Eritrean opposition parties and civic organisations

As part of a project for the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF), ILPI’s Eritrea experts Senior Advisor Abdulkader Saleh Mohammad and Senior Partner Professor Kjetil Tronvoll have published an analysis on political opposition in Eritrea. 

The analysis explores the roots of the friction among exiled Eritrean opposition parties and civic organisations. It opens with a short overview of the recent political history and social composition of Eritrea, and how these are reflected in the current political fragmentation of the country’s diaspora. The analysis then describes the split between the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) and Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) during the armed struggle. This split was due to divided regional and ethnic loyalties, which shaped the political landscape after independence. The result was that the EPLF (renamed the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, or PFDJ, in 1994) became the only party allowed in the country. A political crisis occurred in the aftermath of the Eritrean-Ethiopian war (1998-2000), when President Isaias Afewerki cracked down on PFDJ reformists and started to militarise Eritrean society.

Consequently, new opposition parties and civic organisations emerged in the diaspora – alongside old political fronts – with the aim of replacing the autocratic regime with a democratic system. Among these new organisations are PFDJ dissidents, youth organisations and forums for dialogue. Attempts to bring the various competing parties under one political umbrella have been mostly unsuccessful and no consensus has been reached regarding a roadmap for democratic transition. The Eritrean political opposition is still affected by the historically inherited fault lines causing regional, ethnic and religious differences, which exacerbate the lack of mutual trust among current opposition activists.

To access the full analysis, click here.

Mohammad, AS & Tronvoll, K 2015, Eritrean opposition parties and civic organisations, NOREF expert analysis, January 2015.

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