Mahmoud Osman Elos Comments On the 6th Congress of the ELF-RC

ELF-RC Office for Information and Culture

In an analytic and scholarly article that he wrote on 3 August 2006, Mahmoud Osman Elos, the manager of the Horn of Africa Research Center in Khartoum who was among the invited observers at the 6th Congress of the ELF-RC, attested that he was extremely happy to see Eritrean politics starting to test the waters of transparency and openness.

Mahmoud Elos wrote: “Coming from my experience with Eritrean and other political organizations, I was not expecting as observer to have free access to the internal discussions of ELF-RC’s 6th Congress. But they took me by surprise when I had to discover the words of the ELF-RC matching with their deeds. I and other observers attended all the discussions of the Congress except a small portion related to security and internal financial matters……In all the open and candid deliberations, we were treated to transparent and responsible debates on issues of concern to the organization and to our nation as a whole.”

The writer added: “This step [of allowing observers at a congress] was a new experience in the Eritrean arena, and as such the ELF-RC has scored a new record in internal Eritrean politics.”

Mahmoud Elos’s long article in Arabic (now available also in Tigrinia), was started by narration on developments in the region since 1971 that affected the Eritrean liberation struggle. These included the years of the cold war, the fragmentation in the liberation struggle till 2003, and the monopoly of power by EPLF that later became PFDJ. He started with the 1st Congress of the ELF that he said was for national independence, and the 6th ELF-RC Congress that aimed for change and democratic governance in post Isayas-Eritrea. The writer believed that: “The struggle for democracy is more difficult than the struggle for national liberation”.

He said the 6th Congress raised all regional and international issues that affect Eritrea and evaluated them in depth. The writer further observed that the ELF-RC had well thought contingency plans and could thus succeed to start holding the Congress as planned on 23 July 2006. “This fact manifests that this is an experienced and capable organization. It can, no doubt, cope with emergency situations, and as I wrote much earlier it was able to overcome major hurdles like the 2002 crisis of the Alliance that affected this organization”, he added.

His long article went on: “We watched all the congress participants introducing themselves and the branches that delegated them to attend the congress. Many delegates came from all states of the United States, from many countries in Europe, from all known cities in Australia, from Saudi Arabia, from the Sudan and from Ethiopia. We noted that there were no delegates from other African and Middle Eastern countries, especially none from Egypt and Syria. The reason may be that they do not have members in those places or may be visa complications have played their role in barring delegates from arriving at the Congress venue. …. We attentively listened to all the 5-year reports from various offices of the leadership and then observed the election of secretariat to the congress. Those reports gave details of activities in the regional and international level, the concern of the ELF-RC during the past years with the plight of Eritrean refugees, and the challenges that were being faced by the opposition organizations.”

“[Further more] we were still amidst the ELF-RC Congress members when the leadership of the organization came up with drafts of new programmes and changes that were sought to be introduced. [For instance], we witnessed the hot debates on the draft paper for decentralization in future governance of the country… We followed their mature and refined debates based on reason and science. … The issue of market economy was also debated hotly. The RC speaker, Ibrahim Mohammed Ali, led the direction and consensus on this subject when he hammered on the need of capital to develop poor Eritrea… Then followed the debate on party formation. All the subjects were based on previous study papers that were undertaken by senior cadres of the organization… The ELF-RC’s open call for party formation with other organizations and individuals is another new experience in Eritrean party politics…!!

Mahmoud Osman Elos also tells in the article that he was elected to be the chairman of the Congress election committee. He said the outcome of the election that he supervised was free and fair.

In the concluding part, the article lists what the writer thought were strong points of the Congress and its shortcomings.


Strong points of the Congress according to Mahmoud Osman Elos:  

1.                  A landmark in the ELF-RC Congress is the tolerance shown to differences in opinion. 

2.                  At the start of debate on new issues, big differences surfaced, but these differences were gradually narrowed down.

3.                  After long and hot debates, the Congress was managing to pass resolutions unanimously or by big votes in favour of the motions.

4.                  The Congress was using both Arabic and Tigrinia to reach common understanding of issues and not as a lip-service to placate with linguistic sensitivities.

5.                  The Congress was managed smoothly because its lodging and feeding facilities were in a suitable area.

A shortcoming in the Congress according to Elos:

Understandably due to the inconvenience caused by the change of venue, many of the Congress papers were not translated into Arabic or Tigrinia. Direct translations were causing some inaccuracies.  

In conclusion, and taking all factors into consideration, the ELF-RC 6th Congress was a resounding success by all counts. The morale was high and everybody was overwhelmed by a sense of success and confidence. Yet, there are challenges ahead on how to implement the decisions, and on the issue of how to manage diversity in multi-confessional and multi ethnic Eritrea. The other challenge is how to accommodate the young generation. The ELF-RC has created a new Office for Youth and Women’s Affairs thus showing how determined they are to face the challenges of the future.

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