Disinformation about Eritrea has become a cottage industry among Eritrea’s quislings and the minority regime in Ethiopia. Not a single week goes by without some kind of mention of Eritrea by the regime, its self-serving think tanks and the Addis based international media, who have now become extensions of its misinformation campaigns. The latest report comes from IRIN and James Jeffrey, an Addis based free-lance journalist and Martin Plaut of the BBC. Eritreans know a thing or two about Plaut and the BBC, but who is James Jeffrey and what does he know about Eritrea?
According to the Guardian, James Jeffrey is:
- “…a British journalist based in the United States, where he graduated with a master’s in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin, in May 2012. He left the British army as a captain in April 2010, having served over nine years in the Queen’s Royal Lancers, including operational tours in Kosovo (2002), Iraq (2004, 2006) and Afghanistan (2009)…”
Jeffrey was sent to the United States by African Business to study journalism, and moved to Ethiopia In October 2013 just months after his graduation. Africa Business’s Ethiopia bias is found in its latest headlines, which tout Ethiopia’s “growing trade and investment”. But elevating Ethiopia’s stature in the region is not enough-it has to also undermine Eritrea’s in order to be complete. Such has been the campaign for the last 20 years… and James Jeffrey is just another addition or is it edition.
It is safe to say that James Jeffrey does not have any firsthand knowledge about Eritrea and that everything he knows has been from his payors, or from the minority regime in Ethiopia. In his March IRIN article, Jeffrey’s defers to Ethiopian officials for his story on Eritrea and Eritreans. As with each story about Eritrean refugees, information about them is provided by the Administration for Refugee and Returnee Affairs (ARRA) and cadres of the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF). Inputs from the said refugees serve to embellish the reports, which serve to perpetuate the myth about Ethiopia’s benevolence and good will towards Eritreans.
This from a regime that deported over 80,000 Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin at the height to the Eritrea Ethiopia border conflict in 1998-2000, and a regime that continues to occupy sovereign Eritrean territories in violation of international law, the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission’s final and binding delimitation and demarcation decisions, and an embarrassing and reckless regime that has repeatedly manufactured “evidence” to support its preposterous accusations against Eritrea in international forums. The shameless regime has left no stone unturned to reverse the final and binding rulings of the EEBC and no sugar coated pronouncements can fool Eritreans about its evil intentions.
Jeffrey’s article is filled with all the usual spin on Eritrea-and off course, the National Service program, the minority regime’s obsession…or is it nightmare. Eritreans who leave Eritrea also know the spill-seems to work for all age groups. The truth is and anecdotal evidence shows that, very few of those who use national service in order to gain asylum, have ever served. For those who absconded while in service, the years served are very few. It took the whole nation to liberate Eritrea and it will take the whole nation to rebuild Eritrea, as no other state of peoples have a responsibility to do that. Eritreans owe it to themselves and for almost two generations who have paid lives and limbs for Eritrea’s independence and territorial integrity, to rebuild their nation and lay the foundations for a prosperous future, for generations to come.
Eritrea is a young nation with a very small population and will need to utilize all of its human and natural resources to develop its nascent economy. If Americans and Europeans can send youth to Africa and Asia, to serve in programs such as the Peace Corps, to build infrastructures, teach and provide health care in foreign villages and towns, why is it considered such as crime for Eritreans to serve in their own country? Unfortunately, instead of educating the public on the virtues of national service, western NGOs and their surrogates, with the media in tow, have chosen to disparage it and have engaged in an unprecedented disinformation campaign about the program. Eritrea must be doing something right….why else would they put such efforts to halt a program that instills civic values and enhances youth engagement and participation in development? Is that not what global institutions such as the UN are calling for today?
Another issue that has consumed Ethiopia’s leaders and some western media outlets is Eritrea’s food security. None has written as doggedly about it, and gotten it wrong each time, than Martin Plaut of the BBC. Ever since the regime in Ethiopia rejected the EEBC’s final and binding delimitation and demarcation decisions, Martin Plaut has churned out several articles and reports to undermine Eritrea’s moral and legal position, while shielding the minority regime in Ethiopia and its excesses. Relying on Ethiopia’s surrogates for his information about Eritrea, as he has not visited the country for over a decade, he has continued to misinform his readers with outrageous claims. His latest being a report about “hidden famine” in Eritrea.
The incessant orchestrated vilification and defamation campaigns by the frightened minority regime in Ethiopia, its surrogates and handlers has had a negative impact on public opinion about Eritrea, but a visit to the country quickly dispels the many lies…and the one about famine is the easiest. Anyone that knows anything about Eritrea can attest to the dramatic changes in Eritrea’s landscape-and Eritrea’s strategy on the making of a more drought and famine resistant landscape is not one that will be found in any of Plaut’s reports on the country or its people.
For Eritrea, food security is a matter of national security, thus a development priority. With water scarcity being one of the most urgent food security issues facing sub-Saharan countries, Eritrea has developed a national strategy to capture and harness water, which includes the building of strategic dams, big and small, throughout the country. These dams have improved irrigation, improved supply of clean potable water, recharged ground water supplies and farmers are growing a variety of profitable crops. Once arid and barren land has now been converted into irrigational land and the financial status of farmers has improved. The dams provided habitat for flora and fauna, electricity (hydro power) and in some areas, provide recreational activities such as boating and fishing.
Martin Plaut’s reports about Eritrea have the same recurring theme. Without foreign NGOs and media to validate Eritrea’s development, the world will not get an accurate picture of the country or its people. How condescending. The people of Eritrea are not intellectually inferior to their western counterparts, or any other peoples for that matter and are very cognizant of their needs and how to achieve them. Eritrea’s multi-pronged food and water security strategy which includes universal education and health care, improved sanitation, building dams and water catchments, restoring land degradation and erosion etc. are making immense contribution to the development of a healthy Eritrean society.
Plaut forgets that Eritrea’s concern for food security predates independence in 1991, and with the establishment of the Agricultural Research and Human Resources Development (DARHARD), now the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI), Eritrea continues to conduct extensive research on indigenous seeds and plants, to ensure Eritrea’s biosecurity and increase food production. Eritrea’s Agricultural Ministry has shown its commitment to Eritrea’s famers by providing agricultural advice, research and information on all aspects, from pre-to post-harvest-including storage and reserves, to mitigate against drought and low rainfall levels. Eritrea always saves for a rainy day…and its food reserves are enough to help it weather any storm.
Plaut and his ilk seem to have forgotten about Eritrea’s abundant, yet untapped marine resources. Eritrea’s strategic location in the Horn of Africa has been a source of great enmity for the regime in Ethiopia and successive regimes have tried to annex sovereign Eritrean territories at one time or another, with the acquiescence, or tacit approval, of the international community. In its 2015 Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profiles, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stated the following:
- “…Located at the widest part of the Red Sea, Eritrea has an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 121 000 km2. Its mainland coastline is about 1 900 km from the Sudan border to the Djibouti border. Eritrea has a continental shelf of 56 000 km2 with a plateau containing 360 islands that define the Dahlak Archipelago. The latter add another 1 300 km of coastline…The waters of the southern part of the Red Sea are highly productive and rich in biodiversity. This productivity supports substantial populations of over 1 000 species of fish and 220 species of corals…”
Plaut also forgets that Eritrea also has a huge and thriving livestock sector…making famine, an impossible phenomenon in today’s Eritrea.
Today, it comes as no surprise that the regime would want to divert attention away from the famine stalking Ethiopia once again, and the Ethiopian people who are not only starving, but also living under an 8 month old State of Emergency decree that has stripped them of their rights. So instead of writing about the country that he now lives in and is witness to, the suffering of the people, James Jeffrey decides to attack Eritrea. Suppose he has to earn his keep…
All those shedding crocodile tears for Eritrea and her people need not fret….their concerns are misplaced… but, the Horn region is in trouble. Despite funneling funds to the minority regime, and providing it diplomatic, political and military shield and support, and feeding its people, the debilitating conditions in Ethiopia, increased malnutrition and disease in the population, increase in famine and hunger, increase in ethnic and religious violence and conflicts, has increased instability and insecurity in Ethiopia, and now threatens the entire Horn region.