I met him at Ambassoira Hotel while he has been preparing to launch his new book “10,950 Days Journey of the Armed Struggle for Independence”. The days represent the 30 years of the armed struggle for Eritrean independence. I was curious and asked him for a brief interview. Excerpts of the interview follows.
Could you introduce me about yourself?
My name is Kidane Gebremedhin aka Barba. I was born in 1946 in Asmara, Arbaete Asmara. I took my elementary education at Agazian school. I could not continue my education beyond grade eight and I started working in a garage as mechanic. Later I started working as a truck driver from Asmara to Massawa. That was until 1976-1977.
What happened later?
That was the time during which the train system from Massawa to Asmara came to a standstill. It completely stopped and in effect the whole transportation system to the port city has been disrupted. I could no longer stay in Asmara and I took my family to Ghinda to take refuge with the Eritrean People’s Liberation Front that has been in control of the town.
So did you find what you have been seeking?
Yes I did. Before I went to Ghinda, I have been a member of a clandestine unit of the EPLF in Asmara. And I had no difficulty to go to Ghinda and get the refuge.
What have you been doing in Ghinda during your stay there?
I continued what I have been doing in Asmara. And in addition to that I have been a member of the Ghinda town assembly. That was until 1978 before the strategic withdrawal of the Eritrean liberation forces.
I again have to move with my family and our destination has been to the Sudan. I went to the Sudan in 1979.
How did you make your journey to the Sudan?
It has been the time of the strategic withdrawal. The Derge regime has been in full offensive with the massive assistance from the Soviet Union to destroy the Eritrean revolution once and for all. The liberation forces have to make strategic withdrawal to a location in which they could consolidate their power and repel the advance of the enemy forces. Many civilians have been forced to go with the liberation forces to the north, Sahel. And I and my family have to go with them. And I went to the Sudan, Port Sudan.
How long did you stay in the Sudan?
Few months. I have been working as an ambulance driver in one of the hospitals in Port Sudan. And later I went to Saudi Arabia.
What about your family members?
I left them in Port Sudan.
And in Saudi Arabia?
I continued as a truck driver and active participant of the EPLF clandestine units.
What were you doing as members of the EPLF clandestine units?
We organize events in which we could conduct meeting of Eritrean nationals and inform them on the progress of the armed struggle. We collect whatever we find that we think could help the armed struggle. And as members of truck drivers association we transport EPLF good to the ports.
Could you mention some goods that you have been collecting and send them to the field?
We were not only having engaged in collecting materials but also we had the responsibility of transporting them to the ports. Some of the materials we have been collecting and take them to the port include tires, food staffs and other materials that we think could help the combatants.
I think to date you live in Switzerland. What responsibility do you have there with regards the Eritrean community there?
I am working as a chairperson of the Eritreans Resistance community there. Our responsibility is to mobilize the Eritrean community to conduct resistance against external conspiracies against our Homeland. For example, during the TPLF aggression against our country, we have been organizing events like entertainment programs every Saturday in which many Eritreans used to participate and collect incomes and donations towards our goal. The program “one dollar per day towards the struggle” has been effective and that has been through the strong effort of the committee. We have been and we are doing a lot of things including organizing festivals aimed at making sure that our young Eritreans know the culture and history of their country and contributing our part for the success of the national programs by encouraging our citizens to reinforce organization and contribute whatever they have at their disposal.
How often do you come here?
I come every year to Eritrea with my family.
When you come here every year, do you find differences with regards to the nation building process?
Oh yes! To my observation, when you come to Eritrea every year you observe new things. That is especially when you go to the countryside. You see new roads, new buildings, dams, agricultural facilities. Above all things, however, it the peace we have that you enjoy most. Look to what is happening in all corners of the world. Many countries are in turmoil. All the news today is about killing, war, destruction, you name it. In Eritrea you don’t hear that. There is absolute peace. And that is what we should appreciate most. Because with the peace we have the pace of the development programs would add impetus and in the coming few years Eritrea would reach the vision that it set and its people would live in prosperity.
Thank you very much and good luck!
Thank you for having me!