How to write a new Eritrean constitution

Constitution-making, Legitimacy and Regional Integration: An Approach to Eritrea’s Predicament and Relations with Ethiopia

This paper provides an interesting perspective.

It can be found here

Published in 2008 by Tesfatsion Medhanie it comes to the conclusion below.

It is posted for interest – and is not an endorsement.

Virtues of the 1952 Constitution

The 1952 constitution has indeed several virtues that make it convenient and serviceable as a working document. This proposition is plausible especially considering the cardinal ideals or desiderata in respect of the country today. These include regime legitimacy, rule of Law, peace, state legitimacy and national unity, as well as co-operation and fraternal relations with neighbouring countries, in particular with Ethiopia…..

(i) It is the only document Eritreans practically know as a constitution. It is the only one they experienced as a constitution because it has been applied as the basic Law of autonomous Eritrea.

(ii) The procedural aspect of the international constraint on constitutionmaking has been satisfied in the case of that constitution. Every political and ethnic group had freely participated in the making of it. As a result, all Eritrean groups can identify with and relate to it equally.

(iii) Because the constitution was legitimately made, Eritreans demonstrated a sense of ownership in respect of it. They protested its violation and fought to safeguard it. In other words their sense of ownership in respect of that constitution has been practically demonstrated.

(iv) The constitution has a respectable history that enhances its authority. The protest against its violation gave rise to the armed movement culminating in the birth of the ELF. It has an aura that lends it the quality of a truly revered national document that can genuinely inspire and rally Eritreans. It is “a precedent” that can very well serve as a “focal point” in the same way that the constitutions of the pre-socialist period are being utilised in some European countries.

(v) It was a constitutive document. As the outcome of a participatory process, the constitution strengthened what one researcher termed a “sense of inclusion and trust (social capital).” It was the basis of the geographical legitimacy of Eritrea. It is needed for resuscitating the unity of the country that is now in jeopardy. It was also the basis of the legitimacy of the state established in Eritrea. It is now needed for devising a constitution that can establish a legitimate state.

(vi) Though it was the constitution of an autonomous unit under the sovereignty of the Ethiopian crown, it can easily be modified to become the constitution of an internationally sovereign Eritrea.

(vii) The spirit of the constitution is one that is supportive of the fraternal relations between Eritreans and Ethiopians. After all, it provided for a single citizenship in both lands, which idea can be easily used to support the concept of dual citizenship today.

(viii) The 1952 constitution can help bring Ethiopians and Eritreans closer. In other words, it can help expedite Ethio-Eritrean integration. It should be recalled in this connection that this constitution was also an Ethiopian document, approved and ratified by the Ethiopian sovereign. Ethiopians have reason to respect and recognise it. They would be more inclined to accept and associate with a state established pursuant to a constitution made on the basis of the 1952 one.

Hence, following a process of national reconciliation, Eritreans should embark on a constitution-making process. The process should be inclusive of all political organisations and socio-economic groups. It should also be one in which Ethiopians and Sudanese experts effectively participate and observers attend. In that process, there is every reason for using the 1952 constitution as a working document. With a constitution based on the 1952 document and a state established on the basis of its authority, Eritrea would be capable of association and integration with Ethiopia. And such association and integration can be realised especially if there is a situation in Ethiopia compatible to that to be established in Eritrea.


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