“The Administrator of Afabet sub-zone, Mr. Abdu Mohamed pointed out that the destruction of Nadow Ez paved the way for bolder military endeavors and heralded the onset of the final battle. ”Having completed the war for liberation with a resounding victory, the efforts of the people and government of Eritrea to rebuild a war ravaged country and the achievements scored thus far are an indication of a brighter future," he added.” Shabait website, March 21, 2010

Indeed, the complete destruction of the Nadew Ez and the capture of the town of Afabet were the beginning of the end of Ethiopia’s illegal occupation of Eritrea; sealing Eritrea’s fate as an independent member of the world community. The victory at Afabet changed the prospect of Eritrean independence from ‘if’ to ‘when’.

The LION OF AFABET, Gen. Mesfin Hagos, commanded the biggest victory in Eritrean history in a battle that lasted 48 hours – ON TIME & ON TARGET. On March 18, 1988, Gen. Mesfin received a radio communication from EPLF’s Secretary General Isayas Afeworki to abandon the operation due to unexpected resistance from the Dergue army. But the Lion of Afabet, who has better understanding of military dynamics, pressed on ensuring Eritrea’s victory within the following 24 hours. As a result of the Lion of Afabet’s decisive actions, EPLF and Eritrea were able to

  • Seize the largest cache of military hardware, enough to arm EPLF and then EPRDF to ultimate victory;
  • Encourage both EPLF and EPRDF to set aside their differences and work together, thus sealing our ultimate victories
  • Gain world publicity and recognition for the Eritrean cause and EPLF for the first time. This victory was acknowledged as the biggest victory by a liberation movement since Dien Bien Phu in Vietnam in 1954;
  • Stir discontent within the Dergue army leading to the failed coup in May 1989 against Col. Mengistu Hailemariam, and weakening his regime

When Col. Mengistu Hailemariam was asked about the loss of the Town of Afabet at Ethiopia’s Shengo (at least he had a rubber stamping Parliament), Col. Mengistu tried to minimize the victory saying that Afabet is inconsequential to Ethiopia’s military strategy because it doesn’t have water, gold or anything else valuable.

The victory in Afabet paved the way to victory in Massawa two years later, and soon after, Eritrean independence, thanks to the Lion of Afabet.

Similarly for other Lions,

March 01, 1999 – Generals Sebhat and Tewil had lost the Badme front due to miscalculations not uncommon in military battles. A month later, the Lion of Egre Mekel, Gen. Ogbe Abraha, destroyed Ethiopian army in a decisive victory restoring Eritrean people’s confidence to defend their hard-earned independence.

June 09, 2000 – PIA orders the withdrawal of Eritrean forces from the Assab Front (38 kms from Assab). The lions of Eritrea, the frontline fighters, refused PIA’s “panic button” orders and held their position, ensuring the integrity of Eritrean territory.

Eritrea is indeed full of lions – the lions of the 40s, 50s and all the way to today. These are men and women who are committed to our freedom.


It is UNERITREAN to worship kings and queens as we witnessed during the Rallies of the Confused on February 22, 2010.

Eritrea’s heroes are as follows:

These are ERITREA’s LIONS! Eritrea has 5 Million lions!

Where were we between March 17 – 19, 1988?

Those audacious enough to call the opposition sub-nationalists, like Asmara Rose, it is worth remembering that they were busy hunting for their holes on 18th Street in Washington DC at Fasika, Meskerem restaurants and Isola Verde, when the Lion of Afabet broke through enemy trenches to bring us Eritrean independence.

Obamacare & Democracy

When Senator-elect Scott Brown, a Republican, won the Senate seat in Massachusetts in January 2010 in safe Democratic territory at a crucial time when US’ health reform was only steps away from being passed into law, my reaction was, how could the electorate throw a monkey wrench into the most progressive social/health reform in decades? ‘Don’t they know that social justice is good for everyone? Isn’t it compassionate to help your fellow citizen?’ One wondered how tough it must be for politicians to spend a whole year negotiating hard only to lose in the end. ‘Would I have been enraged with the political system that appears wasteful, a system of government not helpful towards the less disadvantaged, and with an electorate that appears to have turned away from the less privileged in rich USA?’

After the initial disappointment, one wondered, what is more critical, is it the journey or the destination? The destination is something we all agree; prosperity, social justice and peace. The challenge is always with the journey. How we work together and interact as politicians, as groups of activists, as a nation of citizens is a journey that determines our destination. With a setback in Massachusetts, no US politician gave up the process or accused the voters, who simply exercised their inalienable rights. Instead, the Obama administration worked within the system to reform the healthcare system in the US, and was finally rewarded with a healthcare reform. It isn’t an ideal reform, but one step closer to the ultimate goal. American politicians accept the system-of-rules, with its flaws, than a system with no rules. At least, a flawed system-of-rules can be modified within the flawed system.

Democracy is about process, and processes are about standardizing activities so that everyone knows what to expect and what rules one must abide by to advance one’s cause. Within the context of Eritrean politics, i.e. both PIA and opposition, political processes are NOT transparent. Eritrean politicians try to sell us the destination, not the journey. We are only told that our politicians are ‘working hard’ to build a prosperous Eritrea or a ‘three-day’ national conference.

What we need to learn is how to establish and engage TRANSPARENT processes – planning, organizing, directing, engaging, promoting and deciding on any issue of the day. It is more important HOW we resolve those issues than the issues themselves. We will fail with even the noblest causes if we pursue the wrong processes – as it did with 20th century communism.

Those who are committed to processes must meet the following,

    • Minimum, if not devoid, of egotistical behaviour
    • More noble and wisdom in admitting failure than pursuing excessively face-saving solutions. As society, we should value those who admit mistakes than those who make endless excuses for their failures. PIA is one such victim. It is time to admit that PM Meles is whipping PIA’s behind, and allow PIA to exit with his dignity as war hero who went sour. It is nobler to say ‘we tried unsuccessfully, and it is time for others to try new ways to solve old/persistent problems.’
    • Committed more towards processes than issues themselves. Don’t be too passionate about issues, no matter how ‘righteous’ they appear!
    • Leaders must develop the EXPERTISE to formulate and implement processes. The fact that one has been in leadership position for decades doesn’t mean anything unless skills are developed through relevant experience. Are we learning from other experts or are we just dreaming up our own untested and idealistic processes?

As Eritreans, we are passionate about issues – national security, equality, social justice, etc... We suffer from extreme ‘self-righteousness’. No one may expect the average Joe to understand the intricacies processes, but it is disheartening to see individuals and organizations who should know better failing to advocate and commit themselves to processes. Issues come-and-go, processes don’t! If we ever believe that the destination must be reached regardless of the process, then we have lost before we even start the journey.

Much can be written on this topic, but will leave it for now!


Arguably, asmarino.com is the best propaganda machine. Another suggestion is a ‘puppet show’ [more popular in UK and South Africa] with humor about Eritrean political scene. There is enough material from PIA’s misadventure to keep the puppet show busy for a whole decade. The initial cost is look-alike puppets of some of the major figures in Eritrean politics and running cost should be minimal. Comedy with strong political message would be unbeatable!

Happy Easter

Berhan Hagos

March 30, 2010