The people of Eritrea, who were invaded openly and faced imprisonment and murder for any kind of opposition welcomed the armed struggle with great joy. News of the struggle travelled very fast in the entire country. This news of the struggle also reached to the sympathizers and the Ethiopian officials in the country. The colonizers terrified by the news of armed struggle began spreading rumors that Hamid Idris Awate was a bandit who attacked the unarmed civilians. They also recruited a special police unit against Hamid Idris Awate and his supporters. The outcome of the special police unit was disastrous and its members gradually began to believe Hamid Idris Awate had some magical powers. Hamid Idris Awate and his group become heroes among the people, which resulted in the killing and imprisoning of civilians by the Ethiopian army.
While this is going on, there were religious and ethnic tendencies among the leaders of the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), because the front didn’t do any thing to raise the awareness of the people. Many members of Haraka also joined the Liberation Front despite the opposition from the leaders of Haraka.
In the year 1962, the Emperor of Ethiopia abolished Federation and declared Eritrea as the official colony of Ethiopia. Angered by the Emperor’s actions many joined the Eritrean Liberation Front. During this time, various groups from the Haraka were also establishing an armed struggle but due to lack of well established leadership and the opposition from the Eritrean Liberation Front, they couldn’t succeed. These and many other reasons pushed the people to join the ELF. Those who were not able to join the front were also supporting the liberation movement materially and by transferring valuable information.
Development Of The Armed Struggle Under The Eritrean Liberation Front (1961-70)
As mentioned earlier, the Eritrean Liberation Front was launched apart from the political developments in the country and its leadership was in Cairo. ELF leadership was composed of various individuals known as the higher assembly of the front. Idris Mohammed Adem as the chairman, Osman Saleh Sabe secretariat of the foreign affairs and Idris Gelawedwos secretary general were members of this higher assembly. No one elected these individuals as leaders of the liberation front; and there was absence of a concrete goal and strategy. This lead to unorganized programs executed by the front.
In addition to the above mentioned drawbacks in the leadership of the front, there were various narrow ethnic and religious differences among the leadership.
In the beginning many Christian were excluded from the struggle simply because they were advocating for unity with Ethiopia during the British colonization era. The lords in the highlands and the church had advocated for unity with Ethiopia simply to get their land and inheritance that was taken from them by the Italians and the British. There were also conspiracies committed by the Moslems of the lowlanders on the Tigre and other residents of the lowlands. As a result the Tigre relayed on the emperor to get their protection, and those were also excluded from joining the struggle.
Though Emperor Haileselassie persuaded many Eritreans not to join the struggle by making promises to return their land and inheritance, the crimes committed by the emperor on the opposition party members compelled the people to believe the promises of the Emperor. The oppression of the colonizers united the people of the country despite religious and ethnic differences. Even though Haraka had its shortcomings, it also helped in unifying the people against one common enemy. Despite all those efforts the leadership of the Eritrean Liberation Front begun creating differences among the people based on religion and ethnicity. Those differences slowed down the development of the struggle to liberation.
The ethnic and religious differences and the competition among the leaders of the liberation front lead to further competition while the leaders begun to work for their own fame and betrayed any one who is not of the same ethnic or religious group as themselves
Despite the unethical leadership, many nationals both in the country and outside were working and fighting against such a leadership, and after numerous efforts they succeeded in abolishing the leadership of the Eritrean Liberation Front.