Eritrean opposition parties and civic organisations


This expert analysis explores the roots of the friction among exiled Eritrean opposition parties and civic organisations. It gives a short overview over the recent political history and social composition of Eritrea, which are reflected in the current political fragmentation of the country’s diaspora. It describes the split between the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) and Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) during the armed struggle due to divided regional and ethnic loyalties, which shaped the political landscape after independence, resulting in the EPLF (renamed the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice, or PFDJ, in 1994) becoming 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.