The following is a response to a recurring question presented by some members of ENA and the Global Solidarity group; it asked if there is even a need for a transitional constitution! These members as well as the EGS suggested abandoning the constitution; they would like to transfer the responsibilities over to the “youth”. These statements gave me the impression that there is a lack of understanding pertaining to the issues that face the Eritrean people today.
As we struggle for the betterment of our people it is necessary to understand the state of the current affairs in Eritrea to be able to answer the question whether a transitional constitution is needed or not. Currently, we are suffering from lack of trust as a result of the bad practice of the regime. It is my opinion and the opinion of many Eritreans, that in order to achieve our goal of creating a just and democratic society, we need to establish a well thought out foundation. There must be a society where all factions of the nation can coexist in peace and harmony. At the very least we need to restore the functional trust that existed during the struggle for independence.
I do not think the problem is simply the lack of military power that kept the regime ruling for 20 years. One of the political organizations that have military presence could have made HGDF’s governing of the country and executing its political agenda difficult, as one organization did in the early 90’s. However, this approach will take too long before the fruits of the struggle are realized; and there is no guarantee that the result will be better than the current regime. Even though there is no one who thinks a worse regime than the current one will come to Eritrea. Our contemporary history also shows that we experienced a lot of difficulties that weakened the trust we bestowed on each other.
Before we proceed further into the problems and solutions, I would like you to consider the presence of HEGDF as well their intentional or unintentional servants.
It is evident that today there are groups who demand that the regime should have the opportunity to reform its party in a future democratic Eritrea. However, we should recall that this is the same regime that seized power for 20 years and created nothing but misery. This is the same regime with hands stained with the blood of innocents. The same group also believe that the problem is only Isaias and that they need a minimal change in order to solve the problem. On top of that, they also say that “In the same context and in the presence of the 1952 and 1997 constitutions of Eritrea, the ENCDC should have soberly assessed the need for writing a new one”. A comment like this will not come from a group that knows the issues concerning Eritreans.
There is no doubt that there are a lot of Eritreans who are working hard to make sure that the Eritrean people freed to live in peace. At the same time, we are aware of the presence of these individuals and organizations that are doing everything possible to see the national congress fail. The problem is not Isaias as an individual but his agenda and his project regardless of who implements them; whether it is Mohamed or Abraha is insignificant. So, the first question that has to be answered is: Are we as united as we would like to be? I have no doubt that everybody will provide the same response.
The lack of unity that we face within our organizations is due to the fact that we do not trust each other. Therefore, any efforts other than trying to regain the trust that has been lost will only result in prolonging the suffering of our people. One of the main tools that will help us regain the trust between us is to agree upon a transitional constitution, a detailed road map for success. It is an agreement among all the stakeholders regardless of what we call it; this will establish a strong foundation for any step that we want to take.
There is a need for a common ground regardless of its name in order for us to work and live together in tranquility. The reason is that the Eritrean people were divided based on groups and interests for at least the last 20 years. I don’t think this needs more elaboration; it is the cause that produced our division and mistrust. That lack of trust forced each political organization to sit back and watch the atrocities and crimes that are committed by HGDF because, no opposition want to pay the price of eliminating the regime and then deal with the same problem. As the suffering became unbearable, the political organizations realized that the way out of this mess; and that brought all Eritreans together and allowed each group to speak for itself. Based on the discussion, they figured out that each group has concerns and fears. These concerns and the fears can be eliminated by constructing a transitional constitution that encompasses all the rights of our people. Unless there is a written document that states everyone’s rights and freedoms (that we have agreed upon), we will not be able to work together and get along.
I also read in the letter that was sent to the Commission by the Eritrean Youth for Change Bay Area, that they have consulted many experts on political transitions and constitution-making processes. In order to solve any problem one must consult those who have the problem, not experts. Is it logical to consult a person or a group about an issue that they have nothing to do with? It seems to me that this is similar to ignoring the patient and consulting a medical organization. The group that must be consulted in this case are the Eritrean people and their representatives, not experts.
The Bay Area youth also stated that there is a United Nations Guidance Note on Constitution-making Processes. Is the United Nations Guidance Note similar to a joker playing-card that can fit in any card game and solve any problem? I do not think so.
Eritreans have two major problems.
- The first problem is an internal one among the opposition groups and the Eritrean people. The issue is the lack of trust among us.We need to restore the trust that we built during the era of struggle for independence; and that requires a special treatment that the pharmacy of united Nation does not carry.
- The second problem is, we need to get rid of the regime. Getting rid of the regime and bringing peace and tranquility cannot be achieved without solving the issue of trust.
Now, the 1952 and 1997 constitutions are mentioned in the EGS letter as a substitute for the current transitional constitution. I do not know if we are doing this intentionally because I know most of the EGS members are much smarter than bringing these constitutions to the table. These two constitutions are not valid to solve our current problems. At the time when the 1952 constitution was written, one of our major problems was the Eritrean National languages; back then, we did not have land issues, refugee issues, domination issues, or the power and resources issues.
The 1997 draft constitution is not accepted because:
- It was drafted in an undemocratic environment.
- It was drafted when more than a million Eritreans were suffering in the refugee camps of Sudan, and Yemen.
- The 1997 “draft constitution” did not tackle any of our problems. On the contrary, it legitimized all the injustices in order to allow Isaias and his clique to complete their plan for the Eritrea that they have in mind.
I am not surprised at all when I see some of the former PFDJ members, when they say there is no need for a transitional constitution. They ask: who gave the commission a mandate to write a transitional Constitution? At the same time they offer us the 1997 constitution as if PFDJ had a mandate of the Eritrean people! They know that the PFDJ is nothing but a self-assigned regime that represents nobody. What is wrong here? They probably know exactly what they are doing and they are not disclosing it, or they do not know that they are serving the regime in Eritrea by their suggestions.
Who has the MANDATE to draft a transitional constitution? PFDJ or the Commission?
PFDJ is a self assigned regime that represents only its own agenda; it does not represent the majority of the Eritrean people.
The Commission is made of diverse Eritreans and it was given the mandate by the ENA which represents the Eritrean people. They are the representatives of the people until the people come and state that they do not represent them.
Finally, solving the problem of mistrust must be our top priority, and this can only be done by agreeing on the content of the transitional constitution. I am sure if that foundation of trust does not see light in the coming congress in Addis Ababa, then we might end up with more mistrust and division. In that case, the winners will be those who are advocating for the 1997 constitution and those who are fighting to grant the criminal PFDJ to continue being a party in the democratic Eritrea of the future.