I usually hate it when Yoseif G/Hiwot starts a very enticing set of postings and then goes on a tangent. He appears to have done it again. But this time around, I see the logic behind it. He needs to expose the fundamental ideological / political basis of those in the opposition who are actually engaged in prolonging the regime’s survival. That is essential if we are going to own the sanctions and use them to bring about regime change. Therefore this time around, while I have my concerns as to how manageable the exercise will be given the limited time he appears to have to follow up on his promises, I am willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

Yosief says “So, in the final end, it is not exactly democracy that they are beholden to, but the fact that the democracy project keeps deferring the realization of the “cause” that is, the collapse of the Issayas regime – for fear that if it happens right now it might not deliver what they want.” That is absolutely right. And what they want is not democracy but an anti-democratic concoction that they have covered with the enticing slogan of democracy.

The real tragedy is not that these groups want democracy and will not settle for normalization that may or may not be followed by democratization as Yosief implies in much of his posting despite the fact that as in the above quote he knows that their real agenda is not democracy. The way Yosief has crafted the dichotomy between normalization first and nothing but democracy first gives this guys a lot of credit that they do not deserve. It also implies that those who seek normalization now are willing to settle for something less than the “democracy” activists, when the truth is the exact opposite.

The manner in which the democracy project is being pursued by these groups – the process of democratization if you will – as democracy is in the final analysis about process – proves that their project is actually anti- democratic. Their project is the continuation of the Issayas regime by other names.

Let us take two of the pillars of their process.

Soft landing is anti-democratic.

All the adherents of the “democracy project” want to have a soft landing. They want to build consensus in the Diaspora of the path that Eritrea will follow after the Issayas regime and make sure that, that roadmap is implemented to the letter. They want to take all the time in the world to ensure that the post-Issayas history of Eritrea is written strictly according to the script they have prepared.

My understanding of democracy is that is about choices that the people themselves make. It is not about the people following the script prepared for them by some all knowing elite. It is process of learning by doing by the masses themselves. Guided democracy is a contradiction in terms whether the guide happens to be Issayas or someone else who wants to replace Issayas.

If the adherents of the democracy project were thus concerned about speeding up real democratization in Eritrea as opposed to replacing Issayas’s version of guided democracy with their own they would concentrate on removing the hurdle which is hindering the people of Eritrea from making their own independent choice and leave the rest to the people. The hurdle preventing the Eritrean people from having their say is the Issayas regime. The path to democracy thus starts with removing the Issayas regime as quickly as possible, and then let the people get on with the task of defining the post-Issayas political set-up. Political organizations will obviously have their say. But their say is limited to explaining their views to the people with the view to convincing the people that their proposals are consistent with their interests. The process of democratization will be as healthy and as successful as the decisions of the Eritrean people make it. The parties will be successful in steering the process in so far as they are able to convince the people to act in a manner that will consolidate democracy. In the end the people decide. The litmus paper test for a democrat is whether he trusts the people to make their own decisions and make their own mistakes or not. Our “democracy” project activists do not pass the test. Because they do not trust the people to make their own decisions, and make their own mistakes. They want to “guide” the people lest some mistake that breaks the fragile thing called Eritrea is made. They want guarantees that no such mistakes are made by the people, and the guarantee has to come in the form of assurance that the script they prepare is strictly adhered to by every one. This is every bit as guided a democracy as that of Issayas. It is Issayasism by another name. It is anti-democratic.

Democratization is a process.

Democracy is about societal transformation. It is about replacing undemocratic institutions with democratic ones. It is about replacing an undemocratic culture with a democratic one. It is a process of transforming state and society. As a result it bound to be a process taking its time to mature. It may take centuries or decades to do so depending on circumstances but it does of necessity take its time. It may have many false starts and reversals in the process or may be a more or less smooth transition but there are and can never be any guarantees. Those who truly seek democracy know that and are prepared to take the risk and take the time. They will try their very best to speed the process up and to make the process as smooth as possible but they know there are no short-cuts and no guarantees. They are prepared to take the risk and trust the people will in the end prevail.

Our “democracy” project activists want to have a process with no risk of failure. As there cannot be any such process – they are not interested in democratization as a process. Our “democracy” project activists do not want to start with something that is not fully democratic and want a full fledged democracy that is implemented as is from day one. As there can be no such democracy they want it to be a “guided one” where the people play the role of sympathetic onlookers rather than the primary agents of that transformation. In the end therefore the “democracy” project is not at all a process of real democratization but a repackaging of the guided democracy of Issayas.

The choice we have is therefore not between the full fledged democracy of the democracy activists and the normalization as the urgent first step of Yosief. The choice we have is between the repackaging of the guided democracy of Issayas on the one hand and the process of real democratization beginning with what Yosief has called normalization on the other.

I know I am rephrasing Yosief as my quote at the beginning of this posting illustrates. But I believe this re-phrasing is necessary and even essential to avoid a misunderstanding. These guys are not delaying regime change because they want us to have a real shot at democratizing our country. They are delaying regime change because they want to prevent us from having a real process of democratization which of necessity will be messy and will start with something that falls short of a fully mature democracy (call it normalization) and hopefully evolve in to a more perfect and mature one. They are delaying regime change because what they want is not a real process of democratization but a repackaging of the one we already have.

Some of Yosief’s paragraphs seem to imply that the choice is between democratization and normalization. That clearly is not the case and Yosief knows it. The choice is between the repackaging of the guided democracy we have that is being presented by the activists of the “democracy” project, and speedy regime change and “normalization” as essential and urgent first steps in the process of democratization that is being presented by Yosief. I hope Yosief removes any possibility of confusion on the matter in his future postings by ensuring that none of his paragraphs are seen to be giving credit to the democracy “project” activists that they do not deserve.