ውልቀመለኽቲ ብዘይ ናይ’ቲ ዝገዝእዎ ህዝቢ ሓገዝ ስልጣ ክዕቅብዎ አይኽእሉን እዮም”

“ውልቀመለኽቲ [ከምበዓል ኢሳይያስ ኣፈወርቂ] ብዘይ ናይ’ቲ ዝገዝእዎ ህዝቢ ሓገዝ ስልጣን ክዕቅብዎ አይኽእሉን እዮም::

(ካብ “From Dictatorship to Democracy” ዘርእስታ: ብ ዳንኤል ረዘነ ናብ ትግርኛ ተተርጒማ ብ ናጻ ዝተዘርገሐት መጽሓፍ::)

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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.

ኣውሊዐይ ናበይ ከይዳ? — ስግረዶብ ይጥርጠር።


ኣውሊዐይ ናበይ ከይዳ?

እታ እንኮ ሓላፍነታ ኣብ ማእከል ባንዴራና ምህላው ዝኾነ ቆጽሊ ኣውሊዐይ፡ ቅንያቱ ንስራሕ ከም ዘይተቐልቀለት ተፈሊጡ። ሃገራዊ ግቡኣ ጠንጢና ብስግረዶብ ተሸሪባ ከይትኸውን ይጥርጠር።

ኣውሊዐይ ንኹላቶም ባእታታት ባንዴራ ኤርትራ ትቕድሞም እያ፣ ብግድምና ። እቶም ካብ ፈለማ 1950ታት ጀሚሮም ዝፈልጥዋ ከምዚ ናይ ሎሚ ብጫ ካይኮነት’ዮም ዝዝክርዋ።

ወግዓዊ መዝገባት መንግስቲ ኤርትራ ንጉዳይ ምቅይያር ሕብሪ ኣውሊዐይ ኣመልኪቶም ዝህብዎ መብርሂ የልቦን፡ ይኹን ምበር ገለገለ ሰባት ሕብራ ዝቐየረት ኣንጻር ውልቀመላኽነት ተቓውሞ’ዩ ዝብሉ ኣለው (ኣነ)። ብምረት’ያ ቐምሲላ እምበር ሕብራ ኣይቀየረትን ዝብሉ ውን ኣለዉ። እዚ ኾይኑ እቲ፡ ኣውሊዐይ ነዚ ሎሚ ዝቐምሰለ ተስፋ ኤርትራውያን ብግቡእ ትለብሶ።


ሓደ ርብዒ መርየት ሓደ ርብዒ ባሕሪ፡ ክንዲ ክልቲኡ ዝከውን ዝፈሰሰ ደም።

ሓንሳብ ሓንሳብ ባንዴራና ትንቢታዊ መልእኽቲ ዝሓዘለት ኮይኑ ይስመዓኒ። ከምቲ ኣብ እዋን ስትራተጂካዊ ምዝላቕ፡ ኣብ 70ታት ኮይኖም ንናጽነት ዝተነበይዎ፡ ከምኡ ደኣ ኣብ 90ታት ኮይኖም ንሎሚ ተነብዮምልና ከይኮኑ? ሓደ ርብዒ ቆጽለዋይ (ሕርሻዊ መርየት)፡ ሓደ ርብዒ ሰመያዊ (ባሕሪና)፡ ክንዲ ክልቲኡ ዝኸውን ድማ ቀይሕ ፍሳስ ደም ኤርትራውያን።

ወረ እቲ ቆጽለዋይ ሕብራሲ፡ እቲ ኩሉ ኤርትራዊ ዝምነዮ ልሙዕ መርየት ኤውሮጳ ደኣ ኸይከውን? እቲ ሰመያዊ  ከኣ ነቲ ናብ ልሙዕ መርየት ክንበጽሕ ክንሰግሮ ዘሎና ባሕሪ መመልከተ። ኣብ ፈተነ ስግረዶብ ዝፈሰሰ ደም ውን ኣይወሓደን። ተነብዮምልና ብሓቂ።

Eritrean Official flag

ወግዓዊ ባንዴራ ኤርትራ (ካብ ፋይል)


We speak therefore we are –Republic no.2

A monthly underground newsletter from inside Eritrea has it’s second issue. Republic, written in Tigrinya language, is critical of the government. Criticizing the government or it’s policies is a crime in Eritrea.
You can download this new issue from here (Repuplic_Eritrea_Vol2).

Click image to download Republic in PDF

Click image to download Republic in PDF

You can follow Republic newsletter on twitter.

Is Eritrea a tiny country?

Eritrea is not quite a tiny country. In terms of land area (excluding water bodies) there are just as much smaller countries in the world as there are larger ones. Although far below the mean, Eritrea covers an area slightly larger than the median.

Eritrea’s estimated population of 6 million is  far below the mean (33 million), but this is because few countries have extremely huge population. By population size Eritrea lies almost at the median of all countries. This means if you were to line up all the approximately 200 countries by their population size, starting from China all the way to Tuvalu, Eritrea would rank 100–give or take a few.

With an area of 101,000 sq. Km (39,000 sq miles), Eritrea lies just above the median of all countries. (Data from World Bank Database).

With an area of 101,000 sq. Km (39,000 sq miles), Eritrea lies just above the median of all countries as shown in this histogram. (Data from World Bank Database).

The 2013 estimated population of Eritrea is 6 million. Just about half of wold countries have population below that. (Data from Wold Bank Database)

The 2013 estimated population of Eritrea is 6 million, just about half of wold countries have population below that. (Data from Wold Bank Database).


The perceived ‘smallness’ of Eritrea that many assume is, I believe, mainly because of its insignificance in world stage (politics, economy, trade, etc.). And not so much because of mere size.

Considering the amount of world news headlines Eritrea is  making (refugees tragedies, kidnappings, organ harvesting, etc.) and the nuisance we have become to far away countries (from Israel in the Middle East to the European Union and UK in the West),  it might not be long before our country’s size is realized. Ironic that we should achieve our dream of world recognition in this way.

By the same standards, Eritrea’s ‘smallness’ is not quite the excuse for the many hardships and conflicts we continue to face throughout our history.

Correspondence with an Anthropologist

(Updated 9/17/2014)

Dr Maximilian Forte recently shared an article which he believes is very important. He shared Sophia Tesfamariam‘s recent blog on Zero Anthropology Facebook page with the following note:

“This article outlines and denounces the work of US anthropologists in Eritrea in US-funded campaigns backing political opposition in the country. The author of the piece [Sophia Tesfamariam] is a prominent Eritrean American activist. Those involved in the AAA [American Anthropological Association] should have a close look and perhaps consider further action.

He later posted an essay at ZeroAnthropology.net explaining why he considers her work very important:

…in light of the controversy that erupted with the publication of Sophia Tesfamariam’s outline and condemnation of western anthropologists working to support regime change in her native Eritrea…

Dr Maximilian Forte is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at Concordia University, Canada.

Given these circumstances, I decided on a quick read of Sophia Tesfamariam’s publication. In her most recent post, Sophia uncovers information on the identity of funding agencies that support the work of several Western scholars that write on Eritrea. To the readers’ surprise she discovered that Western agencies are the major funding sources of Western scholars. Previously this information was only available by accessing the scholars’ academic CV or LinkedIn profile.

As an example, Sophia gives the names and brief outline of nine distinguished scholars: Tricia Redeker Hepner, Dan Connell, Frank Smyth, David Bozzini, Victoria Bernal, Maryan Van Reisen, Jennifer Riggan, Sara Dorman, Kjetil Tronvoll.


Dr. Maximilian C. Forte

Dr. Maximilian C. Forte

As a matter of principle I do not engage with government sympathizers. I believe that anyone unable to comprehend the suffering of Eritrean people until now probably does not deserve my time.

An exception to the rule, I decided to confront Dr Forte. Following is the “correspondence” that ensued in the comment section of his ZeroAnthropology.net posting and continued on Zero Anthropology Facebook page (switched to Facebook after my last comment on the website did not appear): Continue reading

List of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Eritrean prisons: 20 years in prison without being charged or sentenced

Take the pledge to show your support and solidarity with the persecuted Jehovah’s witnesses in Eritrea.

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List of Jehovah’s Witnesses currently in prison in Eritrea

(None have been charged or sentenced. Data retrieved from JW.org on September 2014. Download list in PDF here: List of JW in Eritrea.) Continue reading

Who actually owns the land?—Land tenure systems of Eritrea

‘The resources of the land are neither inexhaustible nor indestructible, as many men and countries have already found to their cost’ (Dale and McLaughlin 1990)

Most Eritreans depend on the land for their survival. How land is owned is of great interest to them, in addition to survival and economics, land ownership also carries special social and political meaning to Eritreans.

Over 60% of Eritrean land is under agricultural use and agriculture is said to employ some 70 to 80% of the population. That would qualify Eritrean society to be an agrarian society (although this “70 or 80%” is most likely an outdated figure—literatures have been quoting the same figure for the past half century without citing current and original source).


Land use categories in Eritrea (data from Kayouli, Tesfai et al. 2006)

Continue reading

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