Reflections On The Eritrean Youth
What comes to our mind when the term youth is raised? Where does the position of the Eritrean youth lie when it comes to meet the general characteristics and uniqueness of a particular age group? What is the position of the youths from the existing opposition camp? I tried to present modest highlights about the background, behavior, peculiarities and challenges facing the younger generation regarding sociopolitical developments in Eritrea. The Eritrean youths were born and grew up in an environment of instability and oppression. From the beginning, they were denied the opportunity to explore themselves; they had no chance to acquire sound education, skills and talents to build self consciousness and confidence. The vast majority know little about the in-depth history (its beauty and ugliness), ideology and character of PFDJ due to the lack of free press, absence of reliable sources and the closed political atmosphere. This strategy of marginalizing the youths is a deliberate act by the PFDJ to prolong its power, consequently, the youth remained docile victims of the tyranny for several years.
Years of slavery passed and more years followed while the youth were still tolerant, convincing themselves that perhaps tomorrow would be a better day. At last, their patience is exhausted and the sole option left is to stay away from Isaias and look for a better and safe destination.
Unlike the betrayal of the PFDJ and similarly the fragile opposition groups that kept wasting many years squabbling over tiny matters, the Eritrean youth by their nature are innocent, patient, tolerant, nationalist and courageous—blind nationalism and bravery that was proved during the hardships that our sovereign nation faced. This quality was automatically set without any motivation or energy. At the beginning, whenever there is a call to defend the nation, the youth were there in the forefront, whenever there is a call to contribute to the national development projects, the youth were there constructing roads, dams, wells, schools, hospitals, etc.
However, finally, the youth are tired…very tired; national service has turned into indefinite slavery, successive wars and disastrous loss of brothers and friends coupled simultaneously with abduction and torture for unclear reasons—and trror and fear due to the conspiracies of PFDJ spies and fanatic stalwarts.
When the PFDJ needs to launch a plan, it uses carefully selected names and slogans to cheat the benign public through EriTv and radio. From these decorated reserve of names, the fate of the Eritrean youth was Warsay… a name that touches one’s internal feelings and puts a burden of responsibility in the shoulders. Literally, Warsay stands for somebody that inherits the courage, resources, responsibility and position of their fathers. In the context of PFDJ, however, Warsay inherited nothing except sedef and brasho for fighting and Afraza and badela for keeping them busy until another war follows. No one doubts that the PFDJ don’t care about the Eritrean youth; its interests and power by far transcends the benefit of the rest of the Eritrean people. Additionally, these ignorant Tegadeltis also believe that everyone should pass through the same experience they passed.
From my experience, I have passed through different and usual stages that every youth goes through within and outside the nation. In high school, we had a good time playing different kinds of sports (not organized by the state) but we organized ourselves for the sake of entertainment as it was part of developmental psychology for every young person. Other hobbies includes watching movies and football tournaments, reading newspapers, listening to music and dramas. However, the most dominant culture that brings all youth together watching football and they support their favorite teams strongly. Politics is not at stake as we have not witnessed a single democratically elected government and no rights of multiparty system and election campaigns in Eritrea.
In the politics of the West, to support or to oppose, people have various areas to exercise their right, there are parties such as the Republicans and Democrats, Conservatives and Labor. Moreover, there are legislated abortion laws, healthcare policies, etc. Nonetheless, in Eritrea, the story is quite different, none of the above rights are possible. Hence, the youth enjoy the spirit of noisy support for their respective football teams (most of the time the European football). Supporters are divided when it comes to soccer teams and the talk goes for long hours:
‘You see, Manchester United is the best team and certainly will win the champions league.’
‘Are you crazy man! The gunners ( Arsenal) will do it and no one could stop Fabrigas.’
‘You guys know nothing about football, you must be kidding to forget the Blues ( Chelsea), i am sure Drogba will score three goals today.’
As the talk reaches its peak, emotions and tempers reach the edge; sometimes it turns into a fight.
Those who have missed the match have another option. Thanks to God, they have one newspaper in three languages (Eritrea Alhaditha, Haddas Ertra and Eritrea Profile), no hesitation to purchase. There is no time to go through the boring front pages which are most of the time carry the heading: Isaias visited the integrated farming schemes in the Gash-Barka Region; Isayis visited the Debub Region; Isaias………; they just turn the pages until get to the sports page. The next turn to the arts page: Amanuel Sahle’s ‘Hanti Alem’ that must not be missed. Those who master the English language rush to read Culture and Arts page of the Eritrean Profile—again Amanuel’s tough but highly artistic merits are there; if you are a beginner, you have to work hard to be able to cope with the writings of that legend.
After high school, the youth prepare for the next pilgrimage to Sawa. Before they leave, they are anxious packing: Tihni (barley flour), Koronsho (dried Injera) and Jalon (Jerry can—the most important item that should not be forgotten).
After completing military training, the most important mission of PFDJ is accomplished and academic education follows. No matter whether you understand the lesson or not, you have to attend the class: dreadful weather, overcrowded classrooms, sweat streaming down your body and study time interrupted by continuous tough works. Without noticing it, it is time for matriculation but the mind has absorbed little or nothing.
You take the exam but you have no vision of the future—unpromising and uncertain destiny. Various thoughts come to your mind and you remind yourself of the conditions of your previous mates who joined the college. You get frustrated though passing the exam is good; temporarily it saves you from becoming a permanent soldier and you wait there in the paramilitary colleges as a reserve force.
Those who have failed in the exam experience the most miserable situation. They were the first victims of wars and the endless Warsay-Yikalo Campaigns. The soldier Warsays are deprived of enlightening themselves and limited to military services. Thus, critical thinking and realizing the contrivances of PFDJ is not easy. However, these Warsays have developed a genuine love and friendship for each other. They adopted various coping mechanisms to lessen their anxiety. They lived together for many years; lodging, dining, fighting the enemy. They breath together and they die together. Traces of regional, religious and ethnic grudges are almost absent; it even seems difficult to digest. They maintain humble and harmonious social life. They interchange jokes, anecdotes, and magnificent nicknames such as Weddi Nara, Billu, Weddi Gura’e, Kahano,Hidarebay, Emri Bani, kisha, Fisto, Halibay, etc. The content of their talks is solely about their day-to-day activities—away from duties and rights.
The position of the youths (those who fled the regime) towards the current opposition camp is not encouraging., They are simply not confident that the current resistance bloc would overthrow the PFDJ regime and replace it with another. I took a sample of eight Eritrean youth, who escaped the rogue regime, in my surrounding and asked them about their stance regarding the resistance movements. Their response was nearly the same:
Biniam: you know! what is preventing the opposition from success is not the absence of good ideas; it is the absence of genuine commitment by some of the stakeholders. They lost almost a decade before throwing the rascals out. Do you expect that these guys will come with salient solutions? I am not so skeptical.
Saeed: Wellahi they are not united. I heard that they are more than eleven groups and so far couldn’t integrate themselves under one executive leadership. This shows that they are racing for power and not prioritizing the woes of our people. I don’t think that these old Tegadeltis who baptize themselves as pro-human rights and democracy which previously shared and liaised with the tyrant for so long would solve our problem. If we are seeking to do something for our society, we “the youths” must organize ourselves and create an independent opposition movement.
Rahel: opposing Isaias from overseas is not practical. If they are so courageous, they must terrify him inside Asmara. Up to the moment, I have never heard that the opposition bloc executed a successful military operation. I am so desperate that we can have freedom without bloodshed.
Haji: look my brother, these guys have never agreed on various basic problems of our society. They just fan the flames of disintegration. How dare they are planning to bring justice when they deny our various groans and pains? They couldn’t bear all the fruits hoped for. Effective prayer by our mothers is the best way to end PFDJ. I don’t trust them.
Mahanzel: I lost twelve years of my age under the tyranny if Isaias. For now, I need to regain all those years and think about my private life and family. I need to stay away from politics and have cute children. I need rest. Isn’t it wonderful!
Ahmedin: I believe that before thinking to overthrow Isaias, firstly, we should educate ourselves and the society. We are badly in need of academic and political consciousness. Majority of us are ignorant. It is too early to think about democracy.
Filli: my dear friend, you are really putting yourself in trouble. Please watch the World Cup. You are really missing a lot of fun. Think about Ghana….I am very optimistic that they will make us proud. I wonder why you should worry about politics. Let the situations take their own course and time will judge the results.
Abrar: The burden of our problems is not Isaias or the resistance movements. It lies on the entire Eritrean people. We don’t know our rights and duties. We just support and clap our hands emotionally without thoroughly identifying what belongs to us and not. I can not speak on behalf of the Eritrean people, but we don’t deserve sacrifices. It is better to be neutral until consciousness prevails.
The youths are the most effective and productive human resources. Without empowering and engaging them in every sociopolitical activity, old leaders and their old ideas cannot achieve any promotion. Hence, all concerned compatriots and elites should share the pie with them and encourage them to be at least optimistic about the possibility of creating justice in our nation.