I am writing this piece to expose something that continually perturbs my conscience; I have to speak it out now because no one knows when one passes away. I also earnestly call on those brothers and sisters who were with me in the incident to speak out. It is imperative that we find in our own separate ways how and to whom these crimes should be told. It is also timely to loudly speak and tell about it to our own people.
There is no need of talking here about my identity except informing that I was born in the 1960s and joined the the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) in the 1980s; presently, I live in the western world. Those of us who know many of the brutally inhumane and untold crimes committed and still being committed against our people by the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) are not few in number. Many of us also know some of the crimes PFDJ committed against non-Eritreans. The one I am narrating here below is one of those crimes.
It is to be remembered that in the 1990s, relations between the Sudan and Eritrea were bad. In 1996, before we attacked the Sudan, the leadership deployed us [Army Corps No. 271] in region of Nakfaand Karora passing this order: "the Sudan is a threat to our security by sheltering terrorism and Jihad; be at full alert; we will attack them". Our [commanders}, who previously said that Egypt, Ethiopia and Uganda were supportive of the action later on changed the message and said: "Those countries have changed their viewpoints, but we will continue what we have planned".
On this basis, a two-front heavy attack was opened on 27/03/1997 by our Army Corps 271 led by Abdu Remech and his deputy Wedi Keshi. One flank of the attack covered the area from the Sudanese Karora up to Merafit; and the other flank attacked Sudanese army positions from Denbobet up to Jelhandi in the Red Sea; the Sudanese army encampments at Karora, Habokhayt, Ayterbay, Adaret, Agit-Keseret, Agit-Merafit and up to Jelhandi were cleared. Only to justify that the attack was made by the Sudanese opposition fronts and not by the Eritrean army, there were insignificant number of fighters from the armed wings of John Gerang, Sadiq al Mahdi and of Dr. Abdul Aziz (Halfawi). Their presence was nominal.
After 4 days and in some places 5 days, all the Sudanese army positions were put under Eritrean army control. We stayed in all of them till June 1998 except that the Eritrean unit that was in Merafit retreated to Agig after only three days.
[But after 14 months] in June 1998, we retreated [back to Eritrea] when the Sudanese army attacked us in huge numbers. The small units of Sudanese opposition fighters also retreated with us. After our retreat, we occasionally fired heavy shells to the Sudanese army in addition to a few attacks by the air force.
When we opened the initial attack [on 27 March 1997], we were ordered not only to capture camps but also to kill soldiers [massively]. Two weeks after the start of the attack, our brigade leader Wedi Tekeste called a meeting and told us: "beside the Sudanese soldiers killed in the battles, we had taken 1,273 prisoners. However, we asked the Sudanese opposition organization, especially that of John Gerang, to take care of them, but they refused saying they had no capacity to do so. Therefore, we were afraid of outside knowledge and world condemnation [of our attack on the Sudan] and therefore we had no choice but to shoot all the prisoners". At this point, some members of our brigade started to protest against such action but they were intimidated and silenced. The Sudanese opposition fighters also did not show any reaction about the killing [of 1,273 Sudanese prisoners].
Other than this, it is known that [the Eritrean Army] Corps No. 381 had also launched an attack in the Kassala region during that time. However, they did not remain long in the positions they attacked. I am also not fully aware of what mistakes were committed in that zone. Those of you who were in the Kassala region attacks may tell what happened. But what was heard was that leaders of the Eritrean Army Corps 381 killed the Sudanese army officers captured in the battles by burning them inside a cottage using benzene. The other information I was made aware by knowledgeable persons was that 105 Tigre speaking Ben-Amer soldiers of the Sudanese army who fled from the Sudanese army refusing to fight against their brethren in the Eritrean army, were executed and collectively damped in two huge burial vaults. This crime aimed to hide the Eritrean army's action in the Sudan. Then, when will [the eye witnesses] tell the tales of innocent victims killed in front of their eyes? Why are we keeping silent instead of exposing the crimes we witnessed? I want to say the time has come for all of us to speak out and reveal all what we know so that a new dawn of justice can replace the ugly secrets of the past.
The crime I mentioned in relation to Army Corps 271 is one of the agonizing crimes against humanity committed by PFDJ. It has given me so many sleepless years. When I heard that the UN Commission of Inquiry on Eritrea will give its final report about its findings on crimes committed against humanity, I decided to speak out and release it even to the general public. I know that those who were with me and know what I know are pained by the act as much as I am. It is thus time for me and my compatriots who witnessed these acts to come forward and show readiness to be first-hand witnesses. It is also hoped and recommended that the UN Commission of Inquiryinvestigates acts at the level of Wedi Tekeste [head of Army Corps 271] and upwards in the hierarchy [of PFDJ].
Your Eritrean brother, who hopes to see criminals facing justice in a better Eritrea