The last 19 years of independence have been the darkest period in the history of the Eritrean people. The economy not only stagnated but sharply declining from time to time. It is not unusual to see people dying because of hunger and malnutrition. The streets of the major cities are over flooded with beggars mostly mothers and children. Diplomatic relation went negative in the field of politics and national development and co-operations. Citizen have suffered from varieties of tortures, arbitrary arrests, disappearances and killings in their own homeland by their own countrymen. Extensive famine have stroked the entire country and aggressively taking the lives of innocent citizens. The national pride of the citizens went down to the extent of losing his/her personal confidence and hope.

The border war with Ethiopia (1998-2000) plus the unlimited and unpaid national service imposed over the young people have had a serious impact on individuals and families; these range from resource conflicts, separation, loose of life and property, violence and physical assault to imprisonment and killing to those who try to cross the border to the neighboring countries. Despite the shoot and kill order, people are fleeing the country in hundreds of thousands. As a result, Eritrea today has been once again baptized to be named a migrating nation.

Due to the regime’s economic policy, domestic markets dried up. Import and export is banned. The economy, if there is any, is experiencing a souring inflation from day-to-day. So today Eritrea is in a big and serious trouble, and the sources of its trouble are its internal enemies. That is the regime in power and its clicks.

Though not officially declared, the Eritrean regime is following a Marxist philosophy and experimenting Maoism in Eritrea. He is working day and night to turn Eritrea into an African North Korea with absolute power under one man rule.

The situation in Eritrea today has reached to the point where things cannot continue in the same way as they have been in the last 19 years. There should be change, but change cannot simply come by itself. It can only come through a united and well planned action by all citizens. We should not expect others or few individuals to bring democracy and freedom for us. The burden of democracy weighs on all of us. Unfortunately, our people in Eritrea do not have democracy to exercise their rights. They are ruled by a dictatorial regime which knows no rule of law and uses all means at its disposal to crash and eradicate any group who advocates for democracy and human rights. On the other hand we Eritreans living in Diaspora are living in a relative peace of mind and livelihood. Currently it is believed that there are about a million Eritreans living in Diaspora with quite good number of them in the developed countries. If these groups of people are united and get organized under any form of organization they can contribute their part in shortening the days of the dictatorial regime and nurture a favorable atmosphere for transforming Eritrea into a just nation guided by constitution, governed by rule of law and administered by inclusive representative government that will be a reflection of its diverse ethnicity, cultural, religious, linguistic and political make up. This democratic change that we are looking for cannot come by political organizations alone. It is the work and responsibility of every citizen but in a well organized manner. One of these activist organizations is the Civil Society Organization.

What is Civil Society Organization?

Civil society organizations are also known as civic society organizations (CSO)or non -governmental organizations (NGO) are critical actors in the advancement of universal values around human rights, the environment, labor standards and anti-corruption.

As with most popular academic concepts, there is no universally accepted definition of civil society. The London School of Economics (LSE) defines civil society as follows:

Civil society refers to the arena of uncovered collective action

Around shared interests, purpose and values. In theory, it’s institutional

Forms are distinct from those of the state, family and market, though in

Practice the boundaries between state civil society and market are often complex,

Blurred and negotiated. Civil society commonly embraces a diversity of space, actors and

Institutional forms varying in their degree of formality, autonomy and power.

Civil societies are often populated by organizations such as registered charities, development

Non-governmental organization, community groups, women’s organizations,

Faith-based organizations, professional associations, trade unions, self-help

Groups, social movements, business associations, coalitions and advocacy groups.”

Most Eritreans in the Diaspora have formed a number of community groups, some formed faith-based associations and recently some Eritrean educated groups have formed peace movements or advocacy groups. All these organizations are nonprofit organizations run by voluntary members.

As Eritreans we can ask what shared interests, purposes and values have brought us together to establish the advocacy groups that we have formed recently.

We as Eritreans come together to form civil society organizations voluntarily free from any pressure of government or political opposition group to do our share, so that our interest, purpose and values find congruence in the Eritrean society and wherever they live.

The civil society in Diaspora shall have to struggle for the broadest and most profound agendas of the nation. The advocacy has nothing to do with power, ideology,political program or sectarian agenda. They should be driven by universal principles of human righs,individual liberty, freedom, justice etc. To accomplish these agendas, civic society organizations may have a horizontal relationship with political opposition groups. In doing so, they must protect their independence, integrity and make sure that they do not act or become a recycled mass organization at the service of political organization or parties in or out of power. They should not be guided or managed by cadres of any political organization using a dual membership. We Eritreans have good lessons that we have learned from our past experiences. We have seen how EPLF in the past and now PFDJ used the mass organizations to achieve their own political agenda.

What Kind of Contribution?

The contributions are many and variety in kind. Not all members should contribute the same kind at the same levels.

  1. Some will contribute with their time -promoting advocacy activities. They may approach different government and non-government organizations of their region, known personalities, write papers about Eritrea, present lectures, organize seminars or workshops for Eritreans in diaspora.Using their connections they can also do a lobbying activities.
  2. Some in addition to their membership fees may contribute money of any amount.
  3. Some will work as an activist in mobilizing the Eritrean public in diaspora.This could start family members, friends to a large community.
  4. Help in creating awareness among all Eitreans living inside and outside the country about the existing social, political and economic problems of our people which is cause by the brutal dictatorial regime.This could be done through written documents,radio,television, internet, public lecture etc.All formal and informal gatherings such as fruneral, marriage,prayer,sports and other gatherings can used for this purpose.
  5. Some will contribute with their lives by by going to the risk areas of refugees such as the Sudan,Ethiopia, Egypt or even penetrating inside Eritrea for various missions.
  6. Still some others shall contribute with a combination of the above activities.


Civil society orgsnizations cannot bring democratic change unless the majority of the citizens around them can fully participate in their organization.Understading the seriousness of the Eritrean political situation, we all have the responsibility of contributing our part being an active registered member of any civic society organization in our community. At this particular time where Eritrea is going from bad to worse, no citizen can afford to keep silent and remained indifferent. The true enemy of liberty is not only tyranny but the indifference by those who chose to keep silent in the face of the systematic destruction of the human sprit through intimidation, fear, harassment and torture as a preface to full blown authoritarianism and totalitarianism.To those who know how bad the situation in Eritrea is and yet have chosen to keep silent, we call upon you to give the civil society a chance by joining the one in your community or by establishing your own in the manner you see fit for you. What matters is that you find your voice and add your perspective on the search for solution. As Eldridge Cleaver said:”if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem”. Academic systems theory also demonstrates that everyone’s actions-and their inactions-affect everything and everyone else. Most important of all, civil society cannot develop and bring change unless members of every community get involved and contribute their part. So let us all be part of the solution.

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