Recently Semere Tesfay posted an article titled, Challenging The Rhetoric & hypocrisy of violent regime change, at Awate.com. As I understood it, in essence the article argues that we should give up the pursuit of justice for the sake of security, peace and harmony in Eritrea. Many would find the idea outrageous, and others may agree. Still many others would prefer to keep quit simply because his efforts would be seen as an exercise to save not Shaebia per se but the ideology it stands for. It reflects the ideology of dominating all at any cost regardless of the long term consequence to the nation.
Cynics would say Semere can afford to be kinder to Shaebia, may be because he or someone he truly cares for didn’t have the misfortune of ending up in Shaebia’s torture chambers or killing fields. However, what is needed is to challenge his ideas. Hence, my general comment on his long article. I have no intention to responding statement by statement, a sort of Zenga, Zenga style.
In previous postings Semre has argued in favour of peaceful struggle, and peaceful struggle only as a way of regime change in Eritrea. This time around he has gone a step further and suggested the opposition should offer political immunity to Isaias and his hardcore lieutenants, both in the army and civil administration. He warned all those who would heed his advice that failure to do so would force the oppressor (Shaebia and its supporters) to fight to the bitter end. But aren’t they fighting to bitter end anyway? If such an assertion is not a campaign of fear-mongering, what is?
What is sad is the facts that the hard core Shaebia wouldn’t even accept his proposal. The experience of the last twenty years shows us that Shaebia understands force and only force. Shaebia yields only to force. Thus, the possibility that they would accept such sympathetic proposal like the one offered to them by Semere, if offered at all, is very slim.
How can one offer such a proposal to clique of people who have the blood of over twenty thousand youth in their hands? Youth who were forced to perish in wars deliberately ignited by the same clique! In his wisdom, Semere offered amnesty, nay, immunity. Again how can someone even think of giving unconditional immunity to criminals who have no mercy in executing the youth, dubbed as Warsay, for petty mistakes such as feeling homesick and going home (remember, not surrendering to the enemy) after long stay in foxholes, a clique that writes the verdict long after the execution of the victims. How can someone offer such a sympathetic gesture to people who were (and still are) raping Eritrean girls in the service of the so-called national service?
You have to be very high on drugs (no offence intended) to give immunity to people who, without any due process, killed disabled war veterans, over one hundred fifty Muslim teachers, countless Jehovah witnesses and Pentecostal followers.
No right minded individual would let such criminals—all in the name of an illusionary security and peace in the future or in fear of a war to the bitter end—to roam freely after committing what would possibly be considered a genocide against the Kunama. The list of crimes is too long.
Funny as it may seem, one can even stretch Semer’s logic to claim that in Eritrea we don’t need ordinary criminal courts that would pass jail sentences because their families, ethnic group or other murderers would fight to the bitter end: one can’t avoid sleep for fear of nightmares! And I don’t think any of the ethnic groups in Eritrea are so much blinded to hang on with criminals to the extent of fighting to the bitter end, which obviously isn’t only a bitter end but also a losing end for it is an unjust cause.
Semere seems to assume that Shaebia represents a certain ethnic group, or a certain region so much so bringing such gang of criminals to justice would amount hurting that ethnic group or region. Indeed, Shaebia is exploiting all the fault-lines as much as it could to stay in power; and for sure there are a few greedy and clueless people who, for one reason or another, think that their interest can only be maintained and protected under the current regime. Yet, that is not reason enough to give up on the pursuit of justice for the victims. I strongly believe that every community, every ethnic group across the nation would like to see the criminals brought to justice to face their victims in a court of law.
The most pressing issue of the day should be how to terminate the cruel regime once and for all. And it is up to the people of Eritrea to decide whether to prosecute, bring to justice or set free those who are responsible for the untold and unparalleled crimes committed against a very amenable and patient people who have given them all they asked for.
On Armed Or Peaceful Resistance
Semere has accused those who opted to defend themselves by force against violence of being hypocritical. I simply disagree. All forms of struggle are legitimate and it is up to individual groups and organisations to choose one or the other method depending on their circumstance: the intensity and type of the oppressions they face. Listen (to use one of Semere’s paternal expressions), some groups face crimes of genocidal proportion and nobody else is in a position to prescribe for the victims what method to use but themselves and the organisations that stand for their rights—but this is not to say that one is not entitled to his opinion, it is just a wrong opinion. However, to accuse others of hypocrisy for choosing a method one doesn’t agree with is a sort of arrogance and dictatorial dominating behaviour, which is what we are suffering from at this moment and what we need to avoid.
Anyway, for the sake of argument, let us see which one of the two methods is more hypocritical.
It is a universally accepted truth that those faced with violence have the right to defend themselves by force to avert the imminent danger posed to them. Of course, the question of proportionality would be an issue in any self-defence cases. Leaving aside the legal niceties for now, let me borrow with a bit of paraphrasing the example used by Daniel Semere Tesfay in his article, “Reflections On Semere Tesfy’s article’, at Awate .com few months back:
The regime is sitting on my back without my choice. Not only that. It is beating me so hard and so painful that my back is about to break. I’m in pain and no one is coming to my rescue. I beg him to leave me alone and show some mercy. The regime not only refused to hear my plea but arrested all his comrades in arms who tried to bring him to his senses peacefully. What options do I have now? I seek advice from two fictional individuals.
Mr. Adhanom advised me, to try to persuade him that what he is doing is wrong and concurrently use force and get rid of the evil on my back; fully knowing that this regime have shown no mercy on its comrades and those who help it come to power let alone on me.
Mr Aradom keeps telling me that I should only continue begging not only for mercy but offer him immunity that I would let him roam freely even though he left me paralysed.
Now who is unjust and hypocritical of the two? I will leave that to readers. To me the choice is as simple as that.
However hard it may look, however difficult it may seem, all efforts should be directed to bring all suspected criminals of the regime to face justice—JUSTICE is the basis for any durable peace, not appeasement.
Crimes Committed During The Armed Struggle For Independence
Honestly, I have no personal experience or enough knowledge to comment on that era except my knowledge from some reading which I think are tainted with prejudice or are one sided. I neither condone nor mitigate any crimes committed against anybody at any time. Of course that needs some sort of final settlement in the form of national reconciliation and truth commissions to establish the truth and learn a lesson from it. I would like to believe that the Eritrean people are magnanimous enough to forgive and forget those crimes committed during the armed struggle for many justifiable reasons. But crimes committed after independence are unjustifiable. Having said that, for me and many others of my generation (so-called Warsay generation), we have seen nothing from the thugs in Asmara but misery, brutality, cruelty. Therefore, it is obvious that I would like to see the tormentors and annihilators of my generation face justice, be it in a local or international court.