If there is poster organization for the “boycotting behavior” that plagues the opposition camp, it is the ELF-RC, lately known the EPDP. If there are imposing “group of elites” walking on the path of EPDP, but also have the audacity to attack every group of identity, it is a small outfit called CDRiE. I guess its members have found their essence on the path of these annals of history. So CDRiE the same as EPDP has opted to boycott the upcoming national congress. Amazingly enough, these groups feel that “ideas for influence” come only from their club house. They neither have humility or decency for those who believe in diversity of ideas nor do they believe on engagement and compromise.
But for the purpose of clarity to the public, let me state some historical facts. CDRiE is one of the clusters of “public forums, human right organizations, and some website oulets” that form the EGS umbrella in 2008; except I admit that CDRiE is the only civic organization with “a civic structure” within the EGS umbrella. It’s civic, because its members have no political affiliations with the political organizations, at least in terms of card holding membership that pays dues. The public forms were constituted from members and non-members of the political organizations. I was one of the non-voting members in the founding conference of EGS with the right to debate but not to elect or be elected. Indeed, EGS’s “board of directors” were not elected from the conference but rather were composed of the chairmen of the participating entities who had the only voting power at the conference. CDRiE is one of the participating entities had a delegate in the board of directors. In a nutshell, EGS is a kind of “united front” having a common mission statements but each organization has the right to have it’s own policy-position on the existing political organizations or on the regime (I will use this un-natural symbiotic relations later in my argument).
Now, if one wants to make a Political argument, one could simply argue that, by default CDRiE as a member of EGS umbrella participated in the preparation of the national conference and the national conference itself. Furthermore, we could extend the argument that since EGS is participating in the commission which is preparing the upcoming congress, then CDRiE as a member of EGS certainly does not need a particular invitation. This argument can only be valid by leaving aside the political intrigues of EGS that chose to participated only as “a watch dog” at the “people’s conference” to give feedback “for critique” for those who were waiting on the sideline to see the failure of the conference. While we are compelled by the urgency of history to bring an end to the entanglement of our people, our “we know it all” elites are talking about procedures and technicalities of invitation. History is a witness on the desultory and diversionary actions they are taking.
For sure CDRiE like any organization has the right to have a different policy-positioning from the other entities that form the EGS umbrella. It is completely within its own prerogative. The question is, is it a wise, sensible, and rational argument to decide not to participate?
Since EGS and CDRiE are in tandem on “policy-positioning” and on the so called “principles” they have espoused, let me include Seyoum Tesfaye’s interview into the loop of my argument. Seyoum’s interview will help me to scrutinize the philosophy, ideology, and the strategy of the approach, both in theory and practice, of these two “identical organizations.” At the end we will the reasons why CDRIE opted for boycotting the upcoming congress. Let us start with the interview. (Refer to this link)
From his interview, Seyoum sounds like a proponent of “a cluster of spontaneous movement of individuals” and an advocate of “immunity for perpetrators” as opposed to “organized struggle with collective purpose and fair justice to the victims.” Indeed Seyoum’s interview did provide us some “markers” of the spin-doctors of “spontaneous movement” and “immunity.”
Marine General Anthony Zinni, former Head of US Central command said the following regarding the pace of change in Iraq: “We have to understand the history, the nature of the country, the divisions, or the underneath suppressed passions that could rise up.” The general was trying to make his military peers aware about the multiculturalism, diversity of religion, ethnicity and tribal identification that will play a part in the complexity of establishing democracy. He was alluding to the “identity markers” that define Iraq.
Eritrea of today, if it is not the same, it has similar identity markers with its specific “socio-magnetic field” of attraction and repulsion. I believe Seyoum’s background can not give him practical knowledge, or make him understand the varying “identity markers” within the Eritrean society. Furthermore, he tried to separate democracy and demo-markers while anyone who has basic concept of democracy knows demo markers are the expression of democracy in itself.
Understandably, people may have different perspectives on the recourse of their nation, so also with the theories and philosophy they attempt to argue. As Baylis put it, “a good analogy is sunglasses with different colored lenses; put on the red pair and world looks red, put on the yellow pair and it looks yellow. So it is with the theories” (Baylis p-4). Eritreans in the Diaspora tend to see politics and theory from the democratic practices they live in, rather than from the reality of our nation, its diversities and its acute grievances. So it is with the color of lenses we are wearing. I am sure Seyoum has his own colored lense which ever it may be. Seyoum’s lenses, neither do they allow him to recognize our social markers nor do they position him to understand the inseparable relationship between democracy and demo-markers. But let me go back to Seyoum’s interview and make some appraisals on his take on the concept of “democracy” and the “markers of democracy.”
Democracy And Demo-Markers
In medicine we look at “bio-markers” to determine the progress or the prognosis of a disease. Bio-markers are substance introduced into organism to examine organ functions. By the same token in a democratic movement there are “demo-markers” to measure the progress of democracy within the organized democratic movement or within the nature of governance at issue for that matter. Now for the purpose of simplicity, I will make a serious rebuttal against Seyium’s “markers” that he used for his argument” to show his inadequacy to the concept of “democracy” and “demo-markers” as well as to the several kinds of “united fronts” and their usefulness. Despite all my respect to his ideas, I will still challenge his inadequate grasp regarding the concept of demo-markers in relations to democracy. To begin with, Seyoum’s skew-gear approach to win on the easily deceivable part of our society is not a healthy approach. Hence, let us navigate and observe some of the inconsistent statements he made in his interview.
(A)The strongest Bill of Rights is more important to me than the bigger issue of democracy” (Seyoum Tesfaye – The Era of vanguard is over).
In modern democracy the “Bill of Rights” is one of the pillars of a “constitutional democracy”. The “Bill of Right” is the covenant of freedom of rights. Doesn’t democracy demand freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of gathering, freedom of organizing in any shape or form, freedom of competing ideas, which by the way are all inscribed as bill of Rights? What is the bigger issue of democracy than the bill of rights? Seyoum needs more elaboration or to craft his own definition to show the separation of the democracy and Bill of rights. I hope he will not be limited to classical democracy that deals only with election.
(B) A nation with Rule of Law, Bill of Rights, Independent Court, Independent Press, Independent Civic Society, Religious Freedom, and Freedom of Culture, Independent Election Committee, and a decentralized administration with more power vested in regional governance is the image I carry in my mind” (Seyoum Tesfaye – The era of vanguard is over)
I am glad Seyoum carried these demo-markers in his mind and the Bill of Rights being one of them. But all the above markers are interdependent that one can not exist without the others. The inter-dependency and inter-relationship of the above stated demo-markers is unique in a way when one becomes a precondition the other becomes a condition or vise versa. Seyoum should not overlook the symbiotic relationship of these demo-markers. The Bill of Rights requires a devolved structure of government and Rule of Law as a condition to protect it and the rest demo markers to flourish side by side. The games are now, know the markers and seek to observe them, and then you will breathe the air of democracy. Talking about the markers is talking about democracy.
(C) The Rule of law in combination with a Bill of Rights is the underpinning of the right and freedom of the individual. It is the most potent antidote to the tyranny of the majority or minority in all its forms and shades (Seyoum Tesfaye- The era of vanguard is over).
Slowly, Seyoum is adding new demo-marker to his only and only important demo-marker (the Bill of Rights) that is important to him. Now he seems to understand that the Rule of law is a pre-condition to protect the “Bill of Rights.” But then, Rule of law to which law! Is that any kind of law? Still the “Bill of Rights” needs a favorable structure of governance to be effectual. But then, isn’t it important how rules and laws are made in it self? We know a rule is a direction for everyone to follow and behave in a certain way. Therefore to identify the nature of the rule and the law is very important for democracy and its markers. For instance election is one of the markers of democracy. But election in itself does not secure democracy. Other demo-markers like growth of civil societies and rule of law are pre-requisite to have a fair election. The whole point of my argument in here is simply to show to Seyoum and his elks that we have memory and reasoning faculties that could practice with logic and understand the inter-dependency of demo-markers for democracy to flourish.
(D) The bullhorn approach, the condemnation or the disparaging has not worked and it is unlikely it will work moving forward (Seyoum Tesfaye-The era of vanguard is over)
The Above statement was retorted when he was asked about his vision for the young and old Diaspora Eritreans who are still supporting the regime. Seyoum and his likes appealed to the regime to open the democratic process and to allow the Rule of law to reign for more than a decade. I don’t know at what point they will understand that dictators will not listen to their petition. Dictators understand one language “power removes power.” For me to continue on that line of argument is tantamount to disarming the Eritrean people from fighting the regime by all means available at their disposal. Amazingly enough and contrary to his vision, whatever that stated vision is, he understands this, and I quote: “I don’t expect the few die-hard believers to have any commonsense or understand this.” By “this” it means his stated vision. Isn’t it with these illogic and unrealistic top PFDJ echelons and few diehard believers that he is demanding a peaceful dialogue? I don’t believe that they don’t understand his call. Yes they perfectly understand it, but at the same time they know the demand doesn’t reflect their interests. As the Tigrigna adage says, “put a stone in your belly,” Can you put a stone in your belly and say enough is enough that this regime must go by all means?
(E) The so-called Revolutionary United Front concept, in all its various reincarnations, has not worked (Seyoum Tesfaye- The Era of vanguard id over)
Seyoum seems to have loose understanding to the concept of “revolutionary movement” and “united fronts”. A revolutionary movement is a social movement for fundamental change. The social movement could resort to a violent or peaceful path depending on the nature of the beast they are fighting against. These paths of social movement will continue to exist as far as human beings and their inherent social conflicts exist. A movement needs a vanguard (leadership). Vanguard is the core of leadership with a specific political orientation and leads the social movement into a success. Any social political orientation depends on the demand of the public and the nature of the struggle they are fighting. This is the basic meaning of the concept. Seyoum also undermine the necessities of “united front” while his organization “EGS” in itself is one form of united front advocating for change. United front leads to united action against common enemy. There is nothing wrong in building a strategic alliance as a tactic to win against your common enemy. History is not depleted of examples. Just the EPLF/TPLF alliance (united front) to defeat Derg is a living example of a successful strategy. (I will write in detail about this specific topic in Hard Talk Part-II soon). Seyoum’s bluffing attempt to disarm and disunite the resistance against the regime is a watershed under the bridge.
At any rate, let me go back to CDRiE’s reasoning to not participate to the upcoming congress, the ENCDC. And let me state that EPDP-I and CDRiE are symbiotically related, or if I could give a terminological nomenclature, it is “marriage without a municipal license.” Hence, I will try to evaluate their reasoning to examine the political characteristics that define them who they are.
CDRiE’s Sham Advocacy for Democracy
When one preaches something but acts differently, it is an elitist behavior. When one claim to be a facilitator but avoids engagement, it is an elitist behavior. When one claims to be none-partisan but shows favoritism, it is an elitist behavior. When one says I believe on freedom to organize in any shape or form, but condemns the organizations of ethnic and religious identities, it is an elitist behavior. When one preaches tolerance but exercises dejection, it is an elitist behavior. When one advocates for normalcy and good neighborliness but is involved in “ultra-nationalism” it is an elitist behavior. When one advocates for democracy but professes a contradictory “self” it is an elitist’s life. And that advocacy for democracy is “a sham advocacy for democracy.”
After identifying some of the characteristics of elitist behaviors, let us see if these elitist behaviors are seen and reflected in CDRiE’s position-statement. Generally, oppressed groups or identities organize in the nature of their oppression. Furthermore they could have the same oppressor but the nature of their oppression could vary. That is the nature of politics and oppression. In such a scenario one group couldn’t say to the other “we will fight for your ‘rights’ better than you do.” CDRiE posses these attitudes all the way, that they will think on our behalf, without even considering the courtesy of “engagement”. Call this “we think on your behalf” and elitist behavior “Tag-One.”
CDRiE has shown “favoritism” and indirect affiliation to EPDP-I when it could have non-partisan position as their mission statements alludes. As an organization it has failed to have a knowledge of the existing political organizations, but opted to move with mood of the public opinion of a particular section of our society. We remember the invitation of CDRiE’s “task force” for the Brussels conference, not too far from our recent memory. CDRiE members lost their intellectual judgments by taking the position of EPDP-I by participating in their conferences and congresses without even lending ears to the other groups. They could have had a first hand experience which could have eventually influenced (or be influenced) in shaping the future of the opposition camp. Call this elitist-favoritism “Tag-Two.”
CDRiE has taken an act of “Self–dejection” as opposed to tolerance of the view of others. It is still invited, unless its members want to play the game of “hair splitting of words” and delve in technicalities and procedures to find a loophole for complaining and stating reservations. CDRiE should have rather focused on the content and intent of the inviter instead of engaging in slicing and dicing the language of the invitation. By the way that is what elitist do: check their subliminal group interest. Call this elitist self-dejection “Tag-Three.”
CDRiE’s ultra-nationalism hampers it from forging any strategic alliance to expedite the removal of the regime. It advances peaceful negotiation with the regime, a dictatorial regime that has reached its highest edifice of abuse. You can’t pursue peaceful negotiation for the sake of peaceful negotiation when one side doesn’t believe the existence of the other. Secondly, the regime fully understands that engagement on a peaceful negotiation in itself is suicidal for it. What does it take to understand this? CDRiE prefers to own a parallel strategic belief with the regime, to see the Ethiopian regime as an enemy, if only and only in the hope for a negotiation to materialize. For sure they can’t have it both ways, if the regime has a listening ear. At this point CDRiE does not see the regime as the enemy of our people. Any effort of strategic alliance with Ethiopia will definitely make it ally itself with the regime…a regime which is devouring the nation and its people. Keep in mind the Ethiopian regime has changed its heart, by welcoming the influx of Eritrean refugees, returning the properties of Eritreans, accepting our young refugees to colleges and universities, and seeking normalization with the Eritrean people. Even when this is said and done, the Eritrean elite can’t reciprocate the good will of the Ethiopian regime and change their heart. For CDRiE, Eritrean territorial sovereignty is more important than the sovereignty of the Eritrean people. It is hard for them to understand that it is not the Eritrean people but it is the regime that is putting Eritrean sovereignty at risk. I have no illusion that these group understand that the Eritrean sovereignty is not reversible, but surely they want to be seen as more nationalist Eritreans than the rest. Call this elitist Ultra-nationalism “Tag-Four.”
In conclusion, let me bring Redi Kefle’s (aka bashay) important piece which argues on the importance of direction “Me’azen.” Redi is one of the rare individuals who commands the rural and urban Tigrigna language. He is a known poet, who wrote lyrics for many known singers including the late artist Yemane Barya, but sadly, only a few know about his talent. In his recent published “Me’azen” part-III, Redi succinctly evaluated the current situation of our struggle and predicted that the delineation between forces of fundamental change and forces of reform is not that far from happening. The targets of Redi’s bullet-words are not direct, but he always tells me “nenatom yel’ealu”—let everyone pick what concerns him. Certainly there is some food for thought in the poem that Seyoum and CDRiE can pick from and be entertained. So click on “Me’azen” and read.