On Saturday, 8 July 2017, Menghesteab Asmerom, Chairman of the Eritrean People's Democratic Party (EPDP) held a well-attended public meeting in Seattle, Washington State, at which the currently fragmented situation of the Eritrean opposition camp was hotly and widely debated.
At opening the meeting, Mr. Zemehret Seare, member of the EPDP Seattle branch and the party's Foreign Office Committee Coordinator in North America warmly welcomed meeting participants and made an interesting presentation supported by power-point display on latest major EPDP activities in the diplomatic sphere.
Mr. Menghesteab Asmerom then took the podium to make his wide-ranging remarks that focused on the 4 June 2017 proposal of his party calling upon sister organizations and movements for dialogue aiming to create a working formula for joint work. His talking points were the ones he used at public meetings in the Bay Area, in San Diego and in Chicago.
Following his summary presentation of EPDP's proposal for joint work (for ease of reference, see full text below), the meeting participants voiced timely concerns regarding the delay to remove the evil regime in Asmara and hoped the current proposal for joint work in the spheres of information, public mobilization and diplomacy will see the light of the day.
Harnnet.org visitors will soon obtain the video recording on the Seattle meeting. Readers are also encouraged to read the full text of the proposal printed below - good reading.***
EPDP Proposal for Joint Work of the Eritrean Opposition Camp:
In the past 26 years of Eritrea's independent existence, our people have faced multiple harmful challenges threatening the very existence of the nation. It is indisputable that the primary culprit and source of Eritrea's tribulations has been the autocratic PFDJ regime, misnamed the 'People's Front for Democracy and Justice'. However, putting all the blame on the regime does not help in making a national soul-searching and addressing one's own shortcomings in a proper manner. It is time to admit that the failure of the Eritrean opposition camp to play an effective role contributed in the suffering and displacement of the Eritrean people; the opposition camp - the camp of change and justice seekers - so far did very little to shorten the days of absolute dictatorship in the country.
Nevertheless, one of the positive aspects not to be sidelined is the fact that the opposition camp was able to continue making efforts, albeit limited, in confronting the multiple abuses of the repressive PFDJ regime. The efforts exerted to resolve existing problems and, in particular, the attempts made towards creating coalitions and mergers were equally positive. In our past attempts to create alliances and strengthen the opposition camp, we did reach common understanding on a number of fundamental principles that bind us all. As such, the four principles listed below appear in various documents of the Eritrean camp of change seekers. Those points of common understanding can be taken now as the basic principles for the joint work proposal being initiated for further deliberations. They are:
- Protecting Eritrea's territorial sovereignty;
- Removing the autocratic PFDJ regime with its organs of repression;
- Installing a democratic multiparty system of participatory governance;
- Submitting to rule of law and guaranteeing basic liberties and democratic rights.
As noted, although our past experiences had some positive aspects, yet we could not create an inclusive national body or umbrella. A new start will require our commitment to never let our existing organizations or alignments to hinder the creation of a working relationship for more effective common action.
The urgency of the present situation obliges us to come out of our boxes. In simple terms, it is time to create a body/umbrella coalescing all forces currently in or outside existing alliances. Only to stress the evident truth, we are called upon to use learned lessons of the past and build a more effective body able to challenge the abusive regime in Eritrea.
The alignments we created and tried to work with were, till the present time, adversely affected by a spirit of controversy and rivalry. This is because we created an unsustainable situation in which priorities were not put in order.
For now, our most immediate task should be the removal of the autocratic regime. In past, instead of concentrating all efforts on this task, we put ourselves in a vicious circle by mixing up short-term objective with long-term objectives that cannot be attained now. And no wonder that, in a situation of controversy and with un-prioritized objectives, the structures we worked out and the programmes we adopted could not be implemented. If we continue on that path, we will only guarantee long life for the autocratic regime and fail to address the problems of our people.
Therefore, the Eritrean People's Democratic Party (EPDP) finds it timely to call upon all fraternal forces and fellow citizens opposed to the PFDJ regime to join us in trying to come out of the old vicious circle we are in and jointly start a new path that can lead to victory of the people's cause. Based on the understanding that unjustifiable controversies and mixing up of priorities can lead us nowhere, the EPDP is now presenting this proposal for joint work that should include all concerned, and pledges to do its utmost to promote the agreed upon tasks.
Needless to say, the primary agenda for the proposed common body or umbrella is the removal of the autocratic regime. All forces coalescing for this agenda shall be expected to do what they can to carry on the new joint body. The measure and weight of each member in the common umbrella shall be its degree of contribution in implementing the joint tasks.
The existing alliances and parties shall be the building blocks of the common umbrella and shall in no way hinder the proper functioning of joint tasks. Therefore, this is a call for starting a serious dialogue among all fraternal forces, a process that should lead to timely formation of an effective body embracing all stakeholders in the struggle.
The common umbrella or body to be formed shall primarily aspire to achieve the following three major tasks:
1. A Joint Foreign Delegation
Our individual efforts in the diplomatic sphere have not been effective. All parties (governments, organizations, parties) we individually approach have been advising us to meet them as one Eritrean delegation. There is no doubt that a joint/representative Eritrean delegation will make our diplomatic work more effective. Existing Eritrean organizations or parties shall not be obliged to end their ongoing relations in this sphere. But they are expected to strengthen the work of the joint Eritrean opposition delegation. Although details can be worked out in due course of time, the delegation can consist of members from the Eritrean organizations as well as expert diplomats from outside those member organizations. The joint delegation will be able to represent the Eritrean opposition camp at international conferences and speak/write on its behalf in addition to seeking all-round assistance (political, moral and material) for the umbrella. While working under the umbrella leadership, the foreign delegation can be empowered to take various initiatives as it sees them appropriate.
2. A Common Media Centre
Having a centralized information organ representing the opposition camp is an urgent necessity in light of the fact that our fragmented media outlets are not accomplishing the intended objective. The central information organ, which shall not hinder the member organization from continuing to run their own media outlets, can be staffed by members and media experts from outside the working common umbrella.
3. an Organ for Mass Mobilization
This organ shall endeavour to mobilize the people around the opposition camp by reviving the central task of political organizations in educating and organizing participants in the struggle for change. We must acknowledge the fact that mobilization efforts have been initiated at grassroots level in several places by Eritrean activists. However, these commendable initiatives could not be spared from the Eritrean malaise of controversy and negative rivalry. We in the opposition (camp of change and justice seekers) continually resort to unnecessary contention and squabbles instead of cooperating to promote the same national objective. It is appropriate to make self-criticism on this negative attitude, while at the same time bestowing high gratitude and admiration upon those compatriots who are taking initiatives at organizing justice seekers around local councils (baitos) at district and city levels. These efforts must be encouraged at all places around the globe. Eventually, people organized at grassroots level could join their efforts with political and civic organizations and help in drawing clear action plans in removing the repressive regime. The central organ for mass mobilization can be composed by representatives of political organizations and work under the common umbrella. However, it can also closely work in cooperation with the local popular councils/baitos all over the world.
The proposed national umbrella can start with the above listed three objectives but gradually expand its work activities, as needed. Only to reiterate, the EPDP hereby commits itself to start immediate dialogue and work with any Eritrean body accepting this proposal towards forming a joint body/umbrella for joint action. No Alternative to Joint Action to Remove the Autocratic Regime!!