This time I will tighten my belt and swerve little from the usual style of dealing with our “sensitive” concerns compassionately, because courtesy alone can’t resolve our complications from the roots. Though we are not used to it, and might cause discomfort to some, exposing the inside-out directs us to discover the right therapy for our unending problems. I don’t admire the usage of the term “sensitive” on my text, because, it reminds me a lot about PFDJ’s school of illiteracy and suffocation on abusing the term, and the destruction it caused on shaping the mind-set of many Eritreans not to grasp natural matters as simple as they are. To talk about fundamental questions such as religion, region, language and culture that constitute the identity of a particular social group is a taboo according to the dictionary of the Sheabia. If we go back for a while and review the kind of life we had in Eritrea, it was a complete sham; we were living in a micro-planet that functions entirely to the opposite of the rest of the world. Yet, this fake life is not long-lasting; it is always replaced by the genuine form of life whenever favourable conditions are met. We can notice the surfacing of the realities among the Diaspora Eritreans by either following the media or taking part on various political and social assemblages.
I am delighted to share my experience and personal observation about the current status of socio-political realism of Diaspora Eritreans (with little emphasis from the inside.) My understanding about the Eritrean reality when I was home and beholding that through the various interactions I had with the Diaspora is quite dissimilar. I have been dwelling on my own world of dreams with much patience and positivity, envisioning that tomorrow would be a better day and that we can move forward on establishing a united front that loathes PFDJ and struggles for democracy. But, finally I sensed little or no success; our problems proved that they are much sophisticated than one can imagine. We have been suffering for twenty years under the totalitarian rule of the PFDJ, however, what are the steps taken to get rid of this mafia organization so far? If there are no significant measures to mention, why are we so reluctant to act as it was supposed to be?
To discover the secrecy behind this impotence, I closely witnessed some important occurrences through the journey I had with the Eritrean social constituents. While someone is in Eritrea, he/she can’t be able to feel the authentic nature of the people and their position towards one another and the government. People to people relationship seem friendly when someone observes it from there; as usual, they share sorrow and happiness together and they show respect to one another. This tradition was there for so many years before Isaias came to power. But wait, something is missing! Once you are exiled, the story is pretty different.
Abrupt disclosure of the buried sentiments
Eritrea is a diverse country that embraces various cultures and faiths. Hence, in its colonial and post-colonial history it is natural to retain varied socio-political entities wrestling to guarantee their rights. Here when I say diversity, I mean the factual one, unlike PFDJ’s empty slogans and theoretical diversity that lacks any sense of pragmatism more than propaganda shows and illusions. The immediate years that followed the liberation has proved this reality. Consequently, it led the traditional sentiments to resurface again, this time not inside Eritrea, but among the Diaspora Eritreans. The buried grudges had their origin back to the colonial era where Eritreans were largely polarized by religious lines; every party struggling to protect its interests and afraid of the other stakeholder- not to dominate the political domain and end up into suppression and injustice at the expense of the other. Isaias has added insult to injury; otherwise, it is immature to blame him for the entire dissection. The good thing is that these glitches have never reached a stage of bloodshed; thus, had it not been the unwillingness of the PFDJ, the impediments would have been resolved quite easily, because, initially, the EPLF was accepted almost by the entire Eritrean people and they had a sufficient space to do the right thing.
I have seen this clear division here in the Diaspora; not only within the existing multiplying opposition movements but the same is true for ordinary Eritreans-there is no bitter hatred and enmity but suspicion and gossiping behind the curtain. Surprisingly enough, these “political” splits have affected people’s daily social life; the manifestation of strange cultures such as boycotting to attend a mourning congregations and wedding ceremonies between the supporters and opponents is everywhere. Matters have worsened among the “enemies” for nothing and reached to the level of refusing to return the customary passer-by’s salutation “selamat”. Very sad indeed, I have no idea which version of polotika we are dealing with!
To encounter a problem is not a problem by itself, but the failure to sort out a given problem and rectify it wisely in a given time frame is even the hardest puzzle. In Eritrea, throughout the colonial and post-colonial period, we have central issues that were never resolved entirely with the exception of the relative tranquility of the 1950’s in which we had a democratically elected parliament and constitution. For those parrots that are mimicking EriTv and denying the crystal-clear truth, a serious answer is not well deserved, though it is our duty to enlighten them and explain the consequences of their deviant behaviour for good. Here you are:
O supporters of the dictator; aka drum addicts, unless and otherwise you come to your senses and change your odd conduct, you will be thrown away into the dustbin of history as what has happened to your counterparts in Egypt and Libya and that you are accountable for your illegal and immoral acts; God willing, you will be questioned by the angry Eritreans who have suffered under the criminal dictator and his accomplices. Keep in mind that the day you bury your heads into the sands of shame is not far.
I doubt that they are attentive enough to perceive the good recommendation.
Once you proceed further, you find another crowd of Eritreans who are relatively better than the blind supporters of the regime; nonetheless, with partial understanding of the whole story- they loudly say that our problems have started after the year 2001, when Isaias jailed the G15 and the journalists. Any kind of injustice that had taken place before that year is either unrealistic; fetera or trivial to them. The problem with this kind of creatures is that they are not ready to listen to the pain of others with empathy; they grab a full mandate to talk and decide on behalf of the others. Their mind-set is automatically programmed on recalling the half-truth and their sensors can’t detect the agonies of their brethren. It is challenging to explain this outlandish behaviour and for how long it will remain unchanged is something that disturbs the integrity of the scattered resistance voices.
The third and most vulnerable group are those who confess that they have never sensed the breeze of freedom since the early days of the so called “independence”. They are furious and they have a lot of untold stories on their souls. Whereas the whip was lashing them discriminately, there were no sophisticated media outlets that could expose the brutal acts of the regime to the international community and the uninformed Eritreans everywhere in the world, as it is easier nowadays. Those days, every cruelty was conducted covertly ( you couldn’t find evidences) and the families of the subjects had no access to the gates of the humanitarian NGOs-qualified and God fearing personnel that could deliver the full story genuinely were either unavailable or unwilling to report due to their negligence, where to cry then?………There was no option; families and relatives of the subject wiped their tears alone and they were not allowed to scream loudly unless they put themselves into the risk of following the fate of the victim. The bad news of the incidents spread to neighbours through a hearsay-ustaz Ferej tsebbeta, ustaz Isa rekbewwu……..Literally: Ustaz Ferej was arrested, they got him; poor usatz Isa….
The usual response of the elderly to such kind of tragic news was amelom likfeyom, let the wrongdoers (shaebia) get what their hands sawed, rebbi liferrijjom, may Allah set the detainees free. At the time these incidents happened, the regime was trusted; people were fooled by the liberation of the land and deemed the shaebia as angels that could never commit a sin, thus, whatever they say is true and whatever they do is right. On the other side, you are confronted with the most sickening reaction from the oblivious “fans” of the regime every time they hear about the disappearance or arrest of innocent civilians’: gele geru yikhewun ember….. There was no civility at all-courts; law and lawyers had been unfamiliar. The victim is judged in absentia by such unaware and/or inconsiderate folks.
Why dig back the “old” stories of the 1990s and how it would help from escaping the difficult situation we are facing at present? Weren’t these stories articulated several times on many occasions? These and other related queries are anticipated from regular readers whilst they read to find a clue about the importance of the subject. I would rather say, disregarding past incidents that caused the society to torn apart and mistrust one another would result on keeping the political atmosphere unchanged. Therefore, we will always repeat the same stories, unless they are addressed earnestly and treated properly.
As they say, haba’e quslu, haba’e fewsu, if you conceal your illness, you conceal your treatment too; we are a divided society, largely by religion and to some extent by ethnicity and region. Covering up this reality is just confusing oneself and buying another years of suffering and inefficiency. I am not comfortable with the Diaspora clusters-I despise that and it is not long time since I recognized the complexity and seriousness of this sad phenomena. The argument is not about criticizing democracy and healthy pluralism, absolutely not; however, the problem is when these groupings are not able to engage themselves into a collective negotiation without demeaning one another and address the issues at stake. One of the common bottlenecks that are stalling us from stepping forward is:-
Failure to define the true Eritrea
Knowing the real history and culture of ourselves is by far the most important element that could help us to find out the proper prescription to our persistent syndromes. So far, we failed to assemble the scattered notes of our history and publish them into a single entirely “agreed upon” history of Eritrea. We hold different versions of the missing reality; every one of us wrestling to prove his/her own version of the story as the ultimate truth. Therefore, the lack of substantiated awareness and the failure to share the same table together is costing us a lot.
How could we face these challenges and achieve a peaceful ending? Does immediate reconciliation matters? I would have said yes, we the Diaspora Eritreans need to reconcile (reconciliation phase I) and learn from one another in order to reach the intended goal. A well-organized reconciliation council that constitutes the elderly, scholars and the youth would yield a solution that satisfies all parties and strengthen the level of confidence among the various Eritrean socio-political spectrums. At this juncture, the role of scholars and academicians with expertise is critical on leading the process. Thus, a civilized face to face “Hard Talk” and joint discussions, public lectures and scholarly presentations are of a vital significance to reach an agreement. When these accomplishments are documented audio-visually and set available to the public to see, listen and read, certainly the outcome is positive and the variance gap turns out to be narrower and narrower. Reconciliation phase II could be conducted after the removal of the regime.