‘Say the truth and lie on a railway line.’ I pondered about the above quoted ancient Eritrean wisdom. The literal translation sounds a bit strange; it sounds as if it encourages committing a senseless suicidal act. But the real meaning is far from that; it stresses the value of saying the truth irrespective of the grave consequences that could it entail: truth is worth the sacrifice. Many may not like the direct criticism of the political groups that stand against the national conference. Probably out of the fear that it would antagonise and push them further away. But appeasing these groups didn’t draw them any nearer. I believe in the direct approach of taking the bull by the horns and calling a spade, a spade.
Do the EPDP leadership and supporter categorically stand against the national conference where all stakeholders participated with full rights and in equal footing? Is their current ambiguous stand a tactical one aiming at leveraging the maximum bargain position that helps them to secure a favourable comprise if they decide to attend the conference?
In order to get answers to the above questions and many other questions, we need to carefully read and analyse all their past and present stands, literature and measure it against relevant issue of the conference. We should also relate that with the current reality, particularly what has taken place in the aftermath of NCDC in Addis and the attempts to forge new alliances (the 2+1/10 group), and what is going on in London and vicinity. All these indicate that there is a consistent policy against EDA; but the conference has evolved. For a while, there has also been serious attempts, preparations and delirious activities to create an alternative to the congress. Time will tell whether this is a materialisation of the EPDP recent declared promise of holding “a perfect WAELA” in place of the national congress or it’s an independent initiative by another group/s with a different agenda, but still with the same purpose of undermining the conference. At the rate things are progressing, I think it will not be very long before ‘the big surprise,’ as some are already calling it and heralding its approach.
I think the main sticking point in the way of reaching an agreement about the conference between the EPDP and the rest of EDA was the irreconcilable views the parties held about the concept of a national conference, its task and power limits.
The EPDP was of the view point that the conference could not be more than a national dialogue, a platform where only discussions (dialogue) and, at best proposals are allowed, devoid of any real authority or powers to make decisions of national magnitude.They also believe that all EDA members should unanimously agree upon every detail in the process in advance and must have a full authority and control over the conference work. In other words, EDA’s role was not only to call for and host the event but prepare the agenda, cook that in its kitchen, according its recipe and taste, and serve that ready to the invited guests who would then take in with adding salt and spices only to make it palatable. It is a controlled exercise of ‘democracy’ that leaves nothing to chances and where all the processes and results are to be carried as anticipated, conforming more or less to the plans and purposes. It was meant to avoid unanticipated surprises, probably like the controversial “self-determination resolution,” the unpredictable role of and input from independent pressure groups such as that of civil societies, or the introduction of some incompatible changes to their strategies and plans. In short, it is a version of a Big Brother reality show designed to be a safe and a risk-free operation that would preserve the political opposition’s statuesque and the balance of power, intact.
I Really do not understand their apprehension but their viewpoint is fully incompatible with the spirit and the inherent nature of democracy. In a democratic practice you cannot always get what you want and have to accept what is only possible as there are many other players, this is the rule of the game. The winds of democracy do not always blow in the direction of ones desire and we have to make allowance for possible deviations from a target point. The unsatisfied players must have the patience and tolerance to accept the result and has to struggle to change that by playing out the same rules of the game when the opportunity permits. This is of course if one believes in democracy as a principle to work, live with and be ruleed by.
The rest of the EDA members have a different view, one that most of us share and that is commonly upheld and practiced. Any conference can have a sponsoring group that initiates the process, but that does not entitle the sponsor the right to own or control it, especially when such a conference is of a national dimension. Once the process begins; the conference is considered a master of itself, controls its work and has the authority to take any relevant measures to the effect of fully realising its aims. This represented the crucial point of divergence of the views concerning the NCDC and still is being so. All the pretexts and the reasons given are only pieces of the complete picture. Now it is becoming clearly visible when all the parts are falling in their places in the jigsaw puzzle—the secrete has finally unraveled. These apparently different, unconnected events are only partial manifestations of the truth; it boils down to the simple fact that the EPDP stand, in principle, against the conference/congress.
The EDA had stood fast for what it believed and practically proved that in the course of the NCDC sessions. Its members participated simply like any other members without any privileges and had to struggle to make their views heard as the others did. Sometimes it is possible for the majority to have different views than that of the host. In such cases the EDA had to resign to the majority’s opinion or had to seek a compromise with the others. Conference members witnessed many such occasions with great appreciation and admiration—a trait that the EDA should be strongly applauded for, be encouraged to build on and pursues it further as a modus operand.
The EPDP left a false impression by depicting itself as a victim of a deliberate exclusion simply because of its opinions. It claims that it was obliged to boycott the NCDC when no one heeded its concerns about the shortcomings and misgivings they had expressed earlier. Many consider such claims very porous to hold water. Despite being so, the EPDP was given the benefit of the doubt and an all-inclusive conference, where all stakeholders could participate was organized. This was really an opportunity for a fresh start, and many considered it would furnish a way for a return of the boycotters back to the collective political arena. It was also expected that they would benefit from this chance to contribute positively in the process of holding a successful conference.
The EPDP immediate response was that it did not recognise the conference and had nothing to do with it–something that came as a shock to many. This stand of course included the decisions of calling a congress, the elected commission for preparing the conference (two places were allocated for them) and the rest of the fundamental national principles that were adopted. At the end of the conference, they were busy contriving ways of neutralising the positive results by conducting series of meetings with a couple disappointed groups. These constituted additional proof that the EPDP is unequivocally and in principle against any national conference that would lead to basic democratic changes in the nature that we aspire for.
To be fair, the EPDP does not mind people conferring or discussing any thing under any title as far as that does not interfere with its policy and its vanguard role. They consider such matters are not for anyone to meddle with. It’s only for the tried and proved professional political leadership to deal with. That is a right reserved for only those who are endowed with leadership traits and talents of knowing what the people want better than the people themselves. It is a rare quality that the traditional opposition forces lack and luckily they happened to be enjoying.
No room has been left for more manoeuvring and anyone who is still entertaining the hope that a goodwill based mediations will one day pay off in convincing the EPDP leadership against abandoning its stand is naïve or an accomplice, consciously playing a stalling tactics for the benefit of the regime. As they say, you can take a horse to a trough but you cannot make it drink. Let’s stop wasting our time and effort trying to appease the anti conference groups, we should proceed with the task at hand—preparing for the coming conference. The doors are still wide open and will remain so for anyone who would have an afterthoughts of joining and they will gladly be welcomed back.
I earnestly appeal to all sensible men and women in the ranks and files of EPDP to come to their senses and critically reflect and soberly access the dangerous path their leadership is leading the organisation to and dragging the rest along, to firmly oppose this adventurous politics.
It is really annoying that some, either out of disrespect to our intelligence or out of their short mindedness, forget that they are playing an open secret game that they unwittingly are the first to disclose through repeatedly contradicting themselves. They try to engage the public in very ridiculous, meaningless polemics covering their venomous arguments with nationalist coatings and thinking they can sell that easily to the public. Some members of these groups are trying to convince us that they are very anxious over the future of the EDA more than EDA members themselves. They claim that the conference has undermined the authority and leadership status of the EDA as a national umbrella and jeopardised the national unity. Such cautiousness would have been considered genuine and honest from any other entity except those persons who until recently were sworn enemies of EDA. They saw EDA as the devil on earth but strange enough still act as the advocate of that devil. Certainly this is not out of a sense of fairness that gives even the devil his due. Then, how on Earth can we explain this sudden tenderness? Is it a genuine change of heart or a ploy? Of course it is nothing but an act of crocodile tears. These people are trying to exploit and use any means available at their disposal even at the cost of being inconsistent with themselves if that could drive a wedge between the EDA members and divide them into conflicting factions. They are applying the opportunistic policy of ‘the end justifies the means.’
Still another group is trying to play the peacemaker role, without bringing peace to any or engaging any of the concerned sectors and without a clearly defined vision and mission. This group enjoys the backings of mysterious facilitators with fat wallets that lavishly provide funds, experts and know-how. Their political CV is characterised by inconsistency and lack of persistence in their political and organisational affiliations. They swung like a pendulum through the political spectrum, past and present forms. They are very restless and still continue to swing, but where they are next bound to be, is the question.
Finally, after many manoeuvrings, it seems the zero hour is approaching for launching an action group/s. It is intended to enhance the EPDP’s claimed political position, either as an ‘independent’ entity or an affiliated member group/s. The common strategy is: all roads lead to Asmara circumventing the one via the national conference.