February 12, 2012
When you are defeated, you only know how to be defensive. When you have nothing to show, you become agitated and destructive. As they say, when your boat is sinking, you believe it is not. When you believe nobody will hold you accountable on your actions, you throw things recklessly. This is the story of EDA/Awassa gathering, which took the struggle for democracy as far as the liberation era that can only be described as a ruthless culture, revolving around President Isayas Afeworki of Eritrea more than the people and the country itself. Either we have it our way or Eritrea goes down to hell is their motto, which is a dangerous view that undermines everything Eritrea has done and achieved.
This act of both flouting and stifling democracy in Eritrea is finally brought to the surface following the Awassa congress. Now, the Awassa congress echoes on Paltalks as the best opportunity Eritreans have ever gotten. The National Council of the Awassa and its rank and file continue to paint the congress as the last ditch to save Eritrea. Everything is geared to boost the support of the Awassa congress, as this is believed to be the best way to legitimize the Congress.
One of the legitimacy arguments of EDA/Awassa stems from a certain magic number, which are the 600 people. They claim the number is too big and that it should be embraced as a representative of Eritrean people. The fact is the number could have gone more that 600 or less than 600, but it could not have changed the result of the Awassa congress either in content or in format. What is the point? The track record of EDA on numbers, quotas, and representations has been of gerrymandering and manipulating, which is a ground conducive to build their own power in post PFDJ Eritrea. During the 2010 Addis Ababa conference, for example, the number of attendees was 50% less than the Awassa congress, but the number was never an issue. The issue has been and continues to be about stifling a true inclusive political process, which has been the hallmark of EDA. Therefore, the political prescription used in the Awassa congress is similar to that of 2010 Addis Ababa conference, alienating the vast majority of the Eritrean Diaspora population. After all, having large number of representatives is not the same as having democratic representation, and this where EDA leaders are frantically trying to hoodwink the public. But this is not a onetime manipulation or revelation in the history of EDA; it is a consistent pattern and a ruthless culture designed to transform tyranny and societal conflict in Eritrea. Remember, it was not long ago that over 3,000 Somalis convened a conference in Djibouti. But the conference was noticeably a failure despite the big number.
Behind all this political engineering and plot lurks Meles regime as determined as ever to block any meaningful reconciliation among Eritrea opposition forces that might be an obstacle to its ‘regime change’ policy in Eritrea. And, brazen as it is, EDA leadership contends that Meles regime’s support is a backbone needed to achieve democratic change in Eritrea. EDA leadership further holds that the idea of Ethiopian threat to Eritrea is simply a fear hysteria Eritreans could not overcome; of course, pointing finger at the PFDJ as a main source of fanning such a fear to prolong its reign of power in Eritrea. But such flimsy portrayal of Eritrean people about Ethiopia does not pass the test of public scrutiny. It is public that Meles regime is using EDA as a firewall for its hegemonic policy on Eritrea.
Leaving the PFDJ aside, Eritreans do not orchestrate conspiracy or play fear when it comes to Meles regime. It is a record that Meles regime is working to effect ‘regime change’ in Eritrea by any means, primarily by military means. Hence, the assertion of EDA that there is no Ethiopian threat to Eritrea is very much convoluted; and it will drive a fierce surge of opposition by Eritreans against such a dangerous partnership with Ethiopia. After all, it is unEritrean to give a standing ovation for a foreign force. Rather, it should be understood by EDA that its partnership with Meles regime would not help it find its place in Eritrea. Again, at every stage, Meles regime employed its media and other resources to divide Eritrean nationalities for its own political and policy interest, and EDA is trying its best to internalize such a policy message on its part. It is no accident that a radio station, “Voice of Eritrea”, which is managed by Meles regime is broadcasting a dangerous campaign against Eritrea everyday from Mekele, Ethiopia.
EDA leaders seem to say that they are fighting against dictator like the rest of Eritreans; they say they are for democracy and justice in Eritrea. In fact, they stretch too much to prove that they are for genuine democracy in Eritrea. The problem is this: unlike other opposition forces, EDA’s politics, principles, organizational culture, and conscience…Etc resides within Meles regime. This makes EDA leaders a bunch of immature political personalities; it makes them dangerous who depend on Meles regime what and how to manage their affairs instead of making Eritrean people the epicenter of the struggle. Of course, EDA leaders will continue to claim their relationship with Meles regime is based on a genuine support for democracy in Eritrea. Getting a genuine support is one thing, but supporting Meles regime to effect ‘regime change’ in Eritrea is a crime that will not find a place in the hearts and minds of Eritrean people. Yes, the vast majority of Eritreans supports change in Eritrea, but not in the manner that EDA leaders think and see things through their surrogate mother, the Meles regime.
But what these Eritrean pseudo-political experts failed to understand is that the Eritrean people are not buying into their line of ‘we are for democracy; we are against the dictatorship of President Isayas Afework.’ Yes, irrespective of how the EDA leaders want to paint their critics as “PFDJ”, nothing could be further from the truth. The opposition against the EDA establishment is as Eritrean, patriotic, and democratic as it should be. The bottom line: EDA can no longer whitewash the stand of the vast majority of Eritreans with their fiery rhetoric. Continuing on this path clearly demonstrates that EDA leaders are living in a different world, from feigning as defenders of democracy to maliciously collaborating with Meles regime to manufacturing lies against many Eritrean voices/forces. And yet, EDA leaders seem to have no idea as to the nature of the opposition stack against them.
So, besides standing solid, what can we do to stop these politically and morally corrupt, unprincipled, and can do nothing EDA/Awassa brute forces’? Opposing alone is not enough. What we need to do is challenge the ideas and thinking of EDA that has become a breeding ground for polarization and disunity of Eritrean people. We should be on a solid grasp that the strength and power of both EDA and Meles regime resides in our disunity, which serves as a powerful instrument to undermine our collective struggle for democracy. Focus on the danger that the EDA and Meles regime are bent on internalizing the culture of disempowerment, ‘we cannot do it ourselves, Eritrean people are incapable of removing tyranny’ and the introduction of fear and defeatism into the psyche of Eritreans through false campaign/message. Finally, the impact of attacking every genuine voice considered against EDA is another campaign driven to condemn critics and to silence others from voicing and raising hard questions about EDA. Imagine doing the unthinkable and that is attempting to throw the half-century defiance of Eritrean people down the drain.
Final note, Eritreans in general and the Diaspora in particular should come to grips with the danger the Eritrean opposition is facing, and begin to understand the root cause of it. And the root cause of this danger is Ethiopia’s well-concerted campaign to impose its own reality upon Eritrean politics for the sake of its own interest. Its primary target to reach its goal is attacking the democratic forces of Eritrea – and not ideas but characters of democratic personalities and groups whose positions are considered a threat to Ethiopia’s interest. Yes, hidden behind democratic support for Eritrea, Ethiopia is determined more than ever to shape Eritrea’s destiny by lifting a small group of Eritreans (EDA and its associates) to prominence at the expense of Eritrean genuine democratic forces, as well as by deliberately undermining the values and cultures that enabled Eritrean people to come together and decide their own fate. This is a threat and unhealthy for Eritrea’s future and we need to take a drastic measure to reverse it. I am referring to defeating such a danger not by resorting to labeling and condemning (because that would be reading from their book), but by articulating the dangers and flaws of both EDA and Ethiopia and waging a transparent public campaign. We can no longer allow ourselves to fall prey to the politics of Meles regime.