Now They’ve Got The Money!

What a combination! A reckless regime and a mountain of gold. But some combinations can be unstable like glycerin and nitric acid. Booom!!! And it is the end of Eritrea as we know it. Una brutta fine!

According to the tyrant, the country will go the way of Somalia in his absence. According to the people, however, God will turn his face once more and save it from prospective tyrants.

An American wit has already said it. The fastest way to make money is to steal it. Now the PFDJ are stealing our gold while the people are gawking helpless in a state of trance. The men are dreaming of standing on a long queue to get their rations of gold nuggets probably from the kebeles, local communes, while the women are planning to bedeck their necks and ankles with tinkling gold necklaces and amulets and parade before the smiling face of the dictator. Eldorado here I come! 

‘The gold has its owners’ the strongman is reported to have said recently. Now who is going to tell him that it belongs to the people? Nobody. Everybody is trembling for fear that the tyrant may fly into rage at the slightest whisper that the treasure trove should have been divided among the masses. It is McKenna’s gold. It is Issaias’ gold! Opposition organizations, wherever you are, eat your hearts out!!!

There is a proverb in our country which goes more or less like this: Nseflalas yifetrela (the loafer more often than not gets the prize that the hard working man misses; it is one of Murphy’s laws). But there is another one that a dictator would rather not hear of: Guehalus ab msrak yitehababerumo, ab mimikal yibe’asu (scoundrels are all of one heart when stealing, but as soon as the idea of dividing the booty surfaces, fighting breaks up).

What are the PFDJ going to do with it? That’s everybody’s guess or maybe should we ask Al Capone? But if they forget to buy state-of-the-art fighter planes along with electronic guided missiles, I am ready to eat my hat. That’s what Saddam Husein did, and that’s what most dictators do when they get easy money. Summer time and the living is easy……. Well…bored to death, ain’t we, so whom should we fight this time? What about the Woyanes? Or should we go and invade Djibouti? How about bombing the Yemenis…..?

But weapons are of two kinds: one type kills the body and another type kills the spirit with an overdose of lies and misinformation. The latter is provided by the Ministry of Information or Propaganda. Now with safes ready to the brim with dollars and with people fretting with false expectations, the propaganda cornucopia is ready to deliver.

Already the TV is talking about fast economic growth and that everyone will live (or die) happily ever after.

Fast economic growth? My foot! If a millionaire gains 1,000 dollars on top of his wealth, that’s not an economic growth. But if a poor man who has not even a red cent to call his own gets 1,000 dollars in cash, that’s fast economic growth. So don’t cheat the people for heaven’s sake!

And then I doubt whether easy money has the power to change the standard of living of the masses especially in Eritrea where destitution has been elevated to the rank of patriotism. If the people continue breathing until the gold is finished, they are lucky. Look at Nigeria and Zaire.

If the heart remains unchanged, no amount of money can have the slightest effect on the lives of the downtrodden. And it is a fact beyond any shadow of doubt that the very nature of the PFDJ and its intrinsic behavior, its shady commercial adventures and dealings, simply cannot accommodate economic progress whether in its wider or narrower sense, as the regime abhors innovation and openness in all its forms and is averse to see the emergence of any class that might question its continued existence. And money is effective in creating class creating in the dictator the fear of the unknown.

As tyrants by custom or even by logic abhor the emergence of a new class which may challenge their legitimacy, they strive to keep the status quo and flourish best in a dehumanized and terrorized social milieu. Alchemists in the past tried to find the philosopher’s stone that was supposed to change base metals into gold. Now the PFDJ has finally found it, only that this time it is there to change gold into the baser appetites of human folly and degradation!

Enquans rehab tigabm echilalehu goes an Amhara proverb (Let alone days of famine, I can also endure days of plenty). Now Eritreans are said to endure all kinds of biblical famine, but not biblical bounty. Hence, the best way to keep the people on leash and submissive is to keep them under constant famine and destitution; for if they eat too much, they will start to dance like any Eritrean and once the orgy is over they will start to think about doing away with the tyrant who made them hungry in the first place. 

But let me be fair. If these carpetbaggers change their hearts and begin to use the money to improve the people’s lot, this is to be praised. Have you ever heard of benevolent dictators or compassionate bandits? They use the stick and carrot technique using the stick (or the club to be more precise) more often than the carrot. But at least one has something to put on the table.

Anyway, money always tends to corrupt, and absolute money, which in this case is gold, tends to corrupt absolutely. With corruption comes bad policy which leads to war and destruction. The benevolent dictator will have to play it safe.

How about the preachers of democracy on the Western front? Their reply to the opposition camp would more probably be “Can’t you see we are busy prospecting for gold? And what’s democracy after all if not a means to get rich……” Soon will they give a deaf ear to the plight of the people and throw justice out the window until the opportune time. 

As for the Eritrean masses, they will continue to be beguiled for a long time to come. They are told that success and the good life is just around the corner. “Haven’t we told you to be more patience? Haven’t we told you that agony comes before ecstasy?” the leaders will say. Twenty years of agony without ecstasy coupled with adventurism is not going to make the future any brighter. The leopard will not change his spots and PFDJ will not change its ways.

The old garbage of tyranny will continue to make the round in a new package. This time it will be gift-wrapped in golden ribbon and presented to the people to savor. God bless Eritrea!


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