Language and Politics in Eritrea: The Power of Lexicography, and the Political Discourse of Mr. Ali

By Me. Asfaha

It has been noted that “ for the first time in history that the outcome of a war is determined not in the battlefields, but on the printed page, and above all, on the television screen, and may I add on the radio broadcasting“. (Emphasis mine).1

Therefore, understanding language and its modus of expression is as valuable in political discourse as armaments are useful in warfare conflicts.

And there is no more glaring evidence to the above statement than the use of new and old Tigrigna lexicography by Mr. Ali Abdu who is master of concise and clear expression.

In our contemporary world where the concept of justice is far removed from the virtue of jurisprudence, and the value of political expediency far outweigh its moral sacrosanct of justice; then the use of mass media to disseminate truth, and to turn the function of the propaganda model of the mass media to one´s own advantage is paramount.

In this regard I should like to propose an observation concerning the numerous interviews Mr. Ali Abdu has been conducting on the VOA. Clearly, his language, beyond measure, exudes confidence.

His habitual use of semiotic symbolism render his language visible and audible, and hence, a powerful tool for political expression and confidence building. Moreover, the power and mastery of his Tigrigna language expression is enduring and enjoyable to listen. Furthermore, his Tigrigna lexicography, whether in his interviews or on his poetical writings is invaded by rich and visually poetic words that follow the laws of elegance and grammar.

Since his political discourses are expressed extemporaneously in a vivid, clever, and eloquent way, their political message is forcibly conveyed. There is not excitement of anger in his voice, but mildness and gentleness that is more agreeable to human nature, and appeals to one´s inner political sense. And as the Roman emperor would say “He who possesses these qualities possesses strength, nerves and courage“. Evidently, Mr. Ali Abdu possesses this extraordinary oratorical quality.

On his last interview with the VOA on the subject of hunger in the Horn of Africa 2 (the source from which information has been drawn for this article, which I am providing a link on the index for the readers to listen), his central ideas show organic units by offering us a fascinating view into the dry landscape of the Horn of Africa, and its transformation, in Eritrea, into greenery through straining labour, and determination.

His use of nature´s description of water, rain, and even biblical allusion such as Noah`s antediluvian flooding to highlight thoughts and add balance to the discourse as they relate to the issue of hunger, famine, lack of rain, and foreign intervention in the Horn of Africa is essentially fascinating.

Moreover, it is interesting to note his frequent use of antithetical terms and concepts such as if you raise your hand to receive alms then it follows you have to bow to demonstrate your obedient nature or your subordinate status. Similarly, Mr. Ali Abdu uses antithesis in a very poignant way to describe the NGOs. They enter the countries affected, he states explicitly, under the pretext of providing assist in their efforts to overcome hunger, and to ascend to a higher level of development, yet they will end by causing the opposite. They are the root cause of the Machiavellianism error of “Divide et Impera“, and they make their fortunes on the misfortune of others.

Interestingly, Mr. Ali Abdu`s use of antonomasia such as “extractors of human bones“ to describe the persons or organizations that are against the people whom they pretend to work for is similar to Jean Jacques Rousseau`s expression that the breath of man is deadly to man; or alternatively to Seneca`s saying that “every time that I have been among men I have returned a diminished man. “ However, unlike Rousseau and Seneca the peculiarity, and the distinct and explicit didactics use of Mr. Ali Abdu`s language to describe men who pretend to work for the good of other as “cannibals who devour on the bones of men“ is fundamentally based on substantial evidence as a result of NGOs and foreign intervention in the Horn of Africa.

Furthermore, he introduces the concept of sacral entities in his environmental narrative in order to describe the Horn of African celestial bodies which are deprived of rain, where people turn to the firmaments to supplicate the heavens for water.

Nevertheless, when he was talking about food security in Eritrea his expostulation is that we have ensured food security not because Eritrea is endowed (Zitegona) with the special sacral blessings from the heavens, but, we have to follow the biblical precepts that man was order by God to toil the land, and therefore, make life more difficult which brings greater amount of labour which translates into strain and suffering but which brings material wealth and human dignity. It is only in this fundamental principle that development of humanity finds its supreme law.

In this connection the political philosophy of self-reliance that Eritrea follows emancipate man from dependency and rejects the political coercion of aid that aspires to bend man under violence and hunger and transform him into a primitive man which is an easy route to enslaving him. It is similar to Demosthenes Orationes where we are given an insight that “ poverty forces the free man to act like a slave“.

In conclusion, Mr. Ali Abdu has demonstrated his genius by resisting the propagation of lies and calumnies which have as their aim the corruption of morals and society and the destruction of the common good using the very mass media aimed at destroying the Eritrean society. Moreover,

Mr. Ali Abdu has utilized his mastery of the language, and his wondrous oratorical skills in an elegant and lyrical way to explain the concept of social justice and development. He is a gifted painter of words and a guardian of the most independent people.

Let us salute his dedication to the discipline of understanding, and his persevering quest to the elemental justice.

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