The warm sun enticed basking; it was a spring morning. I was sitting in one of the street cafes in Bole Street , Addis Ababa. There were more shoeshine boys than patrons around. Across the street was another cafe frequented by ferenjiaized Ethiopians and Eritreans showing off. But not my cafe where most of the clientele were Dellalas, city hustlers who broker the sale of anything from cars to furniture to real estate.
And they like to have their shoes shined every day.
They call the shoeshine boys; check if they have proper brushes and brand name polish before they give them the job. They enjoy ordering the poor boys around; the boys keep repeating, “eshi getaye”. They order them to wash the shoes nicely, put some more polish, brush the side of the soles, use felt cloths… You could easily tell who acts like a mouse in front of their wives.
Preoccupied with the shoeshine boys, their coffee gets cold. They call the waiter: “your coffee is cold; come here, warm it up a bit!” “eshi gashie” murmurs the waiter as he conceals his true feelings: “merz yargllh!” Then, after licking the coffee cup clean, the customers stand up in slow motion, reach for their pockets and come out with a handfull of stuff: rusted keys, lottery tickets, pieces of paper, a crumpled handkerchief, and other things one wonders if they know what they were. Meticulously they search for coins from the hardware store on their palms. They pay the shoeshine boys 25 cents, Ethiopian currency, and they pretend as if they handed the boy a fortune. Then they approach the cafe cashier and repeat the same process before they leave to catch a pickup car otherwise known as a taxi. They jump and stand on their toes, supporting themselves with a finger secured around something on the taxi. And they disappear in the herds of navy-blue taxis. Meanwhile, another Dellala comes to take their place in the cafe. I order another Cappuccino.
A boy who just washed my car the previous day comes smiling and asks if he can wash my car; I ask him to call a cigarette vendor instead. He hollers for one from across the street. Obviously, he gets a commission from him. I light up. I didn’t see a “No Smoking” sign. No one here knows such a ban exists. It is a free atmosphere.
Meskel Adebabai: Stifanos Church for sale
Minutes later, the newspaper boy came. Everyone bought a paper. I had last week’s Reporter which I bought the day before but I didn’t read yet. Instead, I observed and enjoyed the chatter from across the tables.
In those cafes, everyone holds a newspaper and if you would take a poll there, you would declare the literacy rate in Ethiopia is 95%. With over a dozen independent newspapers, everyone is tempted to share what they read because everyone has a different newspaper. “Ererrerrerre, baandie sebat lj weledech!” says one man. “abiet guuuud, w’sha dmet weledech, al semahm endie?” exclaims another. I smile: some cruel independent papers were feeding the people useless translations from the tabloids of the world. But every now and then, someone yells a serious piece of news or a rumor, the sale of Stifanos Church, for example!
A day earlier, I was sitting in the same cafe when I saw a group of angry Bozene being dispersed by the police. Apparently they were demonstrating against the intention of “the patriarch to sell the Stifanos Church”, the one smack in the middle of Meskel Square! One person authoritatively said, “ere guuuud, abunu bete-krstian lekaatolik lishetut n’w blewal tebale? Endie!”
I thought that was serious and wanted more information, “for how much?” I asked.
“enye’nja, gn bzu n’w tebale, Vatikan ykeflal tebale”.
They were apprehensive of the patriarch not only because of his intention to sell the church to the Catholics, but even worse, he dressed himself in white robes, “just like the Catholic patriarchs!”.
It dawned on me a few weeks ago, I know why the PFDJ closed the private press; they didn’t want them around when they sold Endamariam church. Otherwise, people in the cafes of Asmara would be discussing that: ewa’e, betekristian ksheTu! But since the PFDJ is into selling everything–honor, integrity, as well as the honor and dignity of Eritrea–let us see another sale that didn’t materialize.
The Araada Salesman
The best salesperson is one who knows all the attributes and benefits of the product he is selling; one who closes a sale by convincing a buyer of the qualities of his product. Those who don’t know their products hardly close a sale. Anyone trying to sell Eritrea is expected to know its composition. But a run of the mill thug, an Arada cultured Wedini, wouldn’t disclose the true attributes and make up of his product. Instead, he would distort and deceive to sell.
Apparently that is what happened when the Aradaw ex-Ambassador of the PFDJ to the USA (I always picture him in a pink suit, hat and bling-bling) was hiring a salesperson to sell the PFDJ packaged as Eritrea. He hired a certain McKeawn to sell Eritrea in the Capitol Hill. The salesman (here known as lobbyist) was hired by Girma Asmerom for $15,000 a month. You can guess how many Drar Tegadalay contributions were siphoned by the PFDJ blackmailers to cover Mr. Bob McEwen’s pay!
I would have loved to listen to the briefing Girmachew gave McEwen. But since I didn’t hear it, I can only guess. Obviously Girmachew lectured McEwen how the PFDJ pursued a popular democratic (as opposed to Machiavellian) scheme to conquer Eritrea. He must have also told him that Eritrea is a Christian state surrounded by Muslims who are terrorists and how the USA needs to build a base in Eritrea to fight the terrorists in the neighborhood of East Africa. Obviously this was before the PFDJ embraced the Somali Mullahs. [AlShabab were not created yet]
One thing we conclusively know is that, when McEwen was accused of working for a government that “persecutes Christians”, he replied, “I didn’t know”. The probe into Mr. McEwen’s deal with Girmachew and the violations of his government resulted in McEwen losing a closely contested election in May 2006 to his rival, Ms. Jean Schmidt. What briefing did Girma Asmerom give McEwan? To guess that, we need to see correlating activities in which he was involved.
In July 2002, when the Eritrean opposition held a big demonstration in DC, Girmachew sent his errand boys to distribute leaflets accusing Eritrean opposition demonstrators of being members of AlQaida. This was just before the time Isaias jumped on the bandwagon of the “coalition of the willing” to secure an American base deal in Eritrea and guarantee his stay in power and his authority. This was the time a kid called Joel Mowbray was aggressively selling the PFDJ to the Bush administration by writing flowery praises for National Review Online:
Eritrea has struggled to carve out a unique niche in that region of the world: free-market democracy. Private-property rights are enforced in the hopes of luring capital to the mostly rural and still-poor nation. Eritrea is in the middle of local elections, having completed a round in southern regions in the past two weeks, and voting in the remaining areas in the north scheduled for this month. At the national level, the independent Electoral Commission is finalizing plans for a timeline on national Elections.
Karma, or the Eritrean curse, is still working. The master Delalla, Abramoff is in jail. Decent people everywhere are laughing at the kid Mowbray (selling Eritrea as a free-market democracy with regular elections). Girma Asmerom is going back to Asmara empty-handed. And the Eritrean dictator has thrown away all pretense of being an ally of the United States.
Importantly, the activities of 2002-03 proved to me, and many others, the bigotry of the PFDJ thugs; no exception here, all of them. When push came to shove, they were willing to declare war on their own countrymen.
The Learned should Teach
I don’t understand how supposedly learned men with PhDs, and sometimes tenured scholars would not have a bleep of conscience! I become very disappointed when I see such persons applying “moral relativity” and use double, triple and a dozen standards to measure the situation in Eritrea. But there is hope; everyone has a passionate issue that triggers his rage. And since tyrants and oppressors never stop stepping on people’s toes, the few that are left with the PFDJ will come to their senses, eventually.
A friend alerted me to a posting by a PhD; the friend is aware of my views on the behavior of “silent intellectuals.” But contrary to his expectations, the posting gave me more hope and I commented that it was an admirable and a positive milestone. Unfortunately, now that the gentleman has aired his concerns regarding the interference by the PFDJ in the affairs of the Eritrean Tewahdo Church, something considered off limits by many, an old Ninja friend from the Internet has spearheaded a serious attack to discourage the man from speaking out his mind. There are indications that the Choplla order had been given to the doghouse; the Dobermans are next.
However, I have issues with the following that came in the gentleman’s posting:
“Eritrean religious groups; particularly those Eritreans of the Muslim, Catholic and Protestant faiths will team up with the government and reconcile the hierarchy to its institutional status quo.”
First, I don’t think it is wise to appeal to a killer to investigate his last murder. Likewise, you shouldn’t expect the destroyer of all religious institutions in Eritrea to look to their welfare.
Though many preferred to close their eyes to it, the PFDJ’s meddling in Church affairs is not new. It has been going on since the PFDJ conquered Eritrea. The PFDJ has nothing to do with the workings of religious institutions. That is why I aired my objections when the lethal tool of the PFDJ, Yeftahe Dimitros, started to interfere in the affairs of the church.
What is happening to the Tewahdo church is abominable. I have said before, that unprincipled, treasonous and wimpy Ethiophiles should not be allowed to wreak havoc in our religious, political and social affairs. They are destroying our formula for coexistence thus helping the reckless oppressive projects of social reengineering. I am not enraged only because those Ethiophiles are interfering with the church affairs, but because they are the cause of the sufferings of our people.
The PFDJ is fond of intrigues and deceit. They mention, “Mohammed Omer Isamel from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs” without giving his title–but we know that they referred to him as acting foreign minister upon the death of Ali sayed Abdellah. The same vague references abound from the tyrant’s office to the ministry of information. Now the same trick is being applied to the supposed “patriarch”: PFDJ’s shabait.com refers to the imposter as “Abune Deskorios from the Eritrean Tewahdo Orthodox Church.” What is that supposed to mean? Is he just “a common priest from the Tewahdo church” when we all know the mechanization and interference by their errand boys who appointed him patriarch? Are they retracting from their decision of appointing him a patriarch? If so, why is the true patriarch, Abune Antonios under house arrest and prevented from carrying on his church duties? The Tewahdo Church represents the faith of a big chunk of the population; who benefits from the chaos and interference in its institutions? Who is behind the disrespect of an anointed patriarch? These are the questions that should be answered.
When the PFDJ started to interfere with the Muslim faith, it demoralized and excluded almost half the Eritrean population. The Muslim religious institutions have been emasculated a long time ago. Now that it has been interfering with the Tewahdo church, the adherents of the Tewahdo church are being marginalized. The fact that our professor wants “Muslim, Catholic and Protestant faiths” to reconcile the Tewahdo church is ridiculous. That is because 1) no other faith has any business meddling into the affairs of the Tewahdo Church which has dealt with its issues internally for over a millennia, and 2) even if those being called upon to reconcile were to do the job, the majority of the supposedly religious leaders controlling the religious institutions in Eritrea are wimps and tools of the PFDJ. Their cowardice will prevent them from talking about the issue let alone face the government with that kind of intention. They are simply “PFDJ Cadres” and not spiritual leaders.
Let’s be even more open. There are exceptions: the banned churches that refused to be as docile as the others, they refused to be cadres but holy men; that resulted in the establishment of PFDJ’s favorite churches: metal Containers, which are used as prisons. To emphasize the point, they are metal shipping containers, with no windows and they refer to them as “rehabilitation centers.” That is where the PFDJ throws political and religious prisoners. The more “fortunate” are being harassed day in and day out; isn’t this something to be outraged about? Why are people’s consciences selective?
The doctor has done a good job of identifying a problem; too bad it took the attack of his church to bring about his outrage, and people argue that he is a good Tewahdo, but a dismal citizen, unconcerned with the screams of his compatriots who worship differently from him. Again, where is the outrage for people languishing in containers? Where is the outrage for Eritrean Muslims who disappeared in 1994, and only God and the PFDJ brutes know where they are? Isn’t the definition of good citizenship to care about all your compatriots, regardless of religious, regional differences you may have with them?
It is also too bad that, having identified the problem, he surrenders his analytic skills to his need to avoid being ostracized or excommunicated from another church: the PFDJ Church! Why else would he ask the sole cause of the problem, the PFDJ, to be the mediator? It is like asking an arsonist to be a firefighter.
The learned must teach, but first, they must learn. And when it comes to religious issues, the first lesson is that Isaias Afwerki has nationalized religious institutions. They belong to the state. Not just the Tewahdo Church; but the mosque, the Catholic Church, the Evangelical Church…[This edition of Negarit appeared in previous edition, it is being republished after very minor editing. ]