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A Window To Eritrean Music And Dance

A large portion of Eritreans speak Tigrayet in diverse dialects in the area stretching from the bay of Zula/Afta all the way to the Eritrean-Ethiopian-Sudanese border area of UmHajer and its environs. Tigrayet speakers reside in Samhar, Sahel, Barka and parts of Hamasien, Senhit and Gash regions. There are also some isolated Tigrayet speaking communities in Akele-Guzay and Seraye who have assimilated within the surrounding communities of Tigrinya speakers.

Due to their geographic stretch Tigrayet speaking communities have contacts with almost all of the nationalities in Eritrea, some of whom have adopted Tigrayet as a second language. Almost all of Blin, Hidareb and Nara speak Tigrayet fluently; the rest of Eritreans who have contacts with Tigrayet speakers also speak the language satisfactorily. Therefore, in traditional Eritrea, Tigrayet could be thought of as a gluing factor of Eritrean societies. However, although no statistics is available, Tigrinya seems to be taking over that role of Tigrayet in Eritrea due to its use as an administrative language all over the country.

Traditional Tigrayet speakers used to be agro-pastoralists, most prominently the of transhumanemployeess practice known in their language as sebbik w’saagim (ስብክ ወ ስግም). This is in contrast to a nomadic life. Nonetheless, due to war and drought, they have recently been adopting sedentary living. Also of note is the fact that like most Eritrean communities, they have long established urban lifestyles and became merchants, factory workers, fishermen, civil servants, etc.

A non-academic look at Tigrayet speakers, based on my observations while I roamed those regions during the liberation struggle, would reveal five regions with their own distinct characteristics, folklore, dances, dialects, and oral traditions relevant to that particular area’s history, and other nuances which make those regions distinct. They are Mensa’e, including the Semhar plains north of Ad-Shuma, and including the northern Northern Red Sea escarpments starting from Sogo all the way to the end of that escarpment at or around Afabet; Massawa, Hirgigo, Afta-Zula and environs; Sahel, Marya–both TsaEda (red*) and Tsellam (black), and Gash-Barka.

Some factors like music, dances and dialects may cross over the faint boundaries between adjacent Tigrayet speaking communities and other neighbor nationalities which come in contact with them. They overlap in some places. Importantly, the social delineation– both among the Tigrayet speakers themselves and between them and other neighboring communities–is so fluid and blurry that one could walk from Habero in Sahel to Keren in Senhit without noticing they are in Blin land (a different nationality). Correspondingly, one would find it hard to differentiate Tigrayet speakers of the Mensa’e and Betjuk, from Blin in the areas of contact where they intermingle and live peacefully. By far, Tigrayet has been the language of communication between many ethnic groups.

Furthermore, before the Eritrean revolution, Tigrinya, though the language with the greatest number of speakers, was limited in Highland Eritrea. At the same time, Tigrayet held its grip in all Lowland Eritrea including its major cities, making it the biggest lingua-franca covering most of the Eritrean map. With the launching of the armed struggle, since the rural land of Tigrayet speakers was the staging region of the revolution and where most of the atrocious battles raged for decades, Tigrinya was introduced to it by the freedom fighters who depended on the people for their survival. Thus, nowadays, Tigrinya is not foreign to most rural Eritreans including Tigrayet speakers since the the EPLF used of Tigriyna as an administrative language during the struggle. Currently the government uses Tigrinya in the same manner.

As could be surmised from the above geographic and social diversities, and the relation of Tigrayet speakers with almost all of the other nationalities, the culture and particularly music and dances of Tigrayet speakers are also diverse.

The Musical instruments:

Tigrayet Music is pentatonic, songs and vocal voicing are expressed in five notes, as opposed to classical music which could use all the seven notes and their fractions. Both major and minor forms of the pentatonic scale are used.

Kebero (Drum): A cylinder covered tightly by tow skin-membrane on both ends tightly stretched, usually held in the armpit, and drummed by both palms.

Ender (flute or recorder): Made from bamboo reeds or metal pipe.

Harmonica: Usually introduced at the end-segment of the dance or song. Similar to Highland Kuda dance, the Tigrayet dance, known as SaSaEit or Kskes, is brought to its climax and resolution at the end of the dance. This closing part of the dance is known as sbr/ስብር, which is the cream of the dance. The beat and the change in the rhythmic movement gets picked up resolving to a conclusion. Here is the queen of sbr, the harmonica, introduced by a raised voice of the lead singer to fill in as a solo instrument ending the dance. Unlike western music, the harmonica is used to accompany the changed beat of the closing segment, and it doesn’t go farther than two-three chordal voices. However, it gives the sbr part of the dance color and intensity. This type of dance is shared with Blin people too.

Rababa: A five-stringed harp with each string assigned to one of the five notes. Tigrayet music is made of five notes (the music is pentatonic), the Rababa is mostly used in Marya Tselam and Gash/Barka. In those areas, it’s the reigning queen of the Tigrayet folkloric songs. Rababa, although constrained from expressing wide tonal ranges, its users employ techniques such as pulling off or hammering the strings, and letting two strings go in order to create a simple harmony. When played by a talented person, it’s the soul of traditional music of the people.

Percussion: Mainly, clubs, hand clapping and Kebero are used as percussion.

The Passionate Dances

Kskes: a circular motion to a metronomic beat, close to a standard reggae beat. Dancers turn roles in groups, while others perform the singing, and filling the percussive role. It’s arranged in a circular form where dancers are surrounded by the singing and accompanying group.

Shelil: Is the braided hair of females, the dance consists of a group of renowned beauties who hit the floor in a show of fashion. It’s literally the dance of the hair. In this dance, the head is swiftly turned left and right in a rhythmic move with whirling hair sweeping the face in harmony with the movement of the rest of the body. The accompanying group sit or stand in a circular formation. Shelil songs are play lyrics that reward the female dancers with adoring expressions of the girls beauty, stamina and skills.

Berj/Mirgidi: This is usually a manes dance in wedding parties, it consists of a drummer, a lead singer, and a chorus. Dancers may change/exchange positions in a frontal or circular motion; it is a dance that requires energy and demanding physical agility; it includes jumping and stomping the ground. Lip-whistling to the beat is part of the dance.

Degdeg/asomya: This type of dance is the most complex and choreographically elaborate. It has many varieties and regional distinction. The most complex Degdeg dances have a myriad of intricate steps which I saw in Marya Tselam. It took months for the choreographers of the EPLF central musical group to master just few Degdeg dances which follow elaborate patterns. The dancers turn and twists along the way, mostly to impress the females. It’s probably a dance of young males to show their skills and attract females. Here, the females are the main singers, and the dance could be considered an opposite of shelil where the males try to lure the female dancers by showering them with tempting and suggestive lyrics.

Goyla: Mainly danced in the Mensa’e and Blin area, where males are coupled with females, and follow a lead singer. The dance is done with the males holding the females securely, and is identified by the intermittent jumping. This dance is a sort of courtship where during the dance, the females attempt to break loose from their male partners and fall on to the ground in order to embarrass them while the males should prevent the fall by staying on guard while they dance.

The above are the major dances I could think of. There are many other dances and songs, some of which have religious connections and connotations, conducted on special occasions, such as the death of a king, a notable or famous figure, the birth of a child, the death of a husband (conducted by the widow), war and peace, etc.

I will present more of that in the future starting with my next article on Tigrayet song writing and songs with a special focus on the renowned Eritrean artist Ustaz Alamin Abdulatif.

* corrected to red


About Mahmud Saleh

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  • Kokhob Selam

    ሰይ ኮታ ! ሰይ ኮታ !! still strong and timely that exposes the remaining EPLF leadership, PFDJ.


  • Mahmud Saleh


    Need a break from hard politicking? Here is a soft one. Please play the rababa song linked below. ካብ ትግረ ተተርጒሙ። ከጋጥሞ ብዙሕ ግዜ ክሓተለይ ስለዝኾነ ትርጉም ናይቲ ግጥሚ ጥራይ ኣቐሚጠ ኣለኹ።

    ኣብ መሬትና ንመውት፡ ደምና ነፍስስ ንሃገር

    ንኣንስትና ንመውት(ንሓልፍ) ኣሎና ክቱር ሓልዮት

    ኣብ መሬትና ንመውት ደምና ነፍስስ ንሃገር

    ሓመድ ሳልሕን ተስፋይን ብሓባር ዝቐበርና ኢና

    እምቢ፡ ኣይንፈላለን፡ ዓሳን ባሕርን ኢና

    ብእግዚሄር ንኣምን ስም ነቢ መሓመድን የሱስን ነልዕል

    ንስኹም ግን ገንዘብ እዩ ኣምላኽኩም፡ ሕሱሩን ክቡሩን (ውሑዱን ብዙሕን)

    ኣብ ከበሳ ጣፍ፡ ወርቂ ‘ውን ኣብ ቢሻ ኣሎና

    ንሕና ሰላም ንመርሕ፡ ከበሮኣ (ንጋረታ) ንወቅዕ/ነቃልሕ

    ንስኹም ግን ክፉእ ትመርሑ፡ ሚሳይላትኩም ወትሩ ኣብ ተጠንቀቕ

    ረድኤትኩም (ትኳቦኹም) ኣይንደልን፡ (ኣይንደልያን)‘ታ መርከብ ምስ ሓሩጫ(ጽዕነት እኽሊ)

    ንነግረኩም ኣለና ካብ ኣመሪካ ተጠንቀቑ

    ባዕሎም ሓዊ ኣሳዊሮም ተመሊሶም ምኽንያት መወለዒኣ ይሓቱ

    ሰብ ጽቡቕ ግብሪ ተመሲሎም ካብ ግራትካ ይህቡኻ (ግራትካ ወኒኖምስ የመቓርሑኻ!)

    ኣብ ገዛኻ (ንብረትካ) ኣቐሚጦም ተመሊሶም ክራይ ይሓቱኻ

    ዒራቕ እንተትሓቱ ምነገረትኩም ነይራ

    እቲ ወዲ ጓና መንግስቲ ኮይኑስ ሰብ መሬት ግን ይእሰሩ (ይከላበቱ)

    ንስኹም ሓቢሮም ዝጻወቱን ዝዕልሉን ፍቱዋት ትፈላልዩ

    ፈልፋሊት ዒላ ተንቅጹ፡ ዋናታታ ከምዘስደዱ ትገብሩ

    ፍርቕኩም ሓረድቲ፡ፍርቕኩም ድማ ዘልዘልቲ ስጋ ኢኹም

    ገሊኹም ብሰንሰለት መበላት widows ትኣስሩ

    ንስኹም ንሰላማዊ (ዝተጣየሰ ህዝቢ) ተግዕዙ/ተፈናቕሉ

    (ኣብነት ናይ’ዚ ድማ )እቲ ካብ ደምበኡ ዝተፈናቐለ መስኪን ህዝቢ ሶማል

    ንሕና ፍትሓዊ እዩ ኣመሓድራና (ሕገ’ንዳቦና/ ሕክም) ኣመሪካ ግን ብኣሸባርነትን ከበባ (ካልኦት ትነብር)

    ንሕና ሓቂ እዩ መልስና፡ ኣመሪካ ግን ብሓሶትን ፍልምታትን (እያ ትምልስ/ትዛረብ)

    ንሕና ብታሪኽ ንድረዝ (ንምልክዕ) ኣመሪካ ግን ብሻምፑን ክረምን (creams)

    ኣመሪካ ሓዊ ትውልዕ፡ ንሕና ድማ ነቕስና

    ኣመሪካ ኲናት ተብልሕ፡ ንሕና ግን ነጕድማ

    ኣመሪካ ወላዲት ተበኪ፡ ንሕና ግን ነደዓዕሳ

    ለባም ዘይደፍራ (ዝሓፍራ)፡ ዓሻ ጦብለቕ ይብላ

    ንሕና ንዘረባ (ዛዕባና) ንድርጒሖ ኣመሪካ ግን ንሓቂ ይሓብኡዋ

    ህዝቢ ምስ ተወደአ ደሓር የውጽእዋ

    እቲ ናይ ዒራቕ ውጉዝ ተግባርኩም ንዓለም’ስከ ንገርዋ

    (ናይ ዒራቕ ሽግር) ከይፈተሕኩም ሳእኒ ኣርኪቡኩም (ናብ ጆርጅ ቡሽ ዝተሰንደወ ሳእኒ እዩ ዝጠቕስ ዘሎ)

    ሕጂ እውን ካልሲ ተሪፉኩም (ክድርበየኩም እዩ) እቲ ናይ ዕንወት ስራሕኩም (እንተቀጺሉ)

    እስኪ ነዚ ተግባርኩም ኣብ ነብስኹም ፈትንዎ

    ሰላም ዘይትፈልጡ፡ ንወራር ብወራር ክትፈትሑ ትፍትኑ

    ንገለ ክርስትያንን ኣስላምን ኢልኩሞም ብሃይማኖት ተናቕቱዎም

    ንገለ ከኣ ሱናን ሺዓን ኢልኩም ሴፋቶም ትስሕሉሎም

    ንገለ ድማ ከም ወያነ ናብ ጎረቤቱ ትፍንውዎ

    ንገለ ድማ ወርቑ ስሪቕኩም ብውሑድ ፊኖ ትቕሽሽዎ

    ጸማም እዝኒ ንዝሃበኩም ድማ ብማዕቀብ ትፈርድዎ (ትቐጽዕዎ)

    ንስኹም ኣመሪካ’ያ ስምኩም ንሕና ድማ ኤርትራ

    ንስኹም ኮንግረስ ይብሉኹም ንሕና ድማ ጀብሀት ሻዕብያ

    ሰራም ሬድኤትኩም ህዝብና ኣይደልያን

    ንሕና ወጋሕታ ኢና ኩሉ ዝምነያ

    ንስኹም ድማ ዓራርቦ፡ ከውታ-ጸላም ዝብኢ ትጽበያ (ትህንጠያ/ትፈትዋ)

    ዳግም ክነፍቱ ኢልና ሰለስተ ህድማ ምግባር ሓራም እዩ፡-

    ካብተን ጽሙኣትን ጥሙያትን ከብትኻ ምህዳም

    ካብ ህዝብኻ፡ካብ ምድሓን ቖልዑን ኣንስትን ምህዳም

    ካብታ ሕማቕ (ዓመጽ) ዝገጠማ ሰበይትኻ ምህዳም (ነውሪ እዩ)

    ምንጪ ጅግንነት ኢና፡ ኤርትራውያን ንሓመዶም

    መዛግብና እንተ ንግንጽል፡ እንተ ንምለስ ንድሕሪት

    ባህታ ሓጎስ ምበልና፡ ከምኡ እውን ድንጌር ወድ ሻርፍ

    ወርሻን ርእሰማልን ኣሎና

    ተግባር ኮንትሮባንድ smuggling ናይ ኣመሪካን እንግሊዝን እዩ

    ህድማ ሎምን ትማልን ውርሻና ኣይኮነን

    ንሃገር ኢና ንመውት፡ ንሃገር ኢን ንዕስከር

    ኣብኡ ኢና ተወሊድና፡ ሕጂ’ውን ኣብኡ ኢና ንቕበር

    ኣክንዲ ገንዘብን ክድምናን ኣብ ትሕቲ ናጽነት ንንበር

    ኣክንዲ ዘይናትና ብዙሕ (ንብረት) ነቛምት በታ ዘላትና ንእሽቶ ንተሓበን

    ካብ ሃገርና ኣይንሃድምን ኣብ ግንባርና ኢና ንህረም


  • Kokhob Selam

    ((إِنَّ اللَّهَ لا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّى يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ))[الرعد:11

    ንነብሱ ዘይቀረ ሕ-ስብ ልውጢ ክጽበ የብሉን ::ጸልዩ ኣሕዋት በብሃይማነትኩም ይቕሬታ ንሕተት::


  • Kokhob Selam


    is that legally accepted? Stehaytu in dedebit land. enjoy it.


  • Nitricc

    I SAAY tell me if this is not the best Amharic song you ever heard. for me simply cool.


    • saay7


      Don’t panic. But, u have something very much in common with neo-dedebit Eyob Medhane.
      When this song first came out, he wrote me a long treatise about the song and the artist. (he was very impressed by him; don’t know why because she is the more impressive.) I think it’s a remake of an old song and the male singer is the direct descendant of someone or something. But I forget so u should ask him directly. Don’t forget to say “Dear Eyob” when u ask; it’s common courtesy where we come from 🙂

      In other news, Marshawn Lynch agreed to come back to the damn Seahawks, making Mahmuday very happy and breaking the heart of every 49ers fan.


      • Nitricc

        thanks SAAY for ruining my fev song; never mine i change my mind. lol. i could have ask Eyop but i am not ready to be killed. he hates me.

        SAAY how about this song. it is my fev in a steam room.


        • Eyob Medhane

          I don’t hate hate you.

          I just don’t like talking to you, because you don’t like your manner and the way you interact with everyone.

          The original song is by Hirut Bekele and Capt. Mesfin Haile. The remake is by Dawit Tisge and Etenesh Demeke. Dawit Tsige is the current ‘Balageru Idol’ (sort of American Idol type of show) Contestant. He seems to be the favorite to win. You can check out his competition on you tube by searching his name….

          Meanwhile, you go to a steam room? 🙂

        • saay7


          If I made my Top 10 fave Aster Aweke songs, that one would make it to number 16, right after #15, Ethiopia.

          Try listening to her “Chal-Chal””Baher Zaf”, and “Checheho” which, whatever u do, don’t ask Mr Ethiopidia himself, Eyobai, what it is named after because he will ruin it for you. 🙂


  • Amanuel Hidrat

    Merhaba Tesfu,

    No ! How could I forget his effort to stop the fratricidal civil war? Aba Agostinos and many others from our population have tried to stop the killing of each other of the two organizations. In fact there was also a committee formed to mediate the two organizations, lead by memhir Gebretensae in 1976, which unfortunately became politicized and ceased to function and fulfill its task.

    If you were following my comment, all my attempts was to correct the distorted historical account by my fellow Eritreans (mixed of dates and events). It was never to disregard the effort of civilian Eritreans to mediate the organizations, nor did it was a complete account on my side. It was only to straighten the record.

    Amanuel Hidrat

  • Mahmud Saleh

    Haw Tewelde T
    The goal of this very short article is to introduce Tigre/ Tigrayet Speakers to those who have non or little knowledge about it. It should not be seen as a comparative analysis of our languages. It doesn’t even go to areas of why a language is/should be an administrative, or be give previewed to stand as a language of the general public. I hope you understand this; and with thid, I understand the issue of languages became an issue during the period running up to the federal formation. During the Italian time all Eritrean languages were equally oppressed. I agree that be it Arabic or Tigrigna prominence in the different stages of the struggle and in both organizations was due to demographic factors. I have no concrete evidence to suggest otherwise. I didn’t go there because that was not the purpose of the article.

  • Semere Andom

    The government must go out of the business of assigning ethnicity to people.

    We need government to protect us from ourselves, we give them power and guns to do tos. If that power is not checked vigilantly, the government can be worse than having no government. Balancing these two is a challenge. The tussle between them is will be here as far human beings are here Sometimes having implemented the pillars of democracy makes citizens complacent and complacency is a fertile ground where people with unfetter power can damage the society. Some countries have made progress in this arena, but some societies like Eritrean an NK are in the Stone Age the poor people desperately need to be brought to modernity and the trans with their robotic, self-serving enforcers need to eradicate to the stone-age. I sued to think, the despots and our tormentors are in bondage just like us, we in bondage by them and they by their own demons, and thus we both need to be liberated. We cannot liberate wilful bondage and for our safely they must be kept in their bondage. Human beings were endowed with free will, if they waver that free-will, it is their right.

    PFDJ doles, citizenship, ethnicity, provincial affiliation at whim. Future government must get out of this business. Anthropologies must study this area not to catogarorize and box people to certain arbitrary bherar, but for pure academic and the pleasure knowledge and if along the way knowing the roots of once origin servers some medical, or societal benefit, then that is ok. But citizens must decide who they are and what tribe, ethnicity they belong too. Identify is complex, it is cross pollinated and it is not black and white. Let an Eritrean be whatever he wants. I remember an old Arabic saying: “Kun ebin min shieta wo aktesib adeben wo Mahmud* sa yeqnika min anesebi.” Bad translation: be whoever you are, acquire character and the Almighty will enrich/compensate you with pedigree. If a citizen abides by the laws of the country, is a good citizen, the government’s categorizing him as biologists do for the plant species is criminal and that is what PFDJ has been doing with the Eritrean identity.

  • Haile Zeru

    The historical process of Tigre and Shimagelle was already fading with the advent of the Italians. Basically the Shimagelle were the ruling class and diffenders of their land, boundaries and makers of the laws, rules and norms. The Tigre were living in that land according to Shimagelle’s rules and conditions or leave to settle elsewhere(??). The Italians overwhelmed all clans shimagelle and TIgre and became the government. Practically they substituted the shimagelle. The 10 year British administration was not much to force a social change. Probably they introduced some decrees ( I am not a historian I know I am missing lots of stuff). The end to the Tigre/Shimagelle division came about with Jebha (ELF). Ethiopia also played it’s role in antogonizing one group against the other.
    These is a broad outline which is a disservice for the long running history that we never had the opportunity to learn and evaluate.
    Tigrayit is the language of all the groups. It is a common denominator. As What should be done next?
    These same people (all Eritrean people for that matter)should be asked and call them they way they want to be called. Basically I (in normal conditions) tell you what is my name and not the other way around.

    I am not a historian so do not take my word for anything. What I like anyone to do is to use the above hints and dig more if you have interest to know.


    • Fenomeno

      I believe the process was at least started under the guidance of the Muslim League during the British Administration. as stated by Venosa in his book Paths toward the Nation.

      Ok so your problem is more with the name “Tigre” rather than with labeling all Tigrayet speakers with one label. Off course this is debatable.

      Is there any problem among Tigrayet speakers with the label Tigre? Most of them were Tigre already right? Even though they might have not referred to themselves as so. I mean until that point there was no name that captured all Tigrayet speakers, so if you would ask them they could probably not give you any other name than Tigre.

      I believe that not putting all Tigrayet speakers under one label would just leave one winner and that is the so called “Tigrinyazation of Eritrea”. So I do not see this evil plan that some seem to be implying by EPLF/PFDJ in ginving Tigrayet speakers the name Tigre.

      • Haile Zeru

        I do not think it is an evil plan. But It was imposed. If you see the history of the world some names were imposed by the rulers or colonizers. Some people accepted them some rejected. To mention few, Eritrea, Zimbabwe (Rodhesia), Congo (Zaire) Etc…

        Same here for the biher Tigre. The name Tigre is associated with the language and it is fine to me.
        As I said I call myself a Tigre in that sense.

        • Eritrean Otaku

          Just a curious question but are Mensa Tigre by the way?

  • Abraham Hanibal

    Selamat Haw Mahmud,
    Thanks for sharing with us some of the rich culture of the Tigrayit-speaking people.))

  • Abraham Hanibal

    Hi Real Hannibal;
    When was it that I persecuted those who knew and shared for us?

  • Fnote Selam

    Dear Guest,

    My understanding is that Hawesha (of Adi Hawesha) was one of several children of one father that make the Seharti (7-10 villages to the south east of Asmara). If my memory is serving me good, that how I though I heard my mom’s family talk about it (my mom’s mom is from that area).



    • guest

      Sorry fnote selam ( a beautiful name btw) for my late reply. I whole-heartedly accept what you just taught me of the name to be of one of several Sehartian Brothers; nevertheless, bear in mind we, specially in kebesa have the tendency of either altering some letters for others as in haWesha haBesha, haWtey haBtey haFtey for sister, shoW’atte shoB’atte for seven, or totally using old and new words alternatively such as Adi Wogri Mebefera, massawa batzi3….etc. Ever heard someone saying Emni Hajer for Omm Hajer? We used to laugh at that name like Waq Waq islands or Baden Baden.same word repeated only one in tigrinia ( Emni ) and Hajer in arabc which also means emni

      • Fnote Selam

        Dear Guest,

        You could also be right. I will try to get more info next time I talk to my family members from that area.

        Best regards,


  • Haile Zeru

    Hi Mahmud Saleh,
    You said,
    “Marya–both TsaEda (white)”, do you mean Marya Keyah (Red)?

    As for the word “Tigre” that is used as language and name of biher in EPLF lexicon is the n-th transformation of the meaning of the word.

    In Eritrea there is no biher, called biher Tigre, I agree with SJG. The word Tigre to mean biher is just an imposition of EPLF on the rest of the population.
    Once, in Asmera in a government office a clerk was filling some forms. He asked me the name of my biher. I told him the name. He said No, No you are Tigre. he told me. Of course he was trying to be nice and correct my mistake. I said No, my language is Tigre (I was trying some compromise on the language’s name) and I am from X tribe (biher). His answer was still No. I know your biher but our list (???) puts your tribe with Tigre. The conversation was futile. People were waiting in line to have their turn to fill those forms. Everybody was agreeing with me even the clerck himself. But no body was in a position to change anything.
    The word Tigrayit is the name of the language. Name, the so called Tigre tribes, use to indicate their language. Tigrayit is in a way an epithet, a term of endearment when used in reference of the language.


    • Amde


      I believe the confusion of language/nationality/tribe is an artefact of Stalin’s social engineering which has been unquestioningly and enthusiastically adopted by the radicalized leftist movement in the horn. The concept of social organization outside of language finds no space; unfortunately leading to fruitless and wasteful social engineering. I find your reported anecdote quite useful.


      • Haile Zeru

        I agree with your assessment. It was more made to pick on the contradictions of the societies and not on the things that would introduce harmony between them. Revolutions strive in extreme antagonism. And if it is latent (the contradictions) one needs to steer them up.
        Obviously this is when we speak about Eritrean social systems.

    • Mahmud Saleh

      Thanks Haile
      Yes, it’s Marya QayaH. Sorry for the error. I spent years around those areas, it is funny how I missed it. And thanks for the additional information/story.

      • Fnote Selam

        Dear Mahmud or anyone who knows the history of ELF, EPLF and TPLF,

        What year did EPLF and TPLF started collaborating with each other against ELF? Read some contradictory accounts on (surprise, surprise!) internet and just want to get to the root of it.



        • guest

          Merhaba Fnote Selam.
          though i cant tell the year and month the EPLF and TPLF started to team up against ELF, the Tegaru Fighters were among the TPLF fighters during the Wokki/ Zager inter sawra battles. In fact i remember the presence of the Tigray fighters siding alongline with sha3biyyah was one of the main obstacles to secure a ceasefire called by Eritrean Elders who were orbiting between the two villages to secure a temporary halt of the strife, and eventually to mediate between the military regime of ethiopia and a united voice of eritrean sawra.
          lately jebha also started to court TPLF and was clear the cooperation of jebha and tigray fighters in kicking outElf-PLF lead by late Osman Saleh Sabbe out of eritrean field after the liberation of Aqordat, around 1979…. what goes by, comes by, and sha3biyyah with the help of TPLF gave the final blow to jebha, wa kama tadeenu, tudan

          • Fnote Selam

            Dear Guest,

            I was specifically looking if there was any collaboration between EPLF and TPLF before 1974/75. Do you have any information about that?



          • guest

            The Wokki Zaager battle was in late 1973 and early 1974. For surety Tegarru tegadelty were fighting on the side of Sha3biyyah/ Selfie Natzennet against jebha since then. For howlong they were with them before that, i dont know.sorry. Where are you Tesfay Temnewo when most needed ?

          • Fnote Selam

            Thanks Guest!


          • Hope

            guest–are you the same Guest,whom I labelled as an Ethiopian”intruder”?
            Either way, my apology.

          • guest

            Hmmmm…not me i guess. No one ever called me ethiopian, not that I have any beef with my brothers and sisters in ethiopia. Some, mistakenly think i am shahay, but again i m not, though my spiritual mentors were sahos who graduated from Al Azhar Ash Shareef. Most of them deceased, May Allah bless their souls in Jannat Al Firdaus….Amen.

          • Mahmud Saleh

            Dear Fnote Selam
            ሰላም ንዓና፡ ሰላም ንጎረቤትና፡ ሰላም ንዓለም፡ ስላም ንኹልና ። ብሓቂ ጥዕምቲ ስም።
            I was going to dodge this question for reasons you surely understand. But I see some incorrect accounts from guest. I will not pretend I know what you are asking, but here are some facts (irrefutable ones, you can google them).
            1. The 1st civil war was waged in the years 1972-74. Thanks to the efforts of our people it ended in 1974.
            2. TPLF was founded in Feb, 1975 (Dedebit), Nitrickay can add some more as he is the undisputed scholar of Dedebit). Therefore, there was no TPLF in 1974. Let me pass it that way.
            3. Starting in 1974-75 committees were formed from each side to pave ways of unity, or at least settle conflicts. The process culminated in the signing of an agreement in 1977, in liberated Keren, which was hoped to bring Unity. It was known by its Tigrigna name as sememeE Tqmti. Some coordinated military activities were tried. There were military, political…information coordinating committees. In 1979, a bilateral radio program was live. Meanwhile, the strategic retreat takes place (please see my last comment on this issue).
            4. Although the hot nature of the civil war was brought under control, low level intermittent clashes were common.
            5. The 2nd civil war (1980-1981)
            ELF had two problems with TPLF
            a. ELF was supporting Ethiopian organization which posed threat/rivalry to TPLF, so, you can imagine they had never been in good terms in the first place.
            b. around the last civil war, ELF had already been at war with TPLF on border issue (Badme) and other related disagreements.
            6. With this as a backdrop, the second civil war (1980-1981) breaks out. The rest is history.
            Your original question was when TPLF and EPLF agreed to hit ELF. All I can do is to give you the context, from there you can guess. I personally, can’t give you a specific date; you will have to have the archives and all the inter-organizational communications of that time.

          • Fnote Selam

            Dear Mahmud,

            I understand why you thought of dodging the question. Sometimes I feel like I am asking you (and Tes, Emma, Saay and others) questions that you have answered again and again in this forum. I know how tiring it could be and I apologize for that. I am relatively late comer to this forum and I like getting to the bottom of things. Please know that I really appreciate when you guys take time to answer my questions…

            Coming to this EPLF/ELF/TPLF thing, the reason I asked is to examine the hypothesis that many people have which is ‘could Eritrea have achieved independence without support from rebel groups in Ethiopia’. Now, I want to make sure everyone to understands that I am very appreciative of every single help we Eritreans got from any group including every rebel group or ethnic group in Ethiopia.

            If I am not wrong, Eritrean revolution had almost succeeded in 1975-6-7 (not sure of exact year) before the Russian intervention, so I was just contemplating, if EPLF or ELF didn’t get any support from TPLF before that time, does that invalidate the hypothesis that Eritreans could not have achieved their independence without support from rebel groups in Ethiopia?

            Would appreciate your input?



          • Saleh Johar

            Fenote, this forum is for learing and educating. You ask and people have the liberty to reply or ignore. No need to apologize.

            I understand you have a theory and it needs answers. I cannot give you answers but input that might help your thinking process.

            Answering if proposals of the past is tricky becayse we cannot put history in a lab to test. But to make your probel into history beneficial, add to it the following:

            1. Could the Ethiopian occupation have stayed if not for the Israeli and American help in the first phase?
            2. Could the Ethiopian occupation have stayed if not for the Soviet, Cuba, Libya, Eastern Germany and South Yemen?
            3. Could Haile Sellasie have brazenly aborted the federal status of Eritrea if not for the blessing and support of the USA, UK and other countries?

            Of course, some support are vital, others are good but not vital. The support of Sudan was at some times vital at other times lethal. Egyptian support was limited to the fifties when Cairo hosted Weldeab Weldemariam, Ibrahim Sultan, Idris Mohammed Adem together with other personalities from the entire anti-colonization progressive groups, including Mandela’s group.South Yemen’s help was valuable in the begining but after they allied themselves with the Derg, it was so lethal that the ELF captured one of their pilots whose plane was shot while bombing Agordat. In short, there is more to foreign support, and its level. The most important is, brace for this, your national resources when it comes to cleaning your own house. Foreign help comes down the line if vital, once the people own their decisions and destiny.

          • Hope

            hmmm,is that why they call Ustaz?

          • Fnote Selam

            Hi Saleh,

            Aha, those really give another very important dimension to the hypothesis. I haven’t thought of those factors actually. For now, I will keep on examining if Eri’s revolution could have won without the help from Ethio rebel groups despite the support Ethio gov got from other countries.

            Really appreciate your input though.



          • Mahmud Saleh

            Dear FS
            This is a big question, may come back to you (I am just out of town), but for now read my reply to you and Aman H

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Selam Fnote Selam,

            Yes indeed we lost our independence which was almost in our grasp in 1977. The Ethiopian army was encircled by the two fronts specifically in the four towns/city (Asmara, Massaw, Asseb, and Barentu). I could say 99% of Eritrean land was liberated. The leadership of both organizations couldn’t cooperate to defend jointly the liberated areas from the last attempt of Ethiopian push from the southern border. They were sabotaging to each other as they were looking who will have the upper hand in the liberated Eritrea. If both organizations have had good cooperation like that of the TPLF/EPLF in the last push in 1977 (a) we could have avoided the sacrifices we have paid in the following 13 years (b) Probably we could have solved our internal politics that prevalent in these days. I am absolutely sure we could have gotten our independence without the interference of foreign forces such TPLF, way before 1991 and specifically in 1977. We just lost from our hand in 1977 because of the stupidity of our leaderships.

            Amanuel Hidrat

          • Fnote Selam

            Thank you Emma!


          • Tesfabirhan WR

            Dear FS,

            Brother Amanuel H., has given you a response and I am here to concur and above all he was there personally and he knows primarily on what went wrong at that time. Mahmud looks relatively young in the politics of 1970s compared to SGJ and Amanuel Hidrat. We are lucky to have them among us all anyway.

            Neverthless, I want to underline that independence is a multi-dimentional phenomenon, military, economy, political as well as socially. Militarily and socially, Eritrea could be freed without allying with foreign forces.

            Lets break-them


            Internal politics: We could have been at a much safer position regarding grievances and stakeholders participation than today

            External politics: Recognition of Eritrea as a sovereign country could have demanded much energy and time as compared with that of 1993. Many nations and especially the western world could have left an open-ended scenario for the recognition of free and sovereign country called
            Eritrea and probably we could have remained as autonomous, semi or economically federated Eritrea. And we all know that this was against the main objective of the Eritrean freedom struggle.

            Socially: Social grievances could have stopped and justice could be much prevalent. People could have freedom of thought and open minddness. The social chaos registered within this 23 years could not have emerged.

            Economically: Of course as a country we could have prospered as the possibility of using free market economy was much prevalent because of the existence of two powers in Eritrean decision making process. But the issue of sea ports could have created another conflict of interest. Ethiopia could have continued to hammer the supposedly by then independent Eritrea and possible war was on table as compared today. The badme issue could not be a subject but the sea port acess.

            Presence of TPLF has almost removed such short coming of the walk towards independent
            Eritrea. TPLF was a tool designed and manufactured in Eritrea but its initial conception was mistreated.

            In short, increasing involvement of TPLF politics hightened after the strategic withdrawal of
            1978 and reached its peak in the early years of 1980s. EPLF used TPLF in his game theory on of his political hegemony. On the contrary, ELF exhausted valuable energy which finally let them disintegrate from the military game and international politics though they continued to exert pressure on internal issues which has survived and became magnificient after 1991.

            EPLF played a double minded game theory in nurturing TPLF and later paid a huge political revenue. EPLF was strong enough to produce a parasitic guerrilla foreign fighters. Had TPLF was militarily and economically independent, EPLF could not have the manufacturing center and 1991 independence could have taken a different course.

            To conclude, TPLF presence has only consolidated the international dimension of Eritrean politics and in diverting the issue of access to the sea paradox. Else, militarily, economically and socially, Eritrea could have been freed in the 1970s.

            Just an opinion

          • Semere Andom

            Hi Tes:
            Hi FS:

            There are a lot of people who buy the propaganda of the protracted war that was a ploy to solidify the power of some, eliminate and dispose some. Imagine in 1978 when most cities were liberated by ELF and EPLF and Eritrea was liberated. It was stupid and waste of human life to even attempt that before the much desired unity was acquired. It was irresponsible.

            It is not one irresponsible and negligence that must be avoided, however, as any blunder can be a teaching incident. But in our case it was blunder after blunder, irresponsible action after another even more irresponsible action by the leaders. These accumulated, and a culture was born, a culture of irresponsible and uncountable actions, a culture of complacency by the masses, a culture hubris bravado, an aura of invincibility, a culture of repression was nurtured. The culture we have now was not cemented over the last 23 years of “independence”, but it was by design

            If we have developed a scintilla of respecting tolerance, Eritrea would have self-corrected when things go wrong, G-15 calls would have been heeded, the 1993 fighter’s calls will have been respected. People did not learn, the leaders did not change. Situation in Eritrea never ceases to offer opportunities, we failure to seize it.

            Think of the PFDJ line of change will come slowly, it is rooted on the misleading protracted war and failure to solve differences that took us to 1991.

            Do yourself a fav and get the programs of EPLF and ELF side by side, there are no ideological differences to go to war, there are word differences, if one organization coined one political word, the other will not use it and it has to coin its own: examples are “qutoba” and “mtaneHabti” economy for EPLF and ELF respectively. Their program name is another one: “Hagerawi democraciyawi medeb iyo” vs “Hagerawi democraciyawi program.”

            All energy, opportunity cost squandered needlessly. At the heart of it was regional and ethnic issues used with craft and malice, not by the masses but by the leaders. I think when we study this topic, we have to approach is from the first principle perspective, forgetting that we are even Eritreans; doing good for our people and country is not buying the failed rhetoric of Ghedli otherwise the dumb and fearless will outnumber the smart and gutsy, sure a recipe for disaster.

            This is easier said than done, it takes courage to hear th people who are diametrically opposing our seared notions about our identity, history and quest for freedom. It takes humility to respect those brave youth who perished, ‘awet nhafash, kinewet ina” in their lips, un realized dreams, unfinished slogans, cut short by the carnage of war, made worse by the alliance killers.

          • Tesfabirhan WR

            Dear Semere A.,

            I agree with most of your analysis and I do consider even I do have a theory on what went wrong to be what we are today. But all what I may not agree with you is when on the analogy of Ghedli. I can not conlcude that what we inherited from Gedli was all wrong. There are positive and negative sides and we need a careful analysis to take the cream for the betterment of Eritrea.

            If we agree that 1991 is a result of Gedli there is one general truth that no one can deny for the positive side. In economics, the outcome is positive if the measures taken are in favor of positive growth, opportunity costs are also there. But as you tried to synthesis, the negative sides can be picked and analysed positively so that we can learn from it. What I am learning though is that we are failing to learn from our failures. As SGJ brilliantly described it, there is no alternative to organized struggle.

            Else, ditto


          • abrham

            “TPLF was a tool designed and manufactured in Eritrea”

            TPLF was not designed and manufactured as you gays try to portray. The architects are mainly students from AAU and it was manufactured in Addis then way out to Dedebit and Sahel. They went to Sahel for military assistance including training like your EPLF and ELF were doing. They had a lot of visit to PLO and bath parties in different countries. Your ELF was mushroomed in Al Zahar way before years existence. Do these make them creation of Arabs? Nope.

            “EPLF played a double minded game theory in nurturing TPLF a…………. EPLF was strong enough to produce a parasitic guerrilla foreign fighters. Had TPLF was militarily and economically independent, EPLF could not have the manufacturing center and 1991 independence could have taken a different course.”

            TPLF decisiveness in the independence affairs should not be downgraded as if they did it coerced militarily and economically. TPLFites are known for their ‘arrogance’ regarding Eritrean independence even at this very moment though they are in a better position economically and militarily than your arrogant president. Again, make no mistake TPLF is from the people of Tigray nurtured by the people of TIgray. EPLFs paternalistic behavior were rejected always by TPLF boldly at that time and if any thing was tolerated it was for the sake of continuity of the struggle of the two people. Last but not least, let me assure you on top of the politics TPLF presence has also military influence as significant as EPLF on dismantling the beast from the horn.

          • Tesfabirhan WR

            Dear abrham,

            In producing something, better in engineering, first IDEA is generated. From idea, you develop a PLAN. From PLAN, you DESIGN. And what is designed should be manufactured.

            Therefore, I am safe enough to skip the first initial stages of TPLF. I am aware that TPLF was originally from Ethiopia, UAA, initiated by students of Tigray origin. Even they have developed their own manifesto, the PLAN. But then they established a strategic relationship with EPLF fighters that shaped the DESIGN of later EPLF.

            The rest, it is my opinion and it varies from one opinion holder to another. Neverthless, the historical legacies and political legacies are there for an honest reader.


          • abrham

            Dear Tes
            It is not convincing man, you told me they generate ideas ,develop plan, established strategic ties but you refused them the designing and take it away to your brothers. Any way TPLF had never have strategic relationship with EPLF it was tactical.


          • Nitricc

            This is the first time you spoke the truth. All along was nothing but tactical. But i do belive Eplf took it as strategical its relationship with Tplf. Once again eplf was fooled.

          • Tesfabirhan WR

            Dear abrham,

            I thought that you have some design concepts. Any how, I will just give you a scan. In design, the first thing that comes is the original idea and the plan. These are main guidelines. Some modifications can follow in order to adjust with the design requiremenets and analysis results.

            During design phase, all available resources are considered and are selected to fit the design requierements. During design, consultation is heavily needed as sometimes the final outcome might lack all necessary conditions. The pros and cons are considered during analsysis and uncertainity calculations are done. Once designed, models are prepared to see the final shape.

            I think all this was done in Eritrean field with a frequent trials in Ethiopia (the experimentation phase). During the design phase, all concerned parties are involved and an absence of one heavily affects the end result. EPLF was there during the design process but he was not the only actor doing all, he has his own part and TPLF had their own.

            Manufacturing phase is usually the easiest and becomes much either when there is an experimental field and there is no doubt that EPLF gave them ample ground to experiment TPLF”s acquired product.

            It is quite simple of social engineering concept dear abrham and I never thought that you will fail to understand yet you did terribly.


            Concerning the tactical or strategic terminologies, it is all a word exhaustion. Tactic in marketing is considered as a strategy and whether TPLF or EPLF, they are all marketing their politics to attain their objective.

          • Fnote Selam

            Thank you Tes!

            I greatly appreciate your input.


          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Correction to Mahmoud:

            The 1977 unity agreement was ” the Khartoum agreement”. The 1979 Keren meeting is the continuation of the “2nd Knartoum agreement of 1979” by the joint upper leadership composed of – Isayas Afeworki, Ibrahim Afa, Romedan Mohamednur from EPLF and Ahmed Nasser, Abdela Idris, Ibrahim Totil from ELF. There was a civil war in 1978 in the highland of Eritrea that hindered the 1977 Khartoum agreement until it reinstate the agreement in 1979 at Khartoum. You could check with those who were close or at the vicinity of the meeting at that time. The rest is your personal perspectives and I will not delve to it.

          • Hope

            -What was the role of Mel’ake Tekhle during that meeting as you left out his name?I thought I saw/heard him making a great speech at Jokko-Keren–and was sitting besides IA as well..
            -The exact year in Keren?–1977 or 78–for sure not 1979 as by that time the EPLF left keren,correct?
            -October 21/78—-Simur Ghimbar Meeting?

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Melake Tekle was a member of the different sub-committees formed by the supreme leadership of the “six” I stated earlier. He wasn’t in the supreme leadership. Check with your organization EPDP. The Know it. I was in the vicinity of the meeting in Khartoum in 1977 & 1979.

          • guest

            Hmmmmm.everybody getting mixed up between years 1977 thru 1979…not just me. I think we’re all getting old.

          • Mahmud Saleh

            Aman H and FS

            * The October agreement in Keren did indeed take place. As half-cousin Hope recalls it, there was a big fan fare in Keren. I was there on that occasion not as a member of the negotiating teams (obviously not) but as a young freedom fighter. I remember, there was a concert by the central music troupe of the EPLF, Decamere QayaHti Embaba and a nascent band formed to agitate our Kabassa people and residents of the then liberated cities by Fitewrari from Sahel which I belonged to. I remember Melake Tekle and the rest messing with us, I remember both leadership dancing to the tune of FiHira (werar Samhar), I remember in between the concert trucks unloading our forces which were going to liberate Barentu in coordination with ELF forces; I do remember the good hospitality of the people of Keren; I remember the debates we made with different civic associations; I remember all that as if it was yesterday.

            ** 1979? We were not there Aman.

            *** The Kartoum agreement was an attempt by the Sudanese government to include Sabe, but according to you (check out the link) EPLF did not accept that. So, it appears ELF and EPLF went on their own way resulting to the October agreement in Keren.
            “Thereafter the ELF and EPLF leaders showed their good willingness for the unity talks, the first talks of this was held in Zager, in April and May 1977.As the progress of the above talks, an agreement was signed between the two fronts in October 20 1977.This opened a new phase in the Eritrean people struggle for national unity. In this meeting the two front agreed on all the basic issues which could lead towards the realization of one national democratic front in the the Eritrean areana. (The Eritrea Newsletter, September 1981 p.17).”

            Taken from http://www.ehrea.org/civil.php

            You are quoted in the same site as saying:

            “According Amanuel Hidrat the split Of Isaias and his group and Sabbe was officiated early 1977. Respectively, the policy of ELF leadership has changed for calling unity with the two splits (klte hizbawi Hailetat), which by the way had brought frictions within the rank and file of the ELF organization itself. On October 20, 1977, President Numeiri called the three organizations to resolve their difference and unite all their efforts for independence. Isaias and his group known as EPLF refused to have any meeting in which Sabbe and his groups could participate. In the end, on a deal that the Numeiri government brokered, Sabbe and his groups agreed to withdrew, provided the two organizations are united”

            So, I am assuming the Kartoum attempts failed and then the two fronts resumed their talks in Keren. But the Keren agreement is also known as October agreement, or semeeE 20 TQmti, so I don’t know how to reconcile your accounts of Numeiri’s attempt of 20 October in Kartoum, and an event we know took place on October 20, 1977 in Keren. Where they double dealing? I don’t know.

            FS: Please keep researching, and I did not mean you tired me by coming with questions, No…No. I just know where these will lead those of us who witnessed those dark years. So, you are welcome dear.

            in addition to the one above, this one is also a good resource


          • Hope

            Hmmm,what a small world Mahmouday!I guess, I mighty know you well then,without going into details though.
            You are surprising me now-a-days…
            Yes,we were jumping and enjoying the event…..I was lucky enough to hug my Heros wed Affa and Totil…at that particular event.
            What surprised me was that no Mig 23 came by—

          • Fnote Selam

            Dears Mahmud, Hope and Amanue,

            Just want to say I appreciate your input here. Books are important, but nothing compares to personal accounts, thank you guys for sharing and also for your services to Eritreans.


          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Selam Mahmud,

            You are mixing dates of the event regarding the effort attempted for the unity of the two organizations namely the ELF and EPLF organizations. I will get back to you later this evening as I am pressed for time right now.

          • Hope

            Come on Aman,you are challenging the people who were right there.I am not sure about the Khartoum Meeting eventhough I am aware of Numeri’s attemptbut that of Keren was official and we were right there.

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Selam Mahmud,

            Let me walk you on the “unity memory lane” in sequences for historical purposes. Because you are mixing dates and events of references in the struggle for unity, here are some of my accounts: When the first phase of the civil war stopped by the courageous ELF fighters who refuse to continue the war around December 1974, after the battle of weki-Zager and Adi Bidel, the leaders of both organization who were around that area met to make an official cease fire agreement. I don’t know on the side of ELF-PF but on ELF side were Hiruy Tedla and AbdelQader Romedan. In may 1975 the 2nd congress of ELF officially rescinded the official sanction “Tsere-ghedli” against ELF-PF and call it as national front for Eritrean liberation. Right after the congress the newly elected revolutionary council formed a committee to discuss for unity with ELF-PF.

            Around the same time the leadership of ELF-PF also met at “Ein” and formed a “committee of five” one from the leadership of the field, one from the leadership foreign relatiship, and three from files and ranks – for the same purpose. ELF-PF haven’t had a centralized leadership. They had two leadership (a) the general command of the field (nine in number) lead by Issayas Afeworki (b) the leadership of foreign relationship lead by Osman Saleh sabbe. Because of the nature of their leadership structure, Osman Saleh formed his own committee that include three from the leadership of the field command, namely Issayas, Abu-Teyara, and Abu Ajaj. Both sides stood in their positions regarding how the committee the committee should be constituted. Aboy Woldeab tried to reconcile their positions and arranged a meeting in Khartoum.. So all the leadership of the field command and the leadership of the foreign relationship met in Khartoum in late 1976 to resolve their differences. Albiet they failed to reconcile and declared their split just right after the meeting.

            It is right after that historical turning point, ELF resetted its call for unity with two ELF-PF (Kelete Hizbawi Hailetat). Eventually, Sabbe took the custodian of ELF-PF and formed a new Leadership. Similarly Issayas and his colleagues went to an organizational congress in Feb 1977 and called their organization “EPLF” with new leadership. President Nemeiri Called the three organization to resolve their differences and make a united effort to expedite the liberation. EPLF refused to sit in any meeting that include Sabbe. Interestingly enough, since Sabbe considered his organization as a force for unity, he told the Khartoum officials that if the two organizations make united front for a united purpose, he will be ready to dissolve his organization***. The three organization signed to the spirit of the agreement. After that right away, the official meeting of ELF and EPLF started in October 20, 1977, came up with a “Supreme leadership of six” and a road map for unity. The agreement was called “the Khartoum agreement.” The euphoria for unity reverberated throughout Eritrea and the Eritrean community in the diaspora. Both Ahmed Nasser and Issayas Afeworki made interviews at radio Omdrman and Sudanese TV station to communicate “kebesserwo” to the Eritrean people about the Khartoum peace accord on the same date October 20, 1977. The Keren of 1977 celeberation was the jubilation or the expression of joy of the liberation army to the outcome of Khartoum like every where else in Eritrea.

            All the Hagaz meeting (not keren), Hawashait meeting, Port-Sudan meeting, were talks intended for the implementation to the road map agreement and to the formation of the sub-committees especially in the military front, news & propaganda front, and social affairs areas. In 1978 there was short lived civil war in the highland of Eritrea especially in the Akeleguzay areas.

            Again in 1979, President Nemieri requested both organizations to appear or show up to Khartoum in an effort to reinstate the process of unity, they have agreed on, in 1977. The process continued until the second phase of Civil war in August 8, 1980. The rest is history.

          • Fnote Selam

            Thanks again Emma and Mahmuday,

            I am taking notes 😉

            As you might have figured out by now I have yet to learn quite a lot regarding Eri’s history. But from what I read so far, is it fair if I assume that Sabbe is the most under-rated Eritrean freedom fighter?



          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Selam Fonete Selam,

            Yes Sabbe is one of the “unsung heroes” who had a big role in foreign relation, early on with ELF up to 1969; and later with ELF-PF (hizbawi Hailetat) up to 1977, before he split from Issayas and his colleagues. He was the source of all kinds of foreign assistance. He will be remembered as such in future democratic Eritrea.

            Amanuel Hidrat

          • Mahmud Saleh

            Haw, Amanuel
            Thank you. Your input has been received with open mind. I actually wrote a very long reply thanking you and correcting some minor points you made, but it’s gone to the big hole of disqus.
            1. You are right the October 20 agreement did take in Khartoum in 1977.
            2. What I mentioned of what took place in Keren was also true except the year; it was in 1978, and as you said, it was to deliberate on the application side of the agreement. Most prominent leaders were there and it was a big occasion.
            3. Corrections needed on your side
            a/ ELF-PF was the name of the new organization Sabbe founded, not a previous name of EPLF which sabe took custodian of as you stated.
            b/ Eritrean People’s Liberation Forces changed in 1977 to Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (a change of forces to front).
            c/ In some statements you said Sabbe stayed with EPLF until 1977, on one reply also you said until late 1976; but the correct year and month should read March 1976.
            d/ You said there was no centralized leadership in the EPLF, (two leaderships, sabe and field leadership); but Sabe was a foreign envoy, EPLF literature mentions the relationship with Sabe as a tactical one, Sabe is mentioned as an opportunist..and what have you not (of course, it’s so poignant when I see it today). I think Sabe was ahead of his time; he was the first Eritrean diplomat, he was an intellectual who authored books, and who prepared translated literature regarding the history of Eritrea to the world ( one of his books :tarikh Eretreya” was hugely used by EPLF research department. EPLF mentioned his death in a short statement in (1986?). I hear many Eritreans who passed through the Sudan appreciate his humanitarian assistances, in providing schoolings, documents and health services for refuges without discrimination.
            Anyway, he was really cheated and deceived to believe all was fine in the field, but the field leadership was propagating against him. He found out that when he came to visit his “sons and daughters” in the field. He was dumfounded when he was told by “kid tegadelti” that he was an opportunist. Then followed the Sep 1975 unconditional unity agreement he made with ELF which was denounced by the field leadership as something that had been done without their approval; and he was accused of working beyond his official capacity for representing the EPLF without given a mandate to do so.
            e/ You corrected the role of our people in stopping the civil war in your reply to tesfu, but it’s worth mentioning that it was the leadership of ELF which declared the civil war and which was on the offensive. After the battle of Zagr and environs, it was clear it could not get what it wanted through using force; this combined with the efforts of our people (and definitely fighters) made the cessation of hostilities possible.
            Please understand me that I never try to distort history (refer to your reply to tesfu). We all make errors as those above mentioned errors of yours show us. I’m not here for captious argument, but for helping us be better. It’s not a problem for me to improve my understanding; after all we are basing our debates on our 37-40 years old memory lane (wow!).So thank you for helping me debug my memory.

          • Semere Andom

            Hi Mahmuday:
            I vividly remember reading IA’s letter regarding Sabe’s death, it was 1987. More vivid than the year was that the letter was in Arabic and like now then I was also struggling with Arabic and I found many words I did not know, but the one word I learned from that letter was “derb”. I looked it up and learned that I means,road, trek.
            So do not accusing me not ever crediting IA:-)

          • Mahmud Saleh

            Thanks Hfonay
            I was not sure of the year; that’s why I put it (1986?). Yes, I heard on the radio, and actually, EPLF’s letter of condolence was more surprising to us than the wording. I remember, we were three and just looked at each other. That was the first time Sabbe was mentioned in a favorable terms.

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Where did I say sabe stayed with eplf until 1977? Please read carefully before you try to reply.second elf-pf means hizbawi hailetat so when the three splinters made uinty they were called elf-pf (kept the name sabe’s organization of sodeh Ela) or hizbawi hailetat until they split in late 1976. When they split sabe kept the custodian of elf-pf or hizbawi hailetat and Issayas and his colleagues changed their name to eplf after their organizational congress. Keep in mind between the official split in late 1976 and their organizational congress in february 1977 the issayas group are still being called elf-pf hence we were calling them kelete hizbawi hailetat. I am not wrting my comment from my memory but from my actual notes I took in those years.

            Second there were no any organizational congress to unite the three splinters hence there were no centralized leadership . They formed the field leadership of nine three from each splinters ( qedameiti , kaleayti, saleseiti hizbawi hailetat you call them sometime for your convinie nce) while their actual names were selfi nazenet , obelin, hizbawi hailetat of sodeh ella. The foreign leadership was formed by sabbe. These unconventional leadership of hizbawi hailetat was done by issayas and sabbe to defend the onslaught that comes from elf. So it was a merraige of inconvinience. So don’t tell us there were centralized leadeship until they split in late 1976. You are still distorting history. (Commenting from different pc)

            Amanuel. Hidrat

          • Hayat Adem

            it is fortunate we have you around not only as a living history but also as a trusted history. I have no problem believing your accounts of facts.

          • Semere Andom

            You better also keep our notes, otherwise the headless and fearless will tell us TPDM was never in Eritrea in 40 years, confusing the new generation, they will do whatever it takes, pay whatever it cost to erase all the digital fingerprints of the current situation just to tell a false story.
            History is the enemy of the brainless, heartless and fearless

          • Hayat Adem

            5 years from now, the headless and fearless will headlessly and fearlessly have flip flopped and come back with a different barking “PIA, the killer!”. But then, you are right, we have to keep our details to not let them acting pretentiously excessive from a different corner.

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Dear Hayat,
            I edited and add one sentence, in my rspose toTesfu to remind our readers about the courageous ELF tegadelti who refuse to go war against their brothers. They will be remembered for that in our history.
            Amanuel Hidrat

          • Nitricc

            Aman you said
            “Keep in mind between the official split in late 1976 and their organizational congress in february 1977 the issayas group are still being called elf-pf hence we were calling them kelete hizbawi hailetat”
            And here is what I read.
            “The People’s Liberation Front declared its readiness to continue dialogue for the unification of the fronts, and elected a new group of elders that would lead the dialogue between the two forces. In the contrary, ELF didn’t like the idea of a dialogue and began to pressure EPLF to accept the Khartoum agreement. The front even went on to maneuver ploys to gain the support of the general public that was eager to see unity. As a result, in 1976 ELF begun campaign in the name of unity and pushed the public to elect representatives that would work for the unification of the fronts. A committee was established, and started to have meetings with both fronts. Meanwhile, the committee of elders of EPLF approached the public committee and explained the stance of the front on the issue of unity. The EPLF committee further explained the desires and readiness of the front for unity, but also highlighted that the unity need guarantee. It further highlighted the separation of Osman Saleh Sabe to establish a third front would create huge hindrance towards the unification process. Realizing the reality, the public committee for unity requested the establishment of similar committee from ELF and stand along with the stance of EPLF in the unification process. These outcome shocked the leadership of ELF who decided to dismantle the public committee, these latter deeds of the front enabled many fighters realize the hidden desire of the front and encouraged them join the EPLF.
            In 1977, when the struggle for liberation of Eritrea was registering major victories, numerous countries supporting the struggle begun to pressure the fronts to unite, and in October 20, 1977 ELF accepted the proposals of those countries and agreed to meet in Khartoum for dialogue towards unity. Both fronts agreed on the establishment of a common higher leadership, for launching united operations against common enemy forces, and for establishment of committee of elders from both fronts that would work under the governance of the higher common leadership. And both fronts rejected the third new front formed by Osman Saleh Sabe and allow the front to decide to join either of the former fronts.
            This agreement gained huge support from both the public and the countries that support the struggle for liberation. Despite the agreement reached between the two fronts, the implementation of the agreement delayed till middle of 1978.”

            Source the history of Eritrea

          • Semere Andom

            Who wrote the History of Eritrea?
            Second keep in mind that both organization are biased when telling history. Also by 1977 ELF was an organization to reckon with both made up with elected leaders in 1970, it has successfully transition to a national one, while EPLF still did not even have elected leaders. the 1970 congress was truly transformative that corrected all the early cloistered attitude in the ELF, highlanders were in more number, IA among them were elected to the leadership.
            ELF at time was legitimate accepted by the wider Eritrean people while PF was still regional with unelected leadership, in fact some of liquidation of its own critiques was that because they said that they needed to sit with ELF as it has its own legitimate leadership and we did not have one.

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            you don’t know our history yet. Let them come those who were in that partiuclar era. You are not in the position to narrate the history of that time. if you are talking anything written history even by EPLF just link it. You can’t make it yourself as you weren’t part of that history nor do you have a written document. Sometimes it is good to know your limit.

          • Nitricc

            I did not say I am in a position to say right or wrong. I simply brought the subject to your attention so you can comment. I am not the person I read one thing and run with it, I check and recheck in a search of the truth. So, I wasn’t challenging you or saying you are wrong, rather I was simply brought to your attention for you to comment. If I was a person to believe anything then I could have went to the University of Dedebit. School of stupidity! So, chill Aman, I am just searching for the truth.

          • Mahmud Saleh

            Dear Aman

            You still in your ትንፈር እምበር ጤል እያ (Even if it flies, it’s still a goat)mode! This is my final attempt; I am entering it here because how you have responded to nitrickay is not consistent with the aura you try to create about yourself. I will remind you of one only; you chastised me of not reading you correctly regarding the year/month ..Sabe split. The names, I won’t waste my time on them, people can easily google them.
            Sabe split in March 1976, not late 1976, NOR he did stay with EPLF ” up to 1977″ as you are stating it. It is trivial, but your “trust me, I know it all” attitude is disturbing.
            You are still saying you never said Sabe stayed with EPLF or ELF-PF as you call it, but I quoted you verbatim . If you still insist here are a couple of inconsistencies.
            Ex 1“Yes Sabbe is one of the “unsung
            heroes” who had a big role in foreign relation early on with ELF up to
            1969 and later on with ELF-PF (hizbawi Hailetat) up to 1977, before he split
            from Issayas and his colleagues.” Your reply to FS (can’t you see the “up to
            1977” there).

            Ex2: “So all the leadership of the field
            command and the leadership of the foreign relationship met in Khartoum in late
            1976 to resolve their differences. Albiet they failed to reconcile and declared
            their split just right after the meeting.” (here also note the “late 1976”)

            Your reply to me, look it’s a documented fact that Sabbe split in March, not only that but I do remember very well this episode and the seminars which were going on regarding the split.

            Ex3: And here you placed EPLF as an ELF-PF subgroup (you called it Issayas group, this is in october long after the split of Sabbe, the quote:

            “After that, right away, the official meeting of ELF and ELF-PF (with Issayas group) started in October 20, 1977.”
            This is you Emma, not me. Is this distortion? No, I just bring it to your
            attention to be careful with your accounts. And to humble yourself with help you get. I am always grateful to your input; and most of what we are spending time on has nothing to do with the cause and effect or essence of the events we are raising; I accepted the one correction you made; it’s up to you how you see my comments but I don’t intend to distort history.

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Dear Mahmud,

            You always mix EPLF and ELF-PF. There were no EPLF before Feb. 1977. Therefore the IIsayass group were also called as ELF-PF (Hizbawi hailetat) between their official split and and their congress. Remember the three splinters had “ELF-PF” was thier common name, whether it was sumur ginbar or complete unity they had until late 1976 (I will not go for argument about it).. So check when the time frame of the event I was arguing.with you please. Read it carefully. I think you are purposely doing that. I gave you the sequence of the events. So let us close the case here now. You can believe what you want to believe. Time will resolve it.

          • guest

            “…when they split Sabbe kept the custodian of ELF–PF….”. Very slight correction brother Amanuel. The long official name of the third organisation was Eritrean Liberation Front- Peoples Liberation Forces ( ELF-PLF ) TEGADLO HARENNET ERITREA–HIZBAWI HAYLETAT HARENNET …..in arabic..JABHAT TAHREER ERITREA–QUWWAT TAHREER ASHA3BIYYAH….

          • Tesfu

            Hi Mahmud,
            I got my information from a person who I really admire till this day. He was with the fronts (PLF -74) in Weki-Zagr and environs, they got ambushed at night while dozing off by elf, he lost one eye
            And to live with one eye the rest of your life, what idiotic ideology wants to see death/dead your own brother. Will he forgive elf for what they did to him.? God only knows mercy. He is well and kicking despite his eyesight.

          • Hope

            Kokheb Selam might remember the date,as he was stationed in Dankalia when the War broke up?
            It might be difficult to do so as there have been mini–conflicts here and there—
            Kokhob ,are you there?I know you do not want to talk about this due to bad experience you might have encountered–like–our sisters being stabbed to their private parts by their own brothers??
            Disgusting indeed….

          • Saleh Johar

            Hi Guest,
            Unless you are doing it for its shock value the following, “jebha also started to court TPLF and was clear the cooperation of jebha and tigray fighters in kicking outElf-PLF lead by late Osman Saleh Sabbe out of eritrean field after the liberation of Aqordat, around 1979.” is just not true.

            Agordat was liberated in 1977, by 1979 the onslaught on ELF has already started by the joint EPLF/TPLF forces.

          • guest

            My beloved Ustath. I mentioned the date of the event that took place over 35 years ago from my memory without any sketch of timeline or document infront of me, for that i dont have any hesitation to stand corrected if u insist it took place in 1977. The undeniable fact is though the city was liberation by ELA and fighters of ELF–PLF coordination. ( ELF–EPLF lost around 200 fighters in that operation) . If Jebha wants to claim the rounding and kicking the fighters of Quwwaat Tahreer Sha3biyyah out of Eritrean territories took place single handedly without the help of Tegarru fighters, as they did it with Haraka fighters circa 1964, I cant deny them that credit.Afterall, they had hardtime to recognize the presence of a third organization. ( it was known to them as Widdib Sabbe) That also cant be denied. ZWEQE3E INTERESSE3E, ZITTEWEQ3E NEIRISSI3.The working relations between Tegarru fighters and Jebha started way back in 1975 with EDU and Ras Mengesha Seyoum and continued with TLF, EPRP, and TPLF.with its ups and downs.im not here to scratch the old wounds, Wallahi not my intention. just stating my side of truth, specially when it comes to the Jebha pivotal role in the demise of ELF–PLF….for that, KEMA TADINU, TUDAN..
            now back to our Habesha Stuff. Ever heard of 3imbaba Habesha made of popping Meshela versus 3imbaba America of corn? How about making Qu3sso Habesha of old rags compressed together and inserted in another old socks and sewn neatly , we used to make that ball when we dont have enough money to buy Balloni of rubber that bounces and goes distance.Fewsi Habesha is like Tibb Arabi non pharmaceutical medicine.Mostly or herbs and spices
            Wa dahankum

          • guest

            Liberated*……….of herbs*….
            Grrrr. My spelling stinks

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Correction please. There were no joint ELF/TPLF against ELF-PF to kick them out from the field. It was solely done by ELF in 1979. In fact TPLF and ELF were not in good term at that time. Check your sources or your memory didn’t serve you well in this regard.
            Amanuel Hidrat

          • guest

            Ahlan Amanuel.
            glad u confirmed it took place in 1979.As who rounded them and kicked them out of eritrean field to a foreign land, as i said to ustath saleh, I dont have any problem if ELF confesses to that it was the sole culprit for what he correctly described as ” heinous action” . For that i said the common sayings among muslims, kema tedinu tudan. It is a prophetic saying roughly meaning as you do unto other, will be done unto you. It matches another prophetic saying of Nabiyullah Obaidiah in v15 ” ISME ALTZEQET 3LETE EGZI ABHIER LA3LE KULLU AHZAAB. WEBE KEME GEBERKE, KEMAHU YIKEWWIN FDAAKE, ZE EFEDYEKKE DIBE RI3SIKE. Again translated from The Scripture as “The day of the LORD is near for all of nations.As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will be turn upon your own head”. Please dont run over me for quoting prophetic sayings out of the context. I was only indicating to the ELF action against ELF-PLF in contrast with what EPLF did to ELF just a couple years later, not to change the topic to a spritual sermon.
            Wa dahankum

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Selam guest,

            Labor party (LP) of ELF had played huge in the demise of ELF since 1977. Its leaders haven’t had the capacity to resolve secondary internal conflict of ELF organization. So generally, regarding the issue you have commented, I have written an article in March 2011 as to what have gone wrong within the leadership of ELF. Below is link if it can help you to rehash your memory.


            Amanuel Hidrat

          • Saleh Johar

            Ahlan, only a fool can deny that ELF pushed ELF-PLF single highhandedly to satisfy its strong leftist wing, and no sane person should be proud of that heinous action. That kind of misguided adventurism has finally led to where we are. It’s wise to learn from that history and avoid exclusion of political forces.

          • guest

            U said it well and concluded it in a very smart reflection as always of your superb character. Abqakallahu Zukhran Lana.

          • Hope

            Ustaz SJ,
            Makes sense,sir,as usual;and Keren was liberated in June 8-9,1977 or 1978?I know you even remember the date Una was destroyed.

    • Abraham Hanibal

      Hi Haile Zeru;

      If I’ve understood you right, here is what you’re saying:

      Tigre: is a name given to one of the Ethnic Groups in Eritrea.

      Tigrayit: is the name of the language the Tigre ethnic Group speak.

      Am I right?

      • Haile Zeru

        “Tigre: is a name given to one of the Ethnic Groups in Eritrea”. NO, I am saying: There is no ethnic group that calls itself(him/herself) Tigre. Even those that are classified as Tigre ( let me say serfs, for lack of better term) know their original tribe and where they come from.
        “Tigrayit: is the name of the language the Tigre ethnic Group speak.” Not exactly. Tigrayit is spoken by many ethinic groups that do not call themselves Tigre.

        • Haile Zeru

          I am trying to make the distinction “call themselves” as opposed to “they are called”. Because everybody is called Tigre now, by a decree.

          I am a Tigre, I accept that term because it is understood to mean, “Tigre language”, Tigrayit speaker. And nothing more.

          At the time I had the conversation with the clerk it was awkward because the conversation started with my name, last name my mother name my grand father’s name, my place of birth etc… after all that litany the true meaning (as I knew it) of the word kicked in and i reacted differently.

          • Semere Andom

            Hi HZ and AH:
            I think there is confusion here: what the organization calls people and what the people call or think of themselves
            Everyone who speaks Tigrayit is bherTigre, everyone who speaks Tigriniya is bhere Tigriniya
            Would we consider Mensae, their own bhere or part of “Tigre”? What does it take to be counted as bher and based on what did the ghedli assign “bhership”. For example I distinctly remember when EPLF changed the name “baria” to “nara” in 989-1990.
            I also remember reading ELF literature of the 9 Eritrean bher, but Rashaida was not part of it. The Felata or “Tokrir” have their own language lived among us for long them, can they be considered bher, why not if the Rashaidas are. I heard that EPLF killed a motion for the Felata as an Eritrean bhere in the second congress, in 1987 based on their alleged crimes/collaboration with the enemy, if that is the case should one’s bher be revoked based on criminality and or organ trafficking?

            Also there is some issue with Saho and Asawrta, I got chastised for referring the late Ahmed Nassir as Saho.
            Someone should write an article: bher assignment in Eritrea 101

        • Abraham Hanibal

          Hi Haile Z.,
          Again, you’re refering to tribes as Ethnic Groups? Meaning that you’ve a different view as regards the existing nine-ethnic group classification of the Eritrean people? If someone is going to keep to divide the people into the least possible social group organization, then you mght end up with hundreds of “ethnic groups”; the question is what is the point of delving into these issues? What really matters is not what one is called, but whether their rights to excercise and transfer their language and culture are respected. And for this to develop, all of us should struggle to challenge the PFDJ’s all-sided domination of our society.

  • Mahmud Saleh

    Dearest guest
    Thank you for the observation. Yes, I did it; did I mess it up? Honestly, It’s all a subconscious issue. I used Tigre all my life, that’s how EPLF refered to it, that’s how our Tigre books where prepared; that’s how it’s still called by the government and in current mass media and curriculum. I know also the corrrect name of the language is Tigrayet. This is not a new debate though, but you would do what the policy tells you to do in the old days, and gets stuck with you. If you know my background, probably you would forgive my confusion. While I wrote the article I was careful, but when I was responding to salam I was casual and my routinized recalling of the name took the better of me. I still insist the article is about music and dance, and would appreciate if you share your memories. Regarding the confusion of the name, the short answer to your question is I am as confused as any body. Ustaz Saleh is, I think, the man to go to. Let’s celebrate the MUSIC….LET’S BE MUSICOLOGISTS even for a moment. PLAY…DANCE…

  • Fenomeno

    Tigrayet was ‘killed’ from the moment the Muslim league (which consisted mainly of Tigre) used Arabic and Tigrinya as its official languages. Future nationalist organization followed that tradition, and therefore Tigrayet never got any chance to become an institutionalized language in Eritrea.

    From my point of view the choosing of Arabic and Tigrinya over Tigrayet makes perfect sense. Arabic has/had the potential to unite different Muslim ethnicity and played an crucial role in communicating the Eritrean struggle to external actors (i.e. Arabic countries).

    • Tafla

      Dear Fenomeno,

      Why unite only Muslim Eritrean by choosing Arabic? We could basically do well with Tigrayet as a sole Uniting language for all Eritreans. Even my forefathers from the highlands spoke, understood and learned the language fairly easily. It’s a beautiful language. We have three big languages in Eritrea Tigrinya, Tigrayet and Afar + Saho. Choose 1 of them.


      • Fenomeno

        Dear Tafla,

        So the goal of the Muslim League was to unite Eritrean Muslims from different ethnicity and tribes, so that they could speak with one voice in favor of Eritrean independence.

        I believe that if that is the goal, than logically Arabic becomes the common denominator. Off course Tigre were the largest group, both in the leadership and constituency, but choosing Tigrayet as the official language could have felt like they were imposing their language on other Muslim ethnicity. Next to that, Arabic was already spoken by some people, and others were eager to learn it if they would get the possibility. The eagerness to learn Tigrayet would probably not have been that big.

        Apart from that, I am also not sure about the availability of Tigrayet texts back then (and even now). Arabic also (could have) functioned as a language to educate the people and make them more conscious, not only about religion, but on science in general. I guess the lack of Tigrayet text/sciences would have automatically limited this.

        • Tafla

          Dear Fenomeno,

          I know the history of it and the more or less convincing arguments used to justify it. My central question was, why not use 1 single indigenous language to communicate among all sectors of the Eritrean society. There are many languages in this world that have not been used in scientific publications, but are preserved and developed because they carry the history, wisdom and culture of a people.

  • Saleh Johar

    Yes guest, thanks for the additional Habesha reference. Share some more if you can remember any.

    I don’t know how exposed you are to Tigrayet, but that is how the speakers of the language refer to their language, that is how I refer to it and I speak it as good as I speak Tigrinya–it’s my adopted language as well.

  • Mahmud Saleh

    Dear All
    Ustaz Saleh
    The stage is yours your excellency, I know I am the last to reference when it comes to issues of “who’s who”. I dropped by to help guest, and by the way, the person I talked is a full time researcher. Of interest also, he is not from bahlawi Gudaayat! Cheers.
    Dear salam
    Think of this as a small non political treat, it is intended for entertainment and introduction to those who have little or no info about the people. If you read it again, you will find three important accounts which could answer your interest.
    – I said that Tigrigna is the language with the greatest number; I also added that Tigrigna is taking over Tigre as being the language utilized in many areas traditionally a role Tigre had filled.
    – I said that Tigre was the language of communication between different nationalities (I am talking in terms of geographical coverage, areas that the language covers and its relation with almost all of the ethnic groups (Of course, here also I am specifying the application of such statements, as in traditional Eritrea). I did not say Tigre is the dominant language. Please relax and enjoy.
    -I have not touched areas of marketing and the like. So, yes, Eritreans cross-enjoy the music of other languages as is the case in music. The beauty about it is that I can enjoy a chinese song even without knowing the lyrics. I like AHmed Shaebi for instance, but I don’t know Afar, I like Mahmoud Ahmed Gurage songs, but I don’t know the language…I liked Amharic music before I knew what they said…and so on.

    • Hope

      Here we go ,Selam hawey or haftey.I hope it is crystal Clear now.
      We might be dealing with someone,who might know the details beyond our —-
      Thanks Mahmouday for clarfiying things….

  • Saleh Johar

    Hello Guest,
    Until the PFDJ fenced everyone who speaks Tigrayet as “Tigre” Eritrea was a little different.

    “Tigre” is a class identification for the serfs who were subordinate to the “Shmagelle” That is how most of Western and Northern Eritrea was structured. Ibrahim Sultan, himself a from the Tigre class, is less known for his “Tigre” emancipation revolution and more as a national politician. His movement destroyed the Shmagelle structure and achieved equality for the people.

    Tigrayet speakers identify themselves as Beni Ammrai, Mensaay, Betjukai, Hababai,Maryay, and other social structural affiliation.

    For example, a person identifies himself simply as Beni Amray. But a few people know that Beni Amer is a tribal confederation (long before the concept of confederation was known). Within the Beni Amer there are the member groups of the Beni Amer, including Hamassen for instance, who identify themselves as Beni Amer. Now this original identification is being erased as everything else and being replaced by “Tigre”

    The same with Mensa’e. A person would tell you I am Mensaay, but Mensa’e is made of Bet Abrehe and Bet Ishaqen and it is a sort of a kinship kept for as long as our history. Now a Mensaay is expected to tell you I am “Tigre”! Of course there are some who have accepted the PFDJ identification while others consider it a proclamation that is like any other issued by the totallitarian regime.


    Excuse my ignorance, but never heard of ‘Tigrayet”, sounds to me like a futile attempt to escape from the term Tigre & Tigrina. Obvously, Tigre and Tigrina share a great deal of vocabulary and syntax and some would even argue that they are two dialects of one language

    • Abraham Hanibal

      Based on my little knowledge on these issues, I can say that if you ask the speakers of the “Tigre” language what the name of their language is, they will tell you they speak “Tigrayet”. However I’m not sure how the word “Tigre” came into existence.

      • Saleh Johar

        This might not be a popular view, but let me try:

        Until recently, Ethiopians from the hinterland referred to anything North of the Amhara region as Tigre. The civilization of that region is rooted in Axum which is not in Tigrai. I haven’t seen or heard any explanation for the origin of Tigrai, Tigre, Tigrayet, and Tigrinya (which obviously have the same root) except from Gaddafi. In one of his lecture he said “they were Tujjar (Traders)” You know Gaddafi, he made so many outrageous comments including one about the “Red Indians” and others–I ignored his comment. But that needs a thorough research and I feel books in the churches of our region, and Yemen can yield some explanation.

        If you follow the Asghede legend in Sahil, you trace him to Adi Nefas in Hamassen and then to Ruba Asghede in Tigrai. A little over a century ago we didn’t have the present politicians–long before Eritrea or Ethiopia in their present form existed. So do you think Asghede would have been offended if you called him Habesha or Tigraway/Tigre?

        One more thing: could Tigrayet be the feminine version of Tigre is in Blin, Blinayet?

        I have a few books on the subject in my hand, they require serious reading and I cannot say more at this time. But it’s definitely a worthy research and hopefully I will look into it.

        • Abraham Hanibal

          Thanks, Saleh Johar for enlightening feedback.) There is, for sure, a lot of common history and intermingling between the peoples of Eritrea and Tigrai, that goes back to the Axumite Kingdom, a kingdom that included parts of today’s Eritrea, and Tigray. When I was in Eritrea I heard the Eritrean warrior Bahta Hagos Segeneiti had sought refuge in the Rora Habab area of Sahel, where one can trace his descendants to this day. I don’t know wether his descendants were assimilated in the existing Tigrayet speaking people, or whether they kept their Tigrinya heritage.

          • Saleh Johar

            You mean kinsmen? I don’t think Bahta Hagos had descendants there. But a lot of people from different groups trace their ancestry in other parts. Rasi weldenkiel sought refuge in Halhal, and there are many similar stories. There are interesting legends about how people dropped their language and adopted another… it’s deep!

        • Abel Fesshazion

          Saleh, Ah speaking of Axum funny thing is 90% of the Axum Kingdom was in Eritrea. Keskese, Matara, Nakfa, Qohaito and Sembel were in the empire. Addulis as the gateway to the east. Now you speak of Axum not being in tigray is interesting. Now given a conclusion that Axum was an ERITREAN empire. I see it’s a little of topic.

          • Hope

            I enjoyed reading the link.Interesting history.The contribution of the Eritrean Sahos is immense as well..Am proud of them and our history.That is why now-a-days the Archaeologists are saying that Eritrea is one of the Human Origins.

          • Hope

            PIA was quoted saying in 1974 or so in response to a Western Journalist’s question:
            “We got nothing to do with the Ethiopians as we belong to the Axumite Empire”–or sort of like that,which made people to be suspicious about PIA intention and his long term hidden plan including the restoration of Tigray -Tigrigni Empire.
            But now history is confirming to us that Axum belongs to Eritrea!
            Can you elaborate on this?

          • Abel Fesshazion

            Hey Hope,

            Do you speak of the 1976 TPLF Manifesto TPLF aka “Republic of Greater Tigray”? Isayas disagreed with that ideology. On his interview with ESAT Ethiopian Satellite Television. On the topic of tigray he said “We blocked the independence of Tigray.”

            On the next case with Axum being an Eritrean kingdom it’s important to understand the Ethiopians always try to put Eritrea under Ethiopia which is BS. Remember Tigre is closer to Ge’ez then Tigrinya and last and far way Amharic. Eritrea is very rich and valuable my friend.

          • Hope

            History and Archaelogy Major or Professor for that matter!
            ” Remember Tigre is closer to Ge’ez then Tigrinya and last and far way Amharic. Eritrea is very rich and valuable my friend.”
            Courtesy of Prof Abe F.
            For real,the Awate Land here is /has become beyond History and Science Center-due to people like you!
            Where have you been hiding my man!

          • Abel Fesshazion

            Dear Hope,
            Hahaha I just research online man. The internet provides valuable information my friend. I have an Eritrean Historical dictionary which is filled with lots of Eritrean history .

  • Mahmud Saleh

    Dear guest
    The article was inspired by our discussion on Ustaz Alamin Abdullatif on this forum. As many forumers show interest in this legend, I wanted to do some comment on his works. Then another idea took shape- I thought, “why I don’t give my readers a background of the Tigre people or Tigrayet speakers as a whole?” Remember when we say Tigrayet speakers we are talking about a wider demography; it will also include those who make Tigrayet their communication tool, and who are acculturated to Tigre. I know many Kabessa folks who grew up in Keren..AQurdat…Teseney who make Tigrayet their language, and proudly identify themselves as belonging to this people. Using it, they wrote songs and poems; they taught in it, etc. I am a native Tigre man, yet I acquired Tigrigna, and culturally, I am Tigrigna as much as I am Tigre. So, when you speak of Tigrigna speakers, I believe I am included there, unless one specifies native Tigrignas (those born to Tigrigna parents in Tigrigna land (who have not assimilated to other cultures).
    To get an answer to your interesting question, I called a man who did researches on this subject. Here is what he told me on the phone.
    – Historically, 4-5 centuries ago, all the Tigrigna and Tigrayet speaking people (Tigray, Kebesa Ertra, and the people we now call Tigre used to be called Tigre. So Tigre included all Tigrigna and Tigrayet speakers.
    – Around that Time and as Showa influence (Amargna) increases northward, with time, the people of Tigre in Kebessa and Tigray changed the Tigre to Tigrigna. You could still hear some call Tigrigna as Tigreyna or Tigrnya
    – Think of the people as Tigre, and the language as an expression of the people or as an adjective, For example Tigre=> Tigreyna (our Tigre), thus, follows the corruption of that word to Tigrnya, etc. If you read Geez, ትግሬ=>ትግሬና=> ትግረይና=> ትግርኛ (tgrNa=Amharic)
    – When those Kebessa people migrated to the people who still identified themselves as Tigre in the lowlands (those not yet influenced by the showa Amharic), the immigrants from Kebessa kept identifying themselves as Tigrgna (because Tigre had already been changed to Tigrgna there) until they acquire the culture and the language. Once they became acculturated, they kept the use of the language Tigrayet, but shunned the name Tigre, because they had already shifted to a different name and considered themselves as superior to the native Tigre. They called themselves shemagle, while leaving the Tigre to the natives. My source says this happened sometime around 350-450 years ago. It was a gradual change. The BinAmr who pushed from the Beja north also considered themselves as ruling class and left the Tigre for the native inhabitants while acquiring the languages (Tigrayet) and other cultural aspects of those natives. Therefore, according to this person, the people used to be called Tigre, although that name became derogatory when the Shemagle left it out to identify the ruled class/natives; however, the language continued to be known as Tigrayet. In some regions, for instance Sahel, they also call their language as Hasa (probably borrowed from what the Beja called them earlier, still the Hidareb people call Tigrayet as Hasa, also in Sudan it’s still called Hasa; in some places they use Hasa and Tigrayet interchangeably. So a north and south influences played a great deal in the shifting of names.
    =>This brings us to Italian colonization and the fight of people like Ibrahim Sultan to emancipate Tigre people from the shimagle.
    – I am a native Tigrayet speaker, and I had known my language as Tigrayet. A casual conversation would go something like this:
    ወድ ሰብ ትግራይት ትትሃጌ?
    ኣቤ፡ ሰኒ ወ ኣማን እትሃገያ። ህግያዬ ኢኮን!
    Because the name Tigre has been tainted by those ruling classes who ruled the original Tigre people, the word in some places could still mean derogatory. There are segments of our Tigrayet speaking communities who don’t want to identify themselves as Tigre.
    My view is that communications and open discussion could narrow it. It’s also my view that people have every right to call themselves whatever they want to be called.
    Finally, the goal of this article is to give those who have no or limited information about Tigrayet speaker community a window to this diverse social group. As far as I am concerned, although I am from those who migrated from Kebessa, I still am proud to be identified as Tigre.

    • Saleh Johar


      Thanks for the treat and it was fine and savory, please don’t make it sour 🙂

      Now you are going into a bumpy territory. I am a Tigrinya speaker and a four generation Kerenite where Tigrayet rules supreme. The “Tigre” term has a lot of history, mostly twisted and crooked by the PFDJ At any rate, in my life, I have never seen anyone identifying himself as :Tigringa” but as Habesha… here are more example: kdan Habesha, bahli Habesha, zereba Habesha, bahli Habesha, etc. Never heard Megbi Tigrinya, or Kdan Tigrinya, or bahli Tigrigna.

      The “Tigringa” term is as new (and imposed) by the PFDJ to replace Habesha and others (this one is a big landmine, I will stay away from it–for now).

      Now I am waiting for your second portion on arts, if you please stay away from the landmines 🙂

      • Hope

        Oooh Ustaz Saleh J,
        —hmmm,I missed that part.
        Here is what my Barka Tigrayit/BeniAmir friends ask me when they want to know exactly who I am:
        “Blenay Akar enta wela habeshtay(Habesh?
        It is funny and intricated as well when it comes to digging into unnecessary technical terminologies.
        My point is:
        Who is Habesha and who is NOT in Eritrea,or in Ethiopia, for that matter.?

        • Saleh Johar


          Seriously! You do not know who is Habesha and who is not?

          • Hope

            huhuh Ustaz,
            Not seriously but based on the assertions made above and the arguments made hitherto!

          • Saleh Johar

            Hope, please don’t be angry 🙂

            Before I had a problem with your comments because I thought they were not concise, now your comment is half a statement 🙂

            Which argument, please articulate it because I want to communicate with you, but first I need to understand your comment before I respond.

          • Hope

            Hey ,hey Ustaz Saleh Johar ,nothing personal,my man!I am trying to learn as my knowledge on those issues is limted.
            I was not trying to “misquote or challenge “you but I was quoting Selam,Guest,etc—and by default,your Statement about Tigrinya and Habesha definition form the PFDJ prespective.
            Guest’s definition of habesha is incomplete and deficient…and I was expecting your clarification on that, as an Expert on this issue.
            In my limited understanding,I thought the EPLF/PFDJ approach would make sense to differntiate things,i.e…..Habesha being a general and inclusive term whereas,Tigrigna being more specific term to differntiate the Tigrayit and the Tigrigna habesha.and other habeshas.,which is NON-Essential to me,btw…..
            Waiting for a clarification,NOT for arguement!
            Rest assured that I am NOT going to ask you questions any more as I relayed my message in detail and to my satisfaction.
            The only question I will keep asking every sane Eritrean is as to why we are lagging behind in our struggle and about the past due National Reconciliation(among Eritreans and the Oppositions Groups,Activists,the Civic Societies,Media people,etc–).

          • Guest

            Habesha is who dress Habesha cloth , who eats Habesha foods, who uses Habesha calendar and so on

      • Semere Andom

        You know what you just did? You gave PFDJ a hint, now brace for “enda Tigriniya bet megbi neAnay”:-)

        • Hope

          So,no more Enda habesha Bet-Megbi of restaurant.?
          Just Enda Tigrinya Restaurant
          You are crazy,man!
          Is this your nature or you learned it?
          But I do not believe that,that was Mahmouday’s intention!

        • Saleh Johar

          Semere, why do you want to prevent me from doing my national duty!

          • Semere Andom

            Hi Saleh:
            Because I tried for the last decade and were unsuccessful 🙂

  • Shabbash Kerenite

    I have a relevant historic picture for the title

    • Hope

      Great match,indeed!

  • selam

    is the article personal observation of the eritrean music or explanation from a fact based . If it is personal observation it is a very nice article and good observation .The instruments are totally wide open for debate as the same the dance . The language Tigrinya is most dominant in eritrea . I my self from Bilen know the fact that we speak Bilen only at home and with some bilen friends just to resist and stay true to our language unless tigrinya is easy to get what you want in a market even in school. Tigrinya is the number one spoken language in eritrea. Go to all cafe ,hotel and also bus station every thing is done in Tigrina as you clarify it . Our richness is just wiped out by the most powerful musicans from kebesa and we have no choice except to accept as if it is our own . Tignrinya is here to dominate even if HGDEF is gone , i can not see another music and language come to the day light and compete with tigrinya. If some one write any book in arabic he will normally get broke with so much lose from printing and also very low sale.The same can be said about any musician out side tigrinya. Mmehir Alamin will not be as the height of his career with out the tigrinya speaking musicians. He will never ever earn any tangible money only by singing tigre and if not for Tigrinya he would have been just his name with out popularity.

    BUT i could not understand how any one claim that Tigre is the dominant how is that possible ? Tigrinya take over any language when we was under italians and from that time TIgrinya is the number one and the most spoken language.that is not for debate even by any metrics, Most kebesa people can hardly speak tigre and we can not claim for any language to be said dominant with out the christian kebesa people speaking. Any musician who try to sell any album with out putting tigrinya as the cover or the best music is just not going to get so much advertising that is the fact.

    • Hope

      Selamat slema:
      Good points and I agree for the most part with you and your arguments but i respectfully disagree with some of your comments.
      -Geographically speaking,the Tigre/Tigrayit Speakers are all over it
      -Statisitically speaking,I cannot comment as I do not have the latest and accurate census.
      -But,be that or this,Tigrayit is at least the second mostly spoken Eri Language-with rich culture and history
      -Remember that Blin people,me and you included speak Tigre/Tigrayit
      and that will substantiate Mahmouday’s asserions,positively.
      -The Sahos in Semhar do speak Tigrayit;the whole Gash Barka,Semhar,Senhit and Sahel people do speak or understand Tigre/Tigrayit.
      As to Blin Music, though not sure where you live,I can assure and attest to yo that now-a-days Blin Music has dominated over Tigre Music.despite the systematic and even direct Chauvenistic oppression of the Blin people and their culture,Music included by a certain segemnt of our society,which is an old and historical fact,btw,regretably!.
      On the side note,,which has made me to agree with you partially,you would NOT believe how bad and significant the grievances of the Blin Artists are;and despite all these obstacles,they are at the fore front!This is NOT to mention the issue of the Mother Language Impact and its devastating consequences on/to theTarget Population and its culture/Literature of Blin….where High School Grad Blin Youth have no clue about Ge’ez Alphabet including how to write and read–with its destructive socio-cultural and economic consequences…where the Blin Youth cannot get jobs—simply coz they cannot write and read in Tigrinya,which is a separate and serious issue by itself,which will be resolved in the New Eritrea,—Insh’llah!
      Be that or this though,Mahmouday’s analysis from cultural point of view is quite Original, as far as I am concerned.
      He put the huge topic in a brief but sweet and inclusive and comprehensive way….and he also, either by default or intentionally,added some flavors and colors by including the Blin Music/Culture,that of Mens’ae included as well.
      Please, get some idea as where he is coming from by leaving aside the ” Statistics” issue.
      He did a great job and Kudos to him,.as usual besides adding some humor and flavor .to the ongoing political Debate–kind of a Politicized Jebebna Style/section,if you wish to call it..
      After all, that is our unique history and culture that should be declared,politicized,publicized and to be enjoyed.

      • Mahmud Saleh

        Dear half-cousin Hope
        I know you have some sweet memories of yours. Particularly, when you would come home from your sweet Gonder. I left out the sword – dance lest get your cousin saay bail out of the window.

        • Hope

          Ahlen Naye wehuye,Mahmouday!
          Abshirka Yibba!
          We will be there for you my man and my HERO,as much as you have been there for us!
          And again,THANK YOU for the Superb JoB,in fact quite a Scientific One as well,as it is Fact and Research based Article with some spices, flavors and humor,as expected from the Charming “Tigretay”-be it from Sahel,Barca,Senhit-Keren or Semhar Abay,big Bro,besides being the Classic Eri Rep in all aspects-be it Socio-culturally,Linguistically and/or Politically.
          I wish you and your likes lead Eritrea and Eritreans and all the Eri mess could have gone by now and left behind as a history.
          BTW,where is Cousin SAAY?I hope he is done ,along with Haile TG,testifying on the Human Rights Issues in London,by now.
          Wish them to be well and healthy but we miss them…specially the nagging and to the point Political Analysis of both!
          BTW,you surprised me by telling me what I used to do each Summer after I was done with my School from Gonder.
          Did I meet you in the Summer of 1989 somewhere between Hagaz and Keren in the middle of the night with your Colleagues like Martyr Bichir,Medhanie,Martyr wedi Shekh(not the “Baburaye One”,but the one ,who was martyred while chasing the weddo ghebas and the Derghi in the plains of Barbaro or Kemerdemat), wedi Keshi(Security Chief at the Asmera Airport now,etc….
          You do not need to answer this question for Security and Privacy reasons.
          Martyr Bichir asked me similar questions at that time when I was attending and enjoying a Classic Blin and Tigrayit Wedding in 1989(Martyred at Adirba/Anseba-nearby his home town few months before the total Liberation of Eritrea).RIP all.

  • Abel Fesshazion

    “Tigre (Ge’ez: ትግረ tigre or ትግሬ tigrē), better known in Eritrea by its autonym Tigrayit (Ge’ez: ትግራይት), and also known by speakers in Sudan asXasa (Arabic: الخاصية‎ ḫāṣiyah), is an Afro-Asiatic language spoken in Northeast Africa.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tigre_language

  • Yoty Topy

    Cheers Abel:)

    • Abel Fesshazion

      Cheers brother 🙂

  • Yoty Topy

    “Tigrinya” or “Tigrigna” ?

    • Abel Fesshazion

      They both mean the same thing. But I beileve Ethiopians spell “Tigrigna” and Eritreans spell “Tigrinya” in general.

      • Saleh Johar

        Hi Abel,
        Exactly, the “gna” replaced “nya” because of Amharic influence. Of course language morph, borrow and adopt from other languages. It is only a natural progress. But if you talk to old timers, you notice many of them have not adopted the “gna”

        • Abel Fesshazion


  • wadhaiget

    Thank you mahmoud ..
    Interesting article