It is to be recalled that President Isaias conducted an interview with the local Medias as regards the ‘21 January 2013 incident.’ Excerpts of the first part follow:
-Mr. President, in this occasion of the Cabinet ministers meeting, I have a few questions about the “January 21 incident”. Previously you have stated that there was nothing to worry about this incident. However, different media outlets disseminated different news about the incident, mostly relying upon speculations. Therefore, to give precise information to people, tell us what really happened.
It was not something that happened in closed caves or in another continent, everybody knows it. We can only explain what the situation was at the time, and we don’t want to give analysis or invent a story. If anyone wants to day-dream, he can do so. At that time we had a meeting here when we were told that ‘something happened in the premises of the ministry of information’. It was unexpected and nobody knew anything about it. We needed to study the situation and decided not to rush in to giving hasty explanation or reaction. It was then decided that we needed to contact these people and hence sent the commander of the Mechanized Unit to talk to them. One of the key
leaders of the incident (in fact we cannot say there were key leaders) fired and shot him. People were not worried that much. We were all here together. Most of the ministers were here. We decided that it was wrong and that it was premature; so there was no need for that much reaction or haste from our part. We spent the whole day deliberating on the issue. Anyone who was there knows what kind of a drama the incident was. I don’t think there is any point in talking much about it.
The main point here is that the fact that the people who the orchestrators misinformed and misled in to joining the incident deserted them in the afternoon. They returned to their places. It is even hard to say that the orchestrators themselves knew about what they were doing. While one of them was ordering to fire, another was opposing; so it is difficult to make sense out of the situation. You can only explain the situation as it was. In any case, we decided to follow the situation with patience and that there was no need to resort to any kind of reaction; we were here till sunset when they left the place. Finally, when the person they sent to the ministry of information left them, they tried to escape with a getaway car. It was known where they were going but we decided that it was better to follow them. According to them the person who fired the bullet left them that evening and that they didn’t know where he went. As for them they declared that they regretted their action. How did they do it and why is another matter. In any case, as they didn’t have anywhere to hide, willingly or not, they all give in. The person who fired tried to escape alone but when he realized that he reached a dead end he committed suicide. The film ends like this. When asked why they did this thing, they claim that they were misled; and there are names they mention. It is not the time to talk about this at the moment. Whether they were misled by others or not; or why did they commit this mistake? There are a lot of things we can raise. The incident, anyways, happened just like this. But we cannot just say ‘it ended like that’. Their units needed to be notified. It is not about delivering statements to the world; first and foremost these people have to explain to their colleagues about what happened, no matter whether they were misled or not. So one of them gave a statement on how they came to this stage, and how they were misled and committed this mistake. The story was closed there. Nothing can explain the incident more than what I have said here. One can write a fiction out of this but the truth needs no more explanation than what I have already explained.
-Can this incident be seen within the framework of the different external hostilities perpetrated against Eritrea? Or is it a separate incident?
Our culture dictates that we need to have proofs and facts to claim that. But this doesn’t mean that we cannot have analysis or give an informed guess. We can try to put all the pieces together and create a picture. Naturally in a hostility that went on for so long and which is also a common knowledge, one can be inclined to think that the incident just might be an extension.
But in our culture and the way we do things, we need to first and foremost have facts and proofs to make any claims. We can’t just make conclusions before we have the facts first. Only then can we claim who was involved, or whether there was external involvement or not. There is no need for haste and we don’t want to engage in rhetorical blunders. If there was any link we will find out in due course. From our observation before we could put together pieces and we might form a picture in retrospect. But we don’t have any reason to engage in such speculation. The hostilities are not new to us. But to say that this incident has a direct link with these hostilities, we should ask “Based on what facts?” How did we read the situation and what proofs do we have? How did we come to this conclusion? Indeed we have come to know much about the situation in these past two or three weeks but we have yet to be certain about things.
-What developments are there after the incident? As Eritreans, stability and security are our Pride. In what condition are they at the moment?
This is not something we talk about merely to praise ourselves. Societies or peoples are organized in families, communities, and then in nation. At different historical time they can have different forms of development. In this country we can say there is a security that can be considered to be a guarantee for any eventualities. But how did this country become a nation and a state? Considering its socio-cultural and other criteria at what level of the nation building process is it found? We can’t claim that it has completed the nation building process even with the experience we have passed through as it is a dynamic and continuous process. However, the security development and endurance of any given people cannot come from nothing. When such symptoms surface, how does it fit itself in with the history of the people? I don’t think it is a new thing. We can look back into the past ten years and we can ask how could this small country with its small number of people withstand all these hostilities? It is a common knowledge and even our enemies know that although they don’t want to admit it. But this peculiarity is not something to be taken lightly.
What’s more getting in to such a vast topic due to this small incident is giving this incident more weight than it has. So it is best that we treat the issue with the equivalent attention it deserves. Why should one be compelled to join a party where there is really no one there?
I think we need to understand the value of this country and its traditions.