Sudanese Destinies of Haile Sellasie Print E-mail
By Burhan - May 25, 2007   

INTRODUCTION by the translator: source

While writing his notes regarding the history of the rocky relations between the successive Sudanese regimes and the Eritrean national movement, this writer mentioned, rather tangentially, a Sudanese journalist by the name of Teyfur. It was in that essay that the name Teyfur was mentioned again thirty years or more after his drama, which was qualified as betrayal in the context, was folded.

However, when this writer introduced Teyfur in his essay, he didn’t assign much space to the man and his legacy because the subject was entered only to cite an instance in a larger topic.

It is not difficult to see, given its impact, that Teyfur and his book “The truth about the ELF” and the role it played in the development of fragmentation and its entrenchment as a culture in that organization has so far been overlooked or unknown by many who wrote about the ELF and its history. It is also unjustified and makes a disservice to the Eritrean history to forget and ignore turning points in its history and the role of individuals in its development--regardless of how inconvenient those points may have turned out to be.

It is hardly an exaggeration to stress and dwell upon the study of the impact of Teyfur and his book on the downfall of the historical leadership of the ELF,  the “High Council" for instance.

It seems almost impossible for one who read "Nehnan Elaman" (said to be authored by I. Afeworki) and Teyfour’s “The reality about the ELF” and not to strongly suspect that one is a crude plagiarization of the other.  And since one is the predecessor of the other, it is not difficult to see who did what.

The author of the translated essay hereunder claims that the book was not written by Teyfur himself; it was rather labeled to his name only. He stresses that it was readily written, through the insinuation of the Ethiopian military attaché, by a Sudanese professional. 

Aware of it or otherwise, a few weeks after the publication by of this writer’s “Sudan-Eritrea” relations history, a number of Sudanese newspapers and Websites published an article written by a well-known journalist of Teyfur’s time.  Judging by the tone and linguistic musicals in the article’s background,  all made possible by the author’s skill and mastery of his tools of writing, it seems that the exoneration of Teyfur was the main theme. One has,however, to admit that the author would have been successful in his endeavor had Art or Poetry been taken as the measure and the instrument for recognizing truth. However, it should be noted that this writer is not, by any means, asserting that the author is not convinced of his truth as he wrote it.

To his insinuations concerning the book and that it was not actually written by Taifur, one can only reply that truth is also a construction of facts, and as far as facts may go, there is no proof there too that Tayfur was friendly to the Eritrean People: in his silence when a book bearing his name, and intending havoc creation in the ranks of the Eritrean nationalist movement, came out in publication and distribution.

There is more than a merit in reading what Mr. Jaafar Al Suri, translated here below from its original Arabic, wrote. Besides its many historical suggestions, it makes one wonder and suspect that there is an element of truth in the adage that “The more things change the more they stay the same.”  You will see when reading it that the modus operandi of the Ethiopian regime then and that of the Eritrean regime now is one and the same. The dependence of the State on ruthless men and on spies, on conspiracies, on alcohol and on the use of prostitutes and prostitution for buying political influence in other countries (specially Sudan and the Gulf States)--all these are common traits of Diplomatic Work as perceived in the minds of the Ethiopian regime then and the Eritrean one now.

Much of what the author said about (and bragged a little about) should not be taken literally; they are more of a form of self-aggrandizement, amplified and raising to a national level. You may state that you have understood them if you take them only as you would take all the national chants and anthems of the world in their relation to truth.   

Burhan Ali

Sudanese Destinies of Haile Sellasie
The Story of A. Tayfur
A Sudanese Perspective
Written in Arabic by Jaafer Al-Suri

(Translated by Burhan Ali)

His star swiftly rose and twinkled for a while before fading away as swiftly as it rose.  And as his pen quickly and brightly glowed, it quickly was extinguished like a meteor rising at the break of dawn, unnoticed --except by nighthawks and the late worshipers. The Sudanese journalist Ahmed Teyfur was a victim of the frivolities of spies, the betrayal of comrades of the trade, and the disgrace and weakness of the rulers.

Ahmed Teyfur’s life was terminated in 1966, long before his death of thirst and hunger three decades later. He escaped straying and roving the deserts of North Sudan, trying, in a moment of desperation, to leave the country heading for Egypt, where he may have hoped to melt away in the human waves of Cairo, forget himself and be forgotten in a village or a town of that country. He may also have wanted to take refuge in a remote saint’s sanctuary where his sins are forgiven, or an in oasis, which, one day, in the olden times, was a prison for some rebels and their sanctuary at another.  But Teyfur had to die in a cheap hotel in a poor quarter of Cairo, where some comrades showed their magnanimity and kindness in-spite of what they endured from him, and transported his tired and alcohol-consumed body to rest between his folks, in a soil he was coerced to betray, and where his soul may find peace and absolution.

Ahmed Teyfur’s story is a Sudanese copy of a painful Greek tragedy, of which the successive events of its chapters took place in the Sudan of the sixties. Yet, its horrific finale was not observed except by the few, when his corpse was found in that strange room, where the stage curtain was lowered, for the last time, on a success story assassinated at genesis.

Ahmed Teyfur’s sun rose in the newspaper ("21 October"), which was being issued by Saleh Mahmoud Ismail, one of the gurus of the Nationalist Unionist Party, and the Minister of Information in the October era1. Teyfur was the first journalist to enter Eritrea with its rebels and cross, under the veil of night, the hills separating the border between Eastern Sudan and western Eritrea in the Hafera area neighboring the town of Kessela. He came back to write elegant reportages supported by photographs snapped by an experienced and scrutinizing eye.

In fact that journey-adventure was the hoe which brought down the wall of silence surrounding the Eritrean cause, and it was the hand which opened the doors for the Eritrean rebels after Ethiopia’s hard work in painting them as bandits and shifta gangs who prey on the peaceful, the travelers and commercial convoys.

But before resuming the story, it would help to go back a little, and have a look at the relations of Sudan with its two neighbors in to the East, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

There is no need to go as far back as to the Mahdiya and the slaying of Emperor Yohannes IV2 but a good start may be the arrival of Emperor Haile Sellasie to Sudan, escaping the troops of Mussolini, which had overrun Ethiopia taking its colony, Eritrea, as a springboard, on the eve of World War II.

The Emperor was welcomed and accommodated by Al-Sherif Yousif Al-Hindi3 in Burri and showed him his utmost generosity. From there, the Emperor went to address and try actuating the League of Nations, but the organization was a dead body and couldn’t raise a finger in the face of the imminent danger threatening Humanity -- a danger the clouds of which were accumulating and hanging, but where its first calamity fell down upon the Horn of Africa before overrunning Europe.  The fascist invasion of Ethiopia was the deathblow which finished the crippled organization for good. When the War broke out, the Sudanese troops had the most honorable and greatest role in defeating Italy’s fascist army in East Africa. The battles of the valleys and highlands of Anseba and Keren--which were immortalized in popular songs--and the martyrs and the wounded of the Sudanese battalions are only testimonies to this fact. And when these battalions and the accompanying British forces entered the Eritrean capital, Asmara, they were accompanied by Sudanese teachers, engineers, nurses, musicians, singers, and craftsmen ready to open schools and construct canals, roads and to heal wounds and restore life-beats4. These were followed by businessmen, adventurers and confessing spies of which the British and the Emperor perceived and rewarded by virtue of their work behind the lines of Mussolini’s forces. The most famous of these was a man whom the British administration rewarded, after the war, by appointing him a teacher of the English language in Sudanese schools. The truth, however, is that he deserved the reward not because of his services to the British only but because he sat for a skills test and excelled at it5.

After the war, Haile Sellasie returned home to his throne.  But this time he had set an aim of subjugating Eritrea (from where the Fascist invasion had broken out) and expanding his dominions to the warm Red Sea waters, thus, neighboring, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt, Jordan, and the Holy Lands in Palestine.  Here the followers of the Orthodox Church have places of worship and monasteries which have long been objects of dispute between two Coptic churches: the Church of St. Marcus of Egypt embracing the Alexandria church and the east, and the Abyssinian church.

Assuming goodwill, one may say that the British Military Administration, which had a United Nations mandate to run the colony of Eritrea, was not able to help the people of that country and empower them to acquire their rights. But this is on assumptions of goodwill; and while the majority of observers believe that the administration lacked the will to do any help. Earnest Bevin, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, and Italy’s Carlo Sforza failed to reach a conclusion on the destiny of the ex- Italian colonies in Africa, Libya, Italian Somaliland, and Eritrea. As a result they decided to bring the matter in its entirety into the hands of the victorious four great powers. These were successful in reaching happy conclusions concerning the destinies of Somalia and Libya.  But they had each an axe to grind in binding Eritrea irreversibly with Ethiopia--preferably as an action of actuating the international will. The Emperor of Ethiopia worked hard to take advantage of this opportunity of expanding his Empire.  He started to --generously:  by offering promises and gifts internally as well as externally and in different parts and ethnic groups of Eritrea. The Unionist Party was founded but the Independence Block was also founded in response.

The result of these efforts bore fruit when the United Nation’s General Assembly decided, in December 1950, to bind Eritrea with the Empire of Ethiopia, in the aftermath of the failure of the fact-finding committee sent by the organization itself: South Africa and Norway advised the division of the country between Sudan and Ethiopia; Pakistan and Burma were for full independence, and Guatemala alone voted for the annexation of this Italian ex-colony to Ethiopia. But the United Nations’ Security Council had yet another solution in store. It issued a resolution, in compliance to which Eritrea was to be bound with the Ethiopian Empire in a federal union, a state of affairs the Soviet Union’s representative at the time equated to a coerced catholic marriage. Most Eritreans accepted the UN resolution reluctantly. The resolution, however, entered its application stage by the end of 1952 at the hands of the UN’s envoy, the Bolivian diplomat Anze Matenzo. That opened the way for the first elected Eritrean Government headed by the boss of the Unionist Party, Tedla Bayru. The United States was also rewarded for its relentless efforts in formulating and promoting the resolution. The Emperor granted it the permission to build the largest American military communications base outside the United States and thus Kagnew Station was set up on the heights of Asmara6.

The cesarean section which led to the birth of the federal union brought to the world a disfigured creature; for the UN had tailored a democratic constitution for Eritrea and tied it at the same time with a Theocratic Empire. This, in my opinion, is a thing which never came even within the context of a fictitious legend, and it might never have crossed  any man’s mind or heart. Its novelty and uniqueness surpassed even the excessive wonders and travels of Gulliver to all countries! How is it possible for a political unit--one that has active political parties and labor unions; is tolerant to free press and publication; elects the parliament; imposes accountability on governments and ministers; has a written constitution and an independent judiciary system-- how could it be possible for such a unit to enter into unity with another political unit which knows nothing of all; one that is above that and instead worships beside its other religious rituals, the King of Kings, the Lion of Judah and the descendant of Solomon and Queen Sheba!

This was the beginning of the on-going tragedy which Eritreans have been suffering, and which later spilled to the rest of the region of Northeast Africa. The Emperor transformed the union into a coerced annex, the effect of which was that the whole Empire suffered in wars erupting and kept aflame in all of Ethiopia following the mid-sixties of the last century.

The federal union was a bad omen on the Emperor and his Empire: after a few years of its application, the country was shaking, most visibly in Eritrea. In 1958 the Eritrean Liberation Movement was founded expressing the people’s distress at Ethiopian hegemony, and disapproval of the continuous breach of the UN resolutions’ articles.

To keep step with some of the junior partner’s active political life aspects, the Emperor appointed a consular assembly in Addis Ababa. Groups of the educated started to trail back from the US and Europe finding positions for them in ministries, government offices and the army. Then, suddenly, the great catastrophe took place in December of 1960, when the brothers Neway--Mengistu and Grmamie--launched a bloody coup at a time when the Emperor was on a state visit to Brazil, after having wandered in Caribbean Islands where the “Rastafarian” sect exalt him to deification.

In those days, Sudan had another appointment with the destinies of Haile Sellasie; for the Emperor insisted to return to his country in spite of the advice of his American and European allies. The Germans, especially, welcomed him to stay in their country and advised him to avoid going to Addis Ababa and to wait until noon the next day when the vision may get clearer. The Emperor chose Sudan for his return route.

Sudan was ruled then by General Abboud and his “jolly friends”. There was yet another appointment, this time of Eritrea,  with bad luck and mismanagement. For Mengistu Neway communicated with General Tedla Uqbit--the Eritrean Chief of Police, the police being the only active military force of Eritrea then--requiring him to secure the borders as the military committee which he lead had decided to recognize Eritrea’s independence. But the Eritrean General rejected the offer and preferred to welcome the Emperor in Asmara, on his way from Sudan, and thereby facilitating his return to the throne. A week after the Emperor’s arrival to Asmara the battles between the rebels and his supporters reached their climax with the defeat of the rebels.  And so fell the attempt to change, one which had enjoyed sympathies among some enlightened members of the ruling family. Interestingly, there is a famous photo snapped upon the arrival of the Emperor in Asmara Airport: it depicts the elected chief executive of the Eritrean government – Asfaha Woldemikael who had succeeded Tedla Biru--running to throw himself at the emperor’s feet and kissing his shoes.  Willingly or otherwise, Asfaha Woldemikael remained loyal  to Ethiopia even after the independence of Eritrea in the Nineties of the last century.

Tedla Uqbit, however, received Sinimmar’s reward7; for in a little more than a year after the above-mentioned incidents took place, the general assembled his officers in their club. There, he gave his eloquent speech and, after complaining about how things had developed and turned out, demanded preparation for change. Noon of next day, they killed him and placed a golden pistol in his hand. The Emperor once, had given that pistol to him as a gift: it was the day he arrived to Asmara on his way to oppress the Neway Brothers’ coup -- in expression of gratitude and as a reward for his rejection of the Independence offer. Then they circulated the rumor that he committed suicide. He was succeeded at the police leadership by General Zer’e’ Mariam Azzazi.

Meanwhile a personal tragedy had hit the Emperor: his most beloved son, Ras Mokonnen, was killed--leaving him alone with his elder son, the crown prince, Ras Asfa wossen. Between the emperor and his crown prince stood barriers and obstacles. Officially, it was announced that the prince met his death at a road accident.  But it was widely rumored that he was, in fact, killed by the legendary marathon hero, Abbebe Beqila, in a fit of anger following his discovery of his wife and the prince in his own bed.

Again, the Emperor found an exit from this and a consolation in Sudan. The Emperor came in a state visit to Sudan, upon the invite of General Abboud. His program included a visit to the town of Al-Ubaid. General Abboud accompanied his guest on the visit to that town, and a colorful festival was set for his honor. Camel-racing was featured in that festival. There, among the detail assigned to his security was a police officer who drew the attention of the Emperor: Lieutenant Karim-u-ddin Mohammed Ahmed of Um-Durman, who held an uncanny resemblance to Ras Mokennen--as if he was his twin.

The Emperor requested that he approach to the festival’s platform. Protocol officials hurried to invite the officer to present himself to the Emperor. They thought that this could be no more than greetings and a handshake, or a commendation for distinguished performance. But as soon as the officer presented himself to the Emperor, he was required by the Emperor to sit next to him and a space was arranged for him. As soon as he took his place beside the Lion of Judah, and amidst the wonder and the gaping mouths, the royal hand extended to rub the officer’s hair with a clear fatherly affection.

The lieutenant was taken by surprise, facing a situation he wasn't not prepared for, knowing nothing about its nature--for no one had forewarned him to prepare him to consider its awe. The officer was confused and didn’t know what to do-(as he related to me later, when we met in Abu Dhabi, where he had enrolled in its police force) - he didn’t know what was behind it all. The Emperor requested from him to go to Khartoum in his company, and then to Addis Ababa from there. Officer Karim became a frequent visitor of the Ethiopian capital and was admitted to the Emperor’s audience at all times, enjoying a treatment only proper to Ras Mekonnen.

The succession of incidents at the beginning of the sixties and the break-out of the Eritrean Armed Struggle forced the Emperor to search for an exit, one which preserved his dignity and prestige: as he perceived it, he was  the unique leader of Africa in spite of the attempts of Nasser and Nkrumah.  He worked hard, searching for ways to regain tenacity and cohesiveness to the old Empire and prevent its disintegration and division. He brought Aklilu Habte Wold to form a government of technocrats; the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was assigned to an active, young, ambitious intellectual by the name of Ketema Yfru.

The Emperor then set the political and diplomatic relations of Ethiopia at the top of his priorities--especially that with Sudan, to whom he sent the Eritrean Melles Andom, as ambassado: a personality with qualifications helping him to blend easily with the Sudanese fiber. He was succeeded by yet another Eritrean, Saleh Hinit, who enjoyed the same qualifications as his predecessor in addition to a few more: he was a Muslim and erudite in Arabic. The first Eritrean chief executive of the government of Eritrea, Tedla Bairu, was sent to Sweden which was building the Ethiopian Marine Forces base, “Commando Marina,” in the Eritrean waters at Garar north east of Massawa, as well as equipping it with fleet pieces and gadgetry. The handsome prince, Iskndr Desta, Princess Tenagn Werk’s husband, was assigned to the commandership of the fleet.

In reciprocation, Sudan was sending the best of messages to Ethiopia before and after the Organization of African Unity (OAU took it as its seat. The best and most experienced of ambassadors were sent, of whom Abdullah Al Hassan and Fakhr-e-ddin Mohammed were two of the most remarkable. The latter was a great Plastic Artist and he, uniquely among the diplomats, used to roam the Ethiopian capital’s streets in a motorcycle. Today, Ambassador Muhyiddin Ahmed Salem is representing Sudan in that capital and was there, in attendance, the day the army of Melles Zenawi defeated Mengistu’s troops and entered Addis Ababa. In Addis Ababa and Abu Dhabi, his hands  were conspicuous in helping the victorious Ethiopians and Eritreans.

The succession of incidents in Sudan and Ethiopia imposed new circumstances: traditional diplomatic communications and personal relations were inadequate in addressing them. In Sudan, the Generals’ regime had fallen--a regime which handed over to Ethiopia seven of Eritrea's best and pioneering rebels, to be hanged from the branches of the Nabk8 trees in the market place of Barentu, a town famous for its edible Nabk disks. Barentu is also known for being a hub of transportation for busses coming from Asmara or Tessenei. Many of the busses carried Sudanese from Kassala on their way to the capital Asmara for tourism or commerce, or Eritreans living in Sudan. The October uprising which overthrew the Generals’ regime gave the Eritrean revolution a space to breath and get help through.

In 1963, the Eritrean Liberation Front contacted the new Syrian regime which came to power through the 8th of March 1963 movement. The prime minister of Syria, Salah al Bitar, was the man, who in association of Michael Aflaq, co-founded the Baath party.

In spite of their novelty in power, the Baathists were apprehensive of the growth of the Israeli presence in Ethiopia especially on the Red Sea shores and its islands.  The Israeli intelligence's establishment of an advanced post to manage its operations in the east and the center of the African continent only came to confirm their suspicions. But the Syrians had as well certain limitations and apprehensions when dealing with those who claimed armed struggle and revolution. They didn’t know the guys who approached them at the time:  they may as well be swindlers and con artists trading on peoples’ causes and make a living at it. That is why they endorsed a plan for putting them to a test. Before pursuing discussions detailing what Syria could offer by way of assistance,  Salah Al-Bitar, the prime minister, and the Baath Party leadership issued an order in compliance to which the Syrian Army requested of the Eritrean envoy headed by Osman Saleh Sebbe to send twenty of their Eritrean fighters to be trained on guerilla warfare by the Syrian Commando and Special Forces.  The Eritrean fighters were brought and took their six months training.  In the process, they impressed their trainers and secured their admiration. The Syrians decided to offer the Eritreans all the assistance that Syria could. The most formidable barrier, the one which collapsed at the Set-up of the October Government9 in 1964, is now available for assistance in delivery.

The E.L.F's chief, Idris Mohammad Adem, and the director of the of Revolutionary Affairs, Idris Osman Glaidos10, contacted Mr. M. Al Awad Jubara, a guru of the Unionist Democratic Party and a minister of the premiership affairs. The two Eritrean leaders had close relations with the Sudanese minister since their youth, for they had attended the same school in Gadarif . They also communicated with Mohammed Saleh Omar, the Muslim Brothers’ representative and a member of the cabinet of ministers. The two Eritrean leaders knew him as well, and they were aware of his sympathies to the Eritrean cause. The two Eritrean leaders requested the two men to facilitate receiving Syrian aircrafts carrying ammunitions and weapons for the revolution, which was in urgent need of it. The two ministers were sympathetic and accepted to do what they were required to do, on one condition: the matter would stay a secret, and that no one from the cabinet should know now about it. Jubara was to arrange for it with the civil aviation authority because his department was associated with it; in addition, he had friends and followers in that Authority. The Syrian civilian aircrafts began arriving at Khartoum Airport late in the nights,  and unloaded before the break of dawn. The weapons were stored in the Burri area temporarily, before their swift transportation to Eritrea. But the matter had now reached the ears of some Sudanese political forces which started asking themselves about the nature of these Syrian aircrafts at a time when there were neither regular flights nor close relations between Sudan and Syria, as it is the case today.  Al-Sadig Al-Mahdi11 disclosed what was hidden when he accused the ”People’s Democratic Party” of importing weapons for the purpose of aborting the elections which was scheduled to be held in 1965 and which Sheikh Ali Abdurrahman12 had previously threatened to boycott and prevent. The real question13 here is if Almahdi knew who the real owners of these weapons were, and it is also not known if he was not using this in a local political struggle sacrificing a young revolution along the way.

Most of the weapons, however, reached their destination and the fighters who were trained in Syria were also the people who looked over their arrival. Sudanese security forces confiscated only a small quantity, but they placed Osman Saleh Sabbe and others under arrest.

This operation, which had resulted in the confiscation of military hardware and the imprisonment of some Eritrean figures, cast a strong light on their cause anew, depriving sleep to the Emperor and the Ethiopian Government.  More than anything else, the emperor was most eager to muzzle all mouths speaking on what goes on in his country. Now it was not only the world that heard about what was going on in Eritrea; but the news had also reached the Ethiopians’ ears from foreign radio programs directed to Ethiopia in the different Ethiopian languages. This was stimulating to the other Ethiopian nationalities and an incitement recommending Eritrea’s example to follow.

The weapons, which came from Syria, had their impact in the expansion of the Revolution away from the Sudanese border into the Eritrean hinterland. The information explosion caused by the media on the confiscation of some of the weapons had, as well, a magical influence on mobilizing the youth to join the Revolution.

It was at this point that the Revolution’s Leadership started to give the media and information’s role in the battle the attention it deserves. That is why this leadership went on search for reporters and journalists who may tell the story and take the picture of what goes on in the field, both in word and images. They talked with a number of journalists, some famous and others who were not. In the end, no one accepted-- except for one young reporter just starting his career in a newly-established newspaper.

Ahmed Teyfur’s journey to Eritrea was prepared in top secrecy, in apprehension of all the familiar and the unknown intelligence agencies. All such agencies were working in Khartoum -- including the Mossad, which had established its station in the “Bon Marche”, a supermaket frequented by the high society.

The journey was a difficult one, atop camels, avoiding travel by day or moonlit nights.

The journey came to an end, and Ahmed came to publish a series of reports, which had the effect of bombshells. The circulation of the newspaper, "21 OCTOBER", went through the roof. The reportages, in themselves, were considered a victory to the profession of journalism in Sudan; one could say it was a conquest: for it was the first time that the media went out there searching for news outside the border. Up until that time, the media was always sitting in its offices waiting for the news to come to it while enjoying the comfort of sitting in its chair. On the rare ocassions when it moved to get news by itself, it couldn’t go anywhere beyond the government offices, party offices, politicians’ houses, trade-unions.  And that was if it was no more than a couple of miles at most.

Ahmed Teyfur’s reportage covering eight columns, and sometimes overflowing, were the talking point of people not only in the Capital but in the rest of the Sudanese cities.

Ethiopia followed the developments in Sudan closely and decided to dispatch to Sudan one of its best intelligence officers as a military attaché. Colonel Tarreke, in short order, was not only in a position to enter the houses of many politicians and others, but he was well entering the residence of the Prime minister, Mohammed Ahmed Mahjoub14,--with no prior permission needed. He didn’t waste much time: he recruited prostitutes to his network and opened prostitution houses and established a club intended, via its liberally low-priced food and drinks, to attract the “Effendis” who take public affairs as their practice for livelihood. Some of these were active supporters of the Eritrean Revolution, while others belonged to the different tribes of the Arab political left and the different Arab Socialist schools. Tarreke was always present in all the places. On a Thursday night, at the heart of the club, euphoria took itself up to the head of one of the “Arab left” activists and led him to loudly shout, in English,  “Down with the Dictator Haile sellasie"--while pointing to a portrait of the Emperor on the wall. Turning right, his wide smile of victory faded off his face as he saw Tarreke smiling at him and asking: “Do you really believe that ?” The invisible man, as he was known among his friends, replied : “I was only saying it!”  Then he and his friends left.

The Eritreans and Badr-e-ddin Muddathir advised these people to avoid the Ethiopian club and to avoid their Zigni and get satisfied with hot Tilapia.

To frustrate the growing media attention the Eritreans were enjoying, especially after Teyfur’s reports, Tarreke started searching for a way of striking the Eritreans a knock-out punch-- one that would rally the Sudanese public opinion against them and motivate the Sudanese authorities to chase away Eritreans, the way it had done in the “golden” days of Abboud.  They settled upon an idea: publish the book of the first journalist to enter the lions’ den and then come back. However, this plan proved to be impossible and it had to change such that a book would be written and then labeled to the name of Ahmed Teyfur. But first, the reporter had to be tamed. 

The taming operation was executed by the hands of a few trade comrades.  Using as pretext the celebration of his recent marriage to a co-worker--an editor of the Women’s page in the same newspaper who ended up divorcing him upon the explosion of the scandal--they invited him to parties. They took him to the Al-Waha Hotel, recently inaugurated and frequented by the high classes of Khartoum who would spend their nights around its swimming pool, its halls or its night club “Caffe d’Roi.” In this atmosphere, he was introduced to Tarreke who left no chance for his victim to ooze from between his hands. In the beginning, Ahmed told the Eritrean leadership who knew about these parties that he had attacked the Ethiopian attaché ferociously when they met, and let him hear the Sudanese people’s view on what they are doing over there. At this point, the Eritreans advised him to avoid this man. But the blow was already dealt when drugs were put in his cup and disgracing photos of him were shot.

The book “The Reality of the ELF” was already at the start of its printing in the Al-Zaman printing press (the paper was published by its chief editor, the journalist Abdul Aziz  Hassan). Mr. Hassan was the first link between Tarreke and Ahmed Teyfur.  Offended by what was being planned for the Eritrean leaders, some of the employees of the printing press informed the Eritrean leaders about the conspiracy, and came to them with few copies of the pre-printed models. It is my belief that the book was not written by Ahmed Teyfur: he did not author the book.  But it was written on the basis of what he had already written in “21 October” with slyness surpassing that of the fox. The book claimed, among other things, that Eritreans were seeking to isolate Kassala from Sudan to seize it and and claim it as part of Eritrea.

The Eritreans decided to move quickly to abort the book even before its publication and distribution. Carrying drafts of the book with them, their delegates visited all the political parties, labor unions, spiritual and community leaders, and all the newspapers except the "Al-Zaman."   For long, "21 October" was appearing in all its numbers with a fixed square expressing its objection. Political parties and labor unions also declared their objection even before the book had appeared.

During their visits to the Sudanese newspapers, the Eritreans held a meeting with the poet and journalist Hussein Osman Mansur, chief editor and owner of the newspaper “Al Sabah”. He took the draft and started turning its leafs.  He read the introduction "Forced by relations of blood and family, I went far with the ELF…”, then turned to other chapters and went into deep silence for few minutes.  Then he said: “the introduction and the lines of words here and there in the book can only have been written in Sudan by either one of two individuals :myself and Abdallah Al Hassan.” Then a moment passed before he declared “I didn’t write it.”  Abdallah Al Hassan was known among his friends for his opportunistic nature and was nicknamed as the “fake director” in reference to his crooked ways.

Ahmed Teyfur was Tarreke’s first victim. He slew him horribly and made him bleed for decades, and when he died his soul must have left his body once with each and every breath for all these years. The other victim of Tarreke among the journalists of the time, was the renowned Sayyid Ahmed Khalifa15.

Like many others, Sayyid Ahmed supported the Eritrean revolution and the right of the Somali people to unite its five regions (including Ogaden, occupied by Ethiopia), represented by the five edges of the star in the center of the Somali flag.

Sayyed Ahmed wrote for the Al-Sahafa newspaper and worked under its owner and editor-in-chief, Abdurrahman Mukhtar. And during the campaign for aborting the book, Sayyed Ahmed was active in confronting its contents and refuting it. This made him the next target in Tarreke’s hit list.

Tarreke used his excellent relations with Abdurrahman Mukhtar (the owner) and, depending on that and the influence of the prime minister, Muhammed Ahmed Mahjoub’s, asked his friend to get rid of this contentious journalist. The boss complied.

Sayyed Ahmed wrote two books after that, Eritrea, the Algeria of the African Sahel and the other book was about Somalia. Later, we both worked together for the Khartoum News Agency in spite of Tarreke.

The political and journalistic societies were now fed up with the Ethiopian military attaché and his carousal. They were as well fed up with the Sudanese government’s surrender to Ethiopia’s growing pressure for opening a consulate in Kessela. The Sudanese government could not resist longer; after all, Sudan already had an open consulate in Asmara.

Yet, the Ethiopian consul in this border town couldn’t have enjoyed his stay, for in Kessela, the Eritrean presence was dense and the revolution had open activities on top of the support it enjoyed from the citizens and dwellers of the town.  Especially so after that town’s economy started to take off and tie itself to the Eritrean presence becoming a principal supply and reinforcement hub for the fighters across the boarder.

In those days, the town of Kassela’s means of entertainment and indulgence were limited. There was only one Movie House, a place where Eritreans would go to, whenever the Ethiopian counsel was about to go in.  Ticket-sellers would cooperate with them and provide them with seats in the same wing as the Ethiopian consul and his guards, some times even nearer to him. He would withdraw as soon as the lights went off. This was repeated several times, and at last, the diplomat was not leaving his house.

This was not the case in Khartoum, and Colonel Tarreke was as active as ever. However, the Eritreans sent him a clear message telling him in it, that their long hand will reach him if he touches any one of their leadership or fighters who were coming for treatment or on their way to other welcoming countries for training. As a consequence, he limited his activities to information collection and attempts to influence politicians and the government in the hope that they may curb and limit their activities as far as possible. Meanwhile a new challenge for Ethiopia was represented in the appearance of Ethiopian opposition. The pioneers of this movement started to appear in Sudan, when a number of them arrived in Gallabat and Gadarif and then Khartoum. But the arrival of the prominent opposition leader Kebbede Tesemma to the Sudanese Capital was the one which sent shocks to the Ethiopian government’s spine and that is why it instructed its military attaché to concentrate on besieging this new, growing danger.

Kebbede Tesemma, showed notable activities among Ethiopians belonging to the diverse nationalities of that country. He established relations with the Sudanese political powers, labor unions and foreign embassies.

Tarreke’s mission was to compromise Kebbede’s group and murder him and a few of his assistants. This objective was quickly achieved, and their corpses were found thrown in the desert between Burri and the airport. This crime was a bloody multi-addressed message: the Ethiopian opposition was the primary addressee.  To the Sudanese government and its security apparatus, it was a statement that he could do whatever he wanted to; that the time for serious business had come, and that he would use the iron fist. To the Eritrean Revolution, it was a message relating by example what exactly is awaiting their leadership. The Eritrean response came swiftly and decisively, they left him messages in his car and in his house in different times, and some of these messages were attached to bullets or hand grenades. They told him through their messages that they are capable of reaching him at any time or place and that the only thing preventing them from initiation is their interest in the peace and safety of the host country. He subsided.

Kebbede Tesemma’s murder caused a fury in the Sudanese political circles and discontent among the conservative political forces as well as in the elite including the national and leftist movements and centers. Voices demanding to stop the military attaché on his tracks and of bringing the murderers to justice were raised. Some even went as far as to demand the break of diplomatic relations with Ethiopia, the closure of the borders and the advance of political and military assistance to the Ethiopian opposition. The intense reaction to the crime reached its climax at a hot and loud session of the parliament, when the government was in a situation that no government in the past had ever experienced: passive, incapable of responding.

And when it thought, finally, of defending itself, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ibrahim Al Mufti, called the first press conference the Sudanese TV ever covered or broadcasted.  All the media attended this conference at the leadership level and saw it much more important than leaving it to their editors. The Deputy Minister read a short declaration in which he indicated that the government is taking certain steps to guard the security of the country. Then questions and arguments of the media chiefs started to rain on the deputy, who was in fact, only a good-natured man who avoided getting himself into collusions as much as possible. But in the absence of the Minister in charge, fate had now put him in a hardly enviable situation. Sudanese TV transmitted it all to the public in homes, coffee shops and clubs.

The reaction to the crime which the Ethiopian opposition personalities were victims of; and before it, the reaction to the book attributed to Ahmed Teyfur; the confessions and trial of the spy Al Rifae’i, who was recruited by Tarreke; his conviction and condemnation in the Grand Court which was headed by Judge Abdulaziz shddu to two years of jail.  All these limited the boisterous festivities of Tarreke and his henchmen a little until the 25th May coup d'etat16.

At this moment a stanza or two from the poems of “Al-Bayyati” which came, I believe, in his divan “Broken Pottery”, rush into memory: 

And I wonder!
How the traitors betray?
Can one betray his country?
And when he betrays his essence and meaning
How is he to live and become?

Translator’s Notes

1. The October era is the political era between the fall of General Abboud in October 1964 and the elections which took place a year later. In the October era, a government of coolition of all northern parties and labor unions was formed immediate to the fall of the regime of the generals.

2. The writer is here referring to the battle of Metemma where the Soldiers of the Mahdyia (known as Darawish) overrun the Emperor’s camp and recognized the king between the wounded; they cut his head and brought it back to Omdurman . This happened in the year 1889.

3. A political and religious Sudanese personality.

4. There is here a great deal of exaggeration and irrationality.  However, the translator thinks that the author should be excused since one can think of him as one controlled by exceedingly nationalist feelings.  How else can we accept that the Sudanese battalions accompanying the British instead of vice versa. Another claim of him can be as well refuted by the fact that since the conquest of the British, Eritrea has lost material and establishments more than it gained by the conquest. Eritrea for them was a war booty and it was treated as such, facts and figures are dispersed in documents. Well known published books. That makes the bragging here out of place.  

5. The author never mentions the name of this interesting man.

6. it is worthy observing that Essayas Afeworki tried to lure the United states into establishing a military facility anywhere in Eritrea, but he failed in his attempts.

7. Sinimmar was a legendary engineer who built a palace for his king. The Palace was a wonder of the world and the king, fearing that Sinimmar may design another similar or better palace for another king, resolved his fears by amputating Sinimmar’s both hands and as such the saying “Sinimmar’s reward”.

8. Nabk is what in some parts of Eritrea is known by GABA.

9. The October Government is the government which followed the collapse of G. Abboud in October 1964.

10. These are two of the historic leaders of the ELF and both are co-founders ot it. Idris Mohammed Adem was also a one time president of the Eritrean Parliament before the annexation in 1962.

11. An important Sudanese politician of the Ummah party, he is the grand-son of the Mahdi who fought Yohannes and the British. As of his history with Eritrea, he is the only one who kept his stand through out his political life consistently at appearing aligned at all times with oppressor of the Eritrean people, Ethiopia, Mengistu and I.Afeworki  all of them.

12. Another Sudanese politician of the Democratic People’s Party, he is also a spiritual figure for the followers of the Khatmiah Sufi Sect notably in Eastern Sudan.

13. It quite difficult to assume that Al-Sadig didn’t know who the weapons belonged to. Any observer of this politician’s history would tell you also of  his Machiavellian consistent pattern, throughout. The truth is, most probably, that he knew who the owners were and that he calculated that exposing is killing two birds with a single stone. Internally, he would could appear over all the politicians by affecting a political explosion just before elections, and externally he will have advanced to the Ethiopia and its Emperor a payment for a future day.

14. A prime minister for Sudan for a number of times. He belongs to the Ummah Party of Sadig Al Mahdi.

15. an old time friend of the Eritrean revolution

16. the coup which brought Nimeiri to power.

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