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How to Defeat the Dictator

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How to Defeat the Dictator


By: Ibrahim Omer*


It seems that after twenty years, we still have not figured out how to remove the demonic tyrant from our lives. Despite some progress within the Diaspora opposition/resistance movements in advancing the cause for freedom, we are obliged to ask are we making any difference inside Eritrea.


For the ordinary man/woman in Eritrea little has changed, if there is any change at all it is for the worst. Therefore, what is the problem? Why is it not being done?

 It is not that, there is not a need or desire for change, to the contrary, even some of the PFDJ supporters have come to recognize the need for change. Then what is the main problem or has the struggle become a struggle of the Diasporas.


It is also clear the Eritrean opposition/ resistance Diaspora elite movements like all budding democratic movements, is in a chaotic trial and error path, and arguments in how to remove the dictator peaceful verses offensive dog its every step.


This conflict between organizations in the means of removal of a certain dictator is not unique to us only. Through out history movements for democratic change in different corners of the world found it difficult to come to an agreement on how to remove their sitting dictators. Nevertheless, one would have thought after twenty years the Eritrean resistance movements to have a clear unified strategy and solidarity.


So why this contention when it comes to the means of struggle?


In my humble opinion, the arguments raised by both sides of the camp are not contradicting strategy to regime change. The contradiction is only in the minds of the long distance nationalists, who given prominence and priority to internal differences for the sake of differences.


 Of necessity, one of major concern after 20 years of resistance against the dictatorial regime the focus of the long distance nationalists by now should be on how to understand the dictatorial regime and think carefully about the most effective and practical ways to dismantle it with the least possible cost in suffering and lives.


 Since there are so many ways to accomplish this house cleaning, or to skin a cat as they say, it is paramount to find a working formula, which accommodates all the variables in a centralized cohesive voice. Therefore, understanding the tyrant’s weakness is the first step that ought to be studied by the budding democratic resistant movements.


 The vulnerability of the supposedly invulnerable can best be illustrated well by this simple Greece myth. We always hear about the phrase Achilles heel. This phrase describes well what the Eritrean opposition forces need to do to shorten the life span of the dictator.


According to the Greece myth the warrior Achilles, no attack would injure and no sword would go through his skin. When still a baby, Achilles' mother had supposedly dipped him into the waters of the magical river, resulting in the protection of his body from all dangers.

 There was, however, a problem. Since the baby was held by his heel, the magical water had not covered that small part of his body.

 When Achilles was a grown man, he appeared to all to be invulnerable to his enemies' weapons. However, in one of the battles against his enemy, instructed by one who knew the weakness, an enemy soldier aimed his arrow at Achilles' unprotected heel, the one spot where he is weak.

The strike proved deadly. Still today, the phrase "Achilles' heel" refers to the vulnerable part of a person, a plan, or an institution at which if attacked there is no protection.

The same principle applies to dictatorships. They, too, can be defeated, but most effectively and with least cost if their weaknesses are identified and the attack concentrated on them.

With knowledge of such inherent weaknesses of dictators, the democratic opposition can seek to aggravate these "weak points” deliberately in order to change the system drastically or to destroy it.

The common objective of all the resistant /opposition forces is to get rid of the dictatorial regime of PFDJ,   and replace it with democratic constitutional form of governance. The people who matter inside the country do not care whether you are a federalist, secularist or Islamist etc, do not care what your vision of society is. It does not matter until we get a platform in free Eritrea after the demise of the pfdj dictatorial regime.


 Therefore, I see no contradiction if two-track approach is followed .The only challenge facing the opposition is how to transform itself from a cluster of ethnic and religious movements to a unified national organization if they are serious of challenging the dictator.


A tested and tried twin track approach at hand is that of the Irish and South African nationalists who deployed both methods to put pressure on their respective governmental adversaries, which eventually led to a negotiated settlement of the conflicts respectively.

None of the two methods peaceful or offensive strategy would yield solution in isolation of each other and therefore, the opposition needs to synchronize the two methods for optimum result and at a minimum cost to the masses.

 I am not an advocate of guerrilla struggle, as often have significant long-term negative structural consequences. As often the case, the people who fought bravely at great cost in suffering and lives rarely have won freedom or usher in a democracy.

A case at hand is our experience as Eritreans, which, after long years of armed struggle, the end result was not only the most despotic regime, but also a political culture of intolerance and polarization. However, a concerted well-studied operation to cripple the apparatus of the regime would bring a dramatic positive change. Therefore, a unified national military resistance force becomes a prerequisite before venturing in to the twin track approach. 

In addition, talking about military strategy, many strategy scholars argue flexibility, adaptability and most important of all the ability to learn from past, if applied in the right proportions and targeted to the Achilles hill of the regime are the key variables to success and to bringing the long over due change.

 Finally defying dictators is not an easy or cost-free endeavor. All forms of struggle have complications and costs. Removing dictator of course, will bring casualties. But the onus remains on the opposition movements to come up with unified strategy that increase their effective power with out placing their confidence in external forces. 



*Ibrahim Omer is an Eritrean Democratic Rights activist based in London-UK

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