The PFDJ’s regime of Ato Isaias Afwerki is trying very had to fight against, suppress and abrogate the Kunama traditional judicial system, regarding homicidal cases, exercised by the so-known, Kunama “Sangga-Nene,” literally translated: (the Reconcilers of Bones.)
In the Kunama society, “Sangga-Nene,” are persons recognised and accepted as role-models, for their exemplary conducts and life-styles and therefore held as traditionally having the moral authority to settle murder cases. With their skilful intervention and peacefully conducted dialogues and negotiations, those persons are able to summon the families of the victims and those of the murderer together and pacify them, thus preventing all sentiments of retaliations. This Kunama traditional peaceful mediating system which is said to be unique in the whole of the Eritrean society, has been held and practised for centuries, particularly by and among the Kunama rural populations, with such a moral and social effectiveness that it has gradually changed the Kunama into the “peaceful, the peace-loving and the conflict-avoiding society” it has come to be known at the present times.
The process of reconciling the conflicting parties first begins on the part of the culprit himself who seeks refuge by the “Sangga-Nena’s” and pleads for his intervention to protect and reconcile him, his family and his entire relatives with the families and relatives of the person he has murdered. The duty of the “Reconciler of Bones” does not emanate from the fact that he enjoys an authoritative status within his Kunama community, but simply from his conviction and dedication of rendering one of the most valuable services to his Kunama society and therefore he immediately takes up his work without any prior requirement or expectation for any kind of remuneration for his activity. It is in fact, such a purely honorary duty performed by the “Sangga-Nena” which gives his work such a high value and him the highest status within the Kunama community. One can therefore safely state that the Kunama “Sangga-Nene” are the fundamental and the most convincing forces which, within their immediate communities and society, have been and do keep dispelling the conflicts and the disorders caused by homicides and retaliatory killings. It is said that in the entire Eritrean society, there is no other ethnic-group with an equivalent traditional method of so peacefully and effectively settling and sedating murder cases, comparable to that of the Kunama “Sangga-Nene.” Though and how important, effective and peaceful the activities of the “Sangga-Nene” may be, not all homicidal cases within the Kunama society are taken up and settled by them, especially when murders are committed by repetitive and unrepentant offenders, in which cases, the “Sangga-Nena” shows and expresses his reservation about the intentions and the conduct of the criminal whose fate then is left to the decisions and solutions of the family members and relatives of the killed persons. It may therefore mean that punitive measures may result in retaliations and revengeful acts which may be carried out either directly upon the culprit himself or upon his family members or relatives.
Most of the times however, the “Sangga-Nene” conduct separate consultations and discussions with the families concerned and succeed in convincing them to come to a peaceful resolutions, thus dispelling also those acts of revenge. Only the Kunama people know how important the existence of their “Sangga-Nene” among their communities is and how valuable their mediating missions are within their society. The Kunama society tends to solve its own major social problem, more by resorting to peaceful means than by adopting and applying the standard judicial principles of only accusing and punishing the guilty party. It is a society built on peaceful co-existence. The “Sangga-Nene” are the fruits of that peaceful society.
This widely accepted and highly respected tradition of the Kunama people should be very worthy of appreciation and be, at least, left to continue to exist, function and service the Kunama society, but for the PFDJ’s regime of Ato Isaias Afwerki, it is a system to be fought against, suppressed and destroyed, for no apparent reason. Our conviction is that whatever is good, valuable, positively functioning in and benefiting the Eritrean society, the Eritrean ethnic-communities in general and the Kunama ethnicity in particular, has to be fought against and destroyed by the PFDJ’s regime because it is not part of its social and political system and therefore it is something very contrary to its cruel dictatorial mentality.
The peaceful civic institutions like that of the Kunama “Sangga-Nene,” should not only be left and function within communities, but also encouraged to upgrade and expand their activities among them so that the mentalities of injustices and violence are gradually replaced by justice and peace. The PFDJ’s regime is basically against the welfare and wellbeing of the Eritrean people and therefore it is against all good values.
At the present times, the PFDJ’s regional authorities in the Kunama land have declared an open war, not only against the “Sangga-Nene’s” activities within the Kunama communities, but specifically against the existence of those individuals and families holding such traditional authority, expelling or forcing them to leave their Kunama homelands. There are no other reasons to speculate on the regime’s intentions, apart from stating that it is aiming at combating and destroying the Kunama people’s very basic principles keeping them united and helping them live peacefully together. To the PFDJ’s regime of Ato Isaias Afwerki, the unity, the free and the peaceful living style of the Kunama society is a menace to its own system of “dividing,” not only “to rule,” but to eventually destroying the Kunama society and, in wider context, the entire Eritrean society itself. There are reports that even in some other Eritrean ethnic-groups and communities, the activities of the regime are said to be mainly aimed at dividing them and deliberately creating divisions and conflicts, deriving from infringements in their cultures and cultural values.
Let this be a warning message to those individuals, groups of individuals and communities which today are fully or partly supporting and co-operating in the dividing policy of the present Eritrean regime and enjoying its luring benefits, that one day they themselves would become victims of their own actions. Temporary benefits can result in long-term disappointments. History books teach us that ruling forces which undermine the basic values and principles of their subjects are not for the good of their communities, but to solely impose their own principles and go on ruling with the support of their equally opportunist forces.
No ruling force, a system or a regime, least of all, the PFDJ’s kind of a violent force and corrupt system can go on ruling for ever and therefore it is time for those who keep supporting the dictatorial PFDJ’s regime of Ato Isaias Afwerki and its destructive social, political and economic system, to come to their sense and understand that they are very actively co-operating in destroying the good traditional and cultural values of their own respective ethnic-groups, in the first place, and consequently also those of the entire Eritrean multi-national society. We have no doubts that, in the like of the Kunama people who have their “Sangga-Nene,” involved in maintaining peace and harmony within their society, other Eritrean ethnic-groups and societies too do have their own respective similar organisations helping to keep peace and unity within their communities. As we have been experiencing since the advent of Ato Isaias Afwerki’s regime, the Eritrean people and the Eritrean society are being continuously led to division and to self-destruction and therefore, unless we ourselves do take our own affairs in our own hands and care that our traditional cultural values are maintained, safeguarded and keep us united, we risk a total collapse and disaster. All the signs are there to warn us that this regime, with its corrupt leadership, is destroying us.
To deprive our communities of our traditional social organisations, in our Kunama case, combat the existence of our “Sangga-Nene,” as counsellors of peace and as ground-breakers in preventing crimes from spreading, would just be like leaving young children orphaned of their own parents. We Kunama therefore do uncompromisingly request and expect that the PFDJ’s regime of Ato Isaias Afwerki and its regional authorities in the Kunama land, do, not only stop expelling, but primarily allow the existence and also encourage the Kunama “Sangga-Nene’s” extraordinarily healing activities, particularly in the Kunama countryside and within the Kunama rural communities. The massive presence of the regime’s military forces in the Kunama countryside is helping to conduct just the opposite activities of the Kunama “Sangga-Nene”, terrorising, detaining, jailing, torturing and killing the Kunama people and destroying the Kunama society. Peace and justice have been replaced by acts of open injustice and criminal activities, attempting to turn that “peaceful, peace-loving and conflict-avoiding” Kunama society too, into an equally violent, hateful and conflict-prone community.
The VKP/KAM and the KCS/ KNT: (February 4, 2009.)