The virtual worship of unity has proven to be a ruse of course; the real driving force has always been self-interest and the pursuit of power, which invariably comes at the expense of other groups. Many factions existed behind the façade of unity and with the first crack of freedom they are showing their many colors. Indeed, it is not that hard to draw a clear-cut boundary between the so many organizations along the lines of religion, ethnicity and region. Ali Salim has appropriately told us in his latest article that “The Emperor does not have clothes.” Ali has blown the whistle and the secret is out. In the language of PFDJ, it was of course, nay adebabay msTir; publicly known secret.
In discussing these sensitive issues, we have been repeatedly warned, by people who mean well, of the dangers lurking under the cover of ignorance and prejudice. The conventional wisdom and prevailing thought seems to be, “Don’t open the Pandora’s box.” The mere mentioning of these issues is striking terror in the hearts of so many people, and possibly forcing them to give in to their primordial instincts of aligning themselves with their own. This is the “seb nab sebu zbE nab gerebu” syndrome. A man seeks the company of his own kith and kin while a hyena seeks the forest. But, this is sadly akin to saying that we should not talk about a rope in the house of somebody who has to be hanged. I say not if we are telling him to get rid of the rope before he is hanged. For far too long, we have been blinded by the fog of lies emitted by our leaders, but, we should know better that nothing endures that is not built on the truth. We need to work towards establishing an enduring legacy, one that will be indelibly etched upon the rocks of history.
Let me say clearly and without any iota of doubt that I understand their concern and I equally sympathize with their fear. The primary motive in raising these issues is not, however, to excite our emotions in a state of frenzy, whereby, we encourage one group to hate another, but, to till and turn the soil of our hearts to sow the seeds of love and sacrifice. In the words of Oscar Wilde, I say, “We are all in the gutter, but, some of us are looking at the stars.” Let’s all look at the stars. We’ve already picked all the low-hanging fruits, but, we still have not found the remedy to our ills. It is high time that we meet these issues head on and deal with them in a way that does justice to our ancestry and posterity. We should not be like the old Arab saying, “He who weds his daughter to the grave has found the best of bridegrooms.” We have the power to choose between right and wrong, good and evil, justice and injustice, unity and disunity and peace and war.
I believe that our primary motive is to fuel the carriage of the struggle for justice to move forward. Our ultimate goal should be to usher in a new era where the ice of arrogance and mindless prejudice would thaw and be replaced by the noble ideas that once inspired our revolution. The noble ideas that have proven elusive in post independent Eritrea. Aspiration for justice, peace and prosperity, however, is not a mirage or a delusion in Eritrea, but, a reality its down payment has already been paid by the enormous and selfless sacrifices our people have made. Our people are ready to sign the deed and move in to their home, Eritrea, our Blackstone. Whether we know it or not, the gigantic wheel of nature would continue to roll on, but, as it rolls on, we can dictate where the wheel of fortune stops and at the risk of sounding too cliché I say the best way to predict the future is to make it. Let’s create a better future and let’s purify the Blackstone by eradicating all the idols. There is only one Blackstone and that is Eritrea.
The most important question we need to ask ourselves is if we, as “The New Born Eritreans” as Ali Salim would call us, want to be on the right side of history, on the right side of Eritrea- our Blackstone- where we would all live, in the language of the French revolution, in liberty, equality and fraternity. Our beautiful capital; the historical Asmera, majestically situated about six thousand feet above sea level, would truly be a shinning city on the hill. We should once and for all let freedom ring and justice ring in Eritrea. We should begin the journey by Awatizing our opposition- an all inclusive national opposition that looks like Eritrea. If you are ready to embark on the Awate journey and committed to the ideals of justice, liberty and equality, then, I say in the words of Jesse Ventura, the former governor of the great state of Minnesota, “Don’t start the revolution without me.”
Happy September First:
Lately, the Father of our revolution, the undisputed hero; Hamid Idris Awate, has become the target of a smear campaign. Unfortunately, it’s a smear campaign, we are too familiar with. It is an old wine in an old wineskin. It lacks originality and creativity. In fact, it is plagiarism of the worst kind, one that warrants expulsion from a university setting.
Now, I would be the first one to admit that there is no man who does not have a speck of blemish in his character. It is this recognition that our elders exhort us not to vouch on behalf of our kids who have reached adulthood. “bbutsuH wladka aytmHal.” I would admit that what we know about the Father of our revolution is infinitesimally smaller in proportion to what we do not know. One would expect in post independent Eritrea, a wide and renewed interest in the biography of the man who is responsible for ushering in a new era in our history. Let me state the obvious that there will not be an Eritrea to speak off if it was not for Hamid Idris Awate.
Sadly, it did not take that long for the shadow of prejudice to cast its ominous spell over our scholars and some part of our population. It is this kind of systematic negligence and outright prejudice that is enabling the viper’s venom to creep insidiously, poison our blood and sully the purity of our being. Awate and his peers, unlike of today’s mediocre pseudo-intellectual leaders, had the foresight and wisdom to start an all inclusive national liberation movement, under the name of Eritrean Liberation Front. Awate could have easily started a Muslim, lowland or Tigre revolution, but, that was out of character to the man we lovingly, respectfully and proudly call the Father of our revolution.
Seb key mote mShela key sewete aytfred. Don’t a judge a man before he dies or a sorghum crop before it ripens. A man should be judged by the totality of his life and not by random and periodic episodes of his life. There is no saint that does not have a past and there is no sinner that does not have a future. Man, according to Genesis, is created along with the fish and birds, with an open-ended future. Man can reinvent himself. It is this simple recognition that makes our elders to advise us, “amawta atsebbq.” To die a good death with good deeds. Awate sacrificed his life to defend the honor of our people, and sixty-four thousand young men and women, followed his example and paid the ultimate price. Who among us has the audacity to tell the mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children of these bona-fide heroes that their loved ones died in vain to follow the footsteps of a ‘shifta.’ What a shame? This reminds me of the famous line by Khelil Jebran who said about a mother who lost her son in a war, “keyfa la tekunu al Harb muqedesa weqed mata fiha ibni?” Why wouldn’t the war/revolution be holy if my son died fighting for it?
I happen to believe that there is no single Christian; dead or alive, who had done more for the growth and spread of Christianity than Saint Paul. But, Saint Pual in his earlier years was a fanatic Jew who took great joy in the persecution of Christians. The man formerly known as Saul became Pual on his way to Damascus and upon his death we adore him, and rightfully so, as a saint. There is a comparable story of Omer Ibn-al-Khetab in Islamic history, but, for my purposes today, I would mention Amr ibn al As. Ibn al As, one of the great generals of Islamic history, was responsible for the conquest of Egypt. He came to Abyssinia, leading a two-man delegation to ask for the extradition of the Muslim emigrants; muhajerun; who had sought asylum in a Christian country where, in the words of the Prophet himself, “The king rules with justice, the people are friendly and no one is wronged.” My heart aches when I realize how much of a disgrace we’ve become to our proud and noble pedigree. Our ancestors must be ashamed of us.
I wonder how these few people that likes to smear the name of our hero; the Father of our Revolution, feel about the galaxy of the United States Founding Fathers, of whom some were slave-owners. What would they say about Washington and Jefferson? These are two men who should be honored not just by Americans but by all freedom and democracy loving people all over the world. These are heroes with some dark and out of character episodes in their history, but, their contribution to the betterment of man is beyond question.
I don’t know much about Awate, and I’m ashamed to say so, but I know he died for me, and for that I respect, love and adore him, and above all proudly call him, the Father and hero of our revolution. I only wish he had lived long enough to guide the Eritrean revolution, an all inclusive national movement, and to solidify its unity. He might have been able to spare us the difficulties we had to endure. If he had the wisdom and foresight to start an all-inclusive, national organization, I’ve reason to believe that he would have exerted maximum effort to keep it that way and unity would not have eluded us. I agree with Sal Younis that Awate is a uniter and the secret glue that would hold us together. We need to invoke, resurrect his name and rally behind his cause. May God rest his soul in peace? And May God grants us the wisdom to appreciate Awate and to recognize his importance. Awate is one of the best kept secrets we have in our struggle for justice, reconciling our differences, cementing our unity and reclaiming our Blackstone.
The author is an Eritrean-American writer, activist and founding member of Eritrean Global Solidarity (2006) and was elected chairman of the umbrella organization in its first formal congress (Dec. 2007) and served as its chairman until Dec. 2008. He is also a founding member of Eritrean Public Forum-Dallas-Fortworth.