In its annual meeting in Addis Abeba, Eritrea’s National Council (aka Bayto or Mejlis) has suspended the membership of the Democratic Movement for the Liberation of the Eritrean Kunama (DMLEK) and its chairman, Qernelios Esman.
The decision to suspend the membership of DMLEK until the next congress was passed by majority vote. Of the 101 delegates attending, there were only 9 nays (including Qernelios and DMLEK members) and 6 abstentions.
The majority of the delegation from North America either abstained or voted nay.
The move comes three months after Qernelios Esman took to the Internet to denounce the leader of Eritrea’s revolution, Hamid Idris Awate, as a criminal. Qernelios issued the statement on September 1, a day that has been celebrated by Eritreans as the anniversary of the start of the armed struggle for 50 years and as an inspiration to continue resisting the rule of Isaias Afwerki for the last 20 years. In subsequent statements, he clarified that he was indeed speaking on behalf of his organization and rebuffed all calls for an apology from Eritrea’s outraged opposition organizations.
DMLEK, one of two organizations which believes in “self-determination up to secession,” was a member of the Eritrean umbrella group, the Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA), as well as the Eritrean National Council for Democratic Change (ENCDC.) The EDA is the largest bloc of the ENCDC.
In September, when Qernelios refused to apologize for his inflammatory statements, the EDA responded by expelling DMLEK from the umbrella group.
However, the National Commission, which is made up of EDA, other small organizations, civic association and unaffiliated individuals, could not take a swift action and it scheduled the issue as an agenda item for its November 26 meeting.
After two days working out the “disorganized logistics,” the meeting started and devoted almost four days discussing the issue of Qernelios.
Out of 101 members who attended the meeting, about 20 people, including DMLEK delegates and their allies, “held the meeting hostage”, according to our sources, and it could not move foreword to discuss other issues.
Siding with Qernelios were individuals who have labeled the EDA superfluous after the formation of the National Council and who have been calling for its (EDA’s) dissolution. At the same time, those who were advocating the dissolution of the EDA informed Gedab News a few months ago that they “have formed their own alternative alliance.”
Over the last year, the ENCDC has been crippled in power struggles, with new alliances wanting to control the ENCDC by excluding the EDA, which was instrumental in creating the ENCDC to begin with.
At some point, the members of the council prepared a petition to expel Qernelios from the ENCDC. Sixty-five members signed the petition while 20 rejected it and the rest were undecided.
The petition was rejected after a crisis was created inside the ENCDC with the chairman breaking down in tears and his deputy suffering from what was described to Gedab News as “a mental breakdown.”
The meeting was convened in Ararat Hotel, in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia. Ever since the Eritrean regime reconciled with Sudan’s regime, many of the exiled opposition have relocated their offices to Ethiopia.