Damage Control

The latest PIA interview with PFDJ media raises more questions than it attempts to answer.  Before one even begins to analyze the content of the interview, one must try to determine why an interview was needed from a reclusive regime that believes the purpose of an interview isn’t to inform but to engage in stale propaganda.

Before delving into the content of the interview, we should ask ourselves the following questions,

1.      What is the purpose of the interview?

2.      Who is the intended audience?

What is the purpose of the interview?

The purpose of an interview is to inform the intended audience on certain topic, to update audience on latest development [through dialog] and other similar purposes.  PIA’s latest interview wasn’t part of a regular interview.  This interview didn’t take place on PIA’s return from his rare trips abroad.   This interview wasn’t a yearend address to a nation. 

There is no doubt that this sudden interview was necessitated because of the quick fall of the Eritrean backed [Somalia’s] UIC.  When PFDJ lit fire and then brokered peace between the various opposition groups and the government in Sudan, PIA didn’t see it fit to conduct an interview to discuss his perceived moment of glory.  In perceived successes, others will beat the drums of praise for you.  In failure, one is left without companions.  Our observation can then be that real or perceived political defeats lead to interviews to complain and wishfully draw doomsday scenarios.  Although we remain anguished for our Somali brothers and sisters, we have significantly worse situation in our own country.  Ultimately, whether UIC or warlordism is better suited for Somalia can only be decided by the people of Somalia.   

Who is the intended audience?

This is probably the crux of every question.

1.      General Population – 99% of the population doesn’t have TV, 90% doesn’t have radios and over 90% can’t buy, or don’t have access or is illiterate to read “Haddas Eritrea”.  In general, the Eritrean population has grown to expect nothing from this regime.  Instead of hoping for ‘lasting peace’, people now only hope that PFDJ doesn’t put them on another destructive warpath.  Instead of hoping for ‘full meal’, people now only hope that they can find a couple of breads on long lineups in wee hours of the morning.   People have grown to expect nothing from their self-crowned government, and thus subsequently people have grown to expect nothing from PIA’s interview.

2.      Higdefawiyans – This group will cheer their fearless leader even if he declared war on the world.  Some are making too much money on the sweat and blood of our people to bother what their leader says as long as he stays in power.  Others are so consumed with hatred of some characters in the opposition that they will support an oppressive regime even if such blind support violates their own deeply held values.  Hatred supercedes their deeply held values.  Others are so consumed with hatred of the Woyane regime that they would rather see innocent Eritreans go to gallows than see Woyane continue its power in a distant land.  This interview can’t be for the benefit of higdefawiyans.

3.      International community

a.      US, European Union, Russia, African Union, Arab League and others pursue foreign policies consistent with their national interests.  None of these countries will adjust or modify their positions because of PIA’s interview or berating their positions.     

b.      UIC Sponsors – Could it be those sponsoring nations that funneled whatever assistance to UIC through PFDJ are disappointed with the performance of UIC?  Did PFDJ oversell on what it can deliver in Somalia to these sponsoring countries?  Is PFDJ’s credibility with these sponsoring nations be damaged? 

“Might is Right”

PIA operates on this sole political philosophy.  Despite all the rhetoric against the USA, PIA’s political and military acts in the last five years have been designed and carried out to prove to the USA that PFDJ can serve American interest better in this region than Woyane’s regime.  In the last five years, PFDJ has been unsuccessfully lobbying the American government to establish military base on Eritrean islands and by joining the US Coalition against Iraq.  In some twisted way, PFDJ wants and needs American blessing to continue its grip on power. 

While trying to gain American endorsement of PFDJ dictatorship in Eritrea in return for becoming American lackey in the region, PFDJ pursued its stick [vs. carrot] approach with US – imprisoning American embassy staffs, dabbling with dangerous domestic politics in Sudan, Somalia and Ethiopia. 

PFDJ’s message to the US is clear – PFDJ is willing to become an American lackey if America endorses PIA’s claim to emperorship and to allow the demarcation to take place.  Acceding to emperorship or ‘an approved dictator’ means that the US would strike off PFDJ from the list of gross human rights violators in the world, and would yield immediate political benefits and legitimacy that comes with it.  

The Somali misadventure must have upset PFDJ’s ultimate game plan [hence PIA’s interview to blow off some steam]. US’s support for Ethiopia is based on American administration’s belief that Ethiopia is a regional superpower, which allows the US administration to delegate the implementation of some of its regional foreign policy to the regional superpower.  PIA must have felt that his semi-success in Sudan brought him that much closer to proving to the US that PFDJ can replace Woyane as the regional superpower.  To seal American endorsement of PFDJ’s power in the region, PFDJ had to win the Somali card game.  US Administration’s primary support for PMMZ is based on delegating the Somali issue to Ethiopia.  PIA figured that installing a PFDJ backed government in Somalia could have immensely swayed Americans to switch their support from PMMZ to PFDJ.  Might is Right!  The US would have to accept realities on the ground and transfer the regional crown to PIA.  

The Somali card had three purposes,

1.      PFDJ had every plan to use Somalia as its base to train and to support insurgency in Southern Ethiopia.  PFDJ would have been able deploy its troops in Somalia and support the insurgency.  The purpose of this activity would be to bring down the PMMZ regime.

2.      While engaging in undermining the PMMZ regime, PFDJ would have continued with its efforts to win over the American Administration by offering the US to serve American interest in Somalia through PFDJ.  In exchange, PFDJ would place a number of demands.

3.      The Somali venture would have provided PFDJ with badly needed hard currency.  Some of the foreign sponsor’s money could have been used for PFDJ’s other activities.  PFDJ’s ‘qat’ business would have had captive market.

The Somali game has backfired on PFDJ.  Instead of Somalia becoming PFDJ’s ace in filthy international politics – the second last act in PFDJ’s scheme of things – PFDJ has inadvertently or in its gambler’s mentality proven to the US why the American Administration should continue to rely on the PMMZ regime.  PFDJ’s overall scheme of things can’t be complete without PFDJ’s direct influence on Somalia.   

The border conflict has exhausted all Eritrean human, financial, political and diplomatic resources.  PFDJ has resorted to imprisoning every other Eritrean.  The rest of the population is being terrorized through endless ‘giffas’, threat of war, and psychological and physiological warfare.  The search for Pyrrhic victory remains as illusive as ever.  The ‘war of attrition’ could be waged as long as there is some hope around the corner – a political win in Sudan, chaos in Ethiopia, creating puppet government in Somalia – kept PFDJ’s hope alive by another day.  PFDJ’s regime needs a flicker of hope to maintain its tight grip on power, “Let me just do this and I can win over the Americans, who will then reluctantly push PMMZ to demarcate the border … then they won’t have any choice because I hold the ace cards.  After that I will be able to claim my personal victory.  I will purge some PFDJ officials as my sacrificial lambs …” It is all hope against hope.

When hope is taken away … especially where your hopes were raised high and then fall precipitously … the end can’t be too far.

The Interview

The purpose of this interview was ostensibly to bash the US Administration, which PFDJ indirectly hopes to win over.  This is President Hugo Chavez without the UN podium.  This is President Ahmedinejjad without the oil and the clerics.  This is President Kim without the nuclear arsenals.  In reality, there isn’t much to say about the content of the interview because it doesn’t have any positive nor relevant message.  Some of the observations I would like to raise are the followings,

1.      When asked about mining activity, PIA gave a two minute answer [two minutes because the journalist asked a second time] stating that Eritreans should NOT raise their hopes high and that this isn’t something the Eritrean government likes to discuss.   PIA then proceeded to talk about Woyane, Sudan, Somalia, UN, AL, US, etc… for an hour and half.  The question is why should Eritreans be interested or listen to PIA’s complaint over Somalia and Middle East Affairs for over an hour but not be told anything about what is going on in their own country – in mining, in fishing, in trade and other activities that is relevant to their lives.  There is something amiss in this logic and presentation.

2.      When asked about the Israeli and Palestinian situation, PIA replied that he may not be able to speak on behalf of the Eritrean government and can only express personal opinion … If the interview was conducted in English one might say that PIA is trying to dupe the international community.  But this interview was primarily conducted for the consumption of local audience.  Is there any Eritrean that still thinks that PIA and the Eritrean government aren’t one and the same?  Is there such thing as parliament that approves PIA’s or Eritrean government’s foreign policies and adventurism [such as in Somalia]?  Is there such thing as Shaebia Central Committee that puts the seal of approval on PIA’s or Eritrean government’s foreign policies and adventurism?  Do the Ministers, the army officers or any other hold any sway over PIA?  This is simply tired showmanship. 

3.      It is perplexing to understand the underlying principle that governs PFDJ’s foreign policy.  PFDJ’s principal argument for supporting UIC is that UIC can unite Somalia by force.  Thus PFDJ proceeds to provide whatever assistance to armed opposition against internationally recognized transitional government.  This is subversion of an external government, regardless of whether we agree with that external government’s competency in governing its nation.  If government competency, human right issues and chaos is used as measuring stick to interfere in other countries’ internal affairs, there is a long list of governance-challenged countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.  In Somalia, PFDJ wants a strong central government that even brings Somaliland and Puntland under Mogadishu Regime.  In Sudan, PFDJ wants some form of federal state along the lines of regional groups with rights to secede.  In Ethiopia, PFDJ complains that PMMZ is destroying Ethiopia by dividing it up along ethnic groups and then forming a federal state with the rights to secede.  It is difficult to understand what common political philosophies are being used to prescribe the political medicines for these various neighboring countries. One can only surmise that the political medicines are being prescribed based on the doctor’s own personal interests and ambitions. PIA’s answers were given in a forceful manner that unambiguously indicates that PIA regards the internal political situations in these neighboring countries as his own personal agenda … “we must stay on course and not change our position in mid-stream…”  [i.e. in continuing to interfere in the internal affairs of the neighboring countries]. This can only be ominous.              

In the nutshell

The question remains, who is the audience for this interview?  Was PIA blowing off some steam?  Could there be an intended audience? 

If PIA is simply blowing off steam, then he may have to blow off more steam because his overall strategy to win over the American administration may have just bit dust.

The other possibility is that PFDJ is hanging on to thin political ropes in Eritrea.  PFDJ may feel that its pursuit of Pyrrhic victory can only remain on course as long as its fast dwindling support base continue to believe that PFDJ can pull off one last miraculous and illusionary victory that will wipe out the thousands of mistakes and atrocities it has committed to win its Pyrrhic victory.  Having indirectly sold the UIC campaign to its dwindling support base as the last nail on Woyane’s coffin, failure to deliver that illusionary victory may cause the dwindling support base to turn against the regime.  Moreover, there could be certain elements within the regime that are waiting for opportune moment to jump into the helm.  This interview may have been a warning shot against these elements within the regime.  Overselling is itself symptomatic of a regime in distress

Complaining against the US is simply designed to shift blame for PFDJ’s failed policies.  PFDJ’s outwardly concern for Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia is a sham.  PFDJ’s Eritrea can not be a model state for any other country.  It doesn’t have a Constitution; it doesn’t have a single working and independent institution; there is no rule of law and a working judiciary; it has the highest number of political, journalists, prisoners-of-conscious per capita in the world locked up incommunicado in PFDJ dungeons; the socio-economic situation in PFDJ’s Eritrea is visibly collapsing.  The only lesson PFDJ can impart on the other neighboring countries is to encourage the establishment of brutal regimes based on its [PFDJ’s] own model of [mis-]governance.  That’s its only capacity!    

In the end, what we should keep in mind is what PIA said during the interview, “The border will be demarcated sooner or later.  The border decision is final”.   In reality, PIA has been pursuing destructive domestic and external policies in order to have the border demarcated sooner than later for couple of reasons – to proclaim personal victory in order to absolve himself from his destructive policies of at least the last ten years, and second to settle score with the PMMZ regime.  The whole nation is being dragged down into an abyss for personal agenda of vendetta.  Min. Haile Woldetensae said the same thing, that the border will be demarcated sooner or later but that in the meantime we should shift our focus to running our country.  In my view, what can the Woyane’s do with Badme? Can they cut Badme out from its present location and put it away to another location?  Ultimately the only way to ensure that a nation is able to repel external threat is by maintaining a healthy, vibrant and prosperous society.  The job of defending a nation is the job of an entire population, and can never be the job of man or one small group.     

Berhan Hagos

December 30, 2006

Short URL: https://english.farajat.net/?p=2460

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