For me The Washington freedom March is the biggest inspiration yet – It is a turning point for action on a global level. I believe that Eritrean Global Solidarity (EGS) will have a great transformational influence in raising the level of consciousness of the Eritrean people in Eritrea and in Diaspora without which the ordinary people will not commit themselves to bring the dictatorship to an end. Furthermore, it is a movement and a process that empowers people to participate in shaping their own destiny. Today Eritrea is in transition and change is inevitable. The question is how? Who are the people on the battle frontline and what are their guiding principles or ideologies and do they have feasible transformational agenda and structure.


In this journey for change EGS has started to make a difference. Seyoum Tesfaye the Chairman of EGS in his interview with The African News Journal Ndze Ntuv Evaristus Tunka dd 13 July 2007 highlighted the agenda using two clearly defined objectives. I quote.

1.  The gripping national crisis demands our practical involvement in exposing and consistently condemning the presiding regime for its atrocities, cruelty and lawlessness.

2.  We are not exclusively focussed on the present crises alone. The future vision of democratic Eritrea guides our long range vision.

Washington DC Demonstration - Friday, June 19, 2009Firstly, The Washington March is a good example of action oriented activities in exposing the government of the gross violation of human rights. It is also confidence building exercise that promotes the culture of collective resistance. It has already inspired the youth who vowed to form global youth movement.

Secondly it is meant to empower the people by raising the level of their consciousness so that they participate in the struggle for democratic change.

EGS has made its agenda very clear. However, the present reality of Eritrea presents EGS with formidable challenges particularly in structuring the campaign of raising the level of consciousness of the people. This issue happens to be the major shortcoming of all the opposition political parties and civil societies. It is therefore profoundly critical to the success of civic societies.

One point I like to raise is that it is partly a failure not to learn from EPLF’s transformational agenda and mobilization skills. EPLF had adopted socialist principles to unite the fighters and the mass associations on one hand and won international solidarity with extensive financial and political support on the other. In line with socialist principles EPLF had declared that the Eritrean struggle was not against the people of Ethiopia but against the repressive regime in power. This clear and unequivocal stand changed the relationship with various Ethiopian liberation movements and political parties dramatically. It transformed from hostility to solidarity to cooperation that eventually escalated into military coordination. Furthermore it won diplomatic and political support on a global level. There were many resolutions in support of the right of the people of Eritrea to self-determination from many socialist parties in Europe. It has to be remembered that in that moment in time European Governments were dominated by social democratic parties. In mid-eighties the mass association of the EPLF in the United Kingdom was invited to present a paper at the Socialist International meeting held in Leeds – UK. The paper was presented by Professor Tekie Fitzehazion who happened to be in London researching on Eritrea at the Public Record Office in Kew Gardens. The mass association was given the opportunity to make money by selling food in the meeting and present its cultural show. This provides a golden opportunity to address the meeting of representatives of socialist parties who came from all over the world. The late Professor Jordan Gebremariam- Zac and Tekie Fitzehazion have frequented UK to access records on Eritrea and the mass association have made good use of their expertise.


Needless to say the EPLF and the ELF like many struggles were inspired by the teachings of Marxism and Leninism. In the 60’s Lenin was able to symbolize the struggle of the colonized people. More than that Lenin’s teaching provided both critical theory and an ideology that was amazingly adaptable to post colonial situations.

“The EPLF used class struggle to bring about unity in diversity” David Poole – “Eritrea: the longest war in Africa”

I am not advocating for socialism today because it has no glamour as yesterday, but simply to emphasise that unity must be based on principle and shared values. At the same time an organisation with clear agenda and structure run by committed and disciplined people to implement the principle or theory or shared values is a must. Otherwise theory without practice is useless. The historical significance of EGS lies here.

The present challenge is to end the rule of PFDJ and bring about democracy instead. As Seyoum Tesfaye said in his interview with the African News Journal, “both the Civic Society and the organized political opposition oppose the absence of democracy in Eritrea…civil society does not have a political agenda per se. In the final analysis political parties are established to eventually hold power and translate their specific vision. Well and good. Those of us in the civic movement want the parties to earn the right to govern Eritrea through the approval of the Eritrean people.”

But unless the society internalizes the value of democracy there will be no democracy in Eritrea tomorrow or after tomorrow. Ignorance is an enemy and education is the solution. President Barack Obama in his speech during the 100 years anniversary of coloured people which took place on July 2009 has this to say, “There is no greater weapon than education to fight inequality”. Likewise, education on democracy and human rights is fundamentally important in Eritrea; particularly when it is undermined and distorted by PFDJ over a long period of time.


DC - Candlelight Vigil in Commemoration Our Martyrs - Friday, June 19, 2009The whole historical tradition of ELF and EPLF has systematically limited the independence of the mass associations in the Diaspora to play their role as genuine civil societies. Furthermore when in 1989 victory had become inevitable the EPLF disbanded the mass association for fear they may evolve as a pillar of democracy or political and societal power after independence. Today this has left a vast gap between civil society’s actual performance and the kind of ideological and political effort required to be of revolutionary formation independent of PFDJ. This is the case even when the Diaspora is living in freedom in the West. Today the mass associations in Diaspora do not draw their own agenda to discuss the present burning issues, give their views on them and pass resolutions and recommendation to the Government. During the festivals a PFDJ high Government official coming from Eritrea gives talk, gets some questions and it is over. The people have internalized this system. There are some good questions but will not have any impact on the policies of the government; they are not represented in the Government and they have no influence at all. This state of mind alone presents EGS and other political parities and civic societies with further challenges and they need to be creative to find a different multi-faceted formula to reach as wider communities as it is possible.

Division of work among various organisations is an option. One good example is what CDRiE had done when launching a seminar during its formation. It invited Eritrean scholars to highlight the present challenges. CDRiE has many researchers and scholars as members that could contribute to seminars and debates. Its member professor Daniel Rezene has given Human rights seminar in London during the Celebration of Eritrean independence and he gave another seminar on Paltalk on July 18, 2009 in which 165 people have participated. Teaching the concept of human rights in the manner of pedagogy has a deep transformative influence. The population, bombarded by propaganda for years by PFDJ media, don’t have clear grasp that the violation of human rights is affecting negatively their moral, economic and social life and their entire future and the future of their children. Above all violation of human rights is incompatible with social and economic progress and there will be no progress as long as the PFDJ repressive regime is in power.


In the struggle to democratise the Eritrean society the role of intellectuals is profoundly significant and important. Attitudes can be learned. The youth can make more of them through learning, creativity, love, spiritual growth, social influence, and so on.

Another example of raising awareness is the interview of with Professor Gaim Kibreab, another member of CDRiE, concerning the uprooting of peasants from the Highlands of Eritrea to the Lowlands. It is given in two parts in Tigrinya. From his interview he explained that it is a disaster and would end up in failure. It will not work. The people are forcefully uprooted from their natural environment to a very hot areas infected by malaria. And also CDRiE UK branch chairman Saleh Debesai single handily started a newspaper in Arabic, Tigrinya and English. The name is “Alternative”. Thus the tackling of injustices and the shaping of progress rely on a constant engagement of public conversation and other forms of awareness raising activities.

The explosion of Conspiracy theories about Eritrea

PFDJ is not EPLF. This attitude has become an obstacle not to pay attention to the achievements of the EPLF and learn from it. Needless to say a lot of opposition writers focus on the dark side of the EPLF and nothing on the positive side.

This situation gave rise to a lot of conspiracy theories that derail the thinking of the people from the present challenges and focus on debates concerning the past or on secondary contradictions in the Eritrean society of religious or regional nature which can be addressed once Eritrea becomes a democracy. It is not limited to Eritreans only; some Ethiopians intellectuals have taken that road. To this end I have written 2 articles one titled “conspiracy theory by Ethiopians to undermine the sovereignty of Eritrea” in Awate.Com. And the second in response to Dawit Woldegiorgis’s article titled, “Which way the Horn: Part 2” in Aiga.Com. and From Eritrean side, the most popularly read and debated is Romanticizing Ghedli by Yosief Gebrehiwot. Recently he opened an extensive debate with his article titled “Eritrean Independence: Is it worth all the sacrifice? As if sacrifices can be measured and victories can be guaranteed beforehand. Tekeste Negash a once member of Mass Association of EPLF in the United Kigdom, with a leadership status joined the debate in his article, “The dilemma of Eritrean identity and its future trajectories”, Monday July 13, 2009. Tekeste Negash is revisiting his wrong thesis on Eritrea which the independence of Eritrea proved him wrong.


EGS 1St Human Rights Symposium - Saturday, June 20, 2009Any assessment of the Eritrean Liberation struggle and the profound issues it raised must be seen within the context of the anti-colonial and anti-feudal struggle in the 60s. Why is that, during the Ethiopian feudal regime there was an extreme poverty and intermittent famine and underdevelopment in Ethiopia? Why are several Ethiopian armed struggle appeared? What’s wrong with waging armed struggle by the people of Eritrea? All democratic institutions such as political parties, trade unions were banned by the Ethiopian repressive regime. Freedom of expression curtailed. The alternative for doing nothing is capitulation to the feudal repressive regime?


Some references from historians and experts who have studied some aspects of the Eritrean story are essential to substantiate any debate. There many references, just to quote a few:

“Undoubtedly the EPLF is one of the most successful liberation movements perhaps anywhere in the world – in the era of decolonization from the 1950s onwards.” Richard Reid: in the book titled “Unfinished Business”


“The Eritreans achieved an extraordinary level of cultural and political unity among their diverse constituent’s parts – Christians and Moslems from nine ethnic groups at a time when most of their neighbours were mired in civil war and sectarian violence” Dan Conell.”

The books written by Alemseged Tesfai in Tigrinya are invaluable is such cases. On the one hand it is based on interviews with Eritrean eyewitnesses and veteran patriots and well researched evidences. And second he himself is a veteran fighter.

To be continued:

The people of Eritrea have a great sense of their own history.

The situation in Eritrean is best reflected in a Justin Hill book titled “Ciao Asmara”. A classic account of contemporary Africa. “Time Out” London’s leading weekly guide magazine on books, events, films, music etc has this to say in reviewing the book printed at the back cover.

Justin Hill’s insightful travelogue portrays a country for which the battle of liberation may have been won, but the struggle with freedom is just beginning.

A compelling and very moving portrait of a community trying to find its way in an ever changing world……..excellent “ TIME OUT