By T Stephanos, September 22, 2007
Dr. Fitsum Ghebrenegus was the only psychiatrist in Eritrea until his disappearance in November, 2004. I don't believe the country had one since either. The regime, of course, does not burden itself with legal matters and never bothers to justify any of its actions through a court of law. Since it routinely victimizes all segments of Eritrean society without cause, the best guess is that Dr. Fitsum was jailed for his positive engagement with the youth through his church. The destructive jealousy and violent reaction of the ruling elite to anything it perceives as competition for people's mind share - and that of the youth in particular - is causing irreparable damage to the nation. Its culture of militarism heavily depends on the continued enslavement of youth trapped into forced military service that has no limits.
Dr. Fitsum's efforts and many like his, no matter how noble and how beneficial to the long term health of the nation, must therefore be stopped according to the perverted logic the regime uses to deepen its reign of terror. The unjust and yet unexplained imprisonment of Dr. Fitsum has thus denied the country the services of its only psychiatrist. Given the wanton destruction of Eritrea's social fabric unleashed by this regime, the services of Dr. Fitsum and his profession is actually something the nation, and particularly the ruling elite, could have benefited from.
The disappearance of Dr. Fitsum and the thousands more like him is not just criminal. It is insane as well. But the lunacy extends well beyond the confines of the ruling elite. People who should know better nonchalantly shrug off these massive disappearances. "gele reKiblom kKewn alowo (he must have found something on them)", many say, with disturbing approval of acts of terror that a sane mind and a humane heart would never tolerate.
It appears Eritrea, as a nation, has gone mad. Nothing seems to outrage Eritreans anymore. As one of the poorest countries on the planet, precious resources are squandered to build prisons to lock up innocent and highly productive people. Assuming 5000 prisoners have been locked up for 5 years, Eritrea has been robbed of 25,000 man-years of productivity so far. Include the estimated 10,000 former recruits who fled to Ethiopia and other parts of the world into account and the loss is 10,000 man-years of productivity every year. As big and damaging these numbers are for this small nation, they are perceived to be on the low side.
The loss is exacerbated even more when the remaining productive labor and other resources are diverted to support and finance armed groups of neighboring countries while Eritrea spirals down into the abyss of material, mental and spiritual poverty. What is it going to take for Eritreans to be outraged enough to say NO MORE!? For positive and peaceful change to take place, the the insanity of "gele reKiblom kKewn alowo" has to stop.