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Whispering to the Eritrean Forces

Addey Abeba’s* husband and elder son died in a car accident while the family was returning home from a pilgrimage. Since that incident, the traumatized woman became over-protective of her younger son and wouldn’t let him play in the streets for fear of cars, though daily, hardly more than three cars passed in that street. When relatives visited her one day, she wanted to offer them tea. She untied a coin from her shawl and send her son to buy sugar and tealeaves from the shop across the street. “Don’t cross the road before you see a car,” she warned him. He nodded and left.

The boy was late, the guests were waiting, and Addey Abeba felt uneasy. She put her head-cover on and went out to the street to find out what was keeping her son that long. She found him standing by the street corner and screamed at him, “I sent you to the shop, why are you still standing here!” In surprise the boy replied, “Mama, you told me not to cross the street until I see cars; no cars passed by yet and I am waiting to see one!”

Was the boy too obedient or just being a child?

Thirty-Years is a long time!

Last winter I shot the intro to Negarit 113 in a vineyard in the wine country. Then the Sonoma grapevines were dry and clipped. Last week I passed by the vineyard and found the grapevines have grown back and carried clusters of grapes. Soon the workers will harvest them and process them into fine wine. I wondered: who will drink the very wine made from these clusters? Will someone get in debt to buy the wine, become intoxicated, get into a serious fight, beat up his wife and children, or drive and kill a child crossing a street! Addey Abeba must have imagined such a driver to warn her son not to cross the street before he “sees” cars.

Like the child, sometimes we take words so literally. We ignore or misunderstand the gist of what we hear. That results in misunderstand the words particularly if they are laced with exaggeration, sarcasm, insinuations, secret codes, or emphasis to express a concern.
The grape clusters I saw are so good and I hope their wine will be consumed by friends enjoying themselves or by couples at a romantic candle-lit dinner.

Since 1991, these grapes grew, 30 time, were harvested, and made into wine—this season they will harvest them for the 31st time. Now compare that to the situation of Eritrea—what have Eritreans achieved since 1991– 31 years after the hard-won independence? How many friends, children, or parents have died in the senseless wars since 1991?

Unfortunately, unlike grapes, the dead do not grow back next season… they are gone forever.

Addey Abeba, the other woman of my imagination

I am obsessed with reading anything that I see; if someone wrote it, I must read it.

When I first visited Addis Ababa, I was amazed by a rich woman who owned so many shops, restaurants, bars, hotels named after Addey Abeba. I passed by Nefas-Silk Street and though they must call it Addey Abeba street! She owned all the stores there. What an amazing businesswoman! Then I told some friends how impressed I was by Addey Abeba, the successful businesswoman. My friends would not stop laughing and started to make fun of me. What did I say, what did I do? To my chagrin, I learned Addey Abeba was not a name of a women but the name of the yellow Ethiopian flower, resembling the Texas Yellowstar flower, that blooms around September.

That was benign but imagine me misreading or misunderstanding a serious script that would lead to bloodshed—particularly in Ethiopia where a small misunderstanding or a negligeable provocation could lead to a serious war! And that in Ethiopia that is home to about a hundred ethnic groups and around fifty languages. Also consider the embarrassingly high illiteracy rate and poverty! If the elite do not recognize that, the country is doomed. And the latest flare of ethnic war waged against the Tigrayans attests to that. All for empty rivalry to inflate the already inflated Abyssinian ego.

Rwanda’s Cloud1994 has Drifting towards Ethiopia!

Once the people of Asmara complained about the shortage of water; the brilliant Isaias told them, ‘If you don’t get water where you are, go to where the water is.’ I hope they don’t complain about electricity; he might tell them to move to the Benishangul region where Ethiopia’s renaissance dam is. But when Ethiopians complained about poor rainfall, the much smarter Abiy Ahmed, the Rain Man, said he will make the clouds rain–careful, that is not a novel idea.

I was too young then, but I have a faint memory of the time when Haregot Abay was the mayor of Asmara. It was one of the driest rainy seasons and newspapers reported about plans to force the clouds to release rain. The appalled traditional people were disgusted: only God can make it rain!

I don’t know how they do it, or what it takes, or its success rate, but the idea of making clouds rain is not new. Aby must have found the old Hibret Newspaper that I read, he ordered the air force to bomb the clouds and make it rain—it’s possible the overzealous pilots crossed borders and dragged the wrong clouds they found floating over Rwanda since 1994! These clouds they dragged to the region have been raining mayhem since they made Abiy the prime minister.

As Tigrayans are being ethnically profiled and rounded up in Ethiopia; the victimization has reached Eritrean refugees as well. This time, Abiy Ahmed’s war have cloned the Fascist Italian Captain Barba who rounded Tigrayans from the streets of Asmara and dropped them on the Tigray borders when Eritrea was an Italian colony. It doesn’t appear Abiy Ahmed is stopping anytime soon on his own, he must be stopped.

When people use the name of a country and its dictators interchangeably, it’s disastrous and many suffer from it. People become xenophobic because the warmongers and hate-breeders make them anxious about the safety of their country and a whistle from the dear-leaders is enough to agitate millions. Sadly, even the victims are infected by the hate bug—some Tigrayans boldly accused me of being a PFDJ-man supporting Isaias! As laughable as it is, I brush it off by quoting, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

And that brings me to the picture I told you about, the one that infuriates the PFDJ groupies.

The Groupies’ Exhibit of Treason

It’s shameful for a government ruling millions of people to act like a village council–why abuse common Tigrayans because they share the same identity with the TPLF that is resisting ethnic aggression of the federal forces and its bloodthirsty militia allies? Why is the federal government taking it on the common Tigrayans, aren’t they, still, Ethiopian citizens and deserve the protection of Abiy’s government? How would the allied militias feel if the roles are reversed? I can only say, ‘Oh, Ethiopian elite, wake up from your slumber!”

Abiy is a colonel, and he turned out to be worse than the last colonel I knew, Colonel Welaana, the butcher who in 1971 ordered the massacred of 600 villagers in Ona sitting behind his desk playing with his long moustache that were more like whiskers. Another victimization of the victims also happened when Ethiopia deported close to 100,000 Eritreans in 1998 because of the Badme war. However, when I asked the late Meles Zenawi about that, my question pained him. He was silent for a while and then went to great length to explain how unfortunate that was and that it shouldn’t have happened. If I posed the same question to little colonel Abiy, I think he would have shot me on the spot.

That is the picture I told you about, the one that infuriates the PFDJ groupies. and I were the first Eritreans to interview Meles. Later, the gates of Arat Kilo were wide open for everybody else. Good, that kind of dialogue and was what people needed but it didn’t prevent the bloodshed that some feared.

Arbeit Macht Frei policy of PFDJ

A few days ago, the PFDJ started yet another round of rounding up of high school students for Ma’etot, the harvest season. Soon they allow the youth to return to their homes for a few years and then they will round them up again and own them for good. They will be forced to provide forced labor or become cannon fodder.

Some of those who were direct PFDJ victims could be reading this. They know themselves; I am talking to them and wondering why they didn’t act and create a momentum and end the nightmares? They are supposed to protect the people and the country, not a corrupt regime. The PFDJ regime wasted their lives and gambled with their future, It’s sad to let them do the same with the youth of today. Children have the right to grow under their parents and not in Arbeit Macht Frei camps

The gambling of Isaias for self-aggrandizement requires heavy investments in blood… lots of blood. And the Sawa conveyer belt that churns young soldiers by the tens of thousands, provides it. Now, all the youngsters who have suffered since 1991 in the many adventurous escapades of the PFDJ: Don’t you wish there was a way to bring back all those who fell in the endless wars?

I wish there was a way to compensate all the victims for their sufferings, for the years they wasted in the Arbeit Macht Frei camp, or for the conflicts in which they spilled their blood. Unfortunately, no compensation is fair enough.

The Eritrean struggle failed in preventing what is happening in Eritrea today from happening. Particularly the neglected youth. They denied decent education, preparation for the real world, they lacked freedom to be what they could have become. Yet, the few success stories are heartwarming, but the number of ill-educated, psychologically scared youth and parents, children and grandchildren, is something Eritrean do not deserve. The struggle was not for servitude under a local authority, but for the pride of the people, to protect their security and safety.

And it gets worse; since last year the PFDJ has been driving the youth by their thousands into wars that are not Eritrea’s wars. As usual, the bad blood that existed between the EPLF and TPLF, and that many tried hard to clear, is still alive. Such hate and grudge don’t help any country; it’s a vicious cycle with no winner but losers. Eritrea has been losing peace and stability and its people are emotionally, physically and politically damaged.

What happened (and is happening) in Tigrai is undeniably grave, unethical even by decent military standards. Its consequences are deep and will haunt the region for too long. Why do the people have to bear the consequences of crimes an unelected regime commit? Why should Eritreans suffer because of one-man and a few of his lieutenants? What more damage is awaiting the country to be declared useless, rolled up and discarded? Why is a group of imbeciles inflicting that much pain on a nation? Eritreans deserve a better treatment, a better life.

Finally, I urge you to talk sense to your peers, those you know and those who can make Eritrea a better place, the Eritrean forces that has become a tool for the adventures of the dictator.

The late Yemeni poet Abdella ALBardoni says, ‘a day the sunshine didn’t create; but we created it with our own hands.’

Eritreans should pull the sun from under the horizon, with their own hands, and not wait for dawn to come on its own. And the Rooster has testified.

*Adey Abeba is September flower in Amharic, but for the uninitiated Tigrinya speaker, it could be understood as Mama Abeba.

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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  • Amanuel Hidrat

    Selam Abu Salah,

    This is a good message to the bystander Eritreans and to the disillusioned Eritrean elites who lives on hate and reclusive sociopolitical lives. Extremely important message.


  • Abi

    Selam Ato Saleh
    A tigrean who resides in any part of Ethiopia should not be allowed to burn the Ethiopian flag and support a group of thugs who have proven time and again to be terrorists. They proved themselves to be terrorists.
    Whoever supporting these thugs, irrespective of their ethnicity, should be put in prison for at least 50 years. Their properties should also be confiscated…

    Bonus points
    1 Adey Ababa = አደይ አበባ
    Addey Abeba = እማማ አበባ
    Notice the germination of the consonant sound ( d) in “Addey”

    2 Medemer = to add, to include
    Meddemer = to be added , to be included

    • leGacY


      As the rapper calls it, you have 99 problems but burning flag is not one. Burning flag is the least of your worries mate! Soon other things more valuable than a piece of cloth will be burning.

      That tricolor is an amhara flag! So to me, just another piece of cloth. I really don’t care about flags but I would never consider that flag as my flag.

      Embassies are considering relocating seats to Nairobi and there is even a talk of elwe mengsti. Way to go neftegna politics! I bet this is considered a sign of progress too.

      Nasty ungrateful Amhara elites tried to draw our people’s last breath and still rounding up our fellow tigrawot in Addis and putting them through hell.

      Amharas don’t know how to fight. They are all in Western Tigray. This is how kids play soccer. Everyone runs to where the ball is. In the mean time, TDF is taking strategical cities and towns throughout the South with hope of encircling Western Tigray from all angles and completely wipe out all the fools who are barricaded in Western Tigray.

      This is how modern professional armies completely incapacitate an army of an entire nation.

      To make matters worse, they are also advancing towards Djibouti to cut off port supplies to Addis. No tirre siga? then that would be the end of Abi -the tiny undereducated mahayim!

      Wars seem to get the best of our poetry. There is this line I heard from one of the TDF singers that really resonates with me.

      Chira nebri nekhi’om men’emo kedekisom.

      Tick! Tock!

      PS: Berhe,- be patient. All in good time my son.

      • Abi

        “እዚያም ቤት እሳት አለ” ብለዋል አለቃ ::
        ያነደድከውን እሳት ትሞቀዋለህ::

        • leGacY


          Not in the least amusing. I know it is in fashion to brandish amhargna skill here. I remember when folks used to pretend they did not understand Amharic but for some reason now everyone is an expert.

          I am more of into settling debts.

          • Abi

            ከፍለህ የማትጨርሰው እዳ ውስጥ አትግባ:: ምክር ስማ!

      • Berhe Y

        Hi leGacy,

        We will be praying that MZ come from his grave to save us.

        I can give you one advantage you have, is you will be officially a rebel group / terrorist group/ like the taliban or al-shibab, hiding behind women and children and not accountable to no one and continue your terror. I told you already fighting when you have nothing to lose is easy.

        No one will give a damn and recognize you as a government of any sort. No matter how much ጠንቀላዕላዕ እንተበልካ አብ ጽርጊያ ወጺእካ

        I never seen ብድሕረይ ሳዕሪ አይትብቀል in real time.

        We will be ready, it’s unfortunate that you not be the one to pay for it, but pure souls.

        Soon the west will ask Eritrea to intervene if you continue as you promised and I hope IA would not fall for it.

        • leGacY


          Like I said, you have a generous definition of a “Country.” Eritrea is at best a point of geographical reference .

          Who is going to stop us? You? Our sons and daughters, fathers and mothers are there fighting for their beloved Tigray unlike you and your cronies running away and writing essays from your comfort zones.

          Just an Amhara boot licker, like your man Issais.

          • Berhe Y

            Hi legacy,

            Your true colors come out everyday. I hope the naive among us see you for who you are, who tell us daily, TDF, TPLF are our friends who “supported” us during our struggle and recognize “our sovereignty” and “they will fight for our independence”.

            ዝብኢ ክሳብ ዝጥዕሞ ይሕንክስ strategy is all too known.

          • woldu hadgu


            You are already a spent force. Truth is not in your side.

          • Abi

            እዋይ ጥጋብ!!
            ምነው እራስዎን አንቱ አሉት ጌታው?!?!

        • woldu hadgu

          Dear Berhe

          Thanks for exposing you nakedness.

          • Berhe Y

            ስላም አቶ ዎልዱ

            ተጋዳላይ ስለዝኾንካን ብዕድመ ድማ ስለ ትዓብየኒ ድማ ክደፍረካ ይኸብደኒ እዩ::

            ኮይኑ ግን ከምቲ ትውንኖ ክብረት ቁም ነግር እንተትጽሕፍ መጥዓመልካ::

            ነቲ ንእስነትካን : ካልኦትውን ህይወቶም ከፊሎም ዘውሓስዋ ሀገር : ከም ሀገር እካ አይፈልጣን ኢየ ኢሉ ዝካታዕ ትግራዋይ እንተመከትኩ : አብ ክንዲ መጎስ: ተቃሊዕካ ክትብል ቁሩብ ዘሕዝን እዩ::

            አነ ዝበልኩውን ንሱ ዝጸሓፎን ብጌጋ ተተረዲኡካ : ተመሊስካ አንብቦ: ዘይበርሀልካ እንተሎ ወይ ዘትስማምዔሉ እንተኾንካ ወይ አርመኒ ወይ ከአ ርእይቶ ሃብ::

            እንተዘየሎ እንተዘፎኾስካ ይሐይሽ::

          • woldu hadgu

            Dear Berhe:

            My apology for inappropriate word. And thank you kem Aya zreakani.

            Eritrea is and will be promised land Eritrea for Eritreans no matter what people say, think or wish. Bezi Ksen. But, it has become a wasteland because of IA and PFDJ. If it was a house it will be described as derelict. Thus I believe renovation is out of question. It has to be rebuild anew. And I hope you will join us.

            In addition I also recommend that you stop abscessing with TDF/TPLF. It is sapping your energy: an energy that has to be reserved to rebuild our promised land.

      • haileTG

        Hey leGacy,

        “This is how kids play soccer. Everyone runs to where the ball is.” Please be kind with this analogy. It evokes beautiful and nostalgic memories when my kids were little and I took them to their first soccer classes. There is no greater joy in the world as seeing all the 4/5 yearolds huddling around the ball and chasing it all together. I spent watching those wonderful Sunday afternoon soccer games with each of my kids. It holds dear memory:-) I demand you change this analogy, hate to see it in this context…

        • leGacY

          Hi HTG,

          Just depressing times we live in. Everything is coarse.

          It is so difficult to coach 4/5 years old kids to stay put. Everyone just gravitates to that ball and my favorite act to witness.

          Anything for you .

          Also use this moment to take a deep breath.

      • iSem

        Hi LeGacy:
        the only thing I do not like about “Chira nebri nekhi’om men’emo kedekisom” is “nekhi’om” LOL

        My fav song from the TPLF before 1991 was “bdongola korrenel marrakki”

    • Saleh Johar

      Thanks Abi, for telling me what I elaborated, with a footnote on the article part.

      My reference to the confusion is the Arabic Shedda, a small sign resembling a ‘w’ on top of the letter to tell to stress the pronouncement of the word. In English you put a double and you have the correct pronouncement. In the Bible I read such words written differently. The Tigrinya word for mother which is written as ኣደይ should be written as ኣድደይ thank for the bonus point I already had. 🙂

      • Abi

        Selam Ato Saleh
        As your substitute teacher in “Introduction to Linguistics” course, I was showing off my unmatched knowledge in Tigrinya phonetics 🙂

        • Saleh Johar

          No, no, no Abiy,
          You substitute! Semenna werq is part of linguistics, someone told me that 🙂

          • iSem

            Hi saleh:
            First stop educating Abiy with Shedda and Sukkun, he maybe offended, your remember he want through roof when I suggested Ethiopia should make Arabic an official language because there is huge number of Muslims who use it as their sacred language.
            About the Semenna werqi, the Abi mind sent thinks that it is only them that have these play of words, in some part of the middle east, I think Iraq they have something called Buzia and zuheiri that does similar things. Yes part off linguistics but not unique to Amharic
            No body is unique, unless everyone is unique. I am paraphrasing former Canadian PM, the ate Pierre Trudeau, who used to say, “you cannot be distinct unless everyone s distinct when debating the Quebec distinct society issue

          • Abi

            I remember the Arabic language debate. The issue was raised by Ato Amanuel. Not you, iSem.
            Ras Abi and Eyob Medhane were on the right corner led by Tegadalay T Kifle. You and Ato Amanuel were in the other corner. Fantiness was in the “middle corner” as expected.
            Ato Saleh gave you a great lecture that class.
            You got a decent memory:)

  • Dongolo

    Selam Saleh Johar. With all due respect, it was not only ‘PFDJ groupies’ that found Eritrean opposition meetings with MZ distasteful; ditto also goes for Eritrean opposition meetings held in Ethiopia. You are perhaps going a bit overboard in now casting the TPLF, to include the TDF as victims, while at the same time portraying them as valiant fighters/liberators. Fact is, that had the TPLF played their cards much differently to include simply withdrawing from Badme, matters could have been a whole lot better today for everyone concerned.

  • Brhan

    Merhaba Saleh

    First of all, Eid Mubarek!

    I like this episode ( and some of the previous ones); even though they include different topics, there is consistency in messaging. There is a chain that unites them. They are distinct and still the same. I think this is a perfect strategy for a good presenter like you.

  • kokhob selamone2

    Dear Brother Saleh,

    Nice read,

    Ha ha -I cannot stop laughing when I reach this part.- I learned Addey Abeba.

    An Unbreakable Bond | The Lion Whisperer. Thanks Saleh. I thought of giving this nice possible solution to put practical.

    Thank you again.