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Three Names Ethiopians are Trying to Impose on Eritreans

Eritrean girl wearing traditional Medri-Bahri dress (Credit: Kikish Abraha)

Three Names Ethiopians are Trying to Impose on Eritreans

Names play an important role in human interactions. They provide us a way to identify people and places. In some cases, the meaning of names can even provide valuable insight about a place or a person. Names for groups of people can also be used for political objectives. As a result, foreign names, especially those coming from hostile countries or people should be rejected if most of the people its intended for don't support it.

Here are three names politically motivated Ethiopians are trying to impose on Eritrea and Eritreans:

1. Tigray-Tigrinya is a false term used by politically motivated Ethiopians to lump Eritrea's Tigrinya ethnic group with Ethiopia's Tigray ethnic group. In doing so, they seek to chisel at the edifice of what what it means to be Eritrean, since Tigrinya people make up the largest ethnic group in Eritrea. Without question, the Tigrinya people do not regard Tigrayans to be of the same ethnicity as them. Both of these ethnic groups hail from separate ancient kingdoms (Medri-Bahri and Tigray) and have fought and died for separate wars (Tigrinya: ELF and EPLF, Tigrayans: TLF and TPLF).

However, none of these historical facts are even necessary to mention when you consider ethnic identity is mostly a self-ascribed psychological term. According to Professor Joshua A. Fishman, the "psychological dimension of ethnicity is perhaps the most important because, regardless of variations in the biological, cultural, and social domains, if a person self-identifies as a member of a particular ethnic group, then he or she is willing to be perceived and treated as a member of that group. Thus, self-ascribed and other-ascribed ethnic labels are the overt manifestations of individuals' identification with a particular ethnicity."1

2. Mereb-Melash, which means the kingdom "beyond the Mereb (river)", has been used to name Eritrea's pre-Italian occupation period by Ethiopians and some historians. The only problem is it's not a name the ancestors of Eritreans had for their own kingdom. This is a Tigrayan (Ethiopian) name to describe another kingdom neighboring theirs. Think about it, who would name their country the kingdom "beyond the Mereb" river when they're the country beyond the Mereb river?

The real name of Eritrea's pre-Italian kingdom was Medri-Bahri (Land of the Sea). With its capital in Deberwa, Medri-Bahri was a prominent kingdom in the region between the 14th-19th century. What separated this kingdom from others in the region is it had a unique political process in which citizens elected their king to power. Once elected, the king was given the title of "Bahri-Negassi" (Sea King). To prevent a monarchy from being established, the Bahri-Negassi's family were prohibited from becoming future kings. Medri Bahri's borders with its southern neighbor, Tigray, was marked by the Mereb and Setit (Tekeze) rivers, which these boundaries are still used to define Eritrea's and Ethiopia's borders.

3. Amiche: In 1999, the brutal Ethiopian dictatorship expelled 80,000 Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origins at gunpoint and confiscated their property. These Eritreans were known by Ethiopians as "Amiche" - a term that takes its meaning from an Italian company based in Addis Ababa (The Automotive manufacturing Company of Ethiopia [AMCE]) which assembles imported car parts from Italy to make cars which are exported. Like AMCE vehicles, amiches had parts (parents) that came from one country (Eritrea) and were assembled in another (Ethiopia). So when these 'amiches' were expelled to Eritrea, many of them adopted this term as a pseudo identity, even though it was originally used to alienate them by their former Ethiopian countrymen.

Part of the reason why some of the expelled Eritreans clung on to the term Amiche was because it was seen in a favorable light in Ethiopia. When people heard Amiche in Addis Ababa, they perceived a well educated Eritrean who was wealthy or better off than the average Ethiopian. But when they were expelled to Eritrea, they no longer were seen as the upper class of society. Even the education advantage they enjoyed over most Addis Ababans wasn't there in Asmara, since most Asmarinos were far more educated than Ethiopians. So the abrupt transition from the upper class of society in Addis Ababa to, at best, a middle class existence in Asmara was a tough transition for many of them to handle. This caused many of them to cling to the term Amiche; a name that was associated with a high-class society as much as it was to a nationality.

[1]Handbook of Language & Ethnic Identity by Joshua A. Fishmanm, p. 115

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Three Names Ethiopians are Trying to Impose on Eritreans Reviewed by Admin on 11:50 AM Rating: 5


  1. There is no such thing as tigray Tigrigna. there never has been and there never will be. There is only Eritrea and Tigray. One is an independent country with its own seat at the UN and the other one is a an ethnic based kilil.

  2. The term Amechie is widely used by Eritreans I disagree on that Madote. Either way Eritreans born anywhere are part and parcel of Eritrean society and paid blood and sweet like all other Eritreans. Some try to divide Eritreans knowgly or not but it is a futile attempt. Eirtreans are bonded as one regardless of where they born.

  3. history is wrong 4 MadoteMarch 5, 2014 at 12:40 PM

    *** since Tigrinya people make up the largest ethnic group in Eritrea.
    Without question, the Tigrinya people do not regard Tigrayans to be of
    the same ethnicity as them. ***

    Read more:

    Why then this? Dam there must be some kind of a mistake!!!!

  4. History is being revised by Madote writers. It is not only the term "Amiche" which was coined by Eritreans, the term "Tigray-Tigrignya" was also created and used by the late "honorable Eritrean" Aboy woldeab woldemariam and his cliques and this is the obvious fact. For that matter I don't think there is anything the ethiopians are trying to impose on Eritreans..\i am afraid the next fictitious story might go like "It was the Ethiopians who imposed Issayas Afeworki to lead the Eritrean struggle and hence become the ultimate life-long president of Eritrea". Oh yes, just stay tuned!

  5. I agree. Though he term amiche might have came about by Eritreans who were in Ethiopia themselves (Maybe coined by those Eritreans in Ethiopia who were not born there to describe the ones who were actually born in Ethiopia), the way it is being propagated and used to create a class or classification within the Eritrean people is a work of anti Eritrean elements and should be fended off. Like you said, Eritreans are bonded as one regardless of where they born.

  6. By the way the beautiful young lady on the picture doesn't look Eritrean at all, except she is wearing an Eritrean costume. Is it embarrassing to use a picture or a real Eritrean lady?

  7. First of all, the majority of Eritreans are literate (80%), while the majority of Ethiopians are not (61%). If we compare Asmara with Addis Ababa, the gap isn't as wide but its still noticeable: 98.9% of people in Asmara are literate while only 83% of people in Addis Ababa are literate. This is a fact that supports madote's claim that Asmarinos are more educated than people in Addis Ababa.

    Secondly, how can an amiche who was robbed of all his money and property NOT be in a bad economic situation when entering Eritrea? Remember, we are just talking about 1999, when Eritrea was in a state of war and amiches were just expelled with nothing more than the clothes on their backs. Yes, Madote is right to allude/suggest that amiches were in a terrible economic situation when ENTERING Eritrea. Who wouldn't be when you were robbed of everything you had?

    Lastly, your outrageous emotional outbursts towards madote is unwarranted and childish. Please be more civil when discussing on here. If you disagree with madote, you can do so in a constructive manner.

  8. Mereb Melash is widely used by some Eritreans too, it doesn't change the fact that both of those words are Ethiopian in origin. Amiche should be rejected by all means necessary since it gives the impression that they are different from other Eritreans. After all, do we have an Amiche equivalent for those born and raised in Khartoum? No we don't. So those who use this corny term are those who are dividing Eritreans along Ethiopian terms.

  9. She's Eritrean. But seeing your other comments on this website, I know you're just trolling.

  10. Amiche, the amount of rage you just spewed was not proportional to what was said. How did you get offended by this? It's like you were holding it in to explode for this day. This isn't normal behavior.

  11. This is one epic temper tantrum. Amiche, you lost the debate the second you lost your cool.

  12. Rastafarians like you believe Haile Selassie is god. Do you not see how silly that is? Granted, all religions are man made but yours is just embarrassingly stupid. Your god was alive 4 decades ago. We have videos of him. He even said he was not a god in Jamaica. Yet people like you continue spreading this nonsense about Queen of Sheba, the Ark of the Covenant, King Solomon, etc, etc. ITS ALL FAKE!

  13. Amiche is a derogatory term. In Sewra it was completely prohibited. Instead of Amichei we call them Asray Biher. Eventhough we had one goal that was to liberate Eritrea in a formal conversation we had different taste. Asray Biher were talking about Qeira, Nifas Silk, 4killo etc... and the rest of Eritrea bihers were talking about Asmara, Massawa, Aqurdet etc.. That's why we batized them as Asray Biher. It is much better than Amichei.

  14. I see you're baffled, just like me, with this unwarranted attack. Don't be. Their big mouth is what got us into all this predicament we're now to begin with. Did he say 'Asmarinos are more educated'. Yeah, I can see that in his infantile 'analysis'. Funny eh? Why was it needed to compare Amiches with 'Asmarinos' in the first place? BTW, I might have some unflattering words to describe the so called 'Asmarinos', but I wouldn't go that beaten road. I thought only Agames had some sort of inferiority complex....

  15. There are many claims as to how the term was coined. From my understanding, Amiches moved to Ethiopia when the factories and businesses from Eritrea were moved to Ethiopia at the request of Haile Selassie who wanted to weaken Eritrea economically so it can depend on Ethiopia and be less inclined to seek independence. During those times, Eritrea was the second most industrialized country in Africa. But because Ethiopia lacked the experienced skilled laborers to keep the factories operating, they moved all the Eritreans working and running those factories in Eritrea to Addis Ababa. This is when the first Amiches came to Ethiopia. Of course in those times, they were not known as amiches. The name would later be coined when the Italian car factory, the Automotive manufacturing Company of Ethiopia (AMCE) opened a factory in Addis Ababa in 1970.


  16. I do agree with you abona Weldeab Weldemariam was a proud tigraway and He said that on different occasions I don't need to prove that but for any one who doesn't know
    That can refer to a book called "ai nefalale" by Alem seged
    Having said that he gave Eritrea all his life and he survived
    Many assassin attempt by kedaat Mahber andenet un like his pro independence Eritrean Brother shaikh Abdulqader Kebere who was killed.
    My question to the writer is what is your MSG behind this article if you are here to talk about majority and minority
    What is the bases to that which statistics you are referring ? But if you are to teach us a lesson please do your home work as one of guys mentioned! !!!!!!!
    Thanks madote for being inclusive.
    We missed the good news about Eritrea ? Is that cause no more good news or you not following up .

  17. Btw, I think Madote is right, Mereb Mellash does mean “land beyond the Mereb River".

  18. i'm sorry but i do not need to look at a white man paper to know my own language... Mellash comes from the word Memlase (to return, to come back, to give back...)

  19. you are most likely right in term of the origin of the word but i do know that it was coined in relation as you also put it to the Italian car AMCE = AMICHE

  20. I see how you came to that conclusion because Melash's similarity to the Tigrinya word Meles (return) is obvious to any Tigrinya speaker. However, as a term, it was usually used by Ethiopians of the Tigray ethnicity as a geographical expression to mean the land beyond the mereb river even though in the literal sense, Mereb Melash probably means "Return (from) Mereb", which makes no sense at all to describe a kingdom that already had an established name (Medri Bahri). It's kinda similar to Habesha. Even though we know it literally means (gatherers), there are numerous definitions of it by different groups of people.

  21. wooow so let me understand this correctly... as a term the Tigray ethnicity has reversed the meaning of the word (if they clem to speak Tigrinya) to make it to mean BEYON which is the exact opposite to the word to RETURN wooow and they clam to speak the same language as the Eritrean Tigrinya, i DO NOT THINK WE SPEAK THE SAME LANGUAGE THEN...woow i learn something new this evening. thank you

  22. I'm not sure why you feel you need to be sarcastic and write in caps when we're having a civil conversation?

    Getting to the point, every document that mentions Mereb Melash comes from the Ethiopian side, which indicates its an Ethiopian word. On the Eritrean side, they knew what their kingdom was called, they didn't need 'Mereb Melash as a second term to refer to it.

    The word Mellash isn't exactly Meles, as in T'meles (return), so its still speculative that we are assuming it means return. Furthermore, we're assuming that Tigrayan Tigringa is the same as Eritrean Tigringa. There are phonological, morphological, syntactical and lexical differences between the Asmara and Tigray dialect of the Tigringa. In fact, there are hundreds of words Tigrayans use that Eritrean Tigrigna speakers don't use and vise versa. So there is a possibility Mellash could also mean beyond in Tigrayan Tigringa or at least in parts of Tigray. We can't rule this out.

    One thing we can rule out is Mereb Mellash isn't an Eritrean term. It makes no sense to say return from the Mereb river to describe a kingdom that already had a name. There are many Eritrean and Ethiopian scholars define Mereb Melash as the country "beyond the mereb river" because it was the most common definition for this term, even though from a literal sense, it may have meant "return from the Mereb".

    If you're assuming this is an Eritrean term, then why wasn't there a single document that proves the people of Medri Bahri referred to their land by this strange definition? On the flip side, why is it all the references we find for this term coming from the Ethiopian side, i.e, former warlords and kings? Obviously this was never an Eritrean word and it was an Ethiopian geographic expression to mean the "country beyond the Mereb river".

  23. Good to know some details about our culture..Thanks Madote as usual and our comrades about their shared ideas and views..

    Manuele kab Roma

  24. "Tigray-Tigrinya" you both speak the same language. like Germany/Austria.

  25. made a qualified statement referring to Eritreans from Addis Ababa such as,

    "Even the education advantage they enjoyed over most Addis Ababans wasn't
    there in Asmara, since most Asmarinos were far more educated than

    It seems that you are suggesting Eritreans from Addis Ababa were less educated than Asmarinos.

    Would you be kind enough to provide us with a scholarly research on the subject because I'm might have missed it. Otherwise, you are entitled to your comments but not the facts.

  26. May be you are right, she could be from the Rashaidan tribe Or a mixed race. But not an Eritrean proper.

  27. non sense everything you wrote is non sense

  28. Adult Literacy Rates Between Eritrea and Ethiopia:

    Eritrea: 80%
    Ethiopia: 39%

    Adult literacy Rates between Asmara and Addis Ababa:

    Asmara: 99%
    Addis Ababa: 83%

    Asmarinos being "far more educated" than Ethiopians is a correct assessment by Madote.

    Madote alluding that Amiches were facing tough economic hardships when entering Eritrea was a correct statement.

    The only aspect I disagree with is why many still cling to the amiche label. I think amiches think its cool, even though the rest of us find it embarrassing and corny.

  29. Actually, its pretty spot on.

    I know a lot of amiches like yourself are upset that this article would state the obvious. How dare madote state amiches were poor when entering Eritrea, even though that was the reality? Boo hoo, lets go speak Amharic and eat raw meat in protest. :-)

  30. Sulemon and Fetaw Hageru are two Tigrayan morons who like to troll and lie about Eritrea. Everything you stated is nonsense.

  31. Mereb Mlash = knyo mereb zrkeb hager (Eritrea).
    As it sounds, this phrase has tgray origin ofcourse.

  32. Why catagorize Eritreans on the first place?
    Whats the use?

  33. Sador, go back and read my post - I only point to one case (you commented on economic hardship as well as adult literacy rate - both of which were not the subjects I commented on).

    Again, your "assessment", just like Madote, is just an opinion; a conjecture, a mere guess. Madote Admin made a comparison of Asmarinos' education level to those Eritreans from Addis that came to Asmara. It implied that those from Addis had an inferior education level. I'm challenging Admin to prove it.

    Your comparison of adult literacy is only true should you compare it to a % of the population. It is a bit disingenuous.

    Your commented, "Asmarinos being "far more educated" than Ethiopians is a correct assessment by Madote."

    I should remind you that few Eritreans went to Addis to go the the university during the Emperor's reign. Subsequently, Mengistu marginalized Eritrea and Eritreans, including the proper education of Eritrean students. For that reason, I disagree with you.

  34. I feel you Amche (eventhough Im against your still calling yourself the nick amche instead of just ERITREAN). The way you express your anger has valued reasons because noone has the right to catagorize any Eritrean the way people do on amches over here. Educated, non-educated, rich, poor, business men, farmers etc. Eritrean is diverse like all people in the world, be it inside or outside the country. Eritrean is born in Europe, USA, Middle East and Africa, but noone is namecalled by their place of birth. We call each and everyone of them Eritreans. I wish you "amches" also fight for your right not as amiches but as ERITREANS.

  35. No, I think you are interpenetrating in a negative way.

    Madote wrote:

    "Even the education advantage they enjoyed over most Addis Ababans wasn't there in Asmara, since most Asmarinos were far more educated than Ethiopians."


    Generally speaking, the so-called amiches were better educated than their Ethiopian counterparts. But when they were expelled to Eritrea, this education advantage they enjoyed no longer existed in Asmara, since Asmarinos were more educated than Ethiopians.

    All madote said was the educational advantage they enjoyed was no longer there in Asmara. In other words, they were on equal footing. Madote did not say amiches were less educated than Asmarinos, he/she said the advantage they used to have in Addis Ababa, when it came to schooling, was not there in Asmara since the later was just as educated.

    And what do you mean by this?:

    "Your comparison of adult literacy is only true should you compare it to a % of the population. It is a bit disingenuous."

    Eritrea's adult literacy rate is better than Ethiopia's. I fail to see how you would find this in anyway to be disingenuous?

    I don't think its accurate to include Eritreans who had to go to Addis Ababa University for higher education during the occupation of Eritrea as amiches. Amiches, at least to me, are the ones who only knew Addis Ababa as their home and viewed their adopted Amhara culture as theirs. In essence, those that identify with this identity called amiche. If we used your loose definition of amiche than Isaias Afwerki would be considered amiche, as would a lot of senior Eritrean officials who were required to go to Addis Ababa University after graduating from high schools in Eritrea.

  36. Unless you are dyslexic, I never used the word Amiche or did I refer to it in anyway in my post. Yet again, you are jumping around commenting on subjects I did not even comment on.

    No need for a reply; I've no time for nonsense verbal judo. Translation: improve your English reading comprehension. Good bye!

  37. since i am black no.

  38. First I read the article as a comedy and then lough; after that, pose, and I relized the fact that the writer was writing what he thinks or believes true. Wow !! in my humble opinion let alone the tigray region and Eritrean Tigrigna, me as none Tigrigna speaking Ethiopian believe that the Tigrigna speaking people and the Amara are the same by all accounts. All the distruction comes in the advent of Isayas and Meles which are bothe neither tigregna nor habesha but an Italian made super satan that destroy the relationship and pride of Amara and Tigrigna in general. at any rate italia has its two most precious sons isayas and meles.

  39. I'm late to the conversation however (maybe) a reasons there's so much difficulty using Eritrean terms or labels is because it's mostly written by young people. I'm an Eritrean who was born and raised outside of Eritrea and I have to be honest: these arguments and articles confuse me. I understand Eritrea when my parents talk to me about it and then my understanding gets blurry when I read most Eritrean sites. I get the impression Eritrea doesn't have its own literary references (Read: I could be wrong) and thus always to mention Ethiopia; we do, however, have an aging population that can help define the terms much better than our millennials. We should strongly focus on the Eritrean perspective and ensure we have one social outlook so we can all join the same conversation.

    No offense to MADOTE but you should consider eliminating all references and subjects of Ethiopia. Is is possible to write about the term Amiche without mentioning Ethiopia? Try to remember that non-Eritreans (and non-Ethiopians) read these sites to learn more about our culture, ethnic identity and daily news. We need our social independence to match our national Independence.

  40. What is the diffrence b/n Ethiopian Tigray and Erityrean Tigray. For me both are the tigray origins. Eritrea is a subset of Ethiopia.


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