The near liquidation of (E)PLF 1993doc - Eritrios Net

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ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓ

    1 ሓሓሓ 1978


    ሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓ: ሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓሓ:

    ሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓ: ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ

    ሓሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓሓ

    "ሓሓሓ ሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓ" ሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ

    ሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓ ሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ 17/2/73 ሓሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓ

    ሓሓ:: ሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ' ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓ

    ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓ ሓሓሓ ሓሓ: ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ :: ሓሓሓ ሓሓ

    ሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓ::

    ሓሓ ሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓ

    ሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ:: ሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓ

    ሓሓሓ ሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓ

    ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓሓሓ

    ሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓ: ሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ

    ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓ: ሓሓ ሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓሓ

    ሓሓሓ ሓሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓሓሓ::

    ሓሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ

    ሓሓሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓሓ ሓሓሓ ሓሓሓሓ ሓሓ ሓሓ::


     The article here is highlighting on the Battle of Gereger, which was a turning point for both fronts yet very little known about.

     It was not that long ago that there are witnesses living from then. Both sides accuse each other of starting the civil wars that cost them many brave fighters and came to end in Zager village in 1974 when the population at large intervened bodily and stopped it. It was a temporary lapse as both sides were struggling for supremacy in the fields.

     The EPLF was groups of three different fronts. They had split from ELF in 1970 and based themselves in different parts of Eritrea. One faction, the PLF1 was more known as “Shaebia” and “Red Sea” by the then fighters being mostly from Semhar region. The Second faction, PLF2 were

    mostly from Highlands called “Ala Group” and also “Isayas group” and called themselves the Selfi

    Naznet and it was formerly led by Abraham Tewelde. The third group, the Obel were mostly from Barka and got the name Obel after meeting in that area in Barka.

     As the ELF already from Adobha and Awate conferences 1969 and 1971 warned that no other force is to be allowed in the field, the ELF and PLF groups had met at Aden in 1972 trying to close on their differences. From the ELF side one member was Saleh Eyay and Yohannes Sebhatu from PLF side among others.

     There was a 3 day attempted coup in Sudan led by communists in 1972. Some members of the communist party fled into Eritrea. The border was closed for all fighters and many joined the field through Yemen.

     These groups were chased in different battles to the Sudanese border in the north in 1973, to Gereger inside Sudan. The ELF here decided to strike and wipe out the groups in a surprise move.

     According to Aenawi MnKsKas (Destructive Movement) of 1973 Tigrina, some ELF vs PLF battles fought are named. Pages 33-34.

    1. 11-12/5/72 Battle at Ayet of two days. 6 martyred from PLF and 13 wounded. 23 killed from the attacking force (ELF) and more than 30 wounded

    2. 29/6/72 a whole day battle at Aratat /TruKruK/ 14 killed from PLF and 18 wounded. From ELF 20 killed and over 30 wounded.

    3. 11-13/7/72 a three-day battle at Hawel’E 21 killed and 24 wounded from PLF and the ELF retreated with 100 killed and wounded.

    4. 17-25/3/73 a weeklong battle at Gereger. 12 killed and 17 wounded from PLF and the attacking force (ELF) left 101 corpses and over 130 wounded. The battle was stopped by the intervention of the Sudanese army.

    5. 20/5/73 a whole day battle at Kebre-WeEt there 3 from PLF were killed and 7 wounded. Earlier in 18/5/73 where the attacking force (ELF) had surprised and hit the guarding fighters, fled leaving 4 corpses, now fled leaving 21 corpses and more than 40 wounded.

    6. 26/8/73 a whole day battle at Fah 2 killed and 3 wounded from PLF while 8 killed and 13 wounded from the striking force.

     “These are battles from when the groups gathered in one place until the end of 1973. 14 battles had been fought earlier. Apart from the battles with the striking reactionary force, there were registered historical battles won over Ethiopian forces.” 36 battles registered against Ethiopian forces and 26 in 1973 against ELF. (Page 36)

    The Sudanese closed the supply routes after PLF was sent back into Eritrean territory and it was scarce of food. DM page 65.

    This horrible battle of brothers killing each other was appreciatedly stopped by the Sudanese army led by L-General Abdel Kerim Sewar Al Dehab and L-General Khelifa Kerrar who then was vice chief of security, according to “Temukro Serawit Harnet Eritrea” Tigrina page 64. Here it states the ELF chased the forces to the Sudanese border between Karora and Agig, in Sudanese Ayterba. The Sudanese demanded ELF retreat and put PLF under their protection. This gave the PLF time to strengthen and at end of 1974 went to Kebessa. Not date is given here and the place different than Gereger.

    st The book “Hafshawi politicawi tmhirti, 1 part” Tigrina EPLF mentions the Gereger battle in page

    102. It states that the weeklong the Sudan army coming between them stopped attack by ELF. They made both sides agree to stop fighting and democratically solve the problem in meeting, that both sides select committees and that no fighting continues either in Sudan or Eritrea.

Araya Tsegai, page 77 of book The Long Struggle of ERITREA, 1988

    According to the ELF, the liquidation of the EPLF was considered as necessary to the success of the Revolution:

    It becomes crystal-clear that in societies similar to ours, only one democratic national front can be formed. The existence of more than one front under such conditions would either be a politically unconscious adventurist attempt underlying the dangerous strategic mistake of dividing the social forces of the democratic national liberation and hence, weakening it, or a conspiracy hatched by the colonialists to liquidate the revolution.

    In both cases those who stand behind such a political phenomenon betray the revolution . . . and acts of sabotage directed at the unity of such a front should be confronted with the most unwavering determination to secure/contain it. (1)

    The means of securing or containing the second front, according to ELF leaders, was for the ELF, as the original front, to assert the continuation of the revolution through the liquidation of counter-revolution . . . This is exactly what is going on in our revolutionary experience now, and it is what is wrongly termed by advocates of counter-revolution and apologists of colonialism as the "fratricidal war" in Eritrea (2)

    (1) ELF “Liquidation of Counter-Revolution” in The Eritrean Struggle, No. 3, 1973 p.8

    (2) Ibid. p. 14


     This sudden attack by ELF was to liquidate the three forces that had been chased all the way to the Sudan where the ELF plan went wrong. The attack was foiled on the onset where ELF fighters surrounded the PLF at near dawn and a kettle hit a rock. This raised the attention of one guarding Obel fighter who asked who it was. Getting no response, he radioed the others of the danger thus the PLF preparing themselves for attack. This is according to two PLF members, narration below, and one staying anonymous. Fighters used to carry kettles and pots since they did not have permanent fronts. The battle was 17 to 25 February 1973. (Destructive Movement, Tigrina page 34)

    Here below are the memories of three fighters, two from the PLF-2 and one officer of ELF though not directly involved in the battle.

    Tewdros Gebrezghier (Aligaz)

    Gereger was also referred to Gergeret Sudan and the other as Gergeret Eritrea. We were in the Sudan to strengthen ourselves and new ones were constantly joining us. Also the civil war had already started by ELF.

    Sabbe sent us much arms, food, medicine and materials like watches. When the ELF fought us with Guandi, non-automatic gun, we used Kalashinkofs, Simanofs, and Greenofs etc. We had modern arms. We had enough money and took sheep from peasants. The situation was such.

    The border was not controlled and we were both in Sudan and Eritrea. In the civil fights one went to Sudan then Eritrea and so on.

    We had been in Gereger for about 6 months when ELF led by Abdella Idris with his military including the renown Omer Suba, a Bren and Chicki marksman and his followers planned to attack us. He planned to totally liquidate Hizbawi Hayletat. They had even decided who was to be charged on what grounds. They surrounded us to attack us with surprise.

     The three fronts had not united yet, and it comprised of a, the Red Sea group, the Shabia or PLF1, b, The Marya people, or the Obel, and c, our group led by Isayas, the PLF2. We had each our own defence holds. Sabbe had supplied us with walkie-talkies and the ELF did not have.

    We certainly would have been wiped out had it not been for a kettle. It was common those days fighters to carry their utensils with them. An Obel fighter heard the falling of a kettle at that pitch night. The guard heard words "Ya jasus" meaning spy. In the history of Eritrean Liberation Movements `jasus was a common expression when someone does a mistake.

     The situation became suspicious that we were all contacted by radio to wake up and be in attention. I was in another hill than Sebhat Efrem, Tewelde Eyob etc. And that was the route Abdella led his men to.

    Tewelde Eyob ordered all fighters to prepare their guns into automatic and start shooting when he gave the order. Automatic means instead of shooting one bullet at a time, it shoots all ammunition automatically. The firing started while it was dark dawning 4-5 am. And this went on for about a half hour. When morning light shone, the ground was scattered with bodies. Abdella Idris himself was wounded there on the leg.

     From our PLF2 side only one man was martyred. He was a good man, Gebretsadik Guangul, or Cuba for having been in Cuba. Several were killed from the Red Sea group but do not remember if there were casualties from the Obel side.

     Later, the wounded ELF men started crying out because the hyenas after eating the dead ones started eating the wounded men. Some from our side started shooting at the hyenas that Isayas slapped the shooting men telling them to stop. The men wailed for help saying they were our brothers but were told to burn like fire. Those on the side of Sebhat Efrem were hearing them as I had changed position and the area was big. I personally did not hear the cries of the ELF wounded soldiers, but my comrades who were closer to them did hear, and they were the ones who told us.

    The experienced and veteran fighters of ELF were killed in that battle. Although the ELF participated in many battles, this was the turning point of their decline as a formidable front. It was a dirty and inhuman war. I did not understand everything then. Some like Musie, Yohannes Sebhatu and Tesfu Kidane (a brilliant university student from Addis) started asking why we continue fighting them. There was much we needed to know but no one dared ask.

     When the Sudanese made us back to Eritrea, they buried the remains of the dead with bulldozers. Wild animals left hair and nails of some fighters. They intervened several days after the battle commenced and the most effective battle time was the first half hour. It cannot be said that the Sudanese stopped the fighting because not long after we entered Eritrea we fought each other again.

    The Gereger area is arid and dry with hills and mountains like in Sahel. There are difficult mountains that an ape could not climb. Water could be dug out in certain areas, like that of Denkel. One has to know where to dig. As for food we made bread of it. Since we were in Gereger for several months we had built ovens from mud. We had built strong defence lines, a half-meter long wall with stones and there were no woods. We got political education of what struggle means, our goals, who the enemies are etc.

    Some fighters changed their names that it is not easy know them by their other names. There were men from Addis like Tariku, Assefa and another gentle person whose name I forgot. Their Tigrina was with heavy accent and all were martyred in other battles. The first two were close friends and died in the same battle.

    Arms collected by Sabbe were sent from Yemen to an island depo between us. A boat brings them to the shore and we carried them inland by camels. The way we went to get the weapons was through no mans land desert called Fits-fitso where only insects are seen. Walking through the area with Congo shoes, ones hot feet get peeled like tomatoes. I have made the trip only once starting from Gereger. One has to carry enough food and water to take that trip and always with camels to carry the loads.

Welde Mariam Abraham

     We entered meda through Yemen end of 1972.

    I was new to meda when the battle started in Gereger. The first day of battle some of us were away and nearing there when it started that were cautious not to be caught by ELF had they known of our whereabouts.

    . We hid that day and joined our group at night and participated in the ongoing battle. We brought arms with camels. Tsehaye Weldegabriel, Selomon Weldemariam, Kidane Junubi, Haji, others and I were bringing the arms and we were few enough to be captured by ELF that we were very careful. As we were nearing Gereger when the battle started and we were radioed of the battle. Else we would have been forced to flee inwards into Sudan as we were very few, or caught by ELF.

    It was widely accepted that there was no force able to defeat ELF. Their soldiers were called “Aremrem” by some, being strong and many, also that they paved their way out of battles.

     Because we had free time, we had fortified our front by building stonewall chains 2-3 kilometres of about a meter and half in length. One goes by bowing the body from the enemy in case of shooting. It also helps from the cold winds. There was abundance of food, and were inviting each other to tea. Sabbe gave us ample weapons. The situation was good except from the leadership. We were always in tension not to be targeted by the ELF snipers. Food and arms were given in numbers of fighters. Gereger was inside Sudanese territory. ELF had chased us all the way there. They were more numerous and stronger than us. They could have wiped us out if they had good planning.

    We had just got klashinkofs with 30 bullets and ELF had Siminofs holding 10 bullets could have been advantageous. Though we were in the same position our leaderships and administrations were separate. We had a co-ordinating committee regarding arms and food. It was Abdella Idris who led the attack, saying there was arms depo with about 10 members of Medada- reactionaries and brought many fighters with him.

     In that battle, about 20 of theirs were near us and we told them to surrender. They were surprised and most of them started getting their hands up. One of their sides got angry saying they give up to Medada and started shooting at them, and all 20 of them were killed. Since all sides were in fighting position, they were easily machine-gunned. It was saddening that 20 of our ELF brothers were killed uselessly. From our Selfi Nasnet side, we lost only one fighter, Gebresadik Guangul also known as Cuba because he had been in Cuba. He was looking into a loophole in the wall that a bullet hit him in the head killing him instantly.

    Tewelde Eyob was wounded a bullet entering one thigh and injuring the other thigh. I do not recollect if anyone else from our side was injured. We were not united yet with Shabia then and 6-7 were killed and did not know their names.

     We had captured arms from ELF and carrying them in camels, Habte Selassie and I lead the camels on foot. We all wore military outfits. Many fighters were killed and the corpses were smelling when we left them that the Sudanese buried them with bulldozers. The Sudanese were also concerned when we started using artillery; the “Haun” bomb and it disturbed their security. It surprised them that we used more weapons than bullets and told us to leave their territory.

    The corpses of the ELF were beginning to smell and we could not bury them as the ELF still surrounded us and held tension to shoot on our movements. The Sudanese after our leaving buried them in masses. It was my first and inhumane and cruel battle where brothers killed each other. Hyenas eat on the dead ad did not let the corpses alone. Our defence area was about 2-3 kms in diameter.

    After the battle had ended and the Sudanese intervened and buried the bodies, the ELF could not shoot at us and Habtelelassie and I collected the ELF weapons carried one camel each. Because the Sudanese ordered us back and because ELF was on the way ahead into Eritrea, the Sudanese escorted us back lest ELF ambushed us or prevented us from getting water. It was just then that I lost my way and carried the weapons towards the Sudanese direction as it was getting dark, ca 6.30pm. Camels were not used to climb mountains and this camel refused to climb. I took another direction hoping to get in time to the road I wanted. When I neared the Sudanese I called to my comrades and they came to me. This date was 2 March 1973. I remember the date because the next day as we spent the night there, and Tewelde Eyob was wounded in the thigh, he was treated again and he wrote on the new bandage 3.3.73. The medic’s name was Zerezghi. Adhanom Gebremariam was with us then. That day too, Naizgi Kiflu had a leather jacket and it was cut to cover the arms from rain and wind. Isayas called him “Feudal like Wedi Giorgio” and pulled it from the refusing Naizgi. We entered Eritrea then.

     The initial battle of Gereger was only one morning. But distant shootings and holding tension was for about one week.

    It is difficult to tell exact dates and time of more events. All writings we had were taken away from us and then the beatings, imprisonment and the time lapse took its toll.

    From there we entered Eritrean territory, to GleE and the date was 4 March 1973. From there we passed through Arag to Gereger Asmera and held it as a stronghold for a long time. There were two Geregers; one in Sudan called Gereger Sudan and the Eritrean side was called Gereger Asmera. From there we moved to Bliqat. I do not have much recollection of moving there because I was wounded that time. I was wounded in battle with ELF at Dek Seb village near Zager on 13 October 1974. Bliqat and Fah were strongholds until liberation. The Bliqat-Fah area had been an ELF front. We were about 2 kms away aerial, separated by mountain and valley. It was difficult to pinpoint our and their positions. They could follow our movements standing in guard in the mountain with binoculars. We used to spread writings for them to move and receive, that we came to the field to fight against Ethiopia, not against each other. We even used loudspeaker once as they were nearby and we had about 10 of them

    surrounded. We could have killed them but it was not our aim. We said we should all struggle against the common enemy.

    At end of May 1973 ELF came to Gereger Asmera and took away a fighter guarding a mountain while the others fought their way out. He was taken to Kenya I heard. I think his surname was Gebre Mikel. Hilal a renowned brave and educated man from Dankalia was killed in the battle of Kebri Wu?ut. He was not in good terms with Isayas and Omaro. Another fighter called Selomon Mengesha originally Tigrean brought up in Massawa had spent all his bullets and was killed. He had come with me from Germany and I was present when he asked Isayas if he could fight for Eritrea though only his mother was Eritrea and had no demands afterwards. He was allowed to fight and was that day martyred.

     Soon, there was a battle with Ethiopian soldiers and Isayas, Mehari Debesai and Omaro collected the loud speakers and writings of zena section. We had written articles what democracy means between fighters, with civilians, between fighters and civilians, among fighters and the leadership.

    We also had written a national anthem, song about discarding regional and religious differences. The leadership said they were burying them. But when digging the sand, reddish under soil was visible and the Ethiopian soldiers took them. Isayas and Omaro started propagating that the Menkae let Ethiopians take our property. To the Muslims they said we were communists and would forbid them from praying and reading the Koran.

    Bliqat had been under the unit I was with for long time before the leadership moved there, to make sure it was safe from ELF. And then when fighting was intensifying to our fighters in Kebessa my unit went there. On September 1974 fighters like Wedi Fenkil were killed in battle in Filfil

    Idris Hamedai (Humadi) part of his narration.

    The reason Sudan wanted the fighting to stop was that Ethiopia and Sudan had made a peace agreement concerning the south Sudan. Haile Selassie would work to bring the South Sudanese to peaceful terms and Sudanese with Ethiopian side.

     The Sudanese were worried that battle flared inside their country and that it may spread inside their country. This was a national defence action and interest, not to help ELF or PLF. Because ELF was more powerful, the Sudanese started pressuring ELF. The ELF had started the offensive inside Sudanese territory and the PLF would be forced to retreat further inside Sudan. They made both sides stop fighting and return inside Eritrea. The Sudanese that time had closed borders from ELF that supplies were stopped. Even the ELF leadership members were forbidden from entering Sudan. Head of the Sudanese forces was General Sowar el Dahab, ministry of Defence.

     It is to be remembered communists with Hashem Atta had tried a coup in 1972 against Nimeiri and were defeated. These communist party members fled to Eritrea where ELF helped them and sent some of them to Yemen. Some stayed with ELF and returned to Sudan when the tension subdued.

     At that time I was stationed between Gash Barka and Anseba. The leadership of ELF, the Revolutionary Council had met in February 1972 what to do with the other fronts. These

    fronts were intruding in their process; imprisoning and killing members of ELF and the Obel were propagating in Barka. A decision was made to eliminate these fronts and the decision was spread to all fronts. The meeting was held in a place called Sesah in Barka. I was given a written message and was with martyr Chekini member of Executive Committee.

     We were holding a meeting in Seber in Anseba. Fighters gave us the message and reading it, it stated about the liquidation of PLF1, and Obel. But the decision about PLF2 was not in the written message. We were surprised to read this decision. In fact, Chekini was martyred near Gereger.

     All Executive Committee (Fesamit Shimagele) members were told to go to specified areas. We were told to be in guard if some of their groups in other parts of Eritrea started fighting too. I was told to hold the areas from Seber to Gash Barka. Mahmoud Chekini was called to Sahel. We parted there and he was killed. I took my front to Barka near Tekreret and was given two Haili. PLF1, PLF2 and Obel were that time given new weapons from Sabbe.

     Mohammed Nur Ahmed and Suliman Haj were placed to hold fort in Mechelet near Keren. This was a meeting place from Kebessa, Sahel and Barka. Other fighters were placed to the Sudanese frontier. Other fronts were sent to Serae, Hamassien and Akele Guzai. Here the concern was from the Ethiopian army lest they felt it was good time to strike. We had controlled their movements outside their garrisons in Tesenai and Akordet.

     There were no fronts in my placement in Barka and Gash. The Obel had already been defeated and the PLF1 and PLF2 were not around. I was to guard from the Ethiopian army coming out.

     With the preparations made we were sure of victory but our loss was much at the end. It can be said the PLFs did not loose. The ELF fighters refused to fight more. We had held meeting after the battle and our loss was evident. It had negative consequence on the front that Ethiopian forces took ELF areas, it started arming itself, and the people’s morale was hurt.

     From there, the opposite fronts entered Eritrea and spread out into 3 directions. It was Adem Dembay of Obel who took fine ELF weapons and gave themselves to Ethiopia. Adem Saleh had 35 fighters protecting him with latest weapons. Adem Saleh and Adem Denbay had bad weapons earlier. Then they went to Sahel and Sabbe gave them new weapons.

    The problem inside ELF started in the conference of Adobha in 1968. The front was administered in 5 tribal zones. At that conference, the zones were presented with representatives of zone 1 with 10 members, zone 2 with 10 members and the three zones together with 18 members.

    38 Kyadal Ama members were chosen and chairman being Mohammed Hamed Abdu with 3 secretaries 1, Isayas Afwerki, 2 Romadan Mohammed Nur and 3 Ahmed Ibrahim (secretarie). The other branches like defence, logistics etc had secretaries as well.

    At the First National Congress of ELF in 1971, the Kyadal Ama was dissolved and the 13 members Revolutionary Council (RC) formed. From Kyadal Ama, Osman Ezaz, Birhan Blata and Said Saleh were elected to RC.

    As the field would not tolerate more forces and the Obel were harassing civilians in Barka, ELF decided to eliminate them. The Obel had proclaimed their separation in 21 December

    1971. The RC held meeting on February 1972 deciding this. And in this month the 3 faction forces met in Beirut agreeing to help each other in battles.

    A committee was formed to lead the attacks. It was not Abdella Idris alone who decided the attack. The RC held a meeting on it. About 10 members like Herui Tedla, Abdella Idris, Tesfai Tekle, Ibrahim Mohammed Ali, and Ahmed Nasr etc of the RC members decided on it. Idris Mohammed Adem, Birhan Blatta and Mohammed Saleh Humed were not present in that meeting in the field though they were RC members.

    The RC did not go forward with other options to solve the conflict. Abdella could have held discussions with Adem Saleh of Obel, discussing with Osman Abu Sheneb and Halib Sette and it was tried with the Sayedna Mustafa of Akordet. From Sayedna Mustafa, a Shiekh called Abdulhamid Ali was influential and strong sympathiser of the struggle. He had started contacting the sides to make them agree.

    The first to be hit was the Obel, where Abdella Idris attacked them at Rahya Abay by Mensura, near Akordet. The Obel group retreated to Hahot, Marya land and fought again there. And from there they fled towards Sahel.

    In the meantime, PLF1 attacked an ELF unit at May Uule by Sheeb where PLF2 came to their aid. They were chased to Sahel and Romadans group went to Sahel from Dankalia. It was at that time that ELF had sent PLF2 (Isayas group) a committee to Ala to hold talks coming to no conclusion and PLF2 went to help PLF1.

     (This is part of his audio narration of those times. It is not easy to understand the circumstances and identifying their names. Aida)

    BOOK: From Guerrillas to Government. By David Pool

    Chapter: The Formation & Organization of the Front

    The Civil War and Unification

    Pp 70-72

     Through the whole course of the liberation struggle sustained efforts were made to overcome problems arising from cultural, religious and linguistic divisions within Eritrean society. As we have noted, their impact on Eritrean politics began in the 1940s and took an even more serious course as they became entangled in the conflict between the different liberation organisations. When the conflict erupted into the first civil war, it was yet another scarring of Eritrean nationalism. It provided a bloody impetus for the unification of the former ELF groups and an obstacle to the later unification of the ELF and EPLF because of the bloodshed and deep distrust. The civil war is an important part of the historical record of Eritrean nationalism, and although it is impossible to verify the accounts of its beginnings, both ELF and EPLF attribute blame to the other for the turn to violence.

     The civil war decision was ostensibly taken at the ELF November conference in November 1972, and endorsed at its first national congress in March 1973 on the grounds that the 'Eritrean field cannot bear more than one organisation and one leadership'. The actual beginning of the civil war is conventionally dated as February 1972. Al-Amin Muhammad Said, however, argues that there was an informal meeting of leading ELF cadres to discuss the problem of the opposition. Some members of the general command attended it with Abdallah Idris (12) at their head, in June 1970, together with some members of the military units in the Kolontabay area in Barka province in western Eritrea.

    It was here that the decision was taken to liquidate the opposition forces, with Abdallah Idris and Osman Azaz taking military and financial responsibility for the project, respectively. (13)

     Taking men and arms from a unit in Akalai Guzai province, Abdallah Idris set out to attack a PLF force moving from southern Dankalia to the Simouti area, west of Mersa Fatma. Apparently, the attack was stopped by a group of ELF fighters. A second attempt to initiate fighting was made in November 1970 in the Dabat area. On this occasion, opposition to an attack was led by ELF fighters, and a dialogue committee was formed from them to discuss problems with PLF forces. A major source for al-Amin's account of these incidents was Muhammad Sa'id Barih, one of the ELF fighters at the Dabat meeting, and from the Tigre-speaking Muslims, who opposed the ELF's recourse to military means. (14)

     The ELF's account of the origins of the civil war differs from that of the EPLF. It traces its beginnings to 'provocations' by the PLF and Obel. It is nigh impossible to disentangle what actually happened. Given the ELF leadership's early determination to brook no opposition, as indicated by its attack on the armed wing of the ELM in 1965 at Ela Tzada, the eventual outbreak of a full-blooded civil war at the end of February 1972 came as no surprise. Although ELF official sources state that the meeting between the three breakaway factions and Sabbe in Beirut was only 'later revealed', it is unlikely that ELF leaders were unaware of the meeting and the potential military and financial backing for the dissidents that would ensue.

     The calculation of the ELF leadership was that it would be a short campaign and focused on defeating the separate forces of PLF and Obel and leaving the Ala group alone.(15) On 29 February, two of the ex-GC Obel leaders and their forces surrendered when they were surrounded. Full-scale military operations against the PLF began on 16 March 1972 in the She'b area. After another battle toward the end of March at Hahout some of the survivors of Obel and the PLF withdrew to northern Sahel. The Ala group, though not initially attacked, was determined not to return to the ELF and was inevitably drawn into the fighting.

     The beginnings of the civil car and the need to acquire arms from Sabbe's general secretariat were catalysts in forging a national front between the dissident fighter groups and Sabbe's external faction. The Beirut meetings from 3 to 12 February 1972 between them and Sabbe went some way to clarifying the relationship between an external leadership with access to arms, ammunition and money and the field commanders and fighters. From mid- to late October 1972 a meeting of all three factions of the opposition concluded with a set of political, administrative and military decisions aimed at creating a united front.

    Given the drift to civil war and the Obel group's links to Sabbe, the opposition factions were keen to ensure a regular flow of arms and finance from outside Eritrea and gain control of the field. The meeting in Beirut attempted to regulate the relationship between the field fighters and the general secretariat, renamed the foreign mission (FM, and resulted in further discussions on unifying the fronts. A committee was formed to distribute weapons and money fairly among the groups, to enhance political education and provide literacy training for the fighters, to organize civilian Eritreans and provide assistance to refugees and the families of martyrs. It was also agreed that a conference would be held within a year.

     The agreement also proposed a dual autonomy for the field and the FM on the basis of mutual non-interference, and an attempt was made to make the latter accountable through regular monthly reports and statements of expenditure. Three-quarters of the money raised was to be spent in the field and the remainder outside. The FM was to expand its activities outside the Middle East and establish ties with progressive Ethiopian forces. The agreement was essentially a compromise. For the FM, it provided links with an armed force in the field and thereby furnished it and Sabbe in particular, with political and military credibility vis-a-vis the ELF and Arab governments. For the fighters it was a means of securing money and arms and diminishing the influence of external political leaders and, through them, regional states, particularly Arab Muslim states. It was a step on the way to creating an autonomous organisation impermeable by external forces.

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