Inform, Inspire, Embolden. Reconcile!

An Interview With Dr. Bereket Habte Selassie

The idea of interviewing Dr. Bereket was triggered by the feedback I received from the many people who have kindly shared their opinions with me. One of my primary goals in writing is to promote a healthy discourse, serve the truth and the cause of justice and hopefully play a minor role in enhancing our collective understanding on issues that matter to all of us—Eritreans. I had promised in a response to a reader that I will dig deeper into the subject and come back to him; and this, so far, is what I’ve been able to do in this regard.

This is the first part of the interview. The second part is in the making and plan to incorporate some of your questions in it, if you would kindly and promptly share them with me. I might not be able to individually respond to your comments but rest assured I’m seriously reading and reflecting on them and time permitting, I like to respond to all of them, sometime in the future.

Semere: In my previous article where I critiqued the late Seyoum Haregot’s new book, I referred to you as the “principal author of the Constitution,” and upon reading it, you called and expressed your objection to me. Why do you object? Aren’t you the principal author of the constitution? If it is not you, do you care to tell us who it is?

Dr. Bereket: First of all, I would like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to clear some misunderstanding related to some issues about the making of Eritrea’s 1997 Constitution.

The first issue of contention, which ideally should be a non-issue, concerns the authorship of the constitution.

You are not the first person to refer to me as the principal author of the constitution. Some even refer to me as “The Father of the constitution.” All my remonstrations and attempts at correction have fallen on deaf ears. I remember responding to one Eritrean who sent me an email in which he referred to me as such, that if I must be characterized in any manner in respect of my role with respect to the making of the constitution, it is probably more accurate to call me the handmaiden of the constitution in the manner of a medical personnel aiding or facilitating in the delivery of an infant. He was not convinced, and simply said that that was “commendable humility.” Many a journalist and commentator who reported on lectures I had given in various forums would insist on my being the principal author of the Eritrean constitution. And I had no control over such statement, which when published must have offended some people, including the late Seyoum Haregot and the other five members of the Commission’s Executive Committee who used it to launch a vicious attack against me.

Semere: Are you referring to the members of the Executive Committee whom I referred to as the “Ignoble Six” in the afore-mentioned article?

Dr. Bereket: (He laughs)…Those are your words, not mine; but yes, that is what I had in mind.

To come to your question, you asked me if I’m the principal author of the constitution and if it is not me, then it must be somebody else and you want to know who it is.

You need to bear with me and permit me to expand the story going beyond the actual drafting of the text of the constitution. I need to explain the overall narrative of its making—the overall narrative, which I have written about in my book, The Making of the Eritrean Constitution: The Dialectic of Process and Substance (2003) contains several stages.

The first stage included my appointment as chairman of the Constitutional Commission, and the drafting of the law establishing the Commission (Proclamation No. 55/1994). In my 2003 book, I give details about my reluctance to accept the appointment due to problems that my family faced, and the assurance made by Isaias that there would be financial provisions to answer the challenges to be faced by my family.

At our first meeting with Isaias I asked him about the terms of reference for making the constitution, including the law establishing the commission and guidelines to be provided by the EPLF government. He said: “Kullu kabaKa’yu.” (It will be up to you). So I set out to draft the law establishing the commission; but I had also the aid of the EPLF Charter to provide me with a general framework, in addition to my own sense and knowledge of the EPLF of which I had been a member since 1975, as well, of course, as my own expertise on constitutional law, which is my academic specialty.

The second stage involved drawing up a general plan of approach and presenting the plan to the first meeting of the Executive Committee and then the general body (the Council) of the Commission. This stage also included agreeing on the principal values that would guide the making of the Constitution as well as adopting the strategy and methodology of going about consulting with the public.

The Third stage involved making presentations to the public on constitutional issues, on the basis of an agreed booklet—Meba’ta Quam (Elements of the Constitution)—that acted as a guide to the process.

The final stage was a multi-layered activity involving seminars and debates involving different sectors of our society both in Eritrea and in the Diaspora.

Through it all, there were expert consultations based in conferences and special seminars. In all this effort all the members of the Commission, not just the members of the Executive committee participated—each to his/her own ability—even though the latter played the principal role in the process.

It was an exciting experience and one of the most exciting experiences of my life. The final outcome of this exciting processes—the text of the constitution—is the result of the collective effort. It does not belong to any one person, or a group of persons. Hence my reluctance of succumbing to the temptations of being called the father of the constitution, even though I played a significant part of its making from the beginning to the end in heading the Commission.

As to whether there was an English draft from which the Tigrigna was translated and the other questions related to this non-issues, I will, if need be, provide an answer another time.

I want to end this response to your first question by quoting a passage from the Foreword to my aforementioned book.

“…I am indebted to the countless Eritreans whose views expressed in many village and town meetings, during the three-year period of constitution making (1994-1997), enlightened us all and enriched the process. It has been a rare privilege and distinct honor for me to have helped design and manage the process and enabled people to air their views. It is hard to record faithfully and completely the views of so many compatriots from whose wisdom I learnt a great deal during the three-year period of constitution making, including particularly the members of the Constitutional Commission. My deepest thanks to all of them, and I hope that they can see in some of its parts a reflection of their contribution and the genius of our people’s age-old traditions of respect for law and justice.”

Semere: You’ve raised a lot of important issues that need further elaboration, but, allow me to revisit my previous question one more time. By referring to you as the “principal author of the Constitution” I was not negating the role of your colleagues in the Constitutional Commission. I know it was a collective effort, but, I assumed, as most people, someone amongst you was responsible for all the writing, or at least, most of it. Let me make an analogy, the US constitution cannot be credited to one person, but James Madison is generally regarded as the principal author and father of the constitution. Who is the James Madison of the Eritrean Constitution? If it is not you, somebody has to be. The analogy of “the handmaiden of the constitution in the manner of a medical personnel aiding or facilitating in the delivery of an infant” might be appropriate, but that is not what is commonly used to describe the role you’ve played in the making of the Eritrean constitution.

Dr. Bereket: To answer your main question, I have been intrigued by the phenomenon of people defining a historical actor (if I may presume to put myself in that category) in ways that seems to fulfill their intrinsic need to personalize a historical process. In the present instance, I happen to be the person who headed the historic Constitutional Commission, playing a major role in the constitution making exercise, and people attribute to my role any value they wish and attach a name they think appropriate. Americans use James Madison, and I am flattered by all this. The fact remains, though, that it would be distorting the reality of what happened, that the whole experience involved a collective effort, as I stated in answer to the first question.

Semere: Allow me to go back to some of the issues you’ve raised. You’ve said that Isaias had essentially given you a blank check to do whatever you want to do with the making of the constitution. I think the word you used is “Kullu kabaKa’yu.” This to me shows that Isaias had complete confidence in you. Why weren’t you then his first choice? You’ve once told me that Isaias’ first choice was the late Seyoum Haregot, a point that has been supported by the response, Mr. Paulos Tesfagiorgish, has written to my critique of Seyoum’s new book: http://awate.com/my-fears-and-paulos-views-on-seyoum-haregot/. Do you care to elaborate?

Dr. Bereket: Why Isaias did not choose me to head the commission in the first place is a question only he can answer. All we can do is speculate. Isaias and I had a fluctuating relationship ever since I first entered the Meda and joined the EPLF. The apogee of our positive relationship was when I became the founding chairman of the Eritrean Relief Association (ERA). And the relationship soured occasionally due to my assertive personality, which he apparently did not like. But because the movement needed my services, he tolerated me. Until the spring of 1990, when I published the booklet, which you have read, Reflection on the Future Political System of Eritrea. In the booklet, I wrote, among other things that in a future Eritrea where a multi-party system prevails, the ELF should be invited to participate in a general election. I cited the EPLF resolution of the Second Congress (1987) in which multi-party system is envisaged as the governing principle.

A person, who happened to be present in Sahel when Isaias first read the booklet, told me that Isaias was furious and uttered some harsh words of anger. So that was the last straw that broke the camel’s back (the camel being our relationship!). So he turned to Seyoum Haregot as is first choice, and was forced to consider for the same reason that he (the EPLF) decided to launch on a constitution making exercise. The two are related in that they demonstrate the opportunistic nature of Isaias exercise of power. Both Isaias and Meles Zenawi were told in no uncertain terms by Herman Cohen, head of the Africa Bureau of the American State Department: “No democracy. No assistance.”
The whole constitution making exercise was an opportunistic ploy to be in the good books of the West. It was not a strategic decision based on universal principles, but a tactical ploy. Hence the fact that a ratified constitution has not been implemented for 16 years.

Semere: If you knew through a reliable source that Isaias was not fond of your multiparty system ideas, why did you accept to be part of the constitution making process that was supposed to guarantee the very idea that angered Isaias in the spring of 1990? Or, are these observations you’ve made in retrospect?

Dr. Bereket: Multi-party system is an almost universally accepted idea in our time; it is not just “my idea.” And the EPLF had embraced it in one of its resolutions at its Second Congress in 1987 in which I participated. It is a vital part of democracy and even dictators pay lip service to it. A more relevant question would be the reverse of what you asked, like “Had you declined to accept the appointment of the Chairmanship of the Constitutional Commission, wouldn’t Isaias have accused you of hypocrisy saying: “Dr. Bereket, how can you decline to be part of a historic process that would herald a democratic era in your country for which you have been fighting?!”

  • My point in all this is that democracy and human rights for me are fundamental principles, not to be embraced and discarded at will as expediency demands. Isaias is known to use such principles as a tactical ploy, as expediency.
  • In my own case, it would have been foolhardy not to embrace a wonderful opportunity to help shape a constitutional process that would lead to democratic governance, despite the possibility that Isaias might try to thwart it along the way, which is what happened.
  • An allied and relevant question is: in view of what happened, i.e. Isaias’s refusal to implement the constitution, why did he take the steps toward constitutional government? I think I have answered this question before by alluding to America’s demand for democracy as a condition for economic assistance. In a word, it was expediency. And he used the “Badme war” withe the Weyane as an excuse for his refusal to implement the constitution. It is a prime example of his contempt of the Eritrean people—their intelligence and sense of right and wrong. It is a perfect illustration of what I have called elsewhere Isaias Afwerki’s “Immaculate deception.”

Semere: The Isaias used the Badme war as an excuse for his refusal to implement the constitution is an oft given and somewhat convenient explanation but it really does not go to the heart of the matter. This is the same explanation the late Seyoum also gave in his posthumously published new book. The Eritrean constitution was ratified on May 23, 1997 and the Badme war broke out only a year later on May 6, 1998. What was Isaias’s excuse during this whole year? The war seemed to lend support to his earlier decision but it was not the main reason why he refused to not implement the constitution.

Dr. Bereket: Our expectation, partly based on the verbal expressions of some high-ranking agents of Isaias, was that the constitution would be implemented within a year of its ratification. We could not, in fairness and common sense, insist on the immediate implementation of the constitution. It was a matter of logistics; it was also a matter of the need of “clearing the deck” by changing any laws that contradicted the provisions of the constitution, such as the law establishing the Special Court. Thus the government created a special committee that we thought was to that end, a committee chaired by Ms. Askalu Menkerios. The committee met only once and was not heard from: there was no report of any kind from it or about it. We were to deduce later that the creation of the committee was a diversionary tactic—Isaias at his game of deception.

And then, in May 1998, he took the country to war with Ethiopia, a year after the constitution was ratified. You ask: what was his excuse “during the whole year?” By this, I take it you mean why didn’t he implement the constitution during the whole year (May 1997-1998)? He did not implement the constitution because he didn’t want to implement it; and I think I have already answered the question as to why he didn’t want to implement it, as well as the question why he allowed the process in the first place.
The “Badme War” ended in 2000. Therefore, the claim that the war was the reason for the non-implementation of the constitution was shown to be a bald-faced lie. It was only when he was cornered by some foreign journalists on this and related issues that the lies and prevarications of Isaias and his regime were exposed. On one occasion, when the reporters pushed him to the limit, insisting when would there be an election an exasperated Isaias blurted out the truth: “In thirty years, or forty…or fifty…” Speaking of the emperor being without clothes!

To be continued…

Dr. Bereket Habte Selassie is former Chairman of the Eritrean Constitution Commission and Professor of law and African and Afro-American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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[i] The book can be purchased at: http://www.amazon.com/Making-Eritrean-Constitution-Dialectic-Substance/dp/1569021600 or http://www.africaworldpressbooks.com/servlet/Detail?no=322

[ii] The presence and publication of this booklet was denied by the two people with pen-names (Asaminew Ewnetun and Aradon Fedai Haqi) who wrote a 48 pages “book review” on the two memoirs Dr. Bereket has written. The “review” was sent to Dr. Bereket’s colleagues at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill by the woman who had been leading the campaign of defamation against Dr. Bereket, Mrs. Sophia Tesfamariam. The Awate Team responded to this review: http://awate.com/reviewing-the-reviewers-in-defense-of-bereket-habte-selassie/

Pinterest
  • seliho

    why do u suspend part two of the interview this much long? i think it has its own disadvantage . post it quickly

  • http://gmail.com solomon abrha

    stop talking abt that rotten document! It is just a copy of others.It is not something to boost abt. Try to make it work and then we will listen you .

  • http://gmail.com solomon abrha

    Drafting a constitution is not that much a big deal.We all now that what the 1997 constitution has in its content is principally is no different than a dozen other documents of the same purpose.So, i do not see the point why you guys are making a big deal about writing or drafting such a document.It a shame to see that Dr Bereket is also drawn to such non sensual arguments which we all know do not bear any fruit.

  • syoum gebregziabher

    Representative governments were in the past the result of revolutions but now they have become an integral part of economic and social environment of any government. The central issue therefore; is the economic and the social environment of Eritrea conducive to any form of written constitution no matter how well it might have been crafted by any one? Willynilly Dr. Berket has done his best and has left a remarkable foot prints in Ethiopia and Eritrea. I leave the evaluation of his legacy to historian and social psychologist.

  • Tarique

    I can’t understand why some people hate to even entertain the very idea of unity so long as it is based on the principles of mutual respect and benefit.

  • L.T

    ERA foundn by Abeba Tesfagergis,Abebe Debas,Nayzgi Gebremedhin before 1975 you joined EPLF in Adi Nifas.
    Dr Bereket if your memory are frish can go and read your inteviewed by “Hiweyet”Magazine in 1996 in last page after Dr Amare Tekle interview and there you explain why Isaias choosing you 1993 and he sent you one email and you said “OK Sir”
    Rest is yours.

    • Semere Habtemariam

      Selam L.T.

      The first part of your question is easy since I can directly call Mrs. Abeba and confirm it, but I would appreciate it if you would provide more info on the 2nd part of your sentence or if you have access to the interview so we can link it.

      Thank you
      Semere T Habtemariam

  • Reality Sucks

    Kibur Ato Semere Habtemairam,

    Dr. Bereket is an intelligent and thoughtful Eritrean. He probably means well for Eritrea and its people. Unfortunately, he lost it in his twilight years.

    As we say in Tigrigna, “ab irganu tseyiqulu.”

    I don’t believe there is anything he can say or do at this point to rehabilitate his image. To that end, your interview is a waste of time.

    The Eritrean people do not take him seriously. I am not even sure if the Ethiopian people take him seriously either.

    • Zegeremo

      Dear dream sucks

      How do you know that the Eritrean people do not take him seriously?

      Regards

  • Hameed

    Appointed to write the constitution by a single person and blocked the constitution by the same single person.

    Is the way the Eritrean constitution written correct? As we observe the making of constitutions in the countries of the Arab Spring, first all the political parties concerned appoint the committee that writes the constitution, secondly the present what the have written to the political parties concerned and the people. After it is accepted by the political parties, they present it to the people for voting.

    Where is the so called Eritrean constitution from these democratic procedure?

  • rezen

    A huge Pandora Box is just opened. I think, it is HEALTHY, provided it is within civilized manner of critique. Doesn’t Eritrea deserve THE WHOLE TRUTH about its history? I believe the item will break the record of the number of commentaries at awate.com.

  • STEFANOS TEMOLSO

    Dull people talk about people, medium people talk about events and intelligent people talk about ideas! So, my countrymen, try to talk about ideas and not about people. Stop naming people and do not try to insult people whom you disagree with.

  • Yohannes Mehari

    Dear Semere T H,

    Can you ask Dr. Bereket what Yemane Ghebreab said about having implemented 2/3 of the constitution? Is there any truth to what they were claiming in the clip below?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-x1R2KVffU

    Eritrean Constitution – http://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/—ed_protect/—protrav/—ilo_aids/documents/legaldocument/wcms_126648.pdf

    Do they mean that they have implemented it, but are only using article 26.

    “Article 26 Limitation Upon Fundamental Rights and Freedoms

    (1) The fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed under this Constitution may be
    limited only in so far as is necessary in a just and democratic society in the interests of
    national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, health or
    morals, for the prevention of public disorder or crime or for the protection of the
    rights and freedoms of others. (2) Any law providing for the limitation of the
    fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed in this Constitution must:
    a) be consistent with the principles of a just and democratic society; b) be of general
    application and not negate the essential content of the right or freedom in question; c)
    specify the ascertainable extent of such limitation and identify the Article or Articles
    hereof on which authority to enact such limitation is claimed to rest.
    (3) Notwithstanding the provisions of Sub-Article 1 of this Article and other Articles of this Constitution to the contrary, the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed
    under Articles 14 (1) and (2), 17 (2), 19 (4) of this Constitution shall not be limited.”

    What does it practically mean that “equality of all Eritrean languages is guaranteed”?

    “Article 4 – National Symbols and Languages
    1. The Eritrean Flag shall have green, red and blue colours with
    golden olive leaves. The detailed description of the Flag shall CONSTIFPP.DOC 2/7/01 10:40 PM
    524 N.C. J. INT’L L. & COM. REG. [Vol 24
    be determined by law.
    2. Eritrea shall have a National Anthem and a Coat of Arms
    reflecting the history and the aspiration of its people. The
    details of the National Anthem and the Coat of Arms shall be
    determined by law.
    3. The equality of all Eritrean languages is guaranteed.”

  • http://www.awate.com hanetay

    This man is is a puppet with a selfish behavior. i remember in 1974, he was invited at my uncle’s place and heard him say to the guests there “intay ikum netsanet netsanet tiblu iski hade merahi wei nigus ni eritrea zemahadera nigeruni”. Sad he is brilliant but a power greedy man.

  • tnkidane

    Dear Semere,

    It is good that you had a session with Dr. Bereket and I hope you have learnt not to be loose lip on matters of importance. It is true that Dr. Bereket has played many roles before and after independence of Eritrea. There is, however, an issue that keeps nagging me about his views vis-avis the implementation of the Constitution. We all know that the Constitution belongs to the people of Eritrea who actively participated in the drafting and ratification -through its representatives. The president and his cohorts are the servants of the people, paid by the people to serve only the people. We the people were led to believe that at long last we have a constitution that becomes effective immediately after ratification. In light of this, I do not understand why IMPLEMENTATION came to the narrative after the fact. We know that the government is dragging its feet to buy time for as long as possible until the dictatorship collapses some day. Worst, the Constitution Executive Committee has also knowingly aligned itself with the government in deceiving us that the people of Eritrea has a working constitution. All farce. Semere, please ask the good doctor why they implanted the term IMPLEMENTATION and why his Committee is not in gross violation of the wishes and desire of the people in much the same way as the government on whom the blame is solely heaped upon.

    Thanks

  • http://awate Tsbuk wedi

    I wonder if we know what we did not know? Let’s see what’s next. I also wonder if they are all where given because of their ability or some thing?

  • Gebez

    This man(Dr. Bereket Habteselassie) displays a typical example of betrayal by many Eritrean so-called ‘intellectuals’. He was,at some point of his life, a mayor of the city of Harar. He was one of the top officials of the imperial regime. Then, when all these were gone, he betrayed the very country that honored him and joined the splinter group in Eritrea. This made me remember the words his Father priest Habteselassie Gulbet. Back in the 50′s, he had told the emperor not to give special privileges to Eritreans. This was because he saw that the emperor was paying much more attention to Eritreans than to other Ethiopians. Betrayal is the worst sin guys.

  • http://awate.com Meron

    The interview of the neo-andinet quarter.

  • Semere T Habtemariam

    Dear Haile,

    That is the plan; we will get there. If you’ve any specific questions, please email it weriz@yahoo.com.

    Although, my initial goal was to interview the Dr. Bereket on issues related to the Constitution, after reading the comments such as of Lemlem and others, I assure you that I will have Dr. B respond to them in a manner that will satisfy most of us.

    Haile, the next part of the interview will focus on the substance of the document and why we should care or not about it.

    Respectfully yours
    hawka Semere Habtemariam

    • haile

      Thank you dear brother Semere H, wish you all the best.

    • http://www.rsadomission.com Ahmed

      Dear Semere and Others,
      Thanks for bringing this very important issue of Eritrean constitution to the fore. I commend your efforts to promote “a healthy discourse, serve the truth and the cause of justice “.
      We, Eritrean Afar nationality and our advisers, had the privilege of hosting Prof. Bereket in Canada in 2012. We held discussions with him about the 1997 Constitution over the course of two full days. In particular, we raised with him our concerns regarding the absence of minority rights from 1997 constitution.
      Professor Bereket admitted to us that the Constitutional Commission had not consulted with the Afar, and did not understand their concerns. He explained the absence of minority rights in the constitution as follows:
      ” In our conversation with Professor Magnet, I mentioned 2 important facts – the timing of the writing of the constitution was in the context of the 30-year war and most people of that generation regarded themselves as socialists. The socialist ethos was a crucial point for the creation of values that were understood to be the main principles. That the mindset did not consider potential for harm to minority nationalities. We had a mentality of we are all in it together, we are one people indivisible. That kind of mentality dominated our thinking. I don’t think we went to sufficient length to consider the possibility that our framework might not work for the minorities and that made hubris possible. Hubris from dominant groups like highlanders. It is very difficult for one person to accept possibility that we have made mistake excluding everything with minority people.” http://youtu.be/z-g-YPz_olc
      Prof. Bereket offered suggestions as to how to remedy this mistake.
      “I think that as a nation, we should look at perhaps the experience of Truth and reconciliation to create a framework. We need to come to terms with our mistakes. We can’t just castigate Isaias unless we admit we were part of the mistake. I will profess of this mistake. With all the good will and misguided conception of socialist visionary with land issues, well, we now come to realize we made a mistake. We are saying so openly. If we think of Truth and reconciliation it will help us confront our past, confront our mistakes and that may lead us to importance of recognizing the dignity of Afar and Kunama. First recognize their identity. Historically evolved identity with their cultural values and so on, that is the beginning . We did not recognized that. We might have assumed that but we didn’t. It has to be articulated. Then of course, with the control resources if the Afar are given federal status, if insist on control of their sea, minerals, resources and these are things we can discuss and negotiate”. http://youtu.be/1rErAdN2_5E
      Prof. Bereket’s expressed openness to our concerns and a willingness to work together with us in the future to propose modifications to the Constitution to meet them.
      Professor Bereket has to be commended by all Eritreans for his courage and past contributions. As Eritrean Afar, we have accepted his apology for his past mistakes and for his hubris in his actions towards us.
      Those mistakes, and that hubris, however, continue to be reflected in the text of the 1997 Constitution. For that reason Afar people in Eritrea cannot and will not accept the implementation of 1997 Constitution in its current form.
      continue on..

  • selam

    We Eritreans are unmatured people, why don’t we respect people with a different opinion. When Dr. Bereket said he wanted to see Eritrea and Ethiopia united he clarified it as part of his pan African view. I myself would like to argue We Eritreans should think of such views. The era of emperial rule is over in Ethiopia. Above all we should learn a lesson from what EU and USA.
    Nationalim is like a cancer and it is leading us to kill each other. Dr. Bereket you should not shy away from stating such view, it doesn’t matter if the public opinion is agagainst you but one we will raise from oir deep sleep remember your precious advices.

    • Saleh Gadi

      This is just to remind you not to generalize. Do you agree with your own statement, that “We Eritreans are unmaturated people”?
      C’mon, that can’t be proven besides, are you saying we are all dummies? Please stop this self-flagellation. You can’t make such outrageous statement about millions of people.

      • selam

        I apilogize for the terminology.

    • haile

      Selamat Selam

      SG’s point notwithstanding, it is not desirable to measure immaturity by one that is an immature yardstick in itself.

      The second point from my angle of established argument, pan-something-ism is usually based in rule of law and governing practice in international dealing. The talk of pan-African-ism in the context of someone who is occupying your sovereign territories in violation of international agreements and protocols is deep in the woods of immaturity. Humbling oneself and stating that it was an unthoughtful off-the-cuff statement would have gone a long way.

      Defending an indefensible position comes at a cost, sometimes greater cost than the position warrants.

      • Salyounis

        Selamat Haile:

        In reference to Dr. Bereket, you wrote:

        The talk of pan-African-ism in the context of someone who is occupying your sovereign territories in violation of international agreements and protocols is deep in the woods of immaturity. Humbling oneself and stating that it was an unthoughtful off-the-cuff statement would have gone a long way.

        So far, regardless of the positions you have taken, you have come across as intellectually honest. Please refer to the 4 minute video of Dr. Bereket answering a question in a book-signing ceremony.(The narration is in French; Dr. Bereket’s statements are in English):

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ej8gARyfxDs

        At the time the brouhaha happened, we transcribed it at awate’s facebook to help those who don’t have any time to watch videos. Here it is:

        1. French narration
        2. Dr. Bereket talks about the disappointment of the Eritrean revolution. The unlikelihood of an Eritrean edition of “Arab Spring” due to the absence of Eritrean youth in Asmara. How Isaias Afwerki once said in a meeting in Sierra Leone that he wished “we had killed him [Dr. Bereket]”
        3. French narration
        4. Dr Bereket: “If the African Union could energize enough… and will, and push in this process of regional re-unification, in the view of a future launching pad for African Union, I think it would be the way to go. Realistically speaking, I don’t see any other way.”
        5. French narration
        6. Dr. Bereket: “I have been part of Ethiopia. There is a larger sense in which we are all Ethiopians, historically, culturally speaking as I tried to explain today. And my wish, and my hope before I die is that we’ll come back together in a larger unity, transcending all these divisions.”
        7. Abrupt video end.

        Now, what is objectionable about this? On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is Jane Fonda sitting atop a Viet Cong tank in the middle of the US-Vietnam war, and 1 is a Ugandan talking about the necessity of creating a common East African market that includes Tanzania, where does this rank? For me, it is 1 (only because my scale is 1 to 10; otherwise it would be a 0:)

        saay

        • haile

          Selamat Saay

          eti guday “ab Tqa tki zelo qol’A aytebki” eyu:) I remember first time I heard this one, I was furious! Because the guy who broke the news to me was hardened PFDJ. Of course, when I had the chance to listen to it myself, I was like…weylekey texawituly keydu ezi hgdef:)

          But seriously, isn’t that politics really? Knowing how to get out of inadvertent fix, and the art of controlling public perception. That is why I was less concerned on how jumped in, rather proposed a means to swim back out. I think it was Dawit or Darwin who said ‘…Malthus is right, it is either sink or swim (always in that order:).”

          Cheers

          • Salyounis

            Ghedim Tegadalay Haile:

            The point is, if you were writing a headline for a newspaper*, what would you pick from that video:

            “Dr. Bereket: Isaias Afwerki Regrets Not Ordering A Hit On Me!”

            or

            “Dr. Bereket: Wouldnt’ It Be Swell if Eritrea, Ethiopia Formed A Confederation?”

            One of Africa’s best known constitutional scholars accuses a Head of State of expressing his wish to have had him killed and it is brushed off. There are only so many possibilities: (a) people don’t believe Dr. Bereket; (b) people believe Dr Bereket; (c) people don’t know what to believe. Of those who believe Dr. Bereket, all have dismissed it as, “meh, happens all the time.” That is Eritrea in 2013: I think in any other country in the world, including African countries with two newspapers, that would have been the headline.

            saay

            * If the newspaper is a tabloid (New York Post, Expressen, meskerem) I would go with: “Eritrean Madison to Washington: You Want Me Dead!” 2 Inch type, of course.

    • http://yahoo alemayehu

      selam first do not put your self as an eritrean to insulting eritrean . this web only for eritrean so do not interfer in our mater.

  • haile

    Dear Semere H

    Good work and well presented. I sincerely hope the discussion would also err on factually verifiable assertions, as regards decisive matters. The “Badem war was started to shelve the constitution” type of arguments are casually made and evidently not possible to draw valid connection. Again, that much was clear in that aspect of the discussions. Hence, it might have been better to dwell on issues that Dr. BereKet can deliver well: the pertinent arguments around the constitution issue, internally and that which comes from those who don’t accept/recognize it.

    I don’t believe that statements that are hatched from circumstantial evidences and hearsay, such as IA thought this or that (true that it may be juicy!) would add any more value in substance.

    As, Dr Bereket hails from that field of expertise, can you candidly discuss with him about some voices (not mine) that question it on its ability to serve us all equitably.

    Regards

    P.S. When you get to do the second part interview with IA, to get his rebuttals of what is being said about him, do ask him if he thinks he is the George Washington of Eritrea, and if he isn’t who would be thought as such….I hope he doesn’t go on to say he was only the handmaiden and that what the neo-andnets are saying is true :-)

    • haile

      correct: “As, Dr Bereket hails from that field of expertise in Constitutional Law”,,,

      • Serray

        Selamat Haile,

        You wrote, “The ‘Badem war was started to shelve the constitution’ type of arguments are casually made and evidently not possible to draw valid connection”. With all due respect, Haile, you are dead wrong; they are not made casually. Dr Bereket gave it a lot though; many of us who concluded that gave it a lot of thought. Just because the conclusion makes you uncomfortable, it doesn’t mean that those of us who reached it using facts on the ground (the constitution was shelved) did so casually. Let me help you draw a contrast about badme with this multiple choice question:

        What is the most important thing that happened AFTER isaias ignited the badme war?

        a) The constitution was permanently shelved and eritrea became a full-fledge dictatorship
        b) The ethiopians kept Badme

        If I collect all your comments, I would say b) even though it is ridiculous to call it the most important because the ethiopians had badme BEFORE the war and kept badme AFTER the war. I wouldn’t find a single comment from you about using the war as an excuse to shelve the constitution. You are in good company though, many eritreans don’t, not because it is difficult to connect, but because they cheered the war and they don’t think they are stupid enough to have provided the rope that hang them…when in fact they are. Sometimes I think until every eritrea understood the meaning and essence of the following, “isaias ignited a war that killed over a hundred thousand of Eritreans and ethiopians in order to stay in power for thirty or forty years”, we don’t deserve a better government. No people deserve a constitutional government when they help bury the constitution they ratified.

        Semere should focus on this most important observation of Dr. bereket in his second part of the interview.

        • haile

          Selamat Serray

          Let me point out that I made a mistake when paraphrasing what Semere said above, it was in fact “The Isaias used the Badme war as an excuse for his refusal to implement the constitution…” and not as I stated “IA started the war…”

          The main point here is that there is no doubt you can hold the opinion that you do as a matter of right. But surely you can’t transform that opinion into a factual statement by linking them along the lines of coincidental timing and a hunch of suspicion. You have to go beyond that and clearly demonstrate how events lead one another to conclude X was done to affect Y.

          I don’t thing Eritreans would ever “understand” the argument that IA started the war, that is just simply based on a narrative given by the real who started it – Meles Zenawi. eta qwam aygbe’omn eyu etble gin nab mergem gexa keyda :-)

          • haile

            correct: by the real guy who started it -…

          • wediere

            Selamat Haile and Serray,

            Hopefully to prove the importance of the shelved constitution, those who religiously call for it are not going to stretch its importance by making it the sole reason for the war.

            I don’t believe DIA ignited the war to shelf the constitution, the constitution was a factor out of many that probably caused him the discomfort of loosing the “power grip”, however, at the time the loss of influence in Ethiopia was a bigger factor as the PFDJ mafia were playing their silly game in Ethiopia and beyond. Melles’ attribution to economic reason is more plausible if we must consider major factor, considering the currency change at the time and the challenges they faced to negotiate exchange and use of port services.

            DIA is obsessed with Power and Influence, that being his sole issue, the war was a good catalyst to fool the people to giving them impression that all his excesses were done for the security of the nation. The many factors that we may want to emphasises were chipping at what he had built over time. We have to blame ourselves for inflating his ego, it is so bad that even when his opponent (Ethiopia) is stronger he blames America for his fate.

            Regards
            AOsman

  • Tamrat Tamrat

    The constitution of Eritrea (even of Ethiopia, isayas had a great influence in the quick fixation of the 1993 ethiopian ‘constituion’) was burried while it was on its way out of the woumb the day isayas had the Power to implement it or not. That constituion was a solution for eritreans and partly ethiopians too. 1997 was a cross road serving pfdj or eritrean People. Democracy or dictatorship? War or Peace? Free movement of People South or west or the big prison Eritrea for small populaion of eritreans?

    The euphoria of 1991-93, the rising powerfull isayas With his soldiers had shown isayas what kind of presidant Eritrea is going to have. the egoistic isayas had seen clearly that the credit for ‘liberating’ Eritrea he assumed and some has given him is going to dissapear even if he elected by the mass. He dosent want that to be that weak presidant. Never! What he did not realize that he couldnt even be elected in the first Place. The dr and his colleagues constitution is not that kind of quick fix 93 ‘constitution’ of ethiopia. No, no. The dr.’s constituion was a real staff. What isayas wanted is a constituion like ethiopia where the presidant/pm can ‘serve’ the People for life. Any other constitution can be prolonged til the presidant die by a natual Death.

  • Zeratzion

    What is the point on making this ‘ who is the principal author’ an issue ? Nonsens! When the good Dr. Is telling again and again that it was a collective work( very logical ) why does S keeps on nagging
    as if he wants to hear a different story? Have we run out of any other ‘ healthy discourse’ worth issue?!

    • Elihude

      Makes you wonder, no? We have read and reread this title over and over. As for the Doc, he was a member of EPLF and must have known what was about to come or go down. Even for an outsider like me and a young man in 1997, I predicted and expected all these debacles. It just saddens me to see Eritrea in this mess with all her elites and educated folks wallowing in the West.

  • STEFANOS TEMOLSO

    I wonder why people talk about personalities rather than the issue at hand. They read an article and then begin to attack a person instead of analysing the article and writing their opinion. Does everyopne think the dictator will be removed in such a way??

  • CYBER CURE

    ¨If I were to guess why Dr Bereket said…he wants to see Eritrea & Ethiopia united ,before he dies….(I have a feeling ,it has always been part & parcel of EPLF ,and it may materialize hoping the good doctor does not die withgin 5 years)

    Any person free of extreme emotional judgements can answer it.As a layman who sees things objectively..I concluded long time ago that EPLF has always been an Ethiopian organization with Ethiopian agenda..I do not mean all Ethiopians conspired with Papa Isaias &..etc…No, I do not believe Isaias would be so stupid to think that Eritrea would be allowed (by the New World Order) to exist as a viable & independent nation.I do not believe it corresponds with his (Isaias´s) hidden history,…and the good doctor also could be part of the big Abyssinian power or could have read the writing on the wall…that Eritrea could only stabilize by being a part of another country (Mama Ethiopia)….Demhit ,Kinijit & other unionist organizations are the ones with weapons in Eritrea.
    Eritrea is a very complicated ¨country¨…and there is no easy answer like Isaias goes and then we live happily ever after.
    As for me personaly ,I have no problem either living as an Eritrean ,Part of Ethiopia ,Sudan or Djibouti….Tigrinya ,Afars,Bilen,Kunama,Jeberti & Harendawa..etc…live in at least one or two of these countries.
    Unfortunately ,I believe after Eritrea becomes failed state ,I am not sure any body will want to touch it with a ten mile pole.It is not my wish ,how it could be ,I love my people..yet I see Eritrea as a cancer that would not go away..it just mestasizes it´s tumor…until it fails.

    AS always brilliant & true to his almost objective views ;
    The honorable CYBER CURE

    • haile

      CC -

      The main problem with your argument is it leaves out (90+)% Eritreans. When we finally start to talk to each other and really wake up, your whole assumption would turn upside down and many countries would not be able to survive without becoming an appendage of Eritrea. I really think that could and would happen. You simply haven’t seen Eritreans yet, something is holding them back. Once they break free, trust me, there is no stopping them!

      • CYBER CURE

        Respected Hailem,

        ሓደ ጊዜ ኣኮታተይ ኣብ ኣስመራ ፣ማሕበር ደቂ ዓዲ ኣቝሞም____ስዋ ተጸሚቑ__እተን ሓትነታተይ ናይ ጉሕጭዓ __ኢድካ ዘቖርጥም__ኣብ ዓድዋን ኣኽሱምን ዘይተስርሔ ጸብሒ ሰሪሔን፣እቲ ረሰፒ ናይ እቲ ስዋ ድማ ለስሊሱን ኣፈሲሁን ኣትዩ ግን ብርትዕ ዝበለ ስለ ዝነበረ__ካብቶም ኣኮታተይ ሓደ ምውቕ ምስ በሎ ተሲኡ ¨ሰይቲ ኣያ የማነ እንተዘይትመውት ኔራስ ፣ሕጂ ምሳና ምሃለወት ኔራ ¨ኢሉ ክበኪ ጀሚሩ ።እቲ ርትዖኻ ድማ ኢድና ገለ እንተዘይሕዘና ኔሩስ ንሕና ኤርትራውያን ቦሎኽ ኢልና ምወጻእና ነኮታተይ ኣዘኪሩኒ።
        ¨እንተ ዘይንድፋእ ኔርናስ ንወያነ እኳ ምደፋእናዮም ንኸውን¨ ዝበለ ሓው ድማ ኣዘኪርካኒ።ንምዃኑ ንዓና ኤርትራውያን ኢድና ዝሓዘና ነገር __REALITY BITES ይብሃል።ጊዜ ንድሕሪት ጎሲስካ እንተዝምለስ ኔሩ ሳላሳ ዓመት ተማሂርናን ሰሪሕናን ደቅና ኣዕቢናን ምሓለፍናዮ ኔርና።

        የቐንየለይ

        • haile

          CC

          Not sure if I agree, but I loved your story, nice one:)

          Regards

          • CYBER CURE

            Haile ,

            My respect to you.

    • Dawit

      Mr ‘Cyber Cure’,

      I cannot say you don’t write in english language though it seems you are not able to read what is written on this website.

      I have not read any single line which says about reunion of Eritrea and Ethiopia. Please don’t write out of context.

      • CYBER CURE

        Respected Dawit ,

        Thank you for your humble & constructive criticism,( playing the role of moderator too)…..at one time Dr. Bereket said that in an interview…as far as Dr. Bereket is a public figure it is open season to criticize his material,or even him. I was making another points that require not only english ,but commonsense and may confuse people with one track mind.
        My apologies ,and please keep on singling me out & correcting me ,so that I can learn.

        Thanks Dawit
        your brother ,CYBER ¨CURE¨ brilliant in commonsense ..weak on the english language.

    • Elihude

      Yeah, I read that one as well. I might have misread but one thing I was sure of was that both the doc himself and EPLF do neither make the call for nor against for the reunification of Eritrea with Ethiopia That responsibility rests fully on the Eritrea people.

  • Haben

    Dr Bereket is a very capable and intelligent guy. I applaud him for participating in drafting the Eritrean constitution and opposing issaias for refusing to implement it. However what he has been doing since then is not something that I appreciate. The comments that he gave to Ethiopians in his books signing ceremony, the meeting that he conducted with Canadian consultants who are hired by woyane to justify separation of Eritrean afar on the ground of human rights violations by the Eritrean government erase all the contribution that he made so far. In my humble understanding such activities have nothing to do with with the mismanagement of Eritrea by the PFDJ. Those activities are aimed at undermining Eritrean sovereignty. In short he is committing treason against the Eritrean people and I really advise him to step back and think about what is he has been doing recently thoroughly. Isaias and HIgdef are not permanent and there is no reason for Dr, Bereket to be desperate and hold “If I die no grass should grow in Eritrea” slogan. It is not necessary and he can do better. He needs to think beyond Isaias and Higdef. All of them will pass and Eritrea will remain forever. It is the gift of our martyred and no one will take it from us.

    • Tamrat Tamrat

      And you you believe the constituion must embrace democracey and freedom of Speech. Why is afar People problem must not be told by The Dr. or anybody else?

  • T. Araya

    I am always surprised at the amount of disdain and hostility that is thrown at Dr. Bereket for all the sacrifice and good-will he has spent for most of his life on Eritrea and Eritrean issues. If it is not The Constitution issue it is his time serving the Emperor’s government.

  • Lemlem

    The man is definitely in the mold of Haile Menkorios. I am sure he was recruited by the CIA long ago. Probably collects money from Weyane as well. I wouldn’t put it past him. I don’t trust him at all.

  • Eyob

    Thank you Dr. For witnessing the truth, Eritrea and Eritrean need people like you to come forward and witness the truth.

  • Haben Solomon

    The doctor lost the respect of every single member of the commission and the Eritrean people. He would do himself a favor if he keeps quiet. Nothing he says or writes will earn him any respect. He has lost every bit of respect he may have had.

  • http://awate blabla

    nay muhur denkoro kab kab tmhrti gedam mhasheka mahber andnet

  • asmara

    Semere,

    You asked “..Aren’t you the principal author of the constitution? If it is not you, do you care to tell us who it is?….”

    I think the answer is clear – President Issayas takes the ownership of that constitution. This dude is just a hired employee.

    And that – Issayas started the war to run away from implementing the constitution, nonsense – doesn’t fly. It never did. And coming out of opportunists such as the good Dr. makes it also more fiction. See, the conditions prior to 1998, and the direction and governance we witnessed at that time, on top of that the way the final moments of independence and the referendum was executed, tells different story. Fast forward to now, we see, and we know that Eritrea is on the right side of justice when it comes to the border issue. So, where the hell is that excuse? Besides we, Eritreans know who really ignited the war. WE KNOW Woyanie is the one.

    The whole thing simply doesn’t fly with the Eritrean people. That is why the Eritrean government is still standing. That is why the Eritrean people are on its side.

    The only way to go is be on the side of Eritrea all the time – and be on the side of your government when your government is right. The government is right when it comes to the border issue and the intent of the government is pure when it comes to the drafting of the constitution and the vision as to where Eritrea should go

  • Lemlem

    Dear Semere,

    Who cares if he is the principal author or not! You should have asked him why he wants to reunite Eritrea with Ethiopia before he dies? That was in his own words.

    • asmara

      That is right, crap already leaked out of the mouth of this individual, clearly exposing what is inside. No dressing up could save him.

      The video is out there, but what fascinated me more was the interview he did with VOA’s Minia Aforki – when she cut him short saying – “iti zereba tebahilu indiu, ab kulu kia tezergihu seb semiuwo silezelos – mikhadu aikealn – nimintay kemu kemzibelna intetezarebna yihayish “– beautiful! You got to listen to the interview.

      Fishlet yibluka kemzia ia.

      Besides, he said it himself, he went to Eritrea and participated in the drafting only after the President offered him a pay – even a foreigner can be hired to do the job.

    • Kim Hanna

      Come on Lemlem!! connect the dots. He wants to be the new Attorney General to a yet a new nation. Constitutional Law is his gig. He gets bored with a nationality. (He really needs to write a book about that pathology)

      KH

    • Fasil

      Haja Lemlem: Do not worry even a split of a minute thinking the unification of Asmara with Ethiopia: who cares for the dead fish? thanks god u have left us for good. No return please! these time Ethiopian does not need unity with you. period. His majesty King of Kings elect of god has made a big mistake by bringing you people to us. You were strange in every aspect to us. U conspired with everyone who hate us; even Meles the tplf hooligan was recruited by your leader, who was his name?

    • aba_chegora

      “”I have been part of Ethiopia. There is a larger sense in which we are all Ethiopians, historically, culturally speaking as I tried to explain today. And my wish, and my hope before I die is that we’ll come back together in a larger unity, transcending all these divisions.”
      Lemlem , this statement came form a great eritrean who is smart enough to understand that no one can be an eritrean without bein an ethiopian. In other words, if you are not in a sense an ethiopian, you can not be a true eritrean simply because Eritrea and eritreans were first ethiopians before they bacame eritreans. If you deny that, you got to check your background. In eritrean we have the tekurir, who are originally from nigeria. If that is the case,i can understand why you disagree wih the stetement of the great Dr.

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