Mass Media and Free Press in Eritrea
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Posts: 14
Reply with quote  #16 

A)Wie ist Ihre Haltung zu Eritrea?

Ich ergreife weder für noch gegen Eritrea Partei. Im Moment wird das Land diktatorisch von der EPLF (Eritrean People's Liberation Front) regiert. Das Volk ist unzufrieden, alles wird zensiert. Banken und Zeitungen gehören dem Staat. Man geht raus, trinkt Kaffee, redet mit Freunden - über alles, bloß nicht über Politik. Denn das ist gefährlich. Politik ist tabu.

B)Und was ist mit der ELF, in deren Lager sie als Kind kamen?

Die ELF ist eine Organisation, die nur noch vom Ausland aus agiert - Europa, Amerika, Arabische Union. Sie stellt sich im Westen als Opposition dar, die gegen das Regime kämpft. Sie hat Geldgeber, die sicher überzeugt sind, dass es eine gute Organisation ist.

C) In Ihrem Buch steht etwas anderes.

Ich vermute, das ist eines der Probleme. Mittlerweile ist das Buch auch auf Englisch erschienen. Jetzt wird es international verstanden. Vielleicht drohen Geldgeber auszusteigen - weil ich sage, die ELF hat Kinder verwendet, um diesen Krieg gegen die EPLF zu führen. Allein zwischen 1978 und 1982 hat eine halbe Million Menschen ihr Leben in diesem Bürgerkrieg verloren. In jenen Jahren, 1980 bis 1982, war auch ich bei der ELF.


D)War es nun eine Kaserne oder ein Flüchtlingslager mit einer Schule?

Wir lernten dort weder schreiben, noch lesen, noch rechnen. Das hat mir alles erst später mein Onkel im Sudan beigebracht. Wir hatten kein Papier, keine Stifte. Wenn wir was gelernt haben, dann vor allem Propagandalieder und Schießen. Die ELF hat sich 1963 gegründet, um Widerstand zu leisten und nicht, um Schulen zu betreiben.


Translation of an excerpt from the InterviewParts highlightend in color show that the dudet has no clue whatsoever about Eritrean current affairs and History.) 


A)What is your view/ stand on Eritrea?


I am neither for the Eritrean regime nor against it. Currently,there is dictatorship in Eritrea, ruled by the EPLF ( Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front) .The people are dissatisfied.Everything is censored.The state controls both Press and financial institutions.If one goes out to have a coffee and meet friends, one does not talk about politics.It is dangerous to talk about politics. Discussing political issues has become taboo.


B) How about your view on the ELF in whose camp you arrived as a child?


The ELF is an organisation that operates only from foreign countries - such as  Europe, America and the Arabic union.It represents itself in the West as an opposition, that fights against the Eritrean regime.It has financial backers who are persuaded that it is a viable organisation.


C) But that is not what it says in your Book?


I think,that is one of the problems.Meanwhile, the book is out in English translation.It will now  reach a large number of readers and the disclosure will contribute to global public's understanding. As a result of my mention  that the ELF used child soldiers in the war against the EPLF, Backers may have threatened to step out. A half million people died during the civil war between 1978 and 1980. In those years, 1980 -1982, I was in the ELF.


D) Was it (meaning were you in ) barracks or a refugee camp with a school?

We neither learned numeracy (maths) nor how to write or read there. I was later taught all that by my Uncle in the Sudan. We had no  Books, no pencils. If there was anything that we had learned, then it was propoganda songs and shooting. The ELF was founded in 1963 as a force of resistance and not to run schools.


Posts: 2
Reply with quote  #17 
Selamat Bayto,
As a former instructor in the School for Tsebah, I have written several articles about life in the camp. I have also e-mailed a detailed response to answer Frank's question.
But here is something I would like to hastily share with Bayto in regards to whether the Eritrean Revolution in general or the ELF in particular had children as child soldiers or not?
In 1975, along with the massive inflow of new fighters joining the revolution, there were also considerable numbers of minors (approx. ages 8-14) who were displaced by the war and had come to join both the ELF and the EPLF. BTW, the line that marks minors from adults was not all clear during the time at issue. Traditionally, the majority of the Eritrean culture assumed adulthood with the physical and mental maturity assessed subjectively. Since Birth Certificate was not issued generally, one's age is, for the most part, estimated or accepted with good-faith by the claims of the individual.
Nevertheless, Senait's allegation was not even trying to exploit such gray area. Outrageously instead, the child soldiers she alleges were six yrs olds. The revolution had excluded these age group from active soldiering not only because of their physical incapacity, but more importantly, on moral and ethical grounds.
The tens of thousands of young men and women who flooded the organizations at the time were then sorted out for the different tasks demanded by the revolution. In the absence of an institution that deals with the minors, they were kept in areas away from the front, usually dispersed among the stationed offices and departments of the organization. As their number increased, the need for strategical solutions was sought; the Tsebah School was established as a result and all minors were sent there. The Social and Cultural Services Department was then entrusted to produce an academic curriculum, and the school opened an education beginning from pre-school to middle school. Thus a full blown professional, strictly academic boarding institution was born. The school was administered and run by the Eritrean Democratic Youth Union, a member of the Mass Organization. The school was not even under any branches of the military administration of the organization.
The foundation of the school was not accidental either. The Second Congress of the ELF actually anticipated such challenges and it was a consious interpretation of one of its Charters. That's why it was academically and artisticly advanced as opposed to many academic institutions run by governments in the area. I am sorry that the Eritrean Revolution exceeded someone's expectation, or I am sorry that an African revolutionary movement was not cutting limbs as some would like to believe; I am sorry that we disapponted them on both fronts, but Eritrean Revolution was running a parallel society in the jungle that was denied of us by the enemy.
In 1979, a branch of the school was opened at the highland/Kebessa. I was one of the founders since I was a member of the Eritrean Democratic Youth Union.
During the early months of the school, there was a conflict between the school administration and students. The kids insisted that they didn't join the revolution to be confined in a camp to resume academic education. They wanted to go to the front to fight instead, and we didn't let them. When the civil war broke, the school in Kebessa had to be transferred to Barkha for safety.
As the civil war continued, the school in Barkha was forced to move to several locations. And despite the chaos in the atmosphere, the school resumed its daily functions uninterrupted. While every capable adult fighter was summoned to the front during the civil war, all staff members of the school remained to run the school. Regardless of the intensity of the civil war and the hatred it generated as a consequence, its ramification never spilled over to affect its children. For instance,  as the war rages on, EPLF's forces reached the River Barkha, so the school began to relocate. Before the school was completely evacuated, the EPLF forces entered the camp on one end. As soon as they realized that they were in children's school, they stopped from entering further, giving us time to load materials and the kids onto the trucks and leave. After a day or two, we had to return back to the camp for there was no other location that could sustain the population. Upon our return, we found that not even a single thing was damaged or taken.
Now, wouldn't that be a shame for the reputation of our revolution, our society, our culture and identity to be soiled by Senait or anyone else for that matter?
Could anyone draw a parallel between The Lord's Resistance of Uganda and the Eritrean Revolution for Senait to stand side by side with a real  ex-child soldier from the Ugandan conflict representing Eritrea?

Tedros H. Baine

Posts: 14
Reply with quote  #18 

Meanwhile in contrast to what she told Zapp, Senait was once again the victim of her own contradictions and  boldly told the Berliner-Zeitung that she was a child soldier and not a war child. Germans bought her book, precisely because they really believed she had suffered a lot as a child soldier and not as a war child. Another problem is that there are a lot of Germans who are authority on the history of the Eritrean armed struggle and remained loyal to the Eritrean cause till this day and at the rate things are being exposed, it is very possible that customers may demand refund from publishers and bookstores as was the case with James Frey. If that threatens to happen, as one witness of the time period, Amanuel Mehretab ( BTW, nice hair-do) noted, she will break down.There is just too little or no money one can make by faking the history of one's country .There is a new revealing Video footage at Poor Senait, she is in her 7th month  of pregnancy.


Taken from Dehai Mailing List:


Selam Dehairs,

as a german citizen and journalist I followed the eritrean liberation struggle from the very beginning. First from a distance, with political interest in the liberation struggle. 1984 was the first time I visited the liberated areas of Eritrea for more than one month, other visits took place during the war of liberation in 85, 87, 89 and 90 . I have made a lot of exprience during that time. I have for example seen a lot of children: In schools, in Solomuna Camp, in Orphanages. I stood also in the frontlines of Globe (Nakfa) and Halhal and other places. I wrote a book about this expriences, in German called "Eritrea Aufbruch in die Freiheit" (englisch Eritrea on the road of Freedom). During my visits at this time I did not see a single "Kindersoldat" what Senait is claiming to be. I have never seen childern with guns. I have never seen that children have been missused as soldiers in the war or as persons to bring messages through the frontlines. I have never seen any kind of "Kindersoldaten" - a very sad and ugly kind of missusing children we know from other african countries. What I and other, more famous journalists like me, for example Gordian Troeller, learned in our visits is that the Eritrean Society did not educate their cildren to "killing machines" like in other countries. What we have seen, was that the EPLF hase been the caretaker for children. I shot tousands of pictures during that time in Eritrea, in villages, in the frontline, in military camps (also in military training camps). No "Kindersoldat" was around there. Thats the matter why I did not believe in Senaits Story - by the way who is not written by herself but by an "Ghostwriter". The book was a big deal for Senait. Not only in Euro. More: She became a famous Person, (miss)used by relief agencies and the medias as a example that Africans did not take care about their own children. What a dirty game! I love my three children and I know that Eritrean (and all african) Parents love their cildren too! No one of us will send our 6 year old children to the war, isnt it? In Senaits book and in all the discussions of the passed few days there are a lot of questions: Senait is claiming that she was in an military camp. According to here book here father brought she by bus to the camp. First time: UUPS!! According to other people it was possible to visit relatives in this camp. Such "visitors" claim now that this camp was a military camp to educate "kindersoldaten". Second time: UUPS!! If I take alone this two facts into account, I cant believe that: 1) There was an access to military camps of the ELF by bus from the Ethiopian occupied areas of Eritrea........ 2) That this military camps opened the door for visitors from Sudan and / or Eritrea to visit the "kindersoldaten".......... All my visits in Eritrea during the time of war have been visits in a war threatened area. Driving during the night, hiding during the day because of the Ethiopian MIGs... There was no bus connection to a trainingcamp for "kindersoldaten"! There is another thing I would like to make it very clear. I stood only in the liberated areas of the EPLF. I never was in Eritrea with the ELF. But I know a lot of members of the former ELF groups. And I am quite shure that neither the ELF nore the EPLF send children as "kindersoldaten" to the frontline. I am also quite shure that both fronts did not missuse children during the war in a way to call them "kindersoldaten" according to the UN-definition. It is now the time for all Eritreans to react: Tell the world and especially the german people whats true: Senaits Story or your own history - written with the blood of all the martyrs of a 30 year long struggle - but not written with the blood of innocent and missused children! It is your history. It is your responsibility! Martin


Posts: 2
Reply with quote  #19 

Mrs. frank Nordhausen you want to get same background information about manjus child soldiers. And you are outlined same question for us to tell you about our experience. I take this opportunity to write you these few lines to let you know I ’m ex-Tsebah

At on time in the history of ELF for the last 30 years, I have never heard or seen a manjus child soldiers

Was there ever a manjus child soldiers? The answer is definitely NO. As for as I’m a concern manjus child soldier never exist in Eritrea.

Mrs. frank reality is only useful to people who have some use for it. Otherwise they get something else. So I can’t express that which doesn’t exist either in the form of ideas or realities.

As a matter of fact this is my first time I have read about manjus child soldiers from you .So the entire question you ask for are invalid.


Posts: 14
Reply with quote  #20 

Nordhausens Berliner Zeitung reports today on Senait Mehari's controversial book. Eritreans from the old ELF school are vowing to refute Senaits fictitious claim with hard evidence.They are defending their positions for keeping silent this long as a result of the time consuming effort to gather material evidences and findings ( some 2500 photos from that period of time) which they plan to exihibt publicly.

Furthermore, they are demanding for the removal of the book from Store shelves and that humanitarian organisations distance themsleves from the writer of "Feuerherz". Almaz Yohannes, the famous ELF singer of "Agawegahta dikdik iyu tzelmat nabey tihadim hager kizimet" is preparing to sue Senait, most probably, for defamation of character.

Die Suche nach der Wahrheit

Zeitzeugen bekräftigen ihre Vorwürfe an Senait Mehari und wollen das beweisen

Abini Zöllner

Seit genau zwei Wochen werden gegen die Bestsellerautorin Senait Mehari schwere Vorwürfe erhoben. Ehemalige Zeitzeugen bestreiten den Wahrheitsgehalt ihres Buches "Feuerherz". Die dargestellten Kindersoldaten im eritreischen Bürgerkrieg, Misshandlungen und Verwahrlosung seien "frei erfunden". Am Dienstag bekräftigten vier ehemalige Mitschüler, ein Lehrer und ein Gründer der Tsibah-Schule noch einmal ihre Kritik an Senait Mehari und luden zu einer Pressekonferenz in Berlin, um ihre Forderungen öffentlich zu machen.

So fordern sie nun, dass Mehari ihre Behauptungen zurücknimmt und sich bei den genannten Personen, aber auch bei ehemaligen Schülern und Verantwortlichen entschuldigt. Darüber hinaus soll der Verlag Droemer/Knaur das Buch vom Markt nehmen, humanitäre Organisationen sollen sich von Mehari als deren Botschafterin distanzieren und die Medien "für eine ausgewogene Berichterstattung sorgen". Ja aber, warum haben dann Zeitzeugen bis heute nicht auf mündliche und schriftliche Anfragen - etwa aus dieser Redaktion - reagiert? Diese Frage wurde auf der Pressekonferenz wie eine unbequeme Kritik bekämpft statt beantwortet. Und auch in der Stellungnahme steht dazu lediglich: "Wir sind bereit zu gegebener Zeit Belege für Korrekturen zu liefern". Doch wann, wenn nicht während der Proteste, ist die Zeit gegeben?

Ausstellung geplant

"Feuerherz" erschien im September 2004. Bereits früher gab es vereinzelt Proteste bei Lesungen, Senait Mehari geht darauf in ihrem zweiten Buch "Wüstenlied (2006) ein. Doch warum werden die Proteste nun öffentlich ausgetragen? Gab es Handlungsbedarf wegen der geplanten Verfilmung des Buches? Elias Ghere Benifer erklärt: "Die Exil-Eritreer mussten sich erst untereinander vernetzen und Beweise sammeln. Das brauchte Zeit."

Beweise, Dokumente - das ist tatsächlich das, woran es in der ganzen Debatte fehlt. Deshalb konnte auch bisher nicht juristisch gegen das Buch vorgegangen werden und deshalb gestalten sich Recherchen schwierig. Das soll sich ändern. Die Weggefährten kündigten an, eine Ausstellung mit 2 500 Fotos und weiterem Material zusammenzustellen, um ihre Aussagen zu legitimieren. Eine Klage von Almaz Yohannes, die im Buch als brutale Kommandeurin beschrieben wird, sei ebenfalls in Vorbereitung.

Elias Ghere Benifer, Mitbegründer der Tsibah-Schule, findet es skandalös, dass sich die Deutschen Meharis "Märchen" einfach erzählen ließen. Er sagt: "Kalaschnikows, Leichen, Hunger und Misshandlungen sind reine Fiktion." Das Lager sei von der ELF organisiert worden, damit "die Ausbildung trotz der Kämpfe nicht verloren geht." Zur Gründung, im Oktober 1977, waren 15 Kinder zu betreuen, am Ende - 1981/82 - dann 1 300. "Bei uns wurde gelernt und überlebt." Benifer spricht von einer "Musterschule", wo Kinder aus verschiedenen kulturellen und religiösen Milieus gemeinsam lebten. "Das war unser Traum für die eritreische Gesellschaft". War das Lager also eine Zivilinstitution?

Abraham Mehreteab, ein ehemaliger Mitschüler, erzählt, dass er sich anfangs noch begeisterte für die Gesangskarriere von Senait. Völlig ungläubig habe er später das Buch gelesen, denn er habe sich im ELF-Lager behütet gefühlt. Statt Waffen habe es dort "vormittags Unterricht wie Geschichte und Mathematik gegeben und nachmittags Aktivitäten wie Fußball oder Akrobatik." Mehreteab kennt Senait Mehari seit Anfang 1980 aus dem Lager. Dies attestiert er mit einem Foto, das beide Kinder zeigt. Mehari aber bestreitet, ihn zu kennen.

In einem Interview mit der Berliner Zeitung (vom 21. 2.) wehrte sich Mehari entschieden gegen die Vorwürfe. Sie betonte, dass sie endlich mit den Zeitzeugen reden möchte. Gestern erklärten diese nun auch ihrerseits Gesprächsbereitschaft: "Sie bleibt unsere Schwester, aber sie muss sich der Wahrheit stellen".

Berliner Zeitung, 28.02.2007

Posts: 18
Reply with quote  #21 

Selamat Meskeremites,


I think lawsuit for defamation or lie can only propel the culprit to the stratosphere making their book sell even more. We have seen it happened many times, stop and think. The solution to settle the problem in a roundtable with lawyers present, make agreement with the author ask her to pay a certain percentage of her profits to the Martyrs Family Fund. If she refused, which I doubt she will; then you can campaign for other measures. However, since she recognizes the suffering of children soldiers in other African countries that highly likely she is compassionate and I don't see how she would refuse to help the very people she based her story on. I am positive if the Ertra's community center approaches her with such proposal, she will agree.


After all she is famous and she has made enough money from her previous book, so contributing to improve the lives of those she based the story on would be a win-win for all. Let me advice you all, you cannot sue people for writing books, especially if she is writing it as her experience during the time. Even if there is a code in German lawsuit, she can get away without any damage, for the story is hers and no one was there to see what she saw. Only few people have succeeded in suing others for defamation, for wrongly depicting historical facts. Such as writing wrong information about holocaust, because there is a code in German law that specifically states denying Holocaust and writing false account about it is punishable by law.


The best thing people can do in this case is to write Ertra's history and make it impossible for other Senaits to mock Ertra and Ertrawyan. By dragging them court to court and making them appear on TV can only make them popular and sell more books. Its better to talk to her and at least have her pay part of her profit to the Martyrs Family Fund. Those are the people who lost the most and are hurting by their loss and for Senait to make money out of their suffering of others would not be acceptable.


While making the deal with write comprehensive books of regarding Ertra's historical account and support the books with irrefutable evidence making it impossible for others to twist and turn the historical accounts for their personal gains. As long as no one writes Ertra’s history then everyone has the right to write what they think and what happened. I do not understand as to why Ertrawyan historians are tolerating their profession being mocked by a singer? I do't understand as to why no one is daring. Does the GoE discourage historians from writing historical books? I know of few patriotic Ertrawyan who are capable of putting things together, in fact they got their PhDs in depicting Ertra's contemporary history. They don't have to be afraid of getting some facts wrong as long as they have most of it right. The next generation would improve it by revising the books.

What persuasion? Persuasion was done to bring the disputing parties to court, so as to resolve the matter thru legal means. The resolution protocol was agreed to a Final & Binding, and to abide by the outcome no matter what the ruling is. By not enforcing the ruling, PCA under The Hague Court (king of all courts) is being undermined by nations who claim to respect the rule of law. What a shame!
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