To the Editors:
Eritrea, the easternmost province of the Empire of Ethiopia, stretches along the western coast of the Red Sea from the Sudan in the north to Somalia in the south. In 1954, this peaceful and prosperous nation was annexed by the Empire of Ethiopia. Because the annexation has meant cultural as well as political subservience to the Ethiopian government in Addis Ababa, an insurgency movement, led by the ELF (Eritrean Liberation Front), has commenced with its goal being independence for Eritrea from Ethiopia. While the early actions of the ELF were mainly confined to sporadic raids, during the last six months its attacks have increased in intensity and effectiveness. Although the ELF does not harm Americans who are traveling in Eritrea, it does blow up buildings and bridges; and attacks small detachments of the Ethiopian Army, sometimes inflicting heavy losses.
In one particular incident on November 28, 1970, the guerrillas ambushed and killed the commanding general of the Second Division of the Ethiopian Army. While I do not condone this act in any way, the brutality of the retaliation of the Ethiopian Army far overshadows that of the original ambush. According to American servicemen stationed in Eritrea and according to Eritrean students in this country who get letters from home, the army has slaughtered all males over the age of twelve in several villages near the site of the ambush. In addition, they are committing various atrocities on a large scale—mutilation of women, bayoneting of children, and decapitation of those who protest their actions.
The American people should know about these atrocities because it is their tax dollars that buy the guns, bullets, and bayonets of the Ethiopian Army.
Mark W. Weber
March 11, 1971