Saturday, October 17, 2009

Conversation with Pastor Ezra Gebremedhin

Part Five (Last)

Issayas: How about the Mensa?

Pastor Ezra Gebremedhin: In his book Envoys of the Gospel in Ethiopia , Gustav Aren writes: "A convert from Islam, Ato (Mr.) Gustavo Bealged Maybetot (1908-1987), went in 1927 from Geleb to Asmara to seek employment. "On my arrival there a circular had been distributed to all companies and government offices which forbade employment of members of the Church", stated Ato Gustavo in his Hiwoyt Tarik, his 12-page autobiography.Later he founded the Mekane Yesus Congregation at Dessie, Ethiopia.

Ato(Mr.) Gustavo Be'alged Maybetot (1908-1987)

Two things struck me about Ato Gustavo. The first was his forename. The name must have been given to him by some Swedish missionary, or taken by him in appreciation of a Swedish missionary by the same name. The second thing that struck me about him was his loyalty, his perseverance in his Evangelical faith he had received. He was a Kenisha, at home in his faith away from home. Secondly, he belonged to the category of people known as the Mensa (pronounced with a guttural sound at the end). Who were the Mensa? What can we say of their history and culture? In what way did they come in touch with the Swedish Evangelical Mission?

Teachers in Geleb. Sitting: Left to right: Qesh Dawit Amanuel, Ida Coisson, Ida Harndahl and Eleazar Hedad. Standing. Left to right: Eyassu Be'imnent, Tesfa-Li'ul Hibtes , Timoteos Fayed, Samuel Etman, Maestro Coisson. (1930)

Teacher Natnael Negassie and his family who labored in the Geleb area.

Karl Johan Lundstrom has given us a short but comprehensive survey of their history. His text follows.

When the first Swedish missionaries arrived in Massawa, the French Consul Werner Munzinger advised them against advancing to the Oromo through Abyssinia. He suggested instead that they begin work among the Mensa people who according to him, were pagan and lived just a few days walk from Massawa. However, he soon ran into a problem. Catholic missionaries, who had initiated mission among the Bilen, not far from the Mensa, protested against his proposal. He therefore changed his mind and recommended Kunama as the most suitable site for pioneer missionary work by the Swedes.

Seven years later, Munzinger, who by then was in Egyptian service, was still urging the missionaries to do something for the Mensa. In December 1873 a missionary by the name of E.E. Hedenstrom (1844-1904) moved up the area, settling in a place called Geleb. In Geleb the missionaries met still another culture. The people were not, as Munzinger had first stated, pagan but bearers of a mixture of Muslim and Christian cultures. Mensa tradition claims that the people originated in Arabia. The Swedish missionary K.G. Roden writes,

Their forefathers were two brothers Tsed and Tsebed, descendants of Kerosh and Manneja, who lived in Arabia. later on they separated: Tsebed remained in his country of origin, while Tsed crossed the Red Sea , landed on African soil and settled on Buri, a peninsula south of Massawa. From him were born Haranreway, Hatsotay, Toray, Schiahai, Adalie(Adaglie), Mensaay, and Mereyay. The first of these formed a branch called Haranrewa; the others a second branch with name of six people: Haso, Tora, Schiahay, Adallye, Mensaay and Mareya.

The new settlers were Saho who migrated from the coast to Haigat. A migration led the same groups of Saho to the plateau where they took up Tigrigna or Tigre as their language. The story continues to narrate how the Mensa and Marya left their brothers and moved towards the area where the sun sets and then moved up to Haigat. There they went in different directions. Mensaay settled at Haigat and his descendants were called Mensa, while the Mareyay settled at Erota and his descendants were called Marya. The existing population, called Tigre was subdued and Mensa and Marya became the ruling classes (Shimagele) in the area. The area mentioned above was located in the Central Eastern Highlands of Eritrea and stretched towards the north. The language spoken by the people was Tigre, closely related to the ancient Ge'ez. Other related groups, such as the Bet Juk, settled north of Mensa. The Mensa were divided into two groups: The Beit Abrehe, with their main center at Habna (Geleb) and the Biet Eshhaqan, with their center at Mihlab.

Issayas: Pastor Ezra, thank you very much for your time. Do you want to add anything before we end?

Pastor Ezra: I would like to take this occasion to thank you sincerely for kindly presenting the forthcoming book entitled, Kenisha: The Roots and Development of The Evangelical Church of Eritrea 1866-1935. By Karl Johan Lundström. Edited by Ezra Gebremedhin in a series of installments. As we now come to the end of this generous enterprise, I must say that the publication of the book has been delayed and that it will be published, hopefully, during the first quarter of 2010. It will be a solid work of just over 500 pages, richly supplied with photos, maps, some simple charts and a comprehensive and up to date bibliography. Among the appendices of the book we have a section of several pages on literary sources (annotated) on the history of the Swedish Evangelical Mission (SEM) and the ECE, as well as some brief statistics on mission and church, yesterday and today. A “lexicon” with very short biographical data on former Swedish missionaries and their Eritrean colleagues from around 1867 to the present (for Swedish missionaries) and to 1935 for their Eritrean colleagues, will be of interest for both Swedes and Eritreans. We shall be sending notice on the venue of the publication and distribution of the book in good time. Meanwhile, be our jungle telegraph. Thank you!

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Conversation with Pastor Ezra Gebremedhin

Part Four:

Issayas: Pastor Ezra, you mentioned that Karl Johan Lundstrom had materials on the history of the Kunama and the Mensa. Can you breifly elaborate on that? Also, a lot of people do not know that Aboi Woldeab Woldemariam's first job was as a teacher in Kunama area.

Pastor Ezra: When three Swedish missionaries landed on the coast of Massawa in the spring of 1866, they had no thoughts of heading in the direction of Kunama. Their goal was to reach the Oromo in western and southern Ethiopia. However, the route from the coast to the interior of Ethiopia was closed to them due to political and social unrest in the country. The roots of Evangelical Church of Eritrea (ECE) go back to the individuals and small communities that once belonged to three religious groups: the "Animist" Kunama, Tigre speaking Muslims and mainly highland populations groups that belonged to the Orthodox Tewhado Church and who spoke mainly Tigrigna.

Aboi Woldeab who was born in 1905 started school late. He spent his early years as a boy tending his father's cattle in a highland village in Eritrea. Even though he started school late, he made fast progress. Eventually he attended the Teacher Training School of the Swedish Mission at Beleza. His first job was that of a teacher in Kunama where he was to spend three years and where he almost died of the type of malaria that attacks the brain.

In 1935 he writes the following personal report on a confirmation ceremony that he attended in Ausa Conoma:

" The mission field in Kunama has far been regarded as the most difficult and the least fruitful field. Its history, which I have had occasion to learn about more closely in recent days, has been dark. [...] but I only want to say that I have admired and still admire those people who struggled and died victorious, in spite of the fact that they never saw victory."

Aboi Woldeab was in Kunama in the company of his close friend Sahle Ande-Mikael (later commonly addressed as "Memher Sahle"). The two were part of a working team led by an energetic, widowed Swedish missionary by the name of Signe Berg.

Aboi Woldeab had experienced a sense of awe and admiration in the face of what the very first Swedish messagers of the Gospel had met in Kunama, "the land of blood and tears." But who were the Kunama who had captivated the hearts of Swedes and Eritreans alike? Why did they attract such attention?

Chief Adim Billa the first Kunama to be baptized on the mission field.
As a boy, he had met the first missionaries and his mother used to cook for them.

School for girls in Kunama.
Middle row: Far left, Emma Andersson and behind her Joseph Mati.
Peter Andersson is seated to the far right of the girls in the front row.

Maria Nilsson with the first Christian couple wedded in Kunama: Joseph Mati a teacher who was later ordained and his wife Sillas who was from Geleb.

The main area of settlement of the Kunama was and still is between the Gash and Setit rivers. However, a certain section of the population lives to the north and south of this area. Basically, the area is divided into four regions, namely Marda in the north, Barka in the east, Bazena in the west, and Tika in the south.

The Kunama language is classified as belonging to the Nilo-Saharian group of languages. The Rev. Sture Normark, a former Swedish missionary to Kunama mentioned that there are four main Kunama dialects: Marda (for the region around Sosena), Barka (for the region around Kulluku), Tika (for the region around Ugaro) and Sogodak (for the region around Tessenei).

Kunama culture shares many characterstics with the cultures of other Nilotic people. The totem symbols that represented the four territorial divisions are an example. These divisions with their respective totem symbols and dialects are Shua (the Rhinoceros) for the Marda, Gumma (the Buffalo) for the Barka, Karawa (the Elephant) for the Tika and Semma (the Moon) for the Sogodak. Each division has its own dialect.

In 1864 Werner Munzinger (Governer General of Massawa under the Egyptians) reported that Muttersrwecht, a social system in which the woman plays a dominant role in the family, existed among the Kunama. The system was, however, not a form of matriarchy in which the woman was the head of the family, but rather one based on matrilineal kinship. Inheritance followed the mother's lineage, but the dominant personality was the mother's brother, i.e. the maternal uncle. Thus the women played a crucial role in Kunama society as bearers of tradition and spiritual life.

The society was very egaliterian and the village was seen as a unit. An attack on a single member was considered an attack on the village. Every village had a council whose members were called Andai, the Great Ones. These elders consisted of all married men in the village. As a sign that they had assumed this role, the men cut their hair and receive the title Anda.

The older a man, the greater his influence. The elders met regularly on the dibba, the site of the council, usually located under a big tree. In the deliberations that were held, the younger members of the council spoke first, followed by the older ones, who also had the right to final say.
If a Kunama broke the faneda- the manners and customs- he would find himself isolated. This was the worst punishment that could be meted out to a Kunama. Kunama society was acephlous, i.e. it had no central ruler or chief. Every village was legally and politically independent. A stranger could become a member of the village even if he didn't have any relatives in the village. This fact had negative consequences. The absence of a common defence organization left the Kunama open to attacks by robbers and to other kinds of harassment.

A.Pollera and E. Cerulli maintain that the Kunama, since times immemorial regarded Anna as the one God, the creator of all among the Kunama. According to the Kunama, the first people to be created were Adam and Aua (or Hawa), the original parents of the Kunama. The names may have been added later as these words occur both in the Jewish-Christian and Muslim traditions.
The Kunama addressed their prayers not only to God but also to their ancestors. In their religion there were clear signs of hierarchial structure. Highest in this hierarchy was the Creator, Ana and below him/her came the hierarchy of the ancestors, which consitituted the various lineages. The society also had bearers of religious heritage, people who were recognized as specialists in various aspects of religious practice. These assumed both secular and spiritual functions. Among such specialists called Manna, are : the L'Aula Manna: who brought or withheld rain; L'Ula Manna: who provided protection from locusts; Sciurka Manna: who provided protection from birds;Bian Manna: who protected specially durra(sorghum) from the scourage of worms;Attana Manna: who provided protection from flies and insects.

The Manna were male. There was, however, another group of female actors in the realm of religious rituals, who were called Asirmina. The Kunama too attach a great importance to the presence of spirits. The world is a unit of the Living and the Dead, Good Beings and Evil ones. Life would continue beyond the grave and the spirits of the deceased would always be present in the minds of the Kunama. The spirits , usually representing someone from about a generation ago , would assume a human shape by becoming a Manna and Asirmina.

Next(final) on the Mensa.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Conversation with Pastor Ezra Gebremedhin

Part Three
Issayas: In an interview that I did with Prof. Asmerom Legesse and posted on my blog a while back, he referred to reformers within the Orthodox Church who started a reform movement in the 1860's and this movement coincided (Zeitgeist, if you will. Where history and destiny emerge)with the Swedish missionaries who were trying to go to Ethiopia (at that time, Abyssinia). Can you tell us about the reformers and their contribution in forming the ECE?

Pastor Ezra: It should be pointed out that though the narrators of this story are Qeshi Selomon Atsqu and Qeshi Zera-Tsion Mussie, the main figure and spokesman in this story of the early fathers of the ECE is Qeshi Haile-Ab Tesfai(Qeshi Haile-Ab and Per Erik Lager were killed by one of the soldiers of Ra’isi Woldenki’el outside of the church of Qiddus Mikaél in Addi Qontsi in July 1876). The two fathers of Evangelical Christianity in Eritrea narrate their story with a quiet sense of conviction, and with hardly any trace of self-pity or bitterness. As the title of their narrative (BERHAN YEKUN: LET THERE BE LIGHT, published in 1912) indicates, the first encounter between highland Orthodoxy and those who had arrived at an Evangelical conviction took place in Hamasen.

The point of departure of those who were of Evangelical persuasion was that the Bible and only the Bible (Tsiruy qal Igziabher- the pure Word of God) should be the guide and norm for teaching and practice in the Christian Church. Of course, these Evangelical fathers meant the Bible with the sixty-six books which they regarded as canonical, not the eighty-one books of the Tewahdo Orthodox Church. These fathers of the ECE, a number of whom were still priests of The Orthodox Church,were brought up in the classical theological literature of their mother church. Their understanding of The Trinity was based on the teachings of Haymanotä Abäw (Faith of the Fathers). Their standards for life and behaviour were set and guided by works like Fitha Negest (Law of The Kings) and Sinodos, even though the narrators add that they found the rules of Sinodos “harder than the rules of Orit” i.e. The Old Testament straight forward history than the kind of outright hagiography which abounds in dramatic miracles.

They had respect for ser‘at abbotat (The rule of the fathers). Nevertheless, when the time came for them to enter holy orders, Qeshi Solomon and Qeshi Zera-Tsion, had traveled to Adwa with a certain Haleqa Afeworq, the arch-priest of Hamasen, to ‘‘receive priesthood’’from Abune Atnatewos. After their ordination, they were received in a private audience by the bishop, who is reported to have told them, “If you can preach the Gospel in another country do so; if not preach it in your own country” Haleqa Afeworq then took them and introduced them to a certain Johannes Maier, a messenger of the Gospel from Switzerland who lived in Adwa at the time. Maier encouraged them, gave them portions of Scripture and other writings in Amharic. He also promised to supply them with further copies of Scripture from a bookstore in Massawa.

Monks from Debre Bizen Accuse Fellow ‘Orthodox’ in Tseazzega

According to the narrative in Birhan Yikun, monks from Debre Bizen, intent on challenging the ‘early fathers’ of the ECE, first appeared in Tseazzega in May 1873, according to the Julian calendar. The narrative states, It happened that in May 1873 some monks of Debre Bizen [...] were on their way to bring charges against us. Qeshi Gebremedhin, who was on a journey, happened to meet them at Addi Qontsi. Believing that they were still on friendly terms, he alighted from his mule in all sincerity and greeted them with a ‘Good morning!’ However none of them answered his greeting. He therefore interrupted his journey, returned at a gallop to his comrades and told them about what had transpired. Convinced that they would be interrogated in proper order, for good canonical regulations, taken from the different church councils recognized by the Coptic Church.

For good or for bad, they laid out welcome carpets in church and waited for them. The others however, about thirty monks altogether, came in procession, carrying the seat (stool) and cross of Abune Filippos, which were covered with ornamented textiles, and walked straight towards the residence of Blatta Gebre Kidan. Blatta Gebre Kidan sent his servants and had us brought to his presence. The subjects taken up at this session were the role of the saints as mediators, the significance of the Tabot (The Ark of the Covenant) in the worship of the Orthodox Tewahdo Church and the piety of the faithful. The main spokesmen for the Evangelical group were Qeshi Haile-Ab and Qeshi Gebremedhin. The first encounter seems to have ended in a deadlock. In any case, another appointment was made for a meeting at a place known as Miku´at Meret.
The same issues were discussed in greater detail at the session in Miku‘at Meret. The Orthodox Tewahdo priests argued energetically in favour of the thesis that angels, saints, the righteous had been given promises by God that they would be able to mediate on behalf of the faithful. The Evangelicals maintained that such a teaching was based, in the last analysis, on secondary sources of dubious quality and not on the Bible. Since the views of the two parties were found to be irreconcilable, the matter was referred to a judge in Tseazzega.

Once before the judge, the spokesman of the Orthodox Tewahdo monks, Abbat Haile Yesus, argued,‘Don’t give these people their’ rim’ (i.e. rations or rightful dues). Note: Let at this point be known that we should perhaps restate a fact that is probably not obvious for everyone. The Kenisha never questioned the propriety of mutual intercessions (i.e.‘praying for each other’) here on earth, i.e. in atsädä siga (the realm of the body).What they questioned was the propriety and ‘biblical legitimacy’ of praying for or entreating the prayers of the departed, i.e. communicating through intercessions with the departed in atsädä näfs (the realm of the soul or spirit). Furthermore, the Kenisha felt that the unique and utterly sufficient role of Christ as the Mediator of Mankind before the Father should be underlined.

Abbat Haile Yesus continued to argue to not let them enter the church. "I excommunicate all those who associate with them", he said. Let him who has the power to excommunicate do like wise!’ At this, all the monks present said, ‘We have excommunicated!’Then Qeshi Gebremedhin replied, ‘Behold, my master! How can they excommunicate us while we stand here before the law? Isn’t this like deciding that a person be made to forfeit his cattle before he is convicted or that he be made to lose his wife before he is divorced?’ At this stage, some elders like Ayte Barya’ou from Shiketi and Kentiba Zemouy from Tseazzega stood up and pleaded with those who had uttered the excommunications: ‘Restrain yourselves! Unbind your excommunications!’However, the former said, ‘We shall not!’We then replied, ‘Well then, we too have authority, just as you do. We would have excommunicated you. However, since you are rulers of the land and the bestowers of worldly appointments, let a thousand carpets full of gold and a thousand slaves bearing guns, protect you. We then pronounced, ’Don’t give them their ‘rim’ and don’t associate with them.’ The judges told us, ’Go home.Let your mutual excommunications remain in force.’ We spent the night at our homes and they spent the night locked in church. On the morrow, mediators came to us and told us ’Keep to the Bible, which is lofty enough. Don’t refer to questions’.

We answered, "as long as we have the Bible we have everything we need in it. Indeed, that is why we preach on the basis of the Bible ". Having said this,we considered the matter, approved of their request and agreed to become reconciled. The mediators then took us to the church where they were. After the reconciliation we greeted and embraced each other. We then spent two days discussing books. At last we agreed that we would rectify wrong practices inthe church. Having agreed that we would meet at Miku ’at Meret on the feast of Be’alizgi in Meskerem, we parted company.

A Good Will Visit to Debre Bizen

Qeshi Haile-Ab and Habte-Giorgis of the Evangelical group paid a goodwill visit to Debre Bien before the date of the coming meeting at Miku’at Meret, hoping to facilitate the dialogue that had been started. They were given the cold shoulder. The proposed October meeting was postponed to Be’alzgi in Tiqimti, i.e. the 29th of Tiqimti (ca the 7th of November).On the day of the meeting, the Evangelicals felt that the atmosphere between the two parties had deteriorated. A spirit of confrontation had replaced that of dialogue. According to the narrative in Berhan Yekun, the friendly and conciliatory Blatta Gebre-Kidan was left out of the negotiations,intentionally. Soldiers who belonged to Ra’isi Barya’ou were sent to arrest and take Qeshi Haile-Ab, Qeshi Selomon, Qeshi Gebre-Medhin and Habte-Giorgis to Areza, where they were made to stand before Ra’isi Barya’ou.

The priests of Evangelical conviction were openly ridiculed and stripped of their priestly head covers and attires. Issues which the Evangelicals had questioned, like the mediatory roles of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus, saints, the righteous, the martyrs, angels,the Tabot (Ark of the Covenant), the cross, sacred images, and certain regulations on fasting, were taken up and discussed. No agreement could be reached on the debated questions. At last the monks of Debre Bizen pleaded with Ra’isi Barya’ou that the accused be forgiven “for today”.They continued,if they sin in like manner in the future, we elders who live in our monastery shall keep an eye on them. If we send them back to you, do what you want with them. We would then be free from any responsibility for them.Then the Ra’isi replied, ‘ Since they are priests from the jurisdiction of my friend Hailu (Note: Degiat Hailu who was the prince of Tseazzega was a close friend of the Swedish missionary, Lager) I shall have mercy on them for today.’ He then asked the accused,’Do you prefer religion or punishment?’ And our brothers answered, ’When did we ever abandon the faith of the prophets and the apostles?’ At this reply, theRa’isi answered, ’In that case, swear not to abandon the faith of the prophets and apostles and the Three Hundred!’ They agreed not to. Then, Matthew 25:41-46 was read, after which they gave their oath to abide by the promise they had given.

The Ra’isi added, ‘If I hear, from now on, such an accusation against you, woe to you! You will be responsible for the consequences.’ He then released them and sent them away on bail, for a small sum of money. On their way to their home region they reasoned, ’ As far as faith is concerned, what else did the prophets and apostles have, except faith in God? And as far as The Three Hundred are concerned, what else did they have except the faith in the Trinity which they had formulated at Nicaea? What was the point of binding us by oath on such obvious matters’, they said, laughing as they moved homeward. And those of our colleagues who had stayed at home received them with joy. Alas, their joy and laughter was not to last long. Soon, persecution,flight, fear, exile to the burning heat and humidity of the Red Sea coast,hunger and thirst, were to become their lot.

Birhan Yikun- A Mirror of the Historical, Cultural, and Religious Features of Highland Eritrea

As already mentioned, the narrative in Birhan Yikun is, in many ways, a mirror of the historical, cultural, social and religious features of life among the Orthodox Tewahdo. It reflects the tenor of the times when Swedish missionaries and the Kenisha were slowly starting to gain a foot hold on the Orthodox highlands of Hamasen.
The narrative reflects quite a homogeneous Orthodox society in which local chiefs and leaders of the church worked in concert,listening to complaints and litigation. These leaders also meted out punishment or took measures to reconcile the conflicting parties.The power to excommunicate that the Orthodox priest possessed was held in high respect. In the course of the conflict, priests representing the Orthodox Tewhado Church and those Orthodox priests who had arrived at Evangelical convictions excommunicated each other. Others, both civic and church authorities, pleaded with the conflicting parties to lift or take back their excommunication. Berhan Yikun reflects a rural communal tradition in which efforts were made to iron out conflicts, through the offices of elders and men of authority. The highland society where the Kenisha found themselves was a society in which religious, social, political and cultural issues were intimately tided to each other. To abandon the Orthodox Tewahdo faith was to forfeit ones right to live in peace in the village of one's forefathers.
Next, Part Four On Kunama

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Conversation with Pastor Ezra Gebremedhin

Part Two

Issayas: You are Aboi Woldeab Woldemariam's nephew. I have a good friend, Dr. Nicole Saulsberry, who wrote her dissertation on Aboi Woldeab. I'm always urging her to publish it. Do you know if Aboi Woldeab had kept a diary or notes on events. If so, have you thought of writing a book about Aboi Woldeab using private (family) and public records?

Pastor Ezra: Yes I have a small notebook with material from an interview that I had with Aboi Woldeab. I don't know when and how I can use these notes, which were taken when he lived with us here in Uppsala for some months in the 1980s. I am sure that most of the things that he told me are things that he had told others. But, I haven't looked at these notes for some time.

Issayas: I read the late Prof. Gustav Aren's two books (Evangelical Pioneers in Ethiopia and Envoys of the Gospel in Ethiopia) about 8 years ago. What are the similarities and differences between your upcoming book and Prof. Aren's books?

The late Prof. Gustav Aren and Pastor Ezra Gebremedhin

Pastor Ezra: Let me say that the book [whose subtitle is "The Roots and Development of The Evangelical Church of Eritrea 1866-1935" (Allow me to keep the main title a secret!)] is basically a work of the late Karl-Johan Lundstrom, a missionary of the Swedish Evangelical Mission (SEM) to Eritrea. Several sections of the coming book build on material from Gustav Aren's Evangelical Pioneers in Ethiopia (1978) and, to a lesser extent, his Envoys of the Gospel in Ethiopia (1999). This is not surprising. The book must begin with an introduction into the historical background of the Evangelical Church of Eritrea (ECE). Not all future readers of the present book would have read Prof. Aren's books. Furthermore, the material taken from Aren is particularly appropriate for Eritrea and the ECE, though Gustav uses the same material as a prelude to the history of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY). However, the present book by Karl Johan Lundstrom has given me a good deal of new knowledge about the history of the SEM and its mission in Eritrea, and the "prehistory" of the ECE. This is particularly true of Karl Johan Lundstrom's material on the history and culture of the Kunama and the Mensa. Furthermore, I have been impressed by K.J Lundstrom's contributions to our knowledge of the involvement of the Italian colonial powers, the Catholic Church and Catholic mission activity in the work and life of the SEM and the Evangelical community. The accounts on the roles played by missionaries from the Waldensian Church (a Protestant minory) in Italy in the work of the SEM and the ECE have also been very enlightening. Finally, it has been most revealing for me to read about some highly gifted, dedicated but stubborn Swedish missionary personalities on the mission field.The late Karl Johan Lundstrom

Let me explain to you as to how I came into the picture. Some three months before his death in December 2003, Karl Johan called me in Uppsala to tell me of the state of his health and to ask me to take over and complete the task of recording the history of the ECE. I couldn't believe my ears when he told me that the doctors had diagnosed an advance state of cancer. I visited Karl Johan and his wife, Maj-Britt at their home in the small community of Eksjo in the province of Smaland. My intention was to see him in person and to receive some more specific information and directions on the work he had started, before he became too weak to share information with me. We talked about the assignment in somewhat general terms. Even though he showed me some chapters of the emerging history of the ECE and some of the notes on which he had based his work , he felt that there was no need for any special hurry on specific directives to me. I must admit that I was a little uncertain about his optimism at the time. I continued my journey to Uppsala and never saw Karl Johan again. In hindsight, I must admit that the lack of a clearly defined mandate has led to uncertainty and unnecessary delays.

Next, part three.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Conversation with Pastor Ezra Gebremedhin

Pastor Ezra Gebremedhin

A brief background note.

About a month or so ago, Seble Ephrem sent me an e-mail after she read an interview that I did with ELEM (Eritrean Life and Entertainment Magazine: for their latest issue(July/Sept. 2009) . Seble liked what I had to say in the interview and informed me that I needed to contact Pastor Ezra Gebremedhin because according to Seble, Pastor Ezra had finalized writing a book on the history of the Evangelical Church of Eritrea (ECE). I contacted Pastor Ezra and he was willing to do an interview with me for my blog.

I would like to thank Seble for passing the information and for Pastor Ezra for his patience( from my endless and constant nagging) and graciousness. Since most of the questions that I had asked Pastor Ezra were already in his book, I'll present the truncated answers in parts.

This is part one.

Issayas :Can you tell my readers(briefly) about yourself?

Pastor Ezra Gebremedhin: I was born in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia on November 17, 1936 and received my B.A. from the University of Addis Abeba in 1957. I left for St. Paul, Minnesota the same year on a scholarship from the Lutheran World Federation. I received my M.A. in Educational Psychology from the University of Minnesota (Minneapolis) and my B.D. from the Luther Theological Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. I took a year of internship at the Ethiopian Evangelical College in Debre Zeit, Ethiopia, between 1960 and 1961 (the year of the coup d'etat by the bothers Mengistu and Germame Neway). Upon my return to Ethiopia in 1963, I was made the Executive Secretary of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) in which capacity I served up to 1966. Ordained in 1964, I served as pastor of the oldest Mekane Yesus congregation in Addis Abeba until 1970, when I left for Sweden for further studies. I was awarded a Doctor of Divinity at the University of Uppsala in 1977 and taught Theology between 1977 and 2000, the last fifteen years as Assistant Professor at the Theological Faculty of Uppsala University. From my Kenisha parents, who had moved to Ethiopia from the then Italian colony of Eritrea in the early 1920s, my siblings and I received a deep and lasting impression of the Evangelical faith which had nurtured them in the Eritrea of their youth. I have served as pastor among Diaspora Eritreans and Ethiopians of Evangelical Lutheran persuasion here in Sweden. My wife Gennet Awalom, also a person of Eritrean background, and I have three children and seven grandchildren. We are residents of Uppsala, Sweden.

Issayas: Can you tell us briefly, what was the story behind the establishment of the Evangelical Church of Eritrea?

Pastor Ezra: During the latter part of the 19th century there was a growing concern in missionary circles, especially in Great Britain, about ways of conducting mission and organizing indegnous Christians into churches. The motto, "A Self-governing and Self-propagating Church" had been adopted but, at the beginning, it didn't quite seem to catch. In time, it became the cornerstone of the Protestant missionary policy in Africa. The organization of the Church on the basis of a democratic constitution was meant to guarantee independence under African leadership.

In 1920 a newly appointed Mission Secretary, Nils Dahlberg, visited the SEM (Swedish Evangelical Mission) field in India and together with the Rev. P.O.Froberg, who was then the chairman of the mission conference, raised questions regarding the organization of the local church. Dalhberg presented a proposal for a church constitution to the India Field Conference and to the Board in Sweden. The constitution was solemnly approved at a conference in Chindwara on February 9, 1923. The name of the new church was to be "The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Central Province". 31 delegates from different congregations and 7 missionaries were present at the meeting. A Synodical Council was set up, consisting of one missionary, three Indians and the President. The new church elected Rev. P.E. Froberg, who was also the chairman of the Field Conference, as President. Missionaries continued to hold the office of Church President up to 1945 when the office was transferred to an Indian, The Rev. Emanuel Raman.

Nils Dahlberg, Mission Director of the SEM, arrived in Eritrea just before Easter 1925, following a visit to Ethiopia in 1924. On Palm Sunday a gubae (meeting) was held in Asmara with some 1200 participants. The Mission Secretary was given a warm reception and he made a deep impression by his happy and dashing appearance and, even more, by his powerful preaching and the contributions he made during the conversations. Many Kenisha came to remember him and to compare his visit with that of Professor Kolmodin in 1909-1910. Dahlberg underlined the view that a growing congregation must strive to become self-supporting, self-governing and self-propagating.

This philosophy had been propagated by Prof. Kolmodin 17 years earlier, but had not, due to many unfavorable conditions, been realized as yet. A committee was selected to prepare a proposal for a church constitution "in close keeping with the pattern of our sister fields in India and South Africa." Another important question was the upgrading of the education of indegenous co-workers. This proposal too was accepted at the mission conference in the autumn of 1925 and referred to the Board that gave its full approval. The hopes of Iwarson (the Field Director of SEM in Eritrea) were evidently not limited to the Church in Eritrea. Earlier on, in a letter to Dahlberg, Iwarson had expressed interest in seeing the formation of a wider organization that would include the Church in "Southern Ethiopia", possibly also the Presbyterians. He had also discussed the matter with Karl Nystrom of the Bible True Friends, who had shown interest in participating in such an organization.

The First Synodical meeting, which constituted the Evangelical Church of Eritrea (ECE), was held in Sept. 1926. 34 participants were present, 12 of these were pastors, 12 were laymen from the congregations and 10 were missionaries. The main item was the election of a president. This position went to Rev. Iwarson. Pastor Tewlde-Medhin Gebre-Medhin was elected Vice-President, while others were elected to different offices.

Next, part two.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A conversation with Adiam Berhane

Issayas Tesfamariam: First thank you for your time and for all the lovely pictures. Can you briefly tell my readers about yourself?

Adiam Berhane: My name is Adiam Berhane. I was born in Asmara, but I left for Milan, Italy when I was two-years old. I was in Italy until I was almost 10, at which time we moved to Washington D.C. My parents owned a very successful Eritrean restaurant in D.C.I went to Blessed Sacrament, Washington Ethical H.S. , Howard University ( Political Science and History) and Georgetown Law School. I do not practice law. I have worked in the entertainment field since graduating from school. I do brand management for magazines and record labels.

Issayas: What kind of law did you study at Georgetown Law School?

Adiam: I started out wanting to do international law, but ended up studying entertainment law.

Issayas: You mentioned that you do brand management for magazines and record labels. Can you elaborate?

Adiam: I have done brand management for Unleashed Magazine, Vibe and Source. I worked in artist management with Black Friday , we had a deal with Def Jam. I have also consulted for Czar Entertainment. The smaller labels I have worked with are Rockafella, Ruff Ryders, and Soul Life.

Adiam with Jerry Wonder(left) and Wyclef (above) at a benefit for Obama in 2008.

Issayas: What is brand management? What kinds of things do you do?

Adiam: Brand management is when you take a brand- a person, a product, a record, a magazine- and manage how they will be presented and marketed. There are different aspects of it , whether you are there at the beginning of the launch of the product or if you have to come in for a revamp. In brand management you have to make sure the brand is legally sound-trademarks,etc..., after that you establish a goal with your client and it goes from there. If I have a client who tells me that they are looking for a younger audience, then I'll have to work on the product and marketing to make sure that the intended audience is reached. I often have to revamp the websites of companies or even make sure they have a web presence. The work you do depends on the client. Like yourself, a filmmaker, we would talk about what it is that you want to, what type of film you would like to make etc.. That is, it is a matter of looking at your product and determining the best way for you to reach your desired target-audience and how to translate that into revenue for you. There would be cross marketing and a bunch of other stuff. It's is too long to explain on a short conversation.

Issayas: You just came back from Eritrea. How long were you there? And what was your impression?

Adiam: I was in Eritrea from May 5th to June 5th. I spent my first day and my last day at the Asmara Children Home. This is the orphanage in Asmara, and I went the first day to take the two suitcases of stuff I brought for the kids and the last day I had a cake made for them and I went to say goodbye. The place is immaculate and the children are very well taken care of. It impressed me very much, the level of care they were receiving. I stopped by unannounced so there was no time to "stage" anything. The cafes , especially Modka, became a very delicious routine for me. I was impressed by the tech savvy-ness of the young people in Eritrea. There must be an internet cafe on every block-or two per block! I found wireless internet and excellent food at the Midian Hotel , so I became a regular there. I would sit in the lobby and have a cappuccino while working on my laptop.The cleanliness of Eritrea was inspiring.

Issayas: When did you visit Eritrea prior to your last visit?

Adiam: I was there five years ago which is was too long. I am going to try and go every year like my mother. It is so hard for me to take a continuous month off, but I think with better internet connection I will be able to do that. My mother goes for longer, at least 2 months more like 3 ! I think that I will go yearly even if I cannot stay a whole month.

Issayas: Talking about young people being tech savvy in Eritrea, a couple of years ago, we filmed at the Midian hotel. It's a nice place. What impressed me the most during that filming was that their IT person (a young man who has his own company) had created a software that tallies the accounts, and other things. This is a software created in Eritrea by Eritreans. (Note: you can check out their website at

Pictures from Midian Hotel website

Adiam: The young people in Eritrea are all online, chatting, sharing their music and movies with their flash-drives, and they can surf the web with the greatest of ease. Cell phones are common. They watch their favorite shows-such as Prison Break- before they are on TV by going online. There are also iPods and MP3 players all over the place. They are very aware of tech terms and the latest advances in technology. About Midian hotel, the hotel is located behind Nyala building. There is internet connection in every room, there is a business center with computers and faxes, and there is wi-fi connection throughout the common areas. I found the place because my godfather took me to see his photos that are hanging there. I was more thrilled about the wireless connection. I ended up having lunch there one day and the food was better than anything I had had. The place is spotless, the bathrooms alone are worth going there. Yemane, the owner, told me it is because he integrates himself into everything. There were many journalists and foreigners who were staying there. By the way , there is wireless connection at several other hotels. I helped a couple of guys out who are web designers and also did the wireless for Midian and they said that the government was spending some serious money to get broadband over there. Also , the majority of the art and painting he has there are by Eritreans or of Eritrea. Did I tell you I got to see and meet Abraham Sahle, the noted Eritrean artist?

Issayas: No you didn't.

Abraham Sahle

Examples of Abraham Sahle's paintings.

Issayas: Did you have a chance to visit different parts of Eritrea? Where did you visit?

Adiam: I was very lucky on my trip because my godfather Girmay Gerenzei is a noted photographer, and actually his dad (who recently passed) is noted as being Eritrea's first professional photographer. Girmay took me everywhere, with a history lesson to go with it, and best of all he knew the best spots to take photographs all over Eritrea. We went to Massawa and he took me to the old mosque, it is small, and not open to the public. It is one of only two mosques built during the Prophet Mohammed's time. It is different in the sense that all mosques face Mecca, but since there was no Mecca at the time , this one faces Jerusalem.

I went to Isola Verde, a few minutes by motorboat from Massawa. I spent a very beautiful and lazy day swimming there with my grandmother. The best part about Massawa was seeing the unfinished Dahlak hotel. The owner, Primo, is a friend of my parents and he was also in Italy. Primo is a very proud Eritrean and he has made huge contributions. He also owns the Keren Hotel. He grew up dirt poor in Asmara but has become quite successful. The place is a labor of love, it is beautiful just amazing. I saw the new four-lane road in Ginda which is more than impressive.


Interior of Keren Hotel in Asmara .

New road in Ginda. It's four lanes and very wide so that large trucks
do not have to take the narrower road.

Girmay stopped all over for me take photos. We went to Keren, and the most amazing thing there was the new St. Antonio church. It was entirely designed and built by Eritreans. The priest told me that they didn't receive a single penny from the Vatican. This is one of the most beautiful places of worship I have ever seen. The road was great, and we stopped at the new Costina Hotel in Keren and had really good mango juice. The fruit and tea in Keren were great. I saw the shrine of Miriam Dearit. The farms on the way to Keren are huge and gorgeous.

The new church in Keren.

Shrine of Mariam Dearit.

The new Costina Hotel in Keren

New Bank in Keren.

Sarina Hotel, Keren

Azel pharmaceutical company in Keren

Issayas: Thank you for sharing with me the pictures that you took in Eritrea. I noticed that you visited the synagogue in Asmara. Can you tell me about it?

Adiam: Girmay took me to see Sam Cohen, who runs the Sinagoga di Asmara . It's only block from Girmay's Foto Asmarina, so we walked there. Sam Cohen is an Italian Sephardic Jew, whose family is from Yemen. Eritrea had a large Jewish population at one point.The Sinagoga (synagogue) is a beautiful building. The women pray upstairs and the men downstairs. Sam showed me their shofar, he said they were very proud of it, and apparently it is the envy of many synagogues. He said he is the one that blows in on Rosh Hashana. He then opened up the archives for me and it surely is a treasure trove. There were posters from the books- Jews in Eritrea- and the movie Shalom, Asmara. I never even knew the two existed. There were pictures of president Issias Afeworki celebrating at the Israeli Embassy. There was a camp photo of the 400 Jews that were arrested and jailed in Eritrea during British occupation. I remember reading about Mossad leader Rafi Eitan and former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir being prisoners in Eritrea but here was a picture. He even found some old Encode beef bullion which was made in Eritrea and was kosher. It was a treat for a history buff like me. Sam Cohen told me that when the Jews escaped from Asmara, Sembel they did so by digging some tunnels. He said that those escape routes/tunnels have never been discovered.

Exterior of the synagogue in Asmara

Sam Cohen showing his shofar which he argues is the envy of many synagogues.

Below: From the Archives of Asmara Synagogue

Visit of Chief Rabbi Yizhak (Isaac) Herzog to Eritrea in 1946.
He was Chief Rabbi of Ireland (1919-1936) and Chief Rabbi
of the British Mandate of Palestine(1936-1948)

Incode beef bullion

Issayas: Adiam, thank you so much for you time and for giving me the opportunity to talk to you about your trip. And again, thank you for sharing your beautiful pictures with us .

Adiam: No problem.

Monday, June 15, 2009

June 20th: Eritrean Martyrs' Day

"The price of freedom is eternal vigilance"

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.