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Omar Jabir: A Wise Elder Departs

The passing of Omar Jabir is like the disappearance of a bright star from the Eritrean Revolutionary Firmament. As I have had occasion to declare in a posting in Awate a few years ago, Omar represents the soft side of the Eritrean character, a side that owns and uses empathy in his dealings with people.

The first time I met Omar was in Bagdad in 1975. I was impressed by his gentle charisma and sense of decency. The following is what I wrote about Omar on April 10, 2012

Omar Jabir: An Empathetic Sage

I have decided to include in this concluding segment a response to the piece written about me by Ustaz Omar Jabir under the intriguing title, “Dr. Bereket Habteselassie: From the Unknown to the Uncertain” (Awate, Mar 07, 2010).

The relevance of Omar’s piece to the subject at hand will be clear later. When I read Omar Jabir’s piece, at first I thought that some unkind person had misinformed him about my departure to the “Great Unknown” from which no one returns. That kind of title usually refers to the “dearly departed” and God knows that there are a few types who wish me a hasty departure, especially among the ungodly crowd in Asmara and their mindless agents in the Diaspora.

Reading the piece further on, however, I realized that my first thought was misplaced: that the gentle Omar was paying me a compliment, putting some parts of my past life and service in perspective covering a period of over thirty-five years. He gives a rough outline of aspects of my life and role in some historical events. The reality is more complex; but rather than write correction here, I prefer to send him a book of my memoirs with my compliments—care of Awate. Omar also raises a few questions concerning my views on a couple of issues, which makes his piece relevant to the subject about which I am writing and which I need to answer; but before I respond to the questions he raises, I thought it might be relevant to give a brief review of the historical circumstances of our meeting. After all, this article is part of excerpts of my memoirs

My Journey from Sahel to the Middle East

It was in the spring of 1975. I was on a mission—part humanitarian and part political. Having spent some time in the highland areas of the “Field,” helping in the popular efforts to stop the “civil war” between the ELF and the EPLF, I had traveled to Sahel and thence abroad, with a mandate to mobilize relief supplies for Eritrean refugees and displaced persons whose number had increased exponentially after the Ethiopian military offensive in early 1975.

I journeyed from Sahel on board a small boat captained by an EPLF fighter, an Afar named Vasco, crossing the Red Sea on the way to Aden in what was then the Democratic Republic of Yemen. We had traveled together with some wounded fighters in the company of Romodan Mohamed Nur and Woldenkiel Gebremariam. The late Osman Saleh Sabbe came from Beirut to meet us in Aden. He made all the travel arrangements for us to travel to Beirut for a meeting of the Foreign Mission of the EPLF, which he headed. After that meeting he arranged for me and my companion, Redazghi Gebremedhin, to tour the Middle East, including Iraq.

When we discussed things to do and not to do—people to meet and places to visit—with Romodan and Woldenkiel, I remember Woldenkiel telling me not to meet the Eritrean group in Iraq who belonged to GUES Baghdad. He told me in no uncertain terms to avoid them like the plague (KeytQerbom!). Woldenkiel was the EPLF representative in Aden, and Romodan was a member of the EPLF provisional leadership. It was a time of bitter division; hence Weldenkiel’s counsel, which sounds strange to an uninformed listener. Eritrean politics was poisoned by factional fights exacerbated by the deadly “civil war;” and one of the reasons for my tour was to help put an end to this sad condition, promote unity as well as to mobilize relief. The mandate for mobilizing relief from abroad was given at a joint meeting of the ELF-EPLF leadership, held in Deqetros, attended by Isaias Afwerki representing the EPLF and Ibrahim Totil on behalf of the ELF. To that end, we later created the Eritrean Relief Association (ERA) of which I was the founding chairman, and Redazghi Gebremedhin was secretary.

I did not heed the counsel of Woldenkiel to avoid the GUES; on the contrary, I told him that as an Eritrean elder working to promote unity of the two fronts and seeking relief for the distressed, I was duty-bound to meet any and every Eritrean who came my way. And when I met Osman Sabbe in Beirut, I told him that I wanted to meet all Eritreans whichever Front they supported. Sabbe raised no objections; indeed, he made several arrangements for meetings throughout much of the Middle East.

An Encounter with GUES Baghdad

Baghdad was our last stop. We first met Abu Ala, a Syrian-born official of Iraq’s Baath party and head of the party’s department dealing with Africa. Having completed our “official” visits, I asked to see Eritrean students who were grouped around GUES Baghdad. Our tour guides informed us that there was a death in the family of one of the students, and most of them were sitting in mourning. Could we wait until the mourning period was over? I said: I would like to visit the place where the mourning was being held; and we did go there. A couple of days later, having duly expressed our condolences, we attended a meeting of a few dozen Eritrean students. I believe it was there that I first met Omar Jabir at the end of the meeting.

The meeting began calmly. Naturally, everyone was curious to know who I was and why I had come to Iraq. Speaking in Tigrigna with an interpreter sitting by my side at the table translating my remarks, I started my speech with warm greetings before I delved into the topic at hand. Before I could continue some members of the audience voiced protests. There followed a period of shouting, and a general atmosphere of riot—Igrgr! It all took me by surprise (at that point, I remembered Woldenkiel’s counsel—keitQerbom!). Turning to the interpreter, I asked him what was happening; he told me that they were protesting against my speaking in Tigrigna! I told him to let them know that I was capable of making the speech in English if need be. He did, and some voiced approval while others objected. The igrgr continued.

At that point, a distinguished-looking man, who appeared to be more mature in years than the average members of the audience, got up to address the meeting. When he spoke people became quiet and listened to him with rapt attention. At the end of his speech when he sat down, my interpreter told me that I could speak in Tigrigna. I whispered to him, Alhamdlilahi, I can speak in my own language! Some of those sitting in front heard what I said and laughed at the irony of the point in my remark. I also asked my interpreter in a whisper who was the distinguished man who calmed down the riot. He whispered back, “His name is Omar Jabir.”

I gave the gathering a summary of the nature of our mission, and also briefly described the ongoing mediation efforts aimed at creating a national unity with the reconciliation of the two Fronts as a crucial element. At the end of my speech, there was a polite applause, a politeness eclipsed by what followed during the question and answer session. I was mercilessly attacked by a few outspoken members of GUES Baghdad for what they were convinced I was—an emissary of the thawra mudadda (Arabic for counter-revolutionary), which was what ELF cadres called the EPLF. There were, of course a few questions that were relevant to the topic of my speech. In the end, exhausted and disappointed, I sat down to lick my wounds and to wonder whether Woldenkiel was right in warning me against meeting the Baghdad group. Was I a fool in search of a hopeless cause of unity? I thought not, and I doggedly set forth in pursuit of that noble cause, and was pleasantly surprised to find a kindred spirit in Omar Jabir, a wise and gentle soul who encouraged me to continue the cause of unity which he shared wholeheartedly.

Persistent Questions 

In the concluding part of his piece, Ustaz Omar Jabir wrote:

…I would like to pass to Dr. Bereket some remarks that I heard from some observers who follow (his) contributions (mainly Muslims): I hope he will consider the following in the struggle for a new Eritrea (Haddas Ertra)…

1) Some say that you are concerned about the post Independence influx of Eritrean Refuges, that is natural and appreciated, but you should equally be concerned about the “original” refugees—more than a quarter of a million—who should have returned home by now and settled in their liberated land.

2) Some believe that you are a strong advocate for democracy and against dictatorship—something that is highly appreciated; but you do not go far enough to call for the dismantlement of the structure and composition of the present state that is dominated by one ethnic group. And those observers ask:

  • If the composition of the state—its departments, channels and personnel are all from one ethnic group—how can we have justice and equality?
  • How can we guarantee justice and equality if one ethnic group owns the wealth, resources, assets and everything else in Eritrea?

My Response  

1- To me all refugees deserve our attention and support. When I helped establish ERA, I was only aware of the refugees in the highlands around Asmara whose villages the Ethiopian army had destroyed. Indeed the creation of ERA was begun in response to those events in early 1975, events that I personally witnessed. It was not until I went to Sahel that I started learning about the “original refugees” in other parts of Eritrea in the lowlands. I remember one particular song of Idris Mohamed Ali in Tigre in which he asks:

“Ayye gheset Kubuda?…….
…… Semsem gheset interrb…..Semesem gheset interrb.” Etc …etc.

I asked what the song was about and was told it was about the earlier Eritrean refugees driven by enemy attacks. And when we created ERA my companion Redazghi and I went to the refugee areas in Sudan to make assessment of needs. So I have been aware of, and had the same concerns for the “original” refugees as for the new ones. To me a refugee is a refugee. The preeminent consideration is motivated by a human concern, and should not have anything to do with the ethnicity or nationality of the refugee.

The claim that the original refugees have been denied their right of return has disturbed me ever since I heard it; and I made attempts to verify its veracity. That there are a huge number of refugees still in Sudan is beyond question though their exact number is disputed. Also disputed (by some) is the allegation that the Isaias government has denied and deliberately blocked their return. My comment on this last part has been twofold. First, we all have a duty to see to it that all Eritrean refugees are helped to return to their homeland and that the government has a solemn duty to do everything in its power toward that end. Second, I am on record for stating that if the allegation of deliberate blockage is well-founded, the government is liable to charges of crimes against humanity. I stand by that statement. (See my last posting in Mar 1, 2010)

2-  As to the question regarding my position on the “dismantlement of the structure and composition” of the present state, the point is that the current state is dominated by one ethnic group, the Tigrigna ethnic group. How can there be justice and equality under such a condition?  

My Response 

Concerning this question, I give the following threefold answers.

First of all, the domination of the Eritrean state by the Tigrigna ethnic group is beyond question. This is a fact, and only those suffering from self-delusion can deny it. The facts and figures marshaled by researchers like Ahmed Raji prove this to be the case beyond doubt.

Secondly, there are historical and other reasons to explain the fact of the Tigrigna domination of Eritrean political life. The ethnic question is connected to the religious question as I tried to describe and analyze in my previous posting referred to above. Comparatively more educational and other opportunities were available to the Christian (Tigrigna) highlanders. As I observed in the earlier posting, one of the effects of the abrogation of the UN-granted federation of Eritrea and Ethiopia was to diminish or downgrade the role of Muslims in the Eritrean government.

Thirdly, the question now is where do we go from here: what is to be done in order to redress the balance, to remedy the situation in the new Eritrea? In this respect, owning up to the facts of inequality and agreeing on the basic principles of democratic equality among all Eritreans is a first prerequisite. Democratic equality is guaranteed under the 1997 constitution, which the ruling regime has trashed. Eritreans who do not accept the constitution on the grounds that it was drafted under the aegis of the EPLF government should review chapter three of the constitution. Those who find fault for it on any other ground should be reminded that it has amendment provisions; it can be improved. One such amendment in addition to the ones mentioned in my previous posting may be the need to provide for more devolution of power from the center to the regions. This can be debated.

Let me be clear on one thing: anyone who expects me or members of my Commission to apologize illustrates what I called an antipathetic spirit. I will not apologize for taking a major role in drafting the constitution as some have demanded. On the contrary, with the exception of the part of the constitution which I agree may need amendment, it is my firm belief that the constitution can and should be taken as an important weapon in the struggle for democracy and justice. The tendency on the part of Eritreans opposed to the EPLF to condemn members of the EPLF and expect them to apologize for the part they played as members of the EPLF in various capacities, including being part of the constitution-making process, is not only wrong but damages the cause of a united struggle for democracy and justice. Granted that many evil deeds were performed by the EPLF leadership for which they should be answerable both in legal and historical terms. But does that mean that the EPLF members should apologize for liberating Eritrea from enemy occupation? By the same token, why should I be expected to apologize for helping write a constitution, which, despite some defects, has been hailed as exemplary by most observers?

From Antipathy to Empathy 

There is a sense in which this heading should serve as the title of the concluding part of this article (Chapter). And by way of returning the compliment to Ustaz Omar Jabir for his kind remarks about me, I have called him an Empathetic Sage. I say this both on the basis of his behavior at the Baghdad meeting, which saved an occasion from turning into a disastrous encounter as well as on his writings. He strikes me as a man dedicated not only to democracy and justice, but also to decency and empathy to people holding views different from his own.

I chose the heading for this concluding part of my piece, “Beyond Antipathy” because I have come to the conclusion that we Eritreans are in dire need of empathy toward one another, as different ethnic and religious communities, if we are to survive as a united country. We are at the cross road; our people are going through a traumatic time, suffering under a tyrannical regime controlled by a ruthless narcissistic leader. Yet, tragically, the opponents of the regime remain divided, and the Hafash are confused and helpless—victims of a situation beyond their control. The country gained its independence, but the people are not free. The promise of freedom, equality and justice for all, for which our martyrs paid the supreme sacrifice, was betrayed. Moreover, vertical divisions, partly fostered by the regime, and in part manipulated by the inordinate ambition of some individuals, have plagued us and threaten to tear us apart.

Even as the regime is precariously hanging on to life, the members of the opposition camp are, for the most part, engaged in recriminations and endless squabbles, a condition that psychologists describe as group regression. This is a phenomenon in which a perceived leadership vacuum causes groups or teams to retreat to less adaptive modes of functioning, pointing fingers at one another instead of focusing on the true adversary. And amid the furious war of words waged among the ever-increasing number of fronts, political groups, civic society organizations and assorted individual voices, now amplified by the advent of the Internet, something seemed to be missing. Something vital has been lost—the original “founding myth” of the Eritrean story. That compelling story, which had fascinated the world, a world that had betrayed it and later dismissed it as a lost cause (do you remember?)—that story has inexplicably morphed into orphaned victimhood.

Today, the lions of yesteryear moan and groan. Of late, they have been fighting over turf—turf that is still the private domain, the hunting preserve of the Brute. Roaring frightfully, these proud guerillas of the Red Sea now mobilize their respective pride, growling at one another—highland versus lowland. This—as if they didn’t forge a national will for the common goal, shedding precious blood, sweat and tears together! To witness their “turf fight” is to be tempted to abandon hope and cry, “a pox on both their houses!” But for whose benefit? To whose advantage? Not to those of the people for whom the war of liberation was waged, and countless heroes paid the supreme sacrifice. Abandoning hope would dishonor the sacred blood of martyrs. It would deny the noble sentiment that flowed from the spark of human liberty, of universal freedom and brotherhood that was the source of the “founding myth.” That noble sentiment, that spark of liberty, constitutes the core value defining the essence of Eritrean identity. And it was that core value that launched our freedom fighters to wage a national war of liberation. Yes, we won liberation of the land, but not the freedom of the people, which was frustrated by the betrayal of a tyrannical regime.

A Paradigm Shift at Last? 

The expression, “Turf war” used in the preceding paragraph may appear vague. So let me make it clearer using more familiar language to those who have been following the raging debate over the last year. A particularly bitter controversy of what I called turf fight concerns a region-based complaint that the highland Eritreans are taking over land belonging to the lowlanders. After months of seemingly endless debates, it appears that comparative calm has descended on Eritrean opposition cyber space. A major cause of the calm is the appearance, out of the blue, of an extraordinary piece of writing known as the Eritrean Covenant, which centers the grievance from region to religion, namely Islam. In the wake of the posting of this document many writers have approvingly hailed it as a historic document. I join those writers in welcoming the Eritrean Covenant. From now on, I hope and trust that the debate will take a more positive and constructive turn and create a basis for a united action against the common adversary—the tyrannical regime in Asmara.

My deeply felt condolences to the late Omar Jabir’s close family members. He will be missed by all who knew him and by those of us who are hi peers in age and temperament.

May his example shine, and May he rest in eternal peace.

Bereket Habte Selassie

About Dr. Bereket Habteselasse

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  • Kokhob Selam

    awate friends, I notice here people are talking about Dr. Bereket’s history. in here the important topic is about the lose we face. the man who struggled long for our unity and peace has gone leaving us without his choice and our choice. what we should discuss is about his work and why it was not accomplished so far,about the continuous death such wonderful elders, what we should do to follow their way and reach for what they fought for. Again still we have alive books from whom we should learn and what we should do now to let them say what they experience etc.

    another that makes me worried of talking about Dr. Bereket is that
    01.our mind is set to the action of the people than the idea they hold.
    02.if we start to count mistakes of individuals Eritrea may not have single person who didn’t participate in wrong side of history. and what? even the people who didn’t participate are not free as doing nothing in it self is a crime.
    03. Dr. Bereket was part of rule makers , and trying to create a system in any government saves a lot of life. so watching only the negative side of making system is never correct. in fact some people are for peace without being high politicians. we will have a lot of educated people who work for PFDJ and if we judge them for being in Asmara today we will lose them only.

    Long life to Professor,

  • The good professor served the Emperor because he believed that he was
    Ethiopian. During Gedli and after independence, he served both with dedication; because he believed that he was more Eritrean than Ethiopian. Today, because of his great disappointment with the regime in Asmara, he re-discovered his Ethiopianness and the Ethiopianness of Eritreans, thus making a circular journey.

    Now, is it opportunism? It may be, and it might not be. If we accept his
    Ethiopianness, we must accept his Eritreanness as well. Everybody’s life has phases with different realities that shape his/her decisions, which should be taken in to consideration.
    Is it common sense, practicality and a better hindsight, when he says, after all we are all Ethiopians and he would like to see Ethiopia and Eritrea together before he dies? Yes, it is. Thinking minds are never stubborn, and they usually pick the bits and pieces, put them together, and they move forward.
    What was the negative impact of their actions during their travel
    through the different worlds? Only history can give us the true picture.
    How do I see, their change of heart? Positively. The thing that matter
    most is the here and now and the future. The past is the library from where we draw our past realities, and use them to make new and rational decisions for the future. When people stand for peace, cooperation and a better future, their new aspirations should be acknowledged, even if they were not able to see the future clearly much earlier.

    • Eyob Medhane


      I am looking for an audio now from 1999, where he was asked as an elder statsman of both countries shouldn’t it be his role to reconcile the warring parties (Eritrea and Ethiopia were at war at the time) He replied “he has never been anything, but Eritrean..if the questioner was talking about his time of slavery he can discuess that as a separate issue, but just because Ethiopians treated him as house slave that doesn’t mean he owes them anything… has that audio as a subscription. I will try to get it from somewhere to have Sal listen to it as an ‘evidences’ 🙂

      No. The man is not a normal Eritrean, who once was Ethiopian. He is an example of a lowest kind of integrity even for a politician, even for something that can be bought and sold with cheapest of the cheap….

      • Selam Eyob,

        I try to see the glass half-full, as much as relations between Ethiopia and Eritrea are concerned. I know that things are not as ideal as they should be, and we are forced to be skeptical and cautious at all phases of our future relations, due to our past experiences. Nevertheless, I believe that we should
        not dwell in the past.

        I am hopeful of Ethiopia. She is not as vulnerable as she used to be, and the future is bright. There is no doubt that she would be at the center of political and economic developments of the region. Therefore, our future relations with Eritrea will not be from the point of weakness, but from the point of strength. That is why I say, let us leave behind the past for the sake of the future, which is in our reach.

        • Abinet

          Selam Horizon
          I appreciate your approach to see the glass half full. However, ethiopia is not a country for those who abandon her when they see a half empty glass , and come back when they think the glass is half full.

        • Deogane

          “Your glass is half full”, please watch about the content. If it is not good, better be empty.

    • Fetima Dechasa

      Dearest Horizon,

      While I really appreciate your optimism and positivity, we Ethiopians have been burnt too many times by these sort of opportunistic slimes not to see right through the smoke and mirrors. How many times are we gonna be fooled? This man is no Ethiopian, he doesn’t deserve to be called one. Being an Ethiopian national isn’t some sort of fad that goes in and out of style based on ones convenience. We got to do better.

      • Kokhob Selam

        he is human before being Ethiopian or Eritrean and he has been playing his role as human. if the governments of both didn’t follow the rule and fail he is not responsible. It is bad experience all for him but it is good lesson for us.

      • Selam Fatima,

        I can understand your’s and Eyob’s reservation with Ethio-Eritrean relations and with Eritrean elites of the old generation. When you say past mistakes should not be repeated, you cannot be more right. Ethio-Eritrean divorce was not made with mutual respect and it did not serve mutual interests. That is one of the reasons we had an uneasy relations between the two in the past and the worst relation today.

        The older generation of Eritrean elites sinned not only against Ethiopia, but most importantly against their people. If this virus infects the young generation of Eritreans as well, then we will not see a normal situation in the region for long. That is why we should be lenient on the old generation, to win the heart and minds of the new generation.

        Eritreans cannot lead a normal life in their new country, Ethiopia cannot host forever 2000-3000 more Eritrean refugees every month forever, there is no way Ethiopia would close her borders to Eritrean refugees, and this situation
        would finally undermine the peace and development of Ethiopia. If things do not improve in Eritrea, and Eritreans cannot stay in their country, this could also be DIA’s way of destabilizing countries of the region. Therefore, Ethiopia should provide moral support, so that Eritreans would be able to depose their nemesis DIA, and create a normal situation between the two people.

        • Abinet

          Please mention one thing that we should have done to win the hearts and minds of eritreans. If I remember correctly they were the creams of the society in every aspect. Talk to Ato Amanuel about his mass mobilization activities in addis. You see they trusted him more than what the poor country offered them.
          What makes you think you can win their hearts and minds now?
          Regarding humanitarian help, I am all for it including a 4 year college education regardless of who pays their expense.
          But, again, I am completely convinced you don’t win their hearts. At some point you got to move on and work for peaceful existence as good neighbors without interfering in each other’s business.

          • Abinet,
            Integration is not a panacea. Peaceful existence as two good neighbors without interfering in each other’s
            business, as you said, can serve equally well. Nevertheless, what can you do if hundreds of thousands of Eritreans, if not millions, are going to find them in
            Ethiopia in a decade or so from now, at the rate Eritrean refugees are leaving their country, and PFDJ or PFDJ2-3 etc. are going to be in power forever? Eritrea will
            be empty, and Eritreans will live in places like Ethiopia and elsewhere. Do you think that this will create a peaceful and a normal neighbor? In this case, you must prepare yourself for a worse situation, another failed state to the north, and Ethiopia sandwiched between two failed states, Eritrea and Somalia. That is not a good

  • Hope

    —and he a right to say so if at all he said it?
    Did you attack PIA when he made even a worse Statement in 1991-93?

    • hope

      Please read as:”Doesn’t he have the right to express his opinion or even his wish?”
      He clarified his view/himself in a crystal clear way to the VoA Tigrigna Program on this issue.

  • Hope

    First :
    RIP,our Father,Omer Jabir and condolence to his family.
    Second,mr/ms guist,
    Prof Dr Berekhet H..has proven to be who he is….locally,domestically,nationally,internationally and globally…
    No matter what, and no matter how you label him,he is who he is, and has proven it to all of us as such-as the best Intellectual and Scientist,Africa has ever produced-as of yet,to my best knowledge..
    Who are you?
    The PFDJ style character assasination tactics are now obsolete….
    We should,as a nation and as a people,be proud to have this UNIQUE persona,Scientist,Lawyer,Intellectual,Veteran,etc—-
    Talk about Dr(Honorary) Saleh Mekki,Prof Dr Haile Mezghebe,Prof Dr Haile Debas,Respected Mr. Kassahun Chekole….Prof Dr Tekheste Fkadu,Professor Saleh Gadi Johar,Prof Saleh AA Younis,etc—
    And guess what?They have been labeled by the likes of Ms Sofi-as this and that…and dumped as nothing by the PFDJ.
    And you are telling me that these people are Ethios,keda’at,etc…?
    Are you crazy or insane?
    Do you have your own brain?You seem to be articulate but you are acting like a first grader,with an Apology though..
    I will refer you to Haile TG to check your IQ.

    • Abinet

      There is no uniqueness about the people you mentioned. Except Dr Bereket.
      If you want to talk about unique eritreans, talk about people like Abraha Deboch, Moges Asgedom, Zeray Dires.
      What makes Dr Bereket exceptionaly unique is he is a well known opportunist and a back stabbing specialist.

      • Hope

        People will judge him based on his practical works and achievements,NOT by emotions, gossip,jealousy and hatered.
        Yes,indeed,Eritreans are UNIQUE by any standard….,who survived against ALLL ODDS…under the SUN and will do so even more.Watch and mark my words in the aftermath of PIA…and Co.

      • saay7

        Selamat Abinet:

        I would like you to return your accusations against Dr. Bereket “washed, polished and sanitized.”:)

        Clearly, the people you consider uniquee are the warrior types…but the world is not made up just of warriors. It has people with intellectual heft too.

        Now, keep an open mind and consider this. Let’s say you are a Pan-African Socialist in the 1960s:

        * You will admire Haile Selasse for his Pan-African and modernizing values. But you are disappointed that he is not a socialist and is a corrupt monarch;
        * You will take a wait-and-see view towards Dergue (as did every Ethiopian), you have one morning star that you look to for clues (Aman Andom) and when the murdering and terror begins, at which point you immediately leave;
        * You will throw your support behind another self-proclaimed modernizing socialist organization (EPLF) because you are convinced they will change the world for the better. You contribute in your own way to make that happen: you help draft a constitution that will restrain them and negotiate the balance of power between the citizen and the State;
        * At some point, you become convinced that the leadership of this organization has betrayed its rank and file and the constitution you help drafted is throwing into the dustbin.

        What would you do? Answer it correctly and I will send you 15 ethiopian proverbs:)


        • Eyob Medhane


          Oh no no no no no no….You just riled me up on this….

          Dr. Bereket and everything that he represents (not what he thinks he represents) is what is wrong with what happened to Eritrea and what happened between Ethiopia and Eritrea and Ethiopians and Eritreans. Abi was being so generous to call him a back stabing opportunist. I really do believe that backstabbing opportunists have a whole lot more integrity and gravitas than Dr Bereket. This is a man, who is NEVER known to have a principle and has been with monarchists, with military coup plotters to execute the same monarchists that he was with..and repeating the same fete with every group and everyone that holds office. I don’t think Romanian acrobatists could flip as much as he could. No. The way he does it not normal for any politician. He is a serial opportunist I don’t believe he wouldn’t mind to undergo through any kind of change (sex, race or religion) if he thinks would get him in front and grab him attention. He is not a friend of Ethiopia or Eritrea or Africa or anyone. He is a friend of himself. I am tempted to say more, but….(sigh) let me stop..

          • saay7


            I am going to tell you the same thing I told Guest: Bring either source documents (and you are very, very good at that: so don’t disappoint me), or credible people (and I know you won’t drag Mengistu Hailemariam’s book.)

            Fair warning: “I was in some Tej Bet and this man told me…” doesn’t count.

            Bring it.


          • Eyob Medhane


            Here is an easy one…

            “..ich bin ein Afar..” Dr. Bereket APOLOGIZING for his role in writing Eritrean constitution….


          • saay7


            I dug you a little hole and you, very accommodating friend that you are, went in there and made the hole bigger. If I were one of those people who was going to guilt you by association, I would say that this video was the evidence the PFDJ used to make the case that the Eritrean constitution is forever compromised and we must write a new one.

            Thank you for this video. Now begins the debdab which will show that your case is without merit. This video actually shows the opposite of your intent: that unlike every other Eritrean intellectual I know who is either AWOL when his country needs him or unwilling to ever admit that he ever made a mistake ever in his life, this video…

            well, why am I tipping my hand. I will come back; find a bombing shelter… I have a new MI-35 that my Ethiopians neighbors gave me and I intend to use it:) Just remember: you brought this upon yourself 🙂


          • Eyob Medhane

            Really Sal,?

            No..He will drop them like a hot potato in a Manhattan Minute…You know why? He ‘apologized to them in 2012. Where was he since to make good on his ‘apology’ tour on the cause of Afar? They were being displaced from their ancestral land, denied fishing rights and made refugees in their own land, how many times the phoney professor has spoken for them and about them, since? I thought he said “ich bin ein Afar”. I am sure everywhere he goes he’d say “…ich bin ein (insert a name of victim)…” And it seems that is just good enough for you to annoint him to be the “only intellectual you know, who admits a mistake”… Tsk..tsk…tsk….

          • saay7


            This is a matter of public record. The Constitutional Commission of Eritrea had 50 members, of whom 10 were members of the Executive Committee.

            Now, some have died, some are in Eritrea and I don’t expect them to speak out. But some, and others who were not commissioners but strong promoters/educators, are right here in the good ol’ USA. Have you heard a single one of them (a) speak out for the constitution and (b) admit that there are Eritreans who felt excluded from the process?

            If you do, this is your opportunity to share it with the rest of

            Ridicule it all you want, but there is nothing wrong with an Eritrean elder like Dr. Bereket to go to every Eritrean ethnic group and tell them I am one of you. I wish more of us did that.


          • Abinet

            This person has no shame. He was on NPR one afternoon telling the world how he worked hard to draft the constitution.
            A cannelloni would be so jealous at him.

          • Abinet

            Read as chameleon.
            And also if we need more evidence we have to dig at least 60 graves to find his fingerprints.
            He had a good life in ethiopia as an attorney general, he has a good life as a professor but he helped bring unimaginable misery to the region . And now he wants to see the unity before he died.
            What do you call this person? He is a disgrace for the human race.

          • Mahmud Saleh

            Dear abinet
            Happy New Year, We’re waiting for the Habesha one, too.
            Once upon a time almost all worked for the king, since the king was, well, the king. You will need to do your own research as to why people like Dr. BereKet chose to leave that comfortable life. It needs moral strength to understand that.
            On his latest remarks, he is not advocating for andnet as you understand it but rather as a cooperation of the region. If the currrent political realities were present in those years, probably he would have advocated for this line of advice long time ago. The world has changed, the region is changing, and hence, wanting to see the region embark on peaceful cooperation while respecting political choices of the involved countries is not reversing his longstanding position on self-determination. That’s a vision you expect from visionary leaders.

          • Abinet

            Happy new year
            I respect every eritrean for his choice. I have no problem with that. Actually, my only regret is for holding you back by force. Personally, it took me long time to let go.
            Well, you can call him a visionary leader. All I say is I am glad he is not my leader. When he was in a leadership position in my country, we all know the disaster he caused. Please keep him in your side of the mereb river.
            Thanks in advance.

          • saay7

            Selamat Eyob:

            The Operating Manual for the MI-35 is easier than I thought. All I had to is watch Wiz Kahalifa’s “black and yellow” video where the instruction is: “just push to start.”

            Now, then. I know you Ethiopians think it is always about you, but in this particular case, the argument about Dr. Bereket is all about us.

            Rewind. Between 1995-1997, Eritrea embarked on a constitutional drafting process which Dr. Bereket Habteselasse chaired. This process was (a) all-inclusive or (b) exclusionary. Those from the EPLF background thought the process was as flawless as the referendum commission (again: it is not about you, because I know you have opinions on that as well); and those with ELF background and/or those who were with neither camp thought it was exclusionary from beginning to end.

            Since 2001, when constitutional government was indefinitely put on hold, Eritrean intellectuals, including those who had a hand in drafting, promoting the constitution have been like the proverbial mouse in a church: quiet. Shamelessly quiet as the constitution was trampled upon and despite the fact that one of its articles OBLIGATES them to defend it and stand up for it. Make a mental note of all the Eritrean intellectuals who were strong EPLF supporters: not one has spoken out. Well, only one: Dr. Bereket Habteselasse.

            Not only has he spoken out, he has done something remarkable: he has reached out to the segments of the Eritrean population who felt excluded from the process. This article we are commenting on is Dr. Bereket paying tribute to ELF veteran Omar Jaber. The video you showed is Dr. Bereket empathizing with the Afar Diaspora: who absolutely feel they were excluded during the process.

            So, just as Dr. Bereket was reaching out to the marginalized societies and saying that the constitution has a mechanism for amendment, just as he was making headway on reconciliation, the panicked PFDJ wanted to make sure that he loses the pro-EPLF constituency: and they came at him with everything. There were personal attacks by Sophia Tesfamariam. There was a long article penned by PFDJ Executive Committee members using pen names.

            Thus, your video which allegedly shows his opportunism actually shows his modesty and his willingness to deviate from the “take-it-or-leave-it” approach. What “opportunities” can a destitute diaspora provide a man with a tenured job at a reputable university? What’s in it for him?

            The video that was distributed where he says, “in a sense, we are all Ethiopians…” or words to that effect, as I tried to explain to Destaa: there is Ethiopian civilization (actually, Abyssinian civilization) and Ethiopian state. Dr. Bereket, the son of a Tewahdo priest from Adi Nefas, has every justification to feel part of the Abyssinian civilization.

            So, try again, Eyobai.


          • Eyob Medhane


            Before you even came up with your word debris, I already knew what you were going to say and already have answered it to you, so I just refer you to couple of threads down,,,

            One thing, though. I have never known you to be an elitist who’d say.. “He reached out to the marginilized groups”. It sounds weird coming from you…. It sounds..” Yeah..he went down and talked to them. He gave them his precious time, what else do you want?” That was all….I will ask you again. How much has he spoken of their cause after? Writting obittuaries of passed also doesn’t absolve anyone from being a serial opportunist….

          • saay7


            No word debris:) To answer your question: “compared to whom?” And, duh, of course I am elitist:) The first thing I ever wrote on the Internet (Dehai: 1995) was a review of the book “In Defense of Elitism.” 🙂


        • Abinet

          Selam Saay
          No, ethiopia/eritrean is in this type of situation because of people like Dr bereket.
          I wish I could say what I feel about this person. It makes me sad to know general Aman and this person share same nationality.
          ” ager siyarej jart yaferal ”
          It fits this person.
          Now send the proverbs ASAP.

        • destaa

          Dear saay
          What do you think we use many proverbs like Abinet do here? I have my own theory…long history of statehood (3000 thousands years right?) and those long years full of oppression. Since you are not allowed to express yourself freely, you are forced to go that way.
          Will be happy to have your view.
          Another point, people have chosen their best Awtista here as Mahmud Saleh. Happy for him but you are my choice. I wish you were Ethiopian lol….

          • destaa

            read as 3000 years

          • saay7

            Selamat Destaa:

            First of all, by the logic used by Dawit (henceforth known as Dawit Amendment), I am Ethiopian because I was. (Dawit will explain:)

            Second, I think you mean Ethiopia had 3,000 year civilization and not 3,000 year of statehood. This civilization vs statehood dichotomy is best shown in the case of China vs USA. (And, if you dig a little deeper, between Ethiopia and Eritrea.) I was going to write a whole article about this, I think in September, and some horrible things happened and I figured that argument may appear as self-inulgent and, as we say in Eritrea, QebeTbeT. How do you say that in Amharic.

            Proverbs are just short stories. In Eritrea, some of the proverbs contradict each other. So it is just a bunch of clever word plays and the poor man’s poetry (limericks:) Now let me read the Operating Manual for the MI-35: i have to do a few sorties on Gwad Eyob: he is asking for it:))))


  • saay7


    It’s because I believe that awatistas are intelligent that I shared the source document, the video, so they can make up their mind. And because they are intelligent they will realize that the lengthy defamation campaign that the PFDJ has waged against him, part of which you echoed here, with the usual too-clever-by-half personal attack, is all based on his criticism of the tyrannical rule of Isaias Afwerki. Always insist on the source document and if u can’t find it, and it’s not always possible to find it, you can settle for the testimony of a reliable person/institution and Isaias/Isaiasism is not.


    • guist

      Saay, you could not possible be better witness than his own son and his follow Adi Nefas( asgedet) and your hate of Isaias may cloud your judgment but you well know the good doctor record love of Ethiopia. by the way Mengistu Haile Mariam has given the sol responsibility the killing of sixty Haile Selassie officials. the good doctor and Mengistu hope fully one day will face the Ethiopian people court of justice.

      • saay7

        Selam Guist:

        Again, I asked you: show me either the source document (like I did by sharing a video) or quote credible people. You have done neither. You have referred to unnamed sources from a geographic area (names? Date? Context?) and you are quoting the Black Stalin of Africa, Mengistu Hailemariam, world renown for his butchery.

        Try again.


      • Kim Hanna

        Selam guist,
        I am with you, I don’t need any more evidence at all.
        He was (Dr. Bereket) was one of the highest lawyers and advisors to Emperor Haile Selassie.
        He was one of the highest lawyers and advisors to the rebels and then President of Eritrea.
        Anyone who can do that with a clear conscious and commitment deserves to be rejected by both,
        end of debate.

        • Hope

          Come on Kim Hanna,
          “Hatred” or Jealousy?
          Who is clean and perfect?
          Be fair and honest.

          • Hope

            Dear Kim Hanna
            Come on Kim Hanna,
            “Hatered” or Jealousy?
            Who is clean and perfect in this world?
            Be fair,reasonable and honest.Plus,he was/ is a human being under lots of pressure.
            How in the world do you believe that he advised the Emperor or the President to kill this and that?
            Call him an Opportunist if you wish or you want,but,who is NOT?
            He made mistakes but openly apologized and corrected himself.
            Who does that but few?

          • Kim Hanna

            Selam Hope,
            Hope, an opportunist he is, no doubt about it. I think, the man goes beyond that. I forgot to mention he served Mengistu too with ease. He is in a class by himself. There is a term for these types of human beings, I forgot it. Do you really trust him as an Eritrean?

      • Amanuel Hidrat


        The sixty Haileselassie’s government officials weren’t killed based on the report of the commission. In fact the commission didn’t finish its task nor did it report its findings. When General Aman Andom disagree with the cruel decision against the Eritrean people and walk out from the “military derg meeting,” which has culminated to his death in an exchange of fire, the Haileselassie’s government officials were killed by vote of acclimation in the same night. Check your fact again.

        Amanuel Hidrat

  • Mohammed Tewekel

    I am mighty happy to go through Dr. Bereket
    Habte Selasse’s piece – ‘’ Omer Jabir: A wise Elder Departs’’

    The life of Omer and the dialogue between the
    two carried by the article elucidates the difficult but possible path Eritrea
    has to embark on.

    My reading of the narrative boils down to two

    One, no piecemeal reform whatever perfect, can
    extract Eritrean from the PFDJ created abyss.

    And, we shall rally around the ‘’ dismantlement
    of the structure’’ of injustice, operation and subjection – in all its forms.

    The current blame politics is but the politics
    of fragmentation of the forces of new Eretria.

    I know Dr. Bereket’s depth and virtues and when
    I met him in London, I was overwhelmed by his wealth we Eritreans have not

    So if the likes of Dr. Bereket enlighten and
    brighten the strategic end, then Omer Jabir is alive.

    Mohammed Taha Tawekel

    • guist

      “So if the likes of Dr. Bereket enlighten and brighten the strategic end, then Omer Jabir is alive”

      I don’t thing Dr.Berekets enlighten and brighten the strategic end until his dream and wish’s to see the union of Eritrea and Ethiopia realize before he die. Don’t ask me why, that is what he said on video camera. It is a public record. when Minia Afeworki from voice of America Tigrigna asked the doctor what he meant by that he could not denied because he was caught on video and the Ethiopian already made it public. He shame answer was it was slip of the tang stated to the gathering of Ethiopians carelessly. really, what about your soon told you the truth when you tried to impress your fellow Adi Nefas and try to monopole your son by asking him if he is a proud Eritrean. But your son could not lie for you and told you the truth by saying no dad you always told us we are Ethiopians and you never told us we are Eritreans. Yes, the good doctor always talk with his forked tang.

      • saay7

        Selamat Guist:

        I think you are being unfair to Dr. Bereket Habteselasse. When the issue was first raised in June 2013, we discussed it. So rather than making a new argument, I will reference what I wrote then in response to someone who was outraged by the video and I will provide a link to the video:


        Please refer to the 4 minute video of Dr. Bereket answering a question in a book-signing ceremony.(The narration is in French; Dr. Bereket’s statements are in English):

        At the time the brouhaha happened, we transcribed it at awate’s facebook to help those who don’t have any time to watch videos. Here it is:

        1. French narration
        2. Dr. Bereket talks about the disappointment of the Eritrean revolution. The unlikelihood of an Eritrean edition of “Arab Spring” due to the absence of Eritrean youth in Asmara. How Isaias Afwerki once said in a meeting in Sierra Leone that he wished “we had killed him [Dr. Bereket]”
        3. French narration
        4. Dr Bereket: “If the African Union could energize enough… and will, and push in this process of regional re-unification, in the view of a future launching pad for African Union, I think it would be the way to go. Realistically speaking, I don’t see any other way.”
        5. French narration
        6. Dr. Bereket: “I have been part of Ethiopia. There is a larger sense in which we are all Ethiopians, historically, culturally speaking as I tried to explain today. And my wish, and my hope before I die is that we’ll come back together in a larger unity, transcending all these divisions.”
        7. Abrupt video end.

        Now, what is objectionable about this? On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is Jane Fonda sitting atop a Viet Cong tank in the middle of the US-Vietnam war, and 1 is a Ugandan talking about the necessity of creating a common East African market that includes Tanzania, where does this rank? For me, it is 1 (only because my scale is 1 to 10; otherwise it would be a 0:)


  • Kokhob Selam

    Thank you Dr.Bereket, The death of such great men is tough to hear. as an elder (the most experienced with high knowledge of our history), your words were very important on this equation. I expect to read more from you and God willing the arrival of free democratic Eritrea will not be far for you and all to see INSHA’ALLAH. .

  • Mahmud Saleh

    Thanks Dr.BereKet for the fatherly advice; and thank you for your service. May Allah keep you around to see the realization of your dream. I wish you health and strength to keep reminding us of our never ending missteps.