Call for Civil disobedience.

By Taher

July 1, 2005


 “Yes, our dreams for a free nation kept growing in line with our sacrifices and so were the promises till the pledged day was attained, the day when the enemy was defeated and irrevocably vacated. But the policies of the regime (Eritrean) allowed its (enemy’s) come back and smear the soil while reviving the dreams of some Ethiopians for an access to the sea to the extent Assab became the aspiration”

 “We’ve almost a case of surrender to the dictatorship and waiting for God’s conclusion whether in or outside the Country in the opposition. Indeed change cannot come from outside but from within and the role of the outside does not go beyond agitation and publicity campaigns. We witness peoples uprising and rallies on streets taking the initiative to undo single party rule and despotic regimes by way of civil disobedience.”

 From Abo Hayot’s call for Civil Disobedience (posted recently in Arabic on several Eritrean web sites. Translated to my understanding).

 In Dec’89, just a few days before he was overthrown, Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania said, “At this big rally I would like to repeat what I said recently that the expectations of these gentlemen (western observers) may come true when poplar trees bear apples and osier willows bear carnation.” The following night hundreds of paper apples decorated the poplar trees around the city and subsequently the apple became the symbol of the revolution that dealt the dictator to his doom. Rightly dwelled in our memories and yet to be read by his disciples elsewhere.

The unfortunate dictator was not rescued by a friendly advice from the know-it-all (KIA) as he had had been doomed couple of years before KIA was officially incarnated as yet another disdainful despot.

 Otherwise, KIA would have rightly pointed out the foil, similar to what he did against Woyane. “The sun will rise from the West”, he said “ if….” it doesn’t matter what. Doesn’t it seem biblical or Quranic?. If only Ceausescu did use that phrase instead, the revolutionaries would have boogied over horns of dilemma!! or might have least been stuck with a dispute over the throne or thorn!! (Similar to the border case between Ethiopia and Eritrea).

 Every rally march in any corner of Mother Earth attracts the empathy of the down trodden. No matter what the fundamentals and who instigated what. If people march the streets and chant slogans against any despot that may be, they attract the attention and more often merit the sympathy of oppressed people elsewhere.

 Because such is the impact, Dictators are always keen to suppress such tendencies at a very early stage.

 Africa, a perennial prey of tyranny since the days of colonial ‘civilization!’ under a pseudo mission of rooting out ignorance, suffered annihilation of the hardly won wisdom, tolerance, culture, life and drain of the material/brains of its natives.

 The very yester colonizer preaching for democracy and liberty today (Blair Vs Mogabe for one) are the ones who cold-heartedly installed (or assisted) the thugs at the highest echelon of the so-called countries that were shaped by the influence of underlying colonial power.

  Africa witnessed liberation wars and peaceful/bloody demonstrations as well.

 The prominent such upheavals in the Horn of Africa, for our purpose, were the Derg hijacked revolution (1974) and the several peaceful ones including civil disobedience in The Sudan(64 & 85).

Addis Ababa & Khartoum Universities and to a lesser degree Asmara (due to endless emergency laws & the alternative barrel of the gun) were historically extremely formidable. The students of these universities were in the heart of the initial ignition for the demonstrations in the sixties and seventies. Eventually they became the subordinate/leadership of the said countries.

 It is therefore quite natural that the leaders of these countries keep very close eyes to such institutions. To add insult to injury, they even meddled in the core tasks of such academic institutions, starting from its President/Chancellor to student union leadership (if any).

 The irony is that they have attained a high level of idiosyncrasy and madness to hijack whole country and its contents both over/under ground.

 A glaring instance is the recent triple vow of Bashir that he will not hand over any Sudanese to the international court of law, “under the Darfour war crimes”. Such magnitude of incursion from the international community although complementary to preceding long trail of interferences and impudence) should have been a priority agenda for an independent parliament. No need for vowing, even when divorcing your own spouse let alone having accepted deployment of foreign army on your soil.

 PIA, on the other hand, is an entirely different anecdote. He became a tragedy by his own right. A scary recipe for a horrible nightmare. A man who has the nerve to tell his long comrades in arms (substituted by loyal inner intelligence machine) that he and only he had made them and can take them a way. And so he did. But as for the rest of the nation, it is simply a god given plot of land with god given dehumanized breed to torture. This shall not undermine his long held ideals of cultural hegemony.

 Going back to the Universities. PIA was much ruthless and restless; he took over the management, the academics, the student life and every living independent thinking.

 Bashir /Turabi (later incarcerated) took a wiser detour!. They reproduced quality overriding multiple institutions, Withdrew student benefits and penetrated the independent organs by procedural measures. Yet thanks to the Sudanese extended culture of parliamentary practices and the ever-growing rebellion on all corners of the country, there are still breathing spaces for opposition in and out of the campuses.

 Meles, the General Winget School alumni and Addis University REVO of early 70’s got his way through. This is particularly true if we consider the way he dealt with the boarder crises and war with Eritrea. With a seemingly free press (enough to zip up the American Hypocrisy), he involved the (parliament) in a decision of war and peace. His reluctance for a couple of years to finalize Eritrea-Ethiopia Border Commission (EEBC) verdict on   the un-demarcated boarder may partly be attributed to internal repercussions and questioning cronies be it in the parliament or the campus.

 Common thyme for these leaders, however, is to destroy their long time comrades in their struggle, mostly keeping them behind bars or even assassinate in the case of KIA. And their cherished eureka is to ensure the campus sit still or frequently be mobilized under any orchestrated slogan. Name it and you will find one without much a do. “Illiteracy campaign, prominent invasion, war in the south or west etc etc.”


May I salute any Eritrean who risked his life or privileges to oppose repression in Eritrea by resigning a merited/non-merited post or who simply smashed the shackles of bondage and salvaged his conscience. I raise my hat and quote:

 “…….Others— as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders— serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God. A very few— as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men— serve the state with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated as enemies by it. A wise man will only be useful as a man, and will not submit to be “clay,” and “stop a hole to keep the wind away,” but leave that office to his dust at least

              From: The essay  “Resistance of Civil Government”

                By Henry David Thoreau. 1849

 As cited earlier in part (1) common theme for the despots is to ensure the campus remain docile or frequently be mobilized under any orchestrated slogan.

In so doing, they expect to kill the igniters of agitation and catalysts of civil disobedience proper. Deep inside, these regimes know very well the outcome of a popular defiance and defeating fear, the worst enemy of any being. 

Incidentally, a state of “rally phobia” was displayed quite recently in Khartoum Airport. Mourners waiting for the arrival of the corpse of the late alkhatem Adlan from London, were traumatized by the regime’s smuggle and unceremonious burial of the corpse in south of Khartoum. Why all this pain?  What is happening to the local cultures and ethics? Specially Sudan, which excessively griefs its dead regardless of status.  Why do the East African regimes copy each other’s wickedness and not virtues? Such is their fear of any funeral procession or peaceful march unless otherwise orchestrated by their organs. Then only they blow their trumpet and sing funeral songs that dominate TV screens.

But the Eritrean regime excelled them all on every aspect of undermining the citizen across the board.

 Even the Ethiopian occupiers way of incarceration may seem relatively refined. At least it gave consideration to the family of the victim. People could inquire, without hesitation, about a missing person (then) to be referred to the right authority, usually the notorious security apparatus or the Military barracks. They also accepted food/clothing for the victim and even allowed visits behind bars.

The occupier’s police were often looking seriously into a report claiming a missing person or thing. The first step was always to document verbatim any report and may assign an investigator (s). This was not an unusual practice.

People had the luxury of visiting imprisoned freedom fighters (caught red handed in deadly operations). However, occasionally one is left to figure out the death (mostly under torture) of a victim as/when the authorities refuse to accept food/clothing or return the victims old clothing, chiefly for victims of the notorious security forces!!.

 There were also ill famed prisons such as Adi Khoala/Assab and Alam Bakka of Addis. You search for a prisoner and within 48 hours you could find out his/her location in the yester colony. Notwithstanding, there were summary executions, maiming villages, destroying zones suspected for supporting liberation army as part of their all out war against the revolution. Ad Ibrihim,Owna, Basagdira, hirgigo, Agordat, Umhajar, Asmara assassinations  to name few. Yet, some prudence finger points to the Israeli intelligence coaching.

In today’s independent! Eritrea, naive relatives and friends of a missing person are left for wild guesses. A law (!!) respecting decent citizen suddenly vanishes or is taken blind folded in a quasi government vehicle. Naturally his relatives/friends officially report the missing (a legacy of foreign colonizers/occupier); but there is no authority to record the report. To ask about his/her whereabouts is a miscalculated risk in itself. If you are lucky and can communicate in Tigrinia , a barrage of interjections and scolds follow: We do not know?. Why do you ask? Who told you we are responsible? . Let me skip the other badmouthing. To be fair this is glaringly a daily practice in the ex-shifta (bandit!) zones..

Now, you expect from any government, even under the rule of archaic tyranny, to document the report for the sake of formality. Otherwise whom can you report to? in a country where there is only one MAN. The MAN who is the government, the state, the mufti, the judiciary, the police, the militia, the priest, the shum/chikka, the media, the union and the shelved constitution!. 

Yet, a kind-hearted junta fan may risk a valuable piece of advice!! You better approach PIA’s office!!. But that is the dead end. Who dares? Because PIA & cronies may even make another victim of you and put your family/friends to the same agony that ended your quest.

The heartbreaking of all this developments is the emergence of young generation, majority brought up during the tyranny. There is no telling if they ever heard of the rights of a regular citizen let alone to exercise. They did not happen to be under the colonizers and occupier. For them it is another fairy tale. This together with lack of communication and exchange of ideas may even turnout a catastrophe. Yet, a call for aggressive civil disobedience may not be unusual given the culture, the environment and ethics!! Upheld by the junta


  “Most conflicts today are not simply caused by one nation invading another. They arise within the boundaries of a single state, as in Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, Sudan/Darfur, the Congo and Afghanistan. Each present a different set of circumstances and conditions, but all require the world’s attention, and thus they all end up in the U.N. Security Council for action – or inaction. I support many of the Secretary-General’s High Level Panel proposals for finding ways to deal with the challenges of a 21st century world of failed states and terrorists, …..”

         Hillary Rodham Clinton United States Senate

       From her speech delivered On Munich Conference on Security Policy

Feb’13, 2005

 The same Senator asserted to Sudanese opposition:

“We cannot stand by and let atrocities continue. The people of Darfur have been subject to a genocidal campaign of vicious attacks conducted by the armed militias of the Janjaweed, with the backing of the Sudanese government. The concerted acts of these groups have created a humanitarian crisis of astonishing proportions. We have an obligation to work with our allies and others to help protect the people of Darfur” senator clinton response to the opposition’s memo

 Eritrea might have been ignored by sheer oversight!!!. Or the sound of gun in that “African” country did not echo louder. But did any EreAmerican out there bring to the attention of the ‘Democrat’ Clinton the Eritrean plight? Never take things for granted just give it a try, regardless of the contemporary US senators’ ride with the tide.

As cited in part (2) the relatives/friends of missing persons at home are suffering terrible agonies.

The mainstream Sudanese are known for quips, The October’64 Civil Disobedience victim, General Abboud (or field marshal, irrelevant) was toppled/retired to a civilian life. It is reported that he went downtown Khartoum for shopping and that the traders did welcome him with a chant, “Dhayyaanak wade’ena Warak” somewhat like, “we had you undone and astray we’ve gone!”.

I would not be surprised should citizens inside Eritrea chant likewise hailing any ex-Ethiopian army official when, by any remote chance, s/he shops at the state monopolized trading outlets!  To such sad extent is the state of affairs at home today.

A Russian saying goes somewhat,” pessimist is an informed optimist” quoted from a net writer. Yet, for every dark tunnel there must be an open end, unless both ends are closed as in our case. Even then as long as there is brain (or not) and there is resolve people strive to dig a hole, with a hope to breathe and then contemplate for a way out or perish as a prey. 

Such circumstances should not impede struggle against repression, conversely should intensify. What needs more attention is what kind of struggle. Particularly so, when looking into the magnitude of oppression, the way of thinking and living of the oppressors, the targeted sectors and the general culture, instilled during the armed revolution, that call for and highly value the gun.

 For instance, mention any opposition inside Eritrea, which the junta categorically denies the mere existence (of course militarily)? You refer to some armed insurgence here and there and they say,” these are few jihadist pockets!!, shifta or Woyane mercenaries!!”.  I wonder why shifta (bandits) go for the jungle when they can perform their duty officially and efficiently on a convenient armchair with celebrated credentials and countless free/child labor to exploit?

 Furthermore, the GUN is the only and sole language the despot understands. If we take a quick glance to his peer’s background we find a military man, who has great respect for the Gun (dialogue with MPLA for one) or the ex-Addis University student who had cried loud for the barrel and actually implement it to the letter not against a foreign occupier but a local tyranny.

PIA is the special one. You may remember his arrogance during the boarder crises and following sprout of rumors in Asmara, like “Weddi so and so flew deep into Mekele (capital of Tigrai) and  …or single handedly chased the woyane planes to the boarder! Etc”. Furthermore PIA’s pompous reluctance to meditation and mediators. And the rumors that PIA wanted to talk to Melles in private, who is evading face-to-face, head to head (testa!) encounters in a fashion reminiscent to old street fights.

But right after the ground uttered its verdict, he came to the remains of his senses. Because that is the language he understands and that is what Melles knows by heart. If it was not for the gallant Eritrean unremitting patriotism (armed struggle zeal) PIA would have long engaged his perennial fall back in Sahel, reportedly revived the dungeons, moved required ammunition and the sacred chair. . 

I came across recounts of legendary icons that go back to the era of armed struggle. A lot of prominent names in the trade, some buried without funeral notes, some assassinated and their names officially tarnished, some exiled or imprisoned with out supporting anecdotes and few still surviving maneuvered posts granted by the despot. But never heard of PIA’s combatant heroism (I welcome a third party’s testimony) other than the unchallenged leader of all times Mr. knows it all. Yet he has unscrupulously used gang with a Gun to silence others.

However; Civil Disobedience proper should not rule out any other means including the common language that can be heard loud and clear. The GUN is not an end but an effective means to pop up the message on the Junta’s screen.

The first lame excuse is the cost entailed.  Blood shed, lord?. I beg your pardon! Please tell me what is the bottom line. I can’t see the difference between blood groups (universal donor or recipient), Liquefied and solidified blood, Hot and cold blood, Priceless and cheap blood. It is blood and human blood, which our people are bleeding to death both inside and outside today’s Eritrea. On top of that, when did bloodshed ever cease since the inception of the revolution?  From the old days of Unionist “Andinnet” Militia assassinations that claimed the lives of the non-violent men of intellect, Martyrs Father Kabire to his descendant Dr. Kabire. OR combatant trail of martyrs including Abraham, Ibrahim  & abduallah Dawoud etc.

We have no blood fervor. In fact our majority are among the most peace loving creatures on earth. We did not have it when Haile and Mengis could not settle for less than our stripped land and their extended dreams of Assab todate. And we do not have the passion for any violence now. But our plight of yesterday is much dwarfed to today’s agony and the dictator is hopelessly deaf and blind to nonviolent reasoning.

The Despot is irreversibly bloodthirsty; if we do not proactively defend with finger on trigger, he will find one across the red sea or in the neighboring friendly/belligerent states to shed the remaining blood, literally, if what is happening day in and day out does not qualify.

Besides, no civil disobedience movement was purely non-violent even the Ghandi’s. There were always those who used the force, either side, with a clear agenda. 

Non-violent protests might be a starter for a main dish and/or complimenting higher struggle in a political commitment. Ours is really terribly extended hunger for justice that can accept no less than a straight gulp of the main course.  Later on we shall hopefully have the leisure of tea/coffee (even dessert) to please with the forthcoming constitutional power that may be.

Non-violent demonstration is a ‘cultured’ practice of expressing opinion or preparing grounds for result oriented action. It is deep in our cultures, even before the creation of the Eritrea we know today. But that was conducted through representatives; even people tried it with PIA. Some elders visited his office on certain occasions often in vain. A form of peaceful protest was the speech delivered by the late Mr. Hidad Karrar in a public gathering attended by foreign emissaries, and the ensuing repercussions are yet to unfold, including the home arrest suffered by such a public figure. 

It goes without saying, that on coming across the phrase “Civil Disobedience”, Martin Luther King & Mahatma Gandhi pop up with out permission and unconsciously one often tends to associate it to a non-violent defiance. 


When one comes across the phrase “Civil Disobedience”, Martin Luther King & Mahatma Gandhi pop up with out permission and unconsciously one often tends to associate it to a non-violent defiance

The term “Civil Disobedience” coined in 1866 was originally published in May of 1849 under the title ” Resistance to Civil Government”, from a lecture delivered by Henry David Thoreau.

One of his disciples, a 20th century proponent of civil disobedience, martyr Luther King said:

“I became convinced that non cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. No other person has been more eloquent and passionate in getting this idea across than Henry David Thoreau. As a result of his writings and personal witness, we are the heirs of a legacy of creative protest. The teachings of Thoreau came alive in our civil rights movement; indeed, they are more alive than ever before. Whether expressed in a sit-in at lunch counters, a freedom ride into Mississippi, a peaceful protest in Albany, Georgia, a bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, these are outgrowths of Thoreau’s insistence that evil must be resisted and that no moral man can patiently adjust to injustice”.     

  From chapter 2, “The autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.” book

But Henry David Thoreau also goes in his famous aforesaid lecture:

“ We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. —That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation of such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness” 

Indeed, it is the RIGHT of the People to alter or to abolish government, and to institute new Government. But the point is, what government and HOW?

As mentioned earlier, Civil Disobedience proper shall not be limited to antiviolence. This is even inevitable when looking into our state of affairs without bias of any sort.

To call for a civil disobedience in Eritrea is tantamount to calling for BLOOD SHED elsewhere. Compare this to the peaceful protest in MyHabar that did not target the very power of the ruling junta it only pleaded for justice and fairness to those who lost part of their bodies, if not their future, for the country and very existence of the state and its commanders. We may recall the G’s in/outside the State and their present fate, regardless of their long-lasting record and means of encounter, which was not only peaceful but also never over sighted to pay the due tribute and respect to the Despot. 

So, Civil Disobedience works well under a civilized or less civilized state. It works even with traditional governance and not Eritrea of the day.

A quick glance to the Sudanese and Ethiopian protest marches would elucidate what it needs to make it effective.

 In Ethiopia there was a track record of almost a decade of University students’ unrest and rallies within the campuses. Prison was a second habitat for many student activists and even their leadership was assassinated. Many of them did not, on purpose; complete academic years straight. Finally their voice reached to other sectors including the military. They have propagated the culture of protest and demand for rights even at a lower level of salaries and compensations, petrol prices etc. Such environment agitated many probably including PIA (Addis University student at the early stage of the rallies) and certainly Melles at its climax.

When finally the call reached beyond the campus walls, thereabout, emerged clandestine groupings (and probably parties). The collective efforts brought about the 1974 civil disobedience that caused the end of the unassailable! Empire and the doom of the clerics blessed sacred Emperor.

Sudan supported by the Westminster culture of accommodating opposing opinion had sound grounds in the campuses. Enlightened populace that debate and vote, notwithstanding for traditional parties. Sudan has also a long history of popular demands, with blood and tears, which among others forced promulgation of labor laws. In the mid 70’s Nimere was unable to raise the price of sugar, or was made to revise his proclamation. Sudan although witnessed coup d’états and counter coup d’état to the higher level of armed rebellion.

In both cases, there were official/clandestine parties and organization. The concerted efforts of all brought about the successful protest marches in both cases.

In Eritrea of today, if the opposition has undercover groups (likely Shabia veterans) and/or communication/coordination then that may lead into a protest of a sort if not into, God forbid, a planned coup.  Nevertheless, the opposition has to take into account it is not Americas/Europe/Australia or Sudan it is Eritrea of the one. They have to contemplate on escalation to the only one, the Gun, which should not be overruled or shelved at this crucial stage.

If visions are gloomy given the Global unilateral double standards, then let an official call for peaceful protests (politically transient), go on side-by-side fastened vests and serviced arms.

However; it is not only possible but also an urgent requirement to mobilize peaceful protest marches with integrated/meaningful badges and placards against the regime, under the convenience of hosting countries’ constitutional tolerance. Say in Australia, Americas, Canada, Europe as well as the transient forbearance in the Sudan /Ethiopia and perhaps Doha!.

But this also needs organizing and coordination. The influence of partisans, although effective, entirely depends on their heads’ plans/maneuvers, if we abstain from delving into the nature of alliances and degree of external influences. The collective efforts by the majority of non-partisans may coordinate demonstration at a time through out the Diaspora. One of the opportunities is communication between all Eritrean web sites, papers, magazines, NGOs, study centers, student communities, interested groups, mosques, churches etc. to assume the hub and the rest will follow including obsolete organization(s)

Such relentless gatherings, demonstrations, campaigns and appeals to international organizations and interested groups shall assist in convincing and at least neutralizing the junta’s armed guards (the only organized sector) during the inevitable encounter in the streets at home. We are from the human race, and history testifies no soul had endured endless atrocities.

Yet, History also tells us the feeble the alternative forces the perfect recipe to trigger temptations of a private (or general) to topple the Junta and announce his first draft. “Freedom for the prisoners, water for the thirsty, food for the hungry, dual official languages, freedom of press/ faith, land to its legitimate owners and long live Free Eritrea, AWAT ne’haffash” , to be shelved next day, a quenching launch of yet another vicious cycle.

Thus the need for fair play, ratified constitution, civilian governance, right of self-determination and ‘democratic’ state should broadly be digested to remain the tenets through out. Simultaneously armed struggle on the most repressed areas SHOULD continue to compliment the demands, or history will never forgive our life(less)long wishful thinking. 


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