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Eritrean Opposition Camp Finally Starts Talking about Doing Something


Last Updated on Saturday, 20 November 2010 07:59 Written by G. Ande Saturday, 20 November 2010 07:55

2010 will undoubtedly be remembered in Eritrean history as the year when the Eritrean Diaspora started talking about doing something for the first time. At the forefront of this new hub of “talking to do something” campaign is the EPDP who has bolstered enough courage to embroil itself in a heated controversy when it decided to not simply flow with the EDA flow but to stick to its founding principles come what may.  Some overzealous elements are trying to put a nook on EPDP’s neck but given the dynamics of the game EPDP will prevail because it has built its foundation on bedrock rather than on sand.

We all know how arguments go in the PFDJ world, which unfortunately has spilled over to the general population and accepted as a norm.  Arguments always take the “win-lose” form. Tempers run high, everybody gets entrenched in his own point of view with no intention of yielding to sound reasoning, fists could be clenched, harsh words of anger could be thrown back and forth, and even the chairs that the arguers are sitting on could be used as weapons (remember the London incident of a few years back) to squash “opponents”.  Any form of violent act is permissible as long as an argument is won or as long as an arguer believes that he has made his/her day in victory. The “win win”, “loose-loose” or “compromise”, or “giving an opponent the benefit of the doubt”, or “having a cooling off period until tempers subside and then continue the argument later on” or “engaging the service of an independent observer to find a middle ground”, are imperatives that should necessarily be absent when two Eritreans argue  in a PFDJ setting -  thanks to the amphitheater of  a culture of obscenities and incivilities built up by  the PFDJ over a period of more than twenty years. This is the collateral damage of living under dictatorship for two decades and it accounts for most of the hiccups prevailing these days even among many players in the opposition camp. And it is very sad to see the EDA leadership fall into this trap and refuse to yield to sound reason and civil dialogue. Not to worry, though, cooler heads will eventually prevail and the opposition camp will certainly grow over this and gather its acts together and refocus its attention to its main goals. Anyway in spite of the altercations we have witnessed the birth of a new civil culture in Eritrean politics in the year 2010 thanks to the opposition camp.

Our 2010 experience was also marked by the launching of the Addis Conference for Democratic Change, followed by a series of Marathon of lectures by EPDP’s sprinter Mesfin Hagos to explain his party’s position on the conference, followed by members of the Commission for Democratic Change going around the globe to have local councils elected and a PR campaign by each party raging to explain and share its vision with the public.  All these activities have brought new life to Eri-Diaspora politics.  It looks like the ruling party’s (PFDJ ‘s) market share in Diaspora politics is being erroded  by new actors causing quite a stir in that exclusive domain. And this is coming in as good news for all peace loving Eritreans.

 I have participated in several of the above opposition conferences and have witnessed key note speakers being bombarded by questions and enquiries (without any questioner being at the receiving end of such verbal epithets as “Kof Bel”, or “Nfalet Eqoina”, or “Microphone Agdifo” and a variety of name calling editions that are customarily hurled at people with differing opinions during PFDJ meetings. The recent wave of opposition camp meetings was all civil and enlightening and those who participated proved to be intelligent people who mostly choose to differ in their opinions and vision of future Eritrea from what is presented to them by the speakers. This is something new because for those who frequent PFDJ sponsored  meetings, all they know is that such meetings start with  a prelude of “Nhna Nmengstina, Mengistna dima NiAna” “We for our Government, and Our government for Us”  and after the participants vow to each other  that they  have agreed on everything said  and done   including the amount of money that has to be  donated to  the  government, the meeting is concluded by “Awet NHafash’ “Victory for the Masses” followed by a reportage  in the official government media which ends  “Ab … Zitegebre AKieba BAwet Tezazimu”.  What a dull and depressing experience it is to go through the PFDJ calendar year in year out. Well, for those of us who are tired of the PFDJ mantra to the bones, the year 2010 has brought us some relief. We at least started to feel welcomed and empowered to air our own personal opinions without being intimidated by PFDJ ushers, cadres and cameramen.

The 2010 opposition camp conferences were one of a kind.  They were the first step to embracing democratic culture and the start of civil dialogue in Eritrean civil society. Every entity is doing what it can to sell its ideas to the public.  Even some extremists are seasoning their rhetoric by civility and tolerance and change of heart to buy credibility in the civil societies that are emerging at an alarming rate.  The EDA has adopted a new insignia, possibly with Ali Salim’s finger prints on it.  But what the heck, the “unforgivable sin” doctrine is a sin that a believer should not commit if he is to inherit the Kingdom of God according to Christian doctrine. Fortunately for Ali Salim politics does not operate that way.  So, if Ali Salim and his entourage make a change of heart and decided not to chase off any Eritrean who they believe has no right to live in what they call “our ancestral land”, and have transformed themselves so radically to the point of designing an insignia showing an Eritrea map cuddled by a dove with a “peace sign” and Noah’s olive branch, I must say this is one of the most remarkable turnaround to be chronicled in the annals of Eritrean history. How better can it get than this when we don’t have to worry about our skulls being chopped off by the swords of overzealous and territorial extremist activists for just being at the “wrong place” at the “wrong time” somewhere in the lowlands of Eritrea?  But thanks Ali Salim anyway, whoever you are, for the interesting climax and anticlimax that you created that kept everybody talking for a good eight seasons. You certainly know how to stir the hornet’s nest. And you are forgiven during this upcoming Thanks Giving Day.

The Year 2010 has also been marked by runaway journalists and writers, who were in the service of the regime, now either establishing new opposition websites or having their own blogs in some older websites and sharing with us some inside information about the regime. If these players could write responsibly by maintaining their independent journalistic position and adhering to other professional code of ethics instead of gravitating towards ugly partisan politics, the Eritrean public will stand to gain a lot.  But old habits do not die fast and that is probably why one young promising website, (assena.com), tripped by  allowing its website to be used by some sinister elements to go on a fray of personal attacks against our very Mesfin Hagos, in the name of free speech.  Many concerned Eritreans have forwarded their advice to this young website to refrain from allowing one party trying to score points over another thereby corrupting the independent status of that website. It remains to be seen whether or not Amanuel Iyasu, the webmaster, will heed people’s advices by understanding the limits and accountability attached to free speech.  The public obviously does not want to second guess him and pull out its moral and financial support to his struggling website. Anyway, assena.com has made our year 2010 interesting by offering us an appetizing punch made by a mixture of real, fictitious and tabloid news.  And it should be applauded for its achievements and amusing creativity.

On a much positive note, it is appropriate to welcome and commend our beloved Amanuel Sahle for deciding to use his God given talent to advance the cause of peace and justice. Amanuel said that he is a “citizen of the world” and that is the way to go if he can resist the temptation of reverting to nostalgic local sentiments and Asmarino’s “sidekicks” which tend to surface once in a while in his enchanting essays. We need to build up a future Eritrea by capitalizing on the pool of skills, wisdom and farsightedness available in our diverse societies which the PFDJ chose to ignore for decades. Our diversity is our strength. We also need to encourage our people to come out of their box and be active players in the opposition camp. And that’s where the outstanding skills of such artists as Amanuel Sahle, Keleta Kidane and many more others come in handy to achieve noble objectives. Our journey is long and our ordeals great. But as the Chinese say, “a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step”.  It looks like the opposition camp has finally made its first step.  The first step has energy of its own.  And the opposition camp will certainly move on its own volition, to help our people reach the threshold of liberty. 

The year 2010 will also be remembered by the lead that EPDP is taking to educate people about democracy and its website <harrnet.com>  sprinting so rapidly to the forefront surpassing even some established websites in  popularity thanks to the relentless effort of its editorial board including its webmaster Desbele Gebre .  Way to go <harnnet.com>. We Eritreans need to be educated about democracy in order to design a viable road map for our future Eritrea. We need to be born again like Nicodemus and recreate ourselves by putting on a new spirit of civility, goodwill, tolerance, and wisdom if we are to live as responsible citizens among a community of nations.  Embracing and educating our selves on democratic values and acting on what we learn are the only ways that will allow us to regain our dignity and pull our people from the morass they find themselves in today. So, EPDP’s contributions in this regard should be highly appreciated by everyone irrespective to which political party one may belong to.

All in all we had an engaging and lively four seasons in the year 2010 and we should be grateful for that. The political playing field could be bumpy with a lot of political altercations among the major players especially EPDP and EDA.  But then we should also remember that these political formations are trying to fix a big problem.  A problem that is bigger than themselves and one that has been building up on a graduated scale over a period of more than twenty years.  Who said this is going to be an easy feat that could be accomplished without deadlocks, bitter confrontations and stalemates? We should also remember that the regime that we are trying to unseat from power is not going to watch indifferently as it sees events unfold and the opposition camp gathering momentum. It will do its level best to muddy the opposition camp’s waters by employing the clever hat tricks that usually come in handy for it when faced by a major challenge.  So, it is incumbent on every Eritrean citizen to see that something comes out of the combined and noble opposition efforts that are gradually taking center stage in Eritrean politics.

The good news is that to see the opposition camp “talking about doing something”.  And when all is said and done and  after the chips fall where they may fall, something constructive will happen in Eritrea to change the future course of the country and  deliver the people from pain and agony. 

Happy Thanks Giving Day for All