Desecration Of Our Martyrs' Graves: A Shameful Act By Shameless People
Paulos M. Natnael
July 28, 2000
It has been reported that the invading Ethiopian Army led by Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF) Weyane officers has demolished grave sites in ToKombia
and others places. They used their tanks to do the dirty, shameful acts of sabotage and vandalism. These were not ordinary grave sites. These were the grave sites of martyrs of the struggle for Eritrean independence. Since 1991, the Eritrean people have been gathering the remains of the fallen heroes of the struggle from the plains, hills, and valleys of Eritrea (where they had fallen and hastily buried during raging battles) and interring the remains in common graves, and building monuments on the sites. Not grandiose monuments such as the Weyane regime built in Mekele for itself expending millions of Ethiopian birr, but precious monuments nonetheless. The Eritrean government, to its credit, didn't opt for huge symbolic monuments for the martyrs, but instead encouraged the people around the country to build their own memorials deemed appropriate for each village or town. Every Eritrean, however, has a monument for the martyrs in his or her heart.
What motivated the Weyane regime and its army to desecrate the graves of martyrs of the revolution? Why do they continue to sink so low? Why such disrespect even to the dead? This is baffling to this writer given the background of the Weyane regime. May be it should not be so baffling. The TPLF Weyane were also thought to be freedom fighters. They called themselves tegadelti, following the Eritrean example. But true tegadelti would never do such a thing, such a shameful thing as desecrating the graves of fallen heroes.
Tegadalai Vs Weyane: Civility Vs Barbarism, Good Vs Evil
Tegadalai (literally, one who struggles for freedom) is a respected name in Eritrea. Tegadelti (plural) are still highly regarded and will remain so for the future. Why? Not just because they brought about freedom and independence to Eritrea, but most importantly it is how they brought about this change that is most respectful. Every Eritrean Tegadalai had a set of principles taught them by the older or veteran tegadelti before them. These set of principles included (not necessarily in that order):
. Respect for civilians and protecting civilians; the Eritrean struggle for freedom was a struggle for the people and by the people. Thus, the idea of respect for civilians and protecting civilians had a paramount significance during the struggle.
. Realization of the fact that the Ethiopian government and its army were the institutions of oppression and thus the main enemy and NOT the people of Ethiopia;
. Respect for the ideals of self-determination and freedom;
. Unbreakable determination to achieve the goals and objectives of the revolution: independence from Ethiopia and building a democratic, prosperous Eritrea; and,
. Respect and love for each other, protecting and defending each other, even to the point of sacrificing oneself for the sake of a comrade.
, the prominent Eritrean writer, analyzed the Tegadalai culture, the tradition of selflessness, in the field during the struggle. He tried to come up with a sensible explanation to the origins of such comradeship and self-sacrifice. In his book, "A Fortnight in the Trenches
" (klte Qne ab defAt) he writes,
Martyrdom has become a tradition...I would love to explain this phenomenon. But to explain it, I have to understand it completely. It is not enough to say 'it is because they are fighting for their freedom.' You have to reach its roots. It is important to understand the stories of martyred heroes in detail. How is heroism inherited-- it must have its own special process; it must have its own finite, roots and fibers that serve as a bridge. It is true that there is official and planned political orientation that unites people in one large view point. There is also criticism that brings those out of line, etc. But only this, although it is a strong background, I don't believe that this changes instantly into heroism in the battle field. Therefore, the minute details that serve as a bridge in between these relationships must be identified. So, seventeen and eighteen year olds made determination and heroism their own character. This is the element and the main source of our victory; to explain this element and transfer it to the next generation is the big challenge.
(see page 13
This is the story of tegadalai; this is what a tegadalai means.
Since almost every Eritrean had someone close to him or her in the revolution, almost every Eritrean was involved in the struggle for independence. Today, that tradition continues and the Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF) are made up of every segment of the population and almost every family has a sister, a brother, a mother or a father with the EDF. This is the essence of Eritrea. This is why Eritrea is determined to save its human resources. That was why the strategic withdrawal made sense to Eritreans while outsiders saw the withdrawal as defeat. Homes, villages, towns and cities will be rebuilt again, but you cannot substitute a human being once you lose him or her. Eritrea will be rebuilt, despite the current setback, by the youth and by the EDF again. That how Eritreans saw it.
Contrary to the lies and unrelenting propaganda emanating from the Ethiopian side, the Sawa Military program that produced the defenders of today's Eritrea began for the sole reason of developing the country by the sweat of its citizens, particularly the youth - the future of any nation. The Sawa Tigers built roads, micro dams, planted tens of thousands of trees, etc. during their eighteen months of service. There was a lot of debate among Eritreans on cyber forums such as Dehai back circa 1994 on why a military training program for the youth was necessary at that time. No one foresaw a conflict of this magnitude with anyone of Eritrea's neighbors, let alone Ethiopia, which the Eritreans regarded as friendly to them. No Eritrean dreamt of fighting again a new war with a former ally - the Weyane, nor with any country in the region. Eritreans have had enough of wars and destruction. It was a truly shock to all Eritreans, including government officials, to witness another war erupt with Ethiopia again. Anyone who now would otherwise say they saw this coming, would simply be lying.
Because the Tegadalai knew that the people of Ethiopia, the innocent civilians were not the enemy, the Tegadalai never harmed Ethiopian civilians intentionally. In the current conflict, the Weyane, the Ethiopian media, and their elite are fond of accusing the Eritrean government for deporting Ethiopians in 1991 and confiscating their property. The truth was that the Eritrean government sent 100,000 or so Ethiopian soldiers and their dependents home to Ethiopia. These were essentially what was left of the occupying army, and not civilians living peacefully in Eritrea as the Ethiopians tried to make it look. Those Ethiopians who chose to live and work peacefully in their adopted country, were left alone and still live in Eritrea. Therefore, the accusations are baseless. The Ethiopian Weyane government raised this issue only when the war erupted in 1998 in order to cover their own evil and illegal expulsion of Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin from Ethiopia, and dispel the criticism and condemnation that was being directed to it from human right organizations around the world.
As mentioned above, the TPLF Weyanes, the ruling party's main body, also purported to have struggled for freedom. They even called themselves Tegadelti, following the example of the Eritrean freedom fighter. The sacred name of the Tegadalai was even adopted in the Amharic language -- tagay. However, judging from their behavior in the past two years and particularly since their May 12 invasion of Eritrea, indeed it would be blasphemous to call the Weyane, tegadelti. In the contrary, the Weyane showed that they have never learned the true meaning of the Tegadalai. They instead resemble the old Ethiopian occupation army. In some respects, they are even worse. The rape, the looting, the deliberate destruction of Eritrea's infrastructure by their troops tell more of the "tradition" of the Ethiopian army, which did not hesitate to massacre a whole village of innocent civilians in Shi'b
(Eritrea) and then crush their bodies under their tanks. Four hundred (400) civilians in all died at Shi'b. This is one example of countless other atrocities by Ethiopian troops in Eritrea during both the Haile Sellassie
and Derg regimes. And in the year 2000, burning human beings alive inside their huts is not what people expect from any army let alone from those who profess to have struggled for freedom in Tigray and Ethiopia. These are the actions of fascist murderers. The TPLF has shown the world its true colors indeed! And finally, the TPLF has sunk so low as to desecrate the grave our heroes, the graves of our fallen Tegadelti who gave their precious lives so that we the living would be free. That is the final stroke! Rest assured Weyane, we will never forget your despicable act of vandalism and fascism. You are the worst types of fascists.