Analyse Asmara was triggered by a simple question posed by a good friend to dig deep into and explore the psychological effect Asmara has/had on Eritreans. Along the way, it [Asmara] evolved to symbolize the word ‘displacement’ that eventually engulfed the dynamic that impacted on the idea of Eritrea.
In writing Analyse Asmara, the guiding prinfciple was pattern recognition and the other important word that kept on shedding some light on the exploration was ‘instability’ while the term ‘recovery’ is difficult to trace except for a few years of respite in the ‘50s and early ‘90s. Eritrean ‘public’ records for the ‘70s are full of heroic battles and sacrifices but it marks the decade where so much was lost in transition – more in tune with a lost generation.
Eritrea does exist as a nation state but it’s far from stable, settled or at ease with itself. It all brings us back to why there is the need to investigate issues of identity crisis, the never-ending bloodshed, the long suffering and the big question of government-sponsored displacement – in spite of the unrealistic claims and convoluted performances of governance – under the umbrella of national security.
Eritrea must finally look at itself – fair and square – in the mirror and spread it to individual citizens. Otherwise, individual and other forms of identities will still remain unsettled and invite more strife to re-locate and position issues to yet another level of irresolvable configurations.
May be that is the heart of the matter.
Let’s investigate further.
Recently, an American friend (talking about sons and daughters), said, “All they need is roots and wings”. I couldn’t agree more.
Eritreans are extremely good at attaching wings to their flight but repeatedly fail to consolidate roots on their plight. In other words, Eritrea does it the other way round. It is so efficient at driving its people to death and to foreign lands while it broods on sentiments and eulogies for the dead. In the meantime, it urges its Diasporas to reconnect to their roots.
The root cause probably lies in the inorganic make-up or in the way Eritrea evolved. In some sense, the Eritrean people never used or wasted their opportunities to grow up (as peoples and individuals) to own their own voices. The norm that somehow managed to reign supreme is the cultivation of a herd mentality. It brings the ‘guerrilla’ media back to focus... where rumour is king and reason is consigned to enforced trust.
When the armed struggle for the independence of Eritrea was ignited back in 1961, it had all the potential ingredients for fireworks to absorb all the dynamite in store. Eventually, the whole stock got burned and it took at least 30 years to cool off. By 1991, most Eritreans went out to celebrate their ‘freedom’ and mark the end of colonisation or occupation only to wake up to another firework seven years later.
The word ‘independence’ is a misconstrued concept.
As if fighting for an independent Eritrea wasn’t over, there comes again another version of warrior-hood and worship phase. In many fights for liberation, that the grandiose achievement of nationhood does serve as the ultimate experience of ‘independence’ is probably, among a list of other things, the most absurd claim for having conquered liberty.
Isn’t that so Eritrean?
Now, as with other global tools: internal and external dissent, the internet, the airwaves, mass migration, forced and voluntary exiles are the new battlefields. The good thing is that some are in virtual space and their effect is mental or an experience of travelling without moving – just the way it should have been a long time ago.
The long road to political independence can easily be justified for an achievement of liberty. The latter is most readily associated with values of social justice, freedom of speech, fair distribution of resources and a form of governance that is subject to accountability.
But political independence is more like a project that rides on that passion and vision but clings like a leech to that body-politic. It’s a political concept. Life is interdependent by nature and if any nation on this planet is assuming it is independent from other nation’s influence, it better figure out its own premises.
A much more realistic or pragmatic phrase would be ‘interdependent nations’. In other words, the concept of a nation state is defunct and none more so than the State of Eritrea. For starters, it’s a nation that can’t even feed its own people. The Government of Eritrea (however much it claims to be) blames the Western world, the border conflict with Ethiopia, the global climate and on Eritreans who lost touch with their national interest.
How far tragic can it go?
Few are aware that the next generation (it’s a pattern that has been going on for some time) will inherit the unquestioned memory and repeat the same ‘national’ experience. Another 30 years from now, Eritreans (if the State of Eritrea can ever survive for that long) might end up saying, “We wish we had known then!”
What is so basic and repetitive right through the cross-section and across the board of Eritrean history? It is the predominance of injustice – the political infection against which Eritrea should have been inoculated – well, at least after the so-called sovereignty in 1993. The problem is that these injustices, just like a virus, never fail to grow new strains or varieties that suck the life of the ever evolving Eritrean ‘commons’ who mistook the nationhood of Eritrea as the final achievement for a long night sleep against its history of oppression.
The ELF/EPLF – as the dominant social movements for an armed struggle to ‘free’ the Eritrean people – had the word ‘liberation’ in their acronym. Eritrea may be a politically independent country with a political map to show for it but it is no way near realising the idea of liberation. Eritrea might have a big ego but it’s also a synonym for injustice and there just isn’t much there to dance around.
When national identity takes precedence over personal or communal interest and mutates to an idea of national security that endangers the very survival of the people, all we have to do is look at Africa from up the clouds. The border lines look like a restriction rather than interfaces of consent. Some of the lines on the ground are not even more than a 150 years old but the reality they have imposed or created on the psyche of African populations are so parallel like rail tracks and are not even seen as a common ground for dialogue.
Independence is a byword that is used, abused and misused by most Eritreans. It’s about time it’s put under the microscope.
The word ‘independence’ operates or is validated on a political ground – in other words, on border lines. Hence, by definition, people living within that boundary are mentally confined to that association. They give their blood, their taxes and are subjected to all sorts of injustices in the name of that binding state. It’s a kind of glue that is strongly binds a variety of peoples or communities together with the capacity to hold every ‘citizen’ in bondage.
A government is dysfunctional or not fit to govern a nation when it’s exploits its own people for sake of its own survival. A much more realistic application of a modified version of that same word that is healthy and loaded with workable alternatives would be ‘interdependence’.
That breaks down the idea of ‘self-reliance’ as well. It’s defunct concept. It’s alright if it means ‘responsible for ones action’. Otherwise, it doesn’t make any sense. It [self-reliance] is what the Government of Eritrea and some believers use. It says more about defiance and denial than anything else. Without these two deadly ingredients (independence and self-reliance], Eritreans could have relaxed, been at ease and learn to co-exist amongst themselves and next to their neighbours. That would have been an achievement and that is, by the way, the only way out of the Eritrean predicament.
How to get there is another story.
The irony with the history of Eritrea is that it is packed with a series of episodes of subjugation: conscriptions of internal and external kind, loss of young generations at every turn and lost opportunities in recovering human and cultural development. As a result, Eritrea now stands for nothing but a synonym for ‘a tool of control and a symbol of resistance that has nothing to do with liberating its people.’
But surely, the future should not be bound by the past.
It’s about the living and the possibilities of settled futures. The deafening roar of restlessness for those who are six feet under won’t serve any purpose unless it’s employed as a serious strategic concept to prevent treating people as perishable goods or use-by-date items.
We live in an interdependent world now.
GENERATIONS OF CONSCRIPTS
Borderline is a loaded word. It could mean: a separating line, on an edge or in a psychologically unstable state. The three, one way or another, converge on one other expression. They all have to be crossed.
Long before the town of Asmara appeared from nowhere, there was Assab – a sea port located at the lower end and far down along a desert stretch of the south-eastern part of present-day Eritrea. Assab was where the ‘idea’ of Eritrea originated and whether some Eritreans like it or not, that is probably where the process of settling the long-troubled Eritrean identity could have possibly begun.
Not everyone relates the ‘creation’ of Eritrea with Assab. We need to put the scenario in some sort of perspective but do try to see it from there... a perspective that is seldom appreciated. A microscope digs deep into the minute details where the unknown bubbles and will be always there.
We are indeed a make-believe species. That is probably why we humans will always perpetuate our belief system for what we want or wish to have for no apparent reason. That, in short, is a survival mechanism... but no one really knows to what end.
When the Scramble for Africa was in full gear, the Italians took Eritrea for granted and used it as a premise or a stepping stone to invade Ethiopia. After Italy’s defeat at the Battle of Adwa however – at a huge human cost to Ethiopia – the Italians settled for Eritrea and the Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II accepted the border line between Ethiopia and Eritrea. After the Battle of Adwa – not unlike the 1998 border war between Eritrea and Ethiopia – Eritrean conscripts and prisoners of war had their healthy left leg and right arm (or the other way round) amputated as punishment for aiding the ‘enemy’.
That was the first generation of Eritrean conscripts. As such, they didn’t have that Eritrean identity we furiously talk about today – simply because Eritrea didn’t exist then.
We are in 2009 and some are still cycling in that mental orbit of 1886. Give or take a decade, it’s the year that demarcated the decline of the ‘traditional’ world of the Horn of Africa and possibly the rest of Africa as well. Unfortunately, the rest is not yet history.
What follows is an event-line of what possibly took place and the reader is most welcome to agree with or contest. However, common sense and reported stories should serve some purpose.
In 1890, Italy settled for Eritrea.
These are the posthumous Eritreans who perished in the Battle of Adwa in 1886 together with Italian soldiers. Most of those who were sent back home after being kept as prisoners of war had a healthy arm and a leg chopped as punishment.
These are Eritreans who, together with Italian soldiers again, invaded Libya around 1915. No wonder the young Eritreans who trek through Libya are not being treated well. Their Eritrean grandfathers did commit atrocities back then.
These are the Eritreans who again joined the Italian army that invaded Ethiopia around 1935. Italy occupied Ethiopia for at least 5 years. There are also those forgotten Eritreans who were, again, part of the Italian army that fought against the British in 1941.
These are the Eritreans who joined the ELF/EPLF movements. Popular perception entertains the idea that all Eritrean fighters joined the liberation struggle voluntarily. There were many who didn’t. Ironically, in the 1960s and ’70s there also were Eritrean soldiers (the Commandos – they used to called). They were part of the Ethiopian army who fought against the Eritrean liberation movements.
These are the last bunch of Eritrean conscripts who started military training as part of their obligation to go through the national service in supposedly ‘free and independent’ Eritrea. There is absolutely no doubt that it’s a never-ending national service not that different from slavery.
There could be another set of six, seven... or eleven... of unknowns. No one knows anymore.
In other words, within a span of 100 years, every Eritrean generation has gone through a series of conscriptions and armed engagement. That, in a nutshell, is the collective memory that is the foundation of Eritrea and there is nothing grand about it. And that is probably why it is not easy for the colony/country to recover simply because every generation is sucked into a never-ending cycle of repeating the same old story.
The whole Eritrean struggle can be reduced to one simple and quite obvious point. It’s the kind of stuff everyone knows about but never bothers to articulate. All the young Eritrean generation of ‘conscripts’ that went through the last 100 years or thereabouts, are not that different from one youngster coming to terms with a kind of ‘rite of passage’ to manhood. In other words, liberating Eritrea became the common and unavoidable collective road to adulthood for the last 50 years.
After Eritrea became a nation state, Generation 4 (the ones who spent 30 years of fighting amongst them) forgot what they were fighting for in the first place. The current state of affairs Eritrea is undergoing serves as the prime evidence and the verdict is that the political party that evolved failed to grow up and become a viable social, political or national institution: a fitting reflection of the current state of Eritrea where the nation finds itself unable to reconcile itself with its flawed past, its inability to measure up to ever-evolving internal discomfort, events in the Horn of Africa and the wider world. Eritrea has failed to achieve maturity.
Just like its history of ‘conscripts’ or a story of an abused child, the struggle for independence that was framed against ‘outsiders’ and the injustices committed in the so-called occupation years now, didn’t really develop to apply the same amount of rigor in addressing its own internal shortcomings. As a result, it only succeeded in creating and sustaining a national environment where injustice was the rule and not the exception.
In other words, the whole armed struggle must be measured with a different yardstick. Eritrea may be an independent political state but it is, more than anything, dependent on all sorts of foreign input for its survival and that begs for a new expression: the dependent Eritrea.
Eritrea used to claim being the newest and the last free nation in Africa. The irony is that it is still drumming the same old tune. Though it was unique in a way, it has not yet accommodated the fact that it is has acquired an upgraded version of a full-blown African experience. Some African nations are growing up and storing the burden of colonisation down the third drawer. With Eritrea however, it’s in disequilibrium of another kind – as if the idea of the nation state began there.
Eritrea is the exception that ultimately proved the rule. The ‘official’ history of Eritrea is over flooded with one emotional account: we have been colonised by so many powers and now we are in power. But they can’t even govern themselves after having sacrificed so much. It does feel like Eritrea is double-glazed in an environment of global warming to even respond to the heat inside a greenhouse.
Some Eritreans can’t arrest themselves talking about the ‘fact’ that Eritrea has gone through a double bind of colonisation – in black and white. That, according to them, makes it so unique. They might have an ongoing ‘legal’ case on that ‘boundary,’ but really doesn’t make a lot of sense in real life. Eventually, the future is always laid bare in understanding, sharing, co-operation and saving lives. If they had any concern for that kind of concern, they would have used a different language.
Sometimes, history is there to make a story of a futile attempt to right a wrong and when it goes a bit beyond its reach, it has to be put down to kingdom come. All the hardware (muscle power, guns and artilleries, Kalashnikovs, grenades, landmines and bombs) was invested on a hard drive for a fight for freedom.
But not everything needs to end in tears. Life or nature operates on disequilibrium simply because equilibrium is about descending to death – where nothing changes. And if Eritreans are celebrating the dead or some other sentiment together with the nauseating idea of independence which no one knows from what, that is a sure sign for a forked road to oblivion.
In Eritrea, land used to be the hardware but not anymore. All that is left or has been ignored, forgotten, discouraged and suppressed is – across the whole cross-section of Eritrean culture – is the software material. No wonder most Eritreans (hard as they are) can’t help themselves – they seldom listen and they talk rough and complain about not being heard at the same time. It does take time for the hardware to go soft.
Does it not?
Heroic stories are told about individuals who had an outshining devotion or love of ‘free Eritrea’ to the extent of giving their own lives. In retrospect, the overall reality is not that different from finding a cause against which ones expenditure of energy and resources is justified and Eritreans are not exceptional or unique in that sense. It’s a human condition.
But the problem is much more dangerous on a national level. We are not dealing with family units or villages now. It’s on a scale of a tsunami that can swallow whole all that stands right in front of it. What most Eritreans fail to comprehend is that they treat the ‘Eritrea’ they love as if it were a family or village affair. They cannot yet see that a nation state operates by a different set of rules. Strangely enough, the current ‘governors’ are aware of this fact that they use all sorts of subversive activities to milk such mentality by playing around sentimental stuff that increasingly contributes to the underdeveloped state of the nation. We should, therefore, be not surprised that Eritrea is being run like a family estate and the young generation is busy doing a ‘chicken run’ in all directions and all over again and it’s ultimate indicator that Eritrea is not a stable state.
There is one word that binds the Eritrean experience right from its beginning to the present: injustice.
If there is any way out of this quagmire, it is probably to open our eyes to the whole spectrum of complex acts of justified injustices being committed in Eritrea now and trace them to their origin. But that is an impossible enterprise. But we can learn to investigate and the next generation be saved from being used as a sacrificial lamb for a cause that has ‘successfully’ failed to achieve its objective on so many counts.
The future of Eritrea rests in the need to recognize that people come first and render its borderlines as secondary issues and take more courage in being able to care, look after and organise itself developing all sorts of institutions to serve the people. Justice may not be served for what happened in the past but a truth commission would do for starters.
Otherwise the cyclic culture of culling the young, ignoring the old and leaving the rest in limbo at every turn will go on till the map and people of Eritrea will evaporate themselves into thin air and render themselves not worth their salt.
Why not share? The ‘Eritrea’ to die for is still dying... and in whatever form it morphs, the future is bleak unless it jumps to another level. The time is ripe for an upgrade and a world or a nation beyond claustrophobic borderlines or ideologies or sorts.
If a martyr could catch the idea they died for, they would probably spare a life.
How many times would you die for something you want to keep for the rest of your afterlife?
Now, that is the question.
THE MISSING LINKS
After reading a draft of this article, another good friend wrote that he couldn’t see ‘the solution’. He probably meant a way out from such a monstrous Eritrean predicament. There wouldn’t be one single sword to cut through this Gordian knot that entangled and held everyone under siege for so long. We are not looking for the missing link but for a set of long ignored threads of communication. The keys are everywhere and nowhere. All that is required is to shed off some skin of the acquired historical disease that has contaminated identity and nationality every time one tries to evolve to another level.
Identity is like a net that holds a person together – from the local to the global and covers a spectrum that ranges from silence to violence and from submission to free speech. Eritrea seems to highlight all the edges.
Some Eritreans like to entertain a mythology in which Eritrea enjoyed ‘peace and harmony’ before the Italian occupation. For starters, a geographical map of Eritrea did not exist before that event and, strangely enough, it still doesn’t show in some political maps of Africa. Moreover, all one has to do is read ‘Hazegan Tse’azegan’ – a book by Issac Yosief written in Tigrinya (one of the 9 languages) – in which he narrates a never-ending bloody and gruesome wars between two villages and their alliances in the highlands of Eritrea long before the Italians arrived.
Asmara is still the symbol where the praxis of enduring national interest has been eroded while the short-term gain is still on-going for the ruling elite and those Eritreans who cannot see far enough. Over the years, weakened by occupations and struggles of this and that kind, Eritreans have probably lost the capacity to locate and sustain their personal, communal and national interest. The ‘achievement’ of an independent nation state, after all the sacrifice and loss, has practically disabled their ability to reason and be pragmatic about the current and extremely demanding global realities. All they can think and talk about is the ‘prehistoric’ borderlines and the rhetoric that lie behind it… over and over again.
Eritreans sometimes behave as if they are selfless to the extent of literally giving their life for their loved ones to a level well beyond human comprehension while, on the other extreme, they are totally oblivious on how to sustain their individual, family, communal, tribal, rural or national interests to keep themselves alive – for longer.
In hindsight and in contrast to some other experiences most African states had to go through during the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s, the armed liberation struggle to ‘liberate’ Eritrea could be seen as a deadly or probably futile attempt to attain nationhood. Having achieved that by 1993 however, the vision for post-independence was lost simply because the issue of ‘national interest’ failed to rise from the ashes of the dead. No wonder some Eritreans still confuse their identity with national pride or vice versa. A substantial number of Eritreans have not yet realised that they have given up their personal liberties to a totalitarian government or a nation state that progressively ignores and abuses their basic needs – let alone protect their rights.
Unless the ‘lost’ achievement is ‘recovered’ or upgraded to a level that can be tuned to ground realities and current global shifts, we can label the 30-year armed liberation struggle for as a total waste of time that claimed the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands and destroyed the hope of the new generation.
By taking Asmara as a focal point, this article is intended to serve (if at all) as a diagnosis of the Eritrean predicament in attempt to chart a different perspective. The way out would require the participation of the reader that could, eventually, accumulate and build up a totally new horizon where Eritreans could break this endless cycles of frustration every time a grand vision is put forward in which the well-being and liberty of the citizen is ignored under the glorious pretext of bygone decades of ‘armed liberation struggles’ and the newly acquired rhetoric of sovereignty. When a citizen is not safe in their own country, a government cannot justify the claim national security as an excuse to maintain power.
If there is going to be any hope for Eritrea, it’s only when a government declares, shows and works towards providing or securing the basic needs of its citizens. These are: food, water, shelter, health, education and the safety and development of the individual and the communities they live in. It’s part of their universal human rights. Any national or political programme that doesn’t enshrine these elements should always be put under continuous pressure simply because the rhetoric of liberation struggle, nationalism, strong religious or ethnic affiliations, sovereignty and the rest have failed to deliver so far.
Given the chance, the rural and urban elements (be it in the mind or on the map) will eventually have the possibility to create organic spaces wherein their interests are dutifully accommodated instead of swinging like a pendulum from one extreme to another with no respite in between.
Eritrean history started on territorial claims and it’s still going on along the same track. Incorporating a human dimension in all that mayhem is long overdue. It might sound utopian and unrealistic but that is exactly where it should begin and it might help to uncover yet another layer why Eritrea is in such a complex state of affairs.
Labeling a nation state as a failed state is not an easy declaration to sleep on. Some years back and despite all the tangible evidence on the ground, there was a lot of resistance from pro-government ‘spokespersons’ that Eritrea still has that fighting spirit. That ‘failed state’ reads like a foregone conclusion now.
If national resources cannot be managed in a sustainable way and for the benefit of the people as a whole, what justification is there to boast about national security?
Eritrea claims to have ‘liberated’ itself from ‘foreign’ occupation after a bitter struggle against this and that kind of oppression. Now that it is under the rule of its home-made governors – or shall we call them self-made gangsters for whom the Horn has become the new hood – has it finally fallen on responsible hands?
The governors of Eritrea are self-made gangsters who hijacked, misused and abused the concept of the nation state.
It all goes back to imposed borderlines and the dysfunctional practice behind the idea of nation state – especially in the African context. Although it always served in galvanising people to fight for social justice or against some other threats or excuses to ignite conflict, once it’s marked by imaginary lines on the ground and power is bestowed on the very few that claim to represent the many without any regard for ‘their’ peoples’ rights or basic needs, a mission impossible has been achieved despite the huge losses incurred. The sad part is that it suits the abusive rulers and plays mind- games even with those who should have known better.
But if a nation state cannot even feed its own people (let alone provide other basic services), it has no ground to claim sovereignty. It will gradually trickle down to non-entity. Somalia is a typical case and, sooner or later and if not corrected, Eritrea, with all that traumatic history and unhealthy perception of itself, won’t be spared of that same fate.
Crying over spilled milk or blood won’t be of any help anymore. The much celebrated and mourned ‘martyrs’ won’t come back from the dead to restore order and the rule of law. While their sacrifice cannot be undermined, what is more important is to shift or transform the idea of a ‘liberated’ Eritrea to an Eritrea that is committed to serve the people – and not the other way round.
All that is needed is a paradigm shift.
Have you ever thought about the fact that Eritreans (mostly those who reside in Western countries) pay taxes for no return in services? And if there are any, it’s for short-term personal gain which has no practical overall benefit to the Eritrean population or economy. In fact, it empowers and serves to prolong an unjust system that further sucks the life out of an already damaged society.
The idea or imperative of national security has become so dysfunctional that a blind and sentimental attachment to nationalism has disfigured the rulers and the people to the extent of losing their self-worth or so-called identity.
There is a way out... but, yet again, Eritrea has to shed off its old skin of never-ending and overloaded political history of this and that struggle for justice and freedom.
Eritrea – as a political map – can no longer serve as a mission or a cause to die for anymore. It’s perhaps more fruitful to find ways on how to restore hope for those on the verge of losing their reason for living in this wretched country simply because the reality on the ground is so desperate and requires a different perception other than the all familiar self-indulgent armed struggle rehearsals.
The blue-prints for new beginnings are out there in their hundreds. Unfortunately, it’s not a copy and paste exercise. If, as this analysis or impression is trying hard to conclude, it’s acceptable that the city of Asmara stands for ‘displacement,’ the way out is difficult but not really that complicated. First steps matter and, in a broad sense, ‘settlement’ would be the binding word that could open the iron gates of endless dissatisfaction, interruption and frustration. It’s about moving away from that over-stretched, over-valued burden of inherited and shared memory of mindless restlessness. Now, it’s the disillusion, outdated sentiment, dead ideology, blind and unquestioned loyalty, power-loaded and conflict-ridden monologue of Eritrean history that have to be sacrificed and not women, children and men who have no say on the make-up of their own future – or, their past.
Settlement however, cannot breath in vacuum. It needs airspace. It demands a new language. A language that is capable to settle differences and bury the indifference or apathy that has been the order of the day for some time. Otherwise, Eritrea will be consigned – yet again – to an upgraded copy of its tragic history.
The kind of language that is being referred to here has nothing to do with languages like Tigrinya, Arabic, English, Swedish or, even Finnish for that matter. The story about the Tower of Babel (in Babylon Nine) wasn’t about mother-tongues at all. It was about the lack of communication skills to create and establish spaces for dialogue and understanding. Eritrea is in a desperate need to develop a new kind of thinking and for that to happen some history has to be shed or shredded to the dustbin for now.
We all know that, over the last 18 years, Eritrea has been through a rainbow of colourful denials and foul language but only to draw attention to its own demise even further.
In an age where the idea of a nation state is increasingly being downgraded from the high honour that used to be endowed on the spirit of a national identity to the lower base of an identification badge, Eritrea is under pressure to adapt – and adapt quick before another ‘tsunami’ pays a visit to its long stretch of seemingly peaceful but potentially lethal shorelines.
As early as 1994 and having ‘secured the homeland’ by absolute control; destabilisation is not only the method of governance inside Eritrea, it is exported across the Horn of Africa and beyond. It has eventually become Eritrea’s trademark of doing business with the outside world.
The current Eritrean crisis is sinking down from the globally talked-about issues of human rights, democracy and social justice; to saving human lives on a grand scale. But the Government of Eritrea is not bothered to address any of them. In a nutshell, this trauma and turmoil of its 100 year history has to be settled in all its forms and it will demand a lot of groundwork. We know that the deification of the nation state, like other forms of worship, is not something that should be sustained simply because everything under the sun is subject to degrees of change. It [the nation state] should always be subjected to close scrutiny so as it may not ‘feel’ at liberty to infringe on the rights of those it claims to protect.
What is left to write about a people who have it all under their very nose and can’t even smell it every time the aroma of settlement comes round? Will they scout the mountains all over again?
It is the bloodshed, as in most unstable nations that tend to unite the unsuspecting population while the goats that ignite run their personal lives in peace and harmony elsewhere. Eritrea is full of it and its short history is flattened with all those ups and downs. But it’s more about unresolved and unexamined grief, loss, pain and the inability to recover from it all.
It’s about to be consigned to history books again or a resource archive of sorts before it erupts, yet again, like an active volcano. But the blindfold march to preserve the past will probably render the future uninhabitable. After shedding so much blood across generations, the space is still there to open up and redeem whatever is left to be saved. And if the deadly and so-called Eritrean identity – an identity secured along a river of blood and drawn on a map – is the only way out to maintain and sustain the future of Eritreans, we better be ready for a rude awakening. Part 5 of Analyse Asmara... if it’s ever going to be written, will hopefully venture into that unknown territory.
The language of defiance and resistance has to come to an end. Framed in some context, giving in is a kind of a way out from a labyrinth that purposely designed with no exit. Let’s hope the road ahead is much less like the road more travelled. It’s the careless tongue that does the brains. How about employing the mind to tame the tongue and tune it to some sort of settlement across the Eritrean landscape and in the Horn-hood as well?
4 July 2009
PS. Sincere thanks to all my good friends (they know who they are) who, directly or indirectly, contributed to the writing of Analyse Asmara... and, of course, to the one who asked the first question that ignited this long and tedious article. I still blame that person.