Friday 1 December 2023

The Ona and Besikdira massacres November 30 - December 1, 1970

This day in 1970: The Ona and Besikdira massacres by by Ahmed Raji 

 1 December 2015, source

 This day in 1970: The Ona and Besikdira massacres

On the morning of November 30, 1970 (which also happened to be the Muslim holiday of Eid-al-Adha), Ethiopian troops entered the village of Besikdira, 15km north-east of Keren, rounded up the population and crammed them into a mosque. The soldiers were on a mission of revenge following the killing of an Ethiopian army general by Eritrean Liberation fighters the week before, and had already burned several villages in the area in the preceding days. The soldiers positioned their machine guns at the entrance to the mosque and on windows. They opened fire indiscriminately, killing 118 innocent civilians, including women and children.

(Despite the Ethiopian officers' attempts to separate the population by faith, people stuck together. After all, they were family. Hence, the victims included Muslims as well as Christians). However, Besikdira was only a prelude to a bigger massacre. On the morning of the following day, December 1, 1970, soldiers stationed in Keren descended on the nearby village of Ona and proceeded on a killing spree never seen before in Eritrea. Soon the the entire village was in flames. Those who were not burned in their huts, were gunned down as they attempted to flee. An estimated 700 villagers and their guests (there was a funeral in progress) died. My own memory of that day (I was in 2nd grade) is one of utter terror hearing the seemingly interminable sound of machine guns and of the slow-moving shower of soot and little pieces of charred straw that were scattered by winds over parts of Keren.

[The picture shows the ruins of the mosque in Besikdira, which still remains in the same state of ruin as a reminder of that terrible day. Photo is courtesy of Dr. Kiflemariam Hamde]

A Book Review. Paulos Tesfaldet (2013). በስግዲረዲንርቍርዲ. Besikdira and Its Children.

Författares Bokmaskin, Stockholm, 102pp. Written by By Kiflemariam Hamde, Umeå, Sweden

Besikdira and its children, በስግዲረዲንርቍርዲ is the latest Blin literary work, in the fiction genre, mainly based on historical, real events in Eritrea since 1960s. The book consists of 21 chapters opening up with a Preface and Acknowledgement. In this review, I find only point out the main story lines. The narrative is centred around, but not limited to, the massacre in the village of Besikdira, 15km east of Keren town. After burning seven villages the previous days, the uninvited Ethiopian army visited Besikdira in November 30, 1970 only to destroy it. The officer (ሻምበል) Teshome, and his Amharic-speaking troops, also including Eritrean-born Kumandos, posed two immediate questions to the people in Tigrigna (only 5 adults could speak it) as the people did not understand Amharic: (1) if the village is free from bandits (ሽፍታ, shifta)[i], in his own words bedbugs and fleas), and (2) if they were either Muslims or Christians. Mr Mender Beimnet, the village chief, and Mr Tesfu Almedom responded that they did not know of any bandits and that the people belonged to both Christianity and Islam. Upon learning that the people did not want to get separated along religious lines, the troops forced the inhabitants into the village Mosque and shot them down indiscriminately, killing 118[ii] civilians 11 of whom were pregnant mothers, 20 were children, and the rest were youngsters and adults[iii]. The author narrates in his fictional work about the details in the killing.

The next day, December 1, 1970 was the turn of Ona village, only 4-5 Kms north east of Keren, when the military forces headed by Colonel Welana massacred almost 800 civilians indiscriminately, and without any notice. There was no question that the people supported the liberation movement since 1962. The story starts off with the general political instability since the 1960s when the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) confronted Ethiopia’s domination after the latter had annexed Eritrea as its 14th Province, revoking the UN arranged Federation (1952-1961). As the ELF was active in the Western lowlands, Ethiopian atrocities increased heavily and the apex of that came in the fall of 1970 when the ELF ambushed and killed General Teshome Ergetu, head of the Second Military Division in October 1970. He was heading toward his new headquarters in Keren town to crash the ELF and the people, to ‘dry the sea in order to catch up the fish’, i.e., to target the civilians in order to weaken and consequently destroy the ELF. Those massacres are put in this context, and one man’s life was to be compensated for by around 1000 within less than 24 hours in Besikdira and Ona. Interestingly enough, the author accounts for how the atrocities became catalyst and intensified struggle for independence.

 In his fictional description, the author exemplifies the events in a life of a nuclear[1]and extended family members, the inhabitants of Besikdira, its environs, the Sekwina district, the Senhit Province, events all over Eritrea, the fate of youngsters in their yearning for freedom, justice and equality, and finally, the inflicting cruelty of Ethiopian soldiers. The centre stage actor becomes the family of Fickak and his wife Afiet, their only son Terexbe[iv] who got married to the beautiful Melika and begot two sons, Aybu and Abbe. Unfortunately, on the bloody Monday massacre at Besikdira where the people were forced into a small mosque only to be shot down, ((እልላ, ኣጣቅዕዳ, p. 57-60) the young wife of Terexbe, and the mother of the two, Malika, fell dead alongside the other 117 victims in the mosque. Survivors discovered that it was her bold that they were covered by, and that her younger son suckled her dry breasts for milk.

On the one hand, Paulos beautifully crafts the Blin language to narrate how the family not only suffered physically the painful events of the period such as imprisonment (when Terexbe was imprisoned, (ንሽዋ p. 32-37), continued house burning (48-49), sexual harassment and abuse but also in terms of psychological inhumation. He also describes in detail some more events, such as forced displacement (ገዓዳ, p. 49) etc., On the other hand, Paulos depicts how the Fickak family enjoyed the good sides of life, often highlighting underlying cultural values and societal norms, entertaining daily communal routines such as coffee break, child rearing and development, engagement, initiation rite, Blin-style brethren hood, story-telling (dannar–jigna, p. 12-13), neighbourly life (gor-dannar, 14-17), wedding festivities (ferwenter, p. 24-28), youth love, socialization and friendship (wrznet, p. 12-15), pastoral life, initiation rite ceremonies (Hiche, shngalle, kxan, p. 18-23), wealth-sharing, development, dreaming for peace, avoiding hatred or disagreement, war and conflict.

 family exemplified the fate of Eritreans at that time. Terexbe was imprisoned (p. 32) because a certain informant (ሺኩት) spied to the Amhara[v] that Terexbe was a member of the village lajnet, with the responsibility for collecting the monthly dollar per family, qesem, which every Eritrean adult had to contribute for the liberation movement, i.e., ELF. Malika was shot dead in the Mosque, and Terexbe’s parents were also dead because they could not bear the pain. Eventually, once on age, the two brothers joined ELF and the EPLF, respectively, in order to revenge their mother’s loss in the Mosque, leaving Terexbe alone in the house (pp 77-80).

The reader also finds a lot of Blin liberation songs, praising the independence and rebuking the enemy, such as –“Na Shugutl: Shebab Axnima genjew DeAritl”, literally, aren’t the youth reside in Deari in such a tender age” (p. 34). +A recurring worry of the author, however, lies in the never-ending disagreement between the two ‘siblings’, ELF and EPLF, that “resulted in unnecessary loss of Eritrean lives and consequently, prolonged the independence day to 1991” (interspersed in the overall text). Paulos also notes the series of Ethiopian war crimes and major massacres and since 1961 in Eritrea, narrating the events not only as they occurred but also rhetorically in their connection to the dreams of people to live together in good or bad times, peacefully.

Finally, in 1980, the ELF and EPLF clashed in Halhal, the worst event which occurred to many Eritrean families who sided with the wrong side (p. 99-100), and Aybu shot down his own brother Abbe ‘simply assuming that he was the foe. Aybu was not alone in that incident as many other Eritreans also shared that fate’, narrates the author. The story culminates in an eventual meeting of the EPLF fighter Aybu and his father Terexbe after the latter wanted to meet his son, Abbe. Unfortunately, Aybu was forced to reveal the truth, and finally exclaimed, “Daddy, I will tell you a taboo, (ኤበ, ዲደትድውየከ ግን), I killed my own brother even I if rejoiced at first when I thought I won over the enemy in that civil war” (p. 99). “That is the fruit of disagreement among brothers and sisters”, laments the author (p. 99-100).

Disappointed, sad and frustrated, Terexbe returns home and continued living alone. Terexbe had only one hope, supporting the even much more independence movement for which he was imprisoned and waiting for the return of his only remaining family member alive, Aybu – “as did many Eritrean parents”, notes Paulos.

The concluding chapter (p. 102) is in fact a methodological note on the writing process. The author advises potential authors to follow standard referring system, interview the living witnesses of events in Eritrea, and coming up with a quality research work: “My advice to potential authors is that we have to write different kinds of literature because there lies our cultural capital. We praise those who have already written something, and at the same time we criticize those who did not write anything (yet). Future generations need to benefit from our literature as their heritage. Thus, I encourage you all to write about something” … so that one can improve the style and content in the literature, to sustain existing knowledge and create new knowledge – for the sake of future generations” (p. 102).

 This unique work in narrative genre is a welcome contribution to the literature in Blin with its rich documentation of knowledge of values, norms and daily lives, with substantial contents as well as presentation. በስግዲረዲንርቍርዲ[vi], ‘Besikdira and its Children’ fills a badly needed gap about historical events delving into Eritrean/Blin mentality in coping with problems and bad situation. I only commend Paulos work as one the boldest contribution so far on the emerging Blin (and other Eritrean) literature with its deep narration of events that will live for many generations to come.

 As a reader, I enjoyed reading በስግዲረዲንርቍርዲ and I hope that this work will only be the beginning. ኣጃሀብሪዅይዳን. Well-done a young author!  I recommend this book to anybody who is interested to know more closely the situation in Eritrea during (and shortly after) the war for independence from a local point of view. Those who want to develop literacy work in the Blin language are also ecommended to read this book as well as those who want to write and learn in Blin script. A father of two, Paulos Tesfaldet lives in Oslo, Norway. For any contacts about the book, mail Paulos at:

[i] When the Ethiopians referred to the liberation fronts as shifta (ሽፍታ) as bandits, Eritreans in general (excluding the shikut, jasus, and some of the wedo-geba) reacted that ‘they did know anything about shifta”, implicitly protesting that the ELF and later on the EPLF were not bandits but liberation fighters. Yn shifta aerini, runs in Blin.

[ii] There were more than 50 survivors, including this reviewer’s close relatives, who still narrate the sad events vividly. The victims, however were not only from Besikdira village but also from adjacent villages who were forced to settle in Besikdira in May 1970, including Sanqa, Hangol, Feledarb and Fissoruxw, victims from the latter two were passersby. The author mentions other displaced villages in the former Senhit District (p. 48-56).

[iii]There are a couple of historical work on Ethiopian War Crimes (massacres) in Eritrea, including (1) Abba Teweldebrhan Geberemedhin and Abba Zerayakob Okbamikael, Capuchin friars (2001): መሪርግፍዒኣብበስክዲራንከባቢኣን (A Painful Massacre at Besikdira and its Environs), ትምጻእመንግስትከ (Adveniat Regnum TUUM), 44th Year, Nrs 73/74, 2000-2001, page 1-14; (2) Amina Habte (2001), Ethiopian war Crimes in

Eritrea: A Case Study of the Massacres of Besik-dira and Ona in 1970. BA thesis, Asmara University; Kiflemariam Hamde (2004)

“The Impact of war and climatic changes on the environment in Eritrea: The Case in Senhit Villages”

(; (3) Downey, Marty & Hugh (1996), On Heart’s Edge. Arvada, CO: Mikeren Publications, and (4) (Habtu (Fr. Athanasius) Ghebre-Ab (2013), “The

Massacre at Wekidiba: The Tragic Story of a Village in Eritrea”, RSP, and (5) “List of massacres committed during the Eritrean War of Independence”, in Wikipedia.

[iv] In Besikdira and Its Children,በስግዲረዲንርቍርዲ, the main actor Terexbe sharply contrasts with Salih “Gadi” Johar’s actor, Ghebrebbi in his 2010 book, Of Kings and Bandits. However, if one looks closely both fiction works, they complement each other, in many, many respects, in spite of the common geographical location and the suffering incurred to them by the Ethiopian army (and their collaborators), illustrating social life in the then Senhit area, rich in diversity of values, norms and languages. Issues of religion come close in both readings, Gebrebbi being from a Muslim family, while Terexbe is from a Christian family. These are shown in the rites of passage, child development, training, and other issues. It seems to me that the authors communicated with each ‘in spirit’, without clashing, and thus made their point jointly that people can live together peacefully only if they accept and respect each other’s difference, the same way as the Besikdira residents refusing to get separated in terms their religion (to heaven or hell we got together’, expressed the late Mr. Meibetot Berih, a survivor in an oral communication with the reviewer, Besikdira, January 9th, 2007.

[v] Amharu or Amhara in the text is used synonymously with Ethiopians and Ethiopia, connoting the Ethiopian Military Army.

[vi] The reviewed work is in fact preceded by a dozen literary works in Blin, for example, the recent books by Medhanie Habtezghi (2008), Lexen (lekhen) axramewedi, “The Ring which became a sore”, and (2010) Enkie, (እንከኤ) translated into Tigrigna as lekas. I hope to review these works also so that readers who do not understand Blin may be able to get more information on such literary work. For further works in Blin and on Blin, visit the Blin Language Forum, In a review of a literary book in Blin that is mainly based on the events of Besikdira, Kiflemariam Hamde gives the following list of related works (under footnote iii):

1) Abba Teweldebrhan Geberemedhin and Abba Zerayakob Okbamikael, Capuchin friars (2001): መሪርግፍዒኣብበስክዲራንከባቢኣን (A Painful Massacre at Besikdira and its Environs), ትምጻእመንግስትከ (Adveniat Regnum TUUM), 44th Year, Nrs 73/74, 2000-2001, page 1-14;

(2) Amina Habte (2001), Ethiopian war Crimes in Eritrea: A Case Study of the Massacres of Besik-dira and Ona in 1970. BA thesis, Asmara University; Kiflemariam Hamde (2004) “The Impact of war and climatic changes on the environment in Eritrea: The Case in Senhit Villages” (www_daberi_org);

(3) Downey, Marty & Hugh (1996), On Heart’s Edge. Arvada, CO: Mikeren Publications,

Thursday 30 November 2023

Haile Menkerios on the PLF leadership crisis and the Menkae Movement 1973


 The PLF leadership crisis and the Menkae Movement 1973

Aida Kidane Interview with Haile Menkerios 24.10.2004

Question: When did you join the struggle?

I went to field early 1973.

Question: Why did you go?

You have to understand there was a lot of idealism, student movement, and it was not only I but many students. It was a duty which we happily accepted. We knew that harsh life was expecting us. We decided that we should be examples to all Eritreans for such a commitment. I was in graduate school then. We were the first ones going from here. We were about 5 who started but only I and another friend went to field.

We went through Yemen to field since we had contact with field. Aboi Welde Ab was in Cairo in the PLF- Peoples Liberation Forces- office. The ELF and PLF were in civil war then. Going to Sudan was falling into the hands of the ELF and the main office of PLF was in Democratic republic of Yemen – Aden. There was another office in Beirut too, in these 3 countries. In Cairo office was Taha Mohammed Nur, Osman Sabbe himself in Beirut and fighters in Yemen who had direct contact with field. And anyone joining field goes through Yemen in those days.

So we went to Cairo and then to Yemen. From there we took a small boat, a fisherman’s dhow across the Red Sea to the Eritrea-Sudan border to Sahel, and at nighttime. While in the US, we had contact with field through members as Tsegai Khasai had come, and also Mahmoud Sherifo and Gebre Medhin Gidey who were in Kassala. We had contact with them from end of 1970 and 71, and after they went to field we had contact through Aboi Welde Ab and Taha.

All the fighters split from ELF. Some went to Ala, others in small groups to the Sudan when killing started. Those PLF1 mostly Red Sea people, were taken by Sabbe to Aden and then to field. Sherifo had stayed in Kassala, and we corresponded with him. Then Gebre Medhin went to Cairo.

When I joined the front, there was no regular military training. We were joining in small numbers, 2 or 3 in one time. At daytime those not trained were called out to the riverbanks and we got some military exercise as we went along and at nights we slept in hills. Then a large group of about 30 came from inside Eritrea and we had a 2-week training together in a place called Arag, in Sahel.

We heard of the civil fighting of Geregir and that the Sudanese had told the Eritreans to get inside Eritrean border. When we reached Eritrea, there were fighters waiting for us since supplies and weapons too were brought with us. They told us of having heard shooting in Geregir when coming to us that our forces must have moved camp. The civil strife continued when we were there for 6 months.


There was registration of newcomers, written in notebooks, not properly as was later used. One to be fighter is already known of, coming to Yemen. For those joining from inside Eritrea, the town agents gathered them in Bahri. The person’s name and background are known then and proceed to Sahel. The PLF 1 (Shabia) were about 150 man strong and PLF 2 (Selfi) about 120 and Obel 20-30 men. All sides had their circles, it was not totally integrated then. We the  new ones and the 30 other new ones and some coming in few numbers had made training for 2 weeks, numbering to about 50. This is a large number of force that reorganisation (tekhlit) was made, and a new haili (platoon) formed.

Then, I and Mehari Gimatsion from the USSR were told that we should go abroad and organize students, workers etc organizations and to return to Europe. I did not want the job after coming determined to fight in the field. It was better to send a veteran fighter who had many experiences because we cannot be called fighters in only 6 months’ time.

While we were at the river side, there had been a long-time competition between Selomon W Mariam and two leadership members, Tewelde Eyob and Asmerom Gerezghier. Selomon was an active person who used to make cliques of his own, he was a city man with connections with civil organizations, not much a military man.

Tewelde Eyob was the strongest of the three and Asmerom was not much educated or active, but they were regarded militarily leadership by the fighters. As the country had feudal society, people depended more on persons from their region. Selomon was rumoured on being a regionalist and had sometime spoken the Akele Guzai being more numerous. We were surprised that such backward thoughts were in field, even Eritrea was seeming little for us let alone think in region, and we did not know who was from where.

All soldiers slept in hill tops while the leadership rested in riverbank guarded making it not easy for the enemy to enter. Water was so important it had to be well guarded surrounding the area lest the enemy control the water areas. We were expecting to be sent abroad. We had come to understand the confrontations of Selomon on one side and Tewelde and Asmerom on the other side. One day, Selomon came to us and said that from now on he will eat in our group. The first female fighters Dehab and Werku were already with us.

As we were distributed radios, Selomon took our radio. I asked him why he did not use the leadership’s radio than ours because we wanted to hear news too. He answered no, theirs is the mesafinti (feudal) radio, and I was shocked that the leadership had such disagreements.

In the daytime next day, I talked to some officers saying we are seeing a not strong leadership. We had the criticism and self-criticism customs. That Selomon openly calls the others feudalistic, how could a weak leadership continue, meaning the whole front is not strongly led. They told me I should say to Selomon himself and I answered that the leadership makes us criticizes for the loss of needles and they should together do their own criticism. I cannot go to Isaias and tell him Selomon calls him a feudalist.

This was the start of the whole situation that expanded into other matters. This called for a meeting of 12 persons, the leadership, and some cadres. Isaias wondered why the meeting was called. I was then asked what happened. I repeated what had happened and said I think the fighters see you as a solid leadership and matters should come into agreements. These fighters had long time relationships and said it was Selomon who was feudalist and was regionalist tendencies too. They talked of past experiences what had happened, and the majority were against Selomon. Isaias then said that he cannot continue acting like their priest and the issue must be resolved among these people once and for all. When he said that, the issue became wider. We were there to reconcile and the some of the accused cadres and leadership now became the accusers. We said to them that they could not solve the problem as they were seen accusing each other and it should be examined. Selomon is accused of being regionalist, and you who should in between be becoming accusers. We were 7 together. I suggested that those who knew them all should hold a large cadre discussion. This radio incident was the opener of the conflict history.

Then 52 members from all units and veterans gathered. They told us to run it and we saw there was a deeper division amongst them, Akele Guzai and Hamasien divisions. As the front’s strongholds were in Ala and Semanawi Bahri-Hamasien, it was the people from there who joined in most numbers. Many from Serae and other regions joined ELF because ELF was in those areas. Joining the front for many was not an ideology question, but proximity to join. Many who joined were specifically from Karneshim and Tsena Degle areas because they lived in these areas.

Selomon had his gangs of supports and Tewelde/Asmerom had their own gang. It was much later we learnt that Asmerom was from Debarua, Serae. It is common that people connect to their near folks and feudal traditions are not overcome yet.

The worst situation came from the educated fighters who did not like the way the leadership run the front, saying the leadership are backward and are attacking Selomon for regionalism. That the leadership should be thoroughly changed, and we should be guided by scientific socialism, saying this was a national democratic revolution, socialist in character to lead to communism. These fighters were strongly leftist, with many opinions which we believed in too. They claimed that the leadership is feudal and Isaias was with these men that it should be changed. Our aims should be changed making it a socialist revolution.

The leftists sided with Selomon claiming the leadership wanted to kill him, to get alliance from the Hamasien side were more in number and stronger, and gain support from his side. And Selomon became their ally.

In this meeting of the 52 members, the leftists were attacked saying they are using Solomon’s regionalism to remove him later and take power because they themselves are regionalists. The leftists wanted to use the cracks on the leadership. They wanted larger fighters’ meetings and that the educated should lead etc. This led to the movement known as the ‘Menkae movement’.

Then Musie Tesfa Mikel from the leftists said these people use the front as their personal power who ‘pee and make faeces’ as they wished. Musie was not at loss to use words. They suppress people and charge anyone as they wish would be it in regionalism or other to kill him. Since we were the ones who gathered this meeting, we had called fighters who could make changes from the leadership and Musie and co were one of these. We invited them specifically too.

When Musie used these words, there was Tsegai Keshi, a platoon leader, who was against Selomon, though he was Hamasien too. He was a very forward and honest but uneducated man and no talker. He got so angry saying ‘now you say this leadership pees and makes faeces!’ and hit Musie on the head with his rifle butt. This should not have happened, and we demanded that Tsegai be imprisoned. I, Mehari Girmatsion and a third man were the responsible for holding this meeting. As it was according to PLF rules, I myself imprisoned Tsegai. He did not shoot at his comrade but hit him and putting a guard on him, he was sentenced to punishment.

That became the end of meetings and the leftists said did we not say so that they pee and have faeces on us. And they took over and Musie used that. Musie was a smart guy. Thinking about it later, there was nothing bad about it, it was true.

The traditional leadership did not have capacity to lead, although they started the military wing. Tewelde Eyob was a good military leader. Isaias was the only politically capable person. Basically many fighters had come from the rural areas and the conflict situation had come untimely, otherwise their opinions were not disagreeable. And that they attacked the leadership. The timing and way they conducted was not right.


So they went and said that the leadership should go down and be replaced, we shall have a scientific socialism and we know about it. And the other side disagreed that Yohannes etc – the leftists- should rule and we thought it was opportunistic talking only about the leadership.

Their mistake was their arguing on the leadership than reshape the line, and nobody who knew of it did not oppose changing our ways. The situation started growing widely and that Musie was hit, as if we too sanctioned it. What we wanted was taking the right road, recognize the weakness of the traditional leadership and demanded a congress be made and new leadership to be elected. We did not have a programme or constitution and we had the 3 united fronts working in their own rules that the congress becomes our lead.

But there came confusion in the front and the leadership was not obeyed and at that time the Ethiopians came on us in Sahel, the 13 day war. Instead of guerrilla warfare we were forced to fight holding positions.

Petros Selomon and Sebhat Efrem were with the leftists-Menka at the beginning and were thus imprisoned, and that is the first time I saw imprisoning of them, as they had wanted to imprison the leadership. Now all of a sudden, Selomon recognized that these people at the end would break his post and take it, and turned against them.

The front had now split into three groups. One was the Menka who claimed that the leadership was old with no knowledge and should be changed to scientific socialism etc.

The second was Selomon’s group whose region Hamasien were numerous as they were in the ridge to the front, the Semenawi Bahri. When one joined the front one who knows him join too and the geographical location attracted it. These big numbers were the supporters of Selomon. These were against Isaias and the Menka, even though they sided with the Menka at the beginning. They had claimed Selomon was to be killed, but they did not want to glorify Selomon. They started saying Selomon is no different from the others in the leadership and they should be changed. When Selomon realized this he came to opposition to them and had to come back to the leadership mould again. Now the leadership and their supporters built a united front.

Selomon was earlier attacking the Akele Guzai, then changed and supported the Menkae and again attacked both sides. He was a good and active organizer of people and started imprisoning fighters.

The third group said the leadership was feudalistic but should be changed systematically. This would widen the split between the Hamasien and Akele Guzai.

So, it was an uneasy alliance. There were some from Serae too, but we did not know them, being too few.

We started talking to Isaias and others that these two groups are dangerous. We cannot complain on Selomon and the feudalists as we are surrounded wholly by it. It is a secondary issue which will get better with education and time, we cannot oppose all these peasants. There must be an alliance and this extreme leftism will crush us, so we have to create a solid organisation. We cannot teach communism with the mostly peasants and we started organising.

This is what eventually created the Party inside the front. Wedi Selomon and others realized where it was leading and changed sides. Yohannes-Menka was a man of fists, just like Isaias. But Isaias was a good military leader who maintained the balance and was aware of the social traditions. He knew where power was to be taken.


We had united with PLF 1 while the situation was going on and these were in between and eventually took sides of the third group. And some of their leadership, particularly Ramadan had a big role. He had balanced opinions and free from regionalism and religion and far sighted, and Ibrahim Afa, Ali Said etc were with him.

There had to be a structure because it was a united front, and a secret socialist party was created, and it went on getting bigger and took over. When the Menkae became imprisoned, it can be said that the rest dispersed. The Menkae did not have a big support and there was much persecution by Selomon.

Our position was that we opposed Selomon’s group and the extreme leftism that came and being in between was considered biased and was dangerous and that’s why we organized and Isaias and Ramadan were key in organising it. And that became the totally dominant force throughout being the instrument of control and leadership at the beginning. There were no more Menkae or Yemin. As time went by, the leadership role got less, and instrument of control got bigger.

Petros and Sebhat had been with the Menkae and when imprisoning started, they changed positions saying the Menkae were trying to take power not for the better of the revolution. Now that we know them, it is us who shall charge them and did so. They were instrumental in organising it and also the secret Party.

The Menkae were imprisoned for a long time and in 1979 when there was no more support for them, a military committee was formed, the military tribunal. The party was formed in 1975 and by 1979 it was totally dominating. The Menkae were charged and killed in secret, and I did not know. Nobody was told when the killings were done, and they were alive in the congress of 1976. Some were freed in 1978 as Werku was freed and  was brought to us. Maybe they were killed, and we heard it much later to justify their case, we did not know. That is when I heard, and it was not officially. Those who knew the whole secret are not more than 5 or 7.

Because I was in the Zena (news) group, it was basically the centre of ideology and materials to read. It was after 1976 that the political office of the Party was formed. When the girls Abeba, Werku and Maasho were freed 1976 and brought to us that we shall indoctrinate them. I tried to explain to them that both sides were incorrect, Selomon being Feudal and the Menka being extremist. Selomon was at his highest. I told them we cannot erase feudalism now and we cannot fight it head on, but with education and time. But this extremism is dangerous for the front and lead to its collapse. Dehab and Aberash were not freed and imprisoned with the rest because they did not repent and believed their cause was just.

The leadership were few and the issue was taken at that level and supposedly trusted by the fighters to do the right thing. The Executive Committee, the Politburo was formed then and made the decision, I was member of the Central Committee. Things like that were secret as it was a military front.

There were two parallel organisations in the front. The Party was secret and had its political office, i.e the Politburo, and they also had a Central Committee. And the front had its politburo and Central Committee. I was member of the latter, the mass organisation, and never in the secret Party’s committee. They did not trust the educated fearing they would topple them.


Some of the secret politburo members were Isayas, Ramadan, Ibrahim Afa, Ali Said Abdella, Haile Durue, Alamin. Mesfin Hagos was there at one time. This led to absolute authority of the leader.

Question: In the ‘Destructive Movement of 1973’ supposedly by Isayas, it states that the first female fighters of EPLF were having problems of upbringings and origins, and that they were spoiled. Was that the fact you saw?

This is just false accusations. They were with my unit  from the start until they were imprisoned. We were not interested on others’ origins and were thinking in international socialist ways. They were not in leading positions either. They were idealists like all of us. Once they were convinced their group were right and did not want to go against their comrades. Werku and Masho in our unit, Dehab and Aberash in anotherunit.

Tuesday 28 November 2023

The Afar Dimension on the Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict about the Red Sea Access

 The Afar Dimension on the Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict about the Red Sea Access

 The Afar and the Afar Triangle

The Afar people are an ethnic Hamitic group, pastoralists  who speak a Cushitic language. The inhabitants call themselves Afar and the name ‘Danakil’ is given to them by the Yemeni and non-Arab speakers. Their language is called ‘Afar Af’ or ‘Tongue of the Afar’ where ‘Af’ means ‘tongue’ or ‘mouth’. They live in the Afar Region of Ethiopia (2.5 million), as well as in the coastal parts of Eritrea (250,000) and Djibouti (400,000).

The Afar Triangle, also known as the Afar Depression or Danakil Depression, is a geological depression caused by the Afar Triple Junction, which is part of the Great Rift Valley in East Africa. This area is one of the lowest and hottest places on Earth, with some parts lying more than 100 meters below sea level. The lowest point in in the Afar depression and Africa, Lake Asal, less than 155 meters below sea level, lies in Djibouti.

The region is noted for its extreme heat and aridity, as well as its unique geological features, including salt flats, hot springs, and active volcanoes. Despite the challenging environment of the Afar Triangle, characterized by its extreme heat and aridity, the Afar people have adapted over centuries to thrive in these conditions. No foreign forces have entered the Afar territory by force. The region is also known for its rich mineral deposits and the presence of various unique species adapted to the harsh environment.

The Afar Triangle is not only significant for its geological and ecological aspects but also for its importance in the study of human evolution. The area has been a rich source of hominid fossils, contributing significantly to the understanding of human ancestry and evolution.


Source: Hashim Al Shami book

 The Afar Interactions with  parts of modern Ethiopia

The independent Afar Sultanates historically controlled the coastal area stretching from  the Dahlak islands (including Buri peninsula) to Zeila. These sultanates entered into 15 agreements[1] with major regional powers, including Italy, France, and England (detailed in Al Shami’s book with copies of these powers' original languages and in Arabic). One notable agreement involved the sale of land in Assab on March 11, 1870, between the Italian shipping company Soreta Rubattino and the leader of the Ankala Afar tribe.

This deal, aimed at acquiring a site in Assab for use as a bunkering station, was signed by Giuseppe Sapeto and A. Buzzolino on behalf of the company, and by Afar chiefs Hassan Bin Ahmed, Abdella Shehim, and Ibrahim Bin Ahmed. Historically, the Afar people have formed strong, unified kingdoms on multiple occasions, characterized by a highly decentralized system. At times, up to twenty-four tribal chieftains held the power to independently declare war against their adversaries, particularly the Habesha (Ethiopia), without needing the sultan’s consent.

Around the first quarter of AD 1528, Ahmed Ibrahim leader of the Adal Sultanate  defeated King Lebna Dingl’s army at Shembra Kure. During 1528–1533, army occupied Dire Dawa, Shoa, Lasta, Bale, Sidama, and Gurage. He moved then to #Tigray and occupied all the regions up to Kassala (Taka) in AD 1535. Sultan Mohamed Hanfare defeated King Menelik’s army at Arrado in 1875 and the Egyptian army led by Munzinger in 1875 at Odoummi, where Munzinger lost his life.

Eritrea and Ethiopia support proxy Afar organisations

The dynamics between Eritrea and Ethiopia are significantly influenced by their interactions with Afar groups. During the rivalry between the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), both countries supported different Afar organizations to leverage against each other. In Eritrea, the Ethiopian Afar opposition, supported by Eritrea, advocated for a true Afar state in Ethiopia, free from TPLF control. Conversely, the Eritrean Red Sea Afar Democratic Organization (RSADO), operating clandestinely in Eritrea but based and supported by Ethiopia, campaigns for an autonomous Afar state in Eritrea, with rights to self-determination and even secession.

The Afar Revolutionary Democratic Unity Front (ARDUF), also known as Uguguma (meaning revolution), was active in Zones 2 and 4 of Ethiopia's Afar region. After the Ethio-Eritrean war, the Ugugumo split into two factions. One faction, led by Mohamouda Ahmed Gaas, chose to align with the Ethiopian government. The other faction continued its opposition activities and eventually relocated to Eritrea, where it received support.

Ugugumo after Eritrean independence was opposed to both governments  in Addis and Asmara and hence targeted by coordinated attacks by Ethiopian  and Eritrean forces. This opposition faction of the Ugugumo experienced a shift in its stance after Abiy Ahmed became the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. Heeding Abiy's call for all opposition movements to return to Ethiopia, this faction, along with other groups like the ONLF and OLF who were also based in Eritrea, moved back to Ethiopia. Upon their return, the Ugugumo ceased their confrontations with the federal government. During the recent conflict involving the Tigray forces, the Ugugumo played a central role in the Afar confrontation, indicating their active and significant presence in the region's political dynamics.

Additionally, the Eritrean Afar National Congress (EANC), primarily based in the Canadian diaspora, lobbies for an autonomous Afar region in Eritrea. Ahmed Mohamed, the Chairman of the EANC, is a prominent voice in this cause. Which sometimes raised the question if it were a one-man or a few men organization. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed recently argued that most Afar live in Ethiopia's Afar region and thus should have access to the Red Sea, a contention with implications for regional geopolitics.

This situation mirrors that of the Kurds, an ethnic group native to a mountainous region in Western Asia, Kurdistan, spanning Turkey, Iran, Iraq (including the autonomous Kurdistan region), and Syria. With an estimated population of 25 to 35 million, primarily in Turkey, their situation raises questions about territorial rights and access, similar to the debates surrounding the Afar people. If we were to follow Abiy’s argument, can we say all Kurds ought to have access to Turkey, because the majority of them live there.

First Italian colony in Afar region of Assab and how Eritrean borders evolved

The first Italian colony was founded in the Afar region of Assab on 5 July 1882, by a royal decree of King Umberto I of Italy. Later, parts controlled by Italy were incorporated and Eritrea,  with its current borders was established by Italy in 1890, expanded in 1936 to include Tigray, which was later reorganized into six divisions including the Afar region of Denkalia. The British restored Eritrea's original borders in 1941. Eritrea was federated with Ethiopia by a UN resolution in 1952. Ethiopia annexed Eritrea as its 14th province in 1962.

Map of Eritrea 1912

Over time, administrative divisions continued to change, and in 1987, the Derg regime divided Eritrea into two autonomous zones, with the southern coast including Assab and parts of the Tigray and Wollo provinces becoming one zone, accommodating about 60% of the Afar in  both Eritrea and Ethiopia. It was only after the constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia was approved in 1995, all the Afar in Ethiopia were brought under one state, After Eritrea gained independence in 1991, it reverted to its former borders without physical demarcation due to friendly relations with TPLF. A border conflict in 1998 escalated into a war that lasted until 2000, concluding with the Algiers Agreement, which called for the establishment of a Boundary Commission. Ethiopia accepted the Commission's ruling reluctantly and did not actively implement it, resulting in a tense stand-off that persisted until the rise of Abiy to power in 2018.

It is to be noted that the Afar has actively participated in the Eritrean war of Liberation. Due to their knowledge of the Red Sea and use of boats, they were crucial in bringing military and other supplies to the revolution. Yet some Afar elites remined loyal to Ethiopia.

The Djiboutian Dimension*

Djibouti, situated along the 370-km Red Sea coastline from Ras Doumeria to the Gulf of Aden, is neighboured by the Indian Ocean to the east. This nation is home to two primary ethnic groups: the Afar and the Somali. Historically, in 1892, France shifted its focus from Obock, predominantly Afar, to the city of Djibouti, fostering a diverse community of Afar, Somalis, and Arabs. In 1896, France consolidated its territories into what was known as Côte Française des Somalis et dependences, or French Somaliland. Later, in 1967, it was renamed the French Territory of the Afar and the Issas.

Administratively, Djibouti is divided into five regions and a city. The Afar mainly reside in the Tağura, Obock, and Dikhil regions, while the Somalis are primarily found in Ali Sabieh and the newer Arta region. The Afar region encompasses about 87% of Djibouti's land area. The capital city, Djibouti City, is home to roughly two-thirds of the country's population.

Djibouti gained its independence in 1977. As of 2023, according to the CIA World Factbook, the population of Djibouti is around 1 million, with Somalis making up 60%, Afar about 35%, and the remaining 5% comprising Yemenis and other nationalities. But the Afar dispute this statistics.

In Djibouti and Ethiopia, the Afar and Somali pastoralist communities have experienced ethnic tensions due to competition for land and resources. This conflict is further complicated by their differing perspectives on the history of the Adal State, once led by Imam Ahmed, also known as Ahmed Gran in Abyssinia. Both groups assert their historical connection to this state. Conflicts have erupted between the Afar and Somali regional states in Ethiopia over disputed territories, and these clashes occasionally extend into Djibouti, affecting the broader region.

Zeila, a coastal town in present-day Somaliland, located 37 km southeast of Djibouti, is another focal point of contention. The Afar claim historical dominance in Zeila. From the time the port became significant in Islamic history, it was inhabited by a diverse mix of Arab, Somali, and Danakil (Afar) populations. Over time, these groups gradually merged, creating a unique Zeila culture and dialect, which is a fusion of Arabic, Somali, and Afar languages.

In subsequent years, Somalis moved further into the area, with their population bolstered by arrivals from Italian and Ethiopian territories to the north. By the 19th century, Somalis became the dominant group in this region. It is noteworthy that Awdal, one of the six regions in Somaliland and historically a part of the Adal State, has a secessionist movement. The capital of Awdal is Borama, also known as Awdal, Adal, or Adel.




Italian map 1936


Map of Ethiopia 1987 during the Mengistu regime


Before the 1994 constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of #Ethiopia, came into force in August 1995, the Afar were split into four provinces: Tigray, Wollo, Showa and Harar. Though it became a regional state, it was controlled by the deep state of the TPLF until 2018, when Abiy Ahmed came to power, Since then then the TPLF deep state was replaced by Abiy's deep state. It is Abiy's loyalists who control the state.

Map of Ethiopia 1995


Map of Eritrea 1993


 Eritrea was administratively organised  into six regions in 1996

Map of Djibouti

[1] Hashim Al Shami, Al Manhal, The Source in the History and Narratives of the Afar (Danakil). A more than 700 pages  book was published in Egypt in 2018 and is the English translation of the Arabic edition that appeared in 1997 in Egypt. An earlier Arabic edition (Saudi Arabia, 1994) and an Amharic translation (2007) exist as well.

 * Yasin Mohammed Yasin, 2010. PhD. Thesis, Regional Dynamics of Inter-ethnic Conflicts in the Horn of Africa: An Analysis of the Afar-Somali Conflict in Ethiopia and Djibouti

Tuesday 21 November 2023

كل رجال الرئيس: الحاشية المقربة من أسياس أفورقي


كل رجال الرئيس: الحاشية المقربة من أسياس أفورقي

 "لقد اظهر إسياس أفورقي قدرة على صد التهديدات، سواء الداخلية أو الخارجية. فيما يلي ملامح من دائرته الداخلية "

NOVEMBER 9, 2023

All The President’s Men: Isaias Afwerki's close circle | African Arguments

بقلم محمد خير عمر


إسياس أفورقي، وُلد عام 1946 في أسمرة، ويُعد أطول الحكام بقاءً في منطقة القرن الأفريقي والبحر الأحمر. اشتهر بمناوراته الاستراتيجية لحماية مصالحه الخاصة، وإعادة ترتيب التحالفات محلياً وإقليمياً بانتظام. لم يقبل إسياس بالمركز الثاني قط، وطموحاته لا حدود لها. انشق عن جبهة التحرير الإريترية ليُنشئ تنظيمه الخاصة، وفي نهاية المطاف استطاع توطيد قوته كزعيم وحيد للجبهة الشعبية لتحرير إريتريا ولاحقاً لإريتريا بعد الاستقلال، مُزيلًا التهديدات في طريقه. واجهت قيادته تحديات، لا سيما في عام 1973 عندما طالب زملاء سابقون وأقران دراسة باتخاذ قرارات ديمقراطية وإساء قوعد المساءلة. تم التعامل مع هؤلاء المعارضين، المعروفين بـ 'منكع أو الخفافيش، بقسوة، مما أدى إلى إنشاء جهاز امن قمعي معروف بالتقرينية 'حلوة ثورا' اي حرس الثورة. والحزب السري الذي تشكل في عام 1971، عزز من سيطرته على السلطة.

في عام 2001، ظهرله تحدٍ آخر حيث طالب قادة حزبيون كبار بالمساءلة والإصلاحات الديمقراطية. قام إسياس باعتقالهم، ومصيرهم مجهول حتى الان. كما حافظ إسياس على السلطة من خلال افساد كبار المسؤولين، ليضمن ولاءهم. يعمل دون هيكل قيادة واضح، تاركًا القادة الأعلى عرضة للتحدي من قبل المرؤوسين، وكثيراً ما يقوم بإهانة حتى مؤيديه لاختبار ولائهم

 خارجيًا، يقوم إسياس بتغيير التحالفات من حين لأخر. كان متحالف مع القذافي؛ ثم مع قطر ودعم إيران، ولاحقًا السعودية والإمارات في جهود التحالف في اليمن. والان متحالف مع السعودية. كان في البداية حليفًا للجبهة الشعبية لتحرير تيقراي التي كانت تسيطر على الجبهة الديمقراطية الثورية الإثيوبية قبل أن يصبح عدوهم خلال حرب تيقراي، متحالفًا مع آبي أحمد وداعمًا لميليشيات الأمهرة. على مدار هذه التحولات جميعها، بقي القليلون فقط ممن يثق بهم, حول له، مع استعداد إسياس لاستبدال حتى الموالين له في أي وقت. يقوم الرئيس أفورقي بتغيير قادة المناطق العسكرية الخمسة بانتظام، على ما يبدو لتشجيع التناقض بينهم، ومنعهم من بناء علاقة وثيقة جدًا مع الوحدات تحت قيادتهم. المناصب الرسمية غير ذات أهمية حيث قد يكون للمرؤوسين، حتى بدون ألقاب، السلطة الفعلية. المسؤولون عن الأمن والشؤون العسكرية، والمالية والسياسة يشكلون نواة داخلية له. 

العقيد تسفا لدت هابتسيلاسي – رئيس الأمن الشخصي لإسياس لم نجد له صورة(

 إنه قائد الحرس الرئاسي ورئيس أمن إسياس ، وهو في الواقع الشخصية الأكثر أهمية في حماية إسياس. هو واحد من القلائل الذين يثق بهم إسياس وظل معه لفترة طويلة، حيث عمل كمشغل جهاز استقبال وإرسال الرسائل المشفرة الخاص به اثناء فترة الكفاح المسلح منذ الثمانينيات. حتى الجنرالات يستشيرونه لمعرفة رأي إسياس في أي مسألة. كمسؤول مكتب الرئيس، يتحكم فيمن يتصل بالرئيس إسياس أفورقي وهو مسؤول عن توصيل تعليمات الرئيس إلى المسؤولين الحكوميين والحزبيين، بما في ذلك الجهات الأمنية. يقوم أحيانًا بمهام خاصة في الخارج نيابةً عن الرئيس. يُعتقد أنه يعرف أماكن احتجاز السجناء السياسيين ذوي الشأن، وهو يشرف على عمليات تنقل المسجونين السياسيين من مكان لأخر. يسافر بشكل متكرر إلى الصين وأوروبا الشرقية من دبي.

 حقوص قبرهيوت ولدى كيدان والمعروف بحفوص كيشا, المسؤول عن الاقتصاد

ولد حقوص قبرهيوت في عام 1953،  ويشغل رسميًا منصب المستشار الاقتصادي للرئيس وللجبهة الشعبية لتحرير إريتريا وهو الرئيس التنفيذي لشركة تجارة البحرالأحمرالسئية السمعة لمعاملاتها الغير قانونية. هو واحدًا من القلائل الذين يثق بهم إسياس. تم فرض عقوبات على حقوص قبرهيوت في نوفمبر 2021 من قبل الولايات المتحدة لتقديمه المساعدة المادية، أو الرعاية، أو الدعم المالي، أو المادي، أو التكنولوجي، أو البضائع، أو الخدمات لصالح الجبهة الشعبية لتحرير إريتريا. وهي من كبريات الشركات الارترية وتعمل في مختلف القطاعات الاقتصادية كالتصدير والاستيراد والتعدين واعمال الطرق والتشييد والزارعة والتامين والتهريب كما تم تصنيف شركة تجارة البحر الأحمر من قبل الولايات المتحدة لكونها مملوكة أو تحت سيطرة قبرهيوت. وكان رأسمالها يقدر ب 500 مليون دولار في بداية التسعينات ويعتقد انها لا تدفع الضرائب للدولة ولا يعرف حساباتها غير إسياس وقبرهيوت.

بدأ حقوص مسيرته المهنية في مجال المالية للجبهة الشعبية لتحرير إريتريا (المعروفة الآن بالجبهة الشعبية للديمقراطية والعدالة ) في السبعينيات، حيث كان أمين صندوق لجناح طلابي في امريكا داعم للجبهة الشعبية وكان يعرف ب الإرتريين للحرية قسم شمال امريكا ,وكان يقدم الدعم المالي والسياسي لمجموعة إسياس عندما انفصلت عن جبهة التحرير الإريترية  في عام 1970. لاحقًا، أصبح مسؤولاً عن المالية للمنظمات الجماهيرية الداعمة للجبهة الشعبية لتحرير إريتريا. وأصبح ممثل للجبهة الشعبية في الولايات المتحدة في الثمانينات بالرغم ان بيانات التنظيم كانت تصدر باسم د. تسفاي قرماظيون والذي كان رسميَا نائبه. نادرًا ما يظهر في وسائل الإعلام ويدير جميع الموارد المالية الرسمية والسرية للجبهة الشعبية لتحرير إريتريا. هو واحد من القلة جدًا، بجانب إسياس، الذين يعرفون حجم الموارد والمنصرفات المالية للدولة. ان العمليات السرية التي يديرها وتلاعبه بالاقتصاد غير الرسمي، واستخدام الشركاء الدوليين لتسهيل تدفقات الإيرادات خارج القنوات الرسمية، مكنت إريتريا من الصمود في وجه العقوبات الأممية التي استمرت عقدًا من الزمان.

 في هذا السياق، اعتمدوا باستمرار على "شركاء في الجريمة" موثوقين. ظهر مرة واحدة في وسائل الإعلام وهو يوقع اتفاقية مع شركة صينية، وتم الإشارة إليه كرئيس للشركة الوطنية الإريترية للتعدين . يحتفظ بأموال الجبهة الشعبية لتحرير إريتريا والدولة بسرية عالية، وعندما أراد القادة في الحزب والدولة في عام 2001 معرفة الأمور المالية، من بين مطالب أخرى، تم اعتقالهم في الثامن عشر من سبتمبر، ولا أحد يعرف مكانهم منذ ذلك الحين. ولم يتم نشر ميزانية الحكومة علنًا منذ الاستقلال.

 يمانى قبرأب المنظر الأيديولوجي للنظام

ولد يماني قبرأب في عام 1954، هو المنظر السياسي لحزب الجبهة الشعبية وعراب لشباب الحزب، ويشرف على أنشطتهم ويحضر بعض مؤتمراتهم السنوية ويُقدم محاضرات لهم. تهدف الجبهة الشعبية من خلال الاهتمام بالشباب إلى تجنيد قادة المستقبل للجبهة واستمرار إرثها. وهو قليل الظهور، وبالتالي لا يرى فيه إسياس تهديدًا، ويُعتقد أنه وراء البيانات الرسمية والبيانات الصحفية للنظام. يحمل اللقب الرسمي كمستشار للرئيس ورئيس الشؤون السياسية للحزب.

 يرافق بانتظام وزير الخارجية، صمان صالح، في رحلاته الخارجية حاملًا رسائل الرئيس إلى رؤساء الدول الأخرى. بالتعاون مع وزير الخارجية، هما المسؤولان الوحيدان الظاهران للحكومة الإريترية. يُعتقد أنهما يسافران معًا للمراقبة على بعضهما البعض. على الرغم من وجود وزير إعلام رسمي ينشر تغريدة إلى ثلاث تغريدات يوميًا، إلا أن يماني هو من يُجري مقابلات مع وسائل الإعلام الأجنبية ممثلاً للنظام الإريتري. نجا في دوره الخفي منذ الاستقلال. كما يسافر بمفرده لعقد صفقات سياسية مع مجموعات المعارضة في المنطقة.

أبرها كاسا نماريام – مدير جهاز الأمن الوطني الإريتري 

أبرها كاسا من مواليد 1953 وعمل رئيساً لأمن الحزب السري في الميدان الذي كان له دور فعال في تعزيز سلطة أسياس خلال حرب التحرير.  وبعد الاستقلال، تم تهميش رئيس الأمن للجبهة الشعبية لتحرير إريتريا, يطروس سلمون، وتولى أبرها منصب رئيس الأمن بجهاز الأمن الوطني الإريتري ويتولى هذا المنصب منذ ذلك الحين.  وعادة ما يتجنب الأضواء، لكنه شارك في عام 2014 في ندوة حول تهريب البشر حيث ألقى باللوم على الولايات المتحدة لوقوفها وراء الهجرة الجماعية للإرتريين من إرتريا.  

فرض الاتحاد الأوروبي عقوبات على جهاز الأمن الإرتري في مارس 2021 بسبب انتهاكات حقوق الإنسان في البلاد.  كما كان أبرها أحد كبار المسؤولين الإرتريين الذين فرضت الولايات المتحدة عقوبات عليهم في نوفمبر 2021. وقد تم فرض عقوبات عليه لكونه قائدًا، أو مسؤولًا أو مسؤولًا تنفيذيًا كبيرًا أو عضوًا في مجلس إدارة حكومة إرتريا أو الجبهة الشعبية من أجل الديمقراطية والعدالة الحاكمة او انخرط بشكل مباشر أو غير مباشر 

في اي نشاط أسهم في الأزمة في شمال إثيوبيا خلال عام ٢٠٢٠م وعلى الرغم من أنه زار إثيوبيا عدة مرات سرًا، إلا أنه ظهر علنًا وهو يقود وفدًا من جنرالات الجيش الإرتري وكبار المسؤولين الأمنيين إلى إثيوبيا في أبريل 2023. وخلال تلك الزيارة، شوهد على شاشات التلفزيون الإثيوبية وهو يزور المخابرات العسكرية والمؤسسات الأمنية

 سيمون قبردنقل – نائب مدير جهاز الأمن الوطني لم نجد له صورة(

 كان مسؤولاً عن قسم سلاح الإشارة الذي كان من الأقسام المهمة للاتصالات اللاسلكية وكان بمثابة مركز عصبي للتنسيق خلال حرب التحرير.  أصبح نائب مدير الأمن الوطني في عهد أبرها كاسا بعد التحرير . نادرا ما يظهر في العلن. وقد نجا من محاولة اغتيال في عام 2007، التي اعترفت بها الحكومة، عندما بدأ القادة العسكريون يتصرفون وكأنهم أمراء حرب يتقاتلون على الأراضي ويقسمون الغنائم فيما بينهم.  ويعتقد أن أسياس يثق به أكثر من رئيسه أبرها كاسا.  وكلاهما يراقب بعدهم البعض .

 الجنرال فيليبوس ولد يوهانس – رئيس أركان قوات الدفاع الإرترية

الجنرال فيليبوس شغل منصب قائد عسكري في الجيش خلال حرب التحرير. تولى عدة مناصب بعد التحرير بما في ذلك قيادة منطقة العمليات الخامسة. تم تعيينه رئيسًا للأركان في عام 2014، بعد وفاة الرائد ووتشو قبرزقي، المعروف بولائه العميق لإسياس. في أغسطس 2021، فرض مكتب مراقبة الأصول الأجنبية التابع لوزارة الخزانة الأمريكية عقوبات على الجنرال فيليبوس، رئيس أركان القوات الدفاعية الإريترية ، لكونه قائدًا أو مسؤولًا في كيان متورط في انتهاكات جسيمة لحقوق الإنسان ارتكبت خلال النزاع في تيقراي.

 العميد تكلي كفلاي المعروف بتكلي مانجوس

العميد تكلي كفلاي من مواليد 1956، كان احد قواد الجيش أثناء حرب التحرير.  كما تولى مناصب عسكرية مختلفة بعد الاستقلال.  وقد اتهمته مجموعة المراقبة التابعة للأمم المتحدة المعنية بالصومال وإرتريا في عام 2011 بتهريب البشر والأسلحة خلال الفترة التي كان فيها قائداً لمنطقة العمليات العسكرية الغربية التي تشرف على الحدود الإرترية السودانية. نظيره السوداني الرئيسي في هذا النشاط عبر الحدود هو مبروك مبارك سالم، وهو رجل أعمال من قبيلة الرشايدة  وزعيم سابق لجماعة “الأسود الحرة” المنحلة التي شكلت ذات يوم جزءًا من تحالف المعارضة السوداني “الجبهة الشرقية” المدعومة من إرتريا.  كما شارك كفلاي في بيع خردة معدنية إرترية بملايين الدولارات لشركة جياد، وهي مجموعة من الشركات السودانية، في عام 2010. وعلى الرغم من كل هذه الاتهامات، فإنه لا يزال مقربًا من أسياس.