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A Document That Minimizes The Mistrust Among Us

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.

About Hassen Ahmed

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  • Selamawi

    Hello again

    I also note that my other entry has been deleted.
    I said that I was vindicated when the Waela rejected the so called constitution written and presented to the Waela.
    If this is deliberate editorial interference this will mark the end of exchanging opposing ideas freely. I state that my views are by far much moderate that the extreme ones that this website accommodated. Remember the views of Ali Salim?


  • Selamawi

    Hello all!

    I have noticed that my reposes to Hassen’s response has been deleted. I hope this was not deliberately edited (although I do not have any other explanation).
    Please read my response to Hassen’s response below:

    Merhaba Hassen
    I am not sure your assertion can be demonstrated. You say this so called transitional constitution is more representative of the Eritrean people. Well, I challenge you that most of the Eritrean people are in Eritrea. No one should be allowed to dare and write a constitution for the wise, patient, decent people of Eritrea. Your constitution does not have the blessing of the expats/regugees/migrant Eritreans.
    I repeat my objection to any form of constitution that is drafted/ratified without the Eritrean people have been given the chance to debate freely… If/when PFDJ goes home or to its grave, then you have the chance to write a constitution (i.e. a constitution that is respected by all Eritreans).
    As to the nature of the Commission – do you think the “elected secretariat” in the current assembly? Do you think 5 Christians and 22 Muslims out of 27…is fair representation? Do you think this reflects our diversity? So how is it possible that all views have had the chance to be heard and be challenged by opposing views…?
    What we need is a united front: join hands, and march together to bring about a lasting change.
    Process, procedures… sensitivities … far sightedness… God bless!

  • Eritrean constition can only be drafted inside Eritrea after a democratic election. Take Egypt as an example, they are waiting drafting a new constition after the parliamentary election.

  • Hassen Ahmed

    Hi Selamawi, retawi and all,

    Selamawi, the transitional constitution by the commission was the fruit of a diverse Eritreans which was more representative of the Eritrean people more than any time in History. You stated that you did not read the text and you did not hear any consultation took place in preparing this document. You also question the legitimacy of the commission. First of all, failure to reading the document will put you in a bad position to discuss it. In terms of consultation, the document was around and people discussed it with in the organized supporters of the commission and in public in addition, feedback was produced by the public and sent to the commission.

    Retawi, regarding the trust among us, unless we are able to identify the problem as is, then it will be hard to find the right solution. At the time of colonization people mistrusted each other and I do not think there is a need to elaborate more. When our people joined hands in order to fight the colonial, we started to build trust and that was the main component of our success. After independence, the Eritrean people divided again, mistrust grew to its pick and that is why HEGDF lived in peace for these long. Currently, we are in the process of gaining back the trust that we achieved at the time of struggle. If the anticipation will not be clear to all the factions of our people specifically by producing a valuable document that represents all Eritreans, then we will get back to pre ENA era and worse.


    • Tewolde Mehari

      The 1997 constitution may not be the problem. It is Essaias who locked it in his drawer. The G15 members attempted to get it implemented right away, Essaias commented saying ” I have reservation” on the contents. Had it been open to the public, ammendements could have been done if need be. I believe, he didn’t want it implimented as it does not accommodate for a longer term to his reign and other issues. The commission spent more than two years, to draft it and it was simple for Essaias to discredit the effort exerted. It is a joke! it is normal for Essaias to say” it is not satisfactory” or simply “invalid”

  • ritawi


    First of all we all have to grow out of this trap us vs them. We need to focus on Eritrea and its people as a whole. It is very counter-productive and divisive to focus on presenting Eritreans as non-trusting each other. We proved this myth wrong beyond doubt when we united in flesh and blood to free our country. Yes, there were differences and there will always be. We should not allow these differences to be blown out of proportion by some power-hungry diaspora entities who butter up the ‘difference’ card to promote their selfish political agenda.

    Remember, we have always lived together, and we will always will. Let’s us not fall prey victims to the evil disigns of those who saw seeds of mistrust every time they open their mouth.

    There is no differeces that we cannot overcome if we work together in earnest.

  • I think creating transitional constitution will ignite more division among Eritreans that unity, just as the 1997 constitution did. I think some kind of document that will lead to the creation of constitution in post PFDJ democratic Eritrea.

  • meskelai

    You have plaied by the sponsor of the oppositions,top leaders of eda,encdc.Do you realy expect hurui,tewelde,domonico.ishac any good thing comeout of them?
    you been given a hints of what is realy going on behind the seen actors and directors,but you are blinded by your personal and group eggos.Iseyas and his lieutenant are loughing at your useless conerences run by worst than himself which will not make a dent whasoever to his rule.

  • Halai Hager

    Yes brother Hassan. We need to cure the injuries we are bearing on our souls and hearts. The mafia regime made us tp be suspicious of eachother. The only thing we need these days is to build the trust of eachother which can help us to remove the evil regime in our country. The regime is in his last minutes of the total dismantlement of his rule.

    Freedom and justice to our people and success to the conference in Addis.

  • Hamid Kaffo

    It is easy to understand that the transitional constitution does not deny the rights of our people inside Eritrea. That is the reason why it has a limited time and a name (transitional). What bother me are the supporters of the regime when they pretend as if they care about the Eritrean people inside and outside. It easy to spat them because, they can’t last long before they start defending the regime (Binto Seriho, xroy may yestiyom alo). The majority of this people raise the issue of the mandate. Those who think HEGDF has to go, have to be careful of those who are hiding in different organization and serving the criminal regime. Those who want the success of the congress, have to protect it because, with the same capacity, there are others who are working for its failure
    The commission distributed this document all over the World where ever Eritreans are present and, it has been discussed by those who were willing to invest their time and effort. They also shared their feedback with the commission. Remember, we are part of the people inside and we are struggling for them because, the majority of us are not going to abandon the comfort of the west and live in Eritrea at least at this time. Therefore, if the logic that some of us are using today, such as we in the Diaspora don’t have the mandate, then that also should have been valid when the Eritreans that initiated the armed struggle from Egypt and Sudan at the time when a lot of Eritreans were advocating for unity with Ethiopia. Having said that, restoring trust and peace have a price and I hope we are all willing to pay the price for the sake of our people inside and in the refugee camps.

  • jemal

    I don’t think there’ll be mis-trust amoung ; the reason why is ; I believe the perpose of this meeting is to norrow the gap ; to solve what it seems the the problem and to talk openly what it seems fear befor to discuss about it & bring it on the table .
    ” Remember fear it self is a fear ” If we let it out ; we will get the soultion for it .

  • kokhob

    I don’t see any reason to worry any more about trust. we have already manged the question of the past at least to the important level if not more than the requirements to deal in this congress. and then this is a transitional period to clean doubts if there is. but above all we are going to work on the system which will be followed as we have done earlier to reach to this stage. I don’t see and think this will be difficult phase as some thought. almost everything supporters and proves that we will come up with great results. just be open minded and listen each other. be optimistic remember at the end of the day we want peaceful Eritrea and just start from this point.

  • wed. garza

    No taxation without representation should be the principle to adhere to, he who denies the rights of others to represent themselves the way they see it fit, has very little added value in a peacefull coexistence we all highly value. trust is/ was ruined by just “I will do it for you, you need not be present” mentality. Brother this has to be well dealt by all concerned people.

    • ritawi

      wedi garza,

      I am not sure where your comment in this context fits in. But you did nail it down briliantly if are referring to the pfdj’s motto give us your money with no strings atttached. What is mind bogling is the fact that,not only there is no representation to air your voice-but there a total murder of your fundamental rights. Your rights to : speak, ask, and seek justice. And, yet it is their right to reach deep into your pockets. How funnier can it get.

      The diaspora pfdj’s supporters and cheerleaders should come to their senses. From the comforts of the far-land hide-outs. They are doing a geat disservice to the people of their country.

      Furthermore, none of them is willing to leave and live the ‘wonderful’ live they watch on TV ERi.

      WOW! that hurts man.

  • tata

    wat do you mean mr. hassen ? you just have strip down all rights of the Eritrean ppl inside Eritrea and label them in one line with the regime.
    like you have said on your contribution who give the mandet to HGDF to draft a constitution, well who give as (thos in diaspora) to draft a transitional constitution any whey ?
    we cannot cruminalize the ppl inside Eritrea neither we have the right to paternalize and sei we speek on
    behave of them. dont you think !
    full mandet of drafting constitution is a national responsability and right of all Eritreans inclucive, and not solely of thos in diaspora living nationality.

  • Araya Debessay

    What is needed among the groups meeting in Addis is a "Memorandum of Understanding" that covers the road map on how to transition Eritrea to be a democratic country. The groups meeting in Addis do not have the mandate to prepare a constituion for Eritrea.

  • Selamawi

    Well, when we start to compare the process/location of the Eritrean Constitution (written by PFDJ or the Commission) perhaps we can agree on one point: both of them are deficient. However, the former would probably carry more weight if it had been implemented….
    Reason/s: there was widespread consultation/meetings of the ordinary citizen (stakeholders); it was conducted at home and abroad (although I personally never participated in those meetings), although it lacked an input from the opposition…I believe the ordinary Eritrean would abide by it had the chance been granted. By now we would have been able to rectify it…

    The one by the Commission is difficult to even define. I have not read the text, but I did not hear any consultation take place in preparing this document either… The Commission itself may not have legitimacy to give or write the guiding tool for the whole nation. It would have been better if the Commission limed its mandate to writing a document that guides the opposition to get us home. Once in Asmara, the opposition would have to give the poor citizens the opportunity to draft a constitution, hold elections… Hey there plenty of WOREJA at home who would be able to weave the intricacies and subtleties into the constitution so it is not changing by another commission away from home because some one refused them to be at home…
    Quite frankly to speak about a constitution written by the Commission in foreign land… does not seem or sound right to say the least. Why don’t they write a temporary working tool?
    To the writer: I am not PFDJ, in fact I am longstanding opponent. But I believe the process of drafting a constitution which all of us respect and are guided by needs to a little higher status and a little lofty in status…if it wants to be one.

    In my books a constitution is not one, until it is freely and publicly debated by people who hold fiercely opposing viewpoints. Then it has to be ratified by the towering REPRESENTATIVES OF THE PEOPLE = BAITO!

  • Ordinary4rueloflaw

    well said in deed!

    For those that are sincerely feeling the subjugation, tragedy of the Eritrean people, the medicine is abundantly clear and needs no rocket scientist to slice-things-in-halves to make people understand. to break the witchcraft of exceptionally entrenched mistrust requires exceptional integrity with one’s own conscience and knowing/admiting/accepting the bitter pill of one’s own individual capacity & contribution. without everyone’s involvement to build the trust-factor the future is bleak and impossible to predict what lies ahead. as a start, the key bottom-line to surgically remove the cancer of mistrust, those in the opposition first need to realize their individual and group deficiency of past and ready for the present with humility. And this reconciling of oneself wioh one’s own deficiency begins with no-one but the 1997 constitution chair Dr. Bereket HS. Holding his national contribution thus far with respect is onething, however, holding him accountable , or at least if he, as elderly, publicly admitting the mistake he has made in drafting the incomplete 1997 constitution and even worse not ensuring for its implementation is a start. And for me, I can’t see EGS members and its intellectuals as exceptional breed that has leadership, far-sightedness quality. Action speaks louder they say. so what you said about the need of “transitional constitution” is what is desperately needed to lay a trust ground work.

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  • I agree we need a new transitional constitution.