Democratic versus Undemocratic Method of state building in Eritrea

By Fesseha Nair

Looking back to the history of state building some 3800 years ago, the ruler of small Mesopotamian city state, there was a ruler called Hammurabi-the ruler of Babylon. He was the supreme king of Mesopotamia. He told his people that his power comes from the divine- God and those who oppose his rule are evil and wicked.


He vilified his opposition and claimed that the divine justice is with him and no other. Hammurabi built a city state with the help of his gods and their particular vision of justice. State building or organizing a state in Eritrea looks like the city state of Hammurabi.


After the city states came the formation of national state systems in Europe, Asia and later in Africa. Most of the world’s national state formation was by coercion and accumulation of power. Because of these wars were fought internally and externally all over the world.  The state formation in Eritrea is a war made state by coercion and accumulation of political power-legacies of dictatorship and assimilation.


In this article, I will be dealing why did the Eritreans failed to establish in building a democratic state?


The Eritrean political organization who came to power after the independence has no experience of state building except the legacies of western methods of coercion and accumulation that lead to internal and external wars.


Eritrea is the last country of the 193 member states of the United Nations. The path of state formation in Eritrea has been the same trajectory like that of Hammurabi of Babylon. Eritrea after 21 years as an independent and sovereign country is in state of crisis. Those who advocate Hammurabi’s system of dictatorship in Eritrea are today the main victims of the dictatorship.


Eritrea is a multi- ethnic and multicultural in its composition- a state organization that excludes any of this composition is failed to build a stable state securing peaceful coexistence.


The Eritrean internal conflict is based on the role of the state in the society and emanate chiefly from its structure and organization. The Eritrean scholars – supporting the Eritrean dictatorship directly adopted or copied the outdated method of state formation by coercion and accumulation without considerations of the Eritrean multi-ethnic society.


As we see and experience today both in the discussions opposing the dictatorship and the its supporters no one of them will take the main issues of conflict but except lip services on democracy, justice and human rights. Most of those who are against the dictatorship will not discuss about the future shape of the state after the fall of dictatorship except demanding the implementation of the 1997 constitution drafted under a dictatorship.


The Eritrean conflict analysis should be focused openly between those various interest groups and the issues that divide must come in the agenda.


The Eritrean opposition groups including civil and political organizations main issues must include political crisis in Eritrea and the method to solve it. The period of transition from dictatorship and the interim arrangements for the governing of Eritrea after the immediate fall of the dictatorship must be discussed.


The opposition forces for democratic change and their efforts to unite is still non con-convincing. There are a number of reasons for this to be:-


* Lack of trust between the actors for democratic changes

* Each side seeks an advantage than conflict resolution

* Difference in understanding on state formation

* Divisions within particular groups


The results of the national Dialogues and national conferences held in Ethiopia  to form a united umbrella organizations including political and civic organizations failed to work together because the above mentioned are the main factors hindering them to work together.


Lessons learned from these conferences and dialogues are:-


* There is a shortage in the processing of the negotiations of conflicts

* There Eritrean opposition political arena is dominated by hardliners and there are no moderates.

* Lack of common agenda based on democratic process of transition

* There is no common understanding about the main issues of conflict


There are no case studies offering us insights in peace building and democracy in Eritrea except futile political debates based on oral discussions. The Eritrean scholars are partisan and for them bringing the issues of conflict and searching

for their resolutions is a taboo or not be touched because they create new conflicts and bloodshed.  But this is a wrong approach and never leads us to manage our conflicts by negotiations. In contrary, it is this partisan analysis of conflict that leads us to conflicts and bloodshed.


The task of the democratic actors is building peace by facing the immense challenges and the aim is to offer support and guidance along the way or path to form a state including all the diverse society of Eritrea where their interests and rights are guaranteed.

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Posted by on Oct 22 2012 Filed under Articles. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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