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The role of military and security forces in transition from dictatorship to democracy

By Fesseha Nair The role played by the Zimbabwe military and security forces shows that how much the military leadership who led the downfall of the Mugabe dictatorship were professional and preserving national interests instead of serving the

By Fesseha Nair
The role played by the Zimbabwe military and security forces shows that how much the
military leadership who led the downfall of the Mugabe dictatorship were professional and
preserving national interests instead of serving the dictatorship. This shows that Zimbabwe
military was not corrupted by bribes, spoils of office, ethnic manipulation of appointments
and promotions. Comparing the Eritrean military and security forces with that of Zimbabwe,
the Eritrean military is not professional but enforced paramilitaries loyal to the regime or
serving the interests of the regime.
When one country's military is less professional, it is less likely to act in pursuit of national
interests and distance itself from the regime. Zimbabwe's military action was not coup but
was very skilled and wise peaceful method of toppling the regime of Mugabe unlike many of
the previous coups in African countries.
It is essential that the Eritrean Democracy Activists be concerned on the relation between the
civil society movements and the military in Eritrea because several studies pointed that the
coercive strength of the military is a great hinder for democratization.
One of the most important aspect of the struggle from dictatorship to democracy is to
subordinate the military under civilian rule and be under democratic rule. The military's role
is to make the process of democratization peaceful and guarantee security and stability of the
The great majority of the post -colonial African states began by constituting states based on
constitution and election but later transformed to dictatorship, but in case of Eritrea, after
independence is unique than the other post-colonial states of Africa, the EPLF/PFFDJ failed
in all aspects to fulfil the criteria of state building based on constitution and institutions.
Under what conditions can the military in Eritrea facilitate a democratic transition like
that of Zimbabwe? When can it happen? How can it happen?
In this article I will attempt to focus on the above mentioned questions. The regime in Eritrea
is weak in all aspects of governance, its only institution is the military and security to unite
and control the country through the methods of repression. Both the military and the civilians
have been suffering under the authoritarian rule of the regime. In the past years the military
and security in Eritrea have been opposed to democratic change and taken side with the
dictator like many other African countries, for example in Togo, Zaire, Congo, and Niger.
Among many other reasons, the main condition was that the popular movements for
democratic change was lack of policy and no attention given to the military and security
forces in Eritrea. According to Luckham, the military establishment and other repressive
organs in any dictatorship are the single most important obstacle to democratisation, and
Monshiopouri argues likewise that, " the active support or acquiescence of the military is the
key to any viable and sustained political transition to democracy." Hutchful argues that,
paying to little attention to the military dimension of democratisation might prove " a crucial
and potentially costly omission." There can be no transition or consolidation of democracy

unless the military takes the side of the democratic transition. As in our case, both the military
and the security forces, through their current control over the state's coercive apparatus are the
necessary means to carry out its political agenda.
In case of the Eritrean military, it is equally oppressed and is suffering under crisis for so
many years and in this situation it can be motivated to work for democratic transition in
Eritrea. For example in 1994, in Malawi the military joined the forces for democratic change,
and in Benin in 1990, the military refused to face down popular protests against the
authoritarian regime. In Mali, a reform- minded faction of the military even decided to
intervene actively to terminate the regime itself and facilitate the transition to democracy. The
common condition in all these countries' is the same like that of our Eritrea. It is oppression in
all spheres of their lives. What the Eritrean forces for democratic change need is to prepare for
creating conditions where the military and security forces in Eritrea can facilitate democratic
transition like that of Zimbabwe or other like the Benin or Malawi methods of transition.



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Review overview
  • Nahon December 17, 2017

    The military leadership of Zimbabwe had no problem with Mogabe, in the same way the corrupt Generals would not have any problem with Iseyas, as long as he is fit to rule the country, to preserve the interest of the junta.
    Mogabe was too old and due to that, he could not control opportunists and thieves around him.
    Once the mess was cleared by the Army, some key positions were given to top officers.
    The dictator is gone but his system remains untouched.
    Should something like that happen in Eritrea, where someone like the notorious Filippos takes power, after his boss is gone or unable to rule, Higdef would be still in power. Struggle to bring about a genuine change will continue.

    • andom December 18, 2017

      Our generals believe it or not are extreemely corrupt. On top of that they are directly indirectly involved in other serious crimes committed against civilians in the country. That said, iseyas kisha and yemane know their crimes and will not leave the productve force, the youth, alone. Instead they will continue to enslave and control them for fear of retribution. Thus they will die in power wasting every one in sawa unless we wake up to take back our country from these thugs and criminals like the ethiopians are doing.

  • Asmara Eritrea December 17, 2017

    I question whether it is reasonable and/or realistic to expect a transition from dictatorship to democracy in Eritrea facilitated by the military as what seems to have occurred in Zimbabwe. For a start, the Zimbabwean military and its citizens are probably the most well educated in Africa and despite Mugabe’s best efforts to dismantle the judiciary system in the country it had remained more or less intact.
    This is not the case in Eritrea, which makes a transition from dictatorship to democracy unlikely and in my view undesirable. Democracy for the sake of democracy is probably not a good idea – one has to look at the US, a country that can land a man on the moon, has elected, as a its president, a man who thinks, acts and talks as a child. If it was not for the rule of law, Trump could probably have started a World War 3 already.

    To come back to transition in Eritrea, what we need is a transition from Dictatorship to rule of law with perhaps a strong person as a leader before we contemplate any idea of democracy. I suppose someone highly intellectual like Mugabe, with half a dozen degrees in the bag, ruling Eritrea for say 5 years may not necessarily be a bad idea – it would be a huge improvement on the present.

    The Eritrean dictatorship is made worse because the dictator has no brain power and he thinks all and everything can be resolved by force. He is a control freak who thinks he liberated our country single-handed. I can only think of one former African leader whose brain at par with Isaias. That is Idi Amin of Uganda.

    Eritrea forever, death to dictatorship..

    • Andom December 28, 2017

      I thought you said you wanted another dictator to take isaias’s place?

  • Nahon December 18, 2017

    “what we need is a transition from Dictatorship to rule of law with perhaps a strong person as a leader before we contemplate any idea of democracy.”

    Asmara Eritrea

    The most important thing we need to agree to is the constitution, which has to have the requirements of modern parliamentary democracy and the interest of all communities in the country. A secular constitution that respects every religion in the country.
    The head of State should have ceremonial powers, while the Prime Minister should be someone we can send home every time he/she fails to perform well.
    We have learned the hard way that a strong leader is not needed at all. We need leaders who understand that the people are sovereign.
    The first few years, till all the mess created by Higdef is cleared, we need a government of national unity.

    • amanuel December 18, 2017

      I totally agree on what we need. But how do we achieve that? Begging iseyas to step down voluntarily or violently?

    • Andom December 28, 2017

      The only religion that matters in Eritrea is the Orthodox religion.

  • Suleiman December 18, 2017

    Mogabe was a dictator only while Isayas is not a dictator but a destroyer the country.

  • andom December 18, 2017

    The removal of mugabe was a coup detat minus the name. The reason was b/s mugabe was ellected for the term and have a constituition that does not allow illegal removal of the president. Second, the au charter does not allow military take over of a government and the land locked economically in crisis country would have suffered sunctions had the military tried to grab power. Eritrea is unique in all sense. It has 90% plus illitrate population who still use their thumb to sign, has arrogant and ignorant leader who does not have college degree, very incompetent and under educated military officials. The only way out is to conduct countrywide protest and reign mob justice on them like what ethiopians are doing to tplf thugs.

  • k.tewolde December 19, 2017

    Everybody have a valid point above and I am sure there are thousands of opinions out there how to get rid of this parasite that is sucking the life out of our people,however, the tyrant keeps rearranging his furniture every year,redecorating and painting his pad and seems making himself comfortable with no worry.Have you ever thought why?

    • Asmara Eritrea December 19, 2017

      Sadly because we Eritreans are a load of hot air. We need to remember our martyrs did not liberate our country from Ethiopia by talking but by action – they gave the ultimate in that endeavour so we can be free. Having been freed from Ethiopia we find our country colonised by Isaias; a thug and his handful clique destroying once proud nation. It makes my heart bleed!

      Action, action and action is what we need to remove the beast from power. As long as Isaias is around Eritrea will never have peace – I guarantee you of that.

      Eritrea forever, death to dictatorship.

  • Berhe Tensea December 20, 2017

    Excellent analysis
    regarding the dictatorship and the role military in Eritrea.
    The dictator in Eritrea has created coward alcoholics and made them generals and mainly officers who are very ignorant and uneducated.
    The officers are molded to become cowards corrupt and very alcoholics., and unable to think about the suffering people..
    The very few who tried to oppose him were also not decisive, and always fell in the dictator” traps
    and made to rot in his underground prisons.
    The Eritrean belief system and upbringing that made them fearful of the unknown or the outside has also play a great role. in setting a negative mind set.
    I always believe that there will be no hope from the Eritrean military which is consisted of old and uneducated and hungry members, and the completely national service members who are worse than any slave of the past or the present.
    What can one expect from DEHUL HIZBI????

    • Andom December 28, 2017

      Nothing. What kind you expect from mindless slave