By Teweldeberhan Gebre In the last couple of days, Dutch news agencies were busy reporting on the intended and controversial YPFDJ annual conference planned to be held in the Dutch city of Veldhoven. The meeting was banned by Veldhoven’s mayor for fear of public disorder after police reportedly arrested 128 protesters. Veldhoven’s mayor decision was upheld by the court in Den Bosch following an appeal by the YPFDJ conference organizers. The ban of the YPFDJ conference by Dutch authorities might have created a euphoria among the organizers of the protest against the conference. However, whether we like it or not, the result is a zero-sum game. In economic and game theories, a zero–sum game is a mathematical representation of a situation in which each participant’s gain or loss of value is precisely balanced by the losses or gains of the value of the other participants. In my humble view, no one wins from the ban of the YPFDJ annual conference and no one losses of not conducting it, but Eritrea. Below is why?
Despite the rubber stamp name (Young PFDJ), these are young nationalist Eritreans who filled the organizational gap created in the diaspora communities in post-independence Eritrea. Dehumanizing and marginalizing our youth based on their political affiliations is not the way forward for a genuine democratic change. If we keep marginalizing the YPFDJ based on their political affiliations, it will not stop there. We have so many youth camps and organizations outside Eritrea and one way or the other these youth groups are affiliated with one or more political organizations in exile. They should not deserve marginalization because of their political or ideological persuasions. In the first place, dehumanizing and marginalizing the youth based on their political or ideological convictions is not civil and democratic. Hence, accommodation not marginalization should be the preferred norm.
Secondly, it vertically contradicts with the idea that change can emanate from inside an authoritarian system because we trust there are democratic forces within the undemocratic system of government in our country. Thus, the youth under the umbrella of the YPFDJ can be one force for democratic change in Eritrea. There is no doubt that these young people are more critical than anybody else in challenging the government during the annual conferences. As for anyone else, the regime in Eritrea keeps ignoring the demand of the YPFDJ for democratic change and the rule of law under different excuses and pretexts. Nevertheless, these manipulations will not last long, and we should be careful in treating our youth. After all, these are bright young people who can potentially lead us to change and prosperity.
In conclusion, the organizers of the protest didn’t get it right. Anyone has the right to voice and protest. However, it is judicious to take others rights to organize, convene and maintain their views into accounts. The protesters could have done it differently. Instead of dehumanizing the youth participants they could have prepared their messages and handover to the participants of the conference by staying on the conference hall entrance. Also, organizers of the protest could have respectfully brought forward their messages across the participants of the conference way before the due date of the intended conference. By doing that, the youth can be empowered and potentially contribute to the ongoing change process.