LET HISTORY BE THE WITNESS: The Case Against Abdella Idris, the Warlord! (Part 1)
(Paulos M. Natnael)
Recently, the Awate.com team, with the following quoted passage, introduced its readers to one of Eritrea's "historic" figures.
"We have been trying to interview Abdella Idris since September 2000. He is one of the most talked about Eritreans and one who rarely speaks. We believe he is a historic figure in the Eritrean revolution and he should be given an opportunity to tell his story, in his own words, with his compatriots. The following is an English translation of the interview (conducted in Arabic.) Here's how it began….."
But of course, the notorious Abdella Idris needs no introduction. In the past, when they conducted laudable interviews with "historic" figures such as Hiruy Tedla Bairu (vice chairman, 1971-1975), Ahmed Mohammed Nasser (chairman of the ELF, 1975-1982), they called them a "legend" and an "icon", respectively. I am glad the Awate.com team, to its credit, managed to restrain itself this time.
My reaction to the interview (complete with a photo of this warlord) was one of repulsion, revulsion, and horror! Historically, the notorious Abdella was a reactionary with despotic tendencies and an incompetent commander to say the least. The ex-chief of the Eritrean Liberation Army (ELA) is, in my opinion, the main player who caused, single-handedly, the destruction of the ELF as we knew it. Abdella thus is a criminal warlord who should be indicted for war crimes (in a fair world) and held responsible for the death of many ELF fighters. (By saying this, it should be clear to all that I am not in any way attempting to absolve from responsibility the rest of leadership of the ELF at the time, the RC and EC in particular. But there is no doubt in my mind Abdella Idris played the key role).
Here are a few reasons why I think Abdella is a criminal warlord:
Let's put aside his role before the demise of the ELF. In August 1981 Abdella Idris was in charge of the ELA as a member of the Executive Committee (EC) of the ELF and chief of the military office, when the conspiratorial forces of the Eritrean People's Liberation front (EPLF) and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) finally, after a year's bitter fighting, managed to push the ELF out of Eritrea and into the Sudan. That military defeat of the ELF, history will show some day, was neither due to weakness of the ELA nor the competence and effectiveness of enemy forces; but largely due to the incompetence and internal bickering of the nine-member (EC) and the ELF leadership as a whole.
That month, the warlord Abdella, instead of guiding and leading the ELA in its most traumatic and difficult time, chose to abandon it to be humiliated at the hands of the Sudanese army. At the same, he somehow slipped away or, mostly likely, obtained the permission from the Sudanese to head north taking with him some remaining units and most of the assets of the ELF including the mobile radio station. As a result on August 25, 1981 several units of the ELA, surrounded by Sudanese armed forces, were forced to surrender their arms at a place called Tahdaysis. That sinister move by the warlord Abdella Idris sealed the fate of the ELF, in my opinion, and its ultimate demise became only a matter of time. However, more despicable acts of betrayal were yet to come, including Abdella's vicious accusation of the ELA as refusing to fight the EPLF/TPLF conspiracy forces. Such an accusation came to many fighters as a total shock. After a year of fighting a bitter civil war** all over Eritrea, the accusation was a betrayal to martyrs, to those who were wounded, and a stab on the back of the surviving army as a whole. [By the way, Abdella repeated this same baseless accusation in his Interview with Awate.com].
**The 1981 war was not strictly between the ELF and EPLF; it was between the ELF and the EPLF/TPLF coalition forces. TPLF forces participated not only in the border areas but within Eritrea proper in EPLF units as well. There were also two thousand or so TPLF recruits who were in training in Sahel when the war broke, and the EPLF simply sent them to its own units, instead of to their organization in Tigray, Ethiopia. So, in a way, it is hard to characterize it as a "civil war" between Eritrean forces in the literal sense of the word.
To be continued...