22 Questions

“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven” Mathew 5 V13-16

I sense, smell and taste an onset of melancholia hovering over us Eritreans, no matter where we live; what we do; what age group; what occupation.

What was a latent symptom that took years to coalesce, I am concerned, is slowly becoming chronic. It is affecting us individually and as a group in myriad of ways. So unless we fight it back, our future shall be bleak. Our survival is at Risk. We are approaching (I assure you we not there yet) the ultimate survival stage: fight or flight. The alternative is grim and it does not need any clarification.

There is nothing wrong to be sad and angry when you live under, face, hear or see brutality, cannibalism and incessant injustices day in day out. It is just that, sadness and anger become problematic when they are internalized and misdirected. Internalized sadness and anger are perfect fertilizers for haplessness, low- esteem and apathy- bed rocks for self-destruction.

What can one expect from a dispirited individual or group? No one with a sane mind expects valued results from a helpless entity and who wants to associate with the afflicted? People run away from self-affliction not only because it is uncomfortable, harmful and useless but more because it is infectious.

We know the Principal Cause of our problems even though we might not fully know or comprehend the existence or the extent of effects by other causes that work in juxtaposition, unison or parallel to the main cause.

The good news is identifying and then standing your ground against the principal cause to your misfortunes, is the first and vital step to the road of recovery.

In struggle for Freedom and Justice, Clarity is paramount! Clarity is the window to honesty. Trust is paramount! Trust is the cement that holds and strengthens the structure. Simplicity is paramount! Simplicity opens wide the door to honest communication. Directness is paramount! Directness eliminates waste and is economical.

We have a resilient, flexible, strong, experienced, and vicious enemy. He is unique among the unique creatures of darkness. And worse, he knows us better than we know him. Even Satan is scared of him. Our enemy has become the competitor to Satan itself. To tell the truth, this beast has already controlled the physical and psychological aspects of the majority of our people.

The question then becomes is there anything left for the beast to control? Does our enemy possess any weakness or weaknesses that we should be aware with?

If you closely watch the beast, you will notice something is bothering him. Something is keeping him awake at night. Something is forcing him to be restless. Something is forcing him to be on the run. Something is making him tick and sick. He looks wasted and is withering away. He does not even trust his own waning shadow.

On the outset, this assertion (or call it good news) does not make sense. But if you ponder and utilize the immense capability of your brain and open your eyes and ears to it, you shall agree with the assertion because it is true. It is shrouded but it is there! (Are you confused with shall and will? I utilize shall on issues I definitely believe to be absolutely true. I hope this explanation shall eliminate any confusion on my selection/preference of words.)

To control the physical and psychological aspects of your subjects, what you need are the state and its coercive tools. You also need to use them arbitrarily, disorderly, senselessly, ignorantly and spontaneously. But there is an aspect in human beings which none of the tools could suppress no matter how brutally, efficiently and smartly or otherwise are used. This aspect is the spiritual benefaction of beings.

When we say we are created in the image of God, this statement of belief or assertion has nothing to do with our physical or psychological semblance to God. God is Cosmos and every individual being, possesses, an aspect of Cosmos; gift from the Creator to the Created.

The highest manifestations of this gift are Faith and Hope that are integral part and parcel of our life as human beings in this world. And the glue that holds Faith and Hope together and keeps them intact is Love. Faith and Hope are our umbilical cords that attach us to the space-less and timeless Source of our creation. While the physical and psychological aspects are bound by the confines of space and time, Faith and Hope are definitely not.

When The Sage said that “man cannot live with bread and water alone”, what else then is needed to exist, live or survive? The answer is clear: Faith and Hope. And this is precisely the reason why our beast is restless. He realizes, he like his subjects, is bound by time and space. By now he also realizes that he is not endowed to control the uncontrollable. After all he is god (taot) and self-made as such, and not God. But this does not mean the beast does not try.  Erroneously thinking that he will find and choke Hope and Faith in Churches and Mosques, he anointed himself Chief priest and Imam but to no avail. Hope and faith are individual’s born gifts.

What all these demonstrates is, his actions are futile. This is his vulnerability. If road to recovery start with identifying your enemy, knowing his vulnerability is the first blue print for the success of your journey. And that is why it is imperative that us, the victims, defend and cherish our Hope and Faith at any cost. They are sacrosanct and everlasting.  Do not even think to sell your soul to the devil.

Hope and Faith also signify that we are created to be immortals, by no means in physical or psychological sense. But immortality signifies we are not created in vain. The beast can beat and beat our physical and psychological being but he shall not even come close to touch what matters most: our Spiritual being. In this context, who do you think should mourn: us to mourn our martyrs or our martyrs to mourn for us? Or to put it slightly different, should we mourn or celebrate our martyrs?

Our enemy belongs to the category of people who believe that human beings are mortals. The pitfall in this belief is extraordinary. According to them, this life is on this earth is accidental thus Limited and has a beginning and end. So if one choose to or have anti-social disposition one is allowed to do anything he wanted to survive, to dominate, to stay in power, to abuse, to benefit at the expense of others. According to them it is free for all and the strongest survives. For them conscience is a waste and a realm of the weak and fools. That was why Dostoyevsky aptly wrote “in the absence of God, man becomes god and anything is possible”. Isn’t this articulate sentence from the lover of humankind obvious to us Eritreans for we are living witnesses to atrocities by the self-made god?

Now back to the question of melancholy. What is melancholy?  Why is melancholy considered affliction if it affects an individual but a plague when it affects groups or society at large?

I always equated melancholy to darkness. Have you even walked alone in pitch darkness? How did it feel?

In my time, metaphorically and realistically, darkness was a king. The force of darkness was compounded by the landscape, full of hills and valleys; mountain ranges and gorges; precipices and deep and scary shadows. Walking at night was akin to walking through the shadows of the valley of death, the most terrifying experience one encounters. Walking in darkness was a risky endeavor because there was no reference. Inhabitants never got use to it. I never got use to it. Who can get use to Death? And it was apt to recite Psalm 23 that goes like this….

“…Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever”

Darkness dominates everything that came to its grip. Its ego is out of proportion. Its ambition is behemoth. It causes disequilibrium. It has weight and is heavy. It unsettles inner peace. It neutralizes conscience. It blurs the boundary between good and evil. One can easily feel its claws. The mind is overwhelmed. Fear and suspicion take root and blossom. Anxiety bubbles. Hatred sets foot. In darkness one loses one’s control. Hope and faith are severely tested. And if the possessor is weak hope and faith can became the first causalities.

But I also learned that darkness was shallow thus easily defeated. I use to forget darkness and death in an instant as soon as I see a flicker of light somewhere in the horizon be it far or near: A shepherd lighting fire or a flicker of light that emanated from far away hudmos, agnets or caves.What did I learn from my experience waking in darkness?

1.     I am not alone,

2.     I am not defenseless. I am equipped with the everlasting and indestructible gifts of Hope and faith. Both are my shields much greater than my immune systems or the nuclear shields of the super powers,

3.     To act on my faith and hope. With faith I feel I am in solid foundation and with Hope I never entertain to give-up.

4.     Living in this tempting world I might not be Absolute. Living in this transient world I might not be able to be whole. But God will be satisfied if I play a part to the Whole; a part that will add something to making the whole. Parts which will make the whole wholesome, a part that will make the whole complete. Kindness is a part; humbleness is a part; trust is a part; respect my fellow human beings is a part; to fight for the meek and disadvantaged is a part; to oppose wrong doing is a part; to bring peace is a part; humility is a part; sharing is a part; sacrifice is a part; deference is a part; self-abrogation is a part; to fight for justice is a part; forgiveness is a part; to listen and learn is a part; prayer is a part but Love is more than one part because it is the foundation upon which the Absolute whole is built.

5.     To genuinely love myself first (not the hedonistic, narcissistic or materialistic type)  so that I shall be able to love my neighbor, my friends, my comrades, my people as I love my self.

6.     To stay positive; to spread positivity and embrace positivity,

7.     Never to succumb to Fear, Doubts or Temptations.

When did I start to notice the plague?  What are the causes of this plague other than the obvious? Did it start in 1980, 1998, 2001? Is it Srhit Forto? Is it the mushrooming of organizations? Is it the failure of the opposition organizations? Is it the lack of unity in the opposition? Is it the stumbling of our beloved ENCDC? Is it the unresolved issue of Badme? Is it the news of the false death of the living dead?  Is it the new format of our where it is allowing some beal afs to dominate beal tafs? Please help me fill the 22 questions that might help me find the other causes?

Or is it trivial to ask since I know the Principal cause?

Why would Srhit Forto cause melancholy? Did it matter whether it was “successful” or “unsuccessful”? How do we measure success? Who did it affect? How could the valiant effort and selfless sacrifice of Wedi Ali & Co. cause melancholy and not jubilation?

Wasn’t Wedi Ali our salt of the earth and light of our world? Didn’t Wedi Ali flicker the light to alleviate our doom and gloom? Didn’t Wedi Ali Acted on his faith and hope? If the beast represented darkness, didn’t Wedi Ali represented light?

Unlike darkness, light works on the background. Yes indeed. It is only in light that nature become magnificent; beautiful; vibrant; lively; attractive and wonderful. It makes nature shine while itself stay in the background. It does not say “look at me”..”hear me”..”do what I say”..”I am the only one”..”I am the state; the archbishop, the Imam” etc..etc.. Like salt, light is devoid of ego, pride and dominance.

Who knew Wedi Ali before Srhit Forto?

Wedi Ali was a wonderful, energetic, friendly and keen teenager when he joined our company in 1975. What I remember of him most was his eagerness to learn and neatness at handling his tasks. He was way too mature for his age and was endowed with highly positive disposition and pleasant demeanor. He took his duties and responsibilities very seriously. He was the first to raise his hand to volunteer for any task, be it mundane or risky. He covered his comrades’ sentry duties at night so they will rest. I never heard him complain. As a good learner, it did not take him time to be competent in Tigrigna.  He was social and loved by his team mates. How he loved and interacted with villagers! Village women loved and adored him. Simply he had magnetic personality. As part of a deal between Ibrahim Afa, Wedi Sheka, Beraki Ghebreselassie and I, Tesfay Temnewo, was tasked with literacy campaign as part of his “rehabilitation” (I call it brainwashing). Tesfay was Wedi Ali’s teacher and I might suspect that Tesfay might also have mentored him on Justice, freedoms, democracy and fairness. But I left EPLF in 1976 and never heard again about Wedi Ali until Srhit Forto.

I was not surprised of Wedi Ali’s involvement in Srhit Forto even though I was sad, angry, jubilant and ecstatic, all at the same time, afterwards. He was born hero and died heroically. He gave his life for just cause. He was created for purpose and he fulfilled his purpose. He did not sell his Hope and Faith. He made his Creator happy. His contribution to chipping away at the powers of the beast is significant. What was built methodically in decades cannot be expected to disappear in a moment but piece by piece.

When I was a child, growing up in Senhit ((few years during my formative stage but that left in-erasable memory on me) I use to love rocks, big massive rocks and gigantic boulders. Senhit is full of them and other natural wonders thus I always say “those who don’t know Senhit don’t know Eritrea”. I was curious especially on those huge boulders that stood precariously on a cliff; on mountain tops, on weak soil or on top of other boulders. In awe, I use to ask myself “how could they stand with little support?” By little support I mean, tiny winy pebbles; little flints; little wedges; little sands or the poor soil and nothing else! Being curious and rambunctious, I even use to try to nudge and push them if they could roll down to no avail. But there were times when they roll and tumble down from where they stood for ten thousand years. They rolled down not of their own volition (mass, gravity..) but due to rebellion of those little guys: the pebbles, the wedges, the flints, the sands and the poor oppressed and unrecognized soil.

Big things have humble beginning. Big things start with little things. Little things have the capability and potential to bring big things. Woe to those who disregard little things!!

For me Srhit Forto is an antidote to melancholy. What about for you? For me Wedi Ali & Co. are my salts of my earth and lights of my world. What about for you? For me Wedi Ali is the shepherd that lighted fire to alleviate my darkness. What about for you?

But if Wedi Ali is the cause of melancholia to the beast and his followers, may Wedi ali’s and Cos. names be blessed for ever and ever.

This summer, I crossed the Atlantic for the first time in thirty odd years. Paris, London and Stockholm were my destination. I came back home with mixed bags of feelings.

I did not like what I witnessed in Stockholm. On my first day, every one I met said “here in Stockholm, Eritreans don’t greet one another”. When I asked “what happen if I greet any Eritreans I see or meet?” They said “they will take you either as a fool, or a visitor or a new immigrant”. I said to myself “this is an onset of melancholia”, so for the duration of my stay in Stockholm, I greeted every Eritrean and who looks Eritrean (Deki Tigray; Amharu, Somalis) I saw or met. I don’t know if they took me for a fool; a visitor or new immigrant (probably or improbably from North America) but they reciprocated well and in kind. But the question still lingers in me “Why of all places in Sweden?”

In France, I met my good friend from H.S University in Addis Ethiopia, good comrade in ELF Kutsri 9 and my Best man when I wed my still beautiful and ever young good woman in Khartoum. How true when our fathers and mothers said “Zeimote Yrakeb”!!

Bitsay (I call him Bashai) Semere Fessahaie was and is a very positive and pleasant man. His energy and laughter are highly contagious. He had and still has insatiable appetite for knowledge. And he does not flinch from what he believes. He does not compromise on freedom, Justice, democracy and fairness. In some ways he reminded me of Wedi Ali and I was happy. He is a rare jewel like our reformists and renaissance men and women of He keeps in touch with everyone he met and they number thousands. I declare we need more people like Semere.

On my last day in Paris, at 9:00 PM in the evening, my cousin Goitom Amine asked me a Question. Mind you, not a question but a QUESTION: he said “Aklilu, don’t you think the Woyanies are holding us hostages by not abiding by the ECCB ruling?”

I asked Goitom “how are they holding us hostges?”

Goitom replied “If the Badme issue is settled once and for all, then change is imminent.”

I have a habit. Like what our ancestors said “amel ms megnez”, if I sense honesty and integrity in a person who asks questions, I hesitate before I give answers. There are times I ask the person to give me time and the time could be days. I ponder and take my time. I do this because I respect honest people and I want to maintain my honesty and integrity to them.

While I was pondering for what to say, I felt out of body experience, and traveled back to 1975. It was a good time and bad time in PFLF (Hizbawi Hailtat not Hizbawi Gnbar). Good time because the nasty civil war hadended. Bad time because the prisoners of conscience were still in prison. Everyone was antsy and anxious about the prisoners, the pros and opponents. But everyone wanted fair and just closure. The pros wanted absolution and opponents were expecting either light prison sentences or discharge (mrfat).  The situation was exasperated because of total secrecy. Only few knew the situation.

Rumors started to seep. No one knew whether those rumours were true or false. All of us were hostages at the mercy of very few leaders (no more than four) who knew everything and decided everything. Then came the bombshell news: The leaders of Menkae movement were sentenced to die and the order was enacted. Awe and shock overwhelmed the front.

But end was end. Chapter was closed. But did peace prevail? No!

As soon as the news of murdering the prisoners of conscience was announced, with no delay, action was taken against Yemanawyan and us the fools were made more foolish and such tactics never stopped. You the reader is a living witness and perpetual hostage.

Let’s say, today, the Ethiopian government announced that it abides fully with the ECCB ruling and handed Badme not in Sefii but in a Silver plate. Do you think everything that follows will be good and dandy? If your answer is yes then You don’t know your enemy.

What about the new format of our Awate.Com? Is it a culprit to our onset of melancholy?

I don’t believe so. But, when every time I open the site and see Tamrat-Tamrats and Hailes all over the product of sweat and tears of the farmer (the article and the writer) I wonder if it is adding something to the onset?

The old format was good and democratic. The forum was at the background. So those who want to see what was going on could, as per their choice, and peep. Not now when everything is mixed up. Saying this, I trust our venerable administrators, and I shall try to adapt.

But please help me with the 22 Questions.


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