Home What is a Veteran You left for love – The other side of fear

You left for love – The other side of fear

My country’s Veterans, all I heard about you is that you left the warmth of your families for love of country and love for your people. That is how I learned to meet the other side of fear.
I learned from each of you, that it was not the length of life but the depth of your legacy that counted the most.
When you left your families, you left to protect love.  You felt love for your parents, for your children, for your wife and your neighbors. For our land. For our Eritrea.  Fear was all around you.  You saw fear in your mothers’ look when you were late.  You felt the fear in your fathers’ voice when he abruptly told you not to be late and consider the curfew imposed by the enemy that owned our lives.  And if you were late, that father would be at the gate of the family’s house defying the snipers’ bullet. You left because of love.
All your yesterdays are a collection of daring to fight.  Our today’s’ are filled still with daring to struggle and hope to win over this evil fog wrapping around Eritrean lives as it seems we are only succeeding at fighting one another.
 I ask those calling themselves “opposition party” with many of their members’ part of our valiant freedom fighters’ different factions: in your opinion, where should the Eritrean people turn to? To the right side of life when nothing is there or to the left side where nothing seems to be right?
Many of you claim – rightfully so – to be graduates from Ivy Leagues colleges in the west. And those that cannot claim Ivy Colleges’ diplomas are graduates from the universities of the fighting jungles during the war for our independence.  Many just trashed the I-20s and colleges’ offers and decided to follow their love for country and join the struggle for freedom of Eritrea.  They graduated with high honours as well.  The only difference is that they don’t have a paper diploma to frame in their families’ living rooms.  But each bullet that is still lodged in their skulls or hips, is an education we should talk about along your Harvard or Oxford diplomas!  
Forgive me if I am wrong, but it seems to me that none of the oaths to your people seems to apply these days when you are only fighting to forge a single personal seat in a “future Eritrea” and you are not carving the destiny of defenceless Eritrean families bidding goodbye to their kids taking turns and leave for the unknown borders, only to hear that they might have perished at high seas.  Listening – with chills going down our spinal cords – to Eritrean women telling us how they became pawns of human trafficking.
So, you hold the choice of becoming–in our future Eritrea – a blessing or a lesson of greed among many in a self-centred arena filled with wolves.
With the fall of Asmara, all our Veterans would walk into our life and everyone loved them.  Today, they walk into a room and fear people’s reaction because the few that claim to be leading an opposition group are only leading us in opposed ways and making us face the doors of no return to Eritrea.
Please remember that you left for love of your people and you should regain the trust and love of your people by example of self-abstention towards power and never call the photographer to immortalize your small giving; instead keep our Martyrs in mind, they all gave and never asked for rewards.  They left this life at an age when death was not their option but they were ready to face it standing if it came along.
Please remember our paralyzed Veterans that for over forty (40) years live a life confined in the same beds you left them at in Kassala/Sudan when you had the opportunity to climb the steps of a plane taking you to a free country.  Most of you never looked back and the few that do, is just not enough.
We learned from you – Eritrean Veterans – that the moment we felt like giving up, we had to remember the reasons we went in.  We all did it for love of country.
At one point, I asked my mentor, my hero and my point of reference to this day “what could be the reason that makes you give up so many opportunities and choose a life of fear and terror of being found by the enemy?  Do you know what is expecting us if they found out about the shelter we give in our house?” I asked.  He replied:” I am not living a life of fear, each morning I look at you and feed breakfast to the kids, I am living a life I would not trade for anything else.  And at each time we hear that our fighters are advancing, I can savour the taste of freedom.  We have no true life if we are not free.”  His name is Berhane and I love that lesson to this day.  I long for the hug that followed.  He would say “let’s have a family hug” and we both would put the kids among us and hug in circle.  I still learn from him.  But today he is among our Martyrs that look down at us and they all shake their heads with disbelief.  They scream when a boat filled with Eritrean women, kids, men, elderly and more flips around in the middle of the ocean and they all land at the bottom of the sea with their eyes looking up at us and their hands still holding to each other.  Because holding to life they gave up the moment their feet left land and touched water.
Do you – opposition parties and current regime – imagine the below surface of the oceans? Those mountains deep in the ocean that could defy the Himalayas, those waterfalls filled with hungry sharks? In those enigmatic and alien places, the Eritrean mother giving birth to the baby she was holding in her being?   All of them prey to the monsters living in the abyss of the seas.  They only run from their homes to seek freedom, peace and better opportunities for their kids. Some staring until their last breath to their babies being engulfed by the ocean’s deep abysses.   Maybe you think about all this for a moment, but once the TV screen switches to commercials or is off, you simply go on with forging your personal future life as potential political leaders of tomorrow’s Eritrea.
It is productive when a career for politics and love for people come together.  But that seems not to be the case right now.  It seems that only a wish for career of politics is being offered on speeches and “half-telling” books these days. I wish you offered the primes of your books to Eritrean refugees scattered all over the world.  I wish you still stood by the same principles that made you fight the enemy and empty your pockets filled with books’ revenues and kneel down to offer it to the newborn Eritrean baby hanging to a mother’s dry breast still crying from child labor in a remote village in Africa with flies and mosquitoes competing for her blood.  I wish you would go there and seat by her side and promise her that you are doing all you could to protect her.  I wish you pick up your weapon of love and dedication  and be her stand-by Eritrean Veteran, instead of filling your pockets by telling ”our” story and omitting the chapters that would tell us about your knowledge and participation of those executed by your ”central committees” during the liberation war.  I wish you decide to dust the inordinate desire to lead a country from afar and replace it with the same love that made you leave your family back then. I hope to see you kneel down to this pain that becomes only deeper. I wish you use your knowledge to free the young Eritrean man that is constantly abused by Bedouins and his kidney extracted with no anaesthesia what so ever!  I hope the reason you left for the killing fields of our war for independence is still your motto and you still long to hug the mothers and fathers whose faces are wrinkled with pain.  Stop playing the drums of ”follow me” because once an Eritrean Veteran, forever a Veteran at the service of Eritrea and Eritreans!!
The same goes for our current regime.  Fold the red carpet and clean the scorpions and snakes that are literally eating Eritrea like only a colony of termites can do. Each of them with a role and functions. If you believed that you could build a country that embraces all Eritreans, think again.  The fields once full of young people playing with a ball made out of old socks are empty.  The houses where the voice of a Mom called for lunch or dinner are silent. The fights among siblings are non-existent because they all left.  Some made it and others became food for hyenas or sharks.  You choose what to do about your legacy.  Each of you will be remembered by what you leave behind.  Think about that.  Your children will be either proud of their parents’ legacy or hide for eternity.  Remember about the euphoria when we all lined up be it at the American University in Washington DC/USA, in London, in Japan, in Lebanon and in Africa and voted “YES” for a free Eritrea; we looked up to you as our leaders.  Think about the fully booked flights to Eritrea then.  We booked flights six (6) months ahead.  Now, we hold a “stand-by” ticket and we are ready to come home only if you give up power and let us enjoy our birth’s right to feel our land beneath our feet. 
At present time, stand-by Eritreans outnumber the ones that come and go at Asmara airport
Think about it and change your legacy.  You still can make it.  A leader that gives up the front seat for the people, is a leader that will be missed decade after he/she is gone from this life.
Gather with us and show up at refugees’ camps; kneel down and hold the Eritrean baby born in ”no man land” and ask “what can I do to make you come back? What can I change for you to be home?”
I would be the first one to protect your back if I could see you in any of our refugees’ camp trying to make the wrong right.
One among the leaders that are perishing in an unknown jail today – Petros Solomon – use to say “once you dare to try, you already won.  Even if you fail to achieve your goal. Always try for Eritrea”
My country’s present politicians and so called “opposition groups” please remember that at one time you were willing to give up your life and you were not paid at all. Eventually you can do more and you will be paid much higher with your people’s respect and honour, if you only put the people’s rights above anything else; including your “future” political life. Procrastinating about the current regime is a day spent worrying about an emptiness that surround us as long as we do not act in unity and move forward.  Procrastinating leads to lost time and missed opportunities!
It seems to me that our leaders during the struggle – be it ELF or EPLF – had a problem with delegating authority and power.  That is a resonating hard price Eritreans are paying to this present time.  Those leaders looked for followers, and in the midst of the struggle they forgot that Eritreans are not followers, but leaders of their own life and their own rights.  Please, tell us about our history.  For, we understand that each of our Veterans is a chapter of our history. True leaders will guide us towards solutions and those that are solely looking for followers will talk only about past and present problems.  Over-and-over –again! Seeking for a crowd of followers needs to stop now.
 It is about time they understand that we are not willing to become followers.  I am not negating your credits.  I am not asking any of you to erase your presence.  But as an Eritrean that has paid more than her due, I ask the pessimists to stop complaining about the regime in Eritrea and the optimists to believe in changes and work hard by holding hands; and for our future leaders to adjust the sailing and learn how to lead from the back seat while making the people of Eritrea know that they deserve the front and center seats!!
My humble suggestion in all this?  Unite and create an Eritrean Veterans’ Day! This would be a union that would make two, three and more factions walk towards each other, shake hands and become an army of one.  Simply called The Eritrean Army.
If you – our Veterans – unite, the country and all parties will be forced either to join or disappear in their private life.  I know you would support and guide them to connect with their choices and leave Eritrea’s destiny to the vote of the Eritrean people.
There is only one Eritrea that can embraces over 6 million people.  It is up to us to believe and never let our country cluster in satellites owned by a bigger neighbour.
The second step? Apply the Eritrean Constitution!  That would benefit all of us and would never let us forget the main reason our Veterans left their families and our Martyrs paid the highest price:  It was pure love for their people and for a free Eritrea. For our future.
I am grateful,
Kiki Tzeggai.


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