Isaias Afewerki hides behind the term ‘Shaebia’: a selfless servant of the system

As the leader of an authoritarian government, president Isaias Afewerki is responsible for everything his government does. This is one of those very few facts that everyone agrees on — his supporters and opponents.

In spite of this fact, it is not normal for Eritreans to refer to the political system or the ‘era’ of its rule by the supreme leader (like you would for similar dictators like Mengistu or Idi Amin) or at least by its party name (like you would for the Ethiopian Derg or the ‘communists’). Eritreans refer to their system by an abstract name that attributes to the government’s political ideology–which itself is very abstract. The term ‘Shaebia‘ is the natural way of referring to their government. For example, you would caution a friend saying “Shaebia don’t like that.”; you would speak of a government supporter as “She is Shaebia.”; who killed him? “Shaebia killed him.”

Some people try to equate Shaebia with PFDJ, the ruling party, hoping to avoid controversies associated with the pre-independence elements of the current government (which is a hot potato issue and should be avoided whenever possible). But PFDJ does not feel right, and it does not cover the many ways the term ‘Shaebia’ is used. For instance, in the example above it would not be appropriate to say someone is PFDJ. PFDJ is the bureaucracy, it does not represent the ‘spirit’ of the government.

Let me elaborate this point with a true story from 2003 (or was it 2004). A sympathetic military police (MP) was escorting my friend to jail. My friend had publicly confronted a person in a cafe who reported on his brother’s whereabouts to the government that led to his brother’s arrest. A military officer heard of the confrontation and ordered the MP to take my friend to jail (a very normal Eritrean story so far). With a compassionate tone, the MP that was escorting my friend said, “You shouldn’t have done that friend, you don’t do that with Shaebia, they don’t tolerate such things.” My friend angrily replied, “who is Shaebia? is that you? you’re the one taking me to jail. Is it your commanding officer? his boss? who?”. The poor MP muttered with a deep thought for a while and struggling to find the right words he replied, “I don’t think it’s my boss or anything like that, Shaebia is…Shaebia is the spirit.”

“PFDJ is the bureaucracy, it does not represent the ‘spirit’ of the government.”

When discussing Eritrean politics and oppression, people who have not lived in Eritrea may think ‘Isaias Afewerki’, ‘the dictator’. People in Eritrea simply think ‘Shaebia’.

This line of thinking is significant because it hides Isaias Afewerki, the dictator, and obscures the personality cult that is pretty much there.  Isaias Afewerki has successfully managed to make himself invisible behind the Shaebia ‘concept’. In fact, Isaias Afewerki is simply a humble servant of the Shaebia. The appeal supporters and sympathizers see in Isaias Afewerki are that he is, apparently, a selfless servant of ‘the system’. He is a true Shaebia.

To the everyday Eritrean, using the phrases ‘PFDJ’, ‘Higidef’ or ‘DIA’ are as strange as referring to super PACs as ‘independent-expenditure only committees’. More accurate but it is as confusing and non-intuitive as the wordings in Facebook’s Terms and Conditions.

“Shaebia is an amorphous collage of things.”


Shaebia is an amorphous collage of things.

ዝተመላኽዐ ዛንታ ገድሊ (ብ ዮሴፍ ገብሪሂወት)

እዛ ጽሕፍቲ ትርጉም ናይታ “Romanticizing Ghedli (I)” ዘርእስታ ብዮሴፍ ገብሪሂወት ተጻሒፋ፡ ብ 12 መጋቢት 2008 ኣብ መርባእብ ሓበሬታ ኣስማሪኖ ዳት ኮም ዝተዘርግሐት ጽሕፍቲ እያ። ናብ ቛንቛ ትግርኛ ብ ኣዳለውቲ ጋዜጣ መሰለይ ተተርጒማ፡ “ምቅንጃው ገድሊ” ብዝብል ኣርእስቲ ከኣ ኣብ 2008 ተዘርጊሓ ኔራ። ንምርዳእ ይሕግዝ ብዝብል ገለገለ ናይኣተረጋጉማ ምትዕርራያት ገይረ ኣቅሪበያ ኣለኹ። 


ሓደ ካብቲ ቀንዲ ንህዝብና ኣጋጢምዎ ዘሎ ጸገማት፡ ተቐናጅዩ [ካብ መጠን ንላዕሊ ተመላኺዑ] ዝቐርብ ዛንታ ገድሊ ኤርትራ እዩ፥ መብዝሕትኡ ህዝቢ ኤርትራ ነዚ ተጋኒኑን ተመላኺዑን ዝቐረበ ዛንታ ክርሕርሖ ፍቓደኛ ኣይኮነን። ምቕንጃው [ብሓሶት ዝተመላኽዐ ታሪኽ] ንሃገር ክቀትል ይኽእል’ዩ እንተ ኢልና፡ ከምዚ ናይ ኤርትራ እዩ። እዚ ሎሚ አብ ጉዳይ ሃገርና ንዕዘቦ ዘሎና ሓንቲ ሃገር ንሓደ ስነ-ሓሳብ ከተጥፍኦ እንከላ ኣይኮነን (ከምዚ እንተዝኸውን ምሓሸ ኔሩ)፥ እንታይ ደኣ ሓደ ስነ-ሓሳብ ንሓንቲ ሃገር ከጥፍኣ እንከሎ እዩ።

ገድሊን እቲ ምስኡ ተተሓሒዙ ዝኸይድ ናውትን ሓዊስካ፡ ነቲ ንነዊሕ እዋን ኣብ እንግድዑ ጾይርዎ ዝጸንሐ ህዝቢ ከቢዱዎስ፡ ኣብ ክጻወሮ ዘይክእል ደረጃ በጺሑ ይርከብ። እዚ ባዕልና ዝፈጠርናዮ ኣውሬ፡ ሃርጋፍ ሸውሃት ስለዘጥረየ፡ ሸውሃቱ ንምርዋይን ቀጻልነቱ ንምርግጋጽን ነባሪ ዝኾነ ናይ “መስዋእቲ” ባህሊ ክፍጠር ኣድልይዎ። ንሓደ ንጹር ዘይኮነ፡ ደብዛዝን ኣካራኻሪን ሕልሚ ንምውሓስ፡ በዚ ጸይቀ-ግኑን ኣውሬ ሓደ ወለዶ ድሕሪ እቲ ሓደ ክብልዑን ክሃልቑን ኣለዎም። ሎሚ ኣብዚ ናይ መወዳእታ ዕምሩ ድማ፡ ንመላእ ሃገር ንኸጽንት ኣብ ምውጥዋጥ ይርከብ። ሻዕብያ ክመውት እንተኾይኑ፡ ሃገር ድማ ምስኡ ከም እትመውት ኣቀዲሙ ወሲኑ’ዩ። ዛጊት ብዙሓት ኤርትራውያን፡ ክንዲ ነቲ ናይ ሃገር ሱር ሕማሞም ኮይኑ ዘሎ “ገድሊ” ምምራር፣ ገድሊ ድኣ ኣይኹን እምበር ንዝኾነ ካልእ ነገር ክውንጅሉን ሓላፍነት ከሰክሙን ይመርጹ።

እቲ ኣዝዩ ዝገርመኒ ነገር፡ ኣብ ዝኾነ ይኹን ጉዳይ ሃገር ቅንጣብ እኳ ክሰማምዑ ዘይክእሉ ወገናት ከይተረፈ፡ ሓደ ዘሰማምዖም ነገር እንተሎ፡ እቲ ተመላኺዑ ዘሎ ዛንታ ገድሊ እዩ። ዝተመላኽዐ ዛንታ ገድሊ ማለት፡ ንገድሊ ጸጽቡቑ ካብ መጠን ንላዕሊ ምግናን፥ ነቲ ገግናዩ ከኣ ምንእኣስን ከምዘይነበረ ምኽሓድን እዩ። Continue reading

Eritrea: Definitions you have to know

Majority of Eritrean dissidents prefer to write in English. It can be painful to follow Eritrean news and political works if you don’t know certain acronyms and popular non-English phrases. The following list should be useful to those not too familiar with Eritrean political writings.

ELF Eritrean Liberation Front (popularly called Jebha). A nationalist insurgency. The ELF started armed resistance against Ethiopian government in 1961, a year after it was founded. The ELF was the strongest nationalist group until it divided into competing groups in the 1970’s and was finally defeated and pushed out of the country in 1981 by EPLF (the strongest of its splinters).

EPLF Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (popularly called Shaebia) is a nationalist movement that started forming in the late 1960’s early 1970’s and officially formed in 1977. The EPLF defeated Ethiopian army and won Eritrean independence in 1991 . The EPLF renamed itself PFDJ in 1993.

G-15 A group of 15 prominent politicians within the PFDJ party that published an “open letter to the PFDJ” in May 2001. The open letter criticized President Isaias Afewerki. All were accused of treason and 11 members of the group were made to disappear on September 18, 2001, the remaining four were out of the country at the time and still remain abroad.

Ghedli Refers to the revolution and the armed insurgency for independence (1960’s—1991). The word is also used to refer to the era of the insurgency. Tigrinya [ገድሊ]: ‘struggle’.

Giffa The practice of raiding villages or neighborhoods (often at night) to recruit new conscripts and arrest suspected deserters. Giffa was a common practice of the Eritrean insurgencies (1960—1991), and is still a routine practice in Eritrea today. Tigrinya [ግፋ]: ‘to gather’

Halewa Sewra Shield of the Revolution. The internal security service of the EPLF. Tigrinya [ሓለዋ ሰውራ]: ‘guards of the revolution’

Hidri Suwuat Dream of the martyrs. Tigrinya [ሕድሪ ስውኣት]: ‘what our martyrs have entrusted us with’.

Isaias Afewerki President of Eritrea since 1993 and leader of the EPLF since 1975. Referring to persons with first name is proper in Eritrean culture and it is not common to refer the president by his last name.

Jebha Popular name of the ELF. Arabic [جبهة]: ‘Front’.

Menqa Dissident political grouping of mostly university students within the EPLF that started around 1973-74. The Menqa group allegedly accused the EPLF leadership of undemocratic behavior, all were made to disappear by the EPLF. Tigrinya [መንካዕ]: the animal bat.

Mieda Referring to the Ghedli revolution. Tigrinya [ሜዳ]: ‘Field’.

PFDJ People’s Front for Democracy and Justice. Formerly EPLF, it is the only party in Eritrea.

Shaebia Popular name of the EPLF and PFDJ. Arabic [شعبي]: ‘Popular’.

Tegadalay A common way of referring the Ghedli era soldiers of the insurgency (Feminine Tegadalit). Tigrinya [ተጋዳላይ]:  ‘Fighter’.

TPLF Tigray People’s Liberation Front. Ethiopian insurgency that overthrew the previous administration and assumed power in 1991. TPLF was a partner of the EPLF during the insurgency and an ally of PFDJ until the 1998—2000  Eritrea-Ethiopia border conflict.

Warsai A common name referring to the new generation national service conscripts. In contrast to the older generation of revolutionary fighters. Tigrinya [ዋርሳይ]: ‘One who inherits’.

Warsay-Yikealo the Warsay-Yikealo Development Campaign (WYDC) which was implemented in Eritrea two years after the end of 1998—2000 border conflict with Ethiopia. The campaign extended the 18-month compulsory National Service indefinitely. Under WYDC Campaign, conscripts are assigned work (military or civilian work) without salary except a nominal pocket money of 145 to 500 Nakfa. Conscripts who refuse to work are treated as military deserters and punished. Tigrinya phrase [ዋርሳይ ይከኣሎ] can be translated as: ‘The inheritor is all-capable’. (see Warsai and Yikealo)

Woyane A common name referring to the TPLF. Tigrinya [ወያኔ]: ‘revolution’.

Yikealo A less common name referring to the Ghedli generation of fighters (Tegadalay is more common), as opposed to the new generation of conscripts Warsai. Tigrinya [ይከኣሎ]: ‘all capable’ or ‘almighty’. (The traditional Tigrinya male name Yikealo is in reference to God, not insurgency fighters).

Accepting the gift, rejecting the giver: Eritrean independence

Every Eritrean owes his or her citizenship to the current government.

I was in first grade when the brave triumphant revolutionary forces (the EPLF Tegadelti) marched into the city in 1991, ending decades of civil war and three decades of liberation struggle.

How does one accept the gift but reject the giver? The independence we so deserve was brought about by cruel and lawless bandits*. This is at the heart of Eritreans’ dilemma.

The common Tigrinya saying “ተቐባል ሌባ”, meaning whoever accepts goods from a thief is a thief himself, is overly simplistic to explain our dilemma. The saying assumes the “goods” one is accepting or buying from the thief is not rightly his in the first place which makes the verdict relatively meaningful.

In the case of Eritrean independence, the ‘liberators’ are outlaws because of how they fought the ‘good-fight’. To mention some of the morally repugnant practices that gave birth to our precious independence:

  • Widespread practice of slavery: raiding villages to ‘recruit’ soldiers to fight in the front lines. Killing or torturing those that dared to refuse to participate. (The “Stop National Service/Slavery in Eritrea” campaign should back me up on this).
  • Abduction and use of child soldiers: Routinely rounding up and ‘recruiting’ the underage to the army. Testimony of Yordanos Haile Michael is in no way an exception. (By the way, many Eritreans are happy to defend and downplay this practice, repugnant. Current practices are harder to swallow though [1])
  • Widespread practice of extra-judicial killings: Executing soldiers within their ‘army’ for asking too much questions. Assassinating civilians in cities that did not support the insurgency for one reason or another.

I only mention these because these are the most widely practiced and most undisputed atrocities of the insurgency that handed us our citizenship.

The matter of rejecting the outlaws and condemning their outlaw practices makes an Eritrean feel uneasy and a bit hypocritical.

Can you accept the hard won gift of independence and at the same time acknowledge the atrocities the gift-giver has committed to get you that gift? Alternatively, Can you reject a gift that you so deserve; a gift that was taken away from you by violence simply because slavery and child soldiers were used to retrieve that gift?

President Isaias Afewerki delivering speech on the occasion of speech on the occasion of the 23rd Independence day celebrations. Also the 23rd year of his presidency.

President Isaias Afewerki delivering speech on the occasion of the 23rd Independence day celebration, May 24 2014. President of the state for the past 23 years and commander in chief of the armed forces (former insurgency) for 39 years.

*“cruel bandits” not meant to describe individual fighters who gave all they have believing the EPLF’s propaganda.

{This article is also published at}

ዘመነ-“ሻዕብያ” ኣምጽኦ ቃላት


ኤርትራውያን ሎሚ: ቋንቋና (ፖለቲካዊ ቋንቋና) ብብዙሕ መዳያቱ ኣዝዩ ድኹምን ኣዝዩ ዘይገላጽን ኣብ ዝኾነሉ ግዜ ኢና ዘሎና::

እቲ ሓያል ጸሓፊ ጆርጅ ኦርወል ብዛዕ ብልሽውና መንግስታት አመልኪቱ: ምስ ብልሽውና ፖለቲካ ተተሓሒዙ ዝኸይድ ብልሽውና ናይ ቋንቋ ኣሎ: ይብል::[1] ንጨቆንቲ ስርዓታት ንምርዳእ: ነቲ እቶም ስርዓታት ዘተኣታትውዎ ሓደሽቲ ቃላትን ዘይንቡር ቋንቋን ቀው ኢልካ ምስትውዓል የድሊ: ይብል::

ቀጺሉ እቲ ጸሓፋይ: ብልሽው ቋንቋ ፍረ ብልሽው ፖለቲካ ጥራይ ኮይኑ ደው ኣይብልን’ዩ: ይብል:: እንታይ ደኣ: እቲ ብልሽው ቋንቋ ብወገኑ ንዝያዳ ዝተበላሸወ ፖለቲካ መሰረት ይኸውን:: በዚ ኸምዚ ብልሽው ፖለቲካ ንብልሽው ቋንቋን እናደረኸ: ብልሽው ቋንቋ ብወገኑ ኸኣ ንብልሽው ፖለቲካ ሓጋዚ እናኮነ እቲ ዓንኬል ይቕጽል::

ፖለቲካዊ ቋንቋና ድኹምን ጋሕማጥን ዝኾነሉ ምኽንያት ኣተሓሳስባና ከምኡ ድኹም ስለዝኾነ’ዩ:: ግናኸ እዚ ፍረ ድኹም ኣተሓሳስባ ዝኾነ ድኹም ቋንቋ ብወገኑ ነቲ ኣተሓሳስባና መሊሱ ድኹም ንክኸውን ሓጋዚ ተራ ይጻወት::

ከም ርእይቶ ጆርጅ ኦርወል:- ፖለቲካዊ ብልሽውና ንምዕራይ ብቐዳምነት ነቲ ቋንቋ ብምዕራይ እንተጀመርናዮ’ውን የምሕረልናዩ::

እስከ ኣብ ጉዳይ ኤርትራ ንፈትኖ:: ንአብነት: “አገልግሎት” ወይ ውን “ታዕሊም” ዝብላ ልሙዳት ቃላት ክንዲ ንጥቀም በቲ ትርጉመን ዝኾነ አጸዋውዓ “ወተሃደራዊ ዕስክርና” እንተተኪእናየን ዕላልና ከምዚ መሰለ:-

“ኩሉ ኤርትራዊ ክዕስከር ግድን’ዩ: ወይ አብ መዓስከር ሳዋ ወይ ዊዓ”:
“እቲ ዕስክርና ብሕጊ ን 18 ወርሒ ጥራይ’ዩ ዝነበረ”:
“ኣብ ዕስክርና ክንደይ ዓመት ገርካ?”:
“ኦይ ንሱ ደኣ ዓስራይ ዙርያ እንድዩ ተዓስኪሩ::”
: ወዘተ.

ትርጉም “ግፋ” ብሕጽር ዝበለ:- “ናይ ምንግስቲ ፍቓድ ወረቐት ሒዞም ንዘይተረኽቡ ሰባት ብኣልማማ ብሓይሊ ብረት ኣስገዲድካ ናብ ቤት-ማእሰርቲ ምውሳድ:” እዩ:: አብ ክንዲ “ግፋ” ትብል ቃል “ማእሰርቲ” እንተንጥቀም ከምዚ ምበልና:-

“ሎሚ ንግሆ ወተሃደራት አብ ገዛውትና ን ብዙሓት ኣሲሮም ወሲዶሞም:: ልዕሊ ክልተ በጣሕ”:
“ጽባሕ ንግሆ አሃዱና ክትኣስር ክትወፍር’ያ::”
: ወዘተ.


02/01/2013:- ኣብቲ ኣርእስቲ “ሻዕብያ” ክብል ከለኹ: ነዚ ንኤርትራ ዘመሓድር ዘሎ ስርዓት ማለትይ እዩ:: ምናልባሽ ነዚ ዘሎ ስርዓት “ሻዕብያ” ምባል ትኽክል አይኮነን ንዝብሉ ወገናት ይቕሬታ ይሓትት:: እንተኾነ ግን: ኣብ ውሽጢ ኤርትራ ልሙድ ዘይኮነ መጸውዒ (ከምኒ “ስርዓት-ህግደፍ” ወይ “ውልቀ መላኺ ኢሳይያስ” ወዘተ.) ክጥቀም ኣይመረጽኩን:: ደሓር ከኣ ብዛዕባ መን ንዛረብ ከም ዘሎና ርዱእ ክሳዕ ዝኾነ አክንዲ “ሻዕብያ” ዝብል ቃል “እዚኦም!” ብዝብል ተኪእና እንተኣንበብናዮ ውን ጸገም የብሉን::

The Ten Commandments, Eritrea Style

PFDJ commandmentsx

I. You shall have no other gods before me, the ruling party, who brought you liberation.

II. You shall not have for yourself political parties.

III. You shall not take the name of martyrs in vain. Lest you blaspheme against martyrs’ legacy–the ruling party.

IV. Remember to celebrate. Three hundred sixty and three days you shall labor without pay, but celebrate and dance during the National holidays. Lack of jubilation is but a protest.

V. Honor your appointed officials, that your days may be peaceful in the land.

VI. You shall not murder. Aim shots below the knee.

VII. You shall not commit adultery. Lest you compete with your colonels and officials.

VIII. You shall not steal. The land and its fruits are consecrated to government.

IX. You shall not bear false witness. Why prolong your torture.

X. You shall not covet freedom and life. These are the seeds to all illegal border crossing.

Eritrea my enemy

coat_of_arms_of_eritreaAs long as the definition of the word ‘enemy’ continues to be something like: “one that is antagonistic to another; especially : one seeking to injure, overthrow, or confound an opponent” (Merriam-Webster dictionary) then the totalitarian government back home is my enemy. And an enemy to all those it has deliberately and systematically been antagonistic to and has injured.

My title reads “Eritrea my enemy” precisely because the government is my enemy. It has declared war on me when I was minding my own business. They wanted to make me a slave, and actually did make me one–for over four years. The threat of disobeying was arrest, torture and to many, death.

Get this through your, dear reader, any one who refuse to serve for extended, indefinite number of years without pay is threatened with years in torture camps and death! Am I telling you something you already didn’t know?

So unless one is mentally challenged, the illegitimate government of Eritrea has declared war on its citizens. In simpler language, the administration is your enemy. Surprise, surprise, right. The sad thing is I see many sophisticated people who have not come to understand this simple fact, don’t get me wrong they understand the facts, but they miss the conclusion. And hence don’t feel the emotion that is associated with this fact, and don’t have the attitude when approaching this fact.

So what is ones’ response to be to one’s enemy? Regardless of how you choose to respond, that does not affect the fact that they are your enemies.

The late Woldeab Woldemariam concurs with me in his choice of the word ‘enemy’ in a newspaper article he wrote in 1951, “I am an enemy to any kind of slavery, in all its shapes and colors” (This was before 2001 which means the independent news papers were still printing in Eritrea).

The system in Eritrea is my enemy. And regardless of which strategy you choose, you should treat them as enemies, intent on harming you and destroying you.

They did not change, and that’s the problem.

{This is revised version of my article at}

An EPLF Fighter-actor performing in a propaganda show in Europe in 1980’s

An EPLF Fighter-actor performing in a propaganda show (Europe, 1980’s)

“Did we choose to be rebel fighters because we like it?” a soldier of the Eritrean Peoples’ Liberation Front (EPLF) asks his fellow soldiers during a performance of 80′s,

“NO!” the soldiers shout at the top of their lung.

“Were we born this bitter and cruel” he asks again, and again he is met with the same cry, “NO!”

The performer then recites a poem detailing the gruesome everyday life the rebel soldiers (Fighters) endure.


The Eritrean armed struggle (the Ghedli) was at best a horrific path that was taken only for lack of choice. At best it should be remembered with “Thank God it’s over! Now we can have what we fought for: our civilian life! Our true identity!”

God forbid it be remembered as something pure, or the history recited with a nostalgic tone.

Since the revolution was taken to protect Eritrea, then the Eritrea the struggle set out to protect is to be found in the civilian population.

In today’s Ghedli created Eritrea, The “destination” (removing oppression and injustice, preserving Eritrea’s culture and identity, etc.) stands dwarfed compared to the “path”—the Great Path. So much so that it is worth taking away parts of the “destination” for the sake of protecting the Glorious Path. A path, a horrible path, that was justified ONLY because it was the only way to the “destination” (at least that’s what those who paid their life on the path were led to believe).

I have lived and worked among EPLF Fighters (ex-Fighters). Often ex-Fighters will tell you that they witnessed, and often endured plenty of abusive treatments, but they accepted it then because the struggle (Ghedli) was an extraordinary time.

No one doubts there was no freedom or democracy in Ghedli. The absence of freedom was justified in the minds of many because the Ghedli was a military organization. An army commander does not ask his soldiers to vote on best strategy. Similarly a colonel is not appointed by public vote.

Therefore, for many Fighters it was not so outrageous that there was absolutely no freedom in Ghedli and that the line between dis-obedience and treason didn’t exist. The problem is that this Ghedli-machine took power in 1991 and did not change. In-fact independence was just a massive expansion of the Ghedli military organization. At independence the Ghedli military organization simply “acquired” the nation.

The problem is not that they changed after independence; the problem is that they did not change.

The Ghedli-organization’s attitude towards the newly ‘acquired’ nation started to manifest soon after independence. A clichéd statement that was the opening paragraph in almost every speech by EPLF officials was, “Kab bado ziterekebnaya hager” which translates to, “The nation was ‘zero’ when it was handed to us.” This statement was primarily in reference to the nation’s economy. However, often than not, the usage was in reference to the overall state of the nation: especially in reference to the civilian culture, work ethic, educations system, and so on; things they thought (and still think) the Ghedli culture was superior in.

So the problem is not that they changed after independence; the problem is that they did not change as many expected.

One good example that shows Ghedli organization did not change (except in name) is the issue of the so called G-15. In early 2000’s, a group of government officials (the 15 being most known) decided to question the president on few issues of accountability. They were promptly disappeared. This is exactly what the Ghedli organization did in 1973-74 when some in its leadership decided to question the lack of democracy. Those who dared to question, commonly known as the Menkae, were disappeared.

All the things we are complaining about: the inhuman cruelty, the oppression, the absence of freedom, etc. existed before independence during Ghedli era. There were underground dangerous, corrugated iron prisons, incommunicado imprisonments, disappearances, … you name it. All the “Otto” and “Helicopter” and “Jesus Christ” torture techniques were not invented after independence by the young ‘Warsai generation (maybe they were re-named by them). Execution and disappearance of dissenters (real and suspected) was just as common during Ghedli, if not more common.

It’s common to hear many ex-Fighters remark, “We never thought your generation would have to go through what we went through.” Such statements go a long way to express the surprise (and disappointment) that things did not change as they had hoped would.

I have found zero evidence that suggests the Ghedli-organization has changed. On the contrary they remain the same.


At this point I want to clarify myself that it is not my intention to side with one or the other of the two ideological sides among the Eritrean opposition (i.e. the Ghedli-Romantics or the Young-and-Disillusioned). For me they both agree on the illegitimacy of the current government. Both sides believe the administration is rotten and want to see it crumble down as soon as possible. As I understood it they disagree on “when” exactly the Ghedli-body (as opposed to the Ghedli-administration) was pronounced rotten. I hope this piece of writing does not get entangled in that argument.

So why am I interested to write about this? Because I believe there is a dire need for the opposition to win Eritreans on the intellectual level.

So far Shaebia¹ (now Eritrean government) have been victorious. Shaebia are excellent liars (excellence being measured by how much people one got to believe the lies). Shaebia’s propaganda capacity is no match for our society’s intellectual capacity. They would win even both hands tied.

I believe the battle is in opening peoples ‘eyes’. That’s why Shaebia, like all tyrants, are more scared of their own population discussing ideas freely than they are of any foreign government. Violence or non-violence, there is no doubt that the intellectual battle has to be won.

One of the pillars of lies that Shaebia has erected in the past decades is a lie that Ghedli identity is a typical Eritrean identity. This lie has been repeated over and over many times that it is now assumed true by many. This lie has paved the way for other bigger lies.

One good example is the term “Warsai”, a common name that Shaebia has dubbed Eritrean youth. Its meaning: “one who inherits”.

Effectively the Shaebia government measures our maturity with how close we come to becoming like Ghedli-era EPLF Fighters (“Teghadelti”). The danger of this type of attempt to change our identity becomes more catastrophic when you consider what identity (norms, values, ethics, religious conviction, culture, etc.) the youth have to give-up in order to ‘inherit’ the Ghedli-identity. Basically they have to sacrifice their indigenous civilian identity—i.e. their Eritrean identity.

Regardless of whether the Ghedli culture was justified or not back then, there is no doubt that it should have no place in today’s Eritrea.


[1] “Shaebia” is the popular name of the EPLF, the organization now in power in Eritrea. If you don’t like the usage of the word “Shaebia” replace it by anything you like: EPLF, PFDJ, Tegadelti, or just remark, “eziom!” every time you see the word. It’s all just semantics after all.

e-Book: Romanticizing Ghedli

“the whole nation is targeted as dispensable material for its sustenance… when [the revolution] started, it was to serve the nation; by the end, the nation is made to serve the revolution.” – Yosief G.

Click image to download PDF

Click image to download PDF


I decided to share it in an e-book format (with permission from the author, of course) with the hope to reach a wider audience, and also with the hope it will be easier to print or keep in a collection.

I remember when this article by Yosief Ghebrehiwet first got my attention. I was still in Eritrea under the claws of the beast. This article was passed on to me ‘under-the-table’ with great discretion by a friend (now safely in Europe). It had created an unforgettable impact and was the subject of discussion for a long time among my friends then. Reading this article recently, I was reminded how enlightening its message is. A must read article!

Below is an excerpt, and a reason why everyone should read. [Note that “Shaebia” is a common name that refers to the ruling party, formerly EPLF and now PFDJ].

“Shaebias disrespect for the Eritrean masses has no parallel in history; it neither discriminates nor knows any limits. There is not a single population group that has been spared from its contempt. All that one needs to do is compare its acts with those of previous government to see the alien nature of Shaebia.

“…It holds all religions in Eritrea in utter contempt. It stops at nothing in order to bring the main religions under its control, bans all minority religions and imprisons thousands of their followers, demotes and arrests the Coptic Patriarch and even conducts “giffa” [conscription by abduction] of priests and deacons in monasteries. To see the extent of contempt that Shaebia has for the Coptic Church all that you have to ask yourself is when was the last time the last two incidents ever happened to the Church. Neither Haile Selassie nor Menghistu ever contemplated it. And when it comes to the forceful recruiting of priests into the army, it never occurred in the 1,700 history of the Church in the region!

“… Now think of all the trauma the Warsai [young] generation has been subjected to: the deliberate destruction of the educational system; more than a decade of slavery (which includes the sexual slavery of many women); a senseless war that killed tens of thousands and maimed more; an exodus of epic proportion, one that has emptied the land of its youth; etc. And to add salt to injury, their parents have been subjected to unheard of cruelties for acts committed by their adult sons and daughters.

“Again, to assess the extent of contempt that Shaebia shows for the youth of the nation, ask these questions: When was the last time you heard a nation dismantling the only university it has ever had in order to contain its youth? When was the last time the Eritrean parents had been subjected to such atrocity? When tens of thousands of the youth flocked to mieda [to join armed rebels], neither the Haile Selassie government nor Derg ever arrested or penalized their parents. Only an alien entity like Shaebia that has no values whatsoever would ever entertain to take such steps.”

Note: I know this article is not kind on “Jebha”. Although I find this article’s analysis of the Eritrean civil war convincing, I personally shy away from Jebha-Shaebia arguments because, (a) I don’t have enough knowledge on that topic, and (b) it is often too emotionally charged.