Out of Alula's Book: TPLF's Reckless Plunder of Southwest Eritrea
Ghidewon Abay Asmerom

June 22, 2000

As the world witness and reads of the willful and wanton destruction of the Eritrean towns of Tessenei, Alighidr, Guluj and Barentu, and the participation of civilian Tigreans in the looting of Eritrean property it needs to be told what Alula did to the very same area 114 years ago.

In 1886 Ras Alula (the army general of King Yohannes IV of Tigray) had ruthlessly and in cold blood massacred about two-thirds (67%) of the Baria and Kunama population of Eritrea. He killed most of the people, looted every item his soldiers could get and took all the cattle of the region. For an account on this one should read Alberto Pollera's "I Baria e I Cunama" (1913) pp. 50-52. Haggai Erlich's, "Ras Alula" pp.101-102 also has a description of what Alula did and why he did it. Here are excerpts from Erlich:

"On 22 November 1886 the ras [Alula] ordered his army to march some eight miles southwards to the spring of Magalo. There he camped again, frustrated with his inability even to contemplate an attack on Kassala, and therefore ordered the greatest plunder in the history of the Baria tribes. During the last week of November, two-thirds of the people and cattle of the Baria and Kunama north of the Gash were destroyed." p. 101

Here is a picture of the destruction as put by an Abyssinian biographer of Alula and quoted by Erlich:

"He [Alula] returned, and reached a place which they called Magalo. He stayed there a short time, not very long, and he destroyed the rebels and apostates of that place, and took much spoil and captured many men and women, young men and virgins; he did not leave any cattle, goats or sheep." Erlich pp. 101

According to the Italian anthropologist, Alberto Pollera, and as quoted by Haggai Alula's main desire was:

"to devastate the Baria country to create a deserted buffer zone between the Mahdists and Ethiopia and simultaneously to feed and supply his troops." Ibid. p. 101.

Trying to explain as to what could have motivated Alula to raid the Baria and Kunama, Haggai Erlich says the following:

"Though so badly in need of the prestige of a victory, Alula knew that to besiege a strongly defended town [Kassala], which was surrounded by Muslim tribesmen, could only lead to his destruction. Frustrated and 'in order not to return empty handed,' he destroyed the long-suffering and unlucky Baria." Ibid. p. 102
"So badly in need of the prestige of a victory" and "Frustrated and in order not to return empty handed" doesn't it look familiar? Yes, history has repeated itself. There is a striking similarity between what Alula did over a century ago to southwestern Eritrea and why he did it and what the TPLF leaders are doing in 2000 and why they are doing it in the very same area. It looks as if the TPLF leaders are going by Alula's book. After all Erlich testifies
"my [Erlich's] book was studied throughout the 1980s in the caves of Tigre, and that the fighters of the TPLF were inspired by his [Alula's] heroism. ... For them he was the national hero. .. as well as the pride of Tigrean history." Ibid. p. xiii.

As the TPLF's agenda to destroy the Eritrean army, capture Asmara and Assab failed to materialize they, out of frustration, and as to not return empty handed decided to loot southwestern Eritrea. They couldn't show a destroyed EPLF army, they couldn't exhibt a humiliated Eritrean army, to make themselves feel better they have to do the evil destruction they did and the world is a witness to that. Though it is not rare for a victorious army to do what the TPLF army did in Tessenei and Barentu, the trail of destruction the Ethiopian army left behind in Eritrea is more of frustration for a failed mission and the lose in human lives it incured than anything else. As they had boasted so much of a victory they cannot show for, they had to invite their population to loot properties. So much so for restoring Tigrean pride. What kind of pride is it that comes by looting and stealing? Only a twisted mind will desire to get pride through theft and vandalism. Lord have mercy

source . http://www.dehai.org/conflict/articles/ghidewon_out_of_alulas_book.html