Managing Diversity In Eritrea ?

By Fesseha nair

Diversity is a human or natural property that has existed and will exist. The mixing of people of different cultures, religions, customs and skills of living have been the engines of civilization since the recorded history of the human being.  Our world today is the result of the crossroads of cultures and cradles of fertile diversity. Similarly, our country Eritrea is a crossroad of cultures and cradles of fertile diversity. Today’s Eritrea is inhabited by population movements from north, south, east and west. These population movements were not peaceful. The history of the Eritrean people is full of human suffering- wars, conquests, colonialism and forced migrations in search of safer and more promising living conditions.

How did this diversity survived under all these years of suffering? Why did the Eritrean political elites afraid of this diversity? Can democracy be a tool for building a constructive approach to the management of Eritrean diversity? In this article, I will attempt to deal with these three questions.

How did this diversity survived under all these years of suffering?

During the wars of conquest and colonialism, the diverse people of Eritrea have self-governing village communities best translated as Village Councils. They looked after the affairs of the village, had police and judicial powers. When colonialism came these communities have kept their authority and were lines of contact with the higher authority of the colonizers. The village councils were the pivot of administration, the centre of social life, and, above all, a focus of solidarity.

Even during the long years’ of colonialism, this characteristic of village councils and their authority remained unchanged. The Eritrean traditional village communities were called the, “ little republics” by ethnologists who have studied the various ethnicities in Eritrea.

With the advent of the British, the self –contained village communities and their councils were transformed to constituted village administration. Local self- governments in Eritrea( provinces and municipalities) with judicial powers were the creation of the British in Eritrea. It was at this time that the village Eritrean supposed to be a complete republic based on democracy and individual freedom, which is absent today under one man rule.

The Eritrean Nationalist Movement’s commitments were not based in this framework but copied various models of foreign countries. It is the diverse of Eritrean people who fought for the Independence of Eritrea, why are they today considered as an obstacle to nation building and unity by the architects of the modern Eritrea?

A break from this negative approach of the so called architects of national unity and nation building taking place after decades of suffering under the brutal attitude of dominance and foolish arrogance of the so called majority in Eritrea is taking place in the Eritrean opposition camp.

Current movements of the Eritrean nationalities is not against other people but against the Eritrean political elites who see the diversity as negative and propagate hate politics among the Eritrean people. The Eritrean diversity quests for meaningful democracy that includes all in policy- making , devolution of power and self –rule under a constitution providing all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Eritrean diversity will prevail despite all challenges by the architects of the so called majoritarian democracy. It is the diversity that is the key ingredient in the maintenance of vital, living democracy in Eritrea.

Why did the Eritrean political elites afraid of this diversity?

The Eritrean political elites, the architects of Eritrean nation building, did not think highly the values of diversity and their foreign copied democracy or communism has a negative view on them. They see the diversity as ruination of Eritrea and a den of ignorance and narrow mindedness.

Democracy is the aspiration of all human beings. The quest for fair and just organization of human relations and the search for a form of government in which all individuals and people experience themselves as guiders of their destines has been the wish of all people. According our democracy analysts and nation building architects, democracy is a closed one where the majority decide over the minority, and the minority has no right to decide on their daily lives. Their definition of democracy is that the majority control the minority even they have the right to clean them from the face of the earth.

By these architects, diversity has been perceived as a threat to cultural identity, national unity, a disruptive factor in walks of life and is a source of discontent and turmoil. It is because of this fear that the Eritrean Opposition Camp suffering under those forces who are against diversity.

For us who promote diversity is like a leaven in the dough giving us rise to unparalleled cultural enrichment, economic growth and peace. The Eritrean diversity cannot be cleaned or destroyed by chauvenists and foolish arrogants of the Eritrea political elites but will fair free and is becoming strong uniting against its enemies who are against humanity.

Can democracy be a tool for building a constructive approach to the management of Eritrean diversity?

Democracy has many definitions but its minimal definition is that to have a government controlled by its citizens and are considered as equals in the exercising of that control. Democracy can be a tool to manage diversity if it is based in this principle but if not it can be only a façade.

Successful and unsuccessful examples of the management of diversity can be found in both the North and South, in both young and established democracies. But, what has worked in one country or region in terms of harmonizing democracy and diversity will not necessarily function in other country.

What we Eritreans need is not to copy the models of other countries but extract the principles of living together in peace. There is no problem with our diversities and democracy. The mingling of peoples with different cultures, languages, religions and customs is global and is not only Eritrean. Diversity is a catalyst of all trades, science and skills, why then we dislike this catalyst? Why are the architects of Eritrean Nation building and advocates of national unity full of hatred of this diversity is that they lack a broad knowledge of the modern conflict management and are living still in the old and outdated models of the western world.

The architects in the Eritrean Opposition camp must realize that in real democracy imposing or dictating cannot solve problems but deteriorate it.

The Eritrean Diversity will prevail against dominance and chauvinism of all kinds in our tiny Eritrea.

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Posted by on Jun 30 2010 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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