What is interim constitution and why is it needed now?

                                          By Fesseha Nair

The Eritrean National commission for democratic change is preparing four papers as congress discussion papers. They are the following:

–         Broad National Charter

–         Road map to democracy

–         Broad national organizational Statute

–         Interim – Constitution

In this article I will deal with the fourth paper on interim-constitution.

Why interim constitution at this time?

The issue of constitution is the first issue that comes immediately after the fall of the dictatorship. The new democratic system will require an interim- constitution that establishes the desired framework of the transition from the fall of the dictatorship to the establishment of the permanent constitution.

Interim –constitution is supposed to govern during the transitional period – from the fall of dictatorship until the permanent constitution established. 

It comes into effect when the regime falls and is handed over to a caretaker government composed the sovereignty of all political organizations. The interim –constitution will function as a basic law during the year of transition until an elected Assembly can draw up a permanent constitution inside the fixed time.

Many argue that what is the need of drafting a constitution at this time? We have already a drafted constitution of 1997 or the constitution of the federation of 1952.

Both the drafted constitutions of 1997 and of 1952 were not designed to manage the internal conflict of the Eritrean diversity. They were not arranged in a way that provides the people the opportunity to discuss on their fundamental rights and freedoms except they were granted by those who were in power.

The Eritrean people has never discussed on them freely and democratically.

 The 1997 constitution drafted but not implemented was under the control of dictatorship. It was not people’s constitution but a one mans constitution and later called a worthless paper and was thrown away by the self- appointed president. If it was of the people why didn’t they defend their constitution and fight against the dictatorship?

When the constitution of the 1952 was violated by Ethiopian Emperor, we have seen student demonstrations and later labour unions demonstrations and it was these uprisings that were the background of the long armed struggle of liberation. But, why didn’t such uprising not happened by those who call themselves democrats in the opposition camp?

An interim constitution is the transitional basic law of the transitional caretaker government until the permanent constitution is drafted and processed. The reason why the coming congress takes it as it discussion agenda is because it is the part of the struggle for democratic transition that goes parallel with the struggle against dictatorship. The second reason why the congress takes this issue is because there is no suitable old constitution therefore it is necessary to prepare an interim- constitution this time. Popular participation in this process is desirable and is required so that a new constitution that facilitates dictatorship will not be arranged by those opportunists and future dictators.

Key features of the interim constitution:

–         Directive principles of the state

–         Citizenship

–         Fundamental Rights & Duties

–         Fundamental freedoms

–         Interim Legislature

–         Interim- Government

–         Interim Court

–         Interim security provisions

–         Constitutional bodies

–         Autonomous and local administrations

–         Constituent Assembly

–         Transitional Justice and reconciliation

–         Other miscellaneous provisions

Transition from dictatorship to democracy is both fighting the dictatorship and at the same time preparing laying the foundations of democracy. The forces for democratic change who now unite must agree( Comprehensive agreement) in the four main agendas in order to make smooth and well prepared transition to democracy. This draft is not an end but it will be discussed by all the Eritrean people and at last promulgated and enforced by the Eritrean people.

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