Meet, on today’s Q&A, Professor Berhe Habte-Giorgis; a well-known professor, researcher and Eritrean activist whose life and experiences are noteworthy indeed, and also a valuable point of reference to young Eritreans. Born in 1940 the professor was a military man before landing the carrier of an academician in the USA.
- -SECOND LIEUTENAT
I was born in Eritrea, attended elementary at the Evangelical School in Geza Kenisha, middle school at Biet Giorgis, and high school at the now Red Sea High school. After finishing high school I was drafted into the Ethiopian military, and sent to the military academy and three years later graduated as a second lieutenant. My unit, which was part of the Imperial Bodyguard, was sent to fight against Oromo armed uprising in Bale in 1966.
The Oromo fighters controlled most of the Province. The reaction of the government was brutal. In one small town named Jarra, the police striking force and militia massacred the Oromo Moslems. When I saw what happened, I could not take it. That event, for me as Eritrean, was utterly unacceptable. It tormented my consciousness. My commander, himself an Eritrean told me that this was how our people are also being treated. I went to Addis Abeba with a medical excuse. By sheer luck I met an Austrian doctor who helped me get a medical discharge from the military.
I went back to school and learned business management at the University in Addis Abeba. I got a scholarship for my post graduate studies, although, I had to go back to Ethiopia because the scholarship was granted by the government so students had to go back and serve. In 1974 the Derg regime took over Ethiopia. It was the era of disaster: people dying everywhere, misery, war… The situation was even worse in Eritrea.
I started working in several positions. The Derg nationalized most of the industries, large scale farms , mines, hotels and tourism business. My job was to organize and develop the management system for the nationalized enterprises. But I wanted to have practical management experience and I took positions as general manager of the Tobacco Monopoly, and Addis Tire Company. My last assignment was Secretary General of the Ethiopian Chamber of Commerce. The job gave me the opportunity to leave the country when the situation demanded.
I went to Europe and then decided to settle there. I did my Doctorate in management with a focus on marketing and became an academician. I enjoyed teaching because I like to share what I know with young people. I am the product of good teachers, and it gives me delight to help and direct young students in the right way and see them grow intellectually. I also do a lot of researches. Mostly, in international trade, comparative studies of different companies in different countries, and out-sourcing.
-PROF. BERHE’S TIPS
I lived for a long life. I lived through different eras – I was in elementary school during the British rule in Eritrea; I was here when Haile Selassie came to Eritrea; I had ring-side look at the coming of the Derg; I lived through the atrocity inflicted on my people. Eventually I saw the victory of the Eritrean people over the enemy and the birth of free Eritrea. Now nothing gives me more satisfaction than to see Eritrea attain full development and be a prosperous country; a strong country that can repel any attack from Ethiopia or any other country for that matter.
The last thing I want to see is going back to the forties when the people were divided and fell prey to the schemes of Ethiopia. I am observant of the hardship the Government goes through in securing the independence of the country and at the same time laying down the foundation for a people-based development. Sometimes I wonder how they do what they do. I travel outside the city extensively. I see what is being done. When I go to Massawa, I don’t concentrate on Tewalet and Gurgusum. I see the new Massawa area extending from Gedem to Imberemi and back to Dogali. That is the foundation of the new industrial and trade center of the future Eritrea. I see the highland peasants transforming their agriculture into three-crop per year endeavor, which will more than triple their income. I see large-scale individual farmers in the Gash-Barka area engaged in cash-crop cultivation. I see the Eritrea that will run-short of labor when housing construction restarts and private businesses flourish. I also see big enterprises and Government-owned businesses venturing into areas unthinkable in developing countries. I know this will take time. But moving in the right direction always brings us closer to our ultimate goal.
I am aware that the challenges we face are countless. But our people are educated, faithful and strong. The young graduating from the colleges and technical schools are the agents of change. I am so happy with what I see so far. We owe thanks to the teachers and administrators in our school system. Above all, our strength relies on our unity. Our enemies have long-term goals against us. We also have long-term grand strategies to develop the country and face any challenges that we face. The young, who have proven their mettle in keeping up to the tradition of their fathers and mothers, have to understand what is being done and continue to create a prosperous and strong Eritrea.