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ETHIOPIA AND ERITREA: CARVING A COMMON DESTINY – REALY?

ETHIOPIA AND ERITREA: CARVING A COMMON DESTINY – REALY?

 

Tecola W Hagos (17 July 2018)

 

I.                   In General

Before I recovered from watching in the Internet the dazzling,completely exhausting, and emotionally draining events of the visit by PM Abiy Ahmed of Asmara/Eritrea, now I am dealing with no less exhausting and emotionally draining events of the historic visit by Pres Issaias Afeworki of Addis Ababa/Ethiopia, which was just concluded. As PM Abiy emphasizes often, the process of healing starts with forgiveness and reconciliation. And I may add that the sheer joy of being in the home of a long-sought after Family member would seal the familial bond all over again.

 

I have applauded PM Abiy Ahmed for his daring initiative and courageous journey to Asmara. No less is the role played by Pres Issaias Afeworki in his most gracious welcome to the Ethiopian PM and his Delegation. I watched also a very relaxed and humble Issaias Afeworki who endeared himself to millions of Ethiopians. However, I noticed that the Members of his Delegation seem to be scared of him, for they are very reserved and very aloof almost cold in their relationship with their Leader. All readers of this article must understand also that I am being very polite and allowing everyone the benefit of the doubt. I am acutly aware of the “darkness”hidden in people’s hearts leaders or not.

 

What seems to be a most unexpected overflowing of love and heart-warming welcome to PM Abiy and Members of his Delegation by the people of Asmara is something that I cannot fathom because of the fact that in not so remote past postings of negative attitudes and derogatory pronouncements about Ethiopians by several Eritrean bloggers or Facebookers were all over. On a closer look of that celebration, I am more inclined now to thinking that it was mostly a celebration of the independence of Eritrea than the welcome to PM Abiy. By contrast, I was not at all surprised by the overflowing of love in welcoming Pres Issaias by Ethiopians wherever he visited in Addis or Awasa. Ethiopians, in general, have been generous and accepting people to a fault throughout our long history.

 

II.                Some Annoying Moments

However, I did find some annoying behavior by PM Abiy, in an otherwise positive week, in what seems to be a deliberate exclusion of TPLF’s Representatives from visibility in such public ceremonies of welcome. The new PM Abiy’s Government and the official Ethiopianbroadcasting professionals seem to be very narrowly partisans against Tygreans not just the TPLF.There seems to be a very nasty undercurrent against TPLF and by extension against Tygreans in the current extremely exaggerated expression of friendship to Issaias Afeworki and to Eritreans. Since most of you who are hugging the social media to foster hate and exclusions seem to suffer from acute condition of amnesia, let me remind you and bring you down to the historic factual ground that all this euphoric celebration is/was possible on the sacrifices of TPLF’s tens of thousands of fighters and also the sacrifices of my brothers and sisters in other EPRDF member movements who fought and freed Ethiopia from the clutches of the Red Terrorist Military Regime.

 

Another annoying situation to me was the fact that PM Abiy and the Officials of his Government, and also the public to a limited extent, totally ignored the great work the Government of China has done in building the Industrial Parks, the fabuloushigh quality main arteries of the Streets of Addis, the incredibly modern interstate highways, the construction of passes and squares, as well as the metro/rail system. There is nothing shameful in mentioning the great assistance/work done for Ethiopia in Addis Ababa, in Awasa and elsewhere by the People of China, especially when visiting such places. What is shameful and dishonest is to gloss over the contributions of China and hide such facts in plain sight.  It is incredible to me that not a single Chinese ever crossed the camera during all the festivities. I am annoyed for I do not like hypocrisy and ingratitude by anybody.

 

I am also annoyed that Djibouti was not acknowledged as our great Friend by PM Abiy in his important addresses. Yes, we pay Djibouti through our nose billions of dollars, but whose fault is that? I also felt Sudan should have been prominently represented in the festivities in Addis Ababa. Most importantly the Diplomates of both Djibouti and Sudan should have been prominently featured as well as given seats of honor at all important receptions given to Pres Issaias Afeworki. It shows character to remember and honor good friends who were helpful in times of our needs. In case of China, Djibouti, and Sudan,PM Abiy should have gone out of his way to recognize and thank those countries, for they are still helping us out in major economic, political, and international relations.

 

III.             Some endearing moments

Some endearing moments that are seared into my very being were in connection with the PM Abiy’s visit to Pres Issaias Afeworki’s residence and meeting with W/o Saba Haile, the wife of Pres Issaias, and their Son Abraham and lovely daughter and other Family Members. The visit to the Family residence seems to me something that was not planned but spontaneous expression of great sense of friendship and familial bond felt by Pres Issaias towards his guest the PM of Ethiopia. I melted in great love for the Family of Pres Issaias, such simple and decent group of people in a modest almost Spartan setting. Thank you, Pres Issaias, for opening your home and sharing your Family. A defining moment, I hope to be the case.

 

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What is full of pitfall is the process of transforming workable visions profitable to both Parties in promoting the Peace Treaty just signed by the two leaders. Yes, these historic visitsare only the very tip of the iceberg.  As the populist saying holds, “the Devil is in the details,” but in the case of Ethiopia and Eritrea I make a slight variation from that aphorism, in that the Devil is the detail. What a Treaty does is clarifying, separating, and allocating the rights and duties of each party, it also automatically creates losers and winners. For a moment of sobriety, one must peel back some of the layers of optimism that shroudreal/possible challenging problems that lurk out of sight in such types of Peace Agreements,in order to avoid future surprises and disagreements.

 

IV.              The Medusa and the Nudibranch

The Peace Agreement is signed, and we are now in a different phase in our domestic or international relationship. In a speech while on visit in Addis Ababa Pres Issaias stated about the viability of two countries but one People.  Is this the new hyperbole of mutual exploitation of a single source?  Any peace agreement is grounded in real events of great importance to the parties of the treaty. The history of Ethiopia from ancient to modern times is far more significant from the history of Eritrea especially the history of the colonial period and the struggle for independence. I must acknowledge also the intertwined history of both population even during the period of Italian colonialism of Eritrea for almost sixty years. All such events are context for the future development of the region (as a whole) for the history of Ethiopia and Eritrea is also part of the larger history of the region.

 

In contrasting the interests of the two countries, I believe the country that needs this peace agreement the most is Eritrea because of its dire economic future. Economy of scale is against it no matter what it does, for it has a minuscule local market base to absorb its industrial output compared to Ethiopia that is huge in all aspects of economic factors: huge population, huge territory, abundant water resources to be yet taped, abundant energy source with the Grand Dam even more so, enormous gold extraction possibility et cetera. Even though PM Abiy Ahmed and the EPRDF seem to be under some pressure of shortage of hard currency, there was no real need for accepting the Border Commission’s decision with no precondition. The move by PM Abiy was mostly political power control. Nevertheless, no matter what the motive might have been, the result of a peaceful future and the genuine happiness of the people of Ethiopia and the People of Eritrea make it worth the effort. Now, in waiting what to do or not to do as Governments:

 

1.      Do not repeat the error of exploitative activities similartothe activities just after the period after the overthrow of the Mengistu’s Regime in 1991 to the time of the Border War of 1998 that resulted in the destruction of tens of thousands of lives and waste of billions of dollars.

2.      Both the EPLF and the EPRDF acted as marauders and vandals in 1991looting and implementing totally unacceptable mercantile exploitation of the victimized Ethiopian population. The symbiotic relationship between the Medusa and the Snail is a lesson to remember from nature.  If you think you are swallowing up some one, you might end up being eaten from inside out and ending as an appendage of no consequence.

3.      Respect the people of Ethiopia, their culture, their modest means, their languages, and above all their person. Respect the people of Eritrea in the same way one wants to be respected and appreciated.

4.      Both Governments should avoid harboring criminals running away from either jurisdiction who are not political activists from either country.

5.      Respect the laws and regulations of both Ethiopia and Eritrea in the right context as sovereign national systems. Neither Government should involve itself in some shady activities to benefit some members of its community.

6.      Do no get involved in forgeries, counterfeiting currencies, contraband trade, et cetera. All trade imports and exports between Ethiopia and Eritrea must be in hard currency and not in Eritrean nakfa or Ethiopian birr except for cross-border small exchanges of goods by shopkeepers and farmers in the border villages and towns with a currency of choice.

 

V.                 Conclusionበደምባራ ቅሎ፤ቃጭልተጨምሮ።

As far as I am concerned the real and singular problem facing both Ethiopia and Eritrea is lack of technical knowledge graphically manifested in the modest lives of the people of both nations, slightly worse in Ethiopia than in Eritrea.Invariably, throughout the history of communities be they tribal or national, such lack of technical knowhow resulted in abject poverty, deprivation of minimum human dignity, and very precarious social life that led to catastrophic violence against target groups.

 

Once people, primitive or not, are agitated, it is impossible to channel that energy in a definitepositive direction. Such raw energy tends to evolve into a destructive force in almost all instances. The few exceptions were theBolsheviks, or the Nationalist movement of China, or the Korean movements that did not fall apart and resulted in highly centralized power structures (North, South) because the mass movements’ energy was channeled and controlled from the very beginning. In case of Ethiopia, I do believe that is not going to be the case, for very many uniquely Ethiopian reasons including massive clandestine subversive foreign involvements. Thus, the danger.

 

When ethnicity in the guise of language is the organizing factor for communities and the local “States,” every person should be worried about the real danger of ethnic based atrocities.  And Every Ethiopian must be ready to counter such development from becoming the defining principle of any country or community and especially so in Ethiopia.  The last twenty years did not witness major conflicts between ethnically organized communities although there had been some serious ethnic cleansing againstAmharas in Oromia State, Somali State, and Benshangul and Gumez. The Federal Government did not take proper measure to protect such minorities, instead seems to encourage such illegal activities. Mainly, it was during the leadership of PM Meles Zenawi such atrocities were committed against tens of thousands innocent Ethiopians. But because the victims wereofa particular ethnic group and confined to specific areas, one may think of that period as a period of gestation and incubation of the present full-fledged ethnic conflicts in full swing all over Ethiopia right this very moment.

 

Now the narrative of ethnic conflict has dramatically changed, for most of the victims now are Tygreans all over Ethiopia, Oromos in Somali State, Wolaita, Gurages, et cetera in Southern State. In fact, three to four months ego, ethnic conflicts threatened the very existence of a Federal Ethiopia. In this one year we have witnessed numerous violent ethnic conflicts in all directions in the entire Ethiopia.

 

The old narrative of TPLF dominated EPRDF had already atrophied encumbered with enormous corruption, gross inefficacy, lethargic administrators, and sickly aging leaders who could not respond on a timely way to the many legitimate demands of a young population. And at the core of the deadly conflicts Ethiopians are faced with is the formal and Constitutional setup of ethnic based States instituted by the EPRDF whose prime mover was PM Meles Zenawi and his supporters within the Members of the EPRDF. The one tool they seem to relay on was violent suppression of protests. Here is how the young energetic and visionary Lemma Megersa stepped into the fry and forged a new vision not only for Oromia State but for the whole of Ethiopia when he refused to use violence on such protesters. He chose to talk to people and enlisted the help of respected community elders.In fact, one of his associates, Dr Abiy Ahmed finally succeeded to become the Prime Minister of Ethiopia.And so, entered Dr Abiy Ahmed. 

 

Now we have a damning new political ballgame underway. Despite his charm, eloquence, and high moral, I am afraid that PM Abiy is playing with fire in this exaggerated friendship with Pres Issaias Afeworki. We have invited into our home someone sipped in political skirmish and intrigue for over forty years. I am concerned whether our young PM is up to such task, for he may be opening a Pandora Box that no one could close down if things did not work out as we hoped for. The possibility of using Assab and Massawa as ports of entry and export for Ethiopia does not solve Ethiopia’s internal serious problems due to the divisive territorial organization based on ethnicity. At any rate such ports will not be of much use at least for a year due to required preparation of proper Port facilities and the building of access roads. Moreover, the types of mechanisms put in place in furthering the Peace Treaty and other social and economic programs will determine in which direction Ethiopia and Eritrea will be heading. God save Us All from Those who want to save Us.

 

Tecola W Hagos

17 July 2018

 


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