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Eritrea: A Nation on Choke-Hold

Eritrea: A Nation on Choke-Hold Fessahaye Mebrahtu On July 17, 2014, when the NYPD tried to arrest Eric Gardner by putting a choke-hold on his neck for selling loose cigarettes, he pleaded, “I can’t breathe.” The police

Eritrea: A Nation on Choke-Hold

Fessahaye Mebrahtu

On July 17, 2014, when the NYPD tried to arrest Eric Gardner by putting a choke-hold on his neck for selling loose cigarettes, he pleaded, “I can’t breathe.” The police did not head to his cry and at the end there was a dead black man at their feet ( The world outcry for justice did not make much difference but it revealed police brutalities, especially against minorities in the USA. Three years earlier, in July 2011, a similar incident happened in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Derek Walker, another young black-man died in the police squad car gasping for air. His plea for air was ignored by the police, who arrested him on robbery suspicion; thinking he was faking it ( This are tragic incidents, captured on cellphone videos of police cameras. Again justice might have been too late for these two young people but the lime light was on the police involved. Yet, the incident was open to the public in the long run leading to incremental policing reforms.

In the USA the police community relationship, especially with the minority communities needs lots of work before the level of trust is restored. However, the intention of this article is not about American policing but about Eritrea, a nation on choke-hold by a political system that has become cancerous growing from inside-out.

In the cavernous hills of Sahel, EPLF propagated as miracle worker and forward looking disciplined freedom fighting group. The first few years, when the Eritrean GDP was scoring almost two-digits many observers were singing the praises of its leaders’ new vision. Isaias listed among the new breed of African leaders; hoping the lot of Africa would be positively changed after centuries of subjugation, exploitation and intractable conflicts, civil and otherwise.

Eritrea did not even celebrate its 10th anniversary of independence before it fell into intractable conflicts with its neighbors and disappearing its internal critics, including those who were suspected by association or even familial relationship. All what has been gained the first few years after independence was nullified by the border conflict with Ethiopia. There is no doubt that was a manufactured conflict which has put the young nation on “choke-hold” for the last 18 years. Every problem the nation is facing now is blamed to the unsettled boarder conflict.

The Eritrean government is gearing up to celebrate the 25th anniversary in May 2016 of the de facto independence in 1991. The government supporters are awaiting the celebration with enthusiastic anticipation as milestone in the Eritrea’s national history. The country emptying of its youth at an alarming rate of more than 3000/month crossing the border, the anticipated celebration is hollow with no moral significance; except counting the years of repressive system. Celebration of 25th or 50th anniversary of any sort has much deeper meaning than commemorating with pompous celebrations. It has a biblical origin of known as the “Year of Jubilee,” when slaves were freed, debt forgiven, prisoners forgiven, the land was left fallow, etc. Jubilee was the social and moral reset-button for a new beginning of a social and environmental order.

Contrary to the original meaning of “Year of Jubilee,” the government of Eritrea is using every available tool at its disposal; tightening the “choke-hold” denying the young nation air to breath. One of the strangling skim is the appropriation of peoples’ money with excuse of changing the Nakfa. Apparently, the changing of Nakfa could have meant a new beginning analogous to the Year of Jubilee but for the Eritrean regime, there is no new beginning that leads to freedom and liberty. Only a new trick of “choke-hold.”

Those of us who live in the USA, dollar bills are constantly changed known as “face-lift;” adding security features. Other than that, the currency is overhauled by proclamation. In the years I have been in America, the US Dollar bills had several face-lifts without disrupting the circulation system. Unfortunately, to the simple face-lift, the Eritrean government took radical and unprecedented steps; calling it the change of the Nakfa currency.  In reality, all what the Eritrean regime did was, a face-lift of the Nakfa. The face-lifted Nakfa bills could have been introduced in stages – one note at a time without disrupting the circulation or appropriating people’s money. The newly face-lifted Nakfa became a new billy-club in the hands of the regime to keep the Eritrean people on “choke-hold” gasping for air.

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  • Berhane February 16, 2016

    I agree!!!! The Government is trying to choke-hold others just to extend his brutal governance but what he could not see is he is returning the bullet towards himself for his long awaited death. He might stay alive until the money that he looted from the people ends later on he will gasp for air whill be choked for his final death. I feel sorry for those people around Essayas who are awaited their slow death.
    Death for the Dictator!!! Freedom for the Eritrean people!!!!

    • k.tewolde February 16, 2016

      I could’t agree more Berhane, he will asphyxiate to death with the very hands that he molded to kill.History is a good teacher.Eternal glory to the martyrs we left behind in shallow graves.

      • k.tewolde February 16, 2016

        You are looking at a monster our country ever faced.Evil sinister!

  • wedifre February 17, 2016

    Dear Fessahaye,
    Thank you for the well written article.
    Howevr, I would like you to correct “The Eritrean Government” to ” The Eritrean junta” “The regime in Eritrea” ” The group leading Eritrea ” or ” The bandits who are leading Eritrea”
    Because Logically 2 + 2 = 4 or 5 – 2= 3
    Likewise, a government is an instutition ruled by constitution. You cannot call a government because it is having a flag or it is in a specific geographic boundaries. It is a nation because it has a flag and boundaries. It is a government if it has rules and institutions.

  • Berhe Tensea February 17, 2016

    Excellent, you are right the nation is on choke hold, and it is dying an agonizing and slow death.
    As far as the Eritrean people are fleeing at an alarming rate.
    The country is has remained with old men who carry guns and the very young,the sick, and disabled only.
    The Iseyas regime and his Tgrawot friends are only interested in Eritrean resources and wealth’
    The don’t care about its people who they consider too stupid to understand anything.
    Eritreans are crossing to Ethiopia and Sudan on dailly basis and this will continue till the country is empty.
    Meritan and habtan ember izom hasast indelyn ina.

  • T. Araya February 17, 2016

    I think the real reason of this currency manipulation is to create a way this regime can further steal the remittance of Diaspora Eritreans to the tune of 50% of their remittance that are made to their families. The value of the Nakfa ($1=50 Nakfa) has not changed (it could only change/improve if the economy of the country has added value to the currency, and we know that has not happened) but the conversion rate of the currency has gone down by 50% ($1=25 Nakfa), then we would have to conclude that the regime is literally “taking us to the bank”. The other indication that they are cleaning us-up is that they have clamped-down on all the Black Market currency activities so as no one is sharing or profiting from the exchanges. IT IS HIGHWAY ROBBERY, there is no other word for it.

  • Musa Ali February 18, 2016

    What else can he do after failing miserably in everything. He failed economically, politically and socially. Socially he is rejected by the people who believed his lies at the beginning; he failed politically to the point of burying his own constitution after internal and external isolation; the economy is in shambles. “Ab dege teketkete sebay an geza nsebeytu yikitkit- Anxo anxo nimexo” malet eyu. I am glad that due to his confusion and absence of clear idea and conviction, there is no body ready to follow his path of confusion. He is now an old man who failed in everything and isolated and hated and close to his grave. I believe he will burn in the deepest and hottest part of the hell soon.

  • Zeray February 18, 2016

    Forcing the people to trust banks makes the people not to trust even more. Banking is based on Trust.

    Banking and government provide services, the people’s production and creativity provide money supply. The people’s money helps to buy food, shelter, clothing etc.. the rest is saved. Savings can be put in the bank (provided the banking system is trustworthy) or people can change their money in other forms of assets or keep it under their pillows. If I can’t trust the bank I cannot put my money in the bank. If the government forces me to put my money in the bank I don’t trust then I will loose once but not my future. I will be creative enough to put my money somewhere else. That is how normal things work.

  • Musa Ali February 18, 2016

    Keeping your money in the bank make one safer, but if controlled by one who is suffering from PTSD it can not be appealing. Worse if restricted to withdraw only less than 100 dollar a month can have no justification at all. It not only going to kill all small businesses but also infringes the basic rights of citizens. In eritrea most things including food items are imported. That means buisiness people will need dollar. Iseyas’s bank will not sell them dollars. They do not have cash to buy from Black market. This will result in shortage of everything and prices will go through the roof. That is iseyas-Keisha’s smart economic policy that defy the basic principles of economy.

    • Musa Ali February 18, 2016

      This is iseyas-kisha’s smart economic policy that defy the basic principles of economy- that demand and supply determines prices for goods.

  • Yohannes February 19, 2016

    Eritrea created an economic paradigm of its own as if it is located in another planet. I should coin it as “Eritriaconomics”.

  • fm February 20, 2016

    Yohannes I agree with you but with you permission allow me to edit your coin-phrase – Eerieconmics See the definationn of Eerie in English dictionary (Erieconimics in short)

  • fm February 20, 2016

    Sorry for the typo error Eerieconomics (Erieconomics)