Eritrean People's Liberation Front

The Eritrean People's Liberation Front (EPLF) was an armed organization that fought for the independence of Eritrea from Ethiopia. It emerged in 1970 as an intellectual left-wing group that split from the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF).


The EPLF was an egalitarian movement in which 30% of the fighters were women. Its influence in the extremely patriarchal and conservative Eritrean society was significant.

EPLF and ELF first struggled during the Eritrean Civil War. In the early 1980s, new armed conflicts between the rival EPLF and ELF led to the latter being marginalized and pushed into neighboring Sudan. The EPLF remained the only relevant opposition to Ethiopian occupation in Eritrea.

The EPLF captured many Ethiopian soldiers during the war for independence and kept them in numerous prisoner of war camps, although their captured soldiers were not afforded the same treatment. Due to the humanitarian ethic of the EPLF however, these POW's were not harmed by their captors.

During its protracted struggle the EPLF constructed an underground hospital. In this hospital surgeries were conducted as well as the production of various medicines. In 1988, the EPLF started an attack from the northern province of Sahel towards the south. The (nominally) Marxist EPLF emerged as the dominant rebel force and continued the struggle for independence. In 1991 the EPLF succeeded in liberating Eritrea on May 24th, 1991.


The First Congress of the EPLF occurred in January 1977 and formally set out the policies of this new organization. At this first meeting a Secretary-General and Assistant Secretary-General were elected and a program adopted. This program specifically targeted a liberalization of women's rights as well as a broad educational policy for maintaining every language and improving literacy. It was also set out that the boundaries of a liberated Eritrean state would be based on the colonial treaties of Italy.

The Second Congress brought together the EPLF and the Eritrean Liberation Front/Central Leadership (also sometimes referred to as Central Command, CC) in what was called the Unity Congress. This was the culmination of negotiations over three years which had brought together the two fighting forces in October 1986 under a unified command.

The Third, and most recent Congress of the EPLF was held in 1994 in Asmara. It was important as it converted the Front from a military organization to a purely political movement. At this Congress, the name of the organization was changed to the People's Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ).


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