On the 27th anniversary of Eritrea’s independence, Isaias Afwerki should remember what he once said about democracy.
On September 8, 1997, in a public address at the Walton Park Conference in West Sussex, England, President Afwerki delivered profound remarks on democracy and the rule of law in a speech titled “Democracy in Africa: an African view.”
In this address, the president listed six fundamental principles that he believes are the most essential pillars of a modern democracy, particularly in Africa:
1 – The right of a citizen to an equal share of natural resources, including access to basic necessities and protection from hunger and deprivation.
2 – The right to equal opportunity, including education and other services that are essential for personal development.
3 – The right to full respect and protection of one’s dignity – as a human being, citizen and member of a community – without any discrimination on the basis of social status, religion, gender and race.
4 – The right to life, unhindered movement, and freedom of expression and opinion.
5 – The right for and the provision of, appropriate legal and institutional guarantees consisting of, among other things, a constitution and a judiciary.
6 – The right for and the provision of a responsible, transparent, and non-corrupt government to uphold the rule of law and defend the national interest.
Despite the progressive views expressed by the president in this speech, Eritrea has moved further and further away from democracy in the last two decades under his rule.
First of all, Eritrea is still being ruled without a constitution. After a three-year-long drafting process, the country’s constitution was ratified in 1997, but it has not been implemented to this day.
Also, the country is still run by a single party – People’s Front for Democracy and Justice – whose last congress convened over 20 years ago, in 1994. The last meeting of the national assembly, on the other hand, took place over 16 years ago, in January 2002.