The good, the bad, and the unknown about the EDA meeting in the Ethiopian capital.
1) Articles 3 and 4 have been stricken out, officially rejecting the notion of ethnic and religious politics with the serious potential , at least to drug Eritrean society years back from the scores achieved towards a united political entity, or worse, to the possibility of disintegration.
The sponsors of both articles and their allies should not have been given a national forum to begin with. Although it goes without saying that tendencies reflected in the articles are niched within the Eritrean socio-political fabric, to elevate them to the national agenda means to undo or re-wind the long and traitorous journey travel led by the Eritrean people towards a united and integrated nation. Our national struggle from the beginning was about establishing an independent and secular state equitable to all the people who inhabit it. Its to this principle that our fallen heroes paid the ultimate price for. Hence all struggles that follow for whatever reasons are bound by the promise to honor the integrity and continuity of our nation. For all we know, the sponsors of those articles are individuals whose support base in our society is hard to quantify. At least the organizations which fragmented from the old ELF and EPLF have had diverse political support within the Eritrean populace, although it is yet to be discovered whether that support still exists or not. Regardless, as long as their calling is for the improvement of the Eritrean society along the political and economic line, their status as an Eritrean opposition movement is as legitimate as the sitting government.
2) The fact that different organizations within the coalition are forming blocks is an indication of a real possibility that movements with similar philosophies could form a single organization. This not only is beneficial in the daily function and operation of the opposition movement but has also tactical and strategic significance in terms of narrowing the political differences of respective members of those organizations involved. Once a consolidation of the like-heads is realized, a contender political opposition movement can evolve.
It may be convenient for supporters of the regime to dismiss the opposition as unnecessary, and they are not short of reasons valid or invalid. But here is why we need a viable, organized dissident voice:
As much as we are united by a shared, common history borne out of the experience in our struggle against our common enemies (BTW, few African societies can match ours), it is only natural also that we differ on how our nation should be governed, consistent to the ambitions of our people, past and present. To deny this is to deny the Eritrean reality and leads to an erroneous conflict resolution, the ultimate expression being the civil war, God forbid! Hade Lbi, Hade Hzbi starts and ends at our united efforts to protect our sovereignty. The danger is when it is stretched further to be a self- serving propaganda slogan intended to undermine the genuine dissent.
So far, our unique experience gained from fighting one of the longest struggles for self-determination aside, we have come to learn that we are not so much different from our neighbors. Only when observed in relative terms that we fair better in terms of having a functional government. The municipal and postal services are functional and people have relatively easy access to the non-political sectors of the government. Contrary to the norm in Africa, a significant improvement on the infra-structure has been made;( a moral judgment or scrutiny on the latter issue is preserved for another day.) The primary responsibility of a government has also been met; crime against the person and property is almost a non-issue. However, what our government has not fa ired better is in the political justice and economic challenges. The government, as it is true with other African governments, has always someone else to blame for its shortcomings. The list of scapegoats is endless. There isn't a single instance in which the government doing a serious self-examination and owning at least a partial responsibility for the situation that Eritrea finds itself. Instead, it points fingers to real as well as imagined enemies for falling short of expectations. Equal to its counterparts in the continent, the Eritrean government has become artistic in creating a paranoid state where the population lives in a paralyzing fear and suspicious of every breathing thing. The only thing not threatening or worth celebrating are the dead. Amid this schizophrenic atmosphere the regime creates, it presents itself as the sole magical savior, draining the confidence and self-reliance of the people. Is it any wonder then that the free-market economy not to had done well. Unlike the command economy that the government is commanding, among other things, free market economy works in stability and in anticipation of an optimistic long term future. Whether by design or not, the government sabotages the economic development and blame it on the critical players of the economic system, the entrepreneurs, merchants, traders, and investors.
The biggest short fall has been in the governing style. The government has no checks and balances crucial in running a modern state. A nation ran by military men with quasi-cult personality on the top, governed by a decree rather than by national law, by intimidation rather by persuasion is destined to fail. We have witnessed plenty of examples in our life time to get the lesson that a single party system have a very short life span, ending with dishonorable funeral ceremony. The Soviet Union was the largest of such a failed socio-economic experiment. The communist party eliminated all potential organized leadership. And when the peak of the system reached, no one was there to save the union from the inevitable downfall. Facing the reality of a total collapse, the Russians found a lesser evil from the old regime in a drunken man from Siberia. What happened to the generation who scarified so much to lift the Soviet Union to an artificial Super Power on the promise that their children and grandchildren will have a better life ? Well, they are reduced to panhandlers in the streets of Moscow, dying off from chronic alcoholism. And their children and grandchildren living by selling themselves as prostitutes. Isn't that a shame for a country with abundant human and natural resources to fail so miserably that Doctors and University professors are doubling as prostitutes. Another example that we can better identify with is Somalia. In its hey days, during the reign of Said Barre, Somalia lead the biggest development in black Africa. On their own, Somalis built a University as good a quality as the Berkley University of the US. Their agricultural development was a wonder and ahead of its time. When fruits were luxury in most of Africa, it was a staple in Somalia. As fast as Said Barre was micro-managing the development, he was simultaneously eliminating another precious national resources, intellectuals and dissidents and the rest is history as we are witnessing it.
If these examples fail to serve us a wake up call to spare us from similar destiny, then we may serve as example for others who take history lessons seriously.
Suffice to say then we need a political contenders to share the burden of carrying our country to next level. Some would argue that opposition should come from within. Well, it had and we know what happened. All I know is that no single person or group has the monopoly of assuming power in Eritrea. It is just dishonest to claim to build a modern state without an active and meaningful participation of the population where everyone operates under the jurisdiction of a Supreme Law. Checks and balances guaranteed by the supreme law is an absolute necessity to secure justice and equity for all. It is self cheating to just erect a bunch of modern complexes and think that the people's need has been served. That's just a look-alike of the real deal. In today's world, where completion for resources is tougher and global than ever, unleashing the optimal potential of the productive generation is of extreme necessity. Instead, holding the young generation in an arrested development is rubbing them of their future and the future of the next.
Back to the opposition,
1) The fact that the meeting was held in Ethiopia, a nation with which we have had a half a century old bloody conflict and still unresolved conflict with the potential of erupting into another bloody war, sacks the credibility out of the life of the opposition. Failure to acknowledge or be indifferent to an authentic security concern of the Eritrean people is not wise to say the least. A gathering of such caliber has more meaning that what it is set out to do. It has a symbolic appeal to unite all dissidents. For that reason only, it should been held anywhere else but in Ethiopia. This miscalculation could have been excused, in my humble opinion, had the opposition convinced the Meles regime to accept the border verdict without any pre-condition. That should have indicated the relevance of the opposition as a positive influence in the region's outstanding crisis.
2) The refusal of Hussein Khalifa from stepping down from power has seriously damaged the credibility and image of a movement which professes to fight dictatorship.
1) the level of influence of the Ethiopian government upon the movement is unclear. What the Meles regime is doing is not, of course, different from what the Eritrean government is doing. They are both engaged in trying to topple each other. What's unknown is that whether Meles is using the opposition or the opposition using Meles ? Which ever has the bigger handle will decide what's waiting for Eritrea.
2) Given the behavior of Khalifa, what would have happened had this man had the state power ? And what does this say about the sincerity or maturity of our opposition ? The possible answers are too scary to contemplate, aren't they !