PFDJ’S BRAINWASHING MANUAL was first Presented by The Awate Team on Feb. 27, 2001 and again on Nov. 13, 2003, It is being presented one more time to help the concerned reflect and see what has changed. [AT March 30, 2015]
Early this year, (2001) while the Woyane army was still occupying Eritrean territory and threatening to postpone its withdrawal indefinitely, while hundreds of thousands Eritreans were displaced, the Eritrean Government was busy preparing a “discussion” paper where it, among other things, accuses some Eritreans, including “a few cadres and leaders of the Front”, of engaging in destructive discussion while Eritrean territory was still occupied and hundreds of thousands of Eritreans were displaced. By doing so, the government provides a clear case of a double standard; of being above the law and of having two benchmarks—one for favored government officials and another for the rest of us, including out-of-favor government officials. There may be some merit to president Isaias’ expressed wishes to forget the two-and-half year war with Ethiopia and move on as articulated at the Algiers peace agreement signing ceremony. However, had that expression of good will been uttered by any of the government’s critics, is there any doubt that they would have been accused of treason and insensitivity to the plight of our people. Again this is a clear case of a double standard; one for the favored and another for the condemned.
Allegations do not have the weight of enforcement just because they come in a letter that has the presidential seal, or because an impassioned group of people says so. They stick only when a court of law, sworn to uphold the constitution and the rule of law, says so. No amount of intimidation and emotional blackmailing will change that. Ironically, this is one of the many points the democrats, reformers and open-minded Eritreans are harping about. And by writing this “discussion” paper—actually a brief to be used in its “Special Court”, the government has just provided proof- positive of its means of operation and that, as of January 2001, it has no intention of changing them.
The contents of the paper have been whispered about and occasionally quoted in some of the articles that appear at Awate.com. We are now posting it because we believe Eritreans (who according to the paper have demanded this discussion) have a right to information on whose behalf a witch-hunt is being conducted.
For over three weeks, the research team at Awate.com had been searching hard to secure a copy of the much talked-about DISCUSSION PAPER: Woyane’s Third Offensive And the Political Campaign That Followed It. Alternatively known as the “Asmara Manifesto” (as opposed to G-13’s “Berlin Manifesto”) and “Shabia’s Fetwa” (for its threatening tone), the paper had been circulated but no one was willing to give a researchers a copy unless we promised not to publish it. Awate.com believes that one of the things that requires immediate reform is the attitude that information is proprietary and must be hoarded by the government officials and the well-connected. As a matter of principle, we rejected some “here’s information and I will give you more as long as you keep it to yourself” approach. This approach, used effectively by government officials, gives many the sense that they are “well-connected” and “one of the guys” but, in the end, it is information that does not help Eritrea. Thus, we rejected the terms and had to wait for the missing parts of the document.
When we finally received the document without the preconditions and with some pages missing, our decision to go ahead and publish, though we are missing pages 7 and pages 9 of the paper, was predicated on a faith that someone, somewhere would send us the two missing pages. Well, our faith was justified. Within 24 hours after we appealed to the public, we have received the missing copies from three different sources. Thank you for sharing!!
Woyane’s Third Offensive And the Political Campaign That Followed It
Purpose of Discussion
- Today’s discussion is entitled “Political Campaign Following To Woyane’s Third Offensive”;
- Its purpose is to assess the political climate that followed the Third Offensive and to expose the campaign of confusion and to challenge the budding negative commentary;
- Because there were other priorities, we had not addressed this campaign. Although with time and truth the effectiveness of the campaign is being diffused, it hasn’t ceased yet. When topics and items of confusion are exhausted, even sub-national tendencies and other disgraces that, thanks to our resolute struggle had been taboos, are being stirred. To shed light on the confusion, members of the front and the people have been asking for a pre-Congress discussion. This seminar is a continuation of the discussion that was initiated at meetings of the Central Assembly and the National Assembly.
- We are in a challenging period:
- We are in the midst of engaging a political, military, diplomatic, economic and cultural injury imposed by Woyane’s dream of annihilation;
- Our land is invaded; our people are displaced;
- War has destroyed our economy and our people’s way of life.
- Our goal is to successfully pass this test and gradually meet our people’s expectations:
- To remove Woyane from our land that it occupies by peace or by war;
- To ensure our sovereignty by demarcating our border on the basis of colonial treaties;
- To foil Woyane’s still-planned goals of bringing us to our knees and disarraying us;
- To remove forever any threats from Ethiopia or any other;
- To reign peace and, with all our might, to focus on political, economic, social, cultural and nation-building and to meet the expectations of our people step by step;
- The decisive factors in meeting our goals are clear:
- To concentrate our focus on our enemies and our goals;
- After conducting an official assessment of our experiences, to take step by step measures to intensify our strengths and remove our weaknesses;
- To boost the self-confidence and participation of the members of the Front and the people.
- When the hearts of our people were focused on our goals and their variables, one could find a destructive campaign of lies and opportunism conducted by a few:
- These internal campaigns are not motivated by a need to correct and improve;
- A chaotic and anarchic campaign of confusion has been under way;
- Fundamental principles whose rightness has been confirmed in our experience are being discussed as if they are debatable issues;
- There are efforts to reinvent history; to place what was not there and to deny what was witnessed by all as if it wasn’t there;
- In all the subjects raised, one cannot distinguish between them and the propaganda efforts of the Woyane who pursued a concerted effort on the basis that “A lie told many times will be the truth”;
- n general, a few have pursued an agenda of denying major victories and developments; exaggerating weaknesses and shortcomings; blackening all and even wishing crisis on your country;
- Although one cannot say that the current climate is solely Woyane’s Third Offensive, one cannot separate the two issues:
- During the Third Offensive, although unsurpassed resolve and resoluteness was displayed, a few showed words and deeds of blabbering and rattling on and propagating a defeatist attitude;
- We have seen those who, believing that the nation and the front and the government have been weakened and this is an opportune time to pursue individual interest and agenda, have after peeks and glances and coy appearances, initiated the campaign;
- Mainly, the enemies of the People’s Front and the Eritrean people are on the move; while hiding behind their crushed goals, they are, by creating a political crisis, trying to achieve what they couldn’t by war. (Woyane and the treasonous others with it)
- Illuminating the internal environment and adjusting and political condition is decisive and timely to achieving our goals:
- To bring about the success of this target, an open discussion participated by membership and the people is needed (this is one of the resolutions of the last meeting of the Central Committee)
- The membership and the people are asking that this type of discussion should be conducted.
- Our discussions should concentrate on the steps we should take to meet the expectations of our people. And to conduct it in a correct and constructive way, it is helpful to clarify the confusion that has been created.
- War & Source of War
- It is impossible to talk about War and Source of War without mentioning the Woyane’s expansive goal. The map the Woyane issued in 1997, its encroachments and abuse of civilians in Adi Murug and the environs of Badme, its movements in January 1998 on the road to Assab and its attempts to reach the 57th Kilometer all expose its existing and current plans to occupy Eritrean territory and violate its sovereignty;
- It should not be forgotten that, within 24 hours of the conflict in Badme, the Woyane had declared war and, soon after, started beating the drum of wars; it started a campaign of war and hatred and recruitment of armed forces and, because it believed it would last a short time, it boycotted the use of our ports. Woyane did not start the war because it had no other alternative. If its goals were to peacefully delineate the border, there was an alternative. But because it had ulterior motives and confidence in its military might, it chose war.
- Within the two-and-half year war, the crimes it committed on the people of Eritrea–the bombing of Asmara in the early days of the war which recklessly escalated the conflict; the offensives that were designed to frustrate the peace process—indicate, without doubt, that Woyane’s goals were not to delineate the border on the basis of law nor even to take territories it claims to own but to bring Eritrea to its knees and usher in disarray. All of the above ascertain that the Woyane is the cause of war and the one that will be held accountable for the war.
- There is a baseless allegation that, until the eve of the war, we saw the Woyane as our strategic partners. It is known that, after independence, there were many areas of mutual interest and that there was cooperation. With the passing of time, especially after 1996, the relationship was deteriorating. But after they concluded that they no longer needed us, the pent-up spite and opportunism they were concealing blew over. The tension over the right of Eritreans in Ethiopia (specially in the border areas), recruitment of spies, (HASUSAT), etc continued to deteriorate. In 1997, we had proposed that we cool off our relationship and go our separate ways. Hence, although there was no expectation that Woyane would spark the conflict in May 1998, there was no doubt that it had no goodwill towards us.
- Returning to the issue of war and peace, from Eritrea’s perspective, regarding the Adi Murug incident of 1997 and that of Badme that followed, our approach was to use constructive efforts based on patience and joint committee that would resolve the border issue and, once war was declared, to calm down the war atmosphere and solve it peacefully. The positions of the Eritrean Cabinet as outlined after the meeting held the day following the declaration of war and others that followed are very clear. To state that, “once they occupied Adi Murug, we should have notified the world” is to stay that we should have known, retroactively, that war would be sparked a year later. However, at the time, the sentiment of the leaders and the cadres and the people at large was that we should forcefully evict them, not complain to the world. Instead of resorting to force, we decided and attempted to resolve the issue by appointing a Joint Committee on Borders. That we should approach the Adi Murug, Badme and other issues of contention with Woyane with maturity was a matter that was correct, admirable and one where there was unanimous agreement. Now, two-and-half years later, and after the Third Offensive, to go back in time and state that we should have complained to the world and to add that to other issues and present it as a major misdeed and diplomatic failure is to deny the truth.
- During the peace process, we tried to establish three things. First, that the problem is a border issue and that it should be resolved by respecting and delineating on the basis of colonial borders; second, that claims of administration (either on the side of Woyane or our side) should not prejudge the issue of sovereignty; third, that the conflict did not initiate in May 1998 but earlier by Woyane. We were able to establish varying degrees of clarity on the three issues. Once we took into consideration that the issue of prior administration was being used to cloud up and confuse the gist of the matter, and that, after the fact, the issue of “administration” was being used to legitimize the expansion process, it is well known that the principle we followed was that the Woyane claims that they used to administer an area or our claims that we used to administer an area were not going to be used to determine sovereignty and that only colonial treaties and undisputed borders were going to be the basis;
- We were not fully swayed by the US-Rwanda and the OAU Resolutions; nor did we reject them officially. We tried to align them closer to our demands by asking questions and providing our viewpoint. Until Woyane’s Second Offensive of February 1999 (less than a week after the OAU had provided answers to our questions) and their capture of Badme, our viewpoint was getting more and more acceptance. And in the peace process that followed (Modalities for Implementation; Technical Arrangements, etc), Woyane did not accept the resolutions nor did they reject them; they labored to affect changes by asking questions and raising issues. This is a peaceful struggle practiced by all. Why it didn’t bring about the needed outcome for us but did for the Woyane is not because they were better at it; it is because after the Second and Third Offensive they were able to occupy territories and this was seen as military superiority, which, in the minds of the mediators, earned them the right to demand concessions. The basis of diplomacy is power; and peace processes are governed by the military situation on the ground.
- The talk that “Americans told us to get out and if we don’t we will be humiliated and evicted” is fiction. At first, the Americans had concluded that neither side has the military upper hand. During the peace process, their demand was not that we unilaterally withdraw but that each side consider and accept whatever proposals were being submitted. Excepting for the “Framework Agreement” which we eventually accepted, our response to the Modalities and the Technical Arrangement was immediate acceptance. In contrast, although threatened with pressure, the Woyane’s response to the Framework Agreement was “we accept it but we need details” and to the Modalities and its Arrangements, their response, after 7 months of fruitless effort, was to reject it. It is also said that if we are going to withdraw, why not withdraw before war is waged. First of all, to accept the Woyane’s demands and to withdraw is to accept the Woyane’s arguments. Secondly, that withdrawal would not have stopped the war was seen after Badme, Zalambesa and Bure.
- There is also talk of “we are a small country; we are engaged in a war that we are not fit for; our commanders and soldiers do not have the capability; those who could fight have been demoted; if Woyane had wanted to, nobody would have stopped it from marching to Asmara or Asab.” We tried to avoid the war and, once sparked, we tried to end it not just because we are a small country but because, more than any other, we know the destructive nature of war. But once a war of our annihilation was declared, other than engaging to destroy it, we had no other alternative. To state that we do not have the capability is to deny our thirty-year experience and the outcome of the war with the Woyane and to demean the heroism and resolve of the people and the armed forces. To state that “those who could fight have been isolated” is in addition to being an alien concept, it is also an assessment whose lack of merit is demonstrated by the experiences and culture of our defense forces. The aims and strategies of Woyane have been confirmed and understood by all—particularly after the peace agreement when they continued to shamelessly promote their agenda. To lie and claim that Woyane had no other motives except for limited military goals, to minimize the resolve of the Eritrean people and to self-criminalize, is to continue Woyaneism. It is undeniable that the Woyane signed a peace treaty without having accomplished their agenda not because they wanted to but because they were thwarted by the Eritrean people.
The above-mentioned explanations were not offered as a means to deny that there were weaknesses in the matter of war and peace. The Ministry of Defense and the Central Committee, having conducted an official, thorough and detailed assessment, are now working on strengthening our capabilities. This is not a post Third Offensive activity; it is something we had been working on during the two-and-half year war. Outside the context of assessment and improvement, to beautify the Woyane and absolve it of all sins, to shoulder the responsibility on the victim of the Offensive, to demean the history of the Eritrean people—as if, just yesterday, you didn’t rally and fervently call people to arms—to claim that we engaged opponents without the capabilities or they drove us to war not of our making, merely exposes your hypocrisy. While the entire people of Eritrea, having concluded that the Woyane is their blood-enemy and having mobilized their entire resources, was in a heated engagement, to utter such talk is disgraceful.
- Our Diplomatic State of Affairs
(Some of the campaign conducted [against us, PFDJ] included the following):
- Due to our miscalculations, we clashed with all our neighbors;
- Regarding Sudan, we broke our diplomatic relationship in haste and without any deliberation;
- Due to our arrogance-based policies, we were isolated by the world. Although we were invaded, no one would talk on our behalf;
- Our policy of self-reliance and expulsion of NGOs is one of the causes of our isolation;
- Regarding the US, we pursued a policy that invoked its anger and resulted in our isolation (our policies in Great Lakes, our relationship with Libya, denying the US military access to Eritrea);
- We did not attempt to nurture our relationship with Arab nations; we should have joined the Arab League;
- We did not align ourselves with a Benefactor nation;
- We are seen as invaders, provocateurs and irresponsible;
- Our image in the world is bad; it has hit rock bottom.
But what is the truth?
- We have squabbled with Sudan, Yemen, Djibouti and Woyane. But we were victims not victimizers. The Sudanese government used to be a great friend whom we helped greatly. But it is the regime of Sudan that conducted, and continues to conduct, an invasion by proxy. This policy was not pursued just against us; it is hostile to all and is considered by the world as an ally termed as terrorist states. After a great deal of patience, when all our discussions to persuade it to stop interfering in our affairs failed, in self-defense and in cooperation with others (Ethiopia, Uganda and, at some level, Egypt), and by forming a united front and with the encouragement of the United States, we foiled its efforts and we pulled off the reversal of the danger that was dangling over us into falling over it
- The standoff with Yemen was based on islands and was provoked by the Yemenis. Although it had a negative impact on our relationship with Arab countries, the approach we used to settle the matter peacefully and legally has enhanced our reputation. As for Djibouti, its role in accusing us, in provoking a squabble and cutting off relationships with us were done, for understandable reasons, due to the war with Woyane. As for our case with Woyane, it is well known.
- In contrast, the Ethiopia of Woyane’s fight with all its neighbors is based on its policies of oppression and conquest. Notwithstanding the fact that its conflict with Sudan is no different than our conflict with Sudan, it has invaded and occupied Somali land; it has engaged in repeated incursions into Kenya; it terrorizes and intimidates Djibouti. The above facts notwithstanding, it presents itself as one who loves peace and international law while setting Eritrea up as quick to fight and ill-tempered. What is sad is that some, for self-interested purposes, are parroting Woyane’s allegations.
- Eritrea’s relationship with the United States was good, not bad. It is well known that when it comes to Africa, the United States does not have a major interest that it is willing to pay even a small price for. But within this context, Eritrea is one of the African nations with whom the United States had the best of relations. Excepting South Africa, America’ policy in Africa was couched on four nations (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda.) Clinton used to call the leaders of these nations as “The New Generation African Leadership.” Eritrea’s policies were not hostile to the United States. In fact, because there was a convergence of policies and outlook when it comes to our region, there was a great deal of cooperation (on Somalia, Sudan, Great Lakes, etc.) Our relationship with Libya was based on deliberation and right-timing and did not pose a problem worth mentioning in our relationship with the United States. From time to time, we were in consultations with the United States to discuss our differences; the differences were subject to conversations and not significant enough to deteriorate our relationship. Since the beginning, we have pushed for establishing military cooperation with the United States. Even when we offered to pay for it, the US denied our request to provide training to our fighter pilots. Whether we give them a military base or not is something that is in the process of being decided. But we had cooperation on other matters: developing our defense forces; intelligence training, providing access to US ships in Eritrean harbors, etc. It continues to develop. The war between Eritrea and Ethiopia has weakened the relationship of both nations with the United States. The US authorities have informed us that, once the war comes to an end, they would resume the relationship where it left off before the war. Eritrea’s relationship with the institutions that America dominates, such as World Bank is based on our relationship with America (and the economic policies we pursue) and it has enabled Eritrea to be considered one of the star performers.
- Our policy of developing our relationship with Arab nations, particularly the Arab nations we are interested in, has been one of the cornerstones of our foreign policy for the past ten years. We have tried everything in our capacity to establish a strategic relationship with Yemen; we have signed all sorts of agreements. In order to safeguard the unity of Yemen, when its civil war was waging, we agreed to safeguard its planes here. Taking its calm and cautious approach to foreign policy into consideration, we have succeeded in establishing a good relationship with Saudi Arabia. As for the Gulf States (Arab Emirates, Qeter, Kuwait), although it is not to the level we want, we have established a satisfactory relationship. Our relationship with Libya and Libya-led African and Arab countries of Sahel-Sahara is good. Taking its interests and policies in the Horn of Africa into consideration, our relationship with Egypt is satisfactory. We have succeeded in establishing a level of relationship with Iraq without adversely affecting our relationship with others. Although our approaches to Syria have thus far failed because of our relationship with Israel (they would not accept two ambassadors we appointed), our efforts continue. One of the outcomes of our foreign policy is our ability to nurture our relationship with Arab nations while maintaining a relationship with Israel. The question of whether we should join the Arab League or not is one that was raised since the day after Eritrean independence, and the answer we have provided—“this is a political question that will be addressed within the context of our national interest”—has been the convincing answer. While being aware of our position regarding the Arab League, to state that “membership in the Arab League would at least ensure someone would be our benefactor” is nothing but opportunism. Our position and our future goal of wanting to nurture friendship and cooperation in our region and beyond is not something that is subject to questioning. Beyond that, while being aware that, in this world, unless there are interests of life and death magnitude, there is no benefactor who would ever fight on your behalf, to look for such a benefactor is not only to sow confusion but to go against our culture and values and advocate surrender
- Our image prior to the war with Woyane was so good, we feared that the expectations on us were more than we could shoulder. This good reputation was earned while pursuing the same policies that are now being blamed for our bad image. Our desire to be aid-independent and to take measures towards that goal, our asserting that we are the owners of our development plans, even our attitude towards NGOs is something that contributed to our good reputation and has been gaining increasing acceptance by the world. Because the world was perplexed by the war with Woyane, because it considered the war a futile contest over useless land, our image and the image of Ethiopia has been impacted. However, even now, the dominant image of Eritrea is one where its leaders are not elitist and isolated from the people, one that is self-reliant, one that is not corrupt, one that is secure and clean and has a great deal of potential. The fact that many nations who had refused to participate in any peacekeeping mission in other conflicts were in a contest to send their troops to our borders, is a testimony to their belief that they view our armed forces, our government and our policies more favorably than they do other nations.
It is well known that we have to conduct a detailed evaluation of our diplomatic and political execution. Beyond that, while what has been described above remains true, while the world operates not on the basis of justice but on the basis of interest and might, to state that “what has befallen us is due to the isolation resulting from our wrong approach; it is because we don’t know and we violate international law and norms” is void of truth and a sign of opportunism. In truth, in the war of the past two and half years, it was the Woyane who violated international law; it is they who snubbed others notwithstanding the kind words they had said to them, and it is they who campaigned against the United States and the United Nations to the extent of organizing demonstrations to stone the American embassy. This being the case, the assertion that Woyane’s diplomacy is sophisticated and advanced, while ours is mediocre and naïve is without basis.
3. Economic & Social Development
- We haven’t brought about any useful economic and social development
- Because economic and social growth came from ground zero, one should not give undue measure to it;
- We rejected aid
- The effort to downplay the economic and social development that is known and witnessed by all simply exposes to what extent the desire to blacken is. The developments we brought about in these areas are, by any benchmark, superior. The size of our growth is magnified, not diminished, when one considers that coupled with the fact that our economic status was at ground zero, our capability was below zero when we started the mission.
- What we stated was that we want to be the owners of our plans and its execution and that we want to be aid-independent; not that we don’t need aid and loans. Although the aid we received was not sufficient, it was not immaterial. Our problem was not lack of aid but lack of ability to use the aid. Although, due to the low interest and its long-term nature we are not overly concerned, the loans we owe (over 400 million dollars), when one considers the size of our population, are not insignificant.
- While being aware of the major developments, to deny them and to pretend that our policies were a hindrance is neither correct nor constructive. To disparage and downplay what is good and to talk about things that could have been is to deceive and to invoke phony righteousness.
- Implementation of the Constitution & Democracy
- The government has done nothing to build democracy;
- Deliberate hesitation stalled implementation of democracy;
- We should have allowed multi-parties;
- We were not victorious in the war because we had no constitution;
- Elections should have been held earlier;
- There is no popular participation in Eritrea;
- It is one-man rule;
- The institutions of the government and the Front (National Assembly, Cabinet of Ministers, Central Assembly, Executive Office) do not function;
- People complain bitterly about our administration;
- People in detention do not receive fast judgment;
- The Special Court must be knocked down;
- Within our institutions and our practices, that there are weaknesses that are obstacles to the implementation of our goals and are bitterly complained about by our people is known and admitted to. We have not developed accountability to acceptable levels. It is no secret that one cannot distinguish between the productive and unproductive; that those who can work are not matched to positions where they can be efficient; that those that cannot work are neither held accountable nor punished; and that, to conceal their lack of efficiency, those who don’t work complain more than those who do. This must be corrected.
- The institutions of our government and our Front have shortcomings and weaknesses. Recognizing that to bring it to the level of competently executing its goals will require time and effort, we have been laboring to construct it. Based on a comprehensive study and discussions, we had embarked on a restructuring effort (outlining policy, follow-up, Human Resource Development, assessment). To develop human resources, we came up with a project to train lower, mid-level, and upper levels of management in administration and other areas. We have been working on bringing experts to help us in some areas. Certainly, some of these projects have not progressed to the level we want them to; some others have not yielded the results we want. We have a long way to go. We accept and understand this and we are committed to a continuous process of improvement and construction.
- Everyone knows the shortcomings of our judicial institutions. The establishment of the Special Court is a temporary solution to address special situations under special circumstances—to eliminate corruption—and it is not one established to operate permanently under its current structure. That we should bring those accused of crimes promptly to court is one that is accepted by all and one that we should and are working towards. But we should not forget the damage to our country and our people if we so much as loosen our grip in fighting corruption.
- “Eritrea is a one-man rule. The country is run by one man (President Isaias)” Such claims are lies and defamation that echo the propaganda of the enemy. It is an insult to the man as well as to all those who are, in various fields, working, contributing and achieving for their country as well as to the Eritrean people at large. In Eritrea, Ministers, Administrators and other senior and mid-level officials have the independence and wide latitude to made decisions and execute them. The problem, in its essence, is not excessive intervention and control; it is lack of control. So much so, that in Eritrea, ministers and senior officials openly criticize the government policies and its outlook, as if the issues are none of their concern. What is proper is that people should be given accountability commensurate with their authority. While it is accepted that not everything can be improved solely by controlling it and while a system based on trust has its own merits, one should not discount the necessity of having a type of control that works, including a system of criticism and self-criticism, one that can be imposed from a superior but preferably by subordinates.
- Of all the subjects cited, the one that is most propagated is the vilification that “the Government and the Front have stalled the implementation of the constitution. They have unnecessarily delayed national election.” There are efforts to present this issue as if it is a polarizing one, as if there are dual “pro-constitution” and “anti-constitution” elements. The structuring of a truly constitutional and democratic system; one that is driven by the wishes and participation of the people; one based not on outside influences but internal developments is a fundamental goal of the Front and the government. Long before it became fashionable, as it is now, the People’s Front had placed this in its program of 1987. In its Charter of 1994, it has clarified it views on the issue of constitution, participatory democracy, political pluralism and parties. In practice, when many were calling for declaring ourselves independent based on our military achievements, it was the People’s Front that believed in and called for people’s participation (referendum.) It was the People’s Front that initiated and ensured the success of developing a democratic constitution based on people’s participation. It worked hard to bring about a decentralized zone administration, to bring about elections in the zones and, during the transition period, to place those who were elected in the administrative zones to the National Assembly. In a process almost unprecedented in the world, it brought about the participation of our people in Diaspora from all corners of the world to democratically elect their representatives to the National Assembly. While in the process of appointing an Electoral Law drafting body that would prepare elections for 1998 that would bring about a government based on the constitution, the Woyane Offensive occurred and the process was stalled. This is something witnessed by the entire population of Eritrea. The outlook of the Front and the government does not differ from that of the people. Just before the Third Offensive, in the meeting of the National Assembly, all its members, without dissent, agreed to postpone the election. And this was aligned with the view of the people.
- Those who question the Front and the Government’s commitment to bring about elections and implementation of the constitution and building a democratic system have neither reason nor evidence to buttress their accusations. Besides, is there any reason why the People’s Front would hesitate from holding elections? Because it is afraid it won’t be elected? It is because it has other concerns? Not only does it have no concerns but because it is something it struggled for and continues to struggle for, it will intensify its efforts to bring it about.
It is necessary to conduct a proper and constructive assessment of the journey we have embarked on to build, as stipulated in our constitution, a democratic system that guarantees the rights of citizens, human rights, equality and sustained development, one that creates a conducive environment to meet their spiritual and material needs, one that is based on the needs, interests and participation of the people; as well as to assess the operations of the institutions of the Front and the government. But we should not ignore and an equal effort should be exerted to challenging those who are not interested in democracy but use democracy as a veil to weaken our national unity which we brought about after long struggle and national reconstruction; those who are supported by outsiders and promote outsiders’ agenda; and those who, thinking that the nation is in crisis, want to barter national interest for individual interest. As if we were not comrade-in-arms never once asking, “what is your background and what region are you from?” Today, when we hear, in the name of democracy, things like, “even those Eritreans in Diaspora should participate in the elections based on their community of origin” and when we see campaigns to mobilize sub-national sentiments, our response is not going to be, “oh, they won’t amount to much.” We are going to face their challenge without mercy and we will foil it.
- The Front & Its Role
- The Front Doesn’t Work
- The Front dominates everything
- The Front has strangulated the economy
- The economic institutions of the Front don’t function well
The role of the Front in post-independent Eritrea, its strength and weakness, should be assessed properly. On this basis, a decision should be made on the limits of its future role, focus, organization and operation. Before we execute the plans, there are many issues that should be clarified. When we say “the Front”, who are we talking about? Central Office? Officials and members who are exclusively assigned to work in the Front? Members of the Executive Office and Central Committee? The cadres of the Front? What is the role and the basis for the Front especially in this period of independence and a government based on the Front? To lead the government? And how? To monitor the government? And how? What should it focus on? Should it have a role in the economy? What kind of a role?
While these official assessments are going on, the campaign conducted to weaken the PFDJ should be rejected. To, on the one hand, claim that the Front doesn’t work and, on the other, that the Front dominates everything is to speak with a forked tongue. In the past two and half years, because we were challenging an Offensive designed to annihilate our existence, we pooled every resources without distinguishing between Front, government, organizations and public. In this confrontation, the entire country and members and institutions of the Front have contributed, in every endeavor, to a great extent. The institutions of the Front labored mightily to strengthen our defense force, to stabilize prices and to provide basic necessities.
Because they know that those who struggled and still struggle for the welfare and development of Eritrea as well as a strong organization are the nation’s best guarantee, all those who don’t have goodwill towards this country—beginning with the Woyane—always make the People’s Front as their major target. This is expected. Our enemies know that as long as the Front is strong, they have no opportunity to bring the country to its knees or any other disrepute. By the same token, they know that if the Front is weakened, we would be like a fence without a gate. And that is why they attempt, with everything in their power, to strike the Front. They try to create a wedge by creating polarities of Front/ no Front, Front/ Government. They know that by equating the front and government with dust and eye, they weaken both and the country. What is amazing is that there are those who, based on narrow individual initiatives apparently want to deny their membership to the Front and by crossing over the barrier between a campaign of constructive criticism and correction of weaknesses AND a campaign of defamation, eagerly join the fray of defamation.
The People’s Front is an organization that develops by overcoming hurdles, correcting its weaknesses, fine-tuning its operations, by recruiting and winning over the youth, the parents and pro-change members of society. It is a pro-change and progressive force. It should not split into 2-3 parties and fulfill the wishes of its opponents who want to weaken it; it should renew and strengthen itself. For it to continue to remain the center of gravity of Eritrean politics while creating an environment conducive for political pluralism, and safeguarding the independence, unity and equality of the nation, its members should work and campaign hard. The upcoming 4th Congress will be an additional chapter in the effort to fortify the Front.
Excepting for the above mentioned efforts, there may be other campaigns of defamation; but the afore-mentioned are the major ones. The campaign is fundamentally without basis; its main content is no different from that of the Woyane; it is twisted and has no corrective role. The campaign was fanned not now, when the environment is relatively calm. The campaign to sow the seeds of doubt, to demoralize and to weaken fortitude was underway while the country was in great danger, while there was a need for encouragement and strengthening the challenge. Some of the campaigners had lost hope; others because they knew that when normalcy returned nobody would heed their call and chose a moment of crisis. Regardless of who the initiators were, if the intent is constructive, it is proper to choose the right place and the right people to discuss the issue. To conduct it in front of people who needed a morale boost while they had volunteered their children and their property to combat those who were attacking it with military offensives and noisy propaganda….had it not been that it was targeted towards people with resolve, to conduct a campaign that could have facilitated the submission of lesser people is unseemly.
In this destructive campaign, it is expected that the Woyane would be the vanguard. It is a campaign that it has embarked on, and an effort it has accelerated, since the day after the conflict and for the last two and half years. We can skip over the role of the traitors who collaborated with Woyane by saying it is no different from the Woyane. As for those who, in the midst of trying and challenging times, were jockeying and hustling about to exploit the situation by selling national and people’s interest for self-interest, we have seen many of these opportunists in our long struggle. What demands attention is, although very few in number, the cadres and leaders of the Front who, for various reasons (panic, hopelessness, absconding responsibility, to create political opportunities by complaining about lack of position and authority) participated in the campaign.
We have gained a great deal of wealth and experience from the period of Invasion and Defiance. Because, despite the campaign against us, our policies, with few exceptions, were correct; because we had created an environment where our people can enjoy peace and human dignity; because our people had faith in the Front and the government; because we were able to groom The Inheritor [Warsai]; because we were able to benefit from our organization and mobilization experience, we were able to meet the challenge head on. Although with time and positive developments the environment is cooling off, we haven’t totally eliminated the Woyane threat. To deal our enemies total defeat, to restore peace and sovereignty to our country and to bring about tranquility and peace of mind to our people, to purify the political environment and to conduct a proper assessment of our situation, and to correct our shortcomings, we need to strengthen the People’s Front.