Eritreans have talked much about EDA and now its offshoot, the Awassa congress. The debate is centered on the incessant non-adaptability and inability of EDA to galvanize Eritrean people around a vision that democratizes our thinking and our struggle. The culprit is none other than the Islamic ideology and the politics of ethnic that run antithetical to democracy and the common good. This persuasion attempts to paint a picture of Eritrean society along religion, geography, and highland-lowland divisive politics, and falsely advocates liberation from the Tigrinya
domination. When this false claim could not hold water or faced stiff resistance not only from the Tigrinya but also from every ethnic group in Eritrea, the detractors (the EDA that comprises Islamists, regionalists, and other sub-nationalists), shifted gears and sought assistance from Meles regime in a surreptitious style that hampers Eritrean people’s ability to make intelligent and well-informed decisions towards the struggle for democracy. The Islamists and ethnic warriors have so far wounded the political body of Eritrea and still are thriving on this open wound as a bacterium.
This is not about opposition per se; this is about the long-held allegiance to Meles regime by EDA, which crosses every threshold of any political alliance that Eritreans have never seen in their history. Such an embodiment of foreign force has become the underpinnings of EDA/Awassa congress for managing the opposition. EDA often attempts to condemn its critics while leaving its own unscratched, muddying the democratic discourse of Eritreans with mistrust, hatred, and undue zeal. And the strategy is to control the entire political spectrum of Eritrea, and to replace the PFDJ regime even though this is remotely unlikely. This vision in the making will be as autocratic as hell if it succeeds, which makes the fundamental meaning of the current struggle for democracy groundless, and the genuine prospect of becoming an alternative to PFDJ regime untenable. This is the unanswered question and it is the crux of the matter.
Undoubtedly, given how EDA operates, no Eritrean in their right mind believes that it can be an alternative to PFDJ. EPDP and other secular forces are much more aware of such a dangerous political agenda than the EDA and its allies. Yes, the brute reality is Eritreans want to uproot the PFDJ and its institutions but they are more worried about the threat that is coming from the South (with full support of EDA) than the PFDJ threat to their freedoms. This will remain a fundamental national problem to tackle for any political Party in general, and for EPDP and its affiliates, in particular until the dynamic behind Ethiopia’s agenda on Eritrea is brought into the open.
However, in the absence of changing the status quo, predicting a dramatic change in the struggle against the PFDJ is unachievable. Hence, EPDP and its allies need to realize this crucial matter: EDA’s/Awassa support of Ethiopia’s agenda of regime in Eritrea on one hand, and Eritrean people’s support for PFDJ to abort Ethiopia’s regime change policy that threatens their hard won independence on the other hand. Even if one assumes the support of PFDJ is waning, the threat of Ethiopia will be a strong recipe for Eritreans to reverse course. I believe these are irreconcilable positions that will continue to clash and present an alarming challenge for EPDP and its allies to solve.
Again, Ethiopia after 20 years of work, it is now inching to the edge of institutionalizing religious and ethnic organizations in Eritrea on the account of many pretexts, chief among them being Tigrinya political system present in Eritrea while there is no Tigrinya political system in Eritrea. Yet, the heart and soul of this distorted argument is that the Tigrinya nation is working hand in glove with PFDJ regime to oppress the rest of Eritrean ethnic groups. Not only is the Tigrinya nation supporting and defending PFDJ but it is also benefiting from its rule, with its freedom, culture, religion, and values well protected while the rest of the Eritrean ethnic groups are deprived of their rights.
As much as this is toothless argument and knowing that the interest of Tigrinya nation and the PFDJ are mutually exclusive, still it is being framed in such a way as to intimidate and scare Eritrean people into accepting EDA’s argument. This constant ploy if succeeded is intended to define the Eritrean politics in line with the Ethiopian regime. But the issue is not as simple as it seems. The question is whether this ploy is translating into reality, and whether the objectives EDA and Ethiopia set is meeting its goal on the ground is important yardstick to measure. My observation is that the strategy of EDA/Ethiopia is backfiring, forcing Eritreans to write off the latest Awassa congress agenda. But EDA/Awassa is quick to turn to defamation and condemnation in order to divert the issue from the main subject, calling those who point to its flawed ideas and shaky objectives ‘PFDJ loyalists.’ This simply shows the crisis and fragility of EDA’s/Awassa stand. Truth, EDA would not have lasted long if it were not for Meles regime.
For starters, no Eritrean is to be branded PFDJ for opposing any agenda that they believe is a threat to their country. Yes, it seems easy to lose sight of the struggle for democracy amid the emerging threat of Ethiopia and its cabal, EDA. Contrary to this belief; however, Eritrean people do know what is at stake and what is not. But even if one assumes it is true, whose fault is it? It is EDA’s, that has become an obstructionist, that has ordained Ethiopia to change the PFDJ by dismissing the fundamental right of Eritrean people, and that has stood on the other side, which all this is viewed by Eritreans a real threat not only to their sovereignty and independence, but also to the struggle for democracy. And this is dangerous and it should be stopped.
The sorry reality is after two decades in the opposition, the EDA/Awassa is unable to master the meaning to oppose and lay the foundation for democracy; it could not define the problems, let alone how to solve them. Seeing its history, from the 2010 August conference to the Awssa congress, the EDA refused all plausible alternatives and suggestions, sticking its neck for Meles regime. The choice it made is unlikely to change. It has dug its own hole.
The effect is this: it is not just going to be the PFDJ supporters who will work hard to stop the agenda of both EDA and Meles regime. It is going to be every Eritrean, from the growing youth movement to the various civic societies to the Eritrean Defense forces … etc. But EDA does not understand such politics – and this is one of the many fundamental mistakes that keeps causing EDA to incessant pain and crisis, and has been its failure to engage, reach out, and debate the majority of Eritreans in public. Given its modus operandi, it is very doubtful EDA will be able to exit from its crisis or work on reversing its fundamental weaknesses. After all, EDA has proved to be the most self-condemning entity that paralyzed itself by colluding with Meles regime where it reached at a point of no return. The choice is ours; and the choice is to stop the agenda of both EDA and Ethiopian regime.
Over the last two decades, the secular forces of Eritrea, despite their size and intellectual resources, have yet to grasp the nature of the conflict between Meles regime and them on one side, and between Meles regime and PFDJ on the other side. This intricate conflict has been restricted to the few, merely feeding the public with flawed and biased information on the discourse of the conflict. Enough with the current approach that goes ‘Meles regime and Eritrean people have the same interest in removing the PFDJ regime.’ We do not have the same interest. Regime change and fighting for freedom and democracy are two diametrically opposed view, the former being the goal of Meles regime, and the latter being Eritrean people’s goal. To put it in another word, Meles regime’s interest is by no means congruent with those of Eritrean people. And this is where EPDP and the rest of the secular forces must draw the line when it comes to Meles regime. In a word, the inconsistencies of principles and positions toward Meles regime must end.
Fact, a mere opposition to EDA will not end the fundamental challenge we are facing. This will only expose the struggle to future uncertainty, and will encourage EDA to find new ways to play its game. The main challenge is Ethiopia, which conceived the current crisis of the opposition, turned EDA into a sharp edged political tool, and put us on a never-ending precarious ground. This picture shows the depth of our political crisis, which demands a development of new thinking and approach towards Ethiopian regime. And i.e. rather than continue to hand over the fate of the opposition to Meles regime, EPDP and its affiliates should address what is the truth about Meles regime and what is the illusion of the truth if they want to rally Eritrean people around a secular vision – and that is the only way of stopping the conspiracy that is pulverizing the unity of Eritrea and its people.