Regionalism, Tribalism and its Negative Consequences

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Eritreans believe in unity and are working hard in preserving it.

regionalism and tribalism have no place in Eritrea
Nine but one. Only with UNITY that the Eritrean people can strive and thrive. (Photo: The nine tribes of Eritrea: Kunama, Tigrinya, Tigre, Afar, Rashaida, Saho, Bilen, Nara and Beja)


Professor PLO Lumumba recently gave a lecture to a group of Tanzanian students on the negative impact of regionalism and tribalism to a given society. On his speech which primarily focused on the adverse effects of tribalism on Africa, he applauded President Nierere’s of Tanzania for his tireless works in bringing his people of 120 ethnic groups together and “welded them into one nation”: The Tanzanians.

The scholar went on to show his audience the major contrast between Kenyans and Tanzanians in terms of how they deal with ethnicity. He was totally disgusted in the way Kenyans treat each other, sadly pointing out that they prefer to identify each other based on their ethnicity than their personality or character.

He further warned the leaders of his country that such line of thinking will put Kenya in a dangerous conflict which will be hard to reverse.

Putting this in perspective, during the long and protracted war for independence, the Eritrean freedom movement, especially under the leadership of EPLF, a major sacrifice was made to unify the nine Eritrean nationalities and bring them under one umbrella.

Given the negative role the colonial powers had played in ruling the country, it was not an easy task to bring an entire population that has, for decades, been accustomed to a different way of life, often tailored to meet the needs of the colonial masters of the time, and make them to think and act as one, But, they did it.

The freedom fighters of all nine nationalities lived, fought and died together not knowing or caring less what region or religion their comrade belongs to. Such strong sense of cohesiveness that was exhibited amongst the civilians and the fighters alike during those dark days was born out of the realization that the enemy was using region, religion and ethnicity as an important political tool to slow if not completely abort the revolution for independence that was going stronger.

Thanks to their farsightedness, the sacrifice of all these brave people bear fruit and Eritrea became free and in the works to become a prosperous state, despite all the obstacles.

Nine but one

The writer is of strong notion that the majority Eritreans believe in unity and are working hard in preserving it. There is a general sentiment, which I partly concur, that the Eritrean revolution would not have dragged for 30 years had it not been for the enemy’s relentless plots with which he divided and ruled our country along ethnic and religion lines. Certainly, the military intervention of the superpowers in favor of Ethiopian hegemony played a big role. Nonetheless, recognizing the enemy’s ploy of “divide and rule” early on would have helped shorten life under the ruthless occupations, be it the British or Ethiopian.

Unity is Eritrea’s hallmark of perseverance and existence. It’s so important for their survival as people such that they breathe it a fresh, clean air of the morning and sing about it every time they wake up and pray for it when going to sleep.

‘Hade Hzbi Hade Lbi’ is the slogan that is widely used, whether at a national event or during a peaceful protest. As such, the people of Eritrea always speak with one voice when it comes to their national identity and sovereignty. Any attempt to cause friction between them using ‘religion’ or ‘region’ cards has been quickly recognized and dealt with swiftly.

Words of caution!

While the intention may be of good nature, recently, there has been some activities among Eritrean Diasporas which the writer finds unsettling. These past several years, it’s with dismay that nationals are being invited to congregate based on their regional affiliation “ Awraja” and “ Gezawti”.

Some may argue that such gatherings are harmless and for socializing purposes, to which I strongly disagree and object. For those who quench for getting together with long lost friends or relatives, there are Eritrean festivities which take place annually.

For those who equate participating at a national festivities with political affiliation, there are many other places they can meet and greet with their friends. However, having “regional reunion” not only undermines what our brothers and sisters fought and died for to eradicate, it also has no social values.

In contrary, it diminishes one’s sense of nationalism and patriotism. It’s reckless in a sense that it opens a door for the enemy who has sleepless nights to inflict ethnic and regional friction between the people, thereby reverse our hard earned independence.

Let’s not get trapped to the enemy’s ploy, wise up and do what’s right, if not for us, for Eritrea’s future generations.

As the Kenyan scholar warned his people about the dangerous path associated with regionalism and tribalism this writer also cease this opportunity to call on those Eritrean diasporas who wittingly or unwittingly encourage such unholy gatherings based on region “Awraja” and tribes to terminate such activities.

For only with UNITY that Eritrean people can strive and thrive.

Eternal Glory to Eritrean martyrs!!
Down to Regionalism!
Hade Hzbi Hade Lbi!