August 12, 2016
The author’s preface
“The Roads to Asmara – 1984 – 1991 – is the continuation of the two books: The Journey from Nakfa to Nakfa 1976 – 1979 and The Tenacity and Resilience of Eritrea 1979 – 1984.
The first book is about liberating Eritrea close to 90% and the Strategic Withdrawal to the most remote and very strategic mountains of Eritrea due to the Soviet Union’s intervention in the politics of the Horn of Africa. The second book is about the struggle for survival of the Eritrean Liberation Fronts in these remote and strategic mountains; but above all how the Fronts reversed or tripped the balance of power in their favor. The third, The Roads to Asmara, is about moving forward from the most remote and strategic mountains, liberating rural and urban areas, to the heart of Eritrea: Asmara.
As in the previous two books, this book also attempts to reflect the political, economic, social, cultural situations and lifestyle of combatants of this particular period. By and large, it tries to illuminate, even though with limited capacity, how the EPLF liberated the entire Eritrea and entered Asmara. Also with limited capacity, it tries to show the cooperation between the EPLF – Eritrean People’s Liberation Front – and EPRDF – Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front – to uproot the Ethiopian regime.
I wrote this book by bringing together mu notes and memories. Thus, many statements, especially matters of detail, except those I witnessed myself, may only be just beliefs and assumptions of the rank and file or that of the middle cadre at the time that the events described took place, and/or as recorded in my diaries. Some may not correspond to what exactly happened. There is also the inevitable holding of military and political secrets related to weapons, ammunition, causalities, etc. Moreover, to try to check every detail with EPLF documents and/or with those who witnessed this or that event would be impracticable, cumbersome, and overtly ambitious.
Besides, I expect this book to be a narration of events as the ordinary EPLF combatants perceived, felt and understood them rather than official history that is checked and counter checked for legal and historical considerations. However, I would be more than happy to receive comments from readers.”
Tekeste Fekadu or African Aesculapius!
The Roads to Asmara (1984-1991) is the third and concluding volume of Tekeste Fekadu’s saga of Eritrea’s war for independence from the standpoint of a surgeon in the Eritrean armed forces. His account is an epic of war and medicine – a battle to save lives amid a battle to the death. He resembles a kind of modern, African Aesculapius, the mythological ancient Greek god of medicine who, wielding a rod wreathed with a snake, would bring the dead back to life and whom a jealous Zeus struck down with a thunderbolt. Yet as an everyday field surgeon on the frontline for fifteen years of battle, Fekadu’s art is to transform the minimal medical provisions and to inspire his humble staff to save lives among the near endless causalities the Eritrea’s armed struggle required to be victorious – and he lives to tell the tale. Memory, the traditional mother of the muses, serves him well, ranging from the extraordinary level of detail to the near constant suspense that Fekadu’s story involves.
The Roads to Asmara is a particularly powerful retelling of the tenuous, at time manic struggle finally to liberate places like Barentu, Massawa and Asmara itself. But medicine, too, is Fekadu’s muse…his duty and responsibility as a surgeon and an Eritrean to be on the field of battle as long as his country men and women are also in the field lead him to save the bare survivors so that they, too, can live to tell the tale. It is a story, in words that echoed over Eritrea in the moment of its liberation in 1991, that there is nothing that Eritrea cannot do. At the same time, to cite another phrase with which Tekeste Fekadu brings down the curtain on his three volume effort, such a story had to be true, if only for the sake of all who died in Eritrea’s armed struggle – “Their blood did not vanish for nothing”. No one has witnessed more of this precious blood than Dr.Tekeste Fekadu.
Distinguished Professor of English, Comparative Litterature and African Studies
Penn State University
The Roads to Asmara (1984-1991)
Dr. Tekeste Fekadu
Printed in Asmara by: Sabur printing Services, 2015