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ERITREA: National Service Does not Kill

By Sophia Tesfamariam

There were a couple of news items that got my attention this week. The first is, “The Song lines of Eritrea Adrift on the Sea of Exile”, authored by Arjun Claire who is said to be “a humanitarian aid worker, currently based in Geneva”. A quick check shows that he has worked for the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department and Médecins Sans Frontières in South Asia.

The other article, “African Dictatorship Fuels Migrant Crisis”, written by Matina Stevis, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. Both seem to harp on Eritrea’s National Service Program amongst other things. It gets old after a while to read the “cut and paste” narratives on Eritrea regurgitated by the “network”-which includes NGOs, media, academics and of course the Eritrean quislings.

Arjun Claire ignores the effects of the 15-year long Ethiopian occupation and 6-year long sanctions imposed on Eritrea in his piece. Completely missing the fact that the National Service Program gives Eritrea’s youth chance for better economic opportunities through education and training, Claire writes:

“…Forced military service and few economic opportunities have impelled Eritreans to seek a better life elsewhere. Many steal their way to Sudan and Ethiopia, from where they plot their journey onwards to Libya, and with luck, wash up at the shores of Europe – or drown in the Mediterranean…”

Such callousness…especially coming from a “humanitarian worker”!

But his fellow journalist Matina Stevis is no different. She writes:

“…Teenagers are inducted at the Sawa military base, get four months of training, then take an exam that determines whether they are put in active service or allowed to continue their education as reservists. Around twothirds are immediately mobilized as soldiers. But all remain conscripts, often for decades. They are locked in a system that pays a monthly stipend of 500 nakfa, about $10 on the black market, and forbidden to leave the country…”

Decades? Stevis makes no effort to substantiate her erroneous statement. If this is what we can expect from a journalist that had access to officials in Eritrea and one who was given free reign to do her “research”, then we shouldn’t be surprised by what the others who have never been to Eritrea say. It may just be better to keep them all out…and let the thousands of Eritreans who flock to Eritrea every year tell their own story.

Eritrea’s National Service Program has garnered the attention of Eritrea’s political foes as they see it as a threat to their well-constructed narrative on Eritrea. Not only is the Program advancing the social development of Eritrea’s youth. It is also contributing to Eritrea’s peace, stability and security that its enemies have been actively working to undermine.

The 15 year long campaign to arrest Eritrea’s economy by withholding development aid, sabotaging its infrastructures and the 6 years old illegal US-Ethiopia engineered sanctions did not bring the “collapse” in Eritrea’s economy, and the government with it, as Eritrea’s distracters wished and predicted.

So it comes as no surprise to see the 20 year old program being misrepresented and maligned, as it is evident to all that the program is behind the development miracles witnessed in Eritrea.

It is ironic that the very folks who burned the midnight oil trying to undermine Eritrea diplomatically, economically, politically and militarily would today feign concern about Eritrea and its people, especially the youth, when they have been instrumental in luring the youth out of Eritrea with false promises. As the evidence shows, even children… minors…have not been spared… they have become pawns in a fatal political game without the benefit of calling the moves.

From radio programs and robot calls into the country by groups and individuals financed by western governments, kidnapping and trafficking of Eritrea’s youth, to irregular adoption of Eritrea’s children from refugee camps in Ethiopia, an intense campaign to lure the youth out of Eritrea was put in place. UNHCR and Ethiopian officials opened camps in Ethiopia and facilitated the transfer of Eritreans to third countries. The very same individuals and groups also established “refugee” agencies in western capitals to handle the “influx”. In the meantime, Eritrea is labeled the country that produces the most “refugees”.

Stevis claimed that it was difficult to document the “forces behind the exodus”, because there are no “foreign correspondents” in Eritrea-as if they are the only ones that can do such work. Stevis should follow the money trail. For instance, a quick look at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and its partners in Europe and the funding provided to anti-Eritrea groups will provide a glimpse into the “forces behind the exodus”.

The Eritrean government has repeatedly called on the United Nations to conduct an independent investigation into the trafficking of Eritrea’s youth, reporters like Stevis should call on the UN to address Eritrea’s request, if she is truly interested in stopping the crimes.

The number of youth leaving Eritrea in large numbers coincides with the aggressive campaigns conducted by western NGOs working in tandem with the western media and quislings who served as the “Eritrean Faces”.

Whilst it is understandable for some who have had to serve for many years to choose to leave in search of greater economic opportunities, how do children and minors fit in this picture unless they are being deliberately trafficked across the border? For this jaded author, it is the silence of the international community, the various human rights groups, the ICRC, UNCEF and other UN agencies, especially the UNHCR, on the plight of Eritrea’s “unaccompanied children” in Ethiopian camps that remains an issue of greater concern.

The fact that western journalists make fleeting mentions of them in their articles without ever questioning the real reasons behind their presence in Ethiopian camps in such large numbers, implies a sinister agenda in the making… and their part in it.


Some naïve and gullible individuals may not understand how it is done, but in the interest of time, suffice it to mention a few examples from recent history as documented by Yvonne M. Conde, an unaccompanied minor sent to the US in the early 60s. She writes:

• “…In 1937, parents hastily evacuated more than 20,000 Basque children, who came to be dubbed the “Guernica Generation,” after the name of a Basque town that was destroyed by bombing the same year. The children found safe haven in Mexico and several countries in Europe, including Britain, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, and the Soviet Union, where as many as 4,000 children are reported to have gone…”

• “…During World War II, the Jewish Refugee Committee set up a movement called Kinder transport, Children’s Transport, which from December 1938 to August 19392 carried 10,000 Jewish children from the growing danger in Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and Poland to sanctuary in England. Although saved from the Holocaust, tragically 9,000 of these children never saw their parents again…”

• “…During the Greek Civil War of 1944-1949, Communist forces fought Monarchist forces, more than 28,000 Greek children were forcibly taken away from their parents to live in camps throughout the Communist bloc…”

• “…The political exodus of 14,048 Cuban children to the United States in the early 1960s was not an organized mass departure and more covert than the European exoduses, the children’s departures were a cautious trickling out of Cuba-with the help of the US State Department. It was called Operation Pedro Pan…”

Eritrea’s children, unaccompanied minors, trickling out of Eritrea, are pawns,political props,in the anti-Eritrea political agendas and propaganda.

They are paraded for emotive effect. The minors mentioned in the various reports seem to be regurgitating rehearsed lines about “National Service” and having “no future in Eritrea”. Many of these unsuspecting minors have become victims of human trafficking and many are sold in shoddy adoption schemes, torn from their societies forever. This campaign to weaken Eritrea economically and politically continues unabated, but the worst crimes against the people of Eritrea is the assault on Eritrea’s young.

Considering the thousands who have perished in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe, the xenophobia and hate crimes that they are exposed to on arrival, the high incidence of sexual and physical abuse encountered, many commit suicide,many are unable to cope with the loneliness and cultural shock that greets them on arrival in these foreign lands whose glitter and luster remain just on television…the 64 million dollar question is…were the risks worth it?

Some self-serving individuals and groups, political beneficiaries of the bloodshed and carnage, may say yes, but the vast majority answer in the negative. An Eritrean refugee in Ethiopia put it this way:

“…You know what? ...Nothing matters anymore. The moment you leave your country you lose your respectability, your humanity, your honor as a human being. It no longer matters where you are. The only place where a person can live with honor is in his own country. What does the specific point on the globe where we are matter if we are human dust anyway?...”

For the government and people of Eritrea, it does matter…every Eritrean life is precious.

Contrary to what these parachute journalists say about Eritrea’s National Service Program, it instills discipline, a culture of work, development, security, dignity and pride.

For all that has been written and said about the National Service Program in Eritrea-none can claim that it kills… [left_sidebar]
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ERITREA: National Service Does not Kill Reviewed by Admin on 8:33 AM Rating: 5

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