheme that coerced money for the country’s armed forces.
At the time, Eritrea denied any wrongdoing but UN investigators have now reached the same conclusion: that the consulate was part of a military fundraising scheme that used “coercive measures” against Eritreans living in Canada.
“We have seen the report of the Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group,” Mr. Baird’s press secretary, Rick Roth, said Friday. “There have been allegations that extortion, threats of violence and fraud are being used to collect the tax in some cases. … Canada has repeatedly made clear to Eritrea to respect international sanctions and Canadian law.”
The arms control monitors called on Canada and other countries with sizeable Eritrean populations to submit reports by the end of December detailing what they had done to stop Eritrea’s efforts to impose a 2% income tax and $300 “defence fee” on members of the diaspora.
Among the evidence cited in the report was a receipt issued by the consulate in Canada indicating that a Toronto man was required to make a $300 donation to the Eritrean military. Other documents show how money was wired from Canadian banks through Germany to the Eritrean ruling party.
Handout
HandoutThe Eritrean consulate headed by Semere Ghebremariam Micael was shut over its role in financing the repressive regime.
The investigators also said they had obtained an audio recording of a speech by Consul General Semere Ghebremariam Micael at Centre St-Louis in Winnipeg a month before he was expelled from Canada.
In the April 21 recording, he “mentioned the appointment of assistants and representatives of the consulate in Winnipeg for the express purpose of collecting taxation from Eritrean citizens in that city. Ghebremariam also informed the gathering that Eritrean citizens would be precluded from investing in Eritrea unless they paid the 2% tax.”
The UN Security Council imposed sanctions on Eritrea in 2009 because of its destabilizing role in the Somali conflict. The Eritrean military has provided training, weapons and money to armed factions such as Al-Shabab. The monitors said Eritrea continued to have “close links” to two leaders of Al Shabab.
The report recommended the adoption of a “due diligence framework” to prevent Eritrea’s mining revenues from being used to violate UN sanctions. A Vancouver company, Nevsun Resources Ltd., operates a gold and copper mine in Eritrea.
Ghezae Hagos, spokesman for the Eritrean-Canadian Human Rights Group of Manitoba, urged Ottawa to adopt the report’s mining recommendations, which call for a system similar to one set up in Liberia following concerns over conflict diamonds.
With little in the way of an economy, Eritrea is largely dependent on mining revenues and diaspora taxes. “Agents of the government have also raised significant revenues from the trafficking and abduction of refugees fleeing Eritrea,” the UN monitors wrote.
National Post

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Eritrean students tortured for following Christ - News with a Christian Perspective

ASMARA, Eritrea (BP) -- Eritrean authorities are punishing 39 high school students for their Christian faith, excluding them from a graduation ceremony and subjecting them to beatings and hard labor, according to Christian support organization Open Doors.

After completing a four-month military training required in Eritrea, the students, including 11 girls, have been arrested for their "Christian beliefs and for their commitment to Christ," sources told Open Doors.

"The youths are now enduring beating, forced hard labor and insufficient food and water" at the SAWA military training center, the organization reported in a press statement. "Sources said authorities are also threatening the students with long imprisonment and exclusion from university should they 'fail to renounce Christ.'"

After completing school, all Eritreans are required to participate in national service. The 39 students were selected from 17,000 students of the 26th national service intake who graduated July 13, according to Open Doors. Graduating students then continue to Senior Secondary School to complete grade 12.

Since 2002, worship outside the government-sanctioned Sunni Muslim, Eritrean Orthodox Church (EOC), Roman Catholic and Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea has been forbidden, with Protestant worship a criminal offense. In 2005, authorities also began persecuting the EOC, particularly those in the church's renewal movement.

The government began a widespread crackdown on Christians outside the state-approved churches early this year, according to Open Doors, detaining them in harsh conditions. Christians make up 47 percent of Eritrea's population of 5.2 million, and Muslims 50 percent, according to Operation World.

The Marxist-leaning architect of repression of religion and free speech in Eritrea, President Isaias Afewerki, has been in power since Eritrea gained its independence from Ethiopia in 1991; the National Assembly elected him as president in 1993.

"In 2001, in the wake of a two-year border war with Ethiopia (1998-2000), Afewerki began cracking down hard on anything that could be viewed as a threat to national unity," Elizabeth Kendal wrote in the Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin last fall. 

"He cancelled elections and closed all independent media. Opposition figures -- politicians, activists and journalists -- were removed, mostly to underground 'secret prisons' for the 'disappeared,'" Kendal wrote.

An estimated 3,000 mostly Protestant Christians were incarcerated for their faith by the end of 2010; that number fell to about 1,500 as of November, according to Kendal, and Open Doors estimates the figure is now about 1,200. The prisoners are held in shipping containers in desert camps, with some kept in underground cells, Kendal said.

"The conditions are inhumane: Children and the elderly are amongst the prisoners sharing skin diseases, dysentery and other horrors in confined, unventilated spaces," Kendal reported. "Torture is routine.... Several Christians have died in custody, and others have perished in the desert trying to escape."

The Eritrean military has reportedly made a business of Christian refugees, kidnapping them out of refugee camps in Sudan and selling them to traffickers in Egypt's Sinai. There they are sold to Bedouin gangs who ransom them for tens of thousands of dollars, electrocuting, raping, starving and murdering the Christians as they threaten their relatives.
--30--
This story first appeared at Morning Star News (www.MorningStarNews.org), an independent news service focusing on the persecution of Christians worldwide.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Eritrea massacred 80 Navy officers trying to escape to Ethiopia

Agents of the Eritrean National Security have massacred a group of Eritrean Navy members after accusing them of planning to escape on speed boats to neighboring Yemen, Ethiopia.

The  victims are all ethnic Afar minority and their burial ceremony was held on Friday.
The rebel official said the killings were a state-sponsored mass murder and politically motivated.
"The Navy and the brutal Eritrean government in particular are responsible for the mass murders", he said.
Citing to inside sources, Haron claimed that colonel Wedi Halima was the military official who ordered the mass killings.
Eritrean naval members several times fled in the past their country in groups to Yemen in protest to the regime’s worsening repression but the latest failed attempt saw the biggest in numbers of defecting army members.
The reclusive Red Sea nation considers any citizen who tries to flee as traitor constituting a punishment of a lengthy jail terms or death penalty.
The punishment severs if deserters are members of the Army.
"We call up on the international community to urgently intervene over the ethnic cleansing against innocent Eritrean Afars who are being slaughtered on daily bases by the dictatorial regime", he said.
The rebel official vow to carry out military actions in retaliation to the mass murders and called upon all other political organization to join struggle against regime in Asmara.
Eritrean ethnic Afars repeatedly allege of being subjected to persecution, imprisonment, torture or death by the Eritrean security service in accusation of having links with the rebel group in Ethiopia.