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Democratization And Transition: Introductory Remarks (Part 1)

The struggle for liberty and justice did not start on September 1, 1961. The date marks the beginning of the armed struggle for independence from Ethiopia. Nor did the struggle end on Independence Day (May 24, 1991). Nor will it end when the dictatorship falls. The search for liberty and justice is an ongoing process with no beginning and no end because there has been and always will be a certain degree of inequity and lack of freedom in all societies. Even in the best of worlds, liberty is never complete necessitating constant vigil and struggle. Just as we must strive assertively and constantly in our personal lives if we are to remain relevant or achieve goals, nations must ceaselessly struggle to increase freedom, justice, and the wellbeing of their citizens. The sooner we accept this reality, the more effective we will be in our struggle.

The 30-year armed struggle for independence as we all know was all about liberation from occupation. The overarching goal was independence from Ethiopia. Not much thought was given to politics beyond independence. Through a greater part of its existence, the liberation movement was engaged in a grim struggle for its very survival and had little luxury to think past the immediate task of winning the struggle for independence. Furthermore, independence had always seemed too far to worry about. Many also thought or believed that independence is all that mattered and all will be well after independence.

So when independence finally came, it caught many of us by surprise. Eritreans learned the bitter truth that domestic dictatorship can be just as brutal and as harsh as colonial oppression. The dream quickly degenerated into a nightmare of oppression, deep disappointment and mass disillusionment. Consequently, opposition to the regime grew slowly at first gaining momentum over the years and finally reached its current explosive growth. Today, we can unequivocally state that those who openly and secretly oppose the regime outnumber by a large margin those who do not.

It is therefore probable that the downfall of the regime will come sooner than later. It is plausible also that it will come upon us suddenly and unexpectedly and in ways that we never anticipated or imagined just as was the case with independence. Now is therefore the time to seriously think about the aftermath because when Isaias dies or is removed from power, the intricate system of control and oppression he established over the years will not die with him. Initially, the dictatorship will remain intact: the highly centralized command structure; the monopoly of land and economy; the Gulag-style prisons; the torture chambers; the extensive militarization of the population, the secret service and a host of other horrible legacies will remain and need to be carefully and wisely managed.

A major obstacle when contemplating such issues is the lackadaisical wishy-washy mentality of some in the opposition who find it difficult to envision Eritrea beyond its current predicament. Like those who internalize slavery after many years of victimization and deprivation, they are afraid of what freedom may bring. They want the safety, stability, and predictability of the slave system. To them, the oppressive regime (with or without Isaias) must remain because – and here is a shocker – none can govern the country the way they do!   Can you think of anything more pathetic, dear reader, anything more oxymoronic, and sadly comical than a “resistance force” that pleads on behalf of its oppressor? Is it any wonder that Isaias would so audaciously insult our intelligence with fresh promises of drafting a new constitution? Why not… when some in the “opposition” are openly cheering him on?

But thankfully, there is a general consensus among Eritreans in the opposition and in the larger population about the form of Government that a post-Isaias Eritrea should have. The overwhelming majority wants the dictatorship out, dismantled and replaced with a just system. All are also agreed (except for a handful intellectual oddballs alluded to above) that we should have a representative democracy. Beyond such general conceptions of democracy, however, there has been little serious discussion about how to transition peacefully. Considering the gravity of the issue and the gigantic mess we will be inheriting, this is unfortunate. But as always, it is better late than never.

Transitions, whether personal, political, or social, can be quite challenging. They are not only demanding but can also be calamitous if not handled with care. The nation that mismanages a transitional period is literally playing with fire and courting disaster. As will all major changes, however, a certain degree of risk will always be there and may be unavoidable. The goal should not be to totally circumvent risk or danger (which in most cases is impossible anyway even if we don’t do anything) but to minimize them.

Our grand purpose during transition should be eradication of the dictatorial power nexus politically, economically, and socially.   The oppressive apparatus must be totally and completely uprooted in such a way that there is no possibility of its ever coming back. This is absolutely necessary because if we leave even the smallest gaps in the old system, we increase the chances of its resurrection as we saw it happen in Egypt and in many other places.

In Part II, I will InshAllah state my views fully.

To be continued….

About Ismail Omer-Ali

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  • Ismail

    Thanks Tesfabirhan….. I appreciate your comments. Hopefully I can do justice to the subject. I am just delving into subject to initiate a discussion not because I know a whole lot about the subject.
    Ismail (pointblank)

  • @Mahmuday
    Mahmuday; I am back to business; I had enough fun aggravating the Tigryans. They are so weak and insecure, they go ballistic at anything. No wonder why they ignited the little skirmish to a full flagged war against Eritrea. lol I feel sorry for the Amhara and Oromo they have to deal with them.
    Anyway; let’s get back to it and I have a question for you.
    Since you are advocating for dialogue and normalizations; I do understand you’re well intentioned and for greater good but how do you see it benefit the little guys?
    Let’s no fool ourselves in here; when we say dialogue and normalization, we are talking between the Tigrigna speakers of the Highlander of Eritrea and the Tigrigna speakers of Tigryans of Ethiopia, End of story!
    If, so, dialogue and normalization between those two will create a powerful and dominating figure not only in Ethio-Eritrea but in the horn of Africa. Accordingly, how do you see this union of Tigrigna speakers towards the rest of Eritrea? When I say the rest of Eritrea, I am saying the Eritrean Muslims and lowlanders? Do you see them benefiting form this dialogue; normalization and the economic growth that comes as a result of this union or do you see it the Eritrean Muslims and lowlanders being marginalized and screwed to a second citizens on their own country?
    I will share my take after I have yours.
    Good day my man!

    • Mahmud Saleh

      So two aspects:
      1. who are we talking with?Ethiopia or Tigray?: I am thinking of Ethiopia. In my dictionary any sovereign related issue goes to Ethiopia. It would be helpful if Tigray administration assumes a positive posture ( and I think that kilil should be at the forefront of peacemaking). But I believe it’s a federal government’s role. Nitricc what you see today of all this brouhaha won’t leave forever. And it would be a terrible mistake of Tigray elites if they are thinking they can break us down using Ethiopian resources for their narrow real or perceived sense of insecurity. So, my proposal is tuned towards peaceloving and respecting administrations not towards hatemongers. But you have to know that politicians and policymakers do not really base their decisions on issues T.Kifle and the rest are venting out. Politicians think strategically, and I hope people of goodwill, responsible leaders will do it. Eventually, it will be done through toned down rhetoric or normalized atmosphere. When? I don’t know.
      2. The second part of your question: I know Eritrean Tigrigna are proud Eritreans; and I also know Tigray Tigrignas are proud Ethiopians. I have no fear that both Tigrignas will form A “Tigray-Tigrigni” hegemony, at least, not in the near future. I wish if they could talk to each other and form some sort of relation, that would help the region save more animity and bloodshed. The issues of majority dictatorship is there. Even without both Tigrigna uniting, Eritrean Tigrigna alone is enough to exact that injustice over the rest nationalities of Eritrea unless you and me and others fight it. Part of justice seekers should be this aspect of our reality ( AH can give you some more advice on this). Do you think Eritrea is free of that reality today?

      • Mahumudey; good Sunday!
        uhhhhh i think you missing my point uncharacteristically. okay i must not been lucid enough. let me try in a short cut.
        when the dialogue commences; say it will be between T-K from Tigray and YG from Eritrea. if, so where does leave the people of lowlands and Muslims? do you think the Eritrean low-landers and Muslims will benefit from it? where does leave them? I need to hear your take. I will share with you my take, this is very important for me, so I will expand on this one. for now, i got to bounce and good night, Mahmuday the great.

        • Mahmud Saleh

          What’s up? What’s going on man? What’s this talk of Muslims/Christians stuff? HAhaha …I’ve got to dig it, but I just don’t think I will get it. One thing I know is Nitricc, if we have reached a stage where our fate is determined by T.Kifle and YG or similar fellas, then you know you’re not talking about two countries. If those guys are talking, probably it’s not going to be about the border. You dig it?
          I’m saying a normalization between governments. Any government that represents only a segment of our people could not be considered Eritrean government; and the same is true with Ethiopia. So, I just don’t get it why you’re trying to explain an issue that concerns all Eritreans as a sectarian problem, like in T.kifle/YG or Tigray and kebesa. I don’t think along that line, just for your information. My previous reply stays relevant and stands. Now get to business and give me your take.
          PS- my IQ is said to be a bit higher than what some tend to assume it is. (cheers).

  • Rodab

    I thought Mahmuday – Nitricc debate was going to continue over here…
    You two tried your best to tackle the border issue. In a nutshell, both agreed to the final nature of the verdict. While Nitricc demands the implementation of the verdict with no precondition, MaHmuday sees the need for dialogue on implementation…

    May I suggest a topic for the next round? National service. I am sure you two can settle this one much quicker.

  • said

    Omer has written a Melodrama and how Finale will play on Eritrea,a beautiful enlightened mind, he highlighted the state of flux, he provided a model how normalcy can be restored and regime and its philosophy of darkness
    can be defeated. , Isaias most unfitting leader in charge and is entrusted with a Eritrean people.

    My take is the soup of a Eritrean reality, Eritrea reality entering a long dark alley of chaos with
    a no view of a light at the end of the tunnel. At least at this time. One suddenly realizes that the complex web of the Eritrea reality defies the logic of things; escapes intellectual reasoning; lacks a definite structure permitting intelligent
    predictions; lies beyond estimations of proximities blurring legitimate expectations. A problematic dominant epistemology governing human’s thought and reflections that while feeds into a distorted individual’s character is a process that equally is in reverse feeding into itself adding more distortion to a system of reference, to the anchors of system of values that are often at variance of interpretations and general consensus. As the challenges lying ahead before the Eritrean people, foremost, at this stage unity.some Eritrea deeply dismayed with some opposition parties as I strongly felt how the Eritrean so called leaderships,of nearly all walks, are small and feeble-minded and are not up to the level of
    the existing huge tasks and the challenges that lie ahead in front for the Eritreans people.

    Isaias must have known better of this painful reality about the opposition leadership.The above combined with so many present and past suffering and unspeakable events are the harsh realities of the day, that in my passionate enthusiasm as a an average Eritrean, many Eritrean human rights caring persons are to be admired, I some time feel so discouraged and so dismayed to come across as they are indicative of a totally Lost Vision and a definite Road Map to the future. All
    compounded with gross deficiencies of in epistemology and lack of leadership that is endowed with the requisite intellectual maturity and acumen that are commensurate with the existential challenges bedeviling the Eritrean existence.

    The culmination of the hard truth that made me feel that my passionate enthusiasm for the truth as a Eritrean, as an human is a wasteful enterprise like a Don Quixote or a wanderer after Harvesting the perennial Sea.

    While my principles and humanist passions would always remain intact, however, I come to increasingly realize that my time to effect the smallest dent of change to the better in my circle and surrounding is a proposition in vain as the devil lies in the details: a Distorted Epistemology,distorted Eritrean character and some feeble-minded opposition leaderships
    recklessly and with No progress to speak about, NO Vision or Accountability carry on commanding the ship.

    In the continuing absence of clarity of a Common Vision and an Eritrea in a state of flux. An Eritrea World that is in complete loss of direction, general sense of purpose and a meaningful political discourse that are only aggravated by feeble-minded leaderships lacking in intellectual prowess and statesmanship acumen.

    Critical voices among Eritrean diaspora living in the Western countries who are able to express their opinions in a manner freely , and with a freedom, without a fear ,that is totally denied Eritrean in their country such critical voices call to and must be guided by the highest values of universal value . And that the importance of courage and wisdom in the
    face of injustices our people face. Some Eritrean diaspora in the west are transformed, brainwashed like a sheep by design, into a cheering squad for Isaias regime, Linked to the nurturing of this blind cheering squad mentality is
    deeply disturbing. has been reduced to supporting “few team Isaias” they are repulsive and condemnable a perversion of normalcy as they are ,and they are a part and a parcel of the make-up of the local/regional political
    culture — that’s born out of reaction to a dominant political culture of oppression, suppression and alienation long practice by Isaias regime . The present political regimes ever since Eritrea became independent .nothing have changed
    and it got much worst. Much in the philosophy and modes of expression of PFDJ, save the flagrant brutal
    components, hold resonance in the dominant perceptions and advocacies of hegemony of the region. Whatever its
    extreme political policies or methods. Eritrean have suffered and paid heavy price. Self-criticism is essential if we are to overcome a tendency to self-righteousness.

    • Ismail

      Selamat Said, Thanks for your comments and insightful input.
      Ismail (pointblank)

  • Papillon

    Ethiopia says, it will launch a research satellite into space with in the next five years or so and it will be done in collaboration with Finland based Space Technology group. One wonders if the recent travel of high level Eritrean delegation (H.E. Yemane Gebreab and H. E. Foreign Minister Osman Saleh) to the Scandinavian country was to consult a space technology program that could put Eritrea on par with Ethiopia and beyond. This is not a laughing matter folks for the motto of PFDJ has always been “zgebir nediU neynegir” ዝገብር ነዲኡ ነይነግር.

  • Peace!

    Hi Ismail,

    I would rather take a wrong answer for the right question than a right answer for the wrong question. The right question is, not whether your follow opposition’s view is pathetic or oxymoron, but it is, at least to me, why are the young, the well trained, the well armed, the oppressed, and more importantly the forces that can eradicate PFDJ fleeing the country? The answer is they are fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.


  • Ismail

    Selam Serray,

    Thanks for your comments and excellent remarks but you misunderstood what I meant. Or perhaps I was not clear enough in the article. If you recall, in the few years after independence, the support for EPLF was almost total. Even former ELF fighters and leaders returned home to begin a new life. EPLF also made a lot of hollow promises then about democracy and pluralism and the vast majority of our people believed or perhaps wanted to believe. In any case, EPLF in those days enjoyed a very high popularity. But as we all know, all this turned out empty…. we were caught by surprise…… I was using it in that sense my friend. My article having to do with transition, I am warning readers that we need to prepare better this time (for a post-Isayas era) to prevent a repeat and another period of costly disillusionment. As far as my views on EPLF/PFDJ is concerned, you will find it in an article I wrote 4 years ago:

    Ismail (pointblnk

  • Semere Andom

    Selam Serray:
    You make excellent points but the most potent one to my mind is when you made the distinction between ending occupation and freedom. End occupation for what what end?, there was a built-in, implicit property in the ” ending of the occupation”, freedom, even if it had not being in the program of the organization. The big fraud that EPLF was has not yet sank in the minds of many, the big network of conspiracy that cheated us from the freedom we yearned is still robust, the idea that PFDJ betrayed EPLF’s ideals is the deliberate plot to exonerate the former and it is dangerous
    Many of us feel sad what the G-15 are going through for their stand, albeit too late and not too little, but their silence, collaborative history to design their organization in this manner shows you how it was run. Think about it, when Petros Solomon says that there was money coming in but he did not know where it came from, a security chief is saying that. Now what the G-15 did is still commendable and it will come to pass as high note in their record when history is written, but it bothers me a lot that many in the organization were intoxicated and crippled to wit, ushering in the wake of ending occupation the darkness we see today.
    Akililu Zere wrote that he was the youngest when he sat down in a meeting with the founders of EPLF and he saw it right there and he made his mind, so it was not that complicated or subtle. The visionaries did not make it beyond 1973 and the resistance that followed were crushed.
    At this time veterans and founders of EPLF are talking and telling us point blank that they were useless (Yemane T/gergish) and Alena and TT all corroborate the design of gheli and people are still in denial, as you aptly put it if these issues are not dissected and learned from anyone can repeat them, that is the point. But one of the legacy of EPLF/PFDJ is that they are allergic to history, “eti halifu eyu ezi dima khalif eyu, nernayo ena” as if this is a break through in thinking many of an Eritrean buy into it

  • “We have to stop being grateful for having a flag if we are going to send a clear message to those who are predisposed to be on top of us. We have to stop giving them any credit for something each and everyone of us paid a huge price”
    This dude has no shame? What did you pay,Serray? You left the country your tail tacked between your legs like a little you know what- while the braves were answering the call of duty and paying it all. Now, you have the nerve to tell people not to give any credit for those who did everything and you need a credit for your self for kissing the Ethiopians for your passport? Are you kidding me? Dude, you are the worst of human being. Do you know any shame? At least give the credit for what they have done right and criticize what they have done wrong. You should be charged for leaving the country when the country was fighting for her life. How about that idea, Serray? What a greedy- soul-less individual. Just happy being a foot solder of your master. What do you know about Gedli and Tegadelti. What a disgrace!

    • Serray

      01001110 01101111 01110111 00100000 01100111 01101111 00100000 01100011 01101100 01100101 01100001 01101110

      For the humans, this tells the unit to go and clean. If you want a text to binary translator to give commands to this US army cleaning unit, here is a link.

  • Kokhob Selam

    Thank you brother ismael my Welcome back poem is in Jebena small and different style ( ኣገጣጥማ ድርብ) title ጉዕዞ ዲሞክራሲ ገጽ ፩

    • Ismail

      Thanks Kokhob Selam! You are a talented poet with a great insight! Keep it up!
      Ismail (pointblank)

  • Hey Ismail; long time.
    reading your article made me think the following…
    I wonder what all of you will say if the government of Eritrea to release all political prisoners, be it the journalists, I mean everyone is freed! Then what? What will you say? What will be your reaction? What would you write about?
    Well, I don’t know what the reaction will be but it is coming. The government of Eritrea and PFDJ will throw you, a monkey ranch and Confusing, Mystifying and Perplexing time is coming to the toothless opposition way. Get ready! It is coming!

    • Semere Andom

      Nitricc, reading your debate with Mahmuday, it was light at the end of the proverbial tunnel
      But reading this I figure that you have forgotten the over night charger for your transient memory
      To answer your question, the toothless opposition will be overjoyed if PFDJ releases the surviving political prisoners, we will write about those who did not make it alive, those who PFDJ murdered with the blessing of many Eritreans and people like you. I care less of your choice to be wilfully ignorant, but please do not make mockery of the prisoners who have being murdered in cold blood.
      Here is a question that you have no enough of you know what to answer it but surprise me: “What would you the “senenan” PFDJ supporter do if tomorrow PFDJ releases the few surviving prisoners and does not mention those who died by its hands. You are hopeless lot
      You strike me as a guy who was denied Eritrean citizenship by PFDJ because you did not pass their initial purist Eritrean pedigree and then they discovered your talents and brain endowment and gave you that card and that is why you are anguished to please them at the expense of your God given free will

      • next time respond when you understand what the post is all about. you are so in rush to degrade people; you don’t even understand what i am trying to say. you have very simple mind. read it again. toothless.

    • Kokhob Selam

      the case of prisoners is just one single thing, and if PFDJ release them still he will have to answer why arrest them. he will be sill responsible for all years suffering. but what are you saying? I hope you are not saying also PFDJ will give life to those who dead in prison. My friend what about the entire nations suffering of 20 + years?

    • Ismail

      Thanks for your comments Nitricc. You ask: What will I say if the “government of Eritrea [was[ to release all political prisoners”? I would say hooray for the families and the victims themselves!
      You ask: what would I write about next? Why, my friend. I think I would write about you. I would call for the emancipation of the minds of those who think that freedom of prisoners is all that the dictatorship has to account for (:-). Incidentally, I would welcome a “toothless opposition” anytime to a regime with a full set of teeth that mangles its own citizens routinely.

      • Semere Andom

        Welcome back Ismail Omer Ali:
        Maybe you should write an article titled: “Can Eritrea devoid of PFDJ be de-nitriccized, reminiscent of your article “can Eritrea be de-hidaazited” 🙂

        You divorced the 30 years Ghedl and the removing of the occupation from one of its innate characteristic, freedom, dignity, self-determination the infringement of these values sparked the armed struggle and then it fueled it proportionally when the occupiers squashed them more. The armed struggle was not waged to solely remove the occupiers, to make our citizenship a mere mere:-)
        For sue the tegadalty did not speak of the big ideals of democracy and rule of law, but struggle was waged for redeeming the inalienable freedom

  • Amanuel Hidrat

    Dear Ismail,

    Welcome back.
    I would like to highlight your timely question, for the purpose of your readers and to remind about the dangerous messages we are hearing to resuscitate PFDJ the oppressive state machine, and calling it to run the transition for democratic governance. Dear awatistas can we listen to Ismail’s question, and ponder for sometimes to answer his question? His question is: “Can you think of anything more pathetic, dear reader, anything more oxymoronic, and sadly comical than a “resistance force” that pleads on behalf of its oppressor?”

    Amanuel Hidrat

    • Ismail

      Selamat Amanuel! I don’t know what happened to my earlier reply to you ( 2 to 3 days – a lengthier comment which I can’t repeat now). In any case, I very much appreciate your comments and your enthusiasm for the issue.
      Ismail (pointblank)