The in-between time

03/09/2017 00:15 PM

The in-between time.

Dedicated to Veteran Solomon Habtom

by Kiki Tzeggai


Any hiring institution will follow the main lines to hire a candidate. The first part is to read a CV about the applicant’s life. The second phase is to meet with the candidate.

At times, meeting the person can be overwhelming or underwhelming; the incarnation of the person is not what was expected in one’s mind while reading his life detail black ink on white paper. When a Veteran reports to jail he is not asked for his CV. But his lifetime commitment to our country is printed in his forehead; is lined up in his smile. In his shoulders kept straight up. In the dust of his sandals.

I never met Veteran Solomon Habtom, but when I look at his photo post mortem, I can “read” his CV. The same one of all my country’s Veterans. It is a blend of determination, love for country and a piercing way of questioning our conscience.

I hear his son and others testifying to the person he was…and will always be.

I want to call this letter of mine to Veteran Solomon Habtom “the in-between time”.

Why? Simply because I would like to sit down not with him but with his detaining officers. Let them be generals, or no grade soldiers.

I would like to ask them to “walk me” through the door of his cell. But before doing that, I want to ask and try to understand what could make an Eritrean become a torturer? What could be the reason these sons and daughters of our farmers and our teachers became Eritrean jailers and Eritrean soul-less humans?

While we understand the fear that was looming in our lives during war time , the role they play now is short of the fabric we are made of. Now their conscience is ominously gone missing. The trauma inflicted on prisoners with no trial and no judge sentencing them is the beginning of a sick and twisted relationship, a tentative of fear-fraught within the beautiful landscape of our society.

The farmer’s son turned to be a jailer is an intertwined plots to our future. On one hand we have a Veteran with handcuffed hands and feet taking small steps towards a door no one came out alive from and on the other hand we have his former comrade laughing at him and pushing him to walk faster. How do we come to term with this picture?

Both images are plausible if we point out at each person in this photo. One will tell us that he stand by the same principles he left home to liberate us from occupation and slavery of occupation.

The other one will tell us that he stands by country and government and this is not time to analyze who is wrong and who is right, for the country is in danger of invasion by the same enemy. I have no problem with an exchange of ideas if done with no weapons. If the jailers allows the prisoner to tell his version of facts. If the jailers let the prisoner’s family visit him. If the jailers let the prisoner’s kids bring school reports to be signed by the father. If the jailers let his weapon down and the handcuffs off. If the jailers gives medical attention to the prisoner and let a judge and a court of law decide who is right and who is wrong.

If only the jailer put himself on the side of the prisoner and try to know how it feels. I have no problem when the “if” are the same numbers of “what about?”

Unfortunately, the most striking part of this letter is that the dourness or gravity is chocking our minds and our consciences. The pretentious say of “the country is at war and this is no time to exchange opinions be it in a court of law or sitting across each other” is just that....pretentious!

It is frustrating. Obviously our country needs now more psychologists than politicians. The impact of what our Veterans are going through – in person like Veteran Solomon Habtom- or in their minds for those that are out of Eritrea, is a looming large cloud to be cured. There is no slam dunk solution anymore. I am not suggesting that war time stories should be frequent laughter, but so many memorable events of our war of liberation was and still is a narrative of our soldiers regrouping and make us smile about the event they lived through. How can that be possible if the jailers has no conscience and the prisoner languish and die a slow death looking for a shred of light through the thin roof of his cell, his tears blending with the rain coming through a hole in the prison’s roof?

Their only salvation is the story line in their minds. The depictions of the war they led; the vivid engaging images of the houses they visited and told farmers that all will be all right and freedom was not far.

Their only salvation is the eye contact they try to make with their jailers. Many former comrades. The prisoner trying to still find a bit of decency and humanity and belief that it is hard to dispute in persuading his jailers about the wrong done. The unrelenting belief that this part of our history has its own importance to learn from, no matter how sad and painful.

I want to imagine the many times the prisoner walks straight into a breeze with the hope to triumph from this dark cell and keep not only himself, but his jailers upright. From taking something good out of this impoverishment of our society and wrong politics in Eritrea.

I want to believe that the jailers – one-by-one - will see the pointless dissipation of talents and energy and burry the horrors of brothers-killing-brothers. This situation we are is that ensues and forbid love for one-another. The instruments of loyalty that are destroyed can be restored, the prisoner tells his guard.

The torture and humiliation our people are living through with water cannon shooting at harmless refugees accused of crimes they did not commit. Of treasons they did not create.

The prisoner tries to show the virtues that are now brutally recast as crimes and national threat. The prisoner attempts to explain how we should protect whatever frail, ghostly shred of principles that still is holding among us. The absence of humanity that has pushed many to suicide in secret jails. For Eritrea to keep two set of selves is becoming unbearable to the millions we are. The prisoner work explores a larger idea than the four humid walls of his cell. Our minds and our consciences still obliged to read his message. So his death will not be in vain. And our struggle to lower the number of jailers become our daily mission.

Veteran Solomon Habtom, please give my love to the Veterans that welcomed you among them in the after life. We shall never forget you. We will forever honor you. I am grateful.

by Kiki Tzeggai

"Of all the forces that make for a better world, none is so powerful as hope. With hope, one can think, one can work, one can dream. If you have hope, you have everything."

" Peace is a wall we will all create by building it brick-by-brick together". (Trade mark)

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