In a recent article, Al Jazeera, quoting two notorious individuals with close ties to the regime in Ethiopia, accused members of the Eritrean Diaspora of being “spies for the government of Eritrea”. Similar accusations were made by these same groups and individuals in the past, but were dismissed when found to be outright lies.
These accusations were initially fabricated by Mirjam VanReisen of Tilburg University in 2014, who works closely with the two Al Jazeera sources. This Dutch academician who has inserted herself in Eritrea’s affairs made similar wild claims against Dutch-Eritreans who challenged her dubious research and reports on Eritrea. As with all her fabrications on Eritrea, an elaborate campaign in the Dutch media campaign followed her accusations. This tactic is used to sway public opinion, to cement the lie in the minds of Dutch public, and most importantly members of the Dutch Parliament she has used and manipulated to advance her political agendas against the State of Eritrea. The laundered information has been used to target innocent Eritrean communities across Europe.
The latest accusations from Al Jazeera, employing Van Reisen’s surrogates as sources is part and parcel of the ongoing campaign to maintain control on a narrative on Eritrean “asylum seekers and refugees” by Van Reisen and her ilk. Following her lead, in 2015, a similar claim was made by an Eritrean NGO in Germany. Deutsch-Welle (DW) reported then that “the German government denied the problem exists at all and insisted that translators were rigorously tested. Christoph Sander, a spokesperson for the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) told DW the following in an email statement:
- “…The problem you have described is not known to us as a general problem among Eritrean translators…We have no indications either from outer branches, or from other sources…”
With thousands of asylum seekers in Europe today, translation services have become a lucrative enterprise for the many fake NGOs established by Van Reisen and her partners, such as the International Commission on Eritrean Refugees (ICER) who seek to exploit. More importantly, these fake NGOs seek to control the narrative on Eritrea. These information launderers are threatened as more institutions raise concerns over the possible bias of these anti Eritrea groups posing as “experts” in international forums.
Eritrea’s enemies who have been fleecing American and European donors, and US and EU taxpayers by extension, with various schemes claiming to “educate”, “resettle”, and “protect” Eritrean “asylum seekers and refugees” see their lucrative anti-Eritrea cottage industry threatened. The two individuals presented by Al Jazeera have been implicated in the trafficking of Eritreans and the duo have worked in tandem with the regime in Ethiopia in disseminating laundered information on Eritrea for quite some time now. The monopoly on the narratives on Eritrea that Ethiopia and its surrogates enjoyed since the Eritrea Ethiopia border conflict in 1998-2000 no longer prevail, as more and more countries realize they have been hoodwinked by the massive misinformation campaigns that aimed to distort the reality in Eritrea.
Over the years, the truth about Eritrea has emerged and the prevailing narratives have been rigorously challenged, often by the asylum seekers themselves, who have been victimized by those who lured them out of their country with illusive promises of greener pastures. Contrary to what Al Jazeera reported, it is in fact these anti-Eritrea groups that have coerced asylum seekers to lie, repeat rehearsed spills about “persecution”, “torture” etc. urged to participate in “opposition” rallies (to take pictures), are provided fake membership cards, and have been coerced to mirror their testimonies to narratives on Eritrea produced by these groups. These anti-Eritrea groups are crying foul today, because they are losing their stranglehold on these newcomers who reject their political motives and refuse to be used as pawns in vicious campaigns of hate.
Eritreans have become accustomed to the Ethiopian regime’s strident and vituperative attacks on Eritrea, but why is Al Jazeera indulging in such affairs. Why is Al Jazeera rehashing an old tired story and repeating its falsehoods? The timing of the stories on Eritrea is quite telling of the network’s real motives.
Whenever the frightened minority regime in Ethiopia finds itself in one of its self created quagmires, it seeks diversionary ploys to take attention from the worsening situation in the securitized country, now ruled by a “Command Post”. Loosing grip on a country threatening to implode, the Prime Minister has resigned but replacing him has not been an easy task for a divided Parliament. The discrepancy on the number of votes casts by Parliament to validate the “State of Emergency” notwithstanding, the regime has instituted draconian edicts in a futile effort to enforce its rule on the suffocating the population. The regime stands thoroughly exposed and at war with its own people.
So it comes as no surprise then that its surrogates in the Eritrean quislings’ league appear, as if on cue, to divert attention away from the turmoil in Ethiopia. As they have done in the past, these quislings have partnered with media outlets such as Al Jazeera, which has a satellite office in the Ethiopian capital, to launch yet another desperate campaign to malign Eritrea, its leadership and people. Al Jazeera’s vile accusations against members of the Eritrean Diaspora, without providing any verifiable evidence to support its allegations, only further undermines the network’s credibility, integrity and exposes the desperation of Eritrea’s enemies.
In a characteristic attempt to deflect attention away from Ethiopia and its woes, Al Jazeera and its sources are desperately searching for scapegoats to cover up the regime’s failures and its external aggressions. The regime’s ethnic-based policies have created conflicts throughout Ethiopia. Its “Agazi forces” have been implicated in recent massacres in Chelenqo, Irreecha, Woldia and in the Omo Valley. Over a million people are internally displaced, and the hundreds of thousands that have been detained, yet Al Jazeera chooses to ignore these crimes against humanity being committed right under its nose.
It is ironic that Al Jazeera, which has an office in Ethiopia, provides forum for information launderers while keeping mum on the extensive protests of the Ethiopian people against a repressive and frightened regime ruling under an emergency diktat. The diktat adopted to purportedly restore public order gives the regime’s “Agazi forces” license to kill civilians the regime has labeled as “anti peace elements”, “terrorists” and “werebelawoch”. Al Jazeera ignores their plight and instead provides the ruthless regime with a diversion by attacking innocent Eritreans in the Diaspora…while Ethiopians suffer in silence.
The refugee crisis in Europe is intertwined with, and indeed constitutes the inevitable fall out, of its pronounced interventionist foreign policies in the past years. In the case of Eritrea, this has been compounded by the misguided policies of granting “automatic asylum” to Eritrean economic migrants to advance ulterior political motives. EU member States have also, by and large, preferred to ignore the root cause of instability in our region that stems from Ethiopia’s 16- year long occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories. Ethiopia, in violation of international law and the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) Charters, has employed several gimmicks and ploys to reverse the final and binding delimitation (t 2002) and demarcation (2007) decisions of the Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) established pursuant to the Algiers Agreements signed by Eritrea and Ethiopia in 2000. The African Union, the European Union and United Nations, who were the primary guarantors and witnesses to the Agreement, have refused to shoulder their legal and moral obligations and enforce the EEBC’s decisions.
Finally, Al Jazeera ought to know that asylum decisions depend upon assessments of claimants’ credibility, and on the plausibility of their stories in relation to general background information – on the situation in their countries of origin, and do not rely solely on “translations” of their submissions and testimonies.
The objective situation in Eritrea has been attested to by British, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian and Swiss fact finding missions to Eritrea, as well as by the thousands of Eritrean and non-Eritrean visitors and resident diplomats. Its sources, which have a fixed negative opinion of Eritrea and its leadership, do not have any expertise to speak on issues relating to Eritrean, or any other asylum seekers. They are information launderers who live off the alms of others. Al Jazeera is serving to further victimize these asylum seekers with its biased and inaccurate reports-and complicates an already onerous immigration process.
Asylum seekers and refugees should not be used as tools for Ethiopia and anti-Eritrea groups who want to isolate, ghettoize and use them to advance their political agendas. States should endeavor to protect these vulnerable populations. Unlike these politically motivated groups and individuals, the Eritrean Diaspora, will continue to nurture the newcomers and welcome them to the fold.