Selam Kidane…

Eritrean, psychotherapist, writer, human rights campaigner


…It is suddenly so easy to tell an Ethiopian apart from an Eritrean… Screen Shot 2018-08-10 at 10.01.18

  • If you see someone preaching on the streets of Asmara in a shiny white suit perched on the shoulders of his followers… be sure that he is an Ethiopian preaching and the those carrying him are Eritreans and will be probably be arrested as soon as he switches his live broadcast off…


  • If you see an independent TV broadcaster making a lifestyle program for a private TV company with extremely nervous guides… be sure that the bubbly presenter is Ethiopian and her bag- of-nerve companions are Eritreans (worse: they are actually Eritreans possibly born and raised in Ethiopia… the bottom most pile in the pile of victims of the Ethio-Eritrea war… and still at the bottom when it come to gaining from the dividend of peace) clue: they didn’t go to Massawa to complete the project… Hint: they have permit to roam the country!


  • If you see a group of business people freely discussing their ambitious plans to open Eritrea up for business and then you see them being watched by similar looking business people with similar size dreams and ambitions (and finances and know how)… those sitting in Asmara discussing plans on the ground are Ethiopians and those watching in disbelief  their business ideas, dreams and ambitions being echoed from a distance are Eritreans (and they are probably sat watching this from a dusty bar in the refugee quarters of Kampala!)


  • If you see an Airline business manager outlining his business plan for exciting new Eritrean destinations in the near future… be sure it is none other that the Ethiopian Airline manager and his counter part in the Eritrean Airline is a refugee somewhere in Europe watching in disbelief.


  • If you see an array of politicians (Eritrean and Ethiopian) rushing through Asmara to negotiate accords with an opposition political organisation that for some reason continues to have doubts on the assurances already given, be sure the opposition group (armed at that!) is an Ethiopian group… Eritrean opposition groups are not mentioned or talked about in any shape or form despite their presence in the region…


  • If you see a group of diaspora people singing and dancing clad in flags and waiting to meet their Prime minister and asking pertinent (…well some were pertinent!) questions be sure they are members of the Ethiopian diaspora… (The Eritrean diaspora WILL ofcourse be dancing and singing too only no guts to ask the questions and no one to answer either… and certainly no one broadcasting live to the world !)

…There are many other examples of how peace has made it really easy to distinguish between Eritreans and Ethiopians despite everyone telling us WE ARE ONE PEOPLE!

Eritrea and Ethiopia Peace for mutual development ላም ብሓደ ጎድና አይትሰብሕን’ያ!

Copy of Family Brothers Collage Announcement Poster - Made with PosterMyWall (1)

ላም በአንድ ጎንዋ አትደልብም!

can’t fatten a cow on one side alone!

…the above is a Tigrigna saying that I have loosely translate into Amharic and English… it is intended to show that mutual benefit is indeed mutual… a win win situation is just that… you don’t get to select who wins more and still carry on calling it mutual…

What happened in Eritrea over the weekend is nothing short of a miracle and an answer to the many prayers of our mothers… who have cried so much as their children perished one after the other…

What happened in Ethiopia after so much struggle by the people fighting valiantly for their rights effected the peace that was announced over the weekend… Now in order to fully benefit from this new era of peace and prosperity as a region… we should work for justice in Eritrea that will complete our newfound mutual cooperation for peace and development…

No justice in Eritrea will mean the continued outflow of refugees and human trafficking in the region… No justice in Eritrea also means no development in Eritrea and so the economic benefit envisioned will not materialise (atleast not fully or in the mutuality it is being welcomed)… although the primary victims of injustice in Eritrea are Eritreans as our recent history (infact current reality actually) demonstrates the entire region and further afield ( including European nations) will continue to be affected by it. It is therefore important that we all work together to root out injustice and secure the kind of future our region deserves. Justice for Eritrea is justice for our region!

Selam Kidane



024-14Something is about to happen

In the shadows between the known and the yet to come

On the cavities where the skin seeps to the bones beneath

Unease that starts on the nape and drips to the heels

Down an intricate maze all defined yet invisible

Reality that forms itself on trembling lips

Sensations that create their own meaning

A shape all shrouded but unhidden

A realisation untitled

Yet escapes naming

Unfathomed words

Full of deep meaning

A strange shiver

A new tingle


Yet unbidden


A useful guide: How to be a good ypfdj

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… it is tough being a pfdj supporter these days… DIA is hardly in the media and this means you goons (sorry I mean guys… oh yeah and gals) haven’t had a fresh supply of terms and phrases that were gleaned from dismembered philosophical takes and then bastardised to give that sense that DIA knows something that the rest of the world will catch up on one day…. Meanwhile you lot would just repeat them meaningless terms to make it look like you know… you understand and you agree…. Remember bilkena?


To make matters worse Monkey has been somewhat off colour… his bad luck started in Veldhoven last Good Friday… and bad fortune seems to follow him everywhere from…Rome.. to NYC to Akria!…. And so the woozy feel-good words that filled your telly tubby shirts with ‘patriotic zeal’ have been echoing rather hollow of late…


…so here is a short guide to how to respond to on going reality and avoid sounding like the old ladies you force to line up outside Downing Street to shout ‘UN hassadat!’ every time you are lost for words…


…it is simple really… all you have to do every morning is decide whether you believe in pfdj or not….if you unfortunately find yourself still believing in pfdj somehow… all you have to do is decide whether you believe in pfdj having a fairy wand and you being a pumpkin and Eritrea a Cinderella… (yes you are absolutely right you have to believe in Ethiopia and Djibouti being the ugly step sisters and the US is the wicked step mother too…. It is imperative to believe all this!)… if you don’t believe all this, life will get complicated! And you will have to try and figure out why the crowd on your side is dwindling…. Or why you are finding it difficult to believe what the cadres keep telling you…. Why you no longer feel the ‘patriotic zeal’ in the mekete meetings (that is before the koboro whips you into mindless-qole-like frenzy that you only snap out of when the 2% bill arrives!). Trust me it is a lot easier to believe in fairy godmothers and pumpkins and wait for something pretty to happen to Cinderella….


…if you agree with me in remaining with the fairy story… then all you have to do is wait until your fairy godmother turns you and your fellow pumpkins (I agree… you can even call yourselves…Young Pumpkins for Democracy and Justice!) into an exquisite horse carriage and beautiful horsemen and women and makes Eritrea into a beautiful princess that rides on you into the happy-ever-after!


There is nothing to disagree with…. Except of course when you wait… and wait… and wait… for 20 odd years (changing European hotels and t-shirt colours… chanting slogans… and waiting…. Having wilder and wilder frenzies and waiting…. Changing t-shirts again and waiting… worrying that you are running out of bright telly tubby colours and waiting…) and still nothing happens…. Pumpkins are still pumpkins and Cinderella is still in tears and tatters…


When that happens you have got two choices…you can either admit that you are a dumb pumpkin and there is no fairy godmother… or you can choose the alternative (lets call it option two for ease of reference)…. If you choose option two, you can either blame people like me for jinxing the fairy godmother… but then you will have to first admit that we are stronger than the fairy godmother which is a big NO! (besides we are not even in the story right? The opposition doesn’t even exist does it?)… so you will have to blame the ugly step sisters (please scroll up to remind yourself who these are!) but you don’t want them either because that will also mean they are stronger than your fairy godmother… so you blame the US but then you need to find a reason why…. That is when you really, really, really… need to decide whether you are a human or a pumpkin… if you are a human being then you will need to really think about what Sophie keep telling you about us being: ‘a bad example of a good example…’ (I laugh every time I read it… and I wish I could be present in one of your mekete meetings to watch how many of you actually keep a straight face and eye contact when they tell you that!)… if you are a pumpkin then you have no problem at all just carry on waiting for your fairy godmother to turn you into a beautiful horse carriage and handsome horsemen (and women!)… we promise we will be here waiting without blinking an eye until midnight… after midnight there is no point as even if you had become a handsome horsemen (and women) you will revert back into a pumpkin so there would be no point…. Now do you still believe that you are a pumpkin and pfdj is your fairy godmother?

…Just another migrant boat


Just another migrant boat…

No ashes committed to ash

No dust to dust…

No grave to dig…

Nor body to wash and prepare

Or prayers to recite…

No weeping by graveyard

No one draped in black

No wailing from afar

No tent-side gathering of men

No tomb with inscriptions

No story

No legacy

Just dark clouds…

Angry tides

My little brother

No more!

No condolences

No sympathy

No inquest

No details

Just figures



Or dead



June 2017

Don’t postpone our healing….

Healing takes courage, and we all have courage, even if we have to dig a little to find it.

Tori Amos

Talk about our pain by all means

Discuss the origins of all our ills

Log every victim… identify every perpetrator

But don’t postpone the healing

Make plans for amends…

Recommend recompense…

Shed light on the past… illuminate the future

But then don’t postpone our healing

Highlight all difficulties…

Analyse all drawbacks…

Agonise over pain…sigh over the strain

But don’t postpone the healing

Open up the wound…

Scalpel the scars out…

Scratch those itches…undo the stitches…if you must

But don’t postpone the healing

Deliberate till dark…Plan till dawn…

Call on the experts…pour over all the papers

Throw hands in despair… see the mess beyond repair

But don’t postpone the healing

Gaze into the darkness so deep and weep

Look evil right in the eyes…

Judder before the gnashing of teeth…

But don’t buckle and postpone the healing

Shed all the tears for the past…

Mourn all those that we lost…

Face all the anger within… and sorrow without

And then get on with the healing

Heal your wounds… and then theirs…

Sooth the throbbing…bandage the gash…

Can’t you see we are all hurting?

And now comes the time to let our healing begin…

16th July 2009

My Homecoming Dream

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Tell the still evening

To borrow some sound

Crickets …and …frogs

Chorusing loud in harmony

Tell the clouds to give way

To the vast sky’s velvet glory

Tell the stars to shine brighter

Tell the candles to burn longer

For I am coming home tonight

Expecting a stranded visitor

Tell my friends to gather

On street corners at dusk

Tell the moon to be full tonight

Tell the trees to stretch their shadows

Tell the owls to keep their nightly watch

Tell the watchmen to build some roaring fire

Tell my grandmother to say an extra prayer

Tell my mother to delay the evening coffee

Tell my sisters to save some dinner for me…

Tell my brothers to not lock the outer gates

I am coming home tonight…

Just like last night

And the night before

Just as I will tomorrow night

I am coming home tonight

Selam Kidane



Eritrea: from colonialism to independence in photography

Martin Plaut

Martin Plaut

It is remarkable is quite how well the history of Eritrea was captured in early photography. Eritrea’s colonial masters were keen to celebrate their successes via photos. These are from my collection.

For the Italians the use of images had been an important element of the Risorgimento, with Garibaldi’s campaigns photographed and distributed by popular carte de visite. The British too had an appetite for colonial photography, both to illustrate the extent of their imperial conquests and to capture the ‘ways of the native.’

My earliest photograph dates from 1868. Britain, furious that the Ethiopian Emperor Tewodros II imprisoned several missionaries and two representatives of the British government, sent a vast army to release them. Some 13,000 British and Indian troops arrived from Bombay on 280 vessels they landed at Zula on Eritrean coast 48 km south of Massawa.

Here their camp is seen preparing to attack…

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My blood in his hands

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They pronounced me dead last Friday

no don’t cry…
Don’t come to my funeral now
The bullet shot in the desert…
Those bullet shots you heard about
they didn’t kill me…they couldn’t…
I died long before last Friday
back when they ululated at my birth
for I was born with my blood in his hands

But then I died more and more

And you ignored my death each time
I died as you toasted my ‘liberation’

And I died as you commemorated my ‘bravery’
for I was ‘liberated’ with their blood in his hands

And my bravery was the spilling of yet more blood
As my luck would have it I had to die more
And so I died as my friends perished
In war declared far away
As far away as heaven is from earth

In dungeons unfit for habitation by wild animals

In a desert nearer to hell than earth

In the sea filled with wrath unfathomable

In lonely foreign streets dangling from a noose
I died when they died with more blood in his hands

As if there was more of me left to kill
They shot at me from the back in the desert
And they found what I had known all along
There really was nothing to kill
I had died long ago
When I was born with my blood in his hands
So when you hear the bullet shots in the desert
Rather when you hear of bullet shots in the desert
Don’t cry and don’t come to my funeral then
For I died long before I was shot
I died long before I was forced to flee
I died long before I shed blood at their war

I died long before they tortured me in dungeons unnamed
I died in your silence
I died in front of your averted eyes
I died when you were dancing over my bloodied body
I died when I was born to this wretched land
With my blood already in his hands

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