The Eritrea event next Saturday in Stuttgart will not take place. The city of Stuttgart announced that the rental agreement with the Eritrean clubs had been canceled.Thursday, 21 September 2023 21:04 Written by Martin Plaut
Source: SWR September 20 , 2023 , 10:10 p.m
The Eritrea event next Saturday in Stuttgart will not take place. The city of Stuttgart announced this on Wednesday evening. The state capital and the Association of Eritrean Clubs have mutually agreed to cancel the rental agreement for a municipal gym and meeting hall in Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen. This means the event is off the table.
City: “Decision in the interest of public safety”
The decision was made in the interest of public safety and order, the city of Stuttgart said in a written statement. There were intensive discussions between the clubs and the mayor of Stuttgart, Clemens Maier (Free Voters).Start audio
After riots at Eritrea eventSecurity measures: SPD interior expert directs questions to the city of Stuttgart
A ban on the Eritrea event next Saturday had been discussed for days. Politicians in Baden-Württemberg debated ways to ban the event.
Association of Eritrean clubs was cooperative
“We only did this to take greater account of the concerns of citizens and the public,” said Johannes Russom from the umbrella organization of Eritrean associations in Stuttgart to the German Press Agency. The association also wants to show its willingness to cooperate.
But this is not a capitulation to violence; the cancellation should not send the wrong signal. Events will continue to be held in Stuttgart and they want to rent rooms from the city again in the future. Saturday's meeting has only been postponed - "indefinitely," said Russom. They want to help de-escalate the situation.
Stuttgart's mayor Frank Nopper (CDU) welcomed the fact that the rental agreement for the event next Saturday had been terminated. On Wednesday evening he reiterated his demand that last weekend's violent perpetrators be punished harshly and quickly.
Police warn violent criminals not to travel to Stuttgart
Stuttgart Police Vice President Carsten Höfler was relieved by the decision to cancel the rental agreement. “This is a strong signal towards a future non-violent political conflict between the two conflict parties of Eritrean origin,” said Höfler on Wednesday evening.
We can only hope that the repeal has an impact and reaches everyone who had planned to travel to Stuttgart again at the weekend.
Police Vice President of Stuttgart, Carsten Höfler
Höfler announced that the police would still be very attentive next weekend. "We will have emergency services both on duty and on standby in order to be able to react consistently and in a low-threshold manner when possible troublemakers arrive. "I stand by this: Scenes like last Saturday must not be allowed to repeat themselves in Stuttgart!"
Last Saturday there were massive riots on the sidelines of an event organized by Eritrean clubs in Stuttgart. 32 police officers were injured. More than 200 people were arrested at short notice. Investigations are underway for, among other things, dangerous bodily harm and serious breach of the peace. The background to the clashes is an internal Eritrean conflict. The suspects are believed to be opponents of the dictatorship in Eritrea. The association that organized the event is considered to be close to the government.
Martin Plaut posted: " President Isaias has recently held talks with representatives of both sides in Sudan's 'war of the generals' that erupted in April this year. He met Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, generally referred to as Hemedti, in Asmara in January 2023. Then, a week ago, " Martin Plaut
President Isaias has recently held talks with representatives of both sides in Sudan's 'war of the generals' that erupted in April this year.
He met Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, generally referred to as Hemedti, in Asmara in January 2023. Then, a week ago, he met the Sudanese Democratic Bloc and other political parties allied with General Al-Burhan, leader of the Sudanese Armed Forces.
Isaias clearly wants to portray himself as a mediator; a diplomat. But this ignores his long-term ambitions inside Sudan.
At one level the Eritrean role in Sudan is well known. Eritrean security forces operate across the country and are particularly strong in Khartoum and in Kassala. They are capable of not only spying on the large Eritrean exile community in Sudan, but can seize them and abduct them, if the need arises.
But the Eritrean President's relationship with Sudan goes much deeper than that.
Isaias's early Sudanese links
In his seminal work, Conversations with Eritrean Political Prisoners, Dan Connell explains how Isaias arrived in Sudan in September 1966 after leaving his university studies in Addis Ababa, to join the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF). Haile 'Dure' Wond'ensae (today a political prisoner in Eritrea) came to meet him in the Sudanese town Kassala in December 1966.
Isaias immediately took Haile aside, telling him not to say a word to the ELF leadership about what they wanted to do. "This thing is completely opposed to what we were thinking, and we cannot talk about it here," he said. So the two men went to a local restaurant and started plotting: their aim was a clandestine organisation within the ELF. "And we said, this is a very dangerous endeavor."
From that tiny cell, of just three people (the third was Mussie Tesfamikael, who was killed in 1973) the Eritrean People's Liberation Front was officially founded in 1977. Although Isaias was the real leader, he took control via the Eritrean People's Revolutionary Party, which was the Marxist organisation directing the EPLF.
During its long years of fighting the Ethiopian government (as well as fighting a civil war with other Eritrean movements, including the ELF) Isaias ensured that it had a rear base from which to operate.
The EPLF had a safe house in Port Sudan and a massive supply depot in Port Sudan, which I visited when I went into the EPLF held areas of Eritrea in the 1980's. Having strong relations with Sudan, and with Sudanese political leaders, has been part of Isaias's strategy for the past fifty years.
Isaias and Sudan's National Democratic Alliance
It brought together a range of political parties (from the Democratic Unionist Party and the Umma party to the Sudanese Communist Party), ethnic parties like the Beja Congress and the trade unions.
It was formed to lead the popular struggle against the new dictatorship in Sudan and the fundamentalist regime of the National Islamic Front (NIF) that was the power behind the throne on which Omar al-Bashir sat.
The National Democratic Alliance was to resist, and then openly fight, the Omar al-Bashir government, and the Eritrean role in this struggle was described in detail by Ahmed Hassan in two lengthy articles in African Affairs, which can be found in full here and here.
Drawing on visits to Eritrea, in the period 1996–2003, Ahmed Hassan explained how President Isaias attempted to become involved in Sudanese affairs and finally tried to overthrow the Sudanese government.
Isaias accused the Sudanese Islamists of backing a Eritrean movement - Islamic Jihad. On 5 December 1994, Eritrea severed diplomatic relations with Sudan and subsequently invited the NDA to move its headquarters into the former Sudanese embassy in Asmara.
As Ahmed Hassan explains, Omar al-Bashir was "viewed at that time by Eritrea, Ethiopia, and the U.S. as a destabilizing factor within the region posing serious threats with its adoption of a political Islamic agenda and the subsequent support to Islamic militants from Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Somalia. That period also marked honeymoon of the relations between the U.S. and the 'new breed’ of African leaders represented by Isaias Afewerki, Meles Zenawi and Yoweri Museveni."
In 1996 this led to a dramatic re-orientation of forces and the formation of the Sudan Alliances forces, which brought in elements of the Sudanese military, under Brigadier Abdel Aziz Khalid, former commander of the air defence force in Khartoum. A new alliances of forces came about including the southern Sudanese movement, the SPLA and the United States.
Abdel Aziz was able to see the new opportunities for introducing a new qualitative change to the political formula of the NDA. This was a direct result of contacts at three levels, with the Eritrean leadership, with SPLA/M, as well as from hints that were brought to him through the direct contacts of Dr. Taisier M. Ali with John Prendergast related to the potential support of the U.S to armed interventions by Northern Sudanese factions that could lead to the destabilization of the government in Khartoum.
Although the Sudanese military were now involved, according to Ahmed Hassan they had little appetite for an armed revolt against Omar al-Bashir and the Islamists.
“As far as the Northerners are concerned, they don’t have a mentality of rebels”, One Eritrean official was quoted as saying in, in frustration. “For a long time they were against armed struggle, saying that the regime would be overthrown by a popular uprising. Now they have changed, but they don’t know how to take up weapons”. That was definitely the role Eritrea decided to take in the mid-1990s. Teach them to fight and support them in their fight...The setup was complete, the Eritrean regional aspiration of having an allied movement in Khartoum, and the plans of the U.S. to escalate the efforts to destabilize and topple the NIF regime in Khartoum by opening new military fronts in the north, and the personal aspirations and agenda of the SAF leadership, all came together.
It was reported that the Americans came behind this alliance in an attempt to end Omar al-Bashir's grip on the Sudanese state.
In 1996 the US government decided to send nearly $20 million of military equipment through the 'front-line' states of Ethiopia, Eritrea and Uganda to help the Sudanese opposition overthrow the Khartoum regime. US officials denied that the military aid for the SPLA and the Sudanese Allied Forces (SAF), described as 'non-lethal' -- including radios, uniforms, boots and tents -- was targeted at Sudan. The Pentagon and CIA considered Sudan to be second only to Iran as a staging ground for international terrorism.
The Islamist regime of Omar al-Bashir was under a full-scale assault, according to Ahmed Hassan.
[T]he invasion of Sudan was set in motion, with direct involvement of the Ugandan forces in the South, the Ethiopian forces at the Blue Nile and in the South, and the Eritrean forces at the eastern front, in full support to the SPLA, SAF and the smaller NDA armed groups.
The Ethiopian army support for the SPLA and SAF involved cross border military assistance that permitted the SPLA to capture the border town of Kurmuk and Qessan, a town in Sudan’s Blue Nile region just across the border from Ethiopia in a surprise attack on Sunday January, 12 1997.
Simultaneously, SAF and the Tana Brigade of the SPLA, managed to capture the army garrisons at Yakuru, Babsheer and Menza in the northern Blue Nile area. In less than a week, the SPLA/SAF joint forces had advanced to within 30 km of the key eastern town of Damazin, site of the main hydroelectric dam which supplies Khartoum with most of its power. ...
With the increased support of the U.S. and its allies within the Greater Horn of Africa Initiative, the advance of the SPLA and SAF seemed unstoppable.
The SAF leadership was intoxicated by its success, believing it was near victory. In March 1997 the leadership of SAF was giving the regime in Khartoum a maximum lifespan of 6-12 months before it collapsed as the forces led by General Abdel Aziz Khalid, threatened the city. (Dan Connell, “Sudan: In the Eye of the African Storm,’ Contributions in Black Studies, Vol. 15 (1997).)
Reprieve for al-Bashir and Sudan's Islamists
But the overthrow of the al-Bashir regime was not to be. Divisions emerged within the Sudanese opposition and then - in May 1998 - a border war between Eritrea and Ethiopia erupted.
The delicate alliance of forces that had united Asmara, Addis Ababa, Kampala and Washington fell apart. President Isaias has more pressing concerns as his forces faced repeated Ethiopian offensives.
Out of fears to have to deal with new military front with Sudan while it was involved in the 1998-2000 conflict with Ethiopia, the Eritrean authorities immediately gave a clear signal to the NDA forces to slow down their operations. The roles drastically changed, from attacks and advance on the Sudan territories, to a new role of merely providing protection to the Eritrean borders against incursions from the Eritrean Islamic Jihad that was supported by the NIF as well as from any threats that could directly be posed by the Sudan government forces.
Then, on 11 September 2001, al-Qaeda attacked New York and brought down the twin towers, as well as crashing an aircraft into the Pentagon.
The world spun on its axis. The United States put aside all else and concentrated on eliminating Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader, who had lived in Sudan until being expelled in 1996.
The implications for the Sudanese opposition was predictable: the US ended its dispute with Omar al-Bashir and reached out to the Sudanese government that it had been attempting to overthrow.
The collaboration between the CIA and the Sudanese Intelligence apparatus, that started in 2001, was culminated by a CIA decision, later on, to fly the chief of the Sudan Intelligence, Maj. Gen. Sallah Abdallah Gosh, for a secret meeting in Washington aimed at cementing cooperation against terrorism as was brought in the Los Angeles Post, on June 17, 2005. Khartoum had become “an indispensable part of CIA’s counterterrorism strategy.” That turn of events after the 9/11 of course resulted in devastating implications on the NDA in general and on SAF in particular.
The combination of 9/11 and the Ethiopian-Eritrean border war had blown apart the movement to overthrow the Sudanese regime. Omar al-Bashir and his Islamist government was safe - at least for the time being.
President Isaias left fuming
He had emerged on the wrong side of both conflicts. Isaias was forced to do a U turn.
In January 2000 Eritrea and Sudan officially restored diplomatic relations. The Sudanese embassy in the Eritrean capital was been handed back to the Khartoum government, having previously been occupied by the Sudanese National Democratic Alliance.
The only element that did not change was Isaias's determination to plot and - when it was in his interest - to intervene in Sudan. As his meetings with Sudanese politicians in recent weeks indicate, it is an ambition that he has not abandoned.
Mesfin Hagos’s English Book on Eritrea:
Useful Facts Tainted by Omissions & Biases
By Woldeyesus Ammar
(Posted in Awate.com on 16.09.23)
This article about the book in English by compatriot Mesfin Hagos cannot claim to be a standard book review but is, primarily, a write-up to sincerely commend the author to have published something, even belatedly. Secondly, the article aims to flag out what I see as flaws in it. The hope is to get a genuine review that would eventually include missing parts of contentious but half-told stories in the book so that the upcoming Tigrigna/Arabic versions could be more complete to Eritrean readers like me. In fact, I would not have been tempted to write this piece if it were not to the assertion described on pages 99-101 under the subtitle: “Failed Ethiopian Campaign that Birthed the Derg.”
Forgetful of all the sacrifices our people paid in sweat and blood in previous decades and, in particular, between September 1961 and December 1973, the author (or should one say the authors?) dared to tell us that a single two-week battle fought in the second half of December 1973 between the then small units of the Popular Liberation Forces (PLF/ህዝባዊ ሓይልታት) and the occupation army gave birth to the 1974 mutiny and changes in Ethiopia. Brother Mesfin’s book also claims that the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), which he said started almost all the armed hostilities in the field till its defeat, was bent at disrupting EPLF operations against the enemy, and that the ELF was not desirous of unity till 1981 while the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) always wanted unity.
Regrettably, and in spite of many interesting and useful facts in it, the book in many sections loses balance by injecting half-truths and harmful biases. One of the misleadingly wrong and negative messages in it - and especially for fresh or uninitiated readers - is the following:- Eritrea had two archenemies called the ELF and Ethiopia, and both had to be gotten rid of at any material and human cost. (In actual fact, the so-called prophecy of Isaias that the ELF shall melt out (ጀብሃ ክትሓቅቕ እያ) existed a decade before the 1980-81 civil war that was started by a decision of EPLF leadership (or may be only by Isaias). Mesfin wrote that: “To win the big battle [against the first enemy, Ethiopia]… it was necessary to solve one problem at a time … and [we] decided to push the ELF out of Eritrea.” (See page 207).
Well, these and similar insinuations and allegations in the book cry for correction and comment, although more convincing responses may have disappeared with the key political leaders and military commanders of both fronts. Most of those figures are not around now to provide helpful rebuttals for our history records, in which case the ELF is a perpetual orphan - at least in the literature so far produced in the West by Eritreans and non-Eritreans alike.
Nonetheless, I must say I am pleased to see the usually unforthcoming Mesfin, whose excessive reticence is known to many, finally sharing pieces of little known facts and clarifying some vaguely heard events in our prolonged struggle. It is also great that he broke out of his old thinking that our history should not be written by individuals but be worked out as a joint project, which is difficult to do in our situation. Yet, those individuals who kindly take the pain to write down what they knew, as Mesfin finally did, should try to tell both sides of a given event, good and bad, and not tell only the part that they wanted to tell, as brother Mesfin conceded to have done in his book while talking to Samuel ‘Aka-Aka’ of Dehay Eritrea not long ago.
In the paragraphs below, I am highlighting under a few subheadings some of the issues in the book that I found to be of interest to take note of.
Merits of Mesfin and His Book
What Mesfin told us about himself in the book is part of our recent history. Many Eritreans of his generation did share the misery in absolute poverty that young Mesfin and his family went through. Post-World War II generations of Eritreans also had the unquenchable thirst for learning that Mesfin ran after. In other words, many Eritreans of the past 82 years can very well relate to Mesfin’s unfulfilled dream cut short because of multiple problems - problems that are still haunting younger generations.
The main author of the book and those, who assisted him to include compassionate feelings in it, must be thanked for expressing the lingering pain in the author because of the fate of his mother who endured life-time struggle against poverty and finally, as Mesfin put it: “[she] did not live enough to see our victory, the singular reason [of her untimely death being that] I was not there for her.”
This sad and emotionally sharp expression is also part of our recent history and can be shared and replicated by so many Eritrean families and readers of the book, old and young. Yet, many of us forget that Mesfin’s mother and a huge number of her likes, women and men, were indeed also ‘martyrs’ of the prolonged and unfinished national struggle. But they were forgotten when the quality of martyrdom and the identity of martyrs was limited mostly to those who held guns.
With its somewhat misleading title of “An African Revolution Reclaimed,” Mesfin’s memoir about his experience and our ups and downs satisfactorily narrates some of the bold decisions and brave actions Mesfin took to keep the struggle going - come what - amidst extremely rough days. For instance, only Mesfin and Fissehaye Abraha”Karachi” returned to the field in June 1968 after their training in China while seven others (what Mesfin called highland/Kebessa Christians) refused to do so. Similarly in Dankalia in 1970, only Mesfin and Measho Embaye chose to stay with the new PLF while the rest of their Christian colleagues refused to stay.
As cited in my friend Semere Habtemariam’s articulate review of the book last July, Mesfin Hagos deserves accolades for being honest, and to be accepted as one, most of the time -- but for sure not all the time. To his credit, Mesfin does not share the opinion of some of our compatriots who used to allege that Christian highlanders at that time, and while they were few, were excluded from leadership posts even as of August 1969 at Adobaha Conference. Mesfin retorts: “I do not believe there were enough Christian highlanders who were fit to become leaders, given our limited experience and duration in the struggle at the time.” He meant this was to the exception of Isaias Afwerki and Abera Mekonnen who were elected to the 38-member General Command/ቅያዳ ዓማ that was from its start demonized far beyond its awkwardly taken actions and shortcomings by those who still do not accept it was “a product of its time.”
Mesfin also boldly and honestly tells readers one of the harmful weaknesses of key ELF leaders of the time by putting it in these words: “The larger we, as Christian highlanders, grew in number within the ELF, the more we were made to feel we did not belong.” (See page 23). Very true, I agree. This was the same malady with multiple other factors that led to the decline and defeat of that once mighty and determined force, popularly called ሰራዊት ሓርነት/جيش التحرير (liberation army) by almost every Eritrean citizen till the 1981 debacle.
Also belatedly following in the footsteps of my old friend Mussie Tesfamichael and his Menka’e group of 1973, in whose condemnation to death he joined three others,
- Mesfin continued to be a defiant but little-heard whistleblower between 1978 and 2001 of the growing one-man dictatorship within their circle.
- Also in addition to his shining military roles in the historic Battles of Afabet and Dekemhare, among others, we now learn that Mesfin saved Asmara from re-occupation in the 1998-2000 border war by his professional acumen presented in the form of advice that led to a disastrous end to an Ethiopian army contingent in the Battle of Adi Beghi’o (see page 362).
- Nor should one forget how Mesfin, and only Mesfin, reacted at what Isaias said in a February 1991 meeting to selected EPLF leadership members about a dangerous intention to make EPLF joint in the formation of a post-Derg government in Ethiopia. (I am inclined to believe that Isaias and his co-conspirators, who kept silent at the meeting, could have fulfilled the treacherous plan in June-July 1991 by liquidating Mesfin. It also appears to me that Mesfin was saved from that possible liquidation by the reported TPLF refusal to Eritrea’s participation in the post-Derg provisional government in Ethiopia. And of course, TPLF leaders were doing what they did in defense of their own political calculations and interests.)
- For these and other audacious actions and reactions, Mesfin Hagos shall be celebrated and long remembered as one of Eritrea’s leading patriotic heroes in the annals of our national liberation struggle. No doubt about this well deserved record!
Mesfin’s Persistent Biases in the Book
In his own words, young Mesfin was “rebellious, sensitive and wallowing in self-pity.” The first two traits plus other positive and negative characteristics might have continued to be part of him, but the last one – self-pity/victimhood - was infectious and effectively transmitted to his friends, as Isaias did infected many in his organization by his own negative characteristics. In fact, Mesfin’s self-pity was well reflected in Nehnan Elamanan, a manifesto that he partly co-authored with Isaias to express an extremely exaggerated victimhood of a section of our people (the Christian Kebessa) in order to create an organization, unfortunately adding more fuel to the harmful “we” and “they” divide that we could not stop to this day. Mesfin still believes that, Nehnan Elamanan, while he calling it “a product of its time”, was perfect and well intended. He says it only aimed “to move us beyond our cultural differences and rally us around a national cause.” But, to my reading and to the understanding of a good part of the Eritrean society, that was not what the document did. However, I am not here to repeat the lasting venom in it.
While at it, let me add the following: Mesfin wrote (page 64): “Much has been said about Nehnan Elamanan, including that isaias had written it in Addis Ababa and took it with him to implement it in the field. This has been said even by those who claim to have been his classmates in Addis Ababa.” (Emphasis added). The writer in Mesfin’s mind can only be Yours Truly because Mesfin knows it, and because no other person but me from Isaias’s school group wrote criticizing that document. Yet, I never wrote saying that Isaias prepared the document in Addis Ababa. On the other hand, what I repeatedly said and wrote as of the late 1970s, including in a book published in 1992, was that in the spring of 1966, Isaias alleged in our ELF cell meeting in Addis Ababa that the ELF was conducting “Jihad” in Eritrea. Also as I repeatedly affirmed, the attendants of that meeting together with Isaias and me included today’s Ela-Ero prisoner Haile Weldetinsae/Deru’e; PFDJ cabinet minister Tesfay Ghebreselassie “China”, Bereket ‘Aket’ of Paris, and twin brothers Andom/Habtom Ghebremichael – all of them former EPLF members, and may be some of them still accessible for Mesfin to inquire. And was it necessary for Mesfin to address me as “those who claim” to being Isaias’s former classmates? And for what honor, brother Mesfin?
Mesfin’s Book About Isaias
I found the following sentence as one of the most fitting and powerful testimonies by Mesfin about his old colleague: “Power did not make Isaias Afwerki what he was not; it only unveiled him.” Very, very true! Through many parts of his book, Mesfin tells how resentful, greedy, intrusive and self-centered Isaias was with his “poisonous character” and consistent failings to consult those around him. To Mesfin, that coldhearted Isaias remained a “malady and incurable one at that.” Yet, many also blame Mesfin of sharing the characteristics of Isaias like resentfulness, ingratitude and a continuing, but sometimes unsuccessfully concealed, mistrust, hatred and contempt of everything (and everyone) associated with their former second archenemy called ELF/‘Jabha’.
After exhaustively explaining how Isaias sidelined him and Ibrahim ‘Afa from their military roles, Mesfin stated that Isaias always “treated the military as his private domain.” This testimony by Mesfin reminded me of what I also wrote in the January 1982 issue No. 45 of the Eritrean Newsletter under the title of “Profile of Adventurism in Eritrea” opining that the EPLF was already turned into “a private company…driven by the insatiable ambition to power of one person.” (Go back and read old ELF documents for similar conclusions recorded over a decade before 1991.)
On the EPLF side, at least one person, Mesfin, had known early on the wickedness of the man now destroying Eritrea, if he has not already finished that job. At one point in 1980s, Mesfin confesses to have contemplated of taking drastic action against Isaias -ያረድ ውዒልካያ….ክክክ! Yet, he did not go ahead doing that because he could not convince himself that the EPLF would find “a replacement half as good as [Isaias[.” And unfortunately for Eritrea and its people, this utterly wrong and dangerous belief in the capacities of one person lingered in the EPLF and still lingers in the hearts and minds of not very few Eritreans infected by the Old Thought.
More About the ELF in the Book
As they say, history is written by those who win because people can believe them very easily because they were winners – and of course serve and served as generals of a winning army, ministers, ambassadors and what have you. The book expressively describes battle-field successes and, when necessary, orderly withdrawals of the PLF/EPLF fighters. But, when it comes to the other front, you will read mostly about defeat after defeat and disorderly withdrawals of the ELF army. Well, if that was the case all the time, let the few surviving ELF army commanders and political commissioners say and comment for the sake of records for future researchers. Leaving things unclear did not help us in the past and cannot be helpful in the future. In short, the book is replete with selective narrations about the now defunct ELF which belongs to our common history. And to cite only a few of the half-told stories in the book:-
- Mesfin, as alluded to in the opening paragraphs of this article, gives to PLF’s December 1973 battle in Sahel a big credit in causing changes in Ethiopia. This claim, I repeat, robs our people’s previous struggles and achievements. It can be seen as part of the persistent historical denial of recognition to others. For sure it equates to getting astray from placing credit where it belongs. The battle in question can undoubtedly be one of the brilliant engagements of Eritrea’s heroic freedom fighters on both sides. The lengthy coverage given to the battle as cause for the “birth” of the Derg is being “justified” by its mere mention among the list of grievances by the Ethiopian army’s mutiny leaders in Asmara in February 1974. Obviously, the Ethiopian army mutineers can list recent events like their failure in the December 1973 battle. But to say that that single failed operation “birthed the Derg” is too much of a distortion and utter neglect of history. (If we were to trust and rely for our history on such Ethiopian documents, one report prepared by the Derg and leaked to the ELF leadership in 1977 claimed that the EPLF will be easy prey to be liquidated by the Ethiopian army because it loses so many casualties in every battle. The document added that the real danger to Ethiopia in retaining Eritrea was the ELF which, they believed, was very careful not to lose many fighters in every engagement with the Ethiopian army.)
- Due to multiple factors, for sure well known to Mesfin, the year 1967 was one of the worst periods in the life the Eritrean revolution. It was full of wanton destruction of villages, livestock, and massacre of civilians by the Ethiopians. Intensified campaigns to divide Eritreans on religious grounds also shook the society to its roots. The outcome included desertions by fighters, and unfortunate killing of a few of them - not hundreds as the venomous PLF documents claimed - by frightened, confused and less capable ELF unit leaders. One of those deserters was Welday Kahsai, the leader of the Fifth Division, who led it only for 3-4 months before his desertion. He was probably the one who caused the uncontrollable panic within the Fifth Division that had 400 members, only 80 of them Christian highlanders, according to an unpublished manuscript by Ibrahim Toteel, now a PFDJ prisoner in Eritrea. Mesfin said he met Welday in 2021 to ask him the reasons for his desertion in 1967. Weldai Kahsai replied to Mesfin saying that he had to hand himself over to the Ethiopian embassy in Khartoum because the ELF leadership was planning to assassinate him. That allegation may be true or untrue, readers cannot tell. But why did Mesfin fail to tell the other side of the story in Weldai’s case? On the other hand, Ibrahim Toteel’s manuscript, widely available in PDF form both in Arabic and Tigrigna, quoted former colleagues of Weldai in Asmara who confirmed that Weldai Kahsai definitely met at least two times with Ethiopian (Asrate Kassa’s) General Amnesty Committee at Durfo and then Filfil before his travel and desertion in Khartoum together with some 20 others etc. The year 1967 was a year of success to Ethiopia in its determined fight to kill and bury the still young and weak revolt in Eritrea.
- Writing about the mid-1967 desertion of a group of 19 fighters to the Ethiopian consulate in Kassala, Mesfin did one right thing: he asked Haile Deru’e, who told him the reason of their desertion to had been fear of Sudan’s expulsion to Ethiopia. He also asked another fighter, Gime Ahmed, who was with them and even urged Derue and the others not to give in to the Ethiopian consulate because the Sudan would eventually release them. So far so good. But that dreadful situation of ‘Gifa’ and fear in Kassala of that terrible summer of 1967 indeed deserved a mention in the size of Mesfin’s book for the benefit of the readers. To say it in a few words: that summer, ELF in Kassala was terrorized by works of a certain Saleh Mahmoud, a traitor who was working as double agent for Ethiopia and the Sudan. On 12 August 1967, an aggrieved ELF member knifed that Saleh in broad daylight in city center. Following this and other incidents, probably most of them initiated by the Ethiopian consulate itself, the Sudan imprisoned key leaders in the ELF Revolutionary Command/ቅያዳ ሰውሪያ and ordered all other ELF leaders and fighters to go back to their Eritrea. To be fair, this situation deserved some place in the book alongside the testimonies from Deru’e and Gime.
- Mesfin’s deep regret, of course in hindsight, of his decision to condemn to death the Menka’e group of 1973 is to be appreciated. He wrote: “Our collective myopia convinced us to take firm action” adding that the four decision makers (including Mesfin) had no deliberate and evil intent to kill them but had “lack of capacity” and deficit in judgment. (God forbid the Menka’e group were not considered ‘guilty as accused until they prove their innocence themselves’, a reversed legal principle and logic that shamefully transpired in recent years in the Eritrean opposition). Anyhow, the myopic decision made against 9 highly regarded freedom fighters ended with their murder for having asked fair treatment for ordinary fighters and democracy in the front. As listed in the book, the victims included Mussie Tesfamiichael, Yohannes Sebhatu, Afewerki Teklu, Aberash Milke, Dehab Tesfazion. Habteselassie Ghebremedhin, Tewelde Eyob, Russom Zerai, and Tareke Yihdego. Similarly, there occurred meaningless killings of high caliber freedom fighters within the EPLF in the 1980s (like Wedi Kudus, my former associate as ELF cell-member) with the charge of being Yemin/rightists. In regard to the killing of ‘Yemin’, Mesfin wrote: “Given that these were most difficult times, I did not take it appropriate to inquire about individuals.” Also on the ELF side, we had a number tragic killings of reform seekers and others including Kidane Kiflu and Weldai Ghidey, murdered in 1970 in Kassala, a shocking event that added more fuel to division and splits in the struggle. But did Mesfin’s book treat and present the tragic and utterly wrong happenings in the ELF in the same way? Did he describe them as decisions made by people convinced by “collective myopia” to take firm action for the supposedly nobler national cause and, not with deliberate evil intent to kill? Judgment is left to the reader.
- Writing about the first ELF congress of 1971, the book erroneously informs readers that “any outlying fighters and organizations were given an ultimatum to join or face forceful reunification.” It is true that that ultimatum was given to fighters taking sides with Osman Saleh Sabbe’s and another miniscule pan-Islamist/Arabist group, but NOT to the dozen or so fighters at ‘Ala that Isaias Afwerki represented. The congress, which was under relative influence of the then new left-wing secret party formed within the ELF in 1968, discussed the religious sensitivity in the case of the Isaias group (ኢሳያስን ብጾቱን) and preferred continued dialogue on the matter. But, the inherently war-monger/war-lover Isaias led his Selfi-Natsinet/PLF2 to join those forces given ultimatum and fight on their side against ELF units. Thus, one is obliged to feel that telling also this part of the story could have helped in making the book a fair reading.
- To an extremely sad episode in 1967 that Ibrahim Toteel called a “never healing wound” in the society, Mesfin’s book makes only a passing mention in a sensitive phrase, “Christian farmers and herders whom ELF units had killed in the environs of Shlalo in western Eritrea.” As it is put, the phrase gives the impression that the killing was an outright rampage to kill Christians. That tragic occurrence at Shimbare near Shlalo was one of the sensitive topics that Self-Natsenet/EPLF used very effectively to build itself into an entity in the early 70s. Those 43 victims at Shimbare included 8 Moslems, and were given land and arms by the enemy to act as a militia resisting ELF activities in that region. Readers can assume Mesfin knew a lot more about such sad incidents but his book’s glossing over the issue without a little effort to say what that killing of “Christian farmers and herders” was about etc is not a helpful omission.
- Briefly, it is difficult to pinpoint in an article all the events told only half-way in the book by an author who lived it all. The ever contention subjects like:
- The still alive talk about the so-called Seriyet Addis, its origin and the questionable number of its victims;
- The alleged non-stop disruptions of the ELF to EPLF operations and killings/kidnappings of its members till 1981;
- Justifications for the involvement or non-involvement of the TPLF on EPLF’s side in the fight against the ELF in 1980-81;
- The actors of assassinations of ELF cadres in the Sudan, e.g. .that of Saeed Saleh, Weldedawit Temesghen ….in the Sudan
Etc etc are among the issues that still wait for balanced writings by telling all sides of every given story for the benefit of future researchers.
Nonetheless, aside from the omissions and apparent biases in the book, which are reflections of the author’s fierce defense of his ‘sacred legacies’ as EPLF, Mesfin’s book, I reiterate, can remain a rich source in further exposing some of the hidden truths about Isaias, about their joint winner front and government till the birth of the historic G-15 in which Mesfin again played a commendable role.
Mesfin on Diaspora Politics
The book summarizes the major hurdles facing the Eritrean opposition camp in exile. He now advises that the opposition must devise correct mechanisms of struggle. Mesfin also pledges to work towards forging an inclusive movement that would finally guarantee to do what the victors of 1991 failed to do: creating in post-Isaias era an “inclusive, fair, equitable and rules based” system of governance. May that dream come true within Mesfin’s and his unlucky generation’s fading years.
Before concluding this piece, I must apologize to Dr. Awet Tewelde Weldemichael, because I presented Mesfin Hagos as the sole author while we are told that the writers were two. One can for sure see the huge contributions in the project of our young and promising history professor. Yet, readers like me can also expect Mesfin to take almost all the responsibility for possible mistakes, biases and omissions. Professor Awet may be blamed only for a few unnecessary repeat of already told stories and a repeat of at least one whole paragraph in the book. But responsibility for mistakes like writing Debri Sala (Monastery of Sala) instead of the correct Debr Sala (Mount Sala in Tigre) can only go back to Mesfin who knows the Tigre language better.
And finally, I thank you both Mesfin and Professor Awet for having produced the book to be part of the still poor Eritrean archives about the national liberation war.
There were brutal scenes at a meeting of Eritrean clubs in the middle of Stuttgart: around 200 people attacked participants and police officers. The organizer accuses the police of having underestimated the situation.Monday, 18 September 2023 22:47 Written by Martin Plaut
Source: Der Spiegel
September 16, 2023, 9:31 p.m
Confrontation in Stuttgart: There were violent riots at a meeting of Eritrean clubs Photo: Jason Cheplyakov / dpa
There were violent riots at an Eritrea event in Stuttgart . Up to 200 people attacked participants in the event and police officers with stones, bottles and wooden slats, a police spokesman told the German Press Agency on Saturday. 24 police officers were injured, two of them seriously. A police spokesman reported this on Saturday evening. Four people have been arrested so far. Videos on social media show men attacking police officers with wooden boards and bottles.
A police spokesman reported that 200 people gathered in the Roman fort on Saturday afternoon for an event organized by the Association of Eritrean Clubs in Stuttgart and the surrounding area. It is an information event. According to the police spokesman, the clubs sympathized with the dictatorial government in Eritrea. According to the police, opponents of the regime met in small groups at Bad Cannstatt train station and Stuttgart main station and made their way to the venue. The situation there quickly escalated.
The police are flying in additional emergency services
The officers defended themselves against the attackers with batons and pepper spray and tried to separate the groups and keep the attackers out while the event was still ongoing in the building. The streets around the Roman fort were closed. Emergency services were flown in by helicopter and called in from surrounding headquarters. For hours, the police reported skirmishes and a confusing situation. In the evening it was said that the situation was largely stable. The police surrounded 170 men to record their personal details. They are all accused of serious breach of the peace.
From the perspective of the organizers of the Eritrea meeting in Stuttgart, the police underestimated the situation. "We asked for police protection and said what these people are capable of," said Salomon T., who organized the event and did not want to be quoted with his full name. The event was a “seminar with information about Eritrea”. 70 people had to wait in the hall during the attacks, said Salomon T.
"It was very dangerous."
A police spokesman replied that there had always been disruptions at such events in the past, but there was no knowledge that they would be so massive and intense.
Valentino Tosto runs an ice cream parlor right on the corner of the action. He was shocked that evening. "This is very bad for us," he said. The rioters took away chairs and stands. He said, "It was very dangerous."
Eritrea, with a population of around three million, is located in northeast Africa on the Red Sea and is largely isolated internationally. Since independence from Ethiopia was won in a decades-long war 30 years ago, President Isaias Afewerki has ruled the country in a one-party dictatorship. Other parties are banned and freedom of expression and freedom of the press are severely restricted. There is neither a parliament nor independent courts or civil society organizations. There is also a strict military service and forced labor system, from which many people flee abroad. There are always conflicts between supporters and opponents of the regime.
In July there were riots at an Eritrea festival in Gießen, Hesse, with at least 26 injured police officers when opponents of the event attacked security forces by throwing stones and bottles and setting off smoke bombs. Among other things, the officers used batons against them. The organizers of the event in Giessen were close to the controversial leadership of the East African country. In August, violent riots broke out at an Eritrean festival in Stockholm , leaving more than 50 people injured.
There are already initial political reactions to the incidents in Stuttgart. For example, Federal Agriculture Minister Cem Ödzemir (Greens) wrote on Platform X that the perpetrators of violence must be brought to justice quickly.
The riots among exiled Eritreans are an expression of deep divisions within the diaspora. The authorities have so far failed to address the problem.Thursday, 14 September 2023 22:19 Written by Martin Plaut
By: Simon Hehli 04.09.2023
They are disturbing images that resemble each other - whether in July in Giessen, Germany, or recently in Tel Aviv, in the Norwegian city of Bergen and in Opfikon: hostile groups of Eritrean refugees beat each other or police officers until blood flows.
For right-wing populists, this is a symbol of the West's failed migration policy. Thus, Roger Köppel says in a variation of Peter Scholl-Latour's bon mot: "Whoever brings half of Eritrea to himself becomes Eritrea himself." For the head of "Weltwoche", this is proof that the image of the "supposedly peaceful" Eritreans is false.
It is true that many of the refugees from the north-east African country are poorly integrated and live on social welfare. But a little differentiation does no harm. The riots are not simply an expression of an archaic joy in scuffles; rather, they have a highly political background. The Eritrean diaspora in Switzerland and elsewhere is deeply divided. On the one side are the supporters of the long-term head of state Isayas Afewerki. They or their parents mostly came to Europe in the 1970s or 1980s, fleeing the brutal secessionist war against Ethiopia. Afewerki, who won this battle and led Eritrea to independence, is a freedom hero for them.
The fact that the country under Afewerki long ago degenerated into a dictatorship in which citizens are conscripted into years of "national service" and opposition figures are arrested and tortured does not concern this group. It is quite different from those compatriots who are on the other side: Since the turn of the millennium, they have fled the repression and lack of prospects in Eritrea.
Foreign currency thanks to blackmail
But the regime does not leave them alone. The dictator sets his agents on the emigrants. They collect a foreign tax of two percent of their income - also with the threat that otherwise something will happen to their relatives back home. These are important sources of foreign currency for Afewerki. There are even informers among the interpreters who translate for Eritreans in the asylum procedure. They intimidate the asylum seekers and manipulate their statements. The federal authorities have been aware of this deplorable state of affairs for years, but so far they have done little about it.
If Afewerki supporters now organise alleged "cultural festivals" at which representatives of the unscrupulous regime perform and collect donations, this is a provocation for the dissidents. Of course, this does not justify violence - those who seek refuge in Switzerland have to abide by the law. But it does explain the anger that is repeatedly unleashed here and in other host countries. And this anger does not diminish in view of the fact that some states show no desire to put a stop to the machinations of the Eritrean government.
The "NZZ am Sonntag" has tracked down the Eritrean ambassador in Geneva who has allegedly disappeared and gone into hiding. The regime's lack of transparency and dubious information policy repeatedly lead to false reports and rumours.
Source: NZZ Magazine
Eritrea - a dictatorship of rumours
How can this be? Various newspapers reported this week that Adem Osman had left the embassy and disappeared. An Eritrean radio station in exile was the first to broadcast the news. Adem Osman is an internationally known figurehead of the regime in Asmara. He has appeared before the UN several times. This makes the news that he has virtually deserted all the more spectacular. The news spread like wildfire in the Eritrean exile community. Bloggers and later Swiss media jumped on the bandwagon and spread the news.
Adem Osman has disappeared! Eritrean ambassador is said to have applied for asylum in Switzerland
Wild stories immediately started to circulate among the Eritreans: Osman had taken a well-paid job at the UN, was one version. Quite wrong, others said: He had applied for asylum and was now living anonymously in a refugee centre in Ticino. Or a third version: Osman had fallen out with the regime. He had to go into hiding and was fleeing in panic.
Osman is still ambassador
Obviously, he is not.
He is standing on the pavement in Geneva's Paquis district at midday on Friday, talking to this newspaper's reporter in a relaxed manner. "I am still working at the embassy," Osman says. Nothing has changed, everything is normal, the Eritrean diplomat emphasises.
There is not enough time for a selfie, Osman says a friendly goodbye and continues walking with his companion towards Lake Geneva.
It is not the first time that there are rumours around the Eritrean embassy in Geneva. What exactly is happening on Rue de Lausanne? Is the embassy collecting funds? Is it spying on the diaspora in Switzerland? Such questions pop up again and again. The fact that they remain unanswered is due to Eritrea's information policy.
The embassy hardly talks to the Swiss media. Telephone calls are pointless, they always lead nowhere. Enquiries by e-mail remain unanswered. The embassy is thus following in the best tradition of the regime in Asmara. Government action in the East African country is highly non-transparent. There is no valid constitution. There are written laws - but they only apply to a limited extent. Unwritten guidelines are just as important. There is a permanent state of uncertainty.
Political scientist Mirjam van Reisen does research on Eritrea at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. She is considered one of the best experts on the country. She says: "There are always a lot of rumours in Eritrea. No one knows anything for sure, so everyone is speculating."
This is typical of a non-transparent dictatorship. The whole thing is fuelled by the fact that Eritrea is a strongly oral society and there is a tradition of drinking coffee and talking. This leads to rumours spreading extremely quickly. For example, rumours about the health of the autocrat Afewerki are constantly circulating. Sometimes he is deathly ill and close to his deathbed, then again he is in the best of health.
Disinformation as a strategy
Van Reisen, however, goes one step further. "The regime is deliberately using a strategy of disinformation," says the professor. The government is working to construct a "grey area". It is definitely in the regime's interest that it remains unclear what is true and what is false. "Even rumours and false reports have an impact if they are spread long enough," van Reisen says.
This grey area surrounds Eritrea as a whole. Since refugee numbers from the East African country skyrocketed in 2006, Federal Berne has been puzzling over how bad the situation in the country really is. Refugees describe the country as hell on earth. As a kind of "North Korea of Africa". Bourgeois asylum politicians have long suspected that the situation in the country is not so bad.
Which is true? As always in the case of Eritrea, it is difficult to find out. The country is isolated, and hardly any reliable information gets out - but all the more rumours.
Israel: Many injuries, some life-threatening, after Eritrean democracy activists clash with Eritrean supporters of President IsaiasSaturday, 09 September 2023 21:30 Written by Martin Plaut
Around 90 Eritreans have been wounded, with at least 4 in a serious condition, in hospitals in Tel Aviv, following a clash between supporters and opponents of the Eritrean government.
These are some images of the fighting that broke out this morning, with police responding with tear gas, live ammunition and brute force.
The Israeli authorities were warned a week ago by pro-democracy Eritreans that this would happen.
Alert about a mass event that is accompanied by violent threats on social networks
On Saturday 02/09/2023 the Eritrean Embassy in Israel is planning a political event, the planned event accompanied by threats from its supporters, to the same extent a demonstration of opposition is planned by those opposed to the dictatorship,
Such events took place during the month of July and August around the world, such as Germany, Sweden, Great Britain, Canada and the United States, the events mentioned were stopped due to severe violence that endangered the lives of both supporters and opponents as well as civilians.
In Israel there have been such bloody events in the past that got out of control took a heavy toll on people and it took us a long time for the community organizations to calm them down, now following the events around the world and the provocations of the Eritrean ambassador and his supporters the threats of escalation have returned once again and this may lead to unnecessary bloodshed.
There is a threat testimony on Facebook of the organization of men of an organized squad that has only men today, Saturday 08/26/2023, which is intended to scare and threaten explicitly in preparation for the event next week.
In light of the above, we, as a community organization that works for the peaceful life of the community in various fields, express our concern for real fear for human life and ask the Israel Police to act to prevent violence that endangers human life.
Egon team – Eritrean New Hope Organization
Chairman Berhana Nagasi
Eritrean New Hope Organization
Eritrea Festival in Oberuzwil: demonstrators arrived from all over Switzerland – organisers cancel the eventSaturday, 09 September 2023 21:28 Written by Martin Plaut
According to Marina Menzi, media spokeswoman for the St.Gallen cantonal police, the festival was canceled by the organizers: “The organizers have realized that their festival cannot be held.”
Despite warnings from the authorities, an Eritrea festival to commemorate the beginning of the War of Independence took place in Oberuzwil. Demonstrators came from all over Switzerland. The police were on duty with a large contingent.
By Raphael Rohner September 2nd, 2023, 5:15 p.m
An Eritrea festival was to take place in Oberuzwil on Saturday afternoon. Several dozen people from Eritrea wanted to interrupt and prevent the festival, which brought together supporters of the dictator Afewerkis. They traveled from all over Switzerland to do this.
The festival's landlord tells this newspaper that he was warned by the police in advance, but decided not to do anything about the festival: "These people come every year. Nothing's going to happen." Meanwhile, the man was contacted by several Eritrean experts to urgently cancel the festival. “Now I have a strange feeling and, to be honest, I’m afraid to go and cancel the party.”
According to eyewitnesses, there are several familiar faces on site. Among other things, there are also supporters of a group loyal to the regime that has made the headlines and been the focus of the authorities several times in the past because of violent excesses: “Eri Blood”. Experts consider this group to be very dangerous because it carries out criminal acts on behalf of the government and takes action against opponents of the regime all over Europe. “This group can be compared to Russia’s Wagner troops,” an expert told this newspaper.
The behavior of the police caused great resentment among the people who had traveled: “Why are we being sent away while a genocide is being celebrated?” Many people didn't want to wait at the motorway exit in Uzwil, but wanted to drive to the venue anyway: “We don't believe the police that the festival is canceled! We want to see it for ourselves,” says a young woman.
According to Marina Menzi, media spokeswoman for the St.Gallen cantonal police, the festival was canceled by the organizers: “The organizers have realized that their festival cannot be held.”
It was only on Saturday morning that reports from Israel made headlines: At least four people were injured there during demonstrations against an Eritrean festival.