THE JACK KRAMER PAPERS: HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
In order to understand the significance of the “Jack Kramer Papers”, it is important, at least briefly, to get a short historical background of 1960’s Eritrea.
By 1965, the ELF had divided Eritrea into five military zones/divisions to fight against Ethiopian forces (Actually, they first formed four zones and later added a fifth zone). The divisions were modeled after the Algerian FLN (Front Liberation Nationale).
The commanders of the five divisions were as follows:
• Mohamud Dinai, 1st zone
• Omar Ezaz, 2nd zone
• Abdulkarim Ahmed, 3rd zone
• Mohammed Ali Omaro, 4th zone
• Woldai Kahsai, 5th zone.
It is also important to understand the organizational structure of the ELF at that time. At the top was the Supreme Council (SC) based in Cairo.
Some members of the SC were:
1. Osman Saleh Sabbe
2. Idris Osman Galawdios
3. Idris Mohammed Adem
4. Taha Mohammed Nur, etc.
The next tier was the Revolutionary Command (RC) based in Kassala, Sudan. The main task of the RC was to coordinate the five military zones in Eritrea.
Some members of the RC were:
01. Muhammed Saed Adem
02. Muhammed Ismail Abdu
03. Azzein Yassin
04. Omar Haj Idris
05. Abdu Osman
06. Jaffar Muhammed
07. Ahmed Muhammed Ali
08. Mohamud Muhammed Saleh
09. Ahmed Ismail
10. Saleh Hedug
11. Woldai Gedey
12. Abdulkadir Osman
There were also five political commissioners or commissars who were attached to each zone.
• Ahmed Adem, 1st zone,
• Mohammed Shikini, 2nd zone,
• Ahmed Mohammed Ibrahim, 3rd zone,
• Romadan Mohammed Nur, 4th zone, and
• Isaias Afwerki, 5th zone. (For more on this, read SEWRA ERITREA: The Ups and Downs of the Eritrean Revolution, by Alamin Mohammed Said)
The zonal structure in the field had its complement in the Supreme Council, whose leading figures vied for control of one or another of the zones, completely bypassing the intermediary structure of the Revolutionary Command. In 1967 Ethiopia conducted a major "counterinsurgency campaign". The military campaign was conducted with the assistance of the United States and the Israelis and its main were:
1. The creation of strategic hamlets (create villages around Ethiopian military garrisons) in an effort to "dry the sea to get the fish" or to "cut the lifeline of the mass support" for the fighters. Barka, Senhit, Semhar and Sahel became the primary targets of this scorched earth policy. Many villages were burnt down and there was a mass exodus to the Sudan of some 30 – 40,000 Eritreans.
2. To attack the divisions one at a time, fully understanding the absence of coordination among the zones.
The zonal structure of the front proved incapable of responding effectively to the Ethiopian offensive, and soon after led to a political crisis in the ELF.
A reform movement (the Eslah) emerged with the intention of creating a unified army and command structure. In June 1968 military commanders and political commissars of the 3rd, 4th and the 5th zones met in Aradeib. The following month, the aforementioned people along with the representatives of the fighters, again met in Aradeib. They agreed to get rid of the zonal divisions, to unify the army under a single command, to organize the masses in associations, etc. During the meeting, the first and the second divisions were absent.
This was the overall situation in the second half of 1968 in Eritrea when Jack Kramer, a young American journalist arrived.
Next, Part Three. Interview with Mr. Jack Kramer.