Negarit 224: Enough and Not-Enough

Every time I attend an event, I report to my audience about the event and my general observation-I hope you do not expect a serious boring reportage.

This time my travel was so hectic, mainly because it included the Atlanta Airport which they should have called railway station. I do not like that airport, not because you have to take a railway car between terminals, but you have to go three or four floors deep down to get to the train. While descending on the escalator, on the horizon you see Dante Alighieri’s infernos, all the levels of hell. Maybe I will talk about Dante’s La Comedia Divina (Divine Comedy) once Isais is done invading the USA—we will go Dante’s story once we straighten up the USA. All that was on my way to attend the Yiakl Symposium in Washington DC, through Baltimore.

If not for anything else, meetings are a good therapy for distressed people like Eritreans. And I get fat every time I attend. This time I gained at least 5 kilos, I am not telling you in pounds because 10 pounds sounds scary. The culprit is Daniel Berhe whom I met there and fed me as if I was an Egyptian pigeon.

The venue of the Symposium was at a Catholic university, a large area that deserves its own mayor. Only a foolish government like that of Eritrea confiscates  a university from the Catholic institutions that excel in field of education. If the Santa Familgia school stayed under the Catholic nuns, today Eritrea would have a university as big as the one in Washington, DC. Incidentally, I gave the winning cup to the Catholics; the Tewahdu, the other Christian denominations, and the Muslims of Eritrea do not have a record that matches the Catholics—no worries, just be humbled.

As far as the Yiakl symposium that I attended, and two others were the only ones, so we have represented the Muslim. Don’t complain you didn’t elect or delegate us, we took liberty in appointing ourselves your delegates—after all, you don’t have election experiences; we represented you nicely so stop complaining. And of course, I have to delve into religious matter, otherwise I will not be a good Jihadi and I don’t want to disappoint the bigots and fanatics among us who love to brand me as one. On Saturday night the symposium concluded with a party as a true Eritrea meeting where popular artist entertained the guests.

I met talked with Yohannes Tekabo for long; we stayed  the same hotel. He is a superb krar player, lyricist, and singer; I was worried when he showed me his fingers that looked bent and pained him. See, Yohannes inherited the singing and lyric tradition from his father and Krar playing from the legendary Vittorio Bossi. If God forbid Yohannes says he can’t play Krar because of his fingers, what will Eritreans do? I have a solution, just like famous sport players let’s ensure their feet, we have to insure Yohannes’ fingers. If anything happens to them, we tell the insurers to fix his fingers no matter what.

Then it was Veronica’s turn to sing. She is an amazing Krar player and though briefly talked to her over the phone a while ago, I never attended any of her performances. This time I was ready, but she started to sing about a different city, Asmera-Asmera! Okay Veronica, if she doesn’t sing Keren-Keren in her next performance, I will impose sanctions on her like the UN does—she will not reach her money stashed in Switzerland no government will sell her arms and she would be banned from travelling.

The flamboyant Dehab Faidtinga was next, and she made an impressive statement before she continued to sing. I had asked Dehab if she was related to Mohammed Faidtinga. “He is my brother” she told me. I know Mohammed, he was granted a scholarship from Keren where he went to school for high school. Back in the day, Keren provided scholarships to Akurdet, Barento, Tessenei and even Asmara student and they finished secondary school at Atzie Dawit Secondary School at Keren. It was a fine school if you ignore its name, the weirdest name of any school hat ever existed.

Mohammed and his friends had rented a room in my uncle’s house next door to ours. My brother Ahmed (I wouldn’t miss any opportunity to remind all he is my brother and boast—here is a song dedicated to the suffering Sudanese that he is working on—find it at the @7.33 mark on the video above), was two or three years and he was attached to Mohammed. He would wait outside the door until Mohammed comes from school, he used to carry Ahmed on his shoulder and that made his day—it became his daily dose.

Then there was a singer named Arif (I am guessing it’s a corruption of Hareef, the skilled) who sung in Tigrayit, it was a satisfactory  compensation.

Going back to the Symposium, it was good to socialize and establish networks—and when lucky meet like-minded people. But it was not free of the perennial problems that all Eritrean suffer from: lacking diversity. I am pan Eritreanist, a national patriot, and not a partisan hack.  Do I like the unicolor composition of Yiakl and other such movements? I don’t. And when I bring that to the attention of leaders and members, all of them, everywhere I went, that tell me the same reasons as they understand them. But regardless, Eritreans have failed in achieving that, all of us. And the excuses are not convincing because that has been our reality for decades. I believe we are not handling the issue correctly. But nobody should feel it’s their problem alone, we all do it at the sectarian level, regional level, and partisan level.

Since we have failed, all should ask themselves why they didn’t succeed in attracting a diverse membership despite the efforts which I don’t doubt.

Efforts do not yield good results if not pursued correctly and I will tell you a story that explains my view. It’s about Corporal  Mokonen the Ethiopian Soldier and the Wall.Mokonen used to come to a corner shop where we hanged out as young adults; he would boat how they mowed the Eritrean Liberation forces in the last battle. It was later we discovered from his colleagues that he was the servant of captain. Daniel—washing his clothes and making him tea and coffee in a tent kilometers away from the battle front. He never participated in a battle, but he gossips about the other soldiers with captain Daniel.

One afternoon he came and started to push the wall as hard as he could, then he stopped, caught his breath, and asked if the wall has moved. All of us shook our heads and said, “NO”. Triumphantly he stated, “ Haile Selassie is like the wall, whatever the Bandits do, they can’t move him!” Excreting efforts on pushing a wall doesn’t mean one didn’t make efforts, but it could mean the efforts were wasted on the wrong place.

The efforts of all Eritrean movements to bring everyone onboard and their efforts to make their organizations reflect the diversity of Eritrea cannot be denied and must be continued. Only the way they do things and didn’t bear fruit, must change. First, I think they need to gather all national issues and people’s grievances in one basket… and own then as a national package of Eritrean problems, wholesale. Retailing national issues didn’t produce solution and it’s doubtful it will in the future. But that needs psychological preparedness, dedication, loyalty to the whole population, not segments of it. Internalizing all the problems as one own is decisive in winning such a struggle. Own the issues, internalize, and work on them; then you will be surprised to see who will join you. But importantly, we must engage in reflection and self-assessment before we throw accusations at others. We must base I am convinced that is the sure way towards perfection.

I also know many who are skeptical, I understand. Some of them tried to dissuade me from attending the Symposium from the moment my attendance was announced on social media. I do not appreciate that. Maybe they missed it, but I have said many times that one of my favorite poems that I quote is Kiros Yohannes’ “goita Nevsky eyye.” Some even made sad comments that are better left unsaid. But I can only tell them I believe my audience are far smarter than that.  If we are truly dedicated to the causes we advocate for, we should base everything we do on justice, freedom and respect the dignity of our people, and ourselves.

Finally, I would like to conclude by showing my gratitude to Sara, Kissanet, Rosina, Efrem, and the respectful Temesghen. It’s such experiences that give me hope and assures me we as a people are fine, we are not as damaged as we tend to believe. Once we get a breathing space, we can easily reclaim our culture and pride. We are fine.



Related Posts