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

Tribute to the late Sheik Ahmed of Senegal, a poet and a friend of Eritrea: And X-mass remembrance of all prisoners of conscience

Families and friends of Sheik Ahmed Tidiane Gueye organized a memorial event in the Institute of Education, University of London on 28 November 2009. It was an event reflecting his progressive ideas and development in revolutionary thought and spirit. Various artists and poets with traditional African instruments gave the event an African atmosphere. Sheik was a Pan African Activist, Poet and Critic. He studied Egyptology and he popularised its importance in African history and its impact on civilization. His poems and his lectures in various Universities have made him a symbol of African identity in the UK. One of his popular poems is as follows.

When the elements sing:

Hail the hurricane, hail the harmattan

Rejoice

Sing and dance with the whirlwind

I am one with nature

I sing of unrest

I sing of passion, of love

I sing of dawn

When the eye of the sky is crimson-red

The very colour of my dreams

I am one with nature

History, geography is on my side

My people too

Mountains, valleys, canyons

Where we ensnare and subdue

The enemy’s metal herd

I am one with nature

Don’t you know?

Ask the Palestinian

Ask the Eritrean

Ask the Mau Mau

Ask Sondero Luminoso in Peru

They will tell you that I am one with nature.

Listen and listen well

What does it say?

I am one with nature

I speak of crops and harvests

To feed the starving

Toiling multitudes

I grew up by the Nile

And spread across the globe

Do not ask me

What I have seen

What do you hear?

What do you see?

What do you feel?

Are you with me?

Are you with nature?

Are you with people?

Are you with people?

I am one with nature

Ahmed Shiek and Eritrea:

Ahmed was perhaps known by thousands in Eritrea when he was on TV-ERE reciting poems in commemoration of the Late Abdurrahman Babu a leading African Statesman from Tanzania and ardent advocate for the right of self determination of Eritrea. The event took place in 1996 at the Municipality Hall of Asmara. Photograph exhibition of Babu was flown from London and there was 20 minute video about his life.

What was remarkable was that when Sheik was introduced to the audience, he stood gracefully tall in his long Senegalese robe looking at the audience silently for few seconds. He then opened his mouth by saying, “I am happy to be in liberated Eritrea and among my people”.

He then looked straight into president Isaias’s eye - an invited guest himself- who was sitting in front row, and expressed his profound concern that African leaders get to power in the name of the people but forget their promise once they assume power; he said it with extreme seriousness as if he was reminding the President not to take that road. That was the beauty of Sheik, he does not compromise when it comes to the rights of the people.

Poetry and People’s Power:

For the African Diaspora in the UK Ahmed was best known as an advocate of justice, equality and empowerment of the marginalized Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) wherever they are.

During the 80s progressive African artists and poets in the United Kingdom were able to promote the plight of the people of Africa including the just cause of Eritrea through music and poetry. At that moment in time there was a strong African University student Union (AUSU) in the UK and had the right to book meeting halls for political discussions and even for social evenings free of charge. The EPLF mass associations took advantage of this privilege and used to launch social evenings in Universities booked by AUSU.

Ahmed Sheik was always present in Eritrean social evenings to recite poetry accompanied by traditional African instruments played by a progressive musical band known as “African dawn”. There was other artists like the famous poet named Ntuli – member of Pan African Congress – of Azania (South Africa) who went back to South Africa after apartheid was defeated. It was these African Artists who launched an evening to celebrate Eritrea’s independence in 1991 at Africa Centre in London. Their slogan was “Eritrea is free, the people have spoken”. Unfortunately the people of Eritrea have yet to speak.

Poems and songs have an impact in popular culture. Today unlike the days of “Mahber Tyatr Asmara” most of the poets and singers in Eritrea have failed to reflect the sufferings and hardship of the people in their poems, songs and music. They have let the people down.

However we do have few conscious artists. The songs of Yemane Baria, Hussein Ali in London, and Abraham Afeworki do reflect not only the suffering and hardship but also the challenges and hopes for the future. They have taken the people of Eritrea life experience to music and poetry.

Doctor Reesom Haile’s “Alewana, Alewuna” poem had a tremendous impact on popular culture that shouldn’t be underestimated – it was captured by the population, particularly the children. Reesom started the famous “poet’s corner” {kurna Getemti} at the expo centre in Asmara. There was a huge photo of Reesom clad in his traditional dress of “Gabi” on the wall of the main pavilion; his charisma was evident, he was very graceful.

All those social assets and fortunes were squandered by PFDJ.

At the time of the armed struggle the people of Eritrea had tremendous sympathy and support from the international community. African artists were just one example. The Eritrean people and their struggle had support from many organisations, political parties and independent democrats, liberals and humanists. There were examples like the Green Party of Germany, the Steel Workers Union of Italy, and the British labour party; I can add more names from USA, Canada, and Australia etc. In that moment in time Eritrea was highly visible. Today all these sympathy are squandered beyond recognition by PFDJ. It is up to the Diaspora to rise up to the challenge and work hard, united, to claim back at least some of the sympathies and support. But true unity and relations with the international bodies and communities can only be achieved around shared values, such as the embodiment of the rule of law, respect of human rights, democracy and secular government.

Doctor Tajudeen Abdul Raheem the Secretary General of Pan African Congress (PAC) an ardent supporter of Eritrea has also passed away:

Tajudeen, a Nigerian scholar and activist, came to learn about Eritrea when he was studying for his doctorate in the UK in the 80s. Since then he became ardent supporter and advocate for Eritrean independence.

 

When Eritrea’s top Government officials and the newspaper editors were imprisoned in 2001 Tajudeen, in his capacity as a Pan African Authority and a friend of the people of Eritrea, wrote an article asking the Government to release them or bring them to the court of law. He was snapped and was told he has no right to involve in the internal affairs of Eritrea. He then wrote back saying, “what kind of a double standard, during the struggle the EPLF was treating us as fellow Africans and brothers and when we expressed our opposition to the injustices they meted out to their people they treated us as foreigners”

Tajudeen and Ahmed have been leading figures in Pan African Congress movement that made Uganda its headquarters. Tajudeen until his death some months ago by car accident in Nairobi was the Secretary General of Pan African Congress. Ahmed Sheik was its Director of Culture. He retired some time ago to his home country Senegal.

 

Ahmed Sheik was born on 26 November 1954 and died 12 September 2009 in his home Town Dakar, Senegal.

It is X-Mass and New Year Time – the time to remember all prisoners of conscience in Eritrea and the World over:

It is also a time to call upon PFDJ for Amnesty to release all prisoners of conscience. But above all it is time for a wake-up call to raise their voice, all those Eritreans in Diaspora who have maintained silence in the time of extreme suffering of the people of Eritrea. By maintaining the conspiracy of silence they have lost any ethics of justice they have left. They are recording a history of shame in the annals of history of struggle in Eritrea.

The Dream:

They are unlawfully imprisoned

In Eara-iro and many other prisons

Where no visitors are allowed

Suffering in those dark and gripping dungeons

They are the prisoners of conscience

We are the people in Eritrea

A big prison as such

There is hunger in our belly

But there is hope in ours eyes

As the poet Sheik recite for us

We are one with nature

We sing of unrest

We sing of passion, of love

We sing of dawn

We rise up to the challenge

We stand and fight

Shape the destiny of Eritrea

realize our dream

I wish you all X-Mass and a Happy New Year

Love and happiness and the strength to fight for Justice

 
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