On The Eve Of The National Conference

What do a Holocaust survivor, one who bore witness to human savagery at its worst and a Neo-Nazi skinhead who could hardly spell the name on his welfare cheque have in common? What could there possibly be to even suggest an inkling of commonality between such two individuals with the most contrasting set of values one could ever imagine?       


They both call America home. That’s right; they share a common citizenship of their country for whatever it is worth. A citizenship, which comes with a set of inalienable individual & group rights & responsibilities, thus enabling them both to live together in relative peace and security. 


They don’t have to like each other – and literally, they don’t. They may epitomise each other’s perception of what constitutes “absolute evil”, but to theirs and their likes, they would surely represent a bundle of joy. That’s why unlike the arrogant fools or the conniving bigots in our midst (take your pick), they don’t strive to indulge in hollow sloganeering of hade hzbi hade libi, simply because they know that it would be an utter lie.     


This way, despite being worlds apart in every aspect of their outlooks towards life and beyond, neither of them is less of a citizen than the other. They are both equal citizens of one and the same nation. It is a guaranteed right. And mind you, this right can not be guaranteed through wishful thinking, sloganeering or sweet talk of some sort. It can not be guaranteed through arm’s length agreements or backroom deals between interest groups or even governments – which by the way, in any democratic setting are nothing but passing administrations.  


The right to equal citizenship without qualification or defalcation of any kind can only be guaranteed through a covenant (constitution), which all the stake-holders of a nation enter into as the basis for the rule of law. This is how civilized nations in the World manage their diversity, thereby creating relative peace and security for the proverbial – the good, the bad and the ugly. And mind you, the adjectives here are not constant – they trade places freely depending on who is playing the judge. There is only one constant though – the rule of law, which applies equally to all. 


How hard is this for us Eritreans to grasp? Why have we been going in circles for almost twenty years now, unable or perhaps even unwilling at times, to dust off a bloody regime that has long been dead & rotten?  


Depending on who you ask, there could be a slew of reasons, justifications, endless arguments and counter-arguments which would be cited as the main culprits for this crippling and devastating malaise. However, if we look a little bit deeper into our predicament, we would find that throughout our short and restless history, there is one factor that has always been used as the deadliest tool of them all, the mother of all control tactics, if you will – fear-mongering. 


Fear-mongering was used effectively by the Ethiopians and their allies in the forties and fifties to pitch one segment of our society against the other. In the end, the Ethiopians didn’t even have to fight to take over Eritrea. The fools, those who succumb easily to fear-mongering had to do the fighting for them. What followed in the ensuing thirty or so years was a meticulous & systematic genocide committed against a peaceful and defenceless civilian population. The fools didn’t realize their blunders, a dark moment in our history, until it was too late – way too late.   


As Eritreans managed to rise up from the ashes and started to fight valiantly against occupation, fear-mongering was at full swing once again. The global cold-war politics of the sixties dictated that the Eritrean revolution be contained or at least closely controlled, lest it culminate in a victory, which would in turn pose a  geo-political setback for the interests of a certain Super power.  


The CIA’s choice for the task was none other than a sick and disturbed mole by the name of Issaias Afwerki. He was well primed for the job like no other, thanks for the most part, to his deep-rooted grudges against one segment of our society in particular, the Muslims. He embarked early on, on a mission to thwart the Eritrean revolution, which was progressive and national in nature, and to steer it into a manageable and closely-knit cabal espousing a clandestine sectarian agenda.  


Again, this mole’s preferred tool of choice for his infamous mission throughout the years was the same old, but deadly tactic of – yes you guessed it – fear-mongering. It may have been an old trick, but he certainly took it up a notch. He garnered the unequivocal support of the fools among us just by scaring them cold into believing the carnage which would befall them at the hands of Muslims & Lowlanders, if they weren’t always at the helms of power, however illegal and autocratic that power may be. He killed, he maimed and he destroyed lives like never before and the fools just kept looking the other way. 


He systematically targeted Muslims and Lowlanders and destroyed everything they stood for, expropriated their lands, turned them into second-class citizens or eternal refugees condemned to perish in exile. The fools kept saying “hade hzbi hade lbi” and ostensibly turned him into a cause célèbre, but to their utter shock, one who would soon devour the whole nation and not just the targeted groups. 


Again, it is sad to say, but the fools didn’t realize their blunders, yet another dark moment in our history, until it was too late – way too late. 


All one has to do to see what fear-mongering could do to a people, is simply to have a look at what has become of Eritrea. A broken, defeated and humiliated nation wallowing in a sea of gruesome misery. A nation of slow painful deaths, tortures, wanton incarcerations, flagrant abuses, hunger, rampant corruption and so on. It sadly epitomizes what could be described as sheer hell on earth, so much so that it’s young and old alike, risk all the deadly perils one could ever imagine, just to get as far away from it as possible.           


Unfortunately, today just like yesterday, fear-mongering plays a big role in weakening the opposition to the bloody PFDJ regime. Talk about not learning a scant from History.    


And the worst part is that, some of today’s fear-mongers actually call themselves “opposition groups/parties” however strange that may sound. They preach for unity, inclusiveness & democracy, albeit all in the abstract – yet when Eritreans want to get together and have a national dialogue, which in essence is the cornerstone of democracy; they just go berserk. This, if you can believe it not, at a time when they are supposed to be at forefront of such an endeavour and not becoming an impediment to it. 


The NCDC which will begin its sessions in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa sometime this week, is perhaps one of the most promising political gatherings of Eritreans aimed at dislodging the PFDJ regime. It is promising for three specific reasons, among other things:- 


First, contrary to what the fear-mongers and detractors say, the process which led to the upcoming convening of the NCDC is by far one of the most democratic processes ever conducted in the Eritrean political arena. The town-hall-type meetings, the transparent, open & healthy debates, the informative briefings & interviews given by all the members of the preparatory committee (PCNC), all attest to the democratic nature of the entire endeavour. This process alone lasted for seven long months – not an overnight project by any stretch of the imagination.  


It is strange that the fear-mongers found seven months to be too short of a notice and used it as a blatant excuse not to attend a national Eritrean gathering. For the daily pain and misery which Eritreans go through as helpless victims inside the country and as vulnerable destitute refugees in many hostile & danger zones throughout the World  – a mere seven days delay equates to a life time in hell, let alone seven long months. But alas, as the Egyptian saying goes “al’Edu fi’nar m’sh zay al’Edu fil’maya”.              


Secondly, the inclusive nature of the conference, where all the stakeholders get to have a voice and be heard is by all accounts, a precedent setting gathering. It will undoubtedly have a much wider acceptance among the general public, whom it intends to empower.  


Whereas in the past most of the conferences held were either partisan, both in theme and scope or outright exclusionary, which serve no purpose other than photo ops, the NCDC has a grass roots feel to it – a real promising event which the exclusionists will find very hard to ignore in future meetings and events.  


For now, all the exclusionists are busy with is unleashing their usual fear-mongering, again targeting one segment of our society  by hood-winking it into believing that the gathering is a plot by Muslim and ethnic organizations aimed at destroying it. To their dismay though, Eitreans from all walks of life, with diverse ethnic, religious and political backgrounds & persuasions, are flocking the NCDC venue to have a say on the destiny of their nation. Those who opted out of the national gathering on the grounds of flimsy excuses (cynical cover for a culture of entitlement) should be the last ones to squawk about the NCDC process or to disparage the attendees in whole or in part. As they say, you can’t have you cake and eat it too.     


And thirdly, unlike previous meetings and conferences, the NCDC is unique in that it makes a clear reference to laying out a framework to stabilize the country in the aftermath of an immediate/sudden downfall of the PFDJ regime.  


This is very important because creating an alternative provisional administration, like a government-in-exile for example, has long been the most crucial ingredient which was missing in the struggle against the PFDJ regime. It will definitely speed up the dusting-off process, especially if such an administration is all-encompassing in its make-up and composition, and also is reflective of the country’s diversity.  


The lack of such an alternative administration was actually one of the major reasons that discouraged many organizations which were capable of cutting the life out of the PFDJ regime in a flash, from doing so in the past. Instead, these organizations were confined to adopting a strategy of chipping on  the regime’s powerbases bit by bit – a long and arduous strategy which requires a lot of logistical and manpower commitments; of course this, beside being too costly to everyday ordinary Eritreans.    


Also, the fear-mongers, those who claim exclusive entitlement to power have long used the lack of an alternative administration as a scare-crow to show what would happen if the PFDJ regime was overthrown by force. According to them, it would mean a power-vacuum, thus resulting in chaos and anarchy.  


And mind you, this fits perfectly with their scare tactics, as they do not believe in being part of a whole, but rather a whole (exclusive) on their own. That’s why they scoff at the mere mention of establishing a government in exile and fight it tooth and nail. That’s why they also keep bashing EDA relentlessly so that it doesn’t succeed in adopting even the remotest semblance of an interim administration. 


So if the NCDC succeeds in setting up some sort of an interim administration, not only will that encourage those who want to topple the regime immediately, but it will also provide a much needed antidote for the scare-mongering tactics of the exclusionists.   


In the meantime, where the NCDC succeeded before it even began its work is in the tone and the standards it set for what constitutes a true national conference –   


  • It chose a democratic selection process for participants (participatory democracy at play)


  • It chose an inclusive approach to bring all stake-holders on board ( no one is less of a citizen than another)  


  • It chose absolute transparency over secrecy and back-room deals ( no opposition politicians/activists in recent memory ever availed themselves so much to the public as did the PCNC members, who so tirelessly and diligently criss-crossed the entire Globe)




These are all firsts in the Eritrean political arena and regardless of the outcome of the conference, will be highly regarded as successful efforts worthy of our profound gratitude and appreciation.      


As for the conference itself, it is important that all pertinent issues get tackled with the same resolve and perseverance which led to its convening. It is important that no issues be left out and that no resolutions get watered down just to appease those who unsuccessfully tried to block its convening, and who eventually ended up boycotting it on flimsy grounds. To do so would be tantamount to sending the wrong signals to the general public that this is yet another “b’Awet tezazimu” fracas.   


It is hoped and expected that time will be of the essence for this conference and that the plights of our people both inside the country and in the Diaspora will be given the urgent attentions they deserve. Our sense of urgency must never be compromised for the sake of some abstract ideological sloganeering. No one is looking for a Utopia – all our people are asking for is some human dignity. (Adikhum tezemitu, hzbikhum hasiru hi’jis ye’akl )   


It is also hoped and expected that the delegates exercise their full rights as mandated to  them by their respective constituents and that they don’t defer any motions which they would like to bring to the forum on the assumption that it has to be pre-approved by some higher authority. No one is missing from the conference except for the PFDJ, for obvious reasons and one opposition party, on its own volition. The national conference has a full legitimacy to tackle and address any issues of national interest.      




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