Let’s pause and look into ourselves and identify “who is who” among those who are making history by being in the foremost list of activist leaders in the quest of justice for Eritrea. In today’s political mindset of Eritreans, many may feel discomfort when individual dissidents are picked from the crowds of justice seekers pool. Though these negative feelings have deep historical roots to exist, it is a must for justice loving Eritrean to know who is who among themselves.
The struggle for independence has left a strong footprint of burring purposefully individual talent, creativeness and leadership. Promoting individual talent is considered as nurturing individualism. From the very beginning, the revolutionary concept was designed to be a collective work. Every achievement registered is collective work, even when it is done by an identified individual. It is almost a taboo to give credit to someone who did a typical work. With the exception of the supreme leader, in rare cases, when an individual’s heroism, intelligence, talent, leadership quality etc., trespass collective recognition, political suspicion increases. Soon enough, directly or indirectly, the individual becomes victim of political silencing, often accompanied by complicated accusations of treason and fabricated labeling. The fate becomes either going to prison or get killed systematically. Hundreds of brilliant freedom fighters were passed unrecognized day in day out for this simple reason.
Such acts create organizations that burry individual contribution. Anyone who happens to be pragmatic and competent enough to bring a change within the existing system is systematically suppressed. When many talented individuals are silenced, the hosting institution falls under the mercy of one-man. Not only this, homogenous thinking develops that later becomes impossible to accept diversified ideas. The end result of this endeavor produces one-man rule, authoritative or totalitarian system. As time passes, all powers are concentrated in one that could resemble as a monarchic rule as Saleh Younis elaborated in his recent article titled by Eritrean “System” is a Monarchy (1).
Looking deep into the mindset of Eritreans, the society seems unable to reconcile with talented individuals. The doctrine of ‘the masses’ is still alive; both within those who support or oppose the current system. Individuals who surfaced at the top because of their unique works are continuously becoming the target of harsh criticism and defamation. Though such silencing campaigns are usually initiated by PFDJ security agents, folks within the justice seeking camp apply the same style to disown individuals with outstanding performance. As a result the camp of justice seekers is in constant scrutinaizaton.
Besides its psychological side effect on individuals, failure of giving timely and due recognition has an impact on identifying “who is who” within the pool of justice seekers camp. Parallel to this, it can hamper establishment of transparent and responsible leadership. To avoid such failures, first, it is wise to appreciate someone for the work s/he is doing so that it can boast her/his motive. Second when the struggle succeeds these known figures are good candidates to hold public positions. The society can put trust on them. In Tigrigna there is a proverb that reads, “ካብ ዘይትፈልቶጦ መልአኽ ትፈልጦ ሰይጣን ይሓይሽ” (From an unknown god, a known monster is better). The case of PFDJ Eritrea under EPLF and now PFDJ is typical example.
However, with increasing political consciousness and openness to democratic values, Eritrean opposition camp is experiencing a different path. Unlike before, individuals are in the course of being recognized and credited for their works. The contribution of some individuals is so big that it cannot be simply ignored. For example, in 2015, Bologna Forum recognized Professor Bereket Habteselassie for his long service to the case of Eritrea freedom, democracy and rule of law (2). Elyzabeth Chyrum, a human rights activist and advocate for Eritrean refugees all over the world, was recognized for her commendable work in 2009 (3) and 2012 (4).