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Unearthing History Through Street Names


Asmara during the British occupation of the 1940s. 


Unearthing History Through Street Names


By Yakiem A.

“...With its Cathedral, the town hall, the terraces and the porticoes, its streets crowded with strollers, its civic pride, simple piety and love of pageantry make its look a real Italian town. It gives one the impression that it was built and perfected down to the last detail in Apulia and wafted over the sea to Africa where it came down like a meteorite and landed intact on this particular spot.”

This was said of our beautiful capital city Asmara by Swiss author Charles-Henri Favrod when caught by the city’s charm and heart-capturing elegance.

Meanwhile, according to indepth researches conducted by the Cultural Assets Rehabilitation Project (CARP), the history of modern Asmara dates back to 1895-1896. During these years, the Italian town planners exerted their efforts in engineering the first town plan, which focused on the market place. Assuredly, this part of the City was exclusively designated for Italian residents. And with the significant expansion and development of the master plan of Asmara, it was clear for the town planners to adorn the city with well-planned and perfectly laid out streets, avenues and squares.

Regarding this, therefore, Mr. Yishak Yosief, an Eritrean author, clearly elaborated in his book entitled “Zanta Ketema Asmara” by saying that “right from the moment when the Italian engineers got down to implementing their technical plan and the first main road trunks had been laid down so well graveled and paved, it was quite clear that Asmara would become an attractive City as it is today. Following the completion of some important and interesting roadways of the City in the early 20’s, in 1925 one of the streets was named Viale Benito Mussolini (today’s Harnet Avenue); and another one, Viale Regina Elena (later Itege Tsehaitu Street).”

In the beginning of 1930s, the Fascist Party in Italy had a zealously founded imperial dream to erect its empire in the Horn of Africa. Henceforth, the great political and military changes brought unprecedented aspects of developments for the colonial Capital. As a result, Asmara enabled to witness new buildings and other part of the City were linked by a network of asphalted streets, and street name plates, made from a quadrangle Lamiera ( a piece of Iron Sheet) were for the first time posted on the walls to identify the street names. Written in Italian language, streets, avenues and squares named according their broadness and narrowness thereby to reflect Italian identities and assets. The Italian words PIAZZA, VIA, VIALE, STRADA and CORSO accentuate these differences.

However, as anything has its own undeniable last destination, in April and May 1941, the Italians had their East African Empire. Especially after the great debacle at the battle of Keren, the Italian troops fled in disarray and the British took control of entire Asmara. But contrary to the for granted expectations, after controlling Asmara, the British do not concentrated their focus on changing the street names, except to three well renowned streets; henceforth, they changed Vialae Benito Mussolini to Corso Italian Viale Generale De Bone, and similarly, Viale Conte Galeazzo Ciano changed to Viale Roma and Milano.

In 1952, another eccentric his torical event recorded; in this year, Eritrea was federated with Ethiopia. Following to Hailesselassie’s first arrival to the soil of Eritrea through the Mereb River, situations also started to anchor other chronicles. Hence, a directive issued by the then Chief Executive of Eritrea, Tedla Bairu, on October 10 of 1952, brought a new official declaration that two avenues were given new Ethiopian names in honor of the imperialist Hailessealies. Similarly, another name Viale was awarded a new name in commemoration of the Bolivian Diplomat, Eduardo Anse Matienso, who was nominated by the United Nations to draft the Eritrean Constitution and to organize a government here. Therefore, avenue Corso Italia changed to Haileselassie First, and Viale Roma e Milano assumed to be Addis Ababa avenue, while they named avenue Eduordo AnseMatienso to replace Viale Badoglio e Azzi.

Changing names did not stop here. Similar to what has been aforementioned, on October 15, 1952, another avenue’s name was altered. Corso Del Re renamed Empress Mennen Avenue. Gradually and conspiratorially, Ethiopians were attempting to inculcate their raffish political sermons by renaming street names thereby to penetrate into every Eritrean life and culture. And transparently, this was not a matter of coincidence, but rather the reflection of their deliberate policy for Ethiopianization.

To accelerate what they were stating as “triumphing job”, in 1953, the Federal Government of Eritrea set up a commission to study and rename the streets, avenues and squares of Asmara. CARP documents testify that Dejazmatch Hags Geber (then Mayor of Asmara), Azmatch Zerom Kifle (then Director of Internal Affairs), Azmatch Afewerki Nemariam (then administrator of Asmara and Hamassien region. In 1958, two other new members were added tothe commission.

Following to this, the preliminary meeting of the commission was held on 28th February 1953, and it was a meeting in which the commission emphasized the need for the immediate substitution of the Italian denomination accounts by the new ones. In addition to this, the commission was also tasked with hearing public petitions which were presented either by the relatives of the deceased heroes, religious leaders and other influential individuals. After collecting detailed historical accounts from the petitioners, the commission studied the matter meticulously. However, the commission was not mandated with rejecting or approving the proposal the person would be given a street bearing his name or not as this was an absolute responsibility of the Chief Executive.

Therefore, after 1953, the process of name change of streets became fast. According to the Italian daily newspaper, IL Qotidiano Eritreo came out with 83 new street names and 07 squares. In addition, the military fortification which was built from 1890-1895 by the Italians atop of the Forto was christened as Dejazmatch Balch Aba Nefso Fort. Similarly, on 5th May of 1958, Zemen, the Tigrigna newspaper, published the list of 3304 streets, avenues and squares. The list encompassed the changes which were made from 1952-1958, and the streets names were written in Geez, Arabic, English and Italian. Different from the quadrangle Limeira of the Italians, the street signs which were posted on walls are made from snow-white marbles; transcribing on them was the name in three languages: Geez, Arabic and English.

The process of renaming streets continued up to 1982. The Ethiopian were busy not only rooting out the remains of Italian colonialism and its traces but also introducing their culture and history to Eritreans.

But following Eritrean independence, Asmara named its two main streets Harnet and Semaetat avenues. Different from the remaining streets, these two had changed a record number of five times. Also starting from September 2001, all old streets names of Asmara were replaced by new ones representing authentic Eritrean history and legacy.


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Unearthing History Through Street Names Reviewed by Admin on 3:58 PM Rating: 5

56 comments:

  1. What is the problem to become Ethiopianized than italianized or Arabized? Ethiopianization is quite nearer to Eritranization than any other ......nization. Haileselassie is common name among Eritreans and Ethiopians as name. The only problem here is hatred based on Shaebianization.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Milki:
    The problem is with people like you that have no manners and don’t understand the basic idea of ownership. How would you feel a neighbor invites himself to your house while you are away at work, starts eating your lunch before you arrive home, then had the audacity to ask you: what is wrong with a neighbor coming to your house and eating your lunch? Furthermore, he tells you that he is not interested in your well being, but your house and your food. Well, that is what occupiers, including Ethiopia from Haile Slassie to
    Mengistu did. And that is exactly what you just did in an Eritrean site
    (Madote) before any Eritrean had the chance to comment.
    Since we can’t fight Geography, we gladly accept Woyane’s Ethiopia as a neighbor.

    Long Live Shaebia
    and Shabianization :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Because none of them are good... Ethiopianized, arabized or italianized.

    ReplyDelete
  4. HISTORY OF THE STREET NAMES OF ASMARA Mebrahtu Abraham

    Full version e-book

    http://books.google.nl/books?id=Qi-KQchGks8C&pg=PA92&lpg=PA92&dq=Viale+Conte+Galeazzo+Ciano+changed+to+Viale+Roma+and+Milano/streets+name+asmara&source=bl&ots=M1TKSNMgEC&sig=bShNsne_g9VrsUiNep1kD8qyNJ4&hl=nl&sa=X&ei=KEGBVP3XGsLyPJfSgOgF&ved=0CCEQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Viale%20Conte%20Galeazzo%20Ciano%20changed%20to%20Viale%20Roma%20and%20Milano%2Fstreets%20name%20asmara&f=false

    ReplyDelete
  5. What is the problem to become Ethiopianized or whatever that evil mind of yours trying to cook. The ANSWER is simple B/c We're Eritreans, Deki M'dre Bahri. u people are pathetic, u always dream about Eritrea and her blue necklace. and thats the dream that will never come true. Bye Agame wedzom kahdamat.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Eating your lunch? Make the lunch bigger, (make the cake big) and enough for all. Is it not possible? Ask Europeans and Americans how they make that happen

    ReplyDelete
  7. Every human being is Deki Medri (not Deki Semay), there is no speciality here, if greed and kufu'enet are not here, our land and sea is just more than we need it

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hahahaha....ala n'sukm, don't play with fire or u will get burn.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Berhane: million thanks to you, dehai, and our beloved Madote.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Milki
    It's scary, I started to like you. May be you are not as bad As I thought ;)

    How about Lunch on Holidays only?
    I can handle that.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Selam Haile,
    Where can we buy (or order online) the book? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  12. B. Adal,
    I am really appreciating the time you are taking to reply and explain to Baby Milki as if he is an adult. I'm beginning to like him to!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I think you forgot the "Bahri" part. Didn't you? He said, Deki M'dre Bahri.

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  14. selam Abrham,

    Thank you for ordering the book. I sell it on my own in order to make available for those who are interested readers only. You can order it via pay pal or directly from me. The book has over forty Tigrigna articles, songs, ballads, poems and rare pictures from colonial period down to the present era. I can send you the book cover via e-mail; otherwise I couldn't post it here without the permission of Madote staff.

    Regards,

    Haile Bokure

    ReplyDelete
  15. Can a baby think like that, Mr. Dad? I like you

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thank you.
    Are we (people like you and me) inferiors to Whitey? We can have excess of lunch on all days to all of our people, if we agree to live harmoniously and work hard based on knowledge using our God given resources. Am I too theoretical? We live once in this world, why we waste our chance of prosperity at least for our children? Aside politics you have to be convinced that we lost too much chances due to our unnecessary fighting against each other. And this become part of our culture. We have to break the ice cold. Be different.
    NB: I am pragmatic person, not good wisher idealist

    ReplyDelete
  17. If you don't want a sarcastic answer, then don't ask a stupid question!

    ReplyDelete
  18. I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize. hahahaha.....

    ReplyDelete
  19. So how he judged me to be kiddish?

    ReplyDelete
  20. Of course he did, thats the twisted part just like their hearts.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I like you=Alec you, but I don't think I deserve that much, thanks 4 ur respect, AND HERE STARTS PEACEFULNESS AMONG ETH & ERI

    ReplyDelete
  22. Do you mean Bahri(Water) is only for some people or countries? Thank you God, for not making me so egoist, selfish and greedy like "Abraham"

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  23. Don't say bad words, By the way I am quite far from being Tigrian or Tigray region, I am deep inside Ethiopia

    ReplyDelete
  24. Thanks. but nebsy, peace started when u respect someone's independence.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Yea independence in politics and MUTUAL DEPENDENCE ON REAL LIFE

    ReplyDelete
  26. That was before u said nice thing. :)
    but honestly man, i can't promise u that i want say it too another person. :)

    ReplyDelete
  27. Alec You, I feel that we (the current generation of Eri & Eth) have some wrong out look based on patriotism and patriarchal sentiments, This wrong outlook should be abolished for the common benefits of us. These are
    1. Disrespect to one an other irrationally
    2. Condescending one over the other
    3. Politically motivated (unsubstantiated) hatred
    4. Lack of courage to say the wrong is wrong and right is right with out bias
    5. Our leaders (both sides) are simply adding fuel on burning fire

    So it requires to be saint to become different in such ambiance.
    Any ways we have to be different for the sake of our children. ( We are already lost in the bush)

    ReplyDelete
  28. Honestly man, u keep saying peace and yet u can't even accept the true name of Eritrea...M'dre bahri. u keep twisting the word *M'dre Bahri* by saying...Bahri(Water)..Deki Medri (not Deki Semay). wtf is that. and thats why no one takes u seriously.

    It's not about been egoistic, selfishness or greedy, its about respecting a sovereign state. let me tell one thing Eritrea is not Ethiopia it never was and it will never will be and thats a promise. u have 1st to respect someone's border lines to talk about peace.
    When u said, Thank you God, for not making me so egoist, selfish and greedy... i said to ma self WTF is this guy talking about. cuz those words that u mentioned like egoist, selfish and greedy are for someone who steal whats not theirs grave robbers. which is not us thanks to God. get ur facts right. its our land and sea we can do whatever we want.

    ReplyDelete
  29. U know patriots exist to keep remind to those people that doesn't respect whats a sovereign country means. how can u respect someone when his siting in ur land. we are not the one that refused to be obeyed by the rule of law. not our fault.

    ReplyDelete
  30. History 101: Mdre-BaHri meant Hamassien and BaHri-Negassi the governor of Hamassien. He was appointed by the Emperor of ethiopia usually based on merits and qualities. He had nothing to do with the rest areas of Eritrea. E.g: Akeleguzay qas governed by the Shum-Agames; Seraye by appointees from Tigray usually from Enderta/Temben.

    ReplyDelete
  31. I must and do respect Eri & its people as a human being, But what I never do is your ( Shaebia's) construction of iron wall (thcker and taller than Berlin wall) between Eri and Eth people as if political borders are natural and God made. It is good being Eritrean but it is not more than being human. I also admit there are wrong Ethiopians who have wrong perceptions of you based on politics and fanatical patriotism.
    Be DIFFERENT

    ReplyDelete
  32. As far as I know Woyane asks you to discuss before demarcation, not to abandon your sovereignty

    ReplyDelete
  33. Medri-Bahri, was a Democratic Kingdom from 13th century to 18th century, where the people of Medri-Bahri voted for a Bahri-Negassi (Sea King)- Eritrea. he wasn't appointed by the Emperor of ethiopia, what ever that wet dream u have trust me Eritrea will never be Ethiopia. hahahaha........


    Ethiopia only existed after WWII. Prior to that, it was Abyssinia (Amhara + Tigray) The rest of present-day Ethiopia was brutally conquered by Abyssinia. Those are the facts that can used as a base for constructive engagements.

    Even Eritrea's history was destroyed by been occupied by the Axumite empire. Am not saying Eritreans are claiming all "axumite" empire...Eritreans are claiming most of Axumite was Eritrean that was invaded by ur most hated rule in the horn... u never had one day without a rebellion in auxumite because most of axumite so called empire was gianed by occupation including adulite empire with its port adula and its capital city matara. we were part of the axumite empire by force not by beinf the same ppl.

    When ur enemies trying to destroy u, first they delete ur history and get the glory for them selves. u know like the Arabs/whites did to Egypt. the same thing happen to Eritrea by u people. Eritrea's history took long time to be heard b/c of colonization, but now its been heard and its amazing. everything is falling to its place.

    http://judithweingarten.blogspot.com/2010/04/eti-eritrean-queen-of-punt.html

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  34. Listen nebsy, peace is beautiful but it can't be trusted when people wants only ur ports. remember its nothing personal when it come to business. even the war in 98 to 2000, it wasn't about badme it was about capturing the ports of Eritrea at all cost, not matter wat the cost. its not about been patriotic its about protecting ur county from invading Army. and remember ur government abandoned the use of Eritrean ports and went to the Djibouti, they think it will cripple Eritrea's economy. and every one knows that. this is not the war with Ethiopia, its war with woyane-tgray. woyane-tgray only wants to cripple Eritrea and we have the right to retaliate.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Abraham
    Thanks much. Sorry I'm late to respond.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Milki
    How are you. Hope well.
    I will respond your question tomorrow.

    ReplyDelete
  37. As far as everyone know Woyane -Ur government(seyoum mesfin) intentionally said badme was awarded to Ethiopia even though badme was awarded to Eritrea. u seem to jump that.

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  38. What is Seyoum Mesfin? He is human which can make errors.But the issue of Badme is not only the question of territory. We Ethiopians requested Shaebia just to drop its bad wish and acts to us. If it does this we can share not only Badme but also Addis Ababa, because it is more than enough for all of us. Stop enmity, Ethiopia is much more wide, big, tall, strong ........ than woyane.

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  39. Actually it wasn't an Error. and what do u mean share??? u mean as in like one country?

    Stop enmity u say, no one is hostile here. am telln u that it was wayane's fault not us. and u said- He is human which can make errors...thats funny, cuz how can u make an Error when its out in the open. don't try to cover it.

    U said...We Ethiopians requested Shaebia just to drop its bad wish and acts to us. hmmm...what woyane doing against Eritrea ha, hugs and kisses.
    Shaebia was only defending itself not invading. tell me, is it wrong to defend ur home?

    Listen, if u are saying lets be one country, well that ain't gonna happen.

    But if ur saying lets live in peace well DITTO. u can come and visit as a tourist.

    ReplyDelete
  40. Milki: How are you? I hope well. Back to your question; I know I was raised during Eritrea’s war of independence under Shaebia, hence I am free of slave mentality. I do not know you personally and also do not hope you are inferior to white race, however, I can’t say that of your Ethiopian leaders, Woyane, they were inferior to Shaebia in the beginning, now they have become inferior to $$ & Shaebia. The issue between Eritrea and Ethiopia is basically between Woyane and their slave USA masters. Both countries had the chance to work together and become a good example to the rest of African brothers and sisters. The ball is now in Ethiopia’s hands, free yourselves from woyane’s slave mentality, Eritrea would forgive Ethiopian evil past against Eritrea, only then, we will have a chance together to make more food & drinks so we may eat happily in our respective dining tables, using our own plates and cups :)

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  41. OMG!!OMG!! What you just said was a big crime against Eritrea and its history.

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  42. you see from your linkage (in your post), Punt (Land of God) is some where between Eritrea and east Ethiopia, the same place where Shaebia tries to build IRON WALL and the same place I am opposing your leaders to do.

    ReplyDelete
  43. And that IRON WALL will be built, cuz we are Eritreans. u know like the wall between tiny Israel and Palestine. its called a border. don't try to make it a crime.

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  44. Nope ugumesh. u see it as a crime cuz ur not wedi M'dre bahri/Eritrea.

    ReplyDelete
  45. U didn't answer ma question. i asked u.....

    If u are saying lets be one country, well that ain't gonna happen.

    But if ur saying lets live in peace well DITTO. u can come and visit as a tourist.

    ReplyDelete
  46. What do you mean one country? One president, one PM, one ....... No I don't want , I want the people to have power and leaders only subjected to people's power

    ReplyDelete
  47. Hahaha wall of Zionism or Arab terrorism, you will not succeed in that we the average citizens of Eri & Eth are simply hostage of Durgue, shaebia & Woyane politics ; Set the captives free

    ReplyDelete
  48. Don't talk too much, both people are victims of the three communist parties (Dergi, Shabo & woyenti) and all problems arise from that

    ReplyDelete
  49. Wrong again, the wall is the border, and a border is one country's identity. what do u want as to delete it, hahaha. its not some car u can come and just take a ride. we opened the border before and look what it got as, u people if u come and sit in someone's land for a decade or more u think its yours. 1st u have to delete that we're one people blah blah shit, we know ur tongue says one people and that twisted heart of yours only wants the blue necklace of Eritrea. ur mentality it can't be fixed, and thats why we have heart time trusting u people. u see we (Eritreans) we don't give a crap if u people respect or don't Eritrea's independence. Cuz what it matter is protecting Eritrea at all cost. u have ur country and we have ours end of discussion.

    ReplyDelete
  50. Well good. Now move on. and why don't u start by cutting woyane's head. u said ur not Agame, so, we know woyane is there only for tgray not the other people.

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  51. Indeed Alec you, please teach these wanna-be feudals!

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  52. The thing is Gasha, there is no cure for Hasadat. not even their next generation will learn from their forefather's mistakes. they will always have the mentality of the dark-ages, which is reap what u sow .

    ReplyDelete
  53. Selam Haile,
    Thanks for the reply. I will need a website link to go to in order to order it via PayPal. Can you please provide me with more information on how to order it via PayPal or directly from you? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  54. Yes, that's exactly how a baby thinks. Just like you!

    ReplyDelete
  55. Indeed, as long as they dwell in their conveniently made-up history!

    ReplyDelete

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