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December 1st, The Day Ona Villagers Perished and a Day of our Martyrs' Commemoration

EC designated a high level committee to coordinate with the broad opposition camp

ELF-RC and there fore Nharnet.com stand for unity and diversity:

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Ibrahim Mohammed Ali, The RC Speaker, Speaks Out















September 1st Puts Public Trust to the Test


As we commemorate September 1st, we pay tribute to our martyrs and to our heroes who dedicated themselves to the freedom of our country and liberty of our nation.  Special admiration and thanks goes to our veteran war handicaps. Now days though, the Eritrean people cannot go further than paying respect to our martyrs and our war hero veterans because they do not have much to rejoice about.  The misery is too much and the pain is becoming unbearable.  It has come to be a country, which its youth's only outlet is to venture out to the unknown cruelties of deserts, waters, and deportations of governments.  Freedom, liberty, respect and equality in a sovereign Eritrea was the vision for which the first bullet was fired after all peaceful avenues were closed and peaceful struggle was exhausted.  Glory to our Martyrs and tribute to our heroes struggling for the liberty, dignity as well as sovereignty of our people.


A change in a political discourse can start in several ways. Military officers can remove the personalities in power and put the country under a military rule.  Many of them are around the world and at times rule for a length of time.  Other changes are initiated by opposition parties/organizations when they are excluded from the political process by the regime in power.  Other changes are flamed by popular dissatisfaction due to governmental inefficiencies, corruption, and oppression.   The ways through which governmental regimes come to power also vary.  Means of changing them also vary according to the realities of the political landscape of the nation in question.  Extra care must be taken so that we do not end up with the same tyrannical system with different names and personalities in power.  Isayas plus the dictatorial system he has in place both must get dismantled for the liberty and freedom we aspire to succeed.  There are those who do not abide by the rules and principles of their organizations and it is highly unlikely they will be amicable to do so once they see real political, economic and military power.


Government administrations need to command public trust to administer and for their programs, visions and policies to work as planned.  Leaders of political parties or organizations have to enjoy unwavering trust from their constituents to effectively lead and guide.  Otherwise, statements remain that - statements and policies are never translated into action and remain paper documents. These are just universal thoughts of school that are not unique to any people or culture.  Now, lets turn our attention to the Eritrean political arena and see how this phenomenon applies to the nation's current political circumstances.


The Eritrean people paid unparalleled sacrifices for the independence that was attained after long and hard political and armed struggle.  Any political scenario that threatens this priceless independence that came at the cost of the people's sons and daughters loses a major part of the public trust with out which change cannot be achieved.  Whether it is said out loud or expressed in silence, the message is "nay men demn axmn krgex" roughly translated whose blood and bone is going to be stepped over.  PFDJ knows this and plays it well to its advantage.  It knows well it is not the trust of the PFDJ leaders that has kept the people from revolting to the extent needed for a change.  It is the fear of losing the independence again and fear of the martyrdom of their beloved ones would have been in vain should we lose our independence again.  On the other hand, the opposition failed to realize this point and did not respond to the fear of the people.  Hence majority of the people remain indifferent in spite of the fact that they despise the PFDJ regime.   We feel that this is the core problem even more so than the inefficiencies and lack of unity of the opposition. 


An important point that did not help this matter is that the relationship of the opposition including that of ELF-RC strengthened with the government of Ethiopia while the two countries (governments) were at war.  Political analysts should not lose sight of the fact that the long struggle was against the different Ethiopian governments.  The expulsion of many innocent Eritreans who lived for many years in an inhumane way is still in the minds of the ones who went through the experience and their loved ones, their friends as well as the general public.  The role of the TPLF in the expulsion of ELF from the Eritrean field is still remembered by many ELF veterans.  Not to mention the bitterness the last war created among the people of the two nations and especially by the Eritrean people who live near and in the war zone. All these facts add to the skepticism towards the ties of the Ethiopian government with the opposition.  It needs to be a lesson learned also that the opposition did not do enough preparation and explanation of the fact having an office in Addis or public diplomacy with Ethiopia does not necessarily compromise the organization's independence.


The question of the day is how the opposition is doing now in the public trust element of measurement. The single most important factor in public trust is the credibility of that person, party or organization.  No matter how many statements are issued or how many meetings are conducted, if the issuer of the statement or organizer of the meeting does not have a good credibility standing with the public; the message does not get heard or is heard and ignored. 


Recently we have seen a number of unity statements issued.  Let's look at the statement of understanding by the trio, ELF-RC, ELF and EDP and see if the issued statement of understanding meets a number of democratic criteria of credibility:

1. Transparency

The discussions have been in the works for a while.  The meetings among the leaders have been made public at various times.  The proposal for the basis of the common understanding has been given to organizations since January 2004 and out in the public since the Seattle ELF-RC festival at the end of June.

2. Clarity

It spells out the main points of the understanding and indicates the remaining to be worked out.  Gradual path to unity through a series of sessions.

3. Sovereignty Issue

It takes the matter to be of great importance and speaks to that with clarity.  Any thing that remotely raises the question of compromise in sovereignty is not acceptable by the public.

4. Border Issue

It clearly states the position of the organizations in the understanding.

5. Independence of the organizations (cosigners)

It is one of the central points of the understanding that they need to act free from external interference.  It is closely tied to the point of sovereignty.

6. National Unity

National unity where all segments and ethnic groups of the country are constitutionally equal and protected.  Religious freedom of its citizens to be granted and religions to be protected constitutionally.

7. Program/Principle based Unity

The three organizations have similar principles as spelled out on the statement and be verified on their respective principles adopted by each of their congresses.  It is rather difficult if not impossible for organizations with divergent principles.

8. Public Reaction

The people have been awaiting it because of the proposal and discussions.  Some complain it is being slow. It is praised for its independence, and stand on the border demarcation.  There are no questions raised by the public.


It calls for other entities to join in and to work with ENA.  Their united front (broad coalition) approach can easily accommodate organizations that have principles that deviate from the trio.

9. Consistency

The organizations that have issued the statement have consistent stand on the points outlined and many factors the public cares about.  Unity is very appealing and every one seems to embrace it as a slogan.  PFDJ is the biggest exploiter of our people’s desire for unity.  Its main theme has been “had hizbi hade lbi  hade meadi” meaning one people one heart/one mind and one community eating from the same dinner plate.  As a result, our readers are very skeptical and ask questions about unity declarations that lack transparency and clarity.  Mysterious unity statements do not get blind support any more.  Hard questions will be asked and if not addressed properly confidence with the general public is lost.  The silent majority including those still under PFDJ are always watching.  


There are other factors that weigh in to the credibility of the opposition camp besides the recent declarations of unity and common understanding.  The top item on every one's mind is the fear of another war.  The refusal of Ethiopian government to accept the international ruling and threats from the Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has made this fear a topic of discussion after introductory greetings of “ hi and how is the family”.  It seems that ELF-RC has pointed out the threat of war and the danger of lack of progress in the border demarcation to the forefront via all of its media outlets.  Many other individuals and organizations seem to raise the issue also.  Prominent writers in the Eritrean cyber politics are speaking loud and clear of the threat of war. On the other hand a few organizations think the border issue is between the two governments and should not be a concern of the opposition.  They never raise the threat of war.  The silence and indifference on the issue of national sovereignty significantly diminishes the applicable groups’ standing with the Eritrean population and creates a fertile ground for PFDJ to work for their isolation.  Isolation from the people is of great concern to us since we believe change should come by the Eritrean people not by a foreign force. 


There are some in the opposition camp who have taken stand that Ethiopia should not abide by the International ruling by refusing to call on it to abide by the ruling.  They insist that Eritrea /PFDJ is the one which has to give in and give Ethiopians what they want because they are powerful and the international community is not going to enforce the ‘final and binding” border demarcation ruling. 

Some sarcastically referred to us and others who care about this matter as the “shouters of final and binding”.  It is not that what they say has any significance to us but just to give their readers the correct perspective; allow us to make a couple of points:

  1. We all know Isays’s PFDJ does not know how to handle contradictions diplomatically.  Arrogance and rigidity is their trademark.  It is obvious to the whole world the blunders they commit by refusing to talk to the special envoy from Mr. Kofi Annan, by unnecessary accusations and mishandling of the peace keepers, and jeopardize the country’s standing with the UN/UNMEE.  The mishandling of the meeting with the UN General Secretary on his visit to the country is another blunder.  This does not need any political analysis.  What else were they expecting from PFDJ?  There was a reason why ELF-RC took the stand at the referendum.  There were reasons why ELF-RC called PFDJ a dictatorship back in 1994 and declared that it should be dismantled.  But, how would they know? They were dancing with the PFDJers in PFDJ then.


  1. We are aware that we do not have the clout necessary to make Ethiopia abide by the ruling.  Nevertheless it our national duty and our obligation to those who sacrificed for the independence and sovereignty of our nation to take a courageous, just and the right stand.   A stand that is taken out of fear of some consequences is not good for the people, and the country. Let's see other stands that ELF-RC took:

    1.  We did not have the clout to stop Isayas from starting the war in 1998.  The reason we condemned it and we stood against it was because it was the right stand.  At that time, many blamed us with the government of our country as Eritreans.  We lost some members too.  But, that was the right stand.  The war did not solve any Eritrean issue for the people.  ELF-RC did not take the stand just because it is anti PFDJ.  It is because it believed the proper and just way of solving the dispute was by working the legal channels in the international community.  We knew Isayas would not listen but we had to take the stand we believe was right and just.  We did not have to go far in time before our critics (now super anti PFDJ pretenders) find out we were right. We did not stop the war but took our historical responsibility by doing the right thing, not the popular thing.


    1. We did not have the influence necessary to stop the Ethiopian government from inhumanely deport Eritreans at that time.  Nevertheless, ELF-RC took the stand, which was just and right and condemn it.  It believed that those who were suspected of security violations to be brought to justice instead of punishing the whole population.  Even though our call did not stop the tragic actions, we have the historic duty and responsibility to do not the convenient or easiest thing but the right thing and we did.


    1.  We did not have the necessary diplomatic strength to make Ethiopians stop at the border once they regained the disputed land.  However, Ibrahim M. Ali, the chairman at that time, issued a statement calling for Ethiopia not to push in to the undisputed territory of Eritrea.  That is what courageous leaders do; take the right and just stand.

All the above points may not have won us favor with the Ethiopian government. But, we are not merchants in the business of making of profits to see things in terms of simple calculations of cost analysis.  That is left for those who were dancing with PFDJ during the war instead of opposing it and now they want to dance with forces that do not stand for the benefit of our people or sovereignty of our country because it is more convenient.  We want to make them aware that Mahtema Ghandi warned against  POLITICIANS WITH OUT PRINCIPLES among 10 other things.  Sure enough, we have seen a lot of their blunders within the last two years.


    1. We would like to remind them that Awate would have never dared to start the armed struggle if he was overwhelmed by the odds against the country at that time.  The stand of the United Nations, the might of Ethiopia, the powerful voice of Eritreans for unity with Ethiopia forces…etc would have discouraged him from launching the armed struggle for their analysis to hold true.  But, decades after his martyrdom, we are talking of independence and we are celebrating him because he took a just and right step instead of a convenient one.  That is the difference between heroes and opportunists, and those who work for the popularity and power of the moment and those who work for the generation to come at the expense of their own prestige, popularity and convenience.  The list of our martyrs speaks to that fact.  They teach us to sacrifice for the generation to come.  On this September 1st day, we promise them that is exactly what we will keep doing, taking the right and just stand regardless of the hardships we face.


Eternal Glory to our martyrs

Our admiration to our war veteran handicaps

Wishing you a happy Bahti Meskerem


The Nharnet Team


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