No Sense of Urgency among the Opposition

Yosief Ghebrehiwet

March 18 2009

[I am writing this article as an introduction/summary to a series of articles that will follow it up, with the intention of doing two things: (a) to underscore the extent of the damage being inflicted by the Isaias regime on the Eritrean masses and to explain how, lately, with the accelerated pace of the mass exodus and the entrenchment of a full blown famine, this hollowing out process of the nation has been put on a fast track; (b) and to convince Diaspora Eritreans that our peaceful resistance, as practiced by us currently, is poorly equipped to deal with a problem of this magnitude, and that a new approach that matches the severity of the problem, both in scope and pace, ought to be adopted. Regarding the former, I will post four articles that respectively deal with the ongoing PFDJ-induced famine, the recent killings and massacres (with emphasis on the Kunama massacre at Mai-Dima), the ever-accelerating mass exodus and the systematic dismantlement of the educational system in Eritrea. Regarding the latter, first, I will try to show the total inadequacy of the peaceful resistance as practiced by most Eritreans in Diaspora in meeting the challenges that the dire problems mentioned in the former part present to us. And, second, I will propose that we shouldn’t shy away from working actively with outside forces to topple down the Isaias regime, be it in the form of sanctions or war. I hope you will bear with me as I take you through this long, torturous argument].

A litmus test could be conducted to find out whether the loyalty of an Eritrean in the opposition camp lies more with the welfare of Eritrean people or with that mythologized idea of an “Eritrea” that detachedly hovers in its own stratosphere (in the minds of its adherents only), above and over the concerns, fears, hopes and daily lives of the masses on the ground, by asking him/her a simple question: “Under a hypothetical condition where more than half a million leave Eritrea for good in mass exodus and hundreds of thousands more die in a great famine, would you entertain supporting a military intervention from Ethiopia to avert such a catastrophe?” If anyone of you is having a hard time responding to this question in the positive, let alone responding to it outright in the negative, then it is high time to reexamine your priorities.

The problem is that most of the time what passes for concern for the masses turns out to be a concern for one’s own coveted idea of “ Eritrea” that has been instilled in our minds through decades of ghedli acculturation. It is not even a case of holding on to a belief anymore, but to holding on to a belief about a belief; what started as a noble idea has degenerated into a hollow, second-order belief. Many have come to believe in the “cause” for such a long time that that by itself has now become a further reason to go on believing, even as the evidence on the ground tells them not to. In the end then, a national cause atrophies into a personal identity crisis: they feel that they have invested so much on this idea that to let it go now is taken as tantamount to a mortal threat on their individual identity; they would do anything, even if that comes at a huge expense to the masses, not to be proved wrong on an idea that they have nurtured for so long. It has gotten so personal that it has become more and more about themselves than about the nation itself. Thus, the faith that they had once in the idea of “ Eritrea” degenerates into a tenacious faith in their own personal judgment regarding that very inarticulate idea.

Once wrapped over and over within layers of belief, it is no more necessary for the holder of the belief to know what the original idea looks like. It becomes like a Christmas gift wrapped with layers of cover that one has to protect with his life without having any clue what indeed lies inside that box. The often invoked hidri turns out to be an obligation to pass over this wrapped gift from one generation to another, with the additional instruction never to open it. The fear was, and still is among many, once opened, there would be nothing worth dying for in it. No wonder, the Warsai (the ones who are supposed to be the current inheritors of this hidri) are not willing to protect this mute hidri with their lives; they have long suspected there is nothing in it worth listening to. Like the proverbial child who was the only one to cry when he saw the emperor naked, the Warsai are “crying”, in the form of mass exodus, after having seen the gift box for what it is – naked!

For a dogmatic faith to thrive, it requires a distance, a certain detachment, from the realty on the ground upon which it stands. That is why this empty box has now found a new home among the Diaspora, where realty is as far away as it could possibly get. It is this second-order belief of “ Eritrea” that is now obstructing the Eritrean opposition, especially of the peaceful type, from exploring radical ways of finishing off the Isaias regime. Many of them feel that this idea/image of “ Eritrea” is so precious and fragile that nobody should be allowed to poke at it either from inside or outside. They feel that any radical proposal of finishing off the Isaias regime cannot be attained without dropping this fragile box in the process and irretrievably shattering whatever is inside it to pieces. And for the sake of this “gift”, they are willing to let the Eritrean masses suffer under the brutal regime of the PFDJ until they find that proper context that would usher regime change without jeopardizing that precious and fragile idea of “Eritrea” (or to use their terms, the want to “soft land” it). If there were ever an idea that kills a nation, this would be it.

Please read the full article in Asmarino Independent