The king of Ethiopia chose to have friendship with both the Arabs and the Israelis. To please the Israelis, he bashed the Arabs. To please the Arabs he suppressed the Ethiopian Jews called the Falashas. Both the Arabs and the Israelis called the king master of diplomacy and both rightly or wrongly believed that deep down in his soul and heart the king was in their side. They were both wrong. Kings did not have to choose sides for they can have both sides if they choose to.
The Arab kings would not help the Eritrean strugglers despite the king’s bashing that they were Arab mercenaries but continued their cordial and kingly relationship with him occasionally spicing it with money and gems. The Israelis on their side agreed to train commandos that were capable of sniffing out the strugglers in no time.
If the king was a master of diplomacy (he was in the front row during Kennedy’s funeral) he was also naturally suspicious person. This behavior was not unique to him. All kings are suspicious for they believed that everyone wanted their position and status. All kings were also good students of history and history is full of foolish (unsuspecting) kings who lost their position and heads while they were asleep. The king of Ethiopia became king in that matter. He was not even close in line for the throne but the one who was in line to inherit the throne was unsuspecting and was ambushed while asleep and eventually killed mysteriously. This also explains why all kings become good friends with one another. Misery of suspicion loved company.
The Israelis proposed an idea to the king: to use locals against their own kin. Brother against brother; village against village. They told the king if they trained Eritrean commandos, the commandos could easily wipe out the strugglers for like the strugglers, the commandos belong to the land. The king was suspicious at first and jealous later. No big deal with his natural suspicion. But as he was jealous with the Americans for they chose Asmara as their base, he became jealous with the Israelis for training Eritrean commandos and not Ethiopians. Even the Israeli Ambassador could not convince the king of the logic behind training Eritrean commandos. The king demanded answer from the Israeli president and only then did he agree to the proposal but again with a condition. For a king it did not matter if an explanation came from Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton. He would reject it. It had to come from the top and better from a president. All kings agree on condition for they believed agreeing without one was un-kingly behavior. The condition he proposed was for the Israeli to select only Christian Eritreans and only those with low IQ. The Israeli must have been confounded by his condition. Israeli commandos were not only the best on what they did but high IQ was pre requisite in selecting candidates. But theirs was not to ask why, theirs was to say “whatever” and do what the king asked them to do. The Israelis were smart and intelligent people. They knew history more than any other people. They knew kings and their bizarre behavior more than anyone on earth for kings throughout history had relied on their honesty, integrity and intellect.
The Israeli trainers jotted down some questioners that would determine the candidate’s IQ like how many eggs does a rooster lay? How many fingers are there in a hand? What came first a calf or a cow? Does the Sun sets in north or south? The idea behind such questions was to reject those who answered correctly and accept those who did not. The job was not advertised. The candidates were rounded up by the Ethiopian army from the villages.
Village boys were raised and nurtured by village women. The women always taught their children not to answer questions they did not understood. Their favorite advice was “Indii bel” meaning say I don’t know. They also taught the children not to look into strangers eyes
To all the questions, all the forced candidates answered “Indii” without hesitation or looking into the examiner’s eyes. “I don’t know” was sufficient for the Israeli trainers to assume the candidate had a low IQ so everyone who came and answered “Indii” was selected for the commando training. The only ones who were rejected were the ones with small physique and low IQ. For the Israeli, size mattered. But size was relative term for it was very difficult to find a boy half the size of an American marine or Israeli commando in that ragged and jagged land of Eritrea. Big size was detriment in that land for big size required big ration, a totally absent commodity.
Despite the village women protest, all the selected candidates were taken to a secluded and highly guarded training facility built and utilized by the Italians and the British. Village women followed their boys until they were forcefully returned to their villages but not before they told the boys in a stern and firm voice “Tetenkeku, nehwatkum kitketlu deliom iyom zimihrukum zelewu” meaning “be careful; they are training you to kill your brothers”. They left wailing but also added “Hasema keyebluukum tetenkeku zom dekina” meaning “watch out our sons; they might feed you pork.”
The Israelis were as surprised as the Italians and British before them at how quickly the boys grasped the military training and techniques despite their background as shepherds with no formal education. The boys also changed physically due to better nutrition and health care they received in the training camp. One issue the boys stood in unison was they all refused to eat uncooked food and refused meat they did not slaughter. Most of the Israeli trainers were Orthodox Jews and supported the boys and allowed them to cook their own food even during mission exercises. Despite the luxuries there were also hardships. They were not free to go where ever and whenever they wanted to go. Village boys were too attached to their mothers and village women they found the isolation unbearable. They were also surrounded and always escorted by Ethiopian military personnel who did not speak their language and who looked menacing unlike any other strangers they encountered before.
The Israelis trainers were smart and promised the trainees if they completed and passed their training they would be free to go whenever and wherever they wanted to. The boys despised the Ethiopian military personnel who looked rough and acted rough but trusted the Israeli trainers and outperformed the Israeli’s expectations.
The boys excelled in mountain climbing and valleys descending whether in slow walk or running while carrying full military gears. The boys who never saw electric lights in their life walked without losing their direction at pitch dark night while their trainers had to rely on compasses and other man made equipment. They were also extremely agile with good listening skills topped up with sharp but shy eyes, important traits for a commando. Even though the Israeli trainers were frustrated with the boys’ reluctance to speak and inability to look straight into people’s eyes they were pleased with their progress in all aspects of the military training.
The boys also trusted one another. Nurturing by the strong women, common background and common village upbringing tied them together. Trusting your fellow commandos and be trusted by them was not only important but lifesaving. The Ethiopian military personnel were not happy with the camaraderie of the boys but the Israelis encouraged the behavior for they knew that a happy commando was deemed to succeed in his military or intelligence duties and responsibilities.
The common view of the people towards the commando training was the king and the Israelis were doing it to incite fratricide: Eritrean commandos killing Eritrean strugglers. Families were ostracized if one of their members was a commando. Mothers and village women would not even mention their son’s name if he was a commando. Every one forgot the poor boys were rounded up for the training. No boy joined the commando out of his volition. But to the people at large that did not matter. Killing any person was the highest abomination but killing your brother was unthinkable. All these ideas were roaming when the commandos were still in training. Nobody knew what would happen to the commandos once they were deployed to missions. Not the women. Deep in their heart they believed the boys would do everything possible to avoid the unthinkable.
The king was exasperated by the news he was getting from his army generals deployed in Eritrea. The army was getting nowhere. Eritrea was becoming the king’s Vietnam, a nightmare even the giant Americans could not bear. So the king was anxiously anticipating the day those local commandos would lead the Ethiopian army just like the South Vietnamese were helping the GIs, in eradicating the strugglers and in un-kingly behavior started personally calling and badgering the Israeli trainers daily on the status of the training. And finally the day came. The first batch of commandos graduated with fanfare and in the presence of the king. The king gave every one of them Swiss made watches called Romer and some cash while the Israelis clad the commandos in proper commando attires. Families were invited but no one came. No family member wanted to be associated with any commando. So as they lived quarantined in camps during training, they graduated in isolation. The fanfare was more to the king and not to the graduates. The young Eritrean commandos understood their situation and did not blame their family, their village or their country people.
It was hard to brainwash village boys. Even harder when forcefully rounded up for the training. The Israeli did their best to indoctrinate the boys but to no avail. The Israeli trainers were smart also very sympathetic to the boys who surpassed their expectations in their training albeit the condition they were brought in. They also suspected those boys would not full heartedly go against their brothers. Some even predicted eventually they would join the very entity they were trained to destroy. They knew in their history forced people hit back. They also knew no matter how innocent and naïve those boys were they had an innate intelligence and inerasable attachment to their mothers and villages. The trainers saw the telltale signs in the training camp when the boys in unison refused to eat canned food. No physical force and abuse from the Ethiopian soldiers would kneel or sway the boys. The women told them to watch from pork and the boys trusted their mothers more than anyone and they refused. To the boys not heeding their mother’s advice was tantamount to disrespecting their mother, punishable by village alienation in their living life and hell when they die. Village boys could endure physical hardship disproportional to their scraggy body but could not tolerate an iota of mental anguish.
As soon as they graduated the commandos were afraid to go to their village. They sent letter (they paid some students to write for them) and some money to their families. As with the rest of the money they went in groups to tea houses in the nearest town they never ventured before. The look they got and the whispers that flew past their ears were enough to drive them back to the camp. Some of the whispers were cruel and wrong and could have resulted in warranted anger and revenge from some of the commandoes, exactly what the king intended them to do. But village boys were nurtured not by one but by a community of women who made sure village boys remain patient in any circumstance and never betray their people. So the dirty looks and the bone crushing whispers were not able to penetrate the well-built and nurtured body, mind and soul of the commandoes.
No one knew why of all things the king chose to give wrist watches to the commandos. Some people said the king owned the watch company but some disagreed and said he wanted to control the minds of the commandos by inserting some type of magic inside the watch. Village boys lived simple life, uncomplicated by manmade hours, minutes or seconds. Their days were divided into three sections. They rose at down assisted by rooster’s cockerel; midday when the sun started hitting their head and had to take shelter under a tree and sun set when the boys had to bring their herds home have dinner and go to sleep. In between, time was undivided that could be utilized whichever way one wanted. Village people lived independent of time and they rarely used time as reference or focal point. For them places, distances, landscapes, seasons and events were the references and focal points in their life. Village people did not make appointment based on specific time. When they talk about time it was the duration of time and never specific time.
The commandos took their wrist watches as something to show off and not for time keeping. If city boys asked them time they replied by extending their arm with the watch (some had them in their right wrist and some in their left) and said “read it yourself” for they did not know to read time from a watch and they had no interest to learn about time from a watch. The Italians would not do that. They would look into their wrist watch and tell you the exact time if they thought you were serious or wrong time if they thought you had no business with time for in their brief stay in Eritrea they realized most of the people, unlike them, owned time. The people used to say “Italians are servants of time. Italians would not do anything without taking orders or directions from time.” Eritrean people never said “Italians respected time.” According to their beliefs, time should respect people and not vice versa. Time killed trust. Time killed spontaneity. Time changed people’s behavior. It made people afraid; always in a hurry; suspicious; a cause for dismissal. “Time heals” had no place in village people’s heart. Trust healed. Kindness healed. Open door healed. Welcoming strangers healed. Sharing with the have-nots healed. Heeding elders’ advice healed. Respecting fellow humans healed. Surprise visit by friends healed. Village people knew that trust, kindness, open door, surprise visits by friends, all existed independent of time. Time cannot constraint trust or kindness or surprise visits. Village people long time ago refused to be controlled by time; otherwise they would cease being village people. They took time for granted as all humans took air to breath for granted. Like living things control their breathing (because imagine if air controlled their breathing) for the same reason time should not control living things. Village people believed time and its conscious recognition destroyed village spirit by destroying people. They asked “how many times does one think about air?” “Who would imagine to partite air?” Village people did not let time dictate their relationship. Their door was always left open for anyone to visit un announced, meaning without appointment which meant without telling in advance what time they would arrive. Hosts were happy because they were visited by someone who trusted would be welcomed by them. To be trusted and be visited had meaning. To be trusted brought goodness in humans. To be trusted and be visited was a sign of recognition by others on your character and values. Guests were also happy. To be welcomed was a sign of recognition on their character and values. The door was left open because the guest was trusted. It felt good to be trusted. Strangers felt happy and safe for they knew they would be welcomed and not suspected.
The commandos were assigned to lead the Ethiopian army during missions. Their mission included to collect information from village people on whereabouts of the strugglers and also on the type of armaments they used. They were also the first ones to open fire against the strugglers during encounters. It was their attitude towards the strugglers more than their actual action that was offensive. They used un-village like degrading, bigoted and belittling language such as “Izen kem mantile zihadma”; “kolu-u”; “Deki Halima”; “bi-idna anteltilna kinhizen ina” that was bothersome and saddening to the people of the highland
All kings advanced only their causes completely ignoring all other causes. What they ignored eventually became their pitfall. The king of Ethiopian tried to impose his nation’s national language upon people who preserved their language in hundreds of years in isolation and against real and perceived enemies and natural hardships and disasters. For the Eritrean people, their language and they have nine of them was their history, custom, culture, religion and being. Their language ushered them pride and resilience. It also cemented their self-worth and sense of being. The women used to say “kwankwaka keitetifii” followed by “Haimanotka keitetifii” meaning “Do not lose your language and your religion” to any village person who ventures away from his village.
When the king imposed his language on education the people and especially the women took the action as war against their very being and self-worth because it directly affected their children. The commandos like their own people disdained the language spoken by the Ethiopian soldiers and army officers. But the feeling was also reciprocal. The Ethiopians not only did not try to learn the Eritrean language but disdained it too. In that respect the Ethiopian army was not different than other colonialists. The French disdained Togolese language; the British disdained Swahili; the Americans disdained Cherokee language and the Dutch settlers disdained Zulu language.
It was very hard to find interpreters for the commandos and the Ethiopian army officers. Both suffered from the Babel syndrome and in no time both became suspicious of one another. Besides the language, there also developed ego chasm between the two groups. The Ethiopian soldiers and officers suffered from colonialist egos while the commandoes suffered from military elitism egos. The commandos boasted of their training by the Israelis which the Ethiopians could not claim but the Ethiopians boasted of being the king’s soldiers.
There were accidental skirmishes between the strugglers and the commandos mostly caused by miscommunication, misunderstandings or lousy intelligence on both sides but sometimes due to bravado and stupidity on the side of the commandos. If skirmish occurred it was cruel, vicious but short and always left inerasable traces of sadness, regret and trauma equally on both.
Civil wars are always cruel, bloody and shorter than other wars but linger in memory longer. It was also men’s war, a trait they inherited from Abel and Cain (Eritreans called them Abel and Kael). If there was meaning or justification in wars albeit one sided but claimed by both, there was no meaning whatsoever in civil war other than to prove masculinity and superiority over own country people. Dreams for naked powers or striving for naked powers are rooted in men.
The strugglers grew in numbers and strength with each passing day helped by the continuing and worsening unwarranted cruel reactions of the king. Every time his army failed to quick end the struggle he reverted to cruel methods of napalming lowland villages and in many cases obliterating them. Air force became his most valuable asset. Air force pilots did not have to fight strugglers who were nimble and good at hit-and-run. It was difficult mission for the army to fight few but determined strugglers who fought surrounded by nature embodied in them. No one could win against nature. On many occasions the army was confused by the stones and rocks that look like strugglers. How could they fight against stones who looked like men and men who looked like stones they grew with? The strugglers’ number also swelled due to the myth surrounding the idea of becoming a struggler on the side of boys and young men just like children in the US grew of one day becoming cow boys. Adventure and risks were universal traits that afflict boys everywhere. It would have been acceptable if it stopped there. In some cases this trait metamorphosed into seeking power over others with devastating consequences.
When the strugglers were few, power or the idea of it was unknown to them. As the culture prescribed age and wisdom were given precedence over everything else but also as village custom dictated every decision was reached by consensus. No one had power over the others. No one idea was given more weight than other ideas.
The first ones to be afflicted by power syndrome were those who run the political wing from outside the country, who did not have to be chased like rabbits by a strong army; did not have to think what to eat, drink or dress; did not have to watch their back constantly lest they fell prey to the marauding army; did not have to sleep on rough and thorn strewn earth; did not have to suffer heat during the day and chill during the night and did not have to carry loads on their body.
Behind every power syndrome lays idleness. Idleness breeds wild dreams even in village minds. The syndrome was slow to come to the strugglers but eventually it did with devastating result. There is nothing satanic like power that can defile virgin mind. Power syndrome, that mostly afflicts men than women; young than old thrives on defiling virgin minds.
Leadership is a necessary social tool for facilitating efficiency in relationships, processes, journeys and other human endeavors. Once processes pass the simplicity stage and became complex, consensus and wisdom alone could not carry the day. Division of labor and leadership become requisite to continue the journey and reach the relative end as opposed to the Machiavellian absolute end dreamed by misguided individuals with absolute power in their hand or their dreams.
Some people have innate gift to become leaders. Others can be trained to become leaders. In either case training, more than innate gift, is imperative. Learning ability, humility, courage and sacrifice on the part of the aspiring leader are also essential traits. Those who obey intelligently and humbly can order and lead intelligently and courageously. Good leaders grow as bad leaders rot with time. Leaders who disavow the entanglement and dangers of power are guaranteed good name in history. Naked power is cancer to a journey and it is antithesis to progress.
But there are individuals who only dream for naked power. Control is the enticement in power, naked and blind control over fellow humans. One has to negate ones humanity to assume naked power over fellow humans. Individuals who are afflicted by desires to acquire power become incapacitated in their journey. Naked power’s grab over its acquirer is absolute. It is not vice versa as is habitually described: it is not the person who possesses power; it is power with its tentacles that possesses the person. Persons with absolute power are possessed, act possessed, behave possessed, look possessed and sound possessed. Power does not come to those who need it. It goes to those who want it; want it badly and are ready and willing to serve it. To these types of persons, power is not a tool. The person is the tool.
Grudge is the motivator behind individuals who lust for power. No innocent mind lusts power. No balanced mind lusts power. The grudge that motivates one to lust power does not have to be real. It can be real. It can be concocted by the mind of the individual or by others. It can be made like everything that is not real. But it has to be believed by the pursuer whether real or made. The more made it is the better for the pursuer can easily manipulate made things than real things. Once made thing is believed it becomes real. The mind of the possessed cannot distinguish real from made. Both are the same in his mind.
There are corruptible minds as there are incorruptible minds. Incorruptible minds outnumber corruptible minds. Corruptibility and manipulation are two different things. Incorruptible mind can be manipulated as corruptible mind can be hard to manipulate. For power to succeed it needs easy to manipulate minds, lots of them. Individuals who lust for power are good manipulators. Wrongly people call them charismatic rather than manipulators.
To aspire and lust for naked power requires one sacrifice on behalf of the aspirer: naked shamelessness. All who aspire or who actually have or had absolute power are audaciously shameless. They carry and display their shameful atrocities without an iota of shame for everyone to witness and see. Power provides the cover in the form of invincibility, excesses, adulations and pomposity for power knows without these the holder is weak, coward, awkward, fragile, foolish and crude.
In Eritrea, village boys were nurtured to be incorruptible and hard to manipulate. In that tough land where nurture resembled nature only trust, sharing and goodwill defeated hardships. Scarcity and ragged land was what they had. Uneven share was detrimental to life. People would not succumb to audacity and would not buy dream specially dreams created by others. Their needs were reality they believed not dreamed. Their dreams were as few and real as their needs. They did not have the capacity to dream beyond their needs. Neither nurture nor nature could allow such luxuries.
City and town boys were also raised on a similar platform but their surrounding spoilt their development. City neighborhood women recognized the hazard but were powerless to completely shield their children and in particular the boys. The boys were as obedient, resilient and good hearted as their counter parts in villages but had too much time in their hand. Idleness in the cities and towns was the culprit and gamut behind city boys’ deviant behaviors. No one blamed them because no one was able to shield their naked eyes from what they saw. They saw class and division in people. They saw some live in exuberance while most lived in shacks. They saw big men tremble in front of the miniscule king. They saw soldiers saluting in akimbo when the one with starts in his shoulder passed or even coughed. They saw the king being chauffeured by a man with four stars in his shoulder in six doors Cadillac. The boys realized the presence of men above other men; strong men above less strong men. The boys saw some rich families had maids, house guards and gardeners who were the very fathers, aunts and uncles of the boys. They saw the emergence of strong local men bullying and intimidating other local men. They saw men running away from police. They saw men dragged by police or the army and put to jails. They saw men cry and weep. They saw men flogging other men. They were lucky none of the above happened to the woman. She was poor but proud and untouchable. She would not let her body and spirit abused or defeated. Her strength shielded the boys from utter failure and trauma.
What the city and town boys witnessed was power in action. Action spoke lauder than words. No boy wanted to live like the weak, the downtrodden, the flogged or the weeping man, not even like the four star general who chauffeured the king. City boys were also disadvantaged when it came to their own life. While village boys grew in egalitarian community, city boys grew in unequal community. The inequality in city living caused sense of inferiority never felt before by boys in that land. Some boys developed grudge against what they saw. No body tried to help alleviate the boys’ dilemmas and inner contradictions because everyone was confounded by the out of hand development in their surroundings.
The king of Ethiopia continued his cruel doings by indiscriminate bombing the lowland area targeting people, villages, mosques, camels and herds. Even the bare earth and Arkorkoby trees were not spared. For the first time in their long history people started fleeing their beloved land and became refugees in the Sudan. The king’s motif in bombing the western lowland was to create wedge between the mostly Moslem inhabitants of that land and the not-so- far targeted highland mostly inhabited by the Christian inhabitants. The king’s logic was flawed. How could people assign blame to people they knew and related and lived side by side in peace and harmony despite their religious differences when they witnessed through their virgin and pure eyes it was the Ethiopian army and air force who were committing the genocide? His logic was the lowlanders would blame the Christians by association: they would say “had the Christians not being cooperating and assisting the king, their fate would have been similar to ours” That showed the king lacked knowledge and common sense. He had absolute power and power had already corroded and clouded his knowledge and common sense. The king, in his position, was incapable of thinking otherwise.
Every time the Army and air force committed atrocities in the lowland, the highlanders’ heart broke and became dispirited. Many started to say “now the lowlanders, tomorrow us”. The king in his pompous attitude had already in no uncertain way reiterated his wish by saying “It is the land I need, not the people of Eritrea”
When power takes over the holder its first task is to erase humanity and its distinguishing features and instill sense of grandiosity, invincibility and superiority over everything, nature not excluded.
What is land without people? What is sky without the sun, the moon and the stars? What is an ocean without the whale, the fish and the shark? But these questions make sense only to people with human and humane feelings and sensitivities. People with absolute power, thinking they are fighting only against their own kind, fight against nature; against creation and against God. They take God and nature as competitors. Power does not allow competition. Power does not tolerate competition. Power abhors competition. Humans represent the epitome in God’s creation. Human presence added zest, beauty and diversity to the already zesty, beautiful and diverse nature. Thus, to the power holder, humans become the prime targets.
Young boys were not passive observers to the atrocities committed by the king’s army and air force. They might have lacked education but were always active mentally and physically by nature and nurture. They started developing heightened awareness. They became very curious like the women who raised and nurtured them. Their hearing and sight skills became sharper than before the war. They wanted to hear more news, bad or good, did not matter to them. Contrary to their upbringing not to participate in rumor mongering, they actively engaged in it and in no time became masters of it. They created rumors and myths about the struggle and strugglers of gargantuan proportions that would have shamed Samson and Hercules. And slowly but consistently many started joining the strugglers. Those who joined became instant legends the day they left with or without doing anything. Boys were naturally attracted to risks and adventures and joining the struggle fulfilled their attraction.
They were not naive boys. They might not have known in depth about the organization of the strugglers but knew what lied ahead for them. They knew the strugglers did not have enough to eat; dressed shabbily; had to carry heavy loads; had to tolerate thirst, heat and cold; had to hide during light and walk during nights. They grew up not dissimilar to those circumstances and were already primed for training in guerilla warfare. They were also psychologically primed for they witnessed killings and mayhem by the Ethiopian army and air force. Nothing was left for them to regret. They said “To stay idle is to die; to join the struggle is to die” and chose stoicism and dignity in death. What started by village boys and young men, was followed by city boys and other young professionals: teachers, high school and university students, police men, merchants and traders. The struggler’s organization became the microcosm of the society but minus one vital component: females. In the first fifteen years there were no females in the field organization.
No country recognized the strugglers. Their plight was not helped by the name of their land, Eritrea, which no one heard before. The name was strange with European sound but belonging to African inhabitants. The people for generations lived their life and history in isolation from the outside world without telling no one or hearing from no one. Everyone knew Ethiopia thanks to the king’s shrewd diplomacy and not so accurate history written and rewritten and told and retold by previous kings and rulers of Ethiopia to any one as long as they have ears to hear. The only help the people representing the strugglers got was miniscule donations from individuals who would have anyway donated to anyone with any cause because of their benevolent and philanthropic nature and not any political or social inclinations. But the donations were enough for the strugglers who needed no extravagant help to survive. The problem of the strugglers was with armaments. No one would give them and no one would sell to them. So they decided the only way to procure arms was to snatch them from the enemy like they grew up plucking fruits like Daero, Sagla,Gaba, Beles and Akat from trees no one owned. The Ethiopian army was awash with few modern and lots of old armaments donated (aptly to say disposed) by the big powers of the day. The Ethiopian army was not careful with their stock of armaments because they were not used to abundance. Donated objects are not treated valuably as own objects so the army was not protecting its war objects as carefully as it protected its coffee plants and beans.