Ramadan Stream Of Consciousness: Touring The Eritrean Political Mind
[This article the second part of a four-part series written by Omar Jabir under the title “Ramadan Stream Of Consciousness.” It first appeared at farajat.net and other Arabic websites on July 27, 2012. Awate.com has translated it into English for the benefit of its readers. Any discrepancy that might appear in translation is not the responsibility of the author but of awate.com// awateteam]
Youth has a renewable energy and it is innovative; you must have followed the creativity of Eritreans in literature and poetry whose works have acquired international status. Did you follow their demonstrations and parades all over the world against the dictatorship? Who was behind all of that? Certainly not the Alliance, not the National Council, not even our Ethiopian ally! What does that mean?
It means that the raw material is there and preparedness is wide spread. What is needed is proper guidance and establishing inter-generational contacts and communications: between the generation of the revolutionary era and the post-independence generation.
Recently Eritreans were divided regarding the Debrezeit youth conference:
1 – Some say that our Ethiopian allies have decided, invited, oversaw and blessed the conference. They offered their services and abilities as a nation to help us; so, why should we reject or question their intentions?
Strangely, those who attended the conference are not willing to discuss neither the inviting party nor the handling of the invitations or the processes and preparations. Instead, they immediately delve into explaining how the conferees discussed, debated and decided to hold their congress after a few months.
Is it lack of experience or inability to see what is behind the curtains?
Indeed, it is a situation that reflects and expresses the total lack of trust on the current leadership of the opposition, both the EDA and the National Council. The youth didn’t find anyone to hand them the banner; therefore, they decided to raise their own banner.
2 – Others say that the Ethiopian allies have transgressed their limits and made the structure and institutions of the Eritrean opposition (EDA, National Council) as irrelevant as an illusion and a simple decoration to complete a picture! They say that if a group of Eritreans organized themselves with their own resources and then approached the Ethiopian allies to ask for recognition and support, then it would be left to the decision of the Ethiopian allies to either respond positively or reject it; and that is a sovereign business of the Ethiopian state. But for the Ethiopian allies to take the decision through their political, intelligence, information, and financial organs to hold a conference for a segment among the Eritrean segments, and to decide the time, place, the number, and names of those who would attend, including the agenda of the conference, that touches on the sovereignty of Eritreans.
Today, Eritrean sovereignty is divided between legal and de-facto legitimacy that is represented by the Eritrean regime that practices it within the geographical boundaries of the state, which is internationally recognized; and between another which is a moral sovereignty and that is practiced by the opposition outside the country which represents the defense of Eritrean rights that the Eritrean regime usurped and this is primarily the defense of the right of expression and owning national decisions.
Let us discuss the two positions calmly and rationally:
The organizational ability of Ethiopia and its experience in public activities is a follower to the Eritrean experience and not its leader. When the Eritrean people were demonstrating in the streets of Asmera (workers and students) the Ethiopian people were in deep sleep. When the Eritrean national movement was organizing demonstrations and practicing press freedom, the Ethiopians were expressing their surprise at how a small population can challenge the emperor!
When the Eritrean public organization (students and youth) was enjoying membership in international organizations, Ethiopian groups was learning those lessons and trying to benefit from them. During the revolutionary era, Eritreans presented their experiences and knowledge and supported the Ethiopian revolutions so that they can achieve victory for all.
No dear sirs, the Eritrean people are in no need for supervision or for teachers to teach them what needs to be done or what is their interest; Eritreans are beyond the age of infancy and they are not inflicted by premature aging. The Eritrean character is not conducive to taming and containment and at the same time, it is stubborn–rather cautious in giving full trust to whoever bit them in the past!
Conclusion: There is no rational justification for the Ethiopian allies to intervene and take Eritrean matters into their hands; except if there are intentions and goals unknown to the Eritrean opposition, and if there are Eritreans who cooperate, justify, promote and defend such interventions.
Let’s stop a little at this incident; and here I recognize all the excuses if the leadership of the Eritrean opposition and its cadres who are stationed in Addis Abba decided to remain silent–one whose mouth is full of water cannot raise his voice. The catastrophe and misery is represented in the seven channels: a group of intellectuals live in places of abundance, peace and freedom in Europe and America, and despite that, they justify every action and every step that the Ethiopian allies take! If they make a mistake, they rationalize it; and if Ethiopia advances, they cheer; and if it retreats, they explain. Is that a buried longing for leadership? Are they waiting for an Ethiopian tank that would carry them to Asmara?
You are delusional, Ethiopia will not send a single tank, it is waiting for Eritrean tanks to cross its border and surrender to it! If the Eritrean people have rejected Isaias Afwerki who struggled for decades and then turned against his colleagues for the sake of power, would the Eritrean people accept leaders who operate from the comfort of their homes?
It is strange that most of the aspirants are over fifty-years old and do not belong to any political party yet they participate in any conference including that of the youth. And there remains one more congress that would be convened, that of women, and we will see the roles they would play!
The names are known and the files are well kept and will be opened at the right time, but as the saying goes, why do we leave the elephant and attack its shadow? And the elephant is the Ethiopian ally, what do they really want?
1- Do they want to invade Eritrea, overthrow the regime and install whoever they want on the helm of power?
No. Invasion is a costly affair–financially, in terms of human resources and politically; and Ethiopia is in no position to carry that out when it is in need of all its resources and energy for development…. even its limited operation in Somalia failed, and NATO with all its might is seeking an exist from Afghanistan!
2 – Are they planning to arm some Eritreans and to provide them with everything necessary to overthrow the Eritrean regime militarily?
No. And that is for two reasons: first, if the purpose was that, Ethiopia would not have continuously established new armed organizations only to freeze it and establish another one in its place: Afar, Kunama, Saho and now the youth besides many other armed organizations that are under the EDA or the National Council.
The second reason is that whoever overthrows a regime after fighting and sacrificing does not surrender power to anyone, even if the ally has helped him (consider the example of Tigray and the EPLF)
3 – What does Ethiopia want?
They are not in a hurry, the Eritrean regime is surrounded and the military risk to Ethiopia is contained; Ethiopia is in a position to roam in the Eritrean territories as it wishes and it will leave the Eritrean regime in isolation until it gradually falls just like a fruit that rots and falls by the forces of gravity. Then a colonel from the People’s Army extends a hand of brotherhood to cooperate with the sisterly neighbor Ethiopia and the writing of a new chapter begins… and what a chapter is one that the victors and the powerful write!
As for all the components of the opposition that they have now organized, it is only for killing time and to keep them until a day when Eritreans will not agree on anything and their entity becomes a matter of revision and questioning. I honesty and sincerely say to our allies: we see our alliance with you from a strategic perspective and not a tactical alliance with a limited goal of overthrowing the current regime. We aspire to see a future of coexistence, peace, stability and mutual respect. We would like to point out to you that your latest actions are neither understood not accepted; and basically the way you are strengthening and activating the components of the Eritrean opposition is useless. You are creating a new legitimacy and by doing that you just added a new star to the stars that are already revolving around the skies where the sun rises for thirteen months without getting any closer to a democratic change.
Hence, here is a sincere note to our Allies: If you are facing an international agenda that you are bound to follow, and what you are doing is imposed, then we say peace unto you, unto us and the owners of the international agenda. And if you are executing your own views and decision on the matter, we ask you to rectify your position and deal with the Eritreans respectfully and honestly–because our relation is supposed to be one of existence and coexistence.
But what happened to you, oh offspring of Alula and Yohannes? Did you forget the nature of the Eritrean people and its fiber? What happened to you, haven’t you opposed the emperor and Mengistu? Why are you looking for one who does not know what opposition is and never practiced it? What happened to you when you have built a multi-ethnic and multicultural nation, now to practice archaic systems of divide and rule?
We disagreed with the Eritrean regime because of its approach, including in matters of governance, not because we differ on national issues or on the existence of our country. We cannot put our people in a position between two choices: either to choose democratic change today, or the deluge where the nation goes to hell.
The fate of the peoples should not be drawn and articulated with volatile moods and whims that serve temporary interests, but with long-term vision that takes into consideration the interests of a generational cycle and its historical heritage. Therefore, if a generation fails to achieve a certain task, it delivers the task to the generation that follows until the dream is realized. And in all instances the pride of the nation remains lofty, and united as a reference of identity and unity!
A final word to the Ethiopian authorities: If you hear some Eritreans saying to you that ‘you are right and the Eritrean people support your steps and they are following behind your footsteps,‘ do not believe them. If Eritreans were a type of people who follow anyone with closed eyes, they would have walked behind Isaias Afwerki–those voices are misled and misleading. Thus, the Eritrean people struggle for democracy so that everyone would know their size, their abilities and their limits. How fine is democracy and how ugly is dictatorship!
O Allah, I have conveyed the message and You are my witness.
Addendum: Eritreans are mourning the late combatant Adem Saleh Shedeli, a pioneer who was armed with military science and who fought to liberate Eritrea. He was one of the revolutionary generation that made the liberation epic and realized independence and he recorded his name and left his mark in the annals of the nation’s history.
I ask Allah to have mercy and forgive him and to give patience and comfort for his family and relatives.
We are from God and unto Him we shall return.