EXCERPTS FROM THE PENCIL: Sept. 2000 – Sept. 2001

The following are editorial excerpts from The Pencil covering the first year of’s life, between September 2000 to September 2001. This archive file was first published on September 1, 2001. Incidentally, we are still trying to restore our archives so that it can be easily accessible, but the task proved to be more difficult than we expected. We are still hoping to finish the restoration soon. Until then, please read the excerpts, they might help reflect on how the first year of the millennium was.

Happy Brick Day to You (Sept. 1, 2000)

How do we go about our mission – that mission of making bricks! We really do not know and we were never brick-makers. Nevertheless, at times, we claim to be the best there is. When we claim to be brick-makers, we direct our readers to click the following ( & (mission statement) and see the recipe. When we claim to be masons, we ask you to contribute with your constructive bricks in the form of pictures, documents or articles to us. If you do not do that, there is a good chance that the very bricks that hold this site will crumble and, we have to blame ourselves; we will not have a vision to make neither bricks nor houses. Happy brick day to you.

All The President’s Men (September 13, 2000)

There are many things waiting at home—preparing a red carpet for the United Nations forces, they are called UNMEE. It sounds ‘un me’ as in a schizophrenic shouting “un me, untie me”. The protectors…. – how on earth did we reach to this level whereby soldiers called UNMEE, are being herded from everywhere to protect us? At any rate, behind all of this, we have all the president’s men… sorry, no women so far. A nation talks on radio and cries in pain. Aaaah, ayyyyy, ayeeee and more pain. A faint signal is heard faintly: it is Senafe bleeding. Why? Whisper is the culprit. When a nation talks, it should talk loudly. Unfortunately, when others are talking, our nation is still whispering.

 The African Reich (September 24, 2000)

In a macho society, the call for militarization is always successful. A segment of the population in such societies believes that its’ only mission in life is to fight. Histories of such societies are full of battles and wars that in most cases were meaningless apart from creating hallow myths. For the most part of their history, such societies were habitually entangled in raids, counter raids and conspiracies. Returning home to a heroic welcome and ululating women after pillaging another village was very appealing to the machos of those days and it made the young yearn for more war and raids to satiate their egos. That was an accepted way of life in ancient times. Trying to preserve such cultures and attitudes in modern times, when people have better things to do instead, is immoral and stupid. The mentality of the middle-ages is just not fit for today.

The Peacock Has Lost Its Feathers (October 3, 2000)

You can admire and be mystified by the grace of a Peacock to the extent that you feel weak and retract from your responsibilities. Then you would start to have a second thought… a third thought and a fourth thought and finally, the risk of ceasing thinking altogether. You would think it is all because of the Peacock’s grace; but watch out, The Peacock Has Lost Its Feathers! 

Doves, Eagles, Bats & Birds (October 13, 2000)

You might miss all the actions in life, but hey, it is better than living with a seizure and an imminent heart attack called G13. Well, first they were considered a heart attack or attacks, and then they christened them G13. Not only did they choose the unlucky number, 13; it is possible that they met on the 13th floor of a building on street number 13. As if that was not enough, they also committed a crime! They wrote a letter. A letter to President I-S-A-I-A-S. Write a letter to the president! How dare you? A cardinal sin, big trouble–they are all going to hell….. During the last Thirty months, Eritrean, especially those in North America, those who live under a blessed democracy, sent thousands of letters to President Clinton and many other dignitaries. They even sent a petition to a chief of an Indian reservation to intervene on behalf of Eritrea. Now, scores of “patriots” are mad because one letter, one single letter was sent to their own president! Clan culture. They are acting as a tribe whose chief passed away!

Coffee Ceremony; Bush is a Woyani (October 23, 2000)

Being neutral is one thing, being fair is another. We are not neutral; we are fair. Many wrongly require us to put one praising article against every dissenting and opposing article that we post. We wish we could, as it is, it is not possible; those who specialize in praise are not writing… and if they do, you would be surprised what they write. For example, someone, who considers himself a supporter of the government challenged us to post his message—he thought that his message was brilliant and would demolish all dissent if we published it in Guess what, the message starts with the usual branding of ‘Agame’ and finishes with it. In the middle, you find insults that were copied right from the pages of an adult magazine. That is political message as far as the writer is concerned. The second kind of government supporters are loose guns who shoot at us from other websites and consider their mission done. Here, as you can imagine, unscathed, Sano! To them we say, if you want to debate issues that concern, then you are most welcome to debate your issues in and by God, we will publish you opinion.

Mohammed Wardi in A Festival (November 6, 2000)

Then a peek to the hall. It was a skilled Eritrean band and a skilled singer, all in military fatigues. Patriotic and emotional songs. I convinced myself not to listen to the lyrics and dance to the beat. Then a veteran singer of the Eritrean music appeared on stage, wearing a suit, and was introduced to the public—AlAmin AbdulLatif! Good, “Abay Aba Shawl” is alive and kicking. Moments later, Alamin finished his first part and disappeared behind the scene for an interval. Minutes later, he came out to perform his second part. This time, he was clad in a fatigued military uniform. What? Why would a singer who shook the body and soul of the youth of the sixties and seventies with golden hits like ‘Fatna Zahra’, while dressed in civilian clothes, need to appear in military fatigue to motivate an audience? Have we submitted to the culture of militarism? Is the fatigue going to be the national dress? Alamin could have done better.

CIA FUNDS, SWISS FUNDS (November 19, 2000)

Why Berlin? The reply would be in a question format: Why not Berlin? Anywhere is everywhere is somewhere. Somewhere is good. Believe me, somewhere is better than nowhere is. Berlin of Heinrich Boel, the German NGO that funded the two meetings. Well, a disturbed cry went out from some Eritrean corners, CIA! Paranoia– and we have it in abundance. Easy for the lazy mind. Yell CIA and you don’t have to think anymore… easy for the lazy brain.

NGOs are created to do such things. Ironically, they are harshly criticized. Yet, we should be the first to criticize them. Can anyone try to remember if he ever was a beneficiary of any NGO funding? Easy, almost all refugees of yesteryears benefited from NGOs. NGOs paid for tickets from the lands of refugeeism to the West. Caritas and the famous kitchen in Rome—how many dinned in that generous feeding hall? The Red Cross and several others have paid for the settlements of many refugees in another country someway or the other.

Sign For War, Sign For Peace (December 5, 2000)

Our self-appointed guardians chose the military culture to assure the well-being of the future generations. Warsay of the seventies and eighties followed Yekaalo of the forties, fifties and sixties. Now, funnily, I heard they have introduced the new brand of warriors, Arkebe, the generation born in the late eighties. Obviously, it is time to search a brand name for the generation born in the nineties, that seems to be our fate. They might be asked to march to the Sudan to say “Happy New Year.”

Crows Imitating Doves (December 19, 2000)

I have the feeling that nothing has been learned from this war. Null, Nada, an EGG. The rowdies are still rowdier and the noisy are noisier. Those who were busy stripping citizenship of anyone who disagrees with them are still at it. “You are not Eritrean” is an abuse so many are subjected to everyday. The shallow lot of the stinking political culture, the culture of exclusivity is raising havoc all over the world wherever Eritreans reside. Communities are divided along sickening lines. An imposed political culture is ruling. The vagabond culture of hate and arrogance. So obsessed are the vagabonds that they always have to have an enemy. If they do not find an enemy, they would go to the mirror and fight with the reflection of their image. Eritreans are suffering from the culture of Skunis.

Steam From The Powerhouse (January 7, 2001)

Commotion within the PFDJ powerhouse. One seat bus, many aspiring drivers. The same route. No good. A primitive cart. Many are willing drivers. One conductor. Very good. But who carries whom? Can the new commotion deliver? You might as well ask ‘can the dry desert bloom?’. No, The current commotion would not deliver. Chances are, with hard work (and resting the guns), the dry desert could bloom easier. Even if not so soon. But the secluded commotion with the very narrow agenda is fearful of democracy. My forecast? Doomed to fail? A bail of water trying to put the raging fire off.  Raise havoc or put the fires off. The driver has to decide; the people have long decided: they want dignity, safeguarding their interests and to live in peace. They want to own their destiny. At one time or another, we have all dealt with a neighborhood bully. It is not fun.

Of The Sleeping Conscience (January 23, 2001)

Leaving the accusation business to those who are close to the scene, we would like to invoke our assessment engine. When governments worth their thin oily sweat become aware that one of their citizens was murdered, they protest, they ask for explanations and clarifications about the whole incident. They pressure for an investigation surrounding the circumstances of the murder. On the other hand, when governments that are not worth their stinking sweat, hear of such incidents, they go mum. Now, an Eritrean family was murdered in a cowardly act. A family that was disowned together with thousands of other refugees couldn’t even have the “luxury’ of a safe refugeeism. The Eritrean media was silent about the incident. The so-called private publications followed suit…all went on a silence strike. One could imagine them asking, who? Who got killed? It is the despicable culture of can’t-see can’t hear and can’t talk. Any one who knew of the incident and kept silent should be ashamed. The media that doesn’t report such incident (debating the incident would be too much to ask) is not worth, again, its stinking sweat. Bravo the loyally silent. Bravo to those who keep their conscience indefinitely in deep-freeze. Hail cowardice. Hail betraying your people. Hail to selective noise button. Bravo. Bravo indeed.

Election Tickets, Dreams For Free (February 8, 2001)

The current power struggle emanating from the power epicenter has more than one player: 1) A segment believes that the Erit rean people deserved a better treatment than what they were subjected to. Furthermore, these are people who painfully regret their silence – which was seen as complacency – for so long. They want to rectify their mistakes. This segment deserves a cautious benefit of the doubt. Their positive moves should be supported. 2) Those who are not done wreaking havoc with the traditions, cultures and social fabric of the Eritrean people. Those who were instrumental in gambling with Eritrea’s meager resources and who are still adamantly continuing the exclusionist politics, and still do not have any feeling of remorse for betraying the dreams of the people. 3) The third segment is comprised of the weaklings who cannot do any better than just watch developments unfold in front of their eyes. They are known for their obsession with living on the sidelines swaying every now and then… here and there depending on the power balance. If this was the seventies, they would be branded ‘tebeleSti’… the shameful opportunists. At any rate, seventies or whatever, they fit that description and a bonus brand for the new century, ‘cowards’.

Queen Bees And He-Goats (February 21, 2001)

So, for beginners, I have an April fool’s wish. The PFDJ in its entirety  is a bad and cheating card-game. The cards need to be reshuffled. We do not play the cards that we are dealt anymore. Amonte, Amonte, Amonte!  This clique has messed up a lot and no one with his right mind would endorse anything that comes from it. Out, out and out on April Fool’s Day. Unless there is a tangible improvement and a little compromise that will match the ‘goodwill moves’ that are expected by the citizenry. You can’t be giving in to Ethiopian demands and be adamantly arrogant to your own citizens’ demands!

THE EDGE OF THE CLIFF (March 23, 2001)

Our criticism is directed to those who have the final say within the PFDJ and those who are not bold enough to tell them “wrong”. And we hope they correct their attitudes. Finally, lets ‘Hail Reconciliation’. Reconciliation on equal footing… and not reconciliation between the victor and the vanquished. The old era of partisan squabbles should be left behind. We call on all levelheaded members of the PFDJ to work towards reconciliation. We call on all democratic forces within the PFDJ to deliver this country to the safe shores. We call on them to end the misery of the people. We call on them to initiate the healing process of old wounds. We call on our defense forces to be the vanguard in safeguarding the Eritrean sovereignty as it has always been. We call on all opposition elements and organizations not to lose hope and always extend their hands in peace. We call on all our people to pressure for reconciliation. We are all Eritreans and we all have equal stake.

Politically Correct  Right (April 10, 2001)

The current situation of Harorrrrrr that the PFDJ leadership is playing with the people is not honest at all. Remember Cowboy movies where a very thirsty man is tied to a pole and an arrogant Cowboy comes and teases him with a water jar just an inch from his lips and finally pours the water to the ground! We had word for that; remember Harrorrrr!

The election was a public demand and was a result of popular pressure. As such, it is an achievement credited to all forces that struggled for democracy. However, there is no Carte-Blanc here. We should not allow the mishandling of our achievement. There are conditions that are needed for the success of the first step towards democracy. The issue of prisoners of conscience, the rotten Justice system, and reconciliation are pre-requisite for the success of any election and multi-party system. We do not want to have an election wesselam. That is not the end but the means. It should be treated as such.

MAY 24: A Blind Date With History (April 23, 2001)

This quick walk-through Eritrean history is necessary as a mini-rebuttal to those who see it in their interest to present the Eritrean people as people who are too backward, too illiterate, too poor to understand and stand for their rights.  Eritreans commitment to a united country was tested in the 1940s when every foreign power with a vested interest in our disintegration tried and failed.  Lesson: don’t believe whoever tells you, “without so-and-so, Eritrea will disintegrate.”  It won’t.  Eritreans know what democracy is and what justice is.  When the two are absent, they know as well.  If they are not pointing them out in a critical mass way, it is because there is still a remnant of goodwill and giving people the benefit of doubt and not because “there are other priorities.”  People did not risk life and limb because they were starving; they did so because their dignity was violated.   Eritreans are committed to an independent Eritrea.  This means that stories you are told about “so-and-so wants to sell Eritrea to so-and-so” are just that, stories.  

Towards the second decade (May 18, 2001)

On this occasion, The Awate Team appeals to all responsible Eritreans; the leadership of all the opposition groups; the EPLF Cadres and Eritrean intelligentsia, the Government of Eritrea, the religious leaders, the youth, the fathers and mothers of martyrs and heroes, the brothers and sisters of the orphans, to support the call for reconciliation and pressure all concerned to start a genuine dialogue. The Eritrean politics bore and delivered enough hate and destruction. Let us shun ideas of violence and ideas that are the cause for violence. On our tenth independence day, let us aspire for a second decade of peace and harmony.

Yes, Another One; Yet Another One (June 2, 2001)

There are already reports that Sherifo, Ogbe and Petros Solomon have been targeted for charges that they will not have the “luxury” to defend in a court of law. They face the same machinery countless ordinary Eritreans have, possibly with their knowledge if not approval: trial by “special court.” They must be supported simply because what they are asking for is a legitimate popular demand. Do not fall for the siren call of “Do Not Take Sides.”  Most of the people who tell you to not take sides have already taken sides. Worse, they may be the type that never takes sides; they just wait for the direction of the wind. By all means, do take a side: the side of truth and justice.  To take sides does not mean to confront or to exacerbate; one can take sides and still be civil and peaceful about it.  After all, the charges are serious: the reformers are not accusing the president of being rude or not shaving; they are accusing him of operating illegally and outside the bounds of the constitution. If they get their way and actually hold a meeting, they won’t stop there: working outside the bounds of the constitution is the introduction followed by dereliction of duty followed by compromising and endangering the security of the state. This is serious stuff.

What will happen next?  If the way the President treated the “G-13” is a clue, the President will fan out his spokespersons—Yemane Gebreab, Ali Said,—to assemble Eritreans. They will say, “the President is ready to speak to his colleagues; to his brothers and sisters at a mutually convenient time and place.” The tone will be deceptively low-key and there will be efforts to explain away this development as “nothing new; we have seen many in our history, etc.”  Don’t buy it.  Because, behind the scenes, the blackmailers and intimidators will be working overtime and in overdrive.

Frde Gmdl: Gebredengel (June 11, 2001)

So what do we do? The ruling party is widening the gap by creating wedge issues non-stop. Should people participate in the discussion led by the Embassies? Yes. People should go to the meetings to tell them that they have nothing to do with it.  They should have a one word slogan, “yaaKlekum!” “kefekum!” “kefa!” “Enough!” “dmustuK!” Enough!  Enough with treating us like little children; enough with insulting our intelligence; enough with the charade.  Enough with dismantling what few institutions we have.  Let the committee that was instructed to do its job, do its job while there is still time.

Shock Value Added! (June 26, 2001)

Eritrea is for all, including today’s minority: the supporters of PIA. What the Eritreans paid for will not be wasted in vain.

The Reformers have serious criticism regarding the way the PIA conducts business. The system in place is an archaic system that doesn’t recognize modernization, basic freedoms and tolerance. It doesn’t believe in peace and dialogue; it prefers the gun-inspired solution so that it can come on a later date and tell us how many lives we lost. Maybe just 18,999: less one than the previous number! This system, and those steering it, believe that the sole goal of Eritreans is to die non-stop. This we consider betrayal of the long struggle, which was waged so that Eritreans can live in peace in a stable country. None of that was achieved. They failed to deliver neither economic prosperity nor peaceful life. They failed in restoring the dignity to the Eritrean people; instead, they added humiliation. 

Nothing Sacred (It is Only Democracy) July 12, 2001

In the name of “candor”, “honesty”, “straightforwardness”, etc, a great many offensive things have been uttered by the President of Eritrea. Unquotable quotes from the President and his officials could fill volumes. The badmouthing, vulgar language and insulting of one’s own people makes the body and soul shudder with disgust. As recently as two weeks ago, president Isaias gave an interview to the Londonite Arabic Daily, Al-Hayat. In that interview, Isaias referred to the Reformers who have issue with his governance as a mere “Noisy Barrel”. (this was the same metaphor used to dismiss the threat of Woyane.) Now, he was referring to senior officials of the party that he leads and who until recently were senior officials of his government. Furthermore, these are individuals who for decades shared sunshine and darkness with him. They are people who burned their youth side by side with him in damp and narrow trenches.

If anyone is trying to find out why some Eritrean political discourse is so ugly, look for the cause nowhere beyond the Presidential office. The Arabic Adage says it best: iza kana rebilbeiti biTebli daribun, fema Ala ahlihi illa ‘rreqsi. If the head of the house starts beating the drums, the rest of the family has no choice but to dance. Sometimes we do dance to the tune of the prevailing culture of discourse. And we don’t like it.

Hiccup? Have Some Water (August 6, 2001)

Add Mr. Semere Kesete to the long list of evidences that the Eritrean government is very hard-working. “What?” You say.  Obviously, you are not familiar with PFDJ logic.  If you make mistakes, that is evidence that you work.  If you make big mistakes, it means you work very hard. If you make tragic, irreversible mistakes, then you are an incurable workaholic. This is like saying that falling is a sign of walking but that is the logic of the PFDJ, which makes it the only legal logic.

Wi’A: The Eritrean Blatien (August 20, 2001)

In an interview, Weldeab said, “the students have gone to do another big national program.” In the land of the PFDJ, detention is “big national program” death is minor national program. Humiliation is obligatory national program. Disrupting education is a minute national program. Victory to the national programs. Long live the architects of the national programs.

The Awate Team


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