Eritrea and Namibia: Collateral Victims of the Korean War in Africa

Eritrea and Namibia: Collateral Victims of the Korean War in Africa

By Asgede Hagos*

NoteThis short article is adapted from along, 7,000-word academic paper scheduled to be published soon.

                  In a few weeks, on June 25, 2020, the world will mark the seventieth anniversary of the Korean War; efforts to officially end this conflict and denuclearize the region have been on and off the news pages since the June 2018 Washington-Pyongyang summit in Singapore. But, as this continues, it is important that the world pause to remember and assess the collateral damage this Asian conflict has caused and the seeds of other wars it left deeply planted in such distant lands as Eritrea and Namibia in Africa.  Caught in the vortex of the Cold War, the decolonization of these two former colonies were derailed and delayed by more than 40 years, forcing their peoples into protracted and costly armed resistance to reclaim their national rights.

This is an issue that is never raised in the ongoing discourse on the Korean crisis.The purpose here is to shed some light into some of the dark corners of the history of that period and draw some attention to the harsh reality it created some of which is still with us today.  For example, the extent of the damage the war has caused and the crises it spawned in the Horn of Africa are still here today, though the end now seems to be in sight with the recent thawing in relations between Eritrea and Ethiopia.

The Korean War broke out at a time when the fates of both Eritrea, a former Italian and British colony,and Namibia, a former German colony known at the time as South West Africa, were in the hands of the United Nations, which was and still is dominated by the United States, then in the process of building an anti-communist coalition to support its new global order.  At the center of this geopolitical drama were also South Africa and Ethiopia and their cynical ploys to use the war at the other end of the world to achieve their annexationist goals at home.  The leaders of both nations quickly attached their respective agendas to the Cold War, the same way other Third World expansionists were to leverage terrorism in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks half a century later to advance their goals.  

The cases of these two former colonies had been going through the UN system for some time before the outbreak of the Korean War on June 25,1950.  However, the conflict gave both Ethiopia and South Africa a new impetus to strengthen their respective claims over their neighboring territories. The conflict, Lefebvre says, “joltedthe [Ethiopian] emperor into recognizing” how much he needed the U.S. to secure Eritrea. He “abandoned all pretenses of playing up to the East bloc” and “declared Ethiopia to be a loyal ally of the West and offered” to send troops to join the anti-communist crusade.[1]The Ethiopians, who arrived in South Korea six months after the UN voted for a “federation” between Eritrea and Ethiopia, the only African ground troops in the war, went through three rotations (1952, 1953, and 1954) with a small group remaining there until 1965, and were attached to the 32ndInfantry Regiment of the U.S. 7thInfantry Division. They were also considered the ‘show troops’ for visiting dignitaries coming to Korea during the war” and “were called upon to serve as protection for Secretary of State John Foster Dulles’s visit and formed the honor squad for President D. Eisenhower” when he visited the troops at the end of 1953.[2]

 The emperor was also willing to provide the U.S. full and unconditional access to a communication base in Eritrea that Washington wanted to turn into a major spy center to eavesdrop on communist activities in nearly half of the world–part of a worldwide effort to establish a network of global listening sites and military bases to counter communism.  He went out of his way to polish the anti-communist image he was cultivating when an American news outlet called him, in a report from Addis Ababa, a “communist incubator” in Africa.  The emperor deployed his American point man on the Eritrean case, John Spencer, to mobilize the U.S. Department of State and the American delegation to the UN to force the media organization to retract and threatened to sue for $500,000 in damages, which would be worth more than $5,355,00 in 2020 dollars.[3]

South Africa also saw a new opportunity to utilize the crisis to achieve its goals of annexing Namibia and receiving acceptance or at least tolerance of its repugnant apartheid system at home. Though its foreign policy leading up to the start of the Korean conflict was decidedly against involvement in new foreign conflicts, the distant Asian war created a new situation that forced the regime to undergo what Borstelmann describes as “some sort of epiphany with a belated realization as to the potential benefits of [foreign] military involvement for South Africa,” the main benefit being a long-sought association with the then-emerging superpower, the United States, which Pretoria saw as “the natural opponent to communism.”  It was the only other African country whose offer of military assistance was accepted.In addition to its commitment to send a fighter squadron to Korea, its willingness to “produce and sell large quantities of uranium ore to theU.S. and Britain entrenched the Union firmly in Washington’s good graces,” he argues.[4]

Pretoria also had another epiphany moment—this time on the Eritrean question. When discussions on the decolonization of Eritrea began at the UNbefore the breakout of the war, South Africa expressed strong opposition to—and lobbied actively against—the idea of linking Eritrea to Ethiopia to avoid creating a precedent, particularly in Africa,of white people—i.e. Italians in Eritrea—being governed by a black leader—i.e. the Ethiopian emperor.  The then Union of South Africa ambassador to the U.S. told American officials that “the Government of South Africa would not be happy to see Italians of Eritrea subjected to Ethiopian rule.” The ambassador, making the case against the emperor’s designs for Eritrea, also expressed “doubt that Ethiopia could properly administer additional territory.”[5]

As a result,  South Africa expressed strong support of Italian trusteeship over Eritrea and most of the rest of former Italian colonies. However, as a member of a five-nation UN Commission of Inquiry for Eritrea, Pretoria made a complete turn-around and accepted the U.S. and Ethiopian plan—with no questions asked–to have Eritrea incorporated into the Ethiopian empire, under the cover of a sham federation. Its inclusion as a member of the UN commission has raised many troubling questions, given the fact that it had repeatedly violated UN decisions with regards to its mandate over Namibia as well as its internationally condemned system of governance.  For example, why was a country that was condemned by the UN over its policy and practice that prevented its own neighbor, Namibia, from authoring its own future, was allowed to sit in judgment of another former colony seeking to achieve the same thing? 

The UN failed repeatedly to uphold the Eritrean people’s right to determine their own destiny, largely due to the outsize role the U.S. played in shaping and shepherding the case at the UN to make sure the final outcome met the Ethiopian emperor’s expectations.   By contrast, though it was not successful in its attempt to free the territory from Pretoria’s defiant grip, the world body continued its commitment to the Namibian people’s struggle by establishing UN-affiliated organizations, to support their resistance against the apartheid regime.  

The actions in New York and in Washington naturally prompted nationalistic pushback in both territories—ushering in a new era of organized resistance to fight against two of Africa’s largest and well-equipped armies, though with a marked difference­ in the alignment of forces for and against the leading nationalists in both nations. The Namibians were able to leverage the global anti-apartheid movement as well as the direct intervention in Africa of the USSR and its own clientele states, especially Cuba, to their benefit. However, Eritreans had to single-handedly face both sides in the Cold War. At the end of the Cold War, however, both Eritrea and Namibia, which trace their origins as multi-cultural nations to 1890, were able to liberate themselves and achieve independence one hundred years later, one year apart, Namibia in 1990, and Eritrea in 1991. 

There is a Korean proverb that says when two whales fight the shrimp in the middle gets crushed! Well, the 45-year fight of the two Cold War superpower whales did a lot of collateral damage in both Eritrea and Namibia; however, these two small African nations didn’t give up,despite all the military and diplomatic power that was deployed against them. But, as efforts continue to officially end the Korean War, Washington and the rest of the West should pause to reflect on the destructive wars the conflict spawned thousands of miles away from the epicenter of the crisis, and to draw some lessons from it. One of the lessons that should be drawn from this is that the powerful nations should never underestimate the resolve of small nations fiercely determined to be free.    _____________

[1]Asgede Hagos,Ph.D.is the author of Hardened Images:The Western Media and the Marginalization of Africa.

NOTES


[1]Jeffrey Lefebvre, Arms for the Horn: U.S. Security Policy in Ethiopia and Somalia, 1953-1991, (Pittsburg: University of Pittsburg, 1991), 63. 

[2]  Paul Edwards, United Nations Participants in the Korean War: The Contribution of 45 MemberCountries(Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2013), 84. 

[3]U.S. Department of State (USDOS), Memorandum of Conversation, with the following participants: James E. Webb, acting secretary of state, James S. Moose Jr, Ras Imru, Ethiopian minister, and Haddish Alemayehou, first secretary, Ethiopian Legation in U.S., June 17, 1949.

[4]Thomas Borstelmann,Apartheid’s Reluctant Uncle (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 160-161. 

[5]USDOS, Memorandum of ConversationFolder:March, 1949, Collection:Dean G. Acheson Papers. Date: March 29, 1949, with Secretary of State Dean Acheson, H.T. Andrews, ambassador of the Union of South Africa, and James S. Moose, Jr., of the African Division. 

Understanding the Eritrean Revolution and the Peasant Struggle

The following few pages are an excerpt from the book Peasants and Nationalism in Eritrea a book by Jordan Gebre-Medhin which is a recommended essential reading for those who want to dive deep into what we mean by the Eritrean revolution and the historical basis of the peasant struggle. Despite the critical analysis of the ELF and its limitations, it is important to view the ELM, ELF, and EPLF as all connected to propelling the armed struggle and shaping the Eritrean revolution in totality.

Eritrea Did Not Gain Independence From Ethiopia

Every year on May 24th Independence Day, we usually see the popular Time Magazine quote from 1998 posted on every social media outlet by Eritreans feeling patriotic for the moment. The quote itself is powerful, and it definitely expresses the sentiment of the Eritrean struggle but the particular “secessionist province” line is historically inaccurate and every year I have to always remind people why.

Zanzibar revolutionary Abdul Rahman Mohamed Babu in 1985 wrote the following of Eritrea & correctly understood our struggle. He visited Eritrea and firsthand observed the struggle for Independence was never a secessionists struggle nor was it a civil war but anti-colonial in the genuine sense.

Over the years, I have seen unprofessional and lazy journalist coverage of Eritrea. You can tell which journalists have not done a sincere job in researching the history when they describe Eritrea with the following words: “Seceded” “Former province” “Gained Independence from”. When journalists present the “seceded” “former province” description they are legitimizing inaccurate historical narrative of the Ethiopian settler state which is outright disregarding basic facts Eritrea never seceded it won its independence rightfully. Ethiopia as an entity is a recent European creation & to imply Eritrea seceded is to imply that Eritrea was part of the entity initially. Eritrea freed itself from the Europe-Abyssinian created settler state! The Eritrean struggle against the Abyssinian settler state wasn’t secessionist nor was Eritrea a province by legal or historical measures it was an anti-colonial struggle against a European-created African settler state. Buzzwords such as “civil war” “secessionist” enforce ideas of the fictionalize Greater Ethiopia myth.

To this day people’s understanding of Eritrea is through Ethiopian lenses rather than re-learning the Eritrean struggle as anti-colonial at its root. Eritrea is a unique case in which it fought, resisted, and defeated European colonialism by proxy against its own Ethiopian settler state.

I Got To See A Soviet Submarine B-39

Her keel was laid down on 9 February 1962 at the Admiralty Shipyard in Leningrad (now known as Saint Petersburg). She was launched on 15 April 1967 and commissioned on 28 December 1967.

Transferred to the 9th Submarine Squadron of the Pacific FleetB-39 was homeported in Vladivostok. She conducted patrols and stalked U.S. warships throughout the North Pacific, along the coast of the United States and Canada, and ranging as far as the Indian Ocean and the Arctic Ocean. After the end of the Vietnam War, she often made port visits to Danang. During the early 1970s, B-39 trailed a Canadian frigate through Strait of Juan de Fuca to Vancouver Island.

In 1989, in the Sea of Japan while charging batteries on the surface, B-39 came within 500 yards (457 m) of an Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate of the US Navy. Both crews took pictures of each other.

B-39 was decommissioned on 1 April 1994 and sold to Finland. She made her way from there through a series of sales to Vancouver Island in 1996 and to Seattle, Washington, in 2002 before arriving in San Diego, California, on 22 April 2005 and becoming an exhibit of the Maritime Museum of San Diego. During her sequence of owners she acquired the names “Black Widow”and “Cobra”, neither of which she had during her commissioned career.

When B-39 was made a museum the shroud around her attack periscope was cut away where it passes through her control room. As built, a Foxtrot’s periscopes are only accessible from her conning tower, which is off-limits in the museum. With the shroud cut away, tourists can look through the partially raised periscope (which is directed toward the USS Midway museum, some 500 yards (460 m) away). However, the unidentified and unexplained change gives the false impression that one periscope could be used from the control room.

At one point B-39 was slated to be sunk to create an offshore diving reef, but an outcry from teachers and enthusiasts have ensured the sub will stay put for the time being.

In 2000, while stored in Vancouver, B-39 was used as a stage for scenes in the Stargate SG-1 episode “Small Victories”. In 2012 it was a stage for the movie Phantom.

On a related note, check out this interesting documentary Operation Odessa (2018). Something suspicious about the documentary with identifying an international Cuban drug trafficker as being a “spy”. It is Colombian cartels & Russian mafias all working together to buy Russian submarines during the 90s when Moscow was under Yeltsin and the state was being robbed with various neoliberal violence.

The Reagan Documentary & The Obama Connection

In order to understand the mindset and ideological soul of Obama, one has to examine his political hero Ronald Reagan. As I highlighted in this tweet from last year how Reagan played a key role model for Obama.

The 2011 TIME magazine quotes Obama and his love affair with Reagan, which further enforces how far to the right we are now in and normalizes this type of hero-worshipping of right wing figures.

As the 1980s rolled on and Obama matured, Reagan became a model for leadership. The attraction was less substantive than stylistic and instinctive. Both had strong mothers and dysfunctional fathers. Both prided themselves on bringing people together. Obama even conceded that he sometimes felt the emotional pull of Reagan’s vision. “I understood his appeal,” Obama recalled in his second book, The Audacity of Hope . “Reagan spoke to America’s longing for order, our need to believe that we are not simply subject to blind, impersonal forces but that we can shape our individual and collective destinies.” The Great Communicator, it seems, had struck a chord. http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2044712-2,00.html

The 2020 Showtime documentary does an outstanding job to unmask the Reagan mythology that was carefully manufactured over the decades. As Hollywood is attempting to push through a film on Reagan’s life in 2022 this documentary offers a proper counter. Reagan was a master at dog whistling, defeating organize labor, and making sure it satisfies his wealthy base. Below is an example of a dog-whistle he used and he was crafty in how he was able to hide his racism and contempt for the poor.

I recommend everyone watch this documentary to understand how from Bill Clinton to now there has been a serious campaign to push Black America to the right and Obama has successfully done that in his 8 years. Obama is the more surreptitious version of Ronald Reagan, with the same contempt of the poor and dog whistle that aims to satisfy his wealthy base as well. To unmask Reagan is to unmask the Obama mythology.

1977 Talks between UK and USA on Indian Ocean-Prediction of Eritrean Independence

Catalogue Description:
This file concerns US-UK discussions on the Indian Ocean in May 1977. Subjects covered are:
Affairs in Africa, including Ethiopia where Mengistu Haile Mariam has taken power; Somalia;and the French Territory of the Afars and the Issas [Djibouti], which is on the point of becoming independent from France
The activities of the Soviet Union across the Indian Ocean
Arms sales and economic aid to Indian Ocean littoral states
The Cuban presence in Africa
The future of the US military base on Diego Garcia, British Indian Ocean Territory
The strategic capabilities of India and other powers in the Indian Ocean
The US Middle East Force (MIDEASTFOR), based in Jufair in Bahrain; and proposed changes to this in light of Bahrain’s objections to the Force’s presence
US Navy deployments in the region, and discussions with Oman concerning the use of Masirah island
Negotiations with Singapore concerning naval facilities
Debates around arms limitation in the Indian Ocean, with a US Government paper evaluating the question
The US and UK position on the creation of an ‘Indian Ocean Peace Zone’, which was called for by the UN Ad Hoc Committee on the Indian Ocean
Issues of overflight rights for US and UK aircraft carrying military equipment to third countries

Rewind: My Appearance on Al-Jazeera The Stream 2015

Then

On June 15, 2015, I agreed to appear on The Stream and with no agreement of being labeled “pro government advocate blogger” and that designation was intentionally meant to discredit my views. In the video, I had criticisms of Ms. Sheila B. Keetharuth, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea. She had ties to the Amnesty organization before joining the UN which has a bias in her reporting of Eritrea given her previous employer’s track record of targeting socialist or independent states. For more on Amnesty background read here and here.

Ms. Sheila B. Keetharuth was appointed in October 2012 as the first Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea. She was member of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea from June 2014 to June 2016. After obtaining an LL.M. in International Human Rights Law and Civil Liberties at the University of Leicester (UK), she was called to the Bar in Mauritius in January 1997. In July 2002, she joined Amnesty International as a Researcher at the Africa Regional Office in Kampala, Uganda, and acted as the Interim Head of Office until December 2005. From November 2006 to June 2012, Sheila B. Keetharuth was the Executive Director of the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA), a pan-African NGO based in Banjul, The Gambia.

This video or my appearance is often used as a “gotcha” moment by reactionary critics to discredit my views currently as being in the service of PFDJ or Isaias Afwerki. To defend the Eritrean state is falsely equated with the defense of Isaias Afwerki and that routinely is used to renounce arguments against imperialism targeting third world states. For example, below Zecharias a known pro-Menelik/Selassie/Zenawi blogger who deliberately used “Regime Trolls” angle to discredit my criticism of his coverage and his sly narrative making against historically oppressed nationalities in Ethiopia.

I’m all about taking criticism and don’t hide my previous views, and I’m always about individual evolution.

Now

My politics since then has evolved that I no longer support PFDJ and been vocal about my criticisms of Isaias Afwerki ever since 2019. Below is my self-criticism from the past appearance.

Self Criticism

  1. I should have been calmer in my views and also communicated my position better on the program.
  2. I should have been more sensitive to present the internal issue and the serious grievances of the Eritrean people while equally spotlighting how Eritrea is unfairly targeted.
  3. I like to apologize to all Eritreans who feel my views were too hyper-nationalist or were defending PFDJ when my intention was defending the state of Eritrea against external aggressions and schemes.
  4. I have made criticism of AJ+ for being an outlet that propagates State Department views, but I can understand how that is hypocritical for me to have previously appeared on AJ. It is to be cleared that I have appeared on media outlets where I don’t fully agree with everything that was broadcasted.My appearance on AJ was not an endorsement of their politics or editorial line. I believe appealing to the broader audience to push the conversation to the left in every space and medium.

Lastly, one can defend the state of Eritrea while being independent of PFDJ or not supporting it, and that nuanced persuasion should not be dismissed as “regime” or “pro-government blogger”. We have seen how leftists who defend states under assault of Washington aggression be ridiculed as “Assadist” ,”Tankies” “Pro-CCP” etc for rightfully pushing non-interventionist line in the global south.

Who backs allafrica.com? The importance of African owned media outlets

If you can’t make it good, at least make it look good.”

–Bill Gates, Microsoft

For years now the website allafrica.com has been an offhand source for many leftists around the world and the black diaspora to keep up to date on continental African news from various states. Since 2008 it has quietly gained 428.6K followers on Twitter @allafrica and many accounts re-tweet or share its articles without considering how the narrative is shaped and what news in Africa is missing from being featured.

It claims to be a voice of Africa: “AllAfrica is a voice of, by and about Africa – aggregating, producing and distributing 700 news and information items daily from over 130 African news organizations and our own reporters to an African and global public. We operate from Cape Town, Dakar, Abuja, Johannesburg, Nairobi and Washington DC.”

But a closer examination reveals it has ties to Bill Gates and is financed by the billionaire foundation. As announced on its site here:

A $2.3 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will enable AllAfrica to move from periodic to consistent coverage of development issues and to increase institutional capacity to support future projects.

What news development and key grassroots movement in Africa are being intentionally blacked out from reaching a global audience if AllAfrica has a vested interest in making sure Bill Gates is pleased? One thing is for certain, the black diaspora has various middlemen on social media who shape the narrative and pick particular news in Africa that is not about class struggle, questioning the role of NGOs, and overall the criticism of neo-colonialism in its present violence.

As an alternative, we should support independent African journalists with the right politics and sources in the diaspora who are in tune with the grassroots movement and actual developments in Africa.

FROM ERITREA TO BOLIVIA: WHO SUPPORTED THE WASHINGTON BACKED COUP? IN DEFENSE OF ERITREAN LEFTISTS COMMENTARY.

On October 18th, 2019 Eritrean activist Vanessa Tsehaye quote tweeted an article from Bolivian activist Jhanisse Vaca Daza published on the Human Rights Foundation page, encouraging the overthrow of socialist leader Evo Morales.

“If democracy and human rights are further compromised, Bolivia could become the next Venezuela. The presidential election on October 20 is a critical opportunity to remove Morales from power and restore justice in Bolivia. Our planet cannot afford another authoritarian leader who remains in power at the expense of the natural world.”

A few weeks later in Bolivia, the world witnessed a successful coup by the fascist junta and the ousting of Evo Morales, leaving him in exile, humiliated, and targeted.

The new regime immediately went on a killing rampage, murdering dozens, massacring Indigenous protesters, and overturning all economic and political gains made by the socialist government. The coup advanced Washington’s foreign policy that has been consistent from Latin America to Africa in targeting socialist leaders or any non-compliant state.

Who is Vanessa Tsehaye, and why is an Eritrean activist so close with a Bolivian regime change activist?

The connection is the Human Rights Foundation, where Jhanisse V. Daza is the manager of the Freedom Fellowships, a program they selected Vanessa to be a part of on May 21, 2019. Jhanisse revealed on the announcement of the fellowship program : “Anyone running a non-profit or civil society organization or start-up needs help and guidance with personal leadership, movement building, marketing and media strategy, fundraising, and digital security. My own experience was transformative, and I’m looking forward to bringing world-class expertise in each of these areas to 10 new Fellows.”

What is her experience and who are the “world-class experts”?

A more detailed examination of Jhanisse Vaca Daza’s connections and working relationships reveal that she guides an international network of Washington-backed regime change operations from Bolivia, Hong Kong and other strategic regions.

As first reported by Wyatt Reed and Ben Norton from the GrayZone, Daza is linked to Venezuelan figures Leopoldo Lopez, and Thor Halvorssen, the founder and CEO of the Human Rights Foundation. They are both connected to the right-wing and racist oligarchy who have been waging a long campaign of destabilizing Venezuela with the support of Washington.

Furthermore, Daza is associated with Srdja Popovic, the former organizer with the group Otpor which had substantial financial support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the International Republican Institute (IRI), and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The Otpor group was one of many decades-long sophisticated operations to target socialist Yugoslavia and break it apart.

As per the investigative report by The GrayZon revealed:

“CANVAS had been funded largely through the National Endowment for Democracy, a CIA cut-out that functions as the US government’s main arm of promoting regime change.”

According to internal emails from Stratfor, an intelligence firm known as the “shadow CIA,” CANVAS “may have also received CIA funding and training during the 1999/2000 anti-Milosevic struggle.”

CANVAS grew out of the Otpor! movement, a US-backed cadre of youth activists that brought down Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, who was targeted for overthrow by NATO for being insufficiently compliant.

An email by a Stratfor staffer boasts: “the kids who ran OTPOR grew up, got suits and designed CANVAS… or in other words a ‘export-a-revolution’ group that sowed the seeds for a NUMBER of color revolutions. They are still hooked into U.S. funding and basically go around the world trying to topple dictators and autocratic governments (ones that U.S. does not like ;).”

Stratfor revealed that CANVAS “turned its attention to Venezuela” in 2005, after cultivating opposition movements that led pro-NATO regime-change operations across Eastern Europe. Among those trained by CANVAS were the leaders of Venezuela’s coup attempt this year, including Juan Guaido, Leopoldo Lopez, and scores of figures associated with the US-supported Popular Will party.”

Bolivian anti-Evo Morales activist Jhanissa Vaca Daza (center) with Otpor leader and CANVAS founder Srdja Popovic (right)

On July 19th, 2019, Vanessa also tweeted in support of Srdja Popovic: “We can only succeed by learning from the ones who fought similar before us”.

Meron Estefanos is another Eritrean activist that is also associated with Human Rights Foundation and connected with Srdja as seen by the tweet below in May of 2015. Both Meron and Vanessa’s Twitter accounts are verified and are always centered on all news developments to give the impression of representing an impartial Eritrean voice, despite their connection to shadowy elements and aims for the state.Vanessa Tsehaye was also nominated for the Index on Censorship’s Freedom of Expression Award in 2016:

As reported by Morning Star :

“Index on Censorship continues to function today, posing as an organisation that promotes freedom of expression across the world. But a cursory glance at its major donors sets alarm bells ringing.As well as the aforementioned Ford Foundation, it is funded by Open Society Foundations, Open Democracy and the shady soft power organisation the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)”

What can we infer about the active harm on the state of Bolivia and Eritrea from Vanessa in the Eritrean diaspora spaces, and her links with Jhanisse Vaca Daza/Human Rights Foundation? Her emergence is part of many counter-revolutionary aims over the years to defang the Eritrean revolution of its socialist roots, demoralize the Eritrean people’s sense of revolutionary nationalism, and weaken the state. The strategy of Washington has been multi-faceted and sophisticated in its deployment and execution in the diaspora since 2007, as stated in WikiLeaks cables from former Ambassador Ronald K. McMullen.The Impeccable achievement of the Eritrean revolution under the guidance of ELM, ELF initially and then EPLF, which had a socialist foundational aim after independence, was a threatening example for Africa. Therefore, Eritrea has been a victim of imperialist design and destruction for decades:

  • 1890-1945-Survived and resisted Italian colonialism without the influence of Italian culture, language, and the racist period of the fascist era.
  • 1945-1960 Survived and resisted British colonialism objectives in partitioning Eritrea and dividing its people.
  • 1961-1991 Survived and resisted US/UK/USSR supported Ethiopian colonialism and brutal occupation.
  • 1991-1998 Peace and transition.
  • 1998-2000 Survived western supported invasion of Eritrea by Washington backed TPLF just like it did years later in Somalia.
  • 1998-2018 Survived and resisted Washington aggression and support of the Ethiopian regime aims at state collapse, destabilization, and economic sabotage to make the people revolt and submit.
  • 2009-2018 Survived debilitating UN sanctions against the state, defense capability, and collective punishment of the people.

The prevailing emergence of neoliberal diaspora activism currently led by Vanessa/OneDaySeyoum is operated on individual issues in a celebrity-like consideration over the community and collective struggle. This is why it is social media-driven with no serious offline popular legitimacy with the Eritrean community, as the aim is not unity but to sow discord, political fragmentation and externalize all of the actual problems in Eritrea. Neoliberal diaspora activism is directed by Twitter likes, metrics and online drama, like the dogpiling of comedian Tiffany Haddish who visited Eritrea on a personal narrative and wanting to publicize her father’s country. It must be understood Tiffany Haddish was viscously targeted, when she was not a political voice at all. Vanessa purposely used the social media bullying of Tiffany to publicize her organization and use that public stunt toward centering her organization and profile.

OneDaySeyoum/Vanessa Tsehaye did not oppose the Susan Rice lobbied sanctions on the state of Eritrea from 2009 to 2018 and was silent on the 18-year war of aggression from Washington backed regime in Addis Ababa. Most of the Gen Z diaspora youths who support her on Twitter are being misled into an imperialist undertaking, filled with superficial campaign and PR with no serious impact on the Eritrean people nor the state. The social media campaign only helps to build the “activists brand” and their profile, it doesn’t materially address the problems of the Eritrean people. They politically exploit the serious problem of Eritrean refugees in Libya to blame the state only, with no mention of the role of imperialism in destabilizing Libya and the aggression on Eritrea. This is likened to being an arsonist at night but performing like firefighters in daylight. What does supporting sanctions, economic/military destabilization of the Eritrean state have to do with advocating for refugees? Additionally, Vanessa gained notoriety and social media capital off Ciham’s misfortune in Eritrea. We must move away from single issues social media campaigns as that itself is liberalism, and truly engage in a high-level approach to supporting the Eritrean people beyond PFDJ by not selling out to imperialism. Advocating for Ciham’s freedom is the right thing to do, but there is no reason to engage in liberalism and align the campaign with Vanessa Tsehaye, who is funded by the Human Rights Foundation. The social media campaign around Ciham and its performative spectacle only benefited the career profile of Vanessa Tsehaye. As Ivan Marovic, one of the founders of Otpor stated: “It’s not cool.  Normal people hate politics . . . but . . . you need normal people if you’re gonna make change.  To do that, you need to make politics sexy.  Make it cool.  Make it hip.  REVOLUTION as a FASHION LINE”

In Defense Of Eritrean Leftist Commentary

“Hide nothing from the masses of our people. Tell no lies. Expose lies whenever they are told. Mask no difficulties, mistakes, failures. Claim no easy victories…”-Amilcar Cabral,

Over the years there has been an external push toward a neoliberal flavored type of activism that aims to reverse the legacy of the elder generation of Eritreans with leftist politics and a sense of revolutionary nationalism. The revolutionary nationalism itself is being targeted, although it must be clear that PFDJ has been failing Eritrea and the diaspora to be a vanguard in the same spirit as the true socialist vanguard EPLF. The elder Eritrean generation who were active in the late 1980s and 1990s with revolutionary nationalism, built up the diaspora communities and developed a long-lasting movement to help Eritrea.  The rise of Vanessa/OneDaySeyoum opposes the rich history of the community-owned activism and bottom-up grass-roots that was prevalent in the 1980/90s and early 2000s in the diaspora, originally shaped by the true socialist vanguard EPLF. The neoliberal diaspora activists are running counter to the history of Eritrean organizers, who stood for  solidarity, anti-imperialism, and collective struggle building that united Eritreans and defended the state and revolution.  Unfortunately, Isaias Afewerki and PFDJ have not been able to maintain that legacy and now we have youth who are vulnerable to grifters and counter-revolutionary warfare. The fear of critical leftist narratives against both PFDJ and the pro State Department elements like Vanessa is serious, and the counter-response is to spew ad hominem attacks and discredit any leftist criticism. 

For example below, in the past few months, I have been targeted by Vanessa Tsehaye/OneDaySeyoum by spreading misinformation and gaslighting my commentary, dismissing me as a man who is misogynistic, sexist, and targeting Eritrean women for publicly condemning her ties to imperialist hands and her support of the coup in Bolivia. The below tweet of mine is addressing imperialism and Vanessa Tsehaye responded by falsey proclaiming that I’m misogynist: 

(By the way, her name was Vanessa Berhe on all articles in the past, Al Jazeera interviews and that was the name I used before she changed her name,  I was not aware she changed her name but I have now updated as to respect her choice)

Is legitimate public criticism of a hyper-visible activist misogynist or sexist? If that is the case I have no problem being self-corrected, but this is motivated with aims to smear my political criticism.

Equally important, the individual’s account associated with Vanessa has sent direct messages to popular black leftists with large followings, by proclaiming with no public independent investigation, that I’m targeting Eritrean women when that is not true. My personal address has been doxxed by one of the vocal members of OneDaySeyoum with threats to do me harm offline, plus other Youtube comments threatening to call my family and publishing the name of my partner. Moreover, the individuals associated with Vanessa Tsehay/OneDaySeyoum have targeted the organization I’m a member of by continuously aiming to send their associates to monitor our activities, and to penetrate and sabotage our efforts. The HOA-PALS(Horn of Africa-Pan Africanist for Liberation and Solidarity is aiming to build an alternative leftist space that is multi-generational,women-led, and LGBTQ+ welcoming. Fallacious claims of me targeting Eritrean women are flawed, considering I am a member of a women-led organization where we have had various internal dialogue on how this was a political hit job to discard my commentary. My commentary is direct, blunt, and has no aim to harm marginalized communities, but to question reactionary elements, whether it is the activists or the cadres of PFDJ or Eritrean officials. I have been blocked by the Eritrean ambassador to Japan for criticizing his anti-Cuba/USSR/Marxist views, I have been blocked by WHO Director, Tedros Adhanom for his time as Foreign Minister under TPLF, I have been blocked by US ambassador in Djibouti, MC Hammer for support Selassie/Menliek and have had more issues with reactionary men in our community than women.

As a cis Eritrean man, I understand the optics of publicly criticizing women and have been doing more to be careful in the language I use, reading Queer Marxist feminist works to better stamp out my internalized patriarchy to do better with my approach, while maintaining the guiding principles of anti-imperialists, and highlighting the problems of Washington foreign policy in the Horn of Africa.

To be a revolutionary Eritrean in the diaspora demands one not be associated with the Washington State Department on the one hand, or uncritically support Isaias Afewerki on the other. There is a transformative approach to transitioning Eritrea beyond Isaias Afewerki and it won’t work by being in collusion with the State Department/Human Rights Watch/Amnesty and activist(OneDaySeyoum). Eritreans have a right to defend the state and we should not be intimidated and gaslighted to work with imperialists and their lackeys. No Eritrean with revolutionary potential believing in our collective struggle is my enemy, whether they operate within PFDJ or in the opposition, as we must maintain a united frontline.

Kwame Ture spoke on the differences between mobilization and organization. He says, mobilization usually leads to reform action, not to revolutionary action.  “Those of us who are revolutionary are not concerned with issues, we are concerned with the system.” Mobilization of the masses on a bigger scale will require radical approaches through organizations focused on collective struggle rather than individual issues and social media spectacles.

The young diaspora Eritrean youths and non-Eritreans drawn by the emotionally targeted propaganda campaign on Twitter are innocent in that they don’t recognize they are being pulled into something dangerous for Eritrea and the region. This sophisticated campaign targets diaspora youths and individuals with large followings, who are unfamiliar with Eritrea.

One can engage in deconstructing the role of imperialism in how Eritrean refugees are displaced in Libya and facing grave threats, without excusing the internal failures of Isias Afewerki to reduce harm and destructive policies . One can be leftists without supporting PFDJ.

People’s class positioning in the diaspora reflects in their politics for the Horn of Africa. Class perspectives and analysis have been buried by diaspora neoliberal oriented activism towards single issues that deflect emotions and spectacles instead of historical analysis and deeper investigation.

Do you want freedom for your people? From what class positioning? We black leftists are duty-bound to be media savvy and well versed in informational warfare targeting Black America and Africa. Oftentimes people with liberal politics don’t understand piercing’ criticism and ideological persuasion. Do we have malicious intent by bringing to light the harmful political positioning of Eritrean elements from the pro-State Department accounts and pro-Isaias Afewerki accounts? No. The intent is to push the conversation to the left away from reactionaries via PFDJ or a few opposition accounts.

We have a problem with the rampant anti-socialist sentiment within the neoliberal Eritrean activist spaces and their continued online surveillance campaign with support of shadowy backers. Eritrean leftists are being targeted and harassed for their critical commentary and views. The Black global left needs to understand that elements like those in this article who want to discredit Eritrean leftist viewpoints and that those leftists who organize online, must be clear to investigate who they interact with and their shadowy associations.

As to discredit the Eritrean leftist position, any defense of the state or revolution is intentionally equated with the support of Isaias Afewerki and his failures. This is how pro-State Department Eritrean activists rationalize demonizing any defense of the state by deflecting to Isias/PFDJ. Defending Bolivia, Venezuela, Iran, China from western aggression does not mean one agrees with the internal politics or head of state just like Eritrea, but we are guided by the principles of anti-imperialism and a non-interventionist line.

In the spirit of Pan Africanism, the Black Radical Tradition, and anti-imperialism, the Eritrean leftist commentary and the Eritrean revolution must be defended beyond hyper-nationalism, neoliberal diaspora activism, and rightward tendencies.