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Establishment of Different Regions in Eritrean Liberation Front and Its Outcome

The main aim of establishing various regions was to control the fighters and leaders of these regions, but there was almost no agenda that worked for the benefit of the country and as a result another larger region was formed called the “Sewrawi Merihenet”. It functioned from Kassala to administrate all the previously established regions but still those regions were influenced by wide ethnic and clan differences.  The members of the regions were composed based on the members’ ethnicity. To control the power of Abu Tiara, he together with Omer Damr were placed as assistant leaders in the first region and Taher Salem become the head of the training unit but just before the official declaration of his position he was martyred in Adobha and his position was given to Omer Damr. While the difference and division among the fighters was escalating, the movement of the struggle throughout the country was gaining momentum. Many of the local inhabitants began to acknowledge the struggle and the activities of the front in all parts of the country compelled it to face the enemy in many areas which led to various big battles. Many youngsters began joining the struggle encouraged by the stories of the battles and the victories. Stories of the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) spread in the cities of Asmara and Addis Ababa. Many youth from the Tigrinyia ethnic group started joining the struggle and as a result a fifth region was established in 1966 with its leader, Welday Kahsay from the former Hamassien province.

Each region and their leaders began working for their own agenda with exclusive military and political powers. The leaders of the regions became heads of the surrounding community and begun to judge, punish and collect taxes. Despite all this there were no guideline rules that collectively governed the different regions and as a result every leader had one’s own rules.

The leaders’ conflicting agendas to only defend and work for their respective regions widened the gap among society. To mention some of such incidents, the leaders of the first region sided with Beni Amer in the dispute among the people of Beni Amer and Kunama which led to further isolation of the Kunama people from the struggle and pushed them to side with the enemy forces.

In 1967, the Ethiopian colonial army burned the town of Adi-Ibrihim and the people of Beni Amer concluded that the Kunama people were responsible for the action and burned Kunama villages in vengeance, killing more than 30 civilians. The rest of the Kunama people that escaped from this incident went to Barentu, where the Ethiopians took advantage of the situation and gave them weapons.  And at that time, around 1,500 people from the Kunama had guns against the Liberation Front (ELF).  Consequently, in May of the same year the Kunama killed 47 farmers from the former Anseba region who came to the area to settle in the upper Barka region.

In the former Akuleguzay district, leaders of the third region sided with Tor’aa in the age old dispute among the Tor’aa and Tsen’adegle. When the leaders of the third region began helping the Tor’aa people materially, the Ethiopian colonizers who were working to divide the people of the country began helping the Tesena’degle people.

The leaders of the regions were not only creating disputes and widening differences among the people, they were also committing many atrocities over the general public. The people lost its livestock and properties under the pretext of punishment.

While this was happening, the so-called leaders in Cairo were working to strengthen the regions that would enable them to stay in power. Leaders like Edris Mohammed Adem supported the first region, Edris Gelawediowos the second region and Osman Saleh Sabe for the fourth region. And members of the unit in Kassala, “Sewrawi Merihenit”, were either working in support of the leaders in Cairo or working with some of the leaders in the fields directly.

In the year 1966, Mohammed Ali Omeru declared that he was not going to be governed by the “Qeyada Sewerya”  or ” Sewrawi Merihenet “simply because it rejected some of his proposals.  As a result he began getting all the supply he needed from Osman Saleh Sabe in Saudi Arabia. In the contrary to, the first region began viewing “Qeyada Sewerya” as its representative because majority of the leader of “Qeyada Sewerya” were from the Beni Amer. The division among the fighters began spreading to the regions and the leaders of the Liberation Front.

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