Operation Fenkil: Attests Eritrea’s Resurrection
The ultimate success of Operation Fenkil is the result of a selfless determination and of a ceaseless toil. The final triumph is indeed of a seed planted during the very beginning of the armed struggle, which finally yield a fully-grown tree-the independence. It is a yield that was continuously watered through the streams of blood of the fallen heroes who never hesitated to pour out the very fuel of their life. Strongly believing and consciously doing it towards the common cause, they set out to make sure that the growing tree would not wither but rather prosper booting its production and stretching its branches throughout the nation. The tree finally bore a lasting bright light that becomes ever brighter with each coming independence anniversary as well as anniversary of the Operation Fenakil that gave birth to full independence of the nation.
Independence lives with the very branches of the Operation Fenakil and a memory of Operation Fenkil becomes ever vibrant with the development that has been registered since the post liberation of Massawa and since the post-realization of the country’s full independence. This year’s team “Fenkil: Gateway to Liberation and Progress”, therefore, indicates the very fact of the close association between this decisive operation and that of independent Eritrea.
Bearing what has been mentioned earlier in mind, sharing the Memory of a bitter war that was held in 1977 at the salt harvesting fields of Salina has been integral part of the commemoration of the Operation Fenkil. This fierce battle was at that time held to liberate Massawa and thereby secure full independence.
Sitting on a wheel chair, on 9th February 2012, fighter Tesfay Yihdego shared with people who visited Salina battle field memories of that war saying: the sea itself battled against us, warplanes also did their part, but that time’s heroism remains beyond compare that we resisted against the very harsh conditions, however, paid huge sacrifices. Despite being a bitter war, the experiences gained there were very decisive for a victory obtained during the Operation Fenkil,’ Mr. Tesfay said.
Taking the venue next, on that very day, Colonel Brhane Asfha also known as Atsedu gave a detailed briefing of Salina 1977. According to Col. Brhane, all cities and all villages and towns of Eritrea were liberated with the exception of Asmara, Barentu and Massawa. Thus, all the fighters were very eager to liberate these three cities. In that war, more than 70 vehicles of the enemy were burned and some military vehicles called Amphibians were seized for the first time. Col. Birhane divides the Salina war into two operations held between late 1977 and the first month of 1978 until the strategic withdrawal. Following 12 years of fierce battles, Massawa was again liberated but in a way, that compensates the martyrdom of the 1977.
In addition to what Mr. Tesfay and Col. Brhane said, Lieutenant colonel Kibrom Andemicael described the military attack, which was aimed at controlling the naval base penetrating through the Salt harvesting fields. The salt harvesting fields that were once solid grounds became mires for all the cannels were flooded with waters that were deliberately pumped to washout the freedom fighters. “In all those places around Salina, there is blood of the fallen heroes mingled with seawaters and absorbed overall the soils,” he said.
Apart from sharing memories of Salina 1977, the participants of the 22nd anniversary also visited to an exhibition site that was located near the administrative building of the Northern Red Sea region. Mr. Alamin Mohammed Saied Secretary of the PFDJ inaugurated the exhibition tents that displayed activities of healthcare and truism as well as of Fisheries Ministry and that of Gedem Cement Factory and Massawa international airport. It also showcased handcrafts products of the National Union of Eritrean Women most of which are gift items that are made up of beads. The exhibition also covers housing and general construction undertakings that have been put in place in the region.
The commemorative events of Operation Fenkil that continued in the afternoon hours of 10th February 2012 commenced with a carnival. A fighter in shorts and a t-shirt that are typical uniforms of the freedom fighters passed marching through the streets of Massawa along his comrades leading a camel that carried two boxes of artilleries. Akwan music group of the National Union of Eritrean Youth and Students of the Northern Red Sea region branch office accompanied the colorful carnival with songs. Next, Keyih-Barhri and Mussa Ali construction companies displaying sample-building complexes were followed by the recently imported trucks and other vehicles that displayed activities of National Fisheries Company and that of Massaswa international airport and of Gedem cement factor all of which reflecting varied development undertakings. A tractor and a sculpture of yoked oxen also passed along the streets of Massawa highlighting the huge difference between traditional and modern farm practices. Students who marched making aerobics movement also added color to the carnival.
The next day, that is in the morning hours of 11 February 2012, President Isaias Afworki, Mr. Alamin Mohammed Saied, Secretary of the PFDJ, Ms. Tsegereda Weldegergish, Administrator of the Northern Red Sea region, Ms Fana Tesfamariam, Administrator of Massawa sub-zone, representing the Ministry of Defense Brig. Gen. Humed Mohammed Karikare, and also representing the NUEW Ms Azieb Birhane laid wreaths on Tiwalet martyrs monument.
In this very day, in a seminar that was conducted at the hall of Northern Red Sea region, Sium Weldemariam (Gripi) shared with participants of the seminar memories of the bad legacies of war, the hurdles in which the freedom fighters were forced to confront with. He shared memories of a war between two militarily unbalanced powers, memories of a war that could not be narrated through soft and sweet phrases for its brutal nature does not allow doing it so. “Soft words and embellished phrases could not express the bitterness of war,” he said.
War was not in fact the whim of the people of Eritrea. Nevertheless, it was a choice between the lesser of two evils. That is to succumb to a colonial rule or to fight for ones freedom; both of which are not at all good choices. The one makes one subservient and the other demands huge martyrdom. Understanding the bitterness of war, the Eritrean people opted to end the dispute with the colonial rule through peaceful mechanism. Since this does not happen, the people of Eritrea were forced to launch armed struggle, which is indeed a bitter, but also a legal choice. Thus, Mr. Sium said, “Eritrea’s struggle for independence is a just and legal response to unjustifiable colonialism but not merely a war.”
However, why do people share memories of war, be it that of Salina 1977 or that of Operation Fenkil and the like battles? The answer is simple. War by itself is not lasting but it leaves a lasting scar. War is a last option, which leaves a bitter legacy. It is through challenging the unmatched bitterness Eritrea’s independence was realized once and forever. “We feel the bitterness of war which is a price we paid for independence,” Mr. Sium said.
The official celebration of the 22nd anniversary of the Operation Fenkil was then opened at 4:30 pm on 12 February 2012. Two pillars that hold paintings of ancient buildings of the port city Massawa stand at the two sides of the stage where varied music and drama shows were staged and poems were also recited. In the course of a drama that was performed in the celebratory event a war plane that was hanging over robe cables above the pillars made a raid over the city killing people indiscriminately.
Speaking on the official celebrations event, Mr. Ahmed Haj, Chairperson of the holidays coordinating committee of the Northern Red Sea region, said that the challenges the people of Eritrea went through during the pre and post independence period pragmatically attest to the very fact that no matter the extent and intensity of the challenges the people of Eritrea would as always stand victorious.
Taking the venue next, Ms. Tsegereda Weldeghergish, Administrator of the Northern Red Sea region said, “Today as always, we will continue to chase the development path and it is certain that we would overcome any sort of difficulty. Sanctions would never slow us down either.”
As mentioned time and again, Operation Fenkil becomes a story of success through unmatched martyrdom. Besides giving tribute to the fallen heroes who made this festive event a reality and honoring the very cause they sacrificed their lives for, the commemoration of this decisive operation therefore shoulders everyone a responsibility to keep the ever precious bestowment of the martyrs–the independence–with due care. Thus, President Isaias Afworki begins his speech saying honor be to the martyrs, who 22 years ago made the Operation Fenkil possible. “Masswa’s liberation has not only lighted the way for independence but also opens the get to all-round emancipation,” The President said. Pointing out that it is not only a mere good whish; the President said that varied development programs have been charted out to make Massawa an economic hub. The President also reiterated that the plans would be practically implemented for concerned bodies have been working towards that end. The President concludes his speech saying, “Gory be to Fenkil and the martyrs.”
Sports activities organized by the Holidays Coordinating Committee of the NRSR and agitation department of the Ministry of defense have also been integral part of the celebrations activities. Besides opening a venue for sharing experiences among athletes of the country, sports activities such as football, swimming, camel and swift boats races, cycling and athletics contests as well as traditional sports added color to the 22nd anniversary of Operation Fenkil. Winners of the aforementioned sports also received due awards. The people of Massawa together with visitors from all over the country celebrated the 22nd anniversary of the Operation Fenkil with great enthusiasm in community tents at different administrative areas of the city. Thus, the celebrations which started with memories of Salina 1977 on 9 February colorfully concluded yesterday 12, February 2012.