As Eritrea’s 19th Independence Day anniversary draws near (with no end in sight to our people’s suffering) and as the opposition’s long-awaited national conference approaches, we cannot help but reflect back over the great opportunity that was lost in “post independence” era. For almost two decades, we have lived through one anniversary after another each reminding us of our great misfortune as a people to be saddled with an inept leadership that would so shamelessly squander it all. But this year, unlike previous years, provides us with a glimmer of hope as it comes at a time when serious overtures towards unity seem to have begun in earnest. While fragmentation, empty quibbling, and fruitless hairsplitting are far from over, the momentum is clearly on the side of unity.
But ultimate and enduring success in this ongoing struggle will require not only a united opposition and the removal of the brutal dictatorship but also the installment of a political structure that ensures equality and justice for all. This will in turn require that we familiarize ourselves with the nature of the inequalities that currently plague our nation.
Therein lies the importance of the “Eritrean Covenant” that was recently published by Mejlis Mukhtar. Since its publication, the “Eritrean Covenant” by Mejlis Ibrahim Mukhtar has been widely praised and hailed by Eritreans of all walks of life and rightly so. And we, a group of Eritreans residing in the United States of America have decided to join this growing body of supporters by enthusiastically endorsing the ideas and thoughts expressed in the document. The publication earns our respect and admiration not only for its thorough objectivity and professionalism but also for the painstaking research that clearly went into producing such detailed statistics of closely held Government data or facts.
We have chosen to register our support at this time as a way of reminding our compatriots that all is not well in Eritrea as we commemorate the 19th Independence Day anniversary. The particular plight of Eritrean Muslims, though common knowledge to the vast majority of Muslims has often been contested, rationalized, or quickly dismissed by some compatriots as unsubstantiated and until now, Muslims did not possess data that supported what they knew to be self-evident.
The “Eritrean Covenant” changed all that. It proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is indeed a concerted and systematic discrimination, persecution, and exclusion of Muslims in present day Eritrea. In other words, it unmasked the regime’s ethnocratic makeup. We thank the Mejlis and its authors for this monumental service to our country and we hope they will continue to serve their country.
But now that the inequalities have been catalogued and identified, we urge the Mejlis to take the next logical step towards transforming the sound theoretical base established by the document into concrete practical steps that all Eritreans can take part in. Though written by Muslims, the covenant addresses all Eritreans and belongs to all.
As concerned Eritreans and stakeholders in future Eritrea, please allow us to share our views on where to go from here. We suggest the following:
We implore the Mejlis to do the following:
Continue documenting the regime’s marginalization and discriminatory practices.
Continue to expose EPLF/PFDJ’s exclusionary policies and bring it to the attention of the International Community (civil societies, neighboring countries and human rights organization in particular (.
Lay down the groundwork for an inclusive national conference to endorse the contents of the covenant and adopt an effective and realistic methodology to reverse historical disparities, inequalities, and marginalization policies.
Establish formal lines of communication with other Eritrean Entities (Civil organization, independent personalities and political organizations) to promote the covenant
Translate the covenant into Tigrigna (if possible into other languages as well) and distribute it widely.
Launch a website dedicated to the covenant and all related materials.
We urge all Eritrean organizations, civil societies and other independent entities to:
Publicly declare support for or disapproval of the covenant. If you don’t support it, then declare your rejection explaining why.
Do not base your rejection solely on disagreements over matters pertaining to historical narration of events as disputes over historical details are common and expected. Instead focus on core issues and on quantifiable or verifiable data. And where such data is missing, rely on unbiased common sense rather than on preconceived notions.
If you generally agree with its contents, start working with other similarly minded individuals to eradicate gross inequalities and to bring about a new era of peace, justice, and equality.
If you have already thought of solutions, please share your views publicly and tell us how we can collectively solve these historic disparities.
If you are a formally registered organization (civil or political), distinguish yourself by being the first to endorse the Mejlis’s ideas or incorporate them into your political program or goals. Indicate how your program is better poised or equipped to handle or solve such critical issues.
The issues brought by the covenant are weighty, timely, and critical. The current regime has institutionalized bigotry to startling levels and even when it finally collapses, it will still leave a shameful legacy of ethnocracy that will continue to disenfranchised a large segment of our society namely, Muslims. This is an evil that must be eradicated and uprooted so that our country can heal. No nation can thrive when a substantial number of its people remain marginalized, persecuted, and excluded. Let us together seek solutions.
We wish all Eritreans a happy 19th year anniversary! One day, we hope to utter those words and mean it in all its various senses!
Concerned Eritrean Muslims, Washington, DC Area