Death, torture, imprisonment has become the norm for Eritreans both inside and outside the country. The country is undergoing a process of silent extinction unless something immediate is done to deter this unfolding scenario. Young Eritreans are seeking refugee into neighboring countries of Ethiopia and Sudan in their hundreds on a daily bases. In an attempt to escape the harsh realities on those refugee camps many of the them attempt to go to Israel and end up in another nightmare, this time in the Sinai desert. They get tortured and killed by the Bedouins, unless ransom money is paid that amounts to 20,000 US dollars, their organ stolen and vanish in the wilderness.
Amid these catastrophic realities Eritreans by and large are passively witnessing, while these tragedy is unfolding in front of their eyes. Many outsiders ask, what is behind the silence of Eritreans, why have we failed this far, who could salvage the country from its ultimate disaster? And how long are we prepared to tolerate the intolerable condition?
The division and counter division in the opposition block has been the main reason that kept the dictator to stay in power without sound opposition. Therefore, first and foremost we need to understand our current state of affairs in terms of our political affiliations, who supports whom and why? These are crucial questions that need to be answered, if the struggle is to succeed in the shortest possible timeframe.
I would analyze and dissect the Diaspora Eritreans both those who support and oppose the regime. I have categorized them into ten sub-groups. Obviously, there could be some Eritreans whose views may have not been included in my grouping, but least I can safely say they could not escape from remotely affiliating in one way or the other with the groups mentioned below.
Group one: Ultra-nationalistic: (nsu nhna) We can call them blind supporters because this people are honest and die hard to support the PFDJ regime without questioning, this are candid supporters of the regime. These individuals consider Isaias as the God father of Eritrea, without him in power, Eritrea would cease to exist. And any name-calling for their leader, for them it is simply a conspiracy to tarnish the image of ‘our great nation.’ Most of this people even hang the image of Isaias in their homes or wear T-shirts with his photo.
Most of them happen academically at lower levels, hence, their worldview is mainly shaped by Eri-tv propaganda machine, and they watch it day and day out. Unless they were to see something bad on Eri-tv, they would say (Wala Tinfer ember Tel eya) even if it flies, it is a goat. All efforts to win their minds and hearts is just futile, and a waste of time.
Besides, these individuals have extreme hatred towards those opposing the regime; and they are prone to behave violently at times. Unfortunately, most of this group happens to be dominated by women in their late forties and fifties. Does not have email and hardly use internet, hence, they depend for everything and anything on ‘the starving the truth’ Eri-tv and the regime knows very well his target audience and how best to brainwash them.
Group two: Opportunists. (zbereket sehayna) This group of people knows very well the regime and its brutalities though may not at first hand level. They are mostly residents of the west, surprisingly, we find even some young people among them, who fled the country in the past few years. This individuals either experienced themselves or seen some of their close friends and relatives becoming victims of the regimes’ injustice.
This people mostly play the role of a double agent and usually in the form of spying. They are always available on demand for the regime’s dirty works. They spy both to the supporters and opponents of the regime. These individuals are also advised to create division among the different sectors of the Eritrean Diaspora society, even to the extent of conspiring to dissolve a marriage, if one of the couple happens to oppose the regime.
Most of these individuals have also financial link with the regime by involving in remittance activities or in collecting 2% income tax clandestinely. They are the ones who run the unofficial PFDJ institutions registered in their own names, hence, unlike the blind supporters this group gets financial benefits from the regime they serve.
Once the regime is removed from power they would also remain beneficial, with no one to account for the would be abandoned properties of the regime, they would right away confiscate it. Hence, unlike the diehard supporters, they don’t have nightmares of seeing the regime being toppled. But, they have fears; once the regime is gone they would find it difficult to find their right place in the society without their former master. Hence, they try to avoid their public support as much as they could; of course, to the extent that wouldn’t infuriate their boss.
Group three: superficial supporters: (entay gedesena) I called these group superficial supporters because they are not genuine enough. Mostly they are the ones who support the opposition behind the scene and at times spy on the government activities and seminars for the opposition. They are mostly composed of those individuals who have investment back home and other benefits or for fear of losing their summer vacation.
Hence, besides paying 2% income tax, they are often absent from the PFDJ meetings and seminars. And they are the ones being spied by the regime by using group number two (opportunists). If something negative is reported about them, they are the ones who often become victims of the PFDJ trap, once they are back home for vacation.
Group four: Victims of identity crisis: (beles) These are mainly youth born and grew up in the Diaspora from diehard supporters of the regime and they are widely known as the YPFDJ. They are the brain child of Yemane Ghebreab, political affairs head of the PFDJ. They know little about Eritrea besides their month long summer vacation and for the regime this proved to be a fertile ground for indoctrination.
Besides, most of the youth, who grew up in the west faces racial discrimination and difficulty of integration in the society they grew up. Unfortunately, the vacuum is filled once they ended up in finding refugee in an organization; they know so little about its evil agendas.
Even if they would know the injustice of the government they proudly support, they would find it difficult to have emotional attachments with the victims for them to speak up. Even those, who left the country recently, as time goes by their emotional attachment is prone to increasingly get diminish. Hence, for most of these youths, Eritrean nationalism is just partying and dancing in Festivals and that is of course very captivating.
Group five: The reformists (tfelto seytan): This group wants to see change and believe the situation in the country is getting worse before it is getting better, yet they are very reluctant to oppose the regime publicly. They believe in reforming rather than removing the incumbent government. They hate the opposition leaders, much more than the regime in power. Former EPLF fighters, who later abandoned the regime are included in this group.
They believe the Eritrean opposition groups can’t bring peace and stability to the Eritrean people; rather they would destroy what has been achieved over the last twenty years in terms of religious and ethnic cohesion of the Eritrean people. Their biggest fear is seeing Eritrea divided along religious and ethnic lines, hence, in order to avoid that we see them surreptitiously supporting the regime. They are composed of individuals with average and higher level of education.
Group six: Silent majority: (kulom hade) These are the most confused and in illusion, they don’t know whom to trust, and mostly preoccupied with their individual life and at best they try individual solution to a common problem, mainly by sending money back home to their family and when the opportunity preset they pay for their escape, which amounts in thousands of dollars.
They hate the PFDJ regime; equally they don’t have affection to the opposition parties as well. They are tired of politics and try to live a peaceful life in an environment of chaotic situation both at personal and societal level. They are abhorrently undecided about what they can do to end the agony of the country they see it in tatters.
They are dormant, however, once they get the right person or group, whom they could trust they would be susceptible to wake up, in fact, many of them are doing so as of recently, in contributing their part to undo the regime.
Group seven. Ethnicity and Regionalists. (zeysebna) For the ethnic grouping advocates it is the Tigrigna speaking ethnic group to be blamed for their misery and for the regionalists it is deki Hamassien ruling elite. Hence, the main motive of struggle for the ethnicity advocates is to take or share power in the government, whom they consider that doesn’t represent their interest. For them their ethnic identity is what comes first and an Eritrea that doesn’t represent them in terms of their own ethnic makeup is worthless.
The regionalists believe Eritrea’s ruling elite comes mainly from one province i.e Hamassien. Even though they all belong to the same Tigrigna ethnic group, however, they have strong resentment that the leader has not been from the region where they belong. Once a change of government takes place they would be aspiring to play a leading role in ruling the country to the pride of their own ethnic group. The subject of regionalism is often dealt behind the scenes and it is very difficult to know how wide spread it is.
Group eight: Islamists: (zeynatna). This group believes the government is mainly dominated by Christians and wants to see an Islamic leader instead. They have been fighting with the government ever since independence, and their main goal is to rule Eritrea with Sharia law and consequently make it part of the Arab world. They would also like to see Arabic language as dominant as the Tigrigna language in social and political sphere.
By strengthening Arabic language at educational and institutional level they want to unite all the Eritrean Muslims in the hope of challenging the Tigrigna Ethnic groups, who makeup almost half of the Eritrean population of the entire country. This group, although they are included in the Eritrean Democratic Alliance, mostly find themselves in antagonism with most of the other opposition groups mainly due to their political agenda.
Most members of this group have been living in Sudan and other Arab countries for many years, hence most of them hardly speak Tigrigna language, either due to lack of will or lack of capacity.
Group nine: Eritrea first: ‘Erey kuhlo’: I called this group Eritrea first, many of them oppose the Islamists and regionalists in the strongest terms, while some are willing to work with them in achieving the change they desperately want to see. In the meantime, they work hard in their own way to see the regime removed from power. Some of them believe through peaceful means of struggle, while others advocate violent means. Hence, they both agree in the end, but differ on the means of achieving it.
These are mostly youth and are active in the social networking sites such as facebook and paltalk discussions, where they are getting increasingly emboldened by the day. But, as they are yet to organize themselves, they lack a clear political agenda that would win others hearts and minds. Many people hope once this group begins to start organizing themselves, they would outweigh the other opposition parties in posing the greatest threat to the regime, with the possibility of inciting violence inside the country. Through social networking sites they could build a clandestine network inside the country as well.
Group ten: ELF veterans. (Jebha abay). There are still many who oppose the ruling regime with ELF and EPLF grudges on the back of their heads. During the armed struggle’s bloody civil war thousands of the fighters from both sides were killed that ultimately culminated into the disintegration of ELF (Jebha).
Ever since then the hearts and minds of these two groups have been somber with hatred and bitterness. The fact that the opposition group is still dominated by individuals, who were having a leading role in those meda days is a manifestation to this fact. And it is for this reason many youth are skeptical of joining them, as they see them as the two sides of the same coin.
These groups have a lot of bitterness and resentment in their heart and it is feared once they took power they would also tend to behave the same way as the incumbent government.
CONCLUSION: These are all Eritreans whose voice wants to be heard, and dream best for their country in their own terms. And possibly once a democratic atmosphere is put in place; all these divisions will play out, the questions is: are we ready to tolerate one another despite these seemingly big differences in our view points. We can only kill an idea with a counter idea, resorting to violence against those who don’t subscribe our view points is simply primitive and will not help solving our problems. If we learn to respect each other, we will end up defending each other’s rights.
No one should condemn the other party based on his political views, as long as they stay non-violent; they have God given freedom to enjoy thinking freely. And the Eritrean people would decide his own destiny in the ballot box, and that is what we all aspire to achieve ‘democracy’ (people power). We should not waste our energy becoming opponents of an opposition group, because we can’t be a gatekeeper for others and a democracy proponent at the same time.
Tedros Abraham Tsegay