Fact and Evidence Part V:

1970-1982: Rivalry among factional organisation leaders[ ELF, EPLF & others]

Researched and compiled by Resoum Kidane[07/06/10]

The conflicts which began between Idris Mohammed Adem and Osman Saleh Sabbe after the Adobaha conference, 1969 caused the splitting of the ELF into three factions : PLF1 [Shabia], PLF2 [Selfi-Natzinet], and Obel .The splitting of the ELF was also caused by religious prejudice which was used by ELF leaders in a similar way to how the  Unionist leaders used it in the 1940s. As a result of this, there was a report that a group of university students known as Siriyat Addis was executed on mere suspicion of being Ethiopian agents.

By some accounts, between two hundred and three hundred Christian fighters and fifty Christian  peasants were executed at the behest of the ELF leadership(Paice 1994: 34; Human Rights Wartch 1991: 47;Mengesteab 2005: 43). Issayas was one of the members of Kiada al Ama leadership who should be blamed for the massacre of those students in 1969.
Paice (1994, 34) adds that Wolday Giday and Kidane Kiflu, two prominent ELF members were also killed in Kassala by comrades.  This persecution caused for running away of the Ala group from the ELF probably in September 1969.In March 1970 Mesfin Hagos defected from the PLF and joined the Ala group. Later in April Issayas also defected from the ELF and joined the Ala group.
PLF2 [Selfi-Natzinet]: The Ala group did not have any intention to split from the ELF. The splitting of the Ala group from the ELF was initiated by Mesfin Hagos and Issayas which was strongly opposed by Abraham Twelde who was not in favour of spliting from the ELF. Abrham Twelde wished to resolve the problems with (Kiada al-Ama) through in dialogue not by splitting.After one month of argument between them, Abraham Twelde die suddenly. Following his death, Issayass succeeded to split from the ELF.
PLF1 [Shabia] In the early 1970 Sabbe brought  three hundred fighters  opponents of the Region 1 and 2 from Sudan to Aden and then to the Dankael cost where  they were joined by several hundred more fighters from Massawa area led by  Omero and Rahemodan in June 1970. The General Command (Kiada al-Ama) began to condemn loyal to Sabbe who was split from the Supreme Council.

ELF [Obel]:In the early 1970 Abu Tayara (Mohamed Omer Abdullah) who was leader of Obel group (the Marya faction of the ELF-PLF)  made contact with Osman Saleh Sabbe. In January 1972 ELF-PLF was formed by merging the ELF(Obele) with the PLF, and in June 1973 the Obel group and his  Marya fighters merged.

In October 1972 the three [PLF1; PLF2; and Obel] dissident group of the region 1 and 2 created a provisional transitional united administration at Gehteb, whereby they were put under a centralized leadership structure while at the same time, preserving their organizational independence. According  to Haile Menkorios who joined the PLF 2 in 1973, in his interview with Eritrios [Reference], the PLF 1 (Shabia) were about 150 men, PLF 2 (Selfi-Natzinet) about 120 and Obel 20-30 men.
Civil war between PLF/EPLF and others development [1972-1977

The ELF First National Congress instead of avoided any explicit declaration of civil war but it passed a resolution setting the stage for civil war on the grounds that 'Eritrean field cannot bear more than one organization and one leadership'. Herui who was elected vice-chairman of the Revolutionary Council in 1971 Following in his father's footsteps, participated in the decision to liquidate the EPLF in1972 (Killon, 1991:251).

The announcement of the new organization by Sabbe also promoted the ELF RC decision to liquidate it in Feb 1972 which sparking the first civil war( Killion, 1991:185). The ELF Revolutionary Council initially tried to convince the PLF 2 that they should stay away as the military operation was not directed against them but it was against PLF 1. Pool (1997:11) notes that “sensitive legacy of the killing of Christian fighters, the Ala group was not initially a target".
This showed that the civil war not between the Muslim and Christian fighters which is still used for propaganda purpose since then.African confidential in its publication of November 27, 1970 states that the ELF has always received support from amongst both Christian and Moslem elements of the population, but for propaganda purposes it has usually presented itself as a Moslem movement which is pro-Arab and anti-Zionist. This publication also gave more explanation of this motivation, according it, The Moslems, on their part, are fearful of possible Christian domination in any future independent state, especially as the Christians 'are a more educated ' group.
The civil war between the ELF and EPLF rivalry leaders also used to eliminate their opponent under the pretext of martyred in the civil war.Examples. Mahmoud Ibrahim Muhammad Saeed (Chekini) who went to China for training with the first group he was killed (martyred) during the first Eritrean civil war. However, according to a reliable source Chekini was murdered in the Sahel, 1971. Tuku'e Yehadego who was co founder of Mehaber Showat inAsmara was also one of the victime of the EPLF who was eliminated under the pretext of martyed during the civil war.
In January 1975the ELF and EPLF reached an agreement to end their hostility.This was because of the public putting pressure on both organization to initiate negotiation and halt the civil war, it was also the dissatisfaction that arouse within the rank-and –file of the ELF regarding the continuation of the war as well as the increasingly close balance of power between the two organizations. Mengestaeab ( 2000: 197)

Civil war and accussions against leaders

Abdalla Idris Mohammed, ELFsecond vice president
Herui Tedla Bairu, ELF first vice president

Issayas, ELF-PLF (Ala group) leader
Idris Mohamed Adem, ELF President

Osman.S.Sabbe, EPLF Foreign Mission
ELF and EPLF leaders who should be blamed for the death of 3000 fighters in the civil war 1972-1974

In the ELF Second congress Huri Tedla, Vice-Chairman was not elected. Hurry Tedla who considered himself as a representative of highlander was not happy with the arrival of many new recruit from highlander such Seyoum Haresta and others. In generally after the second national congress a new conflict was developed Between veteran fighters and new recruit which cause for the Fallul Movement, in 1977 the ELF split with the formation of the Eritrean Democratic Movement headed by Huri.
In May 1975, the ELF at its second National Congress confirmed the ceasefire with EPLF by a resolution calling for peaceful solution of secondary contradiction. As a continuation of this, in September 1975 Sabbe attended the Khartoum conference to form a unity with the new leaders of the ELF, and both of them reached an agreement which could lead to unity in Khartoum, however their agreement was rejected by the PLF leadership in the field
Amanuel Hidrat in his article which posted to awate.com on 29, 2010 wrote that, December 1975 was the period where the demand for unity had reached its climax by the file and rank of the army in particular and the general population in general. It was at this particular time that a team of social affairs department met with an army Brigade of ELF-PF (hizbawi-hailetat) at Naro- Sahil areas (specifically at Tigse) to discuss about unity. When we raise the issue of unity, sarcastically they told us that it was not in the list of their game book. My colleague pressed the question by saying “hakude’a”? As usual the answer is always given by the political commissioner and he flatly told us, and I quote “ Simret eqo zir’e, bequl, hefess Abilka Zimets’a aikonen” in other words “unity is not something you plant, germinate, and harvest as you guys see at it, but it is endless process shaped by forces of democracy at their own will.”
In March 1976 the leaders of the PFL, Obel and Osman Salah Sabbe held a meeting in Khartoum
to resolve their difference. However the meeting was ended without an agreement between Osman Salah Sabbe and the leaders of the PLF. As a result of this the PLF broken into two faction EPLF and PFL.Sabbe
formed EPLF[Eritrea Popular Liberation Force in 1976 and the Obel group leaders(Abu Tayara & Saleh Mohamed Idris( Abu Ajaj) who were member of the leadership left the PLF and joined the EPLF.
The Eritrean Liberation Front-Popular Liberation Force(ELF-PLF) formed by Sabbe in 1977  which was split in March 1979 with the formation of the ELF-PLF Revolutionary Council headed  by Osman Ajib.In November Ajib was assassinated in Khartoum, after Ajib assisnation the leadership
was taken by Abdel Gadir Jeilani.
Despite the PLF1 and PLF 2 merged in 1973, but failed to elect a new leadership until the broken away of Sabbe from the PLF , purging the Menka and Solomon Woldemariam groups. Thereafter decided to hold an organisational congress which was held in January 1977. At this congress Ramadan was elected General Secretar and Issays Vice-General Secretar, and the the name of the organisation was changed from PFL to EPLF [Popular Liberation Front]
1977-1981: Rivalry between the EPLF and ELF leaders
The EPLF leaders refused to recognize the Sabbe force at the First Organisational Congress which was held in January 1977 on the other hand the ELF declared its intention of effecting a preliminary merger with Sabba prior to unity with the EPLF. But the plan backfired within the ELF ranks and generated a grassroots mutiny among guerillas who foresaw the possibility of war with the EPLF in the event of such a realignment(Dan Connel, 1978). Later in 1977 the ELF leadership took a military action against the ELF ranks by labelling them anarchist or Fallul
Thereafter the ELF and EPLF leaders showed their good willingness for the unity talks, the first talks of this was held in Zager, in April and May 1977.As the progress of the above talks, an agreement was signed between the two fronts in October 20 1977.This opened a new phase in the Eritrean people struggle for national unity. In this meeting the two front agreed on all the basic issues which could lead towards the realization of one national democratic front in the the Eritrean areana. (The Eritrea Newsletter, September 1981 p.17).

According Amanuel Hidrat the split Of Isaias and his group and Sabbe was officiated early 1977. Respectively, the policy of ELF leadership has changed for calling unity with the two splits (klte hizbawi Hailetat), which by the way had brought frictions within the rank and file of the ELF organization itself. On October 20, 1977, President Numeiri called the three organizations to resolve their difference and unite all their efforts for independence. Isaias and his group known as EPLF refused to have any meeting in which Sabbe and his groups could participate. In the end, on a deal that the Numeiri  government brokered, Sabbe and his groups agreed to withdrew, provided the two organizations are united.

However the agreement which was made between the ELF and EPLF leaders in October 1977 without the ELF-PLF also reject by the veteran ELF fighters. The ELF experienced further defections of its right wing to the Sabbe group. According to Dan Conne(1978) ELF-PLF elements within the ELF attempted a series of coups d’états and mutinies which were put down by that front. Ahmed Nassier also said that we foiled this reactionary project by resolutely liquidating these elements on May 22, 1978
Despite ninety percent of Eritrea was liberated in the late 1977, the EPLF and ELF leadership instead of agreeing bilateral talks with Dergue but and   they engaged unilatery peace talk with Degue.
The EPLF leader, Issayas had a separate talk in Brlin from 31 January to 3 February 1978, and the ELF leader Ahmed Nasser (ELF-RC) in Moscow from 7- 8 June 1978. This gave a good opportunity to Ethiopia for preparing a large scale offensive to recapture all the towns which were liberated by both front. For example on July 25. Ethiopia recaptures major Eritrean supply town of Tessenei. Wolde Giorgis(1989: 93) wrote that the ELF and EPLF had the power to take Asmara, but at the last minute their mutual hatred proved stronger than their hatred of the Ethiopian army. He adds that, they lost their opportunity because they could not come to an agreement
Until 1977 the EPLF argued that secondary contradictions could not and should not be resolved by armed means, suggesting that political dialogue and ideological competition were the proper methods of handling inter-liberation differences and conflict (Megseatab 51). This was when the EPLF was militarily weak relative to its rival between 1971-1977. However later in 1977 when the ELF forces had dropped to  7,000 while EPLF could count on 30,000 during that time.( Sherman, 1980;   Megesteab, 2005). One of the factors for th declining number of fighters in the ELF was due to the dispute between conservative and reformist factions Purging [EPLF] , it was estimated that the ELF may have actually lost as much as one-third of its strength.

The EPLF exploited  this circumstance and began to reject the ELF second national congress resolution. This   was calling for peaceful solution of secondary contradiction which was also the principle of the EPLF in the early and mid-1970s. The  EPLF  returned  to the old ELF argument that Eritrea could not support more than one liberation front,  as a justification  to  annihilate the ELF, 
Ibrahim Afa had been one of the members of the Joint Supreme Political Leadership ( JSPL). In March 1979, the fifth meeting of the JSPL charted out a common military strategy for the Eritrean revolution and decided that the Northern Sahel would be a common base area for both fronts. In the meantime ELF units had joined the EPLF's forces in Northern Sahel. In 1980 the ELF was defeated and ceased to have any fighting forces within Eritrea. Based on information gathered from ex-fighters, the author learned that Ibrahim had not been happy with what happened to the ELF in 1980. This could have been one of the causes for the rift between Issayas and Ibrahimwhich he had planed in  the early 1970s. According to some source there was also a power struggle between Issays and Ibrahim Afa which led to the mysterous death of Ibrahim Afa in 1985.
When the TPLF started the armed struggle on 18 February 1975, the relation of the TPLF with both the EPLF and TPLF was not good. However later the relation between the TPLF and EPLF was improved. This was when the EPLF had a plan to drive out thhe EPLFin the end of the 1970. Based on the principle "The enemy of my enemy is my friend. The EPLF leadership formed an alighn with the TPLF to attack their common enemy the ELF.This cause the cvil war between the ELF and EPLF in 1981.According to unofficial report this war caused an estimated between 1,000 and 2,000 casualties].
Despite the Ethiopia army killed many civilians from Arafali, Atshoma, Ona etc. and burnred their villages between 1967 and the early 1970s, Issays held secret talks with the CIA in order to eliminate the ELF which he achieved in 1981. Regarding his secret meeting with the CIA, Amar(2004) states that Wodi Giorg , who was at the meeting with Issays and Col. Mamuzer Copland on 2 Jun 1981ly 1970(note), had an interview with the local press in Addis which appeared in an Amharic newspaper called "Senay", volume 1 number 3 of February 1993. A short while later, Wodi Giorgio was shot dead in front of his Addis Ababa house in order to keep the meeting secret.

After Abdella Idris was defeated by his long rival Issay in 1981. Abdella Idrise took military action against his opponents Melake Tekele, who was killed by Abdella Idris during the coup.  Following this coup, Abdella Idris  organized his own election as head of ELF-RC in 1982, and he started  to accuse Christian elements in the ELF of destroying the organization,  this  was to justify for his legimatmacy.  Abdella Idris, however, killed more Moslum fighters than any one leader in the ELF just as Issaya killed more Christian fighters than any leader in the EPLF during the armed struggle

Fact and Evidence Part VII:[1981-2010 Leadership rivalry among the opposition group leaders