All means versus peaceful and democratic means of struggle against dictatorship

By Fesseaha Nair



All transitions to democracy that started from 70s up to 90s( Waves of democratization/ Huntington) have only 40 transitions that were successful but the rest were all failed.


The model for peaceful transition is built on from the early experiences of democratization of 1970s and 1980s in Latin American and southern Europe. However, in the end of cold war, peaceful transition to democratization in Eastern Europe was discredited. ( Yugoslav Wars) 

The Balkan wars against the Serbs dominance was won by force and peace has come after the dictators. Wars are fought against dictators to bring peace in the world. Dictators never give up power by peaceful methods. Peaceful methods are only used when there is  fragile democracies with constitutional governments, but the case in Eritrea is completely different with the other countries in the world.


In all African countries, the model has not functioned at all. In Africa, there was no peaceful transition from dictatorship to democracy. There are sufficient empirical and theoretical limitations to the model of peaceful transition to democracy in all African countries.


The wake of transition from dictatorship to democracy and the means to be used have been the main issues of discussion in the Eritrean opposition camp in general and the Eritrean Democratic Alliance( EDA ) political member organizations.


Those who prefer the peaceful and democratic method of struggle against the dictator argue that such method is the safe way to bring down the dictator and build a democratic culture that promotes peace and stability after the post dictatorship era in Eritrea.


Those who prefer all the methods of peaceful and violence argue that dictators never give up power without force therefore it is better if we use all possibilities to bring down the dictator in Eritrea. Both methods are not without costs.


The peaceful method advocated by some of our Eritrean political elites and scholars has both negative and positive effects. One of its positive effects is it contributes guarantee to the survival of democracy by building the capacity of the population to defend their rights in case of would be dictators.( see Gene Sharp, “ From Dictatorship to Democracy) Its negative effect is lack of careful planning and application. In all the countries, Gene Sharp studied, most of them have the physical basis of the state[1]the institutions of the state[2], and the idea of the state[3].  In Eritrea, these three properties are absent. Today , there is no state in Eritrea that can be identified by these characteristics. There is no government in Eritrea but one man rule without characteristics of state. By Eritrean laymen , “ a state is one with strong military and strict security oppressing its citizens. I think , I am not wrong if a I say that Eritrean people need to re-liberate themselves from the dictator as they used to liberate their land from foreign occupiers. Eritrean people are today occupied  by a single man and his henchemen.


Recent statistical findings support the correlations between the armed conflicts to transitions and these findings were built on the experience of democratization in Latin America, southern Europe and, to some extent, Eastern Europe. ( see, Giuseppe Di Palma, to craft democracies: An essay on democratic transitions, ( Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990)


Prior to the transition these countries have constitutional governments and some what legitimacy, however in many Sub –Saharan African countries the states were weak and lack legitimacy. There are no statistical findings on African countries that transition from dictatorship to democracy proceeded and succeeded. However, a large number of countries were either stuck in the democratic transition without moving towards democratization or become failed governments.


Arguments about transition to democracy in Eritrea by the Eritrean Opposition political and civic society organizations are today divided into two models: Those who believe on peaceful method of transition and those who believe in all methods at your disposal. The arguments of the peaceful democratic transitions are based on some studies made by some professional scholars at the early third wave of democratization in 1970 and 1980s in Latin America and Southern Europe but these waves were not completely peaceful. ( Spain, Portugal and Greece dictators never come to make peace without forces by the opposition)


The clashes now in Eritrea by some opposition political organizations against the dictator’s security forces are not because they are against peace but to protect themselves and show their resistance against the dictatorship in Eritrea.


The Eritrean Political organizations with military wings inside Eritrea is to mobilize the people and protect them from the killings of the security forces of the dictator. The target is not the army but the lifelines of the dictator. The dictator in Eritrea survives because its has built a strong life guards of security forces spread inside the army and the people. The target of the Eritrean forces for democratic change is to cut in pieces these forces who kill our innocent who flee from the persecution of the dictator.


Experiences, in West African countries, like Benin and others, show us that the dictators recognized the opposition after many years of armed and peaceful struggle, after recognition of the opposition they come to conferences and such conferences have contributed to peaceful transitions but compare our situation the dictator never gives recognition to the opposition because he knows the internal conflict of the opposition and has many cards of deception as he usual sine the liberation period. The opposition in West African countries were strong and were not divided by simply arguments not based on the country’s realities.


In our neighbouring countries like Sudan and Ethiopia transition to democracy was not only achieved by peaceful means but by revolutions, today in both of these countries the opposition are recognized and have a political share in the governments. The Comprehensive peace Agreement between SPLM and Sudan Government has come after many wars were fought.


In Ethiopia, the DERG was fallen because of the Ethiopian revolt, today, we see how democracy functions in Ethiopia.


I think those who advocate for simply peaceful model must rethink their model with the case in Eritrea, one cannot take a recipe for democratic transition based on studies of other countries’  situation.


The peaceful model of transition advocated by most Western governments, donor agencies cannot function in dictatorships like that of Eritrea. Eritrea as the country without no properties of state, there is no automatic that peaceful method alone is enough to bring down the dictatorship and move towards democracy.


The Eritrean Opposition both political and civic need to further study the specific and local historical, cultural, social, economic, and political and power realities into which a model of struggle is to be used, instead of coping from Westerners like that we used copy Marxism –Leninism during the armed liberation struggle.


The debate on the method of struggle against dictators and to democracy is not confined to only one method but both the peaceful and the force targeting the resources of the power of the dictator does not contradict but reinforce each other. Why do the Westerners want us to struggle peacefully while they use all methods to bring changes in other nations when their interests are in risk, while we struggle for our human and citizen rights usurped by the dictator and his henchmen? Why are the methods the opposition use” Haram “and the Essya’s methods of killings daily of our innocent children “Halal” ?


This short article challenges the Eritrean Academia and professionals to debate on those various models used to transition from dictatorship to democracy.



[1] The physical basis of the state includes defined territory, population, resources and wealth

[2] The institutions of state comprises the whole machinery of government including its executive, legislative, administrative, and judicial bodies as well as the laws, procedures and norms by which they operate.

[3] The idea of state is the idea of binding the citizens with their government by providing the necessary socio-political cohesion.

Short URL:

Posted by on Jan 9 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

Leave a Reply

Photo Gallery

Log in |2011