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Political Pluralism Eritrean Style

Somewhere in Northern Eritrea, by the islands of Scylla, Isaias Afwerki was crowned Emperor of Eritrea. He flew over to Southern Eritrea, by the banks of River Charybdis, to swear in the president, also named Isaias Afwerki. The emperor and the president have complete separation of powers: the president, as head of government, runs the country; while the Emperor, as head of state, makes occasional appearances on State TV mostly to praise the president and occasionally harshly criticize the head of government and his cabinet. Of course, it is one and the same guy but having an Emperor criticizing a President and his government, but being powerless to do anything about firing him, is Eritrea’s version of divided government, our form of political pluralism–ብዙሕነት! This year, the Emperor criticized the President’s handling of Eritrea’s “national service” policy and his 1997 embrace of a naive constitution. That’s what Al Nahda will focus on and, note in passing, the strange bedfellows the Eritrean opposition make with the Emperor and… what exactly is Isaiasism anyway?


In prior end-of-year interviews, Emperor Isaias Afwerki had severely criticized President Isaias Afwerki’s execution of the nation’s education policies; pace of national development particularly in Western Eritrea; lack of exploitation of fisheries and the president’s overall naiveté on foreign relations.

A not inconsiderable number of Eritreans are sympathetic to the poor emperor because he just doesn’t have colleagues and subordinates who operate at his superior level– መሳርሕቲ እንድዩ ስኢኑ!

This year, the Emperor was asked 11 questions: four of the questions dealt with Eritrea’s place in the World (global, regional); three dealt with Eritrea’s human resources (the youth in National Service; the old in People’s Army; building capacity); two with governing style and vision (President Isaias Afwerki’s onsite management, and his 3-5 year vision for Eritrea); and one dealt with restraining the power of the government (the death sentence on the 1997 constitution and the one presumably replacing it): one was the usual Western Union question (any messages you want to pass on?) Because of the rambling nature of his communication style, it is next to impossible to summarize what the Emperor says (even his official website, shabait, always manages to screw it up.) A better alternative might be to provide a glimpse into Isaiasism or his worldview.

Isaiasism: The World According To Emperor Isaias Afwerki

Isaias Afwerki, World Citizen, is angry at the unjustness of the World Order and its undisputed boss, the United States Administration, and determined to do something about this anger! He is angrier and more determined to do something about the unjustness of the World Order than most Eritreans are about the unjustness of Eritrean Order and its undisputed boss.

Isaias Afwerki sees the world and he sees one that is divided between the haves and have-nots; between the fortunate and unfortunate; between those given opportunities and those denied. It is a world without social justice or economic justice. This, he knows, is not new: it is as old as history itself: the only difference being that the polarization now is extreme. The United States is on the side of the 1% against the 99%–including within its own territories—and, in Africa, it has designated regional musclemen to enforce its unjust vision.

This is pretty conventional view, one that many Eritreans would agree with His Excellency (and discuss in coffee shops all over the world), but this is where things get interesting: Eritrea will stand, even if it has to stand alone, to defy this hegemony. Really? Apparently. Why would we do something that is clearly suicidal? Because we did it for 30 years during the Armed Struggle. But at what price? Well, nothing is free: we will pay for it, and targeting Eritrea with policies designed to empty it out of its productive youth is one manifestation; the 2009 sanctions against Eritrea are one such manifestation.

You accept this worldview, and you accept Eritrea’s “specialness” to defy it, and the World’s (US/UN/EU and their “servants”) determination to bring Eritrea in line by waging all sorts of war (psychological, economic, military), then everything falls right in place. The tens of thousands of Eritreans who have been made to disappear in Eritrean prisons? They took sides in this “war” against Eritrea and they lost. Ethiopia’s occasional declaration that if there is any act of terrorism against it, it will go after the source in Eritrea? It is just trying to make the case to a weary UN that the sanctions against Eritrea should remain in place. The massive exile of Eritreans? Targeted by enemies. Eritrea’s diplomatic isolation? What isolation: we have excellent relationship in the region, except Ethiopia and those temporarily misled by Ethiopia.

Justice, to Isaias Afwerki, means equality. Even if it is equality in misery. The old people had to see their harvest ruined because President Isaias Afwerki sent them for military drills? The Emperor is fine with this: why should only those who have been in the front lines for 15 years[1] be the sole citizens to be in the frontlines? Are they cursed? But emperor: there is no electricity in Asmara and it is our capital city? So! There are places in Eritrea that have no running water.

Work is its own reward. Don’t expect Emperor Isaias Afwerki to give you happy lullabies of better days ahead. Well, sure, occasionally he will say that we have shifted to a higher gear, or next year is our transition year, the take off year, but mostly it is a message of austerity. These are the Sacrifice Years. The Investment Years. For Decades, maybe. Don’t be asking Emperor Isaias Afwerki about three year plans and five year visions: don’t ask him about gold dividends and compensations and pensions. He literally has to be in the time and the space to see things: ኣነ ካብ ክዉንነት ርሒቁ ክሓስብ ዝክእል ሓንጎል የብለይን. He, unlike you, lives in the Real World—one where he had to spend over 200 million dollars to import fuel for your damn tractors, you ingrates!

The Problem With Isaiasism

As with all “isms”, Isaiasim suffers from the same things all ideologies do: rigidity. An ideology is a “system of ideas, whether consciously organized or not which explains various aspects of life, justifies the social structure, and provides a ready-made meaning for human existence.”[2] Ideologues see the world from an “us vs them” prism and everything that doesn’t neatly fit this divide is either ignored as an anomaly or disfigured to fit into either polarity.

Isaiasism has an extreme interpretation of ክዉንነት (reality), so austere and so selective about what it chooses to see, it verges on the delusional. As mentioned, of the 11 questions asked, three deal with Human Resources issues, and that’s where the focus of this article will be—as it exemplifies what happens to a country that has power concentrated so much in one man that he finds it necessary to split himself into two personalities: an emperor and a president.

The interviewer asks his boss: “…do we have the human and material resources to deliver on all the big projects you have outlined?” Isaias Afwerki’s answer on how to leverage human resources is the kind that would make any management consultant proud…until you consider one stunning statistic that the president completely ignores. Let me paraphrase what he is saying; but if you want to go to the source, I have chopped the video (it is 6 minutes long)[3]

“How do you develop human resources? You motivate and train people. They aquire skills, knowledge and, over time, experience. You add technology and you set a standard for excellence: a system that demands high quality from productive people. This creates, over time, a snowball effect. You build capacity based on quality and productivity of people: but you must be able to sustain the momentum. Don’t be fooled by what you see among the idle: this is actually happening; if you want to see the whole picture, take a look at the quality of life of people in the cities and rural area, the productive sector of our society that is making qualitative change, measured in size…is making dynamic change and that is great wealth.”

Now, let’s consider this piece of crucial data that the Emperor left out from his analysis.

Since 2004, the Sawa High School Completion School has been graduating, on average, about 30,000 students per year and sitting them for the College Entrance Exam. Of these, about 10% or 3,000, get good enough grades to be admitted to an academic college. Another 1,000 qualify for diploma/certificate (vocational) schools. The rest, 26,000 youth, are immediately absorbed into the National Service.

alnahda-tableLet’s analyze each number to test the validity that over time there has been a “snowball effect” and capacity building:

  1. Those who are admitted to academic colleges and vocational schools will have one employer waiting for them: the government. This is because there is no private sector in Eritrea. And since the government is a terrible employer—low wages, low working conditions, no workers rights–they will be plotting and scheming to get out of the country and they have been.
  2. Those who are recruited to military service, the 26,000 per year, immediately realize that this is a dead-end because what awaits them after the military service is back-breaking work for low wages, low working conditions, (unsafe) and, again, no worker’s rights: no power to organize and demand rights–indefinitely. Just be a drone until you die. They will be plotting and scheming to get out of the country, and they have been.
  3. Over time, the distinction between those who have good enough grades to be admitted to college and those who don’t has become so meaningless that Eritrean youth are leaving the country BEFORE they even get their test results (which are announced in September, the beginning of the school year.) Refer to Gedab News on the story of Henok Mengesteab and Samuel Yonas, part of the 13 youth who were gunned down as they were attempting to leave the country in September BEFORE they even learned what their grades were.
  4. Even more disturbingly, for a country that wants to see gender-equality, because education is now seen as militarization followed by a dead-end career, female youth consider marriage-after-high-school as having higher potential than career-after-high-school.
  5. This DOES have a “snowball effect”, but not in the manner Isaias Afwerki intends. If people see secondary education as useless, they are also likely to see primary education as useless. According to the 2014 MDG Africa report, Eritrea is one of four countries (the others being all war-torn), who have actually seen a worsening of the gender gap at the primary education level.
  6. More “snowball effect”: as junior students and even elementary students (!) come to realize that their older brothers and sisters see no hope and no future in the country, they start escaping from the country at shockingly younger and younger ages.

The armed forces can’t absorb that many people (unless we want a million-man army) so, the youth who haven’t left the country have decided to demobilize themselves and refuse to enlist. In the interview, Isaias Afwerki concedes (casually) that a “not insignificant number” of Eritrean youth are just wasting away their lives in the streets and have been for years! Where will they go to get their lives back? And therefore, what will be done about it? Nothing. Nothing will change.

Why? Because Isaiasism says that all other options are worse: you can’t have a private sector that employs them because this widens the polarization between the Haves and Have Nots. You can’t have a professional army of volunteers because that widens the polarization between the army and the civilian. You can’t have an orderly exit-visa process because that widens the polarization between those with opportunities and those without. And if the employable, the professional army and those who will get entry visas to foreign lands are disproportionately urban-dwellers, Christians, highlanders, why then that must be avoided at all cost so we will just have national atrophy instead! Or worse, we will force them to take extreme measures to leave the nation in alarming rates, which we will then blame on foreigners.

Isaiasim also doesn’t consider the generational divide and the attitude of globalization on Millennials. In fact, in the interview, Isaias says he doesn’t even believe the concept of globalization by which he means, I think, that its impact is overstated. I don’t understand this because those of Isaias’s generation, now in their 60s and 70s, know that when they were in their 20s, the possibility of moving to distant lands—Europe, Americas—was remote. Now, it is commonplace.

The problem with Isaias is that his “realism” is based on a rigid doctrine: he is an ideologue. This observation was made by one the most astute observers of Eritrea, Robert D. Kaplan, who wrote[4] this about him in 2003:

I worried that Afewerki, like many other realists, is obsessed with everything that could go wrong in his country rather than with what could go right. True realism requires a dose of idealism and optimism, or else policy becomes immobilized. And that might be Afewerki’s problem. He seemed more comfortable when I first met him, in a state of wartime emergency, than he does now, in a state of peacetime possibility. He analyzes brilliantly what he knows, but he gives in to paranoia about what he doesn’t know. He did not seem to understand that U.S. foreign policy is often a synthesis of what the State and Defense Departments are comfortable with, and that therefore Foggy Bottom alone cannot be blamed for Eritrea’s image problems in the United States.

Strange Bedfellows: Isaias Afwerki & The Opposition

As he promised in his May 24, 2014 address, Isaias Afwerki is killing the 1997 Ratified constitution. For a long time, he had calculated that he can say that the ratified constitution has no implementation date and therefore it doesn’t exist. To those of us who used to call for a legal means to suspend the constitution by having the National Assembly declare a State of Emergency (ሕጂ እንታይ ይብሉ ኣለዉ ኻልእ ነገር እዩ, he says), he has an answer: well, declared or not, we were in a state of emergency. Now he has closed the final loophole and said tgushtetey (my bad!) it doesn’t exist. Gegezakhum Khidu: Hawi Agwagudu… But what kind of Hawi?

Besides, it is not that he hadn’t given us his rationale for it two years ago. Through his two spokespersons, Asamnew Ewnetun and Aradom Fedai Haqi[5], he said that he had changed:

“It is inconceivable that the personality of a leader, especially a young revolutionary leader, will remain unchanged for decades in spite of inexorable changes, problems and ordeals that are integral components of any revolutionary struggle. His training in revolutionary theory must have molded practice, but experience too must have molded theory. To this are added the vagaries and vicissitudes of struggle as well as relations between, and within, parties and groups. This will have had impacts not only on the development of skills but also on his character.”

To put it bluntly, the 1997 Constitution was drafted between 1995 and 1996, when President Isaias Afwerki was one of the African Renaissance Leaders, according to the US. It takes twenty years to understand what a New World Order looks like, he explains: the one we are in, the Unipolar World, took shape in 1989 and Isaias Afwerki learned from “the vagaries and vicissitudes of struggle as well as relations between, and within, parties and groups” that he doesn’t quite like the New World Order. Their opinion of me has changed; and my opinion of them has changed so now I have to purge everything and everyone that is in their good graces.

This, to me, is an Opposition Story and not an Isaias Afwerki Story. Isaias Afwerki did what he had to do—kill the one document that could have made him accountable to the Eritrean people for all the crimes committed by his regime since 1997.The fight against Isaias Afwerki is on three grounds: (1) Moral: what the Isaias Afwerki regime is doing is not morally RIGHT; it is morally WRONG; (2) Administrative: what the Isaias Afwerki regime does is not WORKING; (3) Legal: what the Isaias Afwerki regime is doing is extra-legal or illegal.

The Isaias Afwerki regime has rebuttals on the Moral Argument: who gave you the moral authority to decide what is right or wrong? I have the moral authorities (Patriarch and Muftis) on my side, blessing what I do. I have taken a few people’s freedoms to make a lot more people safe. The moral arguments that the secular institutions make—the same ones that send drones to children—are invalid. It also has a rebuttal for the administrative arguments: yes, what we are doing is working: refer to Health Millennium Development Goals. But it was tongue-tied on the legal argument particularly on the state of the 1997 Constitution. Now it has an answer: we are between constitutions. It is a pending issue!

Most in the Eritrean opposition have denied themselves the potency of the 1997 Ratified Constitution for reasons I consider short-sighted. The arguments they make can be broadly grouped into two categories: (a) the constitution always lacked legitimacy because it was not written by authors with popular mandate; (b) the constitution was fatally-flawed by design and could never be considered a fair formula for harmonious co-existence and treating all stake-holders equally. Let’s take each one.

The legitimacy argument is as follows: in 1994, the transitional government of Eritrea unilaterally authorized the setting up of the Constitutional Commission of Eritrea (CCE). The transitional government of Eritrea selected the chair of the commission, it green-lighted and/or rejected who should be/shouldn’t be on the Constitutional Commission of Eritrea. Having totally controlled the input, it was guaranteed that the output would be exactly what it wanted: one that reflects its (EPLF) values.

Let’s look at this claim critically. WHO authorized the Executive Committee of the CCE? It was the EPLF and not the PFDJ (for those who like to make distinctions between the two.) WHO suggested the names of who should be in the Executive Committee? It was Dr. Bereket Habteselasse, with Isaias Afwerki having the final say (he vetoed only two names.) WHO are the executives of the CCE and what’s their background? Azien Yassin,formerly with the ELF Executive Committee, was the Vice Chairman; Zemehret Yohannes, PFDJ Cultural Affairs Director, and formerly with the ELF/Saghem, was the Secretary of the Commission. Members included Dr. Amare Tekle, who oversaw the referendum commission; Mr. Idris Gelawdios, one of the founders of the ELF, then living Cairo, lawyer by training; Dr. Seyoum Haregot, then with the UNDP; Ms. Amna Naib, then with Eritrean Ministry of Justice; Ms. Zahra Jaber, Mr. Paulos Tesfagiorgis, then a lecturer of law at Asmara University; and Mr. Musa Naib, who studied law in Addis Ababa in 1970s and was then the Advocate General.

Do all these people have EPLF background and EPLF “values”? They were chosen because they were (a) as close as we could get to experts; (b) as diverse as we could get given than one party, the EPLF, then had an almost universal support by Eritreans.

And what are “EPLF values” anyway? Are they those that came to be expressed in the PFDJ National Charter of 1994—which envisioned a “guided democracy” approach—or were they those expressed at the last congress of EPLF in 1987—which envisioned civil liberties and political pluralism? They were both. And the constitutional commission of Eritrea was dynamic in that it was a pull-and-push from both corners.

For every example one can give that the constitution was the PFDJ 1994 values, one can find EPLF 1987 values. For example, as part of the process of ensuring that there would be as wide and as informed discussion as possible, the CCE translated the UN Declaration of Human Rights into local languages. Is that an EPLF 1987 value or a PFDJ 1994 value? Are the civil liberties outlined in the constitution a PFDJ value? Are term limits for the president a PFDJ value?

All the controversial issues that the CCE tackled can either fall in the ELF vs EPLF disagreement basket (flag, language) or the Europe vs America basket (presidential or parliamentary systems.)

From the ELF-EPLF value system argument, one either believes Dr. Bereket Habteselasse or one doesn’t. Dr. Bereket says[6] that (a) none of the former ELF-members in the CCE ever raised the issue of the Eritrean flag being the one determined in the PFDJ Congress of 1994; (b) the official language issue was the most contentious and “I repeat that there is no evidence to prove that the majority of the people wanted Arabic/and Tigrigna to be official languages… The convergence of CCE’s approach and the official position of the EPLF on this issue may lead some to believe that this was dictated by the EPLF. It was not.”

From the North America vs Europe preferences on systems, a hybrid system was created. On the land issue, where a Development State has total ownership of all land and gives usufruct rights to villagers, this is so commonplace and conventional in Africa, its hard to understand why the outrage manufacturing machine is on overdrive.

None of these articles make the constitution fatally-flawed. They are all good arguments for amendment. The problem is that those who propose esoteric and retroactive ideas know that they can never get the popular mandate to make the changes so what they want is to reset, to reboot, to start from scratch.

The argument for the 1997 Constitution is not that it is perfect; it certainly is not. The argument for the 1997 Constitution is that it is one more tool in our toolkit to rally people for change. For some, morality—right vs wrong—is enough; but it may not be adequate to convince people who believe that what we in the opposition consider wrong is a  necessary evil. For some, governance—correct vs incorrect administration—is enough; but that is a judgment call, a debit-and-credit accounting system where reduction of infant mortality and maternal mortality and a paved road and agro business may sway people.

But the law is the law, and no government can say that it is breaking the law—it can only say the law doesn’t exist. And, ironically, many in the opposition who make the argument that the constitution is fatally flawed are making the same argument Isaias Afwerki is making. If Isaias Afwerki finds it necessary to split his personality as an answer to the people’s craving for pluralism, the Opposition finds it necessary to avoid making the necessary compromises to converge on clearly beneficial issues—as “a matter of principle.” Ok, fine. But now, those having their schadenfreude[7] party and those who dismiss the document still have to come up with a unified strategy—the how—of change. Those of us who believe that the 1997 Constitution is binding contract between the people and the government should not give up the argument; we should actually argue that one man cannot unilaterally abrogate it—which is the same argument that We the People made against Emperor Haile Selassie.


[1] We are saying “15 years” because that’s when Anthony Lake, the future assassination conspirator, was named Envoy to Eritrea.
[2] Chapter 12
[3] Tubechop
A Tale Of Two Colonies
[5] Reviewing The Reviewer
[6] An Interview With Principal Drafter Of Eritrean Constitution
German for “harm-joy”: getting pleasure from the misfortune of others.

About Saleh Younis

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  • Elenta
  • AOsman

    Bumped on this youtube lecture…may be relevant analysis as it deals with future potential calculations on Eritrea

  • Hope

    Hello All,
    Can we learn something from the following ,please?
    “On January 10 – 11, 2015 the Eritrean Americans civic organizations in Denver, where able to join the National Council of Eritrean Americans together with the others 42 cities in the US by conducting a full day
    workshop consisted of thought provoking presentations and productive group discussions to address challenges and looking ahead through a Common National Vision on the current situation and collective understanding as the tackle on the necessity, objectives, and structures of the NCEA by seating plan for 2015 within a three panel discussion”.

    “The work shop was attended by PFDJ, YPFDJ, NUEW and PFDJ-II of Denver, Colorado as they gathered and the theme of – Harmony in Vision, Vanguard in Action– were they participated actively in the workshop led by special guest Ms. Hadnet Keleta.”
    Source: Madote.Com

  • haileTG

    Selamat saay.

    your interview analysis is great (about time:-). I have two questions on the constitution (notwithstanding that the dictator’s action must be condemned):

    1) Can an unimplemented constitution be invoked for legal challenge? If yes, has it ever been done in the last 15 years and all the violations of HR that transpired?

    2) Do you really believe the constitution would rally the people? After all that happened, I feel that those who would oppose are opposing and those who would never oppose, support or remain silent will do that to the bitter end (i.e. in the diaspora). Inside Eritrea, the situation is different and it appears it would be the straw that broke the camel’s back case. If 500 Eritreans would sink in the sea tomorrow, could you say confidently it would change the behavior of those supporting? Is there anything worse that they could see to figure it out? If a father would just bury his three daughters and retreat to silence, isn’t this a frightening situation the nation is going through? How would a constitution would rally a people who are frozen and numbed by daily barrage of tragic news?

    Those who consider the constitution an important battleground, they should be encouraged and their stand respected. As they are part of the opposition. However, the expectations made on its impact may not be well adjusted to the current times.

    The dictator’s illegal act has indeed buried the last vestige of EPLF, but it has taken this long to get to this point. Where he has reduced them to walking ghosts with no real power in the real world. The problem is that the youth aren’t well connected and sympathetic to the old ELF/EPLF politics and as far as they are concerned, there was never any constitution they could ever have recourse as they watched their lives destroyed with impunity.

    I think it would be a tough call to expect it to galvanize the public (albeit I answered my Q 🙂


    • Amanuel Hidrat


      Our friend Saay hasn’t a settled view on the fate of PFDJ nor on the constitution. If you read his old articles he linked in the other thread (his comment on my article) in responding Fnote Selam’s question, you could find a clear contradictory messages. On those essays, Saay calls for the dissolution of PFDJ on the one hand and calls for a reformed PFDJ on the other. Can a dissolved organization be reformed. Absolutely not. Dissolution of an organization means to remove its existence either voluntarily or involuntarily, while reforming is to make change within it while it still existed. And on the constitution while he believe that the document hasn’t any morale and legal value to be implemented, he is telling us also it (the constitution) is a rallying and unifying factor to our struggle. Saay is debating on both sides depending how he feels on the day. The document is his (issayas) document, he can use it or throw it and make another one. The point is the opposition are not fighting for the document, they are fighting to remove the dictator and dismantle his institution of oppression. That is all. The rest issues should be on the table for discussion and compromise between the stakeholders and the Eritrean people at large. That is how justice should prevail.
      Amanuel Hidrat

    • SenaiErtrawi

      Selam Haile,
      I have something to say on your item (2): yes, the question of constitution and youth exodus affects the relationship between Isaias and his supporters. The supporters have been raising these two issues, and have been withdrawing their actual support (fund raising, running PFDJ errands in the diaspora. . . ) as a result of dissatisfaction on those issues. And the only reason Isaias is caring to talk/give false promises about these two issues is that his cadres are telling him they are losing their supporters that matter – errand men and women.

      So, all Eritreans including PFDJ supporters are on the same side when it comes to lack of constitution and youth exodus.

      • haileTG

        Selamat SenaiErtrawi,

        I understand this is a painful truth but one we must face. Those people aligned to the regime, less the actual operatives and regime implants, are actually decent people but have made the moral judgement to abandon truth and principle. Short of taking a direct action against their personal welfare, there is NO immorality that the regime wouldn’t be able to committee under their very nose and in front of their very naked eyes. Constitution is a joke for them, it would mean absolutely nothing.

        I have recently observed them expressing dissatisfaction with the regime recommended humiliation that they are expected to go through in connection to the new ID. Firstly, in meetings they were told that some of the committee to work on issuing of ne ID would be composed of regime appointed and others
        elected in those meetings. Although in prior mekete committee meeting those to be “elected” were already decided and the so called “electing of persons” was just a stunt. Now, the new ID would require huge amount of information and all these info. will have to be shared with locally “elected” persons who
        would complete it. This had made some of them murmure discomfort about being humiliated to hand over all their sensitive personal details to a guy you claims to have been “elected” to know every freaking detail about you. But the idiotic stupidity that they conduct themselves with the backward and
        ignorant regime, they deserve what they get.

        The second major slap on their face was to do with issuing them with “coloured” ID to identify them as illegals within Eritrea and all regime institutions. That really got them jump like a donkey with a chilli stuck in her rear 🙂 I think the regime (being theirs) is whacking them with humiliation after humiliation. The death of hundreds, exodus of hundreds of thousands, tragedies after tragedies or telling them they no longer have constitution or their people don’t deserve any dignity to have basic rights, is nothing for them. I don’t trust a word that comes out of their mouth. Let’s accept reality or name names and tell me one single walking, talking, identifiable regime supporter to have ever opposed the recent killing of the
        constitution. In fact, they clamoured to justify it with strange arguments like the one Alula Abraham did in VOA. Saay is an opposition, he opposed the regime for many years and can’t be considered to be galvanized by the constitution issue.

        Let’s accept that the regime supporters and enablers are our brothers and sisters who are enabling terrible brutality to be wrought on our people. Respect them as your people, but never forget that they have taken a firm stand to support evil so long as it doesn’t personally touch them. That is a fact.


    • Hayat Adem

      Your question are great but nobody answers them better than you. There have been plenty more dramatic and more shocking tests that faded without angering up the public. This document never was part of the Eritrean value and culture. Shooting kids from the back for the crime trying to cross the border is incompatible with the Eritrean culture. It didn’t sent shocks of waves. Punishing a dead body of a colleague and comrade by denying 2m2 resting space for undisclosed crime is unusual in the Eritrean culture. Keeping heroes and heroines in a remote harsh area without court’s decision for years and letting them perish one by one is shocking. Learning the sea death of hundreds of youth including a birthing mother should have been a source of awe and hearing the very government that was supposed to lead public mourning of the loss, with half mast national flag denying to recognize them as Eritrean loss and allow them proper funeral, must be a source of public roar. Compared to these events, the constitution is nothing to rallying public anger and fury.
      I think the logic of criticizing the opposition for not using the unborn or murdered constitution as a rallying document is as twisted as the road in the photo this article’s entry. The opposition were never allowed to be part of any political process in Eritrea from the get go. They were not even allowed to organized support the referendum for independence. EPLF/ PFDJ never recognized them in words or/and actions as stake holders in the Eritrean
      affairs. It never invited them to be part of Eritrea. Usually ruling parties invite the opposition out of magnanimity or far-farsightedness to get on-board and join the process. That was ever the case here, and EPLF must be the meanest liberator ever seen in some aspects. What happened in Eritrea was totally the opposite: the opposition read the independence euphoria and intoxication of their people and they didn’t want to stand on the way. Some of them offered to mobilize their supports for independence in the referendum voting, but were rejected. Some of them had demobilized their armed wings and cadres to give a chance.

      The opposition demonstrated magnanimity of leaving the entire show to EPLF in the
      early independence years and swallowed the patience pills and went on hibernation and exile to let the people take their moment of joy enjoying independence. EPLF was spending this independence mood so crazily like infinite resource supporters were cheering up every move of the Front just as crazily through all the jumpy, bumpy and sleepy road and journey.
      First it was visibly and recklessly jumpy. It was torching fires here and there: insult UN, insult OAU, elbow the Sudan, punch Yemen, and squash Djibouti, jump on Ethiopia’s throat…and the party was being cheered up for all that: “go EPLF, go Isaias, go Isaias!”. The opposition was trying to say something unfortunately no body was willing to listen. If you weren’t hearing the opposition’s opposition then, it means you were not listening. And that was exactly what wrong Isaiasim wagon was. Everyone cheers and claps and nobody listens.

      Then came the bumpy phase: EPLF/PFDJ came out weak and deflated from the war with Ethiopia, grew odd with itself and went on massive trimming and shedding, fell out of grace with west and the US, Unmee was kicked, isolation and sanction caught up, and then roaring of lioness evaporated and the selaHtawi loneliness creped in. The talk of Mekhete was louder than any talk the constitution (unborn or murdered). And that was what isiasism looks
      like and the constitution which was written to play a role in that isaiasim was wearing layers of dusts because the author had better ways to advance isaiasism. It is like an army commander chose to use air raid rather than infantry in a certain theater. Can we blame it on the opposition be blamed for not applauding and defending the isaiasim book because its creator trashed it to the dust bin with all its accumulated dusts? Hell, No! The opposition should write its own rallying book. Remember, it ceased to be good enough for its author let
      alone for the opposition who demanded greater inclusiveness and broader platform.

      Then came the sleepy phase: We are living it. This phase is centrally characterized as “nothing happens until something happens”. Citizens can read the situation for what it is. That is why they are making tough decisions at family level. The opposition camp clearly knows what is needed. But many of the resources and instruments are still with the mafia group, aka PFDJ system, aka isiaisism. The opposition should be hard pressed to come up
      with new innovations of saving the nation from slipping into a civil war and there are enough blames to share around so far for the many indecision and inaction that brought so much national paralysis of not responding decisively to the national situation, but acting to undo the burial and save this constitution should not be one of them. You can’t blame the opposition for defending Isiaias book which is abandoned by himself which should not be missed by any of us. The recent utterances of Isaias on that document signifies nothing except he has grown derelict that now he can’t make any move except re-appearing as an old man who is staring at his shadow from the ceiling light bulb, and disliking it and then switching a seat to only see the same shadow in different shape and size.


      • haileTG

        Merhaba Hayat,

        Given IA’s refusal to give even an inch away from the rights to took, the fact it has bluntly told all those who spent their use in useless projects that there will be no compensation, the fact it told the so calld PFDJ or its predecessor that they have neither the right to convene or even ask a single question about the whereabouts of their comarades, the fact that it casually can tell them that the paper they toiled for is a garbage and had been desposed off… goes to prove or reinforce that there is no entity to be reformed and the natural removal of the regime by uprising or coordinated armed encirclement by various groups with international support to blockade and immobilize the regime forces would usher a fundamental change in Eritrea. It is true that the opposition is being attacked and tarnished from inside, but by now those doing it have been made very much aware that they are threading on the wrong side of public opinion at this juncture. It reminds me one of Amin Arts (you can find scrolling down on the AT foot links section) which would be translated in to our case that the reformers are sabotaging the opposition and the regime is sabotaging the reformers!! In the end, everyone is sabotaged and few determined groups will have the day.

        • Nitricc

          Haile real quick. You are becoming hard to follow; for me, anyways.
          I have two questions for you.
          1) You keep saying oppositions. Who are they? What is their political program? Who is their leader?
          How are they better what you have now? If you are that desperate, you can even point me toward Mekele. Who?

          2) You said “ PS: There is a large silent opposition that can be tapped into with the right approach”
          What are those approach?

          • haileTG

            Hey Nitricc,


            a) Who are they?

            – Those are Eritreans who are opposed to the regime of IA .

            b) What is their political program?

            – Those organized have programs that is fit to their own dreams and aspirations. i can walk you through individual web portals containing programs, manifesto, charter…

            c) Who is their leader?

            – Those organized (armed and not armed) have their own leaders.

            d) How are they better than what you have now?

            – Politically, economically, socially. They represent the end of Eritrea’s worst time from time immemorial. The end of Koboro junkie mothers jumping up and down in the graves of their grand children and ululating for their killer…in many ways Nitricc (it might get grisly if you push me:)

            e) You can even point me to Mekele?

            – Yes, the regime and its tutelage WILL NOT be able to curtail the right of Eritreans to resist from anywhere. Eritreans in Ethiopia are the major part of the opposition and with the highest youth following.

            2) You said “ PS: There is a large silent opposition that can be tapped into with the right approach” What are those approach?

            – of those is the part that you didn’t highlight”… stop muddying the opposition’s name” I would add also that such is tantamount to belittling the people under the yoke of oppression to facilitate a narrow agenda.

            Did I cover all… 🙂

      • Amanuel Hidrat


        Your comment is a summary what has gone in the last 23 years. It is beautifully and factually presented both on the opposition side and the ruling regime side. Every tragedy you mentioned hasn’t change the heart of the Eritrean people what ever the reasons are. But all those tragedies you mentioned them will truly tell how the current political culture of Eritrea has also changed the heart of Eritrean people. Even a tragedy can not unite us. That worries me enormously

        Amanuel Hidrat.

        • Hope

          Ahh,just ONLY worries you.
          Aman,we should do beyond worrying and we have an OBLIGATION to answer as to why we have NOT solved them despite that we have identitifed the problems and despite that we know the answers.????
          I challenged Ustaz Saleh Johar with the same question including as to why he refrained from answering this question in one of his interviews and he went crazy on me.
          Those reaons you clamied as ” what ever reasons”,chould be idnetified and addressed and dealt well with.
          Beyond that,your friend SAAY’s Al Nahda is but beyond “perfect” despite few hiccups.
          Let us be practical and realistic in our approach.

          • Hayat Adem

            1) [Those reaons you clamied as ” what ever reasons”,chould be idnetified and addressed and dealt well with.]
            Emma has gone one step, which is, though he didn’t or couldn’t state the reason, he identified the problem with scarcity of the support. you can pick it up from there and enlighten us.

            2) [Beyond that,your friend SAAY’s Al Nahda is but beyond “perfect” despite few hiccups]
            When you put the “perfect” in quotations, it seemed as if you want to give that grade if it were not for your knowledge that there is nothing like perfect in work and life. But then, you even want to give him more than, ‘perfect” when you say [beyond “perfect”]. Another twist, though, when we to settle with your generous grading of “beyond perfect”, you came back with a rework to say “despite few hiccups”. “Perfect” the highest possible grade and you didn’t hesitate to offer it, then you put within parenthesis signaling you didn’t mean it in the conventional way, and then you hinted “perfect didn’t serve you enough and you had to enhance it by qualifying it with a superior preposition- beyond, thus beyond perfect. When we were struggling to settle with that, then you felt some minimizing qualification must be included. ‘Beyond, perfect, [” “], despite, hiccups’ -all this to describe one quality???! God bless you, hope.

          • Hope

            Selamat Ms Hayat Adem,
            Thank for your “kind consideration” and response.
            Leaving aside your coded resentment against my own Perfect(without quotation marks)Cousin,Professor Saleh Abdu Ahmed Younis,here is my reaction:
            -I credit and admire you for your near-perfect articualtion in Englsih.(Are an English Language and Literature Professor,btw?)
            -I discredit you for your honey-covered Ere’ and dishonest analysis on Eritrean Politics and problems,including but not limited to,for NOT acknowledging and condemning the Destructive Policies of the TPLF against Eritrea and Eritreans.And the worst,for sympatizing with the same TPLF Gang and its Destructive Policies against Eritrea and Eritreans
            -I will never trust you and respect you until you apolgize:
            a) to my young post-partum sister with her less than a month old neonate,who was deported bare feet
            b)My 89-yrs old Grand Parents,who were deported bare-feet through the Denkalia Desert
            c)To the Eritrean people,who have been victims of the TPLF’s Horrible Policy against Eritrea and Eritreans.
            God bless you too.I forgive you as well so as to be forgiven.

          • Hope

            Pls read as:” Are YOU an English Language and Literarue Professor,BTW?

          • Hayat Adem

            Hope, it is so tempting: Me apologizing to your grannies and sister and niece so that you would respect me can actually be a good trade. That deportation took place in 1998 and we are talking about it now 17 yrs later. That means, your young niece/nephew is 17; she/he served in one of the last rounds of the NS, right? Your grannies are 89+17=106 yrs old by now so almost zero chance they would be still alive. So, they can wait for my apology until I join them in the other world, right Hope? [below is a my imagination]
            Hayat: hello, You must be Hope’s niece. My name is Hayat Adem. I came to you to sincerely offer my apology to you.
            Niece: hello back Ms Hayat, what for? What have you done to me?
            Hayat: your uncle Hope wanted me to apologize to you, to your mom, to be exact but it may not make any difference, so I have been looking for you…
            Niece: but still, the question is, what have you done?
            Hayat: Not sure on that; but Hope thinks you were abused, harassed and endangered during the deportation process that took place 17yrs back…
            Niece: were you part of the guys who deported my Mom?
            Hayat: no, but Hope believes they have to be condemned for that decision and action all the time, and I failed to do that all the time, and he disrespects me on that basis…
            Niece: why do you need Hope’s respect so much that you had to apologize for a sin and pain you have not caused just because someone asked for it?
            Hayat: It is not someone, it is your uncle Hope, I need to earn his respect so desperately.
            Niece: but you’ve lost my respect just now. My mom thought what the Woyane did to her had little parallels in the world at the time. Little did she know she would change her mind sooner a lot when I was snatched from her to serve in servitude with inhuman conditions under-reported cruelties and humiliation so much so that we had to brave our own border shooters to get back to to the very people who deported us with our heads down. Me and my mom got lucky, others were not. My mom is now much safer, better, happier. She even retrieved her assets in Addis and she is now back in business and doing good. I made it to the US schools here and my future looks assured and brighter with every passing day. I go to Ethiopia every summer break to join my Mom and life is so much fun again. Hope tried to convince us to stay in Eritrea promising things would change for the better. He used to tell me that it was my duty to defend the country and serve my superiors in the army. He said he wouldn’t send any help if I don’t stay in the NS. My mom stopped talking to him long time ago and she even had a name to call him- “tSelim Emni”. When I asked her recently what she meant by that, she told me, “tSelim emni is mostly found in the floors of seas or lakes, or other water bodies. No matter how long it stayed inside the water, it would never learn how to swim”. Last time, when uncle Hope went to Ethiopia for a vacation, he tried hard to meet my Mom to apologize for failing to understand her when she was in Eritrea. My mom would prefer death than facing this tSelim Emni for a minute. The fact that my mom denied him a chance to apologize to her must have gotten into him, I guess. Not a single minute passes without him talking about apologizing and being apologized. Some close to him worry that he may be losing it to hold himself together. I recently heard from a guy who met him briefly that after some exchange of greetings, this guy said to him, ‘how are things?’ to push the conversation beyond the greeting niceties, and Hope suddenly declared he was offended and demanded an instant apology from this guy. The guy didn’t expect such a dramatic reaction and thought an apology would calm Hope and he offered his apology just to save the day. Uncle Hope became calmer but he said that still one apology was not enough for the serious offense he committed and he owed him more apologies which needed to say them next they meet…
            Hayat: aha…I see..I wish SGJ is informed about this problem:
            Niece: who?
            Hayat: never mind, APOLOGY RETRACTED:)

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Dear Hayat,

            I don’t think hope will understand the message, but this a “fine dramatic conversational response” to quench the desire of hope’s mentality. Besides, the “tSelim emni” metaphor hits home to convey the message. Well done Hayat and keep the flow.

            Amanuel Hidrat

          • Saleh Johar

            My dear, dear, dear Hope. I am appealing to you to get off my shoulders. Do you have to bring my name on every comment? You are becoming too annoying–unless you enjoy that.

            A while ago you asked me if I accepted your apology, before I reply you are bringing my name again.

            Let me try one more time: since you are claiming you challenged me on something, and I went “crazy” on you, could it be that your so-called challenge was buried inside an incoherent, disorganized comment? At any rate, to satisfy your ego, I am willing to answer you provided you ask me a clear and objective question–without mixing it with ten topics, and in a concise way, something that doesn’t need deciphering. Shoot your question or “challenge”.

          • Hope

            Ok Your Excellency Saleh Johar:
            I renew my apology, not that I intended to annoy you but for making you to misunderstand me that way or the way you did.
            -I appeal to you to respond nicely,diplomatically,constructively;NOT arrogantly and”over-reactively”.If not,then add to your posting gudilines the following items:
            -That those who should post and comment and debate shall be or should be:
            a)Articulate and Coherent in English Language and English Literature,Intelligent and Brilliant
            Here are my crystal clear,concise,coherent and to the point questions to you:
            1)Despite our intensive Political Struggle against the Ruling Regime for the last 13-15 yrs and despite that we have identitified our problems and solutions:
            a)Why haven’t we succeeded in bringing up some concrete change?
            b)Why haven’t we succeeded in UNIFYING and MOBILIZING our Silent Majority ?
            c)Why haven’t we succeeded in National Reconciliation,at least among ourselves(Among Opposition Groups,Parties,Activists,Media People,Civic Socities,etc–so as to work together for ONE INKO Goal?
            d)Why are we in the Oppoision Camp /Justice Seekers eating each other,blaming each other,insulting each other,belittling each other,etc–?
            2)At a personal level,why are you and your Team/Website bringing up these divisive politics,rather than trying to bring antagonistic people with antagonistic approach and attitudes together?
            If your answer is going to be the same or what Bro Mohamed just told us,ie.due to old grudges,discremination,resentments,personal issues,tit for tat,an eye for an eye kind of an Old Testament syle approach,then it is time to change the modus operandi and work hard for a genuine National Reconciliation without any preconditons,excuses,prejudice,etc…!
            I hope I am clear now.

          • Saleh Johar

            Hope, I will not tire…I will try a second time.

            I don’t understand what you are apologizing for because you keep repeating the same think. Stop psychoanalyzing me and describing me based on your warped perception and prejudiced judgement.

            1. Concise means, short. Ask without loading your question with your opinion, prejudice and interest-based views. Ask me about something I can answer, don’t expect me to answer on behalf of everybody else. Also, you should understand I do not have an obligation to reply. Just know that when you ask and don’t make it sound as if I owe you a reply. I am a writer Hope and don’t ask me questions as if I am the leader of the opposition, I am just an independent opposition to the criminal regime. That is all. I do not represent the opposition. If you want my views, I have been writing for years and I am not going to repeat all of my views 1 on 1 for you. It’s not doable.

            2. Your “At a personal level” question is personal. You think you are the first one to call me or divisive? We outgrew that and my answer is: you are wrong. Also look around who claims that and you will understand unless you belong in that camp.

            Bringing Mahmoud and and grudges, arrogant, resentment, etct, etc. does not make a question concise. Take all of that fat out and please give me a lean question and I will answer.

          • Semere Andom

            Hi Your Majesty Saleh Johar
            First 1. Why are you obsessed with concise???? Our struggle did not take short time or it was not concise or we did not cut corners. So, But If u want it {concice} here it is in your face!!!
            Second.2. I can also tell your friend Sal, My cousing wed Aboy/Abuye/Halye Abud in his face. POINT BLANK. Because my aunt and grad father told me to be truthful and tell in your face.
            If you have courage or if you true Kerenite and if you have the stomach/GUT or man enough/former tegadalay, please answer this question. Why are we stuck in the politics of 19960. WHY? WHY, WHY Why?????
            Now also answer this: Why did you put the Rifle/Kelashin with before and After picture. IRESPONSIBLE. This is not weight loss program. This is saving Eritrea from Woyane an PFDJ but PFDJ is the best entity to save it from both. Now you and your team can answer me. I am Christian. I am not old testament follower. I asked you new testament stuff. If you do not answer. I can get cured from my addiction to your website and quite. But if I quite your website will the day care of TPLF like Hayat
            Please read cousing as COUSIN
            Please read Abud as Abdu
            Please read 19960s as 1960s
            Wo Selamatka/Dehank

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Dear Sem,
            Samray do kibleka…….Thank you for giving me the afternoon laugh. But you forget one common word “please stop Inklil” as if he is not always in the “inklil mood.” Thank you again

          • Saleh Johar

            Wo Semere, hysterical laughing made my day. It is so funny. But you missed some characteristics of the style: you used the space bar so many times–between words, after a comma, and after the period at he end of sentences. Hilarious.

          • Semere Andom

            Hi Saleh:
            I wanted you to share in the laughter because I was laughing for the last two or so days as I read your request for concise question and cousin Hope becoming more in concise the in every comment.

  • Berhan Beyan

    Selam Saleh brother
    There is a legend that claims Jerome Garden a mathematician predicted the date of his death astrologically and to guarantee its accuracy, he drunk poison on that day. that’s one way of being right!
    The EPLF leadership and to make sure it impose its will on the Eritrean people, it carefully selected Eritreans who for some personal interest would not object the over all aim of the EPLF leadership. They included from all parts of our society, but our society collectively did not consent to them to represent them in the constitution making process..

  • Mahmud Saleh

    Dear Ato Saleh
    An interesting synthesis of ewanawi gudayat- current affairs. A smooth read. I can see, you have made your Issayasism theory close to completion now that the picture is getting more than ever clearer.
    You also treated the debate of “institution/institution-less regime by giving us a clear picture of what the world of our Emperor/President (May God bestow upon him the sense of “enough for now/y’akhleni”) looks like.
    My question to you:
    a/ The emperor is a benevolent father who wishes all the good stuff for his people but because he is extremely rigid and uniformly stubborn, he spent the past 23 years venturing within his own world of realism, making our country aground in the process/ something which could be explained as unintended consequence. This is based on your assessment that Issayas wants the country to walk on egalitarian field.
    b/ Our emperor is a power hungry man, all these talks of social justice and other gimmicks are just a shroud for sustaining the continuity of his reign.

    On the constitution: Both of us have had similar views and You have echoed my argument. Still I believe the opposition has given Issayas one more weapon by agreeing with him in his act of discarding the constitution.
    Well, the gang is up on me, I have to go.
    Thank you.