Political Program of
The Eritrean People’s Democratic Party (EPDP)
The people of Eritrea were able to achieve their national sovereignty by waging political and armed liberation struggle for fifty years beginning in the 1940s. However, the absence of a competent people’s political organization at that time, led the political power to be usurped by a dictatorial click. Consequently, the people’s hopes for a brighter future were blighted by an ever deteriorating political, economic, and social crisis; thus, necessitating a new phase of struggle for basic political and human rights denied to the people by a regime that is ruling the country without a constitution. The Eritrean people are thus engaged in covert and overt movements opposed to the regime and aiming to regain their usurped rights. In the meantime, in a bid to stifle the opposition, the ruthless dictatorial regime is perpetrating crimes against the people. But, in spite of these brutal actions and cruelties of the regime, the Eritrean people’s struggle to regain their democratic rights is reaching a point where it cannot be contained by force any longer. In the face of massive refugee exodus of the youth on the one hand and, the ruthless repression, on the other hand, the struggle for democracy is growing stronger day by day.
However, this mushrooming people’s struggle cannot guarantee success to the present and to the future aspirations of the Eritrean people’s struggle unless the current struggle is organized under clear democratic principles. Therefore, Eritrean democratic forces and groups that share similar convictions and positions ought to disregard their small differences and form a broad based political party or parties.
Yet, looking to the future, the mere removal of the current system in Eritrea will not by itself solve all political and social problems in our country. Eritrean people should also seriously envision beyond their current struggle and be ready for the aftermath of the dictatorship in order to guarantee a lasting solution to the prevailing political, social, and economic predicament. And the key solution is to install a sustainable multiparty form of government that provides our people the right to choose between various programs and policies tabled by political parties. We strongly believe that a multiparty system anchored on constitution is vital to the development of democracy. Such a system provides policy options and grants citizens a sovereign power to elect their preferred leaders.
- During the protracted period of the liberation movement, Eritrea’s democratic forces were unable to manage or resolve their internal differences. As a result, we still have mistrust lingering among our political forces. But despite all this, we nowadays strongly believe we are entering a new phase of political changes and developments, in which the ground for overcoming the mistrust is more favorable than at any time before. For example, some forces and individuals who at one time thought their historical political differences were irreconcilable have now found a common ground that enables them to come together and fight against the ruling dictatorship. The creation of our party is a clear manifestation of this reality. Thus, in this new political atmosphere, it has become possible to build a reassuring and durable setting for a democratic Eritrea.
- We believe in peaceful and democratic means of struggle to remove the present dictatorial regime in Eritrea, and replace it with a multiparty constitutional democratic government whose powers and authority derive from the sovereignty of the Eritrean people. We also believe the success of the strategy not only requires the self-defense of our party and its members from harm’s way while conducting their activities inside Eritrea, but also necessitates that as the struggle progresses through different phases our party shall use and adopt proper flexible tactics as necessary based on the overall strategy of peaceful and democratic struggle that our party pursues.
- We envision that the new party should serve as a bridge between the old and the new generations. In order to build this party on a solid foundation and in a certain and reliable manner, Eritrea’s experienced democratic freedom fighters, who have been struggling long and hard to reach to the present level of our struggle, need to recognize that they have the responsibility to play their role in preparing the youth as inheritors and defenders of Eritrea’s future. The noblest task for the present generation is to hand over power to the new generation. To achieve this goal, it is imperative to go through self-transformation first. We believe we must be free from all forms of beliefs that obstruct forward progress on the one hand and, prevent us from cultivating a renewed spirit of change in our younger generation on the other hand.
- As we continue making efforts in building a solid political party that can shape both the present and future struggles of our people, it is incumbent upon us to develop a political platform that not only fully reflects the social formation of our society but also recognizes and respects its diversity. We are also cognizant of the regime’s most damaging sub-national political ploys which are increasingly eroding not only the people’s trust and good will gained through long and bitter struggle, but also the fear and suspicion the regime is creating among our people. Hence, the goal of the new party is to preserve the long-held trust and fraternal relationships between members of different social groups of our people on the one hand and, building an all-inclusive political party that will strive for unity of Eritrean people irrespective of previous political affiliation, loyalty, religious or ethnic background, on the other hand.
- The Eritrean People’s Democratic Party recognizes and realizes the presence of diverse political views among Eritreans. However, in view of our common interest in peace, sovereignty, and the preservation of the people’s unity and territorial integrity of Eritrea, this party believes in the paramount importance of fostering tolerance and strengthening a bridge of understanding among forces of different political views for establishing a durable and participatory political system in Eritrea.
- For over 40 years, the Horn of Africa region has been plagued by war, instability, poverty, and hunger. Eritrea waged 30-year war of independence against colonial Ethiopia, which culminated in the successful independence of the country in 1991. However, after independence, the current regime of Isayas Afeworki became belligerent and engaged the country in major military conflicts with its neighbors. One such disastrous military conflict was the border war between Ethiopia and Eritrean (1998-200), which caused huge economic devastation, political instability, and immeasurable human and social destruction for Eritrea. At the end of the war, the government of Eritrea faced not only international isolation as a result of the war but also the war served as a vital catalyst for the creation of an internal opposition against the regime. Subsequently, the regime intensified its cruelty against its own citizens, and become more of a factor of instability in the Horn of Africa.
In view of the deliberate destabilizing actions of the despotic regime in Eritrea, and being fully aware of the current complex political climate besetting our region and the world, we need to formulate not only a correct and flexible strategy that will enable us to coexist with our neighbors in an atmosphere of cooperation and respect, but also engage with the rest of the world in developing mutual understanding and positive influences. Therefore, to achieve these objectives, we have formed a new political party by merging three political organizations, namely, the Eritrean People’s Movement (EPM), the Eritrean Democratic Party (EDP), and the Eritrean People’s Party (EPP).
The name of the party is the Eritrean People’s Democratic Party (EPDP).
The emblem of the party shall be united hands that symbolize unity.
The objective of our party is to build a prosperous country that preserves the Eritrean people’s unity and sovereignty; upholds the principle of territorial integrity; fosters peace and justice; establishes a government ruled by a national constitution; and respects international treaties and agreements fully.
Committed to the objective of respecting and advocating for the fundamental principles of human and democratic rights of Eritrean citizens and alien residents, our party aims to establish a democratic constitutional government based on equitable distribution of political power and national wealth, and a constitutional government that is fully accountable to the people who elected it by their free will and choice.
Achieving Human and Democratic Rights of the Eritrean People
Being fully aware that the current dictatorial regime in Eritrea is opposed to all human and democratic rights, we strongly believe that both our party’s goals and the people’s aspirations will not be realized as long as the dictatorial regime is in power. Therefore, at this stage, the focus of the struggle is to bring about the downfall of the dictatorship and replace it with a multiparty democratic system of governance that respects the rights of the people, as enumerated below.
- Respect the right to organize, to free speech, to free press and the right to peaceful demonstration
- Respect the right of religious freedoms, and eliminate all forms of discrimination or oppression based on religion.
- Struggle for equality of all citizens by removing all forms of discriminations or oppressions based on regional or ethnic background.
- Ensure constitutional protection of women’s rights and gender equality by eliminating all forms of discrimination and repression.
- Respect the rights of children and enact laws that particularly protect the rights and welfare of children.
- Promote human rights protection in Eritrea by allowing the formation of independent civil society organizations and professional institutions.
- Respect the rights of prisoners, including protection from any form of psychological and physical maltreatment or torture.
- The participation in the national service shall be determined by constitution; the service shall focus primarily on civilian programs, including making laws that cover the duration of the service.
- Ensure the people’s right to form political associations and parties.
10. Respect the right of independent individuals not affiliated with any political parties or organizations to compete for government offices.
11. Strive to guarantee individual to have a central role in our democratic system.
12. Protect the right of the people to a referendum in revising or changing a national constitution adopted by the people in a similar manner.
13. Respect and defend the rights of citizens to own property.
Establish a Government Based on Clear Division of Power
- We shall struggle to realize the adoption of a national constitution through the free choice and full participation of the Eritrean people.
- State power shall be divided into executive, legislative and Judiciary branches.
- Struggle to achieve adequate representation of all the Eritrean people in the national government.
- The power of the government will be structured from top to bottom constitutionally guaranteeing the people’s right to self-administration, thereby instituting a decentralized system of governance. However, until the historical ties among different regions and the type of regional administrative structure acceptable to our people are fully researched and explored, we support using the structure of administrative authority that is reflective of and consistent with the historical formation of our provincial system of administration.
- Assuming or relinquishing power will be conducted by legally sanctioned democratic popular vote in accordance with the relevant rules and principles stipulated in the constitution.
- Establish a government that does not interfere in internal religious affairs.
- Tigrinya and Arabic will be the official languages. We also recognize and support constitutional provisions that guarantee the right of other languages to develop and grow.
Establishment of National Army that Obeys and Serves the Constitution
- The Eritrean army shall protect the national constitution and popularly elected government without special party affiliations; shall serve the interests of the Eritrean people, and shall constitute a national military establishment.
- The Eritrean army shall reflect the diversity of the Eritrean society.
- Military service is a profession, and the decision to join it should be based on the choice and desire of citizens.
- Participation in national service program will be determined by constitution.
- Members of Eritrean armed forces shall have the right to vote in elections, but shall not be elected, nor shall be members of political parties.
- Ensure the declaration of war falls under the jurisdiction of the Eritrean parliament on the basis of stipulated laws and procedures.
Our country finds itself in an excruciating and fast declining economic phase because of past damaging policies of foreign occupiers, and because of the long-stretched liberation struggle. This has been aggravated by the current misguided tyrannical system of government run by PFDJ. To change this state of affairs, as soon as the downfall of the dictatorship is realized, it will be our party’s priority to provide not only emergency assistance to those severely affected segment of our society but also will launch recovery and rehabilitation programs.
Our objective is to lift up the devastated Eritrean economy, rearrange the economy to ensure economic justice and fairness, and to struggle to build a prosperous nation based on a solid and promising economic program. To achieve this goal, we have to prepare and create the condition first and foremost to relieve the suffering of the impoverished and exploited by increasing their capacity to produce and by making them the benefactors of their own sweat and struggle, while at the same time formulating special plans to end the acute hardships faced by the hardest hit victims because of the prevailing unjust economic and social system.
On the other hand, based on a fair and just economic plan, national and foreign investors will be encouraged and given the necessary opportunities to play their role in the economic growth of the country. Moreover, there will be a trade policy that will make our country to be fully fit to participate in the regional and international trade. To realize these objectives, we shall follow a policy of free market economy that encourages competition and innovations.
Ensure a Continuous and Swift National Economic Development
- Recognizing the importance of a speedy and continuous national economic progress based on free market economy, we shall struggle for full mobilization of our country’s domestic resources. To this end, we will strive to eliminate all cultural and social constraints, which frustrate administrative measures and hampers from fully utilizing the country’s internal capacity.
- Create a favorable condition by removing all impediments to free trade with our neighbors and with the rest of the world.
- Improve and expand our infrastructure as a means of speeding up our economic growth. To this end, special attention should be paid to water and electric power and modernized communication systems in order to reach the desired level of progress.
- We believe the people are the rightful owners of land. We look to a sustainable land policy as a foundation for protecting the interest of the present and future generation of Eritreans. Therefore, it is our firm stand that the current decree on land by the PFDJ government should be reversed and replaced by a new land policy after a thorough research and sufficient consultations with the public are made. All private land previously confiscated by the government or other entities from its rightful owners should be returned to the rightful owners. We support all production activities and investments carried out on any piece of land should benefit primarily the local residents. In matters of strategic national needs, we believe the government may obtain land from the public in such a way that the local population will benefit from it. However, we firmly believe taking private lands by the government should require a defined agreement with the regional administration and payment of restitution to the rightful owners.
- Improve the productive capacities of the labor force by providing short and long term vocational training.
- Establish an innovative research center supported by a budget and accompanied by scientific and technological expertise, which utilizes resources to remove all traditional and backward means of production and to focus on moving the society towards a modern economic system.
- Struggle for the establishment of agro-industrial productions based on balanced and dynamic light, medium and heavy industries. This includes those involved in animal husbandry, fishing, trade and industry.
- Support and encourage the formation of small collective and private enterprises in urban areas and cooperative enterprises in rural areas.
- Strive for the establishment of favorable conditions where good management and labor relations flourish between employees and employers. To this end, set minimum wages for workers by law and ensure wages are adjusted to reflect cost of living.
10. Work for the elimination of unemployment and establish ways of creating more employment opportunities; and take steps that encourage employment.
11. Guided by economic policy that is based on a free market economy, we will encourage market competition and innovation that promotes social justice.
12. Create favorable conditions to promote private enterprises.
13. No political party or government should take control of private property of Eritrean citizens or own total or partial enterprises or investments to either manipulate free market or gain profit.
Narrow the Economic Disparities among Provinces and Make them Self-sufficient Economic Zones
- The party will concentrate on provinces lagging behind in their economic development.
- Ensure that each District develops its own economic development plans consistent with the country’s general economic policy.
- The party will work to promote cooperation and relationships between the national government and the various local governments (regions, districts, and villages) in compliance with the constitution of the nation.
The party’s social program aims to: legislate and execute plans to establish a modern system of education which gives importance to professional skills for speedy economic growth; develop medical institutions which provide comprehensive health care to all citizens; establish social programs to secure and guarantee social benefits to the weak and the disabled; encourage the members of the different sectors of our society to protect their interests by forming and belonging to different social or professional associations; and strive for the success of social programs that promote social justice, democracy, and trust in the context of the country’s particular social structures.
Develop Modern Educational System That Focuses on Professionalism and Supports Economic Growth
- Develop a national educational system that serves in the interest of national unity and progress, and supports speedy economic growth.
- Establish programs, which bring professional knowledge and academic education together.
- Work to make education free for all citizens.
- Work to ensure that students do not stay out of school because of shortage of money; and as needed make education available to students in their local areas as well as adequate libraries that provide enough material support.
- Work to make education up to 8th grade compulsory.
- Ensure joining university and higher education meet recognizable international standard.
- Encourage establishment of privately owned schools. To this end, introduce rules and regulations, which guide private schools to follow national curriculums.
- Introduce equitable programs that encourage increased educational participation in provinces that are economically less advanced in view of the economic disparities among Eritrean provinces.
- We support Arabic and Tigrinya as medium of instruction at elementary schools. In areas where the first language/native language is preferred as a medium of instruction during the years of elementary schooling, we believe the adoption of such preference shall require the approval of the local population. We also believe the necessity of teaching Tigrinya and Arabic as national languages during the elementary school years in regions that adopt to use their native language as a medium of instruction. In addition, we believe establishing a comprehensive national education policies and programs that backs the development of both the native languages and the national languages: Tigrinya and Arabic.
Develop Health Care system that Provides Nation-wide Services
- Establish urban and rural health care system that provides free health services to all citizens.
- Disseminate essential health information to prevent diseases.
- Establish a health information center supported by mobile clinics to prevent epidemic diseases.
- Set up small clinics in all localities in proportion to the number of residents and type of common diseases.
- We support allowing private institutions and humanitarian agencies to provide medical services, so long the services are in agreement and consistent with the country’s health policy.
- Establish laws and policies that guarantee social security and nursing home care services for senior citizens and retirees.
- Strive to ensure traditional medicine is supported by modern medical research; and stop traditional medical practices that are dangerous to human life.
- Establish healthcare training programs and advanced study centers to train health professionals ranging from entry level healthcare workers to medical doctors.
- We shall make preventative health care services an integral part of the national health policy.
Social Justice and Social Security
- Ensure that all individuals are equal before the law.
- We believe every citizen should have equal access to employment opportunity and rights depending on the ability and profession of the person.
- Workers’ rights shall be protected by law. Encourage workers to organize in trade unions to defend their rights
- Workers’ wages will be determined by contractual agreements and will consider cost of living. Minimum wage will be determined by law.
- Strive to control unemployment by consistently creating job opportunities; and create an institution to provide social and other services to those who have special needs and to those who are unable to work.
- Protect women, seniors, and children from all forms of exploitation and violence.
- Ensure that the rights and equalities of women are protected in all spheres of society; and support the legal rights of women to organize in associations to protect their rights.
- Ensure that women have the right to a paid parental leave, without losing their job both before and after childbirth.
- Create favorable conditions, which enable farmers to benefit by selling their produce at reasonable prices; encourage farmers to organize in unions to protect their interests; and work to make modern agricultural services and institutions available for farmers.
10. Encourage human rights activists, journalists, youth, and other members of society to organize in unions and professional associations.
11. Set up programs, which protect the interests of children and the elderly.
12. Institute programs, which provide special benefits and treatments for war-injured freedom fighters as well as for victims of natural causes. To this end, introduce appropriate employment programs for their benefit. Encourage disabled citizens to organize in unions and associations to protect their rights.
13. Struggle to provide due respect and support for families of our martyrs.
14. Work to protect the rights of Eritrean refugees abroad; work out plans for their return and successful reintegration. Encourage the formation of an organization to defend the rights of Eritrean refugees.
15. Encourage the formation of free civic organizations of Eritrean nationals inside and outside the country based on mutual understanding and respect to face common problems together without losing sight of the unity and diversity of the people.
16. Fight against backward traditions while upholding the useful ones. Respect our diverse culture and struggle to eliminate discrimination on grounds of religion or ethnic background.
17. Eritrean nationalities are equal under the law.
18. Pursuant to Chapter 6, Section 1.9 of this platform and consistent with the national constitution, we support the right of nationalities to use their native languages in schools and in courts in their respective locals.
19. We support the right of nationalities to develop their native languages and cultures.
20. We support Eritrean nationalities’ right to practice customary/traditional laws in their respective locals, administer their areas, and participate and be represented in the national and regional political authorities, so long these practices and/or functions are in agreement and consistent with the country’s constitution and other fundamental laws.
- The party will make efforts to protect and preserve our environment by eliminating economic production that create excess waste and by reducing air pollution caused by use of petroleum products.
- Preserve and keep our air, rivers, wells, dams, lakes and our coastal waters clean.
- Protect the national wealth of vegetation and wildlife from extinction.
- Enforce by law the use of high tech methods to protect our environment. Moreover, we will strive to protect the environment not only at the national level but also at the global level to the extent that our capacity allows us.
- Plan that our efforts to protect the environment is not only for the benefit of the present generation but also for posterity. We will ensure that no biological or nuclear waste plants that pollute our environment are built in our country.
- Prevent any foreign nation from releasing hazardous materials and chemical spills into our environment and/or dumping industrial waste on our land or in our waters.
Foreign Relations Program
The foundation of our party’s foreign relations with any country is the promotion of common interests. Relations with our neighbors play an important role in promoting our common development interests. To this end, we will work together for the promotion of peace and economic growth through respect for each other’s national sovereignty and non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs. Eritrean People’s Democratic Party will use all its abilities to end the hostile and misguided policies of the current system in Eritrea and instead foster understanding with the people of our neighbors to enhance our common interests.
Our relationship with the rest of the world will also serve common interests. We will specially do our best to cooperate with global movements to control and defeat ignorance, diseases, poverty and other programs to help the underprivileged as these programs are tied to our own basic objectives. To this end, we will put an end to the misguided policies of the dictatorial regime that have isolated our country to the detriment of our national interest.
- Our foreign relations are to foster common interests and will be based on mutual respect for each other’s national sovereignty.
- Promote and establish closer friendly relations with regional and international organizations whose programs are similar to ours.
- Work to achieve regional peace and stability, and common economic growth through cooperation.
- Create a comprehensive foreign relations policy that forms a basis for mutual interest between countries, and respect for international treaties and noninterference in other countries’ internal affairs.
- Peaceful and diplomatic means shall be our key method for resolving conflicts.
- Ensure that trade agreements with other countries are fair and constructive.
- We oppose any form of racial discrimination and oppression.
- Provide our support and encouragement for the success of global programs that are against poverty, diseases, and ignorance.
January 1, 2010