Fellow Ethiopians, as I was exploring the 16th century history of Ethiopia, I found strong correlation between the then and today’s enemies of Ethiopia and found the answer for “what next for Ethiopia” with regard to Eritrea. I invite you to take your time and read the following summary to discover it for yourself.
The 16th century Ethiopia faced the most formidable threat of its survival from a protracted war that was ignited by Grange Ahmad.
Grange Ahmad who came from the present day eastern part of Ethiopia (Harar) invaded the southern, central and northern Ethiopia to advance his mission of conquering, Islamizing and ruling Ethiopia by force. He almost succeeded to control and rule Ethiopia, except he was not able to completely capture or kill the then King. However, he was able to loot and burn so many churches, convert large part of the population to Islam and divide and rule Ethiopia for about 14 years. In the most heroic demonstration of their faith, priests and monks were throwing themselves into the fire of burning churches and monasteries, which were torched by Grange Ahmad troops, to avoid forced conversion to Islam.
One Ethiopian regional ruler that played a major role in defeating Grange Ahmad was Bahre Negash Yeshak that was ruling the partial part of the present day Eritrea and part of Tigray. He was the one who led the 400 ‘modern rifles armed’ Portuguese soldiers all the way to Debre Damo (Tigray) from Massawa to join them with Ethiopian army. To cut the long history short, after a number of battles between the Ethiopian /Portuguese joint army and Grange Ahmad’s army, it was one of the Portuguese soldiers who fatally wounded Grange Ahmad and reversed the course of the war. Bahre Negash Yeshak and his army were also participated in this crucial war.
After the end of the war between the dynasty of Ethiopia and the leaders of Harar Emirates, the central government of Ethiopia became very week and faced power struggle among various rivals including the expansion of Oromos. During this time, Bahre Negash Yeshak decided to revolt against the government of Ethiopia and started to conspire against the Emperor of that time (Emperor Minas) with the objective of replacing him with a puppet king. As part of this plan, Bahre Negash Yeshak established joint front with rivals of Emperor Minas from Showa and tried to kill the King through sabotage or direct war but without success.
Bahre Negash knowing his plot to establish a puppet king was not successful, he decided to be King of Ethiopia for himself by building superior military force. To that effect, he made an agreement with the Turkish authorities, who were occupying Massawa and with Jesuit missionaries. As part of the deal, he gave the Turkish the land between Massawa and Debarwa and he also promised to the Jesuit’s that he will be converted to Catholic once he got their military support. Consequently, he claimed Fasil (a rival from Showa to King Minas) is the legitimate heir of the throne and promised to put him on the throne. However, both Bahre Negash Yeshak and the Turkish army were defeated by Emperor Minas on April 20, 1562 and Bahre Negash was forced to escape and live in Debarwa which was already under the territory of the Turkish. For unknown reasons, Emperor Minas failed to capture or kill Bahre Negash Yeshak and returned back to Showa and died in 1563, due to malaria infection.
After the death of Emperor Minas the struggle among prospective rivals to replace him was further intensified but ultimately his 13 years old son Serse Dengel replaced him. The new King was visionary, very wise political and military strategist and was able to defend Ethiopia both internally and externally except the threat from Bahre Negash who at that time had established joint front with Turkish, Emirates of Harar as well as internal rivals of the King. Bahre Negash relentlessly worked for 15 years to corner and subdue King Serse Dengel but without success. In the year 1577 Serse Dengel defeated the South front of Bahre Negash by defeating Mohammed IV of Emirates of Harar.
After repeatedly failed diplomatic effort to bring Bahre Negash Yeshak to peace, Emperor Serse Dengel with the support of some novelties of Tigray, defeated both Bahre Negash and Turkish army in November 1578 in a place called Adi Koro. In that war both of the then arch enemies of central government of Ethiopia, Bahre Negash Yeshak and his ally the Turkish Pasha were killed and Emperor Serse Dengel marched all the way to Debarwa (which was the capital city of Bahre Negash and the Turkish) without any resistance.
The reason I tried to outline the above brief history of 16th century is due to the fact that I found it to be a mirror image of the Ethiopia of the 21st century. Just replace Bahre Negash Yehsak with President Isayas and Debarwa with Asmara and the region that was administered by Bahre Negash with Eritrea. Replace Turkish with Egypt and Emirates of Harar with Al-Shabaab of Somalia. With minor changes in geographical location and geopolitical structure, the historical enemies and destabilizing threats of Ethiopia have been one and the same despite who is governing it.
It is a well-known fact that the objective of President Isayas when he started the 1998-2000 war with Ethiopia was not for a piece of land in Badme or other villages along the Ethio-Eritrea border but to subdue EPRDF and make it to be a puppet government so that Eritrea would be the dominant political, military and economic power in the Horn of Africa. Incase EPRDF was not willing to be subdued president Isayas’s plan was to destroy EPRDF and restructure the Horn of Africa( at least Eritrea and Ethiopia) and rule it directly or indirectly.
When PM Meles ( junior to President Isayas) got the attention of the world super powers( mainly due to the fact that Ethiopia’s position in the world), president Isayas was burning with jealousy and regretted his decision to go only with Eritrea and leaving the remaining Ethiopia for EPRDF. When he started the surprise invasion of Ethiopia by capturing of Badme, he was very ready to defeat EPRDF but failed to speedily advance to Tigray and other parts of Ethiopia (gave EPRDF two weeks breathing time that enabled it to mobilize its militia and regular forces). The gallant Ethiopian militia (with no current training) and the regular army were able to stop President Isayas’s invading army at a very costly price (price paid for EPRDF’s failure to anticipate threats from Eritrea timely and made proactive preparation). Ultimately after two years of bloody war, Ethiopia defeated the army of president Isayas at heavy cost but failed to break its back bone and eliminate the threat once and for all. What a missed opportunity? As outlined above same mistake was committed by Emperor Minas 454 years ago.
Over the last 16 years(after the end of the war) president Isayas has been implementing the destabilization strategy of Egypt and was hyper busy supporting, coordinating, funding and leading any anti EPRDF /Ethiopia elements like ESAT, GINBOT7, TPDM, OLF, Al-Shabaab etc. As of today Eritrea is the central command post of power hungry Dr. Berhanu and his allies who are instigating ethnic based conflict in Ethiopia, primarily the persecution, robbery and killing of innocent Tigrians.
Is there any red line remaining that President Isayas did not cross for him to be allowed to stay in power? Or does it mean that the Ethiopian government is not able to deal with President Isayas, the way Emperor Serse Dengel dealt with Bahre Negash Yeshak 438 years ago?
It is not too late for EPRDF to give the right response!
Long live Ethiopia!