Neither the Crisis in Yemen, nor the Refugee Crisis in Europe end Erritean Isolation: Either Regime change or Regime’s policy change Does!
Some pundits have expressed that with the outbreak of the crisis in Yeman, and the horrific refugee crisis in Europe will bring Eritrea to global engagements and end Eritrea's isolation. In Yemen, for providing the
Some pundits have expressed that with the outbreak of the crisis in Yeman, and the horrific refugee crisis in Europe will bring Eritrea to global engagements and end Eritrea’s isolation. In Yemen, for providing the Saudis to bomb the Yemenis from the Eritrean islands. And in Europe for being one of the top ten refugees producing countries.
A lifetime dream come true for Issaias, for his regime, and perhaps for the “Hade Libi, Nihna Nisu, Nisu Nihna”. This is what they are going to say, “We told you, without him, without his crisis sloving skills, without babysitting him, not only no crisis will be solved, but he could possibly create another crisis!”. “You see, finally, they came to him, to Wedi Afrom Bri!” This reminds me of the saying in Tigrigna: “Tidelyao emo aytirekbaon!” “ትደልያኦ’ም ኣይትረኽብኦን”
True, Eritrea regime could gain a short and sporadic advantage from such crisis. But no crisis would bring Eritrea to be engaged globally, not even the crisis in the region; the crisis in Somalia in fact isolated Eritrea, the crisis in Sudan didn’t bring Eritrea to be a partner for peace in the region. It is not a crisis that brings Eritrea to engagement, Eritrea itself should opt for engagement, and work for it. This requires, either the policy change of the regime, or change the regime itself.
Despite the experts good willings to the Eritrean regime, what is happening on the ground is the nightmare of Issaias and the regime’s supporters. Eritrea is more isolated than ever, even by states, that doesn’t have any preconditions in their foreign policy. For anybody who followed the recent events in the East of Africa, the visit by foreign leaders of the state of Israel, the prime minister of India and the coming visit of Turkey leaders to the neighbors of Eritrea, can simply conclude that the pundits’ analysis is proved wrong and hollow.
The Dream of the crisis
To portray that the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen opens an opportunity for Eritrea to be engaged globally is misleading. First of all, Eritrea was never isolated from any of the Arab coalition partners. What is new? Its ties with the Quataris, with the Saudis, with the Egyptons….? Eritrea has a diplomatic relationship with these Arab countries, albeit in different degrees both before and after the Yemen crisis. What is new is, with the crisis in Yeman, the Eritrean regime has manipulated the Yeman’s crisis, at the expense of the Eritrean people’s historical relationship and solidarity with the Yemeni people, to support the Saudis to bomb the them for financial support to continue its iron fist rule against the Eritrea people.
In fact, the Eritrean regime has been good at managing the delicate diplomatic fronts in the Gulf and the middle east. The Eritrean regime has been faced between the Iranians and the Israelis, when it allowed a base to both of these regional powers. And in the Yemeni’s crisis, the regime again finds itself between the two regional powers with conflicting interest. The Iranians, who supports the Houthis and the Saudis who fights against the Houths. Perhaps this is not in the interest of Eritrea and the Eritrean people in the long term.
But what the Yemeni crisis shows is that there is no well articulated, or even for that matter any forging policy vision for the Eritrean regime. And it shows the unpredictability of the Eritrean regime. It sends the message that, the Eritrean regime is willing to engage with anybody who is willing to provide financial support to sustain its iron fist military rule against the Eritrean people, under any cost.
The refugee crisis in Europe, yes the European Union agreed on 200 million euros in development aid for Eritrea, as a five year plan, and for Eritrea to change its unlimited national service policy, in an attempt to stop the Eritrtean exodus to Europe and the Europeans decided to engage. As if Eritreans are leaving for work not as a result of the routine, arbitrary arrest, detention and torture, disappearance, extra-judicial killing, unlimited military service including forced labor. In addition, women face sexual abuse and rape in the military.
But considering the Eritrean government’s denial to change the rules of the military service, the EU parliament’s resolution condemning Eritrea, the COI report on the Erirean Human Rights’ Crime, coupled with strong and organized opposition lobby, and the Brixit and its economic and political consequences, which already sent a strong message of resentment to the EU political elite, could possibly change the way these political elites has been dealing when it comes to refugee. So there is no guarantee that the plan would go as planned, let alone it would open a route for Eritrea to a bilateral engagement with Europe.
The nightmare on the ground
Prime Minister Natanyahu of Israel, visited Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia. Unlike Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Ethiopia, where Israel maintains bilateral relations, Eritrean, commonly known as the “North Korea” of Africa, is not a popular country for bilateral relations, definitely not the best country to visit for economic and development. The Prime Minster skipped Eritrea not because of its unprecedented human rights records, the systematic, widespread and gross human rights crimes committed by the regime, as recently reported by the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea, but its destabilizing behavior to its neighbors, and its unpredictable foreign policies.
Perhaps it is the last country to draw any interest from Israel, particularly, after the arms embargo passed by the UN in 2009, for its support to a Somalia based terrorist groups Alshabab. However, Israel maintains, a covert military presence in Eritrea. According to the global intelligence company Stratfor, Israel has a listening station on the secluded Mt. Emba Soyra, as well as docks in the Dahlak Archipelago.
Not only Natanyahu, but both Narendra Modi of India who visited four African nations, among them Kenya and Tanzania, and Turkey’s leader who will visit Uganda, Kenya and Somalia, skipped Eritrea. Just two out of many reasons that justifies their sidelining of Eritrea. First, these leader visits to African countries, as being alluded, is because of the economic prospect of investing in Africa’s young and vibrant population at a time when Europe and other parts of the world are rapidly ageing. So Eritrea couldn’t be part of this, simply because its young and vibrant population, indeed, yes, young and vibrant population!, has left the country, because of the regime. As the young leaves, the country, Eritrea is left only with its ageing population, to the extent that a national service is needed to bury the death of an elderly in the rural parts of Eritrea.
Second, natural resources, particularly oil and gas reserve and agricultural prospects, which these countries could possibly invest. We don’t yet know if Eritrea is blessed (cursed) by oil reserve, or gas reserve, which these countries are desperate for energy. In Agriculture, it is impossible for these countries to look Eritrea for food, like for example Kenya, which countries like India needs to feed their population. But Eritrea would fail to be a candidate, not for the lack of fertile land, but again for its unpredictable policy and the lack of human resources that this task requires.
Thus, there is no prospect for Eritrea to be engaged globally, neither for security cooperations, nor any bilateral economic prospects, unless the regime changes both its internal and foreign policies, and opt for engagement, which is unlikely to happen or unless the regime is changed, which is also unlikely to happen in the near future. The assumption that the Yemeni crisis or the refugee crisis will open a route for the regime to global engagement is just not only wrong but it is also misleading.