Promoting National Unity, Cultural And Religious Co-existence In Eritrea
Nowadays, the Eritrean arena is full of political contradictions that reflect the historical, cultural, religious, social and other accumulated issues that express the sum of the Eritrean situation. It represents all of the country’s factions and communities that are destined to live in one geographical area, one piece of land. The Eritrean revolution was incapable of presenting integrated solutions that would be in agreement with the nature of the realties that originated with the roots of our people.
For this reasons, it is possible to say that the treatment of the overall conflicts of the revolution lacked an appropriate vision regarding the reality of the Eritrean entity—its cultural and religious constituents—from where the political vision might start and help in defining the features of the Eritrean State, the system of government, the administration, and the distribution of wealth, so that in the end we can achieve stability and prosperity for the Eritrean people, Muslims or Christians alike.
Starting from this point of understanding, we would like to present a humble view which on our belief is a “serious political plan” that could deal with the Eritrean realities.
Our experience urges us to think seriously. That could help us avoid the risks and pitfalls, and would guarantee stability in Eritrea which is subject to the respect of the Eritrean realities. Eritrea should be guided by its realties and not by the philosophy of securing assistance through ethnic and regional links, and devising stormy controversial issues).
Hence, we must think about the forms of the national reconciliation which could not be thoroughly discussed at this time save for view of securing the interests and rights of the two sides (the Muslims and the Christians) who form the two wings of the Eritrean entity and the envisioned Eritrean State. However, the gate to the search for the means that would secure the unity of our people should start with mutual recognition, and the agreement in principle on the acceptance of the basic rights. That would mean accepting the basic rights that grant us the stability and prosperity in Eritrea–we hope it would be the vital model in regards to cultural and religious co-existence among the Eritrean people who should protect their country against all perils where the world of today is floating.
it is possible to reactivate the cycle of Eritrean national dialogue through this proposal. This is the aim of this plan which we are putting at the disposal of all Eritrean activists and personalities.
A political perspective on the future of Eritrea
The political frame
The Federal System of Government
That means the establishment of a system of federal government based on democracy, parliament, local governments and regional councils on the condition that the ministries of foreign affairs, defense and finance remain under the control of the central government. The regions should be represented by all citizens of Eritrea; and the formation of the armed forces should be composed of Muslims and Christians in equal numbers be it in the rank and file or leadership.
The Muslims and Christians should be equally represented in the parliament based on their numbers including the government administration, diplomatic corps and the command of the Army. The appointment of local employees in every zone should be carried out by the local authorities who should also establish the security force (police force for every region); the recognition of the Arabic and Tigrigna as official languages; a just distribution of the wealth; regions should have full control of the wealth in their region, whenever it is available; and the confirmation of the right of public and private properties. Political activities in the regions, including freedom of expression and literature should be allowed after laying out clear regulations. The belief on decentralization of the government, the geographic demarcation of the regions in accordance of what the historical internal boundaries—and nullifying changes that happened as a result of the wars. The practices of the government should be in accordance with the goal decentralization within a federal system.
This demand is one aspect of the application of democracy and political will and we believe it is suitable to the Eritrean reality. According to our assessment, working with impartiality is considered a wholesome solution and a secure exit from chaos in order to lay the foundations necessary for the establishment of the federal state, in a constitutional way.
The envisioned Eritrean federation would be a political contract between the Eritrean Muslims and Christians. In essence it is in line with the type of the formation of their traditional simple states. The politics of it (which we are expressing through these principles) should conform with the political will that is expressed by Eritrean Muslims and Christians; an expression that should help realize the establishment of a federal state. Moreover, a federation demands the distribution of authority and jurisdiction by entrusting it to the federal government to administrate common affairs. At the same time, entrusting the component units of the federation with the autonomous judicial and administrate power.
The envisioned federal democratic Eritrean constitution contain the following principles:
1- Adjusting and Harmonizing between the essence of unity in a federal system and the autonomy within the system.
2- Actual participation:
A. The recognition of the diversity and particularities of the Muslim and Christian societies in terms religions and cultures and development.
B. Elimination of the propensity of one national government or party.
C. The abandonment of the elite national concept or the tendency of elite supremacy.
D. Elimination of the tendency of domination tendency in all its forms from the federal government.
E. Respect of values related to religious and spiritual life of the people.
F. Abolishing the land expropriation polices (and other properties); nepotism; and policies related to the demographic and geographic structures of Eritrea.
G. Abolishing the policy of reviving nationalities and dialects that aims to disunite the Muslim society, and the recognition of the dual languages of Eritrea as Arabic and Tigrigna.
3- The participation the components of Eritrea in formulating the federal constitution, the federal parliament, and the federal government.
4- The adoption of a balanced council regarding the powers and mandate of regions so that each region would have its local and federal councils.
5- The participation regional councils in decisions effecting general political issues, international, regional relations and in international agreements and pacts with foreign entities.
6- The participation regional and federal councils regulating the affairs of the army, public security, judiciary system and the constitutional court; and in drawing economic and social development plans; and in making and adopting the federal financial budget, and in drawing cultural and social policies.
7- Community spirit of citizenship and patriotism should be enhanced by rejecting racial and chauvinistic attitudes and by promoting equal political and social rights where all citizens have equal stake in the state. This must be promoted by emphasizing mutual interests, national solidarity and human brotherhood and cooperation.
8- The one-party rule and the concept of a vanguard party must be eliminated as it leads to absolutism and contradicts to the essence of the concept of federation and is against the tenets of a multi-party system which the federal system espouses.
9- Adopt a feasible balanced economic principle in the distribution of investments, loans and funds, goods and services between the federation and its components in a way that labor would be divided equitably and all citizens would participate in the construction of a strong economic structure and a united state.
10- Adopt decentralized democracy: secure and guarantee equal right, political freedom and activities, administration and cultural rights, and all the rights of the civil society in the federal regions so as to promote a democratic and political integration of the country.
11- It is necessary that the geographical boundaries of the federal regions to be observed and maintained according to the historical realities by respecting the historical development of the population of the regions that constitute the federal state in order to ensure that private affairs and personal freedoms remain respected.
In accordance with these principles, the envisioned federal constitution in Eritrea should involve the federal and regional councils in the formation of the central rule, electing Head of State and the central ministries—the regional council representing the Eritrean people according to the population of each region, and the second council (senators) who equally represent Muslim and Christians equally. Each sent elects equal number of senators.
By this view, we do not intend to present or create an assumption of a dedicated sectarian concept, but we aspire to present a comprehensive expression of the Eritrean reality and reflect it through this frank exposition that does not ignore the past and does not enable one side against the other on the pretext of staying away from the sectarianism. On the contrary, raising the linguistic, cultural and religious problem for consideration, and to deal with it according to the Eritrean reality. This is a realistic view intended to solve the multi-dimensional Eritrean crisis and to form an objective perspective. We believe in tackling the Eritrean issue as one with differential perspectives as seen by each sect which has its own characteristics, traditions, customs and heritage. We also believe that this is due to differences in culture and civilization. We do not see this method unrealistic since we all know the facts; this is a civilized and scientific method that shuns opportunist and idealism.
In all parts of Eritrea, civilization, culture and customs has shaped a Christian society and a Muslim society, and that cannot be denied or ignored under any circumstances. On this basis, we believe that a sound formula that strives for equal rights for the Muslim and Christian societies is suitable for Eritreans. Regulations and agreements should be set up to preserve what was agreed upon, putting into consideration our previous experiences during many stages of the life of our country.
Experience has shown us that a force, an organization or party had politically and militarily overweighed the others in a certain stage. Nevertheless, this does not mean that is the end of the matter and a surrender to the status quo is the only solution. What we need is a permanent solutions for our problems; and we can achieve that by tackle our problems in different angles.
We believe this a sound introduction and without it, it is difficult, if not impossible, to expect social and political stability that would help us construct a state of prosperity. Without such a solution, our hopes and ambitions will remain unrealized. No sect should resolve to dominate others under any cover or try to infringe on the rights of others or impose its civilization, culture, and sentiments on them.
In this respect, we recognize the role of each sect (society) in the course of the formation of our nation and the Muslims were at the forefront as history testifies. Our national fabric is composed of Muslims and Christian, and this helps us realize the importance of sharing all power between these two sects—posts and ranks in the constitutional institutions of a federal Eritrea.
This view would will lead us towards achieving our hopes; it is a suitable introduction, it is an objective and realistic.
Finally, we emphasize that no one should be ashamed of confirming that Eritrea is a state composed of two geographic areas, two religions, two societies, two cultures and two languages. We do believe in this because it would lead us towards forming a harmonized state and not the opposite. We have to work to adopt the federal formula through which we make different decisions and pass regulations.