Remembering the forgotten victim of the EPLF
Goitom Berhe (bitsay) ብጻይ ጎይተኦም
Researched and compiled by Resoum Kidane 28/10/2020
EPLF fighter tortured and murdered by EPLF - Goitom Berhe (bitsay) ብጻይ ጎይተኦም
Goitom Berhe (bitsay) a law graduate of Addis Ababa University who led new democratization movements, known as bitsayinet, in the late 1975, then became target for “radicalism” The purpose of this compilation is to remember one of these forgotton innocent freedom fighters who was excuted by the EPLF security force in the 1970s.
Goitom was born in 1942 in a village called Adi Goda, Hazome vicinity Mai Aini sub region in the Debub region of Eritrea, he was one of the first generation of students from the post Italian colonisation who received his education during the Federation era in the 1950s. He went to elementary school in the village called Amadir distric of Tislema in the early 1950s. According to Dr Berhane who was his childhood friend at Amadir described Goitom as a genius and gift student
Berhane recalled when Goitom missed many lessons in third grade because of the hardship despite his mother faced after the death of her husband, Goitom’s father in law. Goitom did not attend school for about three months that year and yet he passes his final exam with distinction by borrowing or copying all missed lessons from his classmates This shows that his intellegence and dedication. After passed his exam Goitom didn’t continue his study at Amader, he had to move to Asmara to seek help from relatives there
After Goitom moved to Asmara, his friend Berhane lost contact with him for a few years until an opportunity arose when Berhane too went to Asmara to attend 9th grade at Haile Selassie I Secondary School in 1959. Dr Berhane in his memories of Goitom briefly mentions that Goitom would have faced further hardships as he found him attending 8th grade when he should be at 9th grade like his friend Berhane
After Goitom completed his 8th grade, in 1959, he didn’t purse his study in the secondary school like his friend Berhane but joined the Teacher Training Institute (TTI) in Asmara to qualify for elementary teaching, this was in 1960.
After two years training and he gained his qualification. Goitom spent his first few professional years probably in Asmara. While Goitom was working as a teacher, he sat for the Ethiopian School Leaving Certificate Examination (ESLCE) which he passed with distinction. Thereafter he attended the Haile Selassie I University to study Law probably in 1967.
Goitom Berhe with his father and his sister and her kids
When he joined the University to study law Goitom was a mature student with high political consciousness. The political and civil rights violations committed by the Ethiopian government in Eritrea during the Federation period involved, for example, the removal of Eritrean flag from public places, the institutionalization of Amharic as the official language the dissolution of the Ethiopia-Eritrea Federation, the annexation of Eritrea. In response, there were sporadic student strikes in 1956, 1958, 1962 and a three-day trade union general strike in Asmara, in 1958. These all contributed significantly to Goitom, becoming, while he was a student and a teacher, more politicised and more nationalistic.
The above facts could be the reason why Goitom decided to pursue his study of law at Haile Selassie I University in 1967. During his studies he also became internationalist in his outlook and devoted himself to the Socialist movement...
Regarding the assassination of Tilahun Gizaw, Ghelawdews who was a freshman student in 1969 recalls when the body of Tilahun was laying on a stretcher and all his body was covered by a blanket except his feet, he saw Goitom Berhe bitterly crying at the loss of his Marxist friend. cried. http://www.ehrea.org/astu.php. Professor Gaim's the author of Critical Reflections in his book also describes Goitom for his kindness and generosity
While Goitam was a student at the university, the Students Union of Addis Ababa (USUAA) he was one of those progressive Eritrean university students who played a key role in developing strong solidarity between Eritrean and Ethiopian progressive students in the campus.
Regarding the role of progressive Eritreans at Haile Selassie I University (Petros Tesfa Giorgis (2007)states the Eritrean progressive students came to realize that if the oppressive feudal system was replaced by a socialist Government the problem in Eritrea could be solved peacefully based on the right of people to self-determination.
Petros recalls that in one of the demonstrations there were many Eritreans in the front 6 or 7 rows and among them were Amanuel Yohannes, Mesfun Araya, Tesfazione Medhane, Tesfu Kidane, Meles Gebremariam, Amanuel Geresus,
According to an anonymous source, during the student demonstrations those who would bear the brunt of any attacks were Eritreans. Ethiopian security agents were trying to appeal to the Ethiopian students that they were being used by the Eritrean “secessionists”. Then the Eritreans decided at a secret meeting to support the student union but not be at its forefront. The right to self-determination continued to be discussed by Ethiopian students. An Ethiopian student leader Walleligne discussed it openly in front of 2,000 students. Members of the EPRP were sent to the Sahel (Eritrea) to get training. Walleligne and some others including an EPLF cadre tried to hijack a plane, but they were caught and murdered by security men. Martha Mebratu was one of the martyrs of the Eritrean struggle
Many other Eritrean university students also played a key role in the student movement, including Temesgen Haile and Petros Yohannes Adgoi, Yohannes Sebhatu, Amanuel Yohannes, Goitom Berhe etc.
Temesgen Haile was one of the coordinators of the underground Eritrean group inside the Haile Selassie University campus under the name, TihiSha (his father’s nickname) . Temesgen died when the Derg tried to capture him. He committed suicide by jumping from a high-rise building in Addis Ababa
Martha wrote “We, women of Ethiopia and Eritrea, have made ourselves ready to participate in a struggle, and we would like to explain the nature of our struggle to our sisters and brothers all over the world.”
Amanuel Yohannes was always described by his friends as one of the progressive students and took his place in the ranks of the student union, by fighting in an internationalist spirit against oppression. He wanted to achieve his revolutionary socialist vision and the victory of the Eritrean and Ethiopian oppressed peoples against the feudal autocracy.
According to people who knew Goitom at the campus, he was one of the most active students in the movement. This is recalled by Gaim Kibrab who was a second year student at the Law School in Addis when Goitom was a senior student.
Dr. Ghelawdewos Araia, who entered the University as freshman in 1969 also described Goitom as one of the militant students from Law School who moderated the presidential debate at Arat Kilo Science Campus. Goitom also spent one year in Harar teaching as part of the Ethiopian University Service in 1971 .
Goitom who had been an activist at the University Students Union of Addis Ababa when he graduated in 1973 decided to join the EPLF to realize his revolutionary socialist vision.
The illustration of the EPLF prison (Halewa Sewra) below shows clearly how prisoner like Goitom was interrogated in 1970s
ተዘክሮ ብጻይ ጎይትኦም በርሀ ኣብ ቅንያት ብዓል ናጽነት
(ዶ/ር ብርሃነ ወልደሚካኢል 23/05/2020)
ለንቅነ ሓደ ዘገርም ኣጋጣሚ ተረኺቡ። እዚ ናይ ንኣሽቱ ኢዩ ኢለ ዝንዕቆ ዝነበርኩ `ፈይስቡክ` ለካስ ዓቢ ጥቕሚ`ውን ኣሎዎ። ወዲ ሓብተይ ብተሌፎን ደዊሉ ኣብ `ፈይስቡክ` ብዛዕባ ጎይትኦም በርሀ ዝርርብ ተላዒሉስ ምሳኻ ዕርክነት ከምዝነበሮ ጠቒሰ ነይረ። ነዚኣ ዝርኣየ ዘመድ ጎይትኣኦም በርሀ ኢየ ዝብል በጃኻ ኣራኽበኒ ስለዝበለኒ ቁጽሪ ተሌፎንካ ክህቦዶ? ኢሉ ይሓትኒ። ኣብ ታሪኽ ጎይትኦም ኣነውን ዘይፈልጦ ገለ ሃጓፋት ስለዘሎኒ ነቲ ሓታታይ ብታሕጓስ ከዛርቦ ከምዝደሊ ሓቢረ። ብቕጽበት ክኣ ናይ ተሌፎን ጻውዒት ካብ ወዲ ጓል ሓወብኡ ንጎይትኦም ኢየ ዝብል ሰብ ይረክብ። ብዙሕ ኣዕሊልና ብዙሕ ሓበሬታ ክኣ ተለዋዊጥና።
ጎይትኦም በርሀ ሓደ ካብቶም በላሕቲ ምሁራት፥ ኤርትራ ሃገርና ክትጥቀመሎም ዕድል ዘይረኸበት ሰብ ኢዩ ነይሩ። ኣብ ኣዲስ ኣበባ ዮኒቨርሲቲ ብናይ ሕጊ ትምህርቲ ምስ ተመረቐ ብዙሕ ከይጸንሐ ኢዩ ንሓርነት ኤርትራ ክቃለስ ኢሉ ናብ ሜዳ ኤርትራ ከይዱ። ብዛዕባ ቃልሲ ኤርትራ ኣብ ዝወጹ ጽሑፋት ጎይትኦም በርሀ ይጥቀስ ኢዩ። እዛ `ብጻይ` ትብል ቃል ኣብ ናይ ተቓለስቲ ቋንቋ ተፈላጢት ክትከውን ብምግባሩ ክኣ ከም ሳጓ ናብኡ ተለጢፋ ብ`ብጻይ ጎይትኦም ኢዩ ዝፍለጥ ነይሩ።
ብጻይ ጎይትኦም ኣብ ዝኣምነሉ መትከሉ ጽኑዕ ከምዝነበረ መቓልስቱ ይምስክሩሉ ኢዮም። ብዛዕባ ዲሞክራስያዊ ስርዓትን ሰብኣዊ መሰላትን ጽሒፉ ንተጋደልቲ ከነቓቕሕ ስለዝጀመረ ክኣ ኢዩ ኣብ ቤት ማእሰርቲ ብሕሱም ግፍዒ ተታሒዙ ጸኒሑ ኣብ መውዳእታ ክኣ ዝተቐትለ።
ጎይትኦም ናይ ግዜ ንእስነት ዓርከይ ኢዩ ነይሩ። ኣብሻይ ኣስመረት፥ ኣዲኡ ንጎይትኦም፥ ንወዲ ሓወቦይ ንኣያ ኣስገዶም ገብርኣብ ተመርዕያ ንጎይትኦም ወዳ ሒዛ ኢያ ናብ ዓድና ናብ ኣማድር፣ ወረዳ ጽልማ፣ ኣትያ። ሕማቕ ዕድል ኰይኑ ኣያ ኣስጎዶም ክልተ ቆልዑ ምስ ወለደላ ኢዩ ብሞት ተፈልይዋ። በዚ ምኽንያት ኣብሻይ ኣስመረት ናይ ናብራ ሽግር ነይሩዋ። እዝከረኒ ኣብ ሰልሳይ ክፍሊ ናይ መባእታ ደረጃ ትምህርቲ ከሎና ንዓዲ ኣቡኣ ንደንበላስ ተሰዲዳ ሓግያ ኣብቲ ጊዜ ዘራእቲ ኣብ ወርሒ ግንቦት ክኣ ንዓዲ ተመሊሳ። ጎይትኦም ካብቶም ምሉእ ዓመት ዝተመሃርና ጥራዘውትና ወሲዱ ቀዲሑ ኣጽኒዑ ኣብ መወዳእታ ዓመት ብልጫ ክወስድ ዝኸኣለ ናይ ትምህርቲ ተውህቦ ዝነበሮ በሊሕ ቆልዓ ኢዩ ነይሩ። በቲ ናይ ቁልዕነት ኣተሓሳስባ፣ ኣብሻይ ኣስመረት ሰበይቲ ወዲ ሓወቦይ ስለዝነበረት ን`ጎይትኦም ከም ዘመደይ ገይረ ኢየ ዝወስዶ ነይረ። ብዝበለጸ ግና ዕርክነትና ኣዝዩ ደልዲሉ ስለዝነበረ ዓርከይ ጎይትኦም ኢለ እጽውዖ ነይረ ንሱውን ከምኡ።
ኣብ ራብዓይ ክፍሊ ምስ በጻሕና፥ ምናልባት ጎይትኦም ወዲ 12 ዓመት ኢዩ ዝኸውን ነይሩ፣ ሓደ ኣብቲ እዋን`ቲ ጓሂ ዘሕደረለይ ነገር ተፈጢሩ። ዓርከይ ጐይትኦም ኣብ ዓዲ ብናብራ ስለዝተሸገረ ናብ ኣስመራ ዝርከቡ ቤተ ሰቡ ከይዱ ተባሂሉ። ኣነ ዝኣምኖ ዓርከይ ብምስኣነይ ናይ ብሓቂ ተሰሚዑኒ።
ኣብ ታሽዓይ ክፍሊ ኣብ ቀዳማዊ ሃይለ ስላሰ ክልኣይ ደረጃ ቤት ትምህርቲ ክምሃር ከሎኹ ጐይትኦም ኣብቲ ጎኑ ዝነበረ ማእከላይ ደረጃ ቤት ትምህርቲ ሾምናይ ክፍሊ ይምሃር ስለዝነበረ ስሕት ኢልና ኣብ መንገዲ ንራኸብ ኔርና። ብገለ ናይ ናብራ ሽግር ሓደ ዓመት ኣጥፊኡ ምንባሩ ኣዝዩ ስለዝተሰምዓኒ ከልዕለሉ`ውን ኣይደለኹን። ኣነ ታሽዓይ ክፍሊ ኣብ ኣስመራ ተማሂረ ብድሕሪኡ ዝነበረ ናይ ካልኣይ ደረጃ ትምህርቲ ኣብ ኢትዮጵያ ከይደ ወዲአ ኢየ ኣብ ዩኒቨርሲትይ ኣትየ። ድሒረ ከም ዝተረዳእኩዎ፡ ጎይትኦም ካብ ሻሙናይ ክፍሊ ናብ ናይ መምህርና መሰልጠኒ ኣትዩ ተማሂሩ ንገለ ዓመታት መምህር ኰይኑ ኢዩ ሰሪሑ።
ኣደይ ወላዲተይ ሓደ እምነት ነይሩዋ። ናይ ኩሉ ሰብ ዕድል ክውለድ ከሎ ጀሚሩ ዝተጻሕፈ ኣሎ፡ ካብታ ጽሑፍቱ ክኣ ሰብ ኣይወጽእን ኢዩ ትብል ነይራ። ኣነን ጎይትኦም ዓርከይን ከከም ጽሑፍና ተጓዕዝና ኣብ መጀመርታ 70`ታት ኢዩ መስለኒ ኣብ `ኣራት ኪሎ፥ ኣዲስ ኣበባ፥ ብኣጋጣሚ ተራኺብና። ንዓመታት ዝሓለፈና ዕላል ኣልዒልና ንነዊሕ ተዛሪብና። ኣብቲ መወዳእታ ዕላልና ግና ጎይትኦም “እሞ እዝጊሄር ኢዩ ተራኸቡ ኢሉና ሎሚ ንምንታይሲ ኣነ ኣርሒቐ ክገይሽ ኢየ” ኢሉኒ። ኣነ ጎይትኦም ብርቱዕ ሓንጎል ከምዘሎዎ ስለዝፈልጥ ንትምህርቲ ነወጻኢ ኢዩ ዝኸይድ ዘሎ ኢለ ስለዝሓሰብኩ “ጽቡቕ ዓርከይ ጎይትኦም፣ ኣሳልጦ ይሃብ” ዝኣመሰለ ኣዎንታዊ ዘረባ ብምሃብ ኢየ ተፋንየዮ።
ጎይትኦም ኣብ ምምህርና እንከሎ ኣብ ናይ ዩኒቨርሲቲ መአተዊ ፈተና ወሲዱ ብዝልዓለ ነጥቢ ሓሊፉ ኣብ ናይ ሕጊ ትምህርቲ ኣትዩ ድሕሪ ምምራቑ ኢና ተራኺብና። ከመዮ ኣደይ ዝበለቶ ግና እቲ ጽሑፍ ዘይተርፍ ኰይኑ ለካስ መደብ ጎይትኦም ንላዕለዋይ ትምህርቲ ዘይኰነስ መንገዱ ንኽቃለስ ንኤርትራ ክኸይድ ኢዩ ነይሩ። ናይታ መዓልቲ እቲኣ ርክብና ክኣ ንዘልኣለም ኣብ ተዘክሮይ ተቐሪጹ ይነብር ኣሎ።
ጎይትኦም ምስ ኣቡኡን ሓብቱ ምስ ደቃን። እዛ ሓብቱ ብርትዕቲ ተቓላሲት ከምዝነበረት ብደርጊ ከምተቐትለት ክኣ ሰሚዐ። ብርቱዓት ገዛ ኢዮም ነይሮም
"Goitom with his father and his sister and her two children. His sister,was an activist and a member of the underground movement that supported the Eritrean Liberation Struggle. She was killed by Ethiopian security forces when they found out of her underground activities."
ተሰዊኡ ዝብል ቃል ኣብዘይቦትኡ ንጥቀመሉ ኢና። ዓርከይ ጎይትኦም ተሰዊኡ ድዩ ክብሃል ዘሎዎ ወይስ ተቐቲሉ? ኣብቲ ጊዜ ቃልሲ ኣብ ሓደ እኼባ ክሳተፍ ንኤርትራ ኣትየ ስለዝነበርኩ፡ ብዛዕባ ኣዕሩኽተይን ቤተ ሰበይን ክሓትት ጀሚረ። “ዘይምልከተካ ኣይትሕተት” ዝብል ናይ ህዝባዊ ግንባር መምርሒ ከምዝነበረ ኣፍልጦ ነይሩኒ ግናኸ ሕልናይ ኣየፍቀደለይን ክሓትት ጀሚረ። ሓደ ተጋዳላይ `ብጻይ ጎይትኦም ተሰዊኡ ኢዩ` ኢሉኒ ከብቅዕ `ግን ብዙሕ ኣይትሕተት` ይብለኒ። ስለዘየደቀስተኒ ግና ከጻሪ ጀሚረስ፣ ኣብ ናይ ኣውራጃነት ኣትዩ ምስ መሪሕነት ዘይምቅዳው ፈጢሩ ከምዝነበረ ዝብል ሓበሬታ ረኺበ። ኣነ ወዲ ግርሂ ልባ “እሞ በዚ ምኽንያት ተቐቲሉ” ኢለ እንተሓትትኩ “ኖ ተሰዊኡ ኢዩ” ተባሂለ። ክሳብ ናጽነት ነዛ ነገር ቆርጢመያ ጸኒሐ ድሕሪኡ ግና ኣብ ልዕሊ ጎይትኦም ዝወረደ ግፍዒ ኩሉ በጺሐዮ። ብመትከል ንዲሞክራስን ሰብኣዊ መሰልን ስለዝተማጐተ ኢዩ ተቐቲሉ። ኣብ ደም ብጻይ ጎይትኦም ኣውራጃነት ዝብሃል ድሑር ኣታሓስባ ከቶ ክነበር ኣይምኸኣለን።
ጎይትኦም ናይ ቁልዕነት ዕድሚኡ ኣብ ዓደይ ኣብ ኣማድር ኢዩ ነይሩ። ለንቅነ ምስ ሓደ ቤተ ሰቡ ዝኾኖ ምስ ተራኸብኩ እየ ዓደቡኡ ኣብ ዓዲ ጎዶ፡ ሃዘሞ፡ ኣብ ከባቢ ማይ ዓይኒ፡ ምዃኑ ዝፈልጥ ዘሎኹ። ደሕሪ ኣብሻይ ኣስመረት ኣቦይ በርሀ ካልእ ሰበይቲ ተመርዕዮም ከምዝወለዱን ዓርከይ ጎይትኦም ዓቢ ቤተ ሰብ ከምዘሎዎ ምስምዐይ ክኣ ኣሐጕሹኒ። ብወገን ኣብሻይ ኣስመረትውን እንተዀነ፥ ካብ ኣያ ኣስገዶም ወዲ ሓወቦይ ክልተ ኣወዳት ነይሮማ፥ ሓደ ተጋዳለይ ነይሩ ተሰዊኡ ኣቲ ሓደ ግና ብሕማም ኣብ ድሕሪ ናጽነት ዓሪፉ። ክልቲኦም ግና ውላድ ገዲፎም ኢዮም። ኣብሻይ ኣስመረት ኣብ ኣማድር ተቐሚጣ ካብ ሓደ ወዲ ዓዲ ሰልስተ ኣወዳት ወሊዳ ኢያ።
ስለዚ ኣማውታ ብጻይ ጎይታኦም መሪር እኳ እንተዀነ በቲ ዝነበሮ ሃገራዊ ተገዳስነትን ብናይ መትከል ቃልሱን ክዀርዑ ዝግብኦም ብዙሓት ቤት ሰብን ኣዕሩኽን ኣሎዉ።
ምሕጽንታ፥ መቃልስቲ ብጻይ ጎይትኦም ዝነበርኩም ተጋደልቲ ዘሎኩም ስእሊ፡ ተዘክሮታትኩም ወይ ብጽሑፍ ወይውን ብድምጺ ቀዲሕኩም ክትሰዱለይ ሓደራ እብለኩም። ሓንቲ ተምሳል ብጻይ ጎይትኦም ዘይብላ ስእሊ ተዘርጊሓ ነይራ ስለዚ እቲ ሓቀኛ ስእሉ እንተዝርከብ ከመይ ጽቡቕ ምዀነ።
ኩነታት ኣቃትላ ብጻይ ጐይትኦም ትፈልጡ ብህይወት ዘሎኹም ሰባት ትህልዉ ኤኹም። ስለዚ ብሽም ቤተ ሰቡን፣ ኣዕሩኽቱን ኩሎም ናይ ቀረባ መቃልስቱን ክኣ እቲ ትፈልጥዎ ብዕሊ ክትነግሩ ትሕተቱ ኣሎኹም። ታሪኽ ብጻይ ጎይትኦም በርሀ ነባሪ ኰይኑ ክተርፍ ክጽዓረሉ ስለዝዀነ ኣብዚ ጉዳይ እዚ ንዝትሓባበር ኩሉ ኣቐዲመ ከመስግን እፈቱ።
ዶ/ር ብርሃነ ወልደሚካኢል 23/05/2020 E-mail: [email protected]
Goitom joined the EPLF (PLF 2)
Goitom joined the EPLF (PLF 2) during the civil war, a critical period for the survival of the EPLF. The civil war broke out after the ELF passed a resolution that ‘the Eritrean field cannot bear more than one organization and one leadership' at its First National Congress, in 1971. The ELF leader passed this resolution in response to the EPLF splitting from the ELF in 1970.
As a result of the civil war, 3000 fighters from the two Fronts lost their lives between 1972 and 1974. Throughout the civil war, Goitom fought in various battles from Gerger Sudan to Gerger Asmara. He also fought against the Ethiopian forces in Shale region as well as in the highland plateau between 1973 and early 1974.
The one civil war battle in which Goitom fought was at Gerger Sudan, a fierce week long battle (17-25/3/73). The fighting was stopped by the intervention of the Sudanese army. Kidane, Aida (2005) in her paper mentions that at the Gerger Sudan battle 12 were killed and 17 wounded from EPLF (PLF1 and PLF2) and the attacking force (ELF) left 101 dead and over 130 wounded.
Tewdros Gebrezghier (Aligaz from EPLF (PLF 2) who participated in the fighting, described it as a dirty and inhuman war. Tewdros adds that” the hyenas after eating the dead fighters started eating the wounded. Some from our side started shooting at the hyenas that Issayas slapped the shooting men telling them to stop. The men wailed for help saying they were our brothers but were told to burn like fire”. (Kidane, Aida 2005)
Welde Mariam Abraham who was member of the EPLF (PLF 2) also described the battle of Greeter as cruel where brothers killed each other. Hyenas ate the dead.’ Our defence area was about 2-3 kms in diameter, after the battle had ended and the Sudanese intervened and buried the bodies.’ (Kidane, Aida 2005)
The two years fratricidal war broke out because of power competition between the EPLF and ELF leaders; but it was not the result of an ideological conflict between those leaders. The rank and file fighters from both side were always eager to work together to fight the common enemy for the sake of the Eritrean people rather that fighting each other. The unwillingness was from their leaders which has still left a legacy among the current opposition leaders in exile.
Goitom and other progressive fighters from EPLF (PLF2) knew that the civil war was caused by a power struggle between the ELF and EPLF leaders. Regarding this Tewdros Gebrezghier states that progressive fighters from EPLF (PLF2) like Mussie, Yohannes Sebhatu and Tesfu Kidane (a brilliant university student from Addis) questioned why the fratricidal civil war against the ELF was continuing instead of focusing on organizational issues such as having an elected democratic leadership.
According to veteran Tesfamicahel shortly after Goitom joined the Front he participated at the symposium with Mussie, Yohannes Sebhatu, Tesfu Kidane and other educated fighter to draft a constitution and programme for the EPLF (PLF2). This was not implemented until the First Congress of the EPLF held in 1977. It is beyond the scope of this compilation to look at why it had not been implemented in 1973.
As mentioned above, in the early 1970s the EPLF (PLF2) didn’t have a constitution, a programme or elected leaders. Therefore the progressive educated fighters and particularly Musie and Yohannes started to raise fundament questions, challenging the EPLF (PLF2) leadership over the undemocratic nature of the leadership style particularly and particularly Afeworki’s style of leadership.
Connell(2001) also states that Haile Menkerios who had worked in the information and propaganda department of information recalled this period as one of increasing political tensions from both ends of the political spectrum. Mussie Tesfamichael became frustrated with the slow pace of political development and pushed for a rapid transformation of these groups into a revolutionary political formation, challenging Isayas’s leadership in the process Mussie’s and other progressive fighters’ criticism became one of the contributing factors for the conflict that erupted in autumn of 1973. As a consequence of conflict between supporters of Menka movement led by Mussie and supporters of Issayas leadership a couple of meetings were held to resolve the conflict but all those efforts ended without success. Finally other EPLF (PLF2) combatants who were in the highland plateau were recalled to Gereger Asmara in the early 1974 to resolve the conflict and a committee led by Goitom was formed to look into the case.
Although the leaders of Menka (progressive fighters) like Mussie, Yohannes and others were arrested before the committee was formed, the EPLF(PLF2) leaders allowed the members of the committee to visit those progressive fighters in prison and listen their complains. After the committee gathered first-hand information from both sides and investigated the cause of the conflict which had erupted in Autumn 1973. It concluded that the complaint of the progressive fighters led by Mussie had not been wrong. Regarding this Meharena Hadgu() in his memory of Menka states Goitom Bisay said that Menka(progressive fighters) were correct.
Issayas and his group became disappointed with the committee’s verdict, and Issayas became suspicious of Goitom. Thereafter Goitom was made to step down from his responsibility (political commissioner of platoon which was the highest rank at that time) and was assigned to work with civilians in the Sahel region, under close surveillance
Adhanom Fitwi( ) also that Goitom was sent to Nakfa area, a Tigre speaking area with only one rank (mesRie) of 8 members and actually he did not speak Tigre language at that time. Then he was confined there for some time. Similarly Woldenkel Haile, head of the security department who said that the imprisoned Menka leaders had not committed any crime except to break military discipline with which Issayas was unhappy. In reaction to this Woldenkel Haile was sent to the Hailitat (front line sometime in 1974.
Goitom’s arrest and execution
After Goitom stepped down from his responsibility (political commissioner of his platoon), he was sent to the Rora Hababa Tigre speaking area as a mass organizer. Although Goitom did not speak Tigre language at that time, he learned it quickly and got on well with the Rora Hababa people. Amanuel Hidrai who was a mass organizer from the ELF at Rora Hababa recalled that Goitom had been considered a beloved cadre by the inhabitants of that area.
Goitom met Amanuel Hidrai after the ELF and EPLF reached an agreement to end their hostility. Goitom was one of the EPLF fighters who showed initiative in developing good relations with the ELF fighters in 1975. Amanuel Hidrat recalls his short acquaintance with Bitsay Goitom in Rora Hababa.
According to Amanuel he knew Goitom in December 1975 when a team of 5 tegadelties (fighters) were going for a short assignment from Barka to Sahel. Amanuel said that they had discussed the need for unity between the ELF and the ELF-PF (Hizbawihailetat). Goitom was pessimistic about the prospects of a peace agreement, because the leadership in the field led by Issayas rejected the negotiating committee that was formed by Sabe1976. (see note).
Goitom told Amanuel that there were two leaderships within the organization that operated independently of one another. The foreign diplomacy lead by Sabe and the field command lead by Issayas. There was therefore no centralized leadership in the organization. Actually, he was right. Issayas has formed his own negotiating committee in their meeting at “Ein” to counter to the negotiating committee that was formed by Sabe which led to their split. Goitom hinted to Amanuel that there would not be unity between the two organizations. Goitom was withdrawn, by the leadership, from Rora Hababa where he had been working as mass a organizer
Goitom was pessimist about the prospect of peace agreement because the agreement that reached between the ELF and EPLF leaders for unification of the two fronts was a tactical not strategic plan. What Goitom mentioned to Ammanuel about the process of unification of the ELF and EPLF was true. Goitom always had a different view on from the EPLF leaders on the unification of the two fronts .
As a consequence, he again became the target of the EPLF leaders and was transferred from Rora Hababa. Twelde Kidane another ELF fighter who had met Goitom briefly while he had been working with civilians, that after Goitom was replaced by Salah Sebba, the relations between the EPLF and ELF fighters deteriorated. Here is Kidane memory of Goitom originally written in Tigriyn:
ተዘክሮ ብጻይ ጎይትኦም በርሀ ብተወልደ ኪዳነ ካብ አውስትራሊያ ምስ ብፃይ ጎይትኦም ኣብ ሮራ ሓባብ ባቅላ ዝብሃል ቦታ ኢና ንፋለጥ ሮራ ባቅላ ናይ ክልቴና ማሌት ህግ ከምኡ ተሓ ኤ እየንኔረን ኣብቲ ግዜቲ ስምረት ክግበር እዩ ዝብሃለሉ ወይ ምቅርራብ ዝርኣየሉ ግዜ ኔሩ አብ መጨረሻ 1976 ኣቢሉ እዩ . ብፃይ ጎይትኦም ዝኮነ ኣባል ህዝባዊ ሓይልታት ዘይደፈሮ ቀል እዩ ተዛሪቡ እቲ ንቅመጠሉ ቦታ ጥቃጥቃ ቁረባ እዩ ኔሩ ንበፃፃሕ ጉዳይ ስምረት ንዕልል ፅቡቅ ሃዋህው ተፈጢሩ ኔሩ . ሓንቲ መዓልቲ ስምዑ ንሕና ሓደ ፀላኢ ኣለና ንሱ ክኣ እዚ ቅድሜና ኣብ ናቅፋ ዘሎ እዩ ስለዚ ፍልልያት ግብራውን ስነሓብንዶ ገለዶ ዝብሃል ደርቢና ኣንፃር ፀላኢ ንመክት ስንቂ እንተሲኢና ካባኩም ንወስድ ንስኩም እንተስኢንኩም ካባና ትወስዱ ምስ በለ ብሓቂ ኣሚናዮ እቲ መዓስከር ሰላም ወሪድዎ ተስፋ ረኪብና እዚ ነዊሕ ከይከደ ገለ ምቅይያር ተረኪቡ ብፃይ ጎይትኦም ተሳሒቡ ኣብ ቦትኡ ሳልሕ ዝብሃል ብሳበ ሳጋ ዝፍለጥ ተኪእዎ ካብኡ ሓሊማ ሓለት ገዲማ ኮይኑ ኣብ ምትፍናን ኣቲና ድሕሪ ገለ ኣዋርሕ ገለ ኣባላት ህዝባዊ ሓይልታት ኢዶም ዝሃቡ ብፃይ ጎይትኦም ከም ዝትኣስረ ኣርዲኦምና ብሕቂ ሓዚና ከምዚኦም ዝኣመሰሉ ብሉፃት ደቂ ህዝቢ ኣጥፊእና ሓተላ ሒዝና ኣቲና .
“While Goitom was working as a mass organizer in Rora Hababa, he formed a clandestine party called 'the Eritrean Revolutionary Party to challenge the EPLF leadership. Among the founder of the party were Tekey Aden and Memhair Tekle.”
Meharena Hadgu in his Menkae memoirs mentioned that as a continuation of Goitom democratic movement, he tried to form an underground movement called 'the Eritrean Revolutionary Party' in 1975/1976 and translated a number of Marxist works into Tigrigna.
Dr.Alazar Gebre-Yesus also states that Goitom contributed a lot to the development of the EPLF by translating foreign texts in political philosophy into the Tigrigna language. One of his translations was 'Zente Mogot (Dialetic materialism) ' from which Sheabia learned a lot. Further he introduced and taught the Philosophy of Comradeship: Who is a comrade? (Men Eyu Betszai? Men Eyu Sewrawi? Goitom got his nick name Bitsay from the title Who is a comrade? Bistsay means comrade.
To challenge the translation work of Goitom, Haile Menkorias was instructed by Issayas to translate a number of Marxist works into Tigrigna in late 1975. Haile was head of the Tigrigna Section of the EPLF's Department of Information and Propaganda from 1973 to mid of 1975. According to Connel (2001: 12) he also joined the secret party EPRP in 1975. The writer of this document who was a member of the Information Department at Belekat and Zero in 1975/1976 recalls that "Haile Menkorias translated a number of Marxist works to Tigringna (eg, The State and Revolution, The Communist Manifesto, What is to be done? Two step back and one step forward and some of Mao’s works), the titles of which I cannot remember. We (member Information Department at Belekat and Zero in 1975/1976) were in charge of the carried out the process of printing and packaging of the publications but we were not allowed to read them because we were ordinary members if someone tried to read Marx works they could be targeted in those days"
Meharena Hadgu also recalls that anyone seen reading Marx, Lenin or Mao etc. was suspected of becoming a Menkae. Many stopped reading out of fear or pretended to be uneducated because they were demoralized by what happened to those who read.
Unfortunately in late 1976 the clandestine party which was formed by Goitom was exposed when Tekley Aden defected to the secret party of the EPLF called EPRP and revealed the existence of the clandestine party. After Goitom’s transfer from Rora Hababa his relations with the EPLF leaders deteriorated further. When his clandestine party was exposed, he was accused of being Menka . Consequently Goitom Berhe, Memhair Tekley and other member of the clandestine party were arrested in late 1976. Thereafter all literature either translated or written by Goitom was forbidden.
According Adhanom Fitwi “Who is the revolutionary?” Men Eyu Sewrawi?' handwritten in 30 pages, Goitom’s article was forbidden reading. Adhanom Fitwi and Alem Abraha read it at night with by kerosene lamp. Alem Abraha was seized and killed. He was one of the veteran fighters, with Sebhat Efrem etc, a leader of our squad (fesli). I had heard that Alem Abraha was from or around Dekhmare city.
Adhanom Fitwi () who met Goitom Berhe (Bitsay) two weeks before he was arrested said that he was taken away and never seen again.
Goitom had frequently visited the Central library of the Information Department to borrow books. The librarian there, Kidane (surname not known), a former a student from Asmara University was subsequently arrested, accused of being connected Goitom. He was one of the 3, 000 victims executed between 1975-1980
After Goitom was arrested a large number of the recruits who had joined the EPLF from high school and university, like Kidane, was targeted by the EPLF’s security force. Sherman (1980:64) also states that, in 1976, perhaps as many as 200 young EPLF intellectuals were arrested.
Solomon Woldemariam, who was head of the EPLF prison centre has also suggested that around one thousand fighters who participated in the Menka movement were rehabilitated after undergoing serious political indoctrination and self-criticism (Mengiseab, 49:2005). In 1976 Goitom was one of the victims of Solomon Woldemariam and his Deputy Chief of Security. Regarding this, Dr Bereket mentioned briefly in his book that Goitom had been tortured by Haile Jebha (Solomon’s Deputy Chief of Security)
Here is an excerpt from Dr. Bereket’s The Crown and the Pen book, page 317:
“While I was walking toward a place where I habitually went to answer nature’s call, I heard cries of agony from the bush. Curious to find out, I approached the bush where the cries came from. And there, to my horror I saw Haile Jebha (Solomon’s Deputy Chief of Security), beating another man repeatedly on the head with a thin stick. The victim, whose hand and feet were tied and who apparently knew me, called me by name and begged to be rescued. Without a moment’s hesitation, I rushed to his rescue, whereupon Haile angrily warned me not to interfere in*the business of the Hafash*(masses). But he at lease stopped the beating and took the prisoner Goitom Berhe (BitSai) back to the headquarters. Later on, at the headquarters where I stayed, I was surprised to hear Haile asking Goitom (his erstwhile victim) if there was enough sugar in his tea, to which Goitom answered quietly by nodding his head. I made it my business to find out what crime he had committed and began to chat with him in Haile’s absence, but was rebuked by a young tegadalai, a teenager named Mekonnen, who seriously advised me never to talk to guguyat (wrong doers) When I asked him why not, he said that it would give them a sense of support and harden them in the process of interrogation. I went away wondering whether we were creating monsters. I must also note that I was informed years later that Haile too was purged and executed along with Solomon. Here, I will say, in parenthesis, that it is time that someone armed with all the facts write about this dark side of armed struggle” Habte Selalse, Bereket, 2007:p317)
The illustration of the EPLF prison (Halewa Sewra) below shows clearly how prisoner like Goitom was interrogated in 1970s