Eritrean Communities: give us ours and take yours, the government says no way

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  • robel

    Selam Teweldeberhan

    I think the government has sanctioned practicing traditional norms of resolving disputes because some of those “traditional norms” for a large portion of our society involve the Sharia. And without sugar coating it, the Sharia is an outdated and barbaric way to govern any society. So in order to appear neutral, I believe the government prohibited all forms of traditional ways of resolving disputes.

    • Robel,

      “Sharia is an outdated and barbaric.” Let me correct you, my fellow country man.

      (1) Sharia Law and courts are systems like any system of region and formal judicial system of laws. I learned in my law school that all laws and legal system are barbaric because they are created by man.

      (2) Traditional dispute and conflict resolutions are outside the religious and the formal legal regimes which were true in Eritrea, too.

      (3) In many countries including in Eritrea, Sharia courts have the jurisdictions over civil cases provided disputants agree to take their cases to these courts. If one of the disputants disagree to take it to the Sharia or Christian courts, the chance is to take the matter to the civil courts.

      (4) In Saudi Arabia, for instance, Sharia courts have jurisdiction over both civil and criminal cases. Meaning, Sharia courts are part of the government court systems. But, in other countries this is not the case. If I am not mistaken Saudi Arabia is unique in its legal and judicial systems. Not all Muslim countries have such legal arrangements. So, Eritrea is not even different from all Muslim countries legal systems.

      (5) Sharia Law is misunderstood by many though mostly by the western world. Sharia courts in Saudi Arabia, for instance, are accused of death penalties. Well, many countries including the US have death penalties too. So, what is the difference? The difference is how you execute the alleged ‘criminal’ which is secondary and subjective.

      But, I don’t want to close my response to you without underlining the followings:-

      Like the formal legal regimes, traditional systems of dispute resolutions have weaknesses and strengths. In fact, traditional dispute/conflict resolution methods are more humane than the formal legal regimes. In the formal legal systems, judges use not their brains but by referring papers, and the possibilities to permanently eliminate disputes are less likely than the traditional systems. The formal systems are also expensive and time consuming.

      Traditional dispute resolutions are outside the religious and the formal legal systems. The government of Eritrea disregarded or banned the traditional dispute resolution practices for other purposes, and that is to control every decision makings by citizens at all levels. Remember that, by law, outside of the government’s knowledge, three or more people cannot meet and discuss issues that matter them. Therefore, there is no particular reason to ban traditional dispute resolutions other than controlling every aspects of the people’s life. They do it in the name of “community legal services”. But, what is the purpose of banning traditional dispute resolutions service? It is like any other service communities have to enjoy. The irony is even the judges in the formal courts encourage people to try it through traditional means. Now, the difference is people are not allowed to practice traditional way of dispute resolution before the judge told them to try it. It means the government is now aware of the gatherings of the traditional ‘judges’ and nothing to worry about it.

      I gave my followers the examples of baito zobas. We were told that the people elected members of the baito zobas. However, these baitos report to the zoba administrator and through him to the minister of local government. How come a baito report to the executive? Not only that, but also baitos cannot pass resolutions, approve budgets and regional plans. They can make only recommendations. Nonsense! I wouldn’t even consider them as people’s assemblies. This is a ridiculous political game and our leaders are simply fooling themselves not the people of Eritrea.

      Finally, Sharia Law is not barbaric. It is like any legal system with weaknesses and strengths. We should not be scared about Sharia Law and its court system. Eritrea will remain as a civil state and Eritreans have all the rights to enjoy with a diversified legal systems. Our Muslim brothers and sisters have all rights to take their cases over their preferred courts. No body has the right to tell them to which court of law should they refer their cases. If Eritrea is not for all of us it cannot be Eritrea. That is my dream and hope you agree with me.

      I hope this gives you some ideas.