Awate Front Page 
Gedab News
Featured Articles
Regional Events
Awate Team
The Fertile Womb
Martyr Album[1998-2003]/
Public Opinion

Featured Articles

 2 Currently Online

Wedi Itay: Another Hero Languishing Behind Bars
By Daniel R Mekonnen (Fthi Ynges) Stellenbosch, South Africa
Mar 30, 2004, 19:03 PST

Email this article
 Printer friendly page

“Nothing then is unchangeable but the inherent and inalienable rights of man” Thomas Jefferson

The quality of his articles is some thing I still admire. At the beginning, he used to write in Hadds Eritrea – the government paper and the only unbanned newspaper in Eritrea. Later on, his articles begun to appear in other papers of the free press such as Zemen. He is a strong proponent of good governance. His comments are sensible, balanced and with sound justification, because of which he should not have been condemned to arbitrary detention, had there been a democratic and elected government in Eritrea.

By any measurement, I do not see any thing wrong on what he used to write. However, like many others, he had to pay the price for that – a real price in life. He lost several of his fundamental rights ranging from the right to liberty, to human dignity, to fair trial, to freedom of speech and other freedoms as entrenched in the provisions of Chapter Three (the Bill of Rights) of the duly ratified, but ineffective Eritrean Constitution of 1997. These are fundamental rights also guaranteed by many more provisions of the Transitional Penal Code of Eritrea and Transitional Criminal Procedure Code of Eritrea – what is also known as mini constitution, all of which are still operative but ineffective in the country. He is one of the people arrested after September 2001 – one of the ugliest years in the Eritrean history. He never had the chance to defend himself in a court of law. His fundamental right to writ of habeas corpus and his right to defend him self in a free trail were blatantly infringed by the regime in power.

So far, I heard no one speaking about this man. Neither did I see his name mentioned in any of the list of Eritrean prisoners provided by any of the human rights advocating groups. I am not blaming them for not doing so. The reason can be one and only one. None of them might have been aware of the plight of this man. By this, I do not mean Wedi Itay deserves more attention than any other person languishing in the dungeons of PFDJ. My point is that he deserves at least a mention of the mess he encountered. The fact that he is one of the senior freedom fighters who spent many years in the struggle for independence and he is one of the chief officers in the Attorney General’s Office backs the rationality of my claim.

Prompted by this conviction, I put his name in the list of Eritrean prisoners posted at the Eritrean Public Form’s web page, which is recently linked at the web page of Eritrean Democratic Party –  I felt, however, that was not sufficient. Hence, I decided to tell some more points from the little facts I know about him.

I remember many people have confused him, because of his penname and nickname, with the notorious Wuchu – Major General Gerezgher Andemariam, one of the henchmen of despotism in present day Eritrea. The nickname Wedi Itay is a common factor Sahle Tegezeab Teclezghi shares with Wuchu. Surprisingly, Wuchu is one of the fewest who enjoy double nicknames apart from the huge number of privileges and excesses he has secured by the fact of his being a castle of tyranny.

Sahle Tsegazeab Tezlezghi used to write his articles under the nickname Wedi Itay. Truly, that is the only common factor between him and Wuchu. Of course, both of them are also tegadelti – freedom fighters. Apart from that, Sahle is a man of integrity who honours the cause for the decades of years of sacrifice the Eritrean people have paid and are still paying.  Wuch is, on the other had, one of the few who have betrayed the pledge owed by the Eritrean people. In all terms, Wuch is one of the enormous liabilities for Eritrea. He is some of the few responsible for nurturing tyranny at the age of globalisation and absurdly in the early years of the new millennium, when societies are moving faster towards a global culture of human rights in which the values of dignity, democracy and rule of law are cherished and protected.

My fist acquaintance with Wedi Itay dates back to 1998 when I was a fresh graduate from the University of Asmara. As part of my judicial career, I was practising legal profession and training in the Office of the Advocate General for a couple of months. Sahle was Head of the Civil Actions (Non-Criminal Cases) Department in the Attorney General's Office. He is one of the few freedom fighters who have successfully accomplished their college education after independence of the country. He graduated with B.A degree in Business Management from the University of Asmara.  When I saw him for the last time, he was in his way to South African to pursue further studies along with some other 600 Eritrean under and postgraduate students. I was one of them. Wedi Itay was not lucky, however, to avail him self of that great opportunity. They singled out him shortly before his departure to South Africa – only before a couple of days. His disappearance was a shocking and disturbing incident for all of us who know him.

By the time all departing students were filling and signing the compulsory agreement of repatriation, Wedi Itay was next to me, at the back of his car filling the same form. He asked me some unclear questions about the terms and conditions of the contract. Then, I signed in his copy of the agreement as a witness and he did so in my copy. I remember it was in front of the famous shop near Asmara University – Enda Bemnet Dukuan, as we used to call it, some time in the third or fourth week of October 2001.  Soon after that, we received US$ 500 each, our pocket money for the following two months. By that time, every one has secured his exit visa, some thing, which is still regarded as entry visa to heaven by many Eritreans in side the country. In Eritrea, only “privileged” people get an exist visa, another paradox in that tinny African country.

I considered attaching a copy of the document on which Sehle’s signature appears as a token of poignant recollection in my life. I could not do so for reasons of confidentiality. Rather, I opted to attach (see the attached documents below) a copy of a letter in which Wedi Itay was mentioned as one of the people chosen for postgraduate studies under the Eritrean Human Resources Development Project (EHRDP) of the Government of Eritrea, supervised by the University of Asmara. The letter, dated 31 May 2001, with reference number HRD/4/2494/2001, was written by the EHRD Manager Dr Tewolde Zerom and was sent to the Ministry of Justice, Research and Human Resources Development, headed by Mr Rezene Sium and Shambel Michael at which Ministry Sahle was working as a public prosecutor and me as a judge. The letter includes the names of other persons who have studies and are still studying in South Africa and elsewhere including me. It also comprises one of the bright men languishing in PFDJ prison, a close friend and colleague of mine, by the name Medhanie Haile Afle about whom I will write a separate piece very soon. Sahle’s name appears last in the list of names.

Wedi Itay did not get that chance to join us in our way to South Africa. Things become more evident on the 1st of November 2001 in Asmara International Airport where friends and family members where bestowing goodbyes to those leaving the country. For many of us, that was a “farewell party” for indefinite period because we knew we were not merely leaving for further studies and coming back after one or two years. Things were deteriorating on a daily basis.

I was a bit puzzled after realising that Wedi Itay was missing from the group of people departing. One of my close friends, Judge Samuel Bizen, who was also travelling with the group, was already aware of the fate of Wedi Itay. After boarding, that friend of mine told me what he has heard about Wedi Itay shortly before boarding. I was shocked when I heard about the abrupt disappearance of Wedi Itay. According to further pieces of information I obtained, he was picked either from his office or from the streets of Asmara. People told me that his car was parked in the streets quite for long time even after his sudden disappearance. I have asked people about him during my last visit to Eritrea in February 2003. I got no clues.

Since then no one knows where Wedi Itay is. He is believed to have been detained arbitrarily. The probable cause of his capricious confinement might be the serious of articles he published in the government paper and the free press. Nonetheless, no body knows the real fate of this man. Only the future will tell the true story of people like Wedi Itay.

Top of Page

© Copyright 2004 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written consent from the

Featured Articles
Latest Headlines
The Doctor and the Tewahdo Church at Dehai
Awate: Light House
What Have You Done For You Lately?
The Media and Us - A Matter of Perspective
Eritrea’s Unstable Politics
Engrigna or Tigrilish
Eritrea and the Crises in the Horn of Africa.
Nation building strategy privileging singular identity
Eritreans and Ethiopians seeking asylum in the USA
An open letter to the 2nd. congress of EDP

© Copyright 2004 by