Fetsum: The SINIT CHARTER under the third eye’s surveillance (part I)
I have no emotion related to the events that unfolded in the DENVER SINIT experience, no antipathy for the negative vibes what so ever. Things, however, must be told for transparency only if they affect
I have no emotion related to the events that unfolded in the DENVER SINIT experience, no antipathy for the negative vibes what so ever. Things, however, must be told for transparency only if they affect society one way or another; meaning an action on a person’s ideas transcends to actions on society; the reason our collective political life should be exhausted at this stage of the fight to avoid conflicts in the transitional period of and far beyond. Therefore, my articles on SINIT should not polarize my readers positively or negatively but rather should they give us the opportunity to see the inputs coming from different angles of the resistance towards developing them into grassroots based sustainable democracy in the motherland.
To give you the back ground, the Denver festival organizers invited us about a year and half ago to create something that conceptually unites the opposition camp in general. We were 7 individuals in the SINIT COMMITTEE with Aya Abdalla serving sort of an observer and moral support to the project. Two of us had Electrical Engineering background (PhD and professor, and MS), one Medical Doctor, one Economist (PhD, Professor), one Business Administration (MS) and one Political Science (PhD, Professor). We also had different civic and political affiliations in a sense; and had all submitted our respective proposals as I fully exposed in “My Experience in Denver Festival” series. Mine in brief included, at least the following points based on the ambiance of the meetings but I can provide the original material upon request.
1) The expression “SINIT” should be directed towards the conceptual unity of the divided elite class of the society and not the people that have been coexisting peacefully for ages.
2) Our problem is universal that must be resolved based on universal merit.
3) Religion and the State should be separate. Religion should not influence politics in Eritrea and I believe SECULAR DEMOCRACY would best fit our society’s socio-political composure in this regard.
4) Arabic is the language of Holy Koran that we all should respect and all Moslems must freely use for religious matters but we should not enforce it on the people. We should also academically and universally resolve our difference on Arabic as an official language. Our people should, otherwise decide the matter by national referendum (Arabic Vs. our authentic languages and specifically Tigre for official language). Tigre (a language of more than 35% of the people) should be glorified to acquire its legitimate space in the country’s linguistic topology at the entire people’s consent.
5) Transitional Governments are known to be NEUTRAL from the political parties at the executive branch level of their structure. Therefore, we should have an all-inclusive transitional government composed of an Assembly from all sects of the society; with independent or neutral executive branch to avoid conflict of interest. We should academically settle the difference on the matter through research oriented substance before entering the transition stage with our differences intact.
6) We should study Bayto (Awassa related) inside out and suggest solutions to its convoluted composition (about 40% political parties and their affiliates at minimum) and misrepresentation of the people related to the mandate. Bayto should be purified from the political parties’ pollution to serve the people neutrally. We cannot limit the Eritrean political future at the sole control of Bayto, an organization that did not contact the people for years. We need to be open for other opinions as well.
There were a lot more into it but Chairman Sengal ignored the ideas completely. The house was negative when I first brought “NEUTRAL transitional government” for discussion. I don’t want to waste time on the inco0nsistencies and psychological warfare that was going on but we reached Denver for the festivities and Sengal instructed me to stay quiet throughout the occasion. It did not work because I did my speech, but he stopped me from sharing my research on transitional governments (4 countries’ experience) with the crowd based on our previous agreement. We then left Denver promising the people we would study and present academic material on the subject matter within 4-6 months. Unfortunately, we could not continue together because they fired me about a month after the festival, through DISKELA that I figured out myself at a point in the go. It was a surprising “democratic” low blow that neutralized me out of the way without any explanation, form of contact or notification.
My personal opinion does not matter here as far as objective reality is concerned because subjective rational is a biased abstraction in favor of the self. I am aware of what the mind can do in situations as such and will not allow it to personalize the situation at the expense of the Eritrean people. In line with that, I am sharing my opinions without worshipping my ideas and feelings; using this first phase of the struggle (today) to dialogue on procedures, consistency, democratic concepts, asking questions, researching and learning as much as I can.
The Denver SINIT Committee which produced the DENVER MANIFESTO in 2018 is today called Eritrean Sinit Study Group (ESSG) and has recently disclosed its CHARTER composed of four proposals. Here is the first part of my thesis and enjoy the moment with good intention.
PROPOSAL 1 of the “ROAD MAP” is a 17 page paper under “Orderly Discourse Transition to Democracy in Eritrea”. It discusses very important subject matters in general on diversified issues relevant to the Eritrean society.
PROPOSAL 3 is a 23-page paper under “Creating a Unified Eritrean National Democratic Force to Defeat the Dictatorial Regime in Eritrea”. It briefly discusses “The Current Situation, The Need for Political Transition, Couse of Disunity and Disharmony in the Justice-Loving Movement, Unity of Justice-Loving Eritreans, Transparency and Accountability of Justice-Loving Eritrean Groups, Transparency, Middle-Level of the Alliance, Bottom-Level of the Alliance, Conclusion.”
Comment: The “proposals” are composed of good educational materials overall that disclose Eritrea’s situation in contrast to healthy societies based on many sources of information. The group deserves appreciation for its effort and I hope our people will read them for knowledge. But they are something to learn from not to act upon; they do not comply with the standard structure of a TRANSITIONAL CHARTER which really should concentrate on the legal distribution of power and right between interrelated social components in the society. In our case, a charter is a written proposal as to how our country’s executive, legislative and judiciary interdepend on each other; how the sovereign power, and its rights and privileges should be processed in the transitional period to democracy. It is “a document that describes the powers, duties and structures of a government and the rights of citizens.” It is not an essay on diversified social issues I, therefore label the educational materials in “general Knowledge” category and move on.
“PROPOSAL 2 of the SINIT STUDY GROUP: “Universal Declaration of Human Rights; An Amended, to Reflect the Eritrean Reality (Article 1-35)”.
I don’t know where to classify this portion of their CHARTER (released in July,2019 and modified then after) because it is a unique product, probably one of its type in history. Here, the group adapts the 30 Articles in the UN standard universal declaration of human rights document that most nations on planet earth if not all accept without modification as its PRINCIPLEs and amends it to contain 5 more Articles(31-35) as follows.
“Article 31: Every Eritrean shall accept, the absence of “justice” in all its forms (political, social, economic, administrative, etc.) as the sole fundamental cause for the “problems” of Eritrea. Hence, every Eritrean should concur with the fact that the fundamental solution to the Eritrean ills is to make “Justice” reign over Eritrea.
Article 32: Every Eritrean (person or organization) should have respect for, uphold and be governed by the “Rule of Law”.
Article 33: (1) Every Eritrean should “believe in” and “have respect for” the plurality of the Eritrean people. (2) The government shall not engage itself in the development of forms or measurement standards that delimit [define, restrict, etc.] the question of identity (ethnicity, clan, nationalities, province, etc.) of an Eritrean individual or group.
Article 34: Every Eritrean entity (individual or organized group) should commit itself to the act of alienation of control over the outcome of the struggle for democratic change in Eritrea.
Article 35: Every Eritrean entity (individual or organized group) shall accept and respect all Eritrean languages as “National Languages”. Until the Eritrean people makes the determination in the case through a proper constitution making, every Eritrean shall accept Tigrigna and Arabic as “Working Languages”. END
Comment: I was not too much into this when I was a member of the committee because there is no exceptional reality in the Eritrean society that necessitates doing so specially in our very peaceful socio-ethnic coexistence. I just did not see any advantage of this considering our priorities within the constraint of time we experienced in the project. It was indeed a surprise but I went through the process without a problem, although the contents are somehow modified from their original version after my disposal. Assessing what was going on in the meetings, I had only one thing in mind; compromising as much as I could for a Neutral Transitional Government deal in return. I did not achieve it but the outcome was finally shared in its original form at the festival (first week of July, 2018) as the committee’s ”exceptional” and most important contribution to the struggle. The UN Document is public information so will I only discuss the amendment.
As for Article 31: Justice means fairness, impartiality or equality and liberty, and I like it: The issue is, however, well covered in the UN Document; Articles 1-2 at minimum.
As for Article 32: Human rights are respected through the rule of the law and this is the fundamental concept of the UN Document needless saying respecting rule of law is not new to the peace loving Eritreans. This is, thus a redundant version of the many articles within.
As for Article 33, UN’s 18-21 substantially cover it at minimum. The articles promote “the so-called “constitutional liberties”, and with spiritual, public, and political freedoms, such as freedom of thought, opinion, religion and conscience, word, and peaceful association of the individual.”
The group, however, decided getting into something like; “The government shall not engage itself in the development of forms or measurement standards that delimit [define, restrict, etc.] the question of identity (ethnicity, clan, nationalities, province, etc.) of an Eritrean individual or group.” without offering associated limitations that may negatively agitate the society into State intervention depending on the situation. They offered this for the people to adapt as PRINCIPLE. I do believe the two underlined etc.s can extend to mean anything including religion at minimum.
Aparently, all ethnic groups should be respected equally no matter how small in population but when shall the government legally involve in those issues and where do the exclusive rights cross the boundary of fairness and law? Should we randomly and unlawfully allow ethnicities, clans or nationalities within and out of the society’s authentic composure based on the feeling of individuals? Should we allow (without government approval) dividing an ethnic group based on religion, although I have no problem with our Geberty’s cessation from the Tigrigna ethnic group as long as it is based on the voice of the community in exclusive referendum (involving the Geberty community only). But this does not mean I should support the idea to satisfy the few individuals who want to do it for personal motives without legal procedures. I don’t mind our society classifying the Tigrigna ethnic group as Geberty Tigrigna and Christian Tigrigna or something to this effect as my brother Mustafa suggests, for instance. But shouldn’t something like this be approved by the National Assembly to be legal?
The question is; how can the State completely stay away from issues as such? Should we allow radical tendencies to disparage the society based on ethnicity, religion and languages? We cannot, for instance protect the society from the destructive Agazians with Article 33 (as principle) that gives them unlimited green light to organize in terms of ethnicity, religion and nationality (Tigrigna Speaking Christian Oritawian nation) and without State interference. Freedom comes with Responsibility and we need laws from the justice system about anything that affects the society and a government to legally implement them. Yet, there is no research oriented substance from SINIT on specific local situations that necessitate the dangerous Article 33 in our peaceful society.
As for article 34, I don’t understand it fully to confidently comment on but I think it discourages the people from claiming exclusive control of the struggle’s outcome. It sounds good if I got it right!
As for Article 35; the contents therein, “accepting and respecting all Eritrean languages as “National Languages”” may be a very good PRINCIPLE to adapt, which I believe we collectively did. But the “every Eritrean shall accept Tigrigna and Arabic as “Working Languages”” is some people’s opinion that the Eritrean people cannot accept as a PRINCIPLE. I don’t accept Arabic as a working language in Eritrea by PRINCIPLE, for instance because I don’t support any type of chauvinism (linguistic in this case) in any society.
The question of Arabic Vs. indigenous Eritrean languages will have to be settled for good at a point in the journey. Here, however, SINIT showed stronger attachment to the federation era’s 1952 Eritrean Constitution ratified by Emperor Haile Selassie compared to the 1997 Eritrean Constitution made in Independent Eritrea and ratified by the Eritrean Bayto of the time. The 1997 Constitution was written by our best professionals, known international professors and professionals in the field and with direct participation of the people (absolute freedom of contact and movement) inside the country. We will touch this a bit in one of the upcoming articles but SINIT has rendered it improper through its words; “Until the Eritrean people makes the determination in the case through a proper constitution making, every Eritrean shall accept Tigrigna and Arabic as “Working Languages”. SINIT disqualified They disposed it without any research oriented substance.
Well, the people should and do consider all our languages including Arabic as national languages but this does not mean we should ignore the history of our languages, their direct relationship with our people and effect on their national dignity; which we only can academically, universally and legally approach for the sake of justice, respect and unity. Logic and reality should dictate the terms here instead of feeling and fabrication.
The longevity of Arabic (as official language) in Eritrea cannot walk very far because it is alien, an adapted language of our adapted Arab community that “migrated to Eritrea and north-eastern Sudan from Saudi Arabia in 1846. The Rashaida are thought to be related to the Bedouin of Saudi Arabia and are the only true nomadic people left in Eritrea.” It is a short historical contact vis-à-vis the oldest indigenous languages in the history of mankind! The language of about 2% of our adapted Arab community cannot by any democratic and moral standards dictate over indigenous Eritrean languages spoken by about 98% of the indigenous African Eritreans, let alone for them to accept as a PRINCIPLE. I don’t even think the Rashaida community approves this injustice in Eritrea. Democracy and justice would have to die for this unprecedented issue to be re-imposed in Eritrea after about 77 years of misapplication and without academic dialogue and national referendum if necessary. TIM ILKA GUSOMO, may be, because KISAB HIJI GOSIMNAYO KEYFETENA! But Eritrea can no longer be forced to be the only partially Moslem country in the world (about 45 of them) to adapt an alien language for an official language at the expense of its own rich cultures and languages.
The exceptional and unfair pressure of Arabic on the Eritrean people [in view of the about 45 partial or full Moslem societies] cannot be effectuated without violating the UN Document of Human rights in general. It cannot be done without infringing SINIT’s Article 31 that promotes justice (vis-à-vis the rest of the people, equal and proportional distribution of resources), SINIT’s Article 32 on “RULE OF LAW”, which is “the legal principle that law should govern a nation, as opposed to being governed by arbitrary decisions of individual government officials.” Rule of Law is about managing a nation based on its objective reality instead of on feelings of individuals. Further, it violates SINIT’s Article 33 that states “Every Eritrean should “believe in” and “have respect for” the plurality of the Eritrean people.” I think we do believe in our diverse society but promoting Arabic dominance in Eritrea does not reflect respecting the Eritrean people a bit!
The Denver SINIT Committee survived for a short time with 5 original members after it fired me, although I have no idea how many members it has today. Yet, the four individuals did it without involving and notifying Professor Tseggai Issacc (a committee member) in the decision. He did not know how and why they took that action until I informed him when he recently contacted me to discuss the SINIT CHARTER believing I was still part of the study group. That is when I learned he had left the group on his own initiative through the following letter contrary to the group representative’s suggestion to a crowd in Sweden that they ‘dismissed two individuals from the group because of conceptual incompatibility’. Folks, trust is a derivative of transparency!
“On Monday, September 10, 2018, 9:19:42 AM EDT, Isaac, Tseggai wrote:
Good Morning; The details of the 5 points added to the United Nations Universal Declaration for Human Rights (UNUDHR) give me disquiet. Eritrea is not unique to other countries as to need special clauses or articles that would remedy any imagined deficiencies of UNUDHR. The UNUDHR is complete; it is the best of the best documents. I also believe the five points added are already addressed by the good nature of the Eritrean people whose sense of justice, equality, hospitality to strangers, and their culture of the fear of God. Particularly, I cannot in good conscience support the subject of land and Arabic as an official language in Eritrea. The topic of Eritrea and the Eritrean people’s land has a complex history in the decades before 1889. I don’t have time to discuss them now. Arabic belongs to the Arabs whose history of enslaving our people, both Muslims and Christians is unforgivable. It is a language of war, murder, oppression, division, and spearhead for perpetual crisis. If anything, Arabic, in my opinion should be outlawed due to the painful deep wounds it caused in our history. I DO NOT oppose freedom of worship for all Eritreans, Muslims, Christians or other faiths and religious confessions.
Having said the above, I feel, I should resign from this mailing list’s task. Please remove my name.
Regards; Tseggai Isaac, Professor; Missouri University of Science and Technology, Rolla, Missouri”
Dr. Gebre Gebremariam responds;
“Dear Dr. Tseggai: I don’t understand which Eritrea you are talking about? Which history of Eritrea? In the Eritrea that I know and I loved so much and I paid dearly for its liberation, “Land belongs to the People (Meboqol Adi)” and no language is considered as a language of murder. The Tigrians who happen to speak “Tigrigna” had been raiding Eritrea, murdering Eritreans and committing countless atrocities before 1889. Do you also consider Tigrigna as a language of murder? You also speak English for your living. What about English? Is it a language of murder? The British and their cousins, the Americans, murdered and enslaved Africans in millions.
I don’t want to go to the philosophy of languages and its relevance or otherwise to the issue your raised. I just want to say “your characterization of the issue is very unfortunate and it does not reflect the reality of the Eritrea that I know”. Your characterization of the issue also lucks “justice”. Where were you when all these issue were discussed and adopted? It is not fair now to use them as an excuse for your decision to resign.
The Professor further sent me the following note on Saturday, September 7, 2019.
“Dear Brother Fizum; I have no problem of informing the public that I used to belong to Sinit but after they added a ploy to water down the Universal Declarations for Human Rights by adding five (5) elastic clauses, I disagreed on 4 of the five points and resigned. I believe it is honorable to be frank, honest, and right unless I am proven wrong. Here are the points on which I disagree with Sinit’s spokesmen.
- LANGUAGE: I publicly told the group, via email, that Arabic is “a language of violence and bloodshed”. No Eritrean CITIZEN, MAN OR WOMEN, should be ordered or demanded to use Arabic as an official language, I believe ARABIC should be banned from OFFICIAL ROLE in Eritrea as it is in Somalia, Turkey, Indonesia, and a host of other societies.
2 RELIGION: Religion is a personal and individual affair: I believe no state has the right or authority to legislate or enforce faith.
- LEADERSHIP: Leadership is a matter of democratic participation. It should not be legislated to allow discrimination of women and minorities; no need to legislate or make constitutional provisions on leadership. Leaders rise up through elections by the plebiscite in open and democratic political landscape. The Universal Declaration makes provision on this and no need to legislate it unless some want to abridge the rights of group or individual rights.
- LAND: Land in Eritrea belongs to the Eritrean State and the Eritrean people. No ethnic, religious, social, or regional entities have propitiatory ownership and exclusive right to determine ownership or distribution of land. Land should be governed by legislative/statutory and legal/judicial determinations under a democratically established constitution, administration, and implementing agencies.
When I rendered my resignation from Sinit, I only expressed my disagreement to them on language. The rest are thoughts that they have and want to let you know I disagreed on. You can inform the public on [1-4] or combinations of any of the above.
Best Regards, Tseggai Isaac”
NOTE: Professor Tseggai’s points relate to, at least to two original proposals by two members of the original SINIT Committee that I disclosed to the public in the ten articles under “My Experience in Denver Festival” series. They are available for anyone to see upon request.
In conclusion, this is about us in general. Readers should modestly accommodate all sides of the situation without bad mouthing. The era of bad mouthing is a thing of the past and we better use wisdom at this critical political stage of the Eritrean people. We should respect freedom of speech and concentrate on the beef to make a difference in any situation. This type of dialogue is essential to our political health and your neutral and decent participation is even more important for the success of this rugged journey to democracy.
Apparently, the mind can speculate anything, the mouth can say many phrases; the fingers can write the words and the reality may seem discouraging at times, but objective consciousness dictates social terms at the end of the day. The minimum we Eritrean intellectuals should do is sticking to our words and defending and adapting universal concepts in practice. Democracy is not a variable that anybody can interpret based on subjective logic. Nor is it that anyone in the opposition camp can qualify to identify with for only being against the regime (tens of groups with their respective understanding of Democracy could not sit down and democratically resolve their differences). It is not selective but rather inclusive; not about repelling away ideas but rather taking the opportunity to settle concepts through civilized academic dialogue. Democracy cannot be monopolized; it is a wide open concept that should commonly apply everywhere depending on and adjusting to specific circumstantial realities.
I was a victim of my neutral ideas that threatened the four individuals in the committee as will further be apparent in the next appearances. The group fired me with unanimous voice (4/4 voting) but in the absence of an active member Professor Tseggai Issacc and myself as a defendant in the Court. KESESTIN FEREDTIN KOYNOM: They violated everything they wrote about tolerance, dialogue, democracy, accommodating different ideas and SINIT at large. They stepped on the UN Document and their own Amendment: Article 31 (justice: biased justice against my thoughts), Article 32 (Rule of Law: Afwerki style DISKELA instead of democratic procedures), Amendment 34 (monopolizing the outcome of the struggle and intolerance of other ideas about the common challenge). They made ARABIC’s superiority in the motherland a condition for their unity and they are trying their best to democratize the country.
This is the people’s voice and stay tuned for discussion on SINIT’ most important Articles of transition to democracy (Proposal 4: Harmonized Interim Constitution of Eritrea). I will also do BAYTO’s (Awassa) CHARTER in the go before completing the thesis with the very impressive Liberia’s CHARTER to democracy (ACCRA ACCORD) and the extraordinary Sudanese CHARTER made in SUDAN. PEACE!!