In July 1962, Col Fekadu Wakene taught South African political activist Nelson Mandela the tricks of guerrilla warfare – including how to plant explosives before slipping quietly away into the night. Mr Mandela was in Ethiopia, learning how to be the commander-in-chief of Umkhonto we Sizwe – the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC).
The group had announced its arrival at the end of 1961 by blowing-up electricity pylons in various places in South Africa.
Then on 11 January 1962, Mr Mandela had secretly, and illegally, slipped out of South Africa.
His mission was to meet as many African political leaders as possible and garner assistance for the ANC, including money and training for its military wing.
And to be moulded into a soldier himself.
During this trip, he visited Ethiopia twice and left a deep impression on those who met him during his stay in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.
‘Made others laugh’
|Col Fekadu said Mr Mandela was a good student
“Nelson Mandela was a very strong and resilient student, and he took instruction well and was really very likeable,” Col Fekadu said.
“You couldn’t help but love him.”
Col Fekadu was a corporal when he trained Mr Mandela. He was a member of a specialist police force – the riot battalion – based in the suburbs of Kolfe, in barracks which are still used today.
He remembers a “happy, cheerful person” who “concentrated on the task in hand”.