How to involve the 99%: Ideas for Eritrean diaspora movements

Life of the 100% vs. the 2%. Bottom photo: Government supporters celebrate visit of Eritrean dictator Isaias in New York Sept. 2011. Top strip: life of the majority Eritreans

Life of the 100% vs. the 2%. Bottom photo: Government supporters celebrate visit of Eritrean dictator Isaias in New York Sept. 2011. Top strip: life of the majority Eritreans

People will not invest even one cent if they do not believe there is a chance of success. On the other hand people risk all if they believe what they are doing is going to make a difference.

In this regard, history is not on our side. Looking back at how Eritrean opposition organizations have performed the past decades, the cost simply isn’t worth the product for many Eritreans.

With the above in mind, many who involve in activism against the regime join out of desperation, “let’s all just oppose the regime!” they shout, “our brothers and sisters are dying! What are we doing!?” Many don’t seem to have sober long term plan. Many don’t seem to have come to terms that the regime has a couple of decades left—the way things are going.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing” (Edmond Bruke, 1729-1797).

Nowhere else has this statement been as true as in the case of recent Eritrea.

It matters less what evil people are doing compared to what the good people are NOT doing. It is very important we focus on getting the good men and women of Eritrea to do some-thing. And focus less on trying to convince the evil people to do less bad (YPFDJ included).

Good news: Eritrea has many good women and men. The reservation of most to actively or passively involve in organized opposition or activism is frustrating. The main reason in my opinion is that people lack faith in the ability of already existing organizations (political or civic) to make a difference.

The credit for recent increase of Eritrean diaspora involvement in opposition goes mostly to Eritrean government for creating conditions for outrage so great that it had to be let out despite the discouraging organizational mess that exists within the opposition.

Below I present a list I made about two years ago—less than a year after I left Eritrea.  It is on some practical ideas I think diaspora organizations should find interesting to involve more good women/ good men:

“Don’t tell me what you stand for. Tell me what you do!”  (Dan Connell to the Eritrean Opposition)

It is much easier for people to join in on an on-going project. Especially if:

  1. they can see where exactly they can contribute
  2. they can readily join – little hassle (paperwork, meetings, etc)
  3. project has clear and time-bound goals(example: producing an event poster, or arranging a meeting place)
  4. last but not least people must believe what they are doing is useful

Attending a seminar by Dan Connell last September in Oakland, CA, a statement caught my attention. He was describing his visit to Eritrean refugee camps in Ethiopia and later meeting the thirty something opposition organizations there. He wasn’t shy to show his low opinion of most organizations. He said he asked the opposition organizations this: “Don’t tell me what you stand for. Tell me what you do!”

Help them make the decision

Most Eritrean diaspora are victims of years oppression under the guise nationalism and patriotic duty. Trying to pressure them into opposition is never a good idea. Help them make the decision.

Small steps at a time

Everyone goes through stages to becoming involved. I suggest involving new members in small activities first. Especially things they can do anonymously.

Anonymity can be our friend

Even at a later stage of involvement in opposition, everybody in an organization does not need to be ‘visible’ to contribute significantly. Concerns about family back home is a legitimate fear for any Eritrean. Until people feel the risks are worth what they are doing, don’t push people who don’t feel comfortable to come out publicly. Plus, the government spends unbelievable energy trying to figure out the opposition structure and influential members, why give it the information away for free.

No sales talk

It is always tempting to ‘emphasize’ ones success a little too much, especially in the face of government supporters trying to trash every effort. But sales pitch comes at the expense of trust. Trust is more important. Statements like “Successful meeting” seem to be thrown around routinely among the opposition. Tendency to avoid giving number of protestors or size of an event when those numbers are not to the organizations favor is also damaging.

Strike where it matters

Nothing deflates the enthusiasm and moral than involving people in something of little effect. Don’t just do things to involve people (even  in protests, arguments on internet, even holding seminars) Everything costs time, money and morale. Ask if is it really worth it?

Thick skin

This is another way of seeing the above point (strike where it matters). Eritreans are depressed by the atrocities committed by the government and frustrated with the opposition. Anything an opposition group does is long overdue. Nothing short of removing the government is going to impress Eritreans. Keep that in mind and don’t be disappointed and distracted by people who will be unfairly hostile, especially when you fail.

Godspeed.

UN Press Conference: Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea

“Just to put numbers in perspective…This year, up to the end of September, 7,504 Eritreans arrived in Italy by sea whereas 7,557 arrived from Syria. So the figures are really telling.”
(Ms Keetharuth, UN Press Conference, 24 October 32013)

Ms. Sheila B. Keetharuth, UN Human Rights Council’s researcher who carried out investigations of human rights situation in Eritrea held a press conference last Thursday (24 October 2013).

Sheila B. Keetharuth, Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea – Press Conference

Sheila B. Keetharuth, Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea – Press Conference

Ms. Keetharuth’s report on human rights situation in Eritrea was published this May.

Human rights violations committed in Eritrea include2

 

መራሕቲ ሃይማኖት ኤርትራ ብዝዕባ መንእሰያት ኤርትራ::

ዝኽሪ ነቶም አብ ሓደጋ ላምፐዱሳን አብ ተመሳሳሊ ሓደጋ ባሕሪ ኢጣልያን ዝሃለቑ ግዳያት ስነስርዓት ዝኽሪ አብ ዝተፈላልየ ከተማታት (ብጀካ ኣብ ኤርትራ ማለት’ዩ) ክካየድ ቀንዩ:: እዚ ዝስዕብ አብ ማንቸስተር ብ ምትሕብባር ሕብረት EYSNS.G ዝተገረ ስነስርዓት ዝኽሪ እዩ::

መንግስቲ ኤርትራ ን ሃይማኖታት ኤርትራ (ብኣጸዋውዓ መንግስትና “ሃይማኖታዊ ትካላት”) አፍ ክዓብስ ካብ ዝብል ነዊሕ ኮይኑ’ዩ:: ንኹሉ ተግባራት መንግስቲ “ፓለቲካ” ብምባል ሃይማኖታውያን መራሕትና አብ መሰረታዊ ጉዳያት ሕብረተሰብ ከይተረፈ ናይ ምስታፍ መሰል ክኽልክል ጸኒሑን ክሳዕ ሕጂ ብዓወት ተሳትፎ ሃይማኖታውያን መራሕቲ አብ ሕብረተሰብና ይኽልክልን አሎ (ብዛዕባዚ አስፍሕ አቢለ ጽሒፈ ኔረ):: ናይዚ ብመንግስቲ ኤርትራ ዝግበር ዘሎ ገበን ሓደ መርኣያ እቶም ነንመዓልቱ ዝኣስሮም ዘሎ መራሕቲ ሃይማኖት እዮም::

ገለ ሒደት ካብቶም ብእምነቶም መንግስቲ ኤርትራ ዝኣሰሮም እሱራት:-

ገለ ካብ እሱራት ኤርትራ

ገለ ካብ እሱራት ኤርትራ

እዚ ዝርዝር ብኸፊል ናይቶም ልእሊ 3,000 ብእምነቶም ጥራይ ዝተኣስሩ እሱራት’ዩ:: ንዝያዳ ሓበሪታ Eritrean Human Rights Electronic Archive ምውካስ ይከኣል::

______________________________

እዚ ከምዚ’ሉ ኸሎ: እቲ ኩሉ ነገር ዝሕድሶም ደገፍቲ መንግስቲ ኤርትራ መራሕቲ ሃይማኖት አብ ስነስርዓት ዝኽሪ ግዳያት ላምፐዱዛ ብዝገበሮ “ዓገብ ንበሎም” ዝሕመረቱ ዘረባ ተቖጢዖም “ሃይማኖት ግዳይ ፕለቲካ” ብምባል ይግረሙ ይርከቡ::

"ንምንታይ መንእሰያት ካብ ዓዶም ይሃድሙ ዝብል ሕቶ ጉዳይ መራሕቲ ሃይማኖት አይኮነን: ብመራሕቲ ሃይማኖት ክለዓል 'ውን የብሉን!!" (ድኹም ኣተሓሳስባ መንግስቲ ኤርትራን ደገፍቱን)

“ንምንታይ መንእሰያት ካብ ዓዶም ይሃድሙ ዝብል ሕቶ ጉዳይ መራሕቲ ሃይማኖት አይኮነን: ብመራሕቲ ሃይማኖት ክለዓል ‘ውን የብሉን!!” (ድኹም ኣተሓሳስባ መንግስቲ ኤርትራን ደገፍቱን)

መሳኪን ደገፍቲ መንግስቲ: ምናልባት ከምቲ ቲቨ-ኤረ ብዛዕባ ግዳያት ላምፐዱዛ ዝበለቶ “ዘይሕጋውያን ስደተኛታት” ስለዘይበሎም’ዶ ይኸውን? ዋላስ ብልቦም ተስደሚሞም ይኾኑ?