By Tesfa-Alem Tekle
May 24, 2014 (ADDIS ABABA) – Eritrean president Isaias Afewerki announced on Saturday that the Red sea nation will draft a new constitution.
Afewerki made the announcement while delivering congratulatory speech to tens of thousands of supporters gathered at Asmara stadium to celebrate the country’s 23rd Independence Day anniversary.
The reclusive east African nation, Ethiopia’s former province, never conducted general elections since it emerged as a new nation in 1991.
The country ratified a new constitution in 1997, but president Afewerki, who has ruled the tiny nation since it gained independence, failed to implement it, instead turning the country in to a one-party state.
In his speech, the Eritrean leader accused the US government and its regional allies of long declaring war against it to cripple efforts at nation-building.
Eritrea has been engaged in long-running border disputes with Ethiopia, Yemen and Djibouti and accuses the US of being the architect behind the conflicts.
With regard to the 2009 sanctions the UN Security Council imposed against Eritrea for negative roles in Somalia and the region, Afewerki said the passed resolution by the UN body was another manifestation in the chain of predatory and unwarranted hostility against the country.
He said the sanctions were intended to silence Eritrean people from seeking justice in securing occupied sovereign territories.
“The central aim of these concerted hostile acts is to weaken all the endowments of the Eritrean people and vanquish its resistance,” he said.
The crowd erupted in loud applause following the announcement that the country was set to draft a new constitution.
Afewerki says the new document will be based on important lessons gleaned from what he described as hostile external schemes aimed at derailing the nation-building process.
“I would thus like to announce in this occasion that a constitution drafting process will be launched in order to chart out the political roadmap for the future government structure,” Afewerki said.
As well as military parade by the Eritrean defence forces, cultural dancing and music was also performed by Eritrean, Sudanese and Ugandan artists.
However, an Eritrean opposition group has down played the announced planed constitution saying an “empty pledge”.
Ibrahim Haron, leader of the Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization (RSADO), told Sudan Tribune shortly after the announcement that the president’s promise was only a psychological game aimed at prolonging his grip on power.
He described the president’s remarks as fanciful remarks, dismissing them as the usual cheap propaganda aimed at diverting the attention from the political and socio- economic crises gripping the country.
The opposition official said such deceit by a leader towards his people was unacceptable.
“I call upon the people of Eritrea at home and abroad not to be misled by the false remarks of the president,” said Ibrahim.
Ibrahim vowed his group would continue armed struggle to oust the “dictatorial” regime in Asmara.
Eritrea has zero-tolerance to dissent and there are no any legally functioning opposition political groups in the country.
In 2001, the Eritrean government arrested 11 top government officials, including ministers, for demanding democratic reform in the country. The senior government officials remain in prison to date.
Thousands of others who called for reform remain languishing in the country’s secret detention facilities.
Since independence, the country has been a one-party state, led by the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), a regime considered as one of the most repressive in the world.
According to reports, Eritrea actually is Africa’s last remaining official one-party state.
Considering the level of political repression, some international right groups refer to Eritrea as the North Korea of Africa.