Personal reflection on Professor Gaim Kibreab’s discussion with the youth


I, as an interested Eritrean Youth Global Movement in UK (EYGM- UK) member, participated in an event held to discuss the Eritrean prevailing situation and youth issues aspects, with Professor Gaim Kibreab as a keynote speaker and presenter. The event was organised by the Eritrean Youth for Change in Leeds on Saturday 17th September, 2011. 

First of all what I am going to write here is my own personal view and I hope my report and observations to be objective. I am afraid though some of my observations about Professor Gaim Kibreab mentioned in this article may seem to be fairly unjust and you may think that, sometimes, it is disproportionately picky. This is not so: the simple reason is I am using his speech and/or discussions as a starting-point for my own article in this topic as a major source.

 As expected Professor Gaim Kibreab at the outset gave a brief outline of his topics. Then he continued to explain the advantages and disadvantages (risks) of emigration to the Eritrean context.

Giving a keynote address to the youths about why some youth in Diaspora are seen and turned unpatriotic whilst others think broadly and rationally, he said, “Some youth fall in PFDJ’s traps emotionally based on their affiliation (association) and therefore switch their allegiance and support to PFDJ.” Without elaborating on that he continued to say, “Likewise some in the Eritrea opposition camp as in the rest of African countries use religious, language, regional, ideological and ethnic affiliations to come to power. These worry me and make me think whether democracy would really work in Africa or not? In our case we had our own Eritrean unity values but now they have become sound bite (a proclamation of rights).” I agree with most of the things professor said above so far but my argument is as an academic he should have provided more concrete evidence when he questioned about democracy’s applicability in Africa. He failed to mention some thriving democratic African countries that are role models to others. Those success stories were worth discussing and sharing their vital experience and were suppose to be presented as case studies. For simple reason they have many similarities to Eritrea than differences in terms of geo-politics, race, and most importantly their multi ethnicity and religious diversity. Considering those factors they must have encountered stumbling blocks in implementing democracy whilst at the same time they have strived to manage their diversity. Unfortunately when he discussed about the possibility of exercising democracy in Africa and whether it would work or not it seemed the prevalent atmosphere was one of fear.  To avoid such feelings at least he could have created an opportunity by engaging the youth how those countries that have embraced democracy have sustained them while overcoming their internal issues, including aspects of socio- economic difficulties. However, Professor Gaim’s obsession with the sordid details of failed states for some obscure reasons, disappointed me.

As for “national unity value becoming sound bites for rights”, I think he was right to say so to some extent but again he showed fundamental flaws here. Because he did not familiarise the youth thoroughly with his direct reference to sound bites nor discussed about the cause rather emphasised on the consequences. It would have been better had he offered an idea to help identifying and exploring the causes that have led to such rhetoric.

Briefly then he shared his personal experience about the sort of expert report he has been writing and his comments, in particular in reference to the prevailing issues facing the Eritrean youth fleeing persecution and the impact of carrying out national military service for indefinite period. However he also pointed out that sometimes absence of great empathy with the real situation or lack of awareness of geo-politics of Eritrea by the international community (countries) act to the detriment of Eritrean asylum seekers.

Then followed a very important topic for discussion began with an objective the youth to have an insight into philosophical discussions and debates to help them identify the reasons why youth produce different outcomes.  His discussion was based on the theories of social science which he described them agency and structure and, a third theory, which contemporary theorists in the field attempt to reconcile structure and agency commonly known as “Structuration”       

 This is it for now. The second part coverage will be shadowed by a great deal of more controversial issues discussed and being asked. However prior to that first my article or report will embrace all the main points addressed by Professor Gaim Kibreab on the sociological theories of agency, structure and structuration theory in academic style if I can.


Bereket Kahsai

EYGM UK Board Member

September 2011


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