The New Year might be a good occasion for each one of us to wonder why magic always seems to single out and evade our Eritrea and why our best efforts never seem to payoff. We need to challenge ourselves with one logical question: How was it that a semi-illiterate Somali cleric heading a militia government squashed in a bachelor apartment in Mogadishu was able to get the IGAD, the AU and the UN Security Council moving to choke an 18 year old government with a quarter of a million best-trained and armed men? Why couldn’t we, the primary victims, of the exact justifications for the sanctions do in 18 years what the Somalis did in weeks?
Sheikh Sherif did it not because he managed to convince the Ethiopians that they have more stakes in Somalia than they had in Eritrea as the Weyanes would know better not believe him. He did it not because he convinced President Obama that he is more democratic and secular than our Christian President. Neither did he do it because he had the backing of the brilliant professors in CDRiE or the lobbying capabilities of EGS. He is after all what you see on TV an exact replica of an average Somali in your neighborhood with a secret weapon that few Eritreans seem to possess: he believes that HE CAN.
I do appreciate the worries of so many readers that our debates might actually be derailing the resistance movement into unwarranted diversionary battles against one another and siphoning much needed energy away from confrontation against the PFDJ. Their worries would be well deserved only if we are not tempted to investigate into the reason why an 18-year-old opposition movement with 13 political and more civil society organizations with so much energy (allegedly saved by ducking the discussion of thorny issues) has failed to save a single helpless kid drowning in the Mediterranean or to solicit a single line of sympathy towards the forgotten political prisoners from an international or regional organization that matters.
It is this critical battle of believing in the righteousness of our cause and the effectiveness of our means that we had lost to these gangs of shameless politicians and intellectuals determined to castrate our struggle for justice by maintaining ambiguity in the definition of why, who and how we fight for our legitimate right to dignity, equality and liberty. Decontaminating the Eritrean resistance from the institutionalized grip of THESE GUYS is as critical as liberating Teklaygizat in our march to freedom and democracy because it is only then that just like all other nations on the planet we too will start to believe that our intended destination is worth fighting for and that our journey is blessed with the sacrifices of too many young men and women who had believed that THEY COULD and achieved what they should. Once we manage to chase the Doubting Lucifer away and start to believe in the Power of Truth, then all we’ll need to recite will be: “Step by step – bit by bit – stone by stone – brick by brick” and “when I get there I’ll know”.
We are not there YET and it is only prudent and incumbent upon us to investigate: why is it that 18 years later our opposition remains impotent debating the ABCs of kindergarten politics. How does it happen and why do we tolerate it?
In spite of my clear disagreements with his characterization of the PFDJ as an “equal opportunity oppressor”, Milkias Mihretab deserves a round of applause for standing up and saying what anyone making a case for the journalists who disappeared into the PFDJ’s dungeons for violating “the code of conduct” should have said. Now, I believe we have a good picture as to why the PFDJ had to get rid of those courageous men and women. Having this vivid picture of the truly freethinking and decent Eritrean that Milkias managed to paint in his article in the backs of our minds is crucial in differentiating between the sheep and the wolves in sheep-skin as far as the 2001 political crisis in Asmara is concerned.
This in itself is absolutely necessary in falsifying the commercials of the disguised ethnic supremacists and opportunists in the opposition who have brainwashed unsuspecting Eritreans and laid an undeserving claim as the heirs of the voices of the G15 and associated journalists by tarnishing and reducing the image of those decent men and women into nothing but a dialogue and a squabble over cheap politics within the ruling regime. It was the doubt that was triggered as Eritreans started to compare those lofty men and women who disappeared in Eritrea with the dwarfs who appeared in Europe and North America that extinguished the dream and gradually vanquished the memory of hope. Do we need another abortion today that we are inches away from a dream? Not now and never again – because THESE WOLVES will either BEHAVE or LEAVE.
THE POLITICS OF HASEWSEW
Speaking of wolves; let me congratulate the formerly “Uniting Organizations” for finally achieving their “historic unity” and thank them for making our lives easier by giving us one single name: the EPDP. The reason I loved the new name was because it rhymes with some of my favorite expressions including (but not limited to) halewlew [babbling], hasewsew [groping], and their Tigre equivalent of hatemtem [dinky and silly]. Don’t get me wrong, Siga-Saryam Ile, if the concluding statement and politikawi wisanetat is any indication of what they ended up with, I guarantee you that what we have at hand is “Inda hasewsew”. Have you ever attended a meeting (akheba) where it gets so boring and someone takes a polite initiative to disperse by launching the strategy of hasewsew and asking “tewesakhi tibliwo intay alo”? [Do you have anything to add?] The answer to this loaded question is usually: “wala-Hanti” [Not a thing].
Was there a power outage in Frankfurt during the span of the conference? No. Were any of the attendants high on weed? No. Was alcohol a factor? No. Then how in the living God did these guys do it? How could three respectful political organizations (two of the claimants of the genius of the G15 included) get into the conference wet and juicy with ambitious political agendas and a wealth of technical expertise and come out of the conference appearing more like a civil society organization and a department of Inda Tirota [pensioners’ club]? Excuse me but we thought their intention was to change Mengisti [government] not Mazagajabeit [municipality].
You think I am being unfair? Now here is a quote from my previous article (The Honest Eritrean’s Road Map):
…they have no use for any political program anyway since (as per their “soft landing”) they are ready to embrace whoever comes to power as long as he/she does so “through peaceful means” (assuming the group that carries out the anticipated coup d’état have basic common sense to have thought about and agreed among themselves as to what such a dangerous move intends to achieve i.e. have drafted their own political program). In other words, any political programs that the “Uniting Entity” might claim to have adopted will be of use only as talking material in seminars and lectures until the day for change (equipped with its own program) does arrive. In other words the big talk about delivering democracy is empty promise.”
What I am trying to draw your attention to is not Wedi Shawl’s “aybelnando aybelnandoye”. In fact, I had predicted that the EPM and EPP had surrendered their “programs” to the EDP and what happened is the exact oppositite. I would like to take this opportunity to humbly apologize to all readers and to all the formerly “Uniting Organizations” by openly admitting that I was dead wrong on this. But my larger point remains: that these “programs” these organizations wave at us and brag about for years and years are disposable the minute they find that their self interests are served better by taking 180 degree turns. Many times, those who follow them from one dead-end to another dead-end have no idea that their leaders have changed.
Let’s us now look at how these “uniting organizations” babbled and groped for years and years about two major issues: the 1997 “ratified constitution” and the mode of struggle that Eritreans should use.
THE 1997 CONSTITUTION
Go to the EDP website (before it is closed) and read their Political Program starting with Part II “Establishment of EDP” and here is a quote for ease of reference:
“After Eritrea’s independence, promises for a democratic transition to constitutional government were made at least on paper. A Charter was issued and laws promulgated that sought to institute a constitutional form of government. These measures culminated in a process-driven, well conceived and organized, drafting of a national Constitution, which was ratified in May 1997, following three years of public debate and expert consultation. The Constitution remains unimplemented. EDP is being established on the basis of the spirit of the ratified Eritrean Constitution …”
And here is what they think of their “process-driven, well conceived and organized” constitution now, from the politikawi wisanetat [political resolutions] of the “Frankfurt Unity Conference” (my translation):
“The Issue of Constitution (guday qiwam)
It is only after the fall of the PFDJ that the 1997 Eritrean constitution … will find conducive grounds to be debated. The Unification Conference believed (accepted) that the choice of whether to amend or completely discard it [the constitution] should rest on a popular decision or the decision of an elected legislature.”
Can I ask you a question? If the EDP did actually believe that the process by which “The Ratified Constitution” came into being was really “process-driven, well conceived and organized” why should they agree to make us go through the process again and reinvent the wheel after the fall of the PFDJ? If the EPP did somehow convince them that the initial process was indeed defective and exclusive and that the EDP’s initial claim was arrogant and undeserved or that the “constitution” itself was a piece of trash, why not come out and apologize for misleading the public into believing that the blue booklet was a real constitution and for wasting the opposition’s time in discussing lies and illusions for years?
You don’t need to know that the paragraph (from the EDP’s Political Program) ends with “… but it [EDP] is prepared to entertain and seriously consider suggestions for amendments of any part of the Constitution that any of its members may deem necessary in order to accommodate the widest possible range of ideas and members.” There was no indication in any of their recent or distant statements and speeches that the contents of the constitution were the subject of discussion among any members of the “Uniting Organizations”. Hence, there is no reason to assume that the EDP leadership decided to abandon “The Ratified Constitution” (both as a viable governor of our future democracy or as a mobilizing document during our march in the opposition) had anything to do with give-and-take among the partner organizations. Neither did the EDP itself give any indication of the existence of doubts or resentment within its membership as to the sensibility and validity of “The Ratified Constitution”. In fact a December 23, 2009 statement of the farewell meeting of the Central Council of the EDP reiterated that both the political program that their party stood for and the struggle they waged to make it come true were evaluated as righteous and positive.
I want to know if the EDP joined the EPDP as an organization or if they abandoned what their party used to stand for to join a new party as individuals with no values. I want to know if the Frankfurt Conference was indeed a “Unity Conference” between organizations that had real political programs and memberships worthy of respect for boasting a distinctive political identity, or if it was a sneaky takeover by some dubious gang similar to the one that hijacked the EPLF in 1994. Since the talks towards this “Unity Conference” lasted for years, I want to know what the talks were about if the EDP for instance had no problem abandoning the very essence of their existence and putting themselves up for bidders. I want to know if the EDP leadership had the authority to abandon a political program mandated by its own party congress to adopt the political program of inda hasewsew on the basis of dubious deals between delala in Idaga Derhu. Not that I care about their “Ratified Constitution”, but I want to know if the EDP and its intellectuals (with their “vision & mission” smooth talk) ever stood for anything other than flowing with opportunistic tides. I want to know: “diHri selefas intay terefa”? [After exposing her thigh, what more can she hide?] And I want to know if the EDP had any valid motivations to unite other than the EPP’s cry of “Aslam keTfiuna yi’ekebu alewu”.
If they did decide to repent for having wasted years the opposition’s time and paralyzed an otherwise productive sector of the Eritrean public on Inkilalo about “The Ratified Constitution” that was never a big deal to them, I want them to come and apologize in public so that we can all pray for them for forgiveness in the next life and welcome them back to where they are supposed to belong: in the trenches of the struggle for decency. If you are a member of the EDP and are not an adherent of this shameless culture of followers, I want you to stand up and show us that you were not a hypocrite when you told us your “Ratified Constitution” was the best way out. Come on and show us some action here!
THE MODE OF STRUGGLE
Are you ready for their next prank?
Some people may be confused and think that there are two approaches: peaceful and armed to resist. Some people are clearly mistaken. What the EPDP believes is not in peaceful struggle, but “peaceful until we declare armed, based on our own arbitrary criteria. In the meantime, we will defame anyone and any method that uses clearly defined criteria.” I am going to quote two of their luminaries, Woldeyesus Ammar and Adhanom Ghebremariam to make this point.
Woldeyesus was apparently a guest at Paltalk and he was asked, “how do you expect to bring about change peaceful when resisting a regime that believes only in the use of force.” The answer he gave is so incoherent, that I can only invite you to read it for yourself. (Nharnet, December_23, 2008) According to Woldeyesus Ammar, an Eritrean who lost his entire family to the regime has no right to armed resistance ((which he calls not even “Gonets (clash) but “Amets” (exploitation.) But if one of the EPDP cadres is peacefully distributing the Collective Writings of Woldeyeus Ammar (including his Paltalk discussions) in Eritrea and he is surrounded by armed soldiers, then he has the right to “defend himself.”
Here is an idea for you. Memorize the following quotation from an Interview that H.E. Ambassador Adhanom Gebremariam (the Foreign Minister of THOSE GUYS) conducted with Awate on June 28, 2004. After ascertaining his preference of the “Peaceful Method” of struggle he added a few conditions under which the “Armed Method” would be the way to go and believe it or not, it was his answer to question # 70 (He was asked 81 questions):
“But if the people said that this regime is disintegrating the country, if they said the regime is anti-unity, it is anti-democracy and anti-rule of law, it is anti-development and they are going to destroy the country and if, as a consequence, the people stand up to remove the regime even by carrying arms, it is the choice of the people. There should be a flexible tactic.”
Can anybody go and politely (through “Peaceful Means”) ask His Excellency if the EPDP’s and his personal choice of the “Peaceful Method” today can be justified on the basis of what he thinks “the people said”? His reading of how he found out about what “the people said” in 2004 was the groundbreaking realization that those young men and women who escape across borders from Eritrea were unwilling to go back and fight. Of course nobody asked him then if that was because (in the case of those he interviewed) the PFDJ’s characterization that those escaping into neighboring countries were ambitious youngsters immigrating in search of better living conditions in the West and had nothing to do with political dissidence (just like the Mexican illegal immigrants) had any chance of being true. You might be wondering: assuming the EPDP’s choice of the “Peaceful Method” had its roots in the realization that the youth who make it to safety from hell are unwilling to pick arms and go back to fight for their rights, what makes them think that those who are still in hell under the watchful eye and vicious arms of the regime would have the courage and space to replicate the uprising of unarmed Iranian youth against Ahmedinejad.
What they are not telling you is that their definition of the “Peaceful Method” is strictly limited to negotiations with the PFDJ.
Today’s justification for choosing the “Peaceful Method” as described in the same EPDP Political Resolutions mentioned above is one that either totally lacks basic understanding of what it takes to effect Peaceful Means of political change or an outright blunder and a dangerous conspiracy to abort the revolution. The truth of the matter is that, in spite of the big talk and wild commercials about the emergence and unity of the adherents of the “Peaceful Method”, the statement makes it clear that those respectful gentlemen congregated in Frankfurt could not agree on anything conclusive (at least in public). In other words they pretended to have no idea what their new organization is planning to do or how their current “Peaceful Means” might evolve.
The following were the factors that led to their decision (I have rephrased the poor wording of the Tigrigna version and divergent interpretation of its Arabic translation):
The assumption that the Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF) is composed of forced conscripts and that its members are victims of the regime in par with the political prisoners under their custody and the countless Eritreans in their torture chambers.
This, of course, is only partially true as the bulk of the EDF represents selflessly committed Eritreans who would die rather than defy the orders of their institution or compromise the safety of the nation as defined by whoever happens to be in power. The irresponsibility of this twisted argument lies in the EPDP’s attempt to humanize the butcher’s machine with serious moral implications for their actual commitment to make a sensible case to demand the release of their former comrades for instance (G15 and journalists) who according to their argument are no different than the guards assigned to torture them. This of course has for a long time been behind the indifference towards the plight of political prisoners as well as the prisoners of conscience as a category of victims deserving of special urgency. Do you smell the presence of a sneaky conspiracy to promote indifference and negligence to the escalating horrors of the PFDJ?
The awareness of their right to incite a wide enough popular apprising that would lead to the success of THEIR PARTY’S (EPDP’S) strategy.
This perception of the EPDP as a stand-alone entity of the Eritrean political reality reflects two extremely dangerous implications for the future of the opposition movement as a whole:
(A) their conviction that the post PFDJ era will start with a deeply divided opposition which is a conclusion motivated by the EPDP’s own reluctance to accept the EDA as the umbrella organization that will initiate our future journey to democracy;
(B) their conviction that the post PFDJ era will most likely be a direct mapping of today’s opposition politics implying the precedence of narrow party interests over collective Eritrean politics (true only if they accept to equate Eritrean politics to ethno-religious politics).
The acceptance of the necessary level of violence for the purpose of self-defense.
This perception, reinforced by a disclaimer of their right to flexibility in whether to abandon the “Peaceful Method”, in addition to rendering their attempt to present themselves as Peace Doves into hypocritical and cheap politics, carries the most dangerous implications for the future of the EPDP as a legitimate member of the opposition movement. The danger lies in the EPDP’S failure to recognize the opposition movement in its totality as an act of collective self-defense against the viciousness of the PFDJ and its instruments of coercion. Most Eritreans do feel threatened by whoever is serving the regime and they do feel entitled to the same right of violent self-defense that the EPDP decided to reserve for its leadership and their agitators. The armed Eritrean resistance is nothing but the pooling together of the capabilities of individual as well as group self-defense as justified by how far the investors into this collective mechanism are compelled to go and there is no reason to assume that the resulting collective self-defense would exceed the minimum required to do away with the source of the threat.
In other words, the EPDP’s claim of adherence to the “Peaceful Method” is nothing but a new culmination of ethnic politics motivated by the consciousness that the end of the PFDJ will be accompanied by a serious imbalance in the current establishment of ethnic hegemony and the need to conserve energy and dig trenches for the resuscitation of a new cycle of “ethnic balance” in the Eritrean political infrastructure.
The behavior discussed above is only a tiny episode of the skunis politics and its opportunistic, irresponsible and pretentious stars and floaters who have taken charge of Eritrean politics both in the opposition as well as the government sides. A good understanding of the fact that THESE GUYS have no constants whatsoever and believe in nothing other than wiggling their way to political power has crucial policy implications for any serious opposition organization in general and the Lowland and Muslim organizations who represent concrete, tangible and independently verifiable existential concerns of their constituencies. The implied rule of thumb here is: DO NOT GIVE IN and DO NOT GIVE UP and whatever hell they might be appearing to raise about your legitimate claims ignore them and march forward. This is especially critical in our efforts to invigorate the EDA (or any alternative mechanism that might emerge) into an effective and efficient striking force for change and a prelude to a new page in our sad history.
Happy New Year
I wish all Eritreans a Happy New Year. My appreciation to artists such as Debrom and Nehmya, who decorate the pages of Awate with beauty and humor; and poets such as Selam, Kiros and others for weaving soothing words to humanize our political discourse. My special New Year’s Chocolate Candy goes to Ms. Elsa Chyrum for keeping her head above dirty politics and for reaching out beyond her means to those who matter most. An article that really made me proud to be an Eritrean last December was Milkias Mihretab’s “I thought we were friends” (December 23, 2009) in response to one of those guys, the honorable speechwriter Ato Michael Abraha. My number one Red Rose goes to the amazing initiatives by Awna (the website) and the communities associated with it for tirelessly campaigning to extend a helping hand to Eritrean refugees in Sudan, disabled refugees, and the aging pioneers of our armed struggle. Happy New Year!