A Critique by Afar Compatriots to Recent EPDP Editorial

2015-01-03 20:55:05 Written by  The Eritrean Afar State in Exile (EASE) Published in English Articles Read 4110 times

Dear EPDP Editorial team,

This response is in relation to your article posted on your editorial section of your website, http://harnnet.org/index.php/news-and-editorial/epdp-editorial/item/1186-state-failure-and-identity-politics-in-eritrea-is-regional-mobilization-the-answer-1

Titled:  “State Failure and Identity Politics in Eritrea: Is Regional Mobilization the Answer?

Dear compatriots,

Our response will be from the viewpoint of Afar and Afar only. This is not to say we are not concerned about the wellbeing of fellow Eritreans. This will allow for concerned Eritreans to respond from their respective responsibilities and viewpoints.

 Let me begin by saying the views expressed in this article is very troublesome. It’s a huge setback for those of us moderates who strive to reach out across ethnic, religious and regional divide to restore our people’s dignity. The views expressed in EPDP article maybe popular in some corners or websites, but it’s unjust and divisive. It goes against the principle of strengthening the unity and diversity of Eritrea which you claim to defend.

If the intention to write this article was to provoke a thought, or speak about the main source of division among Eritrean opposition groups, or to find lasting and viable solution to Eritrea’s problem going forward, then it has missed its target. Your article and views expressed in it are against peaceful coexistence and building of diversity in Eritrea. It is downright offensive for us, Eritrean Afar.

The case of Eritrean Afar

Like many self governing indigenous peoples in the world, historically the Afar have been attached to their land and region. And historically those who want to exert their power “land-grab” over Afar territory and its people have attempted their ambition to justify their political dominance. Today’s rulers in Eritrea are no exception. What is different here is that, the ruling class in Eritrea and the opposition are in agreement to subdue the Afar indigenous fight to self rule themselves. The only difference is the State of Eritrea is using violent means to remove the Afar, while the opposition uses the scare tactics and demonization using populist propaganda machine.

Failed Ideology and Policy  

To find the root cause of today’s Eritrean political reality, and the underlying issues for regional, ethnical  political divides one can look no further than the ideology of “Dear-Leader/Afwerki”, (“Nehnan-Elamnan), the Elitist,  the supremacists, and the so called oppositions that looks down on Afar and other marginalized groups. What make the Afar less patriotic or less Eritrean than those in the highlands, or the authors of this EPDP article? The Afar and the Kunama have been called the traitors, not committed to the sovereignty of Eritrea, those who want to break up the nation of Eritrea, just based on our geographical locations. We have been called the backwards and the uncivilized since the time of Emperor Haile-Sellasie down to today’s rulers. Our communities have been victimized both during independence struggle and during the last war between the two Tigrignas (EPLF-TPLF).

The Tigringanization of Afar must be stopped

Today, as a result of this racist ideology, the Afar are being systemically removed from their homeland in Dankalia and the regime is colonizing the area with others. To remove the Afar, Eritrea is using mass murder, terror, intimidation and other forms of violence, and is destroying the basis of the Afar economy.

Afar are fleeing Dankalia by the 10’s of thousands. The Eritrean government’s settlement agenda is politically and financially backing the influx of highland-Tigrigna investors to take up businesses, trades, fishing and other traditional afar economic activities to further press forward with its agenda of Tigringanization of Afar people.

There is official government policy to settle thousands of highlanders to areas of Dankalia near Galalu and other areas of the sea in Afar territories. This is underway as we speak. The excuse is that highlands can no longer support a large population, so people are being taken to Dankalia coast. The Afar people have been violently forced out of their homes and businesses because of the widespread aggressive government policy.

The Term “Equal opportunity Oppressor”

The EPDP article mentions, “The regionalists tend to blame the victim (the region that they claim has an upper hand in the current system) for their own political weaknesses.” referring to the Tigrigna suffering under Afwerki’s rule. No one is questioning the Tigringas are not suffering too.

This notion or term, the Afwerki regime being an “equal opportunity oppressor” doesn’t fly with Dankalia’s Afar population. Say what you want to say about the current regime, the Language of Tigrigna still flourishes, the culture and the way of life of Tigrigna ethnic groups still thrives. The government sponsored Tigrigna print media, TV and radio programs are bombarding Dankalia and Afar people daily.  The Afar are losing their Language, their culture, their identity, and the means to survive from their local economy and they’re under constant threat of extinction for their ancestral land. Say what you want to say my compatriots from Tigrigna ethnic group you do not have the threat of extinction looming over your heads. And the suffering is not the same.   

You may classify Eritrean Afar as those who promote their ethnic aspiration “Tribalism, Ethno fascist or regionalist”, say what you want to say, the Afar aspiration for self-rule is not the impediment for building united democratic Eritrea. The Afar are the critical component and critical jigsaw puzzle for Eritrea’s social fabric and nation building. What will destroy Eritrea is the out dated ideology of supremacy and looking down on other minorities as untrustworthy and incapable, and the hegemonic policies that are put in place as a result of these ideologies. Both by the dictator himself and the support base in Diaspora.  

The good example of these policies, are the Eritrea’s land proclamation of 1994, “All Land and Resources belong to the State”, which subsequently found itself in the texts of now defunct 1997 Eritrean constitution. I understand EPDP favors to implement this constitution immediately if they were to rule Eritrea tomorrow.         

Let me explain, why Eritrea's unimplemented 1997 constitution is at odds with Afar vision.  It excludes minorities from effective participation in reformed Eritrea. It suffocates them in institutions that will be dominated by the Tigrigna. It confiscates Afar lands to be disposed of by the dominant large nationalities. All of this is contrary to international law respecting minorities and indigenous peoples (the Afar are both).

The 1997 Constitution contains no provision for the protection of minority rights. The rights of the national communities are nowhere guaranteed.  The Constitution neither provides for any measures for autonomy or self-government of the nationalities (including the Afar), nor does the Constitution provide for guarantees for the small nationalities to participate in the central institutions of the state.  We believe without these guarantees, implementation of the constitution will lead to another form of Eritrean conflict, between smaller nationalities and the large. http://ease.dankalia.org/petition_info

The Afar are simply advocating for their rights, dignity and their rightful place in the country. In no way that should be considered harmful to Eritrea’s sovereignty. I don’t know where that leaves us, as regionalist or tribalist, in the case of Afar, we could be classified as both. The Afar have clearly defined region and a home territory that spans from the tip of Mossowa and stretches down to heart of the Sultanate of Rihayta near Djibouti border. Up until the escapade of Afwerki and his military junta this region was predominantly occupied by one ethnicity, The Afar people. We were not called Eritreans then. But we choose to call ourselves Eritreans because we believe Eritrea can be salvaged from dictatorship and extremist ideology. The afar history in this region predates modern day Eritrea and Ethiopia put together. We have lived in this territory since the time of Mosses (Peace be upon him). If this makes us regionalist, Tribalist or Indigenous, then, so be it. Afar people did not prevent Eritrea from becoming independent state. Afar people’s role during the independence struggle is missing from the history books of Eritrea today. People like Ahmed Hilal, Ibrahim Shehem, Idriss Bolo and others.

No Eritrea without Danaklia and Afar people

The Afar have made their vision known to the world from day one. Dankalia is no small fish in Eritrea’s context. Without Dankalia and Eritrean Afar, there won’t be any Eritrea. Let’s make no mistake about it.  http://ease.dankalia.org/downloads/ease_policy.pdf

If EPDP considers itself the flip side of current regime in Eritrea and really cares about the future of Eritrea, then it should go back to drowning board and abandon the ideology of Afwerki  “all embracing one super ethnic identity”  and get in touch with modern reality of the world, the world of Pluralism, diversity, federalism, mutual respect and coexistence.

End Institutional racism against Afar in Eritrea. For the sake of Eritrea, stand up with Afar people; don’t push them down when they are in need. Afar people are under threat in Eritrea; this threat is coming from one quarter, the Tigrigna expansionism project. The Afar are committed to seeing a strong, sovereign nation of Eritrea. The name calling must stop. Long live the spirit of the marginalised and the despised Eritreans. 

Let’s work diligently to build mutual respect and understanding. Let’s work together to end the brutality against all of our Eritrean people. Let’s open up a dialogue on constitution of Eritrea. Let’s open real heart-to-heart discussions. Let’s together bring about real, sustainable and meaningful democratic change in Eritrea. The road to victory against dictatorship leads out of Dankaila.  

May the year 2015 bring peace, prosperity and justice to Eritrean people.

The Eritrean Afar State in Exile (EASE)

Last modified on Monday, 05 January 2015 21:57