Adhanom Gebremariam On Naizghi Kflu

June 13, 2012 []


Neutrality or silence in the face of injustice never favors the victim and it is wrong. From Mai-Habar to the border war, the arrest of the journalists and many others I spoke against what I saw to be unjust and unnecessary and proudly sided with the victims. What animates me then and what animates me now is justice. Being on the right side of history is something that I cherish and one that I want to be associated with–my record speaks for itself. The late Naizghi, regardless of his good or bad history, has become the latest victim of the unjust regime in Eritrea. The overwhelming majority of Eritreans agree that no Eritrean, including, Naizghi should be deprived of this right and the eulogy that I translated has captured this sense of outrage that many are feeling.

Naizghi, like many Eritreans of his generation, has spent a life time fighting for his country and has made his due contribution to the struggle. We need to differentiate the good and the bad and honor and condemn him accordingly. The fact that George Washington was a slave owner is condemnable and the fact that he was a revolutionary hero who led a generation of Americans to fight for freedom is commendable. The fact that George Washington and the rest of the Founding Fathers were the first in modern history to make democracy a reality and contribute to the dignity and freedom of mankind is something that not only Americans but all freedom loving people all over the world should honor. It is this ability to differentiate the bad and the good and render a judgment accordingly that determines our collective wisdom as a people.  Our struggle was a success because many Eritreans made the necessary sacrifices and we have the responsibility to honor and glorify that struggle. This does mean we didn’t have bad apples that derailed, tarnished and prolonged our struggle and we have an equal responsibility to hold them accountable.

I’ve said enough on the importance of having good and accurate information in making our judgments and I repeat here what I’ve previously said, “I believe crimes have been committed by the regime and we’ve plenty of evidence to condemn and fight it. I take solace, in the fact, that I’ve done my part and a bit more in exposing the crimes committed by the regime. The evidence we have is, however, general in its essence and our condemnation has been appropriately general. The key word here is general: general evidence and general condemnation of the crimes committed. The threshold for proving this kind of crime is much lower and easier to achieve. But when you single out a specific person, then, the threshold is much higher and one is required to provide specific evidence. Condemning Naizghi for his association with a regime that commits crimes is acceptable but when you go beyond that and attack the person Naizghi, then, one is required to provide specific evidence.”

I do condemn Naizghi for serving the criminal regime, but I’m not aware of any specific crimes he is personally responsible for. If there are people out there who have specific information on the alleged crimes of Naizghi or anyone else, then, I implore them to come forward and speak up and make their grievances known. The more accurate and credible information we have, the easier and quicker it will be to erode any moral authority the regime claims to enjoy with the many Eritreans. The regime rests on its past laurels.

I’ve come across many people who are absolutely convinced that Naizghi was responsible for the liquidation of the group known as Menka’a during the armed struggle. Quite often, they try to make up for their lack of evidence with their intensity of conviction and a sense of outrage. I sympathize with their sense of outrage but I can’t join them in their condemnation. Having read all the comments to my previous post, I feel the same way.

Well, I hereby present to you a personal testimony and a first-hand account of Ambassador Adhanom Gebremariam that exonerates the late Naizghi Kflu from any role in the death of Menka’a. If there is anyone out there who believes that Naizghi had any role in the death of any Eritrean during the armed struggle, I invite you to challenge Adhanom Gebremariam.

The following is a translation of an excerpt from a lengthy interview that Ambassador Adhanom Gebremariam gave to Erena Radio. It is from part four of the interview where Ambassador Adhanom Gebremariam defends the late Naizghi from rumors that are tarnishing his name and particularly against alleged crimes during the armed struggle.

I’ve tried to render a literal translation whenever possible andI’m responsible for any mistakes or omissions in the translation. I encourage you to listen to the interview in its original language, Tigrinya.

I applaudAmbassador Adhanom for his courage to speak up and set the record straight. Those who have first-hand knowledge have the historical and moral responsibility to speak up. We, as citizens, are only as good as the information that is available to us.What ambassador Adhanom has done is a step in the right direction. This is moral leadership and I thank him for showing the way.

We need to be inspired by the noblest of human aspirations: truth, justice and freedom and we need to strive, as much as possible, to live up to them.  And, yes, the presumption of innocence till proven guilty is relevant to Eritrea and essential to our struggle for justice. I’m not invoking the moral precept to stifle, silence or discourage victims to speak up but to right wrongs we should not allow the miscarriage of justice. It is a proven and effective way to mend broken fences and reconcile various segments of a society. Let’s not become what we hate.

Adhanom defends the late Naizghi Kflu in an interview with Radio Erena.
Translated by Semere T Habtemariam.

Radio Erena: Previously, you’ve stated that this regime is not only treating people as private property but it has gone as far as deciding which corpuses can enter and not enter the country. Perhaps, this issue might have to do with the death of Tegadalay Naizghi, I suppose.

Ambassador Adhanom: Yes, yes.

Radio Erena: Then, how do you see it? Naizghi is not yet buried. What do you make of the decision; you can call it the government of Eritrea or President Isaias that prevented his body from entering Eritrea? Why do you think they took this action?

Ambassador Adhanom: What can I tell you, this is hard to explain! Naizghi has an inalienable right to be buried in his homeland. Secondly, ethically speaking, it is not right (acceptable) to forbid the burial of body by saying arbitrarily it can’t be buried. Irrespective of the differences he might have with Isaias, he has the right to be buried in his country. What is even saddening is to hear many people accuse Naizghi of many crimes during our revolution, armed struggle, but all these are not true and I find it worrisome.

Radio Erena: On what basis are you saying these are not true? What evidence do you have whether it is on Naizghi or any other person who was on the top echelons of leadership? Shouldn’t it be the court of law that determines whether people are individually or collectively responsible for any flaws or crimes committed? Without this, how could we bear testimony? Could we really say now Naizghi was responsible for this crime or wrong doing? What is your perspective on this?

Ambassador Adhanom: Do all people prove their innocence in a court of law? It is only the accused who does so in a court of law. What we have here is hearsay. First, in any situation, as the saying goes, you want to be told by those with first-hand knowledge. We need to insist on testimony from people with first-hand knowledge; otherwise, it will be hearsay and this hearsay is being taken as truth by particularly our diaspora communities. Let me tell you the truth: the alleged crimes of Naizghi are those that supposedly took place in “meda.” Naizghi has nothing—not even an iota—to do with the killing of those that are commonly referred to as “Menka’a, Yemin or yemenawyan” by the EPLF. On the other hand, Naizghi was head of EPLF’s economics department between 1975 and 1976. When in 1977, Naizghi was assigned to be Ali Said’s deputy in the Revolutionary Guard, he found out that the department eerily resembled a Hitler-like and Stalinist agency and refused to take the post and courageously challenged the institution. Naizghi was the first and last, in EPLF’s history who rejected and challengedsuch an institution.

Tegadalay Mesih Reesom was the one who showed my comrades, Beraki, Berhane Gebrezgabier, even Sebhat Efrem who is currently serving the regime and I the way (to join) to Freedom Party (Selfi Nezanet).  Mesih was condemned as “menka’a” and killed. He was a close relative to Naizghi on his father’s side. Naizghi was always sorrowful by the liquidation of Mesih. I tell you this based on what I know! Beside this, Debessay Gebreselassi and Naizghi grew up and went to school together. These two were members of Mahber Shewate and Amare Gebremariam has written about this on the web. Amare mentioned Andemicael Kahsai as their third member and the trios were responsible for organizing the youth of Mendefera and enlisting them in Mahber Shewate. Debessay Gebreselassie was also condemned as menkae and killed. Naizghi grieved all his life by the death of Debassay. I could have spoken a lot about Andemicael, Naizghi and Debessay.

In addition, those that were condemned and killed as Yemin such as Mehari Girmazion and Eyob Gebreluul were close friends of Naizghi. Close comrades of Naizghi.  Both men were educated in the former Soviet Union and joined the “meda” from there. Naizghi grieved all his life by their death.

Let me tell you by tying all of this together. All these people I mentioned: Naizghi, Mehari and Eyob Gebreluul were all educated in the former SovietUnion. In late seventies (1970s), after completing his education in the former Soviet Union, Naizghi went to America and played a leading role in the formation of the Eritrean Students in North America. ESNA was a powerful organization and Naizghi was its founder. On his way to Addis Abeba, Eyob Gebreluul met Woldeab Woldemariam in Cairo and after acquiring a thorough understanding of the situation started to organize few people in Addis Abeba. One of the people he enlisted was Temesgen Haile who was martyred in 1973 at Addis Abeba prison. One of the group’s members was also Mesih. Mesih was a cousin of Naizghi and Eyob was able to meet him on the basis of the information Naizghi had provided. These are the people that, in turn, organized us.  Finally, these are also the people that started “Tihisa”, the magazine.

Mehari Girmazion stayed in Europe. He played a critical role in persuading the Eritrean students in Europe to join the Peoples Forces. He was a formidable fighter. Due to the death of Mesih, Eyob, Debessay and Mehari, Naizghi had always felt that his half self was buried under ground. He had a heavy heart (wounded heart) but, since, like most of us, what inspired him was the question of independence, he had to patiently and steadfastly struggle till we realized our independence. Therefore, this is how I know Naizghi.

He is rumored to play a role in the case of G15. Be as it may be, he has no role in G15 what-so-ever. Those who played a role are different people: they used to meet with us but we didn’t know how they came to join us. Allegations have been made online of how Naizghi, after independence, made it possible for several people to be killed and jailed in Adi Khwala. But, I was in Mendefera during this time. There was a committee that was established in Asmera and Naizghi was not the sole actor. The committee was the one that made the decision to convict them. The committee was made of several people and Naizghi cannot be held responsible severally. All the defendants (the accused) were former members of the Ethiopian junta. We can all have differing views on whether the accused should have been convicted this way but Naizghi should not be held responsible severally.

What grieves me a little is that Naizghi was the Minister of Information when the journalists who are dying in Era-ero were arrested. I’ve received claims that he had a role in their arrest and imprisonment. I’ve serious reservations. Whether the claims are true or not, Naizghi should have remained true to himself and his record of struggle and resigned in protest or disassociated himself from the regime. This is my view.

But to let the people who actually committed the crimes freely roam the streets; those who killed during our armed struggle and make Naizghi the scapegoat is tantamount to exonerating them or giving them impunity and defaming Naizghi for something that he had nothing to do with.

If it’s about Menka’e, let me tell you this: whether the secret party has a role or not or whether it was conducted in that way or not, the secret party was in charge of the front. Naizghi was not a member of the secret party. There was a judicial committee that was responsible to render a judgment on the Menka’e case and it was established by the leadership. And it was the leadership that eventually made the decision. The judicial committee was led by Ibrahim Affa. Naizghi had no role what-so-ever during this time. Its true Naizghi had a good relationship with Isaias and Isaias has done him good. Isaias assigned Naizghi to North America. The money that was coming from North America was only going to the Second Group and Isaias was the only recipient.

Whether it is for this reason or not, Naizghi refused to serve at the Revolutionary Guard. By refusing to serve at the Revolutionary Guard that he characterized as Gestapo, Naizghi would have put himself in grave danger had it not been for Isaias’ intervention. Isaias rescued Naizghi by sending him to Algeria to be the front’s representative. Algeria was a semi prison for there was no need or work for Naizghi to be there. Naizghi has been serving as the head of economics department when he was sent away to Algeria. It was not only Naizghi that was rescued by Isaias but also a certain Tewelde Wediflansa who was facing grave danger under the Revolutionary Guard. If we don’t present history accurately, then, the youth generation would have a corrupted view of history. This is what I know about Naizghi.

Whatever the case might be, Naizghi has the right to be buried in his homeland.

In the spirit of honesty, let me also tell you that Naizghi had a bad habit; a foul mouth and called everyone son-of-a-bitch. If Naizghi likes you, he would call you son-of-his-sister, Shar (nephew).  His mother got blind and when he comes home, he would shout,”hey, Imuna the blind, you’ve not lost your hearing. Because of your deeds, God made you blind and so forth,” and this is how he spent (jokingly) his time with her. His mother would miss him dearly even if he is late for few minutes. One day, while I was in Mendefera, she called to ask me about Naizghi because he was running late. I told her that she has nothing to miss but his insults and she responded that is what she misses the most about him.

As a person, Naizghi was not cruel. Sometimes, his foul mouth would say stuff that you would not expect from a child. Let me tell you; I was in Mendefera. The elders of Mendefera remember two people. There were many elders who are fondly remembered such as memhr Sa’ire and others, but the one that is remembered for his wisdom and reconciliatory spirit was no other than the principal of San Giorgio School, memhr Hussein. Naizghi had a reputation as a trouble-maker in Mendefera but people liked him. This is what I know about Naizghi. Therefore, whether it is this or that, as I previously told you, he has the right to be buried in his homeland. This kind of action that is being taken by Isaias is morally and legally unacceptable.

Radio Erena: Okay, Adhanom.You’ve raised an important issue while responding to my queries. For example, you’ve stated that when Naizghi refused to serve at the Revolutionary Guard, it was Isaias that came to his rescue. In addition, you’ve also bore a testimony that Isaias was the one who rescued Tewelde Wediflansa when he was placed under the Revolutionary Guard. Many people say that the Eritrean revolution or the Peoples’ Front and particularly after thesecession from the ELF and the formation of the EPLF, the current President of Eritrea, Isaias Afwerki, or the then Secretary General of the EPLF was always in full and total control of the organization and free to do what he pleases. This is what many people believe and understand. Now, when Naizghi refused to serve at the Revolutionary Guard, it could only mean that he was refusing Isaias.Personally, I feel giving due credit and to truthfully bear witness is, is a courageous thing and one that needs to be promoted. But this raises eye-brows. I find it puzzling of how the system would allow Isaias to rescue Naizghi and Wediflansa then and produce a tyrant that seems to be devoid of any humanity now. How do you explain this?

Ambassador Adhanom: This is what we need to know; one that needs to be studied in depth. Those who know must speak up. First, what makes Peoples Front, Peoples Front, and its good and bad aspects is the party.  It is the party that was in charge. For example, I was involved in the military operations and might have led into some victories but always under the specific orders of the leadership. Those that plan our strategies were the top leaders who founded the party. It was Isaias and associates. They were the ones who were leading.