Position Paper for a Network Group
Name: Eritreans for Democracy, Justice and Equality (EDJE).
Organization Type:Network Group.
The purpose of this paper is to strive for and create a consensual public stand and opinion on some basic rights, principles and policy matters that are envisaged to rally all conscious and patriotic individuals, groups or organizations from different walks of life across the wide spectrum of the Eritrean polity. The ultimate motive of which is to establish an effective and influential lobbying or pressure group that would enhance the impetus and speed of the change process for promoting justice, democracy, good governance and rule of law. It is not a newly hatched organization contrived to compete in the already overcrowded environs of the political arena, but a vehicle for rallying all concerned people to effect the desired change. Thus no organizational restrictions or preconditions are imposed on anyone who is interested to join the network group based on being convinced by the mission and vision adopted.
Promotion of justice, democracy and human rights while safeguarding the interests and democratic achievements of our people and gearing the change process to the speed and direction required to achieve its ultimate goal of removing the dictatorial regime and replacing it with a democratic one.
The network group’s objectives and practices reflect the essence and spirit of the mission set and entirely comply with it in all its manifestations in the course of action pursued to successfully realize the aspired goal. Thus in other words they are meant to achieve unity of purpose and deeds.
2a. Based on the principles, policies and conceptual understandings attained to advocate and promote democratic change and create a strong and dynamic public opinion that would accelerate the change process towards its aspired end.
2b. Create a strong lobbying or pressure group that preserves and promotes the positive achievements so far attained particularly in the last NCDC, held in Addis in July 2010, and further develop that in the forthcoming Congress and other national platforms.
2c. Advocate and encourage the formation of free, independent civic societies, unions and syndicates to play their vital role in advancing the constituents’ respective group interests, upholding and safeguarding the public interests and democratic rights of the society and actively engage society in shouldering its due share of responsibility in nation building and the struggle for change.
2d. Encourage and unreservedly support the formation of a youth movement and facilitate its active and positive involvement in playing a leading role in the change process through the innovative application of social media.
3. The Nature of the Regime:
Although the current Eritrean regime may at face value appear as being masterminded and created by Isaias Afwerki along with a small clique around him, but in reality, as a socio-political phenomenon, it is not a rootless development that has suddenly popped out from nowhere. It is cultivated on a fertile ground of deep entrenched culture, mind-set and practice of hegemony and dominance that the Kebessa Christian elites have recurrently demonstrated along different historical epochs (namely: self-determination, peaceful resistance, armed struggle, and post-independence). A proper, all sided objective definition of the nature of the regime should therefore take into consideration its historical background, economic, political and social rootcauses. Thus we strongly believe that though the regime is totalitarian in nature, it is sectarian Tigrinya chauvinistic in essence. It basically pursued Christian Tigrinya favouring policies but gradually extended its oppression to the whole population, albeit in varying degrees. Thus, the regime can be defined as:
A totalitarian, Tigrinya Chauvinistic – Sectarian ruling class.
Based on our deep convictions and careful analysisof developments throughout the years, the choice of the strategyshould take into consideration the following factors:
4a. It is important to distinguish between the legitimate reaction of our people in resorting to military resistance as the last alternative to defend themselves, their freedoms and rights against the illegitimate form of violence the regime exercises to maintain its unlawful dictatorial rule and grip over the people. Nevertheless military resistance cannot for itself be a volitional choice unless other forms of peaceful means are denied to peacefully achieve the legitimate and vital goals and aspirations. Violence breeds violence and its consequences are costly, painful and grave for all parties involved.
4b. The Eritrean people after exhausting all peaceful means of resistance in the 50’s and 60’s ultimately resorted to armed struggle as a last option to regain their denied rights to independence and basic freedoms.
4c. Thecurrent regime resorts to unproportional and unprovoked violence against our people in its attempt to subdue resistance against the injustices perpetuated. In the process antagonising many and even threatening the existence of certain national groups like the Afar, the Kunama and others who have been forced to take up arms in self-defence.
4d. All attempts to peaceful forms of resistance so far waged have failed and were brutally crushed as that of the disabled war veterans (1994), University of Asmara student demonstrations (2001), the G15 (2001) and the private free media.
4e. The current proponents of non-violent resistance, either because of their close affiliation to the regime, to maintain the status quo or out of naive genuine interest do not hold the regime responsible for the policies that propel violence and dare not condemn or at least demand that the regime refrains from pursuing this policy. They instead blame and object to the legitimate reaction of the victims, the opposition, in using force. Advocates of peaceful resistance have so far failed to provide a clear strategy for change and have also failed to deliver effectively on the basis of what they preach. Apparently they pin false hopes on the belief that the regime will by itself evolve to adopt democracy in due time.
4f. Based on the facts mentioned above the optimum strategy to adopt is:
The adoption and application of all available political, military, economic and diplomatic ways and means to ultimately change the regime and replace it by a democratic and liberal system of governance based on the rule of law. Tactically to be able to innovatively apply concerted actions of all possible combinations of the various forms of resistance, in well planned, carefullycalculated and with surgical precision. While capitalising on all potentialities and chances that circumstances avail to the maximum degree and in the most efficient ways to gradually undermine and erode away the bases of the regime and finally bring about the change aspired.
5. Conflict Resolution:
As our history demonstrates conflicts in Eritrea most of the times haven’t been resolved based on seriously dealing with the underpinning root causes of the problems but rather under different pretexts and unsound reasons escalated to military confrontations.This has led to a vicious circle of recurrent violence and attempts to impose hegemony, domination and control of a certain group at the expense and exclusion of the others. A situation that has caused an immense harm and set obstacles in the way of building durable national unity thus such a culture has to be changed and replaced by a new one that establishes and adopts mechanisms and a new mentality and approach of peaceful conflict resolution. This is to be effected via democratic dialogue processes based on tolerance of different views, mutual recognition and respect of each other’s roles and rights. It is also necessary to accept the major premise of acknowledging and respecting the diverse factors characterizing the makeup of our societies.
6. On the road to overthrowing the regime:
We need to observe the following cardinal principles that should underlie the basis of relations between political organizations, civic societies and other public and individual partners and that should set the norm of conduct that all should voluntarily embrace and abide by:
6a. A code of conduct among political organizations, civic societies and opposition websites to respect each other’s different views and choices and set clear the rules of engagement between the parties.
6b. To believe in and respect the objective diverse reality of our society and hence the right of having differences in options and means of struggle to topple the regime.
6c. To spare all the resources and efforts available and wield that positively against the regime and not to be wasted in bickering and petty differences.
6d. Refrain from attacking and undermining each other’s credibility and the practice of character assassination, defaming and black smearing campaigns waged against each other under any circumstances.
6e. Focus on issues of convergence and avoid or minimize those of divergence.
6f. Prioritize collective and group working domains as a more effective means of struggle than that of individual/single organizational work options.
Establishment of good governance is a prerequisite for promoting and building a democratic system and should be on the basis of:
7a. Democracy and rule of law which are very important preconditions for good governance. Building of democratic institutions, an accountable, transparent and pluralistic multiparty system where power is attained through ballot boxes in free, transparent and democratic elections and where full separation of executive, legislative and judicial powers is attained.
7b. A form of a constitutional decentralized system of government (Federalism) is to be established where communities, based on either ethnic or regional options rule themselves locally and exercise their rightful share of power and wealth in the federal government. A mixture based on regional and ethnical federalism forms can be applied as required by the specific conditions and desires of the people. Federalism in different countries has proven to be a successful form of governance especially in countries of diversity, like ours.
7c. Parity in the application of all freedoms and rights is to be achieved and guaranteed constitutionally.
8. National Unity:
A strong reliable unity in diversity that accommodates theinterests of all the national components should be the ultimate target to attain and this is to be based on:
- A voluntary will of each and all national components to live together under the canopy of one nation is to be realized.
- A durable unity based on the creation of a network of interest-based relations that would bind all stakeholders materially together should be established and enhanced for the common benefit. This is far from the traditional approach tounity that is merely built on the basis of empty demagogic national rhetoric and emotions that are short sighted and short lived manipulations of national feelings.
- Full citizenship status and entitlements in theory and practice that is based on equal rights and duties to be guaranteed and enjoyed by all citizens irrespective of ethnic, region, gender or religion considerations and backgrounds.
- The acknowledgement of Eritrean diversity in all its forms, observing the rights associated with it and facilitating its realization in functional equality.
- 8e. Focus on and promote mutual confidence and trust building process that underlies the ground for embarking on serious reconciliation to undo all injustices and compensate for damages and harm inflicted upon individuals and group victims thus finally assist in healing and remedying deep rooted mistrusts and hatreds, a precondition for a sound and lasting unity.
- Application of positive preferential development projects in favor of marginalized and underdeveloped regions and guaranteeing that all have equal and open access to chances of employment and other occupational and public service opportunities.
- The recognition of the right to self-determination which is a basic human and universal right. It is a right that facilitates and guarantees the application of justice and the preservation of strong and enduring national unity. Self-determination, in essence is nothing but the realization of the condition of the “free and voluntary unity” consensual agreement reached by all parts in the last ENCDC conference in 2010. But there have to be constitutional mechanisms that guarantee that this right is properly exercised to reflect the genuine interests and will of the concerned people and that would ultimately enhance the chance of preserving the voluntary unity of the nation.
- The creation of favorable conditions that a durable national unity requires, not only the acknowledgment of injustices perpetuated, but also taking resolute actions to tackle and redress them properly to the effect of mending the damaged social fabric and enhancing the underlying bases of building trust and social peace necessary for reconciliation and establishing the material basis of common interest bonds.
8i. Unity has to embrace the common interests and address the concerns of all Eritreans in parity.
Reconciliation is an essential process in the rebuilding and mending of the social mesh that has suffered considerable damage throughout the long years of internal conflicts that interspersed our history. But it is also an arduous and a long process of fact finding, justice delivering and healing through self-reproach and remorse of society. The process of national reconciliation should start by addressing the issues and the effects of all dreadful atrocities and injustices committed against civilians in different places and times in the country, acts of cleansing resembling military campaigns waged in different parts of the country during the long liberation war for independence. We should work tirelessly to gather any information or documents related to the different stages along our history (self-determination period, before and after the Federation period, the Commandos and militias terror, atrocities committed during the war of liberation and crimes committed after independence by the incumbent regime in Asmara. Injustices should be redressed, but we should not witch hunt our adversaries to seek revenge. The aim should be to learn from the past and, focus on the future by building bridges, forgiving, reconciling and healing wounds.
State the equality of all Eritrean languages and the right of all ethnic groups to promote and develop their languages and culture and use them in their cultural and daily life activities, while at the same time confirm the status of Arabic and Tigrinya as official national languages until the people reconfirm this status or decide otherwise through a public referendum in the future.
11. Educational Policy:
- Ethnic groups can choose between Arabic and Tigrinya or opt to use their mother tongue as medium of instruction for the elementary levels. Arabic or Tigrinya, or both can be taken as optional languages to be taught at all levels up to university. English is to be the medium of instruction from the secondary level onwards.
- Universities should establish faculties for Eritrean national languages to preserve the related cultures and meet the requirements of those who opt to learn them.
- The educational policy and curriculums must measure up and correspond in content and quality to international standards and requirements. It must also help not only develop skills responding to demands of the labor market but aim to create and foster responsible, fully developed, well balanced and positive personality characters in future generations . The educational policy has to cultivate and foster a patriotic national identity and national pride far from a chauvinistic one and to instill respect for all other cultural and traditional heritages, norms and values of our societies in the growing generations. It must also incorporate extracurricular activities such as sports and fine arts to assist in developing creative and inspirational thinking and hobbies.
- Primary education has to be free and compulsory at least to include all school going ages in primary levels.
- A nationwide illiteracy campaign to be carried out to finally eradicate ignorance and backwardness of society and help build conscious, responsible and productive citizens.
- The state shall be secular but at the same time must uphold the right and freedom of belief and the practice of rituals of all chosen faiths by their adherents without any state intervention.
- Each religion can promote its faith and relations freely including that of establishing external brotherly faith relations barring all foreign interferences and involvements detrimental to national unity and integrity.
- Religion should help promote and instill mutual respect, tolerance, harmony and peaceful coexistence between its members and other creed followers.
- All political parties have the right to promote their policies and activities freely within the domain permitted by law. Political parties based purely on religious doctrines and tenets are to be encouraged to eventually transform to parties that adopt civic programs embracing the benevolent values and norms derived from the essence of religion as in the case of Christian democrats in the West and Turkish and Malaysian type of Islamic parties in the East.
- It is a form of a social contract made and agreed upon willingly by all stakeholders to regulate the life and relations between the state and public in a nation. The constitution has to guarantee full citizenship status based on equal rights and duties for all, through decentralized institution based state structures and democratically elected authorities that uphold democratic freedoms, rights and civil liberties. It should also include good governance principles based on democracy and rule of law, citizenship equality, justice, principles of fundamental human rights and freedoms.
- Sources of reference should basically be the country’s religions, traditions, local customary laws and rules as well as the constitution of 1952, national drafts of constitutions and legislations developed during the struggle and after independence, international constitutions, experiences and references of relevance.
- A constitution drafting committee should be formed. The committee shall comprise independent national and international legal experts, religious and customary law experts, experienced wise persons, representatives of the various national components, civil groups and organisations.
- The highest legislative body should formally assign the task of drafting the constitution to the constitutional committee.
- The committee will carry out a process by which the general public will participate in thoroughly discussing and debating the draft constitution.
- Finally, the constitution shall be ratified through public referendum and endorsed by parliament.
Should be based on a balanced combination of liberal market economy system where free enterprises, entrepreneurship and creative free competition of private sectors/individuals are encouraged in parallel existence with a public sector. A private sector that flourishes simultaneously side by side with a government controlled public sector that is primarily owned and managed by the state or the public to regulate and run the major natural resources and vital public services. This is to achieve a balanced, planned development that benefits the general public and that help to maintain the right balance between the profit driven private sector and that of the public sector objectives of providing reliable necessary public services and in the long run aiming at building a strong sustainable national economy.
- Fully support women’s rights and encourage them to assume and play their natural role as equal partners in society and facilitate their full engagement in all aspects of the society.
- Liberate women from retarding, harmful customs and tradition shackles to be freely and positively involved in activities to develop themselves and society at large.
- Realize women’s functional equality in rights, equal access to opportunities and fight against all gender based discrimination practices exercised against women.
- Positive discrimination and quotas should be applied to guarantee women’s fair representation in government and public offices.
16. Land/Salt plains:
- Land/salt plains are considered as private properties owned either by community or individuals. There has never been “no man’s land” or what has been called the ‘Dominialle’ as had been mischievously referred to denote the fertile pastures and arable lowlands by the Italian colonialist and later adopted by the current regime to justify the unlawful policies of land grapping and confiscations. Thus all land/salt plains that have been unlawfully expropriated must be returned to their lawful original owners.
- All unlawful land/salt plains ownership and appropriation, land /boundary changes and measures such as building of resettlement projects, the new administrational boundaries and confiscations should be annulled and reversed with proper compensations made to the rightful owners for losses or damages inflicted. This without any restrictions or infringement imposed on the rights of Eritrean citizens to move, live and work freely wherever they want.
- A Special committee should be formed to undo all wrongs and transgressions and prepare studies on how the land issue to be resolved and new land laws and policies to be formulated to the satisfaction and best interests of all concerned.
17. Foreign relations:
Foreign policy and relations are mainly based on realization of mutual national interests, recognition and respect of national integrities and sovereignties between states of equal status, and are built on the principles of:
- Building and enhancing of strong, durable relations between nations that should also serve to promote and enhance bilateral, regional and world peace in general.
- Special focus is to be made in maintaining and developing relations between neighboring countries to the effect of enhancing the especial existing fraternal relationship and preserve the vital mutual interests that bind us with neighboring countries. This primarily arise from sharing of a common historical back ground, cultural ties, common borders , interwoven vital interests and kinship relations across borders living communities in these countries. The fact that demands scrupulous approach and cooperation from all sides to maintain and develop strong enduring relations to the best benefit of our peoples’ shared interests.
- Be signatories to all international and regional conventions. Respect, observe and strictly abide by all agreements and conventions particularly that of the universal human rights convention, observing codes of international diplomatic accepted norms as an obligation of a responsible, law abiding member of the international community.
- Strive to be a positive functional member of all regional and international political, economic and religious organizations that serve the interests of our nation and reflect positively our historical and cultural reality.
18. The army and other current government institutions:
- The army, police and other security forces currently existing cannot be considered as full national institutes by virtue of lacking the basic underlying principles of institutional structures, a distinct national doctrine & mission, basis of professionalism and proper representation of Eritrean diversity in its rank and file. The same should apply to other state departments and institutions formed by the incumbent regime.
- The security services have to be instituted to look into national interests, serve and safeguard the security, safety and wellbeing of the citizens and its functions shall be regulated by laws through Parliament. It should be politically neutral and not be involved in spying on or serving against the interests of the citizens for any political objectives nor to align with any political party or regime in any way.
- The ruling party, PFDJ, should be banned from political life and all its assets shall be transferred to the Government of Eritrea
- Responsible high officials and party leaders to be tried fairly in courts to account for power abuses and see justice served and be banned from involvement in political life for a considerable length of time if proven guilty.
19. Social Arena: (Questionof Refugees)
- We are aware that many thousands of refugees have been left stranded languishing under miserable life conditions in refugee camps in neighboring countries for decades without any attempt by the Eritrean regime to resolve that question in what is apparently a deliberate policy. This situation has been aggravated lately by the uninterrupted flow of refugees, mainly youth fleeing away the country as the consequence of the sum total of the vicious and criminal policies pursued by the regime. Least to say, the indefinite military and servitude-like national service recruitments, the adventurous war policy, the full failure of the state functions and apparatus, deterioration of life sustaining public services and the grim prospects for future improvements have triggered this influx of new refugee waves.
- All refugees should be returned to their home places or places of choice and should be enabled to reclaim their properties and to re-instate their full rights immediately.
- Should be assisted to rehabilitate and resume normal life activities, practicing their accustomed living modes of life. All necessary material, morale and administrational help should be supplied to that effect.
- Compensated for loses and damages incurred in property, wealth or belongings during their long absence.
- Try to ease the hardships of life in refugee camps as much as possible by liaising with concerned humanitarian national and international NGOs to assist with and provide the necessary help in relief, medical and educational and developmental fields, until they return to their country,.
- Work diligently in coordination with regional and international authorities in exposing, fighting against and stopping human trafficking & profiteers and expose their criminal acts of exploiting and abusing the plight of vulnerable refugees. Highlight and draw the attention of the local and international authorities to the kidnapping of these refugees by criminal gangs and holding them hostages in exchange of high ransom amounts that are not affordable, leading in many cases to their murder in cold blood without interference or protection from the local and international authorities concerned. The exposure of the refugees to inhumane conditions of detention and deportation that some countries including Western countries are exercising in clear contravention and violation of The Geneva Conventions for Refugee Rights must be highlighted and campaigned against.
20. Civil Societies:
Should be established as strategic and vital mechanisms whereby the civilian population, willingly and consciously participates in nation building, democratic change, work to safeguard their group interests, defend and develop civic and democratic rights; and act as watchdog that keeps constant vigil over the correctness of state function and general performance
We therefore support and encourage:
- The formation of independent and interest oriented civil societies, unions and syndicates that adhere to good governance promoted and cultivated through a culture of transparency, accountability and full disclosure.
- Encourage civil societies to establish an exemplary model in adopting and promoting best practices of operational management, finance development, and following a strict code of work ethics by meeting the highest requirements for certification and auditing.
- Strategically focus all efforts in promoting and achieving democratic change and contributing in nation building tasks.
- Coordinate and cooperate with already formed civil societies and exchange experience and information as to how to organize and work effectively in relieving the suffering of Eritrean refugees in neighboring countries and in meeting their minimum basic demands for acceptable and decent living conditions.
- 21. Conclusion:
The primary purpose of this document is to outline the general outlook of the Network group. The thoughts and stands set forth above, will be further detailed and elaborated as the group takes practical steps towards achieving its goals, and as it expands and incorporates ideas and suggested solutions from its new members. We expect and want to make this an experience of continuous evolution that will overcome the negative traits that keep our society in a state of stagnation while capitalizing on our historically tested spirit of steadfastness, selfless sacrifice and desire to change the present unfavorable reality to a better one that we feel realizes our aspirations.
Network Coordinating Committee:
Ustaz Mahmoud Adem
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