The Eritrean people were colonized for many years by different countries, including Turkey, Egypt, Italy, Great Britain and Ethiopia.
Over the years Eritrea’s history has been told in different ways, a history passed from generation to generation through documents and oral history. The cemeteries around Foro and Gel’alo that are a proof of the 1885-88 war against Tigray, Erafaile’s “Tower of Two Fatnas”, a 65 meter high monument of a shield and Knight, Nakura prison for Eritreans are a few of the many places that portray Eritrean resilience against colonization.
In a futile attempt to crash the resilience the Eritrean people were demonstrating during the Armed Struggle, first Emperor Haileselasie and later the Derge regime started to obliterated Eritrean villages and massacre the settlers.
In what was a cruel act of injustice towards the Eritrean people, 21 Eritreans were killed in Aylet & Gmhot, and the villages were burned down to ashes. Wekiro, too, had the same fate. Those same merciless slaughters continued throughout the armed struggle. In 1975, 500 innocent settlers were massacred in Hirgigo. The year 1988 perhaps saw the most cowardly act yet by the Derg Regime when it indiscriminately killed 400 of Shieb’s settlers — men, women and children.
The resounding outcome of such horrifying acts was the Eritrean will to fight under any circumstance, with the resistance to any form of oppression growing stronger with each act of injustice carried out by the Derg Regime. The places might still have the scars of unjust acts of the Derg Regime but they continue to heal under the umbrella of independence.
This helped the struggle to succeed in the fronts of the Northern Red-Sea, as the Derg started to fall piece by piece in the operations of Nadow-Ez and Fenkil.
Nakfa: a place of resistance and unity
Nakfa is located in the Northern part of Northern Red Sea region. Nakfa is an icon to the Armed Struggle and had witnessed the most historic and arduous military tasks performed by the EPLF. The EPLF began counter-attacks in 1975 to capture Nakfa. By1976 it grew to a full-fledged war that dragged on for six month. After a year and a half of bloody struggle, the city of Nakfa was finally liberated on March 23 1977.
During the tactical retreat by the EPLF, Nakfa was a safe haven for the Liberation Front. The fortresses built by the EPLF that stretch over many kilometers stand still today. During the armed struggle they housed a school, a hospital, offices and command posts. Nakfa was EPLF’s stronghold and strategic for the Eritrean Armed struggle that five of the eight military offences carried out against the Derg were initiated from there.
In 1988, the EPLF finally crushed the Derg’s army that had been deployed in the area for almost ten years and, as a result, Afabet was controlled by the EPLF. The Derg was forced to evacuate so many garrison towns in the western lowland of Eritrea giving way for the EPLF to launch Operation Fenkil to liberate the port city of Massawa and pave the way for Eritrea’s independence. The strategic plan of the attacks proved the superiority of the Eritrean “Tegadalai” over the Derg army.
Nakfa’s rich history has been immortalized by naming Eritea’s currency Nakfa. So much is the history of Nakfa that the third historic EPLF congress was held in the town of Nakfa in February 1994.
North-Eastern Sahel Front: Game Changer of the Eritrean Armed Struggle
In 1979, the EPLF built a military fortress that covered a distance of 100 kilometers in the desert areas of Sahel. It was in these very areas of EPLF’s strong hold that the Derg launched one of its biggest military operations against the EPLF, where Eritrean Tegadelti displayed strength, commitment and toughness.
Moments leading up to the offence, Commander and leader of the Derg Regime, Colonel Mengstu Hailemariam gave his soldiers ropes and threw a bottle filled with blood onto the ground and promised his military that the EPLF was going to break down like the blood filled bottle. Today, in the areas of Emahmime there is a place named “Taba Mengstu.” These places along with the sheer oral history that can be found from the participants of the war are very important for upcoming generations and they should be kept intact and passed from generation to generation as revolutionary artifacts. The 30th anniversary of the defeat of the Wiqaq-ez command and the liberation of North-Eastern Sahel was widely celebrated in March 21-23 in 2014 under the motto “Sahel as a nation, EPLF as Government.”
Operation Fenkil: A Glimpse of Independence light
Operation Fenkil was launched by the EPLF in 1990 and ended with the liberation of Massawa. It took a good 59 hours to complete, with systematic dismantling and infiltration of enemy lines, and strong coordination of ground troops, naval troops and mechanized forces. It resulted in the surrender of 20,000 Derg soldiers and the liberation of Massawa and Ghindae.
Ghindae Front: Final push towards complete Eritrean Independence
The Ghindae front extends from Ghindae to Adi Roso and Northern Red-Sea. This front bears names like ‘Enda Bumba” “Feres sege” “Gahayat” “Enda Kewhi” “Enda Harestay” “Enda Misayl” “Shndwa” which signify the struggle’s relentless march towards Independence. The front withstood non-stop heavy military offences by the enemy from February 1990 up to May 1991. It was used as a final frontier to completely destroy the enemy and ensure the inevitable triumph of Eritreans.