Habeshanism and its Implication in today’s Eri-Ethio Politics

`[Originally written in the comment section of Awate Forum]

The lesson we can learn from the Habesha case is now very clear and well demarcated.

Habeshanism is a vague idea that has morphed nationality with identity, culture with tradition, way of living with way of thinking etc. It has spoiled the notion of nationilty to a level that the partisans of grand mama Ethiopia used to advance one of the historically closed plan to form Eri-Ethio merged country called “Ethiopia”.

Habeshanism became a way of communication in today’s Eri-Ethio politics. Fanaticism of of political hegemony surpased all the available scales of modern country make-up.

Let me first state my stand on the word ‘habesha”.

Normally I categorize the word “habesha” into two scales of references.

1. Habesha as a general term

2. Habesha as identity

Let me then start with the first.

1. Habesha as a general term

Habesha is a nick-name given by other people (the Arabs) to the people who were living and still are living within today’s geographical location. The area covers the highlands of Eritrea and Ethiopia. I can not say those people identified themselves as “habesha” till they started to migrate and started to be identified as “habesah” by the Arabs.

If we say, “Negro” to all Africans with black skin is a name or an identity exemplifier for people originated from Africa so is Habesha to the people who came from the mentioned above location of today’s Eritrea and Ethiopia.

As today people can proudly say, “I am Neger” so is the notion ‘”habesha” with a similar connotation.

Today, the word “habesha” is indiscriminatory outside the actual geographical location it was originated from. After such a long time, after migration intensified, people started to accept “Habesha” as a common identifier. Before people of the horn faced social catastrophe trade was so common between the people across the sea. The other society were mainly agriculturalists and had contacts with other people and the word habesha was unheard to them and hence never identified themselves as “habesh” but other.

2. Habesha as identity

The Arabs didn’t give the word “habesh” from no-where. There were distinctive characters. There were traits that made these people different from others. Values, tradition, culture, language, skills and properties could be mentioned to the least.

If one society can be ideintifed with certain characterstics, then it is obvious that a descriptive name, “adjective” will be given. Naming can be either originated from the people themselves or from outsiders. In case of Habesha, I didn’t come across any historical references that traces the origin of this name is owned by the people who are named as such. Rather there are well documented historical narrations who talk about these people by refering them as Habesh. Hence, habesha was originally a nick-name/adjective given to certain group of people with well defined characters.

Today, these people use different language: Tigrigna and non-tigrigna speaking people, different religion: christians and Moslems, different countries: Eritrea. and Ethiopia, and very recently more countries are lived by these people, USA, EU, Canada, The middle East, and deep to the rest of African countries.

Within Eritrea for example, some Tigrait speaking people and Bilen speaking people associate themselves with families who are originated from the land of Habesaha though they are not called as “habesha” specifically. Within the same language speaking people, for example, Tigrigna, there are people who don’t characterize themselves as Habesha but belong to other societies.

To conclude,

Habesha is a virtual identity that came into existence way before the Axumite kingdom era. It became a strong identifier after the introduction of Islam religion and the Arabs magnified the hospitality and justice of the habesha people. The habesha people are considered as honest and peace loving people and hence are well known about who they are and from where they come from.

Neither all Eritreans nor all Ethiopians are included within this notion. The people who are identifed long time ago as “habesha” by the Arabs today share big number among the Eritreans and Ethiopians.

In Eritrea, it is hard to know who identify himself as habesha. Jeberti for example, among the Tigrigna speaking moslem society of Eritrea have distinctive characters that make them appear different from the other Tigrigna speaking people. But I never heard them as describing themselves as hebesha people. Islam has hude influence on the living and language terminologies used by Jeberti. I know for example one of the holy places visited by Jeberti people near mendefera, “Abi-Adi” near Mendefera. I visited several times as my brother was living there during his military service days. What I observed was quite interesting and different. The Tigrigna language they speak has different dialect and lots of formal word use. In addition, dressing is different. Housing and and way of living is not different from the other people that I obseved.

I also know know a village in Anseba called “Mai-Deresse”, -Dembe-slam” to be specific,near Dersenai where Mustafa Nurhusien was born. The Jeberti people from Mai-Deresse” – today live mostly in Keren, some in Akordat and few in Asmara. I know these people very well because I was born in the same village. Probably SGJ and Saay7 may know about this village.

I am bringing these examples to mantion that I never heard the word “habesha” being iterated like what SGJ is now saying. All I know was, “they are proud Jeberti” not habesha. Indeed, the lineage of Jeberti is traced back straight to today’s Tigrai. As one can not be a jew through adoption, the same holds true to Jeberti.

To summarize:

Habeshanism is is like Negroism.

If Negroism is defined as “advancement of the interests of black people : advocacy of the cause of equal rights for black people”

Habeshanism can be defined as “Advancement of the interest of the Ethiopian and Eritrean people: advocacy of the cause of equal rights for Eritrean and Ethiopian people.”

Beyond that, it has nothing to do with historical definitions. It is a doctrine that merges two people together and shatters the existence of state-hood. People may honestly defend the word “habesha” like SGJ is doing but I can only say it is naivity. Habeshanism is now a corrupted doctrine, better an ideology that is aimed to unite people using one culture and tradition. Though in its true sense, it could have served for good as its historical records show, such as hospitality, peace loving, trust, lutual respect, etc, today, as a corrupted doctrine and a new ideology holding its pillar as an advancement of “Bigger mama Ethiopia” it buries all the good values of habesha and advances its mission through war and aggression.

Unless we are able to differentiate between hebesha as true values of its original meaning and respect the people who identify themselves as habesha and see beyond for an existence of two countries with their own rights to exist, habeshanism will be the next war of identity that will be errupted for the only dream that existed since the 19th C to form Mama Ethiopia.

The people of Eritrea and Ethiopia could have used the values of the original meaning of habeshanism as it is testified in the Holy Qur’an: the identity that was identified by Prophet Muhammad, the peace loving people and trusted people. It was neither a doctrine nor a political agenda. It was a name given to people to describe who they are, the name only given as an honor.

Therefore, I see Habesha at two levels. habesha as an identity given by other people but no one identified himself as such but accepted the description and as corrupted doctrine that is aimed to advance the hegemony of Mama Ethiopia that is aimed at engulfing the mind of state-hood to form ONE NATION called Ethiopia. I ACCEPT the original form but I reject the later.

A testimony:

Jeberti – people who are living inside Eritrea today are peace loving, trusted, honest, skillful and very religious people whom my family lived among and whom I shared some of their hospitality. these people before lived in the are identified by the Arabs as the land of habesha and hence are Habesha. They were exiled from their original place because of their religious beliefs. The good thing about these people, they carried their values and still they are the peace living, genereous people in their new land. They speak Tigrigna but with different dialect as it is heavily influenced by Islam Religion. But the true essence remains.


++ I have different take on the Jeberti people grievances and I hope I will talk next time in broad but at this time I can say PFDJ has down played with them to fight for an identity. Jeberti are known people in Eritrea but the struggle they are doing to be identified as an Ethnic group is falling to the politics of PFDJ. In a free and democratic society, people have a free choice to be identified themselves in what ever they want. A right to organize and be identified as you want is one of the basic ammendments of human rights. Jeberti people, instead of fighting the dictatorial regime and system that denies all human rights, they are wasting valuable energy and time to define their identity. Jeberti identity is known to everybody. Hence, I call these people to end PFDJ and let basic human rights be installed.

In democratic countries for example like USA, if you want to be registered as an Ethnic group and bring a letter of claim, no one cares about the other details. As far as you fullfill the constitutional obligation, you are granted. It is in this notion that people have Eritrean community, different organizations etc. If I have a right to be called Tesfabirhan Weldegabir, I should have also a right to be identified as what ever I wanted to be at larger level.

Therefore, I call people to end PFDJ rule and fight for a democracy and a right for people to be identified in what ever they want. As far as the law of the land is democratic, anything that takes within the land by respecting the rights of the is right. PFDJ system will not allow it and hence let’s “WEED-OUT” PFDJ.

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