Eritrea: EDJE’s Response to Qernelios Esman’s statement against Martyr Hamid Idris Awate

By IndepthAfrica
In Article
Oct 2nd, 2012
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EDJE Communique in response to Qernelios Esman’s statement against Martyr Hamid Idris Awate

On 1st September 2012, while patriotic Eritreans all over the world were celebrating the 51st anniversary of the day the Eritrean armed struggle for independence was launched, Qernelios Esman, the chairman of the Democratic Movement for the Liberation of Eritrean Kunama (DMLEK) issued a statement defaming the symbol of the event, Martyr Hamid Idris Awate.

Indisputably, Awate is a national hero as well as  an icon by virtue of his unparalleled contributions in launching and successfully leading the armed struggle that led to the independence of Eritrea. Thus, no one could grant or deprive him of that honour and his history does not need to be defended. His contribution speaks for itself and because of that he is exalted and his image and status remains intact in spite of unsuccessful deprecating attempts of a few, the most recent of which was that of Qernelios Esman.

Having said that,, we find ourselves obliged to set the record straight by responding to the distortions and unsubstantiated allegations levelled against the character of Awate by Qernelios Esman and his ilk.

September1st is annually commemorated as a historical benchmark because it ushered the era of armed struggle which culminated in the independence of Eritrea. That independence cannot be appreciated without attributing the honour, and paying due respect to the undisputed great role played by Awate as father and his colleagues as pioneers of the armed struggle. It is in this historical context that Awate has been celebrated as a national hero and any denial of that fact or denigration of his status is tantamount to disparaging the whole struggle for liberation.

A controversy has been ignited concerning Awate’s role before he started the struggle for independence. We believe that it is natural for people to entertain different opinions about historical events depending on their backgrounds and perceptions; but the undisputed truth cannot be attained until all claims have been objectively investigated by an independent and professional fact finding committees that should be established during a transitional period. And it should be formed for the purpose of healing and mending the damaged social fabrics of our society and within a framework of national reconciliation process that has to seek the truth, and execute transitional justice to rectify injustices committed by different parties against individuals or national groups. Until such a time, all partners should refrain from mudslinging and unnecessary provocations against each other.

To the best of our knowledge, the history of the region in the 1940s was a state of chaos where plundering had run havoc across the region. This was exasperated by the power vacuum and absence of an effective security system in the aftermath of the defeat of the Italian colonial power and the reluctance of the British Authorities to put in place an acceptable system of law and order, similar to their predecessors. Thus,  the rule of jungle prevailed where the strongest survived the looting raids and counter raids that raged all over the region and claimed an untold toll in lives and properties.

It was in such a situation that Awate and his colleagues emerged at the scene in response to an appeal made by a very influential social and religious leader, Sheikh Alamin Mustafa wad Hassan who called on the youth of the society who were capable of carrying arms to defend their society against attacks and to return their looted properties. The call was sparked by an outrageous raid whose victims were women in a procession who were on their way to the funeral to mourn the death of the revered Sheikh Mustafa wad Hassan; the women were  looted and abused.

The youth groups were primarily formed to defend their societies and protect them from raids that prevailed in that era, and defend their society from attacks and to foil imminent threats; they also successfully reclaimed looted properties from different raiders who roamed the area.

Understandably, the courage and leadership that Awate provided at the time earned him the trust and confidence of the people; and that legacy helped him later on to take the role of a leader of the revolution for national independence. Awate’s characteristic traits and the popular support that he enjoyed coupled with his leadership and military skill contributed much to the successful launching of the revolution.

The fragile revolution that Awate started was protected by a popular shield that enabled it to survive the attempts of the Ethiopian army to suppress and abort the nascent movement.

In hindsight, it is now clear that those who initiated the ELF were farsighted when they took a decision to choose Awate to lead the armed struggle; for he had the essential leadership qualities to launch the revolution and lead it to success, particularly during the critical early stages of the armed struggle. And only the naive and the irresponsible would deny or belittle Awate’s role and choose to plunge into an unchartered political adventure.

The Ethiopian Colonial regimes had actively and mischievously followed in the path of the notorious British policy of divide and rule and exasperated the minor contradictions among Eritreans and further deepened them. By doing that they succeeded to certain extent to temporarily alienate parts of our society and align them against the national struggle (as was the case during the period of self-determination and later armed struggle era when they formed local militias to fight alongside the Ethiopian army against the combatants for the independence struggle. But even then there were exceptions where one cannot but remember and admire the gallant Kunama fighters who  fought alongside their compatriots for independence, beginning with Awate and until the realization of independence. Many heroic Kunama leaders and martyrs were part and parcel of the Eritrean Liberation struggle and they played a remarkable role in maintaining social harmony and peace among the region’s people, some of whom: Al Haj Mohammed Badumy, Musa Shully, Mahmoud Belay, Osman Longy and many others. Those veteran leaders were very knowledgeable and of the history and inter-relations between the people of the region than Qernelios Esman and his likes.

We unequivocally hold to our principled stand in supporting the rights of all national constituents including the Kunama’s right to self determination that guarantees their fair share of the national power and wealth. We believe in their right to locally rule and govern themselves. WE also recognise their legitimate right to preserve their diverse cultural identity. At the same time, we call upon Every Eritrean constituents to recognize and respect the values and the rights of others. Only such spirit of cooperation, mutual respect of all national group-rights and interests will be the guarantee for success and establishment of  justice and democracy. No single group can singlehandedly, and in isolation from other partners, can achieve total or partial gains be it for its own or joint goals. Thus, in order to preserve common interests, it is necessary to maintain favourable environs  for the struggle and refrain from actions that create negative reactions such as the recent provocations made by Qernelios Esman.

It is important to reiterate  that we support the principle of right of self-determination for all the national constituents out of the conviction and in pursuit of achieving justiceand to avoid exclusion or domination by anyone under any circumstance or pretext. But self-determination is not in any way meant to deepen internal disputes between the different constituents or divert the struggle for justice from its essence. There are serious concerns that Qernelios’ statement might unjustifiably be used to attack the basic principle of the right to self determination. Such a step would be tantamount to supporting the notorious and erroneous notion of Hade Hzbi Hade Lbbi. Durable and sustainable unity should be based on mutual recognition and respect, and should be a voluntary unity in diversity.

Eternal Reverence to Awate and our martyrs.
Shame and disgrace to those who denigrate our martyrs.
Long live the struggle for Justice, Equality and Democracy in Eritrea
Shame and Defeat to the dictatorial regime of Isaias Afwerki and PFDJ

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