I was supposed to return to my station but the schedule was postponed due to a technical travel emergency. During the long relaxation period I had—physically and mentally—I stayed away from the political climate and spent my time in social and cultural activities—even the Internet was not available to me on a daily basis; but during that period I came upon situations and positions that I decided to share with the readers.
A friend gave me a book, “The Roots Of The Conflict Over The Languages Of Instruction In Eritrea,” by Ustaz Abubakar Jelani.
The book is an objective and comprehensive study based on serious research, [authored with] a composed scientific approach—it heralds a new phase of Eritrean writing, after the flood of Eritrean writers and writings that swept the arena following the Independence [of Eritrea], in which ‘I’ –the Ego—was prominent and it overstated the roles of individuals. It is a study [that can be used] by anyone who needs a reference to the status of Arabic in Eritrea to document the process and the failure of the mother tongue teaching policy.
The book is authored by a man who is not a fanatic, but a specialized person who addresses the issues in its social, cultural and historical context [in addition to] its historical and futuristic dimensions. I salute Ustaz Abubakar Jelani and I wish for more serious work and scientific research [from him].
The Mirror of Sound
The writer and journalist Mahmoud Abubaker gifted me his Arabic book [titled], “The Mirror of Sound,” which is an anthology—a selection of contemporary Eritrean literature—poetry, story and novel. The goal [of the book] is to provide Eritrean literature to the Arab reader—or, to strengthen and connect the bridges with the Arab culture and the Arab world in general. It is an individual effort that is not backed by any institution or research and study center.
Hence, we understand and expect it would not be comprehensive and that some names would fall from the list [of writers]—and this [fact] is what the writer himself indicated in the introduction. His choices [of names] was based on his dealing with texts academically, by analyzing it technically and not based on political positions or standards of personal relationships. In other words, what he recorded doesn’t mean the “end of the world” and another book may come out and provide another anthology that may not include a name of those names that appear in the “The Mirror of Sound!”
Thus far, the issue seems to be understood and the efforts appreciated; what is needed is a continuation and an encouragement; however, I came to know that there was “A literary Battle” on the Internet around the book and the author; the parties of the “battle” were my friend, the writer Mohamed Hangela and the literary critic, Melilia Bekhit.
Firstly, I would like to pause at the second name because I have a natural weakness towards Eritrean feminine writers because I see in [Melilia] a breakthrough to the culture of masculine dominance, not only in our Eritrean society, but in the whole world as well. In he interjection, I found [Melilia’s] knowledgeable of the [subject] that she talked about, ownership of the tools of a civilized literary dialogue and an abundance of cultural ammunition that enables her to talk about [literary] critique: its conditions, basics and purposes. I said to the author of The Mirror of Sound, ‘the emergence of this literary critic is one of the positive aspects of the book.’
The interjection of my friend, the writer Mohammed Hangela, was (as I understood it, though unfortunately I didn’t read it) is about the exclusion of the name of the combatant Idris Ab-Arre from the list of the anthology which [Hangela] explained as a political reasons! Briefly, if he knew the author of The Mirrors of Sound, personally, he wouldn’t have gone that far—for [the author] is, similar to Ab-Arre, someone who defends the Arabic language and presents it to the world
The difference is that the author of The Mirrors of Sound is more fortunate, [unlike Ab-Arre] he is unbound and free!
Admonishment and dialogue
Some friends called me to communicate their disappointment because I sent a congratulatory telegram to Mr. Woldeyesus Ammar, the leader of the Eritrean People’s Democratic Party. Although they acknowledged that sending the cable was fine, they went too far in their interpretation:
The first person said, “It means you support the party’s platform and positions!”
I responded: I supported the Solidarity Front and demanded the expansion of its base to include those who make up similar social and cultural components. I supported Nationality Organizations and defended their rights to protect their individuality and to interact with the national movements in common causes. I do not belong to any of the nationalities and I am not a member of any of the organization of the opposition groups, but I support anyone that throws a pebble, or raises his voice, against dictatorship.
The second person said: “But these are the “other side” of the system?”
I didn’t understand and I asked him: “Do they reject the dictatorship?”
Do they call for democracy?
Do they reject exclusion and marginalization?
Do they recognize Arabic as an official language?
Are they members of the Democratic Alliance?
I responded: “Then, they are “Another Face” and not the “Other Face,” (and the difference is big) all the opposition factions are “Another Face” that is different from the face of the PFDJ—in form and content; approach and program; a vision for the future and aspirations.
The third Person said: “but they are preparing to take over power after the fall of the regime.”
I responded: “If there is a faction in the opposition that does not think of that and does not work for it, then there is no justification for its existence!”
The program of the political organizations is to overthrow what exists and to find an alternative, and take over power—civil society organizations and the independent are the only ones who do not think about power!
The fourth person said: “But they support “the Constitution.”
For the second time I did not understand: which constitution? If what is meant by that is the draft constitution that was prepared by a committee headed by Dr. Bereket, it was buried and mourned by the system; and it was a reason for the split [that happened] within the ruling party.
Also, it was not approved by neither a legislative nor an executive entity—Eritrea did not have a constitution. What the people are demanding is a Constitution, without The definite article—and that has conditions, principles: this means there are factors that cannot be available under a dictatorship; and I have not read that the new Party supports the buried document!
The friend said: “But they gather and challenge us?”
I did not understand his purpose specifically, but I went with him to end of the road. I said to him: “And what prevents you from gathering and uniting to challenge whoever wishes you ill?”
He said: “But they infiltrate our ranks and know our weaknesses and they squander our strength?
I responded: Aha. This is precisely the point—whoever weakens himself becomes weak for others, and according to a popular saying, he become an underdog—it all starts from within: self-confidence, the upholding of rights and having faith in the future. These are the basics of dealing for both: for those who wish you ill and for those who extend their hand in partnership and cooperation.
By your God, with whom do you form partnerships and equality when the one who is ruling rejects you and does not recognize your existence, and you have no trust with those in the opposition?
If you referred to the biographies of the leaders of the [Eritrean] national movements, especially the Islamic League, you will find lessons related to dealing with others!
Happy New Year