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Turning Mumbo Jumbo into an Abstract Art – By Seyoum Tesfaye

The question could have been as simple as: “How do you get to Massawa from Asmara?” the answer when delivered by a person with an Omniscient Point of View becomes an example of a voyage

The question could have been as simple as: “How do you get to Massawa from Asmara?” the answer when delivered by a person with an Omniscient Point of View becomes an example of a voyage to the “center” of dark matter. A riveting experience into how a full-blown omniscient behavior when combined with lever of political power and modern media vividly exemplifies how ordinary Mumbo Jumbo can be turned into an abstract art. After all the unhinged rhetoric and empty pontification when the God-like third person narrator gets done (if he ever gets done) we never hear the answer for “How do get to Massawa from Asmara” the question is left dangling to be reincarnated in another meaningless yearly ritual: canned “interview” or better yet an orchestrated monologue.

The people of Eritrea are very lucky since their country has produced the most proficient Mumbo Jumbo artist, bar none, to come out of Africa since decolonization: An achievement, of a different sort, worthy of being forwarded to the Guinness World Records for serious consideration. It will not be in the same category with the famed Pericles ’Funeral Oration or Winston Churchill’s “We Shall Fight on the Beaches” but it will be in a category exemplifying advancement in the mastery of effectively utilizing and advancing the discipline of Mumbo Jumbo. The art demands the skill of meandering a lot without answering any meaningful question even the simplest one. Twenty years after independence this is where you end up when you close the only college and start depending on one man’s brain for everything: A frightening trip to the black hole of national regression.

The man who sleeps 8 to 9 hours a day without any worry and reads for 5 hours non-stop and still manage to give such an all-inclusive prescription to all that ails the world cannot not be confined to solving little Eritrea’s minuscule problems. Managing Eritrean Lilliputians when your talent is so vast and so global is not a cost-effective deployment of a God given extraordinary talent. Ninetyfive percent (95%) of your energy must be directed and dedicated to prescribing solution to the global economic crisis, explaining the mystery behind the fall North African dictators, dissecting the post –Cold War and The New World Order, the failure of African Union as well as making a very feeble attempt to try to present, a Chinese fortune cookie rendition,a sophomoric interpretation of African American social crisis.

How fortune Eritrea must be,after scarifying hundreds and thousands of its finest sons and daughters for a noble cause, to be suffocating under this kind unenlightened tyrant who uses the New Year as a platform to pollute the airwave with Mambo Jumbo and believe that Eritreans will not see through his sterile narrative. This is within the nature of authoritarian tyrants who live in their own mind and strongly believe the discredited fiction that they still command the hearts and minds of the people. This is their version of vanity-the illusionary security that gives them false comfort just before the ground slips from them.

Dignity when defined by a tyrant becomes oxymoronic since the very existence of the tyrant and his oppressive system is based on destroying the collective and individual dignity of the people. The double talk, the inability to be precise even while giving the most benign answer, the tendency to pretend as the most consummated and polished intellectual powerhouse while debasing the basic fabric of the society is part of the struggle to overcompensate –whatever the psychological deficiency. What else can explain this kind generic madness? The desire to maintain power at all cost.

If your definition of self is based on maintaining power the guiding rule is simple: forget morality and long established anchoring social values. Pretend, lie, cheat, arrest, kill, defame, pick fight with powers beyond your league to feel macho, dump so much Mambo Jumbo on the mediato keep the Lilliputians busy. Using words in such a way to obscure the basic truth is one of The Eritrean President’s skills.  Obfuscation and rhetorical anaphora are his well-developed technics. Look into the essence of what he has been mumbling about and the net result can be distilled to half a page at best. As Morgan Meiss put it:

“Some dictators don’t know how to talk. They know how to speak, of course. They are able to use language. They utter words, but they don’t say anything” (MorganMeiss- The Dictators Speech-What Mubarak talks about when he talks)

When the pressure gets a bit heavy the Omniscient Great Leader will take to the microphone recycling the same Mumbo Jumbo with added minutes than the last time and try to deflect the hearts and minds of the people away from the reality on the ground. With UNSC Resolution 2023, the Awassa Conference, his favorite benefactors and comrades crumbling in Libya, Egypt and Yemen and with the Eritrean youth finally finding its own voice he had to speak and speak a whole lot of vintage nonsense to spoon feed his remaining supporters in Diaspora.

The people at home know their questions will not be asked or answered by the very source of their suffering. They trust their experience. They know very well it has been a while since “their president” talked their language. Speaking and pontificating without true purpose has been the ruling party and its leadership’s favorite past time for a while. No different from playing card or domino. You talk from the heart. You speak with your mouth. A heart without mercy and compassion cannot produce truthful talks. The people are aware. They are more worried about their children’s future than what a brutal dictator, who has perfected his method of brutality over fifty (50) years practice, is saying about the world economy or his nostalgia for Cold War. His intellectual mentor Castro freed 3000 prisoners as a gesture for New Year. What did the great theoretician on the “Decline and Fall of Capitalism” in Asmara do? He arrested more citizens and monopolized the media time and exposed his failure to grasp reality: the Eritrean reality.

Our collective and individual resolution for the year 2012 is to get rid of the one man show in Eritrea. There is no other relevant resolution than this. Our Dan Quixote can fight EU, USA, AU, and IGAD etc. on his own time if he chooses a carrier as a radio talk show personality or as a writer of a book that will make it to the top of the New York Times’ best seller list, or apply to Harvard or Yale asprofessor with a mastery in African American suffering, African Union’s reason for failure, the Decline of USA and the Rise of China, Why the Arab Spring Happened, The Occupy Movement: Its cause and future direction, Just to present the abbreviated possibilities for the all-knowing authoritarian. But the clear message to him is: Leave Eritrea before it is too late for you and your cronies. Take your hand picked cronies and your Mambo Jumbo Art with you. You value to Eritrea has expired. Read the writing on the Wall.

Enough is Enough.

Declaimer: Opinion Expressed in this article represents my POV – point of view and only my point of view.

Review overview
  • Weldit January 5, 2012

    I was a bit surprised election was actually asked on PIA’s recent interview . I have come to expect very little that I was caught off guard on that.
    Unfortunately, the question was asked in a timid way and it opened the door for PIA to escape it. PIA was brief in answering it, probably 2 or 3 minuts while he spent 2 or 3 hrs anaylyzing the world and the region. He really is one incompetent leader!
    The reporter asked him saying that the enemies are saying this and that – basically he asked him as if election was a demand from the ‘enemy’. And of course PIA would dismiss it easily and tell the enemy to kiss his butt (not his acual words). The right question would have been to bring it as a legitmate demand of the Eritrean people and keep pressing with follow-ups till you get him to talk about it.

    • Asgedet January 5, 2012

      In a staged interview, one can not expect Isaias to get challenged or lose a breath over the questions simply because, he has gone over the questions way before it was announced to the public. The issue of election was thrown onto it in a make believe stunt to give an impression that he was challenged where Isaias brazenly dismissed the election issue as if it is pressed upon Eritrea by real or perceived enemies. One doesn’t have to have a keen sense of acuity to read the foot notes of the interview. That is, if he was asked about the implementation of the Constitution, he can not possibly attribute the pressing question to the conspiracy of the West, simply because implementation of the Constitution or lack thereof can not in any way be excused or throw it in a bag of a conspiracy theory. Constitution is the very pillar of a functioning and legitimate nation-state either Orient or Occident. Thus, it was better for him to be asked about the election where it is easy to sell it as if it is the idea of the West and alien to the Eritrean historical and cultural mould.

  • Daniel Bahta January 6, 2012

    Dear Mr. Seyoum,

    Your article is very interesting and the narratives are accurate. However, I am concerned that such a beautiful article might remain unread by many because of the vocabularies you chose to use. With all due respect, I found the style of your writing to have a classical touch from the Shakespearean era. Probably you deliberately chose the style to limit your audience to those who are in love with that era’s style of writing. If that was the case, then “congratulations” and please forgive my Mumbo Jumbo!

    However, if you are writing to the average English-speaking Eritrean audience, I think the style of writing you chose was simply too Shakespearean to suit our taste. I don’t know if writing in simple and short English sentences that are understandable by the average readers was considered a sin at the time of your schooling. Today, what we learn at school and what we practice in professional analytical writing are to write clearly, smoothly and eloquently using simple and daily used English words. Difficult and obsolete words tend to obscure the clarity of writings. The easier your vocabularies are to understand, the more readable your article is. I know that you know this! I also know that I don’t have to tell you this. So, I only meant to gently remind you to use simple words that everyone could understand when you write next time.

    Best regards,


    • Wedi Keshi January 6, 2012

      Thank you, Daniel. I fully agree with you. I hope Mr. Seyum takes your comment seriously. I read his article but I didn’t understand a lot of his vocabularies. Of courase, the message was clear. But, reading something like this makes me tired. Betam’ aselchawi zikune axehahifa eyu. Thanks bro!

    • Yerhiwo January 7, 2012

      Selam Daniel,
      I agree with you that sometimes that columnists use heavy vocabulary. But if the writer happens to be an academic who’s used to writing scholarly articles or have developed a certain creative writing style, it’s hard for them to downgrade to 7th grade English like mine:-)


      • Kibrom T. January 8, 2012

        If one can write like that with only a 7th grade education, no further English lessons or thought process education will be necessary. But I agree with you about professional writers or professors using words that look misplaced or too big to most of us. Not to them. Most of us will know what it means from the context. If not, just open the dictionary. We do not have to use these words. We just need to get the point the writer is trying to make. Never get distracted from the subject matter.

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