Will they die or be martyred?

Listening or reading Negarit requires patience, please bring some additional patience from your storage. If you are short-tempered, with little or no patience, please pretend you are patient. Talking like responsible adults is fun.

My next few episodes might be a bit unsettling for some; I am planning a sequel to address a few issues that may discomfort some. I will talk about the religious divide, the traditional behavior of both Christians and Muslims, and the spread of hatred fueled by fanaticism, superstitions, and extremist narration. I will also talk about the rules of dialogue, debate, and argumentation, including the calcified ideologies of our political entities, be they political parties or movements.

This is today’s Negarit 271.

Many years ago, a relative became obsessed with challenging me. I tried to avoid him because I didn’t like brawls. One quite afternoon, as we strolled on Genafo Street in Keren, the other boys were visibly eager to see some action and pushed him to fight me. He succumbed to their agitation; he rushed and hit me with a bamboo reed. I didn’t know what hit me until I turned back and saw him clenching his teeth and preparing to hit me again, as if that was the last fight he would ever fight. I jumped onto him angrily and managed to nail him to the ground until he asked for mercy. Though I didn’t fight much, the few I fought are memorable.

As a people, we have developed a behavior. We easily succumb to agitation and engage in unexplainable fights.

I know some are tempted to blame the PFDJ for all our behaviors; I hope you will be objective on this one: the PFDJ is a product of our warrior culture.

Even those who claim to oppose the PFDJ on this ground are among the culprits and are fond of adding fuel to the fire. However, the PFDJ supporters are more zealous and swayed by a signal from the ruling party. If they seem calm, it’s temporarily until they make sure how to react, or when they are awaiting new marching orders. I guess we don’t need proof for that.

In 2018, Abiy visited Asmara, and Isaias bestowed on him the honor of leading Eritrea. He pledged, “You lead, and we will follow you.” Immediately, thousands of people flocked to join Abiy’s sleek Medemer wagon. They brought Ethiopian flags and roamed everywhere shouting, “Tedemerenal and honenaal.” In Eritrea, I mean in Asmara, the Ethiopian flag has never been that popular since the Ethiopian army was evicted in 1991.

After the Badme War (1998–2000), anything Ethiopian was banned, mainly Amharic songs. The mood was tense. Soon, the enmity boiled down to an ugly, intense form of mutual badmouthing. It was the old TPLF and PFDJ rivalry that their respective supporters cheered for. The hate messages and embarrassing politics are still going on.

During the Badme war, some in the Eritrean diaspora (particularly the educated) were all on a war footing. Their propaganda war was more intense, warmongering than the PFDJ itself. It seemed they all prayed to see more blood spilling, more carnage, and more suffering. After the Algiers agreement was signed, the mood cooled down a notch but didn’t last long. Sanctions and boycotts irritated the PFDJ, while the TPLF enjoyed them. The two countries entered a long no-war, no-peace situation that continued for many years; until the majestic visit of Prime Minister Abiy to Eritrea. The old circles closed; the region entered a new and more confusing circle.

Finally, the Pretoria agreement.

The two naughty parties are still at it, and more circles are being drawn. Like 24 years ago, the useless social media children at each other’s throat—tok-toks, YouTube channels affiliated to the government, including the apologetic crowds who surrendered to the PFDJ—they are all on a war footing. God forbid, if the war that they are agitating for is ignited, who will fight it? Whose blood will be spilled? Who will lose their loved ones? Whose cattle will lose their shepherd, and whose farm will go fallow? Of course, not the hate mongers and war agitators, but their victims, their peers whom they abandoned—will risk their lives in the war the children are fanning.

Countries face legitimate wars where people mobilize instinctively. We had wars we had to fight, and we fought gallantly. Now, it’s not about Tigray, Ethiopia, Sudan, or other places, but Eritrea. Citizens must focus on cleaning their own house before pointing fingers at others.

After 1991, there was a sudden change of attitude among atheists and anti-religious people, leaders and members of the struggle era suddenly became religious people. It was common to see them flocking to churches and mosques. However, there was no change in their attitudes that didn’t reflect any change of heart, piety, or humbleness. Instead, they became expert marionette handlers who moved the puppets with strings, handling the willing lots who were stripped of their character.

Sometimes I wonder if we value freedom properly; and I am not talking about our lost logic and rationality. We are a people who died and were killed for the sake of freedom, were crippled, and crippled others. But once we achieved independence, it became an illusion. For years, we knew how to pursue freedom, but it seems we lost our moral compass. Did freedom lose its luster, or did we damage it?

Do you think it’s okay when people get all worked up and in arms because someone mildly criticized the leaders or commanders of the party? They express their anger with so many primitive ideas: You are not fit to wash their feet! They sound like feudal guards, defending their warlord! But if you remind them of the suffering of the people under their feudal lords, you realize oppression is a way of life for them. They insult the victims: they are traitors; they are this and that!

What do you call citizens who are not willing to defend the rights of their compatriots, the helpless victims, or citizens like them?

Forget the self-elected president, the sitting justice minister has been in that post for three decades, while jailed and disappeared citizens are not accounted for. The PFDJ supporters, and some of those who claim to be justice seekers, are not concerned with any of that! Do you think they are concerned with the aging leaders of their country, with an average age of around eighty? They are not. Instead, they are busy weaving fantastic speculations just to keep themselves busy, and dwelling on trivial issues—will Isaias hand over power to his son, or his aunt? Such triviality has kept them busy for quite some time. However, a power vacuum is imminent, but the ruling party still intoxicated the people with hallow slogans: Be proud you are Eritrean! KuraE Ertrawi?

Be proud you are Eritrea, Moo like a cow to confirm that—it’s a non-stop propaganda message brainwashing the supporters of the regime. Proud of what? Because three decades after independence, Eritrea has yet to have a constitutional government! Be proud because the PFDJ monopolizes the entire national economy. Proud of having your country still ruled like military barracks for over three decades? Proud of the tens of thousands who are fleeing the country after grade 11 because they face a bleak future? Because the country is being emptied of its youth? Will the Diaspora be proud of being treated like a cash cow, with the side task of being tools of PFDJ propaganda? The Eritrean diaspora has never been this divided throughout its history, and the Eritrean nation has not experienced an affront by fascistic, obscene, and bigoted disrupters.

Eritreans deserve freedom and justice just like any other people, if not more. The debts of freedom and justice were fully paid off by 1991. Why is the nation being forced to pay for the pipe dreams and adventures of the ruling clique?

Is there any Eritrean who doesn’t feel embarrassed for not knowing the population of his country? Ask people from other countries, at least they will give you a guesstimate—any approximate number. Not Eritreans, who are told their numbers range from 3–6 million! Talk about missing the target by half. Worse, no one knows the national budgets or other vital statistics! They must depend on guesswork by foreign reporters. That’s because such statistics are treated as national secrets. Only the rulers are worthy of knowing it. Why not? Isn’t it a police state run like a military garrison?

George Orwell gave the world a gift in the form of novels. I feel he had Eritrea in mind when he wrote them. It seems the country is being led by the proverbial Big Brother in Orwell’s novel, “Nineteen Eighty-four.” That’s not all, the PFDJ rulers insist on running Eritrea like an “animal farm.”  George Orwell’s other novel convinces me that he wrote it with Eritrea in mind.


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