“Opposition” Game-Plan Targeting Eritrean Economy Exposed

News Opinions Sophia Tesfamariam

By make use of the alliance we created with the main stream media and all the NGOs that have been expelled by the GoE including Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, the Evangelical Church, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Christian Concern for Freedom and Conscience (CCFC) etc …. we can easily target and force Nevsun and Sunridge withdraw out of Eritrea.

“The game-plan of Eritrea’s arch-enemies is simple indeed: chisel at the edifice of the Government through dogged campaign of disinformation to ultimately delegitimize & criminalize the GOE to roll back history and Eritrea’s sovereignty. This is a pipe dream that will never happen “ – Yemane G. Meskel, Director, Office of the President – Eritrea
“The game-plan of Eritrea’s arch-enemies is simple indeed: chisel at the edifice of the Government through dogged campaign of disinformation to ultimately delegitimize & criminalize the GOE to roll back history and Eritrea’s sovereignty. This is a pipe dream that will never happen “ – Yemane G. Meskel, Director, Office of the President – Eritrea

By Sophia Tesfamariam,

Yonas Mehari, member of the group calling itself International Commission on Eritrean Refugees (ICER), whose members include Yebio Woldemariam, Meron Estefanos and Maryan Van Reisen of the European External Policy Advisors (EEPA) has been churning out reports and sending them to various US agencies for the last 7 years. We recently got copies of several interesting issues that he has been posting in an internal group which includes Woyane operatives and anti-Eritrea groups. This is an example of what he was advising his fellow Eritrean Youth Solidarity for National Salvation members to do.

Yonas Mehari is the nephew of Haile (Drue)Woldetensae, one of the G-11 detained in Eritrea. After establishing several human rights organizations, this former marine is now actively engaged in undermining Eritrea’s economic development. These cyber groups who represent none except their family members have conducted a vilification and defamation campaign designed to strangulate Eritrea’s economy.

We have seen the aggressive manner by which they have attempted to sabotage community events, assaulted members of the community verbally and physically, how they have attempted to tarnish the reputation of the Eritrean Diaspora by labeling them “terrorists” etc.

The Eritrean American Community calls on the United Nations to launch an investigation into the group ICER, which now has consultative status at the UN.

In light of the recent tragic developments in Lampedusa and the involvement of Yonas Mehari and the others at ICER, it behooves all, especially the US State Department to investigate the group and its links to human trafficking of Eritrea’s youth. We will continue to sieve through the hundreds of pages of documents that have been forwarded to us and take appropriate legal action against these groups and individuals.

The Eritrean American Community will forward all the documents found on his activities against the State of Eritrea to officials at the US State Department and the United Nations, as soon as they have been tabulated and recorded. Here is one of the messages that he sent out using one of his many cyber NGO names on 2 June 2007:

Eritrean Democratic League (eritrean-democratic-league@orota.com)

EDL Up-to-Date
Eritrean Democratic League (EDL)
Striving for Constitutional Supremacy

Event-Oriented Resistance

There is one thing that shamefully distinguishes those of us in diaspora who consider ourselves in the opposition camp: although we measure very high in the discontent displayed by us  regarding the current sad state of Eritrea, we measure very low when it comes to doing something about it – that is, when it comes to activism.

It is with this in mind that I am proposing we should enter a new phase: that of “event-oriented” resistance, as opposed to organization- or party-based only. In this kind of resistance, all actions taken cluster around the event; that is, the event itself determines what kind of actions would have to be taken. Any organizational demand would be tailor made to fit that particular event; nothing that goes farther than that would be demanded in the making of that organization itself. That is, the event dictates what the structure of the organization will be; hence the description “event-oriented.”

In our particular case, this kind of resistance would be able to pick and choose particular fights against the Isayas regime; fights that have a majority consensus among the opposition. Then it puts all its energy in seeing these battles to their bitter end; it puts all non-violent means at its disposal to bring the brutal regime to an end. It does that mainly by focusing on the economic sources of the regime, not only because this route is the only one available to us diaspora Eritreans but also because it is the most effective means to bring havoc to the Isayas regime.

Before I go any further on this subject matter though, let me assure that this form of resistance by no means aims to supplant the many organization- or party-based political and civic opposition forces, but only to supplement them in areas where they are weak or lacking. Thus, the aim is to enrich them, and not to impoverish them. It is not meant to sidestep them either, since their input and participation will have to be actively sought in such a resistance. In fact, they should be the primary owners of this form of resistance, and not simply participants.

Hit the GoE where it hurts most: Economically

The Isayas regime never believes in the power of reason or persuasion. The two languages that it gives heed to are: the language of money and that of force. We in diaspora have no access to the latter, while we have a lot of access to the former; hence the focus of the event-oriented resistance on depriving the regime of the hard currency that has been sustaining it for the past 16 years.

The event-oriented resistance is based on a premise that those of us in the opposition want to see an end to the totalitarian rule of the Isayas regime that has put a choke hold on the  population, and that we are willing to act upon this wish.

Unlike any other totalitarian system, this regime’s economy is extremely vulnerable to outside factors that it can hardly control. The two main sources of its hard currency, without which help it would instantly collapse, are diaspora Eritreans and the donor community. Despite this double dependence though, the regime has been relentless in its string of humanitarian crimes against its people.

Imagine then what it would do if it attains a certain degree of “self-sufficiency” in its economy as a result of finding an independent source of income to which it won’t be accountable for its behavior. You would be looking at the making of Pol Pot-like system with all the horrendous consequences soon to follow. Given this, the event-oriented resistance aims to target not only the two traditional sources of hard currency mentioned above, but also any other third party that is poised to grant the regime a certain degree of economic independence.

There is a second reason that gives urgency to this mission. Lately, there are good indications that the economic situation of the Isayas regime has reached a melting point. The best of those indicators tells us that the regime has totally depleted its hard currency reserve, as a result of which all kinds of imports have come to a standstill, further feeding the discontent of the masses.

The regime’s only hope now is for Nevsun Resources Ltd and Sunridge Gold Corp – two mining companies that have found a substantial amount of gold and other minerals in Eritrea – to bail it out.

Nevsun only is supposed to generate $150 million yearly income for the regime. Given this, the event-oriented resistance will have to focus on accelerating this melt-down process not only by denying the regime its traditional sources of income, but also by preventing any other third party from attempting to reverse this process. [For more on this subject, look at my article, “The Economic Meltdown and the Nevsun Factor.]

Focused Resistance

The main motivation for event-oriented resistance at this particular moment is that it would provide us the FOCUS that we have been lacking so far. An action-oriented event by definition is something that takes place at a certain place and certain time, brought about by a certain agent for a particular reason.

Thus, by the mere fact of being an event, it becomes the point of focus of various forces that have so far been laying dormant in our resistance. That is, by merely being the event of attraction, it dictates the course of action that should be taken. As a result, a multidimensional focus would be achieved within this single pivotal step. Let me elaborate on these various points of focus:

(a) Focus on us:

The first thing that an event-oriented resistance does is that it puts the whole focus on us diaspora Eritreans. One of the greatest hurdles in the opposition among Eritreans in diaspora has been that of passing the responsibility of resistance onto others. If one feels that others are doing it or that they are the only ones well positioned to do it, then there isn’t any motivation for him or her to do anything about it. Many in the opposition camp believe that change should come through the EDA only.

But that, in turn, has inadvertently fostered “nothingism;” having put all their eggs in one basket, they wait to see for the fruition of that effort before they attempt to do anything else. Others have concluded that it is the Eritrean masses that have to rise up against the Isayas regime, pointing out that no one else can do that job for them. Having convinced themselves with that conclusion, they can withdraw into their private lives without their conscience bothering them.

The event-based resistance bypasses the trappings of these two courses by forcing us to ask: what is it that we, Eritreans in diaspora, can tangibly do? It forces us to focus only on what we can do and not what others can do; it forces us to focus on those events that would involve only us.

(b) Focus on Events:

If we take a cursory look at the opposition websites, we can easily see how general and unfocused are the subject matter that we deal with. They are either various condemnations of the Isayas regime or they are clarifications on general issues (ex: violent vs non-violent resistance, constitution, totalitarianism, etc.) The same is true regarding the subject matter that preoccupy various proliferating parties (ex: the role of religion, constitution, ethnicity, federalism, national language, etc.).

There is nothing wrong in doing that, and such a dialog should go on unabated. But the problem is that none of them seem to focus on a single current event that leads to activism, with the will and intention of driving that event to its logical end. An event-oriented resistance tries to cover that deficit; first, by choosing a single event, and then by doggedly following it to its final resolution.

(c) Focus on Unity:

The main reason for the disarray among the various parties and organizations among the opposition is the fact that they focus more on what distinguishes and divides them than what unites them. An event-based resistance bypasses this hurdle by simply focusing on events that most of the opposition agree upon. This doesn’t mean that dialog on what is hampering us shouldn’t go on, but that this kind of dialog at party or individual level can go on in parallel to the kind of activism propagated by event-oriented resistance without hampering one another. Given that the two would be conducted on different stages, the resolution of one is not required for the consummation of the other [in contrast, look at the latest EDA’s meeting: without resolving one major hurdle, no other step could be taken.]

(d) Focus on the Present:

Another major reason that keeps hampering the party-based resistance is that the past and the future have heavy presence in their meetings. Not only what has happened in the turbulent past of mieda Eritrea but also the often contradictory visions that the parties have of future Eritrea have so far immobilized them to a point of inaction. In contrast, the event-oriented resistance avoids this immobility by focusing on the present. The event that we should focus on is carefully chosen so as not to concern itself with these sensitive issues.

(e) Focus on Action:

Notice that focus on the past and future and differing ideologies is invariably done by postponing action. If one party’s membership in an alliance very much depends on what kind of  government and what kind of national language the nation will have after the fall of Isayas regime, then anything short of such an agreement dooms any action that presupposes such an alliance. But in event-oriented resistance, this baggage of presuppositions is skipped without any loss to the action sought because the event determines and confines the subject matter that we have to deal with.

(f) Focus on Experience:

Activism is not only about change on the subject matter that the event is focusing on, but also about change in ourselves. Even when we sometimes fail or fall short of our targeted goals, the very experience of the struggle itself will change us in ways that could only be profiting us and the movement in general. As pointed above, not only will our unity be forged in action, our experiences will also provide us ample material for facing further events. For instance, one of the many reasons why unity is eluding many parties is that it is never tested in commonly taken actions. It is often tried in theory, and broken off in suspicion that it won’t work in realty.

(g) Focus on being an Example:

One of the many complaints that we hear about the Eritrean people among the opposition is that they are too passive. What is ironic though is that while we expect the Eritrean masses to rise up in rebellion against a totalitarian regime that wouldn’t waver in taking the harshest response possible to quell such an uprising, we have so far been unwilling to take the lesser risk of showing our faces in public protests.

Here is what a concerned Eritrean by the name of Sereke wrote: “A friend once told me if they see ten thousand of us demonstrate in front of the Eritrean Embassy or the UN, the Eritrean people (including the forced conscripts) might finally find the courage to stand up and face the most cowardly and irrational men alive. ” If so, an event-oriented resistance will hopefully be able to provide the Eritrean masses the only example which they can emulate in due time. Notice that emulating a party creates another party, often to the impoverishment of the resistance in general. But emulating an event-based resistance could only enrich the resistance itself.

How to Strategize

The blue print for an event-oriented resistance of the type we are entertaining is already out there, as has been used by many non-violent movements to bring about changes in their respective areas (ex: India, South Africa, Black America, etc.). So we don’t need to reinvent the wheel, even though we have to pick and choose the methods that are most suitable to our own cases.

Some of those that come easily to mind: fund-raising, organizing, picketing, demonstrating, writing protest letters, writing articles, informing share-holders, lobbying, creating alliances, etc. But all this is easier said than done, for each one of them requires further strategies to employ – strategies that could only be gained through trial and error in the very process of doing it. But there are three things that we can do to help us in this process:

(a) Research:

Researching on how similar movements have employed event-oriented resistance effectively in targeting certain companies would be a good starting point. Here is what a concerned Eritrean e-mailed me on this subject matter: “… in line to what you proposed, I want to bring to your attention a similar situation regarding another Canadian company called Talisman Energy over their investment in Sudan in the late 90’s. There was so much pressure from the NGO and the media and the share holders, the company decided to get out of Sudan …. Perhaps the Talisman is a good one to research and how it has forced the company to withdraw. “

Notice how strikingly similar this case is to those of Nevsun and Sunridge, the companies that we want to target.

(b) Inner workings:

I believe that finding access to the inner workings of current, similar movements like ours would even be more rewarding than what a simple research would do. And I don’t think, given the humanitarian kinship that our undertakings demand, such an access would be difficult to get. If so, it would give us a first hand view of what such inner workings look like. And if we are lucky, we might even be able to involve some Eritreans who have had experiences in such organizations.

(c) Creating alliances:

Such huge tasks as we are entertaining cannot be taken without creating alliances with other forces of change. In our Eritrean case, those that come easy to mind include: the Evangelical Church, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Christian Concern for Freedom and Conscience (CCFC), Reporters Without Borders, Amnesty International and the various NGOs that have been expelled by the GoE. An access to the inner workings of similar non-violent movements will also be helpful in this area, since they always work in alliance with similar-minded organizations.


Right now, we are in the process of creating an ad hoc committee that jump-starts this whole process. As soon as we are done with that, we will announce a fund raising event that hopefully will be joined by various opposition websites. We hope that that we will raise enough money to put us on fast track, for absolutely nothing can be done without funds.

Hopefully, fellow Eritreans will answer to this overdue call of resistance with all the enthusiasm and vigor it deserves!
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