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A captive who ended up marrying a woman from the captor’s force. Amusing Eritrean-Ethiopian story 

Mamo with his wife who used to be EPLF rebel fighter and his four children. (Photo : screenshot from EBS video)


Certainly an amusing story of how an Ethiopian man and Eritrean woman ended up being a husband and wife rather  in an unlikely combat zone. 

It is likely that we have heard stories of brutalities in the war in Eritrea before 1991.  Perhaps that has shaped our imagination about the state of existence of prisoners of war or captives. 

This story, although it has the possibility of being an exception, demolishes that imagination.  

Ato Mamo was a member of the Ethiopian Defense Force during the struggle to maintain the unity of Ethiopia, on the part the then Ethiopian government, and a struggle for the Independence of Eritrea on the part of what was then Eritrean People’s Liberation Front  (EPLF) under the leadership of the current Eritrean President, Isaias Afeworki. 

He happened to be captured at Afabet, which is said to be one of the most horrifying battles in the course of the thirty year’s war, after three days of intensive war that was fought in March 1988. 

Mamo, who appeared on an EBS show on Saturday, painted the scene where he was captured after the Ethiopian Army lost the battle, which he explained in terms of spatial advantage of EPLF army, logistical issues on the part of the Ethiopian army and determination of the EPLF forces. 

“When we were captured, our captors said ‘enkuan Egziabhier aterefachihu’ [ captors express that they are glad God helped them to be captured safely].” It is something one would not expect from embittered rebel forces. Then he went through a month-long rigorous indoctrination, as he narrated it.  

The way they were handled was good, he said. Not just that. After some time, he was married to one of the rebel fighters from whom he has four children.  It is an extraordinary story. 

The wedding itself is special in the sense that 35 couples were married on the same day in a ceremony organised by the then rebel group. Certainly a moving story and something that sheds light that the people of Ethiopia and Eritrea have a deep civilizational bond.  

The bridal picnic was at the place where he was captured. He shared the mixed feelings he had and you will find it in the video. 

Mamo has published an autobiography in a novel form.  He titled it “Antu Be Enat”  The meaning of his book title is amusing and has a story. Yet it is to be explained only in the second part of the book. 

Mamo is from Wollega region of Ethiopia. In the past three years a radical militant group operating in the region has been slaughtering civilians – including women and children – in what appears to be a strategy to attain a political movie. One can imagine the feeling Mamo could have about it not just like an Ethiopian who paid a sacrifice for Ethiopia but also as an ethnic Oromo from the Wollega area.

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  1. Subject: “A captive who ended up marrying a woman from the captor’s force. Amusing Eritrean-Ethiopian story ” by , April 10, 2022

    Humble Commentary
    DELIGHTFULLY AMAZING and HEART-BREAKING story for countless reasons.
    Ethiopian Husband, Eritrean Wife with Four beautiful siblings of two girls and two boys. It is a blessing.
    I have no doubt, there are such countless moving stories —- but, very sadly, atrocities too.
    Ahhhhh….. The Mystery of Human Nature. THIRTY YEARS of WAR and another THIRTY-YEAR Period of dictatorship by indigenous, self-appointed individuals, for self-aggrandizement and, consequently, destroying peaceful life of humanity ! Strange !!! Madness !!! THE MYSTERY of LIFE
    I better stop!!! I am dangerously digressing from the beautiful specific sane story of the above blessed couple with their beautiful children.

    Thanks goes to for bringing such touching human story.

  2. …then Rezene happened!! Rezene or Fokese…dont take away the glory of this beautiful story. Take a moment to cherish and Celebrate it. Shine your light on this rare human story rather than rehashing the well documebted and known negatives, which we all know too well. please., Would ya?

  3. The line on Paragraph 3…..No, it is not an exception. There are other similar cases and much more. Pow, who become brothers in law, heads of government institutions (because they choose to remain with EPLF when they were given a choice of freedom), and freed POW who became POW for the second time. BTW, according to the EPLF values, abusing (let alone killing) a POW had a severe consequences….

  4. Afabet was the deciding battle from which the Ethiopian army never recovered. Many military analysts, Ethiopians and foreigners alike, seem to agree on Afabet being the beginning of the end of the 30 year biggest war that was fought in Africa.

    Both Ethiopians and Eritreans were absolutely sure they were fighting the good fight, the former for the unity of the country and the latter for independence. At the beginning though, Eritreans didn’t support independence much. Autonomy was the more popular choice than independence but taking away the whole UN ratified federation status was the least popular and that is exactly the politicians of Ethiopia did. Eritreans were already used to having trade unions and political parties before they were federated with Ethiopia and the rest of Ethiopia was going to want those things sooner or later and that means the end of the thousands of years of absolute monarchy. So on September 1st, 1961 the first shots were fired on some police station even though the exiled Eritreans had had some loose organization established in Cairo since 1958 with some notables like Usman Saleh Sabe and Wolde-W/Mariam.

    When the British Army kicked out the fascist Italians from Eritrea in 1941, they had planned to make part of Eritrea British protectorate with the Sudan. For some years the struggle between different factions continued and it was some times brutal. By then there were already thousands of Ethiopian Eritreans living in Ethiopia supporting the Ethiopian cause. General Nega H/Selassie was involved in the fight getting support from Eritreans that were very patriotic Ethiopians than the folks in Addis. Ethiopian lawyers like Aklilu Habtewold won the case for Ethiopia at the UN and Eritrea was finally federated with Ethiopia.

    For some young Eritreans who thought of Ethiopia like a big rich country, Addis Ababa was very disappointing when they finally get to see her in early 1950s. For those city dwellers in Asmara, seeing Ethiopian soldiers for first time but in shorts was also disappointing. But those things were not real problems. The technical-know-how of the Eritreans was eagerly received in Addis and other Ethiopian towns making thousands of Eritreans middle class citizens. Certain areas of business and sports still have Italian words thanks to the Eritreans. Asmara team won Ethiopian championship three times and the majority of footballers that won Ethiopia her first and still only African cup were Eritreans or of Eritrean origin. Blending in the big Ethiopian society was so easy nobody even gave it a second thought. Mothers went to Ethiopian churches to pray in ancient Ge’ez language and children went to any schools their parents picked. Ethiopia was spared importing tech people from south Asia b/c that was covered by mostly Eritreans that were trained by Italians for over two generations. Eritrean generals in Ethiopian army was very common since they were among the first to join cadet schools since the 1930s. General Aman was one of the most popular generals and he joined Ethiopian Army in Sudan and fought his way to Addis in 1941. Aman would be so popular in Korea and most importantly in the Ogaden war and he would be nick named DINGAY TIRASU. He also went to Haile Selassie University in the evenings and earned his degree and that made him the best choice to be Ethiopia’s leader after the fall of the monarchy in 1974.

    The atrocities in Eritrea mostly done by the irregular army made Eritreans change their minds and support the liberation fronts. Those young Eritreans who were going to colleges in Ethiopian towns joined the liberation fronts in droves. The atrocities worsened during the DERG era and even more young people either joined the ELF and EPLF or fled the country and supported them from abroad financially. Eritrean doctors and nurses came back from diaspora and did a miracle which made the rural population support those liberation fronts in addition to going to the war fronts.

    Things were not smooth among the liberation fronts and at times there were bloody wars and purges which saw execution of 300 young fighters at once, mostly college educated. ELF couldn’t withstand the attack of the Ethiopian Army which just came back from destroying Somalia’s army at Karamara. EPLF made ‘tactical withdrawals’ and it was a miracle that it could hold on to Nacfa. But at the end EPLF survived to fight another day while ELF was totally humiliated and lost all the towns and areas it was in control of to the steam roller of the huge Ethiopian Army.

    The world was watching Africans fight in modern weapons and falcons and so bitterly and for so long in Eritrea with great amazement. This was not a typical African war. Civilians from both sides were living in both sides of the Mereb River in permanent settings mixed in the general population working all kinds of jobs. The second division of the four divisions of Ethiopian Army was almost entirely of Eritrean soldiers and officers at the beginning. The majority of Ethiopian Airforce that were stationed in Asmara had Eritrean wives. Civilians were intermarrying all over Ethiopia and Eritrea and there was no taboo about it. But most of all there was no real hatred between the two people. Eritreans kept on dancing to Alemayehu Eshete and Mahmoud Ahmed songs while Ethiopians still adored the likes of Bereket Mengistab and Tsehayitu Baraki and in Addis Ababa Tekle Tesfezghi was one of the most popular stars. The football teams from Eritrea were cheered on at Addis stadium more than any other out towners. Everybody had friends who had radically different views on the long war in Eritrea but they learned to live with it. They agreed to disagree and life went on.

    And then Afabet happened. Many generals blame Afabet on colonel Mengistu’s decision to kill general Tariku Layne. Some even go into details to convince their readers how demoralized the huge Army was after Tariku’s execution. Some senior generals were not convinced of Mengistu’s version. But the fact remains. Ethiopian Army started to fall apart after that battle. The international medias started to report even though westerners never supported the Eritrean rebels. African countries were worried about their own colonial borders. Ethiopia is a big name among black Africa and the seat of AU. It can mean a total chaos thought Africa. Half of African countries have adopted the Ethiopian colors upon independence from European colonialists in 1960s. Though he was killed by Mengistu, Haile Selassie is a very respected monarch among black people all around the world and credited for many things. Ethiopia is the biblical name of black Africa and if there is any country who could claim that name it was her and she did.

    And in 1991 most Eritreans were elated. They have defeated the biggest army in Africa which is known for doing stuff no other could do for many many decades. That would make Eritrea a very unique country on earth. While Eritrea was fighting the long bitter war, with no support from the west, it never doubted there was a country called Ethiopia. Eritrea wanted to defeat an intact Ethiopia if possible not just because it will make her victory phenomenal but also because a united Ethiopia is better as a neighbor with whom she shares much more than any other bordering countries. Eritrea knows the only people who are permanently attached to it are the Ethiopians. Economics also makes sense. But most of all, Eritrea wants Ethiopia to know it once defeated a huge army of Ethiopia but doesn’t want to humiliate Ethiopia at all.

    The west on the other hand was so racist and wanted Ethiopia destroyed. Or at least make her meaningless with tribal people fighting each other forever and weak. For Ethiopia is a self made black country whose borders and being is defined by herself, and they don’t want to see that. The west supported TPLF for those reasons. TPLF was the best candidate to make nostalgic colonizers happy.

    In November 2020 Eritreans saved the day for Ethiopia.


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