In Solidarity With the Forces of Good
(Part 6 of 24)
By Yonas Araya
(First Published on Asmarino.com in April 2002)
Issayas Afeworki built his career and fame on the glory of military victories. During the Armed Struggle, he rallied the public by simply disseminating news of military victories, or showing off the victories to the public, by having the captured tanks crawl through villages. He often exaggerated the little victory and fabricated it when there was none. For example, in 1979-1980, with the help of his radio station (Dimtsi Hafash), and other foreign media journalists, Issayas fed the world with news of military victories, which, when the reported human casualties claimed to have been inflicted upon Ethiopia by Issayas were tallied up could possibly surpass the total number of Ethiopia’s armies deployed in Eritrea at that time. During those years, he never revealed Eritrean casualties; he never told the Eritrean public what he was paying to achieve those victories.
Of course, the Ethiopian government knew the exact death toll in its army. However, many Eritreans thought the war propaganda was good for Eritrea because it might encourage Eritreans to join the fronts and also help demoralize the Ethiopian troops. However, by the mid-1980s, enticing supporters by disseminating exaggerated reports of military victories either started backfiring against the EPLF or became perceived by many Eritreans inside Eritrea and abroad and by the foreign media as untrue. This was further evidenced when many Eritreans in the Diaspora, including the ardent supporters of EPLF, either deserted the EPLF’s offices or frequented less often to the EPLF offices until the Battle of Afaabet produced a verifiable military victory.
Be that as it may, many Eritreans fed on the postulated victories during the War for Liberation to the extent that many became addicted to the lies. At the same time, during those years, Issayas felt insecure if a day passed without him having to announce some military victories. Therefore, after the armed struggle concluded with independence and right after the referendum, it was only natural for Issayas Afeworki’s popularity to start plummeting and for him to feel insecure. It was also natural then for Issayas to revisit his belligerent behavior and start picking fights with the neighboring countries. And for that, his strategy worked when, out of the blue, he raided Yemen and scored a military victory – that victory helped him raise his popularity a few notches higher for a few months.
Human Casualties in the Latest War with Ethiopia
During the War for Liberation, Eritreans were conditioned to believe that Eritrean Tegadelti were immortal. But what is worse is that conditioning has carried on to this day because many Eritreans, including the educated ones, still have difficulty separating the facts from the myth regarding Eritrea’s losses. For example, during the Badme War, many Eritreans felt sorry for Ethiopian soldiers who were dying by the thousands (as PFDJ told them). Yet, none of those Eritreans who were lapping up PFDJ’s exaggerated reports of military victories had imagined that Eritreans, too, were dying by the thousands.
But what is much worse is that, after Issayas released the official casualty report, many Eritreans still preferred to shrug off the Eritrean human losses during the Badme War or justify it by comparing it with the size of Ethiopia’s losses, as was claimed by the PFDJ. Sometimes, Eritreans have a problem doing some simple computations, and for that reason, I will present my analyses here:
The Badme War was between two governments:
- Which used their soldiers as cannon fodders;
- With ill-trained, ill-fed, ill-clothed, and ill-equipped armies;
- That fought in strict conventional warfare;
- That had ill-equipped army paramedics, hence could not spare as many injured soldiers from death as possible;
- Whose military commanders were the products of the same political and military culture and background, espousing similar military strategy and tactics, logistics, and intelligence.
Therefore, the only other factors that could have given one nation an edge over the other would be:
- Which nation’s soldiers had better morale to fight and die?
- Which country had a head-start victory?
- Which nation had to initiate raids to regain its territory?
- The size of the nation’s population and its ability to produce reinforcements.
- The nation’s military size and the quality and quantity of its armies and armaments.
- The resources of the country and its ability to procure new armaments.
Also, the losses and gains of each nation could be measured in terms of the following:
- The death tolls of each nation;
- The “price” put on every soldier. How much does a nation lose for each lost soldier “in real terms”;
- The size of grounds gained or lost;
- The size of POWs held by each nation;
- Which nation has achieved its goals?
How Does One Define a Winner?
The Ethiopian population is estimated to be 60 million, and the Eritrean is 4 million. But for this purpose, I will reduce the Ethiopian population to 51 million actual inhabitants and the Eritrean population to 3 million actual inhabitants. (It is believed that Eritrea has more people living abroad than Ethiopia does; Ethiopia may have over 51 million actual inhabitants; therefore, this estimation may slightly skew the result in favor of Eritrea.) Thus, with this data, the population ratio of Eritrea to Ethiopia would be 1 to 17 (1:17).
Or if I keep the population of Ethiopia at 60 million and Eritrea’s at 4 million, the ratio of the Eritrean to the Ethiopian population would be 1 to 15. (1:15)
Therefore, for both countries to break even in human casualties, the casualty ratio between Eritrea and Ethiopia should be 1 to 15 or 1 to 17; each Eritrean loss of human loss equals 15 or 17 Ethiopian human losses.
In conventional warfare, it is widely believed that the ratio of the “victor’s” loss to that of the “loser” is 1:1.5, or 1:2. This means each soldier of the “victor” may be able to kill 1.5 to 2 soldiers from the “loser.” Therefore, if we take the number of deaths reported by the government of Issayas at face value, which is 19,000 soldiers, and if we consider Eritrea the winner in this regard, the casualties of Ethiopia should be 28,500 or 38,000.
There is a belief among Eritreans that each Eritrean soldier could kill more than 1.5 of an enemy soldier; therefore, to mollify the skeptics, I will raise the ratio of Ethiopia’s loss to Eritrea’s to 3 to 1(3:1). In this case, Ethiopian loss should be 19,000×3=57,000. Therefore, with total Ethiopian losses of 57,000 and Eritrean losses of 19,000, the total number of human casualties in this war from both countries would be 76,000.
(By the way, the U.S. intelligence agency may also have estimated the total human loss from countries at 76,000.)
When we factor in the ratio of their population, i.e., 1:15 or 1:17, again, if the two foes were to break even, Eritrean loss should’ve been 4750 or 4222.2 and not 19,000, whereas Ethiopian loss should’ve been 71,250 or 71,777.8 and not 57,000.
Even if the ratio of human casualties does not precisely agree with the percentage of the population of the warring parties, in drawn-out wars, the party with a smaller population size could always run out of human resources.|
Most of the Eritrean Army comprised a considerable number of adults who graduated from the 6-month military training in Sawa. They had neither military training nor combat exercises before or after they left Sawa. Most Sawa graduates never intended to become soldiers; they took the little military training simply because their government decreed it. It was a prerequisite to advancing their career or finding any job.
In addition, the members of the Eritrean Army did not join the army of their own free will. They were prisoners. They could not flee to Sudan or anywhere else. The Eritrean Army did not believe deep in their hearts that the conflict could be resolved militarily. In fact, had it not been for the Woyane’s vengeful policy of detaining and expelling Eritreans from Ethiopia, or had the Woyane made the war between it and the GoE, or had the Woyane separated Eritreans from the GoE, Eritreans probably would never have fought to the extent they fought against Ethiopia.
On the other hand, the Ethiopian army comprised several former Ethiopian soldiers who enthusiastically joined the military, hoping their country would take over Assab. But also, these former Dergue soldiers were forcibly recruited by the Dergue. They also did not receive proper training during the Dergue regime or the Badme War. But still, the fact that the Ethiopian soldiers came all the way from the south to Eritrea showed their commitment to fight and win.
Again, although all human beings are equal under God, we human beings like to put “prices” on individual human beings; therefore, the losses or gains of each side should also factor in the value placed on the individual soldier. To that end, let’s examine the backgrounds of the soldiers:
Whereas a sizable number of Eritrean soldiers were either high school graduates (since Sawa required high school graduates) or veterans of Ghedli, the overwhelming majority of Ethiopian soldiers were illiterate.
Ethiopian soldiers were also household breadwinners, but losing household breadwinners will hurt Eritrea more than it will hurt Ethiopia vis-à-vis its population.
Eritrea’s human loss is astronomical vis-à-vis its population, even if we take the reported loss by PFDJ at face value. On the other hand, the presumed death toll of 57,000 is a drop in the bucket for Ethiopia, again vis-à-vis the size of its population.
In addition, both nations could have one seriously disabled soldier for every dead soldier and two injured or slightly injured soldiers for every dead soldier. Also, thousands of both nations’ soldiers will suffer from post-war trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder, which again will be more troubling to Eritrea than Ethiopia, vis-à-vis its population size.
What Are the Actual Losses of Each Country?
Post-Issayas Eritrea will have to review and look into the casualties of Eritrea, but for now, my independent research results in the following facts:
It is estimated that Eritrea might have lost one in six of its soldiers in this war. It was believed that Eritrea had close to 180,000 fighting soldiers during the two-year war; hence, Eritrea’s losses might have been close to 30,000 soldiers and not 19,000 soldiers, as reported by Issayas. The report by Issayas lowered the total number of Eritrean soldiers proportionately to 114,000, which is incorrect. If the total size of the Eritrean army was as high as the PFDJ’s cadres were claiming to be during the war, the loss could be higher than 30,000. But fewer than 30,000, or 30,000 could be about right, of whom more than 9000 soldiers were squandered by Issayas in the summer of 1999 when he attempted to retake Badme.
It is also estimated that Ethiopia might have lost one in five of its soldiers. At the beginning of the war, Eritrea had more soldiers than Ethiopia, but during the first eight months and after that, Ethiopia raised the size of its army to 240,000.
(At this time, both nations might have more soldiers than they had during the two-year war.)
The total number of human casualties in the two nations is estimated to be 74,000 – 78,000. Some estimates raise the total human losses of the two nations to over 80,000, even up to 100,000 soldiers. But those reports are also regarded as not credible by many analysts.
But for those who will feel comfortable with the 100,000 total casualties, let’s do more computation. I will keep the Eritrean casualty at 30,000 but raise the Ethiopian death to 70,000.
Nonetheless, even with this data, if we factor in the ratio of their population, Eritrea’s losses should have been 5,555.56 at the 1 to 17 ratio (1:17) or 6250 at the 1 to 15 ratio (1:15), and not 30,000. And Ethiopia’s loss should have been 94,444 at the 1 to 17 ratio (1:17), 93,750 at the 1 to 15 ratio (1:15), and not 70,000.
The Eritrean Army.
In a conventional war, no one should expect more victories than what has been achieved by the Eritrean army. Considering all the circumstances under which they were, the Eritrean troops did more than what one could expect from them. Therefore, the analysis here is only to refute those Eritreans, who, from the comfort of their homes, were expecting even much more from the Eritrean army, and to educate them that their expectation was baseless and stemmed only from their blind trust in what Issayas had been telling them. But also to educate, where possible, those who want to live off war glories that war is destructive, that war does not pay off, and that war should only be chosen as a last resort to repel occupation and not to regain small villages like Badme.
Why Eritreans Still Refuse to Admit Eritrea’s Casualties.
As pointed out at the beginning of this part, many years of a campaign through exaggerated military victories during the armed struggle, which meant to help demoralize the Ethiopian army, after repeatedly being broadcasted as truth, have been taken in as truth in the minds of many of Eritreans.
Even to the dismay of all Eritreans who followed Issayas mindlessly after he released the report of the casualties, which is very disturbing even if taken on faith, many Eritreans still felt more comfortable with the lies he had been feeding them during the war than with the official report. They still would rather entertain themselves with the lies they had been conditioned to accept than with the official “facts” finally presented to them by Issayas.
Some psychologists who examined individuals who repeatedly attract con artists and wives who do not want to leave their abusive husbands have found something in common between them. The victims subconsciously felt comfortable either with being battered or with being conned. Moreover, some even came up with all kinds of justifications to forgive their abusers. So, could the blind followers of Issayas be suffering from the same ailment?
For example, since the war was fought mainly on four fronts: Badme, Tserona, Zelambesa, and Assab, it should be easy for everyone with common sense to estimate how many Eritreans died on each front. And if one wants to assume an equal number of Eritreans were killed on each of the four fronts, then 19,000 divided into four would give him 4750; hence, 4750 losses on each front. However, of the four fronts, it should be evident that 70% to 80% of the battles were fought on the Badme and Tserona fronts alone. Thus, if we divide the 70% of the total, which is 13,300, into the two fronts equally, Eritrea would have lost 6650 on the Badme and 6650 on the Tserona front, or if we divide the 80% of the total, which is 15,200, into the two fronts equally, then Eritrea would have lost 7600 on the Badme and 7600 on the Tserona front.
However, the mindset of Eritreans still cannot accept these facts and prefers to fool itself with false feelings of pride, which is hardly comforting to the families who lost their loved ones. Case in point: ertra.com, an Eritrean site, was still until recently displaying proudly close-up photos of soldiers’ bodies supposedly taken at the Tserona front and claiming the bodies belonged to Ethiopia. But if these close-up photos were taken at the Tserona front, and if Eritrea has lost 6650 to 7,600 soldiers on that front (Eritrea has lost about 9,000-10,000 soldiers on that front), why still does not occur to the producers of that site that these bodies could as well be of Eritreans? Even if they believed those corpses belonged to Ethiopia, why should they imagine that the world would get a kick out of watching graphic images of dead bodies, regardless of which nation the remains belonged to? But this mindset is by no means ertra.com alone; instead, it is the true manifestation of the mentality of all Eritreans who blindly follow Issayas.
Why Such Heavy Human Casualties?
During the armed struggle, while the EPLF was touting that its paramedics were saving, sometimes, 940 out of every 1,000 injured from death, but in this war, it looks like its paramedics were losing 500 out of 1,000 wounded soldiers. By the way, although Ethiopia also had ill-prepared paramedics, compared to Erititrea’s, they may have saved more injured. There is no doubt that Issayas would prefer an injured soldier to be dead than saved as a physically disabled person. The first works to his advantage to inflict guilt upon living Eritreans with his insincere “Glory to our martyrs” tone, but the latter poses a danger to his power as a living witness, as was evidenced by the disabled legendary heroes of Mai Habar.
The loss of 19,000 soldiers, as claimed by Issayas, in a two-year war is almost one-third of the total loss that Eritrea had suffered in the 30 years of its armed struggle, which, even if taken on faith, makes it astronomically high. Therefore, was Issayas deliberating choosing death for the injured, or was it simply the result of ill-prepared and ill-managed paramedics and doctors and a mismanaged war?
Moreover, hundreds, if not thousands, of soldiers are believed to have died from simple diseases because of a lack of medicines or food. The soldiers have reported that Issayas and his clique were asking them to live on plain sorghum bread for weeks. And sometimes, the bare sorghum was provided to them without salt, sometimes for days and weeks.
Releasing the Names of Martyrs and Killed Soldiers.
We Eritreans always respected the values of all human beings when they were alive and after they died. We mourned the dead and gave them proper burials. This respect for humans is not only inherent in our cultures but also in our religions. Our religions, too, require us to give the remains of the dead a proper burial; our religions require us to put the souls of the deceased to rest.
But respect for the dead is something all civilized nations have also practiced in peace or at war. Civilized nations transfer the remains of their soldiers to the surviving families for proper burial and mourning. In civilized countries, the public entrusts its leaders with the highest responsibility – with its children. In civilized nations, the commanders in chief take the responsibility very seriously because they know they can be impeached and held accountable if they fail. For instance, when the US lost 18 soldiers in Somalia in 1993, the Clinton Administration’s Defense Secretary, the late Les Aspin, accepted the blame for the “heavy” causalities. As a result, two months later, Les Aspin resigned but died of a heart attack before being held accountable in a public or congressional hearing.
Even Emperor Haile Selassie respected this humane treatment of the remains of his soldiers who died in combat. He even transferred the remains of Eritreans, members of the Commando, or Police Abay, who fought alongside his soldiers to be mourned and buried by their families.
During the armed struggle, neither the TPLF nor its Svengali at that time, the EPLF, released the names of their martyrs, but maybe that was understandable. But now, as leaders of independent nations, there is no justification for why the leaders of TPLF and PFDJ failed to release the names of their casualties and why they failed to transfer the remains of their killed soldiers to be mourned and buried by their loved ones.
In 1992, Issayas released the names of over 60,000 (later, raised the number to 65,000) martyrs, of whom about 91% were members of the EPLF, but the public saw no reason to question Issayas as to how all the deaths occurred. Issayas knew then that the public was in no position to pose that kind of question because it was overwhelmed by the celebration of independence.
Again, in 2001, Issayas Afeworki released the number of casualties casually, without remorse or grief. He released just the figures and no names or remains. To this date, neither Issayas, as a commander-in-chief who led the war, nor his commanders, whom he handpicked to lead the war, have been questioned, impeached, or scrutinized by the public, or the legislators. As far as I can remember, none of them has resigned or died of a heart attack after squandering 19,000 (or 30,000) lives in just two years.
But worse now, Eritrean and Ethiopian parents have to grieve day and night, not only because their loved ones have not returned home but also because their souls have not been put to rest in peace. Issayas and the Woyanes have put Eritrean and Ethiopian families into a slow-killing death chamber.
But what would the blind followers of Issayas and the ungodly, so-called Adetat (ኣዴታት) in the Diaspora say if their children were among those whose souls have not been put to rest?
There is something wrong with the kind of PFDJ leadership. If leaders know in advance that they will not have to transfer the bodies of killed soldiers to the loved ones to be buried and mourned, or if they know in advance that the dead soldiers are only figures with no faces, no names, no body, and no soul; if they know in advance that they will not be held accountable for their negligence, those type of leaders cannot be cautious with the wars they declare, or with the strategies they espouse in the wars.
Now, as the commander in chief, Issayas knows that he cannot transfer the blame anywhere else, but he also precisely knew that before he ignited the war and when he was commanding the battles. He knew he would not be held accountable in the end simply because he was not held accountable in 1992. Also, he believed that if he could win the war, no one would be in any position to ask why.
Furthermore, Issayas has learned another lesson: even if he does not wrap up the war with a victory, he still will not be held accountable. So now, Issayas has all the privileges to start a war, but no stick to stop him from squandering Eritrean lives whimsically. Knowing this, he may continue to engage the nation in another bloody war, perhaps against the neighbors or other Eritreans.
Not only that, by charging those members of his staff who had different opinions about the last war with the crime of treason and of “defeatism,” which are both believed to be crimes punishable by death, he has sent a strong message to the present and future members of his staff and military commanders, to not even ever think about having a different opinion on any of his wars and combat decisions. Therefore, with his newly acquired dominion, if Issayas wants to ignite a war right now or in the future and decides to squander tens of thousands of lives, no one will dare stop him.
The Emerging Group of Chauvinistic Eritreans Mimics its Ethiopian Counterpart.
In 1975, listening to an Ethiopian live radio broadcast of a pro-war rally, the radio aired the voices of angry and noisy demonstrators in Addis Ababa who vowed to come to Eritrea and finish off the Fronts. Judging by their tone, the demonstrators seemed determined to take the next bus to Eritrea and butcher all Eritreans. Listening to them was so scary.
But also, the following day, the same pro-war rally was broadcast on Ethiopian radio, and it felt that the same people were again vowing as if to take the next bus to Eritrea. And I said to myself, maybe they missed yesterday’s bus. Even with this, I kept following the broadcasting daily, but to my surprise, no one of the sloganeers came to Eritrea. Instead, I had seen recruits who came to Eritrea from remote Ethiopian places. I could guess by their looks that those could not be among the ones who were screaming in Addis Ababa on the Ethiopian radio the other day.
But later on, I learned that those rallying in Addis Ababa were called chauvinistic and rabble-rouser Ethiopians. But also realized that when the demonstrators swore to destroy Eritrean fronts, they did not mean themselves or their children, per se, to do the killing and the dying, but other poor Ethiopians.
I was also told that the main job of the chauvinistic Ethiopians was to first give morale support to the dying soldiers from a 1,000-km distance, then to live off their blood and war glories. Well, that’s about the Ethiopian chauvinistic group.
After living under oppression for centuries, no one in his right mind expected to live to see the day when Eritrea produced its own chauvinistic and rabble-rouser groups, who are no different from the ones in Ethiopia. But, indeed, Eritrea has produced its own chauvinistic groups, which are as noisy, bloodthirsty, and selfish as their Ethiopian counterparts.
From 1998 to this date, members of this chauvinistic group have been mimicking their Ethiopian counterparts, their counterparts in Ethiopia (their inspiration). These groups, during the two years of the Badme War, did not have the guts to even visit their country due to their fear of the slim chance that had existed that they might get stranded in the cities for a couple more days, much less for them and their children to go to the front-lines and experience the killing and the dying.
And just like their inspirations or role models, the Ethiopian chauvinists, the Eritrean chauvinists’ main job is to give morale support from a 10,000-mile distance to the poor dying Eritreans and to live off the glory of war and the blood of the poor Eritrean soldiers, whom they like to call: “Warsai & Yikaalo.”
I remember during the Revolution, many Eritreans, including this writer, hated the Ethiopian chauvinistic groups for their indifference to the lives of Eritreans and the perishing Ethiopian soldiers. Now, where did the chauvinistic group of Eritreans come from? Could it be that during those years, some Eritreans also envied the chauvinistic Ethiopians and dreamed of someday becoming like them? Regardless, it is official now Eritrea has produced chauvinistic and rabble-rouser groups, and they are as noisy, as ruthless, and as selfish as its Ethiopian counterpart.
This emerging group of chauvinistic Eritreans might not admit that they are indeed a chauvinistic group, but neither has the chauvinistic group of Ethiopians ever admitted they, too, are. But their denial will not change the facts on the ground. Families and children will have to live with grief, knowing they will never see their loved ones again, their sons, daughters, fathers, and mothers. And those who lost their legs, hands, eyesight, and hearing senses will live with grief for the rest of their lives as pitiful members of society.
None of the chauvinistic groups living off the war glory will share the postwar trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder the disabled and all the war veterans have to experience for the rest of their lives.
The most patriotic duty of the ones who will live off the names of the “Warsai or Yika’alo” will be that very few of them might stop by, for a few minutes, at the handicapped center in Mi Habar when traveling to vacation in Massawa.
The chauvinistic Eritreans and Ethiopians only want their “countries” to win the war at any cost, as long as the price does not involve their children, so they can score big when engaging in a chauvinistic duel against each other. Both of them want to live off wars and war glory.
Next, parts 7 and 8 will be all about the sacred Eritrean soil.
The below-printed information was not included in the articles published on Asmarino.com in 2002.
April 26, 2023
When Eritreans talk about civil wars that took place during the Armed Struggle, they only remember the first war declared by the ELF on the EPLF (Eritrean People’s Liberation Forces), which ended at the end of 1974, when Mr. Herui Tedla Bairu, who was then ELF’s vice chairman, signed a peace treaty with the EPLF, and the 1981 civil war, which Issayas declared to drive out the ELF from all over Eritrea.
There were two other civil wars: In January 1978, Issayas declared an all-out war on the ELF and drove it out from parts of eastern and all parts of western Akelguzai. The second war was when, in September 1980, Issayas’s army, in conjunction with the TPLF, attacked the ELF and briefly controlled Badme and its environs. In retrospect, it is easy to see now that in 1980, Issayas could have been testing the waters for the final war he had been preparing to drive out the ELF from all parts of Eritrea.
During the January 1978 war, the ELF’s army had kept the Dergue’s soldiers imprisoned in their garrisons in Adi Kaih, Senafe, and Mirara, preventing them from advancing anywhere, including the towns like Digsa, Segheneyti, and Dekemhare, all under his (EPLF’s) control, and from entering Eritrea from the south, from Adigrat.
During the 1978 war, many Tegadelti from the ELF and EPLF died. Nonetheless, during the January 1978 war, the ELF chose not to fight back but focused on Dergue’s army, letting Issayas control all of Akeleguzai.
Let’s also examine the condition that existed during the January 1978 all-out war by Isaias. During that time, the Dergue controlled Asmara with large parts of its surroundings, plus the towns of Barentu, Assab, Massawa, and large sections of the Asmara-Massawa road. At that time, one would think Issaias would focus on collaborating with the ELF to liberate the towns still under Dergue. But the fact was, Issayas did not want the Fronts to defeat the Dergue militarily while the ELF was around. So, his main priority was eliminating the ELF and its army by sacrificing as many soldiers from his Front as possible. In 1978, he wanted to postpone the independence of Eritrea until such a time when he had exclusive control all over Eritrea.
Anyway, his calculation was wrong because five months later, in May 1978, after defeating the Said Barre of Somalia’s army with the supply of large quantities and modern armaments from the USSR and the help of tens of thousands of Fidel Castro’s soldiers, the Dergue redirected its focus on Eritrea and defeated both fronts very quickly and took control including of the towns like Degssa, Seganaiti, and Dekemhare.
The Degue launched its army and entered Eritrea from Himora, Sheraro, Adwa, and Adi Girat, and only the ELF fought the Dergue on those fronts. Issayas refused to help.
But then again, the Dergue advanced from Asmara and the town of Agordat toward Keren, a town still under EPLF’s control. This time, Issayas ordered his army to fight until the last bullet. He even bragged loudly, saying, “It is easier to extract water by pounding on a rock than for the Dergue’s soldiers to enter the town of Keren.”
After many months of day and night battles, and after both the Dergue and EPLF paid the heavy human toll, the Dergue entered the town of Keren and continued advancing north to Afabet and beyond, areas under the EPLF; after that, the war between the two continued in that part of Eritrea until 1988.
When Issayas and his commanders sent Tegadelti to battlefields, they were always negligent about their lives, never exercised prudence, or cared how many lives of Tegadelti they sacrificed. For them, it was always the End Justified the Means; in that respect, the lives of thousands of Tegadelti were the Means.
That is why, of the 65,000 lives of Tegadelti Eritrea lost during the Armed Struggle, over 60,000 were from the EPLF alone, and fewer than 5,000 were from the ELF.