Another new “winter project” is upon us; Medrekh is its name.
To its credit, Medrekh has introduced another obscure term to the Eritrean Diaspora politics: Monocracy. I hold the PFDJ tyranny is not mono; it is being played in stereo. I have a long held belief that any thought of reforming the regime is as bad as giving it a new lease on life.
A few years ago I learned from Adhanom Gebremariam, a relatively new Tigrinya lexicon which encapsulates my thinking: “sur-neqel”, the complete uprooting of the PFDJ’s unjust system. With that in mind, I believe any attempt to maintain the status quo by only removing Isaias, in any manner it is explained and justified, is futile. Eritrea needs a regime change and not palace coup d’etat.
Since I heard about Medrekh in March of 2013, I remained skeptical choosing to give the initiators the benefit of the doubt; in the end, I cautiously formed my views about their project. At this moment, I believe I have enough information about Medrekh and will partly share it in this edition of Negarit and more in subsequent editions where, among other things, I will address Mesfin Hagos’ status in Medrekh, which completely contradicts the claim some leaders of the project are making.
I hereby apologize to my friends who are within Medrekh; I do not question their decision to jump on the Medrekh wagon with the intention of doing their part in the struggle to unseat the PFDJ tyranny. But I hope they weigh their position carefully.
The following is a letter I sent to Medrekh leaders on the 22nd of January 2014:
Allow me to congratulate you on launching Medrekh, a platform through which you have declared to fight the Eritrean tyrant.
Two weeks ago, I and my colleague Saleh Younis met Dr. Assefaw over lunch. He was charming. He still maintains a disarming and soft-spoken personality despite the thinly sprayed stinging remarks. As I promised Assefaw, I hereby share with you my personal views, both as a concerned individual and as a stakeholder in the well-being of the struggle against the PFDJ regime.
Discussing national issues requires openness and honesty and I hope you understand my views in the spirit I write them: to help you avoid the pitfalls of the past so that your project doesn’t become one of the numerous winter projects that had confused the opposition camp every year-end, to silently wrap up with no explanation afterwards.
At the outset, I would like to appeal to you to reevaluate your communications record; a weakness that is feeding the rumor mill…something the opposition camp doesn’t need. This is the main reason why I am expressing my views to you privately to avoid another season of demoralizing squabbles. Please help avoid another round of draining and negative public discourse.
Over the years, I have been actively involved in the opposition camp; sitting at the front row, watching the events (and dramas) of the opposition camp unfold, limp, and wither away. I have also been vocal in informing my readers in order to keep the promise that I had made when I first decided to fight the oppressive PFDJ regime; I have restrained myself from writing about your movement from fear of contributing to other confusion.
At this moment, I have a few concerns regarding your activities: (1) you are cannibalizing the existing activist entities instead of grooming your own. This doesn’t expand the opposition base; it hollows it out; (2) you are not contributing towards building a broad-based opposition which is the best way to defeat the PFDJ; (3) your position vis-a-vis the PFDJ is not clear; (4) the claim that you have connections in Eritrea may or may not be factual but the last entities that made such claims didn’t deliver on them; (5) at some point you will have to address the people and unless you prepare them by introducing yourselves, you will not get past the question of “where were you all these years?”
In what follows, allow me to elaborate on the above from the angle of: will your project work and what is the risk of a collateral damage.
- Unfortunately, so far you have not shown any respect for those who have been struggling for decades; instead you are belittling their achievements, be it big or small. Your dismissive response has been: “Show us any significant achievement!” The lack of significant achievements can be attributed to many factors and hindrances, part of which I believe some of you are guilty of. A healthy coalition cannot be built with such utter disrespect and denials of the sweat of others. I appeal to you to change that rhetoric in order to avoid further damaging polarization.Throughout the years, I have watched every popping entity working to cannibalize the existing entities, aggressively in an act similar to a corporate take-over. Your wild recruiting drive, always luring people from what they are doing, instead of strengthening them where they are, has created chaos and added to the already lacking trust among Eritreans—repeating the same practice that rendered the opposition ineffective for many years, and for which some of you are blaming it! Please tread outside your comfort zone more often and monitor the scene, you would discover the problems and grievances of others. Please be careful not to put a wedge amongst friends, there is a chance you might do that unintentionally. Luring people from what they are doing to build your own entity at the expense of others is not a wise idea; such practices of open rivalry should be left to post-PFDJ multi-party environment.Your trying to reinvent and control everything with the power of money doesn’t bode well considering the fact that many opposition organizations were beaten to death because of the meager help (in Birr) that they got from Ethiopia. And yes, I am worried about the future. So far you didn’t entertain the idea of adding value to the struggle; you chose to duplicate what many others are doing. Instead of joining hands with Assena, Arkokabay, Delina radio outfits and AlHiwar Television, and others, you chose to duplicate and scatter resources meant to advance our common goal. Unfortunately, what you are doing smells of a creation of a partisan media—another bad omen for the future of free press in Eritrea. Please explain to the public clearly whether you are political contenders or an ally of the anti-PFDJ opposition camp.
- I am assuming that you are for a complete structural democratic change in Eritrea; that I believe can only be achieved on the ashes of the PFDJ. So far, your rhetoric is being understood and perceived as a reformist agenda—getting rid of the top leadership only and inheriting the structure which will inevitably mean preserving the status quo. You would agree with me that this sounds like a power struggle; I advise you to refrain from making statements that might be understood or construed (or misconstrued) as romantic songs serenading the PFDJ. One point that pops up in your conversations is your defensive statements stating that “Wedi-Ali was PFDJ.” On the surface it might seem so, but then, I too was considered an Ethiopian citizen under Haile Sellassie when I was not. Don’t forget that Isaias is not only a PFDJ member, he is its founder and chief. It would be an insult to the intelligence of Eritreans to state that Wed-Ali and Isaias belong to the same entity. It would be a disservice to you (and many others) to state that your colleagues, the G-15, and their jailers belong to the same entity. It would be untenable to claim that all the suffering exiled-veterans, many of them your colleagues, belong to the PFDJ just like the tyrant!
- Since we are all Eritreans, it is natural for all of us to have connections with Eritreans inside Eritrea. The “we have connections inside Eritrea” tune is not new, it has been repeated over and over again, since the time most of you joined the opposition camp, around the year 2000. My experiences has been disappointing in this sphere, but I hope this time your claim has veracity and carries some weight. My advice: “show; don’t tell.” Shield yourselves from ridicule; it is overused and stale. These connections should not be your main selling points.
- As you all know, before employing someone for a job, employers run a credit history on potential employees to see their records and determine their fitness. It is natural that those of us in the opposition camp run such credit history from memory and experience. I beg you to stop vilifying those who have been struggling against the PFDJ regime for too long. ELF and EPLF rivalry ceased to exist in 1991; their legacy belongs to all Eritreans, equally. Reviving an exclusive camp is not a wise thing; liberal democrats are expected to shun such a practice not revive it. Since 1993, we have been living with the PFDJ which is getting uglier by the day. With this in mind, and given the record of some of your senior members who were on the wrong side when the G-15 were jailed (a major reason for many to switch sides, declare anti PFDJ position, and be allied with the opposition camp), you should expect the bitter, “where were you all these years?” challenge. Of course there is no gate keeper who accepts or rejects citizens to the opposition camp. But just like many of your members have the right to join the camp and say what they please, those of us who have been at it for years have the right to pose the unpleasant question to you. It is wise to help the opposition avoid a tit-for-tat discourse by explaining your goals clearly. Please note that those who joined the fray long ago, and have been toiling for years to gather the pieces, to expose the brutal regime…, those who maintained an opposition platform for others to come and join it, do not deserve to be belittled and ridiculed. Those of us who are married to the cause of justice and equality in post-PFDJ Eritrea, and have been struggling with dedication, have the right to protect our achievements.
Finally, please note that for the last two years or so, the opposition camp has been gaining unprecedented steady momentum. Kindly appreciate this momentum that the opposition camp has built with little resources, and refrain from damaging it. It is natural that many will see you as eagle-eyed politicians coming loaded with money to snatch the toil of others; you need a little humility to ameliorate the suspicion and skepticism. Of course, Eritreans have the right to struggle the way they see fit. But as a member of the broad opposition camp against the PFDJ, I appeal to you to please reconsider the way you are pursuing your affairs.
The above has been my attempt to help you see your image as perceived outside your closed circle; I hope you will be convinced to make the necessary adjustments.
I leave you with this old Arabic wisdom: اللهم اعنى على اصدقائى اما اعدائى فأنا كفيل بهم.
Saleh “Gadi” Johar
California, January 22, 2014