How To Defeat Isaias Afwerki
Just like any dysfunctional relationship among humans, dictatorships don’t just occur overnight. They take years of bending, twisting and breaking the normal, healthy, rules of human bonding. Bullying gives way to submission and before we know it, acute problems turn into chronic ailments. A bride and a groom who vowed to love and hold each other in sickness and health ‘till-death-do-them-part can one day find themselves at each others throat wishing death does them apart. That’s what dysfunctional, abusive relationships lead to. And in the case where one party is wielding more power and influence over the other, the dysfunctional union turns into a hostage situation. It’s not a matter of amicably ending the relationship anymore; it is now a matter of rescuing the hostage.
Sometime over the decades, Isaias Afwerki had concluded that a normal relationship of a leader and his followers; a public-servant and the public; a son and a family; a rebel and a cause; would not work for what he envisioned Eritrea to be. For one reason or another, he preferred an abnormal one; one that would give him unfair advantage over his follow fighters and the public who looked up to his alleged leadership skills. Slowly and meticulously, he acquired the lethal tool found at the core of any dysfunctional relationship: Leverage. Suddenly the dynamic changes. Whoever holds the money or the secret, or the gun, or the dangling baby, gets what they call, “the positional advantage” – the leverage. He who holds what you value dearly has got you by … [enter any body part that hurts when gripped firmly].
In one of his essays, Saleh Younis put it fittingly, “Extend your hand for a handshake and he will reach elsewhere in your body, the part that can’t be shaken but squeezed.”
If there is one thing Isaias has been very effective at obtaining as much as he possibly could, it is this, leverage. Power grabbing despots are always good at getting this currency of power by hook or crook. While most of the people around him were playing checkers, he was mastering chess. After independence, Isaias understood this advantage and acted on it even more than ever. Relationships with other governments, NGOs, investors and even the Eritrean public were quickly revised so that he still gets to hold the lever, the upper-hand, in any dealings. Under normal circumstances, this might have been a great asset if it was occasionally used to give the country some leeway. Unfortunately for all of us, and now to his demise, he consistently used it only to protect his personal power.
He scared off aid agencies, diplomats and international bodies by painting them enemies of the public and created real enemies out of neighboring countries. He convinced a large swath the country that no one other than of course himself is to be trusted, not even members of his inner circle, not the youth, not the educated, not the trader, not the students, not the religious and definitely not the patriotic, loyal, tolerant Eritrean public. More importantly, he had that coveted leverage over every sector of society. It all boils down to one thing really. You dare challenge my authority; I will make you enemy of the State of Eritrea. And as an “enemy of the state”, you can rot at Era Ero secret prison, or perish off the coast of Libya, with only sea creatures to witness your agonizing death.
Recently, amid spectacular failures of his policies that brought about a lot of death and destruction, that façade started to crumble. Suddenly, those courageous citizens that were shouting their lungs out about the importance of constitutional governance and rule of law, we now know better than treating them as traitors, defeatists, Quislings and sellouts. Each time, Isaias had pulled his lever in a timely and well orchestrated fashion and fed them to the gallows hoping will that be the end of that. But now, the Eritrean people are onto him; we have learned to play chess and whatever other game the dictator has up his sleeves. Yet, leverage, that enviable undue influence, is not about discovering a magician’s tricks, it is about who is cornering whom.
Sadly, he had a big head-start. It was decades in the making and he has now a big advantage over all of us. I mean ALL of us – citizens inside the country, citizens abroad, supporters, opposition groups, international organizations, neighbors, superpowers, friends and foes. The master of leverage has planned ahead and so long as he has the Eritrean people hostage, he is convinced no one will dare touch him. In a way, all bad guys are alike. At the final hour they stand behind women and children and taunt you to shoot them – if you have the guts. It’s me or chaos; he is now telling us as he ever so desperately looks for the next thing we value he can squeeze. In the waning days of their regimes, all the despots of the region have done or are doing exactly that, in varying degrees of success. They probably all wish that they have created a perfect totalitarian system such as Isaias’, where all the lever handles are in the dictators hands. When it seems, even God himself will have little influence, Isaias Afwerki must now be feeling invincible.
So how do we defeat Eritrea’s first dictator and make sure that he is also the last one?
Well, as long as you are convinced it is a hostage situation where we have to rescue the victims without dooming the house inhabitable, there is hope. There is hope, if you believe it is possible to rescue the hostages, by turning the table against the hostage taker. There are indeed several options to end the crisis, but unlike the despot who proved time and again that he only cares about his power, we, on the other hand, have to also worry about the day after. Now, if we stop here and do nothing (which is what happened for the most part the last decade), we are once again going into analysis paralysis – damned if we do, damned if we don’t situation – which usually ends with, “we didn’t, therefore we are damned”.
Can one man truly have this much leverage over millions of his citizens? You bet he can. Hopefully we have learned a valuable lesson which the rest of humanity knew well from experience but we Eritreans thought there were exceptions: Power corrupts; and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Or, may be we need a simplified version of Acton’s observation for us: Power corrupts; even if you are an Eritrean!
Don’t worry. We’ve indeed learned our lesson the hard way, but we’ve learned it the same. Now, we just need to make sure we limit the power of our next set of leaders, especially the Executive Branch. I for one wouldn’t mind if we amend the Constitution so that the next president must ask permission from the National Assembly just to go to the rest room – a hall-pass act! Well…may be that will save us from drunken adventures that we will have to pay with the lives of our young men, women and innocent children.
Let’s affirm one undeniable fact though. We (the people) are at least half as guilty for letting Isaias Afwerki be all-the-dictator he wants to be. Other nations and peoples however backward, undeveloped and oppressed would not have allowed what we tolerated. It turns out; blind hyper nationalism has its consequences. Individual civil rights matter and one can not grossly violate those rights and expect to build a healthy, peaceful nation.
Operation Rescue Hostages
Mission 1: Make a decision to defeat Isaias Afwerki
Do you agree with this statement? “Isaias Afwerki desire to stay in power is greater than YOUR desire to see his regime replaced by a democratic one.” A bit harsh, isn’t it? If only it was a matter of desire, you might say. By now, we know that the dictator does everything at his disposal – lock, stock and barrel – to maintain his power. He’s got the power of the state, decades of practice, complete control of the media and a stunning lack of conscience, Hannibal Lector can only envy. That means, you the average citizen, better be committed to your desires at least as much as Isaias is to his – otherwise he wins, hands down. He has been winning for a long time, and we the people have been unable to decide whether to let him continue or not. To defeat the dictator is then to make up our collective mind and get busy reversing his fortune, besting his will-power and using everything at our disposal. Think about it. What if we can actually do just that? What if our desire for change actually exceeded his will to stay on? Wouldn’t that be the beginning of the end for Isaias?
“Where there is a will”, the saying goes, “there is a way” – yet there better be enough “determination” and “will” first and foremost! Isaias and company have chosen the path they are currently on and they are sticking to their plan, however wicked. It is a match of willpower, where the most disciplined side to carry out its decisions prevails. From this day forward, let’s all make a conscious decision to rid our home from a group of gangsters who have the audacity to think they can do all the damage they have done and expect us to just bow and take it. No more pussyfooting with this; dictatorship is either good for Eritrea or it is something that must be decapitated and uprooted. Either way, we must know clearly about what we really want and get busy making it happen.
Mission 2: Envision a Democratic Eritrea
No one should be under any illusion that Jeffersonian democracy will take hold in Eritrea in a matter of weeks or months. It will be a process alright, but the immediate benefits of taking steps toward that ideal are worth taking the risky steps that require it. We have a very rich history of diverse communities that have managed to live side by side or intermingled for centuries. Our forefathers, unlike our generation, have experimented with representative democracy and the art of political deal making. Better yet, thanks to Isaias Afwerki’s intransigent and stubborn ways, we also have leaned what not to do. Our youths are slowly getting exposed to the values of getting involved and they will undoubtedly claim their destiny as the midwives of our second liberation, dagmay Harnet.
Democratizing Eritrea today is not only about creating a blueprint by which future generations will be governed by; it is also about entering a social contract with the State of Eritrea today. If we allow ourselves to move beyond the PFDJ’s “there is no such thing as democracy in this world” idiotic mantra that is designed to excuse its inexcusable crimes, democratic countries tend to be more peaceful, more prosperous and more educated than totalitarian and authoritarian ones. More urgently, to get rid of Eritrea’s dictatorial system is to literally free thousands of its citizens from the dictator’s shackles, handcuffs and shipping containers.
Imagine, if you will, the free exchange of ideas and debates, some of us are lucky enough to be enjoying in our adapted countries, if we can actually exercise them at home, where those ideas belong. Imagine what Eritrean business men and women are capable of creating, if their businesses were allowed to function and compete, create jobs and profit. Imagine, what the dividends will be if peaceful coexistence with neighboring countries can be achieved (it can, unless you buy into Isaias Afwerki’s “America-the-Evil does not want us to be peaceful” BS). Imagine, the economic windfall if our two ports can reap the benefit of their strategic location. Imagine, if higher education can be properly overhauled and the thousands of advance degree holders from the Diaspora are given a chance to contribute. Imagine, if the hundreds of thousands of our youngsters, can be allowed to lead normal lives while at the same time contributing their fare share to develop the country. Imagine if the country’s meager resources can be diverted away from unnecessary and very bloated militarization.
All these don’t have to be a pie-in-the-sky, feast-for-our-mind’s-eye only. They are achievable. They are within our reach. They can be done by Eritrean and for Eritreans. But first, we have to get rid of the dictatorship that is standing in our way. To expect a totalitarian system to deliver on any of these, let alone on all of them is unthinkable. The real cost – the cost we never seem to mention – Isaias and his cohorts are really costing us is the cost of opportunity. Hard to measure, but how do you quantify the fruits of a possibility that never materialized; the value of a dream deferred?
Mission 3: Starve the Beast
Unlike Mission 1 and Mission 2 above, this mission requires more than mental preparation. This is where the rubber meets the road. If we are clear about what we really want (a free, democratic and peaceful Eritrea) and if we are convinced that dictatorship is the problem and not part of solution then we should not blink about taking steps toward that goal. The wishy-washy fake patriotism of “I love Eritrea more than thou” attitude has gotten us nowhere. Bold action and bold leadership is what we require and something that is terribly missing from our movement.
When the leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) advocated for sanctions and disinvestments against the minority regime in South Africa during apartheid, it is not because they did not know those sanctions would not hurt their fellow average South African. They believed and history has now proven them right that, the long-term dividends are much greater than the short-term pains. In the end, they proved to the world that they loved their country more than those who were accusing them from their moral high horses and stubborn seats of power.
If the dictatorship in Eritrea is a three legged stool upon which Isaias seats, the three legs can represent military, political and economic stands. To defeat Isaias Afwerki then is to unequivocally break at least one or two of the three. If enough Eritreans organize themselves inside and outside the country and coordinate their efforts (a fact that has yet to materialize), we will not need any third party to take the lead to unseat our own homegrown despot. However, it is the duty of everyone who wishes to see a democratic change to shake off the dictator from the stool; and if help is needed from anyone who can provide it, we should not hesitate to ask and accept – unless of course, we are unsure of what we want or are afraid what Isaias might say about us.
The revenue streams of the regime are not hard to figure out. The parties and festivals mostly provide the political cover and feed the propaganda machine but if the regime is to feel the pinch, we should focus on high value streams such as foreign aid, business agreements, IMF and World Bank loans, 2% tax collections, gold mining deals and the PFDJ’s clandestine business activities. In each case, the opposition should leave no stone unturned and do what it takes to cut off the umbilical cord that feeds the PFDJ machine so that the beast can be starved, and quickly.
Mission 4: Partner with Change Agents INSIDE Eritrea
No matter how you slice and dice it, the very people that are now under the direct or indirect control of the regime are our best hope for a quick end to Eritrea’s misery. It is understandable that there are segments within the opposition that would like to unambiguously defeat, scatter, dispose-of and humiliate everything Isaias claims to control – the PFDJ party and its organs, the military command and control, the intelligence apparatus. The problem with that kind of wide-net approach is that it is very subjective to interpretation and for all intents and purposes can include the entire population inside the county.
Would anyone of us on the opposition side of the political spectrum have a problem if any group from within the system topples Isaias Afworki tomorrow morning and calls for all Eritrean political and civic groups to step forward and work toward a transition toward democratic governance? We definitely should be wary of the genuineness of such a move, but who can say that would not be the least bloodless avenue toward the change we are all seeking? In addition to reducing the likelihood of violent overthrows of subsequent governments that may form in the future, this will potentially save tens of thousands of lives that will undoubtedly perish in an all out civil war to unseat Isaias.
However, if we are willing to take our time and establish relations with the rank and file of the regime, there is a great possibility that a certain sector will move against the dictator and be a hero of our Second Revolution. In order to increase the likelihood of this, we have to delineate who our true adversaries are, who the hostage taker is counting on for help and who is most likely to side with the hostages and rescuers – even at the final hour.
Mission 5: Bring in the Technocrats
Military people say that “troops win battles, but logistics win the war”. What we are engaged in against the PFDJ is a concerted effort to persuade enough people to take a stand and see things our own way. As of now, and perhaps into the foreseeable future, it will be mostly about establishing or losing credibility in the hearts and minds of those whom we are trying to influence. The goal is to push it to what the author Malcolm Gladwell calls “the tipping point” beyond which a trend starts to crystallize. We can call it “triumph of the oppressed” and Isaias may call it “psychological warfare unleashed by the CIA and their kedemti Weyane”.
Nevertheless, a line has been drawn and Isaias has setup formidable tools in this battlefront. EriTV is accessed by virtually every household and to some extent it has helped sustain the dictatorship thus far. There are websites dedicated to serve as sounding boards for his agenda. He is also not short of firebrand personalities and pseudo-intellectuals who are willing to look us in the eye and lie on his behalf.
In this information age, it is fitting that a lot of the battles are cyber combats to control, spin, hide or expose the news and sway public perceptions. Winning these skirmishes is has never been more important because at the end of the day, it is about influencing the decision makers in the national and international arena. That is where the technocrats come in. What the heck are technocrats? Simply put, they are technical experts who have the knowledge, expertise and training to make things happen.
For far too long, the opposition side had been choke-full of very dedicated individuals who possess a lot of passion and perhaps some political capital as a result of their long service. In this age of satellite TVs, smart phones, Youtube videos, internet radios, Facebook pages, paltalk rooms, webinars, eblasts and whatever else they will invent come next Monday, what is badly needed is the technical expertise and savvy utilization of these low cost but highly effective media. It’s not only about the internet either. Executing a successful information campaign online or conducting offline seminars and symposiums require an army of logistical and technical experts from graphic designers to sound engineers, to PR experts, fundraising gurus, project manages, writers, videographers, public speakers, poets, musicians and everything in between.
This is where involving the younger generation yields its biggest dividends. If we are able to organize this militia of technocrats, Isaias Afeworki can have all the satellite dishes and hypocrite cheerleaders he wants; he will not be able to match us.
Mission 6: Organize, Organize, Organize
Often times, we fool ourselves into believing that the Eritrean people are divided into two camps of “pro-dictatorship” and “opposition” followers. We tend to ignore the uncomfortable notion that there is a third camp, a more important and larger camp of people who are indifferent. Some of them are on the fence, unable to make their mind or are trying to test the winds of change. But, still that is a small minority compared to the vast majority who honestly believe this fight has little to do with their personal lives. They go about their daily lives unaffected and mange to keep the news and debates away from their daily routines. We can hardly call them “independents” because it is not like they are waiting to be convinced; they simply did not find the right incentive to get them involved thus far.
One sure way to have the upper hand in the fight against Isaias is to wake up this sleeping giant which, in my estimate, comprises more than 80% of Eritreans in the Diaspora. They are mostly young, with enough technology and education at their disposal. For one reason or another they haven’t found a message that resonates enough to make them join in and lend a helping hand. May be they are waiting for the right vibe, or style to change first. Some of them tend to gravitate toward the PFDJ, simply for a lack of alternatives in their area. It’s hard to pass judgment on them; after all, a lot of us were where they are now not too long ago. The facebook-based Eritrean Youth Solidarity for Change (EYSC)– of which I am one of the Administrators, but not speaking on the team’s behalf here – is now on a mission to invite those who “hate politics” but want to make a difference anyway, to get involved.
With nearly 5,300 members at the time of this writing, the speed by which this facebook group has grown in the past 3 months is simply amazing. The rage against the PFDJ in general and Isaias Afwerki in particular is palpable – some of it enough to make you cringe. It’s hard to keep up with the thousands of opinions and comments posted everyday but the site is serving not only as a venting outlet but an efficient place to strategize, organize and inform an audience that literally is growing every minute of the day. The best part? It has been wonderful to see the diversity of young women and men, Muslims and Christians within the group.
But lest we forget the bigger picture, it is about organizing local groups that can contend and defeat the PFDJ influence where it’s the strongest. Civic and political organizations should utilize the EYSC Facebook page and other similar outlets, as they are fertile grounds to find and recruit talented and action-oriented young men and women. If the road to Broadway is to practice, practice, practice; the road to defeating Isaias requires us to organize, organize and organize.
Mission 7: Maximize International Pressure
One of the supposed ingenuity of Isaias Afwerki is to isolate the Eritrean people from the international community, so that he can minimize the influence (leverage) they would have to affect his policies. Except, that is a two way street. By painting himself in to a corner, and with his reliable allies gone or in jeopardy, he recently seems to have realized the need to mend relations with African Union and may be even with Ethiopia. More likely than not, he will try to blackmail each one in his thuggish undiplomatic ways, such as the way he is handling the arrest of the British nationals. Some of it may backfire, but other maneuvers may actually buy him some more wiggling room and time.
If we are reading PM Melez Zenawi correctly, so long as the Isaias regime is willing to negotiate the details of the implementation of the demarcated border, he seems to have no qualms to normalize relations with Eritrea. Isaias Afwerki, through his AU ambassador Girma Asmerom also have hinted that, so long as the Ethiopians are willing to vacate Eritrean territories, he is ok with normalizing relations with Ethiopia. I am not sure if is far fetched to worry about the Ethiopians possibly cutting a deal with our dictator and abandoning their support for the democratization movement.
Nevertheless, it is high time that the opposition movement establishes good rapport and personal relations with other nations especially with the United States and European Union countries and work toward obtaining a public statement of support from each of them. It’s baffling how much the organized opposition likes to distance itself especially from the United States. I am not sure if this is a sign of calculated reasoning or simple ineptitude. If they are truly working toward saving Eritrea from the jaws of Isaias and his PFDJ, they should not hesitate to maximize the pressure for the regime that is already isolated and shunned.
Additionally, we should have persistent media campaigns to shame Isaias’ diplomats into abandoning their post and siding with the people. Eritrean embassies around the world should be constantly targeted with peaceful demonstrations and the people who work in them publicly humiliated; like the moron who was videotaping protesters at the Washington, DC embassy.
Mission 8: Plan for the Transitional Period
Let’s face it; this is probably what scares the life out of most of us. No Eritrean wants to see a Somalia, a Congo or an Iraq in post Isaias Eritrea. Having said that, it does not necessarily mean that is what awaits us. Anything can indeed happen, but there are no guarantees in life. As they say, success comes when preparation meets opportunity. A decade worth of work has been done to prepare our dozens of political parties to convince them to work together. What they have achieved by forming the umbrella EDA and working toward the National Conference for Democratic Change is commendable. It is all about preparing the public and the institutions how to handle the transitional period after the fall of the PFDJ regime. But in reality, a huge majority of Eritreans in the Diaspora and the public inside Eritrea remain unaware of the preparations or unsure about how they are supposed to work in reality.
This is where the civic and political organizations should double their efforts and help create an atmosphere of clarity and calm the nerves of those who genuinely believe that life after the fall of the PFDJ would be chaotic. The level of trust in the competency and credibility of the political parties remains very low. Unless these organizations are able to create messages that resonates with the under 40-years-of-age crowd, they will remain as stagnant as they have been. It should be telling that the names of these organizations and their leaders, some of whom have been around for several years, remain unknown to the average person.
We should be humbled in knowing that the real revolution has yet to start and the spark has to take place inside the country. At this time, the best way to prepare for the aftermath is to genuinely help those who are oppressed. There is no better way to establish credibility other than earning it. If and when such uprising starts, we should also have faith in the younger generation’s ability to work toward a democratic goal. What we need is not complicated bylaws, constitutions and documents. We need simpler messages and credible messengers to deliver them to the right audience.
Mission 9: Keep Ethiopia at Bay
Back in 2006, when Ethiopia invaded Somalia to unseat the Islamic Courts and replace them with the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, it is likely that the invasion may have created undue expectation that it is possible to repeat the same “success” in Eritrea. Some groups within the Eritrean opposition may have also been salivating at the thought of a blitz operation that will knock off the PFDJ from power. As time went by, it is now obvious that short of any suicidal provocation from Isaias, Ethiopian will not engage in such matters. However, we still have advocates who honestly believe an Ethiopia-backed invasion is the only and realistic option. They generally tend to dismiss all other attempts as a waste of time and energy. It is hard to disprove them for now, but I also think the onus is on them to tell us what would happen the day of the invasion and the following days, weeks and months if such an action is to take place.
I never carried a firearm in my life – nor can I tell one end of an AK-47 from the other – yet, even I can guess how things will transpire. Most likely, it will start with a drumbeat of war and propaganda to convince the Ethiopian people that getting rid of Isaias is worth their blood and meager resources. This will undoubtedly cause chaos and fear especially in Tigray and Eritrea, causing a flood of refugees moving away from the border areas. Ethiopia will most likely bomb Eritrean air defense capabilities and Eritrea will have to retaliate in however limited way. Each side will bomb the other with mortars, artilleries and missiles. Front line soldiers and their tanks and helicopter gunships will engage in bloody battles to control strategic locations. Bridges, airports, ports and buildings will be targeted to cut off supplies and hospitals will overflow with wounded soldiers and civilian “collateral damage”.
All this is probably going to take place in the first few days. You can just imagine what the rest of the operation entails. Eritrea is indeed suffering under a brutal regime that squashed the dream of independence but that is not to say they are longing for Ethiopia to come back. At this time, Ethiopia simply does not have that kind of credibility in Eritrea and it will be met with fierce resistance, which can only result in injecting more life into Isaias and his fellow hardliners.
The best role the Ethiopian government can play is to stay away from military operations and genuinely support pro-democracy Eritreans as they get ready to get rid of the dictatorship their own way. Only a bona-fide, genuine and authentic revolution, independently conducted by Eritreans that will guarantee Ethiopia a good neighbor and a partner in peace in the future. Any thing short of that will not work and it is likely to backfire. Shortchanging the movement for the mere benefit of tit-for-tat agreement with Isaias will not work either. Hoodwinking and backroom dealing may have had their place in the past, but in this day and age, transparency aimed at winning the hearts and minds of the people is the best strategic weapon.
Mission 10: Defeat Isaiasim
Isaias Afwerki is not an ideologue. He does not seem to subscribe to any set of core beliefs about governing, philosophy or values. But there are a few notable traits that seem to explain everything he does. They may give us a clue about his character, which is important to know because ever since he came to the position of power, he has been trying to create organizations that are basically extensions of his personality, his temperament. Not surprisingly, Eritrea under Isaias is now very secretive, paranoid, arrogant, brutal, unforgiving and self-destructive. When the dictator exits the scene, a lot of this negative traits will probably go away with him – but only if we believe them to be detrimental and not beneficial.
If we want Isaias Afwerki to be the last dictator of Eritrea, we have to make sure he does not leave a legacy of leadership style that has brought us here. Isaiasim –if we can call it that – requires a total surrender of individual rights; complete mistrust of the international community; vehement anti-Americanism; intolerance to dissenting views; hyper-nationalism, communism, nepotism, anti-intellectualism, militarism and the devaluation of human life. To defeat Isaias Afwerki is then to stand for the complete opposite of his traits and attitudes that are now part of the fabric that make up our society. Isaiasim may have been created by the dictator but it was cheered, cherished, applauded and cared for by the freedom fighters and a large portion of general public, be it knowingly or naively.
There are some who try to explain this not as the making of Isaias but as a regional or religious issue. Surely, Isaias is not the only problem the country faces and Isaiasim has created tensions among communities but the biggest fissure is between those who want one-man-dictatorship to continue and those who like to see constitutional democracy implemented. To muddy the waters beyond the quest for freedom and rule of law is only going to delay the focused fight to topple the dictator.
A nihilistic, self-centered and merciless sociopath is firmly in power in Eritrea and he is holding the country and its future hostage. Eritreans inside and outside of the country are quite capable of organizing to overthrow the system by cutting the monetary and political capital that sustain it; by avoiding a military conflict that involves outside powers and by firmly believing that Eritreans –especially the younger generation – are quite capable of deposing him and erecting a system that is worthy of the price it was paid for to liberate it. That is how the tables will turn against the dictator; that is how he will lose his leverage; that is how the hostage situation will end; that is how the people will in return corner him and tell him that the chess game is over. But … none of these will be possible, unless you, the reader, do your part to tip the balance. You and I have the power to defeat Isaias Afwerki.