Eritrean and Tigrean Ascaris War in Defense of
A Colonial Boundary: Badme
The international press, including that of Ethiopia (e.g. Tobia,
and the Review) describes the current conflict at Badme as a war between
Ethiopia and Eritrea. Nothing could
be further from the truth. There is
no war between Ethiopia and Eritrea; the war is being conducted by two former
allies belonging to the same Tigrean ethnic group: the Tigrean Peoples
Liberation Front (TPLF) and the Eritrean Peoples Liberation Front (EPLF).
After the fall of Mengistu’s regime and with
diplomatic and logistic support by Western Powers, the TPLF/EPLF leadership was
ushered in to power in Ethiopia. It
immediately reconstituted itself as a colonial power, and began a campaign of
destructive ethnic politics that aroused angry resistance in the Ethiopian
people. The pressure of this resistance and quarrels over the spoils of war has
now led these former allies into the current conflict.
In this article, I will describe the root causes of
the hostilities between the Tigrigna-speaking peoples of northern Ethiopia. This
war is one more legacy of the colonization of Ethiopia’s northern territory of
Mereb Millash, renamed Eritrea by Italians in the late 19th century,
who converted the Eritreans into colonial soldiers (ascaris) for Italy.
The Italian occupation led to a three-pronged assault upon Ethiopian
society that has left the country the most impoverished, war-ravaged nation in
The first and perhaps most grievous assault, which many Ethiopians of the
time believed, was the deliberate introduction of rinderpest, the most
devastating viral disease of cattle, to facilitate the colonization of a
starving and exhausted populace. Just
prior to the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1888, a devastating epizootic of
rinderpest was ignited by the introduction of three infected Indian cattle
through the Ethiopian port of Massawa. Rinderpest
quickly engulfed the herds of Ethiopia, killing over 90 percent of the cattle
and causing great mortality also in wild ruminant populations of buffalo,
hartebeest, and antelope. As a
consequence, an estimated 30‑60 percent of the population of Ethiopia
starved to death (Pankhurst, R., "The Great Ethiopian Famine of
1888‑1892: A New Assessment." The
Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, (1966) Part I, pp.
95‑124; and Part II, 271‑294).
The story of the devastation of rinderpest is
commemorated on the Ethiopian calendar as ye-yekkatit ilkit (the
Annihilation of [the month of] Yekkatit). Shortly
thereafter the disease spread like wildfire to the entire continent of Africa,
killing hundreds of millions of cattle and wild ruminants.
Rinderpest still remains the number one cattle disease in Africa.
It is at this juncture that Italy advanced from
Massawa to conquer Ethiopia. But Emperor Menelik rallied his starving nation to
confront the Italians at the Battle of Adwa; amazingly, he was able to defeat
this European colonial power despite its modern military machine.
More miraculously, he did it while his people were struggling to survive
the famine caused by rinderpest. In
addition to other political difficulties, rinderpest also sapped the energy of
Menelik’s army, and he was prevented from crossing the Mereb River to dislodge
the Italians from all territories of Ethiopia.
Thus, Mereb Millash remained occupied by the Italians.
They renamed it “Eritrea” on January 1, 1890, thereby creating for
Ethiopia an enduring cancer that would eat away at the nation.
According to Donald L. Levine, the key to Menelik’s success was the
strength of an army derived from multiethnic cooperation; it becomes obvious why
the TPLF/EPLF has unleashed a divisive ethnic war in Ethiopia as soon as it
Legitimization of a Colonial Boundary: Badme
The second assault on the nation of Ethiopia was the fabrication of
meaningless colonial boundaries, leading to separation of peoples that had been
historically homogenous by culture, ethnicity, and religion.
The divisions created by this action have fueled an intractable state of
civil war, dragging Ethiopia into perpetual poverty and utterly destroying its
ancient cultural heritage. For 30
years, the Eritreans, supported and financed by foreign powers, waged a war of
“independence” to liberate themselves from their own rich heritage
and fertile land. They ruled as a
colonial power when they gained ascendancy in Ethiopia.
And today they cry “foul” and complain of “ethnic cleansing” as
they are deported from Ethiopia back to Eritrea.
Today, the TPLF is sacrificing the lives of thousands of non-Tigrigna
speaking Ethiopians and draining meager national resources in defense of the
colonial boundary of a piece of God-forsaken, rocky desert called Badme,
Zalambessa, Bada, etc. Most
distressing, Ethiopia’s glorious victory at the Battle of Adwa has been
smudged, and its citizens have been relegated to the lowest form of life; they
have now become ascaris for the TPLF defending Italy’s colonial
boundary at Badme. These
non-Tigrigna-speaking Ethiopians are forced to fight on the front lines,
absorbing the brunt of attack and the highest war casualties, thus serving as
cannon fodder "for the stupidest of Africa's stupid wars" (Africa
Today, April 1999). Meanwhile,
the Ethiopian soldiers are segregated into ethnic groups to ensure there is no
unified Ethiopian army that might threaten the TPLF grip of power.
After Badme was recaptured from the Eritreans, the
TPLF grabbed the entire credit and celebrated by hoisting its flag to the
disgust of tens of thousands of non-Tigrigna-speaking Ethiopians who actually
made the real sacrifice. Thus, this event clearly demonstrates that the TPLF has
not abated an inch in its contempt and enmity toward Ethiopians.
Later, the Ethiopians demanded the replacement of the TPLF flag with the
If in fact Badme, Zalambessa, and Bada were that significant, why have
millions of malnourished Eritreans and Tigreans (including my grandfather,
Wolde-Ab Felema) historically abandoned this inhospitable place to flock
barefoot and in rags to better their lives in the rest of Ethiopia?
According to Africa Today (April 1999): "observers likened
the conflict to two bold men fighting over a comb. What economic or strategic
benefit could be gained from the control of the 400-square-kilometere rocky
triangle of land that these two former allies are now locked in battle over?
Eritrea already has enough rocks, says one analyst, adding that if rocks
were worth money Eritrea would be the richest country in the world.”
The TPLF served as the right arm of the EPLF in conquering and
dismembering Ethiopia, and subjugated millions of non-Tigrigna-speaking
Ethiopians in Mereb Millash. Having played a major role in Eritrea’s war of
secession from Ethiopia and its appropriation of Ethiopia’s Red Sea coastline
(including its two ports), the TPLF is now sacrificing the lives of tens of
thousands of non-Tigrigna-speaking Ethiopians and pouring millions of dollars
into legitimizing a colonial boundary in the name of “defense of Ethiopian
The third assault by Italian colonial powers was upon the psychology of
the countless Tigrigna-speaking people of Mereb Millash, the “mind-rape”
that led to their self- rejection. Their
identification with their masters, the so-called hostage mentality, is a
pervasive mental condition often observed in people who have been subjected to
long-term capture, slavery and/or colonial rule.
Acceptance and glorification of the foreign culture of Italy caused the
Eritreans to deny and degrade their own birthright and that of their neighbors.
The EPLF and TPLF, composed of these psychologically affected people and
aided by the West, undertook the colonization of Ethiopia and the systematic
destruction of Ethiopia’s ancient culture, language, and literature.
If they succeed, the permanent scars of a colonial mentality will be
impressed upon the virgin minds of future generations of Ethiopians.
The TPLF/EPLF continue to be a cancer eating at the vital
parts of Ethiopia, with no relief in sight.
Ethiopians must ask themselves what benefits, if any, they have received
from their association with the EPLF/TPLF and the Tigrigna-speaking people of
Tigray and Mereb Millash who support these two vicious groups.
The record shows only war, famine, poverty, greed, racism, and misery
brought by the millions of ungrateful “immigrants” from the north who have
dominated Ethiopia’s economy. According to the World Bank, Ethiopia is the poorest nation
in the world today; the Economist (September 6, 1997) ranks it number one
on the misery scale and fifth in the ratio of expenditures on bullets versus
books (July 4, 1994).
The TPLF has dismantled the Ethiopian education
system, imprisoned and killed Ethiopian leaders, forced the educated to flee
their country as refugees, and pillaged resources for the building of Tigray.
Starving families have been forced to offer their children in exchange
for food money; and ancient Ethiopia, which once drew foreign tourists with its
rich historical heritage, has now become a popular destination for those seeking
child prostitutes and hunters of souvenirs of ancient and historical artifacts.
In short, the TPLF has launched a devastating war against the future of
Ethiopia, its children.
In collaboration with the EPLF, the TPLF has been
involved in the massacre of the proud Afar Ethiopians who occupy the region
stretching from Djibouti in the south all the way to Massawa in the north.
Their crime was an unwavering determination to defend their Ethiopian
heritage and territorial integrity. While
thousands of non-Tigrigna-speaking Ethiopians have fought and died for Badme’s
colonial boundary, few, if any, have come to assist the Afars in their lone
struggle to secure a real Ethiopian boundary: the coastlines of the Red Sea.
On March 9th, one million Ethiopians marched in the streets of Addis
Ababa to celebrate the defeat of the Italians by Menelik at the Battle of Adwa
and the Eritreans at Badme; astonishingly, there was not a single representation
at these ceremonies from the Meles regime. When the TPLF entered Addis Ababa in
1991, Meles discarded the Ethiopian flag as a “piece of rag,” and denounced
Menelik as an Amhara colonialist who committed such atrocities as amputating the
breasts of the women of Oromo and subjugating other ethnic minorities.
Ascaris to the core, Isayas and Meles and the EPLF/TPLF
organization orchestrated a barrage of propaganda to discredit Menelik’s
historical achievement at the Battle of Adwa, which had become a mantra for all
freedom-loving people of Africa: for the first time an African nation had
humiliated a European colonial power. Now,
however, the TPLF is waging war against its former ally; they wrap themselves in
the Ethiopian flag, and resurrect Menelik as a great Ethiopian hero.
should not denigrate the memories of Menelik and the heroes of Adwa; let only
the Tigrean and Eritrean ascaris annihilate each other at Badme in honor
of their colonial master, Italy. Ethiopians
should treasure this moment. It is
an opportunity for respite and relief for the Ethiopian people, a chance to
gather strength to fight the cancer that has been eating away at our nation.
Ethiopians should never support the TPLF in Badme’s
colonial boundary conflict. It is
an insult to our heritage and to our glorious legacy and to Ethiopia’s great
victory over a European colonial power at the Battle of Adwa.
There is a worthier goal -- let us liberate ourselves and
the entire non-Tigrigna-speaking population of Mereb Millash, who are
enslaved against their will by those that worship their former colonial masters.
Let the Tigreans and the Eritreans annihilate each other in their own killil
or tribal homelands, where Badme-Zalambessa belongs.
Real Cause of the Conflict between the TPLF and EPLF
The real cause of the conflict between the TPLF and EPLF is best
documented in Dr. Assefa Negash’s booklet, The Pillage of Ethiopia by
Eritreans and their Tigrean Surrogates, 1966.
Simply put, the old Ethiopian proverb has come to pass: “Hoodlums
band when pillaging but feud when parceling the loot.”
Isayas organized and assisted in the establishment of the TPLF to achieve
his long-term goal, the desolation of Ethiopia as a nation and the pillage of
its natural resources to build Eritrea to be the greatest industrial and
military power in Africa.
The TPLF was to be used as a surrogate in
implementing Isayas’s destructive agenda in Ethiopia. Meles, the designated Prime Minster of Ethiopia, has an
Eritrean mother who voted in support of the Eritrean referendum for secession.
This is probably the first time in history that a “Prime Minister” of
a country and his mother supposedly belong to two different, warring
nationalities. The master
plan, to destroy Ethiopia as an independent nation, was published in 1989 -- two
years before the TPLF marched into Addis Ababa -- in a book in Amharic, Tallaqu
Sera (The Great Conspiracy) by Abraham Yayyeh, and a former member of the
The two Eritreans, Isayas and Meles, followed a
colonial master’s blueprint -- to divide and rule Ethiopia by waging ethnic
politics, plundering its resources to build Tigray and Eritrea as
“industrial giants” of Africa. Isayas
bragged that Eritrea in Africa would become as Israel is to the Middle East and
Singapore is to Asia, and there will not be such a thing called Ethiopia in a
Initially, it appeared that Eritrea would have its cake (independence of
Eritrea and the destruction of Ethiopia) and continue to eat it by pillaging the
resources of Ethiopia through its surrogate puppets, Meles and the TPLF, and the
thousands of Eritreans in Ethiopia who control commerce and industry.
Special privileges were instituted for them to ensure this continued
stranglehold. This included
appropriating Ethiopia’s major export agricultural products such as coffee to
generate hard currency for Eritrea on the world market, and regulating use of
Ethiopian currency for Eritrea’s benefit.
Eritrea for a period of time became one of the 14 top coffee-exporting
countries in the world, although not a single coffee tree grows in that rocky
desert and forbidding land. Isayas
also made arrangements with the TPLF regime for Ethiopia to pay duties in hard
currency for use of the port of Asab, although the inhabitants of the region,
including that of Massawa, happen to be Afars, one of the most proud Ethiopian
In the meantime, the TPLF started borrowing billions
of dollars annually from the World Bank and
receiving aid from international donors in the name of Ethiopia for exclusive
use in industrializing Tigray. Then
a rift developed between the TPLF and EPLF, as these two hoodlums fell out over
the division of the loot. A sudden
massive expansion of development in Tigray precipitated intense jealousy in
Eritrea and led to the current conflict at Badme.
In the meantime, the struggle of nationalist Ethiopians against
oppression by the TPLF/EPLF gathered steam.
By publications in books (e.g. The Pillage of Ethiopia by Eritreans
and their Tigrean Surrogates, by Dr. Assefa Negash), the print media (Newsweek,
New York Times, Tobia, Ethiopian Register, Ethiopian
Review, etc.), and radio broadcasts to Ethiopia from Europe, they succeeded
in bringing the attention of the Ethiopian people and the international
community to the TPLF and EPLF malignant cancer that was eating away at the
nation. In particular, I sent
messages in radio broadcasts and print articles concentrating on one issue:
Tigreans and Eritreans should be the primary beneficiaries of their
own laws of tribal homelands (killil), and Ethiopians should use every means
available to enforce their deportation back to their own regions. Tigreans
and Eritreans were especially distressed by the publication of my article
calling for restoration of Ethiopia’s old boundaries, including its Red Sea
coastline, with closed borders around their tribal homelands called Greater
Eritrea (See my article: "A New Map for Ethiopia", Ethiopian
Review, January-February 1997 and Tobia, Meggabit 1989 E. C.).
These activities galvanized Ethiopian nationalism, and set off alarm
bells among the Tigrean and Eritrean residents of Ethiopia. The Tigreans
realized that without Ethiopia’s resources, Badme could not be a Garden of
Eden that could feed their people. The
articles also exposed the inequity of Eritrea’s special privileges in
Ethiopia, and tweaked the ego of Isayas for using his enemy’s currency
(Ethiopian Birr) for a country boasting to become the greatest industrial
and military power in Africa. He
responded by printing his own currency, the worthless Naqfa, assuming
that he could exchange it on an equal basis with the Ethiopian Birr.
When this did not work, his people began to starve.
The rift between the two regimes widened when the TPLF refused to pay
hard currency for the use of the Asab Port, and switched to using the Port of
Then the prediction of Dr. Mulay, the personal physician of Meles, that
Eritrea will become bankrupt, came true. As
was documented in my previous articles in the Ethiopian Review and Tobia,
I asked Mulay why Ethiopia was not using the free port of Djibouti instead of
paying to use Asab. His answer was,
“we would never allow that since it would bankrupt Eritrea.”
Indeed, Eritrea was bankrupt, and Isayas invaded
Badme in an effort to shift the attention of his starving people from their very
real economic problems. He also
hoped that he might intimidate the TPLF into giving way, allowing Eritrea to
continue plundering Ethiopia. I
recall a discussion I had with a Sudanese Diplomat in Italy
in 1997 about the pillaging of Ethiopia by Eritrea after they “liberated”
themselves. He responded:
“Eritrea is a barren desert; where do you expect Isayas to get food for his
people? Now Isayas’s worst
nightmare has come true; Eritrea has become truly independent.”
Deportation of Eritreans by the TPLF
I kindly request the Ethiopian Register to publish the seven pages
of court documents that the TPLF presented to justify jailing the four editors
of Tobia for publishing my articles advocating the deportation of
Tigreans and Eritreans to their Killil.
Tigreans and Eritreans drafted and implemented the so-called “New
Ethiopian Constitution” that advocated tribal homelands (killil) and
ethnic politics. Now that Tigreans find Eritreans a threat, they have had no
qualms about implementing my recommendations, and thousands of Eritreans have
been deported back to Eritrea. It
is important that Ethiopians commit this suggestion to memory: the job will not
be complete until we also deport Tigreans who advocate killil policy back
to their Killil and make them taste their own medicine.
The TPLF has now set the precedent by deporting Eritreans; they are no
longer in a position to reject the deportation of Tigreans who swear in the killil
system. For Ethiopians, there is no
difference between these two poisonous snakes (TPLF and EPLF). One is definitely preferable to two, but each is deadly to
In our worst nightmares, we never expected Tigreans
to collaborate with Eritreans in waging ethnic politics and implementing an
apartheid policy of dividing the country into tribal homelands (killil),
wiping out a three thousand-year-old nation.
In the past Tigreans and Eritreans have accused me of using derogatory
language to describe their rogue behavior toward Ethiopians.
In public, Meles has protested that I have called Tigreans and Eritreans
the cancer of Ethiopia. Now, I hear
them freely hurling the same language toward each other.
“In justifying the need for deporting Eritreans, Meles drew an
analogy between the expulsion of Eritreans and the amputation of a limb
suffering from gangrene.” (Ethiopian Register, March 1999, page 11).
Meles has a point; there is no match to
the stench of gangrene. The Eritreans are even describing their deportation back to
Eritrea as “ethnic cleansing,” an absurd concept since both belong to the
same Tigrean ethnic group. I guess they just don’t like being victims of their
Eritreans would like Ethiopians to forget that in
1991 the EPLF callously expelled 200,000 non-Tigrigna-speaking Ethiopians
(mainly women and children) from Eritrea. Upon their arrival in Addis Ababa --
empty‑handed, their homes and property having been confiscated -- they
were met with a demand by Netsannet Asfaw (Mele’s spokeswoman) that they be
banished to their killil and their refugee camps removed from her sight.
There was no sense of responsibility or compassion for these displaced persons; The
New York Times (November 3, 1993) called them the “Unforgiven
Biological Analysis of the Conflict
The body is protected against invading germs by producing chemicals
(antibodies) and killer cells called T-cells.
Their attack is selectively directed against foreign invaders (germs):
they have been “educated” not to attack the host’s body.
They do not normally protect us from cancer, since it cannot be
distinguished from our own body. That
is why cancer is defined as “the enemy within,” and that is also the reason
why I defined the TPLF/EPLF and their supporters who are waging ethnic politics
in our country as the cancer, the enemy within Ethiopia.
Systemic lupus erythematosis (SLE) is a condition in which our defense
system fails to distinguish "foreign" from “self,” and starts
destroying our own body as if it were a foreign invader.
In short, our defense mechanisms attack our own body and eventually
destroy our organs, ultimately leading to death.
I would like to use the metaphor of SLE to describe the mental condition
that afflicts people subjugated under colonialism or slavery. They reject their own cultural or historical heritage and
adapt that of their tormentors.
A review of the educational policy of Italians in Eritrea by Dr. Adane
Taye (former dean of Asmara University) may make my point. In his book, A
Historical Survey of State of Education in Eritrea, Asmara, 1991, Dr Adane
reveals clearly the slave mentality of Eritreans towards their former colonial
master, Italy, that made “Eritrea an educational desert . . . In addition, the
color bar was enforced; Eritreans were segregated from whites in schools, areas
of residence, dining and sleeping houses. Even in regard to items such as
clothing and footwear the natives were limited to locally made products. They
were not allowed to purchase western types of suits and shoes.”
Dr. Adane goes on to state that, “despite the discrimination,
segregation, oppression and exploitation practiced against them for fifty years,
in general, most of the Eritreans appear to have no deep rooted hatred or
discontent towards the Italians.” On the contrary, we are witnessing today
that many Eritreans admire, glorify, and even revere Italians, emulating the
Italian way of life in mannerisms, food, and language while nursing hatred and
disdain for Ethiopians.
No wonder Isayas and Meles are now waging war over Badme, a colonial
boundary line fabricated by their colonial masters, while rejecting their own
true heritage. This phenomenon is
not limited to Eritreans. One sees
the same effect on many other nations as a long-term result of colonialism.
Already, the disease of self-rejection is growing in once-proud Ethiopia.
Now that the Tigrean ascaris are in charge, Ethiopian culture is out and
western culture is in. The West is
providing extensive financial assistance for the destruction of the Ethiopian
national language and alphabet. The
TPLF/EPLF were assisted by the British in the drafting of the so called New
Ethiopian Constitution of tribal homeland (killil) and ethnic politics; a
British diplomat has been quoted as saying, “unless the three thousand-year
old Ethiopian nationalism is destroyed, the West will be unable to exploit the
Definitely, the US has taken heed of that advice and
poured in millions of dollars for a program designated as Basic Education
Systems Overall (BESO). This
program requires abandonment of our national language (Amharic) and our alphabet
in schooling, and the substitution of the Latin alphabet and more than 80 tribal
languages to teach non-Tigrigna-speaking Ethiopian children.
Ethiopia is the only country in sub-Saharan Africa with its own
literature in its own language and alphabet, but Ethiopia could not be
encouraged to excel, develop, and set a positive example that could be emulated
by the rest of Africa. No, instead
it had to be destroyed!
The following is a short passage from a report to the Ministry of
Education by Dr. Richard J. Kraft, one of the US officials implementing the BESO
program in Ethiopia. “Newly
Written Languages: To my knowledge, no country in the world is facing this
particular curricular challenge. To
not only produce new, up-to-date, quality instructional materials is a
staggering challenge, but to produce them in newly written Latinized script,
which the writers and teachers have only just learned themselves, is something
unique in the world. There
appears...to be a lack of agreement on spelling, poor quality control on
proofreading, no standard dictionaries in many of the languages, little thought
about how well these “newly” written languages will be able to handle more
advanced conceptual ideas in the curriculum...While it is not my role or that of
any foreigner to make political judgments about language policy, it is important
to state that literacy is THE basic skill, and unless means can be found to
assure genuine literacy in each language, the current curricular experiment
could have disastrous consequences.”
Indeed, while Ethiopians have rallied to support
Tigreans to defend Badme, a colonial boundary, no one has come forward to
protect Ethiopia’s future, its children, from systematic annihilation of their
educational system by the enemy. Today
tens of millions of Ethiopian children are suffering under the confusion of the
new system. In contrast, the TPLF
has just completed the building of 160 elementary and high schools equipped with
modern computers and facilities in Tigray province that can accommodate over
160,000 pupils (Tobia, Miazia 4, 1991 E. C.).
I highly recommend an article by Susan J. Hoben
entitled, “The Language of Education in Ethiopia, Empowerment or Imposition?”
abridged in the November 1996, issue of the Ethiopian Review.
It is also interesting to note that while Americans are considering the
disadvantages of bilingual education for their own citizens, sometimes
eliminating it through legislation, they are pouring hundreds of millions of
dollars into teaching Ethiopian children in over 80 distinct languages and
Latinized alphabets. In short,
Ethiopia has become a colony, and its children are being forced to reject their
great cultural heritage, literature, and a rich national language in favor of
enforced “westernization” by Tigreans and Eritreans.
The end result will be no education at all, and a population eternally
impoverished by their ignorance.
Concerned Ethiopians have worried that it might take a while to recover
from the brutal years of Mengistu's dictatorship and begin to deal with our
present archenemies, the TPLF and EPLF.
Fortunately, the falling out of these two thieves has given Ethiopians
belonging to more than 80 ethnic groups a most unexpected gift; they are
annihilating each other while fighting over Ethiopia's resources and defending
their colonial master’s boundary at Badme.
And when thieves fall out, just “Ethiopians” will have their due. I hope that this opportunity for unity will not be missed,
and that we will join together to overcome our enemies and bring relief to
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