The idea espoused by some, that the PFDJ regime is a colossal and a formidable military force is just too farcical of an idea which only the naïve – the regime’s supporters and those who would like to confine Eritreans to debilitating inaction – the arrogant exclusionists would entertain. In that regard, the PFDJ regime’s record and its current state of affairs speak for themselves.
When PFDJ thugs came face to face with a real war, they shamefully gave up one half of the country in no time and were almost ready to give up the other half, had it not been for their unconditional surrender by accepting the most humiliating terms as dictated by their enemies which brought a sudden halt to their otherwise guaranteed annihilation. So much so for a record of resilience and strength which in all truth, were nothing but hollow bravado and arrogant pomposity.
They may be good at shooting un-armed little kids and displaying their dead bodies, they may be good at imprisoning elderly men and women because their children or grandchildren left town, they may be good at torturing and murdering helpless prisoners of conscience and they may also be very good at terrorizing a captive and helpless civilian population with various acts of pillaging and banditry – but all these crimes can hardly be considered as a measure of one’s strength or ferocity. If anything, they are clear signs of weakness and cowardice intended to instil fear in any would be attackers who would try to dislodge them from power. Only cowards beat up on defenceless civilian populations they way these thugs do.
On the contrary, throughout their twenty year existence, there isn’t a single inch of land which these thugs grabbed by attacking the neighbouring countries and managed to keep – not a single inch. They were chased out like stray monkeys – and not only were they driven out of the lands they grabbed, but also lost sovereignty over a huge chunk of the country.
When push came to shove, they caved in and run in all directions as if they weren’t defending the dignity of a nation – but then again, what would a bunch of thugs know about dignity anyways? That they are weak and vulnerable was proven beyond any doubt by the series of humiliations they suffered over the past twenty years – from devastating military defeats, to successful legal challenges by their opponents and punitive measures taken by international bodies including the UN.
If the regime’s record is a clear testament of how weak and how vulnerable it is, then its current state of affairs which is the elephant in the room, is even more damning. Besides being flat broke and having no known friends other than Rashaida racketeers and Somali extremists, there is no doubt that it is one of the most hated regimes on earth, which is at odds with all of its neighbours without any exception and even with many other countries far beyond its borders.
If the regime is ever attacked, it will face the wrath of its attackers alone, and save and except for a few clichéd diplomatic appeals calling for “restraint from all sides”, it goes without saying that no one will ever come to its rescue – least of all without a doubt, the forced conscript army. The vast majority of the Eritrean people and most of the countries in the region and many others far beyond, couldn’t wait to see the day when this regime is finally done with.
PFDJ thugs’ only line of presumed defence is this fake façade of invincibility which they erected by the forcible conscription of almost a tenth of the country’s population. The regime and the chauvinist bigots who support it think that the conscript army has pledged its allegiance to the bloody dictator and will come to his rescue if he is ever attacked. Yah right, how carefree is this allegiance? one may ask. Well, it is not that hard to figure out – just look at what the regime does to garner allegiance:-
It spends almost half of its military budget just watching over the conscript army, trying to prevent the conscripts from abandoning their posts and fleeing the country. They watch them day and night, round the clock with shoot-to-kill orders and then, if you can believe it or not, they have the nerve to boast that their (conscript) army is 300,000-strong! No one among us is that naïve to accept pretence and hollow pomposity as strength to be reckoned with.
So, how do the armed resistance groups zero in on the pompous PFDJ regime for the final push?
The first step is to concentrate all efforts on destroying this myth of invincibility which the regime heavily relies on as its major line of defence. It is a myth, because the conscript army by and large is not part of the PFDJ project – it is just a captive army of conscripts who would abandon the regime at every and any opportunities which avail themselves. So this entails that the fight against the regime be clearly defined as a top-down operation rather than a bottom-up operation like it has been over the years.
You can keep beating up on the proverbial snake’s tail all you want – you can even beat up on it until it is cut to pieces; the venomous snake would still survive, but alternatively, with only one strong whack to the head, you can finish the snake off and it would be as limp as a dead worm in a split second.
Likewise, beating up on PFDJ’s tail is not an effective tactic – it had been tried many times before over the past twenty years with little or no success, and unfortunately with more misery for ordinary folks on both sides of the armed conflict. Dismantling the PFDJ works best and is more effective if it is executed as a top-down operation.
A top-down operation would require that the armed resistance groups strategize and focus on destroying the decision-maker-enforcer network of the regime. But first, it is important to determine what constitutes this decision-maker-enforcer network. The dictator, his so-called generals, his rubberstamp cabinet, all high ranking army officers, all high ranking formal and informal security & intelligence officers and all high ranking party officials are all bona fide card-carrying members of this network.
It is important to remember that these thugs don’t number in the hundreds of thousands as they claim; they don’t number in the tens of thousands or even in the thousands. At the most, they number a few hundred and as we all know, they are hiding behind the misery of the disillusioned army conscripts in order to appear more powerful and much larger in numbers than they actually are.
But then again, this line of defence is more of a bluff than anything else; even animals try to ward off any would be attackers by swelling up, stretching their wings to the limit or displaying their fangs just to appear more ferocious than they are. It is an old trick, gadima – and no one should be fooled by it.
In a top down operation, what the armed resistance groups would aim at would be the few hundred decision-maker-enforcer network of the regime and not necessarily the 300,000-strong conscript army. It is an effective, fair and winnable fight which does not require a huge manpower and/or logistical commitments.
For a top-down operation against the PFDJ network to be successful, the availability of timely intelligence information is very critical. But as we speak, this doesn’t seem to be of a major concern as there is enough intelligence information at the disposal of the armed resistance groups. In fact, the information was there all along, it just wasn’t acted on in the past, because the fight against the PFDJ regime for all these years was a bottom-up operation, a very onerous and costly strategy of engaging and destroying conscript army units in order to get to the callous PFDJ network.
At this juncture in our struggle, the armed resistance groups are fully cognizant of who does what, who goes where and when, and more importantly, who lives where, drinks where and conducts his/her illicit business activities where within the PFDJ network. It is not like tiny Eritrea possesses a huge land mass where PFDJ thugs could hide – you bump into theses ugly thugs on a daily basis even if you are not looking for them.
De-commissioning these thugs for good isn’t a monumental task and doesn’t require a huge procurement of logistics. All it needs is for it to be adopted as an urgent strategy and a much sought-after alternative to the current bottom-up operation, which as mentioned above, is too costly and far too less effective. Bringing these criminals to justice is just as good as bringing justice to them, with the only deference being given to the safety of the resistance fighters and the safety of the civilian populace at large.
When targeting the PFDJ network, the armed resistance groups could also hit it where it hurts most – its economic base. If that were to happen, the dead PFDJ regime wouldn’t be allowed to benefit from any new sources of revenues which would otherwise enable it to prolong its hold on power. Such is modern warfare that even the mining projects could be de-commissioned before they even start production. This operation alone could have devastating effects on the market position of the regime and its accomplices, where their share prices could plummet down to a “halt” status. (If there are any honest investors in these mining projects beside the loan sharks, it is better for them to cash-out now before they get burned through the cascading effects of inevitable turmoil, high risk and bad publicity.)
PFDJ network’s underground economy could also be a target for the armed resistance groups. Breaking the illicit trade-lines through which human trafficking and human organ harvesting is conducted (these are primarily the business projects of specific PFDJ thugs – the Rashaidas and the other brokers are just accomplices who benefit along the way but nonetheless, bloody culprits who should also be dealt with decisively) would deny PFDJ thugs a lucrative source of revenue they have relied on for sometime now.
All the personal wealth these thugs accumulated, all the villas and mansions they built, all the businesses and properties they acquired were financed through such illicit sources in the underground economy. They are all easily identifiable and these ones as well, could be slated for de-commissioning by the armed resistance groups.
In a top-down operation, circumventing the conscript army and targeting directly the decision-maker-enforcer network of the regime is a dual-purpose strategy. First and foremost, it will expedite the final push of the dead regime with a lightening speed.
Neither the dictator nor the rest of his PFDJ network could ever survive each other’s loss. Without his PFDJ network, the dictator would lose his grip and won’t be able to carry out his tyranny. He would probably end up hiding in a fox hole (like Saddam Hussain) until he is finally fished out, with hands up in the air and begging for his life “don’t shoot, don’t shoot – it’s only me, your…?”
Likewise, without the dictator, the rest of the PFDJ network would crumble like a house of cards in no time. As is obvious for all to see, PFDJ tyranny wasn’t built to withstand direct blows and certainly wasn’t built with continuity in mind. The sheer volume, the ugliness and the brazen savagery committed by these thugs are not the works of a people who had the intention of calling it quits someday by coming back to their senses at some point. There is just so much blood which was spilt – so much grief and pain for anyone to be so naïve to even remotely contemplate a change of hearts from these criminals.
The whole PFDJ project is a one-time disposable tool; that is why you don’t see a prime-minister, a vice-president or any other figure-head within their hierarchy who would give even the flimsiest semblance of continuity. When and if the dictator is blown away, the rest of his PFDJ thugs will devour each other in a flicker. Some of them even got a head-start on this and are doing it now, as we speak.
The second purpose of circumventing the conscript army is to avoid unnecessary bloodshed and to actually help the conscripts disengage themselves from the tight grip of the regime’s enforcers. When and if the enforcers are destroyed in a top-down operation, the conscripts would be unshackled and liberated from captivity, thus disbanding and heading back to their towns and villages. Some may even cross the borders to the neighbouring countries for safety without the fear of being shot at in the back. There may be a few inevitable skirmishes and fire fights here and there, but if the armed resistance groups do their level best to circumvent the conscript army, major battles between them could definitely be avoided.
2011 may very well be the year when the PFDJ regime could be destroyed and dusted-off for good. The political fight against the regime has reached a level of political maturity which has never been seen before in almost two decades of struggle against the regime. All the pertinent oppositions groups and civic organizations have coalesced around a common goal with the aim of establishing a free, dignified, compassionate and democratic Eritrea, where the rule of law presides supreme.
The role of the armed resistance groups at this juncture of our struggle is very important. It has to go hand in hand with the political achievements in that it should adopt strategies which would give the decaying PFDJ regime the final push. Without the final push, and an immediate one at that, the struggle would be bogged down and the status quo would keep lingering forever until some miracle happens. But a waiting game is in no body’s interest – it may very well lead to the break-up of the country.
As they stand today, the armed resistance groups may seem to have clustered allegiances, when looked at from a national perspective, but this is not their fault at all. It is important to remember that when these groups carried arms in the first place, they did so, on the sole premise of defending themselves against the chauvinist PFDJ regime, which has targeted them for annihilation through its policy of ethnic cleansing. In other words, they were forced to carry arms to fight for their existence and for the dignity of their people – and they don’t need to apologize for that even one bit.
Having said that, it is also important to remember that the success of any armed resistance group in achieving its goals is predicated on its ability to adapt to new realities. And the new realities in the Eritrean political arena these days call for the consolidation of efforts, not only on the political aspect, but also on the military aspect of our struggle as well.
In that regard, there are a slew of things which the armed resistance groups could do; like consolidating the armed resistance under a joint command structure, creating a joint defence council with civilian participation, conducting increased joint operations against the regime and co-ordinating the identification and the prioritizing of the biggest and most effective targets, the sharing of information and intelligence reports and so on and so forth.
Such a consolidation process which starts in earnest to go in conjunction with the political achievements of our struggle is important for two critical reasons, among other things: First, it will create the necessary bonding process between the armed resistance groups and thus prepare them to be incorporated into a new national army; and second, it will give these groups the firepower, the will and the strategy they need to give the PFDJ regime the final push.
The Good: YES, there is enough determination and goodwill to make 2011 “The Year”.
The Bad: There will be some more tears of sorrow before the tears of joy start to flow.
The Ugly: The spectre of secession still looms and if 2011 is squandered as yet “another year”, the country will surely disintegrate.
Bests in 2010:
Best Eritrean story – Of Kings And Bandits (genuine and very inspiring)
Best Document – The Eritrean Covenant (empowering)
Best Conscience – Alena (truth never dies)
Happy New Year