afrol News, 26 May – The numerous refugees from Eritrea around the world are now mobilising to counter “blackmailing” and “surveillance” of them by “agents of the Eritrean regime.” The Eritrean Diaspora claims it is intimidated to pay an illegal “tax” to Eritrea.
The Information Ministry in the Eritrean capital Asmara regularly proudly sends out messages about Eritreans in Europe and North America participating in large demonstrations in support of the regime. But most of these demonstrators had themselves fled repression and human rights abuses by the same regime.
This apparent contradiction is easily explained, according to a rapidly expanding group of emigrated Eritreans seeking a second liberation from the Asmara regime. Eritrea, they hold, entertains a large network of agents thoroughly placed in the Diaspora, intimidating exiled Eritreans into participating in pro-regime rallies and even paying a “tax” to their old homeland. If not, their families back home are victimised.
In the US and Canada, hosting large numbers of Eritrean refugees, the Diaspora is becoming increasingly divided. So far, the dominant public voice of Eritreans in North America has been one of supporting the Asmara regime and participating in the largest pro-government rallies outside Eritrea.
But slowly, Eritreans are liberating them from the many agents in North America. Suddenly, some even dare to stand forward in the press with their full name, criticising torture, persecution of journalists and religious repression in Eritrea. Protests in front of Eritrean embassies are increasingly seen, with Eritrean immigrants participating. In the US, the human rights group Amnesty now has its own Eritrean Diaspora under-group.
Swiss targeting Eritrean agents
In Switzerland, protests are now targeting Eritrean agents. Here, an Eritrean immigrant presenting himself under the pseudonym “Dereje M” is seeking help from Swiss authorities to expel 28 named Eritrean men exposed by the Diaspora as agents from the Eritrean regime. “Dereje” himself has been “threatened” and “blackmailed” by Eritrean agents operating in Switzerland, using “mafia methods” to force immigrants to pay a 2 percent “income tax” to the Asmara regime.
Several Swiss cantons have now started investigations into what is widely accepted as a “network of Eritrean agents disguised as asylum seekers blackmailing political refugees.” Cantonal deputy Hans Egli says he has information that “refugees not paying the forced taxes of the [Eritrean] government are put on a ‘red list’, and their families at home are harassed or even killed.”
In addition to pay an “income tax”, Eritrean emigrants are forced to participate in political acts in support of the regime they fled from. On 22 February, some 3,000 persons demonstrated against the sanctions imposed by the UN against the Eritrean regime. According to research done by Mr Egli, a large part of the demonstrators had been “forced to participate.”
The decision of Ghirmay Debessai Habtezion to remain in exile as he finished his course in Cairo Egypt at the end of 2009, has created misunderstanding back home in the ministry he was working. Sources indicate that, minister Ali Abdu is these times frustrated by Ghirmay’s action and is trying to get a scape goat blaming the board of directors. Ghirmay Debessai was senior Eri Tv journalist with more than 17 years experience and a writer of four books.More over he was the president’s reporter and translator of his interviews. Ghirmay Debessai had been jailed two times in 2004 and 2007 for no clear reasons. Ghirmay Debessai who was very much liked for his journalistic and writing abilities, was repeatedly intimidated and forced to mislead the public. An Eritrean who defected the government has witnessed this saying “Underlining the shortage of propaganda materials at hand, Mr. Ali Abdu was so grateful and once things are arranged well by the commanders of the third operational zone, he agreed to send the best camera man and journalist. He thought it to could be a great opportunity to blackmail the Woyane (Ethiopian government) in the eyes all Eritreans.
Later, completing the first phase of the fictitious operation, Ali Abdu sent Girmay Debesay as a Journalist, Mohamed as a camera man and Alem as a driver with all the needed media equipments to report and record the drama in Boshoka.To decorate the drama in utmost level and color, the prisoners were well advised, taught and trained to say –they were stooges sponsored by the government of Ethiopia and planted mines ….etc. On the other hand they were also told to praise and thank the PFDJ regime for the good handlings albeit to their wrong doings. Amazingly enough, the contribution of Girmay Debessay–the journalist in organizing that drama was marvelous. What else can he do if ordered from Ali Abdu?, source awate.com
though, Ghirmay had been to different countries in his journalistic life, it was almost after 12 years that he got the last course which opened him the gate to be out of Eritrea. and this has raised many questions between the high levels of the ministry of information.
On 23 December 2009 the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted resolution 1907, imposing sanctions against Eritrea in response to the ongoing border dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea, as well as Eritrea’s support to armed groups destabilising and undermining peace and reconciliation in Somalia, which the UNSC determined constituted a threat to international peace and security.
BRUSSELS, March 1 (Saba) — The European Union Council adopted a decision here today imposing sanctions against Eritrea in line with the United Nations Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1907 of 2009, according to Kuwait News Agency (KUNA).
The sanctions consist of an arms embargo, travel restrictions and a freeze of assets against persons and entities designated by the UN sanctions committee as: having acted in violation of the arms embarggo; providing support from Eritrea to armed opposition groups which aim to destabilise the region.
It also consist of obstructing implementation of UNSCR 1862 concerning the border dispute between Djibouti and Eritrea; harbouring, financing, facilitating, supporting, organising, training or inciting individuals or groups to perpetrate acts of violence or terrorist acts against other States or their citizens in the region; obstructing the investigations or work of thhe monitoring group pursuant to UNSCR 1853 concerning the situation in Somalia.
By Jason McLure
March 2 (Bloomberg) — An Ethiopian opposition candidate was stabbed to death by six unidentified men in an attack described by government opponents as part of an intimidation campaign by the ruling party ahead of elections in May.
Aregawi Gebre-Yohannes was killed this morning at a restaurant he operates near his home in the northern region of Tigray, Gebru Asrat, chairman of the Arena party, said in a phone interview today from Addis Ababa, the capital. Communications Minister Bereket Simon, a member of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi’s Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, said the killing wasn’t politically motivated.
“These guys who had been engaged in artisanal gold mining went to his bar to drink and finally there was a quarrel somehow between the killer and this person,” he said in a phone interview. “It’s not political, it’s a personal quarrel.”
Ethiopia holds presidential and parliamentary elections on May 23. The last vote in 2005 was marred by a crackdown on opposition protesters that left 193 people dead. Government opponents have complained that state media, which controls virtually all of Ethiopia’s broadcasters, is being used for pro- Meles propaganda in this year’s vote.
Last month, state radio reported that political opponents of Meles are “covertly and overtly” collaborating with neighboring Eritrea, Ethiopia’s arch-enemy.
Aregawi, a merchant and restaurant owner, had been arrested twice since December for attending opposition meetings and distributing Arena literature, Gebru said. The six men had followed him to his restaurant, provoked an incident late in the evening, and stabbed him, he said.
Members of the Arena party are facing harassment and intimidation by ruling party supporters in the Tigray region ahead of the vote, Gebru said.
“This is what the strategists tell the members of the ruling party, I think this is the direction they want to follow,” he said. “It’s becoming very difficult for us to run.”
A second Arena candidate for parliament, Ayalew Beyene, was beaten by soldiers on Feb. 28 near the northern town of Axum, said Negasso Gidada, a leader of the opposition Unity for Democracy and Justice party. Like Aregawi, he had previously been arrested for attending an Arena meeting. No arrests have been made in connection with the beating, he said.
“It is believed that they are normal federal army members,” said Negasso, a former president of Ethiopia.
Bereket, the government’s communications minister, also disputed this report, saying Ayalew had “tried to pressurize a student to read Arena” campaign literature, and that the student and the candidate began fighting. Both Ayalew and the student were detained by police, he said.
“There is an absolute guarantee” that the safety of opposition candidates will be protected, Bereket said.
Calls to Demsash Hailu, a spokesman for Ethiopia’s federal police, didn’t connect. Tesfaye Mengesha, chairman of the National Electoral Board of Ethiopia, said in a phone interview he did not have any information about the killing and referred queries to a spokesman.
The Atlanta-based Carter Center has declined to observe this year’s elections, the Addis Ababa-based Reporter newspaper said. A visiting electoral group from the European Union said last month it had not yet decided whether to send an observation mission.
The opposition has claimed that Western powers, including the U.S. and the U.K., have refrained from criticizing Meles in order not to offend a key ally in the Horn of Africa and preserve international aid efforts in the famine-prone nation.
‘Free and Fair’
“It would be premature to pronounce the Ethiopian elections either good or bad prior to the holding of those elections,” Johnnie Carson, the Obama Administration’s top diplomat for Africa, told reporters on Feb. 24. “We hope that this election will be run freely and fairly.”
Yesterday, Ethiopia opposition leader Lidetu Ayalew criticized the ruling party for dividing the nation along ethnic lines, a move he said would endanger the unity of the country.
The ruling party’s administration “is structured on our differences, it has no space for the things we have in common as a nation,” Lidetu, chairman of the Ethiopian Democratic Party, said in a televised debate last night. “The basis for federalism should not only be language.”
After Meles’s Tigray People’s Liberation Front rebels seized power in the country in 1991, Ethiopia’s administration was divided along ethnic lines, with administrative districts named after the largest ethnic group living there.
Critics including the International Crisis Group have said the system has fomented ethnic conflict, particularly since members of Meles’s minority Tigrayan ethnic group retain a disproportionate number of senior posts in government and the army.
The government has decided to impose an arms embargo against Eritrea, following a decision by the United Nations Security Council.
The UN Security Council approved the move and other sanctions in late December last year over Eritrea supplying weapons to Islamic insurgents opposed to the Somali government and refusing to resolve a border dispute with neighboring Djibouti.
Switzerland’s embargo will come into force on Thursday and will concern the delivery, sale and export of all munitions to Eritrea, the economics ministry said in a statement. The financing of munitions or military activities is also banned.
“By supporting Somali rebel groups, Eritrea endangers the peace efforts and the stability of the region,” the statement said. It also pointed to the Djibouti dispute.
According to the ministry, in the past ten years Switzerland has only exported mine destruction charges, worth SFr60,000 ($57,100), to Eritrea. These went to the UN Emergency Mine Action Assistance in Eritrea.
Aaron Berhane, editor-in-chief and publisher of the Eritrean Canadian newspaper – Meftih, is one of the 13 recipients for the award for ‘Best Editorial and Visual Presentation,’ given by the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada (NEPMCC), to outstanding members of this organization of over 400 ethnic media practitioners from all over the country.
The award was formally conferred to Aaron Berhane by Prime Minister of Canada Mr. Stephen Harper during the gala dinner and award ceremony held on Nov. 21, 2009 at Seneca College, in Markham, Ontario. The event was attended by Minister of Immigration and Multicultural Jason Kenny and various government ministers, president, members of the Board of Senators, and faculty of Seneca College, and about 170 participants.
This is the second time in four years that Mr. Berhane has been accorded this prestigious award for “Best Editorial and Visual Presentation”. The first award was conferred to him in 2006.
The official plaque, reads: “Award to Aaron Berhane, ‘Best Editorial and Visual Presentation’ presented in appreciation for his outstanding achievements and distinguished contributions to cultural communities and his community service, and in recognition of his efforts in promoting understanding, the traditions and the interests of the Eritrean Canadian community, his leadership courage and dedication to the promotion of social justice, human rights, the respect of cultural values and equality among all Canadians.”
Of the thirteen recipients, Aaron Berhane is one of only three awardees from Ontario, the others being from British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Quebec.
The other awardees are: Hermie Garcia, editor and publisher of The Philippine Reporter,; Hassan Zerehi, Editor-In-Chief “Shahrvand” (Persian Canadian National) B.C.; Luba Cherny, Publisher “Canadian Courier” (Russian Press and TV); Jaswinder Marjara, Publisher “CanIndia News” (Indian Press and TV); Arnold A. Auguste, Editor-In-Chief “Share, Newspaper” (Caribbean Press and Radio); Thanh Quy Nguyen, Publisher “Vietnam Thoi Bao, Magazine”(Vietnamese Alberta); Mohammad Rahimian, Editor-In-Chief “Paivand, News Paper”(Iranian Quebec); Alhaji Saramady Kabba, Managing Editor “Canadian African, News Magazine” (African Alberta); Maura De Freitas, Publisher “The Celtic Connection” (Irish B.C.); Mr. Rino Voltaggio, Publisher “Marco Polo” (Italian B.C.); Yuling Wang, Reporter. “The Manitoba Chinese Tribune” (Chinese Manitoba); “Horizons” (Montreal) (Armenian Quebec).
The award is especially meaningful to Aaron Berhane, as it caps a significant milestone year for the newspaper he had founded four years ago.
Before Mr. Berhane immigrated to Canada at the end of 2002, he was editor-in-chief and co-founder of Setit - the first and largest independent newspaper in Eritrea. “Back home, I was punished for the extraordinary work I did with my colleagues to serve the public, but here I am awarded. It’s then you taste the flavour of democracy,” said Mr. Berhane. “This is the victory of all committed contributors of Meftih in particular, and the Eritrean Canadian in general.”
During the award ceremonies, Prime Minister Harper delivered his keynote address before the 170 ethnic journalists and their guests. “We believe strongly that freedom for Canadians goes hand-in-hand with journalistic freedom,” said the Prime Minister. “Our liberty is strengthened when journalists are free to pursue truth, shine light into dark corners and assist the process of holding governments accountable.”
NEPMCC president Saras also gave a speech, emphasizing the need for government to support the ethnic media so that it could play its important role in Canada’s diverse society: “Today the ethnic press is no more merely an information disseminating medium but rather a powerful vehicle operating at the grassroots level. In the past, it had taken serious and active interest in fostering Canadian Unity and territorial integrity, and as pro-Canadian, it will pursue this goal vigorously in the future.” Saras said.
“While ethnic media and ethnic communities continue to participate fully in the nation-building processes, it is important to recognize their aspirations, dreams and concerns…the members of the ethnic press of Canada do not look for special status or treatment by the mainstream media, they would feel hurt if they are treated as second class citizens and negligible entity.” He continued.
“Finally, it must be recognized that as long as immigration to this country continues, the importance and influence of the ethnic press will be more pronounced,” Saras said.
Among the guests at the gala event were: federal Ministers Jason Kenney and Peter Kent, Ministers Gerry Philips and Margaret Best of the Ontario Government, Mr. Tim Hudak, leader of the official opposition for Ontario, Mr. Dimitris Azemopoulos, Counsel General of Greece to Toronto, among other members of the diplomatic corps. Also present were the City of Toronto’s Rob Andrusevich, and officials and faculty of Seneca College.