Wednesday , January 19 2022
Home / Videos / Negarit 56: ሳዋን ግርማይን ዑመርን – Sawa Omar and Girmay -ساوا وجرماي و عمر

Negarit 56: ሳዋን ግርማይን ዑመርን – Sawa Omar and Girmay -ساوا وجرماي و عمر

  • Last week two great Eritreans departed. Omar Hassen Omran, was buried in Kessela, Sudan and Girmay Kidane, Wedi Philipo, was buried in Milano, Italy
  • A word to the forces of good, particularly Eritreans
  • “End and Means”, or Grabbing the neck and the process of reaching that goal

The tone of my last few videos was imposed on me, and if not, I would have liked to speak in a different tone. But as you know, sometimes we are pushed so much that a periodic response becomes necessary. By its nature, such speeches are unpleasant to listen to, let alone talk about, and that is why I am going out of my way to apologize to my listener beforehand.

In classrooms, a bully shouts something that annoys the teacher. The teacher turns back and asks, “who said that? Who said that?” No one would identify the culprit. The teacher gets mad and punished the entire class, “lekemeke.” The difference is that, when we identify the annoying individuals, demolishing their views requires offending others who had nothing to do with the nasty things that offends us. So, I hope you take it as a necessary evil, but for those who felt bad, I apologize.

As any other nation, we went through fragmentation, splits, and disunity of our own. But what we came to see in the last two or three years are exceptional—and by now we know the nature of the sickness and the forces that are promoting it. As Eritreans, we have been fighting evil intentions, each in his own capacity, but our hands are tied by the PFDJ which made our country a basket case–a  country that rejects its people, a country that keeps our youth in bondage, a country that jails its elderly and veterans, a country that disrespects our elders, a country where bigots flourish, and a country in which the notion of justice is mishandled by our common enemy.

I believe that Eritrea is a lovely country and our people are decent, freedom loving, justice loving, and humble people. But as they say in Arabic, people imitate their leaders and we have many examples of that. We see them empowering the dictator and cheering for injustice, selfishly advancing their narrow interests at the expenses of the nation. So, what do we do?

If you remember, the last two decades have been a merry-go-around. Every time we took two steps forward, there were individuals who took us two steps back. Unnecessary issues were introduced and cleverly promoted inside the Diaspora opposition: once it was “peaceful or armed struggle”, then it was the 97 constitution or not, do we stay in Ethiopia or not, do we accept Sawa or not! All those clear issues were somehow trivialized and took us many steps back. For example, Sawa that my friend Adhanom loudly characterized as “Wefri Warsay Ykealo, Wefri Barenet” became an endless topic that we should have had clarity on. Why are we campaigning against Sawa (the manner not the principle) two decades after Adhanom clearly argued against it? If you see, some of the main themes we adopt in the struggle were introduced, went on hibernation, reintroduced, and reintroduced endlessly. The same with the Yiakl campaign.

A struggle like ours requires clarity and I think we lack clarity. I will try to explain some as I understand them.

If you are building a house, you lay the foundation and bring the wall, maybe one meter up and then you run out of funds and stop for a time. Once you get the money, you are supposed to continue where you left, not demolish what you already built. You just don’t dig down and unearth the foundation stones one by one to start laying another foundation. Why is it that 20 years later we are campaigning for our prisoners and we have not made a dent in the fight for their release?

You see, we have many celebrations around the year. Maalti sewra, maalti suwuat, maalti natsnet, maAlti Fenqil, maAlti Esurat, Maalti Togoruba, etc. We spend weeks preparing for one event, we celebrate for a week, then we start to prepare for the next one, and we spent the year planning, celebrating and then going into planning for the next one. It’s a merry-go-around.

To get out of the vicious circle, I propose the following:

  1. We should stop, not repeat, political campaign to win grownups. Those who chose to side with the dictator are doing it consciously, we should not waste our time on them, we fight them just like we are fighting the regime.
  2. We shouldn’t dream of winning 100% of the diaspora to line up against the tyrannical regime, it never happened before and it will never happen now. March ahead with what you have—a dedicated, focused, persistent few are more effective than a crowd of cynics, half believing elements, doubters, and opportunists.
  3. We should remember the diaspora is just a catalyst, nothing more. The real stakeholders are inside Eritrea and its vicinity. Focus on them—campaigns focused on the diaspora is not the main struggle.
  4. We should believe the Eritrean Defense Forces are supposed to be a national force, and it should not be treated, or seen, as a PFDJ militia—this message should be clearly communicated to the EDF.
  5. Every one of us has distinct skills and abilities and we should identify those and be involved only where our skill will have an impact. Jack of all trade is not for everybody—if someone is passionate about prisoners, let them get together with like-minded individuals and focus of that—and periodically measure their accomplishment. You can’t switch from prisoner advocacy, to diplomacy, to organizational tasks, to nation building, hopping from one to another all at the same time. That will help us produce experts, specialized individuals who would do the job effectively.
  6. Our messages should be tailor made to appeal to Eritreans inside Eritrea. Whatever we do, we should remember our audience are the common Eritreans (except for those who choose to appeal to other segments or professional class inside Eritrea). So, all our message should not be cluttered with feel-good slogans that cannot inspire the people. For example, how many Eritreans are worried about the constitution, democracy, and all the good sounding slogans? Very few. However, if we scream for Justice, Fithi, Adaala, then every Eritrean in every corner of our country will identify with it—the rest is only a by-product of justice—or can be left to the experts to handle.
  7. Social media—some accounts are just a burden, an annoyance and a waste of time. Everyone who is not for Eritrea, and is against the principles for which Eritreans are fighting, should be kicked out of our lists, friends, etc. Why offer them a platform to sow seeds of discord among the dedicated opposition camp? Some would say, we keep them to know how they are thinking! Okay, form an intelligence group that would monitor their actions, but do not invite them to your walls or keep them there to spew venom.
  8. Meetings and celebration. WE should try to make our meetings more professional a) no meeting should take more than 3-hour max. even the nuclear negotiations between nations doesn’t take that long—iron-out the details before the meeting, which should only be held to formalize whatever was reached. Not every attendant in a 150 people meeting needs to spend ten minutes each on questions and views.
  9. Charity begins at home—anyone can have a cause they advance, but the mainstream movement (struggle) should have a national face, a national goal, a national character, and a national composure. Charity begins at home: if you are a serious opposition to injustice, be just, be honest, be dedicated, and shun all individual interests and focus on national issues.

Last week lost two exemplary people

Omer Hassen Omran: He was my junior, but age doesn’t matter with Omer. He is probably the bravest boy I knew, and many Kerenites who knew him would attest to that.

Omer Hassen Omran. Many people thought he was the son of Ustaz Omran, the loved librarian of our school. But he was the son of Hassen, Ustaz Omran’s brother. His father was out of town most of the time and when he was in town, he spent his time at Farmacia Bruno or, sipping coffee at Bar Senait (enda Aregai for the young). Omer would come to that area regularly as if he had a daily mission to accomplish; his pocket would be full of stones. He immediately started a lookout for Torserawit soldiers in the streets. When he sees one or two, he would provoke them with dirty looks, spit on them, or shout at them. The bewildered look at him: how is it this kid has the guts to do that? The soldiers would try to scare him off by walking towards him. He fishes a stone from his pocket and pelts them. He would boldly pelt them with stones and chase them away from the street—they run away as children. The soldiers would think: of course, he must have had some older people behind him otherwise he wouldn’t do what he was doing.

Many people complained to Ustaz Omran and his father to reign over Omar less someone kills him. But nothing reigns on Omer. I once heard his father hopelessly say, “Batir Sheheed tu” he is a “walking martyr” an incident of martyrdom waiting to happen.

One time a squad of Torserawit held him and started to beat him up. The squad had two commandis member, one of them was a young soldier named Kidane (I wish he is alive and kicking, a good friend of mine) The two commandis interfered to stop them from beating up Omar, they confronted the Tor Serawit and their squad leader Sergeant Mokria. It got so serious they cocked their guns at each other. Kidane and his friend didn’t blink, and they managed to free Omer.

Kidane was transferred and taken off the squad; I met him a long time later. He asked me, “anta etti ambessa wedi, EEmer, abelo?” I said, “k em amelu, chasing tor serawit in the usual place.” Soon I left Keren, Omar, and Kidane. Omer is gone and I hope Kidane the best hoping he is still alive.

Girmay Kidane “Wedi Filipo”: This week we also lost Wedi Philipo, Girmay Kidane, the walking encyclopedia who inspired so many people. Girmay, despite his age and health, never stopped inspiring the justice camp, always advising, teaching, and narrating important milestones of our Eritrean struggle. I feel sorry I didn’t know him more except for a few conversations over the telephone. But I read all his articles, heard many of his speeches, and felt jealous on how he boldly narrated relevant history. Girmay was probably the most knowledgeable person who talked about the PFDJ “capo di capi”. That is because he knew him from their childhood days in Asmara, and he followed his activities through and through until he died. His views were helpful because he would relate Isaias’ present to his past in a convincing way. Girmay was sick for a short time and died in Italy—may he be accepted into paradise. Allah Yerhamu, Bselam Eref ayana Girmay.

The rest of us, may we inherit the characters of the two people I mentioned today: Omer Hassen Emran and Girmay Kidane Wedi Philipo. Their character is something we need to honor, and we have two traits to emulate: either be bold like Omar, or be truthful and honest like Girmay—the dictatorship in our beloved country has overstayed its time. It should be uprooted.

About Saleh "Gadi" Johar

Born and raised in Keren, Eritrea, now a US citizen residing in California, Mr. Saleh “Gadi” Johar is founder and publisher of Author of Miriam was Here, Of Kings and Bandits, and Simply Echoes. Saleh is acclaimed for his wealth of experience and knowledge in the history and politics of the Horn of Africa. A prominent public speaker and a researcher specializing on the Horn of Africa, he has given many distinguished lectures and participated in numerous seminars and conferences around the world. Activism was founded by Saleh “Gadi” Johar and is administered by the Awate Team and a group of volunteers who serve as the website’s advisory committee. The mission of is to provide Eritreans and friends of Eritrea with information that is hidden by the Eritrean regime and its surrogates; to provide a platform for information dissemination and opinion sharing; to inspire Eritreans, to embolden them into taking action, and finally, to lay the groundwork for reconciliation whose pillars are the truth. Miriam Was Here This book that was launched on August 16, 2013, is based on true stories; in writing it, Saleh has interviewed dozens of victims and eye-witnesses of Human trafficking, Eritrea, human rights, forced labor.and researched hundreds of pages of materials. The novel describes the ordeal of a nation, its youth, women and parents. It focuses on violation of human rights of the citizens and a country whose youth have become victims of slave labor, human trafficking, hostage taking, and human organ harvesting--all a result of bad governance. The main character of the story is Miriam, a young Eritrean woman; her father Zerom Bahta Hadgembes, a veteran of the struggle who resides in America and her childhood friend Senay who wanted to marry her but ended up being conscripted. Kings and Bandits Saleh “Gadi” Johar tells a powerful story that is never told: that many "child warriors" to whom we are asked to offer sympathies befitting helpless victims and hostages are actually premature adults who have made a conscious decision to stand up against brutality and oppression, and actually deserve our admiration. And that many of those whom we instinctively feel sympathetic towards, like the Ethiopian king Emperor Haile Sellassie, were actually world-class tyrants whose transgressions would normally be cases in the World Court. Simply Echoes A collection of romantic, political observations and travel poems; a reflection of the euphoric years that followed Eritrean Independence in 1991.

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  • Kokhob Selam

    Dear all,

    I just read and that is those two are great men..REST IN PEACE..


  • Haile S.

    Dear Saleh,

    I read the article, I have yet to listen your voice.
    Anyway, ጽድቂ ሃሰስ ብዘይ ሓጥያት or “Angels don’t live in hell” applies here. I cannot tell you ‘don’t apologize’ because obviously our feelings of discomfort is different and there is always matter for apology. But when the apology come in so large and so quickly, it tend to erase the justified provocation that came first and at the origin of all these. Those provoking and aggressing a whole country, calling us names we don’t deserve and christening us a whole people with whatever name comes to their mind, with a clear objectives for putting wedges between our country’s population are the ones who need to apologize first, if at all at the end and secondarily there is something to apologize on your end. Those who spray and paint their colors on us, those who use birther and blood as a dark-mail and instrument of their bulling, those who place the history they believe as a gold-standard are the ones who should apologize. No one is less Eritrean because his father or grandfather came from EntiCho and a mother from Wekiduba as no one is more Tigrayan-Ethiopian because his mother is from Adwa and his father’s father a goldsmith from Greece. The plough the detractors are using on Eritrea’s soil to turn out some pebbles can very easily dig large stones out of Tigray soil.
    Having said that your reflexion is laudable. You reminded me of St Francois d’Assise 🙂
    The remaining parts of your article and your tribute to the deceased are exemplary!

    • Saleh Johar

      I never apologized for the fascists and will never do. You might understand it when you listen to it. I basically said, “ I am sorry you feel that way” to my audience some of who said my words were harsh. It’s decency but I never feel sorry for what I said about the fascists.

      Rest assured my friend.

  • መሃንድስ-ምዕባለ

    Selam Saleh,
    Agree with Berhe that this is another superb edition!
    “ኣብ ክንዲ ኣብ ልዕሊ ቅድሜና ዝጸንሐ ጡብ ንነድቕ ናትና መንደቕ ንጅምር ዶ ኢልካ ሓቀይ?”
    It is not only in politics but it is also a problem in business. You don’t see that many Eritreans build a corporations even though we have plenty of examples. We try to own our own small businesses rather than building bigger company by cooperating with few people. I am wondering if this is cultural problem or something else.

    • Saleh Johar

      It could be cultural, but under the pfdj, people are yearning for self actualization, and freedom even if sometimes responding in a destructive manner. That is simply = Sign and we forgot of two signs: + and X signs

      • መሃንድስ-ምዕባለ

        Selam SaleH,
        Since AAA patented the “+”, that could the reason for forgetting it. I could see someone is thinking of a reason for X sign 🙂

        • ወል ወል ጀንትል መን

          Regarding your symbolic and not necessarily the semantics of your Semitic. Your introduction or maybe even your induction is systemic without a shred of a doubt. It is a mere exercise that you have identified a system.

          Your respective Xs are not the same. Though it is hard to conclude if a + is a x and vice versa, that your +s are also not the same. Hence the individualism which all are claiming to be common.

          I suppose one can plead the context matters most.




          ጃይ ጻጸ Gia tSAtSE

    • Amanuel Hidrat

      Selam Mehandsay,

      I know who will jump and try to reprimand me. But I will be obliged to say it, when your comment mimicked my conscience. And that is: Eritreans have “individualistic mind” that deter them from collective endeavors and achievements. So I would say yes, that it is a cultural problem.


      • መሃንድስ-ምዕባለ

        Welcome back, Emma!
        It seems most people are on a long vacation?

  • Berhe Y

    Dear Saleh,

    As usual great topic and great analysis. I don’t have much comment with regards to the content of the video.

    What I notice (and I am not it’s just me) but there seems to be a bit of fast transition between the clips. When you speaking, your sentence seems to flow at normal speed but the clips switch from frame to another frame and it doesn’t seem smooth to me. This is not to be too critical but perhaps if you increase the transition period, then it may look natural.


    • Saleh Johar

      And it will be too long. I try to limit it to 20 while covering long topics. Do you think it will be too little if I covered a single topic to allow for slow transition? There is no easy solution that satisfies relatively extensive coverage as opposed to little content. And that’s is the choice between slow or fast transition. I will think about it. Thank you

      • Berhe Y

        Dear Saleh,

        I think you will need to consult the experts….Saay for his Pro iMovie stance and Tes for his Pro Permier. I know that does’t answer the dilemma you have, but I thought I plug it. It’s quite funny how hardcore they are.

        I never was into long youtube videos and I still am not. So the 20 minutes mark seems very reasonable. So I think cutting down the topic with quality video would be my choice if I have to choose.

        Falfasa is one guy I follow religiously and his video quality and his presentation is very good, not to mention the quality of his topic and his knowledge, with a bit of humor. He usually stick to one topic and it’s about 10 min mark…so 20 may allow you to cover two topics at most or perhaps only one.


        • Saleh Johar

          I tried four different software and it’s not that. But jump cut, which is your point needs expertise and I am just learning. Hope to work on it. But the thing is, different people have different feedback and it’s difficult which to follow and which to give more weight to. Thank you

  • Brhan

    R.I.P both great men.