An Inclusive Definition of “Who is an Eritrean?” – By Our Voice
An Inclusive Definition of “Who is an Eritrean?” By Our Voice Global Eritrean Democratic Grassroots Movement (GEDGM) “OUR DESTINY IN OUR HANDS!” One of the requirements of conducting a successful grassroots election with the purpose of swiftly forming a people’s Baito
An Inclusive Definition of “Who is an Eritrean?”
Global Eritrean Democratic Grassroots Movement (GEDGM)
“OUR DESTINY IN OUR HANDS!”
One of the requirements of conducting a successful grassroots election with
the purpose of swiftly forming a people’s Baito and a Global Eritrean
Leadership Council for regime change is inevitably the formulation of a clear
definition of “Who is an Eritrean?”
This is a thorny issue that leads to a lot of debates and arguments because
there are diverse and sometimes even conflicting interests in the matter.
There are, in fact, some groups and identifiable persons who have tried to
implicitly narrow the definition in such a way that it refers only to their own
group or perhaps even to themselves personally – suggesting that they have
the exclusive right and authority to decide on what happens to the country
and people of Eritrea. We say that this should never be allowed to happen
because it is divisive, grossly unfair and extremely dangerous.
Why is it extremely dangerous? We refer you to the work of the German
sociologist and philosopher Jurgen Habermas. A harmonious and viable
society can exist only when all its citizens become stakeholders and
beneficiaries of it in a fair and equitable manner. Otherwise, the citizens have
the right to rebel and demand their rights and abolish the exploitative
Thus, the excluded will and should use every means at their disposal to fight
back overtly or covertly to regain their rights as the situation demands. When
they lack power, their disappointment and grudge will still be there but they
may not show it for obvious reasons. But, they will still remain full of anger
and resentment waiting for their time – kem zitedegole hawi. Such excluded
masses of people are, in fact, the major causes of bloody uprisings, civil wars
revolutions and mass killings in the process. Indeed, the excluded have caused
the collapse of many armies and empires in history starting from ancient times.
As a case in point, we shall give an outline of the Battle of Thermopylae in 480
B.C. Greece between the alliance of Ancient Greek city-states led by the
Spartan King Leonidas and the Persian Empire of Xerxes I. The Persians had
an army of about 100,000-150,000 men whereas the Greeks had about 3,000-
7,000. The core of the Greek army was about 300 Spartans. The Greek
strategy was to prevent Persian advance into the mainland by blocking the
enemy army advance in a narrow coastal strip with an overhanging
inaccessible cliff and finish them off one by one. The standoff and battle
continued for several days in favour of the massively outnumbered Greeks. In
short, the Persians were trapped. However, the Greeks were betrayed by a
local resident called Ephialtes of Trachis, who revealed to the Persians a small
path up the cliff that lead behind the Greek defence lines. This enabled the
enemy to outflank the Greek forces, smash their rear guard and defeat them.
King Leonidas and all the 300 men and others were killed in the battle. It was a
complete tragedy for the Greeks.
The point is, why did Ephialtes of Trachis betray his country and people to such
effect? They say that he was a deformed individual with disability which in
ancient Sparta would have led to his infanticide. He was spared death because
his parents took him away to another place. But, he still was bearing the social
disapproval. Thus, he had a grudge to settle – the grudge of exclusion and
humiliation. A bribe offered by the Persians might have also been another
factor, but he never took the bribe.
Look also at the perceived betrayal of the Italians by some of their native
subjects in Eritrea. The expropriation of land in Eritrea by the Italians and the
racism, exclusion, exploitation and humiliation of the natives made many
young Eritreans escape to Ethiopia and turn against the Italians such as Abraha
Deboch and Moges Asgedom and Dr Lorenzo Taezaz. Other Eritreans like
Awalom Berhe, while pretending to work for the Italians, worked hard to
cause the defeat of the colonial army in the Battle of Adwa by misleading the
Italians and giving correct details about the invading Italian formations to the
In short, the lesson we can draw from this is that mistreating, excluding,
exploiting, humiliating, name calling and inflicting pain on any citizen or group
or taking their land may rebound and damage us severely to the extent that we
may even lose our country as a result. To a large extent, what we have just
said may explain the weak and failed states around the world where there is
turmoil – such as Somalia, Nigeria and some countries in the Middle East and
other places. It is dangerous, and we should not let it happen to us.
Where there is a serious feeling of exclusion, unfairness and oppression, it is
very easy for those who want to create trouble to put in their seeds of social
rupture and let them grow – as in the proliferation of bacteria in open wounds
gradually forming gangrene. We know that there are political and religious
extremists (we shall not name here) waiting in the wings to exploit our disunity
and areas of dissatisfaction. We should be proactive and not allow them to
take root in our midst.
This is why we are advocating the emergence of a NEW ERITREAN SOCIETY
which is democratic, equitable and fair to all – not only to the majority or few
interest circles – but to all its people regardless of ethnicity, language, region,
religion, race, gender, family background or occupation. We want to
contribute our share to creating such a society where every Eritrean has a say
and a stake – and a sense of belongingness than to no other.
Every Eritrean should understand that he/she has the birth right to expect, ney
demand and get protection and succour from his/her society and state.
Otherwise, the system will have failed, and it has to be changed in that case.
There is no excuse.
In Eritrea, the outgoing PFDJ regime has created a lot of unhappy and
excluded sectors of the population which it has failed to care for. As a result,
we have a big population of refugees (roughly about 1-1.5 million from a small
country) all over the world, including big refugee camps in the Sudan and
Ethiopia. The new state of Eritrea has to quickly own these refugees and
repatriate them with sufficient provisions and opportunities in collaboration
with the international community. To pave the way for this possibility, all
these refugees and indeed all Eritreans should take part in the forthcoming
grassroots elections. But, we need to first know clearly who can participate in
the elections and who cannot.
Here is then the moment of truth: “Who is an Eritrean?”
We suggest the following eight provisional criteria:
1. All those with Eritrean passports and identity cards
2. All those who participated in the liberation struggle
3. All those born from an Eritrean father and Eritrean mother
4. All those whose father or mother is an Eritrean
5. All those born in Eritrea and spent their formative years there
6. All those who lived in Eritrea for over five years and are committed to
the country and people
7. All those who are married to an Eritrean and who remain in a stable
relationship for five years or more
8. All those who are committed to the wellbeing of the people of Eritrea
and who have made significant contributions to the country
On issuance of citizenship, all candidates shall swear to uphold the Eritrean
constitution and defend the interests of the country and people of Eritrea.
It should be made a treasonable serious offence to exclude, malign,
disrespect, insinuate, undermine, humiliate, backbite or discredit an
Eritrean who fulfils any of the said criteria on the basis of race, ethnicity,
family background (history or genealogy), religion, language, occupation,
superstitious beliefs, etc. It should also be a treasonable serious offence to
deny or try to deny any Eritrean who fulfils any of the said criteria from
exercising his/her full rights as a citizen like any other Eritrean.
The reason why such offences should be considered as treasons, or crimes
against the State of Eritrea and not only against the individual victim is
because such crimes damage OUR UNITY and the very fabric of our society
by pitting friends, neighbours, colleagues and compatriots against one
another – thus creating fear, mistrust and enmity. A viable and harmonious
society is not possible under such conditions. Therefore, they should not be
This is the only way we can create a forward looking, civilised, prosperous,
advanced, confident, united and strong society that can effectively
compete in the world and is at peace within itself and its neighbours.