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Liquidation in the ELF
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Purge and liquidation in the EPLF 1973-1980sResoum Kidane 31/08/2008


As a legacy of the founders of the ELF leaders, in the early 1970s when many progressive Eritrean students from
Addis Ababa Hailesellase University joined the EPLF were also not welcome to the EPLF leaders. This was because Mussie, Yohannes and other students who came from university inside Ethiopia were far more progressive fighter than those who separated from ELF. Mengsteab (2005:51) gave a full explanation for this in following his word as follows
“According to some accounts, Isaias was never comfortable with the new arrivals from Addis Ababa, especially with Mussie and Yohannes".

Additinally Mussie, Yohannes and their followers were reputed to have been colourful debaters. By contrast, Isaias was said to hate open ideological debate. His style was to use frequent clichés to disparage the ideas and arguments of his opponent, and to use physical force to intimidate his opponents during discussion. “

According to Markakis (1987: 136) Muse Tesfai Mikael, a talented agitator and skilled dialectician who had honed these skills in the student movement. In recognition of his talents, he was put in charge of political education in the training camp, where he gained a reputation among the recent recruit intake . They rallied to his side when he led the challenge to the ELF-PLF leadership in the autumn of 1973, demanding, inter alia, the election of a committee to supervise the actions of the leadership, the participation of all members in decision-making, the election of units, and similar demands which the leaders denounced as anarchist.

Megesteab (2005:64) wrote that Isaias was partially successful in brainwashing a large number of his political operatives that the opposition was an Akele Guzai undertaking despite Mussie and Yohannes were too internationalist in their outlook so as not to blindly fall into regionalist trappings.

Using regionalism as a card against progressive fighters in 1973, 1976 and 1978, many progressive fighters were physically eliminated by the EPLF leaders between 1973-1980. Regarding this, Teklay Aden, an EPLF security chief who defected to the Ethiopian regime in 1981, revealed that three thousand fighters were physically liquidated by the Front between 1973 and the time of his defection 1980.

Solomon Woldemariam, who was in the EPLF leadership from 1971-1977, also suggested that the number of people killed was much larger. Solomon added that around one thousand fighters who participated in the Menka movement were rehabilitated after undergoing serious political indoctrination and self-criticism( Mengiseab,49:2005)

In 1974 to 1976 when many university graduates and students joined the EPLF, they too were not made welcome by the EPLF leaders, and anyone whose background was of a student or graduate was under close surveillance since s/he was in trainng. This was also confirmed by Adhanom Fitwi, Adhanomin his interview with Aida Kidane in 2004 described the circumstances of the 1974 in the following:

            " When I joined the EPLF in 1974, the Menkae movement had already started in September 1973,
               and I found the leaders of Menkae in prison. I was a student at the Addis Ababa University and
             we knew nothing about the Menkae. Very few people knew of it. And in the field immediately we
             were suspected without justification of sympathizing with the Menkae movement - because we came
              from Addis Ababa University. This made us concerned"
Read more.

The attitude of the E.P.L.F toward the educated fighters in the EPLF

Saba Gidy

Saba Gidy graduated from Lycee Gibra Mariyam (French School) Addis Ababa and became a secondary school french teacher in Dekemhare. She joined the EPLF from Dekemhare in late 1974 and was working in the Department of Public Adminstration (Jemher) in the Karnishim area of the highlands from 1975- 1977.  Subsequently, she was in the combat force at the Massawa Front line for a short period where she was killed in action. In 1970s and 1980s someone who was suspected of having different views from that of the EPLF leaders was commonly sent deliberately from Kefletat (EPLF departments) to the front line, without appropriate military retraining . This happened to many of the EPLF fighters who were killed at the Massawa front in 1977 and 1978. Many of them became a forced martyr. Saba Gidy was one of them. This also happened to the former ELF democratic fighters (Falul) who perished without enough survivors to tell their story at the Massawa Front.

The question of Martyrdom within the EPLF in the 1970s

This was exacerbated in 1976 when Goitom Berhe, a law graduate of Addis Ababa, and his groups tried to form an underground movement called 'the Eritrean Revolutionary Party' in 1975/1976. 'the Eritrean Revolutionary Party' translated a number of Marxist works to Tigrigna (eg Dialectical Materialism, Four Essays of Philosophy, about the Proletariat Party), and all the literature was then collected and burnt.

According to Fitwi (2004), Goitom was sent to Nakfa area, of Tigre speaking area with only one rank (MesRie) of 8 members and actually he did not speak Tigre language. Then he was confined there for some time. And there he wrote an articl
e 'Who is the revolutionary?' handwritten in 30 pages. I and Alem Abraha read it at night with kerosene lamp, though it was forbidden to read the article. About two weeks from then, Goitom was taken away and never seen again. Alem Abraha was soon taken and killed.
Case of Alem Abraha                              Case of Tekle Wedi Keshi                      Case of Twelde

The suspected ring-leaders of Eritrean Revolutionary Party'were arrested and later executed. Some of the victims included:

1)Goitom Berhe, executed in 1978 at Gerger; 2)Mesih Russom, executed in 1980 at Arag ;3) Tewolde Eyob, executed in 1980 at Arag ; 4)Teclai Ghebre-Kristos, executed in 1980 at Arag ; 5)Michael Bereketeab,executed in 1980 at Arag ; 6) Haile Yohannesom, executed in 1980 at Arag ; 7) Samuel Ghebre-Dingil, executed in 1980 at Arag ; 8)Bereket Haile, executed in 1980 at Arag ; 9) Memhir Tecle Habte-Tsion, executed in 1980 at Arag ;
10) Alem Abraha, executed in 1980 at Arag and others

It is good to mention that in 1970s the educated fighters were categorized in two groups, the first groups who opposed the leadership such as the Menka groups or Bistay Goitom were called by Intellectual opportunists by the Front. The second group of educated fighters who played a great role in collaboration with the Front in eliminating those progressive fighters were called Intellectual revolutionaries by the Front. The intellectual revolutionaries collaborated with the Front either directly like Dawit Habtu and Mussa Nibe who were both Law students and staff of Halewa Sewra, or indirectly like Haile Menkerios who translated a number of Marxist works to tigringna while all Eritrean Revolutionary Party' translated Marxist books were collected and burnt.

1975/1976 the author of this paper was in the Information department and I remember that when Haile Menkorias translated a number of Marxist works to tigringna (eg, State and Revolution , The Communist Manifesto, two step backward and one step forward and some of Mao works which I could not remember the title exactly, and we did all the process of printing and package of the publication althought it was not allow to read them because we were ordinary members not only this but also if you tried to read some of the Marx works, you would be in target on these days.

Sherman( 1980:64) also stated that in 1976 perhaps as many as 200 young EPLF intellectuals were arrested. Many were executed for “radicalism” for following an alleged Maoist line or sometime known as Bitsay Menkiskas.


In the 1970s the victime of the EPLF leaders were not only Menka and Bitsay Menkiskas but also Yemanawyan Menkiskas( Right wing) as the continuation of the democratization movement this movement against corruption in 1977-1978 when most of the town liberated by the EPLF.

Among those persons killed for having said a word or two in criticism against corruption of the ruling clique were- 1) Dr Eyob Ghebre-leul, educated in the USSR, executed in 1980 at Arag ; 2) Mehari Ghirma-Tsion, educated in the USSR who joined the EPLF withHaile Menkorias 1972, executed in 1980 at Arag ; 3) Ghebre-Michael Meharizghi; Addis Abeba university graduate, executed in 1980 at Arag ; 4) Hibret Tesfa-Ghaber, executed in 1980 at Arag ; 5) Kidane Abeito, executed in 1980 at Arag ; 6) Fissehaye Kidane (Germen), executed in 1980 at Arag ; 7) Haile Jebha, former EPLF interrogation section chief, executed in 1980 at Arag ; 8) Araya Semere, executed in 1980 at Arag ; 9) Ammanuel Filansa; 10) Solomon Wolde-Mariam, key EPLF leader between 1970-1977,executed in 1988 at Hishkeb and, others. Mogos Fassil, Addis Ababa law graduate, narrowly escaped death by fleeing from gun-point.

Adhanom Ftiwee also stated that meeting or seeing former Addis University students in the field became a rarity, unless they were connected with the EPLF leadership, otherwise they were taken away being accused as a member of this and that movement and affiliations.

Despite the EPLF leaders and their colloborators accused the ELF of killing innocent and democratic fighters but none of them have acknowledged the crime committed by the EPLF.

  For example Abedella Adem,in his interview with Awate stated that he left the ELF when theGeneral Command” (Qiyada Al Ama) detained combatants just for expressing a dissenting opinion.

However, he has never come forward to acknowledge the EPLF leader’s crime against innocent fighters for expressing their opinions in the 1970s and 1980s while he was a member of the Central Committee.
Issayas and his groups who splited from the ELF provided a justification for their splitting from the ELF by accusing the ELF leaders of killing anyone who opposed the leadership. However when Mesfin Hagos was in the leadership with Issayas more Eritrean liberation fighters were killed by the EPLF leaders than by the ELF leaders. Despite this Mesfin Hagos has never acknowledged his crime while in the leadership in the EPLF like Abedella Adem who was a member of the EPLF Central Committee in the 1970.
What is the meaning of silence? The Tears of a sadist
Some victims of Issayas during 1970s and 1980s, listed by Alem Tesfay 2003
Halewa Sewra” [Gestapo section of the EPLF] "EPLF's Maryam Ghimbi"ብ ሓለዋ ሰውራ ሌተና ኮሎነል ጸጉ ኣብ ዝነበረሉ እዋን ንተጋደልቲ ዘሳቕዩን ዝቕጥቕጡን ካብ ዝነበሩ
ዲ ጸጋይ (ብግዜሃይለስላሴፖሊስዝነበረ፡
ተስፋልደት ሚኪኤል “ቀሃስ” ዝጽዋዕ ጥቓ ወ.ወ.ክ.ማ.ዕዳጋሓሙስግዝኡዝነበረ
የማነ “ተንሽን” ካብ ደቀምሓረ
ኣማኑኤል ተስፋሁነኝ “ቀይሽብር”
ኣማኑኤል ልጃም
ኣማኑኤል ጳውሎስ (ካብቶም ንጂ15 ክእሰሩ እንከለዉ ኣብ ላንድክሩዘር ዝጽበ ዝነበረ
ወዲ ዋስዕ
ተኪኤ “ወዲ ቐሺ” ካብ ዓዲ ንፋስ (ንኢትዮጵያ ኢዱ ሂቡ፡ ድሓር ብሱዳን ኣቢሉ ናብ ኣሜሪካ፡ ካሊፎርንያ ዝኸደ)
ኮሎነል ስምኦን ገብረድንግል
ጋይም ተስፋሚኪኤል (ኣብ ሃገራዊ ድሕነት ናይ ወጻኢ ጉዳያት ሓላፊ ዘሎ)
ጸጋይ ይስሃቅ (ተመሃራይ ዝነበረ፡ ናብ ተ.ሓ.ኤ ዝሃደመ) ይርክብዎም።ካብዚኣቶም ድሕሪ ነጻነት መዝነት ዝረኸቡ
ኣለዉ [source] ሌተና ኮሎነል ጸጉ መን እዩ?
Teklay Aden described Halewa Sewra in the following:
”The most criminal and notorious organ within the EPLF is known as 'Halewa Sewra or the security department:”
    Adhanom Fitew also added that when a person is taken to Halewa Sewra, the person disappears. There was a prison guard confessing later, guarding Mussie and Co., - the lice were so many that a bullet was preferred. A prisoner cannot by himself scratch or move himself because he was beaten for that action. It was such a hot weather that the lice should not have survived, but spread more in contrast. The Menkae leaders and members suffered much. Some fighters on their way to bring water saw Mussie and Co., and said they were unrecognizable, living skeletons and eyes bulging out. Though food was scarce all around, the prisoners were full of lice, tortured and least fed.
Some victims of Ali Said
      [
ብ1970ታት ቅድሚ ናብ ኢትዮጵያ ምስላሙ፡ ናይ ሓለዋ ሰውራ ሓላፊ ተኽላይ ወልደማርያም “ዓደን” ኔሩ። ብድሕሪኡ ሓለዋ ሰውራ ናብቲ ብ2007 ዝሞተ ዓሊ ስዒድ ዓብደላ ተመሓላሊፉ
Ali Said was the Head of “Halewa Sewra” 1977 -1987
Abdella Adem who is one of the opposition group leaders and was a former member of the EPLF CC in his message of condolence over Ali, remembered him for faithful friendship, kindness said Abdella Adem.
This was despite Ali’s crimes in the 1970s and 1980s. Click here to see the evidence of his crime.
As mentioned earlierAbdella Adem has never come forward to acknowledge the EPLF leader’s crime against innocent fighters for expressing their opinions in the 1970s and 1980s while he was a member of the Central Committee.

Purging, liquidation and killing in suspicious circumstances like those of Weldekel Haile did not stop after 1980 and there were more stories of fighters who were killed in suspicious circumstances in the mid 1980s, for example Issayas Tewelde ( Wedi-Flansa), Fisehya Woldegebrel, Ibrahim Afa and others.

Generally, the number of fighters who were killed by the EPLF during the liberation struggle was much highter than the number of fighters who killed in the two years civil war 1972-74. According to Mengisteab (2005: 50) the number of fighters physically eliminated by the Front between 1973 and the liberation of Eritrea in 1991, could range between three thousand and five thousand, if those fighters who disappeared under mysterious circumstances are included.

In conclusion, the author appeals to all former members of the EPLF who survived the war, especially those who were in the Central Committee between 1977-1987 (Abdella Adem, Haile Menkerios, Mesfin Hagos and Andebrhan Wolde Giorgis ) and other senior post holders, especially members of the 72 ( the EPLF Intelligent Centre ) to tell the public the truth about the EPLF leadership’s crimes against innocent fighters.

Purge and Liquidation in the ELF
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