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Local Media Interviewwith President IsaiasAfwerki: Excerpts Part IV

  • “We will always remain vigilant to protect our national security and interest against any actsof provocation”
  • -Mr. President, let’s talk about political issues. One of the biggest plans for 2017 has been strengthening the PFDJ. What about plans to strengthen the capacity of the youth? Last year you stated that the constitution was under revision. So which ones are set for short term action?

How we handle these things should be very clear. As regards to the constitution, I’d rather call it a system of governance. It is simply a means for a government to achieve its objectives. It is fundamental to have a structure to achieve it. There must be a very detailed study to evaluate where we started, where we are now and where we are heading to within those 25 years.

It cannot be concluded that all the political processes and developments were disrupted in those years. We have passed through countless obstacles and relentless antagonisms that have threatened the country’s progress and existence. Thus, when one asks the question, “How did we get here?” we should carry out a detailed evaluation. As part of this evaluation we have compiled a detailed record that examines what we have attempted, what we have achieved and what obstacles we have faced for the past 25 years. Next, we must ask, “Where we are now?” in order to evaluate those obstacles that have challenged us and those that we were able to tackle—knowing where we are going is imperative.

In this regard, we have prepared a national road map that gives us the broad contours of where we plan to go from 2017 and onwards.

Detailing the system of governance, including its form, content, chapters and themes, is not an easy task. The bottom line is that PFDJ is responsible for leading and directing the political process. Throughout the 25 years, it was the Front which was the target of antagonism. Since the ownership of the road map belongs to the masses, political questions of where we direct it for the future or how it should be organized should be discussed and evaluated. Programs covering development, security, safety and other fields have been sufficiently outlined in the road map. The road map also outlines an overall evaluation of the past 25 years, the present moment and the future. It assesses not only our domestic affairs but also those developments that can materialize around our region and worldwide and how we engage ourselves with them and how we make use of the major issues that we experienced in the past.

In order to ensure the exchange of ideas and significant public participation, the road map has been drafted to answer the question of how we work in more organized and concerted fashion. It has been structured into geographic zones, which include our economic, safety and security dimensions and other dimensions. Taking into consideration matters of our border issue and other persistent antagonisms, this kind of arrangement has been prepared in a way that allows us to do our homework for future development as we tackle our challenges.

The road map puts into consideration four Development Zones. Three are inside Eritrea and the last is international. First, we have the Eastern Development Zone. This area includes the Central, Northern Red Sea and Southern Red Sea Regions. Involved institutions include all ministries, police, security, civic associations and the PFDJ. Second, there is the Central Development Zone, which includes the Central and Southern Regions as well as part of the Anseba Region. It brings together various bodies under its umbrella, including all the ministries, defense forces, police, security, civic associations and administrations. Third, there is the Western Development Zone, which encompasses the Gash Barka Region and some of the Anseba Region. Like in the other zones, this also includes the aforementioned bodies. This kind of organization allows a platform for common points of discussion that isn’t merely concerned with the system of governance and political activities but other national affairs; for more robust national discussion.

Fourth and last, there is the International Development Zone, which covers diaspora affairs for Eritreans abroad. Based on our history—as well as future expectations—this zone, in concert with the ones inside the country, needs a new, way of organizing to play its part in invigorating and revamping the people’s broad participation in the national political process. A higher coordinating body, which oversees this broad effort has been formed under the Central Office of PFDJ. Each development zone will have coordinators from the bodies it comprises. This kind of organization is needed because without such a measure you cannot undertake political activities and campaigns that are fruitful. At the same time, we also need to have it as a document that checks where we started, where we are now and where we are heading.

Therefore, in order to have a popular discussion over all the matters raised—including the mode of governance—and reach the next national stage of our political system, the PFDJ will be responsible for directing this political process. So when we close a chapter of 25 years and open a new one in the year 2017, the 25 years could be said to have been time for lessons in all kinds of measurement. The lessons we’ve encountered have made us strong and resilient and taught us many things. Therefore this strategy has been set in order for us and our political process to march forward more vigorously.

There is no doubt that its momentum will be quickened beginning from the year 2017. It has been taken as a better option. There is, however, a room for discussion and improvement with popular participation. The details on the implementation of these efforts will be seen in the coming months. In order to ensure the practicality of the programs—given that they are huge—organization is necessary. Being able to assess the past, the present and the future is by itself a sign of consciousness. Since organization and being armed are fundamental in the basic principles of the PFDJ and in the popular fight, they would be part and parcel of the political process. They will be assessed in light of their progress.

  • -The year 2016 saw the foiling of efforts to diplomatically isolate Eritrea from the international community. What opportunities might this positive development create for investment and economic relations?

The question we need to ask is, “Why have we been confronted with diplomatic hostility for 25 years?” The fundamental issue we should always remember is that we have not been chosen to serve the interests of the powerful. It so happened that we earned our liberation at a time when the cold war ended, making way for a new world order. Attempts to make this new world order and bring all countries into one camp were made by the forces that came out winners in the cold war just one camp, as opposed to the two camps that had existed during the cold war era.

The victors, like Washington, claimed the world as exclusively theirs predicting that they would control its resources for some fifty years undeterred by any rival powers. To this end, they divided the globe into regions, or “spheres of influence”, and elected a government in every region that could advance their interests. The Ethiopian regime has been selected for the job in our region.

Following Eritrea’s independence, there was a feeling that our liberation coupled with the end of the cold war era would provide us with a new opportunity to collaborate with peoples of our region including Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Kenya and Uganda to create conditions for bilateral and multilateral cooperation. But that was not to be since the big powers had their own designs. Our region’s proximity to the Middle East and its natural endowments subjected it to fall within a ‘sphere of influence’ and, therefore, the need for the recruitment of a regime that would implement the agenda of the powers that be. The problem begins right there.

Ethiopia was selected to be the agent in our region and we were condemned to be cornered. This is the current world order—one regime assigned by the big powers leads the region and other countries are supposed to fall in line. Any attempt to disobey or challenge the new order is viewed as a behavior that should be “neutralized.” Eritrea was accused of not complying with the order, and a policy was designed that has aimed at destabilizing our country through diplomatic, political, economic and military machinations for the last 25 years.

Soon after Eritrea’s independence, border issues with Yemen regarding the Hanish Islands, which had never been raised with Ethiopia when Eritrea was under its rule, began to surface. Why was the border issue with Yemen raised? This was done to bring about instability in Eritrea and put its people and its government in an ongoing quagmire.

But the problem was resolved at the court. When you look at the court ruling and all the proceedings, however, you realize that it was all a ploy. In any case, we went past this and the Badme “dispute” ensued. How did this come up? It wasn’t because there was a border dispute, a political problem or a conflict between the Eritrean and the Ethiopian people. It was meant to be used as a pretext for intervention by creating a crisis in the region. By creating a crisis the big powers find an excuse to “manage” the crisis in a way that serves their ulterior motives. And their biggest achievement is that they were able to create a conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia, which allowed them to pursue their agenda of managing the crisis. The border conflict was settled by international arbitration but the verdict did not apparently satisfy them. Had the decision of the court been implemented there would have been stability in our region. All kinds of excuses have been used to prevent the implementation of the decision. The aim is to keep Eritrea, its people and its government hostage and in constant unrest.

Then came the Djibouti case. Where did it come from? Had there ever been any border dispute with Djibouti? When this failed to satisfy them, they brought sanctions against us. Since then, the economic pressure put on our country is unbelievable. Attempts were made to destabilize Eritrea’s economy through speculation, by setting hurdles to deter Eritreans in the diaspora from sending remittances to their families and by encouraging young Eritreans to flee their country and migrate to the West.

When the sanctions imposed on us in 2009 did not meet its designers’ goals, human rights was used in 2016 to condemn Eritrea. Meetings were organized in Geneva and later in New York with an attempt to pass on resolutions to denounce Eritrea. In short, the border issues and the economic challenges we have been encountering as well as all the attempts to alienate us demonstrate the provocation we have had to withstand in the past 25 years.

Although the utter desire to dominate and create spheres of influence has made Eritrea a victim, the design itself did not necessarily target Eritrea. The sphere extends from Afghanistan to Somalia and includes Libya and Yemen. We might have become victims because we happen to be located within the region. But did the design to dominate through diplomatic, economic and political provocations and by imposing psychological and security pressures work?

The crisis in our region is the direct result of the misguided policy. For 25 years, attempts have been made to create a unipolar world with one dominant ideology, a design rooted in the writings of intellectuals like Fukuyama, but it didn’t work in our region or in the world. For the plan to work, the ruling powers of our world have been trying to “contain” anyone who challenges them. Their efforts to contain Russia and China in terms of diplomacy, politics and security did not bear any results. And the regime elected to serve as an anchor in our region is now in “intensive care,” struggling to survive.

All kinds of provocations can be said to have failed. Of course, this doesn’t mean it is over. We will always remain vigilant to protect our national security and interest against any acts of provocation.

  • -Mr. President, how do we assess the investment potential in Eritrea and the experiences associated with promoting the investment opportunities in the country?

There are a number of factors associated with investment. Fabricating hurdles that are designed to discourage investment in Eritrea was part of the conspiracy masterminded to undermine our economy. The World Bank, the IMF, the European Union and the like were supposed to play a positive role in facilitating investment and economic development in Eritrea. However, there were serious fabricated investment barriers related to many sectors of our economy.

Fortunately, what has been achieved with the available resources is commendable. Besides, it is not sensible to be unnecessarily dependent on external support and foreign investment in the course of realizing development goals. From our experience in the last 25 years, the resources required for recovering a devastated national economy are undeniably huge. More importantly, the psychological pressure of the conspiracies targeting our economy cannot be underestimated. With regard to the process of demonizing Eritrea, the country was being depicted as a patch of hell on earth in order to instill a negative image of the nation not only in the minds of investors but also in the minds of lay persons who want to know something about Eritrea. The conspiracies against Eritrea are inseparable from the broader global and regional changes that different societies are experiencing. Of course, when compared to what has happened to other societies in our region, the conspiracies against our economy are futile.

However, the conspiracy targeting our economy is not the single factor that negatively affects investment opportunities in the country. Hence, it is important to assess the efforts, particularly our infrastructural projects, aimed at creating an enabling environment for investment. Sustainable water supply systems, sustainable power supply systems and the like are prerequisite conditions to successful investment. Such critical investment factors are the most important determinants of investment decisions. Compared to the aforesaid infrastructural concerns, even having favorable investment proclamations and guidelines is only secondarily important.

In our attempt to promote investment, we are not concerned about hiring promotion agents to conduct campaigns and subsequently glorify the opportunities available in the country. We believe what matters more is what we do to improve our infrastructural situation, which is critically important in the course of promoting investment opportunities. When judged in terms of peace and security as well as lack of corruption, there are favorable conditions for investment in Eritrea.

While the demonization campaigns may take time to fade away, eventually truth prevails. For this reason, now many are aware of the reality in Eritrea. We invite everybody to come and see, and then make a judgment about the situation in the country. Otherwise, we will not hire at all any agent for promoting in order to glorify our investment opportunities. While we believe that we have a long way to go, we have created a stepping stone with respect to promoting investment opportunities that can attract investors.

  • -On the occasion of New Year (2017), you sent letters to different heads of states concerning the need to lift the sanction against Eritrea and about the need to end the occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories. In relation to the diplomatic developments that you have been talking about, what are we going to expect in 2017 about these issues?

One of the major issues raised in relation to what I have been talking about previously is related to human rights. In 2016 in particular, there were untold campaigns about human rights. This is not the real issue of concern. Rather, it is just a cover-up. This issue is not an Eritrea-specific issue. Hence, it has to be dealt with taking into account the broader context. We are not the only victims and our case is subset of a larger picture. Therefore, what I sent to different leaders reflects such major concerns.

While the agenda of the Ethiopian government may be looked at separately, when it comes to such issues, the people of Ethiopia have been the main victims in the last 25 years. Consider what the people of Somalia suffered within the last 25 years. In the last 26-27 years, Sudan has also been divided into two and still there are serious problems that have not been so far solved. Our problem is just a subset of this bigger picture. Consider what is happening around the Red Sea in general, that is, in areas such as Libya, Egypt, and other areas. All these are important issues that need to be addressed properly.

As stated earlier, the border issue and the sanction against Eritrea has to be dealt with within a broader context. For this purpose, whenever there are political forums or in the interactions with political actors such as the permanent and the rotating members of the Security Council, we need to assertively indicate how harmful such injustice is and the need to address such concerns collectively. If these issues in general are addressed, the problems we experience in Eritrea will also be solved as they are not separable. We often talk about these issues because they are useful reminder that take into account the fact that the events may fade away from the memory of some people. There is also a possibility that some may be influenced by the cover-ups, such as fabricated human rights charges, intended to cover up real motives of those who masterminded sanctions and human rights-related conspiracies. Therefore, we need to continuously remind the UN General Assembly, members of the Security Council, heads of states and other actors about the nature of the problems we face.

Further, there may also be new leaders who need to be informed about the real facts behind the issue so that they cannot be misled by the cover-ups characterizing the conspiratorial campaigns which place more emphasis or negatively capitalize on fabricated human rights charges as a pretext. Moreover, heads of states have to play a significant role in addressing the aforementioned challenges. We should collectively fight the rule of the jungle. These problems cannot be addressed separately. A collective approach is necessary to tackle these challenges.

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