An eye witness – Ato Gebru Kifle of Akordet. 2006
That year when the federation had been dissolved, dignitaries from Eritrea and Ethiopia were
travelling to show the change and progress. The dignitaries coming to Akordet were persons
like General Abiye Abebe, Bitweded Asfaha Welde Mikel, Melake Selam Demitros, Dej
Hamed Ferej, Dej. Zerom Kifle, General Zere Mariam, Blata Kumilachew BeleTe from the
Emperor’s representative and ministers and administrators.
The importance of Akordet was that it was a vast area. It comprised that time Gash Setit,
Kerkebet and more. The map of Akordet of that time was larger than four provinces. The head
administrator of the Akordet province was Dej Belai son of Kegnazmach Gebrezgi. Belai was
new at that time and later became an Eritrean nationalist.
Perhaps the dignitaries had planned to spend a night or two there. There were no good hotels
in Akordet. The only hotel then was the Savoya. The dignitaries used to spend nights at the
government owned guest house which was like a palace.
They came by cars and the town and many people received them. Then they were taken to the
administration office and the people gathered there
People were gathered in the town centre at the Commissariat’s building. It was around 11 -
12 in the morning. They were standing so that Abei Abebe was standing one step higher than
Dej Hamed just outside the veranda of the building. There were presents prepared, two
ordinary horses and a traditional sword with its shield. The horses were held by a man called
Bekhit. Abei Abebe was then holding his papers to speak in turn. A horse is considered to be
ridden by a brave person. There were many groups of different clans of Barka singing with
their drums.
At that time, Omer Haseno who was justice minister was filming the incident standing on an
open jeep, and was near General Abiye.
As they were standing Hamed Ferej read his presentation, in Arabic but with no translator.
Just after he read his part and was presenting the gift of a sword and two horses which stood
a bit away and as General Abiye was receiving the sword, in that instant a bomb was cast
amongst them, but it did not explode only hissed.
When the bomb fell, the administrator of Akordet, Belai Gebrezghi was the first to see it and
he started shouting for all to flee, repeatedly. Right after the first one, another bomb was
thrown then from the Forto by the hill. The bomb this time exploded and the brave Dej
Hamed Ferej’s leg was broken and he shouted words of fekera, Zeraf which every tribe has its
own words. He suffered from diabetics
A man narrated that the bomb first hit him in the arm then another man and then fell on the
ground without exploding and thinking it was part of the feast all applauded.
In these few seconds after the explosion, the great number of people had disappeared fleeing
away. Some people fell down and animals also fled, in this broad daylight. Many people
were wounded by the bomb shrapnel. Abei Abebe was also hit in the thigh but his trousers
were dark brown and blood was not easily visible. He did not become shocked but his
guarding officer started shooting his automatic gun. He then took an automatic weapon from
his body guard and did not budge. He got medical help from the military HQ. The elderly
justice minister Omer Haseno was fatally hit on the head and fell.
I was standing in line with the dignitaries. I did not see who threw the bomb. I saw the first
bomb hissing and not exploding until the next one exploded. I thought the sound was
connected with the celebration. I had no idea that Jebha would do this and this was the first
time too.
We were three men standing near each other being me, Berambaras Gebre Selassie the judge,
and an Eritrean piantoni - errand worker, the elderly Balambaras Jelal Idris. We were near
the veranda and were lucky that none of us was killed.
Beremberas Gebre Selassie was not aware that he was hit in the sole of his feet and saw it
when his shoe was filled with blood. I looked around for the province doctor and he had
I became calm and strong seeing the happening and that there was no way I could flee away
and embraced myself to die. Generally we were lucky that the damage was not horrible and
that the soldiers were not around who would have massacred the people
Shiekh Saleh Mustafa the religious leader was killed. He was standing far away at first and he
kept coming closer and closer to the front. Near Abei Abebe was standing Blata Kumlachew
Belete and the Shiekh came there and the Blata gave him room.
They knew each other and he used to visit the Shiekh. Blata Kumilachew had high position in
the palace. In that spot he was killed, the vice representator Blata Kumilachew Belete was
standing there and gave place to the sheikh in honour.
It was just then the bomb exploded and the Sheikh was hit in the chest. Blood gushed like
pipe and this big figure of a man fell and lost too much blood.
He was a renowned and brave man. He was wearing traditional dress with the yellow robe.
His father Sheikh Mustafa was the sheikh and honoured religious leader of whole Barka. The
family held position.
I was not hit but had blood in me and touched my body to see if I was wounded. Then I
realized I was being covered from the gushing blood of Shiekh Saleh.
Blata Kumilachew was hit by shrapnel at his chest and id not hurt him badly and he said in
Amharic if it was not dangerous and was assured it was little wound. General Abiye was up a
stage which saved him. Dej Hamed should have been killed being nearest the bomb. A bomb
explodes upward and if people do not duck quickly it hit them.
There was a banda and shrapnel went into his side pocket and made a hole in his shirt but he
was not scathed. He was lucky. We looked at his cloth and he had no blood or mark in his
The bombs were not like the old Chinese ones with handle, but round hand grenades. The
land was rocky that it did not raise dust.
With the many officials who were there, were 3 or 4 regular soldiers guarding and they
started shooting. I do not know if they shot at the people or upwards. And one soldier was
killed, and a Somali police Shambel hit in the eyes and lost it, also a meto Aleka.
It was good luck that Tor soldiers were not present that day else it would have been bloody.
The Tor came later after the people had dispersed. The officials used to travel with armed
escorts but they must have been in the military barracks. Had they arrived earlier, they could
have shot at the civilians. When it was all over the soldiers came from their barrack. And it
became quiet.
The meeting was held at the large empty space in front of the district office. After all people
dispersed and the wounded were taken to hospital and the dead given to their families. Some
of the wounded like Bashai Ibrahim and Ahmed Adem were taken to Asmera for treatment but
died of their wounds. Their bodies were returned to their native Akordet for burial. No
civilians were badly wounded.
The province administrator Dej Belai was hit with seventeen shrapnel. Shrapnel tore his
wrist artery and blood gushed. He had a cut wrist blood vessel that he was fainting. There I
and others took him to the office got hold of a rope and tied it also other wounded parts of his
body. I later bandaged the cut while stopping the blood with bandage we took from the
warehouse – Gimja bet.
He then told me to make sure his father did not hear of this incident as his father was an
elder and he respected his father highly. I agreed and cut the telephone line with scissor. He
asked about it and I showed him the cut line to ease him and told him to lie and rest.
He was sorry that the people suffered saying that he had seen some life but the poor farmers
we put in jeopardy
The people gathered were fleeing many wailing and screaming. As many had come from
their villages, they all fled back. They did not stay to see what had happened in fear of
reprisals from the soldiers. Three children were later found dead, perhaps from the bomb
splinter or were tramped by the fleeing people. So many shoes, shawls, women’s nose rings,
men’s head wear, money were left by the running people. Adei Kebebech fell on top of fallen
The veranda roof of the administrator was filled with the public and when the bomb exploded,
they fell down to be saved and the roof collapsed. Some people stood behind houses or trees
fearing worse to come. Though the field was plain, many people stumbled and fell on each
other. Children could come closer as the area was wide, by the commissariat office.
Families fearing their loved ones were killed came running towards the incident place
wailing but were forbidden to continue by the soldiers.
Melake Selam Demetros and Dej. Zerom from the elders were wounded and went inside
the house for immediate care. Abei Abebe did not enter the building for protection until the
wounded were taken away and the crowd dispersed.
(Bitweded Asfaha Welde Mikel was slightly hurt in the lower calf of his leg only. Aida)
General Zere Mariam took weapon from a Banda soldier from the warehouse and stood in
attention in a corner of the building awaiting further attack. He did not fire any shot.
The rumour that Omer Haseno was involved in the bombing is not true. He may have been
suspected because he used to visit his plantation in Inderayeb by Aqreb-Mena in Barka. This
caused suspicion for meeting bandits. He was the minister of justice.
Those who threw the bombs were not caught but two men accused of being connected with
them were hanged because of it. They were blameless of the killing and Jebha had sent release
that they were innocent of the deed. I had seen the Jebha pamphlet writing these men were
innocent and it was Jebha who was responsible.
The two charged of the bombing were Hammed Hasano and Abdelrehim Mohammed Musa a
man from Bejuk tribe. Hammed Hasano‘s grandfather had migrated to Barka from Saho
At that time there was a special law there called Article 10 “Articolo Diechi” where anyone
suspected was imprisoned for three months without questioning and sentence and even more
if needed. Some of the wounded common people were given 300 birr each for medication.
The meeting was disbanded.
When those two were taken to the high court in Asmera, Hammed Haseno was convicted for
twenty years while Abdelrehim was given the death sentence and they were returned to
prison. Hammed then pleaded and the 20 years sentence was changed to hanging. It took
some years to hang them. They were brought to Akordet and hanged in public.
Hammed was a man when there were national celebrations or meetings, came out driving
holding his microphone announcing the event. He was a hard working and efficient man. To
announce this event, Dej Belai sent for him and Hammed refused to go.
The second time, I was sent and talked to Hammed. The third time Dej Belai himself went to
him that Hammed agreed. Dej Belai said “You Hammed used to cooperate with the previous
administrators and now are refusing in my term” that Hammed had to participate. Hammed
Haseno was an intelligent and able person and spoke fluent Arabic, Tigre and Tigrina.
They were sentenced in the high court in Asmera with judges and lawyers present. False
evidence must have been presented because it was apparent they had not bee involved.
When the hangers were brought from Asmera, Abdelrahim was first hanged and he did not
say anything. Both of their heads were covered by cloth. Next was Hammed to be hanged,
he said he had a word to say. He said in Arabic, “This is the most difficult time for a person,
when his life is to pass.
This is the moment I will be judged by my God. And whether I am telling the truth or not,
God will know. I have not done the deed and I had no hand in it. God knows this is true, but
Eritrea will prevail. Awet to Eritrea! Awet to Sewra Eritrea!” three times clinching his fist
It was a public hanging and many people were watching. The gathered people were shocked
and very sad and cried. After both men were hanged their bodies were then given to their
I do not remember the deaths of the bombing or their hanging. But in Asmera Hammed’s
brothers have a hotel and his picture with the dates is placed in a wall. Hammed was a
married man with two children who now reside in the USA.
Hammed was a trader and then distributor of gas. He was very intelligent. He was the
councillor of the Hasano family. Before that he was a teacher.
When the bomb fell, Hammed was standing on the right side of Kegnazmach Belai. Even
later, when Kegn. Belai was called witness at the higher court, he told that Hammed was at
his right side when the bomb was thrown, and that he Belai was the first who saw the bomb
falling. Hammed did not throw the bomb. But because Hammed had strong enemies, the
witness was not taken as value.
Abdelrahim was also falsely accused. A man gave false witness on him saying Abdelrahim
was near him and threw the bomb. But other persons stated in witness that they had not come
in the event on time and hearing the bombing and chaos, they entered a house and drank
water. The owner of the house who falsely testified on Abdelrahim was in bed, sleeping.
Abdelrahim did not have children. He was previously in the police force and left the job.
His older brother was my co worker.
It is saddening that these two men were hanged with prejudice; they were innocent of the
crime. It was rumoured that time that it was a case of disliking them and also these two were
not from that area, but came from the highlands.
The ELF had informed in their magazines that these two had no hand in the bombing. The
persons in this deed were fedayeens and ELF was in its first year of struggle though it had not
developed. Idris Awate was already martyred then. He died in June 1962.
Sheik Hamad Adem of Akordet
At hat time there were few Christians in Akordet, about 6 or 7 families. They wanted to build
a church and went to the Diglel who was the mislenie of all Barka but he did not give them
land. Then they went to Shikh Ahmed Adem and told him of their case. He answered that if
they want a place to pray to God, he gave them his own land and said if any one opposes to
come to him. So the church that was and is presently was given by the good deed of the good
The Christians of Akordet respected Shiekh Hamed Adem and his family above all. After
him was his son Bashai Ibrahim, also liked by all. Bashai Ibrahim was elected while he lived
by the people of Akordet, to Addis Abeba repeatedly. After him the office was given to his
brother. The Christian inhabitants of Akordet voted always to this family. The building of the
church was no little matter and the Christians never forgot it. When there was any civic
conflict, Bashai Ibrahim was the person making the sides to agreement. The people also called
for his mediation always even though there were meslinies, and Chikas.
Even though Akordet has changed from those days, the memory of Shiekh Hamed Adem
will be remembered by the building of the church.
Dejazmach Hamid Ferej
He used to travel to Keren and Akordet frequently. Maybe some people at the emperor’s
representer told on him. He had said that he knew Jebha would kill him. He said he did not
want to trouble his people with taking his corpse to Keren or Akordet and preferred dying
there. He was being given warnings from Jebha. He was earlier president of the Eritrean
He was later assassinated by Jebha. At first a man came to Dej Hamid’s car while he was to
enter a mosque but was wounded. The day he was assassinated, he had finished praying in the
mosque and was with his brother and a guard.
There was this brave man and nationalist teacher called Mahmood Ahmed Saleh. The book by
Abdella Idris has mentioned him too. He contributed greatly to the freedom struggle working
as fedayeen inside Akordet unnoticed. He was an intelligent man. There were American peace
corps there and he was teaching Arabic to two of them.
The Americans were looking for a council and he was interviewed and passed the test. A
man was travelling from the US to Saudia and staying in Sudan, he begged Mahmood to
follow with him to the US. But Mahmood refused saying he was already committed for his
country’s struggle and did not wish anything more. He later died in Sudan. He is the maternal
cousin of Hasen Kekia. He was a good son to his father who sold cereals and Mahmood
helped him.
Death of Awate
When the Ethiopians captured dead or live fighters, they told the public that these were lured
or bought by money. One day, as I was working in the office, a report called CIT REP of the
security organ on Awate’s being killed by them. I read the report myself and I recorded it in
the register room but do not remember the exact day. The martyrdom of Awate was kept
secret for a year or two and the Ethiopian government heard of it with the public.