Self – determination in Law and Practice

By Fesseha Nair

Previously, I have written an article in tigrinya on the principles of the right to self determination this article is its english version on self- determination analysis based on the international law and in practice.

First, I would like to look at the historical origins of the self-determination in its legal and practicality, and at last how the Eritrean political elites interpret it in their political thoughts.

During the liberation period many songs were sung about the rights of the Eritrean nationalities or ethnicities but when Eritrea was liberated the right of these people were only confined to cultural songs decided by the ruling power. Speaking on state and constitution building and the devolution( Decision making) of power by the people in Eritrea is completely forbidden either in the opposition camp by the so called national poltical organizations or some religious organizations or  by the one man rule in Eritrea.

Both the national and religious opposition political organizations and the dictator have the same stand on the rights of nationalities in Eritrea.

What is Eritrea without these various nationalities? Can Eritrea exist as a nation by violating the rights of these indigenous people? Who are those over these people to decide on their lives in Eritrea? What is Eritrea without the people of Afar, Saho, Kunama, Nara, Belain and many others claiming their rights in their own territories?

Remember it was these nationalites sons who were pioneers of the Eritrean political resistance and the armed resistance like our parlemantarian Akito during the federation period and Hamid Idris Awate from Narra and our two legendary liberation fighters Abdalkadir Ramadan and Saed Saleh. Population wise these nationalities occupy the strategic areas in Eritrea and they can fight for their rights agianst the forces of dominattion and chauvenism either with national or religious colour.

Le us open our hostorical books and assess the role played by each nationalities for the liberation of Eritrea and its maintaining, then we will judge who has the right to decide or the power in Eritrea above these peoples?

The allegations and accusations by the failed leaders of the outdated organizations in the opposition camp to the nationality movements for their rights is deadborn and cannot stop the already claims of the rights of self determination of the indigenous legaly and practically.

Let me now turn to the logics of the principle of self-determination.

The principle of self-determination originated during the 1945, beginning with the French Revolution, the gradual recognition of the rights of national groups coincided with development of nationalism in the Ottomna. Austrian, German and Russian empires of the 18th  and 19th centuries. Most treaties and conventions of  this facilitated the national self –determination without recognizing the right to self -determination  of the indigenous peoples in the nation building because of opportunistic reasons. What just happening in Eritrea is such attitude of denying the rights of the indigenous and oppressing them under the name of national unity or religious unity( as claimed by some leaders of the islamic organizations) but these two groups have never united even they seem to have common identites. All pretend that they are for national unity or religious unity but it is they who always increase by dividing themselves as amoeba/ amoeboeic production/

With the emergence of Eritrean independence, movements from the Eritren nationalities like that of Afar and Kunama has started not because they wanted it but because the oppression and violation of their fundamental human and democratic rights. The so called national political and religious organizations should have looked to the causes instead of attacking the rights of these movements. Putting these grievances under the carpet and denying as non-existent is immoral and inhumane.

The right of self –determination has changed from time to time according the internal conflicts inside a state between the various ethnicites in one country. During the League of Nations the right to self-determination was part of the subject of nationalited in one state. At this time the lawyers of that time did not give attention to the internal relations of the peoples living under one country and sovereignty and did not facilitated the rights of the indigenous people but later in 1966, the UN Charter adopted the two covenants known as ( ICCCPR ) International Covenant on Civil and Poltical rights and (ICESCR-international Covenant on economic,social and cultural rights.

In both covenants in article one reads the provisions as follows:

” All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their  economic, social and cultural rights.

Even, the Universal Declaration of the Human rights article 15 states that everyone has the right to a nationality and that no one should be arbitrarily deprived of  a nationality or denied the right to change nationality”

Article 4 of the Eritrean national democratic conference for democratic change held in Addis reads as follows:

” Strengthening the unity of the people and land as achieved during the armed liberation period against the foreign colonialism,

Recognizing the existing oppresson of nationalities under the dictatorship, the conference assured that, the issue of nationalites is a democratic rights so that the right of nationalities to self- determination under the Eritrean sovereignty must be respected and put in practice.

The conference also decided  such rights must be reconsidered and enshrined in the future constituition after the post- dictator Eritrea.”

Knowing the purpose of the UN charter and the international covenants is to develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self determination of peoples, the article 4 of the conference declaration is in accodance with these international laws and covenants. Similarly, the resolution agreed by the conferences participants that the Eritrean national unity can only preserved if the rights of nationalities are respected and practised. The purpose of this article is to accommodate the demnads of all Eritrean nationalites under the Eritrean sovereignty. It is  to build trust and mutual respect between the diversity of the Eritrean peoples

Here , I would like to ask both the secularists and theocrats of the Eritrean opposition political organizations, what is the alternative solution for the existing conflicts and the armed movements of Ethnic and federal organiztions?  In your political programmes you will use peaceful means agains the dictator but against the Ethnic movments you will fight them by all means, then what is the difference between you and the dictator?

Time will show us how you gradually will join the dictator and fight against the rights of people but such will never bring peace inside Eritrea. The Eritrea you dream led by dictators will only be the battlefield where all Eritreans will lose.

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Posted by on Sep 14 2010 Filed under Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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