ERITREA: ICG’s report besieged with bias and distortions

map_eri_regBy Sophia Tesfamariam On 21 September 2010, the International Crisis Group (ICG) released a report on Eritrea. Even though the report’s authors were not named, the title chosen for the report, and the all too familiar buzz words used throughout the over 30 page long report, the timing of the report, and the references provided are telling enough of who its sources are, and the real motives behind the shameful distorted report. Having just returned from a two month long trip to Eritrea along with thousands of Eritreans from the Diaspora who participated in the 4th Annual Youth Festival in Sawa, and who traveled throughout the country to witness Eritrea's incredible and impressive development, I am surprised by the ICG report as it does not jive with the realities in Eritrea as I know it-or saw it-up close.

The ICG believes that by providing the Government of Eritrea with an advance copy, it would somehow make its report a balanced one. It doesn’t. The report would have been more balanced had the ICG provided the views and opinions of the vast Eritrean Diaspora and the Government of Eritrea, instead of acting like loyal stenographers for bankrupt individuals and groups who have aligned themselves with high profile political personalities (former members of US and European governments) with access to various forum’s such as opendemocracy, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International etc. etc. to malign the government and people of Eritrea for the last 12 years. ICG’s bias is clear and consistent throughout the report and makes me wonder what the point is in releasing such an unbalanced, one-sided, and diversionary report at this time.

The ICG’s futile and desperate attempts to tarnish the record and image of the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front (EPLF), now the Peoples Front for Justice and Democracy (PFDJ), the highest organizational representation of the Eritrean people’s dreams and aspirations, is glaringly apparent. What is conspicuously absent from the 21 September 2010 report is information that could place US/Western interests, historic and contemporary co-responsibility for the conflicts in the Horn of Africa region, and information about the failed, incoherent, racist and counterproductive policies that have contributed to the suffering of the peoples of the region in general, and that of the Eritrean people in particular. So much for balance and fairness.

It is no wonder then that it chose to whitewash the five decade long role of the US-led international community in the suffering of the Eritrean people and the gross human rights violations committed against them by successive Ethiopian regimes funded and sponsored by them? The report is not based on honest academically sound research and is littered with unsubstantiated and gratuitous comments about individual Eritreans, and Eritrea’s institutions of government, making it not worthy of a studious response.

Suffice it to mention a few facts that will contradict ICG’s claims of “deterioration of conditions in Eritrea” and allay its misplaced concerns about Eritrea’s future. These reports on Eritrea’s remarkable development, produced by international agencies such as the UN Development Program (UNDP), UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO) as well as the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are publicly available. The truth and the facts are out there for all to see-If ICG’s sponsors were really interested in presenting the truth about Eritrea, its people and its government…

For the record, allow me to present a few facts on Eritrea and let the readers decide for themselves as to whether the ICG and its sponsors have any grounds for concern about Eritrea and its people, and the direction they are taking in the development of their beloved country.

§ Eritrea is one of the four African countries said to be on course to achieve Millennium Development Goals five on Maternal Health - reducing by three quarters the maternal mortality ratio and reaching below 350 deaths per 100,000 births by 2015 since 2005.

§ Eritrea has reduced HIV/AIDS infection rates by 40 percent, according to Physicians for Peace, and is the only country in Africa to reduce HIV/AIDS

§ Life expectancy in Eritrea increased from 52 years average in 1995 to nearly 60 years average in 2008 (World Bank)

§ Eritrea is also considered to be one of the Sub-Saharan African (SSA) countries with the best models of malaria control. [[i]] Eritrea has been able to reduce overall malaria morbidity by more than 86% and mortality due to malaria by more than 82%, making it one of the few countries in Sub-Saharan Africa to have met the Abuja "Roll Back Malaria" targets.

§ Eritrea is reported to be on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) goal 3 on gender equality and MDG goal 4 on child survival making Eritrea one of the only three sub-Saharan countries that are on track to meet “Millennium Development Goal 4” child survival targets; and one of the seven countries to have managed to reduce child mortality by more than half.

§ Basic social services like health and education are available to all. Since liberation in 1991, 13 new hospitals, 19 new health centers and 112 new health stations have been constructed. This makes there have been an increase of 56 percent, 61 percent and 156 percent respectively over the number of health facilities that existed before liberation. Among the hospitals, a national referral and training hospital, the Orotta Surgical Medical National Referral Hospital and four new Zonal Referral Hospitals in Barentu, Mendefera, Ghindae and Assab have been constructed.

§ Etc. etc.

As descendent of slave owners who exploited African labor to develop their economies and their infrastructures, it is understandably hard for them to fathom the thought of Eritreans, especially Eritrea’s youth, committing to, and participating in Eritrea’s development. Contrary to what the ICG report states, Eritrea’s youth are acquiring skills and knowledge enabling them to play vital roles in Eritrea’s economic, social and political development. As for the many roads that they are constructing throughout Eritrea, I know of none that are useless. As far as I know, roads are not built just for “commercial use”, as the ignominious author(s) of the ICG report stated. Imagine if all the roads in our neighborhoods that were not of “commercial use” were not built? What would the quality of our lives be?

All development efforts in Eritrea are undertaken with the full participation of the people and the tremendous strides made in infrastructure, roads, bridges, schools, hospitals built across the country are a living testament to the Government and people of Eritrea’s commitment to developing Eritrea in a manner befitting of her peoples dreams and aspirations, and that of their beloved children who sacrificed their lives for her freedom and sovereignty. The ICG authors cannot possibly understand that commitment and what it entails.

Finally, ICG “analysts” (former USAID and State Department officials, former and current journalists, lawmakers, members of the Washington revolving door establishment) have long made themselves irrelevant on matters of development, peace, stability and security in Africa, especially the Horn of Africa. This ICG report is filled with factual errors, deliberate omissions, and revisions of historical facts, making its conclusions and recommendations just as egregious. It is unfortunate that the ICG chose to compromise its neutrality by engaging in propaganda and hearsay in preparing its “research” on Eritrea, its government and people. It is an insult to the intelligence of its readers and further undermines its already fledgling credibility and integrity.


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