Shaebia: Master of Derg’s Weapons – Independence Month
16 May 2020 – (AO) The secret of Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) aka Shaebia success against all the odds was the popular will of Eritreans to persevere in the pursuit of their just right to settle their own destiny.
An arm resistance that began with 13 men and 7 guns in 1960 had grown to a full-fledged military power in 1991, unmatched by any in the Horn of Africa.
The Derg government in Eritrea had about 300,000 troops, armed with about $4 billion in Soviet military hardware from 1978 to 1986, according to the U.S State Department.
In 1986, Diplomats and military analysts said, the Russians entered into a five-year agreement to re-supply planes, tanks and artillery. As an immediate response to the escalation in the conflict, USSR delivered the expedition without a delay.
Talking about deliveries by Russians…
In 1895, Russia delivered weapons for Ethiopia to fight the invading Italian army. And the deliveries were: 30,000 rifles, 5,000,000 cartridges, 5000 sabres, and a few cannons. The presence of the Russian advisers at the battle of Adwa helped the Ethiopians achieve victory in the First Italo-Ethiopian War.
The Russian advisor Leonid Artamonov wrote that the Ethiopian artillery comprised 42 Russian mountain guns supported by a team of fifteen advisers.
So, some analysts suggested that the Soviet Union viewed Ethiopia as an important and strategic foothold in Africa, and would not easily turn away from its staunch old ally.
The Russian policy meant more military hardware for weapon ‘thieves’ Shaebia.
Shaebia emphasised self-reliance as the keys to victory and counted their main source of weapons supplier to be the enemy itself through captured weapons (pictured). At the same time, Soviet arms aid was seen as pivotal to Derg.
Ethiopia was a strong ally of the West in the Horn of Africa and supported Emperor Haile Selassie against the Eritrean resistance movement before the ageing King was overthrown in 1974 by left-leaning military Derg officers who favoured Moscow.
And the Eritreans preferred the easily maintained Russian hardware.
By 1991, armed to the teeth, with captured Russian weapons from Derg, EPLF’s fighters were well staffed, well trained, and compared to the vast majority of African armies, well equipped.
During Eritrea’s fight for independence from Ethiopia, EPLF aka Shaebia was widely admired as one of the most effective and self-sufficient fighting organisations in the world.