Monthly Archives: December 2016

Recognition of Individual Contribution: A Step to Transparency and Responsibility

(Originally posted at http://www.awate.com on December 2, 2016, Recognition of Individual Contribution: A Step to Transparency and Responsibility)

Let’s pause and look into ourselves and identify “who is who” among those who are making history by being in the foremost list of activist leaders in the quest of justice for Eritrea. In today’s political mindset of Eritreans, many may feel discomfort when individual dissidents are picked from the crowds of justice seekers pool. Though these negative feelings have deep historical roots to exist, it is a must for justice loving Eritrean to know who is who among themselves.

The struggle for independence has left a strong footprint of burring purposefully individual talent, creativeness and leadership. Promoting individual talent is considered as nurturing individualism. From the very beginning, the revolutionary concept was designed to be a collective work. Every achievement registered is collective work, even when it is done by an identified individual. It is almost a taboo to give credit to someone who did a typical work. With the exception of the supreme leader, in rare cases, when an individual’s heroism, intelligence, talent, leadership quality etc., trespass collective recognition, political suspicion increases. Soon enough, directly or indirectly, the individual becomes victim of political silencing, often accompanied by complicated accusations of treason and fabricated labeling. The fate becomes either going to prison or get killed systematically. Hundreds of brilliant freedom fighters were passed unrecognized day in day out for this simple reason.

Such acts create organizations that burry individual contribution. Anyone who happens to be pragmatic and competent enough to bring a change within the existing system is systematically suppressed. When many talented individuals are silenced, the hosting institution falls under the mercy of one-man.  Not only this, homogenous thinking develops that later becomes impossible to accept diversified ideas. The end result of this endeavor produces one-man rule, authoritative or totalitarian system. As time passes, all powers are concentrated in one that could resemble as a monarchic rule as Saleh Younis elaborated in his recent article titled by Eritrean “System” is a Monarchy (1).

Looking deep into the mindset of Eritreans, the society seems unable to reconcile with talented individuals. The doctrine of ‘the masses’ is still alive; both within those who support or oppose the current system. Individuals who surfaced at the top because of their unique works are continuously becoming the target of harsh criticism and defamation. Though such silencing campaigns are usually initiated by PFDJ security agents, folks within the justice seeking camp apply the same style to disown individuals with outstanding performance. As a result the camp of justice seekers is in constant scrutinaizaton.

Besides its psychological side effect on individuals, failure of giving timely and due recognition has an impact on identifying “who is who” within the pool of justice seekers camp. Parallel to this, it can hamper establishment of transparent and responsible leadership. To avoid such voids, first, it is wise to appreciate someone’s contribution so that it can boast her/his motive. Second when the struggle succeeds these known figures are good candidates to hold public positions. The society can put trust on them. In Tigrigna there is a proverb that reads, ካብ ዘይትፈልቶጦ መልአኽ ትፈልጦ ሰይጣን ይሓይሽ” (From an unknown god, a known monster is better). The case of PFDJ Eritrea under EPLF and now PFDJ is typical example as during the struggle era, everything was opaque. After independence, all public positions were occupied with unknown figures which later produced confusion, inefficiency, secrecy and corruption of power on daylight.

In a different course however, with an increasing political shakeups and openness to democratic values, Eritrean opposition camp is experiencing a different path. Unlike before, individuals are in the course of being recognized and scrutinized more than any time for their works. Those who pass all the political litmus test are coming to the surface as juice of the shakes.  Contribution of some individuals is big enough that it cannot be simply ignored. Eritreans like Saleh Ghadi Johar, Saleh Younis, Amanuel Hidrat, Amanuel Eyassu, Khalid Abdu, Amanuel Sahle, Selam Kidane, Meron Estifanos, Dr. Sara Okbay, Woldesus Amar, Abba Musie Zerai, Gezae Hagos, etc are among the pools of those formidable individuals who are playing a great role in shaping our struggle for justice. If my pen were strong enough, I could not miss this opportunity to write about every individual and give them due recognition on my own capacity and then let the people make it at equal level. If time permits, I will sharpen my pen to write about Amanuel Hidrat*, the unheard thinker who is continuously shaping our approach to struggle for democracy.

Some initiatives are coming to officially recognize individuals on different occasions. My take is to inforce on what is already done and give my testimonies. From what I refered so far, I found some information on this subject. To give you some notable example:

  1. In 2015, Bologna Forum recognized Professor Bereket Habteselassie for his long service to the case of Eritrea freedom, democracy and rule of law (2).
  2. Elyzabeth Chyrum, a human rights activist and advocate for Eritrean refugees all over the world, was recognized for her commendable work in 2009 (3) and 2012 (4).
  3. A conference held by Lead Eritrea in San Francisco University (USA) on September 24, 2016 recognized Dr. Alganesh Fesseha for her courageous role she played in saving Eritrean lives and gave her a Humanitarian award(5).

This official recognition is just a kick.  To build transparency, every Eritrean citizen should delve in a much deeper question of individual’s contribution. This curiosity based question is not easy to be answered unless we have a whole picture of the activities accomplished Eritreans across all sectors of struggle. What we need to be caution enough is that the mechanism that every fighter uses is different and we need to give credit accordingly. The roles they play can be as: human rights activists, political activists, politicians, analysist, dissidents, thinkers, philosophers, strategists, propagandists etc. Each role has its own pros and cons in the march that we are endeavoring. It is therefore wise to know each activity. Based on this it is much easier to categorize Eritreans and recognize what they do. I tried to make a tentative list of people who fall in each category based on the keen observation I do on different cheer leaders in today’s struggle. Nevertheless I preferred to chose one and discussion a little further on the triumph and challenges facing during the entire discourse.  For today, I have chosen Elyzabeth Chyrum.

Elyzabeth Chyrum: the indomitable and iron lady of Human Rights Activist

It is wise to define first what human right is before dealing with the term ‘human rights activist.  Human Rights is defined as: “The basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are considered to be entitled, often held to include the rights to life, liberty, equality, and a fair trial, freedom from slavery and torture, and freedom of thought and expression.” And any person or organization that works for these end goals is a human rights activist. In this category, Elizabeth Chyrum comes in the forefront. Without doubt this indomitable woman has worked relentlessly on her own backs in advocating human rights issues for the last two decades.

Elyzabeth Chyrum, commonly surnamed simply as Elsa, is a known figure among the justice seeking camp. Her horizon is both horizontal and vertical: meaning horizontally she extends her kind heart and unreserved help to people who badly need her help. And vertically, she knocks every door to urge every concerned institution, government and organization to hear the voice of the voiceless Eritreans. Her notable works and known to the public are enormous. Her hunger strike outside the Djibouti Mission to the United Nations in Geneva in support of 267 Eritrean refugees detained in Djibouti was a remarkable and unforgettable phenomenon (6).  An article published at Asmarino.com on 2009 has registered more than twenty achievements that gave credited to her role (7). Since then she is continuing to add dozens of remarkable achievements each year. Her pledge to the United States to form a commission that investigate for human rights crimes of PFDJ regime that are later recognized as “crimes against humanity” is her latest and internationally recognized high level score. She is a director of Human Rights Concern Eritrea (HRCE), a UK based nonprofit organization.    Anyone who is eager to know about the work of this organization, it can easily be accessed at www.hrc-eritrea.org.

Though Elyzabeth is doing a marvelous work, she is equivocally a target of criticism, defiance, insults and personal threats. It is obvious when PFDJ goes after her and her organization and try its best mechanism to silence her by all means. It is a known fact why it does so. What is worrisome is when forces that are considered as justice seekers go against her. I remember a harsh attack that went after her from a political movement members (now mostly members of Eritrean Solidarity Movement for National Salvation (ESMNS)) targeting her when she extended her hand to help an Eritrean who contacted her personally when he was in danger. Though I believe that most of the earthquakes she receives are on unfounded conspiracy, my main theory is very simple and straight: “Many think that she is just against PFDJ. I bet it. She is for humanity; she is for justice, for dignity, respect of each other, and rule of law and accountability of everybody’s deeds.” For this, when she sees wrong on human rights, she stands right to defend it. She is a jewel of justice where injustice is prevailing. Many will continue to misunderstand her noble work until justice and rights of humanity becomes the norms of our daily life. Till then, I doubt she will ever be free from similar attacks. Sadly, today, individuals, institutions, organizations and governments are constantly violating human rights. Unless we are blessed with very rare individuals like Elizabeth Chyrum, human dignity will vanish forever and atrocities will become a norm.

On this occasion, I salut Elsa. Bravo Elsa, vraiment super.  

 Works Cited

  1. Younis, Saleh. The Eritrean “System” is a Monarchy. [Online] 2016. http://awate.com/the-eritrean-system-is-a-monocracy/.
  2. Habtemariam, Semere T. EYSC’s Bologna Forum Recognizes Dr. Bereket Habteselassie. [Online] 2015. http://awate.com/eyscs-bologna-forum-recognizes-dr-bereket-habteselassie/.
  3. Asmarino Staff. Elizabeth/ Elsa Chyrum: Human Rights Activist (Eritrea). [Online] 2009. http://asmarino.com/alewana/332-elizabeth-elsa-chyrum-human-rights-activist-eritrea.
  4. Elizabeth (Elsa) Chyrum: A woman of the year 2012. [Online] 2012. http://asmarino.com/editorial/1609-elizabeth-elsa-chyrum-a-woman-of-the-year-2012b.
  5. Eritrea, Lead. [Online] 08 2016. https://www.facebook.com/Lead-Eritrea-Where-Eritrean-Youth-Start-Leading-709521955835644/.
  6. HRC-Eritrea. Eritrea: Hunger strike in Protest against detention of 267 Eritrean refugees in Djibouti. 2014.
  7. AI Staff. Elizabeth/Elsa Chrum: Huamn Rights Activist(Eritrea). s.l. : http://www.asmarino.com, 2009.

 

*Since 2009 (information available in his column Tebeges at www.awate.com, Amanuel Hidrat has written more than 40 Articles. Each article is worth for scientific analysis. If we spent sometimes on his thinking for sure we will get a light to our path for democracy and governance.

 

 

 

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Ms. Christine N. Umutoni: Abuser of Humanitarian and UNDP Mission in Eritrea

(Originally published at http://www.awate.com, Christine Umutoni In Eritrea: Another Abuser of UNDP Mission

The global mission of United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is aimed at: poverty reduction, HIV/AIDS, democratic governance, energy and environment, social development, crisis prevention and recovery, encouraging the protection of human rights and the empowerment of women. Such noble mission is none existent in Eritrea. Thanks to a resident UN Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP-Eritrea country representative Ms. Christine N. Umutoni, since her first appointment, she worked against UNDP’s mission by acting as an agent of the dictatorial regime of Asmara.

A short Profile

A lawyer by her profession, Ms. Umutoni Nyinawumwami Christine was born and educated in Uganda. She did her first degree in Mekerere University from 1983 to 1987. In 1987, she joined a clandestine organization mobilizing support for the return to Rwanda. In 1990, she engaged actively with Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) that was fighting against the Hutu controlled Rwanda government. After the war ended she held public position as “Director of Cabinet and the Assistant Minister for rehabilitation and reconstruction”. In 1998, she pursuied her Master’s degree. After she finished her studies, she started her diplomatic career first as Ambassador to Belgium and in charge of The Netherlands, Luxembourg, The Vatican and the European Union. In 2002, she became Ambassador to Uganda. After serving two unsuccessful diplomatic years (2002-2004), she was recalled back to home. After serving in different domestic and international affairs, in 2009, she was appointed as a UNDP’s country’s representative to Zimbabwe and then reassigned to Eritrea in 2012. She is member of Rwanda Women Leaders Caucus.

Here sixteen years diplomatic career are nothing but full of failures. Since her appointment in Eritrea, she indulged herself as a diplomatic envoy of a dictatorial regime by breaking her organizational legal framework of work ethics and standards (1). Before detailing what she is doing against her diplomatic mandate, it is wise to see her over-all background so that the conclusion about her as abuser of UN office can be simpler to figure it out.

Ms. Christine N. Umutoni as a Rwandan Government Envoy

Before detailing the diplomatic relationship developed after Ms; Umutoni’s arrival in Asmara, let me highlight the political highlights of modern Rwanda.

Rwanda and 1994 are two faces of the same coin. Anyone who mentions Rwanda, 1994 flashes immediately. In 1994, Rwanda had experienced extreme genocide where more than 800,000 people were slaughtered by Hutu extremists just within 100 days. The genocide terminated only when RPF forces, now the ruling party in Rwanda, controlled Kigali under the leadership of Paul Kagame. More than two million Hutu people fled to Congo as a result and thousands died in the course. After holding power, Rwanda started to heal its wound by focusing on mainly on economic developments while suppressing dissidents and freedom of speech. Talking on ethnicity also became illegal.

Although what happened in 1994 could be a strong reason not to let ethnic talks to surface again, absolute interdiction is increasingly hindering honest reconciliation. In addition, the complexity of Rwanda genocide both within Rwanda and outside is increasingly creating tensions across the region. Once ought to be in the right direction of democratization process, tyranny through legal procedure is developing. Recently, Rwanda has extended a president’s mandate to a third term which will give another opportunity for Kagame to stay in power. Different reasons can be created for this phenomenon nevertheless it can be simply generalized as “President Kagame is successful leader without a successor”. He either sacked or chased away any capable leader around him except the minions.

Fear is the ultimate ruling strategy in Rwanda. The dispute between Hutu rebel groups in Democratic republic of Congo and Rwandan government, the proxy war in Brundi and increasingly negative peace in Rwanda are fertile grounds for the ongoing instability of central government. President Kagame is not shy to tell any opponent openly for the actions to be taken against. Most importantly Rwanda’s official accusation for France as a guilty country in the 1994 tragedy is creating unfavorable condition.

Political developments inside Rwanda are therefore going from bright hope to darkness. President Kagame is transforming himself from one of modern and capable leader to the list of dictators in Africa. As President Obama said for the African Union Leaders in his 2015 speech, “When a leader tries to change the rules in the middle of the game just to stay in office, it risks instability and strife…” (2)

Rwanda and Eritrea strengthened their diplomatic links since 2013 when Osman Saleh visited Rwanda (3). This coincides with the arrival of Ms. Umutoni, a member of RPF, implying that her arrival in Asmara has opened an opportunity for a political mission beyond her official mandate. She acted as a bridge to create a link between RPF and PFDJ which have now many common political strategies.

If we dig further for details, both countries follow almost similar military strategy, going after dissidents and humanitarian abuse, engagement of proxy war with neighboring countries and keeping hostages their Diasporas community (4). Recently, Rwanda has introduced mandatory Military Services. Systematic and widespread arrest is increasingly becoming common and thousands of citizens are put in secret prison centers.

What is worrisome most is in connection with Rwanda-Eritrea relationship, Rwanda has made a secret arrangement with Israel to accept deployed Eritrean refugees from prison camps of Israel (5).  The fate of these refugees is unknown in the Rwandan soil.

Ms. Christine N. Umutoni in Zimbabwe

Before coming to Eritrea as UNDP officer, Ms. Umutoni had the same job post in Zimbabwe. As humanitarian record shows, Zimbabwe is unfortunate country to be lead by one of the oldest and president for life Robert Mugabe. President Mugabe is a typical dictator who put Zimbabwe in the list of poorest countries with all its abundant natural resources. His absolute authoritarian leadership and suppress of individual freedoms has created on the failed and fragile state. Ms. Umutoni’s failed UNDP mission to this country has brought no tangible achievement except her cosmetic annual reports and to no effect international engagements that cost millions of dollars. The same as she tried in her early years in Eritrea, her main activities were targeting mainly on youth empowerment, strengthening women’s role and to some extent creating conducive environment of international engagement with Zimbabwe.

Ms. Christine N. Umutoni in Eritrea

Though Eritrea and Zimbabwe have different paths, they share common trends. Because of their absolute dictatorial system, both countries have created a failed economic system. While youth unemployment is extremely high in Zimbabwe, Eritrean youth are engaged in a “forced labour – aka slavery”. As a result, youth, women and children are the principal victims in both countries. Thinking the same principle could be applied, Ms. Umutoni initially immersed her failed strategy of pouring UNDP’s financial resources towards youth and women empowering programs.  As smart as she is, she didn’t spend to understand what please Eritrean officials if she is going to maintain her post. As a result, she deviated her energy in line to the dictatorial system requirement of creating a platform called “Development Partners’ Forum” to engage interest motivated diplomats. Mainly composed of individuals, like the South African Ambassador to Eritrea, Prof. Iqbal Jhazbhay and Ambassador Marchel Gerrmann, Head of the EU Delegation, its mission is to create uninverted and opaque image of Eritrea for the world. Every attendant of the forum has its own objective. For example; the South African Ambassador is on creating conducive environment for South African Mining Industry and his professional expert on Somalia’s mission. EU’s delegation interest is to halt youth fleeing from the country as EU is the principal target of immigrants.(source: http://rwandarugali.tripod.com/rwanda/id210.html)

To work for that end, Ms. Umutoni has perfectly mastered for gathering experts that talk on behalf of PFDJ and use their official status to deny human rights accusation coming from UN Human Rights Council. If successful, her main objective is to provide an opaque atmosphere on the actual situation of Eritrea.

Parallel to that she participated in a number of UN meetings and conferences to give her testimony on PFDJ’s sanity. She talked on behalf of Eritrean Women’s Union on a number of occasions when Eritrean officials were accused on “Rape and Sexual abuses”. She participated in New York and Geneva when Commission of Inquiry (COiE) produced a report that later on accused Eritrea for its systematic and widespread human rights crimes, and very recently, she was in EU conferences along with her similar minded diplomats talking on behalf of government regular officials on the so called “registered developments”.

To stop her and her friends campaign for the dictator in Asmara, a group of Eritrean Activists wrote an article targeting Ms. Umutoni and her friends a formal complaint addressed to United Nations (UN) organ: the Department of Political Affairs, the Head Offices of UNDP, UNFPA and UN Women in New York (6) and very recently Human Rights Concern – Eritrea (7)

Ms. Christine N. Umutoni as a Capable Dictators’s Servant

You might wonder why I am bringing all these issues here. Hold on: my objective is to create Ms. Umutoni’s world view on dictatorial systems and the way it deals with dictators by abusing her UNDP office. As a Rwandan who might share the world view of President Kagame, and as a UN failed diplomat to bring any tangible developments in Zimbabwe and now in Eritreq, the whole picture that can be drawn is not different from one who is well capable candidate of “Servant of Dictators”.

In her 2016 Human Rights Day statement, Ms. Umutoni wrote,

Providing support on human rights in the above areas [Eritrean human rights institutions, line ministries, non-state actors and national civil associations] to the GoE is an essential element in supporting a long-term commitment to human rights in Eritrea. (8)

Here what she forgot while she put this line is that the current GoE’s power house, PFDJ, stands for People’s Front [FOR] Democracy and Justice. The word “FOR” is purposefully highlights as it has significant meaning on the way PFDJ’s manipulative strategy of keeping Eritrean people as if everything will be fine tomorrow when every passing day is full of agony and crimes against humanity. Observing Human Rights does not need delay. There is no justifiable reason to be blind on what is happening today.

It is inhumane to draft programs for the future that ignores the present. Today, Eritreans are suffering both at home and abroad due to the totalitarian regime in Asmara. If Ms. Umutoni was courageous, she could have used her office in exposing the crimes against humanity committing in her door steps. Instead of producing artificial reporting on twinkling images of officers, she could at least visit prison centers within the heart of Asmara, no need to visit those outside and be the voice of the voiceless youth.

Conclusion

Looking back to her background, as member of RPF, and analyzing the current status of RPF political implications, Ms. Umutoni is nothing but working for the interest of the dictatorial regimes of Rwanda and Eritrea.

Works Cited

  1. UNDP. UNDP Legal Framework for ADDRESSING NON-COMPLIANCE with UN STANDARDS OF CONDUCT. 2010.
  2. The White House. Remarks by President Obama to the People of Africa. 2015.
  3. Tesfa News. Eritrea Seeks Strong Ties with Rwanda. 2013.
  4. Africa research Institut. http://www.africaresearchinstitute.org/newsite/publications/briefing-notes/princes-progress-reconstruction-and-authority-in-eritrea-and-rwanda/. 2011.
  5. Aljazeera. Eritrean refugees in Israel sent to Uganda and Rwanda. 2016.
  6. Eritrea: Formal Complaint about Certain Controversial Statements Attributed to Some Senior UN Officials. Asmarino.com. 2015.
  7. Open Letter to Mr. Brian Hayes (MEP), Regarding the EU Relations with Eritrea. Human Rights Concer-Eritrea. 2016.
  8. Statements delivered by Ms. Christine N. Umutoni, UN resident/Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident representative in Eritrea, on HUman Rights Day 2016. UNDP. 2016.

 

PFDJ: According to my Understanding

 

1. PFDJ is not DIA+ Enforcers+Ordinary members. PFDJ is an organization/front that works in definite ideology.

2. PFDJ has worked relentlessly to merge what they call in their box, “Three-in-One”, The people, the military and the government. EDF is within PFDJ and can not be a separate institute. It is possible that some sympathizers could exist within the EDF but to expect them as possible doers is too optimistic. EDF has stopped producing educated military commanders almost since 2001. They have closed the only existed Military college in Sawa, “Enda Mekonnat” Without educated military personnel EDF’s role can not be a democratic coup but just to remove a power that has sucked their life. The 2012 Militia that is composed of ordinary citizens is what we have in the forefront.

Remark: According to PFDJ ideology, the mentioned three actors are ONE. (According to Guru of this philosophy, x-general Sibhat Efrem).

3. Border issue is dead. No file is needed to be opened and EEBC has done it’s job. It is up to the international community to respect the rule of law regarding Sovereignty. Opening an office that deals with such issue is just a bargain and in favor of Ethiopian political hallucination.

4. Reconciliation: What is all this about? What ever disagreements exist within the opposition camp is just because of an absence to clear strategy. The rest is just personal. To give time for personal disagreements is unhealthy and it will end-up to more division and chaos. PFDJ is the enemy of all and all those who are in different camp should align themselves to this basic target. Even the old political dilemmas was centered on differences emerged in solving the problems that questioned for their own existence. Political differences do not need reconciliation but rooms to discuss and hence democracy. Beyond that it is just megaberya (መጋበርያ ሽማግለታት or በላዕቲ በጊዕ). Consistence, transparency and responsibility is what we can consider them as a conciliatory force.

Note: All political diverges, disagreements, hates and skirmish are mainly because of breath taking.

5. If EDF uses his ontime present forces ad then after is to rehabilitate them, what is the compensation? Isn’t like those who joined the EPLF IN 1990 AND 1991 and are said good-bye for bad intentions? What is the fate of the existing military strategy? What is the future of EDF? Remember transferring from a provisional committee to a one ministerial force will not be an easy take. Military men are camera mongers. Once they come on camera, they want to stay there.

6. the 1997 constitution is to some extent fulfilling PFDJ system. To what level of guarantee is the “democratic-coup” ready to adopt it.

Remark: There are a number of proclamations that are almost substituting and work as constitutional ways. What is the clear way of demarcating between these two legal systems?

7. PFDJ has succeeded in creating a negative force. How can a democratic coup be different from this is still questionable.

Finally, if handled and managed within a welll defined time frame, democratic coup, not what you listed but what your notion is is a possible premises for peaceful Eritrean future and that can give full guarantee for Eraitrean sovereignty and healthy diplomatic relationships with the outside world.

Additional questions still exist for refining this potential strategic solution once we fully agree on PFJD is not only DIA and a couple of enforcers but a system that will even be hard to install a new democratic government. In addition, time frame for the strategy and in particular changing proclamations that were imposed solely to fulfill PFDJ ambition of enslaving the economic strata need a careful study. Unless favorable transitional governance is implemented, the day after implementation of the constitution is also another boiling dilemma.

Above all, human resource that is well educated in this regard needs to be prepared, inside and/or outside.

Finally, “Weed-Out” the PFDJ system as basic objective and to make it in a institutional way beheaded by “Democratic-Coup is what I am fully supporting to have a peaceful (at least with minimum chaos) transition to democracy. And on those who are ready to take this as a strategy need a concerted effort to propagate this Democratic Coup as a way of toppling the brutal regime in Asmara and among those who are having a PFDJ mindset.

A note on Democratic-Coup: http://www.harvardilj.org/wp-c…