Eritrean politics breed dictators in the name of national unity?

By Fesseha Nair

I would like to quote from the recent studies made by Kjetil Tronvoll under the title , “ The Lasting Struggle for Freeedom in Eritrea

Human Rights and Political Development, 1991-2009

“ Minority right concerns”

Eritrea is officially described as being inhabited by nine ethnic groups, all diverse in culture, religion,

and activities of production. In independent Eritrea, the government party sustained and even

reinforced its strict nationalist ideology, as national unity became the principal guideline to which all

government policies and development plans were aligned. Consequently, the cultural diversity of the

country appears to suffer, as arguments and claims for the enhancement and protection of cultural or

minority rights are interpreted as undermining and divisive in relation to the official nationalist policy

The legal protection of cultural and minority rights in Eritrea is inadequate, as no publicly known

specific act or proclamation is drafted with the aim to protect minorities or their cultural traditions;

and the Eritrean Constitution makes only limited references to cultural and minority rights.

Within certain areas, the Eritrean governments development policies reflect a socio-historical and

cultural bias, as the highland culture and way of life are apparently dominating in influencing

government development plans and policies. This entails, inter alia, that the way of life of sedentary

agriculturists is taken as a national standard, placing restrictions upon the natural development and

growth of lowland pastoral and nomadic cultures.

The Tigrinya highland culture is also dominating in the educational system and state affairs, as the

language of the civil service and military is Tigrinya.



The so called Eritrea was created by the colonial process of the Western countries from 1890. Eritrea is inhabited by ethnic diversities with different geographical diversity, thus the highland the homeland of the Tigrinyans and the western and eastern lowlands the home land of various ethnicities.( Beni Amr, Habab Mensa, Marya, Baza, Kunaman, Bilen in the west and the Semharites, Afars and Sahos in the East lowlands)

 Historically it was these people of the lowlands who have suffered a lot by the past raids of Tigrean and Ethiopian leaders. When the Italians come to Eritrea, the Tigrean/ Tigrai and Ethiopian plundering was stopped and thereafter become peace in Eritrea. The period of Eritrean colonization was characterized by its tranquil and some economic developments where Eritrean can work and get wages to live and reproduce.


When the Italian rule was over and the British has taken over, many studies about the Eritrean people’s future if they can live by themselves were presented by many scholars, for example, Stephen Longrig, the former military administrator in Eritrea proposed that Eritrea should be divided in parts.( partition of Eritrea)

Longrig, In his analysis, argues that the historical and cultural background of the Eritrean high landers is identical with those in Tigrai and are linguistically identical, therefore, the Christian highlanders with the port of Massawa and the Samhar and Saho tribes form a part of united Tigrai state under the sovereignty of the Emperor in Ethiopia. And the lowland Moslem tribes join Sudan. This proposal of the British policy was rejected by the Eritrean popular movements especially by the Moslems led later by the party of Moselm League while the highland Christian Copitc supported the proposal of partition. Eritrea’s destination at that time was conditioned by its economic incapacity and the movement of those who will be united with Ethiopia plus the claim of Eritrea by the Ethiopian Emperor.


During the British administration due to the political liberal rights, Eritrean began to organize parties. There were more than five political parties with different views on Eritrean politics. The major parties were the UP and ML. The UP was up to 1946 independent from the Ethiopian infiltration but later it was overrun by party leaders collaborating with Ethiopia, Ibrahim Sultan was first unionist but when he realized that the party supports the partition of Eritrea , he protested and formed the ML in Keren.


During the ten years’ of federation, there was a bitter struggle between the ML and UP but in 1960 the UP party succeeded to undermine the federal act and abolished it in favour of complete union. It was the ML that opposed the abolition of the Eritrean Government of that time. The early movements opposed this violation were many unions of students and labour but were smashed by the Eritrean police led by Tedla Uqbit. When the Eritrean people realised that the political means couldn’t succeed their rights organized themselves and started the armed struggle under the name of ELF. ( Eritrean Liberation Front)  Some historians, like Professor Tekeste Negash says that the ELF was the continuation of the ML but this is not true. The ELF has never proclaimed that Eritrea is a Moslem and Arab land but claimed only the lost rights of the Eritrean citizens regardless of their religious and ethnic affiliations. It was in the contrary that the group liberation fighters led by Essyas were intensively using and appealing to the Christian highlanders that the ELF is bandit organization, Moslem and Arab and must be liquidated by any means and by any alliance either with our cousins in Tigrai or Ethiopia. Still the ELF has attempted many times to dialogue with Essayas’s group. But Essayas used many deceiving tactitics until he become powerful alone in the battle field in Eritrea. If ELF was only for Moslems, what about the our gallant fighters from the Christian highlanders who fought on the side of ELF?


Last time our brother Semere Tesfai, in his article, entitled, “  Salim’s Land Argument: A Mirage of Power Ambitioncalled ELF was an organization of Beni Amr, this shows Semere lacks a deep knowledge of the Eritrean Liberation struggle. Here , I am not to respond Tesfai’s article because our brother Amanuel Hidrat has responded it very concisely and scientifically. After the bitter and destructive wars between ELF and EPLF, ELF was defeated militarily but that does not mean the political conflict is resolved. What happened after the independence of Eritrea? As Semere Tesfai and many others have said it , “ That is the EPLF/ christian Tigrinya who liberated Eritrea, you like it or not “you the minority” should be ruled by us and have no rights to speak about Eritrea. Semere will chastise/ punish the minority if they demand their fundamental rights. Where are the other highland elites attacking Ali Salim when he wrote the truth about the grievances of the lowlanders? Where are the genuine protectors of unity? Why are Ali Salim’s arguments and analysis against unity and Semere’s for unity, or this means that the minority has no right to speak about Eritrea?


If this is what Semere and his likes do without power at this time what will they do when they get the power from Essayas?


The majoritarian democracy advocated by the Highland Eritrean elites is a failed democracy that breed dictatorship. Democracy is not that your ethnic population is major therefore has the privilege to dominate others. Democracy is how to respect the citizens rights equally not by population minor or major. Democracy is to guarantee equal rights of citizenship to all through constitutional and legal process.


We are the majority, it is we who sacrificed and liberated Eritrea, therefore, if you don’t keep quiet and start rebellion we will destroy you( Minorities) suggests us that one must be alert on this warning and protect its rights.


The majoritarian politics advocated by highland elites reminds us the Amhara chauvinism of Lema Begebeya. Many Eritrean political elites and academia cry on unity at this time, but if the unity they cry for is to oppress the minority, then is born failed. As the consequences of this failed democracy , the minorities are this time revolting and rearming against the majoritarian democracy,( Afar, Kunaman, Saho, Blin….etc) similarly the revolution of nationalities against the Amhara chauvinism in Ethiopia during Emperor Haile Selassie era.

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3 Comments for “Eritrean politics breed dictators in the name of national unity?”

  1. Getch

    I think you all Eritreas are aware of everything that there is no way out with out Ethiopia and its too late for you to joing back to Ethiopia. God willing hope you will manage yourself in your home this is your homework. and as you know Eritrea will continue as failed state because scientifically it is totally unable to manage itself for it can’t fulfil the critereon to stand as a naation any way it might take you a while ill you recognize that it is totally imposible to have a country called Eritrea. Ofcourse if what is happening now is the way that you need to live in that is possible to live in a failed state with dependent ecpnomy and living on strong countried like Ethiopia. It was tought that the port to be the main asset for your country but I don’t think that is the case you know nowadays there are millions of alternatives that nulify your calculations and that is why you failed to succed in that mathematics.
    All the very best and wish you a peacefull leadership along with your economic weakness


  2. Hi,
    I agree with the ethiopian we are not cabable to rule our country we need help from sudan and ethiopia .From my understunding the remenants of shabia who fled eritrea to save their lives leaving the people in agony are cowards because they were silent for so long and then run away for their lives. I think they are cabable to
    rule . They have been there and they have supporters inside the country . But the result is a bloody civil war because these they are going to be worse than this mafia government . these ganjs are more dangerous , chauvinist and narrow-minded. they have lust for money and power. so instead another century the alternative I see is eritrea to be divivded between sudn and ethiopia then we will get peace of mind- THIS IS MY OPINION

  3. real eritrean

    u know what real Eritreans don’t think like is above comments , what i went to say is Eritrea is strong country that have have a strong minded people in side here so please the all those weak minded comment givers dont be stupid .

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