CALL FOR PAPERS - Strategic Thinking on Political and Socioeconomic Crises in Eritrea
Eritrea attained its de facto independence in 1991 and de jury in 1993 after a protracted war of independence that lasted for thirty years. At the centre of the struggle was the unwavering desire of the Eritrean people for national self-determination and dignity. The armed struggle was in fact forced upon the Eritrean people after all democratic avenues were closed to them to express their political will that came to effect only in 1993 in a form of a referendum at which point the people of Eritrea overwhelmingly voted for independence upon which a sovereign country was born.
Moreover, the national revolution equally espoused aspirations of the Eritrean people for democracy, freedom, rule of law, individual liberty, justice, human rights, peace, and prosperity. In the early years of independence these aspirations appeared to be closer to realization with the making of a popular constitution which was ratified in May 1997 by the constituent assembly. Nonetheless, the implementation of the constitution was delayed, for no apparent reason, for one year following its ratification. In June 1998 the border war with Ethiopia broke out and on the Eritrean side no accountability and responsibility was taken in the face of catastrophic consequences. The war itself was used as an excuse to not implement the constitution ever since. Attempts in 2001 by reformists such as the G-15 and earlier the G-13 to reform the existing system was quashed despite the war had ended with a peace agreement in 2000. The one-man regime has since arrested those reformists, banned independent newspapers and arrested their journalists. In the subsequent years, the leader of the regime has openly rejected any kind of democratic reform and continues to commit human rights abuses tantamount to crimes against humanity against innocent citizens.
The political crisis coupled with economic paralysis that has gone for the last ten years has caused untold suffering and exodus of hundreds of thousands of young Eritreans. The tragic death and abuse of thousands of Eritrean refugees in the Mediterranean Sea, Sinai desert, prisons and refugee camps in many countries illustrate the gravity of our predicament. At the same time, the majority of the people inside Eritrea continue to suffer from unemployment, hunger and economic hardships.
In the face of all this, the January 21, 2013 upraising of certain sections of the army demanding the release of political prisoners and immediate implementation of the draft constitution is one of the many incidents that have been occurring time and again in Eritrea that suggest that all is not well within the power basis of the regime. Consequently, the country is at cross-roads and demands new agenda for a democratic transition as a path out of the abyss and building a new democratic and just governance system.
The Purpose of the Workshop
This workshop aims to provide an inclusive and open space for objective examination and reflection on the nature and implications of the political and socioeconomic crises gripping Eritrea and its people; identify possible scenarios and set an agenda for democratic transition. .
To set a tone, we are inviting individuals to submit papers that tackle the following and related thematic issues;
Rule of law and constitutionalism- the system in operation in Eritrea is often characterized by the impunity and personalized exercise of power. Beyond such a characterization of the current system, it is critical that a deeper analysis is done as to why and how such system came to prevail in Eritrea, despite the EPLF’s National Democratic Programs as adopted at the 2nd (1987) and the 3rd (1994) Congresses and the ratification of the Eritrean Constitution in May 1997 to establish a democratic system. In light of these experiences, it is important to conceptualize the rule of law and constitutionalism in the Eritrean context, i.e. history, society and traditions; and further examine the challenges and opportunities for establishing a constitutional democracy in Eritrea.
Socioeconomic and humanitarian crisis- the implications of the political crisis on the socioeconomic and humanitarian levels is disastrous, to say the least. It has been quite a while since the economy of the country reached the state of stagnation, if not depression. Though there are no official statistics, the unemployment rate is huge, especially if one considers the tens and thousands of youth who are forcefully kept for years in an unproductive military service. The militarization of the education system, especially the decade long closure of the only university of the country, is a policy and practice pursued by the current regime whose real impact is not yet qualitatively and quantitatively assessed. To escape such bleak future tens of thousands of Eritrea youth risk their lives in search of better life elsewhere. The recent tragedies at the coast of the Italian island of Lampadusa and the Sinai desert are just the tips of the iceberg. Therefore, understanding not only the root causes of the complex socioeconomic and humanitarian challenges bedevilling the Eritrean society, but also examining its future trends and implications is paramount. Though the socioeconomic and humanitarian crises are largely as a result of the prevailing (mal)governance, they are likely to persist even after political change; hence, it is critical that they are assessed in terms of their future implications and trends.
The Road to Democracy- political opposition in Eritrea is long standing. If there is anything that characterizes Eritrean political opposition is its absence of cohesive strategy and solid coordination among the various forces. The schism is not only in terms of principles and strategies (non-violence and armed strategy), but also in terms of espoused visions, or the absence of it. The persisting disunity within political opposition would also be the main contributing factor to the continuing political abyss in the country. However, the nascent development among the sections of the opposition is indeed encouraging and has given the movement for democratic change a new impulse. To broaden and deepen as to make the movement more effective and impactful, a cohesive broad strategy is in sin qua non. For this purpose understanding the current state of affairs of the opposition politics in its multifaceted nature and objectively identifying its shortcomings and strengths is critical in exploring realistic and pragmatic options to achieving democratic change in Eritrea. Within this search for effective strategy, the role of youth has to be highlighted, not only because they have been the main victims, but also due to the imperative of leadership renewal in the Eritrean body politics. Equally, recognizing the critical role that media can play in this respect, thinking has to be expended to build a media culture that contributes to positive change through accommodation of multiple voices, objective reporting and education.
Transitional Justice and Peace-building- the above strategy has also to make concrete policy recommendations as to what and how to be addressed the widespread atrocities and gross human rights violation committed by various individuals and groups in the course of the recent history and also its implication on the social cohesion and solidarity of the Eritrean people. Given rich experiences from other societies emerging from violent conflicts and brutal dictatorship, it is important that those experiences are considered in the context of Eritrean experience; and a sustained consultations and discussions are embarked upon at different levels of the Eritrean society for the purpose of soliciting opinions and recommendations to inform actions that should be taken in the immediate transitional phase. This will take place in two complementary aspects: one aspect focuses how to establish an accountability and justice system for the human rights abuses; second aspect would focus on how to mend and (re)-build relationships among different segments of the Eritrean society through reconciliation and peace-building processes.
Deadlines for Submission
Abstracts (maximum 300 words) should be sent before 15 February 2014.
If selected full papers (maximum 5000) should be submitted by 10 March 2014
Participants are expected to fund their travel expenses and the EMDHR may assist with accommodation and local transport
The format and program of the workshop will be sent to applicants in due course.
Email all abstracts and papers to Tesfalem Araia firstname.lastname@example.org
Eritrean Movement for Democracy and Human Rights (EMDHR)
PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA