1991: Parricide in Eritrea

By IndepthAfrica
In Article
Sep 16th, 2013

History books reveal the “valor” of Eritrean fighters, who defeated the mighty army of Ethiopia, but leave out that the defeated include the fathers of the kebesa warriors. The kebesa fathers were slain in both the literal sense, when their beliefs, and traditions were discarded, and not infrequently, in the real sense.

In the Persian epic “Shahnamah”, and particularly in the story of “Rostam and Sohrab”, the tragic tale of a fight between the father, Rostam, and the son, Sohrab has been beautifully recounted for all humanity. Sohrab, rebellious and restless like all youth leaves his father’s domicile and wanders to distant lands to later turn into a fierce warrior as his father.

Unbeknownst to him, however, fate brought him to his father’s realm, and was chosen to duel his renowned father, who slays him with his sword. Discovering that the victim was his own son, Rostam deeply grieves about the circumstances of their meeting. Premeditated murder it was not; yet legend evokes the custom of infanticide.

In kebesa Eritrea, the duel was between two generations. The mentors of the violent enterprise left for the mountains accusing their parents of being backward, and sell-outs. Decades of violence later, they arrived as conquerors with the surviving fathers at their feet. Defeated, scared and awed at the same time; their beliefs and traditions trounced; the fathers kneeled down to wash their prodigal children’s feet. In this instance, the slaying was unmistakably vindictive.

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