Badme: An Eritrean Opposition Deathbed
There’s no nice way to say this. The anti EPLF/PFDJ opposition that was led by the Ghedli generation for over three decades is laying on its deathbed waiting the inevitable. And there is nothing that could save it. Yep, the Ghedli generation opposition leaders who are trashing the PFDJ regime for not transferring power – have failed themselves to transfer power to the young generation; they have failed to earn the trust and respect of the Eritrean people; they have failed to articulate their message and lead the fight against PFDJ; or simply they have failed in every category. The Ghedli generation opposition leaders have failed so bad Isaias, his ministers, his Generals, his Colonels, his spy and security agents could leave the country, and all “his conscripted army and militias” could call it a quits and go home, and still no opposition would show-up at the doorsteps of the State Palace to govern. That’s how bad they are.
And what does that mean? That means, for the next decade or two, Eritrea would be governed by some kind of PFDJ derivative brand. That means, the Post-Ghedli generation (under forty), has to go back to the drawing board and learn all by themselves, how to be a civilized opposition in the Eritrean political arena. And that would lead us to the obvious question: where did the Ghedli generation opposition leaders go wrong? Well, hindsight being 20/20, there are many mistakes and missteps one could point-out; but the biggest mistake that finished off the Ghedli generation opposition business is their dishonest political position towards the 1998 Ethio-Eritrean border war. Let me explain:
During the 1998 war, while young Eritreans were losing lives and limbs to defend their people and their country, the Ghedli generation opposition leaders were perfectly comfy sitting on the lap of the invading Ethiopian army. And what was their justification to be on the side of the invading army? Well, according to them, siding with the invading army was justified because ‘the war was ignited by Isaias Afewerki’. Based on that dishonest justification, they coordinated their propaganda campaign with the Woyanes, and headed North riding on the back of Ethiopian tanks. When the invading Ethiopian army pushed the Eritrean defense forces, the Eritrean opposition were on the “liberated” areas “helping” their people. At least that was what they told the world. But in reality, the drooling opposition, were on the war theatre for one and only one reason: to stay in close proximity to the throne – betting that the invading Ethiopian army was to march all the way to Asmara to put them in power.
And that memorable ride on the back of Ethiopian tanks followed by → their silence/cheering during repeated Ethiopian incursion on sovereign Eritrean territories, their apologetic tone towards Ethiopian occupation of sovereign Eritrean territories, and their dishonest political positions that were/are synchronized with Addis policies, are the grave missteps thattarnished the Ghedli generation opposition brand and the fatal blow to the head, that eventually left their opposition business in a persistent vegetative state. To be very precise: these are the Eritrean opposition dishonest political positions (which actually are anextension of Addis policies):
Dishonest Political position #1. The Eritrean opposition lobbied, volunteered their service and did everything in their power to put in place the most severe economic sanction possible – yes, including putting Eritrea on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list. When the sanction did exactly what was intended to do: hurt the economy and the people (shortage of medicine, food, gasoline and other basic commodities + intermittent utility supplies and services: water, phone, electricity….) they told the Eritrean people, it is the incompetent PFDJ leadership and its failed economic policy we all should blame – exactly like their handlers in Addis.
Dishonest Political position #2. They lobbied, volunteered their service and did everything in their power to deny Eritrea the right to purchase arms to defend itself. When the sanction did exactly what was intended to do (weaken Eritrea’s defense capability) they told the Eritrean people, it is the incompetent PFDJ Generals and their incompetent conscripted army we all should blame for failing to defend the Nation – exactly like their handlers in Addis.
Dishonest Political Position #3. They lobbied, volunteered their service and did everything in their power – Ethiopia to invade Eritrea in order to topple the PFDJ regime. With Western affirmative nod, Woyane leaders declared regime change policy to put a puppet government in Asmara. To achieve their regime change objective – they waged intensive diplomatic offensive at IGAD AU and UN to isolate Eritrea; they adopted a ‘no war no peace’ policy to tank the Eritrean economy; and they lined-up 300 thousand strong army to stretch thin and break the Eritrean border defense lines on the 900 km Ethio-Eritrean border. To give credit where credit is due – PFDJ leaders rose to the occasion, stood their ground, called every able Eritrean citizen for duty, fought every hurdle inside and outside Eritrea, and finally, they foiled Woyane’s regime change adventure. They told the Woyanes in no uncertain terms – it is Eritreans not the Woyane led government that decides who should/shouldn’t govern Eritrea. Yes, for a decade and half and still counting, not only the PFDJ government has defended man-to-man the 900 km Ethio-Eritrean border stretch, but also the 700 km borders along the Sudan and Djibouti, and the 2,300 km Islands (354) and coastal territories of Eritrea. And what are the Eritrean opposition calling, the call for duty and the obligation of every able Eritrean citizen to serve his/her country? “National service is slavery;Sawa is a slave camp; National service is inhumane illegal and criminal; National service is forced labor; National service is cruel punishment, National service must stop; Eritrea doesn’t need large army….” – exactly like their handlers in Addis.
Dishonest Political position #4. They lobbied, volunteered their service and did everything in their power to empty the Nation of its young – by encouraging the young to drop their arms, abandon their construction projects, leave behind their love ones, and runaway from the “Hell on Earth Nation” they are living in. Then the young started trekking North by paying human traffickers, some as much as sixty thousand US dollars (Ransom at Sinai) (Courtesy Asmarino.com Sat – April 07, 2012). When the young started to suffer and die during their exodus to reach the “Land of Milk and Honey”, the Eritrean opposition told the Eritrean people, it is the PFDJ regime we all should blame for the exodus, death and suffering of our young. Yep – not the Western countries that are rewarding those who fled the country with permanent residence and citizenship; not the hostile policy of the Tigrean/Amara hardliners that is forcing our young to endure harsh trench life; not the Eritrean opposition that aresensationalizing the tragic death of those who didn’t make it while applauding as Heroes and Celebrities those who made it to “safety”; not the TV/Radio/Internet/Newspaper giants and personalities that are blasting the air and cyber waves to encourage our young to leave their country; not the Bedouin smugglers who are torturing and killing our young; not the family members who are financing their trip; not the young who made conscious decision and planning to take the risky-journey hoping to secure residence in the West; but the PFDJ regime – exactly like their handlers in Addis.
Now ask yourself: if the Eritrean opposition, are proud of their contribution to the sanction and isolation of the PFDJ regime (Eritrea) and if the Eritrean opposition are proud to support Ethiopia’s ‘no-war-no-peace’ policy (which they are), then, why are they blaming the PFDJ regime for the effects of the policies they proudly support? Isn’t the objective of sanction blockade and isolation to make people’s life miserable until they raise-up and overthrow their government – or until their government yields to the demands of foreign powers? Isn’t that exactly what the Tigrean/Amara hardliners are telling us every single day – No matter who you have as your leaders (PFDJ or Opposition), if you don’t yield to our demands (access to the Red Sea), we are going to make your life a living hell? Don’t we all know very well – ‘let’s talk about border demarcation’ is a code word for ‘let’s talk about Ethiopia’s right of access to the Red Sea? Now, knowing full well what the Tigrean/Amara hardliners are after, what are, the Eritrean opposition, willing to give Ethiopia that the PFDJ regime wouldn’t?
Is the opposition method of fighting the PFDJ regime justified? Are we supposed to be inspired by the Iraqi/Afghani/Libyan/Syrian/South Sudan types of opposition: sectarian and tools of foreign interests? Looking to the future – is this how a civilized Eritrean opposition ought to fight a ruling party? If the Eritrean opposition were to win and govern Eritrea tomorrow, what would they say to the Eritrean people, if the PFDJ supporters were to align their policy with foreign interests and fight them, the exact same way they are fighting the PFDJ regime today? Trust me – the answer is very obvious: the opposition leaders would say and do the exact same thing the PFDJ regime has been doing and saying for the last decade and half. How do I know? I know for certain, because we’ve been down that road before. Let me explain the hypocrisy:
The Eritrean opposition misguided political positions, especially their position vis-à-vis the 1998 Ethio-Eritrean border war, is not an honest judgment mistake. It is a deliberate political move blinded by grudge and resentment. The top echelon of the Eritrean opposition who were riding on the back of Ethiopian tanks, are not some amateur politicians. They are seasoned politicians who could mentor me, you and more. They are not strangers to the intentions of Woyane; and they are not new to the Badme border conflict. They themselves were on the receiving end of Woyane’s evil brunt while EPLF leaders were having cigar with the Woyanes during their honeymoon. They just made a deliberate choice to sleep with the Woyanes simply because they loved power more than they loved their country and their people.
Again, most of the Woyane toadies (spare the Neo-Unionists) who are telling us today that the 1998 border war was ignited by Isaias Afewerki to flatter their Woyane bosses, are the same leaders/cadres who were sending me and my Tegadelti comrades to harm’s way to do the right thing: protect thousands of Eritrean citizens at the same contested areas (Badme areas) from the harassment, imprisonment, confiscation of properties, eviction and killings of innocent Eritrean citizens by the same Woyane leaders. These are the same leaders who were bitter at Isaias and co. for playing politics with the lives of innocent Eritreans and sovereign Eritrean territories. Now – since it was wrong for EPLF leaders to play politics with sovereign Eritrean territories then, since it was wrong for EPLF leaders to play politics with the lives of thousands of Eritrean citizens then, since it was wrong for EPLF leaders to invite the Woyanes into Eritrean internal conflict then, you would think the current opposition leaders (former ELF leaders and cadres) would have some decency to refrain from repeating the exact same mistakes EPLF leaders did in the early 1980s.
But guess what, the minute Woyane leaders flexed their muscle and pointed their gun at the PFDJ regime, all of a sudden, they all became changed men. In an instant, they dropped their principled position, wiped their tears, forgot all about their pain resentment and humiliating defeat, and made their pilgrimage to Addis in a hope to heal (restore) their wounded ego. And when they landed in Addis – to show (express) their submission, their obedience, and their affection to the Woyanes in no uncertain terms – they averted their eyes, tucked their tail tight, raised their haunch high, dipped their head low, and started licking Woyane boots, all in solicitation for power. And we all know what happened next: they headed North riding on the back of Ethiopian tanks, belching their offensive and noxious fumes in the face of the Eritrean people, all from the excess Kitfo and Teg they consumed in Addis and Mekele.
And just for the curious mind – what was Woyane’s justification to side with EPLF, to defeat and humiliate ELF in the early 1980s? Well, their justification was “we are not against Eritrea or the Eritrean people; we are against the incompetent ELF leaders”. And what is Woyane’s justification to humiliate, starve, bleed, conspire against, and occupy sovereign Eritrean lands today? Yes again, “we are not against Eritrea or the Eritrean people; we are against the incompetent PFDJ leaders”. And the Ghedli generation opposition leaders are cheering and dancing with passion to that recycled old Woyane-tune with no shame. What a pity!
Listen: politicking and hypocrisy aside, had the Eritrean opposition leaders been in the position of the PFDJ regime in May 1998, they would have done the exact same thing PFDJ leaders did – probably a lot earlier (considering ELF-Woyane relation and the ethno-religious make-up of the two). If you want to know the truth, which I believe you do – it was never Isaias/PFDJ stupidity that got us into the 1998 border war, but the reality of a perfect political storm that was created by the vengeful Amara hardliners unbridled lust for revenge, and the conniving Woyane leaders political calculus to dominate and govern Ethiopia at the expense of the two people.
Again, no matter how you slice it and no matter from which angle you look at it, it will never be the removal of Isaias Afewerki or defeating the PFDJ regime that would solve the Ethio-Eritrean problem; because the problem has nothing to do with Isaias or the PFDJ regime. It has everything to do with – Western Powers’ desire – Ethiopia to play leadership role in the Red Sea Horn Region and Ethiopia’s desire to have access to the Red Sea to help Western Powers and help itself. And that problem is as old as Eritrea itself and it will remain as such for as long Ethiopia remains landlocked country. Therefore, at any given time, we may not know what kind of hostile policy Addis regimes would be cooking against Eritrea; but we know for sure, we will always need carefully crafted diplomacy that is flexible with time, and strong defense capability that’s ready at a moment’s notice. Strong defense: to protect what is rightly ours in a ghetto neighborhood – carefully crafted diplomacy: to manage to live in a relative peace between two killer jaws. And that is the Eritrean reality the opposition failed to understand.
Deki-Ere, when it comes to the 1998 Ethio-Eritrean border war:
- A. Isaias ignited the 1998 border war is bogus argument that doesn’t pass a simple stress test.
- B. Even if we assume Isaias/PFDJ leaders were wrong in every decision they made after May 05, 1998 – still, their response was right; because the 1998 war was nothing but a defensive war intended to protect Eritrea and Eritreans.
- C. Today, to the Tigrean/Amara hardliners, humiliating, defeating anddismantling PFDJ has become an obsession. But make no mistake, they will never, never, never.… find a friend like Isaias and an ally like the PFDJ regime on the Eritrean side for a long, long, long… time to come.
- D. The 1998 Ethio-Eritrean border war was planned, instigated and declared by the Tigrean hardliners. The motive: grudge, territorial expansion, and most of all to secure legitimacy to govern Ethiopia.
- E. The Ethio-Eritrean border commission (EEBC) was never a legal entity in search of finding the truth (if there is any) but a political body delegated to find a pragmatic political solution to the Ethio-Eritrean border conflict.
- F. The West sided with Ethiopia in the 1998 Ethio-Eritrean conflict, not because PFDJ Eritrea was wrong and Woyane’s Ethiopia was right, but because:
(a) Western interest was better served by siding with Ethiopia
(b) Allowing Ethiopia to prevail was the most pragmatic way to end the war.
And making a compelling case argument for the above statements and more is the arguments of this article (PI). Let’s roll:
‘The 1998 border war was ignited by Isaias’, is bogus argument
Nowadays, there are many people who would have us believe that the 1998 Ethio-Eritrean border war was ignited by Isaias Afewerki. In fact some have even the audacity to claim, that they could challenge anyone who dared to argue otherwise. Well, just for now, let me make partial rebuttal to the “Isaias Afewerki started the war” argument. They claim Isaias Afewerki singlehandedly ignited the 1998 border war. Fair enough; but – what is the roll of an individual leader in a given society – the roll of Isaias Afewerki in Eritrean politics and in the 1998 Ethio-Eritrean border war to be exact? Is it: (a) Decisive role or (b) Important role but not decisive
A. Decisive Role: If you believe Isaias opinion is the only opinion that matters; if you believe Eritrean politics is a one man show that is run by arbitrary impulse of a one man (Isaias), then you have to explain the cognitive ability of the people you are insulting. You have to explain the intelligence of the people who supported the Eritrean government during the 1998 border war. You have to explain the cognitive ability of thousands PFDJ sympathizers and die-hard supporters all over the globe. I’ve heard people calling the PFDJ die-hard supporters – Komaros, goons, dummies, zombies, illiterate, lowlife souls…. If that is your line of argument, make your case. The burden to proof falls on you, to prove that you are in fact mentally superior to them. You have to explain the attributes and qualities that made you a thinking person who can distinguish right from wrong, while the PFDJ “dummies” lack that ability. And you won’t do that for one simple reason; because you’re dead wrong.
Let me be very blunt: Isaias is the villain, Isaias started the 1998 war, Isaias must go…. type arguments are arguments that don’t add any value to our national debate. Changing an individual leader doesn’t change anything. Blaming Isaias, the top 200, the top 2000 or the top 20,000 PFDJ leaders for all Eritrean ills is not a winning argument. Individual leaders are mirror images of their base; and everything they do/don’t do is shaped and influenced by their community. Individual leaders lead by spearheading the passion and aspiration of their constituency; PFDJ constituency in this case. And PFDJ is a political doctrine. PFDJ is a political doctrine that has evolved over the past five decades (before Nehnan Elamanan), and without a doubt Isaias has been one of its main architects. But the doctrine is neither dependent on the fate of Isaias nor is created by him. Isaias Afewerki never started a movement or ignited a fire; he was just instrumental in turning an existing flickering spark into a giant raging fire. Now tell me, to solve the problem, do you study the raging fire or the cause of the spark that created the raging fire?
Don’t blame Isaias Afewerki and his top men for all Eritrean ills, is not a political gimmick intended to defend Isaias and his top men. It is a smart, mature, and timely political argument that would revolutionize the way we see things and the way we run our political business. Isaias and his top men are ailing and frail men at their eleventh hour nearing the inevitable. But our colorful opinions, our attitude towards each other, and the issues that divide us will never, never, never…. be affected by their fate. Therefore, Eritrea is governed by the whim of one man; we have to rid Isaias to free our people…..type arguments, are arguments that don’t add any value to our national debate. Instead, these are arguments that inadvertently send wrong impression and false hope: Isaias is our problem and removing Isaias is the solution to our problem.
I hate tangential arguments, but the only people who put greater emphasis on the role/removal of an individual leader are foreign interests; because foreign governments don’t give a damn about the complex internal political-dynamics of a given nation. All they care is about their interest. And their interest could be protected by simply removing a single leader that is hostile to their interest, with a corrupted one who is willing to destabilize his/her country to serve their interests. And to that end, the Ethiopian intelligence and security agents are busy recruiting and pampering the – “we are one Habesha one destiny and Ghedli is the source of all our miseries” type Neo-Unionists – and the “we have to appease Ethiopia to live in peace” type dead souls – in order to secure favorable concession from Eritrea: Access to the Red Sea. And by the same token, to secure their national interestand to promote their regional agendas, Western Powers have added on their payroll different brands of one-man/woman political entrepreneurs (“human rights advocates, faith-based charities, Journalists, TV/Radio/Internet warriors…”) that trash the PFDJ regime as their daily business to earn a living. And I admit, even though they are not attracting much of an Eritrean crowd, they sure are doing a hell of a job injecting our prescribed daily dose through our IVs for maximum effect.
In contrast, if we look at the Eritrean opposition who should count the most (the Islamic and ethnic organizations), they don’t see Isaias with the same prism foreign interests do. To the Eritrean ethnic and Islamic organizations, defeating Isaias the one-man doesn’t serve any purpose to their ultimate objective; because defeating Isaias is not their ultimate goal; defeating the Tigrigna clan and reversing the “Tigrignanization project” is. As far as they are concerned, the difference between Isaias and any leader from his clan is just the mustache (Al-Sheneb). That’s why they are not in a mood to talk about reform. That’s why they have made their central objective to defeat the PFDJ regime, to uproot the whole PFDJ infrastructure, and to outlaw PFDJ members from practicing politics – all through the barrel of a gun. And if you care to know, they have operational name for their mission: radical change. Now tell me, what value does it add to our National Debate, the – “Eritrea is suffering because of a one-man (Isaias) dictatorship”, “to save Eritrea Isaias must go” type arguments? None, none whatsoever; but for sure, until they reach the fork in the road – the Islamists, the Christian Fundamentalists, the ethnic warriors, the Neo-Unionists, the foreign interests and the political entrepreneurs are all using the same megaphone to vilify the PFDJ regime. And they sure are louder than hell.
B. Important Role, Not Decisive: If you believe Isaias is just a charismatic leader of his base, like I do, then you are acknowledging that the problem is more than a one man problem and the solution is a whole lot more complex than removing the top man (Isaias). Since Isaias is a charismatic leader of a sizable constituency then his views and decisions are shared by many Eritreans. Therefore, the Eritrean opposition may not agree with the Isaias constituency, may not respect their opinions, may not like them, may hope wish prey and dream to marginalize them, but it is utterly foolish to fathom a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Eritrea without them.
Like it or not, PFDJ is a force to be reckoned with. It is too big, too important and too powerful to be ignored. The political significance and the political strength of the Eritrean opposition, ispredicated on their political position towards the future of the PFDJ crowd. Having a platform that would defeat, dismantle and outlaw the whole PFDJ infrastructure is neither a winning strategy nor an intelligent way to govern a nation. To any pragmatic person, the – ‘we are going to defeat PFDJ by the barrel of a gun and we are going to weed out every PFDJ bigot….’ – type bravado could only be explained as an empty political rhetoric intended to attract the attention of a narrowly targeted constituency during desperate times; nothing more, nothing less.
Let’s face it: no matter what the Eritrean opposition thinks of the whole PFDJ thing, for million reasons, change is going to come only from inside Eritrea. And the Eritrean opposition leaders don’t have an iota of influence to engineer or shape the outcome of it. If the Diaspora based Eritrean opposition, are going have any role in Post-Isaias-Eritrea, it is going to be at the timing and at the goodwill of the Post Isaias PFDJ brand government. If that is the Eritrean political reality, then, what is the wisdom of talking tough (violent change) when in fact, your both hands are tied behind your back? Or simply, how could you defeat the PFDJ regime militarily to have it your way, when you don’t have the military might to get the job done? You just can’t. Of course there are those who would beg to differ, especially those who pray every single day facing South; but their prayer doesn’t have any buyer. Let me tell you why: