Fetsum: The Eritrean Socio-Political MENU: PART II
As you know, Dr. Abiy Ahmed has resolved the border issue by fully accepting the international verdict on Badme leaving the rest for the Eritrean dictator to deal with. The dictator has now officially expressed
As you know, Dr. Abiy Ahmed has resolved the border issue by fully accepting the international verdict on Badme leaving the rest for the Eritrean dictator to deal with. The dictator has now officially expressed his acceptance of the offer to a bright future between the people of both countries. Yet, he could not leave the Weyannes alone regardless of its repercussions to the people of Eritrea and Tigrai. Instead of accepting the offer and shutting up, he went on diffusing his hatred on the Weyannes predicting they will “continue to complicate matters as usual”. This was a very bad move to the region overall because the offer by default includes the badly needed peace between both peoples that suffered most of the damage caused by the dictator who started the war by invading Badme and refusing to settle down the difference based on the Rwanda-USA initiative. How the situation will turn out to be and whatever we think about it immaterial, I think the dictator has lost his best card and probably gained another in return depending how intelligently he uses the opportunity. He can reverse his situation in many ways to prolong his power vis-à-vis the people by reforming few things here and there inside the country and improving the relationship between the Eritreans and Ethiopians such as free movement and commerce activities. Further, he may also influence Dr. Abiy to do something about the Eritrean opposition forces stationed in his country for many years as of today and it seems like he has already started to to do so by, at least condemning the recent explosion in Addis and neutralizing the remaining Ethiopian opposition forces in Eritrea such as Birhanu Nega’s Ginbot 7 out of the show. The response to this move is yet to be seen on Dr. Abiy’s decision on what to do with the Eritrean opposition forces in his country. One possibility may be stopping to help them and closing their offices in Ethiopia or allowing them to survive with minimum contact and handouts. The time may have arrived for them to pay the price of uselessly staying in the country grudging on their personal issues at the expense of the Eritrean people. Let us wait and see what happens to this effect ahead.
In my last article, I had shared my view of the psychedelic (in terms of division) opposition camp comprising many political groups, civic societies and individuals that could not yet design a universally acceptable common ground for the Eritrean struggle to democracy. I did 6 of them and here are the rest:
7) Party politics: This group believes in having a strong popular political party to replace the regime and democratizing the country. It expects the people to build it, yet, it has no convincing formula as to how to democratize the nation and no universal role model (prototype society) to show in defense of the theory, at least to my knowledge. Eritreans have been experiencing this ever since independence and research says a strong political party that believes in this political philosophy can only create a One-Party State upon success. A collective information source for instance, describes the matter as “One-party state : A one-party state is a form of government where the country is ruled by a single political party, meaning only one political party exists and the forming of other political parties is forbidden. Some countries have many political parties that exist, but only one that can by law be in control, which is called a one-party dominant state. In this case opposition parties against the dominant ruling party are allowed, but have no real chance of gaining power. For example, in China all power is vested in the Communist Party of China. Other parties are allowed to exist only if they accept the leading role of the Communist Party. The Soviet Union from 1922-1991, Nazi Germany from 1933-1945, Italy under Benito Mussolini from 1922-1943, and various Eastern Blocstates are some the best known examples of one-party states in history. Some one-party states are considered dictatorships and called a police state or a military dictatorship, if a secret police force or the military is used to keep a dictator in power through force.” This classifies all dictatorial nations in Africa including Eritrea, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Sudan, etc. as imposers of this political system on the people. Further, people in any society are not responsible about the well-being of political parties although they should support them as long as they stay under the law. The political parties should rather work hard to transparently sell their political programs to the people acknowledging the people’s supreme power in society. One cannot be the judge and the plaintiff at the same time and society can not allow political parties to draft and ratify election laws by which they come to power because the democratic integrity of governments cannot be guaranteed in this fashion. There is clear conflict of interest here and the practice is known for suppressing opposition elements, denying freedom of speech and rewriting the constitution to extend their dictatorship, saying the least.
8) Liberation struggle oriented political philosophy: People in this group were in the liberation struggle for a long time but left the country because of different reasons. They sure did liberate the land but under firm control of their bosses that reduced them to unconditional servants of the fronts instead of freedom fighters with substantial political and civic rights (ELF and EPLF). They created the absolute dictatorship we have been experiencing since independence under the super dictator Isaias Afwerki. They were so controlled; they came out being addicted to CONTROL at the end of the day. This psychological syndrome happened to be the main problem that stagnated the democratic journey of the Eritrean people. So dictatorial and rigid in mindset, they cannot accept universal solutions to the universal problem of our people that must one way or another assert their supreme position in the Eritrean society. One super dictator finished them all and the people could not help because they did not build the struggle on the people’s exclusive interest in society. The foundation was rotten, CONTROLLING the society for power in the name of democracy and the people could not react for their freedom against the regime that abused them at will because they had already weakened them to the point of fear and stillness.
Apparently, it used to be ELF Vs. EPLF members in Diaspora in the past but now, the vision appears to expand to both dimensions without formal reconciliation. The idea to my understanding states that elite members of the struggle from both sides, representatives of all political parties and few other known characters of the era from the people, etc. should form a government in exile to eventually lead the nation after the dictatorship. The notion is signified by the “unity between the EPLF dominated Medrek and ELF’s Mr. Hiruy Tella Bairu and may be his political party as well. They don’t have a clear idea as to how to democratize the country then after because they don’t want it, though the result would be a recognized government like any other dictatorship around the globe (only if it succeeds). This clear TOP-BOTTOM political philosophy is about replacing the regime by another dictatorship dominantly from within the two fronts of the struggle in the political parties, etc. Democratizing the nation after controlling political power can be a fake promise to confuse stabilize their supporters because there is no reason why they don’t start the process at this point in the struggle, otherwise. I think this will trap the people in another vicious cycle of dictatorship.
9) Pan Africanism style regional politics: As for those who have been discussing with Ethiopians about the need to normalize the relationship between our countries, the idea is obvious, redundant and beautiful, and I think the relationship will eventually improve. But the problem here was the dictator and nothing will change without his cooperation or replacement. We knew he would never normalize the relationship without “receiving Badme” from the Ethiopians needless saying he never wanted this taking place because it cannot survive in peaceful ambience by circumstantial characterization. The recent Ethiopian proposal to fully accept the International court’s deliberation is the ultimate litmus test to this effect and he has accepted it out of choice, although it does not seem to excite him so far. I, thus don’t think the activities have anything to do with the current Eritrean situation but may reflect frustration about failing to challenge the dictatorship with the right strategy to democracy. What is needed is focusing on democratizing Eritrea rather than on what we all want to see in the future between the two countries from such an off-the-wall position, for we don’t exist in view of the international community because of lack of strategy to neutral transitional government of Eritrea. Nothing will change between the countries until the very weak Eritrean civic society wakes up to follow the right path to democracy.
As per the few that think about Ethio-Eritrean unity as a solution for anything that goes wrong in Eritrea, all I can say is they are acting as if the Eritreans are the only sufferers of dictatorship in the world. Should Somalia unite with Kenya to solve its problems? Should Brundi unite with Rwanda and Gambia with Senegal as a solution to whatever the problems may be in those countries? Unity with Ethiopia will never solve the Eritrean problem because Ethiopians are not united and are struggling to make it from within one party political system. The three leaders after Mengistu beginning from Meles Zenawi are from a single party and certainly holding power with partially illegal election procedures. This happened in China many years after Mao Tsetung, in Cuba and in few others countries beyond the scope of this article.
Besides, the current Eritrean problem has nothing to do with its independence from Ethiopia but with the failure of Eritrean elites to amalgamate their ideas focusing on the most appropriate bridge to secular democracy based on universal means of solution. The society’s elite group that played extraordinary role in the struggle for independence could not accommodate common grounds in this struggle for democracy. The consequence may be the reason for few pro independence Eritrean intellectuals to advocate confederation between Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Djibouti, which in my opinion is insane, unnecessary, impractical and out of phase with the concrete realities of the countries in the package. The idea can not be entertained out of the context of Pan-Africanism that is fading today even in more advanced African nations such as Ghana, Liberia, Senegal and Nigeria that have not practically started flirting with yet, let alone the most backward East African nations that could not adopt the correct way of democratizing their countries till this point in time.
Can you imagine any form of unification between Eritrea and Ethiopia at this too inappropriate time in history? Why should Eritreans do this with a country that has been under one political party since the downfall of the Derg and reduce themselves to second class citizens with questionable role in the country’s political life? Please try to see the difference between SINGLE PARTY ‘DEMOCRACY’ (leaders come only from one party by voting procedures within the party). This is not what we want in our country; we want SECULAR DEMOCRACY to reign so our people can leave peacefully electing their leaders from different political parties polluted with ethnic and religious politics. I don’t think Djibouti would accept this extremely chaotic arrangement as a small country content with its situation attached to France and the US but put Somalia in the equation and try to imagine how the theory may further spin out of the axis. No one on planet earth can figure out the Somalian mentality because they are the only society in Africa with people of the same ethnicity, language and religion, yet the most divided in the continent. The homogeneous Somalians are not ready to entertain the so contemplated unification while deeply immersed in clan oriented division with the best circumstantial advantage in the continent in terms of Ethnic, Linguistic and Religious factors. Thinking about sitting in a room to negotiate with Al-Shebab scares the devil out of my soul. The idea in my opinion is a desperate reflection of hopelessness from failure to shift the conceptual direction of the current Eritrean struggle for democracy in the right direction.
10) The regime: It is impossible to ignore the regime, the people and the civic groups, however, because the society is composed of people tired of dictatorship and expects a collective solution from the civic groups as soon as possible. The regime has been consistent with its absolute dictatorship with no threat whatsoever from in and out. Whatever the opposition says, they watch it like an entertainment drama with good dinner and Cognac on the table. The regime may try but has really nothing to do to protect itself from the toothless opposition that only entertains the problem without touching the solution. The civic groups that could not work together based on the appropriate strategy to democracy have been doing its dirty job by their own choice. The dictator chills with his officials enjoying the show when he hears staff like this from his informers. I don’t blame him; it is a drama that you crave to hear and watch as often as possible without investing any effort and emotion on, specially in his situation. He has learned to shut his mouth and doing fine with the international community one way or another knowing that we have been incompetent to penetrate it. He may even be in better shape now with the new development in Ethiopia and the extremely tired Eritrean people of the insignificant opposition leaders that cannot resolve an issue together.
Clearly, his best political card has been lost as a result of Ethiopia’s acceptance of the international verdict and he cannot help cooperating (legally reclaiming Badme and demarcating the borders) because the whole world is watching the situation. This, may not, however, threat his power in the current ineffective situation of the opposition camp. In fact, he can use the ambiance for his advantage in the absence of the Civic Society’s meaningful conceptual unity. He can cheat the people as if his position on the matter kneeled down the Ethiopians to do the right thing. With few cosmic changes and promises here and there, the dictator can take advantage of the victory to prolong his power in good harmony with the Ethiopians (something the Eritrean people want to see) and the rest of the world. Remember that Ethiopians are also under one-party system and have no problem with the Eritrean regime in this aspect.
11) The Civic Society: this branch of the society is as rigid and confused as it can be. It is infested with too many to count groups with no written solution at hand one can only wonder what the groups within are thinking and waiting for? Yet, the best the civic society produced till this point in time can be classified in three strategic political directions, although none of them succeeded despite years of existence in the pool.
Physical unity of the civic groups: Few civic groups have been physically uniting without clearly telling the people the causes of their division, why they are uniting now and on what common grounds. How will their unity change their poor performance of the past? Unfortunately, we don’t know! They could not generate a specific strategy “two symposiums on exploring ways of democratizing the country” (within the last five years) and they still appear in exploring mode of operation. What I think they need is conceptual unity instead, which is terribly missing at this critical stage of the political game.
Top-Bottom strategy: The strategy is overthrowing the regime by any form of violence organized by old members of the liberation struggle and “democratizing” the country. This would have been excusable with clear strategy on how to democratize the society after they take over political power in Eritrea. They want us to believe their words without any written material to show and any time limit to discuss about. Where is Medrek’s strategy in writing and what happened to Kibrom Dafla’s promise of disclosing his strategy of changing the situation with selectively picked secretive individuals from within the Shabia community? Why are they afraid to work with other elements of the society and why do they want to do it alone behind closed doors based on “Niana gidefulna baelina kinwideo, nihna natsenet silezemtsaena” excuse. They could not even secure their freedom after liberating the country let alone securing it for the people and we have never seen any democratized nation with their type of secretive strategy, staying ready to be convinced, otherwise. Our experience should teach us to never trust any organization except the law.
Localized “Bottom-Up” strategy only limited in the US: This strategy has been entertained by, at least one civic group in the States specially after the Vaccaro movement in 2013 and can be considered the originator of the grassroots movement based on its initial composure. It is said to have succeeded creating local baytos in few cities but the claimed baytos are not as strong as expected to be and no one knows what is going with this strategy and what may take place in the near future. I see two outstanding problems here: the strategy has no capacity producing the badly needed neutral transitional government of Eritrea because it is not global (limited to the US only) and has no complete material as to how to do it. I don’t think it mentions anything about NEUTRAL TRANSITIONAL GOVERNMENT and no one knows what it wants to do after forming a continental bayto representing our people in the US (even if it succeeds in this regard, which once again is unlikely based on the result). Second, the strategy may be called Bottom-Up but is the opposite in practice because all the baytos that may be formed in the US (if this ever happens) are designed to work under the leadership of the individuals who originated the idea. Local elections might have been done in few cities but the ultimate leaders have always been from the same circle with no chance for others to enjoy the privilege contrary to real time grassroots ideology. Instead of neutrally facilitating the baytos, they are part of it from leadership points of view. This means the people will never have the chance to elect their continental leaders because the originators of the idea assume that position indefinitely. This absurd condition contradicts the essence of BOTTOM-UP strategy that should fully depend on legally elected leaders through the proper stages by which it may be reduced to practice. In my opinion, the maximum the idea can produce at its best is ERITREAN ASSOCIATION IN THE US AGAINST DICTATORSHIP with the same leadership and open ended destination that cannot signify DEMOCRACY by any logical evaluation. I don’t even think they conduct meetings between all the locally elected members and who decides in their name.
Yet, not only did the process stagnate in practice but the so said organized cities have also “shrunk from the previously claimed more than 14 cities to only 6 or 7 cities in the United states”. This strategy has proven to be out of phase with our people’s emergency situation because it appears like it is regressing in time instead of progressing forward.
Global Bottom-Up strategy for global leadership: In my opinion, GI has adapted this strategy by the book. The GI strategy of forming local baytos everywhere to develop into continental baytoes and then to a global bayto representing all Eritreans in Diaspora based on elected leaders is the most honest and correct way of applying grassroots strategy to say the least. What makes the GI strategy different is that it is only a facilitating entity by which global leadership can be established by elected individuals from the local baytos with no GI member in the leadership of the local baytos and the anticipated global; meaning that the GI community functions as a component of the people with no vested interest on political power. The global leadership would then play the people’s role of checking and balancing the democratic process in the Transitional Period and even of serving the society as part of it. The ultimate goal of this philosophy is to end up forming a NEUTRAL TRANSITIONAL GOVERNMENT (free of the groups or parties with vested interest in political power) mandated to facilitate the democratic election of the country, peacefully transferring power to the elected contender under UN supervision and moving on!
In conclusion, this is what the Eritrean political menu looks like unless you have another item to add. The people must clearly understand what they want and pick one that fits their individual concept of society. The expression Eritreans do not have a common strategy to democracy is, however, incorrect because I believe there is one, although the people are not closely following the matter to pick and develop it by active participation. They appear waiting for an exceptional person to emerge out of the pull and lead the struggle to secular democracy. This, however, is not possible and unnecessary because we don’t have a dynamic revolutionary figure in the caliber of Mandella or Marthin Luther king to do the job. We don’t even have a genuine dictator like President Rawling of Ghanna that transformed his country to one of the best democracies in the third world. Yet, after 21 years of staying in power, 8 of them by fair election before leaving the chair for the next elected president in respect of the constitution that limited his power for two terms. That is the best we can expect from coup de etat based dictatorship to democracy, and only if we are lucky because this type of power transfer is unusual in Africa. Neither the fast aging older generation nor the youth has produced a leader with that caliber needless to say there is no democracy without a mass based transitional government in our situation either way. The truth is that our situation is universal that can only be solved by universal means of solution and we cannot achieve democracy by appointing individuals from the political parties to lead the unavoidable Transitional Government of Eritrea for it cannot be neutral, otherwise. This entity belongs to the people and its leadership must be composed of neutral individuals from the people to neutrally facilitate the election process and democratize the country. Enjoy your life no matter what and see you soon!
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