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Are the Eritrean Opposition in search of a win-win dialogue and engagement ?

By Fesseha Nair The role of dialogue between any actors in the struggle for democratic transition is very important for communicating the concerns, the understanding of the problems or challenges and for establishing a clear roadmap

By Fesseha Nair

The role of dialogue between any actors in the struggle for democratic transition is very important for communicating the concerns, the understanding of the problems or challenges and for establishing a clear roadmap that satisfies the needs of our people.

The designation of the roadmap and implementation fosters ownership and commitment as opposed to exclusion which can lead to resentment based on alienation.

Involving all the actors in the process of discussing the process of transition to democracy can reshape the thinking and encourage the forces for democratic change develop their analytic capacities and increases their confidence in their ability to use them. The main scarce property of the Eritrean Opposition Forces both political and civic organizations is trust building. Trust building a prerequisite for successful dialogue. We all need to combat the deficit of trust. What makes the Eritrean elites jump from one alliance to another is lack of mutual trust and self-confidence.

The current situation in Eritrea appeals to all of us that the Eritrean people are at the edge of destruction in all spheres of life. More than ever, the question of salvaging our people from this apocalyptic murder situation is a paramount and it calls all of us to take responsibility and unite our efforts immediately now without delay.

The recent workshop organized by the Felbegs Institute on Research and Education for Eritrean political and civil society organizations is an opportunity to bring together some of the organizations discuss and listen to each other on issues that concerns all of us. I think the workshop ended in a mutual understanding of great importance of on going dialogue between all stakeholders in the future. The final agreement statements of Frankfurt workshop were shortly the following:

–  work together towards a democratic change in Eritrea;

–  strive for a peaceful solution;

–  elaborate on a legal framework for the transition process and re-establish the rule of law;

– separate state and religion while the state guarantees the freedom of religion;

–  put an end to the pervasive practice of militarization;

– foster good relations with the neighbouring countries on the basis of reciprocal respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity;

– use Arabic and Tigrigna as official languages, in combination with equal rights for all other languages in Eritrea;

–  agree, as a minimum consensus, on a decentralized political system;

– ensure more representation of women and youth;

– call for the potentially reform-minded forces inside the PFDJ and the military to participate in the dialogue on peaceful transition.

Looking deeply to these points, there is no clear process and method of struggle against the dictatorship. The points did not show the period of struggle from dictatorship to democracy. Working together for democratic change, yes , but how? This cannot lead towards strategic planning to work together for democratic change what the Eritrean people aspires. The dictatorship in Eritrea has nothing to be reformed or reconstructed but removed from its roots and roofs. Did the workshop participants agreed in reforming the dictatorship or in removing it? Working together requires routes to achieve it. The first is how much were the participants organizations prepared building and sustaining good professional relations with each other before the workshop. The second is how much were the participants of the workshop ready to address their legitimate concerns or barriers to work together. What were the barriers that prohibited them not to work together for the past more than ten years?

  1. Were the method of peaceful versus violent method barrier?
  2. Were the transitional process barrier?
  3. Were the language policy in the opposition barrier?
  4. Were the position of the various political and civil society organizations in the sovereignty and territorial integrity not clear/barrier? Were the relationships with our neighbouring countries a barrier?
  5. What does minimum consensus mean by the statement? was that a barrier in the past agreements?
  1. Were the opposition political and civil society organizations closing their doors to the youth and women from participation?
  1. While you negate participation and inclusion of those who struggle for democracy, Is calling the reform minded forces and military a priority issue at this time?

Have they assessed the past barriers or they simply come together and put these points in their statement. We have seen and experienced a lot of workshops and conferences of the Eritrean opposition political and civil society organizations  with similar statements but never succeeded in implementing the agreed accords.

Clearly speaking, the ten point agreements never lead us to  tangible process dimension towards unifying the opposition forces against the totalitarian regime uprooting our people inside Eritrea.

We will see more workshops and consultation meetings in the coming but how much successful they will be requires readiness assessment before take -off  in order to prevent greater disappointment later on. ( See the past experiences)

What we all demand is the win-win dialogue and engagement that ensures inclusiveness and participation of all forces for democratic change before we jump from one workshop to another or from one partnership to another that is not new.

Building trust and maintain sustainable work relations together to overcome the one man dictatorship in Eritrea needs a strategic planning that can liberate our people from the brutalities of the totalitarian regime.

Review overview
  • AHMED SALEH November 20, 2015

    Brother Fessaha Nair
    Our opposition political groups missed opportunity to connect ,
    motivate and lead current popular Eritrean movements under a
    banner DELEYTI FITHI . At this critical situation of our people
    and the country it is unfortunate to dwell on mistakes or missteps
    again and again refused to learn from past mistakes .
    I agree dialogue and engagement need our focus on what we want to
    achieve without looking back at partisan politics .
    Experience teach us to leave arrangements up to somebody else can’t
    assure us that we are heading in the right direction . It is people’s
    participation energy that make difference to happen .

  • Zeray November 20, 2015

    Dear Fesseha,

    Thank you for the optimistic and hopeful report. I agree “Trust” can be a major factor, however, in an environment of grand political movements it would be naïve to operate on trust. We have to remember PFDJ/DIA is always diligent on watching any group of Eritreans. It can be as simple as Eritrean book-club and they will be part of it either to lead it or destroy it.

    From what I read- 10 groups signed up to agree on 10 working items and all are common to all of the 10 groups. If they can stick to these goals and just actively work on them we can get somewhere. If anything outside these items come to distract them they should always go back to the drawing board and show their relentless focus to their goals. Their focus to the work should be a uniting agent.

  • Bimbina November 20, 2015

    Our core problem is that we do not believe in ourselves because we have many doubts on who we are. The problem is not “out there”; the problem is in our heads.

  • Truther November 24, 2015

    This is not a trip to the job centre, where you have a variety of options! It is not the lack of ability, belief in ourelves or a question whether this is in our head or not. The barrier is yourself putting the barrier on yourself! If you have failed, the defiant continues to try rather than make petty comparison with those who either haven’t or have done things right from the get go! Although trust is imperative in every aspect in life, looking at the extend you are willing to go with your mental experiment, as well as adding more and more weight to this barrier just justifies the lack of trust one must continue to have!

  • Josef November 24, 2015

    The challenge with Eritrean opposition is generational and lack of civic education- in someway oppositions mirror the mentality of current guerilla leadership we have in Asmara. Without vision the people will perish..
    Most opposition are either ex-guerilla fighters with lack of understanding rule of law or basic university education…
    In its modern history Eritrean still operate from the pre-literate mindset- we have no Voltaire and no Eritrean ideal for civic society is ever fully discussed expressed in manifesto..
    The guerilla age supposedly ended in 1993 but the people running the country and some of the oppositions still have guerrilla mindset…
    Eritrean got a taste of civic mindset but the guerilla mindset came back with vengeance and it is main lense to see the government and some opposition.. When you see the Eritrean leadership or some opposition they are heading to their 70s in age and most of them have no university education or an understanding of civic dialogue- it is naïveté on the part Eritrean who have lived in western societies with rule of law to expect similar Eritrean society..
    It is like expecting fine wine from a kool-aid mix..
    The view that trust is lacking isn’t these same type of paranoia that Eritrean leadership exhibits with their obsession about cia or Ethiopian aggression.. Or is that tactic of failed government trying to prevent internal honest criticisms of its civic policy?
    Why does trust issue exist in the opposition? Could it because some of opposition are of the same make as the guerilla government? If you are a critical of its policy you are a traitor, if you are a supporter of its policy you are gobez…
    Is this guerilla mindset or civic mindset?
    As long as these Eresaursis(Eritrean dinosaurs) are around and are taken seriously- irrespective of their qualification
    there will be no arabate Asmara or Arabate Eritrea

    • Keren November 26, 2015

      dear Josef, thank you for adding a new term into the Eritrean politics “Eresaursis(Eritrean dinosaurs)”

      “… Is this guerilla mindset or civic mindset? As long as these Eresaursis(Eritrean dinosaurs) are around and are taken seriously- irrespective of their qualification
      there will be no arabate Asmara or Arabate Eritrea”