September in the history of Eritrea

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1 September 1961: The first bullet in the struggle for Eritrean independence was fired on 1 September 1961 from mount Adal. On that day poorly-armed fighters led by Hamid Idris Awate declared the beginning of the armed struggle for independence from the brutal Ethiopian colonization.

The long liberation struggle of the Eritrean people continued for thirty years, fighting against all odds. The first decade of the armed struggle was characterized by lack of a clearly defined political program and efficient leadership. The organizational and leadership inefficiency of the first ten years created enormous problems that paralyzed the revolution. Largely because of the leadership problems, the revolution was beset with major internal problems.

However, in the course of the struggle the national consciousness of the fighters grew and they began to correct the divisive lines of the revolution. Some fighters who developed their consciousness by the consistent fight against external colonialists and internal reactionaries organized themselves to rectify the organization. In the process of rectification, the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) was born as the new revolutionary organization that transformed the Eritrean struggle. After passing through many ups and downs, the political and armed struggle of the Eritrean people for independence made major strides with the formation of the EPLF.

The EPLF’s organizational and leadership skills transformed the socio-culturally divided, economically and numerically disadvantaged Eritrean society into a united army ready to fight against internal weakness and external domination. The positive and constructive national politics of trust and unity that was developed during the struggle and continues to this day is the outcome of enormous sacrifice and struggle.

1 September 1987: Ibrahim Sultan, an Eritrean nationalist leader, died on this day. Ibrahim Sultan was one of the leading figures of the 1940s who initiated organized political struggle for Eritrea’s independence. He was among the twelve founding members of Mahber Fikri Hager (union of love of country) established in May 1941. Later, after the unsuccessful Bietgiergis conference he founded the Muslim League of Eritrea in 1946. Ibrahim Sultan strongly opposed Ethiopian interference in Eritrea and struggled hard for the unity and independence of Eritrea. When the parties that demanded independence of Eritrea joined together to form the Independence Bloc in 1949, he was elected Secretary General of the party.

In 1949, Ibrahim Sultan was one of the few people that represented Eritrea at the United Nations where he strongly advocated for Eritrean independence. At the regular session of the UN, Ibrahim Sultan said: “The people of Eritrea do not accept any type of colonialism: black or white. If a wrong decision is made forcing us to struggle to safeguard our identity and obtain our independence, then the members of this Committee will shoulder the responsibility of the hostilities that arise in East Africa.”

Ibrahim Sultan, along with Woldeab Woldemariam, was invited to attend the second congress of the EPLF. He was not able to attend the congress for health reasons, but his recorded fatherly and patriotic message was shown on video at the congress. Ibrahim Sultan is one of the heroes of Eritrea who deserves to be praised and remembered forever by Eritreans.

10 September 1879: Raesi Weldemichael Solomon was arrested by Alula. Raesi Weldemichael Solomon was born in1823 at Hazega. He was well known for the campaigns he made against Tigrean chiefs to protect Mereb Mlash. Raesi Weldemichael Solomon had organized forces and fought against Emperor Yohannes IV who raided Mereb Mlash. When Emperor Yohannes IV became aware of the fighting capacity of Raesi Weldemichael, he sent Alula to seize him through deceit. Alula had arranged a peace treaty, and to gain the confidence of Raesi Weldemichael, he swore on the bible. Alula broke his promise and imprisoned Raesi Weldemichael at Amba Selama until his death in 1906. After the imprisonment of Raesi Weldemichael, Mereb Mlash was left without effective protector and was ravaged by the forces of Alula.

11 September 1952: Eritrea was federated with Ethiopia. The federal resolution was the beginning of the international conspiracies against Eritrea. It was the strategic interest of the United States that made it necessary to  connect Eritrea with Ethiopia. In 1950, when the future of Eritrea was being discussed at the UN, US Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, opined that “from the point of view of justice, the opinion of the Eritrean people should be taken into consideration. Nevertheless, [American] strategic interests in the Red Sea and considerations of security for the countries of the world make it necessary to reunite this country to Ethiopia, which is our friend.” On 2nd December, 1950 UN General Assembly passed resolution 390 A(V) amid strong opposition of Eritreans. That unfair resolution, as Ibrahim Sultan envisaged, planted the seeds for future conflict that affected the Horn of Africa. The Federation was put into force on September 11, 1952 and, after a decade, it was abolished unilaterally by Emperor Haileslasie on November 14, 1962. Eritrea became a victim of the UN decision and Ethiopian aggression.

19 September 1989: A meeting between the Derg and the EPLF took place in Atlanta, USA. The diplomatic efforts of the EPLF were as important as the military engagement in the struggle for independence. During the struggle for independence meetings aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the conflict of Eritrea and Ethiopia were conducted in Berlin, Atlanta, Nairobi and London.

16 September 2018: An agreement on peace, friendship and comprehensive cooperation between Eritrea and Ethiopia was signed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twenty years after the outbreak of war, 18 years after the Algiers peace agreement and 16 years after the decision of the Boundary Commission, both countries expressed their determination to work together in peace. In recognition of the courageous initiative taken to bring about peace between the two countries, President Isaias Afwerki and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed were presented with Medals of Honor by King Salman bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia.