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Constructive Dialogue With Dr. Bereket Habteselassie (Fifth in series)
Today’s comment is going to be divided in to two parts. The first one is going to deal with some clarification why I engaged myself on constructive dialogue with Dr. Bereket Habteslassie and the second part is about the core of the subject itself the fifth part of ”Grammar of Eritrean Politics”. Part One. First of all, it is constructive dialogue, it should not been an embarrassment to others. In fact, it should have been encouraged as long as it is constructive. Second, I believe in dialogue and I would like to be engaged using inclusion method. Because, I know that, at all time, no internal political problem was settled by exclusion method. What I know about exclusion is, all the time violence. Therefore, my preference is inclusion method. Why I am raising this issue is, because at one time I was asked by some commentator, by my private email, as I am relative to Dr. Bereket. And at the other time I was asked, as my religion is Kensha. I am going deal with this two issues. I have none blood relationship with Dr. Bereket. I heard his name first in my life in 1974. I admired and started to respect Dr. Bereket after I read his book written in English about Eritrea’s case at the UN. That was before the independence. After independence, his contribution in drafting and materializing the constitution of Eritrea added to my previous admiration extra degree of respect. Finally, I categorized him as an outstanding Eritrean intellectual with international standard. Still I have, great Eritrean intellectuals in my list that I admire, but I prefer to categorize them locally and not to the international standard. Though I believe that, Dr. Bereket is an extraordinary, one of the best sons Eritrea have, he is not perfect from defects. He commits political suicidal actions. The most defective part in his political carrier is that he is not sensitive to the feeling of the Eritreans. Example are, during the war between Weyane and Eritrea, he was acting like a cowboy of politics. At that time, he touched the feeling of Eritreans by the sharp sticks of Weyane. In other wards he made boast the moral of the Weyane by attacking the necessity of defending Eritrean sovereignty by the pretext attacking the President of Eritrea. To attack the President of Eritrea is one thing, but to attack the right of Eritreans to defend their sovereignty is another thing. That is what I call a political suicidal action. If he did that action, because he felt excluded, then the remedy is to give him comfort by including him. Still, he is the best son, Eritrea could not afford to lose him. Now, let me come to the question of religion. For a person like me who believes only in God but not on man made institutions of religion, it was a little bit intriguing, I to be related with the religion Kinsha. Well, somebody can come to this kind puzzle if somebody relates constructive dialogue or critique of articles by clan, race or religion. But this is relatively the common sense Eritrean politics prevailed long and still persists to give up to the scientific Eritrean politics. It is going to take time, we to abandon common sense Eritrean politics and to be transfer to the scientific Eritrean politics. I am not a person who gives up easily. All the time I am optimistic about Eritrea. Beyond the present crises, there is bright future of Eritrea. And that is the scientific Eritrean politics. To answer what religion I have, first I am going to tell you a joke. Once upon a time there was highly educated ( I heard he was educated in Sweden) teacher, working in Ministry of education. This person used to give lessons of Kinish theology at Sunday school. One day he asked his students to be prepared for final exam of Kinsha’s theology. He told them that it was very important to pass the exam. One student asked; what happens to him in case he fails the exam. The teacher replied by saying, you will be send back to the original religion Orthodox. Here, what we have to understand is Orthodox, Catholic, Kinish or Islam are man made worships, beliefs or you can say philosophies. To me religion is not a common issue. Eriterianism is the most important and common issue to me. Finally, I am Orthodox by birth, but it was long time since I abandoned it and now I am without any affiliation to religion. I believe in God, but my difficulties with religion is the persons who preach it. I don’t follow them and to the worst I don’t trust them. And I feel good that, at least I freed myself, of not having opponents when it comes to religion. Conclusion for part one. My choice of having constructive dialogue with Dr. Bereket is to the satisfaction of my thirst of knowledge and I can develop my intellectualism only by having constrictive engagements to stimulate Dr. Bereket to contribute his outstanding knowledge to the advantage of Eritrea. Part Two. Comment to ”GRAMMAR OF POLITICS: Part Five: Democracy and the Rule of Law in Historical Perspective… (continued) Bereket Habte Selassie”. Dr. Bereket started by ” Democracy and Minority Rights ”. He said ” Considering the issue of minority rights, speaking in broad outline, we find that in the practice of decision making, different societies have responded to the challenge of minority rights in one of two ways. One is through consensus, the other is through the overriding voice of the majority.” I have no problem to take the statement above, as raw as it is. But I must beg leave to present my view in differing approach to what Dr. Bereket preferred to do. I want to be apologist for the Eritrean case of democracy and minority issues. Mind you, I said I want to be apologist for the Eritrean case. In Eritrean case, the application of minority issue is more favorable to the consensus reached through the time of armed struggle and for this, none except EPLF, that takes the reward. When it comes to democracy, in Eritrea, I won’t be father of deceive to others to claim that there is parliamentary procedures which gives majority rule upon the others. The relative satisfactory scenario of protecting minority rights, to this time, in Eritrea, could be possibly eroded or strengthened in the process of democratization and consequently majority rule, is going to be seen with time. I can say that, in Eritrea, we are in dilemma to pursue for a swift democratization disregard to the consequence of stability of Eritrea or to keep the stability of Eritrea at the expense of freedom and liberty of its citizens. The situation in Eritrea is like a saying that a cow gave birth to a fire and became a dilemma for the cow, neither to embrace it for it is going to burn it, nor to leave it, since it is a mother which is difficult by nature. Therefore, my suggestion is, Eritrea, has to be wise enough to protect the golden opportunity achieved during the armed struggle, the harmony and respect of minority in Eritrea, by creating a commissioner that deals for minorities. Dr. Bereket, in the heading ”Democracy and the Rule of Law” said the following. ”In essence, the rule of law means a system of generally accepted rule of conduct under which everyone is subject to the law and no one is above it. Under modern democratic Constitutions, there are two primary institutions that act as custodians of the rule of law. First and foremost, is the legislative institution representing the citizens of a nation by whatever name it is known—Parliament, Congress, National Assembly, etc. This representative institution is the link that connects democracy with the rule of law. Then there is an independent Judiciary, as already noted, which is charged with the responsibility of guarding citizens against any violation of their rights.” In my part, I would like to continue being apologist for the application of democracy and rule of law in Eritrea. We have a constitution and its application will be a matter of time. But let me give apology for not be able to abide by the strict rules of applying it to this time. It was in 1997, the constitution of Eritrea published. It was a time, when Weyane was questioning the border issue with Eritrea, the questioning of the currency Nacfa, the issue of availability of the port Assab and generally speaking the questioning of the sovereignty of Eritrea. The intrigue here is, if it was only an issue of external problem, the apology would have restricted to its half page, but adding the internal problem as well, it will extend to its full page. Thanks God it is not volumes. It was not wonder that the drift of the internal problem to expose itself to the surface at the wake of the external problem unleashing. There lies the intrigue of the whole issue of the crises of not adhering to the application of the constitution and eventually the rule of law. I tried in my previous articles ”Focus on Eritrean Election 2001” to elaborate the different elite groups of Eritrea dilemma in the process of making a nation Eritrea. One thing that I stressed was the interest and future existence of the élites of Eritrea. I said it is only by including the interest of the different groups that solve the problem of Eritrea. What happened was, to the contrary, by excluding the interest of the élites of the governing body by the opposition groups and vice versa to the opposition groups by the governing élites, that we are now, neither to the denying the facts of delay of the application of the constitution and eventual the rule of law, nor to its application. In my part, it is because we are using, exclusion method, that we are beating different drums. Some of the drums beat are high decibel the others are law and the result is the unpleasant, inharmonic and deafening sound. One thing, that I want mention worth here is, to tell to the people who says that the constitution of Eritrea is illegal because it is not constitute by elected parliament. This is erroneous understanding of making constitution. In fact, a constitution is not made by elected parliaments. It is laws that are passed by elected parliamentarians. Constitution can be made as well by selection of a president or a king. Therefore, The constitution of Eritrea is lawful and it is accepted internationally (refer fourth series of this artcle). People, let me tell you one thing: to oppose the president of Eritrea is one thing, I am not in a position to defend it, but please refrain from hurting the heritage of Eritrea indirectly. On this occasion, it is good opportunity to remind Dr. Bereket that, he to explicitly clarify to its audience that the making of the constitution of Eritrea was legal, except the time elapsed to its application. On other aspect of the same topic, Dr. Bereket said, ” And a major aspect of the problem of democracy is related to the tension implicit in divided power, as well as in its resolution. Again, the doctrine of the rule of law provides the key for resolving the built-in tension. The tension inherent in the concept of separation of power needs, for proper functioning, strict adherence to the concept of the rule of law. You can’t have one without the other. All institutions of government and all power holders have to abide by the rule of law.” I am still with the apologist side and I say, in Eritrea, the problem is, still we didn’t came even an inch towards inclusion method. As long as we use the exclusion method, it will be a matter of survival and one side is going to use all its power at hand to preserve its existence while the other is going to use violence of means of change. In my opinion, writing constitution, applying rule of law and the notion of democracy are norms that everybody can have upper hand by advocating it. No one can be better than the other, either in writing it or on saying it. The difference is in applying it. To apply it, a conducive situation has to be created. Therefore, in Eritrea to create this conducive condition every body has to declare himself or herself whether somebody is for inclusion method or for exclusion method. How can some body declare whether it is for inclusion method or for inclusion method. If somebody is in the governing body or a supporter of the governing body; can say that, to be for inclusion method is, to recognize the existence of the opposition groups and to give chance the opposition groups to exercise their right in the decision of the fate of the country. If some body is for exclusion method, then it is to say, go hell with the opposition groups and to show force to crack them. On the other hand, those who are in opposition groups or supporters of opposition groups or for those who simply oppose the government, can declare he or she for inclusion method to the government and accept the rules and regulations of the governing body. This time it is reality to accept the government as the only supreme power of the country. For those who say the Eritrean government should be replaced should declare their exclusionary stand clearly. To ask for the application of the constitution, rule of law and democracy is only a demand of the opposition groups that stands for inclusion method. Otherwise, demanding application of the constitution, rule of law and democracy on one hand and plotting to overthrow the existing government on the other hand is robbery during daylight. Under the heading ”The Primacy of the Executive and the Problem of Democracy”, Dr. Berket said, ”The primacy of the executive while it may be at times inevitable, as a kind of a necessary evil, does become one of the problems of democracy.” The above phrase, from the perspective of generalized view it takes us nowhere. For we cannot condemn all executive as evils. Taking the executives of Scandinavian countries, and the welfare and wellbeing of their population, it is not the proper way to generalize executives as evils. The secret of the above phrase is, when it comes to a particular country. And in my opinion that is relative. Because an executives, in one country, could be evil for some and a blessing to others. An executive that is threatened its very existence is natural to show resistance to change that it endangers its existence. The method of democratization in one country is a decisive avenue to democracy. One method that I don’t feel tired to insist is only the Inclusion method. The other option is Violence and you can say the executive is devil and obstacle to democracy and the executive will say few disturbers are the problem for democracy. The following saying of Dr. Bereket is a little bit of concern. He said ”[Many Eritreans believed themselves and their government to be different. It should now be clear to everyone that we are not different. There is no Eritrean exceptionalism]. First of all, I don’t understand why he put his meaning in parenthesis. For me, it is difficult to comment that I don’t understand, therefore, I am simply going to jump over the fences and comment on the content of it. I believe that there is Eritrean exceptionalism. The past history of our resistance to subjugation and all that long dark years of our fight for our existence and that is with out external assistance is a base for our Eritrean exceptionalism. The conducting of unique type of referendum and the resistance to keep our sovereignty and make a huge evil neighbor to sign for peace agreement that lead to the delimitation of our border is Eritrean exceptionalism. Now, the frustration is about the application of our constitution, rule of law and democracy. I am optimistic in this regard that we are going to show to the world our Eritrean exceptionalism. I believe, this is a temporary set back and we are going to overcome it. We need only to work, to widen the scope of our civil society and work hard to convince all to accept inclusion method. To forget and forgive the past deeds, to reconcile our differences and to accept diversity of opinion with unity, the only remedy is inclusion method. And still, my puzzle is, you Dr. Bereket didn’t declared yourself as a promoter of inclusion method, but on different occasions you mentioned the exclusionary method of the governing body and of PFDJ. In conclusion, I can say no better than what Dr. Bereket said ”In these circumstances, it is imperative to concentrate on doing the following: Strengthen the Legislative Branch of government. This means fight for a fair electoral system, for multi-party democracy, and for a level playing field which in the Eritrean case means the dispossession of the accumulated wealth of the governing party by the state and the equal distribution of money and time to all competing parties during national elections. Establish and protect an independent Judiciary. This means the appointment of an independent Judicial Service Commission. Once duly appointed, the members of the judiciary must not be subject to removal by anyone except in accordance with the Constitution and appropriate laws. It also means making available adequate resources for the judicial branch to control and administer without executive interference. Establish, entrench and expand the work of a free press and other organs of civil society. The other organs of civil society include civic forums such as the ones that have sprung up in Europe and North America in the last year or so, in the wake of PFDJ’s politics of exclusion and domination, and especially since the historic fallout between the reformers of the EPLF and PFDJ. The on-going public discourse among Eritreans in the Diaspora shows signs of hope of the development of a vibrant civil society which will play a positive controlling role in the future politics of Eritrea. The above measures will instill confidence in the public and constrain the Executive from violating the rule of law. There will be accountability of the government as a whole. There will be transparency in fact, not only in theory. National leaders with authoritarian tendencies are quick to sense such developments and do everything in their power to constrain the growth of a vocal legislature, and independent judiciary and a vibrant civil society. We can no longer expect current leaders to lead the way in the establishment of the primary institutions of democracy and the rule of law. On the contrary, we should presume the opposite and prepare ourselves for a struggle over the long haul. ” [To be continued]. God bless Eritrea Tesfamicael Yohannes Oslo, Norway

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