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“It Is Not Sensible To Unwisely Spend Our Time to Consider Nonsense Public Relations Games” President Isaias

It  is  to  be  recalled  that  H.E. President  Isaias  Afwerki conducted  an  extensive  interview on  the  9th  of February  2014,  in  the  port  city of Massawa with  the  national  media  outlets on  the  occasion  of  the  New  Year 2014,  regarding  the  overall situation  of  the  country  and  also the  regional  state  of  affairs  and future  scenarios. Excerpts of the fifth and final part follow:

Mr. President, recently Ambassador Herman Cohen has commented that US-Eritrea diplomatic relationship should be normalized. Others have also supported what he asserted. How does the Eritrean Government see these comments? Does this reflect the stand of the United States Government?

In the articles you mentioned it is has been commented that there is a need to bringing Eritrea in from the cold. Is the ‘cold’ that people are talking about real or imagined? The wording is surprising. It seems that the metaphoric messages that are being reflected indicate that Eritrea is something wild that has to be tamed.

While they themselves caused the problems or crimes that were experienced in Somalia, it was Eritrea that was sanctioned because of these problems. This is a grave crime. It is shameful to sanction the people of Eritrea using baseless excuses that were fabricated for different motivations that were baselessly sugarcoated with pretexts. It is also shameful to assert that things have been improved in Eritrea from 2009 onwards after the decision to sanction Eritrea was passed. This is intended to coverup the unjust nature of the decision to sanction Eritrea. This case surprisingly indicates a situation where one becomes the accuser by fabricating false reasons and at the same time the witness and the judge as well as the enforcer of a decision based on clearly false excuses. Being the cause of all such problems, how can one sympathetically tend to assert that it is good to bring Eritreain from the cold?

A large number of young people have fled the country because of the conspiracies that are intended to undermine the country. How are such issues, among other things, to be settled in a just way? It is not sensible to talk about normalizing diplomatic ties and the like without first addressing such key concerns. And it has also been said that I said that the destiny of Eritrea is associated with that of Ethiopia. When did I say that? I can’t even think of such things? When we look at it interms of its wording, its presentation, and the timing, it is nonsense.

When it comes to the normalization of the diplomatic ties between America and Eritrea, it should not be linked with who the decision makers are. What is to be improved or changed in connection to the relations of the two countries? What is wrong in the relationship between them? What problems are to be assessed in relation with the to this issue? It is these concerns that need to be addressed in the first place. It is better to talk about more substantial issues if one wants to really improve the diplomatic ties between Eritrea and America rather than reacting to the aforesaid assertions. There are idle individuals who post any comments in the internet. It is not sensible to base what you have to say on such pieces of comments that can hardly comprehensively address the issue of concern. It is not sensible to unwisely spend our time to consider such public relations games designed by the TPLF. It is not even good for them to spend their time in such a way.

In relation to regional issues, it has not been even two years since South Sudan became an independent state. However, the country is experiencing a serious civil war.What is the cause of this problem? And what is the stand of the Eritrean Government with regard to solving this problem?

Our stand is crystal clear. What is said in relation to the tribal problems in South Sudan is nonsense. It is really surprising that Reik Mashar stayed that long in the leadership. After Eritrea became an independent state, that is, since we became involved in the issues concerning South Sudan, especially from mid 1990s onwards, John Garang used to assert that the concerns in South Sudan (the demand for autonomy) could only be addressed keeping the unity of Sudan in mind. At that time, Mashar’s strong belief was the reverse-the autonomy of South Sudan could only be possible only if South Sudan becomes an independent state. Hence at that time, there were two different perspectives. Mashar’s selfishness and narrow-mindedness has been beyond measure. Then after sometime, Mashar went to Sudan and started to preach the reverse by reciting the motto: ‘Peace from within’.

The current problem was there since the days of John Garang. It would have been better if they had been able to solve it by themselves–internally. It was getting worse and worse over time. However, the main factor that has complicated the problem is mainly monetary corruption.The details as regards who has stolen how much public fund is not that covert.

During the five year transition period, billions of revenue collected from oil was wasted. During the transition years, the leaders were stealing public funds and the money stolen from the people of South Sudan was being deposited in their private bank accounts in other countries. Itis shameful to talk about the amount they have deposited in foreign banks as a result of their corrupt practices.

Building a state is not an easy task. It cannot be done within a year or two. It would have not been a problem, if this had been their only problem. The main problem in the case of South Sudan, and particularly the problem of the SPLM leadership, is corruption–stealing public funds. There are also others (accomplices) who collaborate with them in stealing public funds. It is clear where and how the money has been wasted.

It is very unfortunate that the country is being divided due to corrupt practices reinforcing the structural problems associated with building a state. When it was hoped that the people of South Sudan, unlike other peoples, can significantly improve the quality of their life standard in a short period of time because of the resources (oil) they are endowed with, it is a serious crime that within the last two years the people are being deprived off the benefits of being endowed with such an important resource.

Those who wasted public funds tried to address these problems along with the middle men, some of whom conspired with them in the corrupt practices and caused instability in the country. At the end of the day, it was resolved that, as it is impossible to return the stolen money, the wrong doers should be warned. And those who have stolen the public money are abusing the tribal relations in the country as a means to cover up their real problems so as not to be exposed. In this case, they are using the respective tribes as their safe haven. Accordingly, they have started saying that one is doing this and that because he or she is Nuwer or An’wak and it is very unfortunate that the people are being divided accordingly.This is to say that the problem in South Sudan is corruption, as I said earlier. However, in an attempt to cover up the real problem, they are talking about false causes.

Our stand in such cases is very clear. This issue has to be solved internally. State building is a very demanding task. We did our best to help the people of South Sudan, until the last minute, with the intention of promoting their autonomy by being part of Sudan. But as we cannot, and we should not, dictate what has to be done there, they became an independent state as a result of their preference that was reflected in a referendum. The people paid considerable sacrifices for achieving their independence. Unfortunately, the citizens in South Sudan have not been able to be beneficiaries of the fruits of their sacrifice due to the fact that the oil revenues and the resources of the country in general are being exploited by two-three individuals.This is very shameful.

It is their choice to be an independent state. But regardless of their choice, the central concern is that this has to benefit the people. And those who wasted public resources should be held accountable. The most important issue is that the process of state building has to continue. The state is not the private property of individuals. The government has to function properly and run state affairs properly. Otherwise, civil war is going to have a very detrimental effect for the country. The attempts to solve the problem through IGAD and the like are not going to be fruitful. This is just like a business as managing crisis in Africa has been a business.The government has to solve its own problem by itself. If there are corrupt practices, they have to be solved and the corrupt individuals should beheld accountable so as the people of South Sudan not to be divided ethnically and the country may not be destroyed due to tribal wars. With your bank accounts in foreign banks and with your family residing in foreign countries, one cannot remotely govern.These things can only make the people fight among each other.

As we have been closely observing what was taking place in the country within the last 20 years, this situation is not new for us. It is amazing when those involved in stealing public funds preach about democracy and what can be done to promote democracy. This is not sensible at all. On our part, while our firm belief is that the problem should be internally dealt with, we have moral obligation to do what we can to help the people of South Sudan. Basically, what has to be done externally has to complement with what has to be done internally. The central concern in this case is that those who have been engaged in corrupt practices have to be held accountable and the tribal problems should not be used for covering up or sugarcoating the real problem in the country.

With regards the relation between Eritrea and Sudan. There have been agreements signed on various areas. How is the status of the relations at the moment? And what is the expectation in the future?

Our relation has always been there and we cannot say we have a new policy regarding it. We hope that would stay for generations to come. This relation should serve not only the two people but also the region as a whole. It should also be complimentary relationship that serves the interest of the two people. All the measure including the flow of energy, movement of people without visa, economic cooperation, trade collaboration, regarding regional issues, these have created good atmosphere between us. This can inspire confidence and trust in our engagement with each other. Numerous problems haunt the Sudan, like the conflict with South Sudan, the problem with Darfur, East Sudan, Blue Nile, Kurdofan. We cannot interfere in their internal affairs but since these problems could affect us also, we would like to work in partnership with the country on these issues. With time our attitudes and intentions became clear enough for it to develop from wishes to concrete political will and trust. Now it is at a good stage but it takes time to translate it in to concrete cooperation programs. We still have to make a sober study and analysis to take the relation to the next level but we have created conducive environment to do that.

We don’t declare that we have a good relation with our neighbors for PR consumption; it is to engage with them on concrete programs. We see a lot of protocols signed between nations but not a lot of them actually bear fruits. The situation in Sudan for the past 25 years has been encircled with problems mainly due to lack of proper handling and management. The major interest for us is the stability of the Sudan. We hold the stand that the issues of Sudan should be resolved internally and we are against any external interference that has only aggravated the situation. We don’t want to meddle in their situation but we intend to work in collaboration with them.

Mr. President, Eritrea has been engaged in active diplomacy. What is the plan for 2014 in this respect?

We don’t mention it but there are big plans. It is very important to study the situation in our neighbors. Change in the global arena is not something to be taken lightly. We have to read the signs solemnly and craft a way to engage with ineffectively. The changes in the global arena and in our region in the past three years are not easy. These can all affect us and hence we cannot remain passive. Our diplomatic activities should take into consideration this reality. All the diplomatic talks and moves should be interpreted within this global and regional development. Considering these developments, it is imperative that we have an active diplomacy in order to safeguard our interests. In our region for instance the issues surrounding the Middle East, the Red Sea, Horn of Africa, and the Nile are all interconnected. Since we are living in this region, we have concerns and we need to be prepared for it. It might not be the time to talk about it, and some of them we don’t need to talk about. Some development transpires gradually with time.

We are conducting this interview on the occasion of the celebration of Operation Fenkil. Looking back across 24 years please share your memories of the event, how was it planned? And what was your feeling when the operation succeeded?

Sometimes, even in silence stories are told. Especially anecdotes about battles are documented with their details. You can find it in the information that was being relayed at those moments in real time. The main point is that the strategy of independence since the strategic withdrawal has gone through a lot of complications. The 1977 incident was a big experience of Massawa. In our struggle experience failing to succeed after an attempt made us stronger. Sometimes you wonder if you could ever have done anything, had it not been for your failures. All the experience has nourished the confidence for the Operation Fenkil. The quality of our manpower was unbelievable. Rarely do you see the endurance, innovation, and power to make history that was demonstrate at that moment. The Operation Fenkil, just as its name suggest, was the uprooting of colonialism once and for all. Accomplishing the task however, only that kind of man power can do. It is indescribable the kind of people with that kind of organization, execution, one who can win wars fighting from the quagmires of salt. Everything was due to the man-power we had back then, whose intrinsic power words cannot explain.

The people of Eritrea, and especially the youth have done numerous miracles, one of which is the Operation Fenkil. What do you want to say to the youth who are still accomplishing miracles?

2014 is different from the year2013 and 2012. One can say the real nature of the people is returning back. This might not surprise the older generation with experience, but one can say the scenarios of the past 2 or 3 years where the youth were the target and victims of the orchestrated mass departure has settled down. Leaving the few scenarios here and there the situation is getting back to normalcy. According to my understanding they could not get rid of quintessential quality of the Eritrea people. The previous generation of youth has made miracle and now too the people are doing miracles. The youth has learned a lot and all the ploys against them are becoming outdated. The people of Eritrea, and especially the youth, are on the verge of making another miracle.

Thank you Mr. President.

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