National Unity Experiences- its challenges and opportunities
By Fesseha Nair Historical overview It is a matter of common knowledge that, the term “Eritrea” is an ancient name derived from the Greek name of the Red Sea (Sinus Erythrism) according to the most preponderant narrations,
By Fesseha Nair
It is a matter of common knowledge that, the term “Eritrea” is an ancient name derived from the Greek name of the Red Sea (Sinus Erythrism) according to the most preponderant narrations, consequently, the Greeks are the ones who had given our country “Eritrea” its name, that was right after the Greek occupied Massena in the 3rd Century B.C. The Royal Decree issued in January 1890 by the Italian King Hebert(I) represented an official acknowledgment of the Politically significant name of the country, on the other hand, the meaning of Eritrea had outrun its political significance and submerged deeply in the emotional-feelings of the peoples inhabiting this geographical territory and constituted part of their entity, hence, Eritrea has become an identity and a source of belonging to its inhabitants whom are proud of it and would sacrifice their lives for it, a sense of belonging which is an integral part of any given geographical entity and the populations inhabiting it, which gives denotation to the phrase “one people under the canopy of one country”, whereas shared cultures, common history, societal mingling and reciprocated political-and-economical interests are unambiguous and needless to be detailed here.
The afore mentioned factors are not an immoveable inert destinies, in the contrary, they are an ever-moving characteristics, often exposed to an ebb-and-flow depending on historical events and opposing or coexisting interests, Therefore, in spite of assuring the presence of such factors, Eritrea had witnessed many turning points in its history, in which these factors stood out, to the extent that made us think of it as an invincible factors, nevertheless, other events of different features would have make these factors seem as insignificant, and questions would rise whether we are one people and would be able to continue being defined as such ?
Apparently, the major challenge that is confronting the project of our National Unity was, still exists to be, the Eritrean regime, which is ruling since the independence of Eritrea, A regime which is playing games with our people’s trifling contradictions for the sake of prolonging the period of its reign, as a result, the entire National Unity’s Project is at a stake, unless the whole political forces, civic society groups and the diverse segments of the Eritrean people exert a relentless efforts to overcome it.
With the above facts in mind, the Eritrean Opposition for Democratic Change which symbolises the oneness of the Eritrean people, couldn’t, and shouldn’t overlook the issue of the National Unity Project and the dangers surrounding it; this article comes in line with the efforts in the searching for dynamics to salvage the National Unity and the Salvation of the Eritrean people from the catastrophe under the brutal regime of one man dictatorship.
1.2 Geography of Eritrea:
Eritrea is located at the western coast of the Red Sea with a territory covering 124,000 square kilometers, it lies north of the Equator between latitudes 12-18, the Red Sea detaches Eritrea from the Arabian Peninsula, Eritrea borders the Sudan in the North and Northwest, Ethiopia in the South and Southwest, Djibouti in the South and The Red Sea in the East.
Eritrea possesses the longest coast along the Red Sea, compared to the other countries overlooking the Red Sea from its Western Coast, Eritrea’s coast extends to 1.080 square kilometers, in addition to a large group of populated Islands, Dahlia Archipelago is the largest among the Eritrean group of Islands, Halib and Fatima Islands are the closest Eritrean Islands to The Bab-el-Mandeb strait.
Eritrea has a distinct topographical variety of landscapes that could be divided into three geographical territories:
1/ The Highlands: which consists of the central plateau and the Northern hills sloping down towards the eastern and western lowlands of Eritrea, the Eritrean Highlands represent a natural extension of the Ethiopian Plateau.
2/ The coastal Plains: That consists of the coastal areas along the Red Sea.
3/ The Lowland Plains:This comprises the Eastern Plains that include a large land mass of the Dankalia province and the Sahel Provinces, these areas are surrounded by a variety of plateaus and mountain ranges, whilst the western plains start at the ends of the central plateau’s slopes and extends toward the Sudanese border, The Lowland plains constitutes the largest Eritrea’s province and the climate that prevail in Lowland plains is of Savannah features, the lowland plains are considered pastures for grazing of livestock except for the areas in the west of the Gash-and-Setit basin.
Eritrea: Urban Geography.
Eritrea is well distinguished for its ethnic and clannish diversity, which is a natural feature concerning most of the African countries, though, Eritrea’s diversity is of significant indication compared to its relatively small population, this diversity is considered one of the factors effecting the Project for National Unity, according to the majority of historical reference books, The groups that constitute the Eritrean society are descendants of the groups migrated from the Nile River and the African Great Lakes regions, , in addition to other groups of Semitic and Cushitic origins which extend to the Ethiopian plateau, The Semitic, Sabaeans and Himyarites, are considered the latest groups migrated to Eritrea at the time after the destruction of the Marib Dam, the migration of the Agazian tribe of Yemen is one of the key factors in the formation of the Eritrean society, its legacy is still animate in the plateau, reflected in the Tigre , Tigrigna and Amharic languages. Nevertheless, the trail of migration from Arabia continued even after the advent of Islam to the Arabian Peninsula, there had been a flow of migrations to Eritrea, the most famous tale in this regard is the migration of the Saba (companies) of prophet Mohammed which is mentioned in the History Books of Islam, while the latest migration from Arabia to the Eritrean coasts is that of the Rashaida Tribes in the 19th century C.E, the Rashaida tribes inhabit the Far North of Eritrea and extend to inside the Sudanese boarder.
A variety of Eritrean tribes and clans were formed as a result of these frequent migrations, each of it attributed its ancestry deeply in history, though, the realities on the ground would testify that in spite of the variety of these groups and the societal mingling through intermarriages, juxtapositions and shared lifestyle, even though we can identify the linguistic groups that probably belong to different ancestors, these groups include speakers of Tigre, Tigringa, Saho, Blin, Afar, Kunama, Nara, Hidareb and Arabic.
1.3 History of Eritrea
Eritrea is deeply rooted in the memory of History; an ancient Egyptians had addressed it as the (punt land) and regarded it as a source of Ivory, elephants and perfumes, since the era of Hatshepsut (1468-1486 BC), EgyptianPharaoh vessels frequented the Eritrean coasts, Greeks had given the name of Eritrea as derived from the old name of the Red Sea “Sinus Erythreum” and they left their marks in the country, during the reign of Ptolemy (I) 323 B.C.E Ptolemaic Kingdom had influenced Adulis Port which is 40 Km South of the contemporary Massawa Port.
The Eritrean coasts remained part of the Umayyad state, and then transferred to the Abbasiya State, Eritrea remained under the AbbasiyaState until 1517 CE when Caliphate Mohammed Bin Yaqub Al-Mutawakil Ala-Allah (IV) gave it up to the Ottoman Sultan, Salim (I). As a result, Eritrea had become one of the Ottoman States until 1557 CE, after the successful campaign of MohammedAliPasha, Eritrea became under the domination of Egypt from 1820 to 1887 CE.
In 1869 CE, an Italian pastor Pop Joseph Sabeo rented a land lot camouflaged as representative of the marine services company called “Robatino”, he rented the land from Sultan Ibrahim Shaheem and his brother Hassen, which meant the launch of Italian occupation to Eritrea, as a consequence an Italian Army occupied Massawa in 02/05/1885 and proceeded to dominate the entire Eritrean coasts which was accomplished in 1890.
After the defeat of Italy in the Second World War 1941, Eritrea was placed under British administration following the “Conference of Lausanne” in Switzerland which was convened to share the Italian colonies in Africa, later on, Eritrea was annexed to Ethiopia in a coercive confederation, in spite of the patriotic voices raised to call for giving Eritreans the right to self-determination, Ethiopia betrayed the confederation deal and occupied Eritrea until 24/05/1991 the day Eritrea’s independence dawned, followed by the successful referendum in 24/05/1993 which culminated in the official independence of Eritrea , thus Eritrea had become a sovereign country, part of the United Nations and the international community.
The Momentous Events in Eritrea’s Modern History.
The collective mindset of the people of Eritrea, couldn’t be mistaken the distinctive events that contributed to the makeup of the Eritrean Nation with all its current Political and social Characteristics, these events were of international, regional and domestic magnitude and formed the key indicators of the Eritrean Identity, events that had been, and still is, of major effects on the National Project, the most significant events are as follows:-
The fate of Eritrea was discussed within the Italian colonies after the defeat of the Axis Powers in the Second World War, but the super-powers had put off the option of self-determination motivated by two focal reasons.
a-The strategic position of Eritrea on the Western coast of the Red Sea that overlooks The Bab-el-Mandeb strait, addition to its unique position as an associating point for the communication network between the super-powers in the Middle East and the Nearest East.
b- To satisfy the ambitions of the Ethiopian Empire (being a key strategic ally to the Super-powers) to set its foot on, and secure an access to the Red Sea, which seemed impossible unless, somehow, via associating Eritrea to the Ethiopian Empire.
It was obvious, that, the two above reasons had made it possible for the fate of Eritrea to be annexed to Ethiopia, therefore, Ethiopia started its mobilization for the project of uniting Eritrea with Ethiopia through the Eritrean Andinet Party, and it had pursued all possible maneuvers be it religious, financial, intimidation and even assassinations. On the other hand, Al-Rabita Al-Islamiya Party emerged as an opposite project demanding the independence of Eritrea, another project emerged demanding the division of Eritrea between Sudan and Ethiopia, this was one of the momentous junctures in which the Eritrea’s National Unity was seriously threatened, but Eritreans ,encouraged by their shared traits, managed to overcome internal and external challenges ahead and avoided the dangers when our gallant forefathers convened in Dekemhare in 1949 and formed a united national front composed of six parties known as the Independence Block which constituted the initial core for the long march of the Eritrean people toward National unity.
1.4 The Era of Armed Struggle.
The deal of Federal unity was turned to nonexistence as a consequence of Ethiopia’s interferences on Eritrea’s internal affairs; Eritrean compatriots started thinking about means of resistance, the Eritrean Liberation Movement surfaced as a project for national independence, documents of that epoch would evidently testify that the project of ELM was one of the various projects that reflected the qualities of National unity, then The Eritrean Liberation Front came into view with all its energetic brilliance, despite historical barriers and the factors of the consign were the Eritrean resistance originated , add to that, The Ethiopian campaigns to undermine the Eritrean resistance exploiting religion and poverty which the Emperor played games with, it did not take much longer time for the Eritrean people to take part in the ranks of the Eritrean Resistance, the entire components of the Eritrean society with all its religious, ethnic and regional diversity enforced the project which had become an embodiment of nation unity, in spite of inaccuracies encountered the struggle as a result of immaturity, blurred political vision and contradictory ideological trends that fettered the struggle, as external interferences whether to secure and improve ones own interests or Ideology played a key role in the creation of the widest crack on the wall of national unity , and by this we mean the Eritrean Civil War.
The Civil War:
Talking about this era need a lot of caution and accuracy, but the important point here is that all the secondary contradictions such as religion, nationality, region, ambitions, organizational and individual and foreign interferences, all of which were factors that led to that dark phase in the center point of the ambitious national project (The Armed Struggle), these factors had incited Eritreans to find a theoretical justifications sufficient to take up arms in the face of their brothers , which led to the blood spatter, resulted in piles of hatred and bitterness which are still insists to form a painful thorns in the body of the national unity that requires a lot of wisdom to be erased from the individual and collective historical memory , however, that this phase was not al-evil, as it encouraged many positive initiatives beyond the secondary contradictions such as ethnicity, religion or ideology, towards the mobilization of all Eritreans against the major contradiction which was the Ethiopian colonization at that stage, and perhaps the popular enormous pressure towards overcoming that ugly phenomenon was of an aspect that would fill every Eritrean with pride, and the immense popular committees which emerged to mediate in this conflict , to the extent that the citizens of Asmara stood out in large masses in the lines between the two skirmishing factions, this phenomenon reflects that the secondary contradictions that the Eritrean Regime along with some forces are exploiting in order drive a wedge of division to undermine the unity of the Eritrean people is not new, it had been tried before but the project of national unity prevailed in the end because it is deeply-rooted in the collective consciousness of the Eritrean people.
The date 24 of May remains a memorable day in the history of Eritrea, transpired in the deepness of national project in its brightest image in which the most segments of the Eritrean population overlooked the differences with the EPL, spontaneity of the marchers who turned out joyous in all cities where Eritreans lived as exiled and refugees, hopes and expectations which had long been ravaged by years of in internal conflicts and the humiliating lifestyle in the refugee camps increased, the capable sectors of the people in exile began to return in spontaneous and voluntary repatriation, also many high-ranking leaders of the Eritrean political organizations have forgotten about their differences with the EPLF , they left their positions to join the procession and to contribute the reconstruction and building of the nation, despite the negative signs which the leaders of the EPLF’s “interim government” began to show, But the euphoric hearts and minds were eager to the dawn of freedom and does not distinguish or did not believe those negative signs and regarded them as a natural consequence of the inexperience and immaturity in the part of the leadership of the new state, particularly, as a revolutionary mentality need time to accommodate the requirements of the State and entitlements. The processions of the repatriation and the returning masses continued towards Eritrean, also the morale of others who could not return due to extraordinary circumstances increased, and the state of public euphoria overwhelmed the people at home more than those who were abroad , the people breathed the Eritrea dream, soldiers postponed claiming their rightful prerogative , the public tolerated the clear abuses committed against some of them, and new returnees to overlooked some forms of insults and provocations in the spirit of endurance reassuring themselves that the upcoming future would be much better, the euphoria was limitless as the regional and international communities joined in and had shown unrestricted support .
After two years of hovering over the heavens of fine dreams forgetting all the bitterness of the past, which unfortunately have not been met by eligible interim government or the EPLF, on the contrary, the EPLF had indicated that Eritrea is going to a stage of unknown fate through its official statements by means of rejecting to recognize the Eritrean Political and organizations and demanded them to enter Eritrea as individuals after denouncing their political organizations, also refused the National call made by a number of organizations. The EPLF also entered into quarrels with some of the ethnic components of Eritrea, all these wicked deeds did not shake the Project of National Unity in the collective mind of the Eritrean people, then, the defining moment arrived when 98% of the Eritrean people voted in unison ” yes to independent and united Eritrea’’ in a referendum arranged under the supervision of the United Nations and other international and regional organizations , but EPLF picked up the signals of the 98% and construed them according to its erroneous decoder that the result of a referendum was a testimony to its own popularity and not of national nature, EPLF’S mentality had made it possible for the nation to loose a rare opportunity that could have been the right moment of drafting a project for national Unity built on the pillars of stable consensus that is rarely seen to be achieved in the history of nations and peoples.
How long is the distance between us and our Project of National Unity?
Now, since it is over 120 years of the Italian Royal Decree, that gave Eritrea its political overtone, and Eritrea had passed through an Italian, British colonization then was entered into a fragile federation followed by forced annexation to the Ethiopian Empire , then political and armed struggle with all the bitterness and the cost of martyrdom and disability, homelessness and asylum, and a repugnant authoritarian rule to a period of nearly two decades , we find that the Project of National Unity is at the crossroads, more than ever before, especially as the challenges of history in itself was reason for the strength of the project after a short period of meditation and self-examination because whatever the external powers attempted to exploit our secondary contradictions they remains an external factors whose presence a matter of strengthening our national unity, but the challenge now is of different nature which revived an internal controversy that remains dominating the details of the daily lives of many sectors of our people, the irony is that, the preservation of the National Unity Project in itself has become one of the threats of the project, we have kept hearing a dummy run that, the current regime is the only one who can preserve the unity of this country, this rehearsals coming from a quite considerable number from among the segments of the population that couldn’t be bypassed anyway, therefore, the National Conference for Democratic Change being held at a decisive stage, the questions poising ahead of us would be as follows, : Are we in fact one people? And, Whether to live in one nation is as much an inescapable or is an option which can be considered within other alternatives?, And whether there are real possibility to live in peace within this country?, All of these questions are supported by well searched documentations of the memories and bitterness of the dark periods in our history, the eyes could not find sufficient incentives to search for the bright periods, in which the project of national unity was reflected in its strongest features, and perhaps it would be useful to enumerate some of the factors that brought the Project of National Unity to the current “defining moment”.
Unhappy as it might be, the Eritrean people have known no period of stability in which the nation’s components could come together and be able to detect and strengthen the shared values between them, working for the placement of the secondary contradictions in the right cart, so as to utilize them as a catalyst for constructive competition that leads to the development of nations, nations doesn’t measure periods in years and decades but in centuries, the strategic position of Eritrea had made it a target of every aspiring colonial power, a colonial powers that certainly make their interests a top priority, employing the theory of divide and conquer which manifests itself in the fueling of the secondary contradictions as insurmountable barriers, in which a number of Eritrean political activists were made unable to live in their country and were compelled to migrate to the neighboring countries including Egypt which was a hum for revolutionaries the Nasser era, the Ethiopian colonization was the worst of colonization models, Ethiopian interests necessitated the displacement and eradication of the Eritrean people because Ethiopia never cared about the people, its major interests were only the sea and the land of Eritrea, the Eritrean people stuck to its land, its legitimate right to freedom and its revolution, to make matters worse, Ethiopia launched the policy of the Scorched Land, to freeze the sources of the Revolution, a policy that resulted to a devastating consequences, a large segments of the Eritrean people fled to the neighboring countries of Sudan ,Yemen, Djibouti, Ethiopia, the freedom of movement within Eritrea was no longer accessible, thus, the geographical dispersions had played a key negative role against the emergence of the Project for National Unity as it was desired, Eritrean refugees had been influenced by the cultures of their respective host countries and in which they found themselves in, especially the second and third generations, , In this aspect , We should not forget that some of the factors were also positive where sections of the people abroad were able to develop a common language beyond the barriers of ones own language, race and culture, they intensified intermarriages between all tribes, identified each other and mingled in national spirit, alas, the habitats where such mingles occurred did not enable the improvement of the Project of the Eritrean National Unity. Not only that, but that, the flame of the struggle flares attracted enormous sectors of the Eritrean people regardless of their ethnic background, hadn’t the Eritrean Revolution witnessed political splits, the factors above alone would have been a safety valve for the project of national unity.
No doubt that geographical separation is naturally followed by differences in culture, concepts and interests, which had made the Project of National Unity a matter of dispute between the off springs of different environments, and today in this forum, which brings together public figures, diverse components, environments and cultures of different interests, it is necessary to compromise on a common understanding of the Project of National Unity beyond the limits of geography, cultural environments and interests, in order to meet all the aspirations of our people, regardless of ideological and political, religious, regional backgrounds, A National Unity where every Eritrean person finds his own self and his interests mirrored in it , a National Unity that every Eritrean could embrace and defend.
Different Interpretations of History:
As noted earlier in this paper, Eritrea is relatively a new political entity, but its geographical entity, population and civilization is a deeply rooted in history ,without a doubt, as reflected in the Eritrean history, but none of Eritrea’s history be it an ancient or modern had found a professional historians to express its details as is a customary regarding histories of nations, almost every nation had its own history considered as undisputable sacrosanct, and history is one of the tools of formulating a collective mind of nations and peoples, this is to say that, our failure to transit our self from oral, mouth-to-mouth, history into a professionally written history, contribute to the weakening of the Project of our National Unity.
The drafting of national history, well-researched according to the norms of proficient methodologies, would surely result in what is known as restorative justice process that embraces the virtues of exchanging of apology and forgiveness, which is very important towards the collective healing of the memories of the people. Accordingly, the Project for National Unity would be based on a common history. This requires a committee of experts as well as requires a consensus on the establishment in which the history could be based, and recognizing of its binding oblige, in addition to the procedures contained, Perhaps the model of the experience of South Africa in this regard would be worthy to illustrate lessons from, also our own Eritrean heritage contains a lot of good models , that could be applicable to resolve the differences and overcome the bitterness, we have an inexhaustible examples that could enforce the Project for National Unity.
The Ruling Regime:
Perhaps, the most significant challenge facing the Project of National Unity is the existence of the Eritrean dictatorial regime, and the longer the regime survived the bitter our challenges would be, as the pillars of our National Unity would keep collapsing one by one as long as the dictatorial regime is in power, because the survival of this regime depends on exploiting secondary contradictions among our people at the expense of the Project of National Unity , the negative effects of the existence of the regime on the Project of National Unity are greater and by no means could be contained in this paper, though, it would be helpful to tap on the issues as a an starting hints bellow.
1.6 The Absence of National Vision of the Ruling Regime:
Throughout its history, the Eritrean regime never made the national unity one of its concerns, it has always desired to cling to power, the president of the regime had revealed such a mentality in a statement he made one year after the liberation, that Eritrea will not become festivities place for political organizations, ever since, the Regime had ignored all the appeals made by opposition forces in an organized manner and suspended dialogue with the then Revolutionary Council, also the regime rejected all attempts of reform from within that was initiated by academics sympathetic to the group of (13) , ending with the arrest companions against the founding leaders of the EPLF, a group known as (G15) , as well as all attempts made by friends to mediate and talk about a national dialogue was ignored by the leadership of the regime.
It is obvious that a regime which is not concerned about the internal unity of its own organization, can never be willing to enhance the Project for National Unity, and if the doors are closed to dialogue within a single institution, it would be illogical to expect that the prospects for dialogue to be opened to the others, so, the term “institution”, seems inapplicable to today’s Eritrea which has become a State of one man.
The Regime’s Practices as a Result of the Absence of an Overall National Vision:-
The Practices of the Eritrean regime which were reflected in its rejection of all initiatives towards a National Dialogue has created many problems, earlier in the period of Eritrea’s independence , the Regimes practices have been interpreted as an ethnic , religious and cultural prejudice, we would try to mention bellow some of the regimes practices
• The problem of dividing the Eritrean people into ethnic groups on the basis of linguistic groupings, the regime’s denial to some components of the people their right to have their own distinguished identity in line with their own cherished characteristics, an issue that has nothing to do with political power , societies have been existent before the formation of political states.
• The Regime had practiced the policies of discrimination since the early years against the education institutions of Eritrean Muslims including schools and institutes and arrested teachers and Sheikhs whom were made to disappear with unknown whereabouts and without a trial
• the Regime had initiated prosecution of religious believers of some groups with respect to their religion based attitude towards the National Service, the regime pursued punitive measures rather than trying to understand the motives behind their rejection of the National Service, a matter that was supposed to be addressed with a little of wisdom within the National Unity Project, in order to accommodate all the various intellectual and doctrinal beliefs.
• the Regime had excluded the Arabic language from the official transactions arena dealing with the issue of languages as a matter of Fait accompli, the regime also imposed a mother tongues in the education, trampling upon the wishes of the people and against their will, as a result, today’s Eritrea had become a representation of a single component in the fields of education, media and the entire public life.
• The Civil Services sector is one of the important arena’s which emphasizes that the ruling eplf/pfdj regime is not concerned about the Project of National Unity at all, numbers and statistics had reflect that, more than 90% of the civil service is exclusively controlled by a single component out of the various components that constitutes the Eritrean people.
• Although the regime had been bragging about equality the Eritrean languages , but in reality those languages are none existence in everyday life and the media, worse, Eritrean languages and cultures have been confined to Expo festival shows or songs that are being aired in the state owned media, to add insult to injury, the songs, dances and the folklore of the Eritrean ethnic groups are being performed by trained professionals who are alien to the respective languages or cultures.
• The issue of land, settlements and demographic engineering that has been taking place under the regime ruling over Eritrea is one of the critical threats to the Project of National Unity, it should be well-understood that the issue of land is a matter-of-life -and-death for the components of the Eritrean Nation, land ownership is an authenticity existed prior to the State of Eritrea itself, it is a serious problem that will have great consequences on the future of the Nation, unless it is settled through a realistic methods of fairness wisdom.
• The indefinite National Service combined with arming all of the sectors of the Eritrean people, had made the Eritrean army in confrontation with the just and legitimate rights of the Eritrea people to live in freedom, democracy and peace, the army had become a tool of protection of the dictatorial Regime, a regime which had never made the Unity of the Eritrean people one of its agendas.
• The Fabricated wars with neighbouring countries, and a political hostilities with regional and International Communities, and International organizations had been playing an influential role in the destabilization of the Project of our National Unity.
• The absence of the constitution and laws had made the State of Eritrea resembles a private property of a single individual , as the events of the past and the present had undeniably shown, this certain individual was not ,and will never be, a fan of the Project of National Unity.
• The ongoing violations of human rights, the situations of terror experienced by the citizens of Eritrea, where a fear of what will happen in near future had been one of the chief premonitions of the Eritrean citizens, a fear from the indefinite military recruitment of their children, a fear of a war that could flare at any moment, a fear of the lands that are being seized, a fear of being arrested for no reason, a fear from a friend who might turn out to be a snitching spy and leads to arrest, a situation which gives no incentive for the individuals to be productive, a situation that hampers the sense of belonging to the nation.
1.7 The Eritrean Opposition Forces
Nowadays, The term “Eritrean Opposition” in its wider sense is far beyond the Eritrean political organizations, in the Eritrean political arena inside or outside the Eritrean Democratic Alliance EDA, even it goes beyond the Civic Organizations declared in the Diaspora, the debate is always on the regulatory frameworks where the political dimensions are ascribed to an Ethnicity or a religion , even the civic organizations are distributed a similar frameworks, some are dedicated to scientific or humanitarian projects, this multiplicity had been a subject of debate about the extent of the impact, positive or negative, on the Project of National Unity, which is a legitimate debate, the organizations that address them selves as religious or Ethnic or those adopt military action against the regime are always accused of threatening or weakening the National unity, but the reasons for the emergence of organizations based on religious or ethnic claims are created due to two major reasons: –
A / The injustices perpetrated by the Eritrean Regime are enough reasons to make resistance under any slogan really legitimate and justified, particularly, since the grievances that the Eritrean regime has been committing are manifested on the basis of religion and Ethnicity, targeting specific sectors, it is natural for those sectors to resist and mobilize their own constituencies that had on the receiving end of systematic injustices, in such cases, it is well known that the mobilization under a specific banner bears an emotional support and gets the response of the largest public.
B / The organizations that aloft the “National” slogans fail to address the concerns upon which the ethnic or religious organizations were established, on the other hand, the ‘’National” organizations are unable to pacify the fears and anxieties ( in the part of the Ethnic and Religious groups) of repeating the experiment of the dictatorial regime with regard to fundamental rights relating to land, religion, culture that legitimate beyond the ballot boxes and needs to be confirmed in the constitution, so that the rights of minorities would not fall prey to a compromising rivals depending the moods of the voters.
Most of these organizations are members of the Eritrean Democratic Alliance EDA, and are signatories to its charter, even the organizations which are outside the EDA have recognised and approved the EDA’s charter, which says the following on paragraphs 1, 2 and 3
1- To maintain the national sovereignty and preserve the unity of the people and the land of Eritrea within it’s internationally recognized geographical borders.
2- Preservation and improvement of the national unity which was consecrated by decades long heroic struggle of the Eritrean people.
3- Realization of the principle of justice and equality between the components of the Eritrean community, Proceeding from the principles of democracy and peace, human rights and the equitable distribution of power and wealth.
The Charter of the Eritrean Democratic Alliance EDA – although it characterizes a Minimum Program for all the components of the EDA – it is to be deemed an important safeguard of the Project of National Unity, particularly, if it is enhanced, through a serious of frank dialogues about the issues of divergences, and upgraded from an ink-on-sheets, to a Programme of Action for EDA as one entity as well as among the political organizations of EDA.
Another point is the option of adoption military action against the ruling regime, the Charter of the Eritrean Democratic Alliance provides in article (2) paragraph (5) the follows: The Democratic Alliance follows all available means to topple the dictatorial regime , even through the legitimacy of all available means, according to the above article, but fears remains about the negative effects of the military wings of the organizations on the project of national unity, what is required in this stage is the development of coordination and unity between the military wings of political organizations and the creation of joint command and single military doctrine based on the following:
A / that the legitimacy of military action is legitimized as a result of the injustice perpetrated by the Eritrean regime against the Eritrean people, the Regime rejects dialogue on these wrongdoings, as long as all the prospects of other solutions are blocked, there are no means available other than the military action, which intend to force the regime to undo the grievances, refrain from further violations and come to the table of dialogue, or to toppled. This is to say that the actions which are deemed legitimate are limited to forcing the regime into dialogue or overthrowing it.
B / in the case of the fall of the regime, the military wing must be developed to be part of the Eritrean National Army, where its task turns automatically to maintaining the National Unity in its broader sense, and to preserve the constitution with no meddling in the political and democratic choices to the people, once the mission of regime change is accomplished, the relations between the political organizations and the military forces must be dissolved , the political organizations should have their programs that would be subject to democratic competition and not through military force.
The Contradictory Interests of the Components( Identity Elements) of the Nation: –
The critical circumstances through which our people have been living, had blurred their perceiving of the National Unity, and the reason is that, our people, as we have already mentioned, is diverse in terms of races, beliefs, religions, ethnicities and regions, each group looking for its interests, which creates major conflicting-interests between these components, Perhaps, the two factors mentioned bellow, might be the reasons that led to this situation: –
1- An extensive frustration that regime had brought about after the liberation, the people who had already endured enormous sacrifices for the sovereignty and liberation of the country, would naturally expect the outcomes of liberation to be reflected positively in the independence and offset the huge sacrifices, but the magnitude of frustration was to the extent that made some to embark on comparing the colonial era and the era of ruling regime, and others began to wonder whether the independence worthy the sacrifices that were made.
2- The political Opposition did not raise its political agenda to accommodate the Project of National Unity, A project that could bear financial, psychic and materialistic towards for the entire Eritrean components against the sacrifices they had made, in fact the political programs of the National Opposition forces never exceeded the hollow emotional rehearsal of the “National Unity”, an emotional rehearsals that could not be sufficient enough to encourage the people pay new and fresh sacrifices.
Therefore, we find that a large segments of our people have started looking for other temporarily alternatives, which will have a negative effects on the National Unity Project, we find that a large segments our people looking for resettlement in the neighbouring countries or in the countries of developed world, according to the wizards initiated by international organizations to tackle the issues of protracted refugees, also a large portion of the Eritrean youth did not find any hope for their future within the realms of the Eritrean regime, on the other hand, the Opposition forces did not develop its political discourse to accommodate the expectations of the youth, thus, the desperate youngsters had been taking risky measures to get rid of the devastative situations by fleeing through dangerous borders, such as the Egyptian-Israeli border, aquatics and the Sahara deserts, not only that, but we find that the individual attitudes towards the regime and the opposition alike are being taken according to ones-own individual, group, sect or societal interests, so the means and the level of opposing in itself depends on the extent of the damage caused by the regime to the macro-interests of a given individual , a group or component, nevertheless, the acceptance or rejection in the part of individuals and groups to the political discourse of the opposition depends on the expectations the opposition could bring to a certain group or class.
1.8 The Impacts of regional and international on national unity
Perhaps, the countries of the region are the most ones engaged to the Eritrean cause, especially the bigger countries like Sudan, Ethiopia, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Egypt , as the interests of these countries directly or indirectly is attached to Eritrea, such an interests are deemed to take the positions of key players in Eritrea whether for or against the Regime or its opposition, followed by decisions and actions may conflict with the concept of National Unity sought by This political powers, because in theory the Project of National Unity that can accommodate or at least does not conflict with the interests of these countries must be formulated after studying all these aspects, it is well known that when countries face threats to their interests they would intervene in order to protect those interests or policies by exploiting the gaps in cohesion of the nation, these gaps are naturally a product of the failure in the part of the National Unity Project to bridge the gaps that serve as a tool in the hands of other countries.
The Conflicting Interests of the International Powers: –
It is no secret that today’s world is driven by interests, and all decisions taken by the international community through its international organizations, or taken by major countries alone are able to meet or comply with its own interests, for example, the resolution 1907 resolution under Chapter VII (punitive measures ) of the Charter of the United Nations , has nothing to do with the aspirations wishes of the Eritrean people , in reality it has more to do with the interests of the superpowers, or the neighbouring countries in implementing its political vision for the region, such a decision has no doubt a significant impact on the Project of National Unity whether negatively or positively. This is only to demonstrate the international impacts on the Project of National Unity and not to analyze the effects of the (1907) resolution on our national unity
1.9 National Unity and its Methods
A quick search on letters and brochures of all political organizations or civic organizations, media, we find out that the Project of National Unity is a fundamental pillar in each of their programs, but this concept at each point is different from the other, so agreeing on a common concept of national unity to become persistent in the brochures and guidelines all key players is one of the main objectives of this article is what is the national unity that we seek: –
– Is that the Smer Or the Teshamo discusses every day in their paltalks?
– Is that the ENCD want to reclaim?
– Is that the EPDP aspires?
– Is that the Eritrean so called Youth wishes?
– Why did all the previous attempts of national unity approaches failed?
– Can Eritreans live together in peace?
– What is peace?
The definition of National Unity:
The term, National unity, is used to denote the union of different groups of people brought together by specific characteristics in a geographical territory and having a political authority, this unit generates a sense of belonging and loyalty to this political entity, geographical location, as required by the circumstances of cohesion to protect this entity, according to the multiple interests achieved under the status unity for those groups, with security and prosperity being the most important among the interests .
In the case of Eritrea as noted above, the limited geographical area, and the relatively low population has given Eritrea the definition of a multi-ethnic nation, most of the inhabitants of Eritrea are Muslims and Christians, and there are natural religions, whom had been distributed to different political and ideological doctrines throughout their history , with all of this, the necessary characteristics to fulfil the project of national unity have been available and visible so you cannot trample on it, a source of pride for all Eritreans and perhaps an epic of struggle for the liberation of the entity have enhanced this sense and provided unlimited emotional dimension where every Eritrean could have sense of preserving the unity of the Eritrean entity is our covenant to the our martyrs, but all this is not enough to maintain ,the country is going through all the challenges that we have mentioned above and by the Project of National Unity, we seek it must be a conscious choice bear that would the consequences and entitlements for the satisfaction and conviction, it also must be based on the following: –
The components of the Eritrean people are no doubt the pre-political existence of the state, when the Italians demarcated map of Eritrea, the demarcation was done with the interests of Italy on the top of their priorities, but as matter of fact the did not come blindly but in terms of identifying participants and factors that could pave the way for one nation and one people, But under the circumstances in which we live, and we strive to preserve the oneness of the nation on a new foundations , we must include in the Project of National Unity , that should be an option for compromise and voluntary for all of the components of our ethnic, regional, political and religious characteristics, and not a project that can be imposed by force , by a certain component claiming to ensure national unity, which is the case in today’s Eritrea under the ruling regime.
Unity in Diversity:
The Project of National Unity should not be at the expense of the characteristics of the components, but it must be like a painting with its integrated colours to give a meaning and a value of a Nation, the project must respect the characteristics of the cultural and geographical components that had entered into a contract to maintain the oneness of the nation, a project that rejects dilution, domination, assimilation or exclusion
The Project for National Unity should not be based solely on the pillars of emotional importance, but it must be backed by interest-list to the parts contracting to the Project, especially since today’s world is one of integration and unity, to establish a project on an idea of establishing a politically and economically strong country, regions and support the renaissance of each other through fair criteria by the central authority, which consists of voluntary and compromise by all, only then is the project for national unity, the desire to preserve it also becomes a necessity for all.
A Sense of Belongingness and Pride:
The project of National Unity should reflect the values and cultures of all, so each of the components its own characteristics reflected in the colourful unity, and therefore, supporting the project or defending would be a self-defence for each component, the factors could be found on language, religion, values and media, holidays, and representation in the institutions are all factors that makes a person develop a sense of belonging to the nation, , the sense of belonging is crucial to human being to stand in defence of the entity of his belonging, if the sense of belonging is fading or lost, it would certainly that one can not defend it, in the contrary he would look for other alternative options.
As the Project of national unity is the union of different components, the sustainability of this union depend on the confidence of the parties upon each other, any doubt that this project will be used for a certain class on the expense of the others, or that it is a trap set up by a certain class to legitimize their gains, or a project that is imposed by one component on the others, such a project would be built on fear tactics until the possession of force. The Project of National Unity can not be enforced overnight but is a long project that should show good intentions at the starting point, a good intentions that could be translated into a Programme of Action to deal with the history, present and future.
The Project of National Unity must allow space for competition between the various components of culturally or geographically differences, as this competition is the secret of the construction of the universe, and the competing nations are those which innovate and excel with the rising of each new dawn, but that competition must be governed by a central rule of values, so that to make it positive competition in the arts and trade, science and other walks of life.
Preserving Regional and International Interests:
It is known that Eritrea today live in a planet connected with neighbourly relations and continue to be connected to cultures and common interests with a large number of forces and organizations, in this relationship Eritrea could be impacted positively or negatively, and the project for national unity must take into account these relationships and interactions regionally and internationally so as to be realistic and viable.
The National Conference for Democratic Change and the National Unity: –
It has been 2 years since the Eritrean National Council was established but how did it proceed is to be evaluated before it starts to convene the next process of national congress
The NCDC is a historic event, that comes from the uniqueness of the event on one hand, and the presence of the key players of our nation in the project of national unity on the other hand, we mean the masses of the Eritrean people represented in the organised civil or political forces, religious figures, intellectuals, writers, pioneers of our armed struggle and the unions of youth and women, therefore this event is required to lay a solid foundation for the Project of national unity on the grounds mentioned above, and then we can build on this basis in the future through an agreed on mechanisms and therefore this paper proposes the following
1 / National Charter with greater legitimacy, taking into consideration the components of our political, ethnic, religious, cultural, regional and class interests, to build a national unity on the basis of a new agreements, then to be construed it on the ground and preserve it, and prevent the exploitation of the shared responsibility we all bear, each one of us according to his position and responsibility.
2 / A Code of Conduct between the media outlets that any act of gambling with the religious, cultural, geographical and ethnic contradictions must be considered red-line that cannot be tolerated.
3 / developing of mechanisms for the struggle against the Regime, the regime stay on power contradicts with the Project of National Unity, as it depends on the regime’s continue to play on the secondary contradictions and alienating the diverse segments of our society against each other, so the regime’s removal is no longer an option, but a necessity and a precondition for our country to be or not to be.
4 / to grasp the opportunity of the excellence gathering in this forum ( NCDC) and initiating the formation of a committee of the wise and sensible personalities it could be called the “Committee of Elders” and involve the various components of our religious and ethnic components to defuse the tension caused by the practices of the Regime and the task of preparing a model for national reconciliation, recourse and disclosure, recognition and amnesty and forgiveness, our Project for National Unity cannot register a break-through on a society with a collective memory occupied by hatreds and animosities and purifications , the initiative of the Committee of Elders is very important for the realism and the success of the Project of our National Unity.
5 / the task of purifying of the collective memory needs to dive into the events of history, a political and social history that would be written in the most professional and unbiased method, because building a nation on basis of history, the determined generations are those who will shape the future of the country while not knowing much about the history books including all its pros and cons, and although the writing of history is a complex process but we have to start this project now before tomorrow. Writing history is a social science based on references and basics of events witnessed by those who experienced the age of the period in a life of people in one nation.