The Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF) as a national force was founded in 1960, and started the armed national resistance against Ethiopian aggression in 1961. The founding leadership called the Supreme Council led the armed struggle till the convening of the military conference of Adobha in August 1969 where a provisional military leadership called the General Command was elected. The ELF experienced in 1970 very sensitive developments that led to the creation of splinter groups. At a later stage these regrouped themselves into the newly formed Popular Liberation Forces (PLF). The ELF convened in October 1971 at Arr the first ever National Congress in the armed struggle with 561 congress participants from all walks of life in Eritrea. The ELF political strategy was charted and accordingly its national democratic programme was adopted. At this congress the elected RC replaced the General Command. After overcoming initial hiccups, the programme succeeded to rally the broad Eritrean people in their struggle for the triple objectives: unity, national independence and democracy. Major strides were made in all spheres of the struggle before and after the second National Congress of 1975. This led to the liberation of almost the entire country in the late seventies mostly by the ELA, the armed wing of the organisation. More importantly, the ELF undertook a long and deep-going process of democratisation in its internal political life and introduced democratic reforms, including the well-known land reform programme, in the politico-administrative and socio-economic life of our people. Despite grave obstacles created by groups that worked to abort the process and impose their will on the arena, the organisation upheld the independence of Eritrean political decision and strategy that cost it an exorbitant price in the years that followed.

Subsequently, Eritrean Independence of decision as espoused by the ELF was targeted by a broad conspiracy hatched and unleashed on Eritrean, regional and international levels. The main objective of the said conspiracy was to weaken the position of the ELF in the arena, postpone the realisation of imminent Eritrean independence at the hands of the ELF, and open the way for EPLF domination of the arena in the way of safeguarding external vital strategic interests in the region in the event sovereignty proved inevitable. As a result, the front had to face the concerted military assault launched in 1980-81 by the EPLF in alliance with the Tigrai Peoples’ Liberation Front (TPLF), and with Numeri's Sudan.

To make matters worse, on 25 March 1982, a faction of the military command of the ELF staged a failed coup d’etat’ by disrupting a major Organizational Conference prepared at Rasai, in the Eritrea-Sudan border. Since that time, two factions broke away from the ELF. The majority rallying around the organisational constitution and the incumbent legitimate leadership of the time supported the ELF-RC, as the mainstream front. In other words, the ELF-RC was seen to be the embodiment of the national democratic programme of the organization adopted in the congresses of 1971 and 1975. The ELF-RC was at times referred as ‘Teyar al Am’ (General Trend) by left and right extremist splinter factions that opposed the moderate and centrist line of the majority that advocated the continuation of the ELF as a broad national democratic front. 

The years 1982-85 were difficult times in the life of the organization. This was the time when the ELF-RC was brought under pressure by regional states to dissolve itself and cease to exist. The ELF instead opted for a merger with another faction, the UO; that attempt though was aborted soon, during which time the organisation passed through very difficult ordeals; members of the leadership and senior cadres were persecuted and subjected to a series of imprisonments instigated by Eritrean factions collaborating with regional states, which were trying to impose their strategic objectives in the region. It was miraculous that the front could survive the continued assault on its very existence during most parts of the 1980s when it had to spend some of those years in the underground and in hiding. This situation was not easy for an organization, which still had to support units of the Eritrean Liberation Army (ELA) in the Gash and Barka areas of Eritrea, and run social services like taking care of elementary schools, clinics, veterinary centers and a home for the wounded liberation fighters (Wugu’at Harnet).

At that time, there was little opportunity to organize ELF’s long delayed third congress. Instead, extraordinary underground regional conferences of elected representatives were held in all regions to culminate in 1984 into a concluding organisational conference, also secretly convened, to adopt and reconfirm the political line and guiding principles of the front and elect a new RC to lead the organisation through those difficult times. In addition to reaffirming the realisation of national sovereignty and territorial integrity of Eritrea as its central objective, the conference endorsed political pluralism and the rule of law as the basic guarantees of fundamental human rights, justice, peace and social progress. The conference also called for national dialogue to accommodate differences in the Eritrean revolution and to facilitate the national work of liberation.

When the 3rd National Congress was finally held in 1989, the ELF-RC evaluated the entire experience and endorsed an updated political programme and a renewed organisational constitution. In the early 1980s, members from different parts of the world had started to provide the basic political and material support to the front. Since 1986, members of the front in Europe have come up with major political and cultural events like the annual Eritrea Festival of the Eritrean Democratic Youth Union in Germany. Everywhere ELF-RC branches organized tours of musical troupes and frequent seminars and these and other activities helped strengthen the front’s message to Eritrean communities. ELF-RC’s publications like Awet/A-nesr, Tsinat/Smood, The Eritrean Newsletter, Harnet, Demokrasiawit-Eritra/Eritria A-Dimoqratiya and other publications as well as radio broadcasts continued to spread the basic objectives of unity, national reconciliation, tolerance and co-existence that the organization championed for years.  Soon after the liberation of the country, ELF-RC exerted strenuous efforts to pressurize the new EPLF regime to open up the political arena for national dialogue, reconciliation and democratisation, but to no avail. The ELF-RC has played a pivotal role in the foundation of the Alliance of Eritrean National Forces and continues to play a major role in broadening and strengthening the basis of national alliance and promoting the prospects for national salvation and democratisation and upholds the National Charter as the basis of concerted national action.


The ELF-RC held its third, fourth and fifth congresses in 1989, 1995 and 2001, respectively.  Its declared objectives are that the State of Eritrea must be built on the principles of democracy, peace and social justice and that political pluralism of a secular state shall be firmly enshrined in a national constitution. The sovereign power of the people shall be the guarantee for all liberties and individual rights in the society.  The Political Programme of the front clearly spells out the political, economic, social, cultural, defense and diplomatic policies of the ELF-RC under different heads. The national political position can be summarized as follows:

  • Bring about the downfall of the dictatorial regime in Eritrea.
  • Establish a democratic system of governance guaranteeing human rights, political pluralism, and democratic freedoms.
  • Ensure democracy as the only instrument by which power is delegated and exercised.           
  • Guarantee fundamental rights of expression, freedom of press, association etc.
  • Ensure and promote the rule of law in the country.
  • Enhance the unity of the Eritrean people and safeguard the territorial integrity of the country.
  • Defend the national sovereignty of Eritrea.
  • Adopt a foreign policy that promotes peace, stability and harmony between our people and the peoples of neighbouring countries and the world at large.

The 5th National Congress of August 2001 gave paramount importance to the need of strengthening the solidarity and alliance of opposition forces to guarantee bloodless transition of power in Eritrea and to build the unity of the people through national reconciliation.