Nature Abhors vacuum: the search of veridical solution (Part IV)

Heterogeneous in culture, Eritrea flourishes when it accepts and capitalizes on its diversity and disintegrate when it denies and suppresses.” (A view held by this writer) 




We are fortunate enough that the opposition writers as diversified as they are, indeed vigorously tackling the various issues with courage, confidence, power and penetrating intellect. The vernalization of their ideas and their versatility move to cope with the volatile Eritrean politics is in itself breath taking. Our nation’s problem is not only the cruel tyranny we have, as some might think. For fact, our nation has a host of problems and of course complex in its nature. The inversion layers of our social contradictions, which induce stumbling effects, have never understood in the struggle against the regime.  It is imperative then to pose and rethink as to the causes of these stumbling effects and rediscover the compensating factors to our struggle. Now the opposition camp has no alternative, except to have a comprehensive strategy to tackle them side by side all the problems. As we become close to end the chapter of the existing regime, keeping the tapestry of our social fabric intact and addressing our social grievances doesn’t look easy at all to the current opposition leaders. As a result, our journey should be a discovery of something completely new than a recovery of the old in order to examine the consequences of our unexamined ideas and unquestioned attitudes that brought us to where we are.


From its face value, it is this reality and others, that our writers made them to focus only in the issue that matters them most. Interestingly enough, some are focusing on the nexus of the regime’s strategy, some on human rights, some on justice, some on peace, some on land and language, some on uniting the opposition camp, some on co-existence, and some on the nature of governance that fits to our diversity…etc. The only problem with the different focused group who are associated with the above various issues indeed invariably are not organized to have the appearance of a “division of labor” to a net of a broader struggle, to maximize their effort and harvest a tangible outcome on their common strategy. I still value every aspect of them no matter how disorganized they are. But we should be mindful that we have to be careful such dysfunctional structure will lead us from crises to chaos.


On my previous installations (three of the four parts) of “nature abhors vacuum” I had already set a scenario which reflects more of our fears and hopes, and tried to show the reality and the good contained in living the truth. Now it seems that the future has become an extrapolation of the present into infinite space and time, to explore new procedure and modalities of governance which is vividly in contrast to the prevailing visions of doom and cataclysms. This writer does not have even the temerity or a plea for returning to the 90s – the delusional decade systemically rooted on the euphoria of the success of the army struggle; Instead, will suggest a new institutional embodiment and schematized structure that uphold our co-existence. Moreover, I will also argue how constitutionalism works in an Age of Diversity.  But before going to my topic and introducing the osmosis of new models of governance, I will make some back ground explanation about the cardinal virtues of human being to help us to face our reality in its totality.


Great courage can illuminate society


Give me the facts; dad always says when I talk about a story of events, back in the years of my high school time (in the 60s). My father taught me to be inquisitive about truth, facts, and justice. I told him, I will not be a story teller or event writer; I will not be a journalist or a lawyer. I have a good taste in science I will pursue on that line. Aha, said my father. Son! Facts and truth are not the values attributed to journalism or legalism only, but to any field of knowledge and learning, be it from your surrounding or formal education. You will apply them at any circumstance because they are hinged to wisdom and courage. My father armed me with this wisdom; God wills so to carry them.


All right, what does our society need now? It is harmony, cooperation, fairness togetherness, which sounds like a very progressive notion of justice, better than the old legalistic one. We also need leaders that have understanding of their society, insight, and sympathy to the needs of our diversity and their values; leaders with a new notion of courage. Yes, the courage – the willingness to freely go beyond the call of duty, to make sacrifice and choose the difficult thing; Of course, not physical courage but moral courage, even if it “costs them” something such convenience or social acceptance. This is the relevant re-definition of courage and wisdom that define the call of our time.


In fact, the top cardinal virtues are Justice, Wisdom, Courage, and moderation. You will find them in all religious scriptures and philosophy (Plato) for that matter. These virtues will remain as a perennial source of inspirational energy giving a purpose and meaning to our individual and collective existence. They are the very soul of our soul, the illuminators of our intellect and senses; the substances of our physical, mental, and causal frames. These cardinal virtues also fit to the “new psychology” taught by Fraud the father of psychology. Fraud told us what we are: Id, ego, superego; and their attributions to the essence, who we are. Moderation is the value for the “id” that controls our insatiable desire. Courage is the value of “ego” or will, while wisdom is the value of “superego”, conscience or mind. Now look to our leaders both in the state and in the opposition camp using Fraud’s value of psychology. We can make mini-experiment as we wish to determine the psychological traits of our leaders and let for the public to discern them through practical cognition as oppose to epistemic cognition; and yes to search the soul that fosters a capacity to perceive the reality of our social connectedness within the entity of our common identity. This is the real homework of our erudite from the left to the right. I believe the habits of vigorous mind are formed in contending with these difficulties. So our intellectuals! raise your mind and form the character of the hero and the statesman. Bring the whole philosophical toolboxes that have solutions to our socio-politico problems and avoid dualism the bloody structure of our mind.


Responding to a New Philosophy and Approach


Since value is a reflection of what we are, of what we live by, it is a kind of unwritten collective agreement or understanding on what is worthwhile and necessary for the well being of our citizen’s relationship, community, and our cultures. Therefore my proposal is only to store the value mentioned above in conjunction the issues I have raised in Part-I, Part-II, Part-III of my essays. In the last three parts, depending on the current social stratification (a) I have hinted what kind of social pillars are required and how to deal with it (b) reflected the nature of opposites and the rule of the games that governs them (c) the nature of competing values and how to prioritize them. In this essay I will devote to how future Eritrea can effectively manage its ethnic and linguistic diversity within its border. The aim of my argument is also to show that the vertical power sharing method of accommodation is effective not only for avoiding civil wars or keeping diverse groups together within a single state, but also to argue for Decentralized unitary governance (DUG) as oppose to centralize unitary of governance (CUG). The normative core with this argument is, as to how we can create governance that equilibrates the interest of its opposites. In fact, scholars such as Lijphart predict that DUG provides elites from various ethnic and linguistic groups the incentive to govern better. Bear in mind, that the lexicon in which discussion occurs on this subject is as varied as the backgrounds of those who participate.


Amid the globalization process, the role of nation-state and its government is being greatly questioned especially in the developing countries. And as a natural process, the question of democracy and demands for greater influence and authority in the decision making process have come to the forefront. It is in the mist of this process that Decentralization has been viewed as the key process through which these demands will meet and democracy could find ground to flourish. Eritreans as part of the process and part of the international human connectedness, we are individually or collectively influenced by the on going process. Though personally I have embraced for almost a decade ago, it hasn’t well received among our population until recently. Irrespective to those who argue for the current constitution that depict highly centralized unitary governance, there are few organizations from the opposition who now advocate for DUG (EPP and EFDM). While EFDM advocates a decentralized federalism, EPP (now EPDP) has yet, need to articulate what kind of DUG they will advocate.


As forward looking and to narrow the gap of the path of rhetoric and reality, I will explore the concept of decentralization by first examining the varying definitions of decentralization. Eventually, I will briefly review what kind of decentralization will be the rationale fit to our society. Arthur Morris in his book “decentralization in central America” foresaw decentralization as an observable process occurring in many areas, whether viewed demographic, economic, social, or politico-administrative process with spatial connotation. By spatial process means moving out from the center relevant to various social issues and politico-administrative. Since decentralization is used in a broad context, I will use the generally understood process as described in its types below. We will also see it as a process that operates in a manner opposite to centralization. There are three types of decentralization which are often described in the literature. They are (a) Deconcentration (b) Delegation (c) Devolution.


The Distribution of Power and Responsibility of DUG


The effects of decentralized unitary government depend to a large extent on the form and nature of decentralization involved in a particular country. The type of unit with which authority shared or to which it is transferred in the decentralized unitary process is critical for understanding to the implication of good governance. The descriptions of the types of DUG are as follows:


[A] The transfer of authority to autonomous lower level units such as provincial, districts, and local communities that are legally constituted as separate governance bodies is often referred as “Devolution of power.” Through devolution the central government relinquishes certain function or creates new units of governments that are outside its control. By that it means (i) local units of government are autonomous, semi-independent and clearly perceived as separate levels of government over which central government exercise little control. (ii) The local government has clear legally recognized geographic boundaries within which they exercise authority and perform public functions. (iii) Develop local government as institution under the umbrella of national constitution in the sense that they are perceived by local citizens, organizations providing services that satisfy their needs and as government units over which they have some influences. (iv) Devolution is an arrangement in which there are reciprocal mutually beneficial and coordinate relationships between central and local government.


[B] The transfer of very limited authority to lower units such as provincial, districts, local authorized that are legally constituted as separate governance bodies is often referred “Deconcentration of power.” Under such decentralized unitary government the governance are “delegated through legislation” or under contract. This is another variant of decentralization that stops short of devolution, but involves significant delegation of authority and responsibilities. It is used to create strong local administration under the supervision of central ministries. It weakens centrality by distributing political and administrative activities to non-central office. It has hierarchal level of accountability from units to the central government ministry or agency.


[C] The transfer of authorities to local government through and by delegation is called “Delegation of power.” Most typically delegation is by central government to semi-autonomous provincial, district, municipal and local communities not wholly controlled by the central government, but legally accountable to it. In this kind of decentralization the decision making powers of local citizen are restricted to local day-to-day affairs. Their role is restricted to implementation of the pre-fabricated policy. It transfers more responsibility to local communities than deconcentration, but still remains attached to the larger government body.


By virtue of its structure CUG is the fertile ground for despotism and oppression. But for the purpose of the reader see below the table to contrast CUG with DUG.


                Table [A]                       A glimpse on the contrast of CUG and DUG

Centralized unitary government Decentralized unitary government
1-Relationship-executive body dominates legislative body 1-Balanced power between of the  two branches
2-Disproportional & majoritarian electoral system 2- proportional and representative  electoral system
3-Rigid constitution 3- Flexible(amendable) constitution
4-Concentration of executive power in a single party 4-Coalition cabinet of executive power sharing
5-Unicameralism 5-Bicameralism

Comfortably sheltered, and as experience and history always reminds us, that centralized unitary government creates a strong presidential control of the bureaucracy and weak party system in the legislature. The legislature in CUD system has few incentives to deliver particular services to their constituents and little allegiance to the specific regions they are elected from. It is broadly understood that strong executive are seen as substitute to the parliamentary institution rather than a compliment to the national institution as whole. The president always marginalizes the parliament in policy making. The prerogatives of the executives are reinforced by constitutional changes and at times they could dissolve or dismiss both legislative and judiciary branches of the government (as proved by PFDJ in our case). Last but not least the budgeting and fiscal power remains in the hand of the president rather than the elected body of the people while the subsidiary levels of government serve as the agent of the office of the president.


Graphical Depiction of CUG and DUG on Ideal Social Space

From the above graph we can learn that: (a) Injustice is directly proportional to the increase of power. By that it means, with the increase and concentration of power by the executive, injustice on the population increase exponentially [refer to the gray social space that depicts the environment of centralized unitary government (CUG)]. (b) Injustice will decrease proportionally as power is decreased or devolved from the center to the periphery [refer to the blue social space that depicts the environment of decentralized unitary government (DUG)]. In a nutshell, from the graph we can observe the big contrast between CUG and DUG in relation to justice.

What kind of Governance redeems our Vulnerable Nation?


The nation and its people should be redeemed from the assault of the regime and the inherent social conflicts. It is an urgent plea by all citizens who are sick by the perpetual crimes and injustices that are befallen to our people. But yet in the opposition camp we are ripped with mistrust and dishonesty; part of that is, there are still Eritreans who believe the rogue man Isaiah is redeemable and can defend their interest if he changes his heart. You can see them in their fluctuations and their soft heart in this evil man that decimate the nation and its people. Such kind of feeling reignite the difference along the social divide that was seen during the 40s the Muslim/Christian divides on the issue of “independence”. This time it has the same appearances except the issue is “justice”. Isaiah is playing the same cards of that emperor Haileslassie (Haileslassie used fund and terror and Isaiah is using land and terror to sustain their goals). Our brothers on the other side perfectly understood these tricks. That is why M. Ibrahim Mukhtar came with a document “The Eritrean covenant towards sustainable justice and peace” Posted on Awate in Feb.12, 2009 to address the injustice of the regime.


The document has full of magnanimity and sincerity in its essence, appearance and content – setting history in its reality and looking prospectively to the solution of our society’s problem. Finally they have framed the problem as they look to them, but indeed they help to those of us on the other side who were trying to find solution by speculations the unarticulated grievances. Now the anger changed to lucid grievances at the heart of our social problem. They have unpacked the grievances and injustices with statistics to expose the regime and his institutions. The statistical number shows characteristically the nature of a sectarian regime marginalizing certain section of our society. Indeed they have also asserted us that the fundamental of our unity and our sovereignty is not negotiable. And I say Amen. I believe everything other than the fundamentals of unity and sovereignty is negotiable and they are doable. Furthermore, they believe on the basic tenets of the 1952 constitution of Eritrea. I believe we can incorporate the value of the 1952 document and the bill of rights of the current document but enhancing with new and modern structural governance that gives power to our people. Having said that, based on those who believe on the CUG of the current constitution and the authors of the Eritrean covenant for sustainable peace and justice, let me share my view how we can create a breaking common ground towards sustainable peace and justice. This will bring me to what I have alluded above, to the kinds and structural forms of decentralized unitary governance – the distribution of power and responsibility of DUG that fits to the current socio-economic development and socio-political consciousness of our society. Eventually hoping, this will bridge variegated destinations and bring legitimate polity within our diversity.


The Osmosis of New Model of Governance


The first look of such proposal may arose the direst provocation in the approach of readers a lot of constitutional elements, with a didactic purpose and an agnostic approach directed, not only for public consumptions, but also to give an alternative outlook and solutions to the messy Eritrean politics. Certainly, the continuous search and a quest for up-to-date knowledge to find new ventures, new methods, new avenues of learning, and absorbing what is needed for sustainable peace and justice has become the prime mover to me for this topic.


 Despite the three domains in governance the state, civil societies, and the private sector are so critical for sustainable peace, justice, and developments; they can not be restructured under CUG to flourish in their natural process. Henceforth, we need more conducive governance in order the three domains to function and bring sustainable peace, justice and development. By virtue of its structure, DUG will promote such transformational atmosphere. The role of DUG will then serve as facilitator and catalytic force for enabling the imaginative sharing responsibilities and creating effectiveness of people and partners in pursuing their legitimate objective. The question now is what kind of DUG will serve to the Eritrean social structure and social development? What kind of geo-territorial structure is acceptable by our society to devolve authority from the center to the periphery?


Aside the ethnic and religious identities, for generations, the Eritrean have had identifiable territorial identities from small units of “Adi” to big units of “province.” Every “structural unit of identity” was accepted by its inhabitants as “collective identity” within that structural unit. Eritrea had identifiable nine provinces. Unfortunately the provisional government of EPLF now EPFDJ erase our “territorial identity” or our “unit identity” and replaced them by a new name of geographical niches (Debubawi, Semienawi, Me’arabawi, Me’braquabi..) a move without the consultation of the entire population. As an accepted norm of identity, the territorial identity must be reinstated back to its origin. Consequently, I believe the nine territorial units (provinces) will be the very embodiments of politico- administrative units for the osmosis of new governance to take place.


Flow Chart for Designing Decentralized Unitary Governance 

This flow chart, as a process, will depict the interlocking pieces for designing decentralized unitary governance. The motivational process should start from where we are now till we reach a consensus to the idea depending on the actor’s willingness to compromise for the common good of our people to resolve the grievances of all sorts. Once the motivational phase has found ground, the critical stage is to “design government, reform public sector, and restructuring the role of our elites”. Here comes, the spelling of my argument as to what kind of DUG will serve to our social relations (our diversity) and our social development to our unique society.


As I have mentioned above, we have nine virtual territorial units (provinces) with their districts well accepted and recognized by our entire society for decades. They are the building blocks for new governance with the central government at the capital. As a matter of fact, there is no reason to dismantle the pre-existed territorial identity whatsoever. For starters, we have to agree on the pre-existing territorial identity which will somehow mitigate the rift created by the regime.


Designing government that fits to the reality of your society is not an easy task. It is neither structured by an interest group nor is done with an exclusionist process, if the idea is to have a peaceful, judicious and stable society. The marginalization of certain sections of our society as alluded by the authors of the Eritrean covenant with a detailed statistics on the one hand, and the grievances of the prominent leaders as quoted in Part-III of this essay on the other, is in itself makes you to think out of the box. By that it means, we have to think about the governmental structure that could address these grievances. In my modest view, leaving the details to the legitimate representative body, I will address how we can approach the structural problems that entangled the whole society. Here is my prescription for public scrutiny.


Unlike the proponents of decentralized federalism (dividing Eritrea into three federal states), I am proposing DUG that devolve authority from the central government to the semi-autonomous nine provinces with the central government having a bicameral legislative body, to bridge between the current mistrust and future co-existence. The idea is to de-concentrate the power of the central government and devolving the political and administrative authority to the semi-autonomous regions, leaving the fiscal authority (responsibility) to the legislative body of the central government. The purpose of the bicameral legislative body is viewed to address the misrepresentations of our minority (ethnics) in the process of governing the nation. The two chambers should be constituted (with its institutional nomenclature) one by proportional representation and the other by equal representation of our diversity; the number of each chamber again being determined by the representative legislative body. Surely it will answer the concern of minorities to their future in a realistic approach. In the flow chart above “government design” should emanate to address this issue of empowering our people with justifiable representation within our diversity in the central government as well as enabling the nine regional units to administer themselves. I believe crises sometimes can help us to design institutions that unite variegated views to bring legitimate polity.


The role of our academic-elites and governing-elites should be restructured also to play with rules of the government design. After all they have the biggest role in designing the governance that could respond to the needs of our diversity as well as reforming the public and private sectors to respond the economic needs of our population. So far they have failed to do the right thing in the mist of our crises.


As envisioned, if the de-concentration type of DUG is framed to relinquish certain power of the central government to the semi-autonomous regional administrative (the establishment to exercise limited authority), the suppression of social antagonism will indirectly recede and the norm of peaceful co-existence will eventually reign to root out the long held mistrusts within our diversity. In fact de-concentration type of DUG will increase the proximity and facilitate the interaction between the envisioned institutions on the one hand and the public sphere or citizens on the other. This approach of governance will affect the patterns of negotiation between the two divide by offering new paradigm of effective, accommodative, and legitimate government. All in all it will remove the seeds of disorder.


The beauty of political decentralization is it makes government more honest and efficient by bringing officials closer to the people by facilitating the satisfaction of diverse local tastes. By empirical tests, experience of some countries show that investment patterns in human capital and social service change dramatically after nations opted the path of decentralization that avoid ad hoc of highly political criteria.




While our eyes is still on the ball (the regime), we must also thrive to create a legitimate polity that could bring justice and peace to our people as a whole. For sure, unless we resolve the stumbling blocks that keep our eyes away from the ball, we can not exhibit a considerable resistance against the entrenched regime that drains the energy, resource, and ultimately the lives of our people. The choice and the solution are in our hand. I believe that we are not mere prisoners of our fate. Our action matters and can bend history in the direction of justice if we have the will. As the saying goes, don’t be afraid of the shadows, they just tell us that there is light somewhere nearby. How true it is, despite of all the problems we have the lights that leads solutions are not that far enough.


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