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An Eulogy Of Naizghi Kflu: A Translation

This morning I read an eulogy of Naizghi Kflu’s published at Meskerem.net in Tigrinya and it moved me so much and overwhelmed me with sorrow and indignation. I applaud the people who prepared the eulogy; they succeeded in capturing the true sentiments of the overwhelming majority of us. There are certain things that transcend politics and ideology and those things speak volumes about who we are as a nation and people. Naizhgi Kflu is gone but how we honor his remains and legacy is a direct reflection of us. I’m very aware that the late Naizghi Kflu was a controversial figure in our history, but so was Ali Said Abdella who headed the notorious “Halewa Sewra” before Naizghi. In my opinion, all Eritreans who spent a life-time fighting for the country deserve all the honor and glory we can afford them. In the final analysis, the great sacrifices they made for us, as a people, is much greater than the alleged wrongdoings and crimes they might have committed in our name.

I’ve tried to render a literal translation whenever possible and I’m responsible for any inaccuracies and mistakes. I hope this is a small token of my appreciation and gratitude for the man who spent a life-time so we can have a country we can call our own. Thanks to the sacrifices of the many heroes like Naizghi and Ali Said, we have a country of our own and how we manage and govern it is up to us; it’s our collective responsibility.

May his soul rest in peace. Mengiste seamy yewarso: znAt nbetse yhabom!

Here follows my translation of the eulogy.

A brief history of the late Tegadalai Naizghi Kflu
Translated from Tigrinya by Semere T Habtemariam

It is hard to present a condensed account of the life -history of the late Naizghi Kflu in just few hours. Be as it may be, we hereby present you a selection of what  we were able to put together from his relatives, people who grew up and went to school with him and his comrades in the struggle.

The late Naizghi Kflu was born into his parents Mr. Kflu Bahta and Mrs. Imuna Woldeabizgi in February 21, 1941 in the village of AdibUr, Seraye. He attended (elementary and middle school) in Mendefera and completed middle school in 1956. He then went to Addis Abeba to further pursue his education and after four years of high school, was able to attend the Teacher Training at Debre Berhan and graduated in a year in 1961. For a few more years, he served as a teacher in Ethiopia.

In 1963, he was the recipient of a scholarship that took him to the former Soviet Union; thus enabling him to escape the continual jailing and scrutiny of the Ethiopian security forces. During his six years stay in the former Soviet Union, he was able to earn a Masters’ degree.  In 1970, he was admitted in the PhD program at Boston College. He had, however, to terminate his doctoral studies to join the liberation struggle full-time due to the prevailing conditions in Eritrea and particularly the secession of the Peoples Forces (from the ELF) and the intensification of the armed struggle. Although many Eritreans had to sacrifice their pursuit of higher education and Naizghi was not different, there are, however, few things that made the late Naizghi Kflu stand out from his cohorts.

At a tender age of less than 14 years old, he was consumed by an intense love of his country and his equally intense desire to see Eritrea free and independent and this love—according to his childhood friends—compelled him to actively engage in the national struggle with courage and consciousness that was beyond his age and experience.

During the federation era, he advocated for Eritrea’s independence by preparing relevant articles and by quilting the Eritrean flag on pieces of clothes and distributing them, under the cover of night, in the streets of Mendefera and the San Giorgio School.

Whenever there was a protest or rally against the Haileselassie regime and its take-over over Eritrea by the students of Asmera, a similar one was openly or covertly organized by Naizghi Kflu in Mendefera and the San Giorgio school.

When Naizghi moved to Asmera, he joined the Eritrean struggle and became a member of the secret organization known as MaHber ShewAte. He was also instrumental in establishing similar organizations in Addis Abeba.

When, in 1961, the Founding members of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) met in Addis Abeba for their founding congress, Naizghi and company (other Eritrean compatriots) took advantage of the occasion and distributed a letter detailing the Eritrean peoples’ desire for independence and the oppression they were subjected to under the Ethiopian regime in all the hotels the dignitaries were staying.

In order to defeat and intimidate (or warn) those Eritrean officials who were collaborating and conspiring with the government of Ethiopia, to subjugate Eritrea under a foreign rule such as Dej. Asfeha Woldemikael, Melake Selam Demetrious and others, Naizghi and his two friends came to Asmera carrying a message that was intended to dissuade and restrain them. Upon their arrival in Asmera, Naizghi and friends prepared pamphlets to be distributed in the three cities of Asmera, DeqemHare and Mendefera. Unfortunately, the Eritrean who was responsible for the distribution of the pamphlets in DeqemHare was captured by the police and after unbearable torture and punishments, gave up the names of his comrades. Consequently, the late Naizghi Kflu was captured red-handed in Mendefera while distributing a pamphlet that portrayed the head of government as a sheep and qeshi Demetrius as a lamb. The late Naizghi Kflu was also carrying a colt 45 at the time of his capture. Upon interrogation, the police discovered that the late Naizghi Kflu had come all the way from Addis Abeba to engage in his subversive activities and was subsequently sent to the Ajeep police station in Asmera.

In Asmera, the late Naizghi Kflu appeared in shackles in front of General Tedla Oqbit. The General asked Naizghi, “Who are your parents and what do you do?” and Naizghi responded in utter defiance and without any fear. “Instead of helping your parents, why would you try to swim in an ocean you can’t get out of and who has sent you to do this?” asked the General. With courage and defiance, the late Naizghi responded, “I was sent by MaHber ShewAte and according to my sources, you, my lord, are also one of our members.” The General rose from his seat and swung his club to hit Naizghi Kflu and to his utter amazement the late Naizghi did not blink or move. The General was speechless by the spectacle of courage and eventually ordered his soldiers to take Naizghi back to his cell.

During this time, General Tedla Oqbit was generally harsh on those who stood against the Ethiopian regime and ceaselessly hunted them down, but was particularly harsher on Naizghi and his family. Naizghi’s mother, weizero Imuna, did not spare any effort to find out about the whereabouts and well-being of her son. During one of those trips, Weizero Imuna had the opportunity to plead for her son’s release with General Tedle Oqbit but the general told her that her son’s words and deeds are bitter than aloe. Weizero Imuna, reportedly, told the general, “My lord, my son’s words and deeds might be bitter like aloe to you but they are sweet like honey to me.” After the independence of Eritrea, the late Naizghi Kflu has the good fortune of taking his mother, weizero Imuna, to the old office of general Tedla Oqbit and while she was sitting on the same old seat of the general, Naizghi humorously asked his mother if this was where she had undergone so much pain and suffering. He told her this was made possible by the sacrifices of her Eritrean children and the revolution. While tears cascading down her face, Weizero Imuna responded, “Agena’A (bravo) to my children!”

The Ethiopian regime were concerned by the influence Naizghi’s political activities might have on the Eritrean people and without the knowledge of his family, had to secretly move him to Ethiopia and confine him to seven months prison in Beqana where he suffered so much pain. The poor mother, weizero Imuna had to continue looking out for the whereabouts and well-being of her son and had to travel to Shewa, a strange place she had no knowledge of. She suffered a lot in the process.

While in prison, Naizghi was subjected to unprecedented suffering and pain but his will and desire to fight for freedom was not diminished. Upon his release, he even intensified his activities of organizing many Eritreans in Addis Abeba and distributing relevant literatures. Naizghi’s irreconcilable hatred towards the Ethiopian regime and his unquenchable thirst for Eritrea’s independence and freedom and his ceaseless activities of resistance were not hidden from the Ethiopian security apparatus and it was evident that his life was in danger. With the help of various people, it was made possible for Naizghi to leave for the former Soviet Union to pursue his education on a free scholarship.

During the seven years Naizghi stayed in the former Soviet Union, he was not only able to earn a Masters’ degree in National Economic Planning but also served as a translator, editor and director of the Amharic language program at Radio Moscow. The program was designed to promote an international communist revolution in particularly the Third World where people were revolting against colonialism and oppression. During this time, Naizghi Kflu was able to gain more valuable experience and knowledge.

In1970, Naizghi Kflu came to the United States of America to pursue a PhD program at Boston College but had to cut his tenure as a doctoral student short in order to join the Eritrean struggle against Ethiopia’s oppression. His decision was particularly inspired by the cessation of the EPLF from the ELF.

In the years of 1970 and 1971, Naizghi traveled extensively between North America, Europe, the Middle East and the liberated areas of Eritrea organizing Eritrean students and workers; fostering strong relation between the Diaspora and those inside Eritrea; thus, enabling the former to support the revolution in financial and material terms. The late Naizghi was one of the founders of the Eritrean Students in North America, the Eritrean Student Movements in Europe and the “THisha” movement inside Ethiopia had also strong ties to him.

During the afore-mentioned years, Naizghi Kflu also played a crucial diplomatic role that helped resolve the passport and visa problems and shortages by establishing much needed relationships with many African, European and Middle Eastern countries. He was also very instrumental in introducing the Eritrean armed struggle to the world community and in exposing the atrocities committed by the Ethiopian regime against our people.

After two years of intense activities, the late Naizghi finally joined the Peoples Front (later EPLF) in October 1971 and served the front and later the government of Eritrea until 2005 when he fell sick, incapacitated and had to be cared for by his wife and two children. Naizghi served the EPLF and later the government of Eritrea for 35 years and as a veteran fighter and in various high ranking positions had played a major role in the liberation of his country.

During Eritrea’s armed struggle, the late Naizghi Kflu served the EPLF in various roles: as a simple tegadaly in the fighting units and as a member of the Central Committee after the 1987 organizational congress. After the independence of Eritrea, Naizghi also served in various and high responsibility positions in the economic, diplomatic, political and security spheres and notably as an ambassador and vice minister.

Many of his childhood friends and comrades remember him as a generous and compassionate individual who could not endure the mistreatment of others but one also with the propensity to use insults and uncivil language.  It is also understood that many people, whether it was during his tenure as a tegadaly during the armed struggle or a government official after the independence of Eritrea accuse him of many wrong doings and crimes, but it should be known that, so far, no one has come forward with concrete evidence and Naizghi has not been officially charged or convicted of any wrongdoings. These unsubstantiated claims and incriminations that are being told and retold in many venues.

But there is one indisputable truth. The late Naizghi Kflu, since the day he joined the EPLF in 1971 had served the front and the government as a high ranking official, and in that capacity, had to execute many of the policies and decisions of the front and government for the last 35 years, and if there are any alleged crimes and wrongdoings committed, then the front and the government are the first to be held responsible. The late Naizghi Kflu should not be the scapegoat for others or held responsible for all the alleged crimes committed by the regime and government. It is natural to compliment, applaud, accuse or criticize Naizghi Kflu for his personal accomplishments, shortcomings and crimes as an individual and as a member of the front and government, but as this particular time, we are gathered here to pay our last respect and we leave the judgment of history to our future where an impartial, independent and fair jury would judge our past and warrant our future.

Tegadalay Naizghi Kflu passed away on a Monday, February 6, 2012 in London, England. According to observed rituals and traditions, a church service was done at the St. Michael Church in the presence of many family members and friends on Thursday, February 9, 2012. There was, however, one glaring incident that puzzled and perplexed the attendees: The Eritrean ambassador to the UK and his staff were a no-show and no reason was provided for their absence. As custom dictates, preparations were underway to send the body of the deceased to Eritrea right after the memorial service, but to the utter surprise of the family, the Ambassador had informed them that he could not issue the required documents for the body of Naizghi to be flown home. The Naizghi Kflu family had repeatedly, in person and in writing, requested an explanation of why the embassy would refuse the body of Naizghi to be flown home and the embassy could not provide a satisfactory response. The family proceeded to send letters to the Eritrean Foreign Ministry and to the office of the President. The family made it clear that if the government would not give the late Naizghi Kflu a proper burial as a veteran tegadalay and a patriot in “meqaber harbenatat,” then, they would be willing to bury him in his ancestral village where he was born (and where his umbilical cord is buried).Their repeated pleas, however, fell on deaf ears.

The late Naizghi Kflu’s daughter, Martha who loved her dad dearly and took special pride in her dad’s patriotism and tegadalay past, desperately wanted to honor her dad’s last wish to be buried in his father’s land (adi abu’u) and could not accept and bear the decision that stood on the way. Without informing anyone, she flew to Asmera and after a full month of pleading to various government figures and offices, she returned to London empty-handed.

During all his life and the struggle for the liberation of Eritrea, Naizghi Kflu met many challenges and against all odds, he prevailed and never succumbed.

What a travesty! The respect we render to a deceased body is one of the hallmarks of our identity and tradition. The right to a proper and decent burial is a right that should not be taken away from any Eritrean, let alone from one who has sacrificed more than 50 years of his life for the liberation of his country.

Alas! Here you see the body of the deceased: a patriot with a history of heroism; a pride of a nation. His body had been stored in a morgue for four months. A patriot with 50 years of heroic struggle and history has been denied a burial plot by a country that he helped liberate and we are compelled to bury our brother and comrade in England. We hereby witness this flagrant violation of denying citizens the right to be buried in their father’s land (Adi abo).

Since the tender age of less than 14 years of age, when he prepared and distributed political leaflets that advocated the independence of Eritrea in the city of Mendefera on the night of 1956, the late Naizghi Kflu has not stopped sacrificing for the country he served and fought for 50 years. He was indeed a patriot and a tegadalay. Since his youth, his mother, weizero Imuna had spent a majority of her life consumed with fear and worry and going around various prisons looking out for her son’s whereabouts and well-being.

Although, Naizghi married as an adult, he never experienced a normal family life and stayed away from his wife and children; it was a long distance marriage and family and his children had never had enough of him. This is the price he had paid for his country and it was expected of him. When he fell to sickness and became incapacitated, it was his wife and children only who went beyond the call of duty to take care of him till the day he passed away. His wife and children deserve our utter respect and gratitude.

It is puzzling! And worse is what has befallen the Naizghi family after his death. Death will come to all of us, but, what has happened to the late Naizghi Kflu has puzzled, frustrated, demoralized and perplexed not only the Naizghi’s family, relatives, friends and comrades, but the entire Eritrean people. The family has been subjected to unprecedented pain and agony. What is the justification for all of that? This is a [sad] fate of dying twice that the patriot Naizghi never expected. Whatever the justification might be, we hope and aspire for the day that we will be able to fulfill his wish to be buried in his homeland and give him the proper and honorable burial that he deserves.

Eternal glory to our martyrs!

London, June 1, 2012

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