BY AMANUEL BIEDEMARIAM
Eritrea is rich with legacies inherited from the long struggle for independence. One important legacy is the tradition of organizing. Under the umbrella of the struggle for Eritrean independence, for collective good, Eritreans have organized understanding the-role organized-bodies play in furthering their national agendas and causes. And as result, Eritrea achieved monumental achievements in large part by organizing the masses (Hafash).
No matter where Eritreans lived, they understood organizing to be integral part of the revolutionary process. During the struggle, it was part of a core belief system ingrained in the Eritrean psych. This core belief and principled approach to struggle helped Eritrea overcome and grow as one. This belief is buttressed by the slogan,
“The masses must Enlighten, Organize (yi-wedeb), and Arm.”
Educating and organizing the public was priority #1. Since, organizing has become part of the Eritrea DNA. It is the bloodstream of the Eritrean life. It sustains the rich social life Eritreans enjoy everywhere and helps to-glue Eritreans as one while they work for various causes.
The people of Eritrea are very social and the fact that they love to be around each other in good time for joy and in bad times for support keeps their connection intact no matter the circumstances or the challenges. In addition, and particularly after independence, the festival, Sirihit Fenkil, Eritrean Independence celebrations, the traditional religious holidays-that Eritrea celebrates as one are now part of the national routing that bring people together year after year to honor and celebrate everything Eritrea.
Most importantly, June 20, Martyrs Day, is the day that ties all Eritreans as one. Eritreans, no matter where they are, commemorate Martyrs day collectively and in powerful ways.
These gatherings require organization. Relatively, Eritreans are among the most organized communities in the world. Everywhere in the world, Eritreans operate through these organized structures, commonly referred to as Hafash Wudubat or the organized masses, established during the struggle for liberation. They are part of a network to the foundation that guided Eritrea to victory.
Today, it is helping to continue the rich legacy in a path towards the better future of Eritreans all over the world. Simply, organizing is second nature to Eritrean communities worldwide. The worldwide YPFDJ conferences is continuation of a legacy that is deeply rooted in the traditions of the struggle.
The YPFDJ conferences are motivational and inspiring because of the speakers that share emotional uplifting stories based on real life Eritrean experiences. The guest speakers also present views of Eritrea and Eritrean related issues in a way that provides unique perspectives.
For example, last year in Washington DC, the presentation by Ambassador, Professor Iqbal Jhazbhay painted a unique picture. When he spoke of his experiences in Eritrea, he stressed-on the ways he cultivated relationship with the people and how that in turn led to better relations with government because he learned how to relate at the basic human level. He spoke about his experiences with the leaders of Eritrea and President Isaias Afwerki and how it shaped his views about Eritrea. Most importantly, he expressed how that experience shaped the diplomacy he pursued, and as such, the future of South African Eritrea relations which he referred to as ERISA short for Eritrea and South Africa. And importantly, he explained how it shaped the future role of South Africa in the region.
The YPFDJ conferences are one of the most important undertaking the Eritrean communities can engage in. And considering what happened in Holland, it becomes very important to highlight the importance.
I felt that this message is timely when I saw a video of seven older men and one woman making announcement to urge people to help them stop the YPFDJ conference in Holland. I heard them paint Eritrean youth that are due to participate in the YPFDJ conferences in Holland in a horrific light. They claimed that YPFDJ is a group that posed a danger to society. They claimed that the youth are demanding money and threatening people that fail to cooperate. They painted Eritrean youth with a nasty brush uncharacteristic of Eritrean culture.
These folks claimed to be Eritreans and are supposedly fighting against the government they feel denies them rights. In the name of fighting for freedom these people tried to deny the youth that are residents and citizens the right to assemble. They tried to label Eritrean kids (which, according to Eritrean traditional values are their kids) as criminals.
The reality however, the youth that I witnessed participate in these conferences are exemplary in every way possible. They are conscious citizens that want to do good by their communities and their country. They are principled citizens that understand their responsibilities and want to make a difference. Above all, these are brilliant successful youth that want to give back. They are too brilliant to resort to threats and intimidation to extract money from people.
What is ironic is the people that made the libelous accusation don’t look like they have a penny to spare. They don’t appear to be productive working residents. They looked like they are in need of handouts from Eritreans all over. If anything, the Eritrean youth that are participating in the conference can donate to the haggard bunch that made horrendous nonsensical accusations.
These are people with enslaved mentality desperate enough to cuddle in the bosom of racist bigot Mrjam Van Reisen and South African apartheid era apologist Martin Plaut that set-up these imbecile bunch by telling them all kinds of lies about their rights and how the innocent Eritrean youth that congregated for a peaceful conference can pose threat to society.
Reisen campaigned as if she is running for office and schemed to pin one Eritrean against another and unlawfully tried to incite hatred and to spread violence. Van Reisen tried to deny Eritrean residents and citizens the right to assemble in the name of fighting for freedom. Ironically, those that claimed to be fearful of the conference attendees went to where the conference was held and resorted to violence and intimidation.
Eritreans are constantly forced to be sidetracked by events outside their control and as a result, sometimes, forced away from dealing-with and talking about important community related issues. For example, social media was abuzz with barrage of tweets and Facebook feeds that glued people to events that are forced on them. At a time when Eritreans were supposed to focus on campaigning to bring light to injustices about the unfulfilled obligations by EU, AU, US to ensure Ethiopia comply with EEBC, Eritreans were forced to deal with unforeseen events such as the one in Holland.
This piece is an effort to balance our attention, to increase awareness and give equal attention to our issues as a community. Otherwise we will look back and regret what we missed.
Eritrean youth in the Diaspora are important link to Eritrea and the future success of our nation. The youth play indispensable role in furthering Eritrea’s growth by promoting Eritrean cultures, by educating the world about Eritrea and by serving as ambassadors. They promote education, help in the educational endeavors in Eritrea and abroad and, promote business developments inside Eritrea. They help on all facets of the Eritrean life whether it is by teaching or doing community service activities that enrich the life of the people of Eritrea.
Hence, we must understand the value of Eritrean youth, harness their potential and do all we can to enrich the Eritrean life and ensure a bright future. To maximize on this important human resource, we must take concrete steps to ensure the youth are able to take part and play a role. That requires awareness, understanding of the needs and, create the methodology necessary to pursue goals that benefit Eritrean communities.
The Young People’s Front for Justice and Democracy (YPFDJ) is step in that direction. Based on past conference experience; based on the content that are discussed and issues that the conferences address; based on its social implications to our communities; based on the benefits that conference offers to the youth that take part; and for many other advantages the YPFDJ conference is one extremely important event that parents and youth need to consider attending. Here are some of the reasons why:
A) The YPFDJ conference is an opportunity to meet fellow Eritreans youth in the same age bracket, socialize in a controlled environment, establish connection, make friends, build-comradery, network and talk about issues that are important to them. It is also an opportunity for them to work on issues of interests based on their expertise or inclinations. It is time to appreciate Eritrean cultures, share their Eritrean experiences, learn history and catch up on current events from experts. Importantly, they are educated about their cultures, heritage and accorded opportunity to learn real life experiences of fellow Eritreans unfiltered.
These activities and experiences will help enrich their lives with immeasurable benefits. It will help them to become focused and gear toward purpose-filled life that benefit their communities and by default, their lives.
Every parent must ask, what is the alternative? The alternative is drugs, identity crisis, purposeless life, alienation and many other issues that can hinder fulfilled life.
The YPFDJ conference is full of exciting events. What makes it special and exciting is the fact that all the participants take part in the activities. In the US, they are grouped by cities and the states they come from and, get up-on stage to perform cultural dances while dressed in authentic traditional outfits that represent the various ethnic groups of Eritrea. They sing, read inspirational poems and act to express their collective experiences.
B) It is an opportunity to learn about Eritrea’s political, diplomatic, economic, geopolitical and related subjects from experts on the field. Last year, DC organizers brought diverse line of speakers. The lineup included speakers from Eritrea Ms. Tekea Tesfamicael, Chairperson of NUEW, Mr. Saleh Ahmedin, Chairman of NUEYS, Ambassador Biniam Berhe Deputy Chief of the Eritrean Mission at the AU, Hizbawi Mengisteab Director of the PFDJ Economic Affairs. Nebil Said First Secretary of Eritrea Mission at the UN, former South African Ambassador to Eritrea Iqbal Jhazbhay, UNDP Eritrea Knut Felberg, Professor Dr. Ghidewon Abay Asmerom and the most moving speaker was Author of Adgeta, former Tegadalit Yordanos Tekle who gave incredible account of her life as a woman fighter for the liberation of Eritrea and many more. This year, in Holland, Mr. Yemane Ghbreab is the keynote speaker.
C) The YPFDJ Conference is a career building, career enhancing and networking opportunity. Eritrean families have done a wonderful job raising brilliant kids. The YPFDJ alumni is full of movers and shakers in various fields that are eager to pass-on valuable life experiences to fellow Eritrean youth. Hence, the conference is opportunity for Eritrean youth build each other up.
The conference accords Eritreans youth opportunity to know each other, to make friends and ultimately work as one for all.
D) Most importantly it is an opportunity, in fact, the only opportunity Eritrean youth have, to continue the legacy of our struggle and to make it theirs while helping to establish strong, united and vibrant society. These can only be achieved by commitment to serve each other. By educating youth that understand struggle and are able to overcome challenges.
The Camel is Marching
The whole idea behind all the raucous in Holland was to disrupt the conference. The question one must ask is why did they want to disrupt peaceful congregation; why did they campaign to stop a conference that has no history of mischief, a conference that poses no threat to society? Why did they try to stop the youth by sacrificing a principle that is supposed to be sacrosanct to western societies, the right to lawfully assemble?
The reality is that they have no principles. They claim to be justice oriented. They claim to be champions of human rights, champions of freedom of press, and champions of rights of citizens to assemble. The reality however, they are threatened by these principles as exposed in Holland.
It is inconceivable in a supposedly civilized society, to stop a peaceful gathering because hooligans threatened violence, unlawfully demonstrated, and attacked innocent participants of a lawfully reserved conference.
The Mayor of Veldhoven, Jack Mikkers, must answer to the people of Holland why he failed to protect a peaceful gathering? Will he stop future gathering of Dutch residents because hooligans threatened to disrupt it illegally? Was it race motivated because the attendees were blacks? Would this have happened if this was a group from America?
What they failed to realize is that it is impossible to stop the Eritrean mind. You can physically block a building but you can’t stop the Eritrea desire and will to come together. When Eritrea was colonized, Eritreans found open places to gather everywhere. In other words, there is nothing anyone can do to stop the march. Their efforts are in vein.
The Young People’s Front for Justice and Democracy (YPFDJ) is part and parcel of the Eritrean way of life. It is an important legacy that will endure no matter what. It is one part of the puzzle that glues Eritrea as one. The enemies aim to see YPFDJ weakened, undermined, vilified and eventually render it ineffective. But that is a hollow dream because they don’t have the power to kill a mindset. They don’t have the power to stop Eritrean will and can-do spirit. They don’t have the ability to stop Eritrea from marching. They don’t have a chance to see their sinister agendas come to fruition because the people of Eritrea know what it means to be Enlightened and Organized.
So, the march continues, in their Honor, for their Honor.
Wetru Awet-N- Hafash
Zel-Alemawi Zikrin Kibrin N’Suwuatna-