The Eritrean National Congress: A Metaphor Of Hope

In association with the Eritrean national congress to be held in Addis on November 21, 2011, there is a question which I seem to be unable to repress: can this time the Eritrean people count on the good will of the leaders of the opposition groups, or their will is so corrupted thus nothing good can be expected from them? The word “corrupted” entails many curable illnesses some of which are named as spitefulness, lasciviousness, envy, gluttony, ingratitude, malignancy, jealousy, animosity and rivalry and all of which indicate the character of an extremely bad and harmful will of a person. A leader whose will is bad and harmful or better, is corrupted at its roots, cannot be expected to labour hard in order to make the national congress a success story but rather to lead it to failure and thereafter to justify this failure with much refined language and highly inflated old and new national prejudices with a hope, on one hand, to lead innocence astray and on the other, to conceal the real character of his will.

Since, in the past, I erred in my reading of the will of the opposition groups in general and since both similar conferences in Addis were accompanied by walkouts, the question arises whether this time the outcome of the Eritrean national congress is going to be a success story. By success it is not meant that the participants will successfully conclude their debate in order to establish a common charter or even a constitution, but rather it will mark the end of the fragmentation of the opposition groups and to announce a new beginning in order to lead the Eritrean people to freedom; for the freedom of the Eritrean people depends not on the strength of the ruling group but rather on the unity of the opposition groups.

In order to answer the question posed above, the following issues deserve some attention:

1. The Human Will
2. The Essence of Human Freedom
3. The Issue of Struggle.

1. The Human Will

The issue of human will is raised in order to gain an insight as to what is meant by “will” and somehow gain a clue whether the opposition groups’ will wills freedom of the Eritrean people. To will is not to wish for something, but rather the capacity to represent a concept and act according to what is represented in the concept.  In this case, what should be represented and acted on is the concept of freedom of the Eritrean people. Thus in union with the concept of freedom, to have a will is to be able to represent not only of one’s course of life and related incentives but also of the freedom of the Eritrean people. Therefore, if the opposition groups’ will wills freedom of their people there is no doubt that the national congress will mark a new beginning. Yes, whether the Eritrean people will be free or not depends solely on the will of the opposition groups.

In a straight forward talk, what is said above is meant to indicate that this time the will of the opposition groups has an opportunity to divest itself as a bad and far more dangerous or a good one, that is, it wills freedom of the people; if it is bad and harmful, however, their will wills no freedom of the Eritrean people but rather it wills only the so called “gifts of fortune”, that is, unearned riches;, undeserved power; undeserved influence and honour. Let it be noted here that a will is either good or bad and it cannot be both at the same time.

2. The Essence of Human Freedom

The decline and fall of regimes that practiced the totalitarian ideology (unsound political view) during the past and current century signifies that the authors of this ideology erred in their reading of not only the essence of human freedom but also of the human nature as it relates to the political life. Indeed they thought through dissimulation of political arguments and repressive measures the essence of human freedom could be permanently repressed. So is the belief and praxis of most dictators. The prudence of any dictator is not to be underestimated and yet in spite of his prudence this or that dictator lacks the necessary insight into his own nature. Therefore he incorrectly converge the essence of freedom with that of the forms of it. To be sure that the essence of human freedom is appropriately perceived below is a bit more information.

Even though our senses neither have an insight as to why we are endowed with freedom nor they can feel or touch it, freedom is one of our essential properties; this is to say that we are set free from the laws of nature. As to why it is so or its actual existence in us can be easily demonstrated. This set free from the laws of nature means that, for instance, my will-governed actions which in turn reflect the way of being of the person I’m are not caused by natural processes. In other words, the way of being the person I’m is not “bound by the lawfulness of natural process and their necessity”.  Stated differently, this being free from the laws of nature confirms the actual existence of my freedom as part of me. This, however, is not meant that I’m lawless and the course of my life is not bound to any law, but rather it means that the course of my own actions is ought to be dictated by the laws of freedom. The word ought to signify the freedom of my will either to be lawful or wild lawless like a dictator.  In brief, when we speak of the essence of human freedom we are not necessarily referring to the forms of freedom such as freedom of assembly, of religion, of movement, of expression etc but rather to the freedom of the will of an individual person.

In order to make more apparent the issue of freedom as one of our essential properties, let Beilul, the daughter of Afar, come into play. The actual existence of here freedom can be easily demonstrated by considering the following sentence (a sentence which I recall reading): “was der Mensch ist oder werden soll, dazu muß er sich selbst machen, oder gemacht haben“ (Source ?). If I may suitably reformulate der Mench to mean Beilul instead man, it means “Beilul herself must make or have made herself into whatever she is or to become.”  In other words, to be what she is or to become is not subject to external decision, but rather is determined by the inner decision and resoluteness of her will. (This is way that there can be no self-determination of the Eritrean people collectively without the self determination of the individual citizen). Beilul’s freedom is part of her innate constitution and cannot be taken away by a brutal tyrant, tradition, or even culture; for freedom is part of her inner essence just like her eyes and noses are part of her constitution. This is not to say, however, that the forms of here freedom cannot be denied, she may not be exploited by a dictator as his slave but rather her freedom as such is not subject to external repression. This is the reason as to why people’s struggle is ceaseless until they are free.

In summary, by the decision of the divine will freedom is one of the properties of the human kind thereby of the Eritrean people.

3. The Issue of Struggle

The statement I stated above – By success of the national congress it is not meant that the participants will successfully conclude their debate in order to establish a common charter or even a constitution, but rather it will mark the end of the fragmentation of the opposition groups and to announce a new beginning in order to lead the Eritrean people to freedom – requires a bit more attention.

As an instance take any independent country where there is no need to replace an old power and authority through the process of struggle, where freedom is granted to the people, where no major political and social transformation is required, where the contents of a constitution are successfully supervised and implemented, and where there is no need to replace institutions and their social relations. In this country it is justified for the political class to be fragmented into so many groups; for these groups will either grow stronger or die depending as to how the people accept or reject any idea presented to them. But since in Eritrea, however, none of the criteria stated in the preceding sentence are met and since there are at least “34(+) groups” (Awate Gedab News), the question arises as to where the struggle of the opposition groups is heading to and whether the primacy of their struggle is the concept of freedom. Here the necessity for the fragmentation of the opposition groups is being questioned.  Here is why:

The word struggle by itself denotes the existence of an enemy or an adversity and the courage, determination and resoluteness required to contend against this enemy or adverse condition. In the case ofEritrea, there is a power (the ruling group) against whom the opposition groups solemnly declared to contend in order to lead the Eritrean people to a rule in which the principles of democracy are contained. In other words, on one hand, the opposition groups have been crying so loudly that there is a need to replace the power and authority of the ruling group through the process of struggle, but on the other, the opposition groups are so fragmented beyond any acceptable reason. Here I note the contradiction between the objective of their struggle and the path they have chosen in order to lead the prime objective of their struggle to its consummation. Now what does this mean in plain words? It means thatEritreais independent from foreign suzerainty (true statement), but the fragmentation of the opposition groups stand in contradiction with the primacy of the objective of their struggle. Here begins, indeed, not only things to get real confusing but also the contradiction becomes staggering even to a cultivated mind. This is why the opposition groups so far did no substantial injury to the rule of the ruling group.  

In order to make the issue being discussed more apparent, it may be appropriate to shift my attention to the current political view and structure of the ruling and opposition groups and bring them within the purview of the sharpened eye of review:

(a). The ruling group’s praxis of ruling or its will-governed actions throughout the post-independence years leads to the conclusion that it rejects self-determination of the individual citizen, that is, it considers the freedom and rights of an individual as not basic; hence, they must be subordinated to the collective (the Hafash) welfare. This is the basic ideal of socialism which requires coercive force insofar as the praxis is to promote justices and equality in societies.  Since justice and equality is nowhere to be found in Eritrea, the ruling group uses this basic ideal of socialism only as a mask for its totalitarian ideology. This totalitarian ideology first gained its’ roots from Josef Stalin and Josef Stalin’s totalitarian ideology in turn gained its roots from Lenin’s political view that: “in order to produce fundamental change, Lenin maintained that revolutionaries must act as the vanguard of the working class and its interests.” Josef Stalin suitably interpreted Lenin’s political view to read that his hegemonic communist party is the supreme vanguard of the working class and its interests. He did so in order to have a mask for and to justify his totalitarian rule. Stalin’s interpretation of Lenin’s political view marked the beginning of the world-wide human tragedy.

(b). A brief review of the political programs of the opposition groups indicates that they aim for the implementation of the principles of democracy. Their organizational structure (the way they are grouped) and their political objective, namely, democracy, however, fails the basic test of soundness for two reasons:

(1). In order for democracy to function it requires as its foundation at least several independent institutions one of which is the political community, and all of which ensure the proper implementation of the principles of democracy. Without these institutions the idea of democracy loses its practicability and such impracticability often leads to corruptions, civil war and other far more dangerous problems; for there is neither united force nor the necessary institutions to guide the behaviour of the political class. We do know from experience that unsupervised political class goes to wild lawlessness.

(2) The structure (grouping) of the opposition groups is mainly “on the basis of national platform, provincial focus, national identity, religious identity and linguistic identity” (Awate’s Pencil Note). These grounds on which the opposition groups ground their existence or grouping stands in contradiction with the objective of their struggle, namely, to lead the Eritrean people to freedom and democracy. In view of this, now a clear conclusion with respect to the opposition groups can be drawn: any political group should satisfy the criteria of truth of what and for what it is struggling for and the scope of its struggle should be in harmony with the struggle of the people. If this not the case, the struggle as such is nothing else but a power struggle. Let it be clear here that a power struggle is not the concern of the Eritrean people, but rather ofEritrea’s political class.

(c). The prime objective of struggle of the Eritrean people remains always the same, that is, how to be free from the fetters of a foreign or local dictator. Therefore, if the leaders of the opposition groups will wills the Eritrean people to unfurl their banner and rally behind them they need to brought to their senses and have to be ripe for the fray (of course by peaceful means) required by the objective of their struggle.


The struggle of the Eritrean people has only a single item in it, that is, their freedom. This freedom in turn encompasses all forms of freedom and all their rights including owning the land of their ancestors with no exception. The freedom of the Eritrean people is thus the only foundation of struggle. Political groups who struggle for other purposes than the freedom of their people have nothing good to offer except corruption, chaos, civil war and possible disunity among the Eritrean people. Therefore, it lies within the range of the natural duties of the participants of the national congress not only to set the issue freedom of the Eritrean people above anything else, but also to demand the unity of the opposition groups.

The successful struggle of the Tunisian, Egyptian and Libyan people provides the clue that this year is indeed the year of freedom. My hope is that the coming Eritrean National Congress to be somehow conducive toward the right direction, that is the unity of the opposition groups. By unity is not meant that the groups join EDA or other giant organization rather the destruction of their small organization and reorganizing themselves according to the idea of their struggle, namely, the freedom of theEritreapeople. What I said so far express my hope and my hope reflects only my wish but not reality. And this reality stands in direct contradiction to my hope and remains a major concern of mine; for experience cries too loudly that mind cultivation of the political class has its own speed and requires sometimes a long time to perceive the essence of its own nature, the purpose of its own struggle and as to why people struggle for freedom.


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