- What is the objective of the Peace movement and the May Peace conference?
The main objective of the peace movement is the promotion of peace and harmony among Eritreans and the peoples of the Horn of Africa. The region has been plunged into a cycle of successive conflicts resulting in unimaginable devastation. We believe it is time to bring to an end this vicious cycle and give peace, in our region, a chance.
The forthcoming conference will discuss, analyse and ratify a charter that was outlined in the December 2009 Conference. We hope the charter will gradually guide our movement to achieve the above stated objectives.
- Who is behind the Peace project? Who funds it?
This project is supported by many peace-loving partners, who desire to see peace and stability reigning in the region. However, it is important to be clear that the project is not funded by the governments of Eritrea, Ethiopia or any other country in the region. We are a group of Eritreans who are worried about the violence and devastation in the region. We welcome any help and contribution from anyone interested in peace.
- Who gave you the mandate to speak on behalf of the public?
Peace is a basic human need. This is especially true in our region where it is a scarce resource. That is why peace is one of the most treasured core values which we should all promote and nourish as a priority regardless of our religion, ethnicity, gender and political opinion. The promotion of peace is a duty not a privilege and therefore requires no mandate or authorisation. Peace is sine qua non for political stability and development, as well as consolidation of sustainable livelihoods. As responsible citizens of the Horn of African region, we can be instrumental in building bridges of communication and understanding across the cleavages of national identity, religion, gender and country of origin.
- Why isn't the conference open to the public? Isn't that lack of transparency?
Our aim is to eventually create a people’s movement reflecting the desire of our people for peace. This will inevitably require mobilisation of wide sections of the population within the framework of a peace charter. To achieve this, the next stage of our project will involve holding public seminars, conducting workshops and other public events. In the mean time, as we develop and consolidate the initial ideas and framework, we find it easier to work in smaller groups representing different experiences and views.
However we have taken steps to inform the public via Press Releases and we will continue to answer as many questions from the public as possible via publications such as this medium. The outcome of the May conference and the ratified charter will be in the public domain accessible in Arabic, English and Tigrigna.
- There is no peace among Eritreans themselves. Why can’t you just focus on that?
The lofty ideal of peace cannot be pursued and achieved piecemeal. The achievement of sustainable peace requires a holistic approach and perspective. One of the central aims of the Peace Charter being promotion and consolidation of culture of peace, the long-term impact of the movement will be multi-dimensional that will influence the behaviours and attitudes of all Eritreans and the other citizens of the region regardless of their geographical location, religion, national identity and gender. When we invest in peace in Eritrea, we are simultaneously sowing the seeds of political stability, cross-cultural and trans-religious understanding in the whole region which are indispensable prerequisites for peaceful coexistence of the countries in the Horn. Peace is indivisible and hence our holistic perspective. Every responsible Eritrean and citizen of the Horn should invest in peace with the sole aim of developing and infusing shared values among Eritreans and citizens of the region in pursuit of a sustainable common future. The nurturing and inculcation of the core values of peace will over time bring us closer by eliminating any form of mistrust and suspicion, as well as misunderstanding.
- Is your peace initiative affiliated to the “Ethiopian and Eritrean Friendship Conference in San Jose, California” that was held between March 12-14?
No, our peace movement is not affiliated with the conference that was held in San Jose, California. We are not advocating for confederation, federation, unity or any other forms of political relationship between Eritrea and Ethiopia. We are simply calling for the promotion of neighbourly harmony and understanding among Eritreans and the people of the Horn. We believe any peaceful coexistence with our neighbours should be based on absolute respect for our country’s and the neighbouring countries’ sovereignty and territorial integrity.
- Could there be a hidden agenda, the public is not aware of, behind your peace slogan?
There is no hidden agenda behind our quest for peace in our region. Peace, as mentioned above is a basic need of all human beings and our peoples have a right to it. The attainment of peace is even more pertinent in our conflict-ridden region and we aim to do our share to make it a reality. We believe everyone should be a stakeholder in peace and hence a potential partner in the promotion thereof.
- How do the organisers select conference participants?
During our last conference in Dec 2009, a London-based group was elected to organise the May Conference. This committee in consultation with its regional representatives selected potential individual participants and organisations based on track records of activism and an assessment of potential contribution to the movement in inception. Consideration was also given to ensuring diversity across.
- What is the main focus of the Peace Initiative? Is its focus the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia?
Peace is the sole raison detre of our movement, i.e. the focus is peace itself. Inevitably the historical and current conflicts in the region will have an impact in the direction that the initiative takes and the course of actions and priorities it adopts. Both the thirty year war for independence and the recent border conflict with Ethiopia have caused huge devastations to the two countries and had a detrimental impact on people’s livelihoods. Undoubtedly, understanding the causes of these conflicts would be of utmost importance to all of us and very relevant to the goal of achieving lasting peace in the region. However all conflicts and potential conflicts in our region are of major concern to us and we would not overlook any potential threat to peace in the region.
- What mechanisms are there in place to ensure the participation of all segments of the Eritreans society?
This is indeed a challenge that members of the steering groups have taken a keen and active interest in. We are cognisant of the need for full and meaningful participation of all segments of the Eritrean society to ensure success for the initiative. Our list of potential participants is regularly updated to maintain balance of diversity. Issues to pertaining to fair representation are addressed in consultation with members of the Eritrean diaspora world-wide. All publications and communications during and after the conference will be in Arabic, English and Tigrigna.
- Doesn’t this initiative undermine efforts that are being carried out by the political opposition groups?
Not at all! On the contrary, our initiative compliments and bolsters any effort that brings people together to discuss political and societal issues of common interests. We believe that various initiatives can be launched and pursued simultaneously by various groups who are struggling from their respective angles to bring democracy and justice in our region. We strongly believe that creating a peaceful and stable atmosphere lends a strong hand to building a better system of governance.
The conference organisers are working to facilitate the involvement of political leaders in the conference and welcome their positive engagement in the peace movement.
- What is a Peace Charter? What is it good for?
Basically, the peace charter is an expression of aspirations for peace in our conflict-ridden region. It is also a declaration of fundamental principles that are designed to guide us towards peaceful co-existence.
In the meeting we held in Dec 2009 in London, Eritrean delegates from all over the world, discussed various ideas around the theme of peace and adopted an outline for a charter expressing our ideals and aspirations. It is the draft charter developed out of these dialogues that will be discussed and ratified in May.
- Some say that this project is about the coming together of the Tigray-Tigrinya social groups. What do you say to that?The composition of our steering group, the list of participants for the December and May conference and the content of the charter itself, attest to the nature of our movement, as a true Eritrean movement that reflects the wishes of all peace-loving Eritreans. Far from being a movement for or by a specific social or cultural group, this is a model of a cohesive endeavour for a mutual benefit across all sectors of our society.
- What concrete steps will you take after your May conference?
There are a number of things that will be done after the May conference; firstly there is the ratification of the peace charter to guide our future activities. Secondly, there will be an action plan for the implementation of the ideas contained in the charter. The creation of platforms to discuss inter-Eritrean conflict, dialogue across regional institutions and initiatives that bring together religious and community leaders are all ideas that will be proposed as part of our action plan.
- What is your stand on the Hague Verdict regarding the border dispute between Eritrea and Ethiopia?
The border dispute was an unfortunate incident that has caused unimaginable and totally unnecessary devastation to both Eritrea and Ethiopia. In spite of the unimplemented ruling, we are mindful of the fact that this issue has at least been legally resolved. At the same time, we also recognise that there have been a series of failures, in bringing this conclusion into meaningful fruition including peace and stability in the region.
- Who are the organisers?
The organisers of the current conference are activists, who were elected at the conference that was held in December, 2009. Their role is to draft a peace charter, to organise a wider conference and to facilitate transition to the next stage.
The Organising Committee