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Interview with Dr. Bereket Habteselassie (Part 2)

“In my view, accepting even an imperfect constitution (imperfect both in terms of the process of its making and its content) and using it as a unifying or rallying point would be a wiser way, leaving to another day the task of improving or substituting it by another constitution.” Dr. Bereket.

This concludes the part of the interview which focused on the constitutional making process (click here to read the first part: ) and the next part(s) will deal with the substance of the constitution and the questions that have been raised by readers. Dr. Bereket is an octogenarian who has impressively kept a full-time work schedule; written four books in the last ten years and scores of articles; travelled extensively to give lectures in many universities and international forums; and is currently working on a book while teaching a summer class. I’m honored that he made the time to talk to me and very appreciative of his willingness to keep the public engaged.

Semere: In the first step of the constitutional making process, the establishment of the Constitutional Commission, you’ve said that you relied on your own professional expertise, the EPLF charter and your own sense and knowledge of the EPLF that you’ve been a member of since 1975. Were you entirely responsible for this task or you had the assistance of others and if that is the case, do you care to tell us who those people were? Were you also responsible for drawing the “general plan of approach” and for “presenting the plan to the first meeting of the Executive Committee and then the general body (the Council) of the Commission” in the second stage?

Dr. Bereket: I was given a free hand to draft the law establishing the Commission as well as planning the organization and shaping the strategy of the process of constitution making. I was also given the choice of some of the members of the core organ of the Commission, namely the members of the Executive Committee. In particular, I asked for the following members to be among those to be included in the Executive Committee: Seyoum Haregot, Amare Tekle, and Paulos Tesfagiorgis. I had asked a couple of others who happen to be lawyers also to be included, but the Powers-that-be did not include them. They were Gebrehiwot Tesfagiorgis and Eden Fassil. Eden was understandably excluded because he is one of the principal legal advisers of the president. And Gebrehiwot was included in the Council of the Commission, but not in the Executive Committee.

So, to answer the question whether I was entirely responsible for the task the answer is yes for working out the strategy and laying down the parameters of the Commission’s work as detailed in the law establishing the Commission (Proclamation Number 55 of 1994). As to the conduct of the process after the Commission started its work, I had the invaluable assistance of several members of the Commission, including Paulos, Seyoum, Musa Naib, Zemehret, Gebrehiwot, Tekie Fessehatsion, Mehret Iyob, Taha Mohammed Nur, and Kibreab Habtemichael from the Council, and Amna Naib from the Ex-Com, to mention but a few. As I said previously, the entire membership of the Commission was involved in participating in seminars and other forms of meetings in propagating the philosophy behind the process, as we saw it and in answering questions coming from the public.

Semere: I understand the need for legal expertise, but, I’m sure you would agree with me that constitutional making is an inherently political process, and if so, why didn’t you try to reach out to other Eritreans who could have added more credibility and legitimacy to the process. Don’t you think it would have been better to include the late Seyoum Harestay instead of the late Seyoum Haregot or Amare Tekle? The former had a life-time record of fighting for Eritrea, while the latter had none and to the contrary, he waged a diplomatic attack on the Eritrean revolution while serving the Haileselassie regime. Let’s not forget that when the late former foreign Minister of Eritrea, Ali Said Abdella and his brave comrades were in jail in Karachi, Pakistan for highjacking an Ethiopian plane, it was Seyoum Haregot who was busy at work trying to obtain their extradition to Ethiopia where they could have been subjected to torture and possibly death. Why on earth do you want to honor somebody like Seyoum Haregot to be part of the process that is designed to have the utmost impact in our lives and the lives of future generation of Eritreans?

Dr. Bereket: As to Seyoum’s membership of the Commission, it is based on his legal qualifications as well as experience. I did not know about his involvement as a negotiator in the Ali Said case, or of his role in attempts to persuade Tito to help Ethiopia against Eritrea, a claim that I learned much later. On the whole, I believe in forgiveness, and it appears that Isaias was also, for his own reasons, inclined to forgive the kind of deeds of which you seem to think that should disqualify Seyoum from helping in the constitution making of Eritrea.

With regard to Seyoum Harestay, you know that I had recommended in my booklet that the ELF should be involved in post-independence Eritrean politics, a suggestion that was not only rejected by Isaias, but earned me his enmity. Any suggestion by anybody to include Seyoum Harestay, or any ELF leader would be rejected outright by Isaias.

When Isaias asked Seyoum Haregot to chair the Commission before he asked me. Seyoum did not feel able or willing to assume the responsibility of chairmanship of the Commission. Why Isaias then turned to me is open to speculation. Those close to him speculated that he was anxious to avoid seeming hostile to me. The rest is history, as they say.

Semere: Yes, you’re right I’ve read the booklet in which you advocated ELF’s participation in independent Eritrea, but, when push comes to shove, you should have stood your ground and drew the line somewhere. I’m not saying you should have made the perfect the enemy of the good, but this was so monumentally important that you should have made your views, at least, known to the public. How were you able to reconcile your political ideals with the necessity of being pragmatic? Any regrets about this?

Dr. Bereket: I don’t know what you are referring to when you say “this was so monumentally important.”

Semere: I meant the inclusion of ELF and others since constitution making is an inherently political process. I understand to err is human and to forgive is divine but I tend to believe that genuine forgiveness is a two-way street. When two generation of Eritreans fought for Eritrean identity, the late Seyoum was unapologetically Ethiopian and neither did he acknowledge his mistakes nor apologize for it. Why such generosity of spirit was extended to the likes of Seyoum Haregot and not to bonafide heroes like Seyoum Harestay who devoted their life to the cause of Eritrea since their teenage/student days? The involvement of the latter could have greatly added to the legitimacy of the constitution and played a crucial role in our nation building efforts and aspirations. You can understand why some are hesitant to embrace the 1997 Constitution? Why should they support the outcome of a process from which they were systematically excluded?

Dr. Bereket:  I think you are making the mistake of assuming that I could influence Isaias in the choice of appointing members of the Commission. I did not. I tried to have as many trained lawyers to fill the Executive Committee, which was to be the drafting committee of the Commission; but even there he rejected some names like Eden Fassil for his own reason. As you know and as I already pointed out, he was averse to having the ELF having any role in post-liberation political life. The alternative left for me was to invite ELF members in the Diaspora to take part in the process, and we did that with some moderate success. Frankly, I don’t follow your logic of comparing Seyoum Harestay with Seyoum Haregot asking me to extend the same “forgiveness” to the former. I knew of nothing for which Seyoum Harestay needed forgiveness! In any case, asking Isaias to include Harestay in the Commission would have been an exercise in futility; and I did not see the necessity of wasting my time and breath to that futile exercise. 

Semere: Reconciliation and reaching out to people that are not with you is always a good thing. I don’t have a problem with the Eritrean government reaching out to Eritreans who served in the Dergue and the Ethiopian regime, but, the priority should have been given to those who spent a life-time fighting for Eritrea. That would have been a positive step in narrowing the historical differences that are still negatively impacting our political life. This is one reason why some people have a difficulty embracing the constitution of 1997. What do you say to them? And what are some of the “moderate success” you’ve achieved in this regard—reaching out to “moderate” ELF members in the Diaspora?

Dr. Bereket: With respect to the choice of people, I totally agree with you that the priority should always be given to those who spent a life-time fighting for Eritrea. It is right in principle and is politically wise; but to repeat what I have already said, I was not in the position of deciding whom to invite or appoint. One response in such a situation would be to make a point of principle and decline to serve as chair of the Commission. However, in view of what I considered to be a historic opportunity to serve my people and help create a legal framework for Eritrea’s democratic future, I did what I did with what I was able to have. It was not an ideal situation, but one which was, in the circumstances, the only available option.

As to the refusal of some people to embrace the 1997 constitution, they are entitled to embrace or reject. In my view, accepting even an imperfect constitution (imperfect both in terms of the process of its making and its content) and using it as a unifying or rallying point would be a wiser way, leaving to another day the task of improving or substituting it by another constitution. That would be my choice if I were in the position of former ELF members who felt excluded from the process. But Eritrean politics, poisoned as it is by a legacy of bitter division and animosity, we may be condemned to endless wrangling.

When I said we achieved moderate success, it had to do with the participation, in Europe and America, of former ELF members who made valuable contributions in debates. I cannot tell you how many they were or details of their specific contribution; but reports by Commission members who facilitated the meetings attest to the fact of such contribution. It is no consolation to Eritrea’s loss caused by Isaias’ refusal to allow the ELF to take part in Eritrea’s post-liberation political life. But blaming the Commission in this respect is missing the point. Again, I repeat, by not using the constitution as rallying point, we Eritreans have missed a golden opportunity in driving Isaias and his regime out of power. Am I dreaming?

I think not, and I still think it is worth giving serious consideration.

Semere: You’ve said that the Executive Committee was to draft the constitution which would be the basis of a wider public discussion and participation. Can you tell us how that process started? There are two versions of how this process started. Some members of the Executive committee (“the ignoble six” and Paulos Tesfagiorgish) have asserted that there was only a Tigrinya draft which they used during the whole process. Of course, they had failed to tell us who wrote the Tigrinya draft. You’ve, however, said you were responsible for an English draft that was translated into Tigrinya by Mr. Zemehret Yohanness. Can you please elaborate?

Dr. Bereket: I am intrigued, indeed, disappointed that any member of the Commission that I chaired for three years and whose major strategy and organization I charted out could suggest that I had no hand in drafting the constitution!

I have drafts of the English version among my numerous papers. I consulted several constitutional models before I settled down to write a draft that I cleaned up and showed to Zemehret. He raised questions about some articles, and suggested a couple of changes. Then he took it to Massawa where he set forth to translate it into Tigrigna. Then the Ex-Com debated it extensively with some suggestions for change, which were incorporated into the English version. That is where Dr. Seyoum Haregot comes in. We asked him to translate the changes from Tigrigna into English. Such was the division of labor: members of the Ex-Com assisted in doing assigned works, particularly toward the end when I was obliged to attend to my teaching duties at UNC.

I sincerely hope that this subject is closed.

By Semere T. Habtemariam
July 15, 2013

About Semere T Habtemariam

Semere T Habtemariam is an author and a columnist at Awate. He holds a BA in Government and Politics and a MA in Public Affairs from the University of Texas at Dallas. He lives in Dallas, Texas. His two books are: Reflections-History-Abyssinian-Orthodox-Tewahdo and Hearts-Like-Birds.

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SmeTr Hamassien: Objective and Struggle

Book Review by Semere T Habtemariam Title: SmeTr Hamassien: Objective and Struggle (ስመጥር ሓማሴን፥ ዕላማን …

  • My concern is how to reach all Eritreans with a common factor of one constitutional bible suitable for all needs of our people done by a group and in a mean while translating the english draft to tigrinja as if all Eritreans understand only two languages. Constitution is our utmost document, thereby being implemented to settle and resettle down the diplaced people from their areas in refugee camps in Eastern Sudan and in northern Ethiopia , to work internally as team work in polical, economical and social, as well as culture and religion interaction and then live in a harmony in Eritrea as christians, moslims as well as tigrinja and none tigrinja multicultures. We need as many as Dr. Bereket who took the intiative atleast to present our constituion which is more or less open for modifications and ammendments. We need focusing on transparency, trust, and try to facilitate for each other. One vision to Unity, Awat Ni Hafash and focusing to struggle to get rid off One Man Power-Regeem ultimately. Wadi Eri…

  • kibrom

    Dear all, please stop all the Agi Bagi that we are exchanging to each other. It is time for us to concentrate to the future of our home land,s new constitution for which the one that had been drafted by our distinguished experts chaired by our beloved son Doctor BereketAb will be part of it. I am afraid that we may miss our invaluable experts if we do not act now to save our people and country from total distraction and become a failing state that had never seen before. Isaias does not care at all to see a civilized Eritrea. I think every sensible eritrean knows this. It took him 22 years to bring it to where it is now. So what are we waiting for? !!!!!!!!!

    • Selam Kibrom,
      We are waiting for our arrogant and ignorant “elite” , be doctors or shephers, to heal from their superior complexity epidemic and give a room to the indigenous Eritreans to re-design the Eritrean entity and separate the sheep from the goats.

      Wa dahanka

  • I believe , as long as one of the main constituent of the Eritrean people is lead by an arrogant and ignorant “elites” , let alone for the Eritrean people to accept the 1997 constitution, it will be hardly possible to accept the Eritrean entity as a whole. Because the current Eritrea is not the Eritrea we believed to be. I was motivated to write the above statement just because of the attitude and mentality of both the interviewer and the interviewee ,who are ofcourse of our elites, in debating the issue and the message they are trying to convey. I hope Dr. Bereket is honest and sure when he stated that he new nothing abou Seyoum Haregot involvement with the Ethiopian colonisation to undermine the Eritrean revolution. Also a simple question for Semere (interviewer), what were the selection criteria that qualified Seyoum Harestay from many other ELF or opposition groups leaders,for Semere T Habtemariam proposingly arguing the Dr. Several times why he didn’t try to reach out to other Eritreans ( just proposing Seyoum Harestay) who could have added more credibility and legitimacy to the process of making the 1997 constitution.

    • Semere Habtemariam

      selam Indigenous Eritrean,

      There was nothing particular about the choice of Seyoum Harestay. It was chosen for dramatic effect: alliteration.Seyoum Haregot vs. Seyoum Harestay.

  • hidrisawa

    መስርሕ መንግስቲ
    ሓደ ሃገር ዘመሐድር ኣካል ክህልዎ ኣለዎ መንግስቲ ምኳኑ እዩ። መንግስቲ ድማ ክሰርሕ ወይ ድማ
    ከገልግል እንተኮይኑ ንሕዝቡ ናይ ግድን እዩ መስርሕ ክህልዎ። እቲ መስርሕ ድማ ግዱሳትን ተሞክሮ
    ዘለዎምን ሰባት ሓሳባቶም ብምጽማቅ ኩሉ ዝጠቅም ዘበለ ነገር ንሃገርን ንደቂ ሃገርን ዘቅርብዎ ኣቃዉማ እዩ።
    ኩሉ ገዜ ሕይወት ሰባት ከምዝደልይዎ ዘይኮነስ ከምዝኮነሎም ስለዝኮነ እቲ መስርሕ ናይ መንግስቲ እዉን
    ምስ ኩነታት ይቀያየር። ብተወሳኪ እቲ መስርሕ መንግስቲ
    ብጻዉዒት ሃገር
    ብሕድሪ ስዉኣት
    ብኩነታት ዉሽጥን ወጻእን ሃገር
    ብሕቶ ሕዝቢ መነባብሮኦም እምነቶም
    ብዓቅምን ትሕዝቶን ሃገር
    ብተንኮልን ሽርሕን ናይ ጸላእትን ከዳዓትን
    ዝተቀርቀረ መንቀሳቀሲ/ፍሕትሕት መበሊ ዘይብሉ ክንሱ ኣብ ኩሉ እዋን ናይዞም ኣብ ላዕሊ ዝተጠቅሱ
    ነገራት ሕቶ ለበዋ ግደታ መሰል ተጻብኦ ክምልስ ከተስፉው ከሳልጥ ክምክት ግዙእ ኮይኑ ብዘንሕስያ
    እንዳትወቕሰ ስርሑ ከተግብር ዝግደድ ኣቅዋም እዩ። ከም ኩሉም ነገራት ሚእቲ ብሚእቲ ልክዕ ክኮኑ
    ዘይክእሉ እቲ መስርሕ እውን ኣብ ሓደ እዋን ንኩለን ናይተን ነጥብታት ድልየት ወይ ሕቶ
    ንከየስልጥ/ንከይምልስ ይግደድ። ስለዝኮነ ድማ ነቶም ናይ መንግስት ሰራሕተኛታትን ሕይወቶም ምሉእ
    ንነጻነት ሃገር ንመሰል ደቂ ሃገር ዝተቃለሱን ዝተወፈዩን ክንሶም ኣንጻር ሃገርን መሰል ሕዝብን ዝሰርሑ ዘለዉ
    ይመስሎ/ላ ንዘየስተወዕልን ዘይከታተልን በቲ ናይ ሓጽር እዋን ገምጋም ናይ ነዊሕ እዋን ገምጋም ኮነ እቲ ዓቢ
    ስእሊ ዉጽኢት ናይቲ መስርሕ እቲ ግድል puzzle እንዳተገጣጠመ ክከይድ ከሎ ንደላይ ራህዋ ራህዋ
    ንበዓል ተስፋ ድማ ምሉእ ተስፋ ዝህብ ኮይኑ ሽቶኡ ክወቀዕ ድማ ግድነት እዩ። እምበኣርከስ ቅኑዕ ዕላማ
    መስርሕ መንግስቲና እንኮ ብርሃን ናይ ሃገርና እዩ።
    ኣብ ኡሉ እዋናት ናይ ሃገር ቅዋም የድሊ እኳ እንተኮነ ዝበዝሕ ግዜ እቲ ቅዋም ኣንጻር መስርሕ መንግስቲ
    እዩ ዝከዉን ብሕልፊ ሕልፊ ኣብ ግዜ ዉግእ ሽግር ሃገር ኣብ ሰንኩፍ ምስትህልው እቲ ቅዋም ነቲ መስርሕ
    መንግስቲ ዝጭቁን ዝመልኽን ዝኹንን ኮይኑ ኣንጻር እቲ ጥቅሙ ሃሳይ መሊሱ ነቲ ሽግር ናብ ዝገደደ ዓዘቅቲ
    እንዳእተወ ንሃገር ናብ መግዛእትን መፈንጥራ ጸላእትን ከዉድቅ ይክእል::
    ንኣብነት ቅዋምና ይብል
    ማንም ዜጋ ኣብ ዝደለዮ እዋን ናብ/ካብ ዝደለዮ ሃገር ክከይድ ክምለስን መሰል ኣለዎ ይብል።
    መስርሕ መንግስትና ድማ ኣይፈቅድን
    ጻውዒት ሃገር ልዕላዉነት ይብል
    ሕድሪ ስዉኣት ድማ ይብል ሕድሪ ተቀበል
    ኩነታት ዉሽጥን ወጻእን ሃገር
    ውሽጢ ሃገር ብእገዳ ክኩነን ከሎ ኣብ ወጻኢ ድማ ካምፕ ይክፈት ከም ሽምልባ ብሕሩጭ ትኳቦ
    ሕቶ ሕዝቢ ድማ ገሊኣ ትዉፈ ገሊኣ ሃይማኖተይ ኣይፈቅደለይን ትብል
    ገሊኣ ድማ ትብል መንከካይደልይ እቲ ትካል
    ገሊኣ ድማ ብናይባዕዳዉያን ሁይማን ትራፊኪን ገልጠምጠም ትብል
    ገሊኣ ድማ ሃነፍነፍ ትብል ዝጨወይቶም ኣብ ዕዳጋ ከተዉዕል
    ገሊኣ ጥምይቲ ዝብኢ ማዳ ሃገር ድማ ቅጭኣ ክትምእርር ለይቲ ለይቲ ምስ በደዊን ትዉዓዓል
    ገሊኣ ድማ ወጋሕታ ዩኒፎርም ቀይራ ትከውን ተጣባቂት ናይ ሕዝባዊ መሰል
    ገሊኣ ድማ ሰላማዊ ሰልፊ ብዛዕባ ሲናይ ትብል የማን ኢዳ እገዳ ንሃገር ንሕዝቢ እንዳወጣወጠት
    ዓቅምን ትሕዝቶን ሃገር ድማ ሓይሊ ሰብ ትደሊ ሃገር ኣዉራኳ ኣብዚ እዋን እዚ ኣብ ግዜ ምዕባለ
    ጸላእትን ጥልቁያትን ድማ በቲ ድጉል እንዳሳወሩ ዝፈጠርዎ ሃልሃልታ መዓልታዊ ይሓሩ ሃገር ክትምርሽ
    ክትዉንጨፍ ሰላም ክትሰፍን ምስረኣዩ ቅዋም ይተግበር እንዳበሉ ተንኮሎም ይኣልሙን የስፋሕፍሑን ገመድ
    ይፍሕሱን ንመስርሕ መንግስትና ክሓንቁ ። መስርሕ መንግስትና እምባርከስ ኣብዚ ኩሉ ረመጽ ተሸኪሉ
    ንምኡዝዝነት ምክልካል ሃገር ኣብ ጎኑ ጌሩ ፍቅሪ ህዝቢ ተዓጢቁ ጠጠዉ ኢሉ እንዳመከተ እንሆ ፍረ
    ቃልሱን ሕጉን ተወፋይነቱን ንሃገርና ኣብ ዝበርኸ ቦታ ኣብጺሑ ገናዉን ሕዝብና ኣብ መስርሕ ይርከብ።
    ሃየ ሰበይ ኣይንተሃመል
    ከይንዓጽዎ ነቲ መገዲ ገመል
    ዝተጸርገ ብዉፍያት ሰብ መትከል
    ብህርኩት ሕዝቢ ዘይሕለል
    መንእሰይ ኣብ ዘሎኻ ኣሊካ ሕድሪ ሃገር ተቀበል
    ወጊድ በሎ ነቲ ዘታልል
    ኣስተብህል ኣስተማቅሮ ነቲ ዘለናዮን መጻኢናን ሰናይ ዘመን
    ኣይተስተማስል ብቁሩባት ናይ እዋንና ሓሳረ መከራን ጸገምን
    ተወፋይነትካ ቀጽሎ ደኪመ ኣይትበል መክቶ ነቲ ቃልስን ስራሕን
    ብጀካኻ መንዶ ኣለዋ እዩ እዛ ፍትዉቲ ሓላል መሬትና
    ብጀካኪ መንዶ ኣለዋ እዩ እዛ ካብ ማእከል እሾኽ ዝበቆለት ዕምበባና
    ጥዕምቲ ከምሽማ ኤረና ኤረና ሓቂ ብሓቂ እወ ኤረና

    ዘልኣለማዊ ዝክሪ ንስዉኣትና
    ዓወት ንሓፋሽ

    • seliho

      can some body translate the above comment in to Tigringna? no body can understand it i guess. what is the message and theme please? this is what they call ”little knowledge is dangerous” kurub entetenibib zihawey. mikniyatu nisika mis be’al doctor berekhet kitikata’e zekleka bislet yeblikan. please akimika filet. tigrigna keman kitsihif zeykalkas ab hade aziyu amik aristi rieyto kitihib tifitin. ezi akieba nay mesrie wey dima ganta aykonen…

      • hidrisawa

        ናይ ምንባበይ…. ናይ ትግርኛይ ባዕለይ ኣለኩዎ አይትሰከፍ
        ዘሎ ሽግር ኣንቢብካ ተረዲእካ “ንእሽተይ ፍልጠት እዉን ሐደገኛ እዩ” ኢልካ ከትብቅዕሲ
        ከምዘይተረዳአካ ኮይንካ ትቀርብ ኣይትሐሱ ሐሶት ኣብ ተብጽሐካ የብላን ሐሳብይ ደስ ኣይበለካን መርሓባ
        ተዘየሎ ኣይተደናግር ሱቕ ጥዑም ምስ መክደኑ
        ንመዘካከሪ ድማ ኣኬባ ናይ ጋንታ ናይ መስርዕ ነጻ ኣውጺእዋ ሃገር ስለዚሲ ኣይትንዓቅ
        ኣነ ክም ሰብ ሐሳበይ እየ ዘቅረብኩ በታ ዝፈልጣ እምበር ምስ ማንም መትከል ዝቀያይር ሰብ
        ክትዕሲ ኣይክኣለንን እወ ሐቅኻ ክቡር ሓው

  • melk

    dear all

    who ever wrote the constitution which is not practical is not written at all,stop debating on it look forward to write a new constitution after esayas which can include all political views and public interests that would be a great lesson that all Eritreans should learn from Ethiopians,and i advise u that u should internalize the problems of Ereatere than externalize the problems

  • Semere Habtemariam

    Selam Kebreab,

    The Executive Committee did not write the draft, it only debated and made changes accordingly. This fact is not disputed by anyone. The question now remains who wrote the draft in Tigrinya. Dr. Bereket says what Zemeheret Yohannes did was translate the draft he prepared. I agree with you the fact Dr. Bereket’s draft was not used casts doubt on the claim. This just gave me an idea of how I’m going to start the next part of the interview.

    You’ve raised good points, Kebreab and I promise I’ll go to work and find out.

    Semere T Habtemariam
    Dallas, Texas

  • There is no way Eritrea can be successful if only one man and one tiny unrepresentative party rules the country.DIA looking to be victors in the battle for absolute power and refusing to make any consideration or any efforts to accommodate and compromise in regard the drafting constitution. As is the case today still continues, the country is in real danger of becoming the next basket case and failed state .DIA pushed through a constitution without winning a consensus, believing EPLF victory entitled it to total carte blanche in all policy decisions. It felt no need for electoral mandate and gave it the right to change society’s political behavior as it wishes and controlled the outcome of constitution. Clearly, a significant portion of Eritrean society felt excluded in participating in drafting the constitution. Eritrean should realize that everyone lost the moment DIA stopped co-operating.
    Time will come Eritrea will have the opportunity to choose its own destiny.
    In the future Eritrea, first and foremost, what Eritrea needs is a bill of rights that enshrines basic principles. It must guarantee the right of every individual – regardless of religion, regional or ethnic back ground – It must absolutely enshrine the guarantee the rights of minorities. And it must guarantee democratic process and the peaceful rotation of power. As is case with the American constitution, no laws can be passed that go against bill of rights and its spirit.
    Once this bill of rights established ,the bill of rights can then be used to agree a new, and to draft and complete Eritrean constitution. It must be based on consensus reached following negotiations including all political party and concerned sides,. It must not reflect the desires of only some. This is the only way to ensure no power or force will be able to exclude others or dictate norms of behavior and to establish an elected parliamentary election and all inclusive coalition government and the way out.

  • Kebreab

    Selam Semere:
    Thanks for responding to my comment.
    It is a well known fact that Dr. Bereket served as the Chariman of the constitution commission but I beg to disagree to accept that he authored the English version for the following reasons:
    1. I reiterate when the former executive committee members challenged him, almost seven years ago, that he was not the author of the constitution, he never responded promptly and said that he penned the English version. Doesn’t this cast substantial doubt on his claim that he did the English part of the constitution?
    2. You quoted the late Dr. Seyoum’s book page 110 which stated that Dr. Bereket left after the constitution was ratified but before it was published in the official gazette and that he finalized the English version. THIS DOESN’T TELL AT ALL THAT DR. BEREKET DID THE ENGLISH VERSION.
    3. Paulos unequivocally stated that the late Dr. Seyoum was the author of the English version while Zemheret did the Tigrigna part. Isn’t this an important testimony?
    4. I am not trying to depreciate Dr. Bereket’s contribution to the constitution making. I have no doubt that he played a vital role. But I wouldn’t accept his sole claim that he authored the English version unless his claim is supported by at least 50% of the former constitution executive committee members.

  • arAdom

    My dear fellow countrymen;
    it was a mistake and a great mischief too, even to start to draft the ER constitution without the people`s madate. isayas alone can not give the Mandate to dr berecket to work out the ER constitution.

  • tazabi

    Why are people obsessed with the constitution. In my life I had lived under three constitutions in Ethiopia, the Emperor’s, Derg’s and EPRDF. If anyone of these constitutions were implemented that would have been great. It turns out the worst abusers of the constitution are the government the so called defenders of the constitution which they talk highly of. Most oppressive nations in the world have constitutions that are on par with western governments in terms of granting rights to the individual, the difference is respecting the constitution. Before building institutions that guarantee the rights of the citizen, just writing a constitution is futile.

  • Semere Habtemariam

    Selam Kebreab and all,

    Since your question was specifically directed at me I believe it is an excellent question, I thought I make the time to respond to you. Let me first, explain what I mean by belief: in the absence of complete information the likelihood that something is more true than false is greater than 50%. Based on this, without any beating round the bush, Yes, I believe Dr. Bereket’s version.

    But, more importantly, the late Seyoum’s book seems to collaborate Dr. Bereket’s version of history. This is what Seyoum said, as I quoted him in my critique of his book: ““Dr. Bereket left Eritrea after the Constitution was ratified, but before its publication in the official Gazette. I finalized the English version, and its publication in the official Gazette followed.” (Pg. 110)

    The fact that those oppositing Dr. Bereket’s version, including my friend Paulos Tesfagiorgish, have failed to tell us who wrote the Tigrinya draft.

    On your second question, I honest don’t recall now whether Dr, Bereket responded to those I’ve baptized as the Ignoble Six, but when I talk to him next time, I will make sure I’ve an answer for you.

    Thank you all for those who have constructively responding to the article. Agree or disagree, there is a lot of edifying lessons in this endeavor.

    Semere T Habtemariam

  • L.T

    Dr Bereket said in 1996″I need to think to Isaias becouse he knew my real postion”

  • Hameed

    Our good doctor said,
    “I was not in the position of deciding whom to invite or appoint. One response in such a situation would be to make a point of principle and decline to serve as chair of the Commission.”

    “It was not an ideal situation, but one which was, in the circumstances, the only available option.”

    “Any suggestion by anybody to include Seyoum Harestay, or any ELF leader would be rejected outright by Isaias.”

    As all of us understand any constitution is by the people for the people of the nation. In the making of any constitution all concerned parties should participate, but the constitution supervised by our good doctor was tailored by Isaias for Isaias, and Isaias has all the right to read or shelf it. Our good doctor prepared the constitution for Isaias and his mistake now is he wants to tell us that he prepared it for the people of Eritrea.

    As far as the process was wrong, the result was a catastrophic one to our people. Frankly speaking, our good doctor participated in the catastrophe the people of Eritrea lives today. If our good doctor had been stood high at time and said no to the dictator and declared that to the people of Eritrea, the course would have been different. Believe me, you would have saved the people of Eritrea from the present desperate situation.

    • Tamrat Tamrat

      He is a doctor, not a magician. He was almost there to let any Citizen of Eritrea say ‘according to the constitution’ instead of being led by eplf party policy. I am quiet sure the Dr has never put a single line which says that isayas’ shall lead the country for ever. As any party, eplf wants to lead the country for ever. The difference is in other countries the constitution forces the parties to have fair competiion.

      • Hameed

        When a dictator rules a country he never mouth a single word that indicates he abuses the people. A dictator always says I am for the good of the country.

        A constitution is a political document, thus all concerned parties should have a role in writting the constitution before the people vote for it.

        • Tamrat Tamrat

          That will never happen while eplf is there. But the doctor has tried all hummanly possible thing to do. He was in Asmara!!

    • seliho

      the problem is not in the content of the constitution as a whole. that document doest have a basic legal problems as to my reading. and if there is any…as what doctor berekhet has put it , it could have been amended and reviewed. the problem is , it was not implemented. had it been implemented (even with its short comings) things would have been different. and who are we going to blame for that? i mean for not implementing it. we can only blame Dr, Berekhet , if there is unfairness or if that document lacks professionalism. but for the situation which is prevailing in our country, we can not throw the load of responsibility to Dr. Berekhet. implementation and drafting is different. the first one is profession and the second one is power.

      • Hameed

        What architectured on falsehood it is definitely null and void.
        Since the constitution is based on usurping the right of the it empowered Isaias than the people of Eritrea. Not accepting the way the constitution was prepared would have made a big difference in the political arena of Eritrea, Isaias would have been curbed. Accepting the power of Isaias in the making of the constitution was a big mistake. It was a manuvor of exercing dictatorship for Isaias and our good doctor participated in blessing it.

    • Eyob

      Great idea I can’t agree more

  • Kebreab

    Selam Semere:
    I have no grudges against Dr. Bereket. I am just trying to find out the truth.
    Semere: Your last question: “ some members of the executive committee have asserted that there was only a Tigrigna draft…..however, you said you were responsible for an English draft that was translated into Tigrigna by Zemheret Yohannes . Can you please elaborate?”
    Dr. Bereket’s reponse:
    “ I have drafts of the English version among the numerous papers. I consulted several constitutional models before I settled down to write a draft that I cleaned up and showed to Zemheret. …he took it to Massawa where he set forth to translate it into Tigrigna ….with some suggestions for change which were incorporated into the English version that’s where Dr. Seyoum Haregot comes in to translate from Tigrigna into English.”
    Paulos Tesfaghiorgis: Your article of June 4/2013 “My fears and Paul’s views on Seyoum Haregot”
    “ The official one that was presented to the Executive Committee and used as a basis for discussion was Tigrigna. As we went along debating, we simultaneously made an English version or an English draft of what was agreed, and Dr. Seyoum took upon himself to work on the English version. In effect, Dr. Seyoum became the de facto translator into and drafter in English and it was accepted by the Executive Committee.”

  • At the end I learned, from both interviews, just a bit but the interview, both parts, sure did confirmed to me that my theory from the start that the work was full of for a lack of a better term “wishy washy”. Not pointing a finger at just one single person but at how it was a failure in many aspects. ‘Had a good intention but failed badly. But that is what we have now, the muted constitution, and use it to fight for what is worth. Second. people people….when you do write a feedback- please try to be brief. else, you need to do your interview time with Semere I think….O-My beloved Eritrea.

  • Tamrat Tamrat

    The ‘discussion’ between the Dr and Semerer is an eye opning one. If we see thoroughly what they are disccusing the it easy to see how Eritreans are hold hostages by the polarized politics (policies) of elf and eplf. The enemey of my enemy is my friend was no longer a driving motor since derg fall Down in 1991. Replacing derg With eplf or ethiopia interchangably seams loosing its miracle since ethiopians and eritreans not only start talking but also start even marrying one another, not to mention those who cross the boarder, those who visit ethiopia on their vaccatio, some go to the extent of investing thers.

    For the time being eplf prefers to hold on this no Peace no war idiocy (i prefer it too if the Choice is war) than confronting elf and its policy while elf sits and wait until eplf collapses eventually instead of confronting elf supporters and its policy.

    • Selam

      Tamrat Tamrat 😀
      ” …some go to the extent of investing…..”????????????? Really
      Those investors, are they Eritreans???? if so, they MUST be out of their mind. For the saying goes like this: Who trusts the hearts of Weyane
      Selam :D:D

      • Tamrat Tamrat

        They invested in the heart of Ethiopia.

  • haile

    Dear Semere H

    In this part you had a substantive and frank debate with Dr Bereket Habteselassie. Thank you for bringing this to us to learn from. I gathered that (from manifest lack of satisfactory explanation) such questions of representations were not “critically” analyzed and “rigorously” dealt with. Somehow, it appears that the former was not done owing to the overriding sense of optimism and qen’Ena (well meaning) of those working in the commission. Widespread cynicism and mistrust among Eritreans only became an official State policy and public mode of discourse following the border war. Also, the latter due to lack of facility that was presumably “deliberately” withheld from the commission in discharging its duty.

    Dr Bereket is to be thanked for sharing his side of the story. But it is hard to say, at least to me, that the ratified constitution would ever be resuscitated and brought back to life! IMO a highly unlikely scenario:)

    Best Regards

    • haile

      note: by “the latter” I was referring to the fact that it wasn’t rigorously dealt with.

    • Haile,

      Finally we find “one issue” where we could agree with. Not bad really. Haile, take this issue as your “political cause” to bring a comprehensive political process that could answer to the grievances of our diversity. Citizen could not resolve the border issue but institutionalized governments do.

  • Abdu

    I have the utmost love for my people who are suffering inside Eritrea and all over the world from any sort of problem you name it. Would having a written or non-written constitution have saved my people from suffering under the merciless hands? I doubt it! So let’s engage ourselves in a radically different thinking about Eritrea as a ‘country’ than having a written constitution, my people!

  • That the constitutional making process, the establishment of the Constitutional Commission bodes ill for effecting a truly successful political transformation into a truly representative democracy and bears all the signs for a lingering political instability and unfortunately reflects negatively on the whole future of Eritrea.
    The draft and finalization of Eritrean national constitution first come by a purposefully elected National Assembly should have being drafting and touching with consultation by legal expertise on Constitutional on the very principle of a true democratic transformation: “Guaranteeing National Unity,” First & Foremost.
    In essence referring to is achieving “National Consensus” among the varied mosaic, the wide spectrum of Eritrean’s representative political parties, through continuous dialogue and true representative participation in the political transformation process.
    Eritrean’s representative together to forge a program for the democratic transformation of Eritrea on sound democratic basis through the establishment of a framework of the widest consensus.
    With hope of a newly formed the Eritrean National Assembly – elected purposefully to develop the new encompassing and inclusive Constitution for Eritrea – that will take many months for completing the construct of a new national Constitution, i.e. in hoping and dreaming after some time of open debate and consensus among the constituent members of the National Assembly, Eritrea would have healthily move into the edification of a truly representative democracy enjoying the widest popular and national consensus that can be had.
    And this was nonstarter of a failing process of democratic transformation for a long period to come. Eritrea, by default and aborted, rather premature, hastily contrived process of supposedly change into democracy, is now is well known to all of us the written was on the wall increasingly transforming into the potential of making dictator government to the alienation of significant percentage of the Eritrean population of the nationalist, secularists, liberals and the substantial christen and Muslim faith and minorities .
    The Eritrean president and his arrogant victorious Military Junta, with absolute veto power of DIA, the constitutional making process, the establishment of the Constitutional Commission was dead to start with and possibly out of a combination of lack of political acumen and philosophical sophistication started by putting the carriage before the horse.
    Fast forward the future we need is to establish a creation of a coalition government with representatives of all the leading Eritrean political parties with genuine grassroots followings, including a fair representation and protection of the minority in such a government. The future Eritrean Government should enjoy exceptional executive powers answerable to the Consultative Council that the latter in turn should be reconstructed to fairly represent the wider Eritrean population of a veto power basis for the Liberal and democratic representation.
    What truly started and complicated the Eritrean the constitutional making process, the establishment of the Constitutional Commission was DIA never believed and trusted in national Constitutional Commission and political scene beside a transformation process starting in reverse and wrong start , as witnessed how DIA killed the constitution in favor for his tiny and are the still powerful few elite of the oppressive PFDJ political regime whose interests are in deep conflict with the general interests of the Eritrean people and the successful introduction of Constitutional Commission ,as a true representative democracy was never the aim, and today Eritrean opposition being deeply entrenched in the current weak and not united Eritrean Opposition. It is here where the current Eritrean Opposition errs greatly of not separating the wheat from the chafe tending naively and inadvertently to compromise its credibility and the effectiveness of its message: i.e. the jumbling of opportunistic subversive forces, with some of remnants of the EPLF/PFDJ old guards, with the genuine patriotic political parties.
    The Eritrean opposition would need to foremost clean its act, separate the wheat from the chafe, distinguishing themselves as a separate block with a very well spelled out national program from the current Hodge Podge everything to everybody nay sayers that are inevitably infested with opportunistic political factions with dubious disruptive agendas that could undermine the whole process for future of Constitutional Commission and political transformation, social peace and Eritrea ’s political transformation ,peace progress and stability.

  • A constitutional document is a political document before it becomes a codified legal document. This will entail that the constitutional process is inherently more of a political process than legal process. I wish the good doctor could have been stood his ground advocating for a comprehensive political process…for without that there will be no legitimacy and credibility from the eyes of the excluded. If every citizen couldn’t take it as his/her own document worth to defend it… then what? If every citizen either directly or indirectly be part of the process…every citizen will defend the product of the process. Then, what should we do from here? Do the right thing that unite the Eritrean people by responding to their grievances.

    • Selam

      Hi Amanuel Hidrat,
      To whom are you commenting??? You don’t say hi when you begin and bye when you close your comments. I am surprised at how you are aggressive. Be cool brother! after all you are a leader in the so called Komushin. :D:D:D

      • Selam,

        I am sure you don’t understand my comment. It is understood for “the interviewer and interviewee” Hijeke teredi’eka’do.” hopefully so.

  • WelWel

    1. All political parties should put country before party and form one single organization.
    2. Take the same stand as PFDJ on the border issue. But stress the need for Rule of Law at home also.
    3. Demand implementation of the constitution.
    4. Establish radio and TV-transmissions to the people inside Eritrea. Focus on the people inside the country. They are the ones that are in most need of change. Those in Diaspora can only give information and financial support.
    5. Assist Eritrean refugees.
    6. Work out a plan for a transitional period after PFDJ, to avoid the fate of Somalia.

    • L.T

      2,See EPLF 1987 and PFDJ 1994 national chapter
      3,After no war no peace ended but are in process….
      4,Who is the invistor?Radio and Tv are always will be under Government like Tv1 and Tv 2 in Sweden and ZDF and ARD in Germany but Sat Tv are alreday in Eritrea.
      5,All refugees are free to back home
      6,Fate of Somalia,transitional after PFDJ?Well well..wel wel
      Smart phon

  • abdu

    The great Brtitain my not have a constituion. But don’t forget a member of Eu; as you might know to be a member of Eu you have to have a certaing critrea; like a human rights issue ; institution such as mechanisim of social order; freedom of speech ; independent midea freedom blief and freedom movement does Eritrea own those absoultly not.

  • Lemlem

    You people act like having a written constituition is the be-all and end-all. It ain’t! There are a lot of countries who don’t have a written constitution. For instance, Great Britain doesn’t have a constituition. If you don’t believe me, look it up.

    On the other hand, Weyane’s Ethiopia has a written constituition of kilils and ethnic-based balkanization mumbo jumbo. It is not even worth the paper it is written on.

    • Elihude

      Although, the UK’s as well as the majority of Commonwealth Nation’s constitution is not written, it is well understood as it is COMMON LAW. Meaning universally understood and accepted. The common law works in societies where democracy has existed for longer than remembered (since 1015 in the case of UK) and as a result you have a civil society. This does not mean that the UK and her former colonies do not have written laws, rules and regulations. Any other upcoming countries and societies were bereft with animosities and wars. These countries however, do not only need a written constitution but also the writing has to be unambiguous. Eritrea being the latter-needs a written constitution.

    • Ambassador

      “Great Britain doesn’t have a constituition.” Lemlem, you’re a dork! Get the monkey off your back, if you know what I mean.

    • wuchuuu

      lemlemino, you have told to drop monkey from your shoulder, only then you will understand what what is right and wrong. you have blind folded by the thugs to the extent that you will sucriface your as wel your families life for nothing, as of Woyane, you know in woyane ethioia ate least:
      1. there are as many as 50 private newspapers and have the right to critisize the government can even right that hailemariam is a poppet that can do nothing
      2. have arround 60 poletical free parties.
      3./ have parlama
      4. the people has the right to go to streets to make any kind of demonstration, either to chanting against the government or chanting against opposition parties to the extent against persons be an official or regullar person whom they assum that they are not proper. እምበይተይ ለምለም ዐሻስ ሀደ ደርፉ ከይንብለክን ደርፉ ደአ ቀይራልና.

    • Side Liner

      Well, would you rather live in a country where it doesn’t have a written constitution but abide by common law or in a country where a written constitution doesn’t exist or any sort of common law? I think you would choose the first one. If you know what I mean…

    • seliho

      what do you know about MAGNA CARTA lemlem? can u say something about it? and what does it mean we u say great britain doesnt have a written constitution? and what brought it here talking about GB? we are discussing about eritrea here? i think u r missing the topic.

    • Paulos

      Lemlem, you have your own (Eritrean) endless problem and you are just spiting on something that you do not know. Ethiopia is a different country, not part of Eritrea. Forget Ethiopia and solve your own problem, We Ethiopian are much much better off without you arrogant and enslaved Eritreans. Leave alone.