If The Camel Was To Speak

Unity, equality and social justice (which I will subsequently refer to them as “trio”) are some of the empty slogans of the deceptive regime in Asmara. They pronounce them everywhere. In their media and public meetings. Inside and outside Eritrea, particularly during festivals. As usual the “trio” had its lion’s share during the 20th independence festival. However, this year a new fear mongering statement has been added to their propaganda machinery. “E’Tom N’Had’Net’Na Z’FetaTenu M’Tz’Om -Those who threaten our unity have arrived”. This was announced in a drama. I think the idea was to alert the Eritrean public about a certain danger ahead. But they did not define the type of the threat, its magnitude and its source(s).

The message

 It was in one of the musical dramas the regime’s TV presented to the public during the festival. The drama went like this: Eritrean ethnic nationalities in their traditional attire gather in one place and see that something awful approaching from afar. They declared in a low voice “E’Tom N’Had’Net’Na Z’FetaTenu M’Tz’Om -those who threaten our unity have arrived”. After few seconds a group of ugly creatures drew closer and pushed the ethnic nationalities backside and placed them in a cage. Then a big camel appeared and forced the ugly creatures back to where they came from and freed the captives. The message was of twofold. The first message was that the Eritrean people should be cautious enough to uncover a danger to their unity and they should stand united to fight it. I think Eritreans will not disagree with this message. The second hidden message was to highlight the bogus effort that the regime is exerting to protect the “national unity”.  Here come big question marks.  One may ask; do we have a threat to our national unity at the moment? If yes what is the nature of the threat?  Who is/are engineering it? Others may ask challenging questions; how do we define unity, equality and social justice? Do they exist now in Eritrea? If yes, how do we measure their existence? (Which I will refer them as the “trio questions” hereunder). Questions which the regime and its stooges hate to answer. In order to avoid these challenging questions, they always prefer to justify the existence of the “trio” in pre-independence Eritrea by citing some positive incidences during our armed struggle (definitely not from the ELF “Jebha” era). In post-independence Eritrea one of their foolish proofs is the presence of all Eritrean ethnic groups in the Sawa military (read slavery/detention) training camp. If these shallow justifications do not serve their purpose they are ready to use force against anybody who poses the “trio questions”. Nevertheless how the regime in Asmara defines the “trio”.

Their definition

For them; national unity, equality and social justice are: glorifying these terms in presentations, speeches and talks by the party and government officials; singing songs which highlight their importance and existence in Eritrea; showing songs of Eritrean ethnic groups in their traditional dresses (usually this is performed by the same cultural troupe that comes from the a particular ethnic group) in public occasions; rotating party, government meetings and festivals in different regions. And recently they came up with a new style that is: zooming in ( in Eri TV) the pictures of other ethnic groups and sometimes conducting a  brief interview with them; and finally making sure that nobody asks the “trio questions” by silencing the probers in many ways. Character assassinations, such as labeling them as anti unity/Eritrea, if they are Diaspora Eritreans with foreign citizenships. Denial of consular facilities to those who do not hold overseas citizenships. But if the probers happen to be from inside Eritrea or are visiting Eritreans, the sky is the limit to imagine what will happen to them – from indefinite incommunicado jail terms to physical executions. The aforementioned are some of the strategies that the oppressive regime in Asmara uses in order to disguise their failure to exercise theTrio” in their true sense in Eritrea.  I don’t have any doubt that these tactics can only deceive some naive Eritreans. What the Eritrean people need is, the “trio” to be practiced in the form of equal opportunity; freedom of expression; freedom of worship; equality under the law; protection from harassment; access to resources and rights, and  of course the right of refugees to return to their homeland (to their original places if they wish so). But what is the reality today in the “free” Eritrea.

The reality

Despite the regime’s loud utterances everywhere regarding the “trio” ,the reality in Eritrea today  is -“Christians from highlands make up the overwhelming majority , often in the high 90 percentiles, of Eritreans awarded access to post elementary education, scholarship to study and train abroad, admission to local colleges, government employment, political assignment, governorship, assignment in diplomatic missions, management of state owned enterprises, military and civil leadership, national and local administration. Basically the whole state apparatus is exclusively ethnic based, it neither reflects a national characteristic nor the diversity of Eritrean people” ( -the Eritrean Covenant: Towards Sustainable Justice and Peace. And the statistics attached to it. By Majlis Ibrahim Mukhtar- Feb.12, 2010). The basic query that comes to mind is does this mean the remaining 50% of the Eritrean society is marginalized or turned to second class citizens? Nonetheless this does not in any way mean that the other 50% of the Eritrean population are treated well and are happy about the current situation. Because they understand that the regime’s attitude towards the “trio” is detrimental to the social fabric of the Eritrean people. This attitude (shallow slogans) reminds me of an expression of a famous Egyptian scholar who said “if Islam was by growing long beards Marx and Engels would have been considered as great Muslims.” By the same token, if unity, equality and social justice could be preserved only through shouting empty slogans to their favor; Eritrea would have become the “grand university” and its rulers “great professors” of democracy and good governance in the world.  

The way out

It is now time to find a way out. The first step should be to acknowledge in private and public the reality of the existence of the disparities among Eritreans that has emerged from the wrong policies of not only the current repressive regime but also the previous colonial rulers. To be followed by enlightening the Eritrean public about these inequalities and their ugly consequences to the nation. Then working towards removing the obstacles. But I doubt this can be accomplished by or in coordination with the ethnocratic regime in Asmara. I rather believe the Eritrean National Commission for Democratic Change (ENCDC) could be one of the forums for a national dialogue. Irrespective of the type of the forums, their final result should be a road map that can help the Eritrean people to live in peace, unity, security and enjoy fair distribution of their national wealth.

Just coming back to the Eri TV’s drama; if the camel was to be given a chance to speak out, it would have clearly said “the brutal regime in Asmara and its blind supporters are the real threat to the Eritrean unity, equality and social justice.” and it would have further said “Eritrea would be more united and safe in your absence”. Eritreans know how to live in harmony as they have shared future. (Just to borrow Mr. Abdu Habib’s own words- –March 21, 2010)

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