If you are like me, how many days were there that you wrapped up a conversation with a friend or relative without touching some aspects of Eritrean politics? I guess not many. Wherever we are, political discourse has become endemic to all Eritreans. I believe such a peculiar trait reflects our strong affinity and attachment to our country. Apparently, however, by the same scale that we get ample time to involve in the political affair of our country, our differences seem to grow proportionally. This is particularly true with (we) Eritreans living in the diaspora today. Perhaps, it can be argued that the free internet media is taking its toll. In my observation, in as much as the private websites are encouraging constructive dialogue, detrimental elements are not short of supply. Religious, ethnic and regional sentiments continue to surface our social settings. As such, the current political situation in Eritrea continues to be fragile because of two dialectic forces of the same generation and alike ambition - the PFDJ and several of the opposition parties. The government in Eritrea (PFDJ) doesn’t want to hand in power, otherwise it will be preyed by its own crimes and old rivals. Likewise, the failure of our opposition parties to form a united movement is deteriorating the moral of our people while bolstering the PFDJ’s conspiracies and the crimes associated with it. For these and other related reasons, the young generation is fed up with the present dynamics of Eritrean Politics. With this frame in mind, I wish to share my views on the hard realities that all Eritreans (particularly the young generation) should standby in dealing with the current political dilemma of our country.
A united civic movement the only way to go forward
In as much as there is a compelling reason for change in Eritrea; there is an urgent need for a united civic movement aside from the approaches being employed by the opposition parties. Indeed, many writers have echoed this opinion with a better metaphor. Contrary to the high expectation placed on them, our opposition parties are not satisfying the aspirations of the young generation for a number of reasons. First of all, the continuous drifts and power row among them have precluded a stable political setting for the young generation to act on. Secondly, many of them do not seem to have any plausible vision beyond their mere anti-PFDJ catchphrases. Thirdly, the mindset of most leaders in those parties is incompatible with that of the young generation. Notably, the majority of these people have been outside Eritrea for nearly half a century now. This per se is a huge challenge for them to find a common language with the young generation who has more fresh perception of the status quo at home. These traits may not apply to all the opposition parties. As such, perhaps it is not fair to generalize and blame all of them without taking their particular situation into account. But we all know that most of those parties have existed for decades, yet they have done very little to tackle the core issues in Eritrea, and with Eritreans in the diaspora. They have failed to unite, which is clearly because they don’t have trust among each other. In essence, any plausible political change in Eritrea at this time will require ideological and psychological reforms.
On a positive note, to the extent that the general public is getting fed up with the conspiracies of the PFDJ regime and the disparities of the opposition parties, time seems ripe for the young generation to step up its intervention. These days, we are witnessing a constant increase in the number of civic associations under the rubric of democracy, justice and so on. Such an approach, I believe, will bear fruit at the end. In this regard, I wish to pay special tribute to the EMDHR (Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights) and its patrons for their unyielding determination to mobilize the young generation (your provocative voice is inspiring). Despite the vast potential of these associations to accommodate the plight of the young generation, there are some concerns with regards to their diversity, overlapping goals and lack of interaction with one another. Although diversity is an important component of any democratic movement, it is essential that all the civic societies formulate a common vision and merge into a united front. To achieve this, I suggest a central committee representing each group to be formed (something like- Council of Civic Movements for Constitutional Government in Eritrea). That committee should have the mandate to review the performances of all the groups and if necessary provide strategic advisory. Obviously, such a move will require compromise and transparent relations; and I am confident that those will be achieved with time if the enthusiasm continues. The other concern is the constant penetration of some interest groups from the opposition camps and foreign agencies into the activities of the young civic societies. For instance, the formation of the Eritrean Global Solidarity (EGS) is a clever idea, but my brief research suggests that there is increasing intervention of some interest groups from the opposition parties in that project. The coordinators should still be commended for their initiative and continued endeavors anyways.
Although the civic movements should promote the participation of all Eritreans, the members of the old parties shouldn’t immigrate to the young societies with their failed agendas. For the benefit of the country and their posterity, our dear fathers/mothers in the political parties should rather refrain from the attitude of dihrey saeri aytbqola meret. Let the young generation take responsibility of their future. As noted above, some opposition groups are deploying religious, ethnic and regional sentiments for short term gains. Such acts will not only damage the fabric of our civic moments, but will bolster the crimes being committed by the PFDJ. For now, one could blame the PFDJ for the existing socio-political problems, but how do we envision curing ethnic or religious disparities after the extinction of the PFDJ? Our fight for justice and democracy should not be at the cost of our core cultural and historical values, or otherwise our struggle will take greater toll than what it is worth for. So, our civic societies should defy the masterminds and those media sources harboring any divisive ideas before it is too late.
Change by violence not an option
It is exceptionally odd to hear some groups/individuals advocating for armed struggle to bring regime change in Eritrea. I can’t disagree more with those parties. To say the least -we had enough bloodshed for four decades and we are aware of the costs of another fight. Who is going to fight against whom anyways? The whole problem in Eritrea lies in the hands of a few opportunists (Isayas and his loyalists) who will be the least to suffer from any armed confrontation. Of course, the shortcut is to eliminate those by any means, but attacking military bases or detonating civilian buses is a damn strategy to my wisdom. After all, I have no trust that any regime that comes with the use of force will be different than the PFDJ eventually. Force is deceptive; we should all remember the contrast between the popularity of the PFDJ in 1991-2001 and now. To add a simple logic to my argument- the Somali case is a plain lesson on the menu…use of force will only yield endless divisions and confrontations. Moreover, we need to recognize the reality that the Eritrean military has been the victim of relentless harassments by the PFDJ regime like anyone else. In fact, we should honor our military forces for their perseverance and patriotic resistance against all odds of the PFDJ and external forces. In the meantime, we should be aware that, any attempt for a regime change in Eritrea can’t be achieved without reaching the military. Thus, our civic movements should device some mechanism to reach those committed fellows in the army.
Parallel to our civic engagements, we should recognize the very hard truth that, everything has an end, so does the PFDJ. Whether or not all the present generations will enjoy the peaceful moments of Eritrea depends on our individual destiny. But, surely that time is not far. In conclusion, bringing change in Eritrea is not going to be an easy task; the challenge is huge and complex. As such, patience and persistence are necessary apparatus. Probably things have to go bad enough with the PFDJ regime before sustainable peace and democratic government is restored. I am not denying the fact that life has gotten cruel enough at home, but we should remain receptive to the realities on the ground either ways. This brief review doesn’t exhaust the list of other genuine ideas -that we should all standby- beyond my rather condensed review. Hence, I wish to invite a mature dialogue as to how the present generation should put its resources together in order to bring durable change without damaging the past, present and future legacies of Eritrea.
God bless Eritrea and its People.
Amanuel Yosief Beyin