What I witnessed about the war in Gulle, Kilte Awla’elo, Tigray

What I witnessed about the war in Gulle, Kilte Awla’elo, Tigray

When the war on Tigray broke out, I was in Mekelle. When services were all shut down I decided to go, on foot (because there was no transport), to my family in Kilte awla’elo to minimize risk. It took me about 13 hours. There was no war or the sounds of war when I arrived. After a few days, however, heavy artillery fired from the direction of Sinkata started hitting the area. When they reached Hazien they shelled Gulle, Digum, and Abiyi Adi (not to be confused with Abiyi Adi of Temben) from afar killing animals and destroying houses and fields of crops. 10 animals were killed around our home. Then, On 23 November invading troops arrived through the Hawzien-Megab-Digum-Abiyi Adi road killing innocents, eating farmers’ animals, burning farmers’ houses, looting valuables and tools. Most of the soldiers were Eritreans. There was heavy fighting between Tigrayan and invading forces at Digum, Debre me’ar, Abiyi Adi, and Menda’e which lasted for two days and was helped by warplanes and combat drones. I saw at least a warplane and a drone.

When the invading forces enter the villages, the people fled to the mountains. The people stayed for four days in the mountains and valleys hiding. Children, elders, and pregnant women were hungry and thirsty, and in cold weather especially at night. When the invading forces arrived at Menda’e, they put a gun to my father-in-law’s head and shot him in front of my brothers-in-law and their mother. There, they also killed a teenager whom I know.

The fighting and shelling were so heavy that there was a cloud in the air causing rain the next day. The rain destroyed crops that were ready to collect, as people were not able to collect them.

The invading forces eventually moved towards Wukro where they caused huge destruction and massacres. Two weeks later, however, on 3rd January 2021, at about 07 AM Ethiopian troops came back to Gulle to kill and disarm militias. The local militias saw them, informed the people to flee and hide, and around 8 AM the militias engaged the invading forces killing many and wounding others. The Ethiopian troops called for reinforcement and three trucks full of soldiers and weapons arrived at Menda’e. The next day, the troops burned 9 houses in Menda’e.

The troops continued westward, towards Abiyi Adi, and Tigereda. They rounded up about 50 youth they met in the areas and kept them for five days ordering them never to sit but to stand. They also gave them no water nor food. Eventually, there was a debate between fluent Amharic speakers and some Oromo-accented speakers as to whether to execute them or to free them. Eventually, they were freed. The Ethiopian troops left, but they would come back for the third time.

On 18 January 2021, the  Ethiopian army came to Gulle for the third time. A few days before, they shelled the area from Arato (ዓራቶ) and Adinifas (ዓዲ ንፋስ). They arrived suddenly at Debre Tsion of Abiyi Adi (not to be confused with the Abiy Adi of Tembien) at 5 PM. They came from the Tsigereda-Ghere’Alta side. The people were caught by surprise. The soldiers began shelling Darna (ዳርና) mountain. This was to terrorize the people around. Peoples from Adimekeda(ዓዲመኸዳ) began fleeing along with their livestock to a nearby place called A’erug, Sluh(አእሩግ፣ስሉሕ. The people already knew about the brutality of the army against civilians because on the first two trips they had killed two civilians while in their home in the village of  Adimekeda, and they massacred more than 70 civilians at the nearby village of Gulsha(ጕልሻ).  With this knowledge, almost all villagers of Gulle fled. 

The next day,  19 January 2021, was the religious festival of Timkat. The people of Gulle normally celebrate the festival in a nearby river where priests baptize the people with water and religious and cultural celebration is held. This year, the people did not celebrate it as they were fleeing and searching for safety.  In Gulle, Tusha (ጡሻ), the troops began entering houses and checking for valuables. They took some gold, silver, radio, solar panels, blankets, clothes, and even food items (Shiro, berbere, food oil, eggs, enjera, etc). 

I was around the administration office of Gulle (ጕለ) when troops arrived.  From the troops, around ten soldiers came nearby where I was, the rest went to Adi Metere (ዓዲመጠረ) and Egamat(ዒጋማት). Four soldiers entered our house and took our solar panel.  After about 30 minutes, they went out of our house carrying my bag.  Later I found my clothes on the floor while my eyeglasses and my deodorant were stolen.  The soldiers went to the Gulle Administration Office, they broke in and took something covered in a white sack.  After a few minutes, they set the building on fire, as can be seen in the video below. 

At the same time, I saw houses at Adi metere burning.  Four houses (Priest Aregawi, Gebretsadkan Tsegay, Gebremeskel Tesfay, Kidanu Tesfay) were burned down with all their properties, and continuous artillery sound was heard from there. Also around the same time, one civilian minibus was burned down by the soldiers around Egamat. As some soldiers were doing the looting and burning, others were slaughtering farmers’ goats, sheep, and hens as well as drinking all that was prepared for the Timkat festival. 

As they moved into the villages looting and burning, they met a priest called Keshi Kidu on their way.  They beat him severely asking him to show them where the “Junta” were and to show them militia houses. The priest appeared to have lost consciousness for some time, but later he got up and they took him with them to Abraha we Atsbeha. He spent one night with them, on the next day they released him. 

Let me take you back to my house. After I witnessed what they were doing, I came home and checked what they took. They stole two blankets,  solar panels, my father’s suit, my mother’s clothes, a radio, and food items. Everything in the house was vandalized and some things were thrown out. They also mixed our stored cereals.  For instance,  wheat and Taf (Teff) were mixed on the floor. The same kind of vandalization and mixing happened in almost every house in the village. 

After some hours of roaming, burning, and looting, all the soldiers gathered at the Gulle Administration Office. Then they burned a nearby shop, a game station, and part of the administration office.


See also Gheralta Mountains: from attractive tourism destination to a raging battlefield

Getachew Abrha

Getachew Abrha is a lecturer at one of the higher education institutions in Ethiopia.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Tigray Prevail

    UNHCR is reportedly seen to have overjoyed to see refugees from Tigray.Syrian refugees are told to return home.

    https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/syrian-government-calls-refugees-return-home-n
    https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/-syrian-refugees-may-return-home-2019-unhcr
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/dec/18/syrian-refugees-return-to-home-towns-in-safe-zone-despite-dangers
    It looks they constantly want to see chaos in poor countries for them to survive as refugee help organizations and do want man-made crisis to revolve around the third world.

    Mekete tigray, you deleted my comment and I would like to underline again the fact that TDF or TPLf ( whatever you may call them) they are negligently contributing to the massacre of our people whether they do it intentionally or not .

    Their action of releasing a pilot that could cause an innumerable damage to our people and country is undeniable.
    They realsed over 10,000 POWs earlier. We could imagine they did that to avert more damage and attack as they were not able to stay in Mekele or cities where these prisoners were kept. We understand the damage caused by the drones beyond their capacity to avert it and above all beyond their expecation.
    The end justifies their means-(or exitus ācta probat (“the outcome justifies the deeds”end justifies the means, the
    A good outcome excuses any wrongs committed to attain it- in contast prisoners are taking part in the killings once again and got recaptured and captured thrice:The wrong act of releasing these criminals is cannot be justified by the loss of innocent lives and destruction caused to Tigray ). It is not to solely to relate the this with this inadequete example but to underline the fact that releasing of these ENDF POws is causing innumerable loss!! It is just to say only the untimely release of thousands of soldiers and a pilot could cause a horrendous damage to our people than honoring the socalled International humanitraian law or a law dealing the treatement of POWs declared in Geneva which doesn’t even consider special circumstances like that of Tigary where most public and agricultural products deliberately destroyed by the POWs themselves.As you all knew, the law reads POWS need to be set free after the end of hostilities so as to prevent the POWS from reentering the military and causing further damage.
    We are just here worrying about our family and the rest of the people of Tigray. We all know that TDF or TPLF has many giant scholars . However, their actions is causing damage and cannot be refuted . YOu all know, our youngesters are badly underequipped and likely to pay a great deal of sacrifice while dealing with the enemy equipped with the most advanced militray Tech of our time(such as drones etc..) .hence, We cannot say TDF is not paying life sacrifice while capturing POWs from ENDF, ERitrean and Somalian troops. It is unacceptable to release those people who kill our family , women, children priests, nuns, monks etc and destroy our priceless heritage.
    ca. 4500 soldiers were killed during Iraq-US conflict in 2003. So, we are likely to lose precious lives in this battle. And releasing those crminials is an act of devaluing the lives of our heroes, and material destruction in an atttempt to capture a POW, city and village .
    ሰማይ አይታረስ ንጉሥ አይከሰስ አይወቀስ አታስመስሉት፥ብዙሀት ተጋሩ አለው ንዚ ዘይድግፉ፥ካብ ሕዝብና ሕይወት ናይ ቀተልቲ ይበልጸና እዮም ዝብሉ ዘለው፥እፅገብርዎ ዘለው ካብዝዛረብዎ ብዝበለፀ ይራዐይሎ፥፥ዝደለናዮ ክንዛረብ ካኣ መሰል አለና ቤተሰብና ኢዩ ዝሀልቅ ዘሎ፥ቶም ዩቱዩበራት ካኣ ብዘይ መንግሥት ትግራይ ፈቃድ ዝልጥፍዎ ቪድዮ ካኣ ንሕዝብና ይጎድኦ አሎ፥፥አብ ሚድያ ዝወፀአ ነገር እንቕፋት ይፈጥር አሎ(ናይ ገሊኦም ሐበሬታ እቲ ፖይለት ብተፈላለየ ዩቱዩበራት ስለዝተሀላለፈ)፥ይሁን እምበር ሕጂ ክልቐቕ አይነበሮን፥፥ ንሶም ከጥምዪና ብጥምየት ክቀትሉና ዘቃፀልዎ እህሊ ፥

    Most laws are controversial in nature-they made just the voters are higher in number than those who objected it. The geneva law donot encompas the expectional circumstances occuring in Tigray.POWS , here in Tigray are not enaged in tradtional war in warfront , but massacring people in towns and accompanied by foreign mercenaries and donot honor the intl law at all.

  2. Alem

    I would like to appreciate the author of this article for he’s recording events happened and shared with us. This story is a tip of the iceberg from what’s happening in Tigray. Do not underestimate the information you got whether it’s verbal of eyewitness account, it should be encouraged to be documented for many purposes.
    I understand the suffering of our people that is very sad to say at least. It’s true the world powers can reverse this genocidal war shortly if they’ve willingness but the truth of the matter is that like others have said it, it doesn’t bothers them much of the destruction and killings of the people as long as their interest there is affected. The only way out of this dilemma is only and only ourselves, and on top of that God is always on our side. We know how enemies of the Tigray people have concluded that they already done their mission by blocking out any means of communication, using different ammunition and many actors but God changed the plan that they can’t.
    So, my friends and fellow Tigreans should have to be strong enough to avert the situation no matter what it takes that’s our job to make it right. There’s no one coming to perform our job.
    God bless and Happy Easter!

  3. Tigray rejuvenated soon:Indepedent country in our eyes

    In way to share my personal view , I would say the following: DART-USAID visited Tigray and went on a tour of the war-thorn cities and villages of Tigray by a helicopter . They now know the magnituide and extent of the war and its damages on our soil and lovable people . It’s no surprise they are predicting the future damages that could be devastating the entire country if the war extends far more beyond Tigray. They already calculated that upon their visit in the guise of providing foood etc; They are not sincere like our people or they donot do something without considering the cost and benefit of their tour !!

    ፈረንጅ እንደ ቆዳው ልቡ ነጭ ነው፥አምላክ እጅን ታጥቦ ነው የሰራቸው ወዘተ የሚሉ ተረታ፥ተረቶችን ለቅርስ እናስቀምጣቸው፥፥ፀላኢ ከነብዥ እምበር(ምእንተ ሕዝብና=ደቅና)በውሥጣችን የምናኖረው የሕዝባችን ገዳዮች ብዙ ናቸው፥ከሶርያ የባሰ አደጋ ያጋጥማታል ሲሉ እነርሱ ያጠኑት ነገር ስላለ አንድም ደግሞ ያቀዱት ነገር ቢኖር ነው፥በምድራችን ላይ ጦርነቱ ለአምስት ወራቶች ያህል ምን ያህል አደጋ በሰውና በንብረት ላይ እንዳደረሰ በመጋቢት ወር መጥተው አጥንተው ሄደዋል፥፥ድሮናቹ ናሌሎችም መሣሪያዎች ምን ያህል ጉዳት እንዳደረሱ ጥናትም እንዳጠኑ መገመት አዳጋች አይደለም፥፥ለወደፊቱ ምን በምን ያህል ርቀት መጠን ሀይል ጊዜ መጠቀም ና ማለም እንዳለባቸው ተረድተው ማሻሻል እንዳለባቸውና ወደፊት ለሚሰሩ ድሮኖችና የጦር መሣሪያዎች ሥሪት አሥዋፅዖ እንዳለው ተገንዝበዋል፥ለነርሱ አፍሪካ የመድሀኒት ጦር መሣሪያ ና ሌላሌላውም የመፈተኛ አውድማ ቤተሙከራ ለመሆኑዋ በተግባር አሳይተውናል፥፥የተለያዩ መልዕክተኞችንን ሳይቀያይሩ ሕዝባችንን ከጦርነትና ከረሀብ ማዳን ይችሉ ነበር፥፥በየቀኑ ሕዝባችን እየሞተ እንዳለም አልጠፋቸውም፥፥እንኳንስ ይህንና ሌላም ያውቃሉ፥፥ምክንያቱም እጃቸው ብዙ(በውሥጥም በውጭም ሠራተኛ አሽቃባጭ ስላላቸው)ረጅምም ስለሆነ ሆኖም ስለሚቀጥል ነው፥፥ ለኛው መልሰው የሚሰጡን እርዳታም ከኛው አሥቀድመው የወሰዱት ስለመሆኑ ሁላቹሁም ታውቁታላቹህ፥፥ባንድ ወቅት አሜሪካ እየረዳችን ነው ወይ እየረዳናት የሚል ፅሑፍ ተለቆ ነበር፥፥በኢምባሲያቸው በኩል በአንድ አመት ብቻ በመቶ ሺዎች የሚቆጠር ገንዘብ ካገራችን ያወጣሉ፥፥አንድ ሰው የቪዛ ማመልከቻው ውድቅ ከተደረገ በኋላ በድጋሚ ሲያመለክት እንደአዲስ እንዲከፍል ይደረጋል፥፥እንዳሁኑ ያለ የከፋና የሚዘገንን መልክ አልያዘም እንጂ ወገናችን በተናጠል ና በ ግሩብ ሲመዘበር ሲጎዳ ሲበደል ቆይቷል በመርዝም የተገደሉ ብርቅዬ ወገናችንም አንረሳቸውም፥፥
    Stop killing and starving our family and the rest of the population in Tigray , with the inclusion of the entire nations and nationalities . Our people who are enduring incalculable atrocities are incapable of contending with your bureaucratic obstruction and not understand your sympathetic words but they do urgently require an action saving their lives and that of
    their family members!!

    Bring the perpetrators of the massive killings to ICC.

  4. Happy Easter to you all

    It is heart-wrenching to see people of various ethnic and religious background suffering large-scale atrocities and got displaced. UK and its partners need to act as fas as possible. These people have no more Need of press release and mere words of sympathy.The sympathy/pity/sorrow that I feel on behalf of others is just a feeling. It can make me feel miserable, but honestly isn’t going to benefit me or anyone else…unless it is somehow put into an action.
    አታሀሳሲቡና ዶ ገለመለ ፥ናትኩም ፖለቲካን ኮንስፒራሲ አይኮነን አዴታትናን ሕፃውንቲ ቖልዑትና ናአ እውን ብስሩ አይርድአኒን ዘሎ፥ምሥጋና አዘኔታ የቃላት ጋጋታ ከኪስ አይገባም ይብሉታ፥የነፍስ አድን ጥሪ ጥርዓን እዮም ዘስምዑ ዘለው ወገናትና ብሔሮም ብዘየግድስ፥

    Help Those who are in need of your humanitarian aid , they donot understand any of your words and sympathetic words and press release-!
    ከም ኩልኹም(ኩላኻትኩም) ካብ ተፈላለዩ ከተማታትን ብሔራትን ዝመፁ ሰባት በሀባር ኔይረ እየ ንሀረስቶት ብፍላይ(አብ ቖላ ዝነብር) ሰብ ንክትቅይሮን ክዕምኖ ቀሊል እዩ ፥ገርህታት ስለዝኾኑ፥፥ክብሎ ዝደለኽዎ ነገር፡ሊሂቃን ፖለቲከኛታት እዮም በሀሾት ዝቅይርዎም ንክቀትሉና ዝገብርዎም ዘለው፥፥ ነዚ ድማ ኹልኹም እትፈልጥዎ ሀቂ እዩ፦፦ ኩሉ ፀላዕትና እዩ ይሎም ዘምኑ እንተሊዮም አብ ልዕሊ ንፁሓት ሰባት ሕነ ንፈዲኢና ዝብሉ እንተሊዮም ነዚኣ ከተሀሳስቦም ይደሊ፥ንሕና ወገናትና ምድሃን፥አድና ምሕላው፥ቅንድ ፀላዕትና ናብ ፍርድ ክቀርቡ በሀድነት ኮይንና ምስራህ ምቅላስ እየ ዝብል፥፥
    Thank you very much on behalf of people who are urgently and desperately seeking a life-saving knight!!

    Happy Easter to you all!!

  5. Prosperity Party is well-known notorious mass-murderer and terrorist

    Terrorism, the calculated use of violence to create a general climate of fear in a population( such as the population in Tigray) and thereby to bring about a particular political objective(to destroy TPLF , and other political parties). Terrorism has been practiced by political organizations with both rightist and leftist objectives, by nationalistic and religious groups, by revolutionaries, and even by state institutions such as armies, intelligence services, and police.(Dict of Britannica)
    Terrorism proper is thus the calculated use of violence to generate fear, and thereby to achieve political goals, when direct military victory is not possible.(i;e like that of Prosperity party thugs)

    By defintion of terrorism , Every member of UN and UNSC,(with the exclusion of Eritrea ,& Somalia ,UAE,) is aware of the fact that The current Ethiopian ruling party and its ring leader , Colonerl Abiy, has been engaged in the act of terrorism since its ascent to the throne, as the 7th king , by killing unarmed civilians in Oromia, Welaita, Kimant(North Gonder, recently Amharas, Agew, and Tegaru in a large scale.

  6. Dave

    What is happening in tigrai is full of horrors, Which are Under reported and un discovered yet.

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