Preaching and Practicing Democracy
On our last commentary on our editorial To The Point, we brought you commentaries about vision, values and courage, three important ingredients in political leadership. Today we share with you commentaries about preaching and practicing democracy. The very essence as to why ELF-RC as well as many other organizations and movements continued their struggle after the long awaited independence that was achieved paying heavy human and material sacrifices.
We are fairly optimistic that most of the problems in Eritrea could be resolved by instituting a democratic system of governance except those who support the dictatorship that is ruling our country in isolation pretty much by military decree. However, do all of those organizations, associations, individuals and personalities that preach democracy practice it? If they do not, are they likely to embark in establishing a democratic government in Eritrea? If one organization does not run its own affairs in a tangible democratic manner, what is the likelihood that it will advocate democracy in tomorrow's Eritrea? What about those who openly say that the only thing that matters is getting rid of Isayas and his cronies from power? Does change of personalities, organization, or party really solve our problems once and for all? The answers to questions like these are crucial in determining whether we are destined to save our country from the faith in which many African countries find them selves of agonizing under one military junta after the other.
Democracy is a word that is most voiced and written word more than any other in the Eritrean opposition arena. As we have seen it time and again, there is no doubt every one preaches it. The question the public needs to be aware about is whether every one practices it. It is important to differentiate who talks the talk and walks the walk when the rubber hits the road.
Democracy can be described in an analogy of a small plant. One has to till/soften the land on which the bud, trunk or branch would be planted. It is imperatively significant also that the right seed or branch is selected that suits the owner' desires once the plant grows.
In building democracy, one has to sell the idea and implant it in the minds of the constituents and then into that of the public. The principles of democracy and the benefits of it need to be instilled in the public with care the same way the small plant is fertilized. Seeing is believing and therefore putting democracy into practice has to be demonstrated in practice in the organizations, small or big. Otherwise people will resist following because they will suspect that the organization(s) may not be any better than the one being replaced.
The majority of the public may be silent but does not mean it is not quietly watching and observing. That quiet observation is really the determining factor whether the public supports the opposition or remains skeptical and indifferent. The opposition has a choice to either conduct a thorough analysis and win over the people by correcting its actions and practices or give the public supporting PFDJ different labels and stay in the same status quo. The opposition needs to realize that there is something missing when people who are condemning the Isayas regime do not want to have any thing to do with the opposition. In our opinion, the eventual decisive victory depends on the success of winning over the sector of our population that is supporting the dictatorial regime of PFDJ. That success is significantly based on the principles an organization adopts and how well it practices them. Some of those important principles among others are:
The second most important measuring criteria is the practice side of it. Do the organizations transfer power peacefully? As we have said a number of times in the past, organizations and their leaders who do not practice democracy now cannot be expected to embrace it when they have their share of power in the future government when the stakes are higher. Personalities/leaders who do not concede the power of vote to their constitutions during the times of struggle cannot be relied up on to advocate for democracy and relinquish their power to the people in the future. Our people will be left to depend on the mercy of the individuals like they did with Isayas. After that experience, who blames them if they decide to" trust but verify" before they vouch to any one who preaches democracy. No one preached democracy and progressiveness than EPLF. But, since the organization did not practice what it preached in its own affairs could not deliver democracy to our people.
Leaders who resist forming a joint national opposition army cannot be trusted to relinquish the army and the power as well as prestige that come along with it to the constitutional democratic power of the people voluntarily.
Besides openness, accountability, transfer of power peacefully and tolerance, abiding by results that are not to one's liking, benefit or outright a decision one is against is the biggest test of all. Any one can praise and accept the results as long as the policy of their advocacy is adopted; personalities of their liking are elected ...etc. The real test of democratic conviction is when your side is in the minority and things do not go your way.
Democracy often requires doing the right thing rather than taking the popular option. It also appears messy and often than not is truly messy. As a result, practicing democracy requires to be tolerant, disciplined, focused in times of chaos and confusion as democracy is inherently messy, slow, inefficient and bumpy. Leaders need to have unwavering values and conviction as they are challenged and subjected to accountability by their own constituents and the public. Those challenges are sometimes loud and intense as well as outright scary. Therefore, courage is an important factor that will help true democrats stay the course with out wavering. In other words, paying the required sacrifice for the good of the many takes courage. That courage helps leaders stand against conspiracies and overcome temptations of political corruption. Of course those leaders ought to have solid democratic vision to enable them endure the unfair treatment from paper tigers and other opponents and competitors. These are the measuring factors that the Eritrean people should use when they look at any leader.
In our next commentary, we will look at the role and responsibility of the public in safeguarding its freedom, liberty and individual right as fruits of democracy. We will also attempt to relate this topic to the current situation of Eritrea and the Eritrean opposition in particular. We shall attempt to analyze whether creating an alliance among opposition forces guarantee a democratic outcome. We will visit the experience of ELF-RC in the Alliance and the chatter that will be created after the ENA leadership meeting in Addis concludes its session.
Thanks for reading!!!!
The Nharnet Team
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