‘Haba’e Kuslu, Haba’e Fewsu’ – Part I: At War with Itself – by Berhan Hagos
‘Haba’e Kuslu, Haba’e Fewsu’ Part I: At War with Itself Three days before independence day May 24th, 2001, one of the G15’s (‘reformers’) characterizing the state of affairs within EPLF/PFDJ as ‘Haba’e Kuslu, Haba’e Fewsu’ was splashed
‘Haba’e Kuslu, Haba’e Fewsu’
Part I: At War with Itself
Three days before independence day May 24th, 2001, one of the G15’s (‘reformers’) characterizing the state of affairs within EPLF/PFDJ as ‘Haba’e Kuslu, Haba’e Fewsu’ was splashed across one of the independent Eritrean newspapers, bringing into open months of speculations of troubles within PFDJ.
It was fourteen (14) years ago this month; a golden moment quickly became a missed opportunity to evaluate the successes, failures, and challenges facing EPLF/PFDJ and to find its cures to bring about positive change.
Above the political, economic, and legal destruction meted out against Eritrea in the last 14 years, it is the destruction of the very essence of being Eritrean, our very social fabric of being tolerant, being compassionate, and being just that will carry a lasting scar. Instead of building on our proud and prudent traditions and values, the regime is now feeding us incessant and blatant lies – and accusing anyone that questions its narratives as ‘anti-Eritrea’, ‘Woyane’, ‘traitors’, and ‘capitulators’. Its political campaigns are designed to divide the Eritrean society to thwart any potential resistance, any demand for reform, accountability and transparency, by sowing the seeds of mistrust, denigrating and disparaging individuals and groups of people that challenge its narratives in order to isolate and intimate them, if not imprison them. The regime is chasing a Pyrrhic Victory!
A leader, regardless how they came to power, of a nation can choose to bring out the best in the people they govern, or bring out the worst. They make the choice! DIA chose to bring out the worst in Eritrean people, in contrast and as an example, the late PM Meles Zenawi, the shrewdest and ruthless politician he is, chose to bring out the best in the people of Ethiopia. When PMMZ faced the same political challenges as DIA did, PMMZ imprisoned his opponents in humane way [although illegally] and then released them. He was teaching his people – tough love. In contrast, DIA imprisoned incommunicado indefinitely anyone who questioned him, and went on a path of sheer terror. He is busy sowing the seeds of hate, misery, intolerance and vindictiveness – which will scar the nation for generations, and which will test the unity and cohesiveness of the nation.
Instead of positive engagement – the very bedrock of nation building and achieving harmony – the regime has chosen to summon all the dark forces of human nature to ensure that it lives another day – and that, above all the economic and legal destruction – bodes ill for today’s and future Eritrea. We see the breakdown of family cohesions, mass flights – not only youths, but whole families and villages – and the strangulations of all economic and legal institutions.
It is suffice to mention the type of ‘un-Eritrean’ language inserted by the regime supporters such as the bored main stars of the Real Housewives of PFDJ in DC and elsewhere who have taken the art of character assassination to the highest levels of rudeness and despicable behaviour. As a reward for such behaviour, they have been given free reign to roam around representing the regime. It is nice to be tucking your kids into warm beds, feeding them cereals and jumbo burgers at Disney World, while enjoying the fruits of the freedoms afforded by the US Constitution, while one’s kids are also benefiting the jobs and wealth of a free nation; yet accusing others of wanting the same for one’s own children in Eritrea. Two sets of standards are called hypocrisy – and hypocrites sink nations. Then there is the good doctor, Doctor Faustus, who has been lending his ‘good’ name for such purposes – for what, a 15-minute fame. Then there is meskerem.net, or rather turncoat.net, or is it wedo-geba.com. It is racing not to raise the bar higher, but a race to the bottom inventing wild accusations against anyone resisting the regime. The unprincipled are hypocrites; and hypocrites destroy nations. These are some of the regime’s most conspicuous canon fodders in Diaspora who have come to symbolize what is wrong with the regime; and what ills today’s Eritrea.
In contrast to the Diaspora canon fodders, we shouldn’t blame too hard those card carrying PFDJ members living in Eritrea who go along with an oppressive regime out of fear or out of pacificism. We shouldn’t blame expat Eritreans who are serving the regime, albeit sidelined and probably useless, because they have the courage of convictions to return to Eritrea to help the country. These expats must live among the people who are suffering. It is those who live abroad and enjoy all the freedoms and fruits of wealthy nations and yet support a repressive regime with their remote control enthusiasm, while accusing fleeing Eritreans as ‘spoiled’, etc… that are hypocrites – and hypocrites never build a country.
Personal challenges, political challenges, social challenges, and other forms of challenges are inherent part of life; in fact, it is deeply interwoven into our very existence. As is for individuals, nations and organizations that resort to ignoring and hiding their illnesses, weaknesses, and challenges are only running away from their cures. Many societies have open cultures that allow them to debate contentious issues in passionate manners without feeling slighted, disrespected or losing face – and that more than natural resources, wealth, and technology, has been their deep rooted strength.
Those societies that transform their open culture into an open political institution, those open and transparent systems that announce their ‘political wounds’ in public- as painful as they are when divulged to the public – will quickly find cures before their wounds or illnesses becomes incurable, or spread to other parts of the body.
PFDJ’s Eritrea finds itself in a self-inflicted tragedy because the regime chose to ‘hide its political wounds’, turning its normal and curable political ailments into contagious and debilitating socio-economic and legal ailments that are manifesting itself in the mass exodus of Eritrean youths. Twenty four years independence later, PFDJ’s sickness has reached incurable stage. Despite an apparent socio-economic collapse, PFDJ keeps telling us that Eritrea has made progress and that all talk of doom-and-gloom is just what Eritrea’s enemies wish for it. We are told that the tens of thousands of our fellow countrymen – our very own kins, friends, and colleagues – our own flesh and blood – who are languishing in PFDJ Dungeons are not incarcerated incommunicado but is just a cheap propaganda of PFDJ’s enemies. Indirectly, we are being told to forget our own flesh-and-blood in PFDJ Dungeons, to forget the very ideals that thousands of our flesh-and blood who sacrificed so that we are free from oppression and fear; and to forget our wishes to regain our self-respect. We are told to pretend that the tens of thousands of our precious youths fleeing our beautiful country are nothing more than naive people fooled into thinking that better life awaits them elsewhere, that they deserve the tragedy for leaving their safe country and that is a form of punishment, or that they are traitors, or that Eritreans are more gullible than other nationalities and thus coerced by traffickers or that Western nations with evil intentions for Eritrea are coercing our youths to leave our ‘safe and prospering’ homeland. We are told to excuse, rationalize, deny, and downplay our tragedies. That is dehumanizing!
Eritrea is at war with itself. Although we have unresolved border issue with Ethiopia, we are not currently at war with Ethiopia. The last battle of the war with Ethiopia was fought in June 2000, which is 15 years ago – which is half the life of our 30 years of struggle for independence. There is no existential threat from Ethiopia. In fact, considering that DIA is doing an excellent job of destroying Eritrea, which if Ethiopia was to unleash on Eritrea would have been tantamount to war crimes, Ethiopia has no immediate need to remove him – and will apply sufficient pressure to contain him only against any direct and existential threats to its internal affairs. Ethiopia, either out of cahoots with DIA or out of DIA’s paranoia and egomaniac tendencies, will feed on the current political situation in Eritrea to further weaken, if not destroy, a militaristic Eritrea. For Ethiopia, aside from meddling in Ethiopia, DIA is doing an excellent job for Woyane. Between meddling and self-destruction, Ethiopia gains more from DIA and Eritrea’s self-destruction than it would suffer from DIA’s meddling in Ethiopian affairs. With the recent defection of DEMHIT, Ethiopia has even less short-term interest in Eritrea.
Broadly speaking there are three types of dictators – the selfish materialistic dictator, the idealist dictator, and benevolent dictator. The selfish materialistic dictators are found in many heavily corrupt countries; and these materialistic dictators know the limits of their power and are in fact risk averse to maintain their worldly possessions and pleasures. Their attitude is, ‘as long as you don’t touch my power and wealth, you can do whatever you want.’ The idealist dictator is a blind worshipper of ideals, and hence a fanatic. Their devotions to abstraction make them enemies of life. The sufferings of tens of thousands of innocent citizens through illegal and inhumane incarcerations and at the hands of people smugglers from within its bosoms are nothing more than sacrificial lambs to their fanatic ideas. Fanatic idealism – fanaticism – is what is turning an abundant and beautiful world into a miserable one for many. The attitude of a fanatical dictator is, ‘I want to control everything – which goes beyond power and wealth, but every movement of everybody and everything that moves.’ They suck all the oxygen out of the room. The third type of dictator, the benevolent, maintains absolute power overtly or covertly but increases and spreads wealth, while allowing a certain degree of freedom – sometimes allowing increasing freedom in controlled manner. Although their power games are hidden, and could be ruthless, they proceed along a publicly known path. The recent histories of many “Tiger” nations of the Far East, and now even Ethiopia, are some examples.
Before proceeding into detailed discussions of the current quagmire in Eritrea, one should note that the use of ‘PFDJ’ to describe the totalitarian regime of PIA, or DIA, is utterly wrong. PFDJ is defunct. The last EPLF/PFDJ Congress was held in 1994, i.e. 21 years ago which is eternity even by our ‘meda’ standards. The last PFDJ Central Committee meeting was held in the summer of 2000. The PFDJ Constitution, for whatever it is worth, requires the PFDJ Central Committee to be held every six month. Eritrea is a one-man dictatorship – anything else is window-dressing. Today’s Eritrea is one ‘halewa sewra’ on massive steroid.
Eritrean Refugee Crisis
Nothing screams louder – unfolding on the world stage for everybody to see at that – of the utter destruction of the country than the un-abating refugee crisis.
Yet we still have idol worshippers who are shameless in spewing out more excuses. When Prof. Asmerom Legesse criticizes the Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea [COIE], which was aptly critiqued by the super writer and thinker Saleh Younis, Prof. Asmerom should have asked himself first, is this his eulogy to the thousands who were swallowed by the Mediterranean Sea, Sahara Desert, and Sinai Desert – that’ the COIE was wrong about what happened to you, that it was a wrong analysis and methodology?’ Is this what wedo-geba.com would write on their tombstones, ‘you are Ethiopians pretending to be Eritreans’. Is this what the other idol worshippers write on their tombstone, ‘you were a victim of human trafficking, and shouldn’t have stayed home?’ What heartless things to say!
The refugee crisis is ‘Res Ipsa Loquitur’, i.e. the situation speaks for itself. No amount of academic gymnastics by professors or analytical bleach-washing by regime canon fodders changes what it is – a tragedy on massive global scale. When one is excusing a tragedy – one is destroying the very soul of a nation by that much! It is dehumanizing!
If one doesn’t have a family member, relative, or friends calling you in the middle the night for help, or have been visiting mourners who have lost loved ones, it is better to have one’s DNA checked.
For all those touched by all this utterly useless and home-made tragedy, our eulogy reads and is written on their tombs, ‘we feel your pain, we will do whatever it takes to alleviate the pains of all those who are living and suffering like you did.’
As a remembrance of the 14th year of the incarceration of 11 members of the G-15, reporters, and the other tens of thousands arbitrarily arrested prisoners-of-conscious, our own flesh-and-blood, the following series of articles will highlight the socio-economic, political, and legal destruction and challenges we need to overcome in order to build a viable nation from the socio-economic and legal ashes left behind from this brutal regime. Although most of the discussion focuses on the socio-economic and legal destruction meted out by the regime, the last part of this series addresses the challenges faced by the opposition and general public. The purpose of this series of articles is to challenge our conventional wisdom and presumptions, and hope to steer towards prudence and pragmatism. Some parts of the articles will be data heavy, and is purposely designed to equip readers with the ability to analyse in more a systematic manners. I welcome any corrections and constructive criticisms. The writer isn’t claiming to hold any special wisdom, but rather a different perspective with some blunt talk.
With the upcoming articles, I honour the bravery of the top EPLF/PFDJ officials and thousands of political activists who stood up to the brutal regime knowing that they faced certain death and extremely harsh treatments in the hands of their cruel colleagues and regime; they knew the risks. I compare socio-economic progresses of the G15 era (1991 to 2000) to DIA era (2001 to 2015).
We also honour our heroes Bitweded Abraha and Hassan Keckia who walked out of prison, but refused to be silenced knowing fully they would be incarcerated again – and they marched into PFDJ Dungeons willingly for what they believed and out of respect for the thousands they left behind. Tens of thousands of other brave Eritreans are now prisoners-of-conscious. They are our heroes – what Eritreanism is all about.
But the bigger tragedy that tears the soul of a nation is the cruelty metered out against our mothers and sisters – Mrs. Senait Debessay, Mrs. Aster Yohannes, Mrs. Miriam, and many other innocent mothers and sisters. When a regime is waging a war against mothers, nothing else is left that creates a country. Hopefully, their cries of agony will sweep away this cruel regime – sooner than one thinks, and that mercy falls upon the nation so that all the hate dissipates like morning dew. The fate of Eritrea lies in their cries!
Lastly, am I a Woyane for criticizing DIA and regime supporters for the way they are destroying our precious country? If one is a Woyane for speaking one’s mind, exercising one’s right to free expression, and defending the rights of the wrongly accused and the incarcerated, and the abused; and if regime supporters define being Eritrean as intolerant, merciless, cruel, inhumane, and hateful; then I am a proud Woyane. Of course, I totally disagree the way these ‘temberktis’ characterize being Eritrean, who are known for their compassion, hard work, and being industrious and law-abiding people. I am a proud Eritrean, like every 6 million of us, save the few spoiled ones who are giving us the bad wrap. By the way, the Woyanes, the Amharas, the Oromos – and all Ethiopians, the Sudanese, the Somalis, the Ugandans and others in our neighbourhood are all our flesh-and-blood – and we are one big family that we have to learn to work with in mutual respect and for mutual benefits.
In the following seven (7) part articles, I will review the state of affairs in Eritrea. Symbolically, Eritrea’s Coat-of-Arms with the Camel has come to symbolize NOT the undistracted and steady progress forward of the nation and the regime, but more like the old adage, ‘like piss/urine of a camel – backwards’.
Next: “The Sanction Myth”
September 18, 2015