EDA’s Tragic Split Print E-mail
By Mohammed Ahmed - Mar 02, 2007   

After running a successful and exceptionally well-organized conference, one in which  incredible gestures of goodwill were shown by some opposition groups, in terms of charter amendments and representation issues; and then in a twist of fate, to have such a conference get marred by leadership bickering, is a very sad tragedy, to say the least.

What a shame! At this stage in our struggle and after having gone so far, to think that there are still some people in the opposition, who are so arrogant as to break up the only entity which Eritreans pinned their hopes on, in order to help them avert anarchy; and worse yet, to do it over nothing, is not only demoralizing and disheartening, but downright shameful.

To those who are mourning EDA, EDA is not dead yet, it is just split, “split open” to be exact. And to those who are lamenting over EDA’s split, you haven’t seen the worst yet – EDA’s shameful split is far more perilous than we all think; and this has to do with where the two blocks are drifting.

In this ominous predicament, taking sides is immoral. Both blocks are to blame – the first block, the group of three, for its immature, tasteless and careless action of walking out from the meeting over nothing, absolutely nothing, thereby setting the stage for the crack to occur – and the second group, the group of seven, though not so much for its silly rigidity, intransigence and unwillingness to compromise, but rather for not attempting to reach out to patch up the crack after it occurred; and more dangerously, for where it is heading with its share of the pie, which I will elaborate on a little later.  

Given the torment & the misery which our people find themselves in, and given the great expectations and hopes of almost all Eritreans who were holding their breaths for the meeting to succeed – given these critical factors, how can anyone in his right mind, stick their fingers up the poor people’s noses and just walk out from the meeting? And over what? That Hussain Khalifa accepted the nomination of those who support him? That Hussain Khalifa refused to be bullied & coerced for three long days, into withdrawing his nomination? That the ELF refused meddling in its affairs where others are going to accord themselves the right to choose who its candidate should be? And even to make matters worse, choose for it a subordinate, snubbing its leader?

These are not wild accusations against block1, they are facts based on the memorandum posted on their official websites. They have it there in black and white for all to see – what a nerve! 

There are some serious issues which block1 definitely needs to address –   

Ø       They have to accept the fact that the burning desire of most sensible Eritreans is the removal of tyranny in Eritrea. No one can stress the urgency of the people’s plight more than what has already been said. With every hour that passes by, the agony, the grief and the destitution of the people is exponentiating to unbearable proportions. As some said, for many, the mercy of death seems to be the only hope left. Trivial issues such as leadership image should never sidetrack this urgency, as long as all nominations and elections are done according to the set rules and regulations. 

Ø       It is unfortunate that some people within this block seem to be so fixated with reducing leadership qualities ONLY to that of image, and thereby use flimsy excuses of “fresh blood” and what not, in order to push leaders in or out. They had this disease within their own organization sometime back, and by the looks of it, they managed to infect other opposition groups – groups, which ironically made far more generous concessions than bickering about leadership nominations. If staying in a leadership position for any number of years is deemed to be too long, then try to change your charter by limiting the term any given individual can serve in a leadership position. If the power given to any leader is seen as too pervasive, then change your charter to curb or limit that power. You can do this through the democratic process enshrined in your charter and not by walking out from a crucial meeting, like an unruly disgruntled youth who walks out on his parents on trivial mundane matters. It is people’s destiny you carry on your shoulders for god’s sake – too heavy a load to be so trivialized.          

Ø       Information about the deadlock was leaked to outside observers long before the infamous walkout, the same information that later appeared as a memorandum on the official websites of block1. The information negatively targeted one specific individual, Mr.Hussain Khalifa. Is this tactic worthy of opposition groups, which are trying to remove the bloody dictator, who incidentally happens to be the filthiest architect of smear campaign ever? What does it tell us about dealing in good faith?  A real soul searching is in order here, lest we all end up in a vicious circle of hatew ketew, smear-campaigns and character assassinations. No one has the stomach for that; not with what is happening to our poor people anyways. 

Ø       As though they could be heard more from outside the meeting hall rather than inside it, those in block1 warned the other group via press releases that they don’t have the required majority vote to do whatever it is that they intend to do with EDA. Smart, isn’t it? How very smart indeed! Sirs, with all due respect, you walked out from the meeting and in doing so, you technically muted your voices. If it was 40% voting power that you could muster at the meeting, then it was still a good 40%. Now you have 0%, and by your irresponsible action you denied a large cross section of the Eritrean society, people you duly represent, a say on EDA’s policies and actions. Does bickering over leadership nominations mean that much to you? Is this effective leadership? Points to ponder, before you decide to take a hike off the next meeting, if there will be a meeting, that is.   

Where is the second group, the so-called block2 heading? 

Many were quick to chastise Mr. Khalifa for being so intransigent and for not saving the day by quitting early enough. It took a full three days or so to force the old veteran to withdraw his nomination; a situation, which many likened to megalomania.  As the proverbial adage goes though “it is not what you say, it is how you say it” – those who insisted that he leave, had the wrong attitude from the onset, and that obviously must have irked Mr.Khalifa, who consequently decided to hang on tight.  

His opponents had no legal basis to force him to withdraw his nomination; only himself and his supporters had that option. So to say that block2, or Mr. Khalifa in particular, started the problems is like the Arab saying “darabni w’baka sabaghni w’shtaka”.   

Block2’s contributions to the problem are of different sorts -  

Ø       The apparent lack of enthusiasm on the part of block2 to patch up the gap after the split occurred was clearly evidenced by the quickie meeting it conducted, in which it installed its new leadership. This is not only an arrogant approach to a worsening situation, but also directly negates and goes against the spirit of compromise, which most of the opposition groups in this block commendably displayed in modifying the charter; a situation, which would have been impossible without their blessing. Going it alone is not a solution, it is a problem – and if block1 is to be blamed for making the crack, block2 will be equally blamed for not patching it.  

Ø       It is clear that all the armed opposition groups stayed in block2. They are all armed, and as such constitute the only armed opposition block in Eritrea. Most of these armed groups sharply scaled back their attacks on the conscript army, after coming to a full realization that their plight and that of the desperate conscript army were fully congruent. Now with the Eritrean opposition divided, the armed groups stand a higher risk of being tempted to break their self-imposed restraint, especially when the Woyannes and their sponsors make promises of active military support. It is obvious that the Woyannes will try to play a dangerous game here, and this may be deadly for the bloody dictator, who by the way, fully realizes this new threat and is frantically trying to shore up his defenses. But this cannot be good for Eritrea because in addition to being too costly, block2 will inevitably find itself under the shackles of external influence; an eventuality and a fate the armed groups have skillfuly managed to avoid for the past fifteen years.                  

Ø       The bloody dictator and his cohorts can be easily targeted and destroyed, a far less costly approach than protracted trench warfare to liberate towns and villages one at a time. But this can be done and result in the desired effect, only if it is strictly an Eritrean initiative and is sanctioned by a collective authority. Block2’s reluctance & intransigence to patch up the gap between the two EDA blocks, effectively denies Eritreans the collective authority they desire to stabilize the transition. This will definitely be a hindrance in the struggle against tyranny.   

Folks, EDA’s split probably made a lot of us angry, and justifiably so, I might add, given our expectations, and particularly taking into consideration the horrible conditions at home. However, this should not push us to doubt the sincerity and the nationalist fervor of ALL the conferees, and the rest of EDA members, who are just as fallible as the rest of us.

That said, it is up to the two blocks now to show us that their latest fracas was just a temporary setback, and that all is not lost. They should bridge up their differences, lest they fall prey to external factors, which they can never control. 

No one said democracy was an easy glide. Just as with everything else in life, it requires skills and hard work; but above all, it requires a crucial ingredient without which it will never work – the art of compromise. In fact, the whole essence of Democracy is based on compromise. If there was anything missing at EDA’s last leadership meeting, it was just that. 


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Last Updated ( Mar 02, 2007 )
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