An Initiative to Rally the Eritrean Lowland Societies
Tuesday, 1 April 2014
Common Principles and Action Plan:
Contents: Introduction Historical Background Principles and basis for action Fundamental rights and principles The Strategic joint plan of Action for the Political and Civil Forces Part I: Vision Part II: Mission Part III: Tasks Part IV: Guiding Values for the Joint Action Plan Part V: The Specific and General Strategic Objectives Specific Objectives: Society Affairs General Objectives: National Affairs PART VI: Mechanisms Work Code of Ethics Conclusion
Introduction: Eritrea is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious country composing various social components, a fact that permits any component to express itself and its future ambitions within the frame of the existing reality of the Eritrean diversity. This initiative is made in that context to primarily address the concerns of Eritrean Lowland Societies, hereinafter referred to interchangeably as Eritrean Lowlanders, Lowland Societies, or the Society. A Society characterized by close blood ties and social kinship relations, and that shares deep inherent economic modes of production, in addition to existence of cultural bonds, a common history and destiny forged across time through facing the same challenges and upholding similar aspirations. Its people live in a geographically connected area that extends from the strategic Red Sea coastlines of the Semhar region in the East to the Sudanese border in the West, with a cross-border extension of related community that shares the same bonds of blood, intermarriage, culture and history albeit existing in two sovereign states. This is in addition to its extensions along the contact regions with the Kabasa region.
Despite the fact of common destiny and history shared, this society is also embellished with rich diversity of ethnicity, languages and religions that define each constituent’s specific characteristics without negatively impacting on the cohesiveness of the overall social texture of the society. This diversity represents a model of peaceful coexistence across time established by strong bonds of mutual respect and recognition, shared interests and devoid of the usurpation of others’ rights which explains the complete absence of any domination or exclusion relations between the Society’s different components. It is worth mentioning that the Kunama national component that is characterised by special cultural and religious diversity is an original part and clear manifestation of the colourful diversity of the lowland society.
Furthermore, the Afar component while constituting one of the important historical national components in the country as a part of the Lowlands and has strong ties of religion, culture, joint history, destiny and aspirations with the rest of the Lowlands Society, is characterised by special mode of life, geographic region, political force and option within the frame of Eritrean national struggle and having people’s extensions across the border with Djibouti and Ethiopia.
The Lowland Society possesses inherent strengths and great potential. The social oriented reforms and the political struggle of the Rabita led by Sheikh Ibrahim Sultan in the 1940s is a testimony to the fact that this society not only fights injustice in all forms but can ultimately win despite all odds. The ELF’s waging of the armed struggle ignited by Hamid Idris Awate in 1961, despite the surrounding hardships, not only paved the way for Eritrea’s independence, but also to a certain extent contributed to the downfall of both Haile Selassie and Mengistu regimes. This enhances the belief that this society and Eritrea at large was capable not only of fighting injustice but also defeating one of the strongest armies in sub-Saharan Africa in the 1960s that had required a great resolve and vision. Yet, Eritrea’s independence would not have been achieved if all the Eritrean people did not rally around the revolution that was initiated by lowland society.
The Society also has weakness factors that are necessary to identify and address. These are mainly attributed to the prevailing pastoral mode of living that is characterised by continuous mobility, loose, independent and decentralised type of inter-relations. These traits account for the apparent tendency towards individual freedom and independence rather than to conform to strict centralised and collective mode of relationships and control mechanisms that regulate inter-relations. The split of the Muslim League followed by other splits among the Eritrean Liberation organisations at the different times and the presence of many political organizations in the opposition camp today is an indication of such weaknesses. The society needs to look into these weaknesses and address them effectively instead of trying to avoid them a fact that has caused much misery and further disintegrations. No other force except its own will can bring it out of this predicament. However, neither the mode of living nor the transformations of the society and life in general have remained stagnant, but have been affected by general developments in the region and in particular by the long armed struggle for liberation which helped the people to conform to the necessity of organising themselves into different forms and also due to the relative stability created in countries of refuge, access to education, and the wider experiences gained have induced qualitative changes in the structure and social relation-structures and concepts.
These changes played a big role in the adaptation to the necessity of hierarchal organisational forms. Nevertheless, the Society still suffers from certain weaknesses mainly due to the lack of cohesion and unity of its political and civic forces. It is a matter that has exposed its land and vital interest to great perils, and its history to malicious attempts of distortion. Thus all concerned members of the Society are called upon to rescue it from its current state of dormancy and help revitalise it to rebuild and recover the necessary strength to reclaim its usurped rights and resume its positive historic role. Its revitalization will enhance the national struggle for democracy and justice. A Society formerly renowned for being proud and resolute and that had never bowed down to humiliation and subservience and that has always courageously stood up and fought for its rights and freedoms has to regain its legitimate aspirations in leading a free, dignified and decent life.
This Society has been subjected for quite a long time to systematic and concerted attacks from both the dictatorial chauvinistic regime as well as some opposition elements or organisations, all aiming to demote and belittle its national stature and role under different justifications and pretexts. Therefore, it goes without saying that such dismissiveness and attempts of marginalization had, and will continue to have a negative impact on the entire national struggle in general and on all the marginalized national components in particular. Events throughout the different national historical epochs have demonstrated that whenever this Society with its considerable population and wider expanse of land has been impeded or incapacitated from properly playing its significant role in the national struggle, that would pave the way for the forces of domination and exclusion to prevail and impose hegemony on all other constituents as has been lately witnessed in the unjust concentration of power and wealth at the hands of the chauvinistic Kabasa clique and its cohorts.
Eritrea is again caught at cross-roads. We had lost the opportunity to be an independent country in the 1950s. We lost too many lives in the long war for independence and also in the civil wars that intermittently broke out during the armed struggle among the different Eritrean movements thus protracting our fight, suffering and delaying the ultimate victory. The EPLF has pursued its exclusionary policies since inception and after independence by marginalising the lowlands together with other components despite their dominant role as pioneers in the independence struggle. Thus under the policies of the current dictatorial regime the country risks being dismantled. More over some opposition factions are pursuing policies and endeavours that aim at making cosmetic reforms while retaining the status quo.
It is therefore in the interest of all national forces who have been struggling against the oppression and domination of the chauvinistic dictatorial regime in Eritrea for more than two decades, that this society and all other components play their due role towards the restoration of their denied rights and to realise democracy, justice, and social equality in the context of unity in diversity. This demands that each component should start putting its own house in proper order to be able to effectively contribute to the general national struggle.
Despite the prominent role that this society had played in stirring and instilling Eritrean patriotism through unwaveringly rejecting both proposals of partition and full annexation and standing for full independence; but also it stood up fighting tooth and nail against the imposed annexation with Ethiopia with all available means and rallying all Eritrean components around the fight for the cause of national independence thus preserving the unity of Eritrean land and people. It had paid a dear price in the process being the major target of the Shifta gang attacks and later the commandos military campaigns that were directly sponsored by the Emperor of Ethiopia and executed by his army and the native collaborators from the Unity Party and their associates. That was carried in desperate and futile attempt to compel the people to abandon their legitimate pursuit for independence to that in favour of unity. As a consequence its land and people had suffered the brunt of the scorched land policy and military campaigns where untold numerous atrocities had been committed in different forms of wide spread lootings, genocides and exile. The massive Ethiopian campaign in 1967 targeting people, livestock and other properties which resulted in the first wave of mass refugees to the Sudan is testimony to that. Forty years later most of those refugees still live in refugee camps neglected by their countrymen, their supposed ‘Government’ and by the international community. However, this had not deterred the people from bearing the responsibility of the struggle they vowed it to themselves to carry with resolve and determination by finally taking to arms to regain their denied rights and freedoms.
The people in this society initially had constituted the only life line that sustained the life of the revolution in its critical early stages infusing the vital human, moral and material support needed and unreservedly paid great sacrifices in human life toll fallen as martyrs in the process of liberating the land and the people. However, it has not only been unrewarded but flagrantly was denied by the dictatorial oppressing regime their legitimate basic rights, including the right of return of the refugees to their home places. This in resonance with the long-time practiced old-new policies of the systematic patterns of displacement and resettlements that had started in the lowlands during the Ethiopian occupation and has unabatedly continued in a more aggressive manner after independence by the incumbent dictatorial chauvinistic regime. Which has continued under the fallacious claims and pretexts, based on the unjust legacy of the Italian rule that unfairly declared large tracts of lowlands as ‘domaniale’ that is being presumed as no man’s land. Disregarding the fact that the original population had long being forced to desert during the liberation war but falsely claimed that they have willingly chosen not to go back, preferring to remain permanently resettled in areas of their current asylum. That is maliciously assumed to become their alternative homeland by the regime. And even those who opted to return after independence, many of them were exposed to imprisonment, torture and re-displacements and strangely enough among those were civilians and freedom fighters who were also prisoners of the Ethiopian colonisation force. The apparently noticed targeting of this same society again by some of the Eritrean opposition elements and forces in a manner reminiscent to that of the dictatorial regime’s policy in attempts to side-line and belittle its role, history and chances of equal and fair involvement in the struggle. Thus a noticeable concerted effort of exclusion and domination has been conducted aiming at distancing and hampering it from playing a leading and competitive political role in the struggle. These consistent attempts are purported to force this society to resign to the state of marginalisation and completely abandon playing its historic role and duty. Similar to the roles it had played in the declaration and the initiation of the armed struggle and spearheading of the opposition movement against the current dictatorial regime. No doubt the absenting or marginalising attempts of such component of vast geographical as well as population gravity from playing its natural role in defending its rights and pursuing the course of its historical struggle would negatively impact on the general national struggle and in particular upon the marginalised sectors. It would also pave the way for the domination and control of power and wealth of the chauvinistic forces to prevail as has already occurred.
For all such obvious and noticeable reasons we believe it is time that people of this society have to be consciously aware of the impending risks jeopardising their existence and role as a recognised original partner in the nation. It becomes also necessary now to revise, prioritise and develop strategies that preserve the interests and national role of the society commensurate to the magnitude of the enormous sacrifices being offered and to the human, geographic and natural resources it possesses. This society has always stood for the national unity but cannot afford to pay the bill to preserve the unity of the nation on its own and at the expense of its interests. National unity is a collective responsibility that all national components have to equally strive to, bear and share the burden together. This initiative is a call to reunite all sectors of this society in order to enable them to properly defend their legitimate rights and interests and play their historic role in close coordination with the rest of the Eritrean components to effectively contribute to the ongoing democratic struggle for realising justice, equality, freedom, democracy and the rule of law. That requires closely and continuously working, coordinating and cooperating with all its political forces, civil society organizations, prominent figures, intellectuals on societal issues and nationally with its close allies particularly from the Eritrean marginalized national components.
Thus it is a call to unite the rank and file of this society to enhance its role and capacity to realise and defend its legitimate rights and basic vital interests and for all joining effort to safeguard the freedom and dignity of this society in particular and that of all national components that oppose and fight against domination and hegemony and recognise our rights in general. It is not a call for segregation or isolation from others which is incompatible with the nature of hospitality and unreserved openness to the other that characterises this society. It is not also aimed against any national component but the common enemy that is the dictatorial regime and its associates. On the contrary it is a call for strengthening, reviving and enhancing its role in the national struggle for democratic change.
The stressing of the positive contributions of this society in the initiative, is not in any way meant to overlook the significant roles and contributions of the patriotic pioneers from the other social components who took a stand in favour of independence and joined the armed struggle at its early stages, particularly our compatriots in arms and veterans from the, Asaorta, Saho, Jeberti, and Afar and as well as the national pioneers from Kabasa Christians. We cannot also undermine the role played and sacrifices paid by all Eritrean components for independence. Therefore, the lowland society as has always been the case, will strive and look forward to enhance the joint struggle in the present and future with all national forces of the political spectrum that really struggle for democracy, justice and equality and that mutually recognise our rights. This call is not meant to weaken or undermine its historic national role but to the contrary, to strengthen it.
It is in the interest of all forces struggling against the injustices and domination of the current chauvinistic, sectarian and dictatorial regime existing in Eritrea since independence and for the establishing of peace and stability and restoration of the denied rights and realisation of democracy, justice and equality in the context of diversity that this society should play its role properly and all others too.
It is not possible to make a proper objective assessment and analysis of the current Eritrean reality by solely conducting serious deep probing to explore the root causes of the current apparent problems detached from looking into the history of the formation of Eritrea as a country with its current geography and demography and its repercussions. This country was formed by the Italian colonialists in line with the general purpose of the European colonial scramble for establishing colonies in Africa in search of raw material resources and new markets for their developing home industries. Prior to that event the different parts of the country were subjected to the control and influence of various colonial and regional powers. Where the highlands (Kabasa) mostly had come under the rule and influence of the Abyssinian empire, the South Eastern low lands remained mostly under the influence of local and regional Afar sultans while the Western lowlands had gone through successive control of different occupational powers among which were the Blue Sultanate of Sinnar and Turkish rule and the combined Ottoman – Egyptian before the Italian occupation. As a consequence, had evolved the development of parallel societies with different cultures, affiliations and loyalties in the different parts of what was to become known later as Eritrea.
The forcible disruption and intrusion of the European colonial powers in the course of events and in peoples life developments in the continent in general and that of the Italians in Eritrea in particular, not only aborted and disrupted the course of natural evolution of the national state development towards the creation of culturally and socially homogeneous nations within the boundaries of the original natural habitat, but it also led to the fragmentation and separation of the original entities from their kinsmen in the newly formed nations composing ethnically and culturally heterogeneous groups confined within the boundaries of these newly formed states that lack enough harmony and cohesively binding structures that any proper nation state requires.
Eritrea has inherited this heavy burden of colonial legacy like many other African countries, a fact that cast dark shadows and negative effects on later national developments. The effect of which is more clearly discernable in the continuous failure to achieve durable national unity in general and the unity of the political forces in particular throughout the years from self-determination, the armed struggle and the independent state epoch and up to now. Therefore, the conclusion that can be drawn is that we cannot overlook or ignore this reality in any way. It is also not possible any longer for the lowland society to continue the luxury of entertaining in self-denial to play the custodian role of a national unity transcending or overstepping the reality in pursuance to such self-appointed responsibility irrespective of the roles played by others and at the expense of its interests and rights. Forgetting that unity can only be preserved when a nation equally belongs, represents and embraces the interests of all and in turn the components comprised by it mutually recognise each other’s rights and interests and accept the existing diversities that characterise each of them.
Therefore what the lowlands society has to do is first to recognize and accept this reality and then positively deal with it without unnecessarily exaggerating the precedence of its national role over its societal one; but reasonably maintaining the balance needed between the two. The lowlands society should also ardently work with the other components in the building and maintaining of national unity on basis that guarantee the rights and interests of all parties and preserve the pride and dignity of each. Calling for the right of all components to their fair share of power and wealth; far from the practices of domination, exclusion and hegemony by any party whatever the excuses and justifications could be. It is noticed that whenever the issue of the rights of national components is raised, some Muslim sectors particularly in the lowlands, view that sceptically and apprehensively, thinking this would pose a threat to the accepted order and perception of the religious and cultural dichotomy established among the Eritrean people and may cause to disturb the delicate balance that exists between the concerned national partners. But on the other hand such concerns and worries are hardly found or felt at least to the same degree by other Eritrean Muslims who without reservations have formed their nationality based organizations that defend the rights and interests of their specific societies. Thus we think that the social and religious dichotomy of the Eritrean people though it is important is merely a version of the reality and a level of engagement in addition to the ethnic, national and the nationality ones. It is found that the different components have different local concerns related to cultural, land, power, and wealth and across border people-relationship issues. Such issues and concerns vary from one component to the other according to its geographical location, ethnicity, different priorities, needs and degree of deprivations including that of the lowlanders. For example, there are those who are found to be benefiting of the current dictatorial regime’s policies of land expropriations, while others at the receiving end are suffering as a result of that.
It is high time that this society should pay greater attention and focuses on its interests and seriously reconsiders its relations with others based on the recognition and respect of mutual interests and rights of each other. At the same time, it should continue to pursue its engagement and cooperation with others in promoting the struggle to realise the common national goals, interests and aspirations. It must also realise that achieving, sustaining, and safe-guarding national unity is a collective responsibility for all to bear and observe and not an exclusive concern and obligation for a particular society or component. We also don’t see any problem with the current paradigm shift in attitude that most Eritrean social components adopted in viewing things from the perspective of their own interests as collective interests apparently should not exclude or contradict but has to accommodate the specific interests of all national components. This, contrary to the view entertained by the lowlands society and which had stemmed from the lingering effects of the idealistic mind-set instilled by the overwhelmingly optimistic national euphoria that prevailed in the 1940s.
Based on this understanding, we call upon all political organizations, civil societies and prominent national figures of this society to focus their attention and priority on enhancing the cohesion and coordination between all sectors of this society. This is in order to defend and realise its interests, keep and maintain its course of struggle in line with the positive history and tradition of sacrifices established. Thus continue to play a positive role in the struggle to realise the common goals and interests alongside the rest of the national components and with all others who stand against all forms of injustice, for the freedoms and rights and the establishment of a decentralized system based on the rule of law and that guarantees the basic rights, especially the right of all components to a fair share of power and wealth.
Principles and Basis for Action
The inability, for whatever excuse or pretext, to develop a culture and practice of adopting strategic planning methods for the execution of daily struggle duties, is in the final analysis but a prelude to failure, even if it is not a deliberately intended act. Any work or effort expended without setting a realistic, integrated plan is considered a form of adventure of unpredictable outcome and could be of dire and disastrous consequences, in spite of all the good intentions.
The political opposition of the lowland society has utterly failed to deliver results on the objectives of safeguarding and promoting the interests of its social constituents due to different reasons, but that can mainly be attributed to the lack of adopting strategic planning methods that have characterised the different stages of the struggle in the past and the present. Despite the impressing, honourable national struggle record that this society had garnered by virtue of being the pioneer of the armed struggle and a major one among those who consistently and resolutely fought for national independence, having paid a dear price to that effect; but unfortunately it has not been able to reap the fruits of its struggle at any time. A matter that necessitates serious reconsideration and careful investigation of the root causes of these repeated failures and a need to undergo deep soul-searching to find more viable and effective solutions and ways out of these chronic failures.
Despite the failures mentioned, it is necessary to point out and commend the resolute stand and struggle of the political opposition forces that is being waged under unfavourable conditions against the policies of domination and exclusion practiced by the EPLF and the regime since its inception.
To embark on with a new vigour, spirit and approach it is imperative that this society should accurately identify the basic consensual principles and rights that reflect its interests and objectives. Then with full commitment and arduous work strive towards realising its ultimate goal by consolidating all efforts and drawing a sound, well studied strategy to achieve its objectives far from the traditional practice of work that is based on individual decisions and spontaneous impulsive methods. This will not be possible, without defining and formulating a clear vision of what all the concerned forces finally wish to achieve in the foreseeable future. The vision should set the direction of the struggle towards achieving the envisaged picture of the future that this society wishes to draw. That should vividly reflect and embrace the legitimate aspirations of leading a dignified, decent and prosperous life in a democratic and flourishing nation.
Thus, it is necessary to formulate some general basic principles to depart from. These are to be extensively discussed further and developed to clearly reflect the specific reality and deal with the top priorities and after reaching consensus are to finally be adopted and abided by as a covenant and a joint plan of action for all concerned sectors of the society, the political, civil organizations and independent personalities to embrace. Guided by these principles and objectives all are required to work together to achieve and defend their societal interests, and effectively struggle with other national components and forces to realise the aspired change.
Fundamental Rights and Principles
The following are some of the basic rights and fundamental principles that are to be embraced and adopted:
1 – The Right to Life: This is a fundamental inalienable natural right that should be granted for the lowlands society as well as all national groups and individuals. It is the right to live a safe and decent life and without threat of any form that may jeopardise the life of any group or individual. To be guaranteed a Life of full dignity and respect, to live in their respective home places and anywhere within the nation from cradle to the grave free from fear or danger.
2 – Basic Rights and Freedoms: The basic freedoms and liberal rights are considered as the most fundamental and indispensable ones that should be observed and guaranteed. To mention only some examples, but not in an exclusive and exhaustive sense, are the freedom of expression in all forms, conscience and political activities, rights of the formation of political and social organizations, professional associations, trade unions and social groups. The Cultural and social rights and freedoms of free gathering, movement, working and living freely without hindrance, right of property ownership and personal freedoms are to be guaranteed. The right of protection against illegal, extra judicial arrests, incarcerations and disappearances has to be respected.
3 – The Right of Land Ownership: The land within the original habitat of the society, whether collectively or individually owned customarily is considered belonging to the society. Land ownership must be subject to the norms and customary laws that historically have been proved and adopted for the management and ownership of land by the society. This gives the Social components the right of land tenure in their historical recognised and defined ancestral territory as an indisputable right that should not be compromised in any way. It is also required to reconsider the violations that took place in the form of land expropriation and unlawful redistribution through the enforcement of land-grabbing policies and practices in the lowland territories during the era of Ethiopian occupation and the laws enacted by the incumbent dictatorial regime’s organised resettlements that have been established, sponsored and protected by the regime without the consent of the indigenous legal owners of the land, based on the fabricated myth that the land here belongs to no one as it is allegedly claimed to be considered free communal land without owners, which is but a false justification made to legalise the unlawful land grabbing policy practiced in the lowlands. We believe Eritreans have the right to live in any part of the country, be it in the lowlands or highlands but organised settlements are not accepted. Yet such right needs to be based on consultation with the locals and with their consent and acknowledgement.
4 – The Right of Religion and Worship: Religions must be deeply respected and freedom of belief and worship should be guaranteed by law including the right to establish religious institutions and choose their leaders according to the wishes and arrangements of the followers without any external interference. The state should be neutral and stand at equal distance from all religions. In the lowlands Islam is the major religion, a fact that should be taken into consideration when legislating laws they do not contradict with the essence of Islam and other religions, including the traditional ones in the region.
5 – Language: All languages shall be considered equal by law with the adoption of Arabic as an official national language in the lowlands and nationwide.
6 – National Unity: National unity should primarily be based on a voluntary, free will choice of all national components to coexist in one nation, mutual recognition and acceptance of the ethnic and cultural diversity existing, guaranteeing the parity and equality in rights and duties and the embracing of the legitimate interests of all the national components. The lowland society in this respect has to preserve its cultural identity and struggle to guarantee and realise its specific objectives and interests and regain its expropriated and confiscated land and properties using all available means.
7 – The Right to Sharing Power and Wealth: All national components should be guaranteed the exercise of this right based on the adoption of a constitutional decentralized system of governance that endorses locally self-rule of national components, fair allocation of any natural resources discovered within the region and centrally enable a fair participation and sharing of power and wealth at the national level for all.
8 – Respect for all Martyrs and War Disabled Fighters and Veterans: Uphold due respect to the heroic history and sacrifices of our martyrs and defend that legacy against any distortion or abuse that desecrate and denigrate their roles and revered names. Safeguard and respect the heroic history of the struggle and the tremendous sacrifices offered by our society and others to liberate the nation. Provide the necessary care and help to the families of martyrs, disabled fighters and veterans that would enable them to live a decent life they deserve.
9 – Eritrean History: Our history needs to be revised and rewritten by historians from all the national components to objectively reflect the real history of our people. The EPLF version of distorted history is to be totally rejected and discarded.
10 – Relations: The lowlands society should have strong relations with its neighbours and with that of its people’s extensions living across borders. It is necessary to maintain and strength inter-relations; establish harmony and social peace between all national components based on shared interests and recognition of diversities existing among them. Build strategic relations with its extensions across the border to the mutual benefit and interests of both societies. It is also necessary to build strong relationships with the neighbouring countries based on mutual national interests, recognition of national sovereignties, integrities, none-interference and enhancing historically existing brotherhood relations among the countries concerned.
11– The Rights of Refugees: To guarantee and stress the inalienable right of all refugees to return to their home places and their right to claim back their land with the provision of the necessary support for their rehabilitation and proper compensation. Reiterate and emphasise this right with all concerned circles including our national partners as a joint priority to achieve as soon as the dictatorial regime is changed.
12 – General Human Rights: The recognition of all universal human rights and freedoms adopted in the different UN conventions such as human rights, women’s rights, children’s rights, and indigenous & minorities conventions etc. with particular emphasis of recognising and enhancing the rights of women to political, economic, social role and engagement in life and their right to equal opportunities in education, public services and employment in recognition of their role in the struggle, past and present, and that of building a cohesive society.
13 – Environment: To have the necessary legislations and plans to protect and prevent the environment from pollution of all forms and deterioration due to irresponsible utilisation of forests, green plant cover, pastures, water and other natural resources. It is also important to take necessary measures for prevention from other environmental abuses as a consequence of unsuitable application of farming methods and over-population pressures due to the lack of having proper and well planned infrastructure facilities in place.
14 – Mining and Mineral Resources: It is known that the lowlands are very rich in underground mineral resources, therefore it becomes necessary to set the necessary legislations that preserve the right of the local people to have a due share from the revenue obtained, better chance of employment and local population development projects. Investors should legally be responsible to attend to their social obligations in accordance to national and international laws including wise use of resources and application of environmentally friendly methods of mining.
The Strategic Joint Plan of Action for the Political and Civil Forces
As noted above, the purpose of adopting and working with the principles of strategic planning is a prerequisite for guaranteeing a successful achievement of the ultimate goals set, based on a clear shared vision of the future and the adoption of a realistic mission plan to realise that vision. A fact that is essential in determining the direction of the course to pursue in a context of a comprehensive roadmap that includes the mechanisms applied, proper strategy and the tactics to be adopted to realise the desired end goal.
Part I: Vision
To establish a conscious and flourishing society that is aware of its rights and responsibilities as part of a democratic system where justice, equality and the rule of law prevails and where peaceful, harmonious and decent life is realised for all in a prosperous and stable country with bright future prospects.
PART II: Mission
To accomplish the building of a strong, cohesive, united and interest-conscious society that is able to realise its objectives and future vision, meet the challenges encountered, properly defend its interests and coordinate with the other national components in playing its due role by actively and positively contributing to the common struggle waged for democratic change to replace the current dictatorial regime with democratic one.
Part III: Tasks The above mentioned vision and mission can only be achieved through the proper mobilization of all sectors of the society and its political and civil organizations to build up an effective social and political force in order to recover its role, reinstate its position and properly impact on the course of events through:
1 – Creating a deep and comprehensive public opinion and consciousness; adopt policies and objectives on the basis of shared common interests that help to establish and strengthen the role of the society.
2 – Forming of strong and influential public pressure groups that safeguard and realise the interests and objectives of the society and contribute to the development of the political work. Which will assist in enhancing the role, stature and positive contributions of the society in its struggle for the aspired democratic change.
3 – The formation of free civil society organizations that play their dual roles in preserving the interests of its constituents as well as safeguarding, upholding and defending the general interests and rights of the society as a whole. They will also assist and promote the active participation of civil society organizations in the struggle for democratic change and in the state-building process.
4 – Make the best use of all social media such as Paltalk and Facebook for mobilisation to reach youth and women.
5 – To assist and urge all political organizations related to the society to adopt policies that primarily defend and realise the specific interests of this society along with their duties in the course of the general struggle. Form a common umbrella organisation composing civil groups with the adoption of more effective ways and mechanism of struggle for the different organizations and groups of the society that without compromising the organisational independence of the constituent member organisations. As this initiative is based on the minimum common goals, principles and work plan that facilitate the coordination of all efforts and the creation of a suitable condition for joint action. That is in order to defend the interests and rights of the society and to play an effective positive role on the national level with the other components, particularly those marginalised ones that share the same goals and concerns of realising justice and equality and also with all forces fighting for the noble human values of freedom, democracy and human rights.
Part IV: Guiding Values for the Joint Action Plan
1 – Strong belief in the power of society’s collective-interest conscientiousness that generates once formed a self-driving force and momentum needed to preserve, defend and achieve the goals and interests aspired.
2 – Promoting the values of brotherhood, cooperation, collaboration and enhancing the cohesion among society components and national reconciliation and social peace based on justice equality and mutual respect among all national components.
3 – Conformity and unison between the principles and values upheld and preached with practice on the ground will enhance credibility factors.
4 – Creating strong commitment for community and political leadership to adopt and practice openness, transparency and accountability in all its joint work to preserve the common interests of the community that will assist in building trust.
5 – Establishing the tradition and practice of institutional and democratic methods in internal and external work relations between political, civic and community organizations.
6 – To adopt the principle and practice of rotation of leadership posts in both the political and the civil society organizations to gradually prepare and promote the youth of both sexes to future leadership positions.
7 – To prioritise the collective interests of the society above self and narrow group interests.
Part V: The Specific and General Strategic Objectives
1 – Specific Objectives: Society Affairs
a) To build new public networks and formations in different places in a manner that suit the conditions and the needs of its members thus creating a strong and influential public lobby groups capable to meet the challenges of struggle and effectively work to achieve and protect the goals and interests of the society and enable its political force to play its due positive role in the national struggle.
b) To mobilize all human power, competence and skill resources to the service of societal interest and effectively channel efforts to instil and promote social consciousness that will preserve and defend the common societal interests.
c) Using the capacity and potential of websites in propagating and instilling interest- consciousness and awareness among the public.
d) To support and be concerned about the needs of martyr’s families, war disabled fighters and veterans in a manner that preserves their dignity and recognise their roles and assist in the recording and documentation of their rich history and experience of the struggle.
e) To utilise in a better way the human and material resources and capabilities of the society in adopting a well-studied plan that serve the public and private interests and provide the essential social services in all fields particularly in relieving the suffering of refugees in the camps and the outskirts of towns and villages.
f) Work more efficiently and effectively through the development of programs, plans and documents that to upgrade the quality of the needed work performance of the society and the general struggle. In addition to periodically and continuously revising and improving the Charter, principles of the consensual action plans in order to update and upgrade them to keep up with the latest developments.
g) Political organizations should closely and continuously work together and coordinate their stands and work in facing the challenges posed and defending the interests of the society. The public should in turn support the political organizations in order to enable them properly execute their duties and play the required role in achieving the goals and defending the interests of their society and in enhancing their role and influence in the general national struggle.
h) Provide the necessary advice and support to facilitate greater involvement of youth groups along the general stream line of the ongoing struggle of the opposition and in support of the rights of the Eritrean national components, including the rights of lowlands society in the aspired final democratic change.
i) To create and develop innovative mechanisms and practices for proper management of work and better coordination between the various components and help to unify their vision and channel all human resources and capacities to the purpose of realising the objectives of the society.
j) It is obvious that the accomplishment of any significant major work prerequisite the availability of the necessary financial resources in place. Thus the provision of material support should be given the utmost importance either through the collection of subscriptions and donations from members, friends of the community in addition to finding other additional fund generating methods to increase the financial capacity in different ways without contradicting the objectives and principles adopted.
k) To periodically hold seminars and conferences for the elites and representatives of various society sectors and forces in order to exchange views, take stands, make continuous evaluation of the performance and upgrade plans, policies and work programs with the purpose to meet the current challenges and explore the prospects of future developments and requirements.
l) To prepare the necessary studies on vital issues and subjects of concern to society that by carrying and cooperating with research and study- Centres that promote democracy and good governance and attend to studies and documentation that meet the challenge of the on-going distortions of the history and role of the society.
m) To focus more on issues of education, both in terms of quantity, quality, specialisation, encourage to boost graduate numbers from the vulnerable society sections particularly in refugee camps and the seeking of the necessary support for that.
2 – General Objectives: National Affairs
a) To ardently engage in deepening and consolidating the concepts of democracy, institutionalism and the rule of law in Eritrea among all national partners and preserving the gains that have been achieved in this respect represented by the formation of more developed umbrella group work forms, and adopting the tradition of dialogue through national conferences and seminars.
b) To encourage and support youth group opposition activities directed against regime and for democratic change and attempt to link them with the mainstream political objectives of the opposition forces that struggle for democratic change thus broadening the base and vitalising the struggling force.
c) To work in more efficient and responsible manner with all opposition forces and national groups in order to promote and preserve the common interests of all national components. This is through active coordination and positive engagement with all national partners in conferences, seminars, chat rooms, and other national platforms.
d) To engage with all national partners on the clear basis of the recognition of mutual interests, basic rights and freedoms of each in addition to the common national goals and interests shared in struggling against the regime and for democratic change.
e) To build strategic relationships with governments and peoples of the world, especially with neighbouring countries on the basis of mutually common interests, mutual respect and recognition of national sovereignty and integrity, cooperation in maintaining peace and development and good relations that serves the interests of the peoples of the region. In addition to this we have to strive hard to establish strong and durable relations with all regional and international organizations in order to win more support for the just cause of struggling for democratic change.
f) To promote and build strategic relationships with all communities related to our people’s extensions living across the border in neighbouring countries.
PART VI: Mechanisms
In order to translate the here above mentioned plans and programs into actions and realise the objectives, build strong links between the various societal sectors and coordinate work, we call for the establishment of a common umbrella civil organization and a leading council through which all societal sectors are able to coordinate and work together to implement the agreed upon programs with all sectors of the society.
1 – To urge the political organizations of this society to create a common umbrella organization based on: More developed well studied programs, methods and tools of work and to closely coordinate with each other in executing some of the political and military plans that serve the goals and interests of society and play a more effective role in the national struggle.
2 – For the civil sectors to establish a uniting umbrella organization that effectively defend and promote the public interest and lead public works necessary to that effect.
3 – To establish a system that regulates methods of coordination and cooperation between the civil and political forces in line with the ultimate interests of the society.
Work Ethics Code
Any working group needs to set certain clear rules of engagement that regulate the activities and relations of members based on accepted ethical norms of relations and interactions. This helps to organize, define and develop the work relations and maintain sound inter-relationships between the various parties involved, provided that everyone is to abide with and respect them in entering into dealings and interactions carried between the concerned parties, namely:
1 – To accept and respect the differences in opinions and options that the different parties may hold considering that as normal and natural human beings behaviour, which should not affect in any way the work relationships. All should work together to achieve the fundamental interests of the society in accordance with the clear rules and guidelines of engagement adopted that define and regulate the interactions and relationships between the various parties and the mutual responsibilities and the work-ethics binding them all.
2 – To respect and accept the Eritrean social and cultural diversity in all its forms whether on the national level or among the lowlands society and recognize the right of any component to express itself in the manner it finds appropriate without imposing any form of patronage upon it. It is also required to respect the rights, freedoms and interests of the society as well as of all other national partners.
3 – To devote all resources, efforts and energies in order to achieve the objectives and to maintain the interests of the society, for the joint struggle against the regime and not to be squandered in side- issues distraction and petty differences that provoke contradictions and adverse bickering.
4 – Refrain from personifying issues of differences, abusing each other, questioning the credibility, character assassination and black smearing campaigns against individuals or organizations as well as all negative actions that affect group relations and impede joint work.
5 – Establish and promote a culture of collaboration, cooperation and work across barriers of politics, religious, cultural and racial differences that divide community. Mainly focus on issues of convergence and avoid or minimise those of divergence. Adopt proper methods of problem- resolution and difference management through dialogue that ultimately serve the higher interests of society and the nation.
6 – Encourage and urge for collective work instead of individual based endeavours giving priority to the general interest of the society to that of personal or organisation interests.
7 – To abide, observe and comply with all the fundamental principles and action plans that have been agreed upon in this document, or any documents or agreements that may branch out from this and be fully committed to implementing that.
The belief and full conviction that the enabling of any marginalized component or force is tantamount to the enabling of all components that suffer exclusion, domination and deprivation by some partners in the nation whether that is from the dictatorial regime or from the opposition side and in tribute and recognition of the significant contributions made by this society and the appreciation of the important role it had played in the national struggle in contrast to the injustice it suffered are the motives behind the preparation of this initiative. Our interest in the lowlands society arises from the paradox between its strategic position, areal extension, considerable population, and homogeneity of its components versus the heroic positive legacy of its national struggle and the fact this society has been unable to reap the fruits of these advantages as logically expected. But contrary to the anticipated outcome their land has become an easy prey to settlers and their refugees still languish in very humiliating and miserable conditions in refugee camps in neighbouring countries as a consequence of deliberate hostile policies of the regime. In addition to the fact that this society has been also subjected to continuous denial of its rights and role by some of the opposition forces and exposed to attempts of exclusion and marginalization that strangely resonate with that of the regime made under various unfounded claims and pretexts. But such situation would not have arisen in the first place, if the lowlands society has paid enough attention to attend to and protect its societal interests at least to equal extent to the preoccupation and efforts it devotes to the national concerns. This situation will certainly continue if the society fails to realise this and set its internal household in proper order first and then adopt a strategic plan that clearly defines the objectives and determine the practical execution plan in a way different from the current prevailing work set that is based on trial and error and improvisation methods. Thus it is time to blow the whistle that the ongoing attempts of cancelling this society out of the political equation will not only hurt it, but will also negatively impact on the overall national struggle and would widely open the chance for the emergence and domination of exclusionist groups to monopolise power. Therefore, the call for this society is to stand up and take seriously the challenges posed. Though at face value this initiative seems to benefit the lowlands society only, in reality the benefits will extend to include all components that suffer from marginalization and domination. It will also contribute in making the nation more safe and sound when justice, peace and security would prevail. Thus it would certainly accelerate the struggle for change and establishing of decentralized constitutional governance system that realises democracy, the rule of law, equality, justice and fairness in power and wealth sharing processes for all.
Based on the foregoing analysis and on the fact that this initiative intends to bring together the various political and civil forces of the lowlands society around a set of minimum consensual principles and a general program that does not constitute the outlook of any one entity, all concerned are called upon to actively contribute in enriching the debate to develop these proposals to finally enable reaching more comprehensive consensus and adopt a charter that would successfully assist accomplishing the aspired goals of this society.
The Founding Committee for the Eritrean Lowlanders’ League.
1. Ustaz Mahamud Mohammed Ibrahim UK
2. Hamid Omer Izaz- UK
3. Miss Amna Idris UK
4. Mahmoud Aderob USA
5. Ismail Suliaman USA
6. Mohammed Ishaq Swed.
7. Jamal Mohammed Ibrahim Ger.
8. Taha Yaccob Ger.
9. Hamid Haj Ali Australia
London, United Kingdom on 29th March 2014