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Fact and Evidence Part VIII:[1940s-2010 The consequent of rivalry and disunity of political leaders


Tedla Bairu joined the independence movement as the Vice-president to the Supreme Council in 1967 while Idris Mahammed was chairman of the ELF. Both these revolutionary leaders were in favor of the union in the 1940s when 65%-75% of the Eritreans were in favour of independence (Yohannes 1993:4).Haile Selassie would immediately betray the UNIONIST PARTY; the Orthodox Church, and some semi-feudal Christian and Muslim population, who were in favor of the union (Cbaac, 2008). If those two revolutionary leaders and other political leaders were in favour of independence in the late 1940s, the Eritrean people wouldn't have become the victims of the Ethiopian rule.

In 1957, the Ethiopian government banned trade unions, closed many Eritrean industries, dismantled Eritrean factories and moved them to the capital city of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa. In consequence, the number of workers in Eritrea declined from 32,400 (27,000 Eritreans; 5,400 Italians) to 10, 350(10,000 Eritrean; 350 Italian) (Kidane, 1999). As a result of this, in late 1950s there were high migration of Eritreans to Ethiopia ( see fig 2), this was when the Ethiopian Emperor had a policy to modernize Ethiopia by devitalize Eritrea's economy. This was more exacerabated after the Ethiopian government’s suppression of the four days General Strike in 1958 which caused 88 deaths and 440 wounded, and closed of many industries. As a consequence of this supprestion, there were also 30, 000 workers migrated to Saudi Arabia, and 20,000 workers to Sudan ( Mengisteab, 2005:305). According to Yohannes (1993:7) annexation killed Eritrea's economic dynamism if only because of the pillage that took place. Wholesale factories were disassembled and reassembled in Shoa. The pillage was one of the motors of modernisation of the Ethiopian economy in the 1950s. Cbaac (2008) also adds Federation was imposed against the will of the people in order to entertain imperialist's interest. Federation with Ethiopia brought with it, organized crimes, terrorizing and murdering Eritrean political party leaders, dismantling the remaining industries and forced poverty upon the Eritrean people

Fig. 2: The fluctuation of Eritreans immigrating to Ethiopia between 1957 and 1998. Source: from the statement by the delegation of the State of Eritrea to the UNHRC, 4th August 1998. The origin  of this source was presented in table format not in a  graph. 

Most Eritrean skilled workers who arrived between 1957 and 1975 in Ethiopia succeeded in securing jobs in road construction, transportation service and in the food and textile manufacturing industries. Erlich (1983), who was lecturer at the University of Addis Ababa, observed that the proportion of Eritreans at this University was higher than of Ethiopians in the early 1970s, which might be attributed to the higher standard of education in Eritrea during the federation period. Spencer(1984: 303) also states that Eritreans came to Ethiopia in such numbers that they gradually dominated the Ethiopian Air Force and the police, 40 percent of the Army officer corps, much of telecommunications and nearly 100 percent of the taxi drivers in Addis Ababa. From 1952 to 1966, a considerable number of Eritrean polit- ical activists and their sympathisers fled to Sudanese border towns and elsewhere to escape harassment, intimidation, and persecution (Kibreab, 2000:254).
Crimes comitted against the unarmed civilian population by the Ethiopian Emperor from the early 1960s to 1974

From 1952 to 1966, a considerable number of Eritrean political activists and their sympathisers fled to Sudanese border towns and elsewhere to escape harassment, intimidation, and persecution (Kibreab, 2000:254). In 1967 the unarmed civilian population also became victims of the Ethiopian atrocities,this was happened because of unwillingness of cooperation among the Zone Commanders to resist the Ethiopia advance into the lowland areas.

Phase 1 : Barbaric crimes committed by the Second Ethiopian Army division in the 1960s

Based on the Human Right Watch report (1991:44) the first large-scale abuses of human rights occurred during three army offensives in 1967. Here is a short list of atrocities that committed against civilians by the Second Ethiopian Army division

  • 1965 at Merara, Hamassien province, and at Medeka, Keren province 67 men and 46 men respectively were killed by the Ethiopian soldiers.
  • On 11 of February 1967 many villages were burnt down in Barka district by the Second Ethiopian Army division. According to reports from local community leaders, 402 civilian were killed, and about 60,000 cattle and camels slaughtered with machine guns and knives and burning alive. In addition 21 detainees, most of them teachers and government employees were summarily executed in Tessenei prison on February 12.
  • Following an attack launched by the Ethiopian army against the area where the Eritrean Liberation Front was operating, 28, 600 refugees crossed into Sudan in March 1967. (Kibreab, 1987:71).
  • Between February and April in 1967, the Ethiopian soldiers burned 62 villages, including Mogoraib, Zamla, Ad Ibrahim, Gerset Gurgur, Adi Bera, Asir, Fori and Ad Habab. Furthermore, 402 civilians were killed, and about 60, 000 cattle and camels slaughtered with machine guns and knives and by burning them alive. This was reported from local community leaders.
  • Between 30 April and 8 May 1967, the Ethiopian army burnt 120 villages to the ground, with an estimated 10, 000 people killed and approximately 50,000 fleeing to more secure parts of the country, or into Sudan as refugees. Eritreans for Liberation in North America,( EFLNA, 1977:23.).   Reporting on the military actions against civilians in the southern lowlands and districts surrounding the town of Keren in Senhit Province, an Ethiopian prisoner of war commented.
    " It is true that whenever we were going to or coming from a battle, we used to burn many  village s on the way, kill anyone in sight and take away whatever property we could put our hands on. For instance, I can recall, when we were engaged in a battle near Keren around December 1967, seeing many villages burnt such as Babjengen" , Halhal(cited in Eritrean People's    Liberation Front, 1982: 72). Furthermore, according to the ELF (sep.1977) report an estimated number of 40,000 civilians were massacred during the six years of the armed struggle. Over 1,500 villages were given to flames, 3,000 forced-settlers were created
Between Feb. and June 1967 the following criminal acts were committed by the Ethiopan army
Province Villages leveled Civilians massacred Livestock killed
Barka 80 700 600, 000
Semhar 10 98 600
Senhit 176 uncounted uncounted
Akele Guzai 86 148 7, 000
Total 352 946+ 67,000+
Source ELF Foreign Information Centre Sept.1976

  • On 11 July in 1967 the villages of Eilet and Gumhot were burned, and 30 young men tied up and burned alive inside a house. Five other villages were burned over the following days, 51 people killed. 6, 000 domestic animals were killed. According to reports the soldiers singled out camels for slaughter, because they were vital for transport. Wolde Giorgis (1987:82) also cited those soldiers slaughtering cattle, eating what they wanted, and then leaving the rest to rot. He adds that sometimes soldiers would kill cattle just to get the livers.
  • In November 1967, almost all the villages of Senhit 174 in all were destroyed by soldiers from the Second Ethiopia Army Division . Some reliable sources reported atrocities included: Kuhul and Amadi: the army ordered the people to collect in one place, where they were bombed by air force planes
  • Asmat: the army opened fire on a wedding party, killing an unknown number
  • In 1967, over 40 men were slit on the neck in front of their children and wives at Misyam
  • In 1969, marshal law was proclaimed, as armed resistance became stronger. Haile Selassie used to say that ‘We need the land but not the people'. Ethiopia first attacked the lowlands, and gradually the whole Eritrea was on fire, except the cities. In the lowlands, villages were burned to ashes and its inhabitants slaughtered, and some children were found sucking the breast of their dead mothers. He had problems governing Eritrea as a whole. (Cbaac, 2008)
Phase II : Barbaric crimes committed by the Second Ethiopian Army division in the early 1970s
    The civilians also became victims of the Ethiopian atrocities because of rivalry continuation between Idris M.Adem and Sabbe which cause for the two years civil war in the early 1970s
  • In March 1970 32 civilans were shot dead when the army burned Arafali village. 88 people were executed when the people of Atshoma refused army order to relocated in a protected village this was in March of 1970. as a result of this 700 refugees fled to Sudan, mostly to the Tokar area along the Red Sea coast.
  • The period from April to July witnessed many atrocities as military activities spread to eastern lowlands. 32 civilians were sho dead when the army burned eastern lowlands.
  • 88 people were executed when the people of Atshoma, Arafali village refused army orders to locate in a protected village. Violence against the civilian population increased towards the end of the 1970s
  • In November, 112 people were killed in a mosque at Basadare. The people were collected in the mosque by soldiers who said they would be safe there from a planned air strike; the soldiers then opened fire.
  • Another was the destruction of the village of Ona on December 1, in which an estimated 625 people were killed.
  • On January 27, 1971, about 60 civilians, most of them elderly people, were killed by soldiers in a mosque in the village of Elabored.
Crimes comitted by the Fascist military dictator of Ethiopia in Eritrea from 1974 to 1991

Although the ELF and EPLF leaders agreed to end their hostility in 1975, there was no willingness for military cooperation between them. As a consequence, the unarmed civilian population also became victims of the the Fascist military dictator of Ethiopia in the mid 1970s. In the mid-1970s  the atrocities and massacres against  civilans continued  in both urban and rural areas. The burning of villages was extended  throughout Eritrea  in the 1970s and 1980s. A conservative estimate of the number killed in 1975 puts it at more than 10,000. The number of refugees in the Sudan rose to more than 130,000 in that year. More than 200 villages were devastated and more than 50,000 people were made homeless.

Phase III : Crimes committed by the Fascist military dictator of Ethiopia in the mid and late 1970s

Here is a short list of atrocities that committed against civilians by the Ethiopian Army

  • •On10th of July 1974 over 170 civilians were massacred in Om Hager.
    • On January 31, 1975, when the Eritrean fronts launched an attack on Asmara city. Over the following four days, government soldiers went on the rampage through the city. Civilians were dragged from their houses and executed. According to the Human Right Watch up to 3,000 people were killed in the city
    • In March, 1975, 100 patients in Asmara hospital were killed, their bodies being taken out in trucks to be buried.
    • On 9 March 1975 over 200 civilians in Agordat were killed by the Ethiopian soldiers
    • On 13 March 1975 the Ethiopian soldiers rounded up the villagers of Woki on a piece of waste ground and shot 37 dead
    • On 14 March, 1975 many women, children and old men were bayoneted and pregnant women were slit open / The Ethiopians then killed all the livestock and set fire to the house
    • On 17 April 1975, 235 civilians in Hirgigo were killed by the Ethiopian army
    • In summer 1975, 110 people in the village of Wokiduba were herded into an orthodox church and massacred.
    • In 1975-1976 many youth were killed by steel wires and knifing down in the streets of the capital of Asmara
    Source (Dines 1988; Human Rights Watch 1991)
  • In  March 1976 the army also  shot dead 42 civilans in the capital Asmara, and 60 women  and chldren were machine gunned in the Red Sea village of Imberemi.
  • On 1 January 1977  when  the troops moved into Hirgigo, (12 km from Massawa) they burned it to the ground after massacring 64 women , children and the elderly who were  too weak to escape.  
  • In the same year  on 19 February, six villages around Elaboret in the province of Senhit were also set alight by the Ethiopian troops. ( Dines 1978: 2) 

Wolde Giorgis (1985:51) who was a chief representative of COPWE(Commission to Organize the Party of the Workers of Ethiopia) in 1979, described 1975 atrocities against the Eritrean people by the Ethiopian government as follows:
Young men and women were dragged out of their homes at night, strangled and thrown into the streets in  what the death squads themselves called the “ Piano Wire Operation” Hundreds were killed in this terrible manner.

According to cbaac (2008), almost every family went through the nightmare of purge, imprisonment and torture. In the cities soldiers were going from house to house looking for women's gold. Once they have loathed the house they will kill almost everybody, men, women and children alike. Innocent young and under age girls were taken from their homes and murdered after being raped. If parents refused to give their daughters' hand to an Ethiopian soldier, the whole family was murdered. The repression and crime was so high that parents were encouraging their daughters either to join the liberation movement or else leave the country. Last but not least, many young Eritrean girls raped by Ethiopian soldiers preferred to commit suicide rather than carry children of ultimate violence.

Here is an interview made by Amrit Wilson with an Eritrean woman Saba Asser, one of the survivors of Ethiopian prisons and torture, after eleven months of detention in one of Asmara 's toughest prison, Mariam Gimb. She refused to admit that she was working for the EPLF organization. She was not willing to collaborate and denounce her comrades.

“For each arrested person there are seven to eight interrogators. They tie your big toes and your hands together, your arms around your legs. Then they put a stick under your knees: this is called the number eight because your body is in the shape of an eight. They make a ball from the cloths and vomit of prisoners and put it in your mouth. They turn you up side down and then they start beating the bottom of your feet. You hang from the stick which they lay with its ends on two tables. Seven or eight people take turns beating you. When one gets tired, another gets over. On the first night they beat me all night from 5.30 p.m. to 4 o'clock the next morning. They wanted the names of my friends before they could flee from their homes as soon as the curfew was lifted at 6 in the morning. ……the second day at 8.30 in the morning they called me again…they beat me from 8.30 till 12 o'clock. One hour of number 8 and then 9. In number 9 my big toes were tied together and while I am lying on my belly they stood at the sides of my back.

Your hands are tied, they hit your feet with a stick made of leather. As they beat you their hands turn red and sometimes start bleeding. So you can imagine if it hurts them that much, how much it hurts the person that is being tortured.”


Phase IV : Crimes committed by the Fascist military dictator of Ethiopia in the 1980s


In  late 1979, during the strategic retreat of the Eritrean forces,  the Ethiopian troops in the highlands of Eritrea killed 348 people, imprisoned 1,474 , raped, destroyed 102, 746 houses and killed 956 domestic animals. ( Eritran Relief Association 1979: 3) During the 1980's the civilian population were  also subjected to aerial and artillery bombardment  in the less accessible liberated and semi liberated areas of Eritrea.  For  example , in the second half of 1985 alone at least 1000 civilians suffered war injuries, several hundred were disabled and at least 200 died. A statement by Major Bezabih Petros, a prisoner of war pilot captured by the Ethiopians in April 1984 highlights the barbarity of the Ethiopian regime,
          "We definitely know civilians will get hurt but, knowing that the people sympathize with the  rebels, the order is to bomb everything that moves..

• Fifteen Eritrean prisoners were executed on 10 January 1986 after they had been held for several years.(Dines, 1988:151)
• The massacre of 39 Nara youth at Mogoraib on 19 October 1985.
In May 1988 400 people, mostly women and children, were crushed to death by tanks in the village of She'eb.
• Atrocities were also reported between April and May in several parts of the provinces of Hamasien, Senhit, Akele Guzai and Serai.

In esacaping from these atrocities  the number of internally  displaced Eritreans  rose to 100, 000 in 1988 - 1989, with approximately 40, 000 fleeing to Sudan from the coastal regions.

If the ELF leaders had a good willingness to encourage and harmonies the Eritrea Liberation Army to work in cooperative rather dividing, the Ethiopia army would have not had to committee all the atrocity. Alsayed (2009) also states that 30 years later we can clearly see the strategic error committed by the founders of ELF in the cost not only to our lives and properties, but also to our social fabric and cultural values, including the refugee exodus (mainly from the Muslim/Lowland areas)

By the end of the war in 1991, there were 500,000-600, 000 Eritrean refugees in Sudan, between 80,000-100,000 in oil-producing Arab states, 30,000 the United States and Canada and 18,000 in Germany alone (Pool 1993: 394)

Crimes comitted by the ELF and EPLF leaders during the liberation struggle
During the liberation struggle the Eritrean people not only became the victims of the Ethiopian government but were also killed by the ELF and EPLF. The ELF leaders were also not innocent from committed a crime. For example, the Kunama were the first people who became the victims of the ELF leaders in the early sixties (1960s). “Many Kunama have vivid memories of Hamid Idris Awate who had committed so many atrocities against them Read more. In the late 1960s and 1970s people from other regions were also became the victims of the ELF and EPLF leaders, this was exacerbate after the formation of the EPLF in the early 1970s and the end of the 1972-194 civil war.
According to Human Rights Watch (48p) the ELF levied taxes and enacted reprisals against villages and individuals who refused to cooperate. In one of several similar incidents in 1971, 52 Christian villagers were burned to death in their huts in a village named Debre Sina for non-payment of ELF demands. On MARC 7, 1971 the ELF plundered the village of Halib Mentel, stealing many cattle, after the villagers had killed two ELF fighters while resisting an ELF attempt to occupy the village two days before. Individuals who failed to protect ELF property entrusted to them were also summarily executed. With the ELF expansion into the highlands, the Christian villages were pinched between ELFs coercive practices of forcing support from the peasants, and the Ethiopian army which punished suspected of cooperating with the ELF (Peter (1987, 60).   In the 1970s  many civilians from rural areas also  became the victims of the EPLF security department which was led first by Solomon W/Mariam then by Ali Said ; and by the ELF security department which was led by Melake Tekle. Find more information
Crimes comitted by the Eritrean government from 1991 to 2010

Under the EPLF and ELF there were disappearances, conspiracies of killing and executing of innocent fighters and civilians throughout the liberation struggle. The killing and disappearing of innocent citizens have not stopped after the liberation by the EPLF/PFDJ. In the 1990s there have also been many reports of arrest and disappearance of the ELF members and of other citizens. Since 1991  there are more than 30, 000 prisoners and  many prisons than were before the independence. The result is a high influx of refugees to Sudan. The number of Eritrean refugees registered in July 2004 alone exceeded 50,000. This number is on top of that, there are 148,000 Eritrean refugees living in protracted camps of Sita wo’ishrin, Wedisherifey and Shegerab, since pre-independence period. No one seems sure exactly how many of its people have left to start new lives elsewhere. Somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 of them came to Britain, fleeing first the long war of independence from Ethiopia, then the 1998-2000 border war. Evidence of the PFDJ fascistic crimes committed against the Eritrean people between 1991 and 2010 is also documented at