From the Experiences of the ELA (Part IV)

The Nharnet Team (6/10/2004)

How Veterans Told the Story of the First 10 Years of ELA

The Nharnet Team (October 1, 2004)

Changing Times and Changing Roles

Nharnet Editorial (October 1, 2004)

From the Experiences of the ELA (Part III)

The Nharnet Team (30/9/2004)

Three Years Ago Today

Nharnet Editorial (19/9/2004)

From the Experiences of the ELA (Part II)


The Speaker of ELF-RC, Ibrahim Mohamed Ali, Urges Eritrean Politicians To Admit  Past Mistakes, Excesses


September 1st Puts Public Trust to the Test


الوحدة الوطنية الارترية ...... بين الأمس واليوم

بقلم / ابراهيم محمد علي

RC Speaker Urges Libya’s Colonel Gadafy


لجنة الحوار الوطني

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ELF-RC Proposal for Unity of the Eritrean Opposition
†LK H©ö{q |§ odh‘Moñ ‘é©ölq „íXqV (PDF)
















At  33rd Anniversary  of

The 1971 Congress, ELF-RC

Described as ‘Dynamic Democracy’

Nharnet Team, 14 October 2004



As we start to mark the 33rd anniversary of the First National Congress of the ELF that took place between 14 October and 12 November 1971,  a group of an Eritrean elite residing in different parts of the world recently announced at the end of a year-long study that they were: “pleasantly surprised to find out that the ELF-RC is a dynamic democracy as a political organization”.


Nharnet.com has received that welcome news as a highly  positive and encouraging start by some of our educated and experienced elite in the Diaspora to play their rightful place in researching our past and present. This kind of research will no doubt remind us of learned lessons on what has gone wrong and what is on the right direction in order for us  to pursue what is right and to discard what has to be  discarded.  It was reported that the study was initiated soon after a split occurred in the ELF-RC by concerned Eritreans intellectuals who wanted to know, among other things, if that split was justified.


Their aim, we are told, was not to pass condemnations on this side or the other but to find out whether that Eritrean organization picked up for the case study (i.e. ELF-RC) had democratic foundations and practices that could be encouraged to grow and to be emulated for future use. It appears that members of the research team, whose names are not yet made public save that of Dr. T. A. Taddesse, were not  sure if there ever existed a steadily growing democratic organization within the Eritrean opposition. To their “surprise”, the organization that they selected for the study showed that it indeed possessed qualities that make it deserve to be called a “dynamic democracy”.


To be modest, the indicators and measures used could have been tailored to befit Eritrean and emerging third world standards of democracy and democratic practices.  But all the same, that is still something to celebrate at Eritrean level and by all Eritreans.


The process of cultivating rudiments of democracy in Eritrea started 33 years ago this month at the first national congress of the ELF and was revitalized and deepened under its mainstream continuum, the ELF-RC, during the past 22 years.  However, this finding will not be a basis for unnecessary self-importance and complacency by one group or the other, although it is food for thought for all genuine and straight-minded  Eritreans to accept realities and build on them to consummate those unfulfilled ideals of our revolution since its start: national unity, independence, democracy


We are earnestly looking forward to read the research document soon, and it would be to  everybody’s interest to see it published not only in English but also eventually in Arabic and Tigrinia. In the meantime, Nharnet Team believes this is an opportune moment to try to inform our young generations that the ELF was not only the first Eritrean political organization to have held a general congress, but it was the first to promote sovereignty of the people organized in their respective social and civil associations.


For the sake of brevity, we will present short notes on each of the five congresses that the  organization held in the past 33 years. Also for everyone’s record, we will share with our readers an outcome of a small research made on lists of names of all the members of the Revolutionary Council and Executive Committee during the past three decades.


1st ELF Congress at Arr, Western Eritrea

14 October – 12 November 1971

The first national congress of the ELF was convened at Arr in western Eritrea between 14 October and 12 November 1971, with 561 delegates taking part. The delegates represented the liberation army, branches of the ELF in the neighbouring countries, key underground members from Eritrean and Ethiopian cities, and Eritrean peasant communities at village and district levels in the then semi-liberated zones.  It was  held  after a long struggle against groups of individuals that had no interest in its convening.


The historic congress adopted a comprehensive political programmme, allowing the people to be organized in their respective civil organizations like workers’, youth, women’s and students’ unions. That congress, even in that early period, wanted to underline, inter alia,  that:

a)      national unity of the people is the central objective of the Eritrean Liberation Front; 

b)      that all national groups are equal and any move to build a dominant national group shall be considered anti-national;

c)      that the so-called government land being sold (in 1971!) to government collaborators (and others) shall be restored to the people from whom it was taken..

The political programme adopted at Arr helped introduce in the life of the ELF a culture of democratic elections and democratic practices that gradually became a basis for binding together diverse social and political groups in Eritrea to struggle under the banner of one political programme acceptable to all.


Leaving behind it the dark years of ethno-regional divisions of the latter part of the 1960s and early 1970s, the congress stressed not only unity in the revolution but also initiated education programmes for political consciousness and awakening of the people and their empowerment as much as the security environment allowed. Thanks to that national democratic programme, the Eritrean people started to have trust in their revolution and embraced it with enthusiasm and devotion.


Being the first experience of its kind, deliberations a the congress took very long time (29 days!). It also made technical mistakes like electing an Auditor General and two Executive Committees by vote of the 561 congress participants. One of the Executive Committees (the main one) was part of the Revolutionary Council, the name given to the leadership of the ELF as of that date. Another 19-person Executive Committee with its own secretary was also elected at the congress. The technical mistake of creating ill-defined bodies caused inconveniences and some misunderstandings. However, the system was corrected at the second congress of  May 1975.


Many changes have occurred in the organization since 1971, but its mainstream, the ELF-RC, has continued to champion that democratic and unitary line which is recognized to be a dynamic process with high prospects of building on it. It is interesting to note that the organization was from time to time in the 1970s referred as the ELF-Revolutionary Council in some Arab media to distinguish it from the PLF, led by Osman Saleh Sabbe, who usually insisted to call his front not simply PLF but with the prefix ELF, i.e. ELF-PLF.  As we will refer to it later in this article, the  name ELF-RC was made more known starting in the early 1980s when the mother organization broke into three factions because of and in the aftermath of a one-year war with EPLF/TPLF.


Members of the 1st Revolutionary Council Democratically Elected at the 1971 Congress:


  1. Idris Mohammed Adem, president

  2. Herui Tedla Bairu, first vice  president

  3. Abdalla Idris Mohammed, second vice president

  4. Saleh Ahmed Eyay, head foreign office

  5. Mohammed Ismail Abdu, head of coordination

  6. Ibrahim Mohammed Ali

  7. Mohammed Osman Izaz

  8. Ahmed Ibrahim Nafi’e (Halib Sete)

  9. Mohammed Berhan Abdurahman

  10. Ahmed Mohammed Nasser

  11. Tesfai Tekle

  12. Mohammed Saleh Humed

  13. Shihem Ibrahim Shihem (later deserted to the enemy).


Two posts were left vacant for mass organizations and were later filled by

  1. Amna Mohammed  Ali  Melekin, chairwoman of women’s union

  2. Ali Osman Hinti, chairman of Eritrean workers’ union.


Members of the ‘other’  19-person Executive Committee  Elected by 1st ELF Congress:


  1. Ibrahim Idris Toteel, secretary of the ‘other’  Ex. Committee

  2. Abdulkadir Ramadan

  3. Mahmoud Ibrahim Chekini

  4. Mahmoud Hasab

  5. Ibrahim Abdalla

  6. Saed Saleh

  7. Idris Ali

  8. Adem Moh. Hamid (Gindifil)

  9. Omar Haj Idris

  10. Suleiman Mussa Haj

  11. Humed Moh. Saed Kulu

  12. Fitsum Ghebresilassie

  13. Mohammed Idris Humedai

  14. Azien Yassin

  15. Mohammed Nur Ahmed

  16. Ibrahim Mahmoud Mohammed

  17. Afa Mohammed Hamid

  18. Ibrahim Ali Nur

  19. Omar Mohammed Ahmed



2nd ELF Congress of May 1975

Held at Sheriit, Ansaba

The second national congress of the ELF was held between mid- to 28 May 1975 at a time when the Eritrean revolution was already making major advances in the military, political and diplomatic fields. The congress, convened at the Sheriit area of Ansaba or at the confluence of the Barka and Ansaba Rivers, had to change meeting sites twice within that area because of Ethiopian air bombardments. It was attended by 949 democratically elected delegates representing the army and all sections of the people supportive of the struggle for national liberation.


At the second congress, the previous national democratic programme was upgraded and enhanced to accommodate new challenges and emerging realities. The insistence of the organization on having only one broad national democratic organization in the field for the intended initial military victory was re-evaluated. The congress adopted democratic dialogue as the main method of resolving secondary contradictions.  However, one major problem that erupted at the congress was the unwarranted advocacy by the outgoing vice-president, Herui Tedla Bairu, for the representation on one-person-one-vote basis of a large force of new recruits  who had virtually no knowledge of the organization at that time. (The fresh recruits were much larger than the old ELA.)  This divisive mobilization roused religio-regional fears and perceptions that led to embarrassments and eventual mistrust among comrades in the front; its adverse consequences greatly inhibited national unity, and was one of the probable causes for the eventual  weakening of the front, at least militarily. As shown below, Herui Tedla was not one of the 41 Revolutionary Council members elected at the second congress.


The 41 Revolutionary Council Members Elected at the  2nd ELF Congress:


  1. Ahmed Mohammed Nasser, chairman

  2. Ibrahim Toteel, deputy chairman and head of political office

  3. Abdalla Idris, head of the military office

  4. Tesfai Woldemichael (Degiga), secretary of the EC

  5. Ibrahim Mohammed Ali, head of social affairs

  6. Hamid Adem Suleiman, head of economic office

  7. Melake Tekle, head of security

  8. Azien Yassin, head of foreign relations (later replaced by Abdalla Suleiman)

  9. Tesfamariam Woldemariam, head of information office

  10. Mahmoud Hasab,

  11. Hussein Khalifa

  12. Abdukadir Ramadan

  13. Saleh Eyay

  14. Mohammed Hamid Osman (Tumsah)

  15. Hamid Mohammed Mahmoud

  16. Yohannes Zeremariam

  17. Abdalla Suleiman

  18. Yusuf Suleiman

  19. Habte Tesfamariam

  20. Mohammed Ismail Abdu

  21. Fisehaye Ghebresilassie

  22. Tesfai Tekle

  23. Ali Mohammed Ishaq

  24. Tareke Beraki

  25. Ibrahim Idris Mohammed Adem

  26. Haileab Andu

  27. Khalifa Osman

  28. Ibrahim Ghedem

  29. Amna Melekin

  30. Idris Ramadan

  31. Ali Mohammed Ibrahim

  32. Abraham Tekle

  33. Saed Hussein

  34. Beshir Abdulkadir

  35. Yusuf Berhanu

  36. Mahmoud Beshir

  37. Suleiman Mussa Haj

  38. Andeab Ghebremeskel

  39. Ghirmai Ghebreselassie (Keshi)

  40. Mohammed Ahmed Abdu

  41. Ghebrai Tewelde



Between 1975 and 1982, the number of RC members was affected by martyrdom (5), and suspensions from membership of half a dozen members due to their roles in encouraging  extremist tendencies (the so-called ‘Falul/anarchistl’ and ‘yemin/rightist’ movements). The other major negative development in the ELF followed the military defeat of the organization in 1981 by the combined forces of the EPLF and TPLF. The ELA was disarmed by the Sudan and camped  at two camps of  Tahdai and  Korokon. While in those camps, the army experienced splits. One wing took military action at Rasai against the legitimate leadership on 25 March 1982 while the organization was preparing to start a conference to resolve problems. Another wing opted to return (‘Saghem’) to Eritrea and try its luck with the EPLF (and TPLF). The third wing – the General Trend - opposed both extreme poles and called for the continuation of the organization in one piece based on laws and resolutions of the previous congresses. Nicknamed as Teyar al-Am (general trend), this mainstream of the organization became known as the ELF-RC as of 1982 (for details, see Nharnet, Profile of the ELF-RC).


In April 1982, political and military leadership cadres of the two factions opposed to the military action at Rasai (i.e. before complete breakdown of the Teyar and Saghem wings in two on 30 September 1982) selected a 23-member Provisional Committee (Giziyawit Shimagele Serawit Harnet) to run the affairs of the front in coordination with the remaining RC members. Listed below are the names of the elected members of the  Provisional ELA Committee and its Standing Body: (of whom the majority supported the General Trend/Teyar al-Am  and a minority of 7 took side with Saghem):


1.                  Abdalla Hassen, chairman

2.                  Tekle Ogbazghi/Dini, secretary

3.                  Mengisteab Misghina 


4.                  Zemehret Yohannes, political/information office

5.                  Mohammed Ali Ibrahim and

6.                  Rezene Leulekal, military office

7.                  Dr. Ghergis Tesfamariam and

8.                  Ramadan Saleh, economy and social affairs office

9.                  Misghina Bahta

10.              Osman Abdulkader

11.              Ahferom Tewelde

12.              Berhane Haile

13.              Abrehaley Kifle

14.              Amanuel Habte (Mengistu)

15.              Neguse Tseggai

16.              Siraj Mussa Abdu

17.              Woldemariam Bahlibi

18.              Mengisteab Asmerom

19.              Ahmed Baraad

20.              Mussie Abraham

21.              Beyene Kidane

22.              Issa Mohammed (for ELA units in the Gash)

23.              Mohammed Nur Kelbai (for ELA units in the Gash)



The Provisional Committee of the ELA elected a Standing Body that was entrusted to   coordinate activities with the remaining RC members. When breakdown occurred between Teyar al-Am and Saghem after five months, the rest of the Committee continued work with the remnants of the legitimate leadership of the organization. The members of the legitimate RC, including those members who where kept in prison at Rasai for one year, were the following:


1. Ibrahim Mohammed Ali (who played central role in rebuilding the mainstream organization into ELF-RC), 2. Dr. Habte Tesfamariam, 3. Tesfai Woldemichael (Degiga), 4. Haileab Andu, 5. Khalifa Osman, 6. Ahmed Nasser (who was among the imprisoned EC members), 7. Ghirmai Ghebreselassie (Keshi), 8. Yusuf Berhanu, 9. Tesfai Tecle, 10. Ahmed Mohammed Abdu, 11. Azien Yassin, 12. Ibrahim Ghedem, 13. Amna Melekin, 14. Ghebrai Tewelde (who went with Saghem) 15.  Ibrahim Toteel (who went with Saghem) 16. Amna Melekin (withdrew from the ELF-RC soon) and 17. Tesfamariam W/Mariam (was in hospital in Cairo and migrated to USA soon after his return to the Sudan). 


To cut the long story short, the ELF-RC emerged relatively stronger than the other  factions in spite of facing many obstacles by EPLF and other Eritrean rivals and stringent interferences by outside forces in 1983-84 that were spearheaded by Saudi Arabia and supported by Sudan’s Jaafer Numeri, all reacting against what had happened to the ELF in 1981 in the hands of the combined forces of the EPLF and TPLF. The ELF-RC was wanted to literally disappear as organization; however, its rank and file went underground, and were able to weather all those continued persecutions, imprisonments, kidnappings and killings in the Sudan. When the foreign-supported alliance led by a Saudi national, Abdallah Bahabre, floundered and the general political environment changed, the organization came out of hiding and organized two organizational conference in Khartoum and Kassala during 1984-85. Through those democratic channels, the organization created a new transition leadership consisting of the RC members who supported the General Trend (ELF-RC), members of the Provisional ELA Committee of April 1982 in addition to other senior political cadres. The ELF-RC thus revitalized its  political operations and strengthened activities of its armed units inside Eritrea, mainly in the Gash region. It was this body that led the organization towards its third congress. In addition to the former executive members, other key leadership elements who filled executive posts this turbulent period included Rezene Leulekal, in charge of the economy office, Gherezgheher Tewolde, the foreign office and Abdalla Hassen, the military office.


The 3rd  ELF-RC Congress

At Togan, 28 June-7 July 1989

Naturally, the third national congress of the ELF should have convened in 1979 and not 14 years after the second congress of 1975. However, we have observed how stormy the epoch under review had been for the organization. Many even took it as a miracle to see the ELF-RC holding a normal congress after all what it witnessed during an entire decade starting in August 1980. The third congress was convened at Togan in the Eritrea-Sudan borders. It adopted an upgraded programme and elected a 31-member Revolutionary Council. Some of the RC members were elected in their absence because a few could not be at the congress site due to illness or other technical problems.


The full list of the  Revolutionary Council members elected at the 3rd Congress at Togan:

  1. Ahmed Nasser, chairman

  2. Ibrahim Mohammed Ali, political/organizational office

  3. Tesfai Woldemichael (Degiga),

secretary of the EC

  1. Woldemariam Bahlbi, military

  2. Yusuf Berhanu, foreign office

  3. Teklebrahan Ghebrezadiq (Wodi Bashai) security

  4. Khalifa Osman, economy and information

  5. Gherezgheher Tewolde

  6. Haileab Andu

  7. Mohammed Omar Yahya

  8. Hassan Iman

  9. Beyene Kidane

  10. Abdu Abdalla

  11. Omar Mohammed

  12. Michael Ghereselassie

  13. Mohammed Adem Artaa

  14. Issa Mohammed

  15. Ghebrekidan Halefe

  16. Mengisteab Asmerom

  17. Mohammed Idris Humedai

  18. Desbele Ghebrehiwet

  19. Negusse Tseggai

  20. Mohammed Nur Ahmed

  21. Gimie Ahmed

  22. Idris Ismail

  23. Haile Ghebru

  24. Mehari Tesfamariam

  25. Woldesus Ammar

  26. Abdu Saiq

  27. Mohammed Berhan Blata

  28. Mohammed Ali Ismail


RC Reserve members:

  1. Abdalla Afendi (replaced Woldesus Ammar in the RC)

  2. Seyoum O. Michael (replaced Haileab Andu)

  3. Abdalla Saed Ilaj (replaced Teklebrahan Gherezadiq)

  4. Berhane Kidane (replaced Woldemariam Bahlbi)


Between June 1989 and October 1995, change of Executive Committee portfolio holders was fast and frequent due to rapidly changing life events and political developments. For instance in the foreign office alone, Yusuf Berhanu was replaced after a year by Mohammed Nur Ahmed who in turn left the post to join the EPLF government, and was replaced in December 1991 by Seyoum Ogbamichael. In April 1992, Woldemariam Bahlbi and Teklebrahan Gherezadiq were kidnapped by the new regime in Asmara and were replaced by other RC members. It was also during this period that Idris Humedia for sometime until he joined the government-side held the post of social affairs and Omar Mohammed, the  information office.


4th ELF-RC Congress

August/October 1995

These are RC members who could attend the 3rd regular session of the 4th RC  (i.e. RC elected

at the 4th Congress). The session took place in Damascus, Syria, in the summer of 1997.


The ELF-RC held its 4th general congress in two places during the summer and fall of 1995. This was done due to visa problems in a number of proposed venues for the congress. Finally, part of the congress was conducted in Kassel, Germany, attended by representative delegates from branches in Europe, North America, Australia and some from the Middle East. The second half of the congress was held in October 1995 in Khartoum.  One of the significant resolutions at the 4th congress was the declaration that the ELF-RC will use all means at its disposal to topple the dictatorial regime in Eritrea. It is to be recalled that the organization decided in 1992 to suspend use of arms against the new regime in Asmara opting for democratic means to mobilize the people for change. Based on the 4th congress decision of 1995, the Revolutionary Council in the summer of 1997 decided to establish “political mobilization units whose self-defense is well secured”.


The following RC members were elected at the 4th ELF-RC congress:


  1. Ibrahim Mohammed Ali, chairman

  2. Mengisteab Asmerom, organizational office

  3. Seyoum Oqbamichael, foreign office

  4. Khalifa Osman, information

  5. Beyene Kidane, economy

  6. Mohammed Ali Ibrahim, EC secretary and in charge of military affairs

  7. Ahmed Nasser

  8. Ismail  Dini

  9. Mohammed Omar Yahya

  10. Dr. Habte Tesfamariam

  11. Idris Ismail

  12. Tesfai Woldemichael (Degiga)

  13. Tekle Melekin

  14. Yusuf Berhanu

  15. Hassen Iman

  16. Michael Ghebreselassie (Keshi)

  17. Mohammed Adem Arta’a

  18. Woldesus Ammar

  19. Negusse Tseggai

  20. Desbele Ghebrehiwet

  21. Ghebrekidan Halefe


5th  ELF-RC Congress

14-18 August 2001, held in Gondar

This picture depicts the 3rd regular RC session of the 5th RC (i.e.RC elected at the 5th Congress). The session, which preceded the split in the ELF-RC, was held in June 2003 in Addis Ababa.


The 5th ELF-RC congress was first scheduled to be held in December 2000 in Khartoum, Sudan. However, the congress was interrupted at a time when some of the congress participants were already in Khartoum and some from distant places like Australia, the North America still flying towards Khartoum. Many were stopped and returned from  Khartoum. The reasons were linked to new developments in relation to Sudanese-Eritrean relations. The rescheduled 5th congress was held in Gondar, Ethiopia, with only 104 delegates representing the organization. The congress adopted a new political programme and organizational structure befitting to the evolving situation. (For details on those changes, see Political Programme in Nharnet.com.)


The 33 Revolutionary Council Members Elected at the 5th Congress Were:


  1. Ahmed Nasser, chairman

  2. Mengisteab Asmerom, organizational affairs

  3. Khalifa Osman, information

  4. Yusuf Berhanu, economy

  5. Seyoum Oqbamichael, foreign

  6. Mohammed Ali Ibrahim, military

  7. Sahle Tesfai, social affairs

  8. Negash Osman

  9. Samuel Daniel

  10. Ibrahim Ghedem

  11. Amanuel Habte

  12. Tesfai Woldemicahel (Degiga)

  13. Gherezgheher Tewelde

  14. Eyob Beserat

  15. Abdalla Hassan

  16. Berhane Kidane

  17. Woldesus Ammar

  18. Haile Ghebru

  19. Habte Tesfamariam

  20. Ismail Dini

  21. Habtemariam Kifle

  22. Mohammed Adem Artaa

  23. Beyene Kidane

  24. Mohammed Omar Yahya

  25. Tesfai Teklezghi

  26. Mohammed Aselo

  27. Hassen Iman

  28. Idris Ismail

  29. Asefaw Berhe

  30. Berhane Tesfagaber

  31. Gimie Ahmed

  32. Tekle Melekin

  33. Osman Mohammed


Reserve RC members

  1. Mehari Tesfamariam (replaced Ibrahim Ghedem who resigned at the spot)

  2. Ibrahim Mohammed Ali (replaced Haile Ghebru in 2002)

  3. Mohammed Jaber

  4. Osman Shum/Mahmoud Hamid – obtained tie-vote.



Like the 2nd RC, the 5th RC was affected by split. The mainstream ELF-RC was supported not only by two-thirds majority of the RC (i.e 19), but it also had the support of over 90 percent of the total membership of the organization worldwide. The splinter group was supported by 13 members of the leadership. One ELF-RC veteran and long-time active member of the RC,  Khalifa Osman, resigned from the post and froze his activities with the organization.


The struggle continues for establishing a democratic Eritrea of institutions and rule of law. The ELF-RC is scheduled to hold its 6th congress within the year 2005, hopefully inside Eritrea!!




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