Global Eritrean Democratic Grassroots Movement (GEDGM) “OUR DESTINY IN OUR HANDS!” One of the requirements of conducting a successful grassroots election withthe purpose of swiftly forming a people’s Baito and a Global Eritrean Leadership Council for regime change is inevitably the formulation of a clear definition of “Who is an Eritrean?” This is a thorny issue that leads to a lot of debates and arguments because there are diverse and sometimes even conflicting interests in the matter. There are, in fact, some groups and identifiable persons who have tried to implicitly narrow the definition in such a way that it refers only to their own group or perhaps even to themselves personally – suggesting that they have the exclusive right and authority to decide on what happens to the country and people of Eritrea. We say that this should never be allowed to happen because it is divisive, grossly unfair and extremely dangerous. Why is it extremely dangerous? We refer you to the work of the German sociologist and philosopher Jurgen Habermas. A harmonious and viable society can exist only when all its citizens become stakeholders and beneficiaries of it in a fair and equitable manner. Otherwise, the citizens have the right to rebel and demand their rights and abolish the exploitative oppressive system. Thus, the excluded will and should use every means at their disposal to fight back overtly or covertly to regain their rights as the situation demands. When they lack power, their disappointment and grudge will still be there but they may not show it for obvious reasons. But, they will still remain full of anger and resentment waiting for their time – kem zitedegole hawi. Such excluded masses of people are, in fact, the major causes of bloody uprisings, civil wars revolutions and mass killings in the process. Indeed, the excluded have caused the collapse of many armies and empires in history starting from ancient times. As a case in point, we shall give an outline of the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. Greece between the alliance of Ancient Greek city-states led by the Spartan King Leonidas and the Persian Empire of Xerxes I. The Persians had an army of about 100,000-150,000 men whereas the Greeks had about 3,000- 7,000. The core of the Greek army was about 300 Spartans. The Greek strategy was to prevent Persian advance into the mainland by blocking the enemy army advance in a narrow coastal strip with an overhanging inaccessible cliff and finish them off one by one. The standoff and battle continued for several days in favour of the massively outnumbered Greeks. In short, the Persians were trapped. However, the Greeks were betrayed by a local resident called Ephialtes of Trachis, who revealed to the Persians a small path up the cliff that lead behind the Greek defence lines. This enabled the enemy to outflank the Greek forces, smash their rear guard and defeat them. King Leonidas and all the 300 men and others were killed in the battle. It was a complete tragedy for the Greeks. The point is, why did Ephialtes of Trachis betray his country and people to such effect? They say that he was a deformed individual with disability which in ancient Sparta would have led to his infanticide. He was spared death because his parents took him away to another place. But, he still was bearing the social disapproval. Thus, he had a grudge to settle – the grudge of exclusion and humiliation. A bribe offered by the Persians might have also been another factor, but he never took the bribe. Look also at the perceived betrayal of the Italians by some of their native subjects in Eritrea. The expropriation of land in Eritrea by the Italians and the racism, exclusion, exploitation and humiliation of the natives made many young Eritreans escape to Ethiopia and turn against the Italians such as Abraha Deboch and Moges Asgedom and Dr Lorenzo Taezaz. Other Eritreans like Awalom Berhe, while pretending to work for the Italians, worked hard to cause the defeat of the colonial army in the Battle of Adwa by misleading the Italians and giving correct details about the invading Italian formations to theEthiopians.
In short, the lesson we can draw from this is that mistreating, excluding, exploiting, humiliating, name calling and inflicting pain on any citizen or group or taking their land may rebound and damage us severely to the extent that we may even lose our country as a result. To a large extent, what we have just
said may explain the weak and failed states around the world where there is turmoil – such as Somalia, Nigeria and some countries in the Middle East and other places. It is dangerous, and we should not let it happen to us. Where there is a serious feeling of exclusion, unfairness and oppression, it is very easy for those who want to create trouble to put in their seeds of social rupture and let them grow – as in the proliferation of bacteria in open wounds gradually forming gangrene. We know that there are political and religious extremists (we shall not name here) waiting in the wings to exploit our disunity and areas of dissatisfaction. We should be proactive and not allow them to
take root in our midst. This is why we are advocating the emergence of a NEW ERITREAN SOCIETY which is democratic, equitable and fair to all – not only to the majority or few interest circles – but to all its people regardless of ethnicity, language, region, religion, race, gender, family background or occupation. We want to contribute our share to creating such a society where every Eritrean has a say and a stake – and a sense of belongingness than to no other. Every Eritrean should understand that he/she has the birth right to expect, ney demand and get protection and succour from his/her society and state. Otherwise, the system will have failed, and it has to be changed in that case.
There is no excuse. In Eritrea, the outgoing PFDJ regime has created a lot of unhappy and excluded sectors of the population which it has failed to care for. As a result, we have a big population of refugees (roughly about 1-1.5 million from a small country) all over the world, including big refugee camps in the Sudan and Ethiopia. The new state of Eritrea has to quickly own these refugees and repatriate them with sufficient provisions and opportunities in collaboration with the international community. To pave the way for this possibility, all these refugees and indeed all Eritreans should take part in the forthcoming grassroots elections. But, we need to first know clearly who can participate in the elections and who cannot. Here is then the moment of truth: “Who is an Eritrean?”
We suggest the following eight provisional criteria:
1. All those with Eritrean passports and identity cards
2. All those who participated in the liberation struggle
3. All those born from an Eritrean father and Eritrean mother
4. All those whose father or mother is an Eritrean
5. All those born in Eritrea and spent their formative years there
6. All those who lived in Eritrea for over five years and are committed to
the country and people
7. All those who are married to an Eritrean and who remain in a stable
relationship for five years or more
8. All those who are committed to the wellbeing of the people of Eritrea
and who have made significant contributions to the country On issuance of citizenship, all candidates shall swear to uphold the Eritrean constitution and defend the interests of the country and people of Eritrea. It should be made a treasonable serious offence to exclude, malign, disrespect, insinuate, undermine, humiliate, backbite or discredit an Eritrean who fulfils any of the said criteria on the basis of race, ethnicity, family background (history or genealogy), religion, language, occupation, superstitious beliefs, etc. It should also be a treasonable serious offence to deny or try to deny any Eritrean who fulfils any of the said criteria from exercising his/her full rights as a citizen like any other Eritrean. The reason why such offences should be considered as treasons, or crimes against the State of Eritrea and not only against the individual victim is because such crimes damage OUR UNITY and the very fabric of our society by pitting friends, neighbours, colleagues and compatriots against one another – thus creating fear, mistrust and enmity. A viable and harmonious society is not possible under such conditions. Therefore, they should not be allowed.
This is the only way we can create a forward looking, civilised, prosperous, advanced, confident, united and strong society that can effectively compete in the world and is at peace within itself and its neighbours.