"Aggression Must Not Be Rewarded"--Decoded
Tuesday September 28, 1999
Selam seb Dehai:
(The principal (Sal) and permanent guest host( Mobae) of McGua are involved in worthier efforts (peace campaign). I have appropriated the column without their permission. I used the P.O.S methodology :)
(A): I gather you don't really care for your teacher. Do you ?
(Student): Not really.
(B): How come.
(Student): It's too complicated to explain.
(C): Take your time. I know we are here to talk about the Syllabus, but we can always use some history lesson.
(Student): You have to understand something about these people.
(A): Which people. You mean your teacher's countrymen.
(Student): Yeah. That's what I have in mind.
(C): OK we are all ears.
(Student): You see they are arrogant.
(B): How so.
(Student): They are Africa's Black Jews
(C): I didn't know any Falashas were left. I thought you sent the last group to Israel a few months ago.
(C whispering to A and B. " They got something like fifty million dollars in cash and arms from Israel for ten thousand Ethiopian Jews. But it's too sensitive. We should not raise it here).
(Student): They single-handedly won their independence. No one helped them. It took them thirty years. They depend on themselves. They do things on their own. And they are always raising money for their country. They think they are invincible. But that was before Badme where they suffered a humiliating defeat and lost three fourth of their army.
(C): But then what happened immediately after the greatest victory since Adwa ?
(Student): What are you implying . What do you want to know.
(C): I read somewhere something about a place called Egri Mekel. Or is it Tserona.
(Student): Nothing of significance happened at Tserona. I have never heard of Egri Mekel . It probably may not even exist on the map. You probably read something about a big battle. Don't believe it. The whole thing was staged for the international media to cover the debacle at Badme.
(A): I am not interested about recent history. Tell me about the past. Tell me why you are sore at your teacher and his people.
(Student):. OK. If you insist I will go as far back as 1935.
(A): That suits me fine.
(Student): My teacher's grandfather and his generation served in the Italian army. they were Banda.
(C): Weren't some of yours also on the Italian side ?
(Student): Yes some were. But there's a huge difference between our Banda and theirs.
(A): What was the difference.
(Student): Theirs were arrogant.
(B): Very interesting. Please continue.
(Student):. They knew how to use fork and knives just like the Italians did. They ate from plates. Boy they could use their fork to twirl spaghetti into a ball. Nothing hanging. I mean absolutely nothing hanging. A perfect round ball.
(C): I am Italian American. I would not know how to twirl spaghetti into a ball. No way. I could never do it although my grandfather who migrated in the twenties from Sicily was a master at it. My grandma's source was out of this world. I still smell the oregano. Please continue. Sorry for the interruption.
(Student): Then they would push the ball of spaghetti into their mouth. Because of this they were snooty. They looked down on us. Of course we tried to copy them. But always it was a mess. We never mastered the art of eating spaghetti.
(B): You mean you hated them because they were good with forks and knives. And for this you have been holding a grudge ?
(Student): Why not. We never forget humiliation. We always bid out time to get even.
(C): Come on. Get serious.
(Student): I'm serious. That's why we have to teach them a lesson. A lesson they will never forget.
(A): You have told us about your grudge because they mastered the art of eating spaghetti better than you did. What else can you tell us.
(Student): There's something that happened in 1949.
(B): That's fifty years ago.
(Student): Yes. As I told you before we never forget.
(A): So what happened in 1949
(Student): My grandfather left his home in Adi Grat for Asmara in search of work. In those days Eritrea was a British colony, I think. You needed a passport to go there. My father just crossed the border, five miles to the left where the Immigration office was.
(B): You are saying he did not have a passport.
(Student):. No he didn't have one. No one in Adi Grat bothered with a passport. People just crossed the border.
(A): You mean illegally.
(Student): OK. if you want to put it that way. But we always felt Eritrea was Ethiopia, and vice versa.
(C): Please continue with your grandfather's story.
(Student): A very rich man, a grain merchant I think, a man from Shire gave my grandfather a job. My grandfather lived in Edaga RBI. One day there was a political assassination in Asmara. And I don't know what happened next. All I know is my father was deported.
(C: I can guess what happened. If it was 1949 it must be Abdelkadir Kebire's assassination. He was one of Eritrea's best known nationalists. the Ethiopians hated him. They arranged for his murder. The suspects belonged to Andinet. And in those days many people from Adi Grat were active members of Andinet.)
(A): What was Andinet, and what was its political platform.
(Student): Andinet was the youth wing of the Love of Country Eritrea with Ethiopia, a political party committed to the union of Eritrea and Ethiopia. I don't know whether my grand father was a member of Andnet. But I do know there was a round up. He was asked to produce documents. He did not have any.
(C): Sorry. I have to interrupt here. I want to ask you about Abdelkadir Kebire. Do you know who he was ? Was he a Jeberti by any chance ?
(Student): I don't know who he was. All I know is that he was against union with Ethiopia. He must have been for independence. That's why he was assassinated.
(C): I asked the question because something flashed in my mind. Of course I was thinking about King Yohannes of Tigray and how he persecuted Moslems because they refused to convert to Christianity. The Moslems found refuge in Eritrea. That was more than a hundred years ago. There is irony here. But I better not pursue it any further.
(Student): I don't know why you are accusing King Yohannes. He was a devout Christian. He was the best king we ever had. He ruled Ethiopia. Anything wrong with that ?
(C): Oh no. I don't mean to upset you. Please continue . Sorry for the interruption.
(Student): Any way, my father was rounded up. And because he lacked proper documents, he was loaded in a truck with other people from Adi Grat who lacked proper papers. They were sent back to Adi Grat.
(A): You mean they were illegal aliens. And they were deported.
(Student): An Italian with a flaming red beard, someone nicknamed Barba was responsible for deporting my grandfather. Of course three days later, my father was back in Asmara, still without proper documents. Of course a month later, Barba found him. He sent him back. I don't know how this back an forth continued. I know my father and uncles joined my grandfather in Asmara.
(B): Why didn't your grand father go to Addis where as an Ethiopians he would not need a passport.
(Student): You don't understand. Back then Addis was like a foreign country I hardly knew anyone who went there for work or business. Every one went to Asmara. That's where the opportunity was. Most of us spoke the same language, unlike in Addis. We were comfortable there. Addis made people from Adi Grant feel unwelcome. There was no Aba Shawul in Addis. No Edaga Arbi. No Geza Berhanu. Over time, people from Adi Grat felt very much at home in Asmara.
(C: Specially during the Derg era.)
(C): I am confused. If people felt Asmara welcomed them to the degree Addis never did, why all the resentment ?
(Student): How could we forget Barba ?
(A): But wasn't Barba Italian ? Why blame the locals for the sins of an Italian ? I don't understand.
(Student): Because we never wanted to be treated like outsiders in Asmara. We wanted to have the same political rights as the locals. After all, it was ours too. You know Ras Alula had once occupied Asmara and the entire region. So how could anyone consider us outsiders when historically we had as much right to Asmara as the locals ? That's why our people joined Andinet. That's why they supported Mengistu.
(C): Any other reason why you hold grudges ?
(Student): Oh yes. They called us names Hurtful names.
(A): What did they call you.
(Student): It's too painful to repeat....
(B): We understand it can be painful. But we still want to know.
(Student): If you insist. I will tell you. They called us by the name of the place we came from !
(C): They called you Adi Grat ?
(Student): : No much worse. They used the region that surrounds Adi Grat.
(A): I am sure it has a name . But I won't insist.
(B): The hurt is still there because they called you the name of the region you came from ?
(Student): : "Aggression Must Not Be Rewarded."
(C: he's saying they have to get even, and they have to be compensated for all the slights and insults they suffered over the years.)
(A): I know we started talking about a final Exam and a Course Syllabus. I don't know how we ended up talking about grudges and resentments. I know there's a link, although I am hard pressed to see it.
(C): I see the link; and I see it clearly. The student is saying he does not have to take a Final Exam to earn credit for the course. He does not need to follow the Syllabus his teacher gave him because the teacher's people
(A): Knew how to use forks and knives when the student's people did not;
(B): an Italian official named Barba deported his grandfather; and finally, the teachers people insulted the students' people by calling them by their place of origin. For all the slights and insults his people suffered over he years, the student deserved a compensation in the form of a passing grade without the benefit of a Final Exam.
(A): Mr. Student, is that a fair summary why are you making the demand ? As a compensation for insults and slights ?
(Student): he got it right.
(B): Frankly I think these are perceived insults. We have just one side of the story. We don't know the teacher's side of the story. We need a thorough examination before we make a determination of the teacher's culpability.
(A): I think this business about getting even for perceived insults is a cover up for something else. I really think what this guy and his people are after is Asmara. They don't want to have to go to Addis where by their own admission never feel at home. they honestly and truly feel that they have as much right to Asmara and its surroundings as the teacher and his people. This is the truth, although they will never admit it.
(Student): "Aggression Must Not Be Rewarded."
(C: he's saying that only his words carry wait. There's no need to an investigation. He will agree to an investigation provide him we guarantee him in advance that we will find the teacher guilty. I know we can't do that. But then there's this threat hanging over the building and its occupants.)
(A): Mr. Student, what will you do if we conduct a fair and thorough investigation ?
(Student): conduct all the investigation you want as long as you believe my side of he story.
(C): And if we don't ?
(Student): I thought I made it clear before. I will blow up the building.
(C): But what about the people ?
(Student): They too will go down with the building. You are talking about self respect; about dignity. No price is too high for us to reclaim our dignity.
(B): But the people you plan to blow up are your own people, most of them anyway. And I am not talking about the teachers' people. I am talking about Ethiopians.
(Student): " Aggression Must Not Be Rewarded."
(C: he's saying that they may be Ethiopians but not all are my people. You see, deep down in his heart he does not see himself as an Ethiopian. He became one out of expediency--just recently. Less than two years ago, to be exact. He's a newly minted Ethiopian.)
(A): We better continue the hearing tomorrow. It's getting dark.
(B): I agree
(C): Me too. Mr. Student we'll see you tomorrow.