State structure, relationship between ethnic groups, dealing with the PFDJ, the role of religion in government and society.
After the independence of Eritrea-from Ethiopia in 1991, the leadership of the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF), and specifically its clandestine party - Eritrean people’s Revolutionary party (EPRP) came to power without any due process of civic or political discourse. Opposition organizations were deemed illegal, and Eritrea once again came under a yolk of a military rule lead by a single dictator-Isaias Afewerki. In Eritrea; today we have a self-appointed president, a cabinet of ministers, and regional military governors appointed by the whim of the president and accountable only to him. In 1995 the self-appointed president appointed 150 members of National Assembly comprised of 75 members from EPLF veterans, and 75 members from loyal party acquaintances of the general public. The assembly came to its end the same way as it came to existence –just by the whim of the president. At present, there is no clear state apparatus that governs the nation. It is a totalitarian state ruled by one man top to bottom accountable to the president of the state of Eritrea.
The Eritrean society had generally accepted the officially recognized nine ethnic groups that had been historically accepted including by the EPLF itself. There could be less or more ethnic groups if well researched scientific studies were to be made. The regime to the contrary operates on a belief that there is only “one people and one heart” philosophy which denies the existence of ethnic diversity in Eritrea except in Holidays and festivals. Communities are systemically denied to use their own languages in daily living, and the use of Arabic language in government institutions had been limited. These practices and the lack of empowerment, proportional representation in the central government, and denial of democratic rights to elect their own representatives in local governments have created growing grievances and mistrust among all ethnic groups and bitterness towards Tigrigna nationalities. In reality the political power in Eritrea is under the monopoly of one party-PFDJ headed by the president, and shared with few military leaders, and government officials. The government had never cared to safeguard the interests of the Eritrean people in general or the Tigrigna people in particular.
PFDJ had specialized in using ethnicity, religion, and variety of divisive measures for its own selfish interest. The fact that Isaias and most of his right-hand men (or women) are from the same ethnic group–Tigrigna does not mean that Tigrigna ethnic group is the beneficiary. Actually they are victims of the regime equally if not more than the other ethnic groups. Their land had been sold to dollar bearers of the government supporters living in the Middle East, Europe, and North America. Their houses demolished in front their eyes, families losing their children to indefinite military services for the past 24 years depriving them of building their own family lives. From those who escaped torture and imprisonment, they now make the current majority of refugees in the Sudan, Ethiopia, Israel and Europe and that is if they survive the torture and homicide in the hands of human traffickers in the Sinai Peninsula, and the merciless rough stormy sea of the Mediterranean. Regrettably, the campaign of denigration, and spewing hatred against the Tigrigna sect of the population was not limited to some circles in the country and refugee camps alone. It is abundant as well in political camps, and circles that consider themselves as forces of democratic change. Being in the opposition camp and considering the regime as Tigrigna, or representing the Christians of the highland, is a dangerous political assessment that can set precedence for future sectarian conflicts and instability in Eritrea. As EUDC, our message to the people should not be replacing the regime of one ethnic group by another ethnic group, or a regime of one religious faith by another one; but a message of a democratic change to establish democratic institutions in the country with constitutional rule that safeguards the human rights of all citizens. A system of governance-with state Monopoly of power, control of the economy, and enforcing it with the military and its security apparatus has to end. Under full protection of the law, the family-as the basic functional unit of a society has to be left alone to conduct its business without interference from any level of government operatives. Reconciliation among all the people of Eritrea has to start from transitional government to constitutional governance that allows continued dialogue to resolve conflicts among various groups of our society.
Christianity, and Islam-as the major religions along with other traditionalists have coexisted peacefully since their births-2 millenniums years ago. For the later, it is even thousands of years before the prevalence of the two great religions. We have been constantly challenged by various politicians of the region to use the two religions differences to advance their own political, religious and/or ideological agenda. But, no recorded Eritrean or East African history registers a civil war based on religious differences. Naming names, personalities or organizations involved in such a scheme may not be helpful at the present time, but the trace of the stain is still all over our contemporary literatures and websites. The Eritrean revolution despite its rough terrain of armed conflicts between liberation movements of one intending to eliminate the other had done more to unify our people against our enemies than divide us along religious or ethnic sects. There is undeniable truth that we have to admit that some of our compatriots are falling into the PFDJ regime’s scheme of instilling fear amongst our people by periodically and systematically releasing divisive religious rumors through its infamous “03” underground misinformation as recently as the 2nd regular session of ENCDC in 2013. Opposition organizations have a daunting task of uniting our people in preparation of a peaceful transition to a democratic rule. Instead of highlighting atrocities previously experienced by one’s own religious groups, and ignoring others’ misery of the past is not helpful. This kind of attitude cannot be different or better than the current government’s actions of creating mistrust amongst our people.
As a multi-ethnic, and multi religious organization, EUDC expresses consternation at incidences of this nature anytime they happen, and condemns every atrocity committed by the government or by any other group in every corner of the country. We strongly believe that creating a pluralist/multiparty democratic system with religious institutions separated from the state and vice versa with clear delineation between them is the only way to guarantee a viable everlasting democracy in Eritrea. All citizens regardless of the personal religious beliefs must be seen and treated as equals. Under its constitution, the state of Eritrea must equally value and protect all religious peaceful practices, and advocate for the peaceful coexistence of all faiths. We have the greatest respect for all political religious Eritrean organizations currently fighting along our side against the totalitarian regime in Eritrea, but a constitutional mandate to their perpetuity in a future democratic Eritrea must be seriously and sincerely debated by the people. We are living in a critical era, adjacent to a region-hot bed of ethnic and religious wars in North Africa, and the Middle East. As Eritreans, keeping our hands and noses clean from sensitization of such unfortunate upheavals is critically important in the restorative and rehabilitative endeavors to regain normalcy in post Isaias dictatorship of our nation.