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Revisiting Power Struggles during the Eritrean War of Independence

Mustafa Mo. Ahmed (Lyesdie) and Joseph Rudigi Rukema


Published: 2023/06/01


This article undertakes a nuanced analysis of the Eritrean War of Independence (EWI), focusing on the power struggles that arose among different leaders and armed groups during the conflict’s protracted course between 1961 and 1991. Specifically, the article delves into the evolution of power dynamics throughout the conflict, culminating in the consolidation of an authoritarian regime following Eritrea’s attainment of independence. Drawing on primary sources, such as author interviews with EWI veterans, and secondary sources such as published works, the article’s empirical research illuminates various stages of power struggles. These stages encompassed initial disputes among military commanders, failed administrative structures known as Military Administrative Zones (MAZs), the impact of reform movements, and the disintegration of the pioneering organization, the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF). Ultimately, these power struggles resulted in the emergence of a ruthless leader who has maintained power since Eritrea’s “liberation” in 1991. The article’s contribution lies in its insightful analysis of the complex interplay between political, social, and military dynamics during the EWI, and how they continue to shape Eritrea's political landscape. Key Words: Power struggle, EWI, Power relationships, Military commanders, Reform movement, Eritrean Liberation Front, Isaias Afwerki

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