The first African trained spy
Basha Awalaom Haregot was born in Enticho, Tigrai. He was one of the true sons Tigrai has ever had, one of most notable figures whose role was critical and irreplaceable in the battle of Adwa. He was the first trained spy in African, who played a pivotal role in securing Ethiopia’s victory over the Italian colonizers. Although, due to a historic alliance between Italia and Menelik II of Showa against the Tigrigna-speaking people changed the result to a total loss for ever.
Awalom was a well aware spy handpicked by RaEsi Alula Aba Nega for he was his very trusted lieutenant who had taken part in the Kuatit and Metema campaigns.
When the Italian ignited the aggression, and the Ethiopian troops were preparing to fight back the Italians, Awalom was choosen by RaEsi Alula for a crucial role and sent into the enemy camp to gain their trust and overtly spy for them, but covertly, spy for his country, Ethiopia. And that was the most dangerous mission. Awalom knew this was risky that can end his life abruptly at anytime, but out of his courage and love for his homeland, he accepted the assignment and went for it.
Then Awalom arranged himself and dared to go into the Italian camp and report on what he observed about troops movement and anything that could appear interesting to the Italian commanders. He played well his role and eventually gained the trust of General Baratieri and became an informant.
He would however, regularly come back to the Ethiopian camp and report of all the activities and preparations inside the Italian camp to RaEsi Alula. This went on for several months while the Ethiopian troops were camped at Adwa and its surounding, waiting for the Italians to come out and fight. The Italians, who had suffered a serious setback in the battle of Mekelle some three months earlier, had regrouped in Adwa, but they were still leaking their wounds and not in any hurry to come out of their fortified burrow and fight. So the cat and mouse game of watching and waiting went on until a new plan had to be devised to draw them out.
That is where Awalom’s role became critical to the whole operation. The first assignment of Awalom was to go into the Italian camp and secretly convince two famous deserters to reconsider, renounce the Italians and come back to the Ethiopian fold. The two were RaEsi Sebhat and Degezmati Hagos Teferri.
The mission was accomplished successfully, and the two, along with many of their followers escaped from the Italian camp and joined the Ethiopian troops, bringing along a quantity of new weapons and ammunition from the enemy. That was a great victory in itself. But that was not all that Awalom accomplished.
Moreover, he, in his next task reported to the Italians that the Ethiopian troops had ran out of provisions, and were going to take down their tent and return and head back to Addis Ababa within a couple of days. As a result, the Italians, who had come to trust him, soon started to prepare an attack on the retreating Ethiopia troops from the rear. The plan was to chase the retreating army all the way and enter Addis Ababa in victory.
What Baratieri did not know as he was dug in his burrows was that in reality, he was totally encircled. There were two Ethiopian detachments hidden on either side of the so called, “retreating army” waiting to pounce on him from the right and the left. And the army that pretended to be retreating made a quick about turn and got on the attack. A horse mounted division was also hiding and came into the attack from behind the Italians. Too late, General Baratieri realized that he was totally boxed in from every side, and had no way to escape. He was killed with thousands of his soldiers, but General Albertoni and thousands more Italians surrendered and were captured alive.
Hence, Awalom, at the end of the Battle, was made Bashai the highest title of honor passed to him from RaEsi Alula who had first been made Turk Pasha by Emperor Yohannes. The irreplaceable contributions of Bashai Awalom were recognized by the late Emperor Haileselassie, who had erected a stone in his honor in Adwa on Lekatit 02, 1942 Geez calendar with some words of recognition.
Even if you die, your name will live.Emperor Haileselassie, 09 Feb 1950
In February of the Tigrai Millenium, a non-governmental organization in the name “Association for New Development (ማሕበር ንሓዱሽ ልምዓት) erected a statue for Bashai Awalom in Adwa.
A song dedicated for Bashai Awalom: