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Liberation Theology & Intergenerational Discourse on Eritrea

African liberation theology: Intergenerational conversations on Eritrea’s futures. Ghirmai Negash & Awet T. Weldemichael. Trenton, NJ: Red Sea Press, 2018. 135 pp.

Analysis by Beyan Negash*

Liberation theology & intergenerational discourse on Eritrea**

Negash and Woldemichael’s (2018) African liberation theology: Intergenerational conversations on Eritrea’s futures is at once about Eritrea and its people situated within historical trajectory that spans back nine decades. By taking the reader back almost a century, the authors are clear eyed in that their objective is to show the following: That Eritrea’s “exceptional” mindset that has had its intrinsic value during the protracted (three decades) war should stay confined in that historical frame of time despite the near unanimous public support it garnered in the duration it took for the sovereignty of Eritrea to become a reality; and by traveling back in time four-decades from this important historical marker of struggle for independence the authors layout for the reader to see the ill-fated experience of colonialism and its impact on the psyche of Eritreans.

Colonialism was no different in its barbarism and in its savagery though it may have certain characteristics that might make it unique, meriting “exceptionalism”. Examining the quarter of a century since independence, there, too, the authors argue no signs of “exceptionalism” as they exhaustively show oppression and repression of Eritreans by their homemade tyranny having all signs of malevolence that the rest of African countries continue to suffer from. The scratching of one’s wounds in order to claim exceptionalism is tantamount to a victimized mentality out of which there can be no cure (a subject matter of chapter 4 which will be addressed at the end of this analysis). Therefore, the book seems to suggest that Eritreans need to come to grips with this unembellished fact and come to the continent of Africa, to their roots and theorize, conceptualize, grounded in the unvarnished blackness of Eritrea.

Claiming African heritage rooted in Eritrea’s unique cultural and religious traditions can serve as the elixir that binds the multicultural, multilingual, and multi-religious society together. The latter is one thematic thread that runs through this book based on an antiquarian novel, originally written in 1927 in Tigrinya, which Negash (2013) translated. From The conscript, the authors reference the Catholic tradition, where truth-to-power are spoken in favor of the downtrodden in advancing the cause for social justice, hence for invoking “African Liberation Theology”. Once grounded in this, appropriating and claiming back the tradition would not be that difficult to see about theorizing and conceptualizing Pan Africanism vis-à-vis Eritrea, the last chapter of which grapples with this very issue. But, synthesizing the first three chapters is in order here.

At the outset, what a reader finds compelling is the effective use of temporality, that unique human attribute, the keen ability to travel back and forth in time instantaneously, which Heidegger’s (1927) Being and Time gives ample treatment of. This unique disposition brings forth ontology (the nature of our being) and axiology (the inherent values we see in tradition and religion, the subject of chapter 1). The former, because Negash & Woldemichael (2018) throughout the book advocate going back to the sense of being Eritreans rooted in their cultural and traditional religious practices that served the people for millennia. The latter, because values inhered in such tradition-centered within African way of seeing the world will induce stability, avoiding the risk of existential threat that the current trajectory seems to be headed towards. Therefore, the two strands of ideas that the authors inject to push Eritreans out of the ashes of thirty years war for independence (1961-1991) and its attendant notion of exceptionalism are: (1) appropriating philosophies of “liberation theology”; (2) theorizing through the Pan Africanism. Once these are accomplished, the authors hope will not only generate conversations between and among Eritreans, but also that Eritrea remains grounded in its African heritage.

But, of course, this is easier said than done. It requires scholarship, tenacity, exhaustive research, and African liberation theology: Intergenerational conversations on Eritrea’s futures has all that and more. The meticulous way in which Negash and Woldemichael (2018) develop their arguments to make their readers conceive along with them in that nuanced space of fine distinction in how colonialism impacted each country within the African continent distinctly is stated unambiguously: “The history of the African postcolonial landscape is far from uniform, as different independent states have made different choices with differing results. The record of successes and failures also differ not only between countries but also within the same country contingent on the successive governments that held power after independence” (p. 2). The blame doesn’t just stay on the colonial side of Europe but also on the colonized elites who subsequently inherited a nation-state to do right by their people. There, too, they show the failure of the postcolonial leaders on many fronts: “…the post-colonial ruling elite has fallen grotesquely short in the implementation of the nationalist aspirations for and promises of democratic governance, administration of justice, and the respect of human rights. That seems to be especially the case in the colonies that decolonized through protracted armed struggles” (p. 2). Hence, they seamlessly bring us – squarely – to Eritrea, elaborations of which are sprinkled in chapters 1, 2, 3, & 4.

Whereas Fr. Gebreyesus Hailu in The conscript (1927/1950) “lamented the silence of his community’s religious leaders in the face of colonial injustice” (p. 1) as he loudly cried: “our priests, why don’t you speak out” (as cited on p. 1) instead of in complicity acquiescing and pandering in favor of Italian colony against Libyan people (Africans). Similarly, in neighboring Sudan, a novelist grappled with the wrath of British colonialism and its aftermath likening it to transmittable disease. Tayeb Salih’s (1966) novel, Season of migration to the north, originally written in Arabic, was translated by Denys Johnson-Davies into English in 1969. In the introduction to the novel, Lalami captures this essence: “Colonialism is repeatedly described in language that evokes violent infection, a declaration of freedom from which will not suffice to guarantee good health” (p. xiii). This lack of having a common language by which, in this case, East Africans can communicate with, one could easily see how it was a hindrance from which the entire Horn of Africa still suffers from, if not the whole continent.

Consider the works of some of the notable writers from the neighboring countries: Kenyan author, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o (1986) Decolonising the mind; Tayib Saleh’s (1969) Season of migration to the north; Hailu’s (1950) The conscript – resurrected from Eritrea’s ashes by Negash (2013). The list is too long to enumerate here, but the rest of Africa, from North to South; from West to the Central part of Africa, much as Negash was able to resurrect a novel written in 1927, it just leaves one to wonder what else might be lurking beneath the dust that the colonialists left behind when they left Africa. Just to shed some light, let’s consider the following literature markers:

Tayeb Salih captures the above notion succinctly: “He [the unnamed narrator in Season] criticizes [and] predicts the rise of an authoritarian bourgeois class that will pick up where the colonial powers left off, and describes the disappointment that soon followed independence” (p. xiii). In another thread in the book, the main protagonist, Mustafa Saeed tells the narrator this powerfully articulated, deeply held conviction and awareness of the damage that colonialism injected into Sudanese people: “The ships at first sailed down the Nile carrying guns not bread, and the railways were originally set up to transport troops; the schools were started so as to teach us how to say ‘Yes’ in their language” (p. 79). Not only such awareness but also that resistance to such wrath ought to be made inevitable is seen in Hailu’s Conscript and in Thiong’o’s Decolonizing the mind. It is worth noting further how Saleh’s main protagonist, Mustafa Saeed’s narration punctuates the far-reaching consequence of colonialism: “They imported to us the germ of the greatest European violence … the germ of a deadly disease that struck them more than a thousand years ago. Yes, my dear sirs, I came as an invader into your very homes: a drop of the poison which you have injected into the veins of history. ‘I am no Othello. Othello was a lie.’” (p. 79).

This kind of political awareness is incommensurate with novels of the West, which tended to see Africans in need of civilizing. Consider Shakespeare’s (1622) Othello, where the Moore of Morocco is depicted as a strong military man but emotionally impish and childlike who is incapable of controlling his feelings of inadequacy when it came to his wife, where manipulability was easily tenderable. Edward Said’s (1978) Orientalism, seminal work of scholarship does capture this Hollywood typecast which the West never tires from depicting the Arab characters as morons, mindless, fanatics to which Clifford (1986) references in his analysis of Said’s work. The notions of “eternal and unchanging East, the sexually insatiable Arab, corrupt despotism, mystical religiosity…the paternalist privileges unhesitatingly assumed by Western writers…who know more than its mere natives ever can” (p. 258). Joseph Conrad’s (1899) The heart of darkness, in which Congolese Africans are depicted as brute savages is another example of inaccurate depictions, the worldview of which that the colonial West see their subjects. Negash & Woldemichael (2018) bring forth sources outside the continent of Africa and beyond. Suffice it to mention just two for the purposes of this review: (1) Edward Said’s (1978) Orientalism that challenges the West’s scholarship akin to what Negash & Woldemichael are helping Eritreans grapple with in this pivotal scholarly work, which will put Eritreans out of the stagnant morass we find ourselves in vis-à-vis our inability to go past the thirty-year war for independence. African liberation theology jolts the reader to wake up from that Rip Van Winkle-like stupor.

Negash & Woldemichael delve deeply in a matter of fact way through temporal means bringing their readers back to 2014 in which the Eritrean Catholic Church’s pastoral letter (p. 9) from within Eritrean proper spoke truth-to-power unambiguously to the state of disarray that Eritrea is in. Woldemichael, for example, acknowledges that “Eritrean priests and sheikhs proved to be reservoirs of inherited wisdom [which were continually] passed on to subsequent generations” (p. 11). But, this tradition was interrupted due to “European colonialism and modern intellectual[ism]” (p. 11), to which the Catholic Church seemed to be immune. The pastoral letter titled “Where is your brother?” the authors argue is what makes them conceptualize the African Liberation Theory.

The authors leave no stones unturned as they pull sources from Arabic language productions that Eritrean Muslim clerics in diaspora espouse. In fact, the strength of this book lies in the variations of the sources which the authors go at length to bring to their readers. Translated works of Tigrinya, eye witness accounts, etc. Such vastly sourced work of contextualizing and historicizing gives a window’s frame for chapter two; which in turn installs the door of knowledge for chapter three to put the final touch of the foundation of the house of discourse that they continue to build as they prepare their readers for chapter 4. Chapter 4, in my estimate, is the most compelling concept that merits and deserves a lengthier discussion, to which I now at once turn.

The last chapter addresses the question of collective Eritrean identity. What it is that Eritreans want their identity to be moving forward. The aim is clearly forward looking. Negash (2018) states it so in “what role the nation wants to play as a legitimate member of the African community of nations and the global community at large [while acknowledging that] Eritrea’s image today is essentially that of an angry, isolated, and alienated African country that is neither at peace with itself nor with the world” (p. 71). This notion of exceptionalism in its negative connotation as a nation bruised, wounded, and abused by the world at large in general and by its larger neighboring country Ethiopia, in particular, has been milked dry. The regime at the helm of power in Eritrea continues to play that victim role, keeping loyal diaspora followers in line.

What chapter four does is create a site of contention where Eritreans across generations to begin to think and theorize based on their African heritage common to the majority of other Africans: The colonial, postcolonial, and revolutionary struggles that characterize most of the African countries, which was and is the story of Eritrea as well. This is where the book shines in that, “…it is a necessary … Eritrea’s present and future identities are theorized through a Pan-Africanist critique that emerges from a broder understanding of the continent’s experience of decolonization” (p. 74). But, what this seasoned scholar does is akin to an epic poetry where it generally starts in medias res, in the middle, knowing he is having a conversation with an emerging scholar as a co-author, by extension to all Eritreans in diaspora who care to read his work. Akin to that of Dante’s “Inferno”, he appears to be saying “midway of their life’s journey” the country may have led them “astray”, but hope will be restored if these younger generation ground their Eritreanity in their “African” and “black identity”. He adds for a measure: “[a]…perspective of Eritrean selfhood, which is fractured, wounded, directionless, and sliding down the misguided path of isolationism” (p. 77), but it is in the acknowledgment of this where it all must start. He certainly owns up to that fallible state of being by making it as his own. Eritreans the author seems to suggest that we are finding ourselves “in dark woods, the right road lost” (I. 1-2), but there is time to yet for us to lift ourselves by our own bootstraps; we may have missed it in “one place” but we must continue the “search” in “another” as Walt Whitman’s “Song of myself” asserts. Searching within ourselves is where the answer to the enigma lies, not outside ourselves as the regime at the helm of power wants us to believe. Negash is adamant in his determination as he poses questions for all of his readers to grapple with:

“…How do we define our identity in relation to our history, in relation to Africa, and by extension to the new and old black diaspora – and the world at large? Can we, for example, unequivocally embrace our African-ness without being consumed by a sense of alienation suffered in the name of exceptionalism? It neither make up for the loss of identity nor provides real substance for building mature alternative for self-identification. Alternatively, can we develop different images about ourselves and the country by, for example, tapping into our useful and usable past constructively?”

It is in answering these blunt questions where we will be able to begin the healing process from that “exceptionalism” wound that should’ve expired with the realization of Eritrea as a nation-state in 1991. Alas, we are grappling with it now, because the Asmara’s colossal leadership failure at governance has taken the journey of freedom through endless twists and turns. There is a lot that can be unpacked from this chapter, let alone from the entire book. One can do chapter-by-chapter analysis and would end up writing a book about the book. Therefore, the hope and the intention here is for awate readers to grab hold of the book, it will be a treat to which you will go back to from time to time, because there is so much that can be said about it.

Suffice it to close this lengthy analysis with the following: At every epoch in the history of the West, there had been awe inspiring individuals who wielded the power of the pen changing the norms of the day, thereby, strengthening the lot of the individual, by extension the health of the nation. For example, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, fictional novel, considered to be magnum opus that challenged the Bostonians’ Puritan mindset of its time using legalism, sin, and guilt. Or Invisible Man does not only transcend several epochs at once, but also revives the picaresque as a window of opportunity to the middle-class life of America that was severely restricted to Black Americans. Among many authors that Ellison incorporates is that of Langston Hughues’ poem, “Let America Be America Again,” four lines of which read Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed/Let it be that great strong land of love/When never kings connive nor tyrants scheme/That any man be crushed by one above.” Eritrea, too, can be that country where Eritreans dreamed about, a country that can embrace its mosaic cultures, traditions, religions, genders, regions, tribes, ethnicities. This book certainly gives this reader that kind of hope.

Footnote:

*As sheer coincidence would have it, this writer and the co-author Negash share the same last name. No relation.

**Three things one will immediately find striking when grabbing hold of this book are: (1) The oft used metaphor in how one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover being subverted, ironically, by a book cover. Sometimes, books must be judged by their cover. In a society like Eritrea where people originate from mosaic cultural background with multiple languages spoken, multiple religions practiced, and multiple ethnic compositions to boot, it is only inherent for the cover page of the book to be reflective of such an assortment; of course, relative to the subject matter that the book tackles. Symbols and landmarks adorn the cover page that captures the mosaic nature of the people of Eritrea.  (2). The title of the book contains the term “liberation theology,” conceptions of which are well known in Latin America, hence the reader’s mind is transported there, but the seeds of intellectual curiosity are planted in the reader’s mind promptly. (3). And then, there is “intergenerational conversation,” embedded within the subtitle that the two authors are an embodiment of such conversation: Ghirmai Negash is the seasoned scholar and Awet Weldemichael is an emerging scholar in his own right, but again, this, too, transports one to an artistic intergenerational collaboration. In 2017, the Eritrean music scene, for example, was caught by the storm when a duo came out with a song, one seasoned and the other emerging, which has garnered almost four million hits on YouTube (here) so far. This reviewer has written an article highlighting the importance of such intergenerational collaboration (here) when the song first came out. Seeing such dynamism in the world of literature is riveting, the cover page alone brings forth multitude of questions, the first one of which is this:  How will Negash & Weldemichael (2018) be reconciling these variants, given the multiplicity of religions and denominations within each religion in existence in Eritrea? The juxtaposing of the cover page with the title leaves any reader not only wondering how that would be possible, but also prompting him/her to delve at once to the contents of the book, to which I suggest you hurry-on and do.

About Beyan Negash

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  • Poet-Laureate Keith Robert Phe

    I am a poet from Botswana and Ph.D Student in African Literature at Ohio University. After following the threads in your website I decided to buy and read “African Liberation Theology: Intergenerational Conversations” on Eritrea’s Futures. This book raises the bar in African studies at many levels. I’m proud of it. It is written for both the academic and general reader audiences in mind. Professor Negash’s diagnosis of the Eritrean identity of “exceptionalism” in the context of what he calls “I in the clinic of Pan-Africanism” is a very important subject that makes it possible for us to start talking other “African Exceptionalisms.” I have found this mind boggling. Negash is essentialising in interlocution with Achille Mbembe, though not always in agreement with the latter. I’m now reading to follow this unfolding discussion on Pan Africanism. I will say more in the future.

    • Beyan

      Hello Keith Robert Phe,

      How wonderful to hear from someone outside of the Horn of Africa. This is precisely what one hopes will take place, we Africans begin to have conversations across all of the spectrums. Glad you made the time out of your busy schedule to the discussions here. You’ve picked up on a subject of “essentialising” that you notice going on in “…African Liberation Theology..” I certainly didn’t pick up on it, it might have to do with my lack of knowledge on Achille Mbembe’s work, which you seem to be knowledgeable of.

      I wonder if you would elaborate on this as it relates to the book we are discussing. Some blind-spots that tend to occur you may have picked up on it early on in our case. As you may know, scholars like the late Edward Said, whose critics accuse him of not only “essentializing”, but also of “totalizing, and homogenizing” in his seminal work of “Orientalism”. These are leveled at Said from the postcolonial thinkers like Spivak & Moore-Gilbert.

      Welcome aboard, Keith!
      Beyan

      • Poet-Laureate Keith Robert Phe

        Thanks very much for the response. What is happening in Eritrea is very sad. I think we need to read more books like this, that make us rethink the notion of how pan Africanism have been approached generally. That was a typo: meant to write “Negash is essentially in interlocution with Mbembe.” Therefore, that is a typo from my side, didn’t mean for it to be interpreted from the theoretical perspective. I hope that clarifies what I had initially written. The arguments that are shared in this book, though focused in Eritrea, can be used to understand the current political situation of many African countries.

  • said

    Greeting,
    The alleged death in detention of veteran freedom fighter Durue, reported by Aljazeera
    https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/eritrean-diaspora-mourning-180301114427157.html

    IA After eliminating any potential assumed challenger and imagined compotator and engineered the most inhuman treatment of Eritrean, under his rule. IA is pervert sick mind. The world community is under the moral obligation to save Eritrean from their ruthless, fanatical, sick-minded IA, arresting and torturing thousands of innocent Eritreans and hundreds of veteran Eritreans languishing in his hellish jail for no apparent reason .
    IA engineered just such a change in Eritrea to maintain his absolute and most oppressive illegal rule ,in making ill gained legitimacy and transforming himself effectively into ruler-for-life, the president of Everything and know nothing , the new a de facto kingdom and strongman dictatorship of Eritrea was born with independence of Eritrea .The new era of IA personality cult and long live the emperor(NSUO) started way back when Eritrean were cheering for him.
    The told anecdote in the above publication is heart wrenching; typical and common place of the ruthless, police State Rule of IA , a most inhuman regime that is fast taking Eritrea back to the Dark Ages. Eritrea ’s social and economic problems are becoming hopelessly insurmountable by the rule of IA as it is a matter of time before all implodes. The Western powers and some Eritrean regime regimes are equally accomplice supporting, tolerating and giving legitimacy to the ruthless dictatorship regime of IA.

  • Selamat ኣያ ኢስማዒል፡ ኣያ ኣማኑኤል፥ ሆፕ/ተስፋ፡ & ዶር. በያን።

    በዚኣ ሰንሰለት/ሊንክ ካብ ዝሓልፈ ተስዓ ዓመታት ሓጹር ወጺኣ፡ ታሪኽ ትንታነ ቅርቢት፡ ተሞርኪስና ነቲ ክትዕ ምስ ንምለሶ ኸ፡ ርአይቶታትና ኣብ ኣረስቲ ዛ መጽሓፍ፡ ብኸመይ ምገለጽና? ተበግሶ ናይ ገለ ገለና፡ ህልው ኩነታት ፖለቲካውን ስነ ማሕበራዊ ኣካይዳ ካበይ ናበይ የድህብ ስክፍታ የህዲሩ ጽልዋ ከምዝደረኾ ንዝገልጽናዮ ናይ ንብስወከፍ ሓሳባት፡ ጥርጠራ የልቦን/የብሉን (መዝገብ ቃላት…ሕሳብና ንግበር መዘከርታ ፓራንtሳሲስ)።

    ኣፍሪቃ ኩሻውያን፡
    https://youtu.be/cgNb7P5fPag

    ጻጸ

    • Amanuel Hidrat

      Selam Solomon,

      Thank you for the link. It is a good scoop on the history of “ነገደ ኩሽ”.

    • Ismail AA

      Selam gitSAtSE Solomun wedi Hawey,

      ግርም ገርካ ግሳጸ ሰካሞን ወዲ ሓወይ። “ካብ ጉዩይ ምዓል ክሳድ ምሓዝ” እንዶ’ግዳ ኢሎም ኣይመሰሉን ኣቦታትካ። እዛ ዝለገስካያ ብሙዚቃ ነፍሰ-ሔር ኣተወኣብራሃም ተሰኒያ ብዙሕ ጉዳያት ሎም ቅነ ሰባት ኣድኪሙ ዝቀነየ ስነ-ኣእምራውን ፖለቲካውን ምጉታትን ትንተናያትን ኣብ ክሳድ ኣብጺሓ መዓርፎ ትገብረሉ። መታን ክትፈልጦ ከኣ ኣነ ሓው-ኣቦኻ ካብቶ ጭው ዝበሉ ነገደ-ኩሽ ኢየ።

    • Beyan

      Selam gitSAtSE,

      Many thanks for pushing the narrative to its logical end – far and beyond the nine decades that the book was contending with. What this bird’s eye view provides is, one hopes, a road-map for other scholars to unpack what the 15 minutes sweepingly goes into the origin of humankind. The hope is that this kind of a clip would inspire young historians to rigorously undertake this historical trajectory. Of course, one book for every several decades at a time, could spur a lifetime endeavor for a historian graduating from college this year.

      Cheers,
      Beyan

  • Nitricc

    Hi Aman-H, Haile and Beyan; i have tried to follow your discussion but i have to admitted, you people left me more confused. Speaking of confusion, what do you guys make of this thing? i am more confused than ever. lol, for real. do you guys agree within guy, if so, is there any truth to the Agazian movement? i am not trying to disrubt your discussion rather i am just confused.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdlcAu6E-7I

    • Haile S.

      Selam Nitricc,
      Thank you for the link. It is an interesting. It seems to be a good summary of african ethnology and philology in general and our region in particular. But I don’t see the relationship with agazians movement. The problem of this movement is not its claim of its origin, but of what it professes.

      • Beyan

        Selam Nitricc & Haile S.,

        I wouldn’t wanna belabor, Haile has succinctly explained it. Sociologists speak in terms of peoples’ movements in contemporary and ancient world. Historians frame it in its proper historical context. Evolutionary anthropologists, archaeologists, all have their distinct approach to broadening our knowledge. Combined, therefore, we get a well rounded information that would help us to understand the state of our humanity.

        What Dr. Awet & Dr. Ghirmai are doing in this book is to help us ground our ideas, theories, and concepts within Africa’s proper as opposed to running to the West to find the source of knowledge. In contemporary terms not necessarily the way the clip you shared dissects our origin, that has a time and a place for it, but for our purposes, in today’s Eritrea; in today’s Africa and in tomorrow’s Horn of Africa, etc.

        Consider Abiy Ahmed’s clip I shared in which he talks about knowledge and the words we use and how consequential they can be. But, his theoretical frame of reference was mainly Western. I am not blaming him necessarily, for heavens, most of my reference points emanate from the Western education, because that’s what informs whatever little knowledge I have. But, I am certain there were and there continues to be indigenous Ethiopians who use public speaking methods that are rooted in their tradition and culture. Abiy Ahmed could’ve found something from Ethiopia’s heritage to reference the public speech and the knowledge topic that he was addressing. Had he used that, his speech would’ve knocked it out of the ballpark. Those who didn’t know of whatever indigenous reference he would’ve used, his audience would’ve been empowered them instead of what implicitly giving the European worldview being superior one. He didn’t say that explicitly, mind you, but he didn’t have his frame of reference was telling such a narrative.

        Consider what Mez did that I just now below read when responding to MS. Mez brought a parallel story from Nigeria to illustrate the point about the similarities between Eritrea and Nigeria in their rural demographics, their religious compositions, what have you. That’s exactly what I am taking from Dr. Awet & Dr. Ghirmai’s book. We have a wealth of reference points from within Africa we can embrace instead of running to empower the White world, let us empower and respect one another’s cultures, traditions, and wealth of wisdom that can be gleaned from around the corner in our villages to around the Continent of Africa.

        That’s why I am so delighted of the publication of this book that wants to anchor and empower us in our own continent instead of aimlessly taking this rudderless journey, that we are trying to navigate during our short existence in this world. Let us make it count.

        Nitricc, thanks for sharing. Hope my and Haile’s explanation helped.

        Cheers,
        Beyan

  • said

    Greetings,
    Thank you Dr. Beyan, An Excellent Article, I found myself expanding on opinion and observations entailed in the rather self-introspective and interesting and provocative article that you reviewed the book that covered Eritrean diverse ethnicity ,religious, cultural and social fabric society and political orientation , commented Pan-Africanism, Arabic language productions that Eritrean Muslim clerics in diaspora espouse . today Eritrea, While intended as laudable, lamenting the political theatre of Eritrea and massive Financial Difficulties currently experienced by Eritrean people , it highlights the ever chronic problems of contradictions of the Making of a Country and the Preconceived, Pre-designed role and mission of a country and ruled by oppressive regime. One witnessed only once when Eritrea in its entire history enjoyed a seem virtual political independence and a truly independent political will. This was in end of 1950th sort of a representative of Parliament and a Representative Government constitutionally answerable to a freely elected Parliament. Beyond that, and ever since for the past 65 years, An occupation implies a limited time frame. Annexation describes the true motivation for use of military force, Eritrea slipped back to one man rule IA is internally and viewed almost universally as a dictator regime and corrupt agency whose individuals line their pockets, Since IA has been unable to translate any potential diplomatic achievements into political gain, many people believe the IA should step down and allow the true dismal reality of life for Eritrean to be revealed to the whole world. It is the Moral Duty of Eritrean People of Conscience to share and cause a wide distribution of these information to create international awareness to the plight of Eritreans Asmara regime in order to bring world pressure to alleviate the oppression and sufferings of Eritreans. It is the Moral obligation of people of conscience to chip in and be involved. This in line with the motto of the Great Jewish French Philosopher, the late Maxim Rodinson who once wrote in reference to the Tragedy, “Lazy Conscience Creates Monsters.” Some will say the mission and the role it meant to play in the Grander Design of the Geopolitics of Spheres of Influence, reverting to the very purpose and intent of the country’s political creation.
    To give further force to my comments about Arab nations or pan-Arabism. that expand on my hypotheses as stated in my comments as A.

    Glimpses into the Variant Arab Characters.

    PRELUDE Understandable that humans near the twilight of age face the wrenching disappointing feeling that they have lived a life in vain as they take stock of a life journey meshed with a mumbo jumbo mix of the constraints of social conditioning, near sacrosanct ossified mores, spoon fed religious instructs and the unique peculiarity of idiosyncrasy rendered unique with the peculiar vagaries of the individual’s unique circumstances. It is particularly more wrenching and far more confusing to reach possibly the last station in a life journey near the twilight of age in near total distrust of one’s identity as defined by a human’s innate perception and the peculiarity of the despondent social environment. Distrust of an identity where the actual and real is widely in divorce with the enshrined guiding ideals and sacrosanct value systems. This is truer nowadays with the truth of the Arab Character. What qualifies one to make what could be misconstrued offhand by the less savvy as an over-sweeping statement; over-pessimistic assessment; even distorted self-serving characterization, is an inquisitive mind that is never tiring from endless quest in the search of the truth; a relentless search of objective reality, and, foremost, the accumulation of facts through intent detached observations gained over long years of extensive geographic displacements across many world cultures and Arab sub-cultures. Had known the West – much the dialectic antidote defining the Arab identity – at the very core of its social, political, business and human interaction levels to the degree of almost internalizing the subtleties of what lie behind Westerners’ collective motivational forces, general collective behavior, and general impulsive drives – endows one, for purposes of objective comparative analysis, with the insight and deeper understanding of the shaping of one’s own character. Same goes, with same degree of intensity and deep interaction with varied Arab sub-cultures extending from the
    Maghrebien West, conditioned by Euro-African historic influences; to the overwhelming Egyptian culture of the Nile Valley, and the countries of the Levant deeply touched by the Hellenistic and Eastern Mediterranean heritage. Besides, the long-life journey encompassed countries of the Arab Gulf states that are catapulted to a status of regional dominance shaping much of the religious instructs and general Arab character in the past crucial four decades of Arab socio-cultural reality by the serendipitous windfall of substantial oil wealth. Eritrea and Horn of Africa , Sub-Saharan Africa had its share of that wide exposure to varied world cultures, as did, as well, the Far Eastern and South Eastern countries of the Asian continent with their amazing unhindered dynamic revival. In all circumstances, actual observations were supplemented with a wide and varied gamut of scholarly and near authoritative readings wrapping one’s individual observations in the more encompassing intellectual framework and universal outlook of well researched findings that rendered the picture more complete and more holistic. Deep interest in comparative religion and a great passion for history, as scholarly scrutinized, seemed to have closed the circle, completed the round to render an observer’s misgivings near the age of twilight the more relevant and justifiable. Now with this realization, compounded with all the insight and reflections one has gained through such a varied and quite an intense existence, and as charity starts at home, one is in a more vantage position to relate one’s thoughts and observations in a more objective and in a more detached universal context. At the age of twilight, humans generally drop apologetic renderings as they become more cynical and less constrained by social conditioning and appeasing false pretenses to serve often subconscious ulterior motives. like Eritrean a failed nation and poor economy, Tiny minority araba individual falling victim to the onslaught of sudden disproportionate wealth and an overwhelming universal culture of consumerism is experiencing a very serious and very deep distortion of character. The character of Arab individual is in a deep crisis touching the very core of an individual’s existence. As actual conduct and behavior is at a great variance with a rather despondent value system where religion still plays a central role and where the state and the mosque are, allegedly, closely entwined. This dichotomy lies at the very depth of an Arab’s inability to reconcile, realistically and effectively, with the requisites of social development, revival and renaissance of the Arab world and the facing up to national challenges that cut deep into Arab existence and the future of the Arab world. One can state most humbly and with deep chagrin that no character on Earth, is living and experiencing this high degree of dichotomy as does the Arab character.

    NO COMMON ARAB CHARACTER

    Arabs are living the falsehood of the existence of a common Arab character. Arab nationalists, my humble opinion , I observed ,visited many Medill eastern countries and worked and live and have lived the illusions of the slogans calling for Arab unity on the force of the commonality of heritage and aspirations.

    The Hodgepodge of the Arabs’ sub-cultures is a truthful reality that precludes the commonality of a singular Arab character; however, the Arab Mind’s subconscious resistance to reconcile to this reality is at the core of the crisis of the Arab character.

    No extensive scholarly research has been carried out on the Arab subcultures and their reflections on the shaping of an Arab’s character as that epic work “The Arab Mind”, 1973, by the late professor scholar Raphael Patai. Patai, while himself very political with obvious ulterior political motives, dissected in such a great informed details the intricacies of the Arab sub-cultures and the peculiarities of the Arab character(s).

    The Arab character in truth is a multi-Arab characters that follow and are shaped by the peculiarly, very distinct and unique peculiarities, of the geographical and unique demographical makeup of the different and varied regions of the extended Arab world. One can reasonably comfortably divide the broad Arab sub-cultures into six (6) Arab sub-cultures with each sub-culture sharing a certain degree of commonality as to the general features of the individual character and the set of local socio-cultural and political challenges each of the sub-cultures face.

    Following are, my humble opinion and views, the six broad Arab subcultures:

    The Maghrebian Sub-Culture: it expands nearly the full extent of the Northern part of the African continent up to the Western borders of Egypt and include the countries of Mauritania in the farthest Western tip, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and, to a lesser degree, Libya.

    The local dialects, ethnic make-up and historical experiences of these countries are similar to a large degree. The anthropological and physiology of the predominant populations are closely similar and in many ways are distinct.

    The indigenous Berber culture has its deep imprints on the local dialect and the general features of the population. Long history of French colonialization and geographic proximity and close historic interactions with France, Spain and Italy, have greatly influenced and shaped the character of the individual Maghrebian. This is further compounded by the huge Maghrebian minorities that makeup the French population (to the tune of nearly 10% of the total), the Belgian and the Spanish populations.

    The Egyptian Subculture: Egypt is a world by itself that despite certain regional differences within its territorial expanse, ancient history protrudes its head to render the Egyptian character distinct and unique. Upper Egypt closely bordering Northern Sudan is greatly influenced by the Nubian culture and is demographically, climatically and in the display of touristic and ancient Pharaonic heritage is at variance with Lower-Egypt that shares more of the features of the Mediterranean basin. The Copts minority, constituting near 10% of the total Egyptian population, are fervently religious orthodox Christians who sub-consciously embrace religion and religious rituality’s as sub-conscious forms of assertion of identity and even as acts of defiance for expression of identity.

    Egyptians are generally good natured, submissive and respectful of authority.

    Egyptian voluntarily mass conversion to Islam did not start until nearly three century after the country was ruled by Amr Ibn ILAs, the Qureshi Muslim leader of Muslim troops from Hejaz.

    The Sudanese Sub-culture: While cordoned by recognized political boundaries, the Sudanese, other than the sharing of the black color, are constituted of many distinct sub-culture where the greatly ArabNubian and Islamic dominated North and Northeast is hugely contrasted by the by south Sudan, Christian and the Pagan non-Arab influenced Sudanese population more in common with Uganda and to some extended southeast Ethiopia . The tribal divisions and distinct tribal allegiance in the West of Sudan, foremost in Darfur region, render such minorities and geographical areas more unique and quite separate in their proprieties and concerns of the general Sudanese population of the North who are more Arab oriented.
    The Levant Sub-culture: The people of the Levant, i.e. the Greater Syria (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Trans-Jordan), share the most homogenous common sub-culture and heritage of all the Arab subcultures that can, by all means, be described in its true varied orientations all through history as universal. The Phoenician/Canaanite and Hellenistic cultures occupied a very central role in the shaping of the heritage and almost the mindset of the populations of the Levant region until today.

    The coastal region stretching from as far north as Antioch and as far south as Gaza, represented the corridor of the strategic depth of the two major vying contemporary powers of Mesopotamia and Egypt. For long that corridor fell into the hands of the battle hardened Indo European Hittites of Anatolia and the Philistines, originators of the Mediterranean Island of Crete, who proven a serious challenge to Pharaonic Egypt. Geographic proximity, climatic conditions and adoption of Christianity as the dominant religion over nearly ten centuries (mass conversion to Islam in the Levant did not start until the end of the 10th century, nearly three centuries after the region fell under the control of Muslim troops originators of Eastern Arabian Peninsula) rendered the East Mediterranean Levant close culturally to the Greco-Roman cultures. With the exception of certain regions in the Syrian desert of Northeastern Syria and parts of Trans-Jordan that are tribal, the people of the Levant, of all the Arab sub-cultures, are the most exposed culturally and worldly, entrepreneurial in spirit, versatile, individualistic and commercially minded.

    The Mesopotamian Sub-culture: Although the people of Mesopotamia display, in general, many of the features of the Levant Sub-culture, however, the general features of an Iraqi character vary according to the regions and ethnic makeup. The Kurds in Northern Iraq are a distinct sub-culture by and within itself. The population of central and Western Iraq are predominately tribal and follow by majority the Sunni sect. The Iraqis of the south bordering Kuwait and the Northeastern area of Saudi Arabia are predominately Shiite with non-negligible percentage of them trace their ancestry to Persian origin.

    Given the demographic, ethnic and sectarian makeup of the Iraqi population, the Iraqis tend to be passionate, assertive of identity and prone to rebelliousness and mistrust of the temporal authorities.

    The Arab Gulf Sub-culture: Are purely tribal and the Bedouin tribal mores, despite the onslaught of vast urbanization and modernization, still dominate nearly each and every aspect of the Arab Gulf subcultures. It follows, and despite the modernity of the state’s apparatuses, the temporal authority is perceived by the general indigenous populations as the extension of the tribal system where the head of the pyramid is the sheikh generally and culturally, speaking whose authority could never be questioned or contested. In that, the head of the state, the sheikh, plays the farther and guardian role of caring for the interests of his folks and safeguarding them against external harms. The head of state’s wisdom and discretion are never subject to so-called democratic review. The ruler, the head of state, the sheikh rules by decree and enjoys absolute authority.

    The largest of the Arab Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, is comprised in its vast territory (close to one million square kilometers) of a large number of different tribes that are not related by blood and often perceive their first loyalty to their tribe. The Saudi Royalty, themselves descendants of one of the central region’s tribes, plays the most pivotal role to ensure cohesiveness and the loyalty of all the different tribes to the supreme rule of the state that is tantamount to the authority of the Saudi Royalty.

    The Saudi population also displays different characteristics following the region of the country. For, while the Saudis of the Najd region –
    the central region, of Saudi Arabia, the hotbed of the House of Saud – are purely tribal, the Saudis of the Hijaz region, the Western region of Saudi Arabia, the region of the custody of the Muslims holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina, are mostly descendants of immigrants of Egyptian, Syrian and Turkish origins, as well as of mostly Arab and non-Arab foreign Muslim pilgrims remaining behind with the ending of the performance of the pilgrimage rituals.

    While the Saudi population of the Central region tends to pride themselves with the purity of their tribal origin, the Saudi population of Hijaz is more prone to integration and commercial exploits and entrepreneurial drive.

    In commerce and business, two Saudi breeds historically dominate the economic life in Saudi Arabia: industrious seafarer Hadramis of Southern Yemeni constitute the backbone of the Western region’s successful merchant class, centered in the seaport city of Jeddah, while the Qasimis of the Northern Najd region dominate the business and commercial life of the central region. The Qasimis, much like the Hadramis, are historically renowned for their daring entrepreneur spirits and economic thrift.

    The non-written cohabitation code between the Saudi Royalty, as wielders of the temporal authority, and the descendants of Mohammad Ben Abdel Wahhab, Ali-El-Sheikh, the House of the Sheikh, guardians of the application of Wahhabi Islamic code, allowed the consolidation of power of the House of Saud all over current day Saudi Arabia. the observance of Wahhabi code is being enforced on all the Saudi territories in their rather varied sub-sub-cultures and recently more change and restriction being loosened …

    The accumulation of huge oil wealth in the past four decades permitted, through the largess and generous donations of the Saudi State.
    The Yemenite & Omani Sub-cultures, in the southwestern and southeastern extremities of Arab Peninsula, respectively, are different and more distinct from all the rest tribal dominated sub-cultures of the Peninsula. Seafarers and commercially minded races that tended to
    exert significant influence over Eastern Africa, they display greater religious tolerance and open minded that sets them at par with the rest of the Gulf sub-cultures.

    ISLAM AS A RELIGION & A CIVILIZATION

    Islamic faith originating from the Arabian Peninsula, foremost the western region of nowadays Saudi Arabia, swept through Mesopotamia, Persia, the Levant, Egypt and North Africa in an overwhelming speed. The message was a mission to proselytize the new religion to the world. The early Muslim forces were equipped culturally to influence the cultures and civilizations of the new territories that they overtook in the least of bloodsheds. However, while the political rule of the new territories fell into Muslims descendants of the tribes of the Arab Peninsula, took the civil administration and nearly most of the affairs of the state, the newly opened territories (“Futuhat”), continued to be administered by the indigenous populations of the opened (“Futuhat”) territories. Conversion to Islam was voluntary and free optional.
    The Levant, Mesopotamia, Egypt and North Africa remained for many centuries under the rule, the umbrella, of an Islamic empire kept much of their unique socio-cultural characters, and except for the performance of religious Islamic rituals, much of the original cultural imprints were never eroded.

    True to the spirit of the time, even to this day, single nations always constituted part of a larger empire, a political umbrella that defined the security parameters of that nation vis-à-vis other nations under the tutelage of a different empire. However, as with the case of religion, that geopolitical reality never cut deep into the socio-cultural makeup of that nation or profoundly altered the basic character of the nation’s constituents.

    That fact holds true of the many sub-cultures that the Arab world is made-up of as earlier highlighted. Although religion had been elicited as a force to rally support to face up external threats and foreign non-Arab encroachments.
    Mindset, thinking process and the character of individual constituents of the different Arab sub-cultures remained distinct and at variance despite all false appearances to the contrary.
    Islamic Civilization is the confluence of the creative minds and cross-fertilization of mostly none Arab Muslims of newly opened territories, mostly of Persian and Serianics ancestry. Glossed by Arabic as the Quranic language, Arab was slammed as the adjective prefix of a Civilization that more aptly is an Islamic Civilization that flourished in an exceptional environment of relative religious tolerance and encouragement.
    REVIVAL IN THE REASSERTION OF SUB-CULTURAL IDENTITY
    Arab revival can more realistically start, other things being equal, by first reasserting the sub-cultural identities to forming clusters of relatively more homogenous and more like-minded congregations along the lines highlighted above. Very much as with the empowering concept of devolvement to the level of meaningful truthful representation that unleashes group creative energies through social cohesiveness, reassertion of Arab sub-cultural identities empowers the parts into revival that empowers the collective whole.

    Reassertion of sub-cultural identity that could evolve into a recognized unified political structure could usher in a stronger sense of identity that instills greater motivation for socio-economic prosperity and more democratic form of representation.
    The common historical heritage could act as a potential binder between the different political structures, however, upon the consummation of a conscious process of harmonization of political cultures and socio-economic systems.
    Short of the above, and continuing to adhere to the flux of sham Arab Nationalism glossing over the impediments of sub-cultural uniqueness and disparities, would only further aggravate the dichotomy and the crisis of the Arab character that stands at the very core of the Arab dilemma.

  • g. michael Tzerai

    Hi Beyan,

    The call for Eritreans towards an African identity seems misdirection of the straight path we need to take to remove the dictator and establish the rule of law in Eritrea. There is enough Africaness in us as Eritreans to partake in the continents life given the fact that significant amount of our citizens have migrated to all over Sub-Sahara Africa often adopting their customs and traditions and even intermarrying with locals.
    In other words, there is a lot of Africanizing of Eritreans going on without any effort of anyone.

    Identity goes with the power of collective experiences it leaves in the mindset. The 30 year war of independence was such a powerful event that culminated with referendum. Every Eritrean was impacted profoundly through direct engagement – sacrificing your young years – to death and dismemberment or indirectly through the loss of close ones and property. Per capita loss of Eritrean lives higher and even incomparable to any post colonized peoples of the sub- Sahara Africa.

    Why is the 30 year war the most salient event of our history? It sets Eritreans different from other Africans who had been colonized, to be re-occupied by a mighty neighbor. Something unique happened. The experience of re-occupation by the mighty neighbor was preceded with fracturing of Eritreans along religious and regional lines, something the other Africans did not face after they were left to govern themselves.

    For the first time in our history, we organized and used our resources – both human and material, to work towards removing the occupier. Every unit of ganta, kfli, botoloni, haily manned by ordinary Eritreans – in both ELF and EPLf, through thick and thin facing a superior adversary, methodically dismantled this adversary. This while performing some health, economic (agricultural), social, educational tasks. This experience is etched in the hearts and minds of every Eritrean and hence the single most factor to shape Eritrean identity. Why look for a vague identity of ‘African –ness’ when you have a colossal event, that we collectively participated and challenged and won in solving our immediate problem which was the occupation of our country?

    It is clear there is a sense of desperation in our struggle towards replacing the rule of the dictator by the rule of law. It is this desperation that lead to concoct the ‘mknjaw ghedli’ story by Joseph Ghebrehiwet and mislead many (including some intellectuals one may add) and to the credit of Awatista writers who one after another, exposed this harmful story.

    It is obvious identity consciousness with the issue of diversity is work in progress. But work in progress must catch up with Eritrean identity consciousness that engulfs our diversity in removing the dictator and replacing it with the rule of law. Our consciousness of ‘the other Eritreans’ is filled with fear and mistrust as sincere hearts and minds are hijacked by extremist views and behaviors pulling Eritreans to polarities we never experienced before.

    The solution: begin intellectual study and assessment of our both recent and distant past which in some ways Awatistas have been doing for a while now. What is missing is a systematic research and study how the two regions of Eritrea – kebesa and qola developed or underdeveloped beginning precolonial Eritrea to Colonial Eritrea through post colonial and present day Eritrea. How the two regions changed with in and in relation to the other. The witness to the colonial past is rich with literature from the left of the 60’s and 70’s. If fact is fact, why do we care if it is from the left. From detail works of writers such as Jim Brett on Kenya and East Africa, to general theories on the workings of a colonial economy such as Samir Amin, and Walter Rodney and many others on Africa and the Caribbean regions to Andre Gander Frank and Bill Gold Smith on Latin America. We need Eritreans best minds engage us where we went wrong. Where we in a position to be owners of our mistakes as opposed to being imposed on our ancestors. How much is our present day problems the result of a colonial determination and not the workings of ‘engliz, haileselasie, dergi or issayas?’

    Finally, Beyan, it is true poetry is beautiful, subliminal and may be the best and most powerful way to tell a story and when you mentioned Nathaniel Hawthorn and his message to the puritans, but Stephan Thernstrom – The Other Bostonians – Poverty and Progress in the American Metropolis……1880 paints a more recent (Hawthron being in the early 1800) broader picture and thoroughly down to earth fact of life in American Cities which is the basis of inequality in present day America.

    G Michael

  • MS

    Selam Beyan
    Very interesting article. I don’t know, it will take me months to really grasp what has been skillfully distilled in this review. Also of note, it is a territory I’m not familiar with. Therefore, as a good student, I want to ask questions.
    1. What do terms such as Pan-Africanism; exceptionalism; African heritage…mean in the context of Eritrea, or any other African country?
    I contend there is no such thing called an African heritage; there are African heritages and different cultural roots. West African countries may have some similarities; countries in the Horn of Africa also may enjoy similar history and cultural heritage, with each of those countries having its own multicultural heritages, and so on. Culturally, Eritreans have more in common with the Yemenis than with Nigerians, and vice versa. Pan-Africanism, as an anti colonial rallying cry, is an old concept, it has failed to unify African nations. Today’s relations is more of a trade and common market than with creating anti colonial Pan-Africanism. Each country has its exceptionalism. There is no shame in identifying what makes you exceptional (unique) as long as that discovery does not lead to superiority complex and isolationist attitudes. There is nothing wrong with being proud of who you are and what makes you outshine. Ethiopians are proud of their unique history, we Eritreans also do share that part (sorry, Horizon and Kim Hana)…
    2. “…Eritreans need to come to grips with this unembellished fact and come to the continent of Africa, to their roots and theorize, conceptualize, grounded in the unvarnished blackness of Eritrea.”
    Comment: Are you talking about Eritreans in general or Eritrean youth in the diaspora? Am I reading you incorrectly?
    3. “Claiming African heritage rooted in Eritrea’s unique cultural and religious traditions can serve as the elixir that binds the multicultural, multilingual, and multi-religious society together.”
    Comment: I see the same problem. If one says ” where have i gone astray from my African/Eritrean roots, don’t I look a genuine Eritrean from the continent of Africa,” what will be the answer? As I tried to point out, having recognized that there is no such thing called one reference for “African heritage, root or culture” but thousands of cultural heritages that are rooted in the continent of Africa and which continue to undergo changes depending in their cross-cultural interactions.
    4. “……“…it is a necessary … Eritrea’s present and future identities are theorized through a Pan-Africanist critique that emerges from a broder (sic) understanding of the continent’s experience of decolonization.”
    Comment: This also is too a broad suggestion that unless concrete examples are given it becomes hard to understand. And as I said above, Pan-Africanism is nothing than pan-Arabism, both are old but had no consequential bearing.
    5. “hope will be restored if these younger generation ground their Eritreanity in their ‘African’ and ‘black identity’.”
    Comment: Same above: Do Eritrean really have an identity crisis? Is that why they are not able to bring about change? I’m curious to read from you, dear Beyan. If you have our Diaspora young generation in mind, I can understand all of the above.
    Regards.

    • Beyan

      ሰላምታኻ ይጥዓም ሐዉ ማሕሙድ: Good to hear from you – you’re very late for class son -😊

      Really, not much to it, you’ve already figured me out, for the most part. What you said by way of commenting are as prudent and as on point as I tried to express them. Let me just highlight few pointers. Let me also note that I am now teetering outside the realms of the book I analyzed.

      This is me now conceptualizing. On African heritage, technically, you’re right there are as many heritages even a whole lot more heritages than there are countries in Africa. What the intention for using such a term has to do with appealing to Eritreans who may have had the inklings that we are superior to other African countries because of our ‘exceptional’ looks (mind you, that’s in the eye of the beholder), we are not like other Africans, we are more civilized, all of the illusions that you can think of Eritreans tended to uphold.

      Considering such illusions existed, then, one has to come down to earth in general and to Africa in particular. Once we are in that African territory then, the exceptionalism question that goes beyond what you have described, to borrow your term, distilling the nuances of such a belief becomes necessary.

      So then, there are two ways in which Eritreans were using the exceptionalism question: (1) that we are superior to other Africans based on our look; (2) we are exceptional based on what we’ve gone through – colonialism, revolutionary struggling years, etc. The first one is superficial and does not merit extensive discussion but must be addressed enough until we come to the realization there is nothing that makes us any different than any of our African compatriots. The second part is a little complicated in that the thirty years revolutionary war does give us not only the bragging rights to claim exceptionalism but needs, by necessity, to be confined for that duration only. If you notice the first is psychological the second is practical, the lived experience. One contributes nothing toward the first, but the second is where real lives were impacted by the protracted independence war for which thousands have paid the ultimate price.

      I was going to write about some aspects of war using some poems from WWI through the prism of Britain to relate it to our part of the world. Let me just share what I sense might be prudently relevant for our purposes here. Prior to marching into WWI, young Brits were intoxicated with jingoist poetry that captured their imagination, which glorified war to ridiculous proportions. Rupert Brooke’s first stanza illustrates it: “If I should die, think only this of me:/That there’s some corner of a foreign field/That is forever England. There shall be/In that rich earth a richer dust concealed” (ll. 1-5). The extent to which England is the world and the world is England and by extension its people – alive or dead – are part and parcel of that world which England will inhabit, captures the mindset of the time. Such delusions do not stop there, for in the last stanza the speaker takes it a step further, to the realms of England the “heaven” of the here and now. “And think, this heart, all evil shed away,/A pulse in the Eternal mind, no less/Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given,/Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;/And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,/In hearts at peace, under an English heaven” (ll. 9-14). This emotionally charged stanza brought home for the young to enlist in droves that, by the end of WWI, according to The Norton Anthology, 780,000 young Brits spared their lives. The glamorizing of the war by the likes of Brooke would not hold sway for long.

      The reason I bring this is not to imply anything about our war for independence, by a long shot that is sacred, I will never defile it, but to bring home the notion of exceptionalism. Britain believed that it was the world power and that nothing can compare to its power, but of course, that exceptionalism has but dissipated. The US now claims that exceptionalism mantra, its turn might come, especially, at the direction this administration is taking it; he may just expedite the demise of its power status.

      Cheers,
      BN

      The Soldier
      If I should die, think only this of me:
      That there’s some corner of a foreign field
      That is for ever England. There shall be
      In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
      A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
      Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
      A body of England’s, breathing English air,
      Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

      And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
      A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
      Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
      Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
      And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
      In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

      Rupert Brooke (1887-1915)

      • Haile S.

        Selamat Beyan, Mahmoud and all,

        I wouldn’t put the “we are superior to other Africans” attitude as No. 1. It is a trait of many in our neighbourhood and beyond, not particularly attached to Eritreans untill Weyane and cohorts started to use it as an instrument of war blowing out PIA’S INPRUDENT lecture at OAU. Even, I see Beyan’s skepticism in his comment. Now allow me to give my take on 3 things you mentioned in your question to Beyan, exceptionalism, victimized-mentality and the wounded feeling using a tigrigna poem.

        Exceptionalism ስምዒት ፍልዩነት
        ንምሳለ፡ ፈኸራ ልዕሊ ኹሉ ውሕልነት
        ኣፍልቢ ነፊሕካ ንሕና እኮ ብሃልነት
        ልዕለኻ፡ ትሕተኻ፡ ማዕረኻ ዘለዉ ንዓቕነት
        ዘመክሕ እናሃለወካ ኣጉል ተመካሕነት
        ከምዓለምካ እንዳነበርካ ብጽፍርና ፕሮፖጋንድነት
        እዚይን ወዲ ከምዚይን ፈልፋሊኡ መሪሕነት

        victimized-mentality
        ብዱል በዲልካ
        ብዱል ተበዲልካ
        ተወጻዒ ተሃሪምካ ሃሪምካ
        Wounded
        ኣቑሲልካ ኣየቑሰልካ
        ስምዒት ቁሱልነት ምሕሳብካ

        እዚኣቶም ኣበይ’ከ ይነብሩ?
        ኣብ ኣየር
        መሪሕነት ዝዘርግሖም ዘፍሰሶም
        መብዛሕቲኡ ሕራይ ኢሉ ዘስተንፈሶም
        በደል ኣብ ኩሉ፡ ዝዘርግሖም ኮነ ዝኾለሶም

        እወ ኣብ መልሓስ ምዙሓት የሰራስሩ
        ምስ ጥዑም ኣየር ተሓዊሶም የደናግሩ
        ግን
        ኣይመስለንን ኣብ ልቢ ኹሉ ዝሰፈሩ
        ኣይመስለንን ኣብ ሓንጎል ኩሉ ዝሓደሩ
        ኣይመስለንን ካብ ትውልዲ ናብ ትውልዲ ዝተሰጋገሩ
        ምስ ነስተንፍሶም ግን ሳንቡእን መዓናጡን የዕገርግሩ
        ኢድን እግርን ብዘይ ገመድ ይኣስሩ

        መድሃኒቶም ኣብይ ይርከብ?
        ኣብ በ’ታኒ ኮነ ኣብ ኣስተንፋሲ
        ጨና ፈረንጂ እናበለ ን’ፈሲ
        እንሆ ኮይኑ ተሪፉ ከሳሲ ተኸሳሲ

        ንዝፈሰወ ፈሲኻ
        ንዝሓሰወ ሓሲኻ
        ይሓይሽ ምዝራብ ናይ ሓቅኻ
        ኣብዛ ሕማም እዚኣ ይትረፍ ሓቦይን ሓቦኻ.

        • Amanuel Hidrat

          Selam Hailat,

          To be honest, we Eritreans were thinking that we are receptive to positive changes than African countries, until we become independent and our political discourse isn’t different than them. We had that orientation and attitudes, anointed with Eritrean exceptionalism. That was our history in our struggle, something we need to recalibrate with our reality. We were despising the politics of African countries when we are not different than them. Truth to be told.

          Regard

        • Beyan

          Selam Haile S.,

          I wish Tgrinya flows out of me just like that. Believe you me when I say this. I consult so many words in the dictionary to write one paragraph – it feels forced. But one of these days, I may just settle in Tigray and stay there for a while so as to become fluent in Tigrinya, more importantly, to teach my children their heritage. Hey, my first choice, Eritrea, is off limits; the next best thing is Tigray. So, don’t be surprised if you hear of me having moved to Tigray, bro. Thank you for capturing the essence of the exceptionalism disease and its ramifications.

          Cheers,
          Beyan

          • Haile S.

            Selamat Beyan,
            Believe me, you are very fluent in tigrigna, ዝጎደለካ የብልካን። ንስኻን ኣነን፡ ናይ ቅድሚ ነጻነት ተቐማጦ ኤርትራ ስለዝኾንና፡ ዝጎደለና እዚ ኣብ ሜዳ ዝተመሓየሸ ቃላት እዩ። ንምሳለ ከም ‘ተዘክሮ’ ዝኣመሰለኡ ቃላት። ዋላ ሕጂ’ውን ‘ትዝታ’ እዩ ዝመልቆኒ ኣነ፣ ተረፍ ናይ ቀደም ናይ ኣምሓርኛ። Going to Tigray will have additional cultural advantages. However, you never know the door of what is off-limit now may suddenly shutter tomorrow and we may eat and drink ሽሓኒ ፉል ምስ በራድ ሻሂ ኣብታ ፈርሜታ ኣውቶቡስ ኣኽርያ።
            Best

          • Beyan

            merHabata Haile S.,

            አክላ ሳንያ ( to the post-indpenedence generation:በሊዕካ ኸይከፈልካ ምህዳም ማለት’ዮ) ናይ በለስ ንገብሮ ነበርና ብቖልዑትና አዘኪርካኒ:: ሽሓኒ ፉል ምስ በራድ ሻሂ ኣብታ ፈርሜታ ኣውቶቡስ ኣኽርያ በሊዕካ ኸይከፈልካ ምህዳም የለን. You know how it is in Akhriya everyone knows everyone else, don’t even think about persuading me to attempt some such things. I would run out of breath after one block anyway, it wouldn’t work. Your treat! I will remember that, Haile.

            Many thanks, bro
            Cheers,
            Bn

          • Haile S.

            Selamat Beyan and all,

            ካልእ ናይ ሳንያ ከ’ሕክየኩም ካብ ‘መጽሓፍ ከነውግዓኩም’ዶ’። ካብ ተዘክሮ እዩ፡ እታ መጽሓፍ ኣብ ኢደይ የላን። ሓደ መዓልቲ ሓደ ዓንሰባ* ኣብ ቤት ሻሂ ማእከል ሹቕ ይኣቱ እሞ መረቕ ይእዝዝ። ቁሩብ ፊት ፊት ፊት ምስ ኣበለ፡ ሃንደበታዊ ኡይ ኡይ ኢሉ ይጭድር። እንታይ ኰንካ እንተተባህለ፣ ኣብዚ መረቕ ኣንጭዎ ረኺበ፡ ፖሊስ ክጽውዕ እይ፡ ክኸሰኩም እየ ይብሎም። ሽዑ እቲ ዋና፡ በጃኻ ዕዳጋይ ከይተበላሽወለይ፡ ካልእ ምግቢ ክህበካ እየ። ኣብ ልዕሊኡ፡ ምኽፋል ገዲፍካ ገንዘብ ክህበካ እየ እሞ ትም ኢልካ ኺድ ይብሎ። ሰብኣይ ተሓጒሱ ንዓዱ ክኣቱ ከሎ ወዲ ዓዱ ይረክብ እሞ፡ ኣስመራ ከመይ ኣላ ንዝብሎ ሕቶ፣ ኣስመራ ጽቡቕ ኣላ፡ ብላዕ ስተ ብነጻ ይብሎ። ጥራይ ኣንጭዋ ቀቲልካ ኣብ ጁባኻ ሓቢእካ ውሰድ እሞ፡ ከምዚ ግበር ይብሎ። ሽዑ እዚ ካልኣይ ሰብ ናብታ ቤት ሻሂ ይኸይድ እሞ፡ መረቕ ሃቡኒ ይብሎም። ኣገልጋሊ፡ መረቕ ኣቛሪጽናዮ ኣለና ይብሎ እሞ፡ ሽዑ እቲ ሰብኣይ መረቕ እንድሕሪ ዘየልዩ ድ’ኣ ካልእ እንታይ ኣሎ ነዛ ኣንጭዎ መሕብኢ ዝኾነኒ …….
            * ደቂ ዓንሰባ ኣይትተንከፉ። እታ ሕክያ ከምኣ እያ ብቐደማ።

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Hailat,

            አብ ክንዲ ሓደ ዓንሰባ : ሓደ ዓንሰበታይ ክትብል ይሓይሽ::

          • Haile S.

            Emma,
            ሓቕኻ እእረም። እታ ንበያን ኣቐድም ኣቢለ ዝበልክዎ፡ ሓደ ካብ ዝዝግዖ እንሆ ብተግባር።

      • MS

        MeHaba Beyan
        Thanks a lot for that great hateta. I know the class is full, but as a good friend, I expect you to squeeze some more juice… Two more questions:
        1. How does the book, or if you will, you apply the concept of liberation theology in the context of Islam (50% of our people), and Tewahdo Christians. I understand it as applied to the Catholic, and in some instances in the Evangelical church.
        2. Considering that over 80% of Eritrean society is rural, where does the ” we are different” come from? Is there such a movement that warrant such a sweeping response or you are talking about the few urbanites who deafened us with Italian references? I’m really curious. Thanks to Hagerawi Guday, I was able to roam Eritrea. I know the deep Dambalas and QoHayn, lowlands, rural Kebessa, and I can tell you, that Eritrean society is among the most primitive societies save the Azmarinos who froze in 50s and 60s technology. So, one needs to be careful in generalizing that Eritreans feel superior, etc. I don’t know which Eritrea you are talking about. The majority of Eritreans I know have no clue about the theories you (we) are discussing. It remains to be the domain of the elite and as such it should be addressed to the elite. poor Adey senbetu of QomTe QereXe has nothing to do with it, and poor Adey Fatna from mefger gelil would say “mi tbe yba?” Oh the guy called Ykaalo would not even have any of it….haha….let me stop. I’m looking how you could concretize it by giving examples.
        By the way, ethnic and racial hassles are everywhere. Go to Niger, Mali, Libya, Ethiopia and you will see how different racial groups treat each other. So, it is nothing unique to Eritreans.
        So, I open to learning about how liberation theology could be helpful, but it needs to be contextualized in Eritrean proper.
        Secondly, the elite that preached pan-Africanism were more connected to Paris and London than to their communities. That is why Africa is in the shape it is. I need more juices, please.
        regards.

        • Beyan

          Ahlan Mahmoud,

          The add slip has been signed, you’re in young-man! Excellent questions, again:

          1. The way I conceived LT’s applicability toward other denominations of Christianity in general and toward Eritrean Islamic tradition in particular is – first and foremost – that LT needs to be appropriated, subverted, and tailor-made to fit in our multicultural and multi-religious context. So, one has to remove from one’s mind from its Latin American use. Here is how. The Akhriya uprising for me is liberation theology in its oratorical form. Eritrean Muslims need to decide if they are going to own up to the Islamic version of Sufi tradition, which served them for millennia to coexist with other religious groups within Eritrea with whom they have common cultural, heritage, and frankly, the genetic connection.

          2. Room can be made within this newly appropriated, subverted, and tailor-made for all denominations across the board. For the Muslims, they need to accept the fact that their Eritreanity does not begin where Islam begins to proliferate in our region. For Christian adherents, especially, the tewahdos, need to be accepting of this fact: the Christian denominational offshoots are part and parcel of our tradition, where some went outside the faith as in the case of Muslim Eritreans and some are deviating denominationally, that wiggling room needs to be there for all of us to coexist.

          3. Now, LT can become this conceptual framework around which we can all draw our inspirations from. Sure, Catholics may have started it first, but others can also appropriate the concept much the same way the authors as a whole are appropriating, subverting, and tailor-making it from its Latin American roots. Let me give you an example of how LT can be illustrated in its practical terms. In Akhriya where I was born and raised, there was a wealthy family, Aboy AbdulQadir Kahssay (AK), who, without a fail, every year gave money to the poor. Picture this: Buckets (gerewynatata) full quarters (Harakim) would line up in this special geffaH Kanshello near the main house of Aboy AK’s home. That was awesome site to see where a wealthy man who saw helping the poor was one of his religious duties. Mahmoud, you wouldn’t believe the number of poor people who came to Akhriya snaked all the way from laEli Akhriya to Edaga Hamus – wave of poor people coming. I was too young to think of it then, but it would’ve made for some fantastic pictorial essay. At any rate, now, that’s LT as far as I am concerned.
          4. In similar fashion, I used to see people trekking the same Edaga Hamus LaEli Akhriya path, every year to go to enda Gabriel during Nigdet. I used enda Gabriel Church as an example, by the way, in a different thread to illustrate how Judge Ali Bekhit stood with the Christian residents of Akhriya when they wanted to build a church. This is LT at its best. In my estimate, these are what Dr. Ghirmai and Dr. Awet had in mind when they wrote about Liberation Theology in the context of Eritrea.

          Now, to your second question: “that over 80% of Eritrean society is rural, where does the ” we are different” come from?” You may have a point here, this may just be the Asmarino phenom as it is the case with many places, big cities tend to be the ones that define trends, cultural frontiers, what have you. Be that as it may though, the 80% rural inhabitants are not the ones that create problems for society, it is those of us who think we are educated elites and define the direction of a society, educationally, culturally, politically, and in economic terms. Rural Eritrea or rural of anywhere in any African nation is not the problem, the problem emanates from big city dwellers but impacts the rural territories if and when matters of revolutionary wars or otherwise are triggered.

          Liberation Theology (LT) though would fit right in the way the rural folks live. You know it better than I do. They had a mechanism in place the way in which they resolved their social and communal issues; when it becomes problematic is when those of us who think we are so civilized as to erase their way of life in favor of what we think is best for them is when we decimate their whole being. There are ample narratives with Native Canadians or Native Americans or Native Australians or many other parts of the world where countries tried to meddle with the way people lived in the name of economic growth or in the name of “civilizing” them. The Afars are now paying the brunt of some such technological advance in the ports of Assab where their way of life – fishing – that survived for 1000 years, the Asmara regime now is deciding to displace them in favor of the Gulf States building state of the art port. Go figure.

          As for the Pan Africanism, I invite you to come to where Amanuel & Mez are discussing it, in which I put my two cents worth there earlier, and I shall do so in a few.

          Cheers,
          Beyan

    • Mez

      Hi MS,

      1) what ever happenes on the African continent is primarily the reflection of African at large–hence pan africanism is a natural reflection.
      2) it is true the horn of Africa has deep cultural and social root with the people across the red see, specially the Yemenites. However, I urge you–at least– to acknowledge the Kunamas and their root in west africa.

      Thanks

      • MS

        Selam Mez
        Thanks for the reply.
        1. I will skip it because it all depends on how one sees pan-Africanism as applied to today’s African context. I’m not an isolationist. However but I understand the term in its historical context.
        2. Culture is fluid, it changes. Economic and social contacts that happen between social groups accelerate the changes. As a Nilotic ethnic group, what cultural connection does Kunama has with West Africa? Their connection could not be different than the connection other ethnic groups of current Eritrea and surrounding countries may have to West Africa. Also, when I say Eritrean people or horn of Africa have more connections to Yemen, Kunama is part of the people of Eritrea. Physical appearance has nothing to do with cultural heritage. Kunamas and Naras have interacted and exchanged cultural heritage, agricultural and husbandry technics, belief system, music, legends, ceremonies, weapons, etc. If you saw them in their natural setting, you would appreciate Tigrigna, Kunama, Nara and Tigre cultural expressions have diffused across these neighboring communities. Each of them has its own unique cultural heritage and there are some that have been borrowed from each other.
        I think the community that has West African heritage is Tokrir, and that Community also must have gone some changes due to its stay in the area for generations.

        • Mez

          Dear MS,
          1) Your approach is to the point and precise. That makes it much easier to discuss on the most basic and seemingly important chocking points of our regional and local social dynamics and/or politics.
          2) A closer look about the suggestion of our dis-similarity with west Africans is very interesting. On the surface it seems that we are really far apart–both in the dynamics of life and social framing.
          3) But a closer look at what is happening in west africa, in ourcase Nigeria and Eritrea over the past 60 years is very interesting. The first basic fact, to mention, is that both nations embraced christianity and muslim religion since immemorial time, with approximately the same proportion of domination. This makes them perfectly similar.
          4) Nigeria is one of the african nations which is cursed by its own natural resource, namely petrolium. The rural Nigerian, the one like our 80% population, fought with hand and nail to get some benefit out of the oil wealth in their native area. It is interesting to note that these rural peoples had forced big global companies (at least temporarily) to leave their region or make concession with the local villagers. If you closely follow that, it is a great achievement. What have we done about the Bisha Gold mining? or what benefit does it brought to the population in the wider region of that mining activity? not yet visible. Just the PIA and the Canadian miners are excited about it–as of now. Here happenes the same curse of natural resource.
          5) Further, energy supply is a very critical comodity. The western world (better said the industrialized world) would do what ever it takes to secure a deal, and then sustain the flow of this vital comodity unhindered. This means what ever happnes in Nigeria (than the poor Yemen more recently) will definitly affect Eritrea.
          6) The biggest discovery in history of high quality Oil–in KSA–and the exclusive privilege of the americans to explore, majority own, produce, and market it on the world trade arena was the most crucial american interest in the region for over 7 decades. The KSA was provided with a blanket all rounded protection.
          7) As part of the realpolitik of Eritrea over the same past 7 decades, the fact under #6 above facilitated one of the major driving factors for concitation and perpetuation of “Eritrean exceptionalism”. There are other secondary and tertiary factors which further aggravated the situation and descended Eritrea into a seemingly discordant contemporary sociopolitical framing.
          7) As far as Paris and London pilgrimages are concerned, just to make the flow of thought more even, the Iranian Islamist movement facilitated the removal of the Shah (in 1979) from Paris–and as historical documents show, London was/ still is the most comfortable and secure nest for Muslim Brotherhood leaders from Egypt; that since over well over 100 years.

          Thanks

          • MS

            MarHaba Mez
            I see where U r coming from. Your perspective seems to be wider than mine. I was tackling the question, culture, and its diffusion, from its narrowly defined angle. Yours widens the discussion to political culture and history, thanks a lot. For a person known for his concision and precision, precise and economic, your expanded response is well-appreciated and is taken as a sign of respect for candid discussion. Gracias.

  • Amanuel Hidrat

    Selam Beyan,

    Very good speech “ሀሳብ ይፍሰስ ሀሳብ ይለምልም”. Always it is about idea and people with good ideas leads.

    • Beyan

      merHaba Amanom,

      I hope the attitude of Ethiopians has changed to make their issues be “about idea and people with good ideas [to] lead[]”. Do you think Ethiopians are ready to give the highest office of the land to someone whose last name is Ahmed? Hey, Americans accepted Barack Hussein Obama, why not Ethiopians. He is definitely one of the top contenders, we shall see, shan’t we?

      Cheers,
      Beyan

      • Amanuel Hidrat

        Beyanom,

        Why not? In Ethiopia it is possible, except in ours. And don’t ask me why? But without fear and without keybluni, Eritrea is not ready for that.

        • Beyan

          merHaba Aman,

          My earlier response dissipated into the virtual thin air. Attitude take time to change. After 26 years of misery, my hope is that will change us for the better, but a lot of times, it gets worst before it can get better. Ethiopians, to borrow Gedab’s expression, are going through the third republic while we seem to have frozen in time.

          Be that as it may, glad to hear that you’ve gotten the book and that you will read it in short order I hope so our conversation maybe enriched by your informed input. Looking forward to it.

          Cheers,
          Beyan

  • Ismail AA

    Dear hope,

    Thank you so much for your remarks that offer me chance to clarify a few things. Incidentally, what I have written in the context of my response to Dr. Beyan may have answered some of your questions.

    I think I had made it clear in my introductory paragraph of my rejoinder yesterday that I did not read the book, and that my take on the themes were mere impressions and reflections based on what Dr. Beyan had graced us by way of his skillful analyses of the content of the book. I never meant to accuse the distinguished authors, allege or insinuate that they had handled the material from religious or even cultural perspective. Moreover, I am not one who would insist that my views or assertions should not be subjected to scrutiny and corrections.

    Thus, your contention that I might have been too hasty in making the remarks is understandable to me though this had been covered by a warning that stressed my remarks were tentative. The point simply was one had to cautiously engage in material people spend precious time to post then on front page of this forum for discussion and debate. In other words, my take did not concern a kind of statement-to-statement and context-to-context critique. So, I would like to stress that I did not write that the two authors took theology as “the basis for the ” Solutions” for the Root causes of our African problems in general and that of our Eritrean problems in particular.” My impression was its usage as force of inspiration and not for solving problems.

    On your question about contribution of “Modest” (I understood the word as moderate), there is no contention raised about omission or inclusion in that regard, and that I became “hectic to bring up again the Islam vs Christianity ..,,,Islamists vs Crusaders saga here ?” is a hasty presumption on your part of which you have accused me at the entry of your comments. By the way, I do concur with you that theology is not exclusive. In fact, that was the point I was hinting by way of mentioning competitive nature of theologies in processes related to politics driven causes. Besides, you bet that those distinguished writers, and other as well, do have unlimited right to write books. But, we as readers do also enjoy the same rights to appraise their work. As a closing note, I would like you, with due respect, to be assured that I am not one who advocates mingling religion with politics.
    With many thanks for engaging.

  • Ismail AA

    Selam Dr. Beyan and fellow forumers,

    A review by no means suffices to enable its reader to form opinion about a scholarly book such as the one under review. Nonetheless, the evident input Dr. Beyan has invested, supported by commanding style and skill of transmission the product projects, does provide a margin for reflecting on the main themes and making notes of personal impressions however tentative they may be, which I have done hereunder in points:

    1. After reading the material twice, I got the impression that the conversation between the authors that led them to the idea of writing the book seem to had brought them to owning shared outlook about what the future of Eritrea and its identity as a nation ought to be. Moreover, as product of the same cultural set up (in the broadest sense), it appears that the totality of the pre-colonial Christian-Islamic and indigenous social and cultural heritage is not suitable for nurturing the psycho-intellectual seedling that could grow to a national level in the way they aspire and imagine.

    2. In other words, the terrain for a “habesha” centric national psyche, or the greater region for that matter, is too conscribed. Thus, a much broader setting on a continental scale has to be sought and found. Pan-Africanism seems to have been a best choice because it could spare the envisioned process of searching for national mindset from challenges of competing choices such as pan-Arabism. To escape from that trap, it seems thus, they had to risk severely abridging the time frame for their discourse. The centuries of historical past that brought the pre-colonial heritages rooted in Christianity and Islam had to be omitted in favor of mere 90 years since arrival of the Italians. Reasons that compelled even the colonialists to respect the functioning of the cultural and religious way of life of the people had not served them as warning that their approach is extremely narrow. Besides, they seem to have not been hampered by the facts that explain the failure of pan-Africanism to make inroads in Africa and elsewhere due to divided interpretations (Casablanca-Monrovia versions) and the movement of Negritude that opened the way to former colonial powers to hijack the movement by deploying tools such as Emperor Haile Selassie I and King Hassan II of Morocco. Pan-Africanism had actually ended up in ravaging neo-colonial military clientele state systems that witnessed the reigns of monsters such as Idi Amin and Jean Dede Bokassa of Central African Republic. Its main role was curtailed to preservation of colonial legacy that benefitted Haile Selassie and King Hassan II at the expense and rights of the Eritrean and Saharawi peoples.

    3. Introducing theology as force of inspiration in peoples’ strivings for justice and freedom in diverse religious and cultural environments is divisive preposition. If the intended idea of the authors is Christian theology of whatever variant, what rationale would prevent others from responding in kind and seeking inspiration in their faiths? For example, political Islam with “Islam is the solution” slogan could equally constitute a counter proposal for political Catholicism or any other faith. In a word, therefore, suggesting theology of liberation in multi-religious and multi-cultural society like our own is precarious, to say the least. Actually, the approach did not make quite register discernible inroads in Catholics majority countries of Latin America, let alone to develop to broader levels and become source of emulation to peoples in other continents.

    4. Holding the Eritrean liberation movement as culprit that opened the way for the current disfigured and rootless “exceptionalism” is dubious with of course due respect for the authors added. Whilst it is true that modern Eritrea’s cultural and religious heritage is a mosaic of “exceptionalisms”, and which is not unique to our society, the origin of the disfigured exceptionalism the authors discuss calls for another explanation. The current despot and his associates initiated their sinister ideology under the cover of pretension to defend and safeguard the culture and identity of a segment of our society against imagined assault of pan-Arabism. The essence and mission of “nHnan Illamanan” was serving as a scheme of deception to penetrate the Tigrigna speaking community cultural set up.

    5. As final point, I should add that in my view had either of the two authors been a Saleh Gadi or even Ali Salem, the purpose and intent of the book would have been better served, and the outcome of the conversation could have reflected the realistic composition of Eritrea as a nation that is search of common national identity.

    • Beyan

      Selam kbur Haw Ismail AA.,

      First and foremost, it is worth reiterating the way you prefaced your commentary in that as “notes of personal impressions however tentative they may be”, because “a review by no means suffices to enable its reader to form opinion about a scholarly book”. This gives your readers that solace and comfort in knowing there is room for erroneous assumption, of possible conflation, and perhaps even for some hindsight correction. Nonetheless, you raise some salient points that call for reflection.

      Erroneous assumption: You state, “…it appears that the totality of the pre-colonial Christian-Islamic and indigenous social and cultural heritage is not suitable for nurturing the psycho-intellectual seedling that could grow to a national level in the way they aspire and imagine.” I have partially quoted what I am about to quote below, perhaps quoting it in its entirety might give clearer picture. Here in the authors’ own words that I hope will offer hindsight correction. They stipulate thus:

      “Before the advent of modern education and secularism, religious leaders constituted the main traditional intellectuals in Eritrea, interpreting the worldly and spiritual realms surrounding them to their following and conceptualizing the people’s practices for the outside world to understand. Eritrean priests and sheikhs proved to be reservoirs of inherited wisdom and accumulated practical knowledge both of which were then passed on to subsequent generations. Nevertheless, the religious institutions and traditional intellectuals incrementally withdrew from the public sphere in the face of the onslaught of European colonialism and modern intellectualism. In the 20th century, modern Eritrean intellectuals (some with strong footing in church education) largely dominated the interpretation of local and foreign concepts to their people, while also theorizing about the varied local experiences and making them comprehensible to each other and to the outside world. Yet, religious-cum-traditional leades retained their customary roles within the confines of their groups be it religious or secular, only occasionally making their presence openly felt in the broader national public sphere” (p. 11).

      This brings us squarely to the central point Ismael Ibrahim Mukhtar’s “Bridging the intellectual gap” article that he penned six days ago at awate for two reasons: (1) Ismail Ibrahim Mukhtar is the son of Eritrea’s Mufti who contributed a great deal of literature in Eritrea’s context. Perhaps, those who are fluent in Arabic can enlighten us if there was any thread akin to the Catholic tradition of standing with the marginalized. Some such literature can be taken as liberation theology that Dr. Ghirmai and Dr. Awet would be open to threading based on the block quote above. In fact, if this book were to be published in 2019 and not in early 2018, it would’ve been a remiss of colossal proportions were they not to include the Akhriya uprising, because the Catholic tradition dictated that everything it does has been done in the written form and what Aboy Musa did would’ve been no different except that it was done in oratorical form.

      So, the idea of liberation theology is not being imported from Latin America wholesale to make it fit into Eritrean context; by necessity, it will have some wiggling room to befit other denominational entries. In fact, Dr. Ghirmai and Dr. Awet do not only show their awareness of this shortcoming but they seem to have anticipated Akhriya uprising like events when they stated this: “The limited research and data on recent and ongoing intercessions of the Eritrean mosques and (other) churches on behalf of citizens limit the scope of this chapter to the Catholic Church. [The book], will, therefore, confine itself to analyzing the Vatican encyclicals that serve as bases for the Catholic Church’s involvement in the worldly affairs of mankind and the Eritrean Catholic Church’s critical interventions on the sociopolitical and economic affairs of the Eritrean people since independence” (p. 11).

      Possible Conflation: Again, disclosing your entry at the outset as tentative provides for some leeway to make a correction, here is one of where I see conflation taking place in this statement: “The centuries of historical past that brought the pre-colonial heritages rooted in Christianity and Islam had to be omitted in favor of mere 90 years since arrival of the Italians.” Where the conflation maybe emanating from is where I state in the analysis that the authors push us back to 90 years as opposed to being stuck in that 1961 – 1991 timeframe, which comes with a mindset of exceptionalism. As scholars, they had to make a decision in how far back they can push based on the evidence they have. The evidence took them as far back as 1927 at least as far as this book is concerned. Now, other scholars will come along who push it further and show what the role of Catholic institution was or Islam or Orthodox, for that matter; wherever the evidence leads those scholars will contribute on their findings, which brings me to the second point as to why I am invoking the “Intellectual gap” article.

      Collaborative efforts between those who are scholars whose medium of education is in Arabic and those who are scholar in English language can come together and do some collaborative scholarly work. I believe that was the gist of the “Intellectual gap” article. So, this is just the beginning of the conversation we are having. I was just elated to see us getting out of those thirty struggling years for a change and theorize outside it because we existed in the region way beyond what the two authors have been able to do. But, what one cannot blame them for is as to why they halted their research in 1927. They saw a date marker that could give them sufficient material for a book where they have solid material evidence. It will be up to us all to collectively push the envelope of theoretical frameworks beyond the 20th century.

      Hawka,
      Beyan

      • Ismail AA

        Dear Dr. Beyan,

        First, thank you so much for taking note of the couple of reservations I had jotted before I put my reflections and impression in writing (with emphasis on words reflection and impression).

        Now though, people who did not read a book under review could only rely on what the reviewer provides and much less on ideas, sources and context author(s) expound in book form. In such circumstance, the reader depends on margins the text of the review provides, as I have noted in my rejoinder. Moreover, intellectual and sheer human decency calls that in the process of relating (in broader historical and political context) some assertions and conclusions to a prior knowledge may not rule out the risk of erring and conflation. Simply put, reading a review can by no means substitute reading the book. A review writer has clear advantage over a reader of a review. Thus, providing extended quotation from the book to clarify the points on time frame is much appreciated.

        As to reference to Sheikh Ismael Mukhtar’s pertinent call for narrowing the intellectual gap (though perhaps might have sluggishly been stated) the last item in my rejoinder was related to imagining how the book would have come out had one of the two distinguished authors had been a Moslem. I hope readers would not take me for some kind of bigotry, and will be kind to read this in context of Eritrea’s dilemma of defining its national identity.

        At this juncture, it is imperative to celebrate what our spiritual leaders of all faiths have contributed, and shall for sure do, in the service of peace and co-existence of our society. Their stand in the recent event at Akhria is a shining example. Standing on the side of injured and oppressed is core essence of religions because they were revealed as forces of liberating the faithful from spiritual and material suffocation.

        I must add, moreover, my impression about rooting the Eritrean search for universal and uniform national identity united cemented by common psychological mindset needs much more space than constricting the process to history of nine decades that encompassed Italian colonial rule and armed struggle for self-determination.

        What I am trying to state her is that for theorizing and contextualizing unifying national psyche for Eritrea’s diverse social and religious require much broader context of history than what the post-colonial frameworks such as pan-Africanism and pan-Arabism could provide. Our history tells us that the societies that dwell the territories that make up current Eritrea, and the Habesha Plateau by and large, look east and north, and much less south and west. In other words, while the mainstream Christian heritages look to Alexandria and the Holy Land, the Islamic heritage look east to the land of revelation and the Prophet in Mecca and Medina. The point I have to stress unambiguously here is that there is no attempt on part to advocate meddling religion with our debate or broader political discourse.

        In regard to the issue at the heart of the current debate on the role theology can play in liberation or pursuit of political and governance change, the contention is about the extent theology and theologian can go in the framework of people’s liberation from alien or domestic dominators. Where would the line be drawn between theologians and politicians and their proposed programs that would necessarily spel out leadership and endgame?. And, to make myself a bit clearer, could introducing theology in a liberation process in multi-religious and multi-cultural societies served as unifying elements? Of course, one cannot underestimate the role spiritual leaders had played in the way you have explained our distinguished authors had done.

        To close these rather extended remarks, I will quote to paragraphs that led me to reflect and ponder on the impression they arose in my mind.

        1. ” … the book seems to suggest that Eritreans need to come to grips with this unembellished fact and come to the continent of Africa, to their roots and theorize, conceptualize, grounded in the unvarnished blackness of Eritrea.” The words “roots” and “unvarnished blackness of Eritrea” said much to me when I considered them in context of our broader pre-colonial heritages.

        2. “Therefore, the two strands of ideas that the authors inject to push Eritreans out of the ashes of thirty years war for independence (1961-1991) and its attendant notion of exceptionalism are: (1) appropriating philosophies of “liberation theology”; (2) theorizing through the Pan Africanism. …. the authors hope will not only generate conversations between and among Eritreans, but also that Eritrea remains grounded in its African heritage.”. At this point, it could be argued Eritrea could become a usefull bridge between its pre-colonial cultural and human heritage and its yet to be theorized and contextualized African heritage.

        Here, I am left with one impression that the history of the war of independence has been taking as impediment to the search of unity and universal national identity. The mere reductionist and spoiler ideology that shape up the distorted attitudes and ideology of the current regime and its leaders does not warrant ignoring the positive aspects of that national historical chapter in which the people had heavily invested in blood and wealth. An aberrant national anomaly should not overshadow our judgement. The origin of the current national misfortune that will have be corrected sooner or later should read in proper context and critique of the circumstances that governed its emergence and growth.

        • Beyan

          Kbur Hawway Ismail AA.,

          You have a way of quickly getting into the spirit of what the writer attempts to do. Very few of us can home in this penetratingly and this expansively and this fast. I feel compelled to reciprocate in kind. Indeed, an analyst of a book has a clear advantage over those whom he is trying to inform about a certain book. And it is that exact burden which heavily weighed on me that propelled me to try to clarify wherever I felt there was a gap either in context or in facts as I understood them – the advantage you clearly don’t have.
          No inkling doubt that no two individuals could write the same way let alone those who’ve had their erudition from vastly different schools of thought as the author of “intellectual gap” unambiguously captures, which is worth re-quoting here:

          “Most of the literature written by early Eritrean writers are either written in Arabic or Tigrinya and few in English. Authors naturally write in the languages of their education and reference, mostly, sources authored in languages of their familiarity. Referential limitations can easily be observed by surveying the bibliography of the many books written in any of these three languages on Eritrea. This limitation has unfortunately created an intellectual gap, with some negative intellectual outcomes. Limitation of scope and the emergence of “intellectual enclaves” that perpetuates certain myths are some of the evident negative outcomes.” (Ismail Ibrahim Mukhtar).

          There, then, no doubt about it, were you and I, for example, to write what Dr. Ghrimai and Dr. Awet had written, the resultant product will be vastly different because our experience will have not only informed our knowledge base but also would’ve shaped the way we would’ve theorized and conceptualized. I get that. I see where you are coming from when you say that. It is for this reason I keep on coming to the “the intellectual gap” article because it captures the essence of where the gap lies. We Eritreans believe in diversity but never bother to work across the aisle to co-write, co-author, co-theorize, and co-conceptualize. I have never seen a book written by Eritreans from different religious, ethnic, gender divide. This is why I found Dr. Ghirmai and Dr. Awet’s book refreshing because it has started the dialogue at intergenerational level, albeit at a narrow increment; where the former’s and the latter’s experiences are still vastly different, though they may share a region or a religion or a language together.Your impatience and your frustration is obvious to me not because we are not making progress but because we are going at a snail pace while the nation and its people are perishing at a torpedoing speed.

          Here then is what could conceivable come out of this, a modest proposal could come from established scholars such as the two authors where essays can be written on a certain theme, which in turn could become chapters in a book. Themes can be identified from the discussions we are having. There is a whole lot of room for some such projects that would expedite and refine our thinking, thereby narrowing our differences. I never forget in one of Saleh Gadi Johar’s speech where he simply challenged us all to look into our cell-phone contact names and see how many friends do we have Eritreans who are of different backgrounds from us. Of course, it is not a matter of having the names in your contact list, but those with whom that one regularly communicates with. This is indicative of how far apart we are. As the late MLK was fond of saying that the most segregated time in America is Sunday at 10:00 AM, because American churches are divided by race – there are black churches and white churches.

          I see Ismail Ibrahim Mukhtar’s article as a clarion call for the educated elites, especially, our kebessa brothers and sisters who are in higher education institutions, lord knows they are all over the US, to reach out across the divide and begin to work on projects that would enrich our knowledge outside the Tigrinya prism. I see the following statement from you in similar vein:

          “…theorizing and contextualizing unifying national psyche for Eritrea’s diverse social and religi[ons] require much broader context of history than what the post-colonial frameworks such as pan-Africanism and pan-Arabism could provide. Our history tells us that the societies that dwell the territories that make up current Eritrea, and the Habesha Plateau by and large, look east and north, and much less south and west. In other words, while the mainstream Christian heritages look to Alexandria and the Holy Land, the Islamic heritage look east to the land of revelation and the Prophet in Mecca and Medina.”

          What I have been reading so far gives me hope that it is NOT a collision course where we are headed towards; nor are we on a colluding course; rather I see us coming toward corroboration and collaboration to thusly bring fresh ideas, ideas that would help serve our country and our people better than what they have been receiving for the last 26 years. We deserve better and we can do better.

          Man thanks for challenging us all to think and wallow in some seemingly uncomfortable topics, but that’s what awate forum is for – a market place for ideas, is it not?

          Respectfully,
          Beyan

          • Ismail AA

            Dear Dr. Beyan,

            “What I have been reading so far gives me hope that it is NOT a collision course where we are headed towards; nor are we on a colluding course”. Well, a student sitting in row of school room bench would only be doomed if stands on course to collide with fountain of wisdom and lantern of knowledge that stands before him or her. I would be rude if I would ever quarrel with any decent human being let alone with a person that I consider source of knowledge in this forum. Sir, we are indeed on course, and will always be, to corroboration and collaboration as wrote. I am always grateful for your contributions.

          • Beyan

            Kbur Haw Ismail AA,

            Believe you me, whenever your words appear against the white virtual “blackboard” here in the forum, I am left speechless and elated at the same time, because your ability to touch your readers, at least this reader, is just monumentally enriching. More so, your respectful rejoinders, even those interlocutors whose entries may appear to be a bit on an angry side, you just know how to put virtual cold water on it bringing us all to the subject at hand. I often wonder why it is that you don’t escalate your entries to an article form so we can all have one enriching discourse. But, I am sure you have your reasons for it. I am nevertheless grateful to see your active participation in the awate forum, that’s for sure.

            Kindly,
            Beyan

          • Ismail AA

            Dear Dr. Beyan,

            I feel humbled by the kind words you reciprocate our exchanges. If our efforts won’t aspire for ultimate peace and harmony as objective, all they will be in vain. At the center of the essence of life is decency and celebration of human worth and dignity. Thank you for that quality I witness in you and fellow forumers.

            As for you thoughts about me writing articles, it has already become a once upon a time issue since I posted an article at the front page of this web site. This was interrupted by recurrent health problems, and the minimum that remained to do is frequenting this forum to learn and meet decent learned men and women like you.

          • Beyan

            Selamtak ya Usttazna Ismail AA,

            May your health improve brother. If a person were to be judged on the basis of their writing, universe knows you come across a healthy young man with a great deal of maturity and good will toward humanity. This is my of wishing you speedy recovery.

            As for your article, I don’t think I’ve come across it. As you may know I tend to be seasonal visitor at awate, though recently I have sustained that presence somewhat consistently, which I am happy about. I will certainly search for that article and read it over this weekend. The learning that one acquires is the kind that comes by give and take, which has quality that the kind of solo learning we do by reading books,wouldn’t match. Speaking of learning and at its center being “…the essence of life is decency and celebration of human worth and dignity” as you succinctly put it, we must make it as our principle of life.

            Cheers,
            Beyan

          • Haile S.

            Well said Beyan,
            I am talking of everything you said and this one: “I have never seen a book written by Eritreans from different religious, ethnic, gender divide.” Except the concise ‘book’ you yourself reviewed few months ago, recounted by two great authors Abrar and Fitsum.

          • Beyan

            Selam Haile Hawway,

            Indeed, that was a book of songs, as it were, not a book of literature, mind you. But, you are right, we are seeing intergenerational conversations at different sectors now, starting with music, now a work of literature, the next one of which will be one that would bust all of the intersectionalities at once, I now that would be awesome undertaking. Any takers -:)

            Hawka,
            Beyan

    • Mez

      Dear Ismail,

      Pan-Africanism and pan-Arabism are movements which were propagated, at times, from the same leaders. Both movements are primarily products of African political interactions with a global flavor (having different political currents).
      Cairo was the epicenter of Pan-Arabism, and one of the focal centers of Pan-Africanism. At that time, there was also a global non-aligned movement in Africa and Asia.
      Various historical facts indicate that the pan-arabism, that time, was more inclined towards the communist block (via President Nasser of Egypt–semi Egyptian Socialism, and through Syria–the Bath ideology movement). To think that Pan-Africanism my be an antidote of pan-arabism will be a gross exaggeration and mis-placed conclusion.

      thanks

      • Amanuel Hidrat

        Selam Mez,

        You brought good historical points. It is sad to see an idea floating to use Pan-Africanism as antidote of Pan-Arabism. As you have pointed t out in your rejoinder, both ideas are originated from African intellectual minds, while the former to fight colonialism and the later as instrument to expand ideological philosophy in the Afro-Middle-Eastern countries. To recalibrate the idea of Pan-Africanism as antidote of Pan-Arabism is to bring the worst religious divides in the Eastern African countries in particular and in the Sab-Saharan countries in general.

        • Beyan

          Selam Mez, Aman, & Said,

          Said, thanks for injecting your voice on this topic. That should come as an article in its own right. You cover so many areas, suffice it to mention that I hope you can keep engaging us all.

          Many thanks for circling back the conversation to the Pan Africanism on the one hand and to the Pan Arabism on the other. As Mez has succinctly captured the essence of Pan Africanism in its broader sense as “whatever happens on the African continent … primarily the reflection of African at large—hence pan africanism is a natural reflection” of any conceptualizing emanating from the roots of Africa. The other hand, namely, the Pan Arabism, Mez has given us a historical context within which a conversation vis-à-vis Eritrea can ensue. And now, Aman has provided angles that would help us cycle back to the central issues that Dr. Awet & Dr. Ghirmai are grappling with in their book: What is that collective Eritrean identity that we wish it to be moving forward? Here is an entire block quote:

          …How do we define our identity in relation to our history, in relation to Africa, and by extension to the new and old black diaspora – and the world at large? Can we, for example, unequivocally embrace our African-ness without being consumed by a sense of alienation suffered in the name of exceptionalism? It neither make up for the loss of identity nor provides real substance for building mature alternative for self-identification. Alternatively, can we develop different images about ourselves and the country by, for example, tapping into our useful and usable past constructively?”

          These are the questions that would help us zeroing in our conversation to what matters to us the most. For example, the French policy of colonialist approach had a form of “assimilados” (assimilationist) corpus to it. But, of course, what that meant is that higher education for Africans can only be had in France so the assimilation process can go unhampered. But the law of the unintended consequence demanded that these chaps who went to France would conspire to fight against assimilationist ideology by conceptualizing and theorizing that would create a separate identity based on their original ideology. Imagine individual intellectuals convening from different parts of the world in one place. This meant that the intellectual powerhouse of each of the colonies that ranged from Senegal to Morocco; from Tunisia to the Islands like Martiniuqe in the Bahamas were to convene in France to create robust fighting machination of the intellectual kind, not of the barrel of the gun type. This probably didn’t dawn on the French that it would be a recipe for even more potent weapon that Fanon literally took his fight against the colonizers to within Morocco.

          Negritude, the antecedent to Pan Africanism, was born in France and coined as such by Cesaire (1931), who along with other notable African thinkers like Singhor were in France fighting common foe: French colonial master. According to Mazisi Kunene (1956), “Negritude had its roots in the whole movement of revolt against slavery and colonial subjugation. The early twenties had seen the rise of Marcus Garvey who, though born in the West Indies, went to America to become one of the great advocates of a free Africa…[which advocated] ‘Back to Africa movment’” (p. 19)

          It is in the spirit of the afore-quoted of the kind of intellectual gravitas that one hopes Eritreans begin to think in the outside of the box kind of way. It is why I find it refreshing to see many Ethiopians cross the imaginary border walls of the virtual kind and inject themselves in our midst to discuss issues comprehensively, not just in isolation as though Eritrea was an island onto herself as we Eritreans tend seem to act and behave. It is precisely why I see the Awate Global Forum as an important transformation that must take place so we begin to extend our collective intellectual tentacles to tackle, at best, the Horn of Africa issues; from there, we extend our wings of dialogue within African continent. It is in that prism that I see the importance of Dr. Awet and Dr. Ghirmai’s book. We need to ground ourselves in Africa and begin to theorize and conceptualize from that prism, a prism that has been long neglected. My interest, at a personal level, is not whether we try to locate ourselves in certain “isms”, but that we genuinely and creatively begin to have conversations that would lead us to theorize afresh.

          With the knowledge production and knowledge that Eritreans possess, imagine, if we were to globalize that and convene on a yearly-basis somewhere to present our work, to have our ideas scrutinized by other intellectuals; such a convening would create robust intellectual powerhouse that would rattle the regime in Eritrea at its core. I see the seeds of such potentialities emerging and I hope we collectively begin to help move it forward.

          Cheers,
          Beyan

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Selam Beyan (

            Now that I have the book in my hand, I could comment on the content of the book, the conceptual ideas the authors tried to tackle with, the integration of the concepts to reflect to the unity of the title of the book, that we have raised from your report. I was expecting the book was to be “big in its volume”, because it carries four big conceptualized ideas, namely, Pan-Afracanism, Liberation theology, Eritrean exceptionalism, and intergenerational conversation on Eritrea’s future. The book has only four chapters, framed seperately by the authors, two chapters (1&3) by Dr Awet and two chapters (2&4) by Dr. Ghermai , compiled in to 130 pages that includes bibliography and appendixes.

            First let me appreciate the authors for taking time to author a book on issues that are extremely important to us Eritreans visa-vis to our current predicament. Hopefully it will pull the intellectual Eritrean mind in to a meaningful conversations. However, when I read the four chapters of the book, I haven’t seen the “threads” that bridges the four conceptualized ideas, though independently convey the authors message in the way they have tried to portray the ideas to our realities. For the “unity” of the book to its “title” the “connections” and the “flow of the idea” from one chapter to another is quintessential for their readers as to how the unity of the four concepts will be comprehended in their application in the struggle they are looking for. And in our earlier exchanges, you also admitted that the book suffers from “parallelism” in presenting the four chapters that includes the four conceptual argument they tried to make.

            Incidentally, this is my “first read of a book” authored by more than one, whereas the chapters are written Seperately by the individuals and compiled in individuals name as a composite of a book. I read various books written by multiple authors but were presented the whole book collectively in their names. In their case the way the chapters are structured, it seems each author is responsible only for the chapters he authored in the book. The question for you Beyan (as you become the spokesman) did you ever encounter a book written in such format? for me it is new.

            regards
            Amanuel Hidrat

          • Beyan

            Merhaba Amanuel,
            I thought you were going to be a co-speaker along with me once you interrogated the book. I was only asked to review the book that I ended up analyzing is instead. A review of the sort you did below was the kind of review they probably expected me to do, but I enjoyed it so much that I took it upon myself and did what I did. Hey, by default, I did, indeed, become a speaker on behalf of the book. I may start collecting commission soon, eh.

            Kidding aside, you raise an interesting question, where authors do collaborative work yet maintain independence at the same time. Usually, you are right, the norm is when multiple authors are involved in authoring a book, they harmonize their ideas to a point one finds it difficult to discern where one’s input begins and another’s ends. I was involved in some such writing, albeit not in a book form but in a journal article titled “Celebrating Difference: Best Practices in Culturally Responsive Teaching Online.” The way it worked out was one of the four scholars was the one who coordinated the flow of the article and would ask each one of us to make some editorial changes as she deemed it fit do so while keeping the integrity of our ideas remained intact. Google doc was an awesome tool for this.

            The most common in a book form though that I have seen over the years is one where there is one editor or multiple editors who would be in charge of how the chapters are laid out thematically, conceptually, and any other ways that they conceptualize the book to turn out. Each chapter then is authored by different authors, the editors in some cases write one or two chapters, it all depends. In the case of the book in question, however, the authors do address the evolutionary process of the book and why they felt their book should be published the way it has. Here is that paragraph:

            “As co-writers of this book, we should explain a few points to our readers at this point. This book has been long in the making. Since late 2014, we have had numerous long, highly stimulating exchanges by telephone and email. Because the project demanded more intensive interaction, we had to meet twice, once in Athens, Ohio in summer 2016, and a second time in Woodbridge, Virginia, in summer 2017. Sustained by our dedication to the project, both meetings involved candid and heated debates, introspection of our deeply held convictions and perspectives, and a critical reflection on our respective aspirations and possible avenues of their realizations. Not only has that experience been rewarding to both of us, but we believe it also has enriched the book while retaining individual authorial responsibility for – and voice in – the chapters. It goes without saying that we welcome healthy debates around the topics we have broached and constructive criticism of the perspectives and analyses we have presented” (p. 5).

            They seem to have expected criticism along the lines you have leveled, Aman. They also address the very issue where you question in having not “seen the ‘threads’ that bridges the four conceptualized ideas, though independently convey the authors message in the way they have tried to portray the ideas to our realities.” The authors without any equivocation show how the three chapters are interconnected, but had mixed feelings about the fourth one. Here is how they described the chapters:

            “This volume consists of four chapters that place “Where Is Your Brother?” in its proper historical and contemporary context. In the first and third chapters, Weldmichael adds to the conversation on the relevance of the bishops’ message and the putative power of Liberation theology in Eritrea. Responding to Negash’s original intervention, in the first chapters, he furthers the analysis by surveying the long history of Catholic social teachings and the church’s advocacy for social justice within the context of faith groups in African and Eritrean settings. In seeking answers to how Eritrea got into its current predicament in the first place, he examines in the third chapter the dichotomy between the means and outcomes of the struggle for liberation in Eritrea against the backdrop of an African postcolony… The first three chapters are interconnected and speak to each other in the strict sense of the word. The fourth chapter diverges from and is loosely connected to the others. We believe this is both a weakness and strength of the book. We had agreed that the fourth chapter would be written deliberately to go beyond mere critical analysis, to open conversations that can help coming to terms with contemporary and future problems of Eritrea” (pp. 3 – 4).

            While you didn’t see the thread that unifies the four chapters and the authors see clear connection among the three chapters and tenuous one with the fourth; this is where I depart from both views and that I see the fourth as the strength of the book and here is why: It is the very chapter that can initiate the intergenerational dialogue and the direction along which Eritreans can converse.

            This is what ties the rest of the book together, because it is saying to us all bring your Liberation Theology, bring your exceptionalism, bring all of your social and political ailments and toss it in the conceptual framework of Pan Africanism and see what may come out from the other end. Ground your ideas along a theoretical framework of Pan Africanism as Mez quite simply had given it a concise explanation. Let us have a conversation, we may come out at the other end with Pan-Eritreanism, Pan-Horn Africanism, Pan Redseaism. It doesn’t matter, let us first and foremost have a conversation and we will dwell about what may come out when it does. But first let us conceptualize and theorize, unless and until we do that, how are we going to come out with unifying ideologies and the like.

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Selam Beyan,

            Thank you for getting back to me with this revealing explanation. It is not how the authors perceive on how the bridging of their ideas it is, it is how their readers see the links of the chapters and the flow of their ideas from one chapter to the other without any barrier to their connectivities.

            Second if you believe as they believe that the three chapters have completely intermarried (ስጥመት) to each other, why did the authors wanted to be written in their own names? What ever their differences they had, it is that difference that made them to write independently their own chapters, and in the way they want to project their views. If there isn’t any difference in their conceptual take, there weren’t need to put their chapters seperately in their names.

            Third, If they were expecting critics of this nature before they release it, knowing that the chapters lacks smooth transition from one chapter to the other, why they haven’t resolve it as unified composite of a book that doesn’t show who wrote each chapters. Anyway that is my critic as perceptive observer who was very eager to read it based on the title of the book and its importance on the ailment of Eritrean politics. Thank Beyanom for the continuous engagement.

            Regards

          • Mez

            Dear Amanuel H,

            Your inquiry about the style of authorship of this book, under review, is important.

            This type of authorship, with exclusive ownership of segments of books, is not uncommon.

            For example, to address certain audiences (students, market opening), one may want to write highly focused and “subject-matter regimented” book on specific topics of Geochemistry, Geotectonic, and say Geophysics.

            In such a senario, what the authors share is the title and the cost; everything else is seemingly disjoint–eventhough all the disciplines are in geoscience!

            Probably, I have to order this book and read myself; then I may comment more.

            Thanks

          • Mez

            Good Day Amanuel H,

            Now you have the book in your hand, what would be your summarized home take?

            Please.

            Thanks

      • Ismail AA

        Dear Mez, Aman H and Dr. Beyan and MS,

        I should first apologize for these late comments. You have cover a substantial ground on the issues of Pan-Africanism and Pan-Arabism. So, I should have wanted to draw back your attentions to what you had discussed.

        However, the point my brother Mez had mentioned in his closing sentence under his rejoinder to my comments struck my mind because it succinctly summed up that relationship of the two movements was not antagonistic. Besides, this point relates to what I tried to state item number two in the context of my earlier rejoinder when the premise of discussing the issue of Eritrean national identity is considered. Pan-Africanism and Pan-Arabism deployed in the context of the broader African and Semetic-Cushitic heritages could be two pillars on which Eritrea could become (with the nations of the Horn by and large) as bridge between South West Asia and Africa.

        To corroborate Mez’s view, thus, the two movements were indeed more or less contemporaneous. Some of the prominent actors and countries in the Continent of Africa were in involved in both movements because the central missions did not counterpose one another. For instance, Kwame NKruma’s Ghana attended Casabanca Group with Naser’s Egypt and north African Arab states while Abubakar Tafew Balewa’s Nigeria was part of the Monrovia Group dominated by Francophone countries. Kwame Nkruma and President Nasser had also closely worked with others like Sukarno of Indonesia, J Nehru and Broz Tito of Yugoslavia starting from the Bandung Conference of 1955 to the formation of the Non-Aligned Movement that Mez mentioned.

        I am digressing to the points I just scribbled in order to stress that the reasons for their birth were rooted re-assertion of identities in post imperial and colonial environments. Attainment of these goals in the respective terrains (nations) required unity of action and purpose which were only possible within representative platforums. Pan- Africanism and Pan-Arabic were chosen in their respective terrains as rallying ideas that would summon reasonable empowerment to confront the divisive and exploitative Ottoman imperial-colonial in the case Pan-Arabism and imperial-colonial legacies in the case Africa.

        One last remark I think should also mentioned is that strictly speaking the two movements may better be understood as anti-colonial and foreign domination unifying political platforms rather than representing ideological blocs framed on end-oriented philosophical concepts. In my view the only aspects that may relate to the point I have just raise are the role and place of Aimé Cesaire and Leopold Senghor’s ideas in the context of Negritude.

        Moreover, the content of Pan-Arabism in its earlier context (the post Ottoman area of the Levant – “the greater Sham”, and later under its variant of post monarchic Nasserist Egypt and the Arab world, were driven by forces of nationalism for unity and self-assertion (revival) rather than ideological preponderance. It is in this context that Mez’s point on the alliance of Egypt under Nasser and Baathist states in Syria and Iraq with the Socialist Camp of the time become relevantly true. As a matter of fact, the balance tilts to political-diplomatic alliance with Socialist Camp due to issues related to impacts of nationalization of Suez Canal, 1956 Arab-Israeli War, sources of armaments and the general alignment of nations in the framework of the post WWII world order.

        • Amanuel Hidrat

          Selam Ustaz Ismailo,

          Thank you for this lucid historical elaboration. That is why as a historian, you are indispensable in this forum and website to give our debate a historical prospect to understand events and actors as movers and shakers the discourse of human being. By the way how are you doing with your health? If we miss you few days you makes us worry. Take care yourself brother.

          Regards

          • Beyan

            Selam Ahwat,

            The onslaught on Eritrea was multifold. On the one hand, Italian Fascism with its segregationist ideology had changed the landscape, socially, politically, and psychologically. On the second hand, the Imperialist expansionist ideologies with its divide and conquer from the Brits to the US took over after the Italians were defeated. On the third hand, the Communist block were salivating to have their ideologies take roots in Africa. Thus, Eritrea with its access to the sea became a magnet to the greedy lots of the West and the former Soviet Union block.

            These external dynamics in addition to what Ismail has enumerated about the political and philosophical forces playing out against the onslaughts, left Eritreans no place to look within. And this is where the book’s importance as a way of having us engage along the lines of theories and concepts that one can’t help it but be grateful for.

            I believe the hurdle that became a forceful obstacle has been and continues to be the revolutionary- organization-turned-government’s inability to strike a balance between the external historical forces that caused this enormous interruption to Eritrea’s way of life and their inability to look within our tradition and culture to draw the needed balance from. Instead, what we seem to have gotten is a system that is continuing to demolish and obliterate of what was left intact until their arrival in 1991. In other words, instead of harnessing the good things that Eritrean cultural tradition had to offer, the regime in Asmara saw it as a retro, backward, much the same way that the external forces of Imperial powers and the Colonial powers saw in our way of life, forgetting all along it was a life that was at peace with itself, but not to this regime that didn’t come to create peace but cause pandemonium and anarchy.

            BN

          • Beyan

            If I may do a little addendum here to my note above is for us to be mindful when that chance to right the wrong done in the past 26 years and seems to continue unabated is this:

            Option one: To believe in Foucault’s pessimistic worldview, who asserts for there to always be “resistance where there is power”; he also seems to side with the patterns of history being replete with “domination” after “domination” by the powerful” to the “powerless”. (as cited in Moore-Gilbert, 1997, p. 49)

            Option two: To believe in Gramsci’s optimistic worldview, where he firmly believed of the “possibility of (self)liberation for subaltern and “emergent’ groups and the overthrow of the traditionally hegemonic orders. For Gramsci, no form of despotism is invulnerable” (as cited in Moore-Gilbert, 1997, p. 49)

          • Ismail AA

            Dear Dr. Beyan,

            In life, and at whatever level it might be, optimism overpowers pessimism. If pessimism takes hold of a people’s psyche, they would be disarmed and powerless to resist injustice. Their option would remain to be resorting to fate, and they would await its verdict in helpless fatalism.

            To be optimistic is to believe in possibilities that there is always ways to overcome ordeals and predicaments whatever the odds may be. If the Vietnamese people or the Eritrean people had given up on optimism, given the odds they had faced, there would not have been options for resistances and the costs they had entailed in blood and sweat.

            The only asset we Eritreans have is optimism and hope that there is better tomorrow if we played our options right. Thus, I vote for Gramsci’s worldview.

          • Beyan

            Zkheberka Haw Ismail AA,

            Optimism is the reservoir from which hope derives its hopes, thus aspirations for peace, prosperity, and freedom to live life to a heart’s contend. Let alone “pessimisms tak[ing] hold, even in the best of circumstances, where a society, say, had an optimist tendency, the world wouldn’t leave that country and its people alone. A good example of this is, the movie, “Black Panther” where a fictional country was conceived to exist, not only having never been colonized, but had civilization with the state of the art technology, a way of life that was never to be left alone from the mess of the world at large.

            The struggle for this fictional country was whether it becomes the force for good and get involved in the world to right what it clearly sees wrong; or remain uninvolved in the world affairs, unless and until the onslaught comes charging towards it, then only then would it get involved to counterpoise the transgressions. Without spoiling it for those who may wish to watch the film, what this fictional country decides to do is, needless to say, be part and parcel of the globalizing world and thus to become the force for good.*

            Enter the real world of Europe and the West in general and its imperial and colonial aspirations, the havoc it wreaked reverberates and threatens the viability of the earth to continue existing. This, I believe is where Mez appears to want to be grappling with with the focal point being where Eritrea went wrong. The wisdom a leader of a nation must possess cannot any longer be in isolation of, but in relation to, the world at large. It is thoroughly exciting someone injecting quantitative methodology to this conversation as I hope Mez will be doing.

            I second Aman’s motion and he is right to implore you (Ismail) and Mez to please keep the conversation going. And, to invite individuals like Yohannes Zerai, Sal, SGJ, Peace, Fanti, Kaddis, Horizon, Kim Hanna, Eyob to this, because, as far as I am concerned, this pertains not only to Eritrea, but to the Horn of African and to the Continent of Africa and beyond.

            At any rate, in the best of circumstances, what Eritrea should’ve done is employ this infinite capacity of intellectual power-house that the Eritrean diaspora tends to possess, which has yet to be tapped, say, vis-à-vis creating a think-tank like groups in various fields of endeavors that could’ve served the nation and its people well. The irony is that Eritreans remain to be not only committed but ready to contribute in every conceivable way possible. Alas, they continue to watch from the sidelines as the nation appears to be headed to the deep end of the cliff, to the abyss, I am afraid, out of which it will take generations to undo.

            *I had completely different points I wanted to make, but sometimes when the fingers begin hitting on the keyboard, it is incredible what ends up filling these blank pages. Be that as it may, I just wanted to add this about “Black Panther” in that it is one movie where women are treated as human beings in every conceivable way: They are smart, humorous, poised, strong, and not treated as sexual objects that Hollywood is fond of projecting them as, save the violence, which was too much for my taste. But, that’s the reality today. I admit, I took my 14 year-old-daughter, my eleven-year-old boy, of course, along with the matriarch of the house, to this movie. Guess what, the family wants to watch “Black Panther” again, this weekend.

            Cheers,
            Beyan

          • Haile S.

            Selam Beyan,
            Thumbs up and no words to add for now on the optimism and what followed till the movie, which was good for the most part. Black panther! what a waste of gorgeous lips on both sides! We Africans are not bad at the war of lips too! Unfortunately, in these aspects Hollywood relagated us to our old Cliché, to behind the curtains (ኣብ ውሽጢ ንእዲ), except for that timid and quick touch of the beaks at the very end.

          • Ismail AA

            Dear Dr. Beyan and brother Mez,

            It’s exciting to watch how Beyan’s robust review of Ghirmai Negash’s & Awet T. Weldemichael’s book has borne fruit. One of yardsticks to measure success or failure of a book or any literary work is questions and debates the substance unleashes. On that score, I would agrue that your contribution has provoked many of us to ask questions and anticipate answers.

            The level to which my bother Mez has raised the discussion, and the profound questions he has raised, testify the relevance of the book; and the review had, moreover, added value to our understanding of issues many in this forum have raised, regardless whatever views each of us have turned to be. I hope the authors have been following the debate.

            I do could connect positively to the point where your understanding of impossibility for nations to insulate themselves in this throat-cutting competetive world for the dwendling bounties of mother earth intersect with Mez’s truism about the role and impact of political geography in the relationship to the advanced nations with backward nations struggling for survival and development. He has underscored how Pan-Africanism and Pan-Arabism were born as unifying mechanisms of the latter against onslaught of the former that succeeded to disarm them from their potency or potential viability to resist. Even attempt to upgrade the framework for resistance to larger realm in a movement that came to international scene as Non-Aligned movement could not cope with resources and strategic advantage those gains hungry powers. His mention of petroleum in Saudi Arabia, which is still a land where a women cannot drive car to her kids’ school is a formidable instance, adding how big power competition for oil had affected the fate of our own people due to the geographic location and “sucked [it] …into the vortex of their systematic and sustained game”.

            To close these hasty remarks, the only way for nations like ours to survive and develop is to awaringly strive for gaining knowledge through education and good governance. It is here that Mez’s point of strategic planning to ameliorate the reasons for past, present and future misfortunes and backwardness lends credence.
            With apology to these may be incoherent thoughts due to time constraint.

          • Mez

            Dear Ismail,

            “….awaringly strive for gaining knowledge….”

            Wel-said, Sir.

            I wish to hear the takes of Gheteb, & Nitric.
            I hope Memhier TSAtSE will bless us with some thoughts.

            Thanks

          • Ismail AA

            Dear Aman H.,
            Thank you so much for your concern about my health. I am doing well; there is nothing to worry about.

        • Mez

          Dear Ismail,

          Great, great angle of view and analysis. I am delighted to learn quite a bit from you.
          1) To reflect a little further, (this by making our region the center of the analysis) some of the vital research questions to pose could be: i) what rahmifying global condition there were, ii) how the regional and continental players reacted to it–this on the quantitative side (economic benefit, political advantage, military gain, security risk avoidance, diplomatic dominance, and so on).
          2) Various research works show us that, the guiding policies of global powers are governed by two seemingly divergence approaches (our inability to understand, internalize, and act accordingly is one of the culprit of our misfortune as a nation).
          3) one can device a policy on the premiss: “what I get today is the core of my activity missions; as a nation I invest my time and resource to get maximum gain today. Tomorrow is by default an extention of today”. You optimize today, and then deal with tomorrow on the go.
          4) the other school of thought is: “you understand and work on a strategic tomorrow–today will be part and parcel of tomorrow”.
          5) The two continental movements under discussion were pulled–stressfully, one has to admit–in all directions (especially towards the east and west) and survived barely in their name only–more in name than in practical deliverables and deeds to their people.
          6) By big margin, the KSA-Oil control by the west forced the former USSR to device a major plan at least disturb it from being used by the west. All the political, diplomatic, military theater–including the horn of Africa–was part and parcel of this. The big oil chase, west vs east sucked our region into the vortex of their systematic and sustained game, at least over the past 8 decades.
          7) Remember in our today’s world, where ever there is a welth creation opportunity, every one flokes at your door step, be it natural wealth, high youth population concentration, or whatever scenario which allows money to create money (both war and peace, by the way will bring proft).
          8) Bygone opportunities will never come back. Apparently, the recent past leaders of our region (including PIA?) had never properly. understood the essence of sciences to: Localize, Internalize–chew to death until one comes to–, Know–and accordingly–, Act to the benefit of their people.

          9) My point is, without properly looking in to the social dynamics (with the real “movers and shakers included”), just to assume that we are unique could lead to a seemingly mistaken conclusion; this would aggravate and dwarf the standard of living of our people today and tomorrow.

          Thanks

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Selam Mez & Ismailo,

            Please continue the thread you are debating. Not only it is important issue, but amazingly both of you have good grasp on the subject to educate the rest of us. The more such kind of debate flourished, the more the kids talk will be extinguished from this vibrant forum. On this topic if Saay, Kibrom, Yohannes (where is he by the way) and other cool headed chipped in, in to it, we will be in good shape. And please note what Mez is reminding us “our inability to understand, internalize, and act accordingly is one of the culprit of our misfortune as a nation”.

            Regards

          • Mez

            Dear Amanuel H,

            I will. Science and scientific approach, shall be the order of the day

            Thanks

  • Kokhob Selam

    Dear All,

    Ladies and gentlemen, when we go to the helpless, overwhelming challenges in our life, for no fault of ours or no fault of anybody else and we cannot do anything to sort it out, if we see and look at it from our point of view, all we see is a mess, all we see is situations and events tangled up. But when we look at the same situation from life’s point of view, from God’s point of view, we see a plan evolving in our lives.

    KS,,

    • blink

      Dear KS
      Come on gods views don’t evolve they just pop up like that of the words he does. God has no plan , he or she doesn’t exist and if they ever existed before somehow like the miracle of the milk and travel over water , oh always the drunken ones always blame the beer .

      • Kokhob Selam

        Dear blink,

        Are you able to challenge us? Let everyone here says, what is correct..

        KS,,

  • ሰላማት ሆፕ/ተስፋ፡ ኣያ ኣማኑኤል፡ ኩቡር ሓው በያን።

    Of Fr. Martelli and Nicola C.,

    “…But if we want to be serious and not just cry wolf after the wolf is dead, as people are doing today, we have to recognize that Fascism, insofar it realized that the social problem is first of all a problem of authority and that there can be no authority without Catholicism,….”

    ነ ‘ያ ኣማኑኤል ሕድራት በዛ ላዕለወይቲ ጥቕሲ ካብ፡ ዘ ዎርም ኦፍ ኳንሸስነስ ኤንድ ኣዘር አሰይስ፡ “ኣይተቕዞምዝሙ ይብል ኣያይ” ዳግመ ነብሰ-ጥቕሲ ተጠቒመ፡ ብመልሰይ ክትዓግብ ኩቡር ሓው ሆፕ፡ በዓል ዓቢ ተስፋ ኢየ።
    Your presumption is that ጻጸ might have only one understanding of the word “theology.” Suffice it to say, that in spite of having been gifted a free copy, including “shipping and handling” times two, for I have no doubt in my ability to proof the disjoint as well as the lack of added value I am now continuing to hammer.
    Mind you, respecting our dear brother Beyan Negash’s scarcity of ደጋይግ week days precious time to spare, I will first read through the anti disjoints, vis-a-vis “ሓውካ ኣበይ ኣሎ” and the dispatch of in Eritrea at 1991, G15-A, G15-B etcetra…. and then proceed to construct the disjoint. ካብ ነ ያይ ዝቃጸጾ አዚኣ አጃምካ ወይ ከኣ ዕማምካ ኢያ ኢለ መዲበ፡ አታ ዋጋ ዳማሪት ኢለ ዝግምግማ ስርሒት ናተይ መቐጸልተኣ፡ በዛ ትስዕብ ጥቕሲ ካብ ቺያራሞንተ, ኒኮላ፡ ተመልከተለይ።
    ቀሽ ሃይሉ፡ ኣባሓጎይ ኢዩ። Fr. Hailu is my maternal grandpa. “ጓል ቀሺ ሃይሉ ኣንቲ ዕላሉ ንዕንዶ ምሳይ ወዓሊ ሓደ ኣባሉ።” Follow me and lets go fishing on Lake BeAltiet / ቀላይ በዓልቴት።
    An out for the impregnable wager brother Beyan proposed is in the added value thus far generated and continuing. In my disjoint commentary here, utilizing the ደጋይግ ፓንታጆ ናይ ሰኑይ ሰሉስ፡ ክልተ ሰለስተ፡ ብዛ ጥቕሲ ካብ፡ አታ ሓሰኻ ናይ ንቕሓትን ካሎት ስነ ጽሑፋት፡ ዘረስታ መጽሓፍ፡ ንሕጂ ክድምድማ።

    “…The intellectuals of the Action Party, who thought they had to offer a new synthesis of liberation and socialism, and the demagogues of the Common Man Front, who tried a peculiar mixture of the old fashioned and the colloquial.”

    Eske ሕው እቡይ ኣያ አስማዒል AA ማኣረምታ ነዛ ኮሎኲያል ምስ፡ “ጽቡቓት ዠናቢል ኾሎኪዮና ድኻም ወዴአናዮም ስድራቤትና።” ከምዘይትራኸብ/disjoint ሙኻና፡ ለገሳኡ የበርክተለይ አንዳበልኩ ይዕድሞ።

    ኣቡ ዓሸራ መሳርያ X – Evolution.

    AMEritrean Giጻጸ እዚለ40 ኣግኔያ40 እርበዓ Acres and a Mule.

    ጻጸ

    • Hope

      Holy cow and Dear Cousin Tsatse!
      Talk to me in simple Kunamigna,please!

      Here is the BITTER TRUTH about Catholicism and its Liberation Theology for Social Justice for All!

      -Despite the ups and downs,the scandalism and the historically proven corruption coz of its few members and Leaders,The Catholic Church in particular and the Christian Church in general,are the TOP LEADERS and CHAMPIONS of SOCIAL JUSTICE and the BEST Providers of the BEST Education and Health Care System in the World.

      By proxy or directly and by default as well,that is the Perfect and Exact Definition of Liberation Theology!

      Don’t go far away but check it in Eritrea ,where the Catholic Church has provided everything one can imagine to improve and save the lives of poor Eritreans without any perceived or real prejudice,preconditions and irrespective of their Creed,Faith,Ethnicity,Region,Tribe ,Religion,etc. from Asmera all the way to the jungles of the Northern,Southern,Eastern,and Western Eritrea.

      I have been there,have seen that,have done that..,,
      Did u read the “Kida Kitaba”-the ENTIRE Bible in Kunama ,or u lost your Kunamigna,Shellie!

      Hint:
      -The Recent Unfiltered and BRAVE Declaration by the “Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Eritrea”through their Pastoral Letter entitled ” Hawikha/Hawikhi Abey Alo”/”Where is your Brother?”

      -The role of the Capuchins/ :Franciscans in Mldre Kunama?
      Fr Hailu? U got it buddy!

      -Santa Fsmilia/Asmera Univ and the Hagaz Afro-Industry College

      -St Joseph Schools of Keren and Amera

      -St George of Mendefera

      -The Comboni School(SAAY /can use hear me?)

      -The Kidane Mihret /Medanie Alem School of Massawa

      -The more than a hundred Clincs and Health Stations across Eritrea

      -The role of The Catholic Caritas in saving Ethiopians and Eritreans in mid 80s

      -The banned (by PIA)”The Eritrean Catholic Uinv of Africa//-intended to be the BEST in Africa-/moved to S Ethiopia and Addis(New St Thomas Aquinas Univ in the heart of Addis )!

      U need more?
      The George Town Uni,the Duke Univ,The Boston College,The St Augustine ?? Uin of New Orleans,The St Thomas,The St Mary,and The St Catherine Universities of the Twin Cities, Minnesota,USA…. the Catholic Heath Care Systems ..some of the best in the world,etc.

      Check on the top Kenyan,Nigerian and Ivory Coast as well as the Latin American World Class Universities .,mostly run by the Jesuits.

      Wait for a book coming soon!

      That is the Liberation Theology at its BEST.

      Deal with it,rather,”Let them deal with it and swallow the bitter truth”!
      Note:
      Keren is hosting /is the center of the SECOND LARGEST Cathedral in the World
      -Not just dreaming but HOPING to see “The KEREN Catholic Universty and New KEREN Regional Referral Medical Center” in the next 5-7 years…. ,the Almighy God willing,by none but the Catholic Church-The CHAMPION of Real and Practical Liberation Theology and Universal Social Justice”!

    • Hope

      Selam Sellie:
      My detailed response is GONE!
      Here is the snap shot of it:
      -Despite the scandal and corruption by their members and Leaders,The Christian Churches in general and the Catholic Churccin particular have been the Advocates of Universal Social Justice through out the world to the entire Humanity irrespective of peoples’ bacgroungd,Creed,Region,Religion,etc…
      A)Provdes the best Education,Healthcare and Social Services of all kinds
      B) Protects and stands for the Human Rights across the Globe

      -The Catholic Church is the ONLY ” “Super Power” that has challenged the USA Hegemony.

      The above are CC in Eritrea:
      A) The Best Education System in the Nation
      B)Comprehensive Healthcare to all the needy one across the nation from the N to the S and from the E to the W…..all the way to the Mountains and Jungles of Sahel and Barca.
      C)The ONLY POWER that challenged officially the brutal system in Unison thru the Eritrean Catholic Bishops Conference !
      My point:
      That is what we call the REAL Liberation Theology in ACTION!

  • Amanuel Hidrat

    Selam Beyan,

    Though I will order the book to read it and have my own evaluation, I don’t understand the relationship between the idea of “liberation theology” and “Eritrean exceptionalism” and how it is related to the new generation from your book report. Can you explain how the authors tried to relate the concepts specially the former.

    Regards
    Amanuel Hidrat

    • Beyan

      merHaba Amanuel H.,

      What Negash & Woldemichael are doing in this book is to address two strands that are seemingly irrelevant to each other – idea-wise – but are saying the two can be stricken by two separate means to appropriate one and dispose of the other: (1) “liberation theology “ can be appropriated as part of Eritrean tradition because there is ample documentation to suggest that can be traced 1927, in which Fr. Hailu laments about lack of the religious leaders intervention in speaking out against the askaris doing the war bidding for the colonial masters to help Italy in its colonial project, in this case, Libya.

      Mind you the tracing goes also from when “where is your brother” was dispatched back to 1991 when Eritrea became independent. Or in 2000 when the G15 were locked up in the dungeons, one of whom, namely Haile Dirue the social media reports has passed away. So, the authors are saying this tradition of religious leaders speaking out against injustice in its myriad forms on behalf of the underprivileged goes way back, where both of the major religious leaders had done. In this line of thinking one can also cite in how enda Gebriel bete Kristian in Akhriya vicinity was built by the clear eyed of then Judge Ali Bekhit who stood with his Christian community as he saw to it that a church be built.

      (2). The disposing of the second, namely, “exceptionalism” mentality can be eradicated if Eritreans begin to root themselves in the identity of their African-ness, one that is rooted in colonialism as opposed to letting the ghedli era “exceptionalism” as the only identity that has been taking us on the path to distraction; gathering from the last quarter of a century (mis) governance at the hands of former revolutionary leaders whose ideas are rooted in this exceptionalism mantra.

      The relations of the two to the “new generation” has more to do with engaging in conversations about the future of Eritrean identity. Given these conceptions of exceptionalism of the revolution era had been so consequential, through some such conversations, Eritreans can collectively arrive at a future of Eritrea rooted in its long historical trajectories as opposed to confining it exclusively in those 30 years of struggle. That’s my understanding of how the authors want to disburden the young generation from the burden that had befallen them, one that they had no hand in its making nor in its execution. The authors are opening that possibility for all Eritreans to engage in a conversation rooted on some theories and concepts rather than on innuendos and red herring that much of our conversations tend to gravitate towards.

      These are my reading of the book, but of course, reading of others’ take will enrich the conversation. Hope you as well as ጻጸ, Haile, and others will give your impressions so the conversation can keep going. After all, part of the title carries the word conversation. If we get to do that, I am sure the authors would consider their product as a successful endeavor, one that changed the conversation out of the overwhelmingly ghedli tilted narrative.

      BN

    • Amanuel Hidrat

      Selam Beyanom,

      ክልተ ዓበይቲ ጥምረ-ሓሳባት ዘራኽብ ዘየብሎም ኣብሐደ ወዲንካ ከተቅርቦም ትኽእል ዲኻ? ከነቅርቦም ክንፍትን አብዝደለናሉ ኸአ መላግቦ ናይተን ክልተ ጥምረ-ሐሳባት ደረስቲ ክሕብሩ የብሎምድዮም? ክልተኤን ብተናጸል ክግለጻ እንተደአ ኾይነንከ እንታይ ዓይነት አርእስቲ አብሐደ መጽሓፍ ክወሃበን አሎ ዝብል ናይ editors ሕቶ አየምጽእንዶ ይመስለካ?

      Regards

      • Beyan

        merHabatat Aman,

        እዋእ እሂ ዳኣ ድማ፡ When ብሐደ ወገን ዓበቕ ናይ ኮለኒያልዝም በቲ ሓደ ድማ ሕኸኽ ናይ ኢክሰፕሽናልዝም keep on making one’s sense of being irreconcilable. The cure comes in a form of liberation theology and Pan Africanism. Gloria Anzaldua expresses the wound of being a border dweller next to a first world expresses it as such: “The U.S-Mexican border es una herida abierta where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds. And before a scab forms it hemorrhages again, the lifeblood of two worlds merging to form a third country — a border culture. Borders are set up to define the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them.”

        Let us find the cure to our wounds, some were of our making and some others from those who felt the need to civilize us by colonizing us. You enmesh these together, the prescription needs not come from one smooth source. Traveling to Latin America on the one hand and while staying rooted in Africa, on the other, might just be what the doctor ordered. Who said the healing process need be smooth, it is rough that has so many edges, so many tentacles, its composition by necessity will be one that would require us to be bold, irrespective of the hiccups we may produce along the way. Let us keep on theorizing in the flesh or otherwise, we will eventually find the solution to our problems.

        Hawka,
        Beyan

        • Kokhob Selam

          Dear you two intelligent participants..

          I will read it carefully…Now thank you for this very abstract subject ..

          KS,,

        • Amanuel Hidrat

          Merhaba Beyanom,

          መብዛሕትኡ ጊዜ አንበብተይ ብትግሪኛ አርቲክልስ ዘይምጽሓፈይ ስለዝኸሱኒ ሐሐሊፈ ብትግሪኛ comment ብምግባረይ ቅር አይበልካ:: እሞ ብኡ ክቅጽሎየ::

          ሓዉ በያን ደረስቲ አልዒሎመን ዘለው ክልተ ጥንሰ-ሐሳባት አገደስትን ግዜያውያንውን እየን:: እቲ ሕቶ : ብሓደ ተጠሚረን ክቀርባ ምኽአለንን ዘይምኻአለንን እዩ:: ይከኣል እንተተባሂሉ ከአ አብቲ ቴማ ናይቲ ድርሰት አንባባይ መላግቦኤን ብቀሊሉ ዘስተባህለለን ዝርድኦን ክኸውን አለዎ:: አብቲ ጽሑፍካ ከምዝገለጽካዮ ግን: ክልተ አምራት ጎኒጎኒ ዝኸዳ ዘይወሓሓጣ: ነጻነትን ሐልየን ከምዝኸዳ ኮይነን ከምዝቀረባ ዘሰምዕ ገይርካ ኢኻ: ንሕቶይ መሊሽካዮ:: አብ ቴማ ድርሰት መልእትኻ ብparallelism እንድሕሪ ተሰኹዑ ንአንባባይ ከርሲናይቲ ጽሑፍ ንምግንዛተብ የሸግሮ’ዩ:: ባሻይ ዓርከይ ብዙሕ ሐሳባት ብእኩብ አብ ሐደ ገይሩ ሕፍይጽሞ: ስለምንታይ ክትብሎ ኸለኻ እንታይ ይብል ኩሉ ነናቱ መታን ከልዕል ስለዚ ንስኻኸአ ናትካ ተልዕል ይብለኒ:: ስለዚኸአ ደረስቲ ክልተ ዓበይቲ ጥምረ-ሓሳባት ዘራኽብ ዘየብሎም ኣብሐደ ወዲንካ ከተቅርቦም ትኽእል ዲኻ? ከነቅርቦም ክንፍትን አብዝደለናሉ ኸአ መላግቦ ናይተን ክልተ ጥምረ-ሐሳባት ደረስቲ ክሕብሩ የብሎምድዮም? ክልተኤን ብተናጸል ክግለጻ እንተደአ ኾይነንከ እንታይ ዓይነት አርእስቲ አብሐደ መጽሓፍ ክወሃበን አሎ ዝብል ናይ editorial ሕቶ አየምጽእንዶ ይመስለካ? ዘፍረሐኒ ዘሎ በያኖም::

          ሰሰናዩ ንዓኻ

          • Beyan

            Selam Amanom,

            ቅሩብ ዳኣ ሰረገላ ቅድሚ’ቲ ፈረስ ከይመስል ነገሩ’ምበር: your readers appear to know you well, because your Tigrinya is flawless similar to that of KS and that of Haile S. So, awate will soon be saying to you እነሄ ፈረስ እነሄ ሜዳ where you can write in whatever language you wish, for Tigrinya will be one of the menu options.

            The other ሰረገላ ቅድሚ’ቲ ፈረስ is one that has to do with our book in contention. It will only be fair for us to discuss it deeply when both of us are on the same page – i.e., after you read the book. Perhaps, I should’ve strictly focused in doing the formulaic type of book reviewing. You know, the title, the introductory paragraph that gives the reader an idea of what will follow, explaining the subject matter under review; author’s arguments and thesis; summary of the book content; what kinds of sources does/do the author/authors use; then the reviewer gives his/her own assessment of the book, etc.

            But, this time I broke away from that mold because, frankly, the book is breaking the Eritrean norms. So, I decided to to take literature analysis approach instead of book review approach, that might be at play here, creating a little confusion. As I was analyzing the book, at times I felt like the book was being overwhelmed by other sources, combined with my voice in the mix, the book may have been drowned out entirely by this hybrid process. Just an afterthought here.

            Cheers,
            Beyan

          • Haile S.

            Beyan ans Emma,

            ኣንቱም በያን፡ እቲ ትግርኛ ትድሕድሕዎ’ዶ ኣይንኤኹምን! ስድሪ እኳ ነይተረፈኩም። ዝኾነ ኮይኑ ክብረት ይሃበለይ።
            I don’t think Emma is not missing the link between the ailment and its possible remedy. Just as stricktly law abiding pharmacist he is questioning the off-label prescription 🙂 🙂 🙂 .

          • Beyan

            merHaba Haile S. & Aman,

            “the off-label prescription” uproariously captures it for me. What I wanted to capture in the above note is that, I’ve received two private e-mails from those who read the book. Here is the gist of their message: The first one said that I should consider writing a book in similar fashion related to Akhriya uprising. The second one said this is the kind of conversation that needs to happen. Both of whom read the book. So, that’s what got me to wonder if the missing link might just be that because Aman hasn’t read the book. Similarly, ጻጸ more than hinted in the vein of Amanuel’s skepticism.

            At any rate, let me bring what you wrote earlier here, to which I kept on going back to read, particularly, the part about : “ዕስክርና ጥልያን” the part that deals when the askaris arrived at the crack of dawn in NaQfa: “Through Kub Kub, we walked all the night climbing the hills and reached NaQfa at dawn. After discharging our heavy loads, we immediately gathered and started dancing and celebrating by carrying and throwing high in the air our leader Major Bersini and other Italian officials. While this was going on some Askaris who were so tired and laying on the side were brought one by one to the center of the scene to receive 20 to 50 wraths of the whip for not dancing and celebrating the event. If the Askari forgets to give his military salute to the officials before he lies down on the ground for the beat, he will receive again another 20 to 50 of that whip (ኣንኮራ ኣልትሮ ቨንቲ ….. ኣልትሮ ቺንኳንታ), as it is written in the book.”

            It’s these kinds of ancestral narratives of suffering in the hands of the colonizers we want to completely erase from our collective memories that Dr. Awet and Dr. Ghirmai are saying no to. These are real stories that our forefathers had to endure the colonial complete subjugation. This is what Dr. Ghirmai and Dr. Awet wanting us to own up to. In a far out on the other end of hemisphere, there were intellectuals from the Caribbean challenging French colonialism around the same time, which was vastly different than the Italian ones, but the end result is all one and the same. Cesaire’s (1956) “Return to my native land” has some biting poetry, here is a taste of it. Haile, you probably read the original in French:

            “Once moe this limping life before me, no not this life, this death, this death without sense of piety, this death where there is no majesty this death which limps from pettiness to pettiness; little greeds heaped on top of the conquistador; little flunkeys heaped on top of the great savage; little souls shovelled on top of the three-souled Caribbean.
            and all those pointless deaths
            absurd beneath the spatter of my ripped conscience
            tragically pointless, lit by just one phosphorescen…”

            BN

          • Professor,

            ኣፕሮርዮስሊ! Seriously? 🙂 🙂 :-):-)

            :-X :-$

          • Haile S.

            Selam Beyan,

            Thank you for bringing one of Aime Cesaire’s paragraphs. I haven’t read him as I should. Coincidentally my son was asking me the other day who this person was. I will takes these 2 reminders to read him.

            By ‘erasing the suffering’ I understand what you and the authors are saying; i.e. NOT to stay immersed in that kind of sludgy memory, but to propel out by using it as a springboard and avoid lamenting about it. It happens that this particular field (Eritrean colonial history) is a virgin land where very very few sufferers and scholars adventured to revisit or visit. It is ዘይተዳህሰሰ ሕዛእቲ waiting for people like you and these authors to graze. Yes, our priorities need to be on looking forward and marching to the future, but we also need the professionals to write and talk about it, definitively not with the facial muscles and diaphragm contracted and the chest hyperstretched when talking and the finger muscles tense and in tremor when writing, the way the dictating leaders of our nation do it. Without being every day, every minute and at every occassion, we can talk and discuss of the bitter past without grinding our molars like these so called leaders do it.

            The reason why people and especially our leaders take past sufferings to the marrow and paradoxally indolent to the present suffering they are responsible for appears to be in order to anchor and cement the foundation of the country on ‘solid ground’. This is far more damaging in that a foundation too much leaning on complaint and suffering is susceptible to crack when those suffering disappear. Eritreas foundation is definitely not that. It is the a common destiny of a people who happen to live in relative harmony off a central power that was lengthy absent except for its sporadic excursion to levy taxes. These people happen to be consolidated under a name when the colonizer came. When the colonizer left, it fractured, but did not crumble, because the colonizer was not its true foundation.

          • Beyan

            Selam kbur Haw Haile S.,

            You’re absolutely right, Eritrea has been consumed for the 30 years on a nation-state sovereignty project and the last quarter of century working toward compromising that very project. So, the former and the latter combined made it next to impossible to venture outside that conversation. It is why I found Dr. Awet and Dr. Ghirmai’s book a refreshing read. We are now barely beginning to studiously study the colonial project, the Askaris who were drafted to fight, some willingly and many more forcibly.

            There might be works of colonialism in the language of colonizers, namely, Italian language, but I have not come across a book that treats colonialism in Eritrean context as a subject of a book. The book of the subject at hand is barely scratching the surface; it has opened the door for other scholars to follow suit. So, the entry point of colonialism and the ending point are important historical epochs that would require scholarship so it provides trajectorially speaking a thorough understanding of the postcolonial history; that seems to me is what are grappling with now in addition, of course, to the revolutionary years that complicates the narrative even further, which brings me to your last paragraph above.

            The seemingly paradoxical narrative you end your thoughts with, on the one hand, in how a people coming together because of the common suffering they’ve endured would be “susceptible to crack when those suffering disappear”. On the other hand, rightly so, too, you quickly present a counter narrative to show that Eritrea’s case was not the that because Eritreans had existed “in relative harmony off a central power that was lengthy [and that] [w]hen the colonizer left, it fractured, but did not crumble because the colonizer was not its true foundation.” This is an important point to contend a bit further using Dr. Awet’s ominous warning, where the comfort you drew in the cracking but not completely busting open when the colonizers left might not be the same when one’s own tyranny leaves the scene. Consider Dr. Awet’s entry in the book of our contention:

            “Surely, such a tragic turn of events as has been seen and experienced in post-independence Eritrea cannot be entirely relegated to the failings or malice of a single person or group – whatever their weaknesses. Nor can the impediments to change be miniaturized to a single individual and/or group. Whereas the principal hurdle to a long term stability will be the absence of such a leadership, i.e. vacuum, a bottomless abyss that is no longer a remote hypothetical probability, the key to national salvation will be for all Eritreans to take their respective shares of responsibility.*(see the footnote below that Dr. Awet adds from his own field experience in Somalia). Because citizens of any country ought to take the blame or earn the acclaim for the system that presides over their country for so long (two and half decades and counting in the case of Eritrea). It is high time that Eritreans seek each other’s forgiveness and reconcile, get in touch with the core Eritrean values that made independence possible in the first place and reawaken the long-stalled pluralist political programs through inclusive
            Processes.”(p. 23)
            Footnote:
            “*Whereas Yemen, Libya and Syria are ongoing examples, I am a firsthand witness from the ground in Somalia to the dire consequences of similar processes 20 years on. Resisting my cautioning against such prospects, many fellow citizens succumb to the same old rhetoric of Eritrean exceptionalism when in fact Eritreans are as exceptional in their own ways as are all other peoples in their respective ways.” (p. 23)

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Selam Hailat,

            I am not commenting on the actual book, rather I am commenting on the review of the book. Right now, I am ordering it from the publisher to own one. The publisher is not far from me, I could even drive few minutes and buy it.

  • Selamat Beyan,

    1. The good news is Red Sea Press and Eritrean scholar authors have produced a book “challenging the Eritrean psyche.
    2. I will make effort to get a copy, from the library at least, because based on your book review, pardon my candor but Liberation Theology & Intergenerational Discourse on Eritrea G.N. and A.T.W. I strongly suspect is unreadable and very disjoint. It does not look like it will add value as to the way forward for Eritrea and Eritreans.
    Based on your article, I will explain myself thusly.
    A. Lest Eritrean Armed Rebellion for Independence we are considering as colonialism period, I fail to see how effects of colonialism on Eritrean psych to more pertinent than the thirty years long war between and amongst Eritreans and Ethiopians. The “exceptionalism” (apparently a new “ism”) of Eritreans Today is due more to the Eritrean “against all odds” victorious end to Eritrea’e armed struggle for independence aw well as the surmounting of seemingly knock out hurdles or formidable obstacles, such as Badme border war and subsequent economic meltdown chess war the relatively young nation state that is Eritrea withstood. Lest Negash and Weldemichael are claiming Eritrean Sewra and Independence to be colonialism there is a huge gap of fourty years disconnect in their equation. The book would be a timely scholarly work had it been published in the 50s or 60s it seems.
    B. The squeezing in of pan africanism vis-a-vis african liberation theology has a mild to strong stench of Eritrean-Ethiopian unionists from the bygone era reincarnates ala Yosief Gebrehiwet and or Agazyans (ኣጋዝያውያን). The “Intergenerational” insert to the title to lure young Eritrean readers by making them think momentarily their voices are on the chapters 1,2,3,4 only to betray them by going back nearly a century and excluding the thirty years or sewra and twenty seven subsequent years that most shaped their psyche. Moreover, I suspect the Eritrean (ዓስካሪ ትሪፖሊ) Askari in Tripoli, Libya of 1927 and the Eritrean Askari in Ethiopia in 1935 varnished as anti colonialism the colonized “exeptionalism” Eritrean psyche to be rid off so that African Eritreans are to be brought back to the right state of mind of Africanist to love and disregard colonialist borders for the sake of pan africanism is naive attempt of narrative to capture Eritrea’s young.

    C. The mention of “victimized mentality” of the Eritrean is also a false premiss of which I shall elaborate further at a later time. Evidently it is trending these,days.
    D. As for the malevolence as well as the “exceptionalism” lacking in Independent Eritrea, I believe further scrutiny of such claims I believe is a necessity these days.

    F. I suppose I must read the book first and perhaps come back with a rejoinder that will be tSAtSE’s own book review.

    G. Finally, I beg your pardon for not acquiescing your book review, which sub standard to your always exquisite reviews and essays. I suspect you were duty bound to do the book review– based on my compilation of numerous commentaries and shares you,have penned of late. I will read Negash and Weldemichael’s Liberation Theology…. and get back to you, hopefully, in a more coherent way.

    ጻጸ

    • Beyan

      merhaba ጻጸ,

      You bring a lot of issues worthy of discussion, but as you rightly said it, we will have informed discussions if you were to read the book and do the needed evaluation as haw Amanuel has promised he will do. One thing I am certain though, I will be willing to buy the book from you, shipping and handling included, if you can show the disjoint that you suspect the book might suffer from, hence for questioning of the added value that it would have once you read it.

      Sincerely,
      Beyan

  • Haile S.

    Selamat Beyan,

    Ouf! This is a unique insight into a unique book where based on your review tries to demystify myths and exorcise demons like exceptionalism, victimized-mentality and wounds that room throughout its chapters. Looking at your review’s length, at first, I said, we are being served everything on a silver plate and buying the book would just be for the crump and the decor. Well delving into it surprise over surprise and chapter after chapter came appetizer over appetizer leaving my stomach hanging for the main Zgni (stew) you deliberately left simmering that I will buy and devor. The appetizer for some chapters is just the 6 piece de-shelled snails immersed in garlic butter where that juicy tender gastropod flesh melts and get registered in the gustative papilla. For most other chapters, the snail is stuffed and pushed in its shell with mixture of fine herbs and wine concocted by the reviewer and where you fight taking the flesh out with thongs and lick this forked instrument as if it never stops extracting the delice. Beyan, it is not easy to follow you when you are in your elements. You are like ኣብ ሕዛእቲ ዝኣተወ ብዕራይ 🙂 ። ንኣኻ ከርክብ ዝጎየኽዎ ኣድኪሙኒ፡ ኣብኡ ዝኣረኽዎ ኣውሒን ምጥሖን ኮፍ ኢለ ክጣጥም ክቕኒ እየ።
    Reading the book through you, the ‘theology’ part of the title intriguing at first clears up as you go down through the chapters. Neutralizing the theology of self-reduction and destruction through self imposed ‘exceptionalism’ using other theology(ies), the remedy prescribes by the authors is a turning point and original way of viewing and narrating Eritrean history. Exorcising using the cross and the crescent, the traditional instruments, so to speak, as well as the African drum and baton, the intestinal one, are radical means of chasing our demons away. If at all there was exceptionalism in the eritrean colonial history (I insist “IF” at all), it should not go in a meriting sense for eritreans, but it is in the dehumanizing brutality of the colonizer that they demerited. Let me cite from a book similar to the 1927 one that Ghirmai unearthed. A book almost identically entitled ዕስክርና ጥልያን or Italian conscription, written in tigrigna by a conscript (Askari) ገዛኢ (መስፍን ኣፍለይ) Ghezae, aka Mesfn Afley and published in 1977. He got conscripted in 1940 and immediately assigned to the Northwestern front to fight Britain and its Allies. Arriving at NaQfa here is what he says. Through Kub Kub, we walked all the night climbing the hills and reached NaQfa at down. After discharging our heavy loads, we immediately gathered and started dansing and celebrating by carrying and throwing high in the air our leader Major Bersini and other Italian officials. While this was going on some Askaris who were so tired and laying on the side were brought one by one to the center of the scene to receive 20 to 50 wraths of the whip for not dansing and celebrating the event. If the Askari forgets to give his military salute to the officials before he lies down on the ground for the beat, he will receive again another 20 to 50 of that whip (ኣንኮራ ኣልትሮ ቨንቲ ….. ኣልትሮ ቺንኳንታ), as it is written in the book.

    Finally the intergenerational connection of the authors is another exemplary collaboration that we would like to see happen at every level of our cultural, social and educational interactions. Let me express my genuine appreciation and encouragement to see young successful professionals like Awet publish for the education and delight of many of us. On Ghirmai, let me just say I feel lucky to have known him as a neighbour during those hectic years of 1975 and now reading him a fully fledged marathonien of history and culture. I just couldn’t skip saying it, I am truly honored.

    • Beyan

      Selam Haile S.,

      What can I say, your metaphor of food to express your sense of delight, was, simply put, delightful. Indeed, the demons of colonialism, the demons of the thirty-year war of liberation, and now the 26 years of post-liberation era’s wrath unleashed by the ones we considered our own will need more than crescent and the cross to chase it away. This is why I so enjoyed the book as it brings forces of good such as liberation theology and ideas of exceptionalism that should’ve retired with the culmination of independence, continue to define our sense of being (ontology), and Dr. Ghirmai & Dr. Awet are saying enough of that illusion.

      Many thanks for the much needed rejoinder by mentioning and quoting from another book (ዕስክርና ጥልያን) that I wasn’t even aware existed; it certainly adds substance, hence the importance of bringing colonialism as part and parcel of who we are collectively. This recognition will give better understanding rather than unduly preoccupying ourselves only on our immediate history.

      Cheers,
      BN