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Eritrean Islamic Congress Clarifies Position

Hassen Salman

The Eritrean Islamic Congress (EIC) which is led by Hassen Salman, did not attend the recent meeting of the Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA), the umbrella group for several exiled opposition groups. Since the most prominent item on the agenda of the EDA leadership was the fate of the Eritrean People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) and since EPDP’s “Transitional Executive Committee” announced its withdrawal from EDA while the Central Committee meeting was in session, there have been speculations that EIC’s failure to attend is a form of protest and solidarity with EPDP.

The speculation was given added weight by the fact that Mr. Abdulkader Hamid, an EIC executive, had withdrawn from the executive body of the National Commission for Democratic Change late last year.

Is there truth to the speculations?

In a word, no.

According to source within EIC who spoke to Gedab News by phone: “…nothing of what was said about the [Abdulkader’s] resignation is true.”  The source reports that besides personal reasons, Abdulkader Hamid was needed for “pressing organizational needs” that will be elaborated on in due course. Abdulkader still serves in the political committee of the Eritrean commission.

In reference to EIC’s skipping the EDA meeting, the source indicated that this was purely logistical: EIC had asked to align two meetings—the Central Committee and the Ordinary Meeting of the EDA—to February.  The regular meeting of the EDA was already scheduled for the end of February.

With respect to EPDP, the source states that following the EPDP October announcement that it had expelled “former EPM members”, EIC had met with Mr. Haj Abdelnur and Mr. Hamid Drar, the vice chairmen of the two sides of EPDP (each now retains the name “EPDP”) and expressed its opinion about the incident. While “the incident of the split is unfortunate, we will deliberate about the issue with our sister organizations in the EDA” says the source, “from our perspective, there is a red line we will not cross: our commitment to the Eritrean Democratic Alliance and the National Conference for Democratic Change.”

Asked to comment on the allegation that the EDA is a lackey of the Ethiopian government, the EIC representative said, “this is an unfortunate and cheap tactic.  If we wanted to be ordered around, we would have settled for life under the Eritrean dictator. Why would we choose to be exiled and ordered around? Such language is immature and counterproductive.  Ethiopia is a strategic partner and our relationship is based on mutual respect.”

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