Joe Magnet: the accidental statesman In an improbable sequence of events, an Ottawa law prof has taken on the constitutional cause of the Afar people in Africa.
by Brad Mackay
It’s a sweltering October day in Logia, a remote desert town in Northern Ethiopia, and Joe Magnet is patiently sitting – and sweating – in a room packed with 150 chanting, self-styled freedom fighters. The men belong to the Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization, or RSADO, a paramilitary group supported by the Ethiopian government whose job it is to defend the rights and well-being of the Afar, a nomadic indigenous tribe that has existed in the Horn of Africa for more than 2,000 years.
Isaias Afewerki :Straw That Broke the Afar Camels Back(Eritrea)!
AFAR IN ERITREA
# Population 10-15%
# Land mass 40%
# Coastal area from Massawa to Rahaito 700 KM ....... Download the whole article Here
By Ahmed Mohammed
Federalism is a form of government in which sovereign powers are constitutionally divided between a central government and semi-autonomous regional governments. In the words of Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada’s first Prime Minister, federalism provides “a general government and legislature for general purposes with local governments and legislatures for local purposes.” Through the division of powers, a measure of self-government is vested in national minorities, allowing them to protect and promote their culture, religion and language. Canada’s federalism accords a significant degree of autonomous powers to national minorities, enabling them to determine their future according to their unique vision , while still being able to participate in the life and benefits of a large nation.
AFAR AS TOOL FOR A GREATER GOOD IN THE HORN
As result of this great unique vision of Sir John A. Macdonald, Canada today is greatest examples for aspiring democratic federal system in the world. Ethiopia is one the beneficiaries of this federal system, in fact Canada Has introduced and trained the government of Ethiopia and currently Enjoys and maintains good relations. The afar people of course are the beneficiaries of this federal system as well. Afar regional state is one of nine regional state governments with autonomous powers of self-government in that horn of African nation of Ethiopia. The afar people for the first time being recognized by Ethiopian government And finally showing promising start to achieve their full potential.
However; The unfortunate and the unique nature for the afar people being the indigenous communities in three countries namely, In Ethiopia, Djibouti and Eritrea as it’s called now has resulted in division ,deprivation and neglected. Especially when there are conflicts, war and mistrust between these neighbours. What is promising now is that it seems there are willingness and collaboration between Ethiopia and Djibouti and overwhelming number of Eritrean people are fed up with Eritrean government policy of exclusion. As Afar Canadian we see a pivotal role to play by both afar nation and Canada as being the mother nation of federalism.
AFAR: The people
History, Land 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 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. 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. Today the Afar people make up 3 -5 million out of more than 85 million populations of the states in the Horn of Africa: Djibouti, Eritrea, and Ethiopia.
Today the indigenous afar are not concerned with colonial power of Mussolini, British empire or French, No doubt the residue of colonialism had it’s cost but time has evolved , pages of history have been turned and new powers came and went . The unfortunate luck for the afar people is that they remain stuck on the colonial times.
Isolationist policy of Military junta in Eritrea along with its murderous rampage of dealing with indigenous afar people and declaration of wars with their immediate neighbours has left afar population in the brink of extinction from their ancestral land. The afar live in object poverty with the highest illiteracy (94%) rate comparing with any given group in the horn(not a single practicing lawyer ,no doctor ,no engineer with a population of 3-5 million appox.),highest infant mortality rate, Life expectancy rate of 40 years. Nearly 90 per cent of school aged children are not in school, Due to inadequate education facilities, health and transportation issues. Their nomadic lifestyle has become threatened with every passing day and increasingly becoming unsustainable with enforcement of borders and hostilities amongst governing powers, causing catastrophic environmental challenges to nomadic afar. Result of these policies a blunt aggression against afar masses has brought unprecedented costs to both the environment and human suffering, The animals (goats, cattle) are dieing in enormous rate, there are widespread drought, Malnutrition, starvation and diseases . Eritrean army is destroying trees like (Eqeebtto,Garaaytto and Galaqto) which is used as primary food to animals ,instead these trees are being used as fire wood for Eritrea’s massive military army(250,000) . The extreme nature of these circumstances has left animals with out any thing to eat, the people who depend on their herds for livelihood can not afford to buy the left over food from army(which army sells for pocket money) to keep their goats and cows alive. These actions have created a historic exodus of afar refugees in to neighbouring countries. These are crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and theft of property. The Eritrean regime is systemically engaged with population transfer of highly educated and highly skilled high Landers to now almost vacant afar land by settling them in an obvious land grab.
AFEWERKI’S ERITREAN 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 Killings of Hundreds defenceless Afar Kidnapping and Torture of Innocent Afar Rape of afar woman by the army Hundreds are missing ,Incommunicado for over 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)
Afar Facts: Both unique and target points Only tribe to be found in three horn of Countries Their language, land and culture clearly distinct and connected Strategically located highly resourceful areas like Two main ports on the red sea coast (Assab & Mossawa) International waters include Bab el mandab strait That triggered border war with Djibouti Assab International port with economic potential hundreds of millions dollars(which remains highly contentious issues with Ethiopians)
Ethiopia’s new policy of ethnic federalism opens an unprecedented opportunity to the Afar people to leave behind the chronic instability, economic stagnation, and neglect that have characterised the region’s past. The Ethiopia’s Afar population is today consolidated for the first time within a single province with autonomous powers of self-government. Still, change that benefits the majority of Afar is far from assured. Failure to seize this opportunity will certainly mean only more of the same, together with the increasing marginalisation and irrelevance of the Afar people at the national and international level. Such conditions are a laboratory for conflict. However, the recognition and on going support for afar people from federal democratic government of Ethiopia has been a welcome news. The afar have embraced this federalism, self governance and timely change and opportunity and striding to wards their full potential. Afar Regional state (government): One of nine regional states in Ethiopia Afar national democratic party 8 representatives in federal government Party Leader and President of the region Mr. Ismail Ali Sirro One federal minister (social affairs minister ) Transfer payment of over $50USD annually Afar Af (afar alphabet ) language in use(government ,public) Local University Land escape and Tourism Afar Depression, Erta Ale, is one of the world's most attractive areas. Afar Depression, Erta-Ale active volcanic movement, Awash natural reserve, Yangundu-Ras national park, Hadar and Aramis area, are the major tourist attraction area of the region. The Hot springs, Afar culture and cultural games are other attraction areas.
Djibouti: In Djibouti, Afar people live in both the Northern and Western Regions, which make up about 87% of 23,200 sq km (8,950 sq miles) of the country. Their regions are known as District of Tadjourah, District of Dekhil and District of Obock. Afar people also live in the city of Djibouti with other ethnic groups. In 1977, the Afars constituted about 60% in the country. The present government claims that the Afars are 40% of the population of 600,000, and they represent 45% at the National Assembly. Over the past decades the afar people’s frustration with Issa dominant government has reached to the boiling point. Marginalized and treated as second class citizens Unemployment rate is the worst amongst afar population. Education opportunities such as scholarships are given to non afar. Their areas are one of the least developed in terms of infrastructures and roads. The afar representation in the government has been infiltrated by greed and neglect. Arbitrary arrest and killing of afar activist and civilians Rape of afar women by Djibouti soldiers
3. Goals and objectives Our goal as afar Diaspora and supports is to facilitate a tri-lateral agreement between three neighbouring states that will utilize the afar regions, afar people and resources as tool of bridge building, economic prosperity and mutual coexistence to promote peace and democracy by removing abject poverty from disenfranchised afar people but also for greater benefit of all ethnicities. The result of self governance and federalism in afar region of Ethiopia has seen the promising start, in investments, infrastructure, over all improvement on livelihood of people which in turn has shown drop in dispute and conflict amongst ethnicities. The failure to address issues like these will have a danger circumstances on greater society also a recipe for conflicts. The example of exclusion can be seen in the rebellion and armed conflict in Somalia and current piracy issues, Nigeria and Niger delta area and many part of Africa. Currently there are some afar rebel groups who see themselves and their people excluded from political and social process, hoping for inclusive relationship of coexistence, peace and prosperity of self governance and afar federalism within Eritrea and Djibouti. Through out history afar population has shown both resiliency to occupation and participated in prosperous free trade and mutual coexistence with all people that came in contact with them. We all have stake in sharing the responsibility as International, indigenous afar community, regional and international governments to foster a relationship of peace, prosperity, human rights and good governance. We are hoping to accomplish these initiatives with the help of our partners of similar goals and interest. To have a serious of conferences starting with Afar region of Ethiopia in May ,2009 The theme of the conference is “Afar federalism for the good of Harmonious coexistence, peace and prosperity” To bring together a serious of Afar leaders ,NGOs, experts and policy maker from Canada and elsewhere to discuss example of federalism in Canada and Ethiopia in particular to give relevance to two homes of afar people. To promote democracy, federalism in the Eritrea and Djibouti by following Ethiopia’s Example which in turn will result on poverty reduction, adequate education and health care for afar children, clean water, foreign aid and more. To promote harmony and coexistence through Human and property rights. To produce highly productive and prospers society by removing trade barriers. To find a alternative solution for unsustainable nomadic way of life To find a solution for question of afar self governance within the framework of states by way of federalism and semi-autonomous arrangements. We fill the time is right for opportunities, open dialogue of peace, prosperity and rights between political and social groups. Sincerely, Ahmed Y Mohamed