Re: [DEHAI] The death of Hamed Idris Awate

Mon, 08 Sep 1997 19:51:50 -0500 [source]

Selam Dehai:

Here is what I found about the background of our national hero, Hamid
Idris Awate, from Markakis' book, NATIONAL AND CLASS CONFLICT IN THE
HORN OF AFRICA. I quote from Chapter 4, entitled "Anti-Colonial
Nationalism" pp., 64, 65, 66 the relevant passages with a background.
Most of the questions I raised last week seem to be answered here.
Hope this will stimulate interest in the ongoing discussion. [Note: All
typos mine.]


--------------Excerpts from Markakis-------------------

"Ibrahim Sultan and his colleagues called a meeting of Muslim notables
during the first week of December 1946 in Keren, where they set up a
political organization named the Muslim League, but known as Rabita
(from the Arabic term 'unite') among its followers. Ibrahim Sultan
became secretary general and its effective leader. Religious symbolism
was given prominence with the selection of the head of the Khatimiya
sect in Eritrea, Sayyid Abubakar el-Morghani, as president. Despite
appearances, however, the communal fronts were not solid. Most obvious
was the breach in the Muslim side. Alienated by the emancipation of the
serfs and the loss of influence entailed in the emergence of new
political structures, many Muslim chiefs and traditional notables turned
to the unionists, in the hope that Ethiopian rule would restore their
former status.#20 On the other hand, leading Christian anti-unionists
like Wolde Ab Wolde Mariam, Tessema Asberom and his son Abraham Tessema
showed their solidarity with the basic aims of the Islamic League by
attending the founding meeting in Keren." . . . .
[Endnote #20: Among them were Osman Hidad, leader of the Habab, and some
twenty other chiefs of the Bet Asghede. Also, the religious leader of
Massawa, Sheikh el-Amin Abdulkadir, and the Diglal of the Beni Amer who
was reported to 'have fallen out with his tribe because he adhered to
the Ethiopian cause' (Beja District File, 57.B.2). In the western
lowlands, 'a considerable proportion of the representatives of the
aristocratic classes were in favor of union with Ethiopia, though some
of them admitted that they left the Muslim League because it had
promised their serfs more rights…' (FPC, Eritrea, 1948:120]

. . . " After the departure of the [Four Power] Commission [that visited
Eritrea for three weeks in November 1948], the unionists launched a
campaign of terror to cow the opposition. Wolde Ab Wolde Mariam
survived two assassination attempts and other leading anti-unionists
were assaulted. Christian shifta bands appeared on the plateau to
attack Italian farmers and Muslim merchants, taking numerous lives and a
heavy toll on property. Violence also erupted in the western lowlands.
The years between 1946 and 1949 were blighted by drought. Famine
stalked the Beja country, forcing the Hadendowa nomads to renew their
incursions into Eritrea, which had ceased following the clan wars of the
first half of the 1940s. The Beni Amer on the Eritrean side responded
in character and a new round of violence ensued, with Hamid Idris Awate
leading daring raids across the border and fending off Sudanese and
Eritrean Police units sent against him. #21 . . .
[Endnote #21: Hamid Idris Awate led a band of two to three dozen men
belonging mainly to the Lebat, a serf section of the Beni Amer, and to
the Baria [Nara], a downtrodden tribe living in the region of Barentu.
Raided and enslaved by all their neighbors (their name is synonymous
with 'slave' in the highlands, {and Markakis keeps using that offensive
term throughout the book, which I will not}), the [Nara] were much
reduced in number (about 15,000) and circumstances. The uprising of the
serfs emboldened them to join the Beni Amer in raids against the
Hadendowa and the Kunama. Hamid Idris Awate was himself a [Nara] who
acquired a following among the Beni Amer. He was no ordinary bandit,
but a man who had served in the Italian army for several years and had
been sent for training to Italy. In July 1948, he killed a Sudanese
police officer and two sergeants who were pursuing him. The British
authorities in the Sudan and Eritrea now mounted a major combined
operation against him. Idris [Awate] eluded his pursuers and continued
his depredations until 1951, when he accepted amnesty and retired to his
village, where he was made chief later."

-------------End of excerpt------------------