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The Smashed Eritrean Wristwatch

[this was first published in May of 2015 in objection to an attempt by some hacks to revive old partisan rivalry, and their obsession with partisan politics. Yet, they are the ones who insist on national unity and on focusing to achieve change [justice] in Eritrea. The current debates in some circles make me stick to my position that the PFDJ must be dismantled though this has been difficult to achieve because the ruling party has tacit support [for partisan, historical reasons] from those who consider themselves pragmatic. They justify that by arguing the PFDJ was victorious! They forget that even champions who win in sport games are later disqualified if they have used steroids to cheat. After 1991, the PFDJ has cheated its way to stay in power. This begs a question: is PFDJ an extension of the EPLF or an alien entity? For me, the answer to that will dictate the course of the current struggle. So far, I was assuming that the PFDJ is not EPLF but some statements are making me question that.]

Some anecdotes are timeless, I will tell you an old one: Adey Tekh’a, was a very old senile woman. A combatant asked her how old she was. She tried to remember, “Since I was baptized as Tekh’a, since I shepherded the goats. What! I could be 400 or 500 hundred years old! ” እምቧዕ!፡ተኽኣ ካብ ዝበሃል፡ ኣጣል ካብ ዝወፍር፡ አማእት፣ አረባዕተ ወይ ሓሙሽተ ሚእቲ ዓመት ገረ ‘ኸውን!”

The combatant remarked, “She thinks she is Prophet Noah!”

It has been 400 or 500 hundred years since the ELF and EPLF rivalry ceased to exist. It has also been that long since Isaias killed the historical EPLF and replaced it with the PFDJ under the control of the “Valineki Clique”(1) . Since then he has left behind a trail of blood and tears that explains the long years of oppression. Since then, Methuselah has died, Prophet Noah has died, and many others have .

Mr. Rolex was his nickname

After years at sea, a sailor from Massawa disembarked in Italy and finally ended up working in Switzerland. In the eighties he was so old, he returned to Eritrea with an impressive Rolex wristwatch that displayed the year, the month and the date. They nicknamed him Mr. Rolex. On May 24,1991, the day Eritrea became independent, he died in a car accident. His Rolex watch was smashed. Today it is kept with one of his relatives in Massawa, and it still reads: 12:01, May 24, 1991–more about this story in the last sentence of this edition.

What happened before Mr. Rolex’s watch stopped is the legacy of all Eritreans. It is their history, and they own all its aspects: its sad parts, its glories, and its nostalgic memories. Eritreans own all the epic struggle, from Adal to Afaabet, from Togoruba to Adi Hawesha. Even the history of the gorges of Sahil and Karneshim where Eritrea’s children killed each other. Even Dembelass and Weki Dbba where Eritrean sellouts participated in the massacres.

Except for a few who insist on measuring time by the stopped Rolex watch, the rest do not even have watches. They don’t  argue over trivial issues: whether it is a women’s’ or a men’s watch; whether it is appropriate to put a watch on the right or left wrist; whether it is Japanese or Swiss made. These are old topics, as old as ELF-EPLF topics. About 500 years old.

The Social problems

Unresolved social issues do not die out, they pop up every now and then. And Eritrea has several social issues that are the cause of the mistrust that we complain about. It exists across all social levels though many wrongly (or purposely) think it is a monopoly of the opposition camp. The difference is, while the mistrust among the opposition is visible and is freely talked about, the PFDJ side is insulated from such scrutiny because it controls the state apparatus, particularly the media and the security network. Unfortunately,  there is a general tendency among Eritreans to downplay the social problems. But the sleek among us try to define it as a sole byproduct of the struggle era. Worse, they try hard to present it as a generational issue. If we think of any of our social problems and study its genesis, we find out that it predates the birth of most living Eritreans. We need to discern between generational differences (mainly life style and fashion) and traditional social problems.

I know a few people who are always on guard, very defensive, whatever criticism is thrown their way they think it is because of their ELF or EPLF affiliations, 500 years ago. They must have Mr. Rolex’s watch! That is how they measure the validity of arguments, depending on the background of the source. Worse, they use these affiliation gimmicks to abuse, even those who have neither backgrounds. Most veterans do not know the feuds of yesteryears that were raging between the supporters of this or that organization in the Diaspora–and a few partisan politicians are reviving that old rivalry. And it all ends up a pile at the doorsteps of the “Opposition” as if it is a monolithic organization. And the much abused term “opposition”, is either wrongly or purposely equated with partisan politics.

Eritreans are supposed to have an opinion on the general situation of their country, particularly concerning the issue of justice and freedom. If a citizen doesn’t have a position on that, I don’t think they are qualified to talk about the “Valineki Clique” which usurped power from the historical EPLF, or about the Eritrean opposition forces. One cannot stay neutral while observing the severe oppression of Eritrean citizens. In facing evil, people are obliged to use force to rectify the wrong; if that is not possible, they have to express and object to it in words, if still that is not possible, they must reject the injustices in their hearts–and the reaction to the feeling of the heart is the weakest. Even holy books spell that out clearly.

One who has no position on the injustice of the government has forfeited his credibility to talk about its opposition. But if one openly disagrees with injustices and sympathizes with the beleaguered Eritrean citizens, they have all the rights to criticize and complain. Anyone who is against the injustice in Eritrea is technically an opposition member though not necessarily partisan. The opposition is composed of a wide circle of Eritreans and they belong to diverse groups. But the “Shadow Opposition” members refuse to make the distinction and use the largest brush they can find.

But why do they do that? Like in witchcraft they summon the ghosts of the old rivalries to help them throw their failure at the “opposition” and then innocently plead: see, the ghosts made me do it! For some, all the opposition groups in Ethiopia are of one political color. It has become an effective political blackmailing tactics. It has become too deceitful to pass–it needs clarification.

There were three organizations, offshoots of the old ELF:  ELF-RC, ELF, and Saghem. They evolved to: 1) ELF-RC which doesn’t even use the name anymore after its merger with EDP and it’s now known as EPDP, which is made up of ELF and EPLF veterans (led by Mengesteab Asmerom). 2) The National Salvation Front started as a split-half of ELF-RC, which after many developments ended up with two sides keeping the name and both have changed their composition (led by Dr. Habte Tesfamariam and another by Ogbazghi Debus). 3) The ELF which never dropped the name and still maintains it (led by Hussein Khelifa).

The above organizations represent a fraction of the total opposition organizations. Today’s organized opposition consists of almost equal ratios of ELF and EPLF backgrounds, as well as members who were not born when the old rivalry was raging. The historical  ELF-EPLF divide (and era) is finished. At this moment, the organizations exist on their own merits, and should not be seen in the context of the old EPLF-ELF divide. Please note that the list below is just an informational list; I will write my views on each of them in subsequent editions of Negarit.

  1. Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), Hussein Khelifa
  2. Eritrean People Democratic Party (EPDP), Menghisteab Asmerom
  3. Eritrean Peoples’ Movement (EPM), Dr. Tesfai Sebhatu
  4. Democratic Front for Eritrean Unity (Sagem), Jemal Saleh
  5. Eritrean National Salvation Front* (ENSF), Ogbazghi Debus
  6. Eritrean National Salvation Front* (ENSF), Dr. Habte Tesfamariam
  7. Eritrean Nahda Party (ENP), Abdulrahman Taha
  8. Eritrean Federal Democratic Party (1) (EFDM), Bashir Ishaq
  9. Democratic Mov’t for the Liberation of Eritrean Kunama (DMLEK), Kornelios Osman
  10. Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization (RSADO), Ibrahim Harun
  11. Eritrean Islamic Islah Movement (Islah), Adem Ismail
  12. Eritrean Islamic Congress(EIC), Abdella Hamid
  13. Eritrean Islamic Party for Justice & Development (EIPJD), Saleh Mohamed Osman
  14. *Eritrean Unity for Democratic Change (EUDC), Yohannes Asmelash
  15. *Eritrean Youth Solidarity for National Salvation (EYSNS), Tesfu Atsbeha

After years of following the developments of the Eritrean ruling party and the opposition forces, I have concluded that the above are what I can consider political organizations, or quasi-organizations. Still, I am only providing a general information; at this moment I do not intend to go into the nitty-gritty and how they evolved. But hopefully, in the future I will explain the evolution of each organization, and its current status and politics.

I am sure that some will be displeased with me for not including them in the list. Honestly, I don’t believe they are viable organizations that deserve support. However, it is also important to note that several of the above organizations do not have compelling reasons to exist on their own and could seamlessly merge with others if they have the will to unite. If the mergers take place, there  shouldn’t be more than five political organizations.

In addition, there are also several notable personalities who have some sort of entity. I believe they should be recognized on their own individual rights. For example, Herui T. Bairu leads the Eritrean Congress Party. Arguably, Herui is an institution on his own and doesn’t need any organization to legitimize his role. Leaders like him should be respected as walking institutions and their role should be sought after and secured by the combined Eritrean political forces. I am mentioning Herui because he is a refined politician, and unlike others, he will tolerate my views. Also, because I do not want this to be more than an informational expose, at least at this moment.

On this occasion I urge the public (and the websites) to insist on knowing who the opposition leaders are, their resume, and their group’s programs, before they publish any statements and communiqués that do not carry signatures. Electronic pen-name statements should be shunned because our intention to inform the public is ending up confusing activists. I urge all websites that do not recognize the Valineki Clique to stop accommodating pen-name leadership.

Context is the message

When people say there are thirty or forty-something organizations, others might take that at face value. The reality, however, is different. I have written a few times criticizing the two-and-three persons organizations and sadly, in passing, I have mentioned the inflated number of opposition organizations. Looking back, I might have contributed to the confusion and I apologize (though some people do that purposely); I didn’t think that would be used as a weapon to undermine the opposition. At any rate, here is the context.

During the preparation for the Awassa congress, which gave birth to ENCDC, the commission that was tasked with organizing the congress and inviting participant faced the problem of identifying political organizations and civic association. Unfortunately, in its attempt to solve the riddle, it came up with a strange decision: any group was allowed to send its delegates to the congress provided it paid a $100 registration fee. Based on that, the commission recognized crowds of groups who paid the fee as entities capable of representing Eritreans. In addition to that, crowds of delegates attended the congress shortly after they hastily formed “organizations” in Tigray under the auspices of some authorities.

The Awassa congress was overwhelmed by many attendants who claimed to be “civil-association” and yet competed with tooth and nail over leadership quotas, seeking political appointments. Some were unknown quantities and no one knew who elected them or their backgrounds; some observers suspected PFDJ infiltration, which I also believe. Obviously, most of attendants didn’t have legs to stand on let alone a public support and a membership base. A few have kept phantom associations (name only) to be used as a vehicle for their ambitious members to secure political positions. In reality, they didn’t exist, but in name. It was a disappointing, and an embarrassing situation.

Most of the attendants came from different parts of the world and most didn’t know each other. But though that was considered normal given the dispersed Eritrean Diaspora, for the few who invest a lot of time contacting and networking with activists, it was a heartburn–they were unknown quantities. Personally, I felt sick. To this day, the two and three person organizations are focused on partisan consolidation of power to compete with other established organizations. Unfortunately, instead of focusing on the goal of changing the situation inside Eritrea, they seem to be obsessed with their egoistic power struggle and partisan politics.

It has been long since I decided to refrain from exposing the affairs of the “opposition camp” fearing adverse effects. It didn’t work. Organizations that could grow and improve are being pulled to the cesspool by part-timers, amateurs and people who lack the wherewithal and dedication. I believe the public should be aware of the situation so that it can support the serious organizations and  put pressure on the confusing entities to cease and desist.

However, unfortunately those who are supposed to provide the needed support are bent on having their own new shops that are overcrowding the limited space and squandering resources. The struggle, instead of coalescing, has become so localized that each major city in the Diaspora boasts of at least one organization. Each existing for its own sake, struggling to maintain its individuality and to massage the ego of its local leaders, while at the same time, preaching unity of purpose. That slogan has just lost its meaning and weight. And there is stiff competition by the up and coming umbrella to control the Addis Ababa Franchise of the opposition camp (I will come to that in subsequent expose of the organizations).

Context is important. Anyone who repeats “35 opposition organizations”, etc, should be taken to task to name them. In reality, there are no such numbers; they just have an imaginary book value (not even goodwill). It’s most likely that if the books are burned, they will cease to exist because their license to operate is not from the Eritrean public–it is an individual undertaking for individual benefits–certainly not for the Eritrean benefit. For example, it just takes the Ethiopian handlers to burn these books and revoke the licenses; the air will immediately clear out. As it stands, it is selfishness and individuality gone amok; ambition getting in the way between the intention to be patriotic and actually being one.

Political tasks should be left to the political organizations; civic association should identify their missions and be good at it. No association can be an advocate of everything noble and be good at ten fields, all at once. Specialization is badly needed. The same applies to the vague associations that hide behind “movement” appellation, they should just kill themselves and rest in peace. They are of no good to the cause.

In Conclusion?

The ELF-EPLF difference is just in the minds of a few who love shortcuts; it has ended in 1991. Since then, the struggle has been a combined undertaking of Eritreans from all backgrounds: the tyranny camp on one side and the justice and freedom camp on the other. Attempts to recreate the old rivalry is suicidal. If that rivalry must be remembered, it should not be more than an occasion for nostalgia, casual jokes and anecdotes. Trying to explain the current struggle in any other way is deceitful, politically motivated, and unproductive. Today’s struggle should not be trivialized, it is a struggle for justice and freedom. It shouldn’t be a partisan undertaking. And it is important to remember:  the current struggle is not in vain.

I have dozens of allies from both ELF-EPLF backgrounds; I have known most of them for almost two decades, some even more. In our communications, our old background doesn’t register at all. Reading the newly popping messages that are attempting to pump life into the old partisan rivalry is mind boggling and a wanton scheme to inflict paranoia in the mind of activists. If anyone wants to reconcile me, say, with my friend Adhanom Gebremariam, or others, we are way past that, thank you for the offer!

Back to the story of Mr. Rolex.

Does the story makes you sad? Don’t be. It is a fiction, though it explains the nature of the made-up EPLF-ELF divide which is equally a fiction. Both stories are not real.

(1) The 1993 secret Valineki meeting (in the outskirts of Asmara) is where Isaias’ devilish design took hold. He chocked the EPLF and replaced it with the PFDJ together with an alliance of cadres mostly from the Diaspora. The Valineki Clique sidelined the main actors of the EPLF, most of whom ended up in jail or were eliminated.

* New additions to the organizations

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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  • Da Yo

    You guys are old news. The sooner you die off, the better off we will be.

  • MS

    Ahlan SalehG, and All
    I understand Entertainment #1- EPLF style- did not go well, and I have received several lashes, some from esteemed AWatistas here, and others through private channels. Some asked me why I waste my time with “those losers”, others advised me to just let some irritant comment pass by. They offered me some Tums, “shellel belom”, they told me. To the first group, I said, “They are not losers but good-hearted people who are doing their best” to see a better Eritrea. And the fact is that we have all been big losers, and instead of putting the past in its appropriate bin and nail it down securely, we are venting our frustrations at each other, and that is shameful. To the second group, I thanked them and accepted bottles of TUMs, I don’t know if it will help. I may as well go -NON_BOLOTIKAWI, that’s to say, iSem Engineering department will have to tune down my sensors, they have been so sensitive at times.
    But I thank you for your reply, and I thank Semere Wed Andom (Shagraay), I think “shellel belom” is a good advice if I want to stay in this forum because the argument that PFDJ is not EPLF is becoming futile. PFDJ may not represent the totality of the EPLF (their missions are completely different- EPLF was a national front whose mandate was evicting an occupying force, while the PFDJ mission has become ruling at any cost). PFDJ has thrived on EPLF record (owning its good record while assigning its bad record on scapegoats who are languishing in prison). It is also a fact that most civil, security and army personnel serving the government are ex-EPLF members. So, the question is: shall we carpet-bomb them, or we should employ diligence in not marginalizing many Eritreans who happened to be members of EPLF but have no interest in the well-being of PFDJ? Remember most tegadelti that Ali Salim swipes are living on a less-than-a-dollar a day salary. I know and you know, that they would be the first to benefit from a meaningful change. The fact is that they are looking for a way while under the belly of PFDJ. They just happen to be directionless, and their protests have been limited to isolated bursts of confrontations, and thus, the regime has been managing that well.
    I think the article, in its initial intent, was a groundbreaking. It called for the propagation of a positive and embracing message so that those who are directly serving the government can desist from becoming enablers and instead look for an alternative, and on how to persuade those who fear the opposition more than they abhor PFDJ (sadly, the bulk of the population) that they are equal stakeholders in this endeavor that we hope will bring positive change.
    Dear Saleh, I’m as traumatized as any Eritrean can be. That’s why you will read some abrasive comments, usually, happen to be responses to distorted comments. Imagine if I was to burn the symbols of ELF!! Surely, I would not do it for they also belonged to me but just imagine. Imagine you read distorted accounts. Mind you I’m not talking about political ideologies and strategies, but a blanket characterization of the organization. I think we need to be sensitive to each other. If in the past, because of our foolishness and because of cunny leaders, we thought we were enemies, today, now, we should think about putting the past aside and delve into practical and meaningful discussions.*
    I’m very sorry for posting the categories. I actually thought about leaving you and KS out, but then it did not seem to me it would be fair to Ismailo and Emma. Anyway, I should not do it. However, think of wed-Amir song (meskinayu wed-Amir dib kedenu badi tu), Mahmuday dib kedenu badi tu…my comments should not make you change your faith. That’s why I called upon you to stay above the chatters and let us some times have some regressions. We just need a state of the art sprinkler system for “shellel belom”…..
    SP: I made it long to punish you, and because this is the only time of the day I could write long Hateta while Emma is busy.
    * There is this real story where two warring soldiers ( an Ethiopian and an EPLF) soldiers lose their direction and at the heat of the moment battle lines change dramatically. They spent days in the no-man’s sector. It was a hot season.Both had some injuries. The area was full of hungry hyena which updated their diet to human flesh. They did not shoot at each other; they were happy to have a human contact. The EPLF guy knew where the water hole was, and the Ethiopian soldier had some dry ration. They made peace right then and there.
    I know this is not a fitting analogy, you (including all who might have been hurt by my category) are a dear friend, not an enemy. But it is to say that we are all in one rickety boat in a raging sea. I believe we need to put this ELF/EPLF stuff aside for good and discuss what is relevant now. I understand there will come time when we just have to apply “shellel belom” mode hoping that the sprinkler system will disperse the irritants before the alarm goes off. I really hope so. And if you fail to make a sense out of my babbling, it is not your failure. I’m attempting to mediate between Wedi-saleh and mahmuddaay, after a long night wegah tbel, some incoherence is expected. I also want Emma to get lost in my long Hateta….(joke).

    • Saleh Johar

      Now we are talking Mahmoud Pasha, and I am glad you did. However, two lines are not going to do it. Give me sometime and I will come up with equal if not longer Hateta. Thank you

    • Hayat Adem

      I am to add to the story of the two wounded “enemy” soldiers who had only each other to stand against the hyenas and hunger.
      Can you reclock them back a bit? They were not wounded. The Eplf tegadalai didn’t run out of food. The Ethiopian soldier was not thirsty. Both were not to worry about hyenas. Isn’t it absurd to shoot at and injure each other first and cooperate afterwards, after influcting a mutual damage?
      Yes, politics made them fight each other, you might say. But when they were cooperating, nothind the political setting was considered. Humanity and brotherhood became stronger element than the political cause that made them ruin each other.
      We mostly die thinking right and straight after it is too late.

    • Ismail AA

      Hayak Allah ustaz Mahmoud,

      “I believe we need to put this ELF/EPLF stuff aside for good and discuss what is relevant now”. I am voting with you on that suggestion. I think we had talkrd about this many times under several threads. But still we slide back and forget that we have a priority mission to deliver on until some one like SJ gets so frustrated and come up with a whip to remind us that we are drifting further away rather than coming to a crossroad where we have to meet and decide on a reasonable plan that help us to pledge commitment to future national destiny rather than regressing back to past events that shaped the present with all the burdens we want to collectively ease and de-construct .

      This is the point I have been trying to make to my good friends saay7 and SJ in my exchanges with them in the past few days though my mediocre ability to elucidate my message could have failed me to reach their minds. You remember also my exchanges with my son, tes, before I lost him and left me worried about his where abouts. Thus, MS let us believe and work towards the future and reserve the past as burden for historians.

      • Amanuel Hidrat

        Selam Ismailo, SGJ, Saay, MS and the rest:

        When Eritreans attributed the push out of ELF from the field as the result of its internal contradiction and minimize the effect of the unholy alliance of EPLF/TPLF we are obliged to tell the truth. Look, they are denying the two year bloody war that took thousands of lives of our comrade on our side and our sibling on their side. We can’t close our eyes these brainwashed young Eritrean from telling them the truth. There is no “me-enti megogo tihlef anchiwa” on this things. To let it go whatever distorted narration is not magnanimity, rather it is submissiveness to the wrong history and lies. That history is written with bloodshed and there is no heroism to it. I am sure there are many proud of it, but they don’t have courage to tell it the truth and whatever that makes them proud. Surely, I am not interested to live on that, but if they bring it and distorted it to fit their own history, I will not close my eyes not see it and will not tie my hands and my fingers from responding to them at least on my side.

        Second, there is no any magnanimous individual in the Eritreans politics and its bloody civil wars, even a single person. it is only a talk on the cyberspace. check your heart every one. Anyone who can say yes I am, it is simply “Kelam Fariq” as they say in Arabic or “Nay AreZa Neger Medakemia” as Adey Mulu use to say it. So I don’t think magnanimity will happen before reconciliation. The most wise thing we can do until we reach to reconciliation is, to leave history aside and do what is necessary for the current realities. The partisan politics will exist as long as we try to bring history to our discussion.That is my short note to awate forumers.


        • Ismail AA

          Ahlen Aman,

          I agree that magnanimity or silence for the sake of it cannot be traded for distortions and attempts to pass defamations for politics, especially when the involved are men and women of competence tor take at least moral responsibility for what they say. When novices, incompetent, indoctrinated zealots, late comers or side line spectators attempt to be owners of the whole truth and act as plaintiffs and judges at the same time, they will have to be told the truth as it is with power and determination.

          But, the matter that should get our due attention is not to allow regime fans shift our focus to create common ground for all stakeholders in change. In other words, we should have watchful eyes and open ears to thwart people who try to waste our time and abuse the freedom this forum offers. This is, I think, what SJ has tried to drive home, and as an individual I understood his position with appreciation added. As you have rightly said, thus, partisan politics are here to stay for long time waiting to break the brains of political historians- a point I tried to stress to SJ and MS in my earlier comments.

  • Saleh Johar
  • Saleh Johar


  • iSem

    My Joining the Agazaians is an Exaggeration
    Hi All:
    Someone who stood at the pinnacle, (pun may slightly be intended for fegeftta:)) , apparently saw me joining the Agazians, they expressed their angst of my absence with this line: “….ነቶም አግኣዝያን ጽግዕ-ጽግዕ ይብሎም ነበረ”
    But I assure you that I still believe in the multicultural Eritrea, I still love Tigrayit and Tigre, but I still abhor the Shemgale, except when they speak in Tigryat of course, I still love the Arabic language and hope to see it as one of the official languages of Eritrea in the future, as it solves most of our problems and yes, I still abhor the Rashaida. I still love Lailla, that fictional name and am glad to announce that I talked to her recently, meaning I am still on the wagon, not off it and by the wagon, I mean that slow, sluggish, frustrating, wagon that the struggle of justice has ridden.
    Contradictory? Maybe, but, I refer you to a famous quote by Scott Fitzgerald you can Google it or Saay it.
    ኣቦይ ፍቃዱ ሙሽ? Maybe
    Now, back to the issue of this article, one of the best articles, an articles that lives up to the ideals of this website: courageous, reconciliatory and emboldening!
    The ELF and EPLF issue and the unfortunate meddling of TPLF is still raw, but some still romanticize this issue and until some one with courage appreciates the history of blood-shed that followed it, the “cold civil war, the devastation that still haunts many is supplanted with the themes that this article articulates and is infused in the struggle for justice, we will forever wear smashed watches, we will for ever be haunted by the nightmare and Saleh G J is absolutely right in his terse reply to MS who for reasons hitherto unknown regresses to the proverbial Wed-Saleh in this matter, while he shines as MaHmuday in many matters of this struggle.
    As you can see, I borrowed the title from a quote by some American writer and I did not credit him, because it is “Halal”, how do I know? because I watched in TV-Sened and Ernest Hemingway clarified the issue of this often misquoted quote:-)

    • saay7

      Welcome back iSem!

      The upvote is to welcome you back not to agree with your very unfair targeting of MS who always gets it and when he responds in kind, he is targeted again…

      If you take a hundred random Eritreans who had ELF background and 100 random Eritreans who had EPLF background, they will have completely different narratives on the civil war, on language policy, on the 1997 constitution, on how to structure the government, on foreign policy, on practically every issue. So while it is very desirable to pretend that the ELF and EPLF era is behind us, it just ain’t so. To transcend it, people need to stop revisiting old issues and then for the ELF veterans to stop asking those who have openly abandoned the PFDJ to constantly prove that they haven’t. And for the EPLF and sympathizers to stop blaming the failure of the existing opposition as a continuation of ELF’s failure. Both accusations sting.

      But, welcome and I am glad you didn’t join the Agazians. Even Nitricc missed you although he won’t admit it.

      Speaking of F. Scott Fitzerald, here’s a dialogue from a silly movie: to welcome you back. And I am glad you connected with Lailla, you sly dog you:

      Samantha: Can either of you tell me who wrote The Great Gatsby?
      John: Judy Blume?
      Ted: Hitler?
      Samantha: F. Scott Fitzgerald.
      John: Who’s that?
      Samantha: The author.
      John: Well, why are you saying eff him?
      Samantha: What?
      Ted: You just said, “Eff Scott Fitzgerald”. I mean, what did Scott Fitzgerald ever do to you?
      John: Yeah.
      Samantha: No, that’s his first name.
      Ted: [confused] His name’s “Effing Scott Fitzgerald”?
      Samantha: What? No!
      John: Well, what does the “F” stand for?
      Samantha: Francis.


      • iSem

        hi Sal:
        Thanks for the warm welcome!
        About the upvote, I figured that much:-)
        I also totally agree with u on your explanation on what we ought to do regarding ELF and EPLF issue.
        And I also I agree with u about MS, I was talking about this particular exchange comment and my exchange with him regarding this issue in the past
        Do you remember your friends who left to SA and the ME when others went to “Sawa”, although I do not live the TPLF backed war and was not affected by it, but I lived its after math of daily liquidation and assassinations till 1990 when I left , but I was never personally affected, so it is not personal vendetta
        I also saw as a young boy the devastation, that is why, like those who left to SA for some, the issue ends when ELF left the field and unfortunately no one in EPLF even the those who abandoned it appreciate that
        On Lailla, as you know, you can not hide from our women even if you change the name, the setting and the un developed characters

        • ghezaehagos

          Selam iSem,

          You should be the last one to chastise people for bringing up the 80s. I mean didn’t you forget appointments circa last few days, to chat on 80s stuff😀…now that you are back to claim your rightful place on “awatista stresso”; I should probably move to backbench “hto-reeyto aLbo’.


          • iSem

            Hi Avocato Wedi Hagos
            I am writing email to that effect:-)
            You interrupted me:-)

        • saay7

          Hey iSem:

          When you reunited with your Layla, did you summon Eric Clapton to sing “Layyyyyla, u got on my knees, Layla…”?

          When I meet the people who went to ME when others went to Sawa, it’s the first thought that comes to my mind, flashes for seconds and then it’s gone: it’s the guy who endured mild discomfort for a year, looking at a guy who didn’t, all within context of people who endured extreme hardship for decades. Poof and it’s gone.

          I won’t comment on the rest because who knows: hdma is a tempting mistress.


    • Amanuel Hidrat

      Selam Sem,

      Welcome back buddy. What makes you to disappear this long? I hope everything is okay with you.

      • iSem

        Thanks Emma:
        You were to busy debating with Sal you missed my presence;-)

    • Tzigereda

      Hi Sem,
      Ayy aleKa embe-ar:) welcome back!

      • iSem

        Hi Tzigerda

    • Saleh Johar

      Hi iSem,
      You missed the opportunity of belonging to any group because you absconded. You could have gained gele shmet, Hanneta, graznach, raasi, etc. Halufukka 🙂 it’s just a joke, just in case.

    • Kokhob Selam

      Dear iSem,

      Welcome to this wonderful world..


    • Hayat Adem

      Hi SemA,
      You had me worried. What took you so long to get back to the forum? Thanks for not making your absence even longer.

  • blink

    Dear Mr.Saleh
    Thanks for reposting again , i have to ask sir about one thing and that is, You said “I am sure that some will be displeased with me for not including them in the list. Honestly, I don’t believe they are viable organizations that deserve support. However, it is also important to note that several of the above organizations do not have compelling reasons to exist on their own and could seamlessly merge with others if they have the will to unite. If the mergers take place, there shouldn’t be more than five political organizations.”” I mean 5 , what could be the reason for 5 organizations to exist , we can not afford to be divided in to 5 either , from my observation we can may be manage 2 . That ELF and EPLF thing existed because some people wanted it that way , they wanted it to be like that.

    • Saleh Johar

      Hi Blink,
      Five organization is not because 5 is my favorite number. But as I saw thing two years ago, the reality, I thought they could be grouped into five. If they could be grouped into four, eight, three… or even two, I have no problem. I just do not want to see one-party strangulating the nation. There has to be room for checks and balances. We can wish to have a certain number of parties but it shouldn’t be a number picked haphazardly. And it should remain a viewpoint and not be presented as a divine rule; I say and like two, you must have only two 🙂

      • Ismail AA

        Hayak Allah Saleh J,
        From my perspective I would vote for any number; al baqiya lil aslah as the Arabs say (the field is for the better). My problem is with their mediocrity in discriminating the national from the partisan. Many of them believe they could lead a national cause in their own terms regardless of their size and viability and feasibility of they ideas they write in their programs.

        • Saleh Johar

          Ahlan Ustaz Ismael,
          Indeed, it should be an open field where “survival of the fittest” should rule. But if steroids are allowed to one, we shouldn’t be surprised when others are tempted to use it. My problem is that the TPLF steroid is gash-hash in some quarters when observed from partisan viewpoint and allegiance. And it is magnified as an attack tool (wholesale) on others.

          On the ELF-EPLF divide, the organizations were just mirrors reflecting the social issues. Even if the organization cease to exist, unresolved issues will haunt us. Trying to freeze fluid social issues in their periodic advocates is dishonest. The current problems we have manifested themselves in different molds over time. Would it be fair and judicious to present the as issues concerning the Independence Block and Andenet? Would it be correct to present them as issuesof Manateq? I think the political institution of the time reflect the issues of the time. If they are not resolved now, they will still be alive in the goals of future organizations. Advocates change overtime but the issues remain as they are. Even trying to present them as generational topics is wrong. Future generations will deal with them. But if you are stuck in a perception that, say, Ismael is the culprit, you would think that replacing Ismael will resolve the issue. That is the most crooked understanding of our politics and I abhorrent it. ZeHmeqo ‘leni Betrei habuni, sort of thinking. And it is a political culture that we need to fumigate 🙂

          I mentioned your name because you are not uptight and I am sure you get my drift.

          It’s true that the divide can be characterized as elf-eplf, but it can also be characterized (with equal effect) in religious terms, in regional terms, in tribal terms, in linguistic terms, even in new creative terms. But it will always remain a timeless social problem. That is the elephant sized divide, the organizations just reflected it

          That is what I think , gega ykhlaalei 🙂

          • Ismail AA

            Dear SJ,

            Hasha we lillah xelaika ygage.

            Had we been in the sane world your points would have come from model holy book of wisdom. They belong to the culture and mind sets of post crises and reconciled era. Awate was founded to serve people is such aspired but unfortunately thwarted spirit as far as I can recall where the guiding motto should have been inform. inspire. embolden blossomed under the gratifying shade of RECONCILIASTION.

            But now due to our collective failure on both sides of the divide (ELF-EPLF) populations we let the spoilers and the greedy to have it their way. They new reconciliation and closing the era that catapulted them to power would be their worst enemy. They succeeded to hoodwink the unsuspecting multitudes of Eritreans. And, those of us who found ourselves stuck in the past and could not but shoot from our trenches to defend and preserve ourselves have now become victims of history’s burden.

            Even the people who had crossed divides and those who remained on their former terrains could not reconcile. I think volumes have been written and spoken about this unhappy matters. Thus, dear Saleh, the way is trying to find even modest mechanisms that could translate the magic meaning and purpose the term “RECONCILE ” contain. Not on national level but the narrow opposition world that could enable us pledge that the era that divided us has been closed and the field on which the seeds of solidarity and common purpose had to be sown and sprout has been neatly prepared. In a word, thus, unless the old partisan politics tainted political culture give way to new culture and attitudes, I am afraid the vicious circles has been here to stay and will demand even more cost to break it.

    • Abraham H.

      Selam blink, the fact that we have such a long list of ‘opposition groups’ is indicative of the absence of mutual understandings, consensus, and reconciliation amongst Eritreans. It is the my way or the highway attitude that has been ruling in the opposition camp. This is one reason that big portion of the Eritrean people do not take these so called organizations seriously. And when it comes to the real change, one has to remember the fact that it could only be materialised from within the regime and insdie the country; the best the diaspora opposition groups could do is to play a supportive role, and that is only if they could organize themselves better than what we’ve today.

      • Kalihari Snake

        Hi Abraham: Most opposition groups lack credibility simply because they are either seen as sleeping in bed with Ethiopia/TPLF or they are viewed as following a religious agenda. While it is likely, as you have mentioned, that real change will come from within, it is also possible that a dramatic shift in U.S. policy could effect change.

  • Ismail AA

    Dear AT (SJ),

    If one woul not understand the reason why this piece had to be reposted to the front page, it would be utterly unfair. On my part, I do understand the frustration, and some of us have voiced concern in the past that the topics of the debates or discussions get lost due to uncontrolable disgressions that ignite side issues. If the comments on a particular topic were to be sorted out or computed huge percentage of comments and responses are on side issues that have nothing to do with core messages writers offer.

    The problem seems to me that the moderators are in difficult position to come up with a mechanism that keeps the balance between one’s right to comment and guiding him or her to focus on the topic. At this point, I cannot really say much except saying sorry because one way or the other I also get dragged to comment on provocative side issues. I hope we will be aware enough to help the moderators in trying to avoid irrelevant digressions.

  • KBT

    Hello fake messenger selamat
    PFDJ is a continuation of eplf you know that, the same leader that unifie highlander lowlander, men and women, all religions as one to defeat the enemy
    As the same policy to keep the country together and the people in harmony, so we don’t want a woyane sponsored so called opposition that wish I’ll upon our people and country, we don’t want an opposition that prostitute itself with everyone on time of need. You useless to eritrea, if you want can you help the opposition people thrown from apartment in Italy rome ??
    What did you do for those people? ???

  • MS

    Selam Ustaz Saleh
    I should at this point say “Gedede”. This was one of your finest article, and it appears you are about to spoil it. Be judicious and generous. Stay above the chatter. Many of us look up to you as a big-brotherly figure. In order to have a fair game, it takes partners who observe the rule of a game faithfully. When the absolved partisans throw incorrect and misleading assertions to the usual suspects, it should be expected that there will be a one-for-ten response from the accused partisans.
    The other point is this: whether one says PFDJ=EPLF or not, makes no difference at this point. If this were to help solve the opposition’s malaise, we would see a recuperated opposition by now. That accusation was in the market for the past 17 years. I must admire the thick skin of ex-EPLF members who have been trying to contribute their fair share. I could not and would not take it, and that’s why I remain to be independent. Therefore, I wish you inserted a mediating and re-conciliatory introductory note.
    Peace +love= clarity

    • Saleh Johar

      Ahlan Mahmud,

      The expectation is mutual… but I think you of all people should understand why I bought it up again. We were in a similar situation when it first appeared. Two years later, listing people in two groups based on your ELF – EPLF categorization is too partisan and disappointing to ignore. As if that was not enough, you included my name in your list. Mahmoud, that categorization in only in your mind! Mahmoud, I still appeal to you to take off the eye glasses that show you things in ELF-EPLF colors–but if you define me according to what you see through fuzzy glasses, remember it is a provocation. And please remember, though I am a moderator, it doesn’t mean I freeze my stakeholder role.