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Day 2: Eritrean Dialogue Group Resumes Discussion In Addis

An Eritrean dialogue group attending a seminar in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, continued its sessions on Wednesday. The attendants formed four break-out groups to discuss issues related to youth, media, refugees and the role of the Eritrean Diaspora.

The afternoon session was spent in deliberations and debates, both formal and informal, regarding the very definition of the Eritrean regime.

Defining the essence of the Eritrean regime has been a contentious issue for the opposition forces. Whereas some define it as a Tigrigna ethnocentric regime, others refer to it as only autocratic and dictatorial. This debate was mirrored in the dialogue group in Addis Abeba with each side making its case for the label chosen.

Why is this debate even necessary?

Advocates for the two respective positions contacted by Gedab News agreed that an effective struggle cannot be waged unless one has a clear definition of the opponent.

Those who describe the regime as a “Tigrigna ethnocentric” argue that unless obvious facts about the regime are stated and agreed to, there is a “high likelihood” that “Isaias Afwerki will be replaced by an individual who shares his values, but is only kinder.” Those who are opposed to labeling the regime as “Tigrigna ethnocentric” consider the label offensive as it implies that the Tigrigna ethnic group is guilty by association and has been spared the brunt of the regime’s “equal opportunity oppression.”

The debate is still ongoing with one senior politician proposing that the regime be defined as a “splinter Tigrigna regime—one that has betrayed the Tigrigna and used their good name to oppress them and their compatriots.”

Many activists that Gedab contacted seem to be confident that the seminar would bridge the gap and come out with a commonly agreed upon definition of the regime.

The dialogue, which is co-chaired by Ms. Mehret Gebreyesus and Dr. Mohammed Kheir, resumes tomorrow.

Mehret, a long-term EPLF activist who headed the foreign affairs office of the Eritrean Democratic Party (EDP), resigned her membership from the Eritrean People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) in the fall of 2010 before the EPDP split. Mohammed Kheir, an columnist,  was, among other things, a member of the G-13 and most recently instrumental in the decision to de-fund the Norwegian Y-PFDJ, the youth franchise of the PFDJ which had received Norwegian funding by misrepresenting its identity and relationship to its parent company, the PFDJ.

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  • Wow! I don’t like this. It is premature to worry about the exact nature of the dictatorship. The term “ethnocentric” is a semantically imprecise term that will only add confusion to the discussion. Participants should not waste time attempting to resolve perceptions of the regime that are irreconcilable. This is an example of an issue we can temporarily set aside. Describing the regime as an “Tigrigina ethnocentric” will add or subtract absolutely nothing from the status quo. It is the solutions we propose to deal with the existing inequalities and disparities that are far more important to the future. If we focus on the solutions without bogging ourselves down on definitions, we will achieve better results because almost all Eritreans agree that gross disparities exist in Eritrea – (Tigrigna vs non-tigrigna divide being one of them along with the Muslims/non Muslim disparity.)

    While both side should feel free to maintain their respective perceptions or positions on the exact nature of the dictatorship, for now they should focus on what they already agree with. At this juncture in our history, it should be enough to call the regime a dictatorship while acknowledging that huge disparities exist. Later, this and other thorny issues can be tackled with.

    Ismail (pointblank)