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Eritrean Liberation Front (date of foundation, founder/s, ideology)
According to the UK Home Office country report on Eritrea, dated April 2005, which refers to “Africa South of the Sahara 2005” (published by Europa Publications), the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) was founded in 1958. It commenced armed struggle against Ethiopia in 1961 and subsequently split into numerous factions. The UK Home office further adds:
“mainly Muslim support; opposes the PFDJ; successor to the Eritrean Liberation Movement. Factional splits in 1970s led to formation of rival EPLF, with which ELF fought, and lost, two civil wars in the 1970s and 1980s; now broken into several factions” (UK Home Office April 2005, Annex B)
The UK Home Office lists the principal factions as follows:
“Eritrean Liberation Front-Central Command (ELF-CC) - Founded 1982; Chairman Abdella Idriss. [1a] (p419)
Eritrean Liberation Front-National Council (ELF-NC) - Leader Hassan Ali Assad. [1a] (p419)
Eritrean Liberation Front-Revolutionary Council (ELF-RC) - Established by former ELF members who remained outside EPLF; President Seyoum Ogbamichael; Leader Ahmed Mohamed Nasser. [1a] (p419)” (UK Home Office April 2005, Annex B)
Microsoft Encarta also mentions 1958 as founding date of the Eritrean Liberation Front (MSN Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2005, chapter A. “War of Independence”).
The MIPT Terrorism Knowledge Base gives following account of the foundation and history of the Eritrean Liberation Front:
“The Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) was formed by a group of Eritrean students and intellectuals in Cairo, Egypt in July 1960. The Eritrean Liberation Front's primary objective was straightforward, to secure Eritrean independence from Ethiopia. Between 1885 and 1952, Eritrea was governed by Italy and Great Britain, successively. In 1952, the United Nations federated Eritrea with neighboring Ethiopia. While Eritrea gained some measures of autonomy, the resolution stopped short of creating an independent Eritrean republic.
The Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) began offensive actions against the Ethiopian government in 1961. While the group initially displayed characteristics of a Muslim movement and later flirted with Marxism, the ELF was first and foremost a nationalist group working for Eritrean independence. The ELF was the primary nationalist movement from 1960 to 1970. However in 1970, an internal ELF dispute led to the creation of a splinter organization, the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF). Following the split, the EPLF would usurp the ELF as the primary insurgent group.” (MIPT, Eritrean Liberation Front, last updated: 12 May 2005)
According to MIPT, Idris Mohammed Adem who was the president of the Eritrean Parliament is recognized as the founder of the Eritrean Liberation Front. Idris Adem, together with five associates had founded ELF in Cairo in 1960 (MIPT, Adem, Idris Mohammed, last updated: 12 May 2005). In the Library of Congress – Country Studies it is confirmed that the Eritrean Liberation Front was founded by Eritrean exiles in Cairo in 1960:
“In 1960 Eritrean exiles in Cairo founded the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF). In contrast to the ELM, from the outset the ELF was bent on waging armed struggle on behalf of Eritrean independence. The ELF was composed mainly of Eritrean Muslims from the rural lowlands on the western edge of the territory. In 1961 the ELF's political character was vague, but radical Arab states such as Syria and Iraq sympathized with Eritrea as a predominantly Muslim region struggling to escape oppression and imperial domination. These two countries therefore supplied military and financial assistance to the ELF.” (Library of Congress Country Studies – Ethiopia, 1991, Chapter 4, The Eritrean Movement)
The US Library of Congress Country Studies also point out that the ELF, initially a Muslim movement, was nationalist rather than Marxist. As urban Christians joined, the ELF had become more radical and anticapitalist:
“The rapid growth of the ELF also created internal divisions between urban and rural elements, socialists and nationalists, and Christians and Muslims. Although these divisions did not take any clear form, they were magnified as the ELF extended its operations and won international publicity. In June 1970, Osman Salah Sabbe, former head of the Muslim League, broke away from the ELF and formed the Popular Liberation Forces (PLF), which led directly to the founding of the Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) in early 1972.” (Library of Congress Country Studies Ethiopia, 1991, Chapter 1, Growth of Secessionist Threats)
Is there any prison within (or nearby) Teseney (also written Tesseney and Tessenei) city?
In a report dated May 2004, Amnesty International (AI) cites a former military detainee who reports that he was detained in a rehabilitation centre at Tessenei:
“In May 2000 I was sent to a rehabilitation centre [military prison] at Tessenei for protesting against the war. I and about 30 others were arrested for talking among ourselves about why we needed this war.” (AI May 2004, p. 22, chapter 5. Abuses of military conscripts)
A prison in Tesseney is also mentioned on the website of “The Voice of the Kunama People” (VKP) which is based in Germany and published an article from Erkukodisu from the Democratic Movement for the Liberation of the Eritrean Kunama (DMLEK):
“On the other hand, according to the Shabia regime’s system of consuming human-lives, a lot of citizens are being jailed and tortured. The Shabia military, with the pretence of having caught thirty (30) individuals, trying to flee to The Sudan, detained and is said to be releasing a lot of suffering on them, in a prison in Tesseney.” (Erkukodisu/DMLEK, w.D., Internal News from Home: No. 003)
Amnesty International also mentions that the Sawa military training centre is located near Tessenei (AI May 2004, p. 24). In another report, dated 18 September 2002, Amnesty International reports of the incommunicado detention of a journalist at Sawa military camp near Tessenei:
“Semret Seyoum, assistant editor of the newspaper Setit, was arrested near the Sudanese border trying to flee the country in early October 2001. He is a law graduate and a former EPLF member. He is reported to be held, incommunicado and without charge or trial, at Sawa military camp near Tessenei” (AI 18 September 2002, chapter “More journalists detained – others fled”)
For futher information on the Sawa military camp see also AI, 25 May 2005, chapter “Military conscription” and “Torture and ill-treatment”, US Department of State (USDOS) 28 February 2005, chapter 1.c., Human Rights Watch (HRW) 13 January 2005, chapter “Prison Conditions and Torture”.
No further recent documents on a prison located in or nearby Tesseney could be found among the sources consulted by ACCORD.
We have, however, enclosed a press release of the Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia in the United Kingdom, dated 6 December 1999, reporting that an Ethiopian escapee had indicated that a large number of Ethiopians kidnapped from different parts of Eritrea were languishing in Teseney prison (Embassy of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, 6 December 1999).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the ACCORD within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.
Eritrean Liberation Front
Prison near Teseney (Tessenei)