THE JACK KRAMER PAPERS: HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
Issayas: When you entered Eritrea from the Sudanese/Eritrean border with the ELF, do you remember with which zone or division you traveled?
Mr. Kramer: Memory is bad reporter. We should rely on what we know for sure. Two of the fellows in the group picture I sent you(see part three), Ibrahim on the far left, first row, and the fellow in the middle of the first row (I believe his name is Ismail) were the two of the three armed and uniformed scouts who took us over the border, near Tessenai. I believe they belonged to whatever zone or division we entered because when we left that region, they stayed behind and new guerrillas took over from them.
Issayas: Your guides with the ELF were Aberra Mekonnen and Abdullah Hassan. Would you describe them?
Mr. Kramer: Abdullah was like me, young. We were similarly naïve. He was short and slight. Aberra was not heavy, but thick set, somewhat older. He seemed to carry a real sense of tragedy about him. His only weapon was a hand grenade, and I had the distinct sense it was meant for himself, should events call for it.
Issayas: In a couple of places in your collection you mentioned that Aberra Mekonnen kept diary. Can you tell me a little bit about that? Have you had contact with either Aberra or Abdullah since your last visit?
Mr. Kramer: No I haven’t had any contact. Aberra’s diary was more like a tiny appointment book. We had to travel light. Again, as I described him he carried a sense of tragedy about him.
Issayas: You entered Eritrea from Sudan and after you separated from the fighters you went to Asmara and then left Asmara to go to Yemen. How was that possible, especially since you did not have an entry visa?
Mr. Kramer: Because of Halhal, and the insecurity in the countryside, Abdullah and Aberra left me with a new cadre just west of Keren. He took forever, something like three days, to loop around Keren to the east. Once there I was handed off to civilians, who got me to the Keren-Asmara road, where I hitch hiked into Asmara. (Once I actually got picked up by an Ethiopian Army truck!) How I got out, lacking an entry visa is a comedy. They had me wait for a couple of hours. I was worried. Basically they did not notice that I did not have an entry visa because they were so concerned about my lack of a TB shot, or some such.
Issayas: You and Kidane both in your correspondences mentioned a journalist called James Cameron. Who was James Cameron?
Mr. Kramer: James Cameron was a wonderful journalist who wrote mostly for the British public. He covered the Korean War, the Vietnam War from North Vietnam, and the escape of the Dalai Lama from China etc. I forget how I ran into him; as I’ve indicated he is among the few.
Issayas: Has Mr. Cameron ever written on Eritrea?
Mr. Kramer: I don’t know. When I met him, I did not even know about the struggle in Eritrea. He was certainly interested in it after I went there, but he was an old man, and ill.
All Pictures are courtesy of the Hoover Institution Archives.
(The Jack Kramer Collection 1968-1969)
Lower right (Abu Sheneb) September 1968.
Issayas: A person named Fathy Mohammed Ahmed Saleh wrote you a letter. Do you remember who he is/was? All the correspondences in your collection were very famous people in the Eritrean revolution except Fathy Ahmed Saleh.
Mr. Kramer: No
Issayas: Kidane was using an address in Kassala. Hassan Hasankai. Do you know who he was?
Mr. Kramer: No. Maybe he’s Hassan mi Jack. Maybe he’s the older fellow at the center of that group photo. Maybe it is not a good idea to speculate too much.
Aberra Mekonnen (Sept. 1968)
Ibrahim in the mountains of Tessenai/Kassala frontier.
Ibrahim is scanning the eastern horizon. (Sept, 1968)
Kramer after a Front sponsored civil meeting
had just broken up under the trees.
In a wadi with a battalion commanded by Muhammed Ali Idris
(Not in the picture). The person on the far left of the group wearing
a blue scarf is a seventeen year old female fighter. One of the few at that time.
Kramer (on the camel) "with the largest unit (11) men".
Figure in light khaki, on the right of photo,facing battalion,
is their commander, Abu Sheneb.
Next: Part Six. Letters of Kidane Kiflu and Mohamud Dinai. The interview continues.