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Commentary on Ethio-Eritrean new relationship



Commentary on Ethio-Eritrean new relationship


By: W. Yilma July, 8, 2018

Today, I watched Ethiopian TV the arrival of Dr. Abiy in Asmara to meet President Isayas. I congratulated our prime minister for his courageous action to break the deadlock between these two countries. I am sure the ordinary people of both countries are happier than the elites of both countries. Because it is them who benefited a lot than the elites. I am cautiously optimistic that the action taken by our prime minster may bring the intended peace. And on the other I am pessimistic because the anticipated peace process may not bring lasting peace for the peoples of Ethiopian and Eritrea. It should be clear both to Ethiopian and Eritrean people that any agreements reached between elites or government officials will not bring sustainable peace between the ordinary people. This was happened between late prime minster Meles and Isayas. We should not repeat the same mistakes by rushing to conclude that the historic meeting between Dr. Abiy and Isayas is final and solved the complex problems existed between these two countries and consumed southlands of innocent’s life from both countries. Much need to be done to cure the past wounds, and this must be followed people to people relationship of the two countries. I am explaining my concerns as follows:


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I truly believe that without any question the conflict with Eritrea should and must be resolved in peaceful manner Let’s forget what harm was done by Shabia for the last 50 years to secede from Ethiopia. Because looking the bright future is beneficiary than living with the past tormenting memories. But the peace deal should be handled carefully to bring sustainable peace for both people. There were many opportunities (I am not elaborating here) to reach a deal in the advantage of Ethiopia with Eritrea before Dr. Abiy came to power, but the previous government officials in particular TPLF has terribly missed this opportunity. I was amazed when I read the TPLF central committee communiques released last month with regard to Dr Abiy’s decision to solve this issue. It is outdated, unwise and untimely to publish such immature communique. The only chance left for TPLF is to adjust itself and try to contribute its share in the peace-making process. TPLF should look themselves in a mirror to make deep change to fit with Dr. Abiy’s new idea's. The old guards should leave with respect and replaced with new faces and ideas. This is good for the party and good for the people of Tigray. Do not commit another mistake by misleading the public about the ongoing peace talk with Eritrea. If there are concerns aware the public to engage positively to persuade both sides to address their concerns and grievances during the peace process. The same is true for our brothers and sisters of the Afar regions. The people at border with Eritrea may not be sensing and understanding now, but in the long run once the border issue has resolved and the people of Tigray and Afar are enjoying peaceful co-existence with the people of the other side, the demarcated border does not have an impact for both peoples and may both people regretted later the time they lost in conflicts. 


As we all know, the “border” issue would have been completed through military victory when Mr. Meles Zenawi was in power, and when Eritrean military establishments were totally destroyed by our gallant military forces. The opportunities were lost then! Therefore, the only option what is left now is how to reach a “comprehensive “deal with Isayas regime to bring sustainable peace between these two countries? The question we Ethiopians should raise here is that even though it seems the Hague verdict is final and bindings, we have legal rights to keep our interest when we deal are dealing with Eritrean regime. First, we should understand firmly that the war was started by Isayas, and the root cause of the war was not border issue. Border issue was in discussion between TPLF dominated “EPRDF”, government and Shabia and both were sure to solve this issue. The core causes of the war were an economic and other related issues. However, to cause more problem the Eritrean side may continue to push about border demarcation as a priority issue for the discussions. Isayas may think that this approach may give him an advantage to create more problem to the Ethiopian side, to justify his action for starting the war with Ethiopia, and to get popularity among Eritreans, by ignoring how many incent lives were perished as a result of his administration. Therefore, the topics of negotiation should be more comprehensive emphasizing mainly on those core issues which were provoked Isayas to start the war of aggression against Ethiopia. Isayas may take desperate measure to divide us more and to “kill” by alienating TPLF from EPRDF (he was succeeded to isolate TPLF). He may say that we can use the two ports by demanding more from Ethiopia or he may say that it may not need now to concentrate in demarcation of the land etc… To me this kind of agreements are dangerous for both people. We have to be serious and strong enough, capable to present persuasive historical facts and convincing evidences to the negotiation table to bring lasting peace for the benefit of both people. For this reason, the Ethiopian side should choose peoples who have multi-dimensional knowledge, detailed oriented individuals who have deep knowledge about the past and present Ethiopia regardless of their political affiliations.

The socio-economic and political activities in Ethiopia are dynamic, but stagnant in Eritrea. What the Ethiopian government side should know is that (I am not sure to what extent they changed now) the delegation from Eritrea are from the notorious generation of the 60’s and 70’s old guards. Their mentality is like large mainframe old computer, hard to change their stand through civilized discussions, and may try to raise issues that matter only Ethiopians. As usual they may try to mingle in the internal affairs of Ethiopia to create more division within the EPRDF. They may pretend to be as a victim of what they called “Woyane aggression and outside actors in particular Unite States of America conspiracy” to distract from the main negotiation issues. Therefore, the discussion should be focused on the two countries issues, and they should be stopped if they try to mingle in the internal affairs of Ethiopia. We are more capable than them to handle our internal affairs, and the discussion is between two countries not between Eritrea and Tigray!.

 What should be clear here is that both the Hague and the African Union has confirmed that it was the Eritrean government who has started the war of aggression against Ethiopia. Therefore, the now Ethiopian government should unequivocally understand this and any deal with Isayas regime should be handled with cautious, but with optimistic to keep the interest of both people. As I said above the deal should not be between elites of both countries. This wrong ideological concept is the cancer which destroying both peoples for the last 50 and more years. The other issue which need to be raised here is that the Hague boundary commission agreement was violated not only by Isayas but also by the Hauge commission itself. First Isayas has evicted the peace keepers from the 25-kilometer buffer zone, and second according to the Hague boundary commission agreements the border issue will be declared completed only after the border was physically demarcated and installed of pillars through comprehensive negotiations between the two parties. Therefore, it is not final and binding as both Shabia and the Hague boundary commission are claiming. Delivery of the delimitation map for both countries in careless manner should not be considered as final legal document. No country settled their border without negotiation, and delimitation, demarcation and installing of pillars are three separate issues which need time, space, experts, and money. Nigeria and Cameron issue are an example, which takes more than 12 years to settle and start to demarcating their border.

No matter what we Ethiopians wish to improve the relationship with Eritrean people, the elites in Asmara may not have a good appetite to settle the problem as we wish. Shabia is very centralized one-man cult, cruelly ruled the Eritrean people with no constitution, rules of law, and complete “loyalty” from the people side due to absolute and unspeakable oppressions. As a result of this Eritrea has lost two of its generation and they are now in critical situation where unable to get trained workforce if peace comes between these two countries. Isayas regime inevitably will face another challenge inside Eritrea if the peace deal going well with Ethiopia. Shabia has absolute domination in all socio-economic as well as political activities of Eritrea. Therefore, not to repeat the past mistakes, any deal should not be a secret to both people of Ethiopia and Eritrea. If the two leaders truly want to bring sustainable peace in the region, any deal should be peoples centered, through participatory approaches. This approach is internationally acceptable and it is a human right issue as well.

Last but not least, there are two important factors which can be determined the fate of the Ethio-Eritrean peace deal. One is regardless of our differences if we manage to keep the unity of our country, we certainly can achieve a meaningful result from the negotiation with Eritrea. On the contrary if we divided as before and trying to use Shabia as a proxy to solve our internal political problems, not only we allow Shabia to get the upper hand in the ongoing peace process, but also, we will be created a situation where no one will stop the conflicts and civil strife once it happened in Ethiopia. The reason I raised this is that in one discussions with groups of Ethiopians about the current situation one person has said that “making a peace deal with shabia will end the existence of TPLF”. Many of us were confused and I asked him to clarify further what he mean. He firmly replied that “after making a peace deal with Eritrea all military establishment in Tigray front will be moved to different part of the country and then TPLF will not have power to dominate the Ethiopian politics”. Understanding the level of his conscience, I stopped my discussion with him and I questioned myself, why we Ethiopians repeating the same mistakes using foreign adversaries, as proxy to play dirty political game to solve our domestic politics? When if not now do we learn from our past political failure? I saw Eritrean Flag and picture of Isayas carried by few demonstrators in Addis and Gonder. What does these indicate for those Ethiopians who were a victim of Shabia in the past? We should know that there is no political freedom or free press in Eritrea asking for democratic rights. To take an advantage in case if something happens in Ethiopia, both their government and the people at large are watching us closely the end result of our domestic political uncertainties. We should not allow our adversaries to get an advantage because of our weakness. If we do not understand now when do we expect to live in peace and harmonies using our God given conscious instead of living in complete darkness and chaos driven by hate?

Finally, it is my hope that the new Ethiopian administration will not ignoring the plights of Ethiopians in particular the people who live at the border with Eritrea. Similarly, the Eritrean side will take lesson from the past and they will take the initiatives to work for the benefits of both people. Demarcation of border should not be considered important than human being. I urge all people from both sides, Ethiopians and Eritreans not to be emotional as the elites of both countries may be. It is the people of the border who will enjoy if peace prevails or continue suffering if the peace process failed. 

I wish success to the ongoing peace process, and long live the friendships between the people of Ethiopia and Eritrea!






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