Self-Definition And Self-Creation

Human rights lawyer vs. trained healer


1. A Likely Breakthrough on the Horizon;
2. Rumblings;
3. Eritrean Refugees in Ethiopia;
4. Repeating Myself – need for a framework for responsible political lobbying;
5. Theatrics aka Activism; …

The pressure of history is enormous, and its judgment is the most burdensome of all. To throw a spanner in the works, a deliberate oversight into our historical account is tantamount to duplicity. No matter how tough the going is, we should always exert maximum effort in holding on to our heroic past, and make conscious effort at restoring the integrity our Ghedli created around our existence. We should celebrate our history all the time. Defacing it, as some collaborationists are doing, will have our dignity thrown into the dustbin of history. Considering the way we conducted our independence project, the way Wel-Wel and Ibrahim Sultan paved the way for the independence struggle, the Ghedli we ran to regain the land of our ancestors and many more national traits we possess are examples of the qualities and potential we have as Eritreans.

I hope that intense, fruitful and controversial but always educational discussions can take place in a calm atmosphere. The emotional outbursts that prevent us from running our campaigns in business-like fashion, the Internet chatter that distracts us from executing well thought out processes, the condescending attitudes we show towards one another, and many more attributes that are unruly are not helpful. My fellow Eritreans, there will be a breakthrough once we approach matters differently. Once we control our emotions, move towards project-based operations and apply a good dosage of professionalism in our operations then we will certainly see some changes in the way we run our campaign.

We know what we have been doing and how we have been conducting ourselves since we declared our divorce from the PFDJ regime. We have wasted a lot of time and energy going in circles, haven’t we? I am of the opinion Ethiopia was the major wrench in the works of our campaign all along. Do you remember how Hiruy was imposed on EDA as Harestay stood up to them? And the fights and splits that ensued afterwards? Ever since then how many Ethiopia-led cataclysms have we experienced? Mark my words, a day will come that folks will commend EPDP for not capitulating to pressure from Ethiopia.

Let’s focus on other matters for now. What we are not aware of is the excellent qualities we possess–qualities which are not being utilized in our campaign against the PFDJ regime. We know our patriotism is unbeatable, and it is the biggest asset we have aggregated over the years. I am convinced banking on our patriotism is how we will have a breakthrough.

We certainly are a diverse group: lawyers, political scientists and historians, activists; theoreticians and practitioners; experts on Eritrea and others with an expertise in similar fields. In other words, people either intimately affected by the situation inside Eritrea or intimately involved in the attempt to solve our problems on the one hand, and on the other hand people who can address concerns from a more detached position. Basically, we have many more amongst us who come from all walks of life. In short we have the character and foundation upon which we will rebuild Eritrea, that is if we add some kind of team working to it. I am not talking about exerting joint efforts at this stage but to work in various constellations that do not work against one another. Once we start seeing the results of our cordial constellatory efforts then we can create the breakthroughs that will define and shape our future together. So let’s not give others the chance to create rifts amongst our constellations.


1. As I write this article, let me register my grievance against the PFDJ government that is denying our people not only their basic rights, but also diminish the quality of life down to beggarly state and destitution. Lack of service provision has never been so acute in Eritrea – whether it is electricity, water or even housing, the lack of service provision is a crippling problem for tens of thousands of Eritrean households and businesses. How can a society function without electricity and water? Shops have been closed for weeks due to lack of electricity. Lives are being put in danger. The government is bent on driving citizens out of urban areas so population control becomes easier to manage.

2. Allow me to say a few words about the comments my articles have been generating during the last few months. Interesting comments–some question my motives; some are uncomfortable when I raise Ethiopia-related issues; some try to portray me as a loose cannon; supporters of the incompetent ENCDC group are totally angered; some like to embark on pointless merry-go-round discussions; some, I guess, are on a power trip. And of course, there are those who are seriously following and contributing to the discussion. As for me, I guess I like flexing my intellectual muscles–just a form of bullying exercise. I feel I am so amusingly arrogant when I recycle old ideas thinking they are my own. Although in some cases our differences and wounds run deep, we are demonstrating an important national trait to the Ethiopians amongst us–we care about our Eritrea.

It is indeed tempting to engage many of you on important issues you tirelessly raise for or against my arguments; however, with all due respect, I have decided to remain thrifty with my time because time is not on my side. Being an Eritrean and a parent of young children is not easy. Anyway, by now I am sure the reader has the gist of my arguments: a) to remain true to our history/identity; b) to conduct our campaigns in a dignified way; c) to bring our martyrs to the forefront of our deliberations/campaigns; d) to create a self-reliant movement that ties us up with our people living in Eritrea; e) to eliminate Ethiopian-dictates from our campaign formula all together; f) the creation of an Eritrean patriotic front to lead us through a transitional period.

3. Memory of comrades: How many of our heroes are silently sleeping in history’s memory? The dead are dead, aren’t they? And it makes no difference to them whether we pay tribute to their valour or not. I am thinking of TeTew, Karachi, Flansa, Wedi Sheqa, Affa and more. I am also thinking of the event that took place on 1 December 1970 when around 1,000 innocent civilians were massacred in the villages of Ona and Basikdira near Keren within 48 hours. Where are the courageous ELF fighters who eliminated General Teshome Ergetu, the commander of the Ethiopian army in Eritrea? They are all gone. However, to us, the living, the memory of our heroes means something. Memory is of no use to the remembered, only to those who remember. We construct ourselves with memory and console ourselves with memory.

4. We need to change our ways. Don’t you think we have lost the meaning of struggle due to the fact that we got stuck in our comfort zones? There, in our comfort zones, we are waiting for something as our dreams gradually die. I feel we are being controlled by our respective comfort zones, folks. Has ‘struggle’ become a past time, a waiting game? This reminds me of the song by the villagers (Nothing arrived).

I waited for Something, and Something died
So I waited for Nothing, and Nothing arrived
It’s our dearest ally, it’s our closest friend
In this darkest blackout, is it our final end
My dear sweet Nothing, let’s start a new
From here all in is just me and you

We write a few articles, comment on written articles, attend pal-talk sessions, get a few things off our chest … job done. Perhaps that is why we attack those who really want to contribute to our campaign in terms of action oriented moves. Their actions will take us out of our comfort zones, if you know what I mean. If we want change then we have to change ourselves first. It is time for self-definition and self-creation. Let our patriotism be the main weapon for change as we self-define/create ourselves – we have it at our disposal. My fellow Eritreans, I want us to make history once again, not remain confined to keyboard campaigns. Our wounded hearts will heal in time, and if we want to expedite the healing process then we will have to rise up in the memory and love of our lost ones and start doing things differently.

5. Clusters of Operations: The fact is that we come in small clusters of campaigners stretched thinly over a wide area. At the same time we tend to cluster around bigger issues in order to change the world of Eritrea (as if we are a global cluster). Small clusters, unless they coordinate their work, can hardly become change agents. Until we master the art of global clustering, we will need to cluster around smaller issues that are manageable. Take the case of the Arbi Harnet project. I think the group is doing an excellent job–it is carrying out a project it can realistically manage. They defined their project well, identified their aims and objectives, continue to raise their own funds, and are beaming their messages in Eritrean households every week. Something very practical and a project that brings home-based Eritreans on board. And what is ENDCD doing? Bringing the scheming government of Ethiopia on board to create havoc? As far as I am concerned Arbi-Harnet deserves our support. Just pay-pal them some money and they will do the rest.

We can carry out similar projects of our own, on our own. We can further internationalize the plight of our refugees. Some activists are doing it already; we need to do more of it. We can seek legal means to address our problems within the international community. As a center, the Awate Team can do this very capably. I will help if my help is needed. Can we contribute enough to build a memorial of some kind for Wedi Ali?

Eritrean Refugees in Ethiopia

Let’s just mention some facts concerning Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia.

• Currently, there are 72,000 Eritrean refugees in four camps in Tigray region and two others in the Afar region.Most of the refugees are young and vocationally trained. Amongst them are some unaccompanied youngsters as well as mothers with children.
• It is estimated around 1,000 (out of 72,000) are given the opportunity to attend universities – education sponsored by Western governments (Norway being the major contributor). Is that 1.4 %?
• How many Eritreans graduated from Ethiopian universities this year: 16 individuals (big news at
• Do you know what kind of life our refugees lead in Ethiopian camps? Eritreans in the Tigray area are constantly harassed and exploited. ‘Enda-sewa’ bars are flourishing around the camps… the only place they are most welcome. Unemployment is almost 100%.
• Do you know how long it takes for Eritrean refugees to be processed out of the country? If the Ethiopians do not okay it then the refugee can stay in the camp for 5-7 years. Basically, if Ethiopia does not okay it then refugees will linger in the camps for years.
• Do you know that refugees are approached by Ethiopian security forces to support and join certain Eritrean opposition groups that are pro-Ethiopia in their construct?
• Do you know what ENCDC group is doing to alleviate the plight of Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia? Nothing.
• Do you know that some of the refugees who are instructed to join certain opposition groups are still exploited by the members of their sponsoring opposition group? There are strong rumors that sometimes the opposition groups transport ‘their new members’ to the boarder of Sudan for a fee!
• It seems the Ethiopians want to frustrate the refuges to a point of driving them to bear arms against Eritrea.
• Why are so many Ethiopians claiming asylum by feigning Eritrean identity? Are Ethiopians using Eritrean refugee quota (to go to a third country)?
• Many refugees are trafficked out of Ethiopia at colossal fees.
• One can say that refugee ‘ism has become a lucrative business in Ethiopia.

Repeating Myself

There is emptiness at the core of Ethiopia’s machination. We have seen their politicking around refugee issues and on a relatively unimportant issues served as a protective cover to help ‘their men’ secure dominance in diaspora politics, and to prepare to continue their unfinished business whenever power is usurped from PFDJ.
I know we, as concerned citizens, do not have a feasible strategy because we are busy running our lives and of course, fighting one another at the moment. Shall I say we are made to go at each other’s throats by various cliques amongst us? Be that as it may, we are all aware of problems that are devastating our country–poverty, mass migration, isolation, human trafficking, and of course a myriad of political, social and economic problems. Most of all, Ethiopia’s arrogance in rejecting the ruling of the Boundary Commission is one of the problems that is exacerbating the situation.

My fellow Eritreans, are we clueless when it comes to figuring out why we cannot work together to resolve our problems? I am convinced that cliques of negative forces are interspersed amongst us to cause havoc by encroaching on our basic rights with their unionist agenda. Secondly, too many of us are blinded by hatred of Isaias Afewerki and intoxicated by empty platitudes. That very hatred of Isaias is making us forget who we are, tarnishing our emotional association with our martyrs, and peroxiding the cruelties we suffered under Ethiopia!
Just to get a few things out of my system allow me to muse over the plight conscientious campaigners have been confronted with of late. The sedition lies within a scheme of exploiting the current status of many seasoned Eritreans who have been relegated to the rank of silent observers. I see many around me leading a life of quiet resignation and desperation while others are scurrying to receive hand-outs from Ethiopia. The resignation comes from the infighting and desperation comes from absence of inspiration. The lives Eritreans are leading are so abject a conducive platform has been created for those who are moseying for unattainable positions–theatrics aka activism. In other words, the Ethiopians are hijacking our struggle by feigning support. They are in the process of creating an aura of indispensability around our commiseration. Of course, that is not going to work for we Eritreans have invested too much in our Eritrean identity through blood.

My fellow Eritreans, this is real life as we know it; and where there is life there is hope. Hope at least gives us the option of living to embark on the right course of our struggle. I know hope is one of the most effective and practical solutions to cure despair. And that is because hope is based on practicality not theory. I am interested in the possibilities in bridging the gap that has been created between those of us who are calling for a clean campaign and our people back home. I am not interested in those piggybacking on Ethiopian experiments. We are not campaigners united by hatred towards Isaias, but love and wellbeing of our beloved country and memory of our martyrs. We should hope for a clean transition when change comes.

The primary objective of the campaign is to prepare ourselves for a future transition in Eritrea, so that we are well equipped to deal with the challenges and opportunities that will arise as soon as the PFDJ extinguishes itself–once again, an inevitable fact. We cannot afford to allow Ethiopia or Ethiopia-sponsored ‘activists’ lead the way.

There is no need for me to tell you what everyone has been talking about for the last decade or two–that we as Eritreans need justice, peaceful co-existence with our neighbors, unity amongst us, respect for our democratic and human rights. There is also no need to tally the frustrating experiences we have been going through in this dog-eat-dog campaign where conscientious campaigners have been silenced by those who are championing Ethiopian interests. For instance, I find the language of the ‘Smerrr group’ and their rhetoric too obtuse and confrontational. Their politics is based on a ragbag of things I cannot understand. Like any other Eritrean diaspora initiative which was susceptible to Ethiopian meddling–Smerrr group too will dissipate. It is only a question of time. On the contrary Eritrean perseverance will continue to prevail.

I think I have said enough for now.

Admas Haile is an Eritrean observer.


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