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Rude Awakening

Emperor Humayun was the ruler of the Moghul empire in the 16th century in what is now Afghanistan, Pakistan, North India, and Bangladesh.

One day in 1556, Humayun carried some books from his library, stepped on his robe and tripped on the stairs and injured himself, and died a few days later.

Emperor Haile Selassie is remembered feeding his lions when his Ethiopians were dying of hunger as he was deposed and killed by the army. Humayun died at the library stairs carrying books. What a contrasting end for two emperors!

Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi is an example of the impressive Mughal architecture, followed by the Taj Mahal, a marvelous architecture of the Moghuls.

Humayun was succeeded by his tolerant and scholarly son, Akbar the Great.

The Colonels of Somalia and Libya

In October 1969, Siad Barre, 59, seized power in a military coop after the assassination of the Somali president Abulrashid Shermarke. In 1991, a civil war erupted in Somalia and Siad Barre died went into exile in Nigeria. He died there in 1995.

On September 1, 1969, Gaddafi, 28, ousted King Idris Assenoussi and ruled Libya for forty-two years. In 2011 he was brutally killed by rioting Libyans.

Both Barre and Gaddafi were avid supporter of the Eritrean struggle.

Of course, Libyans, Somalis, and Eritreans share a common colonial heritage, they were all colonized by Italy.

Italy that joined the scramble of Africa too late found only the three colonies while the English, the French, Belgians, Portuguese, Germans, and Spaniards had already taken big slices of the continent.

Libya became independent in 1951 and Somalia in 1960. Eritrea was left on its own to deal with the feudal king of Ethiopia and his successors until 1991 when it became independent.


Italy is relatively a new country; it was disunited and by independent city-governments and principalities. After repeated failures, the Risorgimento (“resurgence”) struggle led by Giuseppe Mazzini’s follower, the Italian nationalist Giuseppe Garibaldi who in 1860, succeeded in uniting Italy as one polity under the Sardinian King Vittorio Emanuele.
Before the 19th century, the Vatican had a supreme authority over most of Europe and more so over Italy, when the papal rule was unlike what it’s now. For instance, in 1633, the Vatican condemned Galileo Galilei and asked him to recant his theory that the earth revolves around the sun. He suffered greatly for his position until his death. Three hundred years later, the Vatican apologized for the Galileo case in 1992.

Under the Papal rule, many people considered heretics were burned on the stake for having different views, such as denying the world is not flat. Italy needed Garibaldi’s revolution.


Sara is one of the characters in by book, Miriam Was Here. She also thought the world was flat. When she was kidnapped from the Sudan and the human-traffickers were transporting her and her fellow victim over the desert, they stopped in a place to deliver the human cargo to the next traffickers. Sara looked ahead to hazy horizon and asked Miriam if that was the limits of the world, and would they fall of if they get there.

Two of three centuries earlier, the Pope would have said, ‘yes, the world ends a little further.’ Columbus and other discoverers dared to see that for themselves and prove the world was round. They did, only they missed the distances by half a world. Later, Italians and other colonizers knew where they were sailing to and surprised many Africans.

The King and the Little Colonels

In the 20th century many conscious people had struggled to end colonialism. Activists, community leaders and intellectuals were determined to end the colonial legacy; Siad Barre and Gaddafi were product of that era… and so were Mohammed said Naud, Sabbe, Idris Mohammed Adem, Weldaab Weldemariam and Awate. They all dreamed about freedom and human dignity.

However, many intellectuals and activists, particularly in the army, took advantage of the popular sentiments and took-over power; soon they became dictators.

It is not surprising that the young revolutionary leaders of the time would sympathize with the Eritrean struggle. And there was no better Eritrean than the born diplomat, Osman Saleh Sabbe, who used the sentiments of the time to the advantage of the Eritrean struggle by showing solidarity and promoting cooperation with all liberation forces.

Sabbe was able to mobilize the anti-colonialism and progressive governments, including china and Cuba. It was Sabbe who contacted Gaddafi who committed himself to support the Eritrean struggle and to promote.

That did annoy Haile Selassie who felt insulted to be challenged by a man he considered too young to dare topple king Idris! ‘This young boy is helping the rebels who are making trouble for us …’ That invoked the wrath of his troops, the Tor Serawit, who recalled legends and mythologies to the extent that, after they eat and drink, they burp and declare, “Thanks you God, now it’s time to invade Libya.”

Isaias’ Little Colonel

Last time Isaias met USA official, he reportedly ranted about his disappointment with Abiy who he thinks is inexperienced. Isaias turned down US gestures for helping in the resolution of the border situation with Ethiopia; he must have been so confident he would end the war to his benefit. His victory must have seemed so close when Abi could have remembered it was time to change his fashionable attire and ordered a retreat pretending it was a unilateral ceasefire. The war must have interfered with his fashion show activities.

Little colonels annoy tyrants: Gaddafi disappointed Haile Selassie, and Abiy disappointed Isaias Afwerki though for two different reasons. And that triggeres a question: are the Eritrean colonel corps little colonels of mature, bold, and caring ones? It was the little colonels who let down the late colonel Said Ali Hijjay who was killed in 2013 attempting to end the Eritrean predicament by first occupying the ministry of information in Asmara. Didn’t he leave behind colleagues of his caliber? It’s so disappointing if there are no more colonels like him.

The Rooster

I spent most of childhood helping my father and since he was a frequent traveler, I had the responsibility of opening the business when he was away.

Once my father had to travel and left early in the morning to the bus station. The bust was delayed, he had to travel on the next bus and returned home only to discover I was still in bed and peeked from under the blanket and could tell how mad he was. He rushed to the outside and I peeked through the window and saw him carrying a pail and filling it with water from the tap. I knew what will happen.

In a rush I put my clothes on and opened the door to find him carrying the pail ready to splash it over me—it would have been a Rude Awakening. “Instead of opening the shop Are you are going to sleep all day!” he screamed at me. I made excuses: ‘I had a headache …” and quickly left the house without eating breakfast.

As of recently, the rooster is complaining not many are waking up to his calls! He is frequently in my dreams, and he said, “I have been trying my best to wake your compatriots for a long time…are they taking sleeping pills of what?” He added, “do I need to splash them with a pailful of cold water?”

I know how a cold-water splash feels when you are sound asleep, it’s unpleasant. And I had to calm the rooster ‘just keep doing your job, they are pretending to be asleep when they are not; they hear and love your calls… One day you will be surprised when they suddenly wake up.”

So, my dear compatriots, don’t wait until you experience a Rude Awakening with a splash of cold water– you could shiver from that for a long time … you know waking up is inevitable…

Wake up on your own and don’t watch silently as the PFDJ is taking Eritrea down. And those of you who adorn your chests and shoulders with so many crown corks, are you listening? But just in case, those of you reading, please pass the word to them.

About Saleh "Gadi" Johar

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

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  • Brhan

    Hello Saleh,
    ዓቢ ዓርገን in English?
    I believe every country has its own taste to nickname its dictators.
    In Egypt SiSi is called Balaha , in Sudan O. Albeshir was called ( Shawsh), Mengistu ( some Ethiopians were racist , used to call him Baryaw). For King Haile S, in his last days got Wukharia and there was song that said ያ ዓሆየ ኣሆየ ውኻሪያ በሊዓቶ ጃንሆየ

    • Saleh Johar

      Ye Brhan,
      But Abi Arghen is an old expression and it was not used to describe dictators…I just thought it fitted him. It’s equivalent would be Qilu Mammo, or a useless adult who acts like a child… That is how I remember it from my childhood days, mothers showing their disappointment with their children who should behave and act like adults.

    • Abi

      Can we safely conclude that Almost All Eritreans are RACISTS for calling የማነ ገ/ሚካኤል as የማነ ባርያ?

      • Berhe Y

        Hi Abi,

        እረ ባክህ with this RACISTS terminology. I know people born to the same father and mother who live together call their sibling (ባርይ: ኩቺ if dark skin), (መላጥ: ጻዕዳ : ብጫ) if light skinned and anything in between.

        For example, the host of EriSat his name is Henok but he is known as ብጫ(means yellow), he even uses his nick name when he introduce himself. “My name is Henok or ብጫ”.

        I don’t know why he was named ብጫ but I am certain it’s because of his light skin.

        To answer your question about Yemane Barya, no Eritrean was ever racist towards him, I can assure of that. He is one of the most loved Eritrean singers.

        I understand the direct translation of the word, has other meaning and it’s tasteless to people who direct translate it. I agree it can be offensive but it was never used in that context, specially referring to Yemane Ghebremichael. Context matters.

        Calling IA ዓቢ ዓርገን is fair game, it describe him perfectly how reckless he is towards the people and the country he suppose to look after.

        • Abi

          You got my point. I hope you pass it to Brhan who conveniently forgot ባርያ can be used affectionately. It just shows the color of the skin. I have a friend who goes by ባርያው::

          ዓቢ ዓርገን ምንድን ነው?

          • Berhe Y

            Hi Abi,

            I think Brhan is too advanced in his “politically correctness” and “sensitivity” training than the average of us.

            See SGJ description below of ዓቢ ዓርገን.

            I just want to add, it’s usually said to someone who is not acting or behaving like his age/wisdom and the size of his body.

  • Abi

    Selam Ato Saleh
    In your comparing and contrasting campaign against the Ethiopian Emperor against the ruler of Mughul, you conveniently forgot that His Majesty Emperor Haileselassie statue is standing tall at the AU. As father of Africa, the current location is a perfect place for his OUTSTANDING accomplishments in liberating Africa.

    • Saleh Johar

      Why is symbolism that important for some people? Did I talk about statues? No. One emperor dies carrying books, another elect-of-god died in a way you know. The Moghul emperors left architectural marvels in the 15th century, the elect gods left a legacy of vengefulness, brutality, pillaging, and violent legacy. These are not opinions, symbols, or fiction, but factual information that can be verified. Don’t try to take me to places I didn’t go, like symbolic statues. Please go ahead… prove that wrong 🙂

      • Abi

        Selam Ato Saleh
        You mentioned something about his tomb stone or something like that.
        His Majesty gave his palace to be converted into a university, he established Ethiopian airlines, he helped eradicate colonialism in Africa ወዘተርፈ ወዘተርፈ ወዘተርፈ
        Let’s not forget the GERD!!! Yes, he planned it. If you find the $100.00 note that was used during his reign, you will see the picture of the current GERD.

        ኃይለስላሴ ይሙት የዛሬውን ነጋሪት እትም አላነበብኩትም::

        • Saleh Johar

          That I know, እሱማ ሞት ጠግበዋል ኣትማልበት
          Haile Sellassie Amlak did everything, that is why people were bowing under his feet. He even painted the sky blue before our crazy man gave it a fresh coat:

          The palace? I though that was his dog Lulu’s house!

          • Abi

            Selam Ato Saleh
            “ያለውን የሰጠ ንፉግ አይባልም” ጌታው!
            Yes the PALACE!! The AAU campus is larger than ከረን:-)

          • Saleh Johar

            Of course it’s bigger that Keren which is only About four sq. Meter. Never boasted about it we show it’s humble state… and it’s very humbling to know Lulu’s house and food was more than Keren could think of. That’s how far Lulu’s owner brought us. But we do the opposite of humbleness “ala facia” look it up. It’s our Banda legacy now incorporated in our culture and language. Let’s talk about significant issues: humanity developed from tribalism to nation. Why do some people insist on going against the tide of civilization by staying tribal? Just make it more than one-liner. I know you can give it your best and make it useful.

          • Abi

            Selam Ato Saleh
            Unfortunately, my answer is shorter than a one liner.
            ፊደል መቁጠርና ( instructed) መማር ( educated) የተለያዩ ናቸው::
            ፊደል የቆጠሩ መሃይማን አደገኞች ናቸው::

            I need to come back with a fresh mind. I’ve been teaching all day:-)

          • Saleh Johar

            Really Abi! That is a gem.
            I rest my case. Thank you

          • Abi

            Selam Ato Saleh
            ተሳሳትኩ እንዴ?
            የኔ ነገር : ያለቦታዬ ገብቼ ጉድ ሆንኩልዎት!!