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Review: Herui Tedla Bairu’s Book

Title: Eritrea and Ethiopia: A front row look at issues of conflict and the potential for a peaceful resolution.
Author: Herui Tedla Bairu
Publisher: RSP: The Red Sea Press:
Year: 2016
ISBN: 978-1-5690243-0-0
Pages: 308

A lucky encounter got me to talk to Mrs. Mehret Bairu. Not entirely sure about the exact time, but it was during the time when Herui Tedla Bairu, her nephew and the author of the book under review, was touring the US as the newly elected chairman of the Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA). However, I do vividly remember where we met; it was at the home of a friend.  A decade later, the impression she had left on me could neither be easily defaced nor erased by the corrosive passage of time and the frailty of human memory.

It is rare that I come across the ilk of Mrs. Mehret Bairu; there was an unmistakable aura of respectability about her. I am almost sure it had nothing to do with her advanced age, although, it might have added to it. No wonder Herui describes her as “the epitome of modern and independent Eritrean womanhood” and “the Matron of the Nursing School in Asmara for several decades.” No doubt her full gray hair with her serene face had added to her dignified and noble demeanor. There was a je ne sais quoi about her.

Beneath the glasses she was wearing, I could see the placid but sharp and penetrating eyes that bespoke her intelligence and sagacity. She was leading a small group of believers in prayer and mezmur selam reminiscent of the prayer-houses of early Christianity. It was an uplifting experience that even a Tewahdo to-boot like me can partake in, appreciate and enjoy. It sure was an edifying and enduring lesson that beauty and love transcends all. Amid this ambiance, my curiosity got the better of me and had to ask who the lady was. “She is weizro Mehret,” my friend responded, “the sister of Tedla Bairu.” Since the age of four, I recall hearing about the Bairu family; and the first thought that came to my mind was that the apple, truly, doesn’t fall far from the tree.

My childhood memories are sprinkled with popular songs like “ati men kediniki zAleba: Tedla Bairu zeyelen sni Tseba” (Hey, who has donned you the robe? It was Tedla Bairu with his teeth as white as snow [milk]) and “Wedi Tedla neAba telay wedana rgum amHaray.” (Come quick to our rescue, son of Tedla, the cruel Amhara are wiping us out.) The Bairus were an important part of the Eritrean imagination and zeal that swept the mid-seventies and the three decades preceding it. The author is absolutely right when he said, “Judged by the leading roles the Bairu family played in the politics of Eritrea and Ethiopia, and the books, essays, and articles that flourish about them, it is possible to claim that they constitute one of the most influential families in the Horn of Africa.”

When the prayers and hymns came to an end, my friend asked if I could give Mrs. Mehret a ride home. Enthusiastically, I responded in the affirmative–knowing full-well that it would afford me an opportunity to pick on her brain. And that is exactly what I did. During our conversation, I informed her that I was part of a group that was making due preparations for Herui’s forthcoming public meeting in Dallas, and she said something that was pithy, poignant and has stuck with me till this day. Herui, she said, should invest what-ever energy and wisdom that is left in him, in writing the history of his fathers and country (Tarik abotatun adun ytsHaf). She was mindful and concerned that the contributions her family had made could easily be forgotten, and at a human level, I could empathize how she would want her nephew to be preoccupied with the preservation of his family’s legacy.  Indeed, Herui and his family have had “a front row look at issues” which have consumed several generations of Eritreans and Ethiopians, and it is only right that he shares his perspective on this important part of our history–that is still a big part of us. Sharing he does with a perspective that is provocative, enlightening and engaging.

In his new book, “Eritrea and Ethiopia: A Front row look at issues of conflict and the potential for a peaceful resolution,” Herui does exactly that. It is a wish that has come true and w/z Mehret would have been proud. Important as writing is, we are fortunate that Herui has not relegated himself to it only; he is still an active and important voice in the Eritrean opposition, and his philosophy of “Strategy Adi” and “Cooperative Democracy” should be taken seriously and receive a wider audience. I have heard few people shrugging it off as a nativist and atavistic clinging to a way of life long gone; but nothing could be further from the truth. Although the “strategy Adi/Ad” in its core is a call for the devolution of power and the reaffirmation that “all politics is local”, it has the advantage of an unmistakable cultural familiarity and continuity. It could easily be embraced by a majority of Eritreans, as well as Ethiopians, as organic and indigenous. Herui’s genius is in presenting the old as new and the new as old.

The book “seeks to explore the long standing phenomenon of conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia by examining the internal political contradictions lodged in each society.” Every conflict in the last seven decades, whether it is Eritrea’s thirty-year liberation war, the so-called border war which flared in 1998 and the struggle against the Eritrean dictatorship in post-independent Eritrea “confirms the centrality of this on-going phenomenon.” If one understands Eritrea’s historical aspiration for sovereignty, as “the first African state to be decolonized”, and Ethiopia’s need of “Access to the Red Sea”, then one can understand the “existing state of war between Eritrea and Ethiopia” and “provide tentative solutions to the conflict.” The boundary between Eritrea and Ethiopia cannot be a problem, so argues Herui, since it has been legitimized twice by the United Nations: once in 1952 when Eritrea was federated with Ethiopia and later in the 1993 UN-supervised Referendum that finally brought Eritrea’s independence.

The study covers the period between 1941 and 2011 with the hope of providing “a holistic view of the phenomenon of conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia and within these specific countries.” It relies “on the paradigms of qualitative, context-specific, research, with the researcher’s role being included in the situation;” thus, the claim to “a front row look.” From the onset, Herui points out that “Narratives are to political studies what theories are to the natural sciences.” This allows him to “provide a political interpretation of the phenomenon of conflict in colonial and post-colonial Eritrea and Ethiopia, in a natural as opposed to a laboratory setting, from a holistic perspective, within the context of the paradigms of qualitative research.” Interpretation is exactly what he does and does it well.

It is the narrative which a nation tells that informs its political mindset and identity; and whoever controls that narrative controls the past, present and future history of that nation. Herui puts the popular narrative, that has been reigning supreme in Eritrea for over five decades, up-side-down. He does it by invalidating the basic propositions that have sustained these popularly held narratives. Like a skillful prosecutor, he subjects them to a meticulous reasoning and logic that even shakes the most ardent believer.

It is beyond the scope of this piece to provide the whole megillah, but it will be helpful if I highlight some of the important questions he raises and conclusions he carefully draws. A sample of the important questions the author raises are, “Was the MFH (Mahber Fqri Hager) an Ethiopian stooge organization? In contrast, were the non-MFH organizations ‘nationalists’, understood as upholders of anti-colonialism, national unity, and national independence?” “Do Eritrean political parties during the period 1941-51 satisfy the criteria of Eritrean nationalism, understood as, anti-colonial, national unity and independence?”

The formation of Mahber Fqri Hager (MFH) in 1941 was the culmination of the irredentist movement that has been going on for decades to which Herui’s grandfather, one of the leaders of the Bible Readers’ Movement and an early translator of the Bible into Tigrinya, was an important voice. MFH and the many parties and organizations that came after it in the 1940s were primarily irredentist organizations and not nationalists. “The immediate objective of the founders of the MFH was to demand the abrogation of the apartheid laws of fascist Italy, to replace Italian administrators by Eritreans, and to end the colonial status of Eritrea in favor of some kind of association with Ethiopia.” No wonder MFH eventually morphed into the Unionist Party. MFH was an indigenous, organic and independent organization with no ties to Ethiopia or influenced by it because, “in 1941 Ethiopia was a British protectorate—hardly in a position to influence the foundation of MFG.”

“Until the establishment of the Independence Block in 1949, none of the Eritrean political parties had a program of immediate national independence.”

“None of the Eritrean parties satisfy the criteria of Eritrean nationalism, as measured by the criteria of national unity, anti-colonialism and immediate sovereign independence. Full-fledged nationalism was developed during the struggle for national independence from 1958 onwards, with the formation of the ELM, and, later, the ELF in 1961.”

The Eritrean Askaris who deserted the Italian army to either return to their respective homes or join the Ethiopian army, and who played an important role in the defeat of Italy and in the return of the Ethiopian monarch, were part of the greater irredentist movement. The British saw the MFH as the Eritrean version of the Indian Congress Party and its destruction became their preoccupation. Similar to what they did in India, they succeeded to create the Muslim League but failed to create the Eritrean version of Pakistan. The brutal killing of Eritrean Christians in Asmera in August of 1946, at the hands of the Sudanese Defense Forces with their tacit approval, should be understood within this context. (In protest to this massacre, Tedla Bairu resigned from his post with the BMA.)

“The British encouraged the formation of the Muslim League in January 1946 thus disrupting Muslim/Christian solidarity within the MFH. After the Bet Giorgis Conference (BGC) the Muslim League was the first party to be established in December 1946.” The League had two core objectives: 1. To convince world opinion that Eritrea has no cultural or historical ties with Ethiopia, and 2. To keep Eritrea under British trusteeship until it becomes viable for nationhood.  Four months later the Unionist Party followed. Too much is made of the alleged failure of the BGC, but it has to be pointed out that the first BGC was very successful since all the Eritrean organizations agreed on a common platform and submitted it to the BMA on October 16, 1946. The second BGC (November 24) was “more like a meeting for the implementation of the October Agreement.”

The religious divide that seemed to inform the parties became evident when Ibrahim Sultan, the Secretary General of the Muslim League, argued that “two thirds of the Eritrean population are Muslim; the Christian community constitute one third of the Eritrean population. We, therefore, request that you, the Commission of Enquiry of the Four Powers, recognize the right of the Muslim League to represent the views of the majority of the Eritrean population regarding the future destiny of Eritrea.” Furthermore, it stated that the majority members of the MFH are “not native Eritreans but are of Ethiopian descent.”

Ethiopia, by then, had become a haven for Eritrean irredentist elites who rose to prominent positions in both business and politics and it is not unreasonable for some Eritreans to consider union with Ethiopia instead of Eritrea staying under British, Italian or United Nations trusteeship. In 1944, the Society for the Union between Eritrea and Ethiopia was created (SUEE) in Ethiopia. The SUEE, the author argues, “was established to bypass the autonomous MFH…for the MFH was an irredentist/nationalist organization that did not permit interference in its internal affairs.” The condemnation leveled against the Unionists (federalists) has no merit, and there is no evidence to show that it was funded by Ethiopia. On the other hand, the parties such as the Muslim League (1946) and the Liberal Progressive Party (1947: formerly known as Tigray-Tigrinyi {1943} and Eritrea for Eritreans) of the Independence block were all created and funded by foreign parties such as Italy and the British. “The leaders of the Muslim League and the LPP are in the pay of external powers…and the Pro-Italia Party…was established with the financial support from the government in Rome.”

The resignation of Chief Executive, Tedla Bairu, the author’s father, was in the legacy of MFG and the Unionist/Federalists. The Ethiopian’s understood the significance of Tedla’s resignation and “Ethiopian Cabinet Ministers were instructed to plead with CE Tedla to withdraw his resignation”; they gave up after two days of intersession. Tedla’s resignation speech at Cinema Capital was significant since it was directly tendered to the Eritrean people. “Tedla’s courage in facing matters of principle is…without comparison in the modern history of Eritrea” and his resignation should be “studied as a tolling of the bell for the events that unfolded in the late fifties and sixties. The greed of the Imperial family, and the political system based on intrigue, destroyed the possibility of peaceful co-existence between Eritrea and Ethiopia.” Tedla Bairu, the federalist who fought the annexationist led by Assfeha Woldemichael, would finally join the Eritrean Liberation Front in 1966 and serve in its leadership. The fact that the Chief Executive was replaced by the Chief Administrator tells the story of the Federalists and the Annexationists.

It is important that we go back to the beginning of things to get a better and hopefully more accurate perspective of things. I have focused on the parts that dealt with the 1940s and 1950s because everything that had happened and is happening today is a replay of it. History is unfolding in the present and Eritreans, as people, have yet to muster the courage to meet these too familiar issues head-on. Mistrust and fear have become the hallmarks of Eritrean politics and a genuine conversation on issues that matter are always put aside. Herui has done an excellent work in helping us wrestle with a very contentious part of our history and his courage must be commended.

The book could have even contributed more had the author made an effort to show us not just the good parts of his history and his family’s history but also the bad and the ugly. For someone who has been on the losing side, it is mindboggling why he would not attempt to take personal and organizational responsibility for the failures and shortcomings of the organizations he was affiliated with. He portrayed himself as always right; making the right judgments; who puts the national interest first and foremost; and that just cannot be true; no one is infallible. It was a huge turn-off for me, but I refuse to let a little folly outweigh wisdom. This is a problem not unique to Herui; a lot of Eritrean authors and leaders suffer from it. It is time that people see the wisdom that writing and talking about one’s weakness, vulnerabilities and mistakes does not render one small; it is actually the stuff of greatness. Herui does show a lot of respect and magnanimity towards a lot of his former comrades, but his vindictiveness, regardless of their merit, towards certain personalities such as Dr. Bereket H, Dr. Jordan G, and the late Seyoum O makes him look petty.

Overall, this is an excellent book that every student of Eritrean and Ethiopian history must read. It is a book that tackles the core problems and recommends solutions by someone who had “a front row look at issues of conflict and the potential for a peaceful resolution.”

About Semere T Habtemariam

Semere T Habtemariam is an author and a columnist at Awate. He holds a BA in Government and Politics and a MA in Public Affairs from the University of Texas at Dallas. He lives in Dallas, Texas. His two books are: Reflections-History-Abyssinian-Orthodox-Tewahdo and Hearts-Like-Birds.

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  • tokyo

    can we get this book in amazon

  • Michael Tesfamariam

    To me, perhaps the most difficult subject to grasp should be Eritrean history, where history and politic are always conflated deliberately by the current regime to deceive us into accepting their wicked political ideology. Amazing, Eritrean history always varies depending who you ask or refer to. My father, once a British conscript, had a big collection of historical materials including books, magazines, newspapers, written back in 1940s and 50s later he donated to Research and Documentation Centre run by HGDEF in Asmara. I don’t know what motivated him to do so but I can suspect that he did not wish his children to follow the same path he had gone through. He had done an interview with the same institution just few years ago before he passed away in 2011 at the age of 92. Some of the historical facts he mentioned in that interview was later misquoted and misconstrued by the regimes’s ‘historians’. I don’t, am just wondering if there exist any genuine Eritrean history book, written by an independent author, which can be recommend for reading.

  • Abbi-Addis Ababa

    25 years on; although my gut feeling tells me that Unity would have always been best for smart people. But in reality I see Ethiopia prospering and getting much better than those days. I don’t want to say Eritrea and Eritreans were our problem, but I can say divorce can be better than killing each other, in some cases killing happen even without some of us knowing the cause at all.

    Guess what though; I see some of those class mates back in Addis today. What a state of eternal confusion? !

    • Peace!

      Selam Abbi,

      There was no marriage contract in the first place, so the term “divorce” is obviously misplaced. Occupying a sovereign country illegally leads into unnecessary blood shade and leaves bad legacy between people. The Eritrean people had no choice but to fight back and liberate the country, and are fighting for freedom and liberty the same way as Ethiopians (-Tigreans) are fighting to defeat the vicious divisive minority TPLF government so all ethnics can be represented equally. In fact, Ethiopians should be worried given hate and resentment toward certain ethnic groups seem to reaching at a boiling point, as Dawit Weldegiorgis pointed out in his latest article. And gerneral Tsadkan is urging for smooth transition before the uprising gets out of control.


  • Abbi-Addis Ababa

    I remember how naive we in Addis were and genuinely believed the issue was about governance and not of race, creed or political precedents. I recall writing a letter to my Asmara born best friend and room mate when he goes to the ballot ; ‘I love you anyway’ and then the night the referendum result was announced I was part of the demonstrators opposing the result. Pure naive and classical student. I was met with an iron in my mouth, thrown on ground near Amist kilo meuseum and jailed for few days. The tegaday yelled on me ‘ megentel will happen even by gun’. This happened in Addis. I now realized I would have died if PM T. Layne didn’t shut AAU that week.

  • Abbi-Addis Ababa

    Very interesting debates and presumably very interesting book, for the likes of me who has been and is wondering what has really happened in that part of my former Ethiopian territory.
    I had many university batch mates in AAU from our former province, Eritrea, and didn’t really understand why ‘they were what they were’. I was privileged to see pre and post referendum behaviors of my classmates from that province . Being from Addis and not in same generation as the writer of the book; I and my Addis friends were confused. We were losing ‘part of our country’ and our class mates were very happy on contrary.

  • Abi

    Hi Zula
    There is no positive contributions from these personalities. We have seen only miseries. They brought only shame to the people once upon a time had a stable and relatively prosperous life. Ask Amanuel Hidrat what positive contribution he brought to his people other that reviewing Greek or Roman literature on his Tegebes or Tebeges? None. Only misery and shame. The same with the others. Sorry.

  • Abi

    Hi Hope Nebsi
    Crooked ? You are trumping all over me.

    Nefse, not too long ago you were boasting about the high achieving Eritreans in The Great Mama Ethiopia. Now you relegated them to highlanders and Christians who benefited from the system. Eway! Anta SebAy! Hasot! Hasot!
    BTW, Why do you blame Meles? Isn’t he the one who reminded you that you have got your own country? All he did was showed you the door and told you to close it behind you.
    Even Abyotawi Meri Guad Mengistu did everything in his power to protect you from the self imposed extinction. You welcome!
    Hey, thanks for the independence! Wuletachihun anresam.
    Bidir kefay yargen.

    • kazanchis

      Hey Abi,
      People have a point to moan the sufferings under Ethiopian rulers and regimes. The problem would be to play a victim card and labeling as if the entire Ethiopia and Ethiopians are wrongdoers; in fact Ethiopians have been oppressed more and we’re denied opportunities. In relative terms, Eritreans contributed a lot and benefited more during Haile Silassie and Derg era.

      It’s what it is. The damage has been done now. We are in a new chapter of history. I think we have to move forward with cooperation and diplomatic relations. To achieve that, you guys gonna have to have a president who spends his time in palace working his socks off to make a nation better, not someone who hates to act as president and apparently he’s a president but spends his time in micro dam sites. 😀

      • Abay

        Dear kazanchis

        Just a few comments:

        “We are in a new chapter of history.” I agree and I suggest both of us move forward.

        “I think we have to move forward with cooperation and diplomatic relations.” I totally disagree. Not so soon. We need to keep as far from each other for some time to come. Why bother and get into the old mess. Why bother to have much to do with people who paint Ethiopians the picture they do! Just we stay away as far from each other as possible.
        That Eritreans have a president…. it is not our business really, Only that we wish them well.
        By the way I work around Kazanchis and we can have makiato if you want.

        • kazanchis

          Dear Abay,

          I really understand the frustrations. It is what exactly real enemies wanna see between these two countries. As a matter of fact, so far we’ve been serving them well. Trust me there is some segment of Eritrean youth curious enough to know the truth what lies behind the political propaganda wall. That’s very interesting development and it could benefit Eritrea for the future. The current uproar of siege mentality by PFDJ that ‘the whole world is against us’ has nothing but inhibit Eritrea itself. The temperament of PFDJ have so little room to be in harmony with neighbors and all that.

          When there’s a shift of ideological or political thought from self-destruction towards cooperation in Asmara; Addis shouldn’t distance itself, either. In my view, the new generation shouldn’t bear the burden of predecessors. The new generation should leave its own mark, I hope the new mark would be a positive one this time. 🙂

          Thanks a lot for the Makiatto offer. I’m away at the minute, be back on late Sept. Let’s keep it on hold till then. Endatresaw kal gebtehal. Lol


      • Bilal Yassin

        These are the people who lived a very peaceful luxurious life living,working,trading schooling you name enjoying what Ethiopia has to offer them and fully benefited then all of a sudden a group of immature Students fooled by the Arabs started a movement for independence …over 50 years that place never had peace since … Millions died migrated,lost there belongings in Ethiopia, lost there respect , there dignity …. Now blame Ethiopia for the mess there infidel people created ….Ethiopia gave what ever she can to protect and keep you from your miserable journey …. Now still the misery continues unless you stopped blaming Ethiopia and take responsibility for your own stupid action … But they all are the same … Arrogant , greedy, racist ,impecunious !!!

  • Ismail AA

    Selam all,
    First, decency calls to first commend the reviewer, Semere HT. The task of reviewing someone’s work is demanding in terms of time and mental exercise to read and digest the material and reach conclusion of sharing judgement with readers. The operation entails responsibility, neutrality and credibility since it is an invitation of people to procure and read the work.
    A book authored by Herui could of course ignite an urge to access his views from perspective of his background, role player in political developments as well as a man who is informed about his own father’s and contemporaries’ roles.
    One can only hopes that as an author of a book covering crucial developments that shaped the political history of our nation, he did not lose sight of focusing on informing posterity rather been swayed by narrow perspectives. In other words, it is my hope that he had not been curtailed by urges such as his aunt’s wish to write the history of his fathers, as the interviewer told us.
    Having said, one can only make tentative comments since I did not have chance to read the book. Thus, it fair to pick only a few things the interviewer has mentioned because these could perhaps trigger heated debate. For instance, the issue of irredentism of pre- 1958 can raise questions whether Herui has merely looked at the events from the angle of the predominantly highland elite of the time that were involved in the MFH. Moreover, it is to be seen from the book and evidences provided whether the movement was really independent, and Ethiopia had nothing to do with it. How do we understand the link of the church and the personalities who remained in Eritrea and emerged as influential role players? The rationale given for Ethiopia’s non-involvement with the MFH is that it was itself under British domination, and I have not read or heard yet that Ethiopia had ever fallen under British protection.
    Another point that drew my attention was that the British saw the MFH as the Congress Party of India, and they conspired to create the Moslem League as antidote. How could the British create a movement whose socio-demographic base would surely negate the irredentist’s interest of MFH and its goal of associating with Ethiopia? Moreover, the assertion that the Moslem League and its partners (LPP) were in pay of foreign powers while the MFH was not is very controversial. One would love to see the evidence.
    Ismail AA

    • AOsman

      Dear Ismail AA,

      I remember reading on the quick political maneuvering of the King that secured his control of Ethiopia after exile (otherwise the British could not be trusted), the point that “in 1941 Ethiopia was a British protectorate—hardly in a position to influence the foundation of MFG.” did make me wonder, checking one book on that period, the following is what I get:

      in 1941, a pamphlet dropped over Eritrea by aircraft of the Royal Air Force, said: “I have come to restore the independence of my country, which includes Eritrea and Benadir, whose people will live from this day forward under the shadow of the Ethiopian flag. Pg 224 – The Negus by Angelo Del Boca

      On politcal parties;

      In Eritrea, where the first political parties had come into being in the meanwhile, Addis Ababa favoured the Unionist Party, whose motto was “Eritrea with Ethiopia, one Ethiopia”, and supported the teacher Talda Bayru Ogbit as secretary general; in contrast, Italy supported the Eritrean Independence Bloc, which was an umbrella party including all the parties favourable to the immediate independence of the country, with the exclusion of any plans for partition or annexation. Pg 226

      The mastermind behind the unionist movement was the Shewan Walda-Giyorgis Walda-Yohannes, Haila-Sellase’s chief cabinet and in practical term the most powerful man in Ethiopia after the emperor himself. Pg 226

      Anyhow, Hurui is an interesting figure and his book will be interesting to read.


      • Amanuel Hidrat

        Dear AOsman,

        Thank you for the scoops from the reservior of our history books. Your qoutes from the book of “The Negus” by Angelo Del Boca are still reminders on the conspiracy to our self deterrmination by the emperor and the external world political powers. Despite the current predicament, the cause of the Eritrean people to launch their struggle was solid and mission specific oriented and successfully sealed the history book.

        However, and sadly enough, the Eritrean people are not convinced yet, that they could have an enemy from their own, from those they consider themselves their liberators – Eritrean elites who exploited the dream of our people. To this date they can not identify their real enemy since our independence – the core of our deficiency and the source of our differences so to speak in opposition camp.

        Amanuel Hidrat

        • Thomas D

          Hi Amma,

          Very good points!! It is 25 years since we got our independence yet we have not escaped death by bullets, imprisonment/detention without due court by cadres who only have different nationalities, runaway to far from our country and live as refuges spread throughout the globe. Without exaggeration the number of deaths and migrants from Eritrea seen to be multiplied in a way no one seemed to imagine. I am really uncomfortable to talk about what might have happened before 25 years ago. I remember one Eritrean father complaining about how the liberators talk to him and being disrespectful, trying intimidate him and all. That was in 1993, we did not accept his displeasure and we thought was being difficult. I heard the father rest in peace had departed the world, but I cannot imagine what he would have said if he was still alive?? It is pointless to talk about what the Ethiopians did to us over 55 years ago. I believe the last 25 years have been years of death, migration, oppression and the worst news in Eritrean history.

        • Abi

          Selam Ato Amanuel
          This is what I’ve been saying for a while. Eritrean elites are the causes of all the problems of Eritrea.
          As one of the elites yourself, you have to apologize for all the miserable situations you brought to your people in the name of self determination. As an urban mass mobilization expert you mislead thousands for your unholy cause.
          Your comment above is a self- incriminating comment of the highest level.

          • AOsman

            Dear Abi,

            N-Emma ko rebishkayo….

            How about Ethiopian elites and the King? Have they not screwed it up….need we look at their folly and the misery they caused. NB, I have not said Ethiopian BBL

            Talda Bayru; In 1962 everything was ready and for weeks everyone had been aware that any day now the Eritrean Assembly would be forced to vote in favor of annexation. That’s when members of the parliament began to ostracize the Assembly, failing to show up at the sessions in order to ensure that it was impossible to attain the quorum required for vote. On 12 November, the Ethiopian police went to seize the parliamentarians at their homes, in the hospitals where they were claiming to be sick, and whenever they were hiding, and took them to the Assembly at gunpoint……….so much foul play.

            Why all this forced union after an settling for federal arrangement, your King could not accept the potential consequence that other provinces would demand for a FEDERAL ETHIOPIA, a conclusion after 30 years of struggle that you are now enjoying its fruits ;).

            Bahru Zewde; An autonomous Eritrea, enjoying a relatively higher degree of democratic and civil liberties, was a dangerous anomaly in the oppressive political climate prevalent elsewhere in Ethiopia.


          • Dear aOsman,

            Why Eritreans are so sure of their technological advancement and their Democratic culture soon after the defeat of Italian colonialism, as if these were indigenous and the Italians and the British did not have a role, is difficult to understand. Nobody could really be sure if a country divided on ethnic, religious and regional ground, would have not taken the path of civil war as many African countries had done soon after independence, or would not have ended up divided. Therefore, blaming the emperor and the Ethiopian government for each and everything that went wrong in eritrea may not be completely right. If one has to condemn the emperor and the Ethiopian government, one has also to condemn those eritreans who worked hand and gloves with them, and they were the majority of eritreans.

          • AOsman

            Dear Horizon,

            I have no problem in saying both Eritrean and Ethiopia elites screwed up, I was just trying to get Abi to come to his senses as he is in his one sided blame mode. If you for proportional blame, the Ethiopian elites will get the most.

            Why Eritreans are so sure of their technological advancement and their Democratic culture soon after the defeat of Italian colonialism, as if these were indigenous and the Italians and the British did not have a role, is difficult to understand.

            Not sure if that was the case for all Eritreans, if some felt so, so be it. It is less harmful than an Ethiopian feeling he had the right lord over them….all they asked is an autonomy and that demand does not require a feeling of superiority. If my last quote of Bahru Zewde was reason for your query, he is your countryman not an Eritrean boasting.

            By the way, I have no problem with the idea of Unionist, it is the tactics and approaches used that killed it. They could have sold it to the people easily, especially if some adjustments were made within Ethiopia. Unfortunately, they resorted to intimidation and terrorism in the 40s and later years.


          • Abi

            Hi AOsman
            Long time no talk.
            It always amazes me to see Eritreans spend all their life time trying to convince themselves that their struggle was a just. It is a joke!
            It was Tedla Bairu who used to bow for the king.
            The king and the elites were defending the unity of the country while Eritrean elites hide under Arab skirts to fulfill the Arabs interests.
            Now, I see the elites blaming each other 25 years after the independence they delivered. It was a bad product.
            I’m waiting to see the elites blaming the peasants.
            ” leba sikafel enji siserq ayiTalam.”

          • Hope

            It was good that you are bombarding those hypocrite with historical facts but,as I said before,” Awko yetegna ressa—bikeskisut aysemam..” or something like that abahahila Amharic.
            The Bible puts it this way:”
            “Ayni kelewom ayestew’ulun/kiri’eyu aydelyun,ezni kelewom..dima tsin ayblun/aysemu’un.”.
            There are people , who are here to deliberately create a chaos and confusion. Among Eritreans.
            Do you listen to those pal talks,ect—w,ho dared to the extent of saying that the Eritrean Struggle was wrong for a wrong goal;the Eritrean Martyrs were shefatu…,who died for NOTHIN.(Kim Hana said it here that those youth members were fighting and dying without knowing as to why they are fighting and dying….as if the hundreds of thousands of Eritreans .

        • Ismail AA

          Ahlen Amanuel,
          A neutral observer of the Eritrean story, starting from the exit of the Italians through the so called self-determination era right after the British period and the liberation war as well as the current post 1991 eras, will not miss the fact that the mainstream Eritrean elite never played role in rallying behind their people. The largest chunk of them invested their knowledge and expertise in the service of the rulers in return to satisfy their egoistic material interests. We saw how with the fall in 1974 of the feudal empire and ascendance of the Derg to power had posed as threat to them most of them flocked en masse to side of the liberation fronts, especially after the violent liquidation of General Aman. Even then, their role in playing role to help unifying the national ranks was nil. On the contrary, they reinforced the bedrock of the current dictatorship. So, you are right that the Eritrean people had benefitted very little from their educated elite who are still by and large either ambivalent or supporting the dictatorship.
          Ismail AA

          • Amanuel Hidrat

            Merhaba Isma

          • Hope

            Selam Ismail:
            I see quite a bit blanket generalization and unnecessary inconsistency here.
            The other fact that makes the Eritrean Struggle UNIQUE is/was that it was made up of and led by Elite Eritreans that included High Level Students and Post Grad Professionals and Intellectuals from as far as Russia, the USA,Europe and Middle East starting from the AAU.
            The ones you are talking about might be some sell out remnants, who wanted to maintain their high standard of living.
            If you are talking about the current elites,I do not believe that they are interest- based Elites as there is nothing the PFDJ can give them back.
            Most of them are silent and they should be blamed for being silent and indifferent, rather than ” Sell outs” and Opportunists.

          • Ismail AA

            Ahlen Hope,
            I couldn’t see where you read “blanket generalization and … inconsistency in my brief comment. If you have read the lines a bit closely, you should have seen the qualifications used such as “mainstream; largest chunk” etc. You are correct that there were students and highly educated compatriots who indeed played their role. Many who attended the first meeting in September 1960 in Cairo, Egypt, that deliberated on the founding of the ELF were high school and university students who played leadership role later on. But what we are talking about in relation to review of brother Herui’s book is the substantial span of historical era the book covers as reported by the interviewer.
            With best regards,
            Ismail AA

          • Hope

            Ahlen back to you Bro Ismail:
            Thanks for the clarification,Sir.
            This misperception of generalizing as if the Eri Elites have been corrupt has been around when the truth of the matter is the other way round.
            I still think that your statement saying “the main stream and vast majority”!
            I would rather rephrase it by saying :” Some of the Elites….” since the Majority of the Eri Elites did their best during the Liberation /Struggle Era.
            I would rather blame the post-Independence Era Elites and intellectuals and I would even dare to make a blanket accusation on /about them for doing nothing when they are supposed to do the most at this critical juncture of our history.
            That includes all the Awatista Elites here.
            We are not asking any major sacrifice like what their predecessors did but to get together in a united Front and challenge the Regime !
            Those so called Eri Elites and Intellectuals could have done a better job than the COIE as early as in 2001 so as to save some lives!
            If you are talking about these Eri intellectuals of the 21st Centuary ,I can buy and even endorse your lament and the generalization.
            It is indeed sad to see these intellectuals to remain silent,indifferent and even inept when the Nation created at the expense of more than 100,0000 Martyrs and at the expense of another ore than 150 ,000 Civilan deaths and at the expense of displacement more than a Million ERITREANS like Gypsies!

          • Ismail AA

            Ahlen Hope,
            Thanks again, dear.
            Well, it could be a matter of semantics or choice of words to describe or appraise things relative to time and magnitude. I agree with you it might be appropriate to use softer words like the ones you have suggested. Moreover, I would be very much reserved to label exchanging of views on what we read and write as lamentation!. There is nothing to lament about since what we are doing is just scribbling what we think on issues pertaining to common cause rather expressing personal sentiments.
            With warm regards,
            Ismail AA

      • Ismail AA

        Ahlen AOsman,
        Thank you for your feedback. Actually I am aware of the points you have quoted from my lessons as graduate history student late and early 70s. I was flabbergasted by reading for the first time that Ethiopia was in 1941 a protectorate of the British. It is a fact that neo-colonial or client-state relationship was established between the two. The Emperor and the feudal establishment of his empire were grateful to the British and the door was wide open for very favored status after the restoration in 1941, which was later overshadowed by the USA due to the waning of the British fortunes in larger regions of the Middle East and the Horn.
        Thus, until there will be a chance to read and appraise Herui’s work, it is proper to stay reserved from saying much on the basis of what Semere has informed us.
        Ismail AA

  • Hope

    Selam Kim:

    Let me put it in plain terms:
    If the personalities Zula mentioned did not mess up things in 1950s ,we would not have been the victims of :
    –Emperor Janhoy
    -Col Menghistu
    -PMMZ and PIA!
    Did u get some idea now?

    • Abi

      Hi Hope
      Eritreans achieved the highest under Abyotawi Meri Mengistu and Tsehayu Nigus Hailesilassie.
      The personalities that put Eritreans under miserable conditions include Awate, WelWel, Sabe, Ahmad Nur, Amanuel Hidrat,…..
      You see, your problems are in your backyard. Don’t look across the border looking for the causes of your misery.

    • Kim Hanna

      Selam Hope,
      Let us extend the absurdity of personalities past the 50s. The problem with PIA behavior emanated from Emperor Menilik II in the 1800s. Yep, Menillik, was mentioned by PHD thinkers, you know, on both sides of the border. We need another point in time with a specific incident to connect the dots to today.
      I will go further to satisfy your aversion to place the blame where it belonged. For the last 3000 years……, no the problem started when God said let there be land and oceans. There, I connected the dots between God and PIA for you. That is a great idea, eh?
      Mr. K.H

      • Abi

        Hi Mr Kim
        You are killing me!
        You covered the times between The Genesis to Tinbite Isayas. What about the rest?
        Kim, I found this in the bible and wanted to share with you since you brought God here.
        Please read Ecclesiastes 4:13-16.
        Where is Mezmure dawit these days? I like sharing bible verses with him.

        • Kim Hanna

          Selam Abi,
          I presume that dawit might be debating with Disqus and so far Disqus is winning the debate. I hope he comes through. He is one of the eccentrics I like.
          You asked, What about the rest?, I think I am safe in saying your friend Mahmud Saleh have it covered.
          Good to hear from you.
          Mr. K.H

  • The secular socialist republic

    Dear all,

    So Herui wrote a book, good for him. Its historical worthiness – as per the discipline – is for sure very limitied. A protagonist’s reflection over his country, family and regional histories are built on a biased perspective of reality for sure.

    For what Semere offered as a summary, it seems like Herui has just discovered Tekeste Negash’s work and conclusions (as per the 1940s and 1950s political history of Eritrea). Tekeste has been working and presenting his understanding of this specific period for over 25 years in different ways (books, articles, presentations, etc.). A refreshing perspective is useful for historical debates, copy and paste doesn’t help at all.

    Heruy should write his memoirs and not what he thinks about every specific moment of the history of Eritrea.
    As for the call which states that “every student of Eritrean and Ethiopian history must read”, please refrain yourself
    from such grandiloquence. It’s not a history book, it’s a perception of history written by a non-historian; and therefore
    a revision of history that is meant to influence people and not enlighten them.

    Best regards

    • Amanuel Hidrat

      Selam SSR,

      Wow! really, you could give your subjective assessment before even you read his book. Not good. Is it plausible and enough to bsse your assessment from the book report? Can ‘t you waite until you read it to have full grasp about the book? Don ‘t even cross your mind that this “book report” will be evaluated after we read the book?

      where is Hailat? This is what I was talking about the subjectivity of Eritreans. They can give their perceptional judgement before they even know the content of the book. I haven’t read the book yet, and I reserve myself in giving comment from this book report.


  • T..T.

    Hi Zula and all,

    The book, as a history book, may be appropriate for those who want to know more about the federal system and why the federal system was abrogated. The book may not have currency or relevance to the present upside-down turned life in Eritrea under the Isayas rule. But the book can be a good source of unique explanations as to why Isayas [and those behind him including how Sabe of Zula and his groups were trapped] chose to issue his Nhnan Elamanan declaration and how the declaration weakened the ELF through polarizing and regrouping Eritreans to his side. The book can have evidences why the Eritreans were disoriented by Isayas’s plots against Eritrea and its people. So disoriented that they (the Eritrean people) don’t understand why they trusted Isayas and how they are weakened to confront Isayas and defeat his everyday intrigues of denying them to claim back their rights to multiparty system of 1950s.