The Priorities of My Compatriots
Alzheimer’s, or dementia, a disease that causes memory loss, forgetfulness. What happens if a government has Alzheimer’s? God forbid, what happens if the entire population is inflicted by that disease? AS it is, both the government and a big portion of the population seems to have forgotten Eritrea’s prisoners.
A few days ago, UN voted on a resolution concerning the war between Russia and Ukraine, but they didn’t count my vote.
But before I delve into the important topics, allow me to say a few words to M’amir, a Maestro, who has been spewing hate and sectarianism for too long. One of my viewers made a comment that reminded me a long forgotten saying: if they throw a lemon at you, make a lemonade.
A few have urged me to ignore the badmouthing and vulgar insults by the usual habitual fascists. Ignore them, don’t reply to them, they advised me. Well, ugly comments provoke me to think, they are my lemon and I make lemonade and offer it to you. If I feel a comment is useful, I will use it otherwise I will ignore… please allow me that freedom.
I apologize for the Maestro; he is very angry because I showed my disgust at his hate speech. Is my measured comment worse that his focused campaign to vilify sections and sects of Eritreans? At any rate, if we meet in a better time and space, we might pursue this in a scholarly manner, or otherwise. For now, I am done with him and finish by advising him to always drink cold water.
Do you remember those languishing in PFDJ detention camps?
Do you remember the arrested Eritreans most of whom were jailed over two decades ago? That is too long ago! How many of them do you remember if you remember them at all? It seems many have pushed the sad memories back to their dormant section of the brain, stored and forgotten. And the government has totally erased the memory of the victims. They are betting on our not very brilliant memory and says, ‘they will forget as usual’.
On October 11, 2001, the PFDJ arrested two Eritreans who were employees of the USA embassy. Alli Alamin and Kiflon Ghebremichael. Gedab has broken the news which was widely spread. In reaction, a USA diplomat said, we are taking all available steps to get access to them, we want them charged or released. US Ambassador Donald McConnel has left a week earlier and his replacement, Scott H. DeLisi didn’t arrive in Asmara until three years later, in May 2004.
I am sure many didn’t keep track of US mission heads in Eritrea. To date, the conveyer belt has carried eleven mission heads at the American embassy in Eritrea, as follows:
The first US Ambassador to Eritrea was Robert Gordon Houdek who assumed the position in 1993 and stayed for roughly six-months. He was replaced by John Hicks and then by 3) William Clarke 4) Donald McConnel 5) Scott DeLisi 6) Ronald McMullen 7) Joel Reifman 8) Sue Bremmer 9) Louis Mazel, 10) Natalie Brown, and finally by 11) Steven Walker, the current charge de affairs who, relatively speaking, seems to be the boldest of them all.
More on the PFDJ victims, the Prisoners
The PFDJ got an opportunity in 911, an opportunity for a cover up. Unknown number of people have been detained since then. On September 18, the government closed Eritrea’s eight private newspapers and arrested several journalists. The same day, 11 senior members of the ruling party, including former cabinet ministers who had been critical of Isaias’s administration were also arrested for compromising Eritrea’s “sovereignty and national security”, as the PFDJ claim.
On September 30, Eritrea ordered Italy’s ambassador to leave the country after he and other EU ambassadors protested the human rights violations in the country. Ambassador Antonio Bandini was apparently singled out because he had been acting as spokesperson for the EU countries that had diplomatic representation in the Horn of Africa nation.
On October 8, European Union countries withdrew their ambassadors from Eritrea to protest the expulsion of the Italian ambassador.
Naïve Western reporters though the proposed Eritrean Elections scheduled for December are ‘likely to be delayed because the National Assembly must pass a legislation and regulations regarding the election regulations’.
On October 17, 2002, twenty years ago, the USA seemed serious about the detention of its embassy’s employees. Richard Boucher, the USA Spokesman issued a Press Statement with the same tired gestures, ‘The Government of Eritrea should either release the two US embassy employees or give them a chance to defend themselves in an open court’. Didn’t they know the PFDJ government never had a functioning court! Still, over two decades later, no one knows the whereabouts of Alli Alamin and Kiflom Ghebremichael. They were betrayed by their employer and by their people. But it gets worse.
In 2005, the PFDJ arrested two more employees of the USA embassy, Fitwi Gezae, webmaster of the U.S. embassy, and Biniam Girmay, a translator. Since it was the human trafficking season for Eritrean victims, the PFDJ accused them of engaging in human trafficking and it was holding them for investigation. 17 years later, the investigation is going on! In 2001, Alli Alamin and Kiflom Ghebremichael, were arrested because they translated for the embassy documents published by the Eritrean opposition groups. And since that was at the end of the devastating Ethiopian-Eritrean border war, they were accused of collaborating with the CIA that was working to overthrow the PFDJ government.
And the list of Prisoners?
The list is too long–from Mohammed Mranet, to the G15, to Bitweded, to Sium Stifanos, to the teachers of Keren, to the embassy employees, to Aster Yohannes, to Taha Mohamed Nur and his older brother Haji Musa whose remains were released from prison for burial, to Abune Antonios, to the child prisoner Ciham, and the many others I cannot possibly mention; this episode will not be enough. Thousands upon thousands are in prison, without visitation rights, no contacts, simply made to disappear, their whereabouts unknown. How many of them do we remember?
Of course, relatives and friends will not forget them because they always live suffering because of their ordeal. They don’t know what happened or is happening to their loved ones. The lucky who do not have imprisoned friends, colleagues, or relatives, can either be humans and sympathize with the suffering compatriots, or continue to be callous and dance over their misfortunes. Which attitude is patriotic, and which is not! Everyone should answer that to himself consciously.
Russia or Ukraine
Two days ago, they voted at the UN over ‘do you love Russia or Ukraine’. I imagined myself in New York to vote and raised my hand. I waited for the UN official to count my vote. No one did.
A voice interrupted me: “Not true, you don’t have to raise your hand to vote, it is done electronically on a screen, not by raising hands?”
Is that so?
“Yes, and you do not represent any government, therefore you cannot vote–electronically or otherwise.”
“You are not an Eritreans hireling… you do not have voting rights.”
So, what do I do?
“You shuttuphouse! Shit your mouth.”
In anger I threw a cap at him, but I ended up shattering a mirror on the wall. I got the satisfaction of throwing the voice out remembering the classical play where Memhir Alemayo Kahsay sang “I ate a soup bar thinking it was bread!”
I don’t vote. And I don’t have to stand either with Russia or Ukraine because I am as insignificant as the PFDJ.
Why do you need to take a stand on any rivalry, competition, conflict, and wars? Why fight over it when you haven’t finished the Fano-will triumph and TPLF will triumph feud is still raging among two Eritrean political tribes? Why do you need to take a position?
The UN doesn’t manage votes properly anyway. I wish the Las Vegas gambling houses managed the UN, isn’t it like gambling?
You see, in Las Vegas, you gamble and even if you lose all your money, you just walk out silently without complaining that the dealer cheated you or any other excuse. You may walkout in tears, crying, but you making a scene is not tolerated. If not, huge men will lift you by the ears and throw you out of the building. In contrast, think of some Eritreans who go to a friend’s house to watch a football game and root for one or the other playing teams. Those who lose fight–the referee showed partiality, that goal was off sight, our team played well and shouldn’t have lost. Then punches, headbutts, and kicks follow. Some don’t talk to each other for a long time after such a fight. Now you are rooting for two armed-to-the teeth countries, Ukraine, and Russia. Both are racists. And you haven’t finished your rooting for parties in the Ethiopian civil war where he (Isaias) is acting like a mini-UN of the region, or as a reserve player to help keep the war going.
Don’t take position and save yourselves the trauma and the heartaches. If you must take a position, take a stand on Eritrean issues, which is supposed to be your priority, instead of investing your emotions where you do not count. You can have an impact on Eritrean issues if you focus on it.
Also, remember both sides think you are disposable and not worthy of their attention—both have been acting like cats in heat for too long. While one was provoking, the other encouraging the provocation knowing the war will be waged in the provocateur’s territories. I just feel sorry for the people who had to flee their homes due to problems not of their making. We all know how destructive wars are and how leaving your country feels. But luckily, they are blond and blue eyed, they will not fare worse than our refugees.
Finally, remember, ending the injustice befalling Eritreans at home is the gist of all our long and arduous struggle. And it’s a long-term investment, not a stock market transaction you instantaneously monitor on the screen. It can only be monitored in the conscience and of those all who love their people and country. They know how it feels and they know someday it will end, someday when Eritreans will mourn all the people who were wrongly subjected to grave injustices that took Their lives. Eritreans will try to heal the scars of those who suffered enough inside PFDJ dungeons, and they will belatedly celebrate a free, just Eritrea, under an air of confidence, positivity, and care for each other. The callous behavior will be shunned. The perpetrators of agony and torment will be shamed. All citizens will, once again, live like what free humans are supposed to live—with dignity.