Remembering the forgotten victim  of the EPLF

 

Yohannes Sebhatu “John the brain"

Researched and compiled by Resoum Kidane 15/09/19

 During the liberation struggle many innocent and nationalist Eritreans who had joined the EPLF and ELF were eliminated by the Fronts.   Yohannes was among them. He became the victim of the EPLF leadership. Yohannes was a leader of a progressive rectification movement “Menka group” in 1973 and executed in 1975.

Yohannes’ name never mentioned by the Diasporas human rights activists , civil society or opposition groups   A question could be raised here why this is while each year on the 18th of September and 14th of April other victms of the PFDJ after 1991 are recalled.

This piece of compilation is to honour Yohannes and his comrades who were executed in the 1970s because of challenging the EPLF leadership.

On Martyrs' Day, it is very painful for the families of the fallen martyrs to be reminded that they were never officially told about the deaths of their loved ones when, in 1993, the then Provision Government of Eritrea announced their names.  Hopefully, Yohannes and his comrades will be remembered in future by the young generation.

Background information.

Yohannes was born in the mid 1940s  at Gura village  in the southeastern Eritrean highlands, about 9 kilometers (5.6 mi) SE of Dekemhare.  In the 1940s Gura and Mai-Edaga were much  developed from the rest  villages in the Southeastern Eritrean highlands.

During the WWII  Gura  was served as the main airfield for the northern front of the war. After the defeated of Italian ,  the airport in  Gura was used mainly for maintenance and repairing of American aircraft, shipped directly from the American continent in order to support the Allies in Europe. [wikipedia.org]

Yohannes was one of the first generation of students from the post Italian colonisation who received his education.   In the 1940s the British Administration in Eritrea played a significant role in the revival of modern education and created the number of elementary schools and raised the standard of education to the middle school level. 

During the British administration and Federation periods Tigrynia and Arabic became the media of instruction elementary schools. This gave an opportunity for Yohannes to learn in his mother tongue Tigrinya when he was at a primary school. He completed his  primary and   intermediate education at Mai-Edaga not far from Gura.  

After Yohannes completed his middle school at  Mai-Edaga in 1959, he  moved to Addis Ababa  to attend his secondary education  as there was only  one Secondary School  in Eritrea  which was opened in 1956, 

Yohannes passed the Ethiopia Matriculation, Ethiopian Schools Leaving Certificate (ESLC) with very great distinction, in 1964 he pursued  higher education at Haile Selassie I University  to study  economics.

  Yohannes  at Haile Selassie I University

Yohannes joined the Haile Selassie I University in 1964. By then, his  political awareness  was strongly influenced by the rise of  Eritrean nationalism in 1950s,  the rapid escalation of the armed struggle for liberation in the Third World, and  Ethiopian university students demonstration of the early 1960s against the feudal system.

During Yohannes's time at university, the political views of the Ethiopian students on the campus were also influenced by African students from Eastern and Southern who were on scholarship.

These students helped their Ethiopian colleagues to free themselves of their traditional fear of participating in politics (Hailemichael, 2007:37). Although until the mid-1960s there was no student union at  Haile Selassie I University  to coordinate  students  protest ,  there was  students demonstrations  against  the  land tenure system.   

Regarding the students demonstration that were held at Haile Selassie I University Elena Ruyter (2017) states that in 1964 and 1965 the students rallied around the issue of land tenure, under the slogan ‘Land to the Tiller!’

The students did not direct their protests at Emperor Selassie, but instead appealed to Parliament.  As an example of this Bahru Zwed (2010)   in his book mentions that in one student demonstration protesting government policy the students were met by the President of the Senate General Abey Abebe. Bahru Zwed recalls Temesgen Haile shouting: “Is poverty a crime“. This is likely to have been in 1966, when the students held demonstration against the imprisonment of beggars in camps outside Addis Ababa.  Their demonstrations led to small improvements in the camps’ facilities and treatment of the incarcerated.


Gradually, the students movement became more unified and cohesive to formation of the Student Union in 1967. According Elena Ruyter  the student unions within the University that were protesting came together in one organization, the University Students Union of Addis Ababa (USUAA) and narrowed their focus to overthrowing the government. The University newspaper News and Views was replaced by a much more politically charged publication called The Struggle.

All the above development contributed considerably  to the develpment of progressive Eritrean students like Yohannes Sebhatu, Temesgen Haile etc. They played a key role in developing a strong solidarity between Eritrean and Ethiopian progressive students on the campus in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This is confirmed by Petros Tesfa Giorgis   who states that the Eritrean university students saw a light at the end of the tunnel and became very active in the Ethiopian students’ movement. Thus the Addis Ababa University became the melting pot of revolutionaries. It brought together students from different nationalities. The Eritrean progressive students came to realize that if the oppressive feudal system was to be replaced by a socialist Government the problem in Eritrea could be solved peacefully based on the right of people to self-determination.  ( Tesfa Giorgis (2007))

Various sources mentioned Yohannes as one of the founder of a leftist political society at university of Addis Ababa, and the This is also confirmed by Professor Bahru Zawde who mentioned via email, Yohannes was one of the most active students in the movement. R.R Balsvik also states Yohannes one of the best students to ever come out of any Ethiopian University Haile Sellasies student.

According to people who knew him closely, Yohannes was an internationalist by outlook and a brilliant Marxist thinker.   For his political agitation and involved in the university demonstration Yohannes was imprisoned and expelled from the University.

Yohannes was the first student in Ethiopia’s education history to be expelled from Haile Sellasie University. He thereafter became a reporter at the newspaper, the Ethiopian Herald for two years. Tedla Seyoum one of those left wing students at  University Haile Sellasies I,  states that  there was an attempt to infiltrate the mass media,  Tedla joined Radio Ethiopia, and Daniel Adera joined ETV as a technician. They secured a job at Ethiopia Herald for Yohannes Sebhatu who had been expelled from the university (Zewde, 2010 p.47)

Yohannes did not last long with his job at Ethiopia Herald. He went on to work as a reporter for an English daily paper in Addis Ababa for two years. In 1971, he hijacked an Ethiopian airline plane from Bahr Dar to Benghazi (Libya). The hijackers were Yohannes Sebhatu , Amanuel Yohannes, Musei Tesfa Michael and Debessa and eventually joined the EPLF.

In one publication that I read Wolde Tewolde  describes Yohannes and his comrades Mesfin as follow”

“Yohannes and  Mesfin Araya  two   Eritrean Revolutionaries were endowed with high caliber of intellect and tenacity. Both were internationalists at core. They have read too many books and have challenged and outsmarted their schoolmates and classmates but it did not take them far or long. Nevertheless Mesfin and Yohannes joined the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front, without knowing the deep psychic of Eritreans. Both died pursuing their dreams of social and international justice.  Sebhatu died for it and Mesfin implanted the seeds of N’Hnan Alamanan, “we and our goals” It is reported that this document was brought by Mesfin to America”.  

Indeed Mesfin received a copy of  N’Hnan Alamanan during his contact  with the  EPLF  for a mission which was organized by  Amanuel Yohannes  for his second attempted to hijack  the Ethiopian Airlines  on December 8, 1972.

According to Petros Tesfa Giorgis ,  Amanuel Yohannes asked a comrade Mesfun Araya to go to Asmara, contact the EPLF and bring hand grenades and pistols for the hijcking. Mesfun Araya took risks and brought the arms for hijacking. He then flew to USA before the operation took place and the hijackers were killed on 8th December 1972. ( the hijackers were Marta Mebrahtu, Amanuel Yohannes, Tadelech Kidane Mariam, Yohannes Fekadu, Walelegn Mekonnen, Tesfay Berga and Getachew Habte ).   

After a few years Mesfun Araya  started writing against liberation front mainly the EPLF, the whole scenario was dramatic.   Petros didn’t provide any sufficient explanation why Mesfin who was a close friend of Yohanes Sebhatu be against the EPLF after the EPLF arrested and executed progressive fighters. Mesfin Araya and other member of  EFLNA activists became disillusion and started to question the EPLF’s internal democracy and about the fighters who were killed by the Front

According to Petros Tesfa Giorgis after a few years Mesfun Araya started writing against liberation front mainly the EPLF. Petros does not provide adequate explanation as to Mesfun who had been a close friend of Yohanes Sebhatu turned against against the EPLF. It could been because around this time, the EPLF arrested and excuted progressive fighters lsuch as Yohanes Sebhatu . 

According to Hapner, the Menk’a members who were later executed by the EPLF had many friends and former classmate in ELFNA, and the excutions disillusioned more than a few.

Indeed  Mesfun Araya and other member of  EFLNA activists started to question the EPLF’s internal democracy and the Front's fi killing of the fighters.

Petros Yohannes who was a member of ENASA in the USA in 1970s was among those who started to question the injustice of the Menk’a group's arrested for demanding democracy. 

Yohannes joined the EPLF.

Yohannes, who hijacked the Ethiopian plane on a domestic flight from Bahr-Dar to Gonder,  joined the EPLF in 1972. According to Bahru Zewde ( 2014) the hijackers were Yohannes Sebhatu, Musie Tesfamichael, Amanuel Yohannes and Debesai Gebre Selassie, and they chose to go to Libya but eventually joined the EPLF.

Yohannes was appointed immediately as director of publications and information as he had previous experience of working for the Ethiopia Herald.  Musie was also appointed as head of political education in the training camp.  


Musie as a political commissar at the military training camp.


ስዉእ ተጋ ሙሴ ተስፋሚካኤል እዚ ውድብ ዚ ከይዱ ከይዱ ውልቀ ሰብ ዝመልኮ ከምቲ ኣብ ቺለ ዝርከብ ቀንጻሊ መንግስቲ ፒኖሸ ክተክል እዩ ዝቃለስ ዘሎ ዝበለ


Woldemariam  described  Musie as a gifted orator capable of mobilizing a significant number of cadres, and  as a political commissar and head of political education, was well  positioned to build a rapport with the newcomers (Woldemariam, Michael )

Yohannes and Musie were radical Marxists. According to Gaim the leaders of the EPLF, particularly Isaias knew the radical background of these individuals and yet they were given  central positions as new recruits. They filled key strategic positions that no leadership with the said proclivities would voluntarily relinquish to individuals on the basis of their ability rather loyalty. This was, however the last time individuals were appointed to key positions according to their competency rather than because of blind loyalty to the Fronts and its leader, Isaias Afwerki  [Kibreab, 2008 :283)

Although Musie and Yohannes were appointed to key positions, Isaias was uncomfortable, particularly with Musie and Yohannes, from their first arrival. Because of this Isaias started to oversee daily their activities, which have contributed to the rise of a progressive rectification movement (Menquae group) in autumn of 1973.  The movement was led by Musie and Yohannes to challenge the ELF-PLF leadership over the undemocratic nature of the leadership.

Isaias in particular was accused of overseeing everyone’s work, of censoring all publications, thereby undermining the cadres. (Markakis 199:136, cited by Kibreab, 2008 :256.)

Gaim adds that criticisms against the leadership included violation of the fighters’ rights; abuse of power and failing in “wide range of areas: administration, supply of health and military. Much of the criticism of the leadership was concentrated on Isaias Afwerki. ( Pool 2001:76 cited by Kibreab, 2008 :256)

Isaias and the rest of the EPLF leadership accused the leaders of the Menquae group of lying. Isaias used regionalism as a card against progressive fighters to repress the democracy movement and, in the 1970s, to liquidate the movement’s leaders, such as Yohannes. According to Mengsteab (2005:51) Isaias succeeded to brainwash a large number of his political operatives that the opposition was an Akele Guzai undertaking.  In fact, Musie and Yohannes Sebhatu were too internationalist in their outlook to fall for regionalist appeals.

This is also confirmed by Gaim who states that the accusation of regionalism leveled against the leaders of Menquae was false.  The main leaders of Menquae were known communists. The EPLF leadership’s accusation would seem therefore to be part of the overall project of demonization and vilification of the movement. As a consequence of the EPLF leadership’s accusation, Yohannes and other educated fighters were arrested for being part of the “Menquae uprising, 

1. How the leaders of Menka were imprisoned

The arrest of 11 former government ministers and EPLF leaders (G15) on September 18, 2001 following the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York was similar to the Menquae groups’ arrest. According to Welde Mariam, Musie Tesfa Mikel and Mebrahtu Weldu, two of the leaders of the Menquae group were arrested imprisoned at Arag. on 1st February 1974, on the day that the Derg rebelled against Haile Selassie.


Welde Mariam , who  was a prisoner,  has said in an interview that  the prison was not underground but an old half demolished Italian house.  ‘We were made to sit by the walls’.  Late,  Musie Tesfa Mikel and Mebrahtu Weldu, then Vinac of Adi Nefas , Afwerki Amharay , Yohannes  and Habte Selassie were brought to the prison. 

Meharena Hadgu, who was another prisoner and eyewitness, describes how the Menquae leaders were imprisoned and interrogated.  According to his testimony:

‘The Menquae leaders were surrounded as in guerrilla warfare. We were above them in a mountain nearby and saw it all, we told this to our haili (company) at night while standing guard and asked for a haili meeting.  Three gantas (platoons) then were one haili,  consisting of 35-45 members. Two gantas  were ordered to move and they obeyed,

Habte Kidane "Gorilla" and I said no body will move from here and sat all day. You imprison us today and tomorrow will come execution. We will not stop until this is resolved and we demand to meet the leadership. We were told to leave our weapons to meet the leadership, and we did so. We talked from 11am to 1:30- 2 pm and challenged them on all the facts. The leaders we met, Isayas, Selomon and Romadan. Isayas told us to return to our ganta or be put in jail, and we refused to return to our ganta, and 6 members it were imprisoned, this was in Arag.

This happened on the 2nd February 1974, following Musie and Mebrahtu arrest on the 1st  February . Then a guard who was not in the movement for months was brought like a prisoner amongst us to spy on us. After a day and a half, he was taken away and reported everything that we had talked about. He was then sent to Iraq to learn about heavy armaments. Habte Gorilla and I were released because they needed fighters. Isayas wedi Flansa was not imprisoned with us but kept in a correction camp (me-arem Tebay). He, too, was released.    (Excerpt from  Menquae memory, by Meharena Hadgu]


2.Yohannes and his comrades as prisoners at Halewa Sewra


Welde Mariam in his interview with Aida  Kidane  briefly mentioned  how Yohannes and other  Menquae leaders were interrogated. 

According to his interview the Menquae leaders were interrogated and beaten during the nights . The prisoner was still groggy from sleep and 3 or 4 flashlights were beamed into their faces by the interrogators.  After lengthy interrogations other prisoners were added, namely 'Dottore' Mikel Pharmacist, Dr Rusom also a pharmacist, and the women,  Werku, Dehab and Aberash,Masho. Read more

According to Haile Menkeros interview, Worku and Masho were with his platoon from the start until they were imprisoned. They had not even been in leading positions. ‘They were idealists like all of us. Once they were convinced their group were right and did not want to go against their comrades. Werku and Masho in our ganta, Dehab and Aberash in another ganta.’

Regarding the  interrogation of Menquae group, Abed Tesfay a veteran EPLF fighter  who had joined the  front in 1973   wrote on Facebook  how Dr Haile Mehestun, one of the imprisoned of the Menquae group, was badly beaten during interrogation  and attempted to commit suicide because of  the  psychological  torture  and  physical wounds he had suffered during  the integration.

Concerning the Menkae leader’s circumstance at the EPLF prison, Adhanom Fitew who was imprisoned in 1976, in his paper “Memories of Menkae wrote that at the prison where Musie and his comrades were kept, a guard confessed later, that there were so many the lice that a bullet was preferred. A prisoner could not scratch himself or move because they were beaten if they did. In the hot weather the lice should not have survived, but instead they spread.

The Menquae leaders such as Yohaness suffered much. Some fighters on their way to fetching water saw Mussie and his comrades and said they were unrecognizable: living skeletons and eyes bulging out.  Food was scarce all around.  The prisoners were fed the least and were full of lice, and tortured.

ኣነ ብ1974 ናብቲ ውድብ ክኣቱ ከሎኹ ተኣሲሮም ጸኒሖሙኒ። ሓደ ግዜ ኣብ ክፍሊ ታዕሊም እንከሎና፡ በጋጣሚ ምስ ሓደ ብጻይ ማይ ከነምጽእ ምስ ወረድና፡ ካብቶም እሱራት ብብረት ተሓሊዮም ማይ ከምጽኡ ረኣናዮም። ኩነታት ኣካላቶም መግለጺ ዘይብሉ ዘስካሕክ ነበረ። ካብ መቓብር ወጺኡ ጠጠው ኢሉ ዝኸይድ ኣስከረን ይመስሉ ነይሮም። እቲ ዝነበረ ማእሰርቲ ዘስካሕክሕ ኢዩ። ቁማል በሊዑካ ክትሓክኽ ዘይፍቀድ ኩነታት ኢዩ ነይሩ። እንደገና ካብ 1975 ስጋብ 1977 ምንቅስቓስ መንካዕ ደጊሱ። ኣብያተ-ማእሰርቲ ስንጭሮታት ሳሕል መሊኡ፡ ኣሃዱታት ጥረሐን ዝተረፋሉ ግዜ ኢዩ ነይሩ። ስለዚ ጭካኔ ኢሳያስ ኣብ ቅድሚ ህዝቢ ኣብ ኣሰመራ ጊሂዱ’ምበር፡ ኣብ ሳሕል ኢዩ ተጀሩ። source from ቃልሲ ኢሳያ ንስልጣን by A dhanomFitew

Meharena Hadgu who was prisoner and eyewitness states that as prisoners, we could not move an inch. Even if a snake came to bite us we ask the guard first and we were infested with lice. One having diarrheic has to ask permission to relieve himself and told to wait that he passed it inside his pants. Then he is accused of deliberately passing into his pants to make a bad smell and thus beaten. A dehydrated person unable to control himself is beaten badly, as I have seen it. Those not having seen this cannot believe they are so cruel to their own fighters. Prisoners are put around a tree their backs to the tree and about 3 guards to each group. The others, of Musie group were separated from us. We cannot talk to each other. If a person wants to urinate, he asks the guard for permission who answers wait. Times we are tied in hands are when a fighter is in discomfort and asks another prisoner to lend him his blanket, without permission from the guard. Then he is taken out and asked what this code meant and is beaten to confess. The prisoner tells the truth and the guard says he should have asked first. The guards had all power on us and were cruel. He is tied hands and legs and after beating put in the sun all day. There is a plant called Ubel growing in riverbanks and taking its time to dry, it twists like a whip. One beaten with it is horribly hurt their backs becoming open wounds. Some have died of this beating. Too bad those who could have told have done. If a person wails in the beating, cloth is stuffed into is mouth and only the eyes communicate. The beaten person faints and goes into shock, shaking. It happened to me and I saw it on others. Yet we continue serving the front and did not think of fleeing lest those behind me get all the punishment. When visiting the "toilet" prisoners are taken out in 2-3 lines. The first line take off their pants and kneel down, facing their guards. The next in line face to the opposite. It was a humiliating situation. Read full story

Aklilu Zere describes some of the torture techniques used in Halewa Sewra in 1975 and even earlier.  The accused was placed three feet from a blank 6 feet wall for 4-6 hours daily during the hottest periods of the day, 10 am – 4 am. They were not allowed to move any part of his body even if they were swarmed by mosquitoes or flies and if they did, 4 lashes of stick rained on them).[SourceThe Tears of a sadist By Aklilu Zere - Jun 25, 2007]

Generally the methods used by the EPLF to punish prisoners in the ‘70s, were by keeping prisoners standing for long hours, sleep deprivation, force them to lie in one position for many days , withhold water, keep them in dark for days and then expose them to direct light so they would be dazzled.  They were also not a aloud to converse among themselves or have any outside contact.  

The illustration below shows that how the Menquae leaders and  their sympathisers were interrogated at the EPLF prison in 1974 and 1975. This is an illustration by one former Menquae sympathise who managed to escape from the EPLF prison in 1975.

THE EPLF PRISON : Halewa Sewra (Gestapo section of the EPLF)
 

    ኣብ ሓለዋ ሰውራ ንተጋደል ቲዘሳቕዩን ዝቕጥቕጡን ካብ ዝነበሩ ገለ አባላት ሓለዋ ሰውራ;

    ደም ንጹሃት ተጋደልቲ


  • ወዲ ጸጋይ (ብግዜሃይለስላሴፖሊስዝነበረ፡

  • ተስፋልደት ሚኪኤል “ቀሃስ” ዝጽዋዕ ጥቓ ወ.ወ.ክ.ማ.ዕዳጋ ሓሙስግዝኡዝነበረ

  • የማነ “ተንሽን” ካብ ደቀምሓረ

  • ኣማኑኤል ተስፋሁነኝ “ቀይሽብር”

  • ኣማኑኤል ልጃም

  • ኣማኑኤል ጳውሎስ (ካብቶም ንጂ15 ክእሰሩ እንከለዉ ኣብ ላንድክሩዘር ዝጽበ ዝነበረ

  • “ታንዱር”

  • ወልደዝጊ

  • ወዲ ዋስዕ

  • ተኪኤ “ወዲ ቐሺ” ካብ ዓዲ ንፋስ (ንኢትዮጵያ ኢዱ ሂቡ፡ ድሓር ብሱዳን ኣቢሉ ናብ ኣሜሪካ፡ ካሊፎርንያ ዝኸደ)

  • ኮሎነል ስምኦን ገብረድንግል

  • ጋይም ተስፋሚኪኤል (ኣብ ሃገራዊ ድሕነት ናይ ወጻኢ ጉዳያት ሓላፊ ዘሎ)

  • ጸጋይ ይስሃቅ (ተመሃራይ ዝነበረ፡ ናብ ተ.ሓ.ኤ ዝሃደመ) ይርክብዎም።ካብዚኣቶም ድሕሪ ነጻነት መዝነት ዝረኸቡ ኣለዉ 

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Source EPLF Prison System of 1970s in picture asmarino.com

The above illustration clearly shows the interior of Halewa Sewra, where Yohannes and other Menkae  leaders  imprisoned and tortured  in 1974.

The central prison of the EPLF had 7 units. All political prisoners like Menquae and Yemine were imprisoned in no 3.  Teklay Aden,EPLF security chief who defected to the Ethiopian regime in 1981, described Halewa Sewra in the following:

‘The most criminal and notorious organ within the EPLF is known as 'Halewa Sewra or the security department. This is the Gestapo section in the EPLF assigned with the task of arresting, torturing and killing elements who oppose the leadership clique. The department was divided into three sections

A.The Surveillance Section: This body is responsible for covering the whole EPLF with a network of agents reporting on each other. EPLF is an organization in which every member takes the other for an agent and therefore has to keep his mouth shut. The majority of the security agents are somehow attached to the leadership clique.

B.The Interrogation Section of 'Halewa Sewra' is a place where all types of untold brutalities recommitted against suspects. Any person accused of opposing the leadership or the EPLF in general is scaled with boiling oil; refused food or water for a long period and forced to sleep over his/her refuse. The fascistic crimes perpetrated against the innocent victims do really drive one mad.; The majority of the suspects die while undergoing 'questioning'.

C.The Prison Section: This is the section which physically liquidates 'enemies' of the EPLF or demoralizes the victims. The prison inmates are not only refused the basic food and medical needs, but are daily subjected to terrorization and self-defacement. Practically none of the survivors of the continued mental and physical torture in the prison can be described as 'survivors'. The firing squads are also stationed in the prison; their assignment is to kill by firing bullets.’ [EPLF an inside story, 1980]

Location of   the Main EPLF prisons between 1974 and 1990.



3. Execution of Yohannes and his comrades


Yohannes and his comrades were sentenced to death by a military court then executed in Bliquat in 1975. The charging committee was under the top leadership like Mesfin, Isayas and Romadan.Meharena Hadgu states that Mesfin Hagos was one of the top leadership and nothing is done without their signing. .In the sentence of the Menkae, Alamin, and others were selected as committee.  6-7 committee members were elected.   

Meharena added that a brave member of the leadership, Tewelde Eyob refused to sign for the death sentences of Menka leaders because he believed that, it is not a criminal charge.  Tewelde Eyob  later killed being part of Menka. [Read more].

Woldenkel Haile, who was head of the security department when Menka leaders were arrested , also said that Menka leaders did not commit any crime except breaking military discipline rules  He made clear his stand which was completely different from Issayas and his supporters. Because of this Issayas was not happy and Woldenkel Haile was sent to the Hailitat (front line sometime in 1974. He was killed shortly after the victory by an unidentified gunman at Segeneti, his birth place in 1977.

The Menkae leaders were executed after a military court imposed the death penalty for Musie, Yohannes, Tareke, Afworki, Teklu and others.   According to Welde Mariam on Menkae A head guard stationed in the execution is still alive in German.
Regarding their execution Meharena Hadgu who was one of the prisoner and eyewitness  in his interview with Aida Kidane said we were told of the death decision on the Menka, but not how.  Later we heard from others the prisoners were taken away one by one, and when we asked them how they were killed. I have a friend residing in Atlanta now, who was prisoner after my release. He said they were taken tied with handcuffs (Ganshur, chain). Handcuffs could be brought from Sudan or Ethiopia. The prisoners were taken tied and the handcuffs alone were returned. This means the prisoners were killed. Earlier, we thought they were taken to a "court" because we assumed we had one.[Read full story Menkae memory, by Meharena Hadgu]. Teklay Aden also stated that, the leaders of the movement were  physically liquidated in a very brutal manner.

Adhanom in his interview with Aida also mentioned that, the EPLF leadership spoke publicly told about Menka  leaders  executions before or after the time of the EPLF Congress 1977. [Read full Memories of Menkae and After:Adhanom Fitwi

መስፍን ሓጎስ ብዛዕባ ‘መንካዕ’ ተሓቲቱ ክምልሽ ከሎ፡ “ግቡእ መቕጻዕቶም እዮም ረኺቦም” በለ። እቲ ሕቶ ‘መንካዕ’ ኢሎም ይጸዉዑ እምበር ብኻልእ ኣዘራርባ እቶም ኣብ ቤት ፍርዲ ከይቀረቡ ገበኖም ከይተፈልጠን ከይተመርመረን ብዘይ ሓንቲ ክንዲ ጽፍሪ ትኸውን ቅንጣብ ጌጋ ከይተረኽቦም ብሓሶት ኣልዕል ኣቢልካ ስሞም ብምጽላም ዝቕተሉ ዝነበሩ ዘጠቓልል ሕቶ እዩ ተሓቲቱ። ነቲ ጉዳይ መንካዕ ብከመይ ትገልጾ ተባሂሉ ንዝቐረበሉ ሕቶ፡ ግቡእ መቕጻዕቶም እዮም ረኺቦም ኢሉ ዝሃቦ ብዱዕ መልሲ ኩሉ እዩ ሰሚዑዎ። መሊሱ መቕጻእቲ ዝበሃልexcrept fromወፍሮም ንገዘኦም ዘይተመልሱ (ሳልሳይን ናይ መወዳእታን ክፋል)


Following the death of Menkae leaders, fighters who showed sympathised with the Menka leaders met the same fate Debesai Gebreselassie was one of them.  He joined the EPLF with Ammanuel Yohannes, Yohannes Sebhatu and Musie T Mikel in 1972 after the hijacking of the Ethiopia Airline in 1972.  In 1974 when the leaders of the Menka group were arrested, Debesai was not arrested because he was not involved in the movement. He was arrested later, in 1976, and executed in 1979. Based on information obtained from other sources, he went for medication abroad and was arrested after returning to the field.

Alana (2010) adds that Debesai was badly wounded at the battle of Belza in 1975 and he was sent for further medical treatment to Aden. According to the EritreaCompass Aeroplane Hijackings (2008) Debesai was an innocent type, he had sent a letter to the US from some Arab country and the letter reached Andebirhan who forwarded it to the meda. As a result of this while Debesai was under the treatment he was kidnapped and brought to the field where he was charged for  being a Menka sympathizer and having connection with Sabba who had split from the EPLF in 1976 and formed his own organisation '(ELF-PLF)' in 1977. He was executed at Arag  in 1979

Habte Gorilla and Habte Ab Seyum wounded fighters who went for treatment to Beirut were also taken away to Sahel and killed.  According to Weldemariam Abraham ,  there was another fighter called Gebreamlak Isak a petro-chemical engineer from Kiev who was  taken to Halaw Sewara and disappeared.  Gebreamlak Isak while in the USSR and used to be called Pushkin, even in Russian language. I heard Haile Selassie gave him a medal. He wrote in long sheets the Eritrean Sem ina Werk in 900 pages. We do not know what happened to his writings after he was killed.

Dehab and Aberash, who were arrested with Yohannes in 1974, were reportedly discharged (terefiten) . However, there has not been any news about them from their friends or relatives since then . According to a reliable source both of them refused political indoctrination and self-criticism consequently  executed at Gerger (Belekat) in 1979, This was when Werku, Masho,  Wodi Woldu and other  who participated in the Menka movement were released from Halewa Sewra[ EPLF’s prison ] after their self-criticism in 1979.
This is also confirmed by Haile Menkerios  in his interview with Aida Kidane in July 2005 also motioned that Dehab and Abe rash were not freed and imprisoned with the rest because they did not repent and believed their cause was just.  Maybe they were killed and we heard it much later to justify their case, we did not know.

Apart from the Menkae, countless others were made to disappear, also counting those who bombed themselves. Meaning they will be horribly imprisoned, and instead they decide to blow themselves up. . Adhanom Fitwi
In 1975 and 1976 a large number of the recruits who had joined the EPLF from high schools and university, became victims to witch-hunts.   Solomon Woldemariam,who was in the EPLF leadership from 1971-1977, suggested that  around one thousand fighters who participated in the Menka movement were rehabilitated after undergoing serious political indoctrination and self-criticism ( Mengiseab,49:2005). Furthermore Teklay Aden, an EPLF security chief who defected to the Ethiopian regime in 1981, revealed that three thousand fighters were physically liquidated by the Front between 1973 and the time of his defection in 1980..

Generally, the crimes against innocent citizens did not begin in 2001 by the PFDJ but has roots going back to the 1960s. The lack of democratic practice and intolerance of dissent by former Eritrean revolutionary leaders became entrenched after the 1991 liberation and have continued with further repression, human rights violation and injustices. Lesson need to be learnt from past negative experiences such as Gedli.

During the liberation struggle many innocent liberation fighters and civilians became victims of the former revolutionary leaders who are currently serving in the Eritrean government or in the Opposition. The opposition leaders are not innocent of crime. They like the PFDJ leaders whom they are accusing of committing crimes against the Eritrean people since 1991 are also guilty.

Glory to our martyrs.

References

 

ehrea
 

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