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August 19, 2009

Statement Of the Government of Eritrea On the Award of the Claims Commission

Filed under: Report — eritrearealclearpolitics @ 7:49 am
Statement Of the Government of Eritrea On the Award of the Claims Commission
By Staff
Aug 18, 2009, 15:22 

On Monday, 17, August 2009, the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission (“EECC”) delivered its Final Awards regarding violations of international law during the 1998-2000 border war. The EECC was established by Article 5 of the Algiers Agreement, the same legal instrument that created the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (“EEBC”), which rendered its boundary Award in April 2002.
Eritrea is well aware of the interference that has impaired the administration of justice. Nonetheless, and irrespective of the plausibility of the evidence and legal instruments invoked to arrive at the Award, the Government of Eritrea accepts the Award of the Claims Commission without any equivocation due to its final and binding nature under the Algiers Agreement. This is indeed consistent with Eritrea’s track record of respecting arbitration decisions that emanate from its treaty obligations.
The Government of Eritrea expresses its profound gratitude to its legal counsel who toiled extremely hard to compile the necessary evidence and to advance robust legal arguments in order to ensure justice.
The legal filings have not yet been made public due to procedural requirements of confidentiality during the litigation process. Now that the Award has been announced, the Government of Eritrea intends to put all these proceedings in the public domain for their judgmental and educational purposes to posterity.

መግለጺ መንግስቲ ኤርትራ ኣብ ውሳኔ‘ኮሚሽን ካሕሳ’

ሰኑይ 17 ነሓሰ 2009። እቲ ብመሰረት ዓንቀጽ 5 ስምምዕ ኣልጀርስ ዝቖመ ኮሚሽን ካሕሳ ኤርትራን ኢትዮጵያን። ናይ መወዳእታን ቀያድን ብይኑ ሂቡ’ሎ፣ ፍትሒ ንምዕጻፍ ዝተገብረ ምትእትታዋትን ርትዓውነት ናይቲ ናብ ውሳኔ ንምብጻሕ ዝተወስደ መርትዖታትን ሕጋዊ ቅጥዕታትን ብዘየገድስ። መንግስቲ ኤርትራ ብመሰረት’ቲ ንዝኸተሞም ስምምዓትን ውዕላትን ናይ ምኽባር ፖለቲካዊ ባህሉን። ብመሰረት’ቲ ቀያዲን ናይ መወዳእታን ባህሪ’ቲ ውሳኔን። ኮሚሽን ካሕሳ ንዘሕለፎ ውሳኔ ብዘይ ክርክር ተቐቢሉዎ ኣሎ፣ ነቲ ፍትሒ ንምርግጋጽ። መርትዖታት ኣብ ምእካብን ምስናድን። ሕጋዊ ምጉት ኣብ ምቕራብን። ሓያልን ዘይሃስስን ስራሕ ዘካየደ ናይ ኤርትራ ጉጅለ (Team) ጠበቓታት ከኣ የመስግን፣ ንኣገዳስነት’ቲ ሰነዳትን ንህዝቢን ወለዶታትን ከምኡ’ውን ንናይ ሕጊ ክኢላታትን ደለይቲ ፍትሒን። መምሃሪ ምእንቲ ኪኸውን። መንግስቲ ኤርትራ ቅዳሓት ናይቶም ብክልቲኡ ወገናት ዝቐረቡ ሰነዳትን ምጉታትን ንህዝባዊ (ፓብሊክ) ሓበሬታ ከምዝዝርጋሕ ኪገብር’ዩ፣


18 ነሓሰ 2009

መንግስቲ ኤርትራ


Ethiopias’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Statement

Filed under: Report — eritrearealclearpolitics @ 7:46 am

Press Statement

On the Final Award Issued By the Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission


      It is to be recalled that Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission, established pursuant to Article 5 of the Algiers Agreement concluded between Ethiopia and Eritrea in December 2000, determined that Eritrea:


“… violated Article 2, paragraph 4, of the Charter of the United Nations by  resorting to armed force on May 12, 1998 and the immediately following days to attack and occupy the town of Badme, then under peaceful administration by the Claimant (Ethiopia), as well as other territory in the Claimant’s Tahtay Adiabo and Laelay Adiabo Weredas.”


      The Commission has now ended its work by issuing the Final Damages Award. Its final award, rendered on 17 August 2009, contains a number of technical matters. What should be highlighted at this stage are its main parts. Accordingly, the Claims Commission has awarded Ethiopia the total monetary compensation of US$174,036,520, while awarding Eritrea the total monetary compensation of US$161,455,000 for its own claims and US$2,065,865 in respect of claims presented on behalf of individual claimants.


         The nature of the compensation awarded to Ethiopia consists of awards growing out of Eritrea’s unprovoked aggression against Ethiopia as determined by the Commission. These damages relate to, among others, death, physical injury, disappearance of Ethiopian civilians, destruction of property, looting and damage to buildings, businesses and infrastructure belonging to the public, private or religious institutions; internal displacement of persons and for mistreatment of Ethiopian prisoners of war and for deaths and injuries caused by landmines.     


          The Commission has also decided that Eritrea violated the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations by arresting and detaining the Ethiopian Chargé d’Affaires and by violating official Ethiopian diplomatic correspondence and interfering with the functioning of the Ethiopian diplomatic mission to be appropriate reparation. Eritrea has also been awarded compensation for alleged violation of diplomatic premises but this pales in comparison to Eritrea’s illegal actions in arresting and detaining Ethiopia’s Chargé d’Affaires in Asmara. Most of the award for Eritrea consists of property damage allegedly incurred in connection with the counteroffensive to repel Eritrea’s aggression.


       The difference between the totality of the awards between the two countries means that Eritrea owes Ethiopia over ten million US dollars. This is a very small amount given the gravity of the crime of aggression committed by Eritrea as determined by the Commission itself. Nonetheless, the amount of compensation, totally incommensurate with Eritrea’s offences, does not detract from the fact that Eritrea’s brutal actions in flagrant violation of international law has again come to light as the United Nations Security Council considers sanction against Eritrea for acts of destabilization in the Horn of Africa. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia shall further study the details of the final award and measures that could be taken to ensure what is owed to Ethiopia by Eritrea is settled. The most important matter, however, is that from the outset the Claims Commission has found Eritrea to be the culprit in this sad saga between the two countries that were dragged into war as a result of Eritrea’s aggression.


                                                                                                        18 August 2009

                                                                                                Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Eritrea to pay Ethiopia millions

Filed under: Report — eritrearealclearpolitics @ 7:35 am
Eritrea to pay Ethiopia millions

An international tribunal in The Hague has ruled that Eritrea will have to pay Ethiopia millions of dollars in compensation for war damages.

Both were ordered to pay each other damages for the 1998-2000 border war, but the verdict leaves Eritrea with $10m (£6m) more to pay.

The ruling covers compensation for businesses and goods lost and villages destroyed during the bitter conflict.

Eritrea has already said it accepts the ruling of the tribunal.

The Claims Commission, set up at the end of the war, ruled on awards across a range of issues.

It gave a monetary value to the damage suffered by Ethiopians during a notorious incident when Eritrean jets dropped cluster bombs on a school in the town of Mekele.

It also awarded Eritreans living in Ethiopia, whose homes and properties were seized by the government.

Some claims – such as an Ethiopian demand for $1bn of environmental damage – were dismissed.

In total Ethiopia was awarded $174m, while Eritrea got $164m – a net payment to Ethiopia of just over $10m.

The chief legal adviser to Ethiopia, Don Pickard, said he did not think the amount reflected the level of damage suffered by Ethiopia during the war.

BBC Africa analyst Martin Plaut says the real tragedy is that the money, like the rest of the internationally supported peace process, will settle very little.

The border between the two countries is still in dispute and tens of thousands of troops remain entrenched along the border, over its bleak mountains and deserts.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/08/18 16:46:01 GMT


August 18, 2009

Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission

Filed under: Report — eritrearealclearpolitics @ 6:46 pm

The Eritrea-Ethiopia Claims Commission was established and operates pursuant to Article 5 of the Agreement signed in Algiers on December 12, 2000 between the Governments of the State of Eritrea and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (the “December Agreement”).


The Commission is directed to “decide through binding arbitration all claims for loss, damage or injury by one Government against the other, and by nationals (including both natural and juridical persons) of one party against the Government of the other party or entities owned or controlled by the other party that are (a) related to the conflict that was the subject of the Framework Agreement, the Modalities for its Implementation and the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement, and (b) result from violations of international humanitarian law, including the 1949 Geneva Conventions, or other violations of international law.”


Pursuant to the December Agreement, the Commission is an independent body. Its seat is in The Hague, although it has met informally with the parties elsewhere.


The members of the Commission are:


    Professor Hans van Houtte (President)
    Judge George Aldrich (appointed by Ethiopia)
    Mr. John Crook (appointed by Eritrea)
    Dean James Paul (appointed by Ethiopia)
    Ms. Lucy Reed (appointed by Eritrea)


The Permanent Court of Arbitration (“PCA”) serves as registry to the Commission.


The Commission held informal meetings on organizational matters with representatives of the parties at the PCA’s premises in March and May of 2001. In July 2001, it held hearings on significant questions related to its jurisdiction, procedures and possible remedies. The Commission benefited from substantial memoranda filed by the parties prior to both the May and July sessions. In August 2001, the Commission issued its Decisions Numbers 1-5. These address significant jurisdictional and procedural issues bearing on the preparation and presentation of claims. In August 2001, representatives of the Commissions and of both parties met informally with claims experts from the International Organization on Migration to discuss technical issues related to the design and implementation of possible mass claims filing systems. During this period, the Commission provided additional procedural guidance in several letters to the parties.


In October 2001, following consultations with the parties, the Commission adopted its Rules of Procedure. As required by Article 5(7) of the December Agreement, the Commission’s Rules are based on the PCA’s Optional Rules for Arbitrating Disputes Between States, adapted to reflect the Commission’s mandate and anticipated workload.


In December 2001, both parties filed their claims in compliance with the 12 December 2001 filing deadline established by Article 5(8) of the December Agreement. Neither party utilized the possibility, created by Chapter Three of the Commission’s Rules, of filing claims utilizing possible mass claims procedures. State-to-state claims were filed on behalf of the Government of Ethiopia. The Government of Eritrea filed claims on its behalf, as well on behalf of named individuals. The claims filed by the parties relate to such matters as the conduct of military operations in the front zones, the treatment of POWs and of civilians and their property, diplomatic immunities and the economic impact of certain government actions during the conflict. Although the total number of claims filed by each party differs, several of Ethiopia’s claims include extensive sub-elements. Accordingly, the overall scope of the issues raised in the two parties’ claims appears broadly similar.


After the claims were filed, the Commission analyzed the initial filings and requested and received the parties’ views regarding the priorities and sequence for its work. Taking account of the views of both parties, in February 2002, the Commission scheduled the filing of statements of defense in all claims. Both parties have filed all of their statements of defense in accordance with this schedule. (The Commission’s February 2002 order indicated that the Commission did not expect to authorize additional time for the statements of defense, and it has not done so.) The Commission decided to bifurcate its further work by dealing first with issues of liability and only subsequently with the determination of damages.


In May 2002, the Commission identified the first three sets of claims for oral hearings, and set the dates for hearings on liability, memorials and counter-memorials in those claims. The Commission decided to begin with the two parties’ claims alleging mistreatment of their respective prisoners of war; followed by their claims of misconduct related to the armed conflict in the Central Front; followed by their allegations of mistreatment of civilians. Memorials and some counter-memorials have been filed in these three groups of cases as ordered. Following an informal meeting with the parties in July 2002, the Commission also established a schedule for the filings and initial hearings in all of the remaining claims. In August 2002, the President of the Commission met in Geneva with officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross. This meeting sought to determine whether the ICRC would consent to the parties’ use in the POW claims of certain materials originated by the ICRC and in the parties’ possession. The ICRC was not prepared to consent to such use by the parties.


The Commission’s hearings on the parties’ prisoner of war claims took place as scheduled over ten hearing days at the Peace Palace in December 2002. The Partial Awards are available below.


In light of requests received from both parties, the Commission in February 2003 adjusted its schedule of future filings and hearings to take account of requirements resulting from other proceedings involving the parties and of the breadth and complexity of the work remaining to be done. Throughout this process, the Commission and the parties have worked cooperatively, with a view to expeditious and orderly resolution of the Commission’s caseload. The Commission and the parties have met informally several times to discuss possible means for focusing and facilitating the claims process. (The December Agreement calls for the Commission to endeavor to complete its work within three years of the closing date for filing claims.)


On September 1, 2003, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia asked the Commission to provide an interpretation of the partial award in Ethiopia’s claim under Article 21 of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure. After receiving the views of both parties, the Commission declined that request expressing doubts whether it involved a matter of interpretation for purposes of the Rules.


The Commission also noted that the specific provisions cited in the request related to matters different from the subject of the request. Emphasizing that providing an interpretation lies in its discretion, the Commission recalled the great volume of pending work and the parties’ and Commission’s common determination to complete it in an expeditious and orderly way.


The Commission held hearings in camera at the Peace Palace on the Central Front claims from both parties from 11 to 21 November 2003. The Partial Awards, released on April 28, 2004, are available below.


The Commission held hearings in camera at the Peace Palace on the Home Front claims from both parties from 9 to 19 March 2004.The Partial Awards, released on December 17, 2004, are available below.


The Commission held hearings in camera at the Peace Palace on the parties’ remaining liability claims in April 2005. The Awards, as well as the Commission’s Decision No. 6, released on December 19, 2005, are available below.


The Commission held the first round of hearings in the damages phase in April 2007. The Commission issued Decision No. 7 “Guidance Regarding Jus ad Bellum Liability”, and Decision No. 8 “Relief to War Victims” on July 27, 2007. The Decisions are available below.


The Commission held the second round of hearings in the damages phase in May 2008.


The Commission rendered its Final Awards on Damages in each Party’s Claims on August 17, 2009.


General information on the activities of the Commission was provided by the Chairman for inclusion in the first report of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to the Security Council, which can be downloaded here in PDF:


Progress Report of the Secretary-General on Ethiopia and Eritrea, September 4, 2003

UN Doc. S/2003/858

Progress report of the Secretary-General on Ethiopia and Eritrea, June 19, 2001

UN Doc. S/2001/608



Decision 1

Decision 2

Decision 3

Decision 4

Decision 5

Decision 6

Decision 7

Decision 8


Partial Awards:

Prisoners of War – Eritrea’s Claim 17  
Prisoners of War – Ethiopia’s Claim 4  
Central Front – Eritrea’s Claims 2, 4, 6, 7, 8 & 22  
Central Front – Ethiopia’s Claim 2  
Civilians Claims – Eritrea’s Claims 15, 16, 23 & 27-32  
Civilians Claims – Ethiopia’s Claim 5

Western Front, Aerial Bombardment and Related Claims – Eritrea’s Claims 1, 3, 5, 9-13, 14, 21, 25 & 26   

Western and Eastern Fronts – Ethiopia’s Claims 1 & 3  

Diplomatic Claim – Eritrea’s Claim 20  

Diplomatic Claim – Ethiopia’s Claim 8  
Loss of Property in Ethiopia Owned by Non-Residents – Eritrea’s Claim 24  
Economic Loss Throughout Ethiopia – Ethiopia’s Claim 7  
Jus Ad Bellum – Ethiopia’s Claims 1-8  


Final Awards:

Pensions – Eritrea’s Claims 15, 19 & 23  

Ports – Ethiopia’s Claim 6  

Eritrea’s Damages Claims
Ethiopia’s Damages Claims

Press Release:

Press Release August 17, 2009

August 13, 2009

The two sides of Meles Zenawi

Filed under: News — eritrearealclearpolitics @ 8:30 pm

Ethiopia’s resilient prime minister

The two sides of Meles Zenawi


Aug 13th 2009 | ADDIS ABABA
From The Economist print edition


A long-lasting leader faces growing problems at home and abroad


HE HAS run Ethiopia as prime minister since 1991, but Meles Zenawi, still only 54, has two faces. One belongs to a leader battling poverty. In this mode he is praised by Western governments, with Britain to the fore, for improving the miserable conditions in the countryside, where 85% of Ethiopia’s 80m-plus people live. Mr Meles takes credit for building new roads, clinics and primary schools, and for an array of agricultural initiatives. He also wins plaudits for his country’s low crime rate and for keeping its parliamentarians more or less on the straight and narrow, especially in terms of wealth. They get paid only about $3,240 a year compared with the $120,000 earned by Kenya’s fat-cat MPs. Moreover, in the past few years Ethiopia’s economy has grown fast. Mr Meles says it will grow this year by 10%, though the IMF’s figure is about half as big.

His mind is sharp, his memory elephantine, and he bristles with energy and vigour. In a rare interview, he speaks for two hours without notes. With his polished English, full of arcane turns of phrase from his days at a private English school in Addis Ababa, the capital, he captivates foreign donors. Though he avoids mentioning famine because the spectre of it may be looming again, he uses the memory of past debacles to prick Western consciences. Last month he suggested that the famine of 1984, which stirred Band Aid to come to Ethiopia’s help, may have been worsened by the pollution in Europe. He says he fully expects the West to pay $40 billion a year to Africa to compensate it for the damage caused by climate change.

But then there is the harsher side of Mr Meles, the Marxist fighter turned political strongman with a dismal human-rights record who is intolerant of dissent. In 2005, after a disputed general election, his police shot dead some 200 civilians. An independent inquiry ended up with several of its judges fleeing the country. Mr Meles sprinkles spies through the universities to intimidate and control the students; he was once a student agitator himself. He closes down independent newspapers and meddles in aid projects, banning agencies that annoy him. Last month he suspended the activities of about 40 of them from the Somali-populated parts of the country.

Many of Ethiopia’s opposition leaders were imprisoned after the election of 2005 on trumped-up treason charges; after a year or more, they were freed. But several have been rearrested. A new catch-all law that has just been passed could make peaceful opposition liable to the charge of inciting terrorism.

In any case, the economic story is not quite as rosy as Mr Meles suggests. Ethiopia may have only a few weeks of foreign reserves left. On the business front, the country remains very backward. Ethiopians have one of the lowest rates of mobile-phone ownership in Africa. Banking is rudimentary at best. Farming is still mostly for subsistence.

And famine looms once more. At that suggestion, Mr Meles narrows his eyes and growls, “That is a lie, an absolute lie.” There is more than enough food in government warehouses to feed the people, he says. But others say stockpiled grain has already been earmarked for handing out to people in the towns. The UN and foreign charities are predicting a large-scale famine in Tigray, Mr Meles’s home region, by November. At least 6m people may need food handouts unless more supplies can be found locally.

Mr Meles’s officials, most of them still working in gloomy Soviet-built offices, often sound almost paranoid in their sensitivity to criticism. The prime minister is quick to talk up threats to his country, whether from malcontents in the army or disgruntled ethnic groups among Ethiopia’s mosaic of peoples. Radical Oromos, a southern group that makes up about a third of Ethiopia’s people, often fall under suspicion. A bunch arrested earlier this year after an alleged attack on a dam under construction were paraded on state television as members of the secessionist Oromo Liberation Front (OLF). The government also regularly publicises threats by the Ogaden National Liberation Front, a Somali separatist group in the east, which has murdered foreigners and Ethiopians exploring for oil in that area.

Mr Meles is understandably worried by events in the wider region. Ethiopia’s relations with Eritrea, his mother’s birthplace, remain lousy. He accuses it of backing jihadists bent on hurting Ethiopia. He also accuses Eritrea of egging on Oromo rebels in the south and Somali separatists in the Ogaden region. “Eritrea is hellbent on destabilising Ethiopia,” he says. “It does not care who it sleeps with.”

And he remains edgy about the continuing strife in Somalia. In late 2006, with American encouragement, he sent his army there to topple an Islamist government that had declared a holy war on Ethiopia. Earlier this year he withdrew his troops after it became apparent they could not impose peace. But now the jihadists are gaining ground there again, bringing in al-Qaeda types—just what Mr Meles wanted to prevent.

So Mr Meles is up against it, at home and abroad, but apparently relishing the challenges. A general election is due next year. He had previously hinted he might step down after it. More recently, he has sounded less sure, dismissing such speculation as “boring”. Some say he may leave his prime ministerial post but stay on to chair his ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front. He seems likely, in whatever guise, to call the shots—with decreasing dissent.

August 10, 2009

U.S. Policy Shift Needed in the Horn of Africa

Filed under: Politics — eritrearealclearpolitics @ 7:25 am




Bronwyn E. Bruton, International Affairs Fellow in Residence


August 6, 2009

FULLNAMEOFINTERVIEWEEU.S. strategic interests in the Horn of Africa center on preventing Somalia from becoming a safe haven for al-Qaeda or other transnational jihadist groups. In pursuing its counterterror strategy, the United States has found common cause with Ethiopia. The Ethiopian government has long feared the renewal of Somali irredentist claims on its eastern border, or that a powerful Islamist movement may stoke unrest among its own large Muslim population, and feels beset both by a powerful indigenous separatist movement in its Ogaden region and an unresolved border dispute with its northern neighbor, Eritrea.

But the Ethiopian government’s behavior in recent years, both domestically and in bordering states, poses mounting difficulties for the United States and its long-term goals in the region. Washington must be prepared to press its partner to alter its strong-handed approach to political dissent and counterterrorism or consider ending the relationship.

Ethiopia has struggled with internal reforms since the collapse of the communist Derg regime in 1991. The country’s economy has grown, but attempts to institutionalize a system of multiparty democracy have stumbled.

In 2005, Ethiopia held largely free and fair democratic elections. Prior to the polls, there was an unprecedented opening of political space. Opposition political parties were able to hold rallies, the press was able to publish critical political analysis, and international and local civil society organizations assisted in election monitoring. But the government’s tentative efforts to increase political space were not rewarded: After a series of irregularities in the vote closing and tallying processes were discovered, a variety of political parties contested the election results. The Ethiopian government declared a state of emergency and responded brutally to a series of apparently peaceful protests. The country was plunged into a period of violent civil disturbance, during which the Ethiopian government detained thousands of protestors and arrested hundreds of opposition figures, including arguably nonpolitical actors from civil society and the press. Many of these emergency measures have been institutionalized, resulting in legislation that has criminalized social advocacy by “foreigners” (including Ethiopian civil society organizations that receive foreign charitable funds), and imposed harsh criminal penalties on broadly defined “terrorist” acts, including disruptive public protests.

Impact on U.S. Policy Objectives

For the United States, cooperation with an authoritarian Ethiopia presents looming challenges to U.S. policy objectives. First, the Ethiopian government’s attempts to minimize political competition in the run-up to the 2010 elections are likely to fan ethnic tensions in the country. The government’s ruling party, the Ethiopian People Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), is perceived by many Ethiopians to be dominated by a single minority ethnic faction, the Tigre, and its consolidation of political power may be read as an assault on the majority ethnic Amharic and Oromo populations. Public dissatisfaction with the government is high in the wake of the 2005 elections and a violent explosion is not out of the question.

Second, Ethiopia’s conflicts with Eritrea and Somalia, and with the powerful separatist movement in the Ogaden, have a jihadist impact. While the U.S.-Ethiopia alliance has had short-term tactical advantages, it may be undermining broader US counterterror goals.   

Arguably, U.S. reliance on Ethiopian military might and intelligence has served to exacerbate instability in Somalia. Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia, and the extended presence of Ethiopian troops in Mogadishu, instead of quelling conflict, has triggered a local backlash that has served as a rallying point for local extremists. It was the development of a complex insurgency against the Ethiopian occupation that effectively catapulted a fringe jihadist youth militia, the Shabaab, to power. International jihadists have now capitalized on the local insurgency, and on U.S. support of the Ethiopian invasion, as an opportunity to globalize Somalia’s conflict. The presence of foreign expertise, fighters, and funding has helped to tip the balance of power in favor of Somalia’s extremist groups. Additionally, there is growing concern that the conflict in the Ogaden may give birth to indigenous jihadist movements.

While the U.S.-Ethiopia alliance has had short-term tactical advantages, it may be undermining broader U.S. counterterror goals.

Anti-American sentiment in Somalia is pervasive, and stems in large part from U.S. complicity with the Ethiopian invasion and reported Ethiopian human rights abuses in Somalia. Ethiopia has also reportedly engaged in human rights abuses within its Ogaden region, which borders Somalia, where the government is engaged in a counterinsurgency effort against an ethnic Somali separatist movement. Though Ethiopia has denied these charges, human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have documented atrocities committed by both sides in that conflict. The U.S. decision to withdraw its military personnel from the Ogaden in April 2006, and the subsequent failure of the international community to seek accountability for these atrocities, has cemented a widespread public perception in Ethiopia and Somalia that the United States is willing to turn a blind eye on human rights abuses in exchange for cooperation in the counterterror effort.

Further complicating U.S. efforts to bolster Somalia’s central government is the unresolved border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Eritrea complains that Ethiopia has refused to honor the ruling of an independent border commission on the demarcation of the common boundary and has demanded intervention from the international community. Ethiopia charges that Eritrea has retaliated by funneling weapons and funding to radical groups in Somalia, some of which oppose Ethiopian forces there. Eritrea has denied these charges, and some specific accusations leveled by the United Nations and the African Union against Eritrea have been disproven. The demand for sanctions on Eritrea is nevertheless growing, and comments by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a visit to Kenya on Aug. 6, in which she linked Eritrea to Somali militants suggests efforts by the Obama administration to engage in a constructive political dialogue with Asmara may be dimming.

These factors suggest that U.S. ability to influence events in Somalia will depend in some measure on diplomatic efforts to resolve the border dispute and to address Ethiopian human rights abuses. But perhaps even more important than either is what the United States decides to do in response to the shrinking democratic space in Ethiopia.

Obstacles to U.S. Action

The United States has been unwilling to overtly pressure Ethiopia to adopt major democratic reforms for a number of reasons. Many experts and policymakers already fear that the regime is vulnerable to collapse. Some diplomats fear that aggressive–or even public–pressure on Ethiopia may inadvertently undermine or destabilize the regime. The United States cannot afford to unsettle a country that has served as a rock of stability in an otherwise troubled region.

Another major hurdle for the United States is the lack of an international consensus on one fundamental question: Is Ethiopia still a democratic country, or is the regime of President Meles Zenawi regime headed towards dictatorship? The perception that Ethiopia is a fundamentally democratic country remains strong, particularly among European nations. The lack of any consensus would require the United States to take a lead and potentially isolated role in pressuring Ethiopia for reform.

Finally, U.S. efforts to promote democratic reform in Ethiopia are impeded by a lack of willing partners on the ground. Democratic civil society groups generally fear for their safety and are not willing to mobilize in a public advocacy effort. This means that U.S. efforts to counteract repressive measures by the government will not be supported–or legitimized–by a corresponding local effort. International organizations that might have engaged with opposition political voices have already been expelled from the country.

Policy Recommendations

Change is needed to ensure the sustainability of the U.S.-Ethiopia partnership and U.S. counterterrorism goals in the region at a time when Somalia continues to flounder as a failed state. The United States should consider adopting a more assertive approach that makes use of two primary points of leverage:

First, the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) should refuse direct funding to the many known “GONGOS” (governmental nongovernmental organizations) that pose as legitimate civil society development organizations, but are in practice political and social agents of the ruling party. The recognition of GONGOs as legitimate civil society organizations abets the Ethiopian strategy of marginalizing nongovernmental actors, and allows the government to continue a “business as usual” approach to the delivery of international support.

Ethiopian certainty that U.S. aid is inviolate has allowed the Ethiopian government to effectively tune out demands for reform. Ethiopian dependence on U.S. assistance is a card that policymakers must learn to play to provoke meaningful change.

Second, the United States should publicly express its concern over the shrinking democratic space, the crisis in the Ogaden, and Ethiopia’s refusal to uphold the findings of the independent border commission. Ethiopian officials are extremely sensitive to public opinion and likely to respond to threats to their country’s international standing and participation in international fora such as the African Union and the United Nations.

Relations with Ethiopia are likely to become strained, and the United States can expect, at least initially, to receive very limited support from its European partner nations. These countries, including France, Germany and the United Kingdom, lack the political leverage necessary to lead a collective shift in donor policy and have been hesitant to alienate the Ethiopian government. This reluctance may require a diplomatic version of the “good cop/bad cop” approach, in which the United States agrees to take an isolated, leadership role in demanding change, while European donor nations persist in a strategy of quiet diplomacy. This has the advantage of ensuring that some constructive dialogue will continue.

In a worst-case scenario, the United States may have to threaten to suspend foreign and military aid to Ethiopia. U.S. humanitarian and development assistance to Ethiopia was upwards of $650 million in 2008, and the U.S. has contributed significant, though less transparent, financial and tactical support to Ethiopia’s attempts to modernize its armed forces. Such an action has rightly been perceived as unthinkable in the past, as the cessation of aid would certainly risk destabilizing the Ethiopian government and may precipitate widespread public disorder. At the same time, Ethiopian certainty that U.S. aid is inviolate has allowed the Ethiopian government to effectively tune out demands for reform. Ethiopian dependence on U.S. assistance is a card that policymakers must learn to play to provoke meaningful change. This is another reason to consider developing a good cop/bad cop arrangement with the European donors–if the United States is forced to suspend aid, other donors may mitigate the shortfall while quietly reinforcing demands for democratic reform.

The prospect of strained relations with Ethiopia at a time of regional crisis is not desirable. If the United States ultimately wishes to sustain its partnership with Ethiopia, however, inaction is the more dangerous option. Democratic space in Ethiopia will continue to erode, while human rights abuses in the Ogaden and ongoing Ethiopian military incursions in Somalia will continue to stoke anti-American sentiment in the Horn. U.S. efforts to mitigate the conflict in Somalia, and to support Somalia’s struggling Transitional Federal Government (TFG), will be fatally undermined by this dynamic. The visible reentry of Ethiopian troops into Somalia already threatens to extinguish the last embers of popular support for the TFG, and may rekindle the insurgency dynamic that brought the Shabaab to power throughout southern Somalia. At the same time, Ethiopian and Eritrean intransigence over the border dispute will ensure a continued flow of arms into the hands of various Somali factions.

The United States has recently taken positive steps to disaggregate its Somalia policy from that of Ethiopia. These steps include diplomatic outreach to Eritrea and public attempts to restrain Ethiopian military action in response to the escalating violence in Mogadishu. These constructive efforts need to be coupled with more assertive diplomacy in Addis Ababa. Until Ethiopia becomes a credible democracy, the U.S.-Ethiopia partnership will do more harm to U.S. regional standing than good.

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August 7, 2009

The Hatchet of Chauvinism & the Sword of Extremism by Ali Salim

Filed under: Politics — eritrearealclearpolitics @ 3:39 pm
Meriet: The Mother of All Rights
Awate – Featured Articles
By Ali Salim – Aug 05, 2009
 “There must be a language that doesn’t depend on words, the boy [the shepherd] thought. I have already had that experience with my sheep, and now it’s happening with people.”  (The Alchemist P43 by P. Coelho)On a positive note: I was glad to read on that, according to the head of the Metrological Office in Asmara, heavy rains all over Eritrea are promising a change from the last few years of drought thereby instilling a little bit of hope of a good harvest for so many farmers. I sincerely wish a happy and abundant harvest for every farmer in the country including the land grabbing thieves that I have been writing about. I am glad so many mosquitoes have answered my call to halt their offensive and retreat to their bases to give the land grabbers a break to ensure a good harvest while they sharpen their stinging skills for another day.Before I get to the substance of this article, a pause is in order to express my sincere gratitude to all those who were decent enough to overlook my (allegedly) offensive rhetoric and blind painting and chose to see beyond the angry tone into the arguments beneath. I apologize to anyone who was too offended to go beyond the text on the surface to digest my views on what many of us think are defining moments in our history. Thanks to Brother Semere Habtemariam (Eritrea Is Our Black Stone, August 02, 2009) for following poor Ali’s journey through the maze and for offering your hand to help him out (I am planning a Mickey Mouse production on the character when he manages to cash the long awaited pay cheque).     Several impressive articles by courageous Eritrean advocates of equality for Lowlanders; and justice, peace and democracy for the nation as a whole have provoked the urgency of thinking outside the traditional box of the Eritrean opposition in the minds of so many Eritreans. The importance of discarding the simplistic mechanical definitions of the past in favor a principled functional definition that categorizes enemies and friends based on their declared commitment to ”judge Eritreans by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin” has never gained more attention than it has today. Few other Eritrean writers have ever sounded the wake-up call of the imminent danger clouding the nation more graphically than Mohammed Ahmed (Big Ugly Crack, Aug 02, 2009) through the analogy of two very different bedtime fables that Eritrean toddlers have been reading for the last 18 years. Thank you brother Shumbahri; and the other members of the Awate Forum (my heroes) for engaging in and maintaining such a lively first-of-its-kind frank brotherly discussion in the Eritrean internet media. You (both sides of the debate) might as well be making history without realizing what you are doing: Congratulations! Sheikh Hamid Turki’s detailed analysis of the backgrounds of the current institutional manifestations of the Eritrean political debate ( July 28, 2009) and Dr. Jalal’adin M. Saleh’s article (Awna July 28, 2009) dealing directly with the illegal land grabbing that we have been discussing in Awate were an indication of better days to come. These and others that appeared in several other websites were a good omen that Lowlanders have actually started acting on their anger not by withdrawing and watching the nation on fire (as others have chosen to do) but by salvaging whatever they can through goodwill and inclusive engagement. Dr. Jalal’s suggestion to pick a date to mark as “The Day of the Land” to commemorate the day when Eritrean Lowlanders stood up against a long history of discriminatory land grabbing (in a manner similar to the Palestinian Land Dayyoum al ar’d), was specially genius.      I commend Selam Kidane (Unlikely Confessions, Cheap Grace and Inexpensive Virtues,, July 29, 2009) for her courage in highlighting the special case of targeted mistreatment of Muslim Eritreans in the atrocities committed by the PFDJ regime. I, however, cannot hide my disappointment at her evasion of the core issue of the right to equal entitlement to ancestral land for all Eritreans. The right to unbiased criteria of entitlement for all citizens in self-defense against unwelcome visitors to their ancestral land is central to the cause of justice in Eritrea. It is the mother of all other rightsthat defines every aspect of the ethnically stratified layers of citizenship of the current Neo-Nazi regime in Asmara. Championing religious equality, condemning the targeted persecution of Muslims and Jehovas, advocating for the right of Muslims to embrace Arabic as their first language, defending the right to equal access to employment and business, pushing every Christian to adopt a poor Muslim baby, and calling upon all Highlanders to offer free hugs and flowers to their Lowlander brothers, are all nothing but sheer hypocrisy and crocodile tears as long as the championing is not preceded by a call for a uniform, unbiased system of entitlement to the land where those rights are to be upheld.It is within this context that the plight of Jebertis and other ruthlessly victimized Highland Muslims (that Semere raised in his article) is essentially addressed as a functionally inseparable component of the cause of Lowlanders. It is within this framework that everything from the Afari right to self-determination, to the Kunama’s concerns as a unique component of the Western Lowlands; and from the right of a Hidareb farmer to plan for a hundred-year crop circulation without having to worry about unpredictable thieves, to the concerns of a Bilen shepherd for protection from the EPP is defined in black & white. It is against this background that we can guarantee Tigrigna farmers the right to expel colonels with dead mothers from turning their villages into graveyards without having to plead for the kind audience of His Excellency the President.

That’s why, my dear Selam, the question was very specific: do you believe our Kunama brothers are entitled to follow Adi Gebray’s example in kicking out non-natives from their ancestral Kunama-Land? If your answer is “Yes”, you better think twice before writing it because the next step is to stand up and call for the dismantling of any settlement of land grabbers erected without proper consultation with, in the absence of or against the will of the rightful owners of the land (including any settlements of Kunama land grabbers in the Highlands, if any). If your answer is no, you better save it for the day when you decide to lecture a gathering of Lowlanders on human rights and democracy. I am positive that some Kunama brother/sister will ask you the question and I can’t wait to see if you would still maintain eye contact with your questioner. I find it convenient to use “Kunama” instead of other ethnic name (although the problem is identical across the board) mainly to strip the religious bias that the disruptionists are trying to muddle with our argument, in order to portray the clear miscarriage of justice as a hangover of religious conflict between Muslims and Christians.

I promise to make “this land is your land, this land is my land” into a daily ritual; and rest assured that once all the rightful owners of the occupied territories are back home in a different Eritrea than the one we have, they too will make it into a national anthem knowing that nobody is sneaking behind their backs any more to take advantage of their absence and to scrape their citizenship from the files of Eritrean demography. Until then, this is what Lowlanders will continue to sing:

“Whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong

Whether I find a place in this world or never belong

I gotta be free, I just gotta be free
Daring to try, to do it or die”

(“I’ve got to be me” by Sammy Davis Jr.)

What is infuriating with the current debate is a fact that most innocent Highlanders who felt offended (by my text), I believe, failed to pay attention to. The people who are scrambling to block or disrupt our debate and to bully us out of our senses are not the PFDJ proper, who have not even bothered (at least on the surface) to issue an explanation concerning the Project of Land Grabbing in the Lowlands. They are not the PFDJ Ambassadors and lecturers who would never miss an opportunity to blend others as traitors and fanatics selling the nation to Weyane. They are not the Hafash Wudubat who would tear you apart for breathing what they would remotely suspect to be in their endless lists of dangerous taboos. We are not even close to soliciting a middle finger from our primary litigants; NOT YET. We don’t even know if the President might just say “Oops! I am sorry” and dismantle the settlements and tell Mustapha Nur Hussein to take them back. We do not even know if he knows we exist.


It is the “Opposition” guys that any right-minded Eritrean would nominate to stand for these rights; and expect would knock at my front door to wake me up to stand for my rights, that are obsessed in their vows to censor others on anything related to fair entitlement to the land. These are the guys who would not only condemn the PFDJ for defending the nation against Weyane’s invasion but would chip in their own troops to make sure the invasion was a success. Many of them wouldn’t even vote “Yes” for independence, because PFDJ was the victor; wouldn’t fly the flag because of a yellow PFDJ star; would boycott Hot Dogs because Yemane Monkey was seen feeding them to other monkeys. They are the ones who would strangle you to death and strangle you again to make sure you are dead for advocating anything less than the total eradication of the PFDJ and everything reminiscent of its legacy.

But mention equitable land policy and….is there something that we are missing here? Can anyone whisper into my ear why they think Eritrea will break down into a war zone of religious crusades, and Highlanders will rise with harpoons just because some citizens demanded an end to discriminatory rules of land ownership? Can anyone explain to me how the heck these guys finally managed to find one single issue that they excessively agree upon with the PFDJ, at the worst phase of its history, that they never managed to notice in its heyday when even President Clinton was impressed enough to describe as African Renaissance? Can anyone help me understand why the only PFDJ virtue that they elected to notice turned out to be the worst and most dangerous that its monkeying gurus could ever come up with in the last 18 years?

I will tell you what’s going on: we busted them red-handed at the wrong time in the final phase of laying the preconditions for a second comeback to the Motherland in Axum; because that is one thing Eritreans are good at. These thugs know full well that land, the Mother of All Rights, is the argument that will flush the Eritrean opposition as well as government from the dirt and declare the Neo-Nazis structurally unemployed; and that it is the only sure way that would not necessarily require the total annihilation of the Eritrean state structure, a sufficient precondition for a helpless nation that runs out of options and falls prey to vultures.

I am dumbfounded at the amount of courage and determination required for such a basic thing as guarding one’s integrity against a bunch of entrenched hecklers of sensible communication and Melisha Sirnay style body guards of tribal lords in the Eritrean opposition. The last few weeks in particular have witnessed frantic campaigns by a handful of thuggish vigilantes (of the EPP in particular) lobbying one another to campaign for an extension of PFDJ style “freedom of expression” to the land of the free in the West. I have neither the energy nor the intention to descend to their level of Inkililo and engage in the politics of disruption that they have perfected so well through the years.

As a useful exercise in stepping onto another person’s shoes and appreciating the reasons why so many Eritreans (apart from the Neo-Nazis) support the PFDJ regime in Asmara, however, I invite the reader to take a short meditation session to imagine a scenario where the EPP liberates Eritrea from the current regime and appoints one of these guys to take Ali Abdu’s (or Yemane Monkey’s) position as Minister of Information. What other enhancements would they prescribe to those former comrades of the G15 and Journalists let alone the preachers and army deserters who would differ with them other than the dark dungeons of the Neo-Nazi Gestapo? I tried imagining and the first idea that came to my mind was to buy a tight lid for the dust bin that I described in my last article. Thank you, Zemehret Seare (Awate July 29, 2009) for reminding us of the great job that our forefathers did to guarantee a nation of proud citizens graceful in mutual respect to one another, reflective of a sophisticated value system where standing for the voiceless is a virtue and defending thieves is taboo. I will do you a favor my dear brother: I promise to exonerate Woldeyesus Amar and the EPP from my articles if you can get him to stand up and declare that his own Bilen are entitled to follow the example of Tesfai Degiga’s Adi Gebray to kick non-natives from their ancestral land. If he does that, please get back to me because I have some ideas for you. If he says “No” you may want to read about my dust bin in a previous article and please take a shower before you jump in to catch up with him.

I would like to congratulate Amanuel Iyasu of for shifting gear from his previous attempt to imitate Weyni Gerezgiher (of Dimtsi Hafash) and for pioneering intelligent engagement through an interview with Professor Gaim Kibreab (Assenna Radio, July 29, 2009). Many thanks to Professor Gaim for his relatively different approach to the current debate of the settlements of land grabbers in the Lowlands compared to the standard denial or evasion that Highland intellectuals across the board have chosen so far. Without diminishing the significance of Professor Gaim’s initiative, however, I would like to contribute my observations as to the areas where the professor needs to exercise far more ethical input the next time he comes on air. I have reconstructed the relevant parts of the interview to make sense of what I thought was Ajewjew. I apologize for any unintended misrepresentation (if any) of what the professor was trying to say.

Asked about the government’s motives in timing of moving so many people from Zoba Debub to the lowlands, Professor Gaim rejects the government’s claim that moving the new settlers to Gash Barka was timed to catch up with the farming season; simply because if that were indeed the case they would have been moved a few months ahead in time to prepare the land for the rainy season (implying that the Project has nothing to do with enhancing agricultural production and, hence, the probable existence of a hidden agenda). Amanuel asks the Professor what the Eritrean public including the opposition should do in view of the fact that the movement involves valuable human life (of the land grabbers). The Professor asserts the fact that the project is both illegal and entails dangerous future consequences and should never have been undertaken in the way it has been implemented.

One of the main reasons that the government should have stayed away from the project, according to Professor Gaim, is simply because the land has other owners who are stranded in the refugee camps of Sudan (through no fault of their own) and they have never been consulted to see if they wouldn’t mind having more settlers in their land. He even expresses his doubts that the rightful owners would ever agree to such a move even if consulted by pointing out that the fertile areas around the places that the new comers are being settled is much smaller than the abundance that people think it to be. He explains that the legally and morally justifiable way is to leave it to the dynamics of market forces and natural migration; and mentions several examples of entire Highland villages that were replicated in the Kunama lands of Gash in a perfectly peaceful manner. I will leave argument on whether the historical origins of the replica villages of Tigrigna settlers in Kunama Lands (that he mentioned) did actually satisfy the professor’s own qualification of “consent of rightful owners” for others who are more familiar with the specific history. The Professor (who showed no meaningful regrets towards the government doing what he himself is describing as illegal and dangerous) suggests other methods (sneaky ways of making it look like natural migration) without attracting attention and creating tensions; such as demobilizing (the hundreds of thousands in) the national service and settling them in those same places and then gradually they would bring the rest of their families (when all the risks have been taken care of by the youth) to live happily ever after.

I have ignored the Professor’s concerns for the well being of the land grabbing thieves just so the reader (familiar with reaction to my previous articles) wouldn’t think I am trying to fit him into my alleged “presumption of evil in all Tigrignas” argument (for which I plead NOT GUILTY). Listening to the interview however all I saw in Professor Gaim was a typical Tigrigna intellectual who is trying to do the wrong things the right way. I strongly recommend that readers of this article listen to the whole interview (and send letters of support to Assenna) and form their own assessment of the Professor’s analysis. The following are some of the points that led me to believe that Professor Gaim’s interview is actually a pilot project of Tigrigna intellectuals testing the waters before they jump in for the swim on the wrong side of the pool (which can be illegal and dangerous).

1.    Professor Gaim repeatedly stresses the EPP-EDP justification that the “IDPs” (Internally Displaced Persons – tefenaqelti) were forced to move by the government the same way that national service conscripts are forced into servitude. He gives no explanation as to why he would discredit all those who were interviewed by Hadas Eritra and showed no sign of coercion for his totally hypothetical premise of probable gifa in this particular case. He totally ignores the government’s more rational and convincing explanation that the promise of a better life (harvest) in the Lowlands was the motive.

2.    Professor Gaim injects a new dimension to the argument referring to the probability that the government might actually be kicking the villagers in Zoba Debub out of their land (hence victimizing them) to give way for the production of wheat and barley used in the production of bread and beer. He mentions that he is not sure if that is in fact true as he has no specific information on the issue (another way of saying “I invented it”). Again he gives no explanation as to why he should struggle to portray the Zoba Debub villagers as victims based on information that he admits does not have, when he can easily declare the rightful owners in Gash and Barka as victims of land grabbing based on the very information that justified his interview.

3.    The Professor expresses his contempt towards what he calls “tchaw tchaw” in the internet and associates it not to the right of Lowlanders to defend their ancestral land and their right to equal citizenship, but to malicious intent of sawing seeds for future trouble based on false claims of deliberate land grabbing by highlanders. The Professor gave no explanation as to why he would consider the Hadas Eritra story with pictures of thieves on trucks and Mustapha Nur Hussein’s own words as “false claims”; or as to why he would waste his valuable time in a lengthy interview responding to the same “Tchaw-Tchaw”.

The interview ends with one of my favorite EPLF era songs “Merietey … Merietey; meriet Hizka’yu kibret; abzelokhayo mekit; zika’aleka aberkit”. Amanuel did not say whether the song was intended to motivate Lowlanders to defend Merietom or for the land grabbing thieves and their cheerleaders to never to give up on other people’s Meriet.

Dear Reader,

What we have is the People’s Front for Democracy & Justice (PF DJ.) Wey wedi wey gual kitwelid iya. There is no other option and we won’t lose anyway. If we succeed in setting the record straight: we will get rid of the PF and still keep the last DJ. If we fail, we will have given the sloppy dinosaurs a rollercoaster ride ending up with a stronger opposition which will get rid of the PF and at least a mosque & a church where we may pray for the last DJ.

The only problem: we won’t need Pen-name Kiosks for the Meskerem Paparazzi in either case,  thanks to Saleh Younis.

Yours Sincerely This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

Last Updated ( Aug 05, 2009 )
Hade Hizbi – Kil’te Libi! (One People – Two Hearts)
Awate – Featured Articles
By Ali Salim – Jul 02, 2009
 “When the Protector Becomes Predator” by Dr. Bereket H Selassie (Awate, Jun 23, 2009) in which he defines “The Critical Challenge Facing Eritreans Today” was an article that I read more than three times (with a coffee break and an anger management session in between each). Don’t get me wrong! Dr. Bereket does deserve the pride of every Eritrean for his personal achievements and their appreciation for staying involved and being there for them through the long years of the ups and downs of our sad history. What I write below, therefore, should not be taken as disrespect for a national icon so high and an elder so dignified as to walk the miles of one public protest after another with his fellow countrymen and women for freedom. Please, read with Ali Burhan’s definition of optimism (written by someone as detached from the dirt of our politics as an Angel watching the whole picture from high up) in the back of your mind.  I first read the lines of Dr. Berekhet’s article; then between the lines; and then within each line to sniff any signs of good hope and declare EurekaEureka … at the idea of one Tigrigna intellectual who broke away from the pack of silent conspiracy. Here is what I read.What the Doctor Said Dr. Berekhet calls for an urgent national salvation (midHan hager) in a manner similar to Mengistu’s (Ex-Ethiopian dictator) slogan of hulum neger wede Tor ginbar (everything to the battlefront!) or Shaebia’s kulu diHri hager (everything after the nation!). Text inside quotes (excluding brackets) are Dr. Berekhet’s words rearranged (by me) to convey my understanding of what he said. He discusses “… the role of the Diaspora opposition … against the outrage being committed … (by) a cruel and irresponsible cabal (that) has been practicing a politics of domination to the exclusion of all other worthy citizens”. He calls for an “effective united opposition … (to rally around the) implementation of a ratified constitution … (to overcome the) huge constraints under which the opposition political parties operate … (against a regime that employs) naked force utterly devoid of legitimacy”.He singles out two unfortunate realities for the root causes of the problems we face today: (1) we are “stuck with a national army controlled by a cabal of corrupt officers”; (2) we are “stuck with its (Eritrea’s) preeminent political legacy of disparate groups united in one nation sate”. The underlying appeal (as I understood) is: the first, we have to fight; the second we have to live with. The article (speech) concludes by a call for responsible action for change reminding that “the reason why Isaias is not willing to change the policy of forced military service is that he will face thousands of unemployed youth in Asmara demanding change.  Let us remember that these are young people who have been trained to use arms”; and realistic expectation of the probable consequences by asking “Can you imagine these unlucky ones who remain in the wilderness putting up a last ditch fight in case the country is invaded?” and answering “The only conclusion we can reach in such a scenario is that there will be no free country to speak about – no more independent Eritrea.  Imagine!”The JigsawHere are the footnotes that, I believe, Dr. Berekhet forgot to include in his speech. There was no mention (in the speech) of the core rallying slogans (of haimanotawin awrajawin stuff) of the PFDJ stooges who campaigned against the DC demonstrations and symposium itself (I am assuming it was included in “the outrage being committed”). The concept of “Diaspora opposition” is no invention of Dr. Berekhet and it is a realistic representation of the opposition landscape signifying that we are not alone and that a parallel and presumably larger and more effective under-world exists within the ranks of the armed forces. This is a concept that is rapidly gaining momentum among those groups of the Eritrean Diaspora (EDP in particular) who view the recent vertical polarization in the Eritrean opposition as a risk to their definition of “national unity” (the one we have today; the one that licenses the PFDJ to move thousands to other peoples land) and pray (like all other Eritreans) that something better comes from within the nation. The use of “Diaspora opposition” in a speech addressing the critical challenges of the whole nation was unwarranted, a bit arrogant and a systematic way of disowning the recent developments that so many Lowlanders are celebrating. The underlying subliminal message of the phrase is for Eritreans to unite the way the opposition inside the country is “united” (to bring about measured change that preserves their “national unity”).“Cruel and irresponsible cabal” is another piece of the same jigsaw also used in another part of the speech as “national army controlled by a cabal of corrupt officers”. “A cabal is a number of people united in some close design, usually to promote their private views and interests” (Wikipedia). This expression promotes the bad-boy picture that every PFDJ official has been trying to paint for themselves and their boss ever since independence. As the bad-boy became worse by the day, the idea of a one-man-show and a dictatorship like all others worked itself into a complete camouflaging consensus among highlanders (becoming the code word for the hidden agenda of their nationalists) and gained a reluctant acceptance among the bulk of lowlander apologists who dared not to offend “the common sense”. Here is what Dr. Berekhet is trying to say: Isaias and his men represent nobody but themselves; they are a bunch of selfish corrupt pigs; and feel free to take them down; but before you think about changing what the regime as a whole stands for (rules of the game), let us have some constitutional chit-chat.

This same idea of a bad-boy running around with an indiscriminate stick on everybody’s back has long been promoted by the regime itself as an effective public relations cover for a systematic pattern of ethnic cleansing. In 1994 when the news of hundreds of lowlanders disappearing (from mosques, schools and market places) with no trace at all started to leak; the Jehovah’s Witness became the first sacrificial lamb to serve as a Mexican hat to neutralize the heat of resentment and to deny lowlanders the argument to make a case against an organized band of Neo-Nazis. The sad news of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ barbaric treatment by the regime was immediately “leaked” into the media with pictures of the actual containers where many innocent Jehovah’s were fried to death; and the bad-boys went on a media rampage of unwarranted self-condemnation for torturing Christians (the same bad-boys who denied any knowledge of  Muslims disappearing).

The Jehovah, the Menfes (Pentecostal), and other innocent Christian and highland groups and individuals were sacrificed to enable Dr. Bereket and others to comfortably evade calling the regime a gang of Tigrigna Neo-Nazis (hopefully with no mandate) and to tell us today even long after the regime itself abandoned the need for cover and started playing in the open, that Isaias is nothing more than a lost boy with neutral intentions and the company of “corrupt officers … practicing a politics of domination to the exclusion of all other worthy citizens”. Every clear minded Eritrean knows that Shaebia occupies the end of the line of corrupt governments in Africa and there hasn’t been proof to the contrary. Why would “corrupt officers” and “a politics of domination” be sufficient reason for Eritreans to overthrow their government when it has never been enough to blow a feather in Nigeria?

No Doctor! We expect a little more intellectual honesty and personal integrity from an elder who should pick up from where Weldeab Weldemariam left. Pick up your pen right now and draw a big Red Cross on the speech posted on awate and write the following for your next speech: Given the consistent systematic torture and killing and disappearance that Muslims and Lowlanders have been targeted to by the regime long before the war-related (probably justifiable) outrage was unleashed on everybody; in honor of the hundreds of Lowlanders who were lost and never found and the numerous who were flown down apartment buildings and those who “committed suicide” screaming for their right to equal citizenship; and taking note of the 1300 occupying Teraro (land grabbers) that reported finally made it to the promised land; I, Dr. Berekhet H Selassie, hereby declare myself a NEW BORN ERITREAN along with the growing number of Eritreans (including Ali Salim) who promise to share the country as equal citizens in truth (not mischief) and honesty. I declare the regime a gang of Tigrigna Neo-Nazi expansionists, whose ideology I neither condone nor believe serves any interest to the Tigrignas themselves. I promise to use my genius in designing a straight forward simple demand & supply market mechanism to resolve the Highlanders’ scarcity of land in a way that is cheaper to implement, mutually consensual and beneficial to all Eritreans. I call upon all good hearted Tigrigna intellectuals like myself to accept the bitter truth that Might is not always Right. Thank you!

I know you (the reader) might have jumped on your seat at the idea of someone calling the horrors that our young men and women are living today “probably justifiable”. But remember these are just proposed footnotes for Dr. Berekhet’s speech and are therefore inspired by the same twisted logic that “the reason why Isaias is not willing to change the policy of forced military service is that he will face thousands of unemployed youth in Asmara demanding change.  Let us remember that these are young people who have been trained to use arms”. Would you like to see Asmara turned into Mogadishu by thousands of jobless trained ex-combatants desperate to survive and feed their families? Or let me ask you Dr. Berekhet’s own question: “Can you imagine these unlucky ones who remain in the wilderness (after their comrades made it to the Sudan or Ethiopia) putting up a last ditch fight in case the country is invaded?” I bet you will arrive at “the only conclusion” that Dr. Berekhet reached: “that there will be no free country … no more independent Eritrea”. If you agree with this reasoning and its conclusion, then you should agree with the conclusion that any measures taken to keep the “unlucky ones” as many as possible as long as the non-verifiable shadow of invasion is imminently looming overhead to make sure an “independent Eritrea” lives forever is justifiable. If that is in fact true, then there is no reason why you along with PFDJ should not be on Dr. Berekhet’s midHan hager campaign (and good luck from Haw’khum Berakhi!).    

The feeling that we are “stuck with … the political legacy of disparate groups united in one nation sate” is the spirit that underlies the “ratified constitution” that the EDP and the ideologues are promoting. Why would an elder as wise as the father of an Eritrean Constitution portray such a depressing picture of our diversity? It would be unfair to twist his speech more than I did and let us assume he meant to say: we are blessed with the legacy of unity in diversity. What did unity in unity bring Somalia other than a mess? It was, however, Dr. Berekhet’s constitution that set the moral and legal framework for today’s land grabbing expansionists by declaring “all land … belongs to the State” with no working strings attached.

Here is some homework from a fellow NEW BORN ERITREAN for you Dr. Berekhet: write a new constitution that views our diversity as an asset that should be freed and not a liability that should be constrained; one that gives our nationalities the same right to self-determination that justified our struggle against a less-than-perfect union with Amhara nationalists the exact way that Lowlanders are refusing to bow to today’s Tigrigna nationalists.

I challenge you (the reader) to get me an article, a poem, a wedding invitation, a physics exam, a driving license, a doctor’s prescription, or a message in an answering machine that an opposition Tigrigna brother or sister handled without using the phrase “National Unity” somehow. The message enclosed is: if you want to use Arabic, exercise Islam (the way it is exercised in Afghanistan), claim ownership of your own land and identity, and wash up five times at a time that we are showering once a week (water conservation not hygiene concerns), we are going back to the PFDJ (because they know what it stands for); and you know what might happen if we do that. This is the fact that Dr. Berekhet and other wise highlanders are refusing to admit: there has never been the lack of sufficient national unity to keep a nation together in Eritrea; and there has never been a single incident of pure hate crime in Eritrea; not even in a criminal setting among street thugs (with the exception of the Andinet and PFDJ Shiftas). Those few incidents that might be read in history books or narrated by a grandma revolved around the competition for resources and followed one specific pattern: Tigrigna nationalists organizing mobsters to bully other ethnic groups out of their property and others counter-organized in a similar pattern in self-defense or retaliation.

The unfortunate situation of the highlands, with its overcrowded rocky mountains, has never been the envy of Lowlanders, who are blessed with abundant access to graceful farmlands, while it has always been a fixation of highland politicians and an indispensable component of the independence dream. How many Highlanders would have joined the independence struggle if they were told it was just a long ride on a ring road that would bring them back to square one? And how many Lowlanders would have answered Awate’s call if they were told they would be asked to vacate their farmlands for a chance to claim a piece of land on top of a rocky cliff? This is the reason why Dr. Bereket’s constitution designed to hand over land ownership to “the state of Neo-Nazi fanatics” is a deliberate mischievous scheme of shameless blunder and a one-way license for the flow of highland expansionists and land grabbers.


The Roadmap

Eritrean Highlanders are more united in substance today (under the PFDJ or its ghosts) than they were in the 1950s when the whole Eritrean existence was at stake. It is unimaginable that the people who united under a unanimous consensus to sell their own dignity and national identity to cheap Amharan and Tigrayan masters in the 1950s should be expected to stand up today for the dignity and national pride of others. Do not be fooled by the “demonstrations and symposiums” attended by less people than you would expect in an average funeral procession; and there is no greater proof than the complete consensus of Tigrigna intellectuals in favor of the despicable misfortunes befalling the eight other ethnic groups; where not even a drunk or a crack-head or someone out of his mind would open his or her mouth to say a word to deviate from the sick playbook of their Neo-Nazi masters in Asmara.

Today is like no other day. Lowlanders are threatened with their very existence and very soon they will be roaming Gypsies with no place to call home and there is no time to weigh the options. In the absence of wise highlanders who are ready to stand up to the challenge, it is a historical responsibility for all Lowlanders to unite against the common enemy of ethnic fascists.

A Cow Gave Birth To Fire
Awate – Featured Articles
By Ali Salim – Jun 23, 2009

Lowlanders are celebrating the advent of a new era of hope with the formation of the “Tadamun,” or, in English, the Eritrean Solidarity Front. This has created some trepidation in some corners who now feel that they have to expose it, ridicule it, destroy it before it gets its footing, or, to form a competing block to it dominate it. But the stagnation in
Eritrea is due to the old expression about the cow who gave birth to fire.  Who is the cow and who is the fire?    Lowlanders have been waiting for deliverance for a long time. Our eagerness to embrace the Tadamun is not because we are hateful to the others, but because we are so disappointed by them.A few years back, shortly after the G15 and journalists disappeared into the dungeons and ghost houses of the regime, Mesfin Hagos and the EDP [Eritrean Democratic Party], who would presumably have melted into nothingness along with the others, engendered hopes of a new beginning. Lowlanders in particular looked forward to a change of heart and a light of hope from within the nation for new perspectives that would ease the transformation into a better future for reconciliation and a reintegration of all as equal citizens. Families of the G15 and countless other prisoners of conscience looked forward for an advocate for their loved ones to turn their cause into an issue far greater than a few pictures on a website and statistics in the flyers of a handful of do-nothing organizations.But it was never to be. It wiggled, it struggled and, this year, after 8 years of intensive labor, the EDP came up with a real abu al-houl (Sphinx) to replace Mesfin Hagos. True to his predecessor, the new indiras’e [viceroy] has not said a word since his election nor did the EDP appear to be heading anywhere other than accelerating its mobilization of the “opposition” version of the ethno-centric PFDJ. Can anybody, please, remind Tesfankiel, Mr. T, to rehearse kideley … kideley aydelyekan imbiley so he may display his singing skills the next time the EPP [Eritrean People’s Party] shows up for some “unity” talk. It is nothing you should know but I want them to stay away from those guys (keyebelashwom). And don’t get me wrong: a lot of EPPs are Lowlanders just like myself including Mon Cher Amar. But do you think somebody who betrays his own cause and plays ostrich on his own misfortunes would be any good to others? The EPP is the simplest and most straight forward case of Wedi Shawl’s Inkililo, enacted by hopeless dropouts of the Eritrean struggle who have made spoiler politics into a way of life.  After all, EPP is the only organization that transformed itself into a political party openly struggling for power at a time that every creature in Eritrea is struggling to make it to the next day. Any of us would have waited a little bit thinking intay kibluni’yom before rushing to swallow an innocent and decent but tiny and unsophisticated Gash-Barka organization. The EPP’s rush to take over (mukawesha style) the Gash-Barka organization is a way to claim a commanding role in its “unity” negotiations with the sweet Teddy Bears of the EDP whom it knows are nothing more than a bunch of Tigrigna intellectuals decorated with a few other helpless names. I might even be wrong to assume that the EDP still exists as an independent organization as a visit to selfi-democracy shows nothing more than Amar’s kifli zenan bahlin reporting the breaking news from their lone reporter stationed at gahwet-dergiin Kassala and counting the number of arrivals.Mr. T! I suggest you break away from the norm; slowly pull your head out of the sand and shake it good (especially around the eyes); then take a good look at the once-in-a-lifetime golden window of opportunity that the EDP has to set the record straight and to avoid the nation the fun of living with Ali Baba’s map (happily ever after). Then, open your mouth and call on the Tigrigna to distance themselves from the ethnic neo-fascist gang in Asmara; and chip in with the ESF (Tadamun) and the DFEN (the Kunama-Afar initiative) in isolating and stigmatizing association with the PFDJ. You will get a couple of punches (and those coming from your own will hurt most), but you will be rewarded by going into history books as the first Tigrigna leader who spoke the FORBIDDEN WORD to save a drowning nation. Trust me you will eventually be forced to say the WORD anyway only after someone else has already said it; and then you will appear more like a follower and a passenger on the bandwagon.Do that and you will make every Eritrean proud for giving Lowlanders a reason to believe and to change tone and for providing Highlanders a mirror to get a picture of the dark stains that someone is painting on their behalf; and most importantly for igniting the domino effect of an avalanche of equal citizens coming together from within and without the nation. Tigrignas are looking for real-leaders not fear-mongerers and nobody will blame you for trying in good faith.Thousands of those lost in the vicious cycles of servitude and those being chased out of their homes as we speak are looking for someone who would stand up to face the Cobra’s head not for someone who would follow its tail. Please, do not let Lowlanders have the honor of enjoying the sight of the cute little Cobra face alone while you lead Diaspora Highlanders into following the stinky tail forever.

One of those spewing the stinky odor is For the last few days Meskerem has been decorated with images of what they describe as “Red flags popping up everywhere and we hide our heads”. They even have a picture of a giant ostrich with the head buried in desert sand. Nobody claimed responsibility for the writing and my only guess of the culprit was the ostrich itself. Luckily no sophisticated forensics were required to come face to face with the ostrich reading the “Statement by the Eritrean Democratic Party, On the Killings of Innocent Members of the Eritrean Defense Force, August 9, 2005” and wondering why the ostrich colony are “Still hiding our heads since 2005”. I am not authorized to confirm or deny EDP’s official involvement with the culprit (ayfelTom ayTiyiqom). The writer calls for a discussion of “the danger posed to our national unity by the EDA’s religious and ethnic organizations … carrying religious and ethnic wars against who they erroneously label the “Christian and Highland regime” … Kunama … has accused the regime they unashamedly call the Tigrinya regime of genocide and the Afar …”.

It is not about ostriches, but cows.   Which takes us to the reason why we are in stagnation. LaHmi Hawi weledet, key’tiliHso nededet key’tgedfo weledetA cow gave birth to fire; she couldn’t lick it; it burned; she couldn’t leave it be; it was its baby.  Those who have been burned by the PFDJ regime, but identify themselves with it are always in a dilemma.  They wiggle, they struggle, they go into labor all to avoid disclosing the fact that the regime in Eritrea is there to promote the interests of the Tigrigina.   This is why they go into a mode of self-destruction when a force that can really defeat the regime appears.   

What is the most probable consequences of the wiggling, struggling and fiddling with ostrich politics?  I refer you to the Ali Baba map (in this posting).

I especially dedicate the map to the new EDP leadership and (their partners in Hashewye) the EPP, as well as the countless winy-mini organizations of wannabe abyotawyan Skin Heads to remind them of what is at stake if the mistrust and skepticism towards their ambiguous intentions and declared contempt, disregard and denial of the plight of others surpasses the breaking point beyond which the train will accelerate on its own steam.

Hurrah to the Kunama and Afar organizations for coming up with an unprecedented genius and decent conciliatory move to invite good hearted Tigrignas to read the warning signs of Pink Politics sooner than latter and distance themselves from their own fascists in Asmara and to stop ganging around an apartheid regime that is fueling the hate and distrust.

All those who might think Ali Baba’s Map is the fantasy of a nasty mind need not be worried about Lowlanders.  Trust Abu Suheil’s words that the new orientation is not directed against others (to the extent that he can control forthcoming events that are contingent on the reactions of those who decide that their swindling achievements of the last 18 years are at risk). The recent call of the Government of Regional National State of Tigrai (posted on Meskerem) and the crocodile tears of “qesin’e kiHadir’si gorebetey yiqsen” [I can’t relax until my neighbor is relaxed.]

One of them, Yosief Ghebrehiwet, questions (Asmarino, June 16, 2009) the viability of Eritrea as a nation and makes a very eloquent and well-founded case arguing that Eritreans (doesn’t say which of them) were actually better off under Ethiopian rule and that the whole independence struggle was a scam that made Tigrignas fight other people’s battles (the last part is my interpretation). In spite of his courageous and care-free eloquence, however, he wiggles, struggles, goes into labor and just like Meskerem’s ostrich ducks his head into the sand (just in time) to avoid calling the PFDJ a government of the Tigrigna. He suddenly (maybe somebody walked into the room only to bust him writing the forbidden song) realises that his own arguments and characterization of the two “camps” (Moslems and Christians) drove him right into the lion’s den of Eritrean politics. His eyes widened; he started sweating; and his articulate tongue lost traction and started stuttering “FOR LACK OF BETTER WORDS … LET ME CALL THEM “religion-based” and “secular-based” … and DESERVEDLY OR NOT, Shaebia is closely associated with Tigrignas … and look to West/Habesha for inspiration”. Many others have expressed their frustration and anger that we are giving the PFDJ all these bad names.

If wise Highlanders (provided some are still alive) do not step up to the plate of Truth & Reconciliation (South African style) to demand confessions of wrongdoing by their own self-appointed advocates and heal the nation, the subject matter of our discussions here will change for good. It won’t be very long before we will be arguing on whether Mai Dimma belongs to Seraye or Gash; whether Irafayle belongs to Akeleguzai; whether Denkalia stops at Marsa Fatma or extends to Massawa; and whether the cliffs of Shindwa belong to Senhit. Thankfully we won’t be part of it, even if that does come true, as our two giant neighbours will take care of it in friendly bilateral talks between hyenas sharing a prey. Highlanders might still stand a chance of attending the meetings as part of the ruling Tigrai-Tigrigna delegation. As for me: nere diye basso!

Last Updated ( Jun 23, 2009 )
Drifting Apart
Awate – Featured Articles
By Ali Salim – May 29, 2009
 The English translation of the President’s Independence Day speech (as it appears on Shabait) had 1623 words. Of those, 1062 words (65% of the speech) was a mumbo-jumbo that only Ghirmay Sandiago can understand on “a special interest group” that is trying to spoil Obama’s plans for change. Year after year the content and style of his Independence Day speeches have steadily deteriorated reflecting more disorientation and a tendency towards “I don’t know what’s going on” kind of confession. This year’s however feels more like “I don’t know if I will ever see again” kind of mumbling. I felt sorry for him as all I could see while reading was Sadam’s picture in the hole. Horrible as the guy was, the picture of a once elegant “superman” turned into a heap of bristly hair, bloody face, and filthy rugs was one that moved the hearts of even the sons and daughters of those he gassed and a humiliation for the Iraqi identity.  I do however admit that I admire his courage at still being able to tell his mumbo-jumbo with a straight face.The disappointment and worry underlying the tone of the President’s speech was echoed by Zemihret’s address on behalf of the Festivities Committee (whatever they call it). Zemihret expresses his worry that the sanctification of Independence Day and with it the whole Yika’alo history is going extinct as the numbers of those who either participated or can still remember May 24, 1991 are dwindling and the numbers of those who have no idea what we are talking about is growing. Although nothing was said by both men you can sense the feeling of guilt consciousness and frustration in the rhythm of their words reacting to the empty stares of the disgusted audience.After reading the English translation I decided to read the original Tigrigna script on Hadas Eritrea assuming it would appear on the May 24th issue (forgot the time difference – another way of saying ‘stupid me’). Here are the topics on the front page of that issue: British Climber (Hakhwaray!??!) Reached Tip of Mount Everest; The Couple that a New Zealand Bank Mistakenly Transformed into Millionaires;  A Chinese who missed his home and travelled for 2 months to find it; and an American who made the Guinness Book of Records for placing 43 snails (aronyes – gobyes) on his face (Congratulations!). I thought this page targeted those who have no idea what we are talking about on May 24th, may be as a catch to make them buy the newspaper. Sure enough the garbage was loaded on the next page (nice trick). The editor of the page is Mebrhit (lighter) Welday (just to give her credit), who obviously had such a tight schedule that she made no attempt to write anything original on this important date in our history. May be she is one of those who have no idea what we are talking about although she seems to have a good memory of 1992 otherwise how would she pick an undated copy of Hadas Eritrea for that year (unless there was only one issue for the year) and stick it into this one. Her choice as heading for the page, “zantatat…”, further amplifies Zemihret’s worries that the actual history of 1991 is turning into zanta and tsiwitsway just as Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is zanta.I went on reading. The first zanta: a group of young people who confused an Ethiopian soldier for a hero and celebrated by carrying him around and passing him over to others as jigna be’Al sire. The second zanta: a Yika’alo who inspired the fetish in a gebar shimagile who saw his fantasy of drinking the sweaty and stinky wash of a hero’s feet come true. The rest was blah… blah… blah…. The first zanta reminded me of another zanta that someone told me a few years back. Sometime during Weyane’s war the army had a visiting speaker from Asmara and an army kadre translated his instructions (not to have mercy on Agame) into Tigre. A warsay who had some difficulties with the similarity of looks, language, behavior, and uniforms of people in the battlefield asked the kadre: le agamena wo agamehom kefo nifentiyom. No offense, especially, that the person relaying the first zanta in the newspaper was Ismail Adem (may be the same warsay). The second zanta was disgusting as I am not into that kind of stuff.Carry on to the next page to see how these zantatat actually work out in the streets of Asmara: the meaning of netsanet in the eyes of the youth (Tigrigna does not make a distinction between Independence and Freedom – and the word harnet is rarely used to mean different in PFDJ literature – so I chose the netsanet in this context to mean freedom – it helps my twisted reading of the paper and the heading is “netsanet bi’ayni meniseyat” anyway). I managed to identify three groups (each group consisting of 1 person and 1 empty group whom I chose to represent) and very different answers. Group 1 (Alamin Hamid Alamin – a typical Hot-Dog name): “To me personally … beyond the words of rahwa, fisaha, hagos, and wezete; … tehatatinet and halafinet would give more meaning to netsanet. Because izi netsanet izi is due to the struggle and martyrdom of generations, taking the aspect of tehatatinet, netsanet should be the occasion when we ask ourselves: What was the struggle all about? Did the wishes of those martyred come true? How can we guarantee the continuity of the message of the generations before us?” This was my translation and the quotation marks may not be appropriate (but who cares). Group 2 (Tekhle Mebrahtu): “Going back to my childhood, I still remember the day when I was liberated from the Dergi solders that used to terrorise me, zer’iduni zineberuShi’u ane kab gezay tela’ikhe … I still remember the instant I saw … ar’adtey ab’tsirgiya tederbiyom. And abzi nay bits’hinay gizi’e (time of youth), netsanet is timhirti (education), ib’et (growth), silTane (development) … and as a youth halafinet misikam iya.   Izi kha’a … seeing those who neti zeysiger zimesl bideho segirom netsanet zemtsi’ulna; I feel confident nezi zelo bidehotat kem nisegro.” Group 3 (Mini Me): has no comment except to underline the names of the members of Groups 1 & 2. I as a moderator, however, would like to borrow a quote (don’t ask me what it means) that Hiwet Tekheste (another youth commenting on tirgum netsanet on the same page of Hadas Eritrea) borrowed from some female Eritrean writer saying “Netsanet is an imaginary idea in admas-hasabat (the structure of thought). Netsanet is an opportunity to determine your own destiny within the confines of sine-hasabn (ideology) sine-mgbarn (practicality).” What she saying (I guess) is that only what can come true is real so don’t dream because dreams never come true (in Eritrea) and netsanet is a dream.My point is that this spontaneous response by the two young men (and higdef’s view by the female) living in identical conditions is a subtle reflection of the kind of Tutsi communication that the two population groups (highlanders and lowlander) are engaged in. In the surface you get the impression that they are both betting on the same hamster. Deep down they are negotiating the terms of drifting far apart. The first group says you did not sacrifice alone (“izi netsanet izi is due to the struggle and martyrdom of generations” to borrow Alamin’s words – a generation of lowland Jebhas followed by a generation of highland Shabias) and you cannot eat the cake alone; we need some tehatatinet here. It is those who cannot look back (any more) and express their fascination at seeing ar’adtey ab’tsirgiya tederbiyom in 1991 that Zemihret is worried might have no idea what the President is talking about when he effectively says “Look – zikheberkinin zikheberkumn – get over it. Zeridukha zineberu are gone and now halafinet misikam iya. And if we need help with the cake we know where to find you (Kessela).”This brings me to my take on S.G.’s call for Reconciliation (as usual a well written and founded and well timed Mother of All Reconciliations). Salih, my friend, may be you have been away from the family of All Reconciliations for far too long (to remember their faces) because the one you described was the Auntie of All Reconciliations. The Mother is the one next to it (the ayni-ungule), the one that is premised on the assumption of perfect foresight by both parties to the reconciliation. They both agree that Lowlanders have a long tangible and still live (18 years and counting) experience with the consequences of trust and goodwill and they are not settling for less than tehatatinet for the past and an upper or at least equal hand for the future – no handouts. They also do know that Highlanders are told that they had the same exact consequences (for 10 years 1961 -1970) for repenting (to the graceful deeds of Andinet and the loving care of kumandis), for trusting and goodwill towards their fellow partners. Those who forget are constantly reminded by the Rabbi that the sixties were not fan at all (read Sibhat Efrem’s interview on Of course we, the Lowlanders, are better positioned to make our case because the experience is still live and in real time as opposed to Highlanders who need history books to prove any claimed injustice (especially to those who have no idea what we are talking about).

Here is the rear end of the Mother of All Reconciliations: forget about trusting each other’s goodwill. As a Lowlander I would tell any Highlander to forget about trying to convince me to trust you ever again; not after you brought their Tererti (land grabbers) to the game; not after you killed the dream of a free dignified being in our own land. I would also tell them to forget about trusting any of us; not after what our “heroes” did to their “heroes” in the sixties. And mark my words, if you ever make the mistake of trusting us (the moderates) you will end up being forced to wear the hijab, pay the zekat (or jizia), and you may be flogged in public for drinking siwa. But not as bad as you might think as we promise you genet in the next life – money back guaranteed. Mother of All Reconciliations is the one that tells us to place material barriers and guarantees that make the intrusion into each other’s rights physically impossible (just as a positive outcome of Nuclear armament might be to make peace cheaper than war by rendering stepping your boundaries too costly to attempt).

Here, Highlanders have the advantage as Higdef will do (for now) until Lowlanders catch up to its level and call for a proliferation in a cold war style. Just a little bit of patience! I promise it won’t take long if you read the latest trends. 1. Moderates are being pushed to the sidelines and those who refuse are rushing to grab front seats before the show begins. You don’t believe me? Ask (my heroes) Beshir Ishaq and Hussein Khalifa. 2. The political culture of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is being adopted in its totality with PFDJ and settlers on the one hand and Palestinian ways of dealing with mustewtinin on the other hand. 3. Consolidation of separate identities is well under way with the Hamasien-Akele competition relegated to the back (where is Adhanom by the way) on the one hand and biherat coming together on the other hand.

Honoring Mama Reconciliation’s advice, I organized a contest on the use of the word mustawtinin (settlers) in a sentence. The latest winner was Weldesus Amar who managed to shyly sneak a version of it in a unity declaration that he signed with the Gash Barka organization. I am sending Ismail Nada his prize. Mesfin Hagos’ Illuminati are invited to enter the contest by using the word in a sentence for a chance to win a Jerry Springer bracelet.

The Others!
Awate – Featured Articles
By Ali Salim – May 22, 2009
In a couple of days, many of us will be celebrating the 18th anniversary of one of the landmarks of our history as a nation: the day we discovered that we were sold a false dream and a big lie. Those of us in the “opposition” who were the other side of the coin of Kilte gorahat hamkhushti sinqom refused to leave and chose to repackage and market good old hamkhushti for the next 18 years. The majority decided to go on ecstasy and threw themselves into each other’s arms in hugs and danced to the chorus of hade hizbi hade libi (again); not for long, though. As the party approached sibra the sweat and the stink drove dancing partners apart.On the lead up to this important milestone in our history we don’t need to wander further than Awate to measure how far we have come and to notice signs of the fading hallucinations of the past. May 12, 2009 Selam Kidane wrote a brilliant and insightful commentary to S.Y.’s article (that featured the dynamics of romantics Vs de-romantics in our politics). Selam drew my attention to a sad reality that never crossed my mind: a whole generation lost in limbo between the blues and the hip-hop generations of Eritrean politics. This, as Selam described, is the misfit generation: too naïve to appreciate the voodoo implications of Adobaha for the 21st century and too old to attend classes in Sawa; resulting in a generation gap and a missing stepping stone into the future. Within this context, Desbele Kahsai sings the dinosaurs’ favorite “hade nihbi hade kelbi” while Tesfatsion Okbit (May 20, 2009 article) sticks out a finger in typical 50 Cent pragmatic rap. I will stand in between and argue that we can still make the Desbele’s dream come true only if we agree to change “business as usual” and accept Tesfasion’s new order of things. Some may not like my claim that the core of Eritrean politics is ethno-religious in nature. The 1st side includes the PFDJ, representing the interests of land grabbing Tererti (as in Wedi Shawl’s song) from the highlands and their shadows in the “opposition” paranoid with trying to make the others swallow the bitter pill; the 2nd side includes populations groups threatened with deliberate induced extinction. The subject of this article is the mindset of Aboy Teraray with focus on the Ghosts of the PFDJ within the Eritrean opposition. For convenience, I chose to look into the concluding statement (the relevant part of it) of the 3rd Regular Meeting of the EPP Secretariat, dated May 11, 2009. To avoid confusion, I have enclosed my additions in brackets unless the inclusion is clear from context. According to this statement the EPP (Inda Amar) “Secretariat studied the ramifications and harmful effects of the resettlement and eviction program of the dictatorial regime…” which implies that these guys actually discussed (inkan-haban style) the issue as something that has ramifications as well as harmful (Vs harmless) effects (not as an outrageous crime that is rejectable at face value).  Here is the interesting part; the esteemed Secretariat rightfully describes the policy as an “evil act of forcibly uprooting villagers from their places of origin”. Good job! But … wait a minute! Which “villagers” are they concerned about? Those that the regime is “settling … in the lands owned by other villagers” (the Tererti?)! And don’t you be worried about the legality of the acts in terms land claims; it was owned by the “other villagers” only “before its land proclamation”. The biggest concern for the EPP: the “action … did not take the prevailing social and political situation … into consideration” (it would have been ok if the prevailing conditions were taken into consideration). Their prediction: it “is likely to (may or may not) kindle dangerously disruptive conflict within the society”. “For these reasons (which might include the risk that the new settlers might be bitten by snakes and bothered by bedbugs), the meeting of the EPP Secretariat expressed its total rejection and strong condemnation of the action.”Please don’t rush to the conclusion that I have deliberately twisted and conveniently misunderstood the good intentions embodied in the statement because one guy, our own good brother Desbele, who sees the EPP-EDP way is the future echoes the Secretariat’s concerns and asks: “after uprooting villagers to NO MAN’s LAND, what is next”? He is right. Is the government going to distribute blankets or will they be allowed to bring their own agoza? What if they decide to send their folks back in the highlands some of their loots, will Himbol be providing services or will they have a Western Union? Did the government properly train these guys on lowland survival techniques apart from making them watch the standard training video of Weyane bigihatu Dubai atyu?The concept of No Man’s Land is in turn highlighted in the EPP’s statement as the land of The Others assuming everybody is familiar with the 2001 movie. Al Islah’s website as well as the founding statement of the Eritrean Solidarity Front (ESF) seem to imply that the settlers (al mustawtinin – a concept borrowed from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) might have had more than just Ghostly encounters with The Others and if they didn’t they sure will; one day (may be when that very land is called The Occupied Territories and children start throwing stones to chase them out). If you are still asking how the EPP position links up to the PFDJ’s Aboy Teraray mentality click on meadna website and read Wedi Efrem’s interview (with teATeq magazine, July 2008) where he promotes the idea that it is perfectly ok to grab (as long as everything is taken into consideration) other people’s land, “ane keyde indihri werire, abti zihazkuwo meriet zimesleni’ye zigebr”. The other alternative he says is to wait for others to check-mate you. For those who might refute my argument by the fact that the PFDJ is not any nicer with their own Teraro either, well, Wedi Efrem, has an explanation. He argues that heating the metal is key to beating it into something useful and intensifying pressure is crucial to forcing people to stand up to their challenges (he did not say if pressure is a two sided blade). He backs his argument with a very valid example noting that the Italians would never be able to build Eritrea the way they did without taking the youngsters to fight a war in Tripoli. I admit I might have taken his arguments out of context but few of The Others will doubt the fact that the mentality itself has nothing to do with context. Wedi Efrem actually had highlanders (especially those in the Diaspora) in mind when he made the interview. Asked about why paying the 2% should exempt people from being forced to physically participate in the National Service, he picked an issue that drives home with his target audience. He explains that the 2% (and other remittances) is a grateful contribution to the nation but is not a big deal for those in the Diaspora. All they need it for is to have clearance papers to exercise their right to Tiesa land (traditional mode of land ownership in the highlands) when they need to. One would think this was something that existed “before its land proclamation” to borrow the EPP’s expression. May be the Secretariat will explain to us why there is a before and an after the proclamation in the lowlands and no proclamation in the highlands.Just so as I do not sound heavy handed on the EPP I will draw your attention to a very superficial expression of Tigrigna nationalism/chauvinism (to imply that the EPP-EDP unity is well justified). Visit the headquarters of any regional administration (say Northern Red Sea) in Eritrea and read the sign that tells you what the offices are in three languages.  In Arabic: Iqlim Al Bahar Al Ahmer (in Arabic script); in Tigrigna: Zoba Mimihidar Semenawi Keyih Bahri (in Tigrigna script); in English: Zoba Mimihidar Semenawi Keyih Bahri (in Latin script). Let us apply the same criteria to our websites and go ahead click the links in awate one by one. If you are wondering what the EDP is called try “Selfi-Dimokrasi”. I apologize to the EDP for associating them in a topic discussing Tererti and land grabbing chauvinists. I know my comments are uninvited. The EDP either did not feel the incident important enough to warrant a statement; it never came to their attention; or is looking forward to finally be able to establish secret cells in the lowlands.

I admit I am in the process of losing my mind but so is the nation. Let me take a deep breath and congratulate everybody on the 18th Anniversary. Applause to all the Unsung Heroes of Awate for consistently and persistently enabling voices of reason and perspective!

The Hatchet of Chauvinism & the Sword of Extremism
Awate – Featured Articles
By Hamid Salman – May 16, 2009
In every particular state of the world, those nations which are strongest tend to prevail over the others; and in certain marked peculiarities the strongest tend to be the best.” – Walter BagehotEritrea is a Nation of people who share common customs, origins, history and mostly language . The PFDJ prefers the principle of dividing the Eritrean Population in ethnic percentages! Also, according to PFDJ the Population of Eritrea is over 4 million (including about half a million refugees in The Sudan).I like the part ‘refugees in The Sudan.’Different sources estimate the Muslim Christian ratio of the Eritrean population differently; but most would tell you it is a 50/50 “joint venture”. The PFDJ regime conducts population census only when they need to know how many goats and cows every citizen owns. They count the animals and then double it to extract twice as much taxation. Periodic enumeration of a population is not one of the PFDJ’s concerns as far as they are in a position of producing any number that suits the requirements of “hade hzbi hade lbi.”. I would refrain from the %-ages of Muslims and Christians for lack of reliable source and would stress the deeply rooted coexistence between Christians and Muslims. Both hold a long history and profound cultural involvement in the territory in which their national identity originates; they both call it home, it is their nation and they are fond of it.Ordinary Christians love their country; consider it inimitable and they call it Ertra. They are predominantly Tigrgna speakers, a language they consider part and parcel of their cultural heritage, an instrument of education and communications, either among the local population or with neighbouring Ethiopia. They care for it and would cherish keeping it as the official Language of Ertra.  Frankly, they dislike the idea of their Ertra joining the Arab League or The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), but have no objection in their Ertra enjoying full membership in The African Union.Ordinary Muslimslove their country; consider it inimitable and they call it Iritriya. Though, Arabic language is not their mother tongue, they have adopted the language as part and parcel of their religious and cultural heritage, as well as instrument of education and communications either among their deferent groups or with the neighbouring nations. They care for it and would cherish keeping it the official Language of Iritriya.They strive for the idea of their Iritriya joining the Arab League and The Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) as well as preferring that their Iritriya obtains full membership in The African Union.

The double humped Mongolian Camel: Arabic-Tigrinia

in 1952, when the first-ever national Eritrean assembly convened, the then representative leadership of the nation who constituted of both Muslims and Christians, identified the authenticity and sensitivity of their issues. With the nation’s languages at the top of their concern, they recognized the level of determination over the issue of languages and managed to ratify the article of bilingualism in the federal constitution of Eritrea. As a result, both Arabic and Tigrinia were voted and approved as official languages of Eritrea. That was NOT a rashly adopted resolution, ultimately, it was rather a well-considered democratic choice.

The Two blocks: Independence vs. Annexation

The majority of Eritrean Muslim population sought independence for the country. In 1961 the ELF launched the Eritrean armed struggle against Ethiopia. On the other hand, the elite of the Christians blackmailed the people and made them sceptical thus opted for union with Ethiopia. The Ethiopian occupiers spread terror among the pro-independence nationalists. Subsequently the struggle for liberation made significant progress and won them over–and even the sceptics joined the struggle. In 1974 the Ethiopian regime of Haile Selassie collapsed and completely uprooted, consequently, the new ruling military junta of Derge commenced indiscriminate offensive against everything Eritrean, violence spread everywhere in Eritrea and the chums of the former regime were not out of danger. As a result, thousands of Eritrean youngsters fled to exile and the bulk flocked towards the “medd”  and joined the ranks of the liberation fronts.

32 years later 99.8% of the Eritrean population would cast their votes in favour of independent Eritrea, the independence block affirmed its righteousness. Thus, the dream of Hamid Awate at Mount Adal was materialized.

The big ELF and the small-men

In 1960, the Eritrean Liberation Front, ELF, was established by a group of Eritrean intellectuals and students in Cairo, Egypt. A year later Hamid Idris Awate declared the armed struggle to throw out the Ethiopian enemy. Harmony prevailed for some time, regrettably, foreign ideologies along with home-grown societal viruses adopted by irresponsible groups within the ELF, infiltrated into the bones of the organization. Small-men of all stripes besieged ELF. Hare-brained nomads and shepherds adopted ideologies of Socialism. Ordinary Eritrean Muslims and Christians, who used to believe in God, became atheists. Soon, they would brand others as backward-minded idiot & reactionaries. Simpletons who couldn’t even speak good Arabic would become Baathists and would argue the theories of Michele Aflaq and tirelessly rehearse the speeches of Baath leaders.

The imported, rather smuggled, ideologies rampantly overwhelmed the entire arena of the Eritrean struggle. The main cause for the initiations of the struggle was shelved and clandestine rivals launched a cold-war against each other, within the ELF, along clannish, tribal, regional and religious lines. Chauvinists from various angles quarreled inside the barrel of ELF. Gradually, the rivals pointed their guns against each other and the Eritrean civil war was ignited. The once mainstream organization, the ELF, was toren-apart and its factions flourished in big and small sizes. Every segment barking on its self-declared branch, the ELF became the sick man of its time. To add salt to injury, in 1981 the EPLF allied itself with Tigray People Liberation Front, TPLF, and waged a joint full-scale offensive against the ELF and pushed it across the border into the Sudan. The main body of the original ELF was rotten and the very-heart of organization was already broken. Many factions of the ELF tried to represent the genuine ELF but none of these factions was elevated enough to make itself a cradle that could embrace all Eritreans.


The EPLF chauvinism: deception

The Eritrean People’s liberation Front EPLF is an Eritrean organization that emerged out of the womb of the then decaying ELF; the leading elite of EPLF had already fostered the monstrous diseases of its own mother, the ELF. The leadership of EPLF had its share of the evil deeds that led the ELF to the abyss; it’s leaders were in the league of the small-men who dragged the ELF to its tangles.

What kind of political and social outcome one would expect of an organization initiated by a secretive clique of radicals under the leadership of Isaias? The members of the clique made an oath to rebuild a “genuine” national movement using systematic measurements. They determined their main strategy, their means, their resources, their weaknesses, their masked trickery and their final goals: to liberate Eritrea and dominate it. A cancerous vision!

In spite of publicly proclaiming itself as national left-wing and secular organization with progressive ideas, the EPLF clique was exclusively formed of Christians from the highlands of Eritrea and was steered by the infamous manifesto,”Nhnan Elamanan.”

The overall strategy of the EPLF was to influence and monopolize the struggle militarily. It pursued all means—military force as well as deceptive means of polarization. It shoved aside all rival factions and kicked them out of the entire land of Eritrea. It intimidated the local inhabitants and mercilessly drove them to total subjugation. Throughout its history, the EPLF never entertained peaceful coexistence, never resorted to straightforward negotiations; it always followed the technique of ‘give up your interests and values or just go to hell,’ egotism.

The EPLF detached itself from the local populations and disrespected their social and religious values. It considered the populations of the lowlands as firewood: roundup, brainwash, train and drag to the battlefields. Families were shattered and Eritrean parents deprived of their own children. The EPLF took the role of parenting.

However, the communities in which EPLF was stationed never questioned its credibility in terms of sectarian-nationalism; it was given generous support because it was struggling for “independence and freedom.” EPLF was nurtured by the very people it is oppressing.

To perpetuate its grip on Eritreans, the EPLF employed persons who lack basic qualities and values to represent the humble interests of the people. For example, it has appointed a few Muslims in its Central Committee–a handful of turncoats who rebelled against their own people and became the regime’s dogmatists. Those individuals have became non-entities who would shamelessly whip their very origins and belittle and despise their own communities’ ways of life to gain little trust. They exchanged cow milk for alcohol and halal meat for pork, (disclosure: alcohol and pork was consumed by self-hating Muslims as self-flagellation). The foolish hypocrites of the regime are good for nothing but just messengers and tools.

The scheme of the mother tongue policy was first adopted by the EPLF in 1976. As it came to be clearer now, the objective of that policy was irrefutably obvious. As a result, none of the national languages were developed except Tigrinia, and the whole project proved illusory, Shitara. Tigrinia overwhelmed the population and spread all over the country; but at the expense of the local languages, mainly Arabic. Forgotten were the fair standards of mutual respect and recognition of vital interests of the stakeholders. Absent were the principles of democracy and justice and peaceful means of power and  resource sharing.

Why Arabic language is ignored and shelved?

The EPLF, and now the PFDJ officials, have developed a ready-made answer for the Frequently Asked Question about Arabic language in Eritrea: We don’t have enough Arabic language teachers. They wouldn’t dare say, “We don’t like Arabic”, which is the reality.

On May 24, 1993, Eritrea was declared an independent nation and Isaias Afwerki automatically became “Provisional President.” Ironically, the plastic sandal “Shidda” and the camel “gmel” were lucky enough to be inside “Free Eritrea.” They were dignified and became iconic symbols; while the foot soldiers and the broad masses were unlucky—they lost their dignity and became the ignored tools picked only in times of need.

In 1994 the EPLF transformed itself into the PFDJ, Democracy and Justice, and is still ruling Eritrea. The same old agenda and the same old coalition of chauvinists and turncoats continues to swallow and liquidate many peopleand in the huge furnace of “Nhnan Elamanan” . But the clique never stops flocking towards their death spots. One would ask: what does the “Nhnan Elamanan” manifesto stand for? Our school children could not answer such question, for they are blindfolded and doomed to sing Baba Isaias.

Jihad:  another bunch of small-men

The Eritrean Jihad movement was conceived in late seventies when a group of Islamists split from the ELF:  The movement was formally established in 1980 for the declared goals of fighting the EPLF and the Ethiopian Enemy and restoring the sequestered rights of Eritrean Muslims.

The inspiration of the Eritrean Muslims to flow and join the movement during the years 1988-1993 was the result of two main factors.


1. The key factor that lured Muslims to follow the Jihad movement was to defend their social and spiritual values that the EPLF trampled on. The forceful conscription of females who were dragged to the infernos, was so appalling socially and ethically. Citizens protested but EPLF turned a deaf ear and it led to the creation of the Jihad movement. The ruling clique is well-known for its despise of social customs and traditions.

2. The above mentioned factor had coincided with a growing sense in the Muslim world that Muslims were one people challenged by external threats. Eritrean Muslims were threatened by the idea of the “Greater Tigray” project that was imagined to be preparing to swallow the whole of Eritrea. To the Muslims that meant flinging them from the EPLF pan to the Abbay Tigray fire. Muslims prepared themselves for resistance.


On the other hand, Eritrean Christians were intimidated by the “New Islamic Project for Renewal” aka “project for Islamic civilization” that emerged in the neighbouring Sudan that aimed to spread all over the nations of the Horn of Africa including Eritrea. Eritrean Christians arrayed themselves and made the EPLF/PFDJ their protector. They would fight back. As a result, tremendous damage was done to the Eritrean social fabric and the “mutual trust” changed to “mutual distrust”


The leadership of Jihad movement are not deferent than the leaders of the EPLF. They fostered the same monstrous diseases and they have had their share of the evil deeds that led the ELF to the abyss; most of those leaders were part of the small-men who dragged the ELF to its tangles. Would one expect fruitful endings to be generated from an organization based on ideological doctrine and discourse; they are just not qualified to lead a small and diverse nation like Eritrea.

The way foreword

EDP and EPP have formed Joint Leadership Committee and efforts are underway to unite the two parties. Other four political and armed organizations have declared Eritrean Solidarity Front (ESF). Both blocks under the big umbrella of Eritrean Democratic Alliance EDA.

If properly approached, religious teachings could nurture good human morals on the Eritrean people and lay the ground for mutual recognition and peaceful coexistence—a natural role of the two religions in Eritrea. If we look back to our history, there is no incident when there was a religious conflict waged in the name of God in Eritrea.

Employing the Christianity-Islam or Lowlands-Highlands propaganda as tools of intimidation and instruments of grabbing further grounds, will bring nothing beneficial for the Eritrean nation. Such tactics and “shitaras” will paralyze the morale of the nation and cripple its unity.  Unless the chauvinists bury their hatchet of “Nhnan Elamanan”; unless the extremists break into pieces the idea of “political Jihad”; unless the turncoats reclaim their God-given dignity and quit whipping their people; peace and stability would be difficult to attain. Unless the humble and kind hearted Eritreans come together to impose justice and rule of law, our nation will not be a peaceful land.
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Last Updated ( May 18, 2009 )
A Nation In Labor
Awate – Featured Articles
By Ali Salim – May 16, 2009
Dawn of a New Era! A piece well-written by Desbele Kahsai on Awate (May 04, 2009) was the motivation for my article. It just so happened that I had the exact same topic in my mind when I noticed that what I thought would be new was already on the net (with a little twist of the knot and a little extension of the scope than the narrow focus of brother Desbele on a mini unification incident in an episode of Days of Our Lives in the Eritrean opposition drama).No offense to the two respected EDP and EPP and their dignified membership. I am taking it for granted that they would not claim their unification characterizes an “Era in Eritrean history”. The possibility that Desbele, myself, and a thousand-and-one others have thought of the same topic at the same time fascinated me and brought back old memories of a good friend who liked to argue (for the sake of argument—convincingly to my modest argumentation skills) that history is not a collection of random incidents. He would reason that just like the changes in our bodies are subject to a well-defined (mechanically determined) biological clock, societies have a similar clock that tells people when change is due and when it does there is no stopping it.His point was that major changes in history take place at regular intervals like babies get born 9 months after conception (he might have read it somewhere—I don’t know). For Eritrea he said political pregnancies lasts 10 years and at the turn of every decade we should expect a new baby (we may not like some of them). This is how he used to convince us: 1889 – Italian colonization; 1941 – British occupation; 1952 – Federation; 1961 – armed struggle; 1971 – Shaebia; 1981 – Shaebia’s monopoly of the armed struggle; 1991 – Independence; 2001 – G15 challenge to the PFDJ. If this logic makes sense to you then Desbele is right: it is the Dawn of a New Era; the nation is in labor; the new baby should arrive no later than 2011.Forget that I am writing nonsense and for a moment, just close your eyes and imagine what the new baby will look like. I tried it and all I saw was another bustard except this one had two horns, a tail and some hoofs. It might actually be twins and one of the embryos might well be the one described by Desbele beginning with the EDP-EPP merger and subsequently a bigger basket that orbits around the PFDJ. But the other embryo of the twins is more interesting beginning with a foursome merger of the ESF (Eritrean Solidarity Front) and subsequently a very probable regional nightmare that resembles a blend of Darfur.Sudan itself has been in labor for quite a while now and its 16—year delivery schedule (the standard set by Numeiri for uninterrupted dictatorship) is long overdue. A couple of interesting and detrimental developments are underway in Sudan. The South is placing its final ornamental touches for officializing its secession in 2011 (according to the Naivasha Agreement). Both parties to the conflict are racing to the finish line and they know full well what it will take to cross it. Over the table: the SPLA is consolidating the infrastructural setup of an independent state including the delimitation of its borders with the North through the ICJ and everybody is getting a haircut for a Hafash-Wudubat-like celebration. The North is furious at the fact that buying the Southern Sudanese guerrilla leaders out of their determination to leave the union has not worked this time and furious at the reality that their politicians are wasting valuable time in appealing to the goodwill of determined SPLA leaders and helplessly watching the South slip away.Under the table: everybody is getting ready for the stick. Apart from amassing armaments, both sides are concentrating on one aspect, building alliances, which will very likely tip the balance when the time comes for a Southern flag to fly equally with its Northern counterpart. Isaias and his thugs are betting on conflict to enable them to pressure for more concessions in Eastern Sudan (including a freehand to silence the “opposition”). The Northern political establishment on the other hand is in deep political turmoil with the two power houses of the fundamentalist movement at each other’s throats, the squeeze on the rest of the irrelevant political mob (of traditional Sudanese politics) has been relinquished and the country has turned into a de facto paradise for activists. The Darfur conflict has drained the North out of its material and moral resources, turning the Honorable President into a fugitive and a laughing clown. Hassan Al-Turabi, the leader of the other powerhouse and arguably the most influential guru of the East African fundamentalist movement (known for his reckless pragmatism) is celebrating that at the core of the Darfuri rebel movement is one of his most loyal disciples, Khalil Ibrahim—the leader of the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM)—a broad based movement of cross-border tribes linking Sudan and Chad.These incidents are only part of the story that includes developments in Ethiopia and Somalia (which are not discussed here). The focus here is on Sudan, the godfather (Baliga) of the 2011 Eritrean baby. I do believe that the Eritrean Solidarity Front (ESF) is a genuine and spontaneous Eritrean initiative and is no puppet to any ambiguous ghostly encounters in Sudanese politics. In fact the blue prints of its political program as described in their official founding statement of May 01, 2009 has (formally) been around since at least 2005. It was just smoldering fire, coming out as the winds of change gradually blew the thin cover of ashes away. Until recently referring to the PFDJ as anything that had to do with ethnocentric interests would usher you a reaction similar to that of a child born out of wedlock in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. Today there is no under table talk! You can say whatever you want and still solicit a warm hug. For the lowlands: the debate is over and the consensus is unanimous that we do not belong under an ethnic dictatorship. For the highland’s elite: Plan B has been activated; the Priory of Zion is at work. Distinguished thinkers such as Prof. Berekhet H (and echoes) are openly selling their resumes of “we never wanted to separate in the first place”; others such as Prof. Tesfazion M are going straight for the cake and formally apologizing that “their Eritrea” screwed up and is coming back to Inat-Ager. Don’t get me wrong. I strongly support the idea that “their Eritrea” belongs with Ethiopia and they did screw up.A Darfur style “tribal” conflict is imminent in eastern Sudan. The Eritrean government (along with racing to change the demographic realities in the Eritrean lowlands) with a passive thumbs-up from the Sudanese government (Al-Beshir’s faction) is doing its best to counter-balance the overflow from a growing probability of Kurdistan (“our Eritrea”) across the border.

Al-Turabi’s faction on the other hand has succeeded in radicalizing Eastern Sudan and their Eritrean extensions beyond recognition. The search for another Khalil Ibrahim in the East seems to have settled where it belongs: deep inside the Eritrean lowlands. Abu-Suheil, chosen to head the first phase of the ESF is an intelligent pragmatic politician, a ruthless militant with experience far beyond Eritrea, and a blind loyalist of Sheikh Turabi. They could not have chosen a better king for a messy rink. The ESF (or whatever might follow its legacy—given the unpredictable buoyancy of Eritrean opposition alliances) is a milestone and a turning point in Eritrean politics as it is the first time that a major opposition organization (other than the ethno-religious ones) has openly accused the PFDJ of ethnic prejudice (to say the least).

Sudan’s regional outlook is evolving rapidly and with its own existence at stake with hot potatoes in the South and the West, they have come to care less for the stability of others. And if they do, given the magnitude of their current and future challenges and the flashbacks from their 1990s nightmares along their Eastern border, Isaias’ Eritrea is the last one in their compassionate list. Another major motivator to the change in the way the Sudan handles the Eritrean opposition is the Sudanese government’s success in launching (helping to shape) an effective armed resistance against Chad practically limiting its capacity to help the rebellion in Darfur (something that should have been a lot easier along their Eastern border with Eritrea). There is a growing conviction among Sudanese officials (handling the Eritrea file) that the problem lies in the substance (not the structure) of the Eritrean opposition.

Some may argue that my analysis gives more weight to the Sudanese influence than it deserves. The Truth is simple: the Eritrean opposition is too weak and disoriented to resist influence and the playground is shared between the two sides. Nothing is clear though. For Sudan, the short-term payback is that by the time the South and possibly the West is ready for them, Isaias will be too busy to cause trouble, probably in a real cowboy hat and tighter pants than the ones he wears in his “inspection” visits in Gash-Barks. Weyenti will just pull up a couple of lawn chairs around Badime and watch their stepson and old friend back in shape.

The final outcome (the 2021 baby) will very likely depend on what we put into the genes of the upcoming (2011) baby. The rest of the opposition (the irrelevant mob including the EPP-EDP stuff), mainly those calling for a status quo of ethno-religious justice—practically endorsing PFDJ’s policies towards the lowlands, may either own the claims (made by ESF) of ethno-religious injustice and serve as a moderating factor of opposition politics; or they may join the disco against “awrajawyan” and “wegenawyan”.

I hope nothing of what I have written made sense to you (because it doesn’t – until we find out, who is buying the drinks for the big show).

Last Updated ( May 16, 2009 )
Within Arm’s Reach
Awate – Featured Articles
By Ali Salim – Aug 19, 2009

A few weeks ago our debate started by setting a more serious and frank tone to the issues that were being discussed Hishikhshukh style around kitchen tables among close confidants in almost every Eritrean gathering with two diametrically opposed motivations and justifications depending on the ethnic or religious backgrounds of those involved. The first phase of this debate basically did nothing more than carrying the kitchen table out in the open for everybody to see and guess what the other is cooking. Now that everybody has an idea, it is time to start the actual cuisine. Bon Appetite!         

A special salute to Semere Habtemariam (Mainstream on Main-Street, Awate Aug 17, 2009) for his very understanding analysis; his eloquent & pleasant to read and easy to understand pieces with fascinating parables of wisdom. Commenting on the content of “Mainstream on Main-Street” itself may not fit within the scope of the issues that this article is intended to address (as Semere’s article had little to do with the core issue of the debate: land grabbers in action) so I will pass it by applauding Semere’s good intentions that reveal the qualities of an Eritrean deeply invested in the cause of justice. I am of the belief, Semere, that it is the problems that we can’t wish away that we need to deal with first so that our children would not need to fight another Higdef in the future. I agree with your statement that “the regime has marginalized an overwhelming majority of the people and rendered them powerless”. Except that from reading Ahmed Raji’s Rainbow II, I did not get the impression that those excluded were actually selected by a lottery machine of random numbers. Your conclusion that “the Eritrean people do not count” is in fact an elitist overstatement that totally ignores at least the thousands who attend higdef’s festivals in the Diaspora and I had no reason to believe that they are morons who have no way of knowing where they interests lie.

It is remarkable that in spite of the rough ride we all had for the past few weeks, those who followed the rules of reason and fastened their seat belts managed to carry the debate to new levels. I am especially grateful to Ahmed Raji (The Lost Rainbow I, Awate August 09, 2009) and Saleh Gadi (Eritrea is not an Eggshell, Awate August 12, 2009) for stressing the need for open and uncensored debate on real issues to reclaim our lost rainbow and for easing people’s fears (which I happen to share) that our internet debate might wakeup a sleeping monster.  Mengs T M (Cabbages and Kings I, August 11, 2009) elegantly wrapped up the various dimensions of the debate in a manner that fairly represented the way I understood what the writers were trying to say. Cabbages and Kings II (August 17, 009), in spite of the evident good intentions, was premised on the wrong assumption that Lowlanders are a bunch of uneducated sehabti-gemel that are lagging behind not through active and deliberate exclusion but for lack of some kind of philanthropic affirmative action by the Tigrigna elite (not my favorite argument). Tekhlit Tesfai (G. Ande Knows the Issue of the Devil, Awate Aug 17, 2009) was what any decent Eritrean should become (Thank You).  An innovative article with concrete implications for action was Hamid Selman’s call for some form of Hilf Al-Fudul (Pact of the Virtuous) justified by countless examples that would dwarf the case of Keren that he managed to describe so graphically. The shock of the season was, I believe, Ahmed Raji’s “The Lost Rainbow II” (Awate August 15, 2009) which would make any decent Eritrean reading the naïve speeches, on Hade hizbi Hade libi trash, to freeze; turning anger into disappointment and hope into helplessness.

One of two other writers who deserve gratitude were Selam Kidane, a symbol of aynimbirkekhin, who would keep coming back with more of the same to make a strong case for a viewpoint that I obviously do not agree with but respect nevertheless. The second was Mohammed Ahmed who, following a previous article about Shifta Gebre (the guy I am chasing for an autograph) came up with “the Big Ugly Crack”, which exhibited a genuine attempt to give the benefit of the doubt to the PFDJ’s new-found-friends in their claim that the current land grabbing is nothing but an implementation of Dr. Berekhet’s constitution.

I am sure there are some, including myself (don’t laugh), who would not agree with the assessment that the EPP is an organization of irresponsible skunis with no principles. In fact, they did have some bright moments in their history. It was probably the death of one of the undisputed heroes of our armed struggle, Siyum Harestay – may God bless his soul – that let them loose like wild dogs with no headlights. This is how their position on the subject matter of our debate used to be (paragraphs taken from an old NHarnet article):

ERITREA: MINEFIELD OF LAND REFORM (From the April 1997 issue of the Eritrean Newsletter)


The assertions of the ELF-RC regarding the long-term disastrous consequences of the decrees and proclamations churned out by the EPLF are being authenticated by expert judgment reached through independent assessment and research. One such corroboration of ELF positions is a conclusion reached by a recent Oxford research work on the question of land and EPLF’s Land Proclamation No. 58 of 1994. 

In a research work … discussed at a conference on Land Reform in Africa, Sandra F. Joireman concludes that the wrongly conceived reform law in Eritrea will end up generating serious political and economic disasters to the Eritrean people.

She explains the situation as follows: “In Eritrea, because the government has already committed the support of the legal system to the agriculturalists without a corresponding guarantee of pastoralist rights, the chances that competition for land will develop into conflict or political alienation are high.  

Because the conflicts that are set to develop will happen in the lowland areas and not in the highland agricultural areas, the rift of conflict will run directly along the cleavages which have existed in the Eritrean society throughout the political struggle for independence … Pastoralism is practiced by a more clearly defined group of Muslim lowlanders (who) at several times in the independence struggle stood in opposition to the EPLF program.


“The danger of lowland opposition to the land reform is magnified by an EPLF ban on opposition political parties … With no outlet for political organization to give expression to lowland demands, these interests are more likely to ferment, breeding instability in the long run”.

Now compare that with their current position (under Woldesus Amar) as stated in the Final Statement of the 2nd Regular Meeting of the Executive Committee of the EPP dated August 5-6, 2009:

“The Executive Committee condemned the PFDJ’s policy of forced and involuntary resettlement of highland villagers in the lowland part of the country. It further noted with concern that forcibly removing villagers from their ancestral and long-established territory and resettling them in new land by evicting others from their ancestral land will affect the social fabric of our society, as well as create conflict and animosity among various Eritrean social groups.(emphasis mine)”

Don’t get me wrong, I do recognize the “by evicting others from their ancestral land” hidden in the rubble of garbage that qualifies to nothing more than adding insult to injury as far as “the others” are concerned. It is the policy of what they call “forced and involuntary resettlement” that might destabilize the land grabbers for a few weeks until they get used to their new stolen alternative homeland that they are condemning, not the policy of robbing the dream of a primary homeland for half the population for the rest of their lives. Yet it is, at least, something that should be applauded for putting the silent mummies of the EDP and their franchise civic organizations in a corner appearing more like the Templar of the Neo-Nazi bosses in Asmara than an opposition group with dignity and self-respect.

Why would the EPP that correctly predicted that the PFDJ’s Land Proclamation would end up motivating agriculturalists (Highlanders) to displace pastoralists (Lowlanders), today change their mind to tell us that the same motivated displacement that they had predicted is actually “forced and involuntary” contrary to what the land grabbers themselves are saying? Why do the same people who predicted that the implementation of the Land Proclamation would lead to serious political conflict between Lowlanders and Highlanders, suddenly appear surprised as if the problem appeared out of the blue when their own prophecy came to be true? The answer is pure and simple: the EDP owns the “ratified constitution” and the Land Proclamation that inspired it and is not ashamed to defend thieves and land grabbers whose master plan was probably laid  during Mesfin Hagos’ tenure as Governor of Zoba Debub, the source of today’s land grabbers. The EPP had to go through tehadiso before they were qualified enough to meet the Godfather to get initiated into the cult.

My absolute Hero of the Week (in the Hall of Shame) was no other than Abdulrahman Alseyed (Commentary on Two Trends, Awate August 05, 2009), the most active advocate of CDRiE; the organization of Tigrigna intellectuals conspiring to put the Tadamun out of business. You (Abdulrahman) agree that the “grievances and resentments across the Lowlands” are justifiable because of “the deep rooted” injustices that started with Haile Sellassie continued with Mengistu and were amplified by the PFDJ regime (of what you described as “the well entrenched and better organised Tigrigna highlanders”). You agree that the “demographic changes” of truckloads of land grabbers sneaking into other people’s property behind their backs is in fact over 50 years old and I wouldn’t mind agreeing with you (thank you) that we set 1952 as the reference date so that any illegal settlements of land grabbers established after that date would be dismantled immediately. I appreciate that you do not agree with my “Tigrigna Neo-Nazi” branding (we are open for suggestions) and feel free (to consult the bosses) and propose an alternative that fits a regime of land grabbers that stratifies citizens on the basis of ethnic and religious origin.

I completely understand your suggestion that Tigrignas are “well entrenched and better organized” and it might not be in our interest (technically) to get into confrontation before we are equally “well entrenched and organized” so that when we decide to jump them we would be more effective. What you are calling for is exactly what the traditional Lowland organizations have been working on for the last 18 years, sugar-coated hypocrisy over the counter while cooking venom underneath (copy-cut of what the Tigrigna Neo-Nazis have done for years). Unfortunately, my dear friend, I am not into that kind of business because times have changed and there are new guys in town. This time, under-table trafficking is banned and everybody will know what they are buying; the Neo-Nazis will have a picture of what is being cooked for supper; and advocates of the land grabbers may help themselves by sticking to their traditional chefs in PFDJ kitchens cooking the old menu or by stopping to play games and coming up with an alternative recipe that we might share (because we don’t like pork). So our message to you and to the puppet masters in CDRiE is: STEP UP AND TAKE THE RIDE or BACK OFF AND FOLLOW THE TIDE!

Amanuel Hidrat’s article on the “Need for Re-Framing Issues” (Awate, August 05, 2009) was one of the articles I enjoyed reading and I can’t agree more on the need for framing our arguments within the big picture. With all due respect Emma, having seen your previous article, I was expecting you to ask the ethnic Neo-Nazis in Asmara, the land grabbers in the Lowlands and their shadows in the Diaspora to place their actions into frames and tell us where the targeted exclusion of half the population fits in the big picture. Why don’t you help me put the undisputed guru of the EDP, Petros Tesfagiorgis (Washington March’s Historic Significance, Asmarino August 08, 2009) in one of your frames and maybe squeeze in some space for Professor Gaim – another CDRiE architect – who according to Petros is going crazy because “the people are forcefully uprooted from their natural environment (where the Tilyan live) to very hot areas infected by malaria (where we live)”. Where in the big picture does this typical argument of Tigrigna writers infuriated by being associated with the Neo-Nazi regime fit best (quote from Petros’ article – all brackets mine): “This situation gave rise to a lot of conspiracy theories (regarding the land grabbers in pictures) that derail the thinking of the people from the present challenges (of constitutional theft) and focus on debates concerning the past (that happened in May 2009) or on secondary contradictions (about Tigrigna supremacists driving the nation down a cliff) in the Eritrean society of religious (Islamic) or regional (Lowland) nature which can be addressed once Eritrea becomes a democracy (under Dr. Berekhet’s Land Grabbers Manual). It is not limited to Eritreans only; some Ethiopians (Weyanes) have taken that road (in Baduma and Environs)”.

I apologize if these guys never knew that the Eritrean revolution actually started from the same “hot areas infected by malaria” that they think is too disgusting for the land grabbers, and that there are still Eritreans who call those same places home and that they are not backing an inch away. Petros might actually be right according to an Eritrean Profile editorial “Congregation That Highlighted National Values” ( August 12, 2009) reminding that “The times we are in right now are times of national congregation and gathering. They are the times that highlight the unity of the Eritrean people. It is the time of joy and amusement … The rationale behind the Eritrean people’s independence and securing its rightful place … is that it defied and withstood numerous global conspiracies … We (Neo-Nazis) harbor no ulterior motives (by erasing other people’s identity) or agendas (such as defacing the ethnic composition of the nation) and wish to see that peace, justice and truth prevail”.

A handful of the Tigrigna readers who flooded my e-mail with questions and comments (for which I am grateful) regarding my articles showed some sympathy towards Lowlanders right to ancestral land in the same footing to what is guaranteed for Tigrignas in their own villages. Contrary to the Neo-Nazi advocates, there were a lot of Tigrignas who e-mailed me with questions expressing genuine concerns about basic facts that they had been brainwashed into taking for granted. I noticed a huge difference between Tigrignas who identified themselves as opposition members (disgusting messages) and those who said they supported the government (polite and understanding messages). This was one of them:

I forward my cordial salutation to be acquainted with you. I am from highland and Christian Eritrean. I support the Eritrean government. I am not a member of PFDJ. I am reading your articles about your concern for lowlanders land. I believe that you have all the right to raise the issue so that this issue will not remain to be in hibernating that explodes later in the next generations. My question to you is do you believe that if this case is not addressed at this proper time to rectify it doing the right thing at the right time will result in the future of ethnic cleansing by the lowlanders to free their land from the highlanders? What about if the highlanders would ask you where were you in liberating the land from Ethiopian occupiers? Do you, Ali Salim, believe that those highlanders who martyred in lowland sacrificed in vain to free the land that does not belong to them?”

Of course the implication that “highlanders who martyred in lowland” did so to create justifications for the land grabbing thieves of today (a view widely held among Tigrigna writers) is something that I leave for you to pass your judgment on. It is also up to you to judge if the EPLF that geographically identified with the trenches of Nakfa in the heart of the Lowlands more than it did with any place in the Highlands throughout its history can be said to have liberated Eritrea in the absence of Lowlanders or against their will. Before you make you judgment, you may want to compare that decent e-mail (in spite of the misguided premises) with one of the many almost identical e-mails I received from Tigrignas who said were active opposition members:

I still believe both Salim and Gedi (Jowhar) are the same.  

Can you tell me any western paper that has published which divides the states of the US? Can you tell me any state that divides the Scots from the rest of UK, NI or Wales for that matter? Can you tell me any western media that glorifies terrorism … no there is no. Then why is this cheap site working against national interest? Why is this site working to divide people along side religion and region? Who said there are no Christians in highland? We were told by our brothers and fathers that Islam and Christian are united when it comes to their country and it is all now fake. 

The only convincing explanation for the difference between these two sets of e-mails is the fact that many of the Tigrignas who support the government (excluding the Neo-Nazis) by paying their 2% tax, by reading the garbage in Hadas Ertra and trying to follow up developments, by attending festivals and appreciating what is left of our national independence, or by hanging out in the trenches guarding the nation against foreign invasion are responsible citizens who are more worried that Eritrea might collapse for failing to do their part and they deserve all my respect for that. The Tigrigna side of the opposition on the other hand is infested with irresponsible thugs who have never entertained the possibility that the nation might be inches away from collapsing into chaos and delalas who would never hesitate to sell the nation for a night in Gheon or Sheraton in Addis. As Lowlanders I believe it is those responsible citizens who have scarified to maintain an independent nation on life support and have a stake in the nation standing on its feet that we should appeal to with our fears and interpretations of what their Neo-Nazi politicians (in government and opposition) are doing, not the “opposition” gangsters who have nothing to lose and more to gain in paychecks and travel allowances from the Weyanes.

The following is for those who take the rift that is growing exponentially between the two segments of our society (Moslems and Christians) seriously by keeping the nation clear from the scenario of horrors. This is part of a BBC report of December 18, 2008 for an example of what it takes for a nation to top the darkest side of it its own history in an instant of anger. Every time you read a sentence, imagine an instant of public anger back home, and stop to ask yourself: Can this happen in Eritrea?

  • the Rwandan President (‘s plane) … was shot down above Kigali airport on April 06, 1994.
  • Whoever was responsible, within hours a campaign of violence spread from the capital throughout the country …
  • The two ethnic groups are actually very similar – they speak the same language, inhabit the same areas and follow the same traditions.
  • However, Tutsis are often taller and thinner than Hutus, with some saying their origins lie in Ethiopia.
  • During the genocide, the bodies of Tutsis were thrown into rivers, with their killers saying they were being sent back to Ethiopia.
  • Participants were … told they could appropriate the land of the Tutsis they killed.” 

I am sure you have noticed striking similarities between the incidents in the BBC report (taken separately) and what you know can happen in Eritrea. The President’s assassination, the appropriation of land as incentive and the Ethiopia connection might have rang a bell in your mind. Your immediate conclusion might have been that Eritrea is not Rwanda and you probably calmed yourself with rehearsals of the stories of Muslims and Christians who fought and died together during the tough times of the armed struggle. You probably had pictures of Ibrahim Sultan and Woldeab Woldemariam hugging and kissing each other; or memories of Adey Fatima taking you in her lap and feeding you abAkhe just because your mom had done the same to her older son. You can probably still remember when Muslim Sheikhs and Christian Qeshis walked hand in hand to intervene to stop the civil war between the ELF and EPLF. You definitely have a best friend who is Muslim and doesn’t share a pint of what I have been saying. All combined, might make Rwanda an extreme and outlandish impossibility for Eritrea.

But times have changed and Eritrea is no more the rainbow that we used to see. Times have changed and the beauty we used to know is no more. It was friends, and neighbors and classmates that slaughtered one another in Rwanda and all people in an instant of anger needed to induce total amnesia of anything beautiful was hours of radio time. If this nightmare does happen, by the time Awate publishes the bad news on Gedab or a curious journalist sends pictures to CNN, the clock will have gone too far to be reversed and the Eritrea that we know will have change beyond recognition. If you think this is scaremongering, zoom back to the week following the fall of Barentu (an instant of anger) in May 2000 and if you were in Asmara or any other town in Eritrean at the time, then you still have a vivid picture of the mobs of teenagers running around with whatever they could get their hands on hunting “Agames” and what happened is history that I do not wish to dig.

The only ones, who can stop the incarnation of this scenario in a nation where only nightmares seem to turn into reality, are Highlanders, intellectuals in particular. The ball is in your court. The formula is very simple: (1) stop playing games with an issue that will most probably define the nation’s future; (2) stop the PFDJ’s ethnic supremacists and land grabbers when things are still within arm’s reach and before it is too late. My only tip for whatever you come up with is: do not entertain the unreasonable and unfair hope that Lowlanders might give up on their right to ancestral land and equal citizenship for fear that the cost of walking the walk might be devastating for the nation.

For Lowlanders my message is always the same: work hard to help and inspire Highlanders to stand up against their own ethnic supremacists from taking them further down the wrong side of the highway into a head-on-collision; do your best to salvage whatever you can to preserve a united nation under a democratic system of equality and justice; do not compromise on your land and your right to equal citizenship and never settle for second-class status in your own homeland whatever the consequences. Always remember that equality among citizens is a necessary pre-requisite of meaningful democracy and that whatever you decide to give up today, you will give up forever. This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it


Last Updated ( Aug 19, 2009 )
National Unity Requires More Than Mouthing Slogans
Awate – Featured Articles
By Ali Salim – Sep 03, 2009

  I will start by clarifying a few things (that I explained repeatedly before) to set the record straight regarding any misunderstanding that might have resulted for lack of better words on my side. Just to make sure that whoever reads this article is on the same page with respect to any expressions that I had used in the past and might use in the future, I would like to make the following points clear:1.  Neo-Nazi regime of Tigrigna supremacist:  the concept of “Neo-Nazi regime of Tigrigna supremacists” as used in my articles exclusively refers to (specific individuals) those who are active members of the inner workings of the regime, those who share the regime’s vision of Eritrea as an exclusive Tigrigna paradise at the expense of others, and those who have an interest in the regime’s ethnic project. I do not see any reason why this narrowly defined concept should be taken as blanket demonization of every single Tigrigna: whoever makes that allegation must believe that those three criteria are true for every single Tigrigna.

2.  Land Grabbers:  The concept of “Land Grabbers” refers (to specific individuals) specifically to those who have chosen to occupy other people’s land without their consent and in their absence in disregard of the fact that given the unfortunate situation of Eritrea their greed would eventually deprive the hundreds of thousands of refugees of their dream to one day come back and resettle in their ancestral lands. Those being the “actual Land Grabbers”, the “potential Land Grabbers” are their extensions who would not have hesitated to do the same if given the opportunity and are evident by either their outspoken cheerleading in defense of the twisted and discriminatory implementation of the so called “Ratified Constitution and Land Proclamation” or by the apparent indifference to what is going on today in the hope that the successful settlement of today’s Land Grabbers would create precedence for more settlers in the future, setting the stage for a different demographic reality. Actual and Potential Land Grabbers show up as “Teraro” in my Tigrigna dictionary. The definition does not in any way lump every single Tigrigna under one class of “Teraro and Cheerleaders: whoever makes that allegation must believe that every Tigrigna necessarily falls in either of the two extensions.

3.  Lowlanders/Highlanders vs Muslim/Christian:  The concepts of Lowlanders Vs Highlanders are terms I use to define the conflict on the basis of very specific and easily negotiable (resolvable) material grounds pertaining to legitimate competition over division of wealth and political power between the two segments of our population as opposed to the concepts of Muslim Vs Christian which degenerate the debate into irreconcilable conflicts of faith between civilizations. “Highlanders” in all my articles is narrowly defined to include exclusively ethnic Tigrignas, the traditional support base of the PFDJ regime. It does not include the Jeberti, who I regard as an independent ethnic group that has nothing to do with the Tigrignas apart from the coincidence of sharing a common language. It also excludes the Saho ethnic group of the Highlands which historically lied at the centre of the fight against Land Grabbers of ethnic Tigrignas. Hence, for the purpose of the arguments that I have been trying to make, both the Jeberti and the Saho have always been at the centre of the functional definition of “Lowlanders”.

Lumping the three provinces of ethnic Tigrignas under this definition of “Highlanders” might itself sound unfair (I apologize) given the provincially stratified citizenship within them (under the PFDJ) including the Hamasien with Gold, Akeleguzai with Silver and the Seraye with Bronze citizenships (or their corresponding organizations of EDP, EPM and EPP respectively). The fact that the Seraye of the EPP (specific individuals), Bronze Medalists, have suddenly turned out to be among the staunchest defenders of the status-quo (of cowboy politics in the Lowlands) is (to me) no coincidence as it is a manifestation of what I call “the culture of followers”. The answer is nowhere clearer than in the list of Seraye and Akeleguzai villages that were rewarded (for their services to THE PROJECT) with free access to a better life in the Promised Land (that the Weyanes confused for Dubai).

Accepting Mohammed Ahmed’s call, I do sincerely apologize for any inappropriate generalizations with regard to the Tigrignas that I might have made in my attempt to provoke the reader into realizing the urgency of coming clean with the legacy and culture of indifference to the plight of others and the dangers of playing games with the PFDJ’s ethno-centric project of demographic engineering.

This brings me to a very valid observation that Ahmed Raji (The Lost Rainbow III, Awate August 24, 2009) made about a phrase in my last article (Within Arm’s Reach). This is how Ahmed puts it:

“… it is important that we stay focused on the common goal … (Ali Salim) said: “do not entertain the unreasonable and unfair hope that Lowlanders might give up on their right to ancestral land and equal citizenship for fear that the cost of walking the walk might be devastating for the nation.” … I don’t think that any legitimate resistance to restore the rights of any disadvantaged segment of our society could be conceived outside the wellbeing of the larger society itself. Why should the welfare of one section of Eritrean society and that of Eritrea itself be put in opposing poles? Isn’t the fight for restoring the rights of any part of society, a fight for a better society at large? By fighting for justice and equality for disadvantaged groups, one is also fighting for more equitable, more just and peaceful Eritrea.  That’s why this fight should be everybody’s fight.”

Ahmed’s monumental series of well documented articles supported by some of the strongest arguments that speak for themselves in defense of the right to equal citizenship do reflect his noble assumptions and uplifting optimistic outlook and an unshaken belief in that Yes We Can come together and chart the way for a better nation than the one we have. I cannot but salute Ahmed for drawing our attention to an outlook that I share with all honesty and a question that Lowlanders across the board are asking themselves: “What if the Tigrigna nationalists play dumb and keep doing what they are doing pretending that the Land Grabbers and the Exclusionists that we are talking about are fictional characters of the past re-invented by wicked-minded Lowland writers? Where do we stop?”


One of the unexpected consequences of this debate that has left Lowlanders dumbfounded has been the overwhelmingly negative reaction of some Tigrigna, organized as well as individual, writers towards the Lowlanders’ outrage at the news of their ancestral land being invaded by a bunch of government sponsored Land Grabbers. Most of the blind advocates of National Unity (including myself – stop it, I know what you are thinking) never anticipated the amount of implicit popular support that this most despicable PFDJ project of Land Grabbers actually enjoys among ethnic Tigrignas provoking us to revise the assumed sincerity of the so called “opposition” political and civic organizations. We have all watched flabbergasted and with open mouths as intelligent Tigrigna writers many of them Professors and respected educators who know full well that their own villages in the Highlands would never allow “non-natives” to share a piece of burial ground that fits a dead body, lecturing us on how Eritreans are guaranteed free land everywhere and that we should be “civilized”. The question that still needs to be answered is: Do we as Eritreans really have a common goal of a nation united under the principles of equal citizenship? Most readers won’t like it but my answer happens to be “NO & NO” and that’s why I think it is imperative that we sign contracts and agreements and build barriers so that no one will violate other people’s God given rights and get away with it.


Even under the best assumptions of goodwill, given what is actually happening on the ground, there are strong indications that our National Unity will not hold for long, on moving sands of deceit and mischief, unless the Tigrignas stand up and take concrete measures to reverse the trend. Just for argument’s sake, let us assume that Eritreans (Highlanders and Lowlanders alike) share the principle of equal citizenship and that the well being of either group is not mutually exclusive. Let us even take it further and embrace the EDP-EPM-EPP group’s claim that even the PFDJ (that they have condemned for everything else) shares the conviction of equal citizenship and that it is an equal opportunity oppressor. Under these assumptions, the only explanation for the rush in completing the project of land grabbing in the Lowlands by moving thousands of them within weeks would be the PFDJ’s obsession with preserving National Unity by creating “equal opportunities” for all citizens. Imagine a simple theory of expectations where, say, in a market of currency trade, if a substantial volume of speculators believe the US currency would go down and start acting accordingly by selling their holding of US dollars, then the rest of the market would catch up in no time and the exchange rate for US dollars does go down. 

By the same token, if a substantial volume of Tigrigna nationalists in the PFDJ (and Diaspora extensions) obsessed with keeping the nation together (while doing their usual business) start believing that National Unity is breaking down and start acting accordingly in self-defense by digging trenches and positioning the frontline militias and informants of the next civil war in the Lowlands where they believe future battles will be fought, then the rest of the market will definitely catch up in no time and National Unity does break down. Obsession with preventing National Unity from breaking down and acting on this obsession in self-defense (or national defense) triggers a powerful signaling mechanism leading to diametrically opposed interpretations of mutual motives turning the obsession into nothing but a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is the embracing of the reality that National Unity is in fact breaking down and taking concrete measures of confidence building to reassure the side for whom the obsession is a matter of life or death that can prevent National Unity from breaking down. And in our situation, it is Lowlanders who are threatened with the possibility of turning into stateless vagrants and eternal refugees that need to be reassured that Highlanders have no sinister motives and hidden agendas of re-engineering Eritrean demography. It is not the bunch of Land Grabbers and night raiders who are in an expedition for better life and more luxuries that need to be appeased.  


That precisely is why I think the ball is in the court of ethnic Tigrignas. The PFDJ and its Land Grabbers are their exclusive business: they deserve credit for anything good (if any) that it accomplished in the last 18 years and bear the blame for anything bad that it did during that time. I am definitely one of those who are waiting impatiently with crossed fingers for some wise Tigrigna intellectuals to come forward and lead the way by doing the right thing. And for those who do not know where to start here is a piece of inspiration from Barack Obama’s “A More Perfect Union” speech (March 18, 2008) describing what it took to transform the promise of equal citizenship in the American Constitution into the reality that he pledged to polish to perfection:

“… words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens … What would be needed were … successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk – to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time” (Emphasis mine). 

We, Muslims and Lowlanders, have done more than our part in the last 18 years by overlooking hundreds of our own young men and women being singled out of the crowd for torture and for disappearance; by pretending not to be seeing when history is being re-written to satisfy the whims of arrogant ethnic supremacists; and by letting our pride and self-respect be trashed to preserve a hypocritical National Unity of winners and losers. It is Highlanders’ turn now to stop their own ethnic supremacists before it is too late for a future that we as Eritreans can predict and control.

Stop talking about the “netsan dimokrasyawitn Ertra” crap that has defined the traditional opposition for the last 18 years and led us to nowhere other than the daily nightmares of youngsters in the prime of their ages stampeding to get away from a horror story that most of the Diaspora have no way of imagining. It was 150,000 US Marines and hundreds of billions of dollars that lost themselves into a bottomless quagmire trying to materialize the illusive dream of “netsan dimokrasyawitn Iraq” for years and in vain. Can you give me one good reason, why we should believe that a bunch of naïve Professors, helpless ex-peasants and taxi drivers (including myself) will succeed in delivering a democratic Utopia in Eritrea, when the mighty United States of America backed by the best minds of the whole international community failed to deliver the same in Iraq or Afghanistan? One of Mohamed Medeni’s poems might have the answer you need (my translation):

“Never dream of a new world hereafter …
As every Caesar that dies is succeeded by another”

The democracy that we know in the West (the same democracy that the Tigrigna elite and a few misguided Lowlanders are promising to deliver overnight once the PFDJ collapses) is a protracted process that took centuries of cultural and institutional development to achieve. The lack of realistic and achievable targets is in fact nothing but a deliberate ploy marketed by those with sinister motives to paralyze the opposition by divorcing organizational thinking from the realities on the ground. To all those who are telling Lowlanders to postpone their “secondary” demands until they deliver “netsan dimokrasyawitn Ertra”, I say nice trick – but please come up with a better idea or join our party.


Lowlanders should forget (for now until we master another language) about trying to convince a meaningful weight among the Tigrignas to deliver by tipping the scale against the very influential infrastructure of their own supremacists. That isn’t going to happen – period. I am proud that we have already come a long way towards building the capacity and willpower to deliver on the promise of reclaiming our rightful position as proud citizens thanks to the very insightful road that our Kunama and Afar organizations have charted; the courageous and disciplined sacrifices that our Islamic organizations have made; and the excitement and optimism that the ELF and the Federalists have added by chipping in where they belong and doing what they should have done a long time ago.

The circle will hopefully be complete once the Jeberti and Saho organization of Al-Nahda and National Salvation (respectively) stop flirting with the wrong people and start taking bold steps to speak up for their true constituents and for their brothers in the cause and the faith and join hands with the other ethnic groups to bring an end to the pain and humiliation of Tigrigna ethnic supremacists that no other ethnic group knows better than the Jeberti and the Saho. All eyes are on October 15, 2009 when the first conference of the National Salvation Front will be held. I would love to see every Saho brother or sister who gets represented in that conference to stand up in the middle of the monkeying politicians and say I AM A SAHO AND I AM PROUD and I want an organization that defends my ancestral land against the Land Grabbers that have over-flown to Gash and Barka, and an organization that will defend my right to stand in the middle of Kombshtato to preach my beautiful faith to others the same way that Christian Pentecostals have done for years before the tide turned against them.

I can’t wait to see if after the “national” conference, Ahmed Nassir and Abdalla Adem will stand up to speak for the Sahos and the rest of their fellow Muslims who need them most; or if they will continue to become the Pappagallo of the EDP-EPP to reprint the statements of “forced involuntary settlements” that they have been publishing in defense of the Land Grabbers simply because the victims this time were the unrelated Kunamas and Western Lowlanders. I have no doubt that our Sahos have more courageous people than they need to kick these guys in the behind and get them moving on the right path to lead those who need their leadership in feeling proud of who they are.


The following is (my translation of) part of the statement of Eritrean Solidarity Front – Tadamun (August 28, 2009) that I am very, very proud of:

“We [the Tadamun] would like to assure Meskerem [the website] and whoever revolves around it that the [regime’s project] of demographic engineering and the policy of settlements has become a central cause whose neglect will only bring tremendous damage and its effects will be dangerous for the political, social and economic relations between the two components of the Eritrean society [Muslims and Christians]. Succumbing to the regime’s policies of Land Grabbing and attempting to deface the historical and social profile [of the nation] by expelling the indigenous inhabitants and replacing them with new settlers from elsewhere will be challenged with [appropriate] force and the least that these confrontations will lead to is a reversal of the situation back to normal and a return of the rights [land] to its rightful owners. Whoever accepts to become an instrument for the implementation of the vicious [hateful] policies of the regime and to rely on it [the regime] in depriving others of their rights should blame nobody other than themselves.” 

So many Lowlanders are impressed by the progress that the Tadamun has made so far in trying their utmost to meet and exceed our expectations in standing up for our cause with the force and the maturity that it deserves in facing a formidable enemy with sophisticated infrastructures of networks of outright as well as disguised ethnic supremacists. Given the experience of our opposition organizations in the last 18 years, however, the valid concern and logical skepticism towards the extent to which the Solidarity and its component organizations would remain on a steady track and in control of their destiny remains to be proven as misplaced. There is, I believe, one very familiar trap that the Tadamun and any other Lowland organization that hopes to remain relevant through time and is serious about its readiness to continue to serve the larger cause must avoid at all cost. And it is to stop claiming to represent anything other than the interests and aspiration of the constituents that are directly and physically represented under the organizational umbrella.


Any ethnic or regional group that does not wish to be represented under another organization or has already made substantial effort to create its own representative structures must accordingly be supported and encouraged unconditionally. The Tadamun (whether its politicians like it or not) should agree to apply the same identical yardstick that we are applying on the PFDJ and the EDP-EPM-EPP groups to conclude that they are essentially organizations of ethnic Tigrignas. The Eritrean Solidarity Front (Tadamun) in its current composition (given the well known make-up of the memberships of its component organizations) should recognize that it is primarily a regional organization of the Western Lowlands who desperately need exclusive representation and unique voices for their cause. Speaking on behalf of the whole nation (that you do not physically represent) and specifically including the Tigrignas in the Solidarity’s cause is not only hypocritical but is contradictory to the organization’s own claim (and essence of its existence) that the PFDJ (and opposition extensions) are organizations of ethnic Tigrignas, unless of course the leaders of the Tadamun have a good reason to believe that Tigrignas are under-represented.

Similarly claiming to represent the Kunama and Afari ethnic groups that have already established their own mature and vocal organizations, for instance, does not only undermine their efforts and undo the achievements that these two ethnic groups have made to ensure that their own voices are heard loud and clear with no intermediaries. It also risks replicating the other face of the PFDJ, an ethnic organization pretending to represent everybody when it does not, paving the way for its own ethnic supremacists and their familiar business. If the Tadamun does in fact wish to represent and speak for the Kunamas, the Afar, Jeberti, and the Saho as well as the Christian Lowlanders (that Woldesus Amar is trying to sell away) the way their own organization would represent them, it has no short-cuts other than to negotiate and create the physical environment to strike deals with each of their respective organizations.

Strengthening these ethno-regional organizations is instrumental to defeating the PFDJ’s ethnic supremacists for several important reasons:

1.  It ensures the grassroots confidence and participation in the expected outcome of the struggle by seeing the empowerment of their own men and women who speak their language and feel their pains first hand being encouraged to articulate the specific peculiarities of each and every region without having to worry about conformity to blanket specification that do not speak to their specific priorities.

2.  It restricts the mandate given to the Tigrigna elite and the Lowland opportunists associated with them in presenting the problems and worries of ethnic Tigrignas as those of every other ethno-regional group. The government’s Land Proclamation and Dr. Berekhet’s Constitution are living examples of this fiasco where the Tigrignas are actually led into believing that state ownership of the land is a good idea for every Eritrean simply because it gives them a mandate to solve their problem of limited access to the land at the expense of others.

3.  It ensures that every ethno-regional group or nationalist movement that manages to rule the nation cannot do so without convincing other regions that it is in their interest to hand over mandate over their affairs to a national entity. Any ethno-regional group that feels its rights are being violated the way Kunamas and Afaris, for instance, are feeling today, would have the requisite capacity and popular support they need to reverse injustice.

4.  It paves the way to welcoming the PFDJ into the solution table with open arms as long as its leaders accept the fact that it is an ethnic organization of the Tigrignas. It is imperative that the Tadamun and other opposition organizations recognize the PFDJ as a legitimate ethnic organization that must be called to negotiate the conditions under which Tigrignas share the nation with us. Outlawing the PFDJ does not serve our cause in any way other than implicitly giving the organization the mandate to speak on our behalf.   


I have no doubt that those who are reading this article against the background of the traditional wisdom of Eritrean politics are asking themselves: What if strengthening ethno-regional groups with no strings attached ends up breaking the Union and risks the existence of a United Eritrea? I might as well ask them back: What is the use of having a United Eritrea where helpless ethno-regional groups and minorities fall prey to dominant ethnic supremacists the way our traditional wisdom has led us to? The paradox with National Unity is that it can only be kept if it can be broken. In other words, we will keep our National Unity as strong as it can be only if each and every group realizes that any breach of (or indifference to the breach of) the natural rights of other groups will lead into destabilizing the physical balance of the nation, and that this is indeed a feasible probability. This can in turn only be done if each of the component ethno-regional groups does possess the physical capacity to deliver in destabilizing the national balance if the violations of their specific rights exceed beyond tolerable limits.

National Unity is a delicate commodity that each and every component group in the nation must guard by respecting its limits and adhering to morally and legally acceptable codes of conduct; not through appeasement and hypocrisy and smooth talking. Where the relations among the component ethno-regional groups of the nation turn out to be irreconcilable, solution within a United Eritrea is of course only one of several other options and those who are at the receiving end of the hot potato should never hesitate to consider all available alternatives. If you are planning to respond with “a Constitution can do that” kind of crap, I want you to first tell me why the Sudanese Constitution was not enough to enable our closest neighbor to avoid the nightmares in the South and Darfur. And Good Luck with that! 


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Last Updated ( Sep 03, 2009 )
Eritrea’s Bermuda Triangle: Land, Settlements & Refugees
Awate – Featured Articles
By Ali Salim – Sep 19, 2009
Nearly all those who have been following our debate on Awate (the ones who genuinely recognized the problems of Land Grabbers and the Exclusionists of the PFDJ as real and serious) are wondering what possible solutions would come out of the debate that has lasted for months and at least on the surface seems to be getting nowhere. To those who are confused and have no clue as to what is happening or how this debate might contribute to feasible solutions to our national problems and are uneasy with what they see as strong exchange of irreconcilable positions, I say “inhale – exhale and chill down”. This is just a different kind of debate (words mixed with action) as it is not a contest on oratory and writing skills; it is not about promoting some organizations and demeaning others; and it is definitely not one carried out by mysterious demons from outer space with hidden agendas. It is just our New Born Eritreans (NBEs) in action. The best way to look at it is to imagine two parties in court (“Tigrignas” Vs “non-Tigrignas – hereafter referred to as Lowlanders”) conducting an open forum negotiation on how to share the nation. “We” on the Lowlanders side [to some extent Semere Habtemariam, Selam Kidane (slowly but surely), and a new genius on Asmarino – Mogos Tekeste – (who almost got it right) by proposing a solution as simple as modifying Dr. Berekhet’s Constitution – included] are making our case and laying our conditions for sharing or splitting the nation on the negotiating table. The issues at stake are: LAND, SETTLEMENTS and REFUGEES – identical issues to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiating table. The accused (PFDJ) has not appeared in court yet and its representative (EDP-EPP) is pleading “NOT GUILTY” on its behalf.Plan “A” of the outcome (of the debate) that I and many others were hoping for– ironically, it had its roots in the same baseless assumptions and naïve beliefs of “Hade hizbi – Hade libi” crap that we tried to warn people not to trust–a hopeless wish to create and see a far different picture of the nation than the one hanging right before our eyes. It was a shock for me as it was for most Lowlanders (those with a little bit of self-respect) who followed the debate to find out that the PFDJ’s ethnic supremacist policies starting with the Project of Demographic Re-Engineering and ending with every twisted argument and trick of exclusion that serves the Project are matters of almost absolute consensus among the Tigrigna elite: the most influential component of ethnic public opinion. Kissing up to them are a few of our own Lowlanders who I hope the Lord will reach into their hearts and call them into salvation and open their eyes into the fact that their personal tragedies are nothing more than the embodiment of what the ethnic supremacists and Neo-Nazis (that we have been talking about) are capable of. We, however, have no more time to waste waiting for “tsemam Hade derfu” to change and we have to MOVE ON (to the real stage), simply because we cannot afford to be held hostage to a bunch of worthless thugs and narrow minded fanatics.

Plan “B” of the solution that I am trying to propose (starting with my last article) is motivated by the desperate realization that  whether we like it or not we (Lowlanders – see my last article for definition)are alone in the fight against the PFDJ’s ethnic supremacists in what matters most: to own our ancestral land (free from thieving Land Grabbers) in the same manner that Tigrignas own their ancestral land, and the derivative claims of the right of all Muslim Eritreans to equal citizenship. The need to redefine our struggle as that of “Muslims Vs Christians” instead of resorting to broader and more complicated definitions of “Lowlanders Vs Highlanders” was brilliantly justified by Ismail Omer (Ethno-Tribal Politics, Religion, and Democracy – Awate, September 19, 2009) in one of the best articles (with some reservations) that I read during this debate (Thank You). Ismail’s flawless analysis, I believe misses the following critical considerations which essentially block the prospects for any negotiated solution to the problems of mutual co-existence and fails to take the necessary precautions in case these negotiations turn out to be irreconcilable (just to make sure my brother does not hibernate again):

(1) In the same way that the “Highlands” is not entirely Christian (hence my qualifications to include the Saho and Jeberti in the definition of the Lowlands), neither is the “Lowlands” entirely Muslim and, in what I consider to be the core of the conflict (Land Grabbers), a large part of the primary victims (Ethnic Kunamas for instance) are actually non-Muslim;

(2) Ismail fails to see that at the core of the demeaning attitude of the PFDJ’s ethnic supremacists towards the Saho and Jeberti is “the Land” and the historical perception that “Islamay midri yeblu, semai Andi yeblu” (which I picked from a post on Awate Forum and forgot the original writer – apologies) which originally referred not to the Hidareb in Barka or the Afar in Denkalia but exclusively to the Saho and Jeberti in the Highlands.

(3) The Model that myself (and hopefully many others) are calling for (given the history of ethno-centric ganging of irresponsible bullies around the PFDJ) requires that we re-construct the nation in such a way that if we do not seriously take care of one another, breaking to pieces is more than a feasible alternative. “Keeping the nation together”, the primary motivation behind Ismail’s analysis, is not an overriding priority (above all other priorities) for me as is “guaranteeing a nation where citizens live in dignity and respect to one another”;

(4) Where Tigrignas fail to step up to deal with the PFDJ’s ethnic supremacists and the prospects of living together eventually narrow down to zero, it is the insistence to enforce “National Unity” along the unbreakable Muslim-Christian lines that will settle Eritrea into another Somalia, not the spontaneously erected semi-autonomous ethno-regional entities that might easily be accommodated by cousins across the borders (in Sudan and Ethiopia).

Hold On and save your judgments! We will get into the details of the Model (which I hope we won’t need to apply in real life) in subsequent articles as the debate progresses depending on how the Tigrigna elite are prepared to interact. I do understand the sensitivity of the issues that we are debating and deeply appreciate and share the concerns of those good hearted New Born Eritreans who worry about the extremely dangerous consequences that might follow our rightful struggle to free ourselves and our land from the grip of a blindly vicious regime of the Tigrigna supremacists in Eritrea. Those who still see a glimmer of hope in convincing enough Tigrignas to stand up against their own fanatics and supremacists; those who believe that they would be able to deal with them by magically establishing a democratic Utopia in Eritrea (if wishes were horses); as well as those who prefer to continue bending their heads and serving as shoe shiners of disgrace by polishing the arguments of the Neo-Nazi Project (that has burned Tigrignas and non-Tigrignas alike), are welcome to do so and all I have for them is the best wishes for good luck and “May You Rest in Peace” (in the dust bin).

Special thanks to Brother Saleh Ghadi (Confusion: Opposition or Resistance, Awate September 09, 2009) for (as far as I know) his unique contribution to the debate by drawing our attention to such a crucial distinction that should characterize the Eritrean struggle for change. Truth of the matter is that this distinction has never been more obvious than it is today with the “Opposition” demanding superficial changes within the established ethnic hegemony and hence “soft landing” spearheaded by the essentially Tigrigna political parties (EDP-EPP group and civic organizations) on one side; and the “Resistance” demanding fundamental change of the established rules of the political game spearheaded by Lowland & Muslim liberation movements on the other. The Opposition’s preparations are understandably restricted to grooming the elite that is expected to take over (in their dreams) once the PFDJ collapses by introducing “(hopefully) free press and some kind of elections” (I wouldn’t trust them if I were you); or to supply the bureaucrats, translators, and cheerleaders for whoever takes over once the regime collapses.  

The latter is true simply because under the assumption of a “neutral” one-man-dictatorship (a matter of consensus among the “Opposition”) there is no reason to expect that General Tekhlai Habteselassie, for instance, would follow Isaias’ example into another one-man-show unless a constant of substantial ethnic support base pressing towards a replica “dictatorship” is also assumed (which the “Opposition” blindly denies). The life expectancy of the “Opposition” is therefore tied to the incidence of some kind of coup d’état that might predictably be prepared to engage the public through promises of a rosy democratic future and another “constitutional Hashewye”; or a change of heart (or rhetoric) by the President playing the game of “our national unity is at risk” (which is true) extending a “welcoming” hand. Failure to recognize the existence of the regime’s solid ethnic support base (supremacists if you will) is the most important factor explaining the failure of the “Opposition” to appreciate the most the critical (real) challenges facing the PFDJ and its genuinely tireless efforts to guarantee the “unity” of the nation under its vision (which the “Opposition” seems to share with limited technical difference).

This is where the confusion is: even if we assume that “the PFDJ has no religion or region” the “neutral” President would still have to solve the following demographic equations (where the existence of a solid ethnic support base is inevitable) to keep “everybody” happy.

1. The Tigrignas are squashed in an extremely restrictive topographical zone (and comparatively most disadvantaged with respect to their primary mode of livelihood: agriculture), while Lowlanders (mainly pastoralists) live in sparsely populated spacious plains. It is, therefore, only natural that this “neutral” government would come under enormous popular pressure (due to the weight and history of ethnic Tigrignas in the PFDJ) to adopt measures that would give Tigrignas equal access to agricultural land (as Lowlanders).

2. Where this “neutral” government sees no future in Pastoralists (who might take ages to change their ways of living) and values the potential role of agriculture to the nation’s food security (as any sensible policy maker would do), the probability of the “neutral” government’s alliance with Tigrigna interest groups (desperate to pave the way for abundance in the Lowlands and willing to materialize the government’s vision of “food security”) becomes inevitable.

3. In the unfortunate situation that the rightful owners of those spacious plains of the Lowlands are not only “useless” Pastoralists (as far as their relative contribution to food security is concerned) but are also historically alienated (irrespective of the reasons) and remain stranded in refugee camps outside the country (no need to assume the government had anything to do with it) with no prospects of coming back, even the most neutral politician would have no excuse to put its “development programs” on hold and to evade popular pressure to fill the gap of the absentees in guaranteeing food security.

These facts taken together bring us to what any “neutral” government would need to take care of before undertaking the actual handling of such a thorny issue (of stealing Land from the haves and handing it over to the have-nots – where the haves and have-nots are delineated along clear ethno-religious lines) without risking a major fallout. Hence, guaranteeing “national unity” in a way that all Eritreans seamlessly melt into the Tigrigna economic identity (by aggressively eradicating Pastoralism) and cultural identity (by aggressively resisting a parallel “Arabic” entity from creating a barrier) is a necessary prerequisite political imperative to rule out any possible impediments to sneaking Tigrignas into the Lowlands with the least possible resistance.

The insistence of Lowlanders on sticking to Arabic as their national language and fortifying it with the Islamic identity has its roots (apart from their historical backgrounds) in the consciousness that the development of a unified national identity that lumps the Tigrignas with helpless minorities is a recipe for disaster as it paves the way for the disguised flow of more Land Grabbers and Exclusionists. If we wake up tomorrow morning and find out that all Tigrignas have adopted Arabic as their only national language, trust me I won’t be the only one who will start calling upon Lowlanders to adopt Chinese as their national language. Primarily, other than the need to create an impenetrable defensive barrier (against Land Grabbers), an absolute political necessity, Eritrean Lowlanders (and Muslims) have no other credible motivation to resist Tigrigna, the de facto language of the marketplace, from also serving as the natural medium of communication for the nation. That is why, in the event that we settle for a solution within a united Eritrea with strong federal institutions with substantial guarantees against Land Grabbers and Exclusionists, it is more likely than not that much of the controversy surrounding Arabic as the national language of Lowlanders and Muslims will fade away, as banning Arabic will lose its significance as a crucial tool of Tigrigna lobbyists in land politics.

The point is: even under the assumption of an angel ruling the nation there is no way any politician can avoid dealing with a very powerful lobby of Tigrignas who genuinely believe that since independent Eritrea belongs to every Eritrean on equal footing and every Eritrean belongs to the nation as an individual citizen there is no reason why Tigrignas should be restricted into sharing scarce land by the inch, while graceful plains in other parts of the country are left for “unproductive” roaming nomads for grazing. These same lobbyists of angel-hearted citizens may even take it a little further by going the extra mile of goodwill to convince this “highly spiritual” government that it would be a good idea to aim for two birds with a single shot. Gather the nomads to settle down in urban centers where it would be easy for the government to provide them with essential services and to initiate them into the more prosperous mode of agricultural living (which requires much less land per capita) on the one hand, and to effectively free much needed land from claims by roaming nomads as a side effect on the other hand.

The bottom line is that however good the intentions of these lobbyists are (and however heavenly the government is), they represent the exclusive interest of ethnic Tigrignas (in this particular case) and where the tricks and arguments they use are promoted and implemented without the consent of the rightful owners of the land they are ganging to steal and in their absence for understandable reasons, it makes them nothing but thieving Land Grabbers. It is not the existence of these Land Grabbers and the lobbyists per se that underlines the dangerous role they play in our politics, but the concerted effort (by the Tigrigna elite) to deny their existence and their political significance (coupled with what Lowlanders see happening on the ground) that highlights the more credible probability that the real intentions of the Land Grabbers (and their cheerleaders) go far beyond sharing the land with its rightful owners.

Given these facts, therefore, any right minded Eritrean has only two choices:

(1) To accept the possibility that the PFDJ is actually the Tigrigna lobby (of Land Grabbers) that we have described and throw the blame on the Baboon and his monkeys as the main culprits of conspiring to steal the Lowlands and absolve the rest of the Tigrignas as nothing but innocent spectators to a criminal regime of ethnic supremacists representing their interests without their mandate (the argument that we are trying to make so far).

(2) To accept the more logical (far more dangerous) probability that the existence of the Tigrigna lobby is independently related to the real problem of limited access to the land, and that it exists outside the freewill of whoever rules the nation implying that the “neutral PFDJ with no religion or region” is just a puppet in the hands of a far more powerful conspiracy of the real lobbyists.

It is the fear of “what if the second probability turns out to be the truth?” that leads the “Resistance” (described above) to prepare itself for a long fight that will span far beyond the fall of the PFDJ given the core identities between the PFDJ and its most probable heirs. Even if we do accept the very reasonable claim that the predominantly Tigrigna “Opposition” organizations (or their potential allies within the PFDJ) are in fact genuinely fighting to destroy the PFDJ (an assumption with a big question mark), it is only prudent that the “Resistance” movements (of Lowlanders and Muslims) understand that all future governments in Eritrea (including – for argument’s sake – purely Muslim governments) will eventually be faced with the same tough demographic equations that the PFDJ might have been trying to resolve. Given the obvious conflict of interest in Tigrigna politicians being asked to effectively rule against the interests of their own ethnic constituents and their powerful lobbyists by outlawing Land Grabbing, it becomes absolutely critical that the “Resistance” movements tie their life expectancy to the establishment of clearly defined and sufficiently mandated federal institutions (within or without the nation – whichever materializes first). A decisive step taken by the new trends of the Resistance towards this end has been the dropping of the traditional naïve target of the “downfall of the dictatorial regime” as the destination target.

This article was intended to serve as a general introduction to the Plan “B” that I briefly described above exclusively venturing into what the “Resistance” should do to guarantee reasonable resolutions (as far as the primary stakeholders are concerned) to the problems of LAND, SETTLEMENTS & REFUGEES (the Bermuda Triangle of Eritrean politics), issues that I hope to dig further during the progress of this debate. The introduction as you might have guessed was directed to those individuals who were enraged at our characterization of the PFDJ as an organization of Tigrigna interest groups (supremacists) by attempting to persuade them that we are actually doing them a favor by restricting the definition of the government’s ethno-centric vision to (exclusively) the President and his men.

My intention was to warn those writers who are jumping at every opportunity to condemn anybody who might buy into the idea that the PFDJ is a gang of Neo-Nazis and ethnic supremacists and that they alone are to blame for the land grabbing and the targeted exclusion, to watch their step. I tried to draw their attention to the fact that if they do succeed (and I am ready to chip in) in convincing Lowlanders and Muslims into accepting that President Isaias is in fact an innocent lamb “with no religion or region”, they could be digging themselves and the nation a nasty hole because in the eyes of the victims someone has to be held accountable and the outrage that is being directed against the PFDJ (and its finite collaborators) will have to be directed somewhere else (take your guess).

I don’t think it is a good idea to count on the hope that Lowlanders might be tutored into believing that the robbery of their land and identity that are going on in broad daylight and the nightmares that keep haunting them are imaginary hallucinations detached from reality.

Let us make sure (for a change) that this September 18th marks a new beginning for a different journey!

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Last Updated ( Sep 22, 2009 )
“Common Country” And Not “Common Enemy”
Awate – Featured Articles
By Ali Salim – Oct 22, 2009
I have taken a break for the last few weeks just to watch the debate from a distance and see what it looks like to a bystander. Most of those who appeared to comment on the issues focused on the semantics of how the subject should have been framed and what kind of etiquette contributors like myself should have followed instead of cutting the bull and getting straight to how the problem should be resolved. The problem of Land Grabbers, for instance.  If “framing” is all they care about, there was even a better option (I wonder why it never crossed their minds): gather some twigs – arrange them into a rectangle – paint the edges red – stitch the corners with mesfe’n fetlin and, voila, you have just made your own frame. Now lift the whole structure around your face, turn towards Asmara and tell the Land Grabbers to get the hell out of other people’s land.

I am by no means implying any intentional conspiracy by any of the honorable writers (including Desbele and Asfaha: the Tom & Jerry of the Eritrean People’s Party), although most of them, unfortunately, ended up sounding like the old children’s story about the fox and the rooster if you still remember (I am sure you were just a little kid.) The fox emerged one day dressed as preacher, stretching his arms in repentance and heralding a new era of love with roosters. The story ends with the rooster (who had learned the hard way) reading between the lines and concluding: mistaken is he who assumes faith in the fox. I don’t want people running around wailing timali Neo-Nazi iluna lomi dima fox iluna, but if they do, tell them “ab ri’esikhum yigberelkum”.


Some of my favorite readings (unlike the above) were the articles by regulars in the Awate community including: two articles by Semere Habtemariam, “Not In Our Name” and “What Do The PFDJ and Procrustes Have In Common?”; “The Cabbages and Kings” series by Mengs TM; “The Rosa Parks Moment” series by Tewolde Stephanos; Saleh Gadi’s “Aged Wine”; The “PPP” by Selam Kidane; & Ismail Omar’s “Adi Yeblu – Andi Yeblu”. The conclusion was: build the ark using PPP circles, find out Rosa Park’s measurements and Procrustes’ couch on eBay, measure all Cabbages and Kings and stretch them for baptism on Aged Wine to qualify for the Ark. Watching the pictures of the congregations in Saleh Meki’s funeral (May God bless his soul) it was easy to conclude that, provided we buy a reasonable size couch, only one guy would probably have to be chopped to fit in. As painful as it is, the rest will have to be stretched to qualify for the Ark and that is exactly what we are trying to do by suggesting a solution as simple as: Place President on Block “A” – Hit it with Block “B”.

My other favorites were (in Arabic): (1) a series of very courageous articles supported by a wealth of information and insight entitled “The Nine Vices” by Ustaz Omer Jaber (check Al Nahda for Part VII of the series and get to know the esteemed Tekhle Michael who according to Ustaz O.J. had tried to sneak in some Land Grabbers to Ad-Ibrhim and was busted by Jebha); (2) “Why equate the prisoner to the jailer?” by Abu Hayot (Al Nahda Oct. 05, 2009) in response to Ibrahim Mohammed Ali’s article describing the PFDJ and the Islamists as “two faces of the same coin” (“Sheikh Hamid Turki: Fomenting Religious Differences for What End, for Whose Benefit?” Nharnet, Sept. 04, 2009). Thank you both for standing up for those who need you most to stretch the dwarfs amongst us. We are all of course very happy to hear about Ibrahim M. Ali’s quick recovery from the surgery and wish him long, healthy and happy years ahead. I look forward to the day when the honorable Ustaz Ibrahim who once inspired generations with his insights (to end up with everybody in Kerekon) would also recover from his latest hallucinations to explain to his own tribesmen what happened to the promise that they would one day see their own sons and daughters in government offices in their own neighborhoods and that they would be free to plough, preach and worship. I don’t want to sound too pushy on family matters but he might as well tell them (tekuselom style) why he thinks ganging along ethno-regional lines is bad for them when he knows full well that it was those who ganged along the same lines who managed to achieve an independent Eritrea in 1991 and continue to control our destiny to date. I apologize that I got carried away trying to say “Happy Recovery”.

Now back to the topic (seri tezaribom zezarbukha yikhla’ana). The distinction between the two sets of writings lies in a critical divergence in the premises on which they built their respective analysis.

The first group (with some exceptions) starts with the assumption that “we” in the opposition have a common enemy called the PFDJ and that it is imperative that we come together (preferably as organizations) and join hands to defeat it.  The second group (including myself with permission from the idols) starts with the assumption that “we” Eritreans (including the well known supporters of the PFDJ – minus Yemane Monkey and Hagos Kisha for understandable reasons if you know what I mean) have a common country called Eritrea to share and that it is imperative that we come together and join hands to devise the parameters of a better future based on equality and mutual respect.


This analysis views the hundreds of thousands of Eritrean citizens (overwhelmingly ethnic Tigrignas) who for some reason or another are serving the PFDJ regime’s projects with selfless dedication as nothing but misguided or coerced souls (“slaves” to put it bluntly) with no right to determine the nation’s future. They provide no explanation as to whether respectful Eritrean citizens have the right to support the PFDJ [at least as a temporary structure until some “transitional business” (not necessarily of Land Grabbers as they may not be alone on that) – but such as making sure that the Weyanes do not show up again – is taken care of]. They provide no justification as to why Eritreans who support the opposition that may risk chaos and destruction [at least as a temporary mechanism until some “transitional business” – such as making sure that the PFDJ is overthrown – is taken care of] should deserve precedence in riding the Ark. They fail to recognize that according to an EPP-EDP statement all Eritreans (I would add “including the PFDJ supporters” according to Hadas Ertra) do “share an identical dream” of a prosperous democratic Eritrea in the future – once (divergent definitions of) the “transitional business” is taken care of.


This analysis argues that since the “we” refers to the Eritrean people as a whole, any artificial organizational entities that can be formed or deformed at a moment’s notice (and at the whims of some ri’esi tanikas in Europe) are irrelevant to the sustainability of societal relationships that have endured for centuries. The real conflict (to be distinguished from power struggles among the elite), they say, should be analyzed from the point of view of the natural rift lines underlying the current organizational make-up of the Eritrean landscape, which necessarily is transitional by nature. The underlying assumption here is that any societal conflict over real issues (such as land) will eventually create its own organizational manifestations once the grievance among the stakeholders (those treading the embers) brews to a boiling point and accumulates enough energy to explode creating new realities on the ground (standard teachings of Ibrahim M. Ali and others during our armed struggle).

Conversely, of course, this implies that any organizational entity established on artificial private initiative by the detached elite (“for the common good” for instance and we appreciate all initiatives by the way) will sooner or later end up being irrelevant to “the common good” itself, as more representative structures (of the real grievances) inevitably gain momentum. Somalia’s recent history is testimony to what a nation of relatively more dynamic (than Eritrea’s) networks of civic and political organizations on the one hand, and ignored societal grievances running along regional and tribal lines at the grassroots level on the other hand interact to inevitably create a new reality (in this case) of chaos and destruction (hopefully lasting only until some “transitional business” is taken care of). Conclusion: No organizational drama of pinheaded politicians will ever be able to stop the floods of angry and disgusted common men deprived of their right to equal citizenship in the land of their ancestors and robbed of the dream of ever having a place to call home. Why? Because: betri Haqi tiqeTin imber aytsbern.


An acceptable compromise could be reached between the two sides however if either side minded its own business. We all need change and share “an identical dream” to quote the EPP-EDP (I guess the last time I quoted them for doing something good was when they broke the news of the heroic people of Adi Gebray although I still blame them for not keeping us updated on how the story of Colonel Woldu and his dead mother ended) and if coming together to face the PFDJ turns out to be impossible (thank you for all the 18 years of serious trials) it doesn’t hurt to venture into other ways of doing the same.

I apologize if I have misled some writers (including my favorite, Ismail) into concluding that I do not believe in democracy (I have no clue if I ever said that). For the record though: I don’t think democracy itself (the system that brought Obama to the top in the face of Neo-Nazis and Supremacists) is wishy-washy at all. What I think to be Tricky-Pricky is the claim that such a sophisticated system (in terms of requisite infrastructures designed to ensure that Neo-Nazis and Supremacists become the losers) will replace the PFDJ regime in a couple of years (or a couple of decades for argument’s sake).

Don’t get me wrong, inehele golgol – inehele feres for any Harry Potter who is willing to try. Just don’t ask us to put our own worries aside and wait praying for the spell to shatter the evil empire into a happy ending where Land Grabbers depart with hugs and kisses and Exclusionists open their doors to give and share. I don’t think any sensible person would argue that empowering disadvantaged ethno-regional groups to enforce an equal playing field or even granting those who may not want to be part of a united nation (if they fail to secure the plain field) their right to self-determination is not part of laying grounds for democratic rule in the long run. That is the contribution of the Lowland & Muslim movement to a future democratic state (or states) of Eritrea. Can the rest of organizations show anything they have contributed to that end, other than a manual for institutionalizing Land Grabbers and Exclusionists?



The hysteria and phobia in our traditional opposition thinking, I believe, has its roots in the liberation era constructs that a national goal (such as independence or even terminating the PFDJ) can only be achieved through organizational unity i.e. Unite or Die slogans. Jebha Abay as we all know perished singing “simret … simret” (kab kifu’e yedHinena). PFDJ as we all know succeeded singing “kitet … kitet” (kem’om yemasilena). No matter what horrors took place on the ground, no matter how desperate the nation became for someone to take initiative and do something (anything) that would relieve us from the jaws of the monster the pursuit of an elusive “Unity” became the full time job that preoccupied the opposition in endless inklil every moment of the last 18 years. The truth that we fail to pay attention to is that there has never been one single moment in our history where political organizations ever stood together (in a meaningful way) let alone unite to achieve anything at all, not even at the most desperate times of foreign occupation, death and destruction.

This is not to say that Eritreans were never united as such a mindless claim can easily be refuted by the fact that Eritreans did come together (under the EPLF for instance) to beat up mighty enemies and achieve independence (or under the ELF for instance) to kick-start the armed struggle). The reason for this confusion (of best achievements always correlated to organizational disunity) lies in our misguided elitist pre-conceptions of the way Eritreans at the grassroots level unite and the formula for every serious organization, I believe, is as simple as: crush anybody who wastes your time with the inklil of organizational unity and march forward to show results and everybody will follow. The history of the ELF in its earliest days and the EPLF in its latest days is a reflection of this fact. The only favor you should be prepared to do is to either join or congratulate and give up once another brother proves more effective. Do not linger around to tackle and do not stand to be an obstacle. Don’t you think we would have been in a much better situation if the ELF had given up and joined the EPLF in the late 1970s since it was on its way to quitting a year later anyway? Watch out, though, for those (exclusively Diaspora groups) with vested interests in tugging themselves to those with the potential capacity to walk it alone with the intention of either hitchhiking to political power or acting like Trojan Horses carrying the Men in Black.


We have all been reading the hoopla that some individuals and a group of organizations have been writing to argue for defining the PFDJ as the “Primary Enemy” and to postpone for a later date the confrontation against “Secondary Enemies.” You may need to get drunk to fully appreciate the argument and, if you do, this is probably where you will end up: tomorrow’s “Secondary Enemies” are expected to join the struggle against today’s crumbling “Primary Enemy” to first help create an established “Primary Enemy” for the future battle.

My modest understanding had always been that once independence was achieved, it would be the end of the story of “primary enemies” because from that date on, all conflicts among Eritreans would be considered “secondary”. The PFDJ, as far as I know, is an Eritrean group (unless someone has evidence to the contrary) and however evil it might be it will always remain a “secondary enemy” vis-à-vis other Eritrean opponents, just so we reserve the title of “Primary Enemy” in case some neighbors (cousins if you will) pop-up to say “assalamu alaykum” one morning and we need to mobilize all Eritreans including the PFDJ (or may be behind it) to respond “wo’aleykum” the way it was done in May 1998 (out of the spirit of good neighborliness).

In fact, one of the few slogans that enjoyed a complete consensus during the armed struggle was the partitioning of the struggle in two phases: unite to deal with the primary enemy until Eritrea was liberated and then take it as it comes to deal with secondary enemies after liberation. None of the liberation struggle organizations ever entertained the possibility of an independent Eritrea with no “secondary enemies”. True to their history of keeping promises (with selective exceptions) the EPLF, backed by an overwhelming popular support of all Eritreans, managed to liberate Eritrea and immediately started dealing with the “secondary enemy” (singular). The general opportunistic impression among all the ELF splinters was that “secondary enemies” (plural) stood for organizational leaders sitting on their behinds in the Diaspora, who would eventually be invited to negotiate the settlement of secondary conflicts between the triumphant EPLF and the ghosts of the lifeless ELF.

Contrary to this elitist analysis, however, the general understanding within the EPLF always assumed the objective and independent existence of the political infrastructure from the organizational structures justified by it. In other words, the EPLF’s (and latter the PFDJ’s) perception had always been that it was possible to liquidate any organization as long as one managed to effectively compete and outsmart it in dealing with the problems it claims to stand for (drawing a line between unity of organizations and rallying people behind tangible resuls). In fact, apart from the bragging ri’esi tienos, the EPLF’s core cadres believed that the ELF died (of natural cause) because the EPLF managed (through action and leading by example) to persuade Muslims & Lowlanders that the ELF was no more relevant as far as confrontation with the primary enemy was concerned. This essentially was the reason why ELF splinter groups who continued to meet and plot in coffee shops in the Diaspora were declared “ri’esi Akats” that represent only themselves and in the case of most of these groups the conclusion turned out to be well justified (as it became “nay adebabay misteer” that they are just “Imet gezaf wo’angeb ib’hala”).

The only exceptions to the EPLF’s successful campaign to render the opposition groups irrelevant were the Lowland & Muslim organizations, whose efforts to galvanize their intended constituents (mostly in the refugee camps of Sudan and the Western Lowlands in Eritrea) were rewarded as the ethnic supremacists in the PFDJ gradually gained momentum and eventually claimed total control of state institutions. (The reasons why those Lowland & Muslim organizations apparently failed to exploit the opportunity are family matters that I hate to discuss in public but for those who are curious: the hint is “dediHri adgi zikhede TiraT adgi lemede”.)

The collective name of Lowland & Muslim organizations became “Hamshay Mesri’e” and that came to be what the PFDJ considered as the structural manifestation of the “secondary enemy” and a campaign to dry the sea that feeds the fish was unleashed. The inherent conflict of interest in the ethnocentric priorities of the supremacists eventually paralyzed the old proven tricks of winning the hearts and minds of Lowlanders & Muslims (by getting Dehab Faytinga to do her moves) leaving them with fewer options. The regime’s aggressive and phobic campaigns to block any influence from the Arab-Islamic world; its resistance to the repatriation of refugees; its well known “national languages” campaigns; and of course the viciousness of its security forces against anybody remotely associated with any Lowland-Muslim political orientation speaks of nothing other than the PFDJ’s obsessive determination to eradicate the “secondary enemy”. To be fair, never has the PFDJ (as far as I know) implied the “Primary Enemy” to be anything other than non-Eritrean foreign powers, in spite of their conviction that eradicating the “Secondary Enemy” represented a necessary pre-condition for entertaining any chances of standing up to “Primary Enemies” (and that for the understandable reasons of ethnically stratified loyalties within the nation).


It was this obsession and the realization that the nation (of ethnic supremacists) was up against a formidable “secondary enemy” that came to define what the new State of Eritrea was to become in the latter years as every major government action became intricately rooted in that obsession. Turning the nation into a training camp for whoever volunteered to give the Sudanese government a hard time and the emergence of Eritrea as the “peace-maker & deal-breaker” blackmailing to pressure the Sudan to change its mind from backing the Lowland & Muslim resistance was a gigantic project that defines the nation to date. Promotion of Eritrea as a regional power willing and capable of fighting the spread of fundamentalism in the region and the eventual branding as the “renaissance” were campaigns that engraved the image of “Haddas Ertra” in the minds of many Eritreans with special effects on the psyche of the Tigrigna elite. Frustration at Ethiopia’s procrastination and reluctance in contributing its share to the PFDJ’s efforts to overthrow the Sudanese regime with the aim of sealing the western border from sneaking “Hamshay Mesri’e” and the resulting feeling of betrayal among the Tigrigna supremacists was (among other things) a critical factor in the regime’s spontaneous reaction to an otherwise negligent transgression by Weyane officials in May 1998.

During the 18 years that the PFDJ wasted on fighting what they defined to be the “secondary enemy”, Eritreans (all of them) gradually found themselves trapped in an ever intensifying and expanding spiral of horrors (and an undeclared civil war) as guidance for government action came less from insight and more from frustration with a “secondary enemy” that would never die. Gradually expanding military operations by the Lowland & Muslim organizations (to some extent varying with fluctuations in the Eritrean-Sudanese relations) had practically paralyzed the Western Lowlands and semi-liberated territories in parts of Barka, Sahel and Senhit, where no government official would think of visiting without the company of heavily armed soldiers, had started to emerge as early as 1993.

Two important developments declared the official beginning of the showdown with the “secondary enemy” in 1994: (1) the EPLF was replaced by the PFDJ and with that what was described as the “new breed” of cadres, including the Kishas and the monkeys of the supremacist core, declared war on the old guard (within the organization) and gained the free reign they desperately needed to devote the whole state structure into the pursuit of narrow ethno-centric agendas; (2) the military operations of the Islamic organizations and their intensive diplomatic campaigns in the Middle East facilitated by the Sudan’s NIF regime had reached levels that motivated an increasing flow of funds and fighters from the Arab world threatening to expand the conflict to dangerous proportions.

The magnitude of the reach of the gang of ethnic supremacists, “the new breed” that sneaked to hijack the PFDJ and to purge it of any traces of nationalistic hangovers from the EPLF, is one of the most guarded secrets of the supremacists. It is only prudent for Lowlanders & Muslims to base their preparations for the inevitable showdown on scenarios that leave no room for underestimations. Some basic facts are, however, well known to all those who have followed developments within the PFDJ regime through the years, starting with the fact that by late 1994 (following the congress) a ghostly government of experts within the “President’s Office” mirroring the mandate of almost each and every ministry had already started pulling the rugs from under the feet of the last remaining strongholds of the old guard: the ministries. Early manifestations of the emergence of this mysterious entity appeared in the form of competitive animosity on increasingly overlapping responsibilities between the Macro-Policy Office and almost all the economy & resources related ministries; between the PFDJ and the Ministries of Local Government and Foreign Affairs over control of regional governments, embassies and Eritrean communities in the Diaspora; and between the President’s Office proper and power centers within the Military and Security structures. Those who won the contest were Tigrignas and those who lost were predominantly Tigrignas (just a note for those who are selling the idea that our reference to “Neo-Nazis & Supremacists” is a blanket for all Tigrignas).

Very soon it was the President who would lecture the Minister of Agriculture, for instance, on what pesticides to apply in which specific project; it was the President who would give the Minister of Public Works expert advice on what building materials were best suited for Eritrea’s environment in the construction of a specific bridge; it was the President who would kindly inform the Minister of Education that the boarding school in Asmat needed 15 more beds and 14 pillows because one of the students was borrowing a pillow from Haboba; and it was the President who would let the no-clue Minister of Foreign Affairs know that Eritrea had been forced to sever diplomatic relations with Sudan because of problems that the latter had no idea they existed. All that the Excellencies in cabinet of ministers could do was bow down and kiss the boss’s feet in gratitude for saving them the embarrassment of not doing their jobs properly. Do we have any reason to assume that those ministers (who knew the President the way you would know your older brother) actually believed the work to be that of a random dictator running around dictating to them whatever crossed his mind? Not at all! This well justified (and thankfully accepted) rip off of responsibilities intensified by the day and by the time the G15 started to speak out, the weight of each one of them from an operational point of view was nothing more than that of the janitors who cleaned their offices.

Hold on, don’t rush it too fast: proving the incidence of a sneaky, ghostly coup d’état does not prove anything about the ethnic supremacist nature of the regime, as that is what each one of us should conclude for him/herself by noting that the regime is what the regime does. Following the disappearance of the G15 and, in more recent years, we have all seen the emergence (out of the blue) of the tip of the iceberg of the underground structure out in the open in the form of “Operational Zones” composed of military officers with powers not only unparalleled by any ministerial authority but with the guts to defy the President in public. You may consider this outlandish (feel free) but today the grip of the supremacists has grown to such proportions that even President Isaias (the Grandmaster of the Priory) himself is nothing but a helpless spectator and a docile pawn in the games of the Land Grabbers and the Exclusionists. So many know-it-all writers and Halefti-ne’rna-behalti pinheads will come forward in the coming days to try to convince you that the “government of Eritrea” (that has managed to maize its way out of countless local and regional conspiracies during the last 18 years and at least managed to win Baduma on paper) is a collection of a single guy and a number of clueless puppets. Just keep what I tried to explain in the back of your mind whenever you are tempted to accept the proposition of the “one-man- dictatorship” or the popular initials of “DIA” for granted.


The policies of the PFDJ’s ethnic supremacists, their insistence in eradicating the “secondary enemy” and the natural enraged reaction, whose initial symptoms have just started to emerge, combined to set in motion a process whose outcomes are most likely irreversible. The traditional formula of unconstrained peaceful coexistence based on pure goodwill and naïve trust among the component elements of the Eritrean society was completely overturned in the last 18 years. Our insistence to hold on to this primitive characteristic that does not stick any more has denied the nation of the most important infrastructure of natural checks and balances that are critical for the development of transparent and accountable structures necessary for the establishment of any sustainable democratic system in the future. The extent to which the nation is ready for meaningful democratic change will be determined by the extent to which these spontaneously natural ethno-regional checks and balances gather the capacity to actually be able to check and balance regimes that might at any moment fall in the hands of vicious ethnic supremacists.

In today’s Eritrea, holding on to the title of “nationalist”, thinking in terms of the whole nation, and looking away from things that go on in your own ethno-religious environment has become an extremely expensive endeavor not worth the effort for Lowlanders & Muslims, as more stringent conditions requiring one to plug the ears, shut the eyes and seal the mouth from what the ethnic supremacists of the PFDJ are doing have become the minimum that the most vocal among our partners are prepared to tolerate. This selfish and insensitive attitude and the resulting lifestyle of humiliating and disgusting self-denial with unsustainable and hard to adhere to conditions are being promoted as the standard against which good is judged from evil.

As a Tigrigna intellectual, you have a very rare opportunity to make a difference by first recognizing that we, as a nation, are dealing with a much more sophisticated problem of determined supremacists than some would like us to believe and then by getting out of your little shell and acting as an honorable citizen to reverse a phenomenon that is a shame not only to ethnic Tigrignas by association but a stain to the history of a nation that deserves far better. As a Lowlander and a Muslim remember that you are not doing a favor to Tigrignas through appeasement that might only help delay the diagnosis of the disease of demanding supremacist games that have already eaten them to the bone. It is time to reach out to every Tigrigna that you care about and that cares to listen and invite them to join the rituals of exorcising the nation from their own demons. This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

Last Updated ( Oct 22, 2009 )

August 1, 2009

War brews on the new frontier

Filed under: News — eritrearealclearpolitics @ 7:40 am

Michela Wrong

Published 25 October 2007

Michela Wrong reports on the tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea and the war brewing on the new frontier

A grim deadline expires in a few weeks’ time. It will pass unnoticed by the British public, but that doesn’t make it any less important, not just for the two nations involved, but for Africa as a whole. For it sets the seal on an abject failure by the west to ensure that a vital African ally respects international law. And the act of defiance our governments have chosen to ignore will undermine peacemaking on the continent for decades to come.

At the end of November, the frontier separating Eritrea from Ethiopia becomes officially demarcated, in the teeth of Ethiopian opposition. For five years, Addis Ababa has done its best to prevent cement pillars being placed along a line designated by the international Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission in April 2002, a ruling that both states originally agreed was to be final and binding. The exasperated commission chairman, Sir Elihu Lauterpacht, announced last November that if the stalemate continued, the border would automatically count as legally demarcated a year hence, pillars or no.

With that announcement, Lauterpacht in effect told the international community: “We’ve done our bit. The rest is up to you.” Its mandate complete, the commission will disband. Law yers, however distinguished, can do only so much. Ever since it emerged that the commission’s ruling placed the contested town of Badme, of huge symbolic importance as the flashpoint of the 1998-2000 war, inside Eritrean territory, it has been clear that only realpolitik could secure Ethiopian compliance.

Those five years of procrastination did not come cheap for you and me. A UN peacekeeping force has been deployed along a buffer zone between the two states throughout, at a cost to western taxpayers of more than $1bn. All for naught, because a new war now looks horribly likely. Both sides have moved troops up to the border and Ethiopia recently announced that it was considering terminating the Algiers Agreement, which ended the fighting in 2000. The rising rhetoric feels like an ominous countdown to a resumption of hostilities.

Could all this have been avoided? Outsiders often claim both governments are so pig-headed that outside pressure either has no effect or backfires. But the west never tried. A US diplomat friend used to accuse me of naivety when I struggled to interpret governments’ behaviour. “Look at what they do, not what they say,” he would scold. The Addis regime looked at what the west did when confronted by its defiance, not what it said, and concluded – correctly – that it had nothing to fear from continued intransigence.

Since the days of Haile Selassie, giant, Christian Ethiopia has been regarded as the Horn of Africa state the west had to keep onside, too big, too strategic, too poor to ignore. The war on terror buttressed that belief, notwithstanding evidence that Addis Ababa’s aggressive behaviour was destabilising the region.

So, after Ethiopian troops shot nearly 200 de monstrators protesting against rigged elections and jailed the opposition, western donors made only token adjustments to the $1.9bn in funding they give Prime Minister Meles Zenawi each year. Any disapproval Washington might have expressed over Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia rang hollow, given the enthusiastic help it lent the army as it hunted retreating Islamist forces. And Ethiopia’s warning that it might terminate the Algiers Agreement came soon after the US state department said it was preparing to put Eritrea on its list of terrorism-supporting states for its role in Somalia: a green light to Addis if ever there was one. What they do, not what they say.

One doesn’t have to be an admirer of the Eri trean government – undemocratic, stiflingly militaristic, cynically ready to support any rebel group that threatens Meles – to quail at the ramifications of the west’s limp behaviour. By indulging a delinquent favourite, the inter national community has set a precedent other regional bullies will happily follow. We can expect a repeat next door in Sudan, where the government and the rebels have yet to demarcate the frontier separating south from north. The Eritrea-Ethiopia dispute was bitter enough. In Sudan, oil pushes the stakes even higher. Khartoum has already refused to implement a “final and binding” ruling defining the limits of oil-rich Abyei Province. What is the likelihood of its complying with any border ruling that locates oil deposits out of reach in the south?

Africa as we know it is a recent invention. Quixotic and impractical, its colonial frontiers are poorly charted and easily challenged. Fear of the mayhem that would ensue if member states regarded existing boundaries as being up for debate prom pted the Organisation of African Unity, in 1964, to embrace the doctrine of uti possidetis, that colonial borders should remain as they are. The Eritrea-Ethiopia debacle, which will be finalised next month, undermines that principle, weakening future attempts at peaceful arbitration. The message it sends is that “final and binding” frontier rulings are negotiable; and that while minnows must obey international law, large countries with friends abroad can defy it with impunity. There could be few more dangerous signals to send a fragile continent.

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