I have recently heard ‘Enday Aytihtetu’, a Tigrigna song I used to hear on Shewit when I was a kid. Shewit was a television program for kids that was aired on Eri-TV in the early 2000s. It was directed by the late artist, Isaias Tsegay, a well-known writer and film director. The program was very entertaining and educating.
The song, ‘Enday Aytihtetu’, is sung by two young boys and a young girl. Representing Eritreans, the girl gives answers to the question the two boys ask her about her identity. The girl responds by telling the boys that she is the daughter of Eritrea’s heroes and mentions historic figures, their heroic deeds, and contributions to Eritrea’s Independence, which we are celebrating in a few days.
When I was reliving the song as a grown-up, I realized I didn’t know as much as I should about the heroes mentioned in the song. I decided to find out more about them and why they are mentioned in the lyrics. I will write here briefly about some of them.
One of the heroes mentioned in the song is Ibrahim Afa. Ibrahim Afa was born in Massawa. His friends described him as funny and outgoing. He was a member of the Ethiopian navy and very much aware of the oppression Eritreans were experiencing. He witnessed every day that Eritrean workers were treated as second-class citizens in their own land. He left his job and joined the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) in 1967.
Ibrahim was not happy with the way the ELF was administered and was one of the fighters who decided it was time for a change, but his open criticism was not acceptable to the ELF leaders. Along with some of his comrades, he fled to Sudan, and he got back to Eritrea through a difficult route.
The group was soon joined with the other groups that split from the ELF to form the EPLF
When he was in the ELF he was sent to Cuba for military training. His knowledge of military strategies and his experience has made him a prominent leader in the EPLF. His role was crucial in designing the strategies for liberating seven major towns in 1977.
The other hero mentioned in the song is Berhe Kidane, aka Xaeda. Berhe was born in Tserona and was a herdsman. His fellow fighters describe him as outspoken and intolerant to lies and injustice. He was a courageous and tactical fighter. He is known for leading the battalion that liberated the town of Nakfa. The fight to liberate Nakfa lasted six months, and after several failed attempts by other EPLF units, it was Berhe’s battalion that was finally able to capture the town. Once liberated in 1976, Nakfa was never ever controlled by Ethiopian forces despite their many attempts to recapture it.
Weldeab WeldeMariam is mentioned in the song several times. I was astonished by the number of assassination attempts he had to endure. An attempt on your life once is supposed to scare you and cause you to run for your life. But that’s not what our hero, Weldab WeledeMariam, did. He firmly stayed his ground and continued to struggle in Asmara. He wrote on ‘Hanti Eritrea’ newspaper demanding independence for Eritrea. He worked day and night to raise the political awareness of the people by focusing on the young.
Weldeab never pressed charges against the assassins, dismissing them as distractions, and his main intention was to mobilize people that would lead Eritrea when it gets its liberation. He did not hold any grudge against the assassins saying they were brainwashed and had not realized the significance of free Eritrea. Woldeab WeledeMariam finally sought refuge in Egypt only after surviving seven attempts on his life.
On ‘Hanti Eritrea’ newspaper issued in 1944, Woldeab wrote these words, which I believe describe the true meaning of patriotism. He wrote: “A human being doesn’t belong only to the household he was born into; he doesn’t belong only to the family that gave him his name; he is bound to experience and belong to a bigger house which is the country. He has bigger families and friends who are his countrymen.” His words will always inspire generations of Eritreans to come.
The song, ‘Enday Aytihtetu’, ends by presenting the singer, representing all Eritreans, as the daughter of the courageous Eritrean heroes: the daughter of Ibrahim Afa; descendant of Berhe Kidane, the lord of Nakfa front; an offspring of Ibrahim Sultan, the symbol of unity; the child of Weldeab, an advocate of patriotism; and the seed of Awate, the pioneer of the armed struggle.
Indeed, Eritreans are daughters and sons of all Eritrean heroes who have left their footprint on the Eritrean history that gave birth to the liberation of the country.