A Nation Born Out of A Struggle And Arguments Failed To Unite It’s Diversity

INTRODUCTION: In sociology and political studies, the term diversity describes differences by identifying features that includes ethnic classifications, ideological philosophies, religious beliefs, gender identity etc. And are measured by “diversity indexes” – a proportional ratio of accommodation for purposes of peaceful coexistence. In our contemporary life, diversity to some means “bio-diversity” and the existence of many distinct ethnics and cultures, and hence, they demand respect of diversity and equitable justice.  To others, it means the mixing of ethnics and cultures into one, as evidenced in our nation. Building a nation in to one cultural make up is the idea of totalitarian regimes.

Identity Politics also known as “Identitarian politics” is a political position based on the interest of social groups by which people identify themselves, through loosely correlated social organizations. Identitarian politics includes social class, cultures, disability, ethnicity, philosophical ideology, occupation, profession, religion etc. [courtesy Wikipedia]. Formally, identity politics was found in Karl Marx’s statement referring to a class consciousness of itself that has developed a class identity. Class identity was described by Kauffman who traced its origin to civil rights movement of mid 60s in USA [1]. Therefore, to understand the concept of identity politics, I would like to give a brief explanation on the differences of political philosophy and political science and how they relate to each other.

Political Philosophy Vs Political Science

Although “political philosophy” and “political science” are closely linked to each other by sets of different philosophical issues and methods, they can be distinguished distinctively one from the other. Political science predominantly, for the most part, deals with the existing states and governmental affairs; and to the extent it is possible to be amoral in its description, it seeks a positive analysis of social affairs, that includes constitutional issues, voting behavior, the balance of power, the effect of judicial process and so forth [2]. On the other hand, Political philosophy generates visions of common good of social life and begins with a question: what must to be an individual person’s relationship to the society? It seeks the application of ethical concepts to the social sphere that deals with various of forms of government and social existence that people could live in [3]. In so doing, it provides a standard by which to “analyze and judge existing institutions and relationships” for which this author will seek philosophical answers to apply on the circumstances of Eritrean politics and the plight of the Eritrean people.

This author who believes on “ethical deontology” that emphasize “duty, obligations, rights on pragmatic ethics”, will use it as philosophical reasoning to judge institutions and governments, as I proceed my analysis and arguments in this article, whereby to stamp out the arguments that hinders and failed us to unite our diversities.

Diversity Politics And Liberalism

There is this misconception and misunderstanding in Eritrean politics, that diversity politics contradicts to liberal ideas and “group rights” obscure “individual rights”- a distorted view about a liberal state and management of diversity. Diversity management in a liberal states concerns a broad array of issues, religious, ethnics, linguistics, morals and national diversity in the common lot of all countries. Despite there are a general sets of questions that unite them, it doesn’t mean that all these forms of diversities have identical questions [4]. How does a liberal state accommodate differences? How did a liberal state commit itself to accommodate diversities then? How does it maintain the equilibrium of its parts? These are some of the common questions to all forms of diversities to bring a legal order in order to cohabit them in the same sovereign territory peacefully.

As a principle, the liberal state should emerge as a solution to the issue of diversity, based on the principle of neutrality that the state should abstain from favoring or handicapping specific cultures, moral, religious or ethnic groups [5]. The second principle of a liberal state is “tolerance”, a position held by a liberal state since John Locke’s letter concerning toleration, in 1689. In spite of its apparent overlap with neutrality, the principle expresses slightly different idea that institutions should not interfere with the conceptions of the good, even ones that diverge from the conception which is presumed to be endorsed by the majority, and ones that this majority may find abhorrent or in contradictions with some of its fundamental principles [6]. These reasons have been regularly invoked since the first philosophical discussion of political multiculturalism started in the 1990. This author being a proponent of this philosophical take, have the obligation to introduce the concept and bring in to a discussion for purposes of Eritrean multi-cultural context, to address grievances and marginalization.

The opponents of multiculturalism adhere on their description that “the states are de facto culturally biased”, and thus liberalism should serve to the interest of the majority or reinforce domination of some sort – the kind of political environment since post-colonial era. But what the opponent of multicultural politics have failed to understand is, that liberalism could be transformed and refined by the feedback effect of diversity on liberal principles. On the other hand, what the proponents of multicultural politics should know in principles is that, if liberalism has been forged to answer the questions of diversity, then it is quite natural to face a challenge by the views and monolithic liberal characters who are hostile to our diversities.

Monolithic Eritrean liberals oppose and despise the right to organize our “social groups” to fight for their own rights. While they advocate for individual rights, they fail to understand that   individuals have the rights to organize with whom they deem to fight as a group for their common rights, that is well understood and recognized in the principles of liberalism.

Toleration, Pluralism: The Inseparable Liberalist Idea

In the struggle of modern diversified society that affect personal morality and cultural practices, it is always associated with the advance of Liberalism and the need of toleration. It becomes conventional then, that liberalism philosophy is the only qualified justification for diversity that emphasize the virtue of toleration. Trends towards multicultural have seen the spread of moral, religious, and ethnic diversity, perhaps ending forever the idea that a nation are based on a single culture [7]. PFDJ is practicing a single “value system” that affected our diversity advertently and become the precursor of mistrusts and opened the door to the formation of social group (ethnic) organizations.

Interestingly enough, the British historian, a Philosopher, and an inhabitant of the ivory tower, Andrew Heywood, who developed a form of pluralist liberalism, provided us an insight to justify the compatibilities of pluralism and liberalism. Heywood, brought further a new understanding to the conflicts of values and argued, that the “conflicts of values are intrinsic, irremovable elements in human life”. Hence forth, “political arrangement should therefore be aimed to allow the greatest scope of people to pursue their differing ends” [8].

Two of the most pressing dilemmas in the Eritrean political realities are (a) a totalitarian regime that controls the lives of the Eritrean people and the apparatus of oppression and (b) the opposition camp with different views and with no “structural relationships” to exercise their converging views to fight the state machine of PFDJ to emancipate our people. One that appears as the laughing stock from the standing point of PFDJites on the opposition camp, is when some of the oppositions camp attribute the problem of Eritrea to a one-man despot only. Despots can not survive and thrive without a solid parties and their institutions of oppression that serve the members of the parties – formidable parties as such, that controls the lives of their citizens. If they can not understand the role of a leader, the role of an organization as an entity, the “value system” they are fighting for, the role of its members, and the institutions they are protecting for, then for sure, they could not understand as to how the relationship of “multiculturalism” and “pluralist liberalism” entails. Myself, if I could marshal it, I will wage a two fronts fight (a) on identifying and educating about our domestic enemy (b) Eritrea being a multicultural nation, I will launch my argument that “diversity and toleration” can only be justifiable under pluralist liberalism – that the Eritrean diversities can only be entertained their equitable power sharing, through pluralistic liberalism.

Eritrean Constitutional document: Depicts Structural Injustice

In political philosophy, clarity, rigorous argumentation, and knowledge of facts of being sensitive to the connections between facts and theory are quintessential to deal with practical political matters. Great thinkers of the past, like Aristotle, have advocated that politics is based on universal justice and the theory of constitutional democracy should then be based on the theory of justice.

John Rawls, the most important political philosopher in the 20th century, comes to my mind, who embarked on life long project to find a coherent and attractive way of combining “freedom” and “equality” into one conception of political justice. In his book “the theory of Justice,” published in 1971 [9] he had made a legal argument connecting “social justice” and “social contracts” in the institutions of constitutional laws. Since Rawls defended the principle of “justice and fairness,” in Part-two of his theory of justice, he checks the fit between principles of justice as fairness and our concrete considered views about “just institutions,” thereby helping us to the move  towards a “reflective equilibrium.”

My motto in writing this piece is to revitalize the concept of social contract and how should the Eritrean people could get a contract that fits to their reality, and defend the vision of egalitarian liberalism that gives social justice and fairness. Taking Rawls central idea in to account, I will argue that the constitutional document of 1997 depicts structural and institutional injustice as to how our social groups will receive justice and fairness politically and economically. The constitutional document is neither endorsed by our intellectual divide, nor by our religious divide, and nor by our ethnic diversities. What good is good, for a document supported by EPLF supporters only, to be a national covenant? The document will neither bring the “equilibrium” of its parts nor the observance to “equal justice” for all under their “value system” and one party system that rules by sheer force.

All Eritreans must start from a clean slate and fresh starting to bring the needs and desires of our people, on how to live together peacefully by addressing all kinds of grievances, in a nation that is born out of struggle and arguments. If our armed struggle was an argument for justice and self-determination, the current struggle is a continuation for the unfulfilled promise to our people – justice and equality for all citizens and social groups as they deem to fulfill their duty for their nation. Duties and rights go side by side. Duties without rights is enslavement by its nature.


In a nutshell, this article conveys, that certain collective rights of minorities’ cultures and the quest for their inalienable rights, are consistent with the liberal democratic principles, and as such, the standard of liberal objections to the issue of minorities should be challenged as it should be, rigorously. It is therefore, the opinion of this author, that we must be governed by principles of justice that does not presuppose any particular vision of any group – An idea that is denied by the current regime for the nation we gave everything to its birth. As John Rawls argued, “the idea of public reasoning and the law of peoples” for justice should prevail in our nation to address the issue of our diversities.

[1] L. A. Kauffman, “The anti-politics of identity”, socialist review, Oakland, California, 1990, pp 67-80.
[2] Internet Encyclopedia of philosophy (IEP), peer reviewed academic resources.
[3] Ibid (Peer reviewed academic resource).
[4] Xavier Landes & Nil Holtug, “diversity and liberal state”, 2011, University of Copenhagen.
[5] Ackerman, Bruce, “Social Justice and the Liberal State”, 1980, Yale University press, New Haven.
[6] John Stuart Mill, “On Liberty”, 1859, chap-4 (the toleration that should be displayed when confronting certain conceptions of the good.
[7] Haywood, Andrew, “Liberalism, toleration, and diversity”, 2004
[8] Farrel, Jason “Isaiah Berlin: Liberalism and pluralism in theory and practice”. Aug 3, 2009, PP 295-315
[9] Rawls J., “the theory of justice”, Oxford University press, 1970.


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