Enlightening Seminars by Mr. Ogbamichael and Mr. Ammar

By Salah Ibrahim, 10 June 2005

Eritrean Liberation Front – Revolutionary Council (ELF-RC) leadership made up of the Chairman, Mr Seyoum Ogbamichael and Executive Council Member, Mr Woldeyesus Ammar had held public meetings in Melbourne on Saturday June 4 2005 and in Perth, Western Australia the next day. The seminars by these two great opposition figures have been received with great satisfaction, as has been reflected in the various reports that followed the meetings. A complete and unbiased report of the meeting in Melbourne can be viewed at http://www.awna1.com, compiled by ‘The Awna1 Team’. Also, good reports on Mr Ogbamichael’s speech at the meeting in Melbourne can be found at http://www.alnahda1.8m.com/ and http://www.farajat.com/wakalthobai/hobai_04_6_05.htm, which are compiled by Mohamed Ali Sheeb and by ‘Farajat Team’ respectively. I also believe that the report compiled by ‘Farajat Team’ from Perth to be credible in presenting the facts. I commend these media teams for their effort to produce such excellent journalistic reports of the events.

The objective of writing this article is to elaborate on some of the major issues discussed in the meeting in Melbourne from my own perspective. It is also my intention to advise the opposition leadership to take on board some of the suggestions and concerns raised by the audience, and to further remind the former of what previously reported on this account. Mind you, the article is my own interpretation of what took place in the actual meeting, and as such, it does not necessarily agree with the journalistic writings already posted in some of the Eritrean websites, which reflect the speakers’ views. Whilst Mr. Ogbamichael covered a wide range of contemporary and topical issues in great detail, I consider the following of paramount importance:

  • Democratisation within the opposition camp: Mr. Ogbamichael emphasised the importance of expediting democratisation within the opposition. No doubt, it is crucial for the opposition leaders to encourage the establishment of democracy, and should indeed be preaching for it to happen. They should promote the principles of democracy within their party. There should be regular and continual change of leaders via democratic processes. Perhaps, at this stage, it would be relevant to mention one of the suggestions put forward by Dr. Berhan Ahmed at the meeting in Melbourne: that the opposition leaders should undertake continual training in order to better serve their people. I agree with Dr Ahmed that training will guarantee better leaders. In summary, to have an effective and modern opposition all the organisation should make democracy their prime agenda.


  • Broader participation of the public: the leaders of the opposition should show some traits that will encourage broader participation of the mass. Members should actively participate in shaping their organisation and should hold their leaders accountable when they are wrong rather than applause them for subjective motives. Of course, this will not happen overnight, but starting now must be better than nothing ever. Without broad financial and moral support at the grassroots level the opposition will not succeed in its mission.
  • Recognition of diversity as richness and blessing: undoubtedly many societies over the globe, in particular Western nations, have benefited from diversity. Some Western governments adopted the strategy of diversifying their societies through carefully balanced immigration policies, knowing that nation-states benefit from a population made up of different cultures. Those societies are now enjoying the harvest of the seeds they planted. They have promoted multiculturalism in conjunction with the knowledge of the necessity of creating an environment conducive to social harmony. In Eritrea, we already have a diverse society made up of nine ethnic groups. However, that diversity is utilised for ill-intentioned purposes and as a consequence it has created mistrust and hatred among the general populace, said Mr Ogbamichael. I agree he is right, so what is the solution? I say to the opposition leaders that they need to come up with ideas that counter balance the evil intentions. Abdalla Elaj (a veteran fighter) had a case in point when he recalled how during the early years of the armed struggle, the liberation movement had the vision to steer the struggle along a broad nationalist (as opposed to sub-nationalist) path that has sadly enough been absent in our recent history.


Now to Wad-Ammar’s part of the meeting; he warned of another Somalia in the Horn of Africa – that is to say anarchy – if the ruling regime suddenly collapsed and the opposition groups are not ready to take over power. He said, the main prerequisite for a smooth transition of power is, for the opposition first to convince the Eritrean people that their historical failures will not be repeated. Next would be, to prove practically to the people that they are better alternative to the current government that has abused its power. He added that the opposition camp needs to be representative of the diverse views of our society and be acceptable by the majority of the people. I agree with Wad-Ammar’s analysis that at the moment, it is the concern of most Eritreans that the opposition groups, although are heading in the right direction, they still have not done enough to reassure the people with regard to the smooth transition of power. He said, narrow rivalry is wrong and it weakened the opposition that the ultimate price of this irresponsible act has been paid by the people at home (Eritrea) more than those abroad.

At this early stage, I don’t want to critically analyse the progress the opposition have made in unifying the people and in achieving the ultimate objective of replacing the dictatorial regime with a multi-party system. But for those interested in what sort of opposition ‘…we should have….’, I would like to direct the reader to an excellent article http://www.awate.com/artman/publish/article_3938.shtml by Semere Habtemariam. I recommend reading the article; I must admit I have benefited from it. In my opinion, the opposition camp needs to take a bold step to introduce radical reforms so as to enhance democratic principles within their organisations. If it embodies these principles as its long term plan and strategy and implements them with great integrity, it will undoubtedly win the hearts and minds of the majority of the people that at the moment are not contributing enough to the demise of the Eritrean regime. Only then would smooth transition of power be guaranteed.

I have only discussed one aspect of Wad-Ammar’s speech. This doesn’t mean in any way that the rest of the issues raised in his speech were not important. In a joint article with Ahmed Ali, an active member in ‘The Awna1 Team’, we are planning to modestly suggest what we think would be better for Wad-Ammar to focus on. We see a different and more important role for this gifted man, which we are hoping to post in the internet as soon as time permits. We will not suggest that he should abandon his political organisation, but it is the view of many Eritreans in Melbourne, and possibly elsewhere, that this enlightened person should tell us more about our history – as it happened – and furnish us with innovative ideas that are milestone for future development. It is only a modest suggestion from my friend and myself that we strongly encourage Wad-Ammar and other talented Eritreans such as Dr Jellaldin Mohamed-Saleh, Associate Prof. Tesfasion Kidane, Omer Jaber (the list will be longer in the promised article) to respond to our call favourably.

I will conclude this discussion with some positive attributes of Mr Ogbamichael that I have deduced from his successful meeting with the broad Eritrean public in Melbourne. He is highly experienced speaker with a deep knowledge of the diverse Eritrean entity. His competence to address the audience in the two official languages of Eritrea – Arabic and Tigrinya – in itself, is a clear manifestation of his deep respect to the feelings of the diverse groups of the people that attended the meeting; indeed his speech was very impressive to many of the audience. He is an enlightened person who strongly rejects unjust polices, unlike the current Eritrean regime which has sanctified injustice. Throughout his lecture, he showed deep respect to sensitive cultural issues, which again signifies to his deep understanding of the needs of the Eritrean society as a whole. Undoubtedly, such knowledge is gained because of his long involvement in the national struggle for independence and active engagement with the people of the diverse ethnic groups during his time in the field with the ELF. I am sure he scored political points through his diplomatic skills and through his ability to clarify issues that were of concern to the audience. Eritrea needs leaders like him to move forward, and most importantly, to live in harmony. I am of the opinion that this veteran fighter can certainly make a great public figure in future democratic Eritrea. Of course, this will be decided in an election ballot box when the Eritrean people are given the power to choose their own government.


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