In a month when Eritreans all over the world honor their independence day, Q&A dedicates this page to sharing one of the millions of heroic stories of individuals who played their part at the battle fields. The 24th of May and almost the whole week before, is a time to celebrate the peace, to cherish the unity and to share the stories of the heroes, for the Eritrean people.
Journalist Berhane Mehreteab participated at the battlefields of the 3rd offensive. After graduating from the University of Asmara, like most of the students of the contemporaries, he joined the armed forces and took part in the 3rd offensive war the Woyane regime waged in 2000. He is here to share the story he has witnessed at the battlegrounds.
Berhane Mehreteab, has been working at the Ministry of Information for almost 20 years.
- -Thanks for your time; care to tell us about yourself?
I got my degree in English from the University of Asmara. Before my graduation, I was assigned as an English teacher at Adibezhanes Juniour School in the southern region. During my teaching experience at the village, I also had a chance to explore the culture and learned a lot about the social life. After my graduation, I have been working as a journalist for almost 18 years now.
- -Your journalism experience…
For me, being a journalist is an exciting career. It can be challenging at times but all worth it at the end.
At the beginning, I worked as a reporter in the Eritrean news agency for quite some time. That is before I joined the Tigrigna radio program for a short while. I now have been a columnist of the international news in the Tigrigna newspaper, Haddas Eritrea, for about seven years. Currently, I am a member of the editorial board of the newspaper. As a matter of fact, for most of my career I have been working on the international newson Tv, radio and the newspaper, so basically following daily international news has become a hobby for me.
- -Now please tell us about the time when you participated during the 3rd offensive, right after your graduation.
Early in 2000, soon after my graduation from the university, I joined the 11th round in Sawa. Having finished our military training, everyone with a higher educational and professional background was expecting to be assigned to relevant ministries and was excited to start their new life. Despite our excitement and expectations, the Woyane launched its 3rd offensive on 12th May, 2000. Every one of us went to the battlefields without a question. Nothing was important at the time, neither our scores nor our lives mattered as we only thought of our people and land.
I was assigned to the trenches in the western part of Mereb Setit front, near Omhajer town. Started our travels in the evening from Sawa, and arrived at the trenches at dawn. By the time our battalion arrived, the battle had already started. Without a question, even though we had no battle experience, we just joined in. You could only imagine how frightening and loud it was for first timers. The sounds of the bullets were deafening. But it was just for seconds until our ears adjusted to it. The battle didn’t last long. We were able to push back the enemy in time. We spent the night at the trench while the enemy persistently attacked our positions. However, the attacks never succeeded as our battalion strongly held back the attacks.
After two weeks or so, we were informed that our forces had withdrawn from Barentu and the enemy had captured the town. As a result we were obliged to retreat from Omhajer. I still remember it as it happened yesterday; the people on the route fed us and gave us water. It’s a universal truth that we would have never succeeded in everything we did if we didn’t have our people’s back. They really supported and took care of us wherever we went.
Unfortunately, by the time we got to Tesenney, the people were already displaced and the town was completely abandoned. On the way to Haykota a landmine hit our group; luckily no one died or had serious injuries. We were hungry and tired from all the travelling to get to Haykota. We stayed there for a night. It was in there that I came in so close to the enemy line.
- -How so?
We were ambushed by the enemy. One of our unit member, Wedizerizgi successfully managed to cover our unit with his machine gun. He fought to his last bullet and got himself and us out of the battlefield. During the war, we lost an important person, comrade Mihretab. He was one of the people who inspired us all; he was a strong and dedicated hero. It was a fierce battle, we weren’t able to bury him. I carried his gun and water can and went out. After the battle was over, some of our comrades went in to the enemy lines and buried the marytred. Death had so little meaning to us all. After we were regrouped we realized another comrade was missing – Simon Zewde was not there.
Everyone thought he was dead or captured. After we were preparing for a battle in Alebu, he came and joined us. Everyone was shocked to see him, but he managed to escape alive and well, as he masked himself as a civilian. He then came to join us for another battle. After the battles he worked at the ministry of information and was a dedicated worker. Sadly, he had passed away due to an accident, may his soul rest in peace.
During the Tesennai battle, the 44 and 36 division went in to the front line. We helped out in the back. That was my last battlefield experience. After all of that, the people with higher education were assigned to work at the ministries.
- -Any messages in the name of the Eritrea independence celebrations
It is a land of heroes. That is the first thing I have witnessed during my battlefield times. Eritreans paid their loved ones, their lives to free this land. Any one, despite their background differences, shared and participated in everything they could to have a free Eritrea. Let’s all enjoy our freedom through unity and hard work to keep peace and develop our homeland.