No matter when, and for how long, those who provoke the people of Tigrai to war, would never live to tell the story, Never Again!
By Jerusalem Barnabas
Tigrai Online May 19, 2020
I spent my young life fighting Mengistu’s dictatorship, I was fortunate, I survived to tell the story but many of my peers perished. There would be no words to tell the crimes against humanity committed during Colonel Mengistu’s rule.
We were just high school children, with little understanding what our resistance to Mengistu’s regime would unleash. Yes, ‘the genie in the bottle’. As young, we rose to an incredible political maturity for our age then became the victims of our own struggle. A struggle for democratic system and a civilian rule. Sadly though, everything got hijacked by the claiming ‘socialist military junta’ and its elite ideologues, መኢሶን. MEISON (Mela Ethiopia Socialist Nekenake)
That turned Ethiopia’s democratic struggle ugly, later into a slaughter house. As young we were trapped between the two power seeking groups, EPRP / ኢህኣፓ, and MEISON / መኢሶን. The impressionable youth, in our hundreds, thousands and more, gave our unconditional support to EPRP. We eagerly learnt all the borrowed socialist ideals. We read the history of the Bolshevicks and the Menshevicks of USSR. We explored the Vietnamese struggle, the Chinese cultural revolution, the Chinese Red Army and its Communist Party; further, the history of Che Guevara and the Cuban revolution. Our sheer enthusiasm made us read all the left ideology, with no idea where it would lead us if it turned to realty. Not only we learnt about these countries’ revolution, we also became the ‘experts’ of analysing Friedrich Engels and Karl Marks writings, ‘the historical and dialectical materialism’; ‘the communist Manifesto’, among the few I remember.
We raised the political awareness of the public at large and the unemployed young too. While Ethiopia was under the tight grip of Mengistu, we took an imaginable risk to spread our ideology and the aim of the EPRP. We were made to believe our organisation EPRP, was a ‘Proletariat Party’. We wrote and translated materials into Amharic language, we mobilised the young and the downtrodden in thousands, intensifying the resistance against Mengistu. Subsequently, the conflict between MEISON and EPRP turned into a personal vendetta. We knew too little about the two elite organisations and the history behind their formation; some of us were teenage kids, but we hated injustice and held a great conviction to bring about ‘Peoples government’/ ህዝባዊ መንግስት.
Derg was supported by MEISON claiming it was a Socialist. Marrying the two socialist ideas that came from EPRP and MEISON, became difficult. A war of vocabularies and threats, became our preoccupation, we were told to label the MEISONs as Bandas, traitors.
In the squabble for power, both Mengistu, MEISON and EPRP, threw us as a gambling dice. Despite everything, we remained defiant turning the political paradigm towards the EPRP’s objective. Mengistu declared the Red Terror on us and Ethiopian people; then was mayhem. arbitrary arrest, house to house search, torture, execution, assassination, conscription, murder and blood bath. Seeing dead bodies in the City of Addis, Dire-Dawa, town of Gondar, Mekelle, Adigrat, Bahirdar, Jigiga, Nazreth and more, became a common scene. People of Ethiopia shivered with fear witnessing horrifying cruelty and unjustifiable terror.
In the provinces of Eritrea and Tigray, armed movements emerged, ELF, EPLF, TLF then TPLF, EDU and EPRA. They all sheltered under the Majestic mountains of Tigray. The EPRP/A in Assimba /ዓሲምባ, the centre of the Irob people.
The Eritrean movements entered in and out of Tigray as they liked, the rest of the movements, EPRA, EDU and TPLF made Tigray their military base ‘permanently’, until they later turned the gun against each other.
Some of those young who supported EPRP, and their lives endangered, joined the armed wing named, Ethiopian People Revolutionary Army/ EPRA, in Asimba. It did not take long, the word Anja/ኣንጃ meaning faction emerged and became common both inside EPRP and EPRA; comrades purged, exposed and imprisoned their own comrades, eliminate when they could. The grand organisation EPRP/A, apprehended its fighters, later to execute them in a rush inside the remote base area Sengede/ሰንገደ.
Many were going through hell in Addis and elsewhere. Among so many, the son of the Irobs, Dr Tesfay Debessay, the EPRP leader, got killed in Addis Abeba. The foreign educated Dr who was instrumental for having EPRA base in Assimba gone never to return. There are all kinds of theories surrounding his death, but let’s leave that to those leaders of EPRP who are alive to tell us. I hope they accept the historical burden put upon them to demystify all the scandals committed against people of Ethiopia especially the youth.
Dr Debessay’s death shocked the people of Irob, they were shattered by the news, finding it hard to accept. His leaving parents and siblings were distraught, so was the whole of Assimba. The Irobs sheltered, nurtured and embraced EPRA with open arms and warm hearts. They felt betrayed by what happened. Cracks were visibly showing within the EPRP/A in Tigray. In this tragedy the people of Tigray who supported EPRP got confused and disheartened, by the conflict within also, by the growing tension with TPLF.
The EPRP/A addressed TPLF, TP or sometimes as TB. The on and off political disagreements, and the contempt towards each other finally burst into an armed conflict. The war and the conflict between the two (The EPRP/TPLF), demands history books written by those who knew the ins and outs, so, it is not a capacity for this article.
Once the war started, the Irob, Agame and Adwa villages, became the battle ground and grave yards for hundreds of fighters from both sides; this is without counting the living injured with physical and mental scar. While this was happening, Mengistu’s Army launched an attack both in Tigray and Eritrea. The remaining EPRP/A fighters couldn’t retreat through Tembien to go to the EPRP’s Gonder Army. The organisation EPRP that belittled the TPLF, that had limited modern rifles, ironically encircled and crushed it, in no time with all the sophisticated weapons it owned. EPRP/A had no choice but to get out of Tigray and negotiate safe entry to Eritrea, via ELF/Eritrean Liberation Front. The ELF disarmed the EPRP/A and confiscated their Arms and barehandedly led them inside Eritrea mostly, under the supervision of child ELF fighters, known as Manjoos.
Tigray was left in bereavement, most notably the people of Irob, where EPRP/A leadership spent most of its time. The people of Irob helped EPRP/A retreating to Eritrea, by physically carrying the Army’s stuff and injured comrades on their Donkeys and Horses; some peasants came with their dogs, totally disillusioned on what would follow. They were not keen on TPLF, in fact they had songs against the TPLF. God knows how TPLF won their hearts later, must have done miracle.
The people of Irob are courageous, kind and selfless people, with uncommon progressive communal customs. The Irobs shared everything they had with anyone and all including, the EPRA fighters. They gave their houses, their belongings and their children who were in Assimba in thousands. The people of Irob, their children, with the amazing topography of their land, deserve gratitude for putting up with all that pain. A monument in your name should stand in Alitena/ ዓሊተና, as a reminder of your struggle. Your struggle during all wars, not only the time of EPRP/A, also, during the war with Eritrea. I have nothing but a deeply held gratitude to you and your children who gave their lives. As a gesture of my appreciation, I bow from my neck and my back, to say thank you and long live the people of Irob and the people of Tigray everywhere, because you deserve that recognition.
With all going, I am encouraged to see Tigray with a new generation, a generation with ‘fresh blood’, more intellectual and sharper than before. The youths in Tigray is not there to resuscitate the old TPLF, but to stop them from wrong doing and holding them accountable. The young in Tigray have lost their fathers and for fathers, mothers and sisters and more, fighting for TPLF, because it is closer to their skin, they would extend their respect to the organisation and its achievements, while strongly criticising the wrong doings. The young would never be silenced by TPLF nor would they be discriminated and harassed by the children of Derg, their elite uncles, or their ‘grandfather’ from next door, Eritrea.
They demand respect and their legitimate rights to vote and govern themselves.
Tigray had enough, it has gone through so much, been pulled left, right and centre, by Mengistu, EPRP, EDU, EPRDF also the TPLF.
- It is a shame old comrades of EPRP to befriend with Derg remnants in order to seize power they lost
- It is a shame their siblings and comrades didn’t die for them to seat in the Menillik Palace, sadly their brothers have now renovated it nicely to stay longer
- It is shame they turned bigots against all principle of human right. They instigated in the past and current to carry out premeditated genocide, on one single nation, Tigray. Those people who had fed and hosted them in the past.
- It is a shame that they idolise Esayas Afewerki, the dictator of the Horn who turned Eritrea into an open prison.
- It is a shame while lamenting people of Amhara from where to where, ‘የኣማራ ህዝብ ከየት ወደየት’, they betrayed the people of Amhara; they offered them nothing but anarchy.
- It is a shame they refused to acknowledge most of those they call Amharas, are in fact Agews, Kimants, Shinashas and more. Whichever way though, they are leading the people of Amhara into the darkest abyss.
- It is a shame the Professor who was purged as Anja and put into ጋንታ ዜሮ /Ganta Zero in EPRA, turned as ‘Navigator’ of the new road that leads to zero.
- It is a shame, they formed an alliance with their old prosecutors, (Derg, MEISON the EPRP) and became prosecutors and persecutors. History is strange.
- This is by no means condoning any hardship they went through by EPRDF, but to uphold them for the morality they were advocating while criticising TPLF.
- I say they have no moral position to pass judgement and condemn their predecessors. They cannot conspire with enemies of Ethiopia in the past, to pretend as custodians of democracy now.
- They might fool others as democratic, but will not fool Tigray again.
- They must know TPLF doesn’t own Tigray, TPLF is accountable to Tigray so, the judgement is not up to them but up to the people of Tigray.
- Not only TPLF, but Tigray as whole is watching them and their steps. Under whatever their pretext, they will be challenged by all peaceful means.
- The people of Tigray hate violence and mob rule. They are people with deeply held humanity and endless patience, most of all, they are people with instilled patriotism and formidable bravery.
- They are not interested to go to war with anyone, because their land is a living cemetery of all wars fought time and time again.
- No matter when, and for how long, those who provoke them to war, would never live to tell the story. So, you should think twice. This is not a bluff or threat, but the history of Tigray! Never again attempt to wage war, you would only know how it started not how it would end. People of Tigray say no war never again!
A Luta continua!