Alemseged Tesfai’s Trilogy of Books
27 April 2018
Alemseged Tesfai, a renowned Eritrean writer, has authored three history books in the Tigrinya language. In this review, I refer to the three publications collectively as his trilogy in the sense that the three, though separate, are interrelated. The content of the trilogy is primarily political history of Eritrea, covering 1941 to 1962, the formative decades of Eritrean political consciousness and nationalism. The first book is aptly titled, Aynfalale 1941-1950 (loose translation, “No Disunity”), 611 pages. The second is Federation Ertra ms EtioPia …, 1951-1955 (Federation of Eritrea with Ethiopia), 600 pages, and the third one, Ertra kab Federation nab gobeTan Sewran, 1956-1962 (Eritrea: from Federation to Annexation and Revolution), 743 pages. They are published by Hdri Publishers, Asmara, Eritrea in 2002, 2005 and 2016, respectively.
Alemseged Tesfai’s trilogy, the result of years’ research using multiple sources, is political history at its best. The writer’s sources of information include: colonial government documents (the British Military Administration, Imperial Ethiopian Government, and Eritrean Government and Administration), court documents, minutes and reports of the Eritrean Assembly, correspondence between embassy personnel and their respective home governments, reports, books and other publications of scholars, newspapers and periodicals of the period, interviews with main political actors, dignitaries and ordinary Eritreans of the time who were alive during the writing of the books.
Relying on information gathered from such extensive sources, the writer, Alemseged Tesfai, objectively and dispassionately weaves a narrative that is compelling. That, of course, is the Eritrean narrative, which at the risk of oversimplification, can be summarized as follows: Having been colonized by Italy for over fifty years, starting in 1890, the people of Eritrea should have been entitled to self-determination and national independence following the defeat of colonizer Italy in World War II, as was the typical outcome with colonized African and other peoples.