I was in high school when I learned of the prophecy. I shook my head. I pooh-poohed it. Untenable, I murmured as I sat hearing the prophecy delivered with confidence. But I am not talking about the prophecy of prophet Isaiah, who proclaimed, “a virgin will conceive and beget a son…” I am not talking about the prophecy of Jesus Christ who told Peter that he would betray him three times, not even Chris’s prophetic words about Judah. I am not even talking about the prophecy of Isaias Afwerki who proclaimed that “ultimately the upper hand is ours”— a prophecy yet to be fulfilled or fulfilled depending who you mean by “ours.” I am not talking about the “golden words” from the golden mouth. I am not even talking about the prophetic words of the late Ibrahim Sultan, who proclaimed to the world that “there will not be peace in the Horn if the yearning of Eritreans for independence is denied.”
The prophecy, I am talking about is unique as most prophets make multiple prophecies that will take decades and even centuries to materialize. Our prophet, like Emily Bronte who only wrote one book, made only one prophecy, and it unfolded in a mere 30 years, but its tell-tale signs were evident in the first couple of years.
The prophecy I am talking about is so recent, when I was in high school, my afro was still intact, and I remember that I envied the older boys who could form wrinkles on their upper face when they raised their eyebrow. Wait, did I date myself. Never mind, it is a soliloquy.
A female friend pulls my hair and says “atta, afro terifu iyyu” as I sat mesmerized about the strapping prophet who was reciting the prophecy to a shaken lady. I was close to him, and I could see he squinted his eye, like a marksman shooting against the sun, like a novice smoker looking through the smoke.
The prophet is alive, and his prophecy has unfolded in front of his eyes as he witnesses his words materialize and as far as I can tell, he is not saying, I told you so. Probably he is regretting that he did not touch wood while uttering his prophetic words. But then he did not believe in the superstition of touching wood. He is a revolutionary.
A young lady was given away in an arranged marriage by her parents: her hand given away in matrimony to satisfy familial pedigree and societal strata. “Mowsiboo.” After begetting a daughter, she divorces her alcoholic and abusive husband; she takes revenge on her family and country by marrying a powerful, well-connected man. She betrays her deceased father who passed away laboring to provide for his family. Her brother carries a scar of his sister’s love— his blackened front tooth from a fall while running with his sister who has now betrayed him by marrying a man hell-bent not to destroy him. But much worse — to destroy his ideal, his yearning. The prophet is willing to help the brother personally but wants to destroy his dream and the dreams of his generation. The rebelling lady makes love to this powerful man and begets a son, who they affectionately name: “The Disciplined”.
If you have forgotten. It was in a time when Eritreans were soaring like the Eagle of the sky, who stopped lifting a finger to feed himself, the eagle who soared the skies singing praises to the freedom fighters for providing him his meal while resting. When Eritreans soared, during Eritrean’s gilded age. The prophet coaxes, cajoles with words reminiscent of Prime Miniser Abiy. He tries through his wife promising to help bring Michael home. He finally figures that the hearts of his mother-in-law and step-daughter are with Michael, the adoring brother, uncle, and son who has joined the Eritrean freedom fighters. The prophet is Colonel Asefa Jemmere’s play: “The Other War.” With his feet almost burned by his stepdaughter, he is livid. He shoves his gun under his waist, wags his fingers at the mother and makes the following prophetic words:
Mother, I know about the thoughts in the mind of your likes, the bandits and outlaws. You sent your sons and daughters to the jungle in hopes to bring you freedom. But this is a pipedream. It is vain. “Kontu iyyu, hlmi iyyu.” This land does not belong to the Michaels; it belongs to my son, Qtaw. I have fertilized the womb of your daughter with my seed, and we will multiply and be fruitful, and we will walk on this land with pride.
Now in 2018, Eritreans are suffering in dungeons unlike any other times, not during the Italians, not during the British, not during both Ethiopians regimes, and are buried in mass graves, in the country they created by defeating the Asefa Jemmeres and renegade citizens like Aster.
Eritreans cannot freely worship their God, but Qtaw Asefa Jemmere can. Qtaw ambles, rambles and freely roams the streets of Asmara. He can preach about his God in broad daylight, while the security people who rough up citizens look on. From Abune Antonios to Hajj Mussa, from Haile Derue to Abba Arre, no Eritrean is allowed free speech, free worship, fair trial, and a decent burial. And I wonder what the sweet talking Asefa Jemmere incarnate will do if he finds out that the whoring Isaias Afwerki (like the betrayer Aster) embolden the mother who is in love with her son and his cause. Will he show us his true colors after the cajoling and endearing fails. A friend tells me: “I have this rare, maybe shocking to you, it is an epiphany that while Eritreans may have a lackluster record of fighting for freedom and even life, identity may be a different thing.”
Now the prophetic words of Asefa Jemmere have been fulfilled. Qtaw has started to plant his seed in the wombs of Eritreans to be fruitful and to multiply. The Qtaws are already giddy, exuberant, upbeat, clairvoyant, and cheerful about their prospects. Why wouldn’t they? They have older Qtaws lurking, masquerading as freedom fighters and as Eritreans, and the notion of “Medemer” will ensure ‘mekkafel,” dividing to multiple like the sons of Abraham, after all, they claim lineage to Abraham through Solomon.
Our Qtaws will use our salt against us. Hungry and tired in our homes we will gorge on imported meat, raw imported meat. Meat spiked with salt. They will use Assab salt as it is potent, it was meant to be for camels. Thirsty, we will beg for water as people flow to where water is and we cannot flow, so the Qtaws generously, shrewdly will open their new fridges to give us water. The water that giveth life, a son, Qtaw. So disciplined to fulfill the dreams of his forefathers. Like son like father.