Urgency of Re-organizing and Strengthening Eritrean Democratic Grassroots Movements for Primary Elections By Our Voice – Eritrea
Urgency of Re-organizing and Strengthening Eritrean Democratic Grassroots Movements for Primary Elections By Our Voice – Eritrea Outline Mission Statement The Role of Our Voice – Eritrea The Role of Opposition Political Parties and Civic Organizations in the
Urgency of Re-organizing and Strengthening Eritrean
Democratic Grassroots Movements for Primary Elections
Our Voice – Eritrea
- The Role of Our Voice – Eritrea
- The Role of Opposition Political Parties and Civic Organizations in the Elections
- Criteria for Candidacy and Any Participation in the Elections
- Signing a “Memorandum of Understanding”
- Why We Should Be Very Careful in Selecting Our Leaders
- Are We Ready to Start the Real Work?
- If you want to contact us and discuss
The purpose of the Eritrean Grassroots Democratic Movement is to conduct primary elections all over the world where Eritreans live to make it possible for the people to democratically choose their own representatives from the bottom-up. The elected representatives will constitute the Provisional National Democratic Baito (PNDB). The electorate will have the right to recall their representatives if the later commit serious crime, or grossly misbehave putting the country in disrepute or if they do not do their jobs properly after three warnings.
The Baito will in turn elect the Eritrean Global Leadership Council (or the Council). Until the removal of the dictatorship, the Council will act as the de facto Eritrean Provisional Government and will represent all Eritreans everywhere and speak on their behalf. The primary purpose of the Council will, however, be to facilitate the removal of the dictatorship at the earliest and establish democratic constitutional governance by conducting fresh elections in the NEW ERITREA to insure the emergence of a free, fair, equitable, peaceful, humane, dynamic, prosperous and advanced society – where all its citizens are confident of their future and happy within themselves: no more lies, no more stupidity, no more fear and intimidation, no imprisonment, no extra judicial killing and disappearance, no forced migration and the open jaws of the Sahara, the Sinai and the Mediterranean, no more crying in pain of our women and children. The Council will conclude its task after successfully conducting free and fair elections and the establishment of the new Eritrean constitutional government.
How can all this be achieved – and how fast?
- The role of the Our Voice -Eritrea.
As we have repeatedly said, the primary role of the Our Voice group is to act as a think-tank to come up with possible new ideas, outlooks, re-interpretation of old ideas, analysing various issues and suggesting as much as possible new strategies and tactics of dealing with our long standing problems. We have a political purpose. But, we are not a political party, nor do we aim to surreptitiously steal well deserved glory at the point of victory from those who have been in the struggle all their lives.
We have no skeletons in the cupboard, and nothing to hide from the public and nothing to declare. To those who still suspect, we can only say that the only reason why we have taken this role is because of the painful stalemate in our struggle – and because we honestly believe that we have some ideas that will solve our problems if we apply them diligently and in unity. To all the already existing Eritrean political parties and civic organisations, we would like to make it clear that we are here only to help and not compete with you for power or any other benefit – nor take the credit away from you. We only want to see the end of the pain and indignity of our people – just like yourselves.
Some people have asked, “Why don’t you join the already existing opposition groups? What is the need of re-inventing the wheel? We are tired of the proliferation of opposition political groups.” We wish that it were as simple as stated. Some of us were actually in some of the said opposition groups, and we have tried it. We can only say that whether the opposition groups we have are few or many, we have not gone far from where we started anyway. In fact, there is an obvious stalemate and, to some extent, even regression and weakening in the opposition! Our task is to reverse the weakening, break the stalemate, galvanise the opposition camp and get things moving again until victory is achieved and the Eritrean people are free. That is why we have not chosen to go back and do what is being suggested above. But, we are prepared to work with any group that shares our ultimate aspiration despite some minor differences which we should be able to accommodate because we know that without unity nothing can be achieved.
Nonetheless, it must be said that what most of the opposition groups have been doing is self defeating. They have been fiercely competing, backbiting and discrediting each other and jockeying for power – although they have nothing in their hands or in sight. They have to change as soon as possible, or they will be further weakened and rendered irrelevant. Things cannot continue as they have been. We need the emergence of new Eritrean politics based on unity, common purpose, solidarity andadherence to democratic principles. We certainly do not wish to continue fighting old wars and point scoring between the old political groups or their rumps or remnants. We need statesmen as our leaders with tolerance, patience, understanding, love for the people beyond themselves and remarkable vision for our future and who can unite us – not those who take the Eritrean people for granted, have not even freed themselves from old ways of thinking, are still fighting old wars, have no clear vision and who seem to be hungry for power above all else. We believe in the remarkable ability of humans to change and reform themselves. We, therefore, have not given up on our leaders from the past who are now in the opposition. We hope that they will reform and use their experience, knowledge and wonderful skills to good use. But, they have to look to the future and not the past.
Having said that, we would like to make it clear that we are not putting all the leaders of the various opposition groups and civic organizations in a straight jacket as if they are all the same. We know that there are some who are ethical, well meaning and principled – such as those of the late Wedi Vacaro movement and units formed around the work of Amanuel Iyasu of demo.archive.assenna.com and other grassroots movements. But, in the confusing game of Eritrean politics, who is going to be the judge? We can think of no better arbiter than the Eritrean people starting from the grassroots level. Thus, let the many ideas, strategies and achievements of all Eritrean political parties, civic groups and all other stake holders float in the marketplace of ideas and let the people choose who is best for them.
But, before the elections take place or in tandem, there must be a wide campaign to educate the people on the significance and purpose of the elections and the need for fresh thinking and reform in attitude. This is why well organised and conducted democratic elections at the grassroots level where people live and know each other are crucially important.
- The role of opposition political parties and civic organisations in the elections.
We are in a dire situation, and we have no time to waste. Therefore, we have to quickly request the existing opposition political parties and civic organisations who have been operating at the grassroots level and other stake holders to call local public meetings of Eritreans and explain the importance of conducting elections that will lead to the formation of their own government and the benefits thereof. Where there are no opposition political parties or Eritrean civic organisations in the area or other organised groups, individual Eritreans could take their own initiative and call a local meeting to discuss the importance of electing their representatives.
The Our Voice group is willing to coordinate these processes. Every local election should result in the nomination of a chairperson and his/her two assistants, one secretary and the other a treasurer. The names of the three people, their roles and their telephone numbers and e-mails should be communicated to Our Voice by fax, preferably also by e-mail. The local electoral committee will get in touch with other local election committees in the region by themselves or through Our Voice to form a regional electoral committee that will monitor what goes on at the local level. The proportional representation will be decided in consultation with the public. These regional electoral committee representatives will then gather to form a National Electoral Committee (NEC). The representatives from all the countries where Eritreans live will finally form the Eritrean Global National Electoral Committee (EGNEC). Once an Eritrean EGNEC is formed, the Our Voice group will pass the responsibility for conducting the elections and all the documents it has to the said new body. The role of Our Voice will then be to support the work of the EGNEC only on technical basis as required.
All those who are selected and approved by the public to work as members of the various electoral committees will not be eligible to run as candidates in the elections. Otherwise, there will be conflict of interest.
- Criteria for candidacy and any participation in the elections.
Inevitably, this will lead us to the much disputed and slippery question of “Who is an Eritrean?” and who will be eligible to participate as a candidate, as a voter or organiser in the forthcoming Eritrean elections. We wish we could be spared the trouble of having to deal with this thorny issue. That is because, as we have seen recently, it provokes strong emotions and there are obviously some interest groups who seem to have capitalised on it in a partial and grossly unfair, distorted and dangerous way obviously to suit themselves. They have done so for the purpose of silencing and excluding those who see as their adversaries from making formidable contributions to our struggle.
By the way, it is extremely dangerous to unfairly exclude and discredit people in the way we have seen recently. It might have temporarily worked as an instrument of evil for the perpetrators of the crime of defamation and vilification. In the end, however, the whole thing will boomerang on them – for they live in glass houses, and they are throwing stones that will shutter what they think are their safe abodes. We suggest that they start with themselves first and the occupants of the main offices of the chief criminal cohort in Asmara. Then, they will see which of them will remain around in Eritrea if their definition of “Who is an Eritrean?” is properly applied. They can’t win however much they try to twist the facts.
The act of excluding decent, hard working and genuine Eritreans on irrelevant and non existent pretexts will further create division, suspicion and bitter enmity between neighbours, friends, colleagues and compatriots. We may also transform with our own hands otherwise innocent, trusting and helpful citizens into bitter closet enemies who might bite us severely when and where it matters with unforeseen consequences whose damage we cannot even imagine. We can give a lot of examples like this from history beginning from Ancient Greece and Rome to the present. We need to understand that this issue of exclusion has brought about the collapse of many armies and nations. Let us stop the stupidity, please!! We have a lot to learn from the fairly open Oromo Gadaa system that welcomes other peoples to their fold. That is why the Oromos in Ethiopia are so many and so powerful!!
In short, Our Voice – Eritrea as a group is campaigning for widening the definition of “Who is an Eritrean?” to make it as inclusive and uniting as possible. We are here to embrace every Eritrean as an equal whatever his/her background, family history, race, ethnicity, colour of skin or appearance, religion, language, political persuasion, occupation, etc. If any person commits a crime against our people and country, then he/she should be brought to court and sentenced after due process. But, he/she cannot be stripped of his/her Eritrean nationality by any means. Besides, if anybody or any group is caught insinuating or making a public statement by word of mouth or in writing vilifying the origin, ethnicity, religion, occupation, etc. of any Eritrean or trying to deny him/her of full rights of a citizen as any other Eritrean, then that person who is making the dangerous offence should be indicted for serious treason and severely punished. It is a serious matter because it strikes exactly at the very heart of our unity and harmony without which we cannot exist as a viable society.
If one studies Eritrean social history properly, it is obvious that Eritrean genealogy is porous and cross boundary in origin, especially with the Sudan and Ethiopia. Hardly any Eritrean can be spared from this – unless he/she wants to deliberately deny it or does not know the truth as a result of ignorance (We have well documented evidence for this since the time of the Italians up to now [See the work of Conti Rosini, Dr Aba Ishak, et al] and is available for anyone interested.) The question is with how many people will Eritrea remain (if any) provided that the new definition they (even some of the main opposition groups) have been suggesting as of late is applied strictly and not relaxed when and where it suits them. They might get some political advantage from it for the time being. After a while, however, it will work against them. Let time be the judge! Anyway, their thinking is based on laziness of mind and opportunism. They have not thought through the absurdity of what they have been saying that their definition excludes even some of the most important founders of Eritrean nationalism, including Ato Woldeab Wondemariam. They should also examine themselves to find out the truth – which will no doubt free them from their delusions.
We shall soon issue a preliminary draft document for discussion on the issue of “Who is an Eritrean?” and “Who is allowed to vote?” We shall amend it according to the feedback we get from the public. As you know, we are not and we cannot act as the final authority on the matter. It will be presented to an elected Eritrean body to consider it and adopt it, amend it or reject it when the time comes. As we said, we prefer an inclusive approach rather than go for a witch hunt to ostracise, vilify and cruelly demoralise genuine Eritrean citizens who have done nothing wrong.
There are other issues also in connection with the criteria for candidacy which we shall discuss in the forthcoming document.
- Signing a memorandum of understanding
Every candidate, every voter and every one who wishes to take part in the elections in any capacity should sign a memorandum of understanding committing himself/herself to the following;
- Abide by democratic procedures
- Apply the standard procedures of conflict resolution (to be explained later in full)
- Use of civilized language and substance of argumentation
- Respect the outcome of democratic elections and decision making
- Recognize the right of the people to ask legitimate questions and expect to get well informed and reasoned replies – with no lies and cover ups
- See every Eritrean and indeed every human being as an equal and treat them with dignity and fairness
- Never use violence as an instrument of settling differences in politics and social affairs
- Always remember that political authority comes from the collective will of the people and that no one is above the law
- Tolerance , acceptance and respect of diversity in cultural values, religion, language, race, ethnicity, ability/disability status, etc.
All the political parties, civic organizations and all stake holders of whatever form who wish to participate in the elections should also sign the memorandum of understanding.
The movement should be well financed to do its job properly. We suggest that the resources come mainly from Eritrean public subscription until the Eritrean Global Leadership Council is formed. The Council can then do as it sees fit. Every contributor should be given a legitimate receipt. Every cent contributed by the Eritrean public and other donors should also be well documented and accounted for with full transparency. Any individual or group that can prove that they have contributed to the funds should be able to inspect the books on demand.
- Why we should Be Very Careful in Selecting Our Leaders
Throughout the election, we should be careful about some people who have very risky and dangerous personality traits. We need leaders of sound mind who can think and have the required knowledge to arrive at informed and reasoned decisions – and not delusional characters (however handsome or pretty) who see things that don’t exist, blow out facts out of proportions, overestimate or underestimate their power and easily give way to emotions and irrational expectations about how the world works. We should be careful not to buy into the dramatic self presentations of those who are seen as having a charismatic persona – usually superficial, self centred, irrational and dictatorial – stifling the contributions of better minds. As candidates for high business posts, people with such a personality now tend to be seen with suspicion and as potential causes of failure – not as enablers. This is backed by a lot of research.
Thus, we should learn from our own past. We should judge our leaders and potential leaders by the outcome(s) of their thinking and action – not their public appearances as being great with their exaggerated moustaches, vain pronouncements, insincere and groundless promises , dubious explanations and pronouncements. In fact, all candidates for top leadership should undergo personality tests to be conducted by neutral experts – just as they do when they select top business executives. We need to protect ourselves from sadists, narcissists, murderers, liars, rapists, thieves, pretenders with no moral compass – and prevent them from coming to positions of power in our country – ever again!! We want to have as our leaders those who are statesmen: capable, genuine, humane, with public ethos, who put the public interest before their own and have proven ability to unite people and bring out the best in them.
- Are we now ready to start the real work?
We are now indeed ready to start the actual campaign by contacting individuals and groups whom we believe can help in organizing the grassroots elections for our collective good. Please be aware that without the help of every Eritrean to make the plan work, Our Voice alone will never be able to do it. We need an input from every Eritrean who can help. Please understand that we are not claiming to know everything or that we can do everything by ourselves, or that we have the silver bullet that only we can administer. Far from it!! We know that all our ideas are not perfect by any means. We are also aware that some of you may greatly disagree with some of the things we have said or the way we have said them. Please remember what the American psychologist and Philosopher, William James, said more than a century ago: “Wisdom is the ability to distinguish between what is important and what is trivial.” The statement might seem very simple – something that anybody knows. However, the point is that, in our daily lives we forget it. Quite often, we waste our time dealing with trivialities that are of little consequence, while leaving the major ones aside. In short, please let us put aside the minor differences we have and unite for our collective mission. All of us will gain from changing our sad story. Actually, we have no other alternative.
- If you want to contact us and discuss
Anyone wants to reach us and discuss the possibility of working with us for the purpose we have outlined, he/she can contact us by e-mail on firstname.lastname@example.org. We can also give you our telephone and fax numbers on request. For in depth discussion, we are also available on Skype. Our main office is located in London. Your contact person is Dawit Tsegai.
“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The next best time is now!”
An African proverb