Ali Salim – March 24, 2019
Congratulations ELL for making it to this Anniversary! This “Magic Bullet” is for you to lead. Do not let the next anniversary find you following others. Do not miss this unique opportunity in our history to define our struggle for unity and justice.
Despite the loud noises we have been making all these years, we are stuck debating the two basic questions of resistance 101: “who is the enemy?” and “who is the victim?” There is no way we can advance a single step before people are clear on specific non-ambiguous answers to those questions. You may try every trick that you can think of to brainwash people with the dumb rhetoric and dictatorship BS that you copy and paste from textbooks. If you insist on that, your own shadow will always be your only follower.
Revolution involves death and bloodshed and people are not going to kill and die unless they know who they are being asked to kill and why they are killing that specific person. Political regimes including dictatorships are things not people. People in the battlefield do not fight against things. They fight against other human beings. For the freedom fighter to know who to shoot at, they need to have those questions answered in terms of the human beings that would be facing them on the other side on behalf of the dictatorship thing.
Once we answer these questions clearly, the process of revolution, i.e. creating the resistance on the ground, recruitment of people ready to kill and die and the mayhem they will eventually cause and the light that will follow will be on autopilot and your intervention to babysit “deleyti fithi” will not be a requirement. For the start of the armed struggle, all that the pioneers did in their meetings in Cairo and other places was to answer those two questions. Before the year ended, there were Awate and his colleagues already on arms raiding Ethiopian police stations in the lowlands.
Ethiopia of the 1950s and 60s was a kingdom or in today’s term a dictatorship. You can make the case as Abby Ahmed is trying to make today that had Ethiopia been a democracy, we would not have needed the armed struggle to achieve our independence and probably we would not have needed independence in the first place. Why did the pioneers of the ELF not do what we are doing today by declaring that they were fighting against a dictatorship to establish a democracy that would eventually guarantee Eritrea’s independence? They chose to fight to reclaim a specific geodemographic territory called Eritrea from a specific geodemographic entity called Ethiopia. The freedom fighters translated that to mean Amhara and their collaborators. Anyone that looked or acted like Amhara was enemy and anyone that looked and acted otherwise was friend.
I admit that the task is more complicated in today’s struggle. However, I think the complication arises not from ambiguity of the enemy that we need to specify and target but from lack of leadership by the elite. Lowlanders and highlanders alike, at the grassroots, have established beyond doubt that Tigrigna extremists are creepy, evil and hidden trolls of the regime’s Agazian. Every little child in Eritrea as well as in the refugee camps in Sudan today knows Tigrigna extremists are invading the lowlands, displacing the people, replacing them with land grabbers, and playing games to sabotage the return of the refugees. Every child in the lowlands knows beyond doubt that the guys who kidnapped his/her father, uncle or relative were Tigrigna security officers. All of us in the diaspora, lowlanders and highlanders alike, know the details of how Mohammed Daud Raka, Idris Mohammed Ali, Shelshel, Mohammed Jimie Arey and numerous other descent lowlanders were jailed, tortured and murdered in cold blood by Tigrigna security officers as narrated by first-hand Tigrigna witnesses who served in the ghost houses. We can close our eyes and guess the name and identity of every government official in any part of Eritrea or any mission abroad. We are told lowlanders have become relics of our dreams in the Eritrean state.
Don’t get me wrong. I know you can produce numerous Tigrigna victims who were also jailed, tortured and murdered in cold blood by Tigrigna security officers. I knew a few of them in person and that’s why I feel I can see the difference black and white. The Tigrigna who were made to disappear were not the Tigrigna extremists that we have come to know in the opposition. They were the Tigrigna who refused to become the foot soldiers of this monstrous Neo-Nazi movement.
Do not pay attention to the idiots who play offended when you mention the Neo-Nazi extremists within the PFDJ or their policies on language, land and everything that extends their tentacles. These are the swindlers and they know what they are doing. I have yet to meet a lowlander or highlander who does not know or at least believe that the PFDJ is a Tigrigna Neo-Nazi or Fascist regime of the Agazian nation. Every witness that survived the bleaching of Eritrea from lowlanders or recorded a video or audio of his/her experience, most of them decent Tigrigna, has proven beyond doubt that every jailer and torturer is a Tigrigna and every prisoner who was dumped in mass graves was a lowlander or a highlander who would not bow to their games. Our right to mobilize as lowlanders and straggle is not contested anymore. We are exercising this right by organizing under the ELL and other entities even when our leaders are playing these old tired games to evade answering the fundamental questions mentioned above. We know that betting on the Tigrigna of the traditional opposition to be any different from the Tigrigna extremists of the PFDJ is a fatal miscalculation that will come back to haunt future generations.
Why is it difficult for the ELL or any opposition organization to state without qualifying the statement that Neo-Nazi Tigrigna ethnic supremacists are ruling Eritrea? I don’t take these “opposition organizations” seriously and I know you don’t. The ELL, the bravest of all, the one that broke the ceiling a few years ago, uses a shy, watered-down concept and calls the regime “chauvinist”, i.e. a state of “prejudiced loyalty or support for a particular group or cause” according to the dictionary. I qualify as a chauvinist and so does every member of the ELL or any Eritrean for that matter. Chauvinists may be biased but they do not carry arms and go on a rampage of torture and murder. Let us see the following examples and ask one single question: how does allowing the wolf to hide among the sheep help the sheep?
Example 1: Germany
In the first half of the 1940s, Adolf Hitler aided by a considerable majority of the German population organized under the Nazi party, exterminated around six million Jews. Although it was the fight of an ant against an elephant, those Jews who miraculously escaped capture carried arms and fought the Nazis tooth and nail. They knew they would not stand a chance against the might of the German military machine but they chose to die standing than to survive in hiding. Those who managed to get their voices heard knocked every door to draw attention to the Holocaust and the ethnic genocide of millions of helpless Jews by German Nazis. They woke up the world’s conscience to unbelievable horrors and their efforts, along with other motivations, triggered a massive response that crushed Hitler’s Germany at the cost of destroying Europe beyond recognition.
Their struggles paid off. They saved millions of other Jews whose fate would have no doubt been the gas chambers. They saved millions of blacks, Gypsies and other ethnicities, as well as people with disabilities, sexual orientations and religious groups who had been nominated for extermination by Hitler’s philosophy. They led the Generals of Nazi Germany to the Nuremberg Trials and locked them up for life. They made the sun shine in Europe and opened the doors for Germany to rise from the ashes into a country that would not only respect the rights of its minorities including Jews but turn into a fierce advocate of human rights admitting more than a million refugees, many of them Eritreans, in blanket amnesty in recent years.
What would have happened if the Jews who escaped the Holocaust were so worried about German national unity and started describing Hitler as an equal opportunity oppressor? They would have been well justified as there were thousands of “Aryan” Germans were being killed in the various wars of Germany. How would the international community have reacted to a Jewish community that had just lost six million of its fellow members to a genocidal regime, standing up to give precedence to stupid claims of German national unity over the emergency of stopping a murderous lunatic?
Example 2: Bosnia
In the first half of the 1990s, following the breakdown of former Yugoslavia, Bosnia-Herzegovina declared independence. A fascist minority of Orthodox Serbian extremists decided to sabotage the emergence of a Muslim dominated offshoot from the former communist powerhouse. They drew the support of their cousins across the border and set out on a campaign to exterminate the Muslim component of the state. They recorded new heights in what is possible in the field of genocides and ethnic cleansing. The Bosnian Muslims who managed to escape the genocides added fuel to the fire and rose in arms to fight the Serbians death squads in one of the most horrible chapters of history. Those who could scream and make their voices heard did so by knocking on every door in diplomatic and civil society quarters. They brought images of thousands of tortured and murdered souls to haunt the conscience of every human being on earth.
The international community responded. They bombed the hell out of Serbia, destroyed the country in the process and dragged Slobodan Milosevic and a bunch of war criminals to stand trial for their crimes. Their clear and unequivocal pin-pointed description of the enemy, their outright unreserved statement of the horrors as ethnic cleansing by Serbian ethnic supremacists recruited the quantity of help needed to end the horrors, freed the Serbs from the grip of their own demonic forces and opened the doors wide for a peaceful, stable and prosperous future in the Balkans.
What would have happened if the Bosnian component of Bosnia-Herzegovina, that had just witnessed armed thugs raping and murdering their own communities, were so scared of breaking the delicate national unity in the multi-ethnic state, and decided to describe the Serbian death squads as Equal-Opportunity Oppressors? How would the international community have reacted, if Bosnian Muslims of the time, had refused any international intervention that would distinguish between the Serbians as the aggressors and the Bosnian Muslims as victims?
Example 3: Rwanda
There is another eerily similar example that I get scared to even mention. I don’t want you to have a heart attack and please restrict your imagination to the points mentioned below. It is better to make a mistake by warning too much than too little. Having said that, I recommend you take this example with the seriousness it deserves.
Rwanda’s problems did not start with the genocide of 1994. It ended with the Genocide. The country has three ethnic groups: Hutu, Tutsi and Twa (a tiny minority of the population). Historically, the Tutsi, although the smaller of the two major ethnic groups, considered themselves as racially superior, better looking and intelligent. They were the traditional rulers. The Hutu were the slaving majority of the grassroots. In the early 1960s, democracy turned the table upside down. The Hutu won an election with a landslide, controlled political power and set out on a rampage of revenge against the Tutsi.
The latter ended up as refugees mainly in Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi. Concerned that the return of the approximately 750,000 Tutsi refugees would upset the demographic balance of the country, the Hutu government in Rwanda sabotaged their return. Many of the refugees assimilated in Uganda, accepted their fate of everlasting exile and let go of their dreams of ever making it out of the refugee camps. Uganda even offered the refugees the right to naturalize as citizens.
One day, some of these refugees decided enough was enough and started an armed struggle to negotiate or enforce their right to return to their ancestral home. Their uprising attracted thousands of frustrated young Tutsi refugees determined to have a future unlike that of their parents. Rwanda was on fire and the Hutu rulers stubborn on their stand not to allow the return of refugees were getting uneasy. They responded by escalating hate propaganda against the Tutsi and preparing for the unthinkable by importing enough machetes to slaughter Rwanda twice. Triggered by an opportune incident where the Hutu president’s death in a flight that was hit by the rebels most probably, the Hutu militia got to work. They exterminated close to a million Tutsi in just a couple of months.
Who would have need national unity more than Rwanda, the country that was just around the corner of ethnically motivated genocide of this proportion? Who would have needed to build trust between the Tutsi and Hutu more that Rwanda before the genocide? Who would have needed more wisdom than the Tutsi leaders of RPF to reassure the Hutu elite that was preparing for the genocide that they meant no harm, just a return of refugees to the country they love?
The Tutsi elite did not follow that route and for a good reason. They amplified their claims of being targeted by a diabolical elite of ethnic supremacists. They called on the international community to intervene to save them from the Hutu. When the international community played deaf, they took matters into their own hands, invaded the capital Kigali and destroyed the Hutu state. After they restored peace and security in Rwanda, they welcomed the Hutu’s to return from exile, stood those confirmed criminals on fair trial and made the others go through a peace and reconciliation commission. They reinstituted them and together they built Rwanda into the most prosperous economic power in Africa. Their clear and decided categorization of the genocide as Hutu killing Tutsi, saved many Tutsi from extermination, saved the remaining Hutu population from their own demons and saved Rwanda decades that would have been wasted playing political games around the assignment of responsibility for the genocide.
Examples: Eritrea (Hypothetical)
If history would in any way be a reference for the future, which of the three scenarios would you say might be coming our way so that we could do whatever possible to make sure it doesn’t? Let me give you a snapshot of the core of Eritrea’s problems.
Eritrea’s problems did not end with the independence of 1993. It started with independence. The country has three identifiable geodemographic groups: Afar of the Eastern Lowlands, the Tigrigna of the Highlands as well as the rainbow of the Western & Northern Lowlands. Historically, the Tigrigna, mainly due to the size and “cultural integrity” of the population, determined the outcome of Eritrean politics on the ground for good and for bad. They were the traditional rulers. The lowlanders on both sides of the plateau were on the receiving end of whatever the Tigrigna decided to do with Eritrea. In the early 1950s, during the brief period of democracy the Tigrigna decided to take the country to Ethiopia and the rest had no option but to gracefully pay the price of Ethiopia’s campaigns to crush resistance to annexation. After independence, the Tigrigna dominated PFDJ declared themselves the victors of the armed struggle and decided to bleach Eritrea of any signs of diversity and placed lowlanders on the defensive, struggling for mere recognition as legitimate citizens with basic right to speak the language of their choice, to continue to own the land of their ancestors and to be left alone.
The latter had long ended up as refugees mainly in Sudan. Concerned that the return of the approximately 750,000 refugees of the lowlands would upset the demographic balance of the country, the PFDJ government in Eritrea sabotaged their return. Many of the refugees assimilated in Sudan, accepted their fate of everlasting exile and let go of their dreams of ever making it out of the refugee camps. Sudan even offered the refugees the right to naturalize as citizens.
There are as you may know attempts by these refugees with a little help from adventuring political entrepreneurs to start organized action that would negotiate or enforce their return to the occupied homeland. Nothing to worry about but make your bet as to whether this thing can grow or whether these refugees would just listen to the lambs among their politicians, give up, close the file and continue to raise generations on forged Sudanese passports.
For argument’s sake, let us assume it grows and some evil powers sneak some help to give PFDJ’s Eritrea some pinching for misbehaving. Of course, the PFDJ would be worried and as usual blow the incident out of proportions as the act of those who are intent on disintegrating national unity. One of these days, the honourable President Isaias, accompanied by the newfound buddy in Ethiopia jumps on one of their many flights. Some idiot among these “Hamshay mesriE” decides to target-practice and the President is “finito”.
Go ahead please! The floor is all yours to write a hypothetical scenario of how the Tigrigna would react to the shocking news. Paint a picture of the first few days in Asmara and you will understand why I get obsessed with acting now before it is too late.
There is only one magic bullet that can save us the horrors of the future. That is for all Eritreans, Tigrigna and non-Tigrigna alike to united under the realization that the PFDJ is nothing but an extreme version of what we have come to know as Neo-Nazi Agazian movement. This is the only formula that can explain why we may consider the PFDJ an equal opportunity oppressor for all Eritreans. This is the only formula that explains every single policy of the PFDJ since the 24th of May 1991 until the day it goes into the dustbin. This is the only formula that is capable of isolating the extremists hiding under the banners of “democracy and justice” within the PFDJ from the broader masses of the Tigrigna ethnic group.
The day we deal with our misconceptions about one another and come to realize the power of defining the enemy in truth and good faith, that keeps proving itself over and over again, from Nazi Germany to Rwanda and to every other conflict in between is the day when the idiot we have for president will sign the lease of the farm next to Mengistu. Failure to do so is an accelerator for the very dark days that are coming our way sooner or later. It is only those lowlanders who have assumed the worst and given up on the Tigrigna that are so sensitive not to hurt extremist feelings that play these cheap games with semantics. The Tigrigna have as much stake in understanding the nature of the regime that is chasing them out of their homes into the deserts and seas as you do. The day they understand what we are trying to tell them is the day the sun will shine in Eritrea.
Are you ready for the challenge?