Get The Old Mellotti Beer! Print E-mail
By Saleh Gadi - Feb 13, 2007   

“Ato Isaias Afwerki Elected President. While Haddas Eritra was in the process of being printed, the National Assembly convened its first meeting. The Eritrean National Assembly, in its meeting held yesterday from 7:00 to 8:30, elected Ato Isaias Afwerki to become the president of the Eritrean Government. In the secret ballot held at the meeting, Ato Isaias Afwerki came victorious by winning 99 votes out 104 valid votes.”  Haddas Ertra (No. 236) - Saturday, May 22, 1993

The “transitional Government” that “elected Ato Isaias Afwerki President” owes its “legitimacy” to Proclamation 37/1993, one of the many proclamations through which Eritrea is ruled. The same proclamation limits the life of the so-called transitional government (and thus the “election” of Isaias) to four years. In case you stopped counting, Haddas Ertra forgot to have a follow up article on May 22, 1997, one that would read, “Ato Isaias Afwerki’s term is expired and he needs to run for election again….” This government is as good as the expired milk that I have been throwing away since ten years.

The same page has a memorable title: The Strike of Combatants and the Decisions of the Central Committee. But that is related to what I will get back to later on.

For 10 years now, the man has been a self-declared president and since there is no National Assembly, nor a functioning court, nor a separation of power of any sort, the message is this: be thankful that I did not declare myself emperor.  Such is the behavior of Narjes…


A young Greek man came to a pond of water and knelt down to drink and saw his reflection on the water. He immediately fell in love with himself. His name is Narcissus- a word that became an adjective, narcissist, meaning someone who is so full of himself that the one thing he loves more than anything is his reflection on a mirror. The Greek myth also tells us that Narcissus couldn’t bear to leave his reflection behind so he stayed there looking at himself until he was wasted. Where he died, a beautiful flower grew and it carried his name: Narcissus. The Arabs call it Nerjes and it is a popular female first name.  In Tigrigna, it is Nardos.  

We have many people who are so absorbed with themselves; I am sure you have come across some of them. They have a not-very-concealed arrogance, they boast a lot and are always self-praising, absorbed in a never-ending serenade with utter lack of humility. Such persons would announce to the world that they are rewarding themselves for being so good—for being an exemplary student, winning a beauty pageant, even participating in politics.

Sometime ago I met one such fellow who all of a sudden developed an interest in the struggle. Instead of silently entering the arena and struggling like others, he blamed others for not announcing his entry to the struggle with bells and whistles. He tried his own whistles and fireworks, but unfortunately, no one even took notice except those of us who follow such boring theatrics. The man explained his late interest in the struggle in a matter-of-factly way: “all the kids have gone to college and I have all the time for the struggle; I have nothing else to do!” Certainly he is looking for a pastime! What happened to golfing or playing cards? Or even wrapping yourself in a Gabi and gulping coffee?

When I was a teenager, I knew of a funny character whose prayers everyone in town knew: he prayed for money. He was asked what he would do with the money if he got a million dollars. He didn’t hesitate, “I would build a pipe from the Mellotti Brewery to my bedside.” Well, back then, drinking a couple of Mellotti beers instilled the necessary courage in some - the moment they get tipsy, a magical feeling of patriotism manifested itself on them. They screamed “Eritrea! Eritrea! Death to Haile Sellasie!” We used to joke about that: maybe Signora Emma Mellotti murmured a spell (‘Eritrea, Eritrea, Eritrea’) while she brewed her elixir! But now, the PFDJ is the new Signora Mellotti, the glorified Komarit.

It is strange. Even Mellotti is not doing the trick anymore. In the past beer had an ingredient that aroused patriotism; nowadays, it just makes our senior officials numb and dull, only giving them enough inspiration to quarrel and flirt with underage girls like a tomcat in spring. Since the PFDJ confiscated the Mellotti Brewery, the malt drink is not the same anymore- maybe they are adding chat extracts in it, or even unknown leaves as it was rumored in some tipsy circles sometime ago.

If beer is not arousing people’s patriotism, what will?  For answers, I reread the interview I conducted a while ago with Am Adem Melekin. I had asked him about change of regime in Eritrea. This is what he said:


"Change, should come from inside Eritrea, even if that requires imprisonment and death. People should defy and struggle…If one wants to achieve political gains, then it should be by targeting the senior heads of the system, from inside Eritrea and not an all-out military confrontation from the outside." 

But why isnt there defiance inside Eritrea?

"Most of the officers - I have talked to many of them while in Eritrea- have spent decades in the struggle and upon the independence of Eritrea, they arrived penniless and without a skill. With meager resources, some managed to establish a home. Now, they have families and children and they are not willing to spend what is left of their lives on another struggle. They complain that their lives were wasted and they have no guarantees for their living. Does the opposition have guarantees, financial and security guarantees, for these people so that they can do something?"

All right, when the country is gone those who depend on the PFDJ oppression machine for their livelihood are not going to find themselves in better situation either. Leaving aside the organized opposition (which, though appallingly slow, is doing what it can), you look to one side and see the narcissists, pastime-strugglers, and tattooed certified Mahber Andnet, hurling the brand at others.... and many incompetent lots. On the other side, you see tipsy beer-guzzling senior officers and loyal PFDJ public servants. Now we are supposed to see our future leaders among those groups!

I don’t see any leader in them but a clone of the Skunis of the PFDJ. However, if I was forced to make a bet, I’ll bet on the few clean officers and public servants (‘injera indiyu koynunna’ type) that Am Adem Melekin mentioned and not the majority of the rascals with shiny metal buttons on their shoulders.  

In situation like ours, the people will look about for their muscles- just like Narcissus looked at his reflection. If that muscle is dependable, the people would get some hope. Otherwise, we are all doomed. Can the beer-guzzling, skirt-chasing semi-drunks give it up for a while and see what is happening to Eritrea? Can they stop being stool-rats at bars and night clubs and attend to the most urgent situation? When are they going to awaken from the life of a militia of the clique that protects the interest of the tyranny against the interest of their own people? 

If anyone has stashed a few bottles of the original old Mellotti, the one that aroused patriotism, could you please give it to the senior officers?  Even foxholes known as Inda Khelbi, Inda Buzzi, Inda beT-beT, etc. had some positive effects, remember Yemane Baria? He graduated from those places!

Back then, people will order beer, get drunk, ask for a song of Atwe Berhan, Shgei Habuni, Fatna Zahra and almost cry. Now, the PFDJ officers in the peripheries of the ruling clique will drink themselves to death on beer; the officer in the nearest circle of the clique accompany the Queen Bee to crazy Black Label parties in a private room and instead of a song from the CD collection of the bar, they can ask for Helen Meles to entertain them in person. What a life!

Honestly, I don’t have any hope or trust on 8 out of 10 generals. Even my old friend the jumpy general Philipos Weldeyohannes is not in the radar. My trust tends to be in the area between foot-soldiers and captains. The tricky group is that of the colonels: they seem to be the most corrupt of the whole officer corps; yet, the most trusted officers are among the rank of colonels. What do they think of what is going on in Eritrea? I would love to interview them all-- maybe in due time!

Many are beholden to their worldly problems as Am Adem Melekin alluded. They know the situation they are in (and what is coming) and they hate it; but they don’t have an alternative at this moment. Well, they don’t seem to have heard of the art of creating your own situation. They have the means to solve the problems if they are guided by and demanded (and guaranteed) justice in Eritrea. After all, no one is expecting an Adei Brekhti to bring justice by wielding her kitchen utensils at the PFDJ!

I know one thing: when our senior officers are having their beer guzzling parties in a misty bar, they talk about current events; they talk about the grievances aired by those who talk on behalf of our people who are condemned not to speak out. Those who don’t read, are too ignorant to listen to what is being said about their role as tools of oppression; those who are educated enough to read, are too brutal and cruel for someone to tell them what is being said about them, but they know. Others, who are literate and understand, are struggling with their conscience and are hurting a lot. They should immediately stop the despicable beer parties and sleazy bars and do something honorable instead. They should act and bring salvation to the poor Eritrean people. This is an urgent matter and should be seen in that light.

If we don’t see a solution from those who can bring about a solution, those who are on a nightly drinking binge have already condemned Eritreans to be doomed. ERitreans are also doomed if hopes were put on those who abuse the struggle simply satiate their never-ending thirst for attention. We are doomed if we wait for those who are in pursuit of outlets for their boring lives and who consider the struggle a glorious pastime. Forget the PFDJ; it is on a death bed; and sooner or later it will move on; but where is the EPLF that many count on? Are there any EPLF left anyway? Is there anything left of that or is it fully swallowed by the PFDJ? If there is any conscience left, it would have been manifested someway somehow!. If there is any love for the people left, people need to witness it. What would be the answer? Everyone is waiting.


“What happened to your reconciliation cry of the old times?” A friend asked me a few weeks ago?

I have no power to enforce reconciliation. I came to the conclusion that oppressors never think of reconciliation unless they feel threatened. When powerless people call for reconciliation, oppressors consider it a sign of weakness and not wisdom of care and caution. Therefore, I feel the regime should be threatened and weakened until it accepts the principle of reconciliation. My first call for reconciliation was full of face-saving intentions for the oppressing regime; my new belief is no face-saving for an oppressor but shame and weeding out for good. There is no benefit to be gained from pleading for reconciliation with a regime that shuns and mocks noble gestures of reconciliation. This I learned after crying reconciliation for a long time with no result. In order to reconcile, the hurdles and impediments to reconciliation must be eradicated. This is my stand now in case you haven’t noticed.

My friend nodded candidly. I don’t know if he was agreeing or disagreeing with me. And we started to discuss the weather until we parted late that evening.

Those who can, please pass a copy of this message to the stinky moist Mellotti joints and bars and to the civil-servants in Eritrea.

In 1993, the EPLF veterans who might have sensed where situations were heading, rebelled. They ceased the Airport and other installations and brought the government to a stand-still. They held Isaias for hours and forced him to walk with them to the stadium for a meeting. He promised to attend to their grievances and manipulated them to set him free. A few days later, he picked them like ripe fruits one after another and threw them all in jail. Some are either still in jail or had totally disappeared since. Others came out emasculated and are still docile to this day. I am sure the situation that caused that short-lived rebellion is still prevalent. Could the fear of similar treatment have caused the death of the conscience of officers? That is anybody’s guess.

What is important now is that our country might become a playground of invading armies and an unnecessary bloodshed that will bruise our pride for a long time. In such instances, a serious power vacuum is inevitable. Are we willing to watch our country destroyed? Are we willing to witness or national pride bruised and damaged to protect the ego of a tyrant and his narrow clique? Is it wise to expose Eritrea to the dangers that are lurking around? The mold for a regime change is being cast. I would rather have the mold and cast handled by Eritreans. It is vital that Eritreans handle it. It is a task that only the able few can handle. Any takers?


This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

Last Updated ( Feb 13, 2007 )
Next >


Donate through Mail

To Scramble The Horn of Africa


? Copyright 2000-2006 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written consent from the