Inform, Inspire, Embolden. Reconcile!

All about Self-Liberation


I have a friend who served as a British soldier during WWII whose stories I find quite fascinating. In fact, I have made it a habit to meet him every other day during my coffee breaks at the British Library in London.  Listening to the stories of his youth, when he was deployed to Kenya and Egypt and his stopovers along the Red Sea, helps me to understand what the situation of that time was like for young recruits as well as how the British Empire functioned.  Ken, who has recently celebrated his 88th birthday, loves to reflect on the bumpy journeys of his life as well as numerous other experiences.  Currently, he is rushing against time to finish his 3rd or 4th book on the history of medieval England.  He is a self-taught intellectual with an acute sense of the pitfalls of modern times and the ‘futile escapades’ of the young, so to speak.  I admire him for the way he maintains a steady balance of his old values by juxtaposing himself to modern times and the lives of his children and grand-children.

Ken introduced me to the writings of Yuval Noah Harari who wrote in great detail about where we, human beings, came from (Sapiens), and where we are going (Homo Deus).  To learn why we are the way we are and what we can do to influence our direction is indeed interesting.  I appreciate Ken’s grasp of such complex theories which I find difficult to take in.  However, I am not sure his interpretation of Harari’s theories is spot on. There is something about the theories’ validity that I find irksome concerning Africa’s development history.  Leaving that aspect of the narrative aside let me go back to the story of my friend. Ken, from time to time, makes me flinch with some of his views of the world (die Weltanschauung). His cynicism, mistrust of elected official and contemptuous attitude towards the Wikipedia generation raise eye brows.  He tends to glorify some aspects of the past and ridicule the present. And he is constantly worried about the future because of migration anxieties.

Ken loves to talk about the Charlie Chaplin, Paul Robeson and ‘Monty’ eras.  But my interests lie elsewhere. In order to pull Ken out of the jargon-filled discussion of Harari’s writing and his enthusiasm of the past eras, I try to pry a thought out of him regarding ‘my problem’.  I goad him with stories about Eritrea and the misfortune that has befallen its people.  I do that quite often. At times I wonder if he sneers at me during such discussions for being stuck in the rut – the inhibiting world of Eritrea. In his short, declarative sentences, he would tear into my views by saying ‘misfortunes are inevitabilities of life; especially when life-and-death matters are handled by politicians whose aim is, more or less, to stay in power’.  It is hard to argue against his views on nation-states and liberation fronts because he conveys his arguments with confidence and convincing evidence.  But I continue to press him by citing the dream the likes of Woldeab Woldemariam had instilled in me, the way our freedom fighters sacrificed their lives for Eritrea, how the country, after independence, has been betrayed by the powers that be and so forth, to which he waves his hand dismissingly … as if to say ‘I have seen it all in my life’. ‘Such episodes and accidents in history are far too familiar’, he muses, indicating that such turmoil is all drama, a horde of cathartic experiences.

In order to prompt Ken to take a closer look at our case, perhaps an attempt from my side to have him align his views with mine, I argue that Eritrea is real, not an accident.  I mention the fact that Harari’s analysis on how ‘agriculture turned humans into becoming slaves is beside the point’.  ‘Don’t you think he painted his accounts with a broad brush?’ I argue frivolously.  Before he responds I ask him another question: ‘how can independence lead to enslavement?’ I frantically beg for an answer.  I go back to the issues that are constantly weighing on my mind … the fake reality that the regime has constructed around the people of Eritrea – one that has enabled it to exercise absolute mastery over our fate .  As I continue to give vent to my frustration, I catch myself expressing thoughts which are only shrouded in and severely curtailed by my fixations – ruminations about what is going on in Eritrea. ‘We have been denied to seek and reach our limit as people, you know’.  ‘Do you have any thoughts on how we Eritreans failed to become Eritreans after independence?’  I persist as if I had swallowed a tape recorder; and as if he can provide answers to my questions.  ‘Perhaps that’s what Harari was referring to when he articulated his views on the uncoupling of consciousness’, I rumble on.  ‘People, whether freedom fighters or not, are all lured into power politics … and once they assume their desired positions they would use every trick in the book to remain there’, he says.

As I talk about shattered dreams, basically how perverted power resides with the networks of subversive individuals the government has built around it, my thoughts are arrested by what my friend unexpectedly says about those who aspire to change their world.  Probably he was referring to people like me.  ‘What makes you think that campaigners, activists and opposition groups are reliable enough in bringing real change?’ he throws a bombshell at me.

That statement alone unclasps a series of negative episodes that take place within the sphere of the opposition camp.  I can count challenging incidents such as regionalism, religionism, tribalism, factionalism, closed nationalism and personality clashes that surface every now and then in our struggle for change. I can also think of those who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder, campaigners who are prone to unleash personal attacks on fellow activists due to slight friction … traits that demean the progress that has been achieved to date. Does that mean we are no different, in character, than those who have monopolised power in Eritrea?  Such eccentricities remind me of what Nietzsche posited concerning the pleasure of the feeling of power and the hunger to overpower.  Is it true that the ‘will to power’ is stronger than the will to survive?

I take such supposition as a test of character. I understand that the technology driven campaigns are somewhat characterised by a pervasive sense of individualism.  We cannot afford drifting without purpose in and disengaging ourselves from the current realities in Eritrea. Indeed, we need to keep our feet on the ground by realising that lack of camaraderie among campaigners is a destructive force that will, in the end, weaken the movement. So it’s all about self-awareness and the shedding of certain delusions. Yes, it is all about Self-Liberation. We are reminded of the need to possess moral virtues, grow out of our objectionable nature, which we should exercise through action.

Such thoughts add another layer of undertaking to the on-going struggle for justice; struggle against the self.  The ramification of an ill-disciplined approach is clear. It invites distorted judgment, toxic attitudes, and menacing repercussions.  It also encourages the unintended beneficiaries of our campaigns to thrive. And the endgame will be paralysis for us which in turn will empower those who want to maintain the status-quo to stay put.  It is high time we started looking at who we are and what we really want to accomplish.

  • Yohannes Zerai

    Selam Dawit Mesfin,

    It was a pleasure and a privilege to have had exchanges with you on a vital concept which is bound to have a major influence on the course of our ongoing struggle for democratic change in our country, as much as it would on our individual lives. Both in your article and in your rejoinders, you eloquently expounded your idea of “self-liberation” and how its absence has embodied the acrimony, hostility, apathy and failings that have, to this point, characterized our movement for democracy and justice.

    As I followed your exchanges with forumers, I could not help but direct my attention to your advocacy of the concept on the one hand, and the way you interacted with commenters on the other — a sort of casual exercise somewhat akin to juxtaposing words with deeds. What the exercise revealed was truly gratifying: I read you apologizing for attention lapses that all of us are prone to; I read you encouraging others and praising their work with such ease and consistency that made it look as if doing so is second nature to you; I read you declaring your willingness to learn from others even when they are unlikely to provide it – a quality rarely found even at this wonderful forum of great minds.These qualities are unmistakable products of the very idea of self-liberation that you have continued to promote passionately!

    In these confusing times of make believe, it has become a commonplace to see people pontificating about standards of morality that they themselves can hardly approximate even remotely in their attitudes and actions. It is therefore refreshing to have had the rare opportunity of engaging someone who practices what he preaches. The experience has given me hope for the future and an assurance that not everything around me has gone awry after all!

    • Dawit Mesfin

      Dear Yohannes,
      I have just read your rejoinder – 20 hours after posting. Please forgive me for switching off pre-maturely.
      I have enjoyed reading your comments … actually, it is me who should thank you for taking time to write so convincingly and eloquently. Eritrea needs thinkers like you.
      I am sure we will cross each other’s paths soon.

  • KBT

    ERITREA LOVERS NOT HATERS ,GOD EXIST THE ENEMY OF GOOD ,THE CRIMINAL TPLF REGIME WILL COLLAPSE SOON ,THE BONES OF OUR MARTYRDOM THAT IT SCATTERS WITH HIS TANKS CAN REST ,THE 90.000 Eritrean he expelled in middle of night by ransacking them ,children’s ,elders,family,he destroy can rejoice,all our enemies will be hang soon .
    Really god exists he knows the liers and those who speech the truth .

  • Kalihari Snake

    Hello All: Protests have now spread into Amhara region with business shutting down in Shebel Berenta, Woreta, Dessi and Woldia. Oromia is becoming more heated with road blockages in the Jima Arjo area.

    • Nitricc

      Hi Kali; As you know the whole Ethiopia is on the move in opposing the ridicules demand of taxes. Every one is complaining, closing their business and demonstrating, however, there is no such movement or any kind of complaining from Tigray; Why? I mean is the Tigryans are exempted from the huge tax increase? I don’t get it.

      • Thomas

        Hi Nitricc,

        Now, you live in the U.S.A and you know you pay sales tax on most non food purchases. Taxes coming from such can help the government run its institutions and boast the countries infrastructure in appropriate manner. The United States I believe has the strongest government institutions (those intern provide services) because of tax (sales included) collected from consumers. Surprisingly, it is the store keepers NOT the public who happen to keep complaining about the sales tax.

        • Nitricc

          Hi Thomas, do you lose all of your commonsense; witch you have a little when it comes to Weyane? I thought you went school, even if you went Asmara University. Every time I deal with you, I am thankful that the Asmara of University is no longer exists, look what the University has produced, you!
          Now, no one is saying that people should not pay taxes but when you are asked to pay 2x of your income to pay in taxes what are you supposed to do. Say you make 80K and the government is asking to pay 200K in taxes what is your option? Again you are not gifted to think the basic stuff but to create business and to built strong economy, do you cut taxes or do you increase it?

          • Thomas

            Hi Nitricc,

            The say ignorance is bliss. Why do you have to show your stupidity time and again. Now, you like to talk about Asmara University a lot. You have never been there; and you know nothing about the university, but what I can say: you are just the most idiot around!! Yes, I studied at Asmara University. Also, I studied at one of the most prestigious US universities to. Because you are an idiot, you will never get it. However, let me just try. Here, I never to stay too late to study because everything was Spoon-feeding and the exams never were unexpected. Students get hints on what is on the exam. So, stop the crap talking!

          • Nitricc

            Hi Thomas; you said ” I studied at one of the most prestigious US universities to” well gauging your line of reasoning but if insist, let me guess the university that you attended in the US; Aha, Trump University. Okay, that explains it.

        • saay7

          Selam Thomas:

          The tax collection agency has reversed itself; so when the gov itself is admitting it made a mistake, it has left those who were supporting its misguided policy a little isolated, don’t you think so?

          Here’s the dilemma for all African states, including Ethiopia. Compliance with taxes is minimal in Africa (only 25% of transactions are taxed whereas in the developed world compliance is over 80%.) I believe in Ethiopia only 15% of taxable transactions (Value added tax) was being taxed. (Kaddis can correct me)

          The problem with the EPRDF policy (which is typical of the way they do things and I have a theories for why) is that they didn’t phase in the policy and they wanted instant compliance. The reaction was civil disobedience.

          My theory for why every single policy they have passed being resisted by the business class, all communist orgs look at business people as enemies of the state. And the reason they want confiscatory taxes is partly because they hate businesspeople, partly because they don’t understand them, they can’t sympathize with them (you can’t sympathize with problems of undercapitalized small business if you as gov run the biggest business and u can always make exceptions for yourself about not paying taxes) and it’s partly because the welfare state (again a problem for all African states) promises services it can’t afford. And the catch 22: if the welfare state can’t deliver on services it promised, or when it stops subsidies, then it is a failing state on verge of collapse (thus my frequently repeated: governing is hard.)

          Nitric Aba Tereg, I wouldn’t celebrate too much about this: take the same issue to Eritrea. 1. The businessmen would not have the right to demonstrate 2. If they did they would be summarily arrested 3. When they got arrested you would support the government for protecting people from selfish merchants and 4. The gov would never reverse itself and go all the way to the edge of the cliff.

          Happy Monday!


          • Thomas

            Hi Saay,

            The problem is that there was no effective way of collecting taxes in Ethiopia. There were never millionaires or billionaires in Ethiopia that we see them now. I had to visit Ethiopia in year 2015 and I have to tell you I know exactly what is going there. The Addis Ababa that I used to know over 10 years past to my visit was completely changed (with almost all new stuff):) Let’s make sure Nitricc does not get a heart attack now. Are you ok, Nitricc?

            People can deposited millions of dollars in their bank account. It is a completely economic transformation. I can safely say the cities like Debre Zeit, Bahir dar looks a different cities. You might have heard a report by the Chinese that they had invested over 6 billion dollars and that they have over 40 companies employing over 140,000 local employees. You can also imagine the investment by the Arab nations and the West.

            For the above reasons, it was necessary to create a new tax rule. Lots of business making lots of money without paying taxes was unbearable to all. Nitricc talks about something that is pronounced by some business dudes who always will want to avoid taxes or simply exploit the current political crises. During my stay in Addis, I have seen the government distributing cash registers to business people/grocery or other stores for free. Of course, people knew what the government was aiming. Even though the cash registers were distributed for free, the businesses owners new what was coming. So, it was a long planned and debate stuff.

          • woldeab

            Please indulge me a moment.
            A physician who has a clinic in Addis had this dillema.
            As a graduate of a medical school in Cuba, he has a great admiration for those icons of the movement such as Castro and Che Guevara. He even has the temerity to have a 4×6 picture of Che in the public wait room.
            Now the issue.
            The Addis tax collector’s come to the office and give the clinic a bill for 3000 birr for the signage in the front.
            He told them that he had been paying around 200 birr the last three years. He went to the manager of the tax assessment office that that sign had not brought him 15 times more patients than the previous year and how come I have to pay 15 times more than I had paid the previous years?
            The manager would not budge.
            Guess what this physician did?
            Voila, he removed the leaning 2×4 post sign to spite them.
            There is a saying in Addis. They assess wily nily with no rhyme or reason so that an apparatchik can inherit the business.
            Nothing to do with hyenas nor Birhanu Nega.

          • saay7

            Selam Woldeab:

            As detestable as EPRDF and PFDJ are, I tend to criticize them only for things that a “normal” government wouldn’t do. That is, if they are trying to fix a problem that will remain a problem even for most democratic, civil-liberties-respecting, clean gov, I try to see things from their viewpoint first then try to pinpoint the problem and ocassionally offer solutions.

            Every developmental expert that looks at the books says that African govts have a big problem with tax collection. Not just from their citizens but the DFI community with their tax havens and loopholes. Every African government also tries to provide social services (free education healthcare subsidized housing clean water etc etc) that the developed world never thought of providing when they were as undeveloped as Africa is now. So that’s a perfect storm.

            Making things worse are governments that are made up of political cadres: I would be shocked if the entire EPRDF gov at every level (federal regional) had a single official who used to be a small businessperson before becoming a politician. (I know they don’t exist in Eritrea.)

            The corruption is what drives people to complete cynicism. When confronted with a ruinous policy (such as the example you gave), people’s first resort is not to use the law to protect themselves (because you can’t fight adminstrative law anywhere including the US), but which gov official is related to whom so u can find relief.


          • Nitricc

            SAAY; LONG TIME! I know what you mean about Eritrea but where do I start? What is really getting me, it is not the milliner’s or the filthy reach who are getting screwed here, it the poor lady who sells coffee in the streets for living. it is the guy who cuts hair for living. The Ethiopian government can’t destroy the life hood of the poor people. if they did that to the rich and the privileged, I wouldn’t care. I am just overwhelmed by the unjust and unfairness of the Ethiopian government. In fact the government have a better things to do like saving Tana-Hayq that destroying the life of poor people.
            I am just stuuned at the silence and irresponsibility of the Ethiopian government when it comes to the issue of Tana. Tana is dying and the likes of Thomas are worried and defend about this corrupted government.

  • Kalihari Snake

    Hello All: Addis Standard (AS) portal reporting that a hitherto bustling business district, Axena Tera was “eerily quiet as businesses have shut in protest of new tax hike.”

  • Kalihari Snake

    Hello All: The tax hike protest has now reached Addis Ababa, with parts of the city shutdown, while demonstration are widespread in Oromia region today. Black market rate for birr at the moment is soaring.

  • Kalihari Snake

    Hello All: Report coming out that Selam Bus garage in Addis Ababa has been bombed. Selam Bus is owned by the TPLF.

    • Nitricc

      Hi Kali, please stop this kind fake news. You are aggravating to the point of depression to Abraham and Thomas. Why are you tying to spoil their celebration of Industrial park in ” Meqelino” lol by brining up this kind of baseless and fake news. The truth is the economy is growing so much, the business owners are obligated to pay
      “800 % ” more of their income to the democratic-elected government of Ethiopia. lol
      Seriously though, now the Businesses in Addis started to close down all together.

      • Berhe Y

        Dear Nitricc,

        There are over 7 billion people in this planet. Ethiopians are one of our closest cousins, neighbour, and currently the best host.

        Granted they have internal problems like all other countries and people.

        Why wish so bad things to happen to them? Let them solve their internal problems in their own and wish them luck.

        Good things happen to us when we wish the same to others. Otherwise all the negativity is consuming us alive.


        • Nitricc

          Hi Berhe; what time is in Canada? unless you are drinking, there is no way you can right what you have written. where exactly did you read that I wished bad thing to the Ethiopians? What is wrong with you? I am not the one who was dancing because of the toothless industrial park and turn around cry about the uprising. Let’s not forget that you one of the people who are excited about the so-called achievements of weyane. well, how are they doing now?

          • KBT

            Selam nitricc
            Please allows me to answer for him
            THEY DAYYIIIING,

      • Thomas

        Hi Nitricc,

        Unlike in Eritrea which is run a bunch of mafias/dictatorship regime; in Ethiopia, Ethiopians can go out to demonstrate and question their government anytime they went. Lesson for you, it is called democracy (showing the people tell the government how to govern them NOT the PFDJ ways).

        Though indirectly and without your knowledge, you guys are insulting the mafias regime in our country. Good job, Nitricc! Way to go! LOL.

        • Nitricc

          Hi Thomas, you don’t even know the policy of your country, Tigray-Ethiopia? lol Demonstrations are illegal. people are getting out to sticking it to your minority leaders. of course the people are paying the price, they are getting shoot at and dying. I can not you believe it demonstrations were allowed in Ethiopia. How dumb are you? lol At least in Eritrea the people are told demonstrations are not allowed and the people obeyed and the government in forced it. but on your Ethiopia neither the people obligated nor you weak weyane enforced it. Do you get the difference? I doubt it, you are too dumb. lol

          • Thomas

            Hi Nitricc,

            Imagine if your masters had a chance to govern 100 million people? Also, imagine also the size of Ethiopia and the different tribes/ethnic groups Ethiopia, how dummy could you be to not being able to see these factors and to try to understand the whole scope of the situation there. You brag about your masters way of ruling by fear and intimidation? You have earned the stupidity that no one can do. I cannot think of any idiot that I have known that match close to you……….. Congratulations for being the number one idiot ever.. hahaha

          • Nitricc

            Hi Thomas; I know I am wasting my time but for a government to be a government, regardless of size and regardless of the number of population is to keep order!!! If the government said, no demonstration and that means no demonstration. But your beloved government of weyane, they are losing in every way you think. I know it doesn’t apply to you since you are one of the “meqaluino” lol
            Again Government = order!

          • Thomas

            Hi Nitricc,

            I cannot make sense of what you wrote above, but anyways any dead people this time. I know you are an idiot and it will be just wasting time to spend any second on you.

          • Nitricc

            Hi Thomas; I can understand your infatuation with weyane. May be you are a Tigryan, I don’t know. but what all I am saying is that in your country Ethiopia, demonstrations are illegal but people are demonstrating all over the country i.e. it shows the toothless-ness of your Weyane-Tigray. now how hard is this to understand? It does not matter the size of the land or the number of the people, order must be the order of the day. You could be a father and you have no control of your kids, Order is everything. But I do understand you go to all the way to protect your weyane Tigray.
            Don’t worry your other weyane will be here soon to give you a hand to defend the indefensible, the weyane.

          • Thomas

            Hi Nitricc,

            With you guys, it is always about character assassination. You have time and again used the backward system of character assassinations. Anyone who stands up or who appears to challenge the administration by fear and killings, there is/are a/the familiar/overused word(s) he/she is named: the weyane/tigrian/CIA agent. For Gods seek, don’t you get tired of singing the same song over and over again. Are you human or what?

          • Nitricc

            Hi Thomas; let me try one more time and I got to cut you off. You and your friends keep telling how you guys are for the justice and you are with poor and oppressed. Yet, when it comes to weyane not only you abandoned your justice BS but you are with weyane against the people who are treated unjustly. Can see and understand your degree of hypocrisy and ignorance? one unjust is everywhere unjust. the question is are you for justice or no? you better think before you answered it to your self.

          • Thomas

            Hi Nitricc,

            I know people from this site have lectured you for over 10 years and they failed to get things through stupid head. I will try one more time now. Say your house along with your neighbors house is set to burn, do you first try to stop or call some fire men to stop the fire in your house or try to help your neighbor’s house first and then yours? And this is while you are looking the fire buring your own house is worst than that of your neighbor?

            Please equate the ratio of jailed 10 thousand/3.5 million & 10 thousand/100 million. Also, assume like wise when it comes to the migration ratio (ratio = total# of migrants migrating month/total population of the country).

            One more time, I know you will never get it but let me try. You have $1000 in your saving and you need that money to pay your bills for next month. Your friend there has $28,000 in his savings. You both live in the same area, lets say Eritrea or Ethiopia. The bank that you and your friend has account with says it has deducted $1000 from each account owner for one time overdraft each made. So, you lost your entire money ($1000), but your friend lost only 1000 of his $28000. Who is to become a homeless in the situation? I would be worried about how you will be able to pay your bills after what you have in your saving (that being from your very recent paycheck) is gone.

          • Peace!

            Hi Thomas,

            Is it hard to criticize EPRDF for all its shortcomings and move onto where you should be focusing, opposing PFDJ? እንታይ ዓይነት መርፍእ ድዮም ወጊኦምኻ?


          • Saleh Johar

            Welcome back Peace.

          • Nitricc

            Hi Peace; did you say ” እንታይ ዓይነት መርፍእ ድዮም ወጊኦምኻ?” hahahahahahah well, it is maximum strength
            Agazian-1500 mg. I don’t if you are following this ridiculousness but the real argument between me and the weyane stooges, Abraham and Thomas, all is about Agazination. Deep inside, that is what they are arguing for. Abraham AKA Meqalino and Thomas AKA Adi-gratino are all out to establish the Agazi nation. something it will never happen.

          • Abraham H.

            Hi Nitricc, the protozoan: from now on I’m severely ignoring you. You are not worth my time: I’ve a suggestion for you, though: you would make sense if you talk about gangster life in the U.S. instead of Eritrea and Eritreans; a country and people you have no idea and nor do you care about.

          • Kalihari Snake

            Hi Thomas: Hang in there brother We feel for you and support you. As one of more than 10,000 Oromos now arbitrarily imprisoned, you are certainly not alone. I can only imagine how degrading you guys must feel when they force you troll Eritrean websites and spread TPLF propaganda. Our thoughts are with you bro..

        • blink

          Dear Thomas
          You are right about PFDJ but not so about EPRDF , The Ethiopians have nothing to brag as their dictators are killers too, they protest and they must pay hundreds to be gunned down by EPRDF Police, your 100% EPRDF elected officials aren’t obliged to care about the protesters.

        • Nitricc

          Thomas; do you know how stupid you are ” Ethiopians can go out to demonstrate and question their government anytime they want”

      • Abraham H.

        Hi Nitricc, as Thomas told you these protestes in Ethiopia show you that there is some space of breathing in Ethiopia, and the people are courageous enough to challenge decisions by the gov they consider to be unfair.
        What would you say about the poor Asmara residents who are silent like mice out of boundless FEAR despite all the hardships they have been facing through the years? Do you remember what happened to the Sawa youth who tried to greet their parents, but where summarily executed in the middle of Asmara by your idols?

  • Kalihari Snake

    Hello All: The ‘Addis Standard’ newspaper has reported that Government vehicles have been attacked in Ambo. TPLF/Tigray connected businesses are being targeted. The Oromos must be saying ‘don’t those new industrial parks look appetizing’.

  • Kalihari Snake

    Hello All: Demonstrations have started today in Oromia region. Ambo, Oliso and Ginchi amongst many other towns in the region which have completely closed businesses in protest of unfair Government taxation. The Oromos have been looking for a reason to protest. As Marvin Gay’s song goes, they will be ‘Dancing in the Street’.

  • Amanuel Hidrat

    Selam Dawit,

    Your article stimulates the best of our minds. And only those who understand the value of self-liberation can relate it to our issues to find meaningful applications in our politics. Yohannes
    and Ismael are engaging you eloquently as to how the concept of self-liberation in our political communities is absent or is limited its value within the small segments of the progressive movements. I totally agree with Yohannes’s argument, especially if he addresses Satisfactorily to Ismail’s questions in his last comment. I might add my personal opinion later when the trio come to certain common understanding. Interfering at your fascinating debates of the trio at this point is not recommendable.

    Besides, I read your book. It is a great contribution to the profiles of Eritrean history. It is book must be read. Good job brother.

    Amanuel Hidrat

    • Halaka

      Dear All – I also read the wonderful book and I learned more than I expected. However, I was disappointed when I saw the back cover and the list of the distinguished reviewers of the book. I expected as least one accomplished Eritrean reviewer comments. I hope it was an oversight.
      Again, thank you for your tireless work to teach us all. I am indeed a beneficiary of this amazing website. Thank you

      • Dawit Mesfin

        Dear Halaka,
        Thank you. I am not good at taking compliments.

        • Halaka

          Dear Dawit,
          A compliment from your compatriot should be taking with love and smile. Thanks

    • Dawit Mesfin

      Hello Aman,
      Thank you for the kind words.
      Aman, I continue to fight against myself … in many ways. That is one way I can maintain my sanity, so to speak. All of us have ugly sides in us that need to be contained. We are angry, for what the PFDJ is doing to our people, frustrated by the lack of noticeable progress among ourselves (perhaps I am not managing my expectations well here) – all said in good faith.
      Thank you for reading my book (and the endorsement).

  • MS

    Dear Dawit
    Great article by a great writer, thanks. ab lbna yeHdro. I think you need to lead G13, round two, but this time, to the leaders of the opposition. I really think you need to think about it. Another Berlin Manifesto!!

    • Dawit Mesfin

      Dear MS,
      Your message made me smile. My wish is for the younger generation to take charge so I can play any support-role that comes my way.

  • saay7

    Hey Sir Dawit:

    If your friend Ken were a political scientist, he would tell you that “liberator-turned-enslaver” is so common place, it is a cliche and he would chastise you for thinking Eritrea is so special it would be exempt from this rule;

    If your friend Ken were a physicist, he would apply all of Newton’s Laws (probably the 2nd) to make the case that the net force (PFDJ Force – Opposition Force) and mass (population of Eritrea and its decline) is all you need to forecast that the country would be propelled on the destructive path set by PFDJ;

    If your friend Ken was a psychiatrist, he would describe in detail the phenomenon known as “unpopular norm”–where people think the PFDJ and the President are popular and those who are dissatisfied with them are marginal people (It is also called the Emperor Has Clothes phenomenon);

    If your friend Ken was an English lit professor, he would just be smitten by your prose and tell you never mind trying to analyze the country, just write more often. He may add that the biggest crime the Gov of Eritrea may have committed is to deny us a normal country where everyone could pursue his or her passion and, in your case, develop his or her talent.


    • Dawit Mesfin

      Hello Sal,
      I like the various scenarios you developed regarding the Ken-story.
      How many times have we woken up before dawn? Eclipsed dawn? We sat quietly in darkness, staring at the surrounding plains of hesitation where thousands of bodies lay down to rest at the dawn of victory. While resting they died, didn’t they? Now we see the shadows of the spared comrades moving about those plains once again darkening our dawns.
      I remember when you came up with your ‘twgaH’mo’ proposition when dawn was still dark. I wish you could come up with a follow-up conception to that important ‘cupola’ of the time.

      • Bayan Nagash

        Greetings Sal & Dawit,
        I am an early-to-rise-and-early-to-bed kind of a guy – always has been. The wee hours of the night, the crack of dawns, therefore, I find infinitely interesting time than any other part of the 24 hour-day-cycle. In the past, the wee of hours of the night meant a time when I gripped my books or my keyboard as one does when clinging to dear life. In the near past, however, I learned to let go of that habit and started to venture outside and feel the serene environment. The spirit of memory invariably began to engulf me.

        Slowly, the crack of dawn is leading me to embrace what I used to do as a child, when neither my dad nor any of my older brothers compelled me to do so. Growing up I enjoyed the dawn call to prayer from the Mosque about hundred steps away from my home in Akhriya (Asmara). There was something innately satisfying about it. Now days I have begun to visit a mosque about ten minutes-drive from my home during the dawn prayer. The clock and now the cell-phone replaced those call to prayers – Not that I need these latter gadgets to wake me up – my internal clock appears to be fine without needing any syncopation, thank you. At any rate, the prayer leader – aka, Imam – has this endearingly soft voice that I used to hear when I was a child growing up in Akhriya.

        Suddenly, the spirit of memory is giving way to this powerful feeling, which is hard to describe, that I am just for now enjoying every minute of. Next to the mosque there are two fitness centers that I see cars flocking towards. The Masjid is located in the cul-de-sac. If one goes straight there is no place to go but to the masjid, turning left or right are two gyms. I am certain those who religiously adhere to visiting the gym in the crack of dawn are getting fit and along the way receiving some sort of adrenaline rush.

        I wouldn’t, however, characterize mine as an adrenaline rush, it is perhaps ‘memory-rush’, if you will, that I find far more appealing than anything else so far. This might be way too personal for some, therefore, let me revert to the topic at hand, at once.

        The notion of leaving darkness to dawn before any criticism can be levelled at one’s government is part of the very reason the mess we find ourselves in vis-à-vis the current regime in power. Too much leeway was levied to the revolutionary-army-turned-government between 1991 and 1998. Too many blank checks were written between 1998 and 2000 and too many good faiths given to the then nascent Eritrean government. The notion of siding with one’s government right or wrong turned out to be a disastrous one as a hind sight suggests. By the time it dawned on us in what we thought was a government, it turned into a rogue regime, Frankenistein monster of our own making.

        I am afraid, Dawit, your glorification of “‘twgaH’mo’ proposition when dawn was still dark and [wishing to see] a follow-up conception to that important ‘cupola’ of the time” appears to suffer from the same fatal flaw that Ken appears to suffer from; to which, by the way, you rightly said that “[h]e tends to glorify some aspects of the past and ridicule the present.” Aren’t you glorifying some aspects of the past beyond the deserved recognition?


        • Dawit Mesfin

          Dear Beyan,

          Dawn, more or less, signifies the start of day – we can even say the start of life. The description you provided of your dawn is spot on. My dawns, when I was a small boy, were dreadful. I had to force myself up to study for school when everyone was asleep. I used to resent that.

          I believe the twgaH’mo paper was published around 1999-2000. Sal was the author, so I would rather refrain from explaining under what circumstances it was published. Beyan, you could be right I may be inundated, ‘like Ken’, by past memories because youth has gone past me long ago. I realise that era was a difficult one for many. The divide between the ELF and EPLF groups was still very strong. But I am quite sure I am not romanticising the past.

          My memories of the era before that time was even tougher. I remember how society conditioned us to take sides and treat the other side harshly. Actually, the twgaH’mo paper, to me, was mild – I had developed ‘radical’ views by then. I even wrote my critique of it, I remember. There was a lot of pushing and shoving among the debate-society.

          Looking back, I understand what that ‘simple’ statement meant to many who were on the EPLF side … it was a warning – ‘let this war come to a stop then we will have to deal with the rest’ (my interpretation). It was funny, deep and a shrewdly written proposition. Many understood it that way. Soon after, Tekie Fesehatsion came up with his bombastic paper which held sway among many hard-nosed members of the debate group of the time. His paper was titled ‘Listening to the Other Voices’.

          My suggestion to Sal, to come up with a follow-up of that proposition, is not to repeat but to update. He has ways of explaining things which I lack. I am sure you are not reading much into it. Anyway, sorry if I stepped on your toes, Beyan. Besides, I am not getting any younger 🙂 – bound to reminisce .


          • Bayan Nagash

            Dear Dawit,
            No, you did not “step on [my] toes” brother. I was just warning against inadvertent mis-remembrances, that’s all. We are all fallible when it comes to memories. I will let Sal’s words speak for themselves. Asmarino had, it appears, reposted the very issues we are discussing in this regard. Thus, I will let Sal’s words speak for themselves:


          • Ismail AA

            Dear Bayan,
            Thank you for the link. I had a hard copy of the article at the time but could not find it among the jungle of papers I have accumulated. This was, and remains to be, eye opening piece of writing that reflected the perceptions of brilliant mind of a person who had his keen sight on the priorities exigencies of the time had dictated. When read it know in the light of what went on since the time it was written, I wondered how Saleh would write it at this point in time were he to decide to do it again.
            Thanks again.

          • blink

            Dear Brayan
            Thanks sir , I really really wanted this article for a long period of time.He knew long time ago the war will be diplomatically . That is way I have a great respect for this lazy smart man called saleh .

          • Berhe Y

            Dear Beyan,

            Thank you for sharing. The link below has all the chapters and comments associated with it.


            What a missed opportunity


          • Bayan Nagash

            Dear Berhe, blink, & Ismail AA,

            I seem to have issues with some of my postings. It is one of those now-you-see-it-now-you-don’t.The comment below was awaiting for the AT to approve it, but then it never made it. The third time, as they say, is a charmer. Maybe it will now succeed. So, here we go:

            “TwgaH’mo” as a title notwithstanding which is – in my humble opinion – ill-fitting for the subsequent chapters that followed, these pieces read as fresh today as they did then. Sal gives a thorough pretext and context for the TwgaH’mo chapters. He even explains the origin of the title. Agree or disagree with the man’s thought processes, he NOT only stands with his country right or wrong (however rogue the leader was/is/and continues to be) as Sal unambiguously makes his position clear but claims bragging rights for his inconsistencies based on being a-politician. Sal used his mighty pen to go to war with those who were supporters of Ethiopia in diaspora and he also became a voice for those Eritreans who needed someone to rally after. These are the facts of the situation as I see them now and as I remembered them when his dispatch began in earnest in

            My fundamental dispute is the attempt to square the circle – i.e., the inconsistency – that he tries to justify by saying that TPLF would not stop until it obliterated EPLF. Therefore, he was going to stand with his country right or wrong and I stipulate here and now that such hard nosed position is untenable and was wrong then and it is wrong now. How many wars had been and continue to be waged the world over in the name of nation-state, the aftermath of which are nothing more than sheer obliterations of innocent lives? Here are Exhibits A & B for your consideration: Exhibit A: The minor skirmishes that Eritrea instigated in the Hanish archipelago with Yemen claimed 12 Eritrean lives. Couldn’t these lives have been saved were the EPLF turned PFDJ to come down from its high horse and begin to act like a nation and seek mediation and arbitration from the world court, which it ended up doing anyway? Exhibit B: When the regime leader was bombastically claiming not to move his forces from the zone of conflict come hell or high water and nine months later when Ethiopia punctured his trenches, was prompted to throw the white flag? Didn’t the thousands of young Eritrean lives mean anything to this man? Obviously, we now know the regime leader knows nothing of the sort called human life, unless, of course, it is his.



          • Berhe Y

            Dear Beyan,

            I think you have to read the article for it’s time, that’s 2000. In retrospect, you may be correct but Sal thinking at that time and with the knowledge we had was understandable.

            For example, I believe it then and I believe it today, that Eritrea started the war but Ethiopia wanted to continue the war. Let me also say that, during the negotiation process, Ethiopia did all it can to continue the war, no matter what was on the table, specially after it got Badime back after the 2nd offence, it continued it’s war agenda.

            Do remember then modalities that they accepted it and hoping Eritrea to reject it, Sal the great, wrote an article, “Eritrea should be call their bluff and accept it” and I think, I am convinced Haile Drue and company convinced Isayas to accept it at the advice of Sal.

            Same goes for the later…but within TPLF, there were elements who wanted nothing but to destroy EPLF and Eritrea in the process who were are the splinter group as it turned out later.


          • Abraham H.

            Selam Berhe, the fact is that Isayas listens only after he is battered (sorry for my countrymen/women, who paid the enormous price for the adventures of this sick man). The Weyanes had to continue with their offensives to make sure that DIA no longer poses any threat to them, and they achieved that objective without doubt. Since that obliterating defeat, DIA has been disciplined never to try to attack Ethiopia again. That is the fact, no matter how difficult it is for us Eritreans to swallow.

          • Berhe Y

            Dear Abraham H.

            No body is denying that and the call was to make sure IA gets his acts together and save the country from the humiliating defeat in the future and to fight the war diplomatically.


          • blink

            Dear Bayan
            My admiration for saleh is unquestionably solid starting from the beginning. That is my total answer.From 1991-1997 Eritrea was booming like no other in Africa and I think saay as well as many people were full of hope for a bright future ,how do you want him to act at the time of war ? And Who knew what the Yemenis were thinking? Who knew what the weyane were thinking. No one , infact no one knows what they were thinking if Eritrea did not act. The notion all wars could have been avoided is simply unrealistic by its nature . Ethiopia wanted to kill Eritrea at its birth and we have people like sal who stepped to the occasion to tell Eritreans leaders that , they must use Eritreans good will to the advantage of the country plus he told the leaders their mistakes.

            Sal chapters were not only ” I will be with my leaders at any cost” his chapters were full of criticism and also an eye opening for many Eritreans.

            I also don’t mix Issaias decision failures with a single citizen’s act of bravery ,that is how I understand. Sal knew far more than Issaias. And you just singled out the few points . Sal wrote many chapters and from all chapters many Eritreans learnt a good deal about negative side of the leaders and positive sides of Eritrea and why Eritrea is worthy of dying,for me he is unforgettable brave man by any measure. Who do you choose ?
            A . The people who were at the arms of weyane
            B. People like sal who invested their mighty pen to educate Eritreans on why we have to defend Eritrea.

            Now many people around the circle of opposition were clapping for weyane and I am happy Sal was not one of them.
            I am not defending this lazy smart guy , I truly believe he has influenced me and many others in a good way , My answer for you is a question!!! Why do countries have armies???

          • Bayan Nagash

            Selam blink, Berhe, and Abraham,

            If anything, the 30 years revolutionary struggles should’ve taught us that war ought to not be treated as an adventure. blink, you asked: “Who knew what the Yemenis were thinking? Who knew what the weyane were thinking. No one , infact no one knows what they were thinking if Eritrea did not act.” Well, which is why one ought to not go an adventure binge. Eritrea started the Hanish skirmishes. Eritrea started the Badme war. Save the other whispers that we hear Eritrea was trying to venture into militarily in some African countries. Before venturing into contested territories, shouldn’t military experts have strategies in place, have a way out or in case the war gets to be protracted, have a plan for that, too. An average Eritrean like me who has no military background can quickly get some info such as what must be done to minimize casualties Ethiopia is now playing the war of attrition on us and there isn’t a darn thing we can do about it.

            What is no-war-no-peace if not a war of attrition. A war of attrition is “A strategy of wearing down the enemy to the point of collapse through continuous loss of personnel and material. Used to defeat enemies with low resources and high morale”. Or being aware of what the enemy might do as Sal seemed to have had an intuition for what TPLF would try to do by having a “Battle of annihilation – The goal of destroying the enemy military in a single planned pivotal battle” (These quotes were obtained from a quick search in Wikipedia). Mind you, these were experienced revolutionary army leaders who would’ve know better than to venture into something of TPLF 20-fold our size – population wise – not the TPLF that they knew so well when both were revolutionary ghedlies, but a TPLF that was regionally important for the West, the power house that one shouldn’t undermine at any cost like Eritrea tried to do by occupying the contested area of Badme.


          • Berhe Y

            Dear Beyan,

            No body was supporting Isayas on the decision to reject the 4 point US / Rwanda plan, off all people no Sal. But that as it may, it’s Ethiopia who was escalated the war, by bombing Asmara. Asmara has never been bombed in our recent history, not by the British, not by HS, not by Derg, but by EPRDF/TPLF over a small land. Isayas decision to go an invade Badime was a wrong decision but there was situation that led to that in the first place. The people in the Tigray region were abusing, deporting and displacing Eritreans way before the May 6th. They were refusing to accept Eritrea Nacfa in Mekele because, according to them it was not suited and good for Modabe (because there were some Eritrean Muslim pictures on them).

            The problem with Eritrea and Isayas was the kept the issue for too long by ignoring the danger that was looming. We have seen the letter exchanged between Isayas and Melles and clearly, there was economic and other issue to what was coming. And the included a new map that include parts of Eritrea.

            Yeah, it’s Eritrea who needed to go to the security council and needs to know the media and needs know what’s coming but the stupid “sq meriSna” or what ever their policy didn’t know what could happen.

            So in all these Ethiopia / EPRDF were not an honest partner to begin with, and Sal support for the survival of Eritrea put all these considerations in place.

            Ok the war started, then what are we suppose to do. Blame our leader to resign would have been one thing. Ethiopia refused to co-operated until it made sure the war was escalated and maximum damage is done to the country.

            As to the war of attrition, it’s Isayas who fell to the trap the TPLF have setup for him. Haile Drue in the speech he gave to Germany had all predicted what it would have become.

            Sal support for Eritrea was clearly to what Haile Drue as FM and Haile Menkerios as UN ambassador had labored. IA was no where in the whole negotiations as tall. And I can’t say the two Haile did anything escalate the war but successfully lobbied the international community and used their diplomatic skills to corner Ethiopia by giving them no room to continue the war.


          • Bayan Nagash

            Dear Berhe,

            Nobody is disputing of any facts that you are sharing. I am with you, Berhe. My point is in the conduct of our so called leaders who are not worthy of the name and our diaspora thinkers and intellectually who are not worthy of the name. Cycling back to Dawit’s piece, the idea here is to reflect at a personal and at a collective level and admit on our own shortcomings so as to collectively come up with a viable opposition worthy of its name – That to me was what Ken’s narrative that Dawit shared with us was all about. It starts with us. If we are going to give credit where credit is due on what Sal did, we ought to openly also critique his shortcomings as the man who wielded the power of the pen and used it to fight the enemy and became a voice of the diaspora by default. So, he should take his dose of the blame as well, that’s all.

            At any rate, on some of the point you raised in the comment in question, here is my two-cent worth of rejoinder.

            ear Berhe

            I am not disputing that Sal was fighting along the lines of the leaders whom you cite. At issue is whether one supports one’s country willingly when one had the choice to officially quit writing on the rogue leader’s behalf. You just said the two Hailes were doing all the leg work when the man at the helm was nowhere to be found. Exactly the point. That ought to have been a signal the man at the helm was sleeping at the switch or at the wheels, as it were, and/or leading from behind. One doesn’t do that during such an atrocious war, does he?

            On the bombing of Asmara:

            Well, Berhe, it was a war. A nation-state wanted to show it owned the air space of the enemy. In the parlance of war, it is called “Air superiority – Essential to a successful air campaign. It is achieved by 1) mastery of the air, 2) attacking the means of production, 3) maintain battle ourselves, 4) prevent the enemy from battle” Ethiopia was using every trick in the books to wage the war. It used ‘countervalue”, which is to say that “The opposite of counterforce; targeting of enemy cities and civilian populations. Used to distract the enemy.”

            Ethiopia didn’t stop there, it used “Decapitation – Achieving strategic paralysis by targeting political leadership, command and control, strategic weapons, and critical economic nodes”; it used “Deception – A strategy that seeks to deceive, trick, or fool the enemy and create a false perception in a way that can be leveraged for a military advantage”. Ethiopia was well prepared for the magnitude of a war while ours were not – the leadership in Eritrea was caught with its pants down – pardon the expression while Ethiopia was using the tactics of “Denial – A strategy that seeks to destroy the enemy’s ability to wage war”. So, blaming Ethiopia for something that neither Dergue or any other previous Ethiopian leaders is a moot point, isn’t it? The latter couldn’t possibly bomb what it considers a territory that it had firm control over. It bombed the lowlands to a point of obliteration while it kept the highlands intact, because it had a firm control over these territories, Berhe.


          • Kaddis

            Gash Beyan –

            Huge respect for your rational expression while showing your sincerity for the lives lost. The Badme war for me is the biggest mistake of EPRDF since they came to power. The signs were there to avoid it. They knew more than anyone the recklessness of Isias. Even more than the ordinary Eritreans themselves. They knew he was getting prepared.

            Maybe some elements in the TPLF wanted the war to happen to punish EPLF not to be a destruction in the future; I don’t know. But I don’t think I will forgive them anytime soon.

            I have read some insider arguments, e.g. T.Kefle here, that EPRDF wanted to prove to the Eth nationalist opposition all is fine after Eritrea was gone with the ports; trying to show we are still in good terms with Eritrea and using the ports for free etc…and went looking the other way when Isaias was preparing for war…regardless, huge mistake costing young lives in thouands

            Thanks again, your kind of writers are the reason we Ethios hang around in this fab forum 😉

          • Bayan Nagash

            Selam Wendim Kaddis,

            Much appreciative of your kind words vis-à-vis my “rational expression while showing [my] sincerity for the lives lost. Consider this: EPLF-turned-PFDJ-regime epitomized “recklessness”: It managed to surpass the cumulative lives spared during the protracted war for independence (1961-1991), which was about 65,000; in a two-year span of war with Ethiopia (1998-2000) lives lost were estimated to be, ccording to PBS from 30 May 2000, “More than 50,000 people– perhaps as many as 70,000– have died in this war.”

            The 361 dungeons the Eritrean regime managed to build since independence so it can house innocent lives where they are wasting their most productive years. Not to mention the over 150,000 young Eritrean military presence in the border area are assigned in the disputed territories with Ethiopia. If this is not a colossal error in judgment I don’t know what is.

            At the time of the war, Ethiopia’s population was estimated at 60 million while that of Eritrea at 3.5 million. It is immaterial whether TPLF was itching to punish EPLF, erring on the side of prudence should’ve ruled the day and accordingly EPLF should’ve made accommodations by massaging TPLF’s ego, if that were to be the case. I don’t know that to be the truth of the matter, but even if it were any sane leader wouldn’t venture into this kind of a bait let alone starting one.

            Kaddis, when all is said and done, Ethiopia and Eritrea cannot act like they are different creatures. These two populations have more in common, heritage-wise, culture-wise, religion-wise, or any other index one wishes to consider; as such, they ought to be in a position of finding amicable ways of working their sociopolitical differences and broaden their horizons by eying towards having a Horn of African nation-state. I know I am dreaming here, but I would rather dream of such visions than one that leads to the path of disruption and annihilation. The one on Eritrean side appears to have nothing good to offer in this regard.

            Kaddis, stay on board this medium as you aptly described it, indeed is a “fab forum”. It is through some such dialogues where we will collectively recognize the common ground that exists between our two peoples.

  • Yohannes Zerai

    Selam Dawit Mesfin,

    I am in full agreement with the tenor of your article that the Eritrean opposition movement is in dire need of undergoing rebirth and renewal that include redefinition of the direction of the struggle and resetting of its goals, programs and inter-movement relationships. I also agree there is a great deal of benefits to be had from self-assessment and self-liberation. But that is only true for those who accept the notion and believe in it – i.e., the ‘already converted’, so to speak. Those who are playing disruptive, opportunistic and power-grabbing roles in the movement are doing so not accidentally but by design; and they are not going to engage in the worthy practice of self-liberation simply because some of us want them to. As such, the notion of self-liberation is not a panacea for the problems and impediments that confront the struggle and for the stagnation that it is currently experiencing.

    Logically, therefore, we should not make progress in our struggle conditional on every activist, campaigner, opposition group, etc carrying out self-assessment and transforming themselves into selfless entities. Indeed, such a goal would be neither achievable nor imperative for progress and success. For the struggle to succeed, the few that are already selfless and are genuine in their concern for their people and country must be allowed to carry out their own effort and prove themselves by successfully clarifying their goals and programs, building strong grassroots support and beginning to address some of the specific issues of the struggle. By so doing in concrete and verifiable manner, such progressive forces would be able to expose and shame the disruptive, opportunist and power-hungry elements for what they really are. This would in turn force the latter group to either (i) shape up, mend their ways and begin to focus on issues that matter thereby enhancing the national cause, or (ii) drop out and quit the struggle as defeated forces thereby allowing the movement to cleanse itself of its disruptive and regressive elements.

    I believe that the movement for change/justice has stalled not because there are individuals and groups in the movement who want to use it for their selfish ends. Such negative forces are apt to be present in any progressive movement. Such forces are certainly not to be preached to about self-liberation, but to be fought tooth and nail socially and politically until they are either co-opted as productive elements of the movement or politically neutralized from playing their disruptive and sabotaging roles. The lack of progress in the movement is, in fact, the result of the progressive elements failing to forge ahead with their progressive agenda and instead getting trapped in the internal squabbling that is being deliberately promoted by regressive and reactionary forces.

    • Dawit Mesfin

      Selam Yohannes,
      I am impressed by the power of your argument which I found refreshing. Yes, it is true that the progressive elements/segments should form their own constellations of influence around us. I am sure you will agree with me that very influence requires a great deal of patience, wisdom, creativity, a discerning outlook and had work.
      It is very late here in London … so I will make it short. Yohannes, I see we are protesting against the system back home day in and day out; in big numbers. At the same time I see we are not supporting each other to end the oppression … because we continually trip each other up. In our political work we all need to concentrate more on the big picture and not be distracted by details.
      Self-liberation, to me, is a tool that empowers me to think differently, influences my reading of our surrounding, helps me to develop my consciousness. I think of it as something that takes the edge off that combative attitude I deploy against my fellow activists. In other words, it helps me to dislodge acrimonious attitudes towards other players in the same camp who choose to employ different modes of struggle.
      I hope to address the other issues some other time.
      BTW, I like your reference to our lack of progress … you wrote:
      “The lack of progress in the movement is, in fact, the result of the progressive elements failing to forge ahead with their progressive agenda and instead getting trapped in the internal squabbling that is being deliberately promoted by regressive and reactionary forces.” I wish you could say more regarding this matter.

      • Yohannes Zerai

        Dear Dawit,

        Your positive reaction to my earlier comment is greatly appreciated; but let’s not forget that my comment was, after all, motivated by the powerful ideas put forth in your article.

        First of all, let me say there has been a belated recognition on my part of the need for a point of clarification lest readers misunderstand the motive of my previous comment. In my zeal to underscore the futility of expecting self-serving opportunists to embrace the notion of self-liberation, I may have inadvertently appeared to be underestimating the importance of the notion itself. Self-liberation is, in essence, antithetical to the very objectives and ambitions of self-serving and power-seeking individuals and groups. They will therefore not touch it with a ten foot pole, and we better not entertain any false hopes for a better outcome with those entities. That is the point I tried to make in my earlier comment.

        Now, having put that issue to rest, it is obvious that the power of self-liberation and its beneficial outcomes (as highlighted in your response above) cannot be contested and it would, in fact, work wonders for the struggle should it be applied faithfully and universally within the progressive segment of the opposition movement. Individuals/groups who are genuine believers in the idea of self-liberation are bound to manifest its power in their approaches, actions and programs. Such adherents of the idea would therefore acquire an attribute that sets them apart from other segments of the movement that are of questionable character and doubtful commitment to change.

        The preceding statement does, in fact, tie in with the finishing line of your earlier response. We all agree that, numbers notwithstanding, there exist individuals and groups in the Diaspora opposition genuinely committed to bringing democratic change in the country. Unfortunately, these progressive forces have been unable to lift themselves from the muddle (we call opposition camp) that includes pseudo-nationalist and double-faced entities all claiming to have the best interests of the country and its people at heart. They have failed to distinguish themselves by occupying a higher ground marked by extensive grassroots support, well-defined strategies, better and transparent programs and a few accomplishments to show for their efforts. Such is the status they ought to have by virtue of the purity of their mission – a mission that puts the interests of the country and its people at the center of their struggle for change. And it is from such a position of strength that they ought to politically neutralize all the spoilers, saboteurs, enemy agents and opportunist pretenders and even facilitate their eventual passage into oblivion. In reality, however, progressive forces have remained part of the muddle thereby lending respectability to these thuggish elements while exposing themselves to the blackmail, defamation, sabotage, threats and intimidation of the latter! This in a nutshell is then the reason why the opposition movement has not been able to make satisfactory progress in its mission.

        • Dawit Mesfin

          Hello Yohannes,

          Again, I am nicely surprised by your perceptive and freethinking rejoinder to my article. What is more, you are very articulate in expressing your ideas.

          You wrote: “Numbers notwithstanding, there exist individuals and groups in the Diaspora opposition genuinely committed to bringing democratic change in the country.” This is indeed reassuring. However, we should make efforts not to lose those progressive individuals and groups along the way. That leads me to raise issues of the ‘pessimistic’ kind.

          Yohannes, the way we are going about the struggle for justice causes fatigue – lots of spinning wheels that do not advance forward. I believe our fatigue is often caused not by work, but by worry, frustration and resentment that arise from the tugs of war that consume our resolve. Some of us still hold on to grudges, others focus their energy on ‘verbal fistfights’ that provoke more aggression …etc. – things that dismantle the synergy that is supposed to carry us through those difficult times.
          I believe, no matter how intense and controversial some issues might be, self-liberation can discipline us to a certain extent to operate in a calmer atmosphere. The emotional outbursts that obstruct us from running our campaigns in a business-like fashion, the condescending attitudes we show towards one another, and attributes that are unruly are not helpful. It may not be easy to reconcile differences that pop up here and there, but we should learn to live with them as long as we recognise the overarching theme that brings us, the various groups, together.

          Yohannes, the issue concerning relevance is important. At the risk of sounding prescriptive, allow me to say that we should remain rooted in actual events. You referred to it as ‘a mission that puts the interests of the country and its people at the center of their struggle for change’. As long as we think in terms of the people, the land and the reality on the ground then we can forge ahead in our campaigns. I guess those who aspire to remain unjustifiably relevant are the loudest.

          Sorry, I have to go. I know I am not addressing the issues you have raised point by point … I am pressed for time. I hope you will understand.

          • Yohannes Zerai

            Selam Dawit,

            I greatly appreciate the kind words which, I must say, are reflective more of your positive and appreciating attitude than the quality of my comments. Thanks again, anyway.

            As for the substance of our discussion, I agree with you that we cannot exhaust the issues in one session of exchanges for there are so many of them worthy of further consideration and deeper thinking. For now, I will speak briefly to just a couple of points you raised in your latest comment. I do share your concern over the likely possibility of losing the few progressive actors, be it individuals or groups, on whom we all seem to have put our hopes for the revival of our stalled movement. If they see their collective best efforts is not extricating the opposition movement from its “bogged-down” state, they may give up on the struggle in favor of pursuing other worthwhile interests. I believe that is a real possibility, but I also believe that such an eventuality can be averted if each and everyone of us commit themselves to jack their individual efforts up a notch.

            I also concur with your views regarding the time that is being squandered, energy that is being wasted and opportunities that are being missed in consequence of the abysmally low level to which the quality of political discourse has sunk, and the extent to which interpersonal and intergroup relations have degenerated. Obviously, the “grudges”, “verbal fistfights”, “aggression”, etc. you spoke of in your rejoinder are activities that take time, energy and at times even resources to undertake. While not different from other activities in their requirements, these type of interactions are invariably unproductive and even detrimental in their outcomes. The saddest aspect of the current state of our movement is that these “detrimental activities” have supplanted the “beneficial activities” that opposition groups ought to engage in to advance the struggle – activities such as broadening the support base by being inclusive and representative of the country’s diversity, refining and adjusting their strategies as demanded by realities and membership majority, debating critical issues and adopting a considered position on each, analyzing some of the country’s daunting problems and offering possible solutions, etc.

            If our progressive forces resolve to engage in these worthwhile activities, they would have neither the time nor the interest to respond to ‘detrimental actions’ of others much less to contemplate of disbursing same to others.

            Thank you.

          • Dawit Mesfin

            Dear Yohannes,

            You are on to something really important. I like the way you think, write and deliver. Your thoughts are challenging, your comments are consistently to the point and spot on – you are indeed taking me to task.

            You wrote: If our progressive forces resolve to engage in these worthwhile activities, they would have neither the time nor the interest to respond to ‘detrimental actions’ of others much less to contemplate of disbursing same to others.

            From such comments I have come to learn of the importance of providing a moral compass for our political revival (you refer to it as progressive politics). If we cannot identify ourselves as promoting the progressive cause, then what good will come out of this movement we find ourselves in? I wonder if you agree with the following: quietism encourages the other to remain active. Dormancy leads to death. And I am guilty on both counts. They say ‘the full response to despair is not just to invoke hope, but to generate it’. You seem to possess an action orientated approach that will generate hope in our campaigns. I am ready to learn some more.

            Yohannes, I believe in the power of ideas. Allow me to thrown in an idea that comes to mind at this time. Have you ever heard of Plebeian Politics? This is based on Plato’s ‘Allegory of the Cave’. In Plato’s opinion one is a ‘pleb’ if he/she happens to believe in shadows. Sometimes I feel that we are so tied (or tied up) that we cannot look at anything but the stonewall in front of us (watching shadows dance). This is plebeian politics (as far as Isaias Afwerki is concerned). We are all ‘plebs’ to him. And that is where progressive politics comes in.

            To conclude, let me say the following, not necessarily linked to the above: I have been wondering why the opposition groups have not come out to publicly condemn those forces that are trying to divide us along religious and ethnic lines. Why can’t they say ‘this sort of racist ideology is wrong’ for reasons a, b, can c?’

            Please forgive me for rushing through things (again).

        • Ismail AA

          Selam Yohannes,

          Through the two-part input under Dawit’s thought provoking article, you have covered a lot of ground in broadening our vision about the unsatisfaction reality bogging down the oppostion work. I can in fact say this adds to Dawit’s joy in seeing the mission of his article being fulfilled.

          I understood that your kind of in-a-nutshell analysis has zeroed in recognition of existence of progressive segment in the current oppostion movement that possess the potency of emerging as functioning force. But this entails an onus on all individuals and groups, which Dawit has come out to address, to do their part of game. Hence, the following questions come to mind:

          1. How could the individuals and groups within the progressive segment be enabled “to lift themselves from muddle”?

          2. What is the yardstick that qualifies that segment as progressive? To be more specific: Are approaches, actions and programs you have listed alone are sufficient to sell itself as authentic representative of the nation in its social and demographic composition?

          3. Does the mission necessitate more work to articulate a guiding outlook that mirror an endgame of meaningful change centered on sustainable national unity and social cohesion under functioning democratic system of governance?

          The point I am trying to make is that the self-liberated activists, as Dawit has called them, would do better job by gathering their thoughts to respond to these crucial issues, besides shoudering the ultimate responsibility of establishing a nucleus that could raise the torch that could entice and encourage the progressive part of the oppostion movement to rally and separate itself from the negative forces you have mentioned.

          With best regards.

          • Yohannes Zerai

            Hello Ismail AA,

            Glad to engage you on this interesting, important and timely subject that Dawit Mesfin seems to have chosen an opportune time to throw into the forum for discussion. Our last exchange occurred quite a while back, and it is nice getting to do it again.

            Before attempting to answer the questions you posed in your post, let me thank you for your contribution to the ongoing discussion and for your positive remarks about my earlier comments. Getting on with the answers:

            1. At the risk of sounding somewhat verbose, I will try to answer this important question by looking at it from different angles:

            1a) An answer to this question has, in fact, been provided in my earlier comment where I highlighted some of the steps that progressive forces must take “to lift themselves up from the muddle”. The steps were referred to in that comment as ‘necessary conditions’ that progressive forces must satisfy if they are to seize the “high ground”.

            1b) An answer slightly different than that in (1a) – or a sort of supplement to it – is also given in my third comment addressed to Mr. Dawit Mesfin (Please see that comment).

            1c) By way of further elaborating the answers given above, I would like to state the following: We know that, as presently constituted, the opposition camp comprises – in addition to the few genuine, progressive groups – a collection of what I prefer to call “clubs of a handful of friends” with evil agenda or no agenda at all, that call themselves opposition groups/parties but have nothing to show for the name. So to “lift themselves up from the muddle”, progressive elements of the movement must show that, unlike these “clubs”, they have (i) a solid or at least respectable popular support, (ii) well-defined strategies that guide their activities, (iii) goal-oriented programs that are planned and executed with full participation of their members and supporters, (iv) a track record of carrying out their functions based on transparency and accountability vis-a-vis their members and the public, and (v) started building a record of accomplishments that would ultimately lead to the attainment of the group’s goal(s).

            By doing so, they will be in a league of their own – one that befits the tangible contributions they make to the national struggle for change. Having such a status would not only enhance the prestige, hence effectiveness of the progressive forces, but also diminish their vulnerability to sabotages, attacks and underhanded campaigns of the negative forces of the muddle.

            2. In the context of Eritrea’s current struggle for justice and democratic change, I understand “Progressive forces” to mean individuals and groups who:

            a) are genuinely committed to bringing democratic change in the country,
            b) uphold a mission that puts the interests of the country and its people at the center of their struggle for change, and
            c) are dedicated to ensuring the mission’s success, achievement of its goals and fulfilment of its promises.

            In my opinion, these are the three components of the ‘yardstick’ that you asked about. Any force/entity that satisfies these conditions would not disappoint with handling such key political and social issues as representation, diversity, etc., etc.

            3. Certainly! There can be no room for compromise on that! Indeed, no amount of definition, refinement and articulation of the mission would be too much! These conditions are not just necessary, they are imperative to the acceptability of the mission.

            An added guarantee that an envisaged change will ensure “national unity and social cohesion under functioning democratic system of governance” is that both the mission and the change it aspires to bring about MUST EMPOWER THE MASSES.

            Thank you.

          • Ismail AA

            Dear Yohannes,

            Apologizing for this rather late response, I must sincerely state that it gives me pleasure to learn a lot from the well-thought and articulate ideas your contributions bring to this forum. My gratitude for the elaborated answers you have posted to the questions I raised in connection to my earlier comments is genuinely limitless.

            The five points you enumerated progressive constituents in the opposition camp need to do to lift themselves from the muddle, as well as the three factors that lend them progressive credentials seem to me sufficient for the purpose of the ideas we are sharing.

            Having stated these very brief comments on the first two questions, I am coming back to you with a few words on the third question which I thought was more crucial and challenging than the other two. You are quite right that empowering the masses as an ultimate phase of democratic process can take care of sustainable national unity and social cohesion. But the issue on our hand is finding a social and political equilibrium that could hold and steady them, and set them on track to come out of the current muddle. I think this is an essential and missing imperative.

            I am raising this issue with an understanding that we are trying to assess the affairs of the opposition with our sight on a de-mobilized ship stuck in a socio-political swamp. The myriad opposition on board has nothing to engage in save mutual obstruction. This morass has been an outcome of distorted management of our nation’s political and social affair that ensued during the national liberation phase and became more devastating during the tenure of the current dictatorship. The social and national cohesion and trust has been eroding at the seams rendering the threads that connect our diversity to the idea of the nationhood ominously thinning by the day.

            The hazardous constellation of opposition groups among which are the ones that peddle racist and outlandish proposals that Dawit Mesfin wanted them to be condemned are glaring expression of the swamp in which the opposition ship find itself. This situation could not be more crystal clear when read in the background of Ali Salem’s contemplation of ‘bejastan’, Tesfasion’s Agazian and Ahmed Raji’s down-to-earth description of power and related posts.

            In my view, such a bitter reality does depict the difference between the two worlds of Dawit Mesfin and his friend Ken. Thus, to clean the swamp that de-mobilize the opposition ship and let the progressive forces move it, there crucial need for crafting social and political solidarity based program capable of restoring confidence to the disillusioned social and community forces by assuring them that what they would achieve together now would address their grievances in future.

            With best regards

          • Yohannes Zerai

            Dear Ismail,

            As always, I am highly appreciative of the open-mindedness with which you approach views expressed by me and by fellow forumers; and I wish to assure you that your views are treated likewise at this end.

            Thank you for elaborating on the issue that you had presented for discussion (as Item #3) in the first comment you addressed to me. I must confess my brief treatment of the matter in my earlier response was cursory at best and perhaps even a bit superficial. But apart from its having been short on detail, I now realize that my response was also off the mark in its time reference i.e., I had advanced stages of the struggle in mind when I proposed “empowering the masses” as an effective way of dealing with questions of “sustainable national unity and social cohesion.”

            But having read the elaboration you have just provided, I can now see that your consideration of the issue was much more profound than mine and that it is focused on the here and now – you are essentially asking: “How do we establish ‘a social and political equilibrium’ NOW to see us through a revitalized struggle that will lead to gradual empowerment of the masses?”

            Those who are knowledgeable on the present state of affairs vis-a-vis the substance of your question may help me out here, but my personal opinion on the matter is that (i) the opposition movement has yet to establish such an equilibrium and (ii) this turned out to be so not for lack of trying, but because the movement’s efforts are being undermined by disruptive forces which work relentlessly to ensure that an undercurrent of ethnic, religious, regional, etc divisions continues to pervade the movement and the Diaspora community at large. So, what would be a viable solution to the problem? While agreeing in principle with the one you have proposed, I also would like to present a possible alternative: To borrow your ship-swamp metaphor, the opposition movement must abandon the stranded ship and the swamp in favor of acquiring a newer and better vessel to set sail on deeper and cleaner waters!

            Thank you.

          • Ismail AA

            Dear Yohannes,

            The more I read you the more I find you a reservoir of refreshing ideas. I am lucky to encounter such a resourceful compatriot with whom I can uninhibitedly share concerns about the future of our betrayed nation. I am sure many others who share ideas in this forum do have the same or similar perceptions.

            I am glad that the exchanges between two of us, coupled with the ideas others also contribute, are finding common ground at least on paper, which is an essential first step on the pursuit of designing a social and political equilibrium that could rally the progressive and purpose-oriented elements of the opposition that satisfy the criteria you had elaborated in your previous postings.

            I agree with you that opting for a new opposition ship might be cheaper than trying to mend a de-capacitated ship whose parts have already been too corroded to make it seas worthy again. Such an enterprise would require substantial cost that could be initiated by the process of separating the genuine opposition elements from obstructionists before the former would embark on using resources to construct the new one. Such an endeavor would require them to close ranks and bond together in the pursuit of common goal.

            To do this, they need to own consensually device authentic liberal, democratic and national platform with clear beginning and end – an end that projects to the future with preposition that guarantee national cohesion under transparent and accountable governance order. Such a national guiding program should be devised with tight safe valves in place to seal off the retarded social forces from exploiting the fragile social and religious fault lines from hampering the meaningful work of waging unified struggle.

            To end these few remarks, I would like to stress that the genuine opposition groups and elements would always be in dire need of what the forces of good among the elites would contribute. To do this, I did not get a better phrase that I would to borrow from one of your previous contributions. It is really critically important for the patriotic segments within the elites to commit themselves to “jack up” the endeavors of genuine opposition forces.

            With best regards

  • Ismail AA

    Selam Dawit,

    This is another Dawit Mesfin typical style and delivery of substance way of writing: short in volume and crisp in conveying thoughts. This particular piece is product of reflections of a man on a long and arduous journey of taking stock of why once promisingly realizable dreams of a nation have been shattered, and his stubborn perseverance in trying to keep those dreams alive by alerting his patriotic compatriots who would listen about the fact that all have not yet lost to a nation betrayed.

    It is indeed interesting to watch him making every effort possible to pit his thoughts about his nation in travail with thoughts
    of an octogenarian British intellectual who could offer nothing more than reminding him of inevitable misfortunes that afflict societies in nation-states in the hands of politicians who wield power as their egos and whims dictate once they grab it. For Ken, thus, Dawit’s nation’s fate simply falls within the pattern that do not really deserve his time.

    The social and political environment in which Ken lives and works has already evolved, and he has been observing how the pillars of British life – the monarchy, the two or three dominant political parties and the societal formations in between – operate and function. But Dawit’s dreams for Eritrea and Eritreans have not yet been consummated. The misfortunes that
    have befallen our nation could be understood as transient setbacks that we had failed to take note of and rectify on time had set us on course of facing failure “to become Eritreans after independence”.

    Thus, his realization that the pursuit of redemption in the direction of self-liberation on individual and group levels in the
    justice and freedom seeker camp is in dire need of discovering a departure point. This calls for posing a primordial question: Where and when had we gone wrong and left the seed that sprouted the first leaves of the poisonous which gave us the leaders that held our collective fate as hostage.

    At this point, I should mention for the sake of clarity that I am alluding to the history of our national liberation struggle, and particularly the time when the first split took place as well as the way those problems were handled. An example in passing is the verdict the ELF first congress in 1971 gave to the same offense that involved the late Osman Saleh Sabbe and Isayas Afeworki when the former was condemned to face capital punishment, and the latter was offered appeasement and caring embrace. This was a determining opportunity that secured for Isaya a fortune to grow and mature as a dictator that he had become. Reminding ourselves about such events could of course be understandably boring and tasteless at this point in time. But the value here resides more in sharpening thoughts towards penetrating the “fake reality” built on sentiments that was meticulously nurtured by the dictator and his henchmen. The consummation of those sentiments to status of governance order had caused other segments of our population to polarize along the same social and cultural fault line based sentiments: religion, region etc. as Dawit listed.

    Our current dilemma has, therefore, rendered us to look at many socio-cultural sentiments that have transformed to political formations that have set our national existence to be expressed in enclaves in which it has become difficult to look at who we are as people of common destiny, as Dawit calls to do in his closing sentence.


    • Dawit Mesfin

      Dear Ismail,

      As usual, the way you write is quite touching. You know, just to re-iterate some of the things you have said, the more we learn about ourselves, as well as think of the experiences we gained over the years as activists, the more we should struggle to avoid the arrogance of thinking we know what’s right for other activists (or groups) who are conducting their own campaigns as they see fit. Why can’t we acclimatise our ways to that of others and become more socially (and politically) responsible activists? This does not mean, however, we should disregard keeping an eye on those forces out there who are throwing a wrench in the works.

      Thank you for kind words and insightful input.

  • Bayan Nagash

    Dear Dawit (the ever story teller. I never forgot the story you told in dehai over two decades ago about a racist German, in which the rider who waited for the right moment to get the idiot in trouble by snapping the train ticket from the racist’s hand and eating it when he saw the conductor/the ticket checker approaching.)

    My earlier entry on this topic some four hours ago made it to the comment section, for some reason I am not seeing it now. I am trying to reconstruct what I had written earlier. Let me give it a stab.

    Ken’s story parallels the universality of human nature in that it illustrates how we are shackled by our life experiences much as Ken appears to suffer from the same malady as do we. Part of Eritrean dilemma has been one of uninterrupted interruption life experiences vastly varying from within one generation and between generations. Such lack of continuity created this vast rift when we try to have common ground from which to stage efficient and effective opposition fight.

    The follies you mentioned, namely, “…incidents such as regionalism, religionism, tribalism, factionalism, closed nationalism and personality clashes that surface every now and then in our struggle for change…those who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder, campaigners who are prone to unleash personal attacks on fellow activists due to slight friction … traits that demean the progress that has been achieved to date.”Ken’s response was right on the mark: “‘People, whether freedom fighters or not, are all lured into power politics … and once they assume their desired positions they would use every trick in the book to remain there’”.

    Ken’s challenges to the assumptions we all make about opposition groups put cold water on it: “‘What makes you think that campaigners, activists and opposition groups are reliable enough in bringing real change?’” Indeed, I am seeing now days tid-bits of the latter, call it the Agazianism effect, or whatever, but some staunch enemies of the regime whom I wholeheartedly believed had unwavering principles in believing of multiculturalism in Eritrean context began to waver and question the notion of an all inclusive Eritrea – I was flabbergasted, to say the least. The worst part to it all was their rationale: that they have been advocating for inclusivity of all within the opposition for the last seventeen years and that all they got in return was a “stab in the back”. So, Ken’s challenging comments need to be reflected upon deeply. One does not drop principles for political expediency nor should we just drop it at a drop of a hat because we felt we were wronged by individuals who may be of certain religious persuasion or ethnic background, mind you, at a personal level. Should such an experience of personal nature override one’s principles? Absolutely not, if I may say so myself. Consider a principle that one hopes is held by all justice seeking individuals, such as standing against racism under any circumstances similar to the one I related in the greeting-line above. Now, say, a person of a minority group commits heinous crime against one’s family member, do we then drop our principles just because of one heinous crime committed in our immediate family and we happen to be from the majority group?

    Indeed, the far sighted vision in the context of opposition is sorely lacking and your pragmatic assertion to that end is worth quoting here: “We cannot afford drifting without purpose in and disengaging ourselves from the current realities in Eritrea. Indeed, we need to keep our feet on the ground by realising that lack of camaraderie among campaigners is a destructive force that will, in the end, weaken the movement. So it’s all about self-awareness and the shedding of certain delusions. Yes, it is all about Self-Liberation. We are reminded of the need to possess moral virtues, grow out of our objectionable nature, which we should exercise through action.” I could not have said it any better.

    Dawit, many thanks for standing steadfast and not wavering come hell or high water – Principled standing does not shift with the current of the political wind.


    • Dawit Mesfin

      Dear Beyan,
      Thank you for the input and perceptive inspiration. I have known you since our Dehai days when it was so arduous to express a simple opinion. I remember the time when ex-Jebha combatants or their sympathisers were literally ‘barred’ from telling their stories publicly. Hail rained down on them—some of it quite large, whenever they told their version of the Eritrean story – I am talking about real Eritrean experiences. Yes, as if some were more ‘Eritrean’ than others. Well, times have changed – we, I mean all of us, can say anything now whenever we feel pinched. Actually, we are so used to expressing our personal opinions now sometimes we get out of line by turning against each other for no or small reason – at the risk of derailing our own movement for justice. We need to change our ways now before others capitalise on this unnecessary discrepancy we are exhibiting.

      • Saleh Johar

        Hi Dawit and Beyan
        The opposition revolving door has seen many go in unnoticed and get out unnoticed. Sadly, the job is not finished because it requires clarity which I believe we have been lacking. However, I am glad that in the recent past, our shortcomings are hitting us hard that most of us seem to have realized the problem. In the absence of a focused struggle, disruptive actions rule the day. I believe it is time for a serious soul searching and realigning the forces of good. As usual, Dawit, your article is deep. We need to liberate the self before we embark to liberate a nation. And the nation will be liberated, it knows nothing else but to keep struggling for liberation, even if that takes multiple lifetimes–one can’t put a price tag for liberty.

        • Bayan Nagash

          Dear Dawit & Saleh,

          What an honor to begin such a conversation with the two individuals who have been through the thin & the thick of opposition tent from its inception. Indeed, as the common refrain goes when ‘hitting rock bottom there is no place left to go but up’. By hook or by crook we will rebound. The hope, of course, is we would’ve gleaned enough of a lesson not to repeat them. Too many clichés and/or maxims in one comment but we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. Better yet, “We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success. We often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery” so says Samuel Smiles, The Lives Of George And Robert Stephenson

          Indeed, turning against each other has been the folly we must learn to refrain as tempting and as frustrating as that proves to be at times. Going to the drawing board and resetting and rebooting by necessity will require us, one hopes, to reflect, assess, take stock, and internalize it all so we may come up with a vision not just opposition mantras. In the US, the Republicans have found out the painful truth about their opposition to the Obama Health Care in which they kept on barking for eight years, Repeal! Repeal!

          Repeal without having any replacement plan, which is amounting to a recipe for a gridlock and an impasse that they are finding it difficult to overcome even within their republican majority. Hope we can heed some wisdom from this and come up with a vision that replaces the regime, not just opposing for opposing sakes.

          Gentlemen, many thanks for your insights about the opposition’s position of vegetative state.

        • Selamat Saleh Johar,

          “And the nation will be liberated, it knows nothing else but to keep struggling for liberation, even if that takes multiple lifetimes–one can’t put a price tag for liberty.”

          But one can put a price tag for peace. $Liberty is the cause for peace or lack thereof.


          • Saleh Johar

            Right Tsatse,
            Throughout history, there was no peace that didn’t cost so much. The goal of all wars and conflicts is to achieve peace, and there is no price for peace either because a struggle for liberation is essentially a struggle for peace. And that cannot be achieved without immense sacrifices–the kidnapped Eritrean struggle is an example. No one can enjoy peace without liberation–there is just no price tag for both.

        • Dawit Mesfin

          Dear Saleh,
          Trying times, my friend, we are indeed in trying times. Why do the echoes of the past sound better than today’s … even if the Hidat Efrems of the time were relentlessly hunting us down?

          When we first embarked on this journey you used to tell us stories that originated from Kuwait. The struggle then had a poetic dimension to it because you used to write a lot of poetry. We hooked up when I started writing about the importance of the Arabic language in our communities. A lot of abuse and ‘yirda’eka’ came our way for speaking out; but we stood our ground … with you at the helm. We learned a lot of stories about Keren from you. This was way before came into existence. The point of contention was clear then and we fought fair and square. Well, look what happened since then. One can say that the struggle we are in has seen better days. We are witnessing shootouts and saloon brawls – perhaps a struggle plagued with growing pains. I guess this too shall pass.

          Someday we will have to write your story.

  • Bayan Negash

    Dear Dawit (the ever story teller. I never forget the story you told in dehai about a racist German in a train where the rider who waited for the right moment to get the idiot in trouble by snapping the train ticket from the racist’s hand and eating it in the nick of time for when the conductor came to check remains vivid in my mind.)

    At any rate, Ken’s story parallels the universality of human nature in that it illustrates how we are shackled by our life experiences much as Ken appears to suffer from the same malady as do we. Part of Eritrean dilemma has been one of uninterrupted interruption life experiences, if you will, vastly varying from within one generation and between generations. Such lack of continuity created this vast rift when we try to have common ground from which to stage an opposition fight.

    The follies you mentioned, namely, “…incidents such as regionalism, religionism, tribalism, factionalism, closed nationalism and personality clashes that surface every now and then in our struggle for change…those who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder, campaigners who are prone to unleash personal attacks on fellow activists due to slight friction … traits that demean the progress that has been achieved to date.’”

    And then Ken’s challenges to the assumptions we all make about opposition groups put cold water on it: “‘What makes you think that campaigners, activists and opposition groups are reliable enough in bringing real change?’”

    Indeed, I am seeing now days tid-bits of the latter, call it the Agazianism effect, or whatever, but some staunch enemies of the regime whom I wholeheartedly believed had unwavering principles in believing of multiculturalism in Eritrean context began to waver and question the notion of an all inclusive Eritrea – I was flabbergasted, to say the least. The worst part to it all was their rationale: that they have been advocating for inclusivity of all within the opposition for the last seventeen years and that all they got in return was a “stab in the back”. So, Ken’s challenging comments need to be reflected upon deeply. One does not drop principles for political expediency nor should we just drop it at a drop of a hat because we felt we were wronged by individuals who may be of certain religious persuasion or ethnic background. Should such an experience of personal nature override one’s principles. Consider a principle that one hopes is held by all justice seeking individuals, such as standing against racism under any circumstances. Now, if a person of the minority group commits heinous crime against one’s family member, do we then drop our principles just because of one heinous crime committed in our immediate family?

    Indeed, the far sighted vision in the context of opposition is sorely lacking and your pragmatic assertion to that end is worth quoting here: “We cannot afford drifting without purpose in and disengaging ourselves from the current realities in Eritrea. Indeed, we need to keep our feet on the ground by realising that lack of camaraderie among campaigners is a destructive force that will, in the end, weaken the movement. So it’s all about self-awareness and the shedding of certain delusions. Yes, it is all about Self-Liberation. We are reminded of the need to possess moral virtues, grow out of our objectionable nature, which we should exercise through action.”

    Many thanks, Dawit for this sobering reflection.

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