I started this article as a response to Zekre Lebona's rejoinder. Alas, events in Egypt took over. I am adding this introduction as we literally witness history in the making in Egypt today. The people are victorious. Mubarak finally resigned; Egypt is free of dictatorship of thirty years. Are dictators shaking in their boots elsewhere in the Arab world, sub-Saharan Africa and the rest of the world? Yes, they are. Even our own little maniacal tyrant must be thinking about how to avoid the fate of Mubarak. (There is something wrong when an eighty-two year old man, Mubarak, sees the need for coloring his hair jet-black. Instead of growing old gracefully he was trying to stay young by looking ridiculously much younger than he was. His behavior reeked of desperation and terrible vanity. He is beyond redemption).
What happened in Egypt? One of the faces of the Egyptian revolution, Wael Ghonim, said to ask Facebook and wanted to meet Facebook's founder Zuckerberg to thank him when asked who or what country is next. How did "Facebook" and "Twitter" help the protesters? What can we learn from this revolution? True, while mostly peaceful, the Egyptian revolution was not without sacrifice -- three hundred Egyptian revolutionaries have died in the past eighteen days or so according to Egyptian sources, the clinics and hospitals that treated victims not the regime.
Dictators are all the same. The Egyptian military, from whose ranks Mubarak came, similar to the PFDJ, owns businesses and even whole industries, as reported by international news organizations in the past month. Just like the PFDJ which owns many companies in all the sectors of the economy in Eritrea -- in construction, import-export, retail, commercial farming, etc. -- the Egyptian regime did so in order to control the lives of the Egyptian people in all spheres of life.
The Mubarak Party thugs who attacked the protesters in "TaHrir Square", a hallowed ground to many Egyptians now, riding ridiculously on horse backs and camels, reminded me of the PFDJ thugs who assaulted Mesfin Hagos by throwing chairs on stage to prevent him from speaking against their master, or those who prevented Haile Menkerios from speaking by shouting and screaming at him effectively stopping the meeting in Washington, D.C., back in 2001. They had no tolerance to dissent, even a peaceful one. We have been reminded anew that such thuggery will not stop or prevent them when the people rise up. And that will happen in Eritrea as well. We just don't know when and how a spark will ignite a movement that will push away and ultimately overthrow the brutal, despicable regime in Eritrea. We just don't know when the people will say enough is enough and stop fearing the regime and start defying it instead, just like the people of Tunisia and Egypt.
Thank God the dictator of Egypt is no more. Congratulations to the Egyptian people. Peaceful, non-violent resistance, while not without sacrifices, indeed works! Let's work to replicate, if I may use the word YG used, that in Eritrea if not immediately, but sometime in the near future. Our skeptics (those who think it cannot be done in Eritrea) should learn from the experience of Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions.
Defining "what you're for" vs "what you're against"
Zekere Lebona wrote:
Calling for defiance to subjects of Eritrea who took the brunt of all the repressive acts by the regime is redundant. In oppressive regimes, the exile option is often taken after exhausting all other options, including hiding, forging documents, and repeating classes. I am talking about the youth. What we observed in the former Czechoslovakia, East Germany, in the late 80s, and the phenomena in the Middle East now is not doable in our country. As somebody once said, people cannot launch two or three revolutions in sequence. The people, like its land, are tired; they cannot give up what they don't have."
Your point is well taken. However, the alternative as articulated by Yosief and apparently supported by you,is not a good one. I will try to articulate it in the following:
In the absence of an enemy, say after removing the PFDJ -- which is an extension of the EPLF, notwithstanding the protestations of some former EPLF members -- what you're for must be defined. Otherwise, when the time comes, i.e., when Eritrea is free of the PFDJ, it will be ripe again for the picking. In other words, it could be hijacked again by an unruly organization or person, just like the Derg hijacked the Ethiopian revolution in 1974. As well, you would agree the Eritrean revolution was hijacked by the PFDJ and its trajectory and historical course changed for the worse.
Let us review recent history: even though there were many warning signs everywhere during the armed struggle that the Shaebia leadership was not a democratic force, the Eritrean people, including the EPLF fighters themselves, as is becoming obvious every day (the series of articles being written by someone calling themselves "Alena" is but one example, not to mention the G-15), decided to wait until independence to deal with the authoritarian tendencies of Isaias Afwerki. Big mistake!
Where were the signs you say? Everywhere! First of all, the ELF warned the Eritrean people a long time ago that the EPLF was not what it purported to be: an alternative to ELF, to 'Aama Haradit', to 'feudal' and 'reactionary' Jebha. The Menka' and Yemin movements and the EPLF leadership's knee-jerk reaction to those events indicated that the EPLF was not a democratically led organization that was interested in solving problems peacefully by negotiating with its own members (internal contradiction) or with the ELF (external, which escalated into secondary contradiction) in the parlance of socialism. It became clearer later in the early 1980s that it was only interested in dominating Eritrea, in being the only group in Eritrea remaining standing. It was not therefore an accident that the ELF fighters nick-named the EPLF "n'shtey Dergi" (Little Derg) in July 1980, more than ten years before independence. (The Eritrean people told us almost right after independence that the PFDJ regime was worse than the Derg regime ever was). To the ELF, who had to deal with the EPLF in everyday life, it was clear that the EPLF had already become an authoritarian organization, just like the Derg. After the civil war of the 1980-81, it became obvious to any objective outside observer that the EPLF was up to no good whatsoever! It became crystal clear that it would do anything including aligning itself with a foreign power (TPLF) to destroy a nationalist organization (ELF) in order to have total domination over the country and its future. That should have told the Eritrean people a lot. But we gave them the benefit of the doubt after they managed to defeat the Derg. After all, we said, convincing ourselves wrongly as it turned out, they were Tegadelti, they would be fair and ethical, and they would govern peacefully. Big mistake again! (Note that this is not to excuse ELF's wrong-doing, internal weakness, or its shortcomings).
Hence, now, to openly invite a foreign power (the EPRDF regime) to end the reign of the PFDJ regime by violence without contemplating what would happen afterwards (who would come to power, would Ethiopia leave peacefully afterwards when its invitation expired), would be in my opinion another big mistake. To whomever comes along and tell us that we should just invite Ethiopia "before it is too late", to use YG phrase, that it would be okay to do so, I say forget it. We should not make the same mistake of trusting again. The Russian maxim popularized by Pres. Ronald Reagan, "Trust but verify" is a good one to keep in mind here. Unless there is a clear line of demarcation of power, and unless there is a clear roadmap towards democratic change, we should say no to anyone, including the opposition, telling us it is okay to support a force that maybe trying to come to power. Because, it is not okay to simply say you are against something, without defining what you're for and showing clearly how you would do it.
Unless the opposition comes together, therefore, and defines a clear path to the rule of law, elections, and democracy, we should not trust anyone. At this point, we still see fragmentations only. The EDA is split, again, into two. The EPDP is no longer a member of the umbrella group. The Conference for Democratic Change (CFDC) has a good beginning but it does not make sense to leave some of the opposition, the EPDP, for example, behind. If it's national, then it must include all nationals or nationalists.
That is what I meant when I say "What you're for" (Rule of Law, Democracy, Elections) vis-a-vis "what you're against" (PFDJ, dictatorship, tyranny) must be clearly defined and the path clearly articulated and planned. Therefore, dear Zekre Lebona, your point is well taken. I understand where you're coming from. But advocating military intervention by Ethiopia, or any other foreign power for that matter, is wrong, is distracting from the real task of the struggle, and is extremely dangerous. Because, nobody knows what such intervention would lead to without any coherent strategy to fill the vacuum of power that will surely be created. "Let's just get rid of the regime, then we will think about it when we get there", is not a strategy and will not lead us to peace and democratic change in Eritrea. We have seen what happens in a power vacuum in our recent history and the history of many other countries in the past.