By Tesfa G. Gebremedhin (PhD),
POLITICS is a noble profession. However, politics is a very sensitive and delicate matter among Eritreans in Diasporas because we are not reasonably open-minded to discuss the political issues and situations in Eritrea. It is evident that we do not know much of politics. It is misleading to think that we know politics because we read the current news and views on the Internet regularly. The fact is that we do not read and learn how to learn politics and as a result we cannot make proper and critical analysis of political issues based on hard facts and figures. We cannot pretend to be politicians simply by carrying banners and posters with political slogans and protesting or picketing on the sidewalks or street corners. It does not make us national political heroes merely by conducting endless meetings and fruitless conferences in an enemy territory. Thus, it is an alarming situation to observe the way the political instruments are played to the Eritreans in Diasporas by the two political groups classified as the “opposition groups” and the “pro-government group“.
I do not have any desire to be a politician. I am just a humble University professor who has an obligation and passion to educate my fellow Eritreans and learn from them how to do the right thing in life. Today, I am inclined to write about the political characteristics and manifestation of the two Eritrean political groups in Diasporas and explore ways and means of establishing a bridge of hope, peace, and harmony that can connect and bring the two political groups together for restoring a friendly relationship between the two political groups through mutual communication and understanding. We cannot expect change to come to us as a miracle from the Almighty God unless we are initially the change.
Politics has become like a business venture among some Eritreans in Diasporas. Recently, it has been observed that restaurants were opening up in every major city of the United States as well as in Canada, Europe, Australia, and even in some African countries. It became a fashion fad to open a restaurant business more than any other types of business. Perhaps a restaurant was a lucrative and profitable business, or the restaurant business was the only type of business the Eritreans knew well and they did not want to take risk in starting a different type of business.
Likewise, when we observe the formation of many Eritrean political groups in Diasporas, it is tempting to think that politics has also become some kind of a business venture among some Eritreans. Every time you visit the websites on the Internet there is another Eritrean opposition political group emerged with a different name. Sometimes a certain political group splits into two or more groups due to unknown political disagreement. Nowadays, it will not be a surprise to find even a one-person political entity with an interesting political name. There are too many to count of these opposition political groups in Diasporas holding each insignificant numbers of active members.
Since the general fundamental concepts and principles of democracy and justice remain the same anywhere and at any time, then what are these opposition groups trying to advocate? If these opposition groups have no differences in their political line of thinking, then why do they have so many groups who attempt to identify themselves as different and unique from each other by having fancy names in which the names do not correspond with the deeds?
How can they advocate for democracy and justice when they fail to realize that together they can make a difference in their political mission? How can they even dare to criticize the pro-government group when they do not have a distinct alternative political agenda, vision and programs that reflect their political forum? Could it be possible that the hidden political agenda of these groups is based on personal ego or desiring for a position in any political system? It is possible to think that the leaders of these political groups are not willing to come together and unite as one political group advocating for the same political mission because they do not want to lose their subsistence fund they receive from their sponsors for their livelihood, if they relinquish their leadership positions in their respective political groups.
Since most of the leaders are too old to compete in the current job market, they prefer the opposition groups to remain divided into many factions and secure their positions. However, if their dream and intention is to promote ego-centrism and to achieve political popularity, it is evident that they will not be taken seriously by the Eritreans in Diasporas. They need to get united and work together by having a clear political agenda in the form of proposals and prospects they can defend and advocate and establish an environment conducive to effective communication and decent dialogue with the pro-government group that can truly serve for a better future of Eritrea.
It is unbelievable to see that the people of Eritrea are surviving with hope and dignity and safeguarding the sovereignty and independence of their country with pride and integrity under any circumstances. It is important to realize that like any other country in the world Eritrea currently is facing all types of problems, particularly economic hardship and exodus of productive human capital. It is obvious that the prices of goods and basic necessities and services are sky rocketing and the cost of living is unbearable. If the active members of the pro-government group are truly genuine and sincere about the welfare of their people and really think that they know politics, then they should be encouraged to be open-minded and tolerate critique from others about the objective realities and situations of the people of Eritrea.
Every member of the pro-government group needs to adopt the discipline and willingness to genuinely and seriously listen to members of the opposition group. Accepting feedback from another person in a dialogue allows the good ideas to be part of the success mix of collective wisdom and knowledge. Members of the pro-government group need also to learn to critique with decency the actions of the opposition groups and to accept with humility the critique of the opposition groups on their actions. They need to understand that it is essential to have a different view or opinion and to realize that change and development come out of opposites, not out of similar minds and way of thinking.
It is ridiculous to assume or even consider a certain Eritrean to be an enemy for the simple reason that the person is a member of an opposition group. All those who ask questions or write and speak about the ruthless human trafficking of Eritrean youth, or about the dire situations of Eritrean migrants, do not necessarily mean that they are enemies of the people of Eritrea for the mere fact that they are members of the opposition groups.
It is absolutely necessary for members of the pro-government group to make the distinction between those individuals in the opposition groups who are genuine and sincerely concerned about the welfare of the people of Eritrea and those members of the same groups who are preoccupied with personal affairs and deliberately collaborate and sympathize with the enemy for financial support while trying to create chaos and disorder among the Eritrean people.
It is also important to distinguish those members of the pro-government group who genuinely defend the sovereignty and independence of the country with full confidence and loyalty from those members of the same group who are self-centered and unable to defend themselves but engage with arrogance in character assassination in order to cover up their weaknesses and seek for political gains. Some members of the pro-government group even think that they have the authority to threaten their opponents or other Eritreans for having a strong opinion about the situation in Eritrea.
It is essential to distinguish the most innocent and devoted members of the pro-government group from those ordinary members of the same group who have the audacity to pretend that they have the political clout to make things happen in Eritrea upon their personal approval and request.
My father was a wise man. He used to share his wisdom with his children by telling us stories related to the facts of life. When I was a little boy my father told me a story to explain to me how to save myself from crushing if I find myself between two rocks. The story is relevant to our political system:
A farmer was encountered by two merciless enemies – the hyena and the wild hog. They were arguing by claiming that each one is more handsome than the other. One day they appeared in front of the farmer and asked him to give a fair and honest judgement and tell them who is more handsome than the other. It was a critical dilemma to the farmer to make the judgement. If he declares that the hyena is more handsome than the wild hog, the farmer would be in trouble. The wild hog would finish eating his corn and the family would be without food for a year. If he declares that the wild hog is more handsome than the hyena, the poor farmer would still be in trouble. The hyena would finish eating his livestock and the family would not be able to survive without their livestock. To be safe and survive in peace he had to think fast and come up with a smart answer that was acceptable by the two opponents. He got up from his seat and stood up with full confidence. He looked in the eyes of the hyena and said, “You look exactly as handsome as your father.” He looked in the eyes of the wild hog and said, “You also look exactly as handsome as your father.” Both the hyena and the wild hog were satisfied and happy with the answers received from the farmer. The two dangerous beasts left the farmer alone to go on with his life in peace and harmony. The smart responses he delivered to the two opponents allowed the farmer to be able to save his corn and livestock from any possible retaliation and he was able to secure the livelihood of his humble family.
The moral lesson of the story is that the poor farmer made a wise decision under a critical situation. He was inclined neither to the hyena’s side nor to the wild hog’s side. He selected the best side that perfectly fits to his desire and way of life. The story reflects exactly what is happening among Eritreans in Diasporas. Just like the poor farmer, the great majority of Eritreans in Diasporas preferred to stay away from the two political groups. They do not want to be members of these groups not that they do not want to be involved in the politics of their country, or not that they are not concerned about the welfare of the people of Eritrea, but they do not support the way political games are played by the two political groups.
Many Eritreans do not want to join the many opposition groups for obvious reasons. Many say that how on earth can a person in his/her right mind join with such political groups when they cannot even work together by establishing a common political ground, vision and aspiration that they can defend and advocate. Likewise, many Eritreans in Diasporas do not volunteer to join the pro-government group because members of the group usually do not sincerely entertain important and sensitive questions raised by members of the opposition groups. In fact, members of the pro-government group do not seem to tolerate decent dialogue with members of the opposition group when it comes to issues related to the objective realities and situations in Eritrea.
Obviously, the two political groups can develop a high moral standard and integrity and acquire respect, honor and dignity, if they become approachable, accessible, and inclusive in the way they practice politics in order to embrace all Eritreans in Diasporas. The two political factions need to be aware that the attitude of initiating and intensifying polarization in politics leads to developing narrow-mindedness and insecurity followed by utter ignorance and savagery.
The cumulative effect of the actions of the two political groups is that most Eritreans in Diasporas, particularly the Eritrean scholars and professionals, have kept themselves silent and isolated in their hiding places. As Martin Luther King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matters.” It is really an embarrassment for us to throw rocks at the two political groups and blame them for their political actions when the majority of us are silent and standing on the sidewalks to watch the political games at play. The humiliation is on us if we are only the spectators rather than to be the actual players for a fair game in the affairs of the people of Eritrea. We gossip in volumes about the two political groups to cover up our irresponsible failure for not fulfilling our obligations. We, Eritreans in Diasporas, need to ask ourselves if we have done our part because the gallant national war heroes who fought boldly against all odds and sacrificed their precious lives and the brave fathers and mothers who gave their sons and daughters to the war for liberation and independence of Eritrea, have all done their parts. The rest of us living in a comfortable environment in Diasporas who do not have to worry about an enemy with huge tanks and firearms, have to do our share. If we decide not to join the two political groups, at least we can still be involved and actively participate in the activities of our ethnic communities and religious institutions in nurturing the young generation. Our youth desperately need our moral guidance, coaching, and counseling in their academic and professional careers so that they can keep their feet on solid ground. We have the capabilities and potentials to contribute for the welfare of our children and grand-children in Diasporas.
In Eritrea, in a legal dispute or litigation concerning land ownership or other court cases, the two opponents defend their cases with decency and morality. Despite the fact that they stand up on opposite sides in court, they know that they are not enemies, but only brothers and sisters. After their court hearing day they socialize together in peace and harmony over local drinks, even in each other’s households. They have to stick together because family is everything and they respect it with honor. It is essential to adopt the same attitude and culture among members of the two political groups because their members are not enemies; they are only sons and daughters of the same fathers and mothers from the same country. They happen to have different views on certain political issues and situations in Eritrea. We can still be smart like the farmer in what we say and what we do in our daily interactions. If we develop the ability and attitude to harness our political diversity and apply the proper and appropriate politics for the good of the people of Eritrea, it will definitely be a win-win approach for all Eritreans in Diasporas.
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The views expressed in this article are the author’s own