Originally posted at a comment section of Awate Forum on 23/03/2017 under Gedab News title EASE Accuses the Eritrean Regime of Displacing Afar People
Afar People – I am proud for what you are doing and for what you are fighting for. In 2007, I had a chance to visit Assab two times that gave me a chance to explore Danakil area with in 14 days. It was an exceptional memory that has shaped my knowledge and determination on Eritrean beautiy. It was such a wonderful journey.
But my journey was not for anything else but trying to buy goods and then sell them at a higher profit back Asmara. This was what all it exposed me to the suffering of Afar People.
During my stay in Assab, and two nights in Tio and GelAlo, I could not believe what I saw.
I was there because I was trying to make a living by buying and selling goods to cover my empty pocket resources. During these days, I was in the national service and teaching in Hamelmalo Agricultural College. I had no salary. Hence, I took about 8000 Nakfa and went there to buy goods which were scarce in Asmara and Keren.
What happened then was a tragedy.
When I took the decision, I heard that those goods were available as the Afar people were able to take fish, the only resource they have at their disposal and in abundance in their front doors, and ship them with those old unsafe traditional small boats.
I decided to go as I was in school vacation – july
It was a long journey with Sataye – two days of total 24 hours drive with a one night interval. The journey was good – Gel’alo – very beautiful area – I saw Ostrich galloping, birds flying and such a beautiful grassland area.
Tio was beautiful – with beautiful small shops – full of perfumes and other cosmetic goods.
All along, we had four or five stops including Fero – where you can see Adulis.
The buy are of Zula was so beautiful to discover, while traveling along the sea side.
Assab – I cried from my bottom of my heart.
– I saw an abandoned city, full of Vultures
– I saw empty houses which are beautiful villas – previous occupied by high skilled workers of the port, refinary and government officials
– I stayed in a No-Guest hotel, almost I was the only guest in a hotel of 100 or more geust bedrooms
– I visited to the port, old and ruined logistique houses, NO ship harbored except very few, not more than 10 small traditional boats, empty and no one around.
– There was almost no one around to say, STOP and asks why you are wondering around.
– I had good time in the beach that was previously reserved for government officials and were Haileselassie or Mengistu sought to stay and enoy during their visit. The beach resort was almost ruined, empty houses and most of the days, I was alone swimming there. In the late afternoon, national service (aka slavery) members were joining me after their forced labour work. I remember their were maintaining some houses at that time along the beach.
– I witnessed NO or almost empty markets for vegetables and others except very few goods imported from Yemen – like onion, a couple of kuntals, Potatoes.
– Tomato was very expensive and it was coming by bus, not more than 500 kg loaded in every bus arrival – per kilo it was 60 or 70 Nakfa – in Asmara it was 5 or 6 Nakfa, hence 10 times.
– Flour was there in the market, imported from Yemen -and I heard that there was a limit to be imported every week. Relatively it was cheaper than Asmara but not enough for the residents fo Assab.
– I saw soldiers along the beach, all along to the new hospital at high posts controlling any boat entering the sea. When I asked why, I was told that fishing is strictly prohibited in order to control smuggling.
– It was hard to see people in bars, restaurants and on the streets except old people and few kids. And if you happen to meet some middle aged people, they are soldiers and non-Afar speajers.
– I visted the refinery – it was ruined, very few military camps were around
May I continue to list all what I saw – I think it is all a suffering.
In Tio, GelAlo, Arefaile, and other small towns, I saw soldiers more than the local people. In restaurants, fish menu were very expensive, some expensive than you can getin Asmara. And when you ask why, it is not easy to get fish, gosh! And it is sad, most restaurants are owned by people who settled there from the highland – most former tegadelti -you hear more Tigrigna speakers sound and Tigrigna music than Afar language and Afar Music. It was a shock to me to see this much replacement of indegeneous culture and language by strange one.
Don’t ask me what happened with my business.
I am saying this because the first time I went there there was goods that arrived. All boats were prohibited from fishing activity and crossing the Sea to Yemen and import goods. Even flour importation – which was limited quota – was blocked. Price was high rocketed. And any car which was found to carry and transport outside Assab was confiscated by Ministry of Finance. SEcurityand checks was also enforced by military staffs.
Hence, I was broken – and seeing losing my money -already 1000 Nakfa gone for my first trip of 7 days stay, I bought washing ingredients and perfumes. I had to use another car for transportating my goods as the bus was not enough to carry goods of every passenger.
And when I visited Asmara and waited for the transporting vehicle to arrive, I was told, the car was forced to return back to Assab. And all these sensitive goods – by the standard of PFDJ Economic terms, like Cigarrette, white flour, and electronique goods were confiscicated. Mine was OK and a friend of mine whom I was acquinted with there helped me to retain it with him.
Then again I was forced to go back and use another means or sell the goods I purchased at a loss. I did and I bought some from Tio – just to cover some expenses. At the end, I lost 50% of initial money and 14 days gone for nothing.
However, it helped me to know Denkel and the great Afar people, it helped me to understand their suffering and deprivation of their rights to use the resources they owned for thousands of years.
I saw their small towns occupied by new settlers and their cultural heritage and language facing serious challenge.
Since then, the memory of Afar people and their suffering is resonating in my mind.
And now, I stand with Afar people, I support their legitimate struggle. No other is more prouder than Afar for their Eritreanness yet no one can take their freedom away and live in miser.
Fight for your rights, fight for your dignity
PFDJ is a a colonizer.
Get your freedom from occupation and suffering.
I am in solidarity with you. I am with you. I fight with you.
A contemplation of a freedom fighter
*I think I could have written it better. But this is just a smooth flow of what it was coming in my head. I didn’t plan to go that far but my heart just said what it has to say. I hope I will improve it to make it a good speech or message of solidarity to EASE. For now, this is my hashing out my feelings and my stand of the Afar issue.