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Living In The Cracks Of Fringe Politics

Eritrea is in one dark corner. While the level and pattern of our experiences might be unique to us, the consequences (the pain and loss) are virtually the same. We have had our fair share of colonial subjugation, occupation, and segregation. At the same time, as in many other societies, we have had unrelenting internal contradictions and conflicts, ranging from a bloody civil war, economic marginalisation, social discrimination, and the worst forms of indignation and abuses. We have been and are oppressed and victimised. The Eritrean story (the experience) has become a story of struggle, loss, pain, triumph, and betrayal. Like any African country, Eritrea was conceived accidentally (as they say, for better or for worse) which established the initial collective experience of colonial subjugation (oppression). Our forbears accepted the reality of accidentally as a fait accompli and forged a strong solidarity towards a common destiny- an imagined nation-state if you are a fan of Benedict Anderson (1983). Thus, one could argue Eritrea is a destiny born out of a fate.

In order to shape this common destiny, though, it required a struggle to shake off subjugation and oppression and attain independence. The pursuit for nationhood, however, demanded life, blood, and treasure, and as such was laced with loss and pain. Indeed, the war of independence was a total disruption of life in Eritrea. In this remarkable odyssey to attain nationhood, extraordinary fortitude and valour was demonstrated. And indeed, 1991 was a culmination of the long journey which started in 1940s, gathered momentum in 1950s, and burst in 1961. We should always respect and salute the generations of Eritreans who answered the call of duty to liberate us all from subjugation (all while we can analyse and critique their role or the very struggle itself). This traumatic experience affected individuals, households, communities, and the nation at large, and it left permanent scars on multiple levels. And scars are sensitive- they should not be injured again for if they do they won’t heal that easily. Beyond, the pain, loss, and physical scars however, it left a mental stain in our minds and the national psyche, setting us on a vicious self-destruction course.

What is essential to note here is that intrinsic and latent in the quest for national liberation were the ideals of freedom, justice, liberty, dignity, equality, peace and prosperity. Indeed, subjugation and oppression trample these ideals and so the struggle was waged to simultaneously realise these aspirations where dreams can be realised and life itself could be lived in its fullness. Once Eritrea became an independent state, it was supposed to usher in a new dispensation- that of healing, reconciliation, and building new bridges and fixing damaged ones (both literally and metaphorically). Unfortunately, hypnotised by the euphoria of liberation and deceived by our solemn ‘moment of silence’ (which extended to a quarter of a century) to rightly honour the fallen, the nation was hijacked, and our aspirations were betrayed and sabotaged.The old wounds (literal and metaphorical) were opened deeper and the pain is far greater…the mothers of Eritrea lost their ሕሳስ ልደ (youngest) in self-preservation and cock-a-hoop wars before they mourned enough for their ቦኽሪ (eldest). Many households were rendered ጻንታ (bereft). Many children grow up deprived of their fathers who were kidnapped, disappeared, and extrajudicially executed. It is an era of ናይ ሓደራ እሱራት(trustee detainees) under which many innocent citizens rot in random jails around the country after being picked up by random security agents. The youth are deprived of their childhood and their prime age, and their dreams to become anything in life. Today, the Eritrean people are denied of any rights and are effectively owned by a ‘master’ bred from within. They are turned into de facto slaves and refugees whose bodies are either emaciated in forced labour camps as conscripts or floating in the Mediterranean Sea or mutilated in the Sinai and Sahara deserts. And some are driven into the hands of nihilistic terrorist groups like ISIS and go through the grotesque experience of having their heads chopped off or their organs harvested. Each story of an individual, a household, or a community can attest to the perpetual loss and pain. Perhaps Prof. Bereket H. Selassie (2011) has summed up our collective story by accurately describing us as a ‘Wounded Nation’. How woefully a true indictment of a once hopeful nation! This is our current experience. Instead of charting a new and independent we have fallen back to the trap of victim mentality, whining and blaming everyone and everyone for our challenges.

In our case it is a ‘double jeopardy’ of victimisation from the old and the new experiences. On one (old) side, we feed into and refresh the old grievances of Ethiopian occupation, Western conspiracies, Soviet ‘miscalculation’, Arab suspicion, and many ‘unknown knowns’. Our past ghost characters such as ጃንሆይ ( Emperor H.S), Bevin-Sforza, Derg and the like continue to play active roles in our ‘un’reality-show. We are constantly reminded of the old enemies and their atrocities. This is an effective mechanism to invoke the painful memories and create a siege mentality. In this zone Eritrea is not liberated and is fighting many terrestrial and extraterrestrial enemies- remember the ‘external conspiracies’! Many victims of such unabating stream of overdose are still fighting the Derg(ኢሠፓ) in the Sahel mountains and in case they wake up from it Ethiopia has been reformed to its old enemy status (literally), thus constructing new trenches (physical and mental). In this way if you disregard the Southern trenches you are taken to Northern ones, swinging between nasty reality and a nightmare. The conflicts with Sudan, Yemen, and Djibouti proved to be ephemeral, and the far flung ones such as the DRC and Somalia are hampered by obscurity unless one has binoculars! According to this narrative, it is the fault of these ghosts far and near that Eritrea is eating its children, shredded its constitution, destroyed its institutions, ejecting its youth, starving its poor population, and more. Their spell is making it to act and behave in a crazed and unhinged manner- hence it is not responsible for its actions. The nation, for all intents and purposes, has turned sducidal, homocidal and medieval.

Victimhood is often communicated through official channels to the group members (citizens) all in order to maintain the twisted world outlook. It is officially communicated to the nation via the national tv, newspapers, websites, class rooms, military camps, offices, the endless and cyclical seminars spew old smoke of burning villages, trenches, and towns at a scale that can only be described an obsession. These channels churn 24 hours to construct a twisted and lame outlook by an illusion of hanging clouds over the Eritrean skies and a mirage of the future. This is the macro and micro level imagination of Eritrea and Eritreans, respectively, today. The narrative is designed to establish a perpetual insecurity. More importantly, it is used as an escape from self-imposed present active oppression. In recent years in Hadas Ertra I read a serialised article titled (my translation) “Sahel as in Asmara and EPLF as a government”. It is clear the objective of the writer was to glorify the EPLF’s achievements in Sahel. One doesn’t require analytical skills to discern from the rationale and content of the article in which its writer attempts to take his reader back to 1970s and to Sahel trenches which were then under siege. To my amusement however, the writer, though inadvertently, exposed the nakedness of the rulers in Eritrea and Asmara (the political and the material). Unable to defend PFDJ and Asmara, he offers us to wander and wonder in an oppressed place and era. It reminds me of a comedy which goes…ጸሓይ ቀደም ነይራ….perhaps the writer is saying from the blacked out capital city, ኣስመራ ቀደም ነይራ….መንግስቲ ቀደም ነይራ… All manners of cultural production are geared to construct and maintain an oppressed state of mind. The old lyrics and chords torment the ears and entrench the minds of many today, persistently RE-minding (constructing) us of our oppressed us. I remember right after independence there was a Tigrigna song which I found then very incongruous, it goes “ጸሚዩናሎም እምባ ምስ ኩርባ ቦምባ ለሚዶም ናይ ሓጺን ዳርባ…..How ominous! It was such a contradiction to me then as it is now…I remember how the elderly had prayed day and night for that war madness of “ሁሉም ነገር ወደ ጦር ግንባር”  and ሎሚ ዘይከተተ ብደዉ ከምዝሞተto end. Perhaps this was a prelude to what followed soon after, devastating wars with our neighbours. How tragic and telling it is that we are now talking of “መኸተ”! In fact the nation cheered when its was told on 24th May in September 1 Square, that its value systems are ‘ኣይግዛእን ኣይጸዓድን’‘ኣይዋረድን፡ ምባል ምክብባርን ምትሕልላይን፡ ሓድነትን ስኒትን ውህደትን፡ ትብዓትን ተወፋይነትን ሓርበኛነትን መስዋእትነትን፡ ስራሕን ዓያይነትን ኣፍራዪነትን ተባላሓትነትን፡ ጽንዓት’. The message is enemies are everywhere and do not trust anyone which is a clear example of how an oppressed mind entrenched (in the past and uncertain future). It is like the proverbial monkey which  couldn’t sleep a wink fearing the sky might fall on it. Of course, these values are not bad values per se but they are deployed in our country at the expense of the fundamental values of Dignity, Freedom, Liberty, Equality, Human Rights, Rule of Law, Fairness, Tolerance, Peace, and Prosperity. We are being conditioned!

At individual level, as mentioned above losing on all fronts we may feel duty-bound to defend the legacy of our martyrs but what we are made to forget is that the very legacy is supposed to be a better present and the best future. Our martyrs did not pay a full measure just to earn martyrdom but a nation that feeds the hungers and quenches the thirst of its people and above all a nation that guarantees the dignity of its citizens! Their legacy is secured only through the people who shine (aspirations fulfilled) for posterity- that is the eternal flame which can truly honour their sacrifices. Today’s Eritrea is ejecting and rejecting (ተሓሲማቶም) its children- how can this be a legacy of our revered martyrs?

The ongoing tragic experience of oppression and repression (our new experience) is also having its own impact both on the nation and individuals. Eritrea has robbed the lives, hopes, and dreams of its own people. It has inflicted untold pain and loss as mentioned above. So, it is absolutely right that we express our outrage and even respond not only to defend ourselves but also to change the situation. Ironically, the frustration (the puzzle) is that the response is not yet robust or proportional to the agony we continue to suffer. At the same time, the worrying bit in our response is the emerging signs of victim mentality driven self-destructing behaviour and actions where victims turn on each other, instead of supporting each other. When we see individuals and organisations acting and behaving in a manner which undermines each other and their respective causes, then it is a cause for worry. Unless we tame the internal ghosts and summon our courage to rise above the ashes, things might fall apart- setting us into perpetual decline.

The oppressed mind (victimhood) is a lethal state of mind/psyche (condition). Today, the loss and pain sustained by Eritreans is profound, except of course few (whatever their number). This is worsened by the fact that they are unrelenting which dashes our hopes and render us helpless. Our inability to build a nation worth of our sacrifices and a nation at peace with itself and the world haunts us. Sadness, anger, and fear characterise us as people. Often our conversations tell that we are dumfounded, frustrated, and pessimism runs deep through all sections of our society. We are sad and angry. Individuals are consumed by their own victim mentality induced anger on top of the loss they sustained at the hands of some dark forces that operate in broad day light and anger turns you into a loose canons (we shoot aimlessly) and at many levels we are exercising self-destruction as a result. Both our discourse and politics are increasingly becoming a zero-sum game. The irresponsibility, recklessness, and immaturity we see today are symptomatic of an oppressed mind and victim mentality. When we don’t see and engage issues with a degree of rationality, objectivity, and civility we know we are clouded by anger which attacks the mind’s reasoning ability. As a result, our judgments take the wrong turn and instead of questioning the very judgments we question each others motives which is futile if not dangerous. Fear also grips our thinking processes. The prevalent mistrust, suspicion, and perceptions are linked to the visceral fear from each other and a fear from the future. Trust and confidence are eroded. The worst our oppressors would do is to set us on the course of self-replicating self-destructive habits. As a result instead of finding common ground we find to seek refuge in the cracks of fringe politics which achieves little, to our dismay. Wittingly or otherwise we act and behave like our oppressors and in the process we surrender the morale high ground. And some of us show inertia and prefer to hide in dark corners to the point we become totally lame as if we are outsiders to our own crisis – running away from responsibility, not a smart option. All this has left us an apprehensive nation- ambivalent to the notion of change all in the face of such a scale of calamity. Half a century (25 years) after our liberation, we have regressed farther and faster into the the past. For all intents and purposes, the Eritrean nation has crumbled under its own weight and has trapped its people in the rubble.

How to turn it around?

There are no easy fixes to the, unfortunately, depressing reality exposed above but one thing is clear- we need liberation once again- LIBERATION OF THE MIND! I know that our impulse is to dismiss this and call for the elusive shortcut- remove the “PFDJ” or its high priest and we will be happy ever after, didn’t we believe in that cliché before! This reaction of ours is natural, though, given our frustration with the unbearable situation we are in and at the same time it shows the conditioning we are framed by (our oppressed state of mind). If the claim of this article makes sense, then this is about the fundamentals of the Eritrean person, the society, and that of the state. In that case, if we argue that we need to stop the runaway train of ours which has lost its bearing, heading the wrong direction to the state of total collapse, then we need to first realise that our train is off the tracks and heading the wrong direction. In other words, this is about direction and the tracks. At the moment, we see two contradictory direction signposts, two arrows, one to the future and another to the past- ironically, we don’t even know where we are right now which makes it all the more trickier reading our map and compounding our confusion. So, let’s first locate ourselves as individuals, society, and the state, and clear our directions. Our parallel universe must end and our bubbles should be blown out. It requires reflection, objectivity, and honesty too because we need to accept the objective truth to admit our regression. What are the facts telling us? Do they constitute our truth (reality)? This is a two way conversation between the truth and ourselves (individuals and collectively). Let’s search our individual and collective souls and challenge ourselves. While it may not have captured the process of liberating oneself from the state of the oppressed mind quite succinctly, the title of the EMDHR’s manual, ብድሆ ኣንጻር ኣተሓሳሰባና (loosely translated Challenging Our Perceptions) illuminates it better. Perception has a life of its own, something like a bubble of ‘truth’ if you will, until it is blown out that is. It means we need to conquer the struggle in the battleground (mind) and reclaim our individual and collective agency. Already, we are half-way in the liberation process at this point, as this will lead us to taking stock of our predicaments and take responsibility. It means we will know the ‘known unknowns’ through our independent reasoning based on reliable evidence (proof) and bingo- we are liberated! I know I make it sound that easy and some will argue this is an oversimplification of what is a very complex state of affairs and we need more than that. True, we will need more than that but liberation (freedom) is a responsibility (opportunity) – to solve complex issues and shape one’s own destiny. Challenges and contradictions are facts of life and society, respectively but if the incredible innovative ability and resilience of the human spirit is harnessed we can confront it and make tomorrow better than today and certainly much better than yesterday- it is possible. Many nations and societies such as South Africa, France, Chile, South Korea, Japan, Germany, and many  other countries were able to deal with their past demons and come out of such a quagmire successfully.

Our country slipped away from our hands in 1940s before its reappeared in the form of a glass-half-empty in 1950s, and then got away again until it emerged with force in 1991 when we dropped the ball ourselves. Yet, I am optimistic that Eritrea can bounce back from the abyss we have dragged ourselves down and that is why I make the case for the liberation of the oppressed mind/psyche and the rebirth of the Eritrean nation. The magnanimity and generosity of spirit of our people have not totally deserted us. It is this social capital that our early nationalist leaders were able to to harness and we need to reclaim and rediscover it in order to reimagine the ‘Eritrean Dream’ independent of its experiences. While we may carry to bear the scars of oppression, we can chose to break away from victim-hood and shape our own destiny as a generation and as people. We can restore the fundamental values of Dignity, Freedom, Liberty, Equality, Human Rights, Rule of Law, Fairness, Tolerance, Peace, and Prosperity. It is our choice to be guided by our hopes and not by our past negative experiences and it is in this way that our forbears forged solidarity and shaped a common destiny. As Mandela once said, ‘it is in [our hands]’ or shall I say it is in our minds. Let’s take a leaf from the 19th century English poet, William Ernest Henley, who, despite his afflictions,  defiantly declared ’I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul’.

Reference

Anderson, B. (1983) Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism

Bereket, H. S. (2011) Wounded Nation: How a Once Promising Eritrea was Betrayed and Its Future Compromised, Trenton, NJ: Red Sea Press.

Daniel Bar-Tal, Lily Chernyak-Hai, Noa Schori and Ayelet Gundar (2009) “A sense of self- perceived collective victimhood in intractable conflicts”, https://www.icrc.org/eng/assets/files/other/irrc-874-bartal-chernyakhai-schori-gundar.pdf

Munroe, M. (2004) The Burden of Freedom: Discover the Key to your individual and national freedom. Miami: F1.

Saleh Younis (2013) “Our New Culture of Victimhood and Voyeurism”, http://awate.com/our-new-culture-of-victimhood-and-voyeurism/

About Tesfalem Araya

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  • Kokhob Selam

    ጽቡቕ ገበርካ ዝሓወይ ተስፋኣለም ኣርኣያ :-

    ድሕሪ ‘ዚ ነዊሕ መሪር ተሞክሮ -ድሕሪ ‘ዚ ትዕግስቲ ዘጸንቅቕ ነዊሕ ጉዕዞ :- ድረዐ ከነጥሪ እሞ ንቅድሚት ክንምርሽ ምተገበአ :: ድረዐ ኣካል ብዝተፈላለዩ ድቀ ማይክሮባትን ናይ ደገ ተሳባእትን ገጢሙ ምስ ሰዓረ ዘጥርዮ ናይ ኣካል ምሕያል ትርጉም እዩ ዘለዎ :: ንሕና ዘጥረናዮ ድረዐ ክንዲ ዘሕይለና ኣድካምን – ተንበርካኽን እሺ ሕራይ በሃልን ዝገብር ኮይኑ :: ነዚ ንምቅያር ድማ ብድሆ ኣንጻር ኣተሓሳስባና : ብድሆ !

  • chefena Hailemarim

    Hi Tesfalem

    Indeed, a well written prose! I am a fun of Benedict Anderson( 1991) mainly because his conceptualization ‘nations as imagined communities’ offers a theoretical support to the idea of an Eritrean nation.

    Despite the political discordance of the 1940s, that do not appear to have been fully resolved, our forebears, the first generation of nationalist elites, imagined Eritrea through their discourses resources (bilingually).

    I also agree with your characterisation of the kind of trajectory this imagined community had to go through. And so the ‘idea’ is never ephemeral; it will always find its realization in the ‘liberated mind’ you want to make a case for.

  • Kokhob Selam

    ክቡራት እንዳ ዓዋተ ከመይ ከ !

    ለምቅነ ንተቃወምቲ ይኹን ደገፍቲ ኣዝዩ ዝበርትዐ ቅነ እዩ ነይሩ :: ኣዝዩ ብዙሕ ዘሕዝን ተረኽቦታት ጥራይ ዘይኮነስ – ተስፋ ዝህብ ቅነ ውን እዩ ነይሩ : ሕጂ ከመይ ኣሎ ኩነታት

    http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSKCN0YU0ZC

    and now how monkey is jumping from one tree to the other badly wounded http://webtv.un.org/live-now/watch/commission-inquiry-on-human-rights-on-eritrea-press-conference/4473504075001

    • sara

      kokob dear
      all is well in the southern front. very calm so-far! and it is Ramadan.
      Ramadan Kareem!

  • Ismail AA

    Selam Tesfalem,

    Thanks for your beautifully written article, and I second brother Saleh Younis’ elegant description of the style and erudition the article demonstrated.

    Actually I am not really sure whether this one is the second part of the article posted in this web site earlier. Nevertheless, the approach to handling the subject as well as the profundity of the issues raised is superb.

    There are a number of basic issues that catch one’s attention. One of them is the assertion that “… Eritrea is a destiny born out of a fate”. This is quite true because it is a summation only a fully informed observer can dare to make. It is indeed an apt description of a whole historical epoch that created what has been described as “imagined nation-state”. The latter suggests that at that time the communities on whom destiny had imposed a fate of sharing a geographically delineated polity had no idea of how they would forge it in to real nation-state. I say this because history does teach us how pproaches to this took polarizing tilt: I am alluding to the political landscape that emerged after the exit of the colonial Italy. We are aware how much effort and time it took to unify the ranks of the nation in the pursuit of nationhood.

    Another point that made me pose was the issue of national psyche. If one reads the de post imagined-state developments, couldn’t one be confronted by the question of whether the partners in the common fate did develop a uniform national psyche? Can’t we suspect that such divergence in attitudes towards what the real nation-state ought to had been had lingered through the long odyssey? I mean in its various forms and manifestations.

    Moreover, I felt that the analysis, despite its thoroughness and elegance, had looked at the issues through the prism of post-independence developments. To me any analysis or handling of our national predicament of the past two and half decades that overlooks the refugee communities in Sudan and elsewhere is not complete. This I missed from this important contribution. Like the mothers who have mourned their first and last sons or daughters, those mothers, too, have been waiting amidst miseries at the refugee camps to return back to the real nation-state after having been evicted during the era of the imagined nation-state.
    Ismail AA

  • AMAN

    Greetings
    Dear Awates ,
    .
    GOOD LUCK ETHIOPIA.
    .
    Amazingly, Ethiopia has done something good of the 100yrs homework
    we gave it. I would like to see more and better results but so far not bad
    considering its track record on governance, human rights and transformation.
    I thought Ethiopia was far behind and at the bottom of all countries the way
    the country and its people were / are administered by the successive regimes
    of HSI, Dergue and TPLF in which all of them kept or keep the people in the
    dark misinformed about true world political and social nature just to keep their
    seat in power unchallenged. But when I see it now there is a miniscule result
    and change towards the positive direction of world reality but still way far behind
    to cope and march with the world community of Nations.
    Something is better than Nothing !
    At least there is understanding and good will intentions since 2015……………….

  • Amanuel Hidrat

    Merhaba Josef,

    By nature, I do not give a reply of long hateta. I will go straight to your point of argument and will try to give you short answers. Let me start with the points I agree with you (a) Passing the torch: I have been advocating for passing the torch to our young generation and the young generation to take the stock of our nation. Refer to this link : http://awate.com/a-glimmer-of-hope-review-of-eyscs-conference/, where I went to attend with great enthusiasm to the conference (EYSC) our youth, to encourage them. The article is a reflection to the outcome of the conference. (b) The importance of civil society: I have been advocating for the establishment of civil society because a “democratic state” can not function without the three pillars of the state (i) the private sector (ii) the government (III) the civil societies. So I am involving in building civil societies. The following linked articles will show you my effort on the issue (i) http://awate.com/political-dialogue-symposium-needed/ – a speech at EGS (civil society) symposium (ii) I wrote an article titled “civic society beyond our entrenched thinking” referring to the establishment of EGS in 2008 (unable to pull it from asmarino.com). So in short we agree on these two issues.

    Josef, I disagree with you on the following: (a) It is not lack of education that made us to be drown in a civil war during the armed struggle and to be entangled in the current quagmire after independence. It is the division of our elites in the battle of their political interest (without going to details) in the current predicament. Our intellectuals are divided between those who serve the despot in our nation and those who oppose the current state of our nation (be young or old generation). (b) Eritreans have no “false confidence” and history will surely disprove your claim. Their confidence is always enhanced by their tenacity and persistence in whatever they want to accomplish (no details necessary, just our revolution is an exemplary to it). So you have wrong assessment on confidence issue.

    • josef

      I agree… but tenacity and persistence are good value but what happens if you are heading in the wrong direction? A marathon runner has tenacity and persistence what is the result if he heading in wrong direction.. will he win the race? What about self-reflection? I know that is hard to do in War zone or war time but what about in peace time? Is it possible the mentality and values emphasis during the arm struggle, could be effective in peace or civil time? A PDJF supporter can mention Eritrean government “self-reliance” and isolation due to Tenancity and persistence?
      Tenacity and persistence are fine battle field are they useful in international diplomacy? Are they useful in a constantly changing and dynamic world of 2016? What about talent and qualitification?
      Creative thinking and critical thinking…
      Tenancity and persistence although good values can also create a blind camel.

  • saay7

    Selamat Tesfalem:

    Your prose reads like poetry, for its depth of expression and the search for meaning. Thank you for such a treat.

    There is one thing you said at the beginning that rings so true: “While the level and pattern of our experiences might be unique to us, the consequences (the pain and loss) are virtually the same.” That works whether by “our” and “us” you meant Eritreans in comparison to other people, or us in comparison to ourselves.

    I fear that there are incidents that occur now that, rather than unify us the way tragedies do, are more likely to exacerbate and heighten our political fissures.

    Let me just take two example:

    You wrote: “Today’s Eritrea is ejecting and rejecting (ተሓሲማቶም) its children- how can this be a legacy of our revered martyrs?” During the independence day week, some Diaspora Eritreans who flocked to Eritrea visited disabled veterans, and they pledged support to children of veterans. There is a moving video of them dancing and trying to cheer our disabled veterans. To them, the government is, from its meager funds, doing all it can to support veterans and children of martyrs. And anybody who doesn’t recognize that is misguided, and wrong and perhaps an enemy of the State.

    The same week, Eritreans by the hundreds were on rickety boats, and three of them sank in the Mediterranean. The UN is calling it the biggest tragedy since April 2015. It is the frequency and scope of these tragedies that have sensitized us: compare our reaction now, with our reaction to Lampedusa, although the tragedies were of similar scope. There were the same heartbreaking stories: Kidane, a 13-year old Eritrean, told AFP: “I saw my mother and 11-year old sister die.” There is also a video circulating of a grieving lady who is shocked by our inability to be shocked: she says that “of those who I know who perished [in the recent tragedy] all are children of martyrs. All are children of martyrs and wives of martyrs.”

    https://youtu.be/Qmp7jG5xrAU

    We now have a book written in Tigrina and English to address this: the thousands of Eritreans who were tortured and gang-raped in Sinai are suffering from severe trauma. And there are 40,000 of them in Israel. God knows how many are in Europe and North America, as Eritrea continues to have a disproportionate size of its population exiled.

    Do any of these tragedies unite us into common action or do they get us at each other throats.

    Just now, madote.com, a pro-government website, is reporting the CoIE will report that the government of Isaias Afwerki (madote replaces “Government of Isaias Afwerki” with “Eritrea”) is guilty of “crimes against humanity.” Will this grave finding sober us, get us to be introspective or will everybody double-down and pursue our “Nkhid Tray” policy?

    Can we not agree on one and at least only one fundamental: that people can debate endlessly as to which political party and which political platform leads to sustainable, peaceful, prospering nation. But can’t we agree that this “National Service without end” is not sustainable and must be stopped immediately and unconditionally?

    saay

    • josef

      I like your article it is beautiful and nuanced its approach to subject. But all these videos whether torture on road to “holy land” or rape.. or sinking and death of Eritrean in sea. Does it leave you wondering how come the Eritrean community everywhere in the world doesn’t come together and take a collective action? You hear about a few emotional outbursts and anger and helplessness and burying of head in sand…

      A simple question, what has to happen in Eritrea or Eritrean people in order for collective action in the Arbate Asmara tradition to appear in the horizon not from Eritrea but diaspora? As long as diaspora community is “led” by folks from the Gedhli generation who generally are just one or two trick ponies- Protest in streets of foreign capitals or have alpha-bet soup parties meetings in Addis Ababa nothing will happen- discuss each other differences. Some accuse each other of trying to take over the opposition, etc.. do you think the genuine care about the people or some sort of positions? Do you wonder why they never ask themselves after 15 years, why hasn’t their strategies or method worked? Or are just a bunch of Mediocre folks? And if they realize that would they go the community to seek leadership more qualified themselves out love Eritrea and its people? This is sort of self-reflection that is missing.. Nothing genuinely effective will come out that bunch… they don’t have genuine leadership skills, education, talent and ability to lead in 2016.. I met one of them one day and I asked him about his organization and qualification? His response was that he was tegadalai and serve his country.. I asked him is that his only qualification to lead in civil society? He just gave me a blank stare.. I told him I respect his service in war of independence but based on his 20+ years experience in diaspora.. his only qualification is security guard at Walmart.

      They really don’t care about Eritrean lives maybe a little of emotional but never is there anything that leads to concrete strategic approach or solution. Look at the statistics- more Eritrean left Eritrea after independence and more Eritrean died in Civil War between EPLF/ELF than against Ethiopia is that generation going produce the solution to our current predicament. Of a good chunk of the people that died in 30 years are innocent civilians. Mr. Afwerki.. can seat down and watch eritrean dying… and tell you “they are going out the picnic” And most the PDJF supporters are closer to Scientology members than genuine Eritrean patriots that care about Eritrea/Eritrean. I have studied the characteristics of Scientology members and PDJF supporters… a lot of similarity…

      By the way, let’s not point fingers are make it look like other countries are doing something or negative.
      I don’t think anything is wrong with Israel denying them asylum. Israeli is state that created for people of Jewish faith who have experienced all kind of persecution and genocide over the centuries.. They risked everything to find one place on earth to find a sense of safety and fought for it. And that country still hasn’t overcame the Trauma of Holocaust.. I don’t consider it a normal society.. it is a Traumatized society..

      We have had more than 40,000 refugee in Sudan since 1980s.. and I was one of those that passed thru refugee camps close to Gederaf. Basically we have had Eritrean Refugees more 50 years… Other countries would have forced deportation right after Eritrea announced independence. EU doesn’t want more refugee.. who can blame them..

      If National service ends, government will find out form of population control… if you live in the condition people in Eritrea are forced to live in they live in for no justifiable reason.. food is rationed..travel is restricted.. there is no law but rule of jungle.. And guns everywhere.. what is your real option? You are malnourished and we know what that does to the brain.. You run or get out hell…
      Ending National Service just means something like Malcolm X said here…
      xxxxxxx xxx xxx

      1. The solution to Eritrea’s predicament will come from diaspora with Gedli generation-less leadership..

      2. Community organization with a common platform and strategy to mitigate the role of Scientology members…

      3. A united block from Diaspora…

      4. How does this start with simple manifesto.. A call for Post-Gedli generation leadership and Gedli generation advisory role.

      5. This is not the only solution but one step in bringing about change..

      • Amanuel Hidrat

        Hello Josef,

        Your comment gives the whole picture who you are, when you catagorized the entire ghedli generation as a mediocre illitrate feudal mentality. Actually you are trying to introdice a new political element of generational bigotry in to the Eritrean politics – a new low of its kThe question to you is : how does the illitrate feudal mentality of ghedli mentality controlled the smart educated generation (in this case your generation)?

  • g michael

    Hi Tesfalem,

    Mega transformational change in thinking such as the Liberation of the mind as you advocate is unwieldy concept for the society such as in our context. Unwieldy, because the ingredients necessary for a call of such magnitude to take root are not there, such as an educated and informed society, a language that is common to all Eritreans, and most of all an open society that offers a platform for a national dialogue. Transformational calls such as the Marxists call for change, required the proletariat to lead. It leads to a lot of ups and downs and death and destruction of the old ways that comes with these type of calls. In a smaller level, EMDHR’s push to educate the public as part of their ‘bdho ab atahasasbana’ translated Yosief Ghebrehiwet’s MKNJAW Ghedli into tigrinya, and broadcast ed it to the public without doing the same for articles that opposed it. This singularity in mission has left a lot to be desired for in the search for identity and unity. A more nimble and less ambitious approach would be appropriate for our movement towards democracy. I think a call such s the bottom up make a lot of sense for our purpose.

  • des

    Araya,

    Greetings,

    It is very well written article.

    I read a book a while ago “Collapse”. Why some societies disintegrated in history; some of their population got killed and some did emigrated. All the archaeological ruins of the highlands of Eritrea and Ethiopia have such kind of evidence as well. Will the current Eritrea population collapse, only time will tell and it will be highly dependent on how we react to the presented proposals and ideas like Araya’s great ideas.

    Most of the reasons of society collapse were mixed effect of politics and economy.

    Eritreans basically live on praying for rain. 80% of the population use Ox as a main machinery for agricultural production, not even a horse. Divided plots to much smaller portions to fit the number of house hold in a village is a total unproductive means of production in Eritrean land tenure. Eritrea remains very poor particularly given the weather and rainfall become very unpredicted. It become quit a norm to see just flash of a rain and the summer by pass. I believe poor society is easy to condition and manipulate and control. You can easily keep their hope alive and make them think worst may come than they are now while you keep them divided.

    I would not explain better than Araya the political system in Eritrea. It is out of the world, you can hardly imagine such system exist in this modern era and still some people support and club their hands for their source of pain and suffer. Eritrean system is beyond slavery. When I see the support I always tend to disbelieve it.

    I think the bottom line is how do you change the current system. I always think Eritreans who oppose the government fail to make an opposition that is economically viable. We should have economic strength to mobilize and implement practical measures. I think opposition need to build strong economy and ideology. If those two do not integrate nicely, the conditioning brain change may not bring the desirable change alone.

    • Amanuel Hidrat

      Hello des,

      If we do not have the same understanding as to what the nature of the regime we have, we will remain divided on how should we fight it. The reasons to all our predicaments are then (a) lack of identifying our enemy (b) submissiveness to any power of dictation (c) lack of determination in our fights (d) the majority of us are waiting for solutions from others on a silver plate (lack of commitment ጥራይ ተጸበይቲ ምኾን). Unless we change these attitudes there are bases for change what so ever. ንሐራዲ መንግስቲ ብሰላም አይትቃለሶን ኢኻ::

      Regards

      • des

        Dea Amanuel,

        I completely agree with (c) and (d). I am trying to understand why we fail to be determinant fighters though, of course this will make you think other people will fight for you.

        The ignorance and the confusion in Eritrea diaspora is clear. That wont bring a solution. I am thinking few people can make change if they have a right attitude. You do not need to get everybody in board at least at the begging. What it takes is a few who got a clear vision. For few to be successful they need an absolute economic viability. To achieve this a few even one charismatic, vocal and inclusive person need to be in the front image. I cannot tell any person who cary that responsibility at the moment, this need to be groomed and created for all. It is absolutely necessary.

        What we need to stop doing is to be in circles of less important points, instead of helping they become quit infectious and creating unnecessary polarization and tension among us.

        I have deep respect for Nelson Mandela, he once said the enemy is your friend. That is why he allowed the enemies, whites, to be in his land forever. This seems an important move and can be copy and paste to Eritrea, instead of really thinking the supporters of PFDJ and the people who running PFDJ as enemies at the begging we need to see them with mercy. But we make sure the system they created will be destroyed for ever. And Eritrea will be governed by rule of law with inclusive constitution.

  • josef

    Mr. Araya,
    A beautiful written article.
    Our history is our history… I think for a long time Eritrean have been suffering from False Confidence.
    We have to get to know ourselves. Our conversation and view of our history is thru lens of 30 years war.
    Scientific research has shown societies with scarcity(like food) and malnutrition develop tunnel mentality. So, don’t expect change happen from Eritrea. People don’t revolt because of suffering but when they see or taste something better.

    Second thing is we a practically a feudal society- We had 40 years of italian colonization where were treated like second class citizens and high illiteracy..

    After that we got another 45 years of Feudal monarch/derg and war so for all practical purposes we never had a true civil society until short time in 1990s and that immediately reverted to one of strangest form dictatorship that resembles enver hoxha meles/issiayas role model in 1980s.

    So, for all practical purpose for that last century and this- we haven’t had a civil society and our mentality is general of feudal origin with a few changes. So, if Eritrea ends up being like Mynamar, Laos, Bhutan and disappear from the face of Earth and regress.. it is not unexpected. Eritrea has to go thru the same xxxx African countries went thru in 1960s.
    Independence, dictatorship, civil war, east africa(starvation), maybe one day democracy or somali implosion, etc
    And seriously and objectively, all the ingredients are there for that happen… all that “eritrea never down”, and Eritrean exceptional-ism is just False Confidence and so far history has proven that.. not me..
    Don’t be surprised about Eritrea… one hundred years of feudal type of mentality is not going to produce a country that is capable of participating in 2016 effectively. Just Fact.

    Just look at Diaspora community in North America with all access to wealth and education..

    If you see Eritrean in diaspora community it is very rare you see Eritreans trying to learn anything about best culture or elements of their host country? Do you ever why that is? They tend to be very insular and completely in bubble from main culture they live in.. these are people who have lived 35+ years in America.. some don’t even try to learn english..

    There is generally is not community center that brings the community together unless it is through lens of PDJF or opposition… I mean they got lucky to come one the most richest nations on the face of Earth and they are battling over one community center for 30+ years… They can’t even set their difference aside for the future of their children and work together? Isn’t that a dysfunctional community? Strangest thing even when they have eritreans in 30 years educated born in america or young folks.. they still hold reign of leadership… and not handover or to bring new leaderships…

    So, brother Araya don’t cry for Eritrea that just a gps location- Cry for Eritrean in this century? They are a like stone you throw into pot full of water. The outside of stone will be wet but not inside. If the water is best of Western education skills and talents and best of Eritrean mentality… the inside of Stone is the Eritrean mind. These are not the folks of Arbate Asmara or civilization that were in plateau of Asmara 700BC ago.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consensus_decision-making

    They can’t even unite their communities in America and learn something from other minority groups. What are you expecting in Feudal Eritrea. We have a beautiful culture for mountains but our values and mind is so limited to effectively participate in 2016 world.. of critical thinking, creative thinking, law driving, entrepreneurship, intellectual or scholarship strong business community, networking, etc..