I have read Dr Mirjam van Reisen’s interview in Asmarino. It seems that she is a well meaning lady. What the right wing in the US would call your typical bleeding-heart liberal. Like all well meaning bleeding heart liberals, she runs the risk of messing around where she does not belong and causing a lot of damage in spite of her good intentions.
Typically she declares upfront and in no uncertain terms that she does not want to influence Eritrean politics. I think that is very good. Unfortunately and again typically she does not stick to her declared principle. She states as follows when she explains the criteria she used to select participants in the Brussels conference “We focused the participation of the conference on those interested to pursue a dialogue on policy options for the international community. I have stated earlier that it is important in such a discussion that people are not hamstringed (sic) by the links to the Eritrean or Ethiopian government. It is also more helpful if people are not simultaneously involved in pursuing violent solutions because they follow a path that is quite different from the instruments available through non violent international cooperation”.
Although the good doctor says she does not want to influence Eritrean policy, she nevertheless took it upon herself to select which Eritreans should engage the international community. Her selection criteria were that none of the participants should be hamstrung by the links to the Eritrean and Ethiopian governments and none should be involved in violence. By selecting these criteria and legitimizing some as partners in dialogue for the international community and de-legitimizing others she is clearly trying to influence Eritrean policy her protestations to the contrary not withstanding.
The first criteria would have led her to exclude many of the participants because while all of the opposition is now openly seeking and getting support from Ethiopia, only those who participated in the conference are suspected of having links with the government in Eritrea. In any case they are the ones whose views closely resemble that of the Eritrean government. The second criteria would indeed exclude all of the EDA because it has as EDA and not as separate organizations accepted violent struggle as a legitimate instrument to remove the regime. It is very interesting to note that the argument she uses to de-legitimize armed struggle of any sort in Eritrea is exactly the same argument that her friends the former member of the EPLF who have now “joined” the opposition use. By de-legitimizing armed struggle in Eritrea she is actively involved in influencing policy in Eritrea. By swallowing the propaganda of her friends, the former members of the EPLF about some of the opposition being in bed with the Woyane without chewing, she is publicly and openly taking sides in the debates about Eritrean politics among Eritreans.
She does not limit herself to taking sides among the Eritrean opposition groups. She goes as far as telling us as to what the number one priority should be to liberate the Eritrean people from the clutches of the dictatorial regime in Eritrea. It is to demarcate the boundary with Ethiopia. Once that happens, dictatorship in Eritrea will have no leg to stand on and will simply melt away. We have all heard that bed-time story before. And we have heard it not only from her friends the former EPLF who have “joined” the opposition but from Isaias himself.
The damage caused by people such as Dr van Reisen is not caused by the wrong headed choices they make in trying to influence Eritrean politics. She has supported the policies of the former EPLF who have “joined” the opposition, and the damage caused by that is no higher than the damage caused by the groups themselves. The real damage is caused because the Dr van Reisens of this world claim to be neutral as far as Eritrean opposition politics is concerned while they are clearly partisan in their approach. The bigger damage is caused because the bleeding-heart liberals they are they probably actually believe they are neutral even when they are taking and acting in such a narrowly partisan fashion.
One can only hope that Dr van Reisen will someday actually discuss with opposition groups that have a view that is different from her adapted clan and will begin to understand the complexity of Eritrean politics before she tries to influence it. One can only hope that the Meron Estefanoses of this world will have the integrity to see the damage that is caused by their patently foolish attempt to use Dr van Reisen and others to get at Awate. Com for the purposes of the silly parochial fights they have with that outfit.