To The Point
Accountability and Rule of Law
On our last commentary, we made remarks about preaching and practicing democracy. We also visited some of the important ingredients of leadership such as vision, courage and integrity. The qualities of a leadership are evaluated under the environment in which the leaders lead. In a political leadership setting, that environment can be a monarchy, autocracy, feudalism, military decree, civil dictatorship or democracy.
The ones that lead under democratic environments have dual responsibility under constrained authority. The constraint is the rule of law by which the leadership is to be abided. The vision that we talked about in our last commentary has to be implemented within the parameters of the principles of the democratic institution they lead. The main principles can only be changed by the legislative body of the entity. This applies even to private businesses where the leadership has to sell their vision to the board and the board in turn has to convince the stake holders commonly referred as share holders.
Leaders of democratic organizations have to get approval from their constituents via their representatives in the legislative body. At times the request for change from the leadership can be completely denied, partially approved, or a guideline totally opposite to the request adopted. The leadership has to adhere to the new guideline irrespective of their personal misgivings about the new guideline. Of course they can resign their post if they disagree strongly. They also can campaign against the new change and repel it in the next meeting by convincing others in the legislative body. Meanwhile, they have to adhere to it though.
The decision of RC (the legislative body) of ELF-RC in its last regular session can be cited as a good example of this. The delegation of ELF-RC, Seyoum and Ahmad, opposed the insertion of chapters 3 and 4 in the charter in the 5th Regular meeting of ENA. Even though the insertion was made at their presence with objection; RC decided that removal of those points and the adoption of proportional representation to be the basis for the return of ELF-RC to the ENA. Some tell our members and supporters that this request is not right since ELF-RC delegation accepted them in the meeting. We need to remind them that the delegation is accountable to RC. The leadership has to adhere to the new guideline. They also proposed and failed to convince the others in the meeting to adopt proportional representation to lead the process to a democratic direction. The same accountability criteria apply to this issue also.
In the final analysis, accountability goes hand in hand with democratic principles and practices. Otherwise, leaders would change venues at whim. Leaders may divert resources to when ever they feel like it. They would change policies as they wish. They do not have to account as to why. These practices and behaviors do not reconcile with very basic democratic norms. That usually leads to dictatorship. The democrats in EPLF are the victims of such development. There is no guarantee other organizations that do not have those venues in place now will not face the same predicament.
Let's turn our focus to the Eritrean opposition camp to see how they fare in this aspect. Every organization in the camp agrees that we need to get rid of the dictatorship. Lets see how we can measure the democratic ness of these organizations that preach democracy and therefore accountability and rule of law. At this point, we ask our readers to remember the now PFDJ, the former EPLF, was the most ardent preacher of democracy and equality. It did not practice what it preached. There was no mechanism of accountability for those who held high positions within the organization. As a result, they changed policies at will. That eventually led to the dictatorship that Eritrea has at hand now.
The first thing we look at should be the constitution of the entity. We analyze the process it underwent to be adopted. There should be assurance that all the constituents are represented in the meeting where the constitution in question was framed and ratified. We need to verify that the representatives were elected by their constituents openly and fairly. In our analysis, we need to ensure those elected were the ones who actually attended the adopting meeting. Over all, what matters is the process is fair, representative, and open. The mechanics of actually tallying the vote is immaterial whether it is done by raising hand, giving individual turn to speak, or by secret ballot as long as the accuracy of the recording of the result is guaranteed. Some who undermine the power of raising hands are shallow in their approach or making excuse not to abide by the outcome. Democracy is it; abiding by the majority of those who raised their hands. What makes it is interesting is that they claim to be elected democratically when the same hand raising process brought them to power.
At times we hear arguments that contradict the points and process we discussed above. Samples of those questions could be summarized as follows:
We ask back, how do you know that the leadership is doing a good job? There must be routine and regular meetings where the leadership and independent organs such as Audit Section report to the constituents. The constituents through their representatives can ask questions and challenge the leadership for the actions it took and decisions it made. That is when its performance can be objectively measured. That is when the constituents can hold the leadership accountable. It is at that point stake holders can decide to change or keep the current leadership. Leaders can be changed even when they have not messed up to give ways for different and fresh views and personalities. Avoidance of complacency and prevention of temptations to political corruption are good examples as to why to change leadership. Change of leadership should not be necessarily due to failure, weakness or breaking a law. That is the very reason many modern democracies have term limits for their highest positions.
This can only be true to an entity that does not have clearly stated principles adopted by a legislative body. If the principles change with who ever are leading the organization at a given time, then the entity has a bigger problem. Style and approach should not cause any continued and sustained message delivery problem at all. If the entity does not have the democratic infrastructure as explained above, then it is not a democratic one and so this issue does not pertain to it.
Generally, it appears to be a great thing for the top leaders to be elected by consensus. However, if that happens repeatedly that may bad news and the constituents need to be concerned about it. May be there is a divided leadership and the individual is being agreed upon as a means of preventing a breakup or a split. That is not good because a leader should be elected because of their vision, courage and integrity. Otherwise a weak leader instead of a strong, a stale one instead of outgoing, and a status quo instead of visionary can sometimes be elected. In fact, it is in a diverse society like ours that a strong democratic discipline is needed. It is in a society like ours that we have to ensure the majority rule is followed. It is in a diverse society like ours abidance by rule of law should be enforced. It is a society like ours that cry for openness and accountability because rumors flare easily. However if there are concerns of minority segments of our society, they should be addressed by the constitution so that they do not feel left out. Accommodations should be afforded to ensure their voices are herd and their representation is adequate at the constitution level.
The first prudent thing to do here is look at the formation of ENA and see what kind of organization it is. That will help tremendously to see the picture clearly. To further break it down, it is helpful to establish the facts about ENA:
In fact, one of the new ideas ELF-RC proposed was the proportional representation; a change that would have gotten rid of the stale of decision making. It would have then possible to make decisions and elect leaders based on votes and that would have been democratic. The other important proposal was to establish one common army. That would have helped to steer ENA to a democratic venue and minimize military clash in times of disagreements. Both were rejected. ELF-RC did not agree to the bring Herui to the most important position. It chose not to participate in the nomination and election. There was not a democratic process that it did not abide by. To the contrary, the leaders of ENA proved their undemocratic ness by breaking an international parliamentary procedural norm of walk-out by suspending ELF-RC.
Granted, there are differences in wealth and technology advancement between a third world country like Eritrea and a developed country like the USA. If the basic elements of democratic principles such as fairness, openness are followed, technological differences should not have significant impact.
All processes have their own shortcomings; but are tolerable as long as they do not impact the core democratic value. Looking at the controversy that was created during the last presidential election in the United States is a good example that technological advancement is not a full proof process either.
Eritrea was able to implement a fairly democratic parliament in its Federation days. There is no reason whey it can't do it now after all these years of experience. PFDJ adopted that excuse in order to deny our people their democratic rights. Others have started to adopt the same excuse to cover their mistakes of breaking the rule of law and their weakness of not adhering to democratic practices. The people should wake up and get hold of their destiny by demanding accountability under the rule of law they ratify. We call on the Eritrean youngsters to stand up and assert their right as the near future stake holders of the nation. They need to organize and voice to ensure an Eritrea of tomorrow that is governed under a democratic system. That is their only guarantee not promises from circles that do not practice what they preach. Democracy can only be achieved by getting involved and doing your share.
Thanks for reading
The Nharnet Team
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