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Bridging The Divide: Muslim and Christian Eritreans in Orange County

Introduction: The dominance of Tigrinya speaking Christians and their in­volvement in the various sectors of community-based, orga­nizational activities representing Eritreans in Los Angeles, if not throughout the United States, make it appear as though Eritrea is a homogenous country composed predominantly of Tigrinya-speaking Christians (Woldemikael 1996; Hepner 2003). There are, however, minorities of Eritreans in the US who are Muslims and/or non-Tigrinya speakers. The largest concentration of Muslim Eritreans in the United States in the early to mid 1990s; numbering three hundred, was in Orange County, California. This article explores the formation of a group called Eritrean Student Relief Organization (ESRO), which emerged in 1992 to bridge a gulf that existed between Eritrean Muslims and Christians in this region of Southern California.

Comprised of Eritreans with diverse religious, ethnic, re­gional, and political ideologies, ESRO’s stated common purpose was to bring Eritreans of different religious and ethnic backgrounds together to engage in activities related to nation-building in their home of origin, Eritrea. Through an analysis of ESRO’s origins, functions, and demise in 1997, this article argues that the failure of this organization mirrors the failure of Eritreans in diaspora generally to define their relationship with one another and with institutions and organizations in Eritrea in ways that are meaningful for both of them. Using this case study, I aim to shed light on the factors that prevent Eritreans in diaspora from acting as agents in their own inter­ests and creating long-lasting autonomous diasporic transnational institutions that reflect their desires and inter­ests.

Review of Literature

The definitions of diaspora” and transnationalism” are highly contested (Werbner 2002; Kivisto 2003). Following Werbner (2002:251), I define diaspora as “communities of co-respon­sibility.” This definition recognizes not only the solidarity that specific diasporas feel across space and national boundaries, but also their existential connection with co-diasporas else-where or with their home country (Ibid). Transnationalism is commonly defined as “the process by which immigrants build social fields that link together their country of origin and their country of settlement” (Basch et al 1994:1). There have been a few ethnographic and historical studies addressing transnational processes among Eritreans in Sudan, Canada and the US, Italy, Germany and England (al-Ali, Koser, and Black 2001a, b; Bernal 2004; Compton 1998; Kibreab 1987a; 1991; 1996b, c, d; 2000a; McSpadden and Moussa 1993; Sorenson 1993; Woldemikael 1998, 2002; Hepner 2003, 2004). While most of them have focused on Eritreans in diaspora before independence and statehood, Hepner (2003, 2004) and al-Ali et al (2001a, b) have dealt directly with post-independence Eritreans.

In their comparative study of Bosnians and Eritreans in the Netherlands, Germany and England, al-.Ali, Black, and Koser (2001a) characterized the Eritrean state as successful in engaging the energies of the diaspora in contrast to that of Bosnia. They consider the Eritrean case an example of suc­cessful mobilization among an immigrant population, because Eritreans have maintained strong links with their families, friends, and the state of Eritrea. They also rather uncritically assert that the Eritrean state has taken steps to institutional­ize transnational activities, particularly during the 1998-2001 border conflict with Ethiopia (2001a: 584-585). They argue that the success of Eritrea’s efforts contrasts with the failures of other states to mobilize their diasporic populations, includ­ing immigrants from El Salvador, Columbia, Mexico and Haiti presently living in other countries (Basch et al 1994; Landolt et al 1999; Guarnizo et al 1999; Roberts et al 1999; Glick-Schiller and Fouron 1999). In spite of their positive assess­ment of Eritrean emerging transnationalism, al-Ali et al (2001 a, b) nonetheless caution that this represents “enforced transnationalism,” noting that in recent years the Eritrean diaspora has been resisting the state’s demands by increasingly refusing to follow state-initiated transnational programs and activities. ‘What these researchers fail to appreciate is how in­dividuals and organizations at the grassroots have attempted to create alternative ways of engaging in transnational activi­ties, but have been stifled by the Eritrean state and its organi­zational apparatus abroad. This organizational apparatus, origi­nally set up to mobilize Eritreans in exile during the national­ist war of independence, started in the form of student move­ments and later become mass organizations of the EPLF (Woldemikael 2002; Hepner 2004, see also this volume).

Tricia Redeker Hepner, based on her ethnographic study of Eritreans in Chicago, found that the Eritrean transnational social field was “an arena of power where the Eritrean state and its diasporic subjects struggled over meaning, belonging,and authority” (Hepner 2003: 278). She observed that Eritreans in diaspora were internally divided and their community ac­tivities were irregular and troubled. She attributed the difficul­ties to several internal and external factors. Internal factors included the small size of the community, its invisibility in the local immigrant landscape, weak connections to American in­stitutions, and internal fragmentations over politics and iden­tity. External factors consisted mainly of problems caused by the transnational relationship between Eritreans in diaspora with the Eritrean state. Hepner observed that Eritrean diasporacommunities in the US have increasingly drawn on religion as a basis for building community and national identity, and ar­gued that religious identity and practices tend to mitigate against fractured political identities in diaspora (2003:269). Moreover, she noted that religion is “transnationally reconfiguring Eritrean nationalism according to complex en­gagements with American society and the exigencies of Eritreanexperience” (Ibid). She suggested that the “diaspora churchesrepresent part of Eritrean transnational civil society … whose incipient institutionalization helps insulate them from the state’s intervention by creating a more depoliticized, autono­mous space from the ruling regime’s hegemonic, deterritorialized power (Hepner 269-270).

In contrast to the community in Chicago, which seemed tobe successful in making religion a basis for helping create com­munity and national identity, the Eritrean Student Relief Or­ganization (ESRO) in Orange County tried to create a bridgebetween Eritrean religious identities. Hepner’s study explored how religion provides a solution to the intervention of the state or “enforced transnationalism” and therefore becomes a safe place for interaction. The group I studied, however, saw itself as trying to transcend religion-based associations alto­gether. They saw religious identities as limiting their activities,especially in terms of making contributions to the newly emerg­ing state of Eritrea. In what follows, I discuss the Islam-Christian divide and how Eritreans in Orange County, California bridged that gap, by bringing the religiously-divided Eritrean community into one and establishing a secular organization which respected the two religions equally. It documents why and how this effort came about and describes its purposes and achievements up until the organization’s final demise in 1997.

The Case Study: Eritreans in Orange County and its Sur­roundings

Eritreans in Southern California live scattered throughout Or­ange County and in the suburbs surrounding the cities of Los Angeles and San Diego. Muslims and Christians tend to live apart from each other and have their own family and friend-ship networks. Muslims know one another either through friendship and school networks formed in Eritrea and/or from their travels in Sudan, Egypt or SaudiArabia, where religion isa major mode for organizing social life, prior to immigration to the US. Traveling to predominantly Muslim countries in Af­rica and the Middle East increased Muslim Eritreans’ aware­ness that Islam is a powerful transnational presence in the world. Indeed, there have been some attempts to unify Muslim Eritreans into one group along religious lines, thus creating an Eritrean community based on religious identity. One such ef­fort has been the Islamic Jihad Movement, which sought to mobilize Eritreans in Eritrea and in exile in order to overthrow the existing government and establish a Muslim state. These efforts failed largely because Muslim Eritreans are themselves internally divided into various ethnic and linguistic groups. Moreover, like their Christian compatriots, differences in back-ground and experience shaped their personalities and expecta­tions of life in the US. Finally, most Eritrean Muslims are bothsecular and aware of the pluralism that predominates in Eritrea, which consists of nearly fifty percent Christians and fifty per-cent Muslims, and nine different ethnic groups.

The biography, migration history, and reasons for leaving Eritrea to resettle in the US were not altogether different for Muslim Eritreans in Orange County than they were for Chris­tians. All came to the US because of the thirty-year war be­tween Eritrean nationalists and the Ethiopian government, which ended in 1991. Most came as refugees following the passage of the Refugee Act of 1980, which allowed large num­bers of Ethiopians and Eritreans to resettle in the US in the 1980s. A chain of migration developed as friends following other friends chose to stay in Orange County. Once they ar­rived in the US, however, Muslim Eritreans found themselves experiencing a reversal of social position. They found them-selves a minority within the exiled Eritrean minority; most felt alienated from the Christians who dominated the community and its leadership of the existing Eritrean organizations.

It should be noted that until the end of the independence war, various nationalist fronts were vying for power in Eritrea, and most Eritreans aligned with one or another that espoused their vision for independent Eritrea. While most Christians supported the dominant movement, the Eritrean People’s Lib­eration Front (EPLF), most Muslims supported the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) or its various factions. With the suc­cessful defeat of the Ethiopian army in Eritrea in 1991, the EPLF transformed itself from a nationalist movement to a provisional government of Eritrea in 1991, and finally into the permanent government of Eritrea in 1993. In 1994, the People’s Front for Justice and Democracy (PFDJ) was formed, which has since dominated the political landscape of Eritrea as the only recognized political party.

Researchers have pointed out that immigrants’ economic, political and social relations pressure them to create social fields that cross international boundaries. This tends to occur espe­cially when immigrants are confronted by social exclusion in both their countries of origin and destination, and also feel the need for family reproduction in the face of economic and political insecurity (Basch at el 1994). As Eritreans constructed their family lives in the US, they needed a community that transcended all pre-existing divisions. All Eritreans faced a common basis of alienation from the dominant white society: being foreign and black. As al-Ali, Black and Koser (2001a, b) found, however, there were divisions based on the political views of Eritrean in diaspora towards the government in Eritrea. In particular, many Muslim respondents perceived the Eritrean community structure in the United Kingdom to be dominated by Christians. This feeling of exclusion limited their desire to participate in community level activities, from charitable collections to cultural festivals (al-Ali et al 2001b:631). Similarly, many Eritrean Muslims in Orange County found themselves not only suffering from numerical minority status among the Christian majority in the US, but were also aware that the ELF, which had espoused their vision of national identity in Eritrea, had failed to achieve its goal. Although a few of the Muslims were sympathetic to the EPLF, most of the Muslims and some of the Christian participants of ESRO were not supporters of that front.

At the same time, as many Eritrean Muslims were exposed to Muslim societies in the Middle East and Africa, and partici­pated in Islam-focused activities in the US, secular Muslim Eritreans came to realize they had more in common with secu­lar Christian Eritreans who shared their national identity than they did with Muslims from other African and Arab countries. Therefore, Eritrean Muslims had to negotiate their relations with their Christians compatriots, who already maintained or­ganized and institutionalized relationships with the govern­ment in Eritrea. In addition, they also had to negotiate their relationship with the nation being crafted by that government. Because of their clear minority status, Muslims found them-selves at a loss in how to continue identifying with their new nation, Eritrea, and with the Christian-dominated organiza­tions that claimed the social fields and political spaces that were the only legitimate links between exiles and the nation state. Especially following the euphoria that accompanied Eritrean liberation from Ethiopia in May 1991, many Muslim Eritreans opted to connect and participate in the national re-construction and nation-building efforts by bridging the gap between Christians and Muslims. One such group committed to this goal was the Eritrean Student Relief Organization (ESRO) of Orange County.

The Story of ESRO

ESRO, based in Irvine, chose the name Eritrean Student Re-lief Organization because some of its members were students and former students of the University of California, Irvine. But its membership actually included both Eritrean students and working adults. Its status as a student organization pro­vided ESRO the space to meet once a month and access to some resources at the university. The initiative to start the organization began with Eritrean Muslim residents of Orange County, some in their late twenties who were still finishing their studies and some who were freshly graduated members of the work force. They invited others to join them who were sensitive to the pluralistic cultural origins of Eritreans and were willing to work together for a common cause. They sought to prove to both Muslim and Christian skeptics in Orange County that such common ground could be a fundamental basis of participation. ESRO’s founders sought to construct an or­ganization that accepted the cultural differences between the members as given and normal. As the founder and the first president of ESRO stated:

When we first started this organization (ESRO) wedidn’t know exactly where were heading. We didn’tnow what we wanted to do or how we could achieve it. But we all know that if we came to­gether, and exchanged our ideas, we would comeup with something. And we did. Each one of us committed to put as much time as we could to overcome our differences and respect each other so that we could help the need in Eritrea: people who had been in a thirty years battle for indepen­dence from Ethiopia. Since we organized ourselves we sent some materials like Ultra Sound, gloves, scissor and telephones. Right now we are trying toget some aid from big companies. We are also try­ing to find easy way of shipment. In addition, we are making effort to get cheap medical equipments. This is not it. We want to do more and we can accomplish more if we get as many people as pos­sible to get involved in this noble cause. Our num­bers and capacity are limited. We need some inputand active participation from people around us. Let us be one community and voice our opinions to­gether (Eritrocentric Newsletter 1993:2).

Aware that cultural differences could easily become politicized and fracture their efforts, the group focused on reconstruction and nation-building efforts and intentionally proclaimed its pur­pose as non-political. As the editor of ESRO’s newsletter stated, “We encourage non-political topics. We as Eritreans have long been engulfed by politics and I believe it is time for us to discuss other issues such as community matters, educa­tional and other cultural and social issues” (Eritrocentric News-letter, January 1993:1). The statement implied that the group wanted to move away from the divide based on Muslim and Christian identities that have characterized politics in Eritrea and function instead as an organization that united the two groups and made meaningful contributions to the nation. In its newsletter, ESRO described its formation in the following way:

Eritrean Student Relief Organization is an indepen­dent student organization aimed at bringing Eritreans together to participate in the reconstruction effortsin Eritrea. With this spirit in mind, steps were taken to convey the message to other Eritreans. After making person to person contacts, a seminar washeld on May 17th, to explain the aims of ESRO. In addition two prominent scholars were invited to speak on their experiences in Eritrea. The speakers were Thomas Keneally, author of Towards Asmara, and Roy Patemen, author of Eritrea: Even the Stones are Burning. These two scholars,known for the support of the Eritrean cause, gaveeloquent speeches about the Eritrean struggle. Theyalso spoke on the necessity for a different kind ofstruggle in Eritrea today: peaceful economic recon­struction.

Even the name of ESRO’s newsletter, Eritrocentric, was delib­erately chosen to indicate that every member was committing themselves to give the nation, Eritrea, priority over their reli­gion, language, ideology and prior history of involvement in Eritrean political organizations.

The group met once a month in the cultural center at UCI from 1992 to 1997. The medium of communication of the meetings was Tigrinya, a language native to the majority of Christians, although most of them knew and spoke Tigre, the second major language in Eritrea. The group consisted of about twenty-five men and women in their late twenties and thirties and almost equal numbers of Muslims and Christians. The ma­jority of the Muslims spoke Tigre as their first language. Some members spoke in Arabic, but rarely. The participants seemed to accommodate speaking in three languages, English, Tigrinya and Tigre. The women from both Christian and Muslim ori­gins dressed in fashionable western style. One woman cov­ered her head to indicate her devotion to Islam, while another dressed in traditional Tigrinya style. The women were not in­hibited and participated equally with the men.

There was a genuine attempt to bridge the gap between Christians and Muslims, which included an emphasis on Eritrea’s shared popular urban culture and its social tolerance between Christians and Muslims. The group shifted focus from the cultural differences between Muslims and Christians by emphasizing the modern culture of equality between genders and individualistic self-expression. Members also avoided dis­cussing sensitive and divisive political issues, for many of them had been sympathetic to ELF. Other members were ardent supporters of EPLF and maintained close connections with organizations in Los Angeles that served as a supervisory body to PFDJ. Part of the failure of these EPLF-affiliated organi­zations as unifying bodies can be traced to the lack of con­certed efforts among the predominantly Christian leadership to bring local Muslim communities in Orange County into a pluralistic and multicultural organization. Instead, these lead­ers wanted everyone to participate as Eritrean nationalists who were organized under the hegemony of predominantly Chris­tian leaders. Moreover, ESRO members feared that the relief assistance they provided would go to government preferred or controlled organizations and activities rather than directly to the civilian population. ESRO wanted to be an independent, non-governmental agency that reached people directly.

The organization, however, met with a number of prob­lems. First, its members stayed small in number, not more than thirty people at most. Second, transportation problems and shortage of funds prevented ESRO from sending the materi­als it had gathered to Eritrea. It also lacked a way to access to civilian Eritreans without going through established organiza­tions such as the Eritrean Relief Agency or others linked to the government. For example ESRO had wanted to support a hospital in Keren, which had only one doctor. The members collected and were prepared to send enough beds and stretch­ers to furnish the entire hospital, but gave up because of the financial, transportation, and bureaucratic problems.

The local organizations and offices under the control of the government of Eritrea in Los Angeles were clearly aligned with the ruling party in Eritrea, the People’s Front for Democ­racy and Justice (PFDJ). They saw it as their duty to conduct surveillance and intimidation of ESRO members in order to undermine the initiatives taken by ESRO, an organization out-side of their control. They utilized several strategies to under-mine the purpose and intent of ESRO. One method was spreading rumors among Eritreans in diaspora that ESRO was an Islamic organization and wanted to use religion as a basis for undermining the secularist aims of the Eritrean state and divide the Eritrean diaspora along religious lines. Another method was to label ESRO as an organization in opposition to the government of Eritrea. ESRO members were accused of using the organization as a cover for other opposition move­ments, such as ELF, which has long contested PFDJ’s hege­mony on Eritrean politics.

A third problem was that the direct attempts of ESRO’s leaders to develop cooperative relations with both Eritrean government representatives in Washington DC and established Eritrean relief organizations, and yet maintain their indepen­dence, were frustrated. Instead, the leaders of ESRO were encouraged to work as local chapters of PFDJ, the ruling party in Eritrea. As Tricia Hepner (2003:278) found, “independent community organizations in Chicago existed in competitive tension with the two other secular institutions: the local chap­ters of the National Union of Eritrean Women (NUEW) and the Peoples Front for Democracy and Justice (formerly the EPLF), both of which remain firmly within the transnational orbit of the Eritrean government.” ESRO members were also discouraged from making any attempts to connect to grassroots organizations without the blessings of local chapters of PFDJ, meaning that ESRO would lose its autonomy, and hence, its credibility among Muslims as an independent organization. The leaders were similarly asked to abandon their focus on relief and shift to securing materials for establishing resources for multimedia services in Eritrea that could help the state to com­municate with its subjects using television and other means of mass communication. Finally, seminars sponsored by ESRO that addressed relief and health issues, such as HIV/AIDS in Eritrea, were seen as suspicious acts that undermined the de­velopment efforts by the government of Eritrea.

In short, by applying direct pressure on ESRO to work under the directives of PFDJ and using indirect sanctions like rumors about the motives and intentions of the organization, the agents of the Eritrean regime were able to effectively disempower ESRO. Slowly, ESRO weakened because of the pressures from the agents of the Eritrean government as well as its internal organizational weaknesses.

Similar to the Eritrean organizations Hepner studied in Chi­cago (2003; 2004), ESRO remained small and lacked active and consistent participation of members. Most of the respon­sibility fell on few members. With the departure of some of its key leaders to other parts of the US, the organization floun­dered into oblivion and formally ceased to exist in 1997.

On the positive side, ESRO opened new possibilities for friendship between Christians and Muslims by creating a safe place to build rapport and enduring trust among these differ­ent groups. It brought together independent-minded individu­als who wanted to work together to bridge the religious divide that has been endemic in Eritrean communities abroad. ESRO was an organization of secular Muslims and Christians who created solidarity among each other by focusing their energies on the construction of a diaspora organization that was linked to other secular Eritreans at home and abroad who shared their yearning for a forward-looking, modern Eritrean nation-state. Further, they wanted to be active participants in realizing that vision. To that effect, ESRO members wanted to know each other, thereby breaking the boundaries that kept Muslims and Christians separate from one another. For many secular Eritreans, maintaining divisions based on ideological and or­ganizational membership became unnecessary once the nation­alist aspiration of independence was achieved.

Creating a group like ESRO was not a mean achievement, considering the deep historical roots of distrust between Mus­lims and Christians in the Horn of Africa. In fact, one can make the argument that religious affiliation has been an orga­nizing principle of the social and political life in the Horn of Africa for centuries. That is, when a movement or regime wanted to organize and mobilize people to do something be­yond their local village politics and ethnic concerns, framing the two major religions as opposite and antagonistic provided a powerful motivation. As a result, the two major religious groups maintain deep fears of domination and persecution at one another’s hands, leading to distrust of the religious Other at the core of shared religious identity. Such divisions and dis­trust have been effective tools in the construction of self-proclaimed Christian states like Ethiopia, or Islamic states like Sudan. Caught between these two, Eritrea has also played a role in the drama of religion and state in the region. Part of Eritrea’s own internal struggles, and those within the ELF and EPLF nationalist movements, has involved the question of how to transcend divisions based on language and religion and focus on constructing an Eritrean nation that can both play a role in the international arena and represent the interests of all Eritreans.

Eritreans in Orange County therefore wanted to establish a durable community of immigrants in the US. However, what constitutes a community is rarely clear. In this article, I define the concept of community as “aggregates of people who sharecommon activities and/or beliefs and who are bound together principally by relations of affect, loyalty, common values, and/ or personal concern (i.e., interest in the personalities and life events of one another)” (Brint 2001:8-9). Brint makes a ty­pology of communities based on the following considerations:

the context of interaction, wherein he distinguishes geographic and choice-based communities; the primary motivation for in­teraction, distinguishing activity-from belief-based motivations; and the rates of interaction, which are predicated on ecologi­cal and motivational factors. The various combinations and permutations of these variables yield eight community sub-types: communities of place; communes and collectivities; localized friendship networks; dispersed friendship networks; activity-based elective communities; belief-based elective com­munities; imagined communities; and virtual communities.

ESRO could be characterized as an activity-based elective community, which in its short life became a community of dispersed friendship networks. The continuance of exile even after Eritrea’s independence made its members realize the needto redefine their relationship to the host society and build bothsolidarity and linkages with others from their region. The chal­lenge for Eritreans in Orange County was to bridge the gap between different groups who had been fractured not only ac-cording to regional and political attachment, but most impor­tantly, in terms of religion. By participating in ESRO, they felt they were contributing to a nation building project which less­ened their sense of alienation, exile, and impotence. They wanted to participate in national reconstruction and not re-main outsiders in this important moment in Eritrean history. They were proud of their achievement and came to trust one another.

The Political and Social Context: The Emergence of a New Era

Nobody could anticipate the exuberance and good-will that Eritreans in diaspora displayed upon the 1991 successful de-feat of the Ethiopian regime by the Eritrean nationalist move­ment, represented by EPLF. Soon after, the question most Eritreans in diaspora asked was how to participate in the new state. The sudden collapse of the Mengistu regime in Ethiopia, and the emergence of the provisional government of Eritrea, changed the political landscape of Eritrea and the diaspora in profoundly new ways. Eritreans in diaspora were united by their desire to participate in nation-building, and gave EPLF a full mandate to form a government that would lead the nation. Even other liberation movements and con-tenders for power in Eritrea, like the Eritrean Liberation Front, enthusiastically declared their willingness to work towards the achievement of the nationalist agenda.

For its part, the new government adopted a position that allowed groups like ELF to join the nation-building process, not as organized groups but as individuals who could contrib­ute to the building of the new state. Although some sectors of ELF opposed such a policy and wanted to negotiate power-sharing with the new regime, there was strong desire among most Eritreans in diaspora to participate in this new era. They were hoping the government would formulate mechanisms to facilitate their participation. The good-will that was extended to the newly formed provisional government of Eritrea was not limited to Eritreans only. There were many international organizations and agencies, mostly non-governmental organi­zations (NGOs), that offered their services to Eritrea in what-ever ways possible to help build the new nation.

The first weakness of the new regime appeared in its orga­nizational incapacity to capitalize on the new support it was gaining and use it to energize and manage these initiatives. The problem might be related to the fact that EPLF was al-ways a military organization with a limited civilian compo­nent. After independence, the civilian sector gained greater power but lacked managerial means and skills to handle the complex demands that appeared in the form of offers to help and participate. The new government resorted to various means of delaying and blocking the initiatives from taking root and thriving. It covered its weakness by passing decrees and mak­ing political declarations whose main thrust was that every individual and organization must work under the umbrella of the new PFDJ party. These decrees did not work effectively with the energetic good-will and desire for reconciliation and unity among Eritreans and their supporters. Today, this has lead to the retreat of civilian participation in independent community organizations. The case of ESRO is one example. Whether intentionally or by default, the government’s policies slowly succeeded in killing the widespread enthusiasm.

Conclusion

Ten years ago, before the institutionalization of enforced transnationalism (al-Ali et al 2001) or the retreat to religion (Hepner 2003), there was exuberant hope among diasporic Eritreans that they could maintain their autonomy and still participate in the nation building and national reconstruction efforts in their home of origin. One organization that reflected this hope was ESRO. By the year 2003, however, as Hepner observed, “inter-denominational Christianity” remained the only depoliticized sphere of Eritrean collective social life. She noted that “religious settings provide a way for people to prac­tice Eritrea identity beyond its tortured politicization and of­fer different organizing principles for the community” (Hepner2003:279). Even religion as a sanctuary from the demandingand exhausting politicized life of Eritreans in diaspora might be truly a temporary safe place until it too is penetrated by the government. This retreat to religious institutions is a sign of the failure of secular Eritrean nationalism to become a unify­ing force in the way PFDJ conceptualized it.

As Will Kymlicka (2001:176) writes, multiculturalism takes western liberal democratic values as given and assumes that the immigrants will accept them. In addition, multiculturalism is encouraged in the US, as long as the core values of liberal democratic societies are not threatened (Kivisto 2003). At same time, Soysal (1994) has argued that there has been an emergence of “postnational citizenship” based on immigrants becoming aware of universal human rights, and demanding their own rights, based on a universal code. Researchers, however, do not seem to address the fact that the American democratic tradition of allowing civic par­ticipation and respect for individual rights and civic action provides an open field for transnational individuals and agents of foreign governments to operate with a free rein and influ­ence transnational communities. For instance, local organiza­tions representing the government of Eritrea use transnationalsocial fields as an opportunity to mobilize and organize freely, and to control and discipline local, grassroots transnational initiatives and community activities like that of ESRO. The uneven fields of operation do not empower transnational Eritreans unless they agree with the politics of the Eritrean state. The regime in Eritrea has exploited the cultural norm of American middle class society that emphasizes civic partici­pation with impunity. Yet it does not tolerate the same kind ofaccess to civic participation in Eritrea, an area under its hege­monic control.

Recent literature on transnationalism stresses the role of nation-states in encouraging or hindering transnationalism (Guarnizo and Smith 1998; Smith R. 1998; Ong 1999). Aihwa Ong (1999) for instance stipulates that the nation-state “along with its juridical-legislative systems, bureaucratic apparatuses, economic entities, modes of governmentality, and war-mak­ing capacities – continues to define, discipline, control and regu­late all kinds of population, whether in movement or in resi­dence” (Ong 1999:15). Basch et al (1994) show that nation-states increasingly view their communities in exile as legiti­mate constituencies. Nation-states not only shape transnational spaces by setting their boundaries (which, in some cases, might be transcended”) but they also provide channels for transnational activities (al-Ali and Koser 2002). This case study of ESRO in Orange County is an attempt to show that bridging the gap between secular Muslim and Christian Eritreans was possible, and that the effort failed to move for-ward not because of lack of initiative at the grassroots, but because the Eritrean state asserted hegemonic control over grassroots organizations in diaspora.

Most of the organizational linkages for Eritreans in the US are under the hegemony of the predominantly Tigrinya-speaking Christians who work as a bridge to the organizationsand institutions at the state level in Eritrea. It should be pointed out the failure to create meaningful connections between the exiled communities and grassroots communities in Eritrea wasnot limited to ESRO. There were many such initiatives among diverse, autonomous groups of exiled Eritreans following the success in the Eritrean nationalist struggle that floundered be-cause of organizational inflexibility and lack of capacity at the state level to transform these into enduring and institu­tionalized transnational communities.

Nevertheless, as Peggy Levitt (2001) has pointed out, rapid globalization in recent years has made it possible, either by choice or pressure, for immigrants to maintain strong ties to their countries of origin even when they are integrated into the countries that receive them. Except for one preliminary investigation, there has not been a systematic study of how Eritreans have been integrated into American society (Woldemikael 1998). In response to globalization, countries are distinguishing residence from national membership and extending their boundaries to those living outside them. They have created mechanisms to facilitate immigrant participation in the national development process over the long term and from afar (Levitt and de la Dehesa 2003). In the case of Eritrea, intensified globalization has enabled the new Eritrean state to enhance its power and maintain the upper hand in defining its relationship with Eritreans in diaspora. This power has en­abled the Eritrean state to undermine the grassroots efforts of ESRO, and as a result it has restricted ESRO from acting as an independent agent which reflects the interests of its members. Perhaps this case study sheds light on one of the major reasons why Eritreans in diaspora have been unable to create long-lasting, autonomous, diasporic transnational institutions that reflect their desires and interests.

woldemikael@cox.net

REFERENCES

Al-Ali, Nadje, Richard Black and Khalid Koser. 2001a. “The Limits of Transnationalism: Bosnian and Eritrean Refugees in Europe as emerging Transnational Communities.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 24(4): 378-600.  . 2001b. “Refugees and Transnationalism: the Experience of Bosnians and Eritreans in Europe.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies 27: 615-634.

Al-Ali, Nadje and Khalid Koser. 2002. New Approaches to Migration? Transnational communities and the Transformation of Home. Lon-don: Routledge Press.

Basch, Linda, Nina Glick Schiller, and Cristina Szanton-Blanc. 1994. Nations Unbound: Transnational Projects, Postcolonial Predicaments, and Deterritorialized Nation-states. London: Routledge Press. Bernal, Victoria. 2004. Eritrea Goes Global: Reflections on Nationalism in Transnational Era. Cultural Anthropology. 19 (1):3-25.

Brint, Steven 2001. “Gemeinschaft Revisited: A Critique and Recon­struction of the? Community Concept Sociological Theory 19: 3-23.

Compton, Kaila Morris. 1998. “The Strength to Travel Together: Eritrean Experiences of Violence, Displacement, and Na­tionalism in a Global Network” Ph.D. Dissertation, Harvard University.

Eritrean Student Relief Organization (ESRO). 1993. Eritrocentric Newsletter 1(1): 1-2.

Glick-Schiller and George Eugene Fouron. 2001. Georges Woke Up Laughing: Long-Distance Nationalism and the Search for Home. Durham: Duke University Press.

Guarnizo, Luis Eduardo, Arturo Sanchez and Elizabeth Roach. 1999. “Mistrust, Fragmented Solidarity and Transnational Migration: Columbians in New York City and Los Angeles.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 22 (2): 367-396

Hepner, Tricia Redeker. 2003. “Religion, Nationalism, and Transnational Civil Society in the Eritrean Diaspora.” Identi­ties: Global Studies in Culture and Power 10:3:269-293. 2004. Eritrea and Exile: Trans/Nationalism in the Horn of Africa and the United States.  Ph.D. Dissertation, Michigan State University.

Kibreab, Gaim. 1987. Refugees and Development in Africa: The Case of Eritrea. Trenton: The Red Sea Press.

Kivisto, Peter. 2003. “Social Spaces, Transnational Immigrant Com­munities, and the Politics of Incorporation.” Ethnicities. 3(1): 35-58.

Kymlicka, Will. 2001. Politics in the Vernacular: Nationalism, Multiculturalism and Citizenship. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Landolt, Patricia, Lillian Autler, and Sonia Baires. 1999. From Hermano Lejano to Hermano Mayor: The Dialectics of Salvadorean Transnationalism. Ethnic and Racial Studies 22 (2):290-315.

Levitt, Peggy. 2001.Transnational Villagers. Los Angeles, CA: Univer­sity of California Press.

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Moussa, Helene. 1993. Storm and Sanctuary: The Journey of Ethiopian and Women Refugees. Dunhas, Ontario: Artemis Enterprises.

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Woldemikael, Tekle. M. 1998. “Ethiopian and Eritrean Refugees in the United States. Eritrean Studies Review 2(2): 89-109. . 2002. “Diaspora, Transnational Movements, and Popular Participation: The Case of Eritrean Students in North America in the 1970s. Unpublished paper presented at African Studies Associa­tion Annual Meeting, Washington, D.C., December 5-8, 2002.

woldemikael@cox.net

About Dr. Tekle Woldmikael

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  • Nitricc

    Where is SAAY ?
    I hope all is good!

  • Semere Andom

    Hi Rodab:
    The PFDJ selling our people for a change is not new. You respectfully address them as government, they are not, even calling them mafia is giving them honor and credit. The mafia as bad as they are to people if you touch their family and their loved ones or look at their daughters in a certain way, you will be butchered, they protect their family, unlike the group of hooligans that is led by manjus and PIA
    Manjus is doing what he supposed to do as a seasoned criminal under the blessing of more seasoned criminal IA, to me, this is not a surprise, they are performing their self-created job descriptions with perfection. What is more puzzling to me is, manjus roams the streets of Asmara freely, probably running into the loved ones of victims he harvested their organs in coffee shops and streets and meetings

    The pfdj epoch and the deniers of it will pass like all things in life, but the legacy of crimes they are leaving behind will haunt us for longer than the life span of pfdj. Kidnapping a phenomena that is too familiar to Eritreans since the ghedli era, it took place in the Sudan, in the Eritrean villages. I¬¬¬¬t seems that Eritreans have been desentized by these crimes, and this is worrisome and the docility we exhibit are worrisome. I am sure there are heroic stories we are not hearing about that are happening in the remote areas of Barka and all over, but overall it seems docility is the king. I remember Serray’s algorithm of re-engineering of our people.
    We all remember the divisive debate of peaceful vs. violent resistance. But neither seems to be happening with effectiveness and efficacy that matches the crimes of the enemy called pfdj. At least half the damages inflicted on the regime that is gasping for oxygen now is self-induced.
    If pfdj survives longer with it humiliating Eritrea’s, it will not be long for someone to decide to change the rules of struggle and apply the same strategies that pfdj applies to win (May be it is time that victims now target the children of the manjus’s and PIA)
    . For example if you defect pfdj arrests your underage daughter to torture you emotionally probably kill your children too, they will stop at nothing to win. There was a story I heard long time ago: a village lunatic ascended a hill and refused to descend, all the village elders ad priests gathered begging him to please let go for the sake of his family, they cited folk lore heroic stories of his forefathers, the invoked the wisdom of his ancestors, they read versus from the bible and he was adamant. Then another village lunatic came to the rescue, he told his peer on the top hill that if he does not comply with the village demands we will cut the hill and you will fall to your death. The crazy man on the top descended peacefully and all ended well.

    • Serray

      Selamat semere,

      I am surprised that rodab find this new, too. It was in the first monitoring group’s report as well as the follow ups. If we find a way of reading the minds of the regime’s long-term hired hands, these people were probably kidnapping and trafficking peoplesince since their days in medda. The report by Meron Estefanos, Prof. Mirjam van Reisen and Dr Conny Rijken is an eye opener for EU and possibly AU. I am sure the UN rapporteur will include a big chunk of it in her next report. It is a a vindication for the victims that the regime is now known for what it truly is by the international communit: a regime of greedy thieves and traffickers. As we speak, the EU and AU are discussing the role of the regime in generating the highest number of refugees and trafficking victims (95 percent according to the report). Who knows, a charge of genocide might be on the works against the dummy and his minions.

      You are right about hitting the rapists, the kidnappers and the human traffickers where it hurts…their loved ones. But the weird thing is, the direct victims of the regime, the ones who know for sure the cannibals have killed their loved ones, are always in flight mode. I know a guy in the opposition who went to asmera, witnessed his brother’s death, and came back a big fan of isaias; not the regime but isaias. You see this strange phenomenon with a number of people affected personally. If you ask ali abdu, he will probably tell you isaias is innocent.

      It will be truly disappointing if the people suddenly grow balls and become violent after the regime is overthrown. I have a feeling the pented up anger is going to be misdirect at the wrong people and at the wrong time. One thing is for sure, the days of the known criminals like manjus are numbered; if the regime stays or goes. The whitewashing shaebia perfected in medda will take care of them.

  • Zahra

    Our priorities:

    Who is behind him? When Sabe was about to disclose who Isayas was, he was sent to his death. And, when Meles was about to tell the world about the secrets of Isayas, he was threatened into silence but finally he was sent to his death. Let’s talk focus here.

    Who is saving his face? Why Qatar? And, who is Isayas’s link to Arab Gulf countries? Not even a single Eritrean trying to find out. This is another focus.

    Who are around him? The weak generals serve to nurture Isayas’s unrealistic expectation. If the generals start to take the side of the people, Isayas gets dissatisfied with them and dismisses them. More focus is needed.

    When Isayas made moves toward usurpation of all power in the Front, Party, and Country no one said anything disapproving the move. When Isayas declared to extend his usurpation of all power into the neighboring countries through wars, no one condemned him. When Isayas decided to get into the household, weakened family ties, and forced every member to solely be loyal to him through conscription and other national services, no general or higher official stood up to the right of a family. When Isayas broke the family by denying it bread, tea, water, electricity, and all means to live a decent life, no one said anything – and he, then, took it to the next level of hardship, telling the people to move to where they could be treated better. So, the family lost its table, and because it doesn’t have table it lost its bondage giving Isayas (hyiena) outlandish decision to select and snatch any healthy child for illegal organ harvesting, extortion, sexual exploitation, and other forms of abuses. Silence to all these is just the worst shame ever on every Eritrean, therefore, THESE ARE OUR TOP PRIORITY.

  • Thomas

    Dear Awate Team,

    Previously, I have mentioned to Awate Team my humble opinion on how awate.com should discuss (with their logo: Inform, Inspire, Embolden & Reconcile) and persuade our people to rid of the dictatorial regime that has turned our nation to a failed state (economy (every sector), mass migration (the supposed to be producing), our nations image among international society/badly damaged, and what more……). I always thought that awate team needs to change its strategy and should only focus on the mechanism of changing the dynamics and guide our struggle by reemphasizing stand and truly work on it. I strong believe in post DIA regime, the constitution which is to be amended/worked out will protect the right of all and justice will prevail (everything will be under the law). We only have about 5 million people and things will not be complicated. If our neighbor Ethiopia with 85 million (with diverse nationality can handle it we will definitely do it). There is no point to debate religion, language (official/national/widely spoken and such none – none priority issue). SGJ wrote the article titled “Weed Out PFDJ BEAST”. I think we should be debating and bringing fresh topics on how to implement the number priority issue of concern and that rid of the PFDJ regime. The regime is the enemy eritrean people (Muslims, christian and other religion followers). Let’s help wedi Vacaro regardless who he was yesterday and work for the unity of all to topple the beast regime. We have a monster in our beloved nation and we are losing everything we own (lost our dignity and the international society can see us naked – let’s bring back our closes). Let’s man up and fight back. Again, focus focus focus on he major issue. Talking about ethiopia’s weakness/Meles weakness is irrelevant. I think we should be learning from his achievements towards his country (world diplomacy, economic development etc). By talking about the failures of other nations, we are actually creating a favorable ground to the dictator. We all know he likes to talk about Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq and many other. We are number one of the failed states:), we must do something about eradicating the regime which made us to be at this line………

    • Thomas

      Correction: let’s bring back our cloths and cover ourselves

  • Selam Papillon,

    Many commenters here at Awate want you to tell them what they want to hear. For example, if you had compared Mandela (who is said to have united blacks and whites for a common cause) with Ayte Wolde-ab Welde-mariam (who is believed to have advocated for the creation of Tigrayitigrini before he later championed for independence), many would not have been harsh on you. (a like minded person is accepted here; group think is encouraged;and, a maverick person is despised).

    • a like minded person is accepted ; group think is encouraged;but, a maverick person is despised).

    • historian

      As an Eritrean, I can tell you that the notion of Tigray-Tigrigni only exists in the fantasies and wild dreams of a Tigrayan individual.

      No Eritrean (whether he is a Muslim or Christian) even thinks of such a thing.

      Furthermore, this notion of Greater Tigray, which Tigayan can’t seem to let go, is behind the poisonous relations between Tigray and Eritrea.

      But there is nothing that can be done about it I guess. Tigrayans are obsessed with the concept of associating with Eritrea in some form. Eventhough Eritreans don’t want them.

      Somethings will never change.

  • rodab

    Selamat friends
    This thing about our government’s top officials’ involvement in kidnapping citizens for ransom is really bothering me like no other crimes. Yes, I have heard this many times before but it is now that I am finding it to be more and more credible. This week, this issue got a deserving attention on world media and is being brought to light thanks to the publication of a book by Meron Stifanos and her collegues. I haven’t read the book but I plan to.
    Today’s AlJezeera report says as follows:
    “Sometimes when I walk down the streets, people throw stones at me,” says Nabiet, a 15-year-old girl with tightly woven braids and a small picture of Jesus hanging from a chain around her neck. Nabiet, who says she never wanted to leave Eritrea in the first place, was kidnapped from her home country and brought to the Sinai, then held for ransom. Full of energy yet shy, she grins when she speaks about her memories of English class in school. But the smile disappears when she recounts her challenges in Egypt.
    “One time I was shoved by a women into traffic, and hit by the car. She didn’t even stop to apologise,” she says angrily. “The driver got out and apologised a lot. But the woman, she said nothing.”

    Incredibly enough, some kidnapping are from the middle of Asmara. But too my understanding, most of them are taken from Sawa. It is not bad enough kids are snatched from their parents to “complete school” in Sawa and then they end up being kidnapped for ransom?! What the hell is this! What kind of government would act in such irresponsible way to expose its denfensless young citicizens to such horrible crime? One if the masterminds is officially known now, although that doesn’t mean much for him when the regime has his back. But atleast the public knows…

    • Papillon

      Dear Rodab,

      What if Manjus is the fall guy? I wonder.

    • Ze’Aman

      Meron Estifanos and her colleagues served PIA his death pill!
      I think this lady should be looked after by most of you as a possible leader of the opposition camp!

      VIVA courageous MERON!

  • welde

    One thing we all agree on is that, the Eritrean Muslims had a legitimate grievance against the Haileselasse of Ethiopia, since their religion and culture were not recognised by the Hileselase of Ethiopia, thus the only choice they had was to fight for their freedom and right, hence they formed the ELF. What happened in the ensuing period was like a Hollywood film. Isayas who joined ELF as a sympathiser of their cause and ready to fight for their cause and their right was actually a CIA mole infiltrated the group on pretence was there to spy the activities of the Islamic movement. He and shabia, then hijacked the struggle from the legitimate victims, the Muslims, and tried to give it a country wide image. He then like a film script tried to gloss the cause of the Eritrean struggle and went on to create differences between Tigrigna Eritrea and Ethiopia , to help his silly agenda, and in so doing he coined the Ghedli culture and identity as a starting and real cause for independent, the rest is history; misery and more misery!
    This misery will continue unless udress and face headon, wishy washy won’t help eradicate the real cause of Eritrean problem.

  • Belai

    Isn’t knowledge for sharing?
    It is obvious there are so many briliant people who visit Awate.com daily.But most of them stay on the background like computer cookies why?this kind of people will come to the front when every thing is over.
    God knows for what.

    By the way I missed SAAY’s comments for a while now.
    I hope he is ok.
    I also want to thank Awate team moderators for your excellent jop you doing.
    Happy christmas and Happy new year for every one.
    Thankyou.

  • sara

    dear awtistas
    the meles Mandela thing reminds me what i heard long time ago… that is in the wee hours before our country got independent, there were eritreans who used to glorify the ethipian dictator at that time, and they were hoping mengstu will some how sustain the war pressure and stay in power. i think the same happened after the British , Italians left there were many nostalgic Eritreans to their colonizers,
    even once my friend father told us eritreans love their enemies , they have this what you call this days Stockholm syndrome.

  • Nitricc

    Ohio state lost
    I am going to do something to celebrat?
    What a great day.
    The most undeserving team to be ranked at # 2

    • Haqi

      Ala nitric, ohio state is good but not good enough to play with big boys. Michigan state has nasty defense.

      Florida state will punish auburn. Give them the championship already.

  • Eyob Medhane

    Hi Everyone,

    I don’t know, if you guys have seen this. It looks like someone is getting prepared to get rid off Issu. As the guy on the interview said “..President Afeverki has to go…” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaQLyI0hhHk

  • TiETiE( shiro bubble )

    I know the Awate team, most of them are Muslim – they know more than the rest of us what is going on between the muslim Eritrean and Christian Eritrean communities. WeCho TegemTelKaYo Wecho KoyNwoM. If they talk or write the truth they will be labeled as HamaNeTaWi or regionalist. Therefore the Christians are responsible to address this problem and solve it not the muslims.

    • Yonas

      There is no problem. Sadly some people are still carrying grudges that need to die. Muslims need not isolate themselves from the community and stop with attempts to rekindle the ELF/EPLF tensions. That time has passed. I think most of the youth are in agreement that the older generation and their ideologies need to die off so Eritrea may start fresh. Unfortunately the youth are picking up these ignorant habits from their parents.

  • Tekle

    Dear Sabri

    Your comment deserves an answer. Forgive me for my delayed response. The digital time moves so much faster than the normal time that topics shift quickly before one can digest the messages thoroughly. You said ESRO, the group I mentioned reminded you of the one that you have participated in. It could well be the same group I mentioned. I wish you describe the group you know more and give more details of its activities and challenges. You also hinted the struggle you have to wage on to stay focused on the central mission of the group because of the pressures you faced from the supporters of the government and the ex-ELF members. As you know, I focused on the one I know about best and especially on some Diaspora Eritreans in the US who saw themselves as guardians of the interest of the government in Eritrea. You have to realize that very often they had a lot of discretion and I believe they acted on their own using the interest of the government as a cover. My knowledge was the Christian Eritreans who saw the group as a threat to their power here and labeled ESRO as a Muslim organization and an anti-government organization without any foundation. Their responses shows to me they were simply prejudiced and ready to label any gathering of groups other than them them as sectarian.

    Of course there was more to ESRO than what I described. I am aware that the leaders of ESRO were also challenged from the other side, the Muslim side of the residents of Orange County. They had to struggle against some Islamists to stay focused. They were standing on a RAZOR’s EDGE trying to charge in a moderate position avoiding the two opposed sides. They had to deal on the challenges from the more conservative Muslim side and some of ex-ELF members who accused them of as collaborating with Christians and also trying to provide relief to people inside Eritrea while the country was run by EPLF/PFDJ. So I hope someone like you who is knowledgeable the activities of some ex-ELF members and some Islamists and write about it.

    Tekle

    • Sabri

      Dear Dr.Tekle,

      Thanks so much. I was not part of the group you mentioned in your article. Ours was not based in US. It was not well organized. We conducted the first meeting by calling all Eritreans to our meeting. The aim was to create an organization where all Eritreans regardless party or religious affiliation would actively participate in the reconstruction process of the country. Since our meeting was the first in its kind to be called by individual persons many were curious to know who we are. Many came to our meeting out of curiosity. The hall we hired was packed. As you know Eritreans are accustomed to attend meeting when it is called by organized political organizations. We broke this culture. Since we were in our early 20’s many suspected we were sent by some hidden organization. At the meeting we clearly stated what the aim of the meeting is. Many particularly sympathizers of EPLF rejected the idea partly on the basis it has to be linked to Eritrean embassy. They were not ready to participate without the blessing of the embassy. Instead they suggested to create Mahbereseb hoping they will control it. Ex. ELF members, despite their hesitation, wanted to be part of the suggested idea. Their measure was tactical. They don’t want to be left behind. Then after many compromises the house elected two From EPLF and two from ex. ELF members to work with us inorder to prepare a draft paper for further discussion. It is for the first time since the conflict between ELF and EPLF we succeeded to gather them around one table to discuss for a common cause. Although both groups had their own suspicion towards us our neutrality in the old politics (mainly because of our age) helps a lot. Both groups hoped to secure their influence in the coming organization. During the course of our many meetings, we observed the two groups instead of focusing on our work they tended indulge in their old grudges. Sometimes we felt like mediators. It became obvious these two groups couldn’t work together. Thus, the idea of creating an independent organization frustrated. Later on they begun to blackmail us when we refused to be part of their old conflicts. Lastly we dispersed. Some of us went to Eritrea while the rest of us back to collage.

      The issue of Moslem/Christian was non existent in our experience. The dominant factor for the fraction was politics. Later on when they know that we returned back to Eritrea to serve our country we began to hear from government sympathizes they were young and immature when they call that meeting. However, some people still admire that initiative.

      I found interesting the following statement of yours “You have to realize that very often they had a lot of discretion and I believe they acted on their own using the interest of the government as a cover.” It sounds true. I also observed this. That is why I wrote in my previous post it was better to work in Eritrea than in diaspora with all its difficulties.

      Another attempt was tried during the process of Eritrean constitution while we were collage students. We created one study group to discuss the draft of Eritrean constitution and we invited others to join us. Many government sympathizers were not interested. Some openly said to us our leaders can manage it, there is no point to discuss it. The same people, some of them, are now on the opposition side calling for the implementation of the constitution. Ex. ELF members rejected to participate referring the commission of constitution is not independent. They had a chance to propose their own idea but they don’t want to give acknowledgment to the commission through their participation.

      We continued to conduct our meetings independently and sent our proposal to the commission of constitution in Eritrea. Moreover, we were able to publish some of our proposal at the newspaper in Eritrea. This time relatively we were succeeded because the idea of discussing the draft was coming direct from Eritrea.

      Hawka,
      Sabri

  • haile

    Dear SGJ and Sabri

    [Ze’Aman – good question, I will open your link and respond soon.]

    The main thrust of the argument was whether Meles can be considered on par with NM and MLK. Papillion corrected her stand, Aman said not so but MZ had his own merits, Welde said yes and threatened to demote me, Belai said yes and warned me of getting embarrassed in front of awatistas. Meron reacted in what is to be expected because he is covering up for IA as the story of NM is antithesis of the betrayal and fall from grace of IA.

    SGJ and Sabri did not take direct position rather are comparin Mandela with other such like figures. And I think that has created the confusion because no one is trying to compare NM in that way. It is either he is great and MZ is not on par or he is not and MZ is better or on par.

    Regards

  • Papillon

    Awatewian,

    Obviously there is a great deal of misunderstanding about my take on Meles as some of you misconstrued the fact that I wasn’t elevating Meles on par with Mandela and King. What I simply stated was they are all my heroes in my life. I didn’t expect it to draw that much “commotion” and unnecessary name calling. Please lets drop it and move on to other more pressing and relevant issues. There is a monster we all need to fight against.

    • Z’geremo

      I know you know what irritates awatista most, but this time it turned out to be a good discussion. Don’t worry just relax…..

      • Papillon

        Z’geremo,

        First of, glad you finally got your nick spelled right. I never intended to irritate anybody or the Awate audience for that matter but for some reason, the things that I say puts me under a stern scrutiny where I am suspected of being a done deal Weyane masquerading as “one of you.” That is perfectly fine with me so long as most of the Awate audience remain interested on the issue at hand as opposed to trying to figure out if there is any malicious intent buried underneath. As the popular advert has it, one shouldn’t leave home with out Awate.

        • Zegeremo

          What nick name, zegeremo? Lol…do you have rules too on how to spell Tigrigna words? Can you share please!!! Anyways let me help you with what your problem is: your problem is you keep forgetting that awate.com is about inform, inspire, embolden, and reconciliation, not about promoting YG’s idea and defending Meles’s legacy. And keep in mind there are a lot of brilliant people here in awate forum, so stop using whipped cream in your comments to hide your hypocricy. I know It is the hypocrisy stupid!!!!

    • Semere Andom

      Papilion:
      Actually, it worked out good in my mind, this article was about bridging the divide and the leaders we discussed had successfully bridged the divide, of course MZ less so
      You did good, keep your independent thinking even if it inflaming. The lack independent thinking made us trust our future to EPLF/PFDJ and that trust turned out to be in trusting a blood bank to Dracula.
      Further more here in awate.com, we have a tenure, a privilege academics enjoy and so we cannot be fired for thinking independently, saay half jokes about the AUofC (awate university of civility), but this is just built-in the freedom of speech that this forum provides.

      hawki

      • Papillon

        Dear Semere,

        Very true, it turned out we all are learning great deal of issues under the imposing presence of Haile, including you and others as well. We are fortunate enough and blessed to find ourselves accommodated with in the Awate forum where the editors push elbows with us where the divide between the owner of the site and the audience loses its distinction. I sure hope that, in a post-tyranny Eritrea, Awate will go into a print and offers its top of the line intellectual forte.

        Haft’kha.

    • TiETiE( shiro bubble )

      you may be right – certain things you may learn or appreciate Meles Zenawi. However to label him international hero like Mandela or MLK it is totally wrong. Meles was rebel – he may killed or tortured a lot derg spies and agents or he never gave them the chance to punish them humanely even he may killed his opponents. this is true. AByet Human right AySm’U.

      I appreciate meles zenawi more than esayas dictator but what I said also true since I know some torture reports of weyane especially 1978 – 1984. these arrested derg spies and agents the weyane toasted them with hot glow metal on their butt(ZreSeNe Ma’A’TsiD )to force them confess all the way out. I have no idea if they should do that or not though I know they were in struggle and racing to oust derg or survive their struggle.

      Meles was not monitored by international media to judge him by global people for possible heroism. so do not label him hero but you have the right to appreciate him and treat him as your own self hero.

      I myself I appreciate him. He kept low key, he did not boasted, was not racist and regionalist as esayas is, he talked short and clear.esayas talk or speech is dishonest, time consuming to interpret it like zigzag the same the road mountain from asmera to keren not only him, his followers and his circle have Zigzag heart and talk Zigzag too.

  • Halewa Sewra

    I see awate.com is still going strong. I haven’t been on this page in eons.

    Biggest difference between Meles and Mandela. Meles was “kedami.” An international beggar essentially.

    Mandela was anything but….

    • TiETiE( shiro bubble )

      You are HGDEF no one accepts you even if you are right. He was not Kedami he was hero when he defeated racist and regionalist HGDEF at war and diplomatically then he MELES skillfully turned Eritrean people into to hate and blame esayas and HGDEF for beheading the nation. The tigrayan should be proud of Meles for humiliating esayas and his cohorts overall the clique HGDEF. Therefore Kedami NsKa Eka. Kedami NaY hgdef.

    • framale Faro

      Halewa sawra,

      your comment has no substance except that it is racist-view that divides and prolongs the suffering of people. Mandela fought against racist-views and cared about his people under apartheid. Please talk about the people under dictatorship, not about Meles, the ‘kedami’ of his people, Ethiopians!

  • said

    Article by President Nelson Mandela
    Renewal and Renaissance – Towards a New World Order – (Islam and Christianity in Africa) summarized
    The Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies; Distinguished guests; Ladies and Gentlemen;
    In this month of July, exactly five hundred years ago, a navigator by the name of Vasco da Gama set out from Europe on a mission “in search of Christians and spices”.
    His long and dangerous journey outflanking Islamic control of trade with the East, would take him round a continent of Africa that represented not much more to him than an obstacle between Europe and Asia, and possibly the home of Prester John, the mythical Christian King who, it was believed, would “help fight the infidel”.
    The southern tip of Africa – from whence I come today to share with you some reflections on our joint past and our common future – still bears the imprint of the mission, in names like Natal and Algoa Bay and Delegoa Bay. Long after Europe had discarded the myth of Prester John he lived on in the minds of settlers who followed Da Gama, and of their descendants – unable, for example, to contemplate the magnificent Zimbabwean civilization as a product of Africa.
    The whole world bears a more profound imprint. The voyages of Da Gama and his contemporaries were strands in the grand tapestry of the Western European Renaissance. The expansion of European influence and domination over virtually the entire planet was a central aspect of European ambition in that period of European history. Thus was the foundation of a world economic system forged.
    Juxtaposing the artistic, intellectual, scientific and technological achievements of the Western European Renaissance with some of the effects of the voyages of exploration, reminds us of the maxim of a later writer, who said that cultural treasures owe their existence not only to the efforts of the great minds and talents who have created them, but also to the efforts of the great minds and talents who have created them, but also to the anonymous toil and suffering of their contemporaries, often in distant places.
    For those who could not match the military, economic and social power of Europe during this period of expansion, the consequences were adverse, and often disastrous. That included the Islamic world, in particular that part of it which was African and that part which enjoyed thriving and productive relations with Africa. The Nineteenth Century colonization of the African Continent was in many respects the culmination of the Renaissance-initiated expansion of European dominion over the planet. The effects on the colonized continent are too well known to need repetition.
    Yet, as it has been said, the purpose of studying history is not to deride human action, nor to weep over it or to hate it, but to understand it. And hopefully then to learn from it as we contemplate our future.
    Can we say with confidence that it is within our each to declare that never again shall continents, countries or communities be reduced to the smoking battlefields of contending forces of nationality, religion, race or language?

    In short, we have the opportunity to see our African identity as the product of our own engagement in world history. This allows us to reflect on the contribution Africa can make, through the reconstruction of our countries and the rebirth of our continent, to the creation of a new world order that matches the challenge of eradicating world poverty and insecurity.
    In the recovery of Africa’s history there is also a better understanding of the role of religion in that history; and of the contribution it has made, and could make, to the continent’s rebirth.
    Today Islam and Christianity represent major religions in Africa, with Islam in fact the majority religion on the continent. These are not alien presences but African religions. They are part of Africa’s identity because they were not merely acquired in interaction with the world, but we also transformed what was external in origin and made it part of Africa. In doing so we have also changed these religions.

    Islam has become part of Africa in a process as complex as the history of the continent itself. In some areas it was through military conquest; in many others – including parts of Southern Africa – along the arteries of trade; and also – as in South Africa – through the actions of colonial powers circumventing the refusal of the colonized to submit to wage-labor. I may add that Robben Island’s first political prisoner, and one of the founding fathers of Islam in South Africa, was one of several exiled leaders of resistance to colonial rule in South-East Asia.
    If the language of Islam in Africa has been Arabic, it has also been indigenous African Languages. The coming of Islam sometimes meant the imposition of new political and social order, but also the absorption of Islam into an existing order.
    African Muslim polities shared the ambivalence of other states and religions towards the colonial slave trade, protecting believers from the violation of their fundamental rights . In the face of European colonialism, Islamic communities took their place along the whole spectrum of resistance politics, including the struggle against apartheid.
    If I may, I would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to those South African Muslims who died while in detention because of their resistance to apartheid; Babla Saloojee; Imam Haroun; Ahmed Timol; and Dr Hussein Hafferjee. They represent the involvement of the Muslim community in the struggle for justice and freedom, as does the presence of Muslims as Cabinet Ministers and in the highest office of our judiciary, in the new democratic political dispensation of our country.
    In this vast and complex process, Islam has enriched and become part of Africa. in turn Islam was transformed and Africa became part of it. African centers of learning served not only as a path for the absorption of the doctrine of Islam, but also contributed to the development of broader Islamic learning.
    If we dwell on these matters it is because an acknowledgement of our own heritage is essential to the forging of new identities, as nations and as a continent. The recovery of our history is both a precursor of renewal and is promoted by it.
    the people of South Africa have created conditions that are favorable for realizing our vision of a new society based on justice and mutual respect. non-racialism, non-sexism and democracy.
    Such a project requires a total transformation of our society with the central objective of addressing the legacy of our divided and oppressive past. The ultimate test of our success will be the extent to which we manage to create a better life for all, and more especially for the poor. This is a project which requires the simultaneous achievement of legitimate government; sustained economic growth in order to bring about socio-economic improvement; and the reconciliation of formerly divided sectors of society.
    Being latecomers to freedom and democracy, we have the benefit of the experience of others. Through them, we understand that formal political rights will remain an empty shell and democracy fragile, without real improvement in the lives of people and without an all-inclusive approach that reconciles the beneficiaries of the old order with those who seek improvement from the new.
    Under the new conditions, in which all are included and equal rights are accorded to all the religions, all the languages and all the cultures of our diverse society, what was once used to divide us and weaken us is becoming a source of unity and strength.
    Thus. South Africa’s vibrant Islamic heritage is a valued and respected part of our nation. It is contributing to the forging of a new South African identity. Democratic South Africa, unlike its predecessor, accords Islam equal constitutional status with all other religions. Muslim marriages are now recognized.
    The religious and cultural ties that nourished solidarity in struggle, are today strengthening partnerships for peace and prosperity between South Africa and countries in the Gulf and the Levant, in North Africa and South-East Asia.
    The stability thus achieved and the harnessing of all our nation’s energies, have provided the conditions to turn economic stagnation into growth and to pursue our principal mandate, the improvement of living conditions for all our citizens.
    Building a new nation out of the divided and oppressive legacy of the old, is a protracted process and full of challenges. But we can say with confidence that the foundations have been solidly laid.
    Few would have thought that the political ideals universally acknowledged and those core religious values of tolerance, respect for the individual, justice and concern for the poor, would still be denied to so many.
    When the Prophet Muhammad sent his oppressed followers to the African Christian King Negus of Abyssinia for safety, and they received his protection, was that not an example of tolerance and co-operation to be emulated today? Is that not a profound pointer to the role that religion can play, and the spiritual leadership it can provide, in bringing about the social renewal on our continent and in the world?
    Africa’s history has been profoundly shaped also by the interplay between three great religious traditions – Islam, Christianity and African traditional religions. As it faces the new millennium, the conduct of this religious heritage may very well again be decisive in determining how Africa meets the challenges of the future.
    The way in which these three great religions of Africa interact and co-operate with one another, could have a profound bearing on the social space we create for the rebirth of our continent. The relationship of Islam and Christianity to one another and of those two to African traditional religion, may be pertinent aspects of this process. How Islam (and Christianity, for that matter) relates to African traditional religion presents a particular challenge to its followers all over Africa. It represents a call to Muslims to harness the more inclusive strands in their own theological heritage in order to contribute to a more humane Africa, acknowledging the humanity of those traditions that are unique to the continent.
    The nature of interaction between the strands of our religious heritage could help lay solid foundations for the establishment of a world order based on mutual respect, partnership and equity. If I may conclude with one more reference to the experience of our own country during the struggle against apartheid. The strength of inter-religious solidarity in action against apartheid, rather than mere harmony or co-existence, was critical in bringing that evil system to an end. This approach, rather than verbally competing claims, enabled each tradition to bring its best forward and place it at the service of all. I am confident that the religions of our continent will walk a similar path in the reconstruction and renewal of our continent. And in that way we shall play our full role in the creation of the new world order.
    Thank You! Source: African National Congress – President Nelson Mandela

  • haile

    Selamat Meron Sabri SGJ and awatistas,

    Now that we seem to go beyond the stage of deciding if Mandela is great or not, let me give my view on the second level, i.e. was he an effective leader.

    Dear friends, here lies our biggest problem – undue and unrealistic expectations! Mandela kept his status and ground to galvanize the struggle against apartheid. He is great. Many other South Africans played vital role in the actual work of pushing that system out. The problem of transforming South Africa is a problem for all South Africans, Mandela included. I existing challenge for South Africa is a challenge for all South Africans, Mandela excluded (because he is dead now). Mandela didn’t stand on the way of other South Africans from taking the lead and insisted he could do what may even be beyond him to achieve. He is a wise man. Take IA for example, he set out to do the leading and building job alone by arresting and killing and evicting other Eritreans, look where he’s got us to. If IA had lead Eritreans to independence and handed over power legally to the citizens of the nation, and we failed to build and defend the nation well, it would be us to blame not IA. However, he took to meet your type of expectation and went to attempt to accomplish something he is not talented on – nation building. Let’s accept the contribution of someone in as far as they were responsible for. Not blame them for something that they were not responsible for. Two governments have passed after Mandela and the challenges seem to continue. Hopefully South Africa would come with a solution in due course. How would it have been if Mandela had taken the confrontational approach that would have brought further misery and isolation of the country? Has IA solved Eritrea’s aspirations for growth and development? Has Mugabe put his nation on the right path to progress internally and externally?

    Why do we expect a total salvation from one man? Isn’t that a recipe for creating a mad dictator. Development is a vast area that encompass every facets of social, political, economic, cultural, environmental, resource and external aspects of a nation state. Why do you guys want to lump this on the shoulders of one mortal being. Isn’t this why Nha Nsu band have it that IA has done all and takes all mentality. Leaders put you on a course that the people do well to to defend and develop to reach their collective aspirations. That course is democratic culture, rule of law, reconciliation and the audacity to believe and dream!

    Leaders don’t run around to do all and be all and kill and suppress as they please, re-write reality as they wish, put you on fatal ideological collision course that would bring you untold ruins and distraction, starve you of food and feed you slogans and empty rhetoric. Things are done wisely, one at a time, without setting your roof on fire, in a balanced, painstaking and time consuming way. It is really unhealthy to over work the realistic limitation of one individual. It is also dangerous, like in Eritrea’s case, when that individual stands on the way and say me or the highway.

    Do you know the role Melse Zenawi played in undermining Bhutros Ghali through the AOU at the outset of the new world order? When the Clinton administration was moving on controlling the UN by pushing out Bhutrose and making the UN an administrative arm of Washington, it was Ethiopia under Melse Zenawi that broke off from the rest of Africa and openly wrote a letter to the US supporting the restructuring and removal of Buhtros from re-election. The battle then was on control of UN development aid to be tied to US interests and Mandela opposed that. But Mandela stopped work when he saw it was time for others to do the work too.

    Let’s us not be naive to expect one person to deliver an entire society from all ills, all one person can do is to lead the whole society to all kinds of ills when they are wrongly expected to do beyond their realistic limitations.

    Regards

    • ዕትብቲ ኮኾብ ሰላም

      Haile the great,
      “Let’s us not be naive to expect one person to deliver….” thank you.

      We need to understand first perfection is only for the almighty. And what we should ask is what if all people manage the way Mandela or Meles managed it? I ask to myself what did I give to the world during my stay in this world? What should I do now to change the world for better? I don’t like to regret for my mistakes nor exaggerate for good things I have done but I believe there is always better way and think to do the best I can. This is I think the best choice. If someone says Meles is suppose to do better, just tell him to come and show us.

    • Serray

      Selamat Haile, Saleh G. and Sabri,

      Haile has captured the limitation, and pitfalls, of depending on one individual to do the impossible. Please allow me to present a scenario of what would have possibly happened if Mandela had insisted to go the extra mile Saleh G. and Sabri he should have; that is, he should have gone after the whites and their properties more vigorously. Let us look at what it would have taken to separate the powerful whites from their wealth. Just as a side note, SA was on the verge of building a nuclear bomb before apartheid ended.

      First, let us not pretend that there was a middle ground; if south africans want the land, the mines or the corporations, they have to take them by force…machetes against super armed nuclear power. Think of it as a fight between an openly super racist israel against palestinians (less the rich arab sugar daddies). By the time Mandela was released, the USSR and the entire eastern bloc have collapsed. If a war was to start, it would have been between poorly armed south africans and the whites with practically unlimited power for destruction; it would have made made all anti colonial wars child’s play.

      With determined whites who have convinced themselves they have nowhere to go, the war would have gone for years consuming in the process the very wealth they are fought for. I know as eritreans we are programmed to think that thirty years of war is worth it even if we ended up with a regime so corrupt, so greedy, that enslaves, imprisons, tortures, disappears, and traffics on its young. But when you factor a war with armed to the teeth people who have no “ethiopia” waiting for them south of the border, the destruction would have been complete and it would have taken a long time. We will probably be talking today about block by block fights in Johannesburg while a low key funeral was held for a man once the world hoped would avoid the death of two or three million south africans. And when (and if) the war with the whites ends, the civil war between ANC and the other parties would have started in earnest…machete against machete, Rwanda style. By the time that is over, a weird creature, a cross between Mugabe, Isaias and Mengistu would be in power for decades destroying what is under South Africa because the whites have already taken care what is over it.

      I know it is counter intuitive for us to put a limit on how much price one has to pay in order to win, but am I sure if those who perish came back and saw what their sacrifices have brought against their people, they would have chosen an alternative that would have spared them and given their people their dignities back. The current south africa’s route will ultimately pay off because, as we speak, a lot of south africans are being educated and trained and eventually the unequal opportunities that gave the whites unfair head start will be neutralized. Don’t underestimate the power of gravity. If a nation doesn’t lose its best and brightest, whatever made the whites achieve success, given equal or even less than equal access (as opposed to total denial) will also make the south africans successful. We are a good example of that; when the italians lost political power and we were given a little more access to education, business and industry, we learned everything they knew and almost reached their level in all fields. The game is sometimes as Bob Marley would put it, “live to fight another day”. The Zimbabwe style, where a functioning system is replaced with a dysfunctional, corrupt and greedy system designed by illiterates for ignorants have a long lasting structural defects that would make it sometimes difficult to recover from.

      • zegeremo

        Well said, thank you. I am fascinated by your eloquent response

        regards

        • Sabri

          Haile and Emma,

          Nobody said Mandela should transform the entire society by himself. This is a misrepresentation of Gadi’s and mine point. Nobody underestimates Mandela. The question is the hero of heroes status he has got mainly from Western world is proportional to what he actually done. There are other Africans who sacrified a lot with their great vision but ignored by the world. One of them who I admire more than Mandela is Kwame Nkrumah. As Gadi put it correctly “others can admire anyone else. Such views do not need consensus. That is all, let’s not make this a bone of contention”

          Hawkum
          Sabri

          • Selam Sabri,

            Can I ask you the same what I asked to Saleh, and that is to tell us the work of Nkrumah and make your argument by compare and contrast to see how he excel him. If it is a personal liking that is another thing. By the way didn’t the west treated worse than Nkrumah as a terrorist. Leave alone Nkrumah and Lumumba to exceed Mandela, they are not even in the same pedestal to him. Please enlighten us what ever we miss.

            Regard,
            Amanuel

      • ABOU YARA

        Serray ! very well analysis indeed. on your closing you said The Zibabwe syle , where a functining system is replaced with dysfunctinal corrupt and greeedy system …” don’t you think exactly that is what happened in Erirrea. 22 years past with no avail except putting the people of Eritrea in more hariship making their life mesrable..

    • Hailat,

      “Let’s us not be naive to expect one person to deliver an entire society from all ills.”
      is an appropriate answer to those like Sabri and SGJ who expect a complete social transformation from a single man and short period of time. There is no single man who succeed to eradicate social ills….even the much admired MLK didn’t succeed to remove the social ills in the united state. He opened some rooms of opportunity (like the voting to the disenfranchised blacks). Mandela lead to dismantled the apartheid system, and he did. Mandela united the country that was fragmented by tribal and racial conflicts. Mandela was an extra-ordinary feat in healing the racial breach. So the man has laid down the institutions that help to fight the remaining social and economical ills. You can’t ask more from an individual who contribute more than his share at the cost of his family and his life. The man is revered by all the ideological divides in the world. God bless him he taught the world humbleness, love, and forgiveness.

      • Saleh “Gadi” Johar

        Amanuel, sometimes your debate in a way that leads to confrontation, by misrepresenting ideas. You wrote, “…SGJ who expect a complete social transformation from a single man and short period of time.” Now how did you arrive to that? Why present your conclusion so confidently without leaving space you might wrong. To make it clear: I don’t expect a complete social transformation from a single man in a short period of time” or a longer period. I just happen not to be overly as mesmerized by Mandela as some others… To me, Lumumba is far greater than Mandela. It is my own conclusion and others can admire anyone else. Such views do not need consensus. That is all, let’s not make this a bone of contention 🙂

        • Selam Saleh,

          This is not confrontation. I still ask you to show us what Lumumba did tangible things. If you may, could make some compare and contrast between them. If it is simply your view that couldn’t lend something for learning and justifications…then I close my case. But believe me it is not confrontation, it is a challenge to know more from you if you have any.

          • TiETiE( shiro bubble )

            Lumumba killed mysteriously, how mandela survived?

          • Abe z minewale

            Abdelrahman Babu tops the list in my dictionary

    • Z’geremo

      Hails the great,

      The key question is what happen to the ANC charter for which Madiba fought for decades. Did Madiba stick to it till the end or caved in? Noami Kline in her book, The Shock Doctrine, put it eloquently that Madiba caved in on almost everything he fought for decades. Please read the book; it is shocking!!!!

      Regards

      • Z’geremo
        • Wediere

          Awatista,

          Some discuss Mandela as though he was all for “non violence”, well he was caught returning from Ethiopia after training to set up a guerrilla, but enroute to SA it seems they had information of his movement.

          In his auto, he mentions discussing with his comrades what to do with the whites once he ascended to power, realising they were not equipped to administer the nation, he made a pragmatic decision and promised the whites that they will not be removed from their workplace and replaced. This gave the assurance needed and made it easy for him to preside the nation. All that was left was to work on reconciliation process and allow the transition to power take its nature. I don’t have the book to hand, quoting some sections would have enlightened the discussion.

          A revolutionary transformation, as Serray put it would have made SA another Zimbabwe. All the state apparatus was in their control…

          Haile,
          I think NM, MZ, IA are all intelligent men, but intelligence is not the only attribute required to make great of men. Your below average comment sounds worrying :), I checked the IQ measure what it really meant…..man we are not far from the borderline to ……

          Apart from the personal traits that may be listed, I believe the environmental challenge (opportunity and constraint) that these leaders find themselves has the most influence.
          With Mandela, his age (ambition), not having absolute control his people let alone SA, realising his release was influenced by external pressure and not being able to manage the nation without the whites led him to take the middle ground.

          MZ and IA were initially considered new breed of African leaders. Both had their army to give them the sense of control, however MZ from the get go did not get a blank cheque, he had to work hard in the process to legitimise his party. While DIA, enjoyed unquestioning support and he went out of control, thus we take a share of blame for the monster we created.

          One think that I agree with Meron, the effect of mainstream media, especially when they all tune in together is mind blowing. After seeing the same effect with Pricess Diana….IDEY HATZIBE IYE…..before she died I vividly remember all the mockery that’s makes one believe she was the lowest, after her death, the show and presentation changed 180 degree and I have tiers in some who did not even know her before.

          If the description of a persons greatness looks extraordinarily non human, then read it with scepticism. Mandela captured it in his saying…I am not an angel, if you think an agent is not one that makes mistaken and tries to correct them..or something to that nature.

          Regards
          AOsman

    • Ze’Aman

      @ Haile:
      If Meles agitated OAU members in support of booting out Boutros Gali, He must have had a reason (national interest) to do so but how? on what grounds will he convince OAU member states? Besides Meles wasn’t that naïve to ignore the possibility of a backlash from Egypt and other Afro-Arab states.
      Here is a good read as to him and UN!
      http://mondediplo.com/1996/11/un

    • welde

      Mr Haile,
      I don’t think you are naive enough to believe that nations cooperate because of the love they have for each other. No,No, they are cooperating with each other only to serve their self enterest, hence Meles wrote a letter oppsing the former Egyptian Foreign Minster,Bhutrose Ghali. You see, when he was a foreign minster he threatened ethiopia with inavasion if Ethiopia ever tried to do any work on the river Nile, so unlike your assertion, meles was puting Ethiopia’s interst first. By the way the same prime mister wrote a letter telling the OAU,UN and the whole world to recognise Eritrea as an independent country, not that you would appreciate such act.

  • dawit

    Comparing Nelson Mandela and President Isaias is like that of comparing a battle horse and draft mule. It is true both of the dedicated their life to struggle against injustices they saw in their communities. Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years, inside a private cell in an island, with three meals a day, newspaper to read, and a bed. Contrast this with Eritrean political prisoners, who were in crowded jails, infested with flees and bedbugs, sleeping on the floor daily inflicting physical and mental torture. You are left to starve to death, if someone can bring you food to eat or share with those whose relative can bring food.
    When Mandela was released from prison he was not free to do or say what he wanted. First he dumped his young wife who gave her life to struggle to free him from jail. Wendi Mandela was the true heroine of the struggle against the Apartheid system. She was too radical for him on her political stand of the injustice in the country to have her First Lady of SA. They even tried to accuse of with false charges of murders associated with the struggle and he collaborated with her accusers. Wendi does not deserve such treatment from a husband, but then we can’t blame him, because he was not free mentally. As Bob Marley song he was under “Mental Slavery”.
    What did he accomplish as the first black President of SA? Well he setup the ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ that preached that blacks have to forgive the white, whitewash all the injustices they suffered under the Apartheid System. So what do blacks do with their anger? They turned it into crime against their fellow blacks, those who are competing with the pick bread cramps from the floor, while all the wealth of the country remains on the white table. Black SA live under abject poverty, in one of the richest country in the continent devastated with AIDS, live in the worst ghetto in Africa, have highest infant mortality and lowest life expectancy in the continent of Africa. For these records Mandela received the Noble Prize for Peace!
    Contrary to the above picture of Mandela, PIA is accused as the worst dictator ever walked on this earth. Today in Eritrea there is relative peace and stability in the country nine nationalities and religious groups live in harmony despite continuous campaigns by its enemies trying to reverse its independence. In two decades of independence, the country has achieved a lot that other Africans still struggle to reach, under PIA leadership. PIA declared ‘Eritrea is not for sale’! We are poor but we are proud people to beg. Eritreans are free ‘Kinqsaqesu, Kwesawesu, Kzaweru’ without worry that someone is shooting at then. Christians and Moslems celebrate together their festivals, New Year, Eid, Christmas etc together. They have free education, health care and equal justice and equal responsibilities to the country.

    Long Live PIA and Peace to Eritrea!

    • tesfu

      Hi Dawit,
      Your view on Madiba’s life is distorted/overblown least.To put it in a simplest term laced with emotion. You are sympathizer to her cause at the same time, misspelled her name, it is Winnie, not Wendi.On top of that while Madiba was in prison, she had a boyfriend/husband. After couple of weeks saying with Madiba she wanted to go on vacation with him the “dude” to USA, that is when he took a decision to separate from her.
      “Today in Eritrea there is peace and stability….” Think of a person going out without cloth, what do people think of him? Eritrea today is in bad very bad situation, it not rhetoric but the truth.You are entitle to your view not facts.Who going to fool? Only likes you

  • welde

    Dr Tekle,

    What was originally began as a legitimate grivances of Muslims against the Haileselase of Ethiopia was hyjacked by IA and shabia to the point that it lost its original theme.For Isayas and his alies have failed miserably to articulate the grivences or question of the Eritrean masses,instead he created a false premise and identity that wold be considered a reason for independent.
    These wrongs has to be made right for Eritrea to have a real chance of success, otherwise it would be a merry go round situation.

    Kind regards,

  • I never heard of this Dr. before but a lot of nothing trying to create chaos and crisis in the Eritrean communities! Is this one of the projects sponsored by the TPLF and their masters or surrogates (AKA opposition?) Not sure what else they will try next!!

    Eritreans have nothing to argue about their religions or ethnicity – The writer could have used that energy to create something positive for his people unless he is in the TPLF funded party!

    I am from Asmara and speak Tigrigna only but could not be happier if Tigre, Kunama or Bilen were recognized as Eritrea’s official languages – except I will have to learn each one of them from scratch!

    It is true half or more Eritreans are followers of Islam but Eritreans are not Arabs to use Arabic if that was the writers objective intent!!

    • Michael,

      Let me ask you one question. What if the Bilens, Tigres, Sahos, Denkelians, ….etc asked you Arabic language to be as co-official language with tigrina? Do you deny them? or is that the only way you defend the interest of your own social group? If these social groups maintain that argument, do you mean we have to live on continuous conflict because you don’t want to address their interest as well? Learn the Eritrean politics and the reason why they want Arabic language? Arabic language is the unifying factor to them to fight domination and dictation in all its facets. Go to their community to learn something you don’t know before you criticize Dr. Tekle. In fact Doctor Tekle’s concerns should ring to your mind to do something to bridge the divides of our society. In order to avoid those concerns we must address their grievances. The problem is “political in nature” and we must find political solution to it.

    • haram

      micheal,
      Then it is easier for you to learn Arabic from scratch,as arabic is thier choice for the reason mentioned by Amanuel.How you dare to call the writer as tigray while you, your self seem outsider through your luck of knowlege of the eritrean society.

  • Gebre

    “Western media glorifies the Mandela that reconciled w/ [with] Whites not the Mandela that fought Apartheid for decades to make that moment possible”.
    By Yousef Munayyer ‏@YousefMunayyer.

    Very true!

  • Haile,

    You are really beautiful mind but overly colonized by the mainstream Media and their background ideologies. You will keep singing for what they sing and will deny for what they ignored. This mainstream media were ignoring Mandela as if he was not fighting and as if he was not in prison for years. Lucky he is by late 1980th the world order started to change and when the white and their western roots learn it was better to lead the country by a colored person (Black) and retain the entire grip at the same end, the brought this Man called Mandela. Despite his fortune to stay alive for 27 years (a number of his compatriots died in the prison), he was solely brought to this life under the Mercy of the new world order and the man who shared a Novel Peace prize with him – very political prize (Obama got it while starting his term – funny).

    In the other side Gandy is a different breed. Gandy didn’t get anything under the mercy of British and didn’t compromise on the fate of his country’s men and women. Mandela could simply have finish in that cage… no no… the new world order wanted him and gave him mercy. And because he didn’t get a real power at hand he also compromised fully. The literal meaning of his wise words were ‘because you gave me mercy, because all the power and the economy is at your hand, I will try my best my indigenous South African country men and women to comply your rules happily’. Hailat can you please retire from the Mainstream Medias bandwagon for seconds and compare Mandela and Mugabe. Compare the two men one brought to power from the cage to legitimize Colonizers strong hold in power and economy of the country and the other who rose himself, kicked out colonizers and returned to land to its very owners. Compare the one who allow the British and neoliberal dominance over his own people and the other who ride off the same British people. And then go to your beloved Mainstream Media and observe how they treat these two people.

    Hailat, your emotions could not do anything to PIA – Because he is not where he is because you or your likes hate or like him. He is there because he stood against all the odds. And all these odds were there since he joined the straggle in the mid-1960th. So long as he stand for the interest of Eritreans you will not see him to praised in main stream line the way Pappilion’s and Hidrat’s hero late PM of Ethiopia was praised.

    Pappilion:-
    why are you always flown? Try to see one idea in three dimensions before throwing it here and struggling to justify or convince people. Try to put some thought on your knowledge. This is my advice

    • MG

      Meron, I agree with you about the picture you have about Mandel. when Mandela released from prison in 1990, his first world travel was Boston, Massachusetts. He made a speech on the Charles river speland Park, and about 1.5 Million people(95% was white because, it is white area. Boston is the most segregated City in America) was there and leasing to him. I went with my classmate (Black) and after Mandela finish his speech, my classmate said, “no wander so much white people love him, He is totally sellout and I am very disappointed on him” that is exactly the same my observations on early on. Look what his current wife Graca Michel said “The world needs symbols, the world needs to highlight the best of values we can find in certain human beings, we deliberately, minimize his weaknesses and we minimize his vulnerabilities because that’s what counts. We even overvalue what he means in goodness.” Says Graca Machel, his third wife, who he lived with until his death in 2013.”

    • Meron,

      You need to have learn more about the man. There is no substance, I mean “substance” in your argument. Your reason is simply as follows:because the West admired him he must be compromised on his principles. That is completely nonsense. Where is the beef in your argument? But I hope the following article captured the life of the man and his contribution to his people as well to the world. Remember He was admired by both ideological divides in the world. Below is the article.

      http://www.rediff.com/news/column/how-nelson-mandela-avoided-the-partition-of-south-africa/20131206.htm

  • Gebre

    Hi The AwateTeam,

    Can you help me? How can I get the articles from 2007?
    I can’t go beyond August 2009.

    Thank you before hand,