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Eritrea: African Reading Challenge 2008

As part of African Reading Challenge 2008, Scarlet read a book about Eritrea by Michaela Wrong, “I didn't do it for you: How the West betrayed a small African nation.” She says: “Not that much has been written by Western journalists about Eritrea. Michaela Wrong decided to write all of it.”


  • Tes (An Eritrean in Exile)

    Thanks Serawit for your taking your time to write such a detailed response. There are a lot of points that I will never agree with you, until we all meet in Asmara, Eritrea. One of them being your claim that “the President and the GOE enjoy overwhelming support of Eritreans both in the homeland and in the Diaspora”. How many Eritreans are in the Refugee camp in Shimelba and May Tsebri (Ethiopia) How many Eritreans are in Sudan, South Africa/America/Israel/Libya/Malta …

    I am referring to the ones who had to leave their country because life was unbearable for them/because they couldn’t see any future in the country. I am also referring to the Eritreans who can not even go back home till there is change in the way the country is being led, if it has a leader. And if we talk about the population inside the country, how many Eritrean students are deliberately failing in class because Education is leading them to the Military Training Centre. How many Eritreans are complaining about the amount of time they spent on the queue just to get a handful of bread?

    With regard to the press, why did you overlook the fact that I said more than ten journalists have been languishing in jail since September 18/2001, if it is because they are being manipulated how come they have never been in court to prove that. And how about a regulated private press, how come it is taking almost a decade to come up with any alternative. I am sure you sometimes (always) browse, isn’t it pathetic for the Eritrean people to be suffocated only with pro-government news?

    As to the Eritrean soldiers, first of all, the people of Eritrea are not responsible for starting the war. Mr Isaias and Mr Meles were friends for years and years and suddenly the war broke out and it is upto them to solve the problem by reaching into a consensus and apparently the situation is being tantamount to the Palestine Vs Israel case (I mean on the fact that you do not see an end in sight). So what is gonna happen to the youngsters at the end of the day. Don’t you think that they also live only once in this planet like all of us.

    Religion = please Serawit my brother, do not write against your conscience. The main reason for why the the government is against religion is because the Eritrean youth have started carrying bible even when they are in the military training centre and the government believed that this will destroy their nationalism, which I will never agree. Please do not lecture us on politics as we had enough of it – do not tell us it is because the churches are being manipulated and if that is the case – give us the proof.

    University of Asmara – there is a big book on Internationally recognized universities, which I want you to read and in that book half a page is reserved to our beloved ex-University of Asmara, which means that someone who is from this University can be easily accepted in any University in the world. Do you think this is True to students who are being graduated from these colleages, let me just share with you what I was chatting with a fellow Eritrean who is in Asmara and graduated from one of these colleges. When he told me that he graduted on communication and information from one of these colleages I automatically said “Great!” he replied it is not great and justified his points by the fact that “the certificate is fake and it can only be acceptable in Eritrea” His other frustration is since he is doing his endless national service he will only be getting 145 Nakfa (about six US DOLLARS) per day (oppppps) per month.

    Anyway Comrade Serawit, for some reason the so called Genuine Eritreans are trying to bury the truth 10 metres down in a country whose president hypocratically claim that “If you bury the truth on its head, it will come out on its feet”

    May Gode Bless the authentic Genuine Eritreans. For the fake Eritreans all I can say is May God Bless you as well because “you do not know what you are doing”.

  • Sewrawit

    Hi Tes!
    I enjoyed reading your response because I like this type of dialogue between two Eritreans who may have differing views but love their country the same and are able to express their views without insulting one another.
    You made a lot of good and valid points but that I can not agree with only because I do not have valid evidence to tell me that I am wrong. I am not stating that your information is false or true (and to be honest all that I know and have stated previously may also be false or true as well). I try to read a lot and the more I read the more I realize that I do not know everything.
    I’ve read about the refugee camps and even know several people who are living in them or who have escaped Eritrea to ‘seek a better life’ although their lives in Eritrea were not as unbearable as it is for a lot of other people in the country or as unbearable as it is now in the refugee camps or wherever they currently reside. I know I sound condescending and I shouldn’t judge them because I have not walked in their shoes but let’s not forget that Eritrea has seen worst times.
    I have met Eritrean youth that were deliberating failing their classes so that they wouldn’t have to go to the Military training center. These kids are only sent there for their senior year (or junior year…I forget now). And there are thousands of students that don’t fail their classes and go to Sawa where they are educated as well as being militarily trained. Eritrea is not the only country that has this type of program. A friend of mine from Serbia just returned to his country to complete his military training (Israel also has this type of program). I’ve visited Sawa and you wouldn’t believe what type of things they have for the students (tech centers etc). Also, it’s a great way to bring youth from all over the country together to unite them and thereby eradicating any possible segregation that may arise (if there is any or were to be any). I was in Sawa for a few days and although I was there for a festival and of course our accommodations were probably definitely wayyyy better than what the Eritrean youth receive regularly (even with all their accommodations Sawa is not going to get any better than it is for an American) I had one of the greatest times of my life.
    In regards to the long lines for food, it is true. There are long lines for bread and sugar, but these items are supposed to be government subsidized I believe, and therefore that’s why there are such long lines because it’s cheaper for the general public (don’t shoot me, I have not seen people in long lines nor have I read any information on this but this is what I’ve been told. As I’m sure is the same case for you on this subject).
    As for the journalists, I’m sorry I didn’t mean to overlook anything and as you’ve stated there are more than 10 journalists that have been jailed. I do not agree with the GOE with their imprisonment without a right to a trial or not coming up with any alternatives. I really don’t have any knowledge about the press industry in Eritrea and how it’s doing. I do read from time to time but there are other places that I do read about Eritrea, including ‘opposition’ websites. I put all those opinions together and try to come up with my conclusion because again the more you read, really isn’t the more you know. Everybody has an agenda no matter if it’s private, opposition or government owned.
    As for the war that ‘Isaias and Meles are responsible for’, the only reason why there isn’t an end is because Ethiopia is not being reprimanded for its crimes and thereby allowing Ethiopia to do whatever it wants. So if you really want to point a finger to what is going on with Eritrea (besides to the GOE) it should be to Ethiopia and the UN (i.e the US, the UK etc). The case of Palestine V. Israel is pretty similar as well. And I understand the people of Eritrea are not responsible for starting the war but citizens of a country have never been responsible for starting wars in probably the history of wars. It’s always the government that starts them and it’s always the citizens that suffer (soldiers and civilians). I guess you just have to believe that your government is making decisions in order to protect its citizens.
    In regards to the religion issue in Eritrea, if I did not state clearly previously, I was stating my opinion/belief about the situation as you are. My main point on that was to introduce the fact that foreign interests in the past have used religion to cause tension among citizens in other countries in the past (the British and the Ethiopians tried and somewhat succeeded in trying to cause segregation amongst the Eritrean Christians and Muslims in the past, thankfully Eritreans were able to overcome). I did not state that that was actually happening in Eritrea, but that it was a possibility and may be a reason why the GOE has started to restrict certain denominations. As for the youth and religion, a lot of youth were abusing these religions/denominations in the sake of not having to go to Sawa because certain religions/denominations did not believe in military service. Again, I am not stating that that is the reason why the GOE has placed restrictions on religion. And technically, they have not restricted any religions; they have asked that all religions/denominations register with the government and all religions/denominations that are not registered are not recognized.
    In regards to Asmara University, I knew you would bring up the accreditation issue. You are right Asmara University was accredited and these new colleges are not. It may have been done deliberating by the GOE in order to keep its educated people in the country (I’m sure we all know the problems other countries face with ‘brain drain’). But the GOE could be trying to get these new colleges accredited. As for the small pay your friend in Eritrea receives, as well as other Eritreans in service, it is sad to hear but we all know the government itself does not have that much money period. God willing, one day Eritrea will see better days.
    I still support my view of the President and the GOE enjoying support from Eritreans in the homeland and in the Diaspora because I’ve seen it with my own eyes in Eritrea and in the States, where I reside. Obviously, Eritreans in the homeland have a tough life but a lot of them realize that and continue with their lives because that’s what it is. I can not say that they deserve to struggle where we MAY have it better (depending on what we think is better). I understand that there are those such as yourself that do not support the government and I will never deny your opinion although I may not share it. But I just happen to agree with Genuine Eritrean.

  • hi all. i want to write some thing thats, we are Eritrean and we love eritrea and we protect from any country who come in our country but we have some mistake that is our prisident is very hard one,that means he didn’t protect to a people execpt him self
    and i am eritrean till my end life and will help to eritrea but i didn’t like the thife leader

  • Sewrawit

    Ok why do you say that? How has he protected himself but not the people?

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