Role of Afar Nation- Between Brokering Peace and Protecting its Identity


Whether facing off against the colonialism of the late 1880’s or the Soviet/USA backed African rebellion, the indigenous people have been traditionally trampled under the feet of the great powers (Elephants) of the time. Even more so for the indigenous Afar, with a prime coastal land, with geostrategic significance and precious resources deposits, the region has been prone to frontline conflict and marginalization. Today as regional powers vie for dominance and control of access to the sea and strategic territories, the indigenous Afar are once again trampled under the feet of these battling elephants. These proud and fierce resistance fighters were the first to confront colonization of their coastal lands and helped bring the end to colonialism in the 1960’s. For generations, the Afar Nations of the Horn of Africa have been systematically oppressed and marginalized by regional powers they once fought to protect. The Afar territory’s geostrategic significance and the wealth of untapped resources have been a curse rather than a blessing.
In Eritrea, the indigenous Afar are in crisis. Eritrea has been in a war footing since its independence. Eritrea initiated conflicts with all its neighbors even those across the red sea. The country has isolated itself internationally and become known as a reclusive state and a repressive regime. Eritrean regime uses the pretext of “no-war, no-peace” to repress domestic policies. The country has kept its people in thrall. In the name of state building, the Eritrean government has established a police state. In Dankalia, the traditional Afar homeland, Eritrea has begun the systematic destruction of the indigenous people and deployed a strategy to expropriate the potential wealth of the region. In any other part of the world, this is called genocide. The UN has recognized the mass graves and the mass exploitation of the Afar people, though these crimes are not limited to the Afar, the indigenous minorities such as the Afar and Kunama have suffered much of the aggression. [Readmore]

Eritrean Afar form new political organization to fight against dictatorship in Eritrea

The Afar cultural genocide in Eritrea prompts new united efforts against Eritrean government

March 1, 2018 | Following months of talks and intense negotiations, several political action groups opposed to the historical persecution and ethnic-cleansing of the Indigenous Afar people in the African pariah state of Eritrea, have agreed to focus their collective efforts under the banner of a new organization: the Eritrean Afar National Congress (EANC).

This new organization, which will hold a unity conference in Sweden in June 2018, will combine the forces of the Eritrean Afar State in Exile (EANC), the Eritrean Afar Democratic Movement (EADM) and former members of several Afar opposition groups under one umbrella as a united front against the dictatorial Eritrean regime. [Read more]



Year in Review 2017 EANC Magazine


Another year has come to conclusion in Eritrea. Again the year 2017 was no different than previous years, in line with recent chapters of Eritrea’s violent history. The country is still ruled by fear, a tyrant and his military clique still rule the Eritrean people with iron fist, the repression of human rights and press freedom continues unabated, religious freedoms and ethnic persecutions carries on, Eritrea’s young still leaving the country in droves. Remarkably, Eritrea seems to get its hands on much needed hard currency through resources exploitations and land grab policies in order to finance its deposit rule in the country. Multinational corporations such as Nevsun (Bisha Gold), Danakili (Potash mines) and leasing out strategic coast in Dankalia for the UAE are all bringing in millions of dollars to Afwerki’s coffers. [Read more]



The most recent government crackdown on religious freedom began in a threat of closing down privately owned Al Diaa Islamic School and the arrest of an elderly sheikh and board member, Hajji Mussa Mohamed Nur along with the entire school board of trustees who still remain in detention.

On Monday, October 31st the residents of AKHRIYA, a neighborhood within Asmara, the capital of Eritrea took to the streets after Eritrean government’s excessive interference and suppression of their citizenship rights to exercise their religious belief.

This unlawful action by the g

overnment led to unprecedented street protests in a country where no freedom of press or assembly is allowed. Eritrea is one of Africa’s most reclusive and repressive state most often referred to as “the North Korea of Africa” by international Human rights observers.

Our organization (EANC) joins tens of thousands of pro-democracy, pro-change Eritrean Diaspora in condemning the violent actions by Eritrean government to suppress the human rights of our fellow citizens and especially stand alongside the heroic actions of Al Diaa School and the resistance movement of AKHRIYA who not only defied a crippling fear in the country but gave hope to tens of thousands more who fled persecutions due to various human rights violation in Eritrea.

We call on all civic and political movements in exile to join hands in defending …

  • Religious and press freedoms in Eritrea
  • Constitutional reform and the rule of law
  • Restoration of indigenous rights and land rights
  • Re-instate multicultural, multiethnic and multi religious equality among Eritreans

Please join us for in-depth discussion on how to mobilize a peaceful resistance and restore the dignity of Eritreans.

Place: Jack Purcell Community Center- Ottawa, Saturday, November 11th, Time: 6PM-9PM

For Further Information Contact us: 613-627 EANC (3273), Email:

United in the face of injustice in Eritrea!

References and supporting documents

Message of solidarity by Minster of Religion Revd Yohannes Ghebrihewet, Medhani-Alem Church, Manchester

Message of solidarity from Christian minister

Hajji Mussa Mohamed Nur Speech

Crimes Against Humanity against Afar in Eritrea A/HRC/29/CRP.1

ments/HRBodies/HRCouncil/CoIEritrea/A_HRC_29_CRP-1.pdf  (Advance Version 5 June 2016)

Paras 1121-1124 deal with the Extrajudicial Murder of the Afar Ethnic group.  At para 1121 the COI stated:

  1. …The Commission collected information that the Afar people have been subjected to extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearance by the Eritrean Government since 2000. These killings have also triggered their displacement from their lands …

Paras 1157-65 deal with Afar land confiscations. At para 1171 the COI stated:

  1. The Commission also finds that land refo
  2. rm impacted pastoralist minorities such as Afars and Kunamas. The way resettlements of members of these communities are conducted by the authorities may be construed as an intentional act to dispossess them of their ancestral lands, their livelihoods and their cultures.

The Commission’s Report of 8 June 2016 UN Doc A/HRC/32/CRP.1, reached important conclusions at paras 292, 295-6:

  1. …the government of Eritrea engaged in a campaign of killings, arbitrary detentions and enforced disappearances targeting Afar and Kunama civilians, in particular during the period 1998-2001….
  2. The Commission also has reasonable grounds to believe that Eritrean officials have intentionally and severely deprived Eritrean Kunama and Afar of fundamental rights contrary to international law on ethnic grounds. The Commission has corroborated evidence that the Afar and Kunama were targeted, at a minimum, in the period between 1998 and 2001. It has also received uncorroborated information that both ethnic groups were persecuted during other periods as well, and that such persecution persists.
  3. Persecution on both religious and ethnic grounds has been an integral part of the Eritrean leadership’s plan to maintain its authority in a manner contrary to international law. Thus, the Commission finds that Eritrean officials have committed the crime of persecution, a crime against humanity, in a large-scale and routine manner since May 1991.(my emphasis)

These findings and conclusions are consistent with those of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth. In her 28 May 2013 Report, UN Doc A/HRC/23/53, the SR stated at para 77:

  1. The Afar are subjected to extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture and rape, as well as the destruction of their traditional means of subsistence and livelihood, and businesses. They have also been forced into displacement from their traditional territory.

ዓሌታዊ ሰርዓት ህግድፍ ንስውር ጃምላዊ ቅትለት ንምፍጽም ይዳሎ!!

ህዝቢ  ኤርትራ ድ ሕሪ መ ሪር ብረታ ዊ ተጋድሎ  ናጽነቱ ኣብ 1991 እኳ  እንተተጎናጸፈ ካብ  ናጽነት  ትጽቢት ዝግበረሉ ሓርነት  ሰባት  ከም  ሕልሚ   ኮይኑ በኒኑ ኢዩ ተሪፉ።

ኣገዛዝኣ ጨ  ፍለቕቲ  ስርዓታት  ብባህርያቶም  ንዝተፈላለዩ ህዝብታት ዝተፈላለየ ዓይነት ኢዮም  ንሓደ ገለ መ ሰላቱ ጥራሕ  ክትንከፍ  ከሎ  እቲ  ካልእ ናይ ህላወን ጽንተትን ዕጫ ዩ ዝህልዎ ፡ሰብ  ይፍለጥ ኣይፍለጥ ግን ገበትቲ  ስርዓታት ዘይው ጽዖም  ሰባት የ ልቦን ካብ  እሙ  ናት ኣገልገልቱ  ኮነ ናይ ማ ዕዶ  ደገፍቱ  ክሳብ  እቶም  መ ሰላቶም  ዝፈልጡ  ተቓወምቱ  መ ልክዑ  ጥራ ሕዩ ዝፈላለ ። በዚ መ ልክዕ ናይ ብሄረ ዓፋር ወ ጽዓ ም በኣር ም ጽናት  ህላወ  እቲ  ብ ሄርዩ      ደኣ ም በር ሓደን ክልተን መ  ሰላት  ጥራሕ  ዝጎደሎ  ህዝቢ ኣይኮነን። [Read more]

The Indigenous World 2017 UNDRIP 10 Years Special Edition

0760_COVER_THE_INDIGENOUS_ORLD_2017_1The Indigenous World 2017 provides an update of the current situation for indigenous peoples worldwide and a comprehensive overview of the main global trends and developments affecting indigenous peoples during 2016.

The Indigenous World 2017 comes in a special edition marking the ten years anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The public launch took place April 25 2017 during the 16th session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York.

Symbolically, it was launched on the same day, as the UN General Assembly marked the ten years anniversary of the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Despite some encouraging national achievements, the country reports in this year’s edition continue to illustrate the great pressures facing indigenous communities at the local level.

If national policies are even available they are often not properly implemented, while in some countries national policies are in direct contradiction with international human rights obligations, including the UNDRIP and ILO Convention No. 169.

The country reports reiterate that the main challenges faced by indigenous peoples continue to be related to the recognition and implementation of their collective rights to lands, territories and resources, their access to justice, lack of consultation and consent, and the gross violations of their fundamental human rights.

The issue of extractive industries is once again a recurrent and overarching theme in the Indigenous World. Numerous examples show that both states and industries are repeatedly ignoring the key principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent.

Mega infrastructure projects, investments in extractive industries and large-scale agriculture are increasingly posing a threat to the everyday life of indigenous peoples and their ability to maintain their land, livelihood and culture.

Read entire Book here [The Indigenous World 2017]

Read about Eritrea below


Since independence in 1991, and aggravated by a political crackdown in 2001, Eritrea has been a closed country run by an extremely repressive government. Reliable data on the exact numbers of ethnic groups, includ­ing disaggregated data on the socio-economic situation of indigenous groups, is hardly available. The approximate percentage of indigenous peoples is estimated at between 5% and 7% of the total population. The references to indigenous peoples in this article are first and foremost based on the claim of indigeneity made by some Eritrean ethnic groups, such as the Afar and Kunama. Eritrea is a State party to the CERD, CEDAW and CRC but not to ILO Convention 169. There is, however, a huge gap be­tween the commitments undertaken through these treaties and the govern­ment’s actual practice. Eritrea has not adopted the UNDRIP as it was ab­sent during the voting. Eritrea does not have a national legislative or institu­tional framework that protects the rights of indigenous peoples. The country does not have an operative constitution or a functioning parliament. It has never held free and fair national elections. Rights to freedom of association and expression are severely curtailed. The rights of indigenous peoples are not formally acknowledged, nor are there any representative organisations advocating for the rights of indigenous peoples.

A situation of crimes against humanity

Eritrea suffers from gross human rights violations. In June 2016, a Commis­sion of Inquiry mandated by the UN Human Rights Council published a land­mark report which stated that the human rights situation in Eritrea amounted to crimes against humanity. At the time of writing, Eritrea is the only country in Africa in which there is an ongoing situation of crimes against humanity officially verified as such by a fact-finding mission mandated by the UN.

Reviews by relevant UN bodies

Eritrea’s international obligations are frequently reviewed by the relevant UN treaty monitoring bodies or processes, such as the UPR, the CEDAW and the CRC committees. None of these reviews have adequately addressed the plight of indigenous peoples in Eritrea. The UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indig­enous peoples is also yet to come up with a formal report on the situation of indig­enous peoples’ rights in Eritrea. In contrast, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea and the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of hu­man rights in Eritrea (Ms Sheila B. Keetharuth) have made a number of observa­tions on the rights of indigenous peoples in Eritrea. The first Keetharuth report, for example, singles out abuses committed against two minority ethnic groups: the Afar and Kunama. The Afar ethnic group is predominantly pastoralist and no­madic while the Kunama ethnic group is agro-pastoralist. Both groups are mar­ginalized in a number of ways. The rights of these groups are said to have been violated by the government’s policy of: a) encouraging highlanders to settle on land traditionally belonging to lowlanders; b) turning land into State property, thereby undermining clan-based traditional land tenure systems, and leading to competition between agro-pastoralists and new settlers, and c) displacing people from their ancestral land.

Repression of ethnic group identities

There are nine officially recognised ethnic groups in Eritrea, listed here in alpha­betical order: Afar, Blien, Hidareb, Kunama, Nara, Rashaida, Saho, Tigre, and Ti­grinya. Other claims to official recognition of group identity, such as that of the Je­berti and Tekurir, have been denied.The core values and policies of the govern­ment or the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) – which is the ruling and only political party – are nationalistic and fiercely hostile to ethnic or socio-cul­tural autonomy, given the PFDJ’s history as a national liberation movement.

Eritrea does not have any form of independent civil society organisations let alone organisations advocating for the rights of indigenous peoples. All special in­terest groups or associations are effectively controlled by the government. There are institutionalised “mass movements” which represent key sectors of society, such as the national associations of women, youth and workers, all of which function as the respective wings of the PFDJ. Even in this context, there are no organisations or mass movements representing indigenous peoples or minority groups.

As noted above, claims of indigeneity or other claims to group identity have never been officially acknowledged by the Eritrean government. One of the earli­est claims to group identity to have been made inside Eritrea was that of the Je­berti, articulated by some representatives of the group in the early 1990s. The Jeberti share the same language as the largest ethnic group, which is Tigrinya. In Eritrea, the language and official name of each ethnic group is the same. The Tigrinya is an entirely Christian community. The Jeberti group is distinguishable by its religion, which is Islam, and the distinct socio-political status traditionally attached to this. The claim to distinct group identity made by the Jeberti in the early 1990s was met with draconian persecution against its representatives and no such claim has been entertained inside the country since. All other similar claims, including claims of indigeneity, are now made by exiled activists and po­litical groups.

Among the well-documented claims of indigeneity made from exile are those of the Afar and Kunama ethnic groups, represented by their respective political organisations. To our knowledge, the most articulate claim has been that made by the Eritrean Afar State in Exile (EANC), which is an exiled political organisation of the Eritrean Afar people advocating self-rule for the Eritrean Afar. The Afar ethnic group transcends three national borders, namely Djibouti, Eritrea and Ethiopia, inhabiting the area known as the “Afar Triangle”.

EANC asserts that the Afar people of Eritrea meet the essential requirements of indigeneity, listed by EANC as being: prior occupation of a defined territory; voluntary perpetuation of cultural distinctiveness; self-identification and identification by others as a distinctive community, and a situation of non-dominance. EANC goes as far as to articulate its claim by referring to the Afar homeland as the “cradle of humanity”, in which the well-known “Lucy”, one of the oldest humanoid skeletal remains in history, was discovered. In support of its claim, EANC also makes reference to a more recent scientific discovery in June 2016, in the Afar region, of 800,000-year-old footprints believed to belong to a key predecessor of modern man.

The most visible violation suffered by two of the potential indigenous groups in Eritrea, the Afar and Kunama, is their inability to maintain a peaceful life with their kin across the national borders of Eritrea and Ethiopia and, in the case of the Afar, also across the national border with Djibouti. There has been no physical contact between the said ethnic groups living on the borders between Djibouti, Eritrea and Ethiopia, including normal exchange of trade and other social activities, since 1998. This is true in particular since Eritrea remains in a prolonged situation of conflict with Ethiopia and Djibouti, necessitating a complete blockage of their common border. Moreover, due to the extremely repressive political situation in Eritrea, and like other ethnic groups situated along the border, a considerable segment of the Afar and Kunama ethnic groups have been forced to flee to Ethiopia and other countries – in the context of Eritrea’s well-documented mass exodus of population.

In the area of natural resources, the government has entered into long-term mining agreements with foreign companies such as the Australian South Boulder Mining and the Canadian Nevsun Resources Ltd., which are exploiting natural resources on land belonging to potential indigenous groups, such as the Afar and Kunama. Mineral extraction is taking place in circumstances that do not respect the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent. Of particular importance to this debate is a pending court case on corporate social responsibility at the Supreme Court of British Colombia in Canada, aimed at challenging the alleged complicity of Nevsun Resources Ltd. in the perpetration of human rights violations commit­ted at the company’s mining site in Eritrea. The main allegation relates to a broad range of violations allegedly committed in the process of extracting minerals but not necessarily related to infringements of indigenous peoples’ rights. A partial landmark judgement, against the Canadian company, was pronounced on 6 Oc­tober 2016. A final verdict on the case is still pending. There are potential issues that could be raised in similar court cases on violations resulting from an infringe­ment of the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent. 

Notes and references

1 Second Report of the UN Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea, A/HRC/32/47, 8 June 2016, paragraphs 59-95. See also in general K. Tronvoll and D. R. Mekonnen, The African Garrison State: Human Rights and Political Development in Eritrea (James Currey, 2014; second revised edition 2017); K. Tronvoll, “Eritrea,” in M. Ember and C. R. Ember (eds.), Countries and Their Cultures, Vol. 2 (Macmillan Reference, 2001), pp. 724-732.

2 No UN special rapporteur or other treaty monitoring body has been allowed into Eritrea for inves­tigations.

3 First Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Eritrea, Sheila B. Keetharuth, A/HRC/23/53, 28 May 2013, paragraphs 43 and 77.

4 Eritrea: Constitutional, Legislative and Administrative Provisions Concerning Indigenous Peoples (a joint publication of the International Labour Organization, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, 2009).

5 Ibid, p. 3.

6 Eritrean Afar State in Exile (EANC), Indigenous Rights Policy (2016),

7 Ibid.

8 “Earliest Footprints of Homo Erectus Found in Eritrea,” 15 June 2016, https://archaeologynews­

9 Araya v. Nevsun Resources Ltd. 2016 BCSC 1856.

Daniel R. Mekonnen is a guest writer at the “Writers in Exile Programme” of the Swiss-German PEN Centre or DeutschSchweizer PEN Zentrum (DSPZ).

Kjetil Tronvoll is Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Bjørknes University College.


Eritrea’s policy of Land grab and displacement

New Movie (12).Movie_SnapshotMarch 20th, 2017- Ottawa, Canada

March 14th, Eri-TV announcement by the Eritrean government sheds light on systemic policies to displace the Afar Eritreans from resources rich and strategic coast on the red sea.

The News clip by Eritrean government claims to find a suitable environment for indigenous Afar to settle is a pure hypocrisy flying in the faces of already victimized population. This most recent government initiative to permanently settle Afar victims of June 2011 volcanic eruption of Mount Nabro , is in fact an agenda to contain the freedom of movement of an already severely marginalized and neglected communities and enforcement of policies designed to “ Land Grab and  Displace” for the benefit of the regime.[Read more]