The Eritrean Opposition need Dialogue for reconciliation

By Fesseha Nair


The writer of this article calls for “national dialogue” before convening of ENCDC second congress that can polarize us in different groups.


Dialogue is the platform that encourages diversity of thoughts and opinions but not suppressing them. It leads to mutual understanding of problems and opportunities and search for common understanding. In practicing dialogue, there is an agreement that one person’s concepts or beliefs should not take precedence over those of others, and common agreement should not be sought at the cost of the others. We believe dialogue is the main instrument to discuss the opportunities and problems for democratic transition and to develop strategies to address the issues of common interest. A dialogue to be effective must be built on certain principles that serve to guide and structure the discussions.


We , in the Eritrean opposition struggling from dictatorship to democracy need dialogue within ourselves and  listen each other for a deeper awareness and understanding of what is actually taking place nationally, regionally and globally. I think the conflict between the 15 political and 6 political organizations is not about the main issues but of personalities and individuals. Our focus has been on personalities instead of issues


The necessity of dialogue


Since we are in process of democratization , the impact of political dialogue can generate momentum to reinforce the democratic process and enables to assess the pace of the transition. The value of dialogue is to help us the assess/ evaluate the experience of the past 15 years in the opposition camp. ( 1999-2016) Dialogue for reconciliation enables us to identify of issues of priority. It allows us evaluate the impact of external democracy assistance.


Dialogue and conflict


Conflict in itself is not necessarily negative. It is unmanaged conflict, where stakeholders attempt to resolve their disputes through unconstitutional or even violent means, that poses the most complex problems


If we all believe in democracy, democracy is all about managing conflict peacefully. In the Eritrean opposition case, dialogue can also act as a mechanism to help prevent, manage and resolve conflict.


As a mechanism for the prevention of conflict. By bringing various actors together for structured, critical and constructive discussions on the state of the nation, dialogue can result in consensus on the reforms that are needed to avoid confrontation and conflict.

I urge the leaders of the 15 political organizations avoid confrontations and come with the 6 political organizations round table discussion.


– As a mechanism for the management of conflict. Dialogue can help put in place democratic institutions and procedures that can structure and set the limits of political conflict. Democratic leaders provide mechanisms for political consultation and joint action that can peacefully manage  potential conflicts.


As a mechanism for the resolution of conflict. Political dialogue can defuse potential crises by proposing appropriate peaceful solutions. Democratic institutions and procedures provide a framework to sustain peace settlements and prevent the recurrence of conflict.



What should be the guiding principles for the dialogue in national reconciliation between the opposition forces


I hope all the opposition forces believe in these principles


– Partnership and cooperation promoting democratization.

– Disseminating democratic principles in all areas of the cooperation

– Deepening the dialogue at both national and international level

– Assessing the democratic struggle

– Assisting the democratic development



Dialogue framework


– We in the Eritrean opposition the capacity and will of the dialogue to identify the challenges, analysing the participants, evaluating available resources.


– Participants: political society, civil society, national and international experts both at the national and inter Eritrean- Ethiopian dialogue.


– Objectives: Analysing the dynamics of the transition, seeking a national consensus on priorities and searching for effective cooperation


– Assessing results and monitoring the implementation.


Who are the actors and their functions at the inter Eritrean- Ethiopian Dialogue


Three key functions to be fulfilled in the dialogue for democratic change at the national level


Analysis function. By providing a comprehensive analysis of the constraints and opportunities for further democratization, the dialogue contributes to diagnosing the flow of events and experiences at the national and regional level.


– Dialogue function. By providing a platform for change of experiences and lessons learned and a forum for building consensus on the challenges and opportunities for democratic change, the dialogue contributes in itself to the consolidation of democracy. It should ultimately lead articulation a democratic reform agenda with specific policy recommendations primarily defined by the national participants and thus owned by them.


Brokering function. By providing international institutions and donor agencies involved in and committed to democratization with a reference framework, the dialogue contributes a mechanism to assist the international partners to identify concrete support measures, better target their interventions and co-ordinate their assistance.


The national dialogue for democratic change could be structured around three main groups with specific roles:


  1. The Dialogue Group: Composed of prominent national experts and key players in the process of democratic change in Eritrea and Ethiopia, the dialogue group should be sufficiently representative and have legitimacy and leverage to make the dialogue meaningful and sustainable. The members of the dialogue group should hence be carefully selected, based on their professionalism, reputation and willingness to enter into a genuine dialogue.


  1. The Expert Group. Composed of international experts with undisputed credentials and reputation, the expert group provides the national participants with comparative experiences and lessons learned in other contexts which could be of assistance in the design of democratic change in Eritrea.


  1. 3. The Support Group: (For example the Eritrean Medrek) Composed of representatives of the international community involved in and committed to the democratic process in Eritrea represented as observers of the dialogue. The support group constitutes a structure assisting the democratization process in Eritrea. External partners or facilitators/ Medrek – Sana Forum should not dictate but can only support the process of democratic change.


What the opposition need is not convening ENCDC second congress that could result as the Bet Giorgis Wala  polarising the opposition in groups and benefits the dictatorship to get more legitimacy to perpetuate its repression against our people. It is a political maturity to create a political space for a national dialogue  that would lead us to reconciliation instead of confrontation.


Ending the conflicts in the opposition camp requires more political courage than simply neglecting each other in minor things.


I urge the 15 and 6 political organizations members of the ENCDC to come to their minds and take responsibility and show political courage postpone the second congress of ENCDC and come to national dialogue for reconciliation before running to a congress that can create more divisions and polarizations.


References and further readings


  1. Lijphart, Arend. 1977. Democracy in plural societies. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  2. Horowitz, Donald L. 1985, Ethnic Groups in conflict. Berkeley. CA: University of California.


  1. Dialogue for Democratic Development, by IDEA- International Institute Electoral and Assistance



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