The Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA) is an umbrella association of 10 Eritrean opposition groups. On Saturday, January 22, 2011, the EDA commenced its “Central Committee” meeting in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia. An agenda on its meeting was the fate of a member organization, one wing of the Eritrean People’s Democratic Party (EPDP), but before it could reach agreement, the EPDP wing issued a statement dated January 23rd declaring that it had decided “to withdraw the Party’s membership from EDA.”
The issue deals with what transpired within EPDP on October 31, 2010. According to the official explanation of the EPDP—which had come into existence on January 1, 2010 when the Eritrean Democratic Party (EDP), the Eritrean People’s Movement (EPM), and the Eritrean People’s Party (EPP) merged their organizations—the ex-members of EPM were kicked out from EPDP for refusing to abide by party rules and that, subsequent to its decision to dismiss the EPM, other non-EPM members had decided to join the expelled members. Therefore, argues EPDP, the organization is intact, albeit without the presence of EPM and those who followed it and, those “who could be counted with the fingers of one hand.” However, those who were dismissed, who include founding members of EPDP’s proto-parties, say that they are still EPDP and that EPM no longer exists. Moreover, they say, those who are part of our group were never members of EPM, so this is a text case definition of a party split.
The EDA was attempting to answer questions such as: is this a simple case of a party leadership dismissing members or a party split? Who represents EPDP? How many EPDPs are there?
Since Eritrean political organizations never publish the size of their membership, it is unclear as to whether this is a case of an organizational split or the dismissal of a few members.
The EPDP wing which issued the press release announcing its withdrawal did not attend the EDA Central Commission meeting. The EDA is still deliberating on the issue, with each member organization citing its preference. Some have strongly argued for the retention of EPDP’s membership, some have been lukewarm and still others have called for its outright dismissal.
Since its formation in 1999, the Eritrean Alliance has had numerous organizational splitting, withdrawing, and joining; and EPDP’s decision to withdraw is not unprecedented. What makes this case noteworthy is that for over a year the EPDP has been expressing its dissatisfaction with the EDA—particularly on the convening of the national conference, which EPDP boycotted, using sometimes strident tones. In fact, it is EPDP’s decision to boycott the national conference and to be highly critical of the organizers and the EDA leadership that was the main reason for the diminishment of the Party. The other wing of the EPDP fully supports the convening of the national conference.
The EDA Central Committee meeting is still underway as of the time this edition of Gedab News is being written. Gedab News will keep its readers posted on new developments.