The challenge faces to the ELM (Harakat)
Compiled and researched by Resoum Kidane 31.08.18
In July 1960 the ELF was founded by ldris Mahamed Adem in competition with the ELM Following the formation of the ELF, its leaders launched a campaign of denunciation against the ELM ( Harakat) by portraying the ELM ( Harakat) as communist in ideology and anti-religious. Between 1960 and1965 the ELM began to face both the hostility of the rival ELF and the threat to its existence from the Ethiopian security service.
According to the founder of ELM Said Nawid, ELM disagreed over the ELF leadership's belief that they had the sole mandate of representing the Eritrean people Idris Mohammed Adem displayed extreme hostility towards the formation of the ELM.
Initially the goal of the ELM was to stage a coup to overthrow the federal government and declare Eritrea's independence. However, with the formation of the ELF and its campaign against the ELM the simple strategy of liberation by coup became complicated. Ultimately the ELM military wing was liquated by the ELF in 1965 on the grounds that 'Eritrean field cannot bear more than one organization. This will be discussed briefly at the end of this section.
The divergence between the ELF and ELM should be briefly mentioned. One of the Contributing factor to resulted from difference in their social composition. The ELM was urban based and secular whereas the ELF was rural based and dominate by Eritrean Muslims. This was in the early 1960s. . The Federal Research Division Library of Congress (2005) confirmed that the Eritrean Liberation Movement (ELM), an organization made up mainly of students, intellectuals, and urban wage laborers. In contrast, the ELF was composed mainly of Eritrean Muslims from the rural lowlands on the western edge of the territory. Kibreab (2008: 148) also states that the ELF was a movement made up rural and nomadic communities of the western lowlands. It was also profoundly influenced by Islam. Students, workers and secular urban activists with political experience were in a tiny minority. According to Abdu Abdella (former secretary of the ELF.RC) the ELF and ELM were fundamentally different organization
Mahmoud Ismail Haj and Suleiman Ibrhaim in their interview said that the ELM was unprecedented in Eritrean society. Its membership came from different ethnic and religious groups and social classes such as teachers, workers, intellectuals, petty traders and policemen. Mahmoud Ismail Haj and Suleiman Ibrahim, who were active members of the Harakat, argue that in addition most ELM members were politically conscious and experienced members of political and civil associations, and debates. Kibreab (2008: 151)
The overall aim of this section is to provide background information how the ELM was betrayed by the founders of the ELF who exposed the ELM to the Ethiopian security service thereby greatly contributing to the ELM’s demise in 1965
An overview of the challenges faced by the ELM between 1960 and 1965
In the late 1950s and early 1960s the ELF instead of cooperating and working with the ELM led a ferocious campaign against the ELM. The campaign of the ELF against the ELM has been documented by various authors. Bereketeab (2000:184) states that the leaders of the ELF and Idris Mohammed Adem, in particular, disliked the strategy of the ELM to broaden its organization through recruiting Christians because in their view, it had been Christians that had delivered Eritrea to Ethiopia in the first place.
The ELM was also denounced by the exiled leaders in Cairo, who had established the ELF; those exiled leaders rejected the ELM as communist. The object of ELF political and armed campaigns was not only Ethiopia but also the ELM (.Raid 2011:159)
Furthermore, Mengesteab (2005:40) states that Idris launched a vitriolic campaign against the ELM and its leaders, feeling threatened by the youthful and secular orientation of the ELM leadership and by Nawid's early affiliation with the Sudanese Communist Party
The unwillingness of the ELF leaders to work with the ELM is also mentioned by Markakis ( 1987:107). In 1959, the ELM sent Tahir Ibrahim to contact Idris Mohammed Adem and Ibrahim Sultan but he was met with suspicion verging on hostility, except by Wolde Abe Wolde Mariam, who later agreed to become the movement’s representative in Egypt. This is also confirmed by Killion (1998:433) according to whom the sectarian politics of most of the Muslim exiled community in Cairo left Woldeab isolated until 1959. With the rise of the secular Eritrean Liberation Movement (ELM) whose labour-oriented political programme coincided with Woldeab’s own political vision, he returned to political activity serving as the ELM's Cairo representative.
There is also a similar story when the unity meeting between ELM ( Harakat) and ELF was arranged by the Sudanese government in 1962. Neither Idris M. Adem nor Osman.S.Sabbe attended it (Iyob, 1995 :104-105). At this meeting Woldeab Woldemariam was present, and the veteran politician joined the ELM in 1962. Bereketeab (2000:184) also mentions that the ELM made a proposal to the leadership of the ELF to merge the two organizations but this proposal was rejected by the ELF'. In reaction to this Idris Mohammed Adem showed his hostility toward Woldeab Woldemariam who welcomed the formation of the ELM ( Harakat) and offered his services to further its cause.
Additionally Mesfin (226) states that ldris Mohamed Adem launched fierce defamatory campaigns which managed to isolate the ELM leadership and steal many of its members. It is possible that the ELF campaign eventually led to the exposure of the cell structure of the ELM and its destruction as a clandestine organization.
As a consequence of the above, in 1961, several of the ELM leading members were arrested and its cell structure was gradually dismantled, as the authorities concentrated on gaining information from the one member in each cell who was authorized to contact others. (Markakis National and Class Conflict, p.108, cited by Iyob).
Regarding the ELM leaders arrested Kibreab (2008:150) states that in 1961 some members were caught in Asmara and when the clampdown was unleashed, the security forces found the register in which the names of all the members were kept. Gaim adds, that in 1961 the Eritrean police and security forces began to arrest ELM members, including many of the ELM's founders such as Saleh Ahmed Iyay, Yasin ei-Gade, Tahir Ibrahim and Adem Melekin. The ELM contact person in Addis Ababa, Mohamed Said Nawoud narrowly escaped from Agordat( Markakis 1990 p.283 cited by Gaim p.151)
The name Mahber Mahber Shew'ate (Union of Seven) was later given to the ELM cells by Eritrean security forces when they found out that each cell was comprised of seven members( Gaim quote Mahamoud Ismail Haj, personal communication, London, October 16 200)]. This is also confirmed by Woldeab in his interview (Part VII, 1982, Rome) cited by Mefin. According to Woldeab’s interview, there are suspicions that it was Idris who alerted Ethiopian authorities to the ELM's secret cells, provoking a crackdown that destroyed much of its network.
When Eritrean security agencies were cracking down on the ELM's secret cells there were 65, 000 registered members, and a large portion of the Eritrean police and security forces were part of the underground movement. Before turning against it, even the Eritrean chief of the police force General Tedla Ogbit, was a member of the ELM. ; (Kibreab 2018: 151) quoteMahamoud Ismail Haj, personal communication, London, October 16 2005)
Before Tedla Uqbit became a member of the ELM, he was known for his ruthless suppression of actual and anticipated dissension so that by the beginning of 1960 he had managed to stifle all signs of opposition in Eritrea. The departure of Sir James Shearer in 1959 gave him absolute power and a free hand to jail anyone with impunity. In June 1962, for his unwavering service to Ethiopia, Tedla was promoted from colonel to Brigadier-General by Emperor Haile Selassie and bestowed the title of "Commander of the order of the Honor of Ethiopia."
During the abolition of the Federation, Tedla was active in the assembly intimidating members to make sure all Eritrean Assembly members were present for the intended final vote to terminate the Federation. Tedla Uqbit ordered the arrest of many members of the ELM and he was active in interrogating them during Eritrea’s annexation.
However, later when his power was considerably reduced by the Governor-General, Abiy Abebe, he began to resent Ethiopian rule. Eventually, Tedla declared that he had restored the Federation and ordered all his subordinates including all police heads of each division in the territory, to stay in standby position until further orders. He also released political prisoner who were prominent leaders of the ELM
The picture below was taken when the ELM leaders released from prison
ትኩእ ይሕደጎ; ተኽላይ ገብረስላሴ (ሓራካ); አስቲፋኖስ; ባህልቢ ግርማይ ዮሴፍ; ኑር አብደላ; ካሕሳይ ባህልቢ ;ወልደሚካል ኣብርሃ; ሙሳ ኣራሖ; ደበሳይ ገብረስላሴ; ተስፋጊዮጊስ አንግዳ; ቶምቦሳ ስዮም;
ኣብቲ ኣንጻር ምፍራስ ፈደረሽን ተቃዊሞም ዝተኣሰሩ ኣማእት መንእስያት፤ መንግስቲ ነቶም ዝበዝሑ ክፈትሕን ከሎ። ዓሰርተ ንዝኾኑ ግን አጽንሖም። እቶም ቀንዲ ዝዝከሩ እዚኦም ዝ ስዕቡ ኢዮም።ትኩእ ይሕደጎ፤ ተኽላይ ገብረስላሴ (ሓራካ)፤ ሙሳ ኣራሖ፤ ወልደሚካል ኣብርሃ፤ደበሳይ ገብረስላሴ፤አስቲፋኖስ ባህልቢ ፤ግርማይ ዮሴፍ፤ ኑር አብደላ፤ ማሕሙድ ኢስማዒል ነዊሕ ግዜ ኣብ ማእስርቲ ኣጸንሑን። ሐደ መዓልቲ፤ ኢሉ ተኽላይ (ሓራካ)
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