What would a coup mean to an Eritrean

“Troops deployed in Asmara”  the BBC headline reads, “Eritrea troops lay siege to ministry” Al Jazeera reports. Transfer of power through election process makes more news in Africa than the traditional coup d’état. Honouring this truly post-colonial African tradition Eritrea is trying to follow suit, or so it seems.

The news is still developing means  a lot of contradicting news and opinions are emerging all over the internet. According to an Eritrean opposition radio Assenna, Eritrean army led by military generals has controlled the Ministry of Information, the Airport, the National Bank and the Presidential palace possibly placing the President under arrest. Others like the New York Times say the ‘coup’ may have failed already. The Al Jazeera Arabic report even tells of the assassination of the leaders of this coup by snipers.

This news has all my Eritrean friends (self included) excited and eager for more news. So far I was unable to access prominent Eritrean opposition web pages, most likely they crashed due to high traffic.

What is it about this news that makes it specially personal in the hearts of many Eritreans?

What would it mean if this coup indeed succeeds and the dictatorship of 22 years ousted? What is it about this news that makes it personal in the hearts of many Eritreans? We know what it will not mean. A change in government may not mean an automatic democracy, it may not mean immediate social or economic reform, it certainly will not bring back our loved ones who have fallen victims to the dictatorship. But it is not healthy to focus just on what the fall of PFDJ does not mean. I want to talk about what the fall of this regime would mean and why this news has a deep and personal meaning to many Eritreans.

To many, the fall of the dictatorship  means a chance to meet their fathers or their sons and daughters who have been in prisons and labour camps for years now. To many it would mean a chance–a hope to have their beloved husbands back.

To Ms. Bisirat the fall of PFDJ would mean she may finally get a chance to hug her sister Aster Yohannes one more time. To the young daughter of Fr Tekleab Menghisteab the fall of the government would mean that she will finally get to know what it feels like to have a father at home. To the many persecuted Churches it will mean that they will finally congregate in buildings and their choirs actually sing.

To that young girl  interviewed by Al Jazeera on 2009 it probably means she will no longer have to describe her life as, “We’re always getting bad things here. Bad life.”  She may never again have to say the heart breaking words, “I want to live in London … until I’m dead.”

These and multitude of similar stories are what I believe give  talk of a regime change in Eritrea  such a personal and deep meaning in the hearts of many.

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