Nhnan Elamanan, //http://www.jeberti.com/pdf/NehnanElamanan.pdf, is a manifesto written some 40 years ago and is still being vilified by some individuals, or quarters, up to now. It is commonly believed to be written by none other than the current President of the state of Eritrea, Esayas Afeworki.
I should be the an unlikely person to defend the Manifesto, at least in the eyes of hardened opponents, and hardened supporters of the government . To the opponents it might seem a suicide mission, and to the supporters a dilemma they couldn’t fathom --is the opposition really in pursuit of the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth?
The reason I am defending this paper is, simply 1) I am captivated by it, it is a master piece, and 2)I want to fight the polarizing agendas in the opposition camp, so that we can fight together to bring the rule of law in our land without being hijacked by a few power hungry individuals in the lowland, and highland. But I also recommend the new generation to read it, and for that matter, even the older generation would be benefited by reading it again, considering they have read it once.
Let me make myself clear at the outset; I am not defending the allegations raised in the Manifesto, since allegations fly from all quarters and need a seasoned historians to untangle it all in a proper setting in the future. Mejlis Mukhtar of the Eritrean covenant has similar view on this point //http://www.awate.com/portal/content/view/5491/11/. Rather, I am defending the principles the Manifesto holds:1) The belief in the identity of a united Eritrea, and 2) How the struggle should have been waged to regain that Identity--Eritrea. The scholarly way it was written in a native language is also something that mesmerized me.
In defending the article, I am not going to present the paper sentence by sentence, instead I will jot down my assessment of the Manifesto and present some controversial articles that revolve around it, and leave the rest to the reader.
Despite the arguments of the detractors of Nhnan Elamanan, that includes primarily the current chairman of EPDP 1, Wodeyesus Ammar, //http://www.ehrea.org/Nhnan%20ElamMessage.htm the manifesto doesn’t go beyond criticizing the leadership of Jebha for manipulating religion, and ethnicity to serve their dictatorial behavior. And today, amazingly, those very people who were vilifying Nhnan Elamanan are at the forefront in bashing that very leadership which they claim is the precursor of EDA.
Mesfin Hagos belonged to the group of Nhnan Elamanan, and now is in the leadership of EPDP 1, it would be interesting to know who changed his mind, or admitted wrong, Mesfin or Woldeyesus?
Like I said, I am going to ruffle some feathers, and incense some quarters by defending Nhnan Elamanan, but for the sake of truth, and true healing of a nation, let it be. One of the great lessons of the Waela is, nothing is a taboo any more.
In recent months, something with the opposition, and with Eritrea at large has been bothering me.
It started off around the 20th anniversary of Eritrea’s independence. When many people were assessing the 20th year of Eritrea’s independence, they were concentrating on the economic side of the equation. The meaning of the independence was squarely pinned down on economic prosperity.
If independence was only meant economic prosperity, wasn’t that achievable with out paying huge price to secede from Ethiopia ? I profess it could have been much easier. I can even add to the Gedli deromanticizers; if Gedli was not important to liberate Eritrea, as they insinuate, at least it was important to liberate Ethiopia--if not independent Eritrea, we needed at least a democratic Ethiopia and for that to happen Gedli was not escapable. Bless the martyrs.
And it was then that I started, with insatiable gusto, to search for the meaning of the Eritrean identity. Does Eritrean Identity matter? And to begin with, has it been clearly defined ? How did it evolve? Were the sixty plus thousand dear lives worth it? Etc, etc. To answer this and other questions I needed to understand the Eritrean liberation struggle. In this quest I started to find and ask questions to many veteran fighters of ELF, and EPLF alike.
I knew, and sensed that wouldn’t be whole, since most of the people I have a reach to are in the opposition and this would leave out the argument of the other side.
It was during this time that this weird idea started to swirl in my mind--you should hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. For me the horse’s mouth was one of the founders of the revolution and who was one of the main architects of it, the President of the State of Eritrea.
Even if I were to muster the audacity to approach this person, I don’t think I could have the stomach for the revulsion I will have. Also, I am fighting to change his regime by all necessary legal means. But, in my mind, I really wanted to interview him only on the liberation struggle-as for the anti-Americanism he got the stupid TV ERI. If only things were different, and if only he didn’t betray the country and its heroic people. Well, I shelved that for a moment, but I came close--Nhnan Elamanan.
They say the stars are aligned to express the lucky convergence of some events to a good outcome, that was exactly what I felt at that time. Not only did I get the chance to re-read the Manifesto, but I also found some valuable information regarding what I was trying to find out.
Why is Esayas called sectarian if he claims the leaders of Jebha were persecuting Christians, while others are hailed for speaking their minds when they allegedly accuse Christians, and highlanders with impunity. Was the reason behind to vilify Nhnan Elamanan, for forty plus years, a scheme to gloss the un glorified history of the other side and put the innocent on the defensive ? Well, I don’t know, but we have to discuss it openly.
Alex Haley said about Malcolm X, “Malcolm was too honest to accept lies and postpone doubts,” I am not sure of my being too honest, but I am sure that I have that proclivity.
And this proclivity brought me to more interesting articles which pivoted to my agenda at hand, the search for identity.
Omer Jaber’s http://awate.com/past-future-is-tigrigna-domination-a-reality-or-myth/, article is devoted to denouncing Nhnan Elamanan, and thereby the EPLF. And forty years after Nhnan Elamanan he still seems inclined to wedge hatred between believers of two great Eritrean religions, and two geographic regions, http://www.awate.com/portal/content/view/5289/5/.
And Bereketab Habtemariam, //http://www.asmarino.com/articles/780--harmonized-constitution-too-good-to-be-trueas, comes with a well researched article and defies the logic of most highland/christian bashing writers, and of course his article is also laden with emotion.
Most of the writings of the people who criticize the highlanders are embedded with this arguments :1) The highlanders were the owners of the unionist party, union with Ethiopia; And 2) The highlanders allied with Ethiopia in destroying the lowland.
Bereketab Habtemariam’s article defies this logic, and even went further to put the blame in the doorsteps of the politicians of the lowland. After Nhnan Elamanan, Bereketab’s article is probably the strongest in its kind. Bereketab argues, from creating the Moslem League party(so far no Christian party in Eritrean history) in the 40’s upto the creation of ELF in Cairo, which alienated Woldeab Woldemariam, the lowlanders/Moslems were in pursuit of narrow religious agenda rather than a national one. He adds, Moslem elites, including Sheik Ibrahim Sultan, labeled Eritrea a Moslem nation even in the corridors of the United Nations.
He also asserts that the formation of the Moslem League was the trigger for the sectarian politics that bedeviled the history of the country.
Nhnan Elamanan characterizes the leadership of Jebha, rather as dictators who would use any available means to oppress the mass. But, Nhnan Elamanan adds one ingredient to its indictment of Jebha leadership. They were selling the Eritrean identity for the Arabs. They were painting Eritrea with Arab identity to curry favour from their Arab masters.
It easy to brush off Nhnan Elamanan by pointing towards the author, presumably Esayas Afeworki, but there are other compelling accusation that you can not write them off in such a manner. The Jack Crammer papers stand taller than all.
Kidane Kiflu was brutally murdered along with Wolday Ghiday in Kassala, Sudan. This is believed to be the act of the Supreme Council, or the leadership of Jebha in the Diaspora. Kiflu corresponded intensively with an American journalist who visited Mieda and he divulged many of the wrong doings of the Jebha leadership in no uncertain words. When you read both Nhnan Elamanan and Jack Kramer papers, ://http://kemey.blogspot.com/2007/07/kidane-kiflu-jack-kramer-papers.html, it is hard to say NE is the work of one person. It looks more a paper which developed out of a consensus of many who had the same experience.
The last, but not least incident which propelled me to pen down my thoughts was, Saleh Johar’s speech at Washington DC symposium sponsored by Eritrean National Commission for Democratic Change.
Saleh’s speech, http://awate.com/language-and-religion-in-eritrean-politics-2/, was mainly the Arabic language. In my opinion Saleh is trying to establish the rationale for speaking Arabic in Eritrea. Since, at least, Arabic is spoken only by Rashaida, as Saleh stated it “ PFDJ divided Eritreans into nine linguistic groups. It baptized every group by the the name of the language it speaks, except Rashaida who kept their racial reference….” there must be another reason why we should speak Arabic.
The main rationale for speaking Arabic in Eritrea according Saleh is, in my opinion, the scant historical relation with the Arab world, as regards to the Islamic religion, the largest Moslem countries in the world do not speak Arabic.
Saleh hinted another point for the rationale, “ Muslims adopted Arabic as a solution to their multilingual reality……it is there fore practical tool for their unity.” This is not clear to me, except clearing the discussion that Arabic couldn’t be the official language of the country based on being a native language with a majority speakers. As uniting believers, do Christians in the country have to adopt a single language to unite them?
Again, in my opinion, this Arab sentiment might have costed us our independence, unnecessarily, by intimidating the West, and worse, might have done incalculable damage in the struggle to regain our independence, today the least we should do is revisit that unglorified past in a partisan fashion.
I hope NE, and the other articles will spark a sober and enlightened debate in our effort to build a strong and united Eritrea.
To sum up my thoughts, instead of focusing on the real crisis we are at, and instead of devising the right democratic mechanism that can alleviate our people from the suffering and plight they are enduring, we have been immersed in a very parochial, and self serving politics of the few. The new generation has a lot to learn from the Arab spring, like us they have been vacillating between two choices; supporting dictators , or going extreme and this has left these oil rich nations bankrupt. Thanks to the spring they are marshalling in a new direction.
The Eritrean youth, lowland/ highland, has no stake in the rivalry of a few power hungry elites, and it is high time it said YES WE CAN. And if we keep our REAL Eritrean identity intact we will weather the crisis at hand, and many more others. The question of a continuity as a nation, Eritrea, will not be posed again.