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THE CHANGING FACE OF THE OPPOSITION

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THE CHANGING FACE OF THE OPPOSITION

 

By Asfaha Woldemichael*

 

Following the Arab spring and the ordeal of the Eritrean refugees in the deserts and the high seas, the opposition ( political, civic, the youth & individuals) finally seems to have felt the exigency of doing something  to stop or at least ease the sufferings  of  the innocent by making its voice heard in the international arena on behalf of the victims. The awakening of the youth by organizing itself or joining political parties in significant numbers as in the case with EPDP and perhaps with  other organizations is a testament to the steadily rising consciousness among the youth. Admittedly, they have come to understand that the future belongs to them. Therefore they have to work hard in order to earn it. This, because being young by itself is not an automatic entitlement for leadership. The basis for saying so is that there are some youngsters, though in the minority, who zealously attack the older generation whom I call  born to sacrifice. The common language we often hear from them is: this guys should lead or get out of the way. I submit the revolution needs young blood to be in the leadership. The question is, are they ready to take over and lead? I wish but doubt it. In some instances there is a grain of truth in what the youngsters say. However, what they often times neglect is the importance of  the steady hand of leadership the older generation offers.

 

The first basic thing they have to do is show up and take membership in any organization. Then convince those around them of their dedication by deeds not by words. Blaming and complaining from your comfort zone is not enough. From what one observes, the problem is not that the 60s and the 70s generation is unwilling to share power, rather the youth has to show its readiness to be up to the task. As they say, it is easier said than done. Nevertheless, most of  the youngsters are doing whatever they can to show solidarity with their comrades back home in the trenches and the victims of organ traders in the Sinai desert and elsewhere fleeing the heartless junta for their lives. The spineless third part of this generation is the group that seeks refuge from the enemy that dehumanized it in the first place. It is staggering to see these kids who passed through untold tragedies flocking to PFDJ Embassies completely disregarding the suffering of the people they left behind. There are no words to describe this phenomenon. Having said that however, we must never give up on any Eritrean group lured by the regime or otherwise. It is the duty of the opposition to work towards saving the lost sheep.

 

As stated above, a good number of  the young Joined EPDP and many more are inactive supporters. There is indeed a reason why it is the way it is. But first and foremost I want the readers to understand me that I am not enamored with party names. If so, it is only because of what that given organization stands for. Regardless what the nemeses of the party may say, it has some qualities that distinguish it from many other political organizations:

1- It has a tradition of changing its leaders when appropriate. We don't find this tradition in most organizations. Case in point is, this party does not tolerate any leader who considers his position as God given and expects to remain in power for the long haul.

2- Because the issue of the youth is given high priority by the party, EPDP enjoys a good relationship with the young generation.

3- The party works hard to pass the torch to the youth. Before long you will see them taking over the leadership of the party.

4- The outcome of the 2011 Congress in Germany is self evident. Hamid Drar who is under 50 was elected as a Chairman of the party and along with him four youngsters were elevated to the central and executive committees.

5- This party has been a target of hateful individuals and organizations like no other group in the Diaspora. The reason is simple; among other factors, EPDP stood its ground and refused to compromise its principles for short cut benefits. This party will pay any price to safe guard the national interest. It will not be deviated by wrong headed campaigns or propaganda. Above points do not mean that EPDP has done next to impossible things others could not achieve, by no means. All it takes is clarity of vision and a little courage to stand for what you believe. If this is elitism to some, so be it.

 

With respect to the political and non-political organizations, there is a visible upward  movement in terms of positive communications among themselves with the aim of  creating a common strategy directed against the regime in Eritrea. A good example  worth  mentioning is the formation of the Eritrean National Democratic Forces or ENDF. Such initiatives deserve encouragement for in the end, we will succeed when we are united. Moreover, the opposition is intensifying its political and diplomatic campaigns on behalf of the Eritrean refugees in general and those who are being violated in the Arabian deserts in particular. Relentless efforts are being made by every group and individuals in the opposition to publicize the predicament Eritrean refugees face everyday in the hands of the evil doers. At this juncture it would be nice to have another brilliant conference like the one in Brussels in 2009  that was strangely condemned by the ethnic lords in Ethiopia and their subsidiaries elsewhere. By the way, I am afraid they still don't know exactly why they had to plunge into such extreme behavior because some courageous Eritreans could pull together American and European experts to talk about the dire conditions in our country. If there was anything wrong with that conference, we have yet  to hear from those who were so angered by it. In case the Addis/Awassa actors failed to know,  the Brussels Conference was not called or owned by foreigners; it was initiated and led by interested Eritreans.

 

Speaking of changing face of the opposition, the mother of all changes in the opposition was effected by the Awassa congress held under the wings of the Ethiopian government  concluded at the end of November, 2011. In my view, the main achievement of that gathering was the creation of an irreconcilable divide in the opposition designed to weaken the struggle against PFDJ. According to their spin doctors, unless you subordinate to the Ethiopian officials and be herded down to Awassa or through a bridge to nowhere, you are an ally of PFDJ. How ridiculous can that notion be? The general belief of the Awassa  participants is that taking your marching orders from Ethiopia, it seems to me, is a litmus test for being an anti PFDJ. One may ask: when did they become anti PFDJ? Perhaps that was when they found out the Ethiopian offer for free air tickets and lodging was too good to turn down! And when was the last time they realized we in the opposite camp simply switched to PFDJ as if we had no principles to stand for? If that is the case, we would rather be suspected of favoring the Isayas regime than playing in the hands of the EDA chiefs whose consequences would be by far damaging to the well being of our country. This may sound as an extreme view; that may be, but what they fail to grasp is that the EDA with its commission and baito is committing a historic mistake against our patriotism, dignity, unity, national sovereignty and the continuity of our sacred independence gained with blood and sweat.

 

 To paraphrase what one of our respected political analysts, Abdurrahman Sayed: PFDJ and Woyane are arch enemies. In light of this fact, the  Meles government is hell bent to break the back of the highlanders by dislodging PFDJ from power and export a puppet government from Addis to Asmara as a revenge. This is not a far fetched scenario. It is a possibility in the wings that can befall our country anytime. Woyane's track record in Eritrea is a sufficient evidence not to trust them. Mr. Meles is generally known as a soft spoken smart leader who doesn't say stupid stuff like those in Asmara. However, underneath that personality he is a different creature. What his officials and the every day Ethiopians say is a proof of their hidden agenda towards Eritrea. More so, you can listen to the expansionist narrative of the opposition parties of Ethiopia and easily reach to the same conclusion as above. Yes, Ethiopia is a sisterly neighbor and we ought to coo-exist peacefully. We thank the generosity of the Ethiopian government to our refugees but we cannot trade that with the ownership of our cause. Any assistance extended without strings attached is welcome but the freedom to decide or not to decide solely rests in the hands of the Eritreans. It is true that conventional wisdom tells us that in any relationship there is a give and take. In other words, if you accept something you are expected to give up something in lieu of that. However, in the case of Ethiopia, there is no need for interference in our affairs unless she has some territorial ambitions or second thoughts about the Statehood of Eritrea.

 

 In a peaceful democratic Eritrea, Ethiopia has a vested interest therefore, why need to create discord in the opposition by picking winners and losers so to speak? Eritreans created the PFDJ and they will deal with it. Mean while, Baito Awassa should be on notice that we the people of Eritrea refuse any bloodshed in our homeland again. Our country has bled for over 150 years. It is time to bring an end to this  adventure and that will happen only through peaceful resistance not by the cavalier attitude of the EDA/Commission hybrid - Baito. In his VOA interview, the interesting Kidane Hagos asked: what will happen to the EDA/Commission if Isayas and Meles settle their differences and become friends again? A good question; I would also add: what would happen to them if the Meles government is over thrown by the opposition? They would probably find themselves behind the bars. This being so, the hand picked Baito must stop its hubristic dreams and know its limits. That is, it does not represent the opposition and the Eritrean people at large.  To be fair, many of the Awassa attendees are well meaning Eritreans but the core group is for power grab at any cost. I mean at any cost. Over time, when the good intentioned members  unveil  the inner works of that group, it will entail serious questions about the sincerity of the insiders. By now the Ethiopian government may be launching a diplomatic campaign to prop up the Baito it created with the goal of dwarfing the nationalist opposition. Nevertheless, this will not stifle the progress of the steadfast camp in any shape or form. At this point PM Meles would be better advised not to pour  money for one side in order to pit the Eritrean opposition against each other. Eventually it is not going to bear fruit for him and for his pet - Baito Awassa.

 

Interestingly enough one person rose to fame in the odyssey for Awassa conference. That is none other than Daniel Tewolde. Being guilty himself of the same characterization he often used against others, he successfully exposed the undemocratic practices of the chairman and his commission. He artfully portrayed the shenanigans of the EDA and its off - spring, the Commission. Like he correctly put it, they can't even obey their own rules much less practicing democracy for lack of which they hammer PFDJ daily. The fact that non of the Commissioners tried to stop the barrage of name calling by the out of control head of the Commission against the person in question is a reflection of the conduct of EDA/ Commission/ and the Baito. Daniel's observation directly correlates with what has been written about EDA long before Awassa.  Now, what is Mr. Daniel guilty of? We all read and heard about his clever depiction of the Commission regarding the abuse he sustained from Mr. Demonico and company. This individual (Daniel) teamed up with another disgruntled former ELF-RC member and made tearing down EPDP members his job by calling them PFDJ tools. The irony is that the chairman of the defunct commission called him by the exact same names. So then, why is Mr. D. so bitter when he was the one who used to drag others through the mud in the pal-talk rooms?  Despite his baseless charges against a party he has no clue about, in principle, the same party rejected what was said and done to him; by the same token he has no credibility to cry foul because what he sowed is what he reaped.

 

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* Mr. Asfaha Woldemichael is a well established pro-Democracy Eritrean political activist based in the USA

 



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