A Note to Readers
The first demonstration ever to be held against the PFDJ government led by Issayas Afeworki was The Hague demonstration that was held on the 24th of November 2001. What made The Hague demonstration significantly historic was it became some years later a model of protest to be followed by all Eritreans struggling for democratic change in Eritrea.
The statement below was read at that historic demonstration and was posted in Asmarino.com. I am posting it here again in the interest of the world-wide readers of MdreBahri website.
Enjoy reading it.
Tuesday, November 27, 2001 | News.Asmarino.Com
STATEMENT PREPARED AND READ BY TSEGEZAB GEBREGERGIS AT THE HAGUE DEMONSTRATION, NOVEMBER 24, 2001
Fellow countrymen and women, friends of the Eritrean people and others who have come to participate in this demonstration, we salute you in the name of Eritrean people who are struggling for peace and democracy. We salute you also in the name of the Eritrean Action Committee for Peace and Democracy in the Netherlands who organized this demonstration.
As most of you are aware, when the Eritrean people embarked some forty years ago on the path to liberate themselves from Ethiopian colonial rule, they had hoped to live in an independent Eritrea under democratic governance, accountability and the rule of law. They had also hoped to secure the freedom of expression, the right to democratic elections, and the right to participate freely and fully in the affairs of their country without fearing reprisal of their leaders. All these noble hopes were, however, shattered once the reins of power were taken by the EPLF/PFDJ and a one-party-state was established in independent Eritrea. Much to the dismay of the Eritrean people, independent Eritrea is today under the firm rule of an unenlightened, despotic and repressive dictator who has open contempt for the rule of law, the Eritrean people, their traditions and culture.
Indeed, his regime is in violation of the Eritrean Constitution ratified in 1997 Article 17 regarding Fundamental Rights, Freedoms and Duties pertaining to Arrest, Detention and Fair Trial. Contrary to these provisions, today hundreds of Eritrean democrats and other patriots are languishing in prisons without charge and trials in independent Eritrea. The recent arrest and imprisonment of the 11 high-ranking Eritrean government officials, students and journalists without charge and trial is a good example which shows the repressive nature of the PFDJ led Eritrean regime. Why are these people being held? What are their crimes? The crimes of the G 15 reformers are for having stood and argued strongly for the following: They called for the implementation of the Eritrean Constitution without further delay, including allowing the urgent formation of political parties and holding democratic elections what are long past due;
- They called for the institutionalisation of government accountability and transparency;
- They called for the liberalization of the economy and the elimination of the PFDJ’s extra-legal participation in business and control of the economy;
- The reformers also wanted to ensure the rule of law, putting a stop to the president’s arbitrary usurpation of legislative and judiciary powers, his monopolization of decision-making in all matters of state large and small, his one-man rule refusing even to call regular meetings of state institutions such as the National Assembly and the Cabinet;
- They called for the elimination of the Special Courts that have acted as the president’s unfettered instruments for trampling upon the rights of individual citizens;
- And above all, the G-15 called for the respect of democratic rights and freedoms, including the basic human rights of all citizens.
Brothers, sisters and friends of the Eritrean people, this protest march is held today, November 24, 2001, in The Hague, in order to protest and condemn the tyrannical PFDJ Regimes violation of the Eritrean Constitution Article 17 regarding FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS, FREEDOMS AND DUTIES pertaining to Arrest, Detention and Fair Trial. Indeed, in crude violation of Article 17 of the Eritrean Constitution, the PFDJ regime:
- Has imprisoned illegally and unconstitutionally hundreds of Eritrean veteran freedom fighters who have dedicated their whole lives for the liberation of Eritrea and its people.
- It has imprisoned journalists and banned the free press; it has refused to implement the 1997 ratified Eritrean Constitution by the National Assembly -Eritrea’s transitional parliament. This is the very Constitution that was enacted to protect the Eritrean people from arbitrary rule and promote their rights and interests. The dictatorial regime is pursuing undemocratic policies and practices opposed to national reconciliation and unity that endangers the security of Eritrea.
The oppressor government of Eritrea has betrayed the social and economic liberation of the oppressed Eritrean people, for which thousands of Eritrean heroes were martyred. The dictatorial regime is following a confused, antagonistic and aggressive foreign and domestic policy, which endangers Eritrean security and the unity of its people. The regime is violating the fundamental human and political rights of the Eritrean people; that is, the regime is denying the right of the Eritrean people to freedom of peaceful assembly and association; the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the right to free elections; the right to form an independent political party opposed to its absolute rule; the right to participate in their own government; the right to free press, as well as, the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in an open court of law. The regime is also pursuing an active and dangerous military policy, — shoot first and then negotiate — against its neighbors with whom Eritrea should live in peace and cooperation. Today, we are holding this protest march because Eritrea under the dictatorial rule of the PFDJ has become a prison for Eritrean liberation heroes, patriots and democrats. Its reckless leadership is leading Eritrea down a very dangerous confrontational course against all Eritrean dissident groups and its Neighbours.
We are therefore demanding, at this protest march, today November 24, 2001:
- An end to arbitrary, one-man-rule in Eritrea; An immediate implementation of the ratified Eritrean constitution;
- The immediate transfer of political power to the Eritrean people;
- The immediate release of all political prisoners.
We demand that if the government has a case against anyone it should bring charges against them in an open and public court of law. We also demand the unconditional and immediate lifting of orders banning all privately owned independent press. Allow the press to function freely without any restrictions.
In view of all the repressive measures the Eritrean government is taking against Eritreans opposed to its dictatorial rule, we are calling upon the Dutch government and the European Union to freeze, except for humanitarian programs, all multilateral and bilateral aid at the European level destined for the Eritrean government until the above stated demands of the Eritrean people are met and implemented. We are also calling on the international community in general, and the UN Security Council in particular and other international financial institutions to do the same, until the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments have signed a peace agreement that leads to perpetual peace between the peace loving Eritrean and Ethiopian peoples. Both the Ethiopian and the Eritrean governments should be isolated diplomatically and denied participation in global decisions and issues. The international financial institutions need to deny both governments access to lending and debt rescheduling, as long as the two governments are engaged in conflict. And they need to impose an arms embargo on the Ethiopian and Eritrean governments.
Long Live International Solidarity!!!
The Eritrean People will win!!!