Thursday, September 1, 2011

After 20yrs of Independence, Why The Exodus of Eritrean Refugees?Part II

After 20yrs of Independence, Why The Exodus of Eritrean Refugees?Part II

Mr. Heavy

No Stress!

My other Eritrean mate is called Mr. Heavy (the heaviest guy amongst us for that matter). He's in his 30s, generous, easy going, down to earth, out-spoken and left Eritrea several years ago because he didn't like the government from the very beginning. He spent most of his life in Sudan and Arabian countries before he came to Europe. He has never seen or met his parents and siblings ever since he left Eritrea in 1997. Mr. Heavy is a well-read, knowledgeable guy, who seems to have a very different socio-poletical perspectives about his country as opposed to his average fellow compatriots. He hates the recent regime to death sometimes he even said he would rather be identified as Sudanese. He follows up the current affairs of his country every hour and looking forward for the demise of Afeworki's regime. He criticizes the government outspokenly unlike other Eritreans who're aloof or avoid speaking their minds about the problems and solutions to their country. Mr. Heavy said Eritreans were treated much more better than by the Dergue regime (Ethiopian Marxist dictator which ruled the country from 1974-1991) than their own and his solution is that Eritrea should follow footsteps of Ethiopia (ethnic federalism) to stop the oppression of minorities by highlander Tigrigna speakers. He believes that most Eritreans (mainly the highlanders) are in denial and always make excuses about the stalemate of the border conflict between Ethiopia & his country for the failings of their government. He blames highlander Eritreans as the main obstacle against the struggle to overthrow the regime by pointing out the withdrawal of two Eritrean opposition groups (he believes these groups represent the highlanders) from meeting which geared to set-up coalition of Eritrean oppositions groups in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in September 2010. Mr Heavy wonders why couldn't Eritrean people rise up against the current regime, if they revolted to free themselves from the oppression of two successive Ethiopian governments. Mr. Sawa and Mr. Heavy always argue about this subject but they never come to an agreement because the former thinks that every Eritrean family has lost one or more family member/s already during the 30year struggle for independence and/or the 1998-2000 Ethio-Eritrean war so it's too costly to involve themselves in any form of struggle be it non-violent &/or armed.

I believe Mr. Heavy's opinion is shared by many:most of them are in denial, some are confused, some are doing fine with the status qua (they and their loved ones are in safe-heavens elsewhere around the world), and the remaining like Ms Naqfa thinks that such struggle is showing humility and defeat to arch foe enemy-Ethiopia.

Mr. Smokey

Mr. Smokey is the youngest and the skinniest of the crowd who likes movies (stays up until 4-5 o'clock in the morning watching TV) and cigarettes. He speaks good English otherwise we wouldn't have communicated since neither of us speak each others language fluently.

He vividly remembered how people of his town tactfully being starved by the government-3 or 4 breads were/are rationed per family per day so that the people have to eat once in a day. Mr. Smokey himself used to order a tea and extra tea (which he didn't intend to drink) so that to take the accompanying breads home because the cafeterias were ordered not to sale breads separately. What broke his heart was that very clean and nicely clothed people were begging him for alms discreetly (begging is forbidden in Eritrea) on the streets of his native town. Mr. Smokey, told me he went to national service to northern part where he couldn't stay at that place, because a row was created over him between department heads of the two offices-which each wanted him to be their subservient assistant after graduating from Asmara University (which looks like a high school when I saw it on TV). He was happy because first and for most his monthly 'wage'-150 Naqfa (around 6 Euros) wasn't even enough for public transport, secondly most of the people working there didn't welcome him and were threatened since he was the only university graduate in their circle. Then he was transferred to a nearby village to serve at a small public library which was much better than the previous one because he was working with an Oxford graduate who was very critical of the government, independent and open-minded guy. However, after a while Mr. Smokey got fed up with the situation and lack of futurity so he went to Sudan and then came to Europe in 2010. One day we were having a chit-chat about the problems in our respective countries and he surprised me with this question, “Does America hates Eritrea?” I told him no but it doesn't love it either. He asked me then “why doesn't America help to topple Eritrean regime so that Eritrean people can live freely” and I told him the Americans have already two wars and they don't want another destabilization besides they wouldn't care less as long as their national interest is not affected. He then asked me “isn't Eritrea important to America?” I told him his country may not have much to offer. Mr. Smokey was surprised because he thought America & other western nations outraged by the defiance of Issayas Aferwerqi for not allowing them to have a base on the red sea. It is no surprise to hear such overrated, unrealistic, irrational feelings/perspectives of Eritreans about the importance of their country in the world sphere-because the elites, (at home & abroad) cadres and propaganda machinery of the ruling party have been effortlessly indoctrinating such notions among Eritreans for more than four decades. Innocent Eritreans like Mr. Smokey think that the world betrayed their country at least three times in modern day history (the 1953 unification of Eritrea with Ethiopia, the stalemate of UN resolution on Bademe, and UN 2009 sanction) just because of his country's small size and for having a 1000sqkm coastline along the red sea which is curse in disguise. Most of them think that such tiny but the most civilized, invincible, beautiful country with its genius people are being punished to safeguard the national interests of the western world including the backward, uncivilized, beggar nation Ethiopia. This doesn't necessarily mean that some of these view hold some water, the bottom-line is that they were used/justified often times out of context to shun off from the real issue-the dictatorship and its subsequent vices like corruption, nepotism, malgovernance, torture, widespread extrajudicial killings and imprisonments, forced labor and indefinite military recruitment, suppression of religious and expression of freedom etc etc. What really intrigued Mr. Heavy and me was that the flock of these newly arrived Eritrean asylum seekers-who had been through the worst inhumane conditions-to this annual Eritrean independence day festival which is orchestrated by sympathizers and cadres of the ruling party all of the world. Homesickness, years of deprivation and captivity in military camps could be the reasons to justify such phenomena but me and my friend still couldn't comprehend why they went to the streets in hundreds of thousands to protest against the 2009 UN sanction against Eritrean officials the very people who tortured, enslaved, abused and forced them to live in exile. Those self-serving Eritrean vacationers and their children who live most of their lives in safe-heavens of the western world have good reasons to go every year to the annual festival organized by the junta-because most of them are either retirees who want to enjoy their remaining days in sunshine or have the privilege to own properties and enjoy first class treatment reserved only for them. Mr. Smokey has also left the camp for the same reason as Mr. Sawa and I lost track of him. 
Yeah Embasha (Eritrean/Ethiopian delicious Traditional Bread)

Ms Naqfa
She is a bubbly, generous lady in her early 40s, who was born & raised in Ethiopia (such Eritreans have a unique name called Amiche - its literal meaning derived from an Italian car assembly in Addis), speaks perfect Tigrigna & Amharic, went back to Eritrea after N'astnet, got married there came with her three teenage children to Sweden in 2009. What makes Ms. Naqfa different from the rest of her fellow countrymen/women is that she is the biggest fan of President Issayas Afewerqi's ingenious policies (self-reliance) and associates all existing 'small' problems of her country either with the stalemate of the Ethio-Eritrean border conflict or the long standing international conspiracies/injustices targeted against her country by the USA & its allies, UN, AU and above all Ethiopia. Her 'Eritrea' is in perfect condition with a few minor problems here & there; otherwise malaria, polio & and other diseases are wiped out, thanks to the free national service every small villages have access to schools, roads & clinics (unlike their uncivilized counterparts elsewhere in Africa specially Ethiopia which are dependent on foreign aid). Ms. Naqfa thought that the free national service (admitting that though a bit longer), it's the right measure to keep away the youth from truanting on the streets and most amazingly she claimed it makes Eritrean youth brave and stronger without which otherwise they wouldn't have the courage to cross the Sahara desert and international waters. She said western countries are giving speedy residential permits to Eritrean refugees so as to upset Issayas- since he's the only African statesman who defies them unlike other beggar and coward African leaders. These countries hate him because of his very intelligent/rational/logical replies he made to questions of international press in relation to democracy, human rights, freedom of expressions, the defection of Eritrean footballers in Kenya, the extrajudicial killings, imprisonments of his citizens, according to Ms. Naqfa. I wasn't surprised when I saw her 10years old son who was downloading and printing them out over a dozen of Eritrean flags from the internet at the library. She complained about everything and anything saying that she wouldn't be a refugee (claimed she had a good job in one of the ministries) if it wasn't for the future of her children. The last time I met her was at the immigration office where she went to receive 'their paper' meaning the residence permit for her and her children that was given. I read 'les refugees jamais dit merci' (the refugees never say thank you) on cover-page of some french magazine last year, maybe that's true. Now, I wouldn't be surprised if I see huge demonstrations of Eritreans descent to protest against the UN embargo against their government or hundreds of thousands of them flocking from all over the world to their motherland for the annual Nastent festival. Well, we're all different regardless of refugee or whatever status we've in the society. I have a question though for these demonstrators, why are Eritreans fleeing in all corners if the government you're supporting is the best by waging a 30yrs old war to liberate the country?

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