Problems facing us in removing the dictatorship in Eritrea

By Fesseha Nair source

The Eritrean Opposition forces for democratic change either the political or civil society still fail to move beyond their organizational structure and couldn’t identify their roles. In this article, I will deal on some of the main problems facing us to remove the oppression. The first problem is the diffused relationship and roles of the political and civil society organizations, and the second is lack of integration between
the political opposition groups

Diffused roles and relations between the political organizations and civic associations

The meaning of civil society is not clear within the Eritrean perspective. The definition of civil society is an association platform between the state, market and family organized voluntarily by members of the society to protect and extend their interest and values. Current Eritrean civil society organizations and political organizations relations and roles are misunderstood. Practically, the civil society organizations are acting as political organizations in the opposition camp at this time. The Eritrean political opposition organizations failed to win support of the civil society associations. Of course, if we see each political organization in the opposition camp is built based on cliental networks, ethnic, regional and religious divisions that dominate the political organizations systems.


The main problem facing the forces for democratic change in Eritrea is the unclear role and relation between civil society associations and political organizations.

Eritrea as all other African countries has a strong ethnic base that if politicised will lead more readily to conflict than to democracy. The Eritrean pluralism is based on religion, region and ethnicity but lacks ideas of accommodation.


As we see most of the mushrooming civil society organizations in diaspora are characterized by localism and frequently operate in isolation from the current political organizations than in agreement with them. The Eritrean civil society organizations, the so called youth organizations, are not working as agents for democracy but often led by undemocratic leaders without clear constituents. They lack understanding the responsive politics of accommodation but divisive politics based on age. This is a new phenomenon in the new Eritrean democratization process never experienced in the other world before.


It is commonly assumed that political changes towards democracy may depend on the extent to which civil society is able to resist the repression. In the Eritrean opposition political arena or context there is no clear line of demarcation between the political organizations and civic associations at this time. For example, when the youth associations were asked if they are civil society organizations or political, they couldn’t make clear the line of demarcation between civil society and political organizations. Understanding politics of the Eritrean case is lack of identifying the complexities between the relations and roles of civil society organizations and political organizations.


I hereby argue that the focus on civil society and political organizations in the struggle against repression need a new strategy for uniting all the forces for democratic change either organized under civil or political organizations.


Lack of integration between the political opposition groups

Many analysts have argued that the one main reason why the unity process agreements between the various political organizations from the building of alliances and coalitions failed in the past 12 years depends on the design political system. The political system and the grand design of uniting these forces was not win-win strategy but winner take all system. Prior to unity they preferred to call each other you are the minor and I am the major. The attitude of minor and major is the main obstacle to unite the opposition struggle against oppression. One main lesson commonly derived from the Eritrean Opposition debacle is the dangers of the so called we are the majority. The Eritrean opposition political organizations lack the knowledge that democracy requires power sharing rather than majoritarian system that is tautological or highly misleading

The Eritrean opposition political organizations are in hallucinations of political system of arrogance and ignorance. The important variable is the attitude the different political organizations have towards each other and towards transformation to a democratic political system.  It is due to this attitude of arrogance so that the various political organizations
failed to find a common political mechanism that can integrate them. Yet , they lack the skills to find a formula where there is a genuine desire and commitment among the respective leadership and sufficient imagination and innovation to create appropriat structures and institutions that accommodate all groups. The Ertitrean National Council For Democratic Change/ ENCDC is an exemplary approach if it functions towards accommodation and integration.



Concluding remarks

This short article is sought to illustrate the main problems facing the forces of democratization in removing the dictatorship in Eritrea. It has dealt with the main problems and the phenomena in the Eritrean opposition camp between the civil society and political organization and the lack of integration between the political organizations. The primary focus has been on the mushrooming civil society in general and in particular,  the late youth movements based on age and no clear accommodative political system. The second part of the article attempts to clarify the problem among the various political organizations that failed to find a common strategy in removing the dictatorship in the past 12 years.


The current problem inside the opposition camp is that of political structure is not clear and its political structure that cannot accommodate and has been counter productive and these suggests that both the proposed structure and existing culture have to be adjusted or modified to achieve success in the struggle against dictatorship to democracy. Let us recommend all the political organizations to adjust their political view and start integration now before it is too late.

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