[Written in Africa]
A common topic of conversation in Eritrea is leaving. People discuss how life here is becoming more and more unendurable, and their ardent desire to get somewhere else. I was talking with some colleagues about this and they said, it’s no good just sneaking across the border. You’d only get to [Hated Neighbouring Country], and from there you can only travel to other parts of Africa. You’d have to live in Uganda, Rwanda, Sudan. There’s no point leaving unless you can get to Europe, America or Australia, somewhere like that.
Now, I quite like the guy who was saying this. If he made it to Oz and ended up being your next-door neighbour, you’d love him and his family. He is the most reasonable and peaceable local I know.
However, while I did not let on, his comments angered me. I do not think, even-tempered though he is, that he would have been able to understand my feelings had I tried to explain them, and he would finally have become angry himself. But I shall profess my thoughts here.
Eritrea has been well and truly screwed over by the rest of the world, and it is not alone in that. It has long been the outpost of one empire after another, with none of them treating the locals terribly well.
Finally it came under the jurisdiction of [Hated Neighbouring Country], and things got even worse. Factory machinery was seized and relocated to the imperial capital, there was torture, arbitrary arrest, massacres. When the Soviet-backed communists took over the empire things just got worse. Locals going to friends’ houses to watch soccer games would risk getting shot by edgy occupation forces on their way back home late at night. No one dared go out after dark.
They launched a guerrilla war for independence in the 1960s, and this war raged back and forth for thirty long years. The locals never gave up, nor even imagined doing so. Say what you like about them, they are bloody determined bastards. At first the empire was backed by the U.S. for geopolitical reasons, but still the rebels could not be wiped out. When the U.S. pulled out the rebels advanced and came close to victory, but were soon driven into the mountains by the empire’s new ally, a certain country called the USSR. For more than ten years they were hemmed in behind entrenched positions in the far north of the country, holding on to a tiny patch of ground, supported by no foreign entity, bombed daily, with limited supplies and suffering an extremely tough existence.
But they did not give up.
Finally, after thirty years, the Soviet Union collapsed, the empire weakened and the rebels broke out of their fragile redoubt, going from victory to victory and soon winning an astonishingly unlikely triumph against a much larger, more powerful and better armed foe. They declared independence, were recognized by the U.S., Russia and the UN, and set about creating a new, modern state that would be more developed, better educated and better run than any other nation in Africa. That is what they really believed, and that is what many foreigners in the country believed, too. It was a time of boundless optimism.
But what has happened since then? I will not go through all the events, but suffice to say, they have made a complete and utter mess of it. They have so thoroughly destroyed their own economy and society that most of the population has fled abroad. Many of those who remain plan to leave. It is not just a shithole – it is a hellhole. I can sometimes go weeks without thinking about how people are enslaved in this very country, and then I remember and I am disturbed. I don’t think locals ponder it as often as I do.
Many people from here live around Africa in those countries mentioned. Some are successful and some languish in unemployment. Hence, I guess pretty much all of them want to get to a developed, white country.
And this is what makes me angry: they fought for thirty years to secure their own country, to free themselves from foreign domination . . . and then they want to just leave! Further, I am almost embarrassed at the lack of shame they have for this situation. You’d think they’d be eating humble pie.
If they really want to live under a white government, why don’t they just invite the Italians to recolonize them? But no, they’re far too proud for that. They’d prefer to live in Italy itself while having their own country, far away, existing in noble independence and being run into the ground by utterly incompetent locals.
After thirty years of struggle, they will not struggle for just a few more years in order to make their newly created country a livable one. They just sneak off to our countries instead, where they no doubt whinge and whine about how racist we are as they take our dole money and enjoy our freedoms, democracy, WiFi and running water.
When applying for asylum, there ought to be a box on the application form under ‘reason for seeking asylum’ that reads:
口 We turned our country into a shithole so we want to live in yours.
And they should have to sign a statement promising not to complain about how horrible white people are, down to the seventeenth generation, on pain of being returned to the very shithole that they themselves created.
I have far less sympathy for refugees from this part of the world than I did before I lived here. This is not tragic dirt. This is a tragic people who cannot manage a modern country on their own, and who absolutely refuse to admit it.