Eritrea: Words and A Goat Brain
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” That is from the bible, just in case. But the bible is ancient, and thanks to the modernizing factor of the PFDJ, we should have another bible: “After the beginning there was another Word, and the Word was Law, and the Law was Isaias.”
Again, just in case, that is not what I read in the six-hundred page book, authored by Redie Mehari, Telmi N’zerie Krdad (A Masterplan for the Chaff Race) which I just finished reading.
As I put down the book to rest, I remembered how so many Eritreans have been toying with words trying to find an appropriate term that would describe the PFDJ clique. Redie’s “Chaff Race” is a bit stretched out and besides, it is not fair to any race to be likened with chaff as described in the book since a race is not formed, it is naturally inherited, while a tribe is built and artificially acquired. Therefore, the PFDJ clique can be better described as a tribe, The Chaff Tribe!
Reading the book threw me into a state of mixed emotions: Anger, sadness and hope. Redie’s message is well elaborated throughout the book, it is so powerfully delivered that it would wake even those with dead conscience. Of course, some might not know the details and insights, but the nature of the regime is so obvious to everyone outside the Chaff Race. Redie describes the PFDJ so perfectly in a way that no other writer has done before. It is a reminder for those who might have forgotten (or trying to forget) to what extent the PFDJ has damaged Eritrea, and to what extent the Isaias regime has emasculated the Eritrean people. At times, the book becomes so agonizing to read because it forces one to experience the pain all over again.
Redie’s depiction of the selfless and heroic combatants who waged epic battles to rid Eritrea of past occupiers, and the agonies and sacrifices, cannot be sensed by the stone hearted, the indecent who believe that Eritreans paid all that price in vain. The solace is that they belong to a minority; and Redi’e has described them aptly: Chaff. The few neo-Andnets, those who were hiding under their mama’s skirt while people were having their limbs blown out, their guts scattered all over the desolate battle grounds, should be ashamed of belittling the sacrifices, to downplay the trying times that many combatants went through. No decent person would have the temerity to spit on the experience of thousands of children who grew orphans and widows who aged and died without enjoying a decent life in this world. The decent cannot help but feel the situation that Redie superbly depicted: the sky raining fire and the ground spitting flames—that is not fiction or for romanticizing. It is not a story out of a Hollywood movie. It is real, and live testimonies are still walking the streets of Eritrea and the world carrying their scars. Redie has served the cause for which they suffered (and what awaits ahead) in a noble and in an admirable way.
In addition to the eye-witness chronicle, the individual observation that spans almost forty years, the book also comes with a huge extra bonus: literary value. It is amazing how in spite of his similar background with the PFDJ goons, Redie’ escaped the virus that makes one adopt the bastard version of the Tigrinya language. His impeccable, unadulterated language is so mesmerizing, so educational and so enjoyable to read.
Redie is also a gifted motivator. His style of delivery can be compared to that of the talented preachers of the American South. Indeed, the book will certainly play an important role in uplifting and boosting the morale of those who are poised to destroy all signs of injustice in Eritrea. No apologies. No excuses. Redie knows what needs to be done and he motivates his readers, as in a personalized conversation, as if he is talking to each reader one-on-one, urging all decent Eritreans to reclaim the Eritrean courage, the Eritrean heritage, the Eritrean self-confidence, steadfastness and perseverance. He shuns indignation, shames the weak-spirited and exposes the naked bystanders, the indecent, and the “Assadagi yebedelew”, as the Amharas would say. Almost every page of the book contains one Eritrean wisdom or one traditional adage—you learn rhetoric as you go, you learn what eloquence means. Go get that book and devour it like it is the last book you will ever read.
Definitely, there are some aspects of the book that begs for improvement and I wish Redie consults professionals if he is planning a second run. A lot of redundancy could be eliminated to lower the weight of the book which now weighs about 2 LBS. That affects production, shipping and distribution costs on top of storing inconveniences that would limit its distribution. After having worked so hard to write such a book, it is a shame that the abysmal distribution and packaging might result in a net loss for the writer. But regardless, I encourage you all to contact the writer [at firstname.lastname@example.org] and get the book—everyone who reads Tigrinya should have the book, and I guarantee, you will enjoy every page of it.
After talking about the Word that was God, and the Word that became Isaias, and the words that Redie weaved into a extraordinary book, I will share with you some more words in secret.
I would like to offer my unsolicited words of advice to the ENCDC chairman: sir, I heard that some of the council members wanted to issue statements regarding the recent Eritrean Liver Crisis, and that there were differing opinions on how the ENCDC should react. Understandably some of the council members might be tempted to boast “I told you so” after the saga unfolded to embarrass some for their hasty reaction and confirm the sound judgment of others. Still, an internal memo, and an inside discussion, a dissenting opinion, is just an internal matter and should not be used to admonish those who might have held a different opinion, an opinion that is proven wrong only in hindsight. Regardless, even if they made a bad judgment, they have a right to make mistakes and learn. It is not a crime as long as the issue is resolved in a fair manner based on proper organizational discipline and procedure. Embarrassing members after the fact, because they held a different view, is not fair when they do not have a stature equal to that of the chairman. I suggest the ENCDC focusses more on improving internal communication and less on half-baked public pronouncements.
As far as the opposition is concerned, the ENCDC is the highest structure that there is and its dedicated members would like to see its performance improved drastically, and its organs to be engaged and efficient. They would like to remind the leaders that the ENCDC is an institution that represents diverse interest, and that harmonizing those interests is of a paramount importance. Personally, I would like to see one meaningful accomplishment instead of a thousand meetings and statements. God helps only those who help themselves; the general public can only be inspired when there is an accomplishment, a success story. And when that happens, there are many who would love to magnify it. ENCDC “of the world, Unite!”
Again it is all words and about words. And having offered my words to the ENCDC, I would like to inform you that I might have a chance to exchange a few words with the biggest Word in Eritrea. I am excited. Aren’t you?
A Chance For Interviewing Isaias
I met an acquaintance who is a very dedicated supporters of the regime—watch your thoughts! He is not a pumpkin, he is not ill-mannered, he is not arrogant and loud—if that was not the case, I wouldn’t talk to him. He is just an avid believer, a nice person even if he has been together with those who have been chasing their tail for the last ten-years, and one can afford to have a chat with him and get an insight of the amazing mind-set. He jokingly told me he cannot discuss with me any serious stuff because I might “plaster” it at awate.com. That fear has become a hindrance, I cannot socialize with my PFDJ lots and learn from their wisdom, their jingoist patriotism and self confidence that manifests as unbearable arrogance… and be inspired to write.
A few years ago I met a senior PFDJ official and I had to take an oath: “Sga aboy ile I will not disclose anything.” It was then that we had a cup of cappuccino, and he paid for it thanks to some 2% paying sucker. I will never disclose his name and embarrass him. I was raised to respect the value of Words, and if I give my word to keep a secret, then that is how it will be. Dear PFDJ officials, cheer-leaders and foot-soldiers, me and my colleagues will always keep your secret, you can say anything to us.
Now let’s go to the chat that I had.
My acquaintance complained about “the rumor that the opposition spread about the death of Isaias.” I tried to explain to him how the majority within the opposition thinks the rumor was planned and executed by the PFDJ. I tried to explain that in a country where there is no free flow of information and scrutiny, the people depend on rumors and no one is responsible but the regime that monopolizes information. He wouldn’t agree with me. I quickly introduced another reason from my sleeve: the opposition was gauging the popularity of Isaias but when they saw everyone praying for his death, some mischievous individuals within the opposition changed the exercise into a referendum. Nhna Nsu, Nsu Nhna=thumb up. Down-Down Isaias=thumb down. Everybody made the thumb down sign. Look, mine is still up since last week! Ane Nsu, Nsu Ane. I showed him my thumb. But all those who made the thumb down sign should apologize, and the Word that became Law is so compassionate I am sure IT will pardon all.
One thing led to another and my acquaintance became a bit angry when he started to talk about Bandini—remember, the Italian Ambassador to Eritrea some ten-years ago, the one who allegedly was instigating the G-15 to overthrow the PFDG vagabonds? That Bandini. The benefit of the doubt, I accepted what he said about Bandini—but why are the G15 still in jail without charge, without visitation rights or any basic other right? I didn’t get an answer but only a repetition of Bandini this and Bandini that. He didn’t mention Justice at all; but of course, his ego would not allow him to listen to my justice soliloquy without getting even. He told me that it is natural for the supporters of the government (he calls the regime a government!) to tow the PFDJ line when the so-called opposition tows the Weyane’s line. He must have forgotten that the trampling on rights, and ignoring justice and brigandage started well before the Weyane term was included in the PFDJ lexicon as a major weapon in its arsenal. I could have reminded him of the PFDJ’s honeymoon with the ‘Weyane” but that would be very inappropriate: it is rude to mention the name of an ex-lover to an angry mistress.
My cool acquaintance was becoming unusually tense… and serious. He angrily admonished me for meeting Meles Zenawai, the Ethiopian PM (which makes me a Weyane lackey) and he used all the sovereignty related buzzwords to make me feel guilty. Meeting Meles the monster in his den, how dare you? To him that was the straw that broke some animal’s back. And my reasoning was: if that is what broke anything’s back, I wish all similar backs are broken beyond repair. I wanted to comfort him and thought of shouting ‘Ane Nsu, Nsu Ane’ but the words refused to come out my throat, they got stuck and almost choked me. Helplessly, instead of forcing out my favorite patriotic slogan, I managed to confess: You see, if “president” Isaias would give me an opportunity, I would love to interview him.” Mr. Cool looked surprised. He sculpted a sarcastic smile on his face. I am serious, I assured him. Apparently he pitied me. Half-surprised, with half-smile, he exclaimed, “why not?” I wondered loudly, Will he? He was still surprised, “Didn’t Isaias give an interview to Tewelde of VoA? Didn’t he give an Interview to Elias of the Ethiopian Review? Why Not you!” I rubbed my hands in excitement. Finally I might get a chance to interview Isaias. I might sit face to face with the Word that became Law that became Isaias.
Now, before I go ahead and make a formal request, I wanted to see how my readers would feel about that—it is YOU! Your advice is critical in this matter. What if Isaias actually agrees and then I have to conduct the interview. What would I ask him? Where would we have the interview? When is the next time he is travelling to Qatar, maybe I can do it there! Do you notice that I am already excited and I badly need an advice?
For hours I have been thinking of the questions I would ask. Do I ask him where is Joshua? Nah…he said he doesn’t know him and I have to believe the Word. Do I ask him when he is going to crown himself a king of Eritrea? Nope. He is already there, it would be an uncalled for insult. Do I ask him for permission to visit the prisoners at Ella-Ero? But going to Ella-Ero is risky; what if he tells me to interview the prisoners there and that he will send someone to fetch me in ten-years? I am lost.
Incidentally, the correct name of the place is not Era-Ero, it is Ella-Ero which is just corrupted like anything else in Eritrea. We all fell prey to that corruption, so, don’t feel bad about that, it is just a corruption of words. Ella-Ero.
It’s hard to find the right questions fit for a person who carries a tender liver. How can I list a few one-sentence questions that would inspire the king to reply with three hundred sentences each. Then, do I address him “Kbur president” or his holiness the Word, Btsu’e? I went to sleep very late and yet, when I woke up, I hadn’t found the right questions to ask. Worse, I haven’t found answers for my skeptic and paranoid questions—Ella-Ero!
It was then that I glanced at Redie’s book. Aha. It has all the right questions that Isaias should answer. Why don’t I carry the book to him and then camp at the grounds of his imperial palace until he finishes reading it, then he can give me all the answers for the questions that are stored in the minds of all decent Eritreans. But as a precautionary measure, I will swear to him that I do not believe anything in the book and I will testify that Redie is paid by the Weyane to write the book and he should be sent to Ella-Ero. And if Ella-Ero is too five-starish for Redie, he can be sent to any prison, there are many around: Mr. president is committed to maintain Eritrea’s world leadership in the number of prisons. That is why the spirit of Nehna-Nsu is inflated with PRIDE.
Being overly realist, I worried Isaias might not have the time to read a six-hundred page book—frequent excursion to Qatar to meet his doctors; sleeping time, etc. What if he doesn’t have time for an interview with someone who has already interviewed Meles Zenawi? The Indians would say: “what to do?”
Finally I got a solution. I will send a list of my questions to Weizero Saba, and I am sure she would be kind enough to sneak the questions to him between his sleeping times. But how do I get hold of Weizero Saba? Didn’t Redie say he knows her! What the heck, he should help me here. But I am badly in need of an advice from you all. Until then, remember that the liver is doing fine, now let’s find a good surgeon to perform a brain transplant. Who volunteers to pay for a brain of an Australian goat?