By Berhan Hagos

The latest drama within the opposition camp is yet another indication of how far removed we are from reality.  Despite the tens of articles that appear in Eritrean opposition cyberspace everyday, there are no real debates on ideas, burning issues, strategies and lessons learned from history and other people but instead we find ourselves embroiled in hypocrisy and character assassination.  Today, Eritrean opposition is composed of genuinely concerned citizens but with amateurish political acumen reflecting inexperience and driven by wishful thinking.  

As the saying goes, 

Great minds discuss ideas
Average minds discuss events
Small minds discuss people

No hope exists where politics is reduced to messy game of winning at any cost.  Western democracy is brutal politics but the political game is played within a sophisticated political system that pursues its goal in realistic manner. 

Readers may find this article an almost déjà vu to my last article, ‘Political Culture’, but again political issues are repetitious.  We have been debating the same issues for the last decade, albeit using different words and arguments. 

In this article, this writer will argue why EPDP has taken a much needed bold and realistic moves that has come under reckless political attacks from within the opposition camp.  Reality check won’t have any immediate impact on those delirious over the latest enthusiasm, but time will soon tell!  

REALITY CHECK 1:  What is the likelihood of establishing an interim/government-in-exile which will then be installed as government in post-PIA Eritrea? 

As addressed in my last article “Political Culture”, there hasn’t been any government-in-exile that have been parachuted down to govern a country in recent history – NONE!  Of course, we Eritreans are an exception and history doesn’t apply to us!  Government-in-exile is a wishful thinking arising from the need for fairytale white knight that rides his magical horse to defeat the people’s enemy.  It is a Robin Hood story! 

The debate is simple, the very small likelihood of a government-in-exile or exiles forming government depends largely where the change come from: 

  1. Change Scenario 1internal change brought about by popular uprising or military change would mean that internal change agents would take over government.  They may invite external forces to join them but they will remain the primary agents.  This is the most desirable outcome and the opposition must work on it diligently, which we aren’t doing at this time. 
  2. Change Scenario 2 – PIA goes the way of every mortal creature, in which case those currently in power would take over.  There might be some infighting but someone will prevail.  The replacement may invite internal and external opposition to join new government.  This will happen eventually because nature says so! 
  3. Change Scenario 3 – External invasion, which is where government-in-exile has the most likelihood of taking power, but this is tantamount to rolling the dice for the invader and those forming the government-in-exile.  This is a high-risk strategy with 99% failure rate.  It is the US’ Iraq, Soviet Union’s Afghanistan and Ethiopia’s Somalia.  Government-in-exile is usually composed of very loose alliances that never lasts for more than FEW DAYS even if they were to take over government, and then they would start back-stabbing each other to ensure that their hidden agenda prevails.  If anybody thinks that our active opposition is made of nice people who will get along because they are so well-intentioned, then they live in the land of fairytales.  Thus government-in-exile, even if by some unforeseen event succeeds, has very short shelf-life, which is not more than few days to less than three months.  This scenario has the highest risk embedded in it. 
  4. Change Scenario 4 – PIA comes to his senses and reaches out to what he has always derided to be ‘irrelevant’ or ‘non-existent’ opposition camp.  PIA is known for capitulation despite putting brave face before capitulating.  No one should ever discount this factor and is also a desirable outcome. 

This raises a disturbing question, do members of the government-in-exile that aspire to form the interim government in post-PIA have vested interest in ensuring that change is brought about with a scenario that will assure their success in gaining power their way?  That would be rolling the dice with people’s lives and sovereignty! 

REALITY CHECK 2:  What is the purpose of interim/government-in-exile? 

  1. Is it to mobilize the Eritrean public in Diaspora or the internal public in Eritrea?  The question then is, what will the interim/government-in-exile do that will be any different than EDA has attempted to do? The biggest challenge for EDA has been its inability to establish a unified and prudent leadership under recognizable leaders.  EDA leaders are like brides-to-be hidden in closets.  Reality check says that the public WILL NEVER rally around opposition political parties even they claim to be democratic if their leaders remain faceless.  EPDP is the only one playing this game right by putting its leader, Mr. Woldeyesus Ammar, in the centre.   Mr. Mesfin Hagos is both the centre of support and equally bitter criticism, but more importantly he is the most recognizable.  No one will support unknown political figures who raise the ‘democracy flag’ because REALITY CHECK says that there is high likelihood that today’s advocates for democracy are tomorrow’s dictator, esp. under challenging national issues because ….“The road to hell is paved with good intentions!” 
  2. Is it to fill a power vacuum if and when the PFDJ regime collapses unexpectedly? This question is tied to “Reality Check 1” above, which is that any unexpected change in Eritrea will give rise to other domestic forces, mostly like military, to take over government.  Those closest to the current centre of power will have advantage of taking over.  Government-in-exile is predicated on the premise that PIA’s demise will entail total chaos, which is tantamount hinging your entire effort of government-in-exile on this extremely low possibility. REALITY CHECK asks, is the opposition camp pouring all its effort into this extremely low possibility at the expense of other more productive efforts? 
  3. Is it to give external forces the impression that the Eritrean opposition camp is more organized in the form of government-in-exile, and that they should receive support financially, diplomatically, or even militarily to bring about change?  REALITY CHECK says that external forces aren’t naïve politicians and governments.  They know superficial changes from real ones, which is a truly organized opposition force with coherent strategy and strong leadership.  In addition external forces would have their own formula for determining if and when to interfere aggressively in the internal affairs of their neighbouring countries.  As much as the opposition would like an interference to be soon and at greater scale, the external sponsor knows that playing fire with an adversary gone amok could be very dangerous to the sponsor’s health.  As intense as the PIA-PMMZ rivalry is, neither has the appetite to reignite another round of bloody conflict.  REALITY CHECK says it would be MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction!  
  4. Is it to reinvigorate the opposition camp that has been unable to campaign effectively against the regime under EDA?  Is time counting down for EDA as it is for the PIA regime, which are both strapped for cash, other resources and growing public lethargy? 

It is human nature to seek “hope” in all endeavours we engage.  During the war of independence, we gained hope when our independence fighters captured land or defended a position.  In political warfare where there are no physical milestones for victory, hope can get sapped quickly.  We want results!  How do we provide that hope when our weak efforts have failed?  REALITY CHECK says that when one can’t deliver results, it is time for high DRAMA, and drama is part of politics.  But again REALITY CHECK says that drama should be used as gap filler until the next strategy is formulated.  If we engage in the drama, and worse believe in it, for its own sake, then we have lost! 

Although the NCDC Commissioners have been telling us that they are actively engaging the “public” for the past few weeks, REALITY CHECK indicates so far that the ‘public’ is really the same active people within Eritrean opposition camp.  There are hardly any new faces in the crowd, which shows the strong cynicism of the general public in Diaspora and our failure to sell our vision, regardless whatever it may be. 

The question remains, how do you get the general public to get involved?  For starters, there should be coherent policies and strategies under transparent and recognizable leaders.  The general public isn’t stupid! 

Interim government can only work if domestic forces are heavily included from day 1 in post-PIA Eritrea.  The idea of an interim government being wholly composed of Eritreans in Diaspora is fairytale, and worse is, to a small degree, an impediment to realistic change in Eritrea. 

REALITY CHECK 3:   What is the purpose of an interim Constitution? 

Mr. F. Nair has gone full force advocating for transitional constitution.  As interesting as his articles are, and are highly recommended readings, transitional constitution is a tricky issue.  It appears that NCDC is mandated to draft the interim constitution. 

We will set aside the hypocrisy of the debates in justifying why the yet to be formulated, or already drawn up, NCDC interim constitution would be representative of the people while the 1997 isn’t.  REALITY CHECK says that the very same arguments used against 1997 can be applied 100% for the interim constitution being formulated under NCDC. 

Constitution normally has two components; first is the rights and freedoms of citizens and second is the system of government.  Rights and freedoms are universally agreed and thus present little debate.  In contrast, system of government is a structural issue that requires time to agree upon, to be established and years to refine.  This implies that one can’t just implement a system of government on interim basis (as transitional constitution) unless it is a foregone conclusion.  This is especially true if very independent system of government, such as a federal system, is introduced from the outset.  It is easier to move from centralized system to federal than it is from federal system to centralized system of government.  Thus if the Eritrean public is to be presented with the choice of the system of government, the interim constitution should start from the premise of centralized government as the starting point and then move towards federal system.  

REALITY CHECK 4:   The entire government-in-exile and the composition of its members is predicated on the following premises, 

  1. The future members of the government-in-exile will be made up of overwhelmingly good people with good intention working for better Eritrea. Most NCDC participants in Addis Ababa at the end of July 2010 appeared to be impressed and enthusiastic more because their suspicions and fears of the other groups (ethnically, religiously, geographically, etc…) were unfounded.  But that is a long way from working together to solve burning national issues.  There are couple of saying that apply here, “the way to hell is paved with good intentions” and that “the devil in the detail”.  As long as these political freshmen discuss high level principles and wishful thinking, they can get along with each other.  But as they begin to map out from their vision to technicalities, i.e. details, is when miscommunication leads to mistrust, which then saps their energy.  It will then be déjà vu. We don’t solve our challenges by simply getting rid of veteran politicians with their excess baggage and then replacing them with novice politicians who seriously lack negotiation skills, the ability to strategize and generally lack experience in public administration is tantamount to jumping from the frying pan into the fire.  Our efforts should focus on how to move down the learning curve, not starting the learning curve all over again.  Otherwise we will always be novices! 
  2. Once the PIA regime is removed that the Eritrean public will accept the government-in-exile with open arms for various reasons including feeling relieved from the brutality of a dictator, too pacified to do anything, or other assumptions is fairytale. Totalitarian states create paranoia in a society that will take years to reverse.  The post totalitarian regime government will inherit socio-economic and legal issues that will explode to the surface after the dictator is removed.  For the general public, their distrust of not only the next government but their cynicisms towards any government will create a strain on the new government that will either lead the new government towards dictatorship or total collapse.  
  3. The government-in-exile/interim government is predicated on the premise that social, economic, legal and political destruction that PIA has unleashed can be dealt in due time without a sense of urgency. 

With serious legal issues, overwhelmed and understaffed judicial system, health and education systems under strain, affordable housing issues, high unemployment, inflation, lack of hard currencies, refugee repatriation, demobilizing the army and other zillion issues will be knocking at the doors of the next government relentlessly.  These issues can’t even wait one day! 

Prudent politics says that the next government shouldn’t expect any goodwill from the public! 

In general, REALITY CHECK says that it is suffice to say that if what has been happening within the opposition for the last 15 years is to be repeated in government, we will have the total destruction of Eritrea bringing untold misery. 

REALITY CHECK 5:   Will there be a clash between EDA and NCDC as each, esp. NCDC, encroaches on each other’s role within the opposition camp? 

What remains ill-defined is what will happen to EDA if interim/government-in-exile is formed?  Will EDA and government-in-exile share or divide responsibilities such as diplomacy, speaking for the opposition camp, armed forces, and in formulating policies?  Will the various political groups in EDA compete to control or influence the government-in-exile thus creating another round of backroom infighting? 

Prediction:  Both EDA and NCDC won’t discuss this issue for the next one year, at least, and up to two years.    NCDC will continue to engage in forming interim/government-in-exile using it a convoluted formula for the next year, while EDA continues its lethargic life.  It may take yet another year to work out its constitution.  In about two years will come the question, what next?  Now that the government-in-exile has been established and “interim” constitution has been approved by them, they will want to expand their authority over every field of their ‘fairytale’ government after all, they will say that, they are “elected” by “popular” vote.   

EDA/NCDC is clocked in ambiguity.  Their highly developed political acumen is to resolve ambiguities with more ambiguities.  Ambiguity creates confusion and irrelevancy.  NCDC’s communiqué in Tigrigna is the watered-down version of the Arabic one and yet despite pointing out the differences, NCDC has not explained or apologized for this purposeful error.  Nationalist organizations are advocating for the right of ethnical groups to secede.  They try to reconcile the irreconcilable form of struggle costumed in Che Guevara style revolution in Mahatma Ghandi’s clothing. 

REALITY CHECK 6:   Is the Eritrean opposition camp ready for “mature” democracy? 

The latest onslaught against EPDP by the EDA/NCDC forces should be viewed as alarming for anyone looking for glimmer hope within Eritrean sad political state of affairs.  

Whereas EPDP has expressed legitimate reasons for refraining from engaging within the NCDC process, the advocates of EDA/NCDC have pursued character assassination to eliminate their political opponents than debating EPDP, or addressing their concerns.  One is left with the impression that if EDA/NCDC (and satellite agents such as Radio Wegahta and Dehai Eritrea TV) had legitimate reasons to refute EPDP’s position they would have campaigned by arguing against the merits of EPDP’s arguments.  

Mature democracy requires that holdouts be accommodated in order to move a political process forward or, alternatively, be ignored if they are irrelevant.  REALITY CHECK says that if EPDP is relevant or important then accommodate it, or if it is irrelevant then ignore it.  Western democracy is brutal and does engage in dirty politics, but they have a highly skilled political acumen that allows them to negotiate and compromise while trying to weaken their rivalries. 

Mature democracy is also about encouraging debate and not about suffocating it.  There is no debate why EPDP’s concerns are irrelevant while EDA/NCDC’s concerns are relevant.  Some will say that EPDP should engage EDA/NCDC by participating in it.  But the debate doesn’t begin with political differences but with the process of resolving the political differences themselves.  If the process has flaws in the first place and there aren’t any mechanisms to correct them, then participation becomes irrelevant.  

REALITY CHECK 7:   What is the point of the latest character assassination against Mr. Mesfin Hagos?  What are its implications? 

Two of the accusations and observations thrown against Mr. Mesfin Hagos are: 

           1.  That he was the right hand of PIA during the armed struggle and should be brought to trial (by Alena, Yelenan, Alena Nlomi, etc…) 

Rehashing old stories that can’t be verified is ostensibly designed to weaken EPDP but in reality weakens the opposition camp in general. 

a.   As Mr. Mesfin has said himself, if he has any crimes that he is responsible for that justice can prevail with due process of the law.  Cyber trial is just a cheap way of getting one’s verdict across the public medium.  But these cyber tigers are hiding behind the loose cyber laws that are allowing them to engage in defamation and slander. 

b.  The opposition camp isn’t made up of ‘holy men’ with clean records.  Character assassination is a double-edged sword that will bring the entire opposition camp to serious infighting leading to weakening it in general.  It saps the opposition camp, giving the regime an expected life.

c.  It also discourages other regime supports from joining the opposition camp because they do not want to fall victim to same opposition character assassination.

e.  A call to bring Mr. Mesfin to justice is a misplaced call for struggle for change.  Mr. Naizghi Kiflu, PIA’s past and current hitman is sitting pretty comfortable in London, UK and instead of bringing him to justice the opposition would rather waste their sapped energy to pursue one of their own.  There other regime supporters are enjoying life in the West, thus REALITY CHECK says why not after them. Herein lies the reason why the opposition remains very weak.  Although this call is made by a couple of cyber writers, with possible encouragement of those who benefit from this, the opposition camp has vested interested in stopping such nonsense from being propagated.

f.  It took one man, Mr. Mussie Ephrem, and his Swede friend to bring the PIA regime to court at the OAU (now AU) Human Rights Commission and get a judgment against the regime over the handling of the imprisoned G-11 and journalists.  This should have been pursued by EDA and other political organizations.  It is Dr. Daniel Rezene (if memory serves right) who has expressed a desire to bring PIA to International Court of Justice.  Why not work on that instead of hounding one of your own?  THIS IS TYPICAL LACK OF FOCUS within the opposition camp that keeps us off-track. 

2. The latest attack is that Mr. Mesfin is irrelevant within the opposition camp (EPDP-2/Adhanom/Amb. Mohammed Nur) 

Now we have a new twist to why Mr. Mesfin is irrelevant.  But the question should be equally applicable, what makes any of the other EDP, EPM, EDA or any other leaders any more relevant?  Does one become any more relevant by capitulating at every twist and turn? 

The first question is, how is one’s relevancy measured within Eritrea?  Are any of the surviving G-11 relevant after being locked up for nearly ten years?  Despite being isolated for all these years from both domestic and external forces, they are, along with all those prisoners-of-conscious, the most relevant opposition against the regime.  President Mandela was imprisoned, and hence isolated, for 26 years on Robbin Islands.  First and foremost, the relevancy is based on the political symbolism and, second, the prospective influence they may have on internal forces.  REALITY CHECK says that relevancy is based NOT necessarily based on whether one carries a magic wand but as possible rallying point if we need to pick the next readily available negotiators and prudent leaders. 

The next question is, how is one’s relevancy measured in Diaspora opposition camp?  Opposition politics is very fluid.  As Amb. Mohammed Nur complained that the ELF variety stick together whereas the EPLF-variety wander around all over the political map. Thus relevancy in the opposition camp depends which opposition group you belong too.  Thus, for ELF variety irrelevancy could be permanent, whereas within the EPLF-variety irrelevancy is temporary until you meet at the next watering-hole. 

Based on Amb. Mohammed’s assessment of the EPLF-variety in opposition, they should have a new anthem/motto “Gone with the Wind”. 

In my view, Mr. Mesfin remains a critical factor within the opposition for various reasons that I will list below.  I have grown to distaste EPLF-style politics, including those that are its offshoots.   However, it would be naïve to believe that the other side of the opposition political spectrum is any better.  They simply carry different types of illnesses but give one the same level of pain.  

REALITY CHECK 8:   Can we make deals with those we may have some grudge? 

The latest underhanded character assassination against Mr. Mesfin Hagos is coming for those who seem to be investing their political lives on the NCDC.  One need only to listen to or watch EDA sponsored or affiliated television and radio broadcasts. 

Mr. Mesfin Hagos is accused of criminal acts during the armed struggle.  Instead of accepting his contributions towards against the PIA regime, he, along with EPDP leadership, have become the target of character assassination to ensure that EDA/NCDC succeeds. 

But my reader should remember that this is yet another example of cheap but brutal politics which has nothing to do about bringing criminals to justice but about winning at any cost. 

REALITY CHECK says that if any individuals are to be brought to justice, PMMZ would be one of them.  His crimes against Eritrea include expelling 100,000 Eritreans by stripping everything they owned without legal procedures.  Although PMMZ has allowed some expellees to come back, many Eritreans have died from stress and other mental torture meted out against them by the PMMZ regime. 

However, we have chosen to work with PMMZ wherever it is tactically and strategically beneficial.  Moreover, REALITY CHECK says it is more often than not to be politically prudent by saying ‘bygones be bygones’ than seeking revenge.   South Africa is an excellent example that pursued “Truth & Reconciliation” to overcome its brutal history under white colonizers.  We should seek, if ever possible, ‘truth & reconciliation’ with PIA and company, PMMZ & company and any other members of the various political divides. 

We should remember that when some EDA leaders are accusing Mr. Mesfin Hagos of his heroic acts along with over 150,000 heroic fighters of both EPLF and ELF variety, that these EDA leaders are doing it from the comfort of the houses in Addis Ababa stripped from the 100,000 Eritrean expellees and given to them.  The remaining “late joiners” opposition groups running to ‘seek political exile’ in Ethiopia just don’t want to be left out of those dispossessed houses, cars and perks. 

Reality Check says that no one can be holy when it comes to politics!  It is just a question doing what is prudent, which includes forgiveness for the sake of greater good! 

REALITY CHECK 9:    You don’t bring down your enemy/opposition by strengthening its base. 

Political naiveté is plenty abound in Eritrean opposition politics!  This writer had argued for the last five years that in order to bring down the regime, the opposition camp should weaken the regime’s powerbase.  If we don’t understand the first thing about the relationship between powerbase and politics, then we should either start with politics 101 or get out of the political kitchen!  Powerbase isn’t about temporary alliances that are ‘gone with the wind’ but about strong cohesion based on deep and shared conviction built on common interest. 

What is the regime’s powerbase? 

  1. The regime’s powerbase is primarily the top military officers who are pampered and bribed to gain their loyalty.
  2. The next powerbase is the party loyalists in Eritrea, especially veteran EPLF fighters, who support the regime out of conviction or personal security.  They work in civil service and PFDJ owned companies (which control the entire economy).
  3. The next powerbase, if nothing else for its propaganda value, is its dwindling supporters in Diaspora. 

Reality check says that any regime requires only narrow powerbase to rule a country.  Some opposition incorrectly believe that just because the vast majority is enslaved and oppressed that they would rise up against the regime is not necessarily supported by history.  The strategy should be to weaken the regime by reaching out to its powerbase while winning over the population.  Both must be done at the same time! 

How do you then weaken this powerbase?  Every article and time we waste threatening this powerbase, esp. veteran EPLF fighters, that the opposition camp is coming after them will reinforce their fears, thus strengthening or entrenching PIA’s powerbase.  Cyberspace tigers, assisted by tacit approval of the opposition political leaders, only prolong the misery Eritreans are suffering.  If I was veteran EPLF fighter in Eritrea listening to the political campaigns being carried out  by EDA on its radio and television broadcast against Mr. Mesfin Hagos, my first reaction would be if they are going to do that to someone who is with them, how are they going to react to me in Eritrea working for the regime?  Thus I would continue to support PIA.  Hence, with our infinite political wisdom, we strengthen PIA powerbase. 

The opposition camp needs to change its tune and play a more sophisticated game.  Time will only tell if a sophisticated game works, but we need to play all our political options to the maximum possible.  

SMART POLITICS SAYS:  Take the fight to PIA’s powerbase, as PIA is shrewdly trying to weaken the opposition powerbase!  This writer had always advocated that the Eritrean flag should always fly at all opposition meeting and now it has become the norm at all opposition meetings.  Every little thing counts!  The tacit messages are more important than words! 

DUMB POLITICIS SAYS:  Weaken your own powerbase and strengthen PIA’s powerbase.  This is what Eritrean opposition is known for and can’t help shooting itself in the foot! 

Instead, we should shift our focus to win over the vast majority of veteran EPLF fighters who are not happy with the regime but feel that they must continue to support because of personal concerns. Equally, an aggressive campaign must be focused on the Eritrean Defence Forces (EDF) to bring them onside.  The current EDA policy is schizophrenic in that EDA claims to engage in killing EDF kids because they are the tools of the regime, and at the same time claiming that these kids are victims.  Shouldn’t EDA’s current message be changed, we are going to kill you until you come to our side?  After all, who are we trying to fool?  EDA’s schizophrenic message is based on its assumption that these kids are stupid enough to not understand double talk.  Schizophrenic messages result in messy politics! 

REALITY CHECK 10:   Can Ethiopia’s federal system, esp. with the right of nationalities to secede, be duplicated in Eritrea? 

As discussed in my last article, REALITY CHECK says that Ethiopia’s federal system with right of secession has worked so far because TPLF, composed of one ethnic group, remains the centre of power.  TPLF controls the army, police, security and economic power.  This isn’t about shared power!  As much as PM Meles Zenawi (PMMZ) should be given credit for his excellent political skills and acumen, it should not be forgotten that the Ethiopian Parliament is an epitome of political showmanship.  The last election is only one such example.  

In Ethiopian politics, PMMZ and company are well organized and financed to guide their country.  Eritrea’s opposition, much less its proposed government-in-exile, has the cohesion, the leadership and the resources to emulate Ethiopian politics.  It is wishful thinking and fairytales that is enchanting Eritrean opposition politicians who see that Ethiopia’s politics can be duplicated in Eritrea.  In reality, what is making Ethiopian politics work is that they have an excellent and shrewd leader in PMMZ and resources to achieve them and NOT, for sake emphasis, because of the federal system of government they have managed to establish.   If it doesn’t serve PMMZ’s interest, he will abolish the federal system not using PIA blunt method but systematically!  He can do so because he has the power and too shrewd of a politician. 

It should also be noted that PMMZ can only advocate for federal system divided up along nationalities because that the prescription he has ordered for Ethiopia.  If PMMZ is ever caught saying that federalism won’t work in Eritrea will only undermine his position in Ethiopia.  Thus, PMMZ can’t be an objective advice giver on this issue. 

REALITY CHECK 11:   Does every ethnic group that bears arms represents the groups it claims to represent? 

It is an interesting question to examine the Ethiopian ‘federal’ system with the ‘right of secession’.  If these nationalities have the right to secede, why does Ethiopia have armed groups in the form of the Oromo Liberation Front, the Oromo People’s Liberation Front, variants of the Ogaden Liberation Front and who knows what other groups? 

There are at least two possibilities why these groups have chosen to bear arms, 

Possibility 1:  The Ethiopian Federal System with the rights of nationalities to secede is illusionary or sham thus these nationalities must still bear arms to address their legitimate concerns,

Possibility 2:  The Ethiopian Federal System with the right of nationalities to secede has a legal provision that allows nationalities to pursue their aspiration.  However, there are always fringe elements which do not wish to pursue legal means because either they are so self-righteous that they don’t accept the public’s will or they are financed by external forces and thus have self-interest in their mission. 

This reality check is to illustrate that those who bear arms do not necessarily represent the ethnic group they claim to represent.  These groups might simply be pursuing self-interest at the expense of the general public. 

Speaking of armed struggle, it is quoted that PMMZ believes that democratic and peaceful method of struggle won’t bring a quick change in Eritrea.  Again, PMMZ, being the shrewd politician he is, can only express his public views for an aggressive approach more to continue his psychological warfare on PIA than expressing his deeply felt views.   REALITY CHECK says that PMMZ’s views should always be examined within a carefully thought strategy on the part of the Ethiopian government against PIA and their future design on Eritrea. 

REALITY CHECK 12:   What are the dangers of being financed by external forces, i.e. governments? 

It is no secret that the NCDC was financed by the Ethiopian government.  There are no ideological issues with being financed by external forces, including by Ethiopian government.  After all, funding must come from somewhere.  The complication begins when the fund provider is dictating the terms of the funding.  

The opposition camp faces the following dilemma, 

1  Opposition politics, in Diaspora, is always struggling for funding.  Its core supporters, as committed they are can become less generous over time due to their own personal concerns about pension, retirement, buying a house, etc… Some may even lose their enthusiasm over the struggle to remove the regime. 

2.  As selfless as our martyrs were in achieving our independence, most of us want to ensure that our personal financial security is addressed before committing to our country, including our opposition political leaders.  This is even truer as we grow older.

3.  To make matters worse, fragmented opposition camp is duplicating its efforts resulting in waste of resources.

4.  After struggling for some 10 to 30 years to remove the PIA regime, all of want to be vindicated by winning against PIA.  Otherwise we feel that our life has been wasted.  What will be our legacy?  When everybody else is enjoying their lives, we wasted our lives for the greater good, what will be our reward?  At this point, winning at any cost becomes the most important motive for our deal-making.  

WE BECOME MORE DANGEROUS when we shift into survival mode and start making deals for the sake of keeping alive our fairytales. 

FOR CLARITY, PMMZ is a ruthless but shrewd politician, which is unlike PIA who is also ruthless but also reckless politician.  PMMZ’s has an excellent political acumen that has moved Ethiopia in the right direction. 

But as a neighbour, PMMZ remains a threat to Eritrea’s long term interest because he can only be committed to Tigray and Ethiopia’s long term interest, which is to create weak satellite countries around it while creating the opportunity to gain access to the sea under its sovereignty.  As Ethiopia’s leader, PMMZ is simply doing his job in an efficient and shrewd manner.  Are we? 

But the Eritrean opposition are no match to PMMZ’s ruthless and shrewd politics.  Of course, our “shrewd” opposition leaders think that they will milk PMMZ until they get to power and then negotiate with him on equal footing.  But the opposition’s entire sequence of events, called tactical or strategic alliance, is built on fairytale and that PMMZ will have the Eritrean opposition for breakfast (not even wait for lunch or dinner) and advance his agenda like a clock-work.  

Having agreed that PMMZ’s long-interest remains in weakening Eritrea, his interest remains,

1.      Keep PIA in power.  As long as PIA destroys Eritrea through his reckless politics, this suits PMMZ just fine

2.      PIA had been a thorn on the side of PMMZ, but PMMZ has outplayed PIA and thus diminishing PIA’s annoying factors.  PIA s interference politics in Ethiopia and Somalia (as proxy war) has been neutralized, and as consequence PIA is ostracized by the world.  PMMZ has PIA exactly where he wants him to be – destroy Eritrea.

3.      For PMMZ, the issue is no longer PIA because he will collapse eventually.  PMMZ’s next agenda is to ensure that no strong leader emerges in Eritrea in the future.  This can be ensuring that Eritrea is fragmented.  After all, that is what TPLF/EPRDF has done to neutralize the Amhara power especially, and the other ethnic groups in general.  “Divide and Conquer” is an old saying that has served the British Empire for centuries.  

Reality Check says the opposition propaganda that the relationship with Ethiopia is strategic one is a fairytale but is more like a herd of cattle heading towards their political slaughter house thinking they are going for grazing. 

So how do we engage with PMMZ in prudent manner?    

REALITY CHECK 13:   What is happening to our civic societies in Diaspora? 

The purpose of civic society is to advocate, campaign and work for common good regardless of politics.  REALITY CHECK says that NCDC has absorbed many of the civic societies into the political sphere thus weakening the very foundation of our infant civic societies.  Can we have deeply committed politicians who are also running civic societies?  

REALITY CHECK says that we should keep a clear boundary line.  Politicians have their roles, as do civic societies, activists, historians and journalist.  Where the boundary blurs we have chaos! 

KEEP UP EPDP as you have the best leaders in opposition & your political positions are the most prudent!  Eritrean opposition needs tough political negotiators, not ‘gone with the wind’ politicians!  They are nation builders!