iii. Demolishing a Church: the case of “Abdella”
An individual activist for the cause of Eritrean Afar people in particular and Eritreans in general, whose first name is Abdella and his facebook profile nickname Red Sea Afar(check the video below) is among those few who are repeatedly mentioning Tigrigna speaking people. Is originally from the Dankalia Region of Eritrea (lowland) and now living as a refugee in Finland(EU). He is among those who continuously advocate against the Tigrigna highlanders. In several of the live video he has openly advocated by saying, “Tigrigna speaking highlanders are not welcome to live in Dankalia region.”
Though he is an independent activist and his opinions reflect only his and none of whatever he is associated with, he discloses his association with a political organization called RSADO. Nevertheless, his activities might have a reputational damage to RSADO unless RSADO takes initiatives to correct his mistakes.
His main advocacy work focuses on the Afar rights and autonomy of Dankal region under the banner of “Dankalia for Afar people”. I do respect his plea for the Afar’s rights and I am an ardent supporter of Afar struggle for their human rights and rights to self-govern their own affairs within the sovereignty of the country. However, I do not support discrimination policies, in any form, to be applied in any region of Eritrea. Dankalia is an integral part of Eritrea’s sovereignty and every Eritrean should be treated equally everywhere.
In contrast to the above principles, I have followed some irresponsible and discriminatory campaigns by “Red Sea Afar” in several live presentations he had broadcasted through his private facebook channel. In several of his broadcasts, it is clear to observe his discrimination against the Tigrigna speaking communities of Eritrea. He expresses his favor of one social group of Eritreans(Example – Jeberti) over the other. This is a potential case for discrimination. And, if such campaign continues, it may nurture the sense of hate towards a certain group of people in the future.
Though he asked an apology publically, in one of his presentations, he openly sent a warning message to the Christians either to demolish or convert into other uses any church(es) that are found in Afar land simply because he was claiming Afar people do not need them. This is a serious clue how far this person can go against one group of people, especially the Tigrigna speaking highlanders. I am saying this because the political organization he is associated with[RSADO] has a good working relationship with Eritrean Lowland League.
B. Civic Associations
i. Members of Jeberti Civic Association
Though Jeberti Civic Association claims its primary objective is to fight for the rights of Jeberti Community in Eritrea to have a separate ethnic group by separating from the EPLF invented Social clustering system, in many of their works, it seems they have much more complex issues.
In a book published by one an individual person whose name is Dr. Mustafa Lysedie, it has a strong allegation against the Seraye inhabitants. The book was first published in 2014 under a title “መን እዮም ኤርታውያን ጀበርቲ” with about 350 page. And, there is a new version which is available now for sale at amazon.com under a new title “ኤርትራውያን ጀበርቲ – መበቆላዊ ድሕረ ባይታ”. A book review about the first version is given here in an audio form
I have not read the two books yet. But, what is presented by Jeberti According to the book titled, “መን እዮም ኤርትራውያን ጀበርቲ? (ሓድሽ ሕታም – ኤርታውያን ጀበርቲ – መበቆላዊ ድሕረ ባይታ መበቆል – Who are the Eritrean Jeberti? – Eritrean Jeberti – Background of the Origin – Genealogy”, the Jeberti people who happen to live in Awraja Seraye were driven out from their ancestral land simply because of their religion, which is Islam. According to Dr. Mustafa Lysedie, those who committed such actions(may be a crime) came from Agaw – Lasta in the 14thC and expanded their occupation by replacing the native people who were Muslims. Not only this but also Dr. Mustafa Lysedie has put a claimed Jeberti are majority Beja Descendants.
- An old version of the Book cover
The book is endorsed by those who are currently active in the Jeberti Ethnic Rights Advocators group. In addition, Jeberti Ethnic advocators have tried to file an Ethnic cleansing claim against the current ruling regime of Eritrea to UNHCR (or Can be downloaded from here Refworld Eritrea Treatment of Jebert..) Such a claim has serious consequences as it could be a potential accusation against ethnic cleansing that is continuing against the Jeberti people since the 14thC. Being an Eritrean and advocator of Human Rights, I can not see such claims lightly.
PFDJ is a brutal regime. When it comes to its crimes, it has no preferential treatment. It has committed systematic and widespread crimes against humanity since 1991 as it is confirmed by a Special Rapporteur of Human Rights Commissioner of Inquiry – Eritrea(COI-E). The crimes committed by PFDJ is reported at the UN Human Rights Commission found in Geneva in 2015 and the report was approved in 2015. I think there is no special mention of ethnic cleansing that targets Jeberti community. And, I believe the Jeberti people have welcomed the COiE report of 2015.
What remains is the allegations against the historical crimes that is written in the book prepared by Dr. Mustafa. I hope the Seraye people will sit and discuss with the Jeberti Ethnic Rights Advocators and resolve such serious claims.
Some of the feedbacks given through concerned Eritreans include ኣብ 21-ክፍለ ዘበን ታሪኽ ክጥምዘዝ ኣይግባእን
There is also another similar allegations against individuals who were active in Eritrean politics in the 1940s. This is my main topic in this article.
ii. Eritrean Lowland League
The Eritrean lowlanders which are now in the course of organizing themselves under the banner of a civic association called, “Eritrean Lowland League”. The association is composed of activists and politicians who came together from Senhit, Sahel, Barka, Semhar and Gash-Barka regions of Eritrea to advocate for the rights of Eritrean lowlanders. They have a number of important objectives which raises long-standing grievances of the lowlanders, especially the forgotten refugees who are living in Sudanese refugee camps for the last 60 or more years. In addition, they are concerned with the highland expansion and land grabbing activities in the lowland area. In general, they are working for the respect of human rights of the lowlanders, like religious freedom, language, and administration systems.
In this line, they have serious issues on land grabbing and expansion activities which they believe it is in favor of the Tigrigna speaking highlanders. Not only this, based on the claims of 1952 Eritrean Federal Constitution, they are claiming the Arabic language was meant basically to the lowlanders. This is a misleading interpretation of the 1952 Constitution. Article 38(1) states, Tigrigna and Arabic shall be the official language of Eritrea. There is no mention of geographical location.
What the Lowlanders Association is accusing is that the Tigrigna elites are the only who are refusing other social groups to have Arabic as their official language. This is out of the context of the 1952 Constitution.
I think the interpretation of the official language use is in line to the association claim emphasizes their notion for “the Muslim Majority concept”. Not only this, the Tigrigna(Highland) elites is specifically mentioned as a target group for historical mistakes committed during the armed struggle(as shown in Figure below). Such statements need careful analysis and scrutiny otherwise it may have a unprecedented damage in the trust and unity of Eritreans as a whole.
For further references, the complete content of the English and Tigrigna version of the Social Contract prepared by Eritrean Lowland League is attached below.
- ELL’s Initiative of the Social Contract – English version
- ELL’s Initiative of the Social Contract – Tigrigna version
You can also follow my opinion about Eritrean Lowland league provided in the youtube video(below). I pledged my support while pledging to improve those which I believe have a potential to violate human rights if their objective is fully implemented.
Though it is hard to differentiate religion from politics when politics is exploited systematically to advance a religious mission, it becomes more complicated. Often, it becomes the source of mistrust that can develop into a serious conflict. Eritreans are victims of this mix.
Jelal Yassin Aberra & Co. have gone further to mix religion, identity, history, and politics. This is the most complex political discourse. what makes unique is the claim of Jeberti ethnic rights is exploited to advance a greater mission through Jihad of the Pen. The strategy followed is unique in its approach.
Though there is nothing wrong with the style they follow, it needs careful analysis by stakeholders for a greater unity and trusteeship. Otherwise, this kind of sophisticated politics is common among the elites. But, when it goes down into the masses who are unconscious, its effect is usually negative which can be the source of religious conflict.
The case of Jeberti as a separate ethnic group can be better advanced by following universal approach for “The Rights of the People”. There is no need to mess people’s rights in politics.