Eritrean News Wire
July 21, 2002

Abdella Idris: The Architect of Violence and Beneficiary of Undemocratic Uprising
By Nebari Keshi

July 19, 2002 (Posted on 21 July 2002) 

Abdella Idris, the Head of ELF and former (first) Head of the Alliance forces, in his recent interview with, discussed what he calls “the historical uprising of the Eritrean Liberation Army” in 1981 to save ELF:

In fact, the organization was in a state of anarchy and chaos and irresponsible action from some of the leaders. Because of this, the Eritrean Liberation Army moved to bring an end to the mishandling. It stood for a historical uprising to save the organization, to guarantee its continuity, and to carry out its role of struggle. Right after the uprising by the Liberation Army, the revolutionary Council held an emergency meeting, elected a new executive committee, and outlined its tasks. At the top of the list were reorganization and preparation for the convention of the Third National Congress ( may 02.htm) 

Uprising in a political sense is a mass-based demand for a sweeping reform in a given organization or system. Such type of movement never took place in ELF in 1981. A flame of crisis, which resulted in its total disintegration, instead ravaged ELF.  

You see ELF went through a number of critical internal democratic reforms in its history. But the ‘uprising’ of Abdella Idris isn’t one of them. Some of the historical and true democratic uprising/ movements in ELF briefly include the following:

EL Harakat El Eslahia (a movement of correction) of the mid 60s

When ELF became plagued by a turbulent regionalism and aristocratic (the era of regions or zemene Kfltat) leadership in mid 1960s, it was the Eritrean Liberation Army who stood tall and demanded reform and correction. It was a unique resolve. As a result, Adobha conference (the first conference of its kind) was held in 1969 and a number of resounding resolutions were put in place: it paved the way for basic democratic principles and values, it established the first democratically elected leadership (replaced the self appointed), it laid foundation for political and organizational institutions, and overall it shaped the vision and outlook of ELF. 

The Civil War of Early 1970s

Again, the ardent and persistent Eritrean Liberation Army together with Eritrean people risen to justice, peace, and democracy during 1970s civil war. Call it ‘uprising’ or reform movement, but it was a just cause and holly mission to put an end to the bloody civil war, which claimed the death of hundreds of Eritreans. It was intended to restore the faith and hope of the Eritrean people. The movement achieved its goals because it wasn’t politically motivated; the message was based on the premise that the “Eritrean Armed Struggle” was ignited to defeat the colonial power and liberate Eritrea. It was a historic national call to rise collectively as one people against the imperial army. And it succeeded.

The Democratic movement of 1977

In some sense, the movement was a continuation of the previous ones. The Eritrean Liberation Army led the movement and targeted a number of organizational and political shortcomings: such as corruption, malpractice in management, malfunction in the hierarchy of the organization, and other widespread undemocratic practices of the ELF leadership. But this time the Eritrean Liberation Army didn’t pull the thread together. 

The Abdella Idris group, the most powerful and dominant group (also known as the right wing block back then), aborted and branded the reform movement as “anarchy and disorder” or “falul and Keidi Betekh”, and ordered the arrest and disarming of hundreds of Tegadelti. The Labor Party (LP), the main organ of ELF, also gave its green light to squash the movement. This is the era where anti-democratic forces took upper hand and teamed up against the forces of change in ELF. This is the era where the right wing snitchers and betrayers flourished in ELF. This is the era where ELF began to become terminally ill.    

In retrospect, the failure of 1977 movement can also be attributed partly to the lack of leadership, organization, and coordination within the parties involved to lead the movement. However, the overall message here is that the movement was a grass-root one aimed at reforming ELF. Even though it failed and never recovered, yet the undemocratic approach employed by ELF leaders to address the issue left ELF ideals badly shaken and bruised up to this very moment.  

Unlike Abdella Idris’ historical uprising, all the reforms/democratic movements which evolved in ELF at different stages prior to 1981 represented a distinctive characteristic of the Eritrean Liberation Army: reflection, deliberation, engagement, national endeavor, and collective participation. 

Now, having said that let me revisit Abdella Idris’ ‘historical uprising of 1981 in Hame Shkoreb’ (Sudanese territory at the border) and tie this up together for you. One has to start with the following questions: What ‘uprising’, what ‘continuity’, and what ‘mishandling’ is Mr. Abdella Idris referring to? There was neither ‘uprising’, nor even an incident of that sort in any form or shape. 

Abdella Idris’ Downright False Claim of Historical Uprising in 1981

What is this infamous, liar, and misguided talking about? If we had a democratic and visionary ‘uprising’ involving the Eritrean Liberation Army in 1981, ELF wouldn’t have been strained, limited, and stripped off its honor. If there were a democratic ‘uprising’ spearheaded by the Eritrean Liberation Army in 1981, ELF would have been in Eritrea now instead of wandering aimlessly in foreign lands such as Mekele/Gonder. If the ‘uprising’ Abdella Idris is talking about had followed the footstep of “El Harakat El Eslahia” meaning “a movement of correction” of the 1960s, ELF would have gone back to Eritrea in 1981 with no major fallout. If the decayed leadership of ELF had stepped aside, ELF would have marched to Asmara in 1991. If ELF leaders had accepted the reality of their downfall, ELF would have survived. 

Abdella Idris’ Coup d’etat

There was no historical uprising, as Abdella Idris would like us to believe. The truth is Abdella Idris and his accomplices at the helm of it, carried out a premeditated coup d’etat in 1981. Abdella Idris executed a calculated act of force in which he succeeded in snatching power and eliminating his political opponents. It was a bloody seizure of power, which resulted in the death of Melake Tecle (the then member of Revolutionary Council and Head of Security Bureau of ELF) and other Tegadelti. No sane Tegadali who lived through that experience shares Abdella Idris’ mischievous lies and distortion of history. No, No, No, Abedella Idris you can’t rewrite the history of that day.  

This illegal seizure of power by Abdella Idris created a massive anger and hopelessness within the Eritrean Liberation Army. The unwavering loyalty of the Eritrean Liberation Army was left broken beyond repair. This man, Abdella Idris, made ‘uprising’ and ‘continuity’ out of no ‘continuity’. How could you have ‘continuity’ while the owner of that very ‘continuity’ was made to flock to foreign lands en masse? What ‘continuity’ after ELF reduced itself to a badly fractured and wounded groups, offshoots, and personalities? What uprising after you broke the spirit of the very defender of the organization, the Eritrean Liberation Army?  

The Elements of Crisis in 1981

This is the man, Abdella Idris, now appeared on and falsely accused the Eritrean Liberation Army for not going back to Eritrea following the war with EPLF in 1981. And he proudly reported that he led what he calls “the historical uprising of the Eritrean Liberation Army in order to secure the ‘continuity’ of ELF.” For one, after nearly fifty thousand Eritrean Liberation Army and its supporting institutions were cornered inside the Sudanese territories in August/September 1981, the major and immediate focus became the Revolutionary Council (leadership) of ELF. Chief among the questions were:

·      Reform of ELF leadership itself.

·      Holding the Third National Congress of ELF.

·      Convening a broad seminar of cadres, commissioners, regional administrators, and high-ranking military officers.

·      Streamlining ELF institutions.

·      Overhauling of ELF Military Bureau and its staff members

·      Tough questions of responsibility (how did ELF end up in the Sudanese border        without fighting).

·      Accountability for the collective failure of the leadership to prevent the war long before it began. And a number of other questions. 

Remember, there was sufficient evidence that the war was in the planning process prior to 1981 (from EPLF side). A number of small army skirmishes took place in many parts of Eritrea between EPLF and ELF in 1980. The Eritrean Liberation Army warned several times that the war between the two was imminent. It was only a matter of time. Despite all this, ELF leaders discounted the warning as insignificant and never put in place a preventative major or strategic approach to reverse the disaster. Hence, the ELF leadership, particularly Abdella Idris as Head of the Eritrean Liberation Army, failed this giant and historic ELF organization. 

Second, once inside Sudanese territories, the leadership couldn’t agree on how to structure and reform the organization (mainly the reform of the leadership itself) and continued on blocking and refusing to listen to the voices of reform. These disagreements further diminished and eroded the legitimacy of the leadership within the Eritrean Liberation Army. Again, the leadership lost its ability collectively to come up with a blueprint to ensure and preserve the continuity of ELF. It became abundantly clear that the ELF leadership grew apart. Not only did they diverge on every aspect of the reform and reorganization, but also none of them presented a fundamental reform plan to reclaim ELF. It couldn’t even hold an emergency meeting collectively. The fact is the political and leadership crisis played a defining role in blocking all avenues and hopes of reform in ELF. Of course, the cost of these frictions and failures overtime brought a non-stop stillbirth and proliferation of factions, groups, personalities, and names. And yet they keep preaching the same belief. 

Third, the Eritrean Liberation Army stood and watched every step of the leadership’s ploy, but more importantly the rapid plummeting of its ELF. The Eritrean Liberation Army saw absolutely no hope for ELF recovery. It was a correct assessment of the situation. Finally, the Eritrean Liberation Army said goodbye, so long, and adios to ELF. Now, where does Abdella Idris’ bluff of historical uprising and continuity of ELF fall in here? In my opinion, it is simply Abdella Idris’ political arrogance, deception, and self-importance. All members of ex-Eritrean Liberation Army are a living witness. It is mystifying sometimes to witness how people are capable of twisting the genesis of a particular history to fit their own evil purpose. Abdella Idris is such an example. 


It is important to set the record straight and remind Abdella Idris that the Eritrean Liberation Army wasn’t part of his ‘uprising’ or ‘continuity.’ It was his imagination and fabrication. Abdella Idris knows it. And that is the reason Abdella Idris remained solo for twenty years or so with his own small group to achieve something, which didn’t exist in the first place. But let him drift; his days are probably numbered. 

People need to understand that Abdella Idris is known for his extensive experience in violence, in eliminating political opponents, in squashing democratic movements, in engineering conflicts, and in controlling power. Abdella Idris is the epicenter of disaster in Eritrean political history. Abdella Idris hasn’t changed a bit. The same old Abdella Idris who never changes. The same Abdella Idris who loves violence and dirty tricks. It is sad Eritrea produced its own nightmare.     

In the absence of democracy and justice, people like Abdella Idris act bigger than themselves. But in reality, they can’t lead a small business. Remember, ELF lost its historical place in Eritrea largely because it ended up in the hands of Abdella Idris and the likes.  

In sum, no body should underestimate the resolve of Eritrean people to identify its true leaders; and leaders such as Abdella Idris shouldn’t expect Eritrean people to listen to their deceptive, secretive, nonexistent and unreal political propaganda, uprising, and democracy. These are ill-advised leaders who will never rise to reason and truth in Eritrea. Don’t tell me you are sleeping with Woyane to bring democracy or peace to Eritrea.          

  When You See an Organization as Big as ELF Falls and Collapses to its Foundation, the after Shock is Titanic and Recovery is Hard to Come-Nebarai Keshi
A Tribute Nisuwu’atna: Etom Meriet Zewguhulna , June 20, 2002 
By nebarai Keshi, Posted on June 24

Eritrean Independent Democratic Movement (EIDM) and the Alliance of Eritrean National Forces (AENF), Opinion, by Nebarai Keshi, June 18,2002

Nebarai Keshi, who is solely responsible for the contents of this page, contributes the above opinion. For any comments, the writer can be contacted by e-mail: