What will be the outcome of the national congress for democratic change?

By Fesseha Nair


Over the past years since the foundation ofAlliance, new concept such as alliance building between political organizations and later the building of partnership with civil society organizations have introduced us into the development of debate and dialogue has been our most important strategic means to reach our objectives.


The EDA has shown its maturity at past conference building partnership with all forces for democratic change. The conference has taken into account the great variety of forces and interests that influence and drive the process of democratization inEritrea. What has become more evident during the conference is not only optimising the requirements of further broadening of the organization but leaving open the gate of dialogue for those who couldn’t participate.


The EDA, and all forces for democratic change need to prepare themselves. Preparation is important but can also if there is lack of flexibility be an impediment to compromise, which is a requirement. If the coming national congress is to lead to outcome acceptable by all parties we must ask ourselves are we prepared. All forces for democratic change must come to common understanding


The EDA and other political organizations must reach deeper involving all groups of society including civil society, the private sector, women and youth. Fostering consultation with all stakeholders should be EDA’s principal objective in order to ensure the incorporation of all parties’ interests.



All popular uprisings inNorth Africaand theMiddle Eastdemand after the fall of dictatorships freedom and justice. For example, inTunisiaimmediately after the fall of the dictatorship the interim council repealed the current constitution and formed interim-constitutions dealing with the past and repairing the path towards democracy.


In Egypt directly after the fall of the dictatorship the governing Supreme Council of the Armed Forces announced an interim- constitutional declaration that will act as the country’s main set of laws during a transitional period.


The Supreme Council repealed the old constitution on February 13, soon after President Hosni Mubarak was forced to step down by a popular uprising.



The documents drafted by the Eritrean National Commission For Democratic Change are the initial documents but are not final. They are disseminated for negotiations and public opinion.There are many critics against these documwents by many scholars. Their critics is not on the contents but on its participation and its untimely appearing. All the documents cannot be implemented at this time but they are materials for discussion. Some compare these documents with the draft constitution of 1997. These documents belong to the opposition forces. The post –dictatorial Eritrea all these documents will be discussed at the National Conference for reconciliation at home Eritrea. It is that conference who decide the transition. The people discuss on them and prepare themselves for building democratic society in Eritrea.


These documents provide a historic bridge between the past of a deeply divided society characterised by strife, conflict, untold suffering and injustice, and a future founded on the recognition of human rights, democracy and peaceful co-existence and development opportunities for all Eritreans, irrespective of colour, race, class, belief or sex. The pursuit of national unity, the well-being of all Eritrean citizens and peace require reconciliation between the people of Eritrea and the reconstruction of society.

The adoption of these documents lay the secure foundation for the people of Eritrea to transcend the divisions and strife of the past, which generated gross violations of human rights, the transgression of humanitarian principles in violent conflicts and a legacy of hatred, fear, guilt and revenge.

These can now be addressed on the basis that there is a need for understanding but not for vengeance, a need for reparation but not for retaliation, a need for healing but not for victimisation.


In order to advance such reconciliation and reconstruction, justice shall be granted in respect of acts, omissions and offences associated with political objectives and committed in the course of the conflicts of the past. To this end, the forthcoming national congress of the Eritrean opposition forces will adopt these documents and open a new chapter to the Eritrean people.



2.   There are three modes of transition to democracy:


Which mode of transition is possible in Eritrea?


1. Transformation: when the ruling elite at the top comes to conclusion that the time has come for them to relinquish power and they initiate the process of change.እቲ ኣብ ኤርትራ ዘሎ ስርዓት ንስልጣኑ ክገድፍ መስርሕ ናይ ለውጢ ምስ ዝጅምር

2. Replacement: The people at the bottom or the ruled revolt against the ruling elite and replace them with a new government. እቲ ሕዝቢ ተላዒሉ ነቲ ዝመርሕ ስርዓት ኣልጊሱ ብሓድሽ መንግስቲ ምስዝተክል

3. Transplacement:  Moderates within the authoritarian regime and liberals who are likely to favour compromise from the opposition movements cooperate and initiate the process of change.ማእከሎት ኣብ ውሽጢ እቲ ስርዓት ምስ ሊበራላውያን ካብ ተቃወምቲ መስርሕ ናይ ለውጢ ምስዝጅምሩ።


In case of Eritrea, we see no openings from the ruling party for transformation or transpalcement. The opportunity to transition by transformation or transplacement is not apparent at this time. How about the replacement? I think if the forces for democratic change unite their forces, this can be a strong pressure for opening inside the dictatorship


3.  Practising parliamentary Democracy in the opposition camp while struggling against the dictatorship


The Eritrean Commission for democratic change is commissioned to prepare national congress where all forces for democratic change participate. The aim of this congress is to energize the struggle and accelerate the fall of current dictatorship and build pact between all the stakeholders. It is to open the door for negotiations and then to manage effectively the process of transition. The commission’s assignment is broad and large so that it needs knowledge and skills to meet the needs of the Eritrean people in its diverse issues and interests.


In this article,   I will briefly discuss on the organization, composition and function of the Eritrean National Council for Democratic Change/ ENCDC.


The Eritrean National Council is the Council of Resistance against the dictatorship and serves as a shadow parliament of the Eritrean Opposition forces working for democratic transition in Eritrea. A shadow Parliament is an alternative parliament to the non-functioning transitional parliament of the dictatorship in Eritrea. Eritreais today a polis state ruled by one man without parliament and constitution. In a democratic political system, the parliament or the legislature is the authoritative institution for the expression and resolution of policy conflict. Its authority is obtained from its representatives in a state and its constitutional status as the supreme law-enacting body.  But, what about the Shadow parliament that will be formed by the congress? The authority of the Shadow parliament will be derived from the representatives of the participants of the broad national congress. The Shadow parliament will act as the main representative body of the opposition forces for democratic change in Eritreareflecting the society’s divergent opinions at the political level. It is thus able expressing and resolving the wide range of conflicts within the Eritrean society. The Shadow Parliament creates the conditions for the emergence of cooperative antagonists, thus even though they disagree on public policies but they agree on structure and rules providing them the basis for the expression of their conflicts.


Practising such norms and procedures can give them necessary skills for the future when they get the mandate from the public.


The opposition forces for democratic change can practice how to resolve conflicts at the legislative arena. The Shadow parliament is the platform where a new democratic system is introduced while struggling against the dictatorship.


The formation of “Shadow Parliaments” were experienced in many countries during their struggle against dictators or colonialists.


4. Composition of the Shadow Parliament/ National Council of Resistance


The composition of the Shadow Parliament depends on the Size and Number of the opposition forces who participated at the congress. The assumed congress that will be convened by the Eritrean National Commission for democratic change will be open and wide that all with goodwill be invited to participate, if the case is so, then the composition will be diverse including all forces for democratic change, namely political organizations, civil society organizations, trade unions, women and youth associations, independents, elders and veterans. The composition will be all inclusive, for example, if the number of the congress participants is to be over 300 the council members can be 53 representing all proportionally.


The election of the Shadow Parliament during the congress must be proposed by the electorate commission and be presented at the congress, or the ombudsman can nominate their representatives and then be elected at the congress. Members of the shadow parliament should have sufficient educational and professional skills to be capable legislators.


How can the Shadow Parliament organised and function?


The elected or appointed shadow parliament can organize its functions by the mechanism of forming standing committees ranging from 10 to 15 in every legislature. This mechanism makes the members of the shadow parliament more active and engaged in their specific affairs. For example, a shadow parliaments committee for foreign relations work with the issues of foreign policies. It proposes policies or legislations and brings it to the shadow parliament for final voting on the floor. Different committees are formed to address specific topical subjects.


The Eritrean National Council of Resistance can divide its members in committees.  As I early mentioned the shadow parliament can elect an executive government and the executive body must also form committees on specific topical subjects. For example, the foreign executive must have a committee working within the foreign policies.


The shadow parliament and the shadow executive can assemble in plenary session two times a year. The shadow parliament must have its own rules and procedures by which legislation is proposed and decided. Rules are very important they prescribe and define the relationship between majority and minority. Rules permit the majority to act within defined procedures and thus within defined limits. The advantage of stable rules of procedure is that all members of the shadow parliament can know and work within the same framework. Decisions can be passed by voting or consensus depending on their importance.


The shadow parliament should elect a presiding officer.

( Speaker, president ) vice- president who heads the parliament and oversees the rules and procedures. One or more central governing bodies will assist the president officer in creating the committee structure in issuing bills to committees the legislature schedule and resolving disputes over both the schedules and procedures.


The Shadow Parliament will require full time professional support staff to function both efficiency and expertise. A staff will be required for the clerical functions of recording debates and votes during the meetings. The Shadow Parliament should provide training courses to its members how parliament democracy works. The seat of the shadow parliament will be decided at the congress.


The Shadow Executive elected by the Shadow parliament must be from the political organizations working fulltime in politics, while the Shadow Parliament members are free time politicians. Members of the Shadow Executive are at the same time members of the Shadow parliament.( British Model)  The Shadow Executive and the Shadow parliament should work collectively and as equals to avoid authoritarianism.




This article is to lead for discussion on the expected formation of an institution of the legislature as an instrument of conflict resolving in the Eritrean National forces for democratic change. Designing for these institutions is crucial at this time if the opposition is to succeed in transition to democracy. Many can ask, how can the Eritrean opposition build such institutions at this time while they are still struggling against the dictator. Transition from dictatorship to democracy in Eritrea is now ready, the tyranny in Eritrea have lost national and international legitimacy and to gain this legitimacy the opposition must show their maturity by showing the international, regional and national communities that they are ready to transfer the power to the people.




  1. 1.   Attila. 1995. The Experience of the first democratic parliaments in East Central Europe.
  2. 2.   Olson, David M. 1995. “ Parliament by Design” , East European constitutional Review.
  3. 3.   Malcolm Shaw, Committees in Legislatures

popular uprising is also complicated. What is then the alternative?

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