“A proud nation bids farewell to its beloved sons with a heavy heart. Each of their heroic histories of valor and sacrifice adds to Eritrea’s dignity as a nation, and pride to the people who they sought to serve.” – HIDRI
By Amanuel Biedemariam,
ONE of the most remarkable achievements of Eritrea is that Eritrea stands as the only nation in Africa that gained independence on her own.
Eritrea won independence with grit, cunning-wit, determination, hard-work, blood, sweat and tears. Eritrea won independence by unprecedented-unparalleled human force determined to uproot foreign enslavement. Eritrea won independence by paying dear blood with the sacrifice of the beloved. Eritrea won with the belief that only Eritreans can ascertain complete victory and gain independence. Eritrea won by defeating all foreign forces.
What Eritrea accomplished is the least written about historical event(s) in the world-particularly as it pertains to African history.
Eritrea is the only country in Africa that cleansed the entire country from any foreign intrusion by force, yanked the system in Ethiopia that was supported by Super Powers, put in place a system that favored her. As General Sebhat Efrem said,
“Eritrea picked Eritrea’s documents from the dustbin of the UN- archives, dusted-it-off and handed them back after rewriting the history anew.”
Eritrea’s victories required a belief, vision, commitment and sacrifices. It required a strong mindset that transcended basic human tendencies in order to accomplish these seemingly impossible historic achievements. Major General Ghebrezghier Andemariam (Wuchu), Brg. General Mebrahtu (Vaynak), Brg. General Amanuel (Hanjema) and Tegadalay Desu Tesfatsion were the embodiment of that history.
Eritrea is endowed with plenty of men and women that exemplify heroism. At times, that uniformity makes telling individual stories difficult because it is somewhat-discriminatory. However, their untimely passing makes telling Eritrea’s rich heroic stories that-more urgent.
In the late 60s-1978 Eritreans flocked to join the arms struggle for liberation in large numbers. Young Eritreans from all walks-of-life left comforts of their homes in the cities and villages to join the struggle. They joined to save the people of Eritrea from Ethiopian brutality that torched villages; Ethiopian troops that brutally raped their wives, daughters, sisters and shamelessly dismembered their breasts; Ethiopian troops that surrounded villages and gunned down entire families. It is these endless atrocities that strengthened the resolve of these men.
Eritreans were considered advanced educationally, technically and many areas relative to other African countries then. However, Eritrea’s expertise on social, political, financial, economic, medical, military and other core areas was limited or nonexistent during the struggle. Eritrea did not have the experience and experts necessary to satisfy the struggle and beyond. The people that joined then did not have the experience. Hence, developing indigenous expertise on many areas was imperative.
Considering the amount of hurdles and loss of life Eritrea experienced; developing experts was nearly impossible. However, by necessity Eritrea had no choice but to nurture all the expertise needed in order to achieve independence and beyond. Undeterred by the obstacles, with the belief of relying on-self, Eritrea was able to gradually build extensive human resources capacity in every field. That stands as one incredible history of a collective human achievement unparalleled in modern African history.
These men were amongst the first product as well as directors of that effort. They became Eritrea’s generals and leaders by determination, hard work and the desire to acquire the knowledge and expertise necessary to help them fulfill their aim.
The world is full of stories of heroic men and women. These men however were amongst the best the world has ever seen. Relatively, the achievements of these heroes are as great if not greater in many areas. The layers of achievements are of historic proportions. These were amongst the first military men and women that were tasked to accomplish the impossible and did masterfully with unparalleled valor. They were dedicated humble men of the people. Their stories are special and a testament of Eritrea’s past success; evidenced by the successful platform that they helped establish which is serving as trajectory for the brighter future of Eritrea.
Their accomplishments, while collectively Eritrean and credit to those who sacrificed alongside them, are unmatched by their counterparts outside Eritrea. To count some of their achievements:
Tenure: each of these heroes’ served 40+ years, without break; taking Eritrea through many phases, dealing with adversities, vicissitudes while going through all the human and personal challenges.
Adaptability: From the beginning of the struggle Eritrea went through many challenges and changes that required dynamic personalities to deal with dynamic situations. The easy way to understand the change Eritrea underwent from the beginning of the struggle is the motto, “Nitsela-i bitiyutu b-biretu,” Tigrigna for, “hitting the enemy with his arms and bullets.” The Eritrean struggle started with nothing. Today, Eritrea is endowed with formidable navy armed with technologically advanced modern armaments and fleet. These men along with their compatriots lead Eritrea through these changes.
Victories: to claim that one is amongst the best, we must look at some of the adversaries they faced. Eritrea, by extension these heroes, faced the world’s greatest powers repeatedly and came out victorious. These heroes were forced to stand directly or indirectly against Soviet Union, US, Yemen, Israel and Cuban forces and came out victorious. Ethiopian commanders and generals meant nothing to these heroes since that constantly came-out-on-top defeating all of them. Eritrea is littered with dead Ethiopian high ranking officers. Every year Eritrea celebrates these milestones by highlighting the names of these generals such as Nadew, and Demise IZ etc…evidence of the bravery of these men that trampled over enemy soldiers.
Strength: These heroes were amongst the strongest men that ever lived. They were strong mentally-and-physically, resilient, iron-willed and determined-men that finished what they started. Nowadays generals are mostly relegated to central command centers to direct troops. These men however were on the trenches, every-step of the way in the hills and valleys directing armies in battle in the line of fire for decades. Considering the amount of hostilities Eritrea faces their strength translated into the strength of the people while they drew strength from the people that they loved and fought- for.
Strategizing: These heroes are the reflection of the Eritrean wit that outwitted the world, literally. They outsmarted Ethiopia’s strategies every step of the way and methodically annihilated Ethiopian presence and ascertained independence. Furthermore, when the TPLF started the war of aggression against Eritrea they foiled TPLF/Western agendas and made all their attempts null and void. Their brilliant strategic approaches bought Eritrea time, respite and room necessary to grow from within. Their work is sustaining Eritrea to date.
Politically: The politics of Eritrea is the product of a brilliant strategy that the EPLF engrained in the psych of Eritreans. It is “Hafash Yinkah Y-wedeb Yi-Teatek” Tigrignya for, “The Masses must be educated, organized and armed.” The masses of Eritrea are very educated about the politics that involves Eritrea and beyond. Eritreans are organized and armed mentally and militarily to be able to deal with all adversities. One of the most brilliant examples of this is when the TPLF and their handlers claimed that Eritreans need to be armed to incite chaos the government of Eritrea in turn armed every Eritrean to the dismay of the enemies. There exists no country in the world with this confidence on its population. Only in Eritrea, only Eritrea can pull this off. It is the political education that these men nurtured which is sustaining Eritrea.
Socially/Economically: The US is known for the US Army Corps of Engineers that partly shaped the geographic, economic and political map of the US. Similarly, in short time these heroes were part of a group of men and women that shaped the social, political, geographic and economic make up of Eritrea. From before independence these men were the contractors that helped establish the infrastructures Eritrea built, they built dams and established agro-industry. They were economists (by default) that created mechanisms to help stabilize prizes by bringing products into market to compete against predatory business practices. They are the vanguards that established a military structure that will ensure Eritrea’s future success.
Institutional Development: Every institution in Eritrea is product of the values they nurtured. As men of the Military, they taught countless Eritreans that can carry the torch of Eritrea safe and secure for future generations.
Eritrea Will Miss You
These heroes have established foundations that can survive without them. They groomed men and women that can follow their lead on their behalf. They have created structures that will not wither in their absence. They have given so much, giving up a lot, sacrificed all of what life can offer in order to free, protect and ensure the future of Eritrea based on their dignified cores.
They did Eritrea right by saving her from bullies by assassinating members of Ethiopia’s death squads that terrorized Eritreans. They outsmarted, outwitted, out-struggled all their adversaries, while nurturing armies and building a nation.
It is unfortunate, untimely and sudden, a big loss for their families, friends and compatriots. As Maj. General Teklai Habtesllasie said, “It is unfortunate and huge loss for the people and the government Eritrea that these men passed in this way. They were not done; they were still hungry to do more, to teach and pass-on what they know to build Eritrea.”
They have lived the lives of many in one lifetime. They have achieved countless achievements that no living military men or women outside Eritrea can boast. Their history and stories are like no other. It is miraculous, hard to believe and unseen anywhere in the world. Their individual histories alone will fill many history books.
These sudden multiple back to back losses of heroes has jolted the psyche of a nation; tremendous loss and hard to fill. It is a reminder of life’s limitations; a reminder that Eritreans must record and pass-on all the stories they know about Eritrean heroes. The story of these men is the story of Eritrea.
The people of Eritrea are resilient and know that they must move on regardless of how heavy the losses. They have been tried initially by the price they paid for independence and later to safeguard the nation.
That said however, and in order to keep these men honored forever, it is the obligation of every Eritrean to live by the values they espoused and continue on their work to keep them alive. They have given their lives to hand a nation, independent nation, a nation free from occupation, a clean canvas to paint it how Eritrea wants. It is the least we can do.
Zel-Almawi Zikrin Kibrin N-Su-Wa-atna
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –