Ethiopians and Eritreans Need to Have a Serious Talk

Once someone took a snide at me and called me “ambetta belitta;” it means locust eater in Amharic. He jokingly explained it’s how some Ethiopians derogatorily describe Eritreans. A large portion of Ethiopian are known for their “qnie, what’s called Wax and Gold—what they say is not actually what one hears but has another deeper meaning. I became defensive\ and replied, “we do not eat two-legged anbeTTa–I hope say it metaphorically, but true in the recent past we did eat a lot of invading two legged locusts.”

He despairingly replied, “really! Then why are you unable to eat the two-legged locust lording over your country?”

That was painful and I was not going to give in that easy. I said, “remember you eat raw meat and you pierced everyone’s ear drums repeating your claimed 3000 years history, yet have nothing to show for it, like some civilized traits…for instance quitting your addiction to bloodshed.” Everyone laughed out loudly—they love qnie. But by now, my interlocutor was annoyed.

I advised him, if you like to joke and make snide jokes, you should have a stamina to take it to its natural conclusion and not get worked up. The people around us nodded in approval and we parted smiling.

So, as I said to my friend, we don’t brag about our short history, we are humble about it. I hope you will listen to me in a relaxed mood; this is my attempt to help loosen you up–tnnish fegeg yasfellgal.

Once upon a time a child was playing with his new football. A bigger boy came and took the ball from him. It took the child thirty years of struggle to reclaim his football. Then he happily went to his home, but his elder brother snatched it from him. He his little brother that their father had bought it for him but since the little brother protested and cried, the father told the big brother to give the ball to the little one to silence him. Therefore, it was his ball and he was not going to give it away. The younger brother has been in a second struggle for thirty years and counting. But the big brother is just keeping the ball. He doesn’t play with it or let others do. He is screaming war cries, zeraf-zeraf, and facing his little brother but both are now at the height of their confrontation. And here is the two-legged locust watching his little brother and his friends grouping to reclaim the football.

All that is a tragedy present day Eritreans inherited, nothing of their own making.

Our people have a saying: ‘nezia ente resiEkum mot tres’Ekum.’ It means, if you forget this story may death forget you! It is a way to reminding the listeners not to forget the story, and the mention of death is just to incentivize the listeners.

General Kassaye Chemeda calling for bloodshed

Bravado. Bravado. And more bravado! Erre mn n’ew negeru! Generation after generation infatuated with violence and bloodshed. Are Ethiopian poised to destroy what they build over the last three-decades? Why is all that? Stay away, don’t stop me!

I have said this before and I will repeat it. If Ethiopia is overwhelmed by disease and famine, if it is engulfed with poverty, the people should not complain to God. He has given them anything a country can wish for. What is in short supply in Ethiopia? If you wanted a mountain, any Ethiopian can have one. If you needed water, there is enough to go around… with a huge surplus. Even if you want camels—a father, a mother and four children can have six-camels parked in their yard. The Ethiopian camel population is amongst the largest in the world. The number of sheep, goats, and cattle is beyond imagination. There is ample eucalyptus and other trees that can provide a home for every Ethiopian. Be kind to yourselves, learn to be thankful.

Maybe some of you will curse me, “why is he interfering in Ethiopian matters?” It concerns me. Not because of Ethiopia only but mainly because of my concern about the safety of Eritrea. The fires you ignite in Ethiopia will certainly burn Eritrea. But once your fire is extinguished, you always leave a burning coal in Eritrea for use as a spark whenever you feel like starting another fire. That is when you come to Eritrea to claim the burning charcoal. That has been our history with Ethiopian fires.

Now we are in the year 2020 “since the day of mercy”. May God have mercy on all of us. The pace of development in the new world is different from the past. And no one is waiting for anyone until they catch up. If a country remains behind by one year, after ten years it will not be lagging behind only for a decade, but a century. And today’s world will certainly not wait for someone who knowingly breaks his legs. There is no waiting courtesy for anyone as in a group hiking trip. The world doesn’t like the lazy and the reckless. Now let me address a few things:

  1. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed: I received this man with great optimism thinking he will sustain the development pace and build on the experience of the last decades, improve what needs to be improved and gradually take Ethiopia to the next level. But it just took him a few weeks to disappoint me by shaking a blood-soaked hand of a dictator. Worse, he fully embraced, promoted and helplessly tried to polish the character of Isaias Afwerki. I looked left and right for Abi Ahmed; I couldn’t find him. Instead he kept aimlessly jumping like a rabbit. He starts to cozy up with the remnants of the ancient regimes, the dictators, and allied himself with them. And I don’t believe anything positive will come from any efforts tried from within that alliance—there will be neither peace nor prosperity. That is impossible.
  2. The Nile Dam: I don’t believe Ethiopia should change any of its policies regarding the Renaissance dam. I urge the authorities to keep filling that damn dam despite the noise. And if God forbid, the Blue Nile dries up for a season or two, just in case, you can always shut the flow gates, just like a kitchen tap, until there is a good rainy season. In addition, I suspect there is an international law that deals with such cases, but one cannot go to a court before the feared action is taken. Egypt can go to court is Ethiopia purposely stops the natural flow of the river in a way that harms downstream consumers. But for one, I would have checked if the worthless Toshka canal in southern Egypt is closed. Egypt that has been diverting the Nile water to the desert to irrigate the Toskha project that didn’t produce much. The last time I checked just after Al Sisi’s coup d’état, it was still there with patches of water irresponsibly left there to evaporate.I also want some writers and activists to stop treating the issue as if it is a tribal battle between Arabs and Abyssinians, it is not. This is a high-stake state politics between two countries trying to get the best deal for their countries. It should be treated as such and must not be cheapened to look like a street squabble. It also goes without saying, those who think they are defending their country’s position are actually damaging it with their racist, bigoted and village characterization of the Nile issue.So far, there are impressive team of Ethiopians articulating their countries positions. Many Ethiopians, particularly Arabic speaking ones, have done a remarkable job fighting the wrong and belligerent propaganda created perceptions in the region.I have written many times about the Nile issue and for those interested to read them, I will provide links below.
  3. “Zeragito.” This is the Tigrinya word for tornado, sandstorm. And there are people we call zeragito in our miserable region. They put their hands in anything, and they make it messier because they cannot live in a peaceful situation. They feel like they have to stir up trouble and then enjoy the destruction they help complicate. I can only appeal to them to have mercy on the poor people. Let them collect their breath.
  4. Activists: Being an activist myself, I do not feel comfortable saying this, but it has to be said. So, when you feel like your muscles are inflated, to the gym. Don’t make the common people your objects to let out your steam. Don’t preach hate, racism, ethnic strife and other acts that might leave a never healing wound. The lives and properties of the common people who sweat to raise a family, who work hard to put a roof over their families should not destroyed by people you incite. Struggle, but carry out a clean struggle. A focused struggle that doesn’t victimize the already victimized citizen. Also remember that you reside five or six years in countries that you have no ethnic or racial connection, and yet you are welcomes with full rights just. How is it then you do not want to provide that kind of opportunities for your next-door neighbors? For people who have lived among you for years, some born in any locality, sone were their fathers and grandfather born in the locality. Why do you object to their rights being protected like yours is being protected where you reside? Why is your anger and disappointment by the rulers damped on people who face the same situation and fate as you do? Wrong ethnicity? Wrong race?Don’t betray universal human decency and compassion for humanity. Your stellar struggle to gain your rights is commendable, but inciting for violence, instigating bloodshed,  and encouraging civil unrest is  shameful and sad. A peoples’ legitimate interest is not advanced by inhuman acts.
  5. Influencing the naïve: I have two experiences to share with you hoping they will explain my views.1) in 1991 I went to Eritrea via Addis, but I couldn’t return in time for lack of transportation. But when I finally did, I was close to Mexico area, I think behind the chamber of commerce, and I saw a large crowd demonstrating. I asked what they were protesting against and a young man told me ‘the TPLF sent all Ambessa city busses to Asmara, they gave it to Shaabiya (the Eritrean ruling party) and that is why we do not have transportation Addis Ababans.’I was in Asmara and I didn’t see any Ambessa buses. First, Asmara is a small city and it will be impossible to hide the Ambessa buses. Second, there was an acute transportation crisis in Asmara and the only buses left were the old ones that were there when I left the country years earlier.2) In the early 1990, I was sipping coffee at the Flamingo coffee shop when a crowd filled the airport road. I asked what t heir problem was and someone told me, “they said they are selling the Stefanos church to the Catholics.’ Bewildered I asked, ‘how would an orthodox church be sold to the Catholics.’ He confidently told me, ‘sir, the patriarch himself is wearing a white robe and selling the church.’I nodded in astonishment. The person who made such claims are innocent but were convinced by what the agitating activists and politicians told them. Of course, they might think, ‘what do I know, if so-and-so said that, it must be true. And they react to that.Opportunities thrive in confusion and misinformation and they always use the common people.
  6. The Insane: there are many bloodthirsty people around: when will they have enough of it? They have shed so much blood in our lifetime and still they want more. Check out this link and see the crazy retired general! How many children have they turned into orphans? How many villages they wiped out? How many lives have they wasted? Maybe the general thinks peoples’ blood is his retirement pay. Please help such people and take them to the Amanuel Mental Hospital. Or get them a warm gabi, arrange for them to get continuous coffee and make them sit by the side rod. Maybe they can learn to preach peace, or simply hold their bible and read. But take them to Amanuel Hospital.
  7. Qeerroo: This movement reminds me of the French Revolution and revolutions are dirty. It’s shorty in discipline and it is difficult to control fully. But the wise would watch out and clean their acts before such movements erupt. Even now, at a time the Qeerroo movements has proven it can move like an uncontrollable flood, the rulers should take care of the underlying problems and resolve them honestly. Not dishonest quick fixes but genuine solution. The root cause needs to be solved. But if the leaders surround themselves by consultants like the violent General Kassaye Chemeda, there is no hope. Remnants of the old regimes lived and ruled by violence and were removed with violence. That is what the only solution they know. They do not believe in a sane, mature solution and they do not have one.The sad part is that the general remembers only the generals who were killed during their violent reign, the common soldiers who perished in their tens of thousands are just a number to him. He doesn’t feel sorry for them because he thinks they were created to die in their reckless military adventures. If they are not stopped, they will inflict more damages to the region. And there are many insane soldiers in our region and Eritrea has its fair share of them. How would someone call for violence on the Internet if not insane?

Finally, as long as they have an influence in the society, there will never be any peace. Please listen to me, take them to Amanuel Hospital, pronto.

God bless you all

NB: This article started as a script for my weekly youtube channel that I deliver in Tigrinya. but ‘Negarit 92’ ended up being in Amharic with the hope of expanding the reach. 


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