Sunday, 1 March 2015

The first time terrorist activities were carried out, and the term was used in Eritrea



The first time terrorist activities were carried out, and the term was used in Eritrea


The term ‘Terrorism’ is widely used these days in the third world by states or opposition groups opposed to the state. The state is quick to label even legitimate groups that oppose its policies as ‘terrorist’ and the opposition organizations are quick to label states that doesn’t provide them with a margin of free space as ‘terrorist’. The FBI defines ‘Terrorism’ partly as an act that : “Appear to be intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or (iii) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping;” if you take out the parts related to violating federal or state law.

When was the first time, terrorism, was practiced and the term used in Eritrean political literature?

The first time ‘terrorism’ as is strictly defined today, was practiced was in 1940s by the Unionist Party (Mahber Andenet) and its sponsor, the Imperial Ethiopian Government, then. Thus the term was introduced to the Eritrean political literature during that period. Not only in practice, but hatred and incitement used religious flavour in which the Coptic Church under Geshi Demetros provided the necessary platform.

Trevaskis* writes,

 “Terrorism and violence were supplemented by a campaign of threats against the Italians and Eritrean supporters of the Independence Bloc (IB)…Soon after the Fourth Session of the General Assembly had ended, an organized campaign of terrorism and intimidation was launched against IB. Between October 1949 and the arrival of UN Commission in February 1950, 9 Italians, an Indian, A Greek, 3 Christian supporters of the Bloc, and 4 Muslim tribesmen were assassinated. Italian Cafes in Asmara, Massawa and Addi Ugri were attacked with rifle fire and hand-grenades; grenades were thrown at Italian and Eritrean supporters of the Bloc in Asmara, Massawa and Decamere. An open assault was made on the village district chief in Akelli Guzai who supported the Bloc; Italian farms were raided and ransacked; and livestock of Muslim tribesmen was looted. The climax came in February when the UN Commission was arriving…In many cases the armed gangs of Christian Abyssinians or Shifta left letters or pamphlets at the scene of their outrages, threatening Italians with death if they supported the Bloc, and warning Eritreans that they and their families will suffer if they did not abandon it.

The Coptic Church published a warning in the columns of Ethiopia, a Unionist publication which first appeared in 1948, that the Church would not grant facilities as regards baptism, marriage, burial, communion, and absolution to members of the Bloc or to their families. And Moslem Tigre tribesmen, who sometime roamed across the Ethiopian frontier in search for grazing during the dry months of winter and spring, were now ejected by the Ethiopian authorities except in few cases of those who were able to produce Unionist Party membership cards.

So violent and direct a campaign of intimidation earned its authors gratifying but not unexpected results- It made its profoundest impression on those who deserted, or who had contemplated deserting, the Unionist Party. They were now confronted with the choice between membership of the Bloc which if lucrative, involved physical risk, and a safe-conduct back to the Unionist fold. Few hesitated find face-saving pretexts to desert the Bloc.

This was not the only blow to befall the Bloc. Within a few days of the Commission’s arrival, it was disrupted, losing more than half of its supporters as a result of serious splits in the Moslem league and the Liberal Progressive Party…”

Jordan Gebre Medhin** adds that Unionist Shifta blew up bridges and cut communication lines to towns that were predominantly against Union with Ethiopia
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Some of the pamphlets that were distributed by the Unionist Party read like this:

“ERITREANS! (IT READ) REMEMBER YOUR MOTHER ETHIOPIA! YOUR MOTHER WILL NOT DENY YOU AND YOU, HER SONS, MUST NOT DENY HER. SHE WILL FEED YOU. THE ITALIANS BEAT YOU AND DISHONOURED YOUR WOMEN. THE BRITISH STARVE YOU AND FATTEN THE FOREIGNERS. HAVE YOU SEEN HOW THE ITALIANS AND ARABS GROW RICH WHILE YOU GO NECKED? HAVE YOU SEEN HOW THE BRITISH PROTECT THEM AND DESPISE YOU? FOOLS AND TRAITORS ARE SAYING THAT THE BRITISH ARE YOUR FRIENDS AND THAT THEY WISH TO HELP YOU. DO NOT BELIEVE THEM. ARE THE BRITISH MORE LIKELY TO HELP YOU THAN THE ITALIANS WHO ARE OF THEIR OWN RACE? ARE THEY MORE LIKELY TO HELP YOU THAN THEIR FRIENDS, THE SUDANESE AND ARABS? YOU WILL FIND NO HELP EXCEPT FROM YOUR MOTHER. FIGHT THE FOREIGNERS AND PREPARE TO DIE FOR YOUR COUNTRY. LONG LIVE HAILE SELLASIE! LONG LIVE Ethiopia!”

EROS CHIASSERINI’s, Italian book, ‘Eritrea 1941 – 1951 Gli Anni Difficili’ meaning the difficult years documents, with vivid pictures, the atrocities committed by the Unionist Shifta against Italians mainly but also against the members of the Independence Bloc.

One cannot but admire all those who confronted the terror unleashed by the Unionist Party and its sponsor, the Haile Sellasie’s regime and stood for Eritrea’s independence during the darkest periods among whom were Abdulgadir Kabire, Woldeab Woldemariam, Idris Mohamed Adem, Ibrahim Sultan and Ras Asberom Tessema. No wonder that both Haile Sellasie’s and Mengistu’s regime pursued terrorist acts by bombarding civilian villages and towns, poisoning water wells, bombing livestock at watering places. The Haile Sellasie’s regime took pride in hanging dead bodies on poles for days to scare Eritreans from joining the armed struggle.

The current regime, which tries to present itself as a victim of terror, prides on terrorizing its own citizens.
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* Eritrea: A colony in Transition
** Peasants and Nationalism







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