The Afar people make up over 5 million out of the present more than 70 million populations of the states in the Horn of Africa: Djibouti, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. The Afar nation has a single common mother tongue and basic common culture. The Afar language, Qafar Af, belongs to the eastern Kushitic group of languages. The language is written in Roman (Latin alphabet). The Afar Alphabet, known commonly as Qafar Feera, is created by Dimis and Redo, Afar intellectual nationalists who published the fruit of their first work in the early seventies. In the 19th century, prior to what is known as the “scramble for Africa” which led to the incursion and occupation by European colonial powers (Italy, France, England) of the Afar triangle, the Afar nation was united and had its own well functioning political, social and legal structure. Trade and various kinds of skills such as wood and metal works, weaving, pottery and tannery flourished. Pastoralism, fishery and salt production were well developed.
The Afar nation has an extraordinarily rich heritage of proverbs, stories, songs and riddles. They have very comprehensive plant and animal names. The Afar customary law and various customs pertaining to marriage, paternity, dress etc…have elaborate descriptions and all those things have enriched Qafar Af. The political set up of the Afar land was organized under semi-independent Sultanates (most known amongst them are Sultanates of Awsa, Biru, Gobaad, Rahayto, Tagorri) that were a constituent of a federal Afar state in this part of the world known as the Horn of Africa. At the advent of colonialism in the beginning of the last century, the afar coastal regions (Part of present Eritrea now) witnessed several battles, where the Afar People showed unyielding resistance against the advancing foreign forces.
To the Afar, the presence of foreign occupation on the coastal regions was regarded as strategically harmful to the sovereignty of the whole Afar Nation. However, the European army equipped with high military technological weapons succeeded to occupy the coastal area from Dahlack to Zeila, despite the large and persistent resistance from indigenous Afar fighters. The colonialists methodically eroded the above-mentioned federation as they did everywhere in the rest of the African continent. The end result of that occupation has become that the Afar people have against their will been segmented into the present States of Djibouti, Eritrea and Ethiopia.
Straw That Broke the Afar Camels Back (Eritrea)!
Now we are in 21st century, There is a new sheriff in town, the rule of law has changed , the unthinkable has happened, the afar family has been divided, history and culture have been threatened , rights to land and resources are taken away, Freedom of movement has became foreign concept for nomadic afar and their borderless animals that have fallen victims to gun slinging Sheriff.
Afar Language is being changed systematically; by changing the alphabets not to have similar meanings to those in Djibouti and afar region in Ethiopia. The propaganda of putting one afar against another, destroying family structure by detaining, expelling and some cases are killing the head of the household to further detach the young from the old, Brain washing afar women, weak and vulnerable at the absence of male figure. Refugee crisis has hit historic levels. In Saudi Arabia alone there are thousand who can not reunite with their families for fear of been arrested, their wives have become widows over a decade. Their only crime is the resiliency and self dependency and free will they inherited from their ancestors.
No question the past few years has been extremely difficult on Afar people in Eritrea. In these days of global crisis , environmental catastrophes political unrests, wars , conflicts ,Economic Melt downs of super powers and other major events around the world, Often the case the weak and voiceless do not make to our living rooms. The case of afar people is the least mentioned in the horn of Africa let alone globally.
The Afar people are in a brink of extinction especially in Eritrea.
Never in our long history of existence have our people faced such hardship on the hand of a ruler. Whether it was Ottoman Empire, Mussolini, Haile Silase or Mengistu regimes, no doubt each of these powers had devastating impact on afar people’s way of life.
The impact of current ruler “Isaias Afewerki” on our people by far exceeds all the past regimes put together. Lets remember the resolve and resistance of afar people in all the past protecting their land and their society from invading powers was very Impressive. In the case of last occupier “Afewerki” afar people did not resist, in fact helped the regime in many ways to where it is today.
The afar people where instrumental in the formation of first rebel group of Eritrea (The ELF) by providing their land and logistics, by facilitating the out let to sea and by actively organizing the movement to its strongest point with help of others. Up until the current regime has shamelessly destroyed its foundation and forgot how it was formed. Even when the last Mengestu regime was collapsing at the hands of two incoming rebels, there was exodus of people fleeing in every direction the afar people stood their ground.
Eye witness account tells us; When Afewerki’s Army was moving in to the main port of Afar region called Assab, for three days the city was a ghost town ,with all other people other than Afar left fleeing for their lives , The incoming army of Isaias afewerki was expecting a fierce resistance from afar people in their land, Even though the afar were heavily armed at that time, they chose not to resist hoping that a person that has been in the struggle of three decades for recognition of self determination will at least recognize the suffering of others.
Instead; here is a person in the past seventeen years has launched a relentless war on all its neighbours starting with Sudan to the north, Yemen across the red sea, The biggest neighbour and trading partner Ethiopia on the west side, Last but not least The tiny Djibouti with it afar population on both sides, by completely disregarding the affect it will have on already compromised and staving afar population ,destroying their economy and way of life.
Tribe of nomadic people that inhabited three corners of
Ethiopia, Eritrea and Djibouti
Population in all countries 3-5 million
90 % nomadic
94 % illiterate
45 % life expectancy
Distinct Language and Culture
10-15 % of Eritrean population
Inhabit 40 % of the land mass including massawa to Assab ports
THE IMPACT OF “AFEWERKI’S” REGIME ON AFAR:
- Violating basic human right of afar people to their land , Territories and resources
- Taking away Rights to Trades, Fishing, Mining Salt
- Preventing Rights to development and Foreign Aid
- Destroying Culture , Language and history of sharing and harmony with other afar and Others
- Restriction on freedom of movement ,nomadic life style
THE AFTRMATH OF THESE BRUTAL AGRESSION
- Killings of Hundreds defenceless Afar
- Kidnapping and Torture of Innocent Afar
- Hundreds are missing ,Incommunicado for decade
- Prisoners are held in atrocious conditions – damp underground cells, overcrowded and sweltering shipping containers, secret security sections of official police stations or prisons.
- Expelling, Imprisonment a of Afar intellectuals who dare to speak
- Refugee crisis hitting historic levels (100,000appx Ethiopia, Djibouti, Sudan and Yemen)
Kidnapping and Torture of Innocent Afar
In a village called Harsilee, group of some thirty business men where kidnapped, some young and some as old as 65 year old. Leaving behind young children and old people with out any hope, It has been almost a decade since anyone has seen or heard of them, similar Can be said from Mossawa to Rahito (700km costal area of afar) hundreds are not counted for. In the case of these people their health was not great to begin with. The chance of many of them being alive in that deplorable condition is very slim.
Recently arrived afar refugee in Ethiopia tells of horrible scenes of killing by Afewerki regime of innocent afar , young man named Mohamed who was stationed in assab with Eritrean naval force has come across three brutally tortured bodies , with hands tied to the back still attached to dead car batteries so the body won’t float, Up on seeing this Mohamed and his unit reported the finding to senior commander ,to his surprise the commander told him that there are many more if you go down on the shore of red sea to the place called “sheick kassim” ,they went there and found seventeen hard to recognize bodies eaten by fish and salty water, all suffering from same technique of death .The only way to identify them was they all had a traditional afar under garment called “fotta”. Killings and rape of afar women by the army is wide spread. Reporting of these crimes can get you in a serious danger with the regime and even disappearance. With out UN or any humanitarian group this county is next Dar fur in the making.