Removal of DIA Should Be Our Top Priority

Isaias Afwerki: the petty dictator of a once-promising small African country Eritrea.

Neither his past eminence nor his present vulgar mediocrity can be denied. In fact if there is a totem that aptly describes the bald-faced gangly dictator, his rabble of gung-ho generals and his slavishly servile subordinates, it is foolishness. Whether his intellectual atrophy is due to his lack of mental health, or his smug sense of omniscience that has thwarted his ability to learn and evolve, he has consistently failed to adapt to new circumstances and behave according to the dictates of reason and established norms. His lack of good judgments and his insatiable pursuit of conflicts have led to a regional conflagration that has caused the loss of many lives and invaluable properties. With escalating political repressions and deteriorating economic conditions, made worse by a series of UN imposed sanctions and self-inflicted isolationism, instability looms large.

Eritrea is on the precipice of disintegration; only stitch in time will save it. I welcome the launch of the new Satellite radio and congratulate those who have worked hard to make it happen. It is my sincere hope that it will herald a new era of activism and resistance where bad ideas will be defeated by better ideas. It is time that all media channels: audio, visual and print are used to reach out to the Eritrean people and mobilize them to end the life of tyranny and reclaim their freedom. Encouraging as the new developments might be, I’ve to caution that politics of exclusion—real or perceived—can no longer be tolerated and that any endeavor that does not always leave its door open to reconciliation should not be welcomed. Be that as it may be, our first target should always be the dictator who is solely responsible for the predicament Eritrea finds itself in. Somebody who is unfit to rule is at the helm of power and his removal should be Eritreans’ top priority.

When whim ties the knot with stubbornness the end result is invariably foolishness. The wedlock always paves the way for vice to rape virtue. If courage and integrity are the bastions of virtue then honor is its ultimate crown. Proud and honorable citizens are the first targets of any dictator. The project of erasing honor starts by pilfering when most people are not awake and then by fully eradicating it through a sweeping, overwhelming and systematic brutalization when all are watching. The regime like a raging winter torrent erodes all foundational values and replaces them with fear and brute force—the two pillars that sustain its rule.

The initial sallies of outrage in reaction to pilfering are easily subdued through a minimum use of force and an inordinate amount of sloganeering: patriotism, nation-building, maintaining unity and defending sovereignty and territorial integrity. The overwhelming and intense shock experienced in response to the sweeping measures is to desensitize the whole society where nothing is frowned upon. Wedinism—the bastardization of traditional, religious and family values—becomes the new normal. The low, base and philistine culture is purposefully promoted to prolong the life of the uncouth petty dictator. Of course, the moral confusion and depravity can only be sustained in a state of chaos and perpetual conflict. Towards this end, the dictator wages war against everyone and everything that is good and decent.

Eritrean society is relatively egalitarian and as long as public policies are implemented indiscriminately resistance is only of two kinds: either very high or very low. Due to arid and mountainous topography and sporadic rainfall, Eritreans have led for many centuries a Spartan life devoid of any luxuries and this has induced a stoic and fatalistic attitude and high tolerance for hardships on them. Since misery loves company; the regime strictly adheres to the equal mistreatment of Eritreans. Fear and brute force is what the regime understands and survive-at-all-cost and this-shall-pass-too is what the people live by. Honor and pride were the first to be exiled.

When depravity rules the first societal value to vanish is shame; the only taboo is not to have a taboo. The regime serves the people a crude cup of nihilism that besots their rectitude. In the beginning of last month, more than 350 Eritrean youth perished in the Island of Lampadusa and instead of mourning their death, the regime was busy with its endless festivals. Swigging inordinate amount of liquor and dancing in parties is what passes for patriotism and love of “Hadash Ertra” for these people. Truly zemed Asha kefi’ewo alo! ዘመድዓሻከፊእዎኣሎ።

The practice of social banditry has reached new heights and if left unabated, it will permanently disfigure Eritrea. The moral bankruptcy is epitomized by those who conveniently abandon the regime and yet choose to remain neutral. They had the gall to tell us that they are neither against the regime nor pro the opposition. I can certainly understand, if not condone, their hesitation to joining the opposition organizations, but failing to take a clear stand against the fiendish regime is the upshot of moral confusion and degradation.

The opposition is ineffective; it has become the annoying cracked glass that we cannot use or completely break so as to start all over, but this is no reason enough to be neutral when faced with evil. Knowing the difference between good and bad is the basis of any decent society and what holds them together. Anything that reinforces human dignity and the fundamental worthiness of the individual is good and any that undermines it is bad. The first step any Eritrean who deserts the regime needs to do in reclaiming his/her dignity and personhood is to acknowledge its evil nature and condemn and denounce it as such. It will have a liberating, therapeutic and empowering effect.

I can understand despair, hopelessness and the unwillingness to commit to the struggle for change. The Eritrean people waged an epic struggle and clambered to the mountain of victory but only to swallow their own spittle—a bolus of frustration and disappointment. The governance of the country should have segued from a one-party transitional government to a multi-parties democracy. It was a votive obligation on the transitional government in general and “the president” of the country in particular. Eritrea gained its independence because so many of its best men and women paid the ultimate price. Without the realization of democracy, peace and justice, Eritreans’ heroic struggle will go in history as a cautionary tale of people who paid so much for so little.

The tide is changing in favor of the opposition and the opposition can easily ride on the crest of the wave to victory. There are only two yardsticks of measuring the relevancy of the opposition: first, what it is doing to end the life of tyranny, and second, what it does to bridging differences, ameliorating the crippling and widespread mistrust, helping and defending helpless Eritrean refugees and promoting national unity. The two-pronged strategies should go hand-in-hand for they are an integral piece of each other. Both strategies are equally important, but ending tyranny is more urgent for it paves the way for a more substantive pursuit of national unity.

If we love and care for Eritrea, the first we need to do is remove the colossus embarrassment called Isaias Afwerki.

Semere T Habtemariam is the author of “Hearts Like Birds” and the forthcoming book on the History and Faith of the Orthodox Tewahdo Church of Eritrea and Ethiopia. He can be reached:


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