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Fetsum: Dialog with Professor Araya Debessay on “The Role of Eritrean Scholars: the Duty to be Unbiased”

Acknowledgement: Please join me in expressing my sincere appreciation to Assenna team for giving us the chance to freely communicate with each other through its website. Thank you very much for this and God bless Assenna. Rezen:

Acknowledgement: Please join me in expressing my sincere appreciation to Assenna team for giving us the chance to freely communicate with each other through its website. Thank you very much for this and God bless Assenna.

Rezen: “In the absence of guidance from the educated sector, the “Eritrean” society [inside the country and abroad] would still cling to the old parochial debilitating cancerous diseases: Religion, Provincialism, and Racism. Immediate denial to such a verdict is of course rampant and expected. Eritreans do not wish to admit and face their problems. And, needless to add, the intellectual elites wouldn’t step on the plate to educate, to guide, to advice the population at large (blame it on the African malaise). And so, the roulette goes on, and on, and on rotating until an external mechanism interrupts the circular motion. Alas! as always, that is when Eritrea finds peace with itself [bizarre!], leaving the intricacy of the mechanism to others! What a TRAGEDY”

Confession: I briefly know Professor Araya Debessay for a cumulative contact worth about 15 minutes and I don’t know Professor Kiflai irrelevant saying that I think my great grand father’s name sounded like that, I did not have the time to verify it from my siblings. I am just telling you that I am sharing my opinion on this article from completely neutral and independent points of view with my imaginary guest Professor Araya Debessay hoping to get a response that we can all share in this Meadi.

Welcome to this forum Professor Araya!

Question: Mr. Professor, I saw you and talked to you briefly in the past and found you to be a handsome and charismatic person needless to say that you have a beautiful smile. Were you a lover? How did the ladies take the pressure in your younger days; and who could have emotionally paid the most for loving you beyond the ordinary?


“The Role of Eritrean Scholars: the Duty to be Unbiased” Monday, 10 March 2014 23:29

In discussing this article by Professor Araya Debessay I want to start with the phrasing “the Duty to be Unbiased” which meant a lot to me as a person trying to figure out what it may imply. A scholar can be biased in many societies against respective socio-political realities for personal advantages; they call this opportunism. Opportunism pays materially at heavy ethical cost. But is there really a room for an Eritrean scholar to benefit from bias in favor of the dictatorship knowing for fact that this regime has an obsessive compulsive characteristic disorder that agitates it to press-down indigenous scholars without a second thought? Afwerki’s most known hobbies being chasing kids for forced labor slavery and crushing the educated class of the society, what is the advantage of opportunism; of being biased to the regime against the Eritrean reality in contemporary Eritrean experience?

Professor Araya Debessay says; “I believe the Eritrean people expect Eritrean scholars to objectively and critically assess the ills of the nation and offer bold and constructive suggestions for the good of their country and the Eritrean people. Eritrean scholars should assume this responsibility as their national duty and indeed as their obligation.
I also believe Eritrean scholars should not give a deaf ear and a blind eye to the suffering of their people. They should have the moral courage and intellectual integrity to speak on behalf of the voiceless and the oppressed.
Comment: Without a doubt Mr. Professor! We have a down beat society damaged by more than a century worth of apartheid, betrayal; colonialism, civil war, dictatorship, oppression, poverty, and war needless to mention the internal sabotage driven or self-induced injury done to us during the struggle overall and under this tribulation in the areas of ignorance and exodus. Eritreans need their educated elements in this predicament more desperately than any other society in Africa, probably in the world. We are the only country without a University, after all (ready to be corrected).
Araya Debessay:”It is with this spirit that I read a News Release posted in Dehai from the Organization of Eritrean Americans (OEA), dated January 16, 2010, titled, “Eritrea’s Economic Potential said to be Bright.” This was a presentation Professor Kiflai made at an event sponsored by the OEA at the Eritrean Community and Civic Center in Washington, D.C. on Friday, January 15, 2010, on “”My trip to Eritrea: Observations and Impressions.”
I agreed with what was described as the conclusion of the presentation made by my good friend that “Eritrea’s development in agriculture, mining, tourism, port services (what were called the hardware of development), and education (human resource development) can position it in a bright economic future.” I do not dispute this. Eritreans all knew and know that Eritrea has tremendous potential to uplift the conditions of its people in every respect. What puzzled me was not what my friend reportedly has said during his presentation, but what he did not say. In a time where the whole world is witnessing the dismal conditions of our people, Dr. Kiflai chose not to point out the failures of the government who has placed Eritrea and the Eritrean people in the quagmire they are finding themselves now.”
Comment: I found correct Professor Kiflai’s statement as taught here by Professor Araya to have been said: Eritrea has a great potential for development in the said sects, agriculture, mining, tourism, port services (what were called the hardware of development), and education, but is this not too obvious for a scholar of Professor Kiflai’s intellectual caliber to entertain as the main essence of his presentation? Everybody knows the potential of our country for one not to require a Professor’s help in favor of but there is a dire need of Professors to design the road map to democracy in our country.
How can this information standing alone without conclusive academic articulation help us challenge our problems? It failed to answer or to complete the phrasing “..can position it in a bright economic future” because there was no follow up input suggesting the conditions by which said position can be achieved; thus visionless so to say.
Araya DebessayAs an esteemed professor in one of the premier institutions of higher learning in the country, I have no doubt that he has the analytical caliber to understand the failings of the Eritrean leaders, yet I wondered how a person of his academic stature could choose to focus on the potential of what Eritrea could be and not utter even a single critical observation of why this potential has not been realized.
Comment: I wonder too, Mr. Professor; very much so! It may be for reasons but doesn’t this misplacement of intellectualism also tell the intelligence of the person in question? Deciding to go that low thinking of achieving the opposite result from the presentation should be inversely proportional to his authentic intelligence considering his academic achievement. The brain that processes the overall information for the Professor to come up with the infantile presentation thinking it would best represent his intellectual capacity, thus impress his audience directly tells how extremely intelligent he was in my opinion.
Question: What is your take on this analysis? What do you think is the reason for the brain drain of some Eritrean intellectuals in view of the Eritrean reality to the point it aggravated you top express your feeling on, in such a sentimental mood?
Araya Debessai: “Professor Kiflai talked about “how Eritrea can movepersonal towards food security using only the water that can be harvested at the two Fankos (Fanko-tsimue and Fanko-rawi) and Gerset. With certain clearly stated assumptions, he calculated that Eritrea can harvest enough food that can feed its population.” The News Release did not state the assumptions made by Professor Kiflai. If he had mentioned that one of the fundamental assumptions for the full realization of Eritrea’s potential is good governance, the prevalence of the rule of law, the respect of human rights, freedom of speech, implementation of the constitution, a market-oriented macroeconomic policy, etc, then I would say kudos to my good friend and shame to the reporter who did him a disservice by not giving us a full account of what Professor Kiflai has stated.”
Comment: A quietist scholar is useless to society but a Professor that exposes one’s intellectual quality in such a ridiculous manner for nothing other than Afwerki’s humiliation should be positioned below zero to the negative direction in substance and may be in intelligence as well; excuse my frank and Mathematical approach of the matter!
Question: How about if what was reported was the complete information about the event? Would you say “shame to the [Professor] who did him[self] a disservice” by dropping down below the ordinary commonsense instead of using the opportunity for manifesting his certified intellectual capacity?
Professor Araya: “We are told that Professor Kiflai made, a “two-hour presentation, [showing] slides of what he observed in water harvesting, by way of building major and minor dams, river diversion schemes and terracing. He spoke how the sprinkler irrigation system he witnessed at the Gerset irrigation project is the state of the art.” This probably is not new to most of the audience, and if I were in the audience, I would expect more from an esteemed Eritrean scholar than what I usually hear from the government media. Professor Kiflai stated, “The goal of the irrigation projects underway in Eritrea is to produce three times a year.” Professor Kiflai was careful to choose his words; he spoke of the goal but not the reality. A critical perspective should have added a little dose of reality by reminding his audience that there is a difference between goals and accomplishments. We all remember how Eritrea has started soon after independence with the vision (goal) to be the next Singapore in Africa. And we know where our country is today.”
Comment: Two hours worth of emptiness rather to correctly classify the value of said presentation assuming Professor Araya’s testimony was correct. It does not make sense leaving the phrasing open without completing it: What may be the conditions that allow the country to accomplish said goal? The anticipated material quality of any national objective is a function of decent socio-political and economic policies which the country is at the rock bottom of the continental list.
Question: You Professor Araya modestly trashed the presentation as incomplete and partial from critical Eritrean perspective: meaning monotonous as well, apparently. Do you categorize this choice as denial, butt-leaking, fear, opportunism; few or all of the above?
Narrative: Afwerki never gives and the reward for opportunism in his twisted mind is mortification: the more you slave him for the more aggressively he manipulates your fear into humiliating you down to nothingness
Question: If opportunism dropped the Professor to the level of being a subject matter of your article and this forum, can one safely conclude from this experience that some highly educated Eritrean intellectuals (pro dictatorship directly or indirectly) may be psychologically addicted to the dictator’s humiliation? Is the dictator’s policy of humiliation addictive to some conformist Eritrean intellectuals?
Professor Araya: “Professor Kiflai was careful to choose his words; he spoke of the goal but not the reality. A critical perspective should have added a little dose of reality by reminding his audience that there is a difference between goals and accomplishments…”
Comment: The Professor might have been “careful to choose his words; he spoke of the goal but not the reality” but that itself is a sign of petite intelligence in my judgment: It was a bad choice because he could not get away with it. The proof: you Professor Araya caught it without any problem and obviously with a little effort needless to say that he would not have gotten away from an ordinary intelligence as well. Choosing said goal instead of discussingreality without thinking of the consequence (one’s uselessness in the scenario) manifests a low IQ driven inferior wisdom in my opinion: He could have chosen another country for his presentation and fearlessly exercised his full freedom of speech as an American resident or citizen. He did not do this in a completely safe environment, which by itself tells about the quality of his intellectualism very well.
I don’t want to overdose you with questions, Professor Araya but the situation can raise questions like Does one teach something for pretention or believing in it? Can one apply what one teaches in Universities in one’s community or what is going on? Would he have made the presentation complete from said critical perspective, had it been on another country or such is the best that brain could produce on that specifics at its best intellectual load?
A Social Scientist and a Professor in Western University teaching something with full freedom of speech while simultaneously denying himself the freedom to impartially deliver his presentation on the subject matter he teaches in the same free environment is very problematic so to think!
Question: Don’t you see a contradiction here Professor Araya and how may you express it in your wisdom?
Professor Araya: “Professor Kiflai, according to the News Release,“explained, using data from his observation and the publications of the mining companies, how the potential of Eritrea’s mining industry in gold, silver, copper, zinc and other metals from Bisha, Zara, and the Asmara belt is bright.” I wish I could share the optimism of Professor Kiflai. But given the track record of the present government in power, who has recklessly expended well earned political capital, I would not bet a dime on this government not squandering the people’s resources unwisely.
Dr. Kiflai was stating the obvious when he “pointed that Eritrea’s tourism industry is well-suited to be competitive because what Eritrea can offer tourists is great; in Eritrea, Dr. Kiflai noted, tourists can enjoy personal safety, clean beaches, unpolluted air, a mosaic of a welcoming population, a spectacular variety of birds and marine life, including Eritrea’s coral reef that is predicted to be the “global marine future” in light of the anticipated global warming.” No one questions the potential of Eritrea’s tourism industry with all the natural resources that Professor Kiflai has pointed out. But in order to give a complete perspective, scholars have the duty to point out the government’s failure to develop its tourism industry which could have been an asset helping the economic development projects of the country. What happened to the many recommendations that Eritrean scholars from almost every corner of the world, including Professor Kiflai presented at the National Business Conference and Exhibition which was held on December 9-17, 1995 in Asmara, organized by the then Minister of Trade and Industry, Ato Ogbe Abraha? To the best of my knowledge none of those recommendations were implemented. We all know that Eritrea has a long way to go before its badly damaged image is restored, so that it can fully capitalize on its tourism industry. To claim otherwise is simply to ignore reality.”
Comment: Why did the Professor construct the central axis of his presentation on the potential that even an idiot is aware of? Everyone knows that precious metals not only have the potential to make money but they do make. Where is the new information from the highly educated Professor? Once again I see the pattern repeating: “Eritrea can harvest enough food that can feed its population..” and “..the potential of Eritrea’s mining industry in gold, silver, copper, zinc and other metals from Bisha, Zara, and the Asmara belt is bright” without speculating the means as if an effect causes its own existence! Yes there is potential but under what circumstance and rapping about the probability that Eritrea can harvest without how?
Question: I would expect so, but was the data from his observation more psychedelic or colorful than the publications of the mining companies he used in his presentation?
Professor Araya: “Dr. Kiflai’s final discussion on Eritrea’s economic potential, according to the News Release was “on what he called is the software that will drive the above mentioned economic hardware of Eritrea: this is education or human resource development.” I fully agreed with him on the role of education and human resource development as a driving force in helping Eritrea to fully realize its development potential. But, potential is one thing and current reality quite another.”
Comment: Who does not know the role of education and human resource development in any society except that we are desperately in need of both in the country? Every society has a potential for whatever it may be and so has ours, the question is how to actualize the potential through effective guidelines which is totally absent in the country, a void that is cracking the society apart. I found Professor kflai’s information useless to society and embarrassing from scholastic point of view specially at this devastating point in the Eritrean experience. This is like what they call horizon in geography where you keep on going thinking of one day reaching the meeting point of the earth and the sky; and infinite in engineering and philosophy where you have no definite answer or suggestion to what you are bluffing about. Information stays at its static position with no practical outcome because of the motionless brain that refuses to process it into a productive idea for the benefit of society; for psychic wounds beyond my grasp. What a murder of intellectualism!
Professor Araya: “Professor Kiflai has stated, that “Eritrea’s good start with the expansion of higher education and its vision is positioned to provide the necessary human resources for Eritrea’s economic development. He particularly noted that the spread of educational institutions all over Eritrea.” I have no doubt that other students and scholars who have a passing interest in the Eritrean current situation, let alone someone who has been recently in Eritrea to witness the state of education, will find this statement a bit surprising.
It has been nineteen years since independence and all that we see is not a good start but the dismantling of Eritrean educational system that started with the unfair and unjustified firing of 33 university professors in 1994. With Eritrean youth fleeing the country in the tens of thousands having lost hope in their future, with underpaid, overworked and ill motivated teachers, who are forced to moonlight working more than two jobs to survive, with under equipped under staffed schools, with a university that has been fragmented into semi military camps, I am puzzled to note Professor Kiflai’s optimism about the future of education in Eritrea. Perhaps he can elaborate and give us a more insightful analysis of the current status of education in Eritrea and what needs to be done to correct the situation.’
Comment: I feel sorry for Mr. Kiflai’s denial of the most obvious damage done to the Eritrean society by this dictatorship through the dedicated curse of Ignorance, needless to say that said presentation lacks a blink of compassion to the plight of the confused and uneducated Eritrean kids on the run from free labor slavery. Enjoy your life Mr. Kiflai but I am out of here!
Professor Araya: “The Role of Eritrean Scholars
I believe Eritrean scholars should continue to agitate for the implementation of the constitution, the release of political prisoners, journalists, religious groups that are languishing in prison camps without any due process of the law.
I believe it is the duty of Eritrean scholars to hold their government accountable for its dismal record and offer the way out.
I believe much is expected of Eritrean scholars.
My plea to Eritreans scholars is to remain engaged and to actively participate in civic organizations that believe in democratic rights, human dignity and intellectual integrity. It’s high time for our scholars, academicians and professionals serve as a catalyst in bringing about positive changes in Eritrea through peaceful means.”
Comment: God bless Professor Araya for your wisdom and determination to motivate Eritrean intellectuals into being practical. I feel sorry for the self induced brain drain of the educated members of our society. In the mean time we will continue the struggle hoping that one day soon we will be able to patch up our broken pedagogic pieces into a potent integrated force capable of bringing a lasting solution in Eritrea. I let you go telling you that you impressed me with your direct and assertive message at the EGS symposium Professor Araya; and I hope you are following the related articles at Assenna. I am counting a lot on your leadership in this project of designing a transitional formula for our country and I am ready to assist in the back ground in whatever way you may utilize me. Let us go; do it this time, brother and please call me when you have time at 202-702-3977 for this mission! I hope you are working with the panelists of the symposium and the other scholars in producing something out of that effort and I know many people are waiting for it. We are expecting it with passion as much as we do your response to this article. But I am wondering what the EGS is going to do until its next meeting in August or September: Don’t you think it is a lot of unused time in between specially without a homework which I don’t know about? Do you agree with me on the theory that the scholars in the symposium can produce a transitional formula for Eritrea if dedicated enough to work on? Good bye!

Review overview
  • nadia March 30, 2014

    Excellent work, thank you Professor Fetsum.

  • Genet-orginal March 31, 2014

    Dear Fetsum
    I am encouraged by the good Professor, Araya Debessay’s willingness to share his thoughts. I am hopeful he will cont. to give his ideas how we can get out of the mess we are in. I really like his statement, “It is high time for our scholars, academician, and professionals serve as a catalyst in bringing about positive change in Eritrea through peaceful means”. Well said Professor! We all know in order to bring change, we need unite among all Eritreans who seek change.

    Reading through the interview, I can’t help it, but to feel a bit puzzled why so much time was spent discussing what Dr Kiflai did on his presentation. We all know there are many Eritreans who are doctors, professors, professionals and dentists who are giving presentations and lectures indicating Eritrea is doing well. It is good to know what they are doing, but to spend this much time is just not productive. Tell me something I don’t know. Even the most uneducated Eritrean would tell you PFDJ’s lectures are all lies. So why spend valuable time to discussed them, how they are misleading our people with their incomplete and deceitful lectures? I really believe our intellectual’s time should be spent wisely. I want to read more how we, justice seekers should mobilized to bring the change we are looking for. No doubt, our unite is going to be the main ingredient for our success. In our struggle for change, our intellectuals have to be the brain and the rest of us the back bone. I appreciate Professor Araya’s time and I hope this is the beginning of many, many interviews. Thank You Fetsum for your hard work. Thank You Professor Araya.
    Thank You Amanuel and Assenna God bless you and God bless our people and country

    • fetsum abrahamt April 1, 2014

      nice comment but the article is on Professor Araya’s article on professor Kiflai’s presentation on Eritrea. It was posted at Asmarino and I discussed it here to discourage other intellectuals from being passive. Let me know if I have to explain more but Dr. Araya was an imaginary guest in this article. Dr. Kiflai’s denial of the Eritrean reality and only talking about the country’s potential and all the positive stuff about the regime’s success in agriculture and education had to be exposed to the people and Professor Araya exposed it in an article at asmarino and I gave my opinion on it in this article.

      • Genet-orginal April 1, 2014

        Thanks Fetsum,
        I missed the part this was an imaginary guest. Oops! I hope Professor Araya is not too big to be interviewed.

        • fetsum abrahamt April 1, 2014

          We are checking out articles that matter to the intellectual input. Professor Araya is potentially very important in motivating the scholars and I am enhancing that as much as I could. I wish more people could involve here, unfortunately not too much. I, however, consider the article important (a wake up call) to out scholars, may be my readers did not understand it that way to be silent as such. Thanks for ur effort.

          • Genet-orginal April 2, 2014

            Do you know this article was from 2010? And also it was posted by “mistake”. According to Professor Araya’s post from 3/14/14, he didn’t give his consent for his article to be made public. Professor Arayas’s article is a very good one. It is a shame why he didn’t want it to be posted? Professor Araya seems to be very intelligent and polite. From his statement, he and Dr Kiflai have mutual respect. However, having mutual respect shouldn’t be in the way of telling the truth. I think, the good Professor Araya and Dr Kiflai should get together, discuss Dr Kiflai’s presentation and come up with a better idea. Since Dr Kiflai’s presentation four years ago, a lot of different things had happened in Eritrea and to Eritreans. Currently, does any body know where Dr Kiflai stands in regards of our people and country? It seems there is no bad blood between those two men. So, I assume they can work together. May be we should do some plea, for them to see our situation is time sensitive. I know they know that. So, can they give us their insight? Thanks Fetsum, FYI, I wasn’t aware of Dr Kiflai’s presentation nor did I know Professor Arayas’s article on Assenna. Thanks.