By Russom Bahrinegash,
In the discourse of human behavior, there is a general assumption that strong self-serving disposition is what stimulates people to act the way they do. Certainly the pursuit of self-interest is alive and kicking and we see it ever-present albeit in different colours and shades.
On the other hand it is irrelevant whether this is right or wrong. What is relevant is whether one is able to a certain extent to override this predisposition and act in the interest of the collective to which he belongs. This brings us directly to the issue of the essence of citizenship. But what is citizenship and what does it entail?
There is a wide range of definitions of citizenship starting from Aristotle to modern times. It is not the intention of this article to list sample definitions. But then there are two words that appear invariably in all the definitions relevant to the contextual definition of this article and these are: rights and duties.
The rights and duties “relate to the individual as a member of a political community, including civic, political and social and economic rights and duties”. Furthermore the usage of the words narrates to the relationship and behaviour between the citizen and the state. It is in respect of the substance of the last sentence that this article attempts to briefly address the issue of citizenship and participation in national affairs of the renegade individuals in the Eritrean diaspora.
It should be clear to all that whenever and into whatever political space we enter as a truly independent and free nation, the rights of all citizens to take part in public affairs ought to be the cardinal covenant of the constitution we choose to be governed with. As we all would agree the freedom to exercise this right including the underpinning processes not to mention the solace to live in peace and work to prosper without exclusion, have been the driving forces for the immense sacrifice paid by our best, beautiful and selfless compatriots to make the independence of Eritrea a reality.
The ultimate reward of this sacrifice is foreseen to be the resurgence of independent, inclusive, truly democratic, harmonious and prosperous Eritrean society at ease with itself. And what has been accomplished so far has been predicated on this unwavering commitment on the part of the government of the State of Eritrea. The country is now poised to move from rudimentary national consolidation phase to a new level of strategic development. Again, against all odds today as yesterday!
Under normal and orderly development of things, the right to exercise electoral matters would be taken for granted. The effective and prudent implementation of the right of citizens to vote and to stand for elective office would have been the main concern. But history has not been kind to Eritrea. In spite of her being on the right side, the people of Eritrea were denied of their inalienable rights to determine their destiny at the conclusion of WW II. As if this gross historical injustice was not enough, the country continues to be subjected to unparalleled naked aggression, intimidation and evil designs by external forces since the dawning of independence. The good news is that despite the arduous and costly trajectory, Eritrea has prevailed thanks to its positive thinking and forward looking courageous citizens.
But on the other hand and sadly enough, Eritrea has seen the abhorrent betrayal by groups of individuals claiming to be her children. Some of these have remained stuck for decades moaning about what they believe is their lost cause. Yet Eritrea has moved a long way forward while they stand still and remain frozen in time. They have neither done any unlearning nor learned anew to shed off their old habits and twisted mind-sets. Their main preoccupation continues to be to undermine Eritrea by all means possible simply because they have lost to the leadership in power in the past.
Not to be overlooked is the absurdity of the behaviour of some of this particular group in their volitional abstention from voting in the independence referendum. This was predicated on their childish disposition to avenge. For these group of people there is no such independent country called Eritrea for they have voluntarily forfeited their citizenship by not lending their consent to the realisation of Eritrean statehood. Voting for the independence of the country one would claim to be his/her is the minimum threshold for being counted a citizen. But this is not the case with group. What a mockery example of citizenship!
Others are new arrivals who have joined the fray in denigrating Eritrea in pursuit of their means of livelihood. The relentless smear campaign against Eritrea not only to give her a bad name to be subjected to illegal and punitive sanctions has known no bounds. For them a weak and failed Eritrean state is of no concern. What is so criminal about the behaviour of these group is the extent to which they go to fabricate and supply false information to incriminate Eritrea and its institutions. There is an old adage in the English language which says “right or wrong my country“.
I bring this not to blame them for not adhering to the moral story of this expression but to demonstrate the contrast and immeasurable crime that these group of people have committed against the country they claim to be theirs. To criticize on factual grounds to make wrong right is acceptable and ought to be encouraged. But to incriminate ones country by deliberating inventing false information in pursuit of pecuniary reward is a criminal act of the highest order.
There are also those who got-off the Eritrean marching snake train to try their luck to take the driver’s seat. These too, may never board the train that left them as they hold expired tickets. And there are those out there with amateurish political agenda inadvertently contributing to tarnish the image of Eritrea. Again a futile and less than useless enterprise.
God knows how many sleepless nights all these groups of people have had dreaming all bad things to happen in the hope that this will eventually lead to the fall of the government so that the door will be open for them to come in. And whenever some good news comes from Eritrea, they cry their eyes or at best they close them and pretend as if it didn’t happen.
They have worked in tandem with foreign forces not only to undermine the socioeconomic development endeavours of this very young self-reliant and confident country, but to seriously compromise its very existence. Unmistakably by their own choice these groups have made themselves irrelevant as far as the national affairs of Eritrea are concerned. It really is unjustifiable to allow the some people who have been tirelessly at work to the demise of the country, enjoy the fruits delivered by those at home who have sacrificed so much for the collective good. Does it make any sense for an individual who willfully boycotted voting in the referendum to give the legal framework for the independence of Eritrea now to take part as a citizen in its political affairs? I beg to differ.
The exclusion of such groups may seem to be undemocratic if taken at face value. But when is a citizen a citizen? To have an opinion different from that of the incumbent government is nowhere near the act of treason and jeopardizing inviolability of national sovereignty. Unfortunate as it is, Eritrea’s nationhood cannot be taken with minimum concern, to put it mildly. And since the realisation of Eritrea’s independence has very few if any comparable parallels, its preservation and nurturing engenders all what we do as citizens. A true citizen would not disavow this venerated Eritrean statehood.
A genuine and patriotic citizen may have unreserved and constructive critique and even profound difference with the government of the day. But the one thing he/she would never do is to give the pursuit of self-interest precedence over sacrosanct national sovereignty and territorial integrity. This is not selfishness. This is treason and treason is crime. This is the bottom line. That every individual who adheres to citizenship allegiance to a country has obligations and rights is not contestable. As much as the failure to discharge the obligation to ones country under any circumstance is inexcusable, the exercise of right is equally undisputable. Yet it is inseparable from the fulfillment of duties and obligations citizenship demands. They are the two sides of the same coin. One is null and void without the other.
But given as to what has transpired during the past 19-20 disparagingly testing years, the national constitution we anticipate should have a provision of conditionality of participation. In particular the question of eligibility and disqualification of those individuals in the diaspora must be based on unprejudiced and judicious ground.
In my opinion those who have been carrying affront campaign with all-out but futile effort to inflict fatal hurt on the people of Eritrea cannot enjoy constitutional right as voters and contenders for election. Those who failed to fulfil their national obligation due to negligence may be waived for participation subject to do so retroactively.
Furthermore, this suggested waiver may be extended to include all those who may show remorse and rethink their previous position and decided to come to the fold. For that matter any Eritrean who has not intentionally acted to do harm to Eritrea and its people but has been indifferent for some reason or another, ought to be entitled to full rights the constitution would bestow.
But for those who have deliberately and with full intent abrogated this core requirement and proactively worked against national interest should have no say whatsoever.
In any event I am of the opinion that whatever restrictions on the right of individuals in the diaspora may be sanctioned, the justification must be based on objectively formulated reasonable criteria on which ONLY the people of Eritrea must have the final say.
Long live free Eritrea and glory to our martyrs!