Governing Eritrea: A Battle Of Two Conflicting Ideas

I abhor violence. But I do not believe on peaceful resistance at any cost, especially if there is no space in which to wage a peaceful resistance. Nor do I believe that we have to be pacifists to follow the principles of nonviolence. We are the people who are denied of our rights to freely move in and out of our home country. We are the ones who remain denied of our rights to live in the motherland. We are the once who are forced to live in exile. Our struggle is therefore ‘against the denial of life’. And this provides us with no option, but to wage a strategic nonviolent conflict/struggle.


We opt to wage this kind of struggle, not because we want to get rid of individuals or a group of people, but because we want to transform our society towards a greater humanity and freedom. However, it should be very clear for all of us that we cannot transform our society without political power – the capability to carry out certain acts of political and social impact, while at the same time denying that same capability to the opponent who continue to deny us life itself.


Our strategy is therefore built around how to acquire political power while denying it to the regime, the PFDJ. And that is exactly what the adherents of the regime also attempt to do to us. They do everything to deny us not only power, but also life. The question is: how do we respond?


One thing I would like to share with you is that I wouldn’t opt for violence to deny the system the power it needs to continue its brutal control and oppression. I believe “violence is the last refuge of the weak” and we are not that weak to opt for violence. In fact, the regime’s brutality has been strengthening our pride further. We will only choose to opt for violence, just because we have a wrong understanding about what political power is all about.


Many of us think erroneously that the ability to impose sanctions, using arms, human and material resources, is what political power is all about. But this is not true. A major source of political power is the idea or the frame of thinking which holds a given system of governance together. PFDJ’s main source of power is NOT its security and military bases of which we are fearful. It is the EPLF/Shaebia’s frame of thinking which goes…”mesel, xama gbue mfxam eyu” – “right is a reward one is provided with upon the fulfillment of his/her national duty”.


This frame of thinking still finds strong resonance not only among the followers of PFDJ, but also among many who claim to oppose or to be the victims of the regime itself. As such, it remains the hegemonic way of thinking when it comes to the idea of Eritrean citizenry, firmly maintaining Eritrean’s terribly irritating status qua.


Careful observation on this frame of thinking explains that, that it is the main reason as to why we as a society largely remain submissive in the face of poverty and consummate denial of life. It certainly is an explanation as to why we easily resign from exercising our freedoms and from taking greater citizenry responsibilities.


We should also understand that it is this hegemonic frame of thinking which holds PFDJ’s security and military bases intact and provides them with a convenient rationale to freely inflict harm upon every sector of our society, both inside the country and in exile.


Of course, who would not agree that there is an overall crisis in our society? And who would not acknowledge the suffering and death? But we should also acknowledge that there is no open challenge to this today. There is no open conflict in our society. There is only an instinct and a laud outcry to the injustices committed on everyday life. But there is no real consciousness upon them. It is more of suffering and death without purpose. A real conflict will come in the future, when the stated hegemonic frame of thinking – the root cause of all the injustices – comes under serious attack by everyone of us who are seeking change, as well as by those who now believe it is unjust but tolerable.


The conflict will all start with a simple question that goes: – ‘can our situation be tolerable any longer? What are our national duties? Who has got the moral ground to determine them? Does anyone just by the mere fact that he/she was in GHEDLI has a legitimate ground to decide what our national duties should be? I don’t think so and we shouldn’t allow that any longer. Because doing so means allowing ourselves to get more enslaved (like the militarized youth inside the country) or marginalized (like those who remain stranded in exile). We don’t have any national duty about which we previously consulted and agreed upon. We only have a citizenry responsibility.


So, as it should be, the upcoming conflict is a battle between two conflicting frame of thinking – that of Shaebia’s enslaving and marginalizing one – the DUTY & RIGHTS frame of thinking- up against the all-inclusive liberal idea of “Freedom & Responsibility”, a frame of thinking which envisions the tomorrow’s Eritrea to belong for ALL. It is a battle to broaden the chance of securing everyone’s right to a true & equal Eritrean citizenship – widening the chance of returning home soon for those who remain trapped in PFDJ gulags as well as for those of us who are forced to remain in exile.


We do not have a choice any longer, but to continue to wage the battle of these two conflicting ideas. And at the end of the day, the idea of “Freedom and Responsibility” shall win and govern Eritrea.

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