Reminiscent of the 60s and 70s hairdo with a sideburn running down to the jaw, people would take him for a drawback and a man who has frozen in time in a nostalgic mood to celebrate the Hippie movement where time refuses to cease as a new era attempts to begin in vain. When one peels the cleavage however, the core is anything but. He has not only radically changed the Eritrean political landscape particularly in the diaspora but single-handedly reframed the narrative in a language that can be related to the otherwise cluttered Eritrean youth who had been craving for a leader and guidance. I dare say ዉፉይ is the ONE!
As they say, leaders are not made but born irrespective of their either humble or lofty beginnings. I don’t know ዉፉይ from Adam so to speak but I have followed his speeches and interviews religiously and if anyone had already given up on Eritrea if a leader will ever be born, ዉፉይ is the good news. Let me put it this way: I remember, during the campaign for presidency, the actor George Clooney who was campaigning for Barack Obama was asked to describe Obama in few words. Clooney said, when Obama walks into a room full of people, the people would simply follow him. Some people have extraordinary presence and their powerful and magnetic presence touches everyone around them and that is precisely the reason they are leaders and we look up to them for inspiration and guidance. ዉፉይ is just that.
For the first time in more than twenty years when the Eritrean Opposition fought against each other on an agenda that was set by the regime in Eritrea including when they squabbled on personality conflict and contest on who writes better articles in English, ዉፉይ and his follow members are communicating with the language the youth is familiar with bereft of esoteric lingua. Moreover, he focuses on what is relevant when he emphasizes on the struggle to change the mindset of the youth which had been indoctrinated by the regime for far too long when immaculate deception is taken for a matter of fact. Weyane is this and that, for instance.
His party መጻኢ ብሩህ ተስፋ which has recently graduated into a new movement ፈልሲ ሰላምን ዲሞክራስን ኤሪትራ is trailblazing as it draws membership from different parts of the world when the regime is rattled and unleashes its rabid dogs resorting into name calling and bluster where they can not challenge the core ideals and principles of the firebrand movement.
I remember growing up back in Asmara, one day, I heard older folks arguing about the meaning or the etymology [root or origin of words] of the word “Listro” a sort of a pejorative term used to describe a shoeshiner. Some said, the word was derived from juxtaposed words of “least” and “raw” indicating the often bungled up looking wood box the shoeshiners carry with them around. As it turned out, the rather creative meaning was wrong. Listro was derived from a Latin word “Lustra” which means, “make it shine.”
The reason I brought it up is that, when the rabid dogs of the regime in Asmara has nothing to say about ዉፉይ and his party’s core ideas and principles—as of yet, to my knowledge, the party is not ideologically driven—they resort into name calling and what they often say about ዉፉይ is that, he used to work as a Listro back in Eritrea. Well, way before Lenin said, ዘይሰርሕ ኣይብላዕ, St. Paul said exactly that in one of his letters to his followers. ዉፉይ at such a young age—13 or 14 years old—should be commended for earning a living instead of waiting for a handout. If the rabid dogs had a sense of history at all, Ho Chi Minh the former revolutionary leader and later President of Vietnam worked as a dishwasher in one of the hotels in Paris. The same could be said about Kwame Nkrumah the former and first president of Ghana as well when he worked as a dishwasher in London, just to mention but a few. Work builds character and as much as it showed on the said leaders, it shows on ዉፉይ as well.
When the regime in Asmara manufactured an identity based on subtraction—any thing that is not Tigrean is Eritrean—ዉፉይ and his party read history in its authentic stand where an Eritrean in say, ዓዲ ቐይሕ and a Tigrawai in ዓድዋ are a picture taken of the same person. Remaining true to history takes integrity, courage and refusal to follow the tide that ultimately capsizes the boats including most of the Opposition Parties of the yesteryears.
Certainly, there is no illusion about Eritrean independence including its sovereignty but that doesn’t mean that anyone has to bend history in a bid to frame the trajectory that has ultimately gave rise to Eritrean independence. And it is equally true that it is the prerogative of the Eritrean people to chart a way on how to move forward either to remain independent or otherwise. That said, as much as ዉፉይ or his party and Tigreans understood that they need each other from tactical and strategic point of view, they both gain only when they are united when past and recent history is any indication.