BY BEREKET KIDANE
Since his death a week ago, the late Sheikh Siraj Mohamed (aka Aboy Siraj) from the town of Senafe in Zoba Debub of Eritrea has become a trending topic on social media and an internet sensation among Eritreans.
The witty and patriotic remarks he made during a town hall meeting with President Isaias were laced with proverbs that made his comments quite entertaining. Like many elders among his age group in Eritrea, he spiced up his comments with commonplace proverbs that easily lend themselves to witty extensions. He even managed to spread hilarity to the town hall audience by injecting funny insights into his sayings while addressing some serious topics.
Even though the town hall video has now became famous, in part because of the witty and passionate remarks made by the residents of Zoba Dedub, it highlights the fact that senior leadership within the Government of Eritrea, including President Isaias himself, are accessible and responsive to the concerns of their constituents.
The late Aboy Siraj, for instance, shared his concern about the rising price of tires affecting local transportation and asked if something could be done about it. In his characteristic humorous style, he also told the President that he had recently heard on the radio some 250 farming machineries were imported from abroad and that it would be nice if some of them came his way since he farms for a living and could greatly benefit from them.
The town hall event with the residents of Zoba Debub was very informal as can be seen from the video and geared toward listening to the concerns of the citizens with a Question and Answer session. One can tell from the video that the citizens were accustomed to interacting with the senior leaders of the Government of Eritrea because the audience looked comfortable and not nervous at all about saying the wrong thing. Aboy Siraj, for instance, joked about how he always prays for a safe journey for the senior government leaders whenever they drive down from Asmara because he knows how treacherous the road can be.
Aboy Siraj’s best joke, however, was when he ripped into the TPLF goons, the Susan Rices, and the Jenday Frazers that were trying to reopen the final and binding Eritrea – Ethiopia Boundary Commission decision. He invoked a Tigrigna proverb that essentially says, “He who tries to reopen a settled case that’s already been adjudicated will have a monkey for an offspring.” The town hall audience loved it and broke into laughter because they knew exactly what he was talking about.
The level of political maturity, knowledge of history and current events that affect the State of Eritrea even among the elderly rural farmers who lack formal education is astounding to me. I am always blown away by their political sophistication. This is not an exaggeration by any means.
Aboy Siraj concluded his remarks by apologizing for his lack of formal education. But he did not need to. Formal education is one thing. Common sense and wisdom are something entirely different. Aboy Siraj had plenty of the latter.
May his soul rest in peace!