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ሕማም ሕርሲ – In labor – المخاض

[The following is used as a script for Negarit #70, which is made for the Negarit Youtube Channel.]

According to popular wisdom, if you work hard, you succeed, but the skeptics add another condition to that: you work must be smart.

However, there are very hard-working people, but they can never make ends meet. They remain poor, though no one doubts they toil relentlessly. Likewise, Eritreans in all parts of the world, all parties and organizations, have been striving to achieve one goal: to make Eritrea a better place to live in and a country that enjoys peace, freedom, and an acceptable lifestyle.

Fortunately, Eritrea is endowed with all ingredients needed for prosperity. Its people sacrificed their lives and left behind them rivers of blood, mountains of bones, and plains of broken hearts. Yet, they haven’t moved very far.

Over the last few decades, Eritreans have been at each other’s throats, apparently for the betterment of their country, dreaming of achieving what they set out to achieve in 1961. Sadly, seven decades later, they haven’t moved close enough to the goal. Yet, today there is a consensus on the diagnosis: lacking a unity of purpose which led the people tread different paths.

Over the last two decades, many in the opposition labored to empower the people, to make them aware of their rights. They focused on the regime that they believe is the hindrance and the cause of all their ills.  Now they can confidently claim they have achieved the goal of identifying their ills. A few have realized that very early, and knowing that, they were determined to make a noticeable dent on the shell of the regime and exposed its corrupt and unjust nature.

At this juncture, the Eritrean level of consciousness and awareness about their maladies is higher than ever. But whatever Eritreans do, the illiteracy, the cultural backwardness, and the anxiety about the future has kept them immobile, chained by the feeling defeat. As expected, divisions within their ranks has increased, suspicions became inimical, and indecisiveness has overwhelmed them. To this day, Eritreans remain disunited.

Over the last year or so, the situation has worsened. The irresponsible diplomacy and politics, and the development of a fully bloomed dictatorship has become so evident. That is the reason why even the considerable chunk of militant Eritreans, who remained clinging to the unjust regime, are doubting if it is fit to protect Eritrea. And the doubts are increasing.

On the other hand, fear is being eliminated from the Eritrean psyche. The determined among them are eager to finalize the quest for freedom and peace in their country. However, the question remains: how can that final leg of the journey be accomplished?

• Sadly, those who made the ultimate sacrifice could be turning in their graves. Their colleagues have aged and most of them suffer from different ailments. They have become mentally and physically unhealthy. Moreover, they now have children, grandchildren, but they are so poor they cannot even earn enough to support tend let alone others. Worse, their children and grandchildren, for whom they sacrificed, are running away from the country they liberated. And they have become victims in the seas and deserts, or victims of human organ harvesters, rape, and suicide.

Regrettably, even those remained behind are facing a similar predicament barely surviving the destitute life with no gleam of hope for the future. Even children have aged in Eritrea’s unknown jails. It’s grim.

At this time, the Eritrean pride is compromised. Human sharks who despise Eritreans so much, and underestimate their resolve, are openly threatening the country. Some irresponsible leaders gave a new lease of life to the supremacists who awakened their old aspiration and are now trying to relive their aggressive and destructive adventures of the recent past. That is why many Eritreans are angry while a few are anxious and frustrated. The sense of betrayal has finally sunk in. So, what is the solution?

I have never been a fan of the regime and still I am not. But it’s heartbreaking to witness many of the highest officials within the Eritrean government whose job is reduced to that of a bellboy in a cheap hotel. And in a noble spirit, I would like to sound the alarm for the umpteenth time, hoping the slumbering senior officials of the regime will wake up before it’s too late. Still, I do not understand why they tolerate the humility and disrespect they are going through.

Soldiers all over the world feel disrespect if one addresses them without mentioning the prefix of the title to their names. Remember the Qegnazmatchs, the Dejasmach, and the Fitewraris? They berate anyone who doesn’t address them accordingly. Even those who never raised a spear, a sword, a gun or pistol to fight, carried military titles and wanted it highlighted. How about the officials of the regime?

After the independence of Eritrea, I wished to address Isaias as my president and I wished to address all the officers without emphasizing their title, but my wish vanished quickly. Now, I choke if I try to utter their titles which cannot move through my throat. For instance the following characters…

Alamin Moh’d Said: this man is supposedly the PFDJ secretary. Technically he is Isaias’ boss, but I doubt if he knows that. Maybe he has forgotten about it all! It is unpleasant to see him turned into a mediocre man, a fraction of his old character.

Tekhlai Habteselassie: Some friends tell me that has the stature, respect of his peers, skill, intellect, and other qualities needed in a leader. Today, does he even have control of the air force that he is presumed commanding? Has he become a figurehead and a veil for the rumored real commander of the air force?

The other military and security leaders: Why are they running around like boy scouts when they were men who breathed fire and proved their bravery and gallantry all the time? Are they now immersed in a bowl of cold water, and rendered helpless, like an immobile, frightened mouse? They include, Haile Samuel, Abraha Kassa, and Tekle Manjos.

Sebhat Ephrem and Philipos: Everyone followed the drama of how Sebhat miraculously escaped death. Yet, because everything is a mystery in Eritrea, I wonder if he is still the defense minister. Or maybe it’s Philipos!

Whoever it is, how do you like your positions and status when you cannot even meet your visiting counterparts from other countries? Are you not apprehensive? Many of us are ashamed.

In the recent visit of the Ethiopian delegation, we expected to see one of them meeting the Ethiopian defense minister Lemma Meghersa. No, that doesn’t happen in Isaias’ Eritrea. How do they feel being relegated to the sidelines as if they do not exist?

Yemane Gebremeskel: How does it feel to be the information minister, yet be limited to a clerical job delegated to tweet what pleases the only boss around? How does it feel to compete with “ambassadors” who mistake diplomacy for tweeting, like their ambassador to Japan who pretends to be a diplomat?

Osman Saleh: A man of his age and service, being chaperoned around by a person no better than him! Isn’t it embarrassing? It’s very Shameful. How does it feel to know that everyone considers him Yemane’s briefcase carrier? Does he enjoy that status? Why does he accept that kind of humiliation? Disappointing.

Yemane Gebreab: Maybe this person thought he was doing Eritrea a great service when he divided the diaspora and created a crowd trained on how to be his echo chambers. What would he tell them now that they have realized the joke? More numbing propaganda? Does he still want them to fight to “preserve his position and stay safe” pursuing the strategy of invoking the tired patriotic cliché and scare tactics? When is it going to end, that feud with the TPLF that they made Eritreans live through, when will it end? Do they intend to have mercy on Eritrea?

Hagos Kisha, the cashier: Haile Sellasie had a heavily decorated general following him in another car carrying small paper currency. Whenever the king stopped to greet cheering children on the streets, the general would run to the King’s car to receive instructions, then he brings wads of cash and gives it to the king who will distribute it to the children. However, it is now the era of checks and electronic transfers. Is that Kisha’s role, dispensing hard currency based on nepotism and reinvesting illicit trade revenues? That’s it? I hope he keeps proper accounting books because one day he will be questioned.

To the officers of the security services: I will not describe you as youth like the regime does because you are not. You are at your prime age. Remember, Jamal Abdelnasser was 34 when he deposed King Farouk. Mengistu Hailemariam was 37 when he deposed King Haile Selassie. Fidel Castro was 33 when he deposed the dictator Batista. Ghadaffi was 28 when he deposed King Sennousi. Sankara 33 when he led a revolution. I can provide many examples if need be. And I will not even mention the ages of the leaders of the Eritreans struggle when they shook the ground and challenged injustice. Some are living, others have sacrificed their lives. Have you, the young officers, become second fiddle or what?

My message to those of you who can do something to salvage Eritrea is, you are not young anymore, you are adults. Have self-confidence and be decisive. Save your country and end the time of disarray and division. Unite your people and focus on their livelihood and freedom. Beware, things do not continue the way they are indefinitely. There has to be an end to miseries. And that is why you need to control the driving wheel.  Circumstances and unfavorable intentions should not impose unjust new situations on Eritrea. Whether you like it or not, you are responsible for saving the country. Do it before it’s too late. And do it legally, peacefully, avoiding bloodshed or anything that leads to violence. Establish a precedent on how Eritreans respect rule of law. Importantly, since there is no constitution in Eritrea, go ahead and announce a state of emergency, a transitional period. It’s the only way forward. Herald that by freeing all prisoners and informing the next of kin of the deceased. Give them a chance to bury their loved ones respectfully, let them have a closure.

Finally, spare the life of whoever you think is the culprit, no violence and no irresponsible vigilante actions. Try the accused in a proper court and establish a clean precedent by teaching civility and by respecting the law so that Eritrea marches into the future with confidence.

Reconciliation is a lofty goal and in our case the process could only be political, not strictly legal. Launch a truth and reconciliation commission, with observers, to reconcile national problems, heal the wounds, and move on.

Now is the time. It’s the time for breaking the chains and for the morning star to shine. The fertile womb is pregnant, it’s the end of the ninth months, and I am hoping the water will break anytime. Join me in wishing a bright future.

About Saleh "Gadi" Johar

Born and raised in Keren, Eritrea, now a US citizen residing in California, Mr. Saleh “Gadi” Johar is founder and publisher of awate.com. Author of Miriam was Here, Of Kings and Bandits, and Simply Echoes. Saleh is acclaimed for his wealth of experience and knowledge in the history and politics of the Horn of Africa. A prominent public speaker and a researcher specializing on the Horn of Africa, he has given many distinguished lectures and participated in numerous seminars and conferences around the world. Activism Awate.com was founded by Saleh “Gadi” Johar and is administered by the Awate Team and a group of volunteers who serve as the website’s advisory committee. The mission of awate.com is to provide Eritreans and friends of Eritrea with information that is hidden by the Eritrean regime and its surrogates; to provide a platform for information dissemination and opinion sharing; to inspire Eritreans, to embolden them into taking action, and finally, to lay the groundwork for reconciliation whose pillars are the truth. Miriam Was Here This book that was launched on August 16, 2013, is based on true stories; in writing it, Saleh has interviewed dozens of victims and eye-witnesses of Human trafficking, Eritrea, human rights, forced labor.and researched hundreds of pages of materials. The novel describes the ordeal of a nation, its youth, women and parents. It focuses on violation of human rights of the citizens and a country whose youth have become victims of slave labor, human trafficking, hostage taking, and human organ harvesting--all a result of bad governance. The main character of the story is Miriam, a young Eritrean woman; her father Zerom Bahta Hadgembes, a veteran of the struggle who resides in America and her childhood friend Senay who wanted to marry her but ended up being conscripted. Kings and Bandits Saleh “Gadi” Johar tells a powerful story that is never told: that many "child warriors" to whom we are asked to offer sympathies befitting helpless victims and hostages are actually premature adults who have made a conscious decision to stand up against brutality and oppression, and actually deserve our admiration. And that many of those whom we instinctively feel sympathetic towards, like the Ethiopian king Emperor Haile Sellassie, were actually world-class tyrants whose transgressions would normally be cases in the World Court. Simply Echoes A collection of romantic, political observations and travel poems; a reflection of the euphoric years that followed Eritrean Independence in 1991.

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