It has been 21 years since Isaias occupied Eritrea, became the Expropriator General, owned everything under the Eritrean sky, and everything that moves or stands on the land—including the cemeteries. It has been 21 years since he began oppressing living Eritreans and denying them a burial space after they die.
For the last few weeks, the hottest news was about the notorious Naizghi Kiflu who died in London on February 6. What followed his death has disturbed every decent Eritrean, maybe including a few indecent ones who want to bestow sainthood on the insane leader of the Eritrean occupying regime. The “Pharaoh of Eritrea” has denied Naizghi’s family the permission to bury him in his village. His cold body is still stored in morgue drawer collecting frost, while the distraught supporters of the regime cannot publicly protest the cruelty of Isaias or condone it. They are torn between their love of Isaias and anxiety of what might happen to any of them. They learned one more lesson (if they ever learn) from what is happening to Naizghi—actually not to him, but to his remains. As usual, there was no mention of Naizghi in any of the government-owned media, the only media in Eritrea. All the news came from rumors and gossip mostly manufactured and spread by the distressed PFDJ crowd.
Years ago, on my way to China, I stayed for a few days in Hong Kong where I couldn’t find any restaurant that satisfied my humble culinary taste, until I found an Italian restaurant that served different kinds of pasta—I ate pasta for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Before I discovered that restaurant, I had to eat strange Chinese foods: pigeon that looked as if it was immersed live in a boiling mixture of oil and honey; a soup that seemed like it was made of scraped fat from a shark skin; and a host of other dishes that were made of some crawling creatures. Everything I ate stayed in my stomach for a few minutes until I went to the toilette and threw up. It was at that time in Hong Kong that I first heard of Chinese Gossip.
My Chinese associate invited me to a dinner party and I sat with about twenty people around a huge table. I told him that I never saw such a crowd in one table; and he explained how the Chinese discovered a gossip which later became known as Chinese Gossip. This is how it happens: a person said to the one sitting next to him that “the cook was absent, so the owner of the restaurant had to cook the food.” In turn, the person sitting next to him passed that remark to the next person, and then to the next and so on. By the time it reached the last person, he heard that “the owner killed the cook and we are eating him.”
Wikipedia has a different explanation for Chinese Gossip, look it up—my source was a living breathing Chinese person and I believe him. Similarly, the PFDJ gossip machine spreads its stories, and this is how the Chinese among us sift through the gossip to make sense of what is happening.
Of course the PFDJ gossip is not a result of a huge dinner table, it is rather a sort of reaction by the supporters of the regime, those who are slowly distancing themselves from it. In their own way, they are reacting to the media blackout, to the obsessive control of information in Eritrea. You can consider it a parallel media, a natural reaction by those in the loop or close to it.
The Tissue Papers
Many Eritreans have no love lost for Naizghi who lived a brute just like his leader and most of his colleagues. But now he is dead and what is left is not Naizghi, but his lifeless body, a corpse that deserves respect and proper burial; human decency requires it though the cruelty of Isaias knows no bounds, it is abhorrent. What is more abhorring is watching Isaias’ crowd doing nothing except leaking gossip—those are the colleagues of Naizghi who are intoxicated by the shine of the few crown corks on their shoulders. The balliqa carrying military officers would not dare face the pharaoh and tell him he cannot treat someone’s remains in such a disgusting way. The walking-dead, the senior officials of the PFDJ who are varnished with betrayal, are a group of spineless creatures who sold their dignity and pride in exchange for expropriated villas that belong to someone else. They sold their dignity for the license to loot and enrich themselves with bribes by abusing and corrupting hapless citizens. They couldn’t even stand for the right of their colleague to be buried in his country. Ugh.
Seyoum Ogbamichel, whose ancestral village is a short distance from Naizghi’s, died a few years ago and was buried in the Netherlands. Surely, Isaias wouldn’t have allowed Seyoum’s body to be buried in Eritrea; and most probably Seyoum, being the stubborn patriot that he was, wouldn’t have liked to be buried in Eritrea where his remains would be under the shadow of the PFDJ brute’s rule. Yet, like anyone else, he would have yearned for Eritrea to be his final resting place. And many who had the same wishes were buried in holes all around the world because the PFDJ regime doesn’t differentiate between someone Isaias considers an enemy (and his right as a citizen) and his remains. But unlike Seyoum, Naizghi was a member of the Isaias clique, the brute’s confidante, his right hand man who carried his bids for too long. Why would he deny his body to rest in his country? Of course there are stories that explain that, stories leaked by the PFDJ gossip machine.
People in the loop know that Isaias and Naizghi were close partners and knew each other very well and that they have been blackmailing each other for about a decade. Both are known to use vulgar language in their conversation and only Naizghi could dare call Isaias ‘anta wedi shermuta.’
In 2000, when Isaias hinted there would be a parliamentary election, the top echelon of the PFDJ started to boast of their constituencies and they confidently stated how they would be elected from this or that village. They bragged about their origin from a certain village through their paternal blood (wedi-wedi) not through their maternal blood (wedi-gual). Senior officials started to excavate their blood lines and arouse their primordial relations. They began to take pride in belonging to a bigger constituency that would ensure their election even though whether Isaias’ promised election would be single or larger district election was not clear at the time. (Incidentally, if some of you wonder why the cult worships Isaias, look for the reasons in the wedi gual, wedi-wedi based social rivalry and the wedi lamna, wedi b’erayna based primordial politics.)
As usual, the talks took a twist and turned into probing Isaias’ constituency which was belittled as a small cluster of households in a tiny village around Asmara, where it was said he would face tough competition from a few on the top. Isaias fumed with anger when he became aware of what was being discussed in the bars and streets. That is when Naizghi became determined to interfere in order to reassure his boss and save him the embarrassment. He bragged that he would make sure Isaias was given an honorary citizenship in his (Naizghi’s) village which would then elect him.
Naizghi’s interference had a negative effect: the mercurial Isaias immediately cancelled the elections, angry that Naizghi, just like the others, had reduced him to a man with no roots in Eritrea, limiting his chances of being elected only to a constituency of a tiny village. Worse, in Isaias’ mind, Naizghi was offering him just one village when he believed he owned the whole of Eritrea. He would not take such humiliation; immediately, he declared the elections cancelled and promised to be the ruler of Eritrea forever. It is that painful experience that made him foolishly declare in an interview a while ago that he would rule for another 40 or 50 years.
Isaias never forgave Naizghi for that gesture which he considered an insult; and after a few years, he banished him to an ambassador position (Haile Sellasie used to appoint unwanted people to remote ambassadorial positions) in the UK where his credentials were not accepted. Isaias had a sigh of relief only when the would-be-ambassador to the UK fell sick. It was then that he began to blame Naizghi for all the aggression committed against Eritreans: the jailing of the G15, of the “Pente”, of the Muslims, the Wi’a debacle and the countless other crimes committed by the PFDJ since 1991 and beyond. But Eritreans know that the entire clique, with the insane Isaias at the top, is responsible.
There are also two reasons for Isaias’ actions caused by his deep resentment: when Elsa Chyrum began to tirelessly pursue a criminal case against Naizghi in the UK courts, Isaias decided to disassociate himself from him. He feared that Naizghi would implicate him if he were to be tried in court; Isaias found it prudent to cut all ties with Naizghi.
There is another bit of insight: Isaias received a tip that the UK would try to collect money, for the unpaid bills for the medical services that Naizghi received, from the Eritrean government. And if Naizghi returns to Eritrea, he would have to be buried in the “Martyr’s Cemetery,” and that would be further proof that he is not a renegade but part of the regime. That would entail bearing the responsibility for the payment of the bills. And if that happens, it would mean admitting guilt for the crimes of which Naizghi was accused. Now, what is the top echelon of the PFDJ thinking?
A message To The Tissue Papers
Dear cheap tissue papers: if you think you are immortal, remember that someday you will die, maybe your remains would be humiliated by Isaias, just like Naizghi’s, if he is going to be around long enough as he promised. When he feels that you are not useful anymore, he will just discard you like a soft tissue paper that he throws away the moment he finishes cleaning his dirty nose with it. You are very, very, dispensable. Useless. Cheap. He will humiliate you and he won’t even blink an eye. Be wise.
Also remember, a dead body should not be humiliated like that of Naizghi. Isaias’ cruelty should not be condoned, for any reason, even by the victims of Naizghi let alone by you, his colleagues, those of you who spent wild drinking-nights with him. Such abhorrent act is condemned by all faiths, all human laws and ethics—it is alien to the Eritrean traditions and culture. Also be mindful that this sad, indecent, and shameful act is being committed in the name of our country and you, who have assumed power over Eritrean muscles, are watching silently like a pregnant widow who just lost her husband.
There. Eritrea has become Isaias’ domain and those of you who are close to him, those of you who walk the streets thinking you are indispensable and all-powerful, didn’t lift a finger. You cannot gloat over your days in Sahel forever: you were rewarded and you took more than what you deserve as a compensation forcefully, by enslaving the very people you promised to liberate. You owe the citizens a salvation, no one owes you anything. In fact you willingly erased your history; and only one thing can absolve you: if you manage to salvage the nation and its citizens from the misery that you silently watched being imposed on Eritrea. Who is next? Is there any doubt that the same Isaias who betrayed Petros Solomon, Haile Dru’e and Sheriffo and many others, is not worthy of any trust? If some of you useless-idiots surrounding him would answer these questions, Isaias and his regime wouldn’t be around for too long. It is your call. [Signed, disgusted.]
But why have Eritreans failed in ridding themselves of the rascal dictator for such a long time? I believe it is lack of clarity…rather, confusion.
Isaias is staying in power because the camp that struggles against him holds one of the two most crippling opposite views: 1) the view that advances reforming the regime and keeping the status quo, and, 2) the view that advances the total uprooting of the regime to the last root fiber.
These differences manifest in many polarizing and emotional debates. If Eritreans could find a common understanding on a few critical issues, they would have a clearer strategy and their differences would diminish drastically. With that, unseating Isaias and his regime would be so easy. And if that happens, not only the living, but the dead Eritreans will also be respected.
[End-note: Ideally, decisions taken by the ENCDC should be made public not limited to a select few within the 127 members council. I urge the leadership of the council to make sure that the public is informed in a timely manner. PFDJ gossip is bad enough.]