“In truth, there is no pain but comfort, no fear but courage, no chaos but order, no betrayal but trust and no dishonor but the highest of accolades.” (Haile-TG)
Politics has never been a matter of principles. It was and will be a matter of interest. It is not unusual to see political U-turns in Eritrean politics, because politics in itself is the art of political U-turns to some extent. All political U-turns stem from the inherent contradictions of political positions, and most often is seen at the leadership levels and to a lesser degree at the lower level of a vacillating class of elites. Such kind of U-turns, often occur when nations face unprecedented crises of leaderships. U-turners always make a gradual disengagement from their former positions and turn their supporters into the staunchest enemies. Lost in a complex political dynamics, their new journey is always to find a new base in the opposite political camp, whatever that camp might be and stand on. In short, u-turners are bias-oscillators.
The echoes of political U-turns in our political debate came exactly when our nation’s economy is plummeting downhill, poverty is spiraling upward, and the oppression became menacingly rampant, and of course when the international and regional relationships have impacted our nation negatively in its domestic problems. Understandably, their u-turn political routes are within the three politico-dynamo or classifications in the Eritrean politics, namely the PFDJ politics, the opposition, and the silent majority; with their respectively distinguishing characteristics – the insatiable power-urge of the regime, the lack of leadership and statesmanship in the opposition camp, and the degree of political consciousness of our people at large.
What propelled me to write this piece is not only to explain the concept of political U-turns and how it happens, but also to respond to Younis Hossien (YH) and some others who made a political U-turns at this crucial time, when in fact, their own people need them more than anytime to fight for justice that they are denied. U-turners are calling upon us to renovate the political house PFDJ. [Indeed] the Idea to renovate the house built by crooks is futile, unsound, and futile and [needs] only demolition . Fortunately enough, the U-turner’s argument drove us in to a self-awareness universe that stirs and invigorates the field of consciousness, to interpret the counter-intuitive empirical result of political u-turns.
Younis in his four consecutive articles made his argument and explained why he was making U-turns, albeit all on the basis of political demagoguery, by giving his own definitions to an already conventionally accepted terminologies and concepts. I will rebut some of his arguments as I continue my argument against his Political U-turns.
The Metallic Taste of Injustices
Generally speaking, a metallic taste is a form of Dysgeusia, an abnormality of the sense of taste. Few years ago the angry Younis Hossein (YH), also known as Ali Salim (AS) was the voice of justice. He felt the abnormality of justice or the metallic taste of injustice in our nation. He was angry and pessimist then, and we noticed that from his choice of words such as land grabbers and neo-Nazis. I challenged him to challenge the evil with optimism .
A genuine reader always looks at the core message of the writer than to every sentence and word used as a vehicle to the core messages. Because oftentimes messages are lost or absorbed in the way writers communicate to their readers. So I read him genuinely to his core message and his outrage on the regime’s policy of dispossessing the property of the landowners. His grievances were well taken, and of course by taking out all the unnecessary loose words that doesn’t warrant argument. Despite his well-founded grievances, he had no strategic vision on how to fight the metallic taste of injustice that he sensed with his fellow Eritreans. YH was clear and unambiguous on his grievances and his venting back then as opposed to his current U-turn spirit.
U-turn is not a vision and will never be. But as a political phenomenon, it did exhibit its existence in the Eritrean political landscape, not only in theory but it also came as a political exercise of flip flopping to undermine the struggle for justice. Interestingly enough, his U-turn spirit not only lacks a vision but also the elements of solutions to his well-founded grievances that he had eloquently argued for. While his social grievances were an expression of political principles, his U-turns became a reflection of political personal interest, a character of a vacillation often seen with the political behavior of most political elitists (sometimes termed as petty bourgeois).
There is so much noise than substance that attends to his demagoguery argument in his U-turn. Indeed there is more behind this phenomenon, and that is, anything and everything to eclipse the struggle of fundamental change, camouflaged behind the so-called patriotic zeal. Eritreans had never had shortage of patriotic zeal, but shortage of wisdom and strategic thinking.
Wild Ideas On The Old Mine Road
Younis didn’t make critically analyzed arguments based on evidence to describe his u-turn decision. He accused the opposition camps of not having a unifying strategy and right course of action in their struggle. This author will agree to his accusation on the opposition camp, but he shouldn’t make a U-turn from the principle that put him in the opposition camp in the first place.
One has to be in the opposition camp because he/she has something to oppose in the state affairs of our nation or something is utterly wrong within the nature of the government we have. With his wild ideas to renovate PFDJ, he wanted us to walk on the old mine road of their political infra-structures. There are clear distinction between the PFDJ-reformers and the opposition camp (however weak they are). The former are fighting for the custodian of PFDJ cultures and value system, and the later are the justice-seekers and the antidote of PFDJ value system – two opposition, two Eritrea’s. With these two forces of oppositions there are no compromising grounds in the way how Eritrea should be governed. The only scenario, I could think of, in order for both to co-exist, is, they have to create a contractual-constitutional-process, where the Eritrean people with their political organizations reconcile and come up with a document, which will finally be recognized as the binding supreme law of the land. Tactical change comes with change of circumstances. So it is always normal to make your political decision within the context of change in circumstances. But in no way, that change should alter your long term principles.
Surprisingly, when YH, the fiercest critic of PFDJ, made a U-turn, he stuck his shovel where it doesn’t belong. With his U-turn along with his political crass of interpretation and rendition, he launched an aggressive attack against the opposition camp to satisfy the conflicting political dipole in his mind. Unlike Semere Tesfay, Younis understands the nature of the regime we have. He will argue to reform PFDJ (as he has been within that political culture) until he makes another U-turn out of disappointment from the PFDJ lots. Keep in mind the current U-turns is simply from his disappointment on the opposition, when they can’t meet his expectations. Contrary to YH, Semere’s center of argument is the fear of losing the power of the Tigrigna speakers. The fear of shift of power and the unexpressed anger against the regime left him ambivalent. Watch these two perceptions “fear” and the “unexpressed anger” collides and at time interplay in his political argument, Very vividly. He wanted to see change in Eritrea, but as to why he wanted change, he couldn’t spell it out. In fact when asked to identify the ideology of the regime, he never provided an answer.
Searching A Rose in the Cornfield
YH and his allies are disappointed and frustrated by the opposition camp either in the competence of the opposition leaders or some opposition for residing in Ethiopia. In a nutshell their concerns are (a) Incompetent leadership (b) Residing in the enemy camp alluding to Ethiopia as an enemy. My argument will not dwell neither on the competence of their leaders nor on where the opposition camp should reside. Instead, my argument will be on why these U-turners couldn’t be an alternative to the weaknesses of the opposition than lodging wars against them, if they consider themselves in the opposition camp. First you can’t attack your colleagues in the opposition camp until you become an alternative to them. Second you don’t make U-turns to find a rose in the cornfield of the PFDJ system of governance or within the disgruntled PFDJites who still believe on the PFDJ’s value system. In fact if we make a glowing performance review on U-turners’ attempts, there is a clear indication in longing of something. That something will eventually be known as we go forward, in the race of struggle which is a lengthy and punishing by its nature, two opposition and two Eritrea.
On this occasion I will pass my gratitude to my friend Saleh Younis who gave us the insight, that the draft constitutional of 1997 was based on the value system of the PFDJ that was enshrined in tin its 1994 charter. A constitution cannot and should not reflect the political program of one party. The constitution should reflect to the value-system of the Eritrean people as whole, and settled as a “social contract,” agreed upon by the people and the political parties that exist and will exist on that specific time frame and space. The political program of a party is the platform or the declared principles it uses in a competitive pluralistic electoral system to win an election. So, we can’t find a rose in the cornfield of their document, as it only reflects the value system of one party: “the PFDJ party.” Usually conflicts occur due to inappropriate social institutions and norms. The human needs theory offers the necessary insight how to build peace and coexistence that are involved in ‘the reduction both direct and structural violence’ .
U-Turn: The Sclerotic Pathway
U-Turn is a pathway filled with abnormal ideas that clogged the process of fundamental change and resuscitate the abnormality of the system we have. Like the fibrous interstitial tissue that hardened a body part, the U-turners are trying to make every attempt of change to be difficult to happen.
For one who reads YH’s argument carefully it will not be difficult to notice, that there is a lacuna in his logical argument – a gap between his grievances and his model or approach to resolve it, which is a prototype made after that of the Arab uprising. The Arab uprising shattered the old order but yet failed to coalesce into a clear model for the future. YH can’t identify the possible forces which are favorable to listen to his grievances. His narrative should be placed within historic, political, and cultural context to re-frame the relationship between the forces of change. He must recognize their additional latent power against the sclerotic bureaucratic state monopoly. He shouldn’t allow himself to be shortchanged either by himself or by EPFDjites into accepting less — for the solution of his grievances.
Let us look at some of Younis’ arguments that he tried to convince us with:
Argument-1 – “Watch Eritrean Television and PFDJ media for a few days and you are on a U-Turn …….In fact, the PFDJ (and everything under its mandate inside and outside the country) is the only Eritrean entity that is actually directly involved in a struggle for change in Eritrea.” (The U-turn Spirit).
Younis who abandoned the regime in 2001 when he was sent to South Africa for further education, is now becoming the disciple of the PFDJ. He is grudgingly admiring and telling us with certainty that the only entity struggling for change in Eritrea is PFDJ. The questions for Younis are then: what made you abandon PFDJ while you were under the safe hand of the regime? If there were reasons to abandon them, are those reasons addressed by the regime now? Did you see any tangible development at this time compared to the time of your abandonment?
By all accounts, the Eritrea of today is deteriorating. In fact Eritrea is “A Penal state” as described by the ICG report. The economy has been in suspended animation for several years…..in effect the army is currently organized unofficially into economic and political fiefdoms under commanders who pursue their own interest while military capacity deteriorated rapidly . Our society is under severe oppression and the economy of the country is under siege. Independent civil society doesn’t exist in any meaningful way…..the party dominate what passes for the non-governmental sector . There is no free press and no political associations in our nation. Eritrea is regarded as one of the worst offenders in terms of press freedom .
Younis has resorted into Clintonian way of defense. Yes, we remember what Clinton had said during his sex scandal. His famous line in the highly politicized court drama was “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. Younis’s “U-turn spirit” argument of change is precisely that type of argument, especially when he took us on the road of “intentional” and “unintentional” psychological/legalistic approach rather than on the political and economical approach to evaluate PFDJ’s effort. This will remind us of the traditional adage: “ KitBel’O Zedeleka Abagum’Bah’s Zagra Tiblo.”
Let us see another argument where Younis tacitly defends DIA.
Argument-2 – “There are actually people who have tried very hard to prove the insanity and pure sadistic meanness on the very person they are suing for horrible crimes” (U-Turn spirit).
Younis is worried by the insanity argument against DIA. One who has basic politico-psychology knowledge can read many elements that could certainly infer the insanity behavior of the man. This isn’t even circumstantial evidence, there are hard facts on the way he speaks, the way he reacts, the language he uses, the way he liquidates his adversaries . I hope Younis will not come with the “unintentional argument” to the way he liquidate his adversaries. No self-respecting individual will tolerate and take his personal initiative to defend the coercion carried by this monster called DIA. Furthermore, he tells us about the “natural law” that governs human relationship and regulates interest driven interaction among men. The mere fact that we are calling DIA insane and sadistic is, because he doesn’t follow the natural law Younis is calling upon us. The well intentioned rational men will not dream of the objective of existence of a good society under the existing intolerant totalitarian regime. So his argument of “good society” in the circumstance where we are doesn’t hold water.
Here is another argument that lacks basic power of persuasion but gives fodder to.
Argument-3 – “This is to say that whatever we may imply in our writings (or the writings of any human being), is pure speculation – not reality – because reality is so complex that it can never be written, described, represented or even known by mortal humans, who are themselves part of the things they claim to know.” (U-turn)
The whole exercise of arguing on assumptions is pointless and cheating. Younis claims that talking about Eritrean politics is pure speculation, hence, everything written about Eritrean politics is also speculation. He in fact told us not to be restricted by academic interpretations on the definition of terminologies; because it doesn’t allow him to move freely to make multiple U-turns. What he is telling us is – just listen to me, don’t worry about others
With full certainty, I will argue that, there are many realities in our politics. For instance there is an authoritarian regime in Asmara. There is no constitutional governance in Eritrea. There is no free press in Eritrea. There is no rule of law in Eritrea. There is and indefinite national service in Eritrea (what Adhanom G/mariam calls “wefri Barnet”). There is no election in Eritren. All these facts are reality. They are not speculation and we are actually debating them. I will limit my argument on “political reality” without extending it to “physical matters” that occupies spaces.
Realities are some time a summation of sets of realities. You could integrate them to see it as a whole, or you could differentiate them to identify the parts from the whole. So realities can be read, written, described, and reshaped in the desire of human being. In short realism is – the view that the world described by science is the real world, as it is, independent of what we might take it to be.
Younis is prescribing a single party to rule Eritrea. Let us listen to what he has to say.
Argument-4 – “Here, I will try to promote the idea that there is no credible opposition (that you can trust) to the PFDJ regime (“regime” defined as system of rules that govern) and that whatever the opposition organizations as we have known them for years have been doing so far was “selling out” on Eritrea.” [U-turn]
Younis didn’t take time to strikeout all the opposition organizations in the opposition camp as sellout organizations by a stroke of a pen. That attitude in itself is the attitude of PFDJ, since Isaias’ infamous bluff of 1991: “nay wudubat Hashewiye Yelen”. Younis has reiterated the same things in his own words. Remember he told us that his argument is based on speculation and not on reality. So why would the public listen to his unrealistic argument. If the PFDJ cannot be judged by what consequential things it does that so far accounted to the public, what is the purpose of the third wave argument to resuscitate the PFDJ system of governance? I want to hear from Younis stating that all the current predicament of our nation under PFDJ is “unintended consequence” in a straight forward unambiguous way just for the record. We will be judged by our words and we will live by what we said.
No Breaking The EBB
No breaking the ebb and no breaking the resolve. We will still go the distance to end the tears and injustice. This is the life we have chosen and this is the struggle we are in. Soft resistance doesn’t do the work with the kind of regime we have. It will only elongate the years of sacrifice and the exodus of our youth, while Isaias and his PFDJ are determined to keep us down.
The scale of trauma and the damage incurred by the regime and the ruling party is indeed beyond description. Those who don’t have a clue about their loved ones are more traumatized than the rest of us. Two decades of oppression and mis-governance by the PFDJ has wrought havoc on our nation, and it is tattering on the edge of the cliff. The weakness of our social fabrics and the insecurity about the future is reflecting in our social behavior. The PFDJites are playing their games inside of us. In fact they are redefining the struggle for freedom in tandem by keeping the state machine in their hand. They are engaging in a classic strategy: if you can’t convince them confuse them.
If human aggression is the problem with the wide spread of interest-based systems, there will be no process of adjustment. Hence there are no appropriate legal and bargaining institutional processes. So according to Burton, the deep rooted social conflict springs from unsatisfied basic needs and that the task of conflict resolution is to develop a new method of understanding and satisfying them . So let us be reminded constantly that we are engaging in struggle with one of the world’s most ruthless and anti-democratic PFDJ, which employs a violent and terrorizing tactics against our people, to suppress their psychological and material needs. ‘Needs, unlike interests, cannot be traded, suppressed or bargained for. Thus, the human needs approach makes a case for turning away from traditional negotiation models that do not take into account nonnegotiable issues’ . Therefore, we have to identify the needs of the conflicting parties to come to plausible resolutions.
 Aklilu Zere, “Eritreans picnic to death” April 15, 2011, Awate.com
 Amanuel Hidrat, “challenge the evil with optimism: A response to Ali Salim”, June 13, 2009, Awate.com
 Daniel Christie, ‘Reducing direct and structural violence: The human needs theory’, Peace and conflict: Journal of peace of Psychology 1997, vol. 3, No. 4, page 315-332.
 Eritrea: The Siege State [ICG].pdf, Crises group Africa Report, September 21, 2010.
 Gaim Kibreab, Eritrea: A Dream Deferred, chapter-3
 Reporters without border, “World Report: Eritrea”, April 2009 pp 56-58
 Burton, John “conflict resolution: Towards problem solving” Dec 1, 1997.
 Sandra Marker, ‘what human needs are: In beyond intractability’, August 2003.