Copyright 1995 Newspaper Publishing PLC
The Independent

June 1, 1995, Thursday


LENGTH: 976 words

HEADLINE: OBITUARY:Waldeab Waldemariam

BYLINE: Edward Ullendorff

Waldeab Waldemariam is generally recognised as "the Father of Eritrean
independence" as well as the man who established the Tigrinya (the main tongue
of Eritrea and the Tigre province of Northern Ethiopia) as a literary medium.
His passing caused profound and universal grief in newly independent Eritrea;
he received a state funeral in the presence of the president of the country and
was buried in the martyrs' cemetery at Asmara, the capital of Eritrea; the
government declared a day of mourning.

Waldeab was born at Addi Zarna, in the Serae province of Eritrea, in 1908.
He studied at the Swedish Evangelical Mission at Asmara and was so successful in
his studies that he was immediately employed as a teacher by the Swedish Mission
which he served in this capacity from 1931 until 1942 - being director of this
excellent educational establishment from 1935 until 1942. In the latter year,
just over 12 months after the liberation from Italian rule of Eritrea by
British and Commonwealth forces, he was approached by the local office of the
British Ministry of Information, then for all practical purposes an arm of the
British Military Administration of Eritrea, with a view to founding and
editing the first regular newspaper in Tigrinya, next to Arabic and Amharic the
modern Semitic language with the largest number of native speakers - easily
outstripping modern Hebrew in this respect.

Waldeab readily accepted this task, and the Tigrinya Eritrean Weekly News
was born in August 1942 and continued without interruption, under the same
executive editor, until the end of the British caretaker administration in 1952.
Not only did Waldeab possess a profound knowledge of Tigrinya, his native
tongue, he also had a fine command of Amharic, the official language of
Ethiopia, and of Italian, the language of the colonial administration since
1889. His knowledge of English, at first rudimentary, increased in no time by
leaps and bounds.

While the Italian government, at any rate until about 1935, had been both
benevolent and efficient, especially in the technical services, educationally
they were less energetic and promoted their own language steadfastly at the
expense of Tigrinya. The British administration reversed this policy, and the
use of the indigenous Tigrinya tongue was encouraged in schools and in everyday
life in general. The principal catalyst in this development turned out to be the
new weekly Tigrinya paper which, under Waldeab's guidance, became a cultural and
linguistic factor of great significance.

The journal was not merely a newspaper but became the repository of Tigrinya
intellectual life and the springboard for the creation of a literary and
stylistic tradition in that language. Increasingly Waldeab came to be dubbed
"the Father of Tigrinya". The 30 years from the foundation of the Eritrean
Weekly News from until the early 1970s witnessed the greatest flowering of
Tigrinya writing hitherto experienced.

As the Second World War receded from Africa and the prospects of peace
appeared brighter, the population of Eritrea became increasingly restive and
concerned with their political future. A return of the Italians seemed remote,
and Britain's war aims precluded a colonial aggrandisement. Thus there seemed to
be a number of possible solutions. The genie of democracy and of self-
determination, which had been so powerfully evoked by the war and its

concomitant propaganda efforts, refused to return to the bottle. Waldeab,
compelled to be neutral as editor of the Tigrinya paper, developed as a private
individual very strong views in favour of an independent Eritrean state. The
majority of the population in the highland provinces, to all intents and
purposes indistinguishable from the people of northern Ethiopia, wanted union
with Ethiopia and expressed those preferences in plebiscites supervised by the
United Nations as well as by a fair measure of physical coercion. Others in the
predominantly Muslim lowlands favoured partition.

In those years between the end of the war and the eventual federation with
Ethiopia in 1952 Waldeab was at the centre of the independence movement and
became increasingly the target of enmity of all those who fought for union with
Ethiopia. From 1947 to 1952 there were no fewer than six assassination attempts,
in some of which he was nearly killed. When his principal opponent became chief
executive of Eritrea, at the implementation of federation with Ethiopia,
Waldeab had to flee the country and seek asylum in Egypt. He spent many years in
that country, and elsewhere, writing and broadcasting in favour of Eritrean

With the demise of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974, the skirmishes in
Eritrea between 1962 and 1974 became all-out war under the murderous
dictatorship of Mengistu Hailemariam. The deposition of the latter in 1991

brought relief to Ethiopia and, not much later, independence to Eritrea.

Whether the centrifugal forces now powerfully active throughout much of the
Ethiopian polity are in the best long-term interests of the country is quite
another question. Perhaps a democratic federal structure, with genuinely
autonomous units, might eventually offer a solution to the problems now
besetting the Horn of Africa.

Waldeab, now in his mid-eighties, returned to his own country for the first
time in 40 years. There were manifestations of great joy and esteem throughout
Eritrea. He was assigned a fine house and a position of great honour. But
those long years of struggle had impaired his health. He died conscious of the
fact that the language and the country, for which he had fought so long and
valiantly, were now safe.

Edward Ullendorff

Waldeab Waldemariam, newspaper editor: born Addi Zarna, Serae, Eritrea 27
April 1908; married; died Asmara, Eritrea 15 May 1995.



Copyright 1995 Xinhua News Agency

The materials in the Xinhua file were compiled by The Xinhua News Agency. These
materials may not be republished without the express written consent of The
Xinhua News Agency.


LENGTH: 162 words

HEADLINE: women organizations from horn of africa call for peace

DATELINE: addis ababa, june 1; ITEM NO: 0601261

some non-governmental organizations (ngo) and women organizations from the
horn of africa today called for peace in the sub-region. these groups,
attending a one-day workshop on gender and women in all development expertise
here, said in a press release that "the objective of the consultation is to
prepare a joint agenda to be presented at the world conference on women, taking
place early september in beijing." these organizations represented some ngos and
women organizations form somalia, sudan, ethiopia and eritrea. during the

consultation, they discussed women's role in bringing and maintaining peace in
the horn of africa. "women and children have been the first victims of the
conflicts in the horn. therefore, we decided to join hands and have one voice
for peace," the press release said. the workshop, organized by the royal
netherlands embassy here, is aimed at proposing ideas for the 4th world women
conference scheduled for september in beijing.


LOAD-DATE-MDC: June 2, 1995

source:newsdaniel stephanos (
thu, 8 jun 1995 16:37:11 -0400 (edt)