Good Bye Mohammed Saeed Nawed: The Father of Eritrean Nationhood

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Written by Arkokabay Team Sunday, 19 September 2010 12:57

Good Bye Mohammed Saeed Nawed: The Father of Eritrean Nationhood

By: Arkokabay Team

In the morning of Thursday 16 September 2010 Eritrea and its people lost one of their greatest sons and founding fathers: Ustaz Mohammed Saeed Nawed, who passed away in Asmara upon his return from Kuwait, where he was on a visit to participate in a seminar organised by a publishing institute there.

Mohammed Saeed Nawed was the founding leader of Eritrean Liberation Movement (ELM), which he launched along with his comrades of the time in November 1958. The ELM was the first ever movement that brought together the politically, socially, culturally and regionally divided Eritreans under one movement and cause: the total liberation of Eritrea from Ethiopian occupation and the establishment of an inclusive national democratic system of governance.

The ELM was a unique movement of its time. It had overcome the religious division between Eritreans; the polarisation that was instilled by the Ethiopian monarch of the time: Haile-Sellassie I and some Church leaders in Eritrea, such us the infamous “Qeshi Dimitros”, who intimidated and lured Eritrean Christians towards preferring union with “Christian Ethiopia” to “Independent Eritrea composed of Christians and Muslims”. The ELM challenged and defeated this fear and mistrust and managed to unite Eritrean Muslims and Christians to fight for their self-determination and independence, which was finally achieved in 1991.

Soon after the liberation of Eritrean from Ethiopian occupation, Nawud returned to his country that he loved and worked hard for throughout his entire life. Initially he was assigned as governor of the Sahel province, from which Nwud originates and is known for its being the main strategic base of the Eritrean liberation struggle. He soon left his government position to do what he loved beside the struggle for his country and his people’s unity, and that was: writing.

Nawed is a renowned writer. During the struggle years: 1958 to 1991, he was in charge of Eritrea’s foreign media bureau that was based in Beirut-Lebanon. There he edited and wrote volumes of articles advocating for his country’s legitimate right to full self-determination, countering and challenging Ethiopia’s media cover up of the Eritrean issue and the genocides its occupying army was committing against innocent Eritrean civilians and liberation movement members.

Nawed wrote over ten books and volumes of articles on Eritrean political and cultural history as well as a well known fiction titled “migration during winter and summer” or “Saleh”, depicting the lives of pastoralist Eritreans’ seasonal migration between Eritrea and Sudan in search for pasture.

Nawed is believed to have been influenced by the fiercely independent Sudanese Communist Party (SCP), of which he was a member in his early years as a Post Office Worker in Port-Sudan in the early 1950s. Nawed deployed his organisational experience acquired from his involvement in the SCP to organise and launch the successful Eritrean Liberation Movement from inside occupied Eritrea and its capital Asmara in November 1958.

The ELM pursued a non-violent political struggle. According to his close friends, Nawed was influenced by Mahatma Ghandi’s Indian National Congress Party in his chosen mode of struggle. ELM members included Eritrean police officers, civil servants, intellectuals and merchants among many other professional categories. ELM’s priority was to first raise the Eritrean people’s national political awareness that can then be used to launch a popular revolution to oust Ethiopian occupation.

Unfortunately, ELM’s sophisticated strategic vision and organisation was quelled short by other Eritrean leaders who declared armed struggle on 1st September 1961 under the leadership of Eritrean Liberation Front.


Nawed’s writings were mainly in Arabic and there is a website dedicated to his literature produce, which can be accessed through this linke:

Although Nawed lived and passed away in Asmara - Eritrea, the government controlled Eritrean media has so far utterly and shamefully failed to report or give any coverage to the incident of national grieve and sorrow. In a normal situation a man of Nawed’s calibre and contribution, integrity and dedication,  any national authority worth the name would have reported on the long list of Eritrea’s founding father achievements. Unfortunately, today’s Erirtea under the PFDJ ruling party has become such a place where reason and rationale are suppressed in favour of glamorising ruthless un-elected rulers. 

May Nawed’s soul rest in peace.

Arkokabay Team
Naud: The Living Legend Passes Away
By Saleh Gadi Johar   
September 17, 2010

On September 16, 2010, the legendary leader Mohammed Said Naud passed away in Asmara Eritrea where he has been living since he returned to Eritrea in 1991 just after the Ethiopian forces were pushed out of Eritrea. He was seventy four years old. The Eritrean ruling party's website annopunced his death a in two-sentence report: "Veteran Fighter Mohammed Seid Nawd was martyred today, September 16th 2010. The funeral service for the late veteran fighter would be held tomorrow at the Patriots Cemetery here in the capital at 10 am."Naud: The Living Legend was first published by Saleh "Gadi" Johar on nevember 19, 2000 at's The Fertile Womb section.  It is being reprinted now on the ocassion of his death.

He is one of the fiery youngsters of the pre-armed-struggle era, a major personality of the late fifties and sixties. He is the visionary who saw beyond the Federation. An astute politicians who planned ahead of time in preparation for the day when Haile Selassie, as he foresaw, would abort the federation. He is the founder of the Eritrean Liberation Movement (ELM), known by its Arabic name Haraka and its popularized name Mahber Shewaate. Our legend from the Fertile Womb today is Mohammed Said Naud, the living legend.

Mohammed Said Naud was born in 1936 in Sahel, Eritrea. After attending the Khelwa and studying the Quraan, he attended middle school and high school in Port Sudan. After finishing high school, he was employed by the Eastern Telegraph Company in Port Sudan. At age 22 he resigned from his work and dedicated himself to the Eritrean cause. On November 2, 1958, two weeks before General Aboud’s coup d' etat in the Sudan, he founded a secret revolutionary movement, the Eritrean Liberation Movement (ELM), in Port Sudan.

The founding members of the ELM were: Mohammed Said Naud;  2) Idris Mohammed Hassen;  3) Hassen AlHaj Idris;  4) Osman Mohammed Osman;  5) Yassin Mohammed Aqedah;  6) Mohammed AlHassen Mahmoud;  7) Saleh Ahmed Iyay;  8) Habib Qaas.

In their first meeting, the members of the group agreed to expand membership by forming secret cells composed of seven persons. The secret nature of the movement was dictated by the prevailing anti-freedom nature of Ibrahim Aboud's rule in the Sudan, which came in a coup d' etat only two weeks after the founding of the ELM, when Haile Sellassie's regime was almost finished with dismantling the federation arrangement. When later the Eritrean Criminal Investigation Department (CID) uncovered a cell that belonged to the movement, all the apprehended were not able to mention more than seven persons' names--members who belonged to their cell only. It was because of this that the CID coined the name ‘Mahber Shewaate” or the cell of seven to the group; the name follows the ELM to this day.

Due to the prudent and secretive nature of the movement, even Naud, the founder of the ELM, had to use aliases. He was known as Romadan Issa until it was uncovered and he had to change his name to Mustapha. The tradition of using code names became popular and many veterans of the armed struggle are still more known by their nom de guerre than by their real names.

Naud is a product of the post World War II era of rebellions and revolutions that engulfed the whole of Africa, the Arab region and the rest of the world beyond. He was influenced by the peoples of different parts of the world that rebelled to regain their sovereignty after having lived under the yoke of colonialism for too long. Leaders like Ghandi of India, Mohammed Ali Jinnah of Pakistan, Mao Tse Tung of China, Sukarno of Indonesia and General Giap of Vietnam influenced the young man. He was then determined to achieve for his people what the great men of the age achieved for theirs. In Africa, he looked in awe to the Mau-Mau rebellion of Jamo Kenyatta, the anti-French struggle of Ahmed Seko Touri of Guinea, and the Moslem Brotherhood’s struggle against the British colonizers. He was further inspired by the revolution of Gemal AbdelNasser of Egypt and the calculated move of the young officers he led and that eventually deposed King Farouq and ended the monarchy in Egypt. Naud was captivated by the revolutionary ideals of the world’s people. He aspired to follow suit and free Eritrea from the chain of federation with Ethiopia that he foresaw as a means used by Haile Sellassie to swallow Eritrea. Naud saw in himself a leader who would challenge Haile Selassie and end the unwanted monarchial occupation of Eritrea.

An avid reader and an excellent writer, Naud is a respected leader. He aimed to mobilize the Eritrean society and lead a take-over of the government from within Eritrea. To this effect, the ELM was strongly committed to expanding its membership base. It penetrated the police and security apparatus in Eritrea and recruited followers and members from the Eritrean Police force in almost all police stations. The ELM recognized the Eritrean Police Force as an important element that would be at the forefront of the popular uprising during the final show-down with the occupation forces. The ELM gained a lot of support from the students and almost all professional unions and clubs. The Eritrean middle class was a dedicated supporter of the ELM--teachers, writers, artisans, traders and merchants were all represented in the ELM whose program was so clear that a takeover from within in a swift popular uprising seemed achievable.

Naud, admired for his sharp thinking and daring character, was full of energy and dedication. From his residence in Port Sudan, he had many times traveled to Eritrea incognito to meet members and appraise the situation in the country. In 1961, roughly two years after the founding of the ELM, he participated in an important secret meeting which was held in Asmara. The Asmara branch under the leadership of Yassin Aqedda organized the meeting which was held in one of Hassen Khiar Beyan's houses. Representatives of ELM branches from all parts of Eritrea and Jeddah attended the meeting. That meeting is considered a milestone in the life of the ELM and was considered the first and the last meeting for any political organization inside Eritrea.  A few months later, Awate started the armed struggle.

Awate’s launch of the armed struggle was a surprise to Naud and the ELM because his plan to bring about a popular uprising that would end the Ethiopian occupation of Eritrea was disrupted. Awate’s path was totally different from what the ELM had envisaged. Awate believed that nothing but an armed confrontation would bring about an end to the occupation. Naud’s efforts to communicate and coordinate with Awate were not successful because the messengers he sent to the Eritrean field to find Awate failed to locate him. Furthermore, Awate’s launch of the armed struggle was gaining sweeping support from the population. Not long after he launched the armed struggle, Awate died of malaria. His death was kept secret for fear of its negative effect on the morale of Eritrean patriots.

Soon, the ELM started to execute small-scale military operations inside Eritrea and several attempts on the life of important personalities who collaborated with the regime of Haile Selassie were carried out. Such attempts were made on the life of Asfeha Weldemichael, president of the Executive Authority of Eritrea and Qeshi Dimitros, the staunch supporter of Haile Selassie and the enemy of Eritrea’s independence. The real attempt however, to organize a military presence was made just after the federal arrangement was dissolved and the Eritrean Flag was lowered on November 14, 1962. On December 19, 1962, members of the ELM who were officers in the Police Department made an attempt to form a military wing and escaped from their station after taking over considerable number of guns and ammunition. When the Ethiopian Army discovered  the incident, a force composed of 8oo soldiers supported by military helicopters went on a hot pursuit after the escaped patriots of the police force. The two forces clashed in a place in Dankalia where the leader of the group was martyred. Due to the unfavorable balance of power against them, the ELM members buried their weapons and crossed the sea to Saudi Arabia to reorganize themselves.

On the foreign front, the ELM started to look beyond the borders of Eritrea and Sudan to establish relations with foreign countries. To this end, Naud started a tour of North Africa that took him to Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Algeria. He was successful in establishing relations and he opened an office in Cairo. Earlier, the ELM was able to buy a typewriter, the first major jump in the movement’s propaganda activity; Naud, the founder and leader of the movement, was also the only typist.

By 1965, after several attacks on police stations and personalities affiliated to Haile Sellassie’s rule, and the unfortunate failure of the Massawa police group, the ELM had finally organized a military wing composed of over forty members. The combatants entered Eritrea and continued mobilizing the Eritrean population for an armed struggle. The ELF, which saw this as a duplication of efforts, and obsessed with unity to the extent of going violent, attacked the ELM’s force and liquidated it in August, 1965, in Ela Tsaada, Sahel, and that was the end of the ELM as a formidable organization.

But the ardent patriot Mohammed Said Naud did not give up struggling for the liberation of Eritrea. After the SudHa Ela congress, where the PLF was founded, the ELM became an integral part of the new organization.

Alongside Sabbe, Naud served in the ELF-PLF organization as a major leader for  many years. A short time after Eritrea was liberated in 1991, Naud decided to stop life in foreign lands and traveled to Asmara. At one stage, he was the governor for the Sahel region. In 1996, Naud wrote a book of five hundred pages in Arabic entitled, “Haraket A’Tahreer Al Eritrea- Al Haqiqa We’tarikh” (Eritrean Liberation Movement – the Truth & The History”.) In the book, Naud takes the reader through a long journey of one part of our history that started in 1958 and ended in 1991. In the introduction to the book Naud writes:

“…Now after 38 years from the birth of the Eritrean Liberation Movement, we ask ourselves: What was achieved from the objectives that we raised? I take the initiative and say in reply, our struggle has not finished yet, it continues. From our three objectives, the liberation of Eritrea only is realized. As for the other two objectives, namely the national unity and the formation of a democratic state, the struggle is continuing to realize them. And the path to these objectives is democratization – furnishing justice and equality among our people. And the struggle to achieve that would help us achieve a strong national unity, peace, stability and prosperity. But if we tread a different path, we will face unbearable difficulties. And so that this doesn’t happen, we are required to play a single tune which is: Eritrea is home to all Eritreans… they enjoy equal rights and obligations….and they equally participate in the construction and development of their country… and they safeguard peace and stability in their country with equal level of precaution and consciousness….”

The book is a rich source of information and a recommended reading for all those who are interested in the Eritrean History. Today aged 64, Naud lives in Asmara, and hopefully, he is writing more history. We wish Am Naud a healthy and a long, prosperous life.

Note: It is difficult to write about Naud’s history without mentioning the ELM and vice versa. The far-sighted Naud has molded the ELM to his careful, revolutionary and nationalist personality. The ELM is arguably the most organized political movement in our history. It played an important role in harnessing the Eritrean resolve to self-determination. Though not successful in achieving its initial objective of change through popular uprising, the ELM laid the foundation for the armed struggle. It laid the plans that enabled all Eritreans to participate in the struggle under one umbrella. The Living Legend lives on.

The series ‘The Fertile Womb” is an attempt by to re-introduce our heroes. Able historians are encouraged to research and publish Eritrean history. This series, which presented brief introductions about Awate, Sabbe, Welwel - Ibrahim Sultan, Kebire and Ras Tessema, presents in this part  Mohammed Said Naud. Tales regarding the great men from ‘The Fertile Womb’ can not be told in a page or two…. But possibly, in volumes. We urge readers to present us with materials related to our heroes.