Jawar Mohammed :I have a friend whose views about Jawar so many times I concluded he lacks clarity– I ruled him out as a reference on Jawar, the activist turned a political leader. First, his adversaries branded him a terrorist, but after he returned from exile to Ethiopia, he became a wise politician. But shortly thereafter, he became a troublemaker, before becoming a terrorist again. Then they exalted him: “today, Jawar is the best statesman in Ethiopia and is liked by all Ethiopians.” However, he finally became a Muslim terrorist.
That moving target description of a politician is not credible—here is the beef, rather, the raw meat: “Mohammed” is Jawar’s second name and that is the reason for the Jihad and terrorist branding. That is the best I can bluntly describe his changing branding.
Meanwhile, there are scary statements and agitational messages by some Ethiopian activists and leaders, all preparing for war. By now the self-defense and offense rhetoric has morphed. Some are dripping blood through their mouth while others are breathing fire through their noses. The Tigray government has been readying its defense forces and carrying our parades, while the Amhara region president has stated “our region has the ability to assemble millions of soldiers. …if war is started by any surrounding, we know how to burn them down, we have finalized our own internal preparations.”
I wish wisdom will prevail for the sake of the poor people and the unfortunate region.
The Eritrean regime would not allow itself to stay behind, and thus, it joined the fray. First Isaias made a surprising public statement Isaias while visiting Ethiopia. He declared the Ethiopian-Eritrean border is insignificant and that anyone who thinks Ethiopia and Eritrea are two separate countries must be living in another planet. however, Isaias’ tweeter minister tweeted complaining the Ethiopian troops are still in Eritreans territories. Confusing. The tweeter minister must’ve missed his boss’ edict.
Since the beginning of summer, we saw hectic travels. Isaias traveled to Ethiopia, Abiy went to Asmara, Isaias went to Sudan and then to Egypt. Abiy travelled to Asmara and met Isaias. Hectic travel weeks. And the verbal wars continued to escalate. It has not slowed down yet.
As Abiy’s was visiting Asmara, General Flipos (Eritrean chief of staff of defense minister, take your pick) three other generals went with him in his trip to the Sudan–full report about the trip is still not complete and is awaiting completion before it’s published.
The officers’ Shabby Suits
But since I raised Flipos’ name, let me talk about something that some people may consider trivial. I saw how shabbily they dress, and I can’t suppress my feeling anymore. Why are the Eritrean military leaders shabbily dressed? They do not look that bad in military camouflaged uniforms, but their formal suits are ugly—not the suits, but the tailoring. The look like their suits are two sizes bigger than their actual size. Look at Flipos, the shoulder size of his coat is oversized. So are the sleeves often covering their fingers. The hem of the jacket is so long it almost hangs over their knees and looks like an overcoat. So, if you know Flipos or any of them, tell them that—if you are afraid Flipos will get angry and slap you, just pretend you are mad and say, “I am so mad at this guy called Saleh, you can’t imagine what he said about you…” If you start with that disclaimer and appear caring, that might compel him to look at the mirror and do something about it. I feel insulted because, they are known as leaders of the Eritrean forces.
But where have the skilled tailors of Eritrea gone? I remember Eritreans boast a lot about their stylish and elegant dressing! Why can’t they get their suits altered? Even laundries offer such service. But this is the time to remember why Eritreans were elegant, it was the tailors who made them look elegant.
Our Reliable Sources
Over the last 20 years, particularly when many Eritreans started to abandon the PFDJ, the “our sources in Asmara told me” bug overwhelmed many of us. But we know how intimidated people inside Eritrea are, how much information they can divulge, the cost of direct calls and lack of Internet based calling apps. Still, even those who call only their aunts or uncles, and after a little chat they boast that they have credible insider sources in Asmara who tell them everything. It’s always “from Asmara” not any other town or village. That is because they hope the Asmara angle to gloss their rumors with a tint of credibility. It pissed me off and I tell them, I also called the Kenshu hamlet. Where is that? You don’t know it.
They forgot we don’t hail from Siberia but from Eritreans where everyone has familial ties and other connection—it reminded them .they are the only ones with connections. Worse, if they perceive you as a non-PFDJ member, you know nothing—you can’t be privy to any news worth mentioning.
Qeerroo: The culmination of the Oromo Struggle
The star of Jawar has really shined as an effective advocate for the rights of his people. He emboldened the youth and promoted the Oromo struggle for citizenry, cultural and other civil rights. Undoubtedly, Jawar gave a new impetus to the age-old Oromo struggle. Of course, he was controversial, but anyone who effectively challenges the centuries old entrenched powers, is controversial by nature and can easily become a target of defamation. In the last few years, the Qeerroo struggle gained momentum and become a formidable force. The more it became powerful, the more it rubbed the established forces on the wrong side. Confrontation escalated. True, the exiled Oromo Media network (OMN) has emboldened the Qeerroo that became the voice of the Oromo struggle and challenged the statuesque. That didn’t come by accident, it has a lot to do with the number of the large Oromo population, their diversity, and the expanse of their homeland’s territories. They have been struggling for their rights since many years, but the struggle they waged against the centuries-old oppression and exclusion in the last few years is admirable. But now, without an effective leader, somebody who can influence the youth, the struggle can miss its legitimate goals. And that is why I think jailing Jawar and his colleagues if a dumb political decision.
The situation is volatile and the struggle that Jawar and his colleagues tamed, now risks of hijack by forces alien to the genuine struggle the Oromo people have waged until recently. According to my knowledge, the Oromo struggle was about the rights due to the overall Oromo identity—all other sub identities remained subservient to the umbrella Oromo identity. However, lately, particularly in 2020, I see a sectarian divide and wanton violence that are alien to the Oromo and doesn’t serve the rightful struggle they waged. That could besmirch the image of the ideal struggle and contribute to worsening the situation—for the Oromo and for all other Ethiopians. Jailing Jawar at this juncture is not a wise decision. Worse, you do not jail someone without having a case. You do not jail people and then begin to assemble a case while trying them on the hate filled and chaotic social media. Governments should not begin to assemble selective pieces retroactively and manufacture a case against anyone. So far, Jawar and his colleagues are still in jail, and the court is extending their stay behind bars. I the government frees Jawar and the other political prisoners with no delays; political imprisonment is not a good sign for a promising future.
Latest News from my Aunts and Uncles
Eritreans have been fleeing to Ethiopia and Sudan for years; they are intelligence trove for the agencies of the two countries who regularly interview and debrief thousands of them. But intelligence agencies being what they are, they create news and editorial pieces from the intelligence they get and leak it (and pass it) to select entities and individuals who act as if they painstakingly collected the items they read. But for the rest, long live the aunties and uncles.
My sources in “Asmara” (my aunts and uncles) told me Isaias’ throne is wobbling–some people are trying to stabilize it while others are pulling the screws from it. Also, I heard his patrons found out his character is difficult to restrain–his ambition is to lead the entire region, and that is annoying his patrons. Isaias lacks discipline and commitment to agreements he reached with others, and that is frustrating the overall strategic plans the UAE and the Saudis are pursuing. Understandably, they do not simply invest in any country with no returns in sight. If they consulted our aunties and uncles before venturing in their adventure, they would have discovered Isaias’ super inflated ego and his overly exaggerated self-appraisal is difficult to handle.
Don’t be surprised if you see the race against time that anyone worth his shirt in the Eritrean politics is engaged in. Don’t be surprised if you see alignments and realignments, and anything of that nature. You will see resources appear haphazardly around you–it’s like 1989, the liberation of Massawa, though Massawa is not yet liberated.
As for me, I hope people stay steadfast careful not to lose direction. And remember the Tigre saying “Shaffiq E’wur wel-ld”—meaning, the hasty begets a blind baby. Stay calm, don’t be hasty.
I hope whatever change comes snuggly fits Eritrea and Eritreans—it should not be ill tailored like the generals’ suits I told you about. Be careful, extra careful not to jump “Out of the frying pan into the fire.”
That is what I collected from my internal and external network of aunts and uncles. However, don’t hold me responsible if the fortune teller style of news is so-so. What I can assure you is that rooster has been crowing more—now it doesn’t crow at dawn only, but all day long. And here it is crowing again, much louder and closer. Dawn seems to be approaching fast.