I believe it was a telltale sign for what was to
become an everyday act of terror and cruelty. If not a sign then it
might have been the birth of brutality. If not a sign or birth, then
it must have been the revelation of what was suppressed since
adulthood of the one who is masterminding these actions. In any case
to the Eritrean people and us in Diaspora it is all the same.
It has already been Thirty Odd Years since the
young, brilliant, full of energy, enthusiastic and ingenious
Eritreans became the first to be imprisoned under the guise of
security and stability in Sahel by the sole order of the present day
and self appointed president of our country.
Those promising martyrs were baptized with a name
"Menka.at" and the circumstances and pseudo-rationalization for
detaining and imprisoning them is still continuing on others to this
I am afraid to say, but this will be a routine
event as long as the perpetrator is in position of absolute
I knew it then and I know it now that Isaias has no
interest in democracy, free will, right of individuals, the rule of
law and so on and so forth.
When I read Ali Said’s interview and his response
to the rights and situations of the prisoners of conscience, I was
astonished that nothing have changed since the time I had
acquaintance with him and as a matter of fact also with Isaias.
The year was 1994 [editor:1974] and I was young and
innocent. But from the first day I joined the then EPLF, I was
terrorized by what I started to observe and especially when I was
advised by a high school close friend (now a high official in the
government) not to inquire about the prisoners of conscience or to
have interest in their whereabouts or their situation.
What he did not know was, I perfectly knew where
they were kept (in foxholes in Bleqat) and I sometimes saw some of
them from a distance when they were fetching water and still that
photographic image lingers in me.
Then in February 1975 there arose a seismic
movement within the unit I belonged to because some of the members
of that company want to know, not only the welfare of the prisoners,
but also, about the time of justice…(because during the rounding up
of the Menkae all Tegadelti were given assurance that the detainment
will only be temporary and the "mutineers" will also be brought to
justice in a matter of few months).
The few months became a year and half and those who
sensed danger started to ask their unit leaders…merahti haili.. (At
that time company was the highest unit in the organization).
The Merahti Haili sent the information to Isaias
and guess what: Ali Said was the one who was sent by Isaias to all
the units in Semhar. Our company happened to be in Semhar (Mai
Shuro) and here comes this man roaring and threatening. He refused
to listen and rounded the ones he thought were agitators and sent
them to the same damned prison in Bleqat. The rest of us (who happen
to be new) were dumfounded and scared to death.
Another important date I will never forget was
September 29, 1976. In Fshei Mrara.
The Thirty, most important people in the
organization, except Ali Said who at that time was leading the
attack in Nakfa (a three-month military debacle that took Martyr
Berhe Tsada three days to undo the failure and liberate Nakfa- and
unfortunately lost his Life) and Ramadan Mohamed Nur who was in
I was the youngest and the newest in the
organization. So imagine what I felt to be in the company of these
leaders… Mesfin Hagos, Petros Solomon, Drue (chairman) Alamin
Mohamed Said (secretary), Beraki, Sherifo, Sibhat, Stifanos Bruno,
Ibrahim Afa etc…etc… and of course Isaias.
This was the meeting that laid the ground work for
what was to follow and even until now: the demise of ELF, the enmity
with Woyane, the detainment and murdering of people like Dr. Iyob
and I can self assuredly say also the detainments we see and hear
The meeting took three days in complete secrecy.
Out of all that was discussed there, there was one question I will
never forget. If my memory served me right it was raised by Afa. The
question was about the situation (kunetat) of the imprisoned
Isaias, as I have observed him on many occasions,
had a habit (by design of course) of sitting three feet away from
everyone, thus disturbing (breaking) the perfect circle of the
attendees. The closest persons sitting besides him were Sibhat to
his left and Sherifo to his right.
Isaias brusquely answered the question by saying-
in his exact word- " they are done"…(tewediu iu) and in a
threatening gesture said the question should not be raised by
I reflexively looked at the faces. It was dark and
I was sitting between [Ibrahim] Afa and Mesfin Hagos and what I saw
froze me in time: abject trepidation.
There and then I knew that I couldn’t stay in that
organization any more.
The other important action plan that was decided in
this meeting (this meeting was a prelude to the first congress) was
to round up the Yemanawyan. And after the meeting was concluded,
with no time wasted, to be exact in three days, the first Yemanawyan
were rounded up in Tikul, Hadish Adi and Tserona.
Poor Yemanawyan. Unlike the Menkae, no one defended
them; no one raised a human rights issue; no one asked their
whereabouts or their welfare and all perished without a trace.
And now after thirty years the same man and the
same method is used to roundup innocent people and us the naïve
people, are everyday hoping against hope that this will stop and the
prisoners of conscience will be freed.
But what are we dreaming? Why would a mad man change his behavior
if every time he takes an action nothing happens to