The legacy of Hamid Idris Awate, to the Eritrean „Gedli“ (struggle), seen, experienced and analysed from the Kunama perspective The VKP/KAM: (September 30, 2009).

The plights of the Kunama people, at the present and in their recent and remote past history, can be divided into three parts, differing in times, but connected together by the occurrences of identical sequence of events, having identical aims. Those events differ in intensity, but not in quality and style.

1.- The period before Hamid Idris Awate, telling of the war waged by Ras Alula Abba Negga, of his ethnic-cleansing attempts and crimes against the Kunama race;

2.- Hamid Idris Awate's times, characterised by his untold crimes, against the Kunama people and his cattle-raiding activities and other injustices;

3.- the times after Hamid Idris Awate and the legacy he left behind, inherited and followed by the forces of the Eritrean “Gedli” (struggle): the ELF and the EPLF/PFDJ and their respective crimes against the Kunama people, protracting up to these very days.

About Ras Alula Abba Negga's times and of his ethnic-cleansing wars, against the Kunama people have not only been widely recorded, but also often retold by this web-site. It suffices to remind only that he too left an “ethnic-cleansing” legacy against the Kunama people, for reasons never understood at that time, not understood at the present times and is likely to be altogether forgotten in the future times. The theories and speculations about that “Ras'” activities go from the simple fact that he reacted to an alleged diversion of the tribute, collected from the Kunama and destined to him, but intercepted and robbed by some Kunama thieves, to the still simpler reason that Ras Alula Abba Negga had an innate hatred against the Kunama people and therefore had initiated and waged an “ethnic-cleansing” war against them, which is being continued up to these days. Whatever the reason, that legacy is alive.

Hamid Idris Awate was a person grown-up in the Kunama land and among the Kunama people, but, again, for reasons never understood, developed a strong hatred against the Kunama people and waged a fierce war, full of untold crimes against Kunama men, women and even male infants. Whereas Ras Alula Abba Negga was an alien to the Kunama peple and fought against them from afar and using alien forces, Hamid Idris Awate was a home-grown criminal, a local villain, who had restricted his crimes and activities, only within the Kunama land and only against the Kunama, using hoe-grown fellow-criminals. He had fallen into disgrace of the British Military Administration, not because of being the alleged beginner of the Eritrean Liberation Movement, as some quarters would like us Kunama to believe, but simply and solely because of his repetitive criminal activities, against the local populations and because of his continuous cattle-raiding and trading operations, in the Kunama land and in the neighbouring Tigray region. Unfortunately Hamid idris Awate's criminal and cattle-raiding legacies, in those localities, have been translated and given a positive and a legal significance, broaden wide and elevated to the national level. This is a clear perversion of principles and a straightforward piracy of the history of a local criminal individual upon which lay foundations of the history of the revolution of an entire population and of an entire nation, thus expecting those who had long known that individual and his crimes to start accepting him as their hero; turn his criminal legacy into a set of national pride, elevate him to the highest podium and glorify him as a national hero. History is full of examples of such individuals, whose crimes have been set aside, their vices turned into virtues and their legacy taken as guide, but with times, they returned and took their original criminal forms. A criminal legacy remains always tainted of its crimes and there is no means rubbing it off.

Jebha-Al-Tahrir, (ELF), as originally presented and made known to and experienced by the Kunama people, made the fatal mistake of propagating the distorted history of Hamid Idris Awate and defining itself as his follower.

Another, still greater fatal mistake the Jebha made, was to assign its most criminal unit to operate in the Kunama land and against the Kunama people. That unit, mostly made-up of and led by a joint group of Baria and Beni-Amer elements, had always nurtured retaliatory sentiments against the Kunama people, because of past history of conflicts and violence sustained by their ancestors, started indiscriminately killing Kunama prominent figures and ordinary individuals, set many Kunama villages ablaze, at times, with their inhabitants inside and raided numberless of the Kunama cattle. In short, that Jebha unit was carrying out and committing Hamid Idris Awate's identical crimes and causing more sufferings to the Kunama people.

Even without officially declaring and defining itself as Hamid Idris Awate's follower, that joint-group of individuals was practically proving itself with its daily actions, allowing and even tolerating its individual elements carrying out personal “vendettas”. As it had been reported by a Kunama ex-combatant in the Jebha forces, a Beni-Amer young man, unknowingly confessed to him, claiming that he had beheaded a Kunama woman, together with her infant, in retaliation of his father, killed by the Kunama people in the past. This was genuinely Hamid Idris Awate's example and legacy who was once reported that he had tossed a Kunama male infant in the air and chopped it into pieces, as it was falling down. Another story told by a Kunama, was that, as she was on her way to her crop-field, carrying her sleeping infant on her back, she was stopped by Hamid Idris Awate and his companion. He ordered the woman to lay her child on the ground and turned her back to it. As she was ordered to turn back again and face her child, she saw it lying beheaded. She fell fainted. Such are not made-up, but true stories, being provided and substantiated by many Kunama inhabitants of the Tika region and of the other neighbouring Kunama regions. The history of Hamid Idris Awate and of his criminal activities were well-known in the other Kunama regions and widely heard among many Kunama people too. It was following those killings, cattle-raiding and other criminal activities of that Jebha-Al-Tahrir's unit that the Kunama militia had decided to take up arms and defend themselves and their people. That decision was taken and interpreted by the Jebha's leaders as “siding with the Ethiopian government”, rather than analysing the criminal activities of their own units which had resulted in the decision of those Kunama militia. That false accusation did not stop there, but was also taken up by the EPLF's leadership too which, ever since, increased its hatred and retaliatory sentiments against the Kunama people and started its open “ethnic-cleansing” operations.

There are a lot of killings and other crimes, committed by the Jebha-Al-Tahrir leaders and their units, against the Kunama people in general, against their own combatants and alleged enemy spies, but these are not parts of this topic which is instead on the violent “legacy that Hamid Idris Awate” had transmitted and left behind to his followers and their subsequent groups. The leaders of Jebha-Al-Tahrir (ELF), however, have to assume responsibility of the whole of the killings and injustices committed by itself and by its units, against the Kunama people, starting in the 1960s and ending in the 1980s.

Killing”, to our view, has been the “hallmark”, which has very negatively characterised the Eritrean “Gedli” (struggle), within the “Jebha-Al-Tahrir” (ELF) forces, as well in those of “Hizbawi-Gmbar's” (EPLF), freedom-fighting forces. That was not an accidental and an independently developed occurrence, but a legacy which has its deep roots in the history of Hamid Idris Awate himself. Those who, either ignorantly or knowingly, but loyal to their distorted history on Hamid Idris Awate's person, character and criminal activities, would like us Kunama to buy their version of history, should, once for all, understand that, since Hamid Idris Awate was a product grown locally, (in the Kunama land), and therefore its elements of growth as well its qualities are well-known, (to the Kunama people), should stop claiming to know more than those in whose land that given product has been produced. There is only the following statement of the Kunama people to pay attention to:


In the likes of “Jebha-Al-Tahrir” (ELF), “Hizbawi-Gmbar” (EPLF), too had fully inherited the criminal “legacy of Hamid Idris Awate”. The killing-sprays the EPLF's leaders are reported to have carried out, in the Eritrean battle-fields, against their own combatants and against many Eritrean citizens, are so numerous and so varied in their forms that they are said to equalised the deaths of those combatants, fallen at the hands of the enemy forces. We leave the details of such stories to be fathomed out and confirmed by true sources and by those knowing the “dark history of gedli”, who, we hope, will one day, be recounting every detail, as the sole eye-witnesses of the struggle times. Our scanty research-work leads us to the conclusion of the

Read more

Find more information on the crimes of Idris Awate against the Kunama people before 1961