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Sudan Tribune

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Eritrea’s exiled Afar opposition deny they intend to secede

By Tesfa-Alem Tekle

October 23, 2010 (MEKELLE, Ethiopia) – Ethiopia-based Eritrean opposition group, the Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization (RSADO) denied they had any intention to secede from the Red Sea nation despite statements released this week reaffirming its attachment to the principle of self-determination

In a press release issued on Thursday RSADO said that it would ‘not compromise on its principles for self determination in Eritrea with anyone whether those opposed to regime in Asmara or Eritrean Regime itself.’

‘There will not be a unified Eritrea, unless the right for self-rule is constitutionally guaranteed for Red Sea Afar and rest of nationalities in Eritrea. The Red Sea Afar will reserve the rights for Self determination including secession’ said the press release.

However, a spokesperson for the group on Saturday told Sudan Tribune that the group does not intend to break-away from Eritrea and form a new nation.

“We are not declaring intention of secession from Eritrea at this point, however unless the rights of self-determination up to secession is assured on the constitution, the fate of Eritrea might be like Somalia, just another failed state in the region,” Yasin Mohamed Abdela said.

RSADO, well known for cross-border attacks against the Asmara regime, is a member of the Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA), an umbrella political organization of ten opposition parties struggling to over throw President Issayas Afeworki’s government in Eritrea.

In August, 2010, the EDA called for a conference in Addis Ababa, to discuss ways to bring about a democratic change in Eritrea.

At the conference RSADO made its intentions clear to work hand in hand with all parties, by further drafting “Addis Declaration” based on the principle of rule of law and equality of all nationalities in Eritrea.

The conference in principle supported a plan forwarded by RSADO that nations and nationalities within Eritrea had the right to self determination and possible secession. They also proposed placing a federal system of governance in Eritrea in the event that they topple the current government.

“Despite the reached agreement some opposition officials and Eritrean politicians in Diaspora, who participated in Addis Ababa conference, have lately began obstructing the agreement” the spokesman said.

The Statement by the group also said that, “recent maneuverings by some in the opposition camps and the regime’s loyalist[s] in [the] Diaspora [had] expressed their opposition to self determinations for nation and nationalities.”

The rebel official vowed to scale up the armed struggle against Asmara until the rights of self-determination including secession from Eritrea was respected.

Eritrean Red Sea Afars, an ethnic minority in with a nomadic life style, remain one of the most highly persecuted ethnicities in the country, as the coastal area they live in holds strategic and economic value.

They have repeatedly accused Eritrean government of launching an ethnic cleansing against them.

According to Eritrean Print and Oral Culture quoting Eritrea: A Country Handbook, by the Ministry of Information of Eritrea:

“Eritrean Afars, also known as Dankils, live mainly along the southeastern sea coast and on the offshore islands in a highly-segmented, patrilineal society. Afars inhabit one of the least hospitable terrains on earth and are renowned for their prowess in battle. They have a long history of independent sultanates and strong warrior traditions. Many of their songs and much of their oral literature is built on this, and it is still common to see Afar men wearing the jile or curved knife. Today, most are herders, traders, or artisanal fishers. Pastoral Afar families typically live in large hemispherical houses of hides and woven mats stretched across a framework of wooden poles that can be carried by camel over long distances. In the few oases in Afar territory, the people cultivate maize and tobacco. Traders carry slabs of salt on their camels to the highlands from long-dried salt pans by the sea.”

(ST)