Sunday, July 29, 2007



Part Six
As I have mentioned in my introductory remarks, what impressed me the most were the contents of the letters of Kidane Kiflu to Jack Kramer. There are three letters written by Kidane Kiflu from Kassala, Sudan to Jack Kramer in Palo Alto, California, USA. In part six, I will present only the first four pages of the 8 pages letter of Kidane Kiflu dated; November 27th, 1968. The second four pages of the same letter are a literal translation of an Arabic article that appeared on a Lebanese newsletter “Kulush” entitled; “25 Days With Eritrean Strugglers”. I will also present a two-page letter written and signed (12/9/68) by Mohamud Dinai who was the commander of the First Division. Included you will also find typed transcribed letters of the aforementioned letters.

Summary of Kidane’s first letter to Kramer.

In Kidane’s first one page letter dated 29th, October 1968 (a month later after the visit of Kramer to the field), Kidane conveys his heart-felt greetings and wishes Kramer a good academic year. Kidane also mentions to Kramer that Abdella and Aberra have returned to Kassala safely from the field. In the rest of the letter, Kidane tells Kramer that he had sent him his packages (documents, recorder and negative films) that Kramer left with him. Kidane finally asks Kramer to let him know once he gets the packages.

Second and third letters.

I don’t need to go through the second letter (which I am presenting here) because the contents are self-evident. For the third letter dated April 3rd, 1969 I will use excerpts to convey the thinking of Kidane four months before his brutal murder.

On the first page he wrote;

“We are struggling to have a clear cut party line, policy and principles we have to follow an ideological pattern, which will be implemented in the course of struggle without having any sort of inclination be it to the Western or Eastern Blocks. As Eritreans we have the common principles, common values and sentiments which we share together and we stand for together. We are struggling to defend our constitutional and birth rights with the motto that Eritrea is for Eritreans and Eritreans have the right to self-determination on the basis of democratic principles without being subject to any nation or groups or individual leaders, who want to exercise political power by implementing a totalitarian state in our fatherland.”In the second page he continues;

“Some leaders in the Front have Arabism as a sentiment instigating them and this sentiment is wholly undesired by the people of Eritrea. We are first Eritreans then Africans. We have no enmity or love be it for Israel or for the Arabs. We do not base our analysis on the basis of dislikes and likes we base our objectives on the understanding of matters through principles carefully and critically analyzed on the basis on neutrality. But for most leaders in the Front the latter course is bitter to accept. With respect to the problems of all Eritrea for that matter which I have enumerated in my letters to you are real facts. Because of fear, truth and facts should not be hidden as treasure. Everything should be exposed and made known, so that a solution could be found and will serve as a pressure if exposed by world public opinion. I left my country because I stood for the “truth” and for Eritrean national principles and goals. In the Front also I stand for principle, and I do not fear from anybody.”

Is it this kind of stand and “Eritrean national principles” that got Kidane Kiflu killed? Interestingly, there is also in the “Jack Kramer Papers 1968-1969” an 11 pages (no date) paper entitled; The Progressives Demand Radical Changes In The Eritrean Liberation Front. Even though the paper did not have a date in it, it mentions that “seven years have elapsed since the armed struggle was organized, which makes the paper written in 1968.

Some of the points that Kidane wrote to Kramer were also in the “The Progressives Demand…”
Some of the points in the “Demand” are:

Understanding that the present division of the Eritrean Liberation Army on the basis of tribal, religious, regional and functional elements is a retarding force in fostering national unity and is hazardous in maintaining Eritrean national beliefs, values and sentiments which the people of Eritrea have in common and believing that unless the latter course is implemented Eritrean nationalism will not have firm ground in our armed struggle and without a united front and unity of action we can hardly wipe out Ethiopian Colonialism”.

The Progressives Demand” continues by raising their concern that “seven years had elapsed since the armed struggle was organized. When we review the political developments in the last seven years we can see that in name we are the Eritrean Liberation Front, but in practice a militia (an auxiliary force). The “Demand” continues its call and on page five has the following paragraph. As we see it, a revolution cannot be guided through telegrams and telephones, and it has never been attempted elsewhere. It is impractical and fruitless to alleviate the leadership group from the masses. A leader is expected to lead life with them, he should understand their problems through their help. In any revolutionary movement no revolution that detaches itself from the people existed and if it existed it was doomed to failure.”

Regarding the leadership of the Front, this is what Kidane Kiflu (letter dated November 27th, 1968) had to say;

“Many of the leaders in the Supreme Council of the Front are pseudo revolutionaries they do not have a clearly defined ideology nor have they the ability and the qualification to lead our revolution. They live detached from the realities of the people’s struggle and reside abroad and lead the revolution through letters and telegrams. This is a unique case of a leadership body living outside. (unreadable) country unlike the revolution in Cuba the role-played by Castro, and Mao Tse Tung in China. In the near future, we hope to change the tide of the status quo in a sure refined way, which will satisfy the demands of our people”


Here is the transcribed letter of Kidane Kiflu.

P.O.Box 9
November 27th, 1968

Dear Jack:

Allow me to convey to you my heart felt “revolutionary greetings on behalf of myself and my colleagues here in Kassala. I have received your letter mailed from Singapore; with respect to the other letter I have not received it. I was pleased to note from your last letter, that you had safely arrived in the United States and that you have received the material we mailed from here.

From the moment you left Kassala until I received your first letter, I was pessimistic and I felt that you were in the hands of the autocratic Ethiopian Empire. As is stated in Article 4 of the Ethiopian constitution promulgated on November 2nd in 1955, “the personality of the Emperor is sacred who so ever is bold enough to attack him will be severely punished”. This is a warning to the Ethiopian people that the Emperor and the state has one corporate personality and any body who stands against the Emperor and his Empire awaits him severe torture ( a barbaric one like that of the days of the Roman Empire), and flogging as well as death sentence. For the gloomy Ethiopian autocrat, the Eritrean case considered as an internal affair. If you had by chance been caught by the Ethiopian police, an electric shock might had rang into their ears and protest after protest to the American Ambassador would have been the result. On the whole, you had safely managed your way out from the area of a (unreadable) Ethiopian autocracy , which had been forgotten by the world for 3000 years. 

Your experience with the freedom fighters of Eritrea, as I see it will owe a useful purpose in analysing and making comparative study of revolutionary movements in Africa and elsewhere; and particularly in understanding the problems of the Eritrean revolution for not getting an active support from the world public opinion. To some extent, the cause for the Eritrean case to remain a dead case in the eyes of the world public opinion is accountable. 1. The policy of the leaders of the Front, who in most cases identify themselves as Moslems and not as Eritreans and join their hands in the Moslem League . Besides, they imagine through wishful thinking that they are Arabs and join the Arab world regardless of the voice of the people of Eritrea.

Many of the leaders in the Supreme Council of the Front are pseudo revolutionaries they do not have a clearly defined ideology nor have they the ability and the qualification to lead our revolution. They are detached form the realities of the people’s struggle and reside abroad and lead the revolution through letters and telegrams. This is a unique case of a leadership body living outside their country unlike the revolution in Cuba the role played by Castro and Mao Tse Tung in China. In the near future, we hope to change the tide of the status quo in a more refined way, which will satisfy the demands of our people. The fact that the leaders of the Front identify the Front as a Moslem and Arab movement, in their foreign policy, besides, being a hindrance and turning the revolution into a religious movement; half of the population of Eritrea being Christians up to now have not been able to support the Front wholeheartedly, mainly because of the religious, and Arabism sentimentality of the leaders of the Front. Every progressive revolutionary at this moment is against the policy of the reactionary leaders in the Supreme Council and their puppets in the Revolutionary Command as well as in some of the leaders of the divisions. Through persistent work and perseverance we hope to change the tide of the reactionary sentiments in the Front and appeal to our people on the basis of national goals and principles.

The political movement and the concept of political party organization started in Eritrea in the modernsense in 1942. The patriots at that time were the late Ras Tessema Asberom, and the late Degiat Abraha Tesema and Mr. Woldeab Woldemariam. As founders of one Eritrea party they stood for the principles for one people, the people of Eritrea for one country Eritrea and for one political program, for the independence of the people of Eritrea. During the British Administration in Eritrea (1941-52), Eritreans were not yet politically mature enough to perceive and understand fully the concept of the political party. Many opposed it busing their sentiment on religious, regional and other factional elements. Since 1942 Eritrea has not yet produced a national leader except one Mr. Woldeab Woldemariam, noted by progressive Eritreans as an Eritrean charismatic Ghandi, who has been struggling for the motto Eritrea is for Eritreans for the last 26 years. John Gunther in his book “Inside Africa” mentions Mr. Woldeab as an African nationalist, who escaped from an attempt on his life for 7 times from1943 up to 1952. Mr. Woldeab during the British Adminsitration in Eritrea was an editor of the Government newspaper Eritrean Weekly news and of an independent newspaper One Eritrea (the Voice of Eritrea newspaper) and President of the Eritrean Labourers Union. In 1952 he was elected as a representative in the Eritrean Assembly. The Ethiopian Government through its puppets in Eritrea were trying to assassinate him. In 1953, he exiled himself to the United Arab Republic. Since 1953, he is residing in Cairo, as a political refugee. He appealed to the United Nations General Assembly on several occasions, but the U.N turned a deaf ear. In 1956 from Radio Cairo he was broadcasting in Tigrinya, his teachings about the political activities in Eritrea raised the morality and national sentiment of the Eritrean people. Up to now Mr. Woldeab as a progressive nationalist stood for the principles acceptable to the people of Eritrea on the basis on Eritrean nationalism. We regard him as our trued and honest leader. The leaders of the Front when we examine their past history, some of them were standing for the partition of Eritrea into two, the western provinces to be independent or to join the then Anglo-Egyptian Sudan and the rest to join Ethiopia. Some are Moslem brothers at heart and appear as progressive from the outside by memorizing some revolutionary phrases from books; and others concern themselves in the basis of the Moslem movement in Ethiopia and others were pro Ethiopians.

In the eyes of the Eritrean people only Mr. Woldeab is the most respected and looked upon as a charismatic leader. Since the personality of Mr. Woldeab outweigh that of the leaders of the Front; the leaders of the Front has been trying in vain through their propaganda to exclude Mr. Woldeab from the political scene of Eritrea. Although he is a great teacher, a true leader of the Eritrean people, the futile attempt of the leaders of the Front to exclude Mr. Woldeab from the political scene of Eritrea is failing and will fail more when all the corruption and re(d)tape in the Front are exposed particularly that of the present leaders. In order to understand the Eritrean case much better I advise you to correspond with our true leader Mr. Woldeab Woldemariam. He is not participating in the Front, because he disagrees with the policy of Arabism, Moslem sentiment, tribal and regional motives of the leaders of the Front and their puppets.

His address is:
Mr. Zaky Fahmy
Mariette Pahsa Street No.11

N.B. I am not intending here to give you a biased opinion but I wanted you to have a fair picture of the Eritrean case so that you can dig into the matter to analyze the condition. Please do not expose some of these facts in the newspaper to which the Ethiopians may benefit in their propaganda. Abdella, Aberra and Woldai Gedai a member of the revolutionary command Myself and all our colleagues are conveying greetings and good wishes and success in the academic year.
Hassan Karar is still in the field.

P.S In case you introduce yourself with Eritrean students in the U.S.A. please do not forget to give them my address and let them contact me. We wish to see you back in Kassala and particularly in Eritrean soil.

Hoping to hear from you soon,
Kidane Kiflu

P.S I am enclosing a literal translation of the Lebanese article.

Now, I want to take you back to the interview with Mr. Jack Kramer.

Issayas: In the 21 pages report in your collection at Hoover, you mentioned that you saw Osman
Saleh Sabbeh in Aden, Yemen after you went to Yemen from Asmara. You also mentioned that
Osman did not have information on the “Battle of Halhal” (I will deal with it in the last part) except only what he read through the Ethiopian papers. Is it fair to say, what Kidane wrote in his letters to you, was he right on the money about the weakness of the leadership when he said and I quote, “Many of the leaders in the Supreme Council of the Front are pseudo-revolutionaries. They do not have a clearly defined ideology nor have they the ability and the qualification to lead our revolution. They live detached from the realities of the people in struggle and reside abroad and lead the revolution through letters and telegrams.”?

Mr. Kramer: In retrospect, it is fair to say. As for my judgment of Osman Saleh Sabbe at the time, remember I was young. I was not certainly not impressed by him the way I was impressed by the lads in the field, but any leader living in relative comfort is at a disadvantage. He is bound to be less impressive, except to reporters who appreciate nice clothes. He was nice to me, and I appreciated it. As for fighting the war through letters and telegrams, it’s hard to say for sure, but coming from Kidane, this may have had some real impact on me. In my writing I find myself becoming more and more skeptical of writers who analyze from afar, parsing opaque tracts and alliances instead of talking to real people who have gotten their hands dirty in the real conflict.

Issayas: Mohamud Dinai wrote you a letter dated September 12, 1968 (two days after the “Battle of Halhal” and two days after the Anseba Conference) warning you not to go to the second division. Did you know why? How and where did you get the letter?

Mr. Kramer: Yet more confirmation that memory is a bad reporter. At first I told you that maybe I got that letter in the US. Checking my notes and trying harder to remember, there’s no way I got it in the US. It came in to camp by runner. There may have been political implications to his warning. From what we know now, the entire Halhal region was dangerous at that moment; where we were at may have been even more dangerous. But reading political implications into his warning is pure speculation. I am inclined to take it at face value. A warning of physical danger.

Transcribed letter of Mohammud Dinai.

Date 12/9/68

To Mr. Jak;

I am Mahmud Dinai the leader of first divistion, I heard about you, and I am very sory that I am not met you. So the reason is their the second divition that you wont to see them many of their solder were travling by the wounded solder they are transferred them form the war field if you have time you may meet me if you have not you can inter ADARDE vilag. do not try to inter to the second divition because the second divition coverd by the enemy military.
If you wont to see me the wounded soleder you may come we are working in their transferred them.

I was very hapy to meet you

( ELF Stamp)

E.L.F good lack

your brother

Mahmud - Dinai

I was glad to show you about The Eritrean people and in which they are living, And to discouse with you bout Eritrean Libertion Front and the treatment to our people From the enemy. And we of ways hapy to see men like you in time like this, for your Kindness in our wor.

Your . b.

M. D.

NEXT: PART SEVEN. The interview continues on the murder of Kidane Kiflu and the documents of Kassala with Minister Naizghi Kiflu, Birgadier General Ghirmay Mehari, Professor
Berhe Habte-giorgis and Minister Woldenkiel Gebremariam.