What Springs Eternal
My business partner just sued me for a $1,000,000. He says we have a deal, detailed in a contract, in black and white, signed in front of witnesses and it is time for me to pay up. I have an airtight defense, so perfect that there is no chance I can lose. What’s that? Of course, I will share it with you; we are family, after all:
1. I am going to bring a laminated copy of the contract, highlighting the section that clearly indicates that I owe my partner the money;
2. I will argue that it was I, not him, who drafted the agreement and I will point out to the judge that I should take all the credit for its eloquence;
3. I will present an exhibit, a 12-year-old bank statement, which shows that I used to have the money and I am good for it;
4. Then, for the finale, the coup de grace, I am going to reveal my masterpiece: “Your Honor!” I will say, “Need I remind you that your cousin, also a judge in a different court, has ruled in my favor 7 years ago, on a completely different business transation, and isn’t it unfair that I have not collected what the court had awarded me? That is what you should be focused on!”
I know, I know. I will now pause to give you time to marvel at its brilliance. But modesty dictates that I disclose that it is not really my own idea, I borrowed it from the transitional government of Eritrea. It is a winning strategy because I know that the representatives of my opponent, my business partner, are not clear about their strategy: some have been arguing that they should storm in to our company, guns a-blazing, and take it over. They spend more time arguing with each other than against me.
I am actually quite upset at all of them. Well, yes, I am cheating and technically, they are in the right, and I have broken my covenant. But I am upset about their timing: I have been cheating them all along and I don’t understand their motivation: why do they want to sue me now. Now?
What’s that siren, you ask? The Metaphor Police just came and cited me for overusing a metaphor: they say nobody can follow what I am saying anymore and it is time for me to speak clearly.
On the basis of a constitution, to strive to uphold basic human and political rights, which include freedom of faith and of the press, the right to political organization, peaceful demonstration, information, work and education, freedom from fear and suppression and equality under the law.
Ha ha ha! The above is probably an excerpt from the constitution of Djibouti, which borrowed it straight from France. Shameless! Listen to them talk about freedom of faith and of the press, and the right to political organization, peaceful demonstration, and the freedom from fear, and, ha! a constitution, just language borrowed straight from the West…
No, wait, I lied, but only to make a point. You see, that excerpt is from the 1994 National Charter of the PFDJ. I promised I would do all these great things, on my own, in the holy city of Nakfa, and I didn’t do a single one of them. Instead of quibbling over that, you whiny crybabies, why don’t you give me a single credit for the fact that I actually wrote it with no gun pointed to my head, with no signing ceremony, and no pressure from the world’s busybodies?
It is rich, isn’t it, on so many levels. Oh, let’s count the ways. First of all, you could easily accept this phrase appearing in any charter or constitution and my claim to creating content that is custom-built for Eritrea is vastly overstated (go ahead: find a single article in the Eritrean constiution that could not be applied by the Republic of Gambia) but you didn’t catch that, did you? Second, look at the words: from beginning to end, the excerpt is a GilbiTish, an anti-Charter, a collection of words that describe all the things I do not believe in (Let’s quote the words of the president: “free press? What is free press? There is no free press anywhere in the world” and his recent assurances regarding our political rights that they will take a “long, long, long time” before they materialize.) Third, all your nail-biting excercises of “when will the constitution be really ratified?” and “if only the 1997 ratified constitution has a mandatory implementation date?” are moot points because the PFDJ Charter was “ratified” in February 1994 and that didn’t stop us from denying people freedom of faith, press, political organization, or peaceful demonstration, so why are you bugging me now about the Constitution. How much effort will it take me to have a ratification ceremony, and then to completely ignore it? You should really thank me for saving you time and not falsely raising your hopes. Geez, some people are so ingrateful.
Seriously, let me stop channelling the PFDJ.
To insist on “implementation of the constitution” without a preceding or an accompanying demand that the balance of power between the State and the Citizen shift dramatically—i.e, that there be a transition of power to a unity government, that our refugees are returned and that there be the de-politicization of the state apparatus, particularly the armed forces and the national security team–is to beg the PFDJ to rig the system in its favor and to create an eternal one-party state that has regular elections. It would only be too happy to do that. The only reason the PFDJ is not responsive to the “implement the constitution now” calls is not because it fears that will result in change of any kind, but because it fears that if it accomodates those who keep begging for it, it will send the wrong message: that it is sensitive to pressure and it just can’t abide that. So, if all you want is the implementation of the ratified constitution without any preceding changes, the best thing that you can do is to just wait. And you should do that: after all, why hurry no-change?
What Springs Eternal
Daniel Rezene Mekonnen wrote a revealing reportage on his afternoon with Louis Michel, EU’s former Commissioner and now MEP of ADLE (Alliance of Democrats and Liberals for Europe). My favorite part, and by favorite I mean depressing in that the democrats and liberals (of Europe and the United States) never learn anything, was this:
“The ambassador told him the Eritrean president wanted to speak to him urgently in Asmara. At that time, the issue of Dawit Isaak was already top on the agenda. As a result, he informed the ambassador that he would go only if Dawit Isaak was to be released. The ambassador gave him assurance on this and Mr. Michel happily travelled to Asmara in August 2009. In fact, believing that he would come back with Dawit Isaak, his colleagues booked a seat for Dawit on the same flight that brought Mr. Michel back from Asmara.”
The ambassor in question is Girma Asmerom and the reason the story is depressing is because all Louis Michel had to do was to use google to assess the worthlessness of any assurance given by the ambassador or any PFDJ official for that matter.
On December 11, 2003, Girma Asmerom gave his “assurance” to Aster Yohannes (the wife of Petros Solomon, G-15) that no harm would visit her if she went back to Eritrea. She was arrested at the airport, while her children waited with flowers, and she hasn’t been heard from since then.
In September 2001, Girma Asmerom promised Mesfin Hagos (another member of the G-15) that he would grant him a passport and a personal ride to the airport if he surrenders his revoked diplomatic passport. Mesfin wisely declined the offer, escaping from the fate of his colleagues (who have “disappeared” for 8 years and counting.)
If googling was too much of an effort, Louis Michel could have referred to the Swedish press which would have given him a heartbreaking account of what happened the last time news was floated that Dawit Isaak had been freed: as his family celebrated (prematurely) his release, and the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) was already basking in the glory of its achievement, Ali Abdu explained: no, no, no, he is not released, he is actually sick, in a hospital. And as soon as he gets better, jail awaits him. (I remember taking out Dawit’s book of poems that day, as my way of celebrating his release, before I, too, was heartbroken.)
And if all that was just too damn exhausting, Louis Michel could have referred to his own letter of June 2009 where he expressed to the Eritrean president what Dawit’s release meant to Sweden and Europe, an empty expression, as it turned out because it fell on deaf ears.
But, of course, Louis Michel knew all of this, but he had an ideological handicap. I think when you become a Liberal or a Democrat, in Europe or the United States, two things happen: you get your Liberal or Democrat party card, and then you are given special tinted glasses that allow you to see the world not as it really is, but how you would like it to be. This is, of course, a great quality to have if you want to be a radical revolutionary, a prophet, or you are seeking gainful employment in the healthcare industry. But it is a dangerous quality for a pragmatic politicians who want to see the world as it really is. This is why the world is a lot more dangerous when liberals and democrats and peaceniks are in charge.
Yes, hope springs eternal. But so does naievette.