19 October 2003


Below are some misconceptions that Woldeyessus Ammar wants us to accept as the ultimate truth. Unfortunately, Woldeyessus does not seem to understand our basic problems of "Religion and Ethnicity in Eritrean Politics," least of all, lecture us on the subject. Probably, and some day, Woldeyessus Ammar will come out clean, and learn to "call a spade, a spade." So far, he has been babbling around with the sole intention of promoting himself and his ego. And he is screwing up big time.
Below is an article written by Woldeyessus Ammar. I have some historical differences with some of his assertions. Please find my commentaries, written in red scripts.

Religion and Ethnicity in Eritrean Politics (Part IV)
By Woldeyesus Ammar
Oct 7, 2003, 4:46pm

This article is a commentary on Dr. Habte Tesfamariams's flawed 'analysis' based on distorted half-facts as presented in his Awate.com interview of 28 September 200. As perceived by many, his contribution indeed was a recipe for polarization. But let me start with general comment on Eritrea's perennial ethno-religious sensitivities and taboos that also fit the theme of this title.

Post-independence discussions among Eritreans occasionally dwelt on the issue of taboos and how we handled them during the years of armed struggle. Some said we were exaggerating. Consider the efforts one made to never ask a friend's place of origin. In other instances, fighters would refrain from talking in mother tongues other than the relatively major languages. Relaxed discussion about one's religion, region and ethnicity was not supposed to be there. Those terms were among the 'unmentionables', and anyone who dared say them would be considered second-rate tegadalai, or would expose himself to other risks.

That was the situation in our taboo-land, our 'liberated' areas of the day. But let us also see the present. Not very long ago, some passions were stirred when Mensour Kerrar started writing articles in Awate.com about some of our taboos. There were a number of name-callers who feverishly wished that he stopped writing. Can't one conclude that when people wish to play ostrich, they rename their realities and call them 'taboos'? Yet, taboos never stop to mean glaring symptoms of real problems. (We all know those taboos, Weldeyessus Ammar. We also know who propagated those taboos. We know the people who would not allow bona fide Eritreans to mention our place of origin, tribes, and precluded us from using our mother tongues. And we call those people Betjuks and Jebertis and Almadas. And the reason was because these people were not of Eritrean origin except of course the Almadas. The Betjuks ultimately became the biggest benefactors of the ELF. They spread from their tiny and arid village, massacred the Christians at Halhal and established a settlement. They firmly entrenched themselves at Alighidir and Tesseney, by tightly controlling the migration of other tribes into the region. And they virtually annihilated the bona fide Eritrean Kunamas. That is why the ELF could appropriately be called Jebhet Betjuk, a name we commonly used in Alighidir.
And the Almadas are bona fide Eritreans, but do not necessarily have a region they could call their own. Almadas are found virtually everywhere in Eritrea and Tigray. For example, Abdella Idris is Almaday. He could pass as a BeniAmray but with parenthesis enclosing "Almaday." In other words, Abdella Idris is an "immigrant" or "settler" among the Beni Amirs. Considering the complex nature of the low land traditions, Abdella Idris would never be accepted as a "full BeniAmray," ever.
And the Jebertis are pure Agame immigrants. You can't dispute this fact.
I am specifically focusing on the lowlands mainly because it is the region that I am very familiar with and also because both of us are lowlanders.
Hence, the problems beleaguering the lowlands are primarily caused by the "minority" groups, who are mostly foreign settlers. As it is always the case all over the world, we in Eritrea underestimated the powers of the "minorities" especially those that feel threatened by our traditions and cultures. And worse even, we allowed them to plunder upon us with so much ease and maximum liberty. They prohibited us from identifying ourselves as this tribe or that tribe. They ensured we condemned our indigenous languages and enforced a foreign language that encompassed them as well. Everything indigenous was considered a taboo. While calling yourself a Bilennay, MenSAy or BeniAmray became a taboo, identifying oneself as Betjuk or Jeberti was considered an honor. We did not preclude them from propagating their own identities primarily because we did not fell threatened by them. But now, we understand the amount of damage they have caused to our society. In fact, if the ELF is to ever rise again, it should be handed over to the Betjuks and other minorities, where the Blens and the MensAs and the Maryas etc would have to their subservient. They were the brain behind its success of the ELF, and of course, under their own agenda. I hope Woldeyessus picks this topic and expands on it, instead of dabbling in inconsequential historical jargons. Perhaps, and for a change, he would dig deep and uncover the real "Taboos" instituted by illegal immigrant witchdoctors.

We also confuse things and claim our problems were created by the British and the Ethiopians. The head of the PFDJ regime and his cronies on their part repeatedly tell our people that it was the British who established bipolarity of two cultures in Eritrea. That is half-true. The full truth is that they were there as internal realities, but developed into problems exploitable by outsiders because the insiders failed to manage their affairs. (That is a low blow, Woldeyessus Ammar. He knows that there was perfect harmony, particularly in the lowlands, prior to the advent of the British. We all had our lands and our traditions and cultures intact. The illegal immigrant Betjuks (Bedew) and their likes, lived in perfect harmony in our various communities, but under the strict control of our traditional leaders. And then the British demeaned the dekebat Eritrean leaders and promoted the Jebertis and Betjuks and those they felt did not identify themselves with the core traditions of our various tribes and regions. And the minority illegal immigrants never relinquished those opportunities, till date. They are still haunting us. Go to any meeting and you will know an illegal immigrant in the way he/she attempts to discourage Eritrean unity, cohesion and coexistence. And they are successful for the most part. That is why Eritrea in such a shamble. The bona fide Eritreans take things for granted and mostly relinquish powers and decision making apparatus to the illegal immigrants, who have excelled in exercising such powers and opportunities. How do you think Isaias Afewerki and Abdella Idris got to the ultimate powers of the two liberation fronts? Why do you think the illegal immigrants outnumber bona fide Eritreans when leadership censuses are taken? The power of minorities my brother!! That is the key to your next topic. I have you will have the balls to discuss such issues, in detail, rather than continue making irrational conclusions.

One of the first British military administrators of Eritrea, Stephen Longrigg, asked his political officer to draft something about the future of the occupied territory. That officer's report delivered in 1944 said something like this (not exact quotation): 'these Eritreans will not live in peace together and they better be sliced into pieces for annexation by the neighbouring states.' This early draft proposal with the existing internal divisions became the basis for the Bevin-Sforza plan for partition at the United Nations. It was by a miracle of salvation vote by small Haiti that Eritrea remained in one piece till today. Otherwise, it was gone! (Your statement above is true to a limited extent. In fact, you are adding to the "Taboos" we already have in Eritrea. The highlands of Eritrea was in disarray long before the advent of the Italians or British. The highlands, especially Hamassien, was under the control of Agame Rasis (Such as Rasi Asressegn of Asmara) who were instituted as "colonial" leaders of Tigray, before the advent of the European colonial masters, namely, Italy and Britain. The bona fide Eritreans in the highlands were already under the subjugation of the Agames and were already fractured. But luckily, the lowlands were spared from the Agame wrath that was inflicted on the highlanders.
In the lowlands, the minorities, such as illegal immigrant Ibrahim Sultan, became the spokesmen of the region. And they exerted extreme powers, thanks to the backing of the British. And they effectively used their powers to disintegrate the lowlands and demean our traditional institutions and traditional rulers. They pursued one dogma that incuded them as part and parcel of the Eritrean communities. They advocated Islam as a principle and Arabic as a religion. All they wanted to hear was islam and Arabic and nothing else of the history, traditions and cultures of dekebat Eritrea. And they succeeded in killing everything we stood for, as the original indigenes of the land, and they are still fighting to institute their dreams, till date.
Hence, if Woldeyessus Ammar wants to talk of the real Eritrea, he should go back to the time of Rasi Alula conquest of the Highlands. He would discover that Eritreans, both highlands and lowlands, lived as neighbors, and in perfect harmony. Whenever each side was attacked by outsiders, from the Sudan or Tigray, words went around the region and all they had to say was "Kittet! Kittet!!!" and each tribe and clan contributed its warriors to form a formidable army. And that is how we survived for centuries. Hence, when Woldeyessus discusses the Eritrean situation, he has to go back to the early 1800, when Eritrea was indeed, Eritrea. And perhaps then he would discover the riff raffs that have immersed our dear country into the present quagmire. I hope he writes more on this topic, if he has more to add.)

In the days of Haile Selassie, and at a time when the Eritrean struggle gathered strength, the Ethiopians wrote a pamphlet claiming that Eritreans will never make it together, and that Ethiopia will be obliged to intervene and make 'peace' among rival factions, mainly on religious grounds. The same pamphlet, 'Eritrea Now and Then', was updated by the military regime of Mengistu Hailemariam and repeated similar language. (Ethiopia's perennial tactic of appearing like an advocate of one 'victimized' segment of the Eritrean people against the other segment was evident in the days of Haile Selassie and Mengistu. That central tactic for divide and rule is not yet changed.) (And with regard to the sustained unification of Eritrea, Woldeyessus Ammar should dispel the "Taboo" and give credits to those who deserve them. I know that it is very hard to admit but the orchestrater of a united highland and lowland of Eritrea was the greedy emperor Haile Silassie. Against the advise of the British, Haile Silassie fought to keep the whole Eritrea. In the final vote, and not to offend the British, Ethiopia abstained and let Haiti (Ethiopia's allay then) do the job for them, knowing they had enough votes to keep Eritrea united. And that is the true story. Read United Nations Year Books 1947, 48, 49,50, 51 and 52 for verification.
Emperor Haile Silassie was more than aware of the distinct split between the lowlands and highlands that had developed over the years of Agame control of the highlands and the disintegration of the lowlands by illegal immigrant betjuks and their likes. But, the foolish emperor though he would use the prevailing "enmity" to his advantages. We now know that he was wrong, and terribly wrong, for that matter.

During the years of armed struggle, wrong practices gave birth to perceptions that generally identified the two major fronts through ethno-religious prisms.

The above sketched points may give a frightening impression of a society that will eventually disintegrate. But that is not our case. At least not yet. Like many other peoples, we have manageable differences in the society (e.g. regions, ethnies and religions) although we have been continually failing to manage differences that have the potential of growing into serious problems when wrongly used by internal political actors.

It can be stressed further that, in spite of their religious, ethnic or linguistic differences that remain sources of the taboos/sensitivities, our people in their great majority always preferred to live together. This was demonstrated by the reaction of all parties to the Bevin-Sfoza partition plan of May 1949 that provoked the creation of the Independence Bloc. Add to this the unforgettable bonds of tolerance and camaraderie among fighters cultivated during the prolonged years of armed struggle.

Yet, we cannot hide the fact that there always existed the failure to build trust in place of mistrust, and failure to put behind us - even after long years of interaction in one organization - all the 'taboos', all the sensitivities, all the negative perceptions that today preoccupy the Internet writers, readers, interviewers and interviewees. And talking about mistrust, one cannot easily bypass what Dr. Habte told his Awate interviewer last week. (Woldeyessus Ammar, Eritreans shall live together, forever. There is no suspicions among bona fide Eritreans. I care less if a MensAy is a Moslem is a Christian or Moslem. And I am sure that you do the same. However, we can not discount the damages done to our society over the years. But, presently, all we have to do is identify our detractors. The Betjuks, the Jebertis and their likes are still in our midst. They are still persisting to utilize their old tricks to sustain their citizenship and their influence in our country. They shall continue to disintegrate our societies, until an Eritrean nation that accepts them fully is established. Hence, we have a choice to control them while they reside among us and enforce our own values, traditions and cultures. Or, on the other hand, discard our past history, and established a renewed Eritrea that strips the bona fide Eritreans of their rights and privileges and equate every inhabitant in the country as equal and with the same stake. The later is what mad dog Isaias attempting to do. It is a continuation of what the British started. Make a choice Woldeyessus Amar!!!

Comments on Dr. Habte's 'Analysis'
One can say 2003 was indeed a year of painful insults and injuries to the Eritrean people. It was not only the announcement of the war casualties in PFDJ's unlawful Eritrea that deeply aggrieved our people this year. On top of counting and mourning their dead and suffering of a killing famine, our people also suffered a fatal wound deep in their heart by learning that those who have been promising to salvage them from the unlawful regime were not themselves law-abiding citizens of a nation that deserved better. History will attest that all those who overtly or covertly supported the blatant act of violation of established organizational rules and democratic procedures in the ELF-RC this summer have caused the total loss of credibility of the opposition in the eyes of the Eritrean people.

Even the veteran tegadalai, Dr. Habte Tesfamariam, has done that, and more. By the way, he did not only contribute in deepening mistrust, but he also unwittingly encouraged everyone who is prone to march on the path leading to the ugly and unwanted polarization in our taboo-ridden society. He has shared in breaking down the ELF-RC by taking side with law-breakers. Dr Habte shed crocodile tears by apologizing to Eritrea for the failure to keep the ELF-RC intact. Instead of that, he should have apologized for much worse sin that he has committed: buying more incredibility for the opposition in the eyes of the Eritrean people who have come to hate law-breakers and all those who are not ready to accept the basic elements of democracy - respect to the voice of the majority and abide by commonly agreed upon rules and procedures.

The gist and 'logic' of Dr. Habte's message in his Awate.com interview can be summarized as follows:

- a) Woldeab Woldemariam was a Christian crusader and his anti-national unity advocacy gave birth to sectarianism in Eritrea; I, Dr. Habte, refused in the past to become a crusader;
- b) the mainstream ELF-RC has become under the grip of a new brand of Christian crusaders in the footsteps of Woldeab Woldemariam and I, the principled Dr. Habte, once more distance myself from Christian sectarians and sectarianism.

I believe that misuse of words that carry semblance of 'facts' to some quarters as bases of analysis led Dr. Habte to end up with terribly wrong conclusions on both counts. I will attempt to explain.

1. The Crusader Woldeab 'Logic': I have no way of disputing Dr. Habte whether or not the great patriot Woldeab Woldemariam told him what was quoted. But one thing is understandable even with those unverifiable allegations against a dead man: in the context of the era and the unwelcome developments of those years in the field, uttering any shi… at a certain point in time was a possibility. The ELF army was divided into regions, which in reality was division into ethnies and religions. Even the 5th Command of Woldai Kahsai was there by decision of the leadership and with the high possibility of evolving into a 'Christian army'. Therefore, even if Aboy Woldeab had said at least part of what is ascribed to him, one would expect more sensible and responsible interpretation of isolated wild thoughts at a bad time for the great patriot who consistently stood for the whole of our nation.

But if it is passing judgment based on utterances much detached from the reality, let me tell the reader a story about Dr. Habte Tesfamariam himself.

The place was at the roof of ELF-RC's Foreign Information Center at Mazraa quarter of Western Beirut in the early summer of 1980. Present around a radio broadcast listening to news about the looming conflict between the ELF and the EPLF were Dr Habte Tesfamariam, two senior cadres of the ELF mass organizations from the field (one of them still alive), myself and … I now forgot who else was around. The unconfirmed news that evening was that an allegedly Soviet-supported ELF army, assisted from sea, land and air by the Marxist regime of Mengistu Haile Mariam, was reportedly launching a massive attack against the northern bases of the EPLF. The claimed aim was the liquidation of the EPLF in order to work out a new political settlement in the region in which the ELF would share power etc… We were all shocked and angered by the flaring up of yet another wasteful conflict between the two fronts. We were also commenting from the heart, and all appeared to be ignorant of what was really going on.

On his part, Dr. Habte Tesfamariam said this: "Arkan Abdalla Idris Ahwatna kewed'u?! Eziko deymedy elka zigber zelo haymanotawin eblelawn medeb'u". And there were a few more unnecessary words added by him to fully express his anger and understanding of the sad situation .

Frankly, I was not comfortable with the language he used at that moment but I never took it at its face value. Like those committed and truly liberated Eritreans with ELF culture of mutual understanding, Dr. Habte cannot be charged of favouring Christians and distancing Moslem. Like all the ELF-RC cadres and members that he now wrongly described to be otherwise, Dr. Habte was considered to be one of those who could be helping in the smooth transition to a better society. That is how I over-passed his 1980 slip of tongue and never thought of it until I read his interview about Aboy Woldeab. I thought he should have over-passed what he alleged the great Eritrean patriot thought in the 1960s.

In other words, we are not concerned now to apportion responsibilities and crimes to Aboy Woldeab and other individuals for the old splits in the ELF, but we should try to be correct and, in the process, to be fair to our history, its makers and to our own contributions. I have not been a short-sighted Woldeab defender, nor was Woldeab my number-one hero in the Eritrean nationalist movement. But whatever Woldeab Woldemariam has allegedly confided to Habtes and Habtais about his thoughts in the struggle at a given and extremely difficult period in time, that one time thought cannot lead one to categorize him as a Christian crusader who caused and deepened sectarianism in the Eritrean arena. In the contrary, and in spite of wrong actions and omissions he might have committed, genuine Eritrean history will treat Woldeab Woldemariam as a great contributor to the Eritrea of today. In spite of dr Habte's wrong logic and miserably poor interpretation of history with half-truths, Patriot Woldeab will be remembered for his lion's share of credit in the preservation of national unity between the people of the two major religions in Eritrea. What a pity to our people, doctor, that you are considered as one of Eritrea's 'enlightened' figures.

2. Dr. Habte's Erroneous Equating of ELF-RC to Sectarianism : This was another unnecessary conclusion the good doctor has reached after narrating stories, figures and quotations - all taken out of context, and every piece of them asking for correction. But a detailed correction cannot be done without boring the reader; instead, I will concentrate on a few points that should be clarified in order to help avert misinformation and mal-education to the public. (However, we will not prevent the profusion of exaggerated misuse of Dr. Habte's wrong analysis. As they say, 'Hankas zewreyos ba'al feres neymelso'. By weeks end, elements like Mohammed Taha Tewekel, a regional journalist from whom one would expect objective reflection, commended Dr Habte for having "exposed Woldeab" and for having taught him (Tewekel) about "a Christian coup d'etat" in the ELF-RC and about the "Christian extremist group" that conspired to topple Ahmed Nasser in 2002. You see where we already are?)

I am not sure if Dr.Habte really believed in what he said, but if he did, it is not normal. A balanced observer will definitely see appreciably little sectarianism in the ELF-RC compared with what we have in the arena. That is why the cadres and members of this organization, including Dr. Habte, aspired with great commitment to multiply the size of the organization by manifold in order to be able to make an impact in our sickening politics, both inside and outside the homeland.

In his disjointed and hard to follow interview, Dr. Habte wanted to establish that the replacement of Ahmed Nasser by Seyoum was based on "plots, maneuvers and secrecy" and that the conspiratorial/sectarian group targeted/excluded Moslems. He also added: "I was informed of that [conspiracy?] by the main campaigner during the ELF-RC festival in Kassel… If it were innocent, was there any need for exclusions?" The one who is referred to as the 'main campaigner' is I. Therefore, I am obliged to tell how it was, at least for the sake of those who value the truth, nothing but the truth.(It is good that we are also starting to be transparent! Isn't it?)

It was Saturday afternoon of 3 August 2002, both Dr. Habte and I sitting at the front row of the Kassel Festival hall listening to speeches by the then chairman Ahmed Nasser and others at the podium. Dr. Habte draws a paper from his pocket and asks me to read it. It was a leaflet distributed by PFDJ demonstrators in Washington while he was in a visit to USA a few days earlier. The mischievous PFDJ leaflet listed the names of leaders of a dozen opposition organizations of the Alliance (then known as AENF).

Dr. Habte turned to me and said: "You see how they are exploiting an existing weakness? The only Christian name in the list is that of Tewolde Ghebreselassie and they are saying to our people that the rest are Jihad movements; that is very damaging in front of our innocent people".

I agreed with him adding, "Well, what can the organizations do; the only one that could have a name similar to Tewolde's is us and we did not do it for 41 years nor are we doing it now. … Ah, Habte, what about replacing Ahmed for so many reasons in the coming session? Seyoum can cope the post perfectly." I was partly expecting to receive a negative response like the one I received about this same issue from Dr. Yusuf Berhanu at the 4th ELF-RC Congress in 1995.

But Dr. Habte was different when he replied: "MiQiyar da'a yared!" and confirmed that Seyoum can cope. Then I asked him if I should go around the RC members in the Festival compound and explore feelings of some - of course with measured caution so that the idea would not raise passions or die prematurely. His reply was, "Yes explore, go ahead!" We shook hands warmly and with smiles (and I don't know why we were all smiles!)

In the 30 or so hours that lapsed before I again met Dr Habte, I talked to a few available RC colleagues who in turn talked to whoever was close to them and one who would not spread the idea of change at its early stage. It was amazing how everybody was in agreement of replacing Ahmed by anyone … some of them adding "by Seyoum, Yusuf, Mengis, Negash… anyone!" The support was solidified when some heard that the idea was not only endorsed by Dr. Habte but was even originating from an exchange of ideas with him. No one was thinking of discrediting Ahmed nor interested about 'Moslem/Christian' names other than the need of change. I can say it was only the chat between Dr. Habte and me over the PFDJ leaflet that could be described as "sectarian discussion" during that period.)

I met Dr. Habte again Sunday night, 4 August 2002, during the last dinner/dance/cleaning evening at the Festival Hall. I took my plate, sat near him and told him that the RC members so far approached were highly favourable for replacing Ahmed this year. Dr. Habte's reaction was: "HaqiKa diKa?" and I confirmed by saying, "Ebleka-loKu!" He gave back a subdued smile this time but we could not continue any talk because everybody was around.

About two weeks later in mid-August when we were nearly finished with 2nd RC meeting agenda items except election of officers, I and Amanuel Habte of USA approached Dr. Habte to discuss about the election and the awkwardness of letting him, Dr. Habte, to retain the post of Afebaito (the RC Speaker) at a time we plan to introduce Seyoum as candidate for the ELF-RC chairmanship. Dr. Habte's reply was very short: "Ba'eliKum tifelTu!" and he left us. This was about 15 hours before the election time.

At that time, everybody attending the RC meeting knew about the proposed new candidates: Seyoum for chairman and Ibrahim Mohammed Ali for Afebaito, a post that was strengthened during the same session in order to put more RC control on the powers of the executive office. (Ibrahim was already full RC member following the resignation on family reasons of Haile Ghebru of Australia.)

As far I am concerned, there were no plots, no evil-intentions to exclude others. What happened was to hold the proposal till the last day, as is usual in elections, to minimize delay through 'parliamentary filibuster' which is possible to have it also in the RC. (Filibuster is the practice of obstructing progress in a legislative assembly by prolonged speeches and related tactics.) In our case, we had very limited time because many of the RC members had narrow leave schedules and were booked to fly at fixed dates including that very election day. Any cause for delay was likely to affect the proposed change and that was not preferred. That was all.

When Dr. Habte expressed objections to the candidature of Seyoum on 14 August 2002, I asked why he was so silent for 12 days or why he did not inform whoever he thought should be informed during those 12 days between 3 August and 14 August 2002. Until now, Dr. Habte could not provide a sensible answer. I am sure he cannot have one.

In other parts of his Awate.com interview, Dr. Habte also said this: "I cannot accuse Weldeyesus Ammar and Ibrahim Mohammed Ali with sectarianism. But this is what I make out of it and that is what I saw in the process over the last few years". Well, I and the great tegadalai, Ibrahim Mohammed Ali, who literally speaking has no ethnie, no region or religion in Eritrea except Eritrea, should normally be thankful to Dr. Habte for the first sentence which I think is correct. But the second sentence destroys what he implied by the first. To say the truth, I found the entire interview contradictory and, unfortunately, of negative contribution to the Eritrean opposition as a whole. I felt Dr. Habte does not believe in what he says.

The veteran tegadalai-doctor also thought I should not have described as "little Rasai" (to use the correct term) to what happened at the 5th ELF-RC Congress in Gondar in 2001. Furthermore, he also alleged that I 'insulted' an entire ethnic group while writing about a few elements who broke away from the ELF-RC unlawfully. These and related phrases were repeated many times in the interview as his 'big guns' for argument. For that reason only, I owe the reader an additional clarification, and a frank and transparent one.

First, about old times.
In 1983, when the ELF-RC was asked either to dissolve itself out of existence or join one of the three organizations then forming the so-called "Tripartite Union" that was literally led by a Saudi government official called Abdalla Bahabre, our organization tacitly agreed to 'merge' with the PLF of Osman Saleh Sabbe. As a measure of containment of the organization, all ELF-RC cadres were taken for 're-education' to the main PLF base of Humboreb, north east of Kassala. I was among them. In an address to the 'vanquished' ELF-RC cadres, the PLF strong-man, Saeed Nawoud, threatened that severe action would be taken against us if we 'misbehaved' or if we were suspected of not respecting the merger 'agreement' with PLF. At that Humboreb 'seminar', I described the merger agreement to be unfair and "very similar to the Treaty of Versailles" at the end of World War I. It was a phrase that PLF officials disliked but repeated it at several occasions. When Dr. Habte was told about that expression, he reportedly quipped in front of a few people: "Wa'e! ata eziz mis enda Sabbe keba'esena gdi'u!!" Dr Habte was accepting the merger as a desperate solution. Many others did not. (It is to be noted that a year before that in 1982, Dr. Habte had no problem with whatever one could have said or written about the coup d'etat of Abdalla Idris because he was against law-breakers then. Otherwise, he could as well have described everyone who opposed that illegitimate coup d'etat as 'sectarians' or 'Kebessan chauvinists', and that could have very well included Ahmed Nasser. That in fact was the language of the coup-maker of the day.)

Back to the congress in Gondar: everyone was ashamed of those who campaigned to refuse an RC seat for a consistent and genuine struggler like Ibrahim Mohammed Ali, whom many saw as the soul and the glue that kept the ELF-RC mosaic in one piece after the 1982 coup d'etat. In my own way of describing important phenomena in fewer words, I called that wrong act in Gondar as 'little Rasai'. (Of course I was insinuating some distant similarity between Rasai of 1982 and Gondar of 2001). But everything had ended there, and in a matter of a day. In spite of the differences in their political stands and capacities to think and express ideas, I never made a distinction between Ahmed Nasser and Ibrahim Mohammed Ali. And it is quite laughable today to find it necessary to say that I never conspired or joined "conspiracies" on this matter, as Dr. Habte alleged. I just mean it. (As to the interviewee's other 'stories' to Awate about maneuvers, plots and meetings etc in Kassel, Wabishebelle … I should complain, if I have the right to do so, because, like Dr. Habte and the list of Moslem names he presented, I was not included by the "conspirators" known to him.)

In addition to accusing his old comrades in the ELF-RC (a vast majority of them) of sectarianism, Dr. Habte also charged them of working against a specified ethnie in Eritrea. In particular, he alluded to a very recent article under my installments and accused me of insulting an Eritrean ethnic identity although he knew well what was written in black and white. "Ethnic groupie" clearly referred to those few elements playing ethnic affinities and the false 'unity' card for opportunistic political ends. And 'groupie' is not an insult although it perfectly depicts the narrowness and smallness of the breakaway groupie.

At the same time, though, it was very clear that my writing did not gloss over the overriding problem. It did aim to expound how wrong steps taken, however unwittingly, by individuals or small 'groupies' leave a trail of wreck behind them by misleading bigger populations. The example given was about the Kenyan Karamojo Oginga Odinga whose intended progressive party turned out to be one basically composed of "fellow Luos". This has been the case in our setting since a long time. If the reader wants to be reminded, here they are:

- The late Osman Saleh Sabbe's withdrawal from the ELF deprived the organization of the people of an entire region who never came back to it.
- Despite his claims of not being a "religious prophet", the author of Nehnan Elamanan left a legacy of division that is still haunting the nation and its unity to this day.
- The coup d'etat at Rasai in 1982 siphoned out of the mainstream ELF a clearly identifiable sector of the population. The image of the then illegitimate faction of the coup-makers was not improved by the presence in it of a Yohannes or Ghebrehiwet Kelete (may the latter survive the PFDJ dungeons where he was returned again two years ago).
- The last episode in the long chain of lawless splits is again siphoning out of the ELF-RC another identifiable section of the population. This is how inadvertent actions of individuals or small groupies adversely affect the march of time and progress.

All the unhappy splits experienced in the Eritrean arena were caused by individuals or groups that chose to refuse to be governed by established organizational rules and procedures. Starting with the PLF 'groupies' made up of three factions, those who split always claimed they had fear of 'domination' and stood against the majority by defying the most basic elements of democratic practice. This is a serious trend in our aspirations to create a democratic society. And how sad that even Dr. Habte Tesfamariam chose this slippery and indefensible path of law-breakers. The Eritrean people do for sure hate and despise the law-breaker in Asmara and others who follow his way. (The rest of your article I care less about. As far as I am concerned, Jebhet Betjuk died in 1981, and was buried in 1991. However, Woldeyessus Ammar, Dr. Hate was dead right on his comments of the Agame filth Woldeab Woldemariam. Please, don't even mention that name in Eritrean history. The man was a Christian crusader and had contempt for Moslems. And that is a fact. But at the same time, we should not ignore the Moslem maggots that are abhorred by Christians and would do anything to prevent them from attaining a top leadership level. It is hightime that we Christians, especially in the lowlands, show such Moslems that we are not to be taken for a ride. No one should question our commitment to our Christian religion and no one should stand on our way when we vie for any position. If the Moslem maggots believe that we lowland Christians are there to boost their derailed agendas, they have it wrong. We shall preserve our Christian religion and honor our Moslem brethrens and their faith as well. Outside a mutual respect for each other, will breed contempt between the two major religions. While we bicker over everything, however, we should always remember that religion is personal and should be kept so, at least in Eritrea.)

W. Ammar