Eritrea accuses the world of jamming its 'truth-serving' media
(MoFA 10/14/11)-The government of Eritrea and the Peoples Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) never tire of producing drama after drama. With President Isaias' apparent volte-face in diplomacy in face of the threat of increased sanctions showing little effect, the regime has turned its focus on a media campaign loudly proclaiming that the President remains as defiant and as popular as ever, his diplomacy is bearing fruit, his support base is growing, the country has no drought and no food shortages and the economy, far from deteriorating as all the figures suggest, is actually growing.
Even more recently, Eritrea’s Minister of Information has informed the Eritrean people that a concerted campaign is being waged by the international community, or more accurately the United States and its allies, to jam Eritrean media outlets, apparently in fear that Eri-TV - 'serving the truth' - will expose their lies before the world. The regime's overweening sense of grandeur is so great that it appears to believe that Eri-TV has a global reach that none of the world’s major media outlets can match. And true to the regime's love for superlatives, Minister Ali Abdu in all seriousness told his audience that it took a major campaign by the great powers to jam the Eritrean media. Eritrea is simply too tough to be dealt with by just one great power. One might add that whatever the truth about the claims of the jamming of Eri-TV, here in Ethiopia it remains quite possible to watch Eri-TV if desired. No jamming has been apparent here.
In another recent PFDJ drama, the Eritrean regime's ‘cabinet’ has "approved a food aid package to Somalis affected by drought and famine." This is indeed surprising coming as it does from a nation which, according to the International Food Policy Research institute, is actually experiencing "extremely alarming" levels of hunger. It is particularly ironic to see a regime that has spent so much time and energy in efforts that have repeatedly worsened the situation in Somalia making apparent goodwill gestures to the very people so seriously affected by Eritrea’s open and continuous support for extremists.
Minister Ali Abdu, for good measure added without a trace of irony that: “it is not about how much (aid) you give, it's about how much love you give with what you give”. Eritrea, he said, is doing this "with deep affection ... because we stand along [with] our Somali brothers and sisters to the bitter end”. It is not clear who will receive Eritrea's food aid package on behalf of the people of Somalia. Eritrea, after all, still refuses to recognize the TFG as the legitimate government of Somalia.
Rather more worryingly, Minister Ali Abdu also promised that Asmara will continue to support efforts to help stabilize Somalia. That might suggest that the Eritrean government was finally prepared to heed the international community's call for a change of behaviour on the part of Eritrea, but the Minister’s additional remarks make it clear this was not what he intended. “Eritrea”, he said “has been supporting the Somali people to gain their sovereignty and to [reinstitute] public and government institutions, the territorial integrity of Somalia." He went on: “this is something we have been striving for the last 20 years and we have been consistent – and now, it is proven that our approach is the best approach.”
It is not always clear what Minister Ali Abdu is driving at, and we have no way of knowing how Eritrea’s approach to Somalia might be considered as the best approach. However, it is clear enough that Eritrea’s ‘consistent’ position over the last decade or more is exactly the one that the international community has labelled as the policy of destabilization for the whole region. In the light of this ‘consistency’, it seems probable that Eritrea’s aid package is likely to be delivered to Kismayo rather than Mogadishu, to Al-Shabaab rather than to the TFG.
Two things in fact are very clear. One is that Asmara has taken self-delusion to almost schizophrenic levels. It has created an alternate universe in which Eritrea has got it right in Somalia and the rest of the world is accused of getting it wrong and indeed of carrying out wrongdoing there. This, of course, is exactly at a time when the world is seriously considering tightening sanctions against the regime in Asmara. Secondly, whatever supposed diplomatic overtures and efforts the regime may have toyed with in recent weeks, it remains as determined as ever to continue with its destabilizing activities in the region. Indeed, if anything, the regime has made it quite clear it has no intention of mending its ways in the foreseeable future. That, of course, is why sanctions must be tightened and serious steps taken to control the foreign policy adventurism of President Isaias and of the regime in Asmara.
Minister Ali Abdu concluded his sermon by taking a leaf out of his president’s book, warning the international community that it "should realize that the only way is to leave Somali people to decide their destiny and their own fate." Ironically, this of course is exactly what the international community has been telling Eritrea's leaders for years. As always, the regime in Asmara fails to see the irony or if it does, ignores it. Equally, conspicuously missing in everything said by the minister, the president or the regime is any indication, any suggestion, however faint, of a change in policy or of behaviour. All the indications are that he and Eritrea are fully prepared to remain armoured in the consistency of their own little alternative world.