Selam Newspaper: Interview with Yosief Ghebrehiwet on the Youth Conference

PFDJ Fears the Gatherings of the Youth


Yosief Ghebrehiwet

Yosief Ghebrehiwet grew up in Mendefera, and went to San Giorgio high school. He was in Addis-Abeba for a couple of years; first, in Biede-Mariam and then in Haile Selassie University. He was also a teacher in Assab for two years, before he left Eritrea for good. His studies in the US was mainly in Philosophy. Mr. Yosief is a human right activist and mainly recognized as a writer of various articles since 2000 in and other websites as well.

Selam Newsletter (a monthly Tigrigna newspaper in Houston Texas) interviewed Mr. Yosief focusing on the youth conference in DC.

Selam:  What are the driving forces behind your decision to participate in the youth conference?

Yosief: Nothing different from the rest: anything that expedites the end of the PFDJ.

Selam: What plans do you have in the conference?

Yosief: I will be one of the two debaters on the main theme of the conference, “Eritrean solutions for Eritrean problems”. Besides, I am planning to hold minor gatherings with people active in the opposition camp that I have come to know through their writings, emails and phone calls. And, most of all, I will be there to witness the ever-burgeoning youth movement take shape.

Selam: What do you think the significance of your participation in the conference?

Yosief: I am not sure if there is any particular significance to my participation – I am just one among hundreds. But I am glad that I have been invited to give my piece of thought on a theme that is important to the conference, even as they expect that I might significantly disagree with them on this subject matter. In the end though, it is all about giving our inputs, however contradictory they may seem, in a way that would strengthen the youth movement.

Selam: What do you mean when you say that you might significantly disagree with them?

Yosief: For example, I don’t agree with the theme of the youth conference; “Eritrean Solutions for Eritrean problems.” I think this is degrading the efforts of the Eritrean opposition groups which are co-operating with neighboring countries to topple the PFDJ, and the pressure of the international community and organizations, such as the UN, OAU and IGAD. I understand that we can be a voice to the voiceless by demonstrating, writing articles, signing petitions and so on, but my argument is that this is not enough.

Selam: What are your expectations from the conference?

Yosief: Most of all, I am hoping that the youth movement will come out stronger from this experience. It has been a while since the youth has been flexing their muscles. And this has put the supporters of the regime in diaspora on the defensive. What has yet to be known is whether any of this muscle flexing is having any impact inside Eritrea, where it really matters. Ingenious strategies like “Arbi Harnet” have created direct venues of communication in between the youth outside and the masses inside for the first time. Even so, it would be wise for the youth to realize the limits of such strategies, and remain open to different strategies that may not exactly fit into the theme of their conference.

Selam: Is there anything you would like to suggest that the organizers of the conference should focus on?

Yosief: Too late for that. But if there is anything that I would have liked to add to their list of presentations, it would be that of ICER, and to the list of events, it would be a demonstration in front of the Egyptian embassy. I believe that the Sinai tragedy is not being given enough attention by the opposition in general. And I believe a presentation from ICER, an organization that is at the forefront of this fight against human traffickers, and a loud protest in front of Egyptian embassy would have been a small gesture towards this huge tragedy.

Selam: What do you think the outcome of the youth conference will contribute to the struggle of the Eritrean people against PFDJ?

Yosief: If there is anything that the PFDJ fears, it is the gatherings of the youth – that alone is worth pondering about. It is on the defensive in a turf that it has always thought it dominated. Now, its fear is that this defense line might soon be drawn inside Eritrea. Anything we can do to push that line all the way to Asmara would be worth the fight – and the youth demos all over the world are a push towards that direction.

Selam: What do you say about EYSC-EYS activities in general?

Yosief: When I see at what they have delivered, which so far has been great, I have a hard time differentiating EYSC, EYS, EYGM and other youth organizations in the opposition camp. I honestly believe their differences are more nominal than substantial. They have to learn to accommodate different opinions within a single organization; that is all. With a slight move away from idealism towards pragmatism, I believe they would do even better.

Selam: I give you the last word for you.

Yosief: Thank you very much for the interview.

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