Ali Salim's Land Argument: A Mirage of Power Ambition Print E-mail
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By Semere Tesfai, St. Louis, USA. - Dec 10, 2009   

...The main cause for the tantrums is the inability to challenge Ali Salim’s arguments word for word; the next best thing seems to be confusing the issue, dwelling on trivialities…But one cannot present arguments one doesn’t have as the Arabic saying goes: faqid Ashsh'e la Yaatihu.Saleh (Gadi) Johar - Sep 09, 2009

For decades I never followed Eritrean politics seriously, but every now and then I do browse different Eritrean websites to quell my curiosity. I’ve read many articles written by different people, some that I agree with, some that I don’t agree but have great respect for and some that make you say what was he thinking. But given the nature of the Internet, since there are no rules, no moderators or judges, we all have accepted every irresponsible Loose Cannon has every right like everybody else. And that’s a good thing. After all if one person’s right to speak-up his mind is not protected, no body’s right is. Last June when I read Ali Salim’s article, I was shocked beyond belief because I’ve never seen these kinds of articles in my life. I felt so bad I started writing a conciliatory and brotherly article but before I finished my article, Ali Salim wrote another one again, and others added some more, and more, and more, then my Tegadalay Instinct kicked in, looked for pattern and I said, aha, got it. And I decided to respond to his challenge with a very simple straight talk that you can display as a bumper sticker. And I’m going to share my Bumper Stickers to Ali Salim and to the whole world so everybody can see. Trust me he is going to have all the beef he can chew and some more. If Ali Salim wants to challenge back, which I believe he will and he should, I’ll listen with respect, open heart and open mind. And you will be the judge.

Bumper Sticker #1:  There is Chatter…. Alert Everybody…. Break the Code ….. Plan Counter Move

During Gedli time we the Tegadelti and the Ethiopian Army had three types of communication radios. The first one was a small radio that we used at the lowest rank and file at war theatre. Our guard from hilltop would watch physical enemy movements and would inform us what he/she was seeing every ten fifteen minutes. Also Merahti MesarE, Ganta and Haili were communicating each other using these radios. These radios were on all the time since anything can happen at any moment. With these radios, we were able to talk up to five kms. all day using very rudimentary code words. The second one was medium size radio that was carried on the back. These radios were used by mid-level commanders to communicate with their superiors up to 25 kms. distance. On a typical day, the mid level commanders will report to their superiors and receive orders from them three times a day, (morning, mid day and evening). All messages were 100% coded and codes were changed at least ones a month. Without some training I don’t believe you could break the code easily. The third one was bigger and more sophisticated radio usually stationed in one convenient location. It was used once a day by senior commanders and higher political leaders to communicate between regions (Eastern Coastal Regions to the Highlands to Western Lowlands or Khartoum). Ethiopian army also had the same radios (small, medium and big) mostly the same brand like ours (since a lot of them were taken from them) and they were communicating the same way (twenty-four hours with the small ones, three times a day with the mid-sized, and once or twice with the big ones).  

That was during normal days, but every day was not a normal day. When the Ethiopian army was about to attack, there would be a code change followed by a lot of chatter, nonstop messaging on the bigger communication radios followed by nonstop communication on the mid-sized radios, because moving a large army involves a lot of things, from troop movements, logistics, unit positioning, war planning,…. and so on. Then you can bet your last penny, few days later the logistics and planning phase would be completed, the Ethiopian army would make a move and the small radios in the war theatre would jam the airwaves. Therefore whenever there was too much chatter and whenever the airport was busy with frequent taking off and landing of airplanes, our Tegadalay Instinct taught us to be alert, spread out, dispatch reconnaissance teams closer to the enemy, break the code and make a counter move. The moral of the story: if it was one emotional article filled with anger from Ali Salim, I would have taken it at face value any time. But Ali Salim, Mohammed Ahmed and Hamid Salman all at the same time jamming the cyber wave, with identical message and tone for five months straight: my Tegadalay instinct tells me that’s too much chatter, something is on the move, break the code and find out what makes Ali Salim et al tic. Now, let’s break the code and unveil the message behind the chatter:

...stand up and say I AM …….I want an organization that defends my ancestral land against the Land Grabbers (Christian Tigrignas) that have over-flown to Gash and Barka, and an organization that will defend my right to stand in the middle of Kombshtato to preach my beautiful faith (Islam) to others (Christians)… Ali Salim - Sep 03, 2009   

What? What? What?  Did you hear what I heard? Did he say to preach my beautiful faith in the middle of Kombshtato? Did he really say Kombshtato? Preach what? Preach to whom? Am I supposed to be the “others”? I thought Kombshtato was in the Highland, a Tigrigna Land, my Ancestors Land, a Christian Land. I thought you were supposed to preach your beautiful faith, in the Lowlands, in your Ancestors Land, in the Muslim Land. I think you better say your poor choice of words crap again. But let me get this straight, you’re kicking me out from “your Muslim Land” and at the same time you are preaching your beautiful faith in “my Christian Land”? Abu-Elwa, now you got me confused.

Bumper Sticker #2:  Sometimes Things Are Not What They Appear To Be.... It’s All About Power Stupid

To all of us Tigrigna Christians, even though Ali Salim’s angry, emotional, threatening and divisive articles are shocking, equally it is a blessing. Since we don’t know how to read and speak Arabic, it will give us an idea what some of our Muslim brothers are saying on the other side of the isle. I’m saying some because every Muslim doesn’t agree with Ali Salim. Once we are informed, we the Tigrigna Christians will be on the same page with our Muslim brothers to ask the tough questions that will lead us into finding lasting solutions to our challenges. And these are some of the critical challenges. How should we distribute power, resources, services and wealth on proportionality based equality among ourselves in a way that is fair and balanced? How should we live and prosper with trust, respect and peace as neighbors, schoolmates, co-workers, employees and employers without erecting fences and walls among us? After all, we sweat, bleed and died for this country at every square inch of the land equally to our proportion, unified without creating walls and fences as Eritreans first and then as different ethnics, regions and faiths. I believe Ali Salims arguments and challenges don’t pass the test of these principles. But we have to remember there are segments of our population that feels Ali Salim is speaking for them. The way to deal with his argument is not to ridicule him but challenge his ideas. Weak people attack people from the shadow of darkness while confident people who are comfortable under their skin challenge their opponent ideas face to face in public with a real name, and return address, because they have nothing to hide and nothing to fear.

When you are dealing with Ali Salim’s “shock therapy” articles, the first thing that comes to mind is why now? What is different today? What is the motive behind these articles? What is Ali Salim smelling this time that wasn’t there before? What’s cooking in the house today that is making Ali Salim salivate? Why is he giving us I HAVE A DREAM …CHANGE IS….. TIMES HAVE CHANGED..….. Back to back speeches now, not last year, not five or fifteen years ago? You ask these questions not because of their relevance to the issues that he is raising but to understand the motive, the timing and the sincerity behind these messages. And the motive, the timing and the sincerity of these messages is hard to miss. Let’s look:

Change is coming and “YES WE CAN”! Highlanders may either continue to dig holes for themselves and…. keep fiddling with Neo-Nazi the games of deceit while the frustration at their silent conspiracy in the Lowlands brews to a level that invites thousands of jobless Arabs from Iraq who would be glad to roam the nation with big smiles; or…Ali Salim - Jul 24, 2009

Times have changed and the beauty we used to know is no more. It was friends, and neighbors and classmates that slaughtered one another in Rwanda and all people in an instant of anger needed to induce total amnesia of anything beautiful was hours of radio time. If this nightmare does happen, by the time Awate publishes the bad news on Gedab or a curious journalist sends pictures to CNN, the clock will have gone too far to be reversed and the Eritrea that we know will have change beyond recognition. Ali Salim - Aug 19, 2009 

I wouldn’t have a sleepless night because of these articles, I know my people - I’m born and raised in Eritrea - Eritrea is not a fragile nation - my people are not going to wake-up one morning and slaughter each other, but still I want everybody to know what Ali Salim is up to. Ali is politically charged cadre on a mission and he has every right to be. I believe most of the issues he is raising are real issues that need real solutions but he is dead wrong on the diagnosis and remedies of every issue. I’m well aware this article is not going to change his mind and that is not my intention. My objective is to show and prove to all my Eritrean brothers and sisters all the noise, the commotion, the drumbeating, the sky is falling, the Y2K is coming, the end of the world is near, not intended to reach the ears of ethnic Tigrigna audience whatever their political denomination may be, although to an honest naïve person may seem to be that way. It is not even about presenting a problem and alternative solution to the problem that guarantees unity and diversity of our people. To him, this is a campaign season, a potential opportunity to score big. In a campaign season there is a message there is the hopeful and there are the targeted audiences to the hopeful, which are potential power base. If you read between the lines and connect the dots, you can see clearly The Hopeful, The Message and The Targeted Constituents at play.

All eyes are on October 15, 2009 when the first conference of the National Salvation Front will be held. I would love to see every Saho brother or sister who gets represented in that conference to stand up in the middle of the monkeying politicians and say I AM A SAHO AND I AM PROUD and I want an organization that defends my ancestral land against the Land Grabbers… Ali Salim, Sep. 03, 2009

Now a lot of the smoke and dust has cleared. We can see the political landscape and the priming of the politicking a lot clearer. The hearts and minds of the Ali Salims are zeroed on October Conference. They are begging and pledging to the Sahos and Jebertis to indorse an Islamic agenda that calls for greater unity of Muslims under an Islamic organization.  To justify their Islamic Cause and their Islamic Fight against “Tigrigna Supremacists”, the Ali Salims are trying to make us believe all politics in Eritrea is ethnic and religious politics and every organization is an ethnic and religious organization. According to them, PFDJ, EPP, EDP, EDM are all Tigrigna Organizations that are fighting for the interest of Tigrigna ethnic group and the Afars, the Kunamas, the Sahos, the Jebertis, the Tigres have their own ethnic organizations that are fighting for the interest of their ethnics. Whether this is the whole truth or half truth you be the judge. The fact of the matter is the Ali Salims are angry, bitter, isolated and frustrated which explains why the wave of angry articles are jamming the cyber space. To express their anger they are calling EPP, EDP, EDM “The Opposition of the Opposition”, The Uniting Baboons”, The Tigrigna Organizations”, “The PFDJ franchises” “The PFDJ Extensions”….. And there are at least two reasons which explain their anger and frustration:

Reason #1. The EPP, EDP and EPM or “The PFDJ Extensions” are getting closer to resolve their differences to emerge as one strong opposition. Since they are making progress in their unity they are getting a lot of attention. To capitalize on their attention these three organizations are advertising and marketing themselves as moderate centrists to the world. So what are they doing to promote themselves? Yes you guessed it: they are distancing themselves from the radioactive Islamists. And that is boiling the Ali Salims blood. And they are painting them as:

A. Tigrigna supremacists who differ with the PFDJ only on issues of efficiency, political expediency and regional (awrajawi) competition in administering the Project of Land Grabbers and Exclusionists. Ali Salim, Nov. 27, 2009  

It is indeed sound judgment on the part of lobbying groups such as the EEPA (European External Policy Advisory) to lay their eyes on those “Uniting Organizations” (The PFDJ Franchises) who are pimping themselves and the cause as the most qualified volunteers in the “coalition of the willing” that also includes the PFDJ, in an attempt to find ways to work out something for the “higher purpose.” (I guess for more pimping to the West) Ali Salim, Nov. 18, 2009   

And this is how the Ali Salims are assuring their constituents, how they see the weakening of the Coalition of the opposition and what it means to them:

…the crippling factors that have undermined the EDA… lies in a clear divergence of organizational interests…attempts to portray certain organizations (The Eritrean Islamists) as Eritrean chapters of Al Qaeda and efforts to cash in on the lucrative market of the “coalition of the willing” as we all know is nothing new to kilte libom politicians within and without the EDA. Ali Salim, Nov. 18, 2009   

None of these Islamic and Lowland organizations has any concerns as to whether the US or the EU or any Western establishment is pleased with what they are determined to accomplish… and none has ever attempted to appease Western politicians for favors...In case they didn’t know, Islamic fundamentalist organizations draw respect among followers and glory within communities and thrive by appearing to stand up to and eventually antagonizing the US or whoever is believed to fall within the orbits of its politics. Eritrean “Islamic fundamentalist organizations” have (so far) successfully managed to walk the delicate balance between being careful enough not to antagonize US diplomacy to the extent that might reflect negatively on financial lifelines from the Arab World on the one hand, and making sure not to appear too soft on employing the basics of Jihadi rhetoric and techno-craft on the other hand. Ali Salim, Nov. 18, 2009   

Reason #2.  Adding insult to injury, unity of the Islamist Organizations has become illusive than ever. The Islamists are frustrated at their failure to bring Islamists and non-Islamist organizations of all six ethnic groups under one Islamic Organization to counter balance in power and size to the “Tigrigna organizations”. But unity of different ethnics and regions can’t be achieved by religious affiliation. It can be achieved only when ideals, regional and ethnic interest are converged. And this is a lesson the Islamists are learning the hard way.

The Islamists objective in this campaign is to pressure the other opposition organizations to unite under the leadership of the Islamists of Barka: Bin-Amer to be exact. They are cajoling all Muslims to abandon the “PFDJ Franchises” and the “speculators, sellouts, shameless and confused Muslims” who are parroting and dancing with the “PFDJ franchises” and join them for the Greater Cause of the Islamic Faith. And this is how the Ali Salims justify their isolation:

…the EDA itself is nothing but a market of delala where nobody trusts anybody anyway…The only reason that those who matter most among the Islamic and Lowland organizations (some of them already in the US list of Terrorist Organizations) have accepted the status of obedient membership within the EDA (opposition alliance) was motivated by their desperate need for temporary cover from America’s ruthless diplomacy against those aiding and palling with “Terrorist Organizations”. Now that the vast majority of Lowlanders and Muslims have spoken and America has chosen a new path to fighting terrorism, the EDA cover is more of an obstacle than a miracle for anyone who does not wish to abide by restrictive conventional politics. Ali Salim, Nov. 18, 2009   

The Ali Salims are screaming their heart out, mudding the water and throwing below the belt punches to lure The Jeberti, Saho, Kunama and The Afar ethnics to jump on their bandwagon, fight for their Bin-Amer Sponsored Islamic Cause, to create an Islamic State and “undo what the Tigrigna supremacists have done on the past eighteen years” or at least for now to counter balance the weight in the opposition. The finishing touch of their game plan will be accomplished when:

The circle will hopefully be complete once the Jeberti and Saho organization of Al-Nahda and National Salvation (respectively) stop flirting with the wrong people (Tigrigna Christians) and start taking bold steps to speak up for their true constituents and for their brothers in the cause and the faith (Islamists), and join hands with the other ethnic groups to bring an end to the pain and humiliation of Tigrigna ethnic supremacists. Ali Salim, Sep. 03, 2009

Now, since the motive, the message, the game plan, the targeted audience, the objective and the prospective beneficiaries are identified, one can argue the whole circus and drama was and still is nothing but political campaign for power and control. Even though the struggle is far from over, at least this phase of the campaign didn’t last forever. The whole hoopla has ended and we have turned a corner. Like many other days before it October 15, 2009 came and passed and the Ali Salims have learned one more lifetime lesson: heartbreaking disappointment: which is one more brick for building a pragmatic thinking. Now the Ali Salims are a little mellow and subdued and hopefully they are not going to jam the cyber waves with their back to back articles until another campaign starts. But someone wise might ask if their mentors couldn’t do it in their lifetime, how on heaven and earth did they expect to get it done on October 15, 2009, stamped to the capital and say gotcha from Asmara? Well, to borrow a phrase from my friend Ali, “As for me: nere diye basso!” As for the Ali Salims, it was a burden they had to prove to the whole world. I can only say I’m glad their campaign season is over, let’s just embrace the moment and listen to heartbroken Ali Salim after October 15, 2009:

We are all waiting with crossed fingers hoping that the Saho mutiny of the courageous young men in Eastern Akeleguzai would evolve into an honorable representation of the collective interests of Highland Muslims (What? I thought all Muslims were Lowlanders). We are also all waiting for the shameless politicians in the National Salvation Front (NSF-Saho) - both versions - to remember that the EDA is still open for business, the baboons in Asmara are still in power and Highland Muslims have too great a stake to squander on daycare politics and the theatrics of a dog chasing its own tail. This dormant trend (within the EDA) also includes the “wait & see” groups of Al Nahda (Jeberti) and Mr. Salman’s Islamic Congress and the question to help them decide is: “when another Alemseged Tesfai writes another Aynifelale in future generations, do you want your names to appear on the Andinet or on the RabiTa side of the book?" Ali Salim - Nov 27, 2009   

Sorry Abu Elwa. As if the “Misguided Elite Muslims” and the “Muslim Opportunist Speculators” who are flirting with the “Tigrigna Supremacists” are not enough disappointment, The Jebertis, the Sahos, the Kunamas, the “Confused and shameless Muslims” (ESF – Tadamun) and the Afars didn’t board at the “Brothers in the Cause and Faith” Ship ah.  Trust me I know the pain and I know the feeling, sorry again.  

As your older brother let me give you few words of advice: Teacher-Principal Analogy: if a teacher comes crying about handful disruptive kids, definitely the problem lies with the handful disruptive kids, but if a teacher comes crying about the whole class being disruptive, get rid of the teacher because the whole problem starts and ends with the teacher. The moral of the story: if your problem was with couple of opposition organizations anybody would have given you the benefit of a doubt. But when each and every opposition organization becomes a problem, trust me it is not them it is you. You are not trying in good faith to meet them halfway in the middle. If you choose to play this game (politics) that’s fine, you have every right to do so. But you have a problem. You don’t know the rules of the game, you don’t know how to play the game and you don’t have what it takes to play the game. Let me tell you why: 

#1.  This is not a game you play with your friends, family members, people who love you care about you and agree with you. This is a game you play with your enemies, opponents and competitors. This is not a game of Loose Cannon People who step on everybody’s toe with anger and emotional burst one day and reiterate and apologize the next day. This is a game of sober, smooth, calculating leaders who know how to use “correct” words at the right time at the right place for the right people. This is not a game you look and magnify your point of difference. This is a game in which people agree to disagree with respect and still work together by finding common ground, build from it and create vibrant organization to defeat their common enemy. Why agree to disagree with respect? Why you don’t trash and ridicule your opponent? Because without each other’s respect you can’t build coalition, without coalition you can’t win, even if you win you can’t govern. If you don’t care about winning and governing, there is no point playing the game. That’s why you don’t know the game.

#2. This game is a game of mathematics. It is all about statistics, polls and monopoly of numbers (mandate). It is all about reading minds and gauging people’s temperature to control numbers. This game is for people who are masters of addition and multiplication and you are a master of subtraction and division. That is why your forest is thinning by the day and that’s the reason I said you don’t know how to play the game.

#3. When you play this game, you’ve to hold your cards close to your chest and organize them very wisely. Think two steps ahead of your enemies and opponents so you can outsmart and outfox them. Plan well-calculated countermove for every move made by your enemies and opponents but still stay focus and keep your eyes on the numbers. You know Abu Elwa, I’m looking at your playing cards. I don’t see the winning numbers in your hand. The numbers are not just there. Try again or join our party and you won’t be disappointed.

Bumper sticker #3: No One Deserves To Live In a Country That Imposes Religion on Its Citizens

Government should have no business in religion and religion should have no business in politics and governance. When it comes to religion Eritreans are full of colors. Religion is a private affair and personal choice and we all are better off, if it is left that way. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any problem with religion. Religion is good when we practice our faith at a place of worship (Mosque, Church…) and at home with our family. Religion becomes a problem when some people start to impose it on others and when those people who are imposing religion upon others become the police of morality and values. In the name of God and virtues, the world has witnessed women sentenced to death by stoning for “adultery”, professional women sentenced jail time for wearing pants in public, people’s hand being cut-off for petty robbery, “traitors and spies” beheaded in front of camera so the whole world can see, thousands of young women’s death being justified as an “honor killing” for infidelity to “restore” their family pride, police patrolling streets and arresting customers and restaurant owners because they were found eating and serving food during Ramadan, police patrolling streets and lashing people in public for violating social norms… and the bizarre list goes on and on. All these horrifying acts: in the name of religion and in the name of God. I don’t know what kind of Eritrea you envision, but Ali Salim’s vision of future Eritrea is:

Every “ELF” organization that claims to represent the cause of the Lowlands (including the current and future members of the Tadamun) shall head to the nearest river for mass Baptism of its members and itself and shall pick an additional “L” and rename itself the Eritrean Lowlands Liberation Front (ELLF). Every Islamic organization (that has no hidden agenda of imposing the Sharia on Christian Highlanders,(just to Muslims) shall do the same in the nearest lake provided the water is tested for Tahara (cleanliness). Ali Salim, Jul. 17, 2009 

I’m sure the Ali Salims will argue Islamic Law is only for Muslims. Everybody knows that’s baloney, you can’t have two sets of laws for one community. If you catch two young Eritreans, a Muslim and a Christian robbing a store I know the Muslim’s right hand will be cut off, what about the Christian right hand?  If you cut off his right hand you are being unfair to him because you are punishing a Christian with an Islamic Law, if you don’t few months or years later he is going to be released from jail with two hands and that’s not fair to the Muslim who lost his right hand and his dignity for life.

Mind you the issue is not about religion. Many people Muslims and Christians including me are not opposing Islamic Law because it is Islamic Law. We are opposing it because it is Unfair, Cruel and Unjust Law. Islamic Law is unjust because most crimes don’t fit the punishment (harsh punishment for petty crimes), it is cruel because of the method of punishment applied and it is unfair because it doesn’t pass the scrutiny of the same punishment for the same crime test. To me death by stoning, death by hanging, death by beheading, death by shooting squad, death by lethal injection, death by lashing or whatever way you do it, the end result is the same: it is death:  just different method of killing. When you kill someone why you choose the most gruesome method of killing is beyond me. I don’t even believe death is the utmost punishment: amputation is and caging people in dark solitary confinement for life is but that’s outside today’s topic. Islamic Law doesn’t pass the fairness test of the same punishment for the same crime. If committing adultery is punishable by ‘death by stoning’ then kill the woman and kill all the men who slept with her by stoning. If petty robbery’s punishment is cutting the right hand then cutoff every burglar’s right hand Muslim or non-Muslim, if a young girl’s death is justified to restore her family’s honor, kill her and her boyfriend together and then tell us why it is justice. But that is another topic for another day.

I hope I’m wrong, but Ali Salim’s rhetoric is going to accomplish only two negative results which will defeat the intended purpose of his articles: a) Too many Eritrean Muslims are going to answer a question that no Eritrean Christian will be asked: do you know Ali Salim? what do you think about Ali Salim?: And that question is going to make many Eritrean Muslims defensive and sometimes will be offended why they were asked that question to begin with. b) It will silence or rally too many unhappy Tigrigna Christians behind the regime for the wrong reason: fear.

Bumper Sticker $4: You Are Alone On This Fight… Good Luck on Your “Mission Impossible”.

Uniting all Eritrean Muslims under one Islamist organization to defeat the EPFDJ regime in Asmara by excluding the “EPFDJ opposition franchises”, undoing all the Tigrigna Supremacist have done in the past eighteen years, imposing Sharia Law for Eritrean Muslims and living happily ever after is a lot of dough. To borrow a phrase from Mama Amna: ( ኢደለ!  ኢትገብእ!) or simply to borrow a phrase from Foghorn Leghorn: “son, let me learn you something” about religion, ethnicity and region in Eritrea. I don’t care what anybody told you before and I don’t care what anybody is telling you now, our history was and still is history of competing regions and ethnics exactly in that order, but not religion. Not even at our darkest times. Even when it was instigated by our enemies, it was never pure religious. Take it from me trying to unite Eritrean Muslims of different ethnic groups and regions under Bin-Amer Sponsored Islam is just wishful thinking. And these are the main reasons:

 Reason #1: There are Muslims in ethnic Tigrigna, there are Christians in ethnic Blien Tigre and Kunama, there are Eritreans who are not in the business of religious enterprise, there are mixed people between our ethnics and faiths, with little icing of greed, personal regional and ethnic interests, bribery, settling scores and outside influence, Bin-Amer sponsored Islam as a driving force of unity against Christian brothers, friends and century long neighbors is a losing battle.

Reason #2:  There is not enough incentive to die. When it comes to power, if The Sahos, The Afar or any other ethnic group for that matter, are going to line up behind the Tigrignas and Tigres (not necessarily in that order) as third fourth fifth…string players every time, why in the world should they sweat, bleed and die for the same slice of pie which they could get it for free?

Reason #3: Get real, if it comes to it, The Afars are not going to look for Islamic Love that’s a thousand miles away, if they really want to, they are going to flirt with their brothers in their neighborhood Ethiopians and alike, and if they need higher level Islamic operation manuals they can always get it by crossing the sea. As the Kunamas, if they have to choose between the two evils they hate the most, The Tigrignas and the Tigres of Barka, probably they will choose Ethiopia every time. The Jebertis and The Sahos of Kebesa they will never pick a fight against their friends and century old neighbors to empower the Tigres of Barka. The Hidarebs they may be sympathetic to their Haredewa brothers in Eastern Sudan but wouldn’t give a hoot about Bin-Amer Sponsored Islam. As far as The Tigre brothers of Sahel and Semhar, there is needed pre-request before unity of cause and faith, a lot of South African style soul searching, reconciliation and confession that stretches from Ela-TsaEda all the way to Barka LaElay, Gereger, Weki-Zagir and Hashenit. If you can’t handle it, they are going to flirt with the “The Supremacists”. And I’m sure you’re fully aware they were and they still are cuddling with the “The Supremacists”, and the “The Supremacists” are willing and able to offer them a deal they can’t refuse. You figure.

Reason #4:  Today’s Eritrean Lowlands are not your father’s Lowlands any more. It’s a whole new world out there, thanks to EPFDJ’s Gerrymandering Project. I don’t know the exact numbers, but according to Ali Salim, land that belongs to hundreds of thousands of Lowlanders has been taken by the “Land Grabers”. So, it’s fair to assume there are hundreds of thousands of “settlers” in the Lowlands. Therefore to “undo what the supremacists have done on the past eighteen years” you have to go to the hundreds of thousands new beehives, catch every angry killer bee by hand, clip his wings and his stingers, ship him back to his tight box where he belongs, while he is contained and air tight sealed in his small box, tighten the screws in his head by liberating and empowering the disenfranchised and marginalized Sahos and Jebertis and preach to him your beautiful faith in the middle of Kombishtato. And all this heavy lifting has to be carried out without any help from the “PFDJ Extensions” just with the help of: help me Ali please; “jobless Arabs from Iraq who would be glad to roam the nation with big smiles”. And I’ll be…. let me borrow a phrase from Abu Elwa again:6. I will be running around with my Canon Camera documenting this historic moment in our nation’s history.”Thank you Abu Elwa.

Bumper Stickers #5:  You Are Not Sincere When You Are Having Selective Pain And Selective Hearing 

We, Muslims and Lowlanders…. by overlooking hundreds of our own young men and women being singled out of the crowd for torture and for disappearance …by letting our pride and self-respect be trashed to preserve a hypocritical National Unity of winners and losers. Ali Salem, Sep. 03, 2009

I don’t know the numbers, but it is true many of our Muslim brothers from all walks of life have been singled out from the crowd for interrogation, imprisonment, torture and killing. Yes it is sad, yes it is a shame, yes it is madness, yes it is very tragic, yes we should demand change and reclaim our rights and our dignity. But why do we grief only about our Muslim brothers? What if we find the same number ofChristians with the same ordeal? What if there are more Christians tortured, imprisoned and killed? What if there are more Christians at slave labor camps (Agelglot)? What if there are more Christians dying in the hot desert sands and shark infested seas? What if there are Christians who are denied their right to return home dead or alive? What does that tell you? Why the rage on Muslims and Lowlanders only? Why is Ali Salim having a selective pain? Why is he hearing selective voices of grief? Isn’t the pain and grief shared by all Muslims and Christians alike? For the sake of proportionality argument, let’s even say only one in five of the people who are being interrogated, imprisoned, tortured,  killed, denied the right to return, fleeing the country are Christian Tigrignas and the rest 80% are Muslims. What does that tell you about the feeling of the Tigrigna population? What kind of conclusion do you come up with? What could have the Tigrgnas done which their Muslim brothers couldn’t do? Isn’t fighting the regime a shared responsibility? If we fail to fight the regime in Asmara united as one people whose fault is that? Is pointing fingers and blaming each other the best way to deal with the problem?

For the sake of argument, let me give you a scenario that you are very familiar from Mohamed Ahmed’s article Shifta Gebre. Let’s say Shifta Gebre and his gangs who are Christian Tigrignas by birth, went to Barka LaElay, stole two thousand livestock and raped two hundred Muslim women from Mensura, DenbaE, Ad-Kukui, Ad-Shuma and Enjahai. Then they went to Western Kebesa, stole four hundred livestock and raped forty Christian women from Anbori, Mai-Albo, May-Wesen and Deki-Shehai. As you can see 80% of the women who were raped were Muslims and 80% of the livestock that were stolen were from Muslims. So, what do you think? Do you think the Tigrignas from Western Hamasien and Western Seraye were fiddling with the shiftas? Do you think the Christians from Western Seraye and Hamasien were willing participants? Should the Muslims of Barka LaElay demand from their Tigrina Brothers South African style confession of wrong doing or they will fight them to the bitter end and they will drop Eritrea from the dictionary? Were the Christian Tigrignas of Western Hamasien and Seraye silent conspirators? …Absolutely not. In all fairness all of them, Christians and Muslims, men and women were victims of Shifta Gebre and his gangs. All of them should mobilize their people and fight together to restore and reclaim their peace, their dignity and their property. Is this very complicated? So why is Ali Salim having a selective pain and selective grief? Is it because he is regional advocate (Western Lowland Tigres only)? I doubt it, but let’s listen if he is:

...the plight of Jebertis and other ruthlessly victimized Highland Muslims is essentially addressed as a functionally inseparable component of the cause of Lowlanders. It is within this framework that everything from the Afari right to self-determination, to the Kunama’s concerns as a unique component of the Western Lowlands; and from the right of a Hidareb farmer to plan for a hundred-year crop circulation without having to worry about unpredictable thieves, to the concerns of a Bilen shepherd for protection…… is defined in black & white. Ali Salim, Aug. 05, 2009

I  wish that was the case, unfortunately it is not. He is speaking to all ethnic groups of Eritrea except Christian Tigrignas, not by accident but by design, and that is sad. We Eritreans, if we want to live in peace and prosper together, we have to believe and live by these words and these words should remain carved in our hearts and minds forever otherwise we are doomed to fail as a people and as a nation.

First we are Eritreans, then we are whatever we want to be: Highlander, Lowlander, Christian, Muslim, Hamassienai, Blienai, Jebha, student, farmer, Jeberti, women, soldier

First there is Eritrea then there is everything else: Barka, Seraye, Highland, Lowland.

Justice Denied to one… Is Justice Denied To All: to a Muslim, to Jehovah witness, to politician.

Any Eritrean Citizen’s problem is a national problem:  Yes anything and everything.

If any one of our citizens can’t read and write it is a national problem, if any one of our citizens is sick and can’t find medicine or a doctor it is a national problem, if any one of our children is sleeping hungry it is a national problem and when a healthy full term child is born surrounded by his family, doctors and nurses ina state of the art hospital the whole nation is smiling. Forget about a whole community, a whole faith or a whole ethnic group, in Eritrea if any person’s right of movement is denied none of us is free, if any person’s right to worship is denied nobody is free to worship his/her faith, if any one of us is denied his right to return home none of us is free to return, if any one of us is denied his day in court with fair representation nobody’s right is protected, if any one of us can’t speak-up his mind or express his/her grievance in public none of us is free. ….

Either we all are free and our government is a guarantor of our safety and freedom or we are all hostages of our government, which makes fighting repressive government together a common goal and common interest. The point is, the whole hoopla of Ali Salim isn’t about Eritrean citizen’s collective right, freedom, equality, democracy or rule of law. It is all about power and control without all of the above. I challenge Ali Salim to open up his mind and his organization to have a wider tent that accepts any Eritrean without screening for religion or ethnicity. I challenge Ali Salim to drop the divisive politicking of “us Vs them” “Christians Vs Muslims” “Highlanders Vs Lowlanders” and challenge us at every issue with a problem and a solution. I challenge Ali Salim to prove to me and to the whole world, how he could be right if the author of Nehnan Elamanan was wrong. I challenge Ali Salim to show me his vision of future Eritrea that’s free and democratic with no walls and fences separating its people. After all this is an era that demands free flow of information, free flow of goods and services, free movement of people and free and fair election by the judgment of a ballot box. If my Tigre brothers are the majority and the ballot box ruled in their favor, I will solute them, I will congratulate them, I will accept them as my leaders to lead me and lead my country into a prosperous peaceful nation. I challenge Ali Salim to accept this fundamental principles of democracy in which the majority’s right to govern is honored and the right of minorities to be represented fairly, live in peace and prosper is protected under the law.

Bumper Sticker #6: The Land Argument Has Nothing To Do With The Land 

I would love to challenge Ali Salim on his land argument but the argument has nothing to do with the land itself. Do you think land would have been an issue to the Ali Salims if all nine Eritrean ethnics were Muslims? Absolutely not, why do you think they are trying to make us believe all Muslims are Lowlanders? Do you think the Ali Salims would have drawn a line on the sand, Arabic language to be a national language if all nine ethnics were Muslims? They wouldn’t. It is not an issue in Somalia, Iran, Pakistan, Indonesia, Afghanistan or Turkey. Why would it be in Eritrea? If the Ali Salims want to disagree let them challenge back. What if Christians were 1% of Eritrean population, do you think the Ali Salims would have restricted Christians from farming in the lowlands while 99% of Eritreans (Muslims) were free to farm anywhere in Eritrea?  Of course not, at least I want to believe that. Therefore even if someone is passionate about the land argument, the argument is handicapped since Ali Salim is not talking about the land. Land is being used as a means to control power. To make matters worse, he doesn’t have commitment for democratic governance in Eritrea, he doesn’t believe unified people of both faiths coexisting as friends and neighbors, he doesn’t believe in equal distribution of land among Eritrean citizens, nor does he has commitment for the integrity of Eritrea or its people as inseparable entity. Basically Ali Salim’s idea can be summed up by these phrases: his idea is the only right idea (Islamist Idea), he is for segregated society by faith, he believes Eritrean Lowlands must be exclusively home to Muslims and off limit to Tigrigna Christians, the three Highland regions (Kebesas) should be home to both faiths (Muslims and Christians), and he warns if all of these are not met we will be immersed in a blood bath like Somalia or Rwanda or worse (take your pick) and there will not be any Eritrea on the face of this planet. Listen for yourself:

If wise Highlanders (provided some are still alive) do not step up to the plate of Truth & Reconciliation (South African style) to demand confessions of wrongdoing by their own self-appointed advocates and heal the nation, the subject matter of our discussions here will change for good. It won’t be very long before we will be arguing on whether Mai Dimma belongs to Seraye or Gash; whether Irafayle belongs to Akeleguzai; whether Denkalia stops at Marsa Fatma or extends to Massawa; and whether the cliffs of Shindwa belong to Senhit. Thankfully we won’t be part of it, even if that does come true, as our two giant neighbours will take care of it in friendly bilateral talks between hyenas sharing a prey. Highlanders might still stand a chance of attending the meetings as part of the ruling Tigrai-Tigrigna delegation. As for me: nere diye basso! Ali Salim, Jun. 23, 2009

The democracy that we know in the West (the same democracy that the Tigrigna elite and a few misguided Lowlanders are promising to deliver overnight once the PFDJ collapses) is a protracted process that took centuries of cultural and institutional development to achieve. The lack of realistic and achievable targets is in fact nothing but a deliberate ploy marketed by those with sinister motives to paralyze the opposition by divorcing organizational thinking from the realities on the ground. To all those who are telling Lowlanders to postpone their “secondary” demands until they deliver “netsan dimokrasyawitn Ertra”, I say nice trick – but please come up with a better idea or join our party. Ali Salim, Sep. 03, 2009

…no doubt at all that the dream of a united Eritrea is almost a lost cause (as is the debate about a Middle Eastern nation that unites both Palestinians and Israelis under one roof)…Ali Salim, Nov. 27, 2009

Despite what the Ali Salims are saying, I truly believe we should challenge each other and stretch our analytical skills to the limit when it comes to land distribution policy. Complaining, spreading hate and fear, pointing fingers, promising blood bath or opposing the current government is not a vision or an alternative solution. If you want to separate yourself from the herd, you have to come up with credible alternative ideas that will make a positive difference in the lives of our people. Land issue is an issue that affects every one of us and all of us should have an input into this argument. And this is what I believe:  

Yesterday we fought our common enemy (Ethiopia) united side by side all ethnics and faiths together to make our independence a reality, today we should coexist side by side in peace and fight our common enemy: poverty, ignorance, hunger and bad governance. The threat of hunger our people are facing today is real. We have one part of the country (highlands) that have productive farmers but don’t have enough land to farm and we have another part of the country (lowlands) that has vast fertile land and sea that hasn’t been exploited. The challenge is how to use these resources in a fair and balanced way that will benefit all our people equally. There is a myth among many that says land scarcity affects only Tigrigna Christians. True, there is not enough farming land on the Kebesas for Christians and Muslims alike but that didn’t stop our Muslim brothers in the Lowlands from being victims of poverty and hunger. We should also remember there are segment of our population who live on dry desert area on the Eastern Coastal Regions without enough farming or grazing land, there is not enough farming or grazing land on Senhit and Sahel regions and due to urban sprawl thousands of our farmers are losing their farmlands without proper compensation or job security. To give you an example, by some estimate the population of Asmara has tripled in the last eighteen years. I believe the residents of Asmara are mixed ethnics from both faiths but the people who are losing their farmland are Tigrigna Christians. Few decades from now the majority of our population will reside in big and small cities and towns. And the issue of land and relocating of farmers will be a hot potato issue that will affect all ethnics and faiths.  Nobody has all the answers but all of us have an opinion and we should speak-up loud and clear as to what kind of land and sea policy would serve our people better.

When we discuss about land and sea policies let’s think beyond the current government, we the people are together for life, the current government is not. Mind you, I’m not trying to defend the indefensible. My position towards the current government is very simple: are investment money and skilled work force coming to the country or leaving the country? Is there democratic mechanism for peaceful transfer of power or the country is unstable and unpredictable? The answer is obvious, therefore we are heading the wrong direction, case closed. Fighting the regime is a common goal and if we fail to unite ourselves around a common goal we have nobody to blame but ourselves. To focus on our main argument, this is how I feel about the land issue: 

 #1   Eritrean land and sea access should be regulated and appropriated by our government like many other countries in the world. This will give the government flexibility to shape very effective policies regarding investment and proper land use in farming, fishing, grazing, urban development, mining, infrastructure, construction, the environment, re-settlement projects for returning citizens from host countries, forest and wild life protection…... With change in government there will be changes in policies and that’s good thing for everybody.

#2    All Eritrean citizens should posses land and have relative ownership for business, farming and residential purposes with the understanding land can be appropriated at any time for the good of the economy. If a citizen’s home, business building or farm is taken by government for a better use, he/she should be compensated for his/her property loss at a fair market value. 

#3   When government appropriates land, protecting historic small communities and small ethnic groups right to preserve their heritage, culture and values should be its top priority. Our ethnic diversity should be celebrated and protected at all times from being compromised or diluted by bigger ethnic groups.

#4   We should not overpopulate our fertile lands whether they are in Gash Barka, Gahtelay, Hazemo, Mai-Tekhela, Meraguz-MaiCheAda or any other place for that matter. We have limited land that is suitable for farming and we should use it wisely. At the same time we should protect our sea, forests and wild animals. A good example would be our marine life in the Red Sea, forests and wild animals at Filfil-Selemona and the river banks of Anseba, Barka and Gash. 

#5   As to who should live where I want to be very clear, there will not and should not be any limit or condition where an Eritrean should live, work, farm or run a business in his/her own country. Fundamental fairness say’s if any Eritrean is patriotic enough to sweat, bleed and die for his country at any square inch of the land at any time, he/she should have every right to till the land and make ends meet at any square inch of it, with no strings attached. All Kebesas are home to all ethnics and faiths, all Metahits are home for all ethnics and faiths and the government we elect is the enforcer of this law. If this law is not fully and fairly implemented the government has failed on its duty.

But when Ali Salim raised the land argument he was not talking about land distribution or land ownership, he was using land and fear as a steppingstone for power. Listen what he had to say:

Today is like no other day. Lowlanders are threatened with their very existence and very soon they will be roaming Gypsies with no place to call home and there is no time to weigh the options. In the absence of wise highlanders who are ready to stand up to the challenge, it is a historical responsibility for all Lowlanders to unite against the common enemy of ethnic fascists. Ali Salim, July 2, 2009

Please tell me if I’m missing something. Is the PFDJ regime in Asmara throwing our Muslim brothers out in the cold like roaming Gypsies? If it is, it is news to me, if the grievance is about screening people who want to come back home from refugee camps and host countries, I’m aware of it. There may not be as many as our Muslim brothers but there are Christians who are denied their right to return as well. I can say to the Ali Salims with confidence, the predominantly Tigrigna Christians don’t want our Muslim brothers to become roaming Gypsies, to live in refugee camps for ever, to be threatened in any shape or form, to be second class citizens or to be under represented. We want our Muslim brothers to be as free, as rich, as equal, as powerful and as happy as any Tigrigna Christian want to be. Not because it is the right thing to do which it is, not because Eritrean Muslims are our brothers which they are, not because we love them and care about them which we do….but because we love peace and  it is the only pragmatic solution and the only way out. But always there is fear of the “other faith” and there are those who spread fear among us and present themselves as guardians of their ethnic, region or faith to secure their political end. And that’s where the land argument comes.

There are at least three Coded Arguments in Eritrean politics: The Land Argument, the Ethnic Equality argument and the Arabic Language argument. All of them are Loaded Arguments, which have little or nothing to do with the land, equality of ethnics or the Arabic language in itself, but they have everything to do with Phobia of Christians from being Dominated by Muslims and Phobia of Muslims from being Dominated by Christians. Different people at different eras have used land, ethnic equality and language as a means to empower themselves in the name of “their people”, “their ethnic” or “their region”. Mind you, I’m not trying to ignore today’s ethnic inequality and ethnic injustice in Eritrea. I’m just saying the Ali Salims are the last people to preach ethnic equality and ethnic justice. Religious phobia can’t be any clearer than the Ali Salims land, ethnic and language arguments. Let’s frame the arguments and see:

Just for the sake of argument, if the EPFDJ collapses tomorrow and if we have a new pluralistic democratic government that is a true representative of our population would the Islamists support or at least work with the new government peacefully? Unfortunately the answer is no, because they are not after political pluralism, equality or representative democracy. It is hard to believe but Ali Salim will tell you why:

A decisive step taken by the new trends of the Resistance (Islamists) towards this end has been the dropping of the traditional naïve target of the “downfall of the dictatorial regime” as the destination target. Ali Salim, Sep. 19,2009

Look, if the government in Asmara falls down no matter what the outcome is, it is not acceptable to the Islamists. Wow. What if the new democratic government which is a true representative of our population, for the sake of unity of its people outlawed Tigrigna language and declare Arabic as the lone Eritrean national language, would the Islamists congratulate the new Eritrean government and join hands with the government? Absolutely not, but don’t take my word for it, listen to Ali Salim:

The insistence of Lowlanders on sticking to Arabic as their national language and fortifying it with the Islamic identit is a recipe for disaster as it paves the way for the disguised flow of more Land Grabbers and Exclusionists. If we wake up tomorrow morning and find out that all Tigrignas have adopted Arabic as their only national language, trust me I won’t be the only one who will start calling upon Lowlanders to adopt Chinese as their national language. Ali Salim, Sep. 19, 2009

So, the Ali Salims who are insisting Arabic to be a national language because of our historical back-ground and Islamic identity actually are not going to be happy even if we drop Tigrigna and adopt Arabic as our national language. It makes sense after all you don’t choose national language because of past history or faith you choose national language because it is spoken and understood by the majority of the population. Countries even with almost 100% Muslim population don’t have Arabic as their national language. The Somalis, the Iranians, the Turkish have historical and religious ties to the Arabs, Islam and Arabic language but they didn’t adopt Arabic as their national language. Are we supposed to have more historical ties and Islamic identity than these neighboring countries? It is not that I’m against Arabic language being used in Eritrea, I just don’t see the rationale behind it, but that is another topic for another day.

Again for the sake of argument, what if we drop Tigrigna as a national language and adopt Arabic instead, have pure Islamic government and Sharia become the Law of the land for all Muslims, would the Ali Salims be happy and allow us to live as unified people with no fences and walls erected between us? Of course they won’t. That is not going to make them any happier, but again, it is better to hear it from Ali Salim:

Even if we do accept the very reasonable claim that the predominantly Tigrigna “Opposition” organizations (or their potential allies within the PFDJ) are in fact genuinely fighting to destroy the PFDJ (an assumption with a big question mark), it is only prudent that the “Resistance” movements (of Lowlanders and Muslims) understand that all future governments in Eritrea (including – for argument’s sake - purely Muslim (Islamic) governments). tie their life expectancy to the establishment of clearly defined and sufficiently mandated federal institutions (within or without the nation - whichever materializes first)……because…It is… natural that any “neutral” government would come under enormous popular pressure (due to the weight and history of ethnic Tigrignas in the PFDJ) to adopt measures that would give Tigrignas equal access to agricultural land (as Lowlanders). Ali Salim, Sep. 19, 2009 

Well, if adopting Arabic language as a lone National Language plus having an Islamic government that imposes Sharia for all Eritrean Muslims is not going to make the Ali Salims happy and the country is not going to have peace then our work is not done, we have to look harder and dig dipper. 

Bumper Sticker #7: History Is Repeating Itself….The Difference, The Shoe Is On The Other Foot

The political doctrine of land argument that the Ali Salims are lecturing to us today was introduced to Eritrean politics at least during early sixties when ELF was launched. The plan was to use land as a means to Empower Eritrean Muslims. During the era of ELF the Land Argument had a positive offshoot argument to it and it was called equality of all ethnic groups free of domination by any other ethnic group or in Arabic, We All Are Separate but Equal Like Teeth of a Comb (Alnas Sewasya KeAsnan AlmushT). But, were all the ethnic groups equal under ELF? Absolutely not, it was all a ploy. We all know ELF was Tigre dominated organization. But to borrow a phrase from my friend Ali Salim:

Lumping the three provinces of ethnic Tigres under the definition of “Tigre Lowlanders” might itself sound unfair (I apologize) given the provincially stratified citizenship that was within them (under the ELF) including the Bin-Amer of Barka with Gold, the Blien of Senhit with Silver, and the Tigres of Semhar with Bronze citizenships it is unfair to paint all the Tigres with the same brush for their past.

As for the Tigres of Sahel after Ela TsaEda they had to grief and hope for a better day like the rest of the other ethnics. That was in the sixties. In early seventies a war of total liquidation (Tesfya) was declared against any ethnic group or organization which didn’t show loyalty to the Bin-Amer dominated ELF. The Tigres of Sahel, The Denkalis, The Tigrignas, The Tigres of Semhar and The Kunamas were the victims of ELF war of power and control. While The Sahos were divided in both camps, The Denkalis, The Tigrignas, The Tigres of Semhar, The Tigres of Sahel and the ultra conservative Tigres of Barka trenched themselves side by side in the mountains of Sahel to save their lives and hopefully to tell their story another day. But the poor Kunamas far from Sahel traded loyalty for protection with Ethiopia. So when the Islamists of Barka try to present themselves as the Guardians of Ethnic Equality and as the protectors of Islamic Cause and Faith for all Eritrean Muslims from the evil “Tigrigna Supremacists and their opposition franchises”, one could lift his head with great confidence and say: let me borrow a phrase from my friend Ali Salim: “….nice trick – but please come up with a better idea or join our party”.   

Then, if the land argument of the Ali Salims is not about ethnic equality, Islamic Government, Arabic Language or all of the above what is it all about? Well it is all about sustainable and irreversible power control of Muslims over Eritrean politics. As we all know, ethnic equality, Islamic government, Arabic as a national language, land guarantees all can be reversed at any time by any government. The Christian-Phobic Islamists are not going to sleep well with these changes knowing full well they don’t have absolute majority. Therefore above and beyond these changes they want irreversible power and control that is guaranteed for life or there is no life for Eritrea. You think I’m hallucinating?

So, if they don’t have absolute popular majority what kind magic formula are they going to pullout from their sleeve to convince us to govern? Well, they want to govern not with your Western democratic formula of Popular Majority but by the Islamic political formula of Land Majority. This is the political calculus behind it, at least until May 24, 1991 (Independence Day) it was. In the sixties and seventies the Bin-Amer dominated political and social engineers of ELF created and polished a very creative doctrine to short circuit their lock of absolute majority to govern. To compensate their majority deficit they came up with a theory of God given Land Argument and Ethnic Equality Argument. And this was ELF’s mathematical calculation: Let’s assume 70% of Eritrean land was inhabited by Muslims until 1952 when Ethiopia disturbed the balance or 1967 (the Great Exodus of Eritrean Muslims to Sudan, take your pick), therefore according to the ELF’s Doctrine (which is the Ali Salims manual) 70% of Eritrean land is God given Muslim Land that is off limit to any Tigrigna Christian. The Kunamas, The Hidarebs, The Naras (Baryas) are inhabitants of Barka region therefore they are God given Constituents of The Tigres of Barka. So by sidelining and boxing the Tigrignas, awarding the Bliens Co-Captain position, giving the Sahos Ceremonial Chairmanship, cuddling the Jebertis to dilute Tigrigna representation and by using carrot and stick to the other Tigre Competitors to co-operate, boom the 12% Tigres of Barka are the Captain of the Ship and the ship will be cruising as far as the eye can see. At least that was the game plan on the old book. To make this a reality, these were ELF’s to do list (which the Ali Salims haven’t got that far yet):

a) Contain all Tigrigna Christians in their three regions (Seraye, Akeleguzai & Hamassien).

b) Once they are contained in their three regions seal the border with Ethiopia air-tight so that they can’t cause any instability to the government of Eritrea.

c) Strengthen relationship with the Arab world.

d) Adopt Islamic Law in all Muslim regions and Christian-Islamic combination Law in the three regions of Seraye, Akeleguzai and Hamassien since they are home for both faiths. 

Now let’s see how ELF was running its business and creating facts on the ground after many “reforms” to accommodate Christian Tigrignas. Remember this is ELF at its final life when about 75% of its fighters were Christian Tigrignas, pressure from the Tigrigna dominated EPLF was at its max and Tigrigna Christian representation in higher positions was at its highest ever in ELF’s history.

#1  Out of 41 elected leaders (Sewrawi Baito) only ten were Christian Tigrignas (25%). Out of these ten elected leaders only four had permanent assigned positions, one spent his full term in jail, two were tipped and fled to Sudan hours before they were arrested (and that was before their assignment to any position), one of the four who had permanent assigned position was shot point blank for arguing with ELF’s powerful man, two were never assigned permanent position for the first three years of their term, and one was never given permanent assignment until his death (three years after his election) fighting Ethiopian army. 

#2   After  ELF’s Second National Congress (1975) power in the whole organization was so centralized every single decision was micromanaged by few powerful committee leaders. These committees were Political Committee, Military Committee, Economic Committee and Social Affairs Committee. Every ELF fighter was under the management of one of these committee leaders except the Chairman and Secretary of ELF (supposedly). As expected, all the committee leaders were from Tigre ethnic group except one from Nara (Barya) and none was from Tigrigna. 

#3  To empower Muslims the political engineers of ELF had created their own gerrymandering project that divided Eritrea into twelve regions in which seven out of twelve were Tigre and Tigre surrogate regions, two were Denkalia regions and three were Tigrigna Regions that has to be shared with Highland Muslims. 

This was ELF at its best of ethnic equality at least to Tigrigna Christians. Of course ELF failed and died way before EPLF put the last nail on its coffin. ELF died not because of EPLF’s last push but by the forces of different vectors with different magnitudes that were pulling it into different directions. Some wanted the resultant vector to pass through Western Europe, some wanted it to pass through Moscow, some wanted it to pass through Mecca and some wanted it to pass somewhere between Baghdad and Damascus. That was one side of the equation, the other side of the equation was Jebhas failure to widen its tent and slice its pie fairly to accommodate all. I know there are many people who will beg to differ but if we ask one question our prospective may get a lot closer, instead of focusing on the last hours of ELF, let’s look at the whole course and ask: Starting 1973 why was Jebha getting weaker by the hour while ShaEbia was gaining strength exponentially by the minute? Anyway, to a lot of people, the last few bullets that were fired from EPLF happen to be the last straws that broke the camel’s back, to me it is too much credit for those few bullets. Today there are many fingers that are pointing at each other at least until history brings its own verdict, hoping there is going be consensus an’t agree on the reason or reasons. In one decade, it reduced itself from a dominant organization which controlled 99% of the Tegadelti held areas to a vulnerable organization which couldn’t defend itself. When it failed, it didn’t fail alone. It failed communities, regions and ethnics that invested heavily and dearly with sweat, blood, soul, treasure and hope. ShaEbia’s reasoning for their success: we were educated but they were…, we were fierce fighters but they were…, we were visionaries but they were… attitude and the aftermath of their success: instead of  engagement policy, adopting “from now on there won’t be any political Hashewie….” policy added insult to injury and brought angry, belligerent, militant, Christian-Phobic Ali Salims to life. And if we are fooled by the Ali Salims, it is no brainer Islam-Phobic symmetry of the Ali Salims will be hatching on the other side of the isle. Make no mistake as much as the Ali Salims are afraid of the “Christian Bigots”, there are Islam-phobic Christians that are terrified by the Islamists rhetoric. There are few lessons we can learn from this:  if it can happen to Jebha Abai who had it all it can happen to anyone who have it all and those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it only to face the same fate. If both extremes are wrong for Eritrea, one can argue the right policy should be somewhere in the middle. The challenge to all of us is finding the middle.

Bumper Sticker #8: The Islamists Land Argument...Lowlands Just For Us… Highlands For All of Us…

When I said our land and sea should be accessed equally among our citizens, I’m not favoring one faith or ethnic over another and I’m for honest discussion when it comes to fair distribution of land. And all of us should add our voice to this argument. I’m for 100% return of our refugees and our government should put aside enough land for farming and grazing for all refugees who return home. But I want to make it clear Ali Salim is dead wrong when he said:

The Tigrignas are squashed in an extremely restrictive topographical zone (and comparatively most disadvantaged with respect to their primary mode of livelihood: agriculture), while Lowlanders (mainly pastoralists) live in sparsely populated. The question that still needs to be answered is: Do we as Eritreans really have a common goal of a nation united under the principles of equal citizenship? Most readers won’t like it but my answer happens to be “NO & NO” and that’s why I think it is imperative that we sign contracts and agreements and build barriers so that no one will violate other people’s (Muslims) God given rights and get away with itAli Salim, Sep. 03, 2009 

Understand that all future governments in Eritrea (including – for argument’s sake - purely Muslim (Islamic)governments) will eventually be faced with…… enormous popular pressure (due to the weight and history of ethnic Tigrignas in the PFDJ) to adopt measures that would give Tigrignas equal access to agricultural land (as Lowlanders)……. before undertaking the actual handling of such a thorny issue (of stealing Land from the haves and handing it over to the have-nots – where the haves and have-nots are delineated along clear ethno-religious lines)…… it becomes absolutely critical that the “Resistance” movements tie their life expectancy to the establishment of clearly defined and sufficiently mandated federal institutions (within or without the nation - whichever materializes first).  Ali Salim, Sep. 19, 2009 

Ali Salim is not fighting for equal right of Muslims he is fighting to deny equal right to Christians. If asking equal access to Eritrean land and sea like my Muslim brothers is considered land grabbing or lobbing for the interest of “my people” I’m not shy about it, please add me to your list, I’m a land grabber, I’m a lobbyist and I’m proud of it. Because I don’t want, my kids and my grand kids to be told, if you are an Eritrean Muslim you will have ten acres of land but if you are Tigrigna Christian you are allowed to have only three acres.  I don’t want my kids and my grand kids to defend and die for a land that they are not good enough to till and raise their family. Being an Eritrean citizen is a total package in which every citizen has the same right like everybody else with no ifs and no buts. Until we are all equal we will fight and lobby to have equal right for every citizen, and I don’t believe there is anything wrong with that. When we appropriate land yes we should have a clause that protects historic communities and small ethnics from being diluted by bigger ethnics but make no mistake The Tigrigna and The Tigre ethnics don’t qualify for this privilege. 

Honestly, the equal access of land argument is not a human right issue. It is not about compassion and caring argument. It is not about morality and ethics issue. It is not about a choice of doing the right thing for the right reason debate. It is just about being pragmatic. Kicking Tigrigna Christians from Eritrean lowlands is hot air, a fantasy, a day dream or simply impossible. It is too complicated and it is beyond any one, any organization or any government. In the past half century our population has been blended and mixed together so much it has reached to a point where separating people is impossible.

The Ali Salims has promised us to kick all the Christian Tigrignas from Eritrean lowlands back to where they belong: the three regions of Kebesa. And this is what they promised us:

The following is (my translation of) part of the statement of Eritrean Solidarity Front – Tadamun (August 28, 2009) that I am very, very proud of:  “We [the Tadamun] would like to assure…….that the [regime’s project] of demographic engineering and the policy of settlements has become a central cause whose neglect will only bring tremendous damage and its effects will be dangerous for the political, social and economic relations between the two components of the Eritrean society [Muslims and Christians]. Succumbing to the regime’s policies of Land Grabbing and attempting to deface the historical and social profile [of the nation] by expelling the indigenous inhabitants and replacing them with new settlers from elsewhere (Kebesa) will be challenged with [appropriate] force and the least that these confrontations will lead to is a reversal of the situation back to normal and a return of the rights [land] to its rightful owners.Ali Salim, Sep. 03, 2009

I’m challenging them they can’t do it. I challenge them to put their money where their mouth is: answer these questions and challenge back. For the sake of argument, let’s say you (The Ali Salims) are the authority who decide the fate of Eritrean people, please answer these questions and tell us where you stand:

#1 According to your definition are all Eritrean Muslims Lowlanders? If they are why don’t you call them just Muslims? If they are not what is the difference? Explain the boundaries of your Lowland? Is it the Tigre region of Barka that stretches from Mensura to Aderde to Kerkebet to Tekhreret to KeAlay to Deida to Enjahay back to Mensura? Is it the Tigre and Hidareb region of Barka? Is it the whole Barka including the Hidareb, Kunamas and Naras (Baryas)? Is it Barka, Sahel and Semhar? Is it Barka, Sahel Semhar and Denkalia? Or is it a region that includes each and every Eritrean Muslim where ever they may reside? If so, please explain clearly what the boundary of your Lowland looks like? Do you have consensus of all ethnics for this boundary?

#2 Let’s say you are the highest authority in the nation, please answer the plight of these farmers in your Western Lowland: If you find thousands of families of Tigres from Semhar and Sahel at your Western Lowland would you kick them out? Why? If you find thousands of Saho and Jeberti families in your Western Lowland would you kick them out? Why? If you find thousands of Tigre Saho and Tigre Jeberti mixed families at your Western Lowland would you kick them out? Why? If you find mixed families from the Tigrigna Christian and one of the Western Lowland Muslim ethnics who are devoted Muslim families would you kick them out? Why? If you find mixed families of Christian Tigrigna and one of the Western Lowland Muslim ethnics who are devoted Christian families would you kick them out? Why? Would you separate families to enforce the law of returning land to the rightful owners? Why? What would you do if you find mixed families of Tigrigna Christian and one of the Lowland ethnic Muslims in which one of the spouses is devoted Muslim and the other spouse is devoted Christian? Why? If you find thousands of Tigrigna Christian families (Land Grabbers) who were converted to Islam before your presence would you kick them out? Why? If you find thousands of Tigrigna Christians (Land Grabbers) willing to convert to Islam if they can stay at Western Lowlands would you let them convert and stay? Why? Do you think Tigrigna Christians should be kicked out from all big and small towns of Barka, Sahel, Semhar and Denkalia? Why? Do you think all ethnic groups except Sahos and Jebertis should be kicked out from Kebesa? Why? Do you think Sahos and Jebertis should be kicked out from kebesa? Why? In the process of kicking out the Land Grabbers, if some of the Land Grabbers migrated to Ethiopia and Ethiopia reacted with panic and crossed the border and headed to destabilize the government, would you call your Tigrigna Christian brothers to help you defend the country? Why? 

#3 Let’s say you are the highest authority in the nation, please answer the plight of these big and small farming investors in your Western Lowland: If you find farming business partnerships that are owned by Tigrigna Christians and Western Lowland Muslims would you kick the Christians out? Why? Would you allow big and small Western investors to invest in farming in your Western Lowlands? Why? Would you allow big and small Arab investors to invest in farming in your Western Lowlands? Why? Would you allow big and small Christian Ethiopian investors to invest in farming in your Western Lowlands? Why? Would you allow big and small Eritrean Tigrigna Christian investors to invest in farming in your Western Lowlands? Why? What if the Tigrigna Christian small farming investor’s capital is one Adgi, one BiEray and one killo ZerE? Why?

Bumper sticker #9: When An Ethnic Minority Fights to Govern….It‘s Fighting To Destabilize The Nation  

One of the Ali Salim’s complaints is ethnic Tigrigna domination on everything. Even though I don’t doubt it, since I don’t know the specifics and the exact numbers in the current government, I don’t want to argue based on assumption or gut feeling. But these are the facts of our ethnic make-up. In a perfect ethnic representation of 1000 Eritreans 820 or close will be ethnic Tigres and Tigrignas, about 180 will be the other seven ethnics between 20-30 representatives each. Now do ethnic Tigres and Tigrignas dominate this gathering? Absolutely. Again out of these 1000 Eritreans about 320 are Tigres and about 680 are Non-Tigres. Yes the Tigres number is considerable, about one in three of the total gathering. Again out of these 1000 Eritreans 500 or close to are Christians which means all ethnics combined are equal (give and take few percentage) to ethnic Tigrignas. Therefore, I don’t care how you slice it, ethnic Tigrignas are the dominant ethnic group in Eritrea and due to their sheer numbers ethnic Tigrignas right to govern should be honored in order to have a stable and prosperous Eritrea otherwise Eritrea will be unstable country. This ratio is true when you distribute power and wealth, this ratio is true when you levy taxes and during nation building and this ratio is true when you serve and defend the nation in casualties. No ethnic group is cursed, no ethnic group is blessed, no ethnic group should apologize for its size and there is no ethnic group that anybody should feel sorry for. This is the reality on the ground and we have to accept this fact and move on.

Therefore representation, power, wealth and public services should be distributed equally to our region and ethnic proportion. Assuming the whole is equal to the sum of its individual pieces, when every ethnic group’s fair share reflects the ethnic group’s proportion to the whole, we will say with confidence we are approaching toward perfect equality of all ethnics and regions. Then everybody can interpret the end result with his/her own prism. You can say the whole pie is sliced into 50% Muslims 50% Christians, 32% Tigres and 3% Sahos or 18% Seraye and 15% Hamasien or 25% from the city of Asmara and 75% from the rest…. Take your pick.

Confused Ali Salims are confusing everybody. Since they don’t mean what they say and they don’t say what they mean, their land argument has become a guessing game. Is the problem what the regime is doing at this moment which is, in Ali Salim’s words expelling the indigenous inhabitants(Muslims) and replacing them with new settlers from elsewhere (Kebesa)”? Or they are worried about what the regime is going to do tomorrow? As Ali put it “Today is like no other day Lowlanders are threatened with their very existence and very soon they will be roaming Gypsies with no place to call home and there is no time to weigh the options”. Or is it that we the Tigrigna Christians don’t deserve to be equal like our Muslim brothers? As Ali put it “Do we as Eritreans really have a common goal of a nation united under the principles of equal citizenship? Most readers won’t like it but my answer happens to be “NO & NO.” Or is it all of the above? Or is it none of the above? I believe it is none of the above. But it takes a person with a spine who can stand straight, a gut, great eloquence, exceptional caliber and valid argument to challenge everybody face to face in public and change the direction of the country. And the Ali Salim’s don’t have that, not even remotely close. And without being articulate with your argument, you can’t be any use to your cause. I’m not a betting person, but if I have to put one more piece to the puzzle and guess, I would say the grievance is again all about power and control. And this is how Mohammed Ahmed put it.

If we take the regime’s 50/50 (Christian Muslim) ratio at face value… and If we take...the one million Eritreans stripped of their nationality by the brutal regime and confined to squalid refugee camps…… even if we take the low end of the estimates, these ostracized Eritreans, who are overwhelmingly Muslim account to about 13-15% of the total population of Eritrea. That brings the total ratio of Muslims to about 63-65%, which even by most conservative estimates is a more realistic number. Thus, if the Jebertis are removed from the above ratio, that leaves the Tigrignas with a lower percentage points putting them at par or maybe even a couple of notches different than the widely spread Tigres. If anything, what these numbers prove is that, there is no ethnic group in Eritrea which can emphatically say that it constitutes a majority; none whatsoever. Contrary to what the arrogant bigots preach, we are a nation of minorities. Mohammed Ahmed, Aug. 29, 2009

Is this a valid argument? No it is not. This argument is based on assumption and conspiracy theory. This argument assumes Eritrean population inside Eritrea is 50/50 and if you add Eritreans refuges in Sudan and elsewhere, by conservative estimate Muslim population jumps up to 65%. Is it true? I don’t know. When you argue you can’t build your argument from false premise (conspiracy or gut feeling) and reach into a valid conclusion. When it comes to validity of an argument: garbage in garbage out, as simple as that. This is Mohammed Ahmed’s argument: the dictator is a sick thug and lowly crook who can’t be trusted: the dictator who can’t be trusted said, we are 50% Muslims and 50% Christians: therefore Muslims are 65%, ethnic Tigres and Tigrignas are about equal in percentage and that makes us a nation of minorities. The implication: we Eritrean Muslims are the majority therefore we should run the country under the leadership Tigres of Barka (Bin-Amer). These are Mohammed Ahmed’s words:

the dictator’s reasoning for sticking with the 50/50 ratio cannot be attributed to a newfound benevolence or political correctness, because a sick and a lowly crook,…..— cannot be expected to be so accommodating towards the sensitivities of the general public. Not this sick thug anyways. The truth of the matter is, the numbers weren’t there. If the dictator had census data which would have supported his ethnic agenda, you would have seen those numbers flashed on Eri-TV day in day out. You would have seen databases, some even with smiley pictures and fingerprints of all those enumerated, on PFDJ’s websites. But again, the numbers just weren’t there. Mohammed Ahmed, Aug. 29, 2009

As to why segregated society by faith and the leadership of the Tigres of Barka
is needed for Eritrean Muslims to run the country, Ali Salim’s rational is, you have seven weak and small ethnics that are no match to the Tigrignas disguise and evil intent and you have two weak regions of Tigres of Sahel and Semhar that can’t stand-up against the Tigrigna Christians, or just listen:  

…a unified national identity that lumps the Tigrignas with helpless minorities is a recipe for disaster as it paves the way for the disguised flow of more Land Grabbers and Exclusionists. Ali Salim, Sep. 19, 2009

Therefore we should have segregated society by faith (not unified national identity) and the Tigres of Barka are the only hope to empower Eritrean Muslims and they should have the mandate to lead.

In government and politics faith is not a rallying factor, never was and never will be. You can’t say Muslims are 65% or 80% of the population therefore Tigres should govern the country. Tigres govern the country only if they are the majority, as simple as that. If any ethnic group which is not the majority is fighting to dominate and govern, that ethnic group is fighting to destabilize the country. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to send the wrong impression here, Tigres are the second largest ethnic group in Eritrea, anyone who thinks they can be sidelined is a fool, there won’t be any Eritrea without them being happy. It is a necessary, it is a must the Tigres and the Tigrignas to hammer out a meaningful, fair and realistic power sharing mechanism if there is going to be a peaceful, prosperous democratic Eritrea. And that is where the murky waters of the Ali Salims land argument, ethnic domination grievance and national language arguments start and endNow to go back to our discussion, for the sake of argument let’s assume Mohammed Ahmed is right, Muslims account 65% of Eritrean population. And let’s say we agreed to have segregated society by ethnicity and faith, in which every ethnic group enjoys absolute freedom to elect its own representatives, lobby and vote for its own interest in Eritrean parliament. Of course any idiot knows people are loyal to their regional and ethnic interest not religious affiliation. Therefore since the regional and ethnic interest of the other seven ethnics and two Tigre regions is not going to converge every time with those of Western Lowlands (Tigres of Barka), loyalty of all Eritrean Muslims to the Tigres of Barka is just a wishful thinking, if it wasn’t Jebha would be governing Eritrea today.

To be the devil’s advocate, I don’t believe the EPFDJ regime knows exactly the Christian-Muslim ratio of Eritreans, assuming Eritreans = Eritreans at home + Eritreans abroad. Of course one can argue the regime has better idea than anybody else, but that’s just about it. I don’t want to argue on something that I don’t know, but just for the sake of argument allow me to ask and comment on few things. What is your understanding when we say Eritrean Muslim-Christian ratio is 50/50. Do we mean the Tigrigna Christians are 50% of Eritrean population or we are saying all Eritrean Christians Tigrigna and none Tigrignas alike are 50% of Eritrean population? Let’s say the seven ethnic groups of Eritrea are between 2% and 3% of the population which gives them about 20% of the total population and assuming Christians are close to 50% of Eritrean population then how could the Tigres and Tigrignas have close percentage? As far as the Tigrigna Christians and Jebertis argument, if you consider the Jebertis outside the ethnic Tigrignas because of their faith, then you are going to add the Christians from Kunama, Blien and Tigres to the Tigrignas because of their faith as well, wouldn’t this actually work to the Tigrignas favor?  As to the ostracized Eritrean refugees in the Sudan and Eritrean refugees all over the planet, nobody really knows the exact Muslim-Christian ratio of all Eritrean refugees. Even if we know for sure the Muslim Christian ratio outside Eritrea, we don’t know the exact Muslim Christian ratio inside Eritrea. Therefore it is better to say, instead of wasting our time in an endless speculative argument, let’s collect scientific data of Eritrean census through different methods and let the chips fall where they may.

Finally few words for Ali Salim: Ali what you say what you write and what you believe is your prerogative and you have every right to speak-up your mind. But your “shock therapy” has shocked many Eritreans including me, not because we are afraid our people might get up one morning and slaughter each other or because we are afraid our country may be fractured into pieces but we are shocked by the standard you’ve set for yourself. The standard you’ve set for yourself is so low I truly believe even your organization is going to say Ali Salim doesn’t speak for us (assuming they’ve a goal to govern one day), your own friends won’t admit in public you (Ali Salim) are their friend, even you, yes you won’t admit you are the one with the penname Ali Salim for as long as possible. If you think I’m lying I dare you to prove me wrong. Believe me your articles are not going to hurt anybody except you and your organization (assuming you have one) and some Muslims who will be implicated by association (by some bigots) exactly like what you are doing to all Tigrigna Christians. 

Eritreans are not as strangers to each other as you think they are. If you go back a century or so and check our people’s family tree, hundreds of thousands of Muslims are descendants of Christian parents and hundreds of thousands of Christians are descendants of Muslim parents. And if you look our population today there are tens of thousands of mixed (from both faiths) families living happily together raising their kids surrounded by families and friends of both faiths. And there are thousands more ready to get married soon. Our people are not religious fanatics. They are proud believers but they don’t wear their religion on their sleeves. Contrary to what you believe all Eritreans of all faiths enjoy being neighbors, classmates, friends, lovers, coworkers, employees and employers. Of course there are those who spread fear and hate, threaten and promise dooms day, try anything and everything at their disposal to ignite war between the two faiths. But it is not going to happen. Our people know better. You don’t start a war when you don’t have an enemy. You can’t make an enemy out of people who have been through thick and thin together who have shared grief, joy, a piece of bread, a can of water and a burial ground for decades. You can’t segregate people who have been and still are friends, neighbors, in laws, nieces, nephews, cousins, husbands and wives. As in all communities there are always bad apples but because of few bad apples, you don’t cut your tree, chop it into pieces and set it on fire. You just pick and throw the bad apples on the top, water your beautiful green tree and enjoy your fresh apples with your friends and families. Eritrea is our Apple Tree, like many communities in the world, let’s throw the bad apples on the top and applaud the good apples that are bridging our communities. And that is the secret for a prosperous and happy life for all of us.

Author’s note: I didn't mean to send you duplicate of my article. I wrote the article in mind to respond to Ali Salim's argument. It was an honest mistake to send duplicate …because I didn't know your duplicate policy…I believe I belong and feel comfortable@ Awate.


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