Asmarino Fundraising: Because There Is So Much More to Be Done!

Memories of a Dreadful Time

“There will be a day when you judges who judged me now unfairly, will be judged by the people. There will be a day when you can’t stop the people’s anger and rage against you and the regime. I am not going to appeal; I have accepted your decision…… ’’ Gen Mengistu Nway(1961)


I read and heard the brutal and inhuman death of some of Eritrea’s finest [G-15] with great sorrow and pain. I know some of them personally and professionally. As an independent journalist, I interviewed and spend some time with many of them. I used to be and still am impressed by their courage, zeal, tenacity and selfless love for freedom and liberty. Almost all of them are married with children and extended family. Some are highly educated and learned and quite a lot of them were highly enlightened and amazingly informed of events around the world. As a journalist, me and my colleagues were always impressed by their being prime advocate for reform, elections, rule of law and constitutionality, after a long stint with a fascist organization. We had had an impression, that they, as members of a brutal Maoist-Leninist xenophobic clique, will be totally alien and divergent to liberal democracy and people’s power. We were proven wrong.

Asena news and information service reported the death of these heroes in its August 4 2009 edition. Asena and its editor did a great job in presenting the detailed but excruciating fact and the list of the massacred Eritrean gallant freedom and justice fighters and patriots. With the exception of Asena news service, almost no other website, news agency, political group or movement commented and condemned this barbaric act by the sadistic regime in Asmara. It seems the sadistic cult of PFDJ and its head priest is making and even creating a new breed of Eritreans who not only don’t care and give a dime about their land, people and blood relatives, but also are indifferent and even blame the victims in some instances. More on that later.

I met the Minster some times in 1999, during the bloody border war with Ethiopia. As an Editor of an independent newspaper in one of the most inhuman regimes in the world, my life was not secure and nothing was guaranteed. When I got a call from the” Minster” stating simply” Minster kezerarbeka delyu alo..”(The Minster wants to talk to you), I thought this is a code word of the fascists when they want to arrest or disappear any one they deem a threat. I went with unease and anxiety to the dreaded fort of Ministry of information known commonly by its Tigrigna acronym” INDA ZENA”. There I met the Minster, Minster of Information Beraki G/selassie for the first time. I met a person totally different from what I expected. He was calm, attentive, knowledgeable and open to criticism and comments, an unusual trait for a member of a highly secretive killer group.

I was expecting that he will order me and my paper to publish more patriotic news and propaganda material. I was expecting to be chastised for not publishing more articles on our “bloody enemy”, the hated WOYANE, as was the case when I met some HIGDEF cadres and propagandists. Quite to the contrary, Minster Beraki expressed his displeasure on the ethnically bashing and anti-Tigrean articles mushrooming at that time. I will never forget his advice and insight. He told me that this war, skirmishes and hatred between the two regimes are just temporary, but the people are there to be. Any writing, article and news based on racism, xenophobia and chauvinism is not only disgusting to read but is a criminal act on itself. Yes we are at war now and many might applaud such racist laced articles and commentaries, but eventually the writer of such articles will be liable before people and God. He went on to say that many people, even among the leadership in EPLF and in the Eritrean government circles, have Tigrean blood and the same is true in Ethiopia and in the TPLF group too. So, Minster Beraki said” I urge and plead with you and other independent journalists to be fair, sensitive to people’s emotions and free of any prejudice”. I left the Minster’s spacious room totally impressed and amazed. I didn’t know that there are such great magnanimous people among the much loathed anti-people gangster assemblage known as the HIGDEF.

Esteemed readers and fellow Eritreans, I am not going to discuss all the achievement, history and selfless struggle and fight for justice of Beraki and other incredible heroes.

Time and space will not suffice to discuss and present all the great deeds and valor of the viciously killed Eritrean political prisoners and advocates of reform and democracy. Those of you who know more, those of you who have all kinds of relation ship with these martyrs, and others should present and preserve their history and story to the Eritrean public and the world.

I met the other prey of the HIGDEF beasts under different circumstances. I was having coffee with some journalists in Asmara and one of them happens to know the person. He introduced to me and I met for the first time with another remarkable Eritrean nationalist, the great Hamid Himid. Born and raised in the Sudan and educated in Egypt with a chemistry degree from a university in Iraq, Hamid was a man of vast reservoir of knowledge and information, especially regarding the Middle East and the Arab world in general. So far I have never met an individual with such an intimate acquaintance and first hand information about the complicated politics and landscape of the Middle East. A highly regarded EPLF cadre and respected organizer and consensus builder and former governor of Senhit region, Hamid was a humble, down to earth yet highly intelligent person. I always liked talking to him and it was never enough. Talking and listening to Hamid was like listening the audio version of an encyclopedia. From the Hamas massacre in Syria to the ruling families of the Gulf and the complicated intra faction Palestinian politics, Hamid Himid was a man of intellect and great talent. He was instrumental in returning Eritrean-Sudanese relations to normalcy. Many will testify of his amazing negotiating skill in Yemen-Eritrean relations. Hamid was pivotal in normalization of relations with the Arab League and even the head tyrant was so pleased with this seemingly unattainable feat( remember all the bashing of the Arabs and the League?). Every time I met him, Himid was reading a book; I have never seen him without a book in his hand. Yet, the only crime and sad fate of Hamid was to be born in this cursed real estate called Eritrea. He and other noble and authentic Eritreans are butchered in front of our eyes and we are powerless and indifferent to even convey our condolences!

Another hero whom I was privileged and honored to meet and know was, General Ugbe Abraha Engda. Gen.Ugbe, from a prominent family in Digssa , Akeleguzay region, joined the liberation movement around 1972. He was a university student at the science department of Addis ababa Universty and from a privileged family. Yet he left it all and joined the EPLF for a greater cause. A soft spoken man who likes to listen and a very polite individual, yet listening him talking about the struggle for independence and many events in the field was like listening to a beautiful music and melody. His knowledge of the liberation fight both from the armed and political angle was an eye opener to me and to many readers of the independent papers of the time. A highly respected military leader and commander, even his ardent enemies respect his military skills and leadership ability under strenuous circumstances. Ugbe spend most of his time in the Military wing of the EPLF in the Sahel and Nakfa in different leadership and command capacities. Yet he was a very talented and brilliant CEO both at the ministry of trade and industry and as a Minster of labor and human resources, after independence. A very quiet little talking man, it was not easy interviewing Gen. Ugbe. He had an amazing knowledge of events and stories; one would imagine he was a university history lecturer. We discussed and talked events as divergent as the Czech-Prague spring of 68, and the Nicaraguan and Cuban revolutions and what we can learn from their successes and spectacular failures. I vividly remember General Ugbe was holding a book about the great Czech Reformist and anti Soviet communist leader and hero, Alexander Dubcek, when I met him for interview. A seasoned military leader and organizer, Gen-Ugbe was loved by many working under him at the ministry of defense, including Issias’s right hand man Gen Teklay Habteslassie. A simple family man, with no penchant to protocol and extravaganza, he was living with his wife and a severely disabled daughter. I was at his house in Tiravolo interviewing him when soldiers came from Intelligence chief Abraha Kassa to confiscate his vehicle. Gen-Ugbe was calm and serene and said the following.” Let alone cars we didn’t even think of returning alive. I lost three of my brothers in the liberation struggle. What is a car? Most of my life I didn’t have a car, so let them have it. No one is intimidated by this…..”

In the subsequent interviews and comments he gave, Eritreans all over the world and inside were able to know the insight rivalry and deep rooted struggle between the President and the reformers. Many Eritreans were able to know and see for the first time the secretive group’s working style and thinking. General Ugbe was the first to audaciously expose the anti democratic and totalitarian nature of Party secretary and president of the state, Issias Afewerki. In the following weeks the PFDJ regime tried to smear and accuse of Gen Ugbe of corruption and mismanaged funds, but Ugbe was so bold and sure of his stance he even went to {Haddas Eritrea} newspaper office to give his side of story. Eritreans everywhere were not fooled by this cheap ploy and smear campaign to discredit war hero and reform leader Gen Ugbe’s name and reputation. Ugbe Abraha’s love of his country and land compel him to leave behind a promising career and education and gave his life for the cause of justice, rule of law and democratic Eritrea. Like countless Eritreans before and after him he paid his life for this glorious cause.

I met the other hero of the reform and democracy movement in a rather angry mood and tense telephone conversations. Though I scheduled for interview with his secretary was told he already gave an interview to another independent paper”Tsigenay” and I was furious. “Dear Minster, you agreed for interview with my paper and now you gave to another paper and that is not fair sir….” I said. After a short pause, the man on the line said calmly” First of all you I didn’t know that you had scheduled for an interview, secondly what is a big fuss? You can have a second one if you behave……this not the last interview, what is wrong with you journalists” and then a laugh follows. I was still not satisfied with the answer and news hungry and replied that can we have an interview then tomorrow?” Yashebab (young man) why you hurry so much? Calm down and we have all the time you need. First let the people have time to comprehend and analyze events and what we are saying. I understand your profession, I myself was a journalist or sort of and I respect that but right now am too busy but I didn’t say no…..(heavy laugh).

Respected readers and fellow Eritrrans I am talking about another war- and democratic struggle hero patriot. His name is Mahmud Mohammed Sherifo but almost every body knows him as Minster SHERIFO. A veteran of the armed struggle, he joined the liberation movement way ahead of many, some where in 67-68. He served under different capacities and was a highly touted Politbreau member of the EPLF before independence. He often heads the EPLF’S foreign delegation that he was considered as the front’s foreign Minster even before independence. After independence, he served as foreign Minster and Minster of local government and was regarded as a second in line, in the secretive group. Many local and independent media outlets dubbed him as the vice president of Eritrea. Senior party and government officials whom this writer interviewed testify that Sherifo was not happy about the state of affair of things, particularly the ill advised campaign of demobilization and restructuring. I met and talked with him briefly in the some times in 2001. He was a polite and slow speaker but with a firm conviction of his stance. He didn’t mind my constant interruption of his talk, and calmly explained the current Eritrean predicament and how we are going to handle it. Sherifo was candid enough to admit his and his comrade’s mistake in creating an emperor style leader and leadership. He was free of any kind of enmity and very articulate about formation of parties, election and the final formation of a constitutional government. A brilliant orator once he starts talking, I remember Minster Sherifo as a vivacious individual full of humor and jokes even in the middle of an interview. A selfless TEGADALY free of nepotism and cronyism (despite HIGDEF gang’s smudge campaign), Mahmud Ahmed Sherifo’s crime and misfortune was to be born in that enigmatic land called Eritrea that devours its gallant children mercilessly till this day.

I didn’t know very well the other heroic Eritrean martyrs of integrity, justice, democracy and rule of majority. But I and many Eritreans know what they stand and pay their life for. They could easily have compromised and asked for forgiveness from the tyrant and agreed to lick the boots of demagogy and live a life a coward. But they preferred death with dignity and honor and principle than a life of a dog under PFDJ’S Eritrea. When history of Eritrea and Eritreans is written these and other’s self less sacrifice and murder under the hands of a heartless bestial regime, will have a special place. PFDJ thugs’ place is in the dust bin of history. Already millions of Eritreans start saying “Death to fascist and terrorist PFDJ regime” “Free and democratic Eritrea right now” “Issias Afwerki, it is time to go!” This in itself is a victory and our martyrs didn’t die for vain.