A long time coming: A new Eritrean opposition block brings a realistic hope
In “Sleepers”, the 1996 film, hot-shot actors as in Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman and Brad Pitt in it, is centered in the story of five friends who are accused of killing a man whom they say abused them when they were kids. As they stand trial, the DA’s [District Attorney’s] office appoints Brad Pitt to take the case. Thing is, Brad Pitt was childhood friend of the accused and he deliberately weakens the DA’s position and tacitly buttresses the argument of the defendants instead.
In “The Village”, the 2004 film, written, produced and directed by M. Night Shyamalan tells the story of a village whose inhabitants are told monsters live beyond its borders or confines where the monsters are referred by the villagers as “Those of whom we don’t speak.” As such, the villagers live in 18th century America when the outside world is in fact 21st century.
The two films, to the very least, their respective plots correspond to Isaias Afwerki and the Eritrean people. Isaias Afwerki, when he is the head of state, works and strives against the interests and wellbeing of the Eritrean people as the prosecutor in “Sleepers” who weakens the DA’s argument. And the Eritrean people are isolated and insulated from the outside world when they are made to believe that beyond their borders is replete with bogeymen “Weyane” and apparitions as the inhabitants in “The Village” were made to believe that it was still 18th century when it was in fact two centuries already into the future.
The second last to get its independence in the continent, one would expect Eritrea to get almost everything right on the money when it would have learned from all the wrongs all the old nations had gotten and would pick up all the right lessons as well like the last born child in a family picks up all the good lessons and avoids the bad ones from his older siblings but Eritrea, the regime in particular, seems to have an axe to grind with its own people when it had practically sent the nation back to the stone-ages. What the BBC reporter upon his visit in 2018 had to say comes to mind when he said, “Asmara the rundown and a city of the elderly.”
The acerbic and somber observation ought to be contrasted when Asmara was the second modern city in Africa in the early 1930s. What exactly went wrong? How did it go wrong? Perhaps, the most poignant question would be if Eritrea was conceived with the wrong ideas instead?
These are rather difficult questions. Over the past decades, thinkers and intellectuals alike had attempted to address the pressing questions where the narrative with in the spectrum shifted from the issue of identity to the way the struggle for independence was carried out among other competing theoretical frameworks.
Nonetheless, both assessments appear to be powerful enough to identify the malady—for lack of a better word—that are ailing Eritrea. To be more precise, a manufactured identity through consent and the parasitic nature of the Front if I could borrow Yosief Gebrehiwet’s apt description.
What is pushing the regime in Eritrea to a brink of collapse, however, is not the issue of identity but when it’s parasitic nature is running out of steam as it finishes sucking all the energy and resources of the Eritrean people and lurks into Abiy’s Ethiopia instead.
First the regime in Eritrea figured to get rid of TPLF and weaken the Tigrean people as they were the only hurdle in his way as it made a sway in Ethiopia to live off as it always has as a parasite. The gambit was however, a high-stake game where, when one wins big wins big, when one loses big, loses big. Abiy the idiot jumped in and the day for invasion was set when the world was fixated with the US presidential election. November 4, 2020.
The concerted and meticulously laid out plan to invade Tigray in the company of regional forces, Turkish and Emirate drones presented a unique opportunity to the Eritrean opposition, nonetheless. Previously, TPLF-EPRDF position on Eritrea was ambivalent at best and murky at worst where it left the Eritrean opposition not only in a limbo but weak and divided as well to the extent of fostering a suspicion if TPLF had a soft heart for the regime in Eritrea.
But now, after the fact, TPLF position on the regime in Eritrea is crystal clear—to remove the regime not only it is a menace in the entire region but it wrecked havoc including it got involved in committing genocide in Tigray. One would be surprised if the US and the West’s position on Eritrea is not in sync with that of TPLF’s as well.
It was within that backdrop, the new Eritrean Opposition block [ፈልሲ ሰላምን ዲሞክራስን ኤርትራ] seems to have a clear roadmap and has signposts placed along the way. Needless to say, it faces a rough road ahead but the challenge it would have to face is not from the regime but from other opposition groups instead.
Some peddle the regime’s narrative masquerading as opposition to extent of harking back to the racist posturing towards Tigray that traces its roots to the colonial era and which became more pronounced during the struggle for independence. Some would want to have the cake and eat it too when they want to see Isaias removed but get erratic when it is done through TDF. Regrettably, some are still reluctant to call the genocide for what it is much less to admit that the Eritrean army was deep inside Tigray. These are the few instances among others which illustrate the cluttered reality of the Eritrean opposition.
The question is—what is in it for Tigray in post—Isaias Eritrea? Eritrea is a sovereign nation and the fate of the nation should be left to the Eritrean people where every political or economic arrangement that would ensue or be made with the Government of Tigray ought to be based on legal and peaceful manner. Certainly, as much as Tigray is surrounded with hostile and at times precarious neighbors to its South, East and West, it would need an outlet to the outside world through the North—through a friendly Eritrea. Most importantly however, in an event, Tigray faces an existential threat, it would have to have a strategic depth in place to fall back on in the North.
A new and promising era seems to be in the offing when light replaces total darkness; when hate is replaced with love; when cruelty is replaced with kindness and when deep seated suspicion is replaced with trust based on good will.