Sara Lost Her Journalist Father at an Early Age

Tuesday, 22 June 2010 23:00 Kiflemariam Melake Negassi (Asmara Digest)
E-mail Print

Her name is sara Paulos kidane. She is now four and half years old. She was the only child to her father. She is now an asylum seeker under the care of her mother, Tsehayalem Araya Tesfu in Kampala (Uganda).

Paulos Kidane Kafil was born, grew, educated and lived in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) until he was evicted during the 1998 to 2000 war between the two neighboring countries Ethiopia and Eritrea. He grew up talking Amharic language although his father and mother were native Eritreans who went to Addis Ababa some 50 years back. He had never stepped on the soil of Eritrea the whole of his life till he was forced to leave Ethiopia. The social relationship, language, culture, psychic makeup of Asmarans was alien to him. Mohamed Hassini Keita, a researcher associate of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Africa program, has written his research findings on October 3/2007.

Events and phenomena which are not covered by Mohamed would be presented in this open message to all humanitarian groups and certain state agencies.

The author has known Paulos Kidane for more than two years while he was communicating with journalists, anchormen and women as well as with the Department Head of External Language Service of Dimtsi Hafash (Voice of the Broad Masses) and ErITv of Higdefite Eritrea under the totalitarian dictator Isaias Afwerki. In late 2005 and early 2006 Paulos started showing symptoms of frustration. He used to be alienated from the Department Head and some other journalists and officials of MoI.

Mekuria is the name of his Head of Department. Mekuria is an Amharic name. Mekuria was born in Tigray and his father was a soldier of the former regimes. He was recruited to serve as a member of EPLF’s Amharic propaganda section by Girma Asmerom Tesfay, the diplomat who was sent out of Ethiopia in disgrace.

Mekuria, who directly informed the author about his appointment as the head of the said section was made by Isaias Afwerki Abraham, the current totalitarian dictator of Eritrea. His relationship with Paulos was tensioned. Paulos was a professional writer and journalist, not a propagandist. Paulos had confidence in his professionalism unlike the yes man Mekuria. Naturally, a sort of cautious relationship developed between the two. Mekuria used to blame Paulos Kidane. He used to complain that “Paulos" insults him often times”. This was in the record of the Ministry.

Having this background information about their office life, let’s now examine how Paulos was victimized.

Paulos Kidane, without his willingness and interest, was forced to serve in the Hegdefite Ministry of Information, due to his literary potential in Amharic. He was assigned to his post as a National Service member from 1999-2006.

During this period a number of journalists fled out of the country. Some were lucky to get a chance of short term training in Qatar. One of them was Temesgen, a former trusted interviewer of Isaias Afwerki. After his training, he didn’t return to Asmara as was expected. He deserted the ministry and fled to the UK. Senay (Tewoldemedhin?), one of the workmates of Paulos was also sent to Qatar for some months. Paulos Kidane was eligible for such short term training, but he was denied the opportunity because his Department Head, Mekuria, refused to let him go.

Of the former members, there was one lady who used to be staff of Ethiopian MoFA. She was old. She used to serve as a translator in the external service section. She used to have a sort of good relationship with Paulos. Paulos, in between a friendly talk with her, said one day, “All have left. You and I are the only ones who haven’t left.” The lady reported this simple friendly communication to Mekuria. Mekuria confronted him and a heated argument ensued. After sometime Paulos was arrested with other suspected members for one month. He was released under a last warning, after having his uncle sign an agreement that made him responsible for Paulos’ further affairs. He was supposed to hand over Paulos to the authorities if he was summoned for that purpose.

On June 7/2007 Paulos, with seven other asylum seekers, attempted to leave out illegally from Akordat (in Gash Barka province). The trip to the Sudan border on foot was started on a Wednesday. After seven days of walking, Paulos got sick. He pressed the rest of his trip colleagues to continue their journey, leaving him behind at a village called Aalet. Paulos fell under the control of the security of Isaias Afwerki and died soon thereafter, but he managed to save the lives of seven individuals that he persuaded to leave just before the arrival of the security.

After he left Asmara, his wife went to MoI at Forto (Asmara) and contacted Mekuria. She told him that Paulos was their staff and that she has no idea of his whereabouts for days and implored him to inform her about the whereabouts of her husband. Mekuria said he doesn’t have any idea of where Paulos was and how he was. Repeated attempts faced the same response.

On the eve of Marc h 13/2008 two armed security agents of the state, with no previous contact or information, arrived at her home. They got in pushing the door. They directly started searching everything, without informing her why they are doing so and without showing any court warrant. They got nothing although no one in the house was sure of what they were looking for. Then they asked her to hand over to them certain documents which they allegedly said to had been used by Paulos to communicate with journalists who were kept under arrest since 2001. She informed them that she had no idea and knowledge of such communications or documents. They then warned her that:-

a) She will be taken to prison for life if she doesn’t comply to inform them about her husband’s communications with the arrested journalists of the former free press.

b) She had a secret agreement with her husband concerning his plan of illegal attempt to go out of the country.

After seven months, these security agents made a surprise visit again to her residence at night. They informed her that they have information about her alleged contact with western media dealing with the death of her husband. She denied. They again warned her and informed her that her activities and movements were under their continuous surveillance.

When their surprise visits continued intermittently she decided to leave the country, initially through legal means.

In 2010 she applied for an exit visa. The Immigration Officials told her to bring a confirmation letter from the MoI which indicates that her husband Paulos Kidane Kafil (former staff of foreign languages department) is dead.

She went to Mekuria’s office and told him why she came to his office. Mekuria said “we do not know whether Paulos is dead or not so we can’t give you any confirmation letter about his whereabouts”. He told her to go to the office of another staff member called Russom. He gave her an appointment with a reason to get time to assess the facts. On the appointed date, Russom told her to go to the Immigration Office, Visa Section, directly. He promised that he would make a call directly and tell them to offer her exit visa.

She went to the Immigration Office believing that he would do what he promised. After reaching the Office she was bluntly told that they would not give her any exit visa permit and that she wouldn’t be allowed to leave the country. Getting out of the Office of Immigration shocked and frustrated by the response she got, she attempted to verify about the phone call made by Russom. Russom was the one who informed the Immigration staff to deny her any exit visa.

She realized that there were no hope of normal life in her own birth land and no future for her daughter in Eritrea. Then she decided to leave the country with her daughter illegally without attracting the attention of Mekuria, his colleagues, Immigration officials and the security of Isaias Afwerki.

Now, Tsehayalem, the main informant, is in Kampala (Uganda) as an asylum seeker. The major problem she has is how to bring up her daughter so that she could lead a normal human life. But she has no resource and means to do. Her concern is not about her own life but that of Sara, the kid who lost her father without knowing him. He died when she was a mere 1 year and 6 months old. What a traumatic life! How many Saras are deliberately created by Isaias’ state of inhumanity?

Report written by Kiflemariam Melake Negassi, P. O. Box 72522, Clock Tower, Kampala, Uganda.