Kafil was another suitor who was destined to have the same fate. He had fought alongside the ELF before the latter disbanded and dispersed. Fortunately, he changed sides on time and was pardoned and brought into the EPLF’s fold. But it seemed that the EPLF never trusted such converts completely. Such proselytes or apostates had therefore to prove themselves trustworthy by showing more zeal in defending the Party and its policies than in serving the people.
He saw Timar at the usual snack bar and got enough information about her to ask her to come to his office on Friday, 2 pm because he “wanted to help her find out about her mother’s place of martyrdom and resting place”.
Timar agreed and on the said day went to the rendezvous. After searching for the his office in a maze of corridors and dark stairs in a renovated building, she could finally locate it. No pointing signs on the walls. No names on doors. Timar had to ask the janitor and the cleaners to direct her to Kafil’s office.
The secretary, who was EPLF-bred and arrogant to the marrow, didn’t care to look up and see who was standing in front of her. For all she cared it could have been a suicide-bomber or a vampire. She made a quick glance but then kept on with her chatting on the phone and wouldn’t care if the ‘Derg’s prostitute’ had dropped dead on the spot. Could it be that Timar, with her casual dress and easygoing manners, brought forth all the negative forces in the secretary?
“Can’t you see I am talking on the phone? What do you want?” she barked finally.
“I have appointment with Kafil” said Timar in a depressed voice.
The secretary smelled a rat. What could the boss have in common with a creep like Timar?
”Weddi Russom! Do you have appointment with some girl?” she shouted across the room. When she got a positive reply, she waved Timar to proceed and followed her every step with her inquisitive eyes.
Kafil, who was also known as Weddi Russom, sat behind an oversized table talking on the phone, interspersing his sentences with Arabic loan words. He would laugh now and then, showing his rather yellowish teeth, a result of too much tobacco and alcohol. He looked like he owned the country and the inhabitants thereof.
After the usual greetings, he bade Timar to sit down and in the course of the conversation that followed he said some lofty words regarding her mother, how they came to know each other, how much he loved her, how much he was devastated when she was killed in battle, how she died like a hero, etc. And then he put several questions to her, with a view to getting as much information as he could for his daily report. Timar was careful not to say anything about Weddi Mannu. She didn’t want to complicate matters.
“If it is possible, I would have liked to go to Germany,” she said finally, hoping wrongly or rightly he would take pity on her because of her slain mother.
“Why Germany?” asked Kafil.
“Because, a friend of mine lives there?” she stammered.
She told him about Tesfai, how he was tortured as an EPLF agent by the Derg soldiers and how later he managed to escape from prison to finally disappear completely from her sight, but not from her heart.
“What’s his name again? And whom did he work for?” asked Kafil rather surprised.
“His name is Tesfai. I told you that he worked as secret agent for EPLF, and I heard that he is now in Germany,” she said sheepishly.
“Er….Tesfai, Tesfai who? ……any nickname?” he looked at her.
“They called him Weddi Blatta,” she said.
“Oh, Weddi Blatta, …Okay, I knew him a long time ago…..but how did he manage to go to Germany?” he asked.
“You are more in a position to know than I am,” she replied.
Kafil paused for some time, pensive and then looked at her.
“In what way is he related to you?” he asked.
“I told you he was a friend…. a real friend,” she stammered.
“Aha…..I see……you mean he was your lover?” he asked rather nervously.
“The only person I loved and still love in this world,” she asserted.
Kafil didn’t like the idea that young Eritreans migrated to Europe when the country needed them most. But he was simply lying. The EPLF never considered the non-combatants as real citizens. The new independence seemed to have been tailor-made for them only. Eritrean youngsters who had stayed with the enemy during the armed struggle were expendable, to be used in battles and skirmishes that the bellicose government in power helped to bring about.
The brazen faced Kafil didn’t hesitate to tell Timar that true democracy had it origin with the EPLF who practiced it in the field. Rule by the people, from the people, to the people. But the PFDJ-style democracy he was bragging about was, to tell the truth, the antithesis of democracy where opposition in all its forms, even in the form of thoughts and dreams, was forbidden. It was said of the EPLF that even non-opposition was frowned upon in the field. Keeping quiet was a prelude to an oncoming opposition! A lull before the storm, to put it correctly. EPLF’s democracy was simply a rule, or more befittingly, a misrule, by the party, for the party, to the party.
He told her that there was more freedom of thought and freedom of movement in Eritrea than in all the countries of the worlds combined. He told her that Eritrea would soon be the Singapore of Africa. He told her that the EPLF’s war machine was so effective that even America (let alone Russia) trembled before Eritrean fighters, etc…A little while and Badme would bring him back to his senses!
Timar wanted to leave before she had her brain blown up with so much lies and propaganda. Kafil, however, wanted another similar meeting. But Timar knew that subsequent meetings would probably lead to easy familiarity and intimacy, which could again pave the way to fresh ideas and indecent proposals. She declined the offer and asked him, if he wanted, to visit her at Haregu’s snack bar, any time.
She said good bye and left. As she walked across the room in her unique gait, the secretary was still chatting on the phone. She then looked up and nodded at Timar mechanically with a haughty and arrogant movement of the head. Good bye ex-whore!
To make a long story short, Timar did finally get married to a rich man from Jeddah by the name of Iyassu, twenty years older than her. Haregu was, of course, the matchmaker. The wedding feast took place in EmbaSoira Hotel. Kafil was naturally invited as Haregu wanted to play it safe.
Kafil arrived with his secretary, who had previously mistaken Timar for a simple whore. But when now she saw her in her best, looking like a morning star, she turned green with envy and red with anger. She became much angrier, however, when she noticed the stupid Kafil going bananas over her. She hated the Revolution. She would see more of it later on, enough to make her cross the border to Ethiopia.
During the Tigrinya dance at the Imperial Hotel in which the suwa (local beer) and the whisky did their part, the band played the whole night, the singers howled and barked. In the din and clamor, one prominent member of the Party chanced to catch sight of Timar. He couldn’t resist her charm.
Weddi Mannu was also there. Dancing and drinking. Drinking to forget his past sins. Drinking more and more to forget that he was a turncoat. As he shuffled his feet and shook his shoulders to the beat of the drum, his mind must have wandered to the early days when he, as an EPLF fighter, drank dimu dimu (high octane rice-based drink brewed in the field, and compared to which the common whiskey is but an apple juice) following a bloody victory or a bloodless retreat. The EPLF fighters danced to celebrate any occasion. Any incident was worth dancing. Now, it has even become an obsession! The nation that dances together, stays together!
When the music turned into tango, Weddi Mannu asked Timar to dance with him. She accepted rather half-heartedly, for she neither knew how to dance the tango nor was she in the mood at the time.
As Weddi Mannu hugged her and drew her close to him, Iyassu, the bridegroom, never showed any kind of irritation. Wasn’t Timar privileged to get hugged by the leaders of the Revolution? If it were in his power, Iyassu would have easily offered Timar to the Boss for an overnight enjoyment.
But Timar was not happy. She felt very much irritated. She never liked dancing much less with people in authority. She hated all those who were steering the country to its doom with their irresponsible and adventurous policies…
to be continued…