The PFDJ regime is the most repressive regime in the world. It is known as a troublemaker nationally and internationally. The regime has become a source of instability for the countries of the Horn of Africa and is listed at the top of human rights violating governments of the world. Thousands of people are suffering behind prison bars in Eritrea and more than a million people are living in exile. Despite all these, the regime has survived for 20 years. What are the reasons behind its survival?
I believe that oppression is so rampant among the Eritrean people that by now there cannot be any Eritrean who does not understand the repressive nature of the regime. But the problem lies on how to fight the system including how to organize and mobilize the people. Here I will try to highlight the main reasons for the survival of the most brutal regime.
Almost all dictators use nationalism as a cover for their repressive rule. They pretend to be patriots and they say that they stand to protect the sovereignty of the country. Similarly, the PFDJ regime uses this method to cover its atrocity against the people. The fact that the party had participated in the struggle for independence deceives the people. Even some naïve individuals believe that if the regime is changed “they think that the hard won independence might be jeopardized”. But the reality is that the EPLF (PFDJ) was not the only organization which fought for independence. There are still many parties and organizations that fought for independence; and yet their individual members have not been allowed even to visit their country. Most important, though the Eritrean people had paid a heavy price but they still suffer under the system that uses nationalism as a cover.
2. Weakness of the opposition forces
One of the main factors for the survival of the regime is the weakness of the opposition organizations and parties. They are weak because:
a) Lack of unity:
Opposition parties and organizations do not have a clear vision on how to topple the regime. Even some of them are in a dilemma whether to topple the regime or not. They are not united. One can say that some of them are fighting for their parties or organizations rather than for the people. Their leaders think and talk beyond the change of the regime not how to change the regime. They waste their time in bickering against each other rather than supporting each other on how to topple the brutal regime. I think the method of struggle should be changed: a party or organization must follow the opinion of the people in general rather than its party. A party by itself is not the ultimate goal. It is an instrument to reach a goal. The goal is the desire of the people. An organization or a party should listen to the opinion of the people. The people want to get rid of the brutal regime and then they know how to establish a participatory democratic system. Our society has been destroyed and the country has been depleted of its young generation.
b) Lack of leadership
One can see clearly that there is a leadership crisis in the Eritrea opposition camp. The opposition organizations and parties are suffering from lack of credible leadership. Dedicated and competent leaders with credible personal records are more demanded now than ever.
3. Sawa: the prison camp of the young generation
The youth is the productive force of any society and social change without the participation of the young generation is unthinkable. The PFDJ regime has kept the Eritrean youth as prisoners purposely in useless projects. It is not for the interest of the country nor for the interest of the young Eritreans. It is just to keep them there as prisoners not to be involved in politics against the regime. I hope the reader remembers the history of the University of Asmara and the ugly event of Wia. Many students died in Wia when they protested against the regime in their campuses. When they leave their country to exile by any means, the regime follows them and tries to organize them abroad. One has to understand here that the main intention of the regime is not only the 2% tax, it is to keep them away from joining the opposition. The sad story is, the opposition camp doesn’t make any effort to organize the youngsters aboard. Almost all the opposition organizations and parties have offices in Sudan and Ethiopia but they have failed to attract and organize this potential group of our society.
4. Lack of support from neighboring countries
During the Eritrean struggle for independence the Arab countries in general , and Sudan, Syria and Iraq in particular fully supported the Eritrean struggle. Now these countries have closed their doors, especially Sudan, because they have their own problems. At this time, the only country that supports the Eritrean people’s cause is Ethiopia whose people and government are doing their best in supporting the Eritrean people. But the Eritrean regime is at war with Ethiopia but the target is actually not Ethiopia, but the opposition forces supported by Ethiopia and which are called “weyanies” by the regime. Even individuals who travel to Ethiopia are called “kedemti of weyanies”.
We must understand this strategy: At this time the PFDJ regime knows very well that it cannot fight back the Ethiopian government because it does not have the capability any more. But the regime’s aim is to discourage some innocent Eritreans from supporting the opposition that is fighting the regime. Otherwise, the regime knows very well that the Ethiopian government in general, and the TPLF in particular, is a supporter of the Eritrean cause from the very beginning. In the 70s, the TPLF recognized the Eritrean cause in its first congress held in Tserona. Even after that when there were times that the TPLF had conflict with both the ELF and EPLF, it had never abandoned its stand on the Eritrean cause. After the Eritrean independence Ethiopia’s EPRFD was the first country to recognize the Eritrean state. This is the truth.
Why should I hate Ethiopia? I think some naïve Eritreans do not perceive this fact. Without reasoning, they blindly follow the policy of the mad regime and consider Ethiopia an enemy. In fact the Ethiopian people have never been the enemy of the Eritrean people, but only the Ethiopian regimes: Haile Sellassie and the DERG were the enemies not only of the Eritrean people but also of the Ethiopian peoples. At this time, the enemy of the Eritrean people is the PFDJ regime. Some naive Eritreans consider the present Ethiopian government an enemy because of the recent border war between the two countries. True it was a big mistake for the Ethiopian government to deport many innocent Eritreans from Ethiopia haphazardly and I criticized the government for its actions at that time. Now the Ethiopian government has admitted its mistake and presented its mistake as an unfortunate and inevitable result of the war. However, the cause of the war was Isaias as proved by the international community.
5. The PFDJ regime knows how to use disinformation and deceive the people
The PFDJ regime is notorious regime in deceiving the people. Isaias is a pathological liar who does not hesitate to lie about cases that are evident to the entire world. And here is an example: when the Eritrean national football team applied for asylum in Kenya, even though his minister of information Ali Abdu admitted the case, Isaias denied any knowledge about the team applying for asylum. Eritreans do not have a chance of getting information from an independent media and they are only exposed to the distorted information broadcasted by the regime’s media outlets.
6. Isaias is an engineer of divide and rule system
Isaias is good in dividing the society along religious, ethnic and regional lines. But then he appears in the media and acts as an innocent judge. He is even an expert in dividing his own clique among themselves. His generals are not on good relations among each other. It is a tactic that he has been practicing since his days in Sahel where he made sure that unit leaders quarrel among each other then he received reports from different channels. That is how he secures his power.
7. Isaias lives by creating conflicts
The PFDJ regime is known for creating conflicts both nationally and internationally—it is the main strategy of the regime. In order to divert the attention of its people it creates conflicts, wars and instability at home and around the region. Even during the independence struggle, the leadership deliberately created military confrontation to divert the attention and hinder any dissent among its ranks.
I would like to convey a clear message to every opposition organization, party and individual. This is the time to have a common goal and combined effort. The goal should be the salvation of the nation. Efforts should be exerted to form a united front with a clear vision on how to rid Eritrea of the mafia regime. This is not the time to discuss difference of politics or ideologies—that should be postponed for a later stage. The difference on a means of struggle, the so called violent or non-violent approach has become counter-productive in the struggle. By now all of us have learned from the popular upraising in the Middle East. The dictatorial regimes like Libya, Syria and Yemen could not be changed by a non-violent method. That’s why even the Western countries which strongly advocate non-violent means of struggle have engaged militarily in confronting Gaddafi because they knew very well that it would not be possible to topple the regime in Libya through peaceful means. The same applies to Eritrea for Isaias is worse than Gaddafi. That’s why I think non-violent means will never work in Eritrea. When the popular upraising in the middle east was at its initial stages, I wrote an article where I said that change through a peaceful means can only be achieved in Tunisia and Egypt, because they has relative democracy and the defense forces in those countries are national armies that protect the people and the constitution, unlike the armies in Libya, Syria and Yemen which protect the regimes in power. So it must be clear that the PFDJ regime will never give up its power through peaceful means.
EPDP, for example, has the right to choose the non-violence method of struggle. It is okay. There is nothing wrong with that. Bot to topple the regime we have to use ALL MEANS OF struggle including non-violent means. But I oppose the EPDP strongly if they oppose the other method (violence); because I know the regime cannot be removed without violence. The proof is what we have seen in our neighboring countries. Again, I oppose EPDP when it opposes the National Congress for Democratic Changes because I believe this is the only strategy which shortens the life of the regime.
Dear readers, don’t be surprised if I criticize the opposition organizations and parties and at the same time I support them. I am part of the opposition. In fact I have been always a supporter of the Eritrean Democratic Alliance(EDA). As long as we don’t have other alternative we have to support what we have. Otherwise, we are part of the repressive system. The solution to our problem is only one and that is to keep struggling. We don’t have another alternative; but we have to be united. Unity of all opposition forces, at least among those who believe in fundamental change, is essential for our success. By forming one common front we can topple the brutal Eritrean regime; and I believe that can only be achieved through the National Congress.
Every Eritrean who believes in getting rid of the shameful regime and desires to form a fair and democratic system where every citizen can enjoy equality in every social aspect in the NEW ERITREA that we aspire to see, must join hands to make the National Congress a success.