Uneducating Eritrea

PFDJ’s Education Policy:  “Every Child Left Behind”

Chapter 280 of PFDJ drama consists of gathering traumatized teachers and pretending that it is engaged in developing the country.  The latest drama is a significant departure from its propaganda and realities of the last – lost count, just say – eternity. 

  1. For the last zillion years, PFDJ had focused its propaganda on so-called infrastructure projects.  So-called human resource developments such as (token) technical school graduations and nursing school graduations are mentioned only as that day’s news, and never given the proper attention they warrant.


  1. As Chancellor of University of Asmara, PIA has not once attended its convocation.  In the meantime, PIA has attended almost every Sawa military graduation.  One can not recall one school activity in which PIA has attended.  Why the sudden interest?      


Why is the teacher’s conference needed at this time?  This is a drama needed to divert the public’s attention and discussions away from PFDJ’s debacle in Somalia.   This is a desperate regime that believes that it can change the day’s discussion topic at will and that the public is dumb enough to swallow whatever the regime throws at it.  This is a regime that believes human beings can be switched on-off like an electric bulb. 

          PFDJ Propaganda works like this,

“Today, we, Eritreans, only talk about Woyane.  Tomorrow, we will only talk about Somalia and UIC.  If all fails and we need to divert your attention away from our failures, we will talk only about teachers and schools until we figure out something else to talk about the day after – but rest assured the next topic will be chaos.  If there isn’t one, we will surely create one.”

21st century is turning to be a serious challenge to dictators.  Until the advent of instantaneous communication, dictators needed only to cut communication lines among a population, and then instead injecting their own poisonous, destructive and divisive propaganda.  With the advent of instantaneous communication, the general population can reach each other without information being filtered out and poisoned by dictators’ propaganda machinery.  Especially for a small country like Eritrea, even villagers are closely knit to their urban kin who have access to information from non-government sources.  The old ways of strangling information for one’s benefit or one’s power is dead.

The Information Age has also allowed us to refresh our memories by accessing the information vaults available worldwide.  As humans, we tend to forget facts, incidents and events within a short period of time.  Suddenly, two people with exactly the same facts begin to question each other’s facts few months later.  It starts to blur!  But thanks to information age, we can all refresh our memories in instant.  This is PFDJ’s downfall – it is applying a century old game to today’s world.

Let’s us dig up information from the websites to recall what PFDJ has done in the past decade and its consequences on the education system,     

1.      In August 2000 – PFDJ forced all teachers to report to Gahtelai for one-month military training.  At the end of the military training, all teachers were told that they were on national service and wouldn’t receive any more salaries.  Many were already married with kids and family obligations.  In order to survive, many had to ask their relatives abroad for support, while others moved with their spouses and kids back to their parents’ homes.  Many teachers who worked in areas where their parents didn’t live (thus couldn’t move back with their parents) asked to be sent to military units than teach because the military was provided with accommodation.  Many others began approaching parents to tutor their children so that they can earn some income to survive.  Some PFDJ apologists said that the government doesn’t have money to pay teachers – yet the regime could afford to spend Nfa 300 Million on inconsequential road in Denkelia.  This is twisted PFDJ apologists’ logic – people must suffer but concrete, rocks and tar are more important. 

2.      Education can only be successful when students can appreciate the value of education.  If there is no light at the end of the tunnel, no one is willing to travel that route.  When students see their own brothers and sisters languishing in the middle of nowhere after completing their schooling, students have no incentive to strive to excel in their schools.  In fact, many students purposely fail their exams in order to avoid Sawa.  Instead of being ashamed of failing, students now a perfect excuse for failing.  This is ominous sign of where the future of Eritrea is headed.  PFDJ is purposely breeding failures.  In PFDJ classes, teachers and students look at each with suspicion as to who would be next to flee the country.

3.      At a time when the Ministry of Education was suffering from shortage of teachers in many areas of the country, the military refused to release over 400 fully trained and qualified teachers to engage in their profession.  Instead, they were collecting rocks in for some dam that would get washed out few months later.  Jobs at dam sites could be more effectively undertaken with machineries.  PFDJ apologists may say that the ‘government’ probably didn’t know about it.  This is like the ostrich burying its head.

4.      By forcing 16- and 17-year olds to go to Sawa to complete Grade 12, PFDJ is attempting to snatch these kids away from their parents and brainwash and control them at Sawa.  This is especially difficult for girls, who immediately become prey to Sawa wolves.  With deep concerns for their daughters, many parents have chosen to marry their daughters early than feeding them to Sawa predators.  This has caused an immense upheaval in Eritrean social values and structures.  In addition, Eritrea’s 30-year struggle to encourage women to actively participate in Eritrean society is being quickly reversed.   

5.      University of Asmara is being wound-up to be sealed off by PFDJ. We are told that post-secondary education is being revamped through PFDJ’s scattered “colleges” administered by military officers.  It is not lost with anyone that the main reason for scattering students is to thwart any possible student movement demanding political reforms.  PFDJ knows that throughout time students have always been hotbeds of political activism.  For PFDJ, politics is first and everything else is second, third, …  Just to be polite, it is highly questionable what military officers can do to better an educational institution.  In properly functioning schools, the school administrators might be tasked with meeting their peers in other countries to exchange information and experiences.  In addition, these administrators may strive to achieve close working relationships with other similar institutions to better their own colleges.  In PFDJ education system, even basic relationships are ambiguous.  What is the relationship between teachers and their military administrators for instance?  Is it teachers – civilian administrators, servicemen – military administrators, teachers – military administrators?  What are the rules that govern their relationships, when do you know which hat to wear – is it as soon as one steps outside a classroom, school building, outside school compound?  Can any one tell us, let alone knowing how to operate a computer, if Col. Ezra [Head of Mai Nefhi Technical School] is aware of such technology as computers exist in the real world?  Probably he has his students counting with pebbles.

6.       A key component of a schooling system is library.  Aside from a couple of small libraries established in small towns on private initiatives, Eritrean libraries were built under its European colonizers a full century ago.  PFDJ has done zilch [nothing] to build libraries in Eritrea in its 16-year troubled power tenure.  This is the single biggest manifestation of its purposeful negligence of the education system.  Moreover, the most important component of educating the youth is building sporting facilities in all neighborhoods of Eritrea to encourage balanced mental and physical growth, and to develop team work.  PFDJ hasn’t built one general sporting facility outside of Sawa, which is for certain intended purposes only.  

7.      National service is purposely designed to waste away Eritreans’ education and skills.  University and technical school graduates are purposely assigned to less productive work when their skills could have been used for more productive work.  For politically challenged regime, it doesn’t want to invigorate the youth, esp. the educated, that would demand political reforms and freedoms.  Instead, PFDJ prefers to frustrate educated youths in order to demoralize them, and hopefully for these kids to flee their country.  For PFDJ, encouraging Eritrean youths to flee is simply a form of its political pressure valve release.

8.      Just to put proper prospective on PFDJ’s priorities, PFDJ spends less than 2% of national income on education.  Another 3% is spent on health, of which 2.5% is spent on sending top PFDJ officials for medical treatment abroad.  Over 50% of its national income is spent on maintaining power disguised under national service and defense.  Some 10% is spent on infrastructure projects needed for propaganda purposes.  Another 10% is misspent on keeping its top PFDJ officers live luxurious life while people lined up for their daily bread.  The rest is stashed away in Cayman Islands or used for foreign misadventures.           

For most people, education isn’t consumed for pleasure.  It is a means to an end.  Only wasteful education system would churn out students without articulating a long-term vision of where Eritrean society and economy is headed.  Unless PFDJ has some magic wand that it can wave and we would wake up one morning to some illusionary economic miracle, there is nothing in today’s Eritrea that aligns the education system to our long-term socio-economic objectives.  Unless we are living in some la-la land, we can tell the type of house being built by the strength, width and type of foundation.  Looking at PFDJ’s foundation for our cherished Eritrea, it is easy to tell that it is being built on sand.

Instead of talking about illusionary performances based on moving goal posts, it is more telling to re-examine PFDJ’s performance in the last 16 years.  It is safe to say that three-quarter of post-independence post-secondary school graduates have been forced to flee their cherished Eritrea.  Many hundreds were discouraged from returning from South Africa.  Many others fled through Sudan and Ethiopia after languishing in PFDJ’s wasteful national service campaign.  Still others walked passed passport control using purchased passports and exit visas to walk away from their beloved Eritrea to never return again as integrated part of their cherished Eritrea.  PFDJ complains about brain drain, while engaging in every act to make life in Eritrea unbearable for the youth.

We just wonder what Mr. Alamin and Gen. Sebhat were thinking while delivering their lines in this tragic drama at the teachers’ conference.  Were their speeches prepared for them?  In the back of their minds, are they always wondering if these conferences and meetings are potential political traps and that if they said the wrong things at these conferences that they could find themselves at Eireiro? Is this what they fought for – to live in fear in their own country but pretending to be brave and convinced – to become horrible actors in this tragic PFDJ drama?  

The tragic drama continues!

Fate of Patriarch

The question is, why does PFDJ want to shorten the Patriarch’s life?  The Patriarch is already an old person and nature may take its own course sooner than later.  At this point in time, the Patriarch can’t prevent PFDJ from conducting its war on the Orthodox Church including 1) closing down the so-called ‘tehadso’ orthodox churches and arresting its priests,   2) directing all church donations be forwarded to PFDJ coffers, and 3) requiring priests and deacons to report to Sawa. 

Examining PFDJ’s acts for the last decade, it is actively engaged in ‘tsere hizbi’ activities designed to create schism among the population in order to safeguard its ever tenuous power tenure.  PFDJ gains nothing if it doesn’t create havoc and upheaval within the Orthodox Church.  If the Patriarch dies natural death, a new Patriarch would naturally be consecrated without any controversy.  However, smooth transfer doesn’t serve the regime’s interests, and the latest saga is only yet another manifestation of the regime’s desperate situation designed to create schism among the population to forestall any possible public uprising.

What PFDJ must continually seek is chaos.  Continuous ‘giffa’ is designed to create chaos.  Nfa 50,000 on parents whose children have fled Eritrea is a form of ‘chaos’.  Creating line-ups for bread is designed to create ‘chaos’.  Arresting innocent Eritreans and keeping them incommunicado is designed to create ‘chaos’.  Assisting Eastern Front of Sudan militarily, then brokering peace, and then meddling to breach that peace is designed to continue with its only politics – chaos.  Its misadventure into Somalia is designed to create chaos in the region.      

PFDJ’s politics of chaos is reflective of the state PFDJ finds itself in.  Chaos is the politics it can play to maintain its hold to its decaying power.  By blatantly interfering in the Orthodox Church, and by blatantly carrying out its campaign against the Patriarch, PFDJ hopes to create an eternal schism within the Orthodox Church.  By striving to assassinate the Patriarch, PFDJ hopes to divide the population and hope to turn them against each other instead of against the source of all Eritrean curse – PFDJ itself.

With PFDJ’s loss in Somalia, PFDJ finds itself at a moment of its biggest danger of losing power.  It isn’t too difficult to guess that this latest episode could very well be the tip of the iceberg of problems or ‘chaos’ to come.  One last chaos will break the camel’s back – and spark that will lit a popular uprising that will throw PFDJ into the historical anal of our colonizers. 

Those who laid down their lives for their unshakeable beliefs, such as Joshua, will live larger than life in our hearts forever – lighting the eternal torch that will sweep away the PFDJ tormentors and dump them into the abyss, and then their eternal torch will light up like the brightest star in the sky guiding us towards peaceful and prosperous Eritrea. These brave men know that Eritrea is the land of the braves and that the rest of us will prove to ourselves and to the world once more that our independence wasn’t a historical accident.  

PFDJ, UIC, Kiloma & the Game of Deception

Closer examination of PFDJ’s unoriginal drama reveals the following,

1.      Many of us were wondering why PFDJ moved its military training to Kiloma, South of Asseb.  Some speculated that the move was necessitated to stem the flow of Sawa trainees to Sudan.  But Kiloma is just as close to Djibouti or a boat hop away to Yemen, and thus wouldn’t prevent Eritrean youth from fleeing.

The real reason for choosing Kiloma for its military training is to use it as a cover – a game of deception – for its Somalia misadventure.  A boatload of food and armaments leaving the Port of Massawa ostensibly destined for Asseb/Kiloma could instead continue its journey to Mogadishu or Kismayo without raising as much suspicion.  Similarly real Eritrean troop movements destined for Somalia can be disguised by pretending that troops leaving from the Port of Massawa are destined for the Port of Asseb/Kiloma, while in fact continuing to Somalia.  Similar game of deception would be played for troops leaving the Port of Asseb.  Everybody assumes or is told that it is headed back to Port of Massawa when in fact it is headed for Somalia.  Somali/UIC troops can be secretly moved through these Eritrean ports by deceptively increasing Eritrean troop movements – under the deceptive game of regular military training – through these ports, but instead slipping the UIC troops. 

One can also bet that Somali fighters training center is close to Eritrean national servicemen training center at Kiloma.  If the US or Ethiopia is gathering intelligence in the area, they may assume that these are Eritreans undergoing their regular military trainings.  Moreover, PFDJ wouldn’t undertake such cover-up activity in Kiloma if the Somali trainers weren’t large in number.  For instance, if the Somali trainees were only a couple of hundred, PFDJ would have conducted the training in Sawa.  But training some 2,000 Somalis would require a lot of smokes-and-mirrors.  The best way to play this game is to throw-in some 20,000 Eritreans training in the area, and then hide the 2,000 Somalis close to that 20,000 Eritreans. 

In addition to the above reasons, Kiloma must have been the staging ground for UIC operation through the Asseb Port, and overland through Djibouti and Somaliland.     

2.      The other nagging question is what happened to the alleged 2,000 Eritrean troops sent to Somalia to assist UIC.  There are two factors one must keep in mind when analyzing the situation,

a.      The purpose of the 2,000 Eritrean troops was to help UIC overrun Somalia and assume power.  In other words, the Eritrean troops were there for conducting an offensive war against the weak and fragile transitional government, and NOT to help UIC defend Somalia if it is overran by Ethiopia.  The possibility that Ethiopia may invade Somalia when TFG is crumbling MUST HAVE been anticipated and all contingency plans formulated beforehand, esp. considering Eritrea’s assistance is clandestine in nature, contingency must have been worked out beforehand.  In our discussions many of us assume that the 2,000 Eritrean troops would engage the Ethiopian overwhelming invasion force.  But this would have been disastrous militarily for PFDJ, and even worse politically both domestically and internationally.

b.      The other assumption is that the Ethiopian invasion was so quick that the Eritrean troops would have been caught by surprise, thus forced to fight.  There are further possibilities regarding this assumption,

                                                  i.      Ethiopia may have forewarned, directly or indirectly, PFDJ that it was about to invade Somalia in order to avoid direct confrontation that could lead to an all out war with Eritrea caught red-handed in Somalia.  For Ethiopia, it wants to win the war with PFDJ through the ‘war of attrition’, and not spark a physical war that could give the PFDJ regime the specter of win through direct physical war. 

It shouldn’t be lost with anyone that PFDJ is a desperate regime, and with no other options left, that it wants to roll the last dice betting on everything or nothing.  What is holding back PFDJ from rolling its last dice is the sure international condemnations, embargoes and especially the prospect of facing International Criminal Court if it sparked another conflict with the West’s darling Ethiopia, esp. after accepting the border commission’s judgment that PFDJ sparked the first Ethio-Eritrea war.  PFDJ wouldn’t want to be blamed for starting a second border war. 

                                                 ii.      The other possibility is that PFDJ must have an intelligence report that Ethiopia was building up forces and making preparations to invade Somalia.  A day or two before Ethiopia’s imminent invasion, Eritrean troops may have sailed away or walked all the way through Somaliland and Djibouti back to Kiloma.  Examining Ethiopia’s invasion route towards Mogadishu, the Eritrean troops had the whole open and undisturbed areas of Eastern Somalia to trek back through Djibouti to their base at Kiloma.    

Kiloma is yet another evidence of PFDJ’s heavy planning and involvement in SomaliaPFDJ’s Somalia Working Paper and Kiloma indicate that the regime had planned the Somalia misadventure for long-timeIt must have cost the regime large amounts to relocate to Kiloma for its Somalia campaignFor a regime that can ill-afford such desperate ventures, its only choice is to break into old folks’ homes and demand ransoms of Nfa 50,000 each, and to dip its itchy fingers into donation traysPFDJ’s games of deceptions evaporate faster than the morning dew.

For emphasis, it worthwhile to reiterate that the PFDJ wants the rest of the world – esp. the US and Ethiopia – to know that it is desperate enough to engage in stupid activities to have the border demarcated.  Stupidity can only get worse if results aren’t forthcoming.  The image it wants to project to the world powers is different, even totally opposite, than the image it wants to project towards Eritreans – i.e. a regime in control of its politics and its destiny.  This is a regime with all the symptoms of schizophrenia.  How long can you manage a country with schizophrenic leadership?    

EDA’s Congress

Given the choice, some of us believe that such meeting shouldn’t take place in Addis Ababa.  But again, those of us who are armchair critics shouldn’t create unnecessary obstacles on those who are exerting their efforts, time and money to bring about change in Eritrea.  My readers should differentiate between strong opinions and judgment – which are sometimes difficult to discern.  My articles may come across as carrying strong opinions, but they are not designed to be judgmental, which requires more than simple cold analysis.      

Political realities may require some flexibility to achieve one’s aim as long as it doesn’t compromise one’s basic principles.  In my view, our reservations towards Ethiopia is based on historical experience, political, legal and other factors – and not based on some basic principle.  For clarification, the basic principles include the followings, 1) the respect for human rights, including respect for life, liberty and property, 2) the rule-of-law and, 3) peaceful means of struggle (including public uprising, civil disobedience and rank-and-file military insurrection) 4) Sovereignty of Eritrea. 

As stated in many of my articles, there are no reasons why relations with Ethiopia can’t be restored once certain political and legal barriers are removed, but before the border demarcation which will take time to finalize.   We have to allow our political leaders to use their discretion to determine those political and legal boundaries as long as they address our concerns.  As we don’t want to hear ‘tegerihna’, May the Almighty One give you the Wisdom to take prudent path.

Above all we should not be distracted.  PFDJ remains ‘Clear and Present Danger’ to our cherished Eritrea.  Despite our differences of opinions – and it is natural to have differences – the regime shouldn’t doubt our resolution to remain united to deliver our final blow, and that we won’t give the regime any ray of hope.

In fact, my main and immediate concern is that non-EDA political groups aren’t invited.  Differences of opinion, style, character, beliefs, etc… should be handled through organizational rules and codes rather than through exclusionary processes.  If we begin to exclude politicians for being disruptive, uncooperative or any other reasons, we will quickly slide down a slippery road.  Although leadership should be cohesive and may require certain degree of exclusion at that level, the overall organizational process should always be inclusive.   Let us build our organizations – the precursors to our institutions – today.  The other very deep concern remains on the issue of transparency and the requirements of political campaigns as opposed to the old military campaign mentality.     

Good Luck!

Hijiwin Ab Metkelna!

Siwuatna N’Zelalem Yizekeru!

Berhan Hagos

February 9, 2007

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