26 September 2001

Eritrea: Party Puts its Case Against Dissidents

Washington, DC — Eritrea’s ruling party, the Eritrean People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) has published its explanation for last week’s arrests of the dissident party and government officials known as the Group of 15, or G-15.

In a statement posted on its official web site and signed by "Negash Zerai", the PFDJ says that in May last year, at a time when Ethiopian forces were pushing back Eritrean troops, "what later became the G-15" began discreetly to solicit support in government circles for ousting the president, and to seek US and UN intervention to end the war on Ethiopia's surrender terms.

Despite the fact that Eritrea was reeling from a major Ethiopian offensive, charges the PFDJ, this group continued to press for President Isaias Afewerki's removal, proposing a "golden parachute" to ease his exit and his replacement by "a strong, executive prime minister."

The group could have been prosecuted at that time for "defeatist acts," but the government chose not to take that route, according to the PFDJ: "The apparent choice was to treat the problem as an inevitable aberration that crops up in times of difficulty."

However the statement complains that the group of dissidents persisted in "secret machinations" that led to the leaking of the "Berlin Manifesto" a letter written by a group of intellectuals based in Berlin, Germany, to President Afewerk and containing the first open criticism of the government.

In February, the PFDJ claims, the dissidents attempted to get the 50 signatures necessary to force an extraordinary meeting of the PFDJ 75-person Central Council but only managed to find 15, "which consolidated formally for the first time into the G-15." This group of 15 war veterans and senior Party officials went on to charge President Afewerki with governing illegally.

The Party claims: "In the months that followed, the G-15 had a free rein. Daily occurrences in Eritrea were lengthy interviews, by predictable turns, of G-15 members to heap insult on the government, the PFDJ and the person of the President."

Concluding, the PFDJ accuses the G-15 of sharing "a common guilt: at the minimum, abdication of responsibility during Eritrea's difficult hours, at the maximum, grave conspiracy."

Paper Trail That Put Eritrea's Dissidents in Jail


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