A telephone may be considered a weapon to some, but say that to a population that has access to AK-47 Kalashnikov rifles; if they don’t laugh, they’d get pissed off at how a fake revolution simply undermines their intelligence.

robocall_SNLI haven’t conducted any type of survey or scientific research; I only have the feed back that I have received from those Eritrean youth and adults that I have asked: did you get a call or have heard of it? What was your reaction and what do you think about the message?

Say-No-to-robocallsI haven’t received a call myself, but I was able to hear one when they had called the reception of my office. The receptionist, who just happens to be stationed right outside my office door, had picked up the phone and didn’t give it much thought. She just told my colleague who was anticipating an important phone call that the call was ‘from the crazies’ and hung up. I asked her what she meant, and she mentioned that it was an automated message. I had seen the Facebook adverts and tweets about the so-called Arbi-Harnet campaign and their calls for donations to make these calls, so when the phone rang again soon after the receptionist hung up, and when she said something like “why are they wasting my time?”, I had asked her to let me hear the call before she was able to hang up. That’s the first time I actually heard the robo-call calling for ‘action’ and enjoyed a good laugh about it with my colleagues.

There was another time where I asked a young person if he knew about the calls and the Facebook adverts about this so-called Arbi-Harnet campaign. He told me he did. When I asked him how he feel about it, he said he sees it as entertainment, a thing to laugh about.

Although nobody seems to take these robo-calls seriously, the situation is hardly a laughing matter. Maybe those who organize this campaign thought it was a good idea to send out these calls in the middle of the night on 21 January 2013, because they thought they could make an impact soon after the coup d’etat that never happened. But to have frightened old people out of their sleep didn’t help their cause; and the fact that January 22nd was the same as January 21st (everything completely normal in Asmara) only made it that more illegitimate. So what’s behind these futile attempts?

Those who coordinate this so-called Arbi-Harnet (Freedom Friday) campaign are the same individuals who have for at least a decade (some of them much more) taken the side of the Ethiopian government, receiving full political and financial support from them. They frequent Addis Ababa and Mekele as Ethiopia still to this day occupies sovereign Eritrean territory and refuses to abide by the final and binding decision of the Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission (2002), a commission set up by the Algiers Peace Agreement (2000) when the 3 year border conflict came to an ‘end’. These individuals are coy in their words, trying to make it seem as if they are doing it for the Eritrean people, when indeed they are a part of ‘opposition parties’ that work to mobilize refugees in Ethiopia to take up arms against their brothers and sisters in Eritrea. What we have here folks is not a call for freedom, but so-called opposition groups taking every single opportunity to demonize the Eritrean people into some sort of submission.

No doubt, Eritrea has a long way to go until she becomes the developed and democratic country she aspires to be. But for those outside of Eritrea to exploit Eritrea’s challenges by fooling western journalists about what is actually happening inside Eritrea is bona-fide bullshit. I’ve seen these types defend these journalists, saying that there isn’t an independent press inside to give the story, but that’s a bullshit excuse to lie about a people.

The reason I’m even writing this blog post has to do with the bullshit story that Eritreans in exile have a humble weapon, namely the telephone, to… what did they say they were trying to do in the article?… Oh! The phone calls are a way to spread dissent. Just google the title of this article and you will see exactly how this defamation campaign works–get as many newspapers and websites to copy-paste this article because lazy journalists won’t actually take the effort of verifying the content. I mean why would they? AFP wrote it. O_0

Their tactics of spreading these lies is quite predictable, but to make sure that western journalists really buy the story, of course they have to quote an Eritrean specialist, who of course has to be white. Such yellow journalism doesn’t have the time to dig in for facts to find out that this guy has never even stepped a single foot in Eritrea, let alone knows anything of substance regarding Eritrea and her people.

The absurdity of the fact that phone calls will bring the Eritrean people into some sort of action, especially an action endorsed by those who literally work in the interests of the Ethiopian government, can be summed up in a comment that I posted in response to the NPR article “With Robocalls, Eritrean Exiles Organize Passive Resistance“:

So let me get this straight… A people who managed to take on colonialists supported by both of the world super powers of the time, with no external assistance, to defeat the colonialists and bring about independence now needs robo-calls to get them to take action? Puh-leeze!

At the time that I’ve written this blog post, my comment is still the ranked as the best comment on that article.

In a previous blog post, I had already summed up the absurdity of the robo-calls when by coincidence, on a Friday, a taxi driver made comments about it:

Recently there was an article that came out on the imaginary “Freedom Friday (Arbi Harnet)” movement. Titled “Eritrea: ‘Freedom Friday’ Movement Challenges ‘North Korea of Africa’”, it claims that a movement similar to the Arab Springs is taking root in Eritrea. By sheer coincidence, as I was coming to work Friday morning, the day after this article came out, the taxi driver mentioned how he had received one of their robo-calls calling for people to go out into the streets against the Eritrean government. He thought it was the biggest joke ever. Don’t get me wrong; surely Eritrea’s youth will like to see changes and reform in their society. The joke is on those who call youth inside Eritrea to go out in the streets as they themselves live abroad. I don’t know if the taxi driver knows anything about the two women quoted in the article; I didn’t bother telling him that BOTH of them are known to frequent Ethiopia to organize, in cooperation with the Ethiopian government, the arch enemy of the Eritrean people, to violently overthrow the Eritrean government. That would have turned his laughter into something else. For him, it was stupid enough that they would make such calls knowing well that not a single young person will or has adhered to it. His final statement before I got off the taxi: “Let them come to Eritrea and do service before they can even begin to talk about how the youth should bring about change.” Enough said.

There have been some reactions to these robo-call articles from Eritreans in the Diaspora, calling the articles racist. I would like to correct them though; this phenomena of spreading lies by disseminating articles basically written by those whose political interests lie with the Ethiopian government and a Yankee to fulfills his cowboy dreams by being called an Eritrean specialist, is beyond racist. This is a whole new level of discrimination and stereotyping against a nation, not for the color of their skin but for the very fact that they don’t bow down to the status quo of letting imperialists dictate their destiny.

There are many reasons for the people to call for reform; but phantom phone calls is not one of them. Whenever the people do call and act for change, their actions don’t have to be verified by how many times it is tweeted; they will bring about this change on their own terms and for their own lives, not to satisfy the political interests of those who call them to take action from the safety of the phone line or computer monitor.

PS. This most likely will be my last blog post regarding these robo-calls. This particular subject is just so mundane, and I’ve already given it too much undeserved attention.

Note to reader: In the beginning of this post I mentioned that I did not conduct a scientific research on what people think of the robo-calls simply because I didn’t want to misconceive you like the other articles on this subject. I have indeed been very honest in writing about the interactions mentioned in this post. Do keep in mind that I live in Asmara and I would know or hear about resistance taking place in reaction to this robo-calls if they’d take place. Asmara is indeed a small city.

  1. PT says:

    Are you into democracy? I don’t think majority-rule is all it’s cracked up to be.

  2. […] Here is a blog post I’ve written in the past, basically calling the Freedom Friday movement/robot call campaign […]

  3. […] and articles started to emerge about this movement doing things within Eritrea, I had written THIS BLOG POST while I was in Eritrea, living in Eritrea. This phantom movement and the attention it has received […]

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