Hamid Idris Awate, first leader of Eritrean freedom fighters.
The fiftieth anniversary of beginning of the armed struggle by the Eritrean people against their oppressive Ethiopian masters will be celebrated on September 1.
The armed struggle began in September 1961 when a contingent of eleven fighting men, under the leadership of Idris Hamid Awate formed the first armed forces of the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF). Awate died in May 1962, probably as a result of battle wounds.
Eritrea had been federated to Ethiopia by the United Nations. Ethiopia tried to absorb Eritrea, which hoped for its own independence. Political parties were banned, publications were censored and languages suppressed. In ten years the institutions that might have encouraged Eitrean nationalism had been destroyed.
In 1962, steps were taken by Ethiopia to make Eritrea simply a province. By the spring, over 500 soldiers had joined the uprising. They harrassed Ethiopian soldiers near Agordat. ELF guerillas fought from the rugged Eritrean hills against Ethiopia. They nearly gained independence in 1978, but Russian assistance to Ethiopia made it impossible.
Eritrea finally gained independence in 1993, now celebrated annually on May 24.