“After the dust has settled, our horizon will still be there” President Isaias
It is to be recalled that President Isaias Afwerki conducted an interview with the national media outlets mainly focusing on domestic affairs in connection with the New Year on the 30th of December 2014. In the interview that was broadcast live through Eritrean Television and Dimtsi Hafash highlighting all-round national and regional developments, as well as future prospects, the President shed light on the implementation and progress of development programs, nation-building programs set for implementation in 2015 and other domestic and regional issues. Here is an excerpt of the first part of the interview.
Although our questions are mainly about domestic issues, they are highly influenced by regional and global issues and let’s begin with those. In previous years our world has passed through a tumultuous stage. Economic recession, popular uprisings, conflicts and terrorist attacks are all manifestations of this reality. Can you briefly explain to us the current global situation and its forecast and its outlooks?
First of all I want to wish a happy new year to all Eritrean people. It is a broad topic but to explain it simply I will only state our reading on it. What causes all these turmoil and how do we read it? It can be concluded that the clash and the polarization within a society that come about in history ultimately leads to conflicts and uprisings. This can be seen from a global, region or even individual countries. When the gap widens between the haves and have-nots, and those who are given opportunities and those who are deprived of it, then conflict arises. It is also important to see how this conflict arises in the history of each country. In this 21st century the globalization phenomenon (I don’t really believe in it by the way), has encroached among countries in different regions of the globe, and the domestic factors that brought about these scenarios were also influenced by external factors. The unipolar world that transpired after the end of the cold war led to the domination by few powerful corporations that competed for the control of financial and capital institution, weapon industries, cultural and educational centers, and the main stream media. The tension and crisis in our region was the result of the polarization that occurred between societies, regions and speculators that came about due to the developments in the end of the 20th century and the 21st century driven by the corporations. It meant to create an order where few in a society control every aspect of life in a country. We can take the examples of countries like Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, Syria, and Afghanistan, Iraq and turkey. A collision resulted between those few who hold power with the help of the corporations and those who were exploited. It might have started spontaneously and with no preparation for its sustainability which is why it has lost its direction. The result was gruesome chaos. But in general if we were to evaluate the past 3-4 years scenarios it was the result of a clash between a highly polarized societies. If we look back to scriptures of 17th and 18th century or even in the Gospel and Quran the issue has always been the same; and it was the tension between those who want to live on exploiting and those who are deprived of opportunities to live a descent life. If we take the example of black Americans they were enslaved but since they did not have any means to organize themselves against this injustice they resorted to prayers and church for solution. In our region too, after the cold war there were not national progressive forces that can resolve the polarization in the society as they were sidelined and weakened by the corporation world. Deprived of such forces people tended to look to the religious world for divine solution. Such circumstance create a fertile ground for religious brokers or agents (I don’t think it is correct to refer them as religious organizations) in Christianity or Islam that exploit the vacuum and offer for divine solution. This develops to the point where desperate solutions like suicide bombs are brought as an appealing solution.
As we have seen, whenever there is a vacuum in a society and when there is lack of proper management of the polarization, religious brokers exploit this chaos till they come to power and control the economic and other tentacles of the country. This scenario has been there for a long time. But since they don’t have real programs they cannot address the polarization within the society. All they offer are alluring and temporary promises. However the past three or four years has been a good lesson to peoples. With the help of information technology disseminated instantly from across different countries tend to control peoples mind. People couldn’t see the big picture in three dimensions instead of two dimensions. This is difficult because the flood of information can be mind-numbing and one cannot take a sober and well balanced look at the scenarios that were unfolding. But the development in these years can be seen individually. You can see foreign agents trying to exploit the situation and also the crisis in the corporations and make sense of it all. In our region this developments have been a lesson to the people. We can see that the sentiment of the people before 4 years and now and how it reached to this level.
This is how we have been reading the causes of this confusion. How it affected us depend on our reading of the development. If you have a careful and logical reading, you can hold firm amidst this big wave. If you have a good understanding and control of your situation and also the realities in different societies and within yours, then the chaos will finally end in its own time. How and when is another issue? The fundamental issue of polarization within societies that has reached even at the global level has caused the different situations in the world to influence each other. This is primarily the offshoot of the intention to create a unipolar world after the end of the cold war. And where is the world heading now? The corporation mindset that strives to control the world through its technological advancement, military might, the control of resources, and remain the sole super-power for the next 50 years has been rendered impossible by the development of the past 20 years. The world is becoming a multi-polar world as many powers have risen and are still rising. The economic reality is changing and many influences are growing in the resource centers. The competition and tension among the big global powers are increasing daily. Through economic influences, technological advancement, military might each region is experiencing a transformation. We are now in a transition period and that’s how I see the past 20 years. It is the transition from one global order to a new one. We don’t expect a dramatic shift of global order but the signs are geared towards that direction and the situations in every region can be explained from this big picture.
Mr. President, as you have explained foreign interference has caused internal political, economic and security crisis in countries of our region. And this has become a hindrance to a coordinated development program in the region. Can these countries get out of this trap and ensure regional coordination? What is Eritrea’s vision and strategy in our region?
There are a lot of issues that beg for explanation as it is a big topic, but I will try to answer it briefly. One of the problems in our region is the attempt to create a unipolar world after the end of the cold war. I call this a corporation world. The idea is to have proxies in every region. If we see the different documents prior to 2000, the plan was to divide Africa into regions and appoint a proxy in each of them. The proxy wants to become a dominant power in the region with the help of the corporation. It doesn’t have its own power to impose its dominance. We have many such countries in our region that are trying to take advantage of the situation brought by the attempt to create a unipolar world. This motive is being reflected in their news. And the foreign interference exacerbates the complex situation even further. In their attempt to become dominant the proxies now try to complicate the situation in each country in the region in order to control it through their own proxies. Since they try to use the tension in each country to their little ambition they complicate issues even further. So in this transition period what is happening is that the global powers are trying to dominate with their military, economy, and other means of influence while proxies tries to complicate the tension and polarization in the region and in each countries. So these situations beg for a careful reading of the development. Therefore we are going to develop, deepen and enrich our reading of this development. And we need to first have our own perspective. Although we can’t talk at a global or regional level, we are nonetheless people who want to live in peace and security, and change our lives with our own work. But in what environment can we do that? The above circumstances affect us and hence we need the security of our region so that we could be able to achieve our set goals. But we know that security doesn’t come out of mere wish, you have to work for it. The Red Sea, by virtue of being an international sea route, gives peculiar importance to our geographical location. This influences every country in the region. The proximity of the Middle East also affects the region in different ways. It is because of this influence that we advocate cooperation and coordination in security, economy and investment in the Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf region to create peaceful and secure region. The same is true in the Horn of Africa, we can also talk about the Nile Basin region as an issue that affects us. In general term these are the regions our foreign policy addresses. We can consider these as sub-regions. But is there a coordination and cooperation environment in the sub-regions and in the region? In the past 20 years we have worked to promote a cooperative environment not only to ensure a peaceful region but also to meaningfully participate in the world arena. This is a natural aspiration of any people and ours’ is also not different. But the situation in the region has exacerbated. And this basically is due to the complication of tensions as a result of global powers’ intention and the intentions and to achieve peace in the region requires an active engagement. At times we don’t engage in active diplomatic even with the presence of clear picture. It is better to wait and just observe. But if the sub-regions are to be stable and secure we have to constructively engage even if it is a humble contribution. But it is a conscious contribution that can have an effect in the desired outcome and aspiration. To surmount the complication created by the proxies and with support of external resources we have to create awareness. The conscious element in each country is trying to address this polarization. If we can’t come together under the common interest and if we are working to exploit the tensions in each country in the attempt to become proxies, then we cannot ensure the progress of the region. We have learned a lot from the past years that we can create our environment and also there is an environment that can be created as a result of external intervention. If we can address our regional problems and come together under constructive engagement then it is very easy to isolate the challenges imposed from the external forces. And as I have mentioned earlier our foreign policies are based on clear understanding of this fact. We know what we are capable of and what we want to do. This country and this people cannot be brought down for an auction. We have passed through a long and arduous struggle and we are concerned about our progress; we don’t want to be entangled in a meaningless tension and clashes between blocs. What concerns us is the stability, cooperation and progress of the region. And when the dust that veiled the horizon settles down we will be on our way to progress.