First, let me congratulate my fellow Eritreans, specially the victims of the human trafficking crime; what we already knew is now official and Major General Teklai Manjus has been formally identified as the man who runs the trafficking empire. The UN monitoring group on Somalia and Eritrea has done an excellent job. I would also like to appreciate the efforts of Eritreans, including my friend Elsa Chyrum and my other friends at the Paltalk rooms, specially the Smerrrrrr room for encouraging many Eritreans to come forward and speak up. It seems the era of “quietism” is beyond us and we are nearer to our goal.
Second, I will make a few remarks about Amanuel Hidrat’s attack on me, though he claims his twisted gual neger was a debate. In between, I would like to congratulate the new blood of Eritreans who prevented a disaster from happening at Bishftu.
Congratulations is due to all of us, now we have proper testimonies and documentations; and, activists who were lacking such evidence can chase the PFDJ criminals legally–there is an abundance of supporting evidence to get the man in charge of the racket that resulted in the suffering of many people in our region, particularly in Sinai. He should be targeted legally, even as symbolic gesture.
Any Eritrean who came of age during the last twenty years has suffered under the yoke of the PFDJ; some have been escaping the hell that the regime created for too long, though only a few bothered to struggle. But over the last year or so, the number of people who joined the struggle has increased dramatically; and we should celebrate the fact that people are no more staying on the sidelines. We should celebrate because now the rejection of the PFDJ is a complete circle, with the exception of the Nehna Nsu crowd.
For over two decades now, the PFDJ has been wreaking havoc in Eritrea: parents denied the right to raise their children or to seek their help in their old age; villages were denied the productive energy that should have toiled the land when every post-puberty child is hauled to military camps to carry guns and be enslaved indefinitely; young people are denied the right and opportunity to prosper, to get married or raise families. The PFDJ has destroyed the entire nation, old and young. Nothing should prevent us from focusing on our predicament, despite the empty rivalry and thirst for power in a vacuum! And that is the reason for my views that angered Amanuel Hidrat.
Brushing Off Some Dust
The months of secretive maneuvers and handpicking culminated in a proposal that was presented at Bshftu: a fork on the road of the resistance movement. Attempts to have those in Bshftu to part ways and separate from the rest of the resistance forces failed: one of the roads is now sealed and the resistance forces will pursue one path, together. My Paltalk room friends would say Smerrr. Basically, in Bshftu, those who were underestimated and considered naive, underage children proved to be smarter than those who tried to manipulate them. They affirmed that they are part and parcel of the resistance and that they are complimentary to the national council, and that they are not willing to create a parallel path. About 90% of the attendants were in favor of close relations, the planners became, as appears to be their fate, part of the ten percenters.
Until now, it is obvious that the resistance forces have not alleviated the problems: they have remained weak, unproductive and disorganized giving an excuse to the overly ambitious elements among us to act as if they are mandated to lead our people by pursuing bazaar tricks and short-cuts. One of those tricks just failed in Bshftu.
About eight months ago at Hawassa, the resistance forces agreed and created the national council; but a few who were not satisfied by the outcome have been undermining the council ever since. And it is not a coincidence or magic that they immediately created a network and embarked on a diligent undertaking in an attempt to hoodwink innocent men and women in order to create an age-wedge and further undermine those they don’t like. This is quite normal in politics (if only we were living in normal times!) And they could have succeeded, although it wouldn’t mean that their success would automatically gain them respect or that they would be able to impose themselves as Kentibatat. Just like the PFDJ succeeded in hoodwinking an entire organization and spread its hegemonic control over Eritrea, a similar attempt was just exposed and the coup d’état failed.
My objection (and condemnation) was targeted towards the few organizers who worked behind the scenes and not all those who were part of it in one way or another–I know a few trustworthy friends who had good intentions. At any rate, the conferees were quick to realize the machinations and decided not to leave the space open for the usurpers and prevented a disaster. Indeed, the new blood proved that they are able to lead the resistance and not be limited to cheering some politically bankrupt elements. They proved that borrowed giraffe necks and shortcuts are not enough to hoodwink everybody.
Now what is left for the new blood is to push their way into the resistance institutions and parties and snatch their position. They should do that by working for it; and they are qualified to do that. In politics, the only qualification is work; age (or pretending to be adolescent) is not a free pass as some are trying hard to make us believe.
Amanuel: Betrey Habuni
I have to state the above to explain my views to my friend Amanuel who says I am a good journalist, though he doesn’t like it when my journalist’s nose exposes something that he or his friends are involved in. And I have to help my readers by disclosing some facts so they can understand the reactions regarding the Bsfhtu meeting:
In my last Negarit I wrote that I gained a few enemies due to my views about similar events that happened in Brussels, London and Brighton and that I expected the same results after the Bshftu fiesta. Only this time I hope I will lose a few friends and not have friends turn into enemies. I really hope against hope that will not happen. And since Amanuel chose to address me in the third person, I will reciprocate in kind.
As you might have observed, Amanuel claimed that his attack was a debate despite his continuous branching out, merry-go-around and gual neger. Even if that was not the case, debating him is very difficult, for example, in the course of the last week he mentioned so many names with the sole motive to rally them against me and create a wedge between me and the people he unnecessarily mentioned. What a debate! Wouldn’t you consider that an SOS for a Zerray to make a point; and that the attempt to drag others into this silliness was just cheap!
I think I am at a disadvantage because courtesy requires that I do not respond to Amanuel in kind though I would like to express my disappointment at the new attitude that he has adopted since the creation of the National Council, particularly since February when I wrote an article (An Office Full of Mice) where I exposed the appointment of a non-elected member to the Council. Since then, Amanuel has become short-tempered, picky and prickly… surprising new traits.
Amanuel’s last article was simply in defense of people some of whom are not even my target though he tried hard to make it seem like that. But even if I had targeted them, they are able to defend themselves and do not need his advocacy. It is clear that he was mainly irritated by my criticisms of our Ethiopian allies and I do not think Ethiopia is in need of his meek defense. He went as far as trying to find fault in my use of the term charitable and humanitarian. He believes receiving refugees is not a humanitarian and charitable work but something else… and many such nitpicking; for God’s sake, USAid is considered a charitable organization! My disadvantage is that I neither talk nor write as a political cadre, I try to use a simple language that anyone can understand, it is my style and I cannot help it.
Incidentally, to prepare this article I had to read his article and that of Hailemariam which Amanuel mentioned and I could not help but notice the similarity of the writing style. They were so similar that I thought maybe they co-wrote it or exchanged notes, or Amanuel suddenly changed his style, but anyway, I was confused for a while. At any rate, Amanuel failed to say anything of substance, he basically lamented: How Dare You? He seemed to object to my views without stating why I shouldn’t have a view knowing that critiquing Eritrean politics is the role I chose in this struggle… and he was fine with it until February of this year! I would have appreciated it if he just aired his views instead of going into an attack mode, simply because attacks do not work on me; and he knows that very well.
Here is the disclosure: Amanuel Hidrat is 1) a member of ENCDC (National Council, or Bayto), 2) a member of North American Committee of the council and its foreign relations officer, as well as 3) a member of the newly restructured EGS leadership and its information and PR officer. There might be other affiliations that I do not know about. Now, don’t blame me if conflict of interest rings a bell.
The national council of which Amanuel is a member didn’t know anything about the Bishftu meeting; yet, Amanuel seems to have had full knowledge of what was going on. The EGS for which he handles the information affairs had people attending at the conference and was part of the handpicking, and I presume he didn’t like my criticism related to age; it seems it didn’t please him and he over-reacted. The post Hawassa congress appointing that I exposed in the article that is mentioned above involves an EGS member, but Amanuel didn’t disclose the factors that forced him to behave the way he did: conflict of interest.
“If You Do Not Have It, You Can’t Give It”
There is no measurement for the validity of a viewpoint except the judgement of the public. Here I am presenting a three-sentence sample statement from Amanuel’s article to explain my points:
“We had also observed Saleh had enmity on the EGS (the civic society) that once he use to be part of. He fought to strike them out and succeed in freezing them from ENCDC-Baito until November of this year. Saleh was vindictive on that.”
Now let me demonstrate how many misleading and confusing points only three-lines of his article can contain.
1) Amanuel doesn’t make a distinction between ‘WE, THEY and I.’ he uses them interchangeably; and it is difficult to reply when first person is presented as third person and when the WE becomes a THEY. Is it Amanuel or THEY who observed what he claims was observed? I think either he represents a group or he is making a misleading statement.
2) Honesty is important in presenting facts: if Amanuel bothers to show that I was part of EGS he should have been more specific and should have said: “the EGS that Saleh founded and that was changed into a private club by my friends… ” something of that nature.
3) Amanuel seems to have so much contempt for the national council. He is an elected member, yet he claims I dictate decisions to the institution that he is a member of simply because I exposed what I considered to be a foul play. What are the institutional ethics that a member should abide by?
Well, I know one thing: if I had that kind of power over the National Council/Bayto (ENCDC), this is what I would do immediately: first I would play an old duet by Alamin Abdelatif and Tebereh Tefahuney, “Afki msay lebbkhi ms debesay…” and then fire all those who do not feel comfortable in their elected position at the ENCDC. Oh how I wish they resign on their own!
Let me present to you another sample of his statements: “The public haven’t a clue from where he cited the “boasting” he is accusing them.”
That is Amanuel’s major dilemma, he forgets that he does not speak for the public and if he doesn’t know about something it doesn’t mean others don’t. The proper comment should have been “I do not know” and that is where modesty begins.
Of course I will need a month if I have to go through the rest of his masterpiece to give it its well-deserved shredding; but I choose to stop here. I am trying to balance the need to correct the record with the awareness that “the public” generally recoils when we in the resistance movement focus on one another instead of the people whose salvation should be our number one and only focus.
Over the last seven months, Amanuel has been bouncing from one impulsive knee-jerk reaction to another. I wish he remembered that I have weathered so many attacks and that a few more will not make a dent at all. I will continue to expose mischief and bazaar politics anytime because I do not wish anyone who struggles to be put in a position to repeat the famous Arabic saying: “Ya Zed Ka’anek ma qezet.” Those interested, please look it up.
Before I wrap up this section, I will lay down a few questions for my readers to ponder: Do you think it is natural for me to defend the National Assembly/Bayto while Amanuel (an elected member) undermines it? Why is he taking it personal: why is he defending the organizers of a secretive meeting? And as a member of the National Council, why didn’t he object to the handpicking process instead of attacking me for exposing it? Amanuel repeatedly writes about the values of democracy and transparency; does the practice of secret handpicking constitute a democratic process?
My views are straightforward and unlike Amanuel, I do not think I need the support of Uncle Aristole; I believe views should stand on their own skeleton. Theorizing and philosophizing simple practical issues trivializes and unnecessarily mystifies them. And if not for the fear of that, I would have included tons of supporting quotations citing a boring number of Greek philosophers known to google!
Those Who Sleep At Megedi Babur
I am glad that I have many friends and acquaintances among the new blood who are known as “youth” if one is in the mood for lip service. They can defend their positions and do not need a big brother to militantly defend them when they do not need one; they are not handicapped. There are many men and women who proved to us that Eritreans can do anything if we just roll our sleeves and get serious at what we do. The recent EYSC conference of DC is an example; then there are the energetic demonstrations raging in Europe; the monkey chase in Manhattan; the court challenge in Oakland; the May 24 group who gained their voice in Egypt, a country that was off limits for many years; the relatively new Diaspora in Switzerland who have strengthened the few resolute individuals who have been there before them; those who are challenging the PFDJ institutions from England, to Germany to Sweden to Australia to Norway and other places; the recent refugees in Israel; the humble and patient refugees in Sudan, Yemen and Ethiopia; the administrators of the Paltalk rooms who deserve most of the credit for encouraging and empowering Eritreans to speak up and shun “quietism”; the Smerr room, the Arabic rooms and many groups that have the Eritrean sense of pride and the fiber of struggle in them. If there was an election today, I will elect anyone of them to lead the resistance and I will follow them not encourage them to be followers of opportunistic and meek political poachers.
The difference between me and those who give the new blood lip service is that they want them to remain as followers under the wings of their narrow networks, while I want them to take charge of the entire resistance and lead. I will never consider them anything less than my equals, worthy of my vote and support, and following if need be. Therefore, I will not be caught gesturing to them, “hey Ballila!”
We all know that the last episode of our struggle brought the PFDJ monsters riding on the backs of all the combatants who sacrificed so much for the struggle, and then defaced our independence. That should never be repeated. And then there are a lot of us who believe in a statement that a resistance politician immortalized: “sur neqqel lewti,” meaning uprooting the PFDJ and its Wedini culture completely; that culture which promotes disrespect of the elderly and which is unfortunately being perpetuated by some in their sixties against their peers because of political rivalry in an attempt to create a wedge between generations–why would we allow a campaign to duplicate the PFDJ culture of disrespect within the resistance? And I am hoping this doesn’t get uglier.
Finally, in order to prevent anyone from riding the struggle using shortcuts and deceit, and in order to guarantee that the mistake we made in 1991 by keeping our guard down is not repeated, we need to be vigilant… and yes, we can fight the rotten PFDJ regime and and at the same time stay vigilant concerning nay angolo politics.