On the night of February 13th, Mohammed Ali Idris, better known as “Abu Rejela”, a hero of Eritrea’s Revolutionary struggle, died in the Eastern Sudanese town of Kassala.
Abu Rejela was a comrade of Hamid Idris Awate, the leader of Eritrea’s revolution, and his acclaim was established in the Battle of Togoruba. On the 15th of March in 1964, Abu Rejela led a small unit of ragtag Eritrean combatants to engage and prevail over Ethiopia’s occupation army. Togoruba was a seminal moment in Eritrea’s history: it emboldened the revolution and heralded a message that it was possible for poorly equipped but highly motivated Eritreans to engage Ethiopia’s well-equipped occupational force in direct combat and inflict heavy losses.
The Battle of Togoruba was the first time when Ethiopia used its regular army “Tor Serawit” to fight the Eritrean combatants. All previous Eritrean engagements had been with Ethiopia’s police force and militia.
Abu Rejela was born 87 years ago in Anderaib, south of Agordat. He joined the army of the Anglo-Egyptian forces in Sudan and was a veteran of World War II. He joined Hamid Idris Awate in February of 1962 and two years later, he led the battle of Togoruba.
The late Eritrean hero Abu Rejela spent his old age as a refugee among his fellow Eritrean refugees in Eastern Sudan. Similar to many Eritrean heroes neglected by the Eritrean regime, he didn’t set foot in Isaias’ Eritrea though he spent a lifetime struggling to rid Eritrea of Ethiopian occupation.
His last public appearance was in September of 2009 when the Mercy Association of Australia organized a Ramadan breakfast in his residence in Kassala to honor the first generation of veterans of the Eritrean struggle.
According to the Arabic reportage which was prepared by the National Fund For The Support of The First Generation of the Eritrean revolution (which was translated by the awate.com) Abu Rejela “…remembered his colleagues [and] shook their hands, asked for their names and then hugged them each remembering either a heroic position, a noble stance or a scene of sacrifice—it seemed as if it was happening at that very moment [and he shed tears.]”
The speech he gave then follows below:
In the name of the Most Benevolent, the Most Merciful.
Greetings and blessings from Allah,
Dear, Administrative Committee for the Fund of the First Generation and our children in Melbourne, Australia, and all those interested in the affairs of the first generation.
In the beginning, in the occasion of Ramadan, I would like to wish you a good year and a Happy Eid—May Allah accept your fasting, your prayers and may He forgive you and us all and may we be redeemed in this holy month of Ramadan. May the next Ramadan find us successful and in our soil in our beloved country where you and all our children in the Diaspora return to develop the land and work for the welfare of our brave loyal Eritrean people—why not, and you are the people of gratitude and loyalty.
My dear children, we the first generation have received your beautiful and sincere gesture with extreme pleasure that you engulfed us with in this evening of the 28th of Ramadan. Truly, it was a beautiful and a kind gesture, but we are individuals who are not able speakers. We can only say thank you. The connection with our son Abdul Raziq had a major impact on our souls, we felt that there are people, our children and grandchildren, who feel and appreciate what we have suffered for, praise be to Allah in the beginning and in the end.
My dear children, we are aware that the case of the first generation of the Liberation Army and the combatants of the Eritrean revolution and its handicapped is so large and complicated. But the journey of a thousand miles starts with one step; and the gestures of our children, though coming late, are better than never. Therefore, thank you even if it is your duty, however, those who do not thank people do not know how to thank Allah. I thank you again, while we await the spread and proliferation of such noble initiatives.
By Allah, within this generation are people who sacrificed so much and today they cannot secure their next meal and could not find medications; there are those who still sleep under the cover of the sky. But this time, we are under a sky of seeking refuge and a time of homelessness, suffering—dilapidated houses that can’t shed from the heat of the sun or the cold or protect one from the rain. But Allah is our consolation; we suffered for our people and kins, and they deserve that. We await payment only from Allah.
Thank you again. Thanks to all who contributed to alleviate our burden. I specially thank you again because my health situation would not allow me to communicate with you or talk to you more, and life is only in the hands of Allah.