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A Book Review: The Hidden Party

Title:    The Hidden Party: A Narration of a Personal Experience with the EPLF
Author: Colonel Tsegu Fessahaie Bahta
Price:   $29.95
Pages:  250
Year:    2019
Publisher: RSP, The Red Sea Press

“Eritrean revolution was a deep cliff with noble intentions.” Pg. 86

THE HIDDEN PARTY  tells the story of Tsegu, his siblings, his generation, and the EPLF in a riveting and engaging way. I’ve not only read the original Tigrinya version but was responsible for editing it, but, to my greatest delight and surprise, I found the English translation, if not more, equally captivating. The English words spoke to me in a much subtler and deeper manner. Quite often, a lot is lost in translation, but in this one, it might have given it more profundity. The nuances of the English words have lent it more buoyancy and poignancy. Words are not only the carriers of knowledge, but they also draw the boundaries between the subtleties and intricacies of our thoughts, feelings and attitude.  The accuracy in the much more refined English language might have inadvertently given the book an added charm.

How I Know The Author?

In a spirit of disclosure, let me point out that I know the author. The first time I met him was at his uncle’s 80th birthday when many compatriots gathered to honor Dr. Bereket. I was the Master of Ceremony. The next day those of us who didn’t fly out were invited for lunch at Dr. Bereket’s home and Tsegu was there. The friends, food, drinks, and the whole ambiance was conducive for a great feast of intellect. There were many notable Eritreans—some of Eritrea’s best and highly educated minds. I was sitting next to my wife and Tsegu was in front of us, but I really didn’t notice anything spectacular about him before he said something. I was glued to him; he spoke with authority and knowledge that only comes from first-hand experience. I was intrigued and didn’t take me time to ask myself, “Who the hell is this guy?” Dr. Bereket came to the rescue and introduced the two of us, but we didn’t become friends immediately. I believe we spoke once or twice over the phone but that was the extent of our relationship. Occasionally, Dr. Bereket would mention his name.

Few years after our introduction, Dr. Bereket called to ask me if I would take a look at Tsegu’s manuscript, and, how could I say “no,” to the man who has privileged me with his friendship and avuncular relationship. Neither Dr. Bereket nor I were aware that one of the people Tsegu had dedicated the book to was my own late uncle, Russom Tekelemariam, aka Tarzan. The last communication my uncle had with the EPLF was through the late Vaynack, Tsegu and Sebhat Efrem. Tsegu has portrayed the gruesome details of his torture and death at the hands of the Derg; it made me cry, but even more importantly, more determined to fight on his behalf, my own father, uncles, aunties, and cousins. It is a sacred duty I proudly embrace to ensure that their sacrifices were not in vain. A free, just, peaceful, prosperous, and democratic Eritrea is their eternal gift to us all.

Did The EPLF Succeed Because of it or In spite of it?

THE HIDDEN PARTY  is the story of drastic changes and revolutionary transformation of a young idealistic man, who became the ultimate insider of an organization that would be defined more by its covert party, than by the overt public organization, popularly known as the EPLF. The vanguard “Hidden Party” was not an instrument of leadership as it was originally envisioned by many of its good-intentioned members, but a mechanism of control to ensure that people were toeing the line.  It provided cohesion and discipline, but, eventually, like all  unaccountable  governing entities, it degenerated to be its worst enemy.

The EPLF rose to greatness because of it, and also it fell because of it.

The Valineki Meeting of 1993 Changed It All:

There was one man, who was above the party, with the power to do anything he wanted with impunity. That individual was the current dictator of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki. When Isaias became the Secretary General of the EPLF in its second congress in 1987, it didn’t take him long to “freeze” the very secret party that brought him to power. He was in full control of the EPLF, and the party that enabled him to control his predecessor was no longer needed; it has to be eradicated since it could be used against him. The secret party was kept dead till the liberation of Eritrea, but with the uncertainty that came with independence, it was deemed necessary to resurrect it. In the Valineki meeting of 1993, the secret party resumed its functions and Isaias started to attack his old colleagues as “rotten” and called for  the “new warm blood” to take their place. Tsegue doesn’t only think this meeting marked the end of the old EPLF leadership but the beginning of a new party beholden to Isaias only. Isaias and his “new blood…had secretly founded a secret party…” In the absence of the National Assembly and the PFDJ that only exists in name, Tsegu thinks that it is with this new party that Isaias maintains his firm grip on power. This new party of loyalists is mostly made of  people who came from the old EPLF’s mass organizations in the Diaspora. They are a coterie of “Yes men” ready to do the dictator’s bidding. Their rise to power has been at the expense of the real heroes who led the EPLF to victory.

Tsegu’s book is the tragic story of the upward surge and downward spiral of the EPLF. If service, sacrifice and love of country drove the young idealistic freedom fighters, who joined the ranks of the EPLF, then, control, dominance and love of power was what preoccupied most of the top political leadership. The symptoms of the EPLF malaise was there from the beginning; it only became more apparent in the liberated cities of the late 1970s. Corruption and bad behavior, like blood, circulated in the liberated areas behind the frontlines among the non-combatant cadres and in the upper political echelons of power.

Unlike sunshine, secrecy proved to be the worst disinfectant. The behind frontlines, where non-combatant viruses multiplied, became the swamp of scheming, machinations and conspiracies. It was a place where self-sacrifice and comradery went to die. The frontlines and behind frontlines had two completely different ethos. In the former, a freedom fighter lived by the spirit of true comradery where one was expected to self-sacrifice so the comrade could live, while in the latter, it was the complete opposite: “you die so I can live.”

If anyone wants to understand the current widespread corruption and ineptness in administering civilians and cities, the late 1970s EPLF-administered cities, towns and the areas behind frontlines should serve as a preview. Dekemhare was a good example of a place where the excesses of the new rulers became an outright abuse. What we are witnessing today in an independent Eritrea is that history repeating itself in a much larger stage. The unbridled ambition of one man and his insatiable thirsty for power and the readiness to do whatever it took to get it, was inevitably going to lead to dictatorship. The liquidation of Menka’e, Btsay Goitom, Yemeen and many others was the precursor of what was to come. Tsegu’s martyred friend, Wedi Rezene, knew it. In a King David kind of fashion, his superiors sent him to the frontlines to be killed. “Whoever was considered a hindrance to them had to be removed at all costs.” (pg.128)

In a system obsessed with control and conformity, fear and suspicion become endemic.  Dissention becomes treason, citizens become subjects, freedom fighters turn into mill-of-the-run soldiers, and opposition parties become enemies, dictatorship becomes a necessity. Dictatorship is a congenital malformation of the EPLF. It was conceived in Sahel, started walking in the liberated cities, towns of the late 1970s  and the swamps of cadres and political leaders behind frontlines, and came out of age in Asmera after the independence of Eritrea.

Juxtaposing The Life of An Individual And That Of the EPLF:

Tsegu’s book is a juxtaposition of an intimately personal and organizational life of a young man who, during the revolutionary fervor that gripped Eritrea, left, on his own volition, to join the EPLF, the front that finally made Eritrea’s independence possible. He gave up the comforts his rising middle-class family have provided, and more importantly, the promises of a brighter future and endless possibilities that come with a college education in an era, where the one-eyed man was the king in the kingdom of the blind. What makes his story even more compelling and intriguing is that he was merely following the footsteps of his three siblings: his two older brothers, Isaias, a pharmacy graduate with a two-year professional experience, and Amanuel, a second-year Engineering student. Both brothers attended Haile Selassie I, the most coveted and premier university, at the time, in Ethiopia. The younger brother, Mussie, joined the EPLF from high school. Amanuel and Mussie never made it home and Isaias soon joined them after independence.

Eritrea is a country where the martyrdom of three heroes in one family does not raise eye-brows and Tsegu certainly doesn’t think his family is special; and that I believe is a tragedy because it makes us passively accept the abnormal as the normal, and the extraordinary as ordinary. There are many Eritrean families who have made similar sacrifices, but their high number doesn’t make their sacrifices less special and less extraordinary. There might have been a place for stoicism in our past; it is a great coping mechanism, but the recognition of families, who shouldered the brunt of the sacrifices deserve our  special attention, utmost respect and recognition. The nation owes them a lot. These are the unsung heroes legends are made of. So many In-Search-of-Private-Ryan-like movies should be made in Eritrea, in the future, by Sembel-Wood.

Service And Sacrifice Began with The Father:

The story of Tsegu and his sibling began with their father. As a young man, Aboy Fessehaye moved to Asmera, leaving behind the idyllic life of Geremi, his ancestral village in Karneshim, imbibed with a love of education and a better life for himself and his future family. It was in Asmera that he met the daughter of the famous protestant preacher, Qeshi Habteselassie, the father of his even more famous sons, Elias and Dr. Bereket Habteselassie. Aboy Fessehaye was able to raise his family in the typical protestant ethos of love of God, love of country, love of thy neighbor, excellent work ethic, love of education, commitment to the family and the general welfare of the society. The small Kenisha community has contributed its lion’s share in the promotion of health, education, literature, and the arts in Eritrea. The Fessehaye Bahta family was the embodiment of this culture, a Christian evangelism manifesting itself in the service of humanity. It was the Gospel of service and sacrifice that shaped Tsegu and his siblings. It is this commitment that keeps Tsegu going in his last round of duty: first as a freedom fighter of the EPLF, second as a civil servant in independent Eritrea and now as an author and a democratic and Human Rights activist speaking on behalf of the voiceless and oppressed.

At his core, Tsegu is the quintessential city-slicker. In the city that speaks a mélange of languages, he was your typical “Asmarino:” urbane, cool, suave, and the ultimate ladies’ man who doesn’t shy away from telling his many romantic escapades. In a way, he was a typical teenager and young man in love with everything that his city had to offer: dating, dancing, music, drinking, and hanging out with his friends. He was an academically gifted student who loved reading books, a passionate love affair that has only intensified with age. Tsegu is an avid reader and thinker, but his conviviality, social drinking and partying might give one the wrong impression. During his youth, his many extra-curricular activities got in the way of his studies, but none more so than his clandestine activities with the EPLF that went back to his high school days. It is this activity that has completely changed his life, his siblings’ life and family. When his cover was compromised, Tsegu was left with no choice but abandon his university education and join the EPLF. He was a beginning freshman studying to be an engineer.

The Evolution of Halewa Sewra:

At the EPLF, Tsegue was assigned to the Halewa Sewra, a security agency originally formed to defend the revolution from “subversive “ elements from within. The Menke’a group were already liquidated before he joined the EPLF and if it was not for Teklai Aden, no one would have known that the Yemeen group were  killed by the alleged order of the late Ali Sayed Abdella at the sole instruction of Isaias Afwerki. This colossus failure of moral leadership and cowardice of EPLF’s top leaders and cadres is what haunts Eritrea today. As long as we fail to exorcise these demons of our history, we shall never be free. It is amazing how many cadres and leaders of the EPLF walk today without any sense of guilt for failing to stand up for their former comrades, school mates and friends and holding the responsible parties to account. To add insult to injury, the families of Menka’e, Yemen and the likes of Btsay Goitom were never notified of their death. We owe it to ourselves to ensure that justice is served once we dismantle the dictatorial regime of Isaias Afwerki.

Eventually, the Halewa Sewra morphed into a normal intelligence agency and Tsegu’s role in it couldn’t be underestimated. He played a major role in ensuring the humane treatment of Ethiopian POWs. By translating the relevant literature, he ensured compliance with the Hague Treaties on POWs.

Tsegu’s book is a great addition to the scant literature on our liberation fronts. There are many interesting characters in the book that show human virtues and vices, self-sacrifice and selfishness and these are people we know or have known not long ago. This makes a huge difference. It takes courage to be honest. If anyone wants to know the few demons and the many angels that made the EPLF, this book would offer a small window into the vast history hall of the EPLF.

I strongly recommend this book.

To purchase a copy of Tsegu’s books, English and Tigrinya, please click on tsegu.com or the RedSeaPress

About Semere T Habtemariam

Semere T Habtemariam is an author and a columnist at Awate. He holds a BA in Government and Politics and a MA in Public Affairs from the University of Texas at Dallas. He lives in Dallas, Texas. His two books are: Reflections-History-Abyssinian-Orthodox-Tewahdo and Hearts-Like-Birds.

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Deliverance: A Tale of Colliding passions and the Muse of Forgiveness

Book Review Title: Deliverance: A Tale of Colliding passions and the Muse of Forgiveness Author: …

  • Selamat valued readers,

    Not such a typical Sunday. The morning began with my face covered with wild hare. Untrimmed Osama BinLadin mustache with the Oakland Raiders colors of silver and black, the gray hair intertwined with the black adds a decade to the five I have experienced more than four and half decades consciously. The summer of love, 1969, the tunes of the hippie generation and fashions of the Sarto’s best cuts and designs must have been influences across the entire globe. For my young mother danced, while I cocooned in her tummy, then in the fall bring me forth unto the world of the beginnings of the chaotic life of numerous ups and downs, trials and tribulations, I the happy free and un wielding child burst breathing unto the planes of Barka Abbayy. Not too long after getting up from four limbs have I stood on two limbs, when the older boys start whispering the existence of another Nation. That in fact there are two and we belonged to the one called Eritrea. As perplexed as I am with the existence of multiverses, multiple universes these days I was back then trying to grasp and shape a picture of that which the older boys call Hager and Nation let alone two of them at odds with one another of the highest intensity and magnitude. Nearly all the older boys who would gather inside the DanQebb palm trees bark fenced huts in the early Seventies grew into freedom fighter by the late Seventies to liberate that nation they called Eritrea.

    So this morning on the eve of the summer of 2019, the summer of love fiftieth, shaved off all the gray hare and the bold head, removed from the bed every bedding item, starting with the pillow, pillow cover, the bed sheet, the blanket and comforter gathering them so that I can discard them into the garbage bin Today. I showered brushed my teeth and headed to my Nissan Versa sedan en rout to pick up an American lady friend so that she can help me shop for new night covers. We landed on Ross for Less when I realized that I have not participated in this shopping event for nearly a decade now. Not for shoes, not for trousers, not for a belt or a hat. Every thing I posses pretty much circulated around me some how without my active contribution into the economies as a consumer for I did not want for anything for nearly as long if not a longer period of time. And Today, I am shopping for a brand new cover sheet, new leaders and competent governing bodies for my nation the Hager those older boys were calling Eritrea in the early Nineteen Seventies.

    Close to a decade ago when I moved from NY to California, I met the current Eritrea’ Charge’ de Affairs – whose name escapes me at the moment- in Oakland’s bietTsiHfet. He young and I a little younger. My Eritrean contemporaries and a little younger than I in the West Coast was an excellent reason for my presence in an EPLF’s bietsiHfet long after I gave up on the regime for the last time in 2001 after the massive purge and arrests of high government officials and journalists – the Veteran freedom fighters amongst them who could have been some one from Hilet Sudan Teseney, the older boys behind the Danube fence. He asked me if I have attained any level of education and skill. Which I answered with a confident affirmative and almost wanted to lambast his bombastic leadership including him and starting with the head Dictator.

    Over a decade later, YaoEl at Fanus Network is playing a clip of the same not so gentleman berating his shocked audience saying: ” Menn Quinkumm ikhomm nezzi kndey zidekheme mengisti bzaEba Hilawinett LaElawinet Hager tiTTyuQuu?” “Menn Ikhom nsikhoum nayy laElawinet Hager teHaleQti haTeww QeTT zerreba zeytigedfunna Eirefti zetyyteihibunna….. ……”

    Mend doh? Hzbi Eritrea
    Eireff.TTifaE boU gierka gidefelna gedifnaka alona.
    Menn Quinna doH? Hzbie Eritrea itti qendi gubuE mengisti Eritra. Itti azziyu zdekheme bzelato AAQmu Hager zeHarere, natSinet zemtSiae, Hager zteKhlakhele, Hager zetSniAea.
    Men Kuiena doh knHatit KnTTieQe? Hzbi Eritrea WaHis nayy BaElu Hager Eritrea!

    Men ke kHe Kuinkum nisikhum seb Melsi zettihibu azzezzti ‘mber zeymuEzuzat ab korocha TTaTTiHkum neti qendi wanna gubuou tikhelou.

    BeAl Hadish meterAs ab mengedi ytreAs… kintraas keA inna. Hzbi Eritrea and the older boys behind the DanQebb fences who gathered in one of the four huts.

    tSAtSE

  • Brhan

    Thanks Semere,

    I have read the Tigrinya version.

    1) But you will agree with me because we read books written by Americans or English similar to the subject i.e. the hidden party, we are attracted to them mainly due to the way how they are written. It is a fact they are written based on research and facts with evidences and proof but because they are also written in a holly wood type style with full of suspense and surprise, we see them as the best books. It is wrong then to judge an Eritrean writer with that perspective.

    Tsegu wrote it because no one came to write a very sensitive issue about EPLF/PF(JD). He broke the culture of silence and others have to follow to come with a better book /books.

    It was impossible for a fighter to write a diary during the struggle for independence. It was forbidden. We can not expect from him then to include in his book detailed facts, proofs, evidences, such as correspondences between the file and ranks.

    Memoir can fit the type of the book and memoir is subjective.

    2) You review missed to link your saying to his saying by indicating the page: he said so and so in this page…this can help not only to relate your idea to the writer’s idea but also help to compare between the two ideas

    3) Last but not least , this is not about your review, it is about a important issue with regard to our Eritrean literature. Books are written in Tigrinya, Arabic and English everywhere. That is good but if there is no translations many will miss a lot because of a language that they do not know

  • Semere Habtemariam

    Selam Hashela,

    I am glad you’re among the tiny minority that actually purchases and reads books. If we can just expand the size of this insignificant market, all the things you’ve said could be done. There is no publisher out there who would hire a trained editor, editorial manager and spell and word checkers if there is no market for it. The Hidden Party, for instance, has plenty of errors, but I understand why that is the case and chose to focus on what really matters. I am primarily interested in books that add to my fund of knowledge and enhance my understanding. The Hidden Party has done both. I have a good idea of how the party functions, how it recruits and vets new members, how and when it holds its meetings and how it kept itself secret and what the punishments were for people who divulge information about its inner-workings and the best part is that this is based on the personal experience of a young man who made his way through the ranks. I only wish more would follow.

  • iSem

    Hi Semere:
    First, note a change in your writing style. Maybe I am wrong, but that was my impression.
    Sal once described a prose in one of your articles as smooth as silk and now it is even more. Silkier.
    Now, I am disappointed at the review. This is not a review; it is sort of highlights of the book. It can also even be described as boosting the author:
    You talked about his family, his pedigree, his coolness, his Asmarinoness, his faith, his dalliances.
    I do not see any critique of the book, short of that, it does not make your piece a review
    I read the Tig version and I was so disappointed. It is grandiose title: the secret party, but it does not talk about it, it revolves around his life. Although, it perfectly fine to infuse his story because he was part of it and they intertwine, for self proclaimed justice seeker now, I did not read any regrets from the author, he does not let us to even one secret about the secret part and Halewa Sewra, He was part of the HS and he knows a lot of secrets, crimes. He did not tell us anything that was not avialable before
    The book ads zero to our understanding of the criminal HS, the party, the org and our current predicament as a country.So, no it is not good addition
    It is good entertainment if one is fond of the author’s bio, hit personal triumph for seducing a girl with sexy Tigriniya accent and how he joined EPLF as a young man.
    The author comes from privilege and his time in EPLF (Halewa Sawara) was that of privilege and his time after May 24 was also of privilege, his half hearted attempt to write a book with seductive and then tells us almost nothing is dishonest.
    You edited it and editors have the write to change titles. If I was the editor, I would have changed the tile “My Odysseys from Protestantism to Halewa Sewara and back to Protestantism”

    • Semere Habtemariam

      Selam Mokhsi,

      Thanks for the compliment.

      We all have to make choices of how we use our limited resources and prioritize accordingly. Berhan has nicely articulated some of the rationale I used towards my approach. The best critic of the book is the author himself. He has explained in the preface and post-script the short-comings of his book and how it can be improved in the future and I didn’t see the need to rehash the obvious. My goal is to get few people to get interested in reading and knowing their history. As the end of the day, ሜስ ንዝጭልጦ. I find the book very useful and believe its value would improve over time. There are many of us who don’t have first-hand experience of the liberation struggle and it is only through books like the Hidden Party that we can get a glimpse of what was life like there. FYI, The first time I read Gulliver’s’ Travelers, I was merely impressed by the imagery that kids enjoy, but now as an adult, I read it as a serious commentary on philosophy, particularly between classical and modern philosophy. Saying that, I am surprised that you, of all people, couldn’t find much redeeming value in the book. Francis Bacon used to say that he had never met a man so stupid, he couldn’t learn from, and I tell you, I have never come across a book that I was not able to learn from. I didn’t have to wrestle much with the Hidden Party; the information and insights are simply great. I am a satisfied customer and reader.

      • Abrehet Yosief

        Selam Semere
        Thank you for all you do to introduce and encourage authors. It is not easy to have a properly edited and proofread book when we don’t have a large enough market for such books. We don’t also have organized volunteers who could support a writer. I hope the author has a way to gather editorial comments he receives. If and when there is a second edition at least the very avoidable errors could be rectified.

        I understand iSem frustration on the lack of new information or more details. However, what more can we expect considering our current circumstance. Our authors are mostly asylum seekers who would compromise their very protection if they were to divulge too much information. Even if that were not the case, without a guaranteed fair process, the authors would be at risk of personal revenge. If we were to ever have a type of truth and reconciliation process, all of the details can come out. Until then, I am grateful for the half truths that are being published. They are a starting point for a bigger discussion.

        Too many have passed without sharing what they knew (warts and all). The capacity to remember and what to remember diminishes with time. The response of Aboy WeldeAb, to the question of his posthumous biographer, as to why he didn’t pen down a memoir comes to mind: “We didn’t do it when we could, we couldn’t do it when we wanted”.

  • Blink

    Dear All
    The book title and content are 180 degree apart . Nothing new except the sensational feeling narrated by the author who seems to be in a hurry to sell the book of the so called secret party of EPLF by scolding everything he seems fit to the current horrifying reality of Eritreans under the dictator. He ( the author claimed things from a told storyline like this guy told me this about this and he was told by this person and the most horrible thing about many of such story references happens to either dead or unknown ghosts. I read the Tigrinja version from start to end and finally gave it to someone who wanted to see if there is a story of big deal, he also was disappointed.

    Narration skills are not going to be translated in two contents. Good luck in selling millions of copies, it is harvest time .

    • Amanuel

      Hi Blink
      The author made it clear that his book is not a complete one. If you were expecting a complete book you have no idea how EPLF operated. It was a very disciplined and secretive organisation. It is very good book for people who have no idea how EPLF was run. Imagine if all people on the know about EPLF wrote their experience, history of our struggle will be much richer.
      Towards the end you threw a hypothetical question and I think if IA did deliver good results we wouldn’t have incomplet books as such information would be ready in libraries for every one to read.

      • Saleh Johar

        Selam Amanuel,
        I completely agree with you. Every book has a topic it wants to address–it can be concise or detailed. The author gives what he has and we should not expect to get everything from one book or a hundred books. We should think of books like a meal that requires many ingredients and process to be called a proper meal. Out topics are so vast that each book can only be an ingredient to our total knowldge base. We shouldn’t expect to get a meal out of one book.

        On Isaias wring a book, I mentioned this a while ago and I will repeat it now.

        In the mid-nineties Isaias’ book, an auto-biography, was written by a Sudanese writer (the one who popularized the translation of Afwerki, “fem mn dahab (mouth of gold) and went out of his way to polish Isaias. It was at the university press and then it was withdrawn as it was on its way to the press. I am not sure of the reason but the news died soon.

  • Paulos

    Selam Semere,

    I read the Tigrinya edition or version and I must say that I was hoping to learn more about እታ ሕብእቲ ሰልፊ but the author didn’t commit as much as expected as the tittle of the book suggests.

    That said, he makes you feel as if you are part of the story as opposed to feeling distant where his writing style is smooth and lucid.

    I particularly enjoyed the story about ብላዕ-ኢልዎ when the author and his friend stepped in to defend him when the late Naizgi Kiflu jumped him at Bar Diana where it later on turned into a nasty brawl. Over all, I say it is a good read and I encourage people to read the book.

    • Semere Habtemariam

      Selam Paulos,

      The English version has more stuff. A good example is how the EPLF politburo came to know about the liquidation of Yemeen through Tekali Aden’s interview with an Ethiopian radio after his defection and how they kept silent after knowing it was dingle-handedly ordered by Isaias. This colossus abdication of responsibility is beyond comprehension and it gives me chills.

      I remember the story of the pimp and ብላዕ-ኢልዎ and the more telling is the one about the former teacher who pretended to be illiterate to avoid the barrage of criticisms. I was not aware the rural-urban divide was this bad and the rampant disdain towards the intellectual class.

      In fact, one of the reason I like this book is the lack of pretense on the part of the author and his candor. He spoke about his experience and he was one of the few cadres who challenged the leaders of the secret party in the 1993 meeting, a fact that has been verified by other people.

      I like the fact how after the independence of Eritrea, and he had to stop in Addis Abba on his way from a foreign trip, he stopped to pay his respect to the hero and martyr, Bureaucracy. It shows what kind of person Tsegu is. He is loyal and bold to a fault. I know a couple of good friends and EPLF veterans who were helped by him when the regime of Isaias put them under surveillance.

      We should all remember that we are at the early stages of studying the Eritrean liberation struggle and although we have lost a lot, there are many of them around and it will not be easy to conduct a serious scholarly work. Every attempt matters, as long, as they adhere to their true experience and understanding. We will eventually have the opportunity to conduct serious studies and in the meantime, lets us be grateful to those rare souls that are doing their level best to help us our history.

      • Paulos

        Selam Semere,

        It certainly is not an easy feat to translate a book to English particularly when the original text is in a language with nothing in common with English. All the props to you!

        I also agree that our recent history is dripping as opposed to flowing when the already published books are few and far between. That said however, it is encouraging to see the lives and times of our giants as in Awate and Wel-Wel hitting the shelves. Thanks again Semere.

    • Haile S.

      Selam Paul, Semere, Semere & all,

      Nice exchange and an appealing book review. I haven’t read the book, but your mention of ብላዕ-ኢልዎ reminded me of the text that made that name/expression very famous. Here is a transcription of a wedding invitation card that appeared in the book ጥሪ ዕብዲ, a critic of the wedding season, precisely against the self impoverishment and unwanted practices resulting from the cultural obligation that one need to go through to wed his/her children.

      I copied it as it appeared in the book.
      ናብ ዝኸ………………………………………………..
      ን13 – 14 ጥሪ 1959 ዓ.ም. ቀዳምን ሰንበትን፡ ብፈረንጂ ድማ (21-22 Gennaio 1967) መርዓ ልጅ ብላዕ-ኢልዎ ወደይ ምስ ወይዘሪት ጎማ-ኸብዳ ክገብር ስለ ዝተቋጸርኩ፡ ክቡራት ኣኅዋተይን ፈተውተይን ኣብቲ መጀመርያ ሓጎሰይን ብርሃነይን ምሳይ ሓቢኩም ንኽትውዕሉ ብዓቢይ ክብሪ ይዕድመኩም ኣለኹ።

      ዝግበረሉ ስፍራ ኸኣ፡ ኣብ ገዛይ ዕዳጋ ሓሙስ ጥቓ ማይ ጥምቀት ዝነበረ እዩ።

      ኣኽባሪኹም፡
      በረምበራስ መን-ኣመኖ ኣይግዳዱ
      ምስ በዓልቲ ቤተይ ወይዘ. ሣህሉ ኣበይ-ነይሩ
      ምስ ሓወይ ቀነዝ. ብልሓቱ ኣይግዳዱ (ዳኛ)
      ምስ ዘማይ ቦዜነ ኣበይ-ነይሩ (ሠ. ኣብ ዲታ D.G.A.)
      ምስ ወድና ብላዕ-ኢልዎ መን-ኣመኖ

      • Paulos

        Selam Hailat,

        You should see me laughing. That is creative and funny, right from the classic ማ.ት.ኣ kings of stand-up comedy book.

        I knew ብላዕ-ኢልዎ pretty much all my life for he was the face of down-town Asmara. He was also unique in a lot of ways including his short stature [Dwarfism]. But he was also gifted particularly, was good with all kind of people.

        He worked with an Italian guy-Janny who owned a beauty salon right across ካቴድራለ and you can see why he got in trouble with Naizgi Kiflu at Bar Diana where the bar is a couple of shops away. But the story is of course a bit juicy where it would be a spoiler if I tell you why Naizgi was looking for him the whole day before he finally found him. For a reason as the French would say it, cherchez la femme.