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. Awate.com 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.