Transforming ENCDC & EPF to a Higher National Unity Platform
Honoring the 2021 Agreement on a Draft Political Charter & holding a broader national congress urgently is the only way to transform the Eritrean National Congress for Democratic Change (ENCDC) & the Eritrean Political Forces (EPF) into a higher national unity platform
The historic National conference of the Eritrean National Council for Democratic Change (ENCDC) held in Hawassa (Awassa) Ethiopia in 2011 was a significant event that gave hope to the Eritrean people, and an opportunity for the opposition leadership to use this popular platform to bring about democratic changes in the country. The Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA) established in 1998 brought together opposition groups and played a leading role in creating a commission to draft a program document to conduct the first National assembly. ENCDC had the support of the Eritrean people and sent their representatives from all over the world. All delegates covered their travel expenses, and the Ethiopian Federal government at that time covered the venue and supported the development with a significant material, and moral support. Most of the participants of the first National congress of ENCDC had had remarkably elevated expectations with energy that could have transformed the EDA into a higher platform of National congress-equivalent to “a pre-parliamentary structure.” The EDA member organizations that had military presence in Eritrea close to the northern borders of Tigray, offered the opportunity to reach out to the Eritrean army and to jointly remove the Eritrean government by any all means possible.
Right after the First national congress, EDA- the main founder of ENCDC, did neither transform itself into a Council/Baito/or Mejlis level of higher institution, nor did it dissolve itself. It continued with a respectful 12-year revolutionary legacy of assembling a diversity of political organizations destined to end the authoritarian regime in Eritrea- the leading cause of political instability and economic turmoil in the region. Suddenly EDA became a competitor of ENCDC, by holding a public meeting in Addis Ababa before ENCDC’S new leadership begins its mandated task. This action was also followed by EDA sending a delegation to Sweden to address the Swedish parliament with the help of a respectful Eritrean member of the Swedish Parliament. The Eritrean Diaspora and friends of the Council were disappointed. Strong opposition from the public and from within the council deterred the delegation from perusing such diplomatic tasks not officially delegated by the Council. EDA repeatedly exported problems and controversial issues that exhausted its ranks to the ENCDC floor including a conspiracy to illegally impeach the ENCDC Chairman out of office only to return upon strong opposition organized by the regional branch of North America. Until this moment EDA remains dormant pending to spoil any advancement or transformation of ENCDC into a higher institution.
In May 2018, with a new government in Addis Ababa led by Prime Minister Abiye Ahmed, and the consequent adaptation of the EPRDF policy of 2015 to engage Eritrea for peace without precondition on border demarcation issues was welcomed by both countries. The same policy initiative was attempted by PM Hailemariam Desalegn 3 years prior to PM Abiye without success. The subsequent positive response by Isayas Afoworki to this initiative deprived ENCDC and other political organizations the privilege of moving freely in Ethiopia and the frontlines of Tigray. A little earlier than the time of PM Desalegn’s resignation, ENCDC was lured into an unholy conference organized by Medrek (An NGO type of Eritrean “opposition” to a conference in Kenya Nairobi to forge a coalition between political organizations, and civic movements. Six political organizations were excluded from attending this conference because they demanded to know if there were any satisfactory reasons why Medrek was holding this conference in Nairobi rather than in Addis Abba-the official Headquarters of ENCDC. Upon their return to Addis Ababa Medrek betrayed their compatriot organizations and met and dined with the Ethiopian government officials alone without EDA members, and other participant organizations. That ended the relationship between Medrek and the participants of the Nairobi conference and soured the relationship between ENCDC and the Ethiopian government administered by an office commonly known by the “Saana Forum.”
ENCDC relationship with the Ethiopian government was kept at the ruling party level of the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Front (EPRDF). Upon the establishment of diplomatic relations with Eritrea in 2018 in the so-called “Peace Agreement” between Isayas and PM Abiye on which the Eritrean people do not know any details about, ENCDC decided to hold its 2nd National Congress in Stockholm Sweden. Due to the geographic location distant from our homeland, and the shortcomings of leaving behind senior valuable members of ENCDC leadership, organizations that could have helped for the betterment of the council were certainly missed. Despite the shortcomings, ENCDC conducted a successful Conference that outlined a strategic political resolution to reach out to all political organizations outside ENCDC in six months and hold its next broader National Congress inclusive of all political and civic movements in a fleeting period.
Post 2nd National Congress of ENCDC, dialogue and reconciliation among fellow political organizations, and diplomatic campaign against the regime by structuring regional offices and visiting various countries were set to be the highest priority of the Executive committee. In this endeavor, ENCDC wrote letters to PM Abiye twice asking him to continue EPRDF’s policy of solidarity with the Eritrean opposition and warning him of the looming dangers ahead if he continues to pursue a policy that ignores the legitimate right of the Eritrean people to be governed by a constitutional rule and order. After a series of dialogue and reconciliation efforts, and processes that started in Minneapolis Minnesota by Meadi-Zete (a local Eritrean platform for dialogue) with the participation of all political organizations including Yiaakil yielded a memorandum of understanding to hold a conference in London UK in April 2020. Unfortunately, this opportunity was lost due to the Covid-19 pandemic that restricted travel to and from Europe. But EPF made a historic achievement of drafting a Political Charter, Organizational Bylaws, and a road map that both ENCDC and all other organizations agreed upon. Together with a drastic move in organizing five special task forces for diplomatic, media, financial, intelligence, and organizational campaigns against the regime in Eritrea, EPF gained the attention of the people and unnamed neighboring countries. While being successful in the aforementioned areas of struggle, EPF failed to secure a solid and united leadership with a chairperson. Instead, it subcontracted its duties to a third-party structure called “the coordinating committee” with a phantom power of Chairmanship. With all the documents ready, the only thing left to do was declare a day and date to hold a national conference. Instead, EPF continued to hold endless weekly and biweekly meetings until members start withdrawing from the union doubting the purpose and the process leading the opposition to nowhere.
Conclusion: Yes, the mistrust among political organizations, the fragmentation of the opposition parties into small ineffective camps and caucuses, the Covid-19 pandemic, the shaken world order due to the undemocratic policies of the Trump administration, the war in Tigray brought about by Isayas interfering with the state affairs of neighboring Ethiopia, the economic depression, social disintegration, and absence of freedom of expression in Eritrea, the time consuming virtual meetings with no defined goals and deadlines in the diaspora were some of the factors that weakened our opposition in the past 2 years and beyond. But EPF must be credited with the biggest success of its term-the drafting of the necessary documents completed last April 2021 to hold a national conference inclusive of all political and civic organizations. The peace agreement signed in Nairobi between Ethiopian Federal government and the Tigray regional authority is an enormous success for the Eritrean people, the Tigrayans, and the Ethiopian people because it brings an end to the death of thousands of young lives every day of the week. The big loser in the peace agreement is Isaias Afeworki and his co-conspirators. Now, that the dust is settled, and we can see hope, it is incumbent upon us-Eritreans, and the Eritrean Political Forces (EPF) to unite and reenergize our constituents and double our efforts to hold a National conference very shortly at the beginning of the year 2023.
Democracy and Constitutional rule in East Africa will soon be A reaity!