By Ghelle Berhe|
When the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front [EPLF] entered the capital Asmara in May 1991, Eritreans both at home and living abroad, were euphoric and enthusiastic, and deservedly so: the elderly thought the time had arrived, after a long time of struggle, to get rest and see the cause they fought for come to fruition; the young ones were eager to go to school, have jobs, get married, have children and enjoy life; society as a whole was looking forward to better life and just society guaranteed under the law.
I wished the Eritrea people the best of things, to rise up to meet their aspirations, even though I personally did not share that enthusiasm, for I knew that the EPLF had long failed to deliver. Once I commented to the effect that when the EPLF came out from their hiding place under the hills and valleys of Sahel into the open highland planes, the Eritrean people would have a better chance to know the organization and the evils of its leadership, especially the man at the helm of power now. And they did!
The leadership of the EPLF took no time starting to abuse the Eritrean people: destroyed traditional laws, and no law to replace it, attacked religious traditions, confiscated land from peasants and gave it to military officers and the regime’s cronies, ganged the younger generation to so called “national service” [or Agelglot in local parlance], which has no economic value or time limit, dismantled institutions of higher education. What is worse, their leader led the country into a series of wars with neighboring countries: in 1994 a year of conflict with the Sudan, 1995 with Yemen, 1996 with Djibouti, and 1997/98 with Ethiopia, the worst being a devastating war against Ethiopia, which ended with victory for Ethiopia. Their leader did not take responsibility for the devastation he inflicted to the nation in which thousands were killed and thousands more wounded and displaced, and a staggering material lose. Instead he started to make sarcastic and demeaning remarks about his senior ministers and war leaders, blaming them for the defeat of war. He started to arrest and imprison military officers and senior ministers and senior citizens and anybody who expressed concern of the working of government.
This sent a shock wave of dismay and hopelessness throughout the Eritrean society, especially the youth who had to bear the brunt, including the “shoot to kill’ policy of the brutal dictator to leave their own beloved country and people rather than to live there. To many, this came as a surprise. They thought this came when the EPLF leadership entered Asmara, and their Leader started arresting high government officials and sent them to prison. But it all began at the beginning. One only needs to debunk the history of the organization and the mendacious character of their leader. I have chosen the word mendacity to describe the character of their leader.
Act # 1
I met an Eritrean in the summer of 1978 in Rome, Italy. He was a former fighter with the Eritrean Liberation Front [ELF]. He was living in Germany at the time. We met over coffee. As was common with all Eritreans during those days, we raised the question of the Eritrean struggle. The Eritrean told me, in those days in the field the lower rank fighters, especially those from the highlands were very close to one another. There were disappearances of some fighters at times that kept us uncomfortable. But Isaias was close to the Leadership of the organization. Somehow, he was chosen to go to China, and he was sent to china secretly, without any one of us knowing. His disappearance worried us all. Finally, we found out his address, and contacted him through a letter, secretly and with great care, explaining that we were worried of his disappearance. He wrote us back an open, condemnation letter saying that we were racists and regionalists, and that the ELF leadership did not believe nor did such acts. We were worried that the leadership might find out, we cut the letter into pieces and buried it in the sand, he said. Isaias, was trying to create a cleavage of misunderstanding between the leadership and ordinary fighters.
Act # 2
When he came back, he was given a position. But it took him no time from betraying the organization, as we all know it. He left the ELF with some fighters, mainly from the Kebesa area. The ELF was worried what repercussions it might have on the highland population that it organized a committee lead by Ibrahim Mohamed Ali and members, among them.
- Tesfay Teklezgi
- Gebru Hagos
- Fitsum Ghebresus
- Mesfin Bahlibi
- Melake Tecle
- Ibrahim Mohamed Ali [Unit Leader]
- Amanuel Ghebresus
- Mestofa abdu
The ELF group was dispatched to meet Isaias before it was late. The ELF group met the Isaias group at Hagaz near Keren and according the ELF group, they delivered the message to Isaias and his group. Isaias seemed satisfied to go back and join the ELF, except he asked for some time to talk to his group. Next meeting was scheduled to be at the same place. The ELF group went back to report what they found, and according their appointment, they went back to meet the Isaias group for the second time. But Isaias had already betrayed the ELF and nowhere to be found. Instead he went to join other splinter groups. As the ELF had suspected, he started to propagate, that he and his group were victims of racism and Islamism. He started a propaganda campaign, appealing to the highland population to join him against the ELF. He was with the belief that the ELF would fragment, and its rank-and-file would join his group. That did not happen: Instead, the ELF restructured itself and proved to Eritreans and the enemies of Eritrea that the organisation was committed and viable to lead Eritrea to victory. The ELF leadership had been extra careful not to go against his group.
Act # 3
Once Isaias learned that his project of division had been a non-starter, he concocted another destructive anti-Eritrean plot. This time, he came to join the Ethiopian ruling class, through a series of meetings with the then Ethiopia’s viceroy and governor of Eritrea, Leul Asrate Kassa, and Copland, an American CIA representative at Kagnew Station, in which the governor arranged some military weapons to be handed over to Isaias and the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front [EPLF] at a none-military depot known as Inda Finanza [Department of Finance] in the centre of Asmara. A number of innocent people who were working for the department were arrested and sent to prison. I know because, some of them belonged to my own family. The Ethiopian government accused them as collaborators, to cover up its action. With the newly acquired weapons, Isaias acquired confidence that the ELF would fracture and join his group. But didn’t not happen: the ELF restructured even more organizationally and ideologically that the rate of change, according to foreign observers who were close to the field, was much greater in the ELF than in the EPLF. To his frustration, to join hands with the royalty of Shoa to sabotage the Eritrean people’s rise for self-determination did not work. But the loss of life of innocent Eritreans on both sides was so huge, that either way, it was great to the satisfaction of the criminal.
Act # 4
In the 1970’s, more and more Eritreans from all over the world, especially from Ethiopia, started to flow to the field and join the Eritrean struggle. An enlightened group, the majority of who were from the Haile Selasie University in Addis Ababa were among those who joined the EPLF. They witnessed the need for reform in the organization and started to teach the rank-and-file of the EPLF. They were among those who played a leadership role in the student movement at the university and throughout the country. When they joined the EPLF, they witnessed the need for reform in the way the leadership of the EPLF had been conducting the business of the struggle. The leader of Shabia took no time from naming them Menka, a belligerent term, and suppressing their concerns and hunting them down like preys. Dr.Asefaw Tekeste, in an interview with one of the Eritrean websites, witnessed that the Menka group was being hunted at the time he joined the EPLF. The interviewer asked him whether he asked about their whereabouts, he said yes because many of them were his friends. But he was told, perhaps by some friends, that such questions were not allowed to be raised with Shabia.
Neither Dr. Asefaw nor somebody else raised the question of Menka, for many years. Why is it that there is no one! Perhaps, because the intellectuals remained as by-standers just extolling whatever the leader did without questioning its merit
Act # 5
In the 1980’s, he came with a new mendacious idea: to push out the ELF from the Eritrean arena once for all. This time he came with the idea of inviting the WEYANE [Tigrae Peoples Liberation Front], to help him. [He also found help from the Sudan and other major European countries and the USA.]. And they did. The two of them, with the advice and equipment from major nations, could push out the ELF from the field. But the ELF leaving the field was not a remedy for the ills of EPLF. Isaias, underestimated the power of the Weyane and left them in what is known as Badme, a territory which was previously controlled by the ELF. When the rest of the country went through conducting a referendum, there was no referendum held in the Badme area. They controlled the area for almost eighteen years. In 1998, the EPLF sent its army and invaded Badme claiming that it was its territory. The TPLF appealed the case to the World Court, that what the EPLF did was a flagrant abuse of international law. This case was assigned to be arbitrated by Algeria’s chairmanship and other African states. But the leader of the EPLF adamantly rejected arbitration, swearing words of arrogance like ‘that he would not leave the area even if the sun does not rise in Badme.
The TPLF took his words seriously and organized its army and the Ethiopian people and hit him hard. The leader of Shabia came out of his hiding place to tell the Eritrean people what had happened to their sons and daughters that only 19,000 of the sons and daughters had died in the war.
But Prof. Tekie Fessehatsion, an ardent supporter of the EPLF and their leader wrote that records in the Ministry of Defence, which was under Sebhat Efrem, showed there was 36,000 young men and women who died in the war. The number of wounded soldiers was that for every one dead there are three soldiers wounded, according experts on the matter. Where did the leader of Shabia get his record that others who were closer to the war didn’t have? could it be because of his conservative estimate to the number of fighters who died in Badme, that he dared to say ‘we didn’t lose [Aikesernan], when he lately went to renew his friendship with the Ethiopians? Whether he said it to irritate Eritreans or to satisfy Ethiopians doesn’t really matter, because both sides know it, both sides understand it, how grave it was simply proves how stupidity has over-whelmed the leader of Shabia.
Act # 6
In 2013 young Eritreans who fled the tyranny of Isaias and Shabia crossed the border between Eritrea and the Sudan and then between the Sudan and Libya in an attempt to find a place where they could settle. But even Libya was not a safe place. So, in an attempt to find a place where they could settle down, and work and make a living, they continued their journey across the Mediterranean Sea into Europe, when the dilapidated vessel they used to travel in collapsed in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea. Italian Coast Guards tried to rescue them, but instead pulled out 360 young men, women and children corpses at the coast of Lampedusa, a port city of Italy. There was a shock throughout the world: when this was reported to the leader of Shabia, he said they were African immigrants, not Eritreans. Even if they were not Eritreans, isn’t it human to have a feeling when somebody hears about some body’s agony, a feeling of humanity! It is shocking, whether the leader of Shabia is meant what Eritreans are going through is not a crisis of the highest degree because of his dictatorial policy. Anyway, that statement revoked grievances from world leaders, including the Patriarch of the Catholic Church, in Rome, who openly admonished him of such remarks.
Act # 7
One of the cruel acts of the leader of Shabia is the step he took upon the veterans of war in 1903, who were incapacitated in the liberation war of the country. They went out protesting, because there was no body to listen to them. Their crime was because they asked for improvement of their livelihood. The criminal leader ordered his criminal security guys to silence the protesters, and they did. They shot the helpless guys, not because they committed a crime, but perhaps their boss did not want to see soldiers with disfigured bodies. But what is surprising is that the so called regular army didn’t respond to what had happened upon their comrades. Is this not the army who defended the people and their property at the time when the Ethiopian army came with its scorched earth policy of destroying Eritreans and their property at the time when it was needed?
It is true that I have been strong opponent of Shabia and its Cadres, especially the man at the helm of power now. That is why I made a note in the introduction that I have not been enthusiastic and did not join the euphoria Eritreans entertained, when the Shabia group entered Asmara. When the Group of 15 was arrested in 1903, I wrote a small article in defence of the senior cadres, not because I was a fun of them, but because Isaias was involved in their lives. It was entitled, “The Burden of History” and was posted in Meskerem.net, and Awate.com, the two most liberal websites concerning Eritrea. The websites could not hold it even one week, because, I openly criticized the man and Shabia, in that critical time. I wrote “when Shabia comes out from the hills and valleys of Sahel into the open plains of Kebesa, Eritreans will find out how nasty the organization is and especially the man at the helm of power”. And they did. But it was late, if not too late, because the destruction had already been done, socially, economically, politically. When Shabia entered Asmara, Eritreans who lived abroad were so excited that, they started to contribute money for the organization. The leaders sent a group of young Eritreans to see me and ask for money. And they did. But I said NO! Even a red cent, [which is 1.00 cent=$0.01]. No one on his/her right mind would spend time to pick up a cent dropped in a muddy, boggy, place, but I do pick it up and put it in a crack where Shabia could not reach it, I told the group.
It is mind boggling to see and hear that person who is destined to destroy a whole society staying lurking among unnoticed. The act of their leader is the act of the devil. But the senior cadres are not free of blame. Their silence has contributed to the demise of the Eritrean people. The intellectuals remained as by-standers, just extolling whatever the leader did, without questioning its merit. I dare the Shabia intellectuals to come forward and tell the Eritrean people if they ever participated in decision making involving war and peace and whether they had input for or against a decision.
I am forced to tell these small stories, because I wanted to show to the public that unless there is a strong stand against Shabia, and their leader, he takes it as his right to collect money from the public and embezzle it as he wishes.
The mendacious acts of the leader of Shabia is not limited to the few incidents shown here. There are many more of the same intensity and viciousness, that he has been committing throughout out his long life among the Eritrean people. These few are simply the highlights of his vicious acts of mendacity.