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Fight Like A Liberation Front; Think Like An Opposition

Isaias Afwerki’s twenty- two years of misrule reaffirms the old adage that revolutions, quite often, are not caused by vision-inspired or ideology-intoxicated revolutionaries but by the sheer stupidity and brutality of governments. Eritrea’s PFDJ has climbed the Everest of stupidity and brutality and won the envy of North Korea and those that have, likewise, gone rogue.

PFDJ’s well-deserved notoriety is the reason some of my friends and I had decided to not engage them; early on we found out that we were poorly armed against their ornery. Unfortunately, many good-intentioned Eritreans have their backs mottled by the blows of bastinados received from the rueful blowhards who like dogs have the habit of attacking in throngs—a shellacking for voicing dissent. The proverbial shebia halengi has instilled fear even among those Eritreans who call America home—the land of the-free-and-the-brave. Years of tawdry partisanship and indoctrination has seared them emotionally that they could not even sympathize with their own kith and kin that have fallen victim to the regime’s brutality. The tide is now changing against them. They are losing their chrysalis; fast retiring to their lair.

There is no doubt that the regime has dug its own grave and will certainly fall under its own weight, but not without a revolutionary shove or a nudge.  To be a revolution, nonetheless, one has to be led by people of ideas and action.  Widespread grievances and frustrations among the populace do not necessarily translate into revolutionary action; leaders are needed to mobilize and organize them. Articulating grievances and offering better alternatives is the domain of ideas while implementing the vision into reality is where action is needed.

The disparate groups in the “Opposition” must coalesce; unity is not a luxury that can be ignored but a necessary prerequisite that must be achieved if any public endeavor is to succeed. Producing more with less will be the ultimate test of our political prudence. How we build an effective coalition, rally behind a common goal, and marshal and effectively use our limited resources is an important portent of our future governance. This is where the oppositions’ grit and commonsense will be tested.

Factions, differences and conflicts are permanent fixtures of our lives and without them there would not be a need for politics. Solving problems to the satisfaction of the majority without infringing on the fundamental rights of the minority should be our principal aim. Toward this end, we should manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable.  Prioritization and focus is what we need. The urgency of now should supersede any other considerations. What we do now determines our future. It will help to constantly remember that in the long run we are all dead (Keynes). Winning and being relevant now is crucially important.

Act and fight like a liberation front and think like an opposition.

The term “opposition” is very misleading; it has different meaning in democratic, authoritarian and totalitarian governments.  The political parties in liberal democracies like the US are organized on ideological basis to offer a choice on how the country should be governed. The parties have to vie for votes in fair and open elections. The governing party or a coalition of parties is the one in power and those that are out of power are the opposition parties. The primary goal of the opposition parties is to unseat the ruling party by becoming an alternative the public will support. Parties are presumed to be a good thing and the more competitive the electoral system the better the democracy. Parties in this system are adversarial opponents and not enemies; they are an integral part of a check and balance that safeguards liberty. There is no state in the Horn of Africa that can be designated as a liberal democratic state; Somaliland is the closest we have.

Authoritarian governments allow opposition parties to operate but their freedom to organize and mobilize their supporters is severely curtailed.  Authoritarian governments are oppressive and restrictive but not inherently evil and they can be reformed. Under this system, the opposition parties focus most of their activities on civil disobedience and sometimes outright revolt that involves instigating mass uprisings. As long as the ruling party is willing and ready to change, its dissolution is not a prerequisite for the opposition parties to play their rightful role. Political and diplomatic pressure and economic hardship could easily incentivize the ruling parties to open up and liberalize. Depending on the prevailing situations, opposition parties under authoritarian systems can operate as in liberal democracies or in totalitarian states or a hybrid of the two. Ethiopia and the Sudan are good examples.

In reality, the opposition parties will never unseat the party-in-power and when they hardly ever come to power they are at a great disadvantage since they had spent little time preparing themselves for governance.  This is the problem Egypt is facing. Fighting for change is a lot easier than actual governance. Maintaining a coalition of disparate and poorly organized groups, whose opposition to the ruling party was the only thing that kept them together, is very difficult. This is further exacerbated by the fact that authoritarian governments thrive by favoring one group at the expense of another. The trust deficit among the many social and political groups will dilute any chance the new and inexperienced government might have in transitioning the country into a democratic state.

In a totalitarian state like Eritrea, political parties are deemed evil and enemies of the state. There are no opposition parties in Eritrea and the only party is the ruling party. For parties to exist in Eritrea, the system has to be abolished. The struggle for change is a zero-sum game; either the regime has to go or the struggle for change has to be defeated. The current struggle for change is not much different from our previous liberation struggle; the enemy has to be defeated. Higdef is derg reincarnate.  We defeated the derg and we must do the same with higdef.

It is very important for the Eritrean opposition to act and fight as liberation front if it is to affect and expedite change. But since we are witnessing a clear and imminent demise of higdef, it is equally important to think as an opposition in a liberal democracy—the issue of governance is real. While rightfully focusing on political issues, the opposition must learn about economic and development issues for they will occupy the driver’s seat in post higdefite rule.

Let’s keep one eye in the present and the other in the future.

About Semere T Habtemariam

Semere T Habtemariam is an author and a columnist at Awate. He holds a BA in Government and Politics and a MA in Public Affairs from the University of Texas at Dallas. He lives in Dallas, Texas. His two books are: Reflections-History-Abyssinian-Orthodox-Tewahdo and Hearts-Like-Birds.

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  • Koboro

    Was there a man name by Capitan Asres who was a veteran and retired employee of Ethiopian Air lines and was working at Eritrean Air Lines for some time. I never read about this man in this article. I think he was frustrated by the meddling of PFDJ’s officials in the management of the Airlines and quit his voluntary unpaid job. Do you have any idea about this Awate Team?

  • rodab

    Dear compatriots,
    First of all, rHus nay mewedaeta baHti of 2013.
    Secondly, how about we nominate person of the year? This person should be someone who has had the biggest impact on Eritrea in 2013. I have three candidates in mind:
    Wedi Tkabo – he created the biggest stir of 2013 and to aslo appreciate his song ‘Hadnetna’.
    Wedi Vacaro – compared to the other opposition figures, his message of ‘Hadnetna’ has resonated, at least to some extent.
    Wedi Afewerqi – arguably, he continues to excert the biggest impact in the lives of citizens so he would be an ideal candidate. The argument against that would be his position inherently allows him to do that and so ordinary citizens deserve to be honored instead.
    What do you all think?
    Peace to all!

    • Rodab,

      If it is about converts how about this one

      1. Haile. In one year he moved from one side of the argument to the extreme different side; he gives much hope to the visitors and first hand info’s to those who have not seen their country from more than one decade; his new strategy to revolutionize the silent majority; his data mining extraordinary capacity and extreme sensation to Lampadusa….

      2. Wedi-Tikabo:- Another extreme turn out. From ‘Banderana zidefra men alo’ to run away far from the ‘Banderana’, from ‘i am no more a bal… neither YPFDJ nor the other’ to a good standard ball to the old merchant.

      3. The two defects from the national team last week….

      Rodab:- So for you the sensation is with Wedi-Tikabo and Wedi-Vacaro… how about Wedi-Ali… Forto… your memory is short….

      • rodab

        You got me on Wedi Ali. He is definetely THE person of the year.
        Now, on to Awate forum’s commentator of the year: this one is hard since we have quiet a few remarkbly articulate and competitive friends…Peace!

    • Nitricc

      Person of the year?
      I have to give it to PIA. How many times was the toothless opposition killed him, through liver, kidney or was it some degenerative sickness?
      Or was it the prediction of Haile the great that any time soon PIA was collapsing?
      Or is it the awate team edterial edition predicted PIA to fall down for the last 8 years?
      Or is it Assena’s report of the incidents of wedi Ali
      I better stop
      But I gave it to my good friend Haile
      The U turn he displayed is by far the greatest
      Give it to Haile the great

      • rodab

        I have left you a fun message @ Jebena.
        Don’t forget to pick it up at your convenience.

        • haile



          >> ምውሳድ <<ምምላስ – ተረዳዲእና'ዶ?

          • haile

            oops! not meant to go horizontal!

            >> ጤል

            >> ነብሪ

            <> ሳዕሪ

            >> ጤል

            ሳዕሪ ነታ ጤል፡ ሓጎስ ኪሻ ነቲ ነብሪ ገዲፍካሎም ጃልባኻ ጌርካ ባጽዕ ትሕምበብ 🙂

  • rodab

    Fight like a rebel, think like an oppostion, love like a venetian, dine like a parisian, surfe like a hawaiian…..

  • wed garza

    How true is the regime from its inception fought against the few institutions that existed then (1991)-, simply knew they would cause a problem to its future control monopoly. Thereby forget brother about the political oppositions!!
    Brother well done, allow me to add a phenomena which repeately manifest itself throughout Refugee issues in Europe: The regime and its die-hard core divide themselves to welcome the fleeing youths as angels and try to orientate them, even though you quit your country, the regime still loves you and protects your country, ancenstors, borders, youths, what have you…
    The fleeing yet not settled accepts this trick and mockery of intelligence and dance with it.shaming their martyrs, orphans and widow mothers. Shame on us diaspora to allow this to happen in front our eyes and pretend we know not!! Scandalous, stop these deciets and cheaters and expose them to their bones to therespective governments of the Europe
    No Higef member should ever be an interprator nor assistent to plice because he or she is suspected to be a spy of the regime in Eritrea. Cann’t we safe the innocent souls from these wolves?

  • haile

    Selamat Awatistas

    A very conflicting news story today was one regarding the clashes that occurred between Ethiopian forces and armed Ethiopian rebels. The Ethiopian state media claimed that the clashes took place before the attackers crossed into Ethiopian territory. While a rebel spokesman disputed both the claims made on location and causality (much higher according the rebels) speaking by phone to VOA from Asmara. Considering that the regime in Eritrea is under UNSC Chapter VII sanctions (threat to international peace and security) and that the recent SEMG report linked it to Al-Shabab that massacred civilians in Nairobi soon after the said SEMG report and is threatening to do the same in Ethiopia, what does the latest news tell us.

    Strangely enough, however, the PFDJ had a closed door meeting with its European operatives in Belgium where it reported on Shabait to have told its operatives that “.. Mr. Negasi also noted the role Eritrea is playing to promote peace and stability in the region, as well as diplomatic achievements being registered, and that the psychological war and other external conspiracies against Eritrea are being foiled.”

    Let’s hope the Europe based operatives have ha Q & A session during the said meeting to ask What the @#%$#% 🙂


  • eritreafirst

    Mr.Semere, with all due respect may I ask who you are? And why we should listen to you? What have you done for Eritrea in the past and present? You are insulting those who fought and brought our free Eritrea. And yet you provide no solution for any challenge Eritrea is facing. You are echoing the same tune like of those of our ENEMEY. You never mention the unwarranted interfere by the Evil EMPIRE, USA. You need to elevate your thinking and bring fresh IDEAS. I am looking forward for your next improved thinking.

    • Asmir


      I agree with your sentiment my friend! As Bereket Mengisteab likes to sing, “Kidmi kulu hager tihalu.”

      Yes, I agree with you. Semere never stands up for Eritrea.

      He likes to align himself with anti-Eritrea forces. His family hails from my ancestral village in the highlands. We’ve already disowned him.

  • L.T

    Isaias is an Tigrish gentleman.Only when the Weyane change their answer will he change this.
    Remember what he says?When there is rain and sun together,there know the word,it’s a rai..a rain…a rainb….So Mr Semere!don’t make so much noise with rubbish.We have a growing men here.

    • abel

      “Grownup” men!!!
      I am yet to read matured sentence by L.T.

  • From all, cyber writing philosopher’s, I have read the two quoted lines from Semere T H. speak a volume – Get back to basics! Get your emotions in check opposition and get real. The train is half way towards the top of the mountain. Clear the venues and get it done. Well written comment Semere!

    And I quot, “In reality, the opposition parties will never unseat the party-in-power and when they hardly ever come to power they are at a great disadvantage since they had spent little time preparing themselves for governance. This is the problem Egypt is facing. Fighting for change is a lot easier than actual governance. Maintaining a coalition of disparate and poorly organized groups, whose opposition to the ruling party was the only thing that kept them together, is very difficult. This is further exacerbated by the fact that authoritarian governments thrive by favoring one group at the expense of another. The trust deficit among the many social and political groups will dilute any chance the new and inexperienced government might have in transitioning the country into a democratic state.” and

    “The current struggle for change is not much different from our previous liberation struggle; the enemy has to be defeated. Higdef is derg reincarnate. We defeated the derg and we must do the same with higdef.”

  • Asmir

    [Moderator: Asmir, if you have nothing to say, please do not say it. This is not Dehai reincarnated, it is the forum of Your message was deleted]

  • haile

    Selamat Awatistas (especially my friend Meron, who is up beat about a tweet from Asmara telling him 100% electricity soon…may the light be upon you my dear friend:)

    Here is a message from the other side:

    “Dear all. My name is Robiel, well, it was my name. Now I’m dead, drowned near Calais (France). Now I tell you my story. I am born 25 years ago in Eritrea. I’m the oldest of 3 children….”

    Continue reading:


    • Hailat Arkey,

      – What happen to Robel? why is he dead in paradise while manage to escape from hell – if i got it right?…

      – the problem is we try to search heaven here in the world and when we end up in our imagined heaven across the Mediterranean sea we tend to realize the bible is always right – heaven is not here.

      – Hailat, this electricity issue is important but you guys drum it more than anything. If you keep focused on issues that can be improved in a short or long term you would not achieve anything.

      – Look – few months back Nitricc has pose a very interesting question – What do you have at hand apart to a wishful thinking? No that is mine Nitricc’s is ‘Where is your plan?’ ok forget the plan. Where is your organisation. If you dont have organisation how would you you think to feel the gap if shaebia happen to go somewhere in the universe tomorrow morning?

      – Hailat i have my share of critic to the Gov.. but whenever i see people talking about things that do not take you anywhere i realize i am supporting the right party. And Ghedli keep telling me that Sha’ebia is the outcome of Ghedli (mis Mesgedelu) and that is the one can last long and pass the ‘shig’ to the better generation. Not to the rooten diaspora ‘opposition’. I prefer those coming generation to from EIT or Sawa to exercise something than the talking stock…

      – Look in the Sha’ebia policy – Land policy have settled thousands of disputes throughout the country (but the job is not done – will be done). Language policy – well addressed – retained the historical precedence of Arabic and all Mother tangs. No question Tigrigna is Lingua Franka. But 15 years from now … English gradually will start to over-take. No one has capacity to block the supermacy of English.

      – Sad thing – two camps tenth of thousand miles away from Kola and Kebesa will keep talking about Kola and Kebesa from their quartets in the western World.

      – Very sad – both sides will keep hot debate in English in search of Tigrigna or Arabic supermacy. Look they don’t even debate each other in Tigrigna or Arabic but in English. And they want to determine the fate of lively people in Eritrea from their quarters in the West.

      Long Live Sha’ebia…

      • haile

        Selamat Meron ኣንታ ዓርከይ፡ ኣብ ጸላም፡ መነጸር/ኦክያለ ወዲኻ ምሕንባብ ዘይትገድፍ? ደርገፍገፍ በዚሑ’ኮ 🙂

        – The fellow Eritreans who are suffering and dying were not IN paradise! They were en route to paradise! They attempted an incredibly dangerous means to escape the hell, yet they didn’t manage to reach their dreams. Sinai, Lampedusa, Mediterranean sea, Shegareb, Shimelba, Israeli detention centers, Indonesia prisons, mexico, the Indian Ocean…pretty much all the killing fields of your brothers, sisters, children, mothers and fathers that Eritrea will never be able to get back, have perished or are enduring unimaginable suffering as part and parcel of the hell Eritrea is! The cost it exacts to extract oneself from its horrendous ordeals. None of Merons, hailes… have to suffer anything once in paradise. Please make the distinction and draw the line.

        – The brutal regime vs the people, we need no plan nor permit to exert every effort to see the removal of IA in short order. He needs to present a plan to justify his continued existence as a source of death and distraction of our people. More arrests, more killings, more poverty, more lying and more crimes against humanity is NOT acceptable plan, except to those entrapped in its messy dealings and can’t be depended to be any use to the salvation of our suffering masses.

        – We supported Shaebia to fight against external occupation, you are now using its name (a quarter of a century later) to fight against the Eritrean people. Trust me, the people are the legitimate owners of their country and destiny (yep, plan and no plan) and they will win this war. This is a different type of war and we will fight it ኣብ ዝጥዕመናን፡ ብዝጥዕመናን but must be known to near and afar, in bold and underlined that IT IS A WAR. IA and his supporters have declared a war on our very survival and existence as people. It is their call, but we wish to remind them that: sirs, we have won a war before, and this one is much more winnable than any before ኣብ ዝተንውሔ፡ ካብ መሬትና ሓግሒጉ ከውጽኣና ዝኽእል ሓይሊ የልቦን።

        – Finally, about your list of alleged achievements by the fugitive from the law IA, are called maniac depressive bouts. Maniac depressives are millionaires whenever they think they are, they just have to think it and say it, to believe that they have become of it. In reality, the regime is incapable of solving any of the problems that it created, it is literally snatching cattle from villagers. A bout three weeks ago, I have sent 25,000 ERN to a certain family in one of the valley villages by semeinawi qeyh bahri. All of the farmers in villages near filfil selomuna (even from beleza nefasit defere a’zien, kuwazien…) have been banned from producing in their farms. Those regions typically produce vegetables because of their landscape adjoining gemagm. They can no longer produce because they were told the regime using the land for afforestation. Now they are told that any of their cattle that stray into the area are to be confiscated and they would either have to pay 25000ERN or lose them. The EDF in the area are the principal perpetrators of the act. A local told me that he came to the conclusion that the regime is using this in lieu of regular pay. The regime is perceived an occupying enemy force from inside and outside and that is just a fact.

        Selam n’aKa Meron arkey

  • Haqi


    Happy thanks giving. The problem in our Eritreans regional and religious; unless we address this issue in the open it will be a problem now and post hgdef Eritrea. how can we solve our problems if we don’t talk about them?

    I like the tittle and the content of your article, however you forgot the elephant in the room that has been a problem to our unity.

  • MG

    Semere T, you said “Isaias Afwerki’s twenty- two years of misrule reaffirms the old adage that revolutions, quite often, are not caused by vision-inspired or ideology-intoxicated revolutionaries but by the sheer stupidity and brutality of governments”
    Wow! Semere, few month a go you told the whole world that Isaias is the best gift Eritrea ever got by authoring the best ever document called Nehnan Alemanan. Semere what happen between you and Isaias the last few month that you told us the great man ever Eritrea got became visionless over night? Semere, it is no surprise to the people who read your writing the last two or so years. a couple of years a go you told the public that the best ever religious script you read was the Holly Quran and few month later you changed your mind and told us that the best thing that happen to you was to rediscover your orthodox tewahdo Christianity by reading the best ever written orthodox bible. semere, that is not all you keep changing your mind just like chameleons do. yes Semere you told the public that the late Dr. Seyoum Haregot was the best man ever Eritrea had. and then you changed your mind as usually and told as that it was Dr. Bereket Hateselassie the best man Eritrea got and not Seyoum Haregot, in the main time you bet the dead man merciless when you reviewed his book. what is going on mr semere? yes, you told the public that you hate the Amhara and then came back and told us how great are the Amhara by joining a club of Habesha founded by one great Amhara who made you the president of the club. semere, that show you how nave and shallow really you are. you also stated ” There is no state in the Horn of Africa that can be designated as a liberal democratic state; Somaliland is the closest we have.” Semere for your information, Somaliland is not a state but part of the republic of Somalia and run by warlords and international pirate masters.

    • MG

      Semere, congratulate to you, Beyan Negash, and Yosief Ghebrehiwet that you are starting a part together in post PFDJ Eritrea. could you please tell the Eritrean public how will serve and work for the Eritrean people your part program before beyan start complaining in Akria semere for president. ney I do not think it will down for the Eritrean People a part of Semere T the orthodox regionalist(Karneshm-Hamasienist), Beyan the Jebertist-Islamist and Yosief the Habesh/Ethiopia-Neo Unionist. that is the recipe for political and national disaster. But if it works for the unlikely odd group of you, more power to you and I wish you the best of luck.

  • Beyan Negash

    Dear Semere,

    This is why you would be one of the candidates I would consider voting for when the time is right and it seems to be coming soon. The gravitas, the fighting spirit, and above all, the eloquence with which you express your ideas will win the hearts of constituents in no time.

    And one of the slogans I would put in my front lawn in Akhriya would be: Vote for Semere H. who will “keep one eye in the present and the other in the future.”


    • Semrere Andom

      Hi Beyan:
      beside that Semere is bilingual (maybe tri-lingual), so he can switch from Tigriniya to Arabic with ease during his campaign speeches to win the votes from the other half of Eritreans. He will not need a running mate if he is running for the top job to balance regional interests. Elect one get two can be his slogan:-)

  • abe

    you sound like a badly badly badly wounded dog barking like a cat, man get it, by hook or by crook Isaias Afwerki and his PFDJ team will soon be history please let us prepare as Semere suggests for a real transparent and accountable governance, the hey days of giving leaders of future Eritrea blanc check is long over.

  • Teweldino


    Dear Semere,

    I always read your articles. I don’t know why because, frankly, I never seem to get much out of them. You and your ilk sound like a broken record. Year in and year out, you say “opposition needs to be unified…unity is a prerequisite…blah, blah, blah.”


    Can’t you guys come up with something new once in awhile? Seriously man!

    You urge your colleagues to fight like a liberation front and think like an opposition?

    Guess what brother? I will take PFDJ over you guys in that fight any day of the week!


    While you’re urging your people to fight like an opposition. Whatever that means!

    • Thomas

      Your master and his mafia party is dead. First, electricity and water shortage. 2nd. flight transportation halted 3rd) mail services/post office is rumored stopping its services. Follow the below link, prepare for the final stage:

      • Thomas,

        Asmarino could say a lot. The reality is:

        1. The dead president appeared in Port Sudan not from the sky but from a 1000 K.M. inland trip.

        2. Electricity 80% back and set 100% to back by next month or early of the coming year… fore sure the GoV need to do a lot but it is quite simplistic to say the Gov is done because of such issue.

        3. Flight transportation – ahh do you think b/c Lufthansa quits the world is upside down in Eritrea – simplistic. Luf.. goes Egypt adds flight, Yemen, Turky, Quatar… set to start. These is service you can buy from the market.

        4. Mail service/post……. whohaaaaaaaaa… in your world interruption of post can kill a government… whohaaaa. Post is related with point three… if there is flight there is post and if not nothing will happen. Just you stop sending ‘cherke merqi’.

        Ciao Thome nebsi – aytise’an,

        • Asmir


          There are more airlines flying to Eritrea now than there were before Lufthansa announced whatever it was that it announced. You mentioned some of the new airlines: Qatar Airways, Turkish Air, Emirates Air…etc. There is always someone willing to step in and make a little money you know.

        • Tamrat Tamrat

          Meron, i dont like Your president dead or alive. But if the Whole eritrean thing is about the president and the oppositions in the west then the president has humiliated the so colled oppostions time and again to the point that no one trust them With their batriless Remote controll struggel. Dont get me wrong what the president is doing the right ting for eritreans who live in Eritrea. Not at all! But he proves that the so called oppostions and websites like makes the president more harsh` than what he intended. They know this well off course and that is whay they use Remote controll. Like derg time Ethiopians cadres, they never went to war, they just simply shout ‘og attack, you are hereo! bla bla’.

          • L.T

            Oy,oy,oy….. slow down,Mr Taamrat.How are things? you sound bitter and I wonder why God made age at all,Taamrat,your comments are always cloudy and a weak”I don’t like that man,I don’t like his face…so leave him alone for five minutes.Your are like a cow,turns its eyes to the side when it shits,and pretends not to know what it’s doing.Är du med?

    • Saleh “Gadi” Johar

      Teweldino, you forgot to put the quotes within quotation marks; it is not yours, you are repeating what others said. That is unless you want to be identified as a plagiarizer 🙂