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Opposition conference in Ethipoia vows to bring democracy to Eritrea

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

Aug 1, 2010 (ADDIS ABABA) - Ten Eritrean opposition political organizations are holding a week- long conference in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, to discuss a framework of government should they manage to overthrow the current Asmara regime.

The week-long conference organized by Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA) has brought together over 400 delegates from all nine Eritrean nationalities, as well as foreign Diaspora, experts, civic societies and international observers.

On June 6, Sudan Tribune reported that eight Eritrean opposition forces had formed a military coalition to launch a coordinated attack to depose President Isaias Afwerki and his government. Afwerki assumed power in 1991 after Eritrea’s 30 year war with Ethiopia came to an end.

Since officially becoming head of state in 1993 after a referendum supervised by the United Nations, Afwerki has kept a tight grip on power, citing the potential of another conflict with Ethiopia.

Afwerki’s party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), is the only legal party in Eritrea. According to Reporters without Borders, Eritrea is the worst ranked country in the world in terms of press freedom.

One of the opposition groups at the Addis Ababa conference, the Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization (RSADO), told Sudan Tribune that the conference is expect to agree to a federal system that embraces democracy, equality and self-governance for all nationalities.

According to the RSADO’s head of communication, Yasin Mohamed Abdela, all but one of the opposition parties at the conference were signatories to the military front.

“The conference is expected to pass common stance on when, how to collectively launch military attacks to depose the current dictatorial rule and ways of placing a democratic rule into a new Eritrea,” said Abdela.

Last week 800 members of the Afar ethnic group met last week in Samara, Afar Regional State in Ethiopia, to discuss their place in a new constitutional framework.

The Samara conference reached a consensus to press for the rule of law, equality, human rights, and democracy in Eritrea. Delegates signed a declaration condemning Eritrea’s human rights record and pledged that the Afar people would join with the other eight Eritrean nationalities to achieve a rule of law in a federal Eritrea.

“The Samara Declaration” was presented on Sunday to the Addis Ababa conference by the Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization (RSADO):

“We, the Nationalities of Eritrea, including all refugees from our homelands in Eritrea, together that condemns for the murder, torture, rape, disappearances, expulsions, forcible confinements and aggression perpetrated against us, and our Peoples, now living in our ancestral homelands in Eritrea.

“Our resolve to join hands with our fraternal nationalities in Eritrea and living as refugees elsewhere to establish with them in the state of Eritrea, a liberal democratic federation based on the principles of freedom, autonomy, and equality for all nationalities.”

Some 1,800 Eritreans cross into Sudan every month, prompted by Eritrea’s policy of indefinite military conscription, drought and poor economic opportunities, according to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR.

In December last year IRIN, the UN news agency, reported that more than 66,000 Eritrean refugees are registered in eastern Sudan.

(ST)