I congratulate Eritreans for passing yet another difficult period of our experience. History has been made because of our steadfastness. We have had differences on supporting or not supporting the government on policy specifics, but the majority of us never confused the difference between the interest of the state of Eritrea and myriads of policy points the government has pursued that some of us may have disagreed with. Once more, we won AGAINST ALL ODDS.
I congratulate President Isaias Afewerki and his government for staying calm in spite of the raging environment that had defined Eritrea’s nascent existence. Despite what has been said about him concerning the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia, there is no question that he was waiting for a trusted partner he could make peace with. He has finally found that quality in the person of the new prime minister of Ethiopia Abiy Ahmed. We saw PIA seizing that rare opportunity and showing us a diplomatic streak that combined foxiness and flexibility. He did a marvelous job by ambushing those who had said IA would never accept peace deal because he wanted to use the border conflict as a pretext to rule for life.
It requires boldness to appreciate good qualities of your opponent. I never considered myself an opponent, but as a private person, I have voiced my disagreements and sometimes even my rage on specific policies. I always upheld Eritrean national interest and the unity of its people. I have defended Eritrea and its revolution, and Eritrean uniqueness and its values. I argued against those who pushed for violence and civil war. I blamed the president for taking the country through an unnecessary trajectory particularly with Somalia and the unjust sanction debacle. Although I knew who was behind those sanctions and encirclements, I thought the president could have been more diplomatic and flexible.
In hindsight, however, we now know there would not be peace as long as TPLF leaders were running Addis Ababa. We now can see the Eritrean government was working towards creating an atmosphere in Ethiopia that could offer an opportunity for making a meaningful regional peace.
Therefore, it is fitting to give the man his dues. He led Eritreans to victory during the liberation war. He led the nation through turbulent times of sieges and encirclements, and now he must lead it through a successful transitional and transformational phase to the new generation. There is no alternative to him at this time, and there is no alternative to PFDJ for the next challenging period to come to fruition. We must forgive and reconcile. If the betterment of Eritrea was our point of contention with the government, now it is time to focus on constructive engagement.
I also congratulate the leadership and members of PFDJ for putting up a tough fight. You owe it to your people to augment the derivatives of this new era you have created. I call upon you to start a dialogue with peace-loving citizens and groups who might have differed with you in the past. The only requirement should be that such individuals and groups renounce and denounce violent means of seizing power.
Lasting peace is now within reach. Most of the issues reasonable and responsible Eritrean critics have raised such as the rule of law, due process, openness, constitutional and institutional governance, etc., could now be addressed under the peaceful environment. I have no doubt that the government will address these questions for its own sake if not for the nation’s welfare.
Responsible and realistic pressure must continue, but we must not mix our priorities at this time. The next stage should be about constructive engagement. The era of revolutions has long ended. We should not tolerate politically motivated ethnic and religious incitement. We should condemn any attempt aimed at seizing power through violence. Peace will yield a peaceful transformation.
Therefore, the priorities at this juncture will be on helping Eritrea pass this critical period of laying down foundations for a peaceful transition. The country has not wrapped up its liberation struggle yet. It will embark on typical nation-building footing only when the peace agreement with Ethiopia takes root. Our liberation journey will end when the border is successfully demarcated and when we know our territorial sovereignty is incontrovertibly defined.
I expect the priorities of our nation will be as follows:
1. Solidifying peace and stability,
* securing peace with Ethiopia
* starting measures to move the country from war-time formation to peace-time orientation
* Because the state of war has ended, heralding the new era with good news such as the release of prisoners who have been incarcerated on national security ground. At least they should be pardoned and let out to spend the last years of their lives with their families. It could be done. Mr. President, you can do it. Those who have been charged should be allowed to see their families.
* Immediate revision of the justice administration and making sure suspects are given due process. By nature, the government has the power to arrest suspects. However, it has the responsibility of proving suspects guilty through an independent legal system. Suspects also have the right to disprove the government’s charges. This is an area that many of us bother about and could be improved.
* laying out infrastructure that accommodates anticipated influx of funds and the rehabilitation program. Eritrea should learn from its previous demobilization program. Such a massive “marshal plan” will entice corrupted minds to corrupt society and embezzle hard-earned funds.
2. rehabilitation of the economy: here the opportunities are wide open. The economic policies should target individuals and groups who have been affected by the ” no war, no peace” such as members of the EDF and their families; aging veterans, and members of the national service.
3. demobilization of the army (transforming it to small, well-trained and well-equipped, agile and lethal force; I understand it takes time, but I’m confident that is what Eritrea requires for self-defense), stabilizing national service to its initial 18 months; opening re-orientation centers for those who join civilian life, technical assistance in helping them establish private life.
4. laying out a political roadmap including the making of the constitution, rallying Eritreans of different persuasions towards a bright future, strengthening institutions and improving their efficiencies so that they could cope up with emerging new opportunities.
5. PFDJ will play a central role in this transitional period which could take a few years (my guess is about 5 years).
I’m sure most genuine questions such as the rule of law, openness, and institutionalism will be answered along the way with the stability process taking place. But I believe the priorities at this time should be #s 1,2 and 3.
As usual, most of the opposition’s mouthpieces are making yet another grave mistake by mixing the conclusion of the state of war between Ethiopia and Eritrea and Eritrea’s domestic affairs. When most Eritreans are excited, they are unhappy. Most articles and interviews I read are similar to TPLF’s rantings. The most egregious of all was that of Kibrom Dafla, a former government official, who said the peace agreement between Eritrea and Ethiopia should be deemed illegal “because it was conducted between Ethiopia and an illegal Eritrean government.”
Gosh! Mr. Dafla, at least be happy and congratulate the government of Eritrea that it has ended the possibility of another devastating war that could consume thousands of young people. And, then, let me ask you this question: you said the Eritrean government is illegal. Fine. And who made you a legally designated entity who could declare the Eritrean government is illegitimate, anyway? Now, facing this situation, the assumption that the Eritrean government and you are illegal, who should sign the peace deal when it presents itself? Well, let’s be silly and assume that you would be the one most appropriate to sign it, how do we get you to Asmara? Should we send a private jet to Mr. Dafla to fly him to Asmara or should we pass over this opportunity until he makes his way to Asmara, “dismantling the illegitimate regime in Eritrea?”
Folks, the way some people reason out is just mindboggling. I think we have had enough of these pompous pronouncements. For starters, the Eritrean government is the only legal entity who could enter into and sign treaties on behalf of Eritrea. It is the single sovereign entity recognized internationally. Governments are not expected to be “democratic” to conduct international agreements.
Time to wake up; time to be realistic and pragmatic. Our critiquing should be constructive, appealing and goal-oriented. The opposition has stagnated and strangulated itself because it focused on the president. Instead of discussing problem-solving, it has been discussing the removal of Isaias. Instead of standing up for what Eritreans consider vital, it has stood with those who are hell-bent on eroding Eritreanism. Instead of pursuing strategies that energize Eritreans and depend on the support of their people, they went for convenient means such as their symbiotic relationship with the TPLF. Now, that old game is over. And we thank God for it.