Waiting for Godot

“Waiting for Godot is an absurd play by Samuel Beckett, about two people who wait in vain for someone called Godot. They bicker and squabble, stating, “Nothing to be done”. One does a strange thing, takes off his boot, and then the other for apparently no reason at all. They discuss on whether they should repent. When one wants to leave, the other insists that they wait for Godot. That is what they are supposed to do. In the meantime, they meet a slave master with a slave. The master at one points plays as if he were the victim and the slave the abuser.” After awhile one notices that there is no one by the name of Godot come to save the day.

“Of all the English-language modernists, Beckett's work represents the most sustained attack on the realist tradition. He opened up the possibility of theatre and fiction that dispense with conventional plot and the unities of time and place in order to focus on essential components of the human condition.”

A similar scenario can maybe familiar in that since 1980 the opposition the same two people have been haunting the lost opportunities in Eritrea. They had grown up when communism was the thing with Lenin’s book “What is to be done?” translated into both Tigrinya and Amharic. After almost 23 of years, the answer seems to slip through their fingers and only when opportunities have passed do they contemplate and argue about what should have been done. It is imperative however that they say “something has to be done” even if it means anything is better than nothing.

After so many years as an opposition, the story of the former ELF dividing and creating new factions has been summarized by webmasters and analysts. The fact that the former EPLF is following in the footsteps of the former ELF to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and forming opposition groups somehow reminds one of the historical journey that the EPLF followed the ELF into the Eritrean countryside, 53 years ago. The decision making process on whether former EPLF groups should “go to Ethiopia or not to go to Ethiopia” was another absurd argument that took some time and was followed seriously on the Internet. More astute politicians would have had a more serious problem than being brought into the “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” line.

Still another scenario is when the members of the unionist party were left waiting for the Emperor in their effort to bring back the flag which was taken down without as much as please.  They had come to Addis to complain as no reply came to their letters. They waited for four months and returned to Asmara, “ignored and defeated”. (pp. 178-79 Wrong)

Previous rulers of Ethiopia have always weakened Eritrea in the spirit of the times. The Emperor did the ultimate betrayal when he annexed this small strip of land. As soon as he had the Federation, he was already dismantling it. Reports on the era, show that he abandoned his erstwhile helpers, the unity block, and gave relatively more power and economic opportunities to those who were part of the Independence block who later chose to live under the Ethiopian umbrella.

Historians seem to tell repeatedly on how Woldeab Woldemariam escaped after attempts on his life and somehow do not deal with the difficulties on how others on the other side fared after the Federation fell. He was allowed to go out of the country as Ethiopian records of the time show. He left with an exit visa through the Airport. No secrets there. The Ethiopians, being astute politicians, knew better than to keep a “troublesome” fellow in their midst. The Tigreans learnt this lesson well and as TPLF, they let their troublesome persons go into exile. These lived a life outside the system but when the time came, they were also allowed to go back and do whatever they wanted. There was enough of Ethiopia for all. The only person of importance who was allowed back into tiny Eritrea was Woldeab Woldemariam as an individual. Others followed but left as soon as they saw the writing on the wall for their lives.

Back to history and in an Imperial side show, here was an Emperor who used the Unionist Party to gain this road to the Red Sea. He was satisfied from the beginning as his plan to dismantle the Federation was successful. Its members, however, were treated as traitors by the rebel group. Prominent leaders were assassinated. The Eritrean Assembly’s President Sheik Ali Redai, and Omar Hasseno were members of the unity party that paid the ultimate price for their vote to unite Eritrea to Ethiopia and the ELF claimed full responsibility. Two other unionists, Dejazmatch Zerom Kifle and Dejazmatch Hadgu Gilagaber were also killed at the Lagetto bar at the end of main avenue, Compishtato. This writer does not remember the others. And there were others.

The fact that the political parties had the right to choose a future is an option that a democratic system approves of was lost to the inheritors.

The late 60s and early 70s were a time of fear in the streets of Asmara, a different kind of fear. The population was stuck between the Ethiopian overseers and the fledgling Eritrean movements who had followers in the cities, towns, and villages. These did not have qualms in telling their respective movements about the “suspicious” activities of some Eritreans who had good relations with Ethiopians. There was no recourse if your name was ever “sent to the field” as the saying went.

Slowly the Eritrean movements began to act in such a way that ensured the subservient attitude of the population in cities and towns all over the country. Mafia style pressure was put on owners of business and other well to do citizens to give money and these included people who owned grinding mills. Many former unionists and their offspring began to have second thoughts as their rights were trampled left and right by an Emperor whose reign was based on weakening his strong followers and appeasing his erstwhile enemies. Their children followed the trek to the desert as Ethiopia’s hand clinched on the city and the countryside of its erstwhile federated state.

It has now become a non issue to speak, write, or discuss these first cruel beginnings of both groups that stated that their main goal was not only independence but freedom of action, assembly, and sovereignty with all its democratic aspirations. 

More than 53 years later it is this origin that is haunting the rebellious group which is mainly sitting in the capital city of the country that it was trying to get independence from. The game has changed. Now it is becoming known for not allowing a minority group to have its own definition of what a leader of a revolution is called. Such a small ambiguity easily could have been transcended by a more astute leadership of a democratic nature. The sad absurdities that follow meetings and events to date seem to be dealing with internal and leadership issues and finally the audience has had enough. 

In the year 2014, a new trend is to be seen that wants help and wants change from within and without. There is always hope. An important African nation, Ethiopia, after a long experience and having gone through a terrible internecine i.e. a conflict destructive to both sides, has come to realize that it is better to have peaceful and stable nation as a neighbor instead of a weak and unstable one.

Let us talk to each other (Tezareb)

There is an effort to stop the cycle of suspicious behavior, endless meetings, and placating newly formed opposition groups whose life spans seem to last shorter than a firefly (approximately two years)  as the Ethiopians contemplate the veracity, orientation, and possible friendship or collegiate of those trying to form groups. In the process, no one remembers that this Red Sea country had never in its history governed itself. This country is now trying its best to belong to the world and become a nation of people who can get up in the morning, look up into the sky and believe they can govern themselves. In the process it seems only God is listening to their prayers because they have full confidence that He will give them a chance. “Be like the others” (“ኩን ከም ሃገረ ምድርከ) said the Lord, giving his own advice that it is good to join a world of nations.

This newly minted change has to have the approval, acceptance, and good will of the neighboring country. Because of changes on the map and worldwide acceptance that democratic states are better than disintegrating ones, most pragmatic of politicians have accepted the possibility of this phenomenon. However, even a benevolent helper has his limitations. It can only go so far.

For itself, the neighbor has acquiesced into admitting it needs its own educated strata of the population for its survival. Luckily, the middle class is intact in Addis. The banks, transport, government offices that have held power for generations have become the inherited infrastructure for the newly arrived group giving it the power it needs to make change. For those in the north of the country, however, the flowering city can only offer so much. The rest they have to deserve.  In the absurd story so far the waiting continues, “apparent that the two men have been waiting for an indefinite period and will likely continue this trend.”

Now it is not two men or two groups. It is many and the ones that have been there for a long time want to talk their way out of the quagmire that they have created. Amazingly when found to be needy, they go into websites and give interviews analyzing this and analyzing that. The movie with the same title, “analyze this” and a sequel “analyze that” about a mafia boss and his psychiatrist could be compared but not at the end because the Mafia boss does the right thing. He atones for his mistakes and thanks his doctor for his help and extends his lifespan by going over to the government’s side. He makes sense of the absurdities that had governed his life so far. For the strange creatures that are opposition members for decades, a wise decision seems to be at hand but no one is there to grab it.

This play on mimicked meetings, organizations, events, travels, etc., plus the more than 30 years of living in Addis Ababa has resulted in no outstanding effect on the regime. Many may believe they are doing it right this time, but the audience has heard that before. How can it be different when it is dealing with an adversary that is good in making decisions that would benefit its existence? Dictatorships are full of strong and decisive leaders. They do not let go of old adage just because it is old. They re-invent themselves tirelessly and effectively.  Please look on how Chile one of the most dictatorial Latin American countries has emerged as a democratic power house. When the going gets tough, the dictatorial systems are better at managing change rather than those sitting on the river banks. Now they are entrenched power players in democratic states. They show that they can survive.

As for the opposition, the fact that change has to come is based on the law of nature. Too much has gone on as before. Other countries have had change. It can be done. Everyone is sure of this. There should be a ground breaking in thinking and in administration. Those who are not being productive should be made to choose from a variety of options in which they can lead a good life. Their existence should not be made an excuse and their lives should not be propagated at the expense of those who really want change. Change is not what is needed. What is needed is the courage to accept, admit, live with, and make decisions, so that there is time, place, and actors for every occasion that warrants it. If there are enough actors, why is that groups feel that they need to accommodate every inch of an opinion to be that or this? An observer has stated that the answer lies in that as much absurd as it seems it is all about getting power. It is not funny if you are in the audience.

Change is a jump into the unknown and has to be done, one way or another. The only problem is that who should own the change. Those who are talking about it or those who at a certain point in time find themselves in the center of things to come? Then one should not feel strange when webmasters, youth groups, singers, poets, radio broadcasts are taking the lead in the challenge to the power base of a nation. The fact that the late Yemane Barya’s lamentations “Entay Ygeber” (What is to be done) still touches a nerve tells a story of an unrequited expectations almost 20 years after his death. Fifty years down the line, the refrain "what to do" is still the question shows how far the population is from the expected solutions.   

Young singers such as Wedi Tekabo are also singing of a peaceful world. His lamentation is of a search of a world without war and death, a life in which the black clothed mothers are no more, of a country which is saying no to its violent past. His “enough of death, ..” and the search for peace. “ይኣኽለና እዚ ሞት ወድሞትየ፡ ኢልናንዲና ስጋ ስውኣትየ., ….” Listen to both his and Yemane’s songs and it is as if the last 23 years have not happened and the call for peace is eternally alive and reaching out to the sky in its wish for a better life. (..ናይ ሰላም ትምኒትየ: . ኣስሙዑና ጽቡቕ መለኸትየ: ደሃይ ሰላም:  ናይ ፈጣሪካሎ በረከትየ).

The call for peace remains constant.      

It is the year 2014 and this is a time when knowledge reigns supreme. What to do against a totalitarian regime is rife with advice, references, books, and even step by step education by Gene Sharp’s book on non violent action. If the opposition even did the last 10 pages of instruction, then it has passed an important mark of getting rid of its mind set of a victim and has opened the door to the complexity of life on this earth. Life is complicated and not as simple as one is led to believe.

Waiting for God

 Let us talk to God and start a letter writing campaign to Him.

In the meantime, an already deeply religious population has seen an upsurge in attendance of its majority Coptic Church. The others have also seen a resurge of attendance and the attraction of the youth in the Diaspora. After so many years of nerve wracking depersonalization under a regime which controls every aspect of life, the soul needed a solace and has gone back to its traditional roots in order to heal.  If waiting for God was given the soul a center, then that would be the heart of everyone who is born to a life of acceptance and even that is not working (i.e. ዝነገሰ ንጉስና፡ ዝበረቐ ጸሓይና). After decades of self subordination to its history, a population seems to be looking up to the sky for salvation.

The biggest shock that has occurred so far has been the imprisonment of the Patriarch Abune Antonius of the Orthodox Church. He had opposed the interference in the internal affairs of the church. The regime’s reaction was such disrespect far down the line that there are no words to describe it. To date, he remains under house arrest. Demonstrations and petitions for his release abroad have fallen on deaf ears and the regime has appointed a new Patriarch. Due to this historically unprecedented incident, the adherents of this largest Christian denomination, inside the country and in the Diaspora have refused to acknowledge this new Patriarch. Those who are abroad have their own parishes and their own priests. The effort to get God on their side is an ongoing journey.

In the meantime, after sometime of analyzing this and that, the regime has recreated its own version of the Patriarch’s audience. This means that the youth are now back in the churches and the music and praying goes on under its benevolent and watchful eyes. There is only one God.

Abune Mankarios takes charge

Where he tells his audience about the role of religion, and how it was God who brought about independence with martyrs and the tears of mothers. Does the population deserve such unscrupulous behavior? Did they not give help to the regime when they were still young? Did they not give information on enemy movements? Did they not carry food up onto mountains and trek with them through thick and thin in the years preceding independence?  Did they not bury the dead? Did they not give yogurt to the wounded? For those who think that religion is a hindrance to development, look at America with its currency notes boldly stating “One nation under God”.

In another interview he tells his audience especially the youth to get wisdom and skills. Proverbs 4:7 says, „The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.“ And continues, “Do not fall into drugs or narcotics, because if you do so, you will also go and drink and that is what the enemy wants.” “Take languages into your soul and skills unto your hands.” “Please study and be grateful for getting this opportunity as a scholarship. Remember that  …….Nehmiah and Daniel were refugees, and they went on to lead their people spiritually and materially.” The Abune says independence did not come because of one group of people. It came because God in his mysterious way decided that the upheaval should end. If He can decide in 1991, then He can also decide on the future.

Official news and in depth reports continue to report on the human rights abuses and the ongoing escape by the youth to neighboring countries. 23 years of independence and the generation that brought it about is slowly dying. In an absurdity worth its weight as in Orwell’s 1984, the system that had ignored its ex-fighters for a long time suddenly has TV reports and interviews and regular shows with them. It shows a nostalgic glance at its 30 years of fighting with admiration of the stamina that brought about the end to Africa’s longest war but is now part of the propaganda machine that is trying to show the regime’s “raison d’être”.  The reason is simple. They are on the way out due to God’s decree that man shall not live long on this earth (….”from dust you are and to dust you shall return”) and they want their message heard. Remember God listens to all. Maybe there is hope that by repenting they can extend their life span.

However much the regime tries to show a human face, it is not working. Its deepest secrets are now an open book due to the Internet. Former communist movements, once they were victorious, and were sure of their power tended to relax and create safety valves for democratic queries and expectations. Their main purpose used to be how to stay in power. This is not the case with this strange country on the Red Sea. It will demolish culture, take land, recreate history, keep nationalized factories, and build houses with free labor in an effort to bring about a new dystopia instead of the utopia dreamed about by the populace previously. 

In the unreported imprisonments and disappearances that go on in the country, one can discern the cruelty and total disregard for its former fighters and its citizens. For the women, it is worse as they had to survive not only as fighters, sympathizers, wives, mothers, sisters, etc., but as concubines and mistresses to various officials who had a life and death power over them. For those who survived, the nightmare may be over, but, the horror has transferred itself into the new generation of African beauties who are now the seed bearers in the continuation of the existence of the New Eritrea.

ለሚጹ ኢልካዶ ተመን ትቕነት? The country of proverbs says “do you wear a snake just because it is slick? The answer is yes. It is to be worn because it is slick. That is fashionable. The first woman was tricked by a snake and because of her man was fated to be mortal. God then cursed both man and woman and banished them from paradise. From the Old Testament to the new, the journey about what God wants changes. In the New Testament, God is peace loving and gave his only Son in order to save mankind. John 14: 27-28 says “Peace I leave with you: my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

In conclusion, if God is going to provide the next step to peace and love, the messengers have their say. They do not need anyone’s permission to pass on the message of their God which is that you have to love your enemy, pray for his/her soul and if need be you have to bear the burden of the cross and be a martyr, this is the real deal.

What does Caesar want? ቄሳር እንታይ ከም ዝደሊ እንተንፈልጥ ምደሓንና::

In Mark 12:17, Jesus says, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” {እቲ ናይ ቄሳር ንቄሳር እቲ ናይ ኣምላኽ ንኣምላኽ ሃቡ”} There is much that Caesar has including slaves to do his bidding in the 21st century. Roads, schools, and villas are being built on the back of the children of independence. Through proclamations the land belongs to him also. In the spiritual realm, however, the once untouchable Orthodox Church has been trodden upon by the very plastic shoes that it helped welcome.

There was joke in 1997, “all Eritreans were asked to vote on what religion they were. By the end of the vote there were Protestants and Orthodox Coptic in the box. The Catholics had disappeared.”  This is the real face of the Catholic Church; its members in the country contrary to the rest of Africa are decreasing not increasing. They are barely substituting those who have left or have died. The Coptic Church will increase just because of the birth factor. The Protestant churches are increasing because they have a new individualistic approach to belief. It is a new experience to former i.e. traditional Orthodox Coptic Christians even Catholics who in the Pentecostal, Jehovah Witnesses, and the revitalized Medhanie Alem churches find a niche that their souls can accept.

Who is in charge here? Since the “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away”. Job 1:21 we have to be careful not to tread on what is God’s and what is not God’s. So please “Do not shoot the messenger. Those who write are not the ones discussing the issues. They are just typing what they hear in their environment.