(This article has been prepared at about the time Asmarino.com stopped operations.)
I would like to express my belated congratulations and thanks to the organizers and the participants of the Addis Ababa Conference – Waala Addis. I would also thank the Ethiopian government and people for providing the resources, facilities and necessary security to make such a conference possible. Lastly many thanks for the diligence shown by the independent media (in particular Assena.com) for their professionalism in disseminating the un-tainted information, during and after the Waala. Their energy and conviction to inform and empower their compatriots, was and is highly commendable.
It is pleasing to note that much has been said and written about the Waala. Naturally, some focus on the negative and others on the positive and some focus on the process while others on the outcome. As we are dealing with the affairs and future of our country, it is prudent to not rush into any conclusions and instead calmly and rationally take into consideration as many factors as possible before we form our own definitive opinions. Based on the available information gathered from the articles, interviews and personal discussions it is possible to gauge the general reaction of the people about the Waala. The outcome of the Waala seems to have attracted more interest than ‘the process’ which still remains contentious amongst some groups. With the information so far gathered it appears that overall the Waala was forward looking and worthy to be celebrated and supported by all Eritreans who want to see the beginning of the end to our ordeal.
Admittedly, it is not difficult to catalog the flaws in either the process or even the final results of the Waala, but as Winston Churchill said “to Jaw-jaw is better than to war-war”- which as I understand means talking is better than confrontation. As it is, a contingent of 330 Eritreans, from all walks of life, some representing their organizations and others representing themselves, sat together for over a week, to discuss and freely share their concerns and aspirations for their country. Their discussions and dialogue resulted in an understanding and agreement in which the greater majority of the participants approved. For me to see so many mature and concerned Eritreans, no matter whom they represent, themselves or their organizations, is a first - or second if one takes the other controversial ‘Waala Bet Giorgis’ in 1946. Thus, it is an undeniable fact that this Waala is the start of a New Chapter in Eritrea’s tortured history.
As this is a new period, new phenomenon in our history and as there are many unknown factors and many players, it is natural for many of us to be anxious as to what to expect next and on what the future holds for us. Even then we need to remind ourselves that the alternative outcome could also have easily been a total disaster. Thanks God it was not. That is why, like many compatriots, we must be willing to leave our misgivings and possible limitations aside and believe in the glimmer of hope that has been created. We must also understand that anxiety will exist, at least until the Commission of 53 draws the road map and makes it public.
It is encouraging to learn of the constructive role played by some representatives of the civic organizations at the Waala. I salute them for their effort and tenacity. The fact that the political organizations made it possible for their civilian compatriots to play their rightful role as stakeholders, in trying to find a solution to the common problem, was also laudable. The politicians have shown astuteness and foresight and made an important concession – not only did they give the green light; they also conceded a good percentage (60%) of their responsibility (share) to the civil sector. This forms another interesting narrative in this New Chapter of our history as well as giving a good indication and firm footing for the future of the new Commission (or Secretariat).
To sum up: I have made a conscious decision to be optimistic about the outcome of the Waala. In spite of the many resulting limitations I believe the positive aspects of this historic event overpower everything else. I do appreciate that it is still a work-in-progress. I am convinced it can be improved and serve as a foundation to build a required structure on top of it. For this we naturally need as many as possible of the stakeholders to join together, consult and dialogue in an open, free and constructive manner. This way we should be convinced, the gap can easily be bridged and a strong foundation for a democratic Eritrea built. This is the task the Waala gave to the commission. We should do everything to help the Commission succeed in its sacred task. Thus I, as a concerned Eritrean would like to appeal to all concerned as follows:
A- To the Commission:
1- Now the onus is upon you individually and as a group. You should seize the opportunity and come up with a new vision for Eritrea’s future. With humility, wisdom and open mindedness, work hard to widen the tent and harness all available skills and expertise. In other words make this New Chapter interesting and inclusive. Try to make the experience of the New Chapter, accountable, open, efficient and constructive. Make it memorable – by way of making it an example of progressiveness, open mindedness, forgiveness, flexibleness, reconciliatory and of brotherhood.
2- Try your best to make this phase short. This is necessary due to the fact that we do not have the luxury of waiting or procrastinating. There is no time to be lavished as our people and in particular our youth are perishing in the most horrific and degrading conditions at home and abroad.
3- Indulge the suggestion that one of the most important and urgent tasks of your Commission should be to organize a ‘Reconciliation Committee” to bring EPDP back into the fold. Such a Committee should be formed immediately from concerned Eritreans (from within your Commission and from outside) who are known to be neutral and acceptable to the protagonists. Reconciliation may not be a simple exercise, especially if the differences are based on long held personality rather than policy or political issues. But, it is imperative that this reconciliation is tried and tried soon and in earnest with a ‘neutral’ Eritrean arbitrating body rather than an Ethiopia or other external organization which is always prone to suspicions and misinterpretations.
4- I would stress my appeal to you as a group and individually to always remember that you have a big responsibility. Have patience as you will need tons of it. Don’t be vindictive. As your appointment is a sign of the trust the Waala had on your ability and stature, please consider this as an honor and purely as an end and not as a means to an end.
B- To the Political Parties:
1- It gives me hope that even though EPDP (giving its own reasons) has not “attended the Waala” is still a member of EDA. Thus everything is not lost yet. For me this is a sign of maturity, wisdom and political acumen on the part of the EPDP leadership.
2- I am also pleasantly surprised by the measured statement as a reaction to the Waala by the EPDP leadership. This too gives me hope and I commend the leadership for their diplomatic skills.
3- I was also impressed by the EDA in not making the absence of EPDP from the Waala as a point of discussion at the Waala. I hope this time too EDA and the Commission will take note of the above two points (B1 & B2) and react in moderation and in a spirit of reconciliation.
4- I appeal to both sides to share the monumental nature of this opportunity with their representatives and supporters, and explain that this is New Volume in our history that will need to employ a new mode of dialogue and discourse of a higher and more constructive nature and without the emotional dissent of the past.
5- The majority of Eritreans do not understand the irreconcilable political or social policy differences that exist between the parties. Thus all parties should refrain from branding “those who are not with us are against us” as this is a destructive outlook which is more a sign of weakness and ignorance than that of virtue. In any case, for the sake of our people let go of the differences as every day we procrastinate, hundreds of our youth are leaving the country. Consider what use is it to have a country striped of its future?
B- To the Eritrean People:
1- We should all realize that the desired success will not be achieved if we leave everything in the hands of the Commission of 53. They need the full, unqualified participation and good will of all Eritreans.
2- It is easier to criticize and destroy but more difficult to build or encourage. And if we cannot be part of the solution let us be careful not to be part of the problem. Give each and every one of the Commissioners the benefit of the doubt, and as far as possible, let us reserve from questioning the motives and the love of country of these representatives.
3- For our common benefit and above all for the sake of our oppressed and dehumanized brethren at home, let us help the Commission to succeed in its mission. Eritrea cannot afford the luxury of time, finding an immediate solution is an issue of life and death for our country’s future.
Good Luck to all of us.