Eritreans fired up

I followed the Independence celebrations, conducted inside and outside the country. Eritrea indeed shines at 28!! And what makes it shine this year is the fact that the people, particularly, the youth, have taken stock of their affairs wherever they could.

Inside the country, the celebrations took the usual controlled and choreographed manner, albeit our people’s energy seemed to be more visible and their aspirations more unambiguous. Then came president Isaias Afeworki’s address which crushed the mood.

In the Diaspora, far away from the grip of fear, Eritreans demonstrated a strong sense of patriotism. Most, except few (include me there, if you will) had expected nothing new from president Isaias Afeworki. Hence, they had set up alternative conduits and platforms to express themselves, something that would not be accommodated in the usual government-controlled celebratory parties.

I tried to have a feel of both settings in my hometown. The mood and sentiments were not different if you would gloss over the official sloganeerings; deep down, people cared about their country; deep down, people conversed about the fact that the current modus operandi of the government is unsustainable. It is good to see my compatriots discuss pressing issues soberly.

What is even more satisfying is that our young people, some of them born here, sing power to the people. What is equally gratifying is that all sing Eritrea; they sing unity; they sing a peaceful transitioning to democracy, where the people will gain real power in deciding their collective fate. It seemed they are sending the last ultimatum to president Isaias Afeworki, either lead or get out of the way.

Unlike the previous attempts which were marred by ideologies and residues of bitterness, attributable to our armed struggle, this is a new wave, young people rising to take responsibility in writing their own course of history. It’s raw energy, ready to be utilized. The government failed to acknowledge its magnitude and give it the proper consideration it deserved. If grievances do not get the appropriate attention, they have a way of circumventing the ditches, barbed wires and information blackouts set by rulers to prolong their reign.

Obviously, the government has failed to give these young people space, it was unable to give Eritreans’ anxieties and expectations a recognition, as evidenced in President Isaias’ dry address, which did not alleviate Eritreans’ concerns. It appears his focus was the security of his power: a year after the peace deal with Ethiopia and there is no mention of the border demarcation, no mention of a political roadmap, and no release of prisoners of conscience.
So, people are saying, enough of ” just trust me.” And here is where the redundant and cumbersome style of governing the president trusts comes into a head-on collision with the firebrand youth, a social force armed with zeal and know-how.

While PIA keeps clinging onto the top-down, uncompromising militaristic style, where all decisions come down from the National Command post at Adi-Halo, Eritreans are demanding for a government that reflect the new era. They are demanding they must be included in decision-making. In short, we are demanding to be led by a government that we choose. Period. President Isaias had a chance to shed light on this matter, but he decided to ignore it. Well, then, we the people have no choice but to work towards creating conducive conditions that enable us to establish a kind of government that matches our aspirations.

There is a day when the cumulative grievances of people merge and create a sudden political eruption. By that time, it will be too late, as the renowned Tunisian poet, Abu Al Qasim AlShabli suggests.

If, one day, a people desires to live, then fate will answer their call.
And their night will then begin to fade, and their chains break and fall.
For he who is not embraced by a passion for life will dissipate into thin air,
At least that is what all creation has told me, and what its hidden spirits declare…

إذا الشعــب يومــا أراد الحيــاة فلا بـــد أن يستجيب القــدر
ولا بـــد لليــــل أن ينجلـــي ولابـــــد للقيـــــد أن ينكســـــر
ومن لم يعانقــه شــوق الحيــاة تبخــر فــي جوهــا واندثـــر
كـــذلك قالــت لــي الكائنــات وحدثنـــي روحهــا المستتـــر
ودمدمت الريح بين الفجاج وفــوق الجبــال وتحــت الشجـــر

English translation by Elliot Colla, taken from Elliotcolla.com

In conclusion, change is already in the air. Eritreans appear to have finally coalesced around essential issues, among which is establishing a country of institutions.

MS// May 2019.

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