Alemayehu G. Mariam
The Common People Don’t Want War
At the Nuremberg Trials in 1945, Hermann Goering, Hitler’s right-hand man, told his interrogator:
Naturally the common people don’t want war. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along… Voice or no voice [democratic or non-democratic government], the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.
Lately, Meles Zenawi, the dictator-in-chief in Ethiopia, has been beating the drums of war. He charged:
Recently, Eritrea is training and deploying Al Shabab and locally grown destructive forces to terrorize our country. But Egypt is the direct force behind these destructive elements that back them. Until now, our strategy has been defending our sovereignty by speeding up our development. Now, we found that we could not go any longer with passive defense. It’s not possible to take passive defense as the only alternative. Therefore, we have to facilitate ways for Eritrean people to remove their dictatorial regime. We have no intention to jump into their country but we need to extend our influence there. If the Eritrean government tries to attack us, we will also respond proportionally.
In December 2006, Zenawi used the exact same logique de guerre (war logic) at the onset of his unsuccessful 843-day war to dislodge the Islamic Courts Union and crush the Al Shabab in Somalia. He said:
With regard to physical attacks or physical acts of the invasion, what has happened since last summer is that the Islamic courts have been training, equipping and smuggling armed opposition elements into Ethiopia. These elements have been engaged in activities of destabilization in Ethiopia. Hundreds of these have been smuggled and they have been involved in clashes with security forces in Ethiopia. To the extent that the Islamic Courts have trained them, equipped them, given them shelter and transported them to the border for smuggling. To that extent, they are directly involved in an act of aggression on Ethiopia. And that has been going since summer. It is still continuing.
Zenawi asserted the legal doctrine of pre-emptive self-defense (the right to use force in anticipation of an attack, Art. 51, U.N. Charter) to clothe his naked aggression against Somalia:
Ethiopian defense forces were forced to enter into war to protect the sovereignty of the nation. We are not trying to set up a government for Somalia, nor do we have an intention to meddle in Somalia’s internal affairs. We have only been forced by the circumstances.
In 2009, a humbled Zenawi waxed philosophical and struck a grudgingly conciliatory tone as he ordered his defeated troops out of Somalia:
If the people of Somalia have a government, even one not positively inclined to Ethiopia, it would be better than the current situation. Having a stable government in place in Somalia is in our national interests.
Zenawi now bangs the drums of war and says there will no longer be “passive defense” against the “dictatorial regime” in Eritrea and its Egyptian “puppet masters” who are working in collusion to “destabilize” and “terrorize” Ethiopia.
Since “stability” is the hallmark of Pax Zenawi, one could reasonably ask whether “a stable government in place in Eritrea is in our national interest”. The undeniable fact is that Zenawi invaded Somalia to pander to the Bush Administration’s reflexive obsession with terrorism and to deflect criticism for his theft of the 2005 election and the post-election massacre of innocent demonstrators and mass imprisonment of opposition leaders. Zenawi’s three-year occupation of Somalia created more instability in that country, and the so-called transitional government remains weaker than ever. The very elements Zenawi sought to vanquish in Somalia, including Al Shabab, are today stronger than ever. Somali pirates have become a maritime scourge on the Indian Ocean. Somalia is considerably worse off today than it was before Zenawi’s invasion in 2006. That invasion created the worst global humanitarian crisis in the first decade of the Twenty-First Century. In the end, Zenawi did not save the Horn from Al Shabab, Al Queida, the Islamic Courts or whatever phantom enemies he was chasing after over there. If Zenawi could not dislodge a ragtag army of “terrorists” from Somalia after three years of an all-out war, it is illogical to expect a different result against a well-entrenched “dictatorial regime” in Eritrea.
The fact to keep in mind is that Zenawi today is recycling the exact same slick set of arguments he used to justify his invasion of Somalia. But hidden deep in his casus belli (justification for war) against the “dictatorial regime” in Eritrea and Egypt are a complex set of geopolitical and domestic issues. At the geopolitical level, Zenawi is floating a trial baloon to see if the Americans will fall for a second-coming of the Savior of the Horn from the plague of global terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism, regional instability and the rest of it. The U.S. will not fall for that old boogey-man-in-the-Horn trick, again. Obama is neither shopping for war in the Horn nor is he willing to bankroll one. So, there will be no war for regime change in Eritrea or a water war with Egypt.
Patriotism, the Last Refuge of the Scoundrel
So, what is the real reason for all the talk about regime change in Eritrea and a looming water war with Egypt? It is all political theater, part of a three-ring propaganda circus intended to distract the Ethiopian population and Diaspora critics from talking about the winds of change that will surely blow southward from North Africa. All the talk of war and regime change is bravado intended to cover something that is deeply troubling Zenawi and his ruling class. It is part of a strategy intended to project invincibility and outward confidence that Zenawi still runs the show in Ethiopia and the upheavals taking place in North Africa will not occur under his watch. But all of the pretentious war talk betrays Zenawi’s obvious preoccupation with loss of control and power as a result of a spontaneous popular uprising. Careful analysis of his public statements reveal the deep anxieties and profound political angst of a delusionally isolated man trapped in a siege mentality.
There is substantial psychological literature which suggests that dictators often resort to bombast and self-glorification to cover up their paranoid obsessions. For instance, dictators who are morbidly fearful of losing power will project that fear on their opponents as a way of reducing their own anxiety. More to the point, a dictator fearful of regime change will threaten others with regime change just to deal with his own anxieties. The wind-bagging about war is intended to conceal Zenawi’s vulnerabilities from public view and enable him to suppress the psychological discomfort of consciously admitting that he could realistically become a victim of regime change in a popular uprising. Metaphorically speaking, the constant fear and nightmare of dictators who ride the back of the proverbial tiger is what the tiger will do to them if they stop riding it. As President Kennedy observed, “In the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding on the back of the tiger ended up inside.” Ending up inside the tiger’s belly is what keeps dictators from sleeping at night and war talk during the day. Suffice it to say that the winds of change blowing over the Horn from North Africa must be spreading sheer panic about a lurking hungry and angry tiger in the land of “thirteen months of sunshine”!
Professor Jerrold Post’s research in leadership trait analysis is particularly instructive in understanding the techniques dictators use to project false confidence, conceal their anxieties about losing power and delusionally reassure themselves that they are omnipotent, invincible and untouchable. Typically, they begin by making grandiose public statements about war and enemies hoping to boost popular support. They magically discover love of country and wrap themselves in the flag and become jingoistic (super-patriotic). They even become revanchist (propose to reverse territorial losses incurred by their country) in an attempt to open the floodgates of popular patriotic emotion. They brazenly pander to the population using nationalistic and chauvinistic sensationalism and try to mobilize public support with cheap sentimentality by manufacturing hysteria about imminent attacks, invisible enemies, lurking terrorists, loss of sovereignty and the rest of it. Every chance they get, they try to trigger paroxysms of public anger against the enemy and inflame public opinion with provocative and outrageously concocted stories designed to make themselves look patriotic and all others unpatriotic. When all else fails, they openly incite fear and hysteria to distract public attention from their crimes and dictatorial rule.
By “facilitating ways for Eritrean people to remove their dictatorial regime”, Zenawi hopes to lay a credible groundwork for a just, moral and humanitarian intervention in Eritrea. But he is only pandering to the Eritrean people by promising to free them from a “dictatorship” just as he pledged the Somali people four years ago liberation from the clutches of Al Shabab and Al Qaeda terrorists and the Islamic Courts Union. By proposing “to extend our influence there”, he is pandering to revanchist elements in Ethiopia who still chafe at the secession of Eritrea and generate war hysteria to punish a “historic” enemy.
There is nothing new in this war propaganda game. From the time of the Roman emperors to the present day, the lords of war have played the “war card” and stirred up patriotic fever in the population to cling to power. Over the millennia, the technology of war may have changed but the deceit, ploys, chicanery, treachery and modus operandi of war-makers has remained the same. Dictators, like schoolyard bullies, are experts in the art of taunting, intimidation, bluffing and teasing. They start a war of words and flood their population with lies, fabrications and half-truths. More often than not, the war of words will not amount to much more than declarations of bravado and hyperbolic accusations and recriminations.
Time will show if there will be war or intervention in Eritrea, and a water war with Egypt. We will monitor the rumors of war over the coming weeks and months. We shall listen to the oratory of war and why it is necessary for two of the poorest countries on the planet to slaughter each other twice in less than fifteen years. Isn’t the 100,000 deaths of the 1998-2000 Ethio-Eritrea war enough? We shall read the dramatic propaganda narratives to be written to create war fever and observe the war hysteria that will be drummed up to bring more misery and suffering to the unfortunate people of the Horn of Africa. We will watch out for the sparks of war, the fabricated lures and lies that will be used as bait for an attack and intervention. If there is war, we shall see the masses of poor people marching to war they do not want. But for now, no one needs to lose sleep over that prospect. The only war being waged today by Zenawi is a war of mass distraction.
It is the scholarly duty of historians, political scientists, journalists, lawyers and others to throw light on repeated historical patterns of war deception to enhance public understanding, and to debunk and unravel the tangled webs of lies and deceit of the war-makers. Herr Goering said, “Voice or no voice the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.” Herr Goering is wrong. The people of North Africa are refusing the “bidding of their leaders.” Is it unreasonable to suppose that the people of the Horn of Africa will also refuse the “bidding of their leaders” to become cannon fodder for their dictators?
The common people of Ethiopia do not want war. If there is war, it will be Zenawi’s War. Zenawi has done one “fantastic Somalia job” . Another fantastic job in Eritrea is not needed. In any case, there needs to be some serious accounting for the war in Somalia in 2006 and the 1998-2000 war with Eritrea and that arbitration matter before starting a new war in 2011.
The holier-than-thou dictators ought to remind themselves that “The camel cannot see the crookedness of its own neck”. Before they go all out to remove other regimes, they should contemplate the simple wisdom of Scriptures: “You hypocrite! First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” In less sublime terms, “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones”.
On the other hand, is it possible that when two elephants fight, the grass could come out as the real winner?
Past commentaries of the author are available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alemayehu-g-mariam/
Also at: http://open.salon.com/blog/almariam/
By Amanuel Biedemariam
Historically, in Ethiopia, change of leaders comes abruptly and unexpectedly. These changes are not accidental. They come-about due to undercurrent that builds-up leading up-to it. This was true during the transition periods from Emperor Haile Sellassie to Mengistu Hailemariam and to the current TPLF regime led by Meles Zenawi. These changes have many similarities. They were violent, sudden and brought about systems that were unnatural and unfit for the people of Ethiopia.
In 1974-1975 Ethiopia was surprised by the violent and abrupt nature of the leadership transitions from an open feudal system to Marxist dictatorship. Ethiopians had no say or choice in the process. The mood of the country changed overnight. The rhetoric was based on communist dogma that was threatening and redundant. Land was nationalized and “Land-to-the-Tiller” (መሬት ላራሹ) became the order of the day. The music changed bringing with it a sense of tension and uncertainty. Most of the ministers’ were executed at once taking with them any chance of continuity. It was a surreal environment that turned Orwellian overnight with thousands of youth killed on the streets for mere suspicion of opposing the ruling party and so on…
After the fall of The Derg, Meles Zenawi had a unique opportunity to bring positive change for the good of the country and the region. He came to power at a crucial juncture with a blank slate to a nation hungry for change. He had overwhelming political support from the international community, relatively calmer region with the exception of Somalia and an era of global transition from the Cold War into the new Global-Village. But he squandered that opportunity by becoming a dictator worse than Mengistu Hailemariam. As a result, Ethiopia currently finds herself in worse position without prospects for peaceful transfer of power and perpetuating unfortunate history of violent leadership changes that plague Africa.
Now, it is an established fact that the TPLF is determined to hold on to power however possible. While that on itself is a problem, the main problem is the fact that they don’t represent the interest of the people of Ethiopia. And worse, all that they do is at the expense of the people. They double-time, sell, kill, ethnic-cleans every ethnic group. They destroy and burn villages. There is no moral fiber that governs this group. They are desperate and extremely dangerous. They are loathed by the people of Ethiopia and the region. After 18 years of deceit, lies, torture and particularly after the 2005 election- debacle, Ethiopians have given-up on Meles and his gang altogether. By now Ethiopians know clearly that no matter what, TPLF will never play fair.
Conversely, Eritreans know-well the nature of Meles and his gang because Eritreans have experienced tremendous grief due to many crazy TPLF adventures. They are traitors, backstabbers and devoid of any humanity. Soon after Eritrea gained independence, Meles Zenawi stood on a podium in Asmara-Stadium and empathically promised Eritreans that “he will not scratch the wounds” they suffered on the hands of brutal Ethiopian regimes. But soon thereafter however, he ignited unnecessary border war and ethnic-cleansed over 75,000 Eritreans from Ethiopia for reasons that defy logic while boasting “we can kick-out any one even if we don’t like the color of their eyes.” It didn’t end up there. He continued with his mischief and mayhem, thinking that he has the upper hand and assurance from The US and his Western enablers. He denied Eritreans any hope for peace with the people of Ethiopia. Moreover, in order to be the KEY player/ anchor, he destroyed and displaced the lives of millions in Ethiopia and the region with no signs of change of direction.
Possible Hurdles to Relations
Ethiopians can rest assured of one thing; Eritreans harbor no ill will toward them! Eritreans want peace first and foremost. Peace is a prerequisite that Eritrea demands because, as a young nation, Eritrea knows it is difficult to achieve sustainable growth without peace. Eritrea’s long term interest is best-served by peaceful-coexistence with her neighbors in the region and beyond. Therefore, as far as Eritrea is concerned, there is nothing that can stand on the way of peace with our brothers and sisters in Ethiopia.
Moreover, Eritreans understand, the enemies of the region are only interested to see a fractured, destabilized and weak region so they can exploit the resources of the region at will. Coincidentally, that works well with the design of the TPLF that looks to divide and rule Ethiopians because it lacks support from the masses.
Therefore, when Eritrea says we are not threatened by a strong and democratic Ethiopia; it is not hubris or deception; it is only because it is fully convinced that it is a strategic imperative for the peoples of Eritrea to work and live peaceful-coexistence with our neighbors and cousins in Ethiopians! Like Ethiopia, Eritrea knows it can’t partner with Weyane no matter what. That means Eritreans must work with Ethiopians – not only to rid Meles and his gangs – but for many possibilities of mutual interest
Ethiopians on the other hand face unique challenges when it comes to Eritrea. Some reject Eritrea as a nation; some simply hate the idea of working with Eritrea and some obsess about Port-Assab and access to sea. Some are simply ignorant not wanting to accept the situation on the ground and go to their comfort zone; and remain hostage to history and pride they carry from the emperors’ days. Another hurdle Ethiopians face is their willingness to fall for the trick Weyane uses; Eritrea, the border, and Assab as wedge issues in order to divert attention from itself. On top of that the Ethiopian opposition in the Diaspora is heavily infiltrated by virus/TPLF to the point of total paralysis.
However, the main hurdle Ethiopians face is their disunity and susceptibility to be fractured by personalities. On his latest article, “Lacrimosa for Ethiopia,” the self anointed former TPLF King-Maker and ardent enemy of the people of Eritrea Tecola W. Hagos, in order to make the case against his former TPLF clique’s modus operandi of divide and rule; and to show Engineer Hailu Shawel’s “opportunist” nature, inadvertently made this case, succinctly. This is how he put it:
“The Amharas will continue in their present status, disorganized and ineffective, incapable to counter or regain the political clout they presumably had lost if the present fracturing continuous… moreover recent development indicate that AAPO officials in Addis Ababa are working together with the EPRDF undermining the very Amhara movement they were elected to lead and promote.” And, Tecola elaborates further;
“As he has done countless times in the past, Meles Zenawi will try all kinds of trickery dividing the opposition and driving wedges in between opposition leaders. It is no secret that Meles and his group have effectively divided and weakened the opposition in the past; for example, AAPO, OLF, CUD et cetera were all victims of the divisive schemes of launching leaders against each other. Thus, it will not surprise me if Meles Zenawi would offer Hailu Shawel the Presidency of Ethiopia in exchange.”
This shows, at this point, Ethiopians have no representative party. Weyane has clearly WON, this time. They have managed to weaken the opposition and frustrate the Diaspora Ethiopians who at one time rallied with the people in Ethiopia. Moreover, Weyane has brilliantly manipulated majority of those leaders who were the face of the opposition in 2005 who took to the streets by the millions rejecting the criminal TPLF gang and used them to pacify the international community, ala Hailu Shawel. Ethiopians at this point are divided, desperate and increasingly frustrated. They are rendered helpless to the point of almost giving-up entirely due to lack of cohesion and visionary-unifying leadership. In addition Ethiopians in the Diaspora lack the organizational structures that can work as a link with the people in Ethiopia.
Combinations of the factors above are working against the people of Ethiopia in every turn, making it difficult for them to focus on the real issues that plague their nation, Weyane. Unless Ethiopians realize that, it will be impossible for Ethiopians to make any progress towards achieving their main objectives, which is: A) the eradication of Meles-Weyane thugs and, put them to jail and in dirt bin of history. B) To free the people of Ethiopia from perpetual misery C) to help establish regional stability by focusing on people to people relations with the people in the region including the Somalis.
As history shows and teaches us, it is safe to conclude that, when we fail to make the efforts necessary to control our destiny, our fate will be decided by others who will bring unpredictable and unwanted changes. Historically that has been the case for Africa. The West has always dictated our fate resulting in perpetual disasters which plague our region to-date. They have shown callous disregard to the lives, norms, cultures, religious-beliefs and the future of the peoples in the region. In an effort to further their hegemonic agendas, the West has completely denied the people of the region opportunities to chart their own path. But worse, the practice is more prevalent today than it was in the dark ages of Africa. But how is that possible? It is possible because of people like Meles Zenawi who work as surrogates and have turned their countries into client-sates of the Western Powers. These surrogates give cover to the West as they pursue their agendas with impunity and without questioning by their constituents. It also shields the West from opposition and international scrutiny because these surrogates are considered legitimate leaders and representatives of their countries.
This creates multi faceted challenge for Ethiopians and the people in the region. First, it pacifies the publics because the outcry is muted since the media outlets are primarily controlled by the West. Secondly, since the main actors, behind the curtains are Westerners, the complaints end up falling on deaf ears. The irony is the West uses the banner of freedoms of speech, religion, press, human rights and good governance as a rallying cry.
But over the last ten years, thanks in large part to the brazen-aggressive approach of George W Bush, with EU leaders by his side, Ethiopians have experienced first hand the role of the good-guys the West played was a sham. After demonstrating from Gleneagles to DC and every place on earth to voice their grievances; Ethiopians know that there are no honest brokers they can turn to for justice. The West controls all African related organizations and uses them for their own gain. Africans have suffered mightily as a result. Ethiopians are no different because they are painted with the same brush.
Meles and his cronies are smart enough to know this. Meles is financed, armed, fed and given political cover by the West. Therefore his biggest game is political-PR geared at appeasing and pleasing his Western masters. And as such, the actions he takes are with that audience in mind. He doesn’t care about what Ethiopians say or do because there is no viable organization, party or individual that he fears or respects!
The coming election provides Weyane numerous opportunities to rewrite a bloody 2005 election history using the very people that rallied the people against him. Hailu Shawel has given Meles the best present he has ever gotten from any Ethiopian. He gave Meles cover to say Ethiopians have reconciled because the opposition leaders have joined the government in the upcoming election-process. It also gave him room to alienate legitimate Ethiopian opposition from participating. Those who will not play by Weyane rules are terrorists, coup plotters and agents of Eritrea etc… It basically gave him a blank check to control the process, a shield from international criticisms and PR upper hand.
When in fact, all the individuals that are being paraded as party leaders have no power, represent no party or garner any public support. These are opportunistic sellouts that are simply used as names for the notoriety they acquired after the failed 2005 election.
Therefore it is not passing judgment to say the whole world knows there are no viable political parties that can topple Meles and his gang, peacefully. There are no organized political parties that stand a chance against the TPLF. If one is to play the sham-election political-games Weyane have cooked up, it is to fall on their trap and to validate them.
The problem is if Ethiopia remains on this path it is guaranteed to disintegrate. That is inevitable and gaining momentum as we speak. As Ethiopian history shows Ethiopians have never had the opportunity to choose the direction Ethiopia took. However, they have a slim opportunity to rewrite that history, now. But that requires many things from every Ethiopians. It requires them to think outside the box, asks for their sacrifices, time, money, wit, resilience and unparallel political savvy. It also requires them to rethink their partnership and how they see each other as they pursue a dangerous leadership-core that is Weyane.
At this point it is very clear that Ethiopians have no place to turn to change that course of Ethiopian history. The only place they have is Eritrea and the willing open arms of Eritreans to partner with Ethiopians to make sure the despicable cancer that is Meles and his cronies, pay for their crimes. Eritreans are ready and eager to help in any way. But, one should not make the mistake of believing that Eritrean willingness is based on vengeance or other motives. It is based on a pragmatic approach that intends to establish a foundation for future partnership with Ethiopians. To that end, in his last interview with Ethiopianreview.com, President Isaias Afwerki invited Ethiopians and called for Eritreans and Ethiopians to engage and address their issues regardless of the differences because he believes that is the only way to come together. Therefore, Ethiopians must make that determination based on what they stand to gain or lose by working with Eritrea and come to that conclusion based on their own interest.
Moreover the only thing Weyane fears is Eritreans working with Ethiopians. By visibly working with Eritreans, Ethiopians can set their agendas. Eritrea has the ability, resources and experience to embrace Ethiopians in this critical undertaking. This puts the ball squarely on the court of Ethiopians because Eritreans are ready to engage because they know what they want and how to possibly achieve it.
To that end Ethiopians and Eritreans need to support the efforts of Ato Elias Kifle, Ato Tilahun Sileshi and others that are already engaged by participating on these endeavors. We need to confer with each other for the sake of our people. We need to open the door for understanding by discussing things of importance. We need to do it with a sense of urgency and with a clear understanding that peace is the ultimate goal based on respect for each other and upholding the sovereignty of each country.
The biggest mistake Ethiopians can make is give credence to the sham election by talking about it or posting it on Ethiopian websites. It must be clear for Ethiopians that Weyane has no fear of Ethiopians because they have controlled the situation. But working with Eritreans, especially in the Diaspora will be a game changer. That deserves your at-most attention.
(The writer can be reached at [email protected])
By James Orr, guardian.co.uk
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) today announced it was launching an investigation into the police handling of death threats to a teenager who was stabbed to death on Monday.
Arsema Dawit was repeatedly knifed in a lift in Matheson Lang House, the block of flats in Waterloo, south London, where she lived with her family.
Thomas Nugusse, 21, a student from Ilford, Essex was tonight charged with her murder. He will appear at Greenwich magistrates court tomorrow, Scotland Yard said tonight.
Members of the family said they had earlier told police that the 15-year-old had been assaulted by an obsessive man.
Yesterday, Scotland Yard confirmed that on April 30 police received a complaint that a man, aged 29 or 30, had assaulted her in a McDonald’s restaurant on April 16, making threats to kill her.
An officer spoke to Arsema at her school on May 12, but she claimed to have “no knowledge” of the incident.
Police contacted the teenager’s mother a week later, and the investigation was still ongoing when she was murdered.
Today’s announcement of came after Scotland Yard said senior officers would also examine the handling of the case.
In a statement released this afternoon the Met confirmed it too had commissioned an “internal review of our investigation into the crime allegation made by Arsema Dawit and her family on 30 April this year”.
It said this investigation would be overseen by the violent crime directorate and the directorate of professional standards.
Police arrested a man in connection with the killing on a footbridge over the river Thames as he threatened to kill himself shortly after the teenager was attacked, officers said.
Earlier, detectives were granted more time to question a 21-year-old man who was arrested over Arsema’s death.
The man was arrested on a footbridge over the River Thames as he threatened to kill himself shortly after the teenager was attacked, police said.
An IPCC statement said it had asked the Metropolitan police for the investigation to be referred to the commission.
“The family complained to the Metropolitan police that Arsema … was assaulted on April 30, five weeks before her murder,” the statement said.
“The IPCC awaits the referral, whereupon [it] will assess how the investigation should be carried out.”
A source close to the police inquiry said officers were not aware of a wider campaign of harassment against Arsema.
She was the 16th teenager to be killed in the capital this year, and the first female victim.
The attack came days after the Scotland Yard commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, vowed to do everything in his power to combat knife crime.
By Adam Fresco, Fiona Hamilton and Rajeev Syal
Only four days ago Arsema Dawit was surrounded by those she loved most – her friends, her younger brother and sister and her mother – as she blew out 15 candles on her birthday cake. Yesterday those same friends streamed into the family’s neat three-bedroom flat in Waterloo, South London, struggling to explain why this sweet-natured choirgirl has become the latest victim of London’s knife crime.
Some chose to criticise the Metropolitan Police, which they say failed to take seriously a complaint that her alleged murderer had harassed and assaulted her in the weeks leading up to her death. But most were too overcome with grief to speak. Women covered their heads with white shawls out of respect for the family, some wailing as they entered the building. Arsema’s mother, Tsehay, surrounded by women, sat in one room of the flat with her son Robel, 13, and daughter Feruz, 12.
She was too distraught to speak to visitors, able only to acknowledge them with a nod. Berekati Asfeday, a family friend, said that Arsema’s mother was so upset that she “can’t talk, just cry, cry, cry, non-stop cry”.
The men sat in a separate room of the family home, which was was decorated with religious icons. “Everyone is so upset. It is a deep grief,” one male visitor said.
Those who had the strength to talk described a happy and deeply religious teenager who had fought against the odds since arriving in Britain from Eritrea more than four years ago.
The family had moved to at least three homes across South London before settling within sight of the Houses of Parliament. Friends said that the children’s father had not lived with the family for some time.
Arsema had learnt English and was busy preparing for her GCSEs at the nearby Harris Academy, with dreams of university and a career.
Simon Tesfaghiorgish, a family friend, said: “Arsema’s life was maths, history, reading and reading the Bible.”
She was determined not to forget her African heritage and was an enthusiastic member of the Eritrean community church, singing in its 20-strong choir. Most members of the congregation at St Michael’s Community Church in Camberwell were Eritreans fleeing the fighting against
Ethiopian Woyanne soldiers in the East African region.
Father Yohannes Sibhatu, the parish priest, said: “She worshipped in this church and used to sing in the choir. She used to be very active, but in the last two years, for some reason, she was quite quiet.
“She was a nice girl, very likeable, and she may have had quite a few friends in the church. I am really shocked and really sorry for the family that this has happened. As a priest and as a member of the community – like everyone else – I am feeling very sad.”
One schoolfriend said: “She loved her church, and she doted over her brother and sister. She was loved, and loved others. We cannot believe it.”
Tragically, it appears that the church was at the centre of the cycle of events that led to Arsema’s death. Friends said that an older male worshipper had begun to take an unhealthy interest in her and as a result she had missed three recent Sunday services.
Mr Tesfaghiorgish said: “He wanted to marry her – he wanted her. But the family were not interested.”
Arsema and her mother complained to the police about the man on April 30. But 12 days later, when police tried to interview Arsema, she apparently failed to substantiate the accusations.
Mr Tesfaghiorgish said that he could not believe that the police had failed to act sooner after complaints had been filed. “The mother and the girl told the police a number of times that he had been harassing her. The police said they couldn’t take any action,” he said. “We are going to complain about this.”
Wayne Fort, a neighbour, said that he had seen a man arguing with one of Arsema’s female relatives two months ago. He said that the woman had been warning him to stay away.
“There was a chap who seemed to be infatuated with her. He seemed to have met her at the church,” he said. “I could see from the efforts of the elders of the family they were trying to get rid of the man.”
On Monday afternoon Arsema, dressed in her school uniform, stepped into the lift of her block of flats. It is believed that her attacker had lain in wait until she returned home from school.
Another neighbour, Cosima Paniza, heard Arsema arguing with a man on the staircase. “I went to put my rubbish in the chute and I heard the man and the girl arguing. I couldn’t get the words of the girl because she was shouting so loud. It sounded like he was threatening her,” she said.
Mr Fort’s partner and daughter found the teenager’s body. He said that his daughter had called him, screaming: “Daddy, Daddy, quick, come! The girl’s in the lift, she’s on the floor, there’s lots of blood.”
A blade was still sticking out of her side. The attack was so violent that part of the handle had snapped off.
An hour later officers arrested a man on suspicion of murder on the pedestrianised Hungerford Bridge in London, about half a mile from the crime scene. He had been spotted previously by passers-by apparently washing blood from his hands in a public lavatory next to the County Hall hotel.
He was later seen on the bridge, clinging to its side and talking into a mobile phone. He was arrested by two plainclothes officers wearing stab vests.
Yesterday, as postmortem examination on the schoolgirl took place, her fellow pupils were told of her death at a series of special assemblies. Many were left in tears at the announcement that their classmate was the 16th teenager to be murdered in London this year.
One schoolfriend said: “She was a very bubbly person. Almost kind of an angel. She was smiling all the time. I’ve heard a lot of things from different people but I don’t think she had a boyfriend. I never saw her with anyone.”
Cathy Loxton, the principal at Arsema’s school, the Harris Academy in Bermondsey, said “Arsema was a popular, friendly and well-behaved girl who had much to contribute to our school community.”
Arsema’s future had been considered so bright that to help to fulfil her potential she was being helped by a school mentor. Tirzah Bright, 22, overcome with emotion, could only say: “She was a very hard worker – she worked very hard. She was a nice girl. She didn’t deserve this to happen to her.”
12 day wait for police after complaint about stalker
Arsema had to wait 12 days for police to make contact after complaining that an alleged stalker had threatened to kill her.
Scotland Yard yesterday ordered an internal investigation into the actions of officers in the weeks leading up to the stabbing of the schoolgirl as she returned home on Monday.
The inquiry will focus on whether officers could have saved Arsema, who was found stabbed to death in a lift at the flats where she lived near Waterloo station, Central London.
The Times has learnt that Arsema and her mother gave police the name of a suspect who had assaulted and threatened to kill her, although it is not known whether she gave them the correct one.
The teenager, who sang in the choir at her local Eritrean church and celebrated her 15th birthday on Saturday, described the suspect as being aged 29 or 30. A man was arrested shortly after the killing in “an agitated state”. Although he is 21, police are confident that he is the suspect from the original inquiry.
The schoolgirl had gone to Kennington police station with her mother on April 30. She told officers that a man had assaulted her and threatened to kill her at a nearby McDonald’s restaurant on April 16.
The matter should have been dealt with quickly because it involved a young person, categorised by the police as being vulnerable.
The case was given to Southwark CID but it was not until May 12 that a Safer Schools officer spoke to the victim at her school, Harris Academy. However, Arsema denied any knowledge of the incident. A week later police contacted her mother and the inquiry was continuing when Arsema was killed.
A spokesman for Scotland Yard said: “The victim was unaware of the incident and had no knowledge of it. Despite this we continued to investigate the circumstances of the incident and Arsema’s mother was subsequently contacted on May 19.
“The investigation was being progressed when Arsema was tragically killed.”
He added: “It has been established that Arsema and the suspect knew each other but the exact nature of their relationship is unclear at this stage.”
Detectives from the Territorial Policing Violent Crime Directorate have started an internal review and part of their investigation will focus on what officers were doing for the 12 days before they visited the schoolgirl.
A source told The Times: “They will want to know what officers did and when. If they were given a name of a suspect, what did they do to try to trace him?”
It may be that officers went to the suspect’s address but he was not there or they did nothing. Investigators will want to know if the fact that the alleged victim was not cooperating influenced their actions.
A police officer said: “If it was an older man involved in the complaint you would hope that it would have raised flags with officers – he could have been a predatory paedophile.
“If officers knew where he was I would have hoped that they had gone round to speak to him. If they have not I would say they have been negligent in their duty of care to the victim.”
Detective Chief Inspector Caroline Goode, of the Homicide and Serious Crime Command, is investigating what happened in the weeks before Arsema was killed.
She said: “I am trying to establish the true nature of the relationship between Arsema and the man in custody. We are speaking to her family and friends to help to build a picture of events leading up to the murder.”
A new study shows that Amara and Tigre merchants founded the ancient civilization of Gebts 5100 years ago and as a result developed the world’s first written language of business and trade.
Gebts represented a prime location to sell their goods and products, which Amara and Tigre merchants appear to have done in the area since 6000 years ago. But the key to establishing the ancient civilization that we all know about was when the Amara and Tigre merchants moved their farms and production into Gebts. Once they did, they needed to develop a way to document workers, wages, productions and sales.
Evidence is found in the word for “writing” in ancient Gebts, “matet”, which of course means, “give a report,” in Amarigna (“mehtat” in Tigrigna).
Using drawn-out objects to represent vowels and consonants, the Amara and Tigre developed a written language that could be used with both Amarigna and Tigrigna. Each vowel or consonant was taken from an object that contained it. Thus a drawing of a leg (“bat”) represented the consonant “b” and a closed lock (“zege”) was drawn for the consonant “z.”
Moving Amara and Tigre farming production into Gebts meant the local Gebts population could be employed as the farming and production labor. This allowed the merchants to generate an economy that never existed before.
But also, moving into the new region stimulated the economy with export sales, since new international markets could more easily and quickly be reached from the north-facing ports of Gebts at the Mediterranean Sea. This was an important opportunity for both Amara and Tigre merchants, as prior to this, Amara had to rely on the Nile River and Tigre had previously done trade primarily through the Red Sea, Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea and Persian Gulf to the south.
As a part of the administration of Gebts by the Amara and Tigre, Amarigna and Tigrigna represented a unique 2-language national written language system.
Surprisingly, the study reveals that Amarigna and Tigrigna were not recently split from each other, as it is commonly believed, and were already distinct languages 5100 years ago. The study also shows that Amara and Tigre culture has remained very much unchanged from 5100 years ago; we use the same words, eat the same food, and share the same beliefs 5100 years ago as we do now.
To view a list of 250 words from the ancient Gebts writings, visit ancientgebts.org