When You Wield Your Sword

Following the collapse of the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) in the early eighties, I came across an Arabic poem, written by a Saudi poet whose name I can’t recall right now. The poem describes adolescent love:


سلام عليك                                      يذيب الجليد
يبث اليك                                         شجون فؤادي
ويزرع                                           في راحتيك الورود
. . .. .……                                       . .. …..
 اعذني بربك                                    من غلمه يعبثون
يهزون سيفا                                    ولا يقتلون
ويبنون بيتا                                 بغير اساس 
أفلا يشهدون  تمام البناء                   ولا يسكنون
يظنون                                          ان  الزمان سيمضى كما يرغبون

loosely translated To:

(Warm) Greetings to you            melts the ice
They  carry to you                        the sorrow  of my heart
 And plant                                      roses on your palm
…………                            …………..
I take refuge in the lord                        from messing kids
they shake  their swords,                     and  kill not
they build a house                                 without a foundation
they witness not the construction complete       and live in it not
they think                                        that time will go as they wish

I read it at a time when I was reflecting and contemplating trying to understand the political developments that led to the collapse of the then popular ELF, and couldn’t find  words that could better describe the ELF than the above that appear in bold letters.

That was back in the eighties.

What about the political parties and organizations in the opposition today?

Are they trying to repeat the same thing (mistake)? If not, in what way are they different?

Do they wield their swords?  

Yes, even if it is done in a different manner: endless meetings, workshops, conferences, and more meetings (I don’t have any problem with endless meetings, in fact, they are important tools to manage our conflicts and problems. But, unfortunately, they are so overused that we feel uncomfortable with them!)

In short, it seems the opposition organizations are  more concerned about what kind of sword to use: should they use a golden sword or one made of paper? Do they realy need to use a sword at all? Why not talk the dictator to his senses? You see, he belongs to the human race and, and by default, he must have some kind of conscience! The argument goes on and on with no apparent conclusive plan on how to act. No one entertained the idea of using the proven method of trial and error. Probably because, unlike the dictator, they don’t want to experiment on their own people.

At long last, the discussion is over and now they are facing the dictator. Each group is trying its own method, and now the dictator has to face two fronts instead of one. Isn’t it great!  Allahu akbar!!  Allahu  Akbar!!

Do they kill?

Of course Not! They are the good ones, and the good ones do not kill. That is probably why the agents of the dictator are wandering around in the border towns of the Sudan with ease, and in collaboration with the corrupted Sudanese officials, they are kidnapping Eritreans, who cross the boarder to the Sudan seeking safety. But, don’t you, dear reader, think that even the good ones love life as much as every one else does? And therefore, they are expected to defend themselves? And, there are also the other good ones, the disciples who abhor violence, no matter how cruel and ugly the regime is.

Are they building a house with out a foundation?

There have been attempts to build a house, but so far, no construction is in sight. Basically, because a group in the opposition wants to be in the clear on what is to be erected in place of the current premises before destroying it. May be they don’t want to be fooled for the second time. Most of them seem to follow the wisdom behind ” لا يلدغ  المرء من الجحر مرتين “, (one should not be bitten from the hole twice.) And, there is also the other group, who seem to be not worried about the type of the new construction, or probably, they know what to do and just want to go ahead …..

So, let us have a closer look on what is to be constructed and if this time it is going to be done the right way.

Right now, all I am trying to do is to invite every concerned Eritrean to participate in the deliberations of the conference (my conference, I should say.) 

Why do we have to wait when we can exchange our views without being physically in one place. I admit that this, though cost effective, is an unconventional method to hold conferences. But as the saying goes, “In love and in war, every thing is allowed.” And we  love our Eritrea too much, but at the same time, we are at war with the dictator.

Therefore, let us start from what we have. And what we have is:

 1.  Political organization/parties, none of them is a player in shaping the political map of our country, let alone the region (see wikileaks american embassy cable to state department, reference ID: 09ASMARA80).

2.  Limited or no organizational link with the inside (since this part is not expected to be in the open, there is no known means of verification other than reports from Eritrea on activities associated with the opposition).

3. A big number of Diaspora Eritreans, though pro democracy, are less engaged in political activism. If demonstrations in the West are a measure , it is only a small fraction that participate.

4. Limited and depleted sources of funding. For those who may entertain the idea of collecting assistance from the Arab world, I advice them to remember that the above mentioned saying comes from the Arabs themselves.

5. No credible institution in Eritrea to count on. The only organized institution with power to act is the military which is under the control of the dictator. Even if the military, unexpectedly, takes the issue in its hands, its organizational structure is a recipe for future warlords or, at best, to preserves the current hegemonic structure (assuming that the army remains intact.)

6. What about the people inside Eritrea?

I don’t want to say that they are cowed as a result of the regimes record of brutality. We have to remember that they are at the forefront and that they are the ones who are being enslaved. And if we in the opposition do not help to free them, we better not give them false hopes. Instead, we are morally bound to tell them that they are on their own and let history take its course. And when it does, the Eritrean people will one day rise up, like all other peoples of the world.  

I am not a pessimist. I am just trying to be more realistic: we have either to do the job for them and with them or let them do it by themselves.

I realy don’t think that it is too late for us. We still have a chance.


if some political organizations feel either offended or provoked by this kind of characterization, and I hope they do, it is either because I am not intellectually talented to get the message they are delivering or it is simply because there is no message at all. Yet, no matter how inefficient the opposition is, it is still our inefficient opposition. It is like when your mother is married to someone, he will no longer be a stranger to you. He is your stepfather. And if he is the sole income earner in your family, you are compelled to call him “Dad.” Otherwise, you have to convince your mother to file a divorce; and that is hardly advisable in the absence of a possible substitute.

Now, that the swords (the conference and the peaceful avenue) are wielded…

It is all about to kill. Nothing but to kill!

Dear reader, if you didn’t lose interest and came this far, I would like to thank you. See you in the second session of my conference. 

Your comments are welcome.


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