Prior to the convening of the national conference, there were many pessimists who thought that there was no chance in hell that it would work. “ezi’om seb sirah ay’konun”, they purported, all the while having nothing to show for it themselves, except for arrogance and hollow bravado.
There were also some skeptics who in reaction to the last posting, commented that supporting the conference would be like betting on a losing horse. Why waste time and effort on something that is going to be more of the same “hashewiye”, they argued. And as always, prejudice was the sole criteria here.
Then there was the ugly crowd – the one made up of strange bedfellows – a consortium of hard-core bigots, few un-initiated errand boys for a self-proclaimed “big opposition party” and some self-centered characters who claim to be experts on everything that there is and there isn’t under the sun. These ones in turn, kept praying to their gods, their shamans and demons alike, to make an utter failure of the conference. They even had the audacity to do their chants in public, thanks to the kiddie website, Meskerem and its new-found relay-station, N’harnet.
Boy were they all proven wrong – dead wrong, that is. Those belonging to the ugly crowd are now totally dumbfounded by the incredible results of the conference, so much so, that even their spin machines wouldn’t work. Short of straight lies, there is nothing left for them to spin or twist.
Those they kept disparaging as “jelfafat” have scored big for their people – all their people, Tigrignas and non-Tigrignas alike. And better yet, everything was done in the open, with the full participation of all the stake-holders of the nation. In other words, what you see is what you get, no bluffing, no sloganeering and certainly no gimmickry.
Unfortunately for the bigots though, that doesn’t leave much of a wiggle room to carry on with their spin work.
As I have indicated in the previous posting, there were many firsts for this conference, to say the least. The democratic selection process for participating delegates, the inclusive approach which brought under one roof so many people and organizations of diverse backgrounds, together with the town-hall type meetings, the debates and the transparent information workshops, which were conducted amicably throughout the preparation period preceding the conference, were all unprecedented achievements by any Eritrean standards.
All that translated into a successful conference (not a wedding party for drunkards) with a grass-roots feel and a warm nationalistic ambience of the kinds you see only when people talk heart to heart and mind to mind – without the influence of any “dallalas” or spinners to speak of.
And mind you, the distance and the hardships of getting to the conference may have been very difficult for some – but come they did, no matter what. In the words of one such dedicated participant who made an excruciating four-day bus journey from the refugee camps in the Sudan to the conference venue, “ ba’al gadiat b’zoh l’herer”; how true!
His dedication was matched by that of the expectant mother, from yet another refugee camp, this one in Ethiopia or that of the blind person who still made it to the conference despite his handicap. All in all, each participant made a sacrifice of some sort, thereby providing the necessary impetus to make this conference work.
And the results were even more impressive –
- First, the message: No political group, no matter how bloated with arrogance or pomposity could ever block Eritreans from coming together, if they so desire. I hope the exclusionists heard that message loud and clear. Whether they walk-out of a meeting as they have done in times past, or they boycott a conference as they did now – it is their prerogative. The struggle must go on with or without them. The time for appeasement is over – this is a new era.
- The fear-mongers lost ground big time. As anyone who has attended or who has been following the conference could tell you, the nationalist fervour which was so prevalent amongst all the attendees, was proof enough that the days of using scare tactics against any segment of our society are over. Ethnic Tigrignas who were the target of scare-tactics for so long came in droves from all corners of the World to rub shoulders with those often denigrated by the bigots as “jelfafat”, “old power-hungry got-herders”, “jihadists” and what have you. They weren’t disappointed. Just go back and re-live the audio/video reportage, the interviews and discussions carried out by Assena and many others – you can’t help but be moved and inspired. As stated eloquently by one participant “ Eretra b’mulu’A abzi’la”. It is definitely a turning point, which wouldn’t bode well for the fear-mongers for sure.
- No crucial issues were left out or watered down to appease anybody. Just look at the solid and un-ambiguous resolutions and recommendations of the conference and then judge for yourself. The issue of National unity – clearly defined and resolved in a manner which was satisfactory both to those who felt disenfranchised over the years and those who were rightly or otherwise worried stiff about the break-up of the country. The issue of Land belonging to the people and not the state and the issue of the equality of all Eritrean languages with Arabic & Tigrigna serving as the official media, were all addressed and resolved in a plain and straightforward manner – again with the full consent and resounding approval of all delegates. De-centralized form of government was agreed upon as the most suitable for the nation, given its enriching diverse make-up. And to put all these into a proper plan of action – a bold and unprecedented move was taken to set up a national commission which was mandated among other things, with two very crucial tasks: (1) the creation of an all-inclusive national assembly and (2) the drafting of a transitional constitution for the country. These last two steps alone would provide the much sought after fall-back plan, which has eluded the opposition groups for far too long.
- Unlike any other previous meetings, time was indeed of the essence for this conference. Despite being a challenging endeavour, the entire process was started and completed on time. The election of the commission mandated with setting up the roadmap for democratic change in the country was done in earnest. In brief, the sense of urgency demanded by the plight of our people was never compromised, thanks to the dedication of the organizers and the participants. (Many friends couldn’t help but wonder if the absence of some entities from the conference was actually a blessing in disguise, given the stalling tactics and the leisurely approach they are known for).
- Through this unprecedented conference, it is possible to assert that EDA has fully understood and accepted the duality of the roles required of any Eritrean opposition group in the Diaspora. That all opposition groups will some day contest for power in a free and a democratic Eritrea is only a natural culmination for our struggle. But that is someday – not today. Today, what is required is to dust-off what is left of Higdef, and yes – by any and all means necessary. That role requires wearing a different hat, a hat EDA is wearing now. Bringing all stake-holders of the nation to a national forum and electing an all too-important national commission in which EDA itself is in the minority, speaks volumes about EDA’s sincerity all throughout its struggle. Which “jelfafat”, “ethnics” and “power-hungry old men” would do what EDA just did – to wholeheartedly accept the duality of its roles for the sake of the nation? (Even the little dim-wits at Meskerem are confused and going bonkers on this). Now compare that with the exclusionists – those who could never come to terms with the fact that they are only ONE political party vying for power – and their inability to comprehend the duality of their roles despite being drenched in elitist arrogance which knows no bounds. How amazing.
At long last, it is very encouraging to see the phoenix rising from the ashes once again. The national conference has injected new hopes in the hearts and minds of all those who yearn one day, to see peace and justice prevail in their homeland.
Over the years, EDA and its member organizations may have been maligned and ridiculed by the bigots and the exclusionists, as futile bands espousing “jihadi” and “separatist” sentiments. Well, to their sheer horror, EDA has withered it all and managed to deliver results – the coming together of Eritreans from all walks of life to embark on a process of defining their own destiny. The national conference is a crucial milestone in that process.