A Vital Eritrean National Congress Opens Today in Hawassa City, Ethiopia
Michael Abraha – Hawassa Close to 600 delegates have assembled in Hawassa to begin what is seen as historic National Congress representing diverse groupings of exiled pro-democracy Eritreans embodying a wide spectrum of social and political
Michael Abraha – Hawassa
Close to 600 delegates have assembled in Hawassa to begin what is seen as historic National Congress representing diverse groupings of exiled pro-democracy Eritreans embodying a wide spectrum of social and political interests and persuasions.
The main objective is to hasten the demise of the PFDJ rule in Eritrea – widely seen as one of the most inept and reviled dictatorships of the 21st century.
The Congress is the largest gathering of its kind since Isaias Afewerki’s group assumed state authority two decades ago without guarantees for human rights and rule of law.
The Congress comes against the backdrop of reported revelations that the PFDJ is participating in scandalous human trafficking involving its own citizens many of whom are herded into horrifying torture hideouts in the Sinai Desert near the Israeli border to be butchered by Bedouin criminal agents who sell the victims’ vital organs to the highest international bidder. The Congress is also taking place at a time of increasing fears that the PFDJ regime is using food shortage as a political means to further bully and intimidate the citizenry to ensure no social uprising is contemplated by anyone.
More than 60 civic organizations and 32 political parties are expected to take part in the Congress. Some individuals and groups have opted not to participate because of disagreements over procedural and strategy questions.
Amha Dominico, Chairman of the Eritrean National Congress for Democratic Change, ENCDC, speaks of the high stakes for a successful outcome no matter what obstacles stand on the way. In a brief interview with this reporter at his Addis Ababa office on the eve of the Congress, Amha said he was particularly proud that participants paid for their travel expenses to come to Ethiopia for the Congress, adding this was “a qualitative development in our struggle”.
Amha sees the National Congress as a milestone in the Eritrean democratic process which not only confirms “our political maturity as a credible opposition but will also pose a serious challenge to the PFDJ regime.” He said it was up to the delegates to determine what plans of action to take for the future of the country. Amha says Participants will deliberate, among other major items, on ways of speeding up the ouster of PFDJ’s tyrannical rule and on how to proceed with the task of building a peaceful and democratic country.
The ENCDC was authorized by a national conference in August last year to prepare and organize the Congress as a forum for serious national dialogue among democratic forces with the aim of creating a united front. Answerable to the National Congress, the Commission has been entrusted with the task of preparing documents to be presented to the National Congress, among them, a political charter, a road map for change and draft transitional constitution.
Amha stated that the gathering will reaffirm national unity and sovereignty while upholding diversity. The role of youth and women will be among the major items for discussion. Participants will also examine ways of consolidating and upgrading communications with the Eritrean people inside the country. Amha said the Congress will form a new transitional political structure to be made up of civic and political entities – about 60% and 40 % ratio respectively. The new resistance front will work closely with all political parties, says Amha.
On the role of Ethiopia, the ENCDC Chairman expressed his appreciation to the EPRDF Government for its essential support including accommodations to the participants. “Ethiopia does not interfere with our affairs. We share common values, outlook and keen interest in peace and development for the two countries.” Amha concluded.