“There is no reason to search for a country of honey if you are in one”.   Catholic Bishops of Eritrea

First a brief comment on the demo against PFDJ festival in Sweden:  The timely and constructive slogan was “Let’s talk  ንዛተ Nizate”

 I watched the demonstration against the PFDJ festival in Sweden on the Internet.  What strikes me the most is their call for dialogue, a direct appeal to the ordinary working people who mostly are misled?  It was meant to build understanding between the justice seekers (the opposition) and PFDJ supporters who embraced the system that is oppressing the Eritrean people.   As supporters of the regime they would have been in the best position to ask PFDJ to stop repression or refuse to pay 2% taxes. By doing so they would have helped PFDJ to realize its gross mistakes and deliver itself out of its present crises.     But more often than not it is fear and opportunism that is blinding them.  The fear factor is strong as PFDJ is vindictive and control freak.

 In spite of all that to reach out to the supporters and make them understand that their place is with the oppressed is critical to a peaceful transition from dictatorship to democracy.

The appeal for dialogue is a form of encouraging them to form their opinion free from the powerful TV-ERE disinformation propaganda and consider the absurd situation they are in. They are putting themselves in grave danger for abusing the 1951 UNHCR Geneva convention. They got sanctuary in the countries of European Union because they have asked   protection from the Eritrean Government for violating their human rights and yet they were there to serve as a propaganda material for PFDJ.

What is remarkable is that the demonstrators must have carried out sustainable activities in the past to expose the PFDJ in Sweden.  This is evidenced by the unusual absence of Yemane Gebreab – the architect of YPFDJ in the festival.  

Awate.com known for its reliable news wrote an article titled.  “Swedish Policy on Eritrea: The Carrot or the Stick?”  Dated August 4, 2014. It goes, “ Gedab News learned that last week a delegation of 11 Eritrean Government officials including the foreign minister, Osman Saleh and the presidential adviser Yemane Gebreab  cancelled their planned travel to Sweden in the last minute. On July 30, gabeel.com stated that the Swedish Government informed the Eritrean Embassy in Stockholm that members of the Eritrean government will not be allowed to enter Sweden.

Those who attended the festival must have been frustrated as they came face to face with the naked reality on the ground.

The demonstrators calling for dialogue is a way of offering the supporters the carrot of reconciliation.  After all they too are stake holders. Their interest is best served in a just and peaceful Eritrea not in a lawless Eritrea where people are arrested arbitrarily and detained for years without due process of law. Eritrea is rich in natural resources, agricultural, marine and mineral resources, its people are hardworking. Today they are looking helplessly as the minerals they own are siphoned off abroad while they suffer from poverty and underdevelopment.   “There is no reason to search for a country of honey if you are in one”.  BBC’s quote from the article “Eritrean Bishops in Critical letter” And yet they are prevented to enjoy their country’s honey and fled to  “the land of promise”.  What a shame.


 The Voice for Democratic Change vs. the voice of Repression Part 2

  It is very important to carry out evaluation after a major activities (events) such as the demonstration against the PFDJ Festival in Bologna. Evaluation helps the organisers to learn from their mistakes and appreciate their successes and build on it. Also to asses and monitor if things go according to the plan or not.  What was the shortages and is there any suggestion from the people that improves performances in the future?  Besides it gives opportunity to the general public to comment, to appreciate to criticise.  All these makes organisations stronger and in touch with the grass root supporters.  Their followers and members would trust them more because of the transparency they introduce in their work ethics.

 Evaluation on top of its core objectives of assessing how events went, is a form of maintaining momentum for action particularly in the case of the newly formed Eritrean Unity for Justice (EUJ-UK), the Vaccaro network.  From the outset the newly elected management committee spent no time to call a public meeting in preparation for the Bologna demonstration and has been praised for that. They asked financial contributions which was satisfactory, opened an account and got people to send money from as far as USA. They offered to organize transport for those who want to go.  They gave information about the services available once people go to Bologna including the availability of sleeping bags for those who did not reserve hotels. The Bologna demo was very successful. The other agenda was to inform of what they have done since they got elected. They made an internal policy, division of responsibility and drawing a programme to help refugees in the UK- in the areas of employment and job training. They indeed raised high expectation on the supporters recognizing the progress they made within a short period of time. 

But either they are satisfied of what they have done so far or are complacent as not to see to see the value  of evaluation and monitoring  one and half month has passed and no public meeting.

I was expecting that meeting because I had planned to include my views on part 2 of the Bologna drama.   Instead I decided to ask Kubrom Dafla for brief evaluation of the event.  

Not calling a meeting is a disease which practically many Eritrean organisations are prone to.   I hope they take this as constructive criticism from a concerned person, a voting member.  I suggest that they call a public meeting as soon as possible and confirm membership by filling forms and charging a small annually.  I think the need of leadership training and how to work in an institution is essential. Top down, and bottom up flow of information is the secret for smooth relationship between the leadership and the base.  Any member of EUJ-UK can ask and give information bottom up.

.  Kubrom Dafla, a colleague since the days of the radical Haile Selassie University students’ movements in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and in the long struggle as both are veteran members of EPLF,  wrote me brief evaluation of the demo.  I quote;

“The long and important battle field was the confrontation across the fence, with Isaias’s group, which took place on Friday July 4 the whole day and Saturday July 5 to about 4 pm. Next in importance, was the almost 2 hour march in demonstration to the Town Centre, Piazza Maggiore.  This brought the public opinion and of the Bologna and Italian national media right by our side because our message was made clear by the competent and skilful leaders of the demonstration: “The message to the public was, “The root cause of the Lampedusa tragedy is right here in your backyard, invited by the City as a guest.  Do you know that?  And this was a big winner. ““Due to this simple message the papers the following day confronted the city mayor and administration with {How dare you invite someone like Isaias to our city? That is why they reserved Piazza Maggiore for us that is why they gave solidarity message as well….”

He said “That is what we have to treasure”  and  maintain that fighting  spirit.  

The Bologna demo has ushered a new hope for working together:

 The amazing successful  demonstration against the Bologna Festival by PFDJ has brought different civic and political organisations and individuals commonly called “Delaiti fithi” aspirants of Justice,” to come together to expose the real motive of the festival and the inhuman nature of  the regime in Eritrea today.  The demonstration provided the best opportunity to work together and to get to know each other.   It is the most significant turning point and it has to be exploited to the maximum to accelerate the fight for democratic change.

It is a conventional wisdom that When people share a common goal (in the case of Eritreans to end repression…) and focus solely on that commonality, they will experience a fellowship that supersedes superficial differences.  They will, in the most fundamental of ways, begin to function selflessly “.  To a certain extent this selflessness has transpired among the ELF & EPLF rank and file fighters. In exile we are witnessing that they tend to care for each other. They developed organic solidarity and comradeship by fighting and dying side by side for a common cause.   

Conclusion:  The article of   Seyoum Tesfaye “Decolonizing the Mind. A shift in Thinking” (asmarino.com) can be used as a starting point to develop an educational material that helps to empower the people and free their mind from any propaganda that works against their interest, progress and unity. It is a way of raising the level of consciousness of the Eritrean people.   Seyoum’s article has posed 2 fundamental questions:   Who is colonizing our mind? How do you decolonize a mind?  It is a gem of dramatic exposure focused upon the deepest human problems.   Nowadays everyone is talking about unity but where is the formula? The colonized mind is the barrier. Set it free? This is a formidable challenge presented to entire people of Eritrea by PFDJ.