Eritrean History: A Transaction Of Bad Politics (Part-I)
In my debut of “Tebeges” on Sept 14, 2010 as a columnist at awate.com, I have promised my readers that I would tackle four different issues that are relevant to the transaction of our current socio-political query. One of them was “responding to any distorted historical accounts.” As planned, this topic will be presented in a series of editions to respond to the “fratricidal politics” of some organizations. But before I delve into this long endeavor, I will do some house cleaning regarding some purulent infested allegations attacking my integrity.
On December 14, 2010 EPDP-I (EPDP-I=EPP=LP) has launched a fierce personal attack against me, essentially rooted in the principle of “attack the messenger” before the message finds attraction at the receiving end. Despite their accusing me of being a self-appointed scholar, I have never claimed to be a scholar nor did I claim to be an intellectual myself. But I believe I am a staunch, farsighted fighter who can detect the “slippery slope of bad politics and dry diplomacy.” I also consider myself a “no none sense” political activist. In any case the attack in itself is “fleshy with no bone” in it, and here I am going to prove it just to my readers.
Before any one accuses someone about his writing or regarding the concept and theory he used in his argument, one has to do a realty check as to whether that theory is a well established concept and theory, and accepted by scientific community. If that discovered new theory is accepted by the scientific community, then the one who theorized it is the only the sole owner of it with a patent of infinite time and space. Now writers have the luxury to use that theory for whatever argument they think it will fit into, even without mentioning the owner of that theory; simple fact, they are given as instrument of formal education in higher institutes of education (colleges and universities). Let me give you some easy examples to illustrate in three different fields of specialty to backup my argument.
(a) From each according to his ability, to each according to his need (Karl Marx)
(b) For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction (Newton)
(c) Pressure is inversely proportional to volume if temperature is kept constant (Boyle’s law)
In the above three instances any writer con use the established theory for any purpose of argument without quoting the scientists when writing “articles”, provided he/she is not doing a “research paper of study” either to challenge the established theory or to discover new theoretical hypothesis for that matter. But there are Instances that one should follow “ethics of writing” – a conventionally accepted rule. For example if one wanted to use reference from someone’s study papers or articles for that matter, he/she is obliged to indicate the references from whom he/she quoted it.
Interestingly enough, the great Dutch political scientist and architecture of democracy, Arend Lijphart has discovered the theory of “multi-ethnic democracy.” Lijphart’s theory of multi-ethnic democracy took him more than half a century since early 1960s, to be absorbed by the scientific community. He, in framing the concept into a theory, indeed studied meticulously many divided plural societies and detected that “power centralized and power monopolized” is the core problem in a pluralistic societies. He demonstrated new structured model of democracy for pluralistic societies and how the stakes of politics will be appropriated (refer to his work 1969, 1975, 1977, 1985, 1999, 2002).
Now, Mr. Rupesinghe and myself have used Lijphart’s theory to support our argument concerning the society that each of us is refereeing to respectively. Since it is an established and accepted theory we can meta-phrase it or paraphrase it to fit to our argument. Above all we are advancing and promoting his philosophy. One thing though should be clear to my readers that writing “a study paper” and writing “an article” have different set of rules. Probably I should have quoted the paraphrased Lijhart’s concept by Rupensinghe to deny any crack for such an attack. Otherwise all the credit goes to Lijphart as the theory belongs to him. Certainly all my writings are colored by quotations to show the validity of argument. If EPDP-I is making this personal attack to dissuade me from writing articles, let me tell them this: “I will neither flinch nor will falter to my Endeavour.” In fact their behavior will push me to discover their political house, the “house of disorder.” I am not the first and the last to be attacked by EPDP-I (EPP); just to mention a few of many who were attacked at different occasions: Dr. Habte, Dr Yousuf, Dr Beyene, Dr Sahle, Dr. Tesfazion, Ibrahim Gedem, Ahmed, Hiruy, Awate team, Awate writers, Assenna website, EDA, etc. Who else then, except themselves. The irony is, they consider themselves as pristine as a shining pearl on the bank of a running river. Hell no! In fact, converse to their desire to power, they are locked in a self-dejected political mood from the mainstream of our political process.
My question to them is: since when did an advice become an insult? What a perverted world they are living in! My advice was for the larger good of their organization in particular and the common interest of the public in general. We could have different identity of thought, but knowing that we must learn how to debate. But, isn’t it true what Amanuel Iyasu of “Assenna” has characterized them in his reflexive journalistic response? When they attack his website, Amanuel wrote an article titled as “ግርም ‘ባ ባዕልኻ ተዓንቂፍካስ ንኻልኦት ውደቑለይ ምባል” Which means “when they stumble they ask you to fall on their behalf.” These crying diversion is what they have been doing in every downturn of their political life. It did not take Amanuel that long to exactly characterize them as he did. For all their stumbling they cry accusing others as the cause of their problem.
In any case, so far my position on multi-ethnic politics is clear. It is a philosophical and ideological position. If EPDP-1 wants to argue either for or against it, I am glad to engage in a debate. But if they are fixated to the old fashion of politics, they could have it and live with it in the slippery slope of bad politics. But in this last ditch of my effort, I will still lend them some cornucopia of advices (mekri behefso) in a form of “carrot and stick” hoping to give them a true dress to a new politics and organically inducted knowledge for guidance. Here are some of the advices:
(a) Know the limit of your leverage and your capacity: The problem with EPDP-I (EPP) is precisely that they don’t know their limits. While their capacity is limited they dream big. For instance, an organization that can not maintain the unity of its members can not even dream to unite the diversified Eritrean society nor will it be a candidate for a leadership on national level. Isn’t it a simple truth? How many times did this particular group split their organization? The leadership of EPDP-I in their last trip to Addis, they made the border issue one of their agenda to talk about with the government of Ethiopia. First whether we support it or not, at this juncture, the Eritrean government is the only legitimate body which can deal on the border issue. Now the border issue is in the hands of the GOE, the Ethiopian government, and the international community (specifically the UN). The simple truth is, if the EPDP-1 wants the legitimacy from our people, dethrone EPFDJ and then, and only then, we will evaluate your merits. The border is not the challenge of our time, but the regime is.
(b) Learn the art of compromise: The leadership of EPDP-I does not have the capacity to” listen”. The lack of this important virtue really makes them susceptible to collision. That is why they are on perpetual conflict with their base and with the other organizations. In fact they don’t believe on “unity of diversity.” Unity of diversity can only be asserted by “compromise.” Too often we hear them say that they can not negotiate on their principles. Principles are not absolute; in fact they are susceptible to new reality. New realities always dictate you to frame new principles. Hence the art of politics is to be flexible rather than to be immune to change. In short, principles are dictated by new factors and new constants. Besides, if they have principles, others also have principles. So in order to equilibrate or adjust your principles as opposed to the new reality, you need to change the origin of your thought to meet the new reality. The mere fact that you believe on monopoly of leadership always becomes the setback in moving forward. And yes the history of the walkouts and boycotts are indicative of all your malaise.
(c) Differentiate between enemy and adversary: The leadership of the EPDP always consider their adversaries as “enemy.” Anyone who has different view from them is an enemy and that is why they are consumed with personal attacks. Just visit their website “Nharnnet” a mirror of who they are and a highlight of their prescription. They claim to be liberals but in reality they play the sectarian card. I will not forget the campaign against wa’ela characterizing it as “conference of ethnics and religious sects.” I was told that just on my face. They were preparing to declare success by the failure of the conference. But the success of the Wa’ela busted their organization in structure and in who they are. The organizations on the opposition could be your adversary but they are not your enemy by any stretch of imagination. You fight your adversary by “an idea” but you fight your enemy by “all means.”
(d) Search temperamental comfort: The leadership of EPDP-I (EPP) is wild and combative in nature. They always draw a “redline.” they warn you not to pass that redline. If you pass that redline they will fight you. That is the way they act and treat the sisterly organizations of the EDA umbrella. They see them as supplemental organizations to enhance their power and take themselves as the only force of goodness. The recent accusation by ENSF (Dec.21, 2010 at Togoruba) is an eye opener as to how they treat the other organizations. If a leadership does not have temperance (moderation and self-restraint from such boasting behavior), it is no brainer that the trust of the public and other organizations on it will fade away drastically. And yes we heard them say “we told them they don’t listen us.” EPDP-I must learn from its mistakes and learn how to respect others. But most importantly, they should find the word “sharing” in their vocabulary, if they have it there. I assure them that the value of the word sharing will give them a new life of humility and respect.
(e) Overcome trust deficit to find your place: In his “voyage of dialogue and discovery” Rajmohan Gandhi – the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, as part of his 14 nation tour, spoke about “building trust through honest conversation, personal conviction, and trustworthiness,” on June 7, 2010 at Washington DC. Professor Gandhi presented a new approach: “Caux’s role in the world”, which is exactly to what his grandfather would have wanted . According Gandhi, “Caux is a place for honest conversation, for dialogue, a place where you could seek inspiration, and sometime reconciliation.” Indeed the Eritrean people and the political organizations have found our “Caux place,” a place for dialogue and honest conversation in Addis last July. EPDP thought that it will be the “power making” conference, something that is always in their mind. But it wasn’t. It was a healing conference for a new hope and new politics. EPDP boycotted it because it considered them enemies, in fact irreconcilable enemies. At this juncture, EPDP-1 needs a considerable time to learn how to work with our diversity to overcome the “trust deficit” and earn a place in the inevitable new political dynamics as we go forward. For those who participated at the conference, it was a voyage for dialogue and an engagement for discovery new solutions. Above all they challenged the trust deficit among them.
(f) Feel the moment of change While history is moving by: EPDP-1 is not feeling while history is opening a new page. Instead of yielding to the feeling of the moment, they are exemplifying themselves as the past in the conflict between “the past and the present”. Certainly those who play dirty politics will hardly get a nod on their way to the new signs and symptoms of making history. If certain amount of boldness for change disturbed your political house, you should acknowledge and embrace the change from within and without. And yes, if there is a kickback argument, there is always anti-kickback argument. But for sure, sooner or later the unheralded “history’s orphans” will get their voices heard.
(g) Avoid positional confinement: Last but not least, avoid arrogant positional confinement that makes your organization immobile and not able to move with the new reality. The moment of change is anti-monopoly and anti chauvinism, which by the way still keeps irritating you. Take time to make a paradigm shift in your thinking and the door is still open for the lost sheep, especially in this season of love and respect.
As I conclude my remark, it is only important for any enterprise of knowledge as well as for practical reasoning to work and influence the opposite side. As Ludwig Wittgenstein once said, “what can be said at all can be said clearly; and whereof one can not speak thereof must be silent.” Like Wittgenstein, I always step back to make a personal appraisal exercise, to examine my views and its clarity and authenticity. One has to be devoted to such principle, because it will help him and lead him towards a revelatory journey to new layers of reality as well as to release his brilliance as long as the combination vault to his brilliance is understood only by himself. Hence in the second part of this essay I will try to delve into the history of Labor party (LP) of the ELF and probe its role in the demise of the ELF organization and the “reminiscence effect” in the current struggle in the opposition camp.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year