Monday, February 9, 2015


The land of famine – the worst famine in Africa in living memory, circa 1984, when Bob Geldoff launched Band Aid and then Live Aid and raised millions for it, while governments did what governments always do for countries that have no oil, no minerals, no geographical location of military significance – they ignore it. 

Eritrea became independent from Ethiopia in 1993, but immediately went to war with Yemen, and then with Ethiopia itself; the two are not secure behind a UN-protected security zone, so expect a new flare-up any day and the UN peacekeepers to walk away; they always do. 

Such is the scale of continuing famine, 30 years after Band Aid, that 70% of the population depend on food aid to stay alive, though the government insists that the country produces sufficient without needing any help. If you want a job in Eritrea, join the military. No foreign media are allowed in, so it is difficult to assemble a meaningful picture of the country, but it is known that national service is the principal form of employment for post eighteen year olds, which mean the farms are not being worked, and a loaf of bread a day is all that the government allows. Of all the refugees finding their way to Europe by boat, no country provides more than Eritrea. Maybe they should elect Bob Geldoff Prime Minister.

Human Rights Watch is simply devastating about Eritrea - look at its section headlined "Arbitrary Arrest, Prolonged Detention, and Inhumane Conditions". You can read its full report here, but I cannot refrain from offering some quotations. This, for example:

"Eritrea is among the most closed countries in the world; human rights conditions remain dismal. Indefinite military service, torture, arbitrary detention, and severe restrictions on freedoms of expression, association, and religion provoke thousands of Eritreans to flee the country each month. Among those fleeing in 2013 were the minister of information—whose 85-year-old father, brother, and 15-year-old daughter were immediately arrested—and the deputy head of economic affairs of the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), Eritrea’s sole political party that controls most major domestic commercial enterprises...Eritrea has no constitution, functioning legislature, independent judiciary, elections, independent press, or nongovernmental organizations; it does not hold elections. All power is concentrated in the hands of President Isaias Afewerki, in office since 1991."

Can someone please explain to me why we pay so much attention to, say, Ukraine, or Afghanistan, or the local skirmish in Iraq and Syria, all of which are serious but none in this league; and why we bring the likes of Uhuru Kenyatta to the International Criminal Court, while countries like Eritrea barely make it to the news headlines, and President Afewerki is free to commit crimes against humanity on the grand scale with impunity?

There were photos and newsreel at the time of the 1984 famine that were amongst the most horrendous since the liberation of the Nazi death camps; and yet nothing when compared with some of the photos and newsreel of today's Eritrea. If you must, go hunt for them yourself; what is below is the worst that I shall show; the man on the left is the one responsible; I have no idea who the man on the right is.

Marks For: 6,380,803 (one for each member of its population, minus President Afewerki)

Marks Against: 1 (President Afewerki)

Copyright © 2015 David Prashker
All rights reserved
The Argaman Press

No comments:

Post a Comment