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Fleshing Out Our Unity Government In Exile

The response to the proposal for A Unity Government In Exile has been extremely positive and encouraging.  As a follow-up, after several weeks of consultations and a “listening tour”, in this edition, the following questions will be addressed:

1. Why Government In Exile?
2. If one is needed, why with the EPLF-legacy and ELF-legacy only? Why Unitary Government? Why not Bayto Yiakl, for example?
3. What are the specific building blocs envisioned for the government in exile?
4. How can I help/contribute?

1. Why Government In Exile?

Let’s begin with the arguments AGAINST forming a government in exile. (a) No State, No Government: there can be no government unless there is sovereign, recognized territorial state. (b) No Territory, No International Recognition: China’s entire foreign policy, specially with regard to black Africa, has been to run a game show entitled: “Have You Memorized One China Policy?” One China Policy says while there are now, due to a temporary misunderstanding, two governments (one for China and one for Taiwan), the mainland and the island are part of one entity named China.  You have no territory to do that and you are not Taiwan   (c) No representation, No Government: whoever claims to be such a government, cannot, in the least,  be representative of the State and thus has no popular sovereignty; (d) No Territory, No Autonomy:  A government in exile is entirely dependent on its host country and has zero autonomy. (e) No chance, No Success:   Except in war and occupation (France, for example), there hasn’t been a successful government-in-exile: Just Hush And Eat Your Hamburger. ሱቕ ኢልክን ሃምቡርገርክን ብልዓ.

Yes, these are all powerful arguments: I probably even made some of them a few years ago.  But behold! There are even more powerful arguments to make for having an Eritrean Government In Exile.

And that’s where I begin with my counterpoint: hamburger.  You see, that statement (Just Hush And Eat Your Hamburger…), which is designed to diminish you, betrays deep ignorance about Eritrea’s history.  For the most consistent thing about Eritrea’s history is that in each generation, it is the exiled Eritrean that directed it, infused it, gave it life.   Let’s begin where post-occupation modern Eritrea begins: Ibrahim Sultan.

By 1948, Ibrahim Sultan’s Muslim League (Eritrea’s first nationalist party of the 1940s) was stagnant due to intense competition from other parties, “internal fragmentation, economic limitations, and the notable increase in Ethiopian-sponsored political violence.” (See End Notes.)  It had to survive even the defection of Siddi Mohammed Abu Bakr al-Mirghani.   Trust me, as big as a gut punch the death of Adhanom Ghebremariam might have been to a people of a certain generation (very much similar to the death of Seyoum Harestay and Ahmed M Nasser), it is not comparable: the Al-Mirghani family were the spiritual leaders of a significant proportion of the Muslim League (Suffi Islam) constituency.  And Ibrahim Sultan’s leadership survived it. How? Because (a) the UN at long last decided to go to Eritrea to verify for itself what the Eritrean pulse was, rather than relying on its representation by Haile Selassie I; (b) the assassination of Abdulkader Kebire (by agents loyal to Haile Selassie) was traumatic shock, whose grief electrified and reinvigorated the Muslim League; and then (c) the Foreign Ministers of England and France (Bevin and Sforza) said to themselves, hey, we know what’s best: let’s divide this country into two.  The combination of blows and threats further solidified the League’s Leap Frog: the murderous and scheming forces arrayed against us are powerful: we can’t face them alone–and thus was born the Independence Bloc Party.  And throughout Ibrahim Sultan got counsel from exiled Eritreans.

While 1959 could not be called the beginning of exiled activism, it certainly was another epoch: the Secretary General of the Muslim League, Ibrahim Sultan, and the president of the now-Ethiopianized Eritrean parliament, Idris Mohammed Adem, evaded Ethiopian arrest of Eritrea’s senior leadership and went to exile, to maintain Eritrea’s voice.  A year earlier, Mohammed Said Nawud had established the Eritrean Liberation Movement (ELM) in exile: Port Sudan, Sudan.  Comrade Mohammed Said Nawud’s communist leanings were pruned in Eritrea: his movement became known as “Mahber Shewate” (The League of 7 to signify the size of cell) to the Christian and Tigrinya-speaking Eritrea, whereas it was “haraka” (movement) to the Lowland & Muslim Eritrea.  The Exiled Eritrean were instrumental in the establishment in Egypt of Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF): intellectuals, university students and lawyers, were its core, its brains:  and they co-ordinated with Hamed Idris Awate, inside Eritrea, who was its conscience and its muscle.  And this muscle was strengthened by another exiled Eritrean group: Eritreans in Sudan, some of whom were even in the Sudanese army. One of the giants of Exiled Eritreans is, of course, Woldeab Woldemariam, who spent half his life in exile, broadcasting emboldening radio messages in Tigrinya from Egypt.  Our friend Dawit Mesfin has a book about him and for all of you English-speaking Eritreans, that is a good start to learn about one of our Pillars ( ኣርካን) and you can read all about him here.  And the EPLF?  Many of its leading lights  had moved from Ethiopia (Addis Abeba: Haile Selasse University) to Eritrea to heed the call of the People’s Revolution.   The two Fronts were (AND STILL ARE) sustained by Exiled Eritrea: Eritrean Student Union (all over the Middle East), E.NA.SE.A  (North America), Bologna Mothers (Italy) and others too many to mention.  Many of our pillars (ኣርካን) spent much of their time in exile, and some died in exile, including the State’s co-founder, Ibrahim Sultan and our first face to the world, Osman Saleh Sabbe.

The point is: Exiled Eritrea has always been, is, and will always be part of Mainland Eritrea.  Not just part, but the founding part of every single one of its movements.  So, do not allow anyone to make you feel like you are an outsider-looking-in: you are Eritrea.  Each generation of Exiled Eritrea had the responsibility to correct the path of Eritrea, and it’s this generation’s responsibility to correct its current path.

A skeptic would say: “all of the above shows that an Exiled Eritrean had nearly 80 years of uninterrupted service to the nation, but it doesn’t argue for Government In Exile (GiE)”  Let’s tackle that. You would agree with me that a GiE is formed when the Government In Power (GiP) is a puppet government in the service of foreign powers and has absolutely zero legitimacy to govern.  For example, French General De Gaulle’s “Comité National Français.” was a recognized government in exile after France was occupied by Nazi Germany.  Now, before we dismiss as absurd the comparison between Nazi-occupied France and PFDJ-occupied Eritrea, here are the similarities:

  • Nazi-occupied France was subservient to one man (Hitler); PFDJ-occupied Eritrea is subservient to one man (Isaias)
  • Both Hitler and Isaias have zero legitimacy to govern other than brute force
  • Hitler’s France and Isaias’s Eritrea are war-staging stations for other forces
  • Hitler’s France and Isaias’ Eritrea have been brought to their knees: crumbling buildings, dead industries and ports, and a severely malnourished people.

We are not saying we need a Government-in-Exile because the Isaias government is dictatorial.  By that standard,  half the world would have a government in exile.  We are saying the government in Eritrea is illegitimate and actively works for the destruction of the State and, unless interrupted,  Eritrea’s future existence is in serious doubt.  If you think that Eritrea’s situation is dire–jumping from one war to another war;  a crumbling state; a state whose foreign policy is dictated by one man–jumping from alliance with Iran, to Qatar, to UAE, to Saudi Arabia; jumping from “Ethiopia is our mortal enemy” to “Ethiopia is our country”, then one has an obligation to act.  All the measures Isaias Afwerki took since 2001 when he engineered his coup solidified his power but came at great cost to future Eritrea.  To pretend that everything will be fine, we all have to pretend that Isaias is not a 78 year old man, without a vice president, without working institutions, a constitution, or a functioning political party.  There is no succession plan in Eritrea and if you are saying, surely, the governing party has its bylaws, remember, this is the quality of the document that has been the most consequential to Eritrea in the last 25 years: 82/1995 – Proclamation of National Service.  And this is how it looks and reads like.  Given the un-seriousness of the government, do not be surprised if there are 3 PFDJ bylaws floating about and, given the Isaias regime’s contempt of institutions and documents (recall how easily he killed the constitution with a wave of his hand), don’t be surprised if his lieutenants have the same contempt for any documents that binds them together.

I was speaking to a highly intelligent and potentially one of the leaders of our envisioned government. When he gave his reasons for why he doesn’t support the Government-in-Exile, he told me that he expects change to come from within.  I didn’t challenge it: I was in my listening and taking notes mode, not my debating mode.  But now I am. So my question to those who say “change from within” is: after the abrupt end of the Isaias Rule, do you have absolute certainty as to which faction from the fragmented PFDJ within will assume power?  Are you sure it is the faction YOU are speaking with or the one I am speaking with?  Remember, the comrades at home despise one another with the same ferocity as the comrades in exile.  The only difference is that those at home have lots of guns and very willing users of those guns (if we are to judge by the recent adventure in Tigray.)  So my question is: are you willing to take that risk, that power transfer in Eritrea will be peaceful and orderly after Isaias Afwerki is gone?   If your answer is “I don’t know”, then you owe it to Eritrea to build a government in exile.  A government in exile that presents to Eritreans at home what a normal government looks like.  You might, if you prefer, call it government-in-waiting.  The form is less important than the essence.

Finally, one of the main questions/criticisms is: is the Government-in-Exile formed by a host country? NO. Host countries have been suggesting it and been rejected for decades.  It is an all-Eritrean initiative.  “Well, you say that now but eventually you will yield to your host country because you are dependent on them!” NO.  You seem to forget that Eritreans are known throughout the world, especially in Africa, for being fund-raising machines, for the right cause.  If you doubt yourself, talk to the leaders of the Yiakl movement.

2. Why ELF-EPLF Only? Why Unity Government?

Eritrea is too small (population) and too diverse (ethnically) to have half a dozen political parties. The first clarification is that “ELF”, “EPLF” are short-hand for “ELF School of Thought” and “EPLF School of Thought.” And for those of you who may not be familiar with it, they are real schools of thought: on governance (centralized vs decentralized), on education policy (mother tongue vs Tigrina/Arabic), on land, on refugees, on military, on foreign policy and a whole slew of issues.   For the last 50 years, the two have been criminalizing one another–as if each policy is taboo–when in fact both are respectable, mainstream views.   In post-Isaias Eritrea, these two visions for Eritrea are what will be on the political menu, for our people to choose that which is most compatible with their reality.   But for now, when we are talking about Government-in-exile, the two have to suspend it and focus all on their energies on the quickest way to put an end to Eritrea’s undeclared state of emergency.   That’s what “unity government” means: a temporary arrangement of actors with different visions for the country, united towards an overriding goal: creation of a people’s government.

But why only ELF-EPLF?  In my interview with Fanus Network, I had said that I would explain in further detail why and here is my reasoning:

(a) Knowledge: They know Eritrea and its composition: from Adi Quala to Karora; from Marsa Fatma to Tessenei, from Marsa Gulbub to Omhajjer. They know the land, the people, their customs and their history.  Nobody else can say that.  To talk to a Tegadalai is to be humbled: they can tell you which hamlet is between which villages.  If we believe in craftsmanship, those most qualified for a job should do the job, then it is ELF & EPLF.

(b) Representative: They represent(ed) Eritrea’s diversity.  It was ELF and EPLF, and only ELF and EPLF, that were true microcosms of Eritrea.  Everything else that has been tried since, including within the Government in Power, including with Bayto Yiakl, has been a monochrome with superficial colors.

(c) Continuity: Only ELF and EPLF have had the ability to sustain themselves as viable organizations.  The rest are unknown quantities, too mysterious to give such a huge responsibility.  They are either too new to gamble on, or too fragmented to bet on.

(d) Unquestionable Eritreanness:  The two are national movements who embrace all Eritreans and are loyal to the foundational ideology of Eritrea.  Sadly, one can’t always say the same about all: with some of them gravitating towards whatever appears to be the fad of the day: Tigray Tigrini, Agazian, Dekebat and other birther movements.

(e) Unabashedly Political:  ELF and EPLF are unabashedly, proud political organizations whose stated goal is to assume power and lead the country.   This is not the case with many of our organizations who are, at best, political movements.   In fact, the answer to the question of “why not Yiakl” is because it is not a political party; it is a movement.  My former mentee and now my peer Ghezae Hagos told me he is disappointed that I did not include Yiakl Bayto in my calculation and my answer is: let’s start with the two, and then Bayto, Eritrea Focus and ten other organizations I am not listing, can negotiate with the two political parties.

What about us, the Opposition to the Opposition, asked me a friend who spends most of his time cursing the opposition.  I told him that not everyone can be in the government: he can now be an opposition to our government-in-exile and we won’t call him names but recognize his right to be an opposition.

3. The Building Blocs Of GiE:   Here’s what my comrades and I have been working on since the publication of the article proposing government in exile: creating its blueprint.  Broadly speaking this is what it looks like:

a. Phase 1: National Task Force.  Composition: 5-7.  Task: identify ELF and EPLF members who can become the Congress Preparatory Committee.
b. Phase 2: Congress Preparatory Committee.  Composition: 11 each, from ELF and EPLF Schools of Thought.   The two Congress Preparatory Committees each have members in the National Task Force.  Mission: to organize an ELF and to organize an EPLF Congress. With help of the National Task Force, prepare documents including draft chapters, agendas, invitee list.
c. Phase 3: ELF Congress and EPLF Congress.   Hold congress, adopt charter and bylaws, elect leadership.
d. Phase 4: Leadership of ELF and EPLF meet with National Task Force to identify personnel for new government, policies, departments, fund-raising.
e. Phase 5: the National Task Force dissolves itself.

All of this will need a spirit of volunteerism and an attitude of “it’s happening!” Can it be done within the May 24 deadline we gave ourselves? YES, but we all have to kill our inner-Gobye (thoughts and prayers.)

And finally, what is that Tigrinya proverb about “መርዓት ከይሓዝክን….?” I never like proverbs: they are invitations to believe that nothing changes.  But, since you asked, those whom we have reached out to have given us the following answer: “Yes, in principle but…”   And “No, but…”  This is entirely reasonable: how can one give enthusiastic endorsement to something that came out of nowhere and is not fleshed out with details.  These organizations did not ensure their continuity by embracing every proposal.  So the burden of proof is, for now, on us to show them that this is real, and it can happen.   It is a lot of work, but very much worth it.  Not only worth it, but it is necessary: the nation calls for it!

4. How Can I Help? As I have said, I have been overwhelmed with the positive response to the proposal (until the ክተት zombies showed up to try to douse the enthusiasm for it.)  How you can help is as follows:

(a) To make this a truly people’s initiative, ask of the congress participants to heed the call.  Hit the reset button on all prior antagonisms and reboot.

(b) All Exiled Eritreans spend their week days and week-ends in zoom meetings discussing our beloved Eritrea.  Please raise the intellectual level of these discussions and come up with ideas and suggestions on how to make the Government-in-Exile work.   Create professional associations (of teachers, scientists, lawyers, doctors, accountants, etc) as they will all be needed to guide our incoming government and to present our people back home a Face of Competence and not what we have shown them so far.

(c) Volunteer to join either national task force, or the preparatory committee or the congress itself.  How? You know how to reach me and Saleh Johar.  But there will be a vetting process because of the lessons learned from the previous 20 years of opposition building.  Please join and take ownership of the organizations.

(d) Mindset: Whether you believe something will happen or not, either way, you are right! So said someone whose name I don’t want to research now.  The point being: we manifest what we believe and if we believe it won’t happen and it can’t happen: it won’t.  If you believe it can and it will, it can and it will.  I am surrounded by hard-working, brilliant people and I always believe we can and we will.

(e) This is really the last part of awate.com’s mission: reconciliation.  Reconciliation cannot happen without ELF and EPLF treating each other with respect and equal stakeholders.  An Eritrea that recognizes the mother of EPLF martyrs but not the mother of ELF martyrs is not Eritrea.

(e) No Eritrean Left Behind: This, if done right, should be an all-inclusive Eritrean endeavor.  While different players will have different roles at different stages, we can’t consider it a success until, once consolidated, it welcomes and embraces anyone who believes that Eritrea is too important to be the playing ground of Isaias Afwerki and his enablers.  For example, I can’t envision a government which does not include all our educated and focused Eritreans, particularly the youth, who pretty much reflect Eritrea’s current demographics.  And, remember, the purpose of the ELF and EPLF is to lend our efforts legitimacy and their role will be transitional.

Are you in?

End Notes

“Paths toward the Nation: Islam, Community, and Early Nationalist Mobilization in Eritrea, 1941–1961 (Volume 92) (Ohio RIS Africa Series): Venosa, Joseph L., Venosa, Joseph L.: 9780896802896: Amazon.Com: Books.” Amazon.Com, 2014, www.amazon.com/Paths-toward-Nation-Nationalist-Mobilization/dp/0896802892.

About Salyounis

Saleh Younis (SAAY) has been writing about Eritrea since 1994 when he published "Eritrean Exponent", a quarterly print journal. His writing has been published in several media outlets including Dehai, Eritrean Studies Review, Visafric, Asmarino and, of course, Awate where his column has appeared since the launch of the website in 2000. Focusing on political, economic, educational policies, he approaches his writing from the perspective of the individual citizens' civil liberties and how collectivist governments and overbearing organizations trample all over it in pursuit of their interests. SAAY is the president and CEO of a college with a focus in sound arts and video games and his writing often veers to music critique. He has an MBA from Golden Gate University and a BA from St Mary's College.

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  • Aman Y.

    Selam Saleh,

    Thank you for keeping it going. I heard there is going to be discussion about your GiE initiative later today. Can you please share the info.

    • Woldegabriel Tesfamariam

      Selam Aman Y.
      I read Berhe Y’s comment at “discuss” and alarmed why it was not posted. I fast tracked this post to tip Saay off on what is at play. I have no doubt of his political savvy and dexterity. I watched his interview, who wryly smiled and continued with Fanus network, who repetitively mocked his proposal as “dead before it was born”. I would advise him to be accompanied to the discussion forum by people who have no political baggages and understand the Eritrean Dynamics. Thought I do not know them personally, I would advise, Mr. Ismail AA. and Dr. Beyan Negash for his consideration.

      • Barolle

        Selam Woldegabriel T,

        People mock what they are afraid of, or because of jealousy. Not always, but it is normally the case. Stepping down to his level might not be necessary, depending on said persons position and what he or she wish to accomplish. However, putting people in their place eloquently with facts is necessary at times. In some cases mocking said person back might be necessary too. You get what you give is a good rule of thumb to go by, in my opinion.

        In this sad world we live in, kindness is mistaken for weakness. Opponents will come at you full throttle thinking you will give in to their will for being soft spoken, or gentle. Knowing how to mix a gentle stroke with a right hook is not only important, it is an outright necessity in this political landscape.

        As Berhe Y mentioned, there are those who have ulterior motives trying to influence where Eritrea is headed. It has been on-going for years. In Swedish we call it,

        This site for instance (awate) have been under attack, and still is, by foreign elements trying to sway the Eritrean politics and discourse in a direction that favours their end goal.

        Are less educated individuals more prone to influence, or do they have less ability to be objective? Many educated individuals seem to be just as dense and radical at times, so perhaps other factors are at play. Their common denominator is their inability to be objective and their radicalism.

        Appealing to said people with logos (logic) becomes an effort wasted.

        Pathos and to certain degree Ethos works best with xebib hangol delowom seb, if anything at all.

        This is a huge undertaking, there is no denying it. I wish everyone the best of luck and will enjoy the discussions from the sidelines as a person with no political affiliations.

    • Berhe Y

      Hi Aman Y.

      I think you are looking fir this link.

      Huruy Tedla and Dr Awet.



      • Aman Y.

        Selam Ato Berhe,
        Thank you. Indeed it was. I did not see your message till now. I read Haile TG’s recap and kind of satisfied my curiosity. But I will be watching it from the link you sent.

        Thank you

  • መሃንድስ-ምዕባለ

    ሕጊ ‘ንዳባ ብፈላጣት
    ‘ምበር ብምሁራት
    ‘ተዘይ ተጋግየ

    የብልሖ ዶ የጉድሞ ንኣእምሮ?
    ሓድሽ ሓሳባት ከምዘይፈጥር
    ብትዕቢት ‘ንዳረኣየ የዕውሮ
    ብናተይ ሓሳባት

    ዓበይቲ ዓዲ ማለት
    ምሁራን ኣይኮነን
    ምሁራት ማለት
    ፈሊጣን ኣይኮነን
    ሕጊ-መንግስቲ ምትካል
    ንኹሉ ምምእካል
    ‘ተዘይኴኑ ማሕበራዊ ምስንካል
    ከይሞተ ‘ንከሎ
    ንዳሎ ንተዝካር
    ‘ንተኾነ ብእዋኑ ምምካር
    ይብል ኣነ

    ኣስኳላ ጀብሃ ዋላ ሻዕብያ

    ኣበይ ኮን ዓሰለ
    ዶ ዋላስ ተረፊቱ
    ከይተነግሮ ደስከለ?

    ሳልሳይ ዓንዲ የድሊ
    ኣብ ናይዞም ክለት ኣስኳላ
    ክምዝገብ ዘይደሊ

    ኣይፋል ተዄኑ መልሲ
    ንኹሉ ዘደቅስ ኣይመስልን
    ዝተነጽፈ ማእሲ
    ይብል ኣነ

  • Haile S.

    Selam Awate people

    My comedian side was triggered when I saw Saay7 suffering to find qualifiers for ELF and EPLF.

    መርዓ (ዋዛ ምስ ቁም ነገር)
    Adapted from ጥሪ ዕብዲ by በርሀ ኣርኣያ 1959

    ጓልና ተጋዳሊት ኣውሊዕ-ጾራ
    ወድና ተጋዳላይ ገመል-ከበዶ

    ቃል ኪዳን እነእስረሎም መዓልቲ ንግንቦት 24 2021 ብፈረንጂ ቆጺርና ስለ ዘለና፡ ኣብ መዓልቲ ግርምኦም ንደቕና፡ መዓልቲ ሓጎስ ንዓና፡ ሓቢርኩም ንኽትውዕሉ ምሳና፡ ብኽብሪ ንዕድመኩም።

    ቃልኪዳን ዝእሰረኡ ቦታ፡ ቤተ ክርስተእስላም ማርያምጂብሪል
    ዝግበረሉ ቦታ፡ ኣደራሽ ቤተ መዘክር መምህር ዓወተ

    ስድራቤት ሳልሕ ብላዕ-ኢልዎም
    ስድራቤት ሃይለTG ጎማ-ኸብዶም

    መተሓሳሰቢ፥ ቅድሚ መርዓ፡ ከከም ክእለትኩም፡ መጠቃ ንምብዓጥ፡ ኣባዕከ ንምሕሳይ ኮነ፡ ከምኡ’ውን ስቡሓት ላም ንምምራጽን ዳስ ንምስራሕን ወዘተረፈ፡ በብዝጥዕመኩም መመጺኹም ንኽትሕግዙና ንማሕጸነኩም።

  • haileTG

    Merhaba saay and awatista,

    Thanks saay! I think you’ve strongly argued the case and if this initiative is to come to fruition, it will be one of major historical accomplishments in the annals of Eritrean history.

    As you’ve outlined: NTF will identify the twin CPC that pave the way to respective congress. Then each side will delegate GiE reps. NTF dissolves and GiE takes over. This is an appropriately rapid pace that could potentially be implemented over very short period of time. In order to speed up the process, all existing [historic] documents such as each front’s charters and the 97 constitution can be immediately approved as a pro forma working documents. This saves the unnecessary delay and debate of mechanisms and consultations. In other words, they are all set to go.

    The NTF needs extensive media work as well as diplomatic consultations, at the very least with the EU and US administration. Also, informal expository meetings with individual member country representatives of UNSC.

    As the time line is on a very tight schedule, NTF needs to come back with tangible results and concrete steps no later than March 31st. Respective CPC need to have completed its mandate by mid April and Congress finalized by first week of May. By May 15, GiE needs to be ready and can be inaugurated by May 24, 20201 – exactly 30 years after Eritrea’s 30 year struggle has been culminated.

    Let it be so!

    • saay7

      Selamat HTG:

      Thanks for your observation which IMHO is spot on.

      The challenge here is about translating a conceptualization of popular desire into something tangible, with no institutionalized power except that of persuasion and hard work.

      One of the concepts people are still struggling with (I consider it my failing) is the whole ELF-EPLF, terms many consider historical relics, when I am actually talking about ELFism and EPLFism, as schools of thought and sentiments. Remember the “you might be a redneck if….” comedic routine? I think I will need a similar one for ELFites and EPLFites:

      * you might be an ELFite if you get all ready eyed when you see Semayawit Lemlem (Khedijah)!and think the EPLF or Eritrean flag is a symbol of division and exclusion.
      * you might be an EPLFite if you love the EPLF flag and the Eritrean flag and think of the blue flag as a federation flag
      * you might be an ELFite if you demand Tigrinya Arabic as official languages and consider mother tongue policy as defacto tigrinasization of Eritrea
      * you might be an EPLFite if you demand mother tongue
      education and consider Tigrinya Arabic as imposition
      * you might be an ELFite if you think decentralization up to and including autonomous self rule is best way forward
      * you might be an EPLFite if you think decentralization weakens Eritrea and created cantons
      * you might be an ELFite if you think right of return for refugees is the most important priorities which should be done first
      * you might be an EPLFite if you think that’s important but not the most important thing
      * you might be an ELFite if you the 1997 constitution reminds me exclusion and illegitimacy
      * you might be an EPLFite if you remember the 1997 constitution as Eritrea at its best
      * you might be an ELFite if you think the 1940s politics reflected the will of the people
      * you might be an EPLF if all that era reminds you is of foreign interference and the danger of political pluralism.
      * you might be an ELFite if you believe in socialism with a human face
      * you might be an EPLFite if you believe in developmental states model.
      * you might be an ELFite if you think the worst thing Ethiopia created was Haile Selasse
      * you might be an EPLFite if you think the worst thing Ethiopia created were Mengistu and TPLF.

      I am thinking of creating a scored quiz so people know their political home.


      • Amanuel Hidrat

        Selam Saay,

        Your compare and contrast on the school of thoughts between ELFites and EPLFites is very interesting. Generally speaking, you are right with some exceptions.

      • haileTG

        Hey saay,

        I am reminded of the famous quote from the movie Field of Dreams “If you build it, then he will come”. As things are envisioned to come in succession: NTF, CPC, CONGRESS, GiE; the onus is on NTF to show leadership and success. Then, I dare say that everyone will clearly remember where they belong, without even being asked to. In fact, they will know exactly which office they should be allocated to. Actually, don’t waste your time with quizzies, plan for managing the large turnouts to follow. I don’t mean to discourage anyone, but those who would rather ask 100 questions and regurgitate well known setbacks and debacles from the past are not ready. The NTF need to make news in one sort or another, such as high profile meetings or media outreach…start the job of galvanizing in earnest. This is prime season for visibility, both national, regional and international attention is at its peak on our issue. NTF needs to get moving before such opportunity closes.


  • Woldegabriel Tesfamariam

    Selam Saay,

    The distinctive weakness of the old oppositions was that they had no idea on how to fight their enemy. They were just reactive to isayas’s adventures, crimes and misrule, which he gladly delivered in rumbling successions, making them technically irrelevant. I do not want to ponder on lost opportunities. But, in football parlance, to score goals, you have to create opportunities or use them when you find one. Despite the fact that the oppositions were unable to create opportunities, they should be bold enough to take when it presents itself. I remember e few months back, Dr. Beyan presented an innovative proposal for dislodging isayas. But the person/s who were supposed to take lead role had cold feet to pledge with the necessary preconditions to step it up. Now another opportunity is being promoted by another creative mind. Of course, I didn’t expect the ELF-EPLF parties to jump to the wagon immediately. But I expected genuine members of these parties who have the interest of their country/people at heart to openly push for the idea. I wonder what would it take to shake them from their slumber? Don’t they have the moral responsibility? Doesn’t Ambassador Adhanom’s death ring a warning bell? (I don’t know him much, but he fought to his last breath for Eritrea).
    Back to the main proposal and it’s follow ups.. apparently, since both ELF and EPLF leaders and constituents didn’t take the initiative to conduct their Congress by themselves, it would be incumbent to establish the task force. However, as a foreground for ensuring a popular support to the procession of this undertaking, I believe the following points need to be addressed.
    1. Even for a day, nobody is ready to be ever led (administered) without a constitution. Even if God descends to Earth and volunteers to be our leader, we want him to abide with our earthly constitution. I understand there are some issues with the ratified constitution. But consensus must be reached to apply this constitution until another one is promulgated through proper procedures.
    2. There must be some sort legal provisions that the Unity Government in Exile, when returns to Asmara and forms transitional government, be directly accountable to the Baito. Provided agreement on the establishment of Baito is reached, the procedures of its election could be discussed further.

    • Bayan Negash

      Selam Woldegabriel, Sal, and Awatawyan,
      The following piece I jotted last evening as soon as I finished reading the second installment. I have, of course, modified it a bit for public consumption. I made some efforts to make my response fit to your entry. Your use of football (in the parlance of the US, soccer) in which you relayed how we have been ill equipped – let alone to create opportunity to score – we couldn’t score any goals when the goal post had nobody defending it, so to speak. We must anticipate also that the formidable enemy we have in Eritrea will keep moving the goal post because it has the wherewithal and the ability to do so as the referee, the player, and the spectator all rolled in one. What Nsu says goes. When he says kitet (invade) the soccer field will be overwhelmed with players nine times as many playing against one team. The two salient issues you raised are ready and set to go, thanks to Sinit which had spent two years anticipating the inevitability of such a day. They have made it a public domain to be used by any entity that wishes to take advantage of it – Labor of love!

      It so happened I’m reading a book titled “the Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership” by Steven B. Sample (1982). Don’t let the date make you feel it’s outdated. It surely is as relevant in today’s world as any book written on the subject in recent years. Some of the points the author makes are so fresh in my mind I’m going to zero in on those I find relevant on matters of leadership.

      In the Introduction the author states the following: “…one of the most important and contrarian points we can make about leadership is that it is highly situational and contingent; the leader who succeeds in one context at one point in time won’t necessarily succeed in a different context at the same time, or in the same context at a different time”

      This is my worry about the former ELF and EPLF veterans, lacking leadership skills could render GiE helplessly weak and unable to convince the world that it can be the alternative to the regime in Eritrea.

      In my helpless moments I conjecture something I still find unacceptable, but it eats at me from within, particularly, with the current war footing that’s wreaking havoc in our region, it makes me wonder if we have what it takes to swim above the ocean shores or are drowning ever so slowly. The piece in the intro, the contrarian man ominous statement I find chilling:

      “There are numerous cases of societies which lost their earlier highly developed culture and retrogressed to a more primitive way of life. In some of these cases external factors, such as invasion or drought, clearly played a role, but in many cases, it would be that the retrogression was due to a failure of will and a lack of leadership.”

      As former ELF and EPLF fighters for independence Eritreans and Tigrayans had done a hell of a job in brilliantly defeating the strongest army of its day in Africa. But we’ve seen both EPRDF and PFDJ failing colossally in their respective countries. Period. I mean Sal makes a case, but this needs a monumental effort to take it off the ground as he has listed below. You need these people to be full-time, professional employees who would do nothing else but the work of GiE. The list below screams for some serious budgeting. Take a look:

      “a. Phase 1: National Task Force. Composition: 5-7. Task: identify ELF and EPLF members who can become the Congress Preparatory Committee.

      b. Phase 2: Congress Preparatory Committee. Composition: 11 each, from ELF and EPLF Schools of Thought. The two Congress Preparatory Committees each have members in the National Task Force. Mission: to organize an ELF and to organize an EPLF Congress. With help of the National Task Force, prepare documents including draft chapters, agendas, invitee list.

      c. Phase 3: ELF Congress and EPLF Congress. Hold congress, adopt charter and bylaws, elect leadership.

      d. Phase 4: Leadership of ELF and EPLF meet with National Task Force to identify personnel for new government, policies, departments, fund-raising.

      e. Phase 5: the National Task Force dissolves itself.

      All of this will need a spirit of volunteerism and an attitude of “it’s happening!” Can it be done within the May 24 deadline we gave ourselves? YES, but we all have to kill our inner-Gobye (thoughts and prayers).”

      • Abi

        Hello Bayan + Woldegebriel
        Since you don’t seem to score or unable to score on the formidable opponent, how about praying for own goals? Sometimes in soccer your opponent scores on its own goal. Your problem ( all opposition) is playing in your own part of the field. You have to take the ball to your opponent’s box.
        In your case, you are not in the field much less to score.

        • Bayan Negash

          Hey Abi,
          Your humor laced comments are always stirring in a good way. Those you choose to interlocute you leave them no room but to offer their rejoinder. I couldn’t just pass this up by thumbs up or thumbs down. Kudos to that unique capacity very few of are endowed with.

          We’ve been scoring “on [our] own goal” post for the last twenty years. You have not been napping like Rip Van Winkle to not notice that, have you, Abi? In fact, the social media is so replete of those elements where each individual now owns his/her own goal post and defends it to the death thinking that was equivalent to “give me liberty or give me death” while comfortably sitting in their respective diaspora armchairs .

          To the contrary what needs to happen and what might actually happen is the formidable foe will be so cocky and so confident of his abilities and begins to nonchalantly start scoring “on its own goal” post just to humiliate the opponent. You know, how Mohammed Ali Clay used to do by putting his hands down giving his opponents to punch him on the face. As Eric Ruskin of Slate magazine put it succinctly in describing Ali’s over confidence in the boxing ring:

          “Ali did so many things technically wrong but had the otherworldly reflexes to get away with all of it. He held his hands low, he pulled his head straight back exactly as every boxer is instructed not to do, but he made opponents miss by an inch or two and left them off balance and open for his counters.”

          So, PFDJ might just annihilate itself and die a sudden death from self inflicted wounds. Sort of what hiwHwat appeared to have done as it committed a colossal political miscalculus. There are plenty of political miscalculations in politics, the classic one of which was former President Clinton deciding to testify, which would have him caught in a lie where he would repeatedly say, “that he never had sexual relations with that woman, Monica Lewinsky”, which would come to haunt him because the lie was on tape. He would go on the history as the second president to be impeached in American history up-to that point.


          • Abi

            Hello Bayan

            There must be something wrong with the name Van. I found another Van ( Van Der Buys) who scored a hat trick on his own team.
            Sunderland must be the only team to score three own goals in seven minutes. Looks like ህወሃት learned a ton from Sunderland. Too many unforced errors and own goals in the last several years.

            Back to your team
            For the last several years ህወሃት spent reshuffling your team wasting your time. It took forever to decide on the final roaster of the team. The training sessions of the team at different resorts didn’t bring any success to the team because the coach reshuffled the team just before the game. To make the matter worse, the players could not come to agreement on what jersey ( መለያ/ማልያ) they should wear during match days. Some chose the blue jersey decorated with olive leaves, while others chose the tricolor.
            Sad thing is the team dissolved for luck of sponsorship and supporters.
            Now, I see a concerted effort to form a new team . Rumor has it the players are mostly selected from the old team. Blue jersey/ tricolor jersey…

            Back to watching the Championship League.

        • Reclaim Abyssinia

          Hello Abi, Gash Beyan & Woldegabriel,
          I think once in Addis Meberat Hail player who was transferred from Asmara enda electric, scored from the midfield or his pitch.
          Wayne Rooney also scored a goal from inside his own half of the pitch, and it’s the 3rd time in his career he’s done it.
          I hope this helps :)☺️👌

          • Abi

            Hello Reclaim Abyssinia
            Tim Howard, when he was at Everton scored from his box. As you know he was Everton’s goalkeeper.
            It is always better to keep the ball in your opponent’s half.

      • Woldegabriel Tesfamariam

        Selam Beyan,
        Good to see you back. With regard to the snit group, they don’t have the mandate, expertise and experience to revise the constitution.

        • Bayan Negash

          merHaba Woldegabriel,
          You may be right that Sinit did the work on its own volition. The point that needs to be made here is instead of reinventing the wheel, the GiE would have gotten its work cut out for it. It can use the well researched work that tried to harmonize the 1952 Eritrean constitution and the 1997 one and make the necessary adjust as it deems it fit.

          As you suggested the need to have some sort of a temporary constitution that it can use in governing not only its affairs but being clear eyed how long that temporary constitution will be its shelf-life post the current regime. That’s the take away that I tried to impart with my bringing Sinit up.

        • Amanuel Hidrat

          Selam Woldegabriel,

          A constitution is a “political document” before it becomes a “politico-legalese” document. It is a political document because it is produced through political process. Politico-legalese document because it is ratified by a legislative body as supreme law of the nation. Though sinit don’t have the mandate to draft a document, but they have full right to be part of the political process in the drafting of the document.


          • Woldegabriel Tesfamariam

            Selam Beyan and Amanuel H.
            I was only stating facts. Without indulging into the WH questions for Snit’s drives, let me briefly elaborate what I mean.
            1. Mandate: As a legal, political and social instrument, the drafting and revising (amending) a constitution follows fundamental principles and norms that underlie and guide Government actions. Determining the political process, structure and design for the process is painstakingly complicated that needs to be endorsed by all stakeholders (political parties, interest groups, etc.) Since we agreed that Snot has no mandate to undertake such a huge task of amending this document, I will go to my next point.
            2. Expertise: Drafting or amending a constitution requires a very high professional competency. Those who lead such an endeavor should have proven and respected as well as requisite professional excellence. As far as I know none of them are legal experts or anthropoligsts or historians.
            3. Experience: To draft or amend a constitution a thorough experience and knowledge of the people, culture, history, way of life, resources, environment, rights, interrelationships, norms, beliefs, etc is indespensable. Unless you have intimately lived and worked with the people or took the extra effort to understand the people, its culture and diversity at grass root levels, your experience is a mismatch endeavor.

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Selam Woldegabriel,

            While I agree on the general understanding of your take, I will say few things on No-2: The kinds of expertise that are needed on drafting a constitution are not limited to lawyers, anthropologist, and historians as you have alluded in your comment, but it should also include politicians, political scientist, economists, sociologist.

            After all since the document is a political document (that include the state structure*, the nature of governance**, the pillars of the government***, the issue of land ownership, the issue of national language..etc) before it becomes a politico-legalese document and (b) since it contains the rules of engagement for politician, the participation of politicians is quintessential.

            * The pillars of the state ( the government, civic societies, private sector) and the role of the three.

            ** To decide the Nature of government (centralized unitary government or decentralized unitary government or Federal government)

            *** The pillars of government (executive, legislative, judiciary) and the powers of the three in terms of check and balance.


          • Haile S.

            Selam Constitutionocrats,
            AH, WT, BN, SY, IAA & others,

            ናብ ቁምነገር ክምለስ. I know this question was dealt with probably multiple times. How do you say constitution in tigrigna, more precisely how did Weldeab Weldemariam refer to it. It might add a glitter of light?

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Selam Hailat (Haile-S),

            The 1997 document was drafted by EPLF and their supporters, and it reflects to their political cultures and literatures. To your surprise there are many vocabularies we disagree. Constitution is one of them.

            Constitution = ቅዋም (EPLF)
            Constitution = ሕጊ መንግስቲ (ELF)

            I believe Aboy Woldeab use to call it that latter.


          • Haile S.

            Selam Emma and all,

            In a letter to Prof Ullendorff, Wel-Wel calls it ሕንጻ መንግስቲ. Therefore, the NTF as a force that attempts to bring together the two orgs or tries to bring concensus between the two and all others, it would be natural to rejuvenate terminologies. ሕንጻ መንግስቲ goes in perfect line with the endeavor that is being exerted.

            Yoy can read the full exquisite letter and its translation by googling “A Tigrinya letter from an Eritrean notable”. It was published by the addressee himself. You can access it if you have Jstor account or other academic accesses.

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Selam Hailat,

            I read it somewhere when I was young. You are right. As a matter of fact I would prefer ሕንጻ መንግስቲ from ቅዋም:: Thank you.


          • saay7

            Emma and Hailat:

            The GiE is not going to be discussing constitution because it has no mandate to do so.

            However, when we do discuss it eventually…. this reminds me about the time Isaias was asked about the contrition just before he announcing its death (the one that has taken longer to replace than draft the original one) and he said with his usual ዓጀውጀው “ኣነ ቅዋም ኣይብሎን እየ ስርዓተ መንግስቲ እየ ዝብሎ…”

            Constitution governs not just the relationship between different branches of government, but the relationship between citizen and government and citizen and citizen. Therefore any word that implies it’s about መንግስቲ is incomplete, in my view.

            And therefore, ቅዋም is a superior word because Zemehret is that good about Tigrinya words:)

            But for now let’s focus on the 1-2-3s of GiE.


          • Haile S.

            Selam Sal,

            D’accord! I agree on the last point. ግና ለጋስ ጓሳ ኹን፡ ገደና ምጥጣም ኣይትኽልኣና 😁😁.

            Just for the beauty of it, here is word by word, coma or full stop, excrept from Wel-Wel’s letter I mentioned earlier.

            ….. እቲ ህዝብና ሃረር ዚብሎ ዝነበረ፡ ንምርካቡ’ውን በብወገኑ ኮይኑ እተጋደላ፡ ሓርነትን ዴሞክራሲያን ዝብሃል ናይ ራህዋ ንብረት፡ ከም ሓደ mirage ኾይኑ እናርሓቐ ይኸይድ ኣሎ። እቲ ሊቀ-መዘምራን (conductor) ድኣዩ ተለዊጡ ዘሎ’ምበር እቲ መዝሙርሲ እቲ ብጊዜ ባዕዳን ዝነበር መዝሙር እዩ’ኳ ክበሃል ምተኻእለ። አረ ዝገደደ እዩ። ኣቲ ግሩም ዝኾነ፡ ብሕቡራት-መንግስታት እተዋህበ ሕንጻ-መንግሥቲ (cobstitution) ሓደ ዝሞተ ፊደል ኮይኑ ተሪፉ ኣሎ።…..

            From: Bulletin of SOAS 68, 2 (2005), 295-297. © School of Oriental and African Studies. Printed in the United Kingdom.

          • መሃንድስ-ምዕባለ


            ህዋሳተይ ቀዲሞምኒ ተዓዚሮም
            ክንድዚ ክብል’ኳ ‘ተዘይከኣልኩ ቁጽሮም
            ቢልዮናት ‘ዮም
            ቆጽለ-መጽሊ በሊዖም
            ስነ-ህዋሳት ዘጽንዑ
            ኣየ ክነፍዑ!

            ተዛሪብካ ‘ታይ ኣምጻኻ
            ‘ንድዩ ነገሩ
            ደጋዊ መንግስቲ ክተኽሉ
            ኣብ ግንቦት 24ተን ክስዕሩ

            ህዋሳተይ ነጊሮምኒ
            በጺሖም-ተመሊሶም መስለኒ

            ጥዑም ብሽራት

          • Saleh Johar

            Before I read Ullendorff, an old timer was telling me about the wrangling over the official languages during the debates. A few people kept quitting “Londendorf”. It was years later that I found the much quoted statement Ullendorff in one of his books. Do you happen to remember it? I do. And I never liked him because he did worse damage to Eritrea than the much maligned John Foster Dullas.

          • Haile S.

            Selam Saleh,

            If it is during the 50/60s, you must be talking about his book entitled Tigrinya Chrestomathy, I am trying to put a hand on myself. I read passages of it in the 90s, but don’t recall now anything controversial. I checked worldcat, and in your area, it is available at the university of Berkeley. Here is its Location: Main (Gardner) Stacks PJ9111.Z77 T531 1985.

          • Saleh Johar

            I have one of his books: “The Ethiopian” An Introduction to Country and People. Oxford University Press, 1960

          • Haile S.

            As a specialist of the Fteha-Negest and the Solomonic dynasty of Abyssinia, you should read his ‘Ethiopia and the Bible’. One of his best if not The. It should be available in the university libraries around you.

          • Haile S.

            Selam Awate people,

            I understand, Saleh is at the Berkeley University library reading Londendorff 😁. Where is everybody else?

          • Brhan

            Selam Haile
            ክሳድ ዝሕዝ ምስ ተራእየ ጉያ አቋሪጾም ሪላክስ ይገብሩ አለዉ

          • Hashela

            Selam Haile

            You are to blame for Saleh’s absence. He is looking for Berkeley University that does not exist 🙂

          • Haile S.

            Selam Hashela,

            Okay I will take responsibility for the confusion that lead him to end in Eretria, Greece. Watch Negarit 123. Now he is going to be asked to find Tegria south of it😁.

          • Abi

            In case you are not aware of

            Kibre Negest +Solomonic Dynasty+ Abyssinia = AWOL/ minor heart attack.

          • Haile S.

            Selam Jetaw,

            ኣርስዎስ የት ነበሩ
            ሰበር በሰበር ሲሆን ኣገሩ?

            የቡና ኣወል እንጂ የመጥፋት ኣዎል ይቅርብን።
            Negarit 123 is interesting. You will see when transliterated.

          • Abi

            ዘንድሮ ተሰባብረን ልናልቅ ነው!

            እኔማ የአዋተ መኳንንት ሲሰወሩ አዲሱን ህገ መንግሥት እያረቀቁ መስሎኝ ነበር::
            ምን አጣደፈህ እንዳትለኝ!

          • Woldegabriel Tesfamariam

            Selam Amanuel Hidrat,
            Regarding point #2, maybe we could negotiate fairly. Provided you strike out “politicians” from your list, which by all means will never rest to impose their ideas the different level of the process, I am well disposed to including political scientists and economists. I presume sociologists and anthropoligsts are the same.

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Selam Woldegabriel,

            Do you think the composition of the commission that drafted the 1997 constitution is made up of Expertise from the discipline of knowledge you mentioned in your earlier comment? Expect a follow up question.

          • Woldegabriel Tesfamariam

            Selam Amanuel H.
            I know there were notable lawyers. But since I don’t know all the members of the commission, I can’t say for sure.

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Selam Woldegabriel,

            Just visit to the members of the Eritrean constitutional commission of 1997. You will find out the composition of the commission.


    • haileTG

      Hi Weldegabriel,
      Even if God comes??? In that case I would forget constitution and would consider myself to have won the biggest ever jackpot, should He favor me with a mere opportunity to be enslaved to Him for eternity:-)

      • Woldegabriel Tesfamariam

        Selam Hailed TG
        The analogy of God was brought to underline the supremacy of the constitution for nation building and had no intention of provoking anyone’s religious beliefs or sentiments.

  • Brhan

    Merhaba Saay,

    Thank you for your article. And I am very happy that the response to the proposal for GiE Unity has been extremely positive and encouraging.

    I believe those who are participating in civic/political parties’ activities, will bring to this forum any immerging issue/s related to the proposal for discussions.

  • Reclaim Abyssinia

    Dear Awate,

    I wish the resolution of the picture was high. What a great picture.
    I have been googling for more pictures to see the civil people of Eritreans in the forty’s.

    Thanks for the progress report.
    Looks like something is trending/cooking
    Key points:-
    Unity in Government,
    Unity in Land,

    Unity in People?
    Do we need to be divided to unite?
    Should I race you or should I wait till you get there?