Struggling the dictatorship and Planning for democracy

By Fesseha Nair

                     It should be remembered that against a dictatorship the objective of the grand strategy is not simply to bring down the dictators but to install a democratic system and make the rise of a new dictatorship impossible


                                        Gene Sharp



Based on Gene Sharp’s studies on dictatorships and the struggle against them, I would like to remind my readers by writing some ideas in this short article to be taken in consideration at the forthcoming national congress for democratic change in Addis Abeba.




It should be remembered that while we struggle to end the dictatorship we must also plan how we will build democraticEritreaafter the post dictatorship inEritrea. The coming congress for democratic change must have a clear understanding of the struggle to end dictatorship and installing democraticEritreaare two inseparable tasks to be discussed at this congress and continue to be debated by all concerned Eritreans for democracy.


There are arguments that emphasize, “we don’t need to discuss about what will happen after the end dictatorship” and, the are other counter arguments supporting the need for discussion on the post conflict period. 


But the two are inseparable as evidenced by Gene Sharp’s academic studies on the struggle from dictatorship to democracy.


Transition to democracy has many phases of struggle. In our case, we are still in the initial period –organizing ourselves to struggle against the dictatorship. The period directly after the end of dictatorship is the volatile period. This period is pre – interim period where the opposition forces or the unelected political organizations take the responsibility to secure peace and stability in the country after the end of the dictator.



 We still have no common strategy to end the dictatorship but divided in groups fighting against each other. In the past 12 years we failed to unite our forces against the dictatorship and still we are living in mistrust and suspicion.


The Eritrean National Commission for democratic change that was entrusted to prepare the congress couldn’t have a clear understanding on the agenda and issues for the congress should be. As their later negotiations show they have omitted the interim period and only taken the period of struggle to end dictatorship.


As my follow up records there were four papers drafted by the commission but now I see the four drafted papers will not discuss on the plan for democracy or the interim- period that is the crucial period of the transition.


I remember when the Somali forces that ended Siad Bares dictatorship were not in agreement how they will proceed after the fall of Siad Bare. What happened then? Power vaccum led to warlords.


When Siad Bare’s dictatorship ended they were divided in warlords and fought( civil wars) each other.The Somali war lords couldn’t unite because they don’t’ have a previously signed agreement on how they will proceed after the end of Siad Bare’s dictatorship. Yet , we see the same destination inEgypttoday after Mubarks end of dictatorship.

 If the Eritrean Opposition forces have no clear vision after the fall of the Essays Dictatorship the same destiny is waiting for Eritrean people also.


I will in this article attempt that the interim period from the fall of the dictatorship to the constituent assembly formation must be discussed as an agenda and congress participants must have their views on what and how the stakeholders manage the time from the fall of the dictatorship to the people’s constitution building and transfer of power to the people. We must have the common understanding from this time how the interim arrangement should be set up.


Any country emerging from dictatorship to democracy an interim constitution or interim arrangement is adopted to provide for the governance of the country until a new government under a new constitution is established and set out the road map for the making of a new constitution or if the country has having a functioning old constitution under the dictatorship but in case of Eritrea have we a functioning constitution? We have neither the 1952 nor the 1997.


The interim-constitution drafted by the commission for democratic change is a lengthy document and covers most topics that are not provided in the draft constitution of the 1997. The 1997 cannot serve as the interim but be for discussion after the interim period when the constituent assembly drafting the new constitution refers it as a document of the people who participated on it.


In some countries from dictatorship to democracy sometimes an interim arrangement takes the form of political agreement among the key stakeholders. The participants of the coming congress can adopt a roadmap from dictatorship to democracy by a form of national charter but it should provide the procedures of interim.


The Eritrean democratization process is divided in four stages.


  1. Struggle against the dictatorship
  2. The period from the end of dictatorship can be divided in two periods:
    1. Pre-interim period is the time when the dictatorship suddenly falls , the opposition must be ready to replace and fulfil the vacuum. The function of these forces is to stabilise the peace and security in the country. The opposition forces call for national convention. In this convention, all forces for democratic transition even those who were insideEritreajoin this convention and form a national transitional council that will prepare elections for voting a national constituent assembly that drafts or revises the present constitution and choose the system of governance inEritrea. The constituent assembly has a mandate to elect a transitional government and president. The Constitution assembly has the mandate to organize public elections.



I hope the Addis Congress for democratic change with its huge participation- a platform coalescing all stakeholders- islamists secularists, ethnic movements and others struggle to find a common platform defining a clear, shared set of political goals and a unifying leadership.


The issue of leadership is the most challenging issue in the congress.


So far we have failed to produce shared political goals and unifying leadership. The expectations of the congress are to come out with well defined political goals satisfying our people and unifying leadership that can gain the confidence of our people.


The Eritrean Opposition forces for democratic change lack a charismatic leadership. Charismatic leaders are individuals who can cause positive and substantial changes in an organization. These types of leadership were for example like that of Nelson Mandela ofSouth Africaand Dalai- Lama of theTibet.


We need leaders with the ability to clearly understand ( Vision) the struggle against the Eritrean dictatorship and map out the alternative system that will be established after the fall of the current totalitarian regime inEritrea.


We need leaders with the ability to effectively convey ideas and plans through commanding the skills of communication with its partners and the international communities. ( Communication)


We need leadership with the ability to consistently demonstrate strong moral and character and integrity- trust building leadership. (Trust)


We need leadership to ready make decisions and accept responsibility, thereby gaining and maintaining forward momentum/ action.( Commitment)


The former Eritrean type of leadership was not transformative but transactional- maintaining status quo but no changes. Most of transactional leaders lack the values of trust, commitment, sharing and ownership. These are the values needed for a leadership to be transformative.


A political leadership is different from business leadership. A political leadership is concerned with public affairs. It is a public assignment but not a carrier.



I hope the congress will endorse documents with a clear,

 national charter,

organisational structure,

road map and

 interim arrangement


 That can avoid future splitting after the fall of the dictatorship.


In these documents a shared set of political goals, unifying leadership are defined and adopted for implementation after the congress.



             Waiting With Optimism!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



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