The Fire Next Time
Muslim-Christian, Kebesa-Metahit, as we know is the only single most important issue since Eritreans gathered to mark the destiny of the nation: since 1941 till Now. All other issues, even those considered important like the border issue, the language issue, are child’s play compared to the very foundational nature of Eritrea. There is no Eritrea without lowlanders; there is no Eritrea without highlanders.
God gave Noah the rainbow sign,
No more water, the fire next time!”
GodHistory- gave Eritrea the rainbow sign. Brother Ahmad Raji told us in his classic well-researched and balanced chronicles, we lost the sign and the rainbow. Now, have you seen any water or rain in Eritrea for years? Do you see now?
Then, is it to be that next time? The Fire.
One of my favorite writers, James Baldwin, (I loved his short story, Sonny’s Blues) in his 1963 book, predicted unless black racial grievances were heeded, the civil rights movement would segue into violent denouement. There will be Fire. No rainbow. No more. I love rainbow. I fear fire.
Ali Salim is saying the same. Unless Lowland-Moslem grievances are heeded, the next time there will be fire in Eritrea. He has been saying that. And more.
Who is Afraid of….Ali Salim?
Who is afraid of living without illusion? Who wants to confront truth? Who doesn’t know the difference between truth and illusion but “must carry on as though” they do? George and Martha. Is Eritrea fertile? Or sterile? Or sterile-fertile? Any heroes? What happened to the ‘SesNu SeSnu ShiH’n WaltaN?’ What happened to “Eritrea Adey Shewit LemLem” “AdeYe Adi Jeganu?” Or Eritrea has stopped giving birth either to Fire or heroes? And we only pretended as if it had given birth to a son and a son, our George, Issayas, can kill him anytime. Or worse, as YG shocked us, not only the son but even us, George and Martha, are illusions. Martha and Saba. Issayas and George. Who is afraid of life without illusions? We are. We are. We all are.
What are Ali Salims’ points? Ali claimed Eritrea’s biggest issue ever, the Muslim-Christian, Kebesa-Metahit divide or synergy, with ferocious energy. It is very sad such an important topic was presented in a plate of one of PFDJ’s latest misadventure, ‘settlement’ of Highlanders in Gash-Setit, (which is an ignominious act that should be roundly condemned) and at the time of another EDA’s cycle of squabbles. We have lost an opportunity to learn more of this biggest issue ever, more of ourselves, more of our past, and more of our possible future (fire or rainbow) because the prevailing events at home and squabbles at EDA, clouded and fogged our screens. Ali, an excellent and utterly mesmerizing writer and a fire-brand polemicist, ostensibly a Tadamun activist, espouses strong, weak and some cringe-worthy arguments. Negotiation with PFDJ as solution was so strange a view that he can certainly claim originality and probably irrationality too. Instead of the putting the blame squarely on the creator and owner of this specific land misadventure, the PFDJ, Ali opted to spend more time nitpicking articles written by personalities linked to EPP/EDP for something that is totally and unequivocally the doing (misdoing) of PFDJ. Again instead of putting the ball in the powerful, PFDJ court or gulag, he located it in the hapless Diaspora Tigrigna Intelligentsia. Goading and creating vigorous debates is no mean feat though, especially if you succeed at bringing up the one and only Ismail Omar Ali. Never missing a beat, he slammed Brussels Conference, not for its lack of transparency as others said, Ali being Ali has to go farther; In fact, EEPA is a “PFDJ hired lobbying group.” Now, I don’t know if that is true but it certainly begs for evidence, proof, credibility.
Many of Ali’s arguments are chockfull of conjectures, platitudes, paranoia, and agitprop against EPP/EDP merger. Opinions are opinions and they are not salient. What remains is the core: And here Ali has the strongest and most persuasive, most painful truth.
And debating issue by issue point by point is not something opposition members, certainly not I, look forward to engage because the general points Ali and others have raised will certainly be lost for want of faults which as is the case will quickly mushroom into feuds. In fact, if you read going to read this article or the next, my view is totally the opposite: Don’t debate unnecessarily, even sometime necessarily.
From 1941 Until Some Time in Future
Yes the Summer and Fall of 2009 issues of the internet are so important, so great, that it will not do them any justice if we, the opposition, can’t close the deal with common agreement. Muslim-Christian, Kebesa-Metahit, as we know is the only single most important issue since Eritreans gathered to mark the destiny of the nation: since 1941 till Now. All other issues, even those considered important like the border issue, the language issue, are child’s play compared to the very foundational nature of Eritrea. There is no Eritrea without lowlanders; there is no Eritrea without highlanders.
Each generation of Eritreans can’t escape but tackle the Muslim-Christian, Lowland-Highland synergy, which boils down to identity politics and diversity, as if it is and because it is the existential question—mortality or perpetuity of Eritrea depends on it. The 40s and 50s Eritreans fared the best, probably because they had little historical baggage of enmity, better traditions and higher aspirations. There is a reason why our founding fathers Aboy Ibrahim Sultan (in my opinion the greatest Eritrean if a poll was taken) and his other half Welwel are deified in our hearts. And many us of still see that time as Eritrea at its truest color (rainbow), hope to replicate now, i.e., equitable power distribution for the citizenry. In retrospect, you can’t help but get amazed by the 40s and 50s Eritrean maturity, sensibility, magnanimity and kindness. The 60s and 70s Eritreans not only failed to tackle the question of diversity and identity politics but gave us, lies, illusions, betrayals, fire and worst of all Issayas Afewerki and he continued the polarization and domination for two decades after the independence.
Not only generations, each of us (literally each of us) and especially those who write should confront and answer the question of diversity and identity politics, and we better come up with the exact answer in all its dimensions and contours: Hint it is starts with a ‘R’ and finishes with ‘W’. How you answer is very important as if you are in throne of God—because you are in throne History. Therefore each of us need to arm with truth, personal integrity, double-checking, finesse, sensibility, sensitivity, extreme care on use of words and expressions, above all magnanimity and kindness.
In the introspective landscape, we encounter this controversial query. Is PFDJ a Christian/Highlander organization? (Personally, I cringe with the words ‘Christian’ as it is being applied to a group of probably avowed atheists and unrepentant Communists though use of ‘highlander’ is acceptable as most PFDJ leaders came from ‘Kebesa’). To communicate better, let us approach the question of domination and support from this angle/ speculation. An honest question for my fellow Christian/Highland citizens of Eritrea: Would the Christians/ highlanders have acted the same way, in terms of opposing PFDJ if Issayas Afewerki, was a tyrant Muslim leader from Lowland areas? Would Issayas, being the worst leader in the World, be supported or tolerated by our kin if he didn’t hail from ‘Kebesa’?
In answering the question, we should restrain the temptation to include in the range the always opportunist, the a-political, the apathetic and the contrarian. In terms of general population, though the highlanders have suffered greatly, still the support for PFDJ (come communities, 2%, festivals, YPFDJ) is coming from us, the highlanders. If identity politics doesn’t factor in, Why is that then those of us who are in the opposition continue to argue with and fight against our own blood, our closet friends, family members “Ab nay Political Guday” when they know the guy is nothing but a cruel tyrant and he is destroying the nation without mercy? Or the flip side of the coin, the speculative truth is those who are supporting, or are silent would have stopped their support or shown greater degree of opposition if Issayas couldn’t claim Kebesan parentage. Actually truth be told, if Issayas didn’t hail from Christian/ Highland, and if he continued to antagonize the West the way he is doing, Langley could long have made an example of him. Abana keman AyMbetS’hen!
N’Som = Nihna, Nous Sommes…
Eritrea is a very divided nation. Yes it is.
It is so ironic Eritreans of great distinction, experience, and wisdom who can catalogue the inherent and acquired pitfalls of African identity politics (as the problems of the Sudan, Ethiopia, Congo etc.) readily fell flat when it comes to explaining our own. Africa’s ailment can be diagnosed to identity politics and the hope is our prolonged struggle for self-determination (since 1941) if not cured us completely of this aliment at least improved our condition. But as the recent and current divisions within EDA, Brussels Conference that even lurked into the civic societies and websites demonstrated, we have a long way, longer and harder way to go, than we, the idealists have thought.
All the nations of the world have to face their own biggest issue ever. America is still divided between North and South; so divided at one time it went into savage civil war just so that the North can keep the union and the South not to keep the slavery. Canada is so divided that a person hundred miles away from Quebec city is required to learn French if he has any intention of having career in the civil service. So divided that some French Canadians will not offer you a cup of water for your thirst since you ask them in English. So divided that not only a separatist party (Block Quebecoise) has 60 seats in the national parliament and four of the last prime ministers of nation had to come from separatist French Quebec.
My French is rusty. Why is that people say that when they say they know only few words of a language? Since confessional is in, I know little French, sadly. A pronoun here; a cuss there. I know this: Nous Sommes, pronounced, N’Som as in Tigrigna. Its meaning is more poignant, germane.
In a nation of obsessive side-takers, paranoid purists that we became, there is bound to be always “The Others” Vs. “We ” “Nsom” Vs. “ANeHna”. Let us never, never fail, even in noises of EDA spats and aftermath of Brussels Conference, to remember this word: “Nous Sommes” which means We Are. There is no them. There is only us. Since 1890 till now. Since 1941 till now.|
Yes, Eritrea is very divided nation. To claim so, is to say Eritrea is a nation. Because all nations are divided. Very divided. USA is. Canada is. African countries are. The salient questions subsist. Is it bridgeable, our division? Are they shared, our aspirations? Are they mutual, our dreams? Do we love each other? How much?
Let us heed to the Better Angels of our Nature
—Please those who are active in the noble cause of opposition be kind to each other and remember always that common vision of the enemy: the PFDJ. ESG, clean up your house. Those who are participate in EDA, civic groups, websites, remember that the future reconciled Eritrea starts within us. We are Eritrea’s best hope and we can’t, shouldn’t, mustn’t, fail.
—Please those of us who are minimizing the mistakes of PFDJ to this man or that policy accept the indisputable fact that PFDJ’s whole vision of Eritrea has failed spectacularly unless you want to delude yourselves. That covers every bit of PFDJ’s major and minor policies (economic, foreign, educational, land, military, language, Diaspora, even housing.) In this vein, just embrace the done-deal that Arabic and Tigrigna to be our official languages, without equivocation.
—Please those (if any) who try to use dialogue as end result and work to cut a deal with PFDJ, or hope for 2011 election (election is coming) forget it altogether not because the dialogue and the deal are not going to work but they will work (for sure) but the world is going to end in 2012 anyways. So why bother right? You don’t deserve serious thought. Beyond redemption you are.
—Please those writers and organizations (EDA blocks and CIDRIE) who oppose violence or self-defense (limited or otherwise) as one means of struggle should keep their preferred way to themselves. As much as it is the worst option, we can’t proscribe others from what they are forced to do. As natural progression, we (most of us at least) will step up to their level of anger and commitment. Also, before I forgot, when Meskerem publish your article or idea with flying colors; take a hint and, scratching your head, ask yourself, “I MUST BE doing something wrong to the opposition and to Eritrea. What is it?”
Please let us heed to any apocalyptic, alarmist claims/predictions about Fires and Rainbows simply because we can’t afford not to and because we are small nation and “small nation can disappear anytime and knows it” (Milan Kundera.) Ali Salim warned us sternly there will be fire in Eritrea. The Highland has pushed the lowland patience to its farthest edges and the New Born Eritreans, mostly from Tadamun (I guess) will bear arms to fight PFDJ’s hegemony. If that would be the case, my plea for my fellow citizens, the Lowland fighters, is to venture out of the just-liberated Keren towards, ‘Kebesa’, because that land is Eritrea and the inhabitants are Eritreans who are still waiting for the Godot of ‘FitHin SeLamn.’ Nous Sommes = We are = N’Hna.
The conscious opposition members have a lot of responsibility at this juncture of our history. In understatement: we are perishing, we are perishing, we are perishing…Nay B’rset Hto! Nay HiLQit Hto Koynu Atum SeBat!!!! We need to listen to each other. We need to trust each other. We need to forgive. We need to be kind to each other. We need to see clearly and unequivocally the work we are doing or the mission that has brought us together is way greater than all of us combined. I will give you the reason why…. I will give you 4.5 million reasons!
Perhaps, we will have a real baby. Not an illusion. Not any more. (May be it is just a hope. Every piece of writing is not so much as affirmation of hope as it is a desperate act to fend off madness. Without hope, what else we, those who dream about a reconciled, a just Eritrea, have? A phoenix nation, rising from the ashes of history to live for another thousand years, fresh and beautiful…! With its colorful scarlet wings stretched from Assab to Karora, and its aquiline nose, with melody singing, “To live like a tree single and at liberty/ brotherly like the trees of a forest,” (Turkish Poet, Nazim Hikemt)…Yes where was I? Oh Yes, A baby. May be will have a baby. Born of a Musilm and Christian parentage; of Lowland and Highland ancestry. The baby CAN”T be killed, even if we want it, because the baby was born in a rainbow.