Eritrean People – The Beni Amir Tribe

Beni Amir Tribe is one of the largest tribal confederation founded by Amir Kunu in the 16thC. It was an association of more than 20 clans which were living in the Barka region of Eritrea.

Tribes of Beni Amir

Figure 1: Families within the Confederation of Beni Amir Tribes

The two most important city centers they had were Akordat and Kassala(currently within Sudan).

Most of the tribes confederated within the Beni Amir leadership were living in the Barka region though they were directly associated with those of Sahel, Senhit and Hamasien.

IbrahimSultanFor example, one of the most important historical figure of the early Eritrean politics, Sheik Ibrahim Sultan, the founder of Al-Rabita Al-Islamia political party belongs to the Rigbat family of Sahel. The same clan is also associated with Beni Amir and identifies itself as Rigbat Barka.

Other clans associated with those of Sahel are Almada, Bet Ma’ala and Asfada.

Ad’Hashela arerelated with the now Bilen speaking families found in Senhit, probabily a family that migrated from Keren and found its settlement there.

Some families within Beni Amir also associate themselves with Zaul of Hamasien though they are not directly refered by.

The Funj (1504 – 1761) and Ja’alin of Sudan had a strong relationship with the Beni Amir people. Their align continued until 1821. This year marks the end of Funj Kingdom in Sudan and Egyptian conquest of the Kassala region. Beni Amir continued their alliance with the then Egyptian controled Sudan and helped Egypt in the conquest of Eritrea by the Egyptians.

During Italian conquest of Eritrea, Beni Amir aligned with Italy in fear of Mahdi. This helped Italy to consolidate its power in the Barka region. Beni Amir formed a strong bond with the Italians.

AwateAnother notable historical figure of the Beni Amir tribe was Hamid Idris Awate, commonly identified as Awate. Awate was a member of the Italian Army, trained in Italy and served in the army until Italian defeat of WWII(1935 – 1941). On September 01, 1961; Awate became the chosen man to start the armed struggle. Now, he is remembered as a HERO and Father of the Eritrean Armed Struggle that ended in 1991.

Idris M Adem (2017_02_05 09_41_34 UTC)Other notable figures from Beni Amir is Idris Mohammed Adem. Idris Mohammed Adem was member of the 1952 formed Eritrean Assembly. On July 1960, he and other Eritreans established Eritrean Liberation Front(ELF). Idris Mohammed Adem was the official Chairman/President of ELF until 1975.

Therefore, Beni Amir have a very important role in the history of Eritrea.

Currently, most of the Beni Amir people are living in Sudan as refugees. But, now, they have full rights to have Sudanese citizenship and are playing an important role in the East Sudanese political influence.

Though the founder of Beni Amir tribe, Amir Kunu, was originally from Nabtab of the Beja speaking family, due to the influence of those other joint clans, Tigrait became the dominant language. Now, Beni Amir speak mostly Tigrait. Arabic has also an important role in their daily life.

Under the current Eritrean administration system and social groupings, Beni Amir Tribe is part of the Tigre ethnic group. This social groupings is not welcomed by the people.

Tribes of the Tigrait Speaking Families

Figure 2: The existing Social groupings system, the so called Ethnic groups

As a Liberal Democrat, my objective is to dissolve the ethnic classification system and the customary law that unites the tribes thereby creating a free atmosphere of family based society which can promote its history and territory. I would prefer Civic Associations replace the pre-existing Tribal system. Tribal system is unity of local people to form local governments by forming a legal system which is unique for them. These kind of clustering served before Eritrea was formed as a united sovereign country. Hence, only one law should serve the country equally without differentiating between the citizens.

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