Ten years after independence, Eritrea is still at the crossroads. One is the road leading to dictatorial oppression and suppression that has been upheld by the government/PFDJ. This road is very dangerous for the following reasons:
The regime in power is unconstitutional and has been struggling to prolong its grip on power at the expense of the Eritrean people.
In today's Eritrea , rule of law is absent and the regime is the law by itself; citizens have been denied their basic rights and been arbitrarily arrested and detained unabatedly in undisclosed locations.
Citizens have been denied of their constitutional rights of free expression of their opinions.
The regime has exposed the country to poverty and made the people dependent on food aid.
The regime's irresponsible foreign policy has isolated our country from its neighboring countries, Human Rights organizations, Aid agencies and the international community at large.
Corruption and power abuse have prevailed.
Management of National affairs has been solely monopolized by a single person as if it is a personal matter.
The other road, i.e., the road our party follows, is the road to democracy and the rule of law. The only way out from the political, social and economic crisis that our country has been put is the proven system of multiparty democracy. To establish a healthy democratic political atmosphere, political parties should be able to provide people with pragmatic visions and competitive leadership.
Our party is dedicated to the democratic ideal in which people will be masters of their own destiny and government will be held accountable.
It will be a party of inclusion to which every Eritrean will be welcome irrespective of his/her past political affiliation or religious belief or creed. It strongly rejects any attempt to divide our people along ethnic, religious and/or regional lines.
Our party accepts the fact that there are different political convictions among Eritreans, but believes that our common interest in the preservation of peace and our country's sovereignty and territorial integrity will act as bridges of understanding and mutual accommodation among different political perspectives. We cannot overstress the importance of the politics of inclusion in an environment of tolerance and peaceful dialogue.
We are convinced that such politics of inclusion, civility and tolerance will usher in a new era of democracy, a new political culture that will bring all Eritreans into the fold of the motherland.
War has been the dominant reality in the Horn of Africa for a whole generation. It has consumed lives and resources and made a mockery of all talk of development. It has exacerbated the cycle of famine, which has afflicted the entire region, causing millions of people to become dependent on external assistance for their survival. This is true of Eritrea as it is of other countries of the region. Eritrea has been a significant part of the crisis in the region, having been involved in a war of liberation lasting thirty years and, more recently, in the "border war" with Ethiopia in 1998-2000.
The "border war" was in fact one of the most devastating military conflicts that the world has witnessed in the post-Cold War era. It is estimated that hundreds of thousands persons have been killed, maimed and displaced in this two-year war. Its impact on Eritrean economy and society has been incalculable. Moreover, the political fallout that followed has caused a reappraisal of the record of Eritrea 's government plus a reawakening of a critical, democratic spirit among Eritreans, a spirit that had been shelved in the years following independence.
The tragic war of 1998-2000 and its consequences have instilled in us a keener awareness and clarity on two basic questions.
First, war involves expending the nation's treasure and the blood of its citizens, a truism that needs to be grasped and repeated again and again lest governments forget. As Eritreans we must make sure that our government is made constitutionally accountable in all matters of war and peace, including the imperative of consultation with the appropriate institutions of the state before being involved in any war, be it defensive or otherwise.
Second, any disagreement with our neighbors, be it border or otherwise, should be resolved through peaceful means and international law. We believed that there was a possibility of avoiding the devastating war and resolving the conflict through a peaceful means from the beginning. Our party upholds the principle that relationships of both countries should be conducted based on documented agreements and international law, not on personal relationships of leaders.
On our part we emphatically affirm that our new party seeks peace with all neighboring countries, and will work hard to revive the broken promise of a region to coexist in peace and harmony and not in conflict.
As a dedicated party to the principles and practices of democracy and committed to transition to constitutional government, our party (EDP) intends to do as outlined in this program.
II - ESTABLISHMENT OF EDP
After Eritrea 's independence, promises for a democratic transition to constitutional government were made at least on paper. A Charter was issued and laws promulgated that sought to institute a constitutional form of government. These measures culminated in a process-driven, well conceived and organized, drafting of a national Constitution, which was ratified in May 1997, following three years of public debate and expert consultation. The Constitution remains unimplemented. EDP is being established on the basis of the spirit of the ratified Eritrean Constitution, but it is prepared to entertain and seriously consider suggestions for amendments of any part of the Constitution that any of its members may deem necessary in order to accommodate the widest possible range of ideas and members.
More specifically, EDP is established to promote, preserve and defend the principles specified in the following detailed stipulations of the program embracing political, economic and social programs as well as foreign policy.
III - EDP'S PROGRAM IN DETAIL
1. Political Program
The basic political objective of EDP is the establishment of a constitutional system in accordance with the democratic principles laid down in the ratified Constitution of Eritrea. Under such system, the Constitution is supreme in guiding the organization and operation of the government, enthroning the rule of law and being the source of government legitimacy and the basis for the protection of the rights and freedoms of people. To those ends:
EDP will strive to ensure that human and democratic rights are protected and promoted including the rights detailed in the Bill of Rights provisions of Chapter three of the Eritrean Constitution (enclosure 1) and international laws on Human Rights (enclosure 2).
EDP will monitor any developments that negatively affect human and democratic rights and use every legal means to defend against such developments.
EDP will endeavor to ensure the creation of an electoral system under which the democratic representation and participation of the Eritrean people guaranteed by the Constitution will be fulfilled. Accordingly, EDP will periodically evaluate the effectiveness and fairness of the electoral system in operation and adopt measures to rectify defects by proposing alternative electoral practices. EDP will also monitor the performance of elected representatives at all levels, in order to ensure that the public interest is protected. Where appropriate, EDP will publicize any serious failures or any dereliction of duty on the part of elected officials.
EDP will monitor the exercise of power of government officials at all levels and encourage the devolution of power from the central government to the regional, local and community levels. EDP will organize seminars and workshops designed to enhance the skills of its members in all aspects of public administration. Being committed to the widest possible autonomy of the local units, EDP intends to play an active role in drafting appropriate legislative measures and to work towards their implementation. In accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, which stipulates that the powers and duties of the units of local government is to be determined by law, EDP will research the subject to help attain appropriate sharing of powers between the center and the local units.
The current administrative divisions that were established by the government in 1996 have been a source of frustration and administrative constraints due to their luck of consideration to the historical and psychological interrelationship among our people. EDP believes that the administrative divisions that existed before 1996 should be reinstated and works to its effect until a well researched administrative divisions that would give due consideration to our people's historical and psychological interrelationship are promulgated with the blessing of the people.
EDP is committed to the Constitutional principle that the military owe allegiance to the Constitution and obey the commands of constituted civilian authority. Furthermore, EDP is committed to the principle that the military are not to be used by any person, group or political party for purposes other than the defense of the country against foreign threat or invasion. EDP distinguishes between individual members of the military and the military as a collective entity. Individual members of the military are entitled to their civil rights, including the right to vote in elections, but should not be allowed to be elected to any political office or/and be members of any political party. The military, as a collective entity, is not to be politicized to serve the ends of any person, group or party.
EDP undertakes to help ensure the survival and development of the languages and cultures of Eritrea 's ethnic groups. With regards to official language(s): even though the final say should rest on the people, EDP believes that Tigrigna and Arabic should serve as official languages.
Equality among Eritrean Ethnic groups is the corner stone of our unity. EDP works to promote and ensure equality among ethnic groups and rejects any contrary notion.
EDP will work to the establishment of ombudsman at every level of governmental structures to hear public complaints and ensure justice.
2. Economic Program
EDP is committed to Eritrea 's sustainable development, including a balanced economic growth to build a stable and prosperous country, based on principles of market economy. To that end, EDP will endeavor to ensure that all Eritreans are beneficiaries of the economic policies and programs, including access to and equitable allocation of resources. As an integral part of such endeavors, EDP will also ensure that all development policies and programs are consistent with the imperative of an environmentally friendly and balanced, sustainable development.
Towards these ends:
EDP will work out a strategy with plans and programs designed:
1. To develop and expand domestic as well as international markets, and encourage policies of cooperation with neighboring countries aimed at mutual benefit.
2. To develop the material and human resources while at the same time making sure that the environment is appropriately protected.
3. To develop the rural sector of the economy.
4. To ensure an integrated and balanced development, paying special attention to areas of the country with little resources endowment.
5. To encourage public and private enterprise in the development of all sectors of the economy and to that end to encourage cooperation between the public and private sectors
6. To ensure that the government provides services that the private sector is unable or unwilling to provide.
7. To encourage the widest possible participation of foreign and domestic capitalists in the economy of the country and to design plans and programs and help draft laws and regulations to achieve these ends.
8. To encourage the participation of Eritreans in the Diaspora to invest in the development of the Eritrean economy.
9. To identify and define public policy issues of concern to the public thus enabling the public to protect and defend its interests at the national level.
10. To achieve the above-listed objectives, EDP will canvass wide ranging input from all stakeholders of the economy, including agriculture, industry, mining, trade and commerce, finance, and tourism and elaborate its program.
11. Will oppose party controlled enterprise, as they will be the source for corruption and nepotism.
12. EDP is of strong conviction that land belongs to the people. EDP will, therefore, work on an intensive study, with an active participation from the public at large, to replace the current land proclamation with a new one that would reflect current and future needs as well as sustainable land holding practices.
3. Social Program
The overall social program of EDP aims at improving the lives of the majority of the Eritrean people, particularly those who live in the rural areas, with a primary focus on the adequate and timely delivery of educational and health services. To these ends the social program will contain a strong component that ensures the active participation of the public in the delivery of quality education and health services.
More specifically, EDP will prepare plans and programs designed to achieve the following:
The gradual expansion and consolidation of quality education at all levels, particularly in the rural areas, including vocational and technical education and training.
The expansion of access to quality and appropriate health services throughout the country.
The advancement of policies and programs designed to protect the rights and improve the quality of life of teachers and professionals engaged in allied services and to formulate policies designed to enhance their contribution. Such policies and programs include supporting the claims of teachers for adequate compensations and for creating conditions that enable them to upgrade their skills.
The medium of instruction at the elementary schools will be determined by the community and shall not be imposed by the state.
The advancement of policies and programs designed to protect the rights and improve the quality of life of health professionals from the community health worker up to the specialist physician serving in town and country.
To help create an environment conducive to the participation of the private sector in the provision of education and health services, while making sure that the government plays its crucial role.
To encourage and actively participate in ensuring that the educational system as a whole produces citizens that are imbued with democratic principles, including the values of mutual understanding, tolerance and respect for differences in peoples and their ideas and beliefs.
To fight illiteracy by organizing and leading systematic and continual campaigns until illiteracy is eliminated.
To help create plans and programs designed to protect the right of workers in all sectors of the economy and society and prepare laws and regulations to achieve these ends.
To support the creation and expansion of independent labor and civil societies professional unions and help prepare laws and regulations designed to achieve these ends, paying special attention to the balanced development of the economy as stipulated under the economic program (2 above).
To help in the formulation of policies and drafting of laws designed to provide for the social insurance and pensions of all working people, be they government employees or engaged in the private sector.
To help in the formulation of policies and laws designed for the care, protection and proper upbringing of children in accordance with the Constitution and appropriate laws and customs of the country.
To help design policies and laws designed for the protection and provision of support of the elderly and the unemployed while endeavoring to help provide appropriate employment to the unemployed.
To make sure those religious rights are protected and religion is kept separate from government, in accordance with the Constitution.
To advance the rights of children and women in accordance with the Constitution.
To advance the rights of the disabled, war veterans and families of martyrs.
4. Foreign Policy
EDP's position on Eritrea 's foreign policy is based on respect for the sovereignty and independence of States and on promoting the interests of regional and international peace, cooperation, stability and orderly development.
Eritrean Democratic Party
News- and information Department