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Eritrea: North Koreans With Black Faces – OpEd

Location of Eritrea and Tigray region in northern EthiopiaEritrea is a very small country in East Africa along the Red Sea. Second to North Korea, the Eritrean regime is the most isolated, secretive, and repressive authoritarian regime globally, and the last remaining Marxist state on the African continent. The Kim Jong-un of Africa, Isaias Afewerki, has been in power since Eritrea’s independence de jure in 1991 and de facto in 1993. Subsequently, Eritrea is infamously known in Africa as the North Korea of Africa for a good reason.

Africa’s lack of economic and political development can be attributed to the residue of colonialism, tribalism, state corruption, and lack of democratic norms. However, Eritrea’s case is much simpler than that: it’s due to the vile totalitarian Marxist regime that has been in power since 1991.

The Eritrean people have had to endure Italian fascist colonialism, Ethiopian occupation and dictatorship under Western-backed Haile Selassie, 30 years of war for independence against the said dictator, and a Soviet-backed communist regime under Mengistu Haile Mariam.

The collective misery, sheer hopelessness, and mass exodus of young Eritreans to Western shores cannot be solely attributed to these unwarranted occupations and wars, not when the Marxist regime of Isaias Afewerki so ignobly carries the torch of oppression against Eritreans today.

After all, the most arduous struggle for Eritreans was neither Italian nor Ethiopian occupation, nor the ecades of war with its neighbouring countries, but the ideological fallout from their compatriots who have been brainwashed with a foreign doctrine as alien to as it is wholly incompatible with Eritrean society, norms, and values—Marxism. As a result, the last remaining communist country in Africa, Eritrea, is a pariah state in the Horn of Africa and a source of instability in one of the most unstable regions in the world.

The Mediterranean Sea—The mass grave for Eritreans

The Mediterranean Sea has become a mass grave for Eritreans, whose youth are willing to sacrifice their lives to cross it. The tragedy at Lampedusa is unforgettable for Eritreans and Italians. It shocked Europeans because 370 people drowned in the Mediterranean trying to reach Europe, most of whom were Eritreans. Starved for freedom and peace, Eritreans are still trying to reach European shores. Eritrean refugees are similar to the scores of Cubans, North Koreans, and Venezuelans trying to escape their home country in search of a meaningful existence.

The communist regime’s repression in Eritrea is so severe that 10% of its 5.7m population is composed of refugees. In 2018, Eritrea and Syria were tied for the number outflow of refugees at the 

height of the Syrian Civil War. The only difference was that Eritrea, a nominally stable country, had not experienced civil war since its independence in 1991. So, what happened?

The answer is quite simple: Communist regimes, such as those in Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, and Eritrea, are innately skilled at destroying a society’s norms and cultures, depriving the population of individual rights, and reducing the citizens to property of the state. Ethiopia is home to 140,000 Eritrean refugees and has hosted Eritreans seeking respite from the communist regime for almost two decades.

However, Eritrean refugees are apprehensive about their safety with the current rapprochement between Eritrea and Ethiopia. Therefore, Eritreans embark on the dangerous journey to Uganda and Kenya as a last resort. For them, anything is better than remaining in the last communist bastion in Africa.

Eritrea—A case study for George Orwell’s 1984 novel

If there is one country synonymous with totalitarianism and a true-to-life reference to George Orwell’s 1984 novel, it is the Eritrean Marxist regime in the Horn of Africa. It only recognizes four religions: The Eritrean Tewahedo Orthodox Church, Sunni Islam, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eritrea. The Eritrean people are not free to choose other religions. And if they do not prescribe to one of these listed by the state, they are tortured and imprisoned until they renounce their faith and collaborate with authorities to expose other members.

Even Eritreans who belong to the four state-sanctioned religions still live in fear of persecution every day. In 2006, the communist regime arrested and deposed the Patriarch of the Eritrean Tewahedo Church, Abune Antonios, who died in 2022 after serving 16 years in prison because he refused to submit to the government. He paid the ultimate price for freedom and self-dignity.

Abune Antonios is a symbol of resistance for the devout Eritrean Orthodox Christians who are finally, and inevitably, ready to realize the inalienable change in their country. No person of faith is safe in Eritrea. The regime is also brutal to people who outright oppose the totalitarian regime, as was the case of Haji Musa Mohammed Nur, Honorary President of al Diaa Islamic School. He was arrested in 2017 for opposing the regime’s interference in Islamic religious affairs and eventually died in prison in 2018, like his counterpart Abune Antonios.

The communist regime in Eritrea has turned the entire country into a Gulag state. The residents who 

have suffered and are currently suffering the most are non-denominational Christians. Without exception, these citizens are forced to renounce their faith and imprisoned because the state does not sanction their religion. Their fates are torture and imprisonment for years, if not decades, and their numbers overflow prisons to the extent that they have been reported to be secretly imprisoned and tortured in shipping containers.

The Catholic Church ran the best hospitals and clinics in the country to date. Still, unfortunately, in 2019, the regime closed the hospital system, depriving the population of 22 health centres because the Catholic Church spoke out against them. As a result, Eritrea’s healthcare system is non-existent, and even if there were one, it couldn’t be expected to function any better than the useless models in other Marxist states.

The totalitarian state in Eritrea, like any Communist regime, thrives on maintaining a close grip on media with the intent to brainwash the innocent, manipulate the vulnerable, confuse the sceptical, and safeguard the average citizen as a tool and property of the state. For the last three decades, Eritreans have had only access to one TV station and two newspapers, which are government-controlled and designed to bend the current and future generations toward its communist agenda.

This malign indoctrination by communist propaganda has gone on for the last three decades. Unfortunately, there are a lot of useful dimwits who support the Marxist regime in Eritrea and the West.

The Eritrean supporters of the regime are a means to an end for the regime, tools wielded to prolong the dictatorship in Asmara. To the regime, its supporters in the West are nothing but dimwits’ accomplices who ironically fight for the enslavement of their compatriots and deny them the fundamental individual freedoms they are at liberty to exercise in the West.

Thus, these hypocrites purposefully deny the same rights they enjoy abroad to Eritreans in Eritrea. Finally, who are these hypocritical drones, devoid of moral principles and incapable of distinguishing 

between fact and fiction? They are Eritreans who live in the West and still support and donate capital to the communist regime in Eritrea.

The pariah state in the Horn of Africa

Most people in the West and across the globe are unaware that there are two North Koreas, one in Asia and the other in Africa. If some can imagine North Koreans with black faces, they would see Eritreans as they truly live today. For the last three decades, Eritreans in Eritrea have been brainwashed by communist propaganda, and Eritrean society has been degraded by Marxist ideology.

Both Eritreans who have escaped Eritrea and Eritreans born in the West are eager to overthrow the Marxist regime and install a democratic form of government that restores dignity and peace to its people. Eritrean civil society is composed of 26 political parties that are working to remove the communist regime in Eritrea and advocate for democracy, a market economy, and justice in Eritrea. So far, the most reputable Eritrean political movement representing most of these civic organizations is Bayto Yiakl U.S.A.

So far, Bayto Yiakl U.S.A has not received much attention, capital injection, or political support from Washington. Still, suppose Washington is committed to toppling the last communist regime in Africa and promoting democracy and a market economy. What then? In this case, it should start collaborating 

with Bayto Yiakl U.S.A and pursue a mutually beneficial relationship. Additionally, suppose the European Union is serious about curbing the influx of Eritrean refugees to Europe. To achieve this goal, they should cooperate with Bayto Yiakl U.S.A to aid the political movement, in collaboration with Washington, to overthrow the communist regime in Eritrea.

Eritreans favour democracy, the rule of law, and capitalism. After three decades of Marxism, they are fed up with it. They are looking to Eritreans in the West as a force for change, and, with diligent Western backing, Bayto Yiakl U.S.A has the potential to become the catalyst. Unfortunately, Washington and Brussels have limited economic, military, and social capacity to topple the North Korean regime in Asia.

However, they have a window of opportunity to overthrow the North Korea of Africa—Eritrea. But will Washington and Brussels assist Bayto Yiakl U.S.A in seizing this opportunity? At present, we can see that communist states are thriving in Asia (North Korea and China) and Latin America (Cuba and Venezuela). Before it’s too late, Washington and Brussels should stamp out the last communist wildfire in Africa. Three decades of Marxist dictatorship is already more than any people should have to suffer.

* Daniel Haile is a graduate student at Texas A&M UniversityThe Bush School of Government and Public Service. He is a Masters of International Affairs candidate. He previously wrote for The National Interest. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.