received an invitation from the preparatory committee (PC) of the peace conference which is planned to convene in London May 21st and 23rd of 2010.
I did not receive a written agenda, but some friends told me that the issue of priority is: Eritrean—Eritrean dialogue. I found that interesting, at least one can exchange ideas with others and listen to new contributions. But far away from the atmosphere of the (PC), people approached the conference from different angles:
What peace? Where and How? Who is sponsoring it and why? What is the real agenda?
The next step was to organize a small “workshop” to discuss the whole issue.
1- First View
One of my friends said: Do not trust what you read, there is a “ hidden” agenda and you will find yourself embroiled with unexpected situation?
I asked my friend: If it is “hidden” how come that you know about it?
He claimed that one of his friends from the “inner circle” of the PC told him about the whole plan?
I asked him again: Since I am also your friend, can you tell me about it?
He adjusted himself on his chair and started talking confidently: This conference is a promotion of Tigrai—Tigrinya dream, they want to bridge the gap created by PFDJ with their historical neighbor and to restore the cultural, social and religious relations between Eritrean Christian highlanders and Tigrai.
I looked at my friend and said: Listen to this –I am an Eritrean Muslim, a lowlander and an ELF member that had been victimized by the EPLF-TPLF coalition–still I support that “hidden agenda” if it guarantees and secures good relations with our neighbor (Ethiopia)? On the other hand they should support the ambitions and efforts of the other partners to build and extend relations with Eastern Sudan and across the Red Sea. That is how we (Eritreans as a whole) become united, strong and a respected Nation.
A Second person said: it is not that deep and complicated agenda, it is simply an event for self promotion, a gathering to support an Eritrean fellow who is pursuing and hunting “peace prizes” up to Noble prize!
Although sometimes regional and international awards go the wrong way and are given to people who are not eligible for them (president Obama is an example), yet there are strict criteria and conditions that minimize the margin of error. If after all the filtering process, an Eritrean is lucky enough to win the prize, congratulations!
You cannot stop people from dreaming, but we can remind them of Ras Tesemma’s advice (Aqmkhn Hlema). Self-promotion, exaggeration of self worth and the like are signs and symptoms of megalomania, a status that leads either to self-destruction or dictatorship (PIA is an example).
A third person looked more confident of his sources: It is all about peace, to help create an atmosphere where Nations of the Horn of Africa come together and live in peace and stability!
That is a good and a wishful thinking, I said, but may the dream come true
we have to begin our “homework” internally within the Eritrean community.
Some might say: Eritrea is in peace, no wars, no conflicts… Well, the concept of peace is deeper and goes beyond the arrangements of “cease fire” or the laying down of arms. True and lasting peace requires coexistence, tolerance, recognition of the other, freedom and equality—conditions and prerequisites that are totally absent in Eritrea.
That can only be reached through dialogue, and a consent on a shared vision.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela won the Noble prize because of the leading role they played within their community inside South Africa, before crossing the border. So whatever the agenda is—hidden or exposed, the London Peace Conference needs to put an agenda on top of its list: Eritrean—Eritrean dialogue.
My recommendation: As Dr. M. Kher suggested, it should be inclusive, not random cerry-picking, but following certain selection criteria: experience, knowledge, contributions, vision and commitment to defend national unity and the struggle against dictatorship.
4- Fourth View
The last person said: Well, we listened to all the arguments, still even if the agenda is clear cut, personal ambitions will appear between the lines and in the final draft and might distract the attention of participants from the main issues?
I remembered the story of a Sudanese millionaire who believed that he was a talented singer. His friends and relatives though did not share that feeling with him. So he established his own TV channel and put some cultural and social programs to attract viewers. Surprisingly, the TV channel became a success—not because of the songs but people liked the other programs the station presented; when the millionaire’s songs were played, viewers simply turned the television off!
But the millionaire invented a trick; he began to play his songs within the programs and people have to listen whether they liked it or not. Viewers quickly adjusted their time and considered the songs as an “Advertisement break” so they could go and have a cup of coffee! (this is a true story by the way.)
My last words to those who are sincerely concerned and are worried about the hidden terms and conditions that might be behind the sponsorship of the conference. It is true that there is no unconditional “aid” or donation. Mohamed A. Mahgoub, the late Sudanese Prime Minister has a solution for this: All you have to do is THANK YOU! It is up to the individual who can either sign up or say thank you and walks away!
What is the outcome of all that?
I am ready to listen to all Eritreans who are concerned about the future of our people. My mind is open but I expect others to be open and listen: there are “Red Lines” that should not be crossed and I will never dance to the tunes I don’t like.