PIA: Eritrea’s Broken Clock

Unless our watches and clocks are continuously synchronized with the Atomic Clock, our watches & clocks are out of sync with others.  But again, we don’t need to know if the time shown in our watches and clocks are absolutely correct as long as it is able to tell time approximately to what everybody else’s watches & clocks show.  You make up for the imprecision by showing up few minutes early to your appointment or meeting.

The proponents of broken clock say that the broken clock is the only precise machine because it is absolutely in synchrony with the Atom Clock twice a day.  For illustration, if a clock gets broken showing 3:15, it will be perfectly in synchrony with the Atomic Clock at 3:15 AM and 3:15 PM.  However there is a hitch in this argument in that the proud owner of the broken clock will never know when the broken clock is precisely in synchrony with the Atomic Clock unless he/she acquires a working clock synchronized with the Atomic Clock. 

I find that this analogy fits PIA and its fast dwindling PFDJ (acronym for PIA’s Front for Destruction and Jail-Everybody Party) because they refuse to synchronize their watches to domestic situations and the world, and would rather hold up their false sense of righteousness hoping that their broken clock is precise 0.139% (2 minutes in 1440 minute-day & even less precision if one calculates using seconds) of the time.

PIA is stuck in politics of yesteryears.  His ideas of Cultural Revolution and Great Leap Forward are broken clocks – stuck in time.  His idea that if he remains steadfast in his broken situation that the pendulum will swing his way eventually proving him right is illusionary.  The pendulum may swing one day but he won’t know when it will be synchronized with his clock, and will find too late that the pendulum had swung past him – denying him his tremendous longing for vindication.

Talking to some PIA supporters, I find that they are underpinning their hope NOT in what is taking place in Eritrea today but that PIA’s drunken policies will be vindicated one day in the future if they remain steadfast, like the broken clock stuck in one place, because eventually they will be proven right.  They forget that every Eritrean needs Eritrea to work, as imprecise as it may be, throughout the day, everyday.  It is false hope to say that Eritrea will be vindicated one day when we don’t know what the vindication will be and when it will be realized. 

As Min. Haile Drue said ten years ago, let us concentrate on building a strong country TODAY (the working clock) as the border will be demarcated one day (the broken clock).  Ten years later, his words couldn’t be any truer.  

PIA’s Eritrea is a Dying Nation

Every Eritrean that dies because of PIA/PFDJ’s injustice and every Eritrean that is locked up without due process of the law & justice is one more nail into the coffin of a nation called Eritrea.  If the untimely death of those 400 precious Eritreans eaten up by the Mediterranean Sea doesn’t shock every Eritrean then we have lost our souls. 

In some twisted way, a nation is a reflection of its national leader and, conversely, a national leader is a reflection of its people.  A passionate leader creates passionate people and nation.  A leader with hope creates people and nation with hope.  A cruel and bloodless leader creates cruel and bloodless people and nation.  But it doesn’t end with blaming the leader only.  People with hope expect nothing less from their leader.  People who have grown to be cruel will create a leader fit to their cruelty.  It is time, once again, to ask ourselves where we stand – are we nation of hope or cruelty?

In today’s Eritrea, it is those imprisoned physically in PFDJ Dungeons that have the moral strength as they don’t hear these tragedies, and instead it is the supposed free Eritreans that are suffering mental imprisonment in PFDJ Dungeons.

Response to the latest tragedy

Ms. Elsa Chyrum, as always, has done an excellent job in addressing this national tragedy.  She deserves the highest honors for her efforts of the last many years.  Assenna.com, again as always, and Asmarino.com have done an excellent job in reporting the incident right from the beginning.  Religious organizations are also mostly doing their jobs in their own ways. 

But where are the Eritrean civic and political organizations?  No communiqués please!  It is tragic when the only action plan we can formulate is publishing communiqués in response to every tragic situation.  This writer believes that Eritrean opposition websites should ban any communiqués from political parties or any other organization.  They are uninformative and give false sense of doing something.

Action 1:  Petition

EPDP’s letter to UN Secretary General and the President of the EU is a good start.  I haven’t seen any initiatives from the other opposition “parties”. But petition is the best way to respond to tragedies such as these and to address the plight of Eritrean refugees.  When UNSC imposed sanctions on PIA, its supporters coerced over 100,000 (according to their claim) to sign petitions opposing the sanction.  Why not us?

This petition should be called a “Petition for Eritrean Life”.   Those who fail to sign it will be told that this petition is a living document that will be kept for generations to show who stood for the life of ordinary Eritrean.

With the kind outrage people are feeling regarding the latest tragedy, and with the help of international advocacy groups, we should strive to get over 250,000 people to sign around the world.  This should be done while this tragedy is still fresh in our minds.

In order to assure petitioners that this is a humanitarian issue and not just a political issue, i.e. avoid the perception that this tragedy is being exploited for political reasons, the petition should be,

  1. sponsored by humanitarian organizations or civic societies that aren’t actively involved in opposition politics.  No one is best suited than Ms. Chyrum and her organization (Human Rights Concern Eritrea) as main sponsor, but co-sponsoring with other Eritrean humanitarian organizations (not affiliated with any political organization) will be added strength.
  2. the emphasis of the petition should be to encourage various world bodies and individual countries to respect the rights of Eritrean refugees and address their plights in humane ways and in urgent manner.  Moreover, an inquiry should be made into the circumstances of the latest tragedies.  There is no need to harp how bad the PIA regime is as it is public knowledge as published in thousands of reports including US’ Human Rights Report, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, CPJ and Reporters Without Borders.  



Action 2:  Legal Action

It took one man, Mr. Mussie Ephrem, and his friend to bring PIA to African Human Rights Commission and win a verdict pertaining to the illegal imprisonments of the G-11 and other prisoners’ of conscious.

What has EDA done in its years of existence to pursue legal means as part of its action plan?  Zilch, Nada, nothing, zero!  No one knows that it is good for.  

Unlike international human rights reports which are prepared unilaterally, commissions and courts require the accused to participate in the action.  The AU Human Rights Commission contacted the brutal regime and instead of responding in timely manner, it buried its head like an ostrich.  When AU was about to give its decision, the regime began to scramble giving excuses why it couldn’t respond in time.  

What have the opposition political parties and EDA have done to use international legal justice system to bring PFDJ criminals to court?  Victims of the Chilean dictator Pinochet were able to get their day in court in Spain although Chile remained silent.  The Internal Criminal Court (ICC) is concentrating on African leaders in order to create precedence and it is widening its definition of the abuse of power creating precedence that is encroaching on what PIA is doing to its population

Eritrean opposition is weak because all we are good at is talk … and no action.  Our idea of action is somewhere between character assassination and picking a gun.  There is no refined skills and knowledge that allow us to use many other alternatives available to us.   If this all our opposition parties can muster to address burning issues, then we are in trouble.

Action Plan in General:  Restructuring the Opposition Camp for Result

Opposition camp’s weakness in mounting strong and sustainable resistance against the regime is a reflection of our inexperience and inability to work together in pragmatic manner.  We, including this writer, try to be individual warriors who take on the world and eventually be recognized as heroes. 

Many others try to be Eritrea’s “Oracle”, spewing out predictions as if they hold ultimate wisdom when in fact they are totally meaningless.  In fact, they are detached from reality.

Resistance against the regime and establishing democratic Eritrea is NOT about individual efforts alone, endless analysis and trying to be Eritrea’s “Oracle”.  It is about working together in prudent manner with noticeable results in being achieved everyday.  Noticeable and concrete results exclude more meetings, more discussions and more communiqués.  These should be left for glorified afternoon coffee time instead of as masquerading as political action.

Instead of wasting our efforts in establishing some form of government-in-exile (referred to in various names but is effectively that) and “draft transitional constitution”, the opposition camp should be organized as follows,

Cluster 1:  Legal Groups – there are already a couple of Eritrean law societies which should be pursuing legal actions as mentioned above.  To reiterate, bring active PFDJ members to account for their acts in Western Courts. 

Cluster 2Financial Groups – these groups, and as needed in cooperation with legal groups, would trace all the monies flowing through the PFDJ and its cohorts’ accounts around the world.  For instance, mining companies in Eritrea may be required to divulge certain information to the public and thus may be able to find how much is being paid to “government of Eritrea” and specifically to whom.  The same can be pursued for Himbol Financials and other PFDJ financial organs and individuals.  We can use various ‘access to information’ laws in the West to get damning information.  What is the impact of the increase of the price of oil on Eritrea?  This group would give analysis.  Find & Expose!   Kudos to Assenna.com for giving us a glimpse into PIA & Son’s wealth in Hong Kong.

Cluster 3Media Groups – we have some excellent web media but still lack cooperation.  Each has its own strength – Asmarino.com in its simple but effective message packaged in visual media, Awate.com in its excellent analysis, Assenna.com in its excellent journalism and others with their own unique contributions.  But each lives in separate world.  They need to recalibrate their cooperation in order to pool together their limited resources for even more effective results.  They should also work closely with CPJ and Reporters Without Borders.

Cluster 4Humanitarian and Other Civic Associations –  we have some excellent organizations, esp. in Ms. Chyrum and her organization.  If anyone is expecting results today then we have it in Ms. Chyrum.  She is a prime example what an action oriented organization is about.  What about the others?  Civic Associations should be tasked with organizing rallies, demonstrations, petitions and advocating for human rights.  People are reluctant to support rallies organized by political organizations for various reasons, but rallies organized by civic and humanitarian organizations appear politically rally and focused on today’s burning issues.

All of the above clusters should be free from participating and associating themselves with political organizations.  Each cluster should remain independent and umbrella groups for local chapters or subgroups within each cluster may be established.  Otherwise, they get drawn into petty politics of tomorrow instead of using their limited energies for today’s actions and results.

Cluster 5:  Political Associations – As much the opposition camp attempts to portray itself as establishing Eritrea’s future political parties, it would have been more effective if it perceived itself as political advocacy groups.  Their primary function would be to establish relations with foreign governments and national political parties.  It is not enough to have one contact with US State Department or EU Foreign Department but to continuously lobby the same bodies through different means throughout the year. 

Eritrean politics, be it PFDJ or opposition political parties, live in insular world.  We have to change! This cluster should develop sophisticated political propaganda based on simple messages that puts every segment of the Eritrean population, esp. the cohesive power groups, onboard with the opposition.   There are a couple of non-religious organizations with non-insular inclinations, Ms. Chyrum’s organization and CDRiEUnfortunately CDRiE is accused of being a puppet for its most non-insular approaches.  When EPDP tried to step into non-insular world, it was accused of trying to escape that world.  We don’t know how to survive in a non-insular world, and anyone that attempts to escape that is viewed negatively.  Our ties with EPDRF should not be viewed as an escape from that insular world but just an extension of that insular world.  Similarly, if the Eritrean public is to be convinced that the opposition political parties are ready to lead, they must show us that they can survive, if not thrive, in non-insular world. 


As for EDA/ENCDC, it is an experiment in the wrong direction.  Every effort is being expended on future events with zillion variables when those same efforts should be used to remove the regime today.  It is like the old saying where ‘four friends were haggling where to tie the goat when they don’t even know how to get the goat in the first place’.  EDA/ENCDC is engaged in academic discussion and mobilized for future events that have NO immediate effect or use.  Many of the cyber writers, as articulate they may be, are no better in that they are busy with academic discussions thinking that they hold ultimate wisdom.  As attractive as government-in-exile is in theory, building trust with the public and overcoming past challenges will require tremendous efforts that will only compete with the limited resources that should be used to campaign against the regime today and remove it as quickly as possible.

One fundamental fact that we must understand about politics is that people primarily vote for those candidates that they trust rather than on policies, which tend to be complicated.  People instinctively believe that their trusted leader knows what is best for them, and if problems do arise, which inevitably do it is proven that people are most forgiving, that the leader can address them without resorting to underhanded politics to cover mistakes.  Trust is about ‘saying what one means, and means what one says’, upholding shared valued in personal lives (no drunkenness, respecting others, etc…).  We have to hold leaders accountable to their acts.  If we ever see them drunk, for instance, we should throw them out of hearts the next day.  Leadership, those who have chosen to be in such position out of free will, is a twenty-four, seven days a week (24X7) responsibility.  If we want a nine-to-five (9-to5) life, then become average Joe & Jill like the rest of us.  Those who want the best of both worlds bring misery.

What today’s Eritrea’s needs is tangible action plans that are able to harness our current resources for today’s results.  Political musical chairs in post-PFDJ Eritrea and academic discussions about external invasions without having inkling about its consequences have no place.  These types of activisms only expose our lack of experience and lack of political judgment – to the detriment of everything that we are struggling for.

Eritrea-Libya-Qatar:  Strange bedfellows

Indeed, politics makes for strange bedfellows.  Qatar is one of the main financiers of PIA’s brutal regime.  Yet, Eritrea and Qatar find themselves diametrically opposed to the situation in Libya.  PIA cried foul regarding NATO’s active involvement against his brother Ghadaffi, who had been distancing himself from PIA for some time.  As money hungry as PIA is in the footsteps of every dictator in the world, they have plenty of room for forgiveness to those who ‘betray’ them if they are rich enough to throw money around.  

If reports are correct, PIA may have sent Eritrean troops to help prop up the Libyan Regime.  On the other hand of the conflict is Qatar which finds itself as the biggest opponent of the Ghadaffi regime and has committed assets to enforce the UN’s resolution against Libya.  Qatar has recognized the opposition government in Benghazi as the legitimate government in direct conflict with PIA.    

To make matters worse, this latest Libya venture has brought Qatar, Britain and France closer to each other.  The latest meeting of the Libyan Contact Group was co-chaired by Qatar and Britain in Doha. 

Britain-Qatar-Eritrea:  Brewing Situation

Britain is one of the most active supporters of Ethiopia, which puts it in a more biased situation towards Eritrea.  Britain has been the biggest proponents of all forms of sanctions again Eritrea and PIA has NOT taken this fact too well.  Instead of pursuing mature diplomatic offensive to win over Britain, PIA is doing the only thing he thinks he is capable of – antagonize.

A couple of years ago, PIA kidnapped some 8 British citizens along the Eritrean-Ethiopian border in Dankalia.  Under international pressure, PIA released them saying that it was the Afar Liberation Movement (actually Eritrean Defense Forces in local dress) that had mistakenly kidnapped them. 

Now we have the case of 4 British citizens who are being held incommunicado in Eritrea.  In violation of the Vienna Convention, which Eritrea is signatory, PIA has refused to allow consular access.   PIA has refused to respond to British concerns and demands.  Would Britain use its Qatari connection to ensure that PIA responds in timely manner?  If PIA still refuses, would Qatar stop funding PIA and even refuse him medical treatment if pressured by Britain?

France-Qatar-Eritrea-Djibouti:  Hanish Islands Revised

The Libya venture has brought France closer to Qatar.  France is now reasserting its power in Libya and Ivory Coast.  The more assertive Sarkosy’s France will advocate for Djibouti’s right in the border dispute with Eritrea mediated by Qatar.

If PIA refuses to heed to Qatar’s diplomatic advices, Eritrea may end up losing land to Djibouti as we did with the Hanish Islands with Yemen.  It is to be remembered that France had helped Yemen win the dispute with Eritrea. 

Will PIA’s clumsy and angry man’s politics result in Eritrea losing more land to its neighbors?

Alena & Meskerem.net Sophisticated Politics in Tandem

In my view, these two political participants play insidious games in the opposition camp.  In my view, Alena & Meskerem.net are playing a tag team for the regime in order to create a wedge within the opposition camp

Alena’s role is to isolate EPDP from the rest of the opposition camp by alienating EPDP through character assassination, while meskerem.net’s role is take EPDP’s side.  The opposition camp, esp. EDA and opposition cyber-writers, has become unwitting victim to this sophisticated game of driving a wedge.   

Alena’s Game

This writer has started another round of campaign against members of the opposition camp, especially against Mr. Mesfin Hagos & Amb. Abdella Adem.  In his latest article ostensibly written to expose PIA’s crimes, the article mentions PIA in general context while dedicating over half of its article especially on Mr. Mesfin Hagos and also Amb. Abdella Adem.  If Alena is really solely interested in “telling the truth”, why not write about the hundreds of core PFDJ lackeys and supporters?  But again, exposing PFDJ crimes isn’t the true purpose of Alena’s writings although Alena must throw in some meat with the bones to appear genuine.

The entire purpose of Alena’s strings of articles is designed to pretend to support EDA/ENCDC while attacking EPDP on behalf of its suspected masters.  EDA/ ENCDC has enthusiastically embraced Alena more out of political convenience – the enemy of my (any) enemy is my friend.  Alena’s articles haven’t shed any light on Eritrea’s plights other than to create ill-will within the opposition camp.  What else has Alena achieved?  As mentioned in last article, Alena thrives in lawlessness of the cyber world.  Alena is an extension of the PFDJ world that none of us want to be part of.  For instance, when G-15 opposed PIA, each of the G-15 were falsely and maliciously accused of the followings, and which fits Alena’s world,

}  Min. Mahmoud Sheriffo was accused of bribery and corruption in issuing illegal exit visa

}  Min. Ouqbe Abraha was accused of embezzling Red Sea “09” funds

}  Min. Petros Solomon was accused of secretly dealing with the CIA

}  Min. Haile Drue was accused of having ties with the Ethiopian regime

}  Etc….

All of the above were BLATANT LIES, LIES AND MORE LIES ….

In fact not one shred of evidence has been given in the last ten years.  In early 2002, when the rubber stamping Eritrean Parliament convened for the last time, it instructed the government to divulge the evidence, which was none, against the accused members of parliament immediately to the public.  The parliament was promptly shut down.  People are never found guilty through the Court of Public Minds or cyber space but through competent court that follows established rules of evidence.

Alena is a product of that world that we are trying to throw out with the regime.  To reiterate, “I am sorry I misinformed my readers” doesn’t wash in Court of Law unless it was a genuine error.  Although this writer has layman’s understanding of the law but it is suffice to say that Alena is in most likelihood in breach of the followings,

}  Defamation Laws (Libel = written or Slander = verbal) – pertain to conscious and deliberate efforts to defame others.  In situation like these, the burden of proof is on the accuser to show that he/she has solid proof

}  Tort Laws – pertains to negligence resulting in damage to the plaintiff.  If the defendant doesn’t pursue “due diligence” in his/her action or doesn’t act in a manner that a ‘reasonable person’ would then that person is guilty of negligence.  “Sorry I didn’t mean to say or do that” or any other retractions don’t work in a land where the legal system works. 

In fact, Alena’s existence is to poison the entire Eritrean politics, which only further distances the general public from engaging in politics in positive manner. Differences of opinion on how to wage the current struggle is natural and we should debate them at issues level only.


At least, Meskerem.net does NOT pretend that it is against the regime.  Its function within the PFDJ propaganda is to create a wedge between EPDP oriented opposition against EDA/ENCDC. 

However, this website is active in abusing people’s love and concern for their country for its political advantage by muddying up the political realities of today.  It pretends to be more “Catholic than the Pope” in that it thinks that can rally more Eritreans for the regime’s cause by raising the Eritrean flag higher than others.  Sorry Meskerem.net, although we have deep differences of opinion within the opposition camp on how to address burning issues but no one is more patriotic than another.  The opposition camp in general works for betterment of Eritrea.  The only people putting Eritrea in danger are PFDJites with their cruel politics of yesteryears. 

Meskerem.net’s tag-team game with Alena is obvious for everyone to see. 


As much as Meskerem.net may think that it can drive a wedge among the opposition camp by creating negative hype against PM Meles (PMMZ), it is suffice to say that this is cheap propaganda that doesn’t work.

There is no doubt that PMMZ is far more shrewd and prudent politician than PIA.  PMMZ has outplayed and outmaneuvered PIA at every move for the last ten years.  No higdefawiyan can claim a single victory against PMMZ, other than to say that they will be vindicated one day.  That day could be the Year 3000.

As expressed in my last article, PMMZ deserves credit for doing a good job for his country.  However, it would be naïve to think that PMMZ, as good leader he is, would think outside his countries’ strategy to maximize its interest at the expense of other countries.  As such PMMZ can only work towards a weak satellite called Eritrea, which eventually gives up one of its ports to Ethiopian sovereignty through shrewd and manipulative politics.

Towards this end, Eritrean opposition can only be a tool towards PMMZ’s ultimate aim of creating a subservient nation.  For PMMZ, the immediate purpose of the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ within the Eritrean opposition is to play ‘tit-for-tat’ against the PIA regime which has been actively supporting and arming Ethiopian opposition.  As PIA is playing the ethnic card in the hope of weakening Ethiopia, PMMZ can only respond in kind.  “I will burn you in the same fire that you wanted me to burn” is the cruel politics of the day.

Politics is a belief that says that as long as one takes care of today that tomorrow will take care of itself.   For PMMZ, and same for PIA or any other leader, the value of Eritrean opposition is in using them today against their immediate political threats and nothing about tomorrow.  Tomorrow is too far away in dog-eat-dog world of politics.  Of course, the opposition is selling its soul today for tomorrow’s possibility; not true politics!

PMMZ has studied PIA very well and knows that despite PIA’s aggressively antagonistic actions towards Ethiopia, PIA is the best suited person to create a weak and subservient Eritrea.  PMMZ knows that the vindictive PIA’s war is primarily against his colleagues who “betrayed” him and the Eritrean people.

Would PMMZ launch another round fresh war against Eritrea?  Despite the latest tooth-rattling, and although anything is possible, the probability is extremely low.  PMMZ and company are masters at psychological warfare.  An actual war, which PIA is just itching for to roll his dice, would be destructive to both countries.  The winds of war are unpredictable and the biggest loser would be PMMZHaving pushed PIA into a corner through shrewd international politics and diplomacy, the only way PIA can wiggle out of his corner or predicament is if war is launched.  PMMZ would give PIA an opportunity to escape.

By announcing the increase of military spending, PMMZ is forcing PIA to increase his own military budget.  By increasing the paranoia, PIA will resort to more brutal acts that will weaken Eritrea while eventually removing him through internal uprising.  This is not unlike the Regan US that forced the then Soviet Union to engage in arms race, such as Star Wars Program, leading to Soviet Union’s already weak economy to collapse.  PMMZ is further weakening PIA by forcing him to commit to guns than bread.    

This is shrewd psychological and economic warfare on PIA.

ENCDC Draft Constitution – Bait & Switch Document

ENCDC’s draft constitution had briefly appeared on ENSF’s website sometime in mid-March 2011.  My interest had piqued because none of the other websites had carried it, including the owners of the document, encdc.com.  I have attached a copy of the draft in Tigrigna & English (author: Bairu).  The Arabic version wasn’t available.

Bait & Switch is a marketing scheme whereby businesses advertise products at unprofitably low price to attract customers into their stores, but then inform customers that the product is sold out and that they can buy substitute products at more attractive price than competitors.  Some consider this marketing scheme as fraudulent because the business had no intention of selling the product at the advertised price.

The ENCDC Draft Constitution may appear attractive as it mostly states points we all more-or-less agree on, but buries the most contentious issues in Section 93 towards the end of the document.  It is a bait & switch document because they are telling us that if they were to get into power, they intend to make wholesale changes under Section 93 that will fit their hidden agenda.

I raise the issue of ENCDC Constitution more to enhance our understanding of the constitution-making process than believing that the ENCDC Constitution would ever see the light of day (i.e. will never get implemented).  If nothing else, domestic population and internal forces must accept it.

The document is titled “Transitional Draft Constitution of Eritrea”.  One can see much similarity with the Ethiopian Constitution, except the Ethiopian Constitution is more detailed while the ENCDC draft constitution is hesitant and designed to suit bait-and-switch political agenda.   In my understanding “Transitional” suggests the Constitution will change and that it is being used more as an interim document.  “Draft” just means that the document is still “work in progress”.  But the question is, can you have a ‘transitional’ constitution?  This is especially true for a transitional constitution that starts with a complicated government structure and is difficult to reverse once established.  ENCDC commissioners who believe in ‘goodwill’ than in ironing out fine prints in national documents will destroy the country.

Are there any issues with ENCDC’s Draft Constitution?  Before answering that question, it is important to examine the components of a Constitution,

Constitution (in general) =   Bill of Rights & Freedoms + System of Government

System of Government is generally divided as follows (although this is not carved in stone but is generally agreed upon)

}  System of Government = Executive body + Legislative + Judicial

}  Government Structure (generally but not necessarily)

= Federal/Central + Provincial/State/Region/Zone + Municipal/Sub-Zone 

Structured as Centralized, Decentralized or Federal

Bill of Rights & Freedoms

There isn’t too much debate when discussing the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals and groups.  It is established by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations Charter with local flavors added to it.

The challenges of rights & freedoms are in upholding them.  The general public must be aware of its rights & freedoms, willing to assert those rights & freedoms and the legal system must have the capacity and independence to carry out its duties.

Political Aspects of Constitution:  System of Government, Rights of Nationalities

This is where ENCDC’s document jumps into torment. 

Article 5:  Self-Determination of Nationalities, is entrenched in the document.  The Ethiopian Constitution states that the rights of nationalities to self-determination is protected, including stating clearly that ‘secession’ is also a right. The ENCDC document leaves out the secession part.  Although ENCDC is deliberately leaving the word “secession” out of the document, the whole intention is there.   What does self-determination alone mean in concrete ways?

Article 6: Internal Federation:  this section of the document entrenches federation, worded in many ways into the national fabric.  Although no one can dismiss federation as one option, but where is the debate?  Who decides what the structure will be?  Do we have the legal and structural capacity to operate at that level?

Article 92: Amendments & Additions to the Constitution:  the provisions are weak in that changes can be made with absolute majority.  Constitution shouldn’t be amended so easily and must go through rigorous process and super-majority (two-third to three-quarter) to pass.  Otherwise it is a political document and not source of law and shared principles.  Failing that, it becomes just another legislative bill.  It is sad to see that seeking the public’s input through referendum is considered ‘straight-jacketing’ the constitution. 

Article 93: Bill of Rights and Acts of the National Assembly:  this section of the document weakens the fundamental rights entrenched in Chapter 2 and 3 of the proposed ENCDC Constitution.  Fundamental means fundamental, and this section weakens fundamental rights for political reasons.  Any constitution that weakens fundamental rights through exit provisions in other parts of the constitution or easily amendable provisions is not worth the paper it is written on.    

Other Comments:

Article 13:  Right of Residence – is voluntary mass migration allowed?

Article 14: Right to found political parties – in prohibiting divisive associations, what does ENCDC mean in divisive associations, and what are some examples?

Article 25:  Freedom of Assembly – although some of the restrictions are understandable, the reasons for restrictions will be abused by governments.

Article 61.2:  the president is elected by the people.  80% of the population lives in rural areas with little access to information.  Some 60-80% of the population is functionally illiterate.  How do people know which presidential candidate to elect?  When people lack information they resort to ethnic & religious reasons for choosing their president.  It is Ivory Coast, Haiti and many others have had negative experience, although Ghana is positive example.  The US uses the Electoral College system which is a procedural variation of people choosing their president. 

It is for this reason that Eritrean public debate is needed.

In general, although the members of the ENCDC will get some experience in constitution making, this document lacks the benefits of public debate.  ENCDC will say that this is only a draft document and that they intend to discuss it with the public, still hoping that the public won’t ‘straight-jacket’ it (per comment in Article 92). 

What kind of work is needed in implementing the Constitution?

This is only for discussion only:

Implementing the Bill of Rights & Freedoms:

}  This requires that the public is knowledgeable of its rights and freedoms

}  The public should be energized enough to assert its rights and freedoms.  Those who advocate for internal change are trying to empower and energize the public.  Changes that occur through external intervention don’t empower the public but only further creates cynical population that is incapable of asserts its rights.

}  There must be competent judicial system

}  Court cases must be accessible to and be debated by the public

Implementing government structure

}  Requires highly competent individuals with different backgrounds to make it work

Implementing the Political System requires

}  Formulating Election laws – this may include whether we are using first-past-the-post system or proportional representation, and balancing the unfair access by incumbent to public resources for campaign purposes.

}  Election Financing laws:  including limits on individual donations & public access to sources of party funding

}  Multi-party laws – will it like Min. Sheriffo’ proposal requiring political parties to field from the majority of the ethnic groups or are solely ethnic and religious parties allowed?  Would parties be allowed to own assets?

Other related issues are:

}  Census, which may take up to two years to formulate and undertake, is needed to determine the exact size of the population and where they live

}  Consensus must be reached whether representation (constituents) are based solely on population or some variation of that

}  Would Diaspora Eritreans be allowed to vote and what are the requirements?

}  Will there enough ‘sunshine laws’, i.e. access to government information, to allow the public, media and other opposition to access government information that can be used to campaign on. 

}  Strong, independent and competent judicial system to address election irregularities … and many other issues.


Nselam.com & Opposition TV broadcast on the web

I am not sure whether the opposition television broadcast has pulled the plug or if nselem.com has stopped broadcasting it on its website after many months of service without any explanations, possibly due to heavy criticism, but this is typical response from Eritrean political world. It still links to Al Jazeera. When faced with criticism, our immediate reaction is to shut out those who criticize us.  That is pathetic!  Is this the kind of future we are looking forward to under the opposition?  We are judged by what makes us different from the PFDJ world.

May God Comfort those in Mourning!

Berhan Hagos

April 15, 2011

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