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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