Sheikh Siraj Mohamed’s Skillful Dialogue at a Town Hall Meeting with President Isaias

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!

  • N.stars

    Rest in peace Abona

  • democracy in action

    This is democracy of the highest order in action. President Isaias is fond of getting out and about to learn the issues that are troubling his countrymen. In fact, it is hard to meet an Eritrean who hasn’t met President Isaias at least two or three times in person. That’s partly what endears him to the public because they know he is all about making their lives better. They know he and his team never rest from working on their behalf.

  • Aoura

    Aboy Sheikh Siraj Mohamed was not only a good speaker, Aboy Siraj was also a historian and a poet. Aboy Siraj expressed their wisdom (idea) combining poetry with history and used actual events to create their stories based on true facts.
    Aboy Sheikh Siraj Mohamed was a our Library and they will be greatly missed and not forgotten.

    • Aklilu

      Yes, Aboy Siraj was busting out rhymes on the fly. He made all his points through poetry and it was all impromptu. Truly a man of talent. Rest in Peace.

      • Kaleab B

        It’s almost impossible to capture the essence of the speech aboy Siraj gave at the meeting. One has to watch the video multiple times to fully appreciate aboy Siraj’s message, eloquence, charisma, talent, patriotism,…. and the list goes on. RIP aboy Siraj.

  • Raee

    እሽታ!
    ===
    ኣታ ኣይትብከዩ ኣይትሕዘኑ
    ዓይንኹም ድረዙ ኣይትሕመሙ
    ሙዉት ዘይሪኦ ኣይትግበሩ

    ወርቃዊ ግዜኹም ኣይትቕተሉ
    ዝሞተስ ከይዱ’ዩ መምለሲ ዘይብሉ
    ኣብ መንግስተ-ሰማይ ይቀበሎ ባዕሉ

    ናይ ሙዉት ይትረፍ ሁሉዋት ጓስዩ
    ኣለዉ ቡዙሓት ብደዎም ዘብክዩ
    ካብ ስራሕ ትምህርቲ ዝሓከሉ
    ዝጠፉኡ ንጀው ነየው ክብሉ
    ከዋቕዑ ዕድሜኦም ዘቑጸሩ

    ንህዝቦም ሃገሮም ዝብድሉ
    ማሓዛ እንስሳ ከም ኣድጊ ዝሃሉ
    ዑሩባት ሕልና መሳርሒ ጉሓሉ
    ባዶ ርእሲ ታሪኽ ዘይገንጸሉ

    ኣለዉ
    ዕንቅፋት ምዕባሌ ዝዓወኑ
    ስጉምቲ ከይከዱ ዝደኸሙ
    ተስፋ-ኣልቦ ርእሶም ዝሓመሙ
    ዓቕሊ እንጣጢዕ ሽሮ ዘይበሰሉ

    RIP Aboy Sheikh Siraj Mohamed!

    • Meaza

      There you go brother Raee with your timely and gifted poem. Bless your heart.

      • Raee

        Thank you! I appreciated.

    • Grateful Eritrean

      Raee It is your responsibility to carry the torch.Don’t you ever underestimate your God given talent.Just keep writing,rhyming and do it all over again and again.I hope you are not lazy like me HA HA.But i mean every word i said.

      • Raee

        ፈታሕ ሽግር
        =======
        ብገዛእቲ ምድራ ዝባደመት
        በሊሕን ህርኩትን ደቃ ዝሰኣነት
        ከይትምዕብል ሓሳድ ዝረኸበት
        ኩሉ ኣብቂዑ ጀሚራ ክትህነጽ

        ርኣዩ’ዶ እታ ጻዕራም ኣደ
        ሃብሮም ዋዕሮ ትሰርሕ ከም ጻጸ
        ዘይእግማ ናይ ገዛ ናይ ደገ

        ኣብ ዝባና ቈልዓ ተሓንጊጣ
        ጭዃሮን ባዴላን በቲ ሓደ ኢዳ
        ትወናጨፍ ትግርብ መሬታ
        ከይብሕጎግ ክዕቀብ ሓመዳ

        እቲ ንኡስ ተስፉው ተማሃራይ
        ናይ ሎሚ ናይ ጽባሕ ሕድሪ ተቐባላይ
        ይተክል ይኹስኩስ ተኸቲሉ ዋርሳይ

        ምስሊ ንህቢ ንዕረ ዘምዕሩ
        ንሰላም ንራህዋ ውሽጦም ዝግንጽሉ
        ኣብነት ሓድነት ብሓደ ዝሃሙ

        ፍቕሪ ጸሎት እምነቱ መዝሙሩ
        ቱኩር ህዝቢ ዝበልዕ ጫዂሩ
        ጐይታ መትከል ታሪኽ ምስክሩ
        ፈታሕ ሽግር ንሱ’ዩ ባዕሉ

        • Bitsay

          Bravo Raee. I very much enjoy your poems. You have a talent, sir. Not everyone can do it. Please keep writing for the benefit of those of us who enjoy reading your poems. Thank you again. I would have paid to see you and Aboy Siraj enter into a one-on-one poetry competition.

          • Raee

            “The smallest good deed is better than the best intention.”

            ተጨባጢት ንእሽቶ ሓገዝ
            ካብ ጽቡቕ ተብግሶ እታ ዝበለጸት
            ድምቕቲ’ያ ናይ ልቢ ዕጋበት
            ካብ ወርቂ ትምዘን ዋላ ተናኣሰት

            ስለዚ
            ኣይትበል ዕግንግን
            ብንእሽቶይ ጀምር
            ኤርትራ ዘማዕብል
            ጽቡቕካ ዝነግር
            ሕልና ዘቕስን

            ኣይትሰከፍ ርእስኻ ኣይተድንን
            ጽቡቕ ግበር ሞራልካ ዘሐንን
            ይንኣስ ይዕበ ኣብነት ዝኸውን
            ኤርትራ ሃገርና ዘጎልብት ዘሐብን
            ምስ ወዲ ሰብ ኣምላኽ ዘማሳግን
            ኣብ መሬት ኣብ ሰማይ ንኹሉ ዘአምን

          • wedinakfa

            You are simply wonderful.

  • Lalmba

    I have a confession to make. This is a tremendous loss for our country. A gentle giant has departed us and may he rest in peace, our heroic father Shiekh Siraj Mohammed!
    Back to my confession:
    When I saw this seminar live on EriTv way back then, this iconic gentleman impressed me on his wisdom, eloquence and genuine love and affection to his people and country. That being the case I made myself a plan to find out about this man and his family and travel down to his village and meet him in person for my gratification. Since I considered him to be my father – figuratively speaking. I honestly believed there was much I could learn from this unique man as to the history and cultural tradition of our people and basically to thank him for being our father. But,
    ግዜ ምስኣን እንተዝኸውን ነይሩ፡ ምናልባት ዋላ’ኳ ነዞም መስተንክር ኣቦ ክረኽቦም ብዘይምኽኣለይ ምጒሃየይ እንተዘይተረፈ፡ ብውሕዱ፡ ናይ ኣጋጣሚ ኩነት ተባሂሉ፡ ናይ ሕልና ምጽንናዕ ክግበር ምተኻእለ። እቲ ጸገም ግን ንሱ ኣይነበረን! ኣነ ንዓድና ብዝኸደሉ እዋን፡ እቲ ኣብ ቅድሚ ዓይንኻ ኮይኑ ዘጋጥም ጉዳያት ንምስላጥ ላዕልን ታሕትን ምባል እንተዘይኮይኑ፡ (ካብ ገጽ ዝገለለስ ካብ ልቢ ገለለ) ከም ዝበሃል ኮይኑኒ ግዲ ኮይኑ፡ ነዞም ክርስዑ ዘይግቦኦም ለባምን መስተውዓልን ኣቦና (ብንየው ጻዕዳ ይጽነሓዮም)፡ ግብ ኣቢለ ረሲዔዮም፡ እኖሆ ሎሚ ኣብ ብጣዕሳ ዘይምለስ ኩነት ኣሎኹ! ዝኾነ ኮይኑ፡ ከምቲ ሓውና Raee (ራእይ) ሰናይ ገይሩ ገጢምሎም ዘሎ፡ ዝሞተ ስለ ዘይምለስ፡ ነዞም ኤርትራዊ ሓርበኛ፡ ተባዕ፡ በሊሕ፡ ኣቦና መንግስተ ሰማይ የዋርሶም። ነዞም ብድሕሪኦም ተሪፍና ዘሎና ከኣ ክንዲ ፍርቂ ልቦናኦም ይሃበና ንኹሎም ቤተሰቦምን ፈተወቶምን ከኣ ጽንዓት ይሃቦም፡ ጠሊ ይግደፉልና፡ መቓብሮም ከኣ ማይ ትፈልፍል! እምበር ሰብኣይሲ ታሪኽ እዮም ንርእሶም!

    • Meaza

      Dear Lalmba. You are a great man for yourself. What you are saying here really touched my heart. I personally don’t know Aboy Siraj but from this piece of video, I can tell he was a master of dialogue who knows how to convey his message while keeping the temperament and mood of both the audience and the master. Of course, he didn’t get this wisdom from school but born with him. I wish we the second and third generation citizens of this nation to learn a bit of such wisdom by engaging and recording with our forefather everytime we visit adi. I think that’s what I am going to do in my next visit.

      May God Allah rest his soul to eternal peace. Amen.

      • Lalmba

        Thank you Meaza for your kind words. The moral of the story I was trying to convey was that, we should try to avoid procrastination for there is always a ‘tomorrow’ for any ‘tomorrow’; or as our wise forefathers (“fore-mothers”) said “ግዜ ኮለካ ግዜ ኣይትጸበ”! Because of my inaction, no amount of regret and sadness can make me visit with this exemplary patriot. But, I still intend to go to his village and visit with his family members. I promise for I will not have peace of mind until I do that.
        BTW, if anybody knows his village, please advise that to Tesfanews and TN will forward that information. Thanks in advance. Otherwise I will do what I was intending to do: get his address from the MOI in Asmara.
        ርሑስ በዓል ልደት!

        • Kaleab B

          Thanks for sharing your story. I can relate to your story and unfortunately we are not alone on this.

    • Mengis

      Hallelujah lalmba
      We should celebrate aboy siraj death
      What a man, rip his soul

    • ተኪኤ ክብሮም

      ብጻይ Lalmba እቶም ወራዙት ኣቦታትካ እንታ ይብሉ መስለካ **ወድሰብ ይሓስብ እግዚኣብሔር ድማ ይፍጽም** ከም ዝበልካዮ ሓሳብ ልብካ ሰሚሩ ፍጻሜ እንተዝረክብ ነይሩ፡ ክሳብ ክንደይ ክንከስብ ምከኣልና ንምግማቱ ዘጸግም ኣይመስለንን፡ በቲ ኮይኑ በቲ ግን **መለብም ኣይግበርካ መለበም ኣይክላእካ** ስለዝኮነ፡ ንመጻኢ ንኩላትና ዓቢ ትምህርቲ`ዩ!! ኣብ መወዳእታ ካብቲ መሳጢ ቅዱስ ቃላትካ ገይረ ሓሳበይ ክድምድም ክድምድም መቓብሮም ከኣ ማይ ትፈልፍል! እምበር ሰብኣይሲ ታሪኽ እዮም ንርእሶም!

  • ኣቦና ሲራጅ

    “ክንድቅስ ክንትንስእ ኤርትራ ኣይንረስዕ”

    • forto sawa

      Amen. RIP.

      • Double Amen

        From your mouth to God’s ears. Amen indeed. Let’s put Ertirea above everything else as Aboy Siraj told us.

  • u&me

    There are many wise elders like Sheikh Siraj who are languishing in jail for trying to mediate the erratic President and G15. They were mediating because that’s what we do in our culture.

  • ኣሌክ – Alec you

    RIP ኣቦና ሲራጅ. — “ክንድቅስ ክንትንስእ ኤርትራ ኣይንረስዕ”
    And we ተቀበልቲ ሕድሪ, we will defend our beloved Eritrea???????? at all cost!!

    Awet n’Hafash✊????????????????????????????

  • B.Adal

    Truly sad the day I heard of the passing of Aboy Sheikh Siraj Mohame. I loved watching him speak. The first time I saw him, I was amazed by his intelligence, knowledge of Tigrigna, and delivery. I could not get enough of watching the only vodeo I had of him. He was fantastic to listen to. I hope someone will share with us more videos of him. We will miss him dearly. Aboy Sheikh Siraj Mohamed was a National Treasure. May Allah/God Rest His Soul in Peace and comfort his family.

    • Grateful Eritrean

      B.Adal i saw him in ERI-TV programs 2 times a hope there more.So TN make a sacrifice and bringing it on.Thanks in advance.

  • Grateful Eritrean

    Dear TN add the LATE or RIP Shiek Siraj in the title.A lot of us didn’t know our beloved father who embodies all our traditional Eritrean STATSEMAN who say what they feel with finesse and poetry have passed away.RIP what a loss,but you are lucky you will live documented in visual and audio representing all our grandpas.This are indomitable ancestors who have seen at least 3 foraying colonizers ITALY ,BRITISH and ETHIOPIA with out giving out their culture and language all our proud 9 Ethnics.

  • ተኪኤ ክብሮም

    ፋንዋ’ዛ ዓለም
    ከም ቅጽበታዊ ፊልም፡ ሕልሚ ናይ ዘልኣለም፡ ብገንዘብ ዘይትመን ለውሃት፡ ፍቕሪ ምስ ሓልዮት፡መን ይፈትሾ ነቲ መዛግብ ዝኽሪ ሓርበኛ ኣቦና ሓጂ ስራጅ መሓመድ ነታ ሓጻር እዋን መወዳእታ ዕምሪ! ኣብ ህላወን መገሻን ተንሰላሉ ልቢ፡ ኣብ ስቕታን ሕልምን ዝፍጠር ምስሊ፡ ኣብ ኣንፊ ጉድጓድ ዝራኣዮም ሕብሪ፡ ሒዞሞ ምስ ተቐበሩ፡ መን ይበርብሮ ምስጢሩ፡ መን ይኽኣሎ እቲ ተኣምራት፡ ብዘይካ ልዕለ ፍጡራት፡ ባህጎም ስምዒቶም፡ ጣዕሳኦም ትምኒቶም፡ ሓጎሶም ነድሮም፡ ፍርሆም ትብዓቶም፡ ናፍቖቶም ሓዘነኖም፡ ሕንከቶም ሓበኖም፡ ሓደራኦም ምሕጽንታኦም፡ ቅሳነቶም ሸቐልቀሎም . . . . ተማሊኦሞ ምስኦም፡ በቃ ተሰዊኦም! ተሰዊኦም! ካብ ሕጂ ንንየው ስዉእ’ዩ ስሞም ሞይቶም ኣይንበሎም! ዓወት ንሓፋሽ!! ተ/ክብሮም ስዊዝ

  • Guest

    He has earned his Phd. in Common sense with us.

    So thank you Dr. Sheikh Siraj Mohammed for the insight and enlightening us.

    RIP

  • King Yacob

    May God Allah put mercy on the wise and witty Eritrea aboy Siraj. i agree 100 % when he said “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….” Young and Old knows our challenges and prioritities.

  • King Yacob

    An excellent video that demonstrates young democracy working in Eritrea.

  • King Yacob

    Another briliant article from Bereket Kidane

  • Rahwa

    I’ve watched this video a gazillion times. I can’t get get enough of it. Everything that came out of Aboy Siraj’s mouth in that 8-minute video is pure gold. One could write a whole book about Eritrea and Eritreans just by expanding on the things Aboy Siraj said. Aboy Siraj said a lot of hefty and precious things in that 8-minute video. It’s loaded with The best of Eritrean values.

  • dehando?

    This is what the Government of Eritrea should have more of: Dialogue with the people. While Eritrea doesn’t have a democratic government for many reasons, nothing precludes the government of Eritrea from engaging the resourceful Eritrean people in forums like this as it tackles many of its day to day challenges.
    If nothing else, gifted orators like Sheikh Siraj have an opportunity to shine and share their wisdom with the people — thus enriching the Eritrean culture.

  • Riamon

    And this Oppositions or pro TPLF supporters say there is no freedom of speech in eritrea.

    • dehando?

      Of course, “freedom of speech” to the point of having a shadow government having its own news papers that compete with and attack the sitting government daily (as occurred in Eritrea in 2001 resulting in the arrest of the G something group) can be very destructive to a small country like Eritrea. In other words, unless the populace is educated and matured to know how and when to apply restraints when airing criticisms and complaints of the government and the members of the government to know when to refrain from retaliating, Freedom of Speech can be dangerous.

      However, as demonstrated by Sheikh Siraj in the subject article, a veiled grievance against the government can be lodged and will be tolerated by the organs of the government. Besides, that is how the Eritrean people conducts its business in any case. One doesn’t air the displeasure of the conduct of one member of his family directly. He does it with the utmost care and with very careful planning. Such is the culture. And this is very important to take note of when considering adopting other countries’ ways of governing. For instance, the type of Freedom of Speech that now works in England might need to be adjusted to work effectively in Eritrea .