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“Massacre At Wekidiba”: A Survivor’s Book Review

A review of a new Book by Dr. Habtu Gebreab (Aka, Fr. Athanasius)

Some events are destined to be part of the collective psyche of a nation. No time or healing can blot out the indelible imprints they leave behind. They remain an integral part of a society either in their physical, cultural or psychological manifestations. Not much is, for example, known about the Turkish rule in Eritrea but its legacy has become part of the vernacular used to describe a reign of terror unrivaled in Eritrean history. The Ottoman Turks have earned the unenviable appellation of “Gzat Turki”; an expression which invokes bitter memories of cruelty and naked aggression. The Ethiopians who are undeniably our own kith and kin, however, might have surpassed the “Gzat Turki” in their barbarous, cruel and indiscriminate killings and mistreatments of innocent Eritreans. No self-respecting people would forget the atrocities which were committed in Ad-EBrahim, Ona, Geleb, Omhager, Wekidiba, Hergigo, She’eb and many others places. Sadly and regrettably, twenty years after Eritrea gained its independence; no serious and meaningful attempt has been made to tell the tragedies which befell many innocent Eritrean communities. But, true to the adage of better late than never, Abba Athanasius’ new book is a much-needed and much-appreciated serious work which fills the unhealthy vacuum and deafening silence in Eritrea’s modern history and literature.

“Massacre At Wekidiba” tells the story of the crime against humanity that was perpetrated by the new Ethiopian regime of Menghistu Haile Mariam on January 31 – February 1, 1975, and, then, for the second time, on February 28, 1976. This much needed book is particularly dear to me; and it has already started helping me close one of the many gaping holes which have pained and haunted me throughout my life. Unlike many children my age, I had to silently wrestle with the most vexing questions of life, “Why us? Why would God allow this to happen to us?” early on without any intellectual and emotional preparations. But, nothing beats the loving army of a virtuous mother, the good example set by an honorable father and the tapping on shoulders of caring older siblings. To them, I owe whatever is decent, good and beautiful that I’ve in my life.

 I just turned five when one Saturday morning, the Ethiopian army, like a dark cloud descended upon my village of Wekidiba and killed several members of my extended families—the Wekidiba family. This event, in retrospect, had the greatest impact in my life. The sudden and unexpected uprootedness from my ancestral village had something to do with my perpetual feeling of alienation and a heightened sensitivity to injustice, but, most of all, the inherent distrust of the idea of a permanent home and any form of government that is not small and limited. I’m a perpetual refuge at heart; an emotional Bedouin drifting on an endless sea with no Beilul, Dahlak or Massawa in sight. Perhaps, my life-anchorage with my “medaHnti” was buried in Wekidiba. It is my humble desire that, one day, I rejoin my roots there permanently. According to Kebra Negast, the son of Negist Saba, Menelik I, had said these immortal words which still reverberate through the ages, “for no man hates the place where he was born, and everyone loves the things of his native country.”

The book, “Massacre At Wekidiba” is unique in many ways; I’m not aware of any book on Eritrea which has attempted to humanize the tragedies of the long conflict which had profoundly affected three generations of Eritreans. This genre, in of itself, is a major contribution to Eritrean literature and history and needs to be developed further. The telling of these stories is a true indication of our collective sense of justice and moral outrage; and a way of unequivocally affirming the solemn oath of not letting it happen again. It is the way we collectively cry out “Never Again, Never Again and Never Again.” But, more importantly, it shows what kind of society we want to be and what lessons we’ve drawn from our horrific experience. What we forget and what we remember is equally important. In a way, we’re very fortunate that this undertaking has been commenced by a trained historian (Professor of History) and an ordained Tewahdo priest. The author has done a marvelous job of depicting the inner-play of human forces where, in the most unimaginable apocalyptic tragedies, glints of human compassion even compel the gung-ho soldiers to demonstrate the best of humanity: love and mercy. “Strangely, the same soldier who spared the life of the baby told weizero Asmeret that people were being killed right and left and advised her to stay put in the house.” (pg. 58)

To me the best way to live any religion, but more so, to evangelize the carrying of the Cross is to show love and understanding and I believe the good Abba Athanasius Gebreab has done that. I’m not ashamed to say that I have shed many tears as I relived the tragedy which has snatched the lives of so many of my extended family—the Wekidiba family—but, I was not, in any way, angry at the Ethiopians who, I’ve learned over the years, and the book wisely reaffirms, were victims themselves. That I believe is the genius of the good priest and the importance of the book in helping us understand our past so we can have a better chance of a better future. In implicit and explicit terms, the book does an excellent job of informing us to keep your eyes on the ball and on what matters most. There is no justice without mercy; reconciliation without forgiveness; and truth without understanding. But, all noble efforts start with the acknowledgement of the truth: the massacre that took place and that some of us were fortunate to survive.

It is with a sense of responsibility and privilege that I review a book that tells my story—the story of my village—and by extension, the story of my country, Eritrea, and the protracted conflict that had enormous impact on the lives of many people in both Eritrea and Ethiopia. Nothing enrages me more than to hear some good-intentioned Ethiopians deny the massacre that I and my family and many other Eritreans had experienced. Our homes were burned down and our hastily dug graves were not marked down, but our scars and wounds are real and still visible; and we live in a perpetual fear of forgetting those loved ones who were not lucky enough to survive the massacre. The people of Wekidiba, like the rest of their countrymen and women, are strong and resilient, “but, if one looks closely, one cannot help but discover the deep scars beneath the surface. Ato Paulos Menghistu [a teacher in Asmera] is a case in point.” (Pg. 82)

Now that I think of it, this should not be a review, but a way to express my gratitude to Abba Athanasius for easing our burden and paying some of our debt. The book might give a closure to so many people who did not perform the obligatory burial and mourning rituals. The rituals are so highly regarded in Eritrea that Aboys Sheqa Ghebreamlak and Mishghina Yifterelu had to risk their lives and return to Wekidiba from Adi Segdo to bury their family members. “Why don’t we go back to Wekidiba together? I will bury my brother Negassi Hailemikael and you will bury your nephew Qeshi Temnewo. Are we going to let hyenas eat their remains?” said Sheqa Ghebreamlak to aboy Mishghina. Both men arrived at Wekidiba and as they approached the house of aboy Gerezghier Ghebreselassie, they were met by the Ethiopian soldiers who asked them what they were doing. Aboy Sheqa Ghebreamlak responded with his characteristic courage, “We have come to bury our brothers whom you have killed so that dogs won’t eat their remains.” As the conversation heated up, one of the soldiers bayoneted his stomach and another clubbed him on his head and the third one gunned him down and finished him off. (pg. 93)

“The wanton massacres and atrocities that would characterize Ethiopia’s brutal military occupation of Eritrea and the carnage it unleashed against the inhabitants,” has touched every life in Eritrea. There are many stories waiting to be told in Eritrea and it is incumbent upon all Eritreans to rise to the occasion and contribute in recording and preserving these monumental events that have affected many generations of Eritreans.  The author has invested enormous resources over a period of ten years to track down survivors and interview them.  “The sources for the project are mainly interviews conducted with several survivors and eyewitnesses of the massacre. The interviews took place in three different continents, but the bulk of them took place in Wekidiba and Asmera.” (pg. 12) This book is my story, it is our story, engagingly told by a sensitive soul who seems to be inspired by the pursuit of justice, but one who is acutely aware that lofty aim cannot be attained without the truth.

Growing up, I’ve heard the same stories from my mother, older siblings and my extended Wekidiba families and I can say with confidence that the author has done a terrific job of accurately depicting the tragedies which afflicted many families of Wekidiba. Fortunately or not, I’m fairly endowed with a good memory and have vivid recollections of that fateful Saturday morning—just turned five years old—when a shroud of darkness engulfed our village and “most of the villagers were gripped with the extreme trepidation as the angel of death descended upon them,” (Pg. 76) or, in the words of the New York Times, when “the Ethiopian Second Division began an attack about 8:30 a.m. against a village three miles from Asmara where guerillas may be hiding.” (Pg. 131) I also fondly remember, my “Asilo” (kindergarten) teacher, the late Memhr Mesmer who was savagely killed along with others on that day. Although, I’ve heard Wekidibans mention his name over the years, I didn’t know he was from Geleb, another lowland village which witnessed a similar fate. It rejoices my heart to learn that he was finally put to rest in his ancestral village; thanks to his wife and family.

The scorched earth policy that the Ethiopian army savagely implemented was understood by many Eritreans as a genocidal strategy of acquiring Eritrea without its people. An unnamed Ethiopian soldier who spoke Tigrinya shamelessly defended the killing policy when asked by his victim, aboy Gerezghier, “Are you going to kill us?” He responded, “bsenki neQuts yneded rHus.” [Meaning: we’ve to kill the whole innocent crew in order to get the guilty few.] (Pg. 64) “The mass killing that was underway in Wekidiba had very little to do with guilt or innocence. It was just another ugly manifestation of the tenor of the times.” (Pg.64) Many, “perhaps the majority of the people, [who] decided to stay in their homes, confident that their innocence would save them” soon came to learn the inevitable truth: they were guilty for being Eritreans.

A popular Tigrinya song in the aftermath of the Wekidiba massacre aptly encapsulates the widespread sentiments of the people: wedi Tedla ne’aba telay: wedeana ‘zi rgum amHaray:. (Son of Tedla, come quick, the Amharas are wiping us out. Herui is the son of the first elected president of Eritrea, Tedla Bairu and was the then vice chairman of the Eritrean Liberation Front.)

The massacre of Wekidiba was a turning point in Eritrean history and its liberation struggle. The previous massacres mainly took place in the predominantly Muslims-populated lowlands in a divide-and-conquer strategy with an effective and conspicuously anti-Muslim and anti-Arab overtone. There were significant number of Christians in the highlands who subscribed into the anti-Muslim and anti-Arab propaganda; but, Wekidiba would rapidly change all of that. The massacre of Wekidiba opened the floodgate; and many Christian youth joined the Eritrean liberation fronts en masse, so much so, that Muslim Eritreans who had been fighting the Ethiopians for over a decade started referring to them—humorously and sometimes sarcastically—“Sewret BBC or Sewret 75.” (The Revolution inspired by BBC News or the Revolution of 1975.)

The Wedidiba massacre was a culmination of the violence that wreaked havoc in Asmera in January of 1975. These events proved beyond any shadow of a doubt to all Eritreans—rich and poor, Muslim and Christian, peasant and elite, urban and rural—that “they were all targets of the Ethiopian occupying army” who were predominantly Christians and had the audacity to desecrate the Holy of Holies of the Debre Qusqwam Tewahdo Church and kill the innocent people who sought refuge there. Ironically, Qusqwam is the place in Egypt where the Holy Family sought refuge when persecuted by King Herod; and the name has (and rightfully so) a special meaning to Tewahdo Christians. Historically, no one would dare touch, even a bonafide criminal who sought refuge in a church in the Holy of Holies where only the priests and the king were allowed. The Ethiopians profaned the most sacred heritage of Christian Eritreans and inadvertently sealed the deal in favor of Eritrean nationalism.

No one exemplifies this metamorphosis than the wife of the late Memhr Mesmer who was proudly known as an Ethiopia, but in the post-Wekidiba Massacre and the slaying of her beloved husband, the first thing she got rid of was her name. She is now known as Lu’ul. Ethiopia became Lu’ul, the root-word for Lu-ulawnet: sovereignty. Not surprisingly, Lu’ulawnet, National Sovereignty, became the rallying cry of the liberation struggle.

The “Massacre At Wekidiba” is the microcosmic story of a nation. By telling the story of Wedkidiba, Father Athanasius has told the story of a nation and how the Ethiopians through their excesses have enormously contributed to the growth and consolidation of Eritrean nationalism. It is a must read story for every human being who cares about justice and injustice. My four children (except the youngest one) will be required to finish reading this book before the end of summer 2013. I hope, they will finally understand why their dad sometimes, “acts weird” and is “obsessed with everything Eritrean.”

There was nothing normal about our upbringing and we can’t possibly be expected to be normal. We were burdened by our circumstances and our outlook in life is shaped by it, but, nevertheless, we have an obligation and an opportunity to make it right and normal for the next generation of Eritreans. The best way to honor those who have gone before us is to ensure their posterity is normal and mend fences with ourselves and our neighbors. Let the healing begin.

The book, as great as it is, could have been made more complete, had it incorporated the other side of the story. I don’t know how many of the soldiers of the Second Division have survived the war, but the author does not mention if  he had made any attempt to reach out to them. Their input could have greatly enhanced our understanding.

The book can be purchased from the  publisher:,   or

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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  • rahe

    is awate becaming a voice for this, the cruellest regime the eritrean people has never seen the butcher of asmara the notorious isayas has killed double the number the turks, the italians, the british, and ethiopia combined together. how on earth awate allows this to be published while eritreans are suffering under this facsist ruler ,shame on you AWATE

  • Asmara

    @ Meretse Asmelash

    Selamat, Meretse

    If I understood you right, you are saying you and some other groups already predicted what Woyanie would do if they get a chance and with this knowledge, you asked or suggested demarcation to be done right after our independence. Well, if you really did that, then I would say is hats off for you. Though under the circumstance, achieving the long overdue independence and all, and considering the then seemingly beautiful cooperation between Eritrea and Woyanie and also considering the tremendous task the Woyanie had to bring the whole Ethiopia into terms, I would also say the stand of Eritrea was right. Given all that, if you managed to see far and saw Woyanie for what they are and for what they could be if they get the chance, then you should be commended.
    Sand you asked me:
    “..Do you think we were wrong back then when we cried demarcation Now not Tomorrow. Do you think we were dead wrong when we praised the idea “tefa’qer kem ahwat gin tehasaseb kem guana…..”
    My answer is flat NO, your prediction was right.
    Having said that, I could not see why you fail to give credit to the government when credit is due? I mean, the points I listed on my first comments:
    1. Leading the Eritrean people towards independence
    2. Understanding the need for referendum and doing a superb job in securing Eritrean independence once and for all.
    3. Doing what a good government is supposed to do, defend the sovereignty of a nation. When a nation’s sovereignty is at risk, the method you used under that instance is not the point – willingness and readiness to act upon it, and act according to what you think is right at that instance is what is important. Some selfish people try to twist this as if the government started the war to extend its life, but that is obscured, as when it comes to HGDF as a party, there is no benefit to be gained by going to war with Woyanie, and standing firm on sovereignty against all odds.
    4. In addition, it is Woyanie, who is refusing to abide by the ruling. Our government is on the right side of justice. You don’t set out to punish the one who is on the right side of justice. That is a shame, particularly being Eritrean and all.
    5. The Eritrean government, clearly know, the issue of Badme is settled once and for all and also know very well, the present actions of Woyanie, is never never about Badme and the people that would be misplaced. So, the Government are standing firm and they have the truth and justice on their side.
    We should give credit when credit is due.

    • Bame is the issue, Badme is the issue, and Badme is the issue. Badme has nothing to do with Eritrea having constitution, democracy, freedom of press, …etc. Brother the issue is beyond Badme. For your informantion the issue of Badme was solved long time; I mean right after the Badme War(ELF vs TPLF) in the early 1980s. After a few years EPLF allowed TPLF to adminstrate Badme as one of its part. It was EPLF who approved TPLF to expel the residents of Badme who resisted TPLF’s adminstration back then. It was EPLF who told the people, quote: If you dons’t like the adminstration, just go away with your broken pots and wounded donkeys”. This fact is documented not only in the form of hard paper, but also it is recorded in audio and video. Since then and until the war in 1998 Badme was remained in the hands of the Ethiopian government. During the good years, Badme was meaningless ( I mean demarcation) and I assume that you know what your government responded back when it was asked about demarcation by some concerned citizens before the war. Then comes the issue of currency followed by Badme war. As the result of that the country came to face problem after problem.. In brief, Eritreans were betrayed and still are. If you think your government was right from day one and still is right as of today, I would say to you: Sir you too have some homework to do.

  • “This differentiation of the Ethiopian people from Ethiopian governments was a tradition continued by Shaebia. One of the many proud achievements of the Ghedli”.

    That is a total lie Saay!……. Gedlhi and Eritreanism wouldn’t have meant nothing without the demeaning campaign that was directed towards the people of Ethiopia..If ever Shabia has since Independence reduced it’s badmouthing and degrading of Ethiopians, it is only because there is no more ground on which it can claim any of the mythical Eritrean specialty or invincibility..It has become all too clear to everyone who is who..It can can not sing invincibility when it’s rear is militarily being whipped left right and center, it can not claim wisdom when it’s diplomatically and mentally outsmarted, it can not sing industriousness when all it produces is destitute refugees.., Finito, they can talk but with nothing to show…..One could forgive you for lying about the past perhaps in good-faith to reconcile, but the open truth is Shabia still clings on desensitizing Eritreans with daily cocktails of anti-people(Ethiopians)propaganda…I will try and dig out one of the many daily Eritrean past times but my favorite one was when I recently by accident came across a shocking subhuman news reading on Er-Tv(Shabia)..It is just one of thclear examples of how your identity can not be sustained without the target enemy,Ethiopians..The news was in response to a report by one of the international aid organizations that claimed 75% of Eritreans are malnourished..mind you, it neither has nothing to do with Ethiopians nor did the report come from Ethiopia? but this is how the Shabia you are trying to honey-coat responded “‘experts’ in east Africa have denounced recent UN report that claimed 75% of Eritreans are malnourished, but instead “the experts” said it is Ethiopians that are known for their image of a dying mother with blotted-belly breast-feeding a dying child”…And you the “opponent” are telling us Shabia is known for differentiation politics from humanity….this why I always say there is no better substitute for Eritreans since you are all the same..!

    • Gumare

      Your claim that Eritreans were against Ethiopians in general, particularly during the struggle era, is a big misrepresentation and a bigger LIE my. If EPLF was against Ethiopians it would not have symbiotically allied itself with Ethiopian forces to fight and drive out other Eritrean forces. If you are talking about PFDJ after badimme war, they throw racist and derogatory slurs at whoever opposed Isays’ rule. Do not be too soft-skinned and generalize because two or three Eritreans insulted you. Obviously you hold Eritreans in low esteem, claiming Ethiopians do not like Eritreans based on your prejudiced views is not right. So is your mislead conclusion.

    • Point

      Do we have to remind your flip-flop woyane was brought up to Minelik palace by Eritrean mechanized army!! You better see psychiatrist!

      • ethio

        have you read the book by tegadalay…bla bla ..i forgot his name in tigregha…about the evil name …ethiopia …and how eritreans are fooled by the name ethiopia in bible and history books. Point on You better see psychiatrist!

  • Ghezae Hagos

    Selam Sal,

    This is to briefly respond to your following statements:

    “This is why the people who were rooting the most against the the January 21 movement (Forto) were not just the Isaiasists but those who have concluded change can’t come to Eritrea without the help of Ethiopia.It wasn’t just the realization that their theory is flawed that had rendered them speechless for weeks, but the knowledge that they will become pariahs again (just as they were during the very popular armed struggle.) Wrong then, wrong now.”

    This is simply wrong, reductionist, and strawman arguement.

    1. The people who were rooting the MOST against Forto movement were and are ALWYAYS Issayaists or PFDJ loyalists. Period. No opposition member (under any category) worthy of his salt was rooting for Issayas to win the day. Come on, now! Do you think anyone would prefer his own theory of ending the Issayas rule than the end of Issayas rule itself; one the cruellest, the savagest in Eritrean history? Wasn’t Awate itself and you too were telling us the reason some opposition groups and individuals turn to Ethiopia was the degree of savagery and destuction of Eritrean way of life under PFDJ hands has reached stratospheric levels?

    2.Your definition of Ethiopia’s help is ambiguous and prone to abuse and controversy.

    A. Defined broadly, every opposition group and indiviudals who happen to land in Addis for many Ethiopia-sponsored or funded political events is ‘guilty’ of that. Many of our mainstream opposition groups still get finiancial assistance from Ethiopia and it has never bothered

    B. In strickest sense, it may apply to those who specifically were or are asking for Ethiopia to interve militarily to overthrow the PFDJ regime. (Again Summer 2000 could put some of the opposition groups within ELF in this group.)

    C. Somewhere in the middle are groups and individuals in favour Ethiopia’s limited engagement to target PFDJ money making mega-structures like Bisha mining to scare off foreign investment.

    I reckon you meant the middle one. But this is not its place but it will veer us into, ‘in-that-case-what-about-kusto-kusto-in-2000.’

    3. Forto movement was welcome surprise to everyone in the opposition as it was a welcome shock (without the therapy) to Issayas’s loyalists. The initial reaction are always the genuine ones. Everyone was happy (even many of the silent ones) to imagine at least Issayas would be no more in power. I don’t think you would disagree with this. The later monday morning quarterbacking (Sonuy nigho nay korso kit’ie, as I would find apt couterpart from Asmara days), or sober analysis with lessons to learn from etc came back later as expected. Prudence and fairness dictates that the people you unfairly treated here have written and displayed thier anger and thier vocal opposition to Issayas’s rule since long, no matter what their hypothesis is about the role of Ethiopia; hence they should be first viewed as genuine resistance members first and foremost desire is to see Issayas gone not as ‘..the people who were rooting the most against the the January 21 movement (Forto)…’
    I don’t have to repeat to you but seems relevant to conclude witth: Let us strive to seek and focus on what unites us. Or “Beware the terrible simplifiers!” Jacob Burckhardt, mentioned by Bill Moyers.

    • Salyounis

      Selamat Ghezae:

      Bro, I enjoy taking the scenic route as much the next guy, but the one you took here was superfluous. When it comes to what type of Ethiopian assistance I was referring to, you didn’t have to recreate Goldilock’s choices (this one is too hot, this one is too cold…) to conclude “I reckon you meant the middle one” when I had already defined it un-ambiguously: I was referring to those who called for Ethiopian military intervention. You can easily tell this from my posting by the obvious analogy of “The Tanzania-Uganda parallel” (mentioned once), “the active involvement of the Ethiopian army” (mentioned once), “bring change to Eritrea with the help of Ethiopian army”, (mentioned 3 times.)

      I am sorry but your introduction of “some of the opposition groups with ELF” sounds like a spread-the-guilt campaign. I don’t even know what “some of the opposition groups with ELF” means, but if you mean ELF and ELF-RC, they never called for Ethiopian military intervention privately or publicly. They never said Eritreans can’t bring change without outside help. They never welcomed a Tanzania solution. If you have such a claim, I would love to see a link, or a source.

      Now, let’s look at the key difference between how the Isaiasits and how the pro-Ethiopian-military-intervention Eritreans looked at January 21. You are a lover of poetry and prose, Ghezae, and you ought to be able to pick up the difference in the tones. In some of the Isaiast’s articles (in Tigrinya at alenalki), I actually noticed some sadness–the tone was: “Look at these poor guys who were misled to rise up against the Great Leader.* Don’t they know that the Eritrean people love their leader?” Their tone was: “if the Eritrean people really hated Isaias, he wouldn’t last a day, but he will be there forever because the people love him.” It was tall tale and a wrong assessment but at least complimentary to and empowering of Eritreans. In contrast, the tone from the pro-Ethiopian-military-intervention Eritreans was: “Did you really expect Eritreans to do this?” There was no note of sadness that the effort failed, only an I-told-you-so chest pounding. A confirmation to them that Eritreans can’t bring about change without the military intervention of Ethiopia.


      * Isaias Afwerki, of course, expressed zero statesmanship. He had an opportunity to express remorse for the death of his comrades and subordinates: he could have said that it was sad that there was a loss of life. He didn’t, but I didn’t expect him to: you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.

      • Ghezae Hagos

        Dear Sal,

        Then I think I have to know this group that is worthy of our debate. Can you please identify for me the people or group of Eritreans actively advocating for direct Ethiopian intervention as in the Case of Tanzania-Uganda? Can you refer to me their manifesto or policy on this, instead of possible venting-out?

        • Salyounis

          Selama Ghezae:

          Sure, but not in comments section of an article about “Massacre at Wekidiba.” That is an article, or a series of articles. Two questions to help me set the parameters: (a) are you saying you don’t know such people exist or are you saying you didn’t know they were an organized group and (b) what does “by any means necessary” mean to you?


      • Ghezae Hagos

        Selam Sal,

        Well, I was hoping to refer to me to groups in the opposition or individuals known for their manifesto of Ethiopian military intervention and happened to be rooting for Forto movement to fail because it invalidates their theory, which is essentially what you wrote triggering my response.

        I don’t know the existence of such groups (i.e. groups that openly advocate for Ethiopian military intervention in Eritrea) though I have heard some people venting out in pitched debates to imply ‘wela b’woyane gedifu..bseytan…!’ I am presuming we are talking and exposing some groups whose policy is calling for Ethiopian military intervention with a view to topple Issayas.

        In my opinion ‘by all means necessary’ as used in Eritrean debates (fb/ paltalk) usually and typically refer to the non-violent (peaceful) and violent means of struggle (self-defence) means of struggle. So some groups including EDA and ENCDC claim they believe in by all means necessary. That is where it usually stops. I have yet to hear ‘by all means necessary’ (though one may argue it theorotically may mean so and anything humanely possible under the sun) to encompass Ethiopia’s toppling of Issayas as in Uganda-Tanzania analogy.


    Dear Semere
    Thank you for the respond,and I a sure you,that I will collect same information in regards of names,gender and age of the victims,as far as Saleh Johar’s book goes,it seems to me a marketing ploy to drive more book sales for your friend Saleh,or is’t simply innocent suggestion? hahaha,just joking my dear Semere,I read the book when it came out,I was in USA to attend Keren secondary school reunion in July 2010 which was held in Washington DC,I met Saleh in San Francisco,and the plan was to fly together to Washington,however due to his commitment with his publishers he couldn’t go,the reunion was a great idea,it created opportunity for many of us to meet after long years of separation,separation not out of choice but out of necessity,I met friends and class mates which I haven’t seen for almost thirty years,it brought out a lot of emotions,the beautiful years of childhood and school days, and the sad memories of those we have lost during the war of independence.
    In my way back from Washington,the book was already out,and Saleh handed me two books as a gift,which I am grateful for that,and even more for telling the story of my generation in Keren,and exposing the atrocities which was committed against defenseless,innocent people of my country.
    Saleh’s book become a companion for me in my long journey to Melbourne,Australia,it never failed to bring smile and same times tears to my eyes,even at 30.000 ft altitude above the sea,it is story of my generation,and my town,the places and time seem just like yesterday,bringing back happy and sad memories.
    Saleh is a good friend and school mate,I appreciate his endeavors and dedications,he is always true to his convictions,I look forward to the day we live in our Democratic country of Eritrea,in a country in peace with itself and with it’s neighbors.

    • Semere Habtemariam


      Thank you so much AlHagiga and now that I know you’re from down-under, I’m going to impose on my friend, Bashir Saleh who is visiting your city to buy you coffee. I hope many others would follow your example and help us, at least, in compiling the list of the massacre victims.

      Anyone who is a friend of Saleh Gadi is by extension a friend of mine, but most of all, “feinlem netAref feteJmeAna alfedila” “weinta fiAleen zey ismek TelaATa nAmet alHaiga.”

      Thanks a bunch

  • xy


    HAbtemariam : Tell us the Massacre committed by ELF specially, against the Christians.
    Writ or read correctly your history.

  • Seare


    In the late 80ies I travelled with someone from Nakfa to a place called Himbol. He was from Nakfa front on his way to a place Arareb. On the long journey he told me that he survived the massacre of Wekiduba. He was I think between 5 and 10 ad managed to run from the men to the women, while the soldier with the machinegun was loading. A very tirrible sory even for our standard.

    I always think of the man and wonder whether he lived to see Wekiduba again.

    • Yekuno-amlak Mehari

      The man who jumped from the church porch into the deje-selam while a soldier was reloading his gun is Zeremariam Tesfay (Colonel). His family had suffered terrible losses in the massacre. The last time I saw him in 2003, he was working at Track B in Asmara. He is one of the main figures in the book.

      • Seare

        Merhaba Yekuno-Amlak,

        It is good to hear that Zeremariam has survived the last two wars. I forgot his name. That is why I refered to him as ‘someone’. Well at that time you ended up meeting a dozen Zeremariam’s, Abdu’s, Kerar’s, Tsega’s, Kedija’s and Nuri’s … per day:-) So remembering name was even then a challenge. The term ‘BTsay’ and ‘Btseyti’ were excellent to cover up the amnesia:-)

  • Alash Abelnayom

    Successive Ethiopian administrations had been terrible to Eritrea (Haile Selassie and Mengistu) but Weyane’s invasion of Eritrea with money it panhandled from the West and backed by Western intelligence agencies was the worst in terms of sowing discord and hatred between Eritreans and Ethiopians. It wasn’t just the brutal way in which weyane treated Eritreans simply for not liking the color of their eyes, it was also the things that it did in areas it occupied. Destroying martyrs cemeteries? What was the point of that???

    There are a lot of Ethiopians who come here under different disguises and try to beg for forgiveness for Weyane and improve relations between the two peoples but I just think they are wasting their time.

    Here is one more misila that they understand. “Birile Keneqa Ayhonm Iqa.” Once a vase is broken, forget it.

    Eritreans want nothing to do with Weyane or Ethiopia for that matter.

    • Birile

      Good riddance.

  • Alash Abelnayom

    I have two misilas for the two Ethiopians who frequent this website.

    Papillon: “Tsemam Hade Derfu.” Keep saying, “Forto.” It won’t do you any good. There is nothing there.

    Eyob Medhanie: “Kibeluwa Zideleyu…Zagra yibluwa.” Are you comparing Idi Amin to PIA? Are you nuts??? Furthermore, with what money is Weyane going to invade Eritrea? It already tried once, using all the money that it panhandled from the west (kiliminuwo zikeweu). It failed miserably and now Weyane is on life support. That’s why Tigrayans keep saying, “I miss Meles. He was such a good beggar for Weyane.” Keep dreaming!

  • lets talk the worst more than wekdiba happening now we eritrean must be human not animals what ethiopian did reasonable what happening now isnot reasnoable who has the courage to disclose the whole masscare of isias afwerki and his guinta have been doing and still they are doing stop talking past lets talk about country become worlds greatest prison


    Dear Semere
    Thank you for your effort,and work well appreciated,the eye witness account should be recorded, for future reference,so that such atrocities are not repeated.
    The young Ethiopians of today should not fell responsible, nor should they be ashamed,as this atrocities are committed by Emperors and Dictators which does not reflect nor represent,the true Ethiopian character which is known for kindness,humility and friendship,and I hope they understand that the history we are discussing is recent history,same of us witnessed the crimes committed.
    In December 1970,when Owna was attacked by the army,and more than thousand people were killed,most of them were children and women,it was 10.00am the second day of Eid holidays,the holidays which comes after the fasting month of Ramadan,I was student in keren that time,I remember the army refused relatives to bury the dead for two days,after two days the body started to decompose and the smell was unbearable,I remember using cotton and perfume during burial,the good people of Keren are known to stick together during difficult time,the young and old the rich and the poor,Muslims Christians, every body was there,it was difficult time, many people lost their loved ones,this is one story,that I can say that affected me and it stays in my subconscious mind since then,and it is one of many atrocities committed,it is no good denying,the decent thing to do Eyob Medhane and his colleague is to acknowledge and sympathize with victims so we can start on good terms,in politics no friend for ever and no enemy for ever,that is what you learn if you live long.

    • Semere Habtemariam


      If you’ve not read Salih Gadi’s book, “Of Kings and Bandits” I suggest you do so. It is a historical novel that beautifully touches on the atrocities committed in Keren and surrounding areas. The Downeys, the American couple who ran the Keren orphanage have written about their eye-witness account of the Ona massacre. Mr. Downey was one of the early people with his students who dared to defy the Ethiopians and bury the many corposes that you described. It would be great if people who provide us names so we can compile a list. I would love to help in compiling the list of victims of massacrs if people would email me names of all victims and their ages when they were killed. I think we have a moral responsibility to do so.

      AlHagiag, please be the first one to do so. Just email me names of victims with their estimated ages and I will periodically update it so people can add to it and make corrections accordingly. This should be a collaborative commuity effort.

      I eagerly wait for your contribution.

      Semere T Habtemariam

  • “sir, These are court terms for victims. Period. What we are saying is the people of a country are always responsible for the actions of the government.
    Shenkolel ayedlin eyu


    Who is going to compensate the thousands of Ethiopians who were massacred in a day light between 1935-40 by your askari ancestors and their slave masters?..we have evidences too, we have living witness foreign and local…how often do we blame the poor subjects for the cowardly act they did against other fellow have too many shameful history which our predecessors chose to sweep under the carpet all for the sake of “unity”..but the problem with you guys is you have somehow developed this culture of entitlement to deport but not to be deported, to blame but not to be blamed.. When are you going wake up and smell your independence? Of course we have no problem with you people choosing to lead a life of resentment, history has taught us that the farther you guys stay away from us the better we do as a nation, hence we appreciate every little time and resource some of you so called learned Eritreans spend on hate-mongering..More and more Ethiopians even pray for NO WAR NO PEACE to last forever cos the stupidity from your-side just seems to work perfectly well for us and some even see the beginning of peace with you guys as the beginning of the end for Ethiopian Renascence..and all the evidences suggest to support the sentiment..the true of the matter is, you people are better handled as a hostile neighbor than as a friend you have never been and you will never be.. So no worry, keep writing your death sentence, and we keep on developing our country….At the end of the day most of you so called concerned Eritrean intellectuals live abroad and you have nothing to lose by hate mongering. It is obvious that your hatred towards ethiopians outweighs your love for your people…otherwise any sane person knows that the lonely old Eritrean lady across Mreb whose children are either being enslaved in Sawa or gone abroad for better life needs the lady on the other side of the Mereb for comfort more than she needs any of you hypocrites whose desire is one and only one, to defend your ego!..Asmesy hulu…

    • Point

      Moderator: Point! Don’t even try to use that language here.

      • Point

        Moderator you are concerned about my words. But, do not forget the evil deeds and words of those people are poisonous beyond words could tell!!

        [Moderator: you can debate and make your point without using racist or derogatory terms]

  • ethio

    yewega biresa yetewega ayresam…excellent…do you remmember whate the shabian soldiers did in massawa 17,000 captured derg soldiers and civilian ethiopians please,please ask honestly eplfites the full history!let me tell you one truth ,we ethiopians didnt believe eritreans b/c ….yewega biresa yetewega ayresam….the eritreans never forget our forefathers sin even if we try to heal the past and work for better future!

    • Abe the Minewale

      Does that include captain Bezabih Petros whose actions are like a snake with 2 mouth

  • gg

    I have been the only among my friend and family who had wished to see the normalization between Ethiopian and Eritreans. I have been reading articles in awate, asmarino and assenna website. There are only few very few who have good intention for Ethiopia and Ethiopian. No matter what Ethiopia strive to normalize relation between people of the two countries the majority Eritreans are nebir kodawin yikyiral wey nachew. So I wish PIA yematusala edme.

    • Eyob Medhane


      Interesting observation. Many of these articles and their writers don’t seem even to relent from antagonizing Ethiopians and Ethiopia, by digging stories and pricking old wounds.


      GG’s point is the one that I tried to make earlier. I just have a hard time understanding what good these throngs of articles do, while Eritrea is isolated and left out, while the rest of the countries in the region are leaping forward? Interstingly, the only ticket for Eritrea to get out of the predicament that it is in may be with the only help of Ethiopia. The same people and country, which is getting punched with all sort of adjectives, ugly suffix and prefixes everyday. Uganda couldn’t get rid of Idi Amin with I domestic opposition. It took Tanzania to coraborate with the exiled opposition and went in to get rid of the canibal dictator. May be that could offer a model, which might work for Eritrea, for it’s not the daily denigrating of the potential helping hand by the Eritrean exiled ‘opposition’.


      I have a different reason for my emotional outburst this time..not low blood sugar 🙂

      • Salyounis

        Selamat Eyob:

        The thing with emotional outbursts is that they don’t help at all. CCC is the way: calm, cool, collected. Not because there isn’t much to be outraged about, but because there is much to be outraged about.


        1. Eritreans are not blaming Ethiopians (and those who are blaming Ethiopians collectively are not thinking clearly.*) Eritreans are blaming Ethiopian regimes for crimes they inflicted on them. They are not doing this every single day but when the occasion warrants. I had an American friend in the late 1980s, a former marine, and he was giving me his insights about Russians (Soviets then) and he told me, dismissively, this: “the thing with the Russians is that if you visit them they talk so much about the Nazis you think World War II is still going on. They just won’t get over it! Only then can they make progress.” He is saying this about people who lost 23 million people (13% of their population) to a war that many were alive to tell about it. That’s just what war does to people. The only power powerless people have is the power to grieve–and even that we don’t have inside Eritrea where families are not even told if their loved ones are alive or dead. So please let people grieve.

        2. The Tanzania-Uganda parallel is a non-starter for the Eritrean people**. This is the biggest quandary that the ghedli-defacers who have gone on record to say that change cannot come without the active involvement of the Ethiopian army have placed themselves in: call it the Shelebi life. This is because under every scenario in future Eritrea, they have sentenced themselves as pariahs:

        (a) if they succeed to bring change to Eritrea with the help of Ethiopian army, they are hated. (ask our Somali friends.)
        (b) if they fail to bring change to Eritrea after getting the help of the Ethiopian army, they are hated and quickly abandoned by the Ethiopians who will cut a deal with the winner: (refer to our discussion about the true definition of “national interest” which is “ruling regime interest”);
        (c) if Eritreans bring change to Eritrea without the help of the Ethiopian army, they are hated–for even thinking the unthinkable and for losing faith in the Eritrean people.

        This is why the people who were rooting the most against the the January 21 movement (Forto) were not just the Isaiasists but those who have concluded change can’t come to Eritrea without the help of Ethiopia. It wasn’t just the realization that their theory is flawed that had rendered them speechless for weeks, but the knowledge that they will become pariahs again (just as they were during the very popular armed struggle.) Wrong then, wrong now.


        * That awful, sectarian, Arabists, Islamists, Ethiopia-hating Jebha that you love to hate spent so much time and energy making the point that our fight is not with the Ethiopian people but with the Ethiopian governments. This differentiation of the Ethiopian people from Ethiopian governments was a tradition continued by Shaebia. One of the many proud achievements of the Ghedli.
        ** in my opinion. If I am wrong, and the Eritrean people would welcome change from anywhere including via Ethiopian tanks, then those I am calling pariahs are visionaries.

      • dude

        Selam Gash Saleh,

        One could draw the same parallel to EPRDF itself, in many ways they were resented for having come to power as victors of a conflict which split the country into two. But, the fact remains that an end had to be put to the expansionist, extremely centralized, and violent government dominated by one ethnic group even if it has to come through an alliance with EPLF. Second, even with the widespread resentment and the independence of Eritrea, above all the majority of Ethiopians just wanted to be able to finally live their daily live in peace, something of a return to normalization after the destructive adventures of a brutal and deranged dictator. Compared to my initial resentment, EPRDF has received my goodwill tenfold for bringing the national conversation towards development and eradicating poverty and away from war and nationalist zeal. It is a no brainer that any party that comes to power in Asmara with the help of EPRDF will be resented but their salvation comes in the form of concrete results and moving the population to the economic questions of the 21st century. I highly doubt that resentment will turn into widespread armed movement as most of the people will want above all a return to leading normal lives in their respective communities. Not to say that I have no faith in Eritreans to bring about change themselves but if we are being realistic, who are you expecting to bring this change? The women and old people in the cities, the rank and file soldiers, the military leaders? What’s in it for a colonel to seek change when that very change will bring about widespread demobilization, reduced military spending which could end his career assuming he makes it out alive. He not only puts his livelihood at risks but also that of his fellow military leaders. Ethiopia had to lose 500,000 people in the red terror, and a million souls to a famine that could have been prevented before we finally got a government that is at least asking the right questions. How much do the Eritrean people need to be sacrificed before there is a widespread recognition that you have to get out of this destructive cycle by any means necessary? Do you think I now care whether EPRDF was once allied with EPLF or that Eritrea is independent when we are finally building a dam on the Nile, when we are seeing unprecedented economic growth and regional integration, when there is a workable decentralized system(all be it ethnic) that is slowly but surely improving? The ones who initially directly challenged the Haileselassie government were young people with hopes and dreams armed with college education, mind you your president has closed down the only accredited university in Eritrea. Anyways… I don’t usually comment as it seems we always have to learn things the hard way.

  • rodab

    What goes around comes around (a reflection on Mustefa NurHussien’s words):

    • Papillon

      Dear Rodab,

      You can clearly see that they are all bunch of sell-outs who had bent backwards to please the man at the helm. It is a de ja vu where the G-15 committed a grave mistake by playing with Isaias a soft ball or as they mistook him for a Kitten when he is in fact a rabid Tiger. In reality nothing seems to make any dent at all whether Nur-Hussain is thrown to jail or any other who is close to Isaias as long as the latter is still in power. And of course, PFDJ zombies will still be cooped up in their pathetic coward self as long as Isaias is running the show as he is hemorrhaging the country till the last soul is standing.


  • Asmara

    @Meretse Asmelash
    You said: “… some stated comments, such as: trying to divert the main topic into demarcation, Weyane, so and so…”
    Allow me to take ownership of that. True, I did raise the issue of the border and Weyane. But my intention was not to divert the main topic. To the contrary, I am so happy that people here remembered and raised the hideous actions of Ethiopia. I do agree that people tend to forget (Or choose to look the other way, or try to look inwards and start to blame their own, believing they and the Eri. Gov. are powerless or to confront the main criminals, in the case of Weyane, that is) atrocities committed not only by the past Ethiopian rulers, but also by the current one– The hideous WOYANIE.
    Indeed people seem to have short span of memory. Now that we mentioned short memory and Woyanie, one of the cruel intentions of the stalemate Woyanie is counting on is the fact that the golden children of Eritrea – those who went to Sawa after the actual border war ended, would forget and fail to see the reason why they have to serve beyond the assigned time. No wonder they would have hardship to realize the real aggressor (Woyanie) .
    The reason I mentioned Woyanie, is because I believe, out of all the past Ethiopian aggressors, I believe the champion is Woyanie. As, its cruelity and all its atrocities can all came in the form of war, hence I raised the Border issue. The unjustified deportation of Eritreans, the unjustified sanction, the cruel chocking of the whole nation of Eritrea, the whole new breed of Unionists barking at us now , and the whole division of Eritreans came about as a result of the border issue. One cannot say all the above is caused by PFDJ, if one is true to him/herself. Just go back and remember the good years before the border war (1991-1998). Just consult the border ruling and see Eritrea is on the right side of justice. Actually go back and check their leadership to independence, and also check how they did a superb referendum. No question as to what is the cause of our current situation and no doupt as to who is choking our nation – none other than Woyanie.
    In summary, all Ethiopian rulers, past and present have done grave harm on Eritrea

    • First, your response is appreciated. As I was reading your comments I was nodding my head yes, yes, and yes until I came down to the last paragraph and said oh!, no! Here is the reason why? You stated :”Just go back and remember the good years before the border war (1991-1998). Just consult the border ruling and see Eritrea is on the right side of justice. Actually go back and check their leadership to independence, and also check how they did a superb referendum.” Well, dear brother, what if I had chance to read before the years that you stated above. What if I tell you, I for one and many others were loud and clear enough when we asked for demarcation right after the independence. What if I tell you, we were told by many, I mean so many Eritreans and Woyanians simply we were daydreamers. What if I tell you that, we were told these two brotherly organizations know better than anyone of us who dared to ask demarcation . Do you think we were wrong back then when we cried demarcation Now not Tomorrow. Do you think we were dead wrong when we praised the idea “tefa’qer kem ahwat gin tehasaseb kem guana.” Don’t you also think majority of the population had a responsibility beyond jubilation, singing, and dancing in the streets of the main city during those years. Now, to make it short, yes the out come of the so called “Border War” is ugly; but whose is responsible for that? Those of us who cried for demarcation long time ago? the opposition, today’s writers or Iseyas(HGDEF). I will leave the answer to you.

  • Halewa Sewra

    Dear Awate Staff,

    I just watched the Stockholm demonstration by Eritrean-Swedes against the Swedish media’s racist and provocative portrayal of Eritreans’ support for their homeland and government, in particular the 2% voluntary tax paid for rehabilitation purposes. That was a show of force indeed!!! What Expressen didn’t realize was that it had stirred up the hornet’s nest. Swedish Eritreans, Euro-Eritreans, whatever kind of Eritrean they are, will always leap to Eritrea’s defense whenever it is threatened by opening their hearts and wallets to it. Shame on Expressen and others who try to intimidate the indomitable and patriotic Eritrean diaspora.

    I wish your esteemed website had decided to cover at least the bombings of the Eritrean Community Centers in Stockholm.

    Awate.Com had had its own run-in with Expressen when the latter chose to twist SAAY’s words and publish unsubstantiated material regarding Ali Abdu.

  • ዝከብረካ ሰመረ ሰላም ፡
    ኣብ ወኪድባ ዝነበረ ዘሕዘን ህልቂት ኣብኡ ነይረ ኣብ ቀብሪ ዊዒለ ሓይላና 171 ብመሓመድ ዓመር ትምራሕ ዝነርበርት ከም በዓል ከላባይ,መሓመድ ኣደም, ኣብ ዓዲ ስሉስ ዓዲ, መርዓዊ, ዓዲ ሽማገለ ንሰለስተ ምዓልቲ ናይ ምጀመርያ ውግእ ዝተኻፈልኩዎ እዩ ጦር ሰራዊት ካብዚ ዓዲታት እዚ ምልቃቅ ምስ ኣበናዮም ኣብ ራብዓይ መዓልቲ ወጋሕታሕነ ሕነ ገባር ዓዲ ቢደል ናብ ቤተ ክርስታያን ምስ ተኣከቡ እዚ ኽሉ ህልቁት ተፈጺሙ። ዓዲ ንግሆ ይጽውዑና ኣብ ጎድንና 667 ሓይሊ ነይራ 80 ኣቕሽቲን ቆልዑን ኣንስተን ተቀቢሮም። ኣብቲ ጌዜ እቲ ናይ ምጀመርያ ስውእ ናህና ፍካክ ፋዘጋ (ወዲ ከረን ግርግር) ዝባሃል መራሒ ጋንታ ናትና ዝነበረ እዩ ብድሕሪኡ ዝተሰውኡ ብዙሓት ኣለዉና።
    እታ መጽሓፍ ኣየንብብኩዋን ከንብባ ይህንጠ ብዓቕመይ ዝዝኩሮ ከብርከት ከኣ ድሉው እየ።
    በየነ ኣብ ላዕሊ ዘበርከቶ ተዘኩሮ መብዛሕቱኡ ይሰማማዓሉ እየ። ስግር ጽርገያ መንገዲ ከረን ነፋሪት ከም ዝወደቐት ይዝከር,ንሱ ኸኣ ብወገን ህዝባዊ ሓይለታት ዝተወቕዐት እያ።

    ከብረን ዝኽርን ብእንቲ ኤርትራ ዝወድቁ ኣሕዋትን ኣሓትን

    • Semere Habtemariam


      I will be talking to ato Beyene soon and would like to do the same with you. Please email me your contact info to and my skype is melmik1970. And thank you for your offer, but more importantly for your service and sacrifice you have made for our country and people. It is because of your sacrifice and many other like you (1961-1991) that we have a country of our own and it is time that we make it a home for all Eritreans.

      • Hi Mr Habtemariam
        corraction, i am sure you know what I mean Weki Duba not Adi Bidel.
        Sorry about thet.
        with regard

    • abe the MINEWALE

      dear haile,haili 171 is that the same haili who destroyed the camp of sheka wedibisrat?

      • selam abe there is only one haili 171 in E.L.F history yes,171 was involve some kind of operation in that area but, I don’t know about destroy the camp I was not in that haili at that time I was at Barka low lands.

  • Dear Sal,

    Now you become YG to frame your own analogy to fit your argument.One thing clear though, that debate is won by a good communicator who can articulate his view; however, it might or might not be truthful and factual. So the last ten years, we have been doing that at the risk of our people. It is high time to focus on solutions rather on academic exercises that has nothing to do with the dire situation of our people. As a moderator you have a great role to redirect (kit-kelesso) the debate towards that effect. You have shown in many instances the ability to pull protagonists toward the subject that matters most (our people). You could do it as I know it.


    • Asmara

      By “our people” , are you referring to Ethiopians?
      See, it is a bit confusing as you and some other people (pappilon, Semere Andom) act like Ethiopians (Woyane to be exact) and defend Ethiopia’s interests MORE than the Ethiopians themselves.
      If, by our people, you mean Eritreans, then I can tell you outright, it sounds so fake
      Sorry dude

      • Zegeremo


        He is a member of “The opposition.” Can you believe that? Ugh!


  • Tedros Gaim

    I will be sure to read this book. My great uncle Fesseha U was killed in that massacare. Thanks for those who write the history of those who gave their life.

  • semere Andom

    The immortalization of the Wekidiba massacre between the covers and Sem’s review of sorts reminds me of the late Eritrean Poet Dr. Russom Haile`s poem, Alewuna Alewana. Amid the gloom and doom there is a flicker of hope that one day the atrocities against our people by PFDJ, Derg or Hailesillassei will not be in vain.
    PFDJ never passes an opportunity to demonize how Jebha murdered the fictitious Seriet Addis; apparently highly educated highlander Christians and Isiais presumably seceded to avenge this cruel treatment of his people when his young heart was inflamed with love of his people. For all I know the reformed Jebha killed more Moslems than it did Christians. Jebha never had affirmative actions, they incaserated anyone who was anti- Eritrean aspirations. Jebha was also run by Christians not Moslems. PFDJ till this day tell us that Jebha was a sectarian organization doomed to disintegrate. But in reality Jebha actually worried about geo-politics and its roots as low-land centric and rectified that by electing, a highlander and a Moslem as its chairman in the last congress. They were ahead of their time, this was visionary and in the interest of Eritrea. My finding is that Jebha really agonized about their image, fairness and justice. While EPLF`s default model is if you are with us, it does not matter what crimes you are swaddled with. They even changed the citizenship definition to “Eriritrean citizenship is by labour not birth.”

    Many had hoped by the end of their tenure Eritrea will be considered by the word and its citizens a fledgling democracy. People ask including intellectuals, what went wrong with EPLF, actually nothing went wrong, nothing was right to begin with. EPLF did not just suffer amenecia after the 1998 border war.
    Every single publication I read, every single seminar I attended, every single statement I have ever heard from EPLF are self-serving that never advocated the interest of Eritrean and Eritreans. If this book serves their purpose they will award Dr. Habtu the newly created award called “Werkawi Qalat“
    But instead passing the most lenient historical assessment that most Eritreans expected from EPLF (bringing Eritrea to a level of fledgling democracy after 20 years of rule) Isaias`s legacy will be: the un-emancipation of Eritrean women, un-liberating Eriteanland, proliferation of prostitution, eradicting the history, paganizing our people and investing heavily in recruiting “rats” to expand his menacing tentacles.


    • Yodita

      Dear Semere Andom

      In support of your phrase “…They were ahead of their time, this was visionary and in the interest of Eritrea. My finding is that Jebha really agonized about their image, fairness and justice.”, I attach the clip below. It demonstrates how ELF fighters, way back in 1969, were fair and just during an encounter with some Americans.

      I may be a dreamer, but this is the vision I have of the society we come from and feel almost alien to the behaviour of the tyranny lording it over us at home.

      Encounter at Quhaito v1.2

      • Semere Habtemariam

        Yodita and Moksi,

        Thank you both for your kind words.

        Yodita, the signed receipt with the ELF insignia did it for me. What a lovely tribute to our sense of fairness and doing the right thing; attributes that have become rare under the current regime. It reminded me of what we used to say when we were kids, “Jebha Abbay beAlti erimti Tebay”. Jebha, by far, was more in tune with our cultural sensibilities and heritage and placed a lot of premium on doing the right thing. According to memhir Woldemikael, a veteran of the ELF and first uncle of my sister-in-law, who was one of the three secretaries of then ELF Congress, the ELF made it absolutely clear that there should not be any clash or pressure on the Selfi Natsenet (kebesa) group for fear it might be misconstrued as sectarian move. From his personal testimony, I came to learn of the enormous effort the ELF made to avoid the secession of the Semhar, Obel and Kebessa group. It was particularly concerned with the Kebessa group for fear it might lead into a bigger conflict which the Eritrean people could not afford.

        Semere Andom is absolutely right in his observations of ELF, although, he seemed to rule out anything of redeeming value of the EPLF. That categorically, of course, cannot be true. There is a lot of good things our EPLF is known for that we need to rightfully celebrate and cherish while learning from the excesses the EPLF is also known for. There were also many excesses in Jebha Abbay–Don’t get me started.

        But there was somethings that was fundamentally right about Jebha. I believe if ELF were the one that came to power in 1991, we would, I’m sure, have some corruption but I doubt if justice would be non-existent. One of my favorite people in Dallas, Texas, is a man, an ELF veteran, known to all his friends as Wedi Nuru. On at least, two occassions, Wedi Nuru has told me a story about his experience in Jebha Abbay. Wedi Nura was part of the Fallul who joined the EPLF. After a short stay in the EPLF, he figured out that he made a terrible mistake and decided to come back to Jebha. The political culture in the EPLF was totally unlike that of Jebha and Wedi Nuru who likes to stand up for what he believes and express himself accordingly found himself in an environment that felt like prison and has to escape from the EPLF. When he rejoined the ELF, he was momentarily put in jail. To my delightful surprise, the ELF provided him a defense lawyer to help him make his case and had his day in court. This sense of justice and rule of law was part of the ELF cutlture. Imagine, if we could have some of it in today’s Eritrea, we could have avoided most of the pitfalls the regime seems to fall into on daily basis.

    • yegermal

      From what I gather, with the exception of a few members, ELF leadership was made up of slackers whose preferred hobby was debating and debating and debating, ala US filibuster, and then they’d take a break to eat enquaquho (jk). But none were psychopathic killers like the monster of Eritrea. DIA is probably one of the cruelest, blood-thirsty,angry, paranoid, manipulative and recluse dictators humanity has ever encountered in its history. EPLF is his creation and in my opinion, there is nothing inherently good about that organization and clone PFDJ. Both have devoured thousands of Eritreans and turned the survivors into mini-monsters or apathetic cowards that have been feeding DIA’s unquenchable thirty for control.

      • Ghezae Hagos

        “DIA is probably one of the cruelest, blood-thirsty,angry, paranoid, manipulative and recluse dictators humanity has ever encountered in its history..” I concur. Nothing compares to this guy. Dergue and Hailesellasie are history. Issayas is still alive and powerful than ever. This means he is going to take the nation from purgatory to depths of hell. Like the LTTE leader, Prabhakaran or the Chechen warlords, like Shamil Basayev, he will most certainly make sure the nation will not exist after him.

        Even the most controversial ELF leaders would fit for swift sainthood comapred to Issayas Afewerki. Certainly, ELF would have fared much better had it been the one which liberated Eritrea. There is no question about that. Anyone who denies that seems to forget how many lives we lost in the past 20 years; how many opportunties we lost and what the future looks like for our nations: Chechen and Tamil Ealam before they faded to Black.

  • Eyob Medhane


    I was not being emotional with my response to Nuredin and Semere.. (Ok may be a little bit I was) but please understand why. The hypocracy of accusing Ethiopia particularly and the level of concert of those, who are very fond of doing it is just incredibly irritating, especially, if your blood sugar is low, when you read it very early in the morning. Even the similarity of their language of accusation is mind numbing.. Now about what happened in Degehabur in 2008, I am sure there will be a clearer and Trustworthy account will be written in the future than ONLF’s press release. If that is the only evidence that one can issue to support their “truth” , Well…good luck to establish any credibility to otherwise an incident worthy of real investigation. The Meles apology for deported Eritreans, I am still on the side of those the deportation was done for national security reason, unless in spirit of reconciliation, I would care less for offerings of any sort of apology. Other than that. I ain’t no cheerleader to nobody. Trust me. I speak for myself….

    • saay

      Selamat Eyob:

      Hmmmm… Given the prevalence of low blood sugar in our communities, maybe we should have a rating system for our articles and comments. Try this: eat dinner that is low in starch and you won’t be as irritable in the morning:) No more starched food for you, buddy.

      You and I have had this discussion before: Ethiopians, please don’t psychoanalyze Eritreans. So, I am not about to psychoanalyze Ethiopians. What I can tell you is that when people get new information, and they have no way to independently validate the information, they feed it to their filter, of their accumulated knowledge. An East African and a West African are in a marathon run. One of them won. Who? Most likely the East African. You overheard two Africans and one of them was talking about how his country, though small, can kick the ass of every African country? He is probably from Djibouti. Just kidding. Your wife says that you have a message from Shaniqua? Shaniqua is probably an African American (stolen from Freaknomics.) A friend tells you there was a long article that trashes the Eritrean revolution but he just doesn’t remember where he read it? Go first to

      So, there is no conspiracy between what Semere and Nuradin, and I don’t know what the hypocrisy is. Nuradin read a testimony of the massacre at Wekidiba and said, yep, this sounds like what went on in Ogaden in 2008, and Semere said, I don’t have personal knowledge of that but I will make it my duty to find out. He is not saying this as a sanctimonious Eritrean but as a human being who has a role in an East African organization interested in advancing understanding among different nationalities. I, on the other hand, am telling you that the reason that what Nuradin says sounds credible to some of us is not because we hate Ethiopia but because it sounds familiar to us.

      Now go bite a broccoli:)


  • “The Italian people would pay five billion to Libya as compensation for the former military occupation. And the German people are still paying 11 trillion to Jews victims holocaust. With that in mind, the Ethiopian people are also equally responsible for the atrocities their government is committing in Eritrea, and Somalia.
    Awet N’hafash”

    There was never Eritrean infrastructure, there was only Italian infrastructure that was looted by your care-taker the british and let the Italians deal with the British….you were only a subject and if anything you gained some petty “modernity” from being a subject witch you abused by going on 30 years adventure instead of using it to advance yourself…The fact of the matter is, you are as a society in the negative since your so called Independence and you have nobody but yourself to blame for your miscalculations…It is your culture of name calling(Adgi), turning a regional name in to insult(Agame) that reduced you to the Gypsy of the region…not Ethiopians…I know you will never admit it, but in fact past ethiopian regimes overrated your importance to us as though we could not make it without your port and led you to miscalculate the whole thought all you need is landlocked Ethiopia and sit back and enjoy relied too much on Arab economists who misled you for their own strategic is because of that we will never be at peace with each-other and don’t expect us not to harm you even in the future as long as you remain on opposite side of our string attached from now on my friend, I am just being honest, you are either with us or against us!.

    • Zegeremo

      sir, These are court terms for victims. Period. What we are saying is the people of a country are always responsible for the actions of the government.

      Shenkolel ayedlin eyu

  • L.T

    All Ethiopians fm Ahmed Girnga-Atsi Gilawidiod to Rasi Michial Suhul-Deg Wibe Hailemariam fm Alula to Tsega Luul Kiros are brutalisty savager.
    But,The Eritrean poppolo are modern.

  • Thank you for writing such an important topic. Yes, it is late but it is better than never. Indeed such atrocities did happen in many parts of the country; and what makes it worse is when people tried to forget about them. you said, when the massacre took place you were only five years old and you still could remember what happened. Of course, who could expect you to forgot such an ugly event. But, imagine in these days, knowingly or otherwise people are trying by pass the past like nothing happened. I call this very unfortunate.As many intelectuals believe anyone who could not recall what happened yesterday or the day before could not claim he or she is still alive. I assume many of you were surprised when you came to read across some stated comments, such as: trying to divert the main topic into demarcation, Weyane, so and so. What a disease? Anyways, I can not wait to read the book.

  • Eyob Medhane

    “….They are pursuing whatever is in the interest of themselves (the regime)…”


    Ok now I am about to jump up and down to “accuse” you of harboring anti ethiopia sentiment, because your statement that I quoted above is just not true. Had Eprdf did not want to pursue the national interest of Ethiopia, it would have been easier for it to comply and colaborate with EPLF and Isayas’ dream of looting Ethiopia and tolerate a mafia style behavior of EPLF of 1991-1998. But, it did not. In stead, it called Shabia on it’s thuggery and sought to stop it. That actually is the reason of the “border” war. Had EPRDF did not have national interest Ethiopia would not have stayed intact and even thrive in the face unrelenting attempt of Shabia to disintegrate it. Come on Sal. You know better than that… 🙂

    • Salyounis

      Selamat Eyob:

      Nope, won’t re litigate the origins of the Eritrea Ethiopia border war:)

      But I will stand by my statement that when governments say “national interest”, they mean “our interest in continuous rule”. Show me a politician who says “I don’t care how this impacts my career; I only care about what’s good for the country” and u have just introduced me to a liar. Autocrats, dictators, etc equate their interest with the national interest– remember, Louis XIV, the original French autocrat who coined the phrase “I am the State”–that they suffer no guilty conscience because they are convinced that only they know precisely what the national interest is and the people should count their blessings for having them at the helm. That’s why all the people and institutions whose job is to point out that what the rulers are pursuing is not in the national interest– free press, opposition parties– are endangered species in autocratic countries.


      PS: if your loyalty to EPRDF is blinding u from seeing this elementary truth, lets invent an imaginary country, call it the state of Utopia– ruled by a government with no opposition and no free press and voila, it will click in place. You are welcome 🙂

      • haile

        Selamat Saay,

        I tried to convince few people of that ‘elementary truth’ as you put it some time ago (well, long time ago!) It was talking to a wall, and learned then and there to only that one kind of ‘elementary truth’. The one that detect the maturity level of our common peoples after two decades of unprovoked onslaught on their thinking skills by PFDJ/EPRDF.


        P.S. gudam eko’yu anta saay, shifta kblu shefitom eko…

        • Salyounis


          You know what they say: it is ok to talk to a wall. The problem arises when you think the wall is talking back:)

          And “shifta” is a loaded term and one definition for it is outlaw. iti shigir: higin fitHin zeyfelT shifta Kbl kelo sheft sheft aymetSakan do? 🙂


      • Dear Sal,

        In politics you can’t satisfy everybody so there are always critics. Because there are always critics to any leadership doesn’t mean that there are not leaders who made the interest of their people as a primary task. I don’t think Saay will miss this. In fact those who search for critics are those who expect the state of “Utopia”. As far as we are living in this world of relativism so is our judgement to any accomplishment or activities of leadership.There is a universal barometer for political virtues where leaders could be tested and evaluated without seeking an absolutism on their effort to do for the interest of their people. So our critics should be within that set of values.

        • Salyounis

          Selamat Aman:

          Let’s go with a hypothetical. Aman becomes the president of Eritrea. Aman is a smart guy and he has a clear vision of what Eritrea should be–an oasis–and he has a party platform with timetables of how to get there. His party’s platform has set a goal for eradicating extreme poverty, illiteracy, preventible diseases, and how to bring in rural electrification, running water, and first rate educational policies and foreign investment to the country over a 20 year period. He has evaluated the party platform of the competition and he believes it is laughably inadequate and the wrong prescription for the country he loves so much. He considers it his calling in life, and that of his political party, to implement his vision. Being a smart guy, he knows that implementing a vision is not “a tea party” (he has read Mao, too): it will take time, a long time. It will take even longer time if it is continuously interrupted by heckling media and clueless opposition. He will use everything within his power (and if he is an autocrat, his power is unlimited) to defeat and marginalize the heckling media and the clueless opposition. So, although the WHY may differ (he wants to improve the quality of life of his people, he wants to leave a legacy, it’s God’s will that he be in power, he wants to ensure that who follows him will be somebody who agrees with him on practically everything so he won’t undo what he did), the WHAT will be the same: what Aman wants is to remain in power for as long as possible. In his head, there is no contradiction between his interest and the interest of the people. So everything he does to advance his interest is only because he is advancing the interest of the people. I have never heard of a dictator who says, “wow, that was awesome while it lasted–I can’t believe how long I fooled the people.” Every dictator who has ever been overthrown is shocked at how he has been repaid for all the selfless work he did on behalf of his people.

          In democracies, the ruling class’s tendency to confuse its interests with that of the PEOPLE’s interest is somehow checked by civil society, free press and a vibrant opposition. But even in democracies, the ruling class spends a LOT of time to keep the people ill-informed by classifying information and/or by mystifying it via the invention of language that is not accessible by the people.

          This is, I maintain, always the case. Yes, I agree, there is an objective measure of whether a ruler has really worked in the interest of the people. But that is AFTER the fact–sometimes, long, long, long time after the fact, as the historians debate the cost vs benefit.


          One more reason to marvel at the Ghedli-defacers who marvel at what they consider their discovery: that the ELF and the EPLF spent most of their time working for their interest and survival. Nooooo! Really? Of course they did: because, like all ruling class, they equated their interest with that of the people’s interest. Because, remember this, “Hafash tQmu ayfelTn iyu::”

      • Yodita

        Dear SAAY,

        Referring to your comments to Amanuel Hidrat, the profile you make behind which a tyrant can hide can be two folds: one is to genuinely lay the ground work and (also implement) “…eradicating extreme poverty, illiteracy, preventable diseases, and how to bring in rural electrification, running water, and first rate educational policies and foreign investment …” unopposed; and the other is to say, year in and year out, that they should be done, ad nauseum, and in real fact regress. Isayas is not Meles!! He has no such capacity. He is as they say ‘Hasad’ and unable to vision collective wellbeing. He is neither creative nor constructive. His greatest speciality is and has always been putting his closest collaborators one against the other. He gives the impression that he is stuck with his narcissistic persona which wallows in self-importance. The guy has never shown a shred of humility. He has now armed the people firmly believing that they will kill and even die for him, his megalomania (a psychiatric disorder in which the patient experiences delusions of great power and importance) is so out of proportion!

        In short, in 20 years, his legacy, among other atrocities, is prisons everywhere and the ‘haemorrhaging’ of the youth to face untold horrors.

        Please correct me if I am wrong but the profile you made regarding those type of leaders who unopposed would like to accomplish a set of goals in 20 years leaves out the whole tragedy being committed by our tyrant and his cohort to appear to be doing that. I think only those who collaborate (or collaborated) with him can come out with such a humane outline in order to absolve their cowardly submission.

  • Zegeremo

    The Italian people would pay five billion to Libya as compensation for the former military occupation. And the German people are still paying 11 trillion to Jews victims holocaust. With that in mind, the Ethiopian people are also equally responsible for the atrocities their government is committing in Eritrea, and Somalia.

    Awet N’hafash

    • Alash

      Very good point Z. I agree with you. Ethiopia has gotten away lightly so far. We should demand compensation not just for the families that were victimized and massacred by the brutal Ethiopian colonization but also for all the infrastructure Ethiopia destroyed and dismantled in Eritrea.

      • Guava


        Greedy hebasha talking about money instead talking about Isais’s crime,grow up.

    • TiETiE( Shiro bubble)

      Ayyy. Anta Za Awet Nhafash Zeytgedfa. We have a lot disagreements. Everyone is mad at HGDEF Leadership. Bzemen Wube TsemiMka.
      The italian may pay eritrea billions of dollars but not at this time. Your HGDEF Loves to say bTriU HaBuna – The spotted hyena HGEDF loves cash.

    • Zegeromo, wakeup how do you forger about HGDEF they were looking beyond the boarder to have Kitfo in addiss not compenssation for the Eritrean people.
      and stop seying Awet Nhafash that of them not for the eritrean poeple

  • Saleh Gadi

    My friend Abba Athanasius should be admired for recording an important station in our history, and Semere for bringing it to the fore. But reading a few comments here, I couldn’t help wondering.

    One commentator wants Eritreans to stop writing their history when the main problem that most of us have with the PFDJ is their wanton assault on our history. there are many monumental stations in our long march for independence (that the indepndence was betrayed, abused and deformed by the PFDJ has nothing to do with the topic at hand) Weki-Dibba, Ona, She’eb, Ad-Ebrehim, Hergigo, Besekdira and many-many will always be there to remind us of the cruelty of man, this time the forces of the Ethiopian ruling regimes. Those stations are there to remind us of the importance of being free and strong to defend one’s self. I do not object (neither do I know anyone who does) to Ethiopians talking about the atrocities committed against them by the fascists, Haile Sellassie and Derg. Telling Eritreans to hush their history is inhuman, disingenuous, and insensitive.

    Another person blamed the victims of Wekidibba for the massacre, the Shefatu who were mercilessly killed were themselves to blame. That doesn’t deserve a comment but a nod–in disgust.

    A third one thinks documenting our history is an Eritrean emotional outburst that he as an Ethiopian enjoys. Emotional outburst! Maybe. If so we can surmise the killers were just fulfilling a cult ritual. Otherwise, why would the same cult keep spilling innocent blood for a millennia?

    • abe the MINEWALE

      Selamat Saleh
      would you please let me if you do know any thing about the so called ARemRem haili and their members, trainers and when did they exist? Thx for your time

  • This atrocity is going on, right now as I write, in a place called Ogaden.

    Oh this line is just too sumptuous:”The scorched earth policy that the Ethiopian army savagely implemented was understood by many Eritreans as a genocidal strategy of acquiring Eritrea without its people.”

    What mattered to the Ethiopians at the time was to get access to Eritrean ports and to levy taxes on the indigenous people.

    What matters to them now in Ogaden is oil and to have access to the nearby Somali ports.

    I can already see someone jumping on me and accusing me of ant-Ethiopianism and the other tired cliches. That person will claim the people of Ogaden are do fine under Ethiopian colonialism; they’re running their regional administration; they study and write with their own mother tongue; in fact they are even allowed to seccede should they wish. All immaculate lies which are nicely packaged.

    Meanwhile the massacre of innocent Ogadens continues…but the victims are lying according to Ethiopian Hasbara.

    Jean-Paul Sartre wrote: “Our victims know us by their scars and by their chains, and it is this that makes their evidence irrefutable.” Some day the people of Ogaden shall also write, comprehensively, their ordeal at hands of Ethiopian regimes.

    Thanks Samere for a poignant review. I’m looking forward to read that priceless book.

    • Semere Habtemariam


      As our own Mohamed Ahmed (see his comments on this thread) would tell you, the deniers are everywhere. There are even Holocust deniers in the US, not to mention the infamous, Mohmoud AhamediNajad, the president of Iran.There are some Eritreans who also deny the role of Eritreans in the massacre of Eritreans and particularly in the Muslim populated lowands. There is one commentator who has blamed the villagers of Wekidiba for bringing the massacre on themselves. It is like a rapist condeminng his victim for dressing up too sexy and thus bringing it on on herself. What a twisted logic.

      I’m not aware of any massacre that was not denied by the perpetrator so I take your charges seriously and instinctively, my heart goes out to you and more importantly to the victims.All people and regimes whether EPRDF or Derge or Haileselasse and for that matter, PFDJ of Eritrea are capable of committing atrocities on people they are supposedly there to serve. Saldy, I’m not very knowledgeable about Ogaden and can’t have my own opinion on the subject, but, as a fellow victim, I promise that I will make the effort to educate muself. I’m a board member and currently the chairman of the Horn of Africa Peace and Development Center ( and we have an Ethiopian from Ogaden on the board, Dr. Ahmed, but I doubt if he had ever spoken about a massacre. But, most of all, our founder and former president, ato Kidane Alemayehu, an Ethiopian, and his successor, Yussuf Kaleb, a Somali, are extremely sensitive to what goes in the region and would not shy away from condemning any human rights violation.Please don’t take my ignorance as a way to exonoerate myself. I belive I’ve a moral duty to educate myself and do what I can to help my fellow Horn of Africans. The least victims of massacres deserve is the acknowledgement of their victimhood.

      I would definately bring this up in our next meeting and if you would like to educate and inform us, I would like to talk to you and see if we can possibly provide you a platform.

      Please contact me at my email:


      Your brother, Semere T Habtemariam

      • Salyounis


        One word: classy.


        Said this before and I will say it again: most Eritreans I know intuitively, instinctively believe your side of the story on what is happening in the Ogaden. Why? After World War II, Haile Selasse demanded parts of Somalia and all of Eritrea to return to their motherland. It’s only when he hit a deadend on Somalia that he doubled his efforts on Eritrea. And (a)the fact that they denied him Somalia, (b) they had turned a deaf ear to his cries when fascist Italy invaded Ethiopia as well as (c)the emerging Cold War that required loyal allies that got the west to be very sympathetic to his swallowing up of Eritrea.

        I find it interesting (but not surprising) that those who cite Human Rights Watch and the New York Times as authoritative voices on everything always deny their reports of the EPRDFs massacre of Ogadenis. As interesting (and as unsurprising) as those who cite the two as authorities on Ethiopia but deny their reports on the massive human rights violations in Eritrea. The human capacity to be indifferent to the pain of others is directly proportional to the loyalty people feel towards the pain inflictors.


      • Yodita

        Dear Semere T. Habtemariam

        I am one who browses the so-called opposition sites looking for something to give me hope for tomorrow and when I come across an intellectual honesty along the lines of your comment to Nuradin I swell with faith that we do have those who are fair and just and may be fit to play a constructive role in the otherwise seemingly hopeless reality of our country. Many, like me, are following the sites looking for the needle in a haystack, i.e. people who place honesty and clarity above any and everything else.

        Of course one cringes by comments that, between the lines, add fuel to the already raging fire, by for example, generalising and charging it emotionally.

        Thank you Kbur Haw

      • Thanks Semere for the comprehensive reply and the offer you made to take up the Ogaden issue with board of Horn of Africa Peace and Development Center. I really appreciate that.

        I cannot honestly ‘educate’ you on Ogaden issues as that will be a duanting task which I cannot fulfill specially to a person who is more knowledgeable and older (age carries experience and wisdom according to my culture and thus respect) than me.

        But I can share with you few reports made about the human rights situation in Ogaden. The most comprehensive of these reports is one compiled by Human Rights Watch in 2008 ( You can also refer to Ogaden Human Rights Committee’s Reports on their webpage:

        Recently, two Swedish Journalists, Martin Shibbye and Johan Persson, sneaked into Ogaden (the area is under hermetic siege and closed off to international jounalists) to report about the Ethiopian regime’s war crimes and crimes against humanity in Ogaden. Sadly they did not succeed. They were attacked by the Ethiopian army after being tipped off, captured and then sentenced to 11 years imprisonment in the Infamous Kaliti Prison in Addis Ababa. After a year of political horse-trading between Swedish diplomats and the Ethiopian government, the journalists were released last year.

        The latest report I could get is one made by Swedish TV (SVT) about smuugled video showing Ethiopian militias steping on dead civilian in the center of what is clearly vacated town called Malqaqa where a massacre took place ( according to ONLF this their version of Malqaqa massacre:

        This is the video: It is in Swedish but the text is translated into English. The video is horrif.

        Last, this is another video of how the journalists were framed and forced to admit to crimes and later sentenced. The soldiers are acting the video and forcing the journalists to play their part. The video was later used to convict the journalist by Ethiopian courts:

        Aljazeera English’s Listening Post has also made a report recently about the Swedish journalists. Here is the link:

        Sorry for the many links.


      • Bashir


        I wholeheartedly thank you being so sympathetic about the unfolding massacre and sufferings of Ogaden people by the TPLF dominanted regime in Ethiopia. Honestly, speaking it was the first time I ever saw a man whose name looklikes those of the Ethiopia highlanders have so bravely talked enough about the Ogaden issue. Being studied at Kotebbe College of Teahcer Education and Addis Ababa University in Addis and at the same time met with various students and scholars in these institutions, it is the only time I see someone speaks abnout Ogaden in this positive way. May be I get it wrong and you are from another place like the red sea state. Whatever might be, I sincerely liked your comments and I both encourage and thank you.

        The successive Ethiopian regimes have all in common only one policy, to abuse enough Ogaden people. But many has argued that the current regime’s scorched earth policy against the Ogaden civilians combine as the toughest and most cruel ever witnessed by the eyes of Ogaden people. I am neither tracing you back ethnically nor associating with your nice comments on the issue of Ogaden in a bad way, but I was really so appriative your comments.

        I also was positive that you want to learn more about the current human rights conditions in Ogaden so that you address it where its suitable to do so. I must Say you hit the nail on the head.

        Best wishes,

    • Eyob Medhane


      It looks like there will be a hot party (get together), if you will, between those, who belive “something, anything must be done to do away with this nation called ‘Ethiopia’. ” There is nothing that is short of anything you folks wouldn’t do to see, as ‘Nuredin puts it the ‘Ethiopian Habesha’ buried to the ground for any real or perceived ‘crimes’ that was committed by them. And of course, the ‘Eritrean Habeshas’ are the primary volunteers to be recruitted and be unleashed on ‘Ethiopian Habesha’, as they have executed that task expertly for ages. Hence, no wonder Semere’s quick response for Nuredin’s call on duty to continue that mission.

      It looks like though, this time the “call on duty” came from a small clan of the vast Ethiopian Somali region, ‘the Ogaden’. Yup. It is a small clan. In fact, a minority compared to other Somalis, who inhabit the Somali region of Ethiopia. That is the main reason why it failed to gain traction in the region, and now almost disappeared. Come on guys. You used to have better and powerful enteties, you used to cater for. Egyptians, Italians, Arabs. What’s with dealing with the small potatoes this time? An organization and a cause exists in the name only?

      I hope Semere’s board or panel for ‘Horn of Africa development’ has also a member of a Kunama tribe that would educate him and his board members about ‘atrocities’ and ‘genocide’ that has been committed on them by Cocktail of powerful Eritrean tribes or leaders of the ‘Eritrean liberation’ organization, including the gentleman, who is immortalized to fire ‘the first shot’ to start the most cherished ‘liberation’ . Why not ? They also are people of Horn of Africa, aren’t they? Semere’s board should care about them, too. Or their story doesn’t have the zaz that is needed to accuse Ethiopia and doesn’t have the potential to disintegrate it later?

      • Eyob,

        I thought I was part of the ‘Habesha civilization’, specifically those with the small ‘h’ so to speak? Have you taken away that previledge? Come on man. Don’t be so mean!

        On a serious note: I’ve no wish to bit Ethiopian Habeshas against Eritrean Habeshas, none whatsoever. I’m not capable of doing that even if I tried.

        Medhane, when will you ever apologize to the people of Eritrea and say sorry for the crimes committed against them on the name of Ethiopia? I wonder when. Your attitude is the one that chazed Eritreans away and is chazing Ogadens away now. When will you learn from your mistakes and change your crooked ways.

        How long will you keep accusing the “Egyptians, Italians, Arabs” for what is purely a tragedy you’ve created with your own hands?

        One last note: even the small tribe deserves not to be massacred.

        Peace and love to the Habeshas, including Medhane.


      • Salyounis

        Selamat Eyob:

        You are getting uncharacteristically emotional and presenting us what the Egyptians call a “salata Tursh.” You have given us a red herring placed it in a hall of mirrors but it is still a red herring and entirely irrelevant to what Nuradin and Semere are saying.

        This is what the Ogaden National Liberation Front issued on its website on December 21, 2008. The reason it sounded credible and genuine to Eritreans of my generation–or at least those who haven’t become full-fledged ghedli-defacers–is because it was exactly of the type of press release the Eritrean Liberation Front and Eritrean People’s Liberation Front issued after every Ethiopian slaughter of Eritrean civilians, including at Weki Diba. It reads to me the way Saleh Gadi Johar’s chapter (personal testimony) on Ona reads (from his book Of Kings and Bandits.) If you disregard everything else, when one side calls for an investigation by an impartial body, and another side calls for cordoning off the area and sealing it, then running a kangaroo court, then arresting journalists for “terrorism,” convicting them and then “pardoning” them, well, it is a safe bet that one side wants to cover up the issue and the other side wants the truth to come out. Please read the following without rolling your eyes, read it like you are reading it for the first time ever:

        Text of statement issued by Ethiopian rebel group, Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) on 20 December, published in English by official ONLF website on 21 December

        The Ethiopian regime’s army has carried out a wanton massacre in the village of Mooyaha [name as published] near the town of Ararso, 50 km northwest of Degeh Bur, Ogaden [in southeastern Ethiopia, where government forces are engaged in fighting against rebels of the Ogaden National Liberation Front, ONLF] on 17 December 2008.

        The Ethiopian troops rounded up the villagers and started gunning them down indiscriminately. Forty eight civilians, mostly comprised of children, women and elderly men died on the spot and, at least, 50 are gravely wounded.

        The worrying factor in this callous act is that there were no ONLF forces in the area to justify an attack on the village, making this a deliberate and planned execution-style massacre. On the same day, the Ethiopian regime’s army also killed six civilians in Galalshe town, near Fik.

        The Ethiopian troops have now sealed off the area and are preventing surrounding communities from coming to aid their compatriots with the wounded and to bury the dead. They are working hard to eliminate the evidence of this massacre.

        The ONLF believes this is the beginning of a new round of genocide in the Ogaden where there has been an increased civilian attacks by the Ethiopian regime, including attacks using assault helicopters against civilian targets.

        The ONLF calls on the UN to send an urgent mission to the village and investigate this massacre while providing necessary aid to the remaining survivors.

        Furthermore, the ONLF calls on the [UN] Security Council to hold the Ethiopian regime of [Prime Minister] Meles Zenawi accountable for its crimes against humanity and genocide in Ogaden.

        The ONLF is, once again, informing the world that genocide continues in Ogaden, and further delays in a direct international intervention will result in the continued loss of innocent civilian lives.

        [Issued by] Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF).

        Source: Ogaden National Liberation Front website, in English 21 Dec 08

        I am going to do you a favor, take it or leave it–you will most likely leave it: but it is the curse of the aged to give advice and the fate of the young to ignore it. When Meles Zenawi was deporting Eritreans, there were many Ethiopians and some Eritreans who justified what he did on the basis of “national security.” Later on, when he apologized for it, they were left naked. It was the same for America’s treatment of the Japanese Americans in World War II. At some future date, the EPRDF will apologize for this “excess”–it might even blame some discredited party apparatchik for being responsible for it (refer to my note on “no national interest, only ruling interest.”) Then those of you who are defending/denying it now will look foolish. If you investigated everything written about the incidents of december 21, 2008 and reached your conclusions, I respect you–even if I disagree with you. But if you are doing that cheer-leading thing people do for their team, please reconsider.


  • Zeray

    “Never Again, Never Again and Never Again.” I think this sums up why this book was written. I hope the Eritrean government becomes an example of this mantra of “Never Again, Never Again and Never Again.”

  • Asmara

    It is very bizarre to see some people who claim to be Eritrean, consistently jump in to cover Woyanie’s behind. I said Woyanie, because the whole drama of this “Ethiopians are good, only Derg is to blame” is just to say the past governments are bad, but the current government (woyanie) is good to Eritrea and Eritreans. If Woyanie have a single shred of care for Eritrea, the only thing they have to do is pull their military out of Eritrean sovereign land and allow normalization. That is all. The other staff is just HALKI. As the root cause of current Eritrean condition is the border war.

    • TiETiE( Shiro bubble)

      Many people will disagree with your points beginning from me. I do not blame wyenae even if they committed crime. The trouble 1998 – 2000 It was all created by HGDEF Evils. Perhaps the weyane planed it to get some results they were angry by the HGDEF. First stop boasting. Saying we are seeking freedom or self reliance is good but saying we are the best, looking or acting know all than the weyane is really stupid. HGDEF Boasting shaped weyane.
      HGDEF agreed to give power to the people after 1993 , they did not. they are hyenas they look to grab someone work or they eat while others suffer.The eritrean revolution is the work of people not HGDEF. Even they did not tell the truth who was the real fighter and the most suffered.
      The HGDEFites created secret Core, mantle, crust type structure that no one know. after 2000 things gone out of control, all things exposed from 1 – Millions issues.
      I will never blame weyane.I hate HGDEF.

    • semere Andom


      The Wekidiba massacre is one of the saddest chapters in the Eritrean history. You would think after independence, there would be movies, books and documentaries to tell the suffering of the Eritreans in this village and others. You would expect to see the vanguard organisation, PFDJ and the late Ali Abdu (dead man walking) would sponsor such documentaries in his TV instead of wasting air time erasing the bravery of heroes. Instead he has squandered the resources by infesting the air time with the filthy words of his boss, an equally sad that adds insult to the injury
      The sad thing is that PFDJ commits crimes as heinous as that of Wekdiba. You have not seen it documented, but when one day the Eritrean people gather enough courage and make it to the Kombishtato (Currently Godena Barnet), you will see Wekidiba repeated by PFDJ.
      I am delighted that the history of Wekidiba has been enshrined under the covers and my hats are off to Semere for sharing his thoughts with us
      Every suffering that an Eritrean is subjected to , the PFDJ and their foot soldiers are responsible for, this includes the deportation and suffering of Eritreans from Ethiopia by the TPLF. EPLF and Isaias who claim to have a security agency in par with CIA, a president who knows how many pilots Ethiopia has and all the bragging and the aura of invincibility, the confidence the PFDJ was exuding you would think that they will secretly call their members in Addis and tip them off to sell their business and belonging and leave Ethiopia. But the Intelligence of PFDJ is to report who spoke ill about PFDJ when a having coffee at a family gathering The PFDJ failed Eritrean citizens so they are responsible for the deportation and maltreatment of Eritreans under the hands of Woyane.
      I think Ethiopia should not withdraw from Badme, they are duty bound to protect the interests of their own nation and not Eritrea`s, whatever they are doing is to their national interest. PFDJ and their supporters instead of `bitching and moaning about the border issue they should be pressuring their government to work for the interest of the Eritrean nation, that has become a mere geographic entity, while its citizens language in either prison or in the Deseret. What is the Isiaisist in this forum doing to pressure their government, nothing I bet, because if they do they will be sent to the gallows.


      • Asmara

        Like I said:

        It is very bizarre to see some people who claim to be Eritrean, consistently jump in to cover Woyanie’s behind.

        Dude, it is so clear whose interest you are trying to keep here.

      • Semere,

        All lines of your argument is right on the board and are crystal clear. I can’t agree more.

      • B Ali

        why Ali Abdu? just the sectarian seed in you refuses to die? Ali Abdu is one among so, so, so many Tesfais and weldais. or is it because Salih Yunis is the brother of Ali that you, out of inferiority complex, want to shout I am better than Salih becuse he is the brother of Ali Abdu, the problem is that you have, many between brothers, many Ali Abdus except that their names are differently spelled say Issiyas Afeworki for example.

      • Salyounis

        Selamat Semere:

        In 1993, I attended a meeting when Isaias Afwerki was visiting the US. This is back in the day when Isaias Afwerki had “fattened his neck” (you know the expression:) and anybody could line up and ask any question. An Eritrean asked this question (paraphrased, not an exact quote): “after all the atrocities committed by the Derg, what are we Eritreans going to do to seek justice from those who victimized us? Will we ask for reparations?” The answer was that we should look to the future, not the past, and as for those who have done us wrong, “mergemna Tray y’aklom” (our curses are enough.) Typical Isaias line but–here’s the part where we have to assume responsibility–it was accepted with thunderous applause and laughter by the attendants. Some of us probably assumed that that was for public consumption and that the Fedayeen would dispense revolutionary justice on Mengistu in Zimbabwe…

        Now, I am disappointed in you with your statement that Ethiopia’s rulers are pursuing “interests of their own nation” and “their national interest.” Actually, no. They are not even pursuing the interests of Tigray. They are pursuing whatever is in the interest of themselves (the regime). Before people jump up and down and accuse me of harboring anti-Ethiopian sentiments: this is true for all autocratic, despotic and even democratic regimes (count how many American politicians have suddenly discovered that gay marriage is in the national interest of America:). Sometimes, by sheer coincidence, the interests of the ruling class align with the national interest, but what motivates those in power, moves them, keeps them up at night is not the national interest but their interest to perpetuate their rule indefinitely. With democracy, at least there is a chance of throwing the bums out and getting new ones who will be more mindful of not being slaves to their tendency (an occupational hazard for almost all politicians) to rule indefinitely.

        If, tomorrow morning, the TPLF (ok, fine, Eyob, the EPRDF) woke up and decided that withdrawal from Badme and agreeing to demarcation in accordance with EEBC would lengthen their rule by a few more years, they will do it irrespective of what is in the “national interest.”


    • rastaman

      “…..The other staff is just HALKI. As the root cause of current Eritrean condition is the border war.”


      Really? Are you saying, it is the occupation of Bademe, a dirty pathetic village that maimed 20K Eritreans and many more Ethiopians, which never been inhabited by Eritreans(though Eritrean,according to the Italo-Ethiopian Treaties of 1902), that is the root cause of why your president threw away the copy of the constitution in to a garbage basket, banned free press, declared a state of slavery of indefinite agelgilot, which in turn caused its nationals a victim of organ and human trafficking?? Really?? Anta Ny lezeben Eshinetsi, mewedaeta yebilun. Never ending foolishness, sickening. I really want to puke. Excuse me. I bet you, you have never been to Geza Tanika in Asmara. So shallow, so embarrassing. Elal ny beAl adey Shashu, enjoying their coffee talk, whose only news source is TVERi.

  • TiETiE( Shiro bubble)

    our brothers – ethiopian do not like to hear the past massacre and assualts from haileS. or derg soldiers. Telling is nothing to do with the ethiopian people and these peace loving people. furthermore it is not about creating furor over ethiopian it is about facts. It should be treated separate matter.
    The Derg soldiers were lawless, aimless, undisciplined, had no sympathy for anything. they look pleasure at the suffer of others. they seek revenge at the expnse of poor people. This is fact but nothing do with the rest of ethiopian people.
    1. it was in keren. a derg soldier had contact with a young woman he knew her for 2 hours only. Later he came back and found her with another man. the angry soldier grabbed the woman by her hair and took her to the main street. He snatched his hand grenade for Live blow up – for both he and her. At first people were watching because the girl was screaming when they saw a soldier about to ignite his hand grenade they run away.Both the woman and soldier RIP.
    2. It was in GindaE – the way to massawa. a soldier used to see a school girl she walk everyday by the street he camped/bloco. He liked her, declared she was his girlfriend and she did not know that thing. even she may not know him at all. in another time he was walking on the street of GindaE just to relax, heard music and loud sound. It was marriage and dance. He flipped small peak he can see and saw his would be girlfriend dancing. He quickly returned to his camp, armed well. The soldier ambushed the marriage procession and several people died and wounded. This story is one in Tens of thousands.

  • Beyene

    Thank you Semere for bringing this book to my attention. I just ordered it from Amazon and can’t wait to read it. At that very time, I was one of the ELF Tegadelti who were in Wekiduba. That was “Haili 667” lead by an erderly Gedim Tegadalai “Hamed Zbui”. If my memory can help me right, the date was Saturday the 20th of February 1975. I will add some more names to the ones who are already mentioned by one of the commentators: Kidane Andemeskel, Sara Aemseged, Berhane Brush, Abu Kereb, Hamed Zbui , Girmay Adi Yakob, ect… No sooner had the war started than “Abu Kereb ” , the leader of my group “Fasila-3” was shot dead. He was the 1st Martyr in 1975 after Mengistu started the war against us. After the end of the war between the “ELF” and the “EPLF – Wigii Hidhid” , this was the 1st time in which the ELF and the EPLF started to give hands in challenging the Ethiopian soldiers. On this Saturday Morning , the war started at 08:30 and at about 12:00, the EPLF fighters dropped one of the war-planes that were wavering above us dropping bombs . I can never forget the feeling we all felt at that very moment. The war went on for the next couple of days until the 3rd day when the Ethiopian soldiers returned to Asmara.
    Once again, I was one of the few Tegadelti who were ordered to go back to Weki Duba to bury the the civilians who were killed by the Ethiopians. With the help of some civilians (Gegar), who had survived the massacre, we happened to bury 67 civilians. One of them was an uncle to Girmay Adi Jakob, who had also come with us to bury his near relatives. We knocked at his uncles house as it was firmly locked. When the door opened, we found his dead uncle lying on the bed and his wife and 3 kids sitting around him. This is a picture one can never wipe away from the memory. This is the main reason why I can’t wait to read the book. I heard that Girmay Adi Yakob is alive and living in Asmara. I might translate the book to him and let him check if everything in the book is right.

    • Araya

      wow, you were right there.

      “…When the door opened, we found his dead uncle lying on the bed and his wife and 3 kids sitting around him….”

      Now, how am i supposed get over that image in my head?
      I don’t think i can take much anymore. we endured everything!

    • Semere Habtemariam


      You’re exactly the kind of person who needs to speak on the subject. I would love to talk to you and possbilby do an interview and I’m sure the good Abba Athanasius would like to get in touch. Please write me the number I can reach you at and either the good Qeshi or I would call you. The book, definately needs to be translated into Tigrinya and other languages and if you’re able to do that, it would be a great contribution. Write me at

      Thanks all who have provided feedback. I would strongly encourage all of you to read the book and see what the good Qeshi and professor Athanasius is trying to accomplish.

  • Papillon

    Of course, if history was to be written by the vanquished, we would have had a whole lot different perspective of the narratives that follow and the consequences of the events as well. Instead, history is invariably written by the victors. The victims of Weki’dba may have perished but the just-cause that had sprung up out of it brought about an independent and sovereign Eritrea. As much as the rather macabre narrative fostered a sense of nationalism and a mass uprising to fight back against repression and oppression, the narrative is intended to pass on to the next generation a history that is part of us not the history of those who did us harm per se. To be more precise, the purpose as I understand it is to educate people as opposed to revive an old wound and to spew animosity.

    Moreover, it is prudent to distinguish between Ethiopia (read: the people) and the system (read: Dergue) that had brought the tremendous infliction upon the Eritrean people and the Ethiopian people as well. Simply because the glorious Eritrean revolution and its mighty army did not defeat Ethiopia rather it defeated the Dergue army and the system. When the intentions of the author and the person who reviewed the book are to pass on history so that “those who don’t remember the past will not be condemned to repeat it”, there are certain folks who are desperately trying to manipulate the narrative for any price-tag-of-political-gain in a bid to induce a breathing air to the gasping regime in Eritrea. The enemy of the Eritrean people was never Ethiopia rather, it was the Dergue regime.

    • Zegeremo

      The people of a country are always responsible for the actions of their government. Regardless of the government’s form or circumstances, it is the people’s responsibility, their duty, to ensure that their government is acting in their best interest. I think that’s why German people continue to compensate more Jews victims of holocaust.


      • Zegeremo

        Well, according to your logic, all Eritreans who have no part with PFDJ, EPLF or ELF are to blame for all the atrocities committed by PFDJ, EPLF, and ELF against the tens of thousands of innocent Eritreans. Tens of thousands of innocent Eritreans have perished since Hamid E. Awate allegedly began the armed struggle for independence.

        Your logic is flawed. You have to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff.

        I , however, agree with [Moderator: this part omitted, don’t underestimate our knowledge of street language. Consider this a warning] Papillon)that the enemies of Eritreans were the emperor of Ethiopia and his government as well as Mengistu and his party. The enemy of Eritrea have never been Ethiopians. Ethiopians, just like Eritreans, have in the past seen and witnessed a great deal of suffering under both Hailesselasie and Mengistu.

        In terms of pain and suffering PFDJ has no parallel. Sufferings under Derg pales in comparison with PFDJ.

    • Asmara

      “The enemy of the Eritrean people was never Ethiopia rather, it was the Dergue regime”

      Just Derg?

      When Hailesslassie did what he did to Eritrea, we said it is just the government, the Ethiopian people are good.
      Then Derg came and did what he did to Eritrea, again we blamed the government
      The worst of them all, Woyanie came and would not give Eritrea a break either. The Ethiopian people did not say a thing when woyanie is officially violating Eritrea’s sovereignty. Actually, the Ethiopian people would not shy away from asking Woyanie to go and bring Asab back by any means.

      So, at some point, we have to draw the line. The Ethiopian people have to share the blame

  • Ghezae Hagos

    Selam Semere and Awatistas,

    Thank you dear Semere for bringing to our eyes this important book written by Dr. Abba Athnasius. The author is one of a kind in the era of cowed and compromised Eritrean intellectuals. The Wekidiba massacre and the associated massacres in the certain neighborhoods of the city of Asmara left indelible memory in the psyche of Eritreans, especially those residing there. Growing up I remember, my father narrating how these events unfolded. People were going to hospitals and streets to identify who perished, looking for birth marks and other markers.

    Wanton massacres have special powers of creating poignant memory. One of the most vivid and beautifully narrated pages of Saleh Gadi’s novel, ‘of kings and bandits’ for example is that of the immediate aftermath of the Ona massacre; how young Jemal and others helped bury the dead.

    As you clearly put it, these massacres decidely turned the kebesans to join the revolution in mass. Later, in 1990-91, when EPLF came close, Asmara was seiged with fear. We thought the city will not escape the wrath of the defeated Dergue army. Another massacres, like that of Wekidiba was in the mind of the people. Luckily, it never came to pass.

    Talking of massacres, it would be really informative to learn what happened in Mai-Dima to the Kunamas. YG mentions it and others too. any help here…Again thanks dear Semere and fr. Athnasisus.

  • Ahmed Mohammed

    Where ever it is committed, when or by whom, massacres and atrocities should be Condemned. I fully understand the reviewer’s outrage against what happened in Wekidiba in 1975.

    The Wekidiba type massacre had been going for several years in the predominately Muslim populated lowland areas of Eritrea; practised since Awate and others launched the Eritrean liberation struggle. The perpetrators of such massacres at the time were non other than a force commonly known as the ‘commandos’ or ‘commandis’ originating predominantly from Christian populated Eritrean highlands.

    The Derg regime, unlike Haile Selassie, did not systematically differentiate between lowland Muslims and highland Christian Eritreans. The Derg actually committed similar atrocities and massacres in many parts of Ethiopia.

    “In implicit and explicit terms, the book does an excellent job of informing us to keep your eyes on the ball and on what matters most. There is no justice without mercy; reconciliation without forgiveness; and truth without understanding. But, all noble efforts start with the acknowledgement of the truth: the massacre that took place and that some of us were fortunate to survive”

    I fully agree so far with the reviewer’s above statement. Justice, reconciliation, however, will never be complete without telling the whole story or the whole truth, without acknowledging that the first wave of massacres were actually committed against Eritreans by Eritreans, by the so called commandis.

    More important perhaps is the need to keep our eyes on the present, while understanding and acknowledging what happened in the past.

  • Yekuno-amlak Mehari

    Book Description from
    The war of independence in Eritrea and revolution in Ethiopia characterized life for much of the thirty years between 1961 and 1991. While the horrific period known as the Red Terror throughout Ethiopia under the regime of Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam has been relatively well documented, the atrocities and massacres that took place in Eritrea have not fared as well. Since the present leaders of Eritrea have remained preoccupied with maintaining their own political power at the expense of all else, the idea of giving priority to documenting the horrific massacres does not seem to grab hold of their imagination.

    Under the veil of secrecy and away from the international media glare, massacres of immense scale were perpetrated against civilians in Eritrea during the entire period of the war of independence (Adi brehem, Ona, Geleb, Omhager, Wekidiba, Hergigo, She Eb…etc). Since the mass killings have touched the author s own extended families and families of so many friends throughout the 1970s and 80s, the tragedy was never too far from his mind.

    Armed with his personal familiarity of some of the massacres against the Eritrean people, Prof. Ghebre-Ab took a sabbatical leave in 2001-2002 to launch the herculean task of documenting these massacres. Although he was forced to suspend the larger project of documentation a couple of years later due to his outspoken criticism of the ruling regime, he continued the work on the massacre that took place in the village of Wekidiba in 1975 and again in 1976. He did so because he had a promise to fulfill.

    As the gruesome mass-killing took place in the village of Wekidiba on the weekend of January 31-February 1, 1975, the New York Times had only this to report: the Ethiopian Second Division began an attack about 8:30 A.M. [Saturday] against a village three miles from Asmara where guerillas may be hiding. That was all. The name of the village was not even mentioned, much less the victims.

    In the field research Prof. Ghebre-Ab conducted for this project, he interviewed nearly four dozen “survivors and eye-witnesses in three continents over a period of six years to try to piece together the story of what happened to the residents of this village, lest the victims remain anonymous.

    This book is not meant to fuel animosity. The peoples of Ethiopia and Eritrea, despite their political separation, are kith and kin, sharing common history and culture. They have also both suffered under tyrannical rules. And as both peoples now work for future peace and harmony, the only successful path forward is not to gloss over the dark past, but to build on a solid foundation of transparency and understanding. Massacre at Wekidiba is but only a beginning step at such a necessary dialogue.”

  • TiETiE( Shiro bubble)

    > What is the benefit of pulling back the 70s and 80s massacres during Derg times. While the intention article could be to promote the book( it is good) we should not focus on these type of issues. They are in the past nothing will help us since the present problem is – remove Esu, stop the death of the young, stop confrontation with weyane, heal the people, create joband lasting peace overall full freedom.We can not feed on history.

    > The ethiopian talk overly about Menelik and Adwa victory, YeQaraw Anbesa, Aba ZegzG did such and so. I believe it is useless to depend on history.only takes back or no progress at all.

    > After WEDI AFE demise the people must find the best solution as soon as possible. It is like a woman with one egg left and she is in her 40s and need an urgent partner to get baby or in a year she is done – nothing she can do. what I mean is the economy is died, the people are badly hurt, still spinning do not know when they will stop at the same time likely to fall from the result of spinning for long. So it is not good to look history while there are tons of problem and threat of another cycle of hardship.

    > To join ethiopia does not help anything since ethiopia has its own problem even tons of problem like eritrea. the solution for good is inside the country. There is nothing hope from joining Two LaHmi Gunbet( drought stricken cows). However to work together for better is better.
    > No one feed on history.History is entertainment.1980s or 1990s president is histroy nothing can bring. But the current president can.

  • Salyounis

    Selamat awatistas:

    I think we should have a handshake agreement that we shouldn’t comment on an article unless we have read it. In this particular case, Semere is reviewing a book by Dr. Habtu Gebreab and the subject is “the massacre at Wekidiba.” Both Semere and Dr. Habtu take pains to state that Ethiopians collectively should not be blamed for massacres inflicted on Eritreans as they themselves were victims; rather, the responsible parties were the regimes of Haile Selasse and Mengistu.*

    Both use sober language which is hardly inflammatory. Semere is literally talking about his hometown and his family members. Dr Habtu is one of the most humble, soft-spoken people and he is active in Eritrea-Ethiopia friendship sessions and harbors no hatred to Ethiopians** Still, some of the comments suggest that this is just two Eritreans blaming Ethiopians, “exaggerating” atrocities, going back to the old to downplay the atrocities of the present, etc. People, please pipe down. It is not like Eritrean book shelves are full of stories of Ona, Besekdira, She’eb… this is one book. One book over 50 years does not a cottage industry make.


    * The comedian Stephen Colbert, satirizing the hypersensitivity associated with criticizing lunatics who happen to have Muslim names, always inserts “Islam, which is a religion of peace…” Is that what we have to do whenever we criticize Ethiopian atrocities: “massacres in Eritrea, which also happened in the same magnitude in Ethiopia…”

    ** Here’s the professor addressing Eritrea-Ethiopia friendship group from two years ago. This year Teddy Afro addressed the group in San Jose. I believe Saleh Gadi Johar got an autographed copy of his pic wearing his green, yellow, red and lion of Juddah jersey. Warning: the preceding sentence was a joke 🙂

  • “what I don’t get is what good would that do?”

    Eyob, What good would it not do for a population addicted to false hope…The idea is to keep the unsuspecting naive population in a sate of hope. It is to justify all the adventures that brought about the current and most likely future predicaments. Eritrea has been long known to be a land of empty Ajoki/Ajoka and it seems to work for both Shabia and it’s so called opponents…”Ethiopians did this, Ethiopians did that” as though they have no other priority or as though ethiopia needs their vote to continue it’s own journey…The fact of the matter is Eritrea as we speak is not short of urgent atrocities to address although it is not as sell-able as fiction, and If any of these so called Eritrean intelectual cared about their populous, Ethiopians should be the last people they should try and antagonize.

    Independent ethiopia can neither help nor care about Eritrea’s misconception of Ethiopians, or should Ethiopia promise never to offend Eritreans?…As a matter of fact, it wasn’t long a go Ethiopia ventured in to Eritrean territory to commit “atrocity” for witch non of you hypocrites went back to defend your country, and I am sure you can write about that if only it will get you your true predicament. Ethiopia might have done misdeeds in the past and will do so as long as it believes in protecting it’s national interest, and I am sure whoever did misdeeds against both Ethiopians and Eritreans in the past did it to the best of their knowledge to protect what they thought to be protecting territorial integrity(aside your temptation to portray yourself as ancient entity)..If you people can buy the Badime card and allow oppression, who are you to judge Haileselase or even the brute Derg for doing the same thing to preserve nations territorial integrity?….I mean, why is Haileselasie’s brutality worse than Isais Afwerqes brutality just because you are rapped in a new flag by another enslaved Abesha?

    • alash abelnayom

      Yewega Biresa Yetewega Ayresam.

      • my friend, you don’t get my point, we have nothing to gain or loose from how Eritreans choose to feel in life, In fact we benefit from your uncontrollable emotions..

  • kiflemaraim Hamde

    A very relevant in spiet fo sad, historical event being told perhaps atteh right Time. Good job Dr Habtu
    Looking to read and benefit formthis historical event.

  • Alash Abelnayom ab SeTAh golgol

    Gzat Turki was no picnic but Ethiopian colonization was the worst, most brutal and indiscriminate. People in the countryside suffered a lot of wholesale massacres. Entire towns have been wiped out, particularly in lowland Muslim Eritrea. Somebody should capture the stories for future generations. This article is timely coming on the anniversary week of the demise of Nadew Command and capture of Afabet.

  • Horizon

    Many Eritreans are questioning the result of the Eritrean revolution. We have reached a stage when Eritreans are examining the white elephant that has cost them in blood, suffering, and their precious lives. Its legitimacy is challenged and it is no more a taboo to speak openly of its shortcomings.
    This development espoused by many Eritreans is undermining the future of the totalitarian regime and the possibility of prolongation of Eritrea, as we know her today. As long as the Eritrean revolution has brought DIA upon them, the loss of their freedom and slave-labor within Eritrea, being bought and sold in Arab slave markets, starting from the borders of Sudan to Egypt to Sinai, their organs harvested, raped and killed, etc, many are asking where is the happiness, freedom and the dignity they were promised.
    Ghedlli has lost its luster for many Eritreans, and now and then injecting stories like the inhumanity of the Ethiopian armed forces during the war, would give some vitality in the anti-Ethiopian camp and it is a wake-up call never to forget and forgive, if Eritrea is to remain a sovereign country, as if hate towards Ethiopia is the guarantor of Eritrean sovereignty. The fear of Eritrea gravitating towards Ethiopia and the fact that the dictator is on his last leg, is a nightmare for many PFDJs.
    An obsession that condemns one to live in the past permanently, forgetful of the the present and the future, would result in a zero sum game, benefiting nobody. Eritrea and Ethiopia were both traumatized. Nevertheless, keeping the wounds open will not help whatsoever.

    • Thomas

      The shooting/killing of our disabled veterans and the detention for life done by the cruel regime that happened yesterday chose to be forgotten. History of Zeben Eni Eni is brought her for a discussion. It is very sad to see some people undermining our intelligence. What is happening today to our people is worst than anything that happened in 30 years. Over 100,000 of our young brothers and sisters died in a matter 2 years for a non sense badme war and young Eritrean are dying while crossing Eritrea-Sudan and Eritrea-Ethiopia border even running away from the country that they thought was liberated and they have to face the extremes on their way to libya and Sinai deserts. The once who remained in the country are treated like slaves and forced to do everlasting military services. In Eritrea, you are property owned by the dictator to either do whatever you are asked to do or you go to prison/detention/torture centers paid the price. HGDF’s prison = capital punishment= life in prison until you die of hunger/over 140 Fahrenheit in a container….. The most evil deed is done by the mafia regime in Eritrea. Nothing by all standard in our history has happened to these people ever………….. Those who are doing these crimes and those who are entertaining these tragedy will receive the dues and justice will prevail soon.

    • alash abelnayom


      Refer to what I told Alex_Dena: “Yewega biresa yetewega ayresam.”

    • Kokhob Selam

      “Many Eritreans are questioning the result of the Eritrean revolution”
      Dear Brother Horizon, I love that name and I am proud of you. i want you and me see also beyond the horizon (ke admasu bashager). You see Eritrean national question was not wrong nor the interest of uniting both two nations was wrong. It only depends on why (the intention) and how you handle it. If the Ethiopian ex-governments handle it properly, today you could have seen one country. Inside Eritrea this was the challenge between Eritreans. The Eritrean people were divided in to two groups (for separation and the other for union). Those who chose for unity fail and we have seen what happened. Now that is history and no single person can erase. We can’t go all years back and correct the mistakes committed by Haileslase and Mengstu. So those who stand for unity start even to stand with Eritrean national question till self determination. Now, the mass was too busy in fighting against Ethiopina army forces and didn’t clean its own political line and today we have the group known by PFJD.
      Believe it or not history have recorded that there were fighters who try to clean those dirty leaders for our future good but it is the mass who makes history. So the result of unity with Ethiopia didn’t help and we have paid a lot. Again the separation of Eritrea didn’t help and we are paying a lot. But again if we unite with Ethiopia will it help? If this will be done today the same as yesterday again it will not help. Yesterday’s unity was not unity. Ethiopian governments have divided Muslims from Christians low land from high land etc. that was not unity of people only land. That was dirty way of dealing and in steeling land. They didn’t unite the two people but even they divide the people of Eritrea.
      The way out: – Since Eritrea is separated from Ethiopia let her create a democratic government. While both countries develop, let them create a system that will heal the wound of the past. Let things get its natural process. Let the people of Habesha know their origin and unite in fighting poverty. In long run, we will reach to the stage of human unity leave alone this two brotherly people Habeshas who are one family.
      People will still continue in remembering the past. How can I forget my village destroyed by Mengstu? Put yourself in my position. Imagine you lost your entire family bombed by Ethiopian war plane, you may forgive but will you forget? Any way that only make Eritreans brave and fight in spite of all the strength Derg had. But that gain let me and my people see the first problem ignoring the leaders who came with us to Asmara. Not only that, but people don’t want to see again Ethiopians ruling Eritrea. So they were late in fighting the group in Asmara in those 20 years. If you notice the 2 years war, most of the people fought although they don’t even know Badme very well and who start the war. You see now what happened when you force people? They don’t put the future consequences at all. Urgent and important was to keep Eritrea as nation.
      The way out: – Since Eritrea is separated from Ethiopia let her create a democratic government. While both countries develop, let them create a system that will heal the wound of the past. Let things get its natural process. Let the people of Habesha know their origin and unite in fighting poverty. In long run, we will reach to the stage of human unity leave alone this two brotherly people Habeshas who are one family.
      I am sure you have already seen the articles written by Amaneal regarding the future of Horn. You can read also Similar from Saleh Gadi too. It is interesting. I consider both as proposal that should be discussed. I make cocktail and drink from both articles and came up with wonderful one. Read those articles Admas. I am not that good in English otherwise I could have put them as an article. I already put one in Tigrigna and just read it myself. HAAAA. Some time I am mad reading alone my own poems and articles.
      See, 01. We have older story than Gedli Era. You can read the open book by visiting both countries 02. The future world will concentrate for mutual interest which will destroy all boarders. Keep hoping for the best. Thank you.

      • Horizon

        Dear Kokhob Selam,

        The most urgent thing today is not the union of Ethiopia and Eritrea, but peace between the two sisterly countries. It is much easier to unite the people than the ruling class; and the ruling class in Eritrea is still a light years away.
        Peace and not living on a war footing would help both countries to concentrate on economic and democratic developments. This will help them direct the little they have to improve the life of their people.
        For the sake of the two peoples, we should better bring to the forefront the best part of their common history, rather than their sad chapters. Both Eritreans and Ethiopians were victims of those who ruled over them. In this equation of the rulers and the ruled, the people were usually the losers, especially when we are talking of third world countries. Therefore, poor Eritreans and Ethiopians have nothing to win but a lot to lose by sustaining the status quo.
        Power is the game of the big guys played on the back of the ordinary people, usually from a safe distance with a help of a remote control. Ethiopians and Eritreans have had more than their share of the pain brought upon them by this power game over the last half century; and what they are demanding today urgently is peace, security, good governance, economic prosperity and a space to breathe. Today in Eritrea, there are people in their fifties who have known only war. I am sure that unless they have something to gain from it, none of them want to continue to live in this unnatural situation.

      • Kokhob Selam

        dear brother Horizon,
        I agree in what you said. yet this is the most critical moment for real peace lovers. balancing things is very important. we are facing with people who want us to be convinced our struggle was for nothing exploiting the the situation in Asmara.again there are people who want us to accept PFDJ’s cruel lawless group and accept separation of Eritrea as the final destination. again there are a lot of criminal politically known figures everywhere trying to play games. this is the reason you see strong people who confirm how much we suffer in the past and the struggle was perfect yet the job is not over as we need democratic Eritrea. so an Ethiopian should not worry of what is Written as only the ex-governments are responsible.

  • Mr fasil the atrocities and masscares which was commited by the different ethiopian [shiftas} goes back in history. Its main subject were the moslem lowlnad puplation;but durig the derge period the mascareis didnot make diffrenses between moslem and christian low land and high land . the ethiopian masscares.did not started by waki deba which was black page in the etiopian history .ony those are blood hungry will try to reasionlze it as you have tried to do.iwoud like to all eritreans to document all the masscares and atrocites which was commited by ethiopians.I dot expect this big task to be done HGDF

  • Eyob Medhane

    “…the Ethiopians through their excesses have enormously contributed to the growth and consolidation of Eritrean nationalism….”

    Well I guess, if we happen to contribute to your “nationalism” and “patriotism” What seems to be the problem? Shouldn’t we be thanked, instead of condemened?

    It seems that these days it is becoming a therapy for good number of Eritreans to dig up the “gehdli” era, largely exaggrated and buttered up stories to make them have some “special” effects, painting
    vivid pictures of the “monstrous Ethiopians” to keep up a hope of an otherwise a spiraling down nation. In the process continuing to malign and bad mouthing people, who may be the only people these days, who are not hostile hosts to Eritreans…..what I don’t get is what good would that do?


    • Hamid

      Don’t you think being cynical is a tad out of place here? Are you saying the atrocities of the kind chronicled in the book should be celebrated if somehow they caused a ‘favourable’ by-product?

      And why would Eritreans’ right not to forget be equated with an intent to demonize Ethiopians? The two are not same thing.

  • Zegeremo

    Excellent and Timely. As the Weyane and the unionists are gearing up to make another futile attempt to strangle our country by manipulating the young generation, this book will shed a light on the extent of brutality by the colonizers and its legacy to the young generation. If we are to defend our country in awareness fashion, each one of us must be ready to educate the young generation the bravery of our brothers and sisters who made Eritrea independent forever.


  • abe the MINEWALE

    I was in Asmara at that time went to wekiduba to see the ELF FIGHTERS with my friend his village is in wekiduba at age 10.That is the first time did see Sara Mokonnen,Alga Werash ,KIdane Andemeskel and so on.Those are golden boys and girls who liberated fasil from Mengustu
    sorry for my limited of English language

    • Senai

      abe the MINEWALE,,, I was there too, but it was Sara Alemseghed not Sara Mokonen who was in Wekidiba and Adi Shimagle explaining about Tegadlo Harnet Eritrea program.

      • Abe the minewale

        Hi senai yes you right I was dreaming about Sara mokonnen interview with Ethiopian radio stAtion after??????

      • Abe the minewale

        Dear senai,I remember one person by name Senai who used to teach English @ AgaZian school we met in wekiduba and Adi shamble.thAt name still sticks with me

  • Fasil

    Although any killing in any circumistances should not be condoned, however, the shifta the so called liberation fronts are primerly responsible for the death of some villege residents by taking shelter among the civilian population. One must take consideration the fact that no armed intity will rationalize in a war situation and the dergue has to respond when the shifta “so called liberation fronts” build a garrsion within three miles of the proviancial capital. In short the blame rests on both sides of the isle. By the way, the villege semere lamented about is historicaly has more Amara root than the current residents of Semers’relatives who are new commers to the area.

    • Zegeremo

      You’re brutal man! What about the thousands of Tigrean who were bombed in market in a broad day light by the same oppressor. were they shefatu too or your extended family had already moved to addis?

      B’suru yegerm eyu !

    • TiETiE( Shiro bubble)

      I agree at some of your points but the rest is not true. For example when you said – “the village semere lamented about is historically has more Amhara root than the current resident”. It is true.
      But your other points are wrong. Let me to tell you brother. It seem you got the point from middle east wars.Most middle east war are done inside city but not eritrean war or tigrayan war. All the time they choose difficult mountain, tributaries. that is why for the derg or haileslasie they could not win. At one time one ethiopian Soldier said – Teraraw Wenbede, Wuha wenbede, Meydaw wenbede, and he saw a nearby dog drinking water that was flowing to the soldier and the soldier said Wushaw Wenbede and said YetaBat LksKs. First of all eritrean fighters never residue with the public place or vilage or never open war by hiding inside the public. Never, you can ask this to anyone to prove my point. It was totally pure massacre.
      >I know derg soldiers – they were very dangerous unfriendly and unexpected. At my village a derg soldier tried to rape a married woman, when her employee tried to protect her the soldier killed them both mercilessly.
      >another time when I was walking with our dog the dog threatened the soldier, the soldier charged his gun and shoot the dog.All at close range. I melt in fear and screamed but the dog survived though the soldier very shocked when I screamed in fear. He gave me ten cents to calm me.He asked me what I will do with the ten cents he gave me. I told him I will buy gun and fight. To the soldier it was “FaH BeLe WaLo” but he knew I was too young INCLUDING the shooting made him guilty.