Let Them Shine: the Eritrean Youth Conference in Washington DC:
Dated 25 -27 May 2012
by Petros Tesfagiorgis
I was overwhelmed with hope when I read the report of the Youth conference dated 25 -27 May 2012 in Washington DC – USA and the two articles that followed posted in Asmarino.com. One was by Miriam – titled "Why DC was simply different" dated 29 May and the other was by Selam Kidane titled, "Enthusiasm, excitement, motivation and Pinch of creativity: Washington DC's winning formula.
The conference came out with the following resolutions:
Recognising the enormity of the insurmountable challenges put against our people and the need to install democratic and just system in Eritrea we the participants of this youth conference will work to:
- coordinate our efforts in spirit and in action
- ensure that all our efforts are targeted against PFDJ as the sole adversary against
- be action oriented, result driven and united in our endeavours
- enhance the momentum of the global fight against the dictator, that has been
- ongoing for many years now
- Considering the urgent nature of the task of saving Eritrea, we will escalate our
- fight with immediate effect.
To this end, we pledge to work conscientiously and with relentless effort, to realise the salvation of our people
The conference and the demonstration was truly an extraordinary performance. Based on the pledge the youth have defined themselves as the major players in shaping the destiny of Eritrea.
In many places around the globe, the youth are becoming active calling for
Democratic change and exposing the cross human rights violations taking place in
Eritrea, the Washington conference is the climax that have drawn the road map to
build a democratic Eritrea. That is why it has attracted international attention.
I quote from Miriam’s article “The eyes of the world were upon us, literally… Al Jazeera and voice of America reported, congratulations arrived from members of the Swedish Parliament.
Indeed this time the Eritrean youth have shined. Let them shine. This is a profoundly important ground breakthrough event. The youth cannot continue to live at the table of illusion and hypocrisy while the entire Eritrean people are subjected to extreme repression. The conference can be the foundation of the radical renaissance philosophy of the people of Eritrea in their long journey for democratic change.
Their call is for justice to release all the prisoners of conscience, for democratic change, and for implementing of the constitution. Their cause is a just cause where freedom and justice loving people the world over can relate too and give their support if properly communicated and efficiently managed.
It is also a call to the silent majority in Diaspora particularly the supporters of PFDJ to wake up and side with the oppressed and “live in truth” rather be a section of the Eritrean society "lying to itself". The Young PFDJ have organized conferences in Sweden and carrying out protests and collecting signatures in different places. This is merely an exercise of giving “face lift" to PFDJ which is increasingly getting abandoned by their long time adult supporters, otherwise no country or people will take them seriously.
By propping up an unjust and oppressed system the YPFDJ are on the wrong side of history. They never realized that history is not going to be kind to them.
The Emergence of women in the struggle for justice and democracy in Eritrea:
The participation of women is desperately needed in all struggles in order to have an image of fighting the oppression of women. The EPLF had a slogan which said, "Emancipation of women through participation". However, it was top down which means any change was handed over from the EPLF leadership which was largely composed of men and can be reversed as happened to the women fighters after independence.
This time it is different. Few days before the Washington conference Miriam had organised a small fund raising meeting to contribute to the conference expenses. She made passionate appeal to the audience to help the youth to carry out the struggle. When she addressed the meeting she was on fire and did not take long to win the hearts and minds of the audience. We all were amazed by her conviction and commitment. Is it a phenomenal that hitherto most of the activists for justice and human rights who have achieved a lot are women? Elsa Chirum, Meron Estifanos, Dr. Alganesh Fesseha, Kedijha Mohamed Nur, Lul Seyoum, Miriam Omar etc. They have evolved in the forefront of the struggle. They are in the process of creating a future for women in Eritrea.
They are the perfect match with the men like the chairman of the conference Haile Kifly. Selam wrote in reaction to the moving talk of Haile " the success of the conference for me will be measured by us implementing the one driving them right across: Action Oriented Movement” as captured by Haile Kifly”. As men and women work together as equals to bring democratic change in Eritrea, the pendulum will keep swinging in the direction it needs to swing in order to find its equilibrium.
Symbolic Handing over the struggle to the new generation:
I was over the moon when Selam Kidane wrote “another inspiring moment was the moment Memhir Tewelde Reda started singing Shigey Habuni and passed on the mic to Dawit Ephrem to carry on the song."
Tewolde Redda is a legend he mastered the Guitar so much so our generation used to compare him with Jimmy Hendrix. At the end of sixties, his song Shigai Habuni "which means give me my freedom" has become so popular that he became an icon. The Washington DC participants have witnessed history repeating itself. Today like yesterday, the people of Eritrea are crying for freedom.
End of sixties Shigei Habuni was composed into classical music and was sung in a choir in Arat Kilo Campus, "Haile Selassie! University " – by a club called Glee Club composed of University Students and Nazareth School, a prestigious girls school in Addis Ababa located near the university. At that moment in time Alemseged Tesfai was the head of that club and he had involved some of his friends including me to get rigorously trained for symphony led performance. It takes place only once a year and VIP from government, prominent business people and families of university students used to attend.
Alemseged, the author of “Ainifelale” and “two weeks in the trench” had a wonderful voice and was chosen to lead the choir because of his voice. – The composer called Nalvandian was an Armenian Ethiopian whose father had composed the Ethiopian National Anthem called " .Ethiopia Hoi” The symphony orchestra was the famous cultural Band based at Hailesellasie Theatre near the Post Office Rendezvous. During the performance at the end of the song "Shigai Habuni", which was the only Tigrinya song, there was a storm of "bees, bees” means "repeat, repeat” by Eritreans in the audience. Nalvandian was completely taken by surprise, although the tradition of symphony orchestra does not allow repeating he was forced to conduct the song 2 more times. . When the performance was finished many Ethiopian friends were asking what it means and many learned of the political problems in Eritrea.
Today like yesterday Tewolde Redda expressed the wish of the people of Eritrea for freedom in musical terms and passed his mission to the young generation. History is repeating itself.
Establishing viable and efficient organisation is critical to success:
The struggle for democracy is long and hard and entails a lot of organisational work.
We have to acknowledge that it is taking place in the context of globalization and we have to act accordingly. Eritrea cannot afford to remain isolated from the international community. Thus the struggle must have an inbuilt activities in contributing peace in the Horn and even globally. The youth have to have various committees - foreign relations, refugee affairs and study groups etc.. What is important is also leadership training? Training gives people the skill and the confidence to pull through a situation that isn’t so easy.
The participants of the conference and demonstration must have experienced a profound inspiration and I am confident that they take the organisation dynamic very seriously. I remember during the apartheid period in South Africa when the African Students globally had a big conference, the slogan was "Don't agonize, organise". Getting organized is what the Eritrean youth are doing.
Democratic Eritrea will eventually prevail.
La Luta Continua