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Moral Crusade: that has changed the political landscape of Eritrea: Part 11

By Petros Tesfagiorgis The legacy and the challenge: The Forto 2013 uprising remarkably highlighted the issues critical to democratic change. They are the rule of law, respect of human rights, freedom of worship and freedom of expression

By Petros Tesfagiorgis

The legacy and the challenge:

The Forto 2013 uprising remarkably highlighted the issues critical to democratic change. They are the rule of law, respect of human rights, freedom of worship and freedom of expression and of course the release of all prisoners of conscience.

In all these the members of the Defence forces made a political storm, a history by making visible the demands of the voiceless people of Eritrea. The uprising represents a powerful legacy and a unifying factor. The martyr Said Ali Higai (Wedi Ali) symbolizes that history. A school, a library, a research centre or a foundation must be called in his name to immortalize him and the just cause he and his comrades stood for.

The opposition political parties and civil societies are more likely to achieve their goal if they live up to the challenges.

However there is a problem in the way the political parties are formed. Eritrean political parties except for a few are based on Ethnicity and religion such as Kunama, Afar etc. There was also a move to form Tigrinya which thankfully has failed. Political parties organised along those lines unleash a culture of exclusion and more often than not are obstacles to unity. It is used by politicians to serve their vested interests, to come to power, rather than the interest of the people. This is even worse when the level of consciousness of the people is very low as is the case of Eritreans in this moment in time. Out of ignorance or sheer fear large number of people have internalized the PFDJ system that is oppressing them and keep on rendering their supporting.

The way the Eritrean political parties are organised is below the standard of what has been achieved during the long years of struggle. Dan Connell in his thesis “From dictatorship to democracy back to dictatorship ” wrote.”The Eritreans achieved an extraordinary level of Cultural and Political unity among their diverse constituent parts – Christians and Muslims from nine ethnic groups at a time when most of their neighbours were mired in civil war and sectarian violence.”

After independence I remember a TV crew from Kuwait which took photos of St. Mary Orthodox Church and the Mosque located near to each other down town  Asmara and the reporter in his narrative expressed a wonderful example of Christians and Moslems living together side by side in harmony. During the struggle in the field the degree of camaraderie reached a high level to the extent that it has become common to witness the intermarriage of Moslems and Christians.  The wife of Ali Abdu ex-minister of information is Christian. The Wife of Afeworki Abraha, ex-Ambassador to the United Kingdom, the charismatic Tigre singer Fatna is a Moslem. She was a member of the EPLF cultural troupe – Today Fatna is on a wheel chair in London, paralysed by a car accident.


Although an umbrella organisation was formed at the conference in Awasa – Ethiopia- in 2011 called “Eritrean National Council for Democratic Change” there are no reports of worthwhile activities that attracted the attention of Eritreans let alone the international community. One may wonder why?

The focus of the political parties has become on exposing the PFDJ for gross violation of human rights and the mismanaging of the Eritrean society and economy.   Such exposé is carried out by people who dissent from the EPLF/PFDJ such as Tesfay Temnewo (who is doing a detailed expose of the dark side of EPLF in a lengthy interview now reaching number 38)   the Pilot, Tegadelai Said Saleh a member of the security forces , Kibrom Dafla, ex-head of Eritrean Inland Revenue  etc. These are people who personally experienced and witnessed repression.  Of course the political parties must continue their exposure of PFDJ but the core strategy must focus on the activities that would bring fundamental change in Eritrea.

The importance of clear and coherent ideology:  

The Eritrean political parties also suffer from lack of a clear ideology and dynamism that enables them to live up to the expectations of the people for leadership, as well as to the challenges left behind by the uprising.

The overall struggle of Eritrea merits the building of a new way of life that allows all Eritreans to live in peace, harmony and prosperity.

A new way of life requires a new ideology E.g. Leninism is unimaginable without talk of “dictatorship of the proletariat”, “the vanguard party”, the correct line and “democratic centralism.”It is the ideology of communism.

It is very difficult to win support unless people relate to a specific ideology, principles and vision of an organisation. And it is difficult to relate to an organisation unless its ideology is clearly stated and debated and put in a written form and made available to the ordinary people.

Organising along ethnicity or religion will have a problem in mobilizing a modern society which is composed of working class, the business community, the women, and the youth and in the case of developing countries the peasants. It is true in many societies there are marginalized people along the lines of religion and ethnicity, tribe and region. For example Orthodox Christians are marginalized in Egypt. The Christians are more concerned today since the Government is not secular and it is run by Moslem Brotherhood which obviously would exclude Christians in the Government. In Eritrea pentacostlists not only are excluded but are brutally prosecuted and are leaving the country in droves.  We have to recognize also that the Kunama are the most marginalized ethnic group in Eritrea.  But the best way to make their cause visible is to form a strong association and promote the issues specific to them. They can lobby for positive discrimination. E.g. to ask the Government for  more infrastructure building such as roads, electricity, schools etc. in their areas in order to catch up with the rest of the country.  Would a   Kunama based political party go out and look for Kunama working class, Kunama youth, Kunama business community, Kunama women when they go out to canvas for election.  This is not sustainable.

On the other hand to assume power by promoting religion did not serve Iraq, is not serving Syria. The Shiites and the Sunni are at odds and in battle. The Somalia experience based on ethnicity and radical Islam, the Al Shebab, has proved to be disastrous. By now the Eritreans must draw a lesson from all these sectarian violations taking place in the Middle East and in Africa.

In Eritrea both Moslem and Christians are great tradition who lives side by side in peace and harmony. These two traditional religions are our identity and our pride.  For us Christians the Moslems are our Eritrean Moslems and for   Muslims the Christians are their Eritrean Christians. We should not let a policy of divide and rule destabilizes us, nor the radicalism of Islam in the Middle East influence us. Yes it is worrying that in this moment in time Eritreans are getting organised along those lines in order to get out of PFDJ control – it is beyond doubt and crystal clear that PFDJ is control freak – and the only way of liberating from the clutches of PFDJ is to fall back to ethnic and religious sanctuary. But unless consciously handled it may bread the seeds of conflict because they have their own unforeseen consequences and one cannot tell how it will negatively impact the unity of all the people.

The concern of ICG must not be taken lightly, it defined a fault line, it goes ” the fault lines, especially of ethnicity, region and religion (Christian versus Muslims) are still there, some deeper than before.

There are some indicators that lead to the assumption that the political parties where not active enough as to be taken seriously. Could it be partly because of the way they are organized as stated above.

It is a common talk among Eritreans (not substantiated) that  a high ranking Sudanese Official once asked Isaias –if he could arrange him a meeting with the opposition after expressing thanks to him for reconciling between the Eastern Sudan and the Central government.  Isaias said, “what opposition we have no opposition”.  He must have said so because he may not fell any threat from them”

The Eritrean politicians in the opposition do meet with Foreign Government officials particularly EU every now and then but what impact would they have unless they prove themselves united and have a strong support from Eritreans in Diaspora, the base.

There are some political parts which have an armed wing. Why don’t they intervene and do something against few traffickers who managed to kidnap hundreds of Eritreans in order to harvest their organs for lucrative profits? This comes out in many informal discussions where Eritreans gather mostly in bars and coffee houses. They should have given them a strict warning to the traffickers to stop their evil mission or else.  Taking tough action against traffickers would have raised their profile and so support from the base.

The risks of the lack of institutions of governance along with the absence of a united opposition were expressed by Dr. Kidane Mengisteab of the Pennsylvania State University, USA in a talk he gave at a CIDRiE- organized conference in London in 2012.  Mengisteab recounted that Aljazeera invited him to write a brief commentary on ‘Eritrea after President Isaias Afeworki’ at the time when rumours of the President’s death were rife.  After finding out that the rumours were false Mengisteab informed Aljazeera that their information about the passing of the President was incorrect.  However, he said he started thinking about what he would have written if the rumours had been true. There are no institutions of succession in the country.  There is also no united opposition that would step in to govern the country. Under the circumstances, he said he realized that there is very little he could have said other than describing the huge risks the country faces. He said, this is a wake-up call for Eritreans to organize and avert risks hanging over their country.

Recently there is some breaking news as follows.

  • US Visa Services to commence in Asmara
  • Assab to be leased to Qatar to be turned into state of the art port
  • Going after human traffickers
  •  Seminars and meetings in Eritrea, inching towards reform
  •  Advocating lifting sanctions and allowing joining IGAD.
  •  Eritrea and Djibouti to finalize border deal under the auspices of Qatar.

In all these there is little reference to the opposition parties.  Could it be that the opposition parties are taken as divided and weak and is not worth talking to them? This must be analysed in depth by the parties themselves and find an answer.

The concern is highlighted in the report by International Crises Group – a group working to prevent conflict worldwide. I quote from its Executive Summary, as posted in  “It is difficult to predict what an eventually post-Isaias Eritrea will look like: after and in spite of 21 years of forceful nation-building, fault lines, especially of ethnicity, region and religion (Christian versus Muslims) are still there, some deeper than before. Since the state lacks any institutional mechanisms for peaceful transition of power or even a clearly anointed successor, instability is to be expected, with the corrupt army the likely arbiter of who will rule next. But even the generals appear split over loyalty toward the president”.

The wakeup call must ring continuously.  In this The Forto- 2013 uprising is an event of remarkable significance: a history changer: It has inspired the population that the only guarantee to bring change that serves the interest of the Eritrean people is when it is carried out by the people themselves. Any change led and concocted by the outside, such as an effort from Qatar or anybody else, that will not take into consideration the pains and suffering of the people will serve more their interest than those of the people of Eritrean. But that doesn’t mean to negate any help from the outside.

It doesn’t mean to change totally the formation of the political parties and civil societies – the present formation is a reality, because it is in reaction to the divide and rule policy of PFDJ- but to see the bigger picture and create a momentum to reinvigorate the united approach as the only way to avoid chaos in Post PFDJ Eritrea.  In this empowering the people is fundamentally critical.   The Diaspora has enough manpower and financial strengths to embark on this road and it can make a difference to the struggle for change and to the way a new Eritrea is built, inclusive, united and harmonious, Eritrea that contributes to peace and prosperity in the Horn and Africa.  It means not only they have to do it, but they have to be seen to do it. Such move by the political parties and civil societies will earn the support and respect of the ordinary people.

What are the characteristics of the political organisations (parties) that can win support from the people and can be taken seriously on the international political arena?

a)      To be able to build effective and united organisation, with clear ideology, strategy and working method  credible enough to win the hearts and minds of Eritreans so that they participate actively and own the struggle.

b)      To build an organisation credible enough as to be taken seriously by Foreign Governments so that they engage with them in any dialogue concerning change in Eritrea.  And also internationally credible enough to win support from Governments,  Parliamentarians on one hand  and peace, justice and freedom loving individuals from all walks of life, including human rights and humanitarian activists on the other.  Internationally help is won when the value we Eritreans shine is the value of justice and civil liberty

c)      To build the organisation with a clear vision, mission and objectives incorporated in an ideology.

d)     To build various institutions which are the life blood of building the society and the economy democratically?

The ideology and the vision must be incorporated in a manual type handbook, like the EPLF’s “Sewrawi Timhirti Ntegadelti- (lessons in revolution for fighter) or like the EPLF manifesto of 1994- issued during the third congress. (Like the constitution this manifesto is shelved aside and it was never discussed or brought to the attention of PFDJ supporters in Diaspora in particular and the people in general.)  Why is that?

There are some good writers who continuously contribute in the websites. From their writing they seem to be energetic and knowledgeable.  Their writing can be incorporated in the work of putting together materials that goes into the manual. This is the time to work more than yesterday because Eritrea is at a crossroads.  There are lots of materials written in Tigrinya that can be read by ordinary grass root Eritreans than what the English language writers offer. The writing of Merid Zeru on EPDP website tiled “ግንዛቤታት ካብ “ቀዉዓዊ ሰዉራ ሃገራት ሴሜን ኣፍሪቃን ማእከላይ ምብራቕ”   “ and that of Estifanos  Tewolde on titled  ቃልስና ‘እንጣጢዕ ንዘርእ ኣለና’ ክኸውን የብሉን are good examples. There are definitely could be similar writings in Arabic, for this Abdulrahman Said Bahashim of can be consulted.

The writings can be incorporated into pedagogy similar to the Brazilian Paul Fraire’s “Pedagogy of the oppressed” that raises the level of consciousness of the people, empower them so that they can be in a better position to define the destiny of Eritrea, their destiny.

La Luta Continua

Continue part 3: The challenge to civil societies:

Review overview
  • Zerai May 2, 2013

    The two last comments of Tesfazghi and john haile are constractive. My friend Petros’s article simply a view of some centerists who advocate unity without any concern for the Eritrean reality. We are multy ethnic country if one wants uniy one has to recognize this reality. Without equality there will not be unity, peace, development, and democracy. If you have better idea to solve the problem we are facing come up with it together with your group instead blaming the opposition. I accept your point in underestimating the opposition but please come with better alternative.

  • Kalighe May 2, 2013

    “No Hope, siucide, new hope” and what else ?
    When i was a kid in Asmara, i used to listen to what a guy known as Zogonfo has to say everyday. He was a bit exotic and lunatic but a funny story teller. Don’t translate this to mean you are funny too. There were some moments of the day when he loocked like you, full of bitterness, and confused. For the rest , he was nationalist , while you seem to be one of those rootless who lost their mother Ethiopia.

  • NEW HOPE ERITREA May 2, 2013


    No matter what you say about me you have shown your almost wise analysis & my admiration to half of you will always continue.I know I am humorous & brilliant..not funny & I am not trying to be funny..I am contributing how I see things..But you while you have the capacity to teach rocket science you prefer the Jerry Springer show.
    Brother ,you are able to be Semi-civilized,so better contribute your intelligence than spew non sense.
    I still admire your potential

    Peace un to you brother

  • Kalighe May 3, 2013

    Tell me how someone who has yet to be “semi-civilized” can teach rocket science ?
    Tell me who is civilized ? or according to your twisted logic a “fully-civilized” ?
    In a number of your posts you said “i am brilliant”. In my culture it’s a shame to make such type of statements. Wise men and women show their knowledge only when they are invited to advise the community under the big tree following an age old tradition. And when they speak people listen to them attentively, becaue, every adivise given is expressed with humiliy.
    If you were one of those growm into this culture (which i strogly doubt) you wouldn’t insult our country, it’s strong national identity and the people of Eritrea. Only a rootless goes that low.

    • NEW HOPE ERITREA May 3, 2013

      Respected Kalighe,

      Let us say ,you & I were children of the same Parents .YOU like our Parents & the house we live in. I find our parents dispicable & our house a rat house.
      You maybe a good child and me a prodigal son.But that does not make me a stranger Tigraway or Oromo.Why do you have to run to the conclusion that whoever finds Eritrea as dispicable could not be a son or daughter of Eritrea.
      I have the right to disrespect our mother & you as an obedient & good son defend her.But only our parents have the right to cut me off the inheritance..Do you think it is fair for you to play immigration officer of Eritrea & decide who is considered Eritrean or not.
      I do believe Eritrea would have been better if settled for regional autonomy..basically free region of the federal Ethiopian govt. interferrence…but, now Eritrea is already a country.I want my fellow citzens to know Bandits are not tegadelti…even if in their thought they were. Their action defines them. We should aim for higher goal than to base our new struggle on lie.
      I am entitled to my opinion. You are the only one persuing me.I still respect your intellectual side & I will not call you names for having a different opinion. If not I might as well be PFDJ.

      Thanks Hawka

      • Kalighe May 4, 2013

        ” I do believe Eritrea would have been better if settled for regional autonomy..basically free region of the federal Ethiopian govt. interferrence…but, now Eritrea is already a country.I want my fellow citzens to know Bandits are not tegadelti…even if in their thought they were. Their action defines them. We should aim for higher goal than to base our new struggle on lie.”

        NEW HOPE

        I am still struggling with the idea that thereare also Eritreans with such extreme opinion about their so much loved country. Your case could be genuine, but there are also a few voices out there with dubious identity whose only concern seems to be Ethiopian interets.
        Having said that, every one is entitled his/her opinion as long as Eritrean national interests are not compromised in the name of free speech. It’s in the interest of both Eritrea and Ethiopia to build bridges and a better future for posterity, leaving behind bittrness and war culture. Peace is more than absense of war.

        Best regards

        • NEW HOPE ERITREA May 4, 2013


          I appreciate your last comment,I will be honest with you.The number of my relatives gave their life for Sewra are countless..and I miss them dearly..
          My first interest is the Eritrean people´s choice,..ERITREAN people´s choice is to have a Sovereign country.And as my interest is Eritrean people ,I will respect what my people want.My immediate families regard me as semi – Agame oriented & are surprised trying to figure out what ¨twisted¨my mind. Even my son who is canadian on his mom thinks I am ashamed to be Eritrean.That is not true, I am ashamed by the character of my country ,but I never claimed to be anything but Eritrean.
          I call the Teghadelti ,bandits ..not in praise of Janhoy or derghi…but ,because I have seen what they have commited in the villages of Eritrea.
          I believe the Eritrean question had a legitimate cause when started..It would have been good for our people to accept Eritrea as their provincial or regional autonomy identity as opposed to national identity..100,0006+++ dead for basically nothing & still continues…You look at it from the point of ሕድሪ ስዉኣትና።ኣነ ተጋዳላይ ኣይነበርኩን።ሕድሪ ህሉዋት ኣዋልድ ዝዕመጻ ዘለዋን ኣዴታት ዘይውዳእ ሓዘንን ___እዩ።መታን ሸፋቱ ስሚዒቶም ከይህሰ ግን ታሪኽ ከም ሓቀኛ ወዲ ህዝቢ እምበር ሸፋቱ ዝበልዎ sentiments ዝደግም ክኸውን ኣይደልይን እየ።ወደይን ኣሓተይን ምሳይ ኣይሳማምዓን እየን ማዕረ ኣዀሪፈ ኔረ እየ።ግን ዘይከውን ሞት እናር ኣኹ ስምዒት ወደይ ከይህሰ ኣብ ሽፍትነትን ናብ ሽግራ ብድሕሪ ኢሳያስ ዝገድድን ሃገር ኣይኵስኖን እየ እምነተይ.
          My believe is we admit that the revolution was quickly turned into banditry..were Peasant´s children were forcefully recruited for a banditry they did not sign for .few of my relñatives were victims of this planned suicide by the bandits.I love my life I managed to run away from slavery & country that is impregnated with relatives in the village did not have that choice. Some were foolish enough to join the banditry..but others were forced into slaughter house.

          thanks for respecting my opinion..if it is in the Eritrean peoples interest or not ,let Eritreans be the judge ,not you & I censering eachother.
          Atlast we will settle for what our people want..but in mky6 opinion honest believe.
          The formula is our relatives died for nothing valuable.There was rape alcoholism ,threatenning the people to believe in to banditry.We console eachother cry for the dead and start a new country.Poor yet with hope.

          • Kalighe May 5, 2013

            I don’t really know who you are but your Tigrigna has an element of Tigrayan slang.
            I can easily spot that because I have lived in Tigray (Mekele) and have many friends there. In my entire life I have never come across an Eritrean who calls the Freedom Fighters (Gedli) bandits. The facts that mistakes and crimes were committed during the struggle for independence, is an issue on which there is a lot of consensus among Eritreans, with the exception of those involved in these crimes, and are condemned by all sides. However, these doesn’t mean the struggle for independence was a ‘shifta’ movement. Anyone who characterizes it that way, must have a family history or a personal problem that needs to be looked at seriously.
            As to what is good for Eritrea, the internationally supervised referendum has closed that case ones and for all. Unfortunately, after so much bloodshed and sacrifices we find ourselves denied the most basic rights, by a few criminals who turned the country into a failed state. But even in these trying times, Eritreans have showed love for their country and strong desire to create a nation that is in peace with itself and with it’s neighbors. Dictatorship is bad but it’s a temporary problem that sooner or later will have to end. There are a few individuals out there who think, naively I should say, that, because Eritreans are tired of dictatorship in their country, can be easily conditioned to revise everything the stood for in the past, in particular the need for an independent state. This revisionist exercise by few like YG and other Ethiopianists will never change anything on the ground. These are voices you never hear when Eritreans get together. It won’t help Ethiopia in any way other than creating tension between the two countries. Regardless who is ruling it, Eritrea will remain free and sovereign for ever.

          • NEW HOPE ERITREA May 5, 2013

            Brother Kalighe,

            I truly apologize to not be able to help you that some how I am from Tigray ,Ethiopia.I would never compare myself with our saviour Jesus Christ but 2000 years ago all people ,democratically ,decided to kill a son of God.That did not make it right.There are tribes were a man has to cut a man´s penis in order to be considered a real man.In India they used to burn living wifes with a dead husband…that did not make it right.
            I never said to reverse anything..I would be the first one to opppose Eritrea to be re-united with Ethiopia…honestly…I want Ethiopia to be our refuge ,running away place & Higher education sponsor ,until we Eritreans create our own.
            ..Believe that the 30 year Sewra was futile & the Price does not much the sacrifice..even if Eritrea were to be stable..,
            Now, Saying that we are independent country…We are just confronting reality, we are not trying to reverse anything,It is not easy to accept failure…but to live ¨happily¨outward while knowing the truth makes one suffer..the problem was not only Isaias…It is like saying ..THE WORST THING THAT AIDS CAUSES IS EXTREME LOSS OF WEIGHT….
            Mothers are saying my son died for nothing…just make it educational & assure mothers intentions of the Tegadeltis was to make life better..but the organization they were serving for was a bandit organization..HE WHO WORKS FOR A MAFIA IS A MAFIA….no matter his ,her intention.
            Then as a country we go through national therapy..I know ,I make it sound like crude…BUT ;YOU CAN NOT CALL THEM OUR BROTHERS AND KILL THEM .Because ,those brothers were the one committing atrocites,robbing food from peasant´s kids mouth..robbing peasants kids…destroying the culture.I have no enough space to point out their atrocites.
            If no Eritrean does not know the difference between evil & decent..I do not have to tailor my true solution to his/her emotional Utopian stand.I LOVE ERITREANS,& I DO NOT HESITATE TO CALL THE BANDITRY THAT HAS DESTROYED It´S FAMILY FABRIC.
            I MAY BE AN EXCEPTION TO THE RULE ;BUT WISDOM HAS BEEN MY STRONG SIDE..And I would be happy to be wrong & as you presented it our problem to be only Isaias.
            I really do.
            Bless you & happy Easter.

  • ahmed saleh May 3, 2013

    I know Kalighe in this forum for so long as one of the commentators who attract me to join . But you guys
    changing identities is an act to create confusion to all of us . If we can not be open among ourselves
    how dare can we ask HGDF to be open toward our people , it doesn’t make a sense at all !
    DIE FREE , no need to hide , to crawl or to feel intimidated . BRING IT ON as free person .

    • Kalighe May 5, 2013

      Dear brother Ahmed Saleh, your contribution to the on going national debate is highly appreciated.
      Please keep it up. Best regards, your brother.

  • aus 17 May 3, 2013

    By now the hyena has practically eaten all his supposed children of Sahil mountains, the vallies are filled with blood stream, tombs are filled with hiden rotten crops, the steep cliffs are become the intials were the helicopter punishment- practice of the prisoners embark, enjoyed by the president of course in his mission to complete the youths and the new generations of the nation for good.
    Congratualtions mr. President!!!!!!???????????

  • mohammed May 4, 2013

    I hope Eritrea post-Isayas (tyrant) will be prosperous, and Moslem & Christians will live together side by side in harmony.

    • A.A Yassin May 5, 2013

      hager z’hanS zelo seb-ay ‘ tyrant ‘ aybehaln ‘yu:: Visit Eritrea and you will change your on biela-bielew based opinion.

  • Truly truly i say to you May 4, 2013

    This is one of amongst the best matured analysis i ever read. For that i thank Petros Tesfagiorgis much and i say respect! Alewna Alwana!

  • Truly truly i say to you May 5, 2013

    This is one of the best matured analysis amongst i have ever read. For that i thank very much Petros Tesfagiorgis and i say Alewana! Alewna!