Circumcision Ban; Eritreans Don’t Like Dictatorship

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Opinion: On Dictatorship

In April, the Eritrean government imposed a ban on female circumcision.

The people of Eritrea are the most law-abiding and peace-loving human beings even under over a century of colonization, occupation and subjugation by foreigners. Even a cursory review of the history will attest this beyond any doubt, let alone at time of peace. It is, therefore, disrespectful and unfair to accuse Eritreans of not being restrained by law as implied by a recent Reuters’ headliner: “Eritrea: Custom Trumps Law …�

Such a headline is misleading because it also suggests that there is rule of law; when in fact there is not. It is therefore preposterous to speak of people not being restrained by law. What we have in Eritrea is rule by barrel of the gun for where else does a one-man, one-party government draw its authority when the national constitution has been furloughed for now 10 years.

The people of Eritrea are not at al averse to custom and cultural changes that become imperative in order to adapt to changing societal dynamics by law or otherwise as long it is done the right way because it involves constitutionally guaranteed rights.

Democracy has been publicly declared “luxury item,� dissent and hence political opposition is treasonous, press freedom outlawed, right of appeal blasphemous, and parliament is a wishful thinking.

Therefore, all and every prohibitive measures taken or proclaimed in whatever form by the interim governmental authorities in Eritrea are rightly perceived by the people as arbitrary dictates of the military rulers—not as the will and wishes of the people, regardless of purpose and intent. 

The people of Eritrea, like all other peoples, can only handle so much of dictatorship and tyranny. But when all that comes to denying them of what they are entitled to constitutionally, and what makes them who they are as people, like age-old beliefs and cultural heritages, arbitrary changes by the barrel of the gun won’t be accepted; Eritreans won’t take it without resistance, passive or otherwise, should it come to that point.

In Eritrea, the resistance against female circumcision ban is much less about the issue in and of itself, but more of the ban being imposed without the people’s consent or right to appeal; the most basic way of expressing their consent, like parliament, congress, or house of representative is non-existent.

So, it is not the custom resisting law; it is the absence of law.

The author can be reached at


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