Every once in a while, we are required to take a step back and explain to our readers what the mission of awate.com is and why what we do falls within the objectives of the mission. We do not expect all our readers and/or supporters to concur with what we do—but we do hope that they are able to understand our perspective.
Our mission is to inform, inspire and embolden people. Once people are empowered with information and inspiration, they can embark on the toughest course—reconciliation.
People can judge for themselves on the quantity and quality of information that we have provided over the last 9 years, and whether it inspired them or emboldened them. What is less understood is what we mean by reconciliation. Who is to reconcile with whom? Why? Why now? And what is awate.com’s role in the reconciliation process anyway?
Nations that go through a traumatic experience find it helpful to go through what is now known (after South Africa’s experience) as Truth and Reconciliation commissions. Sierra Leone, Liberia, Argentina, Chile, Morocco, and Peru are some examples of nations that set up such commissions. The process may vary (more or less amnesty; long or short sessions; small or big commissions) but they all have one thing in common: enabling individuals and social groups to tell their grievances and to find closure.
Eritrea has gone through multiple traumas. It has gone through a decades-long armed struggle; a major civil war, and a great deal of political persecution. Yet, the people were never allowed to grieve. Some have carried their injuries—physical and emotional—with them for decades. People were told to just move on, if they were told anything at all. And this grievance has been bubbling under the surface for too long—and if it is not given a release valve, its explosion will be unpredictable. Even a people as stoic as Eritreans cannot be expected to sustain one pain after another injury before the pain becomes unbearable.
This is why we envisioned reconciliation to be a pre-requisite to Eritrea’s healing. And since 1991, the ruling regime has caused Eritrean grievances to increase by ignoring calls for reconciliation. It increased the pain and suffering of the people by pursuing irresponsible, unjust and oppressive policies. This makes the mission of reconciliation more critical to the wellbeing of Eritrea. So who will reconcile with whom? All Eritrean social groups among themselves. When? Now! How? Well, this is where empowerment comes in.
In nations that have the good fortune of having governments who believe in best practices, ideas are not rejected simply because they have a foreign origin. It is governments—legitimate, representative governments—which set up truth and reconciliation commissions. But what if the government itself is responsible for piling on all the grievances and pains that Eritrean social groups feel? Then the people should be empowered to initiate the process on their own.
All reconciliation efforts begin with a people asking to be heard. All reconciliation efforts include a moment of truth-telling. This is how we see our role: to provide a platform for those who have a story to tell. To bring together those who, under normal circumstances, live in different or parallel universes each presenting their monologue, and to enable them to have a dialogue. To make sure that our role is that of a platform provider and to act as moderators.
This is, then, why you are hearing from different writers expressing the views of a certain Eritrean social group. Their views are provocative and at the same time educational—but they are certainly not the only viewpoints. Soon, you will be hearing from people who have an opposite viewpoint, chronicling their own grievances, and fears.
We at awate.com will do our level best to make sure that the articles reflect the genuine expressions of the writer, without being vulgar or deteriorating into an incitement for hate. We wish to keep the quality bar of the debates at a higher level, and we hope that those who wish to debate strive to present substance to the debate and avoid hyper emotional reactions.
To be a citizen is to be free and responsible. We believe that the Eritrean people, particularly those who subscribe to our values, believe that. You are entitled to timely and accurate information; and you are entitled to hear the heartfelt expressions of your compatriots without filters and interpretations.
There are Eritreans who genuinely fear that no good can come out of providing platform for everyone to speak their mind. We respect their views and we hope they will stay tuned to see what is coming. Meanwhile, we ask them to withhold judgement. But there are also Eritreans who think that Eritreans are infants who always have to have babysitters and guardians. They think of themselves as exceptional: they are wise enough to discern what is good and what is bad; it is only that they fear for others—because they are not as smart as they are. They are not sure that anybody can handle any issue—except through the brokerage of their vanguard fronts.
It is the followers of the vanguard fronts that have been the most negative about our Truth Tellers. Not because they object to what is being said, but because they are not in a position to dilute the topics through their endless subcommittees of dilution. They are the ones fighting this with tooth and nail—they are the ones who have been organizing whisper campaigns to focus on their perceived messenger, instead of the message. Though they badly try to monopolize debates, they will fail, as they always do. And, at some point, some Eritrean social group will express their grievances about them and their vanguard groups.
We stand for the right of Eritreans to express themselves freely—without having to get a permission from the government or the opposition parties. We stand for diversity—not just the diversity of people and customs, but diversity of ideas. We will provide a platform to ideas we agree with, disagree with, or are indifferent to—so long as there is a point of view, articulated intelligently. We trust the wisdom and maturity of the Eritrean people. One can’t have Reconciliation without Truth. And Truth can’t be managed by professional brokers, cultural translators, centralizers and those who think that only they can issue menqesaqesi. And so we say, to those who have something to say, jump in: the water is warm.