A Defined Struggle

A Reply to Dr. Tekie Fissehatsion

As we only skimmed through Chatham’s report and Dr. Tekie Fissehasion and his co-writer’s response to the report, but based on Dr. Tekie’s similar articles in the past over the same issue and our overall observations for the last five years of the world’s reluctance to enforce internationally arbitrated border ruling, we take it for granted that Dr. Tekie’s response is appropriate.  Our message to any international forces who may assume that Eritrea’s internal challenges are opportunities to redefine and spin the border decision should remain cognizant that we are united in our beliefs that UNSC has abdicated its responsibility and that this body is creating dangerous precedence.  The border decision should be implemented without further delay.

What is creating our consternation is Dr. Fissehatsion’s latest article in as many days, “The Perils of a Proxy Invasion”.  This is yet another ‘he said, she said, we said’ article that draws dangerous and ominous conclusions designed to create more havoc than to address fundamental issues.  There are some statements and observations that are inducing our indigestions,

  1. Dr. Tekie said, “There might be lots of unflattering things that one can say about the Eritrean Government …” This is understatement of the century.  How can one call the imprisonment of Eritreans without due of process of the law and kept incommunicado as just “unflattering things that one can say”?  Dr. Tekie, what “your government” is doing is illegal, criminal and crimes against humanity.  Even as we speak, six hundred of our brothers and sisters are suffering physical and mental anguish in Libya dreadful of what awaits them if returned to Eritrea.  There fears aren’t unfounded as earlier forced returnees where tortured by “your government”.  A humane government would have embraced back them like its prodigal children.  Tens of thousands of our brothers and sisters are receiving inhumane treatment in PFDJ dungeons.
  1. Dr. Tekie said, “And when the American diplomat [Dr. Jendayi Frazer] started making wild allegation about Eritrea harboring terrorists, it appears that she was looking for a pretext to nudge Meles to invade, to make Eritrea the first victim of the Washington Doctrine on Preemption.”  This is Dr. Fissehatsion’s version of PFDJ’s tired effort of fear mongering.  Dr. Fissehatsion’s veiled message is that Woyane will forever attempt to invade Eritrea under the threat of terrorism even if the border is demarcated.  This sounds like a prelude to new PFDJ propaganda that intends to keep Eritrea under perpetual siege mentality designed to keep PFDJ in power under the pretext of ‘national threat’ even after demarcation.   Dr. Fissehatsion’s latest article is an ominous sign for PFDJ’s Eritrea.
  1. Based on PFDJ’s (and its core supporters) vehement reaction to the political developments in Somalia, it is safe to conclude that PFDJ feels UIC’s loss is above all its own loss to finally earn its Pyrrhic Victory.  PFDJ’s ‘surge policy’ hasn’t and won’t work.  In reality, and honestly, the ultimate solution to the border issue is found in Eireiro, in the tears, sweat, and blood of brothers and sisters, and in the remains of our own flesh-and-blood in the Sahara Desert, in Libya and at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea.  He who sheds his own blood can live but for only a short-time while the vultures [our external enemies] only need to circle over us until we collapse and die.
  1. Regardless of what Dr. Jendayi says, the bottom line is that American policy towards the horn region is determined by a whole group of people within the State Department, the Pentagon and the Administration.  Ethiopia will lobby, call it lie or skew arguments, to protect its interest.  Judging PFDJ’s diplomatic skills, it isn’t difficult to imagine how inept it is at using such critical skill that every other nation uses to advance its national interests.  Above all, PFDJ refuses to learn from its mistakes and to adapt to changing realities without abandoning its core beliefs.  PFDJ’s total disregard for domestic and international laws is the cause of all our difficulties.  We have no doubt that Min. Haile Drue would have handled international diplomacy with much refined skills.  In PFDJ’s Eritrea, competence lands one in Eireiro prison and incompetence is rewarded with Johnnie Walker flowing right into your house.   
  1. Dr. Tekie’s article is yet another example of PFDJ’s latest propaganda designed to whip up US-phobia among Eritreans.  Dr. Tekie raises the WMD issue in Iraq to discredit America’s credibility.  Without disputing the fact that America’s invasion of Iraq was a major foreign policy blunder, America’s credibility [not Bush’s credibility but American institution’s credibility] is enhanced and NOT tarnished by admitting that it didn’t find WMD in Iraq.  Any other country caught in this type of blunder would have planted false evidences to conceal their blunders.   Examining PFDJ, it continues to conceal its blunders or creates additional chaos to distract the public.  PFDJ blundered by imprisoning thousands of political prisoners without a single shred of evidence.  Instead of admitting mistake, PFDJ acts like the plaintiff, the judge, the jury and the executioner – and thus compounding Eritrea’s tragedy.  Six years later, PFDJ continues to conceal and deny its blunders.  Dr. Tekie, PFDJ doesn’t have the moral upper-hand to tarnish US’ image among Eritreans.  If PFDJ wants to deal with the Americans from a position of strength, it need not dip its itchy fingers in Ethiopia, Sudan or Somalia but first deal with those in Eireiro, those in PFDJ dungeons and those in Sahara Desert.  Like every nation, Eritrea’s strength emanates from its own children, not from one man’s Will based on ‘Might is Right’ philosophy.  Dr. Tekie, if you want the border demarcated as we all do, then impart some wisdom on your PFDJ masters to seek the blessings of our elders instead of holding them hostages for ransom of Nfa 50,000 eachLet your false and self-serving masters intoxicated with power, money and Johnnie Walker fall on the feet of our elders and ask for their forgiveness and for their wisdom. You will be surprised, Dr. Tekie, with such a blessing, how quickly we can convince the world to see the border issue our way.  May be we should save you the effort of trying to impart wisdom on them, Dr. Tekie, because your masters have plugged their ears and their brains and believe in burning their bridges behind them.  Wise leaders leave small traces behind them; leave doors slightly open so that if they need to return that they can do so.  But not this regime!  However, resolve is not limited to one-man.  Real resolve is found in the over 100,000 Eritrea’s brightest that laid down their lives for our rights and freedoms and is inherited by the four million Eritreans.  We march lock-step with our heroes such as Hassan Keckia, Bitweded Abraha and Joshua.          


Aside from our specific observations of Dr. Tekie’s article, our disappointment is with the entire tone and purpose of the article.  Dr. Tekie is fully aware of the fundamental issues that are occupying Eritrea today.  Yet, Dr. Tekie has chosen to address the symptoms rather than the illness that have afflicted our cherished Eritrea.  We all had hoped and expected such learned and experienced person such as Dr. Tekie to articulate our challenges and to propose creative solutions to address a whole range of burning issues.  Instead, Dr. Tekie is reduced to regurgitating what we read in Haddas Eritrea.  His article doesn’t provide any value-added analysis or solutions.

What occupies every Eritrean mind is, what next?  The reality is that Ethiopia has refused to proceed with the demarcation; UNSC has refused to live up to its responsibility; and the world powers have refused to force Ethiopia to abide by the border decision.  So what next, Dr. Tekie?  “Kab Seb Zitetsebeye Bidewu Beleye” is a wise saying.  How long do we hold our breaths until the world decides to demarcate the border?  Will the border be demarcated in 1-year, 5-years, or 10-years?  By putting all its eggs in one basket, isn’t the PFDJ leadership gambling with our nation?  Dr Tekie, how long are you willing to look the other way while thousands continue to perish in PFDJ dungeons under the pretext of patience until border demarcation?  Is it another one-year, five-year, or ten years?  Are you waiting until those who are exiled by PFDJ reach the 80,000 evicted by Woyane from Ethiopia?  Are you waiting until the world declares that PFDJ is responsible for genocide of its own people?  How long, Dr. Tekie?

Fully aware that the world will drag its feet to force Ethiopia to proceed with demarcation, PIA has pursued its belligerent policies and sole political philosophy of ‘Might is Right’ to circuitously demarcate the border.  First, no one with an ounce of scruples can support PIA’s attempts to destabilize the entire horn region and thus endangering Eritrea’s long term interests for the possibility of demarcating the border.  Second, ordinary Eritreans can’t be simple spectators and continue to suffer while PIA formulates the next strategy after the UIC debacle to force the world to proceed with demarcation.  

Do you know what the biggest tragedy is, Dr. Tekie?  Eritrean people have began to say if ‘our own government’ can do this to us – imprisoning incommunicado, ‘giffa’, torturing, killing and exiling its own people – what worse things have our enemies done to us?  ‘Woyane’ doesn’t become the enemy just because Haddas Eritrea plasters its hate message everyday in its headlines, but is based on our own experiences of what our enemy has done to us that our own government hasn’t done to us.  How do you define tyranny from your own government?  The answer isn’t lost with you.       

It can’t be lost with Dr. Tekie what the issues and challenges are,

Symptoms of PFDJ’s Eritrea’s illnesses are:   Border, Woyane, Somalia, US, illegal detentions, giffas, slavery campaign, etc…

Illnesses are:  Unaccountable leader, usurping power, gross violations of human rights, absence of rule-of-law, etc…

Yet, Dr. Tekie has chosen to write endless articles on the symptoms rather than the illness itself.                

Dear Dr. Tekie,

Let us continue our rebuttal by quoting Min. Haile Woldetensae,

“…Eritreans are asking for the Constitution to be implemented.  … Once UNMEE troops are deployed in TSZ, we have to return to the critical task of running a nation, while keeping an eye on the border.”

Some of you attempt to label the current opposition struggle as if this is between ‘patriots vs. traitors/woyanes’ or between ‘pro-Shaebia vs. anti-Shaebia’ or between ‘pro-PIA vs. anti-PIA”.  But this is cheap propaganda by the very people who are gambling with our nation and with the lives of our people. 

Let me quote Thomas Jefferson,

“Dissent is the highest form of patriotism”

Make no mistake, Dr. Tekie, the opposition has a defined struggle.  Today’s opposition struggle is about determining the direction of the future of Eritrea.  The question is, do we begin building the foundations of evolving democratic Eritrea, or do we allow our Eritrea to suffer under the whims of successive tyrants.  Constitution is only a piece of paper.  But the spirit of constitution – the ideals of democracy, rule-of-law, human rights – is found in people’s struggle to protect these ideals.  The thousands of Eritrean petitions, rallies, critical articles, political detentions are the very foundations of Eritrea’s future democracy.  As undoubtedly you consider yourself as a proponent of democracy, it is not lost with you that democracy is never handed down to the people on silver platter.  As you are even witnessing in your adopted country, even mature democracies have momentary lapses in which leaders attempt to usurp power from the people and other branches of government under the pretext of national security and threats.  It is a constant war-of-tugs.   Democracy is defined by the struggle fought during difficult times – never benevolently handed down by unaccountable leaders.      

Although our campaigns are against PIA, our struggle is beyond PIA and against any form of dictatorship and tyranny, unaccountability and to reclaim the future direction of our cherished country.  By drawing the line with PIA, we are drawing the line against all future tyrants.  If we allow PIA to use ‘national threat’ to undermine everything we value dear in our nation and everything we hold close to our hearts, we are creating dangerous precedence for our future.  We might as well write-off our nation, our values, our thirty-year miracle, and what our fallen heroes fought for.  Eritrea isn’t a unique nation that we can’t learn from the experiences of other nations and peoples.  When we gained our independence, we thought we would learn from the mistakes of others, but instead we have committed worse mistakes.  We can longer afford to give blank checks to PFDJ.    

Some of you say that once the border is demarcated, we can return to the task of implementing Eritrea’s Constitution and running our country as it should.   There are a couple of problems with this argument,

1.      As stated above, when will the border get demarcated?  The undisputed fact is that it is outside our control.  It is not acceptable, and is even criminal, to continue to imprison people without due process of law until the world decides to proceed with border demarcation.  PIA doesn’t have any creative or prudent way to get the border demarcated soon.  He has had over 7 years to resolve this issue.  Instead of creativity to resolve the border issue, PIA’s repressive measures continue to get worse by the day.  When we woke up this morning, it wasn’t the border that was occupying our minds but those 600 Eritreans in Libya?  Dr. Tekie, you are putting the cart before the horse.

2.      What would happen if we were to disengage from the border fiasco and return to the task of running the country before its finalization, Dr. Tekie?   Badme will be there tomorrow, the day after and way after us.  As you stated in your article, if Ethiopia wants to launch war on Eritrea, the unfinished border isn’t the only excuse but that war on terrorism may be used as pretext to invade Eritrea.  Even if Woyane is to be removed from power, the Amhara power may launch its war on Eritrea claiming that our independence was illegitimate or that Asseb belongs to them.  Are we to live in state of paranoia over our southern neighbor?  Dr. Tekie, we reject this paranoia.  It might be PFDJ’s and your paranoia, but not ours.  Just for the record, PIA lost the war against Woyane – not the Eritrean people.  As someone who closely followed the Ethio-Eritrea conflict, you know what PIA and Gen. Sebhat said after the third round conflict when they admitted that their political mistakes compromised Eritrea’s military capabilities and options.  Moreover, in order to escape accountability for his mistakes, PIA sidelines experienced military men – men who destroyed 18,000 Dergue troops and capturing Soviet Generals in less than 48 hours in Adi Shurum [& Afabet] marking the end of Ethiopian occupation of Eritrea.  PIA sidelined the brave men that marched into Asmara, those that maintained Shaebia’s intelligence network, and the General [Oukbe Abraha] who was allowed to participate in only one battle during the Ethio-Eritrea conflict and delivered Eritrea the only true victory at ‘Egre Mekel/Tsorona’.  Gen. Oukbe Abraha fell out of the Emperor’s favor because he questioned the wisdom of army officers engaging in private businesses, and using military resources for private benefits.  Six years after Gen. Okbe’s arrest and his alleged demise, the military is so corrupt that its capacity to defend is questionable.  Dr. Tekie, do you remember when Shaebia fighters were required to be equal regardless of rank?  Why do you think Shaebia followed that policy?  Although, realities in independent Eritrea can’t continue with the same treatment, still, military men should only be active in their profession and to only earn incomes based on salary scales commensurate with their ranks.  Let us ask you, Dr. Tekie, do you honestly believe that the 45 Generals who are busy enriching themselves are capable of defending our nation?  Don’t our [army] Generals have more in common with the Dergue Army Generals than our own tegadelties? 

3.      Although I have discussed this issue above, I will repeat it for emphasis.  No incumbent or future leaders should get any funny idea that they can subvert the rule-of-law and engage in human right abuses by announcing the magic phrases “national security or threats to sovereignty.”  Do you, Dr. Tekie, expect us to freeze whenever you shout these false magic phrases?  No one man has the ultimate wisdom that we all should submit to dictator’s whims.  Does PIA hold any more wisdom than the Eritrean elders who came to him to impart their wisdoms?  Does PIA hold any more wisdom than the Eritrean religious leaders who came to him to impart their wisdoms?  Does PIA hold any more wisdom than his close colleagues of over 30-years?  Does PIA hold any more wisdom than the collective wisdoms of the Eritrean people?  Some may say that we should appease PIA because he is holding a gun against our heads.  But if he was holding the gun against our head while feeding us, and generally letting us live while warning us not to express dissent [Articollo Diece], we may even submit to the man with a gun.  The reality in PFDJ’s Eritrea is that PIA is holding the gun against our heads while proceeding to cut our feet, our hands, and then taking out our eyes.  At what point does one say, I would rather die than be dismembered while I am still alive, and instead the victim chooses to react.       

4.      Some deceive themselves by saying that PFDJ is engaged in national development.  But this is utterly false.

a.      First and foremost, no amount of development can ever justify violations of human rights – period.

b.      National development is beyond steels and concrete and is about the more subtle components of development including human resource development and developing properly functioning institutions.  It can’t be lost with you, Dr. Tekie, development is multi-dimensional and multi-faceted. 

c.      Warsai Yikealo is all about destroying the youth.  No one knows how Warsai Yikealo campaign fits into our long-term socio-economic direction.  Building a couple of roads and some residential houses can’t constitute a vision or direction.

d.      Private sector has been destroyed and replaced by army officers enriching themselves – squandering away our precious wealth on Black Label Johnnie Walker.

It is disappointing, to say the least, that some of you, including those who recanted from the Berlin Manifesto and others, have reduced the much bigger question of the directions of a country to politics at personal level.  Eritrea is much bigger than one man or one small group.  Eritrea is about those innocent elders, political prisoners, journalists, the exiled and the vast majority Eritreans who are suffering in silence.  Eritrea is about each one of us and what each one of us holds dear in our hearts.  Regardless of the political treacheries around us, we have to be able to rise above it and become the rallying point for the future of Eritrea we all aspire.  Dr. Tekie, what is your role today to alleviate our people’s severe and unnecessary sufferings and to establish the solid foundations for future Eritrea?  We, in the opposition, know exactly what we stand for – and it was eloquently articulated by Min. Haile Drue seven long years ago.   

Our questions to ordinary Eritreans can only be “Are you better off today than yesterday?”  If the answer is no, then we have to consider change of direction, esp. if the answer still remains negative after few weeks and definitely if longer than ONE year.  [One reason calendar was introduced was to put time limits on everything.  PFDJ doesn’t want to commit to timetables but to decide our fate at its whims.  That is always an ominous sign when a leader refuses to commit to a timetable while the people’s situations deteriorate by the day.]

Dear Dr. Tekie,

We, in the opposition, have a defined struggle.  Our beliefs are based on our traditions and the trusts our martyrs left behind for us.  It isn’t complicated.  It is about human respect, courtesy and dignity.  Our beliefs are based on tolerance, inclusiveness, compassion and wider consultations.  We don’t think of ourselves as intellectual Army Generals who comfortably justify the sacrifices of thousands of innocent people for one political victory, but as tormented people who go to bed every night and wake up every morning saying ‘isn’t there a better way?  Is it absolutely necessary to create so much internal upheaval?’   The rest of us would have preferred to engage all our fellow countrymen with wider discussions and debates, learn from our mistakes, and chart new courses as needed.  This is the only way we can live as a nation.

What we want you to know, Dr. Tekie, is that although we criticize you with our pens, our hearts are always open for you, for the Sophias and for the Mikes.  We reject PFDJ’s desperate ploys of ‘labeling’ and divisive politics.  We reject ‘you are either with us or against us’ mentality.  To us, every Eritrean is precious, born from the very soils nurtured by our fallen heroes, and needed for the bigger tasks that await us.  Dr. Tekie, we don’t build a thick wall to separate us as PFDJ does.  Ours is only a very thin wall that you can easily break by just admitting to yourselves (not to us) your momentary lapse of judgment, as we all do, and accept that human dignity and rule-of-law is above all else.

Dr. Tekie, you are worth significantly more than regurgitating “Haddas Eritrea”.  We have enough ‘yes men’.  Instead, what we need is your real wisdom and experience!  We hope your next article will use your vast experience to articulate a bold direction for Eritrea that takes into account the true socio-political, economic and diplomatic situations in today’s Eritrea.  Good luck!

Congratulations to Eritrean Youth for Change!

Berhan Hagos

February 11, 2007

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