Tuesday, April 21, 2009



In my previous series of postings entitled " Kidane Kiflu and the Jack Kramer Papers", I mentioned that the research was on-going. The continuing research for the aforementioned led me to two interviews that were conducted by Gunther Schroeder. From the 1980's to early 1990's, Gunther Schroeder interviewed, what would be considered a WHO'S WHO list of people from ELF and Harakat (ELM). (Note: He also interviewed very few people from EPLF. During that period he interviewed over 50 people).

Going through the transcripts of the above mentioned interviews, two interviews grabbed my attention. The first was Gunther's interview with Abdella Hassan Ali. If you recall, Abdella Hassan Ali was one of the fighters (the other being Aberra Mekonnen) who accompanied Jack Kramer from Kassala to the field in 1968. I'll present part of the transcript that relates to Kidane Kiflu and Jack Kramer. I'll present the second interview in its entirety.

The reason why I started writing "Kidane Kiflu and the Jack Kramer Papers" was because of Kidane's letters to Jack Kramer. The letters are located at the Hoover Institution Archives in Palo Alto, California, USA. The letters reveal the political maturity of Kidane. In the letters, Kidane was reflecting his and his comrade-in-arms sentiment of the time and their vision for the future of Eritrea's struggle for independence. For the purpose of this article, his comrade-in-arms included people like Tekue Yehdego, Wolderufael Sebhatu, Mehari Debesai and others. The same people were mentioned by General Ghirmay Mehari and Naizghi Kiflu in part VII of "Kidane Kiflu and the Jack Kramer Papers".

I found some letters that Tekue Yehdego, Wolderufael Sebhatu and Mehari Debesai wrote (separately) to the Eritreans in the diaspora. The letters were written in the early 1970's. I'll post samples of their letters in another time. Suffice it to say, despite their young age, what makes all their respective letters (including Kidane's) valuable is the similarity of their sharp analysis, the clarity of their message, organizational ability, boldness, humbleness, politeness, determination, resolve and focus.

Here is an excerpt from the transcript of Gunther’s interview with Abdalla Hassan Ali.

On The Student Movement In Asmara And History Of ELF
Kassala/13-02-1991/Arabic/English (Translator: Tesfay Weldemikiel)
Transcript read and corrected by Abdalla Hassan Ali summer 1991

Gunther: When you came to Kassala it was the time when the Harakat Eslah and the movement of the fighters were agitating there. What where the issues and how did you participate in those activities?

Abdalla Hassan Ali: At that time in Kassala the general atmosphere was intensifying in calling for the unity of the zones, also there was slogan about there should be one leadership and its center must be the field, that the congress should be held and also there were slogans calling for the programmatic declaration of ELF. In Kassala there were many houses which belonged to the different zones, these centers accepted the fighters who came either for rest or for treatment but all the fighters used to gather and to exchange ideas. And also there were people entering Kassala from different zones and the organized people in Sudan also had the same sentiments and views of this general at¬mosphere. So being in Kassala at this time I participated in the activities calling for the unity of ELA and the establishment of one leadership whose center would be in the field. There was no difference between the general sentiment of those fighters and people here in Kassala and the Harakat Eslah. And finally the task was done jointly. From Harakat Eslah there were Abdelqader Remadan, Abdalla Suleiman, Kidane Kiflu and others. So even this expresses the general sentiment of the situation. There was no difference, we can not see them as different groups. We were doing meetings together. Although we can't say that this gives a form of two bodies, from those who were known as army committee were such persons as Abubaker Mehamed Jime, one martyr called Abdalla Talodi, Abdalla Mehamed, Taha Ibrahim, Mehamed Nur and also Idris "Sharif".

Gunther:How did it come about that Aberra Mekonnen and you were given the assignment to accompany Jack Kramer to the field eventhough you were active in the movement of the fighters? Was Aberra also of this movement?

Abdalla Hassan Ali:Aberra Mekonnen was with us also in these activities. When he came to the field he directly came to Kassala before even taking a military training and he participated di¬rectly in this situation. At that time, even though the Harakat Eslah and the movement of the fighters were present, this does not mean that the relations between the fighters participating in them and the Revolutionary Command did not exist. For example, Said Saber has been working in the information Department, Welday was a member of the Revolutionary Command and
Kidane Kiflu and myself were under the Kiada Sewriya. When this American journalist came it was seen that the Americans still do not have a clear assessment of the situation. So it was organized that if this American goes to the field and writes of what he sees it would be for the benefit of the revolution. So I and Aberra Mekonnen were ordered to go with Jack Kramer to the field. We were not long with him, we accompanied him from Kassala to Barka, we visited some place in Barka and then, because he had to meet some units in the 2nd zone and then enter
to Keren, he was given some fighters who accompanied him and they directed him to zone no. 2 and with Aberra Mekonnen I returned to Kassala with his documents and films.

Gunther: When you came to Kassala in 1968 what was then the relationshiop betwen the ELF and the Sudanese government? Was there a tendency of the government to impose restrictions on the activities of the ELF in Sudan?

Abdalla Hassan Ali:At that time, of course, I was new in Sudan and how the government of Sudan functioned and what its relation to the revolution was, I did not know. But what I had come in contact with was that the Sudanese authorities were arresting some fighters who were released after paying some fees. The members of the Kiada Sewriya were mainly operating underground and the activities of the Ethiopians also intensified. They have been throwing
some bombs in the Western Gash area of Kassala against the Sudanese petrol distribution area to threaten them, This was the general information I had, but I realy did not know what was going on.

Gunther:What did you do after you returned to Kassala with the materials of Kramer?

Abdalla Hassan Ali: After the formation of the Tripartite Unity I went to that area and with me were many other fighters who were sent to the field in many directions and with the same ideas we had we joined the units in the different zones. I went to Akele Guzay and joi¬ned the unit called seriya 8. Seriya 8 at that time had about 150 fighters. In the Tri-partite Unity there were at least eight seriya but also independent gantas for guerilla activities. I did not participate in the Adobha Congress. I continued in this seriya in Akele Guzay. Its commander was Umer Suba. I stayed with this unit till the Tekhlit of Tahra. After that some units were sent to the vicinity of Asmara. After the merger of the army new units were formed and it was also decided to send guerilla units around every town. Saleh ad-Din Abdalla and myself were given the duty to organize inside Asmara, Mahmud Hazeb was sent to Aqerdat, a certain Mehamed Yazin to Mas¬sawa, Suleiman Musa Haj to Keren, Mehamed Taher to Mendefera. The guerilla units were given the tasks of organization around Asmara and inside the town. When I returned responsible for organizing the city I found everything had come to a new situation, that the Ethiopians intensified their campaign to arrest the ELF members. So we began to organize the city according to the acquaintances we had. We also tried to recruit new elements. At that time to operate in Asmara was very difficult. Besides this task of organizing the guerilla units had other tasks which can be identified as military operations and political agitation around Asmara.Our main camps we were depending on, were in the area of Mensa up to Ad Shumer (Filfil, Agenat). When we tried to go up to the Highlands we couldn't even stay for half an hour, just after some time the Ethiopians used to arrive. So, the center being these lowland areas gradually we were
managing to expand our activities, to create cells in the villages, to get information and to return back. We had cells inside the villages, we got information from them and sometimes we came into contact with some persons who came from Asmara and organized them. But we were always returning hastily. For example, we first met in She'eb, Selemona, some teachers and we mandated them to carry our mission. Concerning the acceptance of the people, of course, because there is an intensive enemy pressure in that area, there were difficulties, but those who came into contact with us from Asmara were mainly composed of Christians and we fighters, our units, were both composed of Christians and Muslims. So, especially in our task, when we come to work, the general national sentiment was dominating. And when we were inside Asmara, Muslims and Christians were working together. I did this work up to October 1970. Then I was captured on October 13, 1970 inside Asmara, but Saleh ad-Din Abdalla carried on with our work after I was arrested. I was about 6 months in prison, then in April 1971 Mehamed Amir "Kabli", who was captured at Massawa, and myself, we escaped from the prison by digging our way out. After I fled from the prison, I was mainly on treatment in Kassala and Khartoum and then I participated in the 1st National Congress.

Below is the transcript of Gunther's interview

On the events of 1969/1970 in Kassala.
Kassala. March 21, 1989/translated Tigrigna to English by Gebray Weldeselase.

I'm more than 35 years in Kassala. Many people in Kassala were killed at that time. These two were killed out of the six of the pC in Kassala. Mesfin Hagos was supposed to be killed with them. He was here in Kassala when they called him, he told them he has a job right now. After this Time, Mehari was in Khartoum. After they were killed he came and took their belongings to send them to their families. They were the ones to make contact with the Sudanese government. If any fighter was wounded or in need of any help these people were trying to solve the problem of the fighters in Kassala. Any Eritrean, who had an interest in the revolution, they were helping if any problems or difficulties were happening to him. lf people were kidnapped by the organization these people appealed to the Sudanese police.

Ali Berhatu came from Arab nation. He was responsible for refugees through the ELF. When he arrived, Welday and Kidane took him to the hotel. They suspected "if he sleeps without any guard the opponents may kidnap him and take him to the field." They went to the police station and they requested to give one police to guard him in the hotel. They gave them the police. Then the opposers knew he is sleeping in the hotel and they came the next day by taxi to the hotel and told the police this guy is wanted by the Sheikh of Hilla. They took him to this place. When they dropped him there he was taken by other opponents waiting there by force to the field.Kidane and Welday came to the hotel to find him. They asked the police and the police told them, a member of your organization came and took him by taxi to the Sheikh of Hilla. They were angry with the police but immediately they went to the police sta¬tion and appealed that this man has disappeared from the town. Then the administration of Kassala send a letter to Khartoum that this man had disappeared from Kassala by kidnapping. Then the administration of Khartoum sends a letter to this office to ask the ELF office and force them to bring the man from the field. The police arrested some of the ELF to force them to bring him back. They asked for two months and assured that he is alive. And after 2 months they brought him. He was saved his life because of these two pwople Welday and Kidane. When he came back, they were already killed. Tesfay and Ibrahim were leading with these two. They were in the field, they came to Kassala. Ibrahim was in China for training and educated. Tesfay was an ordinary fighter.

They were newcomers and started simply discussing, talking with other members of the ELF, because they did not know what things were happening in Kassala. Welday and Kidane advised them not to go with the others members and not to separate from them and after some time the opponents understood that the idea of Tesfay and Ibrahim is the same as those of Welday and Kidane. They kidnapped them immediately and took them to Sowake, a garden near Kassala. They killed Ibrahim there, but took Tesfay back to the field. When the two, Welday and Kidane,
appealed to the.police station that Ibrahim and Tesfay had disappeared, then the police arrested some members of ELF and investigated. Then among the members of ELF it was believed that Ibrahim had been killed but they did not find the body.The people who had done it, told actually the police that they had killed him in the garden then. They promised to the police to bring Tesfay back to Kassala. Before they brought Tesfay back Welday and Kidane were assassinated.

ELF got behind Welday Feqaq , one of their members, to bring his wife from Ali Giddir and then to make a feast and to invite Welday and Kidane as otherwise they would not have a chance to touch them. They gave Welday Feqaq money to get these people into his house. He hid 8 persons from the opponents in his house and when these two came to his home, immediately these 8 persons caught them. Welday started to fight and trying to escape. Immediately they killed him by knife in his side. Kidane was gagged and trussed up and tied, then they attend a taxi and they took them away. Kidane was covered by sacks from head to toe. 4 sacks. When they went around Haffera, Welday's dead body dropped from the taxi and the taxi is soiled by blood. A villager who sells milk passed the car and saw this. The taxista and the other people tried to escape from that place and they succeeded.

The villager went to the police station and told there are some dead bodies there. Then the taxista started washing his car. When the police investigated they found him washing his car. When they asked him, he said, people were fighting and I took them to their house. Then the villager, police and the taxi-driver went to the area there and found the dead bodies. They were taken to the police station for investigation. The police asked the taxista how it happened, they beat him to tell the truth. When the police asked the taxista he explained that when someone gave me money to take people that way, I do it, and all police, you know this, that many taxistas do that. The police declared then that he is mad. Then the taxi-driver informed the police
that many taxistas are working like that and many were arrested.

When the other taxi-drivers were questioned, they were released again as there was no evidence against them. Welday Feqaq, the traitor, and two others were arrested at that time by the police. The taxi-driver said, he was called by a fighter called Shinkakay to carry a sick person to the hospital and I came. Shinkakay and one other were arrested. The other six escaped. The taxi-driver claimed to have been forced by Shinkakay by knife to carry the dead bodies. He received 25 Sudanese Pounds and was promised another 25 Pounds. At last, Welday Fekak, his wife, Shinkakay and his friend and the taxi-driver were imprisoned. Shinkakay was sentenced
to death but the ELF office appealed and he was released after some years. The second man was sentenced to 14 years, after 7-8 years in Port Sudan they were released. Welday Fekak and the taxista stayed only one year in prison. The wife was imprisoned for one year only.Kidane was killed when Welday's body fell out of the car. Originally it was planned to take them alive inside for interrogation. From the Harakat many people were killed in Kassala and in the field by the ELF.There were no clubs here for the Christian Eritreans especially because the Sudanese Government would pick them up and return them to Tesseney. Teku, Mehari, Mesfin, Welday and Kidane were secretly working in the house of Letefiel. Teku Yehdego, later killed by ELF, has a child now in Sahel. Was killed about 3-4 years after death of Welday.