Factual story about “Intelligence and efforts of kidnapping”  by Lt. Colonel Tefera Kassa
Reviewed by:  TEWODROS TEFERA
No. of pages:  340
Price: 150 Birr
Written language:  Amharic
Date of publication: July 2016
Mark Kramer, an editor of newspaper “The Journal of Cold War” that used to be published by MIT press journal on issues regarding the Cold War. Kramer, on the introductory page of his feature story entitled “Spies” had tried to clarify the demanding nature of studying about stories concerning intelligence and secret fighting saying “Espionage and covert operations are notoriously difficult to study”
Studying and writing these types of stories require first-hand knowledge of the scene or being a direct participant in the events. This in return requires commitment that may cost the life of an individual. Besides, as these types of stories are very confidential, it is believed that one may not succeed in obtaining complete information even if s/he is a participant in the mission. That is why stories concerning spying and confidential fighting are very impressive and credible when narrated by participants on the scene than a hearsay or “Oral basis!”
There is no clear evidence about when the task of espionage has been started. But it is believed that it was dates back to the time before the birth of Jesus Christ. During the two World Wars especially, at the time of the Second World War (WW II), the task of spying had its own significance. The outbreak of The Cold War, following the end of WW II, brought to the scene powerful countries confronting each other unifying and classifying themselves into two blocs Western and Eastern. This scramble for fans shifted to an ideological warfare in an effort to gain higher power balance, dictating the rest of the world into their needs.
Undetected intelligence tasks, secret agents working for two opposite blocs and killings committed everywhere in an effort to gain higher power balance were major distinctive features of the Cold War. This duty, which requires very high confidentiality and double personality, was a method that involved wisdom, enabling to penetrate the governmental structures of nation states, classified as belligerent.
Powerful countries at the time especially, US America and the Soviet Union were destabilizing the universe with their huge involvement in this duty that was creating two opposite blocs. Studies also show that these countries had been allocating a huge amount of money to support their duty of intelligence with modern technology and sophisticated methods, as well as to recruit skilled spies and secret agents.
At those times, countries that grouped themselves in one bloc had been trying to dismantle the intelligence structure of their opponents by creating coalitions. Historical documents witnessed the blocs' efforts to secure power balance against their rivals. Meddling in the internal affairs of sovereign states through sniffing the secrets of rivals via the deployment of their spies, detecting opponent's military strength, investigating the preparation and political stance of contenders, and killing the politicians and agents of states belligerent to them, were among their day to day activities.
Those countries that categorized themselves under the capitalist and the socialist blocs were trying to establish a network to step up their already won acceptability in African countries especially, since the 1940s. These countries had also established huge intelligence networks in African countries in their folds to induce their political ideology and operational structures in these countries.
The era was also characterized by swift efforts of those powerful countries to impose their political ideology on others especially on the developing ones. The fight and rivalry between the two blocs focused on regions having a strategic and political significance like the Eastern Africa. Especially, the competition staged to concur the horn of Africa region as a buffer zone was amazing. History witnessed a very sad and conflicting story of the time.
In the middle of this conflict, a historical unfolding took effect in Ethiopia. The country surprisingly embraced and entertained the political ideology of the two blocs within a short period of time. After the outbreak of the 1974 revolution Ethiopia, which was initially follower of the Western ideology shifted to a U – turn, totally classified itself under the Eastern ideology. That is why the 1977 war between Ethiopia and Somalia is considered as a war reflecting the notion of the Cold War, as some say “The cold war backdrop of the conflict”.
The time since the beginning of the 1960s to the end of the revolution was a period in which Ethiopia got entangled in various issues and tasks, demanding key solutions to its internal problems. The intensified conflicts among the landlords and the resultant effect had almost crippled the country from defending itself against foreign enemies.
Fierce protests of higher education institution students demanding for change were simmering unabated. Chief among the distinctive features that permeated the country were the slogan that became a catch phrase among students "Land to the Tiller!", the unforgettable famine that out broke in Northern and North - Eastern part of the country costing the lives of many citizens, the nationwide clandestine movement of the military throughout the country demanding salary adjustment, the presence of nobilities claiming their legitimacy of the throne surrounding the king and speculating what the future has in store. Negligence of the administrators and landlords focusing only on their personal gains and businesses had weakened the legal and administrative systems of the country. Besides, as a result of the dissatisfaction of citizens it contributed to the weakening of the government's structure.
These conditions created discomfort upon the king, making the country to stop short of options. Even if the king was preoccupied with these challenges, he was not daunted. He was grappling with the problem of identifying a trustworthy person who was fit enough to take the throne and move the country to the next level. He had vested hope on his God for the fate of his country. Moreover, parallel to his supplication to the Almighty, the king spared no effort for a turnabout, to purify the polluted, to fetch the spilled, to address the unsolved together with his trusted and committed appointees. As the adage runs “Trouble never comes alone!” amid the chaos, the unfolding of another tragedy put the king under stress.
“Zef Yalew” is a story narrating the action of kidnapping and the intelligence world behind the scene that is unknown to the public. The story depicts about the knotty cases the intelligence of powerful nations of the world encountered, the security work of the poor eastern African nations and the secret of actions taken in defence of one's pride.
Lieutenant Colonel Tefera Kassa had authored the book “Zef Yalew” summarizing the true story pertaining to the intelligence missions, kidnappings and conflicts that took place during the imperial era. The book, having 340 pages, chronicles some details about the rise of military dictatorship in Ethiopia its demise (Zef Yalew). The author was an intelligent agent of the Ex-Public Security Protection Office. He was directly involved in the story of this suspense-packed "kidnapping and spying" actions captured in the book.
“Zef Yalew”, a book featuring a true story, sensitizes readers about key issues that enable us to protect our country from foreign enemy. It narrates the effort made to protect the Ex-Somalia Air Force Commander called, Colonel Galeb Haji Yunus (the main character of the story) who defected to Ethiopia, refusing to accept the bloody war between the two brotherly people of the region. Colonel Galeb was highly dissatisfied and revolted by his country’s preparation to drag Ethiopia into war. Somalia at that time was basking under the encouragement and sponsorship of the then superpower, Soviet Union. After tipping Ethiopian securities about the bloody feast in store, Colonel Galeb was registered as a refuge by the United Nations. This was done and known to the imperial government security office. For his safety and protection Colonel Galeb lived in Addis Ababa city, but at one night he disappeared from his room. With word pictures, this book, full of a cliff hunger suspense, paints to readers how officers of the then Public Security Protection Office made a life sacrifice for the dignity of their country in freeing this Somalia's champion of peace Galeb, who was kidnapped and detained for days at the Somalia Embassy in Addis Ababa. There was a mission to take him to Somalia under the direct intervention and participation of the most powerful nation's intelligence agency named, KGB.
Though, the book revolves around the story of the Ex-Somalia Air Force Commander Colonel Galeb who paid a sacrifice for us, condemning the pre-war preparations of the Ex-Military Government of Somalia. It also tries to reflect the general political, social and economic conditions that prevailed in our county. Substantiating statements with evidences, it portrays the presence of most intensified condition and throws light on intelligence in its overall content.
“Zef Yalew” also affords a glimpse at the telephone conversation between the then Ethiopian Emperor and the Ex-Somalia President Siad Bare. The president was trying to convince the Emperor telling him “Do not trust the Air Force Commander who fled to your country, as he betrayed his country he is not trustworthy!” He tried to prevail on the Emperor saying, “I honorably request you to extradite him. If you fail to do so deciding otherwise, I would like to assure you that ravages will attend your action!” The book narrates about the distress the Emperor encountered, reminiscing about the inevitable and imminent internal and external threats that enveloped him. According to the book, the Emperor was trying to comfort himself saying “It was God who saved us before, and who will save us ever!”
“Zef Yalew” also tries to uncover about the biography of the Ex-Somalia Air Force Commander Colonel Galeb discussing in depth his childhood experiences. His experience during his servitude stay at the residence of Royal Air force commander of the British Invaders, the conditions that drove him to join the Air Force, his unsuccessful love story that failed due to his political stance, his feeling towards the false intent of foreigners (the Soviets) who were exploiting the resources of his country under the guise of friendship, the deep love he had for his country, and his knowledge and positive attitude towards Ethiopia.
On the other side, “Zef Yalew” also relates to readers about the public security higher officials of Ethiopia that used to harbour the feeling, “We are being victimized after the 1953 coup d’état.” They were complaining the overtaking of their duties by those up starts who usurp or playact loyal. The higher officials were using every opportunity to give vent to their griefs. (Page 168) Their complaint runs as follows: “We were downplayed as if nothing is expected from us. It has been ten years since we lost trust”. However, the author tries to intercede for them relating their deep anxiety for the Security department, supporting the case with evidences.
The author also tries to convince readers about the officials' attitude towards their country referring their words “We should not focus on the duties of the Intelligence Department especially on those that we believe undermine ‘the dignity of the Emperor and his throne’ only rather we should perform useful tasks for our country and population” (page 166). The book also depicts the head of the institution as he tried to explain the sad feelings of the higher officials to the Emperor, and his success in convincing them to actively participate in the historical occurrence of the pre-war preparation of Somalia.
The Somalia Ambassador in Addis Ababa had been busy in working in collaboration with the intelligence structure of countries he believed to support his diplomatic mission. Especially he became very proud and confident as he believed he was “taking flesh from a lion”. He was very eager to eat the flesh he took — (Colonel Galeb) — together with leaders of his country. He was in haste to covertly take the colonel in some way from Ethiopia to his country. To accomplish this mission, he had arranged the entrance into Ethiopia of two noted military commandoes who took special training for the mission, given diplomatic passport. Similarly on the other side, the most patient whom skilled by the CIA and MOSAD higher security officers, together with colleagues of the Ethiopian Public Security Protection Office were committed to “taking the flesh back to their hands before eaten.” They had been ready performing their duties in a very confidential and informed way, keeping the objective “mission accomplished!” in mind.
“Zef Yalew” is a true story narrated in the form of a tale. This amazing and prideful mission accomplished by the Ethiopian Security Forces is well depicted in the story. The flow of the story keeps readers glued to the book reading with suspense. The commitment of the author, Colonel Tefera Kassa who was a participant of this historical mission to convey this secret to the public is laudable for the current and coming generation has a lot to learn from it. Family members who saw to the publication also need to be appreciated. This book conjures up the historical memory of Colonel Galeb in one's mind. With the pert of his pen and discerning observation the author convinces readers, “Galeb is the most wise Ambassador of Peace” the Ex-Somalia Air Force commander. The messages encapsulated in the book will have great significance for both brotherly people of Ethiopia and Somalia, and of states. Finally, I strongly recommend concerned bodies to draw lessons from the book, which I believe could serve to contemporary horn of African situations. “Zef Yalew” meaning fall down or collapse, shows the demise of feudalism, socialism and fascism among others. Needless to say, such wisdom- packed books must see the day's light.