I asked, “Will you ever go back?”
The man smiled, took his right and made a pistol shape, raised his index finger to his head while calmly responding, “I can’t go back. If I do, they kill me.”
He comes from Eritrea, and his name is Goitam.
He is a slender man with eyes that have seen his fair share of life who sits next to me in my German class. He speaks wonderful English, and is the first of the class I asked to participate in the “I come from…my name is.” Project. His condensed story of life reads almost the opposite to many of us.
Goitam is a musician, and lover of music. At age 20, he went into the Eretrian military where he would be told to play propaganda music as part of his job. He even did small tours to Europe for the Eritrean communities outside the country. People would say, “They are coming from the government!” The people back home in Eretria heard, “we are making celebration for the country outside the country!”
Goitum's dream was to write music, yet, in the military, he could not do my own work. he had only to revolutionary songs to write and play.
For 17 years Goitam was in the service. What he didn’t see was the changes that were promised with the revolution everyone was fighting for. Everything was provisional
“ We kept hearing, we are a small country, we have freedom, we are preparing and putting ourselves in a position. We are planning to make elections, rules, and laws!” I heard this for, five, seven, ten, twelve, and twenty years. “It was all provisional.”
Goitam wonders whey there haven’t been actual elections? Why was no one outside the party allowed to sell goods? Where were Eritreans educated outside in the west at Harvard and oxford shunned as outsiders? The Eritreans who had money before the war fled and left. They don’t come back. Even the soldiers fighting in the revolution, many have left for Sudan and Ethiopia. They don’t come back.
There is only one group, one party. For example sugar and coffee, these are needs for the people. The leaders buy it themselves and sell it to the people. You have to register and have a card to go see and shop, much like the soviet union of old.
In Eretria, despite being in the military for years, life was hard. "I had no work, no money and there is no peace of stability-one always has the fear of jail to contend with." he let out another sigh and said, “It is as if the leaders have created a country of hunger, all to make it easier to control.”
Goitam exhaled, “Personally, I don’t need this. I must live. I came for peace and stability.”
His name is Goitam, he came from Eritrea.