Eritrean People's Liberation Front

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Eritrean People's Liberation Front
Tigrinya nameህዝባዊ ግንባር ሓርነት ኤርትራ
Hizibawī Ginibari Harineti Ēritira
Arabic nameالجبهة الشعبية لتحرير إريتريا
Aljabhat Alshaebiat Litahrir 'Iiritria
Italian nameFronte di Liberazione del Popolo Eritreo
ChairmanIsaias Afwerki
Romodan Mohammed Nur
Founded1970 (1970)
Dissolved16 February 1994 (1994-02-16)
Split fromEritrean Liberation Front
Succeeded byPeople's Front for Democracy and Justice
HeadquartersSahel (1970–1977)
Nakfa (1978–1991)
Asmara (1991–1994)
NewspaperVanguard, Sagem and Adulis
Youth wingNational Union of Eritrean Youth and Students
Armed WingEritrean People's Liberation Army
Political positionFar-left (until 1987)
Left-wing (1987–1994)

The Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF), informally known as Shabia, was an armed Marxist–Leninist organization that fought for the independence of Eritrea from Ethiopia. It emerged in 1970 as a far-left to left-wing nationalist group that split from the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF). After achieving Eritrean independence in 1991, it transformed into the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), which serves as Eritrea's sole legal political party.


EPLF and Eritrean Liberation Front first fought during the Eritrean Civil War. In the early 1980s, new armed conflicts between the rival Eritrean Liberation Front led to the front being marginalized and pushed into neighboring Sudan. The EPLF remained the only relevant opposition to Ethiopian occupation in Eritrea.

The EPLF captured many Ethiopian soldiers during the war and kept them in numerous prisoner of war camps, although captured soldiers of the EPLF (of their own) were not afforded the same treatment. These prisoners were not harmed by their captors, but instead were indoctrinated about the principles of the EPLF, as well as global politics. Some segments of the EPLF went as far as teaching prisoners of war some trades and skills.[2]

During its protracted struggle the EPLF constructed an underground hospital. In these hospitals surgeries were conducted as well as the production of various pharmaceuticals (the first of its kind made by Eritreans). The front also constructed schools in the rebel areas, as well as underground and partially outdoor schools for the children of the EPLF (i.e. Winna). In 1988, the EPLF started an attack from the northern province of Sahel towards the south. The EPLF emerged as the dominant rebel force as early as 1977 and continued the struggle of the Eritrean War of Independence. In 1991, the EPLF succeeded in the conflict on May 24, 1991.


  • Adi Yakob – Embaderho front (Northern front)
  • Adi Hawsha – Sela'e Da'ero front (Southern front)
  • Military Retreat (1977, Soviet intervention; overthrow of Ethiopian Empire by Derg)
  • Ela Beri'ed
  • Massawa I (1977, Salina salt fields)
  • Barentu
  • Nakfa I and II (II against Nadew Command)
  • Afabet (against Nadew Command)
  • Massawa II (1990, dubbed "Operation Fenkil")
  • Ghinda
  • Dekemhare
  • Assab (after Eritrean independence)


Members of Executive Committee of EPLF 1977–1987 standing: Ogbe Abraha, Ali Said Abdella, Sebhat Ephrem, Haile Woldetinsae, Petros Solomon, Mohammed Said Bareh, Mesfin Hagos, Al-Amin Mohammed Seid sitting: Berhane Gherezgiher, Ibrahim Afa, Romodan Mohammed Nur, Isaias Afewerki, Mahmoud Shrifo

The First Congress of the EPLF occurred in January 1977 and formally set out the policies of this new organization. At this first meeting a Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General were elected and a program adopted. This program specifically targeted a liberalization of women's rights as well as a broad educational policy for maintaining every language and improving literacy. It was also set out that the boundaries of an Eritrean state would be based on the colonial treaties of Italy.

The Second Congress in 1987, brought together the EPLF and the Eritrean Liberation Front/Central Leadership (also sometimes referred to as Central Command, CC) in what was called the Unity Congress.[3] This was the culmination of negotiations over three years which had brought together the two fighting forces in October 1986, under a unified command.[3] On this congress, Isaias Afewerki replaced secretary-general Ramadan Nur. Subsequently, the movement abandoned most of its formerly Marxist–Leninist ideology,[4][5] in favour of an own revolutionary left-wing concept and a more comprehensive and pragmatic approach to unite all Eritrean nationalists.[6]

The Third and last Congress of the EPLF was held in 1994 in Asmara. It was important as it converted the Front from a military organization to a purely political movement. At this Congress, the name of the organization was changed to the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ).


  1. ^ Connell, Dan (1997). Against All Odds: A Chronicle of the Eritrean Revolution : With a New Foreword on the Postwar Transition. ISBN 9781569020463.
  2. ^ Johnson, Michael; Johnson, Trisha (April 1981). "Eritrea: The National Question and the Logic of Protracted Struggle". African Affairs. 80 (318).
  3. ^ a b Doris, Burgess; Cliffe, Lionel (Spring 1987). "EPLF Second Congress". Review of African Political Economy. 14 (38): 107. doi:10.1080/03056248708703724. Archived from the original on 2000-09-30. Retrieved 2007-09-07.
  4. ^ Shinn, David Hamilton; Ofcansky, Thomas P.; Prouty, Chris (2004), "Eritrean People's Liberation Front", Historical dictionary of Ethiopia, Scarecrow Press, p. 143, ISBN 9780810865662, retrieved 15 January 2012
  5. ^ Erlich, Haggai (2005), "Eritrean People's Liberation Front", Encyclopaedia Aethiopica, Harassowitz, p. 373, ISBN 9783447052382, retrieved 15 January 2011
  6. ^ O'Kane, David; Hepner, Tricia (2011), Biopolitics, Militarism, and Development: Eritrea in the Twenty-First Century, Berghahn Books, p. xx, ISBN 9780857453990, retrieved 16 January 2011

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