Making A Case For Political Immunity And Nonviolent Regime Change

There is no nice way of saying it. You can’t put positive-spin to it. Advocating regime change using violence is advocating civil war and everything that comes with it – bloody war, mass internal displacement, destruction of the Nation that could put it decades back, flow of refugees to neighbouring countries and beyond…followed by decades of mistrust, resentment, grief, grudge and bloody arm-conflict that may last for decades. After the whole ordeal, we may not even survive as a Nation. Case in point: Libya. You can point your finger to whomever you want, but make no mistake – all sides have responsibility to bear and all sides have failed their Nation and their people. There is no justification for putting their country through hell – destruction, grief, bloodshed, mass migration, economic disaster, an International Circus…

If Violent Method is your method of choice to bring change, you could only bring change by violently defeating a segment of your population to submission. And if you are going to shove ‘your change’ through the throat of the defeated segment of your population, the defeated and humiliated segment of your population will resent your violent action and they will fight you back – exactly like what you’re trying to do now. Then, before we know it, we would be back at square one: cycle of violence. And cycle of violence is not Fundamental Change. Cycle of violence is not a vision. It is a bankrupt idea that comes from incompetent leaders who can’t cut a deal.

Yes regime change could be achieved through violence; but the change that comes through violence can only have a balloon effect – one segment of our population would squeeze in; another segment of our population would be squeezed out. One segment of our population would be claiming victory; another segment of our population would be crying foul. One segment of our population would be dancing with euphoria; another segment of our population would be anxiously biting its nails fearing reprisal from the “winners”.

To put it in layman’s terms, we will be winners and losers. And prevailing only to end up being winners and losers is a war not worth fighting, and a victory not worth having. Because there are wars worth fighting even if you lose, and there are wars that are not worth fighting even if you win. And this war is one of them. We had that kind of “victory” before (1981); but we didn’t all celebrate that “victory”; did we?  If we all didn’t celebrate that “victory”, what makes you think we all are going to celebrate this coming “victory”? If that “victory” didn’t bring us together as a people what makes you think this coming “victory” will?

To give you an idea, if the Tadamun organization and its think-tanks would have it their way today, one wouldn’t need a crystal-ball to see who would be the “winner” and who would be on the short end of the stick; listen for yourself:

We also take note of the concerns of the many people within the PFDJ’s ruling circle, who privately concede the colossal failures of the PFDJ in mitigating the incalculable damage that a single man has done to our people. However, they take issues with our characterization of the regime as ethnocratic even when we point out to the widely-noted fact (but yet to be documented) that the majority of the military leaderships is from the Hamasien region with the most trusted ones coming from Karneshim. While we agree that there is a kernel of truth to the assertion that this is reminiscent of African big men of the 1960 and 70’s, we respectfully disagree with the view that this is no different than the mode of operation that Idi Amin, Bokassa and their likes utilized by appointing loyal bodyguards and beneficiaries from their own tribes. By Mejlis Ibrahim Mukhtar – Jul 30, 2010

Listen:  because of our past civil war, we have already scared generation – The Gedli Generation. We have already ethnics, regions and communities who still feel defeated, humiliated and marginalized by the outcome of our past civil war. We have a segment of our population at the receiving end of the stick to this second. We don’t need to repeat history. We don’t need another Bin-AmerKarneshim.  

But, don’t do it; it is wrong; it is a sin; it is a curse…is not a convincing argument. One has to make a very bold argument to make a case for it. And this is the argument for it – we have to think differently. We have to engage the regime differently. We have to run the opposition business differently. And making a case for New Thinking is the argument of this article. Let’s roll:

New Thinking #1

We Have To Engage The Regime And Its Base Differently

Well, so many pressing issues so little time. My next article was supposed to be “Tigrigna Domination – Myth Vs Reality – Perspective part III. Sorry; I’ve to shelve that for a while now. But still my argument remains the same: a winning strategy in Eritrean politics. This time around, instead of making a case based on our past experience, I’m going try to make a case for it from different angle: Pragmatism. Yes a realistic winning political strategy that would guarantee us sustainable peace, stability and prosperity post Isaias government.

To bring the ‘New Thinking argument’ to the table, let’s see a sample paragraph from Ustaz Omer Jabir’s article that demonstrates the way we all are accustomed to think. No offence to Ustaz Omar Jabir, I picked a paragraph from his article just to make a point. Of course I could have picked a paragraph from any one with the same content since it is widely held view in the opposition camp.

Please don’t assume anything; I don’t have anything against Ustaz Omar Jabir but the utmost respect. He is inspiration to all of us. He is one of the few great writers who are bridging the English and Arabic readers. I wish I could read and fully understand the articles that he writes in Arabic. Once again nothing personal, I’m just trying to disagree and trying to present different side to Ustaz Omar’s argument. And let’s see what I’m talking about:

“There had never been in the recent history, a dictator who done all evils, then became repentant and asked his fellow citizens to forgive him and work together! The starting point is that: No compromise – No reconciliation and No place for the dictator and his close aids and entourage in future Eritrea. I am not talking about the cadres and members of PDFJ, those are Eritreans who had been misled, forced to do actions that they didn’t agree with, subjected to a prolonged rehabilitation program. It is the duty of the coming government to include them in the reconstruction process and take advantage of their experience and qualifications”.  Written by Ustaz Omar Jabir Saturday, 18 September 2010 00:58 @ Arkokabay: The National congress: the Last Frontier Part IV

Ustaz Omar Jabir, I don’t question your motive nor do I doubt the sincerity of your opinion. I don’t have any doubt in my mind your article was written only with one thing in mind – to find a lasting solution for our challenges. I don’t mean to offend you or disrespect you in any way, shape or form. But, while still respecting your right to make a case for your argument, please allow me to differ and question the wisdom of your argument as a solution to our challenges.

 Please tell me, we all know who the dictator is, but where does the list of “the dictator’s close aids and entourage” start and end? You said “No compromise – No reconciliation and No place for the dictator and his close aids and entourage in future Eritrea”; what do we do with them? Isn’t this preconceived notion counterproductive? Aren’t they supposed to be innocent until proven guilty by the court of law? If your objective is to marginalize them exactly like what they did to you, what makes you different from them? If your objective is only”to include them…to take advantage of their experience and qualifications”; how is this different from the EPLF/PFDJ’s ከም ውልቀሰባት ጥራይ ኢና ንቕበለኩም “we will accept you only as individuals” attitude. If EPLF/PFDJ’s “we will only accept you as individuals” philosophy didn’t change your mind, and didn’t stop you from fighting the PFDJ regime, what makes you think your idea is going to change them and stop them from fighting you to the bitter end? Don’t you think this is a precursor for another cycle of violence?

I don’t know about you but in my humble opinion it was a wrong idea that never worked when it was tried by the EPLF/PFDJ, and still it is a wrong idea that will never work if anyone is contemplating to repeat it.

Ustaz Omar, do you truly believe the PFDJ members and cadres “are misled”? Do you really believe the PFDJ members and cadres “are forced to do actions that they didn’t agree with”? Are you sure a “prolonged rehabilitation program can change anyone’s opinion”? Personally, I don’t think so. That is what the Higdefits truly believe; and they are just being them. They are a force to be reckoned with, we have to humanize our fight, we have to learn to engage them, and we have to learn to live and work with them.

Ustaz Omar, please tell me – in your opinion who is right and who is wrong: conservatives or liberals, atheists or believers, ethnic and religious political organizations or nationalist political organizations, ELF leaders or EPLF leaders, loose federal system of government or strong centralized government, for Arabic as a national language or against Arabic as a national language, ethnic and clan land ownership or government land ownership, injecting faith (religion) into our politics or separating faith (religion) from our politics…..

Instead of one being right and the other being wrong, isn’t it all a matter of prospective, subjective judgment and war of ideas? Aren’t we supposed to honor and respect each other’s opinion? Aren’t we supposed to compromise, reconcile, accept and make room for each and every one of us no matter what color or stripe? Aren’t we supposed to believe and live by the rules of competing ideas called democracy? Aren’t we supposed to learn to live with, and compete in good faith against any Eritrean citizen even against those we profoundly disagree with or even despise? And if we lose by the judgment of the ballot box against those we disagree with or despise, aren’t we supposed to concede defeat with honor and dignity – live in peace and compete another day peacefully so we can win and run the country our way? I think so.

Ustaz Omar Jabir, you are very smart man who can analyze the complicated intricacies of Eritrean politics. You are a very informed man who have spent most of your life dealing with Eritrean politics, please explain to me your justification:

You don’t have any problem if any of the former ELF and ELF offshoot organizations cadres and leaders compete for political power and lead the nation during Post-Isaias government. You don’t have any problem if any leaders or cadres of the Ethnic, Regional and Islamic Organizations compete for political power and lead the nation during Post-Isaias government. You don’t have any problem if any of the “dictator’s former close aids and entourage” in the opposition compete for political power and lead the nation during Post-Isaias government:

But you have a problem if PFDJ leaders, cadres and members become part of the process and compete for power organized as a political force during Post-Isaias government. How do you justify that?

Are we all free and democratic if the PFDJ members are not free to organize, elect and be elected in their own country? What if someone makes the same argument against the Islamists, Ethnic/Regional organizations, Jehovah Witness, ex-employees of Derg….? Where do we stop if we choose to walk through this slippery slope? Trust me, we wouldn’t know. We would be opening a can of worms; and opening a can of worms is the last thing we need on our plate.

Listen, if we fail to see their nervousness, if we fail to see their concern, if we fail to assure them, accommodate them and allow them to represent themselves fairly on all levels of the government to express their grievance and to engage and fight for their narrow interest, who would they turn to but to our enemies? And we don’t want those with dissenting views to sleep with our enemies; do we? Due to PFDJ’s misguided policy instead of arguing in Eritrean parliament the opposition are in Addis; aren’t they? If they are not free to speak-up, if they are not free to organize, if they are not free to elect and be elected in their own country, where else could they be free to exercise these rights? How could we marginalize a segment of our population and still claim to be free and democratic?

Well, you (the reader) have read Ustaz Omar Jabir’s paragraph from his article and you have seen why I disagree and why I question the wisdom of the paragraph’s argument and the wisdom of many others with similar opinion by extension. And I’ll let you be the judge.

Now let’s move to our next argument:

New Thinking #2

The Isayas Regime Is The Least Of Our Problems

The way the PFDJ regime is running the country, making a sound case for regime change is very simple; but the challenge for actual regime change is not. The reason: regime change is a common cause that requires unity of purpose and consorted effort of all stakeholders. And some stakeholders, even if they are fed-up by the government they have, they won’t be moved by the common cause if they feel threatened by those who are leading the “common cause” or if they feel there is nothing for them at the outcome of change. Instead they will fight for their rights and freedoms in their own way from their own cocoon. And if all the stakeholders are not on board united to fight the oppressive regime, regime change will remain just a distant dream; which is exactly what is happening today.

Therefore one can make a strong argument that the regime is still in business not because of the support it enjoys from the wider public, but due to the weakness of the opposition. The silent majority is silent not because of its support to the PFDJ regime, but for lack of viable alternative choice with a clearly defined message of hope that resonate with all ethnics and faiths.

As long as the opposition vision is blurred; and as long as the opposition is failing to adapt an all inclusive political strategy that will give the majority of the stakeholders an incentive to fight the regime united as one; and as long as the players in the opposition remain busy tearing each other apart and shooting themselves on the foot, the opposition will remain irrelevant until the regime falls on its own, and you can take that to the bank.

And these are the two main reasons that will lead to the demise of the regime without much effort from the opposition:

Reason #1. Isayas as a person, not only he is mortal but a frail man sitting in a quicksand. Many of his EPLF old comrades are dying in jail, many have fled to the West, and what is left of them are on diabetic medication and diet Hamli, dying by the hundreds from natural causes each calendar year. In the next decade and half the Gedli Generation will be endangered species.

Reason #2. The younger generation doesn’t have any love or respect for Isaias and his old men-club at the helm. They don’t share his grudge and resentment filled deep scars of the sixties, seventies and eighties. They utterly disdain PFDJ’s inflated “ብሳላና” ego and “መን ከማና” bravados. They don’t share PFDJ’s “Eritrea will be better off if everything is run by the government” type Socialistic Economic Philosophy. They are sick and tired of PFDJ’s “ዝምልከቶ ኣካል ኣሎ፡ ንዓኻ ዝምልከት ኣይኮነን” “that’s none of your business, there is designated authority in charge of it” kind of treatment to anyone who dared to suggest or dared to ask a simple question. They are new breed with a new vision in a new world. They have the number and the know how to chart their future. It is all about their life and their destiny. And it is their time to shine. They know it; and they are not going to ask permission from the ailing PFDJ bosses. These two factors alone would put an end to the Isaias era at any time.

But of course there are those who would beg to differ – yes there are those who would argue regime change in Eritrea is impossible because in Eritrea – there is No Face Book, No Twitter messaging, No access to Internet, No Free Media, No Educated Middle Class…. but a generation of cowed, confused, hopeless, spineless, defeated souls with no courage to fight.

Wow, since when did modern communication and networking become a requirement for regime change? As far as I know governments have been coming and going ever since the invention of government itself. It is true blogging; networking, free media, educated middle class…. are very important fighting tools, but they’re not the only fighting tools. They are only few fighting tools from a toolbox full of tools.

As to the “generation of defeated souls”, one could have made the same argument about the whole Arab World just days before the wide spread public Tsunami that’s rocking the region and beyond. But today, the “new Generation” bashers don’t seem to remember the three to four decades that took for the pressured intense steam of the Arab Young before it burst wide open the thick cylinder-wall of the pressure cooker.  

As in the Arab World, the pressured steam in Eritrea is boiling hot; the temperature is rising by the hour; and there is no relief-valve to control the internal pressure that is building up. Contrary to those who describe the new generation as a generation that “lacks resoluteness” the new generation has been defiantly applying pressure on the PFDJ regime for almost two decades. Due to the strong pressure from the public, the PFDJ regime has become very defensive and its support base is consistently dwindling down each passing day. Any idiot can see the difference between the 1991 public euphoria and today’s public defiance.

And this is ‘the process for change at work’, or simply this is Eritrean younger generation defiance – max exodus is rejecting status quo and it is defiance. Crossing the border knowing you could be killed at any time by the regime’s border patrol is defiance. Standing against PFDJ rules to practice your faith is defiance. Asking tough questions looking squarely in the eyes of PFDJ bosses in Sawa high school and elsewhere is defiance. Military AWOL (absence without official leave) is defiance. Not returning back home from business, educational, technical training or diplomatic mission…is defiance. Contempt to the regime is defiance. Writing, speaking-up, organizing against the regime is defiance. Refusing to pay 2% is defiance…. And it all requires courage; and it all comes with a price tag. And the young generation is defiantly paying a price with its precious time, treasure and lives. This is the process of change at work. This is public defiance rejecting the status quo. And with the public defiance and public rage escalating each passing day, the status quo is unsustainable. The regime will fall for certain.

But we have a problemWe are not thinking beyond today. We are not ready for regime change. The Isayas regime can collapse tomorrow morning; but what do we have in its place? Our problem will not end with the fall of the Isayas regime. Just hours after the fall of the Isaias regime, I assure you with 100% certainty, there will be many political organizations that would waste no time to declare their opposition to the new regime. Yes they will even pledge violence to topple the new regime.

So tell me, what is the wisdom of hollering, screaming, sweating and bleeding to topple this regime if we don’t even know what we getting after it? What is the wisdom of adopting “shoot first ask questions later principle to topple the regime? Don’t you think our problem is more than toppling the Isaias regime? Don’t you think we should spend more time challenging each other to reach some kind of consensus to adapt a General Framework for Post-Isaias government? I think so.

And that will lead us to the next argument – which organization is the “right organization” that could assume power after the demise of the PFDJ regime?

New Thinking #3

Every Political Party/Organization Represents Nobody But The Interest Of Its Narrow Constituents

No ethnic, faith or region is monolithic. No individual person, no ethnic/religious organization, no ideological party… could represent the whole Eritrean population. Therefore we have to accept the fact that, no single party/organization could assume power, govern and make us all happy. Forget about the whole population ELF never represented all its rank and file. If it would have represented all its fighters, the Tsere Gedlis (Alsewra Almedada), the “Religious Extremists” (Yemanawyan), the “BaAsists”, the “Falul (Alfewdowin)” the Rasai incident….wouldn’t have existed and ELF fighters wouldn’t have been labelled and punished for their dissenting views. ELF leaders wouldn’t have had to scar mentally and physically thousands of their fighters at Mogoraib and other prisons to “discipline” them.

And by the same token neither did EPLF. It is true the EPLF/PFDJ spin doctors would waste no time to tell us how visionaries they were; how they represented the whole nation; and how the camaraderie that existed between the EPLF fighters was more than ideal. But in reality EPLF represented neither the whole population nor its fighters. If it would have represented all its fighters, the MenkaE, the Yemin, the Mhurat Tebeletsti, Wegenawyan, Alyetawyan…would have felt at home at EPLF and fought with dignity and pride like the rest of their comrades. If EPLF was a democratic organization that was running its business with consensus and majority vote as the Higdefits would want us to believe, the constant spying on its fighters, the arbitrary arrest, the notorious “Halewa-Sewra which inflicted the loss of many lives and which permanently scared thousands of fighters for life wouldn’t have existed. And “disciplining” labelling and punishing those who dared to disagree with the EPLF leadership wouldn’t have been necessary. 

If the current PFDJ Eritrea was an Eritrea of One Nation, One Heart, One Beat (ሓደ ህዝቢ፡ ሓደ ልቢ፡ ሓንቲ ህርመት) the PFDJ regime wouldn’t have needed all these prison camps and thousands of Eritreans wouldn’t have been languishing in jail without having a chance to have day in court. Eritreans who voiced their opposition to the government peacefully wouldn’t have disappeared without any trace. We wouldn’t have witnessed the suffering and the unsustainable mass exodus of the young who are Eritrea’s future leaders and builders. Eritreans wouldn’t have been stopped and searched in every 15 – 20 km distance of their journey without any probable cause. Eritreans wouldn’t have been subjected to have permission slip to visit family members who are 15 – 20 Km away from them. And the bizarre list goes on and on and on.

Therefore, since the ethnic religious regional organizations, and national political parties that we have today can only have the confidence and can only represent the interest of their narrow constituents, nothing more, then what is the best way to achieve fundamental change that would assure us sustainable peace, stability and prosperity? And what is the best method of choice to achieve fundamental change? If your method of choice to achieve fundamental change is:

  1. A.     To bring change using violence
  2. B.     To trash the imperfect constitution that we have and replace it with another imperfect constitution
  3. C.     To criminalize and arrest “the dictator his close aids and entourage” to face           “justice”
  4. D.    To appoint your own judges and serve your own “justice”  

Then how is your regime change different from other African countries regime change that we have been witnessing for the last fifty + years? How could your use of violence to remove the dictatorial regime “for the good of the Nation” be any different from the ELF and EPLF 1970s and 1980s civil war to “Correct the Revolution – ምእራም ሰውራ”? If the civil war of the 1970’s and 1980’s to “correct the revolution” philosophy didn’t unite us as a people, what makes you think another civil war in the name of removing the dictatorial regime is going do the trick?

But of course there are those who argue, weather we use violent method, non-violent method or combination of both, it would still achieve the same ultimate objective.  But do all these methods achieve the same ultimate objective? Not really, and let me tell you why:

New Thinking #4

Our Method Of Choice To Remove The Regime Defines Our Ultimate Objective

Dead Canary in a coalmine is an expression of a warning signal for impending disaster. How did this idiomatic expression come about? Well, before the introduction of modern ventilation system in coalmines, miners were using canaries as an early detection device for poisonous gases. As long as their caged canary kept singing in their deep coal mines, the miners knew their air supply was safe from methane and carbon monoxide. But the minute their canary dropped dead, it meant there is poison in the air, so they had to leave the scene immediately before they face the same fate as their canary.

Like early coalmines, in Eritrean politics there are many canaries in a coalmine that serve as an early warning signal to different communities. Arabic language, land ownership, regime change, regional boundaries (zoning or districting), system of government (federal Vs centralized) are all loaded words with strong emotional connotation beyond their literal meaning. And they all serve as a canary in a coalmine for their respective communities. Even if it doesn’t bring an iota of change in their day to day life, Eritreans of all ethnics and faiths watch their canaries very closely. As long as their canary is singing, the respective communities will have a sense of comfort to sleep well. But the minute their canaries is dropped dead, the respective community would be consumed with fear and anxiety, believing something bad is in the making.

For example, for Eritrean Muslims Arabic language is a canary in a coalmine. As long as their Arabic language keeps singing equal to Tigrigna in all levels of Eritrean government businesses, Muslims of all ethnics will feel equal to their Tigrigna brothers even if they don’t know a word about the language itself. But the minute Arabic language is dropped dead from the government daily business Muslims would take it as a warning signal for bad things to follow: Tigrignanization of Muslims. That’s why they follow very closely the wellbeing of the Arabic language in the daily business of the Eritrean government.

Land ownership is also another canary in a coalmine. For some Muslims, it is ok for any Eritrean Muslin to live anywhere in Eritrea with no strings attached. Yes, it is ok for any Muslim to live anywhere in Eritrea and make a good use of the land to earn a living. But if a Christian from ethnic Tigrigna happens to move to the “God Given Muslim Land”, then it is a dead canary in a coalmine. They equate ethnic Tigrignas in “God Given Muslim Land” as Israelis in a Palestinian land. They call ethic Tigrignas who reside in “God Given Muslim Lands” as Settlers, Land Grabbers, Ethnic Fascists, ZerE-Shefatu…. who must be evicted by force. And they go to a great length to justify why the use of “God Given Muslim Land” by a Christian from ethnic Tigrigna is unjustifiable.

The concept of Regime Change in our politics is also another canary in a coalmine. But this canary is unique. The majority of Eritreans from all ethnics and faiths fully agree regime change is long overdue. But we all don’t seem to agree, what method to use to achieve regime change. Some prescribe violent-method while others prefer non-violent method. But for sure, in the process of regime change, we all have our own canary to warn us from “imminent danger”. Why are we having a problem on the method of choice for regime change? Well, because the method we use, precisely defines the type of change we have in mind. Yes we are all for change; but not for the same change.

Therefore, since you and I have a canary on this coalmine (post-Isaias Eritrea), and since you and I are advocating different methods to remove the regime, tell me at what level of gas exposure your canary would die to give you a signal for “imminent danger”, and I will tell you, your preferred method for regime change with absolute certainty.

So, tell me, when would your canary drop dead?

  1. A.     If Isaias Afewerki is removed from power.
  2. B.     A + if the PFDJ political-machine is outlawed + all top PFDJ leaders are arrested to face “justice”.
  3. C.     A + B + if ethnic Tigrigna is completely defeated and the “Tigrignanization” of Eritrea is reversed.
  4. D.    A + B + C + if all ethnic Tigrignas are kicked out from all “God given Muslim lands” and we are back at where we were in 1952.
  5. E.     After A + B + C + D my canary would sing and dance better than ever

Well, you got the idea.

As you can see, crying out loud for “Regime Change” in our politics is a very colourful loaded-word that serves organizations from different political spectrum to deliver their message wrapped in a safe and politically correct way to a mixed crowd. But it’s also very important to know our mixed crowd has different threshold for regime change. For those with the lowest threshold for regime change (A) (ንሱ ንሕና ፡ ንሕና ንሱ), the removal of Isaias alone signals a dead canary in a coalmine. But for those with the highest threshold for regime change (E), the fume of poisonous gas in the coalmine is so miniscule compared to what they are made to breath outside, their canary would sing and dance all the way to the top of the 1952 goalpost. Since they are not hearing any alarm bell ringing, their objective is to keep digging until they anchor their goalpost back where it was in 1952. And if that is where they are aiming to be, there is no way on heaven and earth they could reach that goalpost using non-violent method. And as they are promising us every single day, and for a good reason, bloody war is their only method of choice to get to the finish-line.

Therefore when you hear political organizations of all colours and stripes bickering far away from the theatre, whether to use violent or non-violent method to remove Isaias from power, keep in mind, it is not always a feud about the method of choice to topple The Man; it is all about their barely stated objective Post-The-Man.

Of course there is always an exception to the rule. There are those who would swear they could use violence to topple the regime using the goodwill of our cousins. And they swear they could re-arrange the seats of the furniture with a guaranteed net gain in “our” favour. They tell us the regime is so weak, a Blitzkrieg Joint Operation could be executed with lightning speed and surprise in such a way most people wouldn’t even know there was a Surgical Operation. They claim it would be short and swift with minimal pain to “us”. All we have to do is “trust our cousins” to do the right thing for us.

I suppose they are asking our cousins to help us because “we are incapable of doing things that are good for us”. Well, if “we are incapable of doing things that are good for us”, to get to the Capital, I wonder what makes them think “we would be able to do things that are good for us” after we get to the Capital? I guess however long it takes us “to do something good for ourselves” we have to trust our cousins and sit on their lap for quite some time. Well, that’s a plan alright.

Listen; there are about five million Eritreans in all. Out of these five million, about one million (20%) are outside the country. And those outside the country (20%) don’t dance to the same music; even if they do, Eritrean future can’t and shouldn’t be charted by these 20%. Real change should come and will come only from inside Eritrea; and people outside Eritrea should only be catalyst to the real change. So please let Eritreans inside Eritrea do what they are mandated to dochart their destiny, and let us be what we are supposed to becatalysts of change to lower the activation energy.

We can’t import good governance. Democratic governance can’t be imposed on sovereign people from outside powers. Democratic governance comes only from home grown alliance of regions, communities, institutions and political organizations by accommodating each other. People can only walk at their own pace; if it is going to take us another fifty years to walk the distance, then so be it.

Brain Transplant doesn’t work. Transplanted brain is prone to rejection by the body in an instant. Even if it is not rejected in an instant, it sure will be on life support at the mercy of its doctors. There is no record of a body with Brain Transplant walking and thinking straight on its own. If a body with a transplanted brain tries to assert its independence while surrounded by its doctors, it will get ultimatum from its doctors – shut-up and listen or we’ll pull the plug on you. And the choice is very obvious.

Governments go to other countries and shed their blood and waste their treasure only and only for one reason: for the best interest of their country. And they would do everything in their power to maximize their dividends. When you assume power by the goodwill of a foreign power, you are not in the best position to fight for the best interest of your country. Because you are too weak, too divided and too vulnerable to stand-up for the interest of your people; and those who brought you to power would do everything in their power to make sure you remain that way. That’s why we shouldn’t put our self in that predicament.

Always remember: our government is our problem. Regime change is our business. And there is only one way to do it right – our way, at our own pace, for our own best interest, by negotiating and accommodating each and every stakeholder.

New Thinking #5

We Can’t Have Peaceful Transfer Of Power Without Political Immunity  

Being an opposition is not about trashing the regime. It is not about magnifying the mistakes and misdeeds of the regime. It is not about running your mouth and poisoning the air so nobody can breathe fresh air. It is not about divisive politics of us vs them. Being a credible opposition is about a vision. It is about providing an alternative leadership. It is about building trust and building bridges between communities. It is about being a leader of all by earning the respect of all; yes even of those who disagree with you or even despise you. Or simply, it is all about the country and the people we love and care; even if we disagree.   

A true opposition is a responsible and disciplined opposition with a vision. The objective of an opposition is not to deny the accomplishments of the government in power; but to prove to the wider public we can do better than the current government. And the opposition that claims to do better than the current regime has the burden to prove its claim to the wider public by challenging the regime and its supporters by appearing in different media outlets and public meetings. The opposition has the burden to prove itself to public that it is different from the regime; and if given a chance to lead the nation, things will change for the better, not only for its base, but for all.

When we demand regime change, we are not asking too much. What we are asking is a stable government that practices peaceful transfer of power every few years, and a government that runs its business by building coalitions and creating alliances. We are not looking for a perfect political organization to lead us. Eritrea would be fine if it is led by any National Political Organization as long that organization is playing by the rules. We are not looking for a “perfect democracy”. Even if we are looking for one, we are not going to find one, because there is no such thing as perfect democracy or perfect political organization. What we are looking is to have a Stable Country so we can custom tailor our Eritrean democratic government one brick at a time. Not by tearing the one we have, not through radical change but through many reforms over a period of many centuries

In order to build an “imperfect” but still the best democratic government we could have, we have to accept the harsh reality of democracy – providing full Political Immunity and Security Guarantee to those who are passing the torch of power voluntarily. And this is the reason why:

  1. We can’t build Democratic Government and the institutions that support it without Political Stability.
  2. We can’t have Political Stability without Competing Ideas and Peaceful Transfer of Power.
  3. We can’t have competing ideas and peaceful transfer of power without providing Political Immunity and Security Guarantees to those who are conceding defeat and transferring power voluntarily.

Those who are in power today, after serving their country all their life, if the only choice they are given is “Leave the Country” (Arhal) or “Face a Firing Squad”, why would they give up power and leave the country they love without a good fight? When cornered, don’t people fight to their last breath? Is cornering the regime the best route?  When it comes to “crimes”, no matter which organization you pick, from the lowest lieutenants to the big bosses there is enough blame to go around. Don’t even try to go there. Let’s just cut our losses, leave everything to historians, accept each other as brothers and sisters and move on.

When you think about political immunity think beyond today, think beyond this regime. If you don’t straighten your act today, tomorrow you will be on their shoes and you would face the same fate. Therefore, when we say the opposition has the responsibility to give the right signals to assure those on the other side of the isle; when we say the opposition has the responsibility to provide Political Immunity and full Security Guarantees to all top PFDJ leaders and their families, and when we say the opposition has an obligation to respect the right of the PFDJ members to organize and compete for power like any political organization in the nation, it is not so much about defending Isaias and his PFDJ cronies, It is all about putting the interest of the nation first. It is about cutting our losses and moving forward. It is all about thinking beyond this regime. It is all about being pragmatic and responsible opposition.

And these are the pragmatic reasons why the opposition should stay away from violence and honour political immunity for all:

Reason #1. We can’t shoot everybody who made a “mistake” and build a nation. To build our own democratic government we have to start somewhere and work our way up. On this democratic process, it is very important to understand the process is, on the job training process. Therefore we have to accept as a given fact, that there would be many success stories and many setbacks. No matter who is leading the nation, we are going to make a lot of mistakes. And we can’t shoot everybody who made a questionable judgement or a mistake; especially if the questionable judgement or mistake was made before any Law was enacted.  We just can’t use today’s laws for last year’s crimes.

Reason #2. If regime change is achieved through violence, and if the “winners” keep their promise to serve their “justice”, the government that follows PFDJ will fail in no time; and these are the main reasons:

  1. There would be bloodshed, panic and mass migration that would negatively affect the Nation, the region and beyond. As if this humanitarian disaster isn’t bad enough, the damage to the infrastructure, the shortage of skilled workforce and the loss of capital investment would be catastrophic to the fragile Eritrean economy.  
  2. There will be Economic collapse in an instant. In PFDJs Eritrea there is no private business. The PFDJ government is the Phone Co. Water Co, Electric Co, Petroleum Co, Banking Co, Transportation Co, Farming Co. Construction Co, Manufacturing Co, Airline Co, Fishing Co, Import and Export Co, Retail store at the corner….or simply there is no private business. Everything is owned and operated by the PFDJ government. Every employed person is employed by the government. If and when the government collapses, not only everybody will be out of work but everything will be looted and what is left would be destroyed by those who “would lose” everything (power, status, dignity even their life). No one, I mean no one will defend the government property. And the economy will collapse completely in our own very eyes.
  3. The new government is going to inherit over 200,000 jobless, bitter, defeated, resentful Warsay-YkeAlo who wouldn’t take “things will be better tomorrow” for an answer.   

Now tell me, what government is going to survive this uphill battle? Do we have to destroy the country to make it “A Great Nation”? Do we have to destroy every government to have a “Good Government”? What if I don’t like your government; would I be justified to declare “violent regime change” hours after you assume power? When should this thing end? I suppose when you manage to sit on the driver seat; right? It’s a shame, it is irresponsible and it is Un-Eritrean if this looming disaster happened simply because the opposition chose to use violence as a method of choice for regime change. I’m not historian and I don’t pretend to be one; but allow me to say a word or two about South African Experience to make a point: yes what country fist means:

 Looking beyond their deep scars and wounds and thinking for the good of their Country and their People:

  1. Nelson Mandela and his ANC organization chose the route of Reforming The System without destroying a single institution, be private or government
  2. Nelson Mandela and his ANC organization not only they forgave the White South Africans who enslave them for generations but also they gave them all the assurances they want to hear plus  full security protection for their life and property
  3. Nelson Mandela and his ANC organization gave political immunity and full security protection for all the top White South African politicians, the police and security agents, the defence forces  and all the White bureaucrats who were instrumental to the racist Apartheid Government
  4. Nelson Mandela and his ANC organization included White South Africans in their government to govern their country

Why? Because they didn’t want to create panic; because they didn’t want to lose capital investment and skilled work force; because they didn’t want reprisal and lawlessness to reign; because they want to create confidence to the  psychology of the market and to the business speculators to avoid panic.

And you are telling me – ”The starting point is that: No compromise – No reconciliation and No place for the dictator and his close aids and entourage in future Eritrea….”. Wow. But of course there is no shortage of people who would say, life under PFDJ government is worst than life under South African Apartheid government. Well, I’ll let you be the judge on that one.

Final note: you (the opposition) are telling us you are different from EPLF/PFDJ; and if given a chance to govern the country, you would run it differently and we all would be better off as a people. Taking your word at face value, one would think everything that you do would be different from that of the EPLF/PFDJ. But is that the case? I’m afraid not.

Holding tight to your chest the EPLF/PFDJ playbook, you are busy learning the ropes to master the art of ethnic, regional and religious bogeyman politics, hoping one day to do exactly what they did to you.  You are doing everything in your power (including using TPLF) to defeat the PFDJ regime by the barrel of a gun exactly like what they did to you. You are promising us after you defeat the PFDJ regime you will serve your “justice” to “the dictator and his close aids and entourage” who ended up in your custody, exactly like what they did to you. You are promising us whoever didn’t end-up in your custody, will be driven out of the country never to come back unless he/she wants to face your “justice”, exactly like what they did to you.  You are promising us you will rewrite “our history” and you will outlaw the PFDJ organization; exactly like what they did to you.  And you are telling us you are completely different from them. I wonder what you would have done and said differently if you were exactly like them. 

 ርሑስ ልደት – ኣንቲ ሓላል መሬት።
ሽግር ጸሓዪ ውሕጅ’ዩሞ – ጽንዓት ይሃብካ ኣንታ ለዋህ ህዝቢ።


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