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Managing conflicts requires far-sigheted leadership. Are the leaders of the Erimedrek and the UEDF well prepared to do this job? How much are they free partisan politics? The role of facilitator must be clarified based on the concepts of neutrality and impartiality.
The demand of the Eritrean people today is that the opposition sit together and engage in a process of forgiveness, healing and reconciliation. We are all affected by the decades of conflict and violence and want a future of peace and prosperity.
The initiatives to bring all forces for democratic change from both organizations is positive. Previous attempts to bring all the forces for democratic change for example the building of Alliances between the political organizations and the last convention where the opposition built the Eritrean National Council for democratic change/ ENCDC all failed in its implementation but the adopted resolutions and endorsed charters, constitution and roadmaps were well studied and were acceptable. ( see the ENCDCs documents)
The Erimedrek's role is to provide assistance and promote the political objectives of the Eritrean Opposition, but the UEDF is a front and political organization. Both of them come from the school of thought of EPLF/PFDJ. They share common characteristics of opinion. All of them were in the upper echelon of the EPLF/PFDJ.
Did the Erimedrek and UEDF publicly admit, scritinize and learn from their mistakes previously by joining the dictatorship in Eritrea? This writer of this article has never heard or read from these two organizations leaders admitting their failures in the past except former Ambasssador Adhanom G/mariam who has written in detail about the wrong policy of the dictator in Eritrea under a title, " Warsay Ykalo"- The project of slavery" His article was an exemplary of admittance of the mistakes done under the dictatorship.
I am not against the initiatives taken by the Erimedrek and UEDF but only recommend that we eritreans must all learn from the past mistakes and ask forgivness from our people.
In mediating negotiations requires clear process dimension and substantive dimension to gain the trust of the parties in conflict.
The leadership in both the Medrek and UEDF must have strictly non-partisan profile, especially if they are involved in guiding all the forces for democratic change in Eritrea. An implicit or emplicit inclination towards one group or another will lead to non-cooperation and lose legitmacy of the mediators. The Medrek and UEDF leadership as mediators need to be of unquestionable reputation and the issue of confidentiality should be beyond doubt.
The Medrek and UEDF mediating leadership need to posssess a fair share of authority in this case of placating/ reconciling the opposition and this will be based on their knowledge of the elements and factors- the actors, the issues, the relationships and so on which will need to be taken into account in order to develop a model for managing conflicts in the opposition political arena.
Analysing the Eritrean internal conflict
The Eritrean internal conflict is based on historical identities, religious beliefs, language and territorial and geographical issues. Managing such conflicts is not easy and requires skills and knowledge with broad perception of the Eritrean diversity rights and aspirations.
In preparation for this assembling a broad analysis of the conflict is a crucial first step. If the Erimedrek and UEDF leadership is truly committed to mediation and facilitation as a way of bringing all opposition forces on the same platform, then a step away from adversarial approaches.( Viewing the conflict as " Us vs. Them," either win or lose, all or nothing)
The best approach is when it is integrative encouraging creative negotiation. The conflicting parties must build on each others proposals than preoccupied with advancing their own.
A full analytic understanding of the conflict is both a prerequisite for going into the process negotiation/ mediation. What the Erimedrek and UEFD/United Eritrean Democratic Front need to know are below mentioned questions to be replied.
1. Who are the various actors, internal and external in the conflict?
2. What are the issues of conflict?
3. What are theneeds of the political organizations? What are their fears?
4. What is the extent of the conflict's effect both within and outside the conflict area?
5. What is the history of the conflict regarding attempts to resolve it/ from political struggle/ 1942-1952, Armed struggle from 1961-1991 and post independence period from 1991-2016
6. Identify the methods of conflict- phases and intensity?
7. What is the nature and extent of the balance of power between the political organizations in the opposition camp?
8. What are the current capacities and resources of the Eritrean opposition in diaspora?
9. What is the nature of the relationship between the opposition political organizations?
Most of the ideas presented in this article originated from an academic researches such of ours in Eritrea. The Eritrean internal conflict requires time and effort with commitment to unpack it and find out a model that can lead us to manage conflicts whether thay are internal and external peacefully.
References and further readings.
1. Azar, Edward E. 1991. " The analysis and management of protracted conflict.
2. Horowitz, Donald L. 1985. Ethnic Groups in conflict
3. Cassesse, Antonio.1995. Self-determination of Peoples: A legal Appraisal.Cambridge University Press.