Fighting Oppression as Moral Obligation

By Dr Salah Ibrahim, 28 October 2006

There are limits to all kinds of human suffering. For Eritreans living under the rule of a ruthless dictator, those limits are well overdue. Foreign occupation and its adversity came to an end on May 24 1991 only to be replaced with home-grown extreme oppression by the liberation front which in the first place fought the occupation to bring peace and justice. Under these circumstances, it becomes a moral obligation to challenge the authority of a dictator who illegally seized power. The dictator we face in Eritrea is as brutal as other violent dictators known in human history. A necessary step in bringing about the demise of the power of the dictator is, for the oppressed people, to first overcome the climate of fear and to speak out their minds freely about the injustice. History reveals that there is an inevitable price to be paid for any dissent against an oppressor, but it is a sacrifice that must be made for a better change. To expedite the removal of the dictatorial regime, Eritrean communities living in the Diaspora should be more defiant in the face of intimidation and fear campaigns waged by the Eritrean regime and its supporters. Unfortunately, after all this suffering, dissent against the illegitimate rule of the dictator in Eritrea is still insignificant. In the absence of a significant rejection of the injustice committed inside Eritrea, the suffering of the oppressed people will continue for a long time to come. Overcoming fear must be viewed as reclaiming the natural or God given right of freedom of expression and the right to life itself.

Various factors have contributed to the prolonged adversity and suffering of the Eritrean people. This author considers three major obstacles to be the root causes hampering or hindering any breakthrough to end the daily agonising miseries experienced by Eritreans inside their country; these are:

i.                     The unwillingness and incompetence of the Eritrean government to resolve political differences through dialogue.

ii.                   The ineffectiveness of the unpopular opposition groups to exert pressure that could have ultimately forced the government to sit in a negotiating table, and

iii.                  The immensely missing role of the ‘educated class’ to effectively fight oppression.

This article is written in solidarity with my compatriots in the USA who are organising a peaceful demonstration against the rule of the oppressor.1 In doing so, I will briefly highlights on the first two factors, as they are well known to the majority of Eritreans as well as to others. Therefore, there is no need discussing in great length the inability of the Eritrean government to administer the country with good governance, nor the absence of attributes in the opposition groups or more specifically, the Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA) that promise of an alternative government waiting to take power. It would be stating the obvious to discuss the shortcomings of the two sides, and perhaps a waste of the readers’ time. But in my opinion, I consider a significant participation of the ‘educated class’ in peaceful demonstration and other anti-tyranny activities to be crucial in weakening the power of the entrenched dictator. It is the intention of this article to encourage the ‘educated class’ to have more proactive roles in the struggle against oppression.

The complete reluctance of the Eritrean government to promote reconciliation with its political opponents is clear not only to Eritreans but also to the people in the Horn of Africa and to the wider international communities. For the past fifteen years, the Eritrean government has continuously failed to develop all-inclusive policies that would have guaranteed social harmony and prosperity. Until now, the Eritrean government has not played the role of a responsible government to end the suffering of the Eritrean people. The fundamental problem with all these shortcomings is that the government is not democratically elected, so it does not seriously pay attention to be accountable for its failures and the consequences that come with that.

Recently, it has become evident that most of the governments in the Horn of Africa gradually are moving forward to resolve political differences with their opponents; the exception to this progress is the Eritrean government. In relation to the Sudan, the comprehensive peace agreement between the government and SPLA/SPLM; the cease-fire settlement with some of the western rebels to end the crisis in the Darfur region, and the recent peace deal with eastern rebels are steps forward. In Uganda, the peace negotiation between the government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) is an example worth mentioning. What about Eritrea? Is there any indication that the Eritrean government is serious in resolving political disputes? No, not a single indicator! There is complete lack of understanding by the Eritrean government that political opposition is about accountability and not animosity.

It is also undeniable that there are numerous weaknesses on the side of the Eritrean opposition groups that indirectly contributed to the prolonged suffering of the Eritrean people. It is not unreasonable to suggest that some of the Eritrean opposition organisations are led by dictators who dislike and feel uncomfortable to be challenged with new ideas. A lot of constructive ideas have continuously been suggested on how to refine strength and ultimately create a better EDA. The efforts of institutions and individuals must be appreciated for steering constructive and intelligent debate. But my concerns are that some authors (with out being specific) are too extreme in their critique of EDA they seem to forget that there are decent and hard-working elements within EDA, who never gave up struggling with full integrity for peace and justice in Eritrea. Criticising EDA generally should not be viewed as destabilising the Alliance; indeed constructive criticism of its performance should be welcomed and received in good faith. But it is also important to avoid extreme and unnecessary criticism. Such criticism can easily be interpreted as conspiracy against the EDA orchestrated by Eritrean government collaborators implanted within civil societies or even the EDA itself, working to weaken and demise the Alliance. It need be clearly understood that I am not defending the weaknesses of EDA, but I believe that venting venom will do nothing good for the betterment of the Alliance and the relationship between the civil societies that are struggling against the rule of the dictator. It is also unfair to the decent and indomitable EDA members. This is enough as far as EDA is concerned.

Turning my attention to the main focus of this article, while fighting oppression is incumbent upon every conscientious and good-hearted person, it applies even more so in the case of the educated class. I commend the ground-breaking activities currently undertaken by civil institutions and the effort of enlightened individuals. But, sadly, a great majority of ‘educated’ Eritreans do not view fighting oppression as a moral obligation, and this is what I intend to elaborate on.

The educated Class is expected to play a crucial role to further put pressure on the Eritrean government to abandon its repressive policies. What can educated Eritreans expect to happen to their people more than the current crimes perpetrated by the dictatorial regime before they wake up and fight oppression? Isn’t it time to say enough is enough and face the dictator and its supporters in all corners of the globe with solid determination so as to end the miseries of Eritreans at home? I urge educated Eritreans to join (in their large numbers) the Global Solidarity rally against tyranny and support those committed Eritreans fighting for the establishment of peace, justice and democracy in Eritrea.

It is known to many of us that a great number of educated Eritreans abandoned their University studies and enthusiastically joined the armed struggle against the occupation. Many of them were martyred while fulfilling their national duties along side with other fellow Eritreans. It is also well established that educated Eritreans did not receive the attention they deserved and were not given enough opportunities to lead the revolution to the best of their abilities. All this were frustrating cultures that they had to live with for the sake of the success of the struggle. The negative attitudes displaced towards them and even the demonising propagandas that they were subjected to could be some of the reasons for their great absence today in the fight against oppression. However, they need to be reminded that there is a moral obligation incumbent upon them, and their role is paramount to boost the moral in fighting oppression. Swift change of attitude by the educated class is necessary sooner rather than later to defeat oppression and to liberate the Eritrean people from the crimes of the dictator.

To sum up, I believe that reconciliation between the people of a small nation like Eritrea – that fought and drove-out a large and well-equipped occupying force with unity and resilience – should have been more conceivable than the current status quo. But under the current rule of the dictatorial regime, reconciliation and national unity is at stake, and there seems to be no end to the prolonged suffering of the Eritrean people. Based on this, I fully support the peaceful demonstration by our committed patriots in the USA, and I remind those living in the free world who are reluctant to take active role in the fight against oppression are wrong. Their inaction is prolonging the adversity of our people inside Eritrea. The freedom, stability and prosperity we enjoy, and the bright future we contemplate for our children are achieved by the sacrifice of many generations who valued and honoured the above-mentioned virtues.


+SPLA (Sudan People’s Liberation Army); SPLM (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement)

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