Thru the Storm

Looking back on the progression of opposition debates for the past number of years, there has been very encouraging transformations in tone, depth and scope of these debates and discussions.  Many of these opposition articles eloquently articulate the key issues that confront our nation.

As Mr. Simon Woldehamanot expressed his concerns regarding our debates in his yet another excellent article titled “Constructive Debates” dated Nov. 13, 2007, my concerns relate to the lack of breadth in our articles.  As well-intentioned many articles might be, most articles appear to be written in a moment of emotional charge rather than to expound different perspectives to given events or debates.

Some of the major shortcomings of our articles and writing campaigns are,

1.  There are upsurges of articles when certain events occur.  During lull moments, articles tend to dry up.  Instead, we can engage in feverish writing during the hot moments, and to engage in constructive ideological discussions during the lull moments.

2.  Although every Eritrean is free to express their peaceful views in any manner they see fit, readers would better benefit when articles engage in methodical analysis based on the following disciplines,

  • Legal perspective – such excellent writers and thinkers as Mr. Daniel Rezene, Mr. Simon Woldehamanot and Mr. Berhane Tekeste have done excellent jobs of giving us legal perspectives on various issues and events for the past number of years,


  • Unfortunately, other disciplines have been thoroughly lacking in our analysis and discussions including,
    • Historical perspective – there used to be couple of writers who related our issues and events to broader historical comparisons of our own and other people’s histories.  Our inability to put our struggle within the context of human struggle throughout time creates the cocoon political perspectives that lead to unrealistic expectations, unsubstantiated claims and misleading conclusions.  Many ask me and others lament on how Eritreans could allow dictatorship to take hold in our country.  But dictatorships have existed throughout time.  This is not a unique phenomenon to Eritrea.  It is better to learn the lessons of history and then to express our disappointments based NOT only on our own history but also others.  PIA is applying dictatorial manuals written throughout time.  PIA has NOT applied a single dictatorial method that has NOT been applied by others throughout man’s history.


  • Social perspective – although many writers address the current dire social conditions Eritrea, no one has taken a crusade to address this issue in methodical manner.  What is the short-, medium- and long-term impact of Warsai Yikealo or corrupt practices on our society?  When corruption bubbled to the surface few weeks ago, I don’t recall a single article written dedicated to methodically addressing its short- and long-term implications on our social fabric of PIA’s deliberate policy of introducing corrupt practices into Eritrean social fabric.


  • Economic perspective – this is yet another totally forgotten perspective.  For every event, there should be a writer(s) who addresses the economic impact of certain event, issues or propaganda.  Preferably, these writers would be able to offer us some data to support their arguments and conclusions.  What is the impact of Nevsun on Eritrean economy?  What about Warsai Yikealo?


  • Political perspective –   politics is more than just expressing one’s views with inklings of self-righteousness.  Real politics is somewhere between effective salesmanship, expressing practical views and seeking compromise.  Politics is about navigating through prevailing public attitudes and perceptions.  Unlike dictatorships where politics is about imposing elitist ideas on the population, democracy is about absorbing the public’s views as one’s own in order to be elected – regardless of our personal views.  For instance, there were no real political debates on the issue of blacklisting Eritrea (except a couple of articles which attempted to address it at political level but veered off a bit) within the opposition camp.  Everyone simply expressed their unwavering views without broader political and ideological debates.  The problem with taking a hasty position on any issue is that those who propagate their ideas in haste feel that they must defend their views lest they lose credibility even if new arguments arise that refute their ideas.  Thus hasty decisions and policies shift debates away from the issues themselves to seeking face-saving compromises to redress the hasty decisions, thus failing to dispose the underlying issues in prudent manner.


Others may address issues from traditional, cultural, religious, diplomatic or other perspectives.  Although this writer lacks the formal education and experiences of the many fine opposition writers, I have tried to purposely address various issues from different perspectives, and the format of ‘Mining Illusions’ [my last article] was prepared with this in mind. In fact, I must commend the Awate team themselves for trying to address our issues from different perspectives.  Also as much as I disagree with some of their approaches and views I respect such brave men as Mr. Adhanom Ghebremariam and Mr. Hirui Tedla for their relentless efforts to share their views as they understand them.  My disagreement with them doesn’t mean I am right and they are wrong, but that they haven’t yet convinced me of their certain political views and especially feel discomfort towards their political antics and positioning.  Otherwise, credit must be given where credit is due and Mr. Adhanom is one of the very few truly intellectual individuals within the wide Eritrean political spectrum that offers the widest perspectives on any given issue, which has enriched us all. 

Naturally, no issue can be addressed from single disciplinary perspective only.  However, our discussion can focus on one discipline while addressing other perspectives as secondary. 

All my articles have been written to challenge our thoughts.  I will blaze some more here.  Woe to those who with all their freedoms choose to muzzle themselves and who suffer from ideological constipation!

The Ideological Battle 

I have argued in the past that PIA has a definite ideology that he is pursuing.  Some characterize PIA as irrational, impulsive or power-hungry.  Regardless, he is halfway through implementing his vision of the path Eritrea must take to achieve his ultimate goal of economic prosperity without political freedoms – similar to China.  It is convenient to label PIA as a devil incarnate to advance our political cause.  While feeding the general population this simplified version of a complicated ideological battle, political activists must guard against swallowing simplified propaganda themselves.  We must learn from our own and other people’s history to put our democratic struggle in perspective. 

Just as a background, it is to be remembered that when EPLF entered Asmara on May 24th, 1991 and fully liberated Eritrea, two diametrically opposed outlooks on the future of Eritrea were ready to engage in the next level of struggle.  The first open ideological battle in post-independence Eritrea took place during the 3rd EPLF Congress in February 2004 when PIA replaced ‘reformers’ with ‘younger PIA disciples’, while the reformers managed to limit the provisional government to 4 years (to May 1997) and for the Eritrean Constitution to be formulated and ratified within this period.  The result was that the ‘reformers’ had won in ‘substance’ while PIA won in ‘form’.

PIA and company are from the school of thought that believes democracy in impoverished country is simply a recipe for disaster.  For PIA, the only viable approach to building an impoverished country is to establish a military government which will then govern the nation through iron fist.  The day after the 3rd Congress adjourned, PIA realized that the upcoming 1997 Constitution represented a path towards unmitigated disaster.  After all, for PIA, the intrigue filled armed struggle for independence is a living testimony of our incapacity to work outside the iron fist.  For PIA, Eritrean experience can not be any different than China’s, Vietnam’s or Latin American Juntas of the fifties, sixties and seventies.  In order to scuttle the 1994 inception of the Constitution [ratified May1997], PIA proceeded to exaggerate the Sudanese threats, then escalated the Yemeni crisis and finally clashed with Ethiopia.  Along with these distractions, PIA established Special Courts and engaged in other non-democratic acts specifically designed to undermine any efforts towards establishing a constitutional government.  For those who insist that the 1997 Constitution represents PIA’s fingerprints are fighting yesterday’s battle with today’s realities.

While we are all preoccupied with demarcation, which is effectively putting a blind over our eyes, PIA is ruthlessly proceeding with his agenda of creating a corrupt military government.  In the last decade, PIA has managed to corrupt increasing number of tegadelti and youth, while destroying all our cultural and religious institutions.  As Greek philosophers had entertained centuries ago and Chairman Mao pursued with relentless ruthlessness is about starting from ‘clean slate’.  It is about social re-engineering and ideological transformations. In PIA’s Eritrea, Eritreans will work for selfish personal gains, and never out of nationalist feelings or communal obligations.  In new Eritrea, in PIA’s Eritrea, greed becomes the glue binding what PIA cynically views man’s history as governing fickle people.  For PIA, working for ‘greater good’ is a recipe for political and national disaster.

Many tegadelti are reaching the age of retirement and yet have NO pension.  Why would PIA put tegadelti in a state of insecurity?  When tegadelti die their spouses and children aren’t given any financial support, thus sending clear message to the living tegadelti.  What is PIA’s message to tegadelti?  The message is simple, ‘better dip your hands into the public coffer and create your own pension fund’.  Whenever these tegadelti dip their hands into the public coffer to protect their livelihood, PIA opens the dirty file and keeps it in his drawer.  Dictatorship is about forcing innocent people to participate in public sin designed to instill shame and guilt in them, leading to fear, loss of confidence, mistrust, etc...  By creating a dire socio-economic condition in Eritrea, PIA is opening so many dirty files every day that he must running out of file folders and shelf space. 

Everyday that passes by, it is everyday Eritrea is approaching PIA’s vision of Eritrea than the reformer’s Eritrea. But there is a major obstacle for PIA, which is the very same war PIA ignited, the very same devious and treacherous act he committed, to destroy our Eritreanism, our love for respect for law and our freedom has become the very same noose around his neck.  Does PIA want the border demarcated and what will happen if the border is to be demarcated today?  Based on a number of discussions, I have conciliated on the outcomes of this scenario.  Based on my current view, I am inclined to believe that PIA does want the border to be demarcated because he has nearly accomplished dismantling every socio-economic, political, religious and legal institutions in Eritrea.  PIA has managed to breakdown the youth into a state of comatose.  Having obtained absolute power in Eritrea and having erected his machinery of dictatorship, PIA now needs the border demarcated lest it continues to drain his regime of its every resource as he had sucked the Eritrean population dry. 

For PIA, he has done employed every ruthless act to create the Eritrea he wants through brutality – but for PIA, this brutality is justified for the well-being of the future of Eritrea.  Ruthless political battles are no different than physical wars where one is called upon to sacrifice lives to advance military strategy.  For PIA, there is only one glitch, one obstacle, on his way towards realizing his vision of Eritrea – the glitch is Woyane and the border.

It would be naive to think that once the border is demarcated that Eritreans would begin to demand for their rights and freedoms.  By now, we all know that PIA has put all the military, police and secret service structures in place to ensure no such public uprising take place after demarcation.  PIA has created enough schisms within the population while thoroughly scattering youth to diffuse any potential public uprising.  It will be the issue of demarcation that will decide the future of Eritrea and the entire region.  It would be naive to think that demarcation is all about placing few stones along the border.  In his 63rd year of his birth, PIA must feel that Woyane is robbing him of his precious remaining life to carry out his ruthless ideologies.  Memory begins to fade, eyes and ears become tired, knees refuse to bend, joints begin to creak, energy begins to drain quickly, paranoia begins to set in — time and nature themselves become the ultimate enemy. 

What is wrong with a military government, or some form of dictatorship?  Why insist on rights and freedoms?  After all, China, other Asian countries including Malaysian, Indonesian dictators, and Latin American juntas clamped down on democracy while gradually building up their economies.  In Turkey, the ‘secular’ but well compensated military is a sort of vanguard against drifting into ‘non-secular’ state.  ‘Rich’ armies have similar ‘mitigating’ functions in other countries such as Algeria and Pakistan. 

Building a prosperous democratic society is never easy.  However, it is also a fallacy to believe that military or elitist dictatorship is a viable alternative.  Personally I disagree with PIA style dictatorships for various reasons,

  1. I can’t not condone or look the other way in good conscious while innocent people are thrown into Dungeons and treated in the cruelest manner.  There are no ideological or historical arguments under the universe that allow me to abandon my deeply held values as a human, as an Eritrean and as someone with deep traditional, cultural, religious values – and as someone who enjoys all the rights and freedoms accorded in the West.  This campaign is not about PIA, PFDJ or hatred themselves, but simply about humanity, compassion, conscious and our deeply held values.


  1. Examining corrupt third world countries in general, there are two types of countries


    1. Latin American type where economies have grown but wealth gap is so wide that the vast majority continues to live in miserable condition.  The underclass can’t demand for its rights because the very same brutal police force deals with the underclass in ruthless manner.  For tourists visiting Buenos Aries or San Paolo, the expensive shopping malls may exude wealth, but the vast majority remains condemned to poverty.  ‘Wetru Awet N’Hafash’ is simply empty slogans that offer fewer guarantees than under some slavery known throughout history, which at least assured better food and accommodations.
    2. Other third world countries, but especially African countries, are blessed with natural resources.  But not a single sub-Saharan African nation, and for that matter others, have managed to establish equitable societies despite dictators governing these countries for decades.  These nations have become victims of successive brutal dictatorial military regimes.    


  1. Dictatorship is about living under whimsical leaders. It is about rolling a dice with every successive dictator.  If one is lucky with a ‘benevolent’ dictator the nation may benefit, but the next dictator could very well be Emperor Nero, who destroys every gain made under previous dictators.  Dictatorship is about building a nation on the edge of a cliff.  Under dictatorships, it is about living for today as one can never predict what the next day may hold.  This doesn’t create sustainable growth but a quick decadence within the society.  Why should our future be decided by a mosquito?  Military dictatorship is inherently about corruption, brute force and the absence of the rule-of-law.  One is forced to lie, to bribe and to engage in other unconscionable activities to advance one’s interest in such societies.  I don’t want to and can’t live in such materially and morally decadent societies, and I wouldn’t want any other to live in such corrupt societies.


  1. It is a fallacy to believe that humans are simply satisfied with material wealth.  Is it only material wealth that will ensure the viability of Eritrea as a nation?  Historically, material wealth has been as much societies’ downfall as many other reasons.  PIA and Dr. Woldai’s argument that material wealth will facilitate democracy, thus creating a sustainable society is very simplistic.  Societies without ideological, religious, traditional and cultural anchors have withered as quickly as they blossomed.  Simplistic vision is dangerous.


The last ideological and historical question is whether PIA is establishing a dictatorial regime in Eritrea for the sole purpose of maintaining iron grip over Eritrea, or is this a springboard for controlling the entire horn region.  Ideologically, PIA is probably trying to establish his Maoist ideologies on the entire region.  Historically, dictators have had insatiable thirst for expanding their power.  Conquest is at the heart of human existence.  Conquest at work against our colleagues, conquest of our spouses against other suitors, conquest of our children against their classmates [in the form of grades and standings] and conquest of our sport teams against others are so ingrained into us that it is embedded in our genes.  We rile against Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Genghis Khan because we didn’t reach their position, but in reality, whatever drove them is embedded in all of us.  Some will say that peaceful conquest is different than violent conquest, but in reality, the divide is so thin that crossing it over isn’t a big mental jump.  Maintaining that divide can only be done through conscious efforts.  Ideologically, historically and by nature, PIA as a dictator will pursue his grandiose dreams packaged in some noble-sounding causes.  Power concentrated in one man, regardless of whom, is a recipe for misery.

The ideological battles between PIA and PMMZ are the most interesting.  PIA is transforming his society by sucking the life out of Eritrea, whereas PMMZ is transforming his society by injecting as much life as possible to keep people distracted away from his unilateral political acts.  When PMMZ is injecting over $2 Billion USD a year into Ethiopia through external financing alone while entertaining billionaires such as Sheik Alamoudi, PIA obtained measly $70 million for his ‘look busy’ projects.  Which politics will work – pumping out or pumping in money?  At least one thing is for sure – today’s Ethiopians are much better off than Eritreans.  What will the future hold; which approach will triumph between PIA and PMMZ?  Well, one can only bet on today!  As for tomorrow, it is better to believe that tomorrow is just today in the future.  

For emphasis I should reiterate that PIA isn’t solely ideologically driven.  There is always an element of ego and, worse, holds deep grudges. Woe to those who believe that life is rewarded in this life only, for they shall sow the seeds of destruction!

Border Demarcation 

The border demarcation is unfortunately reduced to ‘Us vs. them’ [i.e. Eritreans vs. Ethiopians] issue.  In reality, it is primarily ‘us vs. us’ issue.  Who has the ultimate right to decide the manner with which the border demarcation should be handled?  Naturally, the Eritrean people have the right how to dispose of this issue through their elected representatives.  Elitist politics of PIA and company is the root cause of everything wrong in today’s Eritrea.  Who gives PIA and his kedemti the right to speak on behalf of the rest us on the border or any other national issues?  They can never gain legitimacy through the barrel of their guns.  They are leading us to war with our kids while their kids are tucked away at a safe distance.  

Elitist attitude backed by the barrel of the gun will always attempt to dictate what is good for us.  Today it is about border demarcation, and tomorrow their elitist attitude with their guns will tell us what is good for our social, political, legal and economic life.  It is for this reason, for the opposition camp, the issue of border demarcation can’t be addressed separately from the overall issue of rights and freedoms, democracy, rule-of-law, accountability and transparency.  To believe that border demarcation will lead to people demanding rights and freedom is only wishful thinking.           

QUESTION:  what is the implication of the Border Commission disbanding on November 30, 2007 on the Algiers’s Agreement?  PIA may claim that it considers such disbanding as effectively ending the Algiers Agreement, thus ending TSZ and claiming Badme as ‘legally’ part of Eritrea.  The propaganda would then claim that Ethiopia is illegally holding an Eritrean territory.  But in reality, Eritrea is also holding land that has been awarded to Ethiopia.  PIA may not be able to claim that Ethiopia is illegally occupying Eritrean land without while PIA still maintains sovereignty over lands awarded to Ethiopia such as around Tsorona for instance.  PIA would have to officially and unilaterally hand over land awarded to Ethiopia first before he can begin accusing Ethiopia of occupying its territory.  I ask our legal experts to give us a comprehensive discussion on this issue.

Land Issue

I am raising this issue just to challenge my readers.  Prosperous Hong Kong has a population of 6.8 Million (5.0 Million for Eritrea) and land size of just over 1,000 square kilometers (125,000 square km for Eritrea).  Eritrea has land size hundred times the size of Hong Kong. Examining population density, Eritrea has one of the lowest densities in the world.  The five million Eritreans can be squeezed into less than 1% of Eritrean land and still be prosperous.

By Eritrean standard, sprawling Asmara isn’t bigger than 5 km by 5 km (according to many estimates).  The other towns are less than 50% of Asmara.  There are three types of land issues,

  1. Land given to commercial farmers, which are temporary in nature
  2. Land given to commercial and industrial concerns, which are semi-permanent in nature, and
  3. Land given for residential purposes, which tend to be long term in nature.


The purpose of raising this issue isn’t to advocate for stripping people’s inherent rights to their ancestral lands, but that the land issue is blown way out of proportion.  In my view, we are currently wasting land space by giving away land at bargain for residences.  Many Eritreans in Diaspora want to build their mansions on 1,000 square meter land that only few can afford even in prosperous Europe and Japan.  There is no reason why Eritreans aren’t encouraged to live in smaller apartments and condominiums.  Moreover, apartments and condominiums require less infrastructure (but probably more building maintenance).  

Commercial farm lands, and to lesser extent commercial and industrial lands are temporary in nature and can be stripped down and returned to the ancestral owners at any time.  In the meantime, certain rent can be paid on mutually beneficial terms.  The same issue can be addressed regarding mineral and other rights.

Can anyone tell us why the land issue can be such a burning issue, and how many square kilometers we are fretting over?  Can’t 1% of our land be utilized effectively and efficiently with the legal consent its rightful owners? 

Why raise these issues at this time?

Why do I like to scratch sensitive issues from time-to-time?  Our heated debates won’t breathe any life to this lame duck regime.  PIA’s fate is tied to the outcome of the border demarcation.  Woyane has put a stranglehold on PIA out of their political interests.  If there is anyone who still believes that the border will be demarcated amicably or by force any time soon must be smoking serious ganja.  “Kab Seb Zitetsebeye Bidewu Beleye!”  The Hizbawi Mekete meetings such as Washington DC that forced the attendees to pledge to pay $500 each may raise some $500,000 USD, but that won’t even pay for a spare engine of a single tank.       

At the risk of diverting from the issues I want to address, Hizbawi Mekete meetings are simply designed to collect more money to pay off PFDJ lackeys abroad who must be bribed to maintain their allegiance.  Not a single penny of that money will reach Eritrean soil in any form (i.e. such as food). The monies raised from these meetings won’t make a dent in PFDJ’s insatiable need for hard currency to run its corrupt system and to finance its proxy wars in the neighborhood.  It is embarrassing to learn that PFDJ had to borrow $ 60 Million USD from the Chinese Import and Export Bank to finance its share in the Nevsun project.  These days, $60 million USD is a pocket change and PFDJ doesn’t even have that kind of money.  

Continuing with my discussion, PIA’s regime is on a verge of collapse.  Eritrea may have to pass through turbulent times that will test us and require us to maintain our solid beliefs and faith in our vision of Eritrea.  Like a plane or ship caught in a middle of a cloud or fog but able to navigate using instruments, we shouldn’t get disoriented during turbulent periods now or in the future but maintain our course based on our well anchored inner strength, especially during possible post-PIA turbulent periods.  As much as we hope for the best, we must prepare for the worst.   The best way to maintain our orientation in the fog is to prepare ourselves before going into the fog, rather than to improvise in the fog.

Unfortunately, Diaspora political organizations have failed to organize themselves into cohesive and effective organizations.  They act more like village brides hidden away until wedding day.  Political leadership isn’t inheritance; rather it needs to be earned.  Agreeing to meet in order to arrange further meetings is meaningless.  Strong leadership means strong spine with super-ability to absorb personal and political heat.

PIA’s scorched earth policies to tackle multiple issues, i.e. social re-engineering by breaking down the entire society and by imparting ideological transformations while satisfying his egotistical needs, and while trying to exact his revenge against the reformers and Woyane, will leave lingering effects the next government must address.  If we try to address these challenges in the fog (i.e. during the turbulent transitional period), we will run a high likelihood of inflaming an already volatile situation.  Just to make matters worse, the Central Bank will NOT have a single cent of hard currency reserve because PFDJ has stashed away Eritrean hard currency reserves in Singaporean banks under the names of its lackeys.  Under such worst case scenario, the next government may not be able to import basic necessities.  Just to complicate matters, politically challenged Woyane may decide to invade and capture Asseb.  Of course, many of my readers will dismiss my worst case scenarios as just paranoia.  In my view, not preparing ourselves for worst case scenarios is gambling with our nation – just like PIA.  Our political class shouldn’t have the luxury to assume based on their wishful thinking, but to prepare for worst case scenarios.  Preparing ourselves for worst case scenarios doesn’t necessarily mean we should have all the answers today, but even acknowledging, preparing ourselves mentally and even taking the preliminary steps will help us to quickly meet any possible worst case scenarios.   

As stated in my previous articles, opposition parties have failed to address some key issues that can help in expediting the downfall of the regime while mitigating the challenging issues in the immediate period after the fall of this regime.  These are the burning issues, and if necessary we must issue the following manifesto

  1. What will happen to aging tegadelties?  Our position and continued propaganda should be that they will either continue to be employed with government or quasi-government organizations until such time viable solutions, such as pensions, are found to address their concerns and to provide a dignified life for them.


  1. What will happen to tegadelites who are employed in various lower level administrative positions without proper qualifications?  These tegadelties forewent school and chose to fight for our independence.  We can’t just dispose them because they aren’t qualified for their positions.  We must continually reassure them that the opposition camp, and the next government, considers their concerns as priority.  No tegadelai will ever lose his job for lack of schooling or experience.  PFDJ business organizations will be phased out [privatized or dismantled] over number of years with certain assurances for tegadelties and civilians employed with these ventures.


  1. What will happen to Warsai Yikealo?  Our position as opposition should be and that the next government endeavors to,
  • fully compensate Warsai Yikealo for their national services through lump sum payments and counting their national service towards their pension
    • Compensation will be collected from those who built private houses using slave labor,
    • Grants from international organizations and nations will be sought,
    • Will borrow funds, etc…
  • Demobilization, reintegration and training Warsais will begin immediately
  • Similar, but not same, rights will be conferred on those young Eritreans forced to flee the country


  1. What procedures will we pursue to redress the various types of crimes committed during the PIA regime?
  • Anyone violating other people’s rights and freedoms should be punished for their infringements (i.e. criminal acts).  Punishments will be more severe on those who issue commands rather than those who carry them out.
  • Any financial embezzlement of government coffers, corrupt practices and other illegal activities that don’t directly affect individual citizens will be pardoned with some financial penalties.
  • Truth and Reconciliation Committee will be formed to address wide ranging issues.  The underlying principle or redressing the crimes committed during the PIA regime will be to reform people caught in PIA’s corrupt system rather than to punish them.


  1. Many businessmen have lost their livelihood in Eritrea.  The next government will compensate them on prospective basis, such as granting them favorable status on future tenders, etc…


  1. Etc…


In my view, our current propaganda towards domestic audience doesn’t address their immediate concerns and apprehensions about the future.  Ordinary Eritreans in Eritrea suffer the abused wife syndromeMost of us would say, why can’t the abused wife simply walk away?  No one needs to be told how bad their lives are, or how bad PIA is because they are living through it.  They don’t need to be told that they are lining up for bread at 3AM in the morning because they are experiencing it.  We have to distinguish between our propaganda for external consumption (i.e. for those in Diaspora) and for internal consumption.  It is also fallacious to believe that people only react to negative propaganda.  It is even more effective to address their personal concerns in genuine manner in order to motivate them to act.  Any Diaspora political organization that has internal constraints to address issues in comprehensive and genuine manner can’t become part of the solution for post-PIA Eritrea.

More legal issues

It was interesting to read awate’s article on the PFDJ’s myth of self-sufficiency.  Examining the list of international donors for Eritrean development projects, the question becomes what legal responsibilities these international donors carry when their projects are undertaken by forced labor.  For instance, if Norwegian donor finances a public project in Siberia using laborers from Russian Gulags, can the Norwegian donor turn blind eye claiming to help for the greater good?  Similarly, if an Eritrean youth is forced to work without salary on Norwegian project, can the Norwegian donor turn blind eye claiming to work for greater good?

In examining ever evolving international law, new international laws and treaties are formulated by the West to suit their political, diplomatic and socio-economic needs. When examining our relationship with the West, our starting point shouldn’t be whether there are existing international laws that directly and explicitly address the violations committed by the West against our impoverished countries.  Instead, our starting point is always the principles upon which these laws are based.  First, even if international laws fail to address specific principles, these principles might have been addressed at national level thus allowing us to express our concerns of Western duplicity.  Although we won’t be able to bring a legal case against them, we can make political stink over certain issues.  If forced labor is prohibited in Norway, why should it be acceptable in Eritrea?  What are the principles; what are the moral issues; what are the implications?  Second, just because international laws don’t address certain widely accepted principles doesn’t mean we can’t ‘cry foul’.  We can still criticize countries for failing to uphold certain principles, which may raise moral issues.  In media conscious West, exposing moral issues are just as effective, and may make up for lack of explicit international laws. 

Why do these international donors finance development projects carried out with forced labor?  They can’t claim ignorance because such use of forced labor is well documented.  I am in favor of these international donors continuing to finance development projects in Eritrea, but not using forced labor.  These international donors have moral, if not legal, responsibilities to ensure that laborers on their projects are adequately compensated reflecting cost of living.  In many of these projects, these donors are direct stakeholders, at least at the construction phase, thus have the same legal responsibilities as employers.  Warsai Yikealo may have the right to hold these international donors jointly liable with PFDJ for failing to properly compensate forced labor.  Ignorance is never a defense in court of law.

The next government may use this as yet another scheme to extract international funding for compensating Warsai Yekealo mentioned above.  Why not send legally worded letters informing these international donors that they may continue financing development projects as long as they meet their legal obligations as participants of the project as owners, as employers and as financiers?   Why not clearly inform them that the use of forced labor on their projects may land them in court of law.

As I am finalizing this article, I noticed that Global Coalition against Tyranny has prepared a petition requesting funders to take heed of the dire political conditions in Eritrea.  I salute them and thank them once more for their continued and relentless efforts.  In my view, although moral persuasion is important, it is also critical that we write legally worded letters to these funders.  Most of these funders will heed to moral persuasion while few funders will still need to be reminded of the legal consequences of failing to heed our expressed concerns.

Politics of Fear

Whether Gebru Asrat or Siye Abraha advocate for seeking ways to annex Assab to their dream Ethiopia shouldn’t be Eritreans’ concerns.  There is no need to underhandedly prop Meles’ image among Eritreans.  Ethiopian politics should be viewed as simply internal, and that any domestic propaganda is just internal political maneuvering.  As Eritreans, we should once and for all break the umbilical cord that once tied us with Ethiopia.  We have a tendency to internalize Ethiopian issue as if it is our powerful 7th province.

It is true that fear is a powerful motivator for action.  But for ordinary Eritreans, the issue of bread – daily food – occupies their minds every minute.  If such propaganda is aimed at tegadelti, the vast majority have similar concerns as any other ordinary Eritreans.

In order to effect regime change, it is just NOT dire economic situation nor fear mongering on future war with Woyane that will motivate the population to rise up against the oppressive regime.  It is equally important to 1) organize effective opposition upon which the population can follow and 2) articulate opposition agenda that will specifically address people’s apprehensions about the future.     

The Art of Negotiation

As many nations and representatives gathered for the Middle East Peace Conference in the US, Hamas called Fatah ‘traitors’ while many Israelis protested against their government for participating in such conference.

The question is, in the world of negotiation, is it better to speak in one voice [Hade Libbi, Hade Hizbi] or would it be better to publicize internal oppositions within one’s own countrymen/group to squeeze the best deal out of the other party of the negotiation? 

The art of negotiation is in saying, ‘Listen, I am a very reasonable guy and want to deal with you but the opposition will chew my behind and win over the public.  I need you to give me something that I can take back to my people …’ is the way the world works!  Of course, certain posturing take place before negotiations – but when one is stuck in posturing … it leads to inaction or over-action.  “Sesinu, Ashihat Kunu Ezom Dekey!”



Corrupt System

Under Emperor Haileselassie, incorruptible government official was considered dangerous.  Those who carried out their public responsibilities in ethical manners quickly found themselves demoted.  Corrupt leaders fear that ethical crusaders will eventually bring down the patriarch of the corrupt system itself. 

In PIA’s corrupt system, the most obvious abusers are the military officers.  Top PFDJ officials such as Mr. Alamin and Mr. Yemane may have clandestine activities to pad their retirement (such as suspected Ace Hardware).  The danger for these men in a corrupt system is that they must show to their leader that they are willing to participate in public sin, which must be beyond just making false accusations of ‘traitors’ and denial of the existence of political prisoners and prisoners of conscious.  Beyond such public statements, they have failed to participate in dictatorial orgies which make them suspects with the PIA and the army officers.  Corrupt people only feel comfortable with other corrupt people, and if rivalries exist it is more of business competition than ideological fear.  Under the surface, there must be deep suspicions among PIA as the architect of the corrupt system and whose interest remains maintaining power and implement his ruthless ideologies; the corrupt army officers who are competing against themselves while fearing PIA and the PFDJ political officers who are more politically astute; and the PFDJ officials who must mistrust the army officers and PIA who may regard them dangerous at the ideological level.

What a tangled web we weave when we try to deceive…!

Religious Propaganda

It is suffice to say that Shabait’s false propaganda of defending our thousand year old religious institutions is skin deep.  First, it is PFDJ that quickly introduced European holidays of December 25 and January 1, among others, although none of the Eritrean religions celebrated these days.  Even the Catholic and Protestant faith followed the Geez calendar. In our view, it is PFDJ that was anxious to depart from our thousand year old traditions.  Second, it is only yesterday’s memory when PIA ridiculed Ethiopia for celebrating their official geez calendar – calendar they used and celebrated for over thousand years – as Kunjina Salon, saying that they are celebrating a meaningless calendar.  Third, the so called PFDJ religious celebrations shown on television are so stripped of any religious symbol and significance that these could very well be wedding celebrations.  Is that our thousand year old tradition and religious celebrations?    

Rest assured that as long as PFDJ hostages are locked up in its Dungeons and as long as the rule-of-law is trampled, our struggle shall march on!  We shall not tire, but shall redouble our efforts.  We will inflict damage on this regime from every angle!  There is no alternative to freedom!

On December 1 – Martyr’s Day     Zelalemawi Zikri N’Suwaetna!

Berhan Hagos

November 27, 2007

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