Committing Suicide: PFDJ's Last Act
By Berhane Habteab
August 17, 2001

The last few days have seen a flurry of activities in the Eritrean scene. More than 400 students who have been abducted forcibly are languishing in searing heat near Massawa. The University president, ultimately responsible for their fate, is under constant security guard. Mahmud Sherifo, the ex-Minister of Regional Governments and co-founder of the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front (EPLF), has been forced to vacate his office and relinquish the government car. The newspaper of the National Union of Eritrean Students and Youth is zeroing on ex-Foreign Minister Haile, Sherifo and Petros Solomon. The newspaper of the Union, an organization that portrays itself as an independent NGO in Eritrea, has revealed its true colors by becoming the mouthpiece of PFDJ Central Office. This alone will return to haunt it in future. The emissary of president Isaias, Yemane Gebreab is laying the ground for what is soon to come. In an orchestrated public meeting in Washington, he condemned the 15 veteran leaders and equated them with the weyane. In a carefully prepared speech, he created the atmosphere that reads as follows: "we've shown patience but unfortunately we can no longer remain quiet; don't worry the headache will soon be over". Ambassador Girma's handpicked and coached PFDJ loyalists lined up to provide the "public touch" to the shameful drama.

A drama that is unfolding in front of our eyes and expects of us to remain distant observers. The PFDJ has nothing to show except misery, fear and devastation in Eritrea. It betrayed the ideals that thousands of EPLF fighters fought and sacrificed for. It managed to create an economic and power monopoly with an ugly security apparatus. No one, even its own members, dared to speak and act whenever they saw mismanagement and injustice. But, in the end, it became so power-drunk that it started to implode. Since PFDJ failed to contain dissent within its leadership ranks, it has decided that it could only survive dissent by cutting its own hand, in this case, the dissenting hands.

PFDJ cannot be saved. It has become Eritrea's malignant cancer. In ten years, it has created an Eritrea that is even now too dangerous for itself. The attack against university students, the soon-to-happen elimination of the veteran leaders, the crackdown on the free press are only the beginning of a painful journey to hell. The PFDJ will plunge Eritrea into another war. Demobilizing 200,000 angry soldiers - who were outgunned, underserviced, deserted and deceived - is out of the question for PFDJ. It needs time to placate the army by finding scapegoats that could be sacrificed in order to save itself. What Eritreans in the diaspora have failed to appreciate is the gravity of the situation. A purge of veteran leaders by orchestrating Leninist methods (seminars for cadres, festivals for the diaspora) will plunge Eritrea in a deep crisis that will require years to heal. Twenty years after, the EPLF-ELF fratricide is still alive in the minds of a significant segment of our society inside and outside the country. Today it expresses itself, sadly, through the Alliance of Eritrean National Forces. Any action against the 15 veteran leaders will breed its own movement that will equate fire with fire. If the Sherifos, Petroses, Mesfins, Drues, etc. evaporate at the hands of the PFDJ Central Office, the actors in the Central Office, including Isaias will also evaporate. The difference is only a matter of time. By the sword you kill, by the sword you perish. It's a sequential suicide.

Berhane Habteab and has sole responsibility for the content on this page. Comments about this article you can contact the writer by e-mail: Berhane Habteab