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Constructive Dialogue With Dr. Berekt HabteSealassie.
(Third in Series)
By Tesfamicael Yohannes - August 8, 2002

I read the article, of Dr. Berekt Habteselassie, “Grammar of Eritrean Politics”, third in series, in To make sure myself, not to misunderstood the author of the article, this time, I read the article four times. The first time was just to put it to my mouth. The second time was to chew it. The third time was to swallow it and the fourth time was to digest it in my stomach. From the four meals presented, one of the meals was not able to stay in my stomach and I threw it out. The rest three are the following.
The Internet as Inda Siwwa, Eritrean Opposition Groups and the Common Denominator, and The Tokyo Meeting and PFDJ's Misinformation Extravaganza.
1. The Internet as Inda Siwwa,
I am not quite sure how many times I was Inda Siwwa as young asmrino, but I do remember two or three occasions I was as young boy, in the late sixties, Inda Siwwa in Asmara. To be funny for you, it was not for politics or for that matter for a chat, but as young boy interested for young ladies working Inda Siwwa I occasioned not more than three times, sitting in Inda Siwwa, entirely in my whole life. As grown up person I frequented bars and my favorite drink was beer. This time, because of my unsatisfactory health situation I stopped drinking and I am not client of bars. Occasionally, by doing appointments with friends I do go out and that is just for socializing myself.
When your friend tells you that the Internet as Inda Siwwa, he wants to express the lack of technological abilities, lack of capital and generally to describe the poor condition of the manufacturing process we Eriterans use in manipulating the advantages of the information technology. Comparatively, the technological ability and the presentation of the materials of the advanced countries population against the presentation of ours; you can say the Internet as Inda Bera versus Inda Siwwa. We have to admit that we are poor and our capacity is, to produce Inda Siwwa. Well, just to remember our struggle, it is not bad if we able to produce Siwwa that is called “Dimmu Dimmu”.
Under this topic, Dr. Berekt mentioned two interesting terms that I am obsessed nowadays. The first one was “reflection” and the second was “civilized”. Let me begin with “reflection”. I don’t know but recently I am amused with the word “reflexivity”. It seems to me as a new innovation that is comparable to “relativity”. I am digging to understand it. My hope is, if Dr. Berket is serious and I add, if he meant it from his deep of his soul, I quote his words, he said, “... But now, on reflection, it seems to me that such differing perspectives are needed in our public discourse on national issues, provided they are done with civility and mutual respect”. End of quotation. I accept and we have to adhere to civility and mutual respect. The question is, if Dr. Berekt is for inclusion method? Does it mean that he is prepared to accept differing perspective and live with it?. Example is; does Dr. Berekt accepts the leadership of PIA? Is he willing to work with diversity, differing perspective and unity with PFDJ members? Now our country is facing drought and our people are going to be in a very difficult situation, is Dr. Berekt willing to repeat his reputation as he did it in previous time, early in the seventies, in helping our people? To have differing perspective is acceptable, to boycott from helping your people is another thing. Action speaks more than words, therefore, I expect practically Dr. Berket to show us working for inclusion method with civility and mutual respect. I know that, except the provisional misunderstandings, still the respect of our people towards Dr. Berekt is not relinquished. He is a man with his will, that he is good for his people.
I am trying to understand, the misunderstanding, conflict and lack of civility and mutual respect among our social integrity is based on two deficits. One is we are not working on reflexivity the other is we are not doing enough to create civil society. We are not paying attention that the governing body is militant and not civil component of our society. Our approach towards the governing body is in contrast between nationalists and heroic militants who are ready to give their lives for the cause of independence and sovereignty and the civil society that is concerned for liberty and freedom. The question of priority between the militant governing body and its civil subject is opposing, and due to that effect is creating frustration and desperation in both sides. The consequence is, some times harsh measures from the governing body and resentment from its subjects. It is for this reason, to narrow the gab between the militant governing body and its subject the civil society that both to use inclusion method as the only means of resolving differences. We can go our different ways but we end in violence if we don’t use inclusion method. I can guarantee you that the governing body could stay for thirty years more in power using exclusion method but that time nature will take its toll. And the result will be the same as Ethiopia became after HaileSelassie, Somalia after Said Barre, X-Yugoslavia after Tito, Zaire after Mobutu and etc. The remedy, for not ending like the catastrophes mentioned above is using inclusion method to work for better future.
In the same topic, Dr. Berkett mentioned, about quitting Internet and publishing books instead. In my opinion, it is like quitting construction modern houses and constructing Pyramids. Before the information age people were busy finishing one project. In this modern age, during this information age, people are innovating new things and others are building on it continuously and the means is now the Internet. What you can do is; you can construct your own web site and you make passwords and some other available means people to access your web site, on charge, so that to produce updated information. Otherwise, with this fast running world, if your are going to wait on publishing books, at the time of releasing the materials, the information will be outdated. Mind you, information’s are running at a rate of GHZ. Therefore, it is by participating in the Internet that you win the hearts and minds of people this time. Some educated people may advise you to quit Internet or to use pen names. In my opinion, to use pen names is a job of cowards and I don’t appreciate it. My respect for you is because of your modest and courage. So don’t give up, keep on going like John Walker.
Before moving to the other topics I would like to mention that, I don’t think there would be danger participating openly in the Internet, as long as people are clean from conspiracy and sabotage to their government and to their country. For your information, recently, I realized how interesting and fruitful it is to participate in the Internet. Once I wrote (in my article Focus on Eritrean Election 2001) about forming a ministerial level dealing with the issues of the Eritreans in Diaspora. I wrote that suggestion according to the discussion with my best friend here in Norway. Now the Eritrean government has applied it. But not with ministerial level, only on commissioner level. I hope, in the long term, if not ministerial level, to be transformed at least to permanent secretarial level. On this occasion I would like to encourage others to feed back with valuable information’s and positive suggestions for improving the capacity and performance of our government. I hope the commissioner to be impartial and to treat all Eritreans fairly without bias or constraints from the governing body. He can begin his job by inquiring why the Eritrean government took money to distribute land but failed to so.
Another important point is about people who tries to write about Dr. Berket negatively. Dr. Berket characterizes them as messengers and he gives them bad names. I myself, understand the situation differently and I try to categorize them in to two different groups. The one group who uses the exposition method and the other group who uses the investigation method. Those group that uses the exposition method are mostly jealous of the achievement of Dr. Berekt and wants to satisfy their thirsty soul using every opportunity to expose the negative side of Dr. Berekt. The other group, who uses the investigation method are for real critique and they deserve respect and have to be communicated in a civilized manner. Therefore, my message to Dr. Berekt is to make constructive dialogue with those commentatores who use investigative method and to ignore the savages who uses the exposition method.
2. Eritrean Opposition Groups and the Common Denominator
Under this topic, Dr. Berekt wants to emphasize that the name calling “Weyane” and “Weito”, by the supports of the Eritrean government, to the opposition groups, stemmed with the war waged between Weyane and Eritrea. The supporters of the Eritrean government considers the opposition groups sided with Weyane. I have other points to say later on, but for the time being I want to concentrate on the particular point about the siding of the opposition groups with the Weyane. Recently, I read an article, in, investigating a letter written by the chairman of the Alliance Mr. Abdela Idress to his excellency Prime Minster of Ethiopia, Mr. Meles Zenawi. Particularly in one point I was shocked and still I don’t believe what I have read. In the above mentioned letter, Mr. Abdella Idress writes to Mr. Melles, of handing over wanted members of PFDJ to Ethiopia if the Alliance and the Ethiopian forces successfully enters Asmara and topple the government of Iseyas Afewerki. Mind you, what a quisling to be found in the history of man kind than the notorous offer made by Abdella Idress to Mr. Melles and that is made on the name of the Alliances? Think Dr. Berekt deeply and do not associate yourself with such kind opposition groups. If they been given names Weyane or Weito, it fitts to their behavior. I believe there are opposition groups that has to be shaped and can give hope as real opposition in future multi political parties in Eritrea. They have to be very careful in their decisions and they have to be opposition groups who programs for long term results. One wise decision is, to work for inclusion method and that is to include the existing government in future Eritrean politics. It is going to work. It is a matter of time.
Now to come to the other points under this topic. Weyane is a name given to the armed struggle of the Tigray people against the oppressive regime of Ethiopia. First let us look at the very name Weyane and later on I am going to mention the first uprising of Weyane that was not successful and the second uprising of Weyane that became successful. Weyane is a name of a game among shepherds when they play near river bed while watching their cattle. The game is traditional and some of the players acts as attackers and the others as defenders. The attackers tries to take the cattle of the shepherds and the defenders who are the Weyane retakes them back. It is that kind of game. So, in the first uprising of the Southern Tigray against King Haileselassie, was betrayed by the north Tigerinas and Haileselasie with the help of Britain (bombing from air) able to crush the uprising. The second uprising initiated by the northern Tigray and with the support of the southern Tigray and thanks to the right hand of EPLF and the Eritrean people the Weyane managed to enter Addis Ababa. Therefore, Weyane means liberator. It is pity that the Tigerinas to consider Shaebia (means a liberator) as an insult and reciprocally we Eritreans to consider Weyane (means a liberator) as an insult. I can say only, it is a tragedy of history. The other aspect is Weito. What does it mean Weito? According to the Dictionary Tigrigna-English (Eritrean People’s Liberation Front, Rome 1986) Weito is defined as renegade, traitor, turncoat. Therefore, the name calling by the supporters of the government to the opposition groups has nothing to do with the ethnic name that mentioned in Dr. Berekt’s article. Last but not least, a word of wisdom to Dr. Berekt; say Hagos Gebrehiwot and Yemane Gebrab.
3. The Tokyo Meeting and PFDJ's Misinformation Extravaganza.
Thanks a lot Dr. Berekt you raised this topic. I said before and I am going to repeat this time your grammar is going to help us transform the common sense Eritrean politics to scientific Eritrean politics. With your talent and now you are teaching us what transparency means and I expect more from you in doing positive contribution to our society. According to your revelations, I am going to divide my comment in to two parts. The first part will be the open meeting and the second part will be the closed meeting. I am afraid to tell you that the second part you are not going to like it. I beg you before hand, to forgive me, if in case I offend you. I am counting your words, in reflection to have differing in perspectives and I would try my best to present it with mutual respect and civility.
The open meeting that was aired by TV is not interesting to discuss about it. But for your case, you scored a point. Because your accusers didn’t informed us that there was an open meeting. They deliberately tried to suppress, the open meeting, to give weight more to the closed meeting which they confused us as if there was a conspiracy behind closed doors (I am just trying to be kind for you). This is a poor tactic just to score public opinions by reveling partial negative information’s to attack an opponent. This kind of exposition method is cheap propaganda and it has no impact at all except for the time being harm to the opponent. Now, I leave this to rest for good and I want to go to the other important point and that is the closed meeting.
Let me begin, first by Professor Inderias Eshete. During the war between Weyane and Eritrea, Professor Ishete was active in writing articles in Walta information web site. His attitude was encouraging Weyane to crush Eritrea and do the independence of Eritrea history. Sometimes, he was saying, in interviews, strange things that were difficult to understand. I myself was considering him as an arch enemy of the Eritren people. Therefore, I won’t dare that time to meet him at any circumstances to discuss about the war. I would do only by heralding openly that to confront him as enemy. Second, Kifle Wedago was giving, during the war time, interviews and in one occasion, I listened to a radio interview, from Germany, in Amharic language, that he was expressing about the possible solution of the war by saying that to give the northern and central part of Eritrea to the opposition groups and the eastern part of Eritrea to divide it to two, the northern part including Zula to Tigray part and the Assab region to the Amhar part of Ethiopia.
Now, the point is, you Dr. Bereket and Dr. Asefaw, as open opponents of the Eritrean government, to participate in a closed session with two persons who were working close with their government is, by any moral standard, not acceptable as representing the Eriteran government. I would only accept your argument if you stated it clearly that you participated as opponent of Eritrean government. I am not naive as such to ask you the content of the session of the closed doors. And for me, who knows what is statements and debates in open media, cannot miss the diplomatic presentation that is meant for public consumption to confuse it with the discussions that goes on in closed doors. To conclude this point, for those who tried to expose this episode are cheap and poor, I prefer to forget them. But, for those who genuinely investigate this episode they deserve your sincere clarification and I expect you to come up clean and clear in explaining in detail so that our soul to rest good and we to preserve our respect to you. Don’t forget that many Eritreans still loves you and have great respect for you. Therefore, your contribution of grammar of Eritrean politics has to be historical with complete transparency. That is what you are going to teach us grammar of Eritrean politics.
The following topic is going to be painful for both of us. However, I believe that, sometimes a painful stretch of tissues of our body strengths the damaged tissue more than what was before. Therefore, raising the following topic, in a bitter way, will help us to come out stronger in diversity in perspectives but more united in working for common national issues. The topic is about Badme. I am not going to present detailed account of the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea regarding Badme. My presentation will be brief and I will try to relay solely from my memories.
The struggle of EPLF to liberate Eritrea and the struggle of Weyane to over through the dictator regime of Mengistu in Ethiopia, necessitated close military coordination between the two organizations. May 1991, when the dictator regime of Mengistu was in complete disarray and near total collapse, with the help of USA, a conference was held in London that finalized the take over of power of Weyane in Ethiopia and the declaration of Provisional government of Eritrea. The broker of that remarkable resolution, of the London conference, Mr. Herman Cohean of USA, did arranged the division of power between Meles and Iseyas but he didn’t achieved a written signed document that guarantees him to impose his will against Eritrea. After the situation in Ethiopia and Eritrea begun to stabilize, Mr. Herman Cohean confidently predicted in a newspaper interview by saying that after seven or eight years the Eriterans are going to see the complete separation from Ethiopia as to their disadvantage and in the referendum that is going to be held after seven or eight years they are going to opt for some kind of confederation with Ethiopia. This gives us a clue that during the London conference Mr. Herman Cohean and Mr. Melles Zenaw, were in some understanding to each other, counting on loyalty from Iseyas to cooperate with them, to harvest the seed of fruit of the long struggle of Eritrea by giving enough time to the Eritrean people to forget and forgive the bitterence of the war. That is why Melles asked the Eritrean people not to itch the wounds. I believe that, Iseyas outsmarted them in London conference and he insisted on the referendum to be held in 1993. At the same time he insisted on military training of the young generation to be prepared for the expected conflict that was temporality settled.
The war of 1998, between Ethiopia and Eritrea was not avoidable. I remember, when I was writing articles during the war time, sometimes I was receiving emails from Ethiopians telling me that if there is going to be divorce
between Ethiopia and Eritrea it had to be the bitter way. I believed from the beginning and was continuously arguing here in Norway with my friends that this war had nothing to do with winning a battle here and there to gain the town Badme. The war that initiated in 1998 by Ethiopia against Eritrea was meant to overthrow the government of Iseyas and to install a puppet government of the so called Alliances. If the Weyane had succeeded with the help of the international community to make some arrangements that leaves Zula and Assab to Ethiopia and the rest of Eritrea to the administration of the so called Alliances.
There was initiatives, like Norway to arrange the religious leaders of Eritrea and Ethiopia to convince the Eritrean and Ethiopian people to accept arrangements. Likewise, the Tokyo meeting coincides with the idea of Kifle Wedago and in reflection some of the articles of Professor Ishete.
Generally speaking, to the disappointment of Mr. Herman Cohean, the frustration of Melles and some sympathy of the international community to have sea out let to Ethiopia, made Iseyas to be more intransigent not to Kneel down in front of the massive accumulation of power of Weyane to go in to arrangements that diminishes the full control of Red Sea by Eritrea. He said, let not sun rise than we leave Badme. What does it mean? was the war all about Badme? No, completely not. The intrigue by Weyane when they insisted, he to leave Badme or face the consequence was to make Iseyas loosen the Assab front and he to concentrate his forces at the Badme front. That is what you call the Weyane were using “Mossa” against Badme and to capture Assab. When they attack the Badme front and capture Badme, they expected he to pull forces from Assab front and make the Assab front loose, so that to be open for assault from the Weyane forces. Therefore, all the aim of the “operation sun set” was to attack the nerve of Iseyas, he to lose the concentration of forces of the Assab front. He didn’t. He stayed firm in concentrating his forces at the Assab front. Now the “Sun is set” in Badme by the operation sun set of Weyane. The delimitation verdict awarded Badme Plain to Eritrea and there is controversy about the Badme town itself. With that verdict at hand, the sunset of Badme plain remains sunset and we Eritreans, let not sun rise that is set by the operation sun set of Weyane, we will never get out from Badme plain.
Finally, the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea ended with all its ugly and painful consequences. The divorce, of the forced marriage between Ethiopia and Eritrea is completed. The armed struggle, referendum and demarcation are the three process of finalizing the process of divorce. It is final and binding. What it remains is, it is worthy to remind for those who knowingly or unknowingly tries to push on emphasizing about the Badme war for political motives. They think by raising the issue of sun rise or sun set to tarnish the reputation of the president of Eritrea. In the mean time, they spoil the history of the gallant forces of the Eritrean forces who were ordered only to defend and not to attack, for the main purpose to bring the Ethiopians to the international court, at the Hague. The strategy of Eritrea worked perfect. In light of the above mentioned fact, Dr. Berekt, you are repetitively attacking PIA regarding the Badme issue. In my understanding, you are pressing the stick too near your direction, at last resort, at the time you want to release it, the inertia absorbed by your excessive applied energy is going to hit you back.
Conclusion, Dr. Berket is teaching us what transparency means by contributing and participating in such open discussion. It is my believe that by accepting mutual respect and civility, all investigative debates could be welcomed and the unity of the Eritrean people is going to be strengthened by diversity and unity at the same time. I wish long age and good health for Dr. Berket Habteselassie.
God bless Eritrea. And God bless you Dr. Berket.
Tesfamicael Yohannes
Oslo, Norway

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