Prisoners death records  







Mysterious death of Ibrahim Afa
Mysterious death of Abraham Tewelde

Liquidation in the ELF
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3. Fact and Evidence Part V: [1965-1969] : Rivalry between the ELF leader

The number of the Eritrean Liberation Army gradually increasing from 13 in 1961 to  2000 in 1965.  Factors which had contributed to this number could be:. 1.Protest against annexation of Eritrea in 1962 ; 2 The imprisonment more than 3,000 civilians under suspicion of sympathizing with the guerrillas between 1961 and 1963, 3. The escalation of hit-and-run guerrilla operations between 1962 and 1964. [Up to 1964, not less than 150 successful operations and raids were undertaken [ELF, 1977: 36]. 4. A three-day strike of the secondary school students in Asmara 5. The liquidation of Haraka also greatly contributed for growth of fighters in the Eritrea Liberation Army (ELA) in 1965.

ELM members who joined the ELF

Find more about them [1] [2]

Gebre-Medhin(1989: 171) also states that with the demise of Haraka the social compostion of the fighting forces in the ELA began to change because of workers and intellectual joined the ELA, he adds that most of them came from Christian and Muslim populations who were better educated, or workers influenced by the Haraka slogan,

“Muslims and Christian are brothers, and their unity makes Eritrea one” than the early soldiers from the Sudan. However, this was not welcomed by the ELF leaders and former fighters, and created tensions and conflicts in the organization.( Pool 2001:53)

Prior to this the ELA was composed entirely of emancipated serfs from the lowland, because of this the arrival of these newcomers, together with the influence from ELFs outside supporters created tension and conflicts in the organization, as the leadership still after Awate's death in 1962 was dominated by Muslims from Western Eritrea (Peter 1987: 57). Iyob (1995: 112) adds that young recruits from the highlands and lowlands were rudely awakened to the ugly realities from the factional politics of the ELF leadership.  ELF recruits were particularly dismayed by the persistence of the corrosive Moslem-Christian schism.
In 1965 the Supreme Council of the ELF leadership decided to establish five military zones based on a territorial division (see . fig 1. below.In 1965 the Supreme Council of the ELF leadership decided to establish five military zones based on a territorial division (see .1.)
The executive committe or Supreme Council was formed by Idris Muhammad Adem remained head and spokesman for the front, Idris Osman Gelaidos in charge of military affairs from Kassala and Sabbe foreign relations and fundraising. 1965 meeting in the Sudan, the Cairo-based Supreme Council formed a new body called the Revolutionary Command (kiyada sawriya) based in Kassala. The local commanders (Zone Commands) were picked up by the Supreme Council, and the guerrillas then were placed into the different zone according to their ethnic origin. The regional-based military structure instead of minimizing the ethnic, religious and personal conflicts but made them worse.  The ethnic and religion divisions in the Zones  also expanded into the population as a whole, highlighting the traditional animosities which had generated the fragmentation of Eritrean nationalism in the 1940s.  Veteran political leaders of the 1940s who were concerned its consequence they sent their message of reconciliation to the Eritrean people. Below is an excerpt from what Woldeab Woldemariam said when Ato Ibrahim died in 1987 regarding establish five military zones based on a territorial division
Do you remember in 1965, when our revolutionary children became splintered into five factions because of the evil machinations of their leaders and that this division was deteriorating into a civil war that caused us much alarm and concern and that we went to discuss the matter with our Syrian friends to Damascus where they gave us a warm welcome and arranged for us to transmit our advice to our revolutionary children by radio, and that we, you in Tigre and myself in Tigrigna, managed to send our message of unity and reconciliation?.
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Despite the ELF in its publication of 16 years of armed struggle states that the ELF introduced a new strategy of dividing the army into 5 military zones was to confront the counter-insurgency commandos (ELF 1977:38). However the true story was to control these conflicts which might be triggered between the old and new political trends.

Following the formation of five military zones based on a territorial division, the fierce power struggle within Supreme Council also exacerbated the mutual suspicion and hatred among the fighters.  Shermam,(1980:75) the leaders of the  regional-based military structure (zones), were not  only  far from helping each other to resist the offensive  which was launched by the Ethiopia army in 1967 but also were rejoicing at each other’s defeat. Haile Drue in the interview with Dan Connel said that whenever there were military operations against the government, nobody from one division wanted to help the other division. Even to the extent that every division would not allow fighters from other division to go around their area (Conell, 2004:31).

The Ethiopian army through exploiting the ethnic rivalries between Eritrean launched a concerted offensive by attacking one zone at a time Patment( 1990:118). As a result of this offensive the unarmed civilian population became victims of the Ethiopian atrocities . The civilian population not only became the victims of the Ethiopian army but also became a victim of the zones commander. According to Peter(1987), the zones commander when came to collected money from the local population  through  taxes, fines and donations; some commanders even accumulated property for themselves by  confiscating  cattle and other property from the people they rule. These seem to have been mainly in the zones 1 and 3, where the leaders mobilized Muslim fighters under the slogan of Jihad   (holy war) against the   unbelieving kafir-the Christian highland peasantry.

There was also a report that Osman Hishal, deputy commander of the fifth zonal division,  summarily executed twenty-seven Christian fighters alleging poor performance or for the military setback from which they suffered (Paice 1994, ; Mar kakis, 1987; Sherman, 1980, Human Rights Watch (1991:47).   Amar (1997:82) adds that Ghilai who was a political cadre in the 5th Zone also was killed  by ELF unit leaders in 1967. Probability he was one of those 27 victims who were executed by Osman Hisha. As a consequence of the ELF leaders use religious prejudge and regionalism large numbers of ELF fighters  captured or gave themselves up to the Ethiopia government during 1967-1968

Here is a piece of information on the 1967-1968 of the ELF from Tekae Byne's book kab Reiq p.123

This gave a good occasion   for Ethiopia to publicize that the Eritrean nationalist struggle as a religious and tribal insurgency led by  Islamic fanatic. To challenge this propaganda, the ELF leadership in Cairo attempted to keep distance itself from the "jihadist" actions of some of the zone commanders by nominating a Christian as the Vice-president to the Supreme Council Ato Tedla Bairu(Iyob, 1995:113).   When Ato Tedla Bairu was appointed to the Supreme Council, he made a number of nationalist radio  broadcasts on behalf of the ELF(Killion,1991:393-394 )

In 1967 Ato Tedla Bairu joined the independence movement as the Vice-president to the Supreme Council.These former Unionist leaders Idris Mahammed Adem and Tedla Bairu who were against the independent of Eritrea became the chairman and vice chairman of the ELF.

In 1968 a new chapter was opened in the history of the armed struggle as the young recruits (Christian and Moslem alike; these new educated recruits were sent to Syria, China and Cuba for military training) after their returned began agitating for change and reforms within the Front, and protested against the repressive measures which they took against some sections of the Eritrean people. Additionally another important issue in the discontent among many fighters with the Supreme Council was that most of its members portrayed Eritrean Society as predominantly Arab and Muslim, and the struggle as a fight for Islam and Arabism.  These and other discontents led the Democratic Forces to question the legitimacy of the “Self-appointed" Supreme Council, and to ask for leadership elected by the partisans themselves through a congress (Peter, 1987).

In June 68 rank and file delegates from all five zones met at Aredaib to discuss the problem, and in  September at the Anseba conference. In this conference the Tripartite unity was formed from the old  zones 3, 4 and 5. The Tripartite unity forces maintained logistical links to Sabbe.  However, the leadership of Zone 1 tied to Idris M.Adem was opposed to the new movement, and Zone 2 had been decimated by Omer Ezaz disastrous attack on Halhal in August. The formation of the Tripartite Union in 1968 in turn affected a split in the SC between Osman Saleh Sabbe who supported the Tripartite unity and Idris M.Adem & Idris Ghalaudious supporters of the zone 1 and 2 respectively.

In the battle Halhal which took three days,  the second division suffered high causaulities and the Commander of the 2nd division Omer Ezaz was killed with 45 fighters. The Ethiopian army brought the 45 dead bodies from Halhal battle field into Keren and their unburied were left on the street for a day, and then hung up In the city centre (see the left hand side picture) after then they buried them in Islamic cemeteries in order to convince people that the Eritrean nationalist struggle was led by Islamist influence.
In August 1969 a military conference was held at Adobha, its aim was to bring different military units under the umbrella of one political organization. At the Adobha Conference in 1969 all five Zones  joined into one united army and a new leadership the General Command (Kiada al-Ama) formed.  However the General Command (Kiada al-Ama) was failed to achive its aim.  This was happened because of the conference was held with mistrust among the participants emanating from conflicting attitudes among the Zones they came from.
After the Adobaha conference the relation between Sabba and Idris M.Adem become more severe due to conflicts which   was generated between 1965-1969 (zemene-kiflitat).  As a result of the rift between Sabba and Idris M.Adem many fighters who supported by Sabbe flee from the ELF persecuation in the late 1960s.
Brekeateab describes the first decade (1961-1971) in the following  :
The first decade (1961-1971) of the national liberation str uggle was beset with serious problems because of the lack of a clear political programme, a capable, disciplined and efficient political leadership and clearly defined organizational structure.

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