‘Curse god and die’ has evolved from an imprudent advice of an embittered wife of a patient patriarch to ascent to be the chief foreign policy of Eritrea vis-à-vis the temporal god, the United States of America. Curse this god and say it as loud as you can, ‘Tekormika mot, AsfiHka mot! hade iyu Hilfetu!’
Because in the final drama, it is not Chomsky’s son or Fisk’s daughter who dies on the battlegrounds.
It was the unnamed wife. She told Job to ‘Curse God and Die.”Job 2: 9. You know the story of Job/ Eyob/ Ayoub. As far back as I remember, I have deliberated with myself the utility value of the advice. Cursing God and dying. For starters, cussing is not going to change your macabre condition and in fact you are cursing and dying anyways and thus you are bound to escalate your antagonism against the deity to the next world. Which is not wise. Os what is the appeal then?
Would it, because you would get some inner satisfaction, because you showed you don’t deserve the injustices done unto you and by not acknowledging the hideous affliction on your body, the foreign elements, the sanctions, you lessen their effect, their importance, the pain you feel? Or would it be because in face of overwhelming cosmic forces cursing is the only thing you can do? Cuss, baby, cuss. “hade iyu Hilfetu!”
Our leader, Isaias Afewerki, knows how to curse and curse. Loudly. It has become one of his signature marks for years. At the start of the New Year and decade, he cursed for hours…for four days straight. In fact, he would have continued cursing had the airwave was not jammed by the cursed party, the god, CIA. ‘Curse god and die’ has evolved from an imprudent advice of an embittered wife of a patient patriarch to ascent to be the chief foreign policy of Eritrea vis-à-vis the temporal god, the United States. Curse this god and say it as loud as you can, ‘Tekormika mot, AsfiHka mot! hade iyu Hilfetu!’
You know the story; you told the story.
An oppressed, but fiercely proud nation fought, against all odds, against the continent’s superpower. Experts rendered the dream of independence an impossibility and the armed struggle a futility. After all, its adversary, the neighbor is much bigger in population, in size, in international prestige, in arms, in friends etc. To utter surprise of the world and to the bewilderment of the neighbor, the small nation won its independence.
That is true and you told it many times.
I will tell you the rest of the story. That little nation, in misguided belief of its military prowess and invincibility, overreached, miscalculated, to its inevitable demise. Its hawkish leaders, in their insatiable oversized egos and claims of eventual victory, provoked international sanction and gambled away the preciously-gotten independence. The chief fatal mistake these leaders committed was this: They didn’t know when to wise up and stop antagonizing super powers and other entities that have vested interests in the region. The little nation thus lost the game, the chance, the independence. Its battle-hardened and battle-weary people worn out by incessant cycles of violence simply couldn’t go on anymore. It found the leaders as sadistic as the foreign tormentors. Independence guaranteed neither security nor prosperity. Soon enough, the nation was embroiled in unwanted, unnecessary, ego-driven adventures in the region. So, finally, another cycle of war broke out with its larger neighbor and the little nation lost it this time. That little nation is not Eritrea. Not yet. Second time was not a charm to Chechnya.
The fear and dread is third time may not be a charm to Eritrea.
Dagestan. I have always feared unless Isaias’s insane urges are curtailed, we would end up like the Chechens. Dagestan was used as Casus belli, the reason for another Russian-Chechen conflict, the 1999 war which the Chechens lost. We should note how the Chechens lost their independence. They lost it not because the much-bigger, more-powerful neighbor, the Russians invaded them out of their zeal to overturn the independence. Reality had it that the Russians grudgingly accepted the independence after the first Chechen-Russian war (1994-1996.) It was because the war-mongering, uber-combative, impetuous, leaders, especially Shamil Basayev and Ibn Al-Kattab needlessly and insanely embroiled in another republic of Russian Federation, Dagestan, by aiding the separatists in that republic in the unreasonable hope of fomenting another rebellion. This high-stakes gamble failed flat on its face but paid off wonderfully for another revenge-minded strongman, Vladimir Putin. With involvement in Dagestan, the Chechens squandered whatever international sympathy and support they had, especially from the EU. They were viewed not as simple nationalists who only sought self-determination, but as ambitious and dangerous desperados who wanted to spread ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ across North Caucasus and Russia. And in Zeitgeist, legitimate rebellion was having difficult time to extricate itself from the much-dreaded brand, terrorism.
I have always lamented the cruel fate of Chechen loss. And painfully introspected if that would be Eritrea’s fate…..Is Somalia Eritrea’s Dagestan?
Similarly, I have also wondered if LTTE (the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka) , sudden but spectacular exit, after 25 years of successful armed struggle would also be Eritrea’s fate. After all, nobody ever thought Velupillai Prabhakaran would ever be defeated in combat. He squandered his biggest opportunity for autonomy in Norway-brokered peace agreement in early 2000, believing his army was invincible. The Tamils paid dearly for his ego and stubbornness. Their dream for independent or autonomous Tamil Eelam came to an end in May 2009. Many Tamils couldn’t bring themselves to believe their leader was killed and their military wing no longer exists. To mollify the ego and stubbornness of one cursing ego-maniac, nations sacrifice their own self.
What do Basayev, Isaias and Prabhakaran have in common? Is Somalia Eritrea’s Dagestan? Is Isaias the next Prabhakaran?
Russian Roulette in the Horn
From Russian-Chechen case to Russian roulette, not the song, the lethal game popularized in the movie the Deer Hunter. Ever since the two friends became fiends to each other, these men hunters, Isaias and Meles have been obsessively playing some sort of Russian roulette. In the first years, with Badme and May 2000 in his sleeve, it was Meles who had handed that pistol to Isaias. With April 2002 EEBC decision on Badme, Isaias handed the pistol over to Meles. With rejection of the decision and acceptance in principle being supported by EU, UN and AU, Meles avoided the danger and the pistol’s magnum turned to Isaias’s knob. When the election debacle of 2005 happened and the Somali Islamic Courts briefly triumphed, it was Meles’s turn. He quelled the rebellion and Ethiopia intervened militarily in Somalia and it seemed like Meles has given the infamous pistol back to Isaias. Somalia was fluid. Now, the UN sanction seemed to seal the fate of Isaias. We will see how he will unglue that pistol from his knob. Though it is unlikely because he curses the god (Tekormika mot, AsfiHka mot! hade iyu Hilfetu) and because he sees Rice.
From Rice…Well to Rice
There was Susan Rice in late 1990s; then she was out picture and we, while cursing and complaining, we believed we outlived her. Then came Condi Rice with Jendayi Frazer. Frazer may be “overweight and ferza’e’; that was the exact reason we should have been afraid of her. Then we complained, cursed even that little Djibouti was more appealing than our experienced hands of dealing with terrorism, and not to mention our Waziristan looking mountains. Do you know Tora Bora came from Kurbarya? Then the usual policy: how to outlive and curse (not necessarily in the same order). When Barack Obama heavily supported by blacks, was elected even the dehai chifras were elated. (Seriously isn’t so pathetic when people like Mike Sium talk of elections?) Anyways, our cursing and surviving seemed to be a very good strategy. We thought we outlived the Rices…the both of ‘em!
Guess what? The original Rice, Susan this time, the one Isaias humiliated and belittled, came back—roaring. Now she is fresher, meaner, and enhanced, (TeHasina). Indeed, she is more determined to deal with Isaias. Lucky for her, he is not just another African tyrant who has a border problem with his neighbor but a more dangerous enemy, a sponsor of terrorism, his hands fully red in the bloody jar called Somalia. Within a year, the UN, led by US, upon Ugandan draft, put targeted sanctions on Isaias and Susan Rice called it, ‘an opportunity’ for Isaias to recant and to stop aiding Somali insurgents.
Now sadly, Eritrea’s fate and destiny is slipping away from our hands to factors beyond our control; factors you find deep into the murky waters of international politics. For US policy makers (pretty much the most powerful people in this planet, yes you can call them temporal gods), terrorism has effectively replaced the Red Terror of the cold war era. And they would not kid around on how to deal with assumed or real terrorists and their enablers because it hits close to home, to 9-11, to votes, to political fortunes. Now that East Africa and Yemen are officially the new fronts in the war on terror, Eritrea has assumed a new role. The tsunami of political and military whirlwind (called the US war on terror) is brewing in the Horn. Little Eritrea is situated on the exact route of this tsunami.
It is academically right to quote Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and Robert Fisk to bedrock your argument on how imperialistic the US foreign policy is; to demonstrate that it disregards fairness and justice to further its self-interest; to catalogue numerous cases of CIA-sponsored conspiracies and illegal interventions in sovereign states. Do that by all means; but know where to stop. Because in the final drama, it is not Chomsky’s son or Fisk’s daughter who dies on the battlegrounds. It is my brother and your sister. The blood is real. Your ink is fake. The body is real. Your saliva is fake.
People. Blood. People. Body. The inspirational poet of this generation Kiros Yohannes said it all eloquently last Saturday in Paltalk. To expect a regime that doesn’t respect and defend the sovereignty and dignity of people (of the citizens of the nation), and that routinely throws thousands of them to jail, to expect it to respect the sovereignty and dignity of soil, of land is impossible. Truth is the wonderfully-in-the-image-of-God-created man is much greater, nobler than inanimate “Gu’uz” land.
Don’t Mess with Texas
Oh I wish if we were defeatists to save Eritrea from wrath of States. Again to repeat: Frazer was truly Ferza’E and that was the exact reason we should have gotten out of her way. It is at our peril to mess with Texas. Curse god and die is not a good strategy to lead 4.5 million of people, unless you want an ignominious end, like Shamil Basayev and Velupillai Prabhakaran. Increasingly, a scenario when we will lose our endeared Eritrea to history is not looking so far-fetched.
One of my deepest fears is that our first leader would be the last one and the next one (if any) will be trying hard to convince us ‘it is not really that bad’, and some of us have turned into the 21st century of insurgents and suicide bombers. The claim but-we are-sovereign-country is not enough to help us keep Eritrea intact in its present territorial form. If that happens, my guess is Eritrea will not be that missed that much in international scene. After all, in its two decades of existence, it was merely a nuisance, a combative, paranoid, impetuous, jingoistic nation that contributed nothing exemplary but about a million of refugees. Remember this quote: “Rich or great, Eritrea will never become; in fact it may disappear as a political unit from the map.” Longrigg, 1945.
The say Pakistan had one foreign policy: India. I think it has diversified to Afghanistan. Eritrea still has one: Ethiopia. Another difference: since its creation in 1947, Pakistan has survived coups, assassinations of its leaders to continue existing, but Eritrea has yet to prove it can survive this prick and live in its present form. Not that it couldn’t but everything Isaias works overtime to make sure his downfall coincides with that of the nation. Clearly, he is that determined. He hated it that much. Or he loves it that much, if you want to think that way; after all, Oscar Wilde said that everyone kills the thing he loves. Along with his misadventures in Somalia which angered the US which is planning his demise, I will add another example. If you ask who acts as our vice-president, four Eritrean experts give you four different answers. Could be a general, could be from the Front, could be from the cabinet, could be his son. Every regime, even the totalitarian communist regimes, has a clear answer to that. What kind of leader is that who doesn’t even want to designate his successor in case anything happens to him? The selfishness and cruelty of our leader is beyond any human comprehension of history. He just doesn’t give a crap what happens to Eritrea after him. He just doesn’t give a damn, frankly.
- As far as the Somalis are concerned, let us remember we are also foreignersand thus we should stop our intervention. It is not going to do us any conceivable good. Job may not have a choice because Satan had a bet with God. But we do. We can just leave the Somalis alone. Period.
- It is indeed very hard to find proof of Eritrea’s involvement in Somalia. It is, really. The people who found the proof had to go through a torturous and excruciating journey called listening to the interviews with PIA.But if you have the patience to just listen to the curses or watch his interviews in the past couple of years, you will find him admitting loudly, repeatedly, and unequivocally how involved he is. In fact, sometimes, you wonder if the Isaias is a Somali leader or an Eritrean leader because he says so much about Somali’s real issues with passion but drones lazily about Eritrea’s to soporific result.
- Don’t equate 1950s UN resolution to 2009. We have not been involved in Djibouti and Somalia back then unless you consider the Ascari-Shumbash expeditions ‘Ab Moqadisho’.
- AqmKa miflat bilhat iyu. Know thy strength. When are we going to learn the unalterable fact that Eritrea will never be favored over Ethiopia? Never. Ever. Ever. Deal with it. Just because you are mad about that, to formulate your foreign policy around the lines of ‘curse god and die’ (Hade iyu Hilfetu) is not only a deranged, self-destructive scheme but the shortest route to earthly perdition. (A similar theme was explored in this article: http://www.awate.com/portal/content/view/4098/5/)
- Without people, without young people, it is utterly useless to talk of dignity and LuuLawnnet. Respect your citizens and they will defend the nation. If not, what for? To be chained and humiliated again and again.
- Events in the horn and in the border (like the New Year’s battle between the Eritrean government and the Salvation Front) will change Eritrea’s future. The opposition should wise up and catch up with the fast developments. Before we completely lose our destiny, before it is too late, we need to seize the moment to unite to save the nation because Eritrea’s only hope is the opposition (the EDA). The greatest concern and urgency should be how to snatch this great nation (it may not be rich, BTW Mr. Longrigg, it sure is great) from the jaws of Isaias.
Live or dead, Eritrea may be irrelevant to international community. It is very relevant to us. For us it is more than a mere country of citizenship which can be acquired by living half a decade in a western country. It is our home, our family. There is no solace in this world that can match for the loss of a nation, and a dear and beloved one as ours. There is no salvation, or absolution or posthumous beatification/sanctification for that.
Because of Isaias’s unquenchable, satanic appetite for destruction, we will go down the tube, lamenting with self-pity and complaining about unfairness and injustice of international system, adorning our victim mentality with quotes from Jeremiah and Chomsky, cursing the temporal god…and eventually die. Like the Chechens and Tamils. Cursing the Russians; cursing the Sinhalese; cursing the Ethiopians; cursing the Americans.
What do Shamil Basayev, Isaias Afewerki and Velupillai Prabhakaran have in common? Is Somalia Eritrea’s Dagestan? Is Isaias the next Prabhakaran?
Ok! Sure, everybody curses the gods; everybody curses them…in whisper.
Editor’s note: This article from the archives; it was first published on January 13, 2010.