Practicing National Dialogues –The tool for democratising a society
By Fesseha Nair " Awaken the Giant Within" Anthony Robbins The word ” dialogue” derives from the Latin term ” dialogos” which means ” the flow of meaning.” The practice of dialogue enables the true meaning or deeper
By Fesseha Nair
” Awaken the Giant Within”
The word ” dialogue” derives from the Latin term ” dialogos” which means ” the flow of meaning.” The practice of dialogue enables the true meaning or deeper significance of something to flow and come into being. Through dialogue our natural intelligence is able to reveal itsllf. Our humanity is afforded the possibility of recognizing itself. Dialogue offers different interests an opportunity to interact in a non-adversarial way when opposing issues are at stake.
Dialogue is different from debate in that it encourages diversity of thinking and opinions rather than suppressing these notions. It facilitates the progressive emergence of a mutual understanding of the problems and the search for consensus. In the practice of dialogue, there is an agreement that one person’s concepts or beliefs should not take precedence over those of others, and that the common agreement should not be sought at the cost of individual integrity.
An underlying premise when dialogue is used as a problem saving tool is that any part of a nation, organization, system or group- if it has access to real information about the whole of which it is a part, and has a chance to listen itself-will start to think creatively and to organize itself towards the evolutionary step.
This process is not about pronouncing judgements; rather it is about listening for a deeper awareness and understanding of what is actually taking place. When this can happen, movement towards resolution has a real opportunity to take place
Dialogue is the main instrument for bringing stakeholders together to discuss the opportunities and constraints for democratic change and design strategies to address the issues in a way that ensures the best possible common agreement.
Through dialogue competing interests can be interacted in a friendly atmosphere. The process of dialogue is not about to pronounce judgements but rather listening for a deeper understanding and awareness of the issues at stake, thus increasing opportunities for resolving differences in mutually accepted way.
In case of, ” Eritreans for democratic change” those who are engaged in the struggle from dictatorship to democracy, the impact of the political dialogue did not generate a momentum and reinforced the democrtic transition but disabled them to resolve their differences in a mutually accepted way.
In this article, I will try to assess the Eritrean opposition and their practising of dialogue based on the below mentioned search questions.
- Did the repeated dialogues between Eritreans for democratic change increase the opprtunities for resolving their differences in mutually accepted way?
- How is the process of dialogue in the Eritrean forces for democratic change?
- What were the impacts of these dialogues?
- What are the values of dialogue?
- What are the requirements of dialogue to be effective?
- Did the repeated dialogues between Eritreans for democratic change increase the opportunities for resolving their differences in mutually accepted way?
If we see the Eritrean politics from the early time of political awareness since nationhood and later during the federation period have repeatedly performed dialogues but their dialogues were full of mistrust, intrigues and gossips due to this Eritrean political elites lost the opportunities for resolving their differences in a mutually accepted way and Eritrean people lost their self-determination and later occupied by the Ethiopian Emperor.
During the armed struggle the trend of mistrust, intrigues and gossips continued and conflicts were resolved by violence and internecine wars. The post liberation period has continued by the same trend with the motto the winner takes all. The Eritrean conflict is not negative itself but it is the method of conflict management, where stakeholders attempt to resolve their disputes by unconstitutional or violent means. We all advocate for democratic system in Eritrea. Democracy is the system of all opportunities. Do we in the opposition camp learned and used these opportunities to resolve conflicts. If democracy is about managing conflict peacefully, do we practise democratic methods in resolving disputes? Looking at the Eritrean political and civic organizations experience from the building of coalitions and partnership we have seen many national dialogues performed but all were on paper but not in practice.
The Eritrean opposition must first engage in a national and international dialogue to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts.
Dialogue as ”prevention mechanism” Bringing all stakeholders together for structured, critical and constructive discussion at the level of nation – Eritrea by practicing this method we can avoid confrontation and conflict. We need to break the vicious circle and build bridges of negotiations.
Dialogue as mechanism of managing conflicts: The Eritrean opposition failed to build a democratic institutions and procedures to manage their internal conflicts peacefully. We lack democratic institutions that can provide us with skills and knowledge for political consultation and joint action that can peacefully manage potential conflicts.
Dialogue as resolution mechanism: The Eritrean opposition political dialogue has never defused potential crises but deteriorated them ( see all the past dialogues) We need a political dialogue that defuses potential crises by proposing appropriate peaceful solutions. The opposition must establish institutions that provide frameworks sustaining peaceful settlements of conflicts and preventing recurrence of conflict.
- How is/ was the process of dialogue in the Eritrean forces for democratic change?
The Eritrean opposition political organizations national dialogues were not performed in a friendly atmosphere but in adversarial and mistrustful pronouncing judgments instead of listening for a deeper understanding and wareness of the national issues at the stake. They start with emotional and spontant feelings without well studied framework and guidelines.
The process of national dialogue must be based on partnership without dictation and imposition. Looking at the Eritrean opposition forces dialogue has not followed a genuine partnership and development with mutual respect, common objectives and responsibilities.
Let us take the Eritrean Political Organizations dialogue under the title, ” Unity to save our people” their framework started based on the assessment of the previous strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It was this assessment that guided them to build a coalition of all political organizations in the opposition camp. The joint assessment put the common values and objectives first to build coalition of political organizations and later prepare the all inclusive convention of unity and democracy like that of South Africa- CODESA/ Convention democracy for South Africa and later COSATU/ Convention South African Trade Unions. In South African case, these two conventions were mile Stones in the transition from Apartheid to democracy. The ANC and other political organizations united at this convention and the trade unions followed the same method and come together towards democratic transition.
The Eritrean Political organizations dialogue under the name , ” consultation forum” failed in its application because since democracy is dynamic they would have first achieved build the coalitions of political organizations and later build a broad national coalitions including the civil society and trade unions. Civil societies or trade unions should first have their convention and later these two meet and agree on joint actions now at this time of struggle against the dictatorship and lay down the foundations of future democratic Eritrea.
The application or implementation should have been by stages. Putting the common values as guidelines and practicing the principles of partnership both at the grass level. The constituents of the political organizations should have known the process of coalition building. The Eritrean political organizations leaders if they have agreed in the common values the application of the agreed framework is not difficult it can be solved by deepening the consultation/dialogue. I hope the consultation forum continue both at national and international level.
- What were the impacts of these dialogues/ consultation forum?
The Eritrean struggle from dictatorship to democracy and those who are engaged either political or civil society organizations have been performing seminars, conferences and consultations at intervals since 2008. If we evaluate these efforts one can ascertain that never helped u sto reach an agreement on the implementation of the forged consensus. For example, the Awasa congress and its leadership national council for democratic change forged a consensus on common values and documents but failed to implement the common values.
The consultation forum of political organizations also gridlocked in the implementation of the forged agreements.( Building coalitions and convening of national congress) who will take the responsibility. Eritrean national dialogues failed to identify priority areas and focus on the priorities instead of bickering for power.
The impact of national dialogues and consultations have not helped us develop a new political culture but hold us in our previous Vicious circle.
It couldn’t help us to gain popular support and legitimacy.
- What are the values of dialogue?
Political dialogue is the process of consultation and participation and is one of the tools of democracy. Dialogue is useful method for managing, preventing and resolving conflicts. Dialogue is a soft power mechanism that helps us solve our conflicts peacefully. Dialogue enhances trust building and reconciliation.
The Eritrean political organizations agreed in principle to renew their partnership for future in order to topple the dictatorship in Eritrea but not succeeded to build a strengthened coalition through deeper political dialogue.
Political dialogue should not take the form of dictation but be based on dialogue contract. Dialogue continues until it reaches the objectives of the people. How much are the Eritrean political opposition organizations aware of the values of dialogue is the issue to be discussed and analysed.
- What are the requirements of dialogue to be effective?
For a dialogue to be effective requires genuine interest of all political organizations involved in the dialogue. All the parties involved must adhere to the guiding principles. The dialogue must be transparent from the very beginning and no part of the opposition be excluded. In a genuine dialogue is required a firm commitment among the stakeholders that disputes and conflicts should be resolved peacefully and not by violent means. The Eritrea culture of resolving conflicts has been violent since the Eritrean nationhood from 1942 -2014.
A genuine dialogue disseminated to its wider constituents. The recent Eritrean Political organizations consultation forum has never been disseminated to its constituents but later known that it has come to deadlock. A genuine dialogue must have belief and never-ending commitment and open to media so that it can get witness that who is responsible for the success or failure of the dialogue.
Assessing the Eritrean practising of national dialogues show that all the dialogues taken during the past political and armed struggle were not based on national principles and beliefs. The post-independence Eritrea by the EPLF/PFDJ is historically and naturally against all democratic tools. Their books are of negligence, violence and arrogance.
The main challenge in the struggle from dictatorship to democracy is uprooting the culture of negligence and arrogance of the Eritrean elites of all kinds. Let us destroy the blocks, break down the walls of hate and build up the bridges of trust and beliefs.