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Eritreans in Tri-State honor Swedish MP Arhe Hamednaca

In an unprecedented spirit of fraternity, a group of Eritreans from the Tri-state area, Pennsylvania and Delaware met to honor one of their own—the Eritrean-Swedish Member of Parliament, Mr. Arhe Hamednaca. They came together to celebrate his story; their story, for it reaffirms the potent power that lies in all of them. Arhe Hamednaca is them, but more importantly, he is the forerunner of what is to come of their children. Shaking hands with the Swedish MP was to shake hands with the exhilarating promise of the future. Arhe Hamednaca is the ambassador of the Eritrean Diaspora who speaks to its potential, promise and hope.

The multi-cultured Arhe is the embodiment of Eritrea’s long tradition of a melting pot; the old Bogos is the microcosm of Eritrea. No wonder, Arhe’s story is the story of a successful integration of an individual who has made the most of the opportunities Sweden has afforded him. Arhe’s success is a tribute to the long-standing legacy of cultural diffusion and integration of his native SenHit, his personal strife for excellence, and most of all, the goodness of the Swedish people and country that have opened their hearts and doors to refugees from all over the world. Arhe is Swedish as much as he is Eritrean.

In fact, Arhe is in New York to attend a UN session as part of six-member Swedish delegation made of Members of Parliament, but as an Eritrean, he had to make the time, out of a really busy schedule, to meet with Eritrean kin and kith. Arhe is a member of the Swedish Social Democratic Party, who was elected in 2010 from the Stockholm Municipally, and has been serving in parliament as a board member, member of the Committee on Justice, and Deputy Director of Labor Market Committee.

Arhe Hamednaca’s success and rise to fame is indeed an Eritrean story, but it is much more than that; it is a human story that transcends our petty differences. It is the story of a young man who, at a tender age of fifteen, had to leave home to fight for freedom; a noble idea its blessings he was, in a twist of fate, to experience far away from home, in his adopted country of Sweden. Arhe is Jemal, the protagonist, of Of Kings and Bandits, the historical novel by Saleh Gadi Johar.

Like most young idealists, Arhe was disappointed by the revolution he dedicated his life to; and in 1977 he fled Eritrea and sought refuge in neighboring countries. This, as Arhe would say, was neither an abdication of responsibility nor a negation of Eritrea’s just cause. He has not stopped fighting and caring for Eritrea, and today he champions the fight for a meaningful and positive change. He believes that regime change is not enough if it is not rooted in reconciliation, democracy and respect for human rights.

Arhe’s journey from an asylee to a Member of Parliament was neither quick nor easy. When Arhe joined the Eritrean Liberation Front the only education he had, in his place of birth Ella Berid, was of primary level. His pristine, unadulterated and rural upbringing, however, is evident in his honest, unpretentious, simple and dignified approach. His good looks and tall posture lend him an authority that befits his stature. He speaks in a disarming and charming way putting his audience at ease, but the power behind his ideas could be very transformative. He attributes his early intellectual development to his days as a young freedom fighter in the mountains of SenHit, Hamasien and the plains of Barka.

His passion for his ideas is only matched by the beauty of his humanity; he is a decent and likeable gentleman who has not forgotten his Eritrean and Ella Berid roots. I’ve not had the honor of visiting Sweden, but based on what I have read and heard, I am sure Sweden has had a great impact on his character, disposition and outlook. The freedom and justice oriented Swedish culture has allowed Arhe to beautifully and seamlessly navigate between his two cherished cultures at times and to fully integrate them at others.

The ability to integrate the best of both worlds’ is what brought the spotlight on him. He was the voice against honor killing among the immigrant communities in Sweden, and the architect of a policy that proved so effective that few European countries have come to emulate it. Arhe understood that it takes a generation or two to eradicate a deeply rooted cultural practice; and any policy that fails to garner a patient and long-term commitment is bound to be ineffective. There are no short-cuts and quick fixes; and no amount of legislation can change what is in peoples’ hearts. A slow, pain-staking and patient process of education is the only remedy. This cultural insight catapulted Arhe to Swedish national discourse. Maybe his sojourn in exile and his early years in Ella Berid gave him some inbuilt sensitivity to deal with diverse cultures. No wonder the Christian Arhe champions the so-called Eritrean Muslims’ issues of language, land and refugee repatriation. I think he is being true to his moral campus.

Arhe was living in Saudi Arabia in the 1980s as an active member of ELF’s civilian organization, but the divisive politics that characterized post ELF fragmentation, put the leftist leaning members at risk of expulsion. It was during this politically-polluted environment that he sought asylum to Sweden. He arrived in Sweden in 1986 and joined the ELF Swedish branch, but the never-ending bickering among his compatriots compelled him to seek a meaningful participation in the social, cultural and political life of his new home. It was in 1988 that he became a member of the Social Democratic Party.

Arhe had spent a long time in the trenches.

For over a decade, he was mainly active in civic organizations, but in 2001 when a Kurdish acquaintance became a victim of honor killing, he spoke out with outrage and reasoned with wisdom to seek a solution that will adequately address the problem. Arhe’s cultural insight, that seems rare among the so-called experts, came naturally to him; the son of Ella Berid, where cultural diversity and integration was and is still the norm.

Eritrea has a model to follow, it is the model of Keren, it is the model of Bogos, it is the model of SenHit, and it is the model of Arhe Hamednaca. No wonder the favorite son of Ella Ber’ed preaches the gospel of reconciliation. He deserves our applause; we need to tell him, “Preach on brother!”

Arhe Hamednaca, whose name represents diverse Eritrean languages, is an Eritrean-Swedish Member of Parliament and an apostle of reconciliation. Arhe has led the way and his country men and women are proud.
Almost all ideas are the result of individual thinking and the Eritrean who came up with the idea of honoring Arhe Hamednaca deserves equal accolade.

About Semere T Habtemariam

Semere T Habtemariam is an author and a columnist at Awate. He holds a BA in Government and Politics and a MA in Public Affairs from the University of Texas at Dallas. He lives in Dallas, Texas. His two books are: Reflections-History-Abyssinian-Orthodox-Tewahdo and Hearts-Like-Birds.

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  • Nitricc

    Debdibew, why are you angry though? Lol
    You must be one of the hopeless black monkeys who live on welfare. I understand you being from Ethiopia, it is the way of life to live in handouts and bagging. So, I can see why you defend the whites and angry with my post. I am sorry for attacking your masters. Although, I was just making a point that a black person never makes a difference in whites politics. So, Debdibew, chill out, be calm and collect your crumbs from your white masters. Dedeb.

  • Tesfabirhan WR

    Dear Awatistas,

    I write here an open appeal against Nitricc’s words. His racistic words openly violets the newly ratified posting guidelines, “words of racism”. I hereby therefore appeal openly either to delete his comment or take more serious measures against this bigoted individual. It is against human values, it is against African values and it against Eritrean values.

    With all due respect.

    Tesfabirhan WR

    • Semere Andom

      Motioned seconded

    • Nitricc

      I object!
      Tes, are you for real? Lol. African value? What is that? Let me show you what African value is… yep, take a look. My point is don’t misled by the westerners when they slap you with toothless PM or any bull crap PR consumption. You are no body, you are nothing but a black monkey. The only thing you can do right and meaningful while you are in the west is to better yourself so you can better your country. That is the only way you can make a difference. So, all of you out there here is your African value, check it out.

  • Nitricc

    “His good looks and tall posture lend him an authority that befits his stature”
    They elected him because of “His good looks and tall posture lend him an authority that befits his stature.” Also they elected him so they won’t be labeled racists. I can assure you the man is a symbol sitting their for PR consumption. Some people are so naïve; they don’t even understand how the white world works. Sorry, still you are black and behind your back; they are calling you names. A black person in white’s politics is a joke. Forget this MP bull crap, look at your highly tooted President Obama; exactly.
    The only way being black and be effective is to have money and be investor or be good in academics.
    so please save your time and your good for naothing propoganda.

    • Tesfabirhan WR


      I didn’t know that you are such racism fanatic person. I was thinking that when you call the Tigrian people as lementi was because of your monsteric political tendencies. but now, you are a “Racist.” And Arhe is against racism and against you and your PFDJ junta because you share the same mindset.

      I could have banned you because of your statements but thanks to awate they have a big heart to host you.


      • Nitricc

        “I could have banned you because of your statements”
        and you fight for democray and justice?
        Why are you sooooo unstable and fluid? Dude, make a stand and fly with it.
        All I am saying is if you are black African, make better your self in west so you can make better your country and people in Africa. Don’t get fooled when the westerners give you toothless authority, it don’t mean shiiiii.
        Do you get that? I doubt it.

    • reda Ghaber

      Poor soul you heavy counseling!

  • Amanuel Hidrat

    Dear Semere,
    Thank you for reflecting the welcome meeting with Arhe Hamednaca by the tri-state residents (NY, NJ, De). You put it eloquently and realistically. I am glad to be part with. Thank you very much again.

  • Kokhob Selam

    I put this article as my favorite sure you know why. thank you Semere.

  • Tesfabirhan WR

    Dear Semere,

    I do not know how to thank you. I do not know how I started and finished this peace-generating essay. And finally, you ended it beautifully, “The gospel of reconciliation.”

    Knowing all his family background, I can much further add that his wisdom and reconcilatory behavior is even further generated from his family. His mother, now old and always remembering him in her daily spoken words, his father (May he rest in Peace), humble, charming, and overall his parents great generosity, welcoming, embracing and shining humanistic qualities, are much further the added value in his character. I used to chat with his mother, oh, beautiful mother, even still her beauty is magnificent still (May God give her more years and more to see him physically), and always reminds me “on peace and kindness.”

    More yes, Ela Berid (Written as Elabered) is also an influential place referring back to his generation. Ela Berid was on the center hub of modern Agriculture in the 1960s and 1970s. Strong labor union, strong and technically rich human resources as well as the early access to education contributed a lot.

    Dear Semere your personal thinking on Arhe’s quality are super yet it can even be extended and surely more wisdom can be learned. I am happy that you met him and spent sometime within his busy time schedule.

    Thank you again