Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Coup D’état in Eritrea

Abraham G. Ghiorgis ***

( *** First published under the pen-name of Mogos Tekeste)

We know that there is no rule of law in Eritrea, worse; there are no known rules of any kind, only arbitrary edicts and decrees. In fact the very People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) itself does not abide by the rules of its own organization. It is an organization that is gliding haphazardly without political radar even of the socialist kind.

In the organization of the PFDJ, the hierarchy of power is set up in a pyramid fashion. The chain of the formal reporting is as follows: the Chairman reports to the Executive Committee, which in turn reports to the Central Committee, which in turn reports to the general Congress. However, the real and effective power is at the apex of the pyramid, in the hands of the Chairman of the organization. This is a typical power structure of a leftist organization. Such a system inherently is a dictatorship. And one does not expect that such a system will respect the rule of law. This paper does not intend to address the concept of the rule of law. Rather, it simply shows that the leadership, as it stands now, is an illegal one as judged by the very rules and charters of the PFDJ itself. The leadership of the PFDJ is above the laws of the organization it is supposed to lead. And most importantly it is a leadership devoid of any moral and ethical values.

The components of the power structure of the PFDJ based on its own rules are supposed to have regular scheduled meetings in order to report, assess and correct their respective activities. The meetings are as follows: the congress every two years (extraordinary circumstances every two and half years); the central committee every six months and; the executive committee regularly less than six months. The question is does the PFDJ abide by these organizational rules? Does it conduct regular meetings of its various components?

The first congress of the PFDJ took place for the first time in an independent Eritrea in 1994, whereby it elected its Central Committee and promulgated its agenda and vision for Eritrea. Right there and then, the Central Committee elected the Executive Committee and its Chairman -- the components of the power structure that implement the agenda of the organization as stipulated by the Congress. At that time many Eritreans were still in the euphoria stage of the Eritrean independence; and as such some might have accepted this result as a temporary power structure for Eritrea too. They might have naively considered this as a temporary proxy representative leadership of Eritrea that is until the nation transitions to a parliamentary representative government based on the constitution. Sadly, however, it was never to be, the leadership of the PFDJ betrayed the implicit trust bestowed on it, and irrevocably broke the social contract.

Technically, the PFDJ’s second congress should have taken place by the latest sometime in 1997. However, the second Congress never met. If one goes strictly by the PFDJ’s rules and charters, the Central Committee, the Executive Committee and the Chairman of the PFDJ are all illegitimate. The legitimacy of the Congress that elected these bodies expired sometime in 1997. These bodies have no legal standings. By the PFDJ’s own rules, they are all illegal entities and illicit leaders.

The congress of the PFDJ has not met for about fifteen years in a sovereign and independent Eritrea. In between those years, one can have at least five general meetings of a congress. (To put this in perspective, during the armed struggle the EPLF conducted two meetings of its congress; the time that elapsed in between the two was ten years.) This means there are no summations and assessments of where Eritrea is heading even by the socialist standards that the PFDJ swears on. To be fair, the real Central Committee and the Executive Committee, elected in 1994, do not exist since many of its members are either in the dungeon or dead or have left the organization. The sole and only entity that exists and exerts power is the Chairman of the organization -- Isaias Afwerki. This very chairman has usurped the powers of the Congress, the Central Committee and the Executive Committee of his organization. Currently, no one can pinpoint to any charter or rule of the PFDJ that can support the legitimacy and the legality of the powers of the Chairman of the organization.

If we take the Central Committee of the PFDJ, the last time it met was in 2001. After its last meeting, the G-15 and other dissenters were put in prison. Even the leftover of the Central Committee has not met for about eight years. In between those years, one can have at least sixteen Central Committee meetings. There are no checks and balances within the PFDJ organization right now, since no scheduled meetings and reporting of activities take place. If the PFDJ itself does not practice a so called “participatory democracy,” how can there be a “participatory democracy” in Eritrea?

Some of the main appeals of the G-15 were that the PFDJ abide by its own rules and charters; that it holds another congress, that its central committee meets every six months, and that its executive committee submit reports of its activities to its leadership -- the central committee, as stipulated in the rules of the organization. These are simple and innocent demands; that is if we ignore the pleas of implementing the ratified constitution. Isaias would not listen to the simple and earnest request of his colleagues, and that his organization actually mandates.

In practice, a very sly and quiet coup d’état took place in Eritrea. Isaias and his accomplices by violating the rules of their organization illegally usurped power. This seems to be lost among all of us, worst of all among the members of the PFDJ -- who are still blind to the fact that their leadership has no legal ground to stand on.

Despite the fact that the power structure of the leftist organizations by their very nature are dictatorial, the conducting of regular scheduled general meetings of congress and central committee, sometimes allow for the emergence of relatively reformist personalities. Such are the cases with Khrushchev and Gorbachev in the Soviet Union and Deng Xiaoping in China. Not a chance in Eritrea, since such outlets for the possibility of the emergence of a reformist leadership within the PFDJ itself is closed, since scheduled meetings of the power structures do not take place.

Isaias does not want to take a chance of having a meeting of a general congress or a central committee of the PFDJ. It appears he does not want to gamble with having such a wide gathering, since he does not know of what may transpire in such a meeting.

It is as clear as daylight that Isaias and his top disciples have violated the rules and charters of their organization. The question then arises how come Isaias has still followers? The answer lies in the characteristics and moral fabric of those who follow him. One has to study the history of collectivist and socialist systems and their followers to understand the integrity of those Eritreans who still follow Isaias.

In a dictatorial political system the worst of a society gets to the top. Hayek writing about the collectivist and the socialist systems gives the following points in describing the ethical attributes of a group that follow a dictator.
• "If a numerous group is needed, a strong enough to impose their views on the values of life on all the rest, it will never be those with highly differentiated and developed tastes -- it will be those who form the 'mass' in the derogatory sense of the term, the least original and independent, who will be able to put the weight of their numbers behind their particular ideals.
• ... [The dictator] will be able to obtain the support of all the docile and gullible, who have no strong convictions of their own but are prepared to accept a ready-made system of values if it is only drummed into their ears sufficiently loudly and frequently. It will be those whose vague and imperfectly formed ideas are easily swayed and whose passions and emotions are readily aroused who will thus swell the ranks of the totalitarian party.
• ... It seems to be almost a law of human nature that it is easier for people to agree on a negative program -- on the hatred of an enemy, on the envy of those better off -- than on any positive task. The contrast between the 'we' and 'they,' the common fight against those outside the group, seems to be an essential ingredient in any creed which will solidly knit together a group for common action. ... The enemy, whether he be internal … or external, seems to be an indispensable requisite in the armory of a totalitarian leader.
• … The desire of the individual to identify himself with a group is very frequently the result of a feeling of inferiority and that therefore his want will be satisfied only if membership of the group confers some superiority over outsiders. Sometimes, it seems, the very fact that these violent instincts which the individual knows he must curb within the group can be given a free range in the collective action toward the outsider, becomes a further inducement for merging personality in that of the group.
• ... While to the great individualist social philosophers ... power itself has always appeared the archevil, to the strict collectivist it is a goal in itself.... It is only... that the desire to organize social life according to a unitary plan itself springs largely from a desire for power. It is even more the outcome of the fact that in order to achieve their end, collectivist must create power -- power over men wielded by other men -- of magnitude never known , and that their success will depend on the extent to which they achieve such power.
• ... The principle that the end justifies the means in individualist ethics is regarded as the denial of all morals. In collectivist ethics it becomes necessarily the supreme rule; there is literally nothing which the consistent collectivist must not be prepared to do if it serves 'the good of the whole,' because the 'good of the whole' is to him the only criterion of what ought to be done.
• ... To be a useful assistant in the running of a totalitarian state, it is not enough that a man should be prepared to accept specious justification of vile deeds; he must himself be prepared actively to break every moral rule he has ever known if this seems necessary to achieve the end set for him. Since it is the supreme leader who alone determines the ends, his instruments must have no moral convictions of their own, they must be above all, be necessarily committed to the person of the leader; but next to this the most important thing is that they should be completely unprincipled and literally capable of everything. They must have no ideals of their own which they want to realize; no ideas about right or wrong which might interfere with the intentions of the leader.
• ... Yet while there is little that is likely to induce men who are good by [moral standards] to aspire to leading positions in the totalitarian machine, and much to deter them, there will be special opportunities for the ruthless and unscrupulous. There will be jobs to be done about the badness of which taken by themselves nobody has any doubt, but which have to be done in the service of some higher end, and which have to be executed with the same expertness and efficiency as any others. And as there will be need for actions which are bad in themselves, and which all those still influenced by traditional morals will be reluctant to perform, the readiness to do bad things becomes a path to promotion and power."

See: "The Road to Serfdom," Chapter 10, "Why The Worst Get On Top," by F. A. Hayek.

If not the rank and file members of the PFDJ, the middle and high level cadres of the PFDJ do possess such vile ethical attributes.

The PFDJ and its leaders have no legitimacy. They have violated their own rules and charters. One cannot talk of the PFDJ as an organization representing any Eritrean. It only serves Isaias and his top cadres.