Yosief appears to have the knack to rub some people, including Saleh Younis, the wrong way. We at least know why he rubs SalehYounis the wrong way because he has told us why in his latest article. I think his last reason is the most important if not the only reason why. You see Saleh Younis believes that "the best traits of the Revolution are our only salvation in our pursuit of freedom and honor" and Yosief is demolishing the myth of Ghedli mercilessly and thus eliminating "our only salvation". One would assume that Saleh Younis, the democrat and freedom fighter, would agree that persons or groups who are "un-free" can have no honor. The issue therefore boils down to freedom. If Saleh Younis believe that the best traits of the revolution are our only paths to freedom, one would assume that he can prove it to all of us. If he can, he won't diss, Right? I had hoped he could and therefore won't diss, until I read lower down his article that "Nobody has ever denied that the Eritrean revolution was autocratic". It is not easy for ordinary mortals such as myself to understand how the traits of a revolution that everybody agrees was autocratic is our only ticket to freedom and democracy. Is that why Saleh is dissing?

Guilt by association and fake causality

Saleh despises guilt by association and fake causality. He says so in no uncertain terms in his article. Those who have read the article might say but that is the central approach of his argument. They need to read between the lines. You see, the reason why Saleh uses the approach he says he despises is because he wants Yosief to understand why people do abhor his ideas. It is thus the readers of Yosief who are guilty of fake causality and guilt by association and not Saleh. What Saleh is doing is simply supplying a lucrative market for people who make judgments based on guilt by association and fake causality. In this regard Saleh assures everyone who cares to listen that all or most of Yosief's arguments are common currency in Ethiopian restaurants. If that is indeed the case then obviously Yosief is dead wrong on every count. That by the way is not false causality or guilt by association but supplying the eager market of the disillusioned with the necessary icon to keep their faith in "the only salvation in our pursuit of freedom and honor".

If idle talk in Ethiopian restaurants is not good enough for you then Saleh can get you a choice cut PM MZ himself. You see the assertion of Yosief that the ELF collapsed primarily because of its internal contradictions is wrong not only because there is such idle talk in Ethiopian restaurants but also because PM MZ said it long before Yosief did. Case closed. Never mind that Yosief was right in stating the obvious fact that the ELF had lost much of its fighting force from the highlands long before the EPLF and TPLF conspired and acted to eliminate it. Never mind the fact that the ELF did not put any meaningful resistance to the onslaught of the TPLF and EPLF because it was deeply fractured internally. Never mind the fact that as soon as it crossed to Sudan with much of its membership intact, it disintegrated into its constituent parts after a bizarre shoot out among its leaders. None of that matters because if the devil incarnate himself has said that the ELF collapsed because of internal contradictions it must be wrong and whoever argues otherwise is equally wrong.

If you are not prepared to buy that, never mind, for Slaeh will add an icing to the cake he is selling you – a whole new definition of democracy. You see the latest definition of a democratic organization according to Saleh is "organizations that are quarrelsome, where power is not concentrated and where decisions are made after different constituencies haggle things out". The ELF was just such an organization, and therefore was a democratic one. I guess by different constituencies haggling things out he means the type of haggling out Melake Tekle and company had withAbdella Idris and company in Sudan.

If you are not enticed by the icing on the cake never mind, he will give you a shinning new packaging for the cake he is selling you. Here is the packaging. "Nobody has ever denied that the Eritrean revolution was autocratic". I know, I know. Saleh had earlier on in his article told you that the ELF was the very definition of a democratic organization, and is now telling you that the revolution as such, including the ELF, was autocratic. But whoever told you that, you should not only seriously analyze the packaging material, but you are also supposed to synthesize it!

Bumper-sticker-quality Philosophies

Saleh claims that Yosief is feeding us bumper-sticker-quality philosophies which can be refuted easily. If there is a lucrative market for such philosophies, Saleh will supply the market, although as in the case of guilt by association and fake causality he really, really despises such philosophies. As a result he gives you a brand new definition of a democratic organization and a few other bumper-sticker-quality philosophies. Let us pick just two of those and analyze (what a crime!) their quality.

"Revolutions create national identities". This bumper sticker you will notice is the exact opposite of what Yosief is supposed to have said. Creation of national identity, the shocked historians of Saleh will tell you, is not an event. It is a protracted process. It takes time for it to be created, if it ever gets fully formed. The "English in America", before they became American had overtime begun to develop district identity and interest that is distinct from the motherland before the American Revolution. That is why when they felt the motherland had pushed them too far; they rebelled to establish a new nation based on the distinct interest and identity that had begun to emerge prior to the revolution. But this identity was, as someone has said of Eritrean identity in 50's, still work in progress. That is why there were many loyalists among the "English in America". This would be your unionists. The revolution built on the emerging identity of the Americans and defined in a specific way as an idea: the idea of freedom, opportunity etc. This broad and accommodative definition of American identity has made it possible for me and Saleh to be Americans. The revolution was thus both defending and creating an identity. It was defending an identity because the "English in America" had already begun to think of themselves as an entity that needs to be consulted about their taxation. When the motherland's authorities decided what the motherland says goes for the daughter, there were enough "English men in America" who begged to differ and they fought to defend their difference, their distinctiveness. But their revolution to defend their emerging identity could not but contribute to its consolidation and definition. The American identity continues to be defined and consolidated in a certain way because identify creation is a process.

The bumper-sticker-quality philosophy Saleh is peddling in this regard is that anti colonial revolutions are the starting point, the creators of national identity, while history will tell you that they will consolidate, define, redefine national identity but they do not initiate the process. The process must have been initiated earlier and reached such a stage that enough number of people had enough common interests and identity for them to fight as a unit for their protection and/or advancement. But even Saleh seems to be unsure of the product he is peddling. He therefore goes on to tell you that in any case that Eritrea is as old as Menelik's Ethiopia, (That by the way is what PM MZ used to say but I won't use that to argue that Saleh is wrong) and its national identity had already evolved during that period. True, Eritrean identity had begun to emerge since the Italian colonial period. The argument of Yosief and others is that this identity was still work in progress and was still riven with fractures. Unlike the American Revolution the Eritrean one failed in consolidating that common identity and in defining it in an inclusive and accommodative manner through the revolution.

One can of course legitimately contest whether Yosief's assertion that many Eritrean Muslims look at the Arab world for inspiration and association is true. My problem is that Saleh does so in a manner that does not strike me as being honest. His argument that the association many Eritrean Muslims have with Arabism is no stronger than that of Senegalese Muslims and is solely limited to religious association is dishonest. Many Eritrean Muslims as opposed to Senegalese Muslims have been calling for Arabic to be the second national language in Eritrea. Indeed for some, one of the critical crimes committed by the Issayas regime is precisely his rejection of Arabic as an Eritrean official language. All Muslims in the countries Saleh mentions do not want Arabic as their national language. They know they can be good Muslims without having Arabic as their national language. None of Eritrean Muslims (with the exception of the small Rashida community) have Arabic as their mother tongue. If many of them are calling for Arabic rather than their mother tongue to be a national language of Eritrea it can only be because of their cultural association with the Arab world and not because of their religion. Nobody should have any problem with that. If that is how our Muslim brothers feel, that should be part of our identity as Eritreans. But to argue that there is no such association, or that this is merely a reflection of being assertive Muslims and then insist that Arabic should be a national language in Eritrea is not honest.

Now to the other bumper-sticker of Saleh. "Isaias is the PFDJ, which is the state". What a catchy bumper sticker philosophy! If Isaias is the PFDJ and the state, all you have to do to achieve freedom and honor is to move the bastard, kill him if you have to and you have salvation! Does any body need to be convinced that this philosophy can be refuted easily.

How does this one man single handedly keep the people of Eritrea in chains without thousands upon thousands of willing accomplices? If he is the only person standing between us and freedom, why is that none of our thousands upon thousands of heroic Tegadelti have taken the risk of physically removing him from power? Why is it that they are willing to detain their fathers rather than challenge him? A certain Mohammed Berhan has explained the ideological bonds that keep the PFDJ and many others besides together under the dictatorial leadership of Issaias. Yosief has come up with his own explanation as have many others. I need not come up with an alternative explanation because this bumpersticker philosophy of a single person holding a whole population in bondage is such a violation of ordinary common sense.

Context and Perspectives my boy!

Saleh accuses Yosief of not providing context and perspective in his arguments. One is therefore justified to expect that Saleh would do just that. He declares that "heroism, sacrifice, martyrdom" etc are noble values. Presumably, he is telling us those who have them are noble in all circumstances and contexts. If that is the case then of course Hitler and the Nazis were noble because they exhibited those characteristics in abundance. So would Stalin and his party, Sadam and his party etc. Outside of the context and cause that give meaning to these characteristics, they have no meaning at all! A heroic Nazi - and there were tons of them who sacrificed themselves, who were martyred for the Nazi cause heroically, is still a despicable Nazi and his path is the path of destruction, not salvation.

If Yosief believes that these characteristics in Eritrea played a negative role because of the context in which they were exhibited, the counter argument should be to provide the context and show how they played a positive role and how they continue to be our path to freedom. Quoting some American General who was dismissed because of his militarist tendencies will not do the trick. Telling Yosief that he cannot appreciate and value those things because he has not been a Tegadallay, as Saleh seems to imply, will not do either. Whether Yosief was a Tegadallay or not (I do not know whether he was or not) he is an Eritrean. And Eritreans need to know and value their path to freedom. If only the likes of Saleh who may have been Tegadelti at some stage are the only ones who can understand those indispensable tools of freedom, what is to distinguish their freedom from the one that Issaias has given us precisely with the same justification!

Slaleh's last article was a disgrace in every sense of the word, and I have over the years come to expect much better from him. I hope he mends his ways!