A Response To Hailemariam Tesfay: “Ich verstehe nur noch Bahnhof”

Posted on February 17, 2012 by

Ich verstehe nur noch  Bahnhof” (pronounced ‘ESH Feshtehe nur nok banhof,’) is a German Expression usually uttered to show that ‘You don’t understand something and don’t really care either.’ In recent years, this expression has also been used to mean that one cannot understand acoustically what the other person is saying.

The expression stems from World War I when the train was the main means of transportation of the day. For German soldiers who were fed up with the war that took much longer time than anticipated, the train station became a symbol of returning back home. Therefore a soldier who hoped to return safely to his home would say, “ich verstehe nur noch Bahnhof’—meaning he really didn’t care about much else than going home.

I really don’t understand why Hailemariam is voicing his concern for Saleh Johar’s article. We, the puplic are waiting for the answer of how and why.  Moreover, what is the legal argument for Teklay Abraha to become a member of the Eritrean National Congress for Democratic Change (ENCDC) without being elected? I don’t really care about Hailemariam’s role in the EDF or his role in the EGS issue because the question has been posed to Mr. Tessegai Yohannes, the chairman of NCDC. Honestly,  I care more about Hailemariam’s previous role as a chairman of North America for Eritrea National Commission for Democratic Change. What happened in the Commission was covered up in broad daylight though. Both Hailemariam and Teklay know very well what happened. 

I want to know how Teklay Abraha became a member of Council? How is that legal?

“Sunlight is the best disinfectant” is a well-known quote from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis; it refers to the benefits of openness and transparency. We should not only accept criticism and suggestions, but we should also embrace them. If questions from the constituents, the public, or the media make leaders or other responsible parties obfuscate, the questions are usually valid and the answers are not. People who feel uncomfortable under the bright light of scrutiny and criticism often have something to hide. A high level of openness is an identifying characteristic of democracy. Should Eritreans be proud that the Eritrean opposition groups, ENCDC, EDA, Eritrean political organizations, Eritrean opposition websites, etc. are not continuing to take strides forward in this direction?  In regards to openness and transparency, the public should know the number of paying members of our political organizations and civic society.


1. Hailemariam wrote:


Having an independent media probing and inquiring about questionable events in a democratic institution is healthy in itself and must be encouraged at all times. The role of the independent media is necessary to pressure “the state and its institutions”, thereby enabling us to correct any wrong doing and take actionable policy and resolutions, to help us grow institutionally and democratically as a society.

My opinion is:  We can all agree with this! And welcome to free media club! As Hailemariam said independent media “ thereby enabling us to correct any wrong doing and take actionable policy and resolutions, to help us grow institutionally and democratically as a society” If he believes that  independent media can correct  us from wrong doing.  I would like to ask him a question regarding his role as a chairman of Eritrea National Commission for democratic Change in North America because he is the right person to ask:

I: How many people did you select from North America to participate in the Congress? What were the criteria used to choose them and what makes you free from being biased?

II:  EYGM was represented in the Congress in two ways, as EGS and as also as EYGM members. Why?

III: The quota for youth in North America was five and you donated that to EYGM only. Why not EYC or other individual youth who live in the USA?

As the result of Hailemariam’s leadership and personal judgment, the youth in North America were not represented in the ENCDC. Even though EYGM is a youth organization and contributed their share in our struggle, at the same time they represent their members only, not all the youth who live in the USA.  I want to know why and the public want to know the truth.

2. Hailemariam wrote:

On the other hand we should be watchful and avoid over politicization, and stretching the issue beyond its limits which in turn can hurt the institutions we collectively envisioned to evolve into a bigger being.

What is he trying to say on the above paragraph? If he is saying government institutions should interfere with independent media when rhetoric is too hot, I strongly disagree. The truth will only come from a free and open debate.  People who suffered under the rule of oppressive regimes have discovered that a free political society cannot exist without free news media. Without a doubt, democracy encourages public participation in debates and decision-making, after an open and free exchange of ideas. And since information is essential to nurture such a democracy, newspapers, magazines, radio, and television serve as both forums for debate and sources of information on which decisions can be based.

I’d like to take a few minutes to explain what I understand about “independent media.”  I think it’s better  to think of independent media as media projects that are free of institutional dependencies, meaning truly autonomous institutions.  But in a weaker sense, we can think of “independent media” as media that is free of government or political organization influence. This is probably what most have in mind when thinking about this class of institutions. And there are plenty of independent media websites that exist and that are representative of Eritrean opposition groups which exhibit very weak independence in this regard.  Independent media  should serve public needs in information, culture, education, and entertainment and reflect diversity of opinion. Program content should respect the diversity of cultures. There is a basic right to communicate in conditions of pluralism and equality of opportunity among democratic groups and political parties. Terms like “objective,” “balanced,” and others are often thrown around when talking about the media coverage. I don’t think they add much clarity to the topic, at least not how they’re typically used. A better way to understand the character of media coverage, I think, is to just evaluate it in terms of what facts and perspectives get emphasized or deemphasized, included or excluded. This sifting process requires determining what’s important—in other words, determining what’s worthy of making it into print or online, and what’s not. Underlying all considerations of importance are values. Identifying such values offer an understanding then type of coverage of events by the media. (Something to think about: Media is never wholly independent it constitutes a power of its own)

3. Hailemariam wrote:

Out of the 66 seats EDA was given 38 seats, while the rest of Non-EDA political organizations took 28 seats .Out of the 28 Non EDA seats, 10 seats were given to EDF-a front consisting of 4 organizations. The other 18 seats were given to the rest 19 organizations (mind you, I am saying 19). No one noticed this numeration error until the next morning when the Council came in to session.

“Ich verstahe nor noc banhof” because this equation or the question is about how to distribute or divide 28 seats to 23 organizations, this is a simple and elementary calculation. First, What was the motive behind giving 10 seats to 4 organizations? If non-EDA organization received 28 seats for 23 organizations you have to know how to distribute the seats! You should distribute each one equally, and the rest should be distributed by consensus.

4.Hailemariam wrote:

“Twice the congress encountered with a discrepancy in its allocations of seats, EDF helped to settle the discrepancy by giving away from its allocated seats. It is unfortunate that this effort of conciliatory process of taking away a seat from EDF to give it to the Islamic Congress party (ICP) has neither been mentioned nor been made an issue by Saleh “Gadi” Johar or anyone else as they did in the case of EGS”.

You should not blame the congress for a discrepancy in its allocation of seats because, if you received 28 seats for 23 political organizations, you have more than enough seats for 23 organizations. Give me a break! You should blame yourself for incorrectly distributing the seats. The Islamic Congress Party (ICP) asked the Congress for their share of seats and has the right to do so. ICP didn’t demand for more seats like EGS. ICP has never walked out of congress. Also ICP has never asked the seat after the ballot box and the negotiations had closed and ended. Furthermore, it is a different issue and the two cannot be compared to each other; that’s why I am saying, “Ich verstehe nur noch  Bahnhof”.

 Saleh Gadi’s question is my question.  I am too waiting for answers!

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