1st ELF Congress at Arr, Western Eritrea

14 October – 12 November 1971

The first national congress of the ELF was convened at Arr in western Eritrea between 14 October and 12 November 1971, with 561 delegates taking part. The delegates represented the liberation army, branches of the ELF in the neighbouring countries, key underground members from Eritrean and Ethiopian cities, and Eritrean peasant communities at village and district levels in the then semi-liberated zones.  It was  held  after a long struggle against groups of individuals that had no interest in its convening.


The historic congress adopted a comprehensive political programmme, allowing the people to be organized in their respective civil organizations like workers’, youth, women’s and students’ unions. That congress, even in that early period, wanted to underline, inter alia,  that:

a)      national unity of the people is the central objective of the Eritrean Liberation Front; 

b)      that all national groups are equal and any move to build a dominant national group shall be considered anti-national;

c)      that the so-called government land being sold (in 1971!) to government collaborators (and others) shall be restored to the people from whom it was taken..

The political programme adopted at Arr helped introduce in the life of the ELF a culture of democratic elections and democratic practices that gradually became a basis for binding together diverse social and political groups in Eritrea to struggle under the banner of one political programme acceptable to all.


Leaving behind it the dark years of ethno-regional divisions of the latter part of the 1960s and early 1970s, the congress stressed not only unity in the revolution but also initiated education programmes for political consciousness and awakening of the people and their empowerment as much as the security environment allowed. Thanks to that national democratic programme, the Eritrean people started to have trust in their revolution and embraced it with enthusiasm and devotion.


Being the first experience of its kind, deliberations a the congress took very long time (29 days!). It also made technical mistakes like electing an Auditor General and two Executive Committees by vote of the 561 congress participants. One of the Executive Committees (the main one) was part of the Revolutionary Council, the name given to the leadership of the ELF as of that date. Another 19-person Executive Committee with its own secretary was also elected at the congress. The technical mistake of creating ill-defined bodies caused inconveniences and some misunderstandings. However, the system was corrected at the second congress of  May 1975.


Many changes have occurred in the organization since 1971, but its mainstream, the ELF-RC, has continued to champion that democratic and unitary line which is recognized to be a dynamic process with high prospects of building on it. It is interesting to note that the organization was from time to time in the 1970s referred as the ELF-Revolutionary Council in some Arab media to distinguish it from the PLF, led by Osman Saleh Sabbe, who usually insisted to call his front not simply PLF but with the prefix ELF, i.e. ELF-PLF.  As we will refer to it later in this article, the  name ELF-RC was made more known starting in the early 1980s when the mother organization broke into three factions because of and in the aftermath of a one-year war with EPLF/TPLF.


Members of the 1st Revolutionary Council Democratically Elected at the 1971 Congress:


1.      Idris Mohammed Adem, president

2.      Herui Tedla Bairu, first vice  president

3.      Abdalla Idris Mohammed, second vice president

4.      Saleh Ahmed Eyay, head foreign office

5.      Mohammed Ismail Abdu, head of coordination

6.      Ibrahim Mohammed Ali

7.      Mohammed Osman Izaz

8.      Ahmed Ibrahim Nafi’e (Halib Sete)

9.      Mohammed Berhan Abdurahman

10.  Ahmed Mohammed Nasser

11.  Tesfai Tekle

12.  Mohammed Saleh Humed

13.  Shihem Ibrahim Shihem (later deserted to the enemy).


Two posts were left vacant for mass organizations and were later filled by

14.  Amna Mohammed  Ali  Melekin, chairwoman of women’s union

15.  Ali Osman Hinti, chairman of Eritrean workers’ union.


Members of the ‘other’  19-person Executive Committee  Elected by 1st ELF Congress:


1.      Ibrahim Idris Toteel, secretary of the ‘other’  Ex. Committee

2.      Abdulkadir Ramadan

3.      Mahmoud Ibrahim Chekini

4.      Mahmoud Hasab

5.      Ibrahim Abdalla

6.      Saed Saleh

7.      Idris Ali

8.      Adem Moh. Hamid (Gindifil)

9.      Omar Haj Idris

10.  Suleiman Mussa Haj

11.  Humed Moh. Saed Kulu

12.  Fitsum Ghebresilassie

13.  Mohammed Idris Humedai

14.  Azien Yassin

15.  Mohammed Nur Ahmed

16.  Ibrahim Mahmoud Mohammed

17.  Afa Mohammed Hamid

18.  Ibrahim Ali Nur

19.  Omar Mohammed Ahmed


 Source: At  33rd Anniversary  of The 1971 Congress, ELF-RC Described as ‘Dynamic Democracy’ Nharnet Team, 14 October 2004