Eritrea-Djibouti More Mutual Interests Than Differences

For 5 years straight until 2007, Eritrea & Djibouti had annual military meetings. The relationship was unbroken until TPLF influenced Guelleh to instigate a border conflict in 2008 with their backing and attempt to trigger an offensive to capture the Eritrean port of Asseb. From 2008 to 2018, Djibouti and Eritrea were in a tense diplomatic tension. The media attention on the peace deal of 2018 between Eritrea and Ethiopia dominated the news headlines while neglecting an important moment between two other sisterly states normalizing relations.

Djibouti Foreign Minster on the left and Eritrean FM on the right

Forward to now as we observed striking reactions to the Nov.18th French outlet Jeune Afrique interview of Djibouti’s President Ismail Omar Guelleh(Here). Below are relevant quotes where both states can have better effort and work toward a regional policy & cohesion. The views expressed by Guelleh on Isaias Afwerki is correct as he is a leader that has a track record of being emotional in his view of diplomatic engagement and takes tensions personally. Eritrea needs a leadership core who moves on cold strategic maneuvering not influenced by emotions and vendetta. Regardless, I believe the state of Eritrea should move beyond personal attachment and restore warm engagement with Djibouti pre-2008.

Djibouti and Eritrea share common views:

China

  • Both share positive view on the strategic importance of China’s influence in the region and this would be a key point of engagement for Beijing to push.

Muslim Brotherhood & Secularism

  • Both share views on the threat of Muslim Brotherhood on secularism and religious harmony.

Ethiopia

  • Both recognize the stability of Ethiopia affects both states, and this is also a point of common interest to engage further.

Djibouti and Eritrea need each other.

Relevant Quotes:

The debt Djibouti owes China has for a long time been seen as excessive. Is this still the case today?

Our “Chinese debt” is much lower than what some have said. It amounts to $450m, compared with Ethiopia’s $16bn and Kenya’s $20bn. We have worked really hard on debt restructuring and servicing. The company managing the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway line, which is the main source of this debt, will be privatised, with Ethiopia and Djibouti retaining ownership of the infrastructure.

Why has the restoration of diplomatic relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea still not had the slightest positive effect on your relationship with Eritrea’s president, Issayas Afeworki?

I met with Issayas in Jeddah in September 2018, but neither the Saudi’s mediation team nor Ahmed’s efforts produced a “peace of the braves”. This is despite the fact that I took the step of releasing 19 Eritrean prisoners of war, which Asmara didn’t want, it seems.

The only explanation I see for this stonewalling is a psychological one: Issayas is unyielding and resentful, and we won’t repeat the exercise. The former Ethiopian prime minister, Meles Zenawi, had warned me: “Once you’re mad at him, he never forgets.”

The US has raised concerns about your relations with China on several occasions. It has even been reported that an American general suggested that Beijing had “purchased” the Port of Djibouti. Have these suspicions been cleared up?

They were totally baseless, but I’m not sure they’ve gone away. For instance, we don’t understand why the $25m loan the World Bank promised us in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has taken so long to materialise. The president of the World Bank, David Malpass, is a US citizen. Is there a causal connection? I wonder.

You’re confronted with a determined opposition, whose leaders are divided, including when it comes to their methods of action. Do you benefit from that?

I think it’s too bad. Every democracy needs an opposition that believes in discussion, comparing policies and the country’s future. Our opposition can be summed up by the slogan “Me or chaos”. Whether it’s Daher Ahmed Farah, Abdourahman Mohamed Guelleh or Adan Mohamed Abdou, none of them abide by the rules for forming a party. A party isn’t just some group you register with a founder and 10 or so members that never holds a convention. But we prefer to look the other way.

This state of things came about because the Islamist faction of this coalition, MoDeL [Movement for Democracy and Freedom] – the local chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood – used religion as a mobilising force. We have taken the necessary measures to reduce its impact. The coalition’s main leaders have left Djibouti for Turkey and Canada, where they have nothing other than Facebook to try to indoctrinate followers.

As for sermons, their content is strictly regulated and comes under the exclusive remit of the Ministry of Muslim Affairs. Sermons are sent to each mosque by email, and imams can’t add a single word to them during Friday prayers. I think the French authorities would do well to follow in our footsteps in this regard. It’s the only way to prevent extremism from thriving.

The Weaponization Of “Dictatorship” Narrative Against Eritrea

A few days ago on Twitter, I saw this tweet from Ayantu Ayana & others commenting on the recent visit of Isaias Afwerki to Ethiopia and meetings with Prime Minister Abiy.

I have tremendous respect for her takes on the Abyssinian system & the Oromo decolonial demands but I have been disturbed by her pro-State Department world views contradicts her usage of leftist theories and analysis. One can observe her missing critique on imperialism & capitalism and that is the reason why I stop following her work or support it because its unprincipled and disingenuous.

Ayantu Ayana is part of the liberal diaspora Oromo community who has been centered as a media personality to speak on #OromoProtests the last few months. She is close with pro-State Department circles like Eritrean activist Vanness Berhe/OneDaySeyom who target the state of Eritrea & tend to echo Human Rights Watch/Amnesty talking points.

So what’s the issue?

  1. The issue is not her criticism of Isaias Afewerki the personality. He has failed to be a revolutionary leader & that failure is up to the Eritrean people to resolve & manage internally. The issue here is the danger in echoing empire rhetoric that has been used to manufacture consent against the state of Eritrea and in how that is employed uniquely compared to other states in the region. This is not about Isias Afewerki but how that type of language & rhetoric is anti-Eritrea & the danger in co-opting the western establishment & media usage which was justified in enforcing inhumane sanctions & aggression against the state that have negatively impacted the Eritrean people all these years. This is about defending the state and the agency of the Eritrean people, not Isias Afewerki.
  2. The second issue is liberalism and the discourse that ignores historical context when convenient. Isn’t it contradictory to have an academic background in decolonization or as stated in her bio line “PhD student Black circle archives & histories of anti-colonial resistance” but have politics that are harmful to third world states? Supporting reactionary liberal elements advocating regime change for targeted states? Should research that pulls in from Black Radical Tradition(Fanon, W.E.B Dubois, Rodney etc) awaken you at some point, or is this just purely an academic fascination?. This whitewashed liberal discourse that tries to lecture on “dictatorship” is not needed as it dismisses the agency of the Eritrean people & collective struggle. For example, hypothetically if Oromia decides to have a socialist revolution tomorrow or put in place a theocracy system that is beyond my expectation I’m not going to dictate they change it or characterize it negatively as it is the Oromo people agency to determine internally.
  3. The third is an issue of inconsistency in echoing Ethiopiainst views against Eritrea one day and upholding oppressed nationalities narrative against the settler state the next day. The Ethiopianist rhetoric on Eritrea historically has been wrapped in a language that delegitimizes the Eritrean people agency, independence, and our right to exist as a state. It is a bit concerning that her being Oromo she would understand it when it targets Oromia’s but she is quick to use it against Eritrea. For example, Abiy has been trained by TPLF and studied Meles Zenawi & learned from them on their “dictatorship” & he looks up to “dictator” like Selassie, Menelik, etc but somehow Abiy power grip is externalized to Eritrea. Why? The Abyssinian system is literally a history of “dictatorships” and one-man rule for decades. This is framing that somehow blames Eritrea for Abiy’s political ambition in following the Abyssinian tradition of dominance and control is intellectually dishonest and shameless.
  4. The issue of urban raised and privilege outlook of the diaspora to speak on behalf of the poor people on the ground. The liberals personalities like Ayantu Ayana are intentionally trying to erase the historical experiences of the Eritrean state for the last 28 years with “Isias Afewerki dictatorship ” discourse that does not engage in the critical examination of the role of western foreign policy & imperialism. The liberal elements of the Oromo community anti-Eritrea views and vitriolic against the state under the guise of criticizing the reactionary Isias Aferiwe went beyond the confines of defending Oromia but traditional Ethiopinaist language and enforcing violent rhetoric that is provocative. The diaspora liberal elements and the gatekeepers won’t matter despite their dominant presence on Twitter as the majority of Oromos are rural and have no ideological alignment with their world views and hostility against the state of Eritrea so we must stand with the poor Oromos not them!

It is important for the Oromo community to examine the 18 years of violent narratives use to demonize & support sanctions, war & aggression against the state of Eritrea with “Isias is a dictatorship ” angle & how it diverts critical evaluation on what happened to the state of Eritrea & people. Isaias Afewerki should be scrutinized by Oromos in a different form for his reactionary takes on multi federalism as an individual but the Eritrean state shouldn’t be targeted because of him. At the same, the peace deal is worth defending beyond personalities and Oromos should support peace with Eritrea regardless of Isias and Abiy. It’s unethical to target Eritrea without considering the history & context. Plus it is dangerous to push empire language & “democratization” via liberal rules & expectations. The region needs a radical shift not liberalism & symbolic elections.

Lastly, the Oromo people being the largest nationalities in the Horn of Africa with unique historical experience with Ethiopian settler colonialism and also having an egalitarian form of governance should see themselves as objective meditators in the Horn of Africa that mend contradiction internally to each state & not be violently partisan like Ayantu Ayana with internal Eritrean political issues. It is preferable Oromia support Eritrea and Horn of Africa and be a progressive unifying entity for the region.

Free Oromia! One Love To My Oromos!

An Eritrean in the Philippines:The Importance of Eritrea & Asia solidarity

On Sunday, February 21st the president of Eritrea and senior officials hosted various ambassadors in order to formally accept their diplomatic accreditation. The formal diplomatic process was a standard yearly state affair but it was to my surprise and delight to find Eritrea has accredited ambassador of the Philippines named Leslie J. Baja as I was hoping for this specific diplomatic scenario to take place few months ago when I was in Manila.

Ambassador Leslie J. Baja of the Philippines with President of Eritrea

Ambassador Leslie J. Baja of the Philippines with President of Eritrea

Due to being pre-occupied over the last couple of months with events surrounding #OromoProtest and also Burundi that I, unfortunately, forgot to blog on my trip to the Philippines.In November of 2015, I had the great pleasure of being invited as an observer to the ILPS 5th assembly located in the capital city Manila. At the assembly, I gave a talk and explained to the international audience how US is directly responsible for the occupation of Eritrea via Ethiopian regime and illegal UN sanctions.During my time there I was able to engage & connect with many political activists from Latin America, Mid-East & Asia.

Eritrea

Proud To Have Represented Eritrea & See Eritrea Name

What is the ILPS? “The International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) is an anti-imperialist and democratic formation. It promotes, supports and develops the anti-imperialist and democratic struggles of the peoples of the world against imperialism and all reaction.”

Why the Philippines? The Phillippines unique historical placement of being an Asian nation that overcame both Spanish and US colonialism can offer insight on imperial configuration and its effect to this day. In fact, the people of the Philippines are currently in a struggle with bourgeois-landlord owning elites and facing contemporary feudalistic oppression.Additionally, the region of the southeast Asia will continue to grab news headlines as its the center of US aggressive military pivot against China. The US aggressive posturing in the region has strained the Philippine-Chinese relations and its with my hope that China will start to become sensitive to the nationalist concern of the Filipino people.As an Eritrean, I feel as a matter of principle the importance of cultivating people to people warm solidarity within the global south as we all share a common experience in our struggle against US imperialism. Although I will forever cling on to Eritrean nationalism I recognize the global south has to begin to evolve beyond the confine of nationalism and colonial boundaries in order to plant the seed of harmonious internationalism. Above all third world, nationalism has its justifiable advantages in uniting peoples of the global south in defense of their state against external aggression directed by the west.However third world nationalism potency can serve the masses better with inclusive internationalism to solidify a united resistance of the global south.

Throughout my stay in Manila, I was warmly welcomed by the very hospitable Filipino people. Below I will summarize the trip and give my reflection with each picture.

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All around the city of Manilla, I noticed the advertisement like this that overly emphasizes light skinned Filippino and does not embrace the diversity of the Filipino people in all skin complexion. White supremacy works better when it is executed by non-whites and sadly this the reality of the global south currently in which dynamics of power, beauty & class is projected by lighter skin complexion.

IMG_20151113_142651613

I attended a protest rally led by local university students. I observed how the students were fiercely attracted to radical politics and persuasion. This particular protest was in the same week as the summit for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation(APEC) which was hosted in Manila and it was a busy week with various rallies against APEC. On that day, it happens to be a hot day but I was energized by the young people passion.

IMG_20151113_163005285

The Lumad are indigenous people in the Philippines who are oppressed by the state. They came to downtown Manilla that day to bring attention to their cause. During the protest, it was a beautiful moment for me to finally view how the original Filipino looked before western colonialism. Especially after observing the billboards around town and on TV presenting perfect beauty as being white.

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At the assembly, I had the chance to connect with former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney & also #BlackLivesMatter organizer Devonte Jackson. First time meeting Cynthia Mckinney I was a bit starstruck but she was easy to talk to and we ended up having an insightful conversation.

west papa

Neles Tandamat is a human rights activist from West Papua. I felt a bit of bond with him and his cause. He shared his personal background story and also videos of atrocities that are happening in West Papua. The people of West Papua are suffering under Indonesian rule and are seeking self-determination rule.

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I had a great time learning and connecting with people from around the world in the Philippines. The capital city is a beautiful place.

Is Ethiopia’s regime in choots with private Kenyan media to create tension between Eritrea & Kenya?

Last week the internet was set ablaze due to a viral story published by The Standard based in Kenya regarding Eritrean government decree proclaiming polygamy legal. The story was proven not only to be false but various African and international media outlets were duped. It is not surprising as the Kenyan newspaper has a history of reporting inaccurate accounts as few weeks prior there was another false story on mini skirt being banned by Tanzania government.What is the connection and motives for Eritrea and Tanzania to be targeted with distorted untrue reports as these? Take the case of one story reported by The Standard in late April of 2015 that insinuated Eritrea was to blame for President Uhuru Kenyatta canceling the trip to the US after his flight was forced to turn back en route to Dubai.

“Informed sources familiar with aircraft routes, said President Kenyatta’s military jet could have been turned back on the skies over Eritrea, in what is turning out a clear escalation of the diplomatic bad-blood between the two countries.”

However the report turned out to be false as Eritrea’s Ambassador to Kenya stated: The Government of Kenya sought permission to use the Eritrean airspace and it was granted and all the relevant communication was forwarded to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and aviation authorities,. The story was able to gain regional traction but did not reach international media attention compared to this week false polygamy story.Equally important is another story reported in October of 2012 in which Kenya warmly supported Eritrea return to IGAD but media put a distorted spin on the news in order give an impression of bad relations.The Kenya Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a press release declared the media got the report wrong:

nairobi-support-asmara-igad

Who are the anonymous “informed sources” that keep feeding distorted reports over the years that paint a perception of bad blood and a diplomatic row with Eritrea and Kenya?Is it plausible that the Ethiopian regime has direct opening to influence and shape Kenya private media by offering a financial incentive to media owners and senior editors? In fact, a study released by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung on Kenya’s media vulnerabilities asserts private media editorial leaning’s are influenced by media owners in pursuit of monetary and political gains:

“Private media in Kenya face immense commercial and political pressure that could erode their editorial independence. Media owners often curry favor with advertisers and sponsors of media products and services to secure or retain advertising contracts. For most media owners, commercial interests are more important than media independence. Media owners directly interfere with editorial decisions to preserve and protect the interests of big-time advertisers and sponsors. Commercial interests also come from shareholders and strategic business partners.”

GeoPolitical Motives

In a 2012 interview with Kenyan TV show Capital Talk former Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Kenya Farah Maalim said the following:

“We don’t have a foreign policy…Our foreign policy is always highjacked by another state whether it is a superpower or a country in the region.The first head of state [Isaias] Afewerki was a very close friend of our second president Moi[Daniel arap Moi].

They[Eritrea] go to pains now to tell you ‘look we are your brother and we are your friends why you want to make an enemy out of us’. Because Eritrea has a war with Ethiopia an issue that has gone to international court and determined by the international court which actually said is illegally occupying Eritrea land..they[Ethiopia] are the aggressors.We keep calling the Eritreans terrorist supporters …It is increasingly going to dawn on them we are doing this thing because somebody else is managing our foreign policy.

If we start taking sides and it becomes abundantly clear and open secret that we are doing the bidding for Ethiopia….Its like our foreign policy has been hijacked as far as the region is concern by Ethiopia..IGAD? there is no IGAD..IGAD is Ethiopia”

From 2007 to 2012 relations between Eritrea and Kenya were frosty due to influences of Ethiopian regime and Washington.The key development that shifted and increase tension was after Washington subsequently encouraged Ethiopian regime to invade Somalia in late 2006(WikiLeaks Reveals U.S. Twisted Ethiopia’s Arm to Invade Somalia). In protest, Eritrea by April of 2007 officially suspended its membership from IGAD after the regional body endorsed Ethiopian regime illegal invasion of Somalia. In its official notice of suspension the Government of the State of Eritrea stated the following:

“…The Government of Eritrea officially notifies with regret, to the current chair of the IGAD Assembly of Heads of State and Government that Eritrea has temporarily suspended its membership in the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) effective 21st April 2007. The Government of the State of Eritrea took this difficult move in reaction to a number of resolutions passed pertaining to the worsening situation in Somalia, in the name of IGAD. The Eritrean Government is convinced that such resolutions go contrary to the core principles of IGAD in the promotion of peace and security in the region. Moreover, the resolutions taken recently are contrary to the previous IGAD & Security Council resolutions, in particular, the non-involvement of frontline countries in Somalia. Eritrea does not want to be part of this historical blunder, which is the main cause of anguish, destruction of property and loss of life of many innocent Somalis…”

“…Governments in the region that are wither condoning the invasion and domination of Somalia and the sufferings meted out to its people or that have chosen to keep silent, for reasons of narrow self-interest or due to lack of information cannot, ultimately, shrug their responsibilities…For its part, Eritrea is not willing to endorse invasion and domination under the umbrella of IGAD and be party to the atrocities perpetrated against the Somali people in contravention of justice and truth…”

Following Eritrea decision to suspend its membership, the Ethiopian regime held IGAD chairmanship captive (IGAD: A Regional Organization Or A Forum Run By Ethiopia?).After 2007 with Eritrea out of IGAD Washington had more room to maneuver and place sanctions on Eritrea for facilitating a peace conference. The 2007 Somalia conference hosted in Eritrea was independent of Washington and was politically inclusive platform similar to the successfully East Sudan peace deal signed in Asmara which ended the armed conflict. During the conference, Eritrea brought together various lawmakers, civil society organizations, business class and with representation from the Somali diaspora which could have led to reconciliation and possibly ended in an independent Somalia government owned by Somali unlike now in which Somalia is under Ethiopian colonial rule.Eritrea in 2007 even hosted Sharif Sheikh Ahmed before he become president of Somalia and double crossed Eritrea by joining Ethiopian regime as a lackey that antagonize Eritrea willingly.In fact, Ethiopian regime hijacking IGAD was a strategic win for Washington to give the impression it was directly an African initiative that led up to supporting its concocted sanctions on Eritrea.

IGAD

IGAD under Ethiopian regime control

“..Thirty-five sessions of the IGAD policy-organs, amounting to half of all the sessions held since the revitalization of IGAD in 1996, were chaired by the leaders of a single Member State: Ethiopia. Moreover, Ethiopia has had a disproportionate advantage in terms of hosting IGAD meetings. Since June 2008, it hosted in Addis Ababa all but two IGAD Summits, and sixteen out of the twenty-four sessions of the Council of Ministers.”

Furthermore, a leaked memo from Ethiopia’s foreign ministry reported by journalist Matthew Russel Lee indicates the Ethiopian regime was conspiring to isolate Eritrea from gaining Kenya’s supports and other neighboring states in lifting the illegal sanctions manufactured by Washington. The allegation and main motivation for sanctions that were placed on Eritrea turned out to be proven false by UN reports but despite lacking evidence Washington and the Ethiopian regime are lobbying to keep it intact.

Undeniably the Ethiopian regime is a destabilizing force in the Horn of Africa acting as a proxy for the west.For instance, in May of  2015 heavily armed Ethiopian soldiers entered Kenyan border without proper notification or permission from Kenyan government and again few months later Ethiopian soldiers invaded Kenya and killed three police officers. Kenya’s government strikingly responded quietly behind the scene to Ethiopian regime routine illegal incursion and direct violation of Kenyan territorial integrity.

Kenya-Eritrea Relations

Bilateral relations between Kenya and Eritrea have improved under President Uhuru Kenyatta compared to those frosty years under his predecessor. Eritrea and Kenya currently continue to have  fruitful diplomacy and growing link in the educational field. In 2013 President Uhuru gave an invitation to the president of Eritrea to attend Kenya’s 50th independence jubilee celebration and the president was warmly received.After the president of Eritrea visit, there was greater effort in exchanging of higher learning opportunities between the two sisterly nations. In 2013 six Ph.D. students were sent to Kenya and as of 2015 Eritrea has hired 35 expatriate lecturers in institutions of higher education.

 

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President of Eritrea warmly embraced by President Uhuru Kenyatta during Kenya’s 50th Independence Day celebration

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President of Eritrea with President Uhuru Kenyatta during Kenya’s 50th Independence Day celebration

Finally, it can be concluded there is a possibility to suspect Ethiopian regime could be behind Kenyan private media attempts to drive a wedge between the government of Eritrea and Kenya. Washington through its Ethiopian proxy regime still continues to enact a failed policy of containing and isolating Eritrea from the region and international community. Therefore distorting Eritrea’s position and reputation in the African and international media is part of that isolation drive.

To Die For The People By Huey Newton

In the global black diaspora Huey Newton genius is not appreciated in the same light as Malcolm X,Martin Luther King Jr,Sankara or Mao.The lesson of his dialectical analysis,self criticism and his constant need to always strive for higher place for society is relevant for any global south movement looking to expand cadre consciousness.The following are relevant excerpt from the book ‘To Die For The People’.

to-die-for-the-people

The role of a vanguard party

“The main purpose of the vanguard group should be to raise the consciousness of the masses through educational programs and other activities. The sleeping masses must be bombarded with the correct approach to struggle and the party must use all means available to get this information across to the masses. In order to do so the masses must know that the party exists. A vanguard party is never underground in the beginning of its existence; that would limit its effectiveness and educational goals.”

On Flunkyism

“I think that the mistake is that some people have taken the apparent as the actual fact in spite of their claims of scholarly research and following the discipline of dialectical materialism. They fail to search deeper, as the scientist is required to do, to get beyond the apparent and come up with the more significant. Let me explain how this relates to the Black Panther Party. The Black Panther Party is a Marxist-Leninist party because we follow the dialectical method and we also integrate theory with practice. We are not mechanical Marxists and we are not historical materialists. Some people think they are Marxists when actually they are following the thoughts of Hegel. Some people think they are Marxist-Leninists but they refuse to be creative, and are, therefore, tied to the past. They are tied to a rhetoric that does not apply to the present set of conditions. They are tied to a set of thoughts that approaches dogma – what we call flunkeyism.”

On development of a revolution

“We realized at a very early point in our development that revolution is a process. It is not a particular action,nor is it a conclusion.It is a process. This is why when feudalistic slavery wiped out chattel slavery,feudalism was revolutionary. This is why when capitalism wiped out feudalism,capitalism was revolutionary. The concrete analysis of concrete conditions will the true nature of the situation and increase and understanding. This process moves in a dialectical manner and we understand the struggle of the opposites based on their unity”

On The gun

“The gun itself is not necessarily revolutionary because the fascists carry guns, in fact they have more guns. A lot of so-called revolutionaries simply do not understand the statement by Chairman Mao that “Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.” They thought Chairman Mao said political power is the gun, but the emphasis is on “grows.” The culmination of political power is the ownership and control of the land and the institutions thereon so that we can then get rid of the gun. That is why Chairman Mao makes the statement that “We are advocates of the abolition of war, we do not want war; but war can only be abolished through war, and in order to get rid of the gun, it is necessary to take up the gun.” He is always speaking of getting rid of it. If he did not look at it in those terms, then he surely would not be revolutionary. In other words, the gun by all revolutionary principles is a tool to be used in our strategy; it is not an end in itself. This was a part of the original vision of the Black Panther Party.”

Surviving repression

“A truly revolutionary vehicle which will survive the repression it encounters daily is made up of a number characteristics. First of all,there is a small but dedicated cadre of workers who are willing to devote their full time to the goals of the organization.organization. Secondly,there is a distinct organized structure through which the cadre can function. It is a combination of structure and dedicated cadre which can maintain the machinery for meeting the people needs…Such a vehicle can survive repression because it can move in the necessary manner at the appropriate time. It can go underground if the conditions require,and it can rise up again. But it will always be motivated by the love and dedication to the interest of the oppressed communities. Therefore the people will insure its survival,for only in that survival are their needs serviced.”

Cultural Cult Group

“We organized the Party when we saw that out of the Movement was what was called a cultural cult group. We defined a cultural cult group as an organization that disguised itself as a political organization, but was really more interested in the cultural rituals of Africa in the 1100’s before contact with the Europeans. Instead of administering to the community and organizing it, they would rather wear bubas, get African names and demand that the community do the same, and do nothing about the survival of the community. Sometimes they say, “Well, if we get our culture back then all things will be solved.” This is like saying to be regenerated and born again is to solve everything. We know that this is not true.”

One new word related to what we have been talking about describes something I was guilty of. I was guilty of this when I offered the Black troops to Vietnam. I won’t talk about whether it was morally right or wrong, but I will say that anything said or done by a revolutionist that does not spur or give the forward thrust to the process (of revolution) is wrong. Remember that the people are the makers of history, the people make everything in their society. They are the architects of the society and if you don’t spur them on, then I don’t care what phrases you use or whether they are political or religious, you cannot be classified as being relevant to that process. If you know you’re wrong and do certain things anyway, then you’re reactionary because you are very guilty. Some of us didn’t know. I keep searching myself to see whether I know we were going wrong. O couldn’t influence the Central Committee and maybe I should have risked being charged with an individual violation and said that they didn’t know. I think most of them didn’t know, so they’re not as guilty as I am. I’m probable more guilty than anyone. But anyway, the new word that describes what we went into for a short length of time— a couple of years—is revolutionary cultism.”

“The revolutionary cultist uses words of social change; he uses words about being interested in the development of society. He uses that terminology, you see; but these actions are so far divorced from the process of revolution and organizing the community that he is living in a fantasy world. So we talk to each other on the campuses, or we talk to each other in the secrecy of the night, concentrating upon weapons, thinking these things will produce change without the people themselves. Of course people do courageous things and call themselves the vanguard, but the people who do things like that are either heroes or criminals. They are not the vanguard because the vanguard means spearhead, and the spearhead has to spearhead something. If nothing is behind it, then it is divorced from the masses and is not the vanguard.’”

Black America Role in American Imperialism

“The Black people in America are the only people that can free the world, loosen the yoke of colonialism, and destroy the war machine. As long as the wheels of the imperialistic war machine are turning there is no country that can defeat this monster of the West. But black people can make a malfunction of this machine from within. Black people can destroy the machinery that’s enslaving the world. America cannot stand to fight every Black country in the world and fight a civil war at the same time. It is militarily impossible to do both of these things at once.”

Question of Nationalism

“Cultural nationalism, or pork chop nationalism, as I sometimes call it, is basically a problem of having the wrong political perspective. It seems to be a reaction instead of responding to political oppression. The cultural nationalists are concerned with returning to the old African culture and thereby regaining their identity and freedom. In other words, they feel that the African culture will automatically bring political freedom. Many times cultural nationalists fall into line as reactionary nationalists.”

“The Black Panther Party, which is a revolutionary group of black people, realizes that we have to have an identity. We have to realize our black heritage in order to give us strength to move on and progress. But as far as returning to the old African culture, it’s unnecessary and it’s not advantageous in many respects. We believe that culture itself will not liberate us. We’re going to need some stronger stuff.”

“The developing countries have every right to claim nation-hood, because they have not exploited anyone. The nationalism of which they speak is simply their rightful claim to autonomy, self-determination and a liberated base from which to fight the international bourgeoisie.”

An Eritrean in Mississippi:The importance of Black Diaspora-Eritrea Solidarity

I spent June 26th-28th in the capital city of Jackson, Mississippi attending the Southern People’s Movement Assembly for a Just Transition, hosted  by Cooperation Jackson  at the Lumumba Center for Economic Democracy and Development.

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Southern People’s Movement Assembly

Why Mississippi? Well, first it must be expressed that Hollywood and mainstream media have traditionally tailored pre-set impressions of black America and there are stereotypical images the world holds of Mississippi as a place associated with slavery, Jim Crow era racism and KKK burning of crosses in backyards etc. Indeed, racism has left its unique and indelible mark in Mississippi and the Deep South and there are conscious efforts being made to dismantle the economic, social, political & cultural systems that carry on the legacy of oppression in various forms. For an Eritrean, how do the efforts of dismantling oppression and realizing black self-determination in Mississippi tie in with my global southern identity and struggles?

It all started in the fall of 2013 after hearing chatter from alternate media sources such as Democracy Now and Al-Jazeera about Chokwe Lumumba being hailed as America’s most revolutionary mayor.

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Revolutionary Chokwe Lumumba

The name Lumumba sparked my interest and got me wondering on what a person with such a politically significant African name  is doing in the deep south of America. I researched Chokwe Lumumba and found out that he was an internationalist who believed in Global Afrikan self-determination and solidarity. Such was the vision that led to his migration from Detroit, Michigan to Jackson, Mississippi, his radical political engagement in creating people-centered political consciousness and revolutionary platforms of action. Chokwe Lumumba’s 30-year building of such genuine people’s power through legal defense work to cultural work has endeared him to many across the city and beyond.  He co-founded Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and was instrumental in several grassroots-based justice efforts.  I was able to keep up with Lumumba through virtual media sources and from a distance, I developed a tremendous respect for the mayor’s radicalism and political astuteness.

In the spring of 2014, on January 25th, I was saddened by the news of Mayor Chokwe Lumumba’s death. At that time, I had suspicions about the reason for his death and was in agreement with Glen Ford’s (Black Agenda Report) sentiment “He died eight months into his term, but the state refused to do an autopsy. Lots of folks suspect he was assassinated for challenging the ruling order – which is logical, since “Mississippi has murdered thousands of Black people for far less reason than that.”

Few weeks after the death of Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, it was announced that the late mayor’s son Chokwe Antar Lumumba was in the run for his father’s mayoral seat. I tuned in every day for updates on the mayoral race.

By 2014, I was completely jaded about democracy in America after casting my vote for Obama once. I had hopes that Obama would bring rationality to American foreign policy and critically engage with Eritrea in building a progressive bilateral relationship, but the result ended up in personal disappointment and frustration. I witnessed Obama give his speech during his presidential run in Texas in 2008. I took this close-up picture when he turned down a dollar donation and I totally fell for ‘Change and Hope” campaign mantra.

I saw Obama give his speech during his presidential run in Texas 2008.. I took this close picture when he turned a dollar donation

I saw Obama give his speech during his 2008 presidential run in Texas I took this close picture when he turned down a dollar donation

Yes i fell for the 2008 'Change and Hope; Obama marketing....Thats me in the glasses and college roommate

Yes, i fell for the 2008 Change and Hope Obama marketing..That is me in the glasses with my college roommate

I now believe Obama’s presidency is democratic liberalism’s greatest symbolic triumph while black America and other people of color are subjected to continued oppression and systemic challenges.

The election of Obama to the presidency has manifested in nothing but a continuation of imperialist foreign policy and control in Africa,  under a black face. Nonetheless, it was this  in-depth interview with Kali Akuno, one of the organizers behind the campaign & movement in Jackson that really inspired and snapped me out of my jaded frustration of liberal democracy. I believe in a pragmatic revolutionary path, meaning I’m flexible to reformist push within the confines of bourgeois democracy as long as it aids in the dismantling of the capitalist system and is always evolving. For that reason in April of 2014,  I was inspired to book my flight and volunteer in the election campaign of Chokwe Antar Lumumba.

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Campaign Headquarter

Before going further into details of the trip it has to be understood again that I was entering a new world and I have never been to Jackson or have met anyone from there. I arrived in Jackson on the afternoon of April 21st 2014 and I was picked up at the airport by a volunteer of the election campaign. One of the organizers at the campaign headquarters was Brittany Gray who I was in contact with prior to my arrival that helped me plan my volunteer work. Upon arrival I found out that all the other organizers were friendly and made me feel welcome as a stranger in their city. The campaign headquarters was filled with good energy and packed with local people and volunteers from several places. After arriving at the headquarters, I was asked to go door to door in neighborhoods to handout campaign brochures and I was excited to be in a car pool with total strangers.

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Campaign Brochure in Jackson Neighborhood

During the door to door campaign in the neighborhoods, I ended up finding out that I was with Mayor Chokwe Lumumba’s sister from Detroit. Throughout my time, the family of Chokwe Lumumba showed tremendous love and made sure I had free hotel accommodation and food.

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Campaigning in the streets of Jackson

All of the next day, I was in the streets and at various highway intersections to continue campaigning and it has to be stated that I never felt so alive in my life. I was out of my shell and was easily engaging in conversations with local people. I enjoyed sharing with people I met at the campaign headquarters about where Eritrea was and I even had one person give me a warm brotherly hug because I was from Africa. On April 22, 2014 Antar Lumumba was defeated. The night of the election when the final vote was announced, I was deeply hurt to the core of my being as I was confident of his impending victory. Antar Lumumba lost mostly because of his people-centered platform of equity and economic justice that was a direct threat to local white economic and political ownership and control. Despite this defeat, I was committed to supporting Jackson Rising New Economies conference. To me, it was the logical next step in continuing the Lumumba legacy. I returned to Jackson,Mississippi from May 2nd to May 4 2014 and continued my relationship building with people and the movement.

In summary, my motivation for building relationships and being in solidarity with Jackson, Mississippi is mainly due to the uniqueness of the movement in its commonality with the Eritrean revolution and struggle for independence. Eritrea is currently pushing forward with a just economic and political agenda that is responsive to the people on the basis of self-determination. I experienced the egalitarian spirit of Eritrea in Jackson’s economic justice movement that’s being led by Cooperation Jackson. I witnessed it through the Kush plan that Chokwe Lumumba and MXGM passionately envisioned. I heard how Lumumba valued Black diasporan engagement to build solidarity and power. White supremacy imposed a divisive form of human engagement through which Africans and Black Americans view one another. I believe there needs to be radical efforts to engage black America and Africa to paradigmatically shift the understanding of equality and equity, realize justice and build power. It is my goal to engage my black community in America in conversations on Eritrea and ensure that we not fall for white media and Abyssinian fundamentalist historical revisionism attempts to distance both our worlds. The city of Jackson will always hold a special spot in my heart and I’m forever grateful to the Lumumba family for welcoming me warmly in addition to all the local people I have met. I’m a supporter of Cooperation Jackson and their efforts in being a pathway to economic liberation and justice for black Jacksonians who make up more than 80% of the city’s population.

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Me with Chokwe Antar Lumumba in the middle

Suspicious of Africans patted on the back by Whites

This applies to Eritrean politics and overall African aswell

“I’m suspicious of any negro be he a politician,clergymen or a civic leader who is constantly patted on the back by whites..I have a tendency to lean toward the negro politician who is constantly condemned by the white power structure”-Malcolm X

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsgOZp7d9OQ