A Historical Document From the Archives
Compiled by Drs. Tsegezab Gebregergis, London, November 27, 2015
Introductory Remarks By Mdre Bahri
Teclai Aden and others like him have spoken about the Fascistic Nature (Deeds) of the EPLF and its Janus-faced Leader some twenty-five years ago. But we ignored the timely warning. As a result, the Eritrean People have paid and are still paying today a very high price unprecedented in the history of the region.
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The Following is the full original text of the statement Teclai Ghebre-Mariam, former Central Committee member of the EPLF, gave to Ethiopian journalists in Addis Ababa on December 23 1980 and published on the December 24 issue of the Amharic daily, Addis Zemen.
My name is Teclai Ghebre-Mariam, alias, Teclai Aden, born among nine children in 1946 at Adi -Abun near Adua in Tigray. Although of Eritrean extraction, my parents still live at Adi Abun where my father was a policeman with a paltry monthly income of 35 Ethiopian dollars. After attending the lower grades in Tigray, I was enrolled in the Addis Ababa University in 1970 and was an active participant in the campus politics. In those days, students from Eritrea conducted some ill-organized and narrow nationalist activities and I was Partly involved in their circle. Like many other students, I favoured a socialist order in lieu of the aristocratic regime; and although I had a very shallow revolutionary knowledge and consciousness, I assumed I was an accomplished radical. It of course was a fashion to masquerade as a ‘revolutionary’ student. And after wallowing in such a limited political atmosphere for a while, I felt that real struggle could only be carried on by joining the secessionist movement in Eritrea.
It is true that the opposition to the Haile Selassie regime was disorganized until February 1974, and no gainsaying the feet that the secessionist movement in Eritrea was very attractive to many radical elements who believed that it was a struggle for change and a means to topple the feudal order.
On this plane, the Eritrean movement created among many Ethiopian radicals a belief in the need of Latin-American type of focoism in the confrontation against the feudo-bourgeois order. The after-effects of this type of sloppy militancy to Ethiopians were shown by the infantile revolutionism of the EPRP (Ethiopian Peoples’ Revolutionary Party) after the February 1974 revolution in the country. As I see it now, I joined the secessionist movement goaded by a confusion similar to the one created by the pseudo-revolutionists of the EPRP in Ethiopia.
I joined the ELF in 1971 after entering Kassala through Tessenei on my own effort. After spending a few weeks with the rebel organization, I regretted my decision to join it because the political orientation given by the ELF was tuned for the continuation of colonial practices and for the interest of feudo-bourgeois classes and not for the good of the oppressed and exploited masses. In the meantime, I heard about the creation of a new group called PLF and wished to switch sides because the new group was calling itself progressive.
After seeing the reactionary inside-out of the ELF within a very short period, I decided to go to Asmara with the intention of joining the PIF. I left Keru by night and went to Telete-Asher near Tessenei where members of the Ethiopian army identified me. I told them that I was a repentant rebel and they took me to Asmara where I was set free after some questioning.
I then dropped joining the PLF and went to Addis Ababa to pursue my studies or look for a job. Within a few weeks, I found a. temporary job with the Ministry of Land Reform and worked, in Hagere-Mariem in Sidamo province. The plan of joining the new rebel group was still hovering in my mind and in mid-1971 I left to Somalia via Jijiga, and asked the Somalis to help me join the front of my desire. After some questioning, I was taken to the then PLF representative, Adem Bey, who sent me to South Yemen by plane. While in Aden, I 1earnt a lot about the PLF and also received military training. By the end of the year, I was taken to Eritrea via the sea and thus joined the PLF fighters in early 1972.
THE PLF I FOUND
The PLF or Popular Liberation Forces I found in Eritrea was a conglomerate of three regional-confessional factions. They were called the Obel group, the Essayas faction and the Semhar grouping.
- a) The Obel: This group was led by a rebel called Abu Tiyara and consisted of fighters who seceded from the ELF; the clique, made up of Maria tribal group, was imbued with regional and religious fanaticism and was resolved to distort history and deny the Ethiopian identity to Eritrea and its people.
- b) The Essayas group. This was the group I joined; it was wholly composed of Christian highlanders and did its best to divide the people on the bases of highlanders and lowlanders, Christians and Moslems. The rank and file consisted of former students, defectors from the ELF and other petty-bourgeois elements. Although, the group entertained very narrow and parochialist sentiment, it was relatively better than the other two in matters of administration and general knowledge.
- C) The Semhar Clique- The group consisted of elements from the Massawa region who were reorganized by Osman Saleh Sabbe after they were pushed out of the field by the ELF. The group was assisted by South Yemen to establish a base in Eritrea by crossing the Red See in small boots. The elements in this grouping were also blinded by regional and religious fanaticism and, had very low political consciousness.
All the three groups in common had regional and confessional fanaticism and the fear of liquidation by the ELF. Driven by these fears, they regrouped in Ghirghir, Sudan, and started building a military force.
The Essayas-led group was being joined by elements who were attracted by the rumour that it was ‘progressive’. In fact, the group was joined by genuine militants who did their best to educate and politicize the bases of the three factions. The groups thus unified their fighters and could escape the total liquidation by the ELF. The conflict also spilled over to the Sudanese territory and the latter intervened to stop it; it was after the Sudanese intervention that the PLF could enter Eritrean territory. In 1973, the Essayas and Semhar cliques were ‘merged’ but failed to elect a new leadership with better political outlook. Instead, the same old fanatics were allowed to impose their will on the PLF.
It was soon after the merger that the opportunist stance of the Essayas clique was manifestly demonstrated. The clique first allowed progressive literature and political agitation among the bases; the genuine revolutionaries who joined it for such ends did play a role in the politicization work. But when this type of awakening increased momentum, the opportunist elements felt the coming danger and strengthened their suppressive machinery. The leading democrats were arrested; fighters who demanded for their release met the same fate. Aside from the suppression of the opportunist leadership, the democratic movement within the group committed gross errors and failed to conduct a successful struggle.
Essayas and clique collected all the writings of the progressive movement and burned them at a military training camp.
The leaders of the movement were then physically liquidated in a very brutal manner. Some of the leading elements of the group (sometimes known as Menka.) who were killed by Essayas and henchmen included:
1)Yohannes Sebhatu; 2) Dr Russom; 3)Tareke Yehdego; 4)Mussie Tesfamichael; 5)Afeworki Teklu; 6) Habte-Selassie; 7)Aberash Melkie; 8) Dehab T/Tsion; 9) Habte Kidane (gorrilla), and 10) Debessai Ghebre-Selassie.
Following these killings, the Essayas group which preferred to be called EPLF became an absolute dictatorship. No opinion was allowed to be aired out. The choices left were either to commit suicide in various ways or to obediently execute directives passed by Essayas and the lower mortals under his command.
THE TWO FACES OF ESSAYAS
Sometime after the wide-range liquidation of the Menka (literally, bat to signify those moving under the cover of darkness), opposition movement started to question the whole essence of the organisation which is not even serious with the question of the people it claimed to represent. It was therefore necessary to improvise a cover for the undemocratic practices of the group. The slogans of Menka were stolen; a new political school was opened and it was declared that constructive criticism of the leadership would be allowed and fighters may say their heart. But it was too late; the bases already lost confidence in the leadership and there was no response to the call for open criticism. Instead, the remaining democratic elements tried to form an underground movement called ‘the Eritrean Revolutionary Party’. Led by Goitom Berhe (bitsay), a law graduate of Addis Ababa, the party aimed to destroy the one-man dictatorship in the EPLF.
As a start, the party translated a number of Marxist works to Tigrigna (eg Dialectical Materialism, Four Essays of Philosophy, About the Proletariat Party) and distributed them to the fighters. The Essayas clique was alerted after the distribution of the pamphlet Who Is Revolutionary? All the literature was then collected and burnt. The suspected ring-leaders of the anti-Essayas movement of progressives were arrested and, later butchered.
The victims included: 1)Goitom Berhe; 2)Mesih Russom;3) Tewolde Eyob; 4)Teclai Ghebre-Kristos; 5)Michael Bereketeab; 6) Haile Yohannesom; 7) Samuel Ghebre-Dingil; 8)Bereket Haile; 9)Memhir Tecle Habte-Tsion; 10) Alem Abraha and others.
It was during this time that the EPLF demi-god, Essayas characteristically looked for another hide-out and secretly established a Hitlerite ‘party’ beautified by the name ‘Eritrean People’s Revolutionary Party’ or the EPRP (and watch out not to confuse it with the Ethiopian EPRP). Through it, Essayas established e strong network of ‘security’ cells in the whole organisation. Members of the Essayas clique (the ‘party’) included members of the central committee of the EPLF and various unit leaders.
I, with all sincerity say that the said ‘party’ is by all measures a reactionary, nay, fascist clique serving the interest of world imperialism. It has nothing to do with the interests and aspirations of the Eritrean people. It practically has no historical outlook except void slogans which mislead observers from without. It was simply formed to safeguard the personal ambitions for grandeur, of one man – Essayas. Full stop.
The members of the clique have special privileges which satisfy their petty-bourgeois interests: They have all the resources of the EPLF at their disposal. They are distinguished by their elegant clothes imported at high cost; volumes of liquor is consumed at will in the unending ‘study’ and research meetings. They freely enjoy sex through intimidation and by using their high posts.
Many respected cadres of the organisation who opposed this rampant corruption and mis-behaviour were, forced to take very desperate acts. And among the latest victims of such desperation were Berhane Solomon (wodi haleka), former leader of the fourth brigade, and Ahmed Ali Clay, central committee member and leader of the 5lst brigade.
Berhane Solomon boldly opposed and exposed the opportunist practices of Essayas and the fascism of his ‘party’. Before committing suicide by exploding a hand-grenade in his bowels at Madameda in 1979, he wrote a message in which he said he chose death rather than remaining a helpless observant of “the incorrigibly opportunist practices of Essayas and the ungenuine EPRP which is not serving the cause of the people”. Frightened by the act and the message, Essayas and cohorts employed their clever and stealthy measures to cover-up the incident. Commanders of units in the fourth brigade were sternly warned not to leak the story; a statement was issued asserting that Berhane died a natural death because of illness.
Ahmed Ali Clay killed himself by his own pistol in Nacfa in 1979 and left a short note which read: “excuse me, I chose to leave this world to reactionaries”. Many in the EPLF know that Ahmed was pushed to take this desperate act by the leadership clique. It was Ahmed, who in e meeting stated that the ‘party’ was anti-revolutionary in many aspects and that it was rendering services to all those opposed to the aspirations of the people. In the same meeting, he scathingly criticized certain errand boys of Essayas within the brigade. He accused 0gbe Abraha, Tewolde Andu and Ali Ibrahim of drunkeness, homosexuality, and also of having caused the death of a large number of fighters at Nacfa, Doro and other places by forcing them to continue fighting from very weak strategic positions. Few weeks after the meeting, the clique unleashed character assassination campaign against the leaders of the 51st brigade and called him a coward. The boy was painted black in a typically EPLF insinuation against all who bravely stand to question the fascism of the clique. After Ahmed committed suicide, the clique as usual issued a statement to make believe that he died “a natural death”.
To sum the whole story in a word, the EPLF is a typical fascist grouping which thrives by churning all types of falsehood and by muzzling the voice of democrats and by the use of brutal force.
After reading the above statement, the former EPLF central committee member answered questions raised by the journalists.
Question: Are the malpractices of the Essayas clique well known among the members of the EPLF?
Answer: As I tried to explain earlier, the Essayas clique was from its very inception stained with blood of progressive elements. It reached what it is today , by suppression and undemocratic means. Besides, one cannot tell what its guiding philosophy is; sometimes it pretends to be Marxist-Leninist, at other times a confirmed Maoist and still at other times drops these mantles and stands with Arab reaction. What, then, is the real EPLF?
As I understand it:
- a) It is an opportunist petty-bourgeois group without a clear and unified outlook;
- b) It is a grouping where an opportunist clique serves its interests through the instrument of a suppressive ‘party’;
- c) The so-called party has no relation whatsoever with any progressive party or organization in the world;
- d) The leadership clique, which has fell under the control of reactionary forces in the region, is made up of yes-men who accepted the absolute dictatorship of one man;
- e) The group feeds its innocent victims with extreme chauvinism and, very narrow nationalism which in the final analysis is opposed to the popular struggle in the region.
In other words, the Essayas clique (and ‘party’) in the EPLF is a dangerous body sworn to muzzle the masses and prevent them from identifying their real comrades in arms in the revolution, and disconnect the Eritrean people from the real camp — the camp of revolution.
To specifically answer the question, the rank and file in the EPLF do not know the inside story of the fascist clique. All what they know are the official statements about “natural deaths” etc. To give you another simple example of the life of terror and death within the group, anyone who utters a word about Essayas or his ‘party’ is killed outright. A certain Angesom of brigade 51 told his girl friend, Asheberet, about the presence of a ‘party’. She in turn tells the ‘secret’ to a certain Woldu. At this point, the security network got hold of the matter and arrested the three. Angesom was tortured to death. To this day, all what the fighters know about Angesom is that he died a natural death.
Question: Would you please tell us more examples about the fate of those rebels who criticize the opportunism of the Essayas clique?
Answer: I have outlined, the absolutism of the clique and the reactionary features of the EPLF as a whole. When I say no freedom in the organization I mean absolute lack of any democratic practices in the group. You have no right to make recommendation for correction or reform. The response to any opposition is mass slaughter. All those who tried to criticize the corrupt practices of the leadership in the towns during 1977-78 were killed; the ordinary members of the EPLF do not know anything about it. Among those persons killed for having said a word or two in criticism against corruption in the clique were-. 1) Dr Eyob Ghebre-leul, educated in the USSR; 2) Mehari Ghirma-Tsion, educated in the USSR; 3) Ghebre-Michael Meharizghi; Addis Abeba university graduate; 4) Hibret Tesfa-Ghaber; 5) Kidane Abeito; 6) Fissehaye Kidane (Germen); 7) Haile Jebha, former EPLF interrogation section chief; 8) Araya Semere; 9) Ammanuel Filansa; 10) Solomon Wolde-Mariam, key EPLF leader between 1970-1977, and, others. Mogos Fassil, Addis Ababa law graduate, narrowly escaped death by fleeing from gun-point.
Question: Are there frictions within the key 1eaders?
Answer – Contradictions do prevail amongst the clique members but these are not political in nature. Every central committee member plots against the other to satisfy his selfish personal ends; this is a phenomenon which one expects to prevail in a group which is not genuine to the cause it claims to represent.
The right hand-men in the Essayas dictatorship include Sebhat Efrem; Haile Woldensie, alias Haile Deru’e, and Petros Solomon. The second group led by Ibrahim Afa includes people like Mesfin Hagos and Ali Said Abdella. The rest of the central committee members are more or less positionless toys in between the two cliques.
It is members of these two cliques who occupy the most important positions in the EPLF and the ‘party’. The friction within them has lately become open. In a secret meeting both sides accused each other of fostering drunkennes in the front although all of them are very well known drunkeness. Their meeting came out with a statement on drunkennes and cadres were told to convey the message to the rank and file. Fighters then refused to attend meetings on the matter saying that the subject was irrelevant to them and that it is the leadership clique which has to learn about the ill-effects of liquor.
In general, the two sides constantly try to win more cadres to one’s own side; the conflict which recently flared up between followers of the two cliques is an example of the contradictions within the EPLF central committee.
The so-called central committee is, however, neither central nor a committee. Work secrets are shared among very few persons; meetings are held very rarely. Statements are written and declared by the Big Boss and no one has the right to comment. I was a member of this body and was used to read statements which were not approved or even discussed in a meeting to which the declaration is subscribed. In the EPLF Essayas is the centralism and everything,. It is ‘his’ organization after-all. And while talking about internal frictions we must not miss the fact that the dominant clique does not tolerate any serious opponent.
By all accounts, I find Essayas as a person resolved to work against the interests of the broad Eritrean masses. He orders for battles to be fought in towns without bothering about the consequences to the civilians. He at other times plans and declares infighting, with other rebel groups and helps worsen the displacement of the people.
The recent fightings between the EPLF and the ELF are, for instance the mischievous work of Essayas the wicked debtera (arch-diacon) Haile Deru’e.
Esseyas’s EPLF has been a cause of the death of thousands of young Eritreans pushed at gun-point to enter into battles which no type of military science and strategy would approve. In recent years, the EPLF was depleted of its fighters because of the futile and feudal type of ‘heroism’ with which it was intoxicated, especially after the temporary successes the secessionists enjoyed in 1977-78.
The adventurist clique does not, as I noted earlier, care about the masses and their suffering. Nor does it (i.e. EPLF or Essayas) care about the consequences of infights among the rebels. For instance, Essayas in June 1977 ordered that we must capture Asmara; he did not consult the other rebel groups nor did he care about the consequences. If we were to capture the capital, the country would have been plunged into a bloody civil war because of the differences between the secessionist groups. Essayas is irresponsible to this extent.
Today, the EPLF is a bankrupt organization rejected by the Eritrean people; I know it will in no time wither away.
Question.. Who are the foreign supporters of the EPLF?
Answer- The opportunist group is assisted by the reactionary states in the region, and mainly Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Somalia and the Gulf states.
Saudi Arabia became the financial source of the EPLF ever since Essayas’s anti-Marxist statement to Saudi paper in 1977. In that year, Saudi government delegation visited the EPLF-held areas. Today, the Saudis are sure the EPLF is dependable tool in their stand against communist infiltration in the region.
Egypt is EPLFs main source for arms. The ruling classes in Egypt have identified the EPLF as a trusted ally in the confrontation against revolutionary struggle in the region. Egypt under Sadat co-ordinated the conspiracies against the Omani people’s struggle and the Palestinian Revolution and is now working with the EPLF to accomplish imperialist and Zionist projects in this part of Africa.
The EPLF and the expansionist regime in Somalia are two faces of the same coin. The Somali regime provides all assistance it can afford, to the EPLF. The assistance includes diplomatic passports. It was the Somali regime which co-ordinated the aggressive attacks against Ethiopia in 1977. The conspiracy was signed in Mogadishu by Essayas for the EPLF and Ahmed Suleiman (Defelle) of the NSF for the Somali government. Both sides agreed to open war simultaneously. According to the same agreement, Egypt supplied the necessary arms to the EPLF. And it was Egypt and Somalia which ordered Essayas to start the adventure of ‘liberating’ towns in Eritrea in 1977.
Question-. Why can’t the EPLF get the support of progressive forces?
Answer: The secessionists had the backing of certain progressive forces during the feudal Haile Se1assie regime, but there was a shift in alignment of forces when the Ethiopian revolution asserted its progressive stances. The EPLF clique continued to blindly slander the Ethiopian revolution and tried to propagate that the revolution in Ethiopia was only a transient one and that the alliance with socialist camp would end very soon.
This kind of unrevolutionary calculations and ill-wishes to other strugglers coupled with its wrong policies and vacillations helped in isolating the EPLF from winning any friends in the progressive camp. Its irresponsible response to the initiatives of the German Democratic Republic further exposed its infantile revolutionism.
Because of its anti-people and undemocratic practices in Eritrea, the EPLF failed to win the confidence of the masse let alone the friendship and support of other progressives. As I noted, the group lingers in the arena only through the use of terror, intimidation and naked, force against the people. I was one of the EPLF members who participated in the beastial mass tortures and killings and I am ready to see popular justice meted out against me.
The EPLF gangs have already dropped their ‘progressive’ mantle and their true nature has been fully exposed by world progressive forces. Today, the group is closely working with all anti-people regimes like that of Egypt, Somalia and Saudi Arabia. The EPLF is co-ordinating an imperialist project in the region and particularly against Ethiopia in an effort to roll back the wheel of history.
I personally know certain American companies which help the EPLF in various ways. Some of these companies assist it in forging money and passports in Rome. In short, the situation in the Red Sea region can be categorized as a confrontation between reactionary forces and progressive governments or liberation movements.
Question: Would you describe the class extractions of the key EPLF figures?
Answer: Excluding few positionless and vacillating elements, the EPLF leaders — rather, leadership members come from well to do families and all of them did not know what poverty and squalor means to the down-trodden masses. For instance, Essayas Afeworki is a member of a known feudal family. Suffice it here to mention that it was his uncle who presided the human catastrophe in Wollo in 1972-73 and covered up the famine by mass murder of student demonstrators and other militants. Petros Solomon is a son of a ‘Dejazmatch’ (feudal title) who occupied a high post during the federation and served Haile Selassie as a deputy minister; he was a corrupt element who mercilessly exploited the people. Ali Said Abdalla, comes from a aristocratic family in Massawa. Ramadan Mohamed Nur is from a ruling clan of Massawa; he owns a large number of houses and livestock in the Hirgigo area. Mohamed Said Bareh also comes from similar feudal family; his father was appointed ‘kentebai’ (supreme ruler) by Haile Selassie in the Senhit region.
All these elements have a background which controls their behaviour and political trends opposed to the interest of the masses.
THE CIA CONNECTION
The American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has in recent years reached the conclusion that the EPLF is a dependable instrument in implementing imperialist conspiracies and anti-people Projects in the Red Sea region. The CIA has been forwarding covert and overt assistance and encouragement to the EPLF to go ahead with its anti-revolutionary line. Western intelligence operatives sent under the cover of journalists and charity workers are part of the support to the EPLF whom they project as ‘progressive’ with the aim of sowing confusion among the world progressive forces. The ‘church’ and ‘charity’ organizations supply food to the EPLF under the guise of ‘helping’ the refugees who never receive such assistance.
The following are some of the CIA functionaries planted in the region as ‘journalists’ and ‘charity’ co-ordinators:
Dan Connel: This is an American national without any journalistic background. The man first visited the EPLF in 1976; after his return from America in 1977 (with full CIA credentials), he closely lived with the EPLF leaders in the Sudan and sometimes in Eritrea. This former soldier who took part in the massacres in Vietnam, skilfully won the confidence of the EPLF clique and shares all their secrets which he in turn relays to his C.I.A headquarters. Almost all of his reports which are by-lined ‘Nacfa’ and which are in good face picked by many news agencies, are in fact EPLF statements delivered to him at his Khartoum Grand Hotel. This ‘eyewitness’ reporter of the Western mass media does not eyewitness even a tenth of what he writes and establishes as ‘truth’.
Mr Eito: This is another CIA agent who masquerades as correspondent of a Japanese paper called ‘Ahissa’. After finding out about the more or less Pro-imperialist line of the EPLF, Mr Eito decided to continue helping the group in various ways. For instance, he in one of his frequent visits to the EPLF brought another Japanese national by the name of Chiba from South Africa. The latter EPLF guest trained karate for three months and many of us knew his true identity as an agent of intelligence networks.
Miss Krist: A confirmed druggist and a known drunkard stationed in Khartoum, Miss Krist has been supplying falsehoods to the BBC and other mass media with the CIA aim of creating an image to the new foster-child in Eritrea.
Mr Petrucchi: is an Italian journalist, writing to the bourgeois paper ‘Europide’. This man receives part of his remunerations directly from the EPLF which he defends as his own organisation. Guido, a renegade of the Italian Communist Party, is another pseudo-journalist who works for the EPLF for pay. He sells old uniforms to the group and arranges other facilities and services for pay. It was this man who, despite PCI’s condemnation of the EPLF, helped the front acquire meeting facilities in Bologna.
Question: How do the secessionists look at the Ethiopian army?
Answer, The internal factors which weakened the Ethiopian army of during 1977-78 were used by the EPLF in inculcating futile heroism among its members. This type of madness caused the death of a very large number of EPLF fighters. I myself took part in the massacre of young boys and girls by pushing them into suicidal battles. The incorrect strategy of the group demoralized many fighters who deserted in large numbers. The group was thus reduced to a small fraction of its old self. The recent infights between it and the ELF were planned as a means of containing the remaining fighters under the emotional appeals of ‘fighting internal enemies’.
I STILL HAVE GUILTY CONSCIENCE
Although the Ethiopian revolutionary government gave me full amnesty, I still feel guilty conscience for the crimes I perpetrated against the masses. I administered Decamere and Segheneiti while I-was head of the southern front leader of brigade 5lst. During this time, we snatched the property of the people almost all of which was squandered by the clique in hotels like Hilton, Arag, Bustan and Grand Hotel in Khartoum. However, let me add another fact: I was always against the corruption in the clique and did not participate in the embezzlement for self-interest and my family or relatives. I, for instance, had the opportunity of going to Rome for medical treatment but refused to do so because I felt this was a privilege of the leadership not shared by the ordinary member. When I criticized the mistaken military strategy and the corruption of the clique in one central committee meeting, Essayas personally gave me an order transferring me from the 5lst brigade to the security department as secretary of the unit. However, the new post is usually reserved to yes-men and many wondered as to why I was given all this confidence. The reason behind my appointment to the security post was an Essayas-Haile ruse of temporary appeasement with critics by showing them that they are not disfavoured by Big Boys. But I continued to oppose the malpractices of the clique without reducing my fanatic attachment to the EPLF. I refused to lead meetings and seminars in the new department and this task was given to an Essayas boy called Habte Tecle. Besides, I refused or delayed from executing a number of orders, all of them criminal orders, against innocent people.
WHY I IEFT THE EPLF
Until the recent times, I was a blind supporter of’ the EPLF. But gradually, I discovered that the front is one only serving the interests of imperialists and their reactionary lackeys in the region… I had the illusion that no military force can lead a revolution and refused to accept the truth that the Ethiopian revolution had scored irreversible gains for the Ethiopian masses.
The repeated crimes of the EPLF leadership also became intolerable and I finally started to ask myself as to what I am in a people’s struggle. I took myself as a militant defender of oppressed peoples. My leadership position in the ground helped me learn many things, and in due course of time it was clear to me that the EPLF is not a type of organization that can stand in defence of people’s rights and interests.
Who of the EPLF sympathizers for instance knows that 1eaders of the group do not take part in the battles where the ordinary members die in thousands. The word right is not known to the rank and file even the right to marriage is confined to the leadership elements although this is mentioned in the bandit laws. Living conditions are very much different between leaders and ordinary members. As to the democratic right to air out ones opinion, the fighters have lived without it for enough time to totally forget pondering over the lack of free expression and democracy in the EPLF dictatorship.
‘ HALEWA SEWRA’
The most criminal and notorious organ within the EPLF is known as ‘Halewa Sewra or the security department. This is the Gestapo section in the EPLF assigned with the task of arresting, torturing and killing elements who oppose the leadership clique or Essayas. It is a brigade of terror and death led by two members of the central committee. (‘I was one’, according to the March issue 81) The department which has no clear-cut guidelines save the carte blanch to kill, is into three sections.
The Surveillance Section: This body is responsible for covering the whole EPLF with a network of agents reporting on each other. EPLF is an orgnization in which every member takes the other for an agent and therefore has to keep his mouth shut. I can only say that the situation inside the group defies any description in words. The majority of the security agents are somehow attached to the leadership clique.
The Interrogation Section of ‘Halewa Sewra’ is a place where all types of untold brutalities recommitted against suspects. Any person accused of opposing the leadership or the EPLF in general is scaled with boiling oil; refused food or water for a long period and forced to sleep over his/her refuse. The fascistic crimes perpetrated against the innocent victims do really drive one mad.; I cannot imagine that Hitler’s concentration camps and crematoria were any worse scene than what goes on in the interrogation section of EPLF’s security department. The majority of the suspects die while undergoing ‘questioning’. Those who conduct the interrogations are blood-thirsty criminals like former members of Haile Selassie’s commando units in Eritrea. One of these notorious killers is a certain Musse Abate, a former corrupt feudal ‘naib’ from the Semhar region.
The Prison Section: This is the section which physically liquidates ‘enemies’ of the EPLF or demoralizes the victims. The prison inmates are not only refused the basic food and medical needs, but are daily subjected to terrorization and self-defacement. Practically none of the survivors of the continued mental and physical torture in the prison can be described as ‘survivors’. The firing squads are also stationed in the prison; their assignment is not to kill by firing bullets: but by strangulating victims, usually with knives and daggers.
In general, the security department killed no less than 3,000 persons during the pest seven years. The inside story of the EPLF prison was recently well told outside Eritrea by Mogos Fassil, its five-year inmate, who miraculously escaped to safety. Another living witness of the inhumane tortures is Teclai Ghebre-Selassie.
The fascistic crimes of the EPLF are not limited to its rank and file. Other victims include innocent individuals who oppose the fascistic practices of the organization and boldly expose it among the masses.
For instance, the EPLF in 1978 killed 16 pensioners from Keren by slitting their throats by knives and daggers. Their only ‘crimes’ were that they went to Asmara to draw their pension money. The famous folklore singer, Echet Hina of Keren, was also killed in e brutal manner when he refused to sing in praise of the EPLF. Hundreds of peasants were also killed under the frame-up crimes of entering ‘enemy’ occupied towns.
It was when I served as the secretary of the security department that I hated being a member of such a fascist organisation.
I believe the fascism prevailing within the EPLF is the reflection and the making of the characteristics of the unquestioned leader, Essayas, and his right-hand lieutenant, Haile Deru’e. Let me tell you more about these two.
Essayas is a 33-year old veteran rebel. He was born at Tselot in the outskirts of Asmera where he was educated He spent one year in the Addis Ababa University and joined the ELF in late 1966 when he flunked. He spent a few months in China during 1967 and was later assigned to the fifth zone in the highland area; he felt disgruntled and spent a considerable time in the Sudan. By early 1970, he was assigned to work under Abraham Tewolde in the Alla region in the highlands. This was the time in which he clearly exposed his extreme ambitions for power. He killed Abraham in a mysterious way and led the group of Christian highlanders; his accomplices of the day and later victims were people like Tewolde Eyob and Asmerom Ghebre-Egziabeher. After the death of the former leader of the Christian splinter group, Essayas and Solomon Woldemariam (co-founder and EPLF figure until is recent liquidation) had differences in 1972 but these were put aside because the three PLF factions were under the threat of liquidation by the ELF. In 1973, Essayas and Solomon found themselves in fierce- rivalry and each side tried to build his bases. Essayas then decided to get rid of Solomon and charged him of regionalism, a sickness which has been prevailing in the group for the pest ten years. The accused rival was then sentenced to death.
The bases of the faction opposed the sentence and asked that regionalism can only be cured by political education and not by the liquidation of elements. Mussie Tesfa-Michael was one of those who strongly criticized the insatiable personal ambitions of Essayas; he told a wider meeting of fighters that dictatorship of individuals should not be tolerated lest the movement take fascistic trends. He was slinced by gun butts of Essayas errand boys. He was one of those who were tortured to death because of belonging to an underground movement.
Like the EPLF itself, the EPRP (the ‘party’) is Essayas’s own creation and possession formed to fulfil his personal ambitions for power. As noted earlier, the ‘party’ was established after the opposition movements of progressive elements were uncovered and crushed. Any person who is recruited to party membership has to answer his loyalty to Essayas; and in the first place no one who has any criticisms against the boss is approached for any membership title. There are four zonal committees, one front committee and three to six branch committees in the rebel army ranks. Each battalion has a branch committee with five to seven cells, each cell with five to seven members.
Key positions of the ‘party’ are held by Essayas, Ramadan, Haile, Sebhat, Ibrahim Afa, Ali Said, Mesfin Hagos, and Alamin Mohamed Said, with Ahmed Kaisi and Mohamoud Sherifo as alternative members. The supreme boss is again Essayas who never believes in democratic participation. Ibrahim Afa and Mesfin Hagos know all the weak points of the man and they have relative say in certain duties. Sometimes they make timid criticisms against the over-all policies and he tolerates them to say their opinions; but there is no toleration when it comes to real action– this is his sole domain.
During my last days with them, there started character assassination campaign by Haile Deru’e, Berhane Ghebre-Egziabeher and the like against the Ibrahim Afa-Mesfin Hagos clique They were sending rumours that the Ibrahim Afa clique in the leadership is encouraging liquor and. other unwanted practices. But who can be more corrupt and, self-seeker than Essayas? His social life as an excessive drinker and sex-maniac is known to all the clique members. His mis-behaviour in this aspects is widely known in the Sudan and other capitals. The rank and file also knew all about him when he brought a prostitute from the Sudan (by the name of Negisti) and had her for some weeks in Eritrea.
As I closely know him, Essayas is very self-centered selfish person. Many of us know how he arranged life for his mother and five brothers in the Sudan. His insane brother, Ammanuel Afeworki, was illegally sent abroad for medication; but we know the EPLF lunatics are kept in the security prisons.
Speaking about drunkenness the so-called social affairs unit of the EPLF and Essayas’s personal chaufeur, Mario, know the story fully. Members of the group, e.g. Memher Tesfa Zewde, Germen and Ghebre-Hiwot were arrested because of their criticism of the import of drinks by Essayas and clique into the country.
Haile Merkerios, a central committee member, was recalled from his foreign relations post because of having uttered a word about Essayas’s behaviour abroad. His central committee membership was suspended and he was refused any other post in the rebel ranks.
The malpractices and the misbehaviour of the leadership is starting to show its influence in the rank and file. For example, the fighters in recent years developed a deadly local drink called ‘dimudimu’ (literally, cat) which is hazardous to health. And it was this new phenomenon which conflagrated the latest row on general drunkennes in the EPLF.
Haile Derule, alias, Hailemariam Wolde-Tinsae, is the most trusted Essayas-boy in the EPLF. He comes from a feudal family of the Tsena-Degle in Akele-Guzai. A friend of Essayas, Haile ‘debtera’ joined the ELF in December 1966 but deserted with his gun in mid-1967. He pursued his studies in Addis Abeba University for three years but quit and left to Eritrea when he heard Essayas, a former schoolmate, formed a new group in 1972. Haile was captured by the Ethiopian army with his arms in 1973 and was freed the rebel attack on the Sembel prison in February 1975.
Haile is considered, the ideologist and strategy planner of the Essayas group. The priestly title of ‘debtera’ was given him because of his hypocrisy concerning his out-ward utterances against drunkenness while he is another confirmed drunkard in the Essayas clique which includes Petros Solomon, Ogbe Abraha, Berhane Ghebre-Egziabeher and others. Haile Deru’e is Essayas’s tool in checking and at times insinuating the other drinking company of Mesfin Hagos, Ibrahim Afa, Ali Said Abdalla, Mohamoud Sherifo, Ahmed al-Kaisi, and Asmerom Ghebre-Egziabeher. Only Sebhat Efrem, who has some linings to the Essayas clique, is free of these drinking and. prostitution groupings.
I raised e few of the details to indicate the extent of corruption and reactionary behaviour inside the so-called EPLF which for a long time deceived public opinion by beautified slogans and meaningless emblems. But masses are not cheated for all the time.
Source: Amharic daily ADDIS ZEMEN GAZETA
Published on: December 23rd and December 24 1980