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Fetsum: My Experience in Denver Festival (Part II)

To be honest, Ethiopia’s blessing on democratic ambiance and freedom of speech comes with the curse of exaggerated expectations, fantasies (specially in relation to Eritrea), ethnic division and violence all over the country. Abiy’s love

To be honest, Ethiopia’s blessing on democratic ambiance and freedom of speech comes with the curse of exaggerated expectations, fantasies (specially in relation to Eritrea), ethnic division and violence all over the country. Abiy’s love and peace movement has certainly created an environment of tolerance between the political groups and his anti corruption actions greatly appreciated by the people with remarkable mistrust from the Tigrean side of town. Many issues remain untouched in Ethiopia and Abiy has not done anything to fix the bugs yet because he can not. He needs time, brilliant minds and resilient community leaders to make a difference in the fragmented society.

I believe Ethiopia’s dream of rebuilding the NAVY is the worst mistake the country can do to itself because it is extremely expensive and really unnecessary to its security should that be the reason for the plan. The country has no reason to fight external forces because it has no enemies; so why invest time and money on this fantasy unless it is for the rotten Imperial Pride of the past that still resonates in the minds of the diehard Amaras that always look for trouble in the region.

In whatever way his policies may affect the country is to be seen in the future but his biggest achievement in my opinion is the hope he brought the Ethiopians with transparent communication with the people, his sense of compassion and justice. Because now people can fearlessly work hand in hand with his regime to make fundamental changes with high level of patience and optimism; sharing responsibility in exchange to freedom. This is what good leadership can do in his situation; what is lacking in Eritrea in a substantially different situation. Isaias could not deliver tangible economic success in a very peaceful and cooperative society in exchange to his absolute dictatorship. He could not bring hope by opening the heart and doing what the people waited too long for. He could not build trust for the people to involve with a stronger sense of commitment and responsibility, the reason our people are still running away from their homes in large numbers.

            As for the Denver Festival experience, the Conceptual Committee had decided to meet on Sundays (from the beginning of May till the beginning of July) and was still trying to have a solid committee with willing people to face the project in the first few meetings. Yet, we were discussing many things, feeling each other and tasting the waters of the mission. The atmosphere was pleasant and we were building confidence on each other with maximum respect but it was obvious that we had different ideas on very important issues. I was frequently contacting Sengal for anything and he was helpful, though things were changing fast as we went through the journey. The second report as it was written at the time reads as follows.

“Report#2 by Fetsum Abraham

Date: 5/13/2018; Time: 6 PM-8:30 PM; Place: Tele-conferencing

Four committee members attended the meeting and Doctor Mohammed Bashir submitted his modification of the first action report that is already mailed to every member of the committee.

Action points:
1)         Ato Saleh Juhar in direct communication with Fetsum Abraham  (May 11, 2018) formally declined to be part of the committee rather suggesting interest on presenting his paper in the Festival and the 8committee discussed the matter and acknowledged that it was beyond its mandate to acc8ommodate. It decided to inform the Festival organizers to handle the situation and move on. In the mean time, the committee and the organizers will try to fill the vacuum as soon as possible.

2)         To promptly execute the task within the Festival’s timeframe without interruption from circumstantial situations, the meeting attendants agreed for the committee as a unit to formalize all activities and decisions of a given meeting attended by, at least four of its members.

3)         They also suggested that all members should submit their individual feedback or comment of the Terms of Reference on Friday, 5/18/2018 so the committee as a unit can try to produce its collectively modified version on Sunday, 5/20/2018. Please mail it to either the Chairman or the Reporter and thank you.” END

Well, the work was about to start full gear ahead because with our respective opinions on the entire document. In any case, we were now six individuals after brother Saleh Johar declined to be part of the committee. Still, we continued discussing the Terms of Reference. It was at this time in the progression that I politely addressed the following issue requesting approval for modification from the committee: The statement “እነካይዶ ዘለና ቃልሲ:  እነካይዶ ዘለና ቃልሲ: ህዝባዊ ቃልሲ ኢዩ:: እዚ ማለት ከኣ ናይ ህዝቢ ብህዝቢ ማለት ኢዩ::ካብዚ መረዳእታ ብምብጋስ: ህዝባዊ ቃልስና ፍሉይ ዋናን ወናንን የብሉን::”. I found the phrasing contradictory because if the struggle is ህዝባዊ ቃልሲ and if this means ናይ ህዝቢ ብህዝቢthen the people should be the legitimate owners of the ቃልሲTherefore, the ህዝባዊ ቃልስና ፍሉይ ዋናን ወናንን የብሉን” had to be modified to read “ህዝቢ ወናን ህዝባዊ ቃልስና ኢዩ” because the statement had to be consistent and the theory is true.

Seriously, I thought this would be quick and a simple correction to make but I was totally wrong. I faced a lot of resistance specially from Sengal. I did a lot of effort in the meetings to this effect but no body seemed to care. I also did by privately discussing the matter with Sengal without success. He was telling me that ‘we will come back to it and eventually fix it, that we should ignore it for now and proceed on to the other parts of the REFERENCE’.

I could not believe why it was taking us that long to get this straight, why we had to waste so much time and energy on the obvious matter and why we should come back to it instead of fixing it and moving on. It was impossible for me to let this extremely important matter go like that because the people own their struggle in any society; anyone can claim its ownership, otherwise. I could only temporarily accept the situation expecting him to revisit the difference as he was telling us me in the meetings whenever I raised it. We left the issue in this condition and went to the next topics on the line but I did not feel good about it at all!

As you can notice from the reports, attendance was poor and the committee was not firmly organized yet, but all of us were firmly in it. It was, however, becoming apparent as we went deeper into the REFERENCE that we had different priorities considering the different political affiliations on the table. The difference is beautiful but only if we took advantage of them for future discussions. My relationship as a Reporter with Chairman Sengal was deteriorating with most discussions ending up being arguments; a clear indication for problems ahead based on how things were going.

I then thought of requesting full participation of the festival organizers in the meetings. I also thought of us involving more intellectuals to help out in whatever capacity they could. I felt opening the meetings to other qualified citizens on specified fields could help us achieve better results considering our hardly related educational backgrounds (Engineering, Medical science, Business and Economics) with the exception of Dr. Tsseggai Isacc, a Historian and Political Scientist in profession who stayed too busy to be available in the meetings. Here is the third report as it had been:

“Report #3 by Fetsum Abraham

Date: 5/20/2018 Time: 6 PM-8:30 PM Place: Tele-conferencing

Five committee members attended the meeting that started at about 7:45 PM when all the participants arrived.

Action points:
1) The committee started to discuss the Terms of Reference and closed the meeting at about 8:30 agreeing to continue discussing it in the next meeting (5/27/2018).

2) Fetsum Abraham submitted his suggestion of expanding the committee by including the festival organizers to share responsibility on the final outcome of the DENVER MANIFESTO with, and help their readiness, confidence and efficiency presenting their agenda to the people during the festival. The suggestion was mailed to the Chairman of the committee Ato Sengal and to a member of the organizers Ato Asmerom, on 5/21/2018.

Thank you; END

I also wrote the following message on 5/23/2018 to further accentuate the importance of the request:

 “Dear Denver Festival organizers and the Chairman of the Conceptual Committee;

I first want to express my extreme pleasure and gratitude for being part of the Denver Committee expected to produce all inclusive road map to our country’s socio-political dilemma as a neutral Eritrean without any political affiliation to any political group in the opposition camp. I respect any committee member’s political affiliation because I believe any type of resistance against the dictatorship is important to our struggle for secular democracy in general. As you know, the organizers have given us the mandate to come with a unified idea as to how the struggle should be conducted from absolutely neutral points of view and I hope we will work together accordingly. To me, having the opportunity to involve on the question of our people’s freedom on equal basis with highly educated Eritreans composed of four PhDs is very hard to express in terms of humility and optimism, to say the least. We are blessed and loaded with PhDs, a high intellectual mark per capita considering the regime’s policy of ruling the only nation without a University using ignorance as one of its weapons. There is no doubt the committee as a family can change the conceptual direction of the struggle overall and that our people will follow but I feel we can achieve a more significant success if we do the following things within our schedule.

1)             The Denver Festival organizers should directly participate in committee meetings because they are the ultimate owners of the DENVER MANIFESTO at the end of the day. This would give them the chance to directly follow their agenda through participation so they can face the people with confidence, clear vision and understanding. It would give them direct control of their mission and also make them partially responsible for the final product of the Manifesto.

2)             Although the highly educated committee members are members of the cream of the society, it appears that we have different academic backgrounds in relation to the Eritrean democratic question on the ground. We have everything and we can make it with some effort, yet not [enough] Political Scientist[s] that can help us in some88888 issues of the subject matter from academic point of view; the subject being transforming a society under dictatorship to secular democracy. We, therefore, can only depend on research based universal understanding of the challenge and its solution learning from the success of similar societies in this regard with full assistance of the UN and other significant global organizations. I, therefore, humbly suggest for the committee to involve highly educated neutral Eritreans in Political Science to help in this area as soon as possible, but only if possible.

Thank you” END

COMMENT: Nothing was done to this effect; there was no response from the Chairman and the festival organizers in any form and nothing al all about this subject in the meetings. It was totally ignored! I also had an important difference with brother Mohammed on what type of democracy we want in Eritrea. The doctor’s choice was LIBERAL DEMOCRACY and mine was SECULAR DEMOCRACY. This was a beautiful opinion difference that we could take advantage of to learn more about. It was clear that we could not have discussed the subject matter within the short period of time and agree on something specially without the proper educational background. But we could have registered it as a subject of interest for future discussions; because this was an important conceptual difference in classification. LIBERAL or SECULAR democracy for Eritrea and further beyond could have been a hot intellectual topic to involve all of our Social Scientists. This is based on our assignment as the event’s Research or Conceptual Committee selected by the organizers (to narrow our differences and discover common grounds of struggle). It is also because DEMOCRACY is the immediate or next unavoidable destination of Eritrea’s political life that requires solid preparation at this phase of the struggle. The situation simply did not give it a chance. To be continued!

Review overview