Inform, Inspire, Embolden. Reconcile!

The Sun Never Sets On The Eritrean Empire

[This is a speech given on July 20, 2011, at a gathering organized by Eritreans in Las Vegas, Nevada.]

A lot of you might think that Eritrea is that small country hugging the western shores of the Red Sea; but you couldn’t be more mistaken. Eritreans have filled the four corners of the world, with Peace Lords obsessed with expanding their fiefdoms. But before I go into the description of the vast territories now conquered by Eritreans and their Peace Lords, I have to tell you a story—I am assuming that many of you are familiar with farming, or life in the country side.

The Story Of Kwakhito

In Eritrea there is a thorn called Kwakhito—they call it QeTeb in Tigre. This annoying thorn grows on an area by itself (nobody plants it, therefore it is WILD!) and soon creeps on the ground and like an octopus it expands to all sides sprouting its Kwakhito thorns on several crawling tentacles. By the beginning of the dry season, the plant dies but its thorns becomes rigid and sharp. Thereafter, all it needs is a little breeze of wind that carry the thorns to a larger area.

Oh, our poor women! Many women in the Eritrean countryside do not have shoes: the men use all the rubber and hides they can get to make shoes for themselves. Now imagine you are a woman, I will call you Abadit, walking barefoot in a field covered with Kwakhito: every minute you have to bend down and remove the painful thorns.

Take it a little further, imagine your field is owned by an absentee landlord for whom you toil and go through all the tiresome tasks of farming only to deliver that harvest to that landlord sitting on his bottom somewhere.

I say what follows with sadness, not rage, but it still must be said: the resistance to the Isaias regime has become similar to that woman Abadit—walking on thorny fields everyday. And the pseudo-resistance, the opposition, has become like the Kwakhito thorns living all over the world (mostly in Europe and North America) who have their Peace Lords acting like absentee-landlords expecting to own what poor Abadit harvests. They live in democratic lands where they are expected to resist injustices and help the Eritrean people; but being Kwakhitos, their only relation to the resistance is to attack it.

As can be easily proven, the suffering of Eritreans doesn’t seem to be their priority, but hindering, defaming and insulting the resistance (while at the same time boasting of empty bravados) has become their main task—and they excelled the PFDJ at that.

Those qrset Kebdi teams are running their Uqub-like entities as if they are governors of an illusionary Eritrean n’ous zoba fiefdoms. And there is no better example of this than a few “peace lords” in London who have excelled in creating a perfect hobby and a pastime of the misery of Eritreans. A clique of no more than a dozen individuals nests in London and has become an ugly stain on the place where hundreds of humble and focused Eritrean activists live—genuine activists who resist the PFDJ’s brigandage in spite of the hindrances by a small clique.

And they have been getting away with it. I take that back, they seem to have embarked on a conquering project to create tasteless clones, colorless and confused cliques everywhere. They wish to establish fiefdoms that would replace the idea of Eritreans in the minds of Diaspora Eritreans by a hyphenated Eritrea that they created in their minds. And those cliques are not about Eritrea; they are about themselves.

For years now, these cliques have been shamelessly insulting bonafide patriots and they crossed the line of decency a long time ago. And since they have not faced serious tit-for-tat, they feel it is an open season and they seem to be determined to follow through their goal of dismantling the little hope that Eritreans have, their mechanism of struggle against tyranny, their laboratory in which they strive to perfect their unity and create a structure that doesn’t allow the rebirth of another PFDJ. Their target includes the upcoming Eritrean congress which is a public property whose line should not be crossed whimsically—it has owners, those who slaved for it, spent years on it and pinned their hopes on it.

No one can say that the EDA (or the idea of the national congress it created) is ideal or perfect. It is weak, lacks resources, cadres, and enough space to move in. Unfortunately, those who are supposed to provide that which it is lacking are deep to their knees in the muddy territory of grudges, selfishness and insatiable egos.

The resistance is fighting Isaias because he trampled over the dignity of Eritreans, and anyone who trespasses the line and treads on the path of the PFDJ and follows their charted defamation tactics, should be treated just like the PFDJ. That is sad, but only fair. If however you avoid it, war is declared on you, you have to fight it—it is the natural reaction of human beings, and it is called self-defense.

One question for all the absentee landlords, in fact it is a challenge: what have you done to unseat the PFDJ over the last year, make it three, or four years? The following is certainly not an answer: we held five meetings, twenty quarrels, one hundred e-mails, fifty coffee shop sessions, ten Skype meetings! Dehan etewoo, that they might think this is a brilliant struggle; and if that is so, why is Isaias still sitting on our chests?

Abadit is still walking barefoot on the Kwakhito strewn field, serving the absentee landlord. Together with her husband, they are so weak they cannot plough the fields to make enough for their household—which is deprived of its children—one disappeared, another is in jail and yet another one is somewhere carrying a gun living in trenches and serving the PFDJ dream in what Adhanom Gebremariam calls Wefri Warsay Yekaalo, Wefri Barrnnet—the Slavery project. If anyone who claims to be struggling is not focused on the salvation of Abadit and her likes, they have no business mingling with those who do. They should hold their peace and go about their conquering business, expand their illusionary empire and be true to their hyphenated reality—leave the activists who are focused and see things from the perspective of Eritreans (the stakeholders of them) alone. I wish they would stop their excessive disrespect, defamation of the resistance.

An individual from among those groupies seems to have already declared himself Caesar and is claiming allegiance from some hyphenated Eritreans living in some n’eus zoba that I have mentioned. If a lord quarrels with someone, it is just a personal quarrel, it has nothing to do with the resistance (not even with the opposition) and it doesn’t benefit Eritreans (the real Eritreans by the Red Sea). I just wish they would stop their arrogant demeanor and cease from attempting to dictate how Eritreans should wage their struggle. Do your thing and let others do what they please.

London is home to the less than a dozen characters, and I am not just picking on zoba London, it happens to be the domicile of the most arrogant clique of people who have been debating whether commissioner Amha’s invitation is an invitation or an intent of invitation, or something of that nature—it is semantics. Dozens of e-mail were exchanged to resolve the impasse that Amha’s gesture has caused (Idka Yhabka Amha). All that is meant, or perceived, or intended to be perceived as a struggle for the good of Eritreans. One could give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they are practicing parliamentary debate! Maybe they have established a model of Eritrea somewhere, tacked on the Thames River, where they are experimenting enlightened and democratic governance. Why not? The chief of that laboratory happens to be a PHd, a fine giant of a person who hates everyone outside his clique. Adei Abadit would say: Nezi’s Esra Amet temahirka?

Aabi Argen

Now let’s see what seems to be their problem, at least on the surface. The leading groupie is inflicted with the malady of entitlement: they feel they have the right to be the Vanguards and the rest of the activists are just herds that should follow them. Then there is the detachment, the confusion of trying to be British, German, American and at the same time more Eritrean than the 100% Eritreans who have no other choice but to remain Eritreans. Finally, there is the refuge of scoundrels, patriotism which comes by belittling the patriotism of others. And I will start with the last one: Ethiopia.

To hell with the Ethiopian excuse—anyone who runs to Ethiopia to complain does not have the moral authority to accuse others of being an Ethiopian servant. Those who prefer to resolve their issues through Ethiopian mediation instead of face-to-face dialogue with their brethren, do not have a moral authority on this issue. I say this because I and my colleagues gave our name to defend the holding of a congress in Gondar when the owners of the congress were sheepishly saying “we will go to Africa” to avoid saying, “we are going to Ethiopia.” Today, I have the moral authority to defend those who are in Ethiopia because they are denied the right to be in their home, in Eritrea. No double standards. Wise up.

And there are remorcios to the groupies who chew more than they can swallow. It is established fact that some of them were assisted by the Ethiopian government and given diplomatic passports through which they travelled to Europe to secure asylum; and they should remember that they do not have the moral authority to pontificate on anyone. There are so many of them who live in glass houses and they should know better. At least they should remain silent and not defame and disrespect others just to satiate their egos and cool their itch, and in order to ward off the embarrassment they feel because the reality of their relations to Ethiopia is/was more than meets the eye. It is important to know that God says, Ana’Sataar w’ahubu’ settareen.

All the above is my attempt to explain the cause of the barrage of bullets that is raining against the ENCDC which is planned for October 2011. I have given you all the coordinates and it is easy for you to identify each and everyone. For years, I operated with the principle of: I do not like to mention names, it is the least of respect that I can offer my friends of yesteryears—maybe we will be friends again in the future when they wise up. But, sadly, I no longer believe that, since their transgressions are not accidental or anomaly: it has become their way of life.

Vitroil On Ethiopia

There are some Eritreans who genuinely believe that Ethiopian government didn’t make it any easier. But I don’t think that the Ethiopian government, specifically the EPRDF, denies that it was an accomplice in creating the monster called the Isaias regime. I don’t think they forget that they owe Eritreans a hand for that damage. True, they are not legally obliged; but they are morally expected to help the resistance most of whose members are out of their country because of the evil alliance they forged with Isaias and his clique a few decades ago—Eritreans are still bleeding from that wound and its repercussions. However, in retrospect, that alliance can be justified (by Ethiopians and Eritreans alike) judging by the outcome. But Eritreans are paying for that alliance (some consider it a conspiracy) to this day. At any rate, we should not dwell on that specific dictate of history alone; we have to remember that Ethiopia has a national interest in having a stable Eritrea in order for it to have peace of mind and specifically stability on its northern border (as well as around all their borders as the Isaias menace has proved to them and others). We have a mutual interest on many issues and we should not be apologetic about it. It is also important that the Ethiopian government does not make Eritreans (or part of them) feel that they are being taken for granted and deal with them more openly.

I wish I could be more diplomatic in explaining the above, but I will try on the following: we are allies for good or bad and we should also be grateful for all the help that Ethiopia is providing Eritreans, including hosting and giving educational opportunities for refugees, and helping the resistance in its struggle for justice and stability. We need to have a frank and honest communication with the Ethiopian government instead of the hush-hush gossip that runs around many circles. We know the absentee landlords, the Kwakhito, do not have the capacity to handle such mature dialogue, they certainly do not have the temperament for it. Many of those in Ethiopia are not in better situation either, but at least they are quite and respectful. They are not wielding wooden swords against Ethiopia similar to those who feel they have to prove their patriotism through anti-Ethiopian vitriol. In essence, really, they do not have a problem with Ethiopia per se, their problem is selfish and paternalistic in nature—they just want to control the in-and-out door key to the Ethiopia door, they want to be the gatekeepers.

Just like the Peace Lord in London, the one who graduated from an Ethiopian university decades ago, so long ago it could have been in the days of Menelik. He was OK with Ethiopia when his new friends, the ELF-RC, were hunted, jailed and expelled from Ethiopia; and when the PFDJ had an unruly hand in Ethiopia and was assassinating opposition elements in many parts of that country; or when the relations of the two governments were butter and honey at the expenses of a chunk of the Eritrean people. But now he found his lost voice and he is engaged in a high pitch scream in defaming the opposition and overdoing the Ethiopia thingy to appear a patriotic Eritrean, head and shoulders above the rest.

When the groupies shout slogans like ‘Our National Unity’ and ‘Our Sovereignty’ as patriotism, they are talking about the feud and personal grudges that triggers most of their actions. They cannot maintain their own clique’s unity let alone the unity of Eritrea. This can be explained by the fact that many sane persons left the group and the remaining 17 or so individuals are almost divided into two: those outside zoba adengliz are trying to bring their friends to their senses while merihnet neus zoba adengliz is riding its high horses and determined to make the upcoming congress a failure. They have become sworn enemies of the congress and anyone that supports it.

But why are people giving the cliques weight? That is what a friend asked me.

Machiavelli wrote: “men are so simple and so subject to present need that he who deceives in this way will always find those who will let themselves be deceived.”

How true. That is what the PFDJ is doing inside Eritrea and that is what is being duplicated by some circles in the Diaspora. But people are giving the groupies weight because among them are a few decent, humble and good people. And I have to ask for their forgiveness if they feel violated by what I am saying: “a drop of poison in a barrel of water poisons the whole barrel, the water cannot dilute the poison and make it impotent.”

War Lords Out, Peace Lords In

I have resisted the urge to write about the Kwakhito groups (and its twin in the USA—some prominent commissioner thinks they have political clout) out of respect for a few friends who happen to be there and I am sure they will excuse me. It is very difficult to pick a few from a number that is already very few. If it was something like, for example the facebook groups that has hundreds of members, it would have been easy. But to get all that headache and violation from a tiny group like the one whose head office is in zoba London is unbearable.

My friend is right in asking that question: why give them weight! The gang has gotten more attention than they deserve. The deceit is so much a result of an extensive self-promotion and boasting to the extent that some of their members boast in public that they are in direct contact with the top decision makers in the West, the UN, etc. And all that pseudo-struggle is in the form of one-page letter that they send to any publicly available address—and they consider that akin to shaking the Isaias regime! It is all self-congratulations and self-aggrandizement. Poor Eritrea.

The second itch that they have is the tired (and confused) argument of violent struggle or peaceful struggle. I wish they forget violent and peaceful and concentrate on the word STRUGGLE. But this argument was better articulated by many, including Omar Jabir who explained it brilliantly—I hope it would clear for them some of the confusion if only they would be humble enough to learn and stop insulting people.

Imagine you are Abadit’s husband and a thief breaks into your house. He would certainly be an aggressor, a violent person; but your reaction to use power to stop the aggressor to protect your family is a natural instinct that all creatures possess. Survival is the order of the universe and that is why a snake doesn’t bite for the sake of biting but to defend itself. Could you now imagine the snake giving up its venom, because its bite is considered a violent action? If that was the case, snakes would have been extinct a long time ago. And I would be generous and not imagine that the London lords and the leading groupies want Eritreans to go instinct, and Eritrea to be defaced by the experiments and brigandage of Isaias and his clique.

Sancho, the helper of Don Quixote in the renaissance novel by Miguel De Cervantes says: “I myself am of a peaceful disposition and not fond of quarrel….however, when it comes to protecting my own person, I shall take of those laws of which you speak, seeing that all laws, human and divine, permit each one to defend himself whenever he is attacked.”

But that is not the worry of our vague stakeholders in Eritrea.—what do we learn from all this as we are preparing for the ENCDC?

This is a perfect display of characters that would not change even when the Isaias regime becomes history. Imagine being ruled by these characters, the exclusionary elements who think of nothing but to treat the Eritrean struggle as their favorite pastime. The way they behave now will be exactly the way they will behave if by a freak accident they came to power, or close to power. It is evident that they do not have what it takes to overthrow the regime, but I meant to describe their nature. Even if they get a left-over morsel from Aya Isaias when he lands safely in the Republic of neus zoba adengliz, they do not stand a chance—they are not the type who would pack and move to Eritrea, or give up their acquired citizenship (just in case) if the Eritreans law required it. They are the type who are comfortable where they are but instead of enjoying their comfort silently, where no one would care about them, they have to spoil it for those who are suffering under the yoke of Isaias’ tyranny or languishing in refugee camps. To them, the struggle has become a pet-project, something that massages their egos and if by a freak accident some small power chair would be found, well and good. This is why the struggle didn’t move so much for over a decade. They have always been there to hinder, to divert and demoralize the genuine resistance—and you find them in the center stage of every quarrel that happened within the anti-Isaias camp in the last decade or more.

So, what do Eritreans hope to achieve in the coming congress? What if things turn out as we wish for them, and what if they don’t?

At least it would teach us who stands for what. It will show us who stands for the perpetuation of quarrels and conflicts and who stands for normalcy. And whatever the outcome, I believe the congress will be a valuable tool for the struggle. It will be the ideal workshop to study the problems facing our national unity and help us begin to forge a solution towards reconciliation, or at least begin the process of solving it. But first, it will help us focus our struggle against the tyranny of Isaias and his clique.

Our “national unity” is not about the unity of ten people who live in the UK and a dozen who live in Germany or Canada or the USA. It’s about the millions of Eritreans, true stakeholders. Not those that would not be touched by any eventuality and have all the time in the world, safe—they are willing to watch the situation and engage in their useless meetings, festivals, congress and self-congratulatory exercises ad infinitum.

I plead to anyone who is part of the anti-Isaias camp to stay focused on Eritrea and to look at things from the perspective of those who are actually suffering, the real stakeholders. We should not see things from our perspective and try to super-impose that will on to the Eritrean perspective and try to be paternalistic and arrogant. What occupies us, our bickering, our intellectual gymnastics, philosophizing and detached proscriptions do not help the stakeholders one bit—it is not about them. I wish egoistic self-serving politics would stop. It is time that the stakeholders occupied the center stage of our concerns and struggle. And I hope our focus would be fine tuned in the coming congress. And that is the main goal that I hope to see achieved.

That focus will also show us that we have a rich culture of handling our differences and our problems, only if we try to imitate the Eritreans heritage of baito, mejlis and the art o fnegotiation and arbitration. I think any Eritrean knows at least one story that involved serious crime, murder for example, and how that case almost triggered a bloodbath among clans, and how it was eventually resolved by elders under the shade of a tree, without fanfare.

We should not be afraid of airing our complaints and grievances because only partners who listen to each other can resolve their mutual problems; and if a partner doesn’t know of his partners’ problems, there is no way for him to contribute to the solution. Those who discourage you to succumb to fear and keep your grievance to yourself are like a healer who keeps his knowledge to himself and discourages anyone from learning the skills less he create a competitor. The regime and its likes want to remain the eternal arbitrators between Eritreans, to decide what issues are important to us and what are not—they want to decide if we have a headache or not, never mind what we feel! That is how they want to keep their control on the people

Disclaimer?

I would like to end this speech with a disclaimer: I am privy to how neus zoba London and neus zoba amerika was started—I have all the nitty-gritty details, with evidences; but I do not want to disclose it for fear of antagonizing some of my friends who are working hard and promoting the ENCDC congress. I have my respect for them though I do not think writing tons of e-mails, trying to win a clique that is determined to fight and weaken the resolve of all resistance to the regime, so that they can control what goes in Eritrea from their fiefdoms in the West, is fruitful. It is simply a waste of time.

Of course I understand it is their time that they are wasting (though mine is wasted by extension), but I just would like to state that what they are doing has nothing to do with the struggle against Isaias; they are just massaging their egos—and no Eritreans stakeholder would consider their activities an attempt to fight the tormentor of Eritreans, the Isaias regime. Those who live in universities better find a room in some campus and engage in debates, and in their favorite pastime to their heart’s content. And if they cannot buckle up and struggle against the Isaias regime, I beg of them to give way and to please leave the Eritrean resistance alone.

negarit@awate.com

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