The Bet Giorgis Conference was organized by Eritrean Unionist and pro-independence activists to find common ground following domestic and international events.
The Bet Giorgis Conference, better known as “Wa’Ela Biet Giorgis”, was organized mainly by the Unionist leader Gebremeskel Woldu and the pro-independence activist Woldeab Woldemariam to find common ground following a number of domestic and international events and incidents. The situation in general was deteriorating as divisions among Eritreans was growing at an alarming rate. Some of the main events of the time were:
- In March 1946, Ethiopia appointed a Liaison Officer in Eritrea by the name of Col. Nega Haile Selassie. His duty was to instigate differences among Eritreans, mainly on religious lines, and create a unionist movement like the “Society for the Unification of Eritrea and Ethiopia”
- Tor’A-Tsenadegle Conflict in Akele Guzay on 15 August 1946 due to land dispute in which a total of 14 people were killed.
- The 28 August 1946 massacre in Asmara perpetrated by the Sudanese British soldiers where 46 Christians were killed and many wounded; the Ethiopian government took this opportunity to create more religious divide among Eritreans and convince especially the Christians to demand unification with Ethiopia, as the “protector of Christian Eritreans.”
- Paris Peace Treaty on 25 September 1946 where Italy lost its claim to its former colonies and that the natives of the colonies would decide their own future
- Many Assassination Attempts were carried out at leading “separatist” figures in Asmara
Wa’Ela Beit Giorgis was the first attempt by Eritreans of different viewpoints to solve political problems through dialogue. It didn’t succeed. Ethiopia’s interference in Eritrean affairs successfully derailed it off its objectives. This was possible as some Eritreans, especially the intellectuals of the day, collaborated with the Ethiopian monarchy. Sabotaged, the conference forgot its main agenda on the future of the country and, instead, was diverted to a none-issue when Tedla Bairu, totally a newcomer to the group, provoked discussion on the ‘ancestry’ of Woldeab Woldemariam, questioning if Woldeab had even the right to speak for Eritrea.