[OPINION] General Sibhat Ephrem, By Dereje Jada Hawas, Ethiopian Journalist

General Sibhat Ephrem By Dereje Jada Hawas, Ethiopian Journalist

Hearing General Sibhat Ephrem sustaining injuries from assassination attempt provoked many of my suppressed memories and wanted to say something.

For those of you who love to talk about armed struggle for liberation, commanding rebel army or something fancy like that, let me offer you some context by introducing you to General Sibhat Ephrem.

As you might recall, Sibhat was Eritria’s defence minister after the independence and still serves as cabinet minister of the country.

But my personal knowledge of Sibhat came when the battle and desert tested fighters of the 2nd revolutionary army of the eighties that I belonged to fought EPLF’s tough as nail fighters who were determined to liberate their country no matter what hell was raining from anywhere.

I hear some people mistakenly refer to the style of EPLF’s freedom fighters as guerrilla fight (which was far from the reality) The EPLF fought with mechanized and infantry military units lining up tanks and artilleries with complete conventional warfare where dynamically changing boundaries made with fortified bankers across Eritria’s Sahel desert with impenetrable bankers and trenches with modern hospitals complete with surgical capabilities built several meters deep under ground.

Sibhat Ephrem was the commander of EPLF’s fighting force that defended its cause and eventually won libation against an equally ferocious army that is almost half a million strong and armed with 10 billion USD worth of armaments that came from WARSO pact countries with the Soviet Union and East Germany at the top. Remember, ferocious fighters with modern war machine that rains hell from the sea, land and air (only a few places in the world experience a combination of 3 forces participating in battles)

To describe the pressure and difficulties a commander like Sibhat Ephrem was up against is simply an impossible effort!

In one of Ethiopia’s most significant military campaigns ever, also known as the Red Star Campaign “Ye qey kokob zemecha “ “የቀይ ኮከብ ዘመቻ” ( ወረራ ሽድሽተ) , the most brilliant military generals Africa ever produced from Ethiopia’s side and some of the most respected military generals and filed marshals the world came to know from the Soviet Union (generals who won the “ glorious” war of WAR II (second world war) against Nazi germany) participated in the planing and execution of the red star campaign. Among the contributions of the bad misfortunes that bankrupted that huge campaign was the brilliance of Sibhat Ephrem’s speciality, the infamous, the disgustingly brilliant “Counter Attack , “መልሶ ማጥቃት”.

To put this in prospect, the Red Star campaign , if it was directed against almost all of the sovereign countries in Africa or most countries in the world, it would have succeed to defeat and occupy it. It was that huge!

I remember, every time military radio operators hack into EPLF’s radio to know Sibhat’s movement so a telegram can be distributed to the nearest Corp or division he is approaching as a warning that he might be planing an attack. Believe me it is the most depressing news you don’t want to hear because there is almost no defence fortifications or method you used to defend a post that Sibhat wanted to brake into.

As a soldier who served across from those trenches in Naqfa, Algena, Kerkebet, Baarentu, Tesenay and many other fronts, the one name that stroke a fear and challenged confidence of any brave soldier was Sibhat Ephrem. Remember, a fear of a soldier is not death but defeat of the cause.

During my trip to Asmara in March 2017 with Geresu Tufa to interview president Isaias Afwerki for OMN, I had a pleasure and honor to spend some time with Sibhat in his office and out in the city. Believe me, he remembers every little details I completely forgot about or chose to forget. every little battle my unit engaged in was fresh in his memory.
There is a photo in his office that he took in Algena at the bottom of the infamous Katar mountain’s gorge that leads to Adobha where we lost many of our ሰንጥቅ ሜካናይዝድ tanks in anti tank mine filled sand during the second most bloodshed military campaign, also known as the Res Sea campaign (ዘመቻ ቀይ ባህር) (ወረራ ሸብአተ).

General Sibhat has a fresh memory in such a detail about all battles my unit fought at that dreadful campaign again that I fought to block from my memory. It was then that he promised me one day we would go down to Naqfa together and visit that place with him ( which I still think about taking some of my surviving buddies to memory lane before diabetes wiped us out) 😀

It is sad that Ethiopia glorified the likes of TPLF’s generals such as Hayelom Arayaa, Samora Yenus and others who as that time wouldn’t be amounted to be seen as successful goat-herders let alone warriors in front of true soldiers like Sibhat Ephrem, Petros Solomon, Ragasa Jima, Demise Bulto and others. These TPLF generals would have never defended anything for more than 5 minutes if they had to face a quarter of the army that Sibhat Ephrem fought day in and day out for many many years. REMEMBER, REMEMBER AGAIN, TPLF came to Finfine because Sibhat defeated Durg in Afabet!!!! I know the Meles doctrine omitted that fact to glorify TPLF rewriting history with lies so it can cow that county around for 27 years under assumed strength that has never ever been existed. The exhibit of course is its crumble from power. Nothing but a puff cloud.

I hear a report about injuries Genral Sibhat experienced from possible asasination attempt. It is not my place to meddle in Eriteria’s internal matters but as an admirer of the General from across those trenches and bankers, I wish him a quick recovery.
He was a superman like figure in my young soldier’s heart while fighting him with hate to deny him of any victory.

For today’s rebel leader wannabes, for opportunity grabbing, lottery wining rebel leaders of TPLF who lived with false glory and all other modern and antique characters who took the title “liberation leader” in a dozen for a dime, I say, the standard to achieve freedom with outright wining has a higher bar. I say that with out denying some as some getting it failing on their laps (if they know what to do with it).

In another observation:

I am wondering if this assassination attempt also changes the culture of Eriterian government officials’ interactions with their people. It is one of the most fascinating thing I observed during my visit there. The simplicity of the officials was almost never exist anywhere.

Genral Sibhat drives a 1980 model Toyota Corolla with no driver or a single security. He drove Geresu and I throughout Asmara with no security, and every place he stoped his car, ordinary people came and ask him to roll down his car window to pet him like a house cat fondly touching his hair and calling him by his first name. It would be sad if this culture changed because of this event though