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Nurturing popular participation ( Part II)

Likewise administrative areas were established inside the country to enable citizens manage their daily affairs by themselves through the different administrative structures.  These is what we call empowering the society. As a result different community based organizations were established in the free territories of the country. In 1989 24 people’s assemblies, 480 village assemblies and 288 agitations committees were established. In some areas these community based committees were established in sub-regional level. However, the number varies from time to time as a result of the war situation.

The third activity was with regards arming the people. Arming the people was one of the major objectives of the EPLF. If the people are expected to preserve the victory gained and become thorn in the foot towards the enemy they had to be armed. Hence, the EPLF started organizing people’s militias in all areas that it set its feet. These were the thousands of people who carry agricultural tools in one hand and a gun with the other and defend the people and their property. And they did their expectations by moving from place to place. They made follow-up of the enemy movement, they deny enemy spies infiltrate their area, and ensure the peace of their villages. These people’s militias were gradually transformed into the people’s army. These were the ones organized in different levels: platoons, battalions or brigade levels armed to defend their locality. These people’s militias have contributed a lot when transformed into the people’s army. And that was the time in which the freedom fighters began to be organized in three different levels. The people’s militia in cooperation with the regional army and the people’s army had courageously contributed in foiling enemy offensives.

The other activity the EPLF was giving priority was the organize women that have very important place in society. The EPLF was successful in raising the awareness of women on gender equality and the right to equally participate in the national struggle for independence. And thousands of women joined the armed struggle and many paid their lives. Women, through their efforts, were able to become members of the people’s assemblies that were established in different levels. There were very exemplary women. They made huge contribution in raising the awareness of people, in providing education and medical services and other important activities in the struggle for independence. One of the victories the EPLF was proud of was that one third of the liberation fighters were women.

The process of raising people’s awareness, organization and arming was not being conducted without challenges. The enemy was doing its level best to detach the people from its struggle for independence. It tried to confuse the people through different means of propaganda saying “We have wiped them out” or “They are encircled and that they have no way to save their lives except surrender.” The enemy was also doing everything within its reach to deny people from hearing the Voice of the Masses and from reading EPLF pamphlets. Those who were found doing that were detained and killed. Different alien and destructive cultures were being introduced to spoil the youth and that they would not care to participate in the national struggle for independence. It also tried to conscript the youth into its army in order they fight against their brothers. Air raids were conducted to disrupt the peace of the people.  During the period of draught food was made an instrument in an attempt to arm the people. Many were forced to arm and fight against their compatriots. There was no stone unturned by the enemy to win the heart and mind of the people.

The other challenge was the destructive activities of the different Eritrean organizations. The ELF, before it retreated to the Sudan, forgetting its first enemy pointed its gun towards the EPLF. Other than it flamed the civil war it was also engaged in harassing and detaining people it thought were members of the EPLF.  In 1980 alone cadres of the ELF detained 61 innocent people, killed 3 and ransacked a lot of property. The ELF cadres were also engaged in spreading lies that the “EPLF is a Christian organization” and sometimes “The EPLF is taking your daughters from their homes to spoil them”. They also tried their best to use the existed minor differences to their advantage.

The displacement of people from their livelihood was also another challenge. The people who had stable life encountered different problems after the strategic withdrawal. Many were forced to seek refuge abroad to avoid enemy harassment. Others went to seek refuge in the liberated areas. That was a big challenge to the people. Draught and instability destroyed the livelihood of the people. Even though that did not kill the nationalism and spirit of the people it did however somehow affected the struggle.

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