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 ELMThe 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

Mahmud Mohamed Saleh who was recruited by Saleh Eyay said in an interview that when Idris Mohammed Adem left to Cairo, most of the people were expecting a lot of Weldeab Weldemaryam, lbrahim Sultan and Idris Mohammed Adam as national figures. Harakat once stated in a pamphlet that neither ldris Mohamed Adem nor Ibrahim Sultan want to cooperate with Harakat.
This is also confirmed by Mesfin().   The ELM as it became known did not garner support from leaders of the pro-independence forces of the 1940s who were already in exile during its formationThis had become clear  when the  ELM activists travelled to Egypt and Saudi Arabia to recruit members.  The students in Cairo were suspicious of the ELM’s intentions.

In the fall of 1961 for the second time, Ibrahim Sultan and Idris Mohammed Adam separately visited the Eritrean community in Saudi Arabia to raise support for plans to organize opposition to Ethiopia. There, they were both urged to contact the ELM and possibly join forces. Both stopped in Port Sudan on their way back to Cairo, and met Said Nawid and his colleagues but the meetings were fruitless. Idris Adem roused Eritrean nationalists against the ELM. By using religion and ethnicity, he recruited a number of Eritreans from the diaspora.

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)
ተድላ ዐቑቢት ባዕሉ ናብ ቤት ማእሰርቲ መጺኡ አከበና ንስኻትኩም ስለምንታይ ንበይንኹም ኣብ ከምዚ ዓይነት ስቅያት ትወድቁ ኢሉና ኣበይ አለው አቶም ዓበይቲ ኢና ዝብሉ ምሳኹም ዝነበሩ ሰለምንታይከ ዝይተሐባበሩኹም ቪላታት ኮንቸስዮን ኣብ ምጥራይ አዮም ዝርከቡ ዘለው። አቲ ክትገብሩዎ ዝግባኩም ዝነበረ ንዓይ መጺአኩም ከተካፍሉኒ አዩ። ነቲ ኽግበር ዝከአል ግበሩዎ ምበልኩኹም ነቲ ዘይከአል ከኣ ምኽልከልኩም። አዚ ብዘይ ምግባርኩም ተሳቒኹም። ሕጂ ግን ናጻ ለቒቐኩም አሎኹ ኢሉ ስም ኢትዮጲያ ዋላ ሃይለ ስላስሴ ኸየልዓለ ፈቲሑና ወጺአና።

A great guy, who devoted most of his adult life for Eritrea. Sports, newspapers and politics was his life. He joined the EPLF and fought until independence when he tried a civilian life. I met him in Washington andhad a good visit. He was having health issues and passed away after his return to Asmara. He was the head trainer and President of the Adulis Football Company.

ካሕሳይ ባህልቢ

ካሕሳይ ባህልቢ ነተን ብመስረት ኣርቲኮሎ ዲየቺ ዝተአሰረለን ሽድሽተ ወርሒ ወዲኡ ንኽወጽአ ኣናተዳለወ አንከሎ ጀኔራል ተድላ ባዕሎም ናብቲ ዝተኣስረሉ ቦታ መጺኦም ከም ዝኣከቡዎም ኣዘንትዩ።
ንዓይ ቀጣፊ ኢ ሉኒ፤ ነቶም ካላኦት በብስሞም ጸዊዑዎም።
ንስኻትኩም ሕጂ ዓድኹም ተሽይጣ እያ። ኮንቸስዮም ዝገበረ፤ መኻይን ዝገዝኣ ርሻን ዝስርሐ ሸይጦምኹም ዮም። አነ መኪና የብለይን ርሻን። አቶም ዝመረጽኩምዎም ሸይጦምኹም። ኩሉኹም ኣብ ዚ ዘለኹም ምሕረት ተገይሩኩም ዮ ፓለቲካ ኣይታአትው። ኣነ ንጃንሆይ ኣአምኖም የ። ስ ስራኹም ኪዱ ኢሉና። ንሕና ገረመነ ተጸሊሉ ድዩ ኢልነ

[A great guy, who devoted most of his adult life for Eritrea. Sports, newspapers and politics was his life. He joined the EPLF and fought until independence when he tried a civilian life. I met him in Washington andhad a good visit. He was having health issues and passed away after his return to Asmara. He was the head trainer and President of the Adulis Football Company.

, I knew Stefanos when he went to school at Point Fpour and was playing with Zula, later Adulis and Ethiopian Airlines. Kahsay had an older brother who was a colonel in the Ethiopian Police Forece. Stefanos was much warmer as a person and very loud. I used to meet him in Addis Ababa . He used to work for Ethiopian Airlines. The movement known as Mahber Shewate was very popular and many individuals , at the time operated in cells. Stephanos was friends with Tikue Yihdego. They were both friends and played for Zula. Tuku' may have influenced Stephanos. However, Kahsay was of a different elk. He would walk up at 3:00 am and distribute all the papers of the day to the distribution centers and large mail order customers. He was very quiet and also run the Adulis Soccer team. I remember when he even played for the team. His political affiliation was very well known because he was a frequent guest at the Edaga Police Station where Mengistu Kiflay was the charge. Tedla Uqbit used to hassle him a lot and would always greet him with "Inqua' Betka Afteweka", knowing he was followed by the secret service. He was also warm and friendly with my father, who instructed me not to frquent the Adulis Club at the time: a gathering place of the unocccupied and politically active youth. I was happy to see him in Washington, because a fellow player with Adulis asked me to give him a substantial amount of mony, which tells you that he was very popular to the end. The one sending him the gratiuty was a Jehovah's Witness and yet Kahsay was like a father figure with all his players. I am sure , he is in a better place and wish him eternal peace for ever.[Habte Teclemariam]

Eventually, Tedla Ogbit had a change of heart following the annexation and on June 11, 1963 was found shot dead in his office after he had apparently been involved in a plot to restore Eritrea’s independent status. This plot was part of the larger ELM plan to infiltrate the Eritrean police and use it to carry out an anti-Ethiopian coup d’état. Although the plan never materialized, many Eritrean police were sympathetic to the nationalist movement. Immediately after Tedla’s death, police headquarters was surrounded by Ethiopian troops and a number of leading Eritreans were detained. Zemarian Azazi replaces Tedla and was promoted to Brigadier-General ( Killion 1991: 341)


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